Tag Archives: Cycling

Bibs, shorts and apps. Bike stuff.

As of May 19, I have ridden a total of 125 outdoor training miles in preparation for Ride the Rockies next month. Abysmal spring weather has dampened what is generally the time for accumulating base miles. However, I’ve been in this situation before, and because I’ll be in Denver next week for my pre-RtR Colorado Camp with my friend Sue, I know I’ll pick up more miles. I’m not going to put a number as to how many, I just hope the weather allows us to ride.

In the spirit of my pre-RtR days, I bought some new stuff because I haven’t purchased bike gear in years and more importantly, if I’m on the saddle and climbing, comfort is a must.

One thing about Ride the Rockies is, whatever you begin the day wearing, you will strip off by the end. So I highly recommend a handy little app called, What To Wear Cycling. Pretty obvious, but it uses GPS so you get your weather conditions. Yesterday morning, I checked it and reluctantly pulled out the leg warmers and full finger gloves. Day 2 of RtR is Grand Mesa, and I vividly remember starting with gloves, leg and ear warmers and jackets, peeling stuff off as we climbed and quickly redressing at the summit which was around 30 degrees. It was strange as I descended in mid-June and immediately headed for hot tea at the food station.

I also bought new bike shorts. I like Pactimo and bought several of the same pair for my 2012 ride. I still wear them, but this time I tried bib shorts. I see so many women, particularly triathlon women wearing them, so I figured I’d give them a shot. They are very comfortable and a little more streamlined then shorts. I like the almost girdle or Spanx compression too. However, I do not get how they can be worn on long distance rides. Seriously. Guys have the advantage here. I know I will not want to take off my shirt and nearly get naked in a tiny porta-potty each time I have to pee. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’re making the trip, but I did get new Pactimo shorts which I’m packing. Ladies, do you wear bib shorts when riding long distances?

The last thing I got was a new Gore Bike Wear Women’s Cycling jacket. I bought my first Gore jacket in 2004 and I still wear it today. It is by far the most durable, convenient and practical piece of clothing I own. It has an inside back pocket and strap so I can stuff it up into itself and wear it as a belt. It also has zippered sleeves which is tremendously helpful when riding long distance. I searched all winter for an updated version but sadly, couldn’t find it. Does Gore want us to wear more of their clothing? What I bought is useful in wind and rain, but it doesn’t provide any the features as my original. It doesn’t even have pockets! What’s the point of a CYCLING jacket if you can’t put your full-finger gloves away when the temps warm up?

I’ll probably wear it in case it rains at Red Rocks when we see The Decemberists.

The Blessing of a Red Light

Author Wendy Mogel, author of  The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and The Blessing of a B Minus is on to something. The gist of her parenting books basically argue that it is acceptable for children to be imperfect and that we are doing a disservice as parents by removing obstacles and failures from our kids’ lives. It is healthy, natural and a blessing to experience some defeat. She’s saying, which is absolutely true, that the whole “Everyone’s a winner” mentality is not real life. So get over it. But this is for the most part, a bike blog; I shall now conclude  the parenting metaphors for the day.

I’ve ridden in many assorted groups, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two types of cyclists. One group, when approaching a yellow or red light, refuses to unclip and gently bobbles, balances and quickly removes the self-inflicted wedgies while waiting for the light change. The highest priority is the moment the light turns green they can haul ass, reassert themselves as alpha leaders and continue to surge and make those folks in the back feel like Duncan yo-yos.

The second group are my comrades and fellow bike slackers. As I approach a yellow light, a warm flow of relief encapsulates me as I know I can not only slow down and unclip, but chug some water and take some nice deep breaths. Because we all need a recovery, and I’ll take it wherever I can. On my club ride this week, I ride my 45 second pull at 22 m.p.h. as long as I obtain my 1 minute 15 sec draft. There were 3 riders. Now some of those red light haters might say, “I don’t need no stinkin’ recovery, and I can pull for HOURS.” I say baloney! It’s usually the people who say they don’t need it who quietly thank God and traffic they finally get a break.

While my Tuesday Night B Ride might qualify as a recovery ride for some, it is not for me. The ride gets drop-ins from guys who can recover with a 19.5 m.p.h. ride because they are Super Riding A Dudes. For me, it is an interval workout ride because 19.5 is really fast. This week, I finally felt that I had my first respectable ride so far. My first B ride stunk as my average speed was around 16ish. I could barely climb the faux flats at a decent clip and needed the group to allow me to catch up. It was more a D ride than any other letter, and I didn’t go home feeling like king of the pack. But this past Tuesday, I respected myself on the ride.

So really? It’s ok to breathe deep and drink water. It’s ok if you’re not the fastest person on the ride, and those red lights are allowing you to catch up. It’s ok to be a B rider rather than an A. Having realistic and attainable goals make those moments of achieving them really satisfying. I am happy with myself as long as I improve and don’t think the entire team needs an “everyone’s a winner” ribbon. Then again, I’m a Generation X’er. Are we still called slackers? I’ll let you know at the next red light.

Riding Outdoors? Not me. Not yet.

I confess. I have no athletic goals for 2014. Well, that’s not exactly true. I’ve signed up for some things, but I haven’t been “training” specifically for anything. Nada. Nil. Nothing. Honestly, after leaving Ride The Rockies early last summer due to my mom’s battle with Multiple Myeloma, I’ve been slightly distracted. It’s amazing what happens when a family member takes ill. Everything else falls by the wayside, including caring for myself. Last fall, when my mom was hospitalized, I had been running 7 miles and had signed up for the Soldier Field 10 Mile Race for May 2014 and hoped to beat my last run from 2011. Well, I’m currently building my base back up at 2-3 miles because I haven’t run regularly since October. Everyone says you have to take care of yourself when you’re in a crisis mode for someone else, but that is easier said than done. I could not even think about myself when my mom was in the hospital. It felt selfish and a waste of time since I could be with her and talk to doctors. But it’s true. You have to take care of yourself because you need to be strong for the person you’re caring for. In December, I started riding on the trainer indoors and running on the treadmill but nowhere near the amount or regularity one needs to adequately participate in an race.

So what did I do? I signed up with my husband to ride a century for Tour de Cure for the American Diabetes Foundation. I get an early season goal to achieve and raise money for a good cause that effects 26 million people. SO—if you’d like to contribute to Tour De Cure please follow this link http://tour.diabetes.org/site/TR?px=9905620&pg=personal&fr_id=9382&s_src=email_tour&s_subsrc=autoresponder-forward. I truly appreciate it.

My new winter toy. A review of the TdF pro-form spin bike

Chicago barely has any snow and temperatures don’t seem to be heading sub zero anytime soon, but, it is nonetheless “off season” for cycling enthusiasts. I wistfully sigh reading people’s cycling reports and viewing pictures of warm sun and bike friendly scenery as we have an abundance of grey sky and hibernating landscape. And did I mention? I hate indoor riding.

After years of spinning and compu-training, a friend suggested I try her Tour de France Proform indoor spin bike. I hesitated. Firstly, I didn’t want to support any product Lance Armstrong touted and secondly, how would this spin bike be different from spin classes? I guess Mr. Armstrong isn’t affiliated with pro-form any longer if he ever was, and this was no ordinary spin bike. So here’s a review of the 2012 TdF Pro-form bike for those looking for an inside alternative designed to push you through the winter blahs.

I’m not going to lie for $1495.00, it’s not a health club industrial strength piece of of equipment. I turned the bike around in my basement and somehow broke the pedal mechanism and required a warranty covered service call. Because it’s motor operated, the components are protected leaving me to wait for a service call. The flywheel is in the back and the resistance is electronically powered rather than manually activated with the knob the user turns. The bike isn’t built for the abuse health club equipment typically takes, so you need to be careful. I recommend buying an extended warranty because just by using it it’s going to require some kind of maintenance. The motor is in the back and I placed a towel over it to absorb any sweat that may fall. This was my friend’s suggestion since she shorted the motor from sweating into it. A towel over the back solved this.

My last criticism has yet to be resolved. The bike comes with a free year subscription to ifit.com. This allows you to globally access maps and ride other routes aside from the pre-progammed TdF stages. You can custom routes and ride “outdoors” anywhere in the world. It also tracks your miles, calories, time, etc. Sounds cool right? I mapped out one of my typical routes to maintain my legs all winter. Sadly, I have been unable to access ifit.com since I got it. This has been very frustrating. I replaced my home’s modem to a high speed access one and spent hours talking to technical support. I just received a new console for the bike on Friday and am waiting for a service guy to come out and replace it. Maybe I just have bad luck, or maybe I just got a lemon. I don’t know. If this problem is common, they should really reconsider using that aspect to promote the features of the bike, because it just doesn’t work. That being said, as soon as the counsel is replaced, I’ll let you know what happens!

Now that my frustrations have been purged, let’s talk about the good stuff! The bike contains 22 preprogrammed stage rides used from the tour at some point. They vary from 35 minutes to about an hour. I like to combine stages so I ride for an hour at least. Lately, I haven’t had much time to work out, so even if I only have 30-45 minutes, I can get a good ride in that time. The rides are climbs and descents; no time trials. The bike tilts forwards and backwards as this happens which is kind of bizarre and probably unnecessary to the workout, but attempts to mimic the experience of a ride. The grades max out at 20% up and down, but at this point, the highest grade I’ve tackled is 12% and that’s plenty. If I were doing Ride the Rockies again this summer (I’m undecided at the moment), this is a great way to work on climbing. I suppose I could achieve something close to this in a group setting, but I like doing this in my own time and space. Sure I could change gears and inclines, but if your goal is to improve, I find leaving it on the factory set incline and pop the gears up a bit, it’s quite challenging.

The console pad tracks your power (watts), calories, rpm, heart rate zones, include, gear and speed. Even if I bought a compu-trainer with a power tap, this bike is cheaper because my husband can also use it to his preferences. If we both bought power taps, etc., it would’ve been well over $2,000, a hefty chunk of change. Since I am a numbers geek regarding training, I like to see all the ways I can measure myself and keep myself honest.

The Tour de France stages are really fun. The climbs are challenging and there are many routes to choose. I bump up the gears on the downhills otherwise, there’s not much benefit other than spinning at a higher rpm. The amount of uphills outweight the down, so you’re forced to work.

Again, I would like to use my own maps and work outs to do some threshold training which I haven’t done yet this winter. I’m hoping by the end of January, all the components will work and I can report back happy.

Aside

I had dinner last week with cycling friends and between the wine and tiramisu, a friend lamented that feminism was to blame for her inability schedule time to ride her bike. My ears perked up since I sometimes ponder the … Continue reading

First group ride sucked, but the post ride nap was nice

“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.”

Seneca
Roman Philosoper, Statesman

After much deliberation with both sides of my brain, we (I) have come to the conclusion that yesterday’s first group ride fail was not due in part to my legs, or lack of endurance or poor cycling. It was due to the angel and devil residing on my shoulders during a semi-pull into the wind. It was due to being intimidated by the other people in club, not knowing anyone very well, feeling like if I drop off then I’m a loser (I dropped off). It was my head getting the best of me.

Hindsight is a bitch, but literally removing myself from the pack and viewing the gap that formed behind me, was hindsight a little too late. I keep thinking I should’ve tried to stay on the back of the pack and I slowed down too much. Realizing I could’ve just created my own gap and someone would’ve eventually rotated over and closed it makes me want to kick myself in the pants.

How do you stop negative thoughts from taking over? How do you get yourself mentally to a place so you don’t screw up all the people behind you. People say cycling is an individual sport, but when you ride in a club, it is anything but individual. It’s all about communication, alertness, and having the stuff to keep up.

Oh well. There’s always next Sunday.


Aside

Bike bling. You know what I’m talking about. When you’re riding on a trainer indoors, and the person spinning next to you is going 3 times as fast (of course, neither of you are going anywhere, but I digress), with … Continue reading