The Fall

Picture this:

It’s a beautiful sunny day. The wind is a bit gusty and brings with it an edge to the relative chill in the air but the sky is blue and the sun is out. You are gliding along the road, chatting with your ride partner. The hills haven’t been too tough, which is nice because you are riding your old school road bike.

 

As you come up to a stop sign, gently squeezing the brake levers, your left heel instinctively kicks out to the left to untether from your pedal … and nothing happens.

 

There is a moment of recognition: Oh junk – I can’t unclip on my usual side.

 

There is a moment of pause: precariously balanced as your bike glides to a stop.

 

There is a moment of desperation: a click of your right heel kicking out of the pedal.

 

There is a moment where you know your weight is already over to the left and there isn’t time to shift it to the right.

 

nope – you’re going over. 

 

The fall is in slow motion – first the bike leans into your thigh, gently pushing it outward. The tethered ankle contorts and stretches as your knee bends to accommodate your top tube. Your hands somehow remain on the handlebars as you relinquish control and simply allow gravity (and the road) to embrace you.

 

* * * * *

I haven’t fallen off my bike in a long time – over a year at this point. It felt like slow motion and I ended up not with the usual abrasions or light road rash but with a twisted ankle and pain radiating up my calf. I took a few minutes to walk around a bit before we hopped on our bikes again and finished our ride home. Once I had showered, I spent time icing and elevating and picked up an ACE wrap. Seems to be a minor ankle sprain coupled with a nice bruise on my calf where my bike and I landed.

It happens to everyone. 😀

 

 

Be Kind to Yourself

My commuter friend is a Very High Mileage rider, dedicated to riding any day it’s not raining (and sometimes even when it is). His personal commitment to cycling is inspirational. I have explored more boundaries by riding with him than any other cyclist – mostly because he doesn’t make excuses not to ride. The bike is there – just go ride it. He has a wealth of experience to tap into – and I regularly try to pick his brain to avoid mistakes as much as possible. That being said, everyone is different and I’ve been known to be bone-headed more than once.

The other day my commuter friend and I were grinding up the hill from the creek back to civilization and talking about the National Bike Challenge. He’s on a team with other Crazy High Mileage cyclists and they are doing very well in the challenge. Every member is out every single day, logging not just trips to the store or to work but serious miles. I can’t even comprehend being able to spin that many miles day in and day out without burn-out or loss of happiness. I know that I tend to lose interest in things and can burn myself out very quickly when something fun becomes an obligation – a chore – yet another thing that has to get done today that I will feel poorly about myself if I can’t accomplish.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep things in balance. I am constantly reminding myself that what I do already is totally awesome, I should be proud of my accomplishments and stop comparing myself to others who are in completely different situations. I am one of the few people I know with school-age kids who gets out for long rides on a regular basis. I have ridden over 1100 miles so far this year – more than the last two year’s mileage-to-date combined three times over – and had a lot of fun. I’ve ridden in heat, cold, rain, thunder, and sunshine. I’ve seen views that are so amazing your heart aches. I’ve seen skylines disappear on the horizon, lingering devastation from last year’s hurricane, and more animals than anyone could have thought to see in a metropolitan area.

The thrill of bicycle commuting is palpable – it is never easy to wake up early, but putting the feet to the pedal tends to clear up any lingering doubts about whether this is what you really want to do instead of sleep in. I remind myself that I am a bicycle commuter even though I only do it 2, sometimes 3 times each week. Because doing it even once a week is more than never. I feel like I occupy a weird space too: my commute is long enough to necessitate Lycra – which is what most “how to bicycle commute” articles indicate is not necessary – but most of our commuter “gang” are somewhat anomalies in that we commute 10 miles or more each way. If I lived closer to work, I would ride every day no question. If I didn’t have parental and relationship obligations in the evenings, I would ride every day no question. But I’m not just a Kick Ass Girl. I’m also a wife and a mom.

On the flip side, I have a regular life too. School is wrapping up for the kids so there are field trips, dances, and End Of The Year celebrations. The last five weekends had events and trips with my Girl Scout troop. We went camping and had a blast despite the damp and rainy weather. A few days ago we took the kids out for water ice at the local stand because the proceeds benefit our middle child’s school. This weekend we are planning a cook-out in our neighbors in our communal yard – last year was so wonderful with the kids running around catching fireflies and bugs in jars until it’s too dark to see. This is what life is all about!

Finding the balance isn’t easy and we should all support each other where we are. Keep it fun – riding your bicycle shouldn’t be a chore or just another item to check off at the end of the day. It should be integrated into your life seamlessly so that you have balance and honor your authentic life.

See you on the road!

Pause

Last week was pretty busy so I was only able to bike commute once. Fortunately it was the evening of the Ride of Silence, honoring cyclists who have died on the roads in the past year. A very somber and sobering event. Then I spent the weekend camping in the rain with my Girl Scout troop. My girls are rock stars!

 

Unfortunately, I also noticed my pinky on my right hand was freaking out. It didn’t want to straighten. I thought back to the SCU Quad County and how my pinky felt zonked after that ride too. It’s also happened a few times this year, each time a little longer to get full functionality back into my finger (because I’m stupid and keep riding). As in, I can’t put all my fingers together and straighten out my right hand. It’s  frightening to think about permanent damage from something you love to do.

 

I did some Googling (check out this blog about someone else experiencing the same thing!) and discovered this is most likely due to excessive compression on my ulnar nerve even though I have padded gloves and padded bartape. The only cure is rest, stretching exercises, and making sure your bike fit is as good as possible (seat low, handlebars high). With this knowledge, I’m thinking all this bike commuting has been screwing me up (since Lady Rainicorn‘s frame is slightly too big for me). Or perhaps I messed up the geometry when I swapped out the saddle. Or maybe it’s my new bike gloves – they are a touch too big (I thought the Mediums felt a touch too small so I opted for Large).

 

Sadness – I know!

 

So I’m going to do a couple of things:

1. put the original saddle back on the bike and see if that helps (I didn’t notice problems before I started messing with the seat)

2. get a bike fit even though I don’t want to (it can be hard to justify spending almost half the cost of your bike on a fit – remember, she’s a Craiglist find under $300)

3. dial back my riding until full functionality returns to my finger (I dislike this the most)

 

* * * * *

Next week I am heading out to Colorado for a week of fun and happiness! I’m flying with my bike again on Frontier Airlines – they are THE BEST when it comes to traveling with your bike. I don’t have status with them this year so I’m going to do my best to get my bike box under 50 pounds (it was 51 pounds last summer). I already have an appointment to get my bike reassembled when I arrive and will work out the return trip when I get there. Super psyched to be cycling with my friends and family again!

* * * * *

 

See you on the road!

 

 

SCU Quad County Recap

Today I rode in the SCU Quad County Metric with my friends Ken and Coco. The Quad County promised quiet, scenic low-traffic roads; well-stocked rest stops; and a post-ride hot lunch. In addition to the usual 25, 45, and 65 mile options riders could add on what is affectionately referred to as the ICU – an additional 8 miles with 1,200′ of elevation gain.

Let’s start with last night – I bike commuted because the weather was Uh-Ma-Zing. I also posted a new PR on the mile+ road up from the river. I got home in enough time to get a shower and grab a string cheese before bolting for my daughter’s concert. After, we decided to go for fro-yo. Before I knew it, I was in bed without a solid meal to recover from the commute and prep for today’s 74mi ultra-hilly ride.

So yeah. When the alarm clock went off at 5:30am, I realized my mistake and knew I would be paying for it today. Starting with a tank dangerously close to “E” … AWESOME.

The weather forecast for today varied wildly all week leading up, so I was thrilled when it only called for clouds until afternoon, then thunderstorms. I forced myself to eat and have a little coffee before my friends arrived. We loaded up our bikes on my SUV and headed out with a heavy rain falling. No sooner did we turn north a few miles later than the skies dried up. Excellent!

Highlights from the day:

* Mile 2: Steep hill! A portent of Things To Come.

* Mile 3: Flat! Ken found the insidious piece of amber glass. We’re a good flat-repair team.

* Mile 8: deciding Yes, we are heading into the ICU. Despite virtually EVERY OTHER CYCLIST around us opting out.

looks are deceiving - the entry to the ICU
looks are deceiving – the entry to the ICU
this is moments before we embark on a journey that only goes up.
this is moments before we embark on a journey that only goes up (I’m in the middle)

Doing things in a group, as a team, makes everything painful go by faster – many of the big hills averaged 7-9% grade. As does singing whatever song is in your head at a given moment. My favorite was when we busted out “Baby Got Back.”

Interesting note – the event photographer was in the ICU. I can’t wait to see what that picture looks like.

* Mile 28: first rest stop.

* great conversation about interesting stories from our lives. I can’t even remember all of them – but they made the miles fly.

* We passed by many farms and saw several white horses, each one looking at us. We took them to be a good omen for the ride.

* Mile 50: second rest stop and possibly the best smelling, cleanest port-o-potties I’ve ever used. Not being facetious.

one of the many picturesque farms we passed
one of the many picturesque farms we passed

This is where the skies decide to open up. A few miles of light rain gave way to torrential downpour. A few more miles and we are now in a full-on thunderstorm. We’ve abandoned our glasses and are wincing through the driving rain. Let’s be clear: riding in the rain at 16mph feels like sand being thrown on your body.

We slog on, laughing and making the best of our lot. We decide to skip the “bonus” ICU segment in favor of getting back to my car and dry clothes.

short break to check the cue sheet because we had NO IDEA where we were
short break to check the cue sheet because we had NO IDEA where we were

Somehow we determine we are three miles from the finish. This is a complete lie, as we are closer to 10 miles from the finish. ONWARD!

Three actual miles from the end, the sun comes out. We are soaked. We are happy. We are tired. We made it back to the finish as the volunteers were starting to close up shop.

must. eat.
must. eat.

Overall, I can’t even tell you how beautiful this ride was, how much fun I had, and how very legit the ICU is. After we fueled up with a hot lunch, we changed into warm, dry clothes to drive home (+1000 points for this idea).

If you are in the Pennsylvania area and have the opportunity to ride this event, I highly recommend it.

Now it’s time to move into recovery mode and get some sleep. See you on the road!

Check out the stats here: http://app.strava.com/activities/53663135

For Sale

Why don’t you just sell your bike? 

That’s not a loaded question or anything.

2011

I had talked about buying a bike for months. My friends were sick of it. Just buy something already! Get out and ride with us!  I’d received notification that I was going to be laid off within the year and it had already been six months. The end was truly near.

I needed something to burn off anxiety. I needed something to go out with my kids. I needed a bike.

I decided to head up to the local bike superstore. I had purchased a Specialized mountain-bike-y hybrid in 2005 but never rode it and had just handed it down to my oldest child as a birthday present (my mom got it tuned up and changed out the seat). I didn’t want to make the same mistake – buy an expensive bike and then never ride it.

Yes. $300 was expensive for me back then.

I slowly walked up each row, pretending I knew what I was looking for. I didn’t want to go the mountain-bike route – getting a mountain-y hybrid clearly didn’t work out. I looked at the flat-bar fitness hybrids – I liked the balance of road and hybrid – but they were almost a thousand dollars. I did not want to make an even more expensive mistake. I looked at the road bikes and just couldn’t swallow the idea of spending $1,500 minimum. So I found the small selection, causally tucked away, of comfort hybrids. The sales guy listened to what I said I was looking for (“…comfortable, easy, riding on the path with my kids…”) and said they would be the best for my needs.

A week later, I took delivery on my new comfort hybrid. I was happy. I rounded up my kids and we rode to the fro-yo shop and back.

The rest is well-known: I started riding by myself on the path. I started riding farther and tried desperately to ride faster. I wanted to keep up with the kids on the road bikes. I wanted it to not suck so bad going up hills. I pushed and pushed and pushed.

2012

I have a job and a bonus. I go out and make a total Fred move: I get a full carbon bike complete with shoes and pedals and everything. I can’t stop smiling. I love this bike. LOVE it. She rides like a dream, once I haul my ass into a clinic for beginners. I’m going faster and farther and loving it.

This is where I started to love cycling.

Comfort Hybrid gets relegated to gravel or cinder paths – which are ridden less and less. I put a rack and fenders on her so I can bike commute. She kicks my ass every time. I’m so sore and tired when I get home – it’s hard to feel motivated to ride to work because I know the ride home will suck. And she’s not fast. We joke on the commutes that she’s our Green Light Good Luck Charm because we always make the green light. I believe it’s because she knows I don’t love her and it trying to make up for it. Prove she has worth.

2013

I pick up a late-80s road machine and begin overhauling and adding to make her my commuter. I love her so much. She rides differently than my Nice Road Bike. She’s steel and even on my 25s, I don’t mind gravel paths. But I love riding her so much. I can’t stop smiling.

Which brings us back to the original line – Why don’t you just sell your bike? 

My husband will tell you I have too many bikes. And while I totally disagree, he has a point. One bike stands out, lonely and a pariah among loved machines. One bike that simply isn’t meant for the abuse I put her through. One bike that gets no love.

So after much agonizing (she’s a decent bike! I can take her on the trails with the kids! What would I replace her with?) I’ve decided it’s time to sell her. I’m still conflicted – she’s transported me over 1,000 miles (over 1,600km) in the past two years. She’s reliable. She’s stable. She’s comfortable.

But I never think “Man, I need to ride my hybrid today.” And I’m sure someone out there is looking for a stable, reliable, comfortable ride and doesn’t want to pay retail. She was $500 new; I’m asking $300 obo for the bike with fenders, a rack, water bottle cage and bell.

I’ve only listed her with my bike club for personal reasons. She may or may not sell, given the small audience. And if she doesn’t, I’ll still take her out sometimes.

But every bike deserves to be loved. I hope I can help someone else love to ride.

* * * * *

Hello friends – I am selling my black 2011 Specialized Crossroads Sport comfort hybrid, size Small. She comes with fenders, a rack, water bottle cage, and bell. Featuring an upright riding position, wide comfortable seat, front suspension (can be locked out), and plenty of gears (triple in front, 7-speed in the back) for any kind of terrain. The 700×38 tires roll over just about anything, ensuring a smooth and comfortable ride. Platform pedals. Excellent for running errands around town or noodling on multi-use paths. $300 obo. Photos available upon request!