Racing A Roadie

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Roadie Dude

I wish I was a primo athlete who cared about racing with others, but the fact of the matter is that even if I cared (which I sort of do) I am not that type of cyclist. I learned that fact early. Last week on my regular commute to school I was in my zone listening to a book and a roadie came up on my left and started to pass me. Now keep in mind that I ride 11.2 miles to work and about 12 miles back home in the afternoon with a rambunctious day of working with middle school students in between so I’m pretty much tuckered out by dinner time. Being a teacher means you are active. Maybe some have some time to sit, but I rarely do. Teaching is a workout!

Back to the roadie who dared to pass me. He was in full roadie regalia and I saw him off to my left as I was scanning the streets and taking in the sparkling sunshine. He said, “I decided I probably shouldn’t be pacing off you. So I’ll just pass.” Suit yourself, I thought.

I turned my audiobook off and decided to engage. I launched into conversation, keeping pace with him side by side. He’s likely in his mid to late 40s and he used to race. I’ve never met a roadie who didn’t claim that they used to race. I usually say that I prefer touring to racing, but again there’s very rarely a follow up question about what sort of touring I have done. He says, “I’ve always thought of eBikes as cheating but I can see and hear that you’re working.” Good thing my glasses are tinted because I was rolling my eyes! I was carrying the conversation, so yeah, I was talking and keeping his pace of 19-22 mph in first level of assist on my Specialized Como Turbo eBike. I’m pretty sure I could have kept pace with the electric juice anyway, but I might not have stayed with him for 5 miles. Maybe. But maybe he couldn’t have either.

I was having a blast. But consider this if you will. I am not an athlete. I don’t claim to be athletic or even sporty. I am lucky to keep my weight in check and ride a bike. I have bike commuted for over 20 years. I am average height and weight and I work at eating my salads and not overdoing it on anything. I think even if hired a trainer and worked on speed and climbing and time trials I’d still only manage to be a roadie who could crank it out at 12-15 mph. I don’t have speedy legs. I don’t care about being fast. I do care about getting on my bike everyday and riding my rides and my routes and being in my bike-ish element. End of story. Also, I ride an eBike for commuting, errands and whatever else I want to do but that doesn’t mean I ONLY ride eBikes. I love all my bikes and I ride non-ebikes as much if not more than eBikes. Also it’s assist, not a freakin’ motorcycle or a mo-ped or a scooter. Good grief, people are weird about eBikes and honestly I think it’s bizarre and narrow-minded. Is a carbon fiber frame cheating? Is electric shifting somehow cheating? What about people who drive less than 5 miles? Should we shame them? I mean why didn’t they walk the mile to the store instead of drive? I digress!

He’s a fair-weather cyclist who likes to put in some miles before he goes to work and even though he raced when he was younger it’s hard to get in the miles now. He has had a few different brands of bikes and one of his favorite bikes was a Specialized he had in the 90s. He asked some questions about types of eBikes and he said he was interested in trying it out because clearly you could as I demonstrated get a good workout with one. Plus it could replace a car. I was pleased to hear him say something supportive.

As we got to the part of the conversation that was more, “Well, it was nice talking with you…” I told him to ride like he would normally and I’d pace him. Now whether he was showing off or not, I don’t know, but I paced him at 24.4 for about a mile and then he decided to make a left turn and we waved good-bye.

We like our categories, containers and levels don’t we? I wish we weren’t like that. Bikes are bikes and you should take care of them so they can take care of you. Bikes are transportation and exercise and touring and racing and cargo movers and carts and anything else you need them to be. If you see a person with a certain type of bike you assume things about them. I’ve see more than my fair share of roadies who didn’t look like roadies and I know I don’t look like much of a biker but let’s not let that get in the way of us riding our bikes. Just ride your bike!

Whatever your ride, enjoy it and don’t let anyone give you a flat tire of attitude about how, where, how far or what you ride. Just be you. Get out there and ride your bike and throw a wave along the way because that’s always encouraging.

Take care out there! How do you feel about other riders or bike or interacting with riders you meet on the way?

Thanks for reading.

Bike Goddess

Are We There Yet?

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Remember when…

The classic line uttered by so many of us. We were kids and wanted to get there so we didn’t have to share the backseat or snacks or play stupid car games. As an only child I had none of those issues. I loved having reign over the backseat and sprawling out with my books, workbooks and assorted distractions. But I do recall watching the signs along the way to signal we were getting close to being there.

Truth told, last summer was a different story completely. We were really alone. A few weeks ago I was out there riding my bike and a group of riders heading to one of the local Pedalpalooza rides asked me to join in. Now these are amazing rides with themes like Goth Bike Ride and Dead Baby Prom and Disco Ride plus so many more. I want to ride them all. But there’s something that tugs at me and says, “Nope, not for you. Not yet.” I waved them on and thought, I can’t. Thanks, but I’m not there yet. You might be there, but I am not there. Yet.

Where? You know. There. There is the place where you can be on a bike ride with others and not be consumed with doubt about their health or Covid-19 variants. There is trusting them to tell the truth about being vaccinated. There is not feeling compelled to ask for their vaccination card. There is when you can laugh freely at a joke without wondering about the germs scattered and if you just back up a bit to be safe.

I’m not there. I’m a small group person and the small group is part of a bubble that I do know and trust without question.

Lighthouses are socially distanced. Photo from a recent trip to the Puget Sound.

I know others who aren’t either so I take solace in the fact that I’m not alone in being cautious about being with others. Plus at this point I’m totally enjoying getting lost in my own thoughts or getting lost on a new route. My alone-time will continue.

There is the place and time before it all caved in. Before we all went into our respective caves and stayed apart. Many people have endured more than I can comprehend. If the mask and a vaccine is the least I can do to help others, then sign me up. I was talking with a man who lost his job because of the pandemic. My glass in half full. I’m grateful I have my job. I’m thankful my family and friend are well. I’m grateful for the couple of trips I was able to take this summer. It’s all good in my book.

In Chicago people were masked on the street and inside businesses. However, in the Puget Sound area when I went into a little beach shack on Boston Harbor I saw only two others who were masked and the majority were not. That Includes the cashiers. I couldn’t take it. I was extremely uncomfortable at the sight. I had to get out of there. It’s an anxiety that I’m not familiar with until now. I wanted to exclaim, “You might be there, but I am not there yet, so stop staring. I am a card carrying recipient of the vaccine and I am going to continue to wear a $%&! mask. Deal with it.”

The reality is that I may not be there for quite awhile. I miss the community of riders chatting it up and swapping stories, but not enough to risk my health and the health of others.

Are we there yet? The classic question is part of being a kid and learning how to annoy your parents with such skill that you ask the question often enough that you ultimately get the response, “NO! And stop asking!”

Riding with a friend.

Whether you are there or not is not the point of this blog post. It’s merely to suggest that we respect each other enough to say, “I’m there for you when you feel like riding together again.”

That’s sweet.

Random sunset on the Puget Sound at Boston Harbor.

Thanks for reading my blog. You have no idea how motivating it is when someone clicks that STAR and LIKES a post. It makes me what to vault through the air like Simone Biles. Thanks for being here and there and supporting this little blog. You have yourself a great day and get out there and ride your bike.

Ride on!
Bike Goddess

BrompTuesday

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Have Brompton, can go anywhere!

How many miles does it take for you to know you have the right bike? I was thinking about that today when I took the adorable Brompton out for a ride. I always figured she’d be *just* the travel bike, but that’s silly because she’s such a wonder of engineering and she rides like a goat eats grass. She’s efficient and sturdy and she can go places other bikes can’t. I have hit the mark where my Brompton, (I call her Katniss) has 200 miles and I’m thrilled I have this marvel of a bike.

It took less than 200 miles to discover her talents. Today she seemed to be calling to me to take her on a trail not too far from my home. It’s wooded and rife with nooks and crannies that are fun to explore. It follows a creek and there are a few bridges to cross and it’s enchanting because there are grasslands and glens and city neighborhoods all around you.

Grasslands and glens abound on the Burnt Bridge Trail.

With its low center of gravity I feel nimble and quick on my Brompton, like Michael Flatley Lord of the Dance on wheels. I didn’t think I’d go on the trail today. I was riding around and then I went down a hill and knew I was close to the trail so I meandered about like I was looking for my glasses in the dark and found an entrance I’ve never used before. A little more and a bit more still and then I was on the trail and I kept going. The bike felt amazing. The ride felt solid and commanding. Note that I ditched both the saddle it came with and the Brooks Cambium for a Specialized saddle and all is well in the nether regions. I say this because saddles always need a few more miles of testing than bike frames require. Sometimes you have to try a few to find the right fit for your tushie. Here’s a link to the one I really like right now. The picture makes it look rather wide yet notice it on my bike. I love this one and have put this saddle on three bikes.

This is the right saddle for some BUT, not for me. I’ve had it for years but still my bum doesn’t love it.

Recently I had the rear rack added plus bigger wheels on the rack for when I take her into a store. At 200 miles I feel like my Bromptie is ready for anything. I do have a few bikes in my life because I love bikes and cycling. I don’t want to limit the Brompton to travel only so I was riding and wondering about commuting to work with my Brompton. People do it. I don’t know about that yet because I haven’t tried it. I hear people travel the world with their Bromptons and while I can’t do that quite yet I can say that she’s capable of any trips, even if it’s to the store or work.

New rack and wheels on the rack.

I’m happy to have a Brompton in the fleet and I’d tell anyone who’s thinking of getting one to do so. They are spectacular machines that deliver a great ride.

Katniss Everbike with a view.

Thanks for reading and following my blog. My bikes and I appreciate it. Have you ever tried a foldy bike? What did you think of it? If you have any questions please post them in the comments. I’d love to hear from you. I’m new but I’m loving the Brompton ways.

The 411 on The 606

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Welcome, indeed!

If you’re looking for urban perfection then follow the trail to the 606. It’s an oasis for cyclists, runners, walkers, dogs, cats, birds, you get the gist. When I got my introduction, I thought, “Is this heaven?” The response, “It’s Chicago!”

My affinity for Chi-town, the Windy City, Second City, started at birth. My mother’s side of the family hails from Chicago. When we would visit nearly every other weekend I loved the tuk, tuk, tuk of the L, and I adored how when I stayed with my grandparents, we’d walk everywhere. Mostly to get bubble-gum ice cream outside the Sears Robuck. My Yiayia (Greek for grandmother) would hold my hand and we walk slow and steady so I could drink in the sights and sounds.

This post isn’t about the Memory Trail though, it’s about the 606, a.k.a. The Bloomingdale Trail. If you use Trail Link I’ve linked the map. At 2.7 miles you might think, “Meh, what’s the big deal?” Yes, it’s short in length but long in personality, character, art, landscape and history. It’s elevated too. Read that bit again. It’s elevated. Like heaven.

The eyes have it all and this ingenius art installation called Bird Watching by #JennyKendler from 2018 is stupendous. There are 100 photographs of birds’ eyes watching and each bird is named on a placard labeling the installation. I spent about 20 minutes studying it all and watching families interact with it. Pure joy!

I’m glowing!

As I was riding I couldn’t help but think that this trail is one of my new happy places. I’ve uncovered a secret. My cousin’s hubby told me about it and while he’s not a cyclist, he is a train guy. He’s an expert on all things rail and when he first told me about it I started to research it on Trail Link and then I wondered how I would ride to the trail. This is often a challenge when you hear about a possible trail and you’re lost when it comes to navigating easily to the trail.

Cool mural on the way to the trail.

It’s easy enough to get to if you’re staying/visiting/living in the Lakeview East area. I had some directions from him which I checked with the Maps App and Google Maps and it worked out pretty well. There were a few busy stretches but I don’t recall a street that didn’t have a bike lane. There’s a small portion on Cortland that could use some paving but all in all I arrived in under 20 minutes and then spent a few hours exploring the the 606.

14 feet wide with plenty of room to stop or pass.

It’s on Chicago’s northwest side and it’s built on an old rail line, hence the elevated bit. It sits about 20 feet above four of the city’s neighborhoods: Humbolt Park, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Bucktown. You get a distinct feeling that you are one with the world as you traverse effortlessly atop the city as if you are a rare bird trying to decide where to build a nest.

You can easily use ramps to get down into the neighborhood for a closer look at murals you can see from the 606.

On your left a mural and on your right an art installment then oh is that another mural and wait a statue and on and on for nearly 3 miles. The perfectly paved trail is 14 feet wide so there’s plenty of room for everyone. It wasn’t crowded and I had plenty of room even whilst people were walking with double strollers, big dogs, little dogs and inline skaters.

A feast for all the senses.

I regretted every picture I didn’t take, so I tried to take many pictures, but it’s hard to capture it all. There was a point when I was riding and these exquisite blossoms were waving at me and I felt like I was being caressed even visually massaged by the color orange. My senses were like fireworks on the 4th of July.

Orange you glad you’re learning about the 606?
I neglected to bring my handlebar mount but I did manage to get a little video of the trail. The flowers.

Chicago has an impressive trail system. According to Trail Link there are more than 200 miles of on-street protected, buffered and shared bike lanes. The 19-mile Lakefront Trail is possibly the most well known, and the 606 is worth exploring. Chicago is a great place for cyclists. Why is it called the 606? That’s the first three numbers of the zip code and the areas it goes through. The 606 is just one more reason to love Chicago. The 606 is worth riding again and again and in different seasons. Oh, there’s an idea! Yes, dear reader, I will return to the 606 and next time I write about it I’ll include more video.

Katniss Everbike (mentioned in the previous post) did a great job. #mybrompton

Can a trail be inspiring? Can a trail infuse you with enthusiasm? I think so. The 606 is inspiring. Well done, Chicago!

How about you? What trails have stayed in your memory. Share a trail you love. Thanks for reading. Get out there and ride your bike!

Bike Goddess

It’s A Bromptime!

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They look like clown bikes if you ask me. Honestly they do. How can they possibly even BE bikes that you could actually ride for more than a few miles! Bromptons are like a praying mantis with wheels or a pterodactyl that mated with a pennyfarthing. Yet, they are the most elegant, feisty and dynamic wee bike machines I’ve ever had the privilege of riding. They’re truly a marvel.

It started as a conversation with my husband who has a Brompton he bought a few years back. I thought I’d see if he’d let me borrow his for a trip to Chicago. Poor Bromptosaurus (as we named it) was just folded up in the garage and I thought I could coax him into letting me borrow his for the trip. But my plan backfired when he decided he’d like to get back into riding it.

We went to the bike shop to check on a used carrying case for the Bromptosauras and ended up buying a bike for me. Yeah, it all happened so fast and color played a big part in the whole story. We tinkered with the case and getting his bike inside properly and there was this used red one that I took for a test ride and one thing led to another and suddenly I was taking a test ride on an orange beauty that reminded me of Katniss Everdeen from Hunger Games because the orange flame lacquer was shining bright and it felt like I was on a chariot with flames coming off the rear wheels. I have a very healthy imagination. Find me and #KatnissEverbike adventures on Instagram. Next thing I know, Clever Cycles has my credit card and I’m considering accessories and of course bike bags.

Katniss has a straight handlebar and all she needed was a dynamo light system and then Brompto and Katniss could be canoodling Brompties and the whole household could be happy.

New Bike Day with Katniss Everbike: June 6, 2021

Size matters when it comes to traveling with a bike. On a Brompton, it’s three folds and a pedal and with origami engineering it feels compact and creative. Such an engineering genius. Since new bike day Katniss and I have been to Chicago by train and then back home via plane and then I got a “special bag” from Ikea called Dimpa that’s a solid investment at $5 for traveling with your Brompton via car so we went on a short road trip with our bikes in the boot.

My S6L in flame lacquer.
The Dimpa bag from Ikea is $4.99 and an easy way to pack up a Brompton for a road trip.

I’m enjoying a new lease on life with a bike that acts like a Yorkshire Terrier. It’s small, compact and ready to go, go, go. All bikes come with energy, and the Brompton seems to have an unbridled energy that begs you to get into places you might not go with a regular bike. You can take your bike inside a store or restaurant with you. With 6 gears you’d think you were on a short leash, but quite frankly I feel free and ready to ride off into any sunset, anywhere.

This is the kickstand fold. The sculpture is called The Kiss.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You can rent a whole lot of a bikes for what it costs to buy a Brompton. Yes, but… I have and I’m sort of done with that drama. Also, I’ve done that for more than a decade. This gives me more freedom to get out into the world and explore and travel.

I happened to meet a bike mechanic at the Specialized Store on Halstad in Chicago who used to work at Brompton. He said he loved Bromptons and he especially loved the people who rode them. “They’re cool people,” he added. I might have beamed a bit when he said that. I sure feel cool when I’m riding. They have a BMX sort of vibe. People do look at you a bit but and sometimes they ask questions about how Brompties ride. When you’re fluent in bike all that matters is that you’re enjoying the ride and experiencing the place where you’re riding. That’s all part of the adventure.

Bromptosaurus and Katniss in Chicago.

Do you travel with your bike? Tell me about it in the comments.

Until next time, get out there and ride your bike.

Stay safe,

Bike Goddess

Chicago near Buckingham Fountain

The Heat Is On

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Not only a classic hit from the 80s, (Thanks Glenn Frey) but a reality right now living in the Northwest. Temperatures have been usually high. Before last Saturday three digit temps were a record from 1965. Our heatwave of 115 degrees is a shock to most natives. Even though I enjoy the sun I must admit that it has been intense and scary.

At least it only FEELS like 111 degrees.

Even seeing the big number 115º made me think of the hottest temps I’ve experienced in my life. The highest temperature I recall experiencing was 118º in Athens, Greece in mid-August. Not unusual for Greece. I know that on the coast-to-coast bike trip I experienced days of temps in the high 90s and mid-100s, but I remember 118º because I had to convert it from Celsius… (47.8C). When you do math like that in the real world, you remember it.

How do you ride in high heat? I’m not an expert, but I’d say you have to work around it. One thing I do is I start early. That’s my first big tip. I’ve set out early on my daily rides during this heatwave. On Sunday I went out at 5:30 AM and it was already in the high 70s and inching up a few degrees every few minutes. Monday I woke up a little later and set out by 8AM and today was a wonderful respite from blazing heat with temps in the mid 60s. I even broke out with a case of goosebumps for a few minutes going downhill. I wanted to take a picture because I didn’t think I’d ever feel chilly again. During the summer even if it isn’t a heatwave, I tend to head out early.

Two bridges ride

Always have water. Even better if you throw in more ice cubes and let it melt during your ride. Friday I wanted to go a different route but I changed my mind at the last minute because the heat was coming on fast. Not being one to admit I should turn around and head home I figured the best thing would be to go forward toward the other bridge and cross to make my way home. It would be 15-18 miles round trip and I had water so I did it. Sunscreen is a must! The heat is a formidable opponent. I had slathered on the sunscreen and I wore one of my favorite summer garments, my Terry Soleil top. I’m not making any money to tell you this, but these tops are the bomb! They are super lightweight, moisture wicking and UPF 50+. Plus even with long sleeves they are weirdly cool and I love them!

Another tip: Ride in the shade if you can. My route did not have much shade. I was out there and exposed to the rays of the day and without some of the aforementioned tips it could have been bad. I think the heat has reminded me that it’s important to pick routes closer to parks and keep my foliage friends nearby and ride in areas where you aren’t out there like cookie dough in the oven of life.

Desperately seeking shade.

I’m bad about packing food, so another tip is you should pack a protein bar or some snack you like because you never know when you might need it. Since I’m so accustomed to commuting I don’t always remember to check my snack stash. Sometimes you can pick up something while you’re out but that may not be convenient so better to leave with something in your snack hole.

No, I’m not in Phoenix, it only feels like it.

“Shoot some over here!” It’s usually what I yell at someone watering their lawn if I happen to be going by their yard and the planets align and they spray me. I love those moments but people are becoming so much better about watering their lawns that it’s hard to find sprinklers running when I most need it. Take two water bottles and spray yourself with one. While we’re on the topic of water, another top tip for riding when the heat is on is to carry a bandana or just soak a shirt and wear it.

I’m a slow rider. Works great in the summer months to ride slowly especially in the heat. You wouldn’t want to sweat any more than absolutely necessary.

Thanks for reading. Try any of the ones I mentioned? How do you cope with riding in the heat? Any tips you want to share that you completely endorse for riding when the heat is on?

Feel free to comment.

Until next time… stay cool and get out there and ride.

Bike Goddess

Where’s My Oscar?

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I’ve always wanted one and I think this year I really earned it. The whole line goes like this: “Where my Oscar for acting like everything is fine?” A friend of mine posted it and I’ve been thinking about it today. Nailed it!

The drama of the last few months of school is something I will spare you, dear reader. Suffice it to say that I survived and now I look forward to some fallow time to find myself and my life. I want to reclaim my time. I have some advice for you. If you know a teacher or anyone in education, please just say, “Thank you.” Maybe they deserve it, maybe they don’t, but I’ll tell you something, if I was a tire and this year was my tread, I’d be shredded. 

This is from a kids bike. They know how to shred!

I’m a seasoned, veteran educator which is a diplomatic way of saying I’ve roamed the land with the dinosaurs. I love it, however, even I haven’t seen a year like this. I’m not okay. None of us are. Not really. We will pretend. We will continue to act like it’s fine. We will continue to do what we do. Friday was the last day of school and I’m slowly regaining consciousness.

The first Monday of break is always a real day. It’s not the Monday of Sunday night plans and preparations, it’s just a day full of unstructured time. Potential just waiting to unfold. The only thing I know for sure is that my first Monday will include a bike ride. Some riding and some writing will get me on the road the finding my way through.

Get out there and ride your bike!

Thanks for reading.
Bike Goddess