Monday, March 30, 2009

Bike commuting can feel this good

I saw a cute video today on www.bikecommuters.com about how great it feels to commute to work by bike. Disco party anyone?! Check it out here!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wooooohoooooo!

I finally got it! I am now the proud new owner of a used 2005 Giant TCR C3 road bike!

This puppy is all carbon with Shimano 105 9-speed components in black and red. It's just what I wanted! And his name shall be "Slick!" (I have to give some props to my mom, though. She had a really cute bike name idea, which anyone is welcome to steal..."Taz!" Because he speedily spins all over town!)

I found the bike on Craigslist a few days ago and started asking the seller all my questions. He is a student at Notre Dame, which is about a two-hour drive from Grand Rapids. So this morning I drove down to South Bend, took a look at the bike, test road it and bought it for a great price! I'm SUPER GEEKED!

I'd like to take it to the bike shop early this week to get some help puting on and setting up my saddle, pedals, shoes and possibly a shorter stem or handlebars. The red and green bar tape is really not me, either. I'll replace that with some black tape, and it will look sleak and awesome! Then I'll add a cheap-o computer from Meijer, and I'll be all set to go!

I am soooo excited! When I got back home with it (after the bike weathered a snowy, wet ride on my bike rack), I woke my hubby up by jumping on the bed giggling! I can't wait to ride it!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Five Years

Today is my five year wedding anniversary. Best five years of my life! I love you, Josh!

I wimped out...

...or at least that's what my hubby teased! Don't worry, he doesn't really think that. ;)

I should have done my weekly long ride last night, because it's supposed to rain this weekend. I should have done 43 miles, but I just did not feel like it. I decided that in order to get out on the bike at all, I would just do a ride that I thought was fun. Unfortunately, none of the nearby trail options or rush hour streets excited me. So I set out anyway hoping that a new route would spontaneously appear somewhere along the old route. It didn't. Then about 6 miles into the ride, I passed a runner and thought, "That looks fun! I want to do that today instead of biking!" Every once in a while, when I haven't been running for a while...I think it will feel good somehow. LOL

So, I turned the bike around and arrived home having ridden 12.75 miles. I switched my bike shorts for some stretch pants and started running. I quickly remembered what running feels like. Like travelling an agonizingly slower pace than on my bike while telling every muscle in my body to "move!" every 0.4 seconds. I used to run cross country and track. I even did a half marathon once! But last night, I ran two, slow miles.

All the crabbiness aside, I finished the work out happy and feeling really good! You know that great oxygenated+fatigued feeling you sometimes get post-exercise?

I think I'm a little intimidated by the increasing mileage I should be riding. I need that new road bike (no, I haven't gotten one yet) to peak my excitement again. And I need to put in more miles outside of my long day.

Well, I guess I'll have to do that 43-mile ride between the rain drops this weekend! Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ebay?

My father-in-law has offered to help me find an all carbon bike on ebay. I hope we can! Woot!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Blendered brawling birds

Yesterday I got up and got myself out on the bike for my weekly long training ride. My goal was 39 miles, but I ended up doing 38.1. Close enough. I kept thinking that that if I buy my road bike this week, that would have been the last long ride I'll chug out on my mountain bike! And no, I never changed out the wide, nubby tires for narrower ones! It's slow going, but it's probably great for training because it's hard work!

Anyway, the ride was pretty uneventful except for one section in which two heart-rate-elevating things occured. First, I was riding the Kent Trails up near Millenium Park where the bridge crosses the Grand River. The river is still high from the spring thaws and it was stinky! Not the cleanest river. Anyway, at the other side of the bridge, I noticed that the Parks people are building something new on the trail! There's a pretty new wood bridge going off in a new direction. I hope they are going to pave more trail! It might just be for maintenance vehicles, but I'm still going to hope.



The other event happened on my return trip to the bridge after riding up to John Ball Zoo. I was pedalling along when a half dozen or so birds came fluttering out of the brush on the left and slowly hovered across the path. Two of the birds were either fighting or mating (I'm guessing fighting), clamped together and flapping wildly, flying as one. I watched in slow motion as their trajectory crossed right in front of my bike. They actually hit the front tube and fluttered around there for a few seconds. I was sure I was going to have minced bird guts and feathers all over me! Images flashed in my head of squirrels clamped between spokes and forks as I've seen on the internet. But somehow the little brawlers avoided passing through my wheel and plopped down on the right side of the trail unharmed. Ahhhhhhk! That was close!

People were also asking me directions left and right yesterday. I'm glad I've ridden these trails a lot! I actually felt helpful. Yah!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bike Shopping - Day 2...and bike name options *snicker*

I started off today by heading up to Freewheeler Bike Ship, which was recommended to me by some of the Rapid Wheelmen folks that I met at the alley cat last week. I rode a 2008 Felt F85, 56cm first. It was aluminum and felt a little too big. Then I rode a 2008 Fuji Finest 2.0, 55cm, which is a women's frame. It felt alright but a little long in the reach. A shorter top tube would probably solve the problem. Though, when I tried the drops, my legs bumped my body. This bike was pink, which I don't mind, and well priced. The best priced yet.
Here's the Fuji from She Cycles by the Seashore.

Then I stopped at Alger Cyclery & Fitness and rode a Cannondale CAAD9 optimo. Aluminum with carbon fork. It felt alright, other than being a little long in the top again, but the price was higher than I want to spend. I was told that this store is a good place to get shoes, but their prices seemed high for shoes, too.

Finally, I decided to stop back at Village Bike Shop. I rode a 2007 Giant OCR A1, medium. This bike is aluminum in the bottom and carbon in the top - a split bike. It felt pretty nice - still some road vibe but a little less than with an all alum. They even put a shorter handlebar on it for me to try. Overall, pretty nice. Their body scan said that I should be on about a 55cm frame, so I guess feeling more stretched out is proper, as long as my elbows still have a little bend. Being a two year old model, the price was decent on this bike for having a composite frame. A little higher than I wanted to go, but maybe a possibility.


I also looked at shoes at VBS because they had some 2008 models on sale. They had a Specialized women's mountain bike shoe that felt nice and was well priced and pedals that were also acceptible.

The alley cat folks told me to go with Freewheeler over Village, but I really like the fit and analysis process they put you through at Village. The problem is that it costs a little bit on top of the bike. I'd really like to get the whole bike, shoes, pedals and accessories for under $1000, which I could pull off with the Fuji from Freewheeler. Hmm...

Bike Names

On some of the bike websites and blogs that I read, especially by women cyclists like Bike Skirt and Let's Go Ride a Bike, it is important to have a name for your bike. I think that's fun! I've thought about it, and I don't think my mountain bike really has a name. But I want to name my road bike! I've been thinking that "Slick" is my favorite! This would be a sleek looking bike in red or black (the Giant I rode today was red, black and silver...perfect!). Then, I could live with "Rocky," if the bike felt really solid. If it's blue, maybe "Beau." If it's pink like the Fuji though, I don't know what I'd call it. I don't want my bike to sound wimpy. I want power and speed even while being feminine! Maybe "She-Ra"? "Zena"? Any suggestions?

Advice Welcome!

I'd also welcome any advice you have on the bikes I've riden the past two days or on bike buying in general. Thanks!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bike Shopping - Day 1

The hilly return home from work was slow, but I didn't die. I guess I'm willing to do it again. You've twisted my arm. ;)

After work, I went out for my first bike shop test ride stop! I started the rounds at Ada Bike Shop (in Ada, MI) and rode two women's specific frames. I think that what I want is a bike that's a little more upright in geometry for comfort over the long miles and recreational riding but that still provides performance for racing. However, I'm willing to try some racier geometries to see how they feel.

The first moments of riding a road bike definitely felt different! It was a little awkward at first pushing off with the light weight of the frame and the different handlebars. But after a couple miles, I thought, "I could get used to this!"



So here's my big mistake of the night. The first bike I tried was a Cannondale Synapse fem, 53cm (last year's model). I intended to test out aluminum frames primarily (due to the lower cost), but they didn't have my size in this model in aluminum, so I rode a full carbon frame (carbon 5). Wow! It was so light weight that at first I had to get used to the responsiveness of it. It's not as forgiving as my mountain beast. But I also didn't feel like I was pushing mountain beast weight when I rode up hills. The other thing I noticed about carbon was how much road vibration it absorbed. Actually, I didn't notice it at all until I rode the second bike, which was aluminum. Then I felt the familiar road bumps and vibes. The shop expert said that the Synapse is more upright than the second bike that I rode, and I was very comfortable with the position. It felt sporty, but I didn't feel at all like I was hunched over or unable to expand my lungs. The shifting was also very smooth on this model (even with the low end components), but it had 2 gears in the front and 10 in the back, which is different for me. My mountain bike has 3 in front and 8 in back. And I didn't like the saddle at all, but I can just put my old saddle on my new bike. So after about a mile or two of riding this beauty, I came back to the shop to try number 2.


The second bike was a Scott Contessa Speedster - also a women's frame - 54cm (last year's model). This one was all aluminum, and I could definitely feel the difference from the carbon, as I already said. It was supposedly also a less upright geometry, but I felt like it was actually more upright. I don't know if that's because I was stretched out farther or because I had gotten used to feeling lower on the first bike. Either way, I felt comfortable on this bike, too, but I liked the position on the Synapse better. The Contessa's slightly higher weight didn't feel like a big deal to me. I still felt like I was pushing a lot less weight than I'm used to. The aluminum was also a little less touchy/more stable than the carbon. I didn't like the shifting from this component set at all. It was clunky and got stuck between gears every time I shifted the front. (Maybe that's my lack of knowledge of the brake lever shifters, but I had no trouble with the first bike, so...)

Overall, I'm definitely in love with carbon over aluminum. It would be awesome to not feel so many bumps and vibrations when I'm riding a hundred miles. But if I can't find a carbon bike in my price range, I would find aluminum to be an acceptable compromise. I'd like to try some bikes that combine carbon and aluminum to see if something in the middle would fit both my budget and comfort preferences. That or I'll set my ebay expert father-in-law on finding me a carbon bike for a good deal! I wonder if I'll have trouble with getting blown around by the wind on a lighter bike?

After Ada Bike Shop, I drove down the road to Village Bike Shop (the Cascade, MI location, where I bought my mountain bike a few years ago). I didn't ride anything because it was almost closing time, but when I go back, I'd like to try the Specialized Roubaix and the Giant Defy and OCR. These are supposed to have a similar mix of position and performance as the other bikes I tried today. Village also does an extensive fitting process, which I'm pretty excited about. It involves not only dialing in all of the positioning of the handlebars, saddle, pedals, etc. but also measuring your work output for the optimum position. I'd love to go through that process both to know that I'm in the most safe, healthy and efficient position, but also just to learn about how I'm supposed to ride a road bike.

Tomorrow, I'll visit Village again. I also want to go to Alger Cyclery & Fitness (recommended for their shoes), Freewheeler Bike Shop (recommended for affordable bikes) and possibly Kentwood Cycling & Fitness. Depending on how long I take at each one, I may have to extend this shopping research beyond the weekend. But that's fine by me!

I'm so excited to get a road bike! It felt so smooth, so easy, so fast to ride one. It felt so right!

First commute of the season

I finally got myself in gear and commuted to work by bike today! The morning was a little chilly, but it's going to be a sunny, dry, 40 degree F day. Not too bad for riding.

I've discovered that my commuting route is going to be leasurely and fun on the way to work and killer on the way home. The first mile from my house is a strong down hill heading out, so coming back...will feel like I'm pounding up the Alpe d'Huez! OK, I'm exagerating, but it will make getting home a slower process. I suppose I should think of it as a chance to work off some work stress on the way home. The problem with that is that I don't have much stress at work! And the increased traffic at that hour will actually add to the stress of getting home rather than taking it away.

OK. OK. I'll be optimistic about it and let you know how it went when I get home tonight! Maybe if I pretend that I'm the first female about to win the legendary leg of the Tour de France...

A la rue!

Exploring

I took a short 17 mile ride last night and decided just to go an easy pace and explore some of the neighborhoods and parks that I usually pass by. I found a cute little park south of M6 near Kalamazoo Ave. I saw two ground hogs swimming across a drainage pond near the highway. It was the cutest thing! I was bummed I didn't have my camera on me. The sunset was pretty...I did take a pic of myself in the sunset on my phone. If I can figure out how to get it to my computer, I'll add it to the post.

I have to admit that I still don't have clipless pedals. I just use platforms with cages. That's been kind of nice when the weather is cold, because I can wear my boots to ride instead of my running shoes. The running shoes have that ventilating mesh on the top, which is wonderful when it's hot out and you need the air flow. But when the air is about 28 deg F, I don't want it to flow so much!

So anyway, I didn't feel like wearing my boots last night, because it was almost 40 when I started the ride. But the moment the sun went down, a freezing wind whipped up and my little piggies got numb pretty quick! I was done riding with frozen appendages at that point, so I high tailed it the last few miles home.

It's supposed to be a nice weekend! Test rides, here I come!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Test rides

On the advice of the folks I met at the Alley Cat, I'm planning to make the rounds to some of the recommended bike shops this weekend to do some road bike test rides. I've read a lot about different bike builds and components, so I have some idea what I think would fit my riding style best. But I don't know what any of them actually feel like. Upright position v. more tucked position. Using the hood v. top bar v. drops. Aluminum v. carbon v. everything else. Clipless pedals... Wow! I'm be taking notes on what I like and don't like and finding out what kind of quality I can get for my price range.

While I greatly look forward to a bike that is lighter than my Rockhopper, I think the one below would be taking total weight a little to the extreme.

by Nikolai Aldunin, Master of Miniatures

I'll report on what I learn when I get back from the shops!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

HopCat Alley Cat


Saturday the hubby and I rode in the HopCat Alley Cat race. This was a blast! An alley cat is like a scavenger hunt on bikes. We rode about 20 miles around down town Grand Rapids figuring out our clues and completing our tasks - one of which was to drink a beer and eat a twinkie. What fun! We finished somewhere around the second third of the riders. We rode mountain bikes, which are a great advantage in many cases - going over grass, curbs, pot holes - but are definitely slower than skinny-tired road bikes.

After the race, we joined the crowd in HopCat for local brews and lunch. The best part of the day for me was meeting people from some of the local bike clubs. They offered to help me find the right road bike and gear (thanks, Craig!) and told me about a women's group ride on Thurday nights starting in May (thanks, Kim!). It was great to chit chat with other people who are interested in bikes and riding.

Some of the group planned a four bar hop for the rest of the afternoon - all on bikes! We joined them for the first stop at the new Founders location, then headed home. Josh and I were pretty pooped at that point! But we both had a great time and hope to get some friends to come with us next year!

A fatal attraction?

Friday was a really nice spring day, so I was able to get a 35 mile ride in.

I live right at the head of the completed portion of the Paul Henry Thornapple Trail, as shown below. So I can ride that southeast to the Southbelt Trail, which will eventually connect to the Kent Trails. I used to live right near a trail head to the Kent Trails, so I love them. The funny thing is that the Southbelt Trail is not finished yet. They started building and paving it from the two ends and are working toward the center. So I had to take a few miles of detour to get from the eastern finished portion to the western finished portion. When the project is done, this route will offer me a very long stretch of paved miles, without riding on the roads, on which I can do long training rides in preparation for the century this summer. I like that.


Now that more people are out using the trails with their kids, walking dogs, etc...I have a question. Why do dogs take great pains to run right at a bicycle, even when it's going in the opposite direction? Is chain lube a aphrodesiac? Is there some attraction to sticking their head under the rear tire? Dogs are wonderful, smart, emotional creatures. But this universal K9 need to grapple with a large spinning metal machine with a human carefully balanced on top does not demonstrate their relative intelligence as a species. Sigh.

Friday, March 13, 2009

My brain tricked me into riding

My friend Cat and I planned to hang out after work yesterday. So on my way home from the office, I gave her a call, and we made a plan to meet for dinner in Holland, MI (about 30 miles away) at 6:00. This was at a little before 5:00.

My brain somehow thought that I had to get there at 6:30 and planned me to leave a little before 6. I was excited because this meant that I had time to put some air in my bike tires, lube the chain and take a short ride! I did get to ride about 6 miles, and boy did it feel good!

Then I happily changed my clothes and hopped in the car.

About a mile from my house, Cat called to say that she was going to be a little late. I figured if I got there before her, I'd just get a table and a drink and wait...but what? It's already 6:00? And I'm just leaving home? LOL What was I thinking?! I should have left half an hour ago!

So we chuckled and planned to meet at 6:30 instead. I don't think Cat minded the delay, but sorry anyway, Kitty Cat!

So for the love of the ride, my brain tricked me into being late. It was a good ride. Thanks brain!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Michigan farm country

Yesterday reached almost 60 degrees F, and the sun was shining beautifully! By the time I got out of work, it was around 55...I knew I had to get a long ride in. Especially since it's supposed to rain all weekend. My goal was about 30 miles, so I planned a route that started on the nearby bike trail and then took Kalamazoo Ave about 10 miles south of Grand Rapids. Even though Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan, and the urban sprawl is significant, it doesn't take long to reach the country from the southeastern suburb where I live.

At about mile 10 of my ride, I was surrounded by rolling corn fields and cute farm houses like this one. What a wonderful feeling!

I grew up in an urban suburban town on the western border of Detroit, and I've always lived in a pretty suburban area. Whenever I visit cities like Chicago, I love it, and I know I could live in a downtown appartment somewhere riding my bike or taking the bus to work every day. Even so, I have to be able to get to nature. When I find myself standing in a patch of forest or on a beach, all I can do is try to soak as much of it in as possible. So, when I ride 10 miles from my house and see the farmlands of Michigan, it really makes me happy.

At the turn around point of my ride, I stopped to take this shot of the sunset. I was going to include the road and another farm house in the picture, but the owner of the house pulled up just as I was framing the shot. He said that I absolutely had to see the view from behind the house. If the house didn't sit right next to a busy little church parking lot, I don't think I would have taken him up on the offer (hard to say who's genuinely friendly and who's a psycho creap, right?). But I'm glad I followed him because I got to watch the sun set over the corn field.

By mile 20, it was getting pretty dark. I have lights on the front and back of my bike, which I was especially thankful for last night. Every car that passed me slowed down and gave me plenty of space. A strange but welcome occurance! As of this weekend, I'll have that extra hour of sunlight to eliminate most after dark riding, but even so I wouldn't mind finding a brighter set of lights. I got mine at Meijer for about $15, and from what I hear about cycling lights, you get what you pay for.

In any case, I made it home in one piece and loved every minute of it. I can't wait for more! And I can't wait for that road bike, either! ;)

My other bike is a scooter

This week the hubs and I got to ride our scooters for the first time this year. They are so fun! Here's my 1985 Honda Spree. That's the hubby's Honda Elite in the background. We have so much fun riding around town together on our little red scooters! Max 32 miles per hour, baby!

They get great gas mileage too...about 60mpg. This summer, when I don't have time to commute to work by bike, I'll be riding this puppy!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Ahhh...much better

I did some more weight lifting last night with my hubby and our friend. I feel much less sore today! Yah!

Then we did 24 minutes on the stationary bikes. I did 6 miles in that time, which I figure is about a 4 minute mile pace. I don't think I could keep that pace up over a long ride yet, but it does show that I'm getting stronger and faster. I still feel like I'm getting significantly behind in my mileage, though. But the weather is trying to warm up, so I'll be outside more regularly soon! It's so much easier to do a long ride out on the trails and roads. I love scenery. Seriously.

It's supposed to be 47F today and 56F tomorrow with only a small chance of rain. I think I'm going to love it!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy!

The hubby and I did some weight lifting followed by about 30 minutes on the recumbant stationary bikes at the gym on Monday.

I'm still sore today. :(

But it's a sunny 39 degree F evening, and I'm hoping to go running after work with my husband and a friend. Fun!