Summer’s Hits and Misses

The fog of the last six weeks is lifting. Now is the time when people start asking, “So how has your summer been? Did you do anything exciting?” I always cringe because I don’t tend to do what I think I’m going to do. I don’t want to get into the contest of who had the most impressive summer. I just want to say that there were some hit and some misses.

At the end of the school year I was hit hard with a wretched cold. All year I managed to dodge the gazillion germs passing from the 900 kids in my middle school, but then in June with only two weeks left in the year, my defenses were down and I knew something was coming to get me. I didn’t get the attendance award and in the final stretch I missed three days of school and over a week of my daily bike commute. I haven’t been hit that hard by a cold in a long time. Antibiotics were involved and despite the research, people who workout regularly still get flattened by colds.

It took me awhile to recover from the cold and then from the school year. I had family visiting from Chicago and we did a lot of touristy things. While I managed to ease back into riding during their visit I felt I was missing out. In retrospect, it was good. Because they were here I wasn’t going to overdo my rides. Again, the miss became a hit. Blessing in disguise as they say.

July, however, I was ready to go and go more. I did too. I took off one day on my road bike and I did 38 miles and I felt great until I pulled something. I didn’t know until the next day but something behind my knee just didn’t want to do anything except throb and ache. Ugh! Lost a few days trying to recover. Plus, I had to pull back on the reigns since I took on a big project for my dad’s 80th birthday.  My father is my hero and he’s the best man I know. He’s smart and entertaining and I know I get my spirit of adventure from him. His birthday was July 30th and since I enjoy video editing, I made him a video. It was a big deal and we had an awesome party for him. My July biking routine can best be described as restrained. Often July is the month when I really rack up the miles. However, July 2016 was more about the video. It feels like it was a miss on bike riding, but it was probably more of a hit since it was less of a strain on my body. Since I’d go out for an hour or two instead of half the day, I was more deliberate about where I was going and what I was doing.

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Since the party was last weekend, I’ve been back in the saddle. Last week I went out on some trail riding. I got off my bike and went into the grass to get this amazing shot of my bike in a grove of trees and something in the grass, I think a spider, mistook me for a fly and bit me. At first I thought a needle was shot into my ankle by a sniper. Freaking thing took me down. Of course, it had to eat and run so I couldn’t find the thing to kill it. My ankle merely looks like a giant red patch is attached to it. Stupid. That has never happened. Definite miss.

The weather for July was a serious hit. Usually July in the Portland/Vancouver area is hot, hot and more hot. Starting on the 5th of July, you have to get out early in the morning to get in a decent ride before you’re melting into your bike. Mornings would start out cloudy and overcast and by 2 p.m. you’d see the sun breakthrough. The weather was a definite hit.

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Bike rides to unexplored areas is part of the joy during the summer. My summer has had some unmapped, unexplored events: from guests to injuries to spider bites, it’s always something. Many events have turned out better that I thought. Also some unscripted, unplanned moments which leave you shaking your head about more than just politics. Summer 2016 was both a hit and a bit of a miss here and there. A month from now when I back to my routine and I’m too exhausted to write a word much less a paragraph, I’ll remember that this summer had its own set of ups and downs, just like the other seasons. August is here and my schedule is clear. I’m strong and ready to roll. I’ll make what is left a brilliant success.

Happy riding!

 

Getting in Gear

Last year I joined Strava. I like tracking my rides because the data is illuminating. I had been using MapMyRide, but it seemed like most of my friends were on Strava and they loved it. Peer pressure took over. All the cool kids were using Strava and I wanted to be one of them. I tried the free account for a few months and then went Premium at the tail end of 2014.

Why bother? Two reasons: motivation and data. In 2015, I started the year with ride #1 and ended with ride #303. The data says I completed more than 303 rides, but that’s what I named them. There were rides that were not numbered, but that’s fine. You can choose your own system. I decided to start 2016 the same way; ride #1 was today.

Also, when you see how many miles you ride every week, month and year, you see your progress as a rider. Essentially, you compete against yourself. Either app (and I’m sure there are others) provide features that keep you riding. You can determine your weekly mileage goals or annual totals. Plus there’s a community of riders out there who have your back. I love it when another rider gives me kudos on a ride.  Also, I enjoy seeing their routes. I wish I knew more about all its intricacies and I’d love to have a manual to explore some of the features, but most of what I’ve learned in the last year has been by experimenting or looking up stuff online. For example, the graphic above is an annual summary provided by another app or extension I found here, and it uses the Strava data.

My goals for 2016 are to keep riding and recording my rides. I’m not sure about my total mileage yet. I’m setting the bar for 4000 miles. My Kona Roundabout gets the most use use since it’s my commuter bike. I have Luna, a Cannonade Synapse road bike which is a fair weather bike. No fenders, just speed. There’s the Trek Portland and it was my commuter up until 2012. I don’t ride the Trek much and I’m considering selling, but it’s a good backup bike.

I love bikes and I love riding. Your gear can be your kit, clothing, shoes, your bike, bags and tools but one tool in particular that allows you to quantify your riding. I use Strava for everything, even walking my dog Max. It’s a new year and it might be time to explore a tool to help you track your rides.

Strava is not paying me to sell you on the idea although this post does sound like a pitch. I was dubious about making the move from MapMyRide to Strava and now I can’t imagine a simple ride without Strava. When I travel I try to rent a bike or use a city’s bike share and tracking my rides is becoming a sort of keepsake for me. It’s a great way to share your
adventures and remember your routes.

Thanks for reading. Have a great day and get out there and ride!

 

 

Alterations! Please!

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.

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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.
Kona Stem

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!

Happy riding!

Welcome

Welcome!

I have a passion for bike riding. Ever since I can recall, I have loved bike riding. Of course there’s a sense of freedom and of course they’re practical but most importantly they’re fun to ride. They are the first form of transportation most of us own and they have the key which unlocks our wanderlust. At least that’s my story. Learning how to ride a bike wasn’t easy for me. But more about that later. This blog is all about me and my adventures with my bike.