Riding to the City: A Love Note

I woke up this morning feeling awesome.

I attribute this mostly to taking yesterday as a Slug Day, a day where my main accomplishment was taking a shower at 7pm. 

It’s amazing how one day … just one little day … of absolving yourself of all responsibilities can have a huge impact on your outlook. 

 

So I rode my bike in to work. I got up a little later than I usually do when I bike commute and left my house later than usual. 

My legs felt heavy as I re-acquainted myself with my commuter bike and a full pannier after taking out my nice (light and fast) road bike this weekend on a fun ride. 

But pedal-along I did and before I knew it I was coming up on the City. 

 

hello my city
hello my city

 

Once I get closer into the city there is so much to enjoy: the turn-of-the-century architecture, old stone bridges, stairs that bring you to the river’s edge. The lush parks are truly oases among concrete and brick – and the traffic imparts the rhythmic heartbeat of the city. The stop and go of everyday life. 

 

There’s something about today that makes it extra special. 

I’m not sure why I love this City. But I do. 

I’ve never felt this way about a city before – they’ve always just been a jumble of buildings and asphalt and concrete. 

But this one is different. This one is slowly becoming My City. 

 

* * * * * 

 

I’ve looked back at my training calendar and realizing things are not as bleak as they appeared last week. I’ve been out fairly consistently even though I’m going through wild mileage fluctuation (400+ miles one month; less than 200 another month). I suspect my frustration is from a lack of routine. Last summer I knew I was going out every Tuesday night and one day each weekend. I added in bike commuting last August once or twice a week (on my 35+ lb comfort hybrid – dear g-d why did I do that to myself??).

I’m just 32 miles shy of 1800 miles for the year, which is roughly what I did in all of last year. I’m going to be fine. I’ve talked to my bike friends about taking a break and they are super supportive … but I think most of it is just re-framing everything in my mind. 

 

I just need to make things organic to my life – and do them on my own terms.

 

Thanks for listening and see you on the road! 

Just Not My Summer

For the third time in a week, I have ignored my 5:30am alarm.

For the third time in a week, I have chosen sleep over bike commuting.

 

How far I’ve fallen from just a few weeks ago.

 

This summer has been tough for getting good ride time for me.  Lots has been going on outside my world of cycling. Somehow I get it in my head that everyone else in the world is out every day. Everyone else is also better, faster, cooler, and more dedicated than me.  I try to keep up with the false notions my brain feeds me. I feel like I should be pushing through … but for what? I’m not training for anything other than to keep up with the Jones’.

The difference from two weeks ago is family. They are paramount and when they were otherwise occupied, it was easy to get up early and ride. I only had to be concerned for myself. Now I am trying to make sure summer homework is getting done and we squeeze the last bits of freedom out of summer. My in-laws are coming for the weekend and we still need to clean the house. And my stomach issues are still there (better but I’m aware) – and the GI doc is on the calendar for just after Labor Day.

And there’s the stuff I want to do but just haven’t found a way yet: mountain biking; hiking; camping. I’m so frustrated with not being able to do everything I want to do. Not like this is a surprise or anything – I always feel like I should do MORE.

 

So I’ve decided to let it go for now. Let go of the ridiculousness that is trying to keep up with everything. Go on fun rides with friends on  the weekends if It works out. Tinker with bike commuting later in the morning (even though it means riding without the benefit of my awesome bike commuting friends). Get my plans together for my daughter’s Girl scout troop. Sleep in and relax more. Go bowling. Go out-of-town with the family.

Find balance in my life again.

 

I’ll leave you with my most favorite event photo ever. It was taken by Sundance Images in Castle Rock, Colorado. I love this photo so much I ordered it as the cheesy “magazine cover” (Rad & Bad bikes anyone?) because it has that “cover girl” look. I even ordered a second copy for my mom. It reminds me of why I ride – the wind in your face, the scenery, the pavement zipping by. It’s a picture of happiness and ease … you’d never know I was churning up a decent hill.

cover girl
cover girl

See you on the road!

 

Experimentation

This past week has been an experiment in Me.

 

My family was scattered across the country, enjoying their summers as they desire (or for business, depending on who you are). So I had a week of being responsible for only myself. And the dogs but they generally stay home and sleep. As a wife and mom, I just don’t have a lot of time like this and let me tell you …

 

it’s fabulous.

 

I bike commuted three out of four days.

(my legs felt great all week)

I ran a neighborhood 5k just because.

(and because running no longer hurts the next day)

I ate Snack Dinners of cheese, hummus, and crackers.

(but mostly because I’m lazy and dislike cooking)

I paid zero attention to chores or housekeeping.

(because no one was making any messes around here anyway)

 

Good morning, Philadelphia!
Good morning, Philadelphia!

 

I missed the ruckus and chaos though, the happiness and tears, that comes with having five people under one roof. Sure I won’t have as much time anymore for the things that I’ve been doing – but I’m be back to being more than just a kick-ass girl. The reason I could enjoy the time off so much was because I have so many other rich elements to  my life.

 

I also took the time to fill my late August and September weekends with events. And I signed up for the Lemon Run again, for this November. My first 5k last year, I’m hoping to smoke my earlier time. And contemplating a 1/4 marathon trail race in September (at the urging of my friend G-Dawg … that’s a 6.5 mile run for those of you playing at home).

 

See you on the road.

* * * * *

In other news, I’m contemplating writing up full reviews of items I’ve used on my own accord and items that I have started receiving promotionally because I fully believe that if you love something, you need to tell everyone about it so they can also benefit from Awesome Stuff. Stay tuned.

 

Reflections

This has not been my month for exercise.

 

After doubling my monthly mileage in a single day last month, I’ve done pretty much bupkis. Mostly riding my Schwinn to the train because it’s convenient and I can leave two hours later than if I ride all the way in to work. I managed to fully bike commute once last week and it was lovely – but now real life is calling again and I’m homebound for at least another week.

 

It’s pretty sad … I’ve only put in 55 miles this month so far, 16 of those running, hiking, and walking.

 

Yesterday my daughter and I participated in The Color Run 5K – one of those 100% Fun events. No chip timing, no clocks. There were so many people there, mostly walking, that any sort of running was kindof moot. Every kilometer was a color station where you run through a giant cloud of colored cornstarch with dust filter-protected staff squirting it all over you. It was fun – we both had a good time – but I can’t see myself doing it again. It’s hard for me to get SUPER PUMPED at 7am.

After the run we came home and got cleaned up before heading to the local diner for breakfast. We decided to ride our bikes there since it’s about a mile and a half from the house. Yummy food and then a short ride home, this time slightly different to avoid going up a hill on a busier road. Instead we went up a hill on not busy roads. 🙂

Then it was onward to the Nap phase of our 5k triathalon – I was down for the count for a full hour, so I’ll count that as a 5k Nap. 5K walk/run followed by 5k bike ride followed by 5k nap. That’s my kind of tri. 🙂

 

I noticed about a week or so after I stop cycling regularly my muscles ache. They ache to move and churn and spin through the miles. And eventually if I don’t get out and ride, that ache goes away. I feel like it’s a message from my body that it’s about to turn back time and stop being chiseled quads and gastrocs. And certainly I can tell my legs are still fantastic – but softer.

Sometimes I think back to the winter days when it was so cold and I struggled to keep my toes from freezing, dreaming of the summer bike rides, and wish I had more time. But I can’t say I’m not enjoying the time off too. Keeps me balanced as long as I don’t let it go too long, right? Moderation in all things.

 

And there’s a little bit of me that wants to strap on my running shoes again and throw down a 5k in the neighborhood for fun. Who’d have thought I might enjoy running just a tiny bit?

 

Anyway – hope to see you on the road soon. 😀

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!

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!

Infographic!

my miles to date this year. like WHOA.
my miles to date this year. like WHOA.

 

Something I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I am a data nerd. I love quantifying how awesome (or terrible) something is. I have a job that involves analyzing data every day (although not to the extent of a researcher – that’s crazy data). So it should be no surprise that I use Strava to quantify my everyday cycling as well as my weekend jaunts. I want to know if I really was as fast as I felt this morning or if I was really a slow-poke. How does this compare to other times I’ve ridden this route?

And I can get competitive too … but mostly I just like putting data around my fitness.

 

Remember that century I rode in late February? Yeah. I’d only been out five times prior this year. Granted I kept my base miles up all winter by riding as often as possible on weekends – but I’m still impressed with this feat.

March was a tough month to ride – I was on vacation for two consecutive weekends – but clearly I got out more than January and February combined (# of rides, not total distance).

April has been an explosion of bicycle happiness – over double my miles month-over-month. I’ll hit one thousand miles in seven more bike commutes. Seven! My cycling-for-transportation miles have exceeded my cycling-for-sport miles fairly consistently this year mostly because I have been plugged into the bike commute scene. It’s probably the most refreshing way to start and end a workday – fresh air, usually sunshine, and the gentle hum of the wind between your spokes.

 

Ok – enough geeking out on this. See you on the road!

Plus Minus

Today has been such a hodgepodge I can only hit the highlights in a plus/minus system:

+5 points: second consecutive day bike commuting – and I was on time today!

+5 points: the weather was phenomenal – like 60*F when I left at 6:28am!

 

-10 points: get call from school nurse in the afternoon. Daughter needs to be picked up.

 

-10 points: Flat back tire when I get my bike from the rack.

+5 points: I’m a pro at fixing flats. Like it only took 15 minutes. Woot!

-5 points: hands covered in grease, blood, and sweat by the end of this particular flat repair.

-5 points: three spoke have poked through the rim tape! Wondering how the hell shitty tires AND pokey spokes got past the LBS when I sent the bike in to be overhauled. Did they even LOOK at my bike?

 

+100 points: ingeniously deciding to use tube patches to temporarily seal the pokey spokes away from my new tube.

– 1,000 points: CO2 inflates cold, quickly, and if you slightly overinflate on a hot day – BOOM.

(yeah, I did hang my head there and felt slightly defeated – burned through my only spare tube!)

 

+100 points: commuter friend has a spare in my tube size! hooray!

+100 points: AND he has a hand pump with a pressure gauge!

 

And we’re off …

 

+100 points: detouring up Rex Avenue after viewing two hidden statues in the park

-200 points: 10% grade, no climbing gears, big rocks. Had to throw in the towel only a 1/10th of the way up the half-mile. Walked my bike a boss.

 

it's pretty ... much a very old cobblestone road
it’s pretty … much a very old cobblestone road that goes UP

 

Feeling beat cycling home. Backpack feels heavy and legs feel shredded.

Take daughter to the local urgent care – sure enough, she broke her arm.

Finally getting dinner at 9:30pm. Hate to admit I’m taking the train tomorrow – today was just too much excitement.

 

As a parting image, here’s a snapshot from yesterday’s commute. I’m wearing my very favorite jersey (Twin Six Grand Prix) which just so happens to match my commuter bike. I couldn’t resist being all matchy-matchy. Jersey came first, just for the record. 😀

best jersey/bike combo ever
best jersey/bike combo ever

 

See you on the road …. just not tomorrow.

Safety First

There’s a lot of information out on the internet on how to bike commute (or just ride) safely – things like Avoid the Door Zone, Be Visible and Predictable, and Get Used To Being Honked At. It’s all true and great information. But if I may, I’d like to share another piece of safety advice that is often overlooked: your emergency pack. Sure you probably toss a spare tube, some tire levers, and either CO2 or a hand pump in your saddle bag or rack pack … but I’m not talking about gear.

Every ride, you need to have the following on you so that Go-d forbid something were to happen you can get help quickly.

  • Government-issued photo ID or driver’s license
  • Medical insurance card
  • Cash. $20 will cover a number of situations.
  • Emergency contact info, be it on paper or tagged as ICE in your smartphone.
  • The code for your smartphone if you use password protect.

Also, if you are riding solo – tell someone you know and trust where you are going and when you plan to return. Bike safe, friends!

* * * * *

I’m on Week Two of bike commuting twice a week and it’s going amazing. I had one day where I failed to have an afternoon snack before I rode home from work and even though our time didn’t increase, I felt horribly sluggish and full of effort. Lady Rainicorn doesn’t have climbing gears so steep hills are a challenge – but worth it. I can feel my quads getting stronger. I’ve also noticed that technique counts – when I mash my pedals, I tire quickly but when I focus on round pedalstrokes, the hill doesn’t seem so hard.

I’ve also been exploring multi-modal commuting – commuting using a combination of cycling and public transportation. On the days I am not able to bike all the way to work, I’ve been riding to the train station and locking up there. It’s actually quite nice to zip down the street in the morning and then be home at the end of the day in under 5 minutes.

 

part of my bike commute. in the city.
part of my bike commute. in the city.

 

Yesterday I rode to work and back with my commuter friend. On the way home we detoured up through Forbidden Drive. It was a lovely jaunt through the Wissahickon Valley Park at a lower speed, admiring the old stone bridges and beautiful surroundings. The 1.2 mile uphill slog from the creek back up to Mount Airy was better than I expected. It’s great because you come out of the creek basin and suddenly you are almost home. Refreshing and relaxing!

Keep on truckin’ friends – see you on the road!

 

Surprise!

Rode my bike to work this morning, even though it was cold and dark when I woke up. It’s going to be about 50* F today so the ride home will be excellent. But it’s still hard to want to wake up at 5:30am to hit the road by 6:30am.

 

I’m just not a morning person.

 

+5 points for Gryffindor: I wore my winter cycling shoes, thermal liners, and thermal insoles. Toes were chilly but definitely not cold or worse, frozen. Conversation was great. Re-acclimating to Lady Rainicorn was smooth. SPD pedals made me very happy (no more toe clips here!).

 

-100 points: forgot my lock.

 

*facepalm*

 

(at least I didn’t forget my pants. or underwear. That would be awkward.)

 

Fortunately my commuter friend keeps a lock on the rack at his office, which is across the street from my office. And the day is saved.