Smoke Gets in Your Eyes … and Nose and Everything

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Why is fog more interesting than smoke? Scientifically speaking (and I’m not a scientist) I guess fog has condensation. It is essentially air saturated with water but smoke is a sign of combustion. Hence the addage, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” I live in the middle of all these fires out West. I am not in danger at the moment and the closest fire has gone from about 2 miles at the beginning of last week to 90 miles as of this writing. The smoke in the air is daunting and debilitating. My eyes burn and the last two days when I wake up my nostrils tingle.

The air quality index is at 445 on a scale that tops out at 500. This morning is was at 526. That means that it is hazardous. Kaiser Permanente sent out an email saying that all physical activity should be limited. It is another chapter in the apocolyptic story of 2020 but we’re crossing a line now because I can’t bike. I can’t Zwift, I can’t meander, spin or roll. There are advisories against any activity either Inside or out.The most I can do is sit in the garage (with the mask pictures below) and tell my bikes that someday we will ride again.

I wanted to write about some virtual events I took part in over the summer, but I don’t feel like it right now. All I can do is check the EPA AirQuality app and see if the number goes down. All I can do is look out the window of my house and see if it looks a tiny bit clearer. All I can do is wait and see.

Last Friday my school district advised staff to work from home since the ventilation systems couldn’t keep up with the smoke in the air. Not a snow day but a smoke day. The smoke is so thick and pervasive that your lungs ache and your nostrils flair in an attempt to keep the toxins out of your body.

Thanks to my husband and numerous home projects I have a great mask if I need to be outside.

When the fortune teller in the movies looks at the crystal ball for answers there’s smoke swirling around before the answers are revealed. From the murky smoke answers are revealed. I’m in a house and I have food and coffee, books and distractions. Wifi and water. I’m grateful and hoping for rain. The forecast says rain on Tuesday (not the umbrella on my sweatshirt) and through the rest of the week. That’s what I’m clinging to. The hope for rain.

Be well, readers.

Go ride some miles for me.

Thanks for reading.

Bike Goddess

Bike Throwback

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My love affair with bikes goes back a ways. If I was sitting on the proverbial coach getting therapy and I was asked to recall my earliest memory it would look something like this. Streamers off the bar ends and ready to go. Looks like this might be a Sears brand tricycle. I’m in the living room of my grandparents’ apartment in Chicago. I do remember riding up and down that hallway and turning around in the dining room or the apartment entrance. My eyes are shining and my smile radiates pure joy. I especially like how I’m holding the handlebars. Pinky up. Pretty much sums up how I feel whenever I’m riding a bike.

Earlier this year I was crowned a Specialized Ambassador. I was nominated by the eBike Store in my area and I didn’t think I’d “get it” because I’m not an athlete, racer type person with ripped muscles or that lanky look bike racers own. My only claim to fame is that I do it. I ride.

Over my lifetime I have had various phases in my riding but let’s be clear I have never been fast and I’ve never been competitive. I’m not a racer. In a small group I might try to beat everyone up a hill but I’m a cautious rider. The litte girl in the picture loves the ride. Tour might be a better explaination of my type of riding. I secretly wish I was a racer but it ain’t happening. I answer that secret desire with Zwift.

As a brand ambassador I talk about the brand and the bike. I have experience with a Specialized bike so I can help people who might want someone’s opinion or feedback about a bike. I wanted an eBike because my commute to and from work was taking too much time and I needed a bike up to the task and the Northwest weather of rain and more rain. I took three bikes for test rides. First a Gazelle and then a Specialized Como 4 followed by a Specialized Como 5. I own another ebike; Faraday Cortland, which I will save for another blog post.

The Como 5 Turbo won me over with its range and style. If I had to do it all over again, a year later, I’d still buy this bike. I’m not saying that because I’m a brand ambassador, I’m saying that because I ride. Since the pandemic it has been less about back and forth to work and more about riding routes in-between the commute. The Brose motor is whisper quiet and just like the Specialized tag, “It’s you only faster,” it really is. I get a great workout and I get to work on time. There are three levels of assist, low, middle and high. I tend to stay in low. That level of assist lets me ride at 17-20 mph versus 12-15 without assist. The Como 5 Turbo also has range which means I can get to and from work without worrying about running out of e-juice. That’s 25 miles.

I mentioned that I had another ebike, a Faraday Cortland. It’s the prettiest bike I own. I named her Lulu, but I think of her as the Princess of the fleet of bikes I own. She has a belt drive and if there’s one think I wish more ebikes had it would be a belt drive. Sadly the company went bankrupt. There were more than a few things about the company that should been a factor in my purchase. New. Kickstarter new. I wanted to support an American company and the burgeoning ebike market. When I bought it in 2015 there weren’t even Gazelles in the USA yet. Specialized is a company that has been around for awhile and isn’t going anywhere, so getting an ebike from an established company is also something to consider. I might want to rethink straightening my hair in high school but I don’t rethink bike purchases. I seem to imprint on a bike or vice versa and it’s over.

Ready for another #bikethrowback? When I turned 25 my boyfriend (now husband) got me a Specialized Rockhopper. Back in the day, this bike was the coolest “mountain bike” ever. I still have this yellow Rockhopper. Probably you have one from your past too. Sentimental and staying put.

Still smiling and biking after all these years. Here’s to more miles, routes and bikes.

I think I see a gloved pinky finger propped up in this picture too.

Love your ride and ride your ride. What’s your #bikethrowback

Bike Goddess

#bikethrowback #iamspecialized @iamspecialized #bikethrowback 
#iamspecialized @ebikestore @iamspecialized 


Spinning in Love

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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.

Happy riding,

Bike Goddess

#ebikestore

#ebikes

#faraday

#bikelove

Dancing with Black Ice

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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.

How’s your winter riding?

Be safe out there,

Bike Goddess

Strava Stats

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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.

Get out there and ride.

Be safe.

Bike Goddess

#yearinsport #stava #bikeride #bikecommuting

The Day I Hit 5001 Miles (for the year)

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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.

Yesterday in Portland. The fog started rolling in but I was not deterred. Got lights? Heck yeah!

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?

Happy riding!

Thanks for reading.

Bike Goddess

Tortoise or the Hare

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IMG_0793It’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.

No?

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.

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I hope you’re having an amazing Autumn.

Get out there and ride.

Be safe.

Bike Goddess