Advice Received: Spinning my wheels

Yesterday I moaned heavily about missing a training day due to rain, and instead I went to spin class. As we discussed spin class is just not my thing.

Today the rain has passed and I celebrated by heading outside for a great day!

Now, after a 1.8 mile ride I’m driving an hour back home.

It’s 36 degrees with a 16 mph headwind and 89% humidity. I’ve been informed that the feels like temperature is 26 degrees. Let’s be honest, mother nature just schooled me big time! Living in Texas, I’m not appropriately prepared for these conditions no matter what my pride says.

So I’ve found my motivation to go back to spin class.

Advice asked, advice received. Thanks mother nature. It’s just what I needed.

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Dreaming in Green: Peak a Boo-Boo

When was the last time you experienced absolute and utter joy? 

Maybe you felt it on your first sip of your morning coffee, or it was puppy kisses that made you smile, but for me it happened when I finally reached the summit of Healy Pass in Ireland!

This is pure joy!

Except, as it turns out, the hill I just climbed was not Healy Pass. I just thought it was.

I would actually reach the summit of Healy Pass an hour and a half after this celebratory dance on the side of a random highway. What I had conquered were two smaller climbs.

And there’s nothing worse than a pair of falsies.

While riding up Not Healy Pass I reached the blazing speed of 3.1 mph which is very likely the bare minimum speed anyone can go without actually falling over on your bike directly into traffic. All of this due to a fairly steep grade and a headwind blowing at approximately a zillion miles per hour.

At the end of this effort I was ecstatic! I couldn’t believe that I did it! I made it to the top without falling over and I DANCED from the sheer joy! I suspect the tourist busses passing by were confused, but probably appreciative of my interpretive Irish jig of happiness too!

After my celebration and when I was able to breathe normally again, I got back on my bicycle and went on my merry way totally thrilled that I had gotten through the hardest part of my ride so early in the day.

Until approximately 40 minutes later when I saw a mountain of switchbacks rise up the countryside in front of me. And I knew I had messed it up.

But this is the view from the top of the real Healy Pass.

Healy Pass itself was beautiful. It was a challenging climb in where I looked down those switchbacks to see the tremendous, albeit slow progress I had made. Along the way many fluffy sheep gave me a creepy side-eye stare me (with their disturbing sideways eyes) as I slowly rolled by. That alone was a little motivating to get to the top.

Finally, the celebration at the top was still pretty good, but a lot more cautious. Just in case.

Because, every now and again, even a seasoned cyclist sometimes gets it wrong.

Dreaming in Green: Irish Flat

What a lovely cycle! ~245 miles of the lushest, greenest, and possibly the wettest quilt of colors making up the Irish landscape. Around every corner it felt like one section was prettier than the last. Breathtaking!

Actually I should rephrase that to say: It wasn’t just breathtaking, rather it was breath gulping! All of it required sucking in massive amounts of oxygen into pitiful, panting lungs.

Before my trip to Ireland, my last minute additional training schedule, unbelievable heat and humidity and an unexpected massive hurricane interrupted my normal training, so I hadn’t been on the bike in the three weeks preceding my trip. I knew there would be some fitness to recover, but honestly I still felt MEGA confident in my previous training for the AIDS/Lifecycle. I knew I could do the ride, it might just be slower than normal. Besides, we were going to ride the Southwestern Irish coast, I mean how hard could it really be to ride on the coast?

Now let me tell you about a few of the ways that I’m an idiot:

Fail #1: Had I given any actual thought about literally any of the pictures I’ve seen of Ireland’s gorgeous green scenery, I would have realized (but didn’t) there is almost nothing flat about Ireland.

Honestly, what about this gorgeous picture tells you to expect any amount of flat terrain?! Nothing.

IMG_2768

So why would I and did I expect on some level for there to be flat riding in Ireland?

  1. Because I believe in kindness.
  2. Because I reasoned (illogically) that I would be riding on the Irish Coast – therefore, 0 degrees of elevation, therefore FLAT.

Does this look like a flat coastline sitting at 0 degrees elevation? No. no it does not.

IMG_3165

No, this is Irish Flat.

That’s what I started referring to it as. Irish Flat. While the hills started shortly after I left Killarney, the descriptor came on Day 2 of my ride.

Day 2 ~ 56 miles / + 3172 feet — This is the day we had to combine two routes into one, and It turned out to be a very big day.

Normally this day is broken into 2 to allow for some additional sightseeing and overall pleasantness. Here is how the two routes were described (so I wasn’t worried really):

Part 1: Gougane Barra to Glengarriff (~20 miles / + 1010 feet) was described as “a very easy ride, being both short and mostly downhill.”

Part 2: Glengarriff to Kenmare (~36 miles / + 2162 feel) “Here you leave the coast, turning north towards Healy Pass. The climb is steady but not too steep and the views from the top are glorious. The little gift shop / refreshment halt may be open, but don’t depend on it if the weather is inclement.”

I read the first description more than once and thought: AWESOME! Love me some downhill! No problem this is going to be totally cool.

Fail #2: What I failed to put together, is that this mostly downhill doesn’t mean that it is actually downhill if the ride also includes 1010 feet of climbing. Meaning, if this ride is described as “mostly short and downhill,” then there is going to be some seriously steep uphills to get that elevation gain. Otherwise it would say – Elevation, not + Elevation. Cheeky fail.

Anyway, the lovely tour company provided route maps, elevation profiles of the route and even a topological map of the area (this really should have been clue #1 that flat would not be an Irish descriptor). I studied these and deduced that this level of climbing would be totally reasonable because I had already done 3500-5000 feet of climbing during the California AIDS/Lifecycle, and this climbing would only be. between 2000-3000 feet a day. No problem.

Fail #3: My previous climbing experience for AIDS/Lifecycle stretched over 85-90 mile days, so big climbs, but generally at a reasonable grade. But in Ireland, they like to do ALL the climbing in as short of distances as possible! Which means, these elevation gain would be up STEEP hills! Another Cheeky fail.

But everywhere I went the lovely locals told me with their beautifully lyrical accent’s – Oh don’t worry girlie, it’s much flatter that way.

Sure. Irish Flat.

Dreaming in Green: The beginning of a cycling adventure in Ireland!

One of the best things about riding a bicycle is that by your own power, you can get yourself to an entirely new place, it just takes the time to do it, and a will to keep moving your legs.

This past June, I rode my bicycle for 7 days in beautiful California, cycling 548 miles ( from San Francisco to Los Angeles. This experience that showed me how much I am capable of, even if slow. Like a good Sous Vide, I ride low and slow, but I keep moving! This challenge opened my eyes to the realization that if my legs could take me through the hills and valleys of California, my legs could take me anywhere!

I have always been enamored with the lush greenery of Ireland, or at least what I knew of Ireland from pictures or movies. And since I always enjoyed riding my bike, a friend in college once gave me a bicycle guide-book for Ireland. “Someday!” she encouraged.

But I never thought that riding a bicycle through Ireland was something I could do; it was something for those extreme adventurers, not a weekend rider like me. I was resigned that if I ever visited this beautiful country it would be seen through a car’s windshield. But after my experience riding the AIDS LifeCycle a seed was planted. I thought, I just road 548 miles through hilly California! Maybe I could ride my bike around the Southwest coast of Ireland too.

I immediately started researching companies that could help me do what I have for years thought to be an impossible dream. Now to be entirely clear, because this was a late-planned trip my research hit the level of “just enough to get it done.”

I was drawn to a company called IronDonkey bicycle touring company because their services included  setting up custom routes for a self-guided tour in the Southwest of Ireland. After some back and forth setting exchanging ideas and requirements I was sold on the possibility of gorgeous cycling vacation. They would provide the routes, some digital route maps for my Garmin 820 Edge Cycling Computer & GPS (this was the greatest tool for the trip, turn by turn instructions!), and IronDonkey set up cycle-friendly B&B’s along the way.

And just like that, the vacation was planned and the countdown began.

Shout out to all the procrastinators reading this – the silver lining of last-minute travel is that you don’t have to wait very long for your adventure!

Part 4. Bike buying tips – Where should I buy my bike?

On your bike buying journey, you may get tired and frustrated and be tempted to just say, “I’ll take this one” simply because that means the process is over. But trust me when I say, take your time and find the right bike, it will make all the difference!

You have multiple options of where to buy a bike, and only you can know what makes sense for your situation. But I’d like to share with you a few thoughts and suggestions before you spend your hard-earned dollars.

Options for buying a brand-spanking new bike: local bike shop vs. big-box-store / huge online retailer. Full disclosure, I am completely biased toward shopping at your local bike shop.

  1. Buying a bike from a local bike shop: Bike shops are full of people who are passionate about bikes and want you have a great experience!. You’ll get one on one attention and the opportunity to ask an expert all your questions and get detailed guidance.
    • Buying from a local shop also helps you develop a relationship with the folks at the shop. Your local bike shop is a wonderful resource for support, information, they often host local rides, can they tell you about local trails to check out, and all other things bike related!
    • This relationship will come in handy as you may utilize the shop’s maintenance services, or perhaps you’ll order parts through them if you are a do-it-yourself kinda person.
    • Personally, I love going to my bike shop! My shop is an important part of my biking community; they know me, my bike, and respond to my specific needs! It doesn’t get much better than that.
  2. Buying a bike in a big box store / huge online retailer: I mean, it is an option…
    • It’s convenient (until you have to ask someone a question).
    • It may be a little less expensive but this is mostly due to the brands that are carried. These brands are commonly less expensive because they are made with cheaper materials, or with craftsmanship that isn’t as concerned with quality. There is a market for this, but if you identified with any of these bike riding goals, these big-box-store bikes probably aren’t the right bikes for you.

Buying a New-to-Me bike (a used bike):

If you’re buying a used bike, start with a little research to make sure you’re getting the best value for your money.

You already know what type of bike you want, and you know what type of material/metal and the component group that sounds best for your budget, and the approximate size of bike you need. Your next step is to do some pricing research. Use a site like bicyclebluebook.com to look up a bike’s proposed value, then see which used bike offers look reasonable.

  1. Buying a used bike on consignment from your local bike shop: Not all bike shops may offer this great option, but it’s worth asking about if you’re looking to buy a used bike. As a broad example, a bike shop could sell a used bike on consignment from another personal seller, taking a percentage of the sales as a commission. In return, the bike shop will:
    • help validate the quality of the bike (look for major mechanical issues, and also look for major red flags like a defaced serial number which could indicate that the bike was stolen).
    • Service the bike so it’s ready to roll as soon as it is purchased.
    • Possibly offer a reasonable return policy if you end up needing to return the bike.
    • This may be more expensive than buying directly from a seller, but the upside may be worth it!
  1. Buying a used bike on Craigslist (or any other online exchange/sales platform): Full disclosure: I am a risk averse person and therefore am not a big fan of this option and would rather work through a local bike shop. But Craigslist can be a cost-effective option too, so here are some things to keep in mind while shopping Craigslist for your next bike.
    • Know that if you price range is less than a couple hundred dollars, you’re probably going to be buying a used box-store bike. These aren’t high quality to begin with, and it’s possible that this was a bike that sat outside in the elements for the past few years.
    • Was the bike stolen? Ask for the sellers name/information and ask about the serial number on the bike. If there is hesitancy or a scratched out serial number the odds are high that this is a stolen bike and you should move on.
    • Was the bike in a big crash before? In the last post we talked about one of the pitfalls of carbon fiber bikes. If this is a carbon bike, has it been in a crash resulting in fissures/cracks? I don’t want you to get a bike that literally falls apart while you’re riding it.
    • What kind of condition is the bike in? Visible rust? Tires are flat or have cracks in the rubber? These are things that will need to be replaced so keep in mind the cost of fixing the bike in addition to the selling price.

All in all, you have options and feel free to research bikes for yourself. A great way to learn about bikes is to read about them and then go try them out on a test ride! Only you get to decide what is right for you!

Next up in our Getting Started Series: What is a bike fit, and why do I need one?

Part 3. Bike buying tips – What is the right bike size for me?

You don’t want to rush into a long-term relationship with the bike that isn’t right for you, so finding the right size bike is key!

Bike size and bike fit aren’t the same thing, but you can only get the right bike fit (perfect tailoring to your body) if you start with the right size bike. A lovely analogy was once shared with me on this topic: It’s like a tailor working with your clothes, you may have something that generally fits, but a tailor (like a bike fit professional) can make it feel just right for your body. Proper bike fit is critically important if you are doing long distance riding, but may be less important for short rides. Either way, you’ll be more comfortable on a bike that is the right size!

Let’s get things started by dispelling myths and answering an age-old question among the female variety of cyclist. Can a woman ride a man’s bike? YES! Women shouldn’t feel limited to women’s style bikes only. A woman can ride a men’s style bicycle, which in fact, is a unisex bicycle. There are a handful of differences between a unisex bike and a women’s bike with the most significant being the length and angle of the top tube (not to be confused with a tube top).

A woman’s specific style bike also has:

  • more narrow handlebars to accommodate a woman’s typically smaller shoulder span
  • a women’s specific bike saddle to keep your lady bits more comfortable.

If you bought a unisex style bike, you can switch out many of these components to help tailor the fit of your bike to your body. Unfortunately, you cannot change the top tube length and angle as these are part of the frame design.

Cheeky Fun Fact: I found a unisex bike was a better fit for my body, but did switch out the saddle for a women’s specific. Don’t feel limited by “gendered” bikes, you should ride what’s comfortable to you!

How is a bike sized? What should I even look for? Bike sizes can be measured in inches, centimeters or as a Small, Medium, Large. And each brand of bicycle has its own specific sizing; a small bike in one brand may be the same as a medium bike in a different brand. So it is important to try out many brands of bicycles to find the best size bike for you.

To get you in the right ballpark, the foundation of bike sizing comes from three measurements:

  1. Inseam: start at the bottom of your shoes (or specific bike shoes if you have them) and measure to your the top of your inside leg.
  2. Total height: start at the bottom of your shoes (or specific bike shoes if you have them) and measure to your the top of your head.
  3. Arm Span: measure the distance of your arms when they are spread out. Measure from the fingertips of your left arm, across your body, and to the fingertips on your right arm.

Inseam_Height

With this foundational information you can use utilize generic bike sizing charts included below, or you can also use the stand over the frame measurement method + the arm span measurement to address your reach (holding your handlebars while sitting in the saddle).

The idea behind the stand over the frame measurement method is to have a few inches of clearance between the top of your inseam and the bike’s top tube. These few extra inches would allow you to get off the bike in a hurry by comfortably standing over the bike. However, this method only works with a bike that has a straight top tube; if you have an angled top tube, you will want to start with the generic sizing charts and work with your local bike shop experts to get narrowed down to the right size.

  1. Road bikes – When you stand over the frame, you should have approximately 1 to 2 inches of clearance between the top tube and the top of your inseam
  2. Mountain bikes and Commuter bikes – When you stand over the frame, you should have approximately 2 to 4 inches of clearance between the top tube and the top of your inseam.

If your inseam measurements put you between two different bike sizes, use your arm span measurement to help determine which bike size will ensure you have a comfortable reach:

  • If the length of your arm span is greater than your total height, you may want the larger of the two bike sizes.
  • If the length of your arm span is less than your total height, you may want the smaller of the two bike sizes.

Here are some generic Bike Sizing Charts that will help get you started:

Hybrid – Comfort & Commuter
Height Inseam Frame Size
4’10” + 26” – 28” 13”, 14”
5’0” + 27” – 29” 15”
5’2” + 28” – 30” 16”
5’4” + 29” – 31” 17”
5’6” + 30” – 32” 18”
5’8” + 31” – 33” 19”
5’10” + 32” -24” 21”
6’0” + 32” – 34” 22”

 

Road Bike
Height Inseam Frame Size
5’1” – 5’3” 27”-29” 48 cm
5’3” – 5’5” 28” – 30” 50 cm
5’5” – 5’7” 29” – 31” 52 cm
5’7” – 5’9” 30” – 32” 54 cm
5’9” – 5’11” 31” – 33” 56 cm
5’11” – 6’2” 32” – 34” 58 cm
6’1” – 6’3” 33” – 35” 60 cm
6’3” – 6’5” 34” – 36” 62 cm

 

Mountain Bike (Hardtail)
Height Inseam Frame Size
4’10” – 5’0” 26” – 28” 13”
5’0” – 5’3” 27” – 29” 14”, 15”
5’4” – 5’7” 28” – 30” 16”, 17”
5’8” – 5’9” 29” – 31” 18”, 19”
5’10” – 5’11” 30” – 32” 20”
6’0” – 6’2” 32” – 34” 21”
6’2” – 6’4” 33” – 35” 22”
Mountain Bike (Full Suspension)
Height Inseam Frame Size
5’4” – 5’7” 28” – 30” 14”, 15”
5’8” – 5’9” 29” – 31” 16”, 17”, 18”
5’10” – 5’11” 30” – 32” 19”, 20”, 21”

Getting the right size bike is going to make a huge difference in your riding. will take less effort while pedaling (especially up hills), feel more comfortable, and overall be a more enjoyable experience. It is normal that a bike off the shelf, even from a bike shop won’t be a perfect fit even if it is the right size. A bike shop can help you adjust the saddle height and positioning, and a more thorough professional bike fit will help you tailor your bike so it fits just right (we’ll talk more about this in a future post).

Once you have your target bike size you’ll want to start dating bikes! Try as many as you can!

  1. Visit your local bike shops and arrange to test ride multiple brands of bikes. Most bike shops carry a limited selection of brands, so you may need to visit different bike shops to test ride  bikes until you find a brand you like.
  2. You’ll find that some bikes just feel more comfortable than others and that is a start in the right direction. If it hurts or doesn’t feel right, it may not be a good size for you. What is right for someone else may not be right for you. Don’t feel pressured to make a quick decision. You’re the one who has to be comfortable on it!

So far you have sorted out:

The last step we’ll cover next in our Bike Buying Tips is to figure out: Where should I buy my bike?

Until next time,  Ride on!