Traveling with Your Bike

I’m heading out with my road bike next week to ride the 34 mile route at the Elephant Rock Ride in Castle Rock, CO. Dropped my bike off with the experts at Guy’s Bicycles in Feasterville-Trevose, PA for a tune-up and box into an airline case. Everyone has horror stories about traveling with their bikes – oversize and overweight fees that are close to a round-trip ticket price.

I’m flying Frontier Airlines, a Denver, CO-based low fare airline for three reasons:

1. They have incredibly bicycle-friendly policies.

Bicycles, golf equipment, skis, & snowboards are subject to the checked baggage fees and overweight fees above (oversize fees are exempt).

Checked Baggage Fees vary based on the type of Fare Option you purchase and for EarlyReturns® members with Summit and Ascent level status:

Domestic and International* Economy Classic Classic Plus Summit, Ascent
1st $20 Free Free Free
2nd $20 Free Free Free
3rd and more (each) $50 $50 $50 $50
Overweight Baggage Fee (any items weighing more than 50 pounds) $75

2. They are affordable and still provide great service.

3. I achieved status with them last year so I get perks.

I’ll be recapping my experience once I’m on the other side.

Please comment if you know of other bicycle-friendly airlines so we can get the word out and support airlines that make it easier (or more affordable) to take your bike on new adventures.

Top Cycling Cities

A big congrats to all the cities that made Bicycling Magazine’s Top 50 Bicycling Friendly Cities.

Philly came in a respectable #17 – guess I need to do more riding and less complaining that things aren’t like I’m used to.

Super shout-out to my homestate, Colorado, where three of the four major cities made it to the Top 15:

#3 – Boulder, CO

#11 – Fort Collins, CO

#14 – Denver, CO

#31 – Colorado Springs, Co

See you on the road!

Girls on Wheels

So, why do you think there aren’t as many women cyclists?

I was out on a group ride chatting with another woman when she posed this question to me. It’s a great question. How many times have you seen singletons, duos, and full-on pelotons of guys screaming down the road at all hours of daylight? Sure there’s usually a few women sprinkled in there for good measure – but you don’t usually see a lot of swarms of 15+ women barreling down the street like bats out of hell.

I guess I never really thought about it because many of my girlfriends in Colorado cycle.

A couple of thoughts came to me initially:

1. Comfort. Not only on the bike, but with the bike, with traffic, with being away from responsibilities. Taking time (sometimes significant time) for herself.

When I was first buying a bike, I didn’t want to spend too much money on something that would spend a couple of years in the garage. I questioned my commitment to getting out and riding outside of with my kids. I already have so much to do to keep our family running – working, volunteering, chauffeuring the kids to their classes and events, household chores, etc. Is it really in my best interest to take a Saturday morning for myself and ride around town?Did I even WANT to do that?

By starting on a comfort hybrid, I balanced the price with practicality. I wouldn’t secretly hate myself for spending $500 on a bike that was ridden maybe 5 times. Disappointed, but it wouldn’t be a sore spot.

I also was on platform pedals (easy to get on and off) and riding on bike paths (don’t worry about getting hit by a car). Being in a safe environment built confidence in my abilities and allowed the love affair with my bike to grow unhindered by fear.

2. Dress Code. Not everyone looks great in spandex. In fact, I’m not sure anyone looks awesome in spandex – it has a tendency to highlight our flaws and put them on display for all to critique.

But after one ride in all cotton shorts and tank top (and a backpack!), I realized there is value in dressing appropriately for the sport. I picked up a cheap jersey ($35) and a cycling skort ($50) and suddenly it wasn’t so gross to go out and ride. Until you get off the bike, then you realize how sweaty you are and how badly you want a shower.

The good news is now you don’t have to look garish in cycling apparel. There are some great companies out there (TwinSix is my favorite) making kick-ass products. Don’t want clingy jerseys? Get mountain bike apparel – just as wicking but looser fit.

And what I’ve found the more I get out and ride in groups and in events, cycling embraces everyone of all shapes and sizes. No one is looking at your butt because we all have our assets on display (sorry – couldn’t help it).

3. Unspoken “rules”. No one likes to look or act like a noob. But there isn’t infrastructure to guide someone who knows how to ride a bike into the world of cycling. Yes, the basic functionality is the same – balance, put your feet on the pedals, push down with one foot, repeat with the other, and off you go. But cycling is so much more than just riding your bike. Unless you already know someone who cycles and can guide you, it’s going to be trial and error. Which is a turn off for a lot of people.

Attending a beginner’s clinic was so critical to my comfort level with my abilities because I had a safe place to fail first. Beginner clinics aren’t commonly or regularly on the schedule. How cool would it be to have a beginner clinic monthly at the local cycling shop so neophytes to the sport have a safe place to learn good cycling habits and feel confident about their skills before heading out? Keep the fee reasonable, though. Consider offering a women’s only class as well as a mixed class. Work with the local cycling clubs to get the word out and promote – no one will show up if no one knows about it.

4. Other Women. . Many women prefer to do things among their fellow womenkind because the truth is, dudes just don’t get it. And being surrounded by dudes you don’t know can be very intimidating. Guys are (in general) stronger than gals and tend to not have the same issues with getting out on the bike that women do.

I love riding with my guy friends – they are my greatest inspiration to push myself harder, farther, longer. The rides with my girl friends are more socially based – a chance to catch up, talk about everything that’s going on in our lives and the world while enjoying fresh air and sunshine, less about seeing who can go faster or farther.

I am looking for my source, but I read recently that even in two-cyclist families, the women gets out less than the man. It makes sense – many of the women you see out cycling are child-free or their children are grown. The rest of us are usually helping out with homework, science fair projects, sports practices and games, doctor’s appointments, and any number of obligations that come along with being a sherpa to future civilized adults.

I’m very curious now though – what do you think? Post your thoughts in the comments!

Take a Water Break

I’ve been perusing the interwebz lately and found some interesting and hilarious stuff. Check it out!

(If we are friends on Facebook, you’ve already seen most of these. Just full disclosure that I’m recycling my own social media content – sorry!)

Cycling Tips: How To Dress Pro

Cracked.com: 5 Reasons Riding a Bike Is The Most Humiliating Exercise

Bicycling Magazine: 109 Cyclist Rites of Passage

Video: Gravel Metric Three

The Onion: Bicycling Safety Tips

Enjoy!

Anniversary Retrospective

Yesterday was my first anniversary of buying a bike, hitting the bike path and enjoying the ride. So much has happened in the last year, it’s hard to believe it’s only been a year. And yet, it’s been an entire year!

In celebration (and because it was a Tuesday) I rode with fellow Philly Bike Club members for a D/C- recovery ride out of Glenside. The five of us had a wonderful jaunt through Jenkintown, Abington Township, into Philadelphia and back through Melrose Park and Elkins Park. I love it when my phone battery doesn’t die on my mid-ride so I can check out where I’ve been post-ride. Since I’m so clueless about where the heck I am out here.

Something about no permanent geological fixture to indicate West.

Friday I completed a 50 mile ride with two other women and three guys. It was a slight stretch in that I posted a 12.7 mph average but wasn’t totally wrecked by the effort. I’m hoping to get to a solid 13-14 mph average by the end of the summer over that length – including hills. Last week’s final mileage was just a touch over 100 miles for the week over three rides, of which I am fairly proud. Longer distances are becoming easier as part of my mission to be more conscious of my energy output. Focus on smooth fluid pedaling, not raw exertion.

Taking a look at my stats over the past year …

  • May 2011 – I bought my Specialized Crossroads Sport hybrid. That first week, I went on three rides for a total of 28 miles with an average of 7.3 mph.
  • June 2011 – My first month I went on twelve rides for a total of 157.61 miles with an average of 8.06 mph. I am most proud of the 34.89 mi ride with a 12 mph average because it was on my hybrid. I was such a wreck at the end of that ride but felt so accomplished.
  • July 2011 – Month Two was dominated by longer rides – not as many shorter rides with the kids. I also shifted to 3-4 rides per week. Total mileage was 123.62 with an average of 8.25 mph.
  • August 2011 – After three months, I had improved my average speed to 9.93 mph. Fewer rides, but longer distances dominated.
  • September 2011 – Month Four marked the end of the summer and my first Half-Century ride with my girl friend – and another gain in average speed to 11.98 mph.
  • October 2011 – Month Five saw only three rides, as it was getting colder and we were in the process of selling our house. Less time riding, more time fixing up the house. Only 37.65 miles this month with an average of 8.6 mph.
  • November 2011 – Six months on the hybrid and we got an offer on our house! My favorite ride was Thanksgiving Day – I headed out before eating. The city is eerily quiet with all the stores closed, barely any cars on the roads. I encountered only one other cyclist on that ride. It was also cold enough to make breathing feel horrible, like my alveoli had become tiny ice pops. Two rides for a total of 39.47 miles, 10.77 mph average.
  • December 2011 – not a single ride because we packed up and moved across the country. No big loss, since it was also single-digit temperatures, icy and snowy in Colorado!
  • January 2012 – New state, new house, new community, no clue where to go or what to do. Joined Philly Bike Club. Two rides, 4.7 miles with an average of 5 mph. And colder temperatures – mid-forties!
  • February 2012 – three rides around the neighborhood for a total of 14.3 miles and recovering my average to 8.43 mph. Joined Sturdy Girl Cycling.
  • March 2012 – Only one ride! 10.6 mph average. Whee! But then I purchased my new Felt ZW5. Now I feel like I can get out and ride with the rest of he civilized cycling world.
  • April 2012 – The weather is getting amazing and staying above 50 degrees. Took a Beginner Cycling Clinic and feel more confident on my road bike. 116.5 miles with an average of 10.26 mph. Starting to see big swings in average speed depending on my bike (12 mph as opposed to 8-10 mph).
  • May 2012 – This month has been great so far – 142.3 miles with an average of 9.63. Road bike averages are closer to 12mph; hybrid 8-9 mph.

One year total: 898.09 miles.

So what are my goals for Year Two?

  1. Improve to a consistent 13-14 mph average on my road bike.
  2. Accomplish a metric century (62 miles).
  3. Accomplish three-quarters of a century (75 miles).
  4. Ride at least twice a week with groups.
  5. Ride on weekends with my kids – it still feels good to go slow and enjoy the scenery. And getting a treat mid-ride or post-ride doesn’t hurt either.

See you on the road!

The Bike Matters

This weekend I decided to ride my hybrid bike to meet some girl friends for brunch on Saturday morning. I chose my hybrid because a 3 mile section of the route goes through a park that has a path of dirt and rocks – not exactly skinny-tire friendly. The rest is all on-street or paved bike path riding.

A wonderful 15 mile ride in, then a 10 mile ride around Fairmount Park before we rode off to eat.  We got a great table by an open window and enjoyed good food and a beautiful day. We then parted ways and I slogged through the 15 miles back home – it was uphill almost the entire way. At the end of the 3 miles of dirt and rocks, there is a 1.32 mile section of the road that is a 2% average incline – not insurmountable but certainly a challenge for any novice cyclist. Especially on a hybrid.

Image

Let’s talk about bicycle weights here for a second. My hybrid bike is 34 pounds. My road bike is 17 pounds. When you are going uphill, you can definitely feel the weight difference. Where my road bike flies, my hybrid is sluggish. It’s like being with a couch potato (hybrid) or a fitness freak (road).

But to be clear – I ask a lot of my hybrid. It has no business doing 40 miles in a morning – it’s built for casual rides around town running errands or leisurely rides with my kids.

Couple this with my hybrid has platform pedals (the flat ones) whereas my road bike has dual-sided pedals that my shoes clip into, thus transferring power from my legs to the bike. Everyone said clipless pedals would change my life but I wasn’t convinced until I had them l and could literally feel myself become one with my bike and power up a hill. It’s a truly incredible feeling – I highly recommend it.

A key difference also is my hybrid has a triple crank (three front rings) where my road bike has a compact crank (2 front rings). This means I was able to get into the lowest of low gears to slowly but surely get to the top of the hill. I was already pretty fatigued from the earlier riding, which didn’t help the cause any.

Anyway ….the point being your gear can make or break a ride. I was wrecked and spent the rest of the day rehydrating and relaxing. Next time I head downtown for brunch I need to scope a road route so I don’t completely kill my body.

Or maybe I should think of it as really good training? I used to think a ride was only good if you felt wrecked afterwards – but even after 50 miles on my road bike I don’t feel totally wrecked. I like being able to function after a ride.

Today my kids and I went on a 5 mile ride on a beautiful bike path and it was fantastic. They all have mountain bikes so my hybrid was the right choice for gear. I matched my daughter’s pace at 5 mph and it was truly a fun, low-key ride. Exactly what my hybrid is built for.

* * * * *

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! Hope you enjoyed your day as much as I did.

Just the Basics

Yesterday I participated in a skills clinic for novice female cyclists organized by my local female-centric cycling club – Sturdy Girls Cycling. I’ve ridden my (super-sexy) road bike for about a month now so it’s a perfect opportunity to break my bad habits before they take hold.

A wide range of women participated – some on hybrids and urban bikes, some preparing for a triathlon or two, some who just bought a bike and others who just wanted to know how to make their ride more efficient. I fit into the latter two categories – my bike is a pretty recent acquisition and I’m still learning how to use her optimally.

We started out the day with a short jaunt to an empty parking lot for basic drills. Like starting and stopping. Riding a straight line. Looking behind you without weaving your bike all over the place. Basic stuff that most of us don’t really think about but can have an impact on your success.

I learned that I did indeed need to switch the foot I un-clip upon stops (and managed to fall spectacularly in the early attempts to remember which foot to un-clip and which way to lean).

the ground is hard.

 

At least I got that out of the way early. And I like to think it broke the ice for the rest of the group – there were a few more falls. But most people don’t seem to have a problem with deciding when to un-clip as they roll to a stop. It’s just me over-thinking it.

Note to self: find your comfort zone anticipating the need to un-clip.

We then headed out for a short ride to learn hill climbing skills. The hills we were climbing were manageable and achievable – all good things when you are working on building confidence on your bike. We discussed gearing and how no one can tell you what gear will feel best except through time and practice – but that you will find a gear or a range of gears that will help you stay in motion.

Hills are your friend!

We also discussed Constant Motion – always keeping your legs moving. This builds your ability to keep going, even on super-tough climbs, because your body is accustomed to staying in motion. You can also work on not only using your muscles but also your cardiovascular and respiratory systems to keep from fatiguing your muscles too quickly.

The biggest take-away for me from the hills/gears section was just that – smooth, fluid motion the entire way up the hill. Not how fast or hard I could mash the hill – but how smoothly I could do it.

I spent the rest of the clinic at the back of the group as we practiced riding in lines of two and three. How to merge, not surge. How to find a bail-out point if you need it (and regroup at the top). Common group-riding lingo like” GAP” and “ON.” Why “UP” means getting into an easier gear and “DOWN” means getting into a harder gear.

Being in the back meant I needed to monitor my cadence to maintain a smooth, silky cadence. It was tough for me – I like to just GO already, to get up the hill as fast as possible, effort be damned! Plus, I hate riding behind someone as close as I really need to in a group ride. So worried someone will stop suddenly, causing me to either hit them or veer off and crash or fall down.

Not like I haven’t fallen down in front of a bunch of strangers a few times now or anything.

Quite frankly, riding in a group formation – listening to the hum of the wind in our spokes, hearing the clink of cartridge changes – is pretty sweet.

We ended the clinic with a brown-bag lunch and bike anatomy lesson. How to clean and lube your chain and cassette. Different hand positions on the handlebars (for those of us with road bikes). The importance of having a bike that fits you – frame first, everything else can be swapped or upgraded. Recommended timeline to buy new tires (2000-2500 miles). Taking the reflectors off your bike (dorky – I’m guilty as charged!) and replacing them with bike lights to stay visible.

One more quick group ride around the park and we all went our separate ways.  It also sounds like there may be a longer group ride scheduled for those of us at the clinic so we can get together again to practice our skills in a low-key ride.

I can’t stress how happy I am that I did this clinic – one of the goals was to feel more confident on your bike and I definitely feel better about my skills and how to handle myself in a group ride environment. I met a bunch of other awesome women who a new to think like me.

Now to go find my next group ride …