The Daily Bike: New Year

The first ride of the new year. 

I don’t go crazy over new years. I don’t see how the calendar turning over to a new month, a new year is the magic potion to make people a better version of themselves. I speak from experience- you’ll only make those changes if you’re ready and willing to make them.

I took a ride because it was my first day back after being home for holidays. And let me tell you about my new favorite website: MapMyRide.com. Most of you will probably be thinking, have you been living under a rock?? Yeah, yeah. I’ve been on it awhile, but just realized how it can help me.I’m not very good at just going out and riding- I need a plan or general route. And MapMyRide is perfect for helping me find rides in the area that other cyclists have done. All you have to do is type in an address or town and it will find all the routes people have logged. It’s great for inspiration and ideas. Today I went somewhere totally new, but other days, I’ve used it to help link up rides I often do with new areas and routes. This helps keep me excited about riding. I get bored if I’m riding the same routes all the time. So while it isn’t perfect (I haven’t figured out how to get those routes I bookmark to show up on my phone), it’s making me excited about riding again!

Dress for success

On Thanksgiving, I went on a ride around DC. It was suggested by someone who is part of one of my meet up cycling groups. I love riding around the city when there isn’t any traffic and Thanksgiving seemed like the perfect time for that. While it wasn’t as empty as I thought it was going to be, we were definitely able to ride on roads that are normally car choked! The weather was amazing- it started off pretty cold, but warmed up pretty quickly. Cyclists are obsessed with the “right” gear for the right weather. Summer is easy- you just wear as little as possible, while maintaining some decency! But all the other seasons require finding that delicate balance between being warm enough and not overheating. Winter is complicated, requiring, at a minimum, a base layer and a wind breaking layer on the top and some sort of fleece lined tights on the bottom. Various other layers can be added depending on the conditions and your susceptibility to cold. Then for your extremities you need covers for those well ventilated shoes and have sufficiently windproof gloves, so neither your toes or fingers fall off. For the top of your body, you need a gaiter or scarf for your neck and a hat or a headband for your ears. Even though it’s a lot, during the winter, you pretty much know what you’re getting when you go out, so the weather is not a surprise. Fall and spring, on the other hand, are much more of a guessing game. There are any number of garments which can be worn in these seasons- arm warmers, long sleeved jerseys, vests, light jackets, leg warmers, knee warmers, knickers, light gloves, heavy gloves, hats, headbands. It’s a game of mix-and-match to find exactly the right combination to suit your body temp and the outside weather.

We cyclists will not stop until we find that perfect combination of clothes for any weather. We will endless debate at exactly what temperature one should wear knee warmers versus legs warmers or arm warmers versus a jacket. We will spend a significant portion of our bike budget on finding the right clothes for the right weather. We will do all of this because we love to ride our bikes. Most of us cannot stomach the thought of putting away our bikes for the winter, not to ride again until the snow melts and temperature rises. Some will brave the nastiest and coldest of weather if only to avoid using the dreaded trainer. I love riding in the winter. I like bundling up, I like how the cold invigorates me, I love coming home and warming up with a hot shower and a hot drink. But best of all, I love having the trails to myself.

Another way to get the streets to yourself? Ride on Thanksgiving morning.

#30DaysofBiking: Day 9 | A Hill

Okay. I’m a little embarrassed that I’m this far behind on #30daysofbiking. My motivation to bike is waaaay down. I barely ride during the week anymore. Going on a ride after work just seems like sooo much work. I’m bored of all my usual routes and I hate riding in after work traffic. So most of my riding is on the weekends. But I enjoy taking pictures and writing about my rides, so I’m going to keep it up, even when it’s not longer fashionable to do so.

On the weekend of this ride, I went with Melissa (my 50 states buddy) out to MacArthur Blvd. My first trip on MacArthur was my ill fated trip with Shannon that resulted in 3 flats, 45 minutes of walking, and a bike fairy. My second trip on MacArthur was out to Great Falls. This time I was finally going to tackle the epic hill of MacArthur. I don’t know much about this hill, except that lots of people ride it because it is hard. Does it have a name? Probably. But I don’t know it. I was dreading it and looking forward to it, as it would be an interesting test of my fitness. The hill was hard…but not that hard. There was suffering, but it was not epic. Whenever I thought it might be too hard, I said to myself, “You did RAGBRAI and 30 miles on that [bleep] Skyline. This hill ain’t nothing but a mole hill compared to that.” So I made it to the top. And I could even hold a conversation with Melissa when I got to the top! Progress, what?!

We took a break about half way through and the second half was pretty brutal. We were riding on more heavily trafficked roads (which is not relaxing), there were a lot of stoplights, it was a lot hillier than I expected, and I was more wiped than I thought I was from the big hill. Melissa is significantly faster on the climbs than I am, so I would get dropped and only catch back up with her when she would stop and wait. It was exhausting. Plus, I was so unprepared food-wise, I had almost no food to eat and was starving. This mean that once I got home, I ate a big ass burger, a milkshake, and drank a beer. Well deserved.


My Ride Around the 50 States

This past weekend I participated in WABA’s 50 states ride. This is a 65 mile route that covers all 50 state streets in the District and goes to all 4 quadrants of the city (SW, SE, NE, NW). When I signed up, I did some research to see how hard it might be. Most people don’t usually think of DC as being particularly hilly but the blogs I read by people who had participated in past years quickly put an end to that idea. For a person with average bike fitness like myself, it was clear the hills would be significant! Also- 65 miles is not an insignificant amount of miles to bike. However, I felt confident in my ability to complete the ride. I had, in fact, ridden RAGBRAI and 30 miles on Skyline Drive. I could do 65 miles in moderately hilly DC!

Got that memorized?

I rode with Melissa, who rode with me and Shannon on Skyline Drive. She was not wearing her cute red earrings, but I decided to ride with her anyway. Check in started at 7:30 and we got there a little after 8. We were thinking this would mean we could leave early, but they didn’t want anyone to leave until 9! While this meant we had an hour to kill, it also meant we got front row line up! Yeah! The one and only time I will be lined up in the front row for anything bike related. AND Melissa totally got the hole shot! The ride was definitely off to a good start.

On the front row (all the way to the left, from my best side) Photo: WABA Flickr

Now, I was a bit nervous about the 7 page cue sheet and the hundred some cues. However, my nerves were unfounded. It was surprisingly easy to stay on track, often because there would be another group of 50 staters ahead of you, showing you were to turn. And even when we were by ourselves, it really wasn’t that hard to follow the cues. The best part was when we missed a cue and a bunch of construction guys started yelling at us that we were going the wrong way! “Over here! You missed the turn!”

Cue sheet

The first 20 miles  flatish and fast, as we wound through downtown DC. Once we got to Anacostia (SE DC), that’s when the road turned up. Right after the Anacosita rest stop, it was a long ride up MLK Jr Ave, which I didn’t find too hard and thought to myself, if that’s the worst of it, I’m golden. However, it wasn’t the worst and I was not golden. We soon turned to go up Alabama, which I found to be MUCH worse- longer and steeper. I felt a little throw-upy at the end of that hill.

Throw up Alabama

Ride Profile

The rest of the route was up and down, up and down. I thought the worst section was the NW section- the hills were significant and we kept riding over the same roads over and over.

NW section

The WORST hill was right after the last rest step, where we had to do a little out and back to hit Arizona. As we went down Nebraska, I could see others coming up the other side, and thought, shit, we gotta come back up this! Then it was a very, very steep descent down Arizona and as we whizzed down that, i thought oh SHIT, what goes down has to come up again! And come up we did- I almost had to get off and walk the first part, as the road went directly up after it turned and I didn’t have time to shift down. And it was a steep mo-fo! I had to employ the zig-zag technique to get up the hills. It was the only way I was able to keep up enough momentum to avoid stopping or even going backwards. And once we escaped that section, we still had to go back up a section of Nebraska we had descended to get to Arizona. It was brutal. But! Shockingly- I felt okay! I didn’t feel throw-upy at all, even though I was quite out of breath. Ever since RAGBRAI, I don’t care either way about hills. I don’t love them, but I don’t hate them either. I just accept them- when one hill is immediately followed by another, I just think, Oh well, another hill, and start climbing. It’s quite refreshing, actually!

The hills of Arizona

The coolest part about the ride was going to all the different areas of the city and the thing I liked the most was seeing the variety of housing around the city. I wished I had taken more pictures of the all the different styles. There were the beautiful townhouses, uniquely colored and styled, with elaborate yards (no matter how small). There were the functional rowhouses, all the same with their brick simplicity. There were the mid sized detached houses a little further out, with yards. And there were the run down houses of all varieties.

You absolutely need to be comfortable riding in traffic and on crazy city streets to do this ride. As the day went on and traffic picked up, some of the roads were super sketchy to ride on. I would say South Dakota and Michigan NE were the scariest roads to ride on- lots of traffic, lots of lanes, all fast, with nowhere for bikes to go. The same went for Connecticut NW. Trying to cross 2 lanes of heavily trafficked road to turn left is not for the faint of heart.

Of course, a bike trip with me wouldn’t be complete without a flat. It was a frustrating flat, because in the spare tube I had, where the valve sat in the tube was wider than other brands and prevented the tire from sitting directly on the rim. Once I figured out this was the problem, I just used Melissa’s spare tube, but we probably wasted about 40 minutes trying to figure out my flat.

It was a great ride. I’m glad I participated and I’m definitely coming back next year! To close the post, an obligatory photo with our home state street signs!

#30DaysofBiking: Day 8 | The Ride Home

Today I rode my bike home, and of course, I picked the one day of the week that it decided to rain. But, while I’m sweet, I’m not made of sugar, so I didn’t melt. And it certainly wasn’t the worst rain I’ve ridden in! I’ve been biking home from work for awhile now. I used to bike to and from work, but have abandoned the “to” part. I decided the hassle of riding to work was more than I was willing to put up with. Picking and packing the day’s outfit, along with all the necessary accessories and vanity products was too stressful. So, I started taking my bike on the metro in the morning then riding my bike home after work. This works so much better. Bikes aren’t allowed on the metro between 7am and 10am, so I do have to leave my house earlier. But packing is so much easier, as I only need to mindlessly pack my cycling gear, and I get to leave work a half hour early, as I get into work a half hour earlier. As the days get shorter, this option will be even more appealing, as it means I can get a ride in before it gets too dark.

I upgraded my backpack, also. I got a very nice Timbuk2 laptop backpack. While my bag is still heavy with my laptop, it’s easier to transport. And it’s a great backpack for short trips! So, this is an official endorsement of the Timbuk2 H.A.L. laptop backpack! (Although Timbuk2 has a lot of good commuting  backpack options!)

Since I’ve started biking home, I’ve moved, and while my new route is the same length as my previous commute, it is a much more urban route. However, thanks to Google Maps and Rails to Trails, the route is quite bike friendly, with many streets with bike lanes being used.

#30DaysofBiking: Day 7 | Another day

I went on a ride after work today. There was still a lot of traffic, even though I left earlier than I did before. I’m going to have to find a new after work riding route- too much pissing off motorists (I’m sure!) and fearing for my life happening to continue using this route. Nothing exciting, just another day on the bike!

#30DaysofBiking: Day 6 | Shake

Tanline and bike grease

Today I was too lazy to spend time kitting up for a long ride but I wanted to take advantage of the nice weather, so I just rode to Silver Spring so I could sit outside while I enjoyed a shake and read my book.

#30DaysofBiking: Day 5 | Back in the saddle

After almost a week and half of not being on my bike, I figured it was time to get back on. I blame most of that time off on the hurricanes- first there was Irene, then Lee, which meant we spent all of last week wading through water. Then once the weather cleared up, I had a friend visiting. Then when she left, I honestly wasn’t interested in riding- I was out of the habit and unmotivated. Often, if I go too long between rides, I start feeling anxious and antsy. But the past week, I’ve had no desire to get on my bike and even the good weather didn’t make me miss it much. I would say that I wished I could be on my bike, but I didn’t mean it. It felt a little weird- I’ve never had that happen before. It also made me a little nervous- was my love affair with my bike starting to fizzle out? Even though the day I took this ride I was super stressed out at from work and life, I had no desire to take a ride- which is often the first thing that comes to mind when I need some recovery time. I was tempted to veg out at home, once again instead of going through the hassle of getting ready for a ride. But a bike friend convinced me it would make me feel better and made me feel guilty about avoiding my bike. So I kitted up and headed out. And, of course, I was glad I did. Even though I left later than I should have, so I had to deal with tons of traffic, it was still lovely out and I got to spend a bit of time away from traffic on a little used trail. I could tell it had been awhile since I’d been on the bike- my legs felt the burn on the smallest of hills and my breathing was extra labored. But it was a good workout, I didn’t get hit by any cars and I’ve broken the couch potato habit.

#30DaysofBiking: Day 4 | Too Late

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had intended to go on a group ride this morning. On Sundays, one of the bike shops downtown does a group ride that I enjoying doing. However, because I couldn’t get my lazy butt out of bed fast enough this morning, I missed the early train and they had already left by the time I got there! So I didn’t completely waste the effort I had put into getting ready, I biked home. So instead of getting 25 miles in toady, I got in 6. Better than zero.

 

#30DaysofBiking: Day 3 | Great Falls

Along the C&O Canal

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Today Kiah and I rode out to Great Falls. It was quite amazing. Great Falls is an area where the Potomac river has carved through the bedrock and created a stunning section of rapids. I had no idea what the Great Falls were or what it might look like, so when we got to the overlook, my breath was just taken away. The amazing thing was how you look to the horizon and it’s just jagged rock and the raging river just seems to appear out of nowhere. Nature! (More picts here)

The ride was decidedly unstrenuous. Rode out on MacArthur Blvd to the C&O Canal, all of which is quite flat. Weather was perfect, albeit a little humid, but no sun. Lovely day on the bike!

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