Category Archives: Bike

Strength from Cycling

I met Linda Braley on a ride a couple years back. We had just formed the PVC women’s team and I invited her to join us on a ride. She was hooked on the camaraderie of the women’s club and quickly joined and has been a member ever since. She’s been a staple on all the rides and we love her to pieces! (PS I’m the one with the helmet cam. Linda asked that I take the camera for some on-bike video and I think I did a pretty good job. LOL)

Night Riders

Who says you have to stop riding just because the sun has gone down?

Well, that’s what I used to think. Once we reached the point where we didn’t have enough evening daylight for our mid-week afternoon/evening rides they came to an end. Unfortunately so did the fitness until you started hitting the trainer.

This year a club member who grew up in Philly and used to do “night riding” with her club there has organized a night ride with our group.

Last week was the first one but I didn’t go. It was dark and windy. I had gotten home early enough to settle in for the evening and I would be damned if I was going back out on the bike.

This week was different. I had bike commuted to work so my return trip got me home a little later than driving. I was dressed and ready for biking so I didn’t change. The ride departure was also a little earlier, which meant there was less time to settle in. It was also warmer – in the mid 50’s.

I was excited and a little apprehensive, not ridden in the dark much. However, two days earlier I was out on a club ride and heading back when it was getting pretty dark. Surprisingly I felt pretty comfortable with it so I was ready for a full-on night ride.

A small group met at 6:10 to head north to rendezvous with another group 15-20 minutes away and then we headed off as a larger group. There were 11 of us total with a nice mix of men and women. Everyone had at least one head and tail light on. Some of us had two, like me who had a bike mounted front/rear light in addition to a head lamp and rear light on my helmet. Many of us also had reflective clothing on, or additional items for reflection. In short, we were highly visible and I was really surprised at how much we lit up the road.

I found the drivers seemed more courteous as well. I’m sure many of them were more than a little surprised to see a group of hearty, and perhaps a little crazy, cyclists out on an evening ride well after sunset.

We ended up with a 30-mile route and the pace was such that we all stayed together. That’s key so no one gets dropped or left behind in the dark.

Two hours later I arrived back home and thrilled about my first successful night ride and looking forward to next week’s ride with my fellow night riders.

Turning the Corner

We finally turned the corner on the weather. The sun has finally come out and it’s been a great few days!

I managed to commute by bike three days in a row this week – Wednesday through Friday.

Sometimes it seems like so much work to prep a bag, decide what’s best to pack in a messenger bag without getting too wrinkled, and get to work early enough to change, freshen, etc and look presentable for work. I don’t work in an office where it’s casual and being a woman doesn’t make it any easier. Still, I prevailed quite nicely.

My husband even bought a cute commuter bike and also commuted to work by bike this week.

It has felt so good to be back on the bike. I feel like I’ve been off it forever. Many of my fellow cyclists feel the same. It’s been a very dreary spring and hopefully this sunny weather continues for a long stretch.

The 2011 Season in Full Swing

The 2011 cycling season is in full swing. Or at least as much as the weather will allow. A fair bit of rain has prevented a few weekly rides but we are still managing others.

Spring weather in Maine can be hit or miss. I’ve seen 70-80 degree days in early April and also full on snow storms. Such was the case on April first this year with a good 6-inches of heavy wet snow. The up-side, if there is an up-side, to those types of storms is that the snow is virtually gone the following day.

Last week we gathered for a Wednesday night ride. The afternoon was filled with glorious sun and blue sky. By the time we gathered to ride it was overcast, windy, and snow falling from the sky. But that didn’t stop the 16 or so women who showed up to ride. The adage, “If you don’t like the weather in Maine, just wait a minute” held true because about 20 minutes into the ride it was sunny and warm again.

Regardless of the up and down temps and precipitation, we are officially on the road. Most of the roads have seen at least one pass of a street sweeper, so it was time to pull the Aegis off the trainer, swapping out the trainer tire for a road tire, and prepare it for the road.

Yup, it’s officially spring and the biking season is upon us. We’ll still be faced with cool weather wardrobe decisions for a few weeks yet. You’ll hear no complaints from me – I’ll be outside on my bike.

Winter in Maine 2011

It’s officially winter in Maine. We are one snowstorm into the season that arrived last weekend. Since then the temperatures have been moderate, resulting in a lot of melting and clearing of the snow from that storm.

The new year ushered in temperatures in the upper 40’s and lower 50’s. I only managed a few miles on the mountain bike to run an errand on New Year’s day when temperatures were the warmest. Today I managed a better, longer ride for about 25 miles with a friend. There is still a ton of wet sand on the sides of the roads from overnight showers and I found myself riding in that area of the road a lot, so my bike ended up looking like this when I arrived home:

Of course since it’s basically just sand it doesn’t take much to hose off.

So far it’s turning out to be a decent winter. I still have my fingers crossed for a year like last year with very little snow so the roads stay clear enough for biking outside during the off season.

How to Clean Your Bike Like a Pro

I’ve been lazy about cleaning my bike lately. In fact it’s been a while since I’ve given it a thorough cleaning.

Eventually it will need to be done and when that happens I’ll be using these techniques we saw from a professional mechanic at the Grand Prix Cycliste in Quebec City. I loved the use of the paintbrush and cut off water bottle to clean with what I presume to be degreaser. We watched him use this technique while cleaning the entire drivetrain and brakes. (Unfortunately we only caught the tail end of the cleaning on the video.) It seemed fast and very effective, though I doubt mine will get cleaned quite as quickly. I’m not a pro!

Fall Fitness Fade

A friend of mine from high school, who now lives in Colorado and also huge into cycling, dubbed this time of year as Fall Fitness Fade. Boy is it ever!

I’m always amazed at how busy the summers are. Though when I look at it, in reality it’s busy because of so much biking. Then the heat sets in and I find it’s too hot to bike and we (hubby and me) tend to find shelter in the coolness of the house, in front of the fan.

As crazy busy as the summers are, the fall season is much worse. I know I’m not alone when I say this. We always think that when fall rolls around we’ll be back into an easier routine, with many having kids back in school, and everyone gets back on a schedule. But ask anyone that has kids and running to school open houses, shuffling them off to soccer, football or various other activities, and you’ll learn that fall is even crazier than summer! Many of my friends find it hard to fit in any decent ride time after Labor Day.

Fall also marks cyclocross season! I think I actually spend more time at cyclocross races than on my bike this time of year. It’s wicked fun and it allows me and my husband to do something together. It also provides a great opportunity for my husband to hone his photography skills.

Between days spent at various ‘cross races and fading daylight in the evening to prohibit long mid-week rides, it’s no wonder my fitness fades. I just wish it wouldn’t fade quite as quickly as it does.

It took advantage of some beautiful, warm days this week by taking my bike to the office to catch some lunchtime rides to help keep my legs going a bit. Though it didn’t seem to make much of a difference during the ride with the ladies this morning. I really struggled to keep up in a few places and when I did get dropped I couldn’t push to catch back on. My top power is just gone. I do realize that it’s a normal progression and it’s time to back off in order to rebuild but it’s extremely frustrating to me, given the competitive type of person I am.

I take comfort in knowing that this was the best season I’ve ever had on the bike. My fitness greatly improved and I rode faster and stronger than I have in the past. I anticipate a proper base building period this off season in hopes of being stronger yet again next season. I just need to embrace the Fall Fitness Fade, enjoy being on the bike when I can and enjoy the cool, crisp air and the bright foliage, knowing that it’s all part of the process.

(View during a recent lunch time ride.)

Vehicular Cycling

Today was another spectacular day to velo-commute. However, an interesting thing happened to me on the way home tonight. Let’s start with a little background.

I leave my house by 6:45 am. At that time there is little traffic. Still, as a commuter I follow the rules of the road. That said, I do take a few liberties when needed.

For example, I know the cycle of the lights pretty well. I know that if I’m at a light and there is no traffic moving in my direction at the light then it’s not going to change to let me through. So if I’m there through at least one cycle and still no traffic I’ll sneak through on someone else’s green light but only when it’s safe and when I know I won’t impede traffic or disrupt the flow of the intersection.

I will sometimes roll slowly through a stop sign after a car has passed and no one is waiting to get through.

However, during the afternoon commute, when there is much more traffic to contend with, I follow the rules implicitly. I stop at stop lights, behind traffic as if I am also a vehicle. I stop at stop signs and wait until it’s my turn, just like any other car.

So now I get to the interesting part of my story. I’m at an intersection where there are about 10 cars waiting to go through. It’s the less busy way through the intersection so the light isn’t as long as it is for cross traffic.

At this point I have two choices. 1.) Ride up along side of traffic to the light so I move in front of everyone or 2.) stay behind the last car and wait as a car would do. I chose the latter because it’s the right thing to do.

As the traffic in my lane starts to flow I get on and pedal easy, though I move to the right as I’m trained to do on a bike. Herein lies my mistake.

The car behind me sees an opportunity to move up past me, even though we are both moving slowly to the next light cycle. I really couldn’t believe this was happening though I shouldn’t have been surprised.

So as she slowed (yes, it was a woman) I kept moving and pulled in front of her and centered myself in the lane so she couldn’t do that again.

Here I was trying to do the right thing, acting as a vehicle, and she was going to crowd me out for it. Sheesh!

I know it seems like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth with the two scenarios for vehicular cycling. But they are indeed very different. If I thought that I could move through the intersections normally, as a car would, on my commute to work I absolutely would. With the lack of traffic it would be almost impossible to arrive at work within a reasonable time.

So what would you do in both of these situations? Do you encounter these same issues on your commute, or on your training rides when getting through intersections?

Today’s Commute

This was how I got to work today. It’s really the first time I’ve been on a MTB. I usually ride my road bike and use a messenger bag for all my “stuff”.

Using a MTB might be easier for a commute because it’s a little more solid especially when using panniers. (It also might give me a way out, into the shoulder, if I’m run off the road by a motorist.)

Last night I decided to take some time to put on the Quattro pedals we bought for it a while back, put the cleats on a spare set of shoes, and also put on the quick release rack. I pumped up the tires so it would be ready to roll.

I think I was a little excited about riding a different bike for my commute because I was up before my alarm. Instead of dawdling, I got up and ready to leave a little earlier, knowing the bike would probably be a bit slower. Also I wanted to stop off at the store on my way to pick up some fruit for snacks. I knew I would be able to manage it easily with the panniers on the bike.

Today was really a test for me in that I want to commute more by bike. Sometimes an errand or the amount of things I need to transport is a limiting factor. If I can manage ways around that with a different bike then there are fewer excuses not to velo-commute.

Out of My Comfort Zone

The past week I’ve really gotten out of my comfort zone.


I know a fair number of triathletes. While I certainly don’t aspire to do a triathlon, I am curious about swimming. Not open water swim, just pool swimming.

Mind you, I do know how to swim. Thanks to my parents my sister and I had swim lessons for many summers when we were kids. I can get from point A to point B. What I can’t do is swim really well, or fast. There is really no reason for me to do so but I would like to swim as a means of cross training and to build some upper body strength.

I have a friend who is participating in the Trek Across Maine with me. As a fundraising event, she decided to hold a swim clinic. She is an avid swimmer that also used to teach swimming. Anyone wanting to participate in the 2-hour clinic was asked to make a donation to her Trek Across Maine. So, a good cause and something I wanted to learn how to do.

I have not been swimming in over 10 years. I thought, “Piece of cake. I can do this.” Just like riding a bike. But I was surprised at how freaked out I was. I mean I was really uncomfortable. Even though we went through some instructions and worked some drills, I focused mainly on the basics and just getting comfortable in the water.

By the end of the class I was thoroughly pooped. Swimming is HARD! Much harder than I anticipated. And when I would swim a lap, I couldn’t make it all the way to the end without stopping. Partly I think it was because I’d lose my rhythm. That other part was because I just wasn’t used to it. (See above – swimming is HARD!)


I have signed up for several Time Trials this year. I decided early on this was going to be more of a focus this year. I convinced my husband to by me a snazzy time trial helmet for Christmas.

Recently my friend, Marianne, gave me her aerobars. She used them last year to win the Maine Time Trial Series. Perhaps they will bring me a little luck!

With my first time trial only a few weeks away it was time to get out and practice on them. That took a bit getting used to. I felt so unstable. I also felt like I was veering more to the left than keeping a straight line. After several miles I finally became accustomed to the positioning and well as keeping my upper body relaxed. I do this in my normal position on the bike but not in a aero position. If I tightened my upper body even a little I could tell the difference and felt how unstable I became. So it was important for me to focus on being relaxed.

During my practice session I wasn’t focused on speed, but more on positioning and the feel of  the aerobars. Later on in the ride, when I became more comfortable, I was able to pull up my speed a bit, hit bumps that I was afraid to ride over initially, and also tackle a few descents in the aero position. (But nothing too long, my route was pretty flat, luckily.)

It was good to get out of my comfort zone with these new experiences. Now I just have to continue to do a little bit of both so that they become comfortable to me.