Category Archives: recreational riding

Reason #3 that I love cycling . . .

The community.

Admittedly, this is something that I was quite intimidated by when I started cycling. For a while, I felt very much like someone riding a bike in a community of cyclists. I had fun, I enjoyed seeing other riders, I loved being on the bike path, but I also felt like I very much stuck out, especially when I went through that string o’ bikes – first the gold cruiser, then the purple mountain bike, then the hybrid better suited for commuting than distance riding, then the old-school road bike. And, of course, there are still cyclists who fit the stereotype of the grandiose racer who pass people unsafely, or judge people based on their gear, or pace, or calf muscles; I don’t feel particularly connected to them.

But still, there was and is a much more inviting community of cyclists than I thought there would be. At first, I felt a special sort of solidarity with the other people on non-road bikes. And there are also community members who are not on bikes at all – for example, there’s the bagpiper that often plays in Clinton-Como or Whetstone park on weekends; he definitely makes these Irish eyes smile! There’s the woman who, for no other reason than kindness and care for her community, picks up trash along the path. (She’s very, very kind; please thank her if you see her!) There were the cyclists with whom I was stuck under a bridge for 45 minutes last year during a downpour. At that point I was riding my hybrid, but there’s nothing like the uselessness of a road bike in the rain to break down the cycling hierarchy!

I feel more a member of the cycling community now than I have previously. Sometimes I’ll see someone that I know from cycling events – volunteer meetings or rides, for example. Sometimes we’ll ride together, sometimes we’ll pull over and chat and then each head our separate way. A lot of times, it’s that I see familiar faces on the bike path. There’s the middle-aged man that I was stuck under the bridge with last year who always gives me a smile and nod when we see each other. There’s the older couple on the tandem bike; the man in front always gives a nod and the woman in back has a very warm smile. There’s the man who seems to always ride in a coordinated jersey and shorts from Jeni’s ice cream. There’s the man who pulled over last year when the chain popped off my older (and first) road bike and I was having trouble figuring out how to get the rear derailleur to cooperate, and then there’s the woman that I pulled over this summer to help when she was in the same situation. There are, increasingly, more women cyclists on the bike path, and we almost always acknowledge each other.

On group rides – like the bike tour that I did last month – there is wonderful cooperation between cyclists. When riding in a pack, everyone is careful to warn each other of cars, or sudden stops, or gravel on the road way. I’ve also found other cyclists to be quite encouraging as I try to become more adept at the sport. I’m really still a newbie in a lot of ways, and I’ve had many cyclists share stories of their own falls or misadventures when I’m feeling a bit insecure, and I’ve had them give me tips on gear and milestones like the transition to clipless pedals (this is my fall project).

This is, in many ways, a nice medium for me. It is certainly more social and more of a community feel than I ever have on a cross-training or strengthening day in the gym. I have not yet, for example, had someone offer down-t0-earth help in figuring out a weight machine that’s new to me. I’m okay with this. When I’m at the gym – especially when I’m on cardio equipment – I prefer to have it be just me and a very loud workout mix blasting on my headphones. And, the cycling community is a nice change of pace. In many ways, it’s ideal for someone like me – a bit introverted, yet still wanting to feel like I “belong.” On the bike path, I have that sense of belonging. I can ride by myself, keeping my own pace, having some real “me” time to think and appreciate my body, while also having those moments of connection with other people that come and go, as our legs propel us on.

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Reason #2 that I love cycling . . .

Spending time outside! I am not a city girl. I’m currently living in a city out of necessity, and getting on my bike and heading north on the bike path (away from campus/downtown) is my respite from being surrounded by cars and masses of people and noise and concrete. And I get to see things like:

This last one is really grainy. I got as close as I could and zoomed in, but I was taking it on my phone. After taking this picture, I got a good view of this hawk’s beak and talons, and I promptly got back on my bike and rode away!

Yes – it’s chillin’ on a soccer goal.

Cycling Randoms

1) There has been a woeful lack of posting on this blog, I know. Part of it is that whole pesky graduate school thing. I mean, really. There has GOT to be a way to get a Ph.D. without it being so time-consuming!! However, up until this past week, there has also been a woeful lack of cycling. It can be hard to fit rides in with my school schedule anyway, so often when I do ride during the year, it’s in the form of commuting to/from school. However, lately that has looked like this

Another cyclist, and two men with super-cute pit bulls and I all came to an abrupt stop here at the same time. The walkers turned around, and the other cyclist and I agreed that this patch was far too deep to ride through, even on my hybrid. So, up and over we went!

I was briefly jealous of his lightweight road bike, however, since this commute home included more puddles and off-roading, I was ultimately quite happy to be on All the Way Mae (hybrid).

2) This is the other thing that’s happening on the bike path recently:

Goslings as far as the eye can see!! So far, I have barely been hissed at by parent-geese. However, I have seen numerous undergrads in the campus area egging them on. Poor choice, friends. Poor choice. I can’t help but remember a friend of mine telling me about how one time a goose chased on her on the bike path. She was on her bike and it was flying behind her, and she could feel air from its wings on her back . . .  *shudders*

3) A friend deemed me to be a “legit cyclist” the other day, after I arrived at her house on my hybrid. As it turns out, what made me “legit” were the little bag under my seat, and the reflective bands around bottom of my pant legs.

4) I’ve been a physical therapy slacker this quarter. I was down to going once a month, but just didn’t prioritize making time for it in my schedule. (True Confession: I basically pulled the classic excuse of “My knee doesn’t hurt anymore! I’m cured!” Then I slacked on my exercises and canceled an appointment and well, my knew was very clearly letting me know if its displeasure.) I finally got back into it this past Wednesday, and all I can say is, Holy Quads, Batman!!! She was not pulling punches. She’s also very lucky that I like her so much. lol That’s what I get for skipping, I guess. At least she electrocuted my knee, and no it feels great! I have another appointment in two weeks, which I will freaking keep!

3) The weather and bike paths were finally dry enough that I got to do a 90-minute bike ride last Sunday, which equals about 22-miles. It was SO nice!! However, I seem to have gotten stronger and faster on my bike since last year, so my old 90-minute route no longer takes 90-minutes. I reworked it a bit so I could get in a couple of hill-climbs, which should come in handy if I can work up the nerve to go through with a 50km ride this summer. (I know I can do it physically, I just need to not psych myself out!)

4) Sometimes Sweet Thunder the Second (road bike) is so pretty that I just can’t help but take pictures.

5) The other day when I was commuting home, I was stopped a light. I always check behind me when I stop to see if any cars are behind me, especially when I’m leading a lane of traffic. There was no car behind me. Yet, a minute or two later, I thought I saw a hulking presence out of my peripheral vision. I slowly turned my head – you don’t want to let drivers see your fear, after all! – and a Prius had snuck up behind me, completely unnoticed. I could hear that fucker wonderful hybrid approaching AT ALL.


Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against hybrids. Anything closer to an electric car is something that I support. However, for the love of god, Toyota! For the sake of the visually impaired, pedestrians, and bike commuters, can’t you suck it up and make these make some sort of noise! Maybe they could sing some sort of pleasant tune.  Pleeeeeeeeease.

6) Yesterday on the bike path, there was a fellow who had pulled over, strung a rope between two trees, and was practicing tight-rope walking. I freaking love the bike path.

Did you know??

Ohio has a monsoon season. Yeah. This was news to me too. Le sigh. We’ve had a seriously stupid amount of rain this month. I’ve only gotten in about three rides in the last two weeks. It hasn’t been warm enough to risk getting caught on my bike in a rainstorm yet, so I haven’t even been taking my hybrid out when there’s rain predicted. I have done some disgruntled cross-training at the OSU fitness center – not because I hate what I do there, just because I hated that I was doing it so much during what should be cycling season! When the weather is nice, I will always choose cycling over working out in a gym, for sure. I’ve also managed to take some nice walks when we’ve had brief breaks in the rain. (That’s right. Come and get me, Vitamin D. I dare you.) It hasn’t been warm enough to risk getting caught on my bike in a rainstorm yet, so I haven’t even been taking my hybrid out when there’s rain predicted. I also had one particularly cranky day where I decided that I’d rather ebay shop for cycling gear than have to workout inside again. I bought a 5.99 used jersey by Patagonia. Let’s just say . . . really, Patagonia?? Whatevs. It was $6, and I guess it’ll be a good back up.

Today, however, was cycling weather!!! It was windy and bit cool for the first ten minutes of my ride, but once the sun came out, life improved. I generally ride on the Olentangy Trail, which runs along the Old-and-tangy Olentangy River. The river was SO high today! However, I was heartened when I made it up to Worthington and under Rte. 315 without hitting any majorly flooded areas.

But then . . .
tragedy.

About a half mile north of that celebratory moment, I stumbled rode upon this:

After conferring with another woman cyclist* who stopped right after me, we decided that it could easily be six inches deep, and we didn’t want to get that sewage overflow river water on our road bikes. We did, however, then get to witness a group of three cyclists who came around the turn way too fast, and almost suffered the domino effect due to stopping short. So, I had to cut my ride a couple of miles short. But, AT LEAST I GOT TO RIDE!!!

In other news, I’ve joined the Friends of Consider Biking team on ridenet, and I’ve been logging my rides. I’ve broken the 100 mile mark this season, which isn’t too shabby, given all of the rain and the fact that I’ve only been back in the saddle for a few weeks! Check out my ridenet profile by clicking here.

* I had no idea the extent to which cycling is a male dominated sport until I started becoming more serious about it. If you’d like an example, pick up any copy of Bicycling magazine ever. Or go to a bike store. Or chill out next to a bike path for a bit. Hence, I get a bit excited when I see other women cyclists out and about!

Back in the saddle!

And boy, does it feel good!! My commute to/from campus on Thursday was wonderful. I took my road bike to Performance Bikes on Friday to get it adjusted (yay, free lifetime adjustments!), and I had wonderful rides yesterday and today as well.

Also, I may have totally geeked out for a moment in Performance. You see, this winter some of us volunteered to take pictures with our bike helmets for a Consider Biking brochure. I had kind of forgotten about it, when lo and behold, what did I see there in the bike store? This!:

Do you see me, do you see me? (Of course, these are just somewhat crappy scans from my printer; the print versions are much lovelier!)

On my way home from school on Thursday, I decided to swing by the grocery store on the way home. I didn’t feel like taking off my helmet, and all that jazz. Also, because it was a commuting ride, it meant that I was in my regular clothing, and therefore had reflector tape around the bottoms of my pant legs, so that they wouldn’t catch anything while riding.

So, basically what this means is that I wandered around the grocery store with my head looking like this:

(Vegan “cheese” in hand.)

And my feet/legs looking like this:

(Can’t you just feel the white socks beckoning you?)

It was then that it struck me. If you have a fear of looking silly – which I do – taking up cycling is the PERFECT exposure therapy! Because, eventually, you normalize looking this way – or you just get a little lazy – and next thing you know, you’re walking around looking like this. Or, even better, you’re walking around in padded butt bike shorts.

So, the people around you get a chuckle, and you get over your fear of looking silly. It’s a win-win!!

‘Tis the season . . . for spandex.

I give up. I fought long and hard to not resort to spandex. Or, at least, I was wearing spandex shorts underneath athletic shorts. Because, you know what they say . . . “Nobody looks good in bike shorts.”

But the thing is . . . spandex is just more comfortable when it comes to bike riding. It stays in place, it moves with you, and if everyone’s wearing it, well, at least you’re on a level playing field, right??

So, it’s now that time of year where the weather is in between. It’s hard to dress properly for a bike ride without being too hot or too cold at some point on your ride. Most likely, you’ll be too warm at some point, and a bit too chilly at another point. So, I decided that I needed to get some more versatile spandex for this time in my life. Thanks to getting myself a membership in the Performance Bicycles Buyer’s Club when I purchased my bike, I was able to get some arm warmers and cycling gloves without spending any money. Yay!

So, here’s the combo I had going on yesterday and today, and it worked out wonderfully:

 

Spandex capris, short-sleeved jersey, and arm warmers that came off at the halfway point of my ride after I had generated some body heat. Well done, self.

Also, here are the sweetass cycling gloves I got:

 

In other news, it’s official. My road bike’s name is Sweet Thunder, after that originally Huffy. I know. Sheer brilliance. You don’t have to tell me. 🙂

Taking a ride down memory lane . . .

My new bike is here!!!! Yes!!!!! I freaking love it so much. And, as I was out riding today, I was thinking about the different bikes I’ve had throughout my life and my various levels of bonding with them. I shall now take you on a little ride down bicycle memory lane . . .

My first bike was a Huffy. If I remember correctly, it looked something like this. (Maybe it even was this model??) I DEFINITELY remember the banana seat. Also, when I grew out of this bike, I remember being SORELY disappointed that not all bikes had banana seats. This being my first bike, for a long time it meant that Huffys (Huffies? Huffy’s?) were the epitome of bikes to me. Oh, young naivete.

This picture is not mine. This is some stranger’s bike. However, it is a stand-in for the string of mountain bikes I had as I grew up and grew taller. These were the days of bikes being sized by the size of the tire. These bikes were the bikes you get from big box stores – Roadmasters, Huffies, Schwinns, etc. My dad rode this kind of bike. My brother road this kind of bike. I thought that this was pretty much it for a long time. I liked riding these bikes, and had phases where I would ride quite regularly. But eventually these bikes crap out, even with tune-ups. And they’re HEAVY. When Luke and I moved to Ohio, I was riding a bike much like this one pictured, and despite having tune-ups, it still would only shift when it felt like it, some gears were completely useless, and the chain liked to pop off on a semi-regular basis. It didn’t make the cut into the UHaul.

Then, bikeless and adjusting graduate school and life in the Midwest, I didn’t ride for a couple of years.

Then, last spring, I got this puppy:

I don’t really know how to explain what happened here. I got it used for about $100. Some weird sentimental craziness took me over and made me want a Huffy. I was also exceedingly nervous that I would be that one person who DOES forget how to ride a bike. I wanted to start as basic as possible. So I got this. Gold. A cruiser. One speed. Bulky. COASTER BRAKES. That’s right. The kind where you pedal backwards to stop the bike. I learned quickly that if you get going fast down a hill, you can STAND ON THESE FUCKERS WITH ALL OF YOUR WEIGHT and they won’t stop you.

It was fun for a while, especially as I was just beginning to ride again. But, everyone passed me on the bike path. I don’t think I could have been going much more that 8 miles an hour on this business. I wanted to make myself a t-shirt that read, “I don’t have gears!!!” to explain my crawl up hills. Cruisers are cute/fun for around town, but that’s about it. I bonded quickly with this bike, but over time the relationship went sour.

So, I did some research, went to a different used bike store, and came back with this:

A GT Palomar, purchased for about $180. I wanted a hybrid at the time, but they didn’t have any, so I went with this. Definitely a mountain bike, but it sat the rider a bit more upright, somewhat like a hybrid in terms of comfort. I fucking loved this bike. It was SO nice to have gears again! It still didn’t go very fast, being a mountain bike, but I really loved it. It was my first bike that was a brand you would purchase in a bike store, and I had never ridden anything of this quality before. As the guys at the bike store told me, “It’s not a KMart bike.”

Then my brother moved in with us, and he took over riding “The Golden Bicycle” (the Huffy cruiser). Luke also purchased a bike at this time. We were a riding family – until all of our bikes got stolen within a few weeks of each other. I was heartbroken when this bike got stolen. I’m not a crier, but I cried over that GT.

I went back to the used bike store, and got this bike for $165. It’s a Fuji Crosstown hybrid. It took me a while to get used to it. It was the first time I rode  a bike that didn’t have mountain bike wheels, and I was definitely a little wobbly. But, it had me at the test ride; I had no idea bikes could shift so smoothly! I was  still heartbroken about my GT, so it took me a while to warm up to this bike. But, I still have it, and I still love it. It really needs a tune-up, but it’s been a very reliable bike. I commute to school on this bike, and I think of it as my “pleasure craft.” Her name is All the Way Mae, because she’s versatile. (Yes, she is named after Madonna’s character in A League of Their Own.)

This summer I started off riding the hybrid exclusively, as it’s the only bike I had. But, as the summer wore on, as I’ve learned more about bikes, and as I look forward to the possibility of training and doing a distance ride next summer, it became clear that I would need a road bike. Good road bikes are NOT cheap, so I decided to start with an old, used one just to get the feel of a road bike.

Back to the used bike store I went:

It’s a 1977 Concord “Freedom Deluxe.” It was good to transition, and I got it for $165. The frame wasn’t really meant for someone my height (aka short), as you can see by the fact that I had to lower the seat so much that I was pretty much sitting on the top bar. And yes, I did have horrific visions of what might happen if I hit a bump or pothole and slid forward off of the seat! This was a good practice road bike, though it was never meant to take me on distance rides. I also had to stop riding it a few weeks ago, as its poor fit seemed to be exacerbating my knee pain. Physical therapist’s orders. Her name is Pippi. She’s being passed on to Luke.

And now, MY NEW BIKE!!!!!

Omg. It’s amazing. It’s a 2010 Fuji Newest 2.0. I got it on Thursday evening, and I’ve taken it on two good rides since then. I’ve definitely had to do some adjusting! The tires are SKINNY, so I’m currently a bit wobbly if I ride one-handed. Also, the hand brakes on the curved part of the handle bars double as the gear shifts, and the front and rear derailleurs are the opposite of each other, so the first ride included a fair amount of shifting improperly and making embarrassing noises on the bike path. But, I’m getting the hang of it! This bike is FAST. And we’re already thoroughly bonded. I’m still trying to choose a name. Right now I’m leaning toward Cayenne. Or maybe Paprika. Suggestions welcome.

Wow. That was long. In other news, I need to bite the bullet and make the full switch to the padded spandex bike shorts. My butt would be happier, and puffy athletic shorts just look silly with cycling jerseys!