Road biking, dirt road riding on Frankenbike, tandem riding, group riding, time trialing, randonneuring - I love to ride, and I love to write. As I've traveled along on two wheels, I've learned one thing: Expect Adventure. Join me on the journey!

Betty Jean Jordan

Friday, December 30, 2016

Single Speed

Like most people, my cycling life began on a single-speed bicycle.  I got my first bicycle for Christmas when I was six years old.  I was so excited!  It was red and blue with a banana seat and streamers at the ends of the handle bars.  It came with training wheels, which I used for a while until I was ready to try riding without them.  Of course, I fell plenty of times in the beginning, but eventually I got the hang of that balancing feeling.  It’s still a thrill!

A few years later, I got my big sister’s old bike.  It was a single-speed, too, but it had larger wheels and more grownup geometry.  I rode that bicycle everywhere, at least within a few-mile radius.  I went to friends’ houses, explored unknown streets in the next neighborhood over, and worked up the nerve to ride down the steep embankment next to my elementary school.  Every kid should get to have that feeling of freedom and independence.

My sister moved on to a three-speed bike.  Sometimes I tried to keep up with her on the hand-me-down single-speed.  I remember riding to a neighborhood farther away than I had ever ridden by myself.  She rode seemingly effortlessly up the hills and had to wait at the top for me as I lumbered up on my old clunker.  Our whole ride was less than 10 miles, but I had a glimpse of something bigger.  Even then I knew that a bicycle is the key to great adventures.

My most significant single-speed experience was during the Race Across America (RAAM) last year.  I was ready to start my first shift, waiting for the tag from my teammate.  Off I went!  I shifted gears, and…


My Di2 (electronic) shifters decided they didn’t want to work, even though my bicycle had had a thorough tune-up before RAAM and I had fully charged the shifters before the race started.  Right then, there wasn’t anything I could do other than ride my best with the single gear.  Fortunately, it was a good one, and we were in the flat desert.  I simply went into TT mode and channeled two of my good cycling buddies.  One was Jeff, a.k.a. “Stony,” who mashes the pedals in a high gear, putting the rest of us in the Stony Grinder.  The other was Chad, time trialist extraordinaire, who has won several state TT championships.  Although I rode single speed just fine for the first two shifts, I was extremely grateful to get my shifters fixed quickly under rather fortuitous circumstances, and I completed the race on my Marin without further incident.  (See my monstrous ride report from 7/3/15 for more details.)

Since RAAM, I have had other problems with my Di2 shifters.  Some have had easy fixes, but others have baffled even the Shimano rep as well as my bike mechanic.  I think that overall, it’s a good technology – hey, the pros use it – but I seem to be at the tail end of the bell curve on experiencing difficulties.  Everyone else I know with Di2 really likes it.

My most recent Di2 repair was in October.  I thought maybe it was fixed once and for all, but within a week it wasn’t working again.  I’ve concluded that I have a lemon system.  My plan is to swap over to a mechanical system, but in the meantime, for road riding I’m exclusively using my Trek endurance bike, which has mechanical shifters.

Today I rode at lunchtime.  I took off on my bicycle and tried to shift gears – nothing.  Only then did I realize I had brought my Marin to work.  Am I the absent-minded professor, or what?  My Marin and my Trek hang right next to each other on the garage wall, but still…

What's even crazier is that I checked the air in my tires before I loaded my bike into my car this morning.  I commented to Robert that the pressure was surprisingly low, about 50 psi.  Even though it had been several days since I rode my Trek and the weather has gotten colder, I wouldn't expect that much of a pressure drop.  You'd think that would have been a clue that I had loaded the wrong bike!  At least I had a lovely single-speed ride.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Reindeer Games

Today was Peach Peloton day.  Since it's Christmas Eve, we did a shorter ride, 58 miles instead of the nearly 100 that we probably would have done otherwise.  We also played some reindeer games, courtesy of Robert, our ride leader.  He also got into the spirit by having me tie some ribbon onto his helmet.

About 16 people showed up for the ride, a good turnout, especially for Christmas Eve.  Our Georgia Neuro team got to wear our new kits, which came in just in time for Christmas.  I wore my new bib knickers and long-sleeved jersey.  Usually, I shy away from bib-style bottoms on Peach Peloton because unlike the guys, who can speed pee, I have to take off my top layers to pull down the bib straps.  My bib knickers did, in fact, turn out to be a liability at the pee break about an hour into our ride.  That's because my new jersey was harder to get off and on than I expected.  Its forearms are tighter than on my previous jerseys.  (Or maybe I'm turning into Popeye.)  I struggled to get all my gear back on as the guys rode past my hidey hole.  Van noticed I was lagging and was nice enough to hang back and pace me back to the group.

Maybe it was a good thing that I had to work to get back on.  It warmed me up for the first reindeer game, which began immediately afterwards.  It was a team time trial (TTT).  Before the ride, Robert had designated two teams of three.  One of the original designees turned back early, and so I took his place.

Each team had to stay together and could draft only each other, not the other team.  The remaining riders rode behind the two teams and watched.  The TTT lasted about three miles.  My teammates were Chad and Chris.  The other team included Bill, Brian, and Dale.  It was a close race.  They pulled ahead, and then we did.  It went back and forth several times.  I took only a couple of 10-second pulls.  I wasn't as strong as Chad and Chris, but I could draft really well.  The end was at the top of a small climb.  Bill pulled it out for the other team and led them to victory just ahead of us.  It was fun, even if my team didn't win.  It was also a fantastic workout.

I forgot to pack a Clif Bar, but fortunately, Robert had let me have one of his bars in the parking lot before the ride.  Recently, he ordered us a variety pack of bars that we hadn't tried before.  They are savory flavors, a seemingly nice change from the sweetness of so much bike food.  Last week during Peach Peloton, I tried a coconut curry bar.  It was OK but nothing to write home about.  Today I had a pizza marinara bar.  It tasted like a Chef Boyardee pizza from a kit - that hadn't been cooked yet.  Blargh.

I could tell that I burned a lot of matches on the TTT, but I continued comfortably enough by hanging at the back of the peloton.  However, when the second reindeer game, another TTT, started about half an hour later, I was toast.  Two different teams of three raced that one, including the strongest riders in the group, mostly Cat 1 and 2 guys.  No way could I hang on.  So, I just kept riding steadily on the familiar roads.

As LTO (less than optimal) as the pizza marina bar was, I'm glad I ate it.  Without that fuel, I really would have been hurting.  Dale also came off the back.  He knew that I was behind him, and so he rode slowly enough for me to catch him.  That was really nice of him to wait for me.  I rode as hard as I could, but my legs felt like rubber.  No wonder: at that point we had ridden two hours, and my normalized power was about 82% of threshold.

Finally, Dale and I made it back to the parking lot.  Robert and I wished the few remaining riders a Merry Christmas and headed for lunch at Barbarito's.  I inhaled a California burrito.  As Robert drove us home, I fell asleep.  It was that impossible-to-resist, super fatigued sleep that sometimes hits me after a hard workout.  I slept in the car for a while longer when we got home.  When I finally woke up, I don't think I had changed position the whole time.

Reindeer games are fun.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The 12 Days of Christmas - jSpin Style

Last night I substitute taught at jSpin because Robert had a business meeting. It was our annual Christmas spin.  What a bummer that Robert couldn't be there because it's our most fun class of the year.
We have several traditions.  For example, people wear festive attire.  I wore my Oscar the Grouch jersey because it's green, and Oscar looks like a cousin of the Grinch.  I wore a Santa hat, too.  Others wore antlers, jingle bells, and even a tutu.  Additionally, we always have that Southern party staple - cheese straws.  Joel served as this year's elf, walking around and passing the cheese straw plate among the class members.  Last but certainly not least, it's the one class each year when we have adult beverages in our water bottles.  I planned to have vodka and cranberry juice but discovered yesterday morning that Robert and I are out of vodka.  Thus, I substituted coconut rum, which was quite tasty with cranberry juice.  Other class members had beer, various vodka cocktails, or wine.  Louise discovered that our spin bikes are ideally suited to hold a wine glass: 

 The playlist included a bunch of my favorite Christmas music:

·         The 12 Days of Christmas by Straight No Chaser (This is a fantastic a capella singing group.  If you haven't heard them, check them out, especially this song.)

·         Carol of the Bells from "A Winter's Solstice IV" by various Windham Hill Artists

·         You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch by Thurl Ravenscroft

·         Hark! The Herald Trumpets Sing by Mannheim Steamroller

·         Santa Train by Patty Loveless

·         A Christmas Song by Jethro Tull

·         Here with Us by Joy Williams

·         Gagliarda by Mannheim Steamroller

·         Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow by Jethro Tull

·         Santa Claus Is Back in Town by Dwight Yoakam

·         Wassail, Wassail by Mannheim Steamroller (When I told the class the name of the song, Lynne asked, “Is there a song called Vodka, Vodka?)

·         Bluegrass, White Snow by Patty Loveless

·         Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt

·         Lo How a Rose E’Er Blooming by Mannheim Steamroller

·         Variations on the Kanon by Pachelbel by George Winston

·         Pat a Pan by Mannheim Steamroller

I devised a workout based on the 12 days of Christmas.

On the 12th day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...a 12-minute warmup

On the 11th day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...11 sets of standing flats; 10 seconds each with 10-second rests between

On the 10th day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...10 lords a leaping, i.e. 10 jumps

On the 9th day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...9 ladies dancing, i.e., 9 stomps

On the 8th day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...8 spin-ups; 15 seconds each with 15-second rests between

On the 7th day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...7 swans a swimming. Hold your head completely still while you pedal.  It’s pretty tough to do, and it really works your quads.  10 seconds each with 10-second rests between

On the 6th day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...6 geese a laying, i.e., 6 sets of hovering, like you’re laying an egg; 30 seconds each with 30-second rests between

On the 5th day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...a 5-minute climb

On the 4th day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...4 calling birds.  I got 4 volunteers to be calling birds.  Each called out what we would for the next minute for 4 successive minutes, e.g., climb, high cadence, low cadence, etc.

On the 3rd day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...3 French hens.  This was the highlight of the evening!  I made up a spin move in honor of 3 French hens: high cadence for 30 seconds (running around like a chicken with its head cut off), followed by 30 seconds of flapping our wings and making chicken noises. The class actually did it! Three sets! I had the best seat in the house, looking out at everyone from the instructor’s position.  I love to laugh, and it’s been a while since I had one that good.

On the 2nd day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...2 turtle doves.  Well, actually more like turtles, i.e., 2 minutes of low cadence

On the 1st day of Christmas, my spin instructor gave to me...a 1-legged drill with each leg; 30 seconds each leg

We purposely take it easier during our Christmas jSpin due to the festivities, but we actually got a semi-workout this year.  I had fun substitute teaching, but I hope Robert won't have to miss next year's Christmas jSpin class.  He'll definitely have to bring back the chicken.  Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Silk Sheets 200K Permanent (a.k.a. I’ve Lost My Ever Lovin’ Mind)

What do you get when you cross cycling with a country music song?  You get the Silk Sheets 200K permanent that I did this past Sunday.  I rode 130 miles in 40-degree temperatures in the rain – by myself – and I lost my dog.  Actually, it was quite a good day.  Let me explain.

There are no brevets on the Audax Atlanta calendar for December, and so I have to do a permanent to keep up my ongoing R-12 series.  Between Christmas activities and life’s general chaos, it was a little tricky to figure out when I could do a permanent this month.  A Saturday would be my first choice, even if I would have to miss Peach Peloton, but that wasn’t feasible because of several other commitments.  So, I scheduled a permanent for this past Sunday.  Some of my rando buddies originally planned to join me, but because of Sunday’s less-than-optimal weather forecast, they all bailed on me and rode Saturday instead.  I can’t blame them.

Sunday also worked well with my schedule because of Henry.  Henry is the greyhound that Robert and I have been fostering for the last few months.

Robert and I went into it promising ourselves that we wouldn’t fail fostering this time, i.e., adopt him ourselves.  We almost succumbed.  In fact, I had thought to myself that if Henry weren’t adopted by the end of November, I would ask Robert if we could adopt him as my Christmas present.  However, a few weeks ago, a family saw Henry on the Southeastern Greyhound Adoption webpage and wanted to meet him.  They have four children, and one of the boys particularly wanted a greyhound.  They live in Marietta and were traveling to Orlando for Thanksgiving.  Henry and I met them at High Falls State Park as they headed south.  It went great – of course they wanted to adopt Henry!  This past weekend was our first opportunity to finalize the adoption.  Since I was coming to Sandy Springs anyway for the permanent, I asked if they would meet me at the IHOP where my ride started.  They graciously agreed to the early hour.  I was sad to see Henry go, but it helps to remember how happy the boy looked as he ran around High Falls State Park with Henry.

With Henry on his way to his new home, I finished getting ready for my ride.  I went inside the IHOP to get a Coke to go and the necessary receipt to document my ride start.  One of the workers was just finishing a shift.  He was very jovial and asked somewhat incredulously if I was about to ride.  When I said yes, he said that was great and gave me some encouraging words.  Then he looked at my legs, clad in my warmest insulated bib tights, and said that my legs looked like parentheses.  That’s a new one!  We both laughed, and he gave me a high five.  What an upper to get me rolling in the cold wetness!

Sunday’s weather turned out to be as miserable as predicted.  I was determined to make the best of it, however.  I dressed pretty well.  My fingers and toes did get cold, but I managed.  The hardest part was having to stop to go to the bathroom.  I usually shy away from bib shorts or tights because I have to take off my upper layers to get the bib straps off.  However, being by myself, I figured that it was worth the extra warmth of my bib tights even if it took me forever to strip down to my base layer.  Every time I had to take off my rain jacket; my warm, regular cycling jacket; and my jersey.  I also had to take off my gloves because they were too bulky to fit through all my sleeves.  The biggest problem was that after my gloves got wet in the rain, they were quite difficult to put back on.  Furthermore, as my fingers got colder throughout the day, I had greater difficulty maneuvering the zippers on my three upper layers.  I seemed to have to stop fairly often, too.  That may have been because I wasn’t sweating much, and so my body was utilizing my urinary system more heavily to get rid of waste.

One time I was getting back on my bike and fooling with my dreaded wet gloves.  A nice couple slowed down and asked if I needed any help.  I smiled and said, “I’m just taking a nature break, but thanks for asking!”  They grinned as they drove on.  I think that warmed them up a little as well.

There was a control at a convenience store at mile 74.  I stood inside for a few minutes in the relative warmth, drinking a magic Coca-Cola and eating some Cheez-Its.  A woman in the checkout line said hello and told me that she used to do a lot of cycling.  She commiserated with me on the yucky weather and encouraged me to stay positive – another small boost that made such a difference!  I finished my snack and went back outside to my bicycle.  I was so cold that I started shaking hard.  The woman exited the store, saw my condition, and asked if I was going to be able to keep riding.  I told her that I would be OK once I started pedaling again.  Fortunately, I was.

Throughout the day, traffic was light on most of the roads, and only two cars blared at me unnecessarily.  One time I hit a piece of glass that I didn’t see.  It made a loud clanking noise as it shot off to the side.  I held my breath, hoping that I wouldn’t get a flat.  Thankfully, I didn’t.  Except for the weather, conditions were pretty good.  Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

As I made the return trip on the Silk Sheets part of the route in south Fulton County, I saw Neil, the permanent route owner.  He happened to be in the area and was checking to make sure I was OK.  That was really nice, and Robert sure did appreciate it when I told him later.

I had one more control before the end, a Quick Trip at mile 112.  I looked forward to a bathroom break, particularly the chance wash my fingers under some warm water.  That did make it somewhat easier to put my upper layers back on.

I had also been dreaming of eating or drinking something warm.  Ooo…pizza!  I had one slice, a nice, generous piece.  It was pretty good, too, not like the cardboard junk like in the grocery store freezer case.  The QT workers were so friendly, not minding a bit for me to stand there for a few minutes.  Then I had an inspiration.  They make the pizza right there behind a food order counter.  I asked one of the workers if I could have a pair of disposable food service gloves.  I figured that they would make it easier to put my wet cycling gloves back on.  The worker readily obliged.  The disposable gloves worked like a charm.  As a bonus, my hands were significantly warmer on the remaining 18 miles of my ride.

With the short days of early December, I didn’t have much daylight left.  Fortunately, both of my rear lights stayed strong, and I didn’t even need a front light because I was wearing my low-light, yellow, cycling sunglasses.  I made it back just as it was getting dark.  Lo and behold, there was Neil in the IHOP parking lot!  How nice of him to meet me!  I didn’t even have to mess with sending him my permanent card and receipts.  I told him how well the disposable food service gloves had worked, and he passed along another great trick: put your cycling gloves in a convenience store microwave for a few seconds.

It’s too bad I don’t like coffee because it would have been the perfect time to have some.  However, I do like hot chocolate.  Neil even bought me a cup at the IHOP.  It was delightfully warm and comforting on the drive home.

The next day a friend asked me how I keep riding for so long, especially in the rain and cold.  I thought about it and really couldn’t give him an answer other than I know that I have gotten through tough conditions before.  But you know what really helped me this past Sunday?  So many kind people.  Thank you to Henry’s new family, IHOP Parentheses Man, nature break couple, former female cyclist at the convenience store, QT employees, and Neil!