melaniesuzanne: (Bike: rat)
I hit the trail thirty minutes later than usual because 1) I stayed up too late reading and wasn't ready to bounce out of bed the third time my alarm went off [I am way too fond of the snooze button] and 2) it took a while for me dig out my cold weather gear and suit up for the commute. I'm good with a light cardigan, scarf, and gloves in the 40s, but once the mercury dips into the 30s, I want my helmuffs, arm warmers, and at least a windbreaker. After bundling up and ensuring that I had all the needed bits and bobs, I took off for work.

As I pulled my bike over the curb separating the neighborhood street and small hill to the W&OD trail, two lightly bundled cyclists in heavily laden bicycles cruised by in my planned direction. I overtook them after half a mile and realized they were on a bike tour. The fully loaded panniers and bedroll each had attached to their rear racks gave it away. I called out for them to enjoy their trip and the woman of the couple assured me, "Oh, we are!"

More joggers were out than I normally see in the morning and fewer commuters/trainers. I'm sure that was due to the lateness of my ride. I was surprised that traffic on Waxpool was lighter at 8:50 than 8:20. It certainly feels heavier when I'm in the car. Crossing two traffic lanes to get into the left turn lane for the campus was a breeze. It was also nice not having to fight for a parking space what with several parking lots and access to one of the garages being closed off for repaving and repair. One of the many perks of riding on two wheels.
melaniesuzanne: (Bike: C8)
(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.

melaniesuzanne: (Born to shop)
In my hunt for a way to carry belongings on my road bike on solo journeys, I overlooked the most obvious and universal portage solution: the humble bike jersey. My main reason for not considering this garment is that, up until very recently, I had only one jersey.

It's a cute jersey and does a fairly good job of fitting my non-standard cyclist body. But it's so specific to a certain time of year that I didn't even consider wearing it in winter and spring. Which is weird since I wear Halloween-themed PJs year round; my deeply-closeted goth must be extremely closeted when it comes to jerseys. At the time I wore this garment, I didn't really use it for holding stuff since I had a trunk bag on the back rack so the pockets were kind of superfluous.

Looking like a pumpkin at last October's "Great Pumpkin Ride".

My typical road bike ensemble has been a Ruu-Muu with a long sleeved shirt or windbreaker. The Ruu's back pockets are good for holding a hankie, my iPod, and a camera. I could probably stuff more in there, but it would start getting uncomfortable and bulky underneath the overshirt/windbreaker.

Yesterday, though, I decided to wear my new jersey from HillKiller Apparel for a short ride and I discovered the joys of honest-to-goodness cycling jersey pockets. Hankie, ID, cash (you never know...), phone, iPod, and keys all fit comfortably with lots of room to spare. I could stuff extra powdered drink packs and waffles and a banana back there if I'd wanted, plus my camera. So this is how it's done...

Post ride, front.
Zombie Girls do have more fun.

My deeply-closeted goth is beyond delighted with both the form and function of my adorable purple jersey. Their plus size actually FITS which is not always the case. I'm going to contact the HillKiller guys and ask if they'll make some of their men's designs in a women's cut because I want more of their jerseys. In the meantime, I'm champing at the bit for my jerseys from Scudo Sports Wear (they made the Halloween jersey) to arrive.

New gear

Apr. 13th, 2012 03:09 pm
melaniesuzanne: (Bike: rat)
Lily is great for road trips thanks to her basket and pannier. I can (over)pack whatever I might need for a longish ride such as snacks, extra beverages, an assortment of gloves, extra jacket, speakers for the iPod, etc. Even the larger pump can fit in either the basket or pannier. Circe doesn't have that storage capacity. Even her seat post bag -- the Detours medium Guppy -- is smaller than Lily's.

Detours Guppy
I love its wee flowers.

I've crammed a spare tube, CO2 cartridge, tire levers, multitool, handi-wipe package, a tiny amount of emergency cash, and a couple of band-aids in the Guppy and that sucker is PACKED. I might be able to wedge my house and bike lock keys in there, but no way could I stow my phone or snacks.

My first solution was a Detours Mighty Midge stem bag, but I was never completely happy with it. I couldn't fit much in the way of snacks in there and it wound up getting pretty full with phone, cash, ID, and keys. Plus there was no good place to stash my handkerchief. Despite trying to use and love the bag, the final straw was when it fell out of the mount no less than three times during the solo portion of my training ride last weekend. Thank goodness I was stopped each time. When Scott arrived at the park, I ripped the bag off my bike at threw it at the backseat of my truck in disgust.

Detours Mighty meh. )
However, that wasn't the only bag on my bike. Oh no. I also had a Bell handlebar bag which DID contain gloves, headband, PB&J, banana, camera, and the contents of the stem bag after it was removed. It, however, also had drawbacks. It unzips in the front and, if not opened carefully, will dump its contents into an unseemly pile in front of the bike. It also doesn't play nice with the brake and gear cables and I was nervous that the velcro straps would come undone since they were so tenuously clasped in order to make room for the cables. It was close, but not right.

I'm hopeful that the Detours Metro is the final solution to my portage problem.

My aesthetic needs are satisfied. )
It's roomy without being overwhelming. It has multiple openings for stashing items of different sizes and shapes. And it matches my saddle bag and the colorway of my bike. (Shush.)

The cover flips up to reveal mesh pockets and a deep front pocket.. )
Headband and bag strap, check. Windbreaker, check. There's room left over in the deep pocket for extra gloves, sport drink powder packs, and a marmoset or a small lemur. When its cover is flipped open like this, the inside of the cover has a clear pocket which could hold a route sheet, but I wouldn't feel comfortable leaving the cover open like that. On the other hand, the marmoset might like feeling the wind in its fur.

Can't go anywhere without my HoneyStinger waffles. )
The top zips open to reveal deep storage which will easily accommodate a sandwich, banana, waffles, and my camera. The zippered inner pocket will easily hold my phone, ID cards, and cash, and the key ring will do what key rings are supposed to do.

No attachment anxiety here. )
The attachment mechanism does a fairly good job of playing nicely with the cables and keeps the bag pushed out from the handlebars enough that I can wrap my fingers around the flat portion when I want to give my hands a rest and/or sit uprightish for a bit. The bag is removable from the bike by pulling on the ring on the back of the bag. Be careful of jostling the small mammal in the front pocket.

The hubs and I are taking a training ride tomorrow and I will report back on how well (or not) this bag performs on a modified Arlington Triangle route.
melaniesuzanne: (I'm on a bike on OBX 10/5/11)
In less than twenty-four hours and within fifteen miles of riding with combo clipless/platform pedals, I decided that I'd rather have dual-sided clipless pedals. Luckily, based upon my enthusiasm for the new pedals, Scott decided Saturday morning that he wanted a set as well. En route to the shop, I asked Scott if he'd like my pedals on his bike and I'd get the new pedals for mine. Since both sets of pedals use the same style of cleats, switching them around wouldn't be an issue. He thought that was a great idea and the Spokes, Etc. mechanics were only too happy to set us up.

Circe at rest
Circe at rest.

Oh my gosh but the dual-sided pedals were even easier to use than the combo pedals! Scott used the platform sides for the ride home and I coached him through clipping in and out Sunday morning and he took off to practice with his new pedals and shoes on the W&OD. He came back all grins.

When he's ready to change his combos out for standard clipless, we'll move those pedals over to my Ariel so I can either clip in or wear regular shoes on commutes and shopping trips.

Kate & blossoms
Kate's a natural against cherry blossoms.

In slower and lower news, I love my cruiser so very much. I've decided to name her Kate because she's so spunky and all the Kates I know are overflowing with personality. I love that everybody smiles at her. Little girls gasp as I cruise by and even the two ten-year-old boys I pedaled past yesterday let out a breathless "Cooooool". Her only drawback is that my cable-and-string-eating cat Oreo wants her tassels so badly.

Ima eat your tassels.

Apparently plastic tassels are made of noms.
melaniesuzanne: (Bike: rat)
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 or 3:00 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 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.
melaniesuzanne: (Kermit on a bike)
[ profile] pirategirleee, who bought a bike at the swap meet last weekend, left her bike at my house because she couldn't fit it in her car. We made arrangements to get together this weekend and go for a ride and find her a suitable rack so the bike could live at her house. In preparation for our ride, and because I had no other plans on Friday night, I turned the kitchen into a makeshift garage and set to work sprucing up her bike.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now all she needs are new tires -- an actual bike mechanic said she could go a little longer on the current ones -- and new grips and she'll be ready to ride for miles and miles and miles. As it is, we got in a five mile ride on Saturday and she can't wait to go for another spin.
melaniesuzanne: (Kermit on a bike)
On Sunday, [ profile] pirategirleee and [ profile] baronalejandro joined the Hubbyfink and me for the Stop, Swap, & Save expo in Westminster, MD. The bike enthusiasm I've infected most of my friends with finally overcame PG and she was determined to find a bike of her own at the swap meet. Almost immediately she spied an adorable blue cruiser with partial chain guard and coaster brakes. After locating the owner, she took it for a test ride and came back with a smile that nearly split her face in half. I couldn't resist the adorableness and took the bike for a spin of my own. Like buttah. BA's a bike mechanic and after taking it on his own spin, he declared it sound. The bike was half of PG's allotted bike budget and she paid the seller without a second thought.

New bike!
Careful... you'll cultivate bicycle face.

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

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

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

Skull lights
These are ~so~ [ profile] pirategirleee.

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

Paul Frank Faction by Bell
She's got a thing for skulls, you see...

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

Kudos to you, [ profile] pirategirleee! I can't wait to go riding with you this spring and seeing all the looks of admiration other cyclists throw your way.
melaniesuzanne: (Default)
I got very little sleep this weekend due to staying up much too late working on exchequer reports, insomnia, and early-for-me morning obligations both Saturday and Sunday. Between Friday night to Sunday morning, I got roughly ten hours of sleep. Seeing as how I typically sleep nine hours a night, I was not the brightest or bushiest tailed of the bunch. Saturday morning was the worst since I got three hours of sleep before getting up super early so that I could be in Alexandria by 8am for the Bike Me DC maintenance class at the Belle View location of Spokes, Etc.

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

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

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

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

At that point, I was ready to fall over. I decided that since my bike was already at street level, I would head on home. I said my good-byes to the group, paid for some new tools and the chain, and headed toward home. I hit a snow squall on the Dulles Toll Road which gave Rose an impromptu bath. This turned out to be a blessing because the damp made cleaning the grime off her frame that much easier. She's not showroom clean, but she's as clean as she's been since her post Outer Banks scrub. And I don't have to worry about her chain for a while.
melaniesuzanne: (I'm on a bike on OBX 10/5/11)
I'm pretty clumsy and after thirty-mumble years of being so, I've pretty much come to accept that I shall never have natural grace. It is with this understanding in mind that I do certain off-beat things like attaching my rear-view mirrors upside down.

Upside down you turn me.
Upside down you turn me.

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

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

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

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

On a clear day...
On a clear day...

That's better.
melaniesuzanne: (I'm on a bike on OBX 10/5/11)
I've gone a little nuts with Lightweights for Wheels and Fun Reflectors (sorry... I've cleaned them out of the vines).

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

Bern Brentwood in matte red
Comfy, but oh so dull.

Let's go wild with stickers, shall we? )
melaniesuzanne: (I'm on a bike on OBX 10/5/11)
When I first upgraded to my Specialized Ariel, I was hesitant to add anything personal beyond the standard black rack and black trunk bag. Shortly after that, I added white and red blinky lights for safety and legality, a stem-mounted cell phone holder, and a mirror on the left handlebar. I eventually added a few reflective stickers, a front basket, and a right hand mirror (because I needed to see over both left AND right on that last big curve before entering the campus).

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

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

So spoiled

Dec. 21st, 2011 11:56 am
melaniesuzanne: (I'm on a bike on OBX 10/5/11)
Can those of you in the mid-Atlantic region believe these temperatures? 50F and 60F in the days leading up to Christmas? Holy cow! It certainly makes this "winter cycling" thing so much easier. ;)

Something that wasn't quite as easy as it should have been, though, was last night's commute. Specifically, illuminating last night's commute. The first rule of winter bike commuting is LIGHTS. The second rule is BACK-UP LIGHTS. The MiNewt.600 let me down when I got to my bike and hauled it out of my bag. Despite allegedly charging all afternoon, it wouldn't turn on for love or money. My back-up light was still attached to Hubbyfink's handlebar from our last Christmas light tour. I did have my two white blinky lights which I attached to each side of my front fork in steady mode to provide a teensy bit of illumination and, with the combination of my basket lights, allow me to be seen by oncoming traffic.

Luckily, I left work about twenty minutes earlier than usual and there was a little bit of sunset reflecting on the cloud cover. Plus, the clouds reflected back a fair amount of the light pollution from the shopping center and car dealerships. But the tree-lined, dark parts of the trail were DARK. I took it easy and had no mishaps. Happily, the deer encounter happened in the light-polluted area and the black cat which crossed my path shot across the trail before I got too close.

My headlight is now fully charged and I will be sure to pack the backup before hitting the road tomorrow.

In non light-related news, I had anything realization of my increase in strength last night. Not only did I ride up the 28 overpass in a higher gear, I actually gained speed climbing. Dude, that's huge. I also powered up the last hill to my street. That's also huge. And I wasn't a total sweaty mess when I got home. That's not huge, but it was a nice surprise.
melaniesuzanne: (I'm on a bike on OBX 10/5/11)
Okay, maybe that's just me. Anyway, when last we left our intrepid heroine, she had cracked her trusty steed's right pedal. Still, the commute home was easy-peasy. I stopped by Eastern Mountain Sports, since it's on the way, but they didn't have anything that satisfied as I am neither ready nor coordinated enough for clip pedals. Hubbyfink and I set off for the Ashburn Spokes, Etc where the store manager led me to the pedal section and made recommendations. I selected the spiky metal ones. He warned me about misthreading the pedals, showing me which was left and right, and said that we could bring in the bike and they'd install them for free if we had trouble.

We had trouble. Neither I nor Hubbyfink could loosen the plastic pedals to remove them. Saturday morning we bundled Rose into the back of the truck and took her and the new pedals to the shop. It is both heartening and a little embarrassing that everybody in the shop recognizes me and my bike on sight. The mechanics LOVED the lights woven in my basket and turned them on while swapping out pedals (OMG, what a quick process that is when one has the right tools!) and adjusting my squishy back brake. Hubbyfink was looking for something (I can't remember what) and I wound up chatting with another clerk who was impressed as all get out that I commute by bike. I mentioned how pleased I was with my MiNewt.600 headlight and he unpacked a MiNewt.1500 to show me the latest and greatest in headlamp warfare. The battery pack alone was the size of a mini meatloaf but was surprisingly light. I don't know how one would keep their head upright if they used the helmet mount for the light, though.

The rest of Saturday was spent exploring new stores such as Potomac Running (where Hubbyfink found a pair of minimalist shoes with a solid upper so he can have warm toes now that it's too chilly to bike and run in his Vibram Five Fingers) and Bicycle Outfitters in Leesburg. Wow! They had a great selection of clothes and jackets and bikes. We both tried on convertible jackets with back vents; unfortunately, they were out of our respective sizes in the colors we wanted. They had an adorable step-through Giant. Seriously adorable. And a beautiful used Raleigh diamond frame with fenders and Brooks B17 saddle for $399. I nearly spazzed and Hubbyfink got wistful as his first bike was his mom's Raleigh. It was a good visit.

Sunday was sunnier and touch warmer than Saturday. I layered up, pointed Rose west and rode to Leesburg. Unfortunately, my leg warmers kept slipping down my thighs and I had to keep hiking them back up. Eventually, I found a fairly secluded spot where I was able to swap around my bottom layers. Unfortunately, my legs no longer had that wonderful windbreak from the leg warmers and they got chilly. The rest of me, including my toes, stayed comfy and not too sweaty. Lots of joggers and bikers smiled at my basket with its twinkling lights, hee! At Raflo Park, I left the trail for Market Station in search of a little warmth and maybe some hot cocoa. I found both at Dorner Bistro, a great little German pub, and treated myself to cocoa and the second best fries I've ever eaten.

Suitably resustained, I phoned Hubbyfink to let him know where I was and that I was on my way home. Oh, and I might call to be rescued in case I got too cold. Happily, I wound up not needing rescue and the trip home felt much faster than the trip out. I decided to treat myself to a little music and, when my external speaker decided its batteries were dead, plugged an ear bud in my right ear and listened to my Road Trip playlist. I pseudo drafted behind a guy for a while. He kept looking over his shoulder, expecting me to pass I guess, but I couldn't pass him while we were on an incline. Eventually, we got to a downhill portion and I zoomed past.

The Rte 28 overpass is still a bear, but I climbed it without dropping into the granny gears despite being at mile 22 of my ride. Huzzah! I felt pretty darn good when I got home, no huffing and puffing, and I wasn't a sweaty mess. I guess mid-30s with a 10mph wind is my perfect cycling weather.
melaniesuzanne: (I'm on a bike on OBX 10/5/11)
New head- and tail-lights paid for themselves last night. Cars passing from behind gave me a wide berth and cars ahead which would turn left in front of me waited until I passed. I figured that I looked like a (slow moving) motorcycle or something. I waved to the cars who yielded to me. Lighting up the trail was pretty darn awesome, too. I made sure to dim the headlight and dip it a bit when passing joggers and other cyclists, but there weren't that many out last night.

I noticed an odd thing last night. I spent most of yesterday feeling sick to my stomach from either a touch of food poisoning or a side effect of a new medication. In fact, I nearly called Scott to ask him to bring me home. But I decided to power through, and I was a bundle of happy, perky energy when I got home. The perkiness wore off as the endorphins dropped, but physically I felt much better.

The air temperature this morning was about ten degrees colder than yesterday, but with no wind it actually felt warmer. Scott's leg warmer thingies helped keep my knees warm and the only cold spot was the few inches between my elbows and where my t-shirt sleeves ended. Yes, I'm wearing a jacket over the shirt and arm warmers.

I don't do much in the way of daydreaming or fretting during these rides; I am completely in the moment. Watching out for other cyclists and joggers, watching out for cars, watching out for kamikaze wildlife, feeling the chilly air, focusing on cadence. I feel like I'm getting sluggish and the commute is taking longer. I'll chalk that up to the cold and the three layers of clothing on my legs and heavier shoes. Okay, I guess I do daydream about something: if I'm able to keep cycling through the winter, I'm going to be FLYING next spring when I can shed all the layers.

Good buys

Dec. 8th, 2011 11:09 am
melaniesuzanne: (I'm on a bike on OBX 10/5/11)
My toes have been chilly on rides to work despite wearing two pairs of Smartwool socks inside my boots. I'd ordered a new pair of brown fashion booties from which arrived Monday and were way too small for even one pair of Smartwool. Off to DSW they went last night and I exchanged them for a pair of waterproof, insulated rain/snow boots (by Totes, the umbrella people) that aren't nearly so bulky as my real snow boots. They even sort of look like fashion boots when my jeans aren't tucked in. And my toes (and ankles!) stayed toasty warm with only one pair of Smartwool on this morning's windy commute.

While I was in the shopping center, I was morally obligated to stop by Target to look for navy and dark brown cardigans. No love there, but I did find a pair of wind- and water-proof ski gloves by Champion. The bike-specific gloves I purchased in October are less wind-proof than I'd like and the ski gloves also had wicking material inside. My hands felt FANTASTIC this morning despite the icy wind. I am super duper pleased with that impulse purchase.

"You rode TODAY??" exclaimed a colleague as I passed his cube.
"It's a gorgeous day aside from the wind," I replied. "The only cold parts are my knees."

The fluorescent jacket/wind-breaker and an UnderArmor shirt kept my core warm, long johns and jeans did a fair job for my legs (need to add leg warmers for my knees tomorrow), and my elbow-length fingerless gloves kept my forearms comfy. Wool cap and helmuffs did the trick for my head and ears and the wool cap kept my sweat-soaked hair covered during the exposed-to-elements walk from the garage to my building (and then kept the messy hair covered until I could sneak into the ladies room with my hair dryer). I had to remove my scarf after I got off the trail because my back was finally to the wind and I began to overheat, but it did a very good job when I was out in the open and getting blasted by gusts.

Oh, and the best part about today's commute? No icy patches left over from yesterday's torrential rains. I guess the wind blew everything dry.
melaniesuzanne: (I'm on a bike on OBX 10/5/11)
The Nite Rider MiNewt.600 and Radbot 1000 head- and tail-lights arrived Friday night and I finally got to test them out last night.

Oh. My. Gosh. The first phrase that comes to mind is "Do not look into laser with remaining eye". Yeah, 600 lumens at point blank is kind of intense. With that important safety lesson under our belts, Hubbyfink and I took the lights outside for a test. I pointed the headlight at the woods across the street. Even with the local street lamps, I could still see the illumination created by the headlight. Hubbyfink climbed the hill into the woods for me. The reflective bits on his helmet stopped reflecting at 275 lumens but I could still see the glow at 400. At full blast, I'll be lighting up deer in the next county!

I put my old head- and tail-lights on his bike and we took off for the trail so that I could road test the lights and also see what my bike would look like to an oncoming vehicle/cyclist/pedestrian. When we got to a fairly dark patch, we swapped bikes and I had Hubbyfink ride up a quarter of a mile or so and then ride back to me. Thing the first: my little Bell WO blinkies are NO match for the Radbot on steady. The blinkies disappeared in after only a few feet. Thing the second: damn, that MiNewt is powerful when pointed straight ahead even at 275 lumens. Thing the third: my Planet Bike Blinky 3 DOES stand up to the Radbot's steady glow; I was happy to see some blink action in addition to the steady. Thing the fourth: other commuters (we were passed by four as we stood off the paved trail adjusting and readjusting lights) are using dazzlingly bright headlights so it may just be a part of the commuting game and I'll be giving as much as I've been getting. I'm not especially happy about that last point and I'm going to do my best to keep my headlight from pointing directly at other cyclists' and pedestrians' eyes. On the other hand, I'm thrilled to bits that a whole new world of night riding has opened up for me. This is very exciting.

Something else that will might make a winter bike commute doable is the NVRPA's purchase of a snow plow for the W&OD. Whoo hoo! When I was jogging last winter, I had to change my route from the trail to neighborhood streets when we got snow because it took FOREVER for VDOT (or the local authorities) to send a plow down the trail. I'm not sure how (or even if) all of the forty-five miles of trail will be plowed -- my guess is that it will be for the inner suburbs -- and there's not much info aside from the mention of the plow purchase. To be perfectly honest, I'll most likely stick with the 4WD truck when the snow flies and ice attacks, but it would be nice to have the option of going out for a ride. We'll see if the winter crazies in late January/February drive me to purchase studded tires. ;)


melaniesuzanne: (Default)
Mary F'ing Sunshine

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