Tag Archives: cycling

Getting Back to Bike Commuting

Since my new job is closer to home, I will get to go back to bike commuting.  Which means figuring out a solution that lets me ride my hybrid bike and still get my kid to school.

My hybrid bike is a Canondale Quick 3 WSD which is lightweight with a carbon fiber fork. Which means no putting our Yepp Mini on the front handlebars.  And I still wanted to use my Ortlieb Racktime bag on my rear rack, which is just about impossible with most rear babyseats.

We have a Topeak Babyseat for my husband’s bike, but a new rack was going to cost $50, plus I would need to buy a handlebar bag or basket, plus I would have to take the Babyseat off every day at daycare and leave it there and my spouse would need to get it, which would mean that if one of us drove one day, we would have a problem.  I didn’t want to schlep an entire babyseat to and from work everyday, because they are pretty heavy.

BikeShare has also come to our neighborhood, but the electric bikes that make up half the fleet are almost never available and my new commute involves two very steep uphills that are hard on a 7 speed Bikeshare Bike.  So walking to daycare and then picking up a BikeShare bike is only really a possibility if there are more electric bikes available.

I posted on a local women & bicycling facebook group looking for ideas and a woman suggested a TykeToter. It seemed so flimsy, but also so simple and elegant. I felt like it couldn’t possibly work. Then I read the reviews. All positive and none colored by being provided one for free to review or anything like that.  I was on the verge of ordering one. And then, then! one came up on our local listserv for half the new price!  I snapped it up and we test rode it last weekend.

So far, I only have one problem with it. Which is my kid loves it so much she won’t get off of it.  Yesterday we went to the splash park and then the pool and all she wanted to do when we got someplace was get back on the bicycle.

She is 32 months and I was worried she might be a bit too limit-testing for the freeform nature of the TykeToter – it has no straps, and you have to instruct your kid to keep their feet on the foot pegs at all times.  So far, she has done a great job of following instructions. She loves the handlebars and says, “it has handlebars just for me!” She still does get a bit distractable and take one hand off the handlebars to point out Jeeps, but she has been very good about keeping her feet in place while she’s on the TykeToter.

My legs bow out a bit while riding with her, but not worse than with the Yepp Mini, and riding with it without her seems to be perfectly fine, though I haven’t done it for long distances. She was also getting too tall for the Yepp and I couldn’t see over her, so this is also a good solution to that problem because she is comfortably below my chin.

 

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Pregnancy and Cycling

The biggest problem with cycling while pregnant, is the number of stupid people out there who do not understand pregnancy or cycling.  This makes it very hard to do actual research, and since I wasn’t willing to stop cycling, I felt myself getting pretty frustrated, especially in the second trimester as my body started to really change.

I had zero problems continuing to ride in my first trimester. Even though I was pretty sick, and being thirsty made me gag, I never threw up on my bicycle and I generally felt microscopically better on days that I biked compared to riding the bus.  Riding the bus made me sick a couple of times, so there’s that.
I gained most of my weight during the first trimester in weeks 12 and 13.  So by Week 14, I was starting to notice some discomfort in the saddle, even on my regular morning commute.  I finally posted on a forum about it, because googling “saddle pain pregnancy” was not helping me find answers besides “stop riding when it becomes uncomfortable” or “buy a new seat” which I wanted to avoid.  One of the responses was to tilt the seat down ever so slightly, which did help a lot.  I also lowered the seat just a bit because it was causing me some hip pain to swing my leg up and over the seat.
I did all of my training rides for the International Distance tri I did at 16 weeks clipped into my bike – these were rides 15-25 miles in length, and I turtled myself once at around 10-11 weeks because I thought I was unclipped and I wasn’t – I went to put my foot down and went right over.  I sustained a couple of bruises on my leg and elbow, but fell directly to the side rather than over my handlebars, and was going at a very low speed, so there was no damage done.  I’m a conservative rider generally so I did not ride super-fast ever.
At Week 16, I did my tri on my road bike and was fine, but found I could not go down into the aerobars (which I never do anyway because I’m a big scardycat), because my stomach had gotten too big and it was uncomfortable.  Around Week 18, I dropped my road bike off with my sister, who has custody of it until next January, so she could join me for the sprint tri we just did, and I test rode it to make sure they hadn’t done a terrible job tuning it up (they had) and I found it really uncomfortable. So I probably could not have ridden it past 18 weeks, personally.  My sister says I’m carrying low, so your mileage may vary.
At 19 weeks, we did a 25 mile bike ride on our tandem, which is the trek mountain bike tandem.  This was completely comfortable and not a problem at all – the rear of the tandem has a step through frame and a fairly upright setup. I think we did tilt my seat down slightly but otherwise I was completely fine. I opted not to clip in just because it was starting to make me uncomfortable to be clipped in.  Around 24-ish weeks, we did a short 10 or so mile ride on the tandem and that was also fine.  I think I could comfortably ride the tandem now.
At 21 weeks, I was still comfortably riding my Canondale Quick 3 to work, but I started to have trouble swinging my leg up and over the rear rack and itching to ride something more upright with a step-through frame.  We don’t have a ton of storage space for another bike, and carrying one up and down the steps is the main reason I went from a step through to a regular bike anyway, so I turned my search to folding bikes and decided to go with the Citizen Tokyo after some unsuccessful searches on Craigslist.  The Tokyo is an entry level price point and the appeal of the folding bike is that either my husband or I could ride it (although it’s baby blue so he probably won’t), and then if the other person needed to pick them up, it can go in the trunk.  This actually worked perfectly the one time so far that we tried it.
I’ve been riding the Tokyo for a little over a month now and I’m really happy with it.  I will give a more detailed review later, because there were very few honest reviews out there.  It’s 26 lbs, so the same weight as my Canondale, and has a low frame so I can step over it easily. I ordered it with the rear rack and the comfort seat.  The best part is that my Racktime Shoulderit Pannier bag actually fits on the rear rack – I wasn’t expecting that because the rear rack is tiny, the tubing is thick, and it’s low to the ground.  When I first pulled it out, we were like, “oh, gonna need a new work bag” but then I came home and told my husband that my ShoulderIt bag actually worked and he was like, “okay, I need to see this.”  It turns out that Ortlieb really knows what they are doing.
My new job is not too far from the train station, so the other purpose of getting a folding bike was that I could take it on the train.  I will be trying this next week.  I think, even though my pannier bag does fit, I will be riding with a backpack, because it’s hard to manage a shoulder bag and a folding bike at the same time.  I also will be hopefully exercising on my lunch break, and therefore might need to take workout clothes, plus my lunch, with me, and the backpack will just have more room.  I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to keep riding for – I’m really starting to slow down, so I think I might move to riding on the sidewalks of the busy streets soon. I’m not wild about this, but I’d rather ride on the sidewalk and annoy pedestrians than risk getting run over by an impatient driver.

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Movie Reviews: Half the Road

Last night, my husband and I got offered last minute tickets to see Half the Road, a documentary about women’s professional cycling. I had seen the event advertised but was on the fence about going because I’m not super into professional sports and I don’t really follow pro cycling.  When we were offered the tickets though, it felt like fate and therefore we went.

Well. It turns out there is a reason that I, and probably most of you, am not super into women’s professional cycling.  I thought that most professional sports organizations, the NFL excluded, sort of at least pretended they wanted to see women’s sports succeed and take off.  And then there is cycling, where actually, women’s professional cycling probably could really take off in a way that women’s basketball or soccer might not, and you have a governing organization that is actively discriminating against women in a way that makes no sense.  Like, requiring that women only race half the distance of the men in events.  (I’m not sure the exact rule, but there is also some kind of distance limit of 140 miles, and I’m sorry, but that’s just insulting because I’m pretty sure if I trained really hard I could ride 140 miles and I’m a chubby kid who was picked last in gym class.)  Like requiring that a professional cycling team have 60% of it’s members under the age of 28.  As a 28 year old, this is OUTRAGEOUS.  This, fortunately, was changed in 2013, which means that I can still dream of becoming a professional cyclist and not worrying about being too old, at the age of 29, to break into the sport. (See above, chubby kid, picked last in gym class, but it’s good to have dreams.)

There is also the issue of pay – and this is huge.  Women professional cyclists do not receive a minimum wage. Male professional cyclists do receive a minimum wage.   So most female cyclists work a full time job and they train full time to race.  Yet people are telling them that they couldn’t possibly compete in the Tour de France because it’s too difficult.  Well, maybe it would be easier for them to complete a grueling three-week multistage ride if they could devote all of their time to training.  The average female pro cyclist makes $3,000 a year from cycling.  I don’t know how much your bike cost, but my pretty basic entry level road bike was $600.

As a person who has watched exactly one cycling road race in my life, and it was the extremely exciting 2012 Olympic Women’s Road Race I will now explain why I think women’s cycling is a women’s professional sport that could really make it: it’s hard to tell the difference between women’s cycling and men’s cycling. Even the riders do not look terribly different, when they are on the road, they do not seem any less fast or any less powerful, and it’s not like women’s team sports where the big complaint is “it goes too slowly”.  It’s not like women’s ice hockey where there isn’t as much potential for dramatic fights – women crash in totally ugly ways, just as men do.  People tune into the Tour de France. There is no evidence that suggests that nobody would tune in for a Women’s Tour de France (which used to exist and needs to exist again.)  There is also no evidence that suggests that women couldn’t race with men – look at the Ironman races and Triathlons and Marathons – why do they even need to be separated by gender?  Maybe just let the women in and see how it goes?

Anyway, this is supposed to be a movie review, not just a rant about the incredible sexism rampant in professional cycling.  So, here is the review: this is a movie worth seeing.  It’s not the greatest documentary ever made, as it’s a smidgen long and at times seemed a bit disorganized, but it’s funny and smart and will make you both very impressed and extremely angry.  So! Go see it! There is probably a screening near you sometime soon.  Or order yourself a home copy once they are available.

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Change.

I am a person who usually likes change.  So this morning, when I went to spin class, I saw that the new Keiser stationary bikes had arrived and was pretty excited.

http://www.amazon.com/Computer-Keiser-M3-Stationary-Exercise/dp/B0015WLM40

I knew we were getting computerized bicycles and that the wheel would be on the back.  There are a few things about the bikes that are neat, like the mechanism for raising/lowering the seat is really quiet and smooth and super customizable, and the computerized display features a clock, RPM, and mileage, as well as watts and something else – maybe calories per hour? I stopped caring how many calories I burned during a workout a while ago, so I was okay with not having a calorie counter on there.

There were some new frustrations too though – the tension switch is incredibly sensitive to touch, so adding gear is a fine tuned flick of the finger instead of a sweaty, grunting twist of the knob.  The seat is also really uncomfortable, and I made a poor sartorial choice with regards to my shorts, so I had some severe discomfort. The pedals were incredibly uncomfortable to wear with regular sneakers, because I forgot my spin shoes.

The computer had it’s advantages and disadvantages. I didn’t like having a clock on there, because I felt like I was constantly watching it.  The RPMs is really nice, because you can tell whether you are keeping your pace up like you are supposed to be.  The distance calculator is nice, because I feel like I’m doing more training when I know how far I went.

I’m hoping that I can get used to these new bikes and that I can keep my act up to go to class.  I checked in this morning and it reminded me that it had been 37 days since my last checkin!  That is a long time to have been slacking for, even though I have been cycling at the gym or outside a few times a week.  Once it warms up (maybe next week?) I’m hoping to do class once a week and a long outside ride once a week.

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Training: This Week

I’m still trying to pick a training plan.  The Beginner Tri plan for this month is:

Month 1   

Week M T W TH F S S TOTAL Vol
1 24-Swim Off 40-Swim 24-Run 80-Bike Off 40-Run 4h 16m  
48-Bike 256m
2 26-Swim Off 44-Swim 26-Run 88-Bike Off 44-Run 4h 41m +10%
53-Bike 281m
3 29-Swim Off 48-Swim 29-Run 97-Bike Off 48-Run 5h 9m +10%
58-Bike 309m
4 17-Swim Off 29-Swim 17-Run 58-Bike Off 29-Run 3h 5m -40%
35-Bike 185m
Notes Short Swim Off Long Swim Short Run Long Bike Off Long Run    
Short Bike

Grand total:       17h 11m           

So that means for this week, the plan is to do 24 minutes of swim and 48 minutes of Spin on Monday.  Tuesday is a rest day, but I’m planning to still do some cardio – my theory being that a rest day should still involve enough activity that you meet the minimum suggested number of steps, etc. for the day.

Wednesday is 40 minutes of swimming, which is the most swimming I will have done ever.  Thursday is a run day, and Friday is a pretty intense bike day.  Sunday is a 40 minute long run, which is no problem since I’ve been anchoring my husband as he does his 3-5 mile recovery runs as part of marathon training.

The TriNewbies 18-week workout’s first week is as follows:

Mon 750 yds  15 miles  
Tue 750 yds    20 min
Wed   15 miles   
Thur 1000 yds    20 min
Fri      
Sat     30 min 
Sun   20 miles   

So there is more swimming, and the biggest problem is I have NO IDEA how many “miles” I bike in spin class.  The Spinning website suggests that while very varied, a 40-minute class with a high cadence is the equivalent of a 15-20 mile ride.  So I think I’d be safe in assuming that a 55 minute class is at least 15 miles.

Here is what I think my average week might/should shake out to for right now:

M – spin class in AM, weights in PM
T – swim in AM, run in AM if there is enough time (and I don’t get totally bored running on the indoor track at the gym
W – spin class in AM, weights in PM
Th – swim in AM, run in AM if there is enough time
Fr – hot yoga class
Sa – swimming and spin class/long bike rides once there is less ice on the ground
Su – 3-4 mile run & hockey

And my average week once I’m also half-training:

M – spin class in AM, weights in PM
T – swim in AM, run in PM
W – spin class in AM, possible weights in PM
Th – swim in AM, run in PM
Fr – hot yoga class
Sa – long run
Su – long bike ride & hockey

Moving the runs to the evening will allow for me to do longer swim workouts in the morning, which will make up for dropping the Saturday morning swim.  This will shift as I hopefully sign up for a tri club and maybe somebody will share their preferred training program, and also as I decide whether to join the master’s swim program at the gym.

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Bike Storage

We are house hunting right now and it’s kind of a problem. We have a lot of stuff, which includes 5 bikes. Which includes a tandem. Our ideal house would have an unfinished or tiled walk out basement. It would also have 3 bedrooms upstairs so that we didn’t have to dedicate the basement to housing our stuff. The problem is, we also need a parking pad, and we’re not finding that in our price range. So we started looking at other solutions.

We have a gravity stand (like this), which houses our two least-frequently used bikes, and in the past we have used hooks inside a closet. The problem is, I don’t want any of these on display in the main floor of our new house. I think having bikes in the living room is awkward, period.

I’m not a big fan of anything that looks like this:

From Knife and Saw

Because I ride a heavy bike with a step through frame, the cute bike shelves are not an option.

I do really like this design, if I have to keep my bike in the living room.

Bookbike

The problem is, again, five bikes. One of which is a tandem. So building a bike shed seems much more practical, except that every house we look at with a parking pad has a large AC unit right next to the front door, isn’t long enough for a shed and our car, and isn’t wide enough for a shed and our car.

From Shed Scene

There are a few places we have seen which have a deck over the parking pad, or we could build a deck over the parking pad. At that point, building a shed under the stairs is certainly possible, and hopefully the deck would be high enough. The other problem with our neighborhood is that security is definitely a concern, so we can’t just keep the bikes on a rear deck, they need to be very securely locked.

Anyone have any suggestions?

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Night Rider

Night riding is the scariest part of cycle commuting. So how do you make sure you’re visible? Reflective gear, bright lights.

You can get yourself a nice reflective ankle strap – these come in a couple varieties, the slap bracelet type or the velcro type.

I bought a white reflective vest this year, which was easy to layer over my black jacket – unfortunately, all of my winter coats are black. I really wanted a nice reflective coat, but those don’t exist, though some of the ones on this site are pretty nice, and currently on sale. I also bought some reflective tape to add to my fleece jacket but didn’t get around to doing it before it warmed up and the seasons changed.

The most important things to get are a good headlight and tail light. I have this set, but I actually don’t recommend it. The tail light is super-hard to turn on and change from flashing to steady to off, so I would get the blaze headlight and then a tail light that has a button.

These are the new version of those glow in the dark spoke things you would put on your bike when you were a kid. They are very bright and when your wheels go around, they look really cool.

I don’t have many good tips for riding in the dark, because I just find it scary and try to make sure everyone sees me and get home as quickly as possible. I would also say do not run red lights late at night, but sometimes if I’m at an intersection where I feel unsafe waiting in the dark, I will actually make the call and run the light – but make sure the intersection is clear of cars before running the right. Also, make sure that you travel on roads you are familiar with, if at all possible, so that you know where potholes, construction grates, and other hazards are.

Did I miss any reflective items? Do you have any night riding tips?

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Rain

There was a freak hail storm and a flash flood warning all before I left work yesterday, so I figured it was a good time to write about rain gear.

First of all, the most important thing is to cover your seat if they are calling for rain. They sell a thing, but really, just grab a plastic bag. I keep a few in my desk drawer and if the skies darken, I dash down and tie one on. I have a gel seat, so if it gets wet, it’s bad news.

4.jpg
(Source)

Secondly, get rain gear. Then, keep it with you, just in case. I really like the Marmot Precip, which you can fit in a small stuff sack. The PreCip has pit zips and is very lightweight, I also love it for running. Several other companies make similar jackets, so just look for something with pit zips, zipper pockets, and that compresses really small. You also want to make sure you get a jacket in a bright color – now is not the time to go for basic black or a nice neutral – you want to be seen, especially in the rain.

I do not own rain pants, but my husband does. I usually opt to walk if it’s raining when I leave my house, so I only get stuck in freak rainstorms going home and arrive drenched at my house, rather than my office. I do own a pair of Mistral Pants which are great for drizzling weather, and I found on sale, but they’re not super-office-appropriate, so I don’t wear them that often.

You also need fenders. Fenders will keep the rain from splashing onto your pants. They are super-important even if you aren’t riding in the rain.

Thirdly, set up rain alerts on your cell phone so that you know when it is going to rain.

Fourthly, be prepared for your body temperature to drop. On a day when I might not normally need gloves, if it rains, my hands will freeze. Keep a spare pair of gloves in your raincoat pocket.

Fifthly, ride smart. Go slowly, make sure people can see you, and signal everything, and for longer than usual. Take an entire lane even if you normally wouldn’t, especially in a downtown situation where traffic is moving slower than usual anyway.

Anyone else have any tips or gear suggestions for riding in the rain?

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How to Bike Commute When You Don’t Have a Shower

My office doesn’t have a shower. I often have to go to court early in the morning. And around here, summer temps are regularly in the nineties before I even leave for work. A few ideas for avoiding showering and avoiding needing to shower:
1.) Shower before you ride and leave your hair wet. Keep whatever supplies you need to do your hair in your office. This will help reduce your core temperature so you don’t sweat so much. It might also help you avoid helmet hair. I don’t really have any tips for men. Cut your hair short, I guess?
2.) Change clothes when you get to work. Ride in performance wear. If it is extremely hot out, run your shirt under cold water before putting it on. This will keep your core temperature down.
3.) Consider joining a gym near your office that you can shower at. Do not rule out local community colleges or universities, some of these have very reasonable prices for community members. Also, consider befriending somebody with office showers or an office gym. It might seem silly to pay $20-30 a month for shower privileges, but you are getting your exercise by riding to work and a gym membership makes that possible.
4.) Go to an over-air conditioned coffee shop or convenience store on your way to work and pick up something with a lot of ice in it so that you can cool down before you get to work.
5.) Ride in a lightweight dress and add a blazer when you get to work. Synthetic knit wrap dresses are great for this because they don’t show sweat and they are flow-y so they are pretty cool.
6.) Get some shower wipes and some dry shampoo. Shower wipes are surprisingly effective.
7.) Apply deodorant before going to bed at night to allow it to sink in more fully.
8.) Use a pannier bag or a front bag/basket to avoid wearing a backpack – back sweat is the worst and grossest part of bike commuting, and you can dramatically reduce your need to shower by avoiding having something heavy on your back.
9.) Ride with a wet towel around your neck to keep your core temp down. (I think I read an article about this a few years ago.)

Anyone else have any tips for commuting to work without showering? I don’t really know about wintertime. Or being a man, so if you have tips, please add them in the comments!

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Buying a Bike

So you want to buy a bike – but what do you do?

The first thing I recommend is going to your local bike shop.  Try to go to one that has a good inventory that isn’t pre-built.  Talk to the shop folks about what you are looking for.  If you haven’t ridden a bicycle in 5 years, definitely start by test driving everything.  I was amazed that a bike didn’t have to feel like my childhood mountain bike.  I was surprised that I liked a step-through frame.  I loved 700cc tires.  I liked flared handlebars.

There are a few mistakes that a lot of first time bike-buyers fall for:

  • Prioritizing style.  If I have one more person tell me that they want to get an “awesome vintage looking bike”, I will scream.  I have an awesome vintage looking bike, actually, and I love it, but that was not my priority.  Prioritize comfort, and then if you want a particular color or style, go from there.  Do not sacrifice comfort or functionality to get an aesthetic you want, you will regret it, because you don’t really see yourself on you bike that much and nobody really compliments you on your stylin’ bike.  Maybe other cyclists.
  • Buying a beach cruiser.   If you live at the beach, this is acceptable.  If you do not plan on biking more than 5 blocks, this is acceptable.  If you live near a park and just want to ride your bike on the trails, this is acceptable.  If you plan to ride your bicycle on a road or up or down any kind of hill, keep looking.  Cruisers are fun, but they are not practical.  They do not let you get up to high enough speed in traffic and they do not allow you to take advantage of hills to build momentum.
  • Buying a fixed gear bike.  If you really test ride all of your options and then buy a fixed gear bike, that is totally your decision.  But going to a shop where all they carry is fixed gear bikes and then buying one on your first trip out is a bad choice.  I’ve never ridden a fixed gear bike, I might very well not know what I’m missing.  But try out a beach cruiser, a bike with gears, and a fixed gear bike before you decide.  (Test riding a fixed gear bike is on my list, since I am so sanctimonious about it.)
  • Not knowing how gears work.  Hi, this was me.  My parents taught me how to ride a cruiser, and then bought me a bike with gears and hand brakes.  I had no idea how to use them.  It wasn’t until I met my husband that he taught me how to shift up and down.
  • Buying a heavy bike.  My hybrid commuter bike is extremely heavy and unwieldy.  We used to keep it on the balcony and it was impossible for me to carry.  My road bike is lightweight and I can lift it with one hand.  When you buy a bike, make sure you can pick it up and keep the front wheel stable at the same time.
  • Buying the wrong sized bike.  Even if you are going to buy a bike off Amazon, go to a local bike shop and have them size you for a bike.

What about buying used bikes?  Used bikes are great.  There are probably things that you need to look out for, like making sure the tires are in good condition and the gears are all in good shape, but a bike shop can tune up your bike for less than $100, and the tires aren’t even that expensive to replace, as long as the components are good and not rusted, a used bike can be a great deal.  Make sure you know the street value of the bike – nobody likes feeling like they’ve been had.  The trickiest part about used bikes is sizing, and the fact that many places don’t have that much availability for women.  Some bike tour companies sell their used inventories – Bike and Roll does this as do a number of other bike companies.  If a bike has been a rental, it’s probably been relatively well maintained and is likely pretty durable.  I’ve gotten some dud rental bikes though (could be user error), so be careful, but it’s well worth the long line on sale day to make sure you get a nice bike.

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