Cycling Outside on Ethel

I’ve been invited to post on Saturdays when I can on a feature Sam dubbed “Sat with Nat”. So here’s the deal, I’ll post as long as I have something to contribute and you find it relevant, deal? Deal!

Back in December I introduced you all to my new bicycle Ethel and I clipped her into a trainer and spun off and on through the winter. I even got shoes that clip in, I was feeling mighty ready to go outside. Last Saturday it was colder and wetter than expected but I just couldn’t stand being inside one more day so out we went on the Belmont 60km loop I did last November on my old bike.

First things first, I could not get myself on with my clip in shoes. I clipped in my left leg and my knees locked from what I can best describe as abject panic. It was though my lizard brain decided I was caught in a trap. It was too much change, new configuration, new bike, braking and shifting were different, the new shoes and pedals were just one challenge too far. I looked at my partner with the taste of bile in my mouth and said “I think I’ll just go back inside and hide in bed all day.” I cried a bit then I remembered we had flat pedals from another bike. Randonneur Dave had shown me over the winter how to swap pedals out so I scrambled to get that done and put running shoes on. This made me way late, that’s terrible cycling etiquette.

It turned out my companions were Randonneur Dave and my partner Michel. I was struck by two things almost immediately as we zoomed out of town, the first was effort and the second was cadence.


It felt like no effort at all as I pedalled. In part there was a mass difference of 40 lbs. I weighed Ethel and she is just under 20 lbs, my old bike was double that. I weigh about 20 lbs less than I did in November, so 40 less pounds to move is a significant change when you read about folks spending big bucks to shave a hundred grams off. I’m sure the fit of my bike and more aggressive posture helped with making my effortless ride. I know the gear ratio was better. The new bike has radically changed my riding experience.


I noticed that spinning on the trainer over the winter drastically improved my cadence, I was pedalling much faster. I noticed I wasn’t coasting very often at all, an old habit from my childhood that I was having a hard time breaking. Part of what helped my cadence was advice Bike Rally David gave me last fall, to stay in the lowest gear possible. That was a big shift in my thinking as before that conversation I’d always hurried to get into as high a gear as possible and push really hard. That is not the way of the distance rider.

I felt faster and it was easier, this was a dream return to outdoor cycling. Randonneur Dave had our old gps data and updated me on my speed with snippets like “through here last time you were at 11 km/hr, we just did 16 km/hr” or “Hey, we hit 28 km/hr there, how’d that feel?” It all felt GREAT. Zoom. Zoom. Zoom.

My favourite part of the Belmont trip is eating at the Belmont Town Restaurant, a little place that has a buffet on the weekends filled with lots of yummy food. We of course had to take a picture in front:

We made it!

So my average for the ride was 16 km/hr in November on my old bike, this trip 19.5 km/hr and we even stopped for Michel to repair a flat. Sure, it was a grey day, it was damp, there was a stretch, the same as in the fall, where we we dead into the wind.

So great, in fact, I went with a group of friends around Springbank Park the next day. We did the loop that last September had been my longest distance ever. What a different perspective I have going around the day after a long ride. It flushed out my muscles but my groin was feeling the pain, I got a blister on Saturday and it burst on Sunday. Ouch. What made Sunday amazing was my oldest son joined me as well as two friends I’d never ridden with before. This middle aged cycling thing is a great way to meet people. We went for coffee and sweets.

It was a great weekend of cycling outside on Ethel!

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