Tag Archives: commuting

Letters from the Bike Path (and Gearing Up!)

Those of you who know me well and/or are facebook friends with me might have noticed that I often communicate in the form of letters/brief memos. Par example:

Dear Weather,
Why do you keep raining? It hurts my heart because it makes it dangerous to ride my road bike and it’s for realz interfering with my cycling schedule. I’m glad that rain exists in the world, but perhaps it could take a vacay to the southwest for a while? They could REALLY use it.
Love Always,
Say

Often I compose these mental letters while on the bike path. For your amusement, here are some mental letters from recently. Please pardon some of the cynicism coming through; a number of them were composed two Sundays ago, and Sundays on the bike path can be a trial.

Dear Gentleman on the Trek Mountain Bike,
I didn’t know that it was possible to actually buy cycling shorts that are that short. Wow. Doesn’t that make you nervous?? It made me very, very nervous.
Best,
Say
P.S. – Chafing?

Dear God,
You know birds? Those were a really, really great idea. Thanks for that.
Sincerely,
Say

Dear Kindly Fellow with Two Cute Dogs,
Thanks for offering to keep an eye on my bike for me while I was using the outhouse. Chaining it up just for that purpose really is kind of annoying.
Appreciatively,
Say

Dear Columbus Parks and Recreation,
Oh good god. Please, please, please do something about the outhouse at Whetstone Park. Seriously. I can generally suck it up when it comes to outhouses, but  . . . Let’s just say that having to pee while riding a bike is never enjoyable (especially for those of us who are female-bodied) and I chose to hold it.
– Say

Dear People at Antrim Lake Walking Across the Bike Path Waving Fishing Poles Around Without Looking,
Don’t. Those things have hooks.
Take Care,
Say
P.S. – I’m concerned about the fact that you had buckets. Should you really be eating fish out of Antrim Lake? I mean, it’s better than the Olentangy River, but still – that is not a natural color for lake water.

Dear Pedestrians/Runners,
For real, if you continue to run/walk at me in the wrong direction on the path, Imma be forced to run you down. I understand that it’s a multi-use path, and I try my best to promote harmony between cyclists, rollerbladers, runners, and pedestrians, but I really don’t want to experience another pedestrian-induced fall that will have me in physical therapy rehabbing my knee almost a year later.
Godspeed,
Say

Dear Small Children Riding Teeny-Weeny Bikes,
You’re freaking adorable. Also, it’s both cute and terrifying how you look behind you when you hear someone coming and, given that you’re still learning how to coordinate your body (I get it, believe me!), when you turn your head your entire upper body turns with it, thus swerving your teeny-weeny bike into the passing lane.
Be Careful,
Say

Dear Dude Practicing Walking on a Tight Rope,
Thank you for existing.
Best of Luck in Your Pursuits,
Say

Dear Body and Sweet Thunder II,
Thank you for combining and coordinating your efforts to give me some strong, badass rides lately.
Love,
Say

In other news . . .

You know the one thing I don’t totally love about cycling? The expense. I mean, good lord! (Dear Self, Did you have to fall in love with a sport that’s SO expensive? You know you’re a poor grad student, right? Love, Self)

For example, Sweet Thunder II (road bike) is the third most expensive possession I have, behind our car and my computer. And then there’s so much gear and clothing to buy if you want to cycle regularly and have it be a) comfortable and b) functional. I guess the good thing is that once you invest, things last a while. So, I’m trying to gradually accumulate the things that I need (well, okay, and some things that I don’t!). Right now I’m prioritizing getting ready for the 50K that I hope to ride next month, and I also need to outfit my hybrid to make it a more functional commuting bike (I need a rear wheel rack, a trunk, and panniers for realz).

So, my recent gear investments have been this Cambelback, which was a conveniently discontinued style, and thus quite a steal:

I have not yet had a good opportunity to use it yet because the abnormally hot temperatures that we were having have turned into lots of rain and that, combined with the mess that is always the end of a quarter, pretty much precluded doing any longer/hotter rides. Soon, Camelback. Soon.

My most exciting purchase happened this weekend, with my first cyclocomputer. wOOt!

Disclaimer: Please excuse my HORRIBLE bike path etiquette here. Normally I would NEVER take a photo like this while moving. It’s just that . . . if I had stopped, the picture would have shown a big 0.0mph, which is SO not badass enough for my blog. I did make sure that I waited until I was on a straight, abandoned part of the bike path, and I snapped it very quickly with my phone! (I know . . . excuses, excuses!)

I really freaking love having the computer on my bike. I had guessed that I average about 15mph on my road bike, and I clocked in at 15.3mpg average on my ride yesterday. The computer definitely helps me keep my pace, and it also encourages me to shift through my gears more so that I can keep my pace steady. And it keeps me really focused and present in my ride, which is a lovely bonus!

And then, while I was waiting for them to install my computer at Performance Bikes (oh, how I love, love, love this store), I might have found this:

It’s just . . . it was on mega-sale, okay??? There was only one and it was my size and it was cheap because no one buys jackets in Ohio in June! And it’ll be really nice for riding in the fall. AND, actually, one of the classrooms in which I have class this summer and my TA office are both so overly air-conditioned that I actually brought it to school with me today to insulate myself against the temperature. It worked quite well, my friends.

In the meantime, barring inclement weather, I will not back out of the 50K next month. *repeat, repeat, repeat* I’m starting to get cold feet . . . but more on that later!

As a final note, this is not at all cycling related, but here’s one of my favorite Youtube videos ever. It cracks me up EVERY TIME.

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Geez, louise! It’s been a while . . .

That’s what I get for being a graduate student and living somewhere that has winter. Le sigh.

HOWEVER, I’m commuting to school today. wOOt!! I pumped up my hybrid’s tires last night, wiped down the frame, and I’m ready to go! Also, I got this totally badass shirt a few weeks ago, as a birthday present to myself:

Look closely at the above pic: Can you see E.T.??

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!

Back in the Saddle

Well, well, well. Hello again. I’ve been absent because I was on a most wonderful vacation. First, Luke and I went to visit my family in Maine. It included seeing their new house and new companion animals (Johb the dog and Maybe the cat), seeing every member of my mom’s side of the family, and seeing my brother and meeting his new boyfriend. It also included multiple trips to Farmington (my undergrad town/school) and Nezinscot Farm, and lots of lake swimming for Luke, while I stayed happily warm and dry. Luke also got to go visit his mom in New Hampshire, which included lots of 4-wheeling. (I’ve already assured him that, yes, when we move back to Maine and have some land, we can get a 4-wheeler.) After Maine, we went to stay for a night at Farm Sanctuary, in upstate New York. It was an amazing experience, and we’re both hoping to go back for longer next year. it’s located in Watkins Glen, NY, and it looks like there’s a pretty stellar state park there. That part of the trip included a lovely little cabin, pigs, cows, goats, rabbits, roosters, hens, sheep, cats, turkeys, vegan soft-serve ice cream, and a freaking delicious vegan continental breakfast.

One thing my vacation did not include? Cycling. Sadness. This was for a number of reasons:

A) Luke and I have yet to have the money to splurge on a bike rack that is sturdy enough to take our bikes from Ohio to Maine. However, this will happen before next year. We’re determined.

B) The bike that was most readily available for me was my Dad’s 10-year old Roadmaster mountain bike. Even though I’ve become a bit of a bike snob (I admit it), I debated giving it a shot. But then Dad mentioned that “You can’t go very far before the chain pops off;” I decided to steer clear, since cycling is something I do to increase enjoyment in my life, not frustration.

C) The ladder on my aunt and uncle’s raft shanked me on the first day of my visit, slicing my foot open in a way that made it too painful to put pressure on it. This would have made peddling a challenge. (It actually still hurts a bit to pedal now, though it’s more of an annoyance than pain.)

Hence, circumstance dictated that I go without cycling for about 10 days.  I.freaking.missed.it. I was very much looking forward to my bike ride yesterday, our first full day home. However, I was also having a really hard time being back in Columbus. Columbus is a pretty neutral place. It’s not the best place I’ve lived (that would be Maine), but it’s certainly not the worst. It’s just that – I’m not a city girl. And after 10 days of small towns in Maine and upstate NY, I found being back in a city jarring and alienating, to say the least. I’m also not particularly suited to the Midwest, or sub(urban) sprawl with all of its concrete and cars. I hoped my bike ride would help, and would make me feel a bit more connected to nature (via the bike path). But, as much as I love cycling, it’s not a panacea. Hoping that my bike ride would somehow magically transform central Ohio into central Maine was perhaps a bit too much to ask of my favorite hobby. Also, the bike path was crammed with decked-out Buckeye fans who were biking to the football game yesterday. They weren’t quite of this caliber:

But some were close. That wasn’t super helpful in terms of needing some healing/magic via cycling. (However, in retrospect, the scene of these fans on bikes is pretty freaking amusing, and I may take my camera to the bike path before the next home game. Maybe. If I need some adventure. But probably not.)

Today’s ride was much better. I felt back in my cycling groove, and the ride was very enjoyable. I even decided to ride on the streets on my way home. (I also had the experience of getting run into the shoulder by a motorcycle. I shall now be purchasing my “3 Feet Please” backpack, since school’s starting up so I’ll be commuting more.)

I also arrived home to find that the bike that I want has finally dropped in price since they’re phasing out the 2010 models. I need this bike because asap  because I’m slightly concerned about my right knee. I seem to have pulled a muscle, and I suspect that it’s because my current road bike doesn’t fit me as well as it could. However, I’m not sure that it’s completely that because it started hurting about a week before I went on vacation, and taking time off from cycling didn’t fix it. I’m getting my doctor to check it out on Wednesday.

Right now, for my new bike, I’m planning on getting a 2010 Fuji Newest 1.0, which is a nice entry-level road bike. (Family, don’t freak out. I’ll be paying about half of the listed price. My extra fellowship should pretty much cover the cost – yay!) It’s a lot of bike for the price, and it’s gotten good reviews. Also, supposedly the Tiagra shifters are a “must,” and they perform well for a long time. I haven’t gotten to test ride one yet. I’m hoping to go to Performance Bicycle within the next week or two to try one out. Fingers crossed! I’m also toying with the idea of a Specialized Dolce Elite, but it’s a bit pricier (and I’d only remotely consider it if I could get it on an insane end-of-year sale) and I don’t like the styling as much, so hopefully the Fuji will work. I certainly love my Fuji Crosstown hybrid; I think of that bike as my pleasure craft, while my road bike means business. And my new road bike will mean even more business!

If any of you have any thoughts and/or reviews on road bikes, cycling, or life in general, I’d love to hear!

Well. Here we are.

Unfortunately, this blog is starting on a sad day for cycling in Ohio. This weekend was Pelotonia, one of the largest cycling events in Ohio; it’s a charity ride to raise funds for cancer research. This year about 4,000 cyclists rode, and one of them, Michelle Kazlausky, did not return. She was hit by a pick-up truck during the ride, and died at the hospital. The truck has been impounded; they suspect brake failure, but it has yet to be thoroughly examined.

This is a tragic and very scary event. The more that I ride – and the more that I commute to and from school by bike – the more aware I am of the alarming frequency of this type of accident.

Please, cyclists, motorists, pedestrians, and everyone in between, be careful.

This winter, I’m hoping to commute to school one or two times a week, barring blizzards/lots of snow. This will mean riding in the road more and on the bike path less. Personally, I’ll be purchasing one of these:

Nope. I don’t even care how dorky it is. (And by “dorky,” I actually mean “badass.”) Plus, it’s waterproof, reflective, has a padded laptop section, AND a separate section to put a change of clothes in. Yes, please!