Confidence

Let’s be very clear here: I am not a morning person. I’m not really a late-night person either … but my ideal day involves not getting out of bed until mid-morning (9, 10am) and climbing back into bed around 11pm. Sleep is just too delicious to not indulge on the weekends.

But I also love riding my bike so I sucked it up and woke early to make an 8:30am roll-out time for a women’s group ride at my local bike shop. And honestly, is 8:30 too early in the morning (YES)? I’m usually on the train to work around then!

Today’s group ride was sponsored by Specialized Bicycles – Women’s Ride Day.

Our group of about 8 women (and two guys – the leader and sweep) skewed slightly older than me but no matter – everyone had a great attitude and personality. I started the ride toward the back of the group but quickly realized I’d be happier closer to the front.

The ride itself was relatively flat – so I spent my time working on gearing. Big Ring for the flats, little ring for the hills. I noticed a few times when I geared down too low and was bouncing in the saddle – an adjustment or two later I was transferring power from myself to the bike. It’s a beautiful thing, really. There were a few bigger hills – but I managed to maintain 8-10mph up those hills. The ride felt good.

We got back to the shop in about an hour and only 10 miles. Half the group decided to split but the other half continued on for another 10 miles, coming in a touch less than 2 hours total. The shop had free bagels for us and was handing out free water bottles too (hooray – free gear!).

AND I managed to not fall off my bike! Laura 1, Clipless Pedals, o!

I’m thinking I may actually need to change my unclip pattern from right to left – but didn’t feel brave enough to change it up on this ride. Maybe on a nice, quiet solo ride.

* * * * *

I’ve also signed up for the Greater Philadelphia Bike Challenge! It’s a free, for-fun competition to encourage you to use your bike for transportation, exercise, and recreation this summer. Ride your bike, log your miles, maybe win fabulous prizes but definitely feel awesome about using two-wheeled transportation all summer long.

The Buddy System

Shortly after I posted this morning – and after agonizing about whether I should do housework, lawn work, or just go for a bike ride already – I headed out on a bike ride with my oldest son. We planned to do a 13-mile out-and-back, pumped up our tires, filled our water bottles, and headed out. We were only gone about a half-hour, as we ultimately decided to make a 5-mile errands-running loop.

I commented to my husband that while it wasn’t what I wanted to do, any bike ride is better than no bike ride. To which he responded:

There’s nothing stopping you from going out again right now. Why don’t you just ride by yourself?”

Indeed – WHY DON’T I JUST RIDE BY MYSELF?

 

I realize I am asking too much of my oldest son. He’s a fun dude to ride with and he can do up to 26 miles with me as long as it’s relatively flat, maybe a few smaller hills. I always ride behind him and guide his route verbally. But he’s also my kid and I shouldn’t expect him to be my Cycle Buddy.

Which is what I want.

 

But why do you need a buddy?

Because it’s more fun. You have someone to talk to.

Because it’s someone to keep you honest. And is your support when you want to quit.

Because there aren’t many bike paths our here so it’s someone who will call for help if G-d forbid anything were to happen on the ride.

 

So why don’t you go to the bike paths?

Because I haven’t adjusted my mindset yet to understand Pennsylvania is not Colorado. There are bike paths and they are about a half-hour away from me. And I need to just come to terms with this and go to the bike paths to ride.

I’m a mom and that drives some of my decisions. At the end of the day, I need to be there for my kids – and that includes being safe when I do go out. Ergo – the Buddy System means I need a buddy when I go out riding.

But not really, right? I used to ride by myself in Colorado too … but on bike paths. And maybe it’s just that I’m not quite comfortable yet with the roads out here – I want to know where I’m going, what parts of town I might end up in, and how to get back home. Or at least guide someone to my location if I need to be picked up.

 

So I found a group ride tomorrow afternoon that I will attend if the weather holds out. I know it’s not supposed to (50s and raining) … and even if it doesn’t I will put it on my schedule for the following Sunday afternoon. It will feel good to get out with people in my ability bracket.

Wish me luck.

Being Average

Cycling Ride Levels-

Class Difficulty Rate
Class A Difficult, 45 to 100+ miles 18-20mph average on flat terrain
16-18mph average on rolling/hilly terrain
15-16mph average on very hilly terrain
Class B Advanced, 25 to 90 miles 15-18mph average on flat terrain
13-16mph average on rolling/hilly terrain
12-14mph average on very hilly terrain
Class C Moderate, 15 to 75 miles 12-15mph average on flat terrain
10-13mph average on rolling/hilly terrain
9-11mph average on very hilly terrain
Class D Easy, 10 to 25 miles 8-11mph average on flat terrain
4-7mph average on more hilly terrain

I’m finally recovered for the most part from a cold I contracted a few days after my Super Awesome Fun 50 mile ride a few weekends ago. And I’m looking – itching – to get back out and ride. This weekend is supposed to start nice and gradually decline into cold and rainy.

It’s Saturday and I have time for a ride with some decent mileage. So I pursue the local cycling group pages, searching for something either in my area or in my confirmed speed range. There is a ride scheduled for 10:30am (PERFECT!) at the local bike shop (EVEN BETTER!) at 15+mph average (well junk).

In the group ride community, most of the rides have average speeds set to 14+mph averages. My guess is the assumption is that if you are group riding, you are a more serious cyclist. You have the skills and knowledge to go longer distances in shorter amounts of time. And you want to be with other similarly leveled cyclists to keep you motivated … because inevitably someone will be faster or more graceful or training for a longer/hillier ride.

That’s not to say there aren’t rides for the C-level cyclist. The problem is me.

I want to ride with other people since I don’t know the area very well.

I want to start relatively close to my house so I don’t have to load everything into my car and drive first.

I want to ride on the weekends. Between work and being a mom, weekday rides – daytime and evening – just aren’t in the cards.

I want to improve my skills, speed, and distance (in that order) with friendly people who have similar goals.

In short, I miss cycling with my friends back in Colorado. I knew where I was going, didn’t generally have to drive to a starting point, and could have a very enjoyable time while improving.

In all fairness, I never did a group ride in Colorado because I didn’t have a road bike. I just rode with my friends at whatever pace we were feeling that day. We made terrible decisions sometimes – but we had a great time. I’m looking to recapture that magic.

It will take time and I will continue to look. I signed up for the Sturdy Girl Beginner Cycling clinic in two weeks to improve my skills. Doesn’t help me ease the manic desire to GO RIDE MY BIKE today, but will be beneficial in the long-term.

There are more C-rides planned coming up through Philly Bike Club. I just need to be more flexible in my approach and seek out the rides that I know I can do , have a good attitude, and be willing to make mistakes and have fun.

Someday a 15+mph average won’t be the reason I can’t do a ride.

Just not today.

New perspective

I recently picked up my family and moved almost 1800 miles for my job. This was not an easy decision but one that was definitely the correct decision. While I’ve spent the past few months helping my kids adjust and get integrated in their new schools and our new community, I ended up neglecting my own needs. I suspect this tends to happen for most, if not all, moms.

So I went out and finally purchased my new bicycle. It’s a dream – the Felt ZW5 – a jade and carbon women’s specific road bike with Shimano components. Picked up some clipless pedals and shoes to finish the package and left the cycling shop one very happy girl.

After a few test rides I nervously signed up for a local all-women group ride. It was longer than I usually ride casually – 50 miles – but it was advertised as flat … and really, it was going to be 25 out and then 25 back. Totally do-able; have done it once before (but at the end of the cycling season, when I’d been riding pretty consistently). Plus there was the promise of a farm-fresh lunch between the segments!

Let’s be clear – my illustrious cycling career is less than a year old. I bought a Specialized Crossroads hybrid bike last spring to help deal with the unwanted anxiety that comes with knowing you are about to be laid off. At the time I had considered buying an entry-level road bike but talked myself out of it. Thousand dollars for a bike? What if it sat in the garage and I rode it three times? I would feel so silly! Besides … I’m probably only going to ride with the kids, and you don’t need anything fancy for bike paths and trips to the fro-yo shop.

And I did ride with my kids. The fro-yo shop was 3 miles away on roads … but there was also a 6 mile route to get there on the bike path! And my kids were real champs about it – mostly because there was a promise of fro-yo mid-ride. Only later did we realize that we should do the 3 miles first – because the 6 miles are downhill from there (but uphill if we did the 6miles first).

But I also started riding by myself. My first ride on my own was 10 miles: 3 miles downhill, 7 miles back uphill. No cycling gear – just my shorts and a tank top, backpack and a water bottle. It was that ride that convinced me to get a jersey and cycling skort.

Then I did a 15mi route. And a 35mi route.

Suddenly it was about getting mileage. Longer, faster, MORE. I would go west for a mile before picking up the bike path just to get a little more distance. I would check elevations for potential hills … but most of the time, that was an after-the-fact reality of “holy crap that hill in mile 8 sucked.”

Mileage sounds impressive but is really more about time. Time spent on your bike going somewhere, or getting back from somewhere, or just going because you’ve done this route before and you want to see if you can do it a little bit faster this time or not be so winded by the big hill or not have to get into your granny gears after a few hills.

My friends who were already cyclists were kind enough to ride with me, even though I struggled to keep my hybrid going more than 10 miles per hour. It’s a heavy bike that is not meant for distance, speed, or anything more than a short jaunt with friends out for brunch on a Saturday morning or fro-yo with the kids. But every time I went out I got a little better, a little faster. Me in my spandex with platform pedals and Converse One Star sneakers.

 

So coming back to the present – I’ve signed up for this ride. I’ve put maybe 25 miles on my new bike. I’ve mostly got the hang of my cycling shoes and pedals.

It’s a brisk morning and after spending some time trying to find the starting location, I meet up with the other women. I am candid that I am a new cyclist, I’ve done some riding in Colorado but not as a group ride, and I’m on a new bike. The women of the cycling group are very nice, supportive, and forthcoming with advice without being nasty or rude about it.

I manage to totally fall off my bike in front of everyone. And no one thought less of me. I managed to keep up with everyone – even though I rode sweep most of the way back to the leaders’ home. Didn’t get the lunch – the bridge was out about a half-mile from the farm so we simply had a snack break and headed back to the city. But the most important thing was I had a good time. I didn’t feel totally depleted – I felt like I had pushed myself a little beyond my comfort zone and succeeded. I finally felt HAPPY.

I totally plan to join another ride with this group … after I attend their Beginner’s Clinic so I can learn to be a better cyclist in general. Know how to optimize my shifting, change a flat, not fall off my bike. I can already feel a difference on hills – my bike is lighter but my feet are attached to it, creating this machine than propels me forward and up. It’s a completely different use of myself from when I’m on my hybrid and mashing down on my pedals in a wasted effort to GO UP.

But I also noticed, as I drove home, that my mind was no longer pinned to MORE MILEAGE. Yes I want to ride more. I want to ride a lot more! But I also have a job, three beautiful kids and a loving husband who also need my time and energy. Balance is key, right?

No – my thoughts are now more on how to be a better QUALITY cyclist. To be able to get through 50 miles and include a few more hills (did I mention the route wasn’t flat? Because it totally wasn’t. But it’s probably the flattest the ride was going to get). To someday attempt the Manayunk Wall – a fabled half-mile with over 250′ elevation gain (about 10% grade). To not necessarily ride sweep by default on the ride back. To maybe average more than 12mph over 50 miles … although that tells you nothing about the sheer delight of looking at your cyclometer and seeing you are going 18mph on a straightaway and almost 30mph on a downhill.

So while I’d still like to someday attempt a century ride, it’s not my main focus anymore. For now, I just want to kick some ass when I visit my friends this summer, bike in tow. Show them how I’ve improved at maximizing my energy efficiency so we can someday do those all-day rides.

Hello world!

In an effort to only be a few years behind the curve, welcome to my world. Here I plan to ruminate about being a wife, mom, and all-around good kid.

I’ll talk about my new-found love of cycling – because every ride has a story and possibly some road rash.

I’ll lament the lack of yoga in my life – at  least until I cash in that 2-weeks-unlimited-intro-offer. Then I’ll gush about how awesome it is.

I’ll talk about my kids, parenting, and the challenging fun all that entails.

I’ll talk about tasteful paisley and how difficult it is to find.

Hopefully my life will make you laugh, cry, and everything in between.

 

Enjoy!