Do you ever have crappy rides?

Because I just did. The weather was beautiful, I had a funny podcast to listen to, there wasn’t too much traffic, but I just wanted to OFF MY BIKE. Instead of looking forward to my ride home after work in lovely weather, I was trying to get out of it. The way people talk sometimes, you’d think a ride cures all. IT DOESN’T. I rode on Sunday and had a wonderful time. I rode today and couldn’t wait to be home. Part of the problem might be the routine- I’m bored of my usual commute home. So I don’t look forward to it. So I’m gonna have to fix that, because that whole thing was unpleasant. BAH. 

The Vasa Ride of Pain

I feel like it’s time for a ride update- what do you think?? You know you love it! The last big ride I did was the Vasa ride through WABA (Washington Area Bicycle Association) – and that ride was a bitch, let me assure you. This ride is done in conjunction with the Embassy of Sweden, as a tribute to the Vasaloppet, a cross country skiing race across Sweden. It is a 90km race that happens on the first Sunday of March and it commemorates “the trail of renegade Swede King Gustav Eriksson Vasa, who led the rebellion to free Sweden after a long and dangerous pursuit on skis.” (from the WABA website). This ride also took place on the first Sunday of March. Consequently it was cold. Damn cold. It is also 90km- just over 90km actually at 94km (59mi). That’s pretty damn long for the first organized ride of the year. And, I feel WABA has gone out of its way to make an exceptionally hilly ride for the area. (I bet you can guess where this is all going…)

I'm the one in the non hi-vis green. Kate is the one with the blue bag. (image: WABA Flickr)

Here’s something you may not know- the beginning of March is not exactly the ideal time to try and ride 59 very, very hilly miles. Especially if you have been close to sedentary for most of the winter. I thought for sure I’d have some bike fitness – I’m not one of those people who puts their bike away for the winter and doesn’t look at it again until spring. I tried to commute home at least twice a week (even though that rarely happened) and if the weather was nice on the weekends, I’d go out and ride. But I had no idea how much bike fitness I’d lost until I tried this ride. I was impressed with how awful this ride was. The first bit was okay- fast and flat. But the minute we got up the first hill, the road started going up and down, up and down, and it didn’t stop. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced this type of fatigue in my legs before. It was almost a numb pain – but I could still feel every single muscle in my leg working to push and pull that pedal. When we stopped and I had to click out, clicking back in again was almost more than my muscles could take – like I didn’t want to waste a single iota of energy. I’ve experienced piercing pain and concentrated pain (mainly when I rode on Skyline Drive), but this numb sort of pain was new. I thought RAGBRAI had anesthetized me to hills, but I was wrong. I wanted to cry when we’d crest one hill only to see another one. I actually did cry at the top of one hill. It was just too much- the breathing, the legs, the despair! Luckily, a nice out of town lady who had been riding with me, Suze, stopped and made sure I was okay.

There I am again! (image: WABA Flickr)

I stayed most of the ride with my new friend Suze and would often ride with Kate (aka @girlonabikedc). We had done about 45 miles when we realized we had taken a wrong turn. Eventually, we just decided to take this shortcut back to the Embassy- I could not bear the thought of the two giant hills that awaited us in the other direction. My legs were DEAD, my ass/lady bits were starting to hurt and all I could think about was making a big ass hamburger once I got home. Not to mention that my feet were totally numb. Because it was waaaay colder than I anticipated it would be. I have shoe covers, but I’ve never used them and since the weather had been pretty nice so far, I thought it would be too warm for them. I was wrong. As wrong as one can be. I literally could not feel my feet. The combination of the cold and new clipless pedals meant I had to stop periodically, take off my shoes and get some blood flowing to them again.

You'd be forgiven for thinking he was a Rabobank rider- he even had the team issued bike

So, between the cold, numb feet, distance and hills, it wasn’t an awesome ride. I’d have to think long and hard about doing this ride again next year – at least the 59 mile route. There is no way I’ll be in any better shape next year and the ride is close to impossible to do in an enjoyable way at the level I was at this year. They do have a 31 and 15 mile ride- I’d do one of those! But… I did meet some fun people (my helper Suze and fellow DC rider Kate) and it was a good challenge ;)

It sure was gorgeous out, even if it was cold...


I feel a bit guilty, as this post has been sitting in my queue for awhile now, but I got distracted by podcasting (cycling AND movies!). Now that those have been established, I can get back to writing.

As this post was languishing in drafts, an important anniversary came and went- namely the anniversary of my bike marriage. It was a year ago February that I finally took the plunge and asked a bike to go home with me. Luckily she said yes and we’ve been life partners since. Like any relationship, there have been ups and downs. There are the awesome highs of finishing an amazing ride, of feeling deliciously drained after a hard ride, of finding yourself up to a challenge. Then there are the horrible lows of riding a saddle made of nails, of lady bits screaming in pain, of having legs that feel like wood, of changing endless flat tires, of the never ending pain of climbing. In fact, the lows got so bad during RAGBRAI, and our relationship deteriorated so badly, that there was a period of separation after it ended. I wasn’t sure I would enjoy being with her again. But after a week of a self imposed bike fast, getting back on the bike felt right. It constantly amazes me how even when I’m dying on the bike and am totally miserable, I keep going and I’ve yet to find anything that can keep me off my bike permanently.

I remember the first time I rode my bike home. It was probably only a half mile, but I could barely climb the stairs to the house when I got home, my legs were so shaky. Even the little hills of my neighborhood were daunting. My first rides were just half hour rides around the neighborhood. Once I discovered the trails near my house, I rode on those. They were easier, because they weren’t as hilly as the streets and I felt safer without the traffic. I started riding for an hour after work. Once, I went on a ride with Shannon around Greenbelt part which was quite hilly and I felt like death. After that ride, I realized it was time to start riding hills. So I mapped out a route in my neighborhood that took me up every large hill. It sucked, but definitely helped improve my fitness and I was able to ride hills without standing the whole time.

When I look back on my first year with my bike, the two things that strike me the most are how much my fitness has improved and how climbing doesn’t seem so scary anymore. My fitness certainly has room for improvement and I’m not looking to train like a pro, but when I think back on those first few rides, it’s crazy how far I’ve come. And I LOVE it! I still get frustrated when I can’t keep up with others, mainly because it’s a dispiriting reminder that I have a long way to go. Learning to not dread hills is also a huge hurdle I’ve gotten over. I can’t say I like hills, but I don’t despair quite as much when I see them as I used to. I’m pretty sure I have RAGBRAI to think- the rollers of the Midwest will do that to you.

So, what lies ahead for me and my bike? More riding, of course! I want to do more organized rides and more group rides. No RAGBRAI for me this year, unfortunately. I’m not able to get a ride back to Iowa and the thought of arranging and paying to get me and my bike home is more than I can handle. But I’d like to find another long ride to do- multi day or not. Maybe a century. Fitness-wise, I’d love to get better on the hills. I can usually hold my own on the flats, but the minute the road turns up, I’m out the back. Not dying on the hills would be nice.

In an advocacy vein, I want do more to help women get on bikes and feel comfortable. Recently, I helped put on a buying a bike workshop with one an LBS downtown. I’m part of an all female Meetup cycling group and I’m going to plan beginner rides to introduce women to group riding, trail riding, street riding. I really just want to be able to share my experiences getting back on the bike with other women to help make them feel more comfortable.

Off the bike, I’m going to go to more bike races! I’ve already bought tickets to go out to California for Sea Otter. I’m going to go to the Philly International Cycling Championship in June and I’m gonna try my hardest to work around my brother’s HS graduation so I can go the US Championships in Greenville this year as well! I want to go to more racing around the DC area and support the local racing scene.

But, mostly, I just want to continue to ride my bike.

Podcast: All Hail the Classics

Excited by the Classics, we couldn’t help but record a podcast.


  • Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, of course. Won with style by Sep VanMarcke, despite all the hard work of Tom Boonen.
    • But we must know- why all the hatin’ on Thor??
  • Andalucia: won by Dan’s boy, Valverde!
  • Tour of Langkawi: Zabriski killed the TT and is still in the leader’s jersey after the 2nd stage.


Download here!

Subscribe via iTunes here.

Anna and Dan Have Pelotonitis

Another successful podcast in the can! Thank you, thank you for all the nice things you said

I got a new microphone, so hopefully the sound quality is better on my end. We still have some issues with extraneous noise, but are working on that!

Things discussed:

  • We reveal our new name (thanks, @jaowen!)
  • Pozzato’s return to racing 9 days after breaking his collarbone (article)- hardman or foolish man?
  • Charging spectators to watch racing (article)
  • Dan gets his ranty pants on to talk about the UCI not following the rules while expecting everyone else to follow those same rules (article)
  • The Tour of Oman and how much we love Sagan and, of course, Nibbles
  • The race-name-we-don’t-know-how-to-pronounce-so-it-is-awkward, Volta Ao Agarve
  • riders who had shitty seasons last year but are already starting their year off right

Listen directly here: (The closing got cut off for some reason, but the rest is there and I don’t want to upload another copy)

Download here.

I’m working to get the cast up on iTunes, and will let you know when that happens.

Follow me @bloomingcyclist and Dan @DanKalbacher on Twitter and feel free to offer advice and suggestions.

Podcast Liftoff

I love podcasts and have been playing with the idea of creating my own podcast for awhile. I also love cycling podcasts, but have yet to find a cycling podcast I love that publishes consistently. I really liked Flammecast, but that imploded and the revamped VeloCast is not really to my liking, as it too much music and not enough cycling talk (although, now that I go back and listen to the recent episodes, it seems they’ve gone away from the music bit. So it looks like I’ll be listening again!). I also listened to Velo Club Don Logan, but I lost interest as they talk a lot about the local scene in Scotland and many things that I consider peripheral. I LOVE Real Peloton, as they are funny, knowledgeable and have a great rapport, but they publish so infrequently it’s hard to stay excited about them. The Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable podcast has good content, but the format makes it hard to listen to- there are too many people trying to get a their opinion in and that results in a lot of overtalking. In addition, there are quite a few podcasts out there that have a pro and local focus as well as ones that are skills focused.

Now, all of those podcasts are great and maybe they suit your taste. But I wanted a podcast that was exclusively about pro cycling and which paid special attention to American riders and teams. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and create my own. Plus, I love the sound of my own voice. I found a casting partner, Dan Kalbacher (@DanKalbacher), and after extensive research (podcasting is a lot harder than it looks. So hat to those who make it look easy), was able to put voice to the ether.

This is our first attempt. I know the audio quality is not great, but the content is awesome! (if I’m allowed to have an opinion) We also do not have a name yet. Coming up with clever names is hard. If you have suggestions, drop them in the comments. I’m working on making it RSS readable, so if you use an RSS reader to read the blog, you might have to click through to get to the actual file. You can subscribe to the blog in a reader! And eventually I’ll be putting it up on iTunes. When I can figure out how to do that.


The Cast

In this first episode we talk about the dropping of the Armstrong case by federal investigators (Dan’s article here), how much I love Tom Boonen and how he might be bike doping, the Tour of Oman, and the effects of the breakup of HTC.

Listen directly here:

Download here! (to save to your computer so you can transfer it to an mp3 player, right lick and choose Save Target As… or Save Link As… you Mac users are on your own.)

Let me know if you have any problems or comments/suggestions, either here or on Twitter. I’m @bloomingcyclist and Dan is @DanKalbacher

Because People Always Want to Know

Because People Always Want to Know

Marijn de Vries explains (and illustrates!) peeing techniques for women out on a ride.

Happy Results, Unhappy Process

To be honest, the Contador verdict today given by CAS was the best case scenario that I thought would never play out. From my perspective, it couldn’t have been a better outcome. CAS upheld the rules created by WADA, and Contador’s 2 year ban is retroactively applied so he gets to start racing again in August (right in time for the Vuelta even though he has to miss the Tour and the Olympics). But there is so much that doesn’t sit right with me.

First, CAS was the only one to do anything right, in my opinion. To start, the UCI waited ages to release the positive and apparently only did so when German media threatened to out them. And they apparently told Contador to keep quiet about the positive when they told him about it. The Spanish federation sanctioned him, then backtracked, said “just kidding!” and reversed the sanction. The UCI did appeal the Spanish federation’s no-sanction decision to CAS, but they waited until the very last minute to do it! I know it is not up to the UCI to decide how a rider is sanctioned, but you would think that they would do everything in their power to make sure the rules were upheld. Even though the CAS took its sweet time releasing a decision, its decision was in line with the WADA no-threshold drug rules, concluding that Contador’s contaminated beef defense wasn’t strong enough to prove that the ingested Clenbuteral came from outside sources.

Second, Bert only has 6 months left on his 2 year ban to serve! This is not CAS’ fault. It’s the fault of the UCI/WADA for not moving quickly enough to appeal the Spanish federation’s decision not to sanction Bert and the two sides playing cat and mouse for a year, drawing the trial out. Now, I don’t want Bert to have a 2 year ban from today, but to count all that time he was racing in 2011 as time served on his ban is bull doody. I’m not sure who to blame for that- the UCI, the rules themselves, everyone who farted around and delayed the trial, who knows. But in the end, he will have to spend 11 months not racing out of a two year ban. That’s a lot of race results to strip.

Lastly, and most grievously, is the apparent lack of consistency in treated failed drug tests. Now, I haven’t been around cycling long enough to have sat through any other positive results trials. But the example that sticks out to me the most is the Landis positive. From what I understand about that, they practically yanked him off the podium to serve him his positive. There was no hiding it. There was no delaying. The UCI basically called him guilty from day one, who cares what anyone says. That’s a marked difference from the UCI doing what it can to cover up and delay Contador’s positive and only pressing the case to the CAS after it was clear the Spanish federation wasn’t going to do anything- I believe the UCI hoped Spain would do the actual dirty work of sanctioning Bert so they wouldn’t have to. And I think if the public and WADA would’ve let them get away with not appealing the Spanish federation’s decision, they would’ve just let it ride. And we haven’t even talked about the Spanish federation’s handling of the whole situation! Not only did they do everything in their power to make sure Bert wasn’t sanctioned, the way they handled the positive of Bert’s countryman, Ezequiel Mosquera, was remarkably different.  In my mind, it doesn’t matter that Mosquera’s positive was a more “traditional” positive- a positive is a positive and Bert should’ve been sanctioned just like Mosquera, especially with the rules as they are. On all levels there seems to be favoritism and inconsistencies in enforcing rules which, in my mind, is cycling’s biggest problem. The only way cycling can truly be clean is if the rules are clear, the process simple, and the punishments consistently applied.

I’m relatively happy with how it all turned out, but the whole ordeal makes me realize that cycling can only be as clean and efficient as its processes.



I have a confession to make: I want Alberto cleared of doping charges. He won me over so thoroughly during last year’s Giro and seems so dedicated to cycling, that the thought of not seeing him in the peloton makes me sad. Moreover, I’ve come to like him and want him to be innocent. I don’t want his past podium wins to be nullified. I don’t want him shamed. I don’t want him pulled from the peloton. But this side of me that has come to love Bert wars with the side of me that says justice must be done- for no matter how that clenbuteral got in his system, it was there. And according to the rules (no matter how right or wrong they might be), if the drug is there, a ban must be served. The eternal optimist and Bertie lover in me wants to believe he is not a doper. And maybe it’s naive of me, but I do think he’s clean. But the fact of the matter is that clen was found in his system and unless he can prove how it got there, he should serve a punishment. But. That doesn’t stop me from wanting him to be cleared.

Buried In Choices: Bikes

Flickr user DaveZahrobsky

This is another entry in my series to help get more women on bikes. I previously talked about intimidation!

Once you’ve worked up the nerve to walk into a bike shop, you face your next challenge- actually making a decision. Some decisions are small- bike lights, saddle bags, gloves. Others are big- bikes, bike shorts, pedals, shoes. If you’re starting out from scratch, then you’re faced with the biggest decision of all- which bike to buy! First, it is important to understand that you can’t buy a bike online. I mean, you can, but I would imagine that only the most experienced cyclists can order a bike online and  get exactly what they want. If you’re just starting out, you need to touch, feel, ride the bike. In my opinion, there’s not really even a reason to research bike brands online, because you don’t know what your bike shop is going to have. That’s not to say you shouldn’t do research on different bike brands, but it’s so easy to get overwhelmed with the choices and varieties- and if you’re like me, all those choices will make you want to give up. Most bike shops only carry certain brands anyway, but if you know what brands your store carries, you can do some  research on those. However, I suggest just going into the store and seeing what they have. Bike stores don’t carry bad bike brands. Any bike shop worth it’s salt is only going to have bikes it’s proud to sell, which means no matter what you buy, you’re getting a good bike. Hopefully the shop will have a few choices in your size for you to ride, because I do think you should ride more than one bike before you decide.

Before you go into the store, though, you do need to decide why you want a bike, so you can get the right style.

There are quite a few sub categories of bikes, but I think most of them can be put into 4 categories: road bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids, and cruiser.

Road Bikes

Best for: going fast, racing, paved roads, charity rides, fitness riding

If you want to go fast or race, if you plan on doing most of your riding on paved roads, if you want to do longer charity or century rides, if you’re riding for fitness, then a road bike is a good choice. It will go fast on smooth road, but it’s thin frame and thin tires aren’t ideal for anything less than a smooth road or path. They’re usually very light, which means faster riding and climbing, but that means they can’t really take a beating. A road bike can be too much bike for many people and the bent over, forward position can be uncomfortable and intimidating at first. These feelings quickly fad, however, and even road bikes come in simple designs and it’s easy to find one that is just enough bike for you. And, in my opinion, they look sexy as hell. One thing to keep in mind- there is very little reason for you to buy an all carbon bike unless you plan to race or if money is no object. An all carbon frame can offer more comfort on really long rides, as it absorbs road noise better than other materials, and it’s lighter weight might help you go a bit faster, but generally it is not worth the extra money for casual cyclists.

A subset of road bikes that is also very popular are touring bikes. They look very similar to a road bike, but usually have a less extreme position, wheels that are a bit wider and places to attach bags to the bike. They are designed to carry heavy loads, over long distances, with a slow and steady pace. They’re great if you want to do long, multi-day rides, and rides where you carry everything you need with you on your bike or for commuting.

Mountain bikes

Best for: off road riding, rugged terrain, really crappy street riding

Mountain bikes are pretty self explanatory. They have big, fat tires, so they’re awesome at helping you avoid flats and giving a cushier ride on rough terrain. But those fat tires really slow you down on smooth roads. In my opinion, unless you plan on doing some serious off roading, a mountain bike isn’t very practical for everyday life.


Best for: commuting, casual city riding, running errands, those who prefer a more upright riding position, light off roading

Hybrids offer a bit of both worlds- with fatter tires than road bikes, they’re better able handle unpaved trails and with skinner tires than mountain bikes, they allow for more speed on the roads. The fatter tires are better at avoiding flats than a road bike. They also have the more upright position of the mountain bike. A hybrid is another commuting alternative for those who prefer a more upright position to the touring/road bike forward position. However, because it’s a bit of both worlds, it’s not great at either. But it’s great for running errands, moderate trail riding, and commuting. If you plan to do long rides, train intensively, or get really serious about cycling, then a hybrid is probably not the best choice.


Best for: beach rides, flat trails, basic errands, cruisin’

With it’s oversized tires, totally upright position and single gear, a cruiser is perfect for those who just want to ride short distances in comfort. Because cruisers usually only have one gear, they’re best on flat, smooth roads (paved trails). They’re heavy bikes, but that means they’re durable and can handle a beating. Don’t expect to go fast or far on these bikes, but they make riding on the beach very fashionable.

So, that’s a very basic overview of the types of bikes out there. Once you can narrow down what type of riding you want to do, then you can narrow down what type of bike you’re looking for. If you just want a bike to run to the grocery store or take weekend picnics on the trails, a cruiser or a hybrid is probably the right choice. If you want to commute, a hybrid, touring or road bike is best. It’s important to think about the future as well. If you imagine yourself doing century rides, a road or touring bike is best, even if the drop handle bars and more forward position scare you. If you seriously want to loose weight, a road bike is also a better beat than a cruiser or hybrid. But if you don’t imagine yourself doing anything more strenuous that getting groceries or riding to work, a hybrid or mountain bike will work for you! Even though I was a beginner cyclist, I decided I wanted a road bike because I planned to do RAGBRAI and I was going to ride for fitness and fun. And I liked how road bikes looked ;)

Now you gotta get into that shop, talk to the sales person about what you want, ride a bunch of bikes and see what works for you. If you’re just getting back into cycling after an absence, don’t let the drop bars and more aggressive position of the road bikes scare you off- you quickly get over that and learn to love it.

Follow me on Twitter for other spectacular insights to cycling: @bloomingcyclist


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