Thursday, May 31, 2012

Close but not quite...

While documenting my hunt for the perfect loop frame bicycle of my dreams, I read a review of the Civia Twin City Step-Through by the delightful Dottie of Let's Go Ride a Bike. This is it, thought I. This would be the bike that meets my requirements of graceful/classic lines, power for hills, and a comfortable/smooth ride both on-road and slightly off. With words of encouragement from other bloggers, I searched for a local-ish dealer and was both excited and anxious about having found one in Richmond. I was excited because the dealer was within an easy and explicable driving distance and anxious because I wouldn't be able to make the five hour (with traffic) round trip for at least a week. I chewed my nails, threw common sense to the wind, extended my vacation by one day, and drove to Carytown Bicycle Company in Richmond on Tuesday.

Source: Civia Cycles

The Twin City is quite lovely in person with its rich burgundy color and gracefully curved top tube and handlebars. I liked the integrated rack, but was concerned about how the bottom hook of my shopping pannier would connect without slipping. Wrangling the far-reaching cables around a front basket might be difficult. The top tube was higher than I expected, though. Dottie and I are both 5'7" and she steps over the top tube fairly easily in her video review. I found it easier to throw my leg over the seat when mounting the bike (which kind of defeats the purpose of a step-through...), but pulling my leg through when dismounting was quite comfortable.

The test ride itself was enjoyable despite my turning the shifter in the wrong direction, but the bicycle forgave my slip-ups. The chain sound and felt like it slipped occasionally, but that could be due to improper assembly and I'm sure could be adjusted. The grips felt comfortable in my hands and the brake handles were in a good position. The back brake was sluggish and the front brake squealed like a banshee. The riding posture was extremely comfortable -- upright, but not stiffly so -- and I could easily bend into a lower and more aggressive position. The stock seat was EXTREMELY uncomfortable during my ten minute ride around the neighborhood and would need to be swapped out pronto. I have no idea of determining how fast I rode, but I wasn't afraid to tangle with traffic and take-off from a stoplight was easy. The ride quality wasn't as smooth as I'd expected. I'd equate it with the Linus Dutchi, not terrible like the Globe Daily but not as sweet as the Public Bikes M8. I don't know if this is correct, but I chalked that up to the narrow tires.

I had carried my Specialized Ariel to Richmond as trade and when I rode her up to the shop (parking was a couple of blocks away) after having ridden the Civia, I couldn't help but compare how much smoother Lily's ride felt to the Civia's. At that point I realized that the Civia wasn't the bike for me and I wouldn't compromise the form of a not-quite-right loop frame against the function of my current hybrid.

Some might see this as a wasted trip -- I kind of did as I sat in standstill traffic on I-95 for twenty minutes thanks to road construction -- but it was actually another object lesson in specs on paper (or the web) not meeting the gut (and butt) feeling. And with that, one more obsession has bitten the dust and I was completely happy with my utilitarian Lily. At least I was until the adorable G.E. of Endless Velo Love pointed out that Public Bikes must have heard my whine about the Mixte frame and the 3-speed loop frame having an internal geared hub and it wasn't fair that the 7-speed loop frame had a rear derailleur instead. They have since released an eight-speed, internally geared loop-frame bicycle. The Public Bikes M8 has been my favorite test ride thus far; this C8 may just be The One.

Source: Public Bikes

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The bikes of New Orleans

Jackson Square
During my college years at the University of Southern Mississippi, my friends and I would make the 1-1/2 hour trek from Hattiesburg to NO on a regular basis and I grew to love that city. In the intervening 18 years (good Lord, seriously?), I haven't been back except for a few short hours a couple of years ago when Scott and I were attending a large SCA camping event in Lumberton, MS. My goodness, but the city had changed.

Royal Street blue
I was able to return for a longer visit this past weekend and introduce the city to a girlfriend who hasn't traveled much beyond the mid-Atlantic region. I exposed her to the debauchery of Bourbon Street, the peaceful lushness of uptown and the Garden District, the incomparable food, and the near constant soundtrack of jazz, blues, and rock that fills the French Quarter. But she wasn't the only one to experience something new and exciting: I discovered the bike culture and infrastructure of New Orleans.

Royal Street red
It's funny, but before I started regularly bike riding, I didn't notice things like bicycles locked to racks and posts or cyclists, bike lanes or sharrows. But I was psyched to see the bike lanes and sharrows on several streets. And there were SO MANY cyclists out and about, and pretty much all of them were in regular street clothes. They were downtown and uptown and riding between the streetcar tracks. And the bicycles... so many beautiful and unique bicycles. I had to snap photos of the ones which caught my eye.

Bikes galore on Royal
A few people were puzzled by why I took pictures of various bikes chained to fences; my quick explanation was that I am bike crazy. My friend said I should write something like a travel book about bikes in various cities. That sounds like a fun idea, but I am barely a good enough author/photographer to keep a blog going, heh.

Secret garden on Toulouse

The trip wasn't all about bikes, of course. We walked all over the city including the Quarter and Magazine Street. We shopped like we had money, got our drink on at various bars and with most meals, and even saw the Bustout Burlesque at the House of Blues (OMG, so much fun!). We even partook of two pedi-cab rides; our second "driver" was a student at Tulane and had ridden his Specialized Allez from his parents' New Hampshire home to Oregon one summer.

NOLA Rising / Road Kill on Royal
We even got to spend quality time with my NO friends and their kids and see how the "other half" lives in quiet part of the raucous city. They took us to La Petite Grocery for dinner, La Divina for gelato, and Taceaux Loceaux for food truck tacos. I never thought that I would have to safeword on food.

Beads on Royal
Other meal stops included The Corner in Jackson Square where I ate my first soft shell crab po-boy in eighteen years and sucked down a frozen strawberry lemonade which made my eyes go wobbly. We enjoyed a decadent Sunday brunch at The Court of Two Sisters, the near-mandatory beignets at Cafe du Monde, and excellent service and even better food at Arnaud's.

This bike belonged to the chef at a tavern on Magazine. Apparently, it gets 35 MPG.
Before our weekend ended, my friend stated that she wanted to move to New Orleans. I had to laugh since she had complained about the heat and humidity through most of our stay, but I understand the desire. My local friends say that living in New Orleans is like an abusive relationship: when it's bad, it's really bad, but when it's good, it's really REALLY good.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Training ride #4, or trainus interruptus

This past Sunday was my last good training ride day. I will be in New Orleans for Memorial Day weekend and the Tour de Cure is on the following Sunday. My plan was to ride from home to Reston Parkway, turn around and ride west to Purcellville, then turn around and ride back home. That route is 56 miles, only five miles short of my Tour de Cure if I have Scott drive me back home and ten miles short if I ride the bike back home.

I got on the trail at 11:30am, much later than planned, but the trail wasn't too crowded. The trip to Reston and the return past home were easy. I worked on keeping my pace at a reasonable 13 MPH but it kept creeping up to 14.5 or so. I got into a spot of trouble in Ashburn when my sunscreen started running into my eyes. After clearing that up, I continued on while being pounded by the sun. The air temperature was only 80F and the humidity was tolerable, but that sun was baking me pretty hard. I couldn't wait to get into the tree cover outside of and through Leesburg. I got to Raflo park -- mile 22 of my trip -- and seriously considered calling Scott to come pick me up. But I rested in the shade and breeze, ate half a sandwich, ate a banana, and drained both water bottles. Thankfully, there was a working water fountain and I was able to refill.

I hit the trail again and was doing okay until I crossed Route 7 and began the climb up to Clark's Gap. The sun started baking me again and everything hurt. My gloves felt like they were squeezing my fingers, my shoes crushed my toes, my shorts pinched my thighs and lady parts, and my helmet felt like a vise on the back of my head. My hands were numb, my toes hurt, my right heel hurt, my head hurt. It's only 30 more miles, I bargained with myself. I can do that easily. But I slowed, and slowed, and slowed.

No, damnit! This is my last time to train! My body could NOT give up. Except that it did. I gave in and called Scott for rescue. I was at Clark's Gap but I asked him to meet me in Leesburg. I figured I could at least coast most of the way down hill to town. I was disappointed in myself and fretful about what this meant for the Tour. However, as I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening recovering from heat exhaustion, I realize that I made the right decision in calling for rescue.

You know, my not being a morning person makes me grumbly about tours and supported rides starting so blasted early in the morning. But now I understand why they do that. My Tour start time is between 7 and 8am so I feel a little better about not getting too sun baked while riding. Of course, now watch us get a monsoon on the day of.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


There is a medium-sized Civia Twin City Step-Through on the floor at a bike shop in Richmond, VA and I don't have a spare five hours to get down there and back before June 2nd. Please oh please oh please don't get sold before I get a chance to test you.


Adventures in urban cycling

Saturday promised to be a gorgeous day and I was determined to make the most of it. Scott had plans to practice sword work with a friend in Herndon and I was left without adult supervision. I decided to head into DC and test ride some bikes I've been stalking on the internet. To keep me honest on this being a recon mission only, I took Lily with me to use as my mode of transportation in the city.

The most difficult part of the trip was finding a metro station that either had available parking or wasn't closed for track work. My preferred station is East Falls Church as it is the next exit off I-66 after the Dulles Toll Road spur. Unfortunately, the parking lot was PACKED and I was forced to find another station. I headed back to West Falls Church and learned that the station was closed for track work. Shuttles ran back up to East Falls, but I chickened out of trying to get my bike on the front of a bus and hunted for another station. I eventually found the Ballston station and a mostly empty garage attached to the mall a couple of blocks away. After locating the elevator, re-upping my SmartTrip card, and wrangling the Ariel onto the train, we were headed to the city for our urban adventure.

I am incapable of taking a good photo of the White House.
I hopped off at the Foggy Bottom station because it was closest to the first bike shop I wanted to visit. I got my first taste of honest to goodness urban cycling while weaving through traffic jams on K and Pennsylvania. I played chicken with a taxi (and won, I guess, since I'm not only still breathing but also have full use of all limbs and organs) and dodged GW University grads and families.

After the test ride, I took L to Massachusetts to Mount Vernon Square where I hopped onto the sidewalk to get out of another traffic snarl. At this point, I was completely sold on a bicycle being the best mode of transportation in the city. I swear, if we lived in an urban area, we'd be selling one of the vehicles without hesitation.

After a second test ride, I headed over to Adams Morgan and got to play in bike lanes and the 15th Street cycletrack. OMG, so much fun. Now, I've been kind of meh about bike lanes particularly since they put cyclists in the door zone and I also feel like they might cause vehicle drivers to think those lanes are the only places that cyclists are allowed to ride. However, I realized that bike lanes can allow one to more safely (-ish) filter past stopped cars. The bike lane on V certainly made my ride from 15th to Florida a better experience. Not sitting in four blocks of stopped cars for the win!

Other urban cycling experiences: pedaling through salmons and getting shoaled by super bikers. Whoo hoo! I can see how dealing with both on a daily basis could wear down a commuter. I also noticed that the inbound 15th Street cycletrack was a little more harrowing than outbound since there weren't any stoplights pointed in the inbound direction. Luckily, I didn't sail through any red lights and I eventually realized that I should watch the crosswalk signals to know whether or not to stop. There were too many light-running cyclists to count of them being good signals. A few passing cyclists smiled or compliment my flowery basket, but most wore super serious faces. Come on and lighten up: you're on a bike! Occupiers are in McPherson Square. I thought they were only in Freedom Plaza.

I didn't realize they were still occupying.
I pedaled in front of the White House and took even more bad photos. A couple of protestors railed about the US being a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah and blew a large plastic horn in a walls-of-Jericho reenactment, minus walls. A huge (and I mean HYOOGE) wedding party emerged from Lafayette Square taking guerrilla wedding photos in front of the White House. Based on the bride's pale skin and strawberry blonde hair, I assume she was of Irish descent. The throng of darker skinned women in saris caused me to assume the groom was of Indian descent. All of the gorgeous saris were like a glittering rainbow traveling down Pennsylvania Avenue. As I passed the White House, I saw a large man with a very big gun and an enormous dog round the northwest corner of the White House. I did not spy any snipers.

I chose poorly and got stuck in traffic on 17th Street. Unlike the filtering girl, I waited to find a curb cut and hopped on the sidewalk again. I'm not entirely sure what constitutes the Central Business District and I don't know if riding on the sidewalk there is prohibited on the weekends, but no one official pulled me over. Continuing on to Independence, I found signs pointing toward the FDR Memorial, but between heavy traffic and getting turned around, I missed the exit for both FDR and MLK. Of course, now that I am looking at Google Maps I can see there was an easier access point which I passed after I gave up on visiting those memorials. Instead, I chose to explore the mythic Hains Point which I've read about in other blogs. I obeyed traffic LAWS and clutched invisible pearls at the cars which did not. My mind was blown when I rode past a miniature golf course. I don't know why it seems strange and out of place for DC to have a miniature golf course, but it does. I mean, DC is about stately marble monuments and humorless politicians, lobbyists, and businesspeople. Miniature golf is completely incongruous with DC. Except, apparently, it isn't. As I pedaled along the DC-facing side of the island, I heard a bagpipe from across the water. From the National War College, I guess...? I like bagpipes from a distance. A cyclist I'd passed earlier passed me and complimented both my flowery basket and my cycling speed. I smiled and thanked him.

Virginia-facing side of Hains Point.

I wound my way back to Independence and decided that it was time to head home. I'd been riding around DC for almost five hours -- well, four-ish if you deduct my stop for an omelet and milkshake at the Diner in Adams Morgan -- and had put nearly fifteen miles on the bike. En route to the Smithsonian station, a Lexus with DC plates buzzed me. I was miffed until I saw him cut off an SUV up ahead and realized the guy behind the wheel was an equal opportunity jackhole.

Aside from getting on the New Carrollton platform and wrestling Lily up the escalator so I could get to the other platform (not recommended, by the way) and then missing the first west bound orange line train, the trip home was easy peasy. I'm looking forward to my next urban adventure where I can visit the above-mentioned memorials, the Titanic memorial, the waterfront, the Eastern Market, and all sorts of other places I've never seen in DC. I am super excited about the prospect of being able to leave the truck at home and cycling over to the Wiehle station and riding Metro into the city from Reston when phase one of the Dulles rail extension opens next year.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Adventures in test rides

I had an urban cycling adventure in DC on Saturday. It wasn't just about exploration, though. The main reason for the trip was to test ride bicycles that aren't available -- or don't appear to be available -- in the bike shops near me.

The first shop I chose to visit was District Hardware - The Bike Shop near Foggy Bottom and GW University. I called Friday about testing a Public Bikes step-through bicycle. I've been eyeing the C7 model, but the M8 was the bike in stock.
 Public Bikes M8
I tested the M8 on busy and potholed streets and it rode like a dream. The wide tires and steel frame handled uneven street surfaces with ease and surprising comfort, and the eight speed hub was sporty enough for playing in traffic. I also enjoyed the combination of upright posture mixed with the ability to comfortably move into a more aggressive posture. (I find myself leaning in to the bars when I'm on my cruiser; if I ever get an upright city bike, it'll take some time to train myself out of doing that.) I returned the bike to the shop with a huge grin on my face. I wasn't tempted to purchase the bike, though. While the Mixte-ish frame is lovely, I couldn't comfortably step over the top bar and had to throw my leg over the seat.

My next stop was BicycleSPACE near Mount Vernon Square and across from the Convention Center. I planned to test ride a Linus Dutchi 8, but what was on the floor was a Dutchi 3. Eh, it should handle the same as the 8, just minus five extra gears, I supposed. The ride itself was pleasant enough, but not as smooth as the Public. I was surprised by how high up I was on this bike. I could see over the tops of vans and SUVs. I think I was seated higher than I am in the Highlander!

Linus Bikes Dutchi 3
The Linus wasn't for me, though. Happily, I got to chat with shop co-owner Eric for a bit. He had noted how handy my Po Campo Pilsen Handbag was when I attached it to the Dutchi's rack and I suggested the shop should become a dealer. We chatted about Pashleys and he explained the differences between Brooks B67 and B17 models of saddles. I'm now very tempted to get a B17 for my Ariel... I thanked Eric for his time and the test ride and returned to my Lily where I was horrified to discover that I had forgotten to lock her to the rack! I suppose, though, that if there was anyplace in the city to be so careless, out front of BicycleSPACE was the best place.

The last stop on my bike shop tour was City Bikes in Adams Morgan. I've wanted to test a Globe Daily 3 Step-Through for ages. While Spokes, Etc could order one for me, since they're a Specialized dealer, none of the stores have had a model on the floor. But this store had eight of them! Choirs of angels sang. Well, at least until I got to the shop. There was a medium Daily 2 step-through and a small Daily 1 step-through. The guy "helping" me decided that the Daily 2 was too big for me (without adjusting the seat down for me and despite my Ariel being a large. Instead he set me up on the single speed, small Daily 1 and told me to follow the bike lane down the street, turn right, turn right again, and ride back up a hill that I'd just pushed my 21-speed Ariel up.

"You want me ride up that hill on a single speed bike?" I asked, incredulous. "It'll handle it," he replied. "Watch out for traffic and don't fall."

Globe Daily 1
I should've handed the bike back right then and there, but I've been dying to test one of these. Plus, I knew that I didn't have to purchase from the shop and could instead use my beloved Spokes. So, with a raised eyebrow, I chose my own test route using the suggested bike lane and then turning left and eventually getting onto the brick sidewalk lining Columbia Road. Aside from the bike being WAY too small and feeling like my knees were bumping my earlobes, I was willing to give the bike a fair shot. It failed me in just able every way. Okay, so the basket held my purse and the bike didn't fall apart, but those were pretty much the only positives. The ride was a teeth- and bone-rattling experience. I returned the bike and was ready to leave. But no. Salesguy wanted to know what was wrong. I told him the ride was bumpy and uncomfortable. He explained that was because of the aluminum frame and then dragged me over to some other bikes to show me how the welds will show you what kind of metal a bike is made of. Or... I could read the spec sheet. He then tried to talk me into a another hybrid. I pointed out my bike chained up to a rack outside and told him I already have a hybrid. But this one has shocks. Yeah, so does mine. Undeterred, he made me go upstairs to look at their show room and told me how great the road bikes are. Yes, I have a Dolce. And then he showed me the mountain bikes and said that I would already know all about them. The hell?

Okay. Now, I recognize that letting this go on so long is partially my fault because I was being too polite instead of telling him to stuff it and demanding he retrieve my license and credit card from the register. In fact, I should have demanded those the moment I asked him if we could go back into the shop while he was explaining "metal welds" because my skin was burning and he said that I should have put on sunscreen (I don't ride without at least SPF 45, by the way)... But again, too polite. He then rang up another customer before giving back my ID and card. So. Not only can I NOT recommend a Globe Daily, I DO NOT recommend the Adams Morgan City Bikes.

So. I didn't get to ride the bikes I've been looking at online, but I got to ride what I think are fairly decent analogs. I resumed lusting over the Public Bikes C7 until I realized that the handlebar backsweep is a different angle from the M8 and the C7 has a rear derailleur unlike the M8's internal hub. Now I just need to find a Civia dealer so I can test a Twin City Step-Through. There's supposed to be a dealer near the French Quarter and I'm going to New Orleans this weekend...

(Impression of the Civia Twin City is here.)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bike to Work Day 2012

Happy Bike to Work Day or, as a lot of bike bloggers I read would call it, "Friday". There were SO MANY new-to-me commuters on the trail. And everyone seemed to be in high spirits exchanging smiles and nods and "good morning"s. The Sterling pit stop outside of the Orbital exit on the W&OD was a happenin' spot with Spokes mechanics checking over peoples' bikes, a Bike Loudoun representative, and Bike to Work Day sponsors handing out tees and little first aid kids and water bottles. (I swear, Scott and I are going to need to build a cabinet to house all the free water bottles we score.) A couple of commuters chatted me up because they recognized my bike basket. That was unexpected fun.

A peloton of fellow employees met up in Reston and I declined adding an extra nine-ish miles to my morning commute, instead hoping to join up when they reached Sterling. I saw what I assumed was them as I prepared to continue on to work -- someone at the pit stop alerted folks: "Look out, serious bikers coming through!" -- but was unable to catch up until getting the parking garage closest to the entrance for the campus' fitness center. Ah well. I waved and said, "Good morning," and continued on to the next garage where I lock up my bike.

I'm wearing my free t-shirt now. I wore the "vintage" Bike DC 2008 shirt for the commute not considering that sweat + thin white t-shirt = inappropriate office wear even in a super casual office. Thank goodness I had something else to wear. :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Missing the point

The weather was absolutely gorgeous when I got home from work and I decided to give my darling single speed cruiser Kate a little bit of love. She gets neglected as I choose Lily the hybrid for my commute and Circe the road bike for distance training. Kate is adorable -- there's no denying that -- but I have the tiniest bit of buyer's remorse because she was SUCH an impulse purchase and isn't the most practical bike around.

I cruised up and around the neighborhood, mashing as hard as I could to get up hills and hanging on for dear life while coasting down. I've decided that I really, really don't like coaster brakes because 1) I can't kick the pedals into a good take-off position when I stop, and 2) it's hard to stop quickly without skidding. There are so many downhill sections that end with a stop sign and I'm less than excited about sliding into cross traffic.

That being said, I still enjoyed being out and about on my sweet little bike. We explored some gravel roads along the W&OD and Kate was as sure "footed" on that gravel as a mountain goat in craggy environs. I would have been nervous on Lily and there's no way Circe could have gone through that area. My sturdy Kate surprised the heck out of my by handling the bumps and ruts and loose gravel with ease.

When we got back on the paved trail and I was pedaling with all my might to get uphill, I thought that swapping out the cruiser's pedals for SPDs would help me move the bike more efficiently. And then I realized that I was thinking about a CRUISER. It's practically the antithesis of clipless pedal material!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bike DC 2012

Starting line crush.
Aside from some unpleasantness before and during the Bike DC event, Scott and I enjoyed ourselves immensely. I'll start with the bad:

 - Waking at an ungodly hour so that we could get to Gravelly Point by 6am to meet our bike club and get registration materials. Seriously, I don't know how you early morning commuters do it. I'm unhappy if I have to get up before 7:30am.

- The choke points at 50/Meade, all of Marshall, and Washington Blvd/Columbia Pike. The mixture of speedsters and children as the full ride and family ride converged made all of those especially fun.

- And speaking of little kids: eleven miles up and down strenuous hills is really too much for a "family fun ride". If I were supreme ruler, I would have kept the little ones on a downtown course around the Mall or something. More fun, and safer, for everybody.

These guys planned to ride the entire 24-mile route.
- Food, or rather lack of choices in the food. There were apples, bananas, water, granola bars, and candy at the two rest stops. I didn't see any food at the beginning -- I would have maimed someone for a bagel with cream cheese -- and the food at the end was bananas, bags of chips, and Jolly Ranchers. I expected maybe something like a cookout atmosphere with burgers and hot dogs at the finish line. My expectations of supported tours has been completely ruined by the fantastic spread that the Backroads Century provides at rest stops and the end, but come on! I can't eat apples, Twizzlers, or Jolly Ranchers because of my braces. I've now eaten enough bananas that I'm sure I'll make a Geiger counter click.

That being said, we did have a good time on the full route. I got to go places and see things I haven't experienced before. I'd never personally seen the front of the White House before. I'd never been on a cycle track. I'd never ridden behind unicyclists.

Not as impressive as the back, but still pretty.

I've driven on Rock Creek Parkway less than a handful of times and traveling it via bike was one of the more amazing things I've done. What can I say, I lead a boring life.

 We rode on the GW Parkway of DEATH. I've now seen the Iwo Jima Memorial in person and the Air Force Memorial from the base. I'm still buzzing about riding through the K Street tunnel and up and down car-free DC streets. I do wish, though, that more of the ride had been in the actual DC boundaries. I mean, it was fun riding in Virginia, but DC, man. And now that I think about it, all of the congestion was in the Virginia half of the ride. Coincidence? I think not.

We got to ride our bikes on an INTERSTATE HIGHWAY, y'all. Mind, blown.

It's just another 25 miles west to home.

After crossing the finish line and not finding any suitable food, we snagged our T-shirts, purchased a couple of "vintage" ride shirts, and cruised across town back to Virginia on non-car-free streets. I wasn't entirely sure how to get where we needed to go, but I did know that once we hit Constitution, my bearings would return. We rode through the Mall and wound our way past the Vietnam Wall and on to the Lincoln Memorial which I haven't been up close and personal with since my family visited during Spring Break 1990.
All in all, and aside from the snafus, we had fun. Unless something more important or pressing comes up next year, we'll probably ride in Bike DC again. I do hope that my girlfriends become stronger and more confident cyclists by then so we can ride together.
I promise I did not photoshop our bikes onto a postcard.

Another fun point is that I got lots of compliments on the floral basket. So many in fact that Scott was disappointed no one commented on his Hula girl shirt. People eventually noticed his sartorial flair and we wound up about even on comments. One guy even suggested that Scott invest in a dashboard Hula girl to attach to his helmet for the next group ride. We're both pretty keen on that idea.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bike DC 2012 videos

Both Scott and I had a blast riding in BikeDC this morning. I have scads of photos to edit and upload. In the meantime, here are some shakey-cam videos from the northbound lanes of the George Washington Parkway in Mclean, VA, and the westbound lanes of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge over the Potomac River. 

I'm kind of kicking myself for not taking some video along the Rock Creek Parkway because that section was bee-you-tiful. On the other hand, we were still pretty much in a pack and I needed both hands on the bars and brakes both going up and coming back down. Next year, I'll actually use the camera mount I put on my handlebar.

This is totally a bikeyface. (I was too happy to be at all self-conscious about my braces.)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Happiness is...

The honeysuckle along the W&OD is in bloom. Well, to be honest, it started blooming in late April due to the early summer, but today the flowers filled the air with their unmistakeable perfume. I do love that scent and the memories it stirs.

My paternal grandparents lived about three-quarters of a mile from our home when I was a child. My sister and I spent many a summer afternoon playing in their yard and lots of evenings in their screened-in back porch watching thunderstorms light up the sky. They had an old shed in the back yard which had a dog pen attached to it from the days that my grandfather had a dog to accompany him when he drove around his farms to check the crops. I don't remember when Jodie died, but there were no more dogs after her and the dog pen was eventually swallowed by honeysuckle vines. Mimi and I were terrified of the bees surrounding the shed, but we couldn't help being drawn to flowers. Our grandmother showed us the nectar at the base of the petals and we plucked as many flowers as we could and greedily lapped up the nectar.

I can't remember the nectar's taste, but the scent of honeysuckle transports me straight to my grandparents' yard in Heth, Arkansas.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


The coming Sunday is BikeDC and I am super excited about the event. Getting to ride a car-free Rock Creek Parkway and George Washington Parkway? Yes, please! Scott and I are registered for the full 24 mile route, which will actually be about 33 miles when you factor in our bike club's starting and ending point at Gravelly Point Park in Alexandria.

And thus begins my dilemma. My first thought was that I would ride Lily the Ariel. But after reading Sheryl's two part account and Julie's (albeit unhappy) review of riding their respective single speed bikes in the NYC Five Boro Bike Tour, I'm tempted to ride Kate the Cruiser for this event. Scott's concerned about the hills and reminded me that these ladies are much more used to riding their single speed bikes. I feel like I'm up for the challenge, though. I don't have to make a decision until Saturday night -- I'd say Sunday morning, but considering the hour we're going to have to load up and head out to the meeting point that day, I'm doing all prep work the night before -- and I already have plans to take Kate out for a spin with the girls Saturday afternoon.

So, if you're local and participating in the event, you may see me dolled up in a Life is Good tee and skirt and riding either


or Kate...

but definitely not Circe!

See you in DC!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Training ride #3

Since I skipped the group ride from Leesburg to Purcellville on Saturday, I made Sunday a training ride day. Scott agreed to meet me in Leesburg and ride to Purcellville and back so I had the first and last legs to myself. The ride out was pretty easy and, due to the gloomy skies, the W&OD wasn't too crowded. I found myself amongst a group of the lycra set and kept up with them through the downhills, eventually losing them before we got to Ashburn.

I made the twelve mile trip to Raflo Park -- middle of Leesburg -- in 49 minutes and waited for Scott to arrive. A couple with two young boys stopped in the gazebo where I waited and asked for suggestions on bikes for them and a carrier for the boys. I may have overwhelmed them with answers, but I stressed the importance of finding a good bike shop and asking lots of questions.

Raflo Park.

Scott finally joined me and, after chatting with the family for another 30 minutes or so, we hit the trail westward. That climb to Clarks Gap is a bugger and the downhill side is a welcome respite. I started to bonk around mile 20 as we made the final climb into Purcellville, but again the slight decline as we hit the town limits revived me enough for us to pedal slowly through town and find a restaurant for a well-deserved lunch.

The highest point is Clarks Gap.

I feared that heading back out on full stomachs might not be the best idea. Scott may have had the same thought and suggested that we stop and browse Trails End Cycling. He may have regretted that decision as I found a pair of white shoes at a significant discount off MSRP. A girl does want a choice in footwear... Of course the problem became how to get them home. We were both on road bikes with no baskets or racks. Scott volunteered to play his usual role of porter and crammed the shoes into his jersey pockets. Bless.

He promised he was comfortable.
The downhill ride home was a breeze and Scott was pleased to note all the recumbents out on the trail. He's developed a fascination with tadpole recumbents and I see a trip to bikes@vienna in our future. Anyway, I still felt great when we hit Leesburg and continued home alone as he loaded his bike onto the truck and drove home.

My final leg was pretty easy and I'm happy to say that I avoided any crashes with the ground, or anything else for that matter. I was able to play good Samaritan to another cyclist whom I noticed bleeding and limping along the side of the trail just east of route 15 by giving her some wet wipes and a band-aid. She said she didn't need any other assistance and I continued on my way. I even had enough energy to race a guy up the route 20-hate bridge (Scott's clever moniker) and not let him pass me until about half a mile from my neighborhood. I wound up with 46.99 miles in 3h 29m, a mile farther and 21 minutes faster than my last time riding this route. Color me very pleased.

Western end of the W&OD.

We ended the day with an hour at Scott's gym where I enjoyed feeling weightless in the pool and getting pounded by the waterfall in the spa. Now I just need to work up adding another 21 miles for the Tour de Cure in four weeks.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

More damage

To me. The bikes are fine. In fact, it took Scott longer to put the bike on the back of the truck than it took for the bike mechanic to shift the horn/brake assembly back into position on the side portion of the handlebar. Apparently, the actual metal part of the handlebar was completely unscathed. I had no idea that the horns could bend so much! Now I just need to take a Sharpie to the edge of the brake handle and Circe will be back at 100%.

Friday night I rode my hybrid over to B's house and then rode the trails around her house with her. It would have been a faster trip to her house, but she's getting used to riding again and is on a hybrid so I took the slower bike with new combo platform/SPDs. These SPDs are pretty tight as I discovered when I lost momentum going up a hill, lost my balance, and couldn't unclip before falling sideways into a ditch full of thorn bushes.

Good times.

B. pulled my bike off me and then hauled me out of the thorns. She also kindly pulled a couple of thorns out of my upper arm. I washed off the blood and we resumed our ride. I felt fine when we got back to her place and decided to ride back home. The traffic was kind of heavy for a Friday night, but I've gotten pretty comfortable around cars. I amused myself by hitting and maintaining the 25mph speed limit on a residential street which meant that the car behind me couldn't (well, not legally anyway) pass.

I hopped on the W&OD in Old Town Herndon for the trail leg of my trip and ran into a bit of trouble when the trail was CLOGGED with teens who were ignoring the concert happening on the green behind City Hall. I slowed way down but when a girl darted out in front of me, I went down hard on my right side.

The kids around me were horrified and helped me up, gathered my belongings which had fallen from my basket, continually asked if I was okay, and apologized again and again. I thanked them for their help and told them that I was very nearly a professional faller and I was okay. One of the boys said, "In that case..." and began to clap. I bowed, we all laughed, and I hopped back on for the final leg.

When I got home, Scott was horrified to see the bloody scratches on my left arm and leg, fresh bruise on my right arm, and streaks of blood from knee to ankle on my right leg. He's looking to develop a line of cycling clothing made of bubble wrap for me. I think I may simply need to go back to wearing leggings over my cycling shorts. I never got banged up like this when I was fully clothed.

Due the cuts and bruises and stiffness and soreness, I stayed home from the group ride today. I was disappointed to make that call this morning, but as of tonight I've realized that was the best choice. Scott and I will take our own trip out to Purcellville and back tomorrow. Oh, and he's going to loosen the clips on my pedals a tiny bit so I can yank my feet out more easily and not escalate injuries.

Friday, May 04, 2012


During last weekend's ride, I overheard a cyclist tell his friend that when learning to ride clipless, you will fall three times. I had my third, and worst, fall last night.

I was exiting a shopping center (what my friends and I call the "Bavarian Monstrosity" at the corner of Centreville Road and Sunrise Valley in Herndon) and the driveway was a fairly steep hill. The driver in front of me gunned his car to make a right turn but then hit his brakes. I hit my brakes and unclipped on the right towards the curb. Unfortunately, Circe decided to go left. She never goes left. All my falls have been to the right. But left we went and I couldn't unclip fast enough and went down in front of a car. I hopped up as fast as I could, yanking my foot out of the left shoe and bounded with bike to the grassy spot next to the driveway. I lost a little skin on my left knee because I was wearing bike shorts instead of my usual capris, but I wasn't bleeding much. It took some work to wrench the shoe off the pedal, but eventually I got everything in order and walked the bike up the hill so I could clear my head of the shock and adrenaline.

Eventually I felt comfortable enough to get back into traffic and, because darkness was quickly falling, headed for home. I was a couple of miles from home when I realized that my left brake handle felt weird and I had to put my hand in an odd position to use it. It was only then that I noticed the left horn was no longer 90 degrees from the handlebar; it was more like 75 degrees from the handlebar. That didn't seem good. But it was working well enough and I got home just as full darkness came on.

Today I'm a little sore on my left side -- dull surprise -- and have discovered that I scraped up my elbow as well. The road rash on my knee isn't too bad, but I've got some pretty spectacular bruises. This isn't putting me off riding with a girlfriend tonight; though I will be on my hybrid. Scott works half days on Fridays and will take my bike over to the shop and get them to fix my handlebar. He said he could bend it back into place, but I want the professionals to handle this first repair.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Getting closer to the big day

It's only 31 days until the National Capital Tour de Cure and I'm at 85% of my fundraising goal of $1,000. THANK YOU to those dear folks who have donated to this worthy cause and who are supporting me on this journey. If you feel so included to help me reach my personal goal and help the American Diabetes Association with their goal of eliminating diabetes, please click the link below. And if you donate, please comment here or there with the name of someone you would like for me to ride in honor or in memory of. My bike will be adorned with ribbons emblazoned with the names of those loved ones. I'm also happily accepting "atta girl!"s. :)

I've decided to ride the 50 mile route -- it's actually 54.7 miles -- plus the twelve or so mile round trip from home to the start/finish line. That'll put me at just over a metric century which, at this point, will be a challenge but won't damage me. This Saturday will offer another chance at a decent training ride as Bike Me DC again conducts the crowd favorite "Fireworks Pizza Ride". The group will ride from Raflo Park in Leesburg to the trail head in Purcellville and back with a group lunch at Fireworks Pizza in Market Station. If I'm feeling especially spry and sassy, I will ride from home to the meet-up and back which should give me just about 47 miles when I include riding to and from the pizza joint. The temperature isn't supposed to be stinking hot like the past few days, but it'll be the warmest I've felt while riding for distance. Good training for the first weekend of June when it's usually REALLY stinking hot. Heh, spending Memorial Day weekend in New Orleans may actually benefit me by reminding me what REAL heat and humidity are like.

In semi-related news, a dear friend (hi Barb!) has signed up to ride in the Tour de Cure as well. I am incredibly proud of her for taking this step and getting out there. I've promised to be a gentle-yet-firm coach and help her get up to speed, so to speak, to prepare for the Fun Ride. Riding the trails together in her neck of the 'burbs will be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

May Day

It's the first of May (NSFW for language), my eighth wedding anniversary, and the start of National Bike Month. Whoo hoo! I've signed up for the WABA-sponsored Bike to Work Day -- yay, free food and swag en route to work -- and am anxiously awaiting to see what activities the fitness center at work will provide on May 18.

In other news, I -- well, the staff at my LBS -- have made some upgrades to Circe and Lily. Circe got a new stem Friday afternoon and that change has made my road bike so much easier to ride. My hands usually went numb a few miles into a ride; on Saturday, I completed a thirty-two mile ride with no numbness or discomfort. I even felt comfortable enough to ride in the drops a few times and I didn't feel like I would take a header over the handlebar. The new stem has me riding in a slightly higher position which is a lot more comfortable on my overdeveloped ab and my back. As my core strength improves, I'll probably go back to the shorter stem.

Lily got a thorough bath on Sunday. And I do mean thorough. It was a two and a half hour ordeal, but I got every bit of road grime off the frame and out of the cogs and sprockets. Her rims, cassette, chain wheel, and chain practically sparkle. She's not showroom clean, but she's the cleanest I've seen her since taking possession. Unfortunately, when I put her in the two highest/hardest gears, there was some grinding in the chain wheel. I could have monkeyed with the front derailleur, but I let the professionals handle that and I had the mechanic change out the spiky pedals for the combo platform/spds I purchased a few weeks ago. It's going to take a little getting used to riding with pedals that aren't grippy, but I'm happy to have the option of riding clipless while commuting.