Thursday, April 30, 2009

What's my passion?

The answer is, "I don't know." I've been thinking about this question (again) recently after a conversation that my hubby sparked the other day.

We were at a Taco Bell, where we saw a group of young teen boys buy a nacho for a girl about their age. The girl left, and they boys began to talk about her in a vulger way. We wondered if that was one of those situations where the girl paid for that nacho with something other than money. This filled my hubby (who works with troubled teens as a social worker) to want to help the girl and led to him ask me if I'd ever thought about mentoring a kid.

The question initially filled me with insecurities about myself. Why would a kid want to hang out with me? What would I have to offer? What could I do to change their life? What would I even talk about? How can I say I'm successful when I didn't become the doctor or engineer I thought I would be growing up?

But my wonderful husband made the point that if spending an hour a week with me meant that some little girl would eat a meal and be safe with no expectations on her, that would be a huge deal for some girls. And I actually am successful in a lot of ways. I do have a lot to offer. I graduated from college, I have a job that I don't mind, I own a house, I'm married, I have income and I can do the hobbies that I enjoy. I can say to a kid, "I did it. You can do it too!" That's not so bad!

(This post does relate to bikes...Hang in there!)

So that got me thinking about volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Then the thought process extended into other ways I could feel better about myself, like going back to school or learning to be more confident about what I have accomplished in life. And thinking about what goals I do - or really don't - need to pursue.

I've been considering trying out some of the things that I think I might love but have never done. The century that I'm training for is one such thing. I could also volunteer at a physical therapy clinic. I have been inspired by Russ and Laura at The Path Less Pedaled, who love bike touring so much that they're in the process of selling all of their stuff and setting out on bikes full time. While I'm not ready to go that far, I'd like to try a touring trip. Two of my girl friends suggested taking a weekend bike trip, and I spent about 5 hours today researching possible routes, wineries, bed and breakfasts, bike shops and tour companies in western Michigan. I clearly have some level of passion for this biking thing.

I'm pretty excited about trying out a multi-day bike trip. I love the idea of riding a bunch of miles, stopping at little village festivals, coffee shops, vinyards, beaches, museums, delis... Carrying all my stuff on my bike. If this trip actually goes off with the girls, maybe I'll talk the hubby into doing one with me too!

So cycling is not only something I enjoy doing. A side effect is that it makes me a more fulfilled, confident, interesting person. I'm driven to do something more than just go to work every day. I have something to get excited about and jabber endlessly about when my hubby needs something to listen to that's not related to his job. Maybe I could share that "something more" with a kid who likes to ride her bike, too. Who knows!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Good mail

"Junk mail" is when you get ads. "Necessary mail" is when you get bills. "Good mail" is when you get money.

I got good mail yesterday - the check from the insurance company came to cover the repairs on my bike!

Now I just have to wait for the bike shop to call and say that it's ready!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Summery day

It was beautiful on Friday! 80 degrees F and sunny. I knew it was going to rain all weekend, so I had to get out for a ride even though I was in the middle of painting my living room. I did a little over 17 miles on the mountain bike. I guess a few short rides in a week is better than no rides!

It was so nice to actually feel the warmth of the sun on my skin.

I've always wanted to try taking one of those shots of my shadow while riding, so here it is.

And here's the Southbelt Trail. The grass is getting greener! You can see M-6 running along to the right of the trail.

I also saw the cutest family out for a run on the trail. It was a new mom and dad with their dog and one of those running strollers. The baby in the stroller was propped up on both sides with pillows and looked like a lounging queen with two arms resting on her cushioned throne! She also had on a cute, frilly bonnet and turned to look at me as I rode by. Everyone was smiling. What a great family exercise outing!

I mentioned painting my living room... My time this summer will largely be split between biking and updating the house that my hubby and I bought this winter. Now that it's nicer out, we're finally getting into some of the projects that need to be done to repair and redecorate. Here's the living room, which I painted this week. I still need to paint the register cover, some pieces of molding, the two windows and the light fixture, but I think it's looking like it belongs in this decade again - unlike when we bought the house! I like the color! I'll just add some red curtains and furniture, and voila! Bedroom number 1 is next...

Friday, April 24, 2009


I got out on my mountain bike last night and incorporated some errand running into a 16 mile bike ride. It was great to be outside, but I want my road bike back! It's in the shop now, waiting to get fixed. I might not see it for another week or more. I'm chomping at the bit!

I have to admit that I experienced a little bit of nervousness whenever I crossed a side street or an intersection on my bike last night. I was tempted to stop and look for cars at every street even if I had the right of way. My errands took me across a couple major roads, where I noticed that no-frickin-one paid attention to me until after they were already accelerating their cars. I wish I could shout out to the world to pay attention for cyclists! It's everyone's job to use the roads safely - not just mine. I'll continue to pay extra attention to what's going on around me, because it's my life at risk out there. But seriously people. You should not get a driver's license if you're going to ignore huge chunks of the traffic law. That really aggravates me!

Even though I want to escape to a world where all the cars disappear when I get on my bike, I know that will never happen. I was just getting really confident on my new bike, too, and now this. But I refuse to let the feeling that I can't trust motorists stop me from riding my bike. I'm doing this century, darn it! I love biking, and I don't want to stop. So I'll ride through the anxiety until it abates. I will enjoy riding. And God forbid, if I should die while riding my bike, at least I'll die happy. Hmf.

For anyone interested in bike traffic law in Michigan, check out this really helpful website. Or if you're not from Michigan, has a link to state-by-state bike law. Or you can google the laws specific to your city, like Grand Rapids, MI (start on page 4).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The verdict: not too shabby

I just heard back from the insurance company with their decision! I'm surprised they worked so fast.

Apparently, the insurance agent talked to the bike shop to confirm their quote for repairs, and unfortunately, the quote they originally wrote for me didn't have the derailleur on it. They quoted the derailleur over the phone for me, but it didn't get added on to their estimated total. So basically, I'll be able to replace all the damaged parts on my bike except the rear derailleur, which is scratched up but still works. If I throw in some new bar tape and other small items, I should only be paying about $30 out of my own pocket.

So overall I'm pretty happy with the verdict. The insurance agent said that I should get a check in the mail in about 4 days, so I'll take the bike in to the shop tonight!

Slick, you'll be on the road again soon! I seriously cannot wait!

Happy Earth Day 2009!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The waiting

The insurance agent now has everything she needs to work on my claim - the police report, the repairs estimate and the pictures. I hope she hurries!

I want to get back to training! The days to the 100 Grand are counting down quickly, and I haven't actually done a ride longer than 40 miles yet.

Must ride bike...

Monday, April 20, 2009

I want to live in Copenhagen!

I've been discovering more and more of the online community of cyclists through blogs and websites in the past few months. I am really loving feeling like a part of this group of people that love bikes, cities, racing, commuting, the environment, saving money...

I'm especially struck today by how many people cycle as their main mode of transportation in the city of Copenhagen. Check out How cool would it be to live in a city where the motorists are used to lots of bikes being on the road? And where all the cyclists are so friggin stylish! It'd be a bit of cycle heaven. To get an idea of what I mean, watch this video!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Fair Market Value" or "Pre-Crash Condition"

In case you haven't been following my blog for the past week or so, I got hit by a car last Saturday while riding my bike. I've been working on what I should ask of the driver's insurance company as far as repairs or replacement to my bike. Here's the latest.

I talked to my lawyer brother-law-today, and he had some great advice for me. Since Michigan is a no-fault state as far as auto accidents and insurance go, the fact that the driver's insurance company is offering to pay for anything shows that they probably just want to make my situation go away. Otherwise, they would have referred me to my own auto insurance to make a claim (which I'd rather not do, to avoid higher premiums). So, if I try to push for a new bike that's four years newer than my damaged bike, they'll likely see that as an upgrade and refuse to pay for it. I can, however, demand that all of the damage done in the accident be made right - including the cosmetic stuff. I can ask that my bike be returned completely to its pre-crash state of repair.

So, my brother suggested that I get both a quote for the list of every repair needed to return my bike to its pre-crash condition and an estimate of the "fair market value" of the bike. Then I should submit the higher of the two numbers to the insurance company along with my police report and other documentation. I'll get those final numbers together on Monday and submit everything to the woman who's handling my claim. I think this is a very reasonable route to take. I hope the insurance company sees it that way, too.

But, if they want to be really difficult about it, I have a lawyer to back me up. Cool!

I also went out for a ride today on my old mountain bike. It was great to get out there, even for a short 10.5 miles, but it wasn't the same. I've fallen in love with the road bike!

Friday, April 17, 2009

What to do?

This week, I talked to the insurance company of the woman who hit me with her car on Saturday. I also got the post-crash assesment back from my bike shop. Now I have to decide what to try to push the insurance company for.

Even though the frame seems to be ok, the total cost for the component repairs needed to get my bike back to its pre-crash condition is more than what I paid for the bike. I could do fewer repairs, but then I'd have a functional but scratched up bike, and it would still cost almost as much as I paid for the bike. The scratches on the shifters aren't just an eye sore either. They have sharp, jagged edges sticking up! Or I could make the argument that a replacement bike is in order (along with the wheel upgrade that came on my bike when I bought it). The bike shop has the 2009 version of my bike in stock. Or if the insurance company wants to look for a 2005-2008 model, I would be fine with that. If they could do it fast.

I'm pretty torn because a new bike would be in perfect condition, guaranteed safe and cosmetically flawless, but I've developed quite an attachment to the one I have. It took me a long time to save up for it. I spent a lot of hours searching craigslist and ebay and researching bike models and components. I've got this bike fitted to me, and I'm getting used to how it feels. I enjoy riding it. It's even the color that I wanted.

It sounds like the insurance company - of course - is going to push for the bare minimum. For "reasonable repairs" taking into account the "value of the bike when I purchased it." Arg. I'm going to have to stand up for myself here. I have a full carbon racing bike, not a Wal-Mart Huffy. I need the bike to train for a race in a month. I feel hoity-toity saying stuff like that, but it's actually completely true. I think I'll get some help from my lawyer brother-in-law. Heh heh heh.

In any case, I want a functional bike now! I need to train. I want to ride! I miss my bike!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bill Nye the Science Guy posted an interesting tidbit about Bill Nye today. (I loved his show as a kid!) Check out both the video of Bill Nye riding a bike to demonstrate the distance between the planets and the Roger Kramer article. It talks about a study that Bill Nye referenced on the show "Stuff Happens" about the possibility that cyclists harm the environment more than they help.

The idea is that since cycling can increase a person's lifespan, they may end up consuming more resources in their lifetime than they save by cycling. However, I like that the article points out that many cyclists become more aware of their impact on the environment and change their lifestyle choices as a result. This could outweigh the impact of an increased lifespan.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I got hit by a car!!!

Don't worry, Mom...I'm OK!

Saturday was a beautiful day, so I abandoned my husband to his video game and set out for my first long training ride on my new road bike. My goal was 50 miles.

I've been off of my training plan for a few weeks, so I was kinda nervous about doing the distance. But after about 30 miles, I was feeling great! It really restored my confidence that I'll be ready for the century in June. It also showed me just how much easier it is to ride a light weight bike. Wow! What a difference!

My route was almost entirely on the paved bike trails around my city. All except about a mile stretch where the Southbelt Trail takes a break at US 131, and you have to cut down the road to reconnect on the other side of the freeway.

So I was trucking along 68th Street on my loop back toward home - at about mile 39 of my ride. I noticed a police car passing me, going the other direction. I approached Division Ave. on the side walk, so I could use the crosswalk, since this is a very busy intersection. I stopped at the corner, then got the "Walk" light to cross. A black car pulled up in the right turn lane in front of me and stopped. I looked at the driver, and since she stopped, I assumed she saw me. Nope.

I pedalled out into the road, and just as I got in front of the black car, it started accelerating into its turn. In the second that it took for the car to travel the 5 or so feet from its position, I saw it coming. I saw that it wasn't slowing down but in fact speeding up. And I knew it was going to hit me. There was no time to get out of the way, so I knew I was just going to have to take it.

Impact! I fell over sideways and wondered if I would be sucked under the car. Fortunately, I started some kind of disorienting flip spin that sent me glancing past the side of the car - not under it! When I landed, I was facing a completely different direction than I started. The bike was still between my legs, and both feet had come out of the clips. I ended up with my head off the ground somehow. I don't think it ever touched pavement - and the complete lack of scratches on my helmet attests to that.

When everything stopped moving, I had that moment of assessing just how bad it was. I could hear a woman from the car in the opposing left turn lane yell at me not to get up. I understood that. I've had plenty of crisis and first aid training myself. I took a mental tally of all my body parts for pain or stiffness. My elbow hurt a little - that's where I came down the hardest. My knee hurt a little - that's where the bike frame collided with my body. Otherwise, I felt miraculously fine. People got out of cars and ran over to me immediately. By the time I knew it was safe to move, there were 3 or 4 people asking if I was ok. I asked for help getting out of the road and sat down on the sidewalk to calm my shaky legs for a minute. A nice man carried my bike out of the street for me.

Then it all became a huge spectacle! The driver that hit me pulled into the bank parking lot on the corner where the collision happened. Then the police car that passed me on 68th Street moments before pulled in, followed by 2 more police cars and about 6 witnesses. I gave all my information to the police. They talked to the driver and the witnesses. I've got a police report and the driver's information. I declined to go to the hospital. Though my bruises were starting to swell a little, I knew I didn't have any serious injuries. I just wanted to go home and get some ice.

I called my husband to come pick me up, but his ringer was off. He says it's probably a good thing he didn't get the call, because if he had been there, he would have wanted to kill the girl that hit me. She and I talked briefly. She was very appologetic. She felt really bad. I was strangely calm about the whole thing. I never panicked or freaked out on the girl. She said that she was watching traffic to the left and never looked back to the right before turning. It was entirely her fault. I did everything right there...except maybe being extra sure that she saw me before crossing the street. But even so, I could see myself making the same mistake in her place. I try to watch carefully for pedestrians and bikes, but heck. I could make that mistake, too. I sure won't now, though! Maybe I'm too sympathetic. Maybe I should be pissed.

One of the police officers offered to give me a ride home, so I put my mangled bike in his trunk and we set off. I wonder what my neighbors thought about a cop car delivering me home in the back seat! Then, of course, I told my hubby what happened. This wonderful man made me an ice pack and dinner and fulfilled his very manly role of comforting me and offering to kill my attacker. How sweet! lol

So, I walked away from the whole thing. I survived being hit by a car! My guardian angel was on duty this weekend! I can only imagine what would have happened if the car was going faster. Or if I hadn't been spun off to the side instead of going under the tires. I'm a lucky girl!

My bike was not so lucky. My just-bought-it-two-weeks-ago-and-I'm-having-such-a-great-ride-that-I-want-to-finish bike. The front wheel is bent pretty severly. I think the fork took the main impact of the fender, because it's scratched pretty bad. The handle bar hoods are folded over sideways. The chain came off of the front chainring. The rear derailleur and break levers are scraped from sliding on the asphault. I plan to take the bike in to the shop to see if the frame was cracked at all. Since it's carbon, if there's any chance that it was weakened by the crash, it's done for. I'm thinking that I'll ask the girl's insurance to buy me a new bike. That's kinda cool, but I'm still ticked that my brand new bike is broken. That I can't ride it right now. That I have to wait for a new bike again. That I didn't get to finish that 50 mile ride! Don't get me wrong...I'm also wholeheartedly thankful that I'm alive! But arg!
Here's the bent front wheel, which I had to take off to get the bike in the police car.
Here's the fork where the fender of the car hit it.
These are some seriously bent handle bars. I'm still trying to work out the physics of how this happened!
Scraped quick release lever. I know this happened in the accident because the lever was brand new.
Scraped rear derailleur and loose chain.
The handlebars hit the ground hard somehow! The other side is scraped up, too.

I have to give some props to my clothing, too. I've got bruises on my legs, elbow and hand. My shoulder is sore. But I have no back, neck or head pain. I have minor scraping on my elbow where it kissed gravely pavement. But nothing on my hands, legs, hips, head... My sleave didn't even tear. My clothing really protected me. Wow.
This is where I hit the ground the hardest. Not bad! It's turning purple, though. And my shoulder is sore, too.
This one keeps deepening in shades of the rainbow, as well. As do the bruises on other parts of me, but this one's the most chromatic.

One more favorite reaction to the news that I got hit by a car. My boss this morning said, "It's about time!" He has a wierd sense of humor. Sweet, huh?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

One mistake...

I picked up a pair of Pearl Izumi women's gel cycling gloves yesterday on my lunch hour and was eager to try them out this morning on my second commute to work of the year...the first on my new bike! I'll need to ride more miles to report on how the pads in the gloves work out. But the funny thing is that the gloves actually turned out to be my one mistake this morning.

When I stepped outside to check the temperature, it felt chilly but not too bad. I dressed appropriately, and was comfortable throughout the ride to work. Except for my fingers. The gel gloves are the kind without finger tips. When I started riding and the air started blowing over my little digits, I thought I was going to have to treat frost bite when I arrived at the office! My fingers actually hurt a little for a few hours even after I warmed up! Sigh. It's 52 degrees F out now at 3:30pm, but I guess it's still cold enough in the mornings to need full gloves on top of the padded gloves.

On the up side, I'm looking forward to riding to an appointment after work and then back home! The total round trip today should come out somewhere around 11 miles. Maybe I can get a few more miles in by talking my husband and our friend into riding to the gym! Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Getting used to it

I got out for another short ride with Slick on Saturday - 15.6 miles. I'm still having the stress on my hands and neck, but I think I'll just get used to that as I ride the road bike more. My muscles will get stronger, and maybe I'll try some of those riding gloves with the gel pads in the palms.

It's funny because my friend, Jair, rides an awesome crotch rocket motorcycle, and he said that he experienced the same physical stresses when he started riding it in that leaned-over position.

It's supposed to be nice out the rest of this week, so I'm hoping to ride to work a few times. Then I need to get a long ride in this weekend to get back on the training wagon. I'm two weeks behind now!

Friday, April 3, 2009


I couldn't resist sharing this very satisfying nerd moment from Rock Paper Cynic.

I love Firefly, and Nathan Fillion is kinda dreamy!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Me and Slick: Finally! Our First Ride

Here's me and Slick after our first ride together!

And again because I'm so excited! I haven't installed any of my commuting gear yet. I felt like trying the bike out for the first time nearly bear.
I only rode 8.6 miles. I could have done A LOT more, but at 4 miles I started to hear chain squeeks and realized, "Oh sh*#! I forgot to lube the chain!" So I turned immediately back home hoping the whole time that a few miles on an unlubed chain wouldn't wreck it.

Here's the pretty new computer and bar tape. Much better than the hideous red, yellow and green tape that was on it before! I like the sleek, elegant black. It's consistent with the frame, and goes with everything.

Funny story about the computer... I bought the computer on my mountain bike for about $10 at Meijer a couple years ago. I decided that I didn't need anything fancier than that for my road bike, so back to Meijer I went. As I stood in front of the bike equipment rack reading what the different functions were on the $10 versus the $20 model, I noticed that the price sticker on the $20 package did not match the tag on the rack. The sticker said $10.99! The only features that the more expensive model had over the other was a back light and temperature reading. I don't expect that either of those things would significantly enrich my riding experience, so I would have been perfectly content with the $10 model. But, I figured I'd take the $20 model with the incorrect sticker to the register and see what happened.
It rang up as $19.99, but I pointed out the sticker for $10.99, and the cashier sent me to the customer service desk to get a refund for the difference in price. "Great!" I thought. Then at the service desk, the very nice assistant refunded me the difference of my entire bill instead of just the one item. So I ended up getting a $20 bike computer for $5. How can you beat that?
And here's my pretty new shoes to go with my pretty new clipless pedals. So, how was my first experience with clipless pedals? I haven't fallen over yet! I'm kinda proud. I actually had very little trouble clipping out. It was clipping in that was difficult. I found getting my left foot in nearly impossible for some reason. Much practice is needed!

As for the ride... It was fast! It was different. It was fun. It was glorious!
All I have to say is, "More!"

The first thing I noticed while riding was the pressure on my hands. I left them on the hoods most of the time, so I was leaning on them. It wasn't too bad if I changed position once in a while, but I can imagine this getting rather uncomfortable over long distances.

After a while my upper back started to get tense from lifting my head up. I'm not sure if I need to just relax more, shorten my stem more or if this is something I will get used to after I ride a road bike for a while. Anyone have a similar experience that can lend some advice to this noob?

Overall, I am in love with the road bike experience! I cannot wait to ride more! This will certainly make getting back into the swing of century training more fun. I can only imagine how much faster I'll finish the long rides now.

Welcome, Slick!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ready to ride!

I took my new bike in to the shop last night, and it is now ready to ride! I got the pedals installed, the seat adjusted and a shorter stem put on. The quick release on my rear wheel was not locking down tightly, so they threw in a new one for free. I also picked up a multi tool (I didn't have any metric hex wrenches at home), a spare tube and some new bar tape. All this for about a third of the cost that I expected. Score!

Now all I have left to do is put the new bar tape on and get a computer for it. I planned on buying a cheap computer that shows distance, speed, average speed and time - like the one on my mountain bike. But the shop guy suggested I get one that measures cadence, too. We'll see. I'm going to see what's in stock at Meijer over my lunch hour.

I am so eager to ride the bike! Weather, oh wheather...please get nice!