Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Welcome back, Winter!

Temperature -6. Wind chill -13. Snow covering the ground. Can it really be April 30?? Today's ride to work was like a winter ride, only more so. 

Not really -- there wasn't quite enough ice. But it certainly didn't feel like the day before the first of May!


I wasn't prepared for this, either. When I left home the sun was shining, the temperature on our inside/outside thermometer said 0 C, and things looked pretty good. But as I drover west toward Edmonton, the sky became darker, I noticed snow on the side of the road, and the wind was fierce. By the time I reached my parking spot and hopped on my bike, it was snowing lightly, and by the time I reached 149 Street, the ground beneath me was white.

It was, as always, a good feeling to ride. My hands were cold, but my heart was warm. I don't know if it;s just me, but it makes me happy to see bike tracks on the ground, showing that someone else has gone before me. Today, it looked like 3 or 4 bikes. 

The ride home was better -- the wind was not so strong, the sky was blue, and I rode through the River Valley, thus avoiding traffic and lights. The multi-use path was clear, so it looks like that will be my route of choice from now on. In spite of appearances, that marks the start of spring.

When I arrived at my car, this is what I saw -- a new world from this morning!

Monday, April 29, 2013

If I can do this, I can do anything

That's what I said today as I commuted to and from work. 

The snow,rain and sleet were bad enough on the way TO work -- I arrived mud-spattered and damp, in spite of my rain jacket and pants, and the bottom part of my hair was dripping wet and full of dirt. Even after combing it out and rinsing it under the tap, it still felt kind of stiff. It was not one of my prettier days!

The ride home was another adventure. Driving snow and sleet assaulted my face. The temperature was +1, so not exactly balmy, and the wind had picked up to 50-70 km/hour. Trees were leaning threateningly over the road, and there were a few branches scattered here and there, to emphasize the danger. I was riding on my slick tires, and every time I braked I could hear a sort of squeaky sound that did not fill me with confidence. But I rode steadily and cautiously, and I made it without any mishaps. 
It was probably the hardest, most miserable ride I've had yet.

But I figure, if I can ride 15 kilometers in today's weather, 
I can do pretty much anything.

By the time I got onto the highway heading for home, I was in a different world. 
The sun was peeking through the clouds, the snow had stopped, and it looked like maybe there was hope after all.
Ah -- another spring day in Alberta!!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pride before the fall

Today we went into the city for church and then to the Good Buddy Chinese restaurant for lunch with Sons #1, 4 and 5.

When we got home I persuaded Hubby to come for a late afternoon bike ride with me. Although he doesn't enjoy it the same way I do, occasionally he accompanies me. Today was one of the better rides for him, as he used Son #5's new road bike.

We rode a little more than 30 km: straight north to the top of the hill, which is 13 km, west to what I call Deer Trail (I've seen deer there twice now) and then south back into town. The wind was from the south and pretty brisk -- around 30 km/hour -- but south is also mostly downhill, so that's not so bad.

I wore my cycling shoes and clipped them into and out of the pedals like a pro, stopping successfully perhaps 8-10 times along the way. Just as I was telling myself that maybe I would be the exception to the "everyone falls" rule, I came to the last light before our house. It was red and I stopped, but something went seriously wrong. My shoe didn't come out and I fell! Of course, as fate would have it, there was a lot of traffic in all directions, so it was pretty embarrassing. But I got up and hopped back on the bike, saw that the light was green, and took off across the intersection, clipping my shoes into the pedals as I went. My embarrassment was somewhat mitigated by the thought that at least I was on my bike and getting exercise, instead of sitting in one of those ubiquitous oversized gas-guzzling pickup trucks.

But that thought only somewhat eases the pain of my scraped and bruised knee and my bruised tailbone (I made contact with the nose of the saddle as I descended.) 

My yoga routine was more than a little painful tonight!

To add insult to injury, after we got back I took the dog for a 4.5 km walk -- and got rained on.Oh well, that means it's really spring.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Beating the storm

One of the first things I do each morning after pouring my first cup of coffee is click the weather page link on my cell phone. Today the red "warning" bar was at the top of the page -- a wind warning for afternoon winds of 60-90 km/hour. Also in the forecast were rain and a thunderstorm. Ideal cycling conditions? Not! So I left the house at about 8:00 to ride before the storm hit.

It was warm and sunny, perfect for riding. I did the GODOY ride, up to the top of the hills and down again. This time I tried to concentrate on keeping my cadence high -- I don't have a computer yet, so I don't know numbers, but I could see my short little legs spinning in the shadow beside my bike, and they were spinning, oh yeah. 

It was a busy day on the road -- a woman running, another woman pushing a stroller, a couple of other cyclists -- and more deer. This time I stopped to take a proper photo. There were three of them. This one stood watching me for awhile before running over to the others, and then they all took off flying.

The last couple of days, I've also seen two people riding mountain bikes. These are the first mountain bikes I've seen since I started my rides; all the other cyclists have been on road bikes. I know I'm probably fooling myself, but I'd like to think that maybe I inspired these people to ride. Until this week I, too, was using a mountain bike. I even used my winter bike, with its fat knobby tires, a couple of times. I always felt a bit odd when I saw riders glide past on their super-light road bikes and wondered if they were snickering at me, but I didn't really care. Cycling should be fun, and I was having fun -- and getting a good workout cranking out the kilometers on my heavy tank of a bike. So, it made me happy to see others out there riding for enjoyment, regardless of the kind of bike.

And here is something that makes me wonder... what is this driveway like in the winter? A couple of days ago I saw a kid get off the school bus and walk up the hill to his house. Good bit of exercise, no doubt. But, imagine driving up or down when it is covered with snow and ice. Imagine clearing the snow!

And one final bit of news -- after I returned from my 30 km ride, Hubby suggested I head over to our local bike shop and get clipless pedals installed. The same night I bought my new bike, we stopped at Value Village and I found a brand-new pair of Specialized brand cycling shoes in my size for about $10.00! It was too good a deal to pass up, so I bought them. But I didn't have the right pedals. So, I went to the bike shop.

ME: Do you have the dual pedals that can be used with or without cycling shoes? (I show him my shoes and tell him I haven't tried them yet.)
BIKE SHOP GUY: No, we don't carry those anymore.
ME: (hesitantly) So, I have to commit, I guess.
BIKE SHOP GUY: It's the right thing to do. Once you've tried it, you'll never go back.
ME: OK, I'll do it.

He was super nice and attached the new pedals for me, put the cleats on the shoes and gave me a free lesson in riding with them. It wasn't hard and I rode home without any incidents. Famous last words, right? He did warn me that everyone falls at one time or another, and of course it's usually at a red light when there's lots of traffic. I had to stop a few times on my way home and I clicked the shoes on and off just fine, but as they say, there's a first time for everything...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Oh Happy Day!

Just got back from a 50K ride on the new bike and it was great. Last night we made a few adjustments to the seat height and position, and that made all the difference. Today was windy: WSW 30-50 km/hour but I still made good time and I could really feel the speed once I turned east and hit the flat stretches. 

It was our first truly spring-ish day: a high of 15 and a beautiful blue sky with wisps of clouds. 

I inadvertently timed my ride so that my return trip coincided with school buses and parents bringing kids home from school, so traffic was much heavier than usual -- I won't make that mistake again.

All in all, a good ride on a good bike. (I began the day by phoning United Cycle to ask about their return policy on bikes. The customer service girl told me they have a 30-day return policy. I made sure she knew I've been riding the bike, but she said that was OK. So I felt good about giving it one more try before making up my mind. I'm glad I did!)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

new bike revisited

Another long country ride -- 50 K this time. And again, slower than I would like. 2 hours, 24 minutes. It was a little windy again today. When riding west, I had to pedal like mad to keep up my speed on the downhill stretches. I also changed my route a bit, coming home through the woods, which is a slower ride because of the many curves and meandering pedestrians. 

But still -- I can't believe that my old beater olive-green hybrid (we're talking maybe 15-20 years old) -- the bike we bought used at United Cycle for $200 -- is faster than my beautiful new matte-black-with-pink-accents Specialized Vita flatbar road bike, billed as "a speedy performer that can eat miles with the best of them..."

Maybe I should have known. I've often referred to my old bike as The Miracle Bike. We originally bought it as an extra bike, to use when one of our "good bikes" was being serviced or when we had a guest visiting. But when I had to use the spare bike, I found I liked it. The first thing I noticed was that it was fast. Riding it seemed almost effortless. And it was comfy. It was sturdy enough to handle racks and fenders and everything else I needed for riding to work. So, it became my bike. Not only my commuting bike, but my do-all bike. When I rode the 230 km Icefields Parkway last fall, I cruised up the hills with ease (well, relatively speaking -- we are talking mountains, after all) and at the end of the ride, I wasn't even sore. In fact, I've never experienced any soreness whatsoever on that bike.

I weighed the bikes today, stepping on the scale holding first one and then the other. The weights are not much different -- the old bike might be 1 kg heavier. So, the Vita is not a big improvement in that regard.

Also, I noticed that when pedaling the new bike, I feel as if I am pushing down more than forward. Not sure what that means. And to top it off, the fronts of my knees feel a little sore -- a problem I've never had with the old bike.

So, what do I do now? I'm not sure whether I can return the Vita to the bike shop and exchange it for something else. Maybe a full-fledged road bike? Or a lighter version of the flatbar road bike? Maybe I just need to make some adjustments to the seat height and position? 

Whatever the problem -- it's frustrating and disappointing.

But today was a good ride, nevertheless. I started out wearing my Under Armour winter long-sleeve top, a lightweight merino wool sweater and my Sugoi RX Zero jacket, as well as my Castelli Diluvio winter gloves. After the first 9K (all uphill) I had to stop and remove the merino layer and switch to my summer gloves.

At one point, right after I turned to start back to town, I saw three deer on the road in front of me. I should have stopped to take a proper photo instead of trying to ride and shoot at the same time. But I was trying to keep track of my speed and didn't want to stop. You can sort of see them...

And as I rode through the woods on the final stretch, I was pursued by three Dobermans. I've heard of this happening, but it was a first for me. If it weren't for the fact that people are required to have their dogs leashed in that area, I would have to say that they were beautiful dogs and it was kind of fun having them run alongside, But don't tell their owner I said that!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

new bike

After months of internet reading, bike-shop browsing and thinking about it, I finally bought a new bike. I'd decided I wanted a flatbar road bike and chose this one, the Specialized Vita.
I bought it at our fave bike shop -- United Cycle. We've been customers there for years and have always had excellent service. They have a large selection of bikes and their salespeople are generally knowledgeable and helpful.

United Cycle also featured in my ESL class a few months ago, when -- to put it nicely -- Lance Armstrong made headlines. CBC had a story about how the store was going to remove the Lance Armstrong mural from their store front. The students always appreciate reading news about Edmonton, and this article provided a local touch to an international news story. 

Back to the bike -- It felt good riding around the bike shop yard, but I was a little disappointed with my first long ride. 

My old bike, an urban hybrid with an aluminum frame and front suspension, is fairly light, but definitely more like a mountain bike or urban commuter than a road bike. I use it for commuting to work 4 days a week, I rode it 230 km on the Icefields Parkway, and I've been using it for my weekend rides on country roads. It's comfy and good on hills, but I was hoping to find something a little faster and better suited to long rides. I know that a road bike would be ideal, but I am nervous about the braking on the drop-style handlebars, so decided on the flatbar style. 

I also wanted to keep my initial investment to a minimum, in case I decide to upgrade next year. The Vita seemed like just the ticket. It looks good, too!

Yesterday, on my old bike, I rode 52 km in 2 hours, 14 minutes (this includes a few stops or slow-downs for traffic lights, turns, etc.)

Today I rode the new machine on the same route for about 49 km, but it took me 2 hours, 28 minutes. Now, it was pretty windy -- about 25-30 km/hour from the northwest. Even when I didn't have a headwind, I had a strong crosswind, which at times threatened to blow me into the ditch. During those periods, I worked hard to move at all. So maybe that's the reason for the slower speed. I also got a delayed start, as I set my GPS first and then decided to change my gloves. But even so, I felt a bit of a let-down when I looked at my results. 

The new bike is comfortable. The saddle is superb; I can't believe I didn't switch to this type of saddle sooner. The shifting seemed OK, although there was some clunking that will need to be attended to. Overall, it was a nice ride -- just slower than I expected and (big sad face) slower than my old $200 bike.

Aside from the wind, today was a lovely day to be out in the country: sunny and warm and signs of spring everywhere. I saw  flocks of migrating birds high above. A couple of red-tailed hawks circled over me, trying to decide whether I had any potential as a noon-day meal. A sandpiper called to me from a puddle in the ditch. 

And it seems to be helicopter training season at our local airport: both yesterday and today the sky was full of whirlybirds engaged in various activities. Yesterday one hovered over me in a rather threatening way -- I heaved a sigh of relief when it finally moved on.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

carpe momentum

Yesterday I was off work, so I slept in a bit, until 7:00. My plan was to start the day with a long country bike ride.

But yesterday was not a very nice day. When I got up and looked out the window, I saw that it was snowing. Big fat wet flakes. A fierce wind was blowing. I started laundry and wrote some e-mails. When I looked out the window at 10:00, it was still snowing. Bigger, fatter, wetter flakes. The wind was worse. I did Hubby's bookkeeping and worked on my session-end report. When I looked out at 12:00, you guessed it -- still windy; still snowing. Possibly the biggest, fattest, wettest flakes I'd ever seen.

I decided that I might have to give up the idea of a bike ride.

But at 5:00, as my son was packing for his overnight backpacking trip, I looked outside again. The wind was not quite so fierce. The sun was peeping through the clouds. Hmmm... maybe...

By 6:00 when the men departed for the backpackers' starting point, the sun was definitely out. The clouds had become thin and wispy. The snow had stopped. The wind was gentle. The temperature on our backyard thermometer said +7. Yes!!

I set out for my ride, thinking that I could at least do the Grand Old Duke of York ride, if not anything more. Accordingly, I rode to the highest point and then back down again. I saw an owl sitting atop a bare tree, seemingly asleep and waiting for the dark. I saw -- and heard -- the first robin of the season. I saw a bull, alone in a field, eyeing up everything and everyone that passed. I even saw another equally crazy dedicated cyclist.

It turned out that the precipitation hadn't quite stopped. In spite of the anemic-looking clouds overhead, a misty rain fell continuously. There was some mud under my wheels. But it was beautiful all the same.

As I crossed the highway to return to town, I saw another sight, this one not so welcome: three youths on quads and dirt bikes, riding up-and-down and on-and-off the highway on-ramp. Once I got across the highway, I stopped and somewhat hesitantly called the RCMP to report what I'd seen. If those were my kids, I'd want to know about it, I reasoned.

Later that evening, I received a call from an RCMP constable, thanking me for my call and saying that he had tracked down the kids and taken them home to their parents, who were going to deal with them.

I was happy -- for more than one reason -- that I'd seized the moment and gone for my bike ride.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

learn something new...

every day.

I'm a big fan of continuous learning -- and I proved it on Monday evening by learning to change a tire tube. I used instructions from this web site. Everything is explained pretty clearly -- except they forgot to suggest that one begin by taking the wheel off the bike. 

Fortunately I had my in-house handyman on standby and he told me about that important first step. It was a lot easier once I got the wheel onto the floor. After that things went quite smoothly. I did let Hubby inflate the tire using his compressor. I don't dig power tools and my hand pump was too slow for my liking.

On Tuesday I learned a new trick at work. I needed to make 15 photocopies of a 5-page handout. The last time I used the copier for a similar job, I noticed a little button that said "print sample set." It was too late to try it that time, but I tried it on Tuesday, and it does just what it says: prints a single copy of the handout so you can check everything before printing all 15 copies. Well, turns out even the administrator didn't know about that! She was pretty pleased to learn, too.

And today, I learned that even though the River Valley multi-use path may start out dry and clear of snow, it doesn't mean it will be that way to the end. I was riding joyfully along, so thankful that at last this route was in good shape, when I came to a large ice patch on the steepest part of the incline. I might have made it up if I had started on the right side of the patch, but I started in the middle and had to stop -- or fall. It was, so to speak, all downhill from there, and I ended up walking my bike through that uphill section and then through another similar section a bit further on. Everything was hunky-dory after that, but I don't think I'll try that route again in a hurry. Maybe in two weeks?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Grand Old Duke of York

Today I went for what I call my "Grand Old Duke of York" bike ride. Unlike the Duke, I do not have 10,000 men (probably a good thing) but when time is short I do like to ride "up to the top of the hill and ... down again." 

The day started miserably, with yet more snow, temperature hovering around zero and a nasty sort of fog hanging in the air. But by the time we'd eaten lunch, the sun was out and our backyard thermometer said +7. Well, that was too good to pass up, so I decided to head for the hills.

However, today is son #4's 21st birthday, and I'd promised to make him a carrot cake, so I knew my cycling time was limited. I decided I would ride straight north, up to the top of the hill and then back down again. Actually once I got to the top, I could not resist turning east and riding to the top of another hill, and then going west to the top of yet another, and THEN I finally headed down. 

It was a splendid day for riding, although the road was a little wet in spots. And then on the last downhill before heading back into town, I heard a pop. I slowed a little, wondering what had happened and then felt that all-too-familiar "thud" of my back tire going flat. I had ridden about 26 km, so that was not too bad, but still disappointing.

I was close enough to town that I simply called Hubby and asked for a ride, but this increased my determination to learn how to repair a flat. That is my goal for the next week or so. I'll bring my laptop down to the garage and watch as many "How to change a tire tube" videos as it takes.

And now to go and put the carrot cake in the oven.

What's in a word?

A couple of years ago, we were sitting around talking with a few other couples when one of the guys said, 
"Does anyone want to go for a bike ride this weekend?" 

Well, in my naivete, I thought he meant, you know, a bike ride, so I said, "Sure, I do." 

You can guess what kind of look I received in reply. 
"Oh," he said, eyeing me pityingly, "I meant motorcycles."

Of course. 
How could I possibly think that "bike" meant... well, that it meant bike? 
As in, short for bicycle?

The real question, of course, should not be:
How could I be so stupid
Why have motorcyclists been allowed to co-opt the term 'bike' to refer exclusively to their chosen means of transport?

 You could say that as an ESL instructor, I need to be something of a expert in language. But it doesn't take an expert to see that if you want to shorten the word "bicycle," it's natural to start with the first two letters. 
Hence, the term bike. This term has a noble history, dating way back to 1880.

Motorcycles became popular a little later. Too bad. But that's beside the point.
As much as I dislike motorcycles, I do sympathize with their users' wish to shorten the contraption's name. But shouldn't consistency dictate that the short moniker for motorcycle be "moke"? I mean, what's wrong with that?

"Let's go out for a moke ride tomorrow."
"Wanna go moking this weekend?"
"Are you a moker?"
"What kind of moke do you have?" 
I like that. No more confusion for those of us who ride non-motorized two-wheelers. No need to refer to ourselves as "cyclists," causing raised eyebrows from people who think we are being snobbish. 
And best of all, when two-year-olds who have trouble saying the initial "s" ask their moms, as my son once did, "Why do people 'moke?" the question acquires a delightful double meaning. And Mom can reply to both with a diplomatic but eloquent shrug of the shoulders.

Friday, April 12, 2013

the good news ... the bad news

The good news -- today was an absolutely gorgeous day
 perfect for a long ride on the country roads north of town. 
I rode about 53 km.

I forgot my camera, so I had to use the wholly inadequate camera on my BlackBerry to record what I saw. Most of the photos are even worse than this one, so they will not make an appearance. 

This partially thawed pond, with the sun shining on the open water and on the varied colours of bare trees, was a breath-taking sight. 
It looked like an oil painting.

 A little later, as I was riding along the Muir Lake Park road, I heard a noise in the woods beside the road. A dog, I thought, and turned to look. 
But no, there were four deer!
Before running for cover into the denser wood, 
they stood for a while and watched me, 
no doubt impressed with my bright pink cycling jacket.

My phone camera didn't come close to taking a decent pic, 
but they were spectacular, as deer always are. 

And then, as I was riding back to town, 
I saw a thawing slough covered in geese, 
with more and more geese landing every minute.
Looks like spring, right?

Ah yes, that brings me to the bad news:
More snow is in the forecast!
A snowfall warning, in fact -- about 15 cm expected tonight and tomorrow.

Monday, April 8, 2013

does size matter?

You bet it does -- at least when it comes to puddles. 
I rode across numerous puddles, frozen and wet, today on my way to and from work. 
Which do you think I would rather ride across...

this slender, efficient, gently flowing one, in a parking lot:

 ... or this lifeless but swollen one, on a shared sidewalk?
(i.e., a path specifically made for pedestrians and cyclists to use)

Call me crazy, but I did try to ride across the big one. The top was frozen, and I made it almost to the end before the ice cracked under my back wheel, my front wheel spun out and I almost toppled over. I just managed to keep my balance and stay dry...

It was ironic, really, as on the weekend I'd been telling Hubby, who so graciously maintains my bicycles for me, that the big knobby winter tires he chose are amazing -- 
Even though I've ridden across all shapes and sizes of ice patches this winter, 
I've had only a couple of close calls. 

Today I nearly wiped out not once, not twice, but three times!           

But I lived to tell the story, and as always, I'm glad I cycled to work.

When I arrived, some of my students told me the temp was -14 C with a wind chill of -17. They were quite impressed that I had ridden my bike on such a frigid day.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Three minutes, thirty-five seconds

That's how long it took me to ride my bike home from Superstore yesterday. I figure it would have taken me that long by car just to get through the parking lot!

I had 3 bags of groceries stuffed into my panniers -- a bag of oranges, a box of strawberries, 4 500-gm containers of yogurt, 2 litres of milk, a box of cereal, and a few other things.

No-cost travel, plus an extra bit of exercise. No time wasted. How can you go wrong?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Girls on bikes

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
Susan B. Anthony

I'd like to see her on a bike!!
More than 100 years later, women still cycle less than men. Does this surprise you? It did me. I’d never really thought about it, but if asked I would have said that cycling is an equal-opportunity activity. After all, I’ve always ridden a bike – both for transportation and for recreation.

I had a rough start to cycling, truth be told. The bike my parents had purchased for me was a bit too big, so I learned to ride on my younger brother’s bike. For some reason, neither of our bikes had training wheels. Maybe back then people didn’t use them. I started out with my dad holding the back and running alongside. When he thought I had the hang of it, he let me go on my own. I had the hang of riding, all right, but apparently I didn’t have a clue about braking, and ran smack-dab into a school bus parked down the street. You can use your imagination to finish the story. It was not pleasant. I cried, but I got right back on the bike, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

All through high school and university I rode my ten-speed almost everywhere. I had a car (a $400 1965 Dodge Polara) and I used it, too, but during the spring, summer and fall, I mostly rode my bike.

When my children were small, I continued to ride. I always had a child seat on the back of my bike, and often I carried a baby in a front carrier as well. I rode for fun and I rode to the grocery store, to the library, to church and to aerobics classes. Cycling just seemed to me the most practical and natural way to travel.

When my youngest son was in kindergarten we bought a Trail-a-Bike and until ice covered the ground, this is how we got to school. (We walked in winter.)

But through all these years of riding, it never occurred to me that I was almost always the only one. The only girl my age who rode a bike all the time.

Looking back, however, I realize that’s how it was.

So, I guess the results of the City of Edmonton cycling survey should not have come as a surprise: 

The largest demographic group who responded to the survey was male cyclists between the ages of 31 and 50 years old. The largest group of female cyclists consisted of the age group between 21 and 30 years old. It is noted that while the number of male cyclists who completed this survey grows or remains steady after age 30, the number of female cyclists steadily declines. (http://www.edmonton.ca/transportation/2005-2006_BicycleUserSurveyResults.pdf)
After reading this, I did some googling about women and cycling. Maybe it’s just Edmonton, I thought. But no. It seems that throughout North America, from Vancouver to Toronto, from Seattle to New York City, men on bikes outnumber women by as much as three to one.

Various explanations are posited, with fashion and safety concerns seeming to dominate. Women don’t like to wear cycling clothing and get all sweaty, and women want to feel safe. I get it on both counts.

Girls just want to look good. I do, too. Although I am fit and athletic and place a high priority on an active lifestyle, I am at heart a girly girl. I have long hair, I paint my toenails, I like fashionable clothing, and I feel a deep sense of disappointment whenever I can’t find a pink version of my favourite toothbrush.

For years I cycled without a bicycle helmet because of what it did to my hair. Then I realized the harsh truth – my hair isn’t that great, no matter what. It’s long and baby-fine and wavy, and if I wear it in a braid under my helmet, after I brush it out, it looks about the same as it would look if I carefully curled it in the morning and then drove to work. So, I decided to suck it up and accept my hair for what it is.

As for clothing, I like the idea of cycling in regular clothes. But for me, it generally doesn’t work. My ride is 7 or 8 km on dusty, often rain-slick, city streets and if I wear my work clothes, I can arrive at work looking like I was out playing in the sandbox or in the rain puddles. Sometimes I’ve looked down to see big grease marks on my pant leg. I’ve decided it’s worth it to dress for the task.

In winter I wear my regular work clothes – typically three layers: a silky cami top, a merino wool or cashmere pullover sweater, and either a blazer or a merino or cashmere cardigan. Then, depending on the temperature, I might put on my pink Sugoi “RS Zero” jacket for warmth, along with my MEC supermicroft wind-and-water proof jacket on top of everything. If it’s a little warmer, I wear just the MEC jacket.

On my legs I wear thin long underwear, either cotton or lined woolen pants, and over these a pair of reflective water-resistant running pants. When I arrive at work, I simply peel off the outer layers and I’m ready to go.

In warm dry weather, I sometimes live dangerously and cycle in my work pants. Slim-legged crops are fine as they are; wider-legged pants are secured with elasticized straps to prevent their getting caught in the chain. If I want to wear a skirt for work (as I frequently do in the summer) or on rainy days, I wear cycling shorts or tights and change at work. 

A hot summer day, hair in a bun
If it’s a cool morning, I often wear my work shirt or blouse under a lightweight cycling jacket. On my way home and on warmer mornings, I typically wear a cycling jersey and put my work top in my pannier. The cycling jersey is worth the bother for several reasons. On warm days, I sometimes get a little sweaty. Also, my normal work tops, which are fine for work activities, tend to gape at the neckline when I lean over the handlebars of a bike. I hear there are men out there who enjoy looking down women’s tops, and I try not to cater to them. And, finally, because I ride on city streets, often in heavy traffic, I strive for maximum visibility. My cycling jerseys, in colours not found in nature, ensure that drivers can’t miss seeing me.

All this might sound like a lot of bother. But, really, if you live in Edmonton and go anywhere in the winter, you have to bundle up. My co-worker wears snow pants for her 15-minute commute by car. When I take the bus, I notice people wearing as many layers as I wear for cycling – after all, they have to walk to and from the bus and often wait 15 minutes at the bus stop.

In warmer weather, it’s just a matter of changing from my cycling jersey into my work top – maybe a 30 second operation. I use the handicapped stall of the washrooms as a change room; there’s plenty of space and a large, almost full-length mirror. Sometimes I have to wash my face and reapply make-up; since I don’t wear a lot, this is not a problem. I gave up on mascara and simply curl my lashes. I’ve considered having them dyed… maybe someday. Once you become a committed bicycle commuter, I think priorities shift slightly.

I’ve always tried to avoid being photographed, but since I started teaching ESL, I’ve been in front of students’ cameras more than I’d like. Ironically, even though my look these days could be summarized as “bicycle commuter,” I’ve been pleasantly surprised, on viewing the photos, to find that I don’t look nearly as bad as I expect. 

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