Dreaming in Green: Cheeky’s Route

3 months, 1 hurricane, 2 plane rides and a train ride later, I arrived at the Southwest Coast of Ireland ready for an epic adventure!

Cheeky Backs it up: I had planned my trip back in June, but when my departure date came I was watching Hurricane Harvey unfold around Houston. I was very lucky and came away with very little damage to my house. But there was some impact to my trip which would be cut 2 days short of the original plan. I had planned for 9 days of riding, but it was now cut to 7. Honestly, with the tragedies others suffered I can’t complain.

The tour company that planned the routes worked with me to help modify my new shorter schedule and we decided the best approach for my self-guided tour would be to combine two days of our routes into one longer day, and cut another day entirely. No problem! I was up for a little extra challenge. After all, I was feeling MEGA confident after my training for the AIDS Lifecycle just 3 months earlier, and I was excited to see as much of this incredible country as my legs would allow.

Okay! Now time for epic adventure!

I picked up my rented Fuji road bike in Killarney, changed out the saddle and pedals I had brought from my own bike at home, made a few more quick adjustments for size and fit and pedaled out the door. The sun was shining (awesome!) and the following day I would set off for an epic adventure riding the Irish coast, and a nice portion of the Ring of Kerry, through some gorgeous forests and up many mountains.

Quick view of the Itinerary, route, mileage, and expected climbing.

Day Route ~ Miles ridden / Elevation Climbed
Day 1 Killarney to Gougane Barra + an additional ride around Lough Allua 49 miles / + 3070 feet
Day 2 Combined two days into one —> 56 miles / + 3172 feet
Part 1: Gougane Barra to Glengarriff 20 miles / + 1010 feet
Part 2: Glengarriff to Kenmare 36 miles / + 2162 feet
Day 3 Kenmare to Waterville 38 miles / + 2454 feet
Day 4 Waterville to Killorglin 36 miles / + 2047 feet
Day 5 Killorglin to Dingle 35 miles / + 1624 feet
Day 6 Dingle Loop 0 miles, a rest day for my legs that felt like raw hamburger.
Day 7 Dingle to Tralee

Tralee to Dingle: happily took the train

30 miles / +1250 feet

Bikes on a train!

When it was all said and done, the route map looked like this:

Killarney-Tralee-GarminMap-2017

Wait, did you see that average speed?! I was clocking it in at a blazing 6.4 miles per hour average! When it was all said and done, the route map looked like this:

Honestly, I’m not a fast rider (after all, one of Cheeky’s core values is: If you can’t be fast, you still can look fast. So precautions were made and I wore my fastest looking socks throughout the trip). But 6.4 mph is significantly slower than my normal pace.

In fact 6.4 mph is darn-near fall off your bike slow!

There were a few occasions where I forgot to turn my Garmin computer off while stopped, so my little computer  logged a chunk of 0.0 mph speed while I was eating lunch, but it really doesn’t matter that much. I intended to take a slow pace on this trip. Why rush through this gorgeous landscape or pass up opportunities to meet some amazing Irish people along the way?!

Well all of that is true, but what I haven’t told you is this: because of my quick planning and because I’m a little bit of an idiot, there was A LOT more climbing than I expected.

Which brings us to our story for next time about a little phenomenon I like to call “Irish Flat.”

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Which bike should I buy? Part 1: Cruisers, Hybrids, Mountain bikes, Road and Touring bikes.

Have you looked at the huge selection of bikes out there and wondered where to even start? What are the different bike options available? Which bike would help you might meet your goals? Cruisers, Hybrids, Mountain bikes, Road bikes, and Touring bikes, oh my!

Today we are going to talk about these different types of bikes, and which could help you meet your goals.

What type of bike is right for me?

Cruiser/City

Hybrid/ Cyclocross Mountain Road

Touring

Riding paved and smooth surfaces

Yes

Yes Yes, less efficient on roads Yes

Yes

Riding paved and unpaved trails, grass or gravel

Yes

Yes Yes No

No

Trail riding, obstacles

No

No Yes No

No

Mileage/Distance

Low

Medium Low High

High

Speed

Slow

Medium Medium Fast

Medium

Commuting

No

Yes Yes, but less efficient on roads No

Yes

Comfort

High

High Medium Low

Medium

Handlebar style

Upright/Flat

Upright/Flat Flat Drop

Flat/Drop

Weight

Heavy

Medium Medium Light

Medium

Carrying loads

No

Light loads Yes, with some modification

No

Heavy loads

Let’s explore each of these categories of bikes in more detail:

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image from Amazon via https://bikesreviewed.com/cruiser/best-cruiser-bikes/

Cruisers/City bikes are great for casual riding, cruising on paved or smooth paths, and comfort. These are typically large bikes with limited gears and wide tires and an upright geometry geared for comfort. They tend to be heavier bikes and are great for shorter distance riding. When you’re riding a cruiser, you’re riding to see and be seen on a boardwalk, a park, or around town.

 

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Image from Amazon via https://bikesreviewed.com/hybrid/best-hybrid-bikes-2017/

Hybrid/Cyclocross bikes are designed for comfort by providing a cushy saddle, somewhat wider tires with smooth tread appropriate for paved trails or very light off-trail riding. These have flat or even upright handlebars and some even include a slight front suspension to increase a rider’s comfort. These bikes aren’t as heavy duty as mountain bikes, and are not as fast or efficient as a road bike, but are great for short distance commuting, general purpose riding and especially if you want to carry some small loads with you.

Cheeky Fun Fact: A hybrid bike was the gateway that lead me to road cycling today!

The hybrid bike I purchased from my local sports store was very comfortable, to sit on with its cushy seat, upright geometry and flat handlebars. I rode it everywhere around town and often rode it on a paved path to get to work, at the time this was a 5 mile ride each way. A 25-30 minute ride was the best way to start and end my work day!

My hybrid bike handled great on the paved path and because it had slightly wider tires with more tread it also handled well when the path had washed over with gravel, dirt and debris. Great for my goals at the time!

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Cheeky’s very first mountain bike – Giant Yukon SE from 2001

Image from BicycleBlueBook.com

Mountain bikes are great for trails and mountains. They have wider knobby tires for increased traction and stability on the trails. Mountain bikes are heavier than a hybrid or road bike, and many include shocks/suspension for absorbing all the bumps off-roading provides.

  • “Hardtail” mountain bikes include only front wheel suspension
  • “Full Suspension” bikes include suspension on the front and rear
  • “Rigid” mountain bikes don’t have any suspension
  • If a Mountain bike is calling your name, bikesreviewed.com offers up reviews for the best in 2017 Mountain bikes

Mountain biking is a ton of fun and requires a different mental skill set than road riding. You have to be alert to every coming obstacle while planning your next power burst or executing a quick turn on a sharp corner of a trail. Very different from riding on a long stretch of a smooth road on a road bike. It is utterly satisfying to complete a great trail ride, and you just feel like you can conquer the world!

In the area I went to college I had easy access to fun-to-ride fire roads and some seriously technical mountain biking trails too. My first mountain bike was a Giant Yukon SE that I saved and saved for. It was a hardtail beauty with disc brakes for quick stops.  It was perfect for my mountain biking needs for a long time. But after a bad crash, having the options of a 10 foot drop off on my right filled with sharp rocks or a barbed wire fence on my left, in which leaning left was an easy decision considering the alternative. I have since decided that I would focus on road riding as my main biking pursuit in the future. That said, Mountain bikers are total badasses!

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Cheeky’s very first road bike: a used 2001 Lemond, Nevada City

Image from BicycleBlueBook.com

Road bike – If you have a need for speed and want to ride some longer distances on a paved surface a road bike will be the bike for you!  Drop handlebars for increased aero-efficiency, The design puts the rider’s body at a more aggressive geometry than a hybrid and typically includes drop handlebars to further increase the aerodynamics.

I started with a hybrid bike, but after about 6 months of commuting back and forth on that hybrid I found that I wanted to go farther, to explore more of the routes and roads in my town, and I wanted to go faster! My goals had changed and my hybrid was no longer the best option to help me meet my need for speed! Speed being relative.

I sold my bicycle on commision through my local bike shop and found a second-hand aluminum framed road bicycle with drop handlebars that promised improved efficiency and speed! It was a beautiful blue 2001 Lemond Nevada City, that I lovingly christened  “the Lemond.” I was less creative with names back then.

I still love this bike, but it has since been loaned to a family member to get them rolling on their cycling journey.

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Image from BikeRadar.com

Touring Bicycle – A road bike that is designed to be a road-riding, heavy load carrying beast! In addition to drop handlebars and a lower gear range (which my Cheeky friends lovingly refer to as the turkey platter of gears rather than the normal dinner plate of gears a road bike offers. A larger range of lower gears means you can spin/pedal at a faster cadence which is easier on your knees and makes climbing hills more pleasant!) this bike has mounting points that can fit panniers/cargo racks and fenders. It is the bike you need for lugging heavy loads of gear up hills for the ultimate long distance, self-supported rides. Because a rider will be on this bike for days and days at a time, it offers a more relaxed geometry than the design of a road bike to keep a rider comfortable for the long stretches of distance riding. I definitely see one of these bikes in my future!

There is a world full of lovely bikes options that will help you get rolling. Identifying what your bike riding goals are will help steer you toward the bike that will meet your needs.

Cheeky’s next post, Step 2. Which bike should I buy? Part 2: Tips for bike buying will cover important tips to keep in mind when you’re looking to buy a bicycle, questions you should ask, and some of the benefits of working with a local bicycle shop rather than Craigslist for your purchase.

 

Cheeky’s Guide to Getting Started on your Bike: Step 1. Identifying your Bike Riding Goals

Today I am excited to kick off a new series called “Cheeky’s Guide to Getting Started on your Bike!”  

This series of posts will apply to you whether you are a not-yet cyclist, a beginner cyclist, or someone who just wants to pick your bike up again after a long hiatus. I’ve been in all three of those buckets.

I will detail out the Cheeky’s 8 steps to help you get in the saddle!

  1. Figure out your motivation and identify your bike riding goals.
  2. Which bike should I buy?
    • Types of Bikes
    • Tips for bike buying.
  3. What is a bike fit, and why do I need one?
  4. Riding safely: you need somewhere to ride.
  5. Do I really need cycling shorts? 
  6. Avoid the BONK! 
  7. What should I bring along when I ride?
  8. Listen to your body.

Now, let’s get rolling (see what I did there?!)!

Step 1:  Figure out your motivation and identify your bike riding goals: What kind of riding do you want to do?

We all have different reasons for getting on a bike, and in my opinion, any reason is a good reason if it gets you on a bike! Understanding what kind of riding you want to do will help you get started in the right direction with the right bike and having some goals for yourself can keep you motivated!:

What kind of riding do you want to do?

  • Low-key cruising for short distances
    • I’m only going to ride a few miles at a time and I am just cruising around my neighborhood. I’m not riding for speed or distance, I’m just cruisin’!
  • Riding for exercise and health
    • I want to get outside and get healthy!
    • I want to improve my endurance, balance, flexibility, stamina, and overall cardiovascular health on a bike.
    • I want to build muscle, burn calories and let my mind feel the freedom that two wheels can offer!
  • Bike Commuting instead of driving
    • I want to get out of my car! I’m interested in commuting to work on my bike.
    • I want to improve my fitness and maybe become less dependent on my car. I would like to explore something that will help me have an efficient and comfortable bike ride.
  • Mountain biking in the great outdoors
    • I am a badass and want to ride my bike in the dirt! Trails sound awesome to me. Maybe I’ll start on some fire-access roads that are packed dirt, but later in life I want to dodge rocks and tree roots and generally show off my absolute badassery.
  • Riding for distance or speed (or both!)
    • I’m thinking about signing up for my first charity ride. I like the idea of longer rides, maybe 50 or 60 miles at a time or more! Someday I might consider riding a century ride (100 miles!), but for now I know I want to log some miles!
    • Even if you can’t ride 5 miles yet, you can ride for distance too! If Cheeky did it, so can you!

Riding a bicycle is great for mind, body and spirit! Each journey starts with mile at a time and every time you get on your bicycle you grow as a cyclist. Now that you have an idea of what kind of cycling you want to do, the next step is finding the right bike to get you riding. This can feel a bit overwhelming, but fear not dear reader, Cheeky’s got your covered in Step 2: Which bike should I buy?

Cheeky’s first 545! Riding my bicycle from San Fransisco to Los Angeles in the AIDS/LifeCycle

Do you remember June 3rd, 2007?

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.

 

AIDS LifeCycle 2017 GarminMap
Cheeky’s Ride down the Golden State, AIDS/LifeCycle 2017

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)!

Top of No-Name hill
Cheeky at the top of no-name hill. I gave it plenty of colorful names.

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!

Spring has sprung!
Wild flowers blooming on the side of a country road.

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!

Cheeky Rides with a Purpose – World AIDS Day

ALC_WorldAidsDay_Web_20178Today is World AIDS Day.  

Today I am asking for your help.

  • Help end the isolation and stigma of those who live with HIV.
  • Help increase the resources available for education, prevention and care.
  • Help end the transmission of HIV.

In June of this year I rode my bicycle 545 miles as part of the 7-day cycling event called the  AIDS/LifeCycle. It was one of the most impactful experiences I’ve ever had. It was physically challenging, mentally exhausting, and at times heartbreaking. But it was always inspiring!

Over this past year together we raised $14,333.98 to help those living with HIV and AIDS. That is INCREDIBLE! Throughout my entire AIDS/Lifecycle experience I was continually humbled by your support, kindness and generosity. And something else happened that I didn’t necessarily expect. Over and over again, so many of you shared your memories and stories about your friends and family who died from AIDS. I will always be grateful that you shared this part of your life with me.

One story, of many, that comes to mind occurred in April. While at a friend’s BBQ I talking about the upcoming ride and a man my near my age, someone who I had only met in passing, shared with me a story about his lifelong friend from who died of AIDS in college. He said “It’s 2017. I can’t believe this stupid disease is still here.” 

I couldn’t agree more. So I have signed up to ride 545 miles again in 2018, for the 25th anniversary of the AIDS/Lifecycle. I will ride with the stories and memories you’ve shared with me, and I will ride to honor all of those people who have died from AIDS.

My goal is to raise $10,000 to help fund the life-saving services offered by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. But I can’t do it alone, so I’m asking for your help again.

$10,000 can make a HUGE difference! The services provided as a result of this event mean the world to those who receive them, and your support means the world to me!

Together, we can help end this stupid disease.

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The Cheeky Cyclist starts rolling!

Every Monday morning in the office when I’m heating up my oatmeal I’m asked, “What did you get up to this weekend?” Before I can respond, my co-workers add, “You went for a ride, right?”

Now that the weather is finally cooling off I’m out on my bike a lot more. It may not be a big ride, but I love getting out and seeing the outdoors from my saddle. My typical ride at the moment is about 30 miles on a Saturday or Sunday (weekend cyclist extraordinaire!) and it’s the highlight of my weekend, even when it’s hard (or really hard, or cold, or windy, or any other unpleasant descriptor).

So why do I love it? When I’m on my bike, I feel free! I love hearing the road and my tires connecting. I love the smells; the pine trees outside, someone cooking dinner, even the terrible smells (skunks fit this category nicely) because it reminds me what life is like outside my comfort zone. I love how empowering it is to know that I can transport myself to new locations just with my bike and my legs.  And I want everyone to experience this joy!

I believe every person should get to feel this freedom. And it doesn’t matter if we start large or small, weekend riders or seasoned experts, as long as we keep going.

I remember picking up my bike again after a long hiatus just two years ago and I could barely make it 3 loops around the flattest section of paved roads in town. Each loop was just a mile and I was huffing, puffing and nearly collapsed as I slogged through the last turn. It was humiliating! What happened to my sweet youth that let me roll freely without breaking a sweat? But I went back the next weekend. This time I left my pride at home and geared up with my snail themed socks (if you can’t be good, at least you can look good) and made it 6 loops. Slow and steady progress! We all have to start somewhere, the trick is to just start! And I kept at it, little by little, mile by mile. This past June I rode 545 miles from San Francisco to LA in a charity bicycle ride called the AIDS/Lifecycle. IT WAS AMAZING! And now, I’ve signed up to do it again in 2018!

I’ll be tracking my training and progress here, so check back for updates. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you – why do you ride?