Getting In Touch

Like many in this country, we’ve been dealing with a vicious Arctic cold this past week. Sunday seems so far away – a “balmy” 30 degrees when I set out with my daughter in search of a parking lot we could ride around in while she gets comfortable with her bike. We bought it for her last year as a birthday gift, just a touch on the large side so she wouldn’t outgrow it too quickly. She’s now able to get the hand brakes easily and use her twist-shifters more effectively. I grabbed Lady Rainicorn and gave her a test spin, trying to figure out how to both turn and shift my downtube shifters and not fall over.

It’s not as easy when the only road bike you’ve ever had utilizes what is unimaginatively called “brifters” – brake shifters. My instinct is to just click the small levers with my middle finger. Downtube shifters are bringing me more in tune with my bike.

 

As I’m walking home from the train station tonight, it occurs to me that being a cyclist or pedestrian really puts you in tune with your world. You feel the subtle and not-so-subtle swells and depressions. Flats that are really slow and steady inclines or declines. You need to know the weather to prepare your attire accordingly. You can pause to truly enjoy a beautiful sunrise, sunset, or the way the light sparkles like glitter on the new-fallen snow.

 

snapshot from on my way to work
snapshot from on my way to work

 

You can always tell the folks who will hurry out of the train and into their parked car because they aren’t dressed to spend a length of time in the weather.

 

Back to the “new” bike. I’m realizing I need to be OK with a variety of things I haven’t had to worry about up til this point. Things like when to shift up or down, easing up on the pedals to get the front derailleur to guide the chain to the big ring … and back without dropping. Calculating when I need to shift on a hill or descent. Having HALF as many gears to work with in general.

The bikes are in the shop but once they are done, I’ll see you on the road!

 

Booty

March 14, 2012 – I finally had enough money to go buy my first road bike. And of course, I skipped over the usual “entry-level” ride and purchased my cycling pride and joy, a Felt ZW5. A carbon and jade-colored dream, I dubbed her Electric Dream Machine (or EDM for short). I was at the shop for something like an hour with a completely ridiculous smile on my face. I went the whole nine yards and got cycling shoes and pedals too (SPDs).

I took her out for a 50 mile ride within a week or so of taking delivery and was still relatively new to clipless pedals. I managed to fall. You can read about it in my archives. But I also remember mentioning to my fellow Sturdy Girls that my seat was starting to hurt my sit-bones. After a short round of Q&A, we determined I probably just needed to break in my seat. If it still hurt after a few months, I should think about a new saddle.

Well, we’re almost a year later and I think I’ve put in enough suffering to decide I need a new saddle. Once I get beyond about 30 or 40 miles (sometimes as little as 25) I can tell that my sit bones are on the outside edge of the seat. On my first century last fall, the last 7 miles or so were agony as soft-tissue swelling started to make itself apparent. Not as bad as the time I rode 53 miles on a men’s race saddle (that was four days of swelling and pain), but really there’s no reason for this kind of pain on a bike.

As a cyclist who has managed to keep my base miles around 40-50 this winter, that’s a lot of sore butt.

Stay tuned for more on this riveting topic – keeping your butt happy on the road. And please – if you have a suggestion or wisdom to impart, please comment below!

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In other news, I am pleased to announce the newest addition to my bicycle family! She’s a 1988 Peugeot Versailles 12-speed I have dubbed Lady Rainicorn. She’s going in for an overhaul, chrome fenders, a rack and lights next week.

(I’m really sorry to everyone who follows me on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter … recycling this news for the masses. )

My lovely new bike, pre-overhaul
My lovely new bike, pre-overhaul

January

It never fails. The calendar rolls over to January and suddenly it’s a bit easier to say “no thank you” to seconds, desserts and unhealthy foods. Gyms are bustling with aspirations that This Year Will Be Different and the perspiration penance of a thousand sins.  Personally I stepped on the scale for the first real time since October and while I understand I am not a number, the digital read-out blinking back at me was not a number I am particularly fond of. In fact, I haven’t seen that number since October of 2010. Huh.

Once January hits, it’s time to get back into shape.

We’ve also passed the winter solstice, which means minute by minute the days are getting longer. Soon it won’t be so dark when I walk home from the train. It won’t be quite so cold. The trees will start to bud and blossom and riding without winter layers isn’t too far behind.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I am reminded that the worst part of winter is still to come for my area – January through March is supposedly the coldest and snowiest. Last year was just a lot rain and temps in the forties … April is where my riding really picked up.

I’m actually very happy that I have been able to ride fairly consistently (weekly) through the month of December. I’ve learned much in the art of layering and cold-weather riding. I am learning my limits and finding ways to exploit the time I have for what I want to do. Although yes, sometimes I have to be a responsible adult and do things that just need to get done.

So I’ve joined a couple of online challenges to help keep the motivation going – like most base miles and logging at least 10 workouts a month. I have friends who love to ride in the cold (ok, maybe love is a strong word – they don’t see it as an excuse) which keeps me motivated. And I have my feeling about how fit I feel.

My head cold has finally cleared so I’m looking forward to riding soon … See you on the road!