Urban Adventures Part 2

Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on the eastern seaboard … so what better way to spend the day than to head into the city for the Philly Bike Expo!


The morning began with light rain when I woke, which means no bike riding. My partner in crime on this expedition, my commuter friend, agreed the train was probably the best idea since most weather forecasts were calling for heavy, consistent rain in the afternoon – about the time we would be riding home. The rain stopped by the time we got to the train station and didn’t bother to start up again until well after we returned to the suburbs.

Always a bummer to miss a ride opportunity but the wind would have made riding significantly subpar.


Upon arrival in Center City, we had an hour to kill so we headed to Bruegger’s Bagels for … bagels and coffee. Mine was toasted pumpkin with pumpkin schmear; his was toasted everything with hummus. Large coffees in hand we headed out to explore the city on two feet (instead of two wheels). Philadelphia is a city of so many vintage buildings, narrow alleys, and ornate architecture.

one of the many narrow, uneven cobblestone streets


We talked about the stoops that still had boot scrapers and horse ties, apartment buildings with exceedingly narrow alleyways separating them with a single wooden door between them, artificial dead-ends, rooftop patios and oxidized ironworks. In one neighborhood we walked though the alley and were able to glimpse the life behind the massive rowhomes – an enclave of suburbia in the heart of the city.


We thought this was bike parking.


We crossed over the new bridge over the railroad racks down by the Schuylkill River Park (which has an adorable new dog park for all the city puppies to play) and walked the multi-use path to get over to the expo.


do not know what to make of this window display


The bike expo itself was small but fun. The first two-and-a-half hours we volunteered at the Philly Bike Club booth, talking to prospective members (and existing members) about the club and touting the benefits of membership. We managed to sell three! Met a lot of cool people and talked with many of the urban cyclists cruising by our booth.

Once we were turned loose, I tried out a Jamis Commuter – the handlebar shifter (8-speed internal hub) had a little picture of a person on a bike going up a hill (or zooming down a flat) instead of gear numbers. It was also whisper-quiet (internal hubs have no actual gears, as my friend discovered) and super cute but too heavy for my purposes. We checked out all the bike vendors, including the custom-made Italian carbon frames by Protek Bicycles and the sexy Cooper Bicycles. Lots of other vendors as well, including Road Holland (amazing polyesther/wool blend jerseys – seriously, I am jonesing to get my hands on one of their jerseys) and Swift Industries (Seattle-based pannier company).


With limited cash-in-hand, I picked up as much swag as I could and a $10 I Bike PHL t-shirt. We then headed south to My Falafel Bar for lunch (and the best falafel pita EVER) before ducking into the underground train station to head back home.


Now to hunker down with the family until the hurricane blows through. I won’t see you out on the road until then.


And it’s been a while …

After I posted about giving ourselves permission to not be on the bike for two weeks, I have been taking advantage of being too busy to ride my bike for that purpose. It’s been wonderful, really. I don’t feel anxiety about not riding my bike because I’m getting other important things accomplished as well – like cleaning the house, paying bills, grocery shopping, shuttling the kids places, leading my daughter’s Girl Scout troop meeting and a three-day business trip to Orlando. But I do miss it. It being riding my bike.

The weekend after I posted, I met up with five guys from Philly Bike Club (BCP) for a greasy-spoon breakfast run out to Skippack. It was a lesson in proper layering – while I did good with layering my base, jersey, armwarmers and woolly (with my windbreaker stuffed in my back pocket), I opted for thermal tights. The tights got very warm once we were done with breakfast and the temps were in the mid-60s. The lesson being if you are going to overpack bring your own backpack and next time opt for capris instead of thermal tights. 😀 55miles with 3800’+ of gain means breakfast was well-deserved.

This past weekend my girl friend and I decided to get brunch at Royal Tavern in South Philadelphia. I drove to the art museum district where we met up and then we biked over. I can say an easy three miles each way was as delicious as breakfast. Urban riding is decidedly different from my usual weekend rides – and it’s easier to slip into a mode of rolling stops. Bike lanes make you feel safer than sharrows. And assholes in pickup trucks honking at you are more prevelant. Fortunately I am a fan of being kind to drivers who are not as progressive.

This morning I was contemplating my bike commute. My commuter friend and I were talking about how much routine plays into motivation to ride. If it’s your routine to get up and ride your bike to work every day, it’s less of an issue to simply get out of bed even though it’s dark and cold. When you are sporatic and occassional, it’s more difficult because you don’t have the momentum of routine behind you. To make bike commuting permanent, I would need to fundamentally alter my existing routine. I’m not sure that’s possible right now, no matter how much I’d like it to change. My husband travels for work, the kids are still school-age and I feel strongly that being there for them in the morning is a small way to show them their importance in my life. I’m hoping that will pay off as they get older.

Also, I haven’t been running like I should be. The Lemon Run is in 3 weeks and I’ve been out twice for no more than one mile. I need to focus my time to running or this 5k will eat me alive.

So this post isn’t so much about cycling as enjoying the time off and focusing on other things that are also important for a bit. I’m looking forward to next week, when I will have time to bike commute again. Next weekend is the Philly Bike Expo as well, which I will be riding to with my BCP friends and then volunteering at their booth Sunday morning. Come by and say hi!

Until then, see you on the road.

Baby It’s Getting Cold Outside

Autumn is in full swing and the weather is staying cooler, it’s staying dark longer, and the thrill of riding my bike is being weighed against burrowing back into my down comforter for another hour (or more on the weekends). I have to be honest here friends – it’s becoming difficult to get up early in the morning to ride my bike.

Fear not, my good reader – I haven’t thrown in the towel for the year yet!

My casual rides are going to be gradually diminishing over the next month or so. I still have a fall foliage ride scheduled in two weekends and will be riding with friends to the Philly Bike Expo (I’ll be volunteering at the BCP booth – come say hi).

I’m planning to keep on bike commuting. It’s fun and I really do enjoy it once I’m up and dressed and sipping my coffee. My ability to actually bike commute is hindered by other employment and familial obligations – I am the assistant leader to my daughter’s Girl Scout troop and my husband and I both travel for business. So I’m looking at other opportunities – perhaps I ride to the train station that’s a bit further from my house but totally achieveable in regular clothing – to keep riding (albeit at a significantly reduced distance).

And when a rare unscheduled day comes up, it’s delicious to indulge in sloth. Sleeping in, relaxing in my pajamas and reading a newspaper (gasp!) while enjoying my morning coffee is a most excellent moment. I try not to think about how I really should be riding my bike.

Which may not be a bad thing! I just got this email newsletter from my favorite Center City bike shop, Breakaway Bikes:

You Have Permission to Stop Training
We’ve hit October and for just about all multi-sport athletes and road cyclists our seasons are over. Some of you might be mourning the end of competition, while some of you are excited about adding those training hours back to your week. Regardless of your personal position, this is the time to let go and put your training to the backburner for a few months. I know the reality of not training can be anxiety inducing; but, trust me, you’ll be better off for it. Here are just a few things I want you to keep in-mind as you head into your off-season.
1.       Rest:  You had a great season. You trained your butt off, your fitness skyrocketed, so you believe that you’ll keep improving if you keep training. Right? Wrong! Your body and mind need time to recover from the stresses of a long season.  Think about how sleep is your body’s way of recovering from the stress of the day; an extended break allows your body to recover from months of training and competition. If you fail to give yourself enough time to rest, you’re signing-up for some serious early season burnout next year.
I usually recommend that people take at least two-weeks completely off from their sport. Yes, put your bike, goggles, and running shoes in the corner and don’t even look at them. This might be hard, but I know you can do it. Instead of working out, find some other activity to fill that time. Training got a lot of your attention during the season; now it’s time to let some of the other parts of your life have you back. Believe it or not, taking a break will actually be laying the foundation for training in the upcoming season. Start to integrate other forms of activity back after those two-weeks. Coach Charlie would usher in the off-season with the quote, “you’ve got to get slow to go fast.” These are words to live by during this time of the year. You’ll be back to training soon, so enjoy the break.
2.       Eat: Did you regularly pass on dessert during the summer? How about your favorite dish? If so, it’s time to indulge a bit. Please note that I said a bit. You were meticulous during the season when it came to your food. You managed portion sizes and balancing your nutritious meals. I don’t want you to forsake your good eating habits; I just want you to be a little less regimented. It’s ok to add a few off-season pounds, just don’t go too crazy.
3.       Cross Train: You took your time away and now you want some activity. Use the off-season to find other ways to stay active. Our sports are very muscle group specific and repetitive in motion. I mean, think about how repetitive pedaling a bike can be. Find activities that will challenge opposing muscle groups. It really doesn’t matter what the activity is, just find something that’s fun and keeps you active and motivated: run, swim, play soccer, golf, walk, rock climb, or go to the gym. Your sport will still be there when you come back.
4.       Miss it: A lot of people will ask when they should start back to their sport and I think that can vary for many people. I personally tell people to use a mental test. Do you genuinely miss your sport and are you excited to get back to it? If you can honestly answer ‘yes,’ then it’s time to bring your sport back to your life. I want you to be excited to do your sport and not have it feel like a chore. If riding your bike or going to swim feels like an obligation, you’re not ready. This is the off-season, this isn’t the time to make yourself workout. I think this time of the year is great because you get to rediscover why you fell in-love with your sport…..because it’s fun. Just remember that this is the off-season, so keep the intensity low.
This is just my $.02 on a positive way to approach the offseason. I know the pressure to just stay on the gas, but remember that rest and recovery are just as important as any workout.


See you on the road!

CBBC Covered Bridge Tour Recap

Rain and a high of 50 degrees.

Definitely not the weather report you want when you have a ride planned but off we went anyway. My oldest son joined me on a ride to see some of the last covered bridges in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. We chose the flat 20 mile route mostly because my son hasn’t trained for distance riding but he can usually pull 20 miles with little issue.

I gave him all of my baselayer and cool weather gear to ride in. Against my better judgement, I opted for shorts instead of my thermal tights. Probably not an issue if I was riding fast and far but this ride was purposefully low miles and low speed.

We arrived, checked in and grabbed a doughnut and warm beverage (apple cider for him, coffee for me) before heading out on the towpath of the Delaware Canal.

The only covered bridge on our route was in the first two miles so the rest of the ride was simply beautiful path riding.

My son by the bridge

After the bridge we walked our bikes across the Delaware River into New Jersey.

Welcome to New Jersey

The rest of the way to the rest stop was on-road and relatively unremarkable. The rest stop was well-stocked and we took a break. The route back to the start was on the trail.

Trail Riding

Almost as soon as we left the rest stop it started to rain. Our thoughts turned to fleece pajamas and naps on the couch. My son’s legs were starting to feel depleted so we stopped for a few minutes and then walked a half-mile to re-energize. back on the bikes and four miles later, we were at the finish.

Tools of the Trail

We picked up our long-sleeve commemorative shirts and hot lunch (beef bbq for him, veggie burger for me) before loading up our bikes and driving home. Heated seats have never felt so indulgent.

Overall a great ride – one that I look forward do doing again next year!

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Urban Adventures

Thursday I decided to join my commuting buddy for the Moveable Feast, an evening ride around Fairmount Park after work. The registration fee went  to benefit the Pennsylvania Center for Adapted Sports (PCAS) and we had several riders from PCAS on tandems joining us on this inaugural, unsupported ride. Because it’s getting dark early, lights were mandatory.

We rode in the morning on our usual commute and it felt good – rarely do my legs feel nimble and light when I’m riding my commuter. He said its because I took two days off the bike; I maintain that it was because I had a cup of coffee before leaving my house.


After work, we had about an hour to kill so we rode out to the Ben Franklin Bridge via the buffered bike lane on Pine St. to enjoy the view. I had no idea there was a pedestrian/cycling part of the bridge … turns out it is above the roadway and a marvel of old school architecture.

Panoramic view of the Delaware River and the Philadelphia Skyline from the Ben Franklin Bridge

Dark clouds were looming over the Philadelphia skyline and soon fat drops of rain were falling.


The trains shuttling commuters from the city back to New Jersey rumbled below us.

View of New Jersey from the Bridge

On the way back to the start point for the evening ride, we saw a laundry valet by bicycle – a girl towing three 30+ gal laundry bins. Such a cool idea! We arrived back to the ride start in time to check in and chat with some of the riders from PCAS. There was maybe twenty of us. Unfortunately there was also a major auto accident on the adjacent street (up the road) so there was some last-minute scouting to ensure the multi-use path was still open. The 10 mile loop was low-key and fun, if challenging to see the buckles and heaves in the path on the west side of the river.

After the short ride we teamed up with two others from the ride and rode over to the Night Market, which was being held in Chinatown. Night Market is a fun street fair-type atmosphere where local restaurants ply their delicious goods to the hungry masses. It was packed – lots of good people-watching, a DJ on one end and a live band on the other! We were able to find an alcove big enough for four bicycles and devoured some Vietnamese cuisine from Vietnam Restaurant (me the chicken spring rolls with rice noodles; Commuter Friend the tofu sandwich). Then we explored the area in search of a cupcake truck  which we eventually found at the very end of a side street (Jimmy’s).

By this time it’s about 8:40pm and we still have to ride home (which takes an hour and a half and is uphill). We bid our fellow cyclists adieu and headed out back to the path. (On a safety note, I would not have ridden my bike home this late at night by myself. The park is VERY dark and as a female, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable alone.)

This is where you learn that most bike lights are not meant for riding outside of urban environments. My bike light is small and clearly is more for Being Seen not Seeing. My commuter friend has a comparably huge light that cast an adequate amount of light for the two of us to ride closely once we were out of the city and into the black curtain that had enveloped the Wissahickon Park.

Riding at night by the river and the creek was very cool – the water is still, reflecting the boathouse lights and the headlights of cars zipping by under the cover of night. There’s no one around except us and we were able to slide through intersections with ease. We rolled up to our parting point about a mile or so from each of our houses and agreed Friday would be a train commute day.

And that’s how I got over 50 miles on my commuter bike in a single work day. That’s probably the longest distance I’ve ever done on that bike in a single day. Even last year I rented a road bike for a 50-mile day. Muscles still felt good – had some very minor stiffness the next day but not enough to need an ibuprofen.

It was very cool to see different parts of the city from two wheels. It’s so frustrating to try to drive in Philadelphia – but on a bike, you can keep moving and see so many other cool things.

In other news, I am about 278 miles short of my friend Matt’s challenge to hit 1,800 miles this year (triple last year’s total mileage). This feels so achievable as long as the weather holds out and I can keep riding.

See you on the road!

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