Friday, January 27, 2012

A moment in time

My husband wants spiky pedals like mine and I suggested last night that if it wasn't raining this morning, I would ride to work and meet him at the Ashburn Spokes, Etc., and then we could drive home together. We need to put the bike rack on the back of the truck for tomorrow's Bike Me DC ride in Arlington Alexandria anyway, so it might as well go on when he gets home from work this afternoon.

So. This morning, we discovered that it was raining. I glumly decided to give riding a pass. Scott chided me for losing "hardcore points". I said that I was worried about wiping out on the steep downhill coming off the Rte 28 bridge.

"Bridge, nothing!" he replied. "If I were you, I'd be worried about making it out of the front yard."

I might start speaking to him again next month. And, for what it's worth, I did NOT wipe out on either the bridge NOR in the front yard when I biked in AFTER the rainstorm.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Method to my madness

I'm pretty clumsy and after thirty-mumble years of being so, I've pretty much come to accept that I shall never have natural grace. It is with this understanding in mind that I do certain off-beat things like attaching my rear-view mirrors upside down.

Upside down you turn me.

 I do this not because I'm bucking the norm, but because I've already laid down this bike and I don't want to be cracking mirrors all the time (like I need that kind of luck). The reverse mirror position means I have to shift my wrists a bit to take in the rear view, but today my odd preparation paid off.

While hauling out the bike for this morning's oh-my-God-chilly commute, I fell off our stoop and into the Dagobah-esque low spot in our yard. I was fine, bike was fine aside from great gobs of mud on the left handlebar, the first set of clothes was covered in mud from my left ankle to my left elbow. I suppose I should be thankful that the swamp was soft. The mirror was perfectly fine aside from the aforementioned great gobs of mud. A change of clothes and a half dozen paper towels later and I was ready to roll.

And speaking of mud, I've finally found a front fender to fit my bike. I purchased a set of Planet Bike fenders (this set, maybe?) last year and was horrified to discover that my bike has braze-ons on only one side. Really? Really really? Of course this was after assembling and attaching the fenders to the side with braze-ons. So, I've been using something like this for several months and was pretty unhappy with that set up. But then I discovered the Planet Bike Freddy ATB fenders this past weekend. I do have a braze-on at the cross piece of the front fork (visible just under my purse on the picture above) and, after purchasing a slightly shorter bolt at the hardware store, I attached the front fender with the assistance of Scott's brawn. Unfortunately, I could not get the back fender to work with my rack set-up. And the pseudo braze-on back there is too tiny to be useful. At least the rack protects me from having a skunk stripe up my back even if doesn't protect a cyclist behind me from my rooster tail. I'm very happy with the front fender, though, and have joyfully rolled through the once and future puddle on the W&OD between LoCoPkwy and Smiths Switch.

In other news, I thought I'd share a comparison of yesterday's fog to today's sun.

On a clear day...

That's more like it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pea Soup

Foggy W&OD trail at Loudoun County Parkway.

This morning's commute was super foggy. The picture above is from the least foggy portion of my ride, perhaps because the heat rising off the parkway warmed the air enough to burn away the murk. I'm not sure if that's even how fog works, but it sounds good to me. Happily, other cyclists were lit up so we could see each other on the trail. Also happily was that both I and the backhoe driving down the trail(!!) were both lit up enough to spot each other before something ugly and perhaps painful could happen. The ninja jogger near the center of the photo, not so much with the being lit up. Maybe just lit.

View from my cube.

I braved the chilly fog so as to enjoy the glorious afternoon and evening promised by prognosticators. They've delivered on the afternoon beauty; let's see how the evening commute goes. Even if it's chilly, Scott will be meeting me along the route and that always makes the trip fun.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Hey, guess what! I experienced my first near run-in with an aggressive driver this morning. A FedEx box truck sped up behind me, horn blaring, and wouldn't pass in the clear left lane. I'd drifted over to the far side of the right lane but that, and the aforementioned clear left lane weren't enough. S/he sped past with a foot or two to spare.

Hey, guess what else! My dad has worked for FedEx from the time the company was still located in Little Rock, Arkansas. I made note of the exact time and location of the incident and phoned him with the particulars. Unfortunately, I did not get the license plate number but the powers that be can track exactly which truck (and driver) was on that route at that time.

Oh, how fun!

Update: Received a call from the managing director for this region who says they are investigating the issue and that he appreciated my bringing this to the company's attention. He won't be able to share any disciplinary actions as they are company confidential, but he says they will determine who the driver was and take steps from there. I want to make sure this driver doesn't threaten or hurt another cyclist or a pedestrian.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


The wind died down a bit for last night's ride home, but the temperature dropped as well. I've gotten too used to the temp still being warm despite the sun's departure and that bit me in the ass last night. My windbreaker and mid-weight shirt were fine in the morning sunshine, but not so fine in the night's chill. Add in that my ski gloves were still damp from the morning ride because my glove liners were in Scott's backpack from our trip to the ER last week (I got a little dehydrated thanks to stomach flu) and it wasn't an entirely pleasant ride home. I actually wore my scarf for the entire ride which is a first. I'm usually shedding and unzipping layers as I travel.

However. After reading this post from a bike commuter in Edmonton, Alberta, I shan't complain too loudly. When I saw the picture, I thought, oh, what a pretty white scarf and then I read that the white fluff was her frozen hair. Yikes!

The upside of commuting when it's really cold is that I don't have to scrape ice off my windshield. So, that's something...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


The morning temperature wasn't too bad as I've figured out how to layer when it's in the 30s, but the 25mph wind roaring up and across the trail was HORRIFIC. In the places where the trees typically provide a windbreak, they were instead wind tunnels. I felt like I was being push up the downhills. No coasting on this morning's five mile trip. Oof.

Here's hoping the wind dies down for the return trip home, eh?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The other cyclist(s)

I needed a chocolate pickup mid-afternoon yesterday and made a bee line for the break room where I saw a guy in colorful bike shorts and jersey. I nearly squeed. Nearly. Instead, I said, "Oh! You're the other biker!"

He looked at me, puzzled. I explained, "Mine is the white bike with the basket."

He immediately warmed up and we geeked about our respective five (me) and ten (him) mile commutes, organized group rides like the Backroads and Tour de Cure, and training for a century. Really nice guy.

This morning, the other other cyclist -- whose bike I haven't seen at the rack in about a month -- rode up as I walked from the garage to the building. I couldn't get a good look at his face, but I did notice the rain cover on his helmet and his rain pants. Not bad choices for the wet morning.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Fun with stickers

I've gone a little nuts with Lightweights for Wheels and Fun Reflectors (sorry... I've cleaned them out of the vines).

Let's start with my helmet. I thought the matte red was pretty dull.

Comfy, but oh so dull.

 Let's go wild with stickers, shall we?

Blurry, but oh so much prettier.

Let's go a little further and hit that baby with a flash.

It fascinates me that the black vines reflect so brightly.

My helmet wasn't the only item to get jazzed up. I used silver vines on parts of Rose's body and black vines on the black rack. I also applied two rows of Lightweights to the spokes and various other points on the bike.

Now you don't see them... you do!

With the addition of my lights, nobody can accuse me of being a bike ninja.

Addition: My road bike will absolutely need FLAMES!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ice, ice, baby

This morning's commute was pretty easy even with the "wooden" (I suspect Trex or somesuch) bridge being covered with crunchy ice. I followed Rootchopper's advice to "stay loose" and crossed the bridge without incident. I'm sad that my helmuffs don't work as well under my Bern helmet, but my wool cap works just fine and keeps my sweaty hair covered during the walk from garage to cube. Happily, the fog was merely damp and not of the frozen variety.

Got buzzed by a cement truck who passed me on a blind corner and then made a right turn directly in front of me. Couldn't wait the few seconds for me to pass your turn, dude? Thankfully, there were no cars (or people) coming around that curve.

I discovered that the MapMyRide app was shorting my commute distance by two-tenths of a mile. Yeah, that doesn't seem like much at first, but it does add up. I've recalculated my commute mileages and have added five miles to my end-year total. Whoo hoo! (Shush. I've got a mileage goal I'm working toward [and am not going to hit, darnit!])

So anyway, here are my 2011 stats. I'm looking forward to comparing them to the end of 2012. I'm sure these don't match up with any of the lovely bike bloggers I follow, but there's nothing wrong with that. (It's not a competition. It's not a competition. It's not a competition.)

CC the Schwinn
May: 22.99
June: 14.58
July: 3.54


July: 47.33
Aug: 53.81
Sep: 105.67
Oct: 229.37
Nov: 159.65
Dec: 160.36

Rose total: 756.19
All total: 797.3

Monday, January 09, 2012

Seminar, test ride, & snow

On Sunday the Bike Me DC meet-up group convened on the Vienna branch of Spokes, Etc for a "Winter Cycling" seminar. The staff went over the usual information of which clothes and accessories will keep a cyclist warm, plus the idea of layering so one can cool off as the exertion increases the body temperature. They also covered winter bike maintenance. I hadn't thought to check the brake pads for bits of gravel and other detritus which gets washed up/blown onto the road and/or trail. They covered lights (of both the "see" and "be seen" varieties) and reflective items. I didn't feel comfortable piping up with ideas for cheaper alternatives for clothing and accessories during the seminar itself, but Scott sent a couple of non-standard-sized cyclist women in my direction for info on the products I use and where to purchase them (Novara vented windbreaker and Canari padded cycling shorts for instance...). I'm all for supporting my local bike shop(s), and trust me I do buy lots of bits and bobs whenever I succumb to bike hypochondria, but sometimes they don't offer the larger-sized cyclist the gear she wants and/or needs.

Bike Me DC at Spokes
Bike Me DC at Spokes
<vanity>My hair looks pretty good from the back</vanity>

After the seminar, Scott and I went our separate ways in the store. I browsed through the road bikes and asked the closest associate, Nate, if he could pull out a Specialized Dolce for me to examine. He happily pulled down a Comp style and gave me tons of information about the bike. I mean, tons. He picked up the bike and handed it over to me. WOW! As light as I thought Rose was compared to the Schwinn (before I loaded Rose down with all her commuting gear), this bike was even lighter! Nate explained how the shifters worked -- I've ridden a road bike once, as a tween, and it was one of the more terrifying experiences of my life -- and gave me a run-down of the components. We geeked about last year's Backroads Century (he did the full century; I did the 30 mile route) and he said I should skip the half century and train up for the full century this year since I'm already putting so many miles on my commuter. And then he said the most dangerous thing of all: did I want to take a test ride down to the W&OD and see how it handled.

Dolce Comp Compact
Dolce Comp Compact
I'm not wild about the colorway being almost the same as Rose's, but I'll deal. #firstworldproblem

*gulp* Okay. He gave me a helmet, I rolled up my pants leg and left Scott as collateral, and then hit the sidewalk for the most beautifully smooth ride I've ever known. Again, as smoothly as Rose felt, compared to the Schwinn, this ride was Uh-May-Zing. I hardly felt the brick sidewalk as I pedaled along and played with the shifters and brakes. I turned around at the trail and rode back to the store as I didn't want anything to happen to the bike on a test ride.

I was smitten. I was sad to give her back to Nate, but if it comes down to a mortgage payment or a bike, I will pay for the bike the mortgage. But! I now know where my bonus is going. And yes, I know I said that I wouldn't buy another bike until I'd had Rose for a year, but I do need to get used to the bike before I ride a hundred miles on it, don't I?

In my mind, I've already named the bike "Nancy". I'm not sure why as it's not a particularly fast-sounding name but it felt natural. In fact, because it's called a Dolce, I feel like I should name it something Italian. We'll see what happens when I actually get one home.

In other news, it's been snowing off and on this afternoon and it's been more on for the past half hour or so. The grass and cars have a decent covering and the parking lot is wet. The deeply closeted daredevil side of me wishes I'd been feeling well enough to bike in the cold air this morning so that I could feel all bad@ss on the commute home.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Losing my mind

Dude. We mid-Atlantic dwellers are going to pay so much for this mild winter. We're either going to get slammed in a couple of weeks or the bugs next summer will be horrific. Either way, I'm going to take advantage of getting in as many bike rides as possible (and enjoy the lack of stink bugs invading my home to escape winter's chill).

Scott and I still need to work out a mutually agreeable definition of a "short" ride. We rode around Sterling doing Saturday morning errands such as fetching prescriptions, mailing packages, dropping off recyclables, and grocery shopping. After a quick lunch, I talked him into accompanying me on a ride to Herndon. The W&OD was full of bikers, joggers, and families. We made it up to Elden Street where I asked if he wanted to ride around Herndon or continue up the trail. He voted to continue on the trail. I then had an idea and suggested we take the Fairfax County Parkway trail up to Route 7 and ride through Sterling to home. He was game and we sped up and down the hills (max downhill speed 30.6 mph!). The ride home was mostly uneventful but the steep, steep uphills were rough.

On one of our rest breaks -- I'm getting over a cold and am not pushing myself as hard as I could -- Scott mentioned that he was getting annoyed with slipping off his pedals and wants a spiky pair like mine. I asked if he wanted to ride to the Ashburn Spokes, Etc. He looked at me like I'd lost my mind and nixed the idea.

Scott threw his chain (first time!) midway up a hill and I was grateful for the imposed break. He was kind of grateful, too. Heh. At that point, I told him I no longer wanted to ride to Spokes. His response was a gaspy, "Good."

We got back home and Scott draped himself on the floor while I bounced around, jazzed from all the fresh air and exercise but also hungry. I called the local Chinese place and ordered for pickup rather than my standard delivery. Again Scott looked at me like I'd lost my mind. Pshaw. The place is only a two mile round trip and just off the trail! He suggested a bike intervention. I laughed as I rode off into the sunset. Okay, perpendicular to the sunset.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


When I first upgraded to my Specialized Ariel, I was hesitant to add anything personal beyond the standard black rack and black trunk bag. Shortly after that, I added white and red blinky lights for safety and legality, a stem-mounted cell phone holder, and a mirror on the left handlebar. I eventually added a few reflective stickers, a front basket, and a right hand mirror (because I needed to see over both left AND right on that last big curve before entering the campus).

I then lamented to Scott that my bike looked too silly and it wouldn't be taken seriously. Scott said that my bike simply looked like a useful commuter bike and there was nothing to worry about. I continued to mull and finally asked myself who I was trying to impress. The guys at the bike shop don't hassle me about what I've done to my bike; in fact, Scott thinks that the personalization (and the fact that I don't look like the typical bike racer type) is part of why the guys remember who I am even when I don't have the bike in tow. The other commuters are pretty friendly and we nod and smile at each other as we pass on the trail. Nobody in the BikeMeDC meetup group has ever said anything derogatory. I've even gotten a few compliments on my bike (and apparel) during group ride events such as the Backroads Century and the Great Pumpkin Ride.

I say that I'm not happy unless I'm fretting about something but personalizing my bike is definitely NOT something I should worry about. So I'll keep adding bits and bobs and trade out pieces of equipment (black trunk bag for colorful Basil pannier, for example) as I see fit. If, to paraphrase the song, they see me rolling and they be hating, I don't need 'em.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

A mostly good start

The hubster and I hit the trail on New Year's Day to return a few items to Tarzhay. The weather was sunny and warm when we left and I wore fingerless gloves and left the windbreaker at home. Scott runs colder than I do and wore more (and warmer) layers, but was still comfy on the ride over. When we got rolling, I had a ball updating him on how fast my cycling computer said we were going. I'm thrilled to bits that I'm a lot faster than I thought I was.

The trail wasn't choked with people, but there were more than the usual number of winter folks enjoying the mild weather. We got to the shopping center without issue, returned items, and then purchased a few more. We left the store and noticed the sky had clouded, the wind had picked up, and it was starting to drizzle. Scott suggested we seek refuge at Eastern Mountain Sports so he could browse sale items. He wound up not buying a thing while I picked up four pair (buy three, get one free!) of Smartwool snowboarding socks (because thick wool socks are a winter cyclist's best friend) and a Bern helmet. I've been lusting after the women's Berkeley model, but every one I tried at REI hurt my head. The men's Brentwood, on the other hand, fit beautifully and I walked out with the matte red with black visor version.

When we left EMS, I definitely regretted leaving my windbreaker and full finger gloves at home. The rain was heavier and with all the car traffic, Scott and I put our headlights on blink mode. I had to tell him to put the light on steady when we hit the trail, though. Blinky lights on a MUP are unnecessary and rude, I think.

The rain starting pounding down after we crossed 28 and we passed a few other cold and wet cyclists. Scott asked if we could skip our planned ride to the recycling center. Oh my, yes, that was off the table. And, of course, after warm showers and dry clothes, the sun came back out. Unfortunately, I'd broken a spoke somewhere along the way home and I wasn't going to ride anywhere until that got fixed (which it was yesterday when my bike shop was again open).