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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Advice Needed: Spinning my wheels

Rain, Rain, Go Away.

This is the 3rd Saturday in a row of training rides that have been rained out, and I’m starting to feel the crunch against my training plan for my 545 mile ride from San Fransisco to LA this coming June (the Ride to End AIDS!). So I did the unthinkable (for me).

I went to Spin Class.

Spin Class is an incredible workout! It is hard, effective for training, and I hate everything about it. Not just a mild dislike, but a full on 60 minutes of loathing.

I love riding my bike because I get to be outside, to see nature, feel the breeze, hear the sounds of birds chirping and the wind rustling tree leaves. I get to make friends with nature! The fact that I can propel myself somewhere brings me a sense of incredible freedom and joy.

Spin class takes all those wonderful things about bike riding and shoves it outside the gym doors.

  1. IT’S HARD. I get that this is the point. But if we are being honest, I never work as hard as i do in spin class on a normal ride.
  2. NO COASTING. This makes me so sad. If you stop pedaling your bike in spin class, your computer/metrics-counter and the wheel just flat-out stop. There is no hum of a tire coasting on the road to celebrate your past efforts. Just the sound of silence (not in a pleasant Simon and Garfunkel way either).
  3. YOU DON’T GO ANYWHERE. All that sprinting and you end up right where you started.
  4. YOU’RE INSIDE A GYM. No nature to take in, no sights to see except my own ugly, exercise face in a huge mirror. Could we at least point the bikes toward a window?

I will admit that the music was cool today. Mardi Gras themed Zydeco music for the occasion. So there was my silver lining.

Anyway,  tell me, guide me, teach me please! How do you motivate to get through spin class when the rain clouds are around?

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.

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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.

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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!

Cheeky’s First Liebster Award!

Liebster 2017

Wow! Wow! Wow!

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

Vesna’s Questions:

  1. 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!
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. What 3 words describe you best?  How about 3 descriptors: An eternal optimist, lover of puns and wordplay, and coffee addict.
  9. What advice would you give your 18 years old self? Change is constant, exercise your soul-of-flexibility.
  10. What makes you happiest? Riding my bike, and drinking coffee. Best when they can happen together!

My questions:

  1. Why did you start blogging?
  2. How do you get inspiration to create your blog posts?
  3. What is your favorite dessert that everyone should try?
  4. What is your favorite memory?
  5. What is your favorite book or series and why?
  6. What is your favorite way to prepare an egg?
  7. Where do you want to travel most, but you’ve never been?
  8. What is your top blogging tip for others?
  9. What is your spirit animal?
  10. 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:

Thank you again to everyone for all your support in this journey!

Ride on!

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?