#30DaysofBiking: Day 2|New Bike

Sophie, out of the saddle, testing a bike


Not for me. No, I love Louise and don’t need a new bike. At least not yet. Today I helped my friend Sophie pick out a bike. We grew up together and ended up living two doors down from each other in the same apartment building. She’s been talking about getting a bike for ages and asked if I would help her pick one out. And yesterday we made it happen! It felt so good to be able to offer my knowledge to make her feel more comfortable. She was like me, doing research, research, research before she went to the shop, but, just like me, realized it’s about the bikes in front of you, not about the hypothetical “best” bike for you. The “best” bike is the one you ride that feels the best! Buying your first bike is super intimidating and I never would have bought mine if Shannon hadn’t come with me- just her presence was comforting! I was happy to pass along that comforting presence to Sophie and offer what little advice and prodding she needed.

When Sophie and I go on our first bike ride together, I’ll post a picture!

#30DaysofBiking: Day 1|Take 2

 

Well. It’s happened again. This month has been declared a #30DayofBiking month. I participated last time a #30DaysofBiking was declared, back in April. I enjoyed the challenge of coming up with new pictures to share and new stories to tell last time and decided I wanted to do it again. I got a bit lazy towards the end- taking pictures but not blogging them- so I only actually go up to day 23, even though I swear I biked 30 days. I’m going to try it again and this time make it to the end. I’ve recently moved and am looking forward to photographing and writing about my new haunts.

So. Today. You know how they say in cycling circles, “Go on a ride, it will make all your troubles go away”? And the generally accepted belief that cycling makes everything better? While in theory, I support and love this idea, in practice, I’ve found it not to be true.  Sometimes, when I go out on my bike in a bad mood or a negative attitude, I just stew in the bad ju-ju and my bad mood just festers. It affects how I feel on my bike and how I see others around me. I even start to hate on my fellow cyclists- “Why you gotta ride like that?! Why don’t you ride the right way, like ME?!” And that was today. A lost wallet was the cause of such a bad mood and even riding around Hain’s Point with lovely weather was not enough to distract from my irritation at myself. So, while generally a bike ride can cure many ills, there’s no guarantee.

Check out all of my #30DaysofBiking posts here.

The Bike Path

For those who have daily contact with me, or for those I’m friends with on Twitter, the way my life revolves around cycling doesn’t seem unusual- or at least it isn’t a surprise. For those who knew me during other phases of my life and have less than daily contact with me, this obsession might seem a bit strange and out of left field- I certainly wasn’t obsessed with cycling in college or high school and I didn’t even own a bike. So I thought I’d take a post to explain where it all came from. I’ve touched on my entrance into cycling in a few past posts and why it means so much to me, but here’s the official version.

Let’s set the scene: It’s 2010. July. I’ve finally finished grad school and my last paper is submitted. I’m only working part time, trying to find a job. So I spend a lot of time at home, watching TV. But it’s the middle of the day and it’s the middle of summer- double whammy against any good TV. So as I’m flipping through channels, I notice the Tour de France is on. I like France, and I liked to pretend that I knew anything about the Tour, and there’s nothing else on, so I decide to watch.

I recognized Lance, of course, and I recognized Andy Schleck from the brief viewings of the Tour the year before, when I was in France. That’s pretty much it. I immediately took a fancy to Andy, and his duel with Contador kept me tuning in day after day. And even though the Tour ended, my obsession with Andy did not. I started watching the Eneco Tour and even though I was quite confused as to why Andy was not riding with his team, I kept watching. I start understanding how cycling works. I continued to devour any and everything related to cycling- news sites, blogs, videos, YouTube, books, etc. Then the Vuelta a Espana arrived (another Grand Tour like the Tour de France, which takes place in Spain). By this time I was actually starting to understand how cycling and cycling tactics worked. This made watching the race even more exciting. When the Vuelta ended, I had a new cycling crush (Vincenzo Nibali) and firmly cemented love of cycling in my heart.

While all of this race watching was going on, I was becoming more entrenched in the cycling community on Twitter. Many of the people I followed were serious cyclists themselves. And I would read their tweets about their rides and their bikes and be a bit jealous. They were all so passionate about the bike- how it made them feel, how they felt on it, how they longed to be on it. I wanted that- I wanted to be part of that world and feel what they felt. I wanted to feel a love for an activity, a sport- something I’d never experienced before. And there was a bit of me that felt like a poser- writing and obsessing over cycling, but not actually owning a bike. I realize now this is silly, but at the time, I didn’t even like to admit I didn’t have a bike. These feelings, and Shannon’s encouragement, lead me to purchase my bike.

I know it’s clichéd to say, but cycling really has made a huge change in my life. I’m much more active than I’ve ever been. It makes me feel better about myself and my body. I (often) make better eating choices, as I hate the thought of “ruining” all the hard work I’ve done on the bike! While riding is exercise for me, I mainly ride because I love how it makes me feel and because it’s fun- and that really makes all the difference. I enjoy the kinship I feel with other cyclists, pro and otherwise- I can understand their pain and suffering on the bike and the love they have for their bikes. I now know what it means to have good leg days and bad leg days. I now know what it feels like to wish your time on the bike would never end and when it can’t end fast enough. I now understand how climbing, while painful, can provide its own set of enjoyments.

I’m starting to understand things about myself as well. I don’t like to suffer, but I can push myself even when I’m outside my comfort zone- mainly because I’m stubborn! I’m starting to realize where my limits are- while I like going fast up the climbs, mostly it just makes me want to die, so I’m better off going at my own pace, even if it means being off the back. I don’t dread climbing as much as I did (thanks RAGBRAI!), mainly because  I’ve realized that climbing will never get easier if I refuse to do it. I have a hard time pushing myself when I’m alone, so group rides and training partners are best for me if I want to improve.

I’ve met some wonderful people through Twitter and my cycling adventures and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Cycling is the one area of my life right now that truly makes me feel happy, even when it’s making me feel unhappy. I can’t explain why this is or what about exactly about cycling is so important to me, but all I know is that I want to keep doing it…

The tale of RAGBRAI 2011

Here are some things I don’t really like: Lines. Crowds. Extreme heat. Unrelenting sun. Porta Potties. Suffering. Anyone who knows anything about RAGBRAI (The Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) knows all of these things are an integral part of the event. When I signed up for RAGBRAI, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. Hey! Let’s ride our bikes across Iowa! In 7 days! 450 miles, that couldn’t be so bad, could it? That sounds like a good idea and not hard at all! Let me just say that it is, in fact, hard. Very, very hard. At least if you’re me. Now, most people are not me, so maybe they will have a different opinion on the difficulty of this ride. But right now we care about my opinion (and to give you some idea of the crowds I experienced- about 10,000 people signed up to ride the whole week. I heard reports it swelled up to 22,000 during the week from one/two day riders. That’s a lot of freaking people).

Had I known beforehand the amount of suffering doing RAGBRAI would cause me, I’m not sure I would have done it. It truly was a miserable experience for me. The three things which most adversely affected me were the sun, the heat, and my saddle. Iowa, being part of the plains states, does not have many trees to offer blessed shade while you are riding. So riding in the full blazing sun all day is par for the course. I have no idea what the actual temperature was most of the time (I was too afraid to find out!), but I know it hovered around 100 most of the week. Add the extreme heat to the unrelenting sun and the humidity and you have the perfect combination to knock me out. I really don’t think I can adequately express how much the sun and heat makes me want to die. I can literally feel the heat beating on me- it feels like a physical pressure on my body. And this pressure is burning me up- like someone had laid a super hot, heavy electric blanket over my body. It presses me towards the ground and all I want to do is cry. Even though most days would be pretty overcast until about noon, when the sun did come out, it was brutal. My favorite days were either totally overcast days or the ones with plenty of clouds to offer relief from the sun.

THEN, there was the saddle. It transformed my bike into a two wheeled torture device. Because it pretty much felt like I was sitting on nails. Specifically two nails, one on each of my sits bones. And then when I went over bumps, it was like two gnomes were taking hammers and pounding them into my butt. And let’s not even talk about how bad some of the roads were in Iowa. When I was on the bike, all I wanted to do was get off the bike, but when I was off the bike, the heat was so much that all I wanted was to get back on the bike- a vicious cycle. Then the sores started from all the sweating and rubbing from an ill-fitting saddle. So then pedaling was a chore. It got to the point where I was dreading getting on the bike in the morning. But for some reason, every morning I would put my ass back on the saddle. And this is how it went. (check out more photos here)

Ready for the first day. Blissful ignorance.

Day 1: Glenwood to Atlantic: 60 miles; 4,298 feet of climbing

About half way through the first day, I thought, “If every day is like this, I don’t think I can finish.” The sun was out in full force and it was ridiculously hot out. It was the 2nd hilliest day, as well. It only took about two hours for me to become totally demoralized. The sweat was just dripping off of my face and the hills were causing me to feel like I was going to hyperventilate. I was off the back (of our group- there’s no back in RAGBRAI) by myself and wondering how I was going to make it. Luckily, at some point I ran into Shannon and she was kind enough to stay with me through the rest of the day. She would go on ahead, but wait for me at the next town or at the top of a particularly brutal hill. Her presence really helped get me through that first day.

Today was the day I had my first flat. Luckily, it happened within a short distance of a nice shady tree, so changing it wasn’t too much work. Except for the part where I forgot to put the tire back on before I inflated it- duh! So to avoid having to deflate the whole tire, I just took off one of the brake pads to get it back on.

Atlantic was a cruel end town. The sign welcoming you to Atlantic was about a mile outside the town and there was a steep little kicker right outside of town. We were staying at a family friend’s house and the route to their house was suuuper hilly. It had some nasty climbs and I was thisclose to getting off my bike, but decided I had ridden the rest of the day, so dammit, I wasn’t going to let this last hill break me! Shannon and I were the last ones in, at about 5:30. It was a long, hard first day, and I was glad to be able to take a real shower and sleep in a bed!

So. Many. People.

Day 2: Atlantic to Carroll: 65.5 miles; 4,719 feet of climbing

The day started off overcast and humid. That was perfectly fine by me- I don’t care how humid it is, as long as there is no sun! For whatever reason, today was not as horrible as the first day- maybe because it was not as sunny? The day went really fast, although I have no idea why. The shock of climbing also seemed to have worn off as well, as I don’t have much recollection of suffering much on that front.

Day 3: Carroll to Boone: 71 miles; 1,787 feet of climbing

It is safe to say that this day was the lowest point of the ride for me. The sun was out in full again today, I’m sure it was over 100 most of the day, and the saddle pain was reaching its heights, not to subside until the ride was over. The meetup town (the town, usually about halfway through the day, designated as the lunch stop) for this day was horrid. There was no shade anywhere, there was no nice place to eat your lunch, there was no chance of catching a good breeze. In fact, many of the towns we stopped in were not nice towns- just depressing little towns with no character. Today, when the meetup town failed to offer any relief or break from the oppressive heat, I just couldn’t take it any more. There were tears. There was drama. And there was Liza. She saw how upset I was and sent the others along and she shepherded me through the day. She put up with my crying and whining to help me get to Boone.

Day 4: Boone to Altoona: 56 miles; 1,147 feet of climbing

In keeping with the tradition so far that a bad day was followed by a good(ish) day, today’s ride was not so bad. It was totally and utterly flat- how those not from Iowa imagine Iowa is like. The one thing that really kept me going was the thought that I would be meeting some friends once we got to Altoona- although I felt bad because Shannon and I were so tired, we weren’t great company!

Unnecessary bike surgery

Day 5: Altoona to Grinnell: 57 miles; 3,202 feet of climbing

About 5 miles outside of town, I had my second flat (another slow leak). I was with my dad and as we pulled off and turned the bike upside down, this guy joined us and was like, “I can help!” then proceeded to start surgery on my tire. I just wanted to change the tube and get on with it, but he insisted we try and find the leak and patch it. This involved a lot of steps that seemed unnecessary to get me back on the road. While I appreciated his willingness and desire to help, I really didn’t need it and just wanted to stop wasting precious overcast minutes.

Once that flat was out of the way, it was a pretty normal day. The riding groups had been established by this point- Liza with her dad, uncle and family friend in the front; Shannon and John in the middle; and Dad and I off the back. The road into Grinnell was pretty brutal, with some nasty climbs the last 5 miles or so into town.

Tonight I got to sleep in a real bed, do laundry, use a proper shower and sit in the AC for a bit, as Grinnell is where my parents live. My brother who lives in California was also home this week, and I desperately wanted to hang out with him, but I was just so fecking tired, I barely made it past 9:00.

Day 6: Grinnell to Coralville: 75 miles; 2,681 feet of climbing

It felt weird to ride on roads that I’ve driven on countless times. It was a day full of rollers and by this time I had stopped caring about the climbing. It used to demoralize me when I would get to the top of one hill, only to see another on the horizon. Not anymore. Up, down, then up again. It started to have its rhythm. I just expected the hills to go on endlessly and they did. I can’t say I loved the hills or that they were easy, but the sight of them didn’t depress me anymore.

Day 7: Coralville to Davenport: 65.5 miles; 2,363 feet of climbing

The mileage today was average, but it felt like it went on forever. I got my 3rd slow lead today. I thought about changing it, but we were so close to the end, I thought, “If Johan Van Summeren can win Paris-Roubaix on a slow leak, I can finish this damn ride on one!” So I filled it with air and soldiered on. I was very ready to be off my bike and done with this ride. But…there was a part of me that was a bit sad the experience was ending. Not so much the bike part of it, but the rest of RAGBRAI that went along with it- the atmosphere, the traditions, the people. Even if the riding hadn’t been fun, just the experience of RAGBRAI was a little bit.  And thus ended RAGBRAI.

Total mileage: 454 miles

Total feet of climbing: 21,206 feet

Time dulls all pain so women will give birth to more than one child and so people will continue to do RAGBARI year after year. During the week of RAGBRAI, if you asked me if I would do it again, I would’ve said “HELL NO.” But a few weeks later it’s possible to remember the fun bits of the ride. I loved the sheer number of cyclists. I loved being around so many bikes, all the time. Bikes literally covered every inch of ground in the pass through towns. It was fabulous to see whole towns closed off to cars and to see bikes be given preference everywhere. I love the neat RAGBRAI traditions: bike parking made of cables strung between tractors; cornfield potty breaks; Beekman’s Homemade Ice Cream; the people who set up sprinklers or hoses for cyclists to ride through; the unique free water stations set up by the towns; afternoon naps in the shade; cyclists of all shapes and sizes; the musical bikes; advertisements for “free shade;” rest stations set up by anyone and everyone (especially rest stations set up at the top of hills!); High School pep band entertainment; pie; beer gardens everywhere; fair food everywhere. It was really fecking tough and most days I wondered how I was going to make it to the overnight town. I think only the fact that I never envisioned a scenario where I didn’t finish the ride kept me on the bike. Will I do it again? I’d consider it ONLY if I had a saddle I  knew I could sit on for 6+ hours a day without wanting to die. The heat and humidity- that I could get used to, as much as I hate it. And weather’s constantly changing. But your saddle- once that’s bad, it doesn’t go back! This year, I suffered every minute on the bike, and dreaded the thought of ever coming back. But…now…ask me again in January!

Things I learned while on RAGBRAI

  • when a Prius tells you it needs gas, it needs gas RIGHT NOW
    Outta gas at a toll station
  • Cornfields make suitable bathrooms (although I never had need of their services)
  • Although you may not be a big breakfast person when you start RAGBRAI, you will by the time you finish
  • Climbing is just climbing- turn the pedals over and get to the top, coast, repeat
  • Tree shade is vastly superior to tent shade
  • There is no right or wrong way to be a cyclist
  • Having big eyebrows would come in handy when trying to keep sweat out of your eyes
  • If you have forgotten to sunscreen one millimeter of your body, the Iowa sun will find it and fry it
  • It is possible to sleep through concerts, busing coming and going, noisy generators, and any other odd assortment of night noises
  • Iowa roads have lots of seams in them which, when ridden over, cause much bouncing and pain on the saddle
  • I really hate porta potties and will do almost anything to avoid using them
  • I love riding through the sprinklers by the side of the road
  • I don’t like to suffer and I’m whiny when I am
  • Sometimes 2 miles can seem like 15 and sometimes 15 can seem like 2
  • It’s okay to be slow. It’s okay to be off the back. (I’ve yet to fully convince myself of this, but I’m working on it)
  • Sometimes you can train a lot and not notice any difference
  • When someone is looking out for you, it’s easier to finish a rough day

    Liza and Shannon, my saviors

The Group Rides

As RAGBRAI creeps closer, I’ve been trying to do more group riding. This is because I can only push myself so far. I’m not so much a fan of suffering that I can push myself to my suffering limits and hold myself there. I need someone else there to hold my feet to the fire. However, while I would say I’m “training” for RAGBRAI, it’s training in the sense that I don’t want to die on the Iowa hills or from spending “all day” in the saddle. So I’m not interested in doing intervals or going faster or doing massive climbing training. But I would like to challenge myself! So I’ve been trying out different group rides.

I went on a few rides with the Sassy Sisters. Their name is silly, but I do have fun. It’s nice riding with all women and their pace always makes me feel really fast. I also went on one ride with the Bicycle Space shop.

That one was a lot of fun. There were only five of us, but by a funny coincidence, one was a girl who I had ridden with on the first Sassy Sisters ride- the ultra slow group ride. The leader was pretty cute, too- bonus! I’m actually usually quite intimidated by cute cyclists, but am starting to feel a bit more confident about my abilities, so I’m not as much anymore. ANYWAY. While that ride took us to the same neighborhoods and trails I’ve been riding on since I got my bike, it was fun to experience them with new people. I think I impressed the guy leading the ride. While this makes me feel good about myself, I’m never sure if I’m actually good, or if I’m better than they think I would be and their expectations were so low that that doesn’t really mean much. So I’ve wanted to go on a proper group ride to assess my fitness level. Because I have no idea where I am. I know how I feel, but feeling can only get you so far.

Both of the groups I had already ridden with were like, “We’re nice! No one gets left behind! You don’t have to an expert to ride with us!” But when I was looking at the Potomac Pedalers website for this one particular ride, they were like “we’re nice, but we’re not waiting for you. If you get dropped, you better have a cue sheet so you can find your way back!” So, you know, tough love. And I felt I was in need of some tough love to challenge myself! So I committed myself to going, to the point where I couldn’t back out. Because unless I’m held accountable I won’t do it! Once I did commit myself, I was soooo nervous. I felt a bit ill even. It’s the same sick feeling I get when I’m going on a date for the first time.

I had no idea what type of people would be there or if I would even be able to keep up with the pace. My only consilation was that if I was dropped, I knew the area well enough to be able to find my way home!

When I got there, there were about 20 and 30 people there. It was a bit intimidating, as most groups of cyclists look pretty intense when you first see them. But then as you look closer, past the lycra and the shoes and the fancy looking bikes, it’s clear there is a wide range of riders- they aren’t all racers ready to crush you with their intense pace. When we started, it was really cool to be riding in the huge group of cyclists, taking over an entire lane. I’m sure the people in the cars hated us, but we had them outnumbered! Before we left, the leader had pointed out a girl who would probably be going close to my pace. So when we started going, I stuck with her. And when the guy in front of me turned off, but the girl kept going straight, I followed her. She was with 2 other women, and after about a half a mile of us not catching the group ahead of us, one of the girls said, “I think we’re on the long route!” As opposed to the shorter route the slower riders do. And now we were too far away from the slow group to get back with them, and too far away from the fast group to catch them. So, the four of us decided to do our own ride! It was tough but fun. I definitely went further than I thought I would, but it was okay. Somehow, doing a longer, tougher ride is a little easier to do when you’re with others…

I’m definitely starting to feel more confident in my abilities and more comfortable on group rides. It’s a lot easier to get motivated when I’m riding with other people! Also, the group rides are good for another reason- since I graduated from grad school, my social life has constricted dramatically. While I was in school, I was interacting with a bunch of different people and going to a lot of different events. Since I’ve graduated, my life consists of work, home, and a few nights out with friends. And lots of movies by myself. I’ve started to realize that while I’m actually fine with this, it’s not a great way to live your life. So I’m trying to find a new group of acquaintances like I had in grad school and group rides are a great way to do this. I feel like I’ve gotten a good start and I hope I can continue to find new rides to do!

Came home with a pretty impressive Cat 5 tattoo

Air Force Cycling Classic takes my virginity

Before I start, I’d like to apologize for the lag between posts that happened. The Giro and the Tour of California really wore me out and I needed a break from writing. So, hopefully now I’m back! If there’s anything YOU’D like me to write about, let me know in the comments!

So. This weekend I went to my first race! It was the Air Force Cycling Classic and it consisted of two races on two days. Each day had a different course and on each course there was a women’s pro race, a men’s pro race, and an amateur race. Both races were criterium (crit) style, which means it’s a circular course, usually about a mile/kilometer in length, with lots of tight corners and fast turns. The race consists of either a certain number of laps or a certain length of time. During the race, on certain laps they’ll offer primes, usually money, for the first person to cross the line. The two races were held in two different locations. The Clarendon race was a circuit of 1km, with the pro men riding 100 laps. The Crystal City race was a little longer and they raced for 90 minutes, which I think equated to about 25 laps. It totalled 100km in length as well. The women and the amateurs raced over the same courses but for shorter lengths of time.

I got there before the race started and while I was just wandering around, I was totally overwhelmed by the amount of cyclists/racers around! It was so cool to be in an environment where cyclists, walking around in their cycling gear, were the majority. Also, I have never been around so much bike technology before! I’m not a gear head at all, but I can recognize a fancy bike when I see it. And I saw a LOT today. It was really neat to walk by where the teams had set up their “camps.” I felt like I was walking past my version of celebrities when I walked by the teams I had seen racing in the Tour of California and the Philly race: United Healthcare, Kelly Benefits Strategies, Exergy, Pure Black, Team Type 1, etc.

Hot cycling dude. They're chill.

I was a bit worried I wouldn’t be able to follow the race developments, not being familiar with crit racing and not having a commentator narrating the race. It turns out that crit racing tactics are very similar to road racing tactics, just with developments and changes happening a lot faster. And it also turns out that crits also have commentators that hang out at the finish line, narrating the race. There are breaks and chase groups and attacks and lead out trains. So I was pleased to find out that it was pretty easy to follow what was happening. Even if the situation was changing every lap.

The stage with the commentators

I liked the Clarendon circuit a bit better, as it was more of a genuine circuit, which meant if you were in the center, you had easy access to all the different parts of the course. Not to mention it went right through areas with lots of restaurants and shops, so there were lots of people everywhere you went. The Crystal City circuit was less of a circuit and more of an out and back. It was harder to get to all the different parts of the course and there were larger sections of course that were devoid of people. And because the course was circular, the only way to hear what the commentators were saying was to standing right by the start/finish line.

Things I noticed:

  • Everyone talks about how fast the racing is- they’re not lying! Whipping around corners, it’s amazing they don’t tip right over or crash into the barriers. And when they’re ripping down a straight or accelerating out of a corner, the speed literally blows your hair back! At Crystal City, there was a motorcycle cop who’s radar gun clocked the peloton at 30mph!
  • To me, it seemed as though the women’s and amateur races were just as fast as the pro races. Okay, maybe not quite as fast, but seemed pretty close to me.

"Amateurs," very fast amateurs

And very fast women

  • I was impressed with the crowds! The Clarendon race was a bit more crowded, as it was in a better location, but both it was cool to see how many people showed up to support the racers! It was also cool to see know that I wasn’t the lone bike race supporter out here. I’ve felt a bit lonely out here sometimes, with my cycling addiction, so I loved see others enjoying racing like I do. I talked to a photographer the first day who said he’s just discovering cycling and was interested in going to more races, so we exchanged emails and I hooked him up with a bunch of cycling resources!
All in all it was a fabulous weekend (even though my sunscreen application was less than thorough and I ended the weekend with sunburn) and I can’t wait for next year! OH, I also need to point out that I finally met Fitzalan Gorman, who runs the website I write for! I’ve been writing for her since the fall but this was our first face to face encounter. So that was nice! More picture here and here!

And now for the best view...

Bike DC

Last weekend I participated in Bike DC with my friend Kiah. And it was fabulous.

When I signed up, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I figured a ride around DC in car free streets couldn’t be a bad thing! I was just going to go by myself, but luckily Kiah stepped up at the last minute and saved me from a solo ride. Kiah lives near me, so we decided to just ride downtown instead of bothering with the metro.

I couldn’t believe how many people were down on the mall for the start. It was crazy. And there was such a wide range of riders there- cruisers, hybrids, fancy mountain bikes, cycling shorts, workout clothes, team kits, young, old and everything in between (including this guy, who seems to love Fabian Cancellara).

Insanity at the start

When we rolled down Pennsylvania Ave, totally closed to traffic, I was on a serious high. No cars- just hordes of cyclists. How cool is that?! And that feeling persisted throughout the ride. As I rode my bike on roads I have never even been on in a car, it was fabulous to ride down on ramps, see the big three lane highways empty except for cyclists stretched out across them, marvel at how large the green highway signs seem when you’re not zooming in a car, laugh at the motorists stuck in traffic on the other side of the divide (probably because of us!).

Penn Ave just for the cyclists!

Poor suckers stuck in their cars

Highway, what?!

The route was a bit more difficult than I expected. Not for me of course, but I could see how it might be a bit of challenge for some. The sheer number of people there made it more challenging to start with. Then, there were some not insignificant hills to climb, and add to that the wide variety of abilities and age and the riders who clearly didn’t get the memo that this wasn’t a race and you get a more challenging ride than some were expecting.

And let’s talk about this route. The most exciting thing for me was that I was riding my bike in places I had never even been in a car! We went to the Air Force Memorial, where I had never been, mainly because it is not metro accessible. We rode down the George Washington Parkway, which follows the Potomac River on the Virginia side, and it was so pretty! You can be sure that it is wasted on most motorists, stuck in their metal beasts. A beautiful view of the river, lush and green, surrounded by bluffs.

I did learn some interesting things about riding in a big group (I won’t say group ride here, because it wasn’t really). First, the importance of HOLDING YOUR LINE! Just ride straight, please. Swerving around does no one any good. If you’re a little kid/teenager, fine. Or an adult who’s just learning to ride, fine. But if you’re a semi-fit adult, with a nice bike that illustrates you’re not a novice, please, please, PLEASE just ride in a straight line. And to go along with that, no matter what you skill level, pay attention! Be aware of your surroundings- who might be behind you, who’s ahead of you, where the road is going. If you’re going to pass someone, please check your blind spots, just as you would if you were in a car.

The whole ride was wonderful, the weather was great, the route was fun, and I’m really excited to do it again next year. In all, Kiah and I rode 40 miles! That’s a new record for me, and for Kiah, who hadn’t been on her bike in about 3 months. I was impressed with Kiah’s stamina- especially once she realized how awesome having a triple is. (check out more picts here)

#30DaysofBiking: Day 23|Pretty in Pink

I do not remember where I was going this day. Probably to the grocery store. That’s where I usually go when I ride in regular clothes. All I’ll say is, I love my Chacos, but wow do they make my feet look short and stubby! Also, I have learned how to roll my pants up high enough so I don’t collect any grease. Progress!

#30DaysofBiking: Day 22|Wildlife

Today I did the same Putuxent Wildlife loop that I did a couple of weekends ago, except this time I biked from my house to the “start” of the loop, instead of taking the metro to Greenbelt. I also just rode to the Wildlife Refuge, looped it, then rode home. It still gave me 30 miles, but I didn’t have to take the metro! Anyway, fascinating stuff, I’m sure. The Wildlife Refuge is pretty cool. It’s a nature fun center! They’ve got nature-y displays and exhibits, a little nature walk through, and even a little tram tour! I’ve never really explored, but that’s because nature doesn’t interest me too much, haha! The weather was lovely, I called my mom (it was Mother’s Day) during my rest at the Wildlife Refuge, and my ass was killing me by the time I got home. All in a day’s ride.

#30DaysofBiking: Day 21|Commute

I’d biked to work a few times before, but had been off it recently, mainly because I needed a new backpack to commute with and because my “soft tissue” saddle issues were too much to commute with. With a new bag and a new saddle, I decided it was time to start again. So I rode to work. First I wind my way through residential Maryland, then I get on the Metropolitan Branch Trail (which runs next to the Red Line and is a very nice path with some reeeally ugly views) to Union Station. From there I make my way to the Mall, going down to the Lincoln Memorial, cross over the Memorial Bridge, ride by Arlington Cemetery, up this hill that looks tame but is actually killer to the Marine Memorial, then I’m there! Today, instead of riding down the tourist paths to the Lincoln Memorial, I took Constitution. Big mistake. Tons of cars, four lanes of traffic, a stoplight every block. We’re gonna call that a failed experiment.

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