I am so thankful to see 2015 out the door and welcome a fresh start, one that will include more miles, more smiles, more family and more fun!
2015 ended with my lowest annual miles since I bought a comfort hybrid and started tracking my miles with my favorite fitness tracking app, MapMyRide back in 2011, a slight 1,031.5 miles. Sure, I have lots of excuses like moving twice, a long snowy winter, cancer surgery, radiation, and organizational changes at my employer … and I’m proud that I made it to 1,000 miles. But I’m not satisfied with the downward trend of my annual mileage.
2016 also marks my decision to sell my most favorite road bike, my Felt ZW5, and buy a new bike. This is not a decision that I am taking lightly (I’m selling her to a friend who wants to get into recreational road biking) but is a necessary step to streamline the stable from 5 bikes to 3. I live in a very hilly area now and the reality is my vintage 10-speed cruiser, which beautiful, isn’t going to cut it. And I’ve been trying to unload my mountain-style hybrid for years – might be time to consider donating it.
Laura, what are you replacing your road bike with?
So glad you asked. I love talking bikes.
I thought really hard about what I love about cycling and what my goals are. A few years ago I might have answered “something light and fast!” because I was used to the plush but heavy ride of a comfort hybrid. And having a carbon recreational road bike has been amazing. I’ve taken that bike on so many adventures, across town and across the region. I’ve gone off-road and on, pedaling away the miles with laughter and friendship.
But the one thing this bike couldn’t be is my Swiss Army Knife of a bike. I have two multi-day bike tours planned and a bikepacking weekend with a friend. I want to be comfortable all day long, stop at mile 75 for ice cream, and keep on truckin’. And my thoughts are along these lines:
I love the road-absorbing qualities of my steel Peugeot, so a steel frame is critical.
I want lower gears to conquer steeper hills without brutalizing my legs. I live in a hilly area – biking home from the train station is roughly 100 ft/mile in elevation gain. I’m a big fan of spinning but have found my limits on a couple double-digit climbs.
And the reality is, I rarely use my very top gears because speed is not a huge factor in my rides. I love long, steady all-day epics with friends or 50-60 mile rides with stops for lunch. (note to self, find some new bikey friends so you can get back on the lunch ride train).
I like disc brakes. I also plan to bike to the train station a few times a week now that the bike lockers are available to rent (sent in my check!), and I need stopping power on the epic downhills.
I want to run bigger tires. I’ve been taking my carbon roadie on gravel grinders and let’s be real: 25s have no business on gravel. I’d like to run 28s or 32s for commuting and weekend jaunts; 35s or bigger on gravel or predominately off-road adventuring.
Fenders and a rack mandatory. Can be aftermarket accessories.
I need the complete bike to be about 25 pounds or less. A tall order for a steel bike, but possible. This is significantly heavier than my current road bike – but I’ll take the trade for a buttery-smooth ride and all-day comfort.
And the most important part, all this for $2k or less.
I’ve narrowed my choices down to a few bikes, looking to start test riding soon, in no particular order:
As I think back across this year, it’s been a stressful one. We sold our house (hooray!), moved to an apartment (eh!), found a new house (hooray!), moved again (two states away!), had to integrate quickly for end of the school year activities (eh!), and have been slowly unpacking and organizing/updating/painting the house. Whole weekends are devoted to Being A Real Adult and that’s never fun.
Oh, and there was that pesky thyroid cancer surgery and radioactive iodine over the summer too. I’m still working on getting my synthetic thyroid hormone balance. While I feel exceptionally thankful my cancer isn’t expected to reduce my life expectancy, I’m now working on finding a New Normal that includes a lot more down time than I’ve previously needed in my life.
No surprise, I’ve been struggling emotionally lately. Like on the verge of Stay In Bed All Day And Full-On Ugly-Cry While Listening to Sad Music and/or Watching Sad Movies. I blame a combination of work (mostly office politics, which isn’t my favorite thing to do), anxiety (impostor syndrome), and a general feeling that my life is very much Not In Balance.
Anyway, I’ve been looking forward to Thanksgiving break because it means a long weekend to relax AND Get Shit Done – but I was in a serious funk. Wednesday I finished up my holiday baking and in the evening my husband and I sat in our hot tub and talked. I know – First World Luxuries. But it didn’t help alleviate the sense of being completely overwhelmed, scattered, and not spending time on the things that matter most.
Thursday morning it was cloudy but in the upper-50s so I decided to head out for a road ride. I haven’t been on my road bike in a while and while it took some internal prodding to get out the door – but soon the pedals were spinning. For the first time ever, I decided to listen to music while I rode. I usually don’t because I like to be able to hear what’s going on around me – but I was on a paved rail-trail and used my Yurbuds, which allow the user to hear ambient sound while delivering high-quality audio. I really should invest in a high-quality single-earbud because riding with music was great.
At the end of my 32 mile ride, I felt a bit better but still anxious. It was nice to spend a few hours just zoned out, spinning.
We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner as a family, thanks for asking. We miss our friends all over the country and our family out West. But we are thankful to have each other, good jobs, a roof over our heads and food on the table every night.
This morning I grabbed my mountain bike and headed over to the local park for a few hours. I am so thankful that I know about this park because it’s perfect for my level: lots of easy flowy trails but also some technical details.
I zipped around a large family enjoying a hike in the woods. I rode over a few of the smaller logs (and just walked over the larger ones). I rode over the bridge across the Parkway and continued on. I fell off a stone wall. I kept going.
I was the only one on the trails. I stopped frequently to check the paper map I had downloaded of the trails. I stuck to loopy trails that connected easily. I powered up hills and bounced down rocky descents. I felt good.
I found a trail that ended up being a lot more technical than I expected – and I didn’t wreck. I felt like a million dollars.
I took a wrong turn; I doubled back until I found multiple trail blazes. I started experimenting with speed and not shockingly, momentum is your friend when you are mountain biking. I headed back to the gentler park and crushed every trail that I crashed on a few weeks back. I even took a few new trails and had to walk in a few places – but I felt amazing. I got home and took my dog on a walk.
This is exactly what I needed in my life right now. And I still have two more days to Get Shit Done: like laundry and cleaning the house and taking my car in for maintenance.
I need to figure out how to get more of this in my life on the regular.
Life if too short not to see you on the road (or the trails).
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.
I realize I haven’t kept up on the blog as much as I’d like but since September I haven’t been out much. And since this is my bikey blog, it’s only natural to talk about All Things Bikey. I’m living in Philly, working in NYC, and getting out as I can. The last six months have been stressful for our little family, with trying to sell the house and relocate to be closer to work. Indeed life could be worse than having a job that I continue to love, learn and grow; a family that is holding down the house selling process and understanding that sometimes things don’t go according to plan; and a husband who gives me the option and sometimes pushes me out of the house to go ride my bike for an hour because he knows it will keep me sane.
So instead of lamenting my lack of miles this year, let’s talk about the memories that were made on the rides:
The New Year started with an exploratory bike ride with my friend Ken to check out some trails he found on Google Maps. Of course we took our carbon fiber road bikes to ride rutted, frozen mud and gravel trails – that’s just what we do. Unfortunately the ride ended when I started having visual disturbances associated with an impending migraine – so we hightailed it home. Nothing like bombing down a hill with no peripheral vision and the inability to see clearly. ha!
Later in the month, we would make a farewell bike ride with our friend Heather, who had finished the schooling part of her ophthalmology studies and was moving for the first phase of her residency. Heather had been my main source of All Things Mountain Biking and a wonderful road cycling friend as well. Thankful for the wonders of the internet to keep us in touch.
February brought a craving for the freshest, most authentic street tacos I’ve experienced. Ken and I rode to the Belle Vista section of the city to find the El Tacos Rodeo truck to no avail. The winter was in full swing with lots of snow and ice and very little opportunity to get outside to ride – so I focused on training for a 5-mile run in April. Lots of time on the treadmill getting my running legs back.
There was one particular run where it was finally warm enough to run outside – the snow was melting and the smell of fallen pine branches from the heavy snow permeated the air. It felt so fresh and inviting.
March brought the advent of bike commuting again and feeling brave and stupid while riding on Market Street, one of the main streets through downtown Philadelphia. It’s 4 or 5 lanes of people who don’t really give a crap – but somehow I’ve always been able to ride safe on Market. March also brought the first training ride for the four-day bike tour I would do in June.
April means 30 Days of Biking, an online friendly challenge to ride your bike every day in April. I ended up biking to the train station more than biking all the way into the City. I also took my then-14yr old son on his first mountain bike ride. He wasn’t impressed. My friend John and I hit up the Wissahickon for some spring mountain biking. And I completed my first-ever 5-mile running race in 51:40 – a little over 10min/mi. I was very proud of this because I’m not a huge runner, the course was hilly, and I kept a steady pace the whole time. I was also totally wiped out at the end – not sure how people can run half- and full-marathons!
May started with the TD Five Boro Tour. My friends Eric and Phil joined me for this event, and we met up with internet friend at one of the rest stops. The day before featured an 8-mile ride back to the hotel after the Expo to pick up our race packets in the pouring rain. I’m thankful the hotel staff didn’t blink when we rolled in, muddy and soaked to the bone. A hot shower and clean clothing meant we could get dinner together and chat about bikes and life and the upcoming tour. This was an incredibly disappointing event as we got slotted late and ended up walking as much as riding (“hey, why are we walking?” “Hill.”). At one point the boys dropped the hammer and were weaving in and out of other cyclists. Corbi and I were hammering to keep up until I asked her why we were hammering. She didn’t know either – so we let off the gas and caught up to the guys naturally later on.
May was also the Quad County. This year Ken and I didn’t get caught in a rainstorm nor did we do the Intensive Climbing Unit (or the Very Intensive Climbing Unit) – and the day was so lovely. Perfect weather, great route … one of the best rides in the Philadelphia area.
May is also when I found out my good u-lock had been cut from my office’s bike racks because I hadn’t been back for over a month. Ug.
June’s highlight was the Ride for Homes, a four day bike tour from Philly to Gettysburg and back. This is the ride where I met so many amazing new friends, learned that I most certainly can ride 60+ miles per day multiple days in a row, the importance of proper hydration, and how to come back from letting yourself down. The Ride for Home was by far my favorite event this year, one that I am looking at doing again next year.
July had a ride to Hammonton and back for lunch – 108 sweaty, stinky miles under a brutal heat and humidity index with a threat of nasty thunderstorms all afternoon. What sticks in my mind is the ice cream shop lady who wouldn’t allow us access to fresh water even though we purchased ice cream (and the sink was right behind her). And how accommodating the Starbucks was next door, filling out water bottles with ice and water and wishing us well on our final 25 miles. And how incredibly draining it is to walk across the bridge over the Delaware River – we spent 10 min drinking electrolyte beverages in the shade after crossing to get our energy back.
July also had stress miles because the potential buyers for our house walked away. This had never happened to us before – and it’s incredibly anxiety-inducing. We still haven’t sold the house and it’s now almost 2015.
August had a lot of smaller rides – as the office move date grew closer, the less time I had for fun. But a couple fun rides happened – taking my Girl Scouts on an 11-mile trail ride; a lunch ride with Ken and his wife Cathy and my son; riding with Ken and Michelle to see the Super Moon rise over the Delaware at the Spruce Street Harbor pop-up park; and the most excellent ride from New Hope, PA to Brooklyn, NY to get some dinner with friends.
September had significantly fewer bikes rides and a spike in hiking and walking. Not coincidentally, I also started spending 15-18 hours on trains for work. It is what is it is – this too shall pass.
October had even fewer bike rides but a lovely hike with my friend Eric in French Creek State Park. My desires to go mountain biking were becoming intense but my fear of going alone was keeping me from actually getting out. I even went on a quick road ride instead of the mountain biking that I wanted to do because I couldn’t find anyone to go with me.
November came and the weather was mild enough to get a hot cocoa ride; a hike with my husband (immediately followed by my first solo mountain bike ride – really hit the spot!); and a 50-mi bike ride with my friends. Without the regular cycling, my legs aren’t really good for much more than 50 miles but that’s going to be OK because we still have a lot going on in life.
December brought a snowy hike with my Girl Scouts and a much-needed vacation out to Colorado. My sister and I hiked twice – a short 2.5 miler with our mom and a longer 8 miler up to Pike Peak Reservoir. December has brought peace of mind, relaxation, and a way to separate from the everyday stresses and refocus on what is important – family, friends, community.
So while this year I didn’t beat anything numbers-wise from last year, I didn’t do too shabby: 2,206.5 miles on my bike with 100,384′ of gain. I also gained a lot of great memories on fun rides with my friends and explored new boundaries in my abilities. I learned tough lessons and still managed to get back on the bike the next day.
Next year will hopefully be one that is full of resolution – resolution of our house and living situation, riding my bikes more, and becoming more proficient at mountain biking. Of supporting my family though this tough transition and coming out the other side with resilience, tenacity, and strength.
Thanks for being part of my year – see you in 2015!
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.
* * * * *
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.
I’m not gone! Bicycling has taken a back seat lately, not my choice. The weather’s been great. My bike lock is back on the rack at work, patiently waiting for me to show up and use it. I have a policy of not riding my bike all the way to work when my husband is away on business so I can see the kids off in the morning and make sure the house is locked up and stuff. He’s been on a traveling jag since late March so I’ve been making do with biking to the train station down the street.
For this year’s 30 Days of Biking, I have only missed three days – all this past weekend. But the rides are really short and nothing to write home about. Except maybe the scent of dogwood and honeysuckle that fills my nostrils, the lack of humidity that keeps even sufferfests manageable, and the gloriousness that is riding in just shorts and a jersey. Spring is here at last and it feels amazing.
About a month ago my company announced they are relocating to New York City. I was fortunate to be offered to relocate along with the job. You may recall we did this a couple years ago, moving from Colorado to Pennsylvania, for my job. It was a very difficult decision, one that involved a lot of thought, research, and weighing the pros and cons. We recently decided to move with the job – so now my weekends are filled with de-cluttering, patching, painting, and minor repairs as we get the house ready for market.
Fingers crossed for a quick sale where we realize a profit.
But I won’t lie – I miss riding my bike on long rides. Heading out too early on a Saturday morning with nothing but a plan to ride bikes with friends many miles away for a meal. The short ride to the train is like a teaser. Come out and play! Have fun with us! Just need to be patient – right now non-bikey things have to take priority.
And really, once we find our new community, I will need to look up a new bike club. And possibly get a bike share membership to cover “the last mile” of my new commute. And once the house is up on the market or at the latest when it’s under contract, I can head out with impunity until we move.
So you know – keep the rubber side down and see you on the road.
This week I was able to bike commute in to work two days in a row – both days needed 3/4 bottoms, full-finger windproof gloves and a light thermal jacket in the morning but the evening ride home was in a short-sleeved jersey and fingerless gloves. I felt strong and happy. After a long winter, it feels amazing to be outside and not bundled up.
Interestingly I’m still pacing last year’s total mileage and looking forward to many spring and early summer rides! I signed up for 30 Days of Biking – I’m pledge #2! – to help motivate me to get out and ride. The premise is simple – ride your bike any distance, any speed, every day in April. There’s no pressure, no metrics … just joyful bike riding. If you haven’t signed up before, I encourage you to take the pledge and share your daily experiences online.
Yesterday I had (yet another) close call with a female motorist. There is a half-mile section of road that has unbelievably terrible pavement on both ends of the bridge (while the bridge itself is smooth). The right side of the road is littered with potholes and places where the pavement has buckled, heaved and made mini-moguls. This used to be one of my favorite sections of road because once you get on the bridge you are in the treetops. So beautiful when the sun is rising.
Anyway, my commuter friend and I had just gotten to the end of the bridge and I was attempting to merge into traffic (take the lane at about 20mph) to avoid the nasty roadway when a woman passed on my left inches from me, nearly forcing me into the rough. Usually I left this kind of stuff go – no sense in getting upset, it happens – but instead I got mad and started hammering up the hill behind her. I wanted to catch up to her and ask her why she thought that was OK. I wanted to confront her. I had no chance to catch up to her so I ended up just flipping her off from about four car-lengths behind and yelling obscenities in her direction. The upshot is I scored a new PR on that stretch of my commute from giving her chase. Haha
This is the third time this year I’ve had issues with a vehicle and a woman was behind the wheel. Fellow women of the world – please drive safely. Don’t be a jerk.
Here’s a shot from yesterday’s bike ride home. There’s a tree that fell in the ice storm (way back when) and is perched precariously across the trail. There’s enough room to ride under it but every time I do I feel like I have tempted fate. I’ve dubbed it The Gauntlet. Hope the park service takes care of it soon!
Every weekend has at least one bike ride scheduled this month – so excited to be back in the saddle with wonderful weather!
Friends, I don’t like to toot my own horn too much but I’ve had some good press lately that I felt I should share:
I went for a ride with my friend Ken and our new friend Rachel from Missouri last weekend. It wasn’t particularly long and while we stopped for a healthy snack, we probably could have done with out the stop. It was ridiculously fun though and I admired Rachel’s awesome Yakkay helmet and her super-cute haircut.
Rachel was going to the National Bike Summit the next day. She reported back that my awesome friend Katie, who was presenting on her Women Bike PHL movement, mentioned me by name as part of the Girl Scouts on Wheels program. So humbled to be mentioned at a national summit about cycling. Katie rode her bike from NYC to DC to attend the summit. She’s amazing.
Then one of my favorite cycling apparel companies, Road Holland, put a photo I sent them in their Year End blog post. They make great wool-blend cycling jerseys and I love them for spring and fall rides.
Today my friends at 30 Days of Biking featured me on their Facebook page. I don’t even know why but I am tremendously thrilled to be chosen for a random shout-out. And hey – if you haven’t taken the pledge yet, why not now? Pledge to ride your bike every day in April – any distance, any speed, any weather, every day. Share those experiences online in a joyful cyclist community!
Today I was out for a 30-miler with Ken that featured snow-clogged trails, a wonderful sit-down snack at Outbound Station, and then me suggesting we tackle some hills on the way home. Because you know, not riding regularly is really conducive to attacking big hills. We biked up this monster on Hagys Mill Road in Philadelphia – it’s a little over a quarter-mile and averages 12%. There is one pitch in particular where I was genuinely concerned I might fall off my bike and why the hell would I ever want to be clipped into my bike? I think that section is around 17-20%.
Anyway, it was all hills and busy roads home from there. Beautiful day to ride. We haven’t had many of these lately this winter so you have to grab the days you can.
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!
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!*)