I pulled on my bright green chili pepper socks. I purposefully selected these exact socks for this ride because I was already feeling rocket-hot and I hadn’t even left the house!
This past Sunday I packed up my gear and drove out to the country for a small organized ride (3 others who also are training for our 545 mile ride in the AIDS/LifeCycle).
The weather was utterly fantastic, a cool start and warming up to 75 degrees F. The sun peeked through the clouds as the wind picked up just a little. It felt so good to get outside and ride my bike again after last weekend’s disappointing outcome and I even saw the beginning of the wild flowers coming out too! It was just a hint, but a clear indication that Spring is around the corner.
I was soaking it up, and we were FLYING! Well, I felt like we were flying.
19, 20, 22 mph!
It feels pretty amazing when you can go faster than the recommended speed on local signage.
I was feeling like hot stuff. I never ride that fast, but this day was special, and I WAS CRANKING IT OUT!
Until I wasn’t.
We stopped at a local gas for a quick rest and snack before heading out for the last 10 miles of this 40 mile loop. The plan was to head back out for another 16 for a 56 mile day.
I mounted my bike and we headed down the road. We turned the corner, right into the headwind and my legs screamed in outrage!
Oh, right. I don’t ride 19, 20, or 22 mph. Ever. That was a tailwind and somehow I didn’t realize it. Now it was time to pay my dues for the earlier speed fest.
I should have known, it is always more windy in February. And there isn’t much to slow a huge headwind barreling down the grassy fields while riding out in the country. But I was chili pepper hot! And clueless.
35 miles, I knew there would be no second loop for me.
38 miles, the countdown began. Just 2 more miles until the car (and the glorious chocolate milk at the car that was beckoning my return).
39.2 miles… just keep spinning.
39.7… you’re going to make it. Just move your legs. It doesn’t matter how slow. Just Move Your Legs.
40 miles. Car. Chocolate milk. And a hug from my team leader. I needed that.
To be fair, it was one of the fastest rides I’ve accomplished! Average speed was 15.2 which is ~2 mph faster than I was last year. It’s great progress! Hard earned progress.
I’ll be back at it next week, more miles, but not nearly as fast. And thats okay. It’s not a race, it’s a ride. And the purpose of the ride isn’t about my speed, its about the cause. Good reminders.
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.
The first thing I learned while in Ireland is that the locals will tell you a rule, and the immediately disregard it. They are habitual line crossers!
They will tell you all about the rule, and then they immediately break it! And I love this! I absolutely adore it, and hope that I can bring a little more of this Irish spirit to my own life.
The following is one such story:
It was about 10:00 in the morning, and it was the first day of my trip in which the intermittent Irish rain arrived. I was about 31 miles into my ride and had just climbed the Ballaghisheen Pass.
After conquering this challenge the reward is riding downhill! But, speeding down a wet road on two skinny tires at high speeds is scary!
I was white-knuckling it and riding the brakes hard through beautiful wide open landscape. By the time I reached the bottom of the hill I was soaked and was cold in my bones.
Shivering, and with my toes in a puddle that used to be my shoes, I pulled into the small hamlet of Glencar. I noticed a few cars in a parking-lot next to a little hostel/pub, a good sign that it was open (something I had rotten luck with throughout my trip!). I leaned my bike against the building and shuffled inside.
I started peeling the soggy layers of bike clothes off my frozen limbs and a weathered man enjoying his morning Guiness immediately questioned my sanity for riding my bike in that weather. “Doesn’t look like a fun thing to do.”
Well, he wasn’t exactly wrong in the moment.
The barmaid appeared:
Barmaid: What can I get you?
Me: Do you serve lunch?
Barmaid: Well, I can’t serve you lunch. But I can make you a toasted special.
After explaining to me that a toasted special is in fact, a sandwich, I thought about the barmaid’s statement:
You can’tserve me lunch, but you canmake me a toasted special?
What?! How is that not the same thing? Is this a rule? What does this even mean?
Oh I don’t even care! YES PLEASE A SANDWICH!
I silently thanked my lucky stars to have this line-crossing rule-breaker here to help.
Barmaid: Would you like: ham, ham and cheese, or ham, cheese and tomato?
Me, starving and sopping wet: Yes, please, ham and cheese would be lovely!
Me: Oh yes please!
Barmaid: And would you like tea with that?
Me: Yes, yes that would be amazing. Thank you.
Can we talk about tea for a moment? Oh tea. Where have you been all my life?
Maybe I should have led with this because many of you dear readers are British, but this was the first time I really understood the wonderful, comforting and warming power of tea. And now I get it. Tea has officially become a constant in my day-to-day life.
I am so grateful for that small pub on a soggy day for introducing me the glory of a toasted special and tea.
So it seems that Irish silver linings are served with ham, cheese and tea.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
A huge thank you to fellow blogger Vesna for nominating me for my first Liebster award! I am so excited to receive this award and it is such a honor to be nominated by Vesna because I have just love soaking up her blog,Whisper, and learning about her life in Macedonia, and all of her travel adventures. She has inspired me to put Macedonia (and other surrounding areas) on my future travel list too! Be sure to check it out! Thank you, Vesna!
The Rules of Accepting The Liebster Award:
The Liebster Award is an award that dates back as early as 2011 and exists only on the internet and is given to bloggers by bloggers, whose work they find interesting, to motivate them, and to promote them. Liebster is a word with German origins and has several meanings: dearest, sweetest, kindest, nicest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.
The instructions of accepting the award and passing it on:
Create a new blog post on your blog thanking the person that nominated you, link to their blog and put in a graphic of the award.
Answer the questions that were provided, and then share some facts about yourself.
Create a new set of your own questions for others to answer.
Nominate 5-11 others and share your blog post with them so they can accept their awards
Why did you start blogging? This year (2017) I completed a 7 day, 548 bike ride from San Francisco to LA, and it inspired a 7 day, 244 mile ride around the southwestern coast of Ireland. These trips made me realize that bike travel wasn’t reserved for elite athletes, but could be done by anyone! I want to share that message and hope to inspire others to get on a bike too!
How has blogging affected your life? I have dedicated a lot of time to this blog by reflecting on my personal experiences as a cyclist and researching the information a new cyclist would want to know in order to get started. This has helped me get more creative, detail oriented, and thoughtful about finding pieces of inspiration that could help influence someone to start on their own adventure! I hope others will come back and share their adventures and stories on TheCheekyCyclist blog too!
What is your favorite book or series and why? I’ve read some really lovely books lately and I would say my favorites currently stand as follows:
Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies, Ben MacIntyre. I loved this because truth is stranger than fiction, and who doesn’t love a good spy novel?!
The Marriage of Opposites, Alice Hoffman. I loved this book for its unexpected story. A historical fiction that follows three generations of characters and beautiful landscape, but describes hardship, sacrifice and love. It unexpectedly got under my skin in the best of ways.
What kind of blogs do you like the most?I love a travel blog and blogs that tell stories of life outside of the places I know. I love to hop on my bike, go exploring and I love the dreams and ideas these blogs inspire!
What is your philosophy in life? A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. Don’t spend your life waiting for the ideal situation, go make the most of what you have today.
What are you most grateful about? Friends and family. I wouldn’t be who I am without them and wouldn’t be where I am today without their support.
If you have a time machine when and where would you go and why? I would go back to the first time I started pushing through some serious knee/calf pain while on a bike ride. I would slap myself upside the head and say “Stop! You don’t need to be a hero! If you are hurting while riding something is wrong and you need to get it fixed. Go get a proper bike fit and you’ll save yourself a lot of pain, money, and time off the bike.” I missed years of amazing rides because I didn’t know the importance of a proper bike fit.
What 3 words describe you best? How about 3 descriptors: An eternal optimist, lover of puns and wordplay, and coffee addict.
What advice would you give your 18 years old self? Change is constant, exercise your soul-of-flexibility.
What makes you happiest? Riding my bike, and drinking coffee. Best when they can happen together!
Why did you start blogging?
How do you get inspiration to create your blog posts?
What is your favorite dessert that everyone should try?
What is your favorite memory?
What is your favorite book or series and why?
What is your favorite way to prepare an egg?
Where do you want to travel most, but you’ve never been?
What is your top blogging tip for others?
What is your spirit animal?
What is your favorite post that you have written? (Link please!)
As I’ve started getting more exposed to the blogging world I have come across some amazing blogs with great stories of life, poetry, travel and more. While it is difficult to narrow the list, I would like to nominate these great blogs for the Liebster award:
It can be overwhelming and expensive to try to get into a new hobby like biking, but it doesn’t have to be! In the last Cheeky post, we talked about finding the right type of bike to buy to help you meet your goals. Let’s go through a handy list of bike buying tips outlining options to help you make the right decision for your budget.
When you’re looking to buy a bike, it’s helpful to first be familiar with the different bike components. We’ll reference some of these terms throughout the post/ blog… (or maybe say that these are term they will hear out in the biking world, and that’s why they should be familiar with them?).
What are the parts that make up a bike?
Biggest driver of cost of your bike can be bike frame material: Different materials (metal types) will drive pricing, provide differentiation in bike performance:
Weight is the thing everyone talks about first. How much does the bike weigh?! A lighter bike means less mass to move up a hill, therefore less effort expended. Does it mean that you might climb up that hill faster? Probably, to the tune of a few seconds. You can spend a lot of money getting the lightest bike, with the lightest components. So many riders in the biking community are utterly obsessed with their bike’s weight.
Cheeky Fun Fact: My personal strategy is to try to lose a few pounds myself, which would give me the weight advantage, and would generally make me a healthier person which also improves my riding. It’s a win-win.
Stiffness of the bike’s material/metal which is important for optimum power transfer from the effort you put into your pedal stroke and how much it transfers to your forward motion.
Comfort, Cheeky’s most valued trait, which can also be related to the stiffness of your bike. A bicycle that is stiff will transfer power and will also make for a more bumpy ride because the material/metal doesn’t absorb the bumps as much as a softer metal would.
Let’s review some common materials you’ll see in the market:
Steel – Common on older bikes (90’s and prior). Steel is typically the heaviest option available, making it a great choice if you are looking for something very sturdy, and budget friendly. These beasts can take a beating: dings, dents, bad crashes, and small bends and still keep on rolling! This makes them popular for touring and commuting. Unlike aluminum and especially carbon bikes which “fail fast” after being damaged (sometimes immediately), a steel bike will stand up to wear and tear and will keep going for years. That’s why they remain so pervasive in the used-bike market. Steel bikes are a great option for beginning riders but can be found at yard sales, on consignment at bike shops, or on ebay. Newer designed steel bikes can compete with aluminum and carbon fiber bike weight and performance, and while they are easier to find, they can be pricey.
Aluminum – is a lightweight material that can get you moving, widely available at most entry level price points for road bikes, mountain bikes and commuters. Aluminum is not quite as strong/durable as steel, but is typically lighter than steel and provides more rigidity which will make a difference for power transfer in your pedal stroke. Aluminum is more durable than a carbon fiber bike, or titanium bike, but may be a little heavier due to the way it’s constructed, or have less aerodynamic designs.
Carbon Fiber – Found in bikes that make up the higher end of the price range because they have an incredible strength to weight ratio which makes them ideal for cranking out speed and power in the toughest of races. Because of the reduced weight of the material, designers can create extremely aerodynamic designs that would otherwise not be possible with other metals (as it would add significantly more weight). This stiff metal is great for transferring your power in each pedal stroke. Stiffness can also reduce comfort, but most big brands of bikes have adapted their design to make their carbon bikes more comfortable (you’ll feel less of the uncomfortable bumps from a rough road).
But – and this is a big but (or butt if you’re Cheeky) – a bad crash, especially into a road sign, post or car can cause serious damage to the frame. That may feel obvious that crashing into things is bad, but Carbon fiber bikes won’t dent like another metal, they crack. And once a carbon bike gets a crack it is no longer safe to ride and should be replaced. And that can get be a blow to your budget! That in mind, carbon is a fantastic option for a high performance bike, especially for road riding/road racing, due to its versatility and general badassity.
Titanium – The most expensive of our biking options, it’s lighter and stiffer than steel but more responsive too. It won’t be as light as your carbon or aluminum options, but those purchasing a titanium bike may consider it a bike for life, or an investment, because titanium doesn’t rust or corrode like other metals.
Combination of metals – Some bikes will come with combination or metals, for example an aluminum frame and a carbon seat post. This may be a nice compromise for optimizing performance, comfort (potentially dampening road vibrations because of the thicker sidewall of the carbon seatpost than aluminum) and your budget. Keep this option in mind too!
Component quality is another cost driver: Components, also known as the groupset, are the parts of the bike that make you go (gears, derailleurs, crank sets) and make you stop (braking systems, etc.). All component sets will get the job done, but some will do it more smoothly (like shifting between gears). They can also be made with better quality parts and look flashier.
There are a lot details available on this topic, and I’ll be honest that components groups isn’t my passion. So for those who want all the nitty gritty detail of performance levels and product differentiation check out this lovely post from BikeRadar.com.
For a TL;DR view, I’ve listed out the general hierarchy of groupset quality for the 3 most common brands (Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo), and the name of the models for each quality level/pricing point.
Shimano – Very Common groupset brand:
Entry level Shimano groupsets: Claris, Sora and Tiagra
Performance Shimano groupsets: 105 and Ultegra
Pro-level Shimano groupsets: Dura-Ace
SRAM – Newest brand on the block:
Entry level SRAM groupsets: Apex
Performance SRAM groupsets: Rival and Force
Pro-level SRAM groupsets: Red
SRAM eTap groupsets: electronic shifting and hydraulic disc brakes
Campagnolo – Found on higher end bikes, and not commonly found on entry level bikes:
Entry level Campagnolo groupsets: Centaur
Performance Campagnolo groupsets: Potenza and Chorus
Pro-level Campagnolo groupsets: Record and Super Record
Now that you’ve gotten familiar with the top 2 price drivers, what else should you be asking?Evaluate the bikes in your price range and then ask:
What more am I getting in this price range than the one below it?
What am I not getting in this price range, than the one above it?
Sometimes the features in the price range above will reduce weight, or improve the quality of components by a level. For example, you may get improved shifting by spending a little more, and the bike will be a few grams lighter. I might be willing to pay more for better shifting, but I would rather work on personally shedding a few of my own grams of weight, and keep that extra money in my pocket. That works for me, but you have to do what is right for you!
What kind of bike are you looking to buy? Leave your comments and thoughts below!
Next up for bike buying tips: How do I know what bike size is right for me?
I do. It was the first year I volunteered for the AIDS/LifeCycle. I stood in the parking lot on a chilly San Francisco morning and watched rider after rider kickoff for a 7 day, 545 mile trek over the hills and valleys of California to ride to LA. All this to raise money to support the fight against AIDS. I thought, “These people are nuts! 545 miles is SO FAR.” And I immediately put it on my bucket list.
Since then I have moved away from California, but I had never forgotten the “Ride to End AIDS“. So, this past June, 10 years from that fateful day, I got on my bike at the San Francisco Cow Palace and started pedaling down the Golden state to raise funds that support the life-saving services offered by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
This ride, and the journey up to it, changed me for the better.
It changed me physically
I trained for 8 months gradually adding mileage and hills to my riding regiment. I gained a lot of muscle, came to feel healthier than I’ve felt since my days as a kid, and I earned the most ridiculous tan line on my thighs you’ve ever seen. My bike shorts are about 3 or 4 inches longer than my normal shorts, so I’ve gotten to show off that tan line a lot!
I got stronger, I became faster and there were days where I felt like a well-oiled machine racing up steep hills (then stopping for pie afterward)!
It changed me mentally
There were so many good days! I saw beautiful scenery during the Winter, Spring and Summer. I came to appreciate how amazing a bit of shade feels from a passing cloud, and how refreshing a few drops of water from a rogue sprinkler feels on the hottest of days. These reminders helped revive my soul.
While riding my bicycle I got to see so much of my state that I would not have likely visited otherwise. Small towns, open fields and pastures. Places that cars see as a means to an end. But I got to really see these places, to smell the sweet scent of wildflowers on the breeze, and talk to dozens of cows as I coasted by. It was wonderful to let my mind quiet, to hear the gentle hum of my bicycle tire gliding across the road, and the birds chirping in the leaves overhead; a freedom that only two wheels can offer!
But there were long days too. Sometimes it would require a 1.5 hour drive to our training ride destination, 6 hours of active riding (like I said, I’m still not the fastest rider, but I keep moving!) plus more time for breaks and rest, plus another 1.5 hour car trip home. It was hard to get up at 4:30 in the morning for those training rides, but I had the support of my friends and loved ones so I got out of bed.
And there were hard days. When I first started riding again it was hard to sit on the saddle, because it is a hard saddle! And it was even harder to get back in the saddle the next day! Ouch Ouch Ouch! But the pain went away, and I got stronger.
But the hardest was my very last training weekend in May, 2 weeks before the big ride. I expected to ride at least 150 miles over Saturday and Sunday, one last training push before my bicycle was shipped to California. I had just come off a rest weekend and knew that if I could bust out this 80 and 70 mile day, I would be totally successful on those California hills! But it didn’t work out that way. Instead I eked out a mushy 40 miles that Saturday, and a painfully slow 30 miles on Sunday which felt even worse. I. Was. Devastated! I was supposed to be at my prime, but that was it, training was done. My confidence was absolutely shot. How was I possibly going to make it the 109 miles required on the Day 2 route?!
I got on the plane anyway. I went to California and I set my mind to do my best. I promised myself would go in my sous vide style: low and slow. After all, it’s a ride, not a race. And so I set off and kept pedaling, and pedaling, and pedaling. And I rode 109 miles on day 2!
The hard days have shown me how much I am capable of, even if it is a slow journey.
Most unexpected thing that happened: It changed my heart
The best part of my experience, over and over again I got to see the best of humanity. I was continually overwhelmed by the generosity of friends, family, and even strangers along the way.
People gave their support in so many ways: some were able to contribute to my fundraising goals, a few committed time and knowledge to help coach me, others volunteered to support training rides, and they were all joyous cheerleaders who encouraged me all through my training. There were even people came to cheer for all 2200 riders, every day, in big cities and in tiny towns during the AIDS/LifeCycle. People showed up with handmade signs, some waved and many yelled thank you for riding!
All of these people are the best of humanity. I feel so lucky and humbled to get to see these examples of people helping and supporting each other. We are all part of the AIDS/LifeCycle Love Bubble! And I can’t wait to do it all again in 2018!
Has riding changed you for the better? Share your story in the comments below!