Saturday, June 30, 2012

On the road

Scott and I are mostly out of pocket this week while visiting family and friends down south. We're spending the first half of the week in Memphis and the second half in NW Alabama. We are taking our bikes and looking forward to, weather permitting, exploring the Greater Memphis Greenline which includes the Wolf River Greenway -- which is fairly close to Mom's neighborhood -- and the Shelby Farms Greenline. Ultimately, I'd love to ride from Mom's house in Germantown to my sister's house near the Cooper-Young district. I don't know if that'll happen this trip since we're looking at this for the next five days.

The second half of the week will be spent at my folks' vacation home on Pickwick Lake in NW Alabama. It's close-ish to the Natchez Trace Parkway which is apparently a "designated bicycle route", whatever that means. I've never been on the Natchez Trace, even in a car, so this will be a new adventure. I do hope we'll be able to drag ourselves from the lake and/or terrace hammocks for a ride. Since it's supposed to be in the lower 90s -- whoo hoo, break out the fuzzy wool and flannel! -- during the second half of the week, we may actually hit the road. I hope to have lots of photos when I return. Scott may even provide some GoPro video as well.

Friday, June 29, 2012

More customization

(I don't know about y'all, but I've been having EXTREME difficulty accessing any Google site except for the main home page. This has put a serious damper on my ability to email or blog or upload photos. Grr.)

(Ah! Looks like the flash upgrade from earlier this week munged things up. With the new download, everything is again tickety-boo.)

On to the actual post: I mentioned my dislike of the stock saddle and grips on the PUBLIC Bikes C8 and I took haste to replace those troublesome items. The creamy white of the Selle Royal Contour and the PUBLIC Leather Ergo grips purred "Buy ussssss..." and I was powerless to resist.

The saddle installation was surprisingly easy. It was so easy, in fact, that I worried I'd done something wrong. But, after several test rides around the block, the saddle felt like it was in the right position and angle. After the saddle installation, I scoured the intarwebs for information on how to remove and install handlebar grips. I was shocked to learn that three out of three bike shop guy videos said to use hair spray as both a lubricant and adhesive.

Sure enough, with a light coating of hair spray inside the grips, they slid right onto the bar. I waited a while for adhesion and then took the bike out for a spin to test the new grips. I took off... and nearly crashed when the left grip popped right off the bar in my hand. That was more than a little bit terrifying. I tried coating the bar ends with hair spray, slid the grips on, and let them cure overnight.

I tested the grips in the morning and they popped right off again. After work yesterday, we carried my bikes over to Spokes, Etc. After the wonderful mechanic swapped the clipless pedals out for my old spiky pedals on Lily the Ariel -- the numerous and painful crashes just weren't worth it and I wasn't strong enough to remove the pedals -- I asked him to make my grips not slide off the handlebars. What I didn't realize is that the tiny little hole in the end of the grip held a tiny little screw that would help the grips not fly off the bar when I took off from a standing position.

The mechanics fixed my grips -- they needed to slide the shifter and brakes in a bit -- quickly and I was a fairly happy cyclist. When I got home I futzed with the brake and shifter position and got them back into more comfortable positions. Scott came into the kitchen at one point and said that I was as bad as a gearhead. I don't think I'm worthy of that title until I actually build up a bike, though. And with everything accomplished, I was a completely happy cyclist.

Now my beautiful bike is even more beautiful and the color coordination eases my need for harmony. I realize that the saddle and grips will get grimy just like the lovely cream tires have, but for now everything is perfect.

In the name department, the top contenders are Mina, Hermione, and Cate (as in C8...Cate). Yes, the cruiser is "Kate", but I think of that bike as being free spirited like Kate Winslet and the loop frame is more elegant like Cate Blanchett.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Still love the new bike. Still working on a name for her. Still writing sentences without a subject.

I realized during yesterday's commutes that I'm sliding off the saddle towards the handlebar. This won't do, especially since it's exacerbating pressure on my wrists and causing my hands to go numb. Scott helped me with testing new saddle angles last night, but this morning's commute showed more fiddling is required. I think I need to raise the handlebar a skosh so I can sit just a bit more upright and not lean on my hands so much. Of course, I'm going to get everything just so and then the new saddle -- I decided upon the Selle Royal -- will arrive. What a difficult life I lead.

The other adjustment is mental. I tried not to race the other commuters going the same direction as me, and I failed. I mean, I failed at not racing: I totally flew past them, skirt billowing in the wind gust. Sigh. I could chalk it up to being overly excited that I'm no longer the only west bound commuter in the morning, but it's really because I'm too competitive for my own good. Just ask Scott about my mother's and my full-contact Scrabble games.

Huh, I just realized something. I'm only competitive on my "underdog" bikes and when I'm on the road bike, I peacefully accept that I'm going to get left in the dust.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Like buttah

Loaded down for this morning's commute.
There's something about the loop frame that makes me appreciate the world around me more than I ever did on the hybrid. I haven't decided if it's the upright posture, the lady-like step-through mounting, or something entirely different. And aside from a short bout of Cat 6 racing -- there were commuters riding in the same direction as me: I was morally obligated! (And I won.) -- I kept my ride at an relaxed pace and arrived at my destination barely glowing from the exertion.


Scott asked me, just before her maiden voyage, if I was going to get a cycling computer for the C8. No, I don't think so. He said that he was mostly kidding. I replied that I'd given serious thought to it and eventually decided that I wouldn't because, to me, it would ruin the experience of such a lovely ride. I don't need to be so analytical and goal-oriented on my commutes and leisure rides.

We'll see how long this zen attitude lasts.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Love at first sight

Okay, so my trip to Columbus was kind of fun, as much as business trips can be anyway, except for the getting into and out of the city. My experiences reminded me of why, when I fly for personal reasons, I never fly with... Oh, wait. Y'all don't want to read about my business trip do you? You're here for the PUBLIC Bikes C8 review, aren't you?
The PUBLIC box is sprinkled with quotes about bikes from the likes of Susan B. Anthony, Albert Einstein, Ernest Hemingway, and Bob Weir. I savored every moment of opening the box and Scott hauled the bike out for me.

The PUBLIC assembly team had already installed the seat, rack, and bell for me. All I had to do was slip the handlebar into the head tube and attach the pedals (which are not part of the recalled set) to the crank arms -- pretty simple tasks, truth be told. The included tools meant that I didn't even have to search for anything in our toolbox except for a Phillips head screwdriver. After I'd put the bike together and pulled off all the cardboard packaging, I stepped back and gasped at its elegant beauty. I began champing at the bit to see if it really would be love at first ride.

It was. Sure, the C8 is no speed demon, but it holds its own. The ride quality is fairly smooth and it corners well. The bike is simply fun to ride. And hills? What hills? The 20-hate bridge was no match for this San Francisco-designed cycle, even with a basket and pannier loaded down with groceries.

Speaking of which... who knew that a Po Campo Loop Pannier could comfortably carry a six pack of hard lemonade?
I love how easy it is to step through the frame. The opening is not as spacious as my cruiser's, but I'd put the C8 on par with a Linus Dutchi. The reflective stripe on the cream tires is an inspired safety feature. I'm going to have to get used to such an upright riding position, but I'm willing to make that sacrifice. It was also fun seeing appreciative glances from passers-by and even getting "That's a great looking bike!" from an overtaking roadie.

Now, there are a couple of things I don't love: the grips and the saddle. The triangle grips hurt my palms and the material makes my skin crawl. The saddle is quite plush and feels ~so~ big compared to my other bikes' saddles. I will be trading out both of those items. Right now I'm considering either a Velo Orange or Selle Royal saddle. Grips will follow to match whichever saddle I decide upon since I can wear gloves in the meantime. I'm not in love with the bell, either, but that's a fairly minor swap if I decide that it's too irritating.

Overall, and after only a few miles of riding, I am beyond pleased with the C8 and I do not regret the purchase AT ALL. I'm looking forward to many, many miles ahead. Oh, and figuring out what its name is.

 More impressions on the C8 can be found here, here, here, and oh heck, just use the Public C8 tag. :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

It's here!!

Or there, rather, there since I'm still in Columbus... And, thanks to United Airlines' cancellation of my flight home, I will be too tired after the seven hour drive to play with the new bike until tomorrow at the earliest. But I have the knowledge that I'll get to see my sweet hubby and kitties and new bike sooooooon.

My... precioussss...
And yes, I am geeky enough to have said "yes" when Scott asked if I wanted a picture of the box.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Still alive and "enjoying" week-long vendor training in Ohio. The outbound trip was a fairly nightmarish experience, but my sweet (luxury upgrade) rental car & cushy hotel room (oh, and finding a Fashion Bug) have made up for the horror.

In bike news, the C8 shipped on Friday and should arrive Thursday. I've asked Scott not to assemble the bike, or even open the box, so that I can fully savor the "Christmas morning" feeling. Honey Badger don't care and is okay with a six foot long cardboard box hanging out in, presumably, the dining room until I get home.

I've spotted a few cyclists here in the greater Dublin/Hilliard area and some lovely looking trails. According to my local coworkers, there's a fairly nice network of rail trails. Oh, and my boss says it's good that I decided against borrowing his bike since his teenage son wrecked the bike this weekend. Poor kid.

Friday, June 15, 2012

More commuters

I saw another bike commuter leaving the campus on Wednesday and he was in normal work clothes. My heart sang. I passed a couple other commuters on Smiths Switch, and the W&OD was positively choked with cyclists. I won't grumble about that, especially when the weather is nearly perfect for being out and about on two non gas-powered wheels.

In slightly less -- or perhaps more, depending upon the point of view -- news, I very nearly got clipped by a car as I rode straight across a street and it tried to turn left. I was looking to my right to make sure I had plenty of space ahead of a van and then quickly swerved to the right to avoid the oncoming car's bumper when I faced forward again. The driver probably had a minor coronary when he realized I was there. My heart skipped a beat, but I continued on fairly unphased by the near incident. Of course, this would be one of the few times I wasn't wearing a helmet and I did consider the potential ramifications of what might have happened. If I were smart, I'd say "lesson learned"...

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Life is good.
I did it. I bought the C8 in powder blue -- with matching rack and bell -- last night. It should be in my hot little hands before the end of the month. Mmmm... loop frame-y goodness. Scott, a.k.a. the Honey Badger in response to my shopping, said nothing except "Did you just buy it?" when he noticed me hyperventilating with excitement.

This morning friends are both congratulating me on the new baby and suggesting an intervention. I don't have a problem; I can quit any time. Ahem.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Finger on the trigger

I am >this< close to clicking the BUY button on Public Bikes C8 page. If I pull the trigger before the 18th, I'll get free shipping. If I do it today or tomorrow, the bike will arrive before we go to Memphis. I wouldn't want our cat sitter to have to lug a six foot long box into the house: that's what Scott is for!

The powder blue appeals to me more than the cream because I love color -- the orange is a bit too colorful -- and the bike I'm absolutely going to keep -- Circe -- is mostly white. Yes, Kate is blue but she's first on the sales chopping block. And yes, she's super fun and adorable beyond compare but she is impractical for my needs and wants. I will most likely sell Lily -- which is white -- but she might also stick around. Scott doesn't think I'll be able to let her go even if she and the C8 fill a similar niche. I mean, it's not like I'm going to take up mountain biking. I'll most likely wind up with broken bones rather than skinned knees! But... well, we'll see what happens with the hybrid.

Mmm... loop frame...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Almost back in the saddle

I FINALLY heard back from the nurse practitioner -- after multiple messages over three days -- and the x-rays showed no fractures. Dull surprise. She wants me to wear "post-op" shoes for two weeks, but seeing as how I've been hobbling around in flip flops for the past week I'm not going to worry about that. Speaking of shoes... I'm wearing actual, honest-to-goodness shoes today. Granted I had to take out the space-filling insert to fit my still swollen instep, but I'm not in flip flops. Whoo hoo! I'll be tottering around in my platforms before you know it.

This progress means I may actually ride to work tomorrow, weather permitting. I am unbelievably excited by this prospect. I had no idea how much I'd miss saddle time.

Next week I'll be in the outskirts of Columbus, OH -- Hilliard and Dublin, to be exact -- for vendor training with my work team. Since I'm all by my lonesome in the cube farm (the boss and two team members are in Ohio, one guy is in Texas, and I'm in Virginia), I'm super excited about being with the team for more than an afternoon (I visit the Hilliard office during my yearly week & a half camping trip in NW Pennsylvania) and meeting the Texas guy. My boss offered to lend me his daughter's bike while I'm in town, but might be rescinding that offer based on my crash record.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Joy ride

My cabin fever got the better of me this morning and I sneaked out to my hair appointment via Kate the cruiser while Scott was getting his ears lowered at the barber shop. It was SO GOOD to be on my sweet little cruiser and feeling the cooling breeze on the mile and a half ride to the salon.

Scott was pretty shocked to get home and see the Highlander still parked out front. He sent a text that I shouldn't be pig-headed about overdoing it like he usually is. I promised that I had taken it slow and easy and would continue to do so.

After the re-blonding and trim, I wasn't ready to go home just yet and rode up and down the trail between the Boulevard and Church. As I was just about to leave the trail, I decided to snag some take-out Chinese. As I waited outside the shop, several people, mostly guys, commented on my "cool" bike. Considering that one sees mostly hybrids, mountain, or road bikes on the roads and trails around here, she is pretty unusual in these parts.

I still don't have x-ray results because, as of Friday evening, the nurse practitioner hadn't received the files from the lab. The swelling and bruising are receding but the ball of my foot continues to be very sore and I limp when I walk more than a few steps. I'm sad that I wasn't able to participate in my bike club's tour of DC monuments tonight, but I'm happy to have gotten in a little bit of saddle time this afternoon.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

No news is good news?

My left foot has been swollen to cartoon character proportion and the bruising nearly wraps around my foot and over my big toe. I finally agreed to see a doctor yesterday. She was shocked by the state of my poor appendage and sent me off for an x-ray immediately. I expected to hear from her last night or sometime today, but it's been radio silence. Not that I had time to chat with ~anybody~ today thanks to work craziness...

But anyway, I'm going on the assumption that I just pulled and popped a couple of somethings in my foot and nothing is broken or needs medical intervention to heal properly. I am jonesin' something awful to be on my bike(s). This week's weather has been absolutely divine and I've been stuck on the sofa. I think that June is a bad month for me being on a bike.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012


I rode 55+ miles on Sunday, attached to my fast bike, and came out of that experience unscathed. To alleviate the stiffness in my legs yesterday, I headed out for a short, slow ride to the grocery store, unclipped I might add, on the hybrid yesterday. I got a mile away from home and Lily's front tire skidded on the edge of the sidewalk and I crashed HARD.

I was too hurt and stunned to even be embarrassed about wiping out next to traffic -- I landed on the grass side of the sidewalk, thank goodness -- and sat there for a moment assessing what just happened. Bloody knees, mangled front basket, and a left foot that couldn't bear my weight. Good times. I cried for a little bit, rinsed and mopped up the blood, and slowly coasted back home, sniffling with tears dribbling down my cheeks.

My knees are okay, but my left foot is swollen pretty badly and I've got a bruise from the ball of my foot up along the side of my big toe. I still can't put my full weight on my foot, but I can wiggle my toes without too much discomfort. I'm working from home -- thank goodness I had to the foresight to bring home my laptop -- and keeping the foot elevated and iced off and on. Several friends and my boss have offered me the use of training wheels and my mom says I should trade in the bikes for a tricycle. Scott thinks I'd just find new and more interesting ways to hurt myself with the extra wheels.

Is there anybody else who crashes and burns in such stupid fashion? I can't be the only one gifted with such incredible grace.

Monday, June 04, 2012

2012 National Capital Area Tour de Cure

Long story, short: I rode just over 55 miles, raised $1,225 with the help of many generous donors, and had a pretty good time.

The people for whom I rode.

Long story, long: I picked up my ride packet Saturday afternoon and was told that this constituted "check in" and I could hit the trail any time during the half century start window (7a-8a). With that knowledge, I altered my ride plan just a bit. Originally, I was going to ride from home to Reston, ride the Tour route, and then ride back home from Reston. That would have put me somewhere around 65 miles for the day and was way outside of my comfort zone. I did ride the Tour's 54 mile route; I just started and ended elsewhere than the "official" points.

The tropical print jersey was a tribute to a friend who died in March.
After breakfasting and dousing myself in sunscreen, I was ready for the Tour. The air temperature was in the upper 50s Fahrenheit and the mix of sun and breeze felt just about perfect. The W&OD trail looked pretty open at 7:30. I saw only a few blue/50mi folks but lots of green/107mi and yellow/81mi folks flew past me as I settled in to a comfortable pace. I passed Rest Stop #1 at Ashburn Road/Carolina Brothers BBQ in almost no time at all. As I passed the Spokes, Etc tent, I recognized Nate -- he introduced me to the Dolce at the Vienna shop -- and called out hello. Surprisingly, he recognized me/my voice and told me that my bike looked sweet. I grinned, waved, and continued on to Leesburg.

Somewhere along the way I hit a squirrel. I rode up between pedestrians on either side of the trail and a squirrel darted out. He froze, I dodged, he ran into my dodge, and we both chose poorly. I think I got his tail because there was a solid thudthud under my tires after my "Crap! Crap! Crap!" and before my "AUGH!" I don't know what, if anything, the peds thought about the collision. I'm pretty sure the squirrel was mostly okay. It wasn't dead, anyway.

Ashburn Road rest stop.
Rest Stop #2 at Raflo Park was full of cyclists and cheering volunteers. I munched on half a PB&J, noshed half a banana, refilled my water bottle, and continued west to Purcellville. Shortly after leaving Leesburg, a non-Tour cyclist asked me about the routes. He thought it'd be fun to follow the horse country route when it left the trail and bid me good luck. And then I began that hateful climb up Clarks Gap.

After crossing Leesburg Pike for the second time, the blue, yellow, and green routes left the W&OD for the open road of Simpson Circle and Meadowlark Drive. The climb up Meadowlark was almost like that huge horrific climb during the Backroads Century. My momentum slowed and slowed until I feared that I'd lose my balance so I unclipped, hopped off, and walked Circe to the top of the hill. That walk was totally worth the 35mph descent on the other side. WHOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOO!

I arrived at Rest Stop #3 in Purcellville at 9:15am and found it stocked with PB&Js, energy bars of all types, water, Gatorade, oranges, bananas, band-aids, and sunscreen. I posted an update to Facebook, phoned Scott, and rested for twenty minutes or so in the shade of a large hydrangea bush. At this point, I was 24 miles in and felt surprisingly good. Food and hydration didn't seem to be a problem and the mild temperature was a godsend.
Carolina Brothers BBQ.
The ride back to Ashburn was blessedly downhill and I coasted and sang most of the way to Rest Stop #1. I pulled up to the Spokes, Etc, tent to show off Circe's flame job to Nate. He thought that was pretty crazy., folks. I also gave Scott a five mile warning so he had time to get to the W&OD and ride up to Reston with me. East of this rest stop, the trail got extremely crowded as the longer distance riders started mingling with the 33-milers and general trail traffic. Side by side roller bladers: I feel about them the way that most drivers who comment to online fora feel about cyclists. I saw a lot of 33mi folks pushing their bikes up the 20-hate bridge. Bless their hearts, it wasn't that long ago that I was right there with them.

Scott joined me, GoPro-enabled, outside our neighborhood and I whined to him about how hot, sweaty, tired, and numb I was. Yes, the last two paragraphs were about mild temperature and coasting downhill. However, the tree cover ends east of Leesburg and the sun had been baking me for a good ten miles. The trail's elevation starts rising at Ashburn and that adds to the fun. But there were only five more uphill miles to go until the finish line and with someone I could natter at, my spirits bubbled back up.

The detour through Herndon to avoid the Herndon Festival was harrowing, but we'd navigated through it Saturday morning and we weren't as surprised as other Tour riders. The W&OD continued getting more and more crowded the closer we got to Reston and then we were at the finish line where yellow-shirted volunteers waved pompons, shook clappers, rang cowbells, whooped and hollered. One girl stuck out a red foam hand and I gave her a high five as I rode past. Scott and I pulled to a stop just past the Town Center fountain and spotted Bob and Laura (who had just completed the 33 mile route). Tamara, who volunteered with the media squad as a finish line photographer, had spotted me crossing the line and found our little group clustered on the other side of the Pavilion. I snagged some pork barbecue, half an orange, and a can of ginger ale for my post ride meal and nommed my way back to life as we waited for Barb to arrive from the fun ride route.

Our little sub team: Laura, Barb, and me.
After a few texts and a phone call, Barb let us know that she was almost to the finish line. We all ran over to holler and cheer her on. I think she was a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing, but in a good way. After group photos, hugs, and congratulations all around everybody but Scott and me took off for their respective homes. My raising over $1,000 meant that I was a "Champion" and would be given a medal. I've never gotten a medal for any kind of sporting event and gosh darn it, I was sticking around for that medal ceremony. We didn't get a "ceremony" so much as a group photo and then we stood in line to receive our medals. But I'm cool with that.

We are the Champions.... weeeeeee are the chaaaampiooooons.
After donning my medal and remounting Circe -- ow, my hands; ow, my thighs; ow, my [redacted] -- we made a bee-line for Red Velvet Cupcakery for celebratory cupcakes which Scott gallantly transported in his trunk bag. We passed several century riders and a half-century girl -- I'd complimented her wicker basket earlier, she congratulated me on the medal this pass -- and I hollered at Herndon Festival patrons not to take up both lanes of the trail. (Not my best moment, but they were taking up both lanes and wouldn't move when I called "on your left" or "bicycle approaching" or "HELLO" and I was tired and cranky.) But we eventually made it home and I ended the day with 55.8 miles in 4h 09m, two cupcakes, lots of chocolate milk, a good hot shower, a nap, a medal, and quite a bit of pride, if I'm completely honest with you and with myself.


Friday, June 01, 2012

The big day

Sunday is the big day. It's the National Capital Area's Tour de Cure in support of the American Diabetes Association. At this point, I am riding the half century (+4 miles) plus an additional ten or so miles from my house to the start/finish and back home which will equal a metric century. It'll be the farthest distance I've ridden even if I'm able to do only the "official" route. I'm nervous about this -- dull surprise -- but I will ride with the knowledge that the donors to my fundraising efforts and the people for whom I riding in memory of and in honor of will be with me in spirit.

I made these tags to attach to my bike as a visual reminder of those who live and have lived with diabetes. If you donated and wish for me to include the name(s) of someone(s) special, please let me know in the comments or by email (melaniesuzanne AT gmail DOT com).

THANK YOU to everyone who has donated and/or cheered me on. You are all fantastic people and my life (and the lives of those who will be helped by the ADA) are better for knowing you.