Oh yeah, I think I’m gonna go down to the Shore …

Strava had a challenge this past weekend: use your base miles and see if you can ride a century. You have a choice of Friday, Saturday or Sunday to accomplish 100 miles in one ride.

I stared at the challenge. I hemmed and hawed. It’s early in the year. I’m riding, but not as consistently as in the summer. I haven’t been “training.” But I’ve done a couple of centuries before and I’m pretty sure I can do it again. I finally took the plunge and clicked “join” … and then reached out to my cycling friends who might be crazy enough to think riding 100 miles in February is an awesome idea. My caveat was “Weather Permitting.” I’ve had enough fish sticks for toes this off-season, thank you very much.

One friend took me up on the offer. Not surprisingly, he’s also the one who rode over 11 thousand miles last year (yes, you read that correctly). He asks where I want to go. I suggest Saint Peter’s Village – an out-and-back but very hilly. He suggests we head down to the Shore – an out and FLAT. And we take the train home. I like that idea much better. We decide Sunday is the best day to ride.

The whole day before I check the weather report and it’s going to be acceptable: high of 45, partly sunny/cloudy, and more importantly, no rain. I’ve got Dead Milkmen‘s “Bitchin Camaro” stuck in my head all day.

Waking up the day of, I am a wreck. Like straight up a wreck. I start to panic. I can barely eat my breakfast. I think I’m going to throw up. I packed a backpack of gear and nutrition and laid out my attire the night before … but now I’m thinking I am going to somehow bonk in the middle of New Jersey or get run over by some Jersey Bro with a vendetta against cyclists. Oh and yeah – this will be my first ride on the new saddle.

None of this is true (except the saddle part – that’s totally legit) – it’s just my brain going batshit crazy. Even as I roll up to my friend’s house I am in full-on panic mode. This is a terrible idea. What the heck was I thinking?

 

And so, under partly cloudy skies we set out to see if we could get to the Shore.

 

 

It was a great day on the bike! I’m so glad I did it and didn’t let my brain get in my way of achieving – a century! Unsupported! In February! I can’t even begin to describe the sense of accomplishment I have.

Highlights of the day included:

  • Gliding over the trail and hammering up the hills in upper Pennypack Park
  • Admiring the beautiful bridges we were passing under
  • Slogging through thick mud and glass in lower Pennypack Park, passing the prison
  • riding in the middle of State Rd in the “scenic” waterfront district
  • flaunting the law by NOT walking our bicycles across the bridge to New Jersey
  • Starbucks break at mile 27 (I was so freaked out I forgot to enjoy the cup of Off The Chain coffee by our friends at Sip, Clip, and Go! Coffee for Cyclists I had brewed at home)
  • Riding on the wide shoulder of US-206 and feeling very unsafe
  • Lunch at mile 55 in Hammonton. Feeling shredded.
  • The miracle of ibuprofen. Feeling like a superhero.
  • Being ogled by the teens working the cafe where we stopped for a bathroom break as I nonchalantly suck down a goo
  • Riding on the quiet side streets next to the river/watershed, admiring the houses
  • Riding through quaint farms with horses, goats, and blueberry fields
  • Contemplating the state of disrepair of the houses and open space as we got closer to the Shore
  • Riding the bridges into Ocean City
  • CROSSWINDS (20+ mph)
  • Getting lost in Ocean City
  • MORE CROSSWINDS (WTF)
  • Fighting to stay upright on the bridge to Longport … and then being prevented from benefiting from the descent
  • Cycling past the ocean, watching as the waves crash on the beach
  • Why yes, it can take almost an hour to go five miles!
  • Getting to the train station in Atlantic City with only ten minutes to spare
on the bridge going into Ocean City, NJ.
on the bridge going into Ocean City, NJ.

Things I learned:

  • Worry is useless. Take it one mile at a time.
  • Lunch break after the half-way point is brilliant.
  • Plan to get to the next rest break. It’s only (15/20) miles away.
  • Do not under any circumstance think you can break in a new saddle on a 100mi ride.
  • I can do an unsupported century with a friend and have a truly amazing day on my bike.

* * * * *

Click Here to see the route and my stats on Strava

 

Pure Joy

I’d been checking the weather reports all week, looking for the one day when it won’t be “as cold” or “snowy” or “dense foggy” to get out and ride my bike again. When today came up as a high of 50*F, I knew I would regret it if I didn’t ride.

Quick text to my commuter friend, who has still been commuting in all kinds of cold and crappy weather, who is all kinds of surprised.

Weather looks great tomorrow so I’ll see you at 6:32am. 

The actual commute this morning was cold. I always forget that 34* and dark is not the same as 34* and sunny. And I’m still working through my footwear situation. This morning’s poor selection was my Converse One Star sneakers. They fit into my toe clips much easier than my trail shoes this past weekend, but my toes also took a huge beating in the cold department. Like Lukewarm Shower To Slowly Warm My Toes So They Don’t Burn and Itch and Make Me Cry cold.

But as usual, the conversation was good. We talked about a lot of things, at one point discussing how my mind can’t wrap itself around the concept of a bike ride without a million layers and spinning a really high cadence to keep warm. We met up with another woman about half-way in and the three of us had a great time chatting and zipping by all the runners on the trail.

I also was able to get my left shifter to go from the little ring to the big ring and back several times without dropping. Finesse. Patience. Being in tune with your bike. All good things.

 

 

But the real joy happened this afternoon. Temps not only got to 50, but they got to 59*F.

I can’t even describe to you, dear reader, how absolutely delicious tonight’s commute was. It was a small slice of what’s to come in a few weeks time, a drop of last spring’s sweet nectar to rekindle the fire after the fuel is mostly spent. Truly it satisfied my soul and hit all the right dopamine points in my brain.

And that was just riding my bike home from work.

 

Cycling is a hell of a drug.

 

See you on the road!

 

Oh hey there …

Oh hey. It’s been a while hasn’t it. Gosh. Sorry about that. Been busy with life and such, being elected to the board for Philly Bike Club. I’m really thrilled to be able to give back to the club that has been so instrumental in keeping me on the road, making new friends, and learning as much as I can about cycling.

 

sometimes I let my bikes stay inside
sometimes I let my bikes stay inside

The bikes are back home. This makes me incredibly happy.

The weather has been difficult to say the least. We didn’t get much snow since the Nor’easter pretty much stayed to the Nor’east. But it’s been colder than I care to venture lately (sub-32*F).

 

But venture I did this past weekend – I wanted to ride my new bike (Lady Rainicorn – you may recall her as the sexy ’88 Peugeot you see in the image above) and the weather outlets were predicting upper-thirties/low-forties and sun. My Always Up For A Bike Ride commuter buddy agreed to join me on an inaugural ride to meet up with some friends for brunch downtown. I warned him we were not going to be breaking any speed records.

Every ride is a learning opportunity:

1. Toe clips SUCK. There is a reason we attach our feet to pedals on the soles of our feet instead of shoving our shoes into a tiny metal cage that mocks you as you attempt to pedal from a stand-still.

there is no love in my heart for these pedals
there is no love in my heart for these pedals

2. Toe covers do not cut it below 40*F. Not even with sock liners and my thickest, warmest wool socks. Riding with fish sticks for toes is also the worst.

not good for spinning efficiency
not good for spinning efficiency

3. I needed one more layer in the morning, one fewer in the afternoon. It was 23*F when we left; 39*F when I got home.

it felt something like this
it felt something like this

4. Winter cycling gloves are BOMB DIGGITY.

something like that, yeah
something like that, yeah

5. The new bike will be excellent for the commute. I will get stronger because she’s not a compact – just a double – but she’s stable and nimble. Zippy.  My lowest gear is nowhere close to my lowest gear on my Felt. But the hills mostly flew under me – only the steep(-er/-est) of hills got painful.

 

So of course my Wish List of cycling crap got longer: insulated cycling jacket, winter cycling shoes, getting a second pair of thermal tights. And new pedals. Even if I just get some platforms for the time being – anything is better than the current weighted toe-clip pedals I have now.

 

When I picked up my bikes I also bought a new seat – a Specialized Ruby Expert. The local shop has a 90 day return-for-store-credit policy so I need to get out on my Felt a few times to give it a go. Hopefully the weather will co-operate – currently this weekend looks terrible for outdoor cycling (snow and sub-freezing temperatures).

 

So more to come, dear reader. Looking forward to warmer weather, longer sunshine, and commuting by bike again in the near future.

 

See you on the road!