Sunday, June 30, 2013

conflicting goals

When it comes to cycling, I have a few goals. 

Two of them are seriously conflicting: 1) to increase my average speed, and 2) to ride up as many hills as possible. What this means is that I have to work to increase my speed on every hill I ride up. 

The hills of Roller Coaster Road are especially good at fulfilling Goal #2 but sabotaging Goal #1. Each time I ride north on this hill, I ride up 5 or 6 very steep, though rather small, hills. I start each hill pedaling fast and going at a good speed, but by the time I reach the top I look down at the computer and see a dismal 14.5 or 15.2 on the "current speed" line. Okay, I tell myself, I'll go faster on the next hill. And I pedal like crazy, watching the current speed readout climb to 32 or even 38, only to see it fall rapidly as I reach the steepest part. 

Oh well, I figure it's a good workout, and getting a good workout is also one of my goals. And if I manage to climb a hill without switching to the middle ring, I've accomplished another goal, which is to eventually be able to climb all the hills around here in the big ring. Even the big hill. Today I did the first part in the middle ring, but switched back to the big ring for the last part. That was a satisfying feeling and I kept my speed at no less than 20 km/hour for most of the climb,

Another of my goals is to ride both a metric century and a regular century this summer. I've been looking at maps and trying to decide on a route for each. I've ridden 71.48 km without stopping, and I rode over 100 km on one day last fall on the Icefields Parkway, so I don't think 100 km will be too hard. 100 miles might be a different story; I'm sure I'll need to stop a couple of times, but I'm confident I can do it. 

The really hard part might be to persuade someone to ride with me. 

the ultimate ride

Today was a wonderful, marvelous, fantastic, superb, words-fail-me kind of bike ride. Conditions were favourable in every way: warm (22 degrees) but not too hot; mostly sunny, with enough clouds to break up the relentless glare; no wind to speak of; light traffic. In short, a cyclist's dream. 

I rode 53+ km and worked hard to keep my speed up -- at the end of the ride I was pleased to see that my average was over 26 km/hour -- this includes slowing and stopping for traffic lights and stop signs, and climbing several large and many small hills.

I began by riding up North Hill to Airport Road.
When I stopped at the turn-off to the the airport to check my speed, I was happy to see 27.8 km/hour on my GPS screen. All right!

Around the airport, the land is flat and the sky is huge:
Riding west from the airport, there are a couple of good climbs. Just after the big climb, I was passed again (4th time in 4 rides) by a skinny strong guy on a skinny, stripped-down steel-framed bike. No frills; just him and the bike. I don't think he's taken the Overtaking Middle-aged Women Etiquette course, or maybe he just hasn't yet perfected his foreign accent or thought of any good lines, because he merely gave me a friendly smile and wave as he passed. He wasn't going super fast, and once he was a safe distance ahead of me, I increased my speed in order to keep the same distance between us. This makes me feel better about getting overtaken.

After I hit the turn-around point, just before the north-south highway, I rode to Roller Coaster Road, where I engaged in some self-torture by climbing all those hills, jiggling all the while on the bumpy pavement, until I reached the top where the pavement ends. The hills here are small and steep and just as you reach the top of one, you see that there is another of the same ilk right in front of you. I haven't counted them, but there must be at least 5 or 6. 

Back down (or up and down) again, with more bone-mass-building opportunity on the rough pavement, and along Lilac Lane, where the smell from the lilac hedge is simply heavenly. 

Finally, back to North Hill, where I headed south and into town. Once, when the wind was at my back, I achieved a speed of 56.3 km/hour going down the biggest hill on this road. Today my maximum was 52.
Is it any wonder I love it so much up here?

Friday, June 28, 2013

soaking up the sun

Today might have been my best ride yet. The weather was sunny and warm -- 20 degrees -- with just enough of a breeze to keep things cool, but not sufficient to significantly hamper my speed.

I rode 52.5 km in right around two hours. I decided to take a chance on the road straight north of town -- the one where the heavy-duty construction was underway last weekend. The construction is finished, and not only that, but they actually cleaned up the mess they'd made, removing the chunks of tar and bits of gravel and mounds of dirt. I don't know how they did it, but I was pleasantly surprised. This road has three decent-sized hills, which I really love riding up, so I was happy to do that again today. Next I rode to the airport and then up the big hill and onto Deer Trail. I rode west as far as Roller Coaster Road and took that north, climbing up and up, roller coaster style, until I reached the "Pavement Ends" sign. Turned around and rode back, mostly downhill this time. Then back to the main road and into town.

On my way north I saw a deer standing on the road. He (yes, it was a buck) was in the shadows and when I saw him my first thought was, "A deer." A second glance and I thought, "No, it's a fallen tree or something." A third look confirmed that it was indeed a deer. Unfortunately, just then a car came along, frightening him off into the bush. The car driver shared an appreciative smile with me, making me feel less antagonistic about his scaring the deer away.

rules for overtaking a middle-aged woman riding a bike that is clearly inferior to yours...

OR: The Dale Carnegie Cycling Etiquette Course summarized 

I got passed again today riding west along Airport Road. This is getting to be a habit; it's the third time in three rides. 

All three riders were fit males on expensive-looking road bikes, so I had no reason to feel ashamed, but I am convinced they all graduated with honours from the above-mentioned program.

The basic tenets of the program seem to be as follows:
1) sneak up on the woman
2) pass her slowly and make some sort of complimentary remark or gesture. This can be sweetly condescending or matey.
3) perfect a foreign accent. Any accent will do, but Dutch, English and French are preferred
4) ride in front of her for a while, allowing her to benefit from your drafting prowess
5) take off!

Here is how the men I encountered put their training into practice:
Guy #1 -- takes a l-o-n-g time to catch up to me. When he does, he smiles and says in a charming Dutch accent and a respectful tone of voice, "You're doing pretty good on dat bike." (I was riding Miranda, my refurbished mountain/hybrid bike, that day.) Rides in front of me for a stretch and then takes off to pass another unwary rider.

Guy #2 -- swift and silent. Appears suddenly out of nowhere in the middle of a climb. I jump. "Sorry about dat," he says in a possibly-Spanish accent. When I realize that I, too, can go faster up this hill and step up my pace so that I am keeping a consistent, though significant, distance behind him, he looks back a few times, as if in amazement. When I ride past him on the flat, while he is stopped for a water break, he gives me the thumbs-up and a big smile.

Guy #3 -- again appears out of nowhere. Says a cheery "Good morning." Upper-class English accent this time. "You were effing packing a blooming good pace on that hill. I had to work my butt off," he adds. Except that he doesn't say effing, blooming or butt.** Slows down, rides in front of me for quite a distance, allowing me a good view of the see-through portion of his cycling shorts. Eww. When we hit the really big hill, he gives it all he's got and speeds up, leaving me in the dust. I haven't decided yet whether I should feel insulted or honoured that he addressed me like one of the blokes. Then again, maybe he didn't -- maybe he moderated his language for my sake.

** Incidentally, this is the first and only time anyone has sworn at me while I was riding my bike.

another windy day

Thursday was windy again. I put Miranda and Hubby's new bike into the van and drove to 118 Avenue and 95 Street to meet #4 Son, whose car was in the shop, and we went for a bike ride, another attempt to figure out a route from Callingwood to downtown.

This ride involved several firsts for me:
  • riding with #4 Son:
  • riding in the Boyle Street, McCauley and Alberta Avenue neighbourhoods
  • riding on the "Rail with Trail" bike path that runs alongside the LRT
  • seeing grafitti-in-progress along this trail
  • riding on the on-street bike route along 97 Avenue between 149 and 163 Streets
  • crossing the Whitemud on  a pedestrian overpass:
  • riding through the Chinatown Gate:
It was a good ride, involving a sampling of many interesting sights. There were several representatives of the 118 Avenue demographic also riding bikes along the LRT trail. A couple of them apparently were not sure where they were going or how they would get there, and they held up traffic as they wove their way in and out of lanes. I think they wondered what #4 Son and I were doing, stopping at the light and complacently waiting our turn instead of meandering out into the street.

When we left the LRT trail, we rode through downtown and into the River Valley along my normal route. As usual there was some bone-mass-building, body-jarring action on the Fortway Road hill's potholes, crevices and bumps.

The River Valley has recovered nicely from the flooding earlier in the week. I was happy to see that.

Once through the McKinnon Ravine, we exited at Crestwood. At 149 Street, instead of continuing west on 100 Avenue as I usually do, we turned left and then right and serendipitously ended up on the signed on-street 97 Avenue bike route. This is a beautiful route on a wide, nicely paved, low-traffic street with few or no stop signs.

At 163 Street this bike route ends, but it's an easy jaunt over to another residential street and a short ride to 165 Street, where we turned left and rode until 87 Avenue. Here we met up with a bike/bus route so we rode on that to the mall, where we crossed 87th and followed a multi-use pathway to the pedestrian overpass. A short ride took us to my chosen Callingwood parking spot,

I was ready to turn around, but #4 Son said that since he had ridden so far, he had to go a little farther and visit his niece. So, we called #2 Son and Daughter-in-Law to make sure they were home and rode the 2 km to their place. Little Grandaughter was as cute as ever, crawling and sitting alone, smiling and laughing.

We rode back on the city streets, #4 Son pleading with me to be allowed to avoid climbing the hills we had ridden down a couple of hours previously. I reluctantly gave in, and we rode a good part of the way on the 102 Avenue bike route. This has got to be one of the stupidest bike routes in existence, with its frequent 4-way stops and excruciatingly long-lasting red light. The road was busy and slow, and I was not sorry to see the Chinatown Gate and quieter streets ahead.

It was a gorgeous day, with the temp in the mid-twenties and sunny skies. The wind was strong, but of course in the city it's not as daunting, so all in all it was an excellent 40 km ride.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

west wind to the rescue

About a week ago, I heard a meteorologist say that part of the reason we've had so much rain lately is that instead of the prevailing west wind, the wind has been from the east, meaning that the storms and rain clouds are blown towards the mountains and trapped in this area, just west of the mountains. She said that once the wind changed to a west wind, the weather would improve.

That change has occurred at last! On Tuesday evening, as we were driving home from the city after an all-day rain, I noticed that the clouds were moving east -- in other words, the wind was from the west. And we finally have clear skies and warm temperatures again.

On Tuesday, as hinted above, it rained literally all day. I didn't ride my bike at all. If I'd been working, I would have ridden to work despite the rain, but since I didn't have to go anywhere, I didn't. I felt pretty lazy, but I figure it's okay to skip a day occasionally.

Wednesday was windy, so much so that I was afraid to ride on the country roads. On Monday while I was riding east, a gust of wind came from the north and actually swept me sideways. That was scary. But the wind that day was nothing compared to yesterday. So, on Wednesday, after taking Maggie for a 7K morning walk, I rode Miranda around the town. I took the long way to the library, and as I rode north I was swept sideways three times by that mighty west wind. When I arrived at the library, a man who was sweeping the sidewalks asked me whether I'd had to pedal at all, or whether the wind simply blew me along. Yes, it was windy all right. From there I rode west as far as I could, then back to the trails and up to Superstore, where I loaded up on fruit and vegetables. My total distance was about 20 km, so not too bad for an in-town ride. Hubby and I also took Maggie for another walk in the evening, so I made sure to get plenty of exercise.

Monday, June 24, 2013

a reluctant ride

I have the week off -- meaning more time to ride my bike each day. Yet for some reason this morning I didn't feel like riding. It was a beautiful morning -- sunny and warm and not windy -- but I had trouble getting motivated. I put on my riding clothes, got my bike out, put on my shoes, set the GPS on my phone -- and then went back into the house. I was just about to change into regular clothing when I thought the better of it. After all, I have never regretted going for a ride. Not even the time I fell and hurt my tailbone. 

So I went back downstairs, got the bike out again and took off before I could change my mind. And of course, I'm glad I did.

I rode a total of 48.87 km, according to Map My Ride, but it was more like 51 km according to the computer on my bike. I'll settle for 50-ish.

Roller Coaster Road -- looking south
Again trying to avoid the construction on my usual road north, I started my ride by going west on the service road to Roller Coaster Road, where I turned right (north.) This road goes straight uphill to meet Lilac Lane. The irregular pavement on this road reminded me of the Fat Jiggler machine (ice) I rode on during the winter. Funny -- I had just read about how cycling on rough roads is better for osteoporosis prevention than riding on smooth pavement. I pictured a nice big addition to my bone mass as I felt my body shake.

No doubt thanks in part to the bad paving job, there is little traffic on this road and the rolling hills make it a fun ride.

Roller Coaster Road -- looking north
After this I rode on the E-W secondary highway, down the big hill and up to the top of the next hill, where the beautiful pond lies on both sides of the road. Here I turned around and rode down and then up to the top of the big hill. I try to do this hill sequence on every ride; it's a good workout and fun, too.

I rode back down towards town on Roller Coaster Road for some more fat-jiggling, bone-building action.

Maybe tomorrow I'll go back to my usual road; I'm hoping the construction is finished. And today a crew was setting up for construction on the E-W secondary highway. As one of my students loves to say, "In Edmonton there are only two seasons: winter and construction." However, I can't complain about anything in my life when I think about the people in High River and Calgary as they cope with the aftermath of the flooding.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

.01K short

Today's ride was almost 70 km -- 69.99 to be exact. I laughed when I saw this figure on my Map My Ride page. If only I'd known, I think I could possibly have managed that additional .01 km. Oh well, I don't mind rounding up occasionally.

I avoided the construction north of town today and, heading east to another range road instead, I had the fun of climbing an as-yet-untried hill. I love looking ahead to a hill I've never ridden up before and wondering whether it is easier or harder than it looks. This one was easier; in fact, riding up this hill, unlike my usual route, does not rate as a climb on the Map My Ride web site.

From here I rode on Deer Road and Lilac Lane to the N-S secondary highway, making a brief detour north to ride up and down the small, steep hills on Roller Coaster Road. Riding south and downhill, I clocked 42 km/hour on my bike computer. This road looks just as interesting to the south, but like (and unlike) Robert Frost, I decided to keep that road for another day, certain that I would one day be back

As I resumed riding west on Lilac Lane, I watched the butterflies enjoying the lilac hedgerow.

And a few wheel turns later, I spotted a deer venturing out onto the road just ahead of me. I slowed down, hoping for a chance at a photo, but just then a car came and scared it away.

On the N-S secondary highway I rode north to the E-W secondary highway, turning around at the seniors' lodge near the village. On my way west, as I climbed the first hill, I was passed (two days in a row!) by a really fast guy on a road bike. I don't know if it's possible to sleep while riding a bike, but if it is, that's what I had been doing. But when I saw Speedy Gonzales whiz past me, I woke up, decided that I was going too slow and picked up my pace, maintaining a fairly consistent distance behind him from then on, even up the big hill. It seems that sometimes I need a little motivation to get my legs moving.

To avoid riding through the construction area on my way home, I decided to head south on the N-S secondary highway. This was a first for me and I was pleasantly surprised at the wide shoulders and good pavement. It is mostly downhill, too. Just before the highway, I turned onto a service road heading east and then north onto another mystery road, past a small cemetery. It turned out to be the southernmost section of Roller Coaster Road. From there, it was east along another service road and back to town. 

Throughout my ride, I had some trouble clipping out of my right pedal. The left was fine, but the right is obviously too tight. I can see a difference between the two, so tomorrow I'll get the bike shop guy to make the adjustment -- no more trying to do it on my own! I can manage okay clipping out on the left, but it isn't as comfortable or as natural.

I saw a few cyclists on mountain bikes again today. One woman even had a basket on her handlebars. 

It was gorgeous weather -- around 18 degrees and mostly sunny. I saw numerous hawks, and the ponds once again were lively with various types of ducks. I feel so lucky to have such a beautiful and safe cycling route so close to home.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

commuter bike hits the open road

This morning dawned sunny and warm, so I decided to set out for a bike ride first thing. Since it had been awhile since I rode my road bike, I took a short spin down the block to make sure I hadn't lost the knack of clipping out of the pedals. The right one was still tight. I had tried to loosen it a couple of weeks ago, but I'm not sure I did it properly. I tried again today -- and did exactly what the instructions warn people NOT to do -- made it too loose so that the little red piece fell out. It was too early to go to the bike shop, which doesn't open till 10 a.m., so I ended up taking Miranda, my commuter bike, for a long spin: 55 km on the hills north of the city.

I rode straight north of town and was dismayed to find that they are doing some very messy construction on the first hill. The shoulder, and in fact, the entire road surface, is littered with loose gravel and bits of tar, mounds of dirt, and other hazards. It was OK going up, although I did have to stop for the truck to turn, but going down on the way home was another story -- brakes all the way. I hope they clean this up once the work is finished, but I have my doubts.

All was good after this spot. I took a left at Deer Road and then another left towards the N-S secondary highway. As I was heading west, I glanced to my right and saw a narrow paved road with some interesting looking hills. I passed the road, but then the temptation was too much: I love hills. So, I turned around and headed north and up, up, up. Everything is so green and lush after all the rain we've had.

looking north

As I climbed, I suddenly realized that I didn't know what road I was on. What if something happened and I had to call for help? How would I tell Hubby or Emergency Services where I was? They might have to use triangulation to find me. Fortunately nothing happened before I came to a sign informing me of the range road number I was on. Continuing in the fortunate vein, nothing happened after that either. But as Teenage Son, who learned about "prepping" in Outdoor Ed class, would tell you: it never hurts to be prepared.

The hills were as much fun as I anticipated -- three or four of varying sizes and steepness, and the scenery was pretty, too. I've christened this road Roller Coaster Road.

looking south
looking east

When I came to this sign,

notwithstanding my success on the gravel-surfaced hill yesterday, I decided to turn around and headed back to the main road, where I saw this breathtakingly beautiful hedgerow of lilacs which must have been planted by a farmer with poetry in the soul: 

And with a nod to my once-beloved Nancy Drew books, I named this road Lilac Lane.*

From the N-S secondary highway, I turned onto the E-W secondary highway and rode as far as the airport. At this point, my butt was too sore to keep going (thanks to the wide saddle on my commuter bike) and besides, the road east from there to the village is flat and boring. So I turned around. First I stopped at the airport road for a quick drink of water and when I looked at my phone GPS (no computer on this bike) I was pleased to see that my speed, even on the mountain bike, and even with all the photo stops, was 24.7 km/hour.

The pond was at its best today, glittering in the sunlight, and busy with various ducks and other birds. 


Ruddy Duck

Red Wing Blackbird

What a gorgeous day for a ride! Apparently other people shared my sentiments, because the roads were busy with cyclists of all stripes. 
Men and women. 
Road bikes and mountain bikes. 
Fast and slow. 
Slim and fat. 
Young and old. 

It made me especially happy to see a rather overweight twenty-ish gal on a mountain bike, bringing up the rear in her little group, but cresting the highest and hardest hill with a big smile on her face. This is cycling at its best -- anyone can do it, on any sort of bicycle, at any speed. And it makes one happy.

I got passed (a first on those roads) by a fit older man on an expensive-looking road bike. As he passed, he said in a charming Dutch accent, "You're doing pretty good on that bike." I know, he probably says that to all the women he passes, but it made me feel good anyway. He was behind me for quite some time, so I think he had to work a bit to overtake me. And when I noticed him pass another cyclist who was riding ahead of us, also on a road bike, I concluded that he is obviously no slouch.

Later in the day I rode my road bike to the bike shop and received some bad news -- I'd ruined the pedal. I made the snap decision to plunk down $75 for a new pair; they are slightly different and seem to be a bit better design. Here's hoping. This was an expensive, but thoroughly-learned lesson.
At the shop there was a guy looking at bikes. Apparently he found one he liked, because half an hour later when I was walking with Maggie to Superstore, I saw him ride past, sporting the happy cyclist's trademark big smile.

* the purist in me compels me to note that the Nancy Drew books refer to Lilac Inn and Larkspur Lane, so this road's name is an amalgamation of the two stories.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Down in the valley

First day of Summer:

I rode about 35 km, mostly in the River Valley. On Mondays and Thursdays I stop in at my son and daughter-in-law's place in Callingwood to pick up and drop off Zoe's laundry. Of course, every time I go there, the cyclist in me wonders whether I should park in that area and ride to work from there. The big question is: what route would I take? 

I checked on Google maps and got a suggested route, so Hubby and I decided to check it out. He had to pick up our new vehicle from Derrick Dodge, and we were meeting Oldest Son downtown for lunch, so we drove in with the bikes in the back of the minivan, parked in Callingwood and started riding. Google maps told us to go to Wolf Willow, through the ravine to Patricia Heights and then north to the McKinnon Ravine. Well, we found a path into the ravine from Wolf Willow, but it was gravel and a very steep downhill, culminating in some stairs. Not good news for someone on a slick-tired commuter bike laden with panniers. We reluctantly turned around and took 170 Street to 87 Avenue, headed north on 159 Street, and met up with the 100 Avenue shared sidewalk. 
Not a route I want to take at rush hour every morning. Even at 10:30 a.m., 170 Street was busy and fast; I can just imagine what it's like at 7:30 a.m.

We rode through the River Valley to downtown, following my usual route -- up the Fortway Road and 107 Street hills. 
Hubby was pretty impressed that I tackle those climbs every morning. 
Just below the museum, we spotted a woodchuck, nibbling on the fresh green grass,
On Fortway Road, I was pleased to see paving trucks accompanied by workers filling in potholes. By the time next session begins on July 2, I should have a nice smooth ride.

Because we were meeting Oldest Son near Churchill Square, we took a route I've been curious about -- at the top of the 107 Street hill, there is a hard-beaten path that angles off to the right. Every morning as I continue straight on the road, I see cyclists head onto that path, and I feel sort of jealous. It looks so much more interesting than my on-street route. This was my chance. Turns out it meets up with an alley which leads to 99 Avenue at a nice quiet spot (at least it was quiet at 11 a.m.) From there, we took 104 Street north to 102 Avenue. Signs on 102 Avenue state that from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. the right lane is for buses and bicycles (and right turns) only, but an awful lot of drivers seem to be sign-reading-challenged. Anyway, in spite of this, we made it safely to our destination. We stopped off at City Hall, where I picked up a couple of bicycle maps and found out about ESL tours. It was my first time there, and I was impressed. 

Leaving our bikes at the City Hall bike rack, we then walked across the street to Pazzo Pazzo for lunch. Hubby and Oldest Son had a ravioli dish, while I feasted on the broccoli salad. The food was good, but I thought the presentation was lacking. For $10 I got a big bowl of broccoli with a little twist of lemon on top. And I was disappointed after the meal when the server told us the cappucino machine was out of order. I mean, really -- at an Italian restaurant? Oh well, it was still fun.

After lunch we rode south over the High Level Bridge. Hubby and Oldest Son, who had the afternoon off, rode on to Derrick Dodge. I parted company with them at 76 Avenue and rode on the bike lane (blocked by semi-parked vehicles at no more than 3 or 4 places) to the multi-use trail that heads down to Fort Edmonton. And when I say down, I mean down -- twisting and turning as it descends. We have ridden on this path before, but it is still somewhat terrifying to meet hairpin curves, one after another. I rode very slowly down and then relaxed as I sailed through Whitemud Park -- 

  and past the Fort onto the beautiful Fort Edmonton Bridge --


The steep path in the background gives an idea of how far down in the valley I was!
Once across the bridge, I hesitated. I had checked the bicycle map, but still felt uncertain about which way to go. Fortunately, right in front of me was a young guy who had been running up and down the ravine, so I asked him how to get to Wolf Willow. He pointed left, up a steep gravel-surfaced hill. 
"But it's a massive hill," he warned me. Emphasis on massive. Hmm. I could imagine his thoughts: skinny woman about my mom's age, riding a refurbished mountain bike with slick tires and panniers -- she'll never make it up that hill.

"What if I go right?"

"There's a set of stairs. You'll come out near the community centre."  The community centre sounded good. The stairs, not so much.

"OK, thanks. I'll try the hill." He laughed. A friendly laugh, to be sure, but still a laugh.
My only regret was that the kid couldn't see the middle-aged lady on the hill. It wasn't bad at all. Steep, yes. Long, yes, Gravel, yes. But nothing out of the ordinary. I wasn't even out of breath at the top. 

From there, it was a bit of a long and winding road out of the Wolf Willow community, but I finally reached 69 Avenue and then my parking spot. 

Even the parking spot is pretty.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

rain, rain, go away...

Riding in the rain is quickly becoming my normal routine. The day typically starts like this...
Monday morning as I start my ride

 or like this...

Thursday morning -- arrival at the museum

and ends with me donning my rain gear and pedaling like mad back to the car, in an effort to beat the really heavy downpour or the imminent thunderstorm. 

I don't mind the rain, but some sunshine would be nice sometime soon, especially since tomorrow is the first day of summer.

Just as a little rain doesn't stop me from riding my bike, it also doesn't stop these rose bushes from blooming...

This (left and below) is where I start and end each ride. I can't complain!

Yesterday was our last day of regular classes for this session -- today we had a field trip to the Royal Alberta Museum -- and my students surprised me with a gift card to Mountain Equipment Co-op and some of the nicest speeches imaginable. I was moved to tears as they told me how much they enjoy my classes and as they spoke of friends who don't like their English teachers. Of course I am glad they like my class, but I am sure that I like my students more than they could possibly like me. I feel like I am the luckiest person in the world and have the best job in the world.

I rode my bike to the museum today, down into McKinnon Ravine and up to the Glenora area. This was the first time I'd tried this route. It was a pretty steep uphill climb, but I made it without difficulty. I think I came out at the wrong place, however; I thought I'd end up closer to the museum, but I had to ride east along 102 Avenue for several blocks. 

Our field trip was a success; the students all seemed to have a good time. 
Afterwards I went with the students from my afternoon class to a coffee shop, where we enjoyed excellent coffee and some conversation.

roses in bloom
Now I have a week off, in which to relax and enjoy myself (once I get the dental appointment out of the way.) The forecast is lousy, but the optimist in me still hopes for some nice long bike rides. We'll see...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

in praise of our Local Bike Shop

Our Local Bike Shop is small. So small that you can barely get your bike in the door and wheel it to the counter. You can barely turn around without bumping into something.

But talk about great service.

This is the shop where the guy ordered the special fender-rack combination for me and charged a mere $10.00 to attach it. This is the shop where the other guy attached my clipless pedals and gave me a lesson on how to use them.

And now this is the shop where the guy made a quick adjustment (again, $10.00 charge) to something on my shifters so that I wouldn't need to break my thumbs shifting from the middle ring to the big ring. Last summer I took this bike to another bike shop (which shall remain nameless) for a tune-up. The mechanic there said I should plan on replacing the rings to improve the shifting. So, I thought that was what I'd have to do. I was ready to pay $100 or more to have this done, but no. Local Bike Shop Guy puts the bike on the stand, tries to shift, looks at the rings, takes a tool and does something, then tells me, "You try it." I tried it. It was easy. "Bring it back if you still have problems," he added, as he took my ten dollar bill.

Well, guess what? This was two weeks ago, and there have been no problems!

a wet week

This was one of my wetter weeks commuting by bicycle.

Monday -- rain almost all day. I arrived at work wet but happy. The ride home was pretty dry, as evidenced by my mud-spattered but dried-out very dirty bike.I rode on the city streets, as this cuts my commute distance by about 1.5 km.

Tuesday -- light rain. Not bad. I rode through the River Valley, and all was well.

Wednesday - light rain on the way to work. I rode through the city again and confess that I felt quite superior to the people on my left, sitting in their cars, hardly moving through the heavy traffic on 102 Avenue. I felt a little less superior when a tornado warning was issued not long before it was time to leave work. I left my bike behind and begged a ride to my car from one of my students. She was a pretty intrepid driver, forging ahead through hail, blinding rain and lake-like conditions on the roads. The evening was sunny and Hubby drove me in to pick up my bike...

so that I could ride both ways today. In the morning, the path through the River Valley was wet, and this is what I saw as I came down the first hill -- fog. 
It was so beautiful that I had to stop to take a photo. 

After I got to work, I found that Oldest Son had texted me, sending a photo he took as he rode to work -- the fog, as seen from the High Level Bridge.

Today was a great ride in both directions, and as I rode down the 107 Street hill, I was pleased to see two EPS officers riding their bikes on the road... unlike their comrades I saw a couple of weeks ago, riding on the sidewalk on 100 Avenue.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

reading about riding

Somehow it seems sort of oxymoronic to read books about cycling. But as a long-time bookworm, reading about things I enjoy is part of my life.

So one day I visited the library web site, entered "cycling" as a keyword and put a hold on any books that sounded interesting. A few were pretty much worthless and after a quick skim, they were consigned to the "return to library" pile. 

But some were keepers. During the past couple of months, I've read three or four books about cycling that are worthy of mention.

In no particular order, they are:
  • It's All About the Bike, by Robert Penn
  • The Art of Urban Cycling, by Robert Hurst
  • Ride Your Way Lean, by Serene Yeager
  • Bicycling: A Reintroduction, by Karen Ruth

Bicycling..., the last book on the list is nicely illustrated with lots of colour photos, but most of the content is very basic. There is a good section at the end on maintenance. I'm learning little by little to make adjustments and small repairs, and the step-by-step approach in this book is useful for people like me.

Robert Penn's book is quite fascinating. He intertwines a history of the bicycle with the story of his quest for the ultimate bespoke bike. Now, this is a guy who has a lot of money and a lot of time. He has cycled around the world at least once, and he traveled to several different countries (not to Canada) to get parts for his custom-built bicycle, for which he spent a grand total of more than $5000.00. The trade-off: when I saw the author photo on the back dust-jacket flap, I thought the guy was in his seventies. Turns out he is younger than I am. I guess that's what a lifetime of rough cycling does to a person's complexion. Extra incentive to slather on the 45 SPF sunscreen. That aside, I recommend this book -- it's a fun read. If you are prone to envy or impulsive mega-spending, however, this book might not be for you. 

I loved the Urban Cycling book. Well, I have to confess that I just skimmed the first part -- a history of the bicycle. I'd already covered that in Penn's book. But for the rest: you know how sometimes you get an idea and then you find out that the experts agree with you? That's how I felt when I read this book -- my experience as an urban commuter has led me to many of the same conclusions as Hurst outlines in his guide to riding in the city. I love the way he stresses that fact that responsibility is a two-way street -- yes, drivers should look out for us, but cyclists have a responsibility, too. Vigilance is key. My mantra for a long time now has been: trust no one. Not motorists; not pedestrians; not even other cyclists. Or, as my driver training instructor put it succinctly many years ago, "You have the right of way only when it's given to you."

I like Hurst's approach to four-way stops -- treat them on a case-by-case basis, following the letter of the law when needed. I like his attitude to sidewalks: generally, they are off-limits. Occasionally they are advantageous or even necessary, but "special care" must be used. I confess I also skipped the sections on injuries. Not interested. I did read the sections on helmets, and again I agree with Hurst's conclusion: "Urban cyclists should wear helmets and ride like they don't." Well said. 

To finish off my brief review of this book, here is a sampling from from the epilogue:
"[People] want to know: don't you get tired of [riding]? The answer is no. More precisely, the answer is hell no."

"Bicycling is better. Life is too precious to spend it in a car."

"Riding a bike allows a person to pack more life into a day."

"Although the trip may take longer, time spent on the bike is never wasted. The journey becomes an end in itself. That... is what life is all about."
Yes, I really liked this book!

Ride Your Way Lean is a very different type of book. First of all, its underlying premise is that the reader wants to lose weight. However, it still has lots of meat for us skinnies -- advice on hill climbing, information on how to gauge your exertion, guidance on cadence, instructions for various types of drills, and a great off-the-bike exercise routine (except that it uses a stability ball, and I hate those things - I skip or adapt those exercises.) There are also a lot of inspiring stories about people whose lives were changed through cycling. Another good read.

I do have one gripe about almost all the books I looked at. WHY are distances so often given in miles with no (km)? Yet whenever a distance happens to be given in kilometers, it is always written like this: 45 km (72 mi.) I guess I should take it as a compliment -- writers assume that people who think in kilometers can quickly and easily convert distances from miles to kilometers, while those who normally work in miles need some help. Still, it's a little annoying.

Monday, June 3, 2013

a friendly face

This morning I saw someone doing the same thing I do: parking and riding. He was starting from the Crestwood neighbourhood, obviously preparing to enter the River Valley trail. I start a few kilometers farther west, but it's definitely the same great idea. It was the first time I've seen him; if it's his first time riding, I hope he had as much fun doing it as I do.

The new fender I attached worked splendidly. Puddles were unavoidable this morning, after yesterday's deluge, and I came through unmarked. It made me happy to watch the water splash off the fender and back onto the path instead of up into my face.

On my way home, at the most lilac-rich section of the shared sidewalk, I spied a woman getting into a red BMW X5 with a big handful of lilac blossoms. Clearly she saw no reason not to avail herself of the free flowers.

And when I came back to the car after work, this friendly face was waiting to greet me, in the nearby park. It sat there in the same position, just looking at me and allowed me to get quite close.
It's a relief to know I don't look particularly threatening.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

a rainy day

Today it rained almost all day. I took advantage of a break in the clouds to go for a spin on my "girl" bike, Bonnie Blue. I rode to the library to drop off some books,then on to this lovely park, which has two big ponds. 

In recent years they have been almost dry most of the time, but now they are full again -- I guess after a winter of non-stop snow and the recent rain, water is plentiful. I am a total sucker for ponds -- I love the cattails, the ducks and geese, the way the light reflects off the water, the red wing blackbirds...

From here I rode to Superstore where I bought our first cherries of the year. They're from California, but no less delicious for that. Looking forward to the B.C. ones, though.

And in preparation for the week's commute, I attached a front fender to Miranda. Hubby did help me a little -- I had trouble removing the front tire, so he lent his strength, and then he showed me how to use the Allen wrench to tighten the bolt. Otherwise, I did it myself and it seems like a mighty fine job. I guess tomorrow I'll find out for sure. I have the Allen wrench tucked into my frame pack, just in case.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Saturday a.m.

Another gorgeous day -- blue sky with picture-perfect clouds. 16 degrees. Some wind, but from the west, meaning easy riding in all other directions. 

I almost thought I wouldn't get to ride today. I started out and, as always, made a precautionary test of my clipping-out skills at the first stop sign. Twisted my right foot to the outside. Nothing happened. Tried again. Still nothing. Panicked. 
Realized I could use my left foot. 
Twisted my left foot and clipped out. Whew! Avoided a fall.

Although I was glad this worked OK for that stop, I was a little concerned. First, why wasn't the right pedal working as usual? And, if I couldn't use the right pedal, would I remember to use the left at every stop? Doubtful. 

I rode a little further, trying several times to clip out of the right pedal, but with no success. I turned around, rode back home and Googled "adjusting tension on clipless pedals." After reading some instructions and watching a short video, I searched for the right size Allen wrench. Following the instructions, I turned each screw three clicks to the left, then took a little spin down the block. I still had trouble clipping out, so I came back home and gave the screws a couple more turns. This time when I took a test ride, it was okay. 
So I pocketed the Allen wrench, just in case, and started out again. The right clip still seemed a little tight, but I was able to clip in and out without incident for the whole 53 km.

There is one property I pass quite often that always intrigues me. 
On the wrought-iron gate is a sign: 

No Trespassing. 
Phone xxx-xxx-xxxx for admission. 
Guard dog on duty.

Of course, if I were in an action movie, this would be the home of a drug baron or a gun-runner or someone with an equally irregular lifestyle, and I would be an undercover cop, pretending to be an avid cyclist, riding past to keep an eye on the situation.

Still, that sign makes me want to stage an accident -- à la Agatha Christie's Why Didn't They Ask Evans? -- so that I can find out just what that dog is guarding and just why the need for such tight security. Many of the other homes along that road have gates, too, but they are open, apparently with nothing to hide.