Monday, December 22, 2008

Dear bike, I miss you.

Hopefully we can ride again soon. In the meantime, here are some gloves and a scarf to keep your handlebars warm. The thaw is coming!

Friday, December 5, 2008

New bike to be?

It's possible. I'm being persuaded. But first, colors have to be changed. Purple does not go with red. I like things to be more neutral, less flashy. And once I get my new Castelli Portland Velo gear, it would definitely clash, so it's better if I had something that would match. I'm thinking take off the purple and red, and add a dark blue. Or a PV blue.

I suppose it's time. I've had my Trek for 2 years now. It's not the perfect bike, but I really got tired of shopping around so I bought the only color they had, and it was all I could afford at the time. It's carried me over many miles and gotten me up some difficult climbs. It has now been fitted with fenders and flaps and is now the "rain bike". I think it's time for what KRhea calls the "uber-chick-rocket" lightweight climbing bike. It would be nice to have a bike that I love, one that looks good, and is fast, and one that I could ride as it's meant to be ridden. Yes, it's time. I just realized that I want to ride faster, be stronger. It's obviously the bike, right? It couldn't possibly be ME that's slow.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Overcoming intimidation

After missing most of 'cross season and making multiple excuses (some actually quite imaginative, I think), I finally stepped up. So after much encouragement, some positive, some consisting of "shut up and race" or "man up!" I brought my mountain bike to the Hillsboro fairgrounds yesterday, still not 100% sure I'd race. I had plenty of time to back out. I hung around the Portland Velo tent for a while, then casually wandered over to the registration desk and was handed the number 423. It was karma - my birthday. So, it was decided. I had to race. I headed over to my car around noon, changed into my knickers & mountain biking shoes, and rode my bike over to the tent. A flurry of activity followed - people excitedly asking me "are you going to RACE?" which I replied with a shrug and "well - I'll ride, let's put it that way." My head is not really into this racing thing - I've got nothing to prove. I just thought why not - it'll be fun. (Right?)

Numerous people offered advice and to loan me their jerseys. I'm overwhelmed. I was told my long-sleeved jersey would be way too hot. I stripped that off as well as the sugoi shirt underneath and Sal tossed me one of Heidi's short sleeved PV jerseys. Kender patiently pinned the number on for me, instructing me to "raise my hand as if I knew the answer in math class", which makes me laugh. Can't back out now - I'm wearing a number. Looking around to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything, I grabbed my gloves, helmet and bike, and rode over to the start. I saw some women riding around, and not knowing anything about the course, I started to follow, but Traci & Kristin yelled at me to hang out with them, so I complied. I'm amazed that I feel no urge to hurl, no nervous butterflies waiting for names to be called as all of the women's categories are lined up & then started. Cheered when they called Heidi's name and noted that her hair was already wet with sweat from warming up on the trainer. Warmup? I don't need to warm up, I thought. I'm only going to ride - maybe see if I can finish a lap. A whistle blows and I follow Traci - until she disappears into the throng of women. I hear someone yell my name. All I can do is focus on not falling as people pass me left and right. Great, I think. I'm so slow! I pedal through and wind around on a very bumpy section as everyone comments on how bumpy it is. I realize I am going to have to pass by the PV tent and am absolutely unprepared for the volume of noise as I do. Someone tells me "ride through the tent!" I have never heard so much simultaneous yelling of my name - it's deafening, but I like it and can't help smiling.

I decide not to dismount for the mushy barkdust speedbumps. I can handle that. Off to the bumpy section again and then around in circles until I realize I have completely forgotten everything I learned in the clinic I went to 2 months ago. I still manage to do a decent run through the 6-pack of barriers, or so I thought, at least the first time. Then after winding around a couple more circles, I see it. The ocean of mud in the famed "corral of crap". Ugh. I slog through as much as I can, managing to ride through most of it. I'm told the right side of the puddle is better. I trust no one and think that must be a lie. My shoes are soaked and my socks are caked with mud. People yelling at me the whole way to "ride it! ride it!" I try not to disappoint. My legs are already tired, and my breathing is much faster than I would like. Is my bike too small? Am I the only dork on a moutain bike? At some point I am riding with two other women who take turns passing me when I decide enough is enough and I must get around them. I don't see them again. On the second lap, I'm passed constantly - and I am grateful for all the words of encouragement "great job!" as well as the "on your left" as fast women on fancy 'cross bikes skillfully speed by me. I wonder if I am the last of the beginners. Better to be DFL than DNF, I think. Once again I make it past the PV tent and hear my name shouted by so many people I think I might burst into tears. It actually gives me a surge of energy and I try to go faster, attempting to catch some air on the bumps, but I don't. By the third lap, I no longer care about anything. The silence on the far part of the course is almost deafening and I wonder, is it over? If I quit now, would anyone know? I could just ride home on my muddy bike, or ride to the car. No one would know. They can't see me out here, how would they know where I am? Then I see J-Rod with his camera, Daryl shouts words of encouragement, even a girl leaning against the fence tells me "great job!" I smile and decide to finish, what have I got to lose? It becomes my only goal. So I head for my third trip into the dreaded mud pit of despair, hoping to emerge unscathed. The shouting is both helpful and distracting. Riding through the muck becomes completely impossible so I slog through, not possessing the energy to run. I accuse one guy of lying to me when he says I'm almost done. I can't make eye contact with anyone. The finish line is around the corner, I can hear it. I decide to remount for the occasion and at least not completely humiliate myself. I hear someone commenting on my Diamond Back and think better of asking him if he's making fun of my bike, because I don't care. I ride through the finish to cheers and then nonchalantly ride back to the tent and hang my bike on the rack. I'm greeted with high fives and hugs. I chug down the contents of my water bottle. Sierra takes pictures of me all muddy. I'm not as tired as I expected to be, but wonder how long everyone else has been done with their race, and then decide it doesn't matter. I finally collect myself enough to change back into my jeans and suddenly I'm ravenous. I drag Javad over with me to get some fries, which taste like the best food I have ever eaten. I stand around stuffing my face and decide this is the best team, the best day, ever. I can't wait to do it again - and maybe I'll actually try to race, not just finish, next time.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Chasing sunlight

Time to focus on positive things. In my efforts to attempt to include more riding time during the week, I brought my bike to work yesterday. I was too unorganized in the morning to ride to work, as it would have taken too long, and showering in this building is not a viable option. If I was going to ride after work, I needed to leave early. So right at 5pm I decided to head west - in my car. Dumb idea. I'm sitting on the freeway wearing my cycling clothes feeling like an idiot and getting angry while the traffic inched along. I wanted to scream "don't you people know I need to ride?" I was more mad at myself than anything, for not leaving earlier, for not being organized enough to ride more often, for not getting to work earlier and for having such a long commute. How frustrating. Finally I reached my exit and hurried to hop on my bike for what would probably be only a 1/2 hour ride. Better than nothing, I thought, glad that I fought the urge to just say "screw it" and head home to walk the dog. No, I needed this. So I rode west on West Union, figuring I had lights, was wearing a bright vest and I'd figure out the route along the way. Took a right on Jackson Quarry, deciding to ride Helvetia clockwise instead of the usual direction, I pedaled as fast as I could to race the dwindling sunlight. I still haven't decided whether it's easier to pedal up that hill to the church that way or the usual counter-clockwise direction. The orange sun was drifting behind the haze as I cruised at 22mph down Helvetia towards West Union. I coughed through clouds of smoke as I passed houses where they burn their own trash. Cars whizzed past me with their headlights on. Feathery clouds brushed the remaining slivers of orange glow on the horizon as I raced for the car. Driving home just barely warmed up, the sky faded to a dull gray but a tiny bit of red sunk lower in the west. Ah well. Another gorgeous Fall day. Only a 45 minute ride, but definitely better than nothing at all. I just need to plan better so I can ride more.

I'm already looking forward to next year's Tour. The route will be really interesting, starting in Monaco and going right into the Pyrenees.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I <3 dirt and mud.

After watching my first 'cross race, then riding out to Sauvie Island last weekend to watch some of the Kermesse, I think I'm falling.... for 'Cross.

After much trepidation, (and thanks to Matt for making my old mountain bike into a semi-decent 'cross machine), I showed up at the free 'cross clinic at the Hillsboro stadium on Thursday. After learning and practicing dismounts, remounts, etc. and riding around almost until it was too dark to see, I rode up next to Matt. "What did you think?" he asked. "Oh. My. God." I replied, "I've never had so much fun in my life!" Okay so it was a bit over-dramatic, but I felt like I was 12 years old on that bike. The only problem I have with dismounts is that when I unclip my left pedal, it usually clips back in, and then when I unclip the right and pull it through, I have to tweak my left foot to get the pedal out. So I'll have to try loosening the tension on the pedals a bit and maybe some WD-40. Anyway it was a blast!

I took my bike to Bend with me. Once I arrived at the Devil's Lake campground and set up my tent, I couldn't wait to get on my bike (especially after driving for 4 hours!) and ride around on the trails. I practiced dismounts, run-ups, remounts, etc. for about an hour while the people I was camping with watched me in disbelief. It was so much fun. I was pretty careful as we had a long difficult climb to do early the next morning so I didn't do anything crazy (not that I'm really confident enough to be capable of anything even remotely qualifying as craziness on my bike at this point).

Yesterday I went mountain biking on the river trail with Jennifer & Alyssa. I haven't done that in years, and honestly it was pretty cool to navigate my fat-tired bike (with no front shocks) around big rocks and over big tree roots and up hills on narrow trails. It's really beautiful along the Deschutes though, and I'm sure I've hiked there many times, but it looks really different when viewed from a bike! A few times when I didn't shift in time for an uphill or turn sharply enough, I had to unclip, but no biffs and I only had to lay the bike down once. On our way back, the dark clouds I had noticed halfway through the ride (thinking we had timed it just right and it would maybe just sprinkle on us a bit) just completely unleashed a torrential downpour on us. We cruised back to the car on trails that instantly turned into large mud puddles and poured ourselves into the car.

After that, a hot shower, dry warm clothes, soup & grilled cheese in front of the fireplace was in order. Then, it was time for a big cup of coffee - my first pumpkin spice latte' of the season to celebrate Fall - and a long drive home. Drove 190 miles in a little over 3 hours. Not bad!

I love mud.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Did a zoo loop lastnight with Patty, KRhea & Michele. It was awesome to discover some roads I haven't ridden before - even the steep ones! I especially liked Highland Road, which winds up on the road (Fairview?) that goes back by Washington Park. Really fun, and the fact that I could actually carry on a conversation while climbing was amazing to me! Legs burned, but I kinda liked it!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

tiny victories

I think yesterday was the 5th or 6th time I've commuted to work by bike. People who are obviously non-cyclists act as if I've just won the Tour de France when I tell them I ride to work 1-2 times per week. Please. It's only 20 miles. Sure, going up & over the zoo is a bit of a challenge, but I enjoy it. So yesterday I was fighting that voice in my head that said "just take the Max". I argued "no - that's cheating!" The voice had all kinds of tempting reasons, from making the ride easier by skipping the hills, to getting home earlier to eat dinner and walk the dog and watch the Olympics. So tempting. I'll admit that before I discovered (and named) my "zoobaix" route, I got frustrated and ended up taking Max from Goose Hollow to Washington Park and rode home from there. I think now I can ride it without having to think about where I am or even looking at street signs. It seemed much easier on Saturday though, when I rode the route on the club ride. Any ride done with friends always seems easier for some reason! Anyway another random thought I had while riding was how heightened my senses are. One thing I don't like about riding downtown is all the smells - specifically, cigarette smoke. It would be so nice if I didn't have to breathe while riding, and suck in the smoke, exhaust fumes, etc. But overall - I would have to say that it's all still worth it, because at least I'm on my bike, and that means I'm happy!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Vive le Tour

Now what will I watch in the morning - NEWS?? I swear I woke up this morning and couldn't think of a single reason to turn on the TV, or to get out of bed, for that matter. No calming voice of Paul Sherwen, no exciting stage finale commentary by Phil Liggett. No attempting-to-be-poetic-like-Al-Trautwig by Craig Hummer, no "ask Bobke". No gorgeous, dizzying views of chateaus and winding mountainous roads from the helicopter, no crappy broken-up video shot from a motorcycle. No annoying, repetitive commercials for motels, rum or male enhancement products.

Ah, the Tour. It's over until 2009. It always makes me feel so elated yet melancholy, like watching the Closing Ceremonies after the Olympic Games. But Beijing is only a few days away! That makes me realize that there is something to look forward to. It gives me hope.

Anyway, I was happy for Carlos Sastre, and I am proud of how the U.S. cyclists finished in the Tour this year - Christian Vande Velde in 5th (if only he hadn't crashed!), George Hincapie, Danny Pate, & Will Frischkorn. Next year will be even better when Astana is back, with Levii Leipheimer & Chris Horner (hopef.ully!) It was exciting to see the 4 stage wins by Mark Cavendish, though some of my favorite sprinters were missing (Paolo Bettini & Tom Boonen). This year the Tour was completely unpredictable from one stage to the next, but in the end, CSC-Saxo Bank epitomized how a team should ride in the Tour, and somewhat reminded me of the Discovery Channel years. They were unstoppable. Team Columbia and Team Garmin-Chipotle made very impressive debuts in their first appearance at the Tour as well.

As much as I would have liked to see Cadel Evans win after his close 2nd place finish last year, his legs just didn't seem to have the snap that they had early in the Tour this year. He wasn't quite the same after his crash, and his TT performance wasn't his best. I felt badly for him, especially since he was so emotional when he got to wear the yellow jersey. But it was still progress, and I don't think it's completely beyond the realm of possibility to see him on top of the podium. For now though, my favorites are headed to Beijing! Allez!~

Friday, July 25, 2008

l'Alpe d'Zoobaix

Yesterday I finally conquered what I called L'Alpe D'Zoobaix. The third time I've ridden home from work, and I finally managed to find the way up to Washington Park and the Zoo. Because one of the roads is all torn up, I decided to call it "Zoobaix", though I actually rode through the gravel, potholes and all without having to stop, unclip and walk. And the climb wasn't really so bad. People were flying by me going downhill but there are actually some rather flat areas where I could gain speed. I also remembered hearing (maybe it was Phil Liggett) that you should accelerate on the corners when going uphill on switchbacks.

Due to stoplights, etc. it took me almost an hour and a half, but I didn't officially get lost or have to backtrack this time (or cheat by taking Max from Goose Hollow to Washington Park). Actually riding up the hill is much more satisfying than taking the elevator!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A new way to support my habit..

I've found a way to fund this passion of cycling I have which drains my bank account. Sell stuff I don't need! I was given a Polar F11 heart monitor a few years ago for Christmas. The person who gave it to me is not someone I've remained in contact with, and honestly I didn't like the watch. I used it a few times but think that at some point in the future I'll invest in one either specific to cycling or just get a new wireless computer for my bike. So - thanks to that idea, I sold it on eBay, and my Paypal account has just miraculously been infused with some cash. Now I can figure out something else to sell in order to be able to afford those Sidi shoes I'm lusting after.

What will I sell in order to save up for a new bike? (Do I really need furniture?)

In other news, I rode my bike again today. Well, okay, so I rode to the Max stop, but I'm riding the entire way home, hills and all, or at least that's the plan. It's hot outside.

I love both cycling AND the Olympics. What a great summer it will be watching the Tour and the 2008 Games! Plus the men's team includes favorites Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie, Dave Zabriskie, Christian Vandevelde, and Jason McCartney. Only Chris Horner is missing...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

le Tour de France

July means one thing - the TOUR!!!!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I did it! I commuted by bike!

Okay so I took Max part of the way to save time. See, here is my bike hanging upside down on the train.

And on the way home, though I was determined to ride the entire time, I skipped the ride up to the zoo because I'm not really sure of the route. I tried to map it out but because there are some paths that are not named roads, it's hard to figure out. Also I left work at 7pm so that didn't leave a lot of time for getting lost. I actually found some Dan Henry signs leftover from the Worst Day ride (which is the last time I rode from SE to Hillsboro - in 2007!) So that helped, riding along 26, crossing Sylvan and then cruising at 24mph down the other side of 26. I found Park Way, but then got totally lost and kept running into dead end streets in some neighborhood that was entirely unfamiliar. Finally I saw an elementary school and rode through that but didn't see a way out. I reallyl need to study the map of that area. I was laughing at myself by that time. Finally found 107th which lead me to Walker Road, so I was fine from them on. Pretty uneventful, and a fun ride for the most part. The best thing is that riding across the Hawthorne and along Water Street and the road in front of the office building where I work is not so bad. I was so worried about the deep ruts, potholes and tracks, not to mention the trucks, but I had no problems. I consider it an obstacle now overcome. Yay!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Aspiring cyclist, or real cyclist?

I only bought my road bike 2 years ago.

So when I did, I thought of myself as a weekend, recreational cyclist. I remember telling a mechanic that someday I'd be a "real" cyclist, not really knowing what that meant. I suppose after two years of collecting various base layers, jerseys, shorts, tights, knickers, shoes, jackets, vests, arm warmers, leg warmers, hats, and gloves, I could potentially qualify. But what exactly is the criteria? Do I really ride often enough to be a real cyclist? Or is it more about quality than quantity? I'm not entirely sure. I know that there is definitely an intimidation factor for me any time I am around people who race, or commute by bike. Those are two classifications of cyclist that I most definitely am not. What's cool about the people I know who either race, commute by bike or both, is that they don't act as if they are in any way superior to anyone else. And I totally appreciate that, because I think they are awesome and wish I could be more like them!

So, is it the inventory of bikes one owns that qualifies a person as a real cyclist? If so, I officially have two, though I really only ride one. My poor old purple Black Diamond Ascent mountain bike, circa 1994, hangs lifelessly in my garage, knobby tires having been traded out for "road slicks" back in 2003 when I actually did ride my bike to work - a whole 2 miles. I know, impressive, huh? But sometimes after work I even took that heavy monster on some hills, and I did actually ride a 35-mile route of the Spring Century and a 55-mile route of the Pedal the Pinchot one year on that thing. I still can't believe I did that. I finally got so tired of that heavy bike that I just had to get a road bike. The difference is amazing - road bikes just fly.

One thing I have noticed is that since I've been riding, I pay so much more attention to roads when I'm driving. What I mean by that is when I'm driving on a winding, hilly road, I can't help but think "man, I'd love to ride my bike on this road!" I just love the rides out in the countryside with little or no car traffic and long climbs past farms with llamas, alpacas, cows, horses, chickens, and sheep.

I had a bike fitting today. I'm pleased to know that I have the correct size of frame (54cm) for my body geometry and a "nice cadence". I don't experience any major pain or discomfort (other than occasional foot cramping and shoulder tightness) on long rides. So all that was needed was to lower my stem by about 1 inch, as it was actually higher than my seat. Also new pedals will help. I'm excited to get some better cleats and hopefully some light shoes, but the Sidi Genius 5's are $239! I've never spent that much on a pair of shoes in my life. Ski boots, definitely, but not cycling shoes. I know it will be worth every penny, for the experiences I will have on the road. :-)

In other news: rumor has it that Levi Leipheimer will also be at the Cascade Classic along with Chris Horner, IF Astana doesn't get a last-minute invite to the Tour. Not likely, though I'd love to see Levi in the Tour again. But honestly, I hope to see them both in Bend!

How do I get over the intimidation factor of bike commuting? First of all I need a nice messenger bag, one that is comfortable to ride with, though I won't load it up with lots of heavy stuff. I'm not too excited about packing onto the Max with all the other unhappy commuting types. I don't really know my way around downtown by bike, but yeah I can drive through on my way home blindfolded. Downtown has stoplights, lots of car, bike & pedestrian traffic, streetcars, lightrail, and the dreaded TRAIN TRACKS. Oh, and bridges with narrow sidewalks. I just need to do it, because it kind of scares me. Soon. I promise.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

So. Why the Obsession?

First of all, people just don't get it if they don't ride. Some of my friends roll their eyes whenever I even mention cycling. What's cool is that many people I know DO get it, and many are way more obsessed than I am!

So - I started this to rant about whatever is going on in my brain regarding cycling, whether it is to rave about a great ride, contemplate what's going to happen in the Tour this year, or drool over hot guys with muscular, shaved legs and lycra skinsuits. ;-)

Anyway, I have to admit that I have watched both Specialized commericials (the ones featuring Tom Boonen or Paolo Bettini) several times. Even if I am watching something on Tivo, and I can fast forward through all the commercials, I always stop to watch those two. If only I could speak Italian...

I was SO elated for Levi Leipheimer to win the prologue of the Dauphine Libere! Don't even think about telling me who is winning each stage, I won't catch up until Sunday....