Singletrack Obsession

Friends, I am going through some serious mountain biking withdrawal.

 

It’s bad.

(Not quite this bad but still pretty bad)

You may recall my continued allegiance to Felt Bicycles and when I saw the Felt Nine Sport 29er, one of the Best Buys for Under $1000, for a very reasonable non-stolen sum in my size I jumped. A few weeks later I took him down to my friend Heather’s house and we pedaled over to the local park to get some easier/beginner singletrack under my belt.

Michaelangelo
Michaelangelo

(This bike is a dude’s bike and the orange made me think of Michaelangelo, the Ninja Turtle. So for now, the bike has been dubbed Michaelangelo)

 

Whoomp. Whoomp. Whoomp.

I rode on the flat pedals with trail running shoes, which were stable but slightly off-center. We rode around the twisty wooded trail, just two girls out on their bikes. It was awesome. I was able to roll over some obstacles I wasn’t sure I could. We rolled over a small bridge, through a stream, and up and down the hillside. Sunlight was fading so we headed back.

trail companion
trail companion
yup, we're going up!
yup, we’re going up!

 

Whoomp. Whoomp. Whoomp.

Is there anything more satisfyingly hilarious than mountain bike wheels on the road?

 

Anyway, the next weekend we hit the trails again. This time I opted for some commuter boots, thinking because I didn’t have cleats on them they would bee better on the platforms. Wrong. My feet slid all over (and off) the pedals as I navigated the rocky, rooty terrain. I even walked down a hill because I could not be certain I wouldn’t crash when my feet wouldn’t stay on the pedals. We didn’t stay out as long and despite the poor shoe choice on my part, I had fun.

Having fun on the trail
Having fun on the trail

It’s time to throw on the clipless pedals and cleats. Who ever would have thought I would feel better being attached to my bike?

So Heather lent me her Egg Beaters. I can’t wait to try them.

 

This past week I was off work on Friday and my friend Heather also happened to be available so we made plans to ride mid-morning. Unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans, ones that included vicious wind, torrential rain, and generally unpleasant weather. We decided against muddy trail riding (protect the trails folks!) even though the weather eventually cleared and warmed up to a beautiful day.

 

What is it about mountain biking? There’s something most excellent about getting away from the roads, the people, cars and responsibilities and experiencing nature, quiet, and peacefulness. The crunch of leaves under your tire. The bushes brushing against your legs. Noodling through twisty trails between trees, over fallen logs, and staying upright through a shifty rocky rooty area.

 

In a fast-paced world, we all need a place to get away from it all. For me it’s on my bike – and even more so on my bike, in the woods.

 

See you on the road (or trails)!

 

Elephant Rock Ride 2013 Recap

I’m absolutely beat from spending a day in airports and airplanes but I have to share with you, dear reader, what a wonderful time I had in Colorado this past week.

I flew on Frontier Airlines again because if you do the research, they have the most bike-friendly policies of any airline. I can’t recommend them enough. Be vigilant however – some of the smaller/newer airports may not be fully informed and try to charge you oversize AND overweight (Frontier only charges overweight for bikes). I tweeted @FrontierCare a gentle request to remind the staff of said airport about their policy and they tweeted back that they called the staff immediately. I can independently confirm this because I was at a very small (tiny) airport and the only one checking a bike … and the gate agent called me out on it when I was boarding.

You can bet they will remember the bike policy the next time someone checks a bike for a flight through their airport.

Upon landing in beautiful Denver, I drove out to my new favorite independent bike shop – Pedal of Littleton – to have my ride reassembled and a new crankset installed. Turns out the left crank was stripped last year when the mechanic assigned to reassemble my bike didn’t install my pedal correctly. (You may recall I had to fix it on the side of the road during last year’s Elephant Rock Ride) Many thanks for my current shop for pointing out the issue and guiding me in getting a new crankset delivered to Pedal.

Friends, I can’t tell you how well Pedal treated not only me but my family. My bike has not felt this fluid and effortless since she was brand new. They adjusted my fit, answered my questions about my cleats getting stuck last weekend (and loosening my pedals), and made sure I was happy. Then we talked about a rental for my sister, who is a runner and planned to join me for a day on the bike. They treated her with respect and honesty and she did not feel like she was being talked down to when she said she didn’t know the first thing about bikes and needed flat pedals. They tweaked the fit until she felt amazing on the bike. I highly recommend Pedal if you are in the Belleview/Santa Fe area – they are just off the trail and top-notch.

The morning of Elephant Rock my sister and I were shepherded to the start by my most excellent parents. This is no small feat because we had to get up at 4:30am to get to the start and on the road by 6am. I of course felt incredibly nervous and anxious – and this manifests as nausea. Fortunately I warned my sister a few days before to not take it personally if I didn’t talk to her much.

I also failed to check the weather report outside of high temp for the day. Our 6am start brought us 48*F, sunshine, and 20 mph winds. So our shorts, jersey, and light sleeves were significantly subpar.

my sister. we are so cold.
my sister demonstrating we are so cold.

and the WIND! Oh my goodness – we could barely push above 10-13mph and we were spinning like crazy. Crosswinds – headwinds – everything but a tailwind. We would spin up a hill and not even have the benefit of a descent because we’d have to pedal through the headwind going downhill. This gave a whole new meaning to “windswept plains.”

We stopped at the 15mi rest stop – me for real food (since I hadn’t eaten anything yet for fear of losing it), my sister for a way to close the hole in the front seam of her bike shorts (she got a safety-pin). A gentleman commented that “you don’t have views like this in Philadelphia”  referring to the amazing view of Pikes Peak in the background. I swear I said a inflection-neutral “nope” but my sister will tell you I growled at him and was generally hostile. All I remember is nibbling on a banana and sour green grapes and pacing around, trying not to puke. And the wind again.

this is one of my favorite pics from the day - if you look at it full size you can see the cyclists riding up the hill, dotting the horizon.
this is one of my favorite pics from the day – if you look at it full size you can see the cyclists riding up the hill, dotting the horizon.

The 25 mi mark is the route divergence for the full century and the metric century. Given the wind, I suggested to my sister that we pull over and rethink our desire to do the full century route. We were barely averaging 10mph at this point and the winds were showing no sign of letting up. By this point the banana has kicked in and I feel normal again – but my sister is sagging because the wind is literally sucking our energy (and she’s not a cyclist) and her butt was hurting.

Clearly we were not the only ones who decided to pull over and think – there was a quarter of a mile worth of cyclists debating the routes. We learned later that most people opted to curtail their miles because of the wind.

And really, when you are out to have fun – there’s no point in slogging through 20mph winds that are gusting to 30mph. It’s just not fun.

So we aborted our quest for the full century after much deliberation and headed west to the next rest stop at mile 33. Several big inclines lead to delicious descents that became tricky in the gusty wind. These are the times I curse my carbon fiber bike and it’s light weight – I hate spending more energy staying upright on the downhill than I did on the uphill.

We did however get to ride on an aptly named Roller Coaster Road – a swooping set of several rollers that ended up being a highlight of the route.

the half-way point
the half-way point

After a quick pee-and-refill-water-bottles break in Palmer Lake, we set out for the best part of the ride – ten pure miles of downhill protected by pine forest. So there was no wind. And we could pick up the pace. And by “pick up the pace” I mean I shouted “gidd’up,” threw my rig into the big ring, and watched my cyclometer ratchet up to over 40mph.

Yeah, that happened. And it was worth every moment.

Then came the payback – over 2 miles of 4% grade with less than 20 miles to go in the metric. My poor sister was experiencing what we all face in the early season, Sore Butt. She was also running out of gas so we rode side by side up Tomah Road. An older guy struck up a conversation with us part way up the hill and that took her mind off the grind (and her sore booty) for a bit.

my sister contemplating the monster hill we just finished.
my sister contemplating the monster hill we just finished. she’s not happy.

By now it’s also almost 80*F. It feels amazing to be in the sun with very little wind. We zoom to the finish, taking a few breaks here and there for my sister to get off her saddle and stretch a bit. We cheer as we roll into the finish line, grab our post-ride lunch and nosh in the shade celebrating our victory. My parents had watched us on my Garmin LiveTrack and were already on their way to pick us up.

Here’s our stats from the ride: http://app.strava.com/activities/57834471

(keep in mind my sister has ZERO cycling training prior to this ride – she is a runner and hiker – and she threw down a 60 mile ride in 4h 45m. She’s insane. And five years younger than me. LOL)

A couple of side notes:

  • I’m now confident last year’s “altitude sickness” was indeed a virus as I had no ill effects outside of my own usual event anxiety.
  • I loved riding with my sister, even if this ride has solidified for her that she hates cycling. Even though she had fun.
me and my sister enjoying  success ... and the post-ride lunch
me and my sister enjoying success … and the post-ride lunch

My next post will talk about the rest of my vacation, because the cycling didn’t end here.

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.

 

The Bike Matters

This weekend I decided to ride my hybrid bike to meet some girl friends for brunch on Saturday morning. I chose my hybrid because a 3 mile section of the route goes through a park that has a path of dirt and rocks – not exactly skinny-tire friendly. The rest is all on-street or paved bike path riding.

A wonderful 15 mile ride in, then a 10 mile ride around Fairmount Park before we rode off to eat.  We got a great table by an open window and enjoyed good food and a beautiful day. We then parted ways and I slogged through the 15 miles back home – it was uphill almost the entire way. At the end of the 3 miles of dirt and rocks, there is a 1.32 mile section of the road that is a 2% average incline – not insurmountable but certainly a challenge for any novice cyclist. Especially on a hybrid.

Image

Let’s talk about bicycle weights here for a second. My hybrid bike is 34 pounds. My road bike is 17 pounds. When you are going uphill, you can definitely feel the weight difference. Where my road bike flies, my hybrid is sluggish. It’s like being with a couch potato (hybrid) or a fitness freak (road).

But to be clear – I ask a lot of my hybrid. It has no business doing 40 miles in a morning – it’s built for casual rides around town running errands or leisurely rides with my kids.

Couple this with my hybrid has platform pedals (the flat ones) whereas my road bike has dual-sided pedals that my shoes clip into, thus transferring power from my legs to the bike. Everyone said clipless pedals would change my life but I wasn’t convinced until I had them l and could literally feel myself become one with my bike and power up a hill. It’s a truly incredible feeling – I highly recommend it.

A key difference also is my hybrid has a triple crank (three front rings) where my road bike has a compact crank (2 front rings). This means I was able to get into the lowest of low gears to slowly but surely get to the top of the hill. I was already pretty fatigued from the earlier riding, which didn’t help the cause any.

Anyway ….the point being your gear can make or break a ride. I was wrecked and spent the rest of the day rehydrating and relaxing. Next time I head downtown for brunch I need to scope a road route so I don’t completely kill my body.

Or maybe I should think of it as really good training? I used to think a ride was only good if you felt wrecked afterwards – but even after 50 miles on my road bike I don’t feel totally wrecked. I like being able to function after a ride.

Today my kids and I went on a 5 mile ride on a beautiful bike path and it was fantastic. They all have mountain bikes so my hybrid was the right choice for gear. I matched my daughter’s pace at 5 mph and it was truly a fun, low-key ride. Exactly what my hybrid is built for.

* * * * *

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! Hope you enjoyed your day as much as I did.