Some cyclists do miles and miles more, some less, but this is me and my first Strava 5000. When I say that I mean that it’s the first time I’ve seen the quantitative results of riding nearly every day. I had a good week and even though there was some rainfall I managed to get out in the weather and get 165 miles for the week. I hoped I’d hit the 5K mark, but I wasn’t going to push it. Really. I was going to do my normal riding routine and if it worked out, then okay, if not, there’s next week. What I usually have going for me if the fact that I tend to ride every day.
I learned a few years ago that sometimes weather complicates matters. You can’t control anything. I was going to keep doing my riding thing and maybe, just maybe I’d see 5000 miles for 2018. When I hit 4000, I immediately started thinking about 5000. It was like something in my brain switched into competitor mode and I was going to show myself that I could do it. I stuck to my routine and even with three days off, I was going to ride. Thanksgiving Day, I rode Zwift for about a dozen miles, but all in all, I stuck to my normal schedule of cycling. I don’t think we drove our car 5K this year, but I rode my bike.
How does it feel? It feels amazing, like summiting the Tetons or seeing Mt. Hood on a clear day. Or like that moment when a plane takes off and you feel uplifted. Take-off. It feels like I accomplished something special and unique. The only competitor in this game is me. I did my best and kept the goals realistic. Last year I did 3200 miles and this year I upped it by 100, but then I started to see that if I went a little farther, a little longer, I could do more. I’m the tortoise and I bike slow and steady and I won the race against myself. It’s a new personal best.
There are athletes on Strava and I don’t think of myself as an athlete. I bike for myself and the environment and I put one pedal in front of the other every day and with five weeks left in the year I hit a milestone. There will be more miles, but right now, today, there’s 5001 and some of those miles were in faraway places. I pedaled each one. There’s that saying about there’s no such thing as luck. It’s just opportunity meeting preparation. I think for me it’s a spoke of good luck. Tomorrow is another day and my usual 20 and that’s what moves me forward. How about you?
It’s no secret how much I love to ride my bike. Some days I think about just riding from sunrise to sunset, however, there’s the whole job situation. It’s Autumn where I live and it has been the most spectacular weather ever. The leaves have been turning kalidescopic colors and the sun glistens and gleams and keeps on shining so I’ve been doped up on delightment every day. I was remided of the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. If you remember the Hare is about speed and running the race full throttle with “lightnng” speed. The Tortoise, however, just keeps a steady pace and ends up winning the race.
The moral of the story is have a fleet of bikes to make you a better competitor.
The truth of the matter is that I’ve always been Tortoise. I wish I was the speedy Hare. I envy other Hare types, but I’m not. If only I was fast enough to take a nap and then speed by the peloton in Mark Cavendish fashion and win, win, win in the end. The fact of the matter is that I’m all Tortoise. Regardless of how much I train or the amount of carbon fiber in my bike frame, I don’t know speeds of 18-22 MPH. I enjoy a good sprint, but I’m not going to kill myself and I’m never going to pass a biker on the other side of the road and neglect my bikey responsibilities of waving. I’m a slow and steady 12-16 MPH. The moral of the story is have a fleet of bikes that you want to ride so you’ll keep riding no matter the season. You don’t even need a fleet, really. Just one or two that always make you happy enough to ride, rain or shine.
Slow and steady is winning too. Plus the scenery never disappoints.
Nothing like a ride through leaves. Even the thrill of a roller coaster ride doesn’t compare. A bike ride through the carpets and canopies of fall. It’s my favorite time of the year. I love how the conifers seem to let the deciduous trees upstage them. The brazen colors look like lights in a dark forest. Riding in the morning it’s as if the sun and the trees are companions in light. Riding through the celebration and feeling happy to be alive!
Even through I’m on my daily commute the view from the handlebars beg for attention. I stopped and took the picture of Mt. Hood off in the distance. The play of car and street lights add to the scene. A private moment with the universe is noted.
There’s a pumkin on my commute too. A man dotes over his giant pumpkin all summer and then it gets weighed. It’s part of my fall commute as well.
Maybe this week, I’ll meet the farmer and get the secrets behind growing this massive gourd.
Have a great week.
Get out there and ride and be careful!
September was a blur of activity. My daily mileage was good but something was different. My school schedule has changed drastically. Now school starts a full hour later than it did last year and the subsequent 20 years of my career. I used to leave the house at 6am but now it’s 7ish. There’s traffic like I’ve never seen in all the years I’ve commuted to school by bike. Now there are four cars at the four way stop and there are trucks and motorcycles everywhere. Deliveries are being made and FedX or UPS trucks are everywhere, or that’s how it feels. The road is not my own every morning. I’ve tried four different routes to determine which one has the least amount of traffic. But where cars are few, school buses are in my lane. Yes, school buses in the bike lanes! I figure by the time I get to the end of October I won’t be as outraged by it all. Maybe by then I will have it figured out. I really should live in Copenhagen or Amsterdam.
The last day of the month and I wanted to go out for a moutain bike ride and catch some falling leaves. The air was heavy with fog and some drizzle but then it cleared up and I was shedding some layers. Another month of riding full speed ahead. Because despite the schedule changes and traffic, my bike rides are my zen. Plain and simple, it’s my bliss.
Get out there and ride! You’ll love it, but be safe!
In the words of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, “The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach — waiting for a gift from the sea.” I think you can say the same thing about a bike ride. A day of riding a bike to the beach is its own gift. I wanted to ride to Mission Beach and as I started to plan the ride with the help of my cousin last week we noticed that we’d have to be on a road that didn’t seem bike friendly. Google Maps gave us three routes and all of them included Friars Road.
Not to be deterred, we decided we’d park at De Anza Cove and ride over to Fiesta Island. As we were loading the bikes my cousin’s neighbor came over to talk. He mentioned the Mission Bay Bike Trail. After Googling it we decided to stick with our plan of parking at De Anza Cove and follow the signs for the path. An adventure!
Wikipedia says, “In the San Diego area, the Mission Bay bike path is an easy, 3 mile one-way to 19 mile loop path along the shore of beautiful Mission Bay. Location: Mission Bay, near SeaWorld. Distance: Between 3 and 19 miles depending on the routes taken.”
I’m in! Dan was excited to put some miles on his new bike. I wanted to ride to Mission Beach. The plan was to eat lunch at Rocky’s Crown Pub. That was the only plan.
We took off. Lots of sharrows on East Mission Bay Drive. We started out early and the traffic was light. You can hear cars coming up behind you and there’s plenty of room for bikes even if some of it is parking spaces. The skies were overcast and perfect for a day of riding.
There’s a slight curve in the road as Fiesta Island Road takes you on an extension of the path and it opens up to showcase sandy sights and a warm breeze. Definitely a nice side trip. I had to stop and see the horses.
As you can see, I’m very happy with Fiesta Island. We parked our bikes and walked up a mound of sand to see a huge field of well, more sand.
This is an area where the Over-The-Line game is played. Over-the-line is a bat-and-ball sport game related to baseball and softball. News to me, but later in the day…
at Rocky’s Crown Pub I saw this photo on the wall (Danny pointed it out). Looks like a quite an event. The path turns into Pacific Highway which sounds scary, but it isn’t. There’s a traffic light and you need to stay in the lane and it becomes Ocean Beach Bike Path.
You’re parallel to the freeway and there’s was a strong headwind, but overall I was all smiles. What an amazing path! Good job, San Diego!
The path goes on and ontoward the Sunset Cliffs but we were focused on our mission. I’ll have to explore the rest next time.
The signs to Mission Beach. Everything is well marked and overall the path was clean and easy to ride. All the hairy details on the Google map we looked at were solved by this brilliant bike path and some city planners some years ago. Again, nice job!
A myriad of bridges and curves make the path interesting. Every turn is another photo opportunity. As you look left to right, each view just as exquisite as the last. I’m sure there are times during the week when it is busier, but there weren’t many people out on Wednesday morning, and it felt like a private tour.
I saw a pelican flying overhead and wanted to get a picture but knew I’d be too late. Sometimes you have to be in the moment and soak it in.
Happy to share the path with skateboards, roller blade and anyone else. It does help to have a bell to remind peds you are on the left.
My Strava map shows the route. The bike is in front of the Caravan Hotel. Perhaps the only spot on the whole path that was busy.
Sandy public beaches and people enjoying the day. The 12.7 mile ride was better than I expected. After lunch at Rocky’s Crown Pub, we decided to finish the route we started and ride it again. Since we stopped here and there for pictures the first time around, we thought a second time minus Fiesta would be the perfect way to end the day.
We were right. When something works out even better than you anticipated, there’s a sort of gleeful happiness that emanates from the knowledge that somehow the universe took care of you and all is well. It was a bike adventure extraordinaire! If you are ever in San Diego I strongly recommend this bike path.
In the waning days of summer, I know I will look at this photo and the two signs, Endless Summer Straight Ahead and know that the Mission Beach route was accomplished. (Cue Mission Impossible theme.)
Thanks for reading and following my blog. I appreciate it. What are some of your favorite routes? Post in the comments below.
Have you ever helped someone buy a bike? Even though the cyling math rule says the number of bikes a person should own is three, the rule says, (N+1) because you can always use another bike. I’d love to buy a bike whenever the whim strikes or something catches my eye. It’s fun to shop and see what’s new in bikes. When I buy or help someone on the road to buying a bike I have a few things in mind.
Purpose: Consider what you want to do first and foremost with your new bike. Is this a bike that you will use to train for an event such as a triathlon? Or is it for some other purpose? Thinking of saving the planet from the harmful effects of CO2? Do you plan to ride year round? Be honest with yourself about what you want. Half of my garage is devoted to my bikes and gear. When I was a kid, that was my dream. Actually, it was the whole garage! All the bikes in my small fleet get used for different tasks. Plus, they represent an evolution in my biking life. I have sold two bikes in my life and I wish I hadn’t. I’m glad they went to good homes, but I don’t like parting with my bikes, so I’d prefer not to sell.
The Browse-About. It’s not a official term, but it’s browsing around and seeing what catches your eye. Along with that there’s the test ride. Start looking and test riding. It doesn’t cost anything to look, except time. Be realistic about your timeline. I think most will agree that if you’re in training for an event you should train with and on the bike you will use for the event. But I’m not an expert on event training. If you’re looking with the intent of buying in a few months then let the person assisting you at the store know you’re looking and hope to purchase in the next six months. Do your homework and visit multiple bike stores. Even if you have favorites, visit others and get a feel for their expertise. Introduce yourself and tell them about what you need.
If the thought of going into a bike shop is overwhelming, then find a bikey friend and tell them what you’re thinking. Don’t buy until you’ve tried out the bike. There’s no rule about how many times you test ride, just ride. I’d even suggest you test ride at least three bikes. You might have your heart set on one in particular, but still if I were your friend, I’d insist on trying a few others which are comparable to the one you’re considering buying. Know your budget. Talk about what you can get for $500, $800 and up. Disc brake will cost more than pads, but they are worth it! That doesn’t mean you have to have disc, brakes, but you should ask to try one with pads and one with disc just to feel the difference. If there’s some wiggle room then ask the bike sales person to show you something in a range of $whatever to $thelimit with similar components.
There might be someone in your life who says they’ll go to Wal-Mart or Target and get a bike. Reconsider that relationship. Just kidding! If you’re in that situation, counsel the buyer to have a bike mechanic put it together. It might cost $50 to have someone else do it, but at least it will be done right. Another option is to go with them and ask what they like about the bike they’re looking at. See if you can get them to elaborate on what exactly is drawing them to that bike. It could be about the color or the basket or something else. I’m not trying to be a bike snob about it, but there are countless reasons NOT to buy from the bike box stores.
When you decide to buy a new bike consider the other gear you might need. Locks, water bottles, kickstand (don’t let anyone shame you out of a kickstand) helmet, tire pump, extra tube, bike bell and other items since you will likely get a discount at that time. If you are an avid rider you probably know that you should get a new helmet every 4-5 years.
The test ride is very important. Wear clothes you would most likely wear for a bike ride. Put on that racing kit (road bike) or wear your shorts and Birkenstocks (cruiser or commuter) and see how it all feels. Remember that you can always upgrade your saddle so if you sit on the bike and decide right away you despise the ride, tell them what you don’t like. “This saddle feels like a plank of wood on my ass.” Use your words and explain what isn’t working for you so they can help tailor your needs. If possible, test ride the bike on a path that has some ups and downs. When you ride the new bike candidate you should get a feel for how the bike will perform in different situations. If that’s not an option because you live someplace flat and that’s not a priority for you then it’s not an issue.
Ask the good folks at your bike shop about getting a bike fitting. It will cost between $65 and $150. I strongly recommend it. A bike fitting isn’t always necessary, but I think if you are small or tall or maybe if you have issues with your shoulders or knees, a fitting can help dial in exactly what you need.
Last week I went to San Diego to visit family and one of the family wanted to buy a bike. I consulted with my cousin on buying his new bike. He has been biking with Zwift over the last year and he was interested in a bike that would do more and feel better. About a month ago he called me and we talked about what he was hoping to do. We talked about the purpose of the new bike.
It was great to be on the advice side of buying. I also enjoyed being present for someone else’s New Bike Day!
Danny bought the bike on Monday and we rode around each day of my visit. After four days of riding around together he went back to the bike store and Greg dialed in the ride a bit more with some fine adjustments made to saddle height and shifting. Bikes aren’t that different from any machine that needs attention. I take better care of my bikes than my one car, but often people think they don’t have to do anything except ride. You have to check tire pressure and look over your bike each time you ride.
Buying a bike is an investment in your health, wellness and well-being. If you love it, you’ll ride and find reasons to ride, so be sure you’re happy with every pedal stroke and every spoke. Plus, it’s good for the environment. Mother Earth will thank you. Another reminder. Ask the bike shop about their return policy. If by some chance you decide it isn’t the bike for you there might be a 30-day period when you can change your mind and choose something else. Talk about the details at your bike shop.
Now maybe you’re wondering how if I took my bike with me to San Diego. I didn’t. During Danny’s test rides I also took the bikes he was considering for a ride. We could compare notes and experiences. Also, I rented a bike for the time I was in town. Danny and I went out every day for a ride. I rode an FX1 and loved it. It’s a basic bare bones sort of bike. Nothing fancy and this bike is affordable. Riding it reminded me of my road bike except the FX felt more responsive and agile.
Yep, the rule is N+1. I was helping my cousin. That’s what family does. I learned that even when you’re not looking sometimes a bike finds you. I didn’t buy, but it was fun to look.
Thanks for reading. Now get out there and ride.
What suggestions do you have for buying a new bike? Leave them in the comments below. Thanks!
Every week through every season of the year, I set a goal of biking 75 miles. In the summer I usually go over a hundred miles, but in the winter I might miss a few days because of weather. The weekly mileage goal of 75 has proven to be just right for me. Over the last three weeks I have been traveling and a week ago I started my Strava 75 with 16 miles in Athens, Greece.
If you travel you know that jet lag can hit you when you least expect it and I wasn’t sure how this week would turn out. Super high July temps mean I have to get riding by 10AM at the latest or suffer the heat. My 75 was hard earned over the past several days. The great thing about booking a bicycle tour when you’re traveling is the memory of it. All week I’ve fired up that memory of biking the Athens coast in Kalithea on an actual bike path. A smile skims my face and I think, “Yeah, I did that and it was spectacular.”
Last summer when I was in Athens I found this company, WeBikeAthens, and I took one of their tours, Historic Athens Views. I thoroughly loved it and wished I had time for more. I also had every intention of posting about it. You know how it is. You get back from vacation and swept into the fray. Which is why I’m glad I got to visit Athens again. This company is top notch: great ride leaders, good pace, super detailed tour and fun. Zeus himself would enjoy a little saddle time with these folks. You know how picky he can be. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Others agree with my assessment. I booked two rides this time; After Sunset Highlights and Athens Coastline Sight-Seaing After Sunset deserves it’s own post. For this post, I want to share some Sight-Seaing.
I showed up a little early for my Monday morning ride. Athens was hot and humid and remember it’s hours before the tragic fire breaks out. It’s one of the hottest days of the summer. Thankfully they have a bucket of resources and a cat, Diego, managing the sign in.
No one else has booked this tour for Monday morning at 10AM, which means I have my very own private tour with Chrysoula. I’m overjoyed! She very nice and I feel like we’ve been friends forever even though we’ve just met.
We get our bikes. WeBikeAthens has e-bikes. I’m a big fan of e-bikes. Some people are really weird about the e-bike movement. That’s a whole other blog post. For the purposes of this post let’s just say that e-bikes in Athens are the only way to go. When it’s 5000 degrees outside and you don’t feel like doing anything other than sitting in the sea an e-bike gives you a decent workout without epic amounts of sweat. Instead of slogging it out in a 12 miles an hour pace, you can easily hit 15 and there’s some joy in the breeze cooling you off as you go. The bikes are pedal assist so if you don’t go, the bikes don’t go. Plus there are some delightfully steep hills and some E-juice gives you the assist right when you need it.
They have other bikes in their fleet of E bikes. The ones we rode are the Wisper Stealth. Chrysoula made sure the bike fit me the way I like. She lowered the seat and I rode up and down Apostolou Pavlou in front of the shop. There’s a park across the street and the Thiseio Metro stop close by. It takes about 30 seconds to figure out how the bike functions. We packed up our water and set off.
Let’s time travel a tiny bit. Back when I was 15, my family and I lived in Athens for about six months. We lived in a city near Athens called Kallithea. This is important since this tour is going to take me on a bike path in the area of Kallithea.
We take off and and within less than a mile we’re on a bike path. It’s an oasis in the midst of a city where cars are everywhere.
I’m thrilled. With all the traffic of Athens I’m biking on an actual path I didn’t even know existed. The only way anyone would know about this hidden gem would be because they found it while riding a bike.
You’ll notice that I’m not wearing a helmet. They are not mandatory in Athens. WeBikeAthens gives you the option of wearing a helmet.
I’m expecting that this path is going to end but it doesn’t. I’m so happy I consider stopping to do a little dance, but I don’t. I keep on pedaling away.
We do stop in front of this mural and Chrysoula wants to take my picture. She’s telling me about how she has some ideas or a ride that’s purely photography. Take people to spots that are great for photographs. I love this idea and she’s happy that I enjoy being in photographs. What you don’t see in the pic is the heat. The cicadas are loud enough to sound like a jet taking off and smart people are inside enjoying shade or air conditioning or cold water.
Follow the red brick road and you’ll see a path construction changes slightly here and there, but it’s a path that goes on for about 8 miles and it takes us to the sea. Later I went to Map My Ride and found additional routes. Although some of the routes date back to 2012 I can’t find any detailed information about how Kallithea became the place where someone thought, “Let’s build a multiuse path here.” It’s brilliant and I’m thankful for it.
Chrysoula stops here and notice how the path and crosswalk line up. She’ll watch the traffic while I pass. Very sweet of her. The traffic isn’t heavy but she’s protective and cautious and that’s what you want in a tour leader.
Just like home when you see cars in your lane.
The red works well even if it is a bit faded.
The staples at the top of the photo which prevents cars from making a U-turn. I feel safe on this path. I start thinking about getting a job in Athens. Just kidding, but when there’s a pretty awesome stretch of bike-pedestrian path, you start thinking about changing your life.
We’re pedaling and talking and I’m as carefree as a puppy and then we turn into a site that has me gobsmacked. First I see a bike share type of rack and I think that the gods of Olympus have intervened on my behalf.
Chrysoula tells me that these bikes are for the SNFCC.
Stop. Red light! SNFCC sounds familiar.
I saw it on a sign at the National Library of Greece which was closed and being relocated. I was there the day before and I saw this sign.
The wheels are turning both on my bike and in my mind. I haven’t put it all together until we come back. Chrysoula asks me if I want to stop at the SNFCC first or on the way back. I opted to keep on riding and check out this cultural campus at the end.
We ride and ride a then start I start spotting the masts of sailboats and we’re at the area with lots of beaches on the Saronic Gulf. This is the Palaio Faliro.
We rode around and talked about what we’d name a boat. Remember the name of the tour is Sight-Seaing in Athens. I love the play on words. They get extra points for the pun.
At this point I can’t imagine being any happier. We’ve been having the best time and then we go up a sidewalk ramp and turn a few places and down and up and straight ahead and then… this!
If only you could smell the salt air and feel the fresh breeze. You could be a dolphin and arc up over the waves. It’s as exhilerating as a roller coaster but my feet are flat on the ground. We stop and soak it in.
Waves lap on to the pavement and you can’t imagine a more perfect moment. The blue bliss goes on as far as the eye can see.
The only thing that could make a moment more perfect would be a café freddo. You can fill in the blank with your chosen beverage, but coffee is the Greek way. Ouzo later. We stop at a restaurant on the beach of course.
Chrysoula and I have a great chat about our respective countries and their issues. “Is life getting any better for the Greeks?” I ask. When I was her age I was already in my career. I was employed in the field of my study and I had been for almost five years. Chrysoula’s degree is in Art Therapy and like many of the Greeks her age she may not be able to pay the rent. She has to work very hard at more than a few jobs to pull it all together. She said that it’s a little better, but she can’t sit back and relax. She was working with refugees and still does but she wanted a happy job for the summer. She loves working at WeBikeAthens and she’s suited to meeting and interacting with people. I’m lucky our paths crossed.
After a nice rest we start to make our way back to the office. However, remember those letters? SNFCC? We make our way back and I learn about the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. When I’m not riding my bike and writing about it, I’m a teacher-librarian at a middle school. I wanted to see the National Library because that’s what I do. The day before I had given up all hope of seeing it because with limited wifi I couldn’t find where it was being moved to and when it would be open to the public. Once again, a bike ride solved my dilemma. The SNFCC is home to the National Library and the National Opera. Case closed. There’s more to know about the SNFCC than I can write about in this post. Follow the link and learn about its design and construction and if you’re ever in Athens, you must visit it. Also the bikes are for using on the campus. There’s a park and it’s a great area to bring the family and enjoy a day at the cultural center. There are bikes at both ends of the campus.
As I was getting into the elevator I decided to video the experience. No picture can do it justice. You can’t help but think of it as a sort of modern Acropolis.
Chrysoula stood guard at the bikes while I explored. It was very nice of her to do that because it was about 7000 degress outside and I was cooling off inside.
My first impressions of the place are hard to communicate since I spend most of the time mumbling WOW and staring in wonder at everything. It’s incredible. The library is beyond anything I’ve ever imagined. I mean I have imagined something like that but the reality added another floor and some fantastic furniture. I’m in love. I didn’t want to leave but I was afraid my lovely guide is melting. I headed back down and we took off. Word that day was that it was so hot the Acropolis closed at 2PM. Also the sky was getting very hazy and there was talk of a wildfire.
On the way back our path is blocked by a taxi. Chrysoula tells the driver to move. I love her!
The driver is rolling a cigarette but finally moves out of our path.
We’re happy for any and all shade on the way back.
Diego is there to greet us.
I had such a great ride last Monday that all Monday rides from now on will pale by comparison. The memory of this ride is something I will play over and over when I get back into my commuting back and forth routine. It’s a memory I will nurture during the winter months when I’m trying to think warm thoughts in the hope that my nose won’t freeze or my gloved hands go numb.
Taking a city tour by bike is often a gamble. You may not get with a group or leader that you like. You may not like the bike or feel like the route isn’t for you. But you also don’t know if you don’t try. This is the third ride I’ve taken with WeBikeAthens and I’d take another and another if I could. The cost is 45€ or about $53. That’s a great value. I had the best time and if you enjoy biking then this is a great option for you. Everytime I travel, especially overseas, I look for bike rides. After all, 16 of my 75 miles last week were in Athens.
I hope you’re having a great summer. Take water, apply sunscreen and get out there and ride.
Billy Joel didn’t write this song. I did. The lyrics are in my mind and I have thought about last summer in Greece with about the same frequecy as my bike commute, which is daily. I think about Santorini and it calms me like the humming of a singing bowl. I thought about it last fall as the leaves were changing colors and the air was growing brisk. I ruminated about it when the snow was falling in the winter and in the spring when it sounded like someone dumped a bucket of marbles on the roof as hail clattered and the skies thundered. Memories of my Santorini bike ride got me through.
The whole adventure was both last minute and planned. How is that possible? I would travel to Greece and if I could get a bike ride or two, that would be a bonus. Trip planned, but sometimes you need to be there to figure out the rest. I had no idea if I could pull off a bike ride on the island but I was going to try. I was sitting in the lobby of the hotel and I mentioned the idea to the host. He was not impressed. He was concerned it would be too dangerous. I remember saying, “Okay, sure, but… do you know anyone?” He said he would check. I had the impression that he was not going to check but wait for me to forget about it.
Lo’ and behold there was a travel magazine on the table in the lobby and I was thumbing through it and saw an ad for Santorini MTB Adventures. I wrote down the number and the email. I sent an email first, in which, I described my bike experience and how much I wanted to make this happen. Shortly after I clicked SEND my phone rang and it was a woman who wanted to confirm that there was a opening the next morning. Could I be ready at 9AM? There was jubilation and dancing and I was beaming the rest of the day as like a child on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t go to sleep.
I packed bike shorts and a top because that’s what I do for most trips. You have to get in gear when a bike opportunity rings the bell. The next morning I was waiting at the door at 8:30 for the 9AM pick up as anxious as if this was a first date. Soon I would rendezvous with a bike on a beach and I would see the island from the saddle of an electric mountain bike. Ride on.
Vassili and Katarina were our guides. It was me and a young couple.
The adventure started at Perissa Beach. I don’t remember much about the beach at the beginning of the trip because all I wanted to do was hike my leg over this bike and get going.
Perissa Beach is in the backgroud. Gorgeous, but at the start of the ride and when I shot this pic, I didn’t even notice the beach. Bikes on the brain!
The e-bikes c have 9 speeds and 4 modes: Eco, sport, tour and turbo. Disc brakes. I have an e-bike that has pedal assist. Same idea but there’s a little more boost in these models. They are a modern day mule and easy to use. Vassili was lead and I followed behind him. I could feel all the commuting miles pay off as we biked up and down and around. The couple followed behind me and Katarina brought up the back.
We puttered around the parking lot for about 10 minutes getting used to how the bikes handled and then we were off. Vassili would take pics here and there and we would also have moments when we stopped to snap a few pics but he strongly advised us to keep both hands on the handlebars and not take pics while we were riding. Okay, who told on me! But it’s true, the terrain is varied and rocky. I knew immediately I should behave myself. I only took pictures when we stopped.
Santorini is full of those hills that don’t look like much, but suddenly your in the middle of a climb that was so gradual you can almost hear the ground giggling at your attempt to summit without downshifting.
See how it is. Seems easy enough and then right at the top of the picture it gets steep enough to make you wish for an escalator.
At each turn there’s a reward of something that you’d miss if you weren’t on a bike.
Then the narrow alleyway opens up to something else that takes your breath away.
Our first stop was for a bit of refreshment at a café.
There were infinite nooks and crannies that demanded attention. We parked our bikes and went exploring.
The next stop was Gavalas Winery. We parked our bikes and settled in for a treat which included wine tasting.
My favorite part was when the guide at the winery, another Vassili said,
“Fermentation needs patience. While drinking needs company.” Also they wanted a wine that was “Red to your eye, Rosé in the mouthand white in the after taste.” I enjoyed all four wines we sampled.
My only significant regret was that I didn’t buy some wine or have some shipped. If you like wine, you should check out this winery. I thought I could probably find it somewhere in the Northwest, but I was wrong.
Vassili the bike guide brought us these amazing “energy” bars.
Everything does taste better on vacation!
Then we’re on our way again to see more sights.
Bring on the oxygen because the views from this spot are spectacular. I was overcome with emotion at truly awesome sights.
Super steep getting down to a church, but worth it. This is an excursion that welcomes all levels, but keep in mind, there’s sand and gravel and significant climbing in and out of areas like this. Bikes stayed up top and we walked down to the church.
You can ring the bells!
View from just outside the church doors.
Selfie time. The ride was about 15 miles total. I saw sights that I wouldn’t have seen any other way.
Perissa Beach is where we started. By the time you get back to the lounge chairs you are ready for a dip in the water and a cold beverage of your choice.
Would I recommend Santorini MTB Adventures? Without hesitation I would recommend them! I loved every second of the bike ride. I was sad it came to an end. This would hold me over for a few days. I would be heading back to Athens after Santorini and yes, I found bikes there too. More in another post about biking in Athens.
Santorini is in the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea. Way back in the16th century BC it was devastated by a volcanic eruption, forever shaping its rugged landscape. Jules Verne wrote about it in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in 1870. There’s some perspective for you. Since this trip many details of life have garnered my attention. Sometimes we get lost in the minutiae of the day. But in the quiet or even busy moments between the storms I have been able to get myself back to a Santorini state of mind. A few hours that transformed me and my perspective on life. We all need places like that. I can get myself there with each and every pedal stroke on any day, rain or shine. I hope you have a place like that too.
Thanks for reading. Now, get up and get out there and ride your bike!
P.S. I am heading back to Santorini this summer. More MTB adventures await, I hope.
No cars or bikes were stolen to make this post possible. Joyride is a women’s “ride to unwind” that is organized by Cycle Oregon. Usually when I see anything from Cycle Oregon I assume it’s about the 7-day awesome ride in September that I can’t attend and I get sad and wish I had a different career outside of education, but last weekend I saw an ad on social media and I followed the trail to see that this ride was completely doable. Saturday, June 9th. I’m in. I registered and then I decided to head to Dayton, Oregon on Friday and I found a link to a go back in time. Doesn’t your Internet do that? Following another trail I saw a link for a place called Vinages Trailer Resort.
I was impatient for Friday. More than usual. I took a half-day personal leave. My husband got the car tanked up and he even cleaned the windows. We took off. Dayton is about an hour and a half away. We were on the road early enough to beat the traffic, or so we thought. I was glad to put the week behind me. I wanted a little adventure and this ride would be just what I needed.
We pulled into the Vintages lot and I was smitten with the place instantly. Admittedly I do have a fascination with trailers. I don’t come from camper people.
I’m not sure what I expected, but I’m thrilled with our trailer. We took our dog Max and apparently the other trailer I had reserved, The Ideal, was not ideal for pet people, so we were switched to the Shasta.
It was brilliant that we arrived earlier enough to settle in, order pizza and relax. The place is surprisingly quiet and serene. Even the heavy rain couldn’t dampen my excitement over this find. I was getting a tiny bit worried about the the rain stealing some joy from my Saturday ride, but what can you do? I had brought rain gear just in case.
A walk around the resort led to some bike envy. It was a feast from the past and even the bikes fit the theme.
All campers have a barbecue and bikes to ride around the site. There’s a general store with wine glasses, food and souvenirs.
We had all the amenities including wifi and Netflix.
By the time the twinkle lights came on in the resort I was thinking of skipping the bike ride and just hanging out in the camper.
But who am I kidding. We slept well. Even Max who gets up a few times at night slept until 6:30. None of us sleep in that late most days.
Joyride had various staggered times so I figured we’d get there and I’d pick up my packet. But first, coffee.
Then we loaded up the car and took off for the winery.
Dayton, Oregon is wine country and Joyride starts and ends at the Stoller Wine Estate. The flags! I’m excited to be participating in my first ever Cycle Oregon event.
We’re following the car in front of us trying to see where we should park.
There’s a tree that blew down in the storm last night. Yeah… a big tree.
Guess that’s not registration.
The start line. What I love about a women’s only event is that there was a sort of constant chorus of “This isn’t a race. This isn’t a race.” There are three routes; short, medium and long.
I took off. I was thinking of the medium route which was 39 miles. Easy, peasy! I had a great pace and felt pretty good. I was riding my Trek Portland which my friends at Bike Gallery got spruced up. There were many compliments about my snazzy fenders. Most of my bikes are footloose and I don’t clip in. I seldom ride the road bike. I had a ride the week before and decided I wouldn’t take the Portland, but at the last minute I felt I should go with the road bike for a longer ride. I am not clipping in on the right side. I’m agitated by this and decide that at the next rest stop I’ll have someone help me with my cleats.
About 8.9 miles there’s a rest stop that is glorious. First off the food is amazing. Fresh fruit and chocolate covered hazelnuts and granola and live music. It’s spectacular. Women are talking and there’s a different vibe to the whole affair. It’s relaxed and mellow and “Are you here with a group of friends” or “You can join us if you want.” Also, “I love that jersey. Is that Primal? Where did you find that?” In a word it’s joyous.
Hummus, cream cheese, Nutella and almond butter on bagels and bread. I love that then men are there serving the women.
Lovely presentation of everything!
I left after about 20 minutes of resting.
Heading back to the route I was feeling amazing. What a great day! I was excited about the 30 or so miles ahead. I was thinking about the other rest stops and what culinary treats would await.
As I got on the road there were some sprinkles or rain starting. Okay, sure, some drizzle. I started out with two rain jackets and it had proven to be too much. I shed one and then put it back on as I neared the road. It’s Oregon. It’s June. It’ll pass. I rode for about 4 miles. I took the medium and long route.
Then this happened.
There was a gust of wind that nearly took me down. I saw the group ahead of me get off the busy road and hide under a tree. I wanted to ride up to the tree but I also wanted to see my next birthday, so I pulled over into a field. I grabbed my phone and got a the video because it’s not that common to see white caps without being on the ocean. I put my back to the worst of the hail and then just waited to see what would happen. Would this pass? I saw the property owner get on his tractor and come down the hill. I thought he was going to yell at me to get off his property. I thought he was coming down to close his gate. Instead he yells out at me, “You can stay here as long as you want.” I could barely hear him over the din of the pelting hail. “What did you say?” I yelled. Again, “You can stay here as long as you want.” Then he waved and rode his tractor back up to his house.
After about 15 minutes some women came by and they asked if I wanted to join them. They weren’t sure if they were going to stick with the medium route but they thought they’d go for a few more miles and decide. We were surrounded by the black clouds and I still have school for another 13 days, and I don’t want to catch a cold. I was conflicted about what to do until I saw a truck speed by and decided I should head back to the short route. I made it about four miles before another drencher hit. I found a tree along with another group of five women. After about 15 more minutes and no blue sky in sight I texted my husband that I was doing the short route and I’d be back at the winery within the hour.
It ended up being a 20 mile day, but still eventful. I was kind of kicking myself about it but after we got home there was another hail storm and more rain.
I had a glass of Pinot and enjoyed the 20 miles.
Until next year. Most rides are joyous and wonderful. I had a great day despite the rain and I can’t wait for Joyride 2019.
If the month of April was on a bike then it raced past me like a peloton in a sprint for the finish in the Tour. April is usually one of the wettest months in the Great Northwest. We were set to take the record again, then last week happened. Four days of summer temps that were enough to tease me into thinking July was around the corner. That said, April’s true essence came through in the last few days so I’m back in the ol’ rain gear again.
As May is waiting in the wings for its cue I hope for warmer days ahead. You know that saying about how everyone complains about the weather but no one does anything about it.
Last Monday was one of the most amazing April days. Plus it was my birthday and somehow the sun was the perfect present. There’s a newish walking path about 30 minutes from where I live. I discovered it by car two weeks ago but I didn’t know how to get access to it. You know when you’re driving and you see a mini road that parallels a highway and you wonder, “How could I bike that?” I was curious about it and my husband suggested that for my birthday we check it out.
He drove and I was nervous because maybe there really wasn’t anything there except a missed opportunity. At the Port of Kalama there is a trail, a new restaurant and lodge. The marina is in good shape and there’s a new walkway that I biked to get over to the railway area. There was a train blocking the road and you can’t count on access from Henrickson Road, but it was a stunning day and even though I went back a forth enough for 5 miles it felt different each time. The path has a majestic view of the Columbia River and log rafts.
It was more than I expected and enough to get me thinking about how I could bike to the site and back home. There must be some back roads. Even if I drive there a few times and explore it would be worth it. I felt like I discovered something with potential for more riding. There’s even an area along the Kalama River that seems great for mountain biking. I didn’t have much time but I was impressed with everything I saw and I’m hungry for more.
Not everyday you see a fully operational logging company. While I was considering whether my bike could go over logs I was also feeling the watchful eyes of history on my adventure. I was at the confluence of transportation with rain, river and highway coming together in this hamlet. In 1870, the Irish and Chinese arrived to work on the railroad. Fishing and logging settled in Kalama also.
The tallest totem pole in the Pacific Northwest is right there stretching up to the sky. Plenty of people were out and about on a enjoying the features of the park. Admittedly I was surprised to see the baby blue sky and anything beyond that had me agog.
Spring isn’t always the best, reliable weather but it reminds us that opportunities are about to unfold in both life and biking.
The first time I became aware of women in cycling it was 1984 and I was watching the summer Olympics. Connie Carpenter Phinney and Rebecca Twigg were crossing the finish line side-by-side and Phinney. After 50 miles they were coming to the finish line and it was spoke to spoke and saddle to saddle practically. As it turns out it was the closest finish in Olympic history and Phinney won by mere inches.
Here’s the thing, men’s cycling has been in the Olympics since 1896 and women’s since 1984. Women is cycling is a recent development. When I say recent, I mean since about the late 70’s and early 80’s. In light of Women’s History Month and being a woman who bikes I feel like I need to speak up. I remember all to well the times men told me I shouldn’t bike because it was undignified or “not very lady like.” On an endurance ride, I think it was my first of 7 Seattle-to-Portland rides a man asked me if I felt good about coming in dead last and that maybe I should stick with the Jane Fonda exercise videos.
Infuriated and disgusted I tried to stay focused on what mattered to me. The ride. I kept riding and surrounded myself with people who let me do my thing.
Evelyn Hamilton. Ever heard of her? I met Joe Kurmaskie a few weeks ago.He wrote a book about her. The Facebook invitation said, “Lightning In A Saddle: The Evelyn Hamilton Story. An amazing true life drama that combines the female Jackie Robinson of cycling with the daring of Inglorious Bastards. An equality pioneer, a record breaker and a war hero!”
The book isn’t published yet. I preordered it. There were a few pictures that I thought were amazing. I asked Joe if I could take a picture of the pictures.
Evelyn! This pic is the best. First off, can you see the tan lines? I see her and I see myself sans the helmet, but I ask you, a beret-ish helmet. Stylish, strong, sexy! I’m looking forward to reading the book and learning about this woman, this cyclist!
Over my lifetime biking has been a constant. From the moment I could balance on two weeks, I’ve been riding everywhere regardless of what opinions people may have about it. In honor of Women’s History Month consider the women (of all ages) in your life and be supportive of their cycling endeavors.
“A small group of thoughful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only this that ever has.” —Margaret Mead
In January 2016, I joined a small group of thoughful people who advise, advoate and work to change our little corner of the world. We meet once a month and there are some people who are always present and others, like me, who try very hard to make each meeting but run into schedule problems on occasion. We are the Bike and Pedestrian Stakeholders Group (BPSG) and we work to make streets safe for pedestrians and bicyclists. In the early days, I sat and listened and I was completely intimidated by all the traffic-speak, acroynms and history. It was hard to keep up and I often felt inept and out of the loop. Frankly, it was humbling on many level, since in my actual line of work I perform competently and with poise. In this new arena, I found it hard to find my words. The content of the meetings continues to be daunting and yet I keep going because it’s interesting and I think what we’re doing is important to the safety of our citizens.
Often times a citizen like me gets involved because they had a particular issue they want addressed. My issue was bikes more than pedestrians, and yet, through time I could see that if a project was good for peds it was usually something you could also expand to bikes. My first two concerns were bike parking in the downtown blocks and the other was an intersection near my neighborhood. The intersection had a history of challenges. At each meeting I would hear that it was being researched for bike box. A bike box is a designated area at the head of a traffic lane at a signalized intersection that provides bicyclists with a safe and visible way to get ahead of queuing traffic during the red signal phase. Bike boxes have positive benefits on both safety and traffic. Read more here.
There hasn’t been a meeting I attended that I haven’t asked about the status of a bike box in that tricky intersection. It was supposed to happen over the summer, then fall. A few weeks ago, my wish was granted. I saw that the road was closed for construction and I could feel myself getting fussy and frothy. I took a detour onto the sidewalk. Then in my periphery vision I saw this puddle of green paint and the work crew waxing on the color. Could it be? It is really? My bike box! As I approached my left turn I saw a kid and his mom on bikes about to cross the street. I exclaimed something about the bike box and when they didn’t understand I said, “Follow me and I’ll show you.” They followed as I crossed the berm to talk with the workers.
Proudly I exclaimed that I was on the committe that requested this bike box.
The worker knew about the group and gave me a thumbs up. As I got into the traffic lane he said, “Miss, you’re in LIVE traffic.” But the other one told him to hold off the traffic so I could get my pic. All in all, it was a perfect moment.
I use it every day. Drivers are staying out of the bike box. In fact that was one of the constant issues on that street; drivers pulling up beyond the curb line to see traffic. For the first time in three years I feel safe, protected in my green bike box. I was part of making that happen. You could say I helped stop traffic. This victory gives me momentum that will carry me through the next issue, bike parking.
As a child, my favorite crayon in the box was copper. It still is. The reddish-orange-brown gleams in the sunlight and shimmers under the moon. You don’t need to coax a sparkle out of copper. There’s a luster to it all the time. My obsession started early with gold and silver too, but copper was my go metal in the crayon box for everything. Yes, I was the kid with the whole color page in copper, silver and gold. When I first saw hammered Honjo mud guards I started scheming. That was over a year ago. They wouldn’t fit one of my other bikes, but I never forgot the copper wink.
But that’s not the whole story. In December I was pining for another bike. I was thinking of doing the Rapha Festive 500 but I didn’t want to use my Cannondale road bike. With rain and snow in the forecast there was little chance of me logging any serious miles on it. If the bike shop had my size in stock, this would be a different post. However it was out of stock and not just for the bike shop, but for the brand. I couldn’t even get a test ride on my size. I was bummed and left to consider some other options.
My old commuter bike, the 2006 Trek Portland, was a great bike. I say was because I relegated it to the basement on the Wahoo trainer I bought about a year ago. That was working out fine, but frankly a waste of a great bike. It had skinny tires and I put the original seat on it. I stripped it down to the essentials and took off the old fenders and rack. I rode it on the trainer only. The back tire was shiny with Zwift miles. It would have been easy to leave it that way, but the thing is that bike is a great bike. It has disc brakes and it can climb with more speed and grace than my carbon fiber. Excellent gearing and overall it was a serious investment back in ’06. My big mistake with the Trek was when I put skinny tires on it for a century. Also, some of my friends were getting new sleek road bikes and I started to think I needed a new road bike. That means my Trek Portland was sidelined and the new carbon fiber was getting all the attention.
New tires, tape and fenders.
It was right around Christmas that I started to consider what if. What if I brought the Portland out of basement biking and back into the riding fleet. A Strava friend posted a picture of his bike and I was blinded by the copper fenders and I started to get organized.
I considered doing the upgrade with the carbon bike, but the Synapse doesn’t have disc brakes and I always feel uncoordinated and tentative on that bike. I kept thinking about the Portland. It has everything I want and with a little love and clever bike mechanics, I can pay for an overhaul and get the bike back on the road where it belongs! That was about two weeks ago. My 2006 Trek Portland looks better than ever and rides like a dream. Again!
Keep your eyes on the road and try not to be distracted by my amazing not-new bike. My Miss Portlandia is geared up for some touring. First 35 miles completed and another 1000 ahead. Easy!
If you’re on the fence about your bike options, my advice it to consider how you can make the most of the bike(s) you have. Again, I can say this because that other bike just wasn’t available, but the whole incident was a challenge and I feel like I handled it well and saved myself some money and got exactly what I wanted.
Considering a renovation of an existing bike gives you an opportunity to customize the bike exactly the way you want. I never had major issues with my Trek, I wanted a slightly wider tire and some bling. Plus having bike mechanics overhaul your bike and clear out all the built up gunk is a good thing.
The results amaze me. I can’t take my eyes off this bike. I ride past windows trying to get a glimpse. Riding around I saw heads turn and people raise their eyebrows in approval. Some people say it’s just a bike. Just my bike!
Some little birds think I did a great job! I am thrilled with how she looks and most importantly, how she rides! What do you do to update, upgrade and otherwise renew your ride? Leave your thoughts below.
I can see clearly now, the rain is gone, I can see all obstacles in my way Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) Sun-Shiny day.
Sing it Johnny Nash (not Cash), but songwriters Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff had a way with words. The fact of the matter is that I picked up my new glasses and I can see clearly now both far away and near, off to the left and the right, and thanks to this nifty prism in the lens my eyes are not wandering around making me see two cars when really there’s only one. I can really see! Zippity do da!
The moment when the glasses were slipped into place and I could read a sign across the street was magical. I’m as picky about my the frames on my face as I am about the ones I ride, thus it has taken me about a year to get my prescription filled. What a great way to start the new year! New eyes, new vision, better focus, setting my sights on a whole perspective.
I had a great year for riding. My goal was 3,500 miles. As the sun sets on the penultimate day of the year I have 4,585 miles and 411 activities. I feel good about that. I’ll set a goal of 4,000 miles for 2018 and 415 activities. I blogged once and sometimes twice a month making this the best year ever on the blog. Go team! If I can increase that by one or two more posts during the course of the year, I will count that as a success. You’ve been a factor in motivating me to write more. Thank you for following this blog and commenting or just clicking that star. It makes my week!
December 30th is always an excellent day for shopping. After I picked up my new glasses I did a little shopping and at one of my favorite stores the salespeople were asking about plans for New Year’s Eve. I live in the Pacific Northwest and one customer said that her family celebrates “East Coast” time and they’re in bed at 9:30 p.m.. Another said that she has two kids and they play Battleship, eat popcorn and are tucked in by 9 as well. That’s about my speed too. I’m Greek and one tradition I’ve maintained in our family is making a the New Year’s bread. You bake a coin in the dough and toast it up on New Year’s Day for breakfast (whomever gets the coin has a prosperous year.) Once that’s done I’ll have a bike ride and my husband, dog and I will have a quiet evening eating grilled cheese sandwiches, soup and salad, followed by some Champagne cupcakes and Prosecco.
When actors or writers are asked what role or book they like the most they often say, “The one I’m currently working on.” I am grateful for every day I’m healthy and able bodied enough to ride. Every route is a learning experience and every time I ride even the commuting route I see it differently because of the light, time of day, weather—my glasses! I like almost all the rides I take. There’s a few this year that I think about on those really snotty days. Santorini and Athens. I thank the universe for my trip to Greece, summer 2017. It provided some of my best biking memories of 2017. I have been drafting that post for a few months and I resolve to share it soon.
I can see clearly now and I have my sights on more biking and adventures in 2018. Let’s do this! Happy New Year!
Merry Christmas! There is something magical about snow on Christmas Eve. It’s a child’s dream to see a blanket of white. Everything gets quiet and soft except for the sound of fat tires eating up the powder and making tracks. In truth I lasted only 1.3 miles of neighborhood riding, but still it was an epic ride. A few people in cars giving me sideways glances as if I am “that crazy neighbor” who bikes places they wouldn’t drive to. That’s okay! I love the sound of the tires compacting the snow and moving like a beast on the surface. Awesome!
It’s rare to have snow right now, making it even more special. In 2017, January was the month I rode the least. I got a Wahoo and set it up in the basement. I learned I like being outdoors so I didn’t use it much after January but this year I am going to use it at least once a week for distance and speed. Foreshadowing of some resolutions. Commuting is going well, but the weather does put a damper on the day when you’d like to just have a good workout. A sweat fest of spinning. I did ride more miles in 2017.
January my time was only in the teens. We had record snowfall and school closures pushed the end of the year to June 26th. Longer rides and more miles in the summer months, but October was spectacular too!
I’ve never been the rabbit in the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. Even as a child when I would hear the story, I thought that the tortoise had the best pace. Slow and steady, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like speed. I do! But I don’t want to get injured or break something in the process which could sideline me for months. I’m the tortoise; cautious and slow. I don’t ride to keep up, I ride to set my own pace.
Before 2017 I used mass transit every morning to get to within 5 miles of my work. Then I’d ride. Now, I go the distance and ride in the morning and afternoon. That amounts to 20+ miles per day of commuting. I know some people do more, or less, but this is just right for me. When the weather is cooperative, I’ll add more to the ride home.
Santa was on track with me this year. I love my slippers! The Wahoo Elemnt is going to be great. I plan to use it today on an indoor ride. Can you do that? I paired it with everything and I’m excited to give it a whirl, but remember that snow I talked about earlier? It’s iced up quite a bit and I’d like to play it safe and spin up a sweat inside. There are cookies in my future today.
Adding to the blog more often and planning out my posts was another goal this year. It has helped immeasurably to hear from you.
Readers, I wish you the best today and everyday! Thank you for following this blog and sharing your adventures and interests. Glad ridings to us, everyone!
As we wrap up another Christmas, I can’t help but wonder what’s ahead. You know what it’s like when you’re on a road and you can’t quite see as the road bends and yet you keep pedaling onward. Forward.
You can color outside the lines and think outside the box, but you must not park outside the system. That’s going to cost you. I learned that the hard way while combining my bike love with some Black Friday shopping antics. Planning the whole day, I figured I’d take the light rail, Max, into the city and then pick up a BikeTownPDX bike and pedal about shopping at my favorite local places. I purposely left my bike home to see how I liked grabbing a bike and going as needed. Since I had such a great experience with the SoBi system in Phoenix and as a founding BikeTown member I get 90 minutes of free time riding anyway, so what’s stopping me other that the fact that I own several bikes. Minor point. Get out there and ride any bike!
Let me give you a bit of background. First, I live across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington. Portland, Oregon, the home of the Trailblazers, Nike and the BikeTown bike share system is about 15 minutes from my door. I drove the car to a park and ride in Portland and hopped on Max, the light rail system,
My original plan was to get off when I saw a BikeTown kiosk, but I didn’t see any along Interstate so I enjoyed the passing scenery and crossed the Steel Bridge and picked up my first bike at Oak Street. The only reason I throw in this information is to say that I got on the Social Bike train for five rides and overall I covered 8 miles total.
I used the little basket in the front and I had no problems with the RFID information and locking or unlocking any of the bikes. Only one bike has a seat issue which was a problem with the lever of the seat post. Otherwise it was a blast. That’s when I got cocky. I can recall the moment when I started to think I could just ride back to the Max train. Heck, I saw a bike locked up to non-BikeTown racks. That’s what I’ll do, I thought gleefully! I know there’s a bike parking staple at the Park and Ride. I saw it.
What an epically stunning day for a ride. The temps were above 50 degrees and the sun was out here and there. I was riding high and mighty my friends. The endorphins of biking mixed with shopping were heady.
The golden carpet of leaves and the cool air on my face, I felt unstoppable on the heavy bikes. The man on the sidewalk asked me if the bikes were electric. They are not electric. I felt like my bum had cement in it, but I didn’t care. A spectacular day!
Until I got the message from BikeTown that I’d done something very bad. “Your account has been charged $20” very bad. What did I do? I felt like I was seeing my report card and I got a big fat red F in the corner of my spelling paper.
The last bike I had I rode out to the Park and Ride. It was 3.86 miles and it took 26:31 minutes.
My bike is the black dot of doom way up at the top and all the rest of the dots are in the perimeter. A 1,000 bikes and 100 stations, and I can’t seem to follow the rules. The email read, “Your bike has been locked outside the system area” and there’s a fee of $20. I got a parking ticket. I was shocked. But, but, but! Can I see a judge?
I was overwhelmed with disappointment in myself. How did I miss this? I do recall wondering why people were staring at me. Did they think I was stealing the bike and heading across the river to start a bike share in Vancouver? I wish! It does explain why there are nearly no bikes outside the “system area” because $20 is nothing to scoff at!
Last night I had trouble sleeping. I didn’t want the BikeTown people to think bad thoughts about me. Good bike relationships are important. I got swept up in the day. I mean look at that view?
This morning I was still troubled by my behavior. I checked the map and the bike was still there, like a dark cloud over the whole experience. I thought of riding my Kona to the Expo stop and parking it then taking the Max train to where I parked the bike and riding “back into the system” and righting my wrong.
Bike at Expo.
Bike at Park and Ride
I reserved the bike on the app.
It took a few hours. but I got it done.
There are many problems in the world I can’t solve, but this I can solve. I feel better knowing that someone on the BikeTown side won’t be cursing the biker who took the bike so far out of the system it might as well has been in another state.
Don’t be like me. Stay in the system, follow the path and you will be richer for it by 20 bucks. I’m not sure if Robert Frost ever had a similar problem with the road less travelled and maybe it was because it was “outside the system” area.
All in all it was worth it. I like to think the bike had some fun too. At the kiosk it’ll tell the other bikes about the woman who practically rode it to Vancouver. I have a very active imagination.
Thank you for reading and following my blog. I appreciate it and I’m grateful for your likes and follows. Be safe out there!
I felt like Lucy from Peanuts today. Ever have those days when you can’t help yourself from sharing your wisdom? Those days when you’re possessed by the need to shower others with what you’ve learned from years of doing it your way? The last few days have been like that for me.
I rode my bike to the chiropractor the other day. I park my bike at the front by the desk. For whatever reason I took a pic while I was waiting because I thought the light was exceptional and it was Car Free Day and I was in fact car free! While I was getting some realigning of my own my bike attracted some of the folks waiting for their appointments. As I followed my doc out to the reception area there were three people hovering over my bike.
One woman in her early 70s was intrigued by the color and how the racks “looked like they were made to go with the bike.” I explained that they were! She thought my bike was “very pretty” and wondered about the apparatus on the handlebars. What goes in there?
“My phone!” I tell her. ”
Oh, well, I’d like one of those for my golf cart,” she exclaims. Where did I get that?
Then another woman asked about that silver thing. She pointed at it as though she thought she knew but then decided she’d see if I knew the answer. “This is a Faraday bike,” I explained, “and there’s motor up front in the wheel and that silver thing is the controller. It’s where I turn on the bike and lights.”
“This is an electric bike?” Overcome by astonishment. There were Ohhh’s and Ahhh’s and then the Golf Cart lady announced that this was a “cheater bike” and I thought I was going to have to take her down, but I composed myself and said, “Then a golf cart is cheating too.” I was not going to let Golf cart lady off the hook. “Shouldn’t you be walking from hole to hole. Why use a golf cart? With your logic, cars are the ultimate cheat.” Two more people came over and asked whether it was like a scooter. “Oh, no. A scooter takes gas and this is a bike first and foremost. I don’t have to be electric with it, but I have the option when I need a boost up a hill or I need to get someplace at 18mph instead of 12.
“Hills? We don’t have hills!” Golf cart lady said.
“You probably don’t feel them in your car or cart.” I challenged. She was a kick!
“This is a pedal assist.” I explained. “It doesn’t move unless I move. It provides a lovely little boost which helps me get to work faster in the morning and means I don’t have to ride the bus or drive a car”
Golf cart lady was not sure what to make out of me and my bike, “Is that wood? Wood is pretty but impractical for our weather.”
I admitted that I was skeptical at first but I rode all spring and found that the bike stays very clean and the bamboo is low maintenance. There was some nodding and raised eyebrows. All in all, I think I could have convinced them to take a test ride if I’d been in a bike shop instead of a chiropractor’s office.
Golf cart lady wanted the details about the phone holder for her golf cart and told me to be careful out there.
The second advice encounter happened at the bike shop today when a young woman was looking at bike gear. I was waiting for my bike to get some new fenders and I was checking my phone messages. I was sitting on a bench by the shoes and she sat down with an array of overshoe covers. She had a half dozen out and tried them on and took them off. After about 10 minutes I couldn’t help myself. “Have you tried these before?” I probed. She explained she needed something but wasn’t sure what to try. Suddenly I’m pontificating about how I’ve tried them all. I love anything Gore when it comes to a jacket but I have not has much success with the overshoes. I liked the neoprene, but weirdly they aren’t that waterproof in our Northwest rain. I like the grippy quality of the soles but they weren’t waterproof on my commutes.
I found myself leaning in and I told her I wear Sorel boots with a good rain pant and that does the trick. If I was going to do anything different, I’d just buy another pair or waterproof Sorel boots or something similar. I’ve heard Bogs are amazing, but I don’t have personal experience with them.
“What about your helmet? Do you wear one of these?” she asks holding up those helmet shells. I shook my head no. I have a brim on my helmet and I wear often put a beanie over the helmet. I layer my head so I have a lighter beanie over my hair and another over the helmet. It’s amazing and toasty. The rain doesn’t roll down my neck or jacket. Even if it does get wet, it’s usually dried out by morning. I could pop it in the dryer, but I don’t recall doing that at all last winter.
Theses are my two winter looks. The one on the right works beautifully in the rain too!
Early fall. Warm & protected.
Doubled up. Cap on hair and cap on helmet.
Riding though all the seasons is challenging. Everyone has to find what works for them, however, sometimes people who are out in the elements all the time are more helpful in the advice department. I spent some time going through all my gear and I feel ready for another season of riding.
What about you? What advice do you have about gear or riding though the seasons?
Good gear should help you go farther, faster, better. It should enhance, not hinder whatever activity is ahead. We all have opinions about the gear we use. Summer 2017 proved to be a good in the Department of Gear. I have had this space on my site for sometime, but I always talk myself out of writing about products. Also, it’s important to use a product for more than a few days. Gear needs to be put through the paces of your routine. Something that works for commuting may not be the best for travel.
Here are the items I’d buy again. The five items listed I purchased within the last year. Recently I came home from a big trip and all these products were used. If any of these vendors (TerryBikes, SweetSpotSkirts, GoodOrdering, Moxie, and HydraPak) want to sign me up for some swag or send me a coupon, I’d be happy to accept. Read on.
Admittedly, I was skeptical. Long sleeves in the heat of summer? Hello? How can that possibly be cool? But when you get sick of slathering on the sunscreen and you want to be outside enjoying the day and the rays—this is the best top. I bought mine at REI on an impulse. I was heading to Greece and I thought this top would be easy to pack and one of those perfect tops for traveling. I was 100% spot on. I love it. I paid full price and it’s on sale now on the Terry site. I have noticed them for a few years but again, I thought it would be too hot. I was wrong. What a find! The black and white goes with everything and the sleeves are long enough to protect your wrists. Did any sun get through? None! It’s rated at 50+ and the crew design keeps you covered from your neck to hip. You could also wear it over a bathing suit. It’s weirdly cool even when the temps are high. How high? I’ve worn the top in 100 plus degrees and it’s cool. Cool!
I thought I’d only give it four owls since I kind of wanted a few more colors or designs, but when you have one classic design you don’t need anything else. If you want it loose, order up a size. Three stash pockets in the back are big enough for keys, snacks and even a big phone.
I’m choosing owls for my rating. Five owls is the best.
The T-back tank is a favorite. I bought three at an REI sale last year. One of them had a bad pocket, but the other two have become part of my summer uniform. If the soleil top is to keep you covered, then the T-back is for tanning while on tour. Add sunscreen of course!
The T-back top swims well too. I didn’t know that until I found myself at the end of a long ride near a beach and the water was calling my name. This top and I took a plunge in the Perissa Bay. I think when a top does even more than what it was designed to do it deserves five owls. This top really does have moxie! Try eBay for other styles. I’m not sure what’s up with the company. Some of the links weren’t working for ordering new. This is my favorite top of theirs. They also have a t-shirt style, but I wasn’t a fan of the cut. The T-back is flattering and cool and have some built in support (wink).
These skirts are like potato chips. You can’t stop with just one. Note that each one is reversible too, so it’s like getting two skirts. I have too many, but what can I say. I was around when Sweet Spot Skirts was starting up. I know that each one of my purchases has helped support this company and the skirts are cute and versatile. I always travel with one and I wear the skirts throughout the year. Paired with leggings and boots in the winter or cycling shorts in the summer these skirts are great when you want a little more coverage than cycling shorts provide.
It’s hard to choose a pattern because they’re all spectacular. Like I said, the potato chips of skirts. You can wear them with any compression shorts of padded cycle shorts. The possibilities are endless. Check out the site and if you live in Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington, go to the store and see for yourself.
How do I love thee… Market Bag! Let me count the ways. First it’s lightweight even when you pack it full with everything from a journal to two liters of water. I was astounded by how much I could fit into the bag and still carry it. It’s a backpack and a pannier. How amazing is that? It’s the best travel bag ever! I didn’t take any tech with me except for my iPhone, headphones and Mophie charger. It worked as a beach bag, a book bag, a market bag, a pannier, a carryon! Plus it’s super distinctive and guess what? You can throw it into the washing machine and let it air dry and it’s as pristine as the day you bought it. I love this bag! I bought it at a bike shop because it was orange and had loads of pockets. I hadn’t used it much because I was afraid to get it dirty. I figured it would travel well and I was right. When I read on the GoodOrdering site about machine washing the bag, my love grew. It’s brilliant! They even make great bags for kids.
It was another impulse purchase at REI. One thing about traveling is you have to pack water. Even though in Greece the water was a Euro or less for a liter, it’s nice to have you own bottle. I took this everywhere and when it wasn’t in use, like the airport, then I’d crush it down to take up as little space as possible. The hard water bottles are bulky and take up a bit of space. I love how easy the HydraPak makes is to pack water. If you need additional water on a ride, this is a good way to do it.
Ready for water.
The most expensive product is GoodOrdering bag at about $90. The Soleil top is $89 but sometimes certain styles go on sale. The Moxie top might be the only one that’s hard to find, but I see REI has them on sale for $30 or so.
That’s a rundown of my favorite products this summer. I’d love to review more products, so if anyone wants feedback on a product, you can let me know and I’ll be happy to try it out. I’m here for you.
Thanks for reading. Tell me about some of your favorite gear. What’s the one bit of gear you couldn’t imagine your summer without?
Early in my biking life I knew I was a tortoise and not a hare. It’s okay, don’t feel sorry for me. I’m not a speedster. I compete against myself, and that’s A.O.K. by me. I’m not a competitive cyclist. I’m a strong, competent, confident commuter cyclist and I prefer touring. There, now you know.
Why tell you that? Sometimes I wish I was more than a wannabe. I sort of wish I was a professional athlete. I’ve talked about this before in other posts. I’m not. However, I can support others in their athletic aspirations.
I watched a new documentary called Blood Road and it is still with me. Every July 4th I go for a bike ride through some of the city’s cemeteries and I watch a movie about war. Freedom isn’t free as they say, and this documentary offers a perspective from both an American and a Vietnamese women about the ultimate cost. I watched this documentary a few weeks ago and I’m watching it again. Blood Road is the story of a daughter finding her father long after the Vietnam War’s end. “I feel drawn to go looking for answers to a mystery that been with me my entire life.”
Every frame of this film is spectacular. The unfolding of the mystery of Rebecca Rush’s father, a U.S. Air Force pilot, shot down during the Vietnam War. Extraordinary “ultra-endurance” biker takes her viewers on the emotional and physical journey she took in 2015 when she pedaled 1,200 miles of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in search of the crash site that claimed the life of her father.
The most compelling aspect of the story are the primary source documents, video and recordings that are shared. Another aspect of the storytelling involves the people who help Rebecca in her quest. When Rebecca meets Huyen Nguyen, a Vietnamese competitive biking champion, and together they traverse the jungles of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam you see their interactions and genuine support for one another. Also, you learn about the Vietnam War.
War has a lasting impact and Blood Road honors the memory of Rebecca’s father and puts a face on victims of war. The Vietnam War may have ended on April 30th, 1975, but it left a mystery that time and trails mitigate. Yes, I’d love to ride it. How about you?
It doesn’t matter if you watch it on the Fourth. Just watch it.
Whenever possible, and it’s almost always possible, I rent a bike when I’m away from home. My life would be infinitely easier if I didn’t have this need-to-ride, but it would be bereft of the experience engaging in the world and trying to get a bike to ride around wherever, whenever, for however long. Riding a bike heightens your ability to sense where you are staying. It’s as though the veil has been lifted and you see all that was, is and could be.
In the U.S.A., the advent of bike sharing in various cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, and Hartford is a preferable option, but not all American cities have that available. Internationally, I’ve rented bikes in Tokyo, Japan and rode around the Imperial Palace. My favorite overseas bike rental experience was in Potsdam. I’ll come back to that later in this post. Riding though the Tiergarten in Berlin is also a favorite memory. I’ve even rented bikes in Pokara, Nepal too and my husband’s bike ended up getting a flat, but even with that it was a memorable way to see the sights and enjoy a city from the saddle of a bike.
That why this story that Tom Hanks shared with Stephen Colbert had me laughing a few weeks ago. The bit about the bikes starts at about 6:58 into the clip. It got me thinking about the worst bikes I’ve ever rented. There aren’t too many bad experiences I’ve had with bike rentals and certainly nothing that comes close to Tom Hanks’ story.
My favorite memory of a bike rental happened in Potsdam when we were there in 2012. I had been in Germany during June 2009 and I rented several times and went between the hotel and the University of Potsdam. I was there on a Fulbright summer seminar. Our hotel had bikes to rent so I rented everyday and then asked for a deal since I was dropping Euros on so much renting. Crazy American! I was told I could take a taxi or the bus shuttle, but what’s the fun in that?
Riding a bike between the hotel and the campus gave me confidence to go a little farther afield. I’d sit in the lectures and listen to speakers all day and then hit the pavement and ride around like a kid free from all the cares of the world. I rode around the city area and took shortcuts through other neighborhoods. One day I ended up with a bike that needed some repairs. I didn’t notice it right away, but after an hour the front tire started to shimmy and the seat post twisted with any slight movement. It literally had some screws loose. I did the best I could but dusk was hanging over me like a cloud and the front rim lights weren’t operating properly. The dynamo light sets that were supposed to run when touching the rim malfunctioned. The rim was out of alignment and would drag on the tire and produce no illumination. That means I was on these narrow cobblestone streets with no lights. I felt vulnerable. Plus as the sun sets everything starts to look veiled and all the straße looked alike. Nothing is on a grid so panic started to set in and I didn’t know where I was.
I listened. I listened some more. The hotel was close to the U-Bahn and I figured if I could hear the train I could ride toward it, find the station and make my way back to the hotel. It pedaled toward the rumbling metal sounds and after a little while I made it.
Logging miles with a rental bike doesn’t have to be disastrous. It requires a modicum of planning and ask around for bike shops that provide rentals. I love this topic and I promise I’ll spend some more time on it in the future. Now see what Tom Hanks has to say. It’ll make you smile.
Renting a bike is the least commitment one can make when trying to decide what bike to buy. Instead of buying, you can try out a bike. However, when you’re traveling and you’re not sure how much if any riding you’ll be able to do, renting is the perfect option and a unique way to dig in and see things from another perspective.
Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever tried renting a bike while on vacation.
Nothing like an extra day of weekending. In my neck of the woods, I had sun and clear skies. I had to apply sunscreen for my ride. First time in a while! I had time for a ride or three. It was enough to get me excited about summer riding. My commute got the weekend off. My other bikes got a little time to play. Time to ride with no real plan is the best way to relax. Drinking in the scenery, the sun and feeling the topography under my tires. There’s nothing like it.
Off Rhodi…riding! A little rhododendron humor.
Blooming great day of riding!
My spirits are high!
The Lake view
Right side of the tracks.
Lemond mailbox bike.
The wonders of riding a bike don’t have to be limited to long weekends. Tomorrow I’m back to my commute and I have a taste for summer on my bike.
Did you have access to a cycling team when you were in high school? I remember being in my high school math class and there was an announcement over the PA on a Monday morning. Blah, blah, blah and then something about our bike team winning a race. I thought, “Huh, we have a bike racing team?” I had no idea. The team consisted of four to six guys, two of them were in the upcoming spring play with me and I didn’t know that either one even rode a bike. Then what followed was the math teacher saying my name repeatedly to break me out of my dumfounded state of consciousness.
How did I miss this opportunity? I still don’t know, but a friend of mine, Larry, saw this article and sent it my direction. I wondered why we don’t see more cycling in high school. Find the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) on Facebook and give them a like. Also you can donate online to help their efforts. Mountain biking is a far more attractive option for our young racers in training. What a great way to learn how to handle a bike and perfect your skills with balance and agility. At the end of nearly every sentence I kept moaning, “Where was this when I was in high school?”
Personally I did not find a place with traditional sports in high school. I was easily discouraged. I enjoyed volleyball the most, but I had the impression I was supposed to be good right away and I wasn’t. I thought you went to practice and learned about the game, whatever the game. I parted ways with the idea that I’d be able to learn a sport and put my focus in other areas. I kept riding my bike to school and work at my after school job.
“A lot of these kids have done football, baseball, and haven’t really found their place in traditional sports,” says Shaun Anderson, who coaches the Cuyuna Lakes team in northern Minnesota. “They find this and it’s given them a home.”
Truth be told, I’m older than the mountain bike, but younger than Gary Fisher. I’ll donate what I can to help the efforts of NICA! The next generation can count on me to support their riding.
You know that Mae West quote, “When I’m good I’m very good but when I’m bad, I’m better.” With a few little tweaks to the wording, that’s how I feel about the weather in the Pacific Northwest. When it’s bad it’s wretched and unfair and you want to fist pump the heavens and tell the weather gods to cut it out. But when it’s good you feel like you’ve been cured from something akin to the plague or Dengue fever and you can hear the Hallelujah chorus. It’s as if the gods finally have a quorum and voted in favor of you so the sun shines and all the world smiles. You think this is it, the weather will never be that bad ahhhggainn— wait, was that a rain drop. What? No, not again. You shuffle through your bag and put on the dreaded rain pants.
Even though the morning started out cold and foggy, by the time I got to work it was sunny.
Today I saw blue skies and for a period this morning there wasn’t a cloud to be seen. It was a weather miracle. Another front is moving through and as I write I can hear the wind’s take-no-prisoners attitude. The neighbors’ wind chime sounds like a toddler got ahold of them and it beating those bells into submission. I’m remembering that a few short hours ago I was enjoying 66 degrees and a light breeze. I’m recalling that I took a 16 mile detour to get home for the primary purpose of staying out in the sun a bit longer. I worked up a bit of a sweat. There’s that other Mae West quote, “I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.” Some things are more worthwhile for having been difficult. Some days surviving a bike commute despite the elements is worth it. Some days however you just want to enjoy the ride without the struggle against all the elements of nature. You want to see the powder blue skies and feel the sun.
It was glorious day to ride and I’m greedy for more. Until then. I’ll enjoy my pictures. Of the sun-sational day.
Here’s to warmer temps, blue skies and the sun.
That’s Mt. Hood in view.
How’s the spring weather in your part of the world?
The Easter Bunny brought me this irreverent shirt from TwinSix and I absolutely love it! It’s called “He Has Ridden,” and it’s my new favorite seasonal bike shirt.
Easter in my family of Greeks involves bread baking and an scrumptions spread of traditional village foods.
Lamb and potatoes.
Pilaf and beans.
Yes, there was lamb and green beans, salad and cheese or spinach pies. This year I was in charge of the bread. Tradition dictates that I should make the bread is a braid and red eggs baked into the strands. I tried something different this year. Someone posted something clever on Facebook that showed the dough in a muffin pan. I think traditions can be updated, so I put half the dough in a loaf and made half in muffins. Same dough, so the flavor is the same. The serving is what’s different. The muffin size was a big hit.
I’m gonna need a bigger bowl.
Done and ready to serve.
I managed to make time for a bike ride with my dog. He loves his bike rides.
The weather was very cooperative the last two days. Sunny days ahead I hope. So we can all ride our cares away.
About the t-shirt. Twin Six promotes a t-shirt of the month. Their shirts are clever and unique. I’m a pushover for a good pun and I had to share.
Happy trails. Be safe out there and remember to get out there and ride.
Last Monday we packed up our car and headed to the coast. We’re only about 90 minutes away from the coastal town of Astoria. It’s named for American investor John Jacob Astor. It’s a small, gritty town that has a great Riverwalk and some amazing sights and sounds.
Spring break is a time to put on the brakes and take some time out and maybe even away. I don’t always get out of town. Spring break has a way of sneaking up on me every year and I neglect to make plans. This year I started early and I knew we could do something by either heading North to Seattle or South to the coast. My husband enjoys everything near or on the water, and I just wanted a change of scenery. Astoria became our destination. We started our stay with a bike ride along the Riverwalk.
The Riverwalk is about 5 miles total and hugs the banks of the Columbia River. It’s spectacular and was the highlight of the trip for me. I could have gone back and forth a million times and seen something new each time. Between the creaking docks and the choking sounds of the seal lions it was rich and entertaining.
Here’s the amazing thing about the Riverwalk—It was a Burlington Northern Railroad and built back in the 1890s when Astoria was a real industrial town, and railroads are only built on flat land, and the only flat land in Astoria hugs is right along the mighty Columbia River. I love Rails-to-Trails stories but this one is even better since the placement of the railroad helped preserve the Riverwalk for today’s use. Bonus!
I’m grateful we had Monday because Tuesday was reserved for exploring Fort Stevens and Fort Canby and then Wednesday we visited the Maritime Museum and Fort Clatsop. Plus the weather decided to have a temper tantrum and wind and rain made bike riding dangerous.
I consider spring break a time to put on the brakes and relax. My Riverwalk bike ride is added to my list of happy places. Such a lovely few hours to remind me that I live in one of the most exquisite parts of the world. Another view of the same might river came on Thursday when I took my Kona for a spin.
Seeing the Columbia from Astoria as it spills into the Pacific Ocean gave me a renewed appreciation for something I see everyday and take for granted.
Maybe that’s why we all need to put the brakes on our day to day routines and look around at the beauty all around.
When it comes to fashion, women know all about alterations. Hemming pants, letting out a seam, or taking in a little at the waist or hips. Gathering, ruching, stitching are all part of tailoring an outfit to certain measurements and specifications.
Why wouldn’t we do something similar with a bike? Last week I met with a frame builder. I will talk more about that experience in an upcoming post. While meeting with him I asked what I could do right now with my current bike to make it more comfortable. I have been riding this bike, the Kona Roundabout, since 2012 and I always experience some measure of neck and shoulder pain. My instinct was to correct the saddle, but in a moment he said the handlebar stem looked too low, my suspicions were confirmed.
Too low? I have always wondered about that but frankly I didn’t want to spend the time or money on a full blown fitting. I suspected as much, but lacked the confidence to say, “Hey, I need a different stem.” My frame builder suggested we go next door to the bike shop and see if they had a stem a little shorter and higher. A slight rise might help alleviate the problem.
The floppy handlebars was one sign I should have paid attention to. Another was that I couldn’t balance without both hands. I kick myself for not talking about it, but there’s always the danger of being upsold something I didn’t need. I did not need new handlebars. I suspected something was amiss, but I lacked the confidence to talk about it and I didn’t think it was significant. For three years I haven’t had the alterations.
The frame builder could see it because he’s seen it before. He lives in the world of alterations and modifications. I think about my mother and her mother and how they could eyeball a suit jacket on my father and say it was too big in the shoulders. It looked fine to me, but after years of watching how they would tailer something to the frame of the wearer, I could see it too. The difference was millimeters, but it fit ever so slightly better which meant it fit like is should, for me.
This elusive detail might escape the local bike shop.But for the most part it could be that one little adjustment to make the difference between someone riding and someone saying their bike isn’t comfortable. Something may look good, it may look close, but it still may not be the right fit. Does a millimeter make a difference? Short answer is a resounding Yes. This one adjustment means I can ride my bike like it was made for me.
Wish you were riding more? One step is to think about what hurts when you ride? Where and why? Talk with someone about what bugs you about your bike. Maybe you really do need a new one, but maybe there are some alternations to be made to help you and your bike fit together better. The stem change on my Kona was $35. Less than hemming a pair of pants. Probably not, but close. Like the flower? Someone actually left than on the road. It has a home now on my basket!
That’s black ice. Ask me how I know. It took me and my 3 inch fat tires down. What a spectacle! The bike went to the right and I was dropped to the sides of my knees. My legs were in an “M” and I couldn’t get up. First car to stop was an SUV and the nice man came over to see if I was okay, plus he grabbed the polka dot water bottle that was freed from its cage. My feet couldn’t get any traction so I did a strange modern dance interpretation and crawled, clawed to a patch of pavement and then back up to the snow. As the kind man drove past his wife waved. Of course, I should mention that the family was from my school so the whole thing was witnessed by a 7th grader, his little sister, mom and dad, and will likely be told a few more times and embellished a bit. I carefully walked up to the car window and talked with the student for a moment. “You’ve seen me take quite a fall… and get right back up again.” I heard myself saying because cussing profusely is uncouth in front of the kids.
I sat like a cartoon character on the sidelines of the parking lot and cursed myself for taking this route to the store. I never do, but I was looking for a USPS box to drop off a package and I forgot that the North side of the lot gets zero sunlight so the shade had created an ice skating rink. That explains why that car was going so slow. It had nothing to do with being nice to the biker. I didn’t find a USPS box and I didn’t bother stopping for groceries. I wanted to leave the scene and get home.
The fact of the matter is that I got cocky. We’ve had more than the normal allotment of snow and my fatty bike and I have been enjoying the conditions. It’s exhilerating to plow through the terrain and hear the sounds of the snow moving under the tires. Breath billows puff, puff, puffing like a stream engine out of my lungs. There’s hardly a car in sight because in the Northwest everything stops for snow. We aren’t equipped to deal with it. Schools close and business open later because the snow usually means there’s black ice. That’s how it works. There’s usually rain first and that provides a deadly coating of ice but because it’s the color of the roads it is undetected until you’re sliding. Then the snow falls and it’s pretty and you forget all about that deadly layer. Plus it takes awhle for it to melt. It looks clear, but it might not be. Usually you can tell, but there are times where it could go either way and look like it’s a layer of packed snow but parts have given way to black ice underneath. It’s a tough call.
Last Tuesday we had our first snowstorm which really doesn’t look like much but at higher elevations means six or more inches. The snow was the perfect consistency and I got out early and biked 5 miles. I didn’t even feel that cold. Gorgeous! My tires didn’t slip once and I made tracks all over my neighborhood and the nearby cemetary. No wind, just a great ride. The second storm came through on Friday and again seemed like nothing much until the morning when the white blanket (more like an Ikea comforter) left several inches. I went out for a ride each time and got more and more confident riding in, on and around the snow. “I wonder if people go pro doing this kind of riding.” I remember thinking. Do people look for this skill on LinkedIn? That’s just how cocky I was feeling.
Life is not like that for me. I can’t even feign that sort of confidence without the gods taking me down a notch or ten. The thing to respect about a fall on a bike is just how out of control it feels. In a fraction of a second you go from the mountain tops to gravel bits. I felt these gigantic tires swing to the right as if I was in Dancing With the Stars and my partner flung me too far, let go and I ended up kissing a wall with little birdies circling my head. I felt muscles contract and loosen as waves of gravity took over. A fall on a bike is momentous and humbling. Especially when it’s you and only you.
I’ll do some Zwifting today and pretend I’m in Greece in July sweating it out.
Whatever your weather, I hope you take it nice and easy and enjoy some ride time. I’ll be back in the saddle and behind the bars but inside for a day or two.
My mom and I met earler today and shopped a bit. I think this bike is too expensive. Plus, you can’t even ride it. Save your money and buy the real thing. It was a chilly ride but then the sky cleared and it felt like heaven to be outside without being pummeled by rain.
It’s a busy time of the year. With all the holiday happenings I forgot all about the movie Strava sends out with your stats for the year. As I mentioned in my last post I hit 5K miles for 2018 and I have been doing my daily rides and I noted the milestone a few weeks ago without the Stravanimation of my stats for the year. I contemplated buying a new bike but I didn’t. I settled for pizza and a glass of wine.
Tonight I was checking email and I saw something from Strava. I even got emotional in a happy way. I’m thrilled for myself. 2018 was a great year behind the bars of my bike. I had scores of great adventures in amazing places like Santorini, Paros and Athens, plus a very cool bike ride in San Diego and I also had a great time doing my ordinary day to day commutes bike rides. Pleased that I can do them. Grateful that it has been a momentous year for me. Looking forward to more.
Being on my bike and riding here and there and anywhere I can is tonic for life. If I’m feeling down a bike ride sets a new mood. If I’m happy then a bike ride makes me joyful and exuberant as a puppy. It’s always the axis on which my world rotates.
Thanks Strava for showing me what I can do.
I hope to get a few more days of riding in before 2019 but in the meantime I like my Stravanimation.