Tag Archives: biking

A Man Named George

Sometimes it is well worth the time to slow down on the bike.

As I left my office by bike today I noticed a cyclist in the distance with panniers. This is not uncommon around my office – I often see groups of people riding through (always south) loaded down with gear.

I knew I would catch up to him/her and figured I’d slow down, say hi, and chat for a bit.

After saying hello, it was the usual questions. I asked him where he was heading. He replied in an accent, “Oh, Portland, then Portsmouth, and finally New York.”

So I asked him where he was from, expecting to hear Canada. I was wrong. He was from the Netherlands. Okay, now I needed  to know more!

Where was he coming from? Again, assuming Canada was the correct answer, which it was, but there was more. Turns out he had flown to England on June 21st to bike up to Scotland before flying to Iceland and biking around that country then finally flying into Hallifax, Nova Scotia. He explained he was biking to New York and need to be there by September 1st, which was when his wife was flying there to meet him. He was also making this trip solo.

We hit a hill and he said, “Okay, bye-bye.” He was much slower than me on the little hill, and with 50 kilos of gear and on a mountain bike,  you would be, too! I slowed and he caught up to me at the top. I told him that I wasn’t leaving him because I was enjoying chatting with him and if he didn’t mind, I’d like to ride with him for a while. He was agreeable to the idea so we rode and chatted more.

I asked him what the best part of the trip had been. He told me it was Prince Edward Island. I have heard it’s beautiful there and told him that. Then it occurred to me that he didn’t just land in Hallifax and head south. The guy headed north and rode around Nova Scotia before turning towards New York.

His average day is between 100 – 120 kilometers (60-75 miles) a day. Every day. He typically stays at a campground and sleeps in a tent but a few days ago, when I rained a lot, he told me with a sly grin that he stayed in a motel instead.

Soon I got to the intersection where I would normally turn right. Knowing George was going straight, I decided to go straight and continue to ride with him.

We talked about what we did for a living, how many kids we each had (and how many grandchildren he had), etc.  I’m not sure what it is about being on a bike but I can talk to anyone when I’m out biking. Put me in a room of strangers and expect me to mingle and I struggle. When I’m on the bike I can roll up to anyone and strike up a conversation.

He had ridden all over France and Switzerland in his life. I joked that this route must have seemed pretty flat to him after biking in Europe.This trip had been a dream of his for 10 years and here he was making it happen.

As we neared Portland I was already late getting home but decided a detour was in order to show him an efficient way to get him through the city and towards his destination a bit quicker.

We got to a point where I was going to leave him and wanted to get his picture. He was happy to accommodate my request.

My commuting companion, George from The Netherlands

I called my husband to report that I was late, had a good reason for it, and would explain when I arrived home soon. He informed me that he still wasn’t home and would be in about 30 minutes. I made the decision to ride a little further with George to make sure he made his way okay.

Then I realized it would be really nice to take a photo of him in Portland and email it to his family. He also thought this would be a great idea. So we did!

"Greetings from George in Portland, Maine"

It was finally time to say goodbye to George. I wished him well and told him it was a pleasure to join him on part of his journey. I will be thinking of him often over the next few weeks as he continues on his trip and especially on September 1st when his wife arrives to meet him.

Tonight I got home an hour later than normal, took a route I wouldn’t normally take, all because of a man named George. And I was happier for it.

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.

First Bike Commute of 2011

Today was my first velo commute of the year. It was 27 degrees with clear skies and happy, singing birds. I was surprised it didn’t feel very cold.

I love the early morning commute. There is very little traffic so I can enjoy the ride and the beauty of the morning. The ride home will be a bit more hectic but manageable.

It’s amazing how great I feel when I bike to work. I arrive awake and very upbeat.

With gas prices creeping higher and higher, my goal is to commute more by bike this year. Planning it out and setting specific days to commute might help me achieve this goal. It’s too easy to be lazy and drive to work so I need to make an effort to make bike commuting part of my routine.

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.

January Thaw

We are having a bit of a warmup here in the north east. Today’s temps were around 40 degrees. That was reason enough to get out on the bike for a few hours.

I’m actually surprised I didn’t see more riders out on the roads. However, I know of a couple groups that did get out much earlier than my 12:30 departure. Still, I did see a group of 3 and as I went by them I recognized all three. I wish you could sometimes recognize them earlier to you could actually call them by name. Though it is much easier to do that in the summer when most are dressed in the club/team kits.

Before leaving I thought I might be over dressed. I decided to leave the windbreaker I had tucked in my pocket. My husband said I’d probably be fine, pointing out that there would be plenty of shady spots that might feel chilly. He was dead on and I was glad to be dressed as I was in tights, a base layer shirt, and another jersey with wind stopper material. I put on my new Capo wool cap under my helmet because it has flaps I could pull down if my ears were cold. Though at that last minute I exchanged it for the new wool cap my friend, Julie, made for me. It was warm enough where I didn’t need to cover my ears and I really wanted to wear the new cap. (More on this in my next post.)

With the warmer temperatures meant that the roads would be wet from melting and a chance to put the Roadracer fenders to the test. They seemed to work fine. I did try to avoid as many puddles as possible – you never know when a puddle means a crater containing water, which would surely do some damage to the wheels, if not cause a crash. But when I knew it was just a skimming of water on the surface on the road I rode through it. At first I expected to feel that familiar wet feeling seep through to my back side but that didn’t happen. The bike was still a bit filthy when I returned home, though it was nothing that a bucket of water poured over the bike wouldn’t take care of. (I would have used the hose but because it’s been left out there must be ice in it because no water came out when I pulled the trigger on the nozzle.)

Tomorrow won’t be quite as nice – temps are expected to be in the mid-30’s and with a storm moving in later in the day a hefty cloud cover is predicted. There is something to be said for a sunny day this time of year to make a ride outside SO much more enjoyable. I will see if I can get an earlier start for a ride tomorrow. With snow on the horizon it’s best to be out on the road whenever possible. If we were to get hit with some back to back snow storms that could hamper my outside rides for a while.

Next week is a rest week for me. It won’t be completely restful. I am taking a friend to a yoga class Monday and I have spin Wednesday night. There will probably be a light workout in there Tuesday morning. Thursday and Friday I have other things planned so those will be complete days off the bike. Then I’ll spin easy Saturday and Sunday and prepare for more work the following week.

This past week I’ve been feeling a bit brain dead and not sure if it’s because of my 3-week work load. I’ll be thankful for an easy week. I have a friend who trains 2 weeks followed by a rest week every third week. A 4-week block seems to be a bit hard on her. I’m going to make note of how I feel during this next 4 week block, in particular how I feel in that third week, and if I see a repeat of this past week, I just might try the 3-week training block to see if that helps.

A New Low

No, I’m not referring to an aspect of my character, I’m actually referring to the weather. As you are probably aware, most of the nation has been locked into some pretty cold air. I was determined not to let that stop me from getting out on the road for a bike ride today, especially since we haven’t had much in the way of snow in a week so the roads were pretty clear for riding.

My previous low temp I had ridden in was 26-degrees F. Today I managed to surpass that. It was 16 degrees when I left for my ride, but with the wind temp it “felt like” 4 degrees. Ted King, another New Englander,cannot accuse me of being a Sissy Girl. Upon my return it had warmed up to a balmy 22 degrees, feeling like 13.

There were a number of factors that got me out on the road today.

Reason #1: The biggest reason was a chance to ride on the road and not spending 2 hours on the trainer. I can easily do an hour on the trainer but when it comes to doing anything more than that my nether regions get a bit sore and I’m ready to be off the bike.

Reason #2: Capture more video for training on the bike when it’s too snowy to ride. I ended up with 55 minutes of good video and another 40+ minutes where the camera was angled too far to the road making it unusable for my project.

Reason #3: The purchase of a set of Road Racers fenders, made by Crud Products. This came about from a trip to my LBS that told me they really didn’t have any fenders for my bike. They had a basic clip on fender for the rear tire but I wanted something a bit more. So we did some searching and found these. They were extremely easy to install and I wanted to take the bike out on the road to see how they worked. Unfortunately at 15 degrees, it’s too cold for any significant melting to take place so the roads weren’t wet enough to really see how good they are. Still there was plenty of salt on the road to kick up onto the bike and after upon my return there was just a thin layer of salt dust on the bike frame. I suppose it would have been much worse without the fenders.

Here’s a video on attaching them:

The hardest part about preparing for a ride on such a cold day is dressing. My last ride was on 12/28 and it was 45 degrees. I just had on my kit, leg/arm warmers, and a vest. Today was quite a different story and I’ll share with you  how I dressed:

  • Smartwool knee high ski socks under my sidi shoes and booties.
  • Descente wind stopper tights.
  • Descente base layer long sleeved shirt, a Sport Science wool shirt (I recently bought this for cycling and snowshoeing, and it looks good as a casual top, too), and my Castelli jacket.
  • Lobster gloves and a balaclava.

This was the first time I used the balaclava and that might have made a huge difference with my level of comfort. However, since I pulled the front down around my chin for most of the ride, I would probably wear my Capo wool cycling cap next time.

I questioned my tights choice thinking I might be better off with another layer, which isn’t possible with these tights, but they were plenty warm enough. My only issue was that my hind side was a bit cold when it was out of the sun on the way home since that is much thinner than the front that has the windstopper material.

I typically wear two layers of socks but surprisingly didn’t need the extra layer with the Smart Wool socks.

My lobster gloves were a great purchase last spring and I have put them to use on many cool weather rides thus far this year, but they are certainly too warm for anything above freezing because then your hands just sweat too much. A friend of mine recently posted a review of Bar Mitts. They look a bit funky but he says they work really well. I might have considered them if I didn’t already have my lobster gloves.

I stayed primarily to roads I knew were wide and sunny, knowing that there wouldn’t be as much black ice to contend with making for a safer ride. That said, there was a point where I had to ride more into the lane than normal due to some blowing, drifting snow into the road off from a very open field. And I did run into a situation where a guy has shoveled snow from his yard or driveway into the road forcing me to choose my line through it very carefully.

With the ride behind me, I’m so thankful I was able to get out on the road today. Unfortunately my secondary water bottles froze solid making it unusable. I didn’t realize it until I was almost home so I guess I didn’t really need it much. This time of year it’s hard to make yourself drink enough on the bike but I still try to be conscious of it. Next time I might use my insulated Camelbak instead. My other observation about the water bottle was that if you took a drink and then closed the valve it would freeze and make it harder to open. I recommend not closing it if you have the option.

Tomorrow is a day off for me. It’s back on the bike Tuesday and Wednesday. With the upcoming PVC Women’s Clinic Thursday evening, I’ll have to adjust my schedule accordingly to accommodate it. If I can manage an early morning workout I’ll be on the bike. If not, then I’ll take the night off and bike, run or do yoga Friday night.

Christmas Wish List

What’s on your Christmas list this year? (Biking related or not.)

I didn’t have much of a list this year. My husband has done well in buying practically everything I could ever want/need for my cycling addiction. I did have fenders on that list for winter riding, and think Santa might be bringing those for me. He might also be giving me a time trial helmet, that I put on my list rather late.

One of the hot items this year is also an I am Not Ted King t-shirt. I have it on good authority from a very credible elf that one will be under the tree for me.

I think I have actually done better purchasing for my husband this year than in years past. Usually I’m at a loss for gifts for him. He falls into that “hard to buy for” category. Not because he’s difficult, but because he tends to buy what he needs throughout the year. And he’s a bit of a techy so I wouldn’t know where to begin in that department. This year is different. Thankfully I asked him for a list of things he might want and from that list I’ve been able to build on it. (I should have done this before!) I’ll elaborate on this after Christmas, that is if my gifts are well received.

The only thing really on my wish list is the lack of snow through most of January, or at least until after New Year’s. I want to have more road rides before we get too much snow and since I’m on vacation between Christmas and New Year’s, it would be a nice time to ride on snow-free roads. (I suppose I should be asking Mother Nature for this as opposed to Santa.) That said, we did just buy snow shoes for when it does finally snow. To that end, now that we are “prepared for winter” from a recreation standpoint, we probably won’t get much snow. Call it a jinx if you will. And if so, I’ll buy skis next year…

Happy Holidays! I hope you’ve been good enough for Santa to bring you at least one item on your list.

Back on the Bike

I’ve been back on the bike more consistently lately. I’m starting to feel a bit more like myself on the bike, which is a relief because I was concerned I was losing a lot of fitness.

I almost missed out on a ride yesterday due to some thundershowers moving into the area around ride time. However, they never materialized so I headed out for a solo ride.

My timing was such that the CCCP ride group caught me about 200 meters down the street. I tagged on with them for a little while, as the pace was pretty moderate. I hung out in the back so I’d have an out if the pace did pick up, which it didn’t. So I turned off about 3 miles into the ride. I didn’t want the pace of the group ride dictating my training.

While I was on the ride an interesting thing happened to me – I dropped my chain when downshifting. That rarely happens to me. I know it also happened to another guy on the Saturday morning ride that I lead last weekend. He was able to get it back on while riding. Someone else commented that he was impressed he could do that. I told him it was pretty simple: shift up with the front deraileur and pedal.

So when it happened to me, my first thought was, “Oh crap!” Then my second was, “Don’t panic. Upshift and pedal.” I did and it worked like a charm. Of course that put me in a higher gear than I wanted going up the little rise where the chain fell off so I had to stand up to get back onto the group. Luckily they weren’t going that fast so my effort was just enough to put me on the back without redlining.

Hopefully this nice stretch of weather will continue so I can spend some nice days on the bike. If not, I’ll have to resort to riding in the rain. UGH!

Making an Adjustment

When I was out on a ride with a local group Thursday night I had a shifting problem. I could not shift into my large chain ring. I had to resort to reaching down and pulling on the cable that runs from the shifter to the derailieur.

Upon my return home I realized the cable was pretty loose and no doubt from me pulling on it. So I set out tightening it on my own and am happy to report I was able to fix it. During my subsequent rides it shifted flawlessly.

This was a simple fix. I would have normally taken the bike into the LBS for this kind of repair but after taking a bike maintenance class I was confident in my abilities to make this adjustment on my own. Yippee!

Trek Across Maine – Day 3

We were not surprised to wake to wet roads yet again. Breakfast opened early at 5:30 and the hall was quite busy at that hour. I think most people were anxious to get the last day over and get home.

After picking up the bikes and meeting up with friends I threw my leg over the bike to clip in and realized that my crank was spinning freely and not engaging the wheel/cassette. I wasn’t going anywhere.

I urged my friends to go ahead without me as I got in line for a mechanic, who told me I was done. He wasn’t able to help me. There was another mechanic on site but he only had a spare 9-speed wheel and not a 10-speed wheel so that wasn’t going to help either.

My only option was to hop a sag wagon to the first rest stop to receive help there. I can’t believe how disappointed I felt not being able to ride. My heart sank even more after passing a couple friends. I received a text from another friend who said that Jamie of Gorham Bike and Ski was at the first rest stop. I felt a little relief but also knew that if he couldn’t help me it would probably mean a sag ride all the way into Belfast.

To my glee, Jamie had a 10-speed wheel for me to borrow to get me to Belfast. After it was installed I rode off with a couple other friends I had met there (the ones I passed in the sag wagon). Unfortunately I just didn’t have the legs to keep up with them. They had already ridden 15 miles so they were much more warmed up that I was after having sitting in the back of a club cab for 15 miles. I finally told them to go ahead without me. With a 20 mph head wind I couldn’t continue to catch up to them after being dropped on a few of the climbs.

At the second rest stop I met up with the friends that I parted with at the beginning of the day. We rode mostly together from there to Belfast and crossed the line together.

My husband was there to meet us. After a quick bite to eat at the BBQ we were on the road back home.

Even with all the rain and gray skies, the Trek is one of my favorite biking events. I signed up for next year’s Trek on May 28th, before this year’s Trek even took place. Hopefully we’ll have better weather in 2010.