Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bikes! Bikes everywhere!

After returning home from my clipless adventure yesterday, I accompanied Scott (via truck) to the Vienna Spokes, Etc location so he could test ride a deeply discounted 2011 Specialized Crux Elite. SpokesPerson Mike set him up on a 54cm frame and Scott took it for a spin.

Later that afternoon and closer to home...
While he was out, I spied a row of Trek cruisers and, out of curiosity, sat on one. Wow, it was comfy. But totally unnecessary. I was still mentally arguing with myself when Scott returned and took out a 56cm frame for a test. Okay, I was going to test the cruiser, too.

Wow. I grinned like the Cheshire cat the entire time I was on that bike. Super comfy, super easy to "drive", and more fun than a barrel of drunken monkeys. My mind was made up by the time I got back to the shop. Happily, Scott's mind was made up as well and we both walked out of the store with new bikes; although, his didn't include a basket and streamers.

How cute is she??
 We had to go out for a ride as soon as got home and I actually did a fairly good job of keeping up with Scott despite my being on a bike with no gears. Heh. I did finally lay off the afterburners and cruised while he took off and stretched his and the Crux's legs. I felt comfortable being helmet-less and enjoyed letting my hair flow in the wind. Everybody, and I mean everybody, smiled and waved at me on my silly little super girly bike. I was grinning ear to ear.

Reality struck when we got back home. We now have five bikes in our house. Holy cow, we've got to get on the ball with the basement remodel so there's some place to store them other than the bike garage dining room.

We'll have to remove the table to make room for the cruiser.
Good thing we don't use the dining room for actual dining purposes all that often.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Going clipless

I biked to work this morning on the Dolce so I could ride directly from the office to Spokes for a personalized fitting. And since I was getting the fitting, I decided that I may as well switch out the pedals and get some clipless shoes and cleats. I chose the Shimano PD-A530 SPD pedals (I think... I'm too tired to get up and verify) which have a clip on one side and a platform on the other and Specialized's Women's Spirita Touring Shoes (surprisingly comfy!). Alexander took his time measuring my angles and adjusting my posture. Everything seemed to line up satisfactorily and he suggested trying a shorter stem if I continue to experience hand pain. I think that particular issue is clearing up as I can now ride in the horns for ten miles before my hands start hurting.

After the fitting, he let me stay on the trainer and practice clipping and unclipping until I felt comfortable to try it on the open road. My sometimes-elegant (-ish) dismount method off platform pedals didn't really lend itself to a clipless dismount and I had to talk aloud to commit "move pedal to 6:00 position, unclip, coast, brake, lean to unclipped side, put unclipped foot down, and get clipped foot into 2:00/10:00 or 3:00/9:00 position for take-off" to memory. My platform dismount is "move pedal to 6:00 position, coast, brake, stop, take foot off 12:00 pedal and sail forward off saddle so I can touch the ground, step off 6:00 pedal and kick it up to 3:00/9:00 for the next take-off".


Anyway, I finally felt like I had the process figured out and I hit the open road -- literally; the shop is about four miles from the W&OD trail -- and, as luck would have it didn't need to unclip until I got to the gravel turn-off for my neighborhood. Yes, you have to "turn off the paved road" to get from the trail to my neighborhood. It amused me that every single stop light was green and every single intersection was free of oncoming vehicles. I successfully unclipped to leave the trail and successfully clipped back in on the neighborhood street. My only issue was when I got home, unclipped on the left, and promptly fell to the right. Luckily, I caught myself on the side of my truck and was able to correct before hitting asphalt. D'oh.

Impression? I LOVED riding in cleats. I was able to power up hills more easily and I could feel different muscles working. I can see how using this style of pedal/shoe combination will make it easier to ride longer distances. I wasn't nearly as psyched out by having my feet attached to my bike as I was afraid I'd be. Some day I'll fall with my feet clipped in but I'm almost used to falling with my feet on platforms so no big.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Househunting by bike

Not that we're in the market, of course, but our current townhouse is a starter home and we're always grabbing for-sale flyers to compare interiors and prices in this area. My last townhouse was in Herndon and I loved living there because it felt like an actual town and not just a suburb. While riding around Herndon last night, Scott snagged a flier for this house.

Front porch, bay window, original wood floors in amazing condition, claw foot tub(!) and gorgeous tile in the bathroom, built in bookshelves. Built in 1900 with remodeled kitchen and baths. Mere steps away from Old Town Herndon and the W&OD. It's almost perfect -- there's no garage -- and it is, of course, way out of our price range and, more importantly, we're not in the market.

Scott is picking up a couple of lottery tickets tonight just in case.

Aaaand there's an open house on Saturday. We should be back from the Bike Me DC ride in time... I am such a masochist.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

More thanks

My apologies for the tardiness of this post. Many, many thanks to G.E. of Endless Velo Love for the donation to my fundraising effort for the American Diabetes Association. You've helped put me at 33% of my goal of $1,000 by June 3rd, 2012. THANK YOU!

I'm currently registered for the metric quarter-century route because that's the distance my teammates are riding. However, I want to put my booty where the money is -- or something like that -- and equalize the route mileage with the funds raised. If the Tour de Cure folks will let me change my registration thusly, I will ride 50+ miles for $500 raised, 75+ miles for $750, and 100+ miles for the full $1,000 enchilada. We all know I can do fifty without blinking an eye. Seventy-five and one hundred will require some training, chafing, and possibly tears.

Come on. You know you want to make a girl cry.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Trying an upright

Friday morning's fog burned off by late morning and my beloved nemesis which I affectionately call "the western approach to the Route 28 bridge" was again visible for Friday evening's commute.

I hate you so much.
The incline might not be too bad if it weren't for that 3/4 of a mile of false flat leading up to it. Yeah, yeah: whine, moan, complain. ANYWAY, the commute home was gorgeous (and sweaty). The W&OD was again chock full of pedestrians and cyclists. I'm so amused by the explosion of activity on the trail since the official start of spring even though the weather has been so spring-like for so long that the cherry blossoms bloomed two weeks early.

I'd hoped to ride with the girls this weekend so they will be ready for Bike DC in May. Unfortunately, yesterday was a literal washout and today was simply too damp and chilly this morning to plan a "training" ride. Scott mentioned that he wanted some bar tape and we headed to the Ashburn Spokes -- via truck, sadly -- where he test rode a Specialized Crux while I chatted with SpokesPerson Chris about SPD pedals for the Dolce. I picked up a pedal wrench and a chain washer kit which should eliminate the grinding sound I'm hearing in the Ariel's chainring.

With my items plus bar tape minus Crux, we headed in to DC to visit BicycleSPACE which many local bike bloggers have raved about. While the shop could not be considered local to me by any stretch of the imagination (sixty mile round trip? I think not), it does have gorgeous accessories and bikes that I haven't found in any shop out here in Loudoun or western Fairfax. My main reason for visiting was the hope of testing a Pashley Britannia. What they currently have on the floor are a Princess Sovereign and a blush pink Poppy. The Poppy was much too pink for my taste and I swallowed my nerves, did my best to ignore the price tag, and took the Princess Sovereign out for a quick (and I do mean quick) test.

I felt like a kid learning how to ride a bike. The handling felt more squirrelly than the Dolce's and that puzzled me. I suppose it's the handlebar shape and position. I was super wobbly and "fell" (more like launched myself forward) off the seat a couple of times. Nothing bad happened to the bike; I would have sacrificed any necessary body part required to keep that pricey bike from touching the ground with anything other than its tires or kickstand. Eventually, I felt comfortable enough to keep from launching myself forward -- Oh! I just figured out what was going on: I can't touch the ground while on either the Ariel's or the Dolce's saddles and am used to leaping forward off the saddle to touch the ground after braking. Simply taking my foot off the pedal and putting it on the ground is unnatural to me -- and pedaled down to the corner, up the next street a bit, and back to the shop.

The clerk asked for my impressions. I told him I found riding the Princess difficult since I'm used to diamond frames and the posture is so very different. She's heavier than my current bikes, but not distressingly so. She also felt slower and more, dare I say it, regal. The clerk beamed.

I felt kind of bad leaving the shop empty-handed after a test ride. Was that rude? Despite all the cool accessories, I didn't need anything on the shelves... However, when I decide that an upright bike needs to join my collection, BicycleSPACE will be the first shop I go to.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Stay off the moors

The incredible humidity over the past couple of days has provided spectacularly foggy mornings. Visibility in my neighborhood wasn't too bad but the W&OD was completely shrouded in the white gloom. Can gloom be white? Maybe it was more of a dingy white; that's kind of gloomy, I guess.  I couldn't see pedestrians until I was almost on top of them and other cyclists were dim shapes as we approached each other. Even my usual landmarks were hard to see.

Where's the Route 28 bridge?
Where's Pacific Blvd?
Where's the golf course?
 Believe it or not, I spotted a couple of golfers passing by on a cart. I hope they counted the fog as a substantial handicap.

Despite my fear of arachnids, I love the artistry of (small) spiderwebs. After snapping the golf course photo, I noticed this peculiar web amongst the flora. I couldn't get the right angle to actually show the funnel; it kept appearing as the black dot in the center of the web. You'll have to trust me that the web is funnel-shaped.

Funnel web!
My ride through the fog made me feel like I was in a horror movie or a fairy tale. I suppose that when you don't Disney-fy fairy tales, though, they're one and the same. Thankfully, my trusty steed carried me through to the sunny path to the campus.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Prepping to dash

Since I was already sweaty from my commute yesterday evening, I decided to get even sweatier and changed into my running shoes for a brisk walk around the neighborhood. I'd mapped out a three and a half mile route when I walked regularly in 2010 and 2011 and that's the route that I used yesterday to get back into non-bikey exercise.

I shambled along the first mile feeling like my feet were cement blocks. It sucked and I wanted to turn around and take my road bike out instead. But I persevered and as I entered the second mile, my pace increased and I felt lighter. I jogged a TINY bit -- and I do mean TINY -- but I didn't feel like I would die when I slowed down. Walking and running really do use different muscles than biking. Weird.

One of my current goals is to reduce my flabby belly so I can fit into all the cute shorts, skirts, and capris I bought for last summer. I've also got an adorable jersey and sweet exercise skirts which are a little too tight for my pride. The regular biking has firmed up my legs and booty, but my belly and arms are in a sad shape. Crunches, push-ups, and strength training are part of my renewed exercise regimen as well.

My other goal is participating in the Maryland edition of the Warrior Dash in May. Scott ran the Dash in Charles County, VA, last October and had so much fun he's going to run it again. I thought it looked fun enough for me to give it a go in 2012. I need endurance and strength to get through the course.

Of course, there's bike training to be done as well. I'm aiming to ride the metric century (~65 miles) in this year's Backroads Century (ride date is 23 September; registration opens 1 May). I can comfortably ride Circe for fifteen miles or so and I've got to get in more time on the saddle to ride that additional fifty on the road bike.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Close encounter of the creepy kind

Hopefully, yesterday's post wasn't too morbid. I actually enjoy cemeteries when I'm not there for a loved one's funeral, and find the older ones are especially enchanting.

But anyway, yesterday evening I had my first run-in with a harasser. I was decked out my oh-so-enticing denim pedal-pushers and a floral shirt so you know I was asking for it. As I waited to make a left hand turn out of a strip mall parking lot, a couple of guys in a pickup truck whistled and hollered at me. "Hey, sweetie! Let us pick you up!" and other enticing come-ons. I rolled my eyes, waited for a couple more cars to pass, and made my left turn which put me directly behind the truck. The guys waggled their eyebrows at me in their mirrors -- seriously -- and my spidey sense went nuts. I zigged into the right turn lane and made a quick escape into a townhome neighborhood with lots of twisty streets and continued on to the next non-cul-de-sac neighborhood. Those guys probably wouldn't or couldn't have done anything, but the experience gave me a pretty bad case of the heebie-jeebies.

I pedaled on through other neighborhoods without trouble and got home as a gentle rain began to fall.

I'm still working towards my goal of $1,000 by June 2nd. Please donate if you can.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Whirlwind trip home (with a tiny [and I do mean tiny] bit of bikey stuff)

I took an impromptu trip to Memphis for my great aunt's funeral which, despite the reason for the trip, was pretty enjoyable. Scott B retrieved me from the airport and spent most of Tuesday evening visiting with me, Mom, and stepdad Pete. Wednesday was Aunt Bernadine's memorial service in Arkansas and one couldn't ask for a more beautiful day in which to be in a cemetery. I saw a lot of family members whom I haven't seen since childhood and even met a few cousins who were born after we moved to Tennessee.

Family plot.
Family plot in Forrest City, AR.

The graveside service was brief and touching. The church dinner was filled with amazing food. As I posted to Facebook, there is nothing like a church dinner featuring fried chicken and fried okra made by good Christian women. Between the dinner and the celebration service, Mom, my sister Mimi, and I drove around Hughes trying to remember who lived where and mourning the deterioration of the tiny farm community.

Papa and Gram
Papa and Gram's headstone.

The celebration of my great aunt's life was quite beautiful. We learned a lot about Aunt Bernie that even Mom didn't know. Family members shared amusing and touching anecdotes about her and most everyone left the service feeling peaceful.

Daddy B's window
My great-grandfather's (Daddy B) memorial window at Hughes United Methodist Church.

Mom suggested I ride home with Mimi so we'd have time to visit. I hardly ever get to spend much time with my sister and we both enjoyed the time together. Mom stopped to visit former coworkers when we reached downtown Memphis while Mimi and I continued on to her house in midtown where we held an impromptu happy hour on her front porch. After a couple glasses of wine (her) and a couple of wine coolers (me), I set to work doing a bit of maintenance on her bike while she and Mom strolled around the block with my nephew Bear on his tricycle.

Thursday was Mom's and my day to play and we shopped like we had money. She's lost a bit of weight and wanted some jeans and slacks that fit. She found the slacks (and I found some dresses and shirts) at Dress Barn and then she hit the jeans jackpot at Kohl's. Good gravy but my mom has legs that go all the way up. She strolled out of the fitting room in a pair of jeans that took 35 years off; I swear that she looked like she did when I was a little kid. It took some cajoling and pushing until she finally saw in the mirror what I saw.

We got home in time to play a game of Scrabble -- I beat her like a baby seal -- before heading out to celebrate my brother David's birthday at his favorite sushi restaurant. David and I are seriously cheap drunks but we can, thankfully, hold our sushi.

The thunderstorms promised all week finally arrived Friday morning just in time for my departure. I'm normally a fairly calm flier, but while I donned my warpaint that morning, the Today show ran a story about the dangers of planes being struck by lightning. Fantastic. I phoned Scott to tell him I loved him, just in case, and sat back for the bumpy ride out. The plane made it safely to sunny Charlotte, NC, and arrived in drizzly Dulles, VA, on time.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Radio silence

No bikey news this week. I'm flying to Memphis this afternoon to attend my great aunt's funeral in Arkansas tomorrow. It's okay... she was 94 and had been in poor health and bedridden for a couple of years. I'm grateful that I got to see her when she was still mobile a few years ago when I decided on the spur of the moment to visit the old farmstead during a family visit.

More devastating, though, was the sudden death of a good friend yesterday afternoon. I'm so sorry that I won't be around to support his wife this week but I know that Scott and our friends will take good care of Barb.

See y'all next week.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Thank you!

Many, many thanks to Rootchopper of A Few Spokes Shy of a Wheel for the donation to my fundraising effort for the American Diabetes Association. You've helped put me at 18% of my goal. THANK YOU!

In other news, today's commute was another glorious one. There was a light, warm breeze for most of the trip and birdsong filled the air. I even stopped to listen to a robin perched on the branch of a bare tree. At first I though he was a cardinal because I could see only bright red, but then he turned and I saw the definitive robin profile and brown wings. A couple of commuters smiled at my floral basket (or maybe my bare knees when my skirt hiked up a bit).

Speaking of the skirt, I noticed absolutely no Mary Poppins effect on Smith Switch and Waxpool. In fact, I got more crowded and squished against the curb than usual with vehicles accelerating and passing aggressively. I get more space in jeans and a windbreaker! Hmph. And I am NOT going helmetless to see if that "helps".

I've decided to rename the Ariel as "Lily". I find it rolls off the tongue more easily, and I'm pretty fond of lilies. I'll refrain from renaming her "Tulip" or "Hydrangea" in the future. Maybe.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


This evening was absolutely glorious. I got home from the orthodontist just before dark and had to take Circe out for a short ( <5 miles) ride. I rode through the neighborhood on the other side of the boulevard and picked up the W&OD for the return home. But as I approached my hopping off point, I had to keep on going. I could smell someone's dinner grilling. A choir of peepers sang as I flew past. I looked up and realized that the last light of the sunset reflected on the clouds in the west while the full moon in the east cast a pink glow on the wispy clouds in front of it. I'm so thankful for having the opportunity to experience such beauty.

But it's not all sublime joy about these parts. I was gleeful to discover that I hit over 30 mph while going through the twin hills on the W&OD east of Sterling Blvd. Wheee! And that was before the flame job.

Flame on, you crazy diamond frame. Or something.
 But that wasn't the only decorating. I couldn't neglect my trusty commuter. It's beginning to feel like spring and Rose needed prettying up with a garland of lilies and a floral bag.

Springtime Rose/Lily.

You'd think I'd use roses, but the white roses and greenery looked to "wedding-y". Hm. And now that I think about it, I might have to rename the Ariel "Lily". That feels more natural than "Rose".

Margie and Oreo helped out to the best of their abilities. Unfortunately, that help consisted mostly of trying to eat the silk leaves.
Margie is why the rum is all gone. And some of the leaves.


Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Putting my cycling to good use

Because some family members and close friends are living with diabetes, and I have flirted with being diagnosed myself, I am riding in this year's National Capital Tour de Cure and raising money for the American Diabetes Association.

Please visit my page if you are able to help me reach my goal of $1,000. I am grateful for anything you are able to give, even if it's just an "atta girl!" :)

Thank you!

Monday, March 05, 2012

I'm too cold to think of a title

We didn't make it to WABA's Vasa Ride yesterday. Scott wasn't up to a thirty mile ride and I didn't want to go without him. I wasn't too keen on the super early hour we'd have to be out of the door to make it, either. Instead, Scott planned to ride to the gym, swim, and ride home. Before leaving, though, he worked on attaching some bar-end handle thingies to his bike, but couldn't get the handle over the stem of his rear view mirror. The stem of the rear view mirrors we both have are slightly too big for the inner diameter of his handlebar tube so Adam shaved the stem down just a bit and mashed it into the handlebar. The bar attachment thingie Scott wanted to put on couldn't open wide enough for him to slip it over the mirror end and he wasn't able to pry the mirror off his handlebar. I suggested we take his bike to the local bike shop and get Adam to work his magic. This ride would also  give me a chance to put more miles on Circe.

The Weather Channel promised a little bit of wind in our neck of the woods, but I would call that "little bit of wind" downright blustery. We took turns acting as windbreaks for each other and that worked out pretty well. I was amused to feel the difference in exertion depending upon which one of us was in front and in rear.

We made it to the shop without issue; although Scott was fairly wiped out from the seven mile ride. He had plenty of time to recover, though, since Sunday is apparently the day when everybody comes in for maintenance. I was sad that the usual gang wasn't on staff, but I guess they need a day off every now and then. While we waited for Scott's turn, I purchased a couple of bottle cages for Circe because the pair I had were too loose and made my bottle rattle the. entire. ride. over. As I swapped out old cages for new, a couple of the salesguy came over to ask if I wanted assistance. I laughed that it was just bottle cages and I was good. One of the guys praised my self-sufficiency. I told him I could even change a tire and had taken my friend's cruiser apart and put it back together. They said I should watch out or they might hire me. I joked back that I wouldn't mind the employee discount. That banter carried over to Scott's perusal of cyclocross bikes where he asked if it was possible to change out the nubby tires for slicks and vice versa. Salesguy said yes and that I could show Scott how to do that. Heh.

The ride home was MUCH easier now that we had a tailwind and I was really able to open Circe up. I was able to get her to just over 26 mph on a flat section and sailed up a hill at 24. I then coasted for a couple of minutes to let Scott catch up. It was fun showing off and passing him on hills especially on the route 28 overpass. I hit that sucker at 14 mph and crested at just under 13. All in all, it was a fun outing and I'm enjoying getting used to the new bike.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Bikes and cars

I saw fellow bike commuter at the Smith Switch/Waxpool/Farmwell intersection. Last summer there was a gent in a recumbant I passed a couple of times along Smith Switch, but this is the first commuter I've seen off the trail. Yay!

I need to ask the Women's Cycling Forum for a recommendation of a sports bra with enough padding in the cups so that my body doesn't announce to the world when I'm chilled. It's a fact of life, sure, but it's a fact of life that mortifies me beyond belief. I wear regular bras on casual and group rides, but I don't like sweating so much in them and ruining them for regular use. I suppose I could designate a couple of them as bike bras, but there's got to be a sports bra out there SOMEWHERE that will do what I want it to do. (Sorry about the TMI, guys.)

In non-bikey news, I'm going to test drive a Jeep Patriot this weekend. I've whined and whined about how much I dislike my Highlander and how much I miss Jeepfink. Well, I checked out Kelly Blue Book and checked the payoff amount for the Highlander and discovered that I am well above water: the truck is worth way more than what I owe. The payments, though, are putting a serious cramp on my life. A Patriot with the options I want will cost significantly less than what I purchased the Highlander for AND will have lower monthly payments even if I accelerate the loan as 36 or 48 months.

On the other hand, I feel like one of those d-bags who buys a new car every other year. However, I got my first car (it was used) in high school and sold it six years later. My brand spankin' new Jeep was a faithful steed for thirteen years. My two year anniversary with the Highlander comes up next month which means I could still end up with a total of five years of car payments. That is seriously tempting. I have promised Scott that I will not purchase a Jeep this weekend and ONLY test drive. Next weekend is fair game, though.

Back to semi-bikey news: the Jeep dealership that I've picked for the test drive is just off the W&OD in Leesburg. If I get do get a Jeep and if I like the dealership, that means I could bike to and from there when the vehicle needs maintenance. Heh.