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Tag Archives: cycling

Cycling is awesome

This is a cycling nerd totally geeking out.  He might be me.

This is a cycling nerd totally geeking out. He might be me.

Okay, just to warn you in advance, this article is a doozie. I also meant to post it months ago.

Today – Sunday, September 8th, 2013 – was a life defining day for me. Not in a “I’m quitting my job and living off the Earth from now on” kind of way, but in a life-defining “I know what I love” way. It’s a day when you recognize at the end of it that your life will never be the same, because you understand yourself that much better. My dad would have said it represented being on the path to self-actualization.

It’s a day when you catch foreign tourists photographing you as you make a phone call at a telephone booth while leaning on a mountain bike and are covered head to toe in mud; a day when you see your father cry as you approach him holding a piece of paper that says “degree” on it; a day when you turn to your brother beside you and scream “we’re going to the Stanley Cup finals!”; a day when you stand on a beach and watch the first place team paddle in and cross the finish line at Eco-Challenge; a day when you see your future wife walking towards you with barely contained emotion; a day when you stand on a mountain ridge and look around at 360 degrees of forever and realize it’s exactly the place you want to be at exactly the time you want to be there; a day when you get goosebumps as people cheer you on crossing the finish line at the Ride to Conquer Cancer; a day when you first hold your son or daughter, look down at them, and feel their warmth and their movement…

So now that you know my biography, what happened to me, today? Well, I went to a bike race. Sounds pretty stupid, right? Read more of this post

Riding… Snacking…

Photo evidence! Bikes parked at the candy shop.

Well, as summer winds down, we reflect.  With family and things happening around us, we didn’t get a chance to ride as much as we wanted.  We did do a couple of great (easy, low-impact) rides with our friends Russ and Lucie though, and I thought I’d share.  We did the Canmore-Banff Legacy trail along the river, and we also did a loop from our house to downtown Calgary and back.  In both cases, we took full advantage of our surroundings halfway through the rides to snack.  Hey, if you’re riding, you need to reload, right?

Canmore-Banff Legacy Trail

Here’s the GPS plot.  First off, we need a rematch on this ride.  It was Adena’s first ride on her roadie in quite some time, and we ended up stopping a few times to make adjustments and repairs as we went.  That’s fine, but it detracted from the rhythm of riding a bit.  She was thrilled, though; she loves going fast on the road bike way more than riding her mountain bike.  Whenever we’d stop to make an adjustment, it was like she was being tortured… she wanted to go!

The only trouble is that the trail starts on the Canmore side just at the park gates.  There’s also nowhere to park there.  The way we did it was to park in Harvie Heights (right here), ride along a trail towards the park gates, and then go the wrong way over a one-way overpass to the other side of the highway.  Once there, we rode about 1km up the Trans-Canada against the flow of traffic (the move looked like this going from B to A).  A bit unnerving, but there were lots of people making the journey and it’s the only way to hook it up.  Access:  a small oversight on the trail designers’ part!

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Sacrificing fitness for fun and enjoyment.

This is just plain and simple more fun.

This is kind of about drinking a Dr. Pepper after going for a run.  Don’t worry, it’s not about slacking off and going on a junk food and video game binge for pure enjoyment (though, that does sound appealing).

Fun.

Partway through the summer, I realized that I had completely stopped running.  I was doing a pretty good job at this (though I don’t exactly enjoy it) through the winter, running to work at least once a week and then doing a group run on the weekend.  With all the riding I’ve been doing to work this summer though, and with all the lovely weather we’ve had in the past couple of months, I hadn’t run since February… until last week.  You see, I’d been putting it off.  I knew I hadn’t been running, and I knew that I was reaping tremendous fitness benefits from the cross-training running was providing, but it was too late.  It had been too long, and I knew I would have to work myself back into it.

I also knew that this would take time, recovery time.  So I didn’t care, I just kept riding.  Getting out of work to 30 degrees and sun outside with mostly east winds meant glorious long commutes home through wonderful Calgary pathways… with a tail wind.  Winter loves to beat me down with cold and headwinds, so the warmth coupled with the conditions made for some purely glorious rides.  My fitness was and is excellent, but I was no longer getting the boost of the cross training, but I also didn’t care.  I just kept riding because it was so nice out.  I knew I was setting myself up for an eventual fall…

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We rode the Big Dipper.

Our 12-Mile Coulee mashup. Because of construction, the “scoop” of our route turned into a “well now where do we go?” mashup.

Okay, that title makes absolutely no sense, but check out the plot of this ride that Russ and I did yesterday.  I’ve seen some impressive GPS plot routes in my time (Space Invaders ftw!), but those are intentional from what I’ve seen.  If they’re not, that’s a series of miracles of coincidence and all parties involved should likely buy lottery tickets.  Ours was accidental.  It’s mirrored, as you can see, but it’s pretty darn close.  Ursa Major mirrored on Earth!  One minor difference is that in our dipper, the ladle has some steaming soup in it.  Nice.

Or it’s a steaming pile of something else, because what that ladle represents on our ride is a big pile of fail.  We wanted to do a fast mountain bike ride, and what easier target than the Coulee?  Heck, we’ve even ridden it in the pitch black in winter.  Summer should be an easy rip, right?  Well, with the City finishing off their ring road by removing the light at Nose Hill Dr. and Stoney Trail, they’ve completely blown up the nice meadow and tree-covered brook that used to make up the bottom of the trail in the park.  In fact, we had to trespass across the construction site to even get to the base of the trail to climb up (it was an up and down trek).

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Carrots, Cross-eyed, and Electric Bikes.

I’m gunna git ya!

It’s hot in Calgary right now.  I know there are a lot of places a whole lot hotter than Calgary right now, but when we have been struggling to make it over 20 degrees for all of “summer” so far, a sudden blast of 30 degrees makes everyone both happy and sad right now.  The same way that we laugh at other cities in Canada who shut themselves down after a foot of snow, people laugh at us for when the heat goes above 25 and we have to start having rolling blackouts because the system can’t handle the sudden load of air conditioners turned on for the one week of the year we might “need” them (because, it still drops to almost 10 overnight… seems like a decent air-conditioner to me).  Well I don’t have an air conditioner, and I do have a lot of grumpiness, so here goes.

I did a nice commute route home tonight, as can be seen here.  I don’t get to do it in 30 degree heat that often, so I take days like this as being a bit of a treat.  The wind seemed favourable today instead of the usual blast out of the west straight into my face on the way home, so I lengthened it to the funny finger-trap bridge before looping back towards the northwest.  As always happens when the weather improves, the fair-weather commuters appear on their bikes to get to and fro.  I’m 100% behind this, I think it’s great that more people get out and on their bikes, it’s just too bad a lot of them don’t know the rules of polite cycling on city pathways.  Seriously, buy a bell, people; the pedestrians will thank you – they thank me!

Now let me state this outright.  I don’t like you, electric bikes.

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The Enlightened Cyclist by BikeSnobNYC – book review

Bike Snob – a manifesto for the cycling realist, in my opinion!

I enjoy Bike Snob’s blog. It’s probably one of the only blogs that I regularly follow and snigger at in a self-satisfied fashion while sitting smugly at my desk. He is definitely an avid cyclist and fan of cycling in general, and he enjoys deconstructing and mocking all of the cliques, communities and movements that seem to strangely grow off of a simple machine with two wheels. Anyone is a target – including himself, and especially Mario Cipollini – and his language is at once hilarious, scathing, and disarming. If he just completely insulted you, you’d probably have to give a sigh and admit “yeah, you got that right, Bike Snob.”

The Enlightened Cyclist – a manual for how not to commute like a jerk.

I read his first book and utterly enjoyed it. I enjoyed classifying my friends as combinations of the different cycling stereotype “species” that Bike Snob identified. I am at once a retro-grouch and a bit of a lone-wolf, with a roadie and mountain biker mixed in… among other things. The book lashed out at the more polarizing aspects of cycling that would intentionally exclude other cyclists. Those hipsters look on the roadies and the roadies look on the hipsters with equal amounts of disdain. It all seems so silly, doesn’t it? It call comes down to this bizarre phenomenon that one group of cyclists looks at another group of cyclists and determines “you’re doing it wrong.”

Bike Snob’s second book is all about commuting. If you’ve read much of my blog, you’ll know that the bulk of the 18 pounds I lost last year was done on a bike between my home and my workplace. Because of that, I was pretty interested to see the full take on commuting from the snob’s point of view. What I like about his outlook is that it’s inclusive as opposed to the often fragmenting aspects of cycling communities. If you’re riding, you’re riding, and that’s a good thing. It’s what you do while you’re riding that defines the way the rest of the world sees you. A dirty hipster on a ridiculous track bike with no brakes running a red light is every bit as annoying as a full-kit roadie with 20 gears and sponsor stickers running a red light.

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New Ride – 2011 Specialized Tarmac Expert

Well, the time has come.  After a lot of years riding my excellent and faithful Trek 2200, it’s time for a bit of a technology leap.  I went out looking with only a couple of requirements in mind:  I wanted carbon to improve my ride quality/comfort (not just to have carbon), and I wanted Shimano Ultegra.  Well, it’s landed, and I ended up with a 2011 Specialized Tarmac Expert X2, in American Flyer Red:

The New Hotness, 2011 Specialized Tarmac Expert

I had expected when I started poking around last year that I would end up in the Trek camp again after I shopped around for a while.  The Trek Madone 5.2 was right around the requirements spec, and at the time the 2011 models were being blown out.  By the time I got to it, they were sold out everywhere, otherwise I would likely be riding one now.  I was offered a blow-out deal on a 2012 , but I didn’t pull the trigger as the two bikes I wanted to sell to help fund this project didn’t sell in the fall.  I test rode the 2012 Madone and I liked it, so I sat back to wait until spring.  Now, even the regular price on the 5.2 is good (it’s one of the better mid-high-end values out there), but when the blow-out offer was rescinded when I started to look a few weeks ago, I began to explore a bit more.  Boy, am I glad I did.

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Old Fernie Footage 1

I was talking to a friend about riding a couple of days ago, and then that night while I was doing some work on my home computer I kind of stumbled upon some old footage I took at Fernie in 2010.  I’m not that talented a downhill rider, but I love mountain biking and I had fun watching some of this!!  The footage takes up a lot of disk space for not ever being seen, so I decided to work some of it up to post so I could ditch the raw footage (there’s a lot of standing around before runs).

Here’s post #1, which I think is Bin Loggin’.  Phil and I are following a guide who we hung out with for a bit and who gave us some pointers on how not to suck so much.  Phil took those pointers to heart, but they didn’t really sink in for me.  I guess that means:  rematch!!  Stay tuned for more old footage from this trip.

Riding the Rollers

OK, with renos nearing completion, we’ve got most of our house back.  That means I’ve managed to carve out a space in the basement to set up the rollers again.  I was always big on the idea of using my own bike on a trainer indoors, as opposed to an exercise bike, but this takes it to the next level.  With a static trainer, you’re riding the geometry you’re used to, but the bike is supported by the trainer itself.  You spin, and that’s the workout.

With the rollers, it’s an entirely different story.  It’s like a treadmill for your bike.  When you supply power, that spins the two rollers supporting the rear wheel of the bike.  They are attached via belt to the front roller (which provides additional resistance).  The front roller spins the front wheel.  It’s actually a fairly simple design, and with both wheels spinning you create the force required to keep the bike upright.  In essence, you just ride the bike.

As for the workout, it’s much more intensive than a static trainer.  Because you’re riding the whole bike, you’re using stabilizer muscles to keep the bike upright and pointed straight, muscles that you could otherwise be lazy about on the static trainer.  You have to be smooth too, so it can help improve your balance, cadence and tracking on the bike.  You don’t know how bad you ride until you try to take it to a roller!

With all the benefits highlighted, some folks have said that it looks a little dangerous.  What if you fall off?  Well, I do fall off occasionally (way less than at first).  Because you have no momentum, you can just kind of step off sideways and put your foot on the ground.  If the bike wheels happen to hit the ground, you just get a “whizzzt!” as they stop suddenly, but that’s about the worst of it.  There is no flying into the wall or anything.

Hopefully I can figure out how to start without having to hold onto a chair, because I still do have to do that.  Anyways, here’s what a roller workout looks like:

This time, I really did it.

Okay, you know I was excited about how well I was doing health and fitness-wise a while ago.  Check this out, though, I’ve made it to the goal I originally set (that was 165lbs).  I don’t know what to do now!  I’m maintaining, even through all this Christmas eating and whatever else, but I don’t know what to do next!  I’m thinking about looking at racing bikes next year, we’ll see how that goes.  For now, the data speaks for itself.  While the graph doesn’t show it, I reached a peak weight of 182lbs, and as of yesterday I weighed 164.7 lbs.  That’s almost 20 lbs gone since this summer.  I look at photos of myself and actually wonder who that guy was, because I can see the difference.  I feel the difference, too, which is great.  The goal was to be in better shape to make riding more fun, and the weight has gone with it.  I was never in it to be skinnier, and I’m not obsessed with weight loss.  I just feel freaking awesome now and am addicted to feeling great.  Check it out:

It takes less energy to get up the stairs, now.

I’m now running more, too.  I hate it, I loathe it, but I’m sadistically looking forward to doing it when I do.  I can bang out 6.5 to 7.5km (that’s definitely my body’s current distance limit, structurally).  I have been running to work, and aim to keep doing this at least once a week all winter.  I’m trying to keep under 14km/week in running so far, to not injure myself.  I’ll slowly, slowly, up this as I go.  Just a note, this is something I couldn’t have done a year ago.  I got custom orthotics for my shoes midway through this weight landslide, and it’s made a massive difference in my ability to walk and run.  My feet no longer feel like they’re going to fall off!  As you can see, nothing will stop me:

-22 degrees C cannot stop me, even if I become Frosty the snowman.

Unfortunately, I’m not doing any running this week.  As is my custom, I went on vacation and promptly got sick.  Stress keeps my body in business, and when I dump a load of it, my body gives in to any virus it’s been storing for me.  Not nice, eh?  🙂