Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Second ride

I took Circe out for a second spin after getting home from work last night. I eschewed the W&OD, which was chock full of other cyclists and strolling families, for neighborhood streets and gunned it to the top end of my comfort level. It's going to take a while before shifting becomes natural; since there are no dials at the shifters, I tend to look down at the chain to figure out an approximation of what gear I'm in. Yeah, that's about as safe as it sounds.

I put my hands in a slightly looser position on the horns and saved the thumb/index webbing from further abuse, so that's good. I've wound up with chain grease on the side of my right calf during the past two rides and that's weird. It may be how I'm standing at stops; more research indicated.

Oh, and toe overlap: I have it. In perusing the internet -- because it knows all -- this seems to be a fairly common occurrence with compact frame cycles. It's annoying at very low speeds when I'm steering a fairly sharp turn, but I'm pretty sure I can work around that.

Monday, February 27, 2012

First ride on the Dolce

Tonight was my first actual ride on the Dolce and I learned many things during the short, six mile jaunt:
  • She wants to go fast. I barely had to pedal and she was off and running. I even raced up that blasted hill to the 28 bridge at 12mph. WHAT?? And, when I got home I wasn't a sweaty mess despite riding faster and farther than I do during a commute. Instead, I was merely glistening and my hair was almost completely dry.
  • My posture needs a lot of work. That's hardly surprising since, aside from the test rides, my road bike experience was a couple of short rides on my cousin's bike in my early teens. Riding on the horns and in the drop bars put pressure on the webbing between my thumbs and index fingers. Also, I don't need bike shorts for anything less than thirty miles on the Ariel, but I could've used them tonight. The saddle isn't that different from the hybrid's, but my posture put uncomfortable pressure on new and interesting places. Ouch.
  • She is light! I already knew this because I've goofed around using the bike for bicep curls. :) There was a bit of a cross wind during my ride and I felt like I might have been blown off the trail if I weren't so heavy.
  • She's also kind of squirrelly. Riding one handed was... frightening. I'll get there, and I might even get to hands-free someday, but it's going to take some practice.
  • Her name is Circe and we're going to be fast friends. See what I did there?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New bike!

Back in January, I test rode a Specialized Dolce Comp Compact and fell in love. I had decided that my next bike would be of the road variety so I could increase my mileage and participate in metric and actual centuries. When my bonus hit the bank account on Friday, I knew this was the weekend that I would make that bike mine.

Since I was already at the bike shop and learned from the manager that all branches of Spokes give club discounts on bikes and accessories -- Bike Me DC counts as a club, whoo hoo! -- I had Max pull the 54cm Dolce down and prep it for a test ride. Despite the gorgeous weather, the test was a short ride because 1) I'd already ridden the same style of bike and I wanted to make sure this one felt the same and 2) I needed to save my legs for the (uphill) ride back home. I carried the bike back into the store and declared, "SOLD!" I then phoned Scott and asked him to drive over and carry the new bike home. I think everyone was shocked that I wasn't going to ride it home, but I want to get used to the new bike in my own neighborhood rather than the open road and trail. After all, I'm used to a flat handlebar and a fairly upright position. The horns, drop bars, and brake/shifter combo levers are going to take some time to learn.

I still haven't ridden her, mostly due to lack of time. It's looking like the weather will be fairly mild, for February, on Sunday and I will be able to make friends with my new ride and figure out a proper name for her. "Nancy" is still stuck in my head despite not sounding "fast". Mom suggested that spelling the name as "Nanci" sounds racier. I think she's right.

Monday, February 20, 2012


My friend Charlene, who bought a bike at the swap meet last weekend, left her bike at my house because she couldn't fit it in her car. We made arrangements to get together this weekend and go for a ride and find her a suitable rack so the bike could live at her house. In preparation for our ride, and because I had no other plans on Friday night, I turned the kitchen into a makeshift garage and set to work sprucing up her bike.

After wiping off the dust and cleaning gunk off the rims, whitewalls, and spokes, I lubed the chain. No problems there. I flipped the bike right side up and gave the back tire some air. All cool, there. I gave the front tire some air. All good... no, wait. What's that hissing? Oh no, I killed her tire!

Actually, the stem had nearly ripped off the tube. There's no telling how old the tube was, but given the amount of cracks in the tires, I wouldn't call them new. Happily, my favorite bike shop had tubes to fit her tires and I rode over Saturday morning to retrieve those as well as buy the Dolce (more on that later).

I've decided that if you have to fix a flat, the absolute best scenario is to do it in your own home with all your tools available and to work on a fairly inexpensive bike which belongs to someone else. The front tube was an absolute cinch to replace and I felt pretty proud of myself for managing on my own. The back tire seemed much more complicated because, unlike Scott's and my bikes, there's no cassette or derailleur: there's just a hub and a coaster brake and some other contraption. Scott didn't feel comfortable monkeying around back there. I, on the other hand, didn't know any better and forged ahead because, gosh darn it, my friend was going to have a safe-ish bike! And the contraption had only one little screw which, alarmingly, caused the contraption to fall off when the screw was loosened.

I'd post pictures except 1) I didn't think to take any since everybody but me has changed a flat tire and 2) I'm too embarrassed that the Gentle Readers would identify the contraption as something perfectly benign and simple to manage, which it was...

Anyway, long story longer: I removed the back tire, much to Scott's amazement, and changed out that tube after realizing that I couldn't loosen the tire and old tube until I'd deflated that tube a bit. They don't cover that bit in maintenance classes. Well, I suppose they do as the instructor deflates the example bike's tire to demonstrate how to fix the flat, but the instructor never calls attention to the deflation part. I got the back tire on the bike as well as all of its associated bits and bobs.

So, with new tubes on slightly rotting tires, I then installed front and back fenders, a front basket, bell, and mirror on Charlene's bike. She was delighted. I also installed the rack on the back of her Scion. And before handing over the bike for good, I took a quick test ride to make sure that she wouldn't be the one to pay the price if my mechanical "know-how" caused pieces to fall off while in motion. (They didn't.)

Now all she needs are new tires -- an actual bike mechanic said she could go a little longer on the current ones -- and new grips and she'll be ready to ride for miles and miles and miles. As it is, we got in a five mile ride on Saturday and she can't wait to go for another spin.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Every now and then I talk the hubster into meeting me along the trail as I ride home from work. On Wednesday he decided he didn't want to deal with the gym and said he'd meet me for the ride home. I warned him that I needed to do a little shopping as well, but those stops would be mostly surgical strikes.

I wound up leaving the office later than planned thanks to a last minute IM from the bossman and met Scott just before the blind curve on Smiths Switch. He turned around and fell in line behind me before a FedEx truck rumbled up behind us and then passed us with a WIDE berth. Heh heh heh.

Shopping and banking happened. The test run of my Avenir Softside shopping pannier happened (successfully). Not running down pedestrians happened. Seeing another cyclist in the shopping center happened ("He just left Eastern Mountain Sports so that doesn't count," said Scott). We headed for home and something new and exciting-to-me happened.

We rode up the blasted incline to the Route 28 overpass and I stayed in front of Scott the entire freaking time. I not only stayed ahead of him, I pulled away from him. Dude! Plus, I was loaded down with shopping bags, a tote, and my purse. I didn't need to gear down: I was in my middle gears the whole way up. I was breathing heavily when we got to the bridge, but I wasn't wheezing nor jelly-legged.

This morning's commute was pretty amazing. As rough as I felt on Wednesday morning, it was a complete 180 to this morning. I flew along the trail and street in my upper gears (even on the uphills) and beat my average speed of 12mph by almost 2mph. It. Was. Amazing.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Stop, Swap, & Save

As stated in a previous post, my friends and I attended a bike swap last weekend. This was my first bike swap and I was both overwhelmed and excited by the event.

General bustle.

Scott browses pants.

I'd hoped to find some cute panniers or other accessories like that, but there wasn't anything that caught my fancy in that department. I did, however, spy the most adorable hat helmets by The Band Box and, because of the bike show discount, snapped one up.

There really is a helmet under there.

It's completely unnecessary, but I'm a sucker for hats. Plus, being a crafty sort, I can easily change out that hat for any of my own and I won't have to destroy a Santa hat for next year's Christmas-time rides. Continuing the girly them was a pair of Sheila Moon "Thumbie" arm warmers.

I loved the orange version of these, but thought they'd clash with everything I own.

The guys from Hill Killer Apparel delighted me with their inspired bike fashions.

So adorable, in a grisly way.

As a horror fan I simply had to have the Zombie arm warmers. They generously threw in a pair of leg warmers for free. For some reason, I don't mind that they clash with everything I own. The guys didn't have any jerseys in my size; by the time we found the stall, their stuff had been picked over pretty well. But I'm tempted to order the Zombie Girls Have More Fun and Hell on Wheels jerseys, even though it pains me to have SO MUCH pink gear. I would totally snap up Riding Pretty jersey if it were available in my size.

Getting back to the sights, I saw my first Penny Farthing in the flesh (see what I did there?).

I couldn't back up far enough to get the whole thing in frame. :(

Plus a Missoni bike that made Scott's eyes wiggle.

Target sold the multicolor version last year. I don't know where this one came from.

I also spotted a Globe Daily 3 and immediately ran over to take a closer look. I've been stalking the step-through version of this bike online, but haven't found anyone locally who carries the brand. My local bike shop will order one for me, but I don't want to go through that hassle and then hate the bike. The bike on display was an extra large and was much to big for me to test ride it. The vendor was from a bike shop on Solomans Island, MD which is pretty far from our home, but not that far if we combined the trip with a visit to Scott's parents in Annapolis.

Browsing (and shopping) the bike swap was a fun experience and I'll have to keep an eye out for other swaps in the area.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


It's frightening how quickly the strength goes when one hasn't been on the bike in a couple of weeks. This morning's commute (first bikey one in exactly two weeks) was not the worst ride ever, but it certainly wasn't the best. My legs were cranky, my back was cranky, and my tush must've lost its bike callouses. It must be pretty horrible for those folks who put away the bike at the end of fall and don't pull it back out until spring.

In happier news, the bonus and tax refund fairies have graced my bank account and it's time for the Dolce to come to mama. You don't need to be Carnac the Magnificent to see that I'll be hitting my favorite bike shop in the very near future. I want to splurge on a Dutch bike so badly, but I can't blow all my fun money on bikes. Mama also needs a couple of new kitchen appliances and to finish the basement remodel so she has a fridge that doesn't leak and a place that isn't the dining room to store the stable of bikes. The correct ratio of person to bikes is n+infinity, right?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My friend's new bike

On Sunday, my friends Charlene and Bill joined the Hubs and me for the Stop, Swap, & Save expo in Westminster, MD. The bike enthusiasm I've infected most of my friends with finally overcame Charlene and she was determined to find a bike of her own at the swap meet. Almost immediately she spied an adorable blue cruiser with partial chain guard and coaster brakes. After locating the owner, she took it for a test ride and came back with a smile that nearly split her face in half. I couldn't resist the adorableness and took the bike for a spin of my own. Like buttah. Bill's a bike mechanic and after taking it on his own spin, he declared it sound. The bike was half of Charlene's allotted bike budget and she paid the seller without a second thought.

Careful... you'll cultivate bike face.

After riding the bike to the truck for storage (hey! I finally got to ride a bike in the snow!), we headed back inside to find her some safety gear. First up was the helmet.

We found a woman selling Bern helmets for $25. Dude! I shoved Charlene toward the stall and waited while she tried on several different styles. Unfortunately, none of them fit comfortably and we walked away dejectedly. I was tempted to snag another Bern for myself, but I already had three (now four... that'll be another post) helmets for my own noggin. As we hunted for more helmets, Charlene talked about all the stickers and whatnot she was going to add to her bike.

See, I would have gone all girly with a bike like that: wicker basket, tinkly little bell, streamers maybe, and a floral helmet to coordinate. That's not Charlene's speed. She's going to bad-ass up her bike with stickers and an oogah horn. These are the blinky lights she snapped up:

These are ~so~ Charlene.

If I remember correctly, the white blinky is a white skull and the red blinky is a black skull. Pretty adorable, right? But because I'm such a tight wad, I couldn't possibly put something like that on my bike. Charlene, on the other hand, squealed and snapped them right up. She also found a helmet that I would have never in a million years picked out:

She's got a thing for skulls, you see...

She was almost as happy about that helmet as she was about the bike. My inner Martha Stewart was crying but but but, it doesn't go with the bike! Except, you know, it isn't my bike to accessorize. This is HER bike and it doesn't matter one flip what I think about the accessories she likes. I have to (and do) admire her individuality and her knowing exactly what she wants. I fret about making my bike look "right" and "presentable" which is silly because there's no standard out there for what a bike should look like. She's going to look awesome on her bad-ass bike, she's going to love making it hers, and even more importantly, she's going to love riding it.

Kudos to you, Charlene! I can't wait to go riding with you this spring and seeing all the looks of admiration other cyclists throw your way.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sleep & maintenance

I got very little sleep this weekend due to staying up much too late working on year-end financial reports, insomnia, and early-for-me morning obligations both Saturday and Sunday. Between Friday night to Sunday morning, I got roughly ten hours of sleep. Seeing as how I typically sleep nine hours a night, I was not the brightest or bushiest tailed of the bunch. Saturday morning was the worst since I got three hours of sleep before getting up super early so that I could be in Alexandria by 8am for the Bike Me DC maintenance class at the Belle View location of Spokes, Etc.

The lecture portion of the day included topics such as gearing, brakes, derailleurs, wheels, leveling screws, chain "stretch", removing the rear wheel and changing a tire. My brain was overflowing by lunch time and I'm very glad that I took pages of notes as well as received an instructional DVD as part of tuition cost. I also jotted down the names and part numbers of some useful looking tools.

Park Tool Chain Checker

After lunch was the lab portion of the class and we got to work on our own bikes. To be honest, beyond measuring my chain I wasn't sure what else I should do. I should have tried taking off my rear wheel and putting it back on as well as practice changing a tire, just to see if I could do it, but I can work on that at home. The first (and only, as it turns out) item of "maintenance" I did was check my chain length. One should replace a chain as it nears 1 so the chain doesn't damage the cassette (back gear wheels). According to the tool, my chain was between .75 and 1. I knit my brow and called over the instructor to verify that I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. He agreed with my observation and told me that while I could continue to ride for another month or so, but I should get the chain replaced sooner rather than later. The lady next to me was shocked since she knew that I got my bike in July. I told her and the instructor that I'd put about 1,000 miles on the bike since then.

"Yep, that'll do it," replied the instructor. The lady was flabbergasted at the mileage and then said, "Oh, that's right: you commute."

I struggled getting my bike back up the steep staircase. To be honest, I was struggling before I even got up the first stair, and an associate ran over and carried Rose up for me. He set her up on a stand and showed me how to remove the chain and then how to replace it. It looked like a fairly easy process if it's something that one does fairly often. He patiently explained each step and answered my questions. After attaching the new chain, he checked over the other parts and declared my bike ready fit for duty.

At that point, I was ready to fall over. I decided that since my bike was already at street level, I would head on home. I said my good-byes to the group, paid for some new tools and the chain, and headed toward home. I hit a snow squall on the Dulles Toll Road which gave Rose an impromptu bath. This turned out to be a blessing because the damp made cleaning the grime off her frame that much easier. She's not showroom clean, but she's as clean as she's been since her post Outer Banks scrub. And I don't have to worry about her chain for a while.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Some upcoming events

Stop, Swap, & Save: Sunday, February 12. An indoor bike swap and consumer expo in Westminster, MD.

WABA 2012 Vasa Ride: Sunday, March 4. Per the site, "four hundred riders of all ages and experience levels will gather at the House of Sweden on the morning of Sunday, March 4th for a noncompetitive ride to brave the coldness of winter and traverse DC and Maryland's terrain." There are 59-, 31-, and 15-mile routes for this event. Scott and I are signed up for the 31-miler.

Plus, the Bike Me DC Meetup group has several events scheduled such as a maintenance course this coming Saturday, a "Lost Blossom" tour of lesser known cherry trees at the end of March, and a tour along Skyline Drive, as well as spur of the moment bike tours of the C&O, MVT, and other scenic areas around the DC area. I'm looking forward to the maintenance class. Hopefully, it'll make me less of a bike hypochondriac and more empowered when I know how to fix the squeaks and squawks coming from my beloved velo.

Friday, February 03, 2012

To buy or not to buy, that is the question

Not much in the way of bikeyness this coming weekend, I'm afraid. Tomorrow, I have to be in Spotsylvania at 8:30am for a SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism -- yes I'm one of those people) event. I'm sure it'll be a fun time once I get there, but dressing-up-in-funny-clothes-and-spending-the-day-on-two-wheels has replaced dressing-up-in-funny-clothes-and-spending-the-day-in-a-field-or-fellowship-hall-with-my-friends as my hobby of choice.

On Sunday, I hope to go out with a girlfriend or two to see "The Woman in Black". I'm sure there will be shopping and sushi and decadent desserts at Amphora Diner afterwards.

There has been a bit of bikeyness this past week. Scott still hasn't ridden to work yet, but he's getting closer. He'd ordered a new handlebar which was supposed to accommodate a bar-end mirror. The new bar arrived this week and no dice. It was the same inner diameter as the handlebar he already had. SpokesPerson Adam proceeded to widen the inner diameter of Scott's handlebar and was able to attach the mirror. Hooray! Now I don't have to worry about my nearly-deaf honey bunches of oats being run down from behind. Well, I can still worry, but at least he'll see it coming and it won't be a total surprise to him.

As we waited for the widening and attachment (is it just me or does that sound kind of... rude?), Scott took a TriCross Sport Disc out for a spin.

Specialized TriCross Sport Disc a.k.a. buttah (but in a manly way)
He was just as smitten over this bike as I am about the Dolce. Unlike me, though, he has to weigh new bike versus new hearing aids. Insurance won't cover the hearing aids; maybe he should see if they'll cover the bike as "preventative care"...

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Impromptu Mid-Winter Bike Ride, part deux

When last we saw our intrepid heroine, she had departed company with her social ride group and snacked before heading back to her vehicle and real life.

I rode more slowly on the return trip, which wound up still being above the trail's speed limit in a few places. We must've been hauling on the outbound trip. I took in the beauty of the deeply wooded areas, the swampy areas, and the open-to-the-Potomac areas. Despite my camera being non-functional, I remembered my cellphone camera and stopped along the way to snap a few photos.

I noticed a structure on the Maryland side and had to take a look. After a little Googling, I discovered that it is Fort Washington and the adorable little Fort Washington Light.

Fort Washington

 There's a much better picture over here on Wikipedia. My phone can do only so much.

As I neared Alexandria, I noticed little white buoys just off the waterfront of a small park. I went off-road to the edge of the water see what they were marking and realized they were actually gulls. It may be time for an eye exam... The ducks were enjoying  the beautiful weather as well.

Potomac ducks & gulls.
At that point, I was across the river from National Harbor.

Tell me those gulls don't look like buoys.
And I had a pretty good view of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

No jumpers today. (Was that tacky? Probably.)
Eventually, I made it back to Alexandria and used the handy compass to find my way.

Pick a direction, any direction.
As far as I can tell, the MVT sort of disappears through Alexandria. I was mostly on roads with bike lanes or sharrows and that was pretty cool. Well, mostly cool. Bike lanes that are in the door zone give me the willies and I wind up riding on the far left or in the actual traffic lane. Riding on the actual streets of Old Town was damn cool, though. People and cars and other cyclists in a bustling area. Not great big swaths of far off inaccessible strip malls or MUP nothingness. This country mouse found it exhilarating.

I wound my way back to the Marina and called the hubs to let him know I was on my way home. He was disappointed that he hadn't been able to join us, but wants to train up so that we can ride to Mount Vernon together. We both thought that riding from Sterling to Mt Vernon and back would be decent century training; although, by the time we're ready for that it'll most likely be summer and the trails will be too clogged to safely ride. But, we'll see what happens.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Impromptu Mid-Winter Bike Ride, part un

The Bike Me DC meetup group held an impromptu mid-winter bike ride from the Alexandria Marina down to Mount Vernon. I'd never been to Mount Vernon (or the marina for that matter) and jumped at the chance to see new sights and sites.

Alexandria Marina
I miscalculated how terrible traffic would be -- not at all terrible, in fact -- and wound up arriving half an hour before everybody else. Ah well. When the six other participants arrived, many of them complained about the cold. Buh? It was mid- to upper 40s which is poifect! Once we got moving, everybody was fine.

My camera, on the other hand, was not fine and I have no photos from the outbound leg of the trip. It was, however, exciting to see the bottom end of the Mount Vernon Trail, even if it was clogged with pedestrians. At one point, our fearless leader decided to cross the GW Parkway and ride through wide open neighborhood streets. My heart leapt into my throat and my brain screamed cyclists DIE crossing the GW Parkway!!! Obviously -- I hope it's obvious -- I did not perish while crossing the road nor did any of the other cyclists in our group.

I did nearly kick the bucket while climbing one of the hills through the neighborhood. I have no idea what street we were on and was completely lost, but I did not get off my bike to push. I used the granniest of granny gears, stopped halfway up the hill to gulp air and keep my heart from exploding, and finally made it to the top where the group had patiently waited for me. We eventually returned to the trail and our fearless leader warned us about the hills and switchbacks and blind corners ahead. He told us all it was good gearing practice. I dead-panned, "I didn't know there was going to be a test on this ride."

We survived the switchbacks, and thank goodness for his warning! If I'd been flying along that end of the trail by myself, I would have most likely sailed off of the trail and into the woods faaaaar below. After climbing and climbing and climbing, we finally made it to the end of the trail and the parking lot of Mount Vernon. I was the only one who hadn't seen the grounds and everybody else had to get back home for some reason or another and we parted ways. I didn't actually tour the grounds as I'd forgotten my lock and I didn't feel like renting one. After a quick lunch of a banana and a Honey Stinger Waffle, I turned my bike around and headed back north.

To be continued...