This past weekend I put my bikes on the back of my Honda and headed for the hills. Of west-central Massachusetts, to be more precise. My friend and fellow blogger Karen lives up there and invited me to join her at the JAM Fund Grand FUNdo. The ride was top-notch: very hilly, well-stocked rest stations, full-on pig roast bbq and local craft beer at the end.
While there, a former pro cyclist approached me about my scar. Turns out she had a total thyroidectomy a few years ago (hers was benign) and is currently not racing due to overtraining.
She shared with me a few gems, one of which was that once your thyroid is removed your body functions differently from when you had the organ even though you are replacing the hormones. As an athlete, it’s easy to build into a certain level of fitness. How the body functions with just the hormones is slightly different. She shared a story about a training ride where she became severely hypothermic, which was her “a-ha” moment about how her body functions differently now.
This was welcome anecdotal evidence, as I’ve noticed my body isn’t responding the same way it used to. I get goose-bumps earlier in hot rides than I used to – which is my key to drink more fluids, dial down the intensity, and stay in the shaded areas as much as possible. The Mini FUNdo we did featured 25 miles of uphill before the glorious 15 miles of downhill – and by mile 22, my muscles weren’t crying but I was definitely Not Myself. Thankfully the rest stop had bananas and, more importantly, pickles.
Never underestimate the power of a pickle to revive you on a hot bike ride.
The rest of the weekend was exactly the relaxing, rejuvenating experience I needed. We biked, we laughed, we talked, and we ate. As working moms, it’s not easy for us to just take a weekend to ride bikes – but I’m so glad Karen was up for it and I was in a place where I could be as active as I wanted … even if it isn’t at my former fitness level.
Another friend of mine, Dani, made an excellent observation. She asked me if I had held back my voice – because the thyroid is in the throat chakra and maybe I needed to learn how to be my own advocate more, to speak up and not be afraid of what others think or will say by voicing my concerns or opinion.While I still harbor internal concerns that vulnerability makes me a liability, the reality is I have suppressed my needs too much. It’s OK to ask for help, for down-time, and to take care of me first.
The irony certainly doesn’t escape me that I have moved to a city that never sleeps, is always pushing forward, and thrives on the dreams and ambitions of millions of people – and my body is quite literally telling me to slow down, take time to breathe and relax, and to enjoy life.
Of course, I immediately signed up for another very hilly ride locally in October. I’m hoping to get through my radioactive iodine treatment over the next 2 weeks and get back to building up my cycling strength. I don’t think I’ll see anywhere close to the same stats as last year and I’m making my peace with it. I’ll ride as much as I can and seek out my happy-place as often as possible.
This past Thursday morning my husband dropped me and my friend Ken off at a parking lot out in Phoenixville, PA under gray skies and a chance of more rain to come for a four-day bike ride to Gettysburg and then back to Philadelphia. We pumped our tires, loaded our bags into the truck, and set off on a new adventure with 28 other soon to be friends.
The Ride for Homesis an annual four-day cycling event coordinated by Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia to raise much needed funds to support their work in the Philadelphia region. This year they are using the funds raised for this ride to make basic repairs to six Habitat homes. Our group of 30 riders raised over $35,000 for this worthy cause.
I’ve never done a multi-day ride and was both nervous and excited about the prospect.
The rain was tapering off as we set out on the road. We started as a rather large (17) group. The roads were lower-trafficked and some motorists weren’t as considerate when passing. At one point a woman almost caused a head-on collision as we rolled up a steep hill on a two-lane road and she tried to pass with an on-coming car directly in front of her. We let her pass before moving on at the top of the hill – no need to become road kill!
Lunch was at a tiny Joanna General Store in the middle of nowhere who made us fresh sandwiches to order. Delightful! At this point I decided riding with my cycling waist-pack was going to be too cumbersome so I pulled out everything I needed and left it in the SAG van. It was at this point I realized I had left my RoadID at home – but had my driver’s license and insurance card on me at all times. We decided at this time to split up the group into two more manageable chunks with about 8 or 9 riders each.
Overall there were three groups – A (averaging 14+mph), B (averaging 12.5+mph), and C (averaging 11+ mph). Our group had a guy riding a single-speed mountain bike (Buckman!) who beat all of us on geared road bikes up the hills, no matter how steep or how long. We dubbed ourselves Buckman’s Brigade.
The roads got quieter after lunch as we rolled into hilly central Pennsylvania and Amish Country. The shaded roads gave way to wide open roads overlooking immense valleys of farmland. So many hills! Every other farm was selling strawberries or promising sweet corn in a few weeks.
We checked in at a Holiday Inn Express in Lititz, PA, got cleaned up, and then walked over to a local church who fed us delicious vegetarian lasagna, salad, fruit, and rolls. We heard from the local Habitat about the work they do in Lancaster County and then departed for a quiet evening back at the hotel.
Day Two was the shortest mileage day – or the longest depending on what options you chose. The base miles got you from Lititz to Hanover. The weather was sunny but mild, perfect early summer riding and not a hint of humidity. The ride was mostly uneventful – noodling along country roads until we had to cross the mighty Susquehanna River. There are only a few places to cross the river as it is – and we got to cross on the Lincoln Highway. The bridge is beautiful and the river is wide.
Once across we rolled down to York for lunch. Once we were in the town limits, the C group caught up to us so we ended up taking the lane. It’s always fun to lead a block of cyclists through city streets, two and three abreast. Unfortunately the Turkey Hill branded gas station did not have a sandwich counter and very slim pickings for lunch options. Made do with a couple subpar cheese sticks, a bag of chips, and a coke. We separated from the C group after lunch.
Continuing on back into the country and the endless rolling hills. Thankfully we were able to keep momentum on some of the hills; others were a total bear. Rolled into the Holiday Inn Express in Hanover with time to check in and get more snacks before departing on the optional Gettysburg loop.
Day Two: Optional Gettysburg Loop. 26.6 mi / 1,152′ gain
A small group of mostly B riders with a few A riders headed out along PA 116 to see Gettysburg National Military Park. The group quickly split into two factions. I stayed with the slower group. We were tired but pedaling felt better. Gathered at the Visitor Center before heading out on a short loop of the battlefields. We stopped to talk about the Civil War and the significance of us visiting on the anniversary of D-Day and war in general. Having missed a decent lunch and not having had dinner yet, we opted to SAG it back to Hanover where copious pizza and salad awaited us.
Day Three began at 70* when we rolled out at 9am. We knew this was the longest day in the saddle as well as the hottest. The word of the day was Hydration and unfortunately I failed at it spectacularly despite drinking through my water bottles. Which was very disappointing but we’ll get to that. I only made it 46 miles (and 2,710′ gain).
I wish I remembered more about the ride. The morning was fine if hot. As we rolled up to the first water stop, I hopped off my bike and instantly felt nauseated. I shoveled a banana, ClifBar, and trail mix into my mouth while refilling my water bottles with Propel-laced water. I’ve been using Propel for a couple years now, since Gatorade never sat well with my stomach, with no problems.
I’ve now learned the rules force your hand a bit on multi-day rides – you find your weak points very quickly. If your bike isn’t dialed in, your saddle hurts you, or your shorts aren’t up for the challenge … you will find out. Yes, that was me on Day Two wearing my old worn-down shorts thinking it was a low-mileage day and it wouldn’t be a big issue. It was. I’m sorry, booty.
We rolled out onto a shaded rail trail and I couldn’t shake the nausea. When we stopped for bathrooms, I shoveled more trail mix into my face thinking it was a nutrition issue since the day before we’d had a ridiculously light lunch and I’d tacked on extra miles. I sought out shade at every opportunity. Onward.
Lunch at a Subway in Red Lion was a welcome opportunity to cool off in the air conditioned restaurant and put real food in me. People started asking if I felt ok. At the time I didn’t understand why and said “yes” even though I felt hot and lightly nauseous. I even dumped water all over me after eating in an effort to cool off. It worked for a bit until we hit open roads with no shade and long, long climbs. We screamed down a monster hill (so exhilarating!) before rolling alongside the river to get back to the Lincoln Highway bridge back across the Susquehanna.
I should have been able to enjoy the river road but instead I felt horrible. It was a slog, a death march. Every pedal stroke felt like too much energy. Just get to the next water stop. Just get to the water stop.
We get to the water stop and I immediately start eating again, not thinking this was a hydration issue. Several people asked if I was ok. I finally relented and accepted a spot in the air conditioned SAG van … and noticed it didn’t feel that cooling. I decided to throw in the towel and SAG to the next hotel. I shoveled trail mix and a banana in my mouth. One of the SAG women gave me a cold washcloth for my neck, iced down my coke and told me to sip it. I obeyed.
My group rolled out for the final 23 miles and I sat there thinking what an embarrassment this was. How could everyone be feeling so good and I feel so bad? What was I doing wrong? I knew I couldn’t ride another mile so I didn’t regret the choice to SAG back to the hotel but there was a sense of loss in riding in the SAG van. I’m not comfortable with my own vulnerability.
Checked in at the Historic Strasburg hotel, got a lukewarm shower and sat with a cold washcloth on my neck in my air conditioned room. Everyone asked how I was feeling. Much better – but I didn’t want the attention. I just wanted to be treated like everyone else. But I was also thankful for the SAG team, the leadership on the ride, and also for knowing myself well enough to call it quits before causing a much bigger problem on the road.
While eating dinner at the local church that was hosting us, I was texting with my husband. Toying with the idea of going home. The coke helped but I was back on Propel water and starting to not feel as good again. My friend Coco gave me a Nuun tablet and I added it to my water. Very quickly I started to feel significantly better. I told my husband I was going to try to ride the final day and not to come pick me up. Coco gave me another tablet to drink before bed, which I did.
I say all this because I did my research and turns out Propel does not have any sodium in it. None. So I had basically ridden three long days in the sun and heat with nothing more than flavored water. NO WONDER I FELT LIKE JUNK. This is the Truth of the Bike Tour.
I borrowed a tube of Nuun from Ken for the final day and made the plan to just get to each water or lunch stop and decide what to do. Baby steps. I won’t lie – I was very nervous about riding. The forecast was for hot and similar hills/mileage. But I knew I had to push on as long as I felt good because I can’t let one bad experience influence my cycling journey. Learn from mistakes.
Very nervous starting out on open roads but we opted to leave a half-hour earlier to try to beat the heat. Pre-gamed with juice, extra salt on my eggs, and 12oz of Nuun water before we even rolled out.
Just get to the water stop.
But not so nervous as to not snap a quick selfie with a guy on the ride who also graduated from my Colorado high school. What are the odds??
The day ended up being so much better than I expected. My new-found attention to hydration paid off. I sipped water every two miles, swigged at every red light or regroup at the top of a big hill. We also eventually rolled onto brilliantly shaded roads by creeks and streams that were very refreshing. Our group had gelled over the past few days into a team of 10, which honestly made the miles disappear. We had a few good hills but mostly gentle rolling terrain and overall the day was delightful.
Our first water stop was at the Coatsville Habitat build site. It was incredible to see Habitat’s work in action. The homes were adorable and had unsurpassed views of the valley. I felt so honored to be supporting such an amazing organization with the help of my friends and family who donated to my campaign.
Lunch was in Chadd’s Ford at Wawa. Seriously – the best convenience store ever.
When we paused in Ridley Creek State Park, I noticed I felt nauseated again and realized I hadn’t been drinking as much when we went through the park due to the high volume of pedestrians and kids on the roughly-paved multi-use path. I started sipping again and got it under control in time for the water stop.
+1 for Laura for knowing how to solve the problem now.
The final 13 miles went by so fast. Before we knew it, we were taking the lane and rolling through Manayunk towards the finish point.
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Overall this was an amazing experience. The support staff was incredible. The route was incredibly beautiful and as low-trafficked as possible. The people I rode with felt like old friends by the end. I nearly cried hugging everyone goodbye before going home. I love you guys, Buckman’s Brigade!
A huge shout out to my friends: Coco for pep-talking me into signing up; Maux for her unwavering support during my most dire moments; Ken for always riding with me – and the bottle of Nuun; Chris for sharing his touring wisdom and conversation; Kristen for talking Girl Scouts with me; Laura S for her knowledge of political controversy (and being the other half of Double The Awesome); Sarah for her laid-back vibe and whimsical streamers on her helmet; Buckman for leading the charge every time; Kyler for being our most excellent mechanic.
If you have a chance to sign up for the Ride for Homes Philadelphia, I highly recommend it.
It’s been a brutal winter for outside bike riding. Between back-to-back snow, ice storms, power outages, and a vicious melt-freeze cycle there just hasn’t been an opportunity to safely ride outside. Many of the cyclists I know hang up the bike in late fall and don’t start again until spring is fully underway. Some cyclists I know suck it up and put their bikes on a trainer or pull out the rollers and spend their time pedaling quickly to nowhere to retain some semblance of fitness. I’ve avoided the trainer as long as possible, finally breaking down only last week.
After a spotty record of physical activity in January, I decided to start training for my 5-mile run coming up in April. Get some base miles at my work’s gym on the treadmill until it’s light enough after work to be outside. If there’s anything more boring than being on a trainer, it’s a treadmill. The first run was brutal. It hurt. I was lethargic and I went too fast too soon and while I don’t do “serious” distance I stay focused on just being active. Sure enough the next few runs felt better. I’ve been able to stick to running about 6-7 miles per week this month.
Certainly I am eager to get back into regular riding to shed a few winter pounds that somehow magically find their way to my pear-shaped body when the riding decreases and the eating stays the same. I’d like to tell you, friends, that cycling has given me perspective. That I have found the holy grail of self-acceptance and am completely comfortable in my skin every single day. The truth is I have and I haven’t.
When I bought the Beast and was first beginning to ride, I wore a skort and famously told my more serious cycling friends that I didn’t need anyone looking at my ass-ets. That I wasn’t going to be a “serious” rider anyway. Ten mile rides with stops to drink became fifteen mile rides and being able to reach for my water bottle and drink comfortably. Thirty-five milers became my long rides and with it a new pair or shorts (still rockin’ the unders though). First event, a 50-miler with my best friend – rockin’ the shorts. Somewhere around this time I stopped caring what my hips looked like in Spandex. I bought new jerseys that looked awesome. I started to love riding and took any excuse to hop on my bike and pedal off for a few hours. It took much longer to lose the unders and I’m so thankful I did.
The best thing about riding is definitely the company kept but also often times the food. Fuel the ride well – no need to go crazy overboard. I’ve learned how to use real food (trail mix, dried fruit and nuts) in addition to my favorite energy bars, beans, and goos. But come the end of the season or a long drought of good weather and one can find themselves staring down a few pounds that happened “even though you are eating the same!” Yeah – I’m right there with you. Getting back on track with healthy eating and adequate exercise. (Although the time off was very nice for getting house work done and spending time with the family)
This past weekend was so gorgeous – I got a 4 mile run outside on Saturday (snow-melt puddle stomping and the scent of fallen pine branches thawing in the sun) and a 45 mile bike ride on Sunday with friends to find lunch. The sun was shining, the temps were mid-forties to low-fifties. It felt scandalous to be out riding and running with mounds of snow still blocking traffic corners. It felt so good to be outside! This week is a big dive in temperatures and a few snow showers expected. Looking forward to another week of the treadmill and trainer so when spring fully arrives, I can hit the road running. (haha)
Making plans for all the rides we want to do this summer: restarting mountain bike rides with the club, Quad County, Ride for Homes, heading down the Shore, The Lemon Ride, Philly to Brooklyn, lunch in St Peter’s Village … it’s going to be a great summer!
Anyway several rides ago I had an post-ride-shower epiphany. It’s the cleats.
I had installed my SPD cleats in my usual position – which would be fine … if the shoes weren’t two sizes larger than my usual cycling shoes. Checked where the widest part of my foot was hitting inside the shoe and moved the cleat back significantly.
Sure enough, my winter shoes are no longer a terrible burden and when coupled with toe warmers, I’m a much happier cyclist out on the road and in the woods. Praise Science!
Pro Tip #1: if it doesn’t feel quite right, tweak it until it does.
Yesterday was unseasonably warm (50* F) and brilliantly sunny so Ken and I decided to go have lunch in New Hope at what appeared to be a sandwich shop we walk by every time we go have lunch across the river in Lambertville. The sign outside the door advertised “really really good hoagies” – and who am I to turn up my nose at a really really good hoagie?
Temps were at freezing when we left but quickly climbed and we found ourselves shedding a layer only 8 miles in. As we chatted about the new route we were taking, I noticed Ken was riding his commuter bike. It’s a Giant OCR2 from a few years ago that he’s outfitted with a rack and fenders. Today the rack sported a trunk bag, which was incredibly handy for stashing tools, extra layers, and nutrition.
This is unarguably his favorite bike. He takes it everywhere – daily commuting, week-long cycling vacations, weekend outings around with friends. The tires are wide enough for almost any terrain you throw at it (except maybe technical off-road trails). The triple crankset makes every hill as easy as possible. It’s light and nimble but stable. Given he rides almost 12,000 miles a year, it’s easy to see why. This is as close to a do-it-all bike as one can get. He’s got three bikes and this is the one I see most.
I have five bikes and while I love each one for the individual purpose they serve, none of them are even close to a do-it-all workhorse.
Old Faithful – Specialized Crossroads Sport mountain-hybrid. Great for towpaths and unpaved trails with the family. Aluminum. Very Heavy.
Free Spirit – Schwinn Free Spirit Greenbriar vintage 10-speed. Great for local errands, looking dapper and rides less than 5 miles. Steel. Very Heavy.
Lady Rainicorn – Peugeot Versailles 12-speed. Great city bike with an old-school vibe. Currently my commuter. Steel. Frame is slightly too big and not enough gears to “flatten the hills.” And there are plenty of hills on the way home from work.
Michaelangelo – Felt Nine Sport hardtail mountain bike. Great for mountain biking. Have not found a downside yet. Heavy but doesn’t ride heavy.
Electric Dream Machine – Felt ZW5 carbon recreational racer. Great for events and going relatively fast. Fits like a dream, rides like a dream. Lightweight. Not good for everyday riding.
I’m still looking for that elusive Perfect Bike. Partly I blame myself for going from an upright comfort hybrid to a carbon fiber racer – I didn’t have an entry or mid-level aluminum road bike that was used for everything from weekend jaunts to bike commuting. I’m always looking at what everyone else is riding and asking questions – what do you love about your bike? what do you dislike? Would a cross bike be better? or a flat-bar commuter? What about touring bikes?
I mentioned to my mom that I’d like to try bike touring next year and she wants to join me on one. I’m beyond excited – but feel I don’t have that elusive workhorse of a bike that would be able to handle light touring (thinking inn to inn, not necessarily camping). I think about upgrading the components on Lady Rainicorn – but there’s no getting around the frame being ever-so-slightly too big and really, do I want to spend significantly more in upgrading that I did on the bike? Besides – I love the old school vibe a solid steel bike with downtube shifters imparts as you breeze by. I love Electric Dream Machine but that’s not a bike to take touring. I already have rear panniers and am on the lookout for a trunk bag. I don’t think I’m ready for front panniers or a handlebar bag just yet … I’d like to get my feet wet first before I decide to load up on gear.
So I’m back in the mindset for a touring-type bike – something that fits me like a glove that I want to take everywhere. “Lightweight” but able to carry a decent amount of gear. Enough gears to haul myself and whatever stuff I have up hills relatively comfortably. Maybe even disc brakes. It doesn’t need to be new – I am happy to buy pre-loved. Most of my bikes are pre-loved!
Suggestions – Comments – fire away below.
(In case you are wondering, the ride itself was fantastic – somewhere on the Powerline Trail we met up with Fred and Larry, two brothers we know, and ended up riding with them for a bit. Larry is a big touring cyclist so I picked his brain for several miles. Parted ways and determined this new route adds 6 miles to the trip but is less hilly that our usual route to New Hope. Lunch at the Really Really Good Hoagies place was … meh. Took the direct (and very hilly) route home. Took my thermal jacket out of Ken’s trunk bag and stuffed it into my Showers Pass back jersey pocket, which is bigger than you think. It looked ridiculous, I’m sure. Cresting the last hill before my house, I noticed I was at 69 miles and decided to ride around the neighborhood a bit until I hit an even 70 miles for the day. Overall just a really awesome day on the bike!)
See you on the road.
(PS – This weekend’s ride put me at 16 & Goal. *hooray!*)
Friends, I am going through some serious mountain biking withdrawal.
(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.
(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.
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.
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.
Friends, today is my husband and I’s sixteenth wedding anniversary. Traditionally we took the day off so we could go to lunch together before splitting up between handing out candy and taking the little ones around trick or treating. Our children are now old enough to go out with their friends or stay home and hand out candy – so doing other things for our anniversary is a total option now.
Yesterday I saw a Twitter contest from Philly Bike Tour Co. to win passes on their bicycle tour of Philadelphia today. Of course I re-tweeted and *then* let the husband know there’s a chance we would be going on a bike tour. That’s just how things go with bicycles and myself, really. So late last night when I got the tweet that we had won, I was totally excited.
Philly Bike Tour Co. started fairly recently because there is a distinct void in how to tour Philadelphia by bicycle. With so many beautiful neighborhoods and historic sites in a dense urban area, the best way to get around the city is on two wheels. There are several options for tours such as a classic tour, northern neighborhoods, movie and tv sites, outdoor art, food & beer, and a tour of Fairmount Park. Each tour is rated for difficulty from Super Easy to Advanced – to you can pick the right tour for yourself and your guests. Most of the tours are rated Easy.
Philly Bike Tour Co. is in partnership with Fairmount Bicycles, a woman-owned bicycle shop that specializes in new and refurbished bikes for commuting, touring, and entry-level road riding. Each tour includes a rental bicycle, helmet, and keepsake water bottle. If you bring your own bike, there is a $5 discount.
My husband and I arrived a few minutes early to sign the usual waivers and get situated on our rental bikes. The rentals were perfect for urban riding – the 7 speed Jamis Hudson Sport. The saddle was extremely comfortable, the upright riding position felt confident, and the wide tires rolled over everything we threw at it, including an entire block of cobblestones. Philadelphia is a fairly flat city – we didn’t have to use the gears much at all.
The tour itself was very good. Our knowledgeable guide, Thom, keep the group together and had just enough history behind each stop on the tour to keep it interesting and not like a crazy-long history lesson. We were predominately on streets with bike lanes or on bike paths with a few sections necessary to be either on the sidewalk or taking the lane. Our friendly sweep, Josh, had more tidbits and was a wonderful conversationalist as we pedaled down the street. The pace was excellent – not too fast, not too slow.
There was a mid-tour break for food in the famous Italian Market. Thom had been talking about taco trucks all morning so naturally we gravitated to the Tacos El Rodeo truck at 10th & Washington. We were not disappointed. I had chicken and my husband had carnitas – both were fresh, authentic, and supremely delicious. $4 for two tacos is a great price.
Overall, if you are in the Philadelphia area – live, work, or visiting – take a tour through Philly Bike Tours Co. The bike shop is top-notch, the staff friendly, the tour guide and sweep helpful and knowledgeable. Prices range from $45 to $65 per person, including bike rental, helmet, lock (if needed), water bottle (to take home) and a sense of happiness in the City of Brotherly Love.
**Disclaimer: This review was in no way influenced by the prize passes for the tour. I was so thrilled with the tour I asked if I could review it on my blog. **
Since the first time I started bike commuting, I have desired to hold the Strava QOM on a particular three-successive-hills segment near my neighborhood. Not quite a mile, the road pitches steeply under the freeway, levels out with a small downhill while passing the cemetery, and then pitches up to a stop sign before a very short leveling and final slog to the top.
(The segment linked is a little over half a mile but skips the first 2/10ths of a mile from the stoplight – the full road is here)
Last winter my commuting friend and I were out on a fun ride and decided to try to QOM it. I was doing lots of Big Ring riding whenever I wanted to go fast – so I pushed as hard as I could, him leading the way pulling me up the hill. I achieved the QOM at a whopping 13.9 mph average. It felt awesome.
Anytime I tried to get that last tenth-of-a-mile-per-hour, I fell short. 13mph. 13.5mph. 11mph. Every time the segment would kick my butt. I’d stay in the highest gears I could until I couldn’t hang any longer.
Forward to this summer. After the supremely hilly Lake Nockamixon Century and a conversation about spinning versus mashing high gears, I decided to try spinning more seriously. The Little Ring Challenge, I deemed it. And I started staying in my small ring as much as possible for entire rides.
Spinning feels weird if you aren’t used to it. I had a fairly high cadence (75-80) naturally but most cycling publications will mention a “90-100 rpm” threshold for spinning. Spending time furiously pedaling can feel counter-intuitive at first. But then the body adapts and spinning feels natural. You’re able to hold higher speeds in smaller gears for longer. And hills (or distance) start to not wear out your legs so much. It’s a beautiful thing.
Anyway, I’ve been sticking to my Little Ring Challenge through the Scenic Schuylkill and City to Shore centuries. My overall speed improved and I wasn’t completely dead by the end of the ride. Maybe there’s something to all this.
So the other day I decided to meet my commuter friend downtown for a road ride before we headed back to our neighborhoods. I spun up the familiar Three Hills, thinking they felt great but I probably wasn’t going to best my previous best. We met up, stayed on the west side of the river (and the steep hills that come up from the riverbed) before heading homeward. A little over 40 miles with a little over 3000′ of gain. Sure – just a Saturday Spin.
Turns out I did best my previous PR … I’m now the QOM at 15.1 mph average up those hills.
Spinning works my friends. Give it a go sometime.
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The last few weekends I’ve been going out with my friend on mountain bike rides. We’re heading to gentler trails near her neighborhood and I’m having entirely too much fun. Having to choose Mountain or Road is so tough. I’m loving the quiet of the woods and the varied terrain – some of the singletrack is smooth and/or flat but others are rocky, rooty, or slick with gravel, leaves or mud (but the creek crossing). I’m loving my 29er. There’s a blog post in my brain about off-road cycling that will probably get written soon.
Friends, if you are ever in the Philadelphia area the second weekend in September, I highly encourage you to sign up for Philly Bike Club’s Scenic Schuylkill Century. This year was my second year riding and I hope to keep going as long as I have friends to help the miles pass.
The Scenic Schuylkill is an incredibly well-supported ride that showcases the beauty of the area just outside Philly. Starting at the iconic Boathouse Row and winding north into the hills of Manayunk to Cedar Grove then on to Evansburg State Park. The view of Philly from Potshop Rd is unmatched – the city so far away it’s ethereal. From Evansburg you can choose to head back to the city (and complete a metric) or head northwest to Schwenksville. Do not be discouraged by the 6,000+ feet of elevation gain – there are very few monster hills. The hills are really after the second rest stop in Evansburg State Park and are more rolling-hills than Super-Steep-Why-Am-I-Doing-This.
Which, if you like sudden steep and long climbs, go ride the Suburban Cyclists Unlimited’s Quad County with ICU Option and Lake Nockamixon Century, both of which will punish your legs and lungs (and lower back). Or move to Colorado. I’m sure my Colorado friends are laughing at me right now …
Another rest stop at Camp Hope then more climbing before you see more downhills than uphills. Do not be fooled though – there are still some hills on the way back into the city. But nothing compares to bombing down Main Street in Manayunk on the way back to pizza and liquid refreshment.
Improved my time this year as well – 102 miles in 7:40 last year; 103 miles in 7:20 this year. And yes, I made it back to the start in time to get a few plain slices and two full-sugar sodas. No, I didn’t feel bad about that.
Three weeks and not enough riding later, I set off on another century, the annual Bike MS: City to Shore ride from Cherry Hill, NJ to Ocean City, NJ. This is most people’s Big Ride of the year and they train all summer for it. As a year-round cyclist who tries to keep her base miles around 50, this is probably the easiest century in the area. It’s mostly flat – only about 1900′ of elevation gain and probably only because of the two bridges at the end of the ride to get over the harbour to the Shore. It is incredibly well-supported – the century alone has about seven opportunities to take a break.
My neighbor and bike commuting friend and I carpooled to the start again. This time instead of sitting in off-ramp traffic, we opted to go one more exit further and parked within minutes. Unfortunately this also meant not getting to the festivities at the main start but we were only a quarter of a mile up the (not very well maintained) road. We hit the road around 6:15am – before the sun came up. Totally didn’t think it though so I borrowed my friend’s long-sleeve lightweight shirt to stay warm until we got past the first rest stop.
I also opted for my new lightweight thermal three-quarter tights from Twin Six. Picked them up at an incredible deal during a sale and they are supremely comfortable. Perfect for the chilly autumnal mornings when you need a little more now that won’t overheat you later.
We ended up skipping the second rest stop option (“Lunch Stop Ahead!” “wait – it’s only 8:30am … too early!”) and also the century loop rest stop, averaging about 25 miles between rest stops. We took only 15 minutes at each stop – enough time to use the port-o-let, refill water, shove some food in our faces and hit the road again.
I should note two things here:
1. I was having stomach issues again leading up to this ride and sure enough there was about a 25-30 mile portion in the middle of the day where I struggled to keep it together. I felt really bad for my friend because I had to dial down my speed a bit because I was hardly eating and didn’t want to bonk from over-exertion/under-nutrition. And I wasn’t talking at all because I felt incredibly nauseous. I eventually got back on the level, picked up the speed, and finished strong.
2. I have decided to improve my spinning and stayed in the little ring all day. Averaging 17+ mph on significantly more miles than not was incredibly gratifying and my legs still felt relatively fresh at the end of the ride. I’m hoping this winter will continue to be fairly mild (let’s be honest, I miss big snows) so I can continue to work on increasing my cadence enough to switch to the big ring and spin the hell out of a bigger gear.
The weather was perfect for the ride. My favorite moment was between the two bridges when you are on a little two-lane road right up against the beach, the ocean waves crashing and rolling up the sand. SO PERFECT. I was so sad that I wasn’t going to be spending one last weekend Down The Shore.
But the reason I wasn’t staying down the Shore was because I had an appointment to get some new ink. I was supposed to get it last year but it didn’t work out. This year I made it happen.
My tattoo artist is the best in the biz and she was guest spotting at a shop on Long Island, a few hours from Philly. The piece is Cycles Perfecta by Alphonse Mucha (1902 bicycle company advertisement) that perfectly captures the essence of a girl and her bicycle. Four hours of line work with minimal breaks (like 10 min each hour). Next time I see her it will be to get this colored in.
In health news, I had an endoscopy this past week and they biopsied some tissue for testing. Hoping to know more next week – praying for a relatively easy fix. I’m tired of feeling terrible all the time. My diet is severely limited some days. I lost five pounds in a few weeks due to dwindling appetite. Funny how fasting the day of the procedure was NBD because not eating keeps me feeling relatively normal. Totally unsustainable, I know. That’s why I’m getting help.
This weekend is expected to be gorgeous but I’m going to take a quick break from my bike. Even though I really want to go mountain biking.
1. Tattoo needs to stay out of the sun. It’s going to be too warm for long-sleeves and it’s not ready to put sun sleeves on (elastic at the top).
2. Health. I need to take care of myself until I hear back from my GI doc. I can tell you 100% I did not eat enough on my City to Shore century – less than I did for the Scenic Schuylkill (and that wasn’t much). And I still need to get back into running – my 5k is in about a month. And it’s been that long since my last attempt at running.
So maybe not this weekend, but I’ll see you on the road or the trail soon.
When we last left off, dear reader, I had just put my dog down and was helping my kids work through their grief. Since then much has happened, which is what happens when autumn rolls around. The cycling is exquisite, everyone is back to school routines, and life starts to slow down for winter.
I took the week of Sept 2 ff work. Between Labor Day and the High Holidays and my in-laws coming to visit, it didn’t make sense to shoehorn work in as well. Add in our dog dying and it was a much needed week off of responsibility.
I rode my bike a lot that week. It’s really cathartic. Long rides with the bike club; short rides for lunch with my son; medium rides with my step-father-in-law. It was so nice to simply wake up, throw my leg over the top tube and pedal out of town without any worry.
I ran a five-miler back in August and promptly hurt my foot. My chiropractor has been adjusting it and I thought I was in a good place, but a 5k proved me otherwise. Back off running for another two weeks … then I can try again. Lots of rolling with a tennis ball to keep things loose and not “crunchy.” PS – having your foot adjusted feels WEIRD.
I completed the Scenic Schuylkill Century for the second consecutive year. 103 miles with over 6800′ of climbing. I felt like a mountain goat charging up those final hills. This ride deserves a recap post.
I took Electric Dream Machine to the shop for a tune-up (chunky shifting) and ended up getting her new bar tape and a new chain as well. 2500 miles and only 50% worn on of the original chain feels pretty awesome. I feel like a Spin Master.
I also found a saddle that doesn’t hurt my butt after 100 miles. It’s an old school Terry Butterfly Ti I found on eBay for $36. You have no idea how relieving this is.
I bought the last few items I need to make my first attempt at blueberry jam.
We selected a hand-made custom urn for Nixon, painted to match her exact coloring. We’re expecting it sometime next week. Until then her ashes are just hanging out in the kitchen and it feels kinda weird. Last night I missed her snuggling up to my feet when I went to bed. Not cry-my-eyes-out missed her … just missed the reassuring weight on her curled up at the bottom of the bed.
That week reminded me how much I love unrestricted time. Time to explore, time to play, time to simply be. Far too often I get wrapped up in my everyday life of work, the kids’ school stuff, and housework. Never mind the annual house maintenance that needs to happen like yard work, cleaning out the garage, fixing the downspout that disconnected last October during Hurricane Sandy (*cough cough*).
If I could find a way to still get a paycheck and ride my bike for fun all day, I’d be all over that.
Anyway – I’m still around. I haven’t been riding as much as I want these past two weeks. I haven’t even been bike commuting! And I kinda miss running (but that’s between you and me). I have my BikeMS: City to Shore ride coming up next weekend so I need to get out an ride at least a little bit to keep the legs fresh. Then I’m looking to October to squeeze in some fun weekend rides … maybe do the Central Bucks Covered Bridge Tour again.