A few months back I read this article about how this person used a pool noodle for keeping cars a safe distance away while touring. I thought it was a clever idea and vowed to give it a try. I was at my local Walgreens last weekend and picked up one on sale for $2.29 and immediately added it my bike.
Traffic in the summer is frenetic and out of control. People in their convertibles and jeeps all seem to think speed limits don’t apply. The zoom effect is the one that always scares me out of my mind. Vehicles are a close shave away and despite lights, mirrors and signals, no one seems to give notice.
My experiment was a success. The pool noodle is clearly a biker’s best friend. What a great idea and even if it looks a bit silly it keeps me safe. No one yelled, honked, glared, zoomed by or even flipped me off. Frankly it was shocking how calm drivers seemed around me and my noodle.
Pool noodles keep you afloat even on roads.
Pick one up, especially if you’re touring around, but I do feel like they improve visibility better than a neon jacket. Good for any season. A commuter’s best tool outside of a patch kit and hex wrench.
In music a sharp rasies the pitch while a flat lowers it. On a piano keyboard you learn in one of your first lessons that sharps are up and flats are d-o-w-n. When someone sings off key they are flat. When you hear them sing you often make a face to show disdain for what you heard. When pop has “gone flat” it has lost it’s fizz. Being stretched out, outstretched, spreadeagled, prone, reclining, sprawling, supine, prostrate, or recumbent is to lay flat. Lacking interest, being dull, lifeless and level is also uh, flat.
One of the top five reasons people don’t ride their bikes is they could get a flat. I hear that excuse anytime someone talks about riding their bike to work. “Are you afraid of getting a flat tire?” Well, yes, I am. But it really hasn’t been an issue for me until this year. Actually until about May. Since May I have had three flat tires. All on the back tire.
After my second flat tire I decided to take matters into my own hands. I wanted to be less dependent on others to get me back on the road. My family is not handy. I don’t recall my father ever changing a tire on a car. I never learned how to change a car tire and usually any flats I would have on my bike happened on a group ride and there were resources around to change a tire. You know, bike mechanic people who race against eachother to see how fast they can change a tire and get you back out there.
All in all, after 30 some years of riding, it hasn’t been a big deal until now. I went to a bike shop near me, Bad Boyz Bikes and Larry helped me out. Larry is not the cat. Larry isn’t pictured. Larry is the owner and he’s a great guy. He helped me out with flat #1 and that’s when I thought about learning how to do this for real but decided to get a mani instead and leave it to the experts.
But when I had the second flat I was on my way to co-lead a bike tour and my husband had to come rescue me and deliver me to the bike shop and they fixed the tire. At that time I had an Armidillo tire put on the back. I thought that would be the end of it but I knew it was time to step up and put on the mechanic’s apron and learn how to be self sufficient.
Before another flat would sideline my bike adventures, I went to visit Larry, the tire whisperer. Beforehand I popped in on him to see if he’d help me get over my fear of flats. He said yes, and we set up a day. He doesn’t drink coffee but a smoothie any my gratitude would be his only payment. In about a hour he taught me how to get the tire off the rim and break the bead and check the inside of the tire for debris and get the new tube on the rim and inflate it and get going. He had me flip over my bike and do everything as if I was out on the road. I did mention how much I despise getting grease under my nails and he gave me a pair of shop gloves. He admitted he didn’t like that either. Well, alright then! We did this on the front tire and he took some time to show me how to handle my back tire. He didn’t just talk through it with me, he let me work it out and learn. I felt like I was in 8th grade shop but instead of talking to my friends I was paying attention.
I left Larry’s armed with new skills and ready to fix a flat. I looked for bikers in distress and in need of my skills. That’s how confident I was feeling. I worked out all the bits that are needed in my flat repair kit: hex key, patch kit, tire levers, CO2, gloves, mints, Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer. I’d rather not carry a pump even though mine is one of those Lezyne mini pumps, but I’m still not adept at using CO2 so for now I’ll keep the bike pump. It’s great for building upper body strength.
After flat #2 I had Armidillo tires put on the back in the hope that those would help. I prefer Continental tires, but sure, I’ll give those Armidillos a try. That was about a month ago.
Flat #3 happened today. I was at mile 16 and I stopped for awhile and when I returned to my bike I had my third flat. I was weirdly ready to fix that flat. Except in all my arranging and rearranging of my flat repair kit and bags I didn’t have my hex wrench. Texted my guy and he came to the parking lot and we loaded up my bike and in the safety of my own driveway I took my time and fixed my first flat.
The first hardest part was breaking that bead. Once I got the tube out I inflated to twices it’s size to find the puncture.
It took me and hour and 45 minutes and that includes watching a couple of YouTube videos to get some help with the bead bond. My husband helped me a little when he came to see what was taking me so long. Getting the tire on and off the rim really requires some finesse. I had it on one side but not the other. I was waiting for that satisfying PHEW it makes and I really couldn’t see that it needed to happen on both sides.
Now the last part was the most frustrating was getting the tire back into place. I felt like it was an archery contest trying to pull the derailleur back and the chain out of the way so the wheel wouldn’t hang up on anything. It should be as easy as putting bread into the toaster, but instead it’s like putting a toaster into a piece of bread. Larry said the secret was to have the bike in its lowest gear, so I played with that for another 30 minutes but at last it came together.
I haven’t patched the tube yet. I think I’ll go visit Larry and buy a new one for my flat repair kit and have him show me the finer points of patching. I think I’m ready.
Flats aren’t fun. They are flats after all, but I feel better about fixing them. I don’t fear them. No bike is flat proof.
Flats happen. Bottom line, I’m rolling again and that’s what important. I learned a lot and I’m more confident about what to do the next time.
Any advice for me on fixing a flat? How long should it take to fix a flat? What’s in your patch kit?
If bliss or being “blissed out” is a type of happiness resulting in a state of utter contentment then I’d say that biking rapture is being lifted out of oneself in such a way that it’s a sort of elevated state of being.
It’s so rare in life when something exceeds expectations that it’s often something we don’t talk much about. Usually we’re looking for the negative. From the moment I walked into the eBike shop to this very moment when I’m composing this blog post I can honestly say I’m overjoyed with my bike. It’s as if I am on a trampoline and I jumped and I’m still enjoying being suspended in the air with my arms overhead and my legs kicking up alongside. I’m that happy. Rapturous!
Where do I begin? Two months ago I added to my fleet of bikes. Now, with a thousand miles on my Specialized Como 5, I can tell you that this bike exceeds all expectations. It ticks all the boxes and if anything I’m still in the phase of learning what else she (the bike) can do.
With over a 1000 miles on my new bike after two month I think the Specialized Como 5 is da bomb! Okay, hold up. The truth is I have had two flats on the back tire and that’s no fun. For some people that alone is a deal breaker. My bike tires are still just tires with tubes and it’s a machine people, and machines require attention. There are also factors that are not your fault. I blame the debris in the roads. The first flat happened a few weeks after I had the bike and it was a giant nail in the bike lane. The second was possibly due to lack of inflation. You have to remember that you are going faster on an ebike and it’s not uncommon to pick up some extra road flotsam on any route. It’s also a sign from the gods that I need to up my game and learn how to fix a flat. I’d rather pay someone. I did opt to have those armadillo tires put on. Hopefully I’ll never have to talk about it again. Right?
The cheating issue is silly but it’s almost the first thing people say about an ebike. “But isn’t that cheating?” Is a carbon fiber road bike cheating? I also like to remind people that an ebike is only cheating oil companies. If the whole point is less car traffic and less dependence on cars, then ebikes could save the planet. Also, if you don’t work on a pedal assist bike then you’re not going anywhere. You have to pedal, otherwise you’re going to slow down and fall off. It’s not a Vespa. You have to work.
I get a better workout in less time and I don’t have to worry about making it up a hill at 6PM on my way home with my head pounding or a gallon of milk in my pannier. Also, I’d like to talk about headwinds. They are a fact where I live and at this time of the year it is not uncommon to have a headwind in the morning and one on the way home. A little “e-juice” helps give you extra power to deal with the winds right on your handlebars. It’s a great feeling. I’ve put a thousand miles on a bike in less than two months because all I’m doing is riding. Isn’t that the point. Ride on! The Specialized Como 5 has a great range so even if I wander outside my usual routes I can use the app, Specialized Mission Control, to make sure I have 5 miles left to get up the hills home. Just like they say on the website, “It’s you, only faster.”
When people say that phrase, “follow your bliss” I always think of riding a bike. I think of open roads and the only obstacle in my way is time. The ride on an ebike is rapturous. You feel outside yourself like I imagine a bird in flight. Summer is all about the open road and time to spin. That’s my plan. More rapturous riding on all my bikes, but the Como is you only better and faster or as fast as you want to be.
One more thing. I do want to thank that outstanding people at the eBike Store for all their help and support. When people love what they do it shows and these people are pedaling with you all the way. They want you happy with your bike. Such good people who want to get everyone on eBikes.
Take some time and enjoy a ride, ebike or your choice. Get out there. Your future self will thank your for it.
What are you biking plans this summer? Tell me more in the comments. Thanks for reading.
I didn’t mean for it to happen. I only went to check out the store. Then it seems I was handing over my bag and taking a bike for a test ride. One thing led to another and now I’m in love with another bike.
Three bikes. That’s what I tell all my friends and anyone who asks me about buying bike. Always test ride three bikes. Ask questions and leave the store armed with knowledge and sit on it. Don’t buy. Wait until you feel the pull of love, the nudge of lust. Wait until you feel the bond with the bike. Yeah, I’ve said that. Shameless. I believe it. However after that test ride I felt like done. Decision made. However, I did not buy. Yet.
I’m pining right now. I’m pining for a bike. Again. I didn’t expect to find love again. I mean come on, I have this beautiful e-bike made by Faraday called the Corland. It’s one of the only bikes with a belt drive and I added her to the fleet in December of 2016 when I decided I’d commute both to and from work. I love my Lulu, and she’s had some issues of late. Long story short, but it looks like the future of the company has hit a wall and there’s no longer any support for the bike which means as things go wrong it will be a challenge to keep her on the road. Since I commute with Lulu that presents a dilemma. Also a little heartache. I love my Lulu! She’s beautiful and people always a shocked that she’s an ebike because she’s soooooo pretty! I mean look at her. She brightens up any day. She is the blue sky when there is none.
We’ve been separated now for about a week and I miss her. People are throwin’ some shade on her because of the company going bankrupt or whatever. It makes me sad enough to drown my sorrows in another bike. There’s no therapy for what’s happening here. Except retail therapy at a bike shop.
I went to a bike shop, The Ebike Store, I’ve never been to before. I went to check it out the store and their collection of gear. Brian and Jeff and someone else were extremely helpful and easy to talk to about my needs. I wanted to see what they had to say about my Corland and I wanted to chat about what I need in an ebike. I need one that has more range (Cortland can do 18-20 miles) and can handle the rough rains and road conditions of the Northwest weather. I watched a few EBR (ElectricBikeReview) videos and I had it in my head that a Raleigh ebike might be an option. While at the store I was dazzled by the frame of the Specialized Turbo 5.0. I had never seen one and frankly didn’t know Specialized was in the market. The Specialized uses the Brose motor and I was immediately interested. The Bosch and Brose motors seem to be the two main players. They are the only ones I’ve heard of aside from the proprietary one on my Faraday. The older Raleigh models were using the Brose and that’s one reason I wanted to try one out. But they didn’t really have one. Let me put it this way, if they did, I didn’t see it because I suddenly couldn’t see anything except the Turbo step through and step over. Well, hello sweet ride!
Why yes, I would love to try one out!
The Brose motor is as quiet as a classroom upon learning that they have to make up that snow day. I was impressed enough to consider what I would name it after two spins around Peninsula Park. The rain seemed to stop and I had this new stunning bike under me and we were enjoying a moment. We bonded quickly and with little effort. The first downstroke of the pedal and I didn’t even have the e-juice yet.
Conversation was easy because the Como speaks my language; perky speed, comfortable geometry and zippy. It’s agile handling makes you feel like you’re riding a mountain bike but it has the comfort of my childhood bikes. Instant love, lust, whatever. The Como wants to “Come on-a My House” in the words of the 1951 song. If Goldilocks was taking the test ride she would have said this bike was just right. Plus did I mention how light it is? I don’t actually know how much it weighs, but it’s light enough to pick up without feeling like you’re lifting a tree.
It’s hasn’t been 24 hours yet and still I’m pining. I’m considering giving Lulu an early retirement and riding her in fair weather only. I think she’s earned that after 6,500 miles.
I love bikes. I mean it’s not that hard to see the beauty in virtually all bikes. Even the worn out relics that people use in gardens are lovely. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. That’s the thing about love and bikes.
Maybe another test ride. After all I left my bag behind the desk and didn’t have my phone to give a proper look to my blog followers. You want more, right?
Thanks for reading. I’m getting on my Belle and ripping up some dirt. Displacement activity.
My profession is library. I’m a middle school librarian and I get to read amazing books. Today I finished To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer. There are many beautiful revelations in this novel and one favorite is the quote about finding something in life than “animates your soul.” It’s all along the same lines as “Follw your bliss” or “happy place” and yet it delves deeper.
March 7th we had what I hope was our last flake of snow until next winter. Temperatures seem to be leveling out and while I know there is rain on the way I’m happy to see a change in the seasons.
Riding my bike is my happy place. Bike rides are my bliss. Being in the saddle and challenging myself daily “animates my soul” to borrow that phrase with appropriate attribution. Every week I have a goal of 75 miles and the last two weeks I went over 100 miles each week. Last night I was looking at my Strava stats and saw this minus 13 miles.
I was close to 100 for the week and a 1,000 for the year to date. Just 10 miles would accomplish both. I put my book down for an hour and went for a ride on a stunning Spring day and let the clear skies and emerging season wash over me. Then there’s that moment when you’re senses catch up with your brain and remind you that this is it. This is you soul getting filled up with all that’s wondrous and beautiful about surviving the winter. The buds are starting to burst, the days are getting longer and the wheels on the bike go round. Adding up the miles to the next 1,000.
Wherever you are in the world I hope the weather is mild and you have an opportunity to get out there and ride.
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.