Posts Tagged ‘Cycling’

It’s been about 2 ½ months now since I first started to bike to work and I am ready to upgrade my bike. I have stuck it out in temperatures that have reached 100 degrees and have withstood many many comments from friends and family that think I am crazy or that I’m going to get myself killed. I can’t do anything about the weather – except maybe leave before the sun is up in the morning and after it goes down in the evening – but riding in the dark or at dusk would be more dangerous and would mean more time at work and less time at home with my family. So, I’m not willing to change my leave times enough to make any significant difference in temperature. I have found that afternoon rain storms make for a delightful ride home. Although others have called me crazy, I rather enjoy riding in the rain – it cools off the temperature considerably and I’d rather arrive dripping with rain water than with sweat. Don’t knock it till you try it – talk about anti-aging, I promise you will feel like a kid when you get caught in the rain on your bike. As for risking my life, I am extra careful and take mostly low traffic neighborhood streets during daylight hours. When the days start getting shorter I may have to start riding in the dark – but I will be certain to use enough lights and reflectors to blind everyone that comes near me. Driving a car is certainly not a risk free mode of transportaiton either – I have read that auto crashes are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 6-27. And the health benefits of cycling is said to outweigh the risks by a factor of 20 to 1 (measured in years of life expectancy lost from collisions to years of life expectancy gained by biking).
So, now that I am confident that I can stick with my plan to bike to work, I am ready to step it up and buy a new bike. The question is what bike? I have paid great attention to what others ride down the road on and listened intently to bike enthusiasts’ comments about bike brands, styles and features, but I was still a little overwhelmed with the vast variety of bikes that are available as well as the vast differences in prices. You can spend a small fortune on a bike! Luckily, I have met several bikers of late with a great wealth of knowledge about bikes and who are very generous in offering to help those with low bike IQs like me. I have found that the biking community is like an open club that wants, more than anything else, to increase their membership. If you ride a bike, you are immediately a member and welcomed with open arms. So, I asked a biker friend on facebook for help and immediately got helpful suggestions and several others I didn’t even know chimed in with their 2 cents. One of my new biker friends, Rudy, suggested I try out one of his bikes that he would let me have at a good price – a Trek hybrid bike he said. Hmmm, I’ve heard the brand Trek mentioned before and understood that the brand got considerably high marks from my biker friends, but I figured the price would also be considerably high. But, I figured it won’t hurt to try it out, I don’t think I’ve ever ridden anything other than a mountain bike. So, try it out I did and I loved it right away! He offered it to me at a great price– a real steal! After testing it out on my normal route to work and back I decided to buy it – a Trek 7.3 FX.
It has 700 x 37c tires (which I have learned are much faster than my smaller, wider, mountain bike tires), it has an extender added to the handlebars so that I ride more upright to alleviate the crick in my neck, it is MUCH lighter (I think he told me 26 lbs), it shifts MUCH smoother, the seat is very comfortable, it is already decked out with a headlight, a small bag, a little computer, and a water bottle holder, AND it is GATOR blue with orangish reflective tires with a flame like design on them (yes, I am a Florida Gator fan). I think this bike was made for me!!

It does have one feature though that is taking some getting used to – clips. I had never tried clips before and didn’t think I wanted them. They require you to wear special shoes with a metal piece on the bottom that clips into the pedal. Using the clips keeps your foot from slipping off and allows you to more efficiently pedal – using the full rotation by pulling up on the pedal as well as pushing down. However, when you are making frequent stops they can be a pain, especially when you are not used to them and forget you have them. Yes, I fell over yesterday morning into my neighbors raised planter when I stupidly took a short cut and came upon some boards that had been laid out across the path because of some construction they had going on. I went to stop, forgetting about the clips and when my feet did not come off the pedals as expected, I ended up leaning over and laying in their planter. Thankfully, I was going VERY slow since I was on a narrow off-road pedestrian path between houses and I knew there was construction ahead (yes, I knew this and I still took the path – attempting to save maybe a whole 30 sec. on my trip since I left late). I managed to just bruise my right shin, (which now matches the bruise on my left shin). The bicycle was unharmed (thank God!!) and I was thankful that no one was around to see my fall. If you’ve read my accounts of my first couple weeks riding, then you know this is par for the course as I am somewhat prone to minor bike mishaps. (See my earlier blog entries at: https://bikingmobile.wordpress.com/). Another lesson learned, shaving 30 seconds is not worth risking my shins or my bike (especially my NEW bike!)


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When I moved closer to work, I told myself that one of the pluses would be that it would give me a chance to start running or biking to work.  I mean, it’s only 5 miles.  It would be an easy trek, a very green choice and would be a great opportunity for me to put exercise into my everyday schedule.  But alas, 3 years later, I had yet to attempt that trek.  Until now.  Reports of gas prices going up to $5 this summer spurred me to thinking about doing what I had planned on doing the last three years. 

 So, I started thinking about the logistics of getting to work with all my stuff and being dressed and presentable when I got there.  I would be way too sweaty, smelly and tired if I tried to run 5 miles to work.  I don’t have a bike, but I could use one of my daughters’ bikes, they hardly ever use them and they certainly wouldn’t need them while they were at school.  Biking it is!  

 So, my husband Carl found an old bike lock for me to use and Monday morning I began packing a bag of stuff to take with me.  I don’t have a bike basket or even a back pack.  So, I packed a canvas bag with my office clothes and shoes and bag lunch.  It’s just a short trip by bike, I can carry the bag over my shoulder.     It’s only five miles, I’m thinking I won’t have to worry about traffic and stop lights so much, heck I might even get there faster than when I drive.  So, I head off to work, bike helmet on (safety first right!).  It is a cool dry morning and I enjoy the half mile ride to the exit out of my neighborhood where I have to cross a busy street, when I realize I have forgotten my cell phone.  Do I go back….hmmm, I guess I shouldn’t go off on my first bike ride to work without it …. so, back to the house to retreive my phone.  And then back out to Airport Blvd. where the cars are wizzing by very fast.  Luckily, someone in my neighborhood is leaving and makes the light turn which gives me the chance to dash down Airport Blvd. several blocks to where there is a sidewalk, before the oncoming cars catch up to me.   YES! – the most difficult part of my trek is over!

 I cut through the neighborhoods in Midtown and head up to another busy street, Dauphin, that has sidewalks running along side it all the way to downtown.  This should be a breeze!   But, it wasn’t.  For starters, my bag would not stay on my shoulder.  I thought about trying to fit the straps over my head & over one shoulder, but they certainly won’t fit over my helmet & I don’t want to stop.  The worst part was the huge curbs at every street – no nice ramps to glide down – just big huge slabs of cement and I have to stop and put my feet on the ground in order to get up on each one.  And of course there were always cars stopped at each cross road for me to go around. (And all I can think is please don’t let any of these people know me – I must look like a total nerd biking to work!).  The curbs aren’t the only bumps in the road, the big oak tree roots have ravaged the sidewalks, they are all broken up and have drop offs higher than the curb.   I finally manage to get into downtown and though it has taken me much much longer than I expected, I feel a sense of accomplishment.  I finally did it!

Next is the trek home.  I leave work a little early since the ride to work took so long and I have to get home in time to take my daughter & some of her friends to soccer.  I know it will be a little hotter on the ride home, but who cares if I’m all sweaty when I get there.   I put on my helmet & start to get on my bike, when I see something shining on the pavement below – oh, someone has lost an earring.  I pick it up… wait a minute, that’s MY mangled earring.  It must have come off when I put on my helmet.  I bend it back into shape the best I can and put it back in my ear, I will have to remember to be more careful about that.   I have mapped out my ride to avoid the main roads this time – it’s slightly longer, but using all neighborhood streets on the way back will avoid all the heavy traffic and evil sidewalks & curbs.  I will just ride in the street through the Midtown neighborhoods.  It should go a lot easier & faster, right?!  Wrong.   First off, my butt is KILLING me!  Who knew 5 bumpy miles in the morning would bruise my buttocks sooo bad.  I can’t stand to sit (Ha! an oxymoron) on the bike & so I spent most of the time standing up while I pedaled.  When I do sit, every bump feels like someone is whacking me with a baseball bat.  The bag constantly sliding off my shoulder is driving me crazy, I try holding it all different ways but nothing works until I finally figure out that I can put one strap on each arm and wear it like a back pack – great now I really look like a nerd.   At least that is better.  But, the bike is not going so well.  I had a lot of problems with it going in and out of gear this morning, which it is continuing to do, but now it seems harder to pedal and something just isn’t right.  I think my tires are low.  I go on for awhile and then my back tire starts making a loud squeeking noise — it’s not just low, it is COMPLETELY FLAT! Well, I’m about 3  1/2 to 4 miles into my 5 mile trek home, I’m totally drenched with sweat (I look like I just climbed out of a swimming pool – oh don’t I wish), and I am walking my bike towards home, looking at my watch, thinking I’m not going to make it in time for soccer car-pool ….when my phone rings and it’s my daughter Casey asking me where I am and giving me the run down on who we need to pick up for soccer.  I tell her I’m having to walk her sister’s bike – to which she replies “you should have taken mine, hers has problems.”   Then Carl got on the phone, aahhh YES! he’s home!  He offers to come pick me up, I think about saying no – I mean the whole purpose of me doing this was to get the exercise and NOT use my car.  But, looking at my watch, and thinking about the mile or so I have left, I say “Yes, I guess I need you to!”  Thank God I brought my phone!

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