Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Know More Than I Ever Thought I Would

The Bike-n-Hike, where I spend much too much money.

 When I started biking, I hadn't been on a bike in more than 35 years.  Back in that day, I rode a simple bike, no gears, you braked by pushing the pedals backwards, and you pumped up your bike tires with the small air compressor your dad kept in the back of the garage.  At least, that's how I did it.  I don't remember biking with a basket, or doing anything more than biking around the neighborhood with my friends.

Boy, have things changed.  The first time I rode my bike, I ended up with a flat tire.  Here in Colorado, as in most places of high desert, there is a noxious weed called a goat head.  In the late summer and early fall, the goat head goes to seed.  The seeds of the goat head might as well be made of iron.  They are pea-sized, and shaped, not surprisingly, like a goat head, with the "nose" and "horns" being a sever, very sharp point.  Sharp enough to stab you.  Sharp enough to stab a bike tire.  One goat head in a tire is enough to leave you stranded.  You see it, you pull it out, and hear the tell-tale pffft of air being lost. 

Those spikes are no more than 1/4 inch long, some much smaller.  But it's enough.  That first goat head cost me $20 for a new goat-head-resistant inner-tube.  A week later, I did it again, this time getting one in the back tire.  How frustrating!  I hadn't even gotten to ride the bike three times, and here I was, flat.  This time in addition to the goat-head-resistant inner-tube, I also paid an extra $20 for a liner to go inside my tire.  It fits between the tire and the tube, and can thwart most small pointy objects, including goat heads.

I haven't had a flat since.  I have pulled out several from my tires since getting the liners, but no pffft and no flat tire.  Thank goodness.

And it turns out I need to put air in my tires at least once a week or so.  I don't have a decent tire pump, so it means I take a little ride up to the Bike-n-Hike, the shop where I bought my bike (and where I've had to have my repairs made) and let them air them up.  If you are riding or not riding, you should air up at least once a week.  Yes, a hand pump is on my list of things to get.

Other things I've learned:

  • Leaves are fine to drive over, although if they are wet they can be slippery.
  • Sticks are a problem, if they are pencil-size or bigger.  
  • Small gravel (almost sand-like) is great to drive through, almost as good as pavement
  • Shift gears while in motion, not when sitting still.  Anticipate shifting down before you need to be down-shifted, like when approaching a hill.
  • Warn people when you are passing them on a trail, and try to pass on the left whenever possible.  "On your left" said in a loud voice is sufficient
  • Little bumps feel like big bumps on a bike. Watch for manhole covers, water access plates, raised bits of concrete, etc.
  • Taking your hand off the handlebars to signal a turn is an advanced skill.  Newbies still need both hands just to keep from falling off the bike.
  • Keep your hand off the left-hand brake lever until you are almost at a stop.  The left lever controls the front brakes, which are much too "brake-y" when you're just trying to slow down.
I'm sure I'll learn more.  After all, I've only been doing this for a few weeks. Tips are appreciated from more experienced riders.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Amazing What a Week Can Do

 My Riding Shadow

I have been very blessed to be able to ride my bike almost every day this week.  I took a much-needed week of vacation from work.  It wasn't really vacation, it was using up comp time.  That's even better.  That means I still have vacation time I can take at Christmas.

So during this wonderful week, I've tried to sleep late.  That doesn't really work well for me.  I've always been a morning person, so sleeping late means staying in bed until 6 a.m.  The first two days, I got up a little after 5, one day I slept until 7:30, and the other days?  Well, mostly around 6 a.m. or a bit earlier.  Typical.  But I'm not much for sitting/laying around, anyway, so being up meant I got a few things done.  And because I wasn't at work until 4 or later, I also could take the trip down to the Greenway to bike the long trail.  Round trip it is about 12 miles.  And I got to do it five times this week.

Being a fat girl, this whole riding a bike thing is a bit unbelievable yet.  I would have said even a few weeks ago that 12 miles was "no way, no how."  Yes, I was walking 2 to 3 miles a day, but that's walking.  3 miles takes me about 45 minutes.  In a busy life, sometimes that's all I can give it.  And until my foot injury, I was giving it that every day. 

The 12 mile bike ride takes me about an hour or a little less, depending on how many times I stop.  The worst problem when riding is not my knees, although they do hurt and I do a lot of down-shifting to get through it.  No, the biggest problem is my butt falls asleep.  Being heavy, sitting my wide butt on a little ole bike seat that is about as hard as a piece of wood, well, that has consequences.  I am going to have to do something about that at some point (probably a gel or padded seat cover) but in the meantime, about 20 minutes on that seat, and I need to stop and stand up.  Of course, this gives me an excuse to take a drink and enjoy my surroundings, and also to catch my breath.

I noticed the third day I rode that breathing wasn't as big a problem as it had been.  My butt was still numb, but I wasn't gasping for breath, or being thankful to stop so I could catch up.  I had noticed the same thing with walking.  Within a week or two of implementing my walking regimen, it took further and further to get me winded, until I got to the point where I was breathing hard, but not out of breath, and not uncomfortable at all.  Oh, my knees still hurt, and I was sweating, but I wasn't dragging myself along anymore.  And it's become the same with the biking.  My knees still hurt, and they may always hurt.  But I'm in better shape.  That part is obvious.

And that's the goal, after all.  Not to lose weight.  I gave up losing weight a long time ago.  But being fat doesn't mean I can't be fit.  It doesn't mean I can't take care of myself, strengthen my heart and my legs and gain stamina.  I'm 51 years old.  I don't want to be that old lady who does nothing but sit and watch soap operas all day, because my body won't allow me to do more than that.  I refuse to be that old lady.

It's amazing what a week can do.  It's amazing how much better I feel already.  These last two-plus months of not being able to walk like I was made me lose everything I've gained.  I now feel like I've gotten halfway back to that happy place I was in.  That non-winded, can go all day place.  And I don't intend to stop. 

I'm going to use every beautiful day to my advantage to bike, and when I can't do that, I'll walk, even if it's just around the neighborhood.  I have to.  I have no choice. 

If not now, when? 

Now seems like a pretty good time.  I think I'll go for that.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Chasing Wildlife

Here in Colorado, we have a lot of wildlife.  There are the things you'd expect - elk and deer and raccoons.  We also have bear, mountain lion, foxes, coyotes, ducks, geese, chipmunks, and three types of squirrels - red, black, or grey.  Grey squirrels here are pretty rare here, although back in the Midwest where I'm from, you see a lot of them.  We have enough black squirrels that I see them at least once a week.  But by far the most prolific is the red squirrel.  They are everywhere, and fat to boot.

So what does this have to do with biking?

The first long trip I took on my bike was a few weeks after I had it.  My mother and I loaded the bikes in her truck and headed to the St. Vrain Greenway, an 8-mile-long stretch of 8-foot-wide paved trail that winds from the eastern edge of town to the western edge of town.  It has been built in such a way as to allow you to cross all major streets using underpasses.  Much of the greenway, although bordering roads, subdivisions, and industrial parks, is lined with trees and brush and grass.  This means I am likely to encounter various wildlife as I go along on my rides.

We're riding along the path, and I'm pumping up a short hill, when a squirrel jumped out into the middle of the path just ahead of my front tire.  Like most animals and small children that do such a thing, he continued to move forward, directly in front of me.  I wasn't slowing down, and it only took him a split-second to realize he'd better haul tail or he was a goner.  He pulled his tail high into the air and leaped ahead of me for about five or six feet, before dodging off to the left and heading up a tree.  I was laughing so hard I had to stop pedaling.

Then two days ago, as I rounded one of the ponds on a gravel trail, a Canada goose was wiggling herself down into a pile of leaves alongside the road.  She had plenty of time to see me, I would have thought, coming down the path.  The difference between Canadas here in Colorado as opposed to the ones in Missouri I am used to is that the Colorado Canadas are about the most skittish things ever.  I don't have to worry they are going to chase or attach me.  In fact, they usually don't let anyone get without about 30 feet of them, before they are off and into the nearest body of water.  That is their "safe" place.  This girl finally saw me when I was about ten feet away, and started honking madly and thrashing around in the leaves trying to get away.  Her wings were flapping madly, her feet flapping at the ground, and she finally managed to move herself the ten or twelve feet she needed to go to get across the path before I got to her.

I guess a fat girl on a bike IS pretty scary.  I just didn't expect it to scare the wildlife!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Saturday Afternoon Biking

I have to be pretty creative to ride my bike.  I can ride the streets around my neighborhood, but that gets boring and I hate having to avoid traffic.  So, I like to go to one of the many greenways in my town to bike instead.

But I drive a Toyota Corolla and have no bike rack.  Don't worry, the bike rack is on my wish list, and actually, I did buy one, but since my bike is a girl's bike, I don't have the crossbar needed to put the bike on the rack.  I have to order a special frame adapter, which I will have to wait to get.  I've added it to the same list that holds the bike bell, biking gloves, and rear basket.  In other words, I'm going to have to deal with getting this bike to the greenway without the benefit of a bike rack.

So today I lifted the back tired/pedals into the trunk of the car, flopped an old towel down on the edge of the trunk, and left the front end hanging out.  I secured it by pulling the trunk lid closed and holding it down with bungie cords in a rather unique fashion.

Okay, so it's a little redneck, but I think all of us have a little redneck in us, right?  And anyway, it works.  Until I can get the adapter, it will be fine.  Really.  As long as the cops don't think I'm stealing it or something.  Perhaps I should put my receipt in the glovebox.  Just in case.

I have a beautiful bike, so carrying it this way does cause me some anxiety.  I have a Trek Navigator 1.0 WSG.  it is sturdy, has nice fat tires, and gives me seven gears of speediness.  Okay, not really on the speediness, I'm a bit slow yet, but still.  It is a great bike.  I feel great when I ride it, and that's what matters, right?  Here it is with its new Schwinn basket (I'll review the basket in a future blog post).

I live in Colorado.  I moved here in the summer of 2011 because of a job change.  So my ride always includes a view of the mountains.  I live just east of the Rockies in northern Colorado, in a small city named Longmont.  It is near Boulder (where I work).  I only have to walk outside to see the moutains.  Today's ride had me in bright sunshine and warm temperatures, while it snowed in the mountains.  I know the mountains in this picture look like they are in a fog or with low cloud cover, but that is snow falling.  When I'm not biking, I'm wishing I was in the mountains.  The tallest mountain in the picture below is Long's Peak.

I am lucky to have a town that appreciates green space and plenty of places for people to walk, bike, ride horses, jog, or roller blade.  I saw all of those things on my bike ride today - walkers with and without strollers, serious bike-riders and casual bike-riders, joggers, several roller bladers, and yes, a pair of horses clip-clopping along the trail.  This particular trail is mostly paved, although there are some sandy/gravel runs too.  I bike on both.  The horses left the trail before I could get a picture.  Where the greenway has to cross a major road, it goes under the road, the road above you in a nice overpass.  This one lets me ride under Sunset Street.

Signage always changes along the greenway, depending on what is going on.  This sign is new since the last time I was there.  While this is not all that uncommon, this is in the middle of town, and a bit of a surprise.  The last instruction on the sign is not to run from a Mountain Lion, but to fight with all you have.  I hope I never have to find out if this advice is on the mark or not.

I biked about 12 miles today in the warm afternoon sun.  I can't think of a better way to spend a sunny almost-winter day.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Well, that was fun.  No, I didn't do it on purpose.  But now I can say I did it, right?

After not being able to ride much due to the time change, I told myself that Saturday I was going to ride to our little downtown to watch the Veteran's Day parade.  My dad, uncle, brothers, and two of my nephews are all veterans, and I try to attend events in honor of their commitment to the safety of our country.  Unfortunately for me, there was rain and snow in the forecast, although it looked as if we wouldn't get any until later in the day, and the parade was at 11:11.

My daughter decided she was going to go with me, but she was going to roller blade.  This seemed like a decent idea, although we'd never done that before.  We woke up to cloudy skies but temps in the upper 30's.  I have said that if it is over 30, I'm biking.  So, why not?

Well, for one thing, roller blades, while awesome, are slow compared to a determined woman on a bike.  So I had to go slow, to let her keep up with me.  There are still a lot of leaves on the ground and they are slippery for a roller blade, so that was a problem too.  But we made it, found a decent spot on the sidewalk, and watched the parade, which lasted maybe a half-hour.  Then we went in one of the shops to buy a few things, before heading back.

By then, it was sprinkling.  Just a little rain.  We took off for home.  Within two blocks, the rain had turned to sleet.  Within another two blocks, it was snowing.  I was wearing a hoody and jeans.

If it had just been me, I'd have been home in 5 minutes and barely wet.  But my daughter couldn't go as fast, so it took us about 10 minutes.  We were both pretty soaked by the time we got home.  And my hands were frozen.  Wet and frozen.

So I'm adding more things to my biking wish-list.  In addition to the bell, basket, and pulley storage system I've already put on the list, I'm adding the following:
  • Decent gloves
  • Compression pants or tights to go under my jeans/long pants when I'm riding
  • A raincoat.
I imagine some more things will be added soon.  Biking in Colorado is not for wimps!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Return to Standard Time

Daylight Savings Time and the return to Standard Time always kicks my butt.  Not in a good way, either.

I am not fond of the nights where it is light until 9 p.m. or later, and the dark mornings, either.  But then when we switch back, it gets dark so awfully early that I lose any time I might have had to walk or bike.

That has been the case since Sunday.  Sunday was the last day I was able to ride, unfortunately.  We still had daylight.  When I get home from work in the evening, it is after 5 p.m. and too dark to ride.  I did manage to get in a couple of walks this week, because you can walk in the twilight without too much hazard (if you don't count the dogs). 

But still.  This is one of those things that I wish the government wouldn't mess with.  It's going to be hard enough to get my biking in on a regular basis just because it's winter and cold and rainy and snowy.  But to have it mess with the light, too? 

I think it's one of those things that just needs to be abolished.