Thursday, September 10, 2015

The New Steed!

So among other things, last week, I had some fun at bike shops.

They did not have fun at bike shops.  But they like to use each other as pillows.  



I'd been in the market to replace my commuter for a while now.  I have a Trek 7100, men's (a high cross bar).  These days, I'm commuting mostly in normal clothes, so I had gotten hooked on the step-thru frames of the Capital Bikeshares so I could ride in dresses or skirts.  But in my neighborhood, Bikeshare is so popular that the docks are frequently empty by the time I go to work!  I will not give up Bikeshare, but I was frequently wanting something that would be available all the time.

I started test riding a few months ago, driving the shops nuts because I research things to within an inch of of sanity.  I rode a couple of frames called a mixte (MIX-tee, MIX, or MIX-eee, we think).  I ruled out stepthrus because they were heavy.

And then I rode a folder.  A folder is a bike that folds up- like Bike Fridays, Bromptons, Dahons, Terns, and Citizen Bikes, to name a few.  In some cases, they can even be put into a suitcase and traveled with!

The DC Metro does not allow bikes on trains during rush hours... but they do allow folded folding bikes!  Since I frequently mix up my commute (between bike, bus, and metro), I like the idea of flexibility.  You know, just in case I'm really tired and want to ride from work to the Bethesda metro, then get off at Tenleytown and not wait for the bus.

What with one thing and another, I now own a lovely used Tern D7i.  It's a great bike with a few commute friendly special features: an internal hub (safe from grit, potholes, and road junk!), a funky covered chain (not a chain guard- a covered chain!  To keep pants clean), and an extra bonus front rack.  I thought I'd hate that rack and pull it off in a day... but I find I'm using it constantly.  It attaches to the frame, so the weight is borne on the frame and not the handlebars.  Unlike the Bikeshare bikes with their baskets on the handlebars, this doesn't affect the steering at all.  I also have a rear rack which has lent itself to the discovery that I can now pack more stuff when I go to work.  On a Bikeshare, I was always working to minimize my load.  The racks mean that I can now ride without worrying about weight or bag size.  HANDY!
Here's that internal hub and covered chain. 

(Because, yes, there were a few days when I took the bus or drove if I had more things than I could fit into a single bag.  I don't need to do that if I don't want to, now.)
And hey, check it out- reflective wheels!

I'm considering panniers for that rear rack, in fact.

But first things first.  I need to get a bell and some lights for riding at night.

Here's my new-to-me Tern!
Overall, my not-scientific review is that the Tern is blowing my expectations out of the water.  I was a little hesitant to get a folder, thinking it might be a one-trick pony.  I took it on metro last Friday just to see how it would handle the job.  Folding it has been easy.  And at my destination, a friendly Metro employee helped hold the gate for me as I carried it out.  He didn't bat an eye, so I guess he sees a few of these each day!  I unfolded the bike and whizzed along to my destination- a store where I replaced my running shoes.

I strapped the box on my rear rack and secured my bag on the front and headed out.

I planned to take the metro home.  But I saw the W&OD trail... a fun, easy trail in DC that is a huge commuting zone.  I did not have water or supplies, so I didn't think a big ride was in the cards. I thought maybe instead of East Falls Church, the stop right in front of me, I could ride to Ballston instead.

So I whizzed along the trails.

And when I got to the signs for Ballston, the ride felt so good I kept going.  Maybe I'd go to Rosslyn, I thought.  

And I kept whizzing along to Rosslyn, past that fun sign where it counts trail users.  And as I approached Rosslyn, I reminded myself that it was on the Blue/Orange/Silver line, and I live off the Red, so I'd still have a metro ride and a train change in front of me... but I was right near Georgetown and maybe I'd just go take the bus.

Here's the folded Tern ready for sitting in the office, with the handlebar still up since I'm trying to figure out how to roll it for short distances.  IT'll never roll like a Bike Friday Tikit or a Brompton, but it'll roll a little bit! 
So I whizzed along into Georgetown where the main drag was clogged with vehicles honking and belching at each other as they gridlocked.  Thinking I'd best get above the fray, I hopped on a side walk, rode up a street, headed down a cobblestone street that I have now nicknamed "The Iron Cooter" for the jolting it hands out, and started noodling up a side road.  I popped out near the library, and realized I had accidentally climbed part of the famous Big Hill of Georgetown.  Whoops!

Besides, I stopped to check the bus arrivals, and the bus was about 22 minutes away in traffic.  I was only half a mile from home.  I could ride half a mile in a fraction of that time.  So I took off, and arrived at home.

Overall...

The Tern has really been surprising me with its comfort and ride-ability.  It's riding like a real bike, even with the smaller tires.  I am pacing road bikes, unless they have e-assist, which is cheating and probably feels really awesome.  I am really glad I spent the extra money to get the Tern instead of the other entry level bike I was considering- the better components and the folding pedals have been totally worth it.

There are a few quirks... I am still getting used to the folding and I am trying to master rolling it.  Technically, you aren't supposed to be able to roll a Tern or a Dahon, but there are videos that demo it, so it must be true!  That would certain make metro commuting a little easier.  And the magnet on the wheels doesn't hold all that strongly.  So I'll probably do a hack of some sort of keep the wheels together.

Overall, I think I'll be very happy on this little bike... and I am actually looking forward to my next trip so I can take it along for the journey!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

EDOW BIke Ride!

So I've been consumed, this past month, with training for a century, a half-marathon, normal work, and organizing the EDOW Ride for Bicycle Saftey.  We  were trying to raise funds to help WABA (the Washington Area Bicycle Association) fund their projects in raising awareness of Vision Zero, the worldwide initiative to elminate cyclist and pedestrian deaths by the year 2024.

Given how many cyclists have been struck and killed here in the Baltimore to DC area this year, this is all too timely.  We all need to respect each other's humanity, got it?  

Anyway:  the Oxon Hill Bike Club's Indian Head Century.  This was going to be a century attempt for me and M.  I'd made several attempts on a road bike to ride a century, all of which ended in crashes and mechanicals.  He had yet to try.  Both of us were somewhat undertrained, and he was riding a newly built up bike. The odds were not in our favor!


I woke up with raging anxiety.  But we got loaded up and headed out to the ride. We found the other EDOW riders and were rolling by about 7:30.  The first leg went beautifully, although I was still fighting uncomfortable anxiety.   At the first rest stop, they give you Egg McMuffins!  Chomp chomp, down the hatch.  Egggs on bread?  Yes, please.  

Here's where our group split up.  One member was preparing to leave for a huge triathlon, so she was riding a shorter ride.  The Bishop was ready to roll, but I had been riding a little faster than her.  So I told her to go ahead with the triathlete and have a nice ride to the next rest stop while I waited for M to get his sandwich.  That all went well, and pretty soon we were rolling ourselves, expecting we'd catch the Bishop at the second rest stop. 

I was riding along, still feeling super anxious, when I could no longer deny that I really, really had to pee.  I have a little bit of a nervous bladder, OK?  Multiple potty visits had not done the trick, OK?  There's way too much TMI in ride reports, OK?  So I looked and looked for a suitable stand of trees that were not also someone's rural front yard.  FInally, I found a construction site with some unclaimed land, and I glopped through the mud to do the necessary.  

That explains how I failed to clip in when I tried to get back on the bike.  M took a look at my shoes, and we spent several minutes digging this cement-like mud out of my cleats!  I was worried the mud would dry in place and cement me to my bike!  We used half a water bottle to wash the cleans as clean as possible.  

And then we were rolling again.  Around Liverpool Road, I had just gone by this totally redneck-y house (cars in various stages of repair in the front lawn, some sort of carcass grilling on a fire, a hairy man in a wife-beater type shirt) when I heard this loud report, like a gunshot.  For a split second, I thought the guy was doing target practice.  But immediately, my back wheel fishtailed!  I was the one who'd blown!  Thankfully, I did not crash.  I grabbed my brakes gently and slowed to a stop.  My tire was indeed flat!  Everyone was really nice, asking if we had everything we needed (which we did), as they rode by.  We changed my flat, and used a CO2 canister to pump it.  

Here's Heroic Tesi working on my tire while I take pictures and calm down after I avoided wiping out during the exciting Tire Explosion and Resulting Fish Tail.  

That's a glove on the ground, and M working the tire over the rim.  

Pro tip: CO2 canisters only give you about half a tire's worth of air.  So I had a pretty mushy tire, and about 10 miles to go to the next rest stop.  Oh well.  It's enough to get you rolling.  

We had to slow way down to compensate for my mushy tire.  Between the bathroom break, the mud cleaning, the flat, and the slowing down, we had added over 40 minutes onto this leg.  I knew we would not catch up to the Bishop today, unless she took a nap at the next stop!  

It was hard work for those 10 miles.  Tires are firm for a reason, and we had some giant potholes and rough road to contend with.  So for 10 miles, I was getting HAMMERED with some major road jolts.  Plus I had to work REALLY HARD.  It's harder to pedal a soft tire!  I was really happy to roll into rest stop 2, and pump my tire.  (Interestingly, my anxiety had gone away entirely.  Premonition, maybe?)

After getting some ice and Gatorade and snacks, we were on our way to the next stop.  This turned out to be a fun one.  Each stop had lots of good snacks, and the third stop had tomato/mayo sandwiches!  I passed on those because I was dealing with some cramping and pain after my hard effort.  I met a guy who offered me some naproxen sodium.  I thought he meant Aleve until he pulled out a prescription bottle.  But hey, I was really, really hurting and wasting a lot of effort on pain.  So I swallowed a few.  Thanks, stranger who gave me drugs!  You saved my day!  

Disclaimer:  Do not, in general, take prescription drugs offered to you by a stranger.  The rules of life are different when you are both wearing spandex and riding 100 miles.  

At this stop, M met an old friend of his from his work days in a bike shop.  They shot the breeze and admired M's build... until I realized that - between all the delays- we had a hard cut-off coming up!  We had to pass a certain checkpoint by a certain time or we would not be able to finish the full ride!  M's friend jumped on his bike, and M and I took off as well.  The race to beat the cut off was on!  

We had 45 minutes to beat the cutoff in 10 miles, and 1 hour to make the next rest stop.  

As it turned out, this was the most grueling leg of the day.  The weather had heated up, and this leg had the most gruesome climbing of the day- 4 big hills and lots of rollers.  I love riding rollers.  But man, those big hills, combined with me still fighting the last of the pain before the drugs kicked in, plus not having my salt sticks on hand... wow.  I was hurting.  I kept telling myself I'd just get to the cut off, and I was really fighting with myself.  

Part of me wanted to sock it in, to quit, and ride the shorter route.  I was tired, and in pain, and feeling foggy.  Part of me wanted to ride the whole thing because I'd be embarrassed to quit.  Most of me wanted to cry a little because I was feeling sorry for myself.  And we had gotten swept up in a group of riders.  M had talked a little to another guy, and then the group moved ahead while I was struggling up a hill.  M has been riding so super strong, and his jersey had blue and red on it.  As I crested the hill, I saw the group ahead of me, with a blue and red jersey winking out of sight as they rode away.  

"Dammit all", I thought.  "They dropped me, and M doesn't realize it.  I need to keep them in sight so I don't lose him!"  So I turned on the burners and gave it everything I had.  I chased that group of guys up and down every single damn hill in that leg... every awful, long, grueling hill.  I stayed in my big ring trying to keep them in sight.  

I worked so hard that I rode by a bunch of them who were turning left where the different colored arrows pointed out an alternate route.  I kept going, following the orange signs.  FInally, I saw the group leader... AND NO M! 

I asked if he'd seen M.  

"Nope", he said, "Haven't seen that guy for a while!"  Where did he go?  

I turned a corner, and, still not seeing M anywhere in the distance, I pulled out my phone to call him... when he rode up behind me.  

"Where've you been?"  I squealed in delight.  Or at least, I meant to squeal in delight.  I think it came out more in pained gasps.  As it turned out, he'd never passed me.  I thought I'd been chasing him this whole time... and he'd been behind me, noodling away while his crazy wife went ape-sh*t on the big-*ss hills.  

Whoops.  

I guess I'll never know who was in that blue-and-red jersey.  

Well, nothing to do but keep going.  As we would later learn, we had beat the cutoff.  THe cutoff had been about a mile behind us where those other guys had turned off to to follow the other route.  We had done 10 miles in just under 30 minutes, buying us 45 minutes to get to the next rest stop, just 4 miles up the road.  

Key word: Up.  

At the time, I was not paying attention to the word "up".  I had lost count of the hills, and I was more concerned with being hot and tired.  I pulled on my arm coolers (essential items for pale girls like me) to ease my suffering.  I forced myself to suck down a gel.  And we started out to the St. Ignatius rest stop. 

Super Pro Tip:  When you are feling a little almost-queasy on a big endurance effort, for love of sweet baby Jesus and all the angels, force yourself to eat!  I started reviving after I started forcing down gels.  I tend to resist eating, because Ijustdonwanna, but you HAVE to force yourself right at that time.  It helps.  I promise.  

Now, the Indian Head Ride has a famous climb: the Rose Hill Climb, and everyone was freaking out about it.  So steep.  So long.  So hard.  But for me, St. Ignatius stands out as the worst climb.  I didn't realize it was coming up.  After a few nice rollers, the road angled up... and didn't stop.  I crawled up a long curvy hill.  I started doing my count-to-30 trick, where I count out loud to 30 in tough spots.  (The rule is that I can't stop until I hit the number 30, and then I can take a breather.  By then, I'm usually at the top of the hill.  Funny how that works.)  And the road suddenly angled STRAIGHT FREAKIN' UP.  

I stood on my pedals.  I counted.  I breathed.  I sat.  I clicked into my lowest gear.  I repeated that sequence.   And I was really starting to think I was not going to make it up that hill... when I finally crested that bugger.  

The view was tremendous.  Not that I was thinking about it at the moment.  With my last strength, I clicked out of my pedals and gasped to a halt.  I swear that hill must have been a 10% grade.  Or more.  However steep it needs to be for you to think I'm very badass.  

St. Ignatius had a brilliant rest stop.  Grapes.  Fruit.  Granola bars.  And lots and lots of cold Gatorade. (The last stop before this had been out of Gatorade, so I was desperate!)  Lots of friendly people who handed you stuff.  People who hand you stuff are AWESOME when you are hot and tired.  

Around now, M walked up.  He was hurting.  Without Gatorade, the heat of the day was really taking its toll.  He was hot and tired and cramping.  His legs were having a mutiny.  We started stuffing him with Gatorade and bananas, and the girls on the banana table were thrilled to have such an enthusiastic audience of one! 

We checked the map.  That is where we learned we had beat the cutoff for the last turn off, and were within the time limit for the whole ride.  

"I guess we're doing this thing,"  M said.  

"Yep," said I, "but I am going to walk Rose Hill if I need to."  You see, I could see that there was just one more big hill left that day... Rose Hill.  The drugs had done the trick and I wasn't in pain anymore, but my legs were still pretty crampy and tired.  I've climbed mountains on my BMC, so I really didn't feel the need to prove myself with one more hill.  10 hilly miles in under 30 minutes was good enough for me!  And besides, I had a feeling M would walk Rose Hill to spare HIS legs, which were way more crampy than mine.  And I'd rather stick with him and walk than drop him when he was hurting.  You know, love and mushy stuff like that.  

So we rode along, through some fun little rollers and down a huge beautiful downhill.  And rode about ⅓ of the way up Rose Hill, and then it started to hurt.  So I climbed off, and walked the last bit.  Then we hopped back on and rode to the rest stop.  

It was a hot day, and that rest stop was serving icees, or slushees, or slurpees, or whatever you call the sugar-filled ice slush.  It was the best stuff I've ever eaten in forever, I had three cups, and I am pretty sure they have all gotten special angel wings in the various heavens of at least 4 religions for their actions that day.  That is all.  

The root beer slushee is magical.  I stopped feeling discomfort (or maybe my butt had finally gone numb?) and I knew it was nothing but rollers all the way back.  

A simple 10 miles later, we were rolling into Indian Head Village Green.  

Now here's the fun thing about being among the last:  (yes, we were)... there's a lot of great stories.  The people who come in dead last are the people who gutted out the ride.  We are the ones who weathered tummy aches, mechanical problems, missed turns.  We are the crowd who fixed two flats or a broken chain in the field.  We are the ones who toughed it out over cramping thighs.  There are really good stories among the last of us, the ones who were showed some grit when it got tough.  

And we were rewarded with hot dogs, and sandwiches, and fruit, and as much ice tea as we could drink.  Thanks to St James Episcopal who kept handing me food until my plate was full.  

All in all, brilliant ride.  I am thrilled to have my road bike century at last.  M has his first-ever century.  No injuries.  No major ride-ending mechanicals.  No trips to any hospitals.  Just hot dogs.  

I think we should do this again next year!