cycling · fitness

One bike?

If you could only have one bike, what would it be? Around here the cyclists tend to have multiple bikes each serving its own purpose. I have a gravel/adventure road bike, a road bike, an aero road bike, a track bike, and a fat bike.

See  Folding bike for fun and convenience: An addition to my dream fleet? and My dream fleet

and How many bikes is too many?

See also Catherine’s My optimal number of bikes right now is (N+1)-N

But it’s not cheap owning multiple bikes and they take up space. I often wonder if I could get by with one bike and if so, which bike would it be?

Of my current fleet, hands down it would be my adventure road bike. What’s that mean? “Adventure Road Bicycles are one of the newest categories of bicycle. They are sometimes called all-road bikesany-road bikes, or gravel bikes, and are the most versatile sub-category of road bike. Similar to cyclocross bikes, they have drop handlebars and the ability to use wider tires. The frame geometry is longer and more upright compared to a cyclocross bike, however, making these bikes more suitable for long days in the saddle, light touring, and commuting. “

Here’s Century Cycles’ list of bike types.

Mine is a Giant AnyRoad which was bought at ToWheels  in London, Ontario for my birthday a few years ago.

It can have fenders unlike my racy road bike. I’ve installed a rack for panniers. For winter, it’s got snow tires and if I was planning a road trip just on pavement I’d get slicks. It’s solid and comfortable and on its all purpose tires can ride just about anywhere.

Well, it’s not good for technical mountain bike routes and it’s not the fastest thing on two wheels on the pavement but if you can rule out those two things, it’s pretty amazing. It rides well on grass, gravel, unpaved bike paths of various surfaces, and on pavement, too, just not as fast as my other road bikes.

Here’s my bike:

Well lit bike

Bloomers, or what does embroidery have to do with gym class? (Guest Post)

By Christine Dirks

In the mid to late 1960s at the high school I attended in Sarnia the girls’ gym uniform resembled a toddler’s play suit. It was a one-piece red cotton number with five white buttons at the front, a red cotton attached belt and elastic at the leg openings. Girls were to embroider their first and last name on the back yoke. Yes. Embroider. Yes. On a gym uniform. The commingling of athletics and domestic virtues. And that embroidery had better be good.

I resisted and would arrive in the gym with no such handiwork visible. This went on for some weeks until gym teacher Mrs. Holland uttered something threatening enough to prompt me to stitch my name across the back of the little red lovely.

I did this with gritted teeth, and much muttering, on a Sunday afternoon while watching a 1940s movie on tv with my Mum. I give her credit for letting me proceed in the manner I did though I may well have stretched the truth. I may well have told her that one’s name just had to be there and I may well have said something to the effect: “It doesn’t have to be embroidered!” with eyes wide and emphasis on the last word. Yeah, I probably did. Yeah.

I ensured that each letter was formed by as few in and outs of that needle and thread as possible. The first letter – a capital C – had a mere five points at which the white thread went in and out of that red fabric. And so it went letter by letter with precious few in and outs.  I showed my Mum the finished product. A spidery 18 letters: Christine Sigurdson. It was legible. But embroidery it surely was not.

At gym the following week, as we girls stood in a straight line for inspection, as we always did at the start of gym class, Mrs. Holland told me to turn around so she could see what I had or had not done. She said it was not embroidery and that I would go to the Vice-Principal’s office immediately and was not to change but to go as I was.

I think of all this now knowing how then I loved to be active. It felt good to push myself. Happily it still does. But what if that gym teacher would have given up on making an issue of embroidery. What if she had just let it go and concentrated on affirming to all girls she taught how great it is to be active, to make one’s body work hard, to enjoy that freedom, to feel good through movement, to stop trying to control girls with tasks that had no place in a gym class . . . It would have been great.

Christine Dirks is a writer and editor in London ON. Early in her career she worked in the Toronto book publishing industry where she specialized in international marketing. Later she wrote two weekly columns and features for The London Free Press. Her work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Canadian House & Home, Canadian Gardening, Azure and other publications. Christine currently provides research, writing and editing services for individuals and organizations.


Get off Sam’s lawn (with your normative femininity)!

I shared this piece “Woman asks herself, ‘Why am I becoming a grumpy old man?'” to our bloggers group the other day. It’s funny but Jennifer Overton also hits a serious note when she talks about no longer feeling at ease in the world and her desire to withdraw.

Overton writes, “Not feeling at home in the world comes with a serious side effect. As the youngsters would say, My FOMO has become my JOMO. My fear of missing out has become my joy of missing out. I’m not as disappointed as I used to be when a friend has to cancel lunch. I’m happy to find an excuse to miss fitness class. I prefer to work from home. And any change in the weather is a valid reason not to venture out and mingle with the human race. The truth of it is, I have developed an intense longing to withdraw. And I don’t mean to my living room. I mean to the woods. The deep woods. Far from the madding, the maddening, crowd. I long to live in a quiet, slower, simpler place. A place where I can relax the cramp of anxiety about the state of the world, and maybe even regain some trust in its course.  “

Image description: Black text on white background reads, “JOMO, the joy of missing out.”

It made me laugh but frankly, I’m not that grumpy in midlife. It’s true I have a very low tolerance for drinking and pot smoking. And I like my 8 hours sleep but I rarely complain about “young people these days.” I think the world has changed in lots of wonderful ways. Mostly I try to understand and adapt. I talk about a feminist commune but I’m not retiring there anytime soon. Anyway, my commune aspirations aren’t a desire to retreat from the world. They are much more about community building and sharing resources.

But then this came through my newsfeed, Why does everyone have fake fancy teeth? And I think I actually growled. Grrr. My dentist tried to sell me fancy teeth some years ago. No.

Image description: Red gums, white teeth, jiggling on a blue background.

I know why my dentist tried to sell me fancy teeth. I had braces in my 30s and so I think that marked me as someone who cares about the way their teeth look. But he didn’t look closely enough at my file. I got the braces to correct molars that were falling over and would need either straightening and having bridges and crowns put in to fill spaces, or taking out the lot of them. Benefits covered my braces and although I looked better with my newly straightened teeth, looking better wasn’t my motivation.

Veneers are also expensive. This is from the “fancy teeth” article linked above: “Although veneers have been used less glamorously for decades to help non-famous people with serious size or shape problems in some of their teeth, they can also be used to perfect someone’s already-nice smile beyond the capabilities of traditional orthodontia. Veneers start at about $1,000 a tooth, and for top-tier aesthetic dentists such as Apa, they can easily hit $3,000 to $4,000 apiece.”

I nearly left my favourite hair salon a few years back when they started having Wine and Botox nights. There’s two things on my no-go list at one event. It’s true, of course, I can just say no but I’d rather get my haircut (spend my money) at places where that isn’t in the air. Hair salons have always made me nervous that way. Like when they asked if those were my natural eye brows. “Whose else would they be?” I thought. They often offer to remove the peach fuzz from my cheeks saying that it must get in the way when I apply foundation. “I have an answer for that,” I thought. “Just say no to foundation.” I want to say yes to good haircuts and colour and no to the rest of it.

There’s weird beauty related upselling going on these days. When I shared the ‘fancy teeth’ story, a friend commented, “The ob/gyn who delivered my first opened a medi-spa wrinkle cellulite etc type service in the same office and they talk to you about it when you show up for a Pap smear!”

.Another friend said, ” I am so done with being cool. If this is what cool is, they can have it.”

cycling · fitness · snow · walking · winter

Best laid plans… but Sam gets some movement in anyway

So Saturday of our winter weekend getaway I thought I’d try a beginner’s ski lesson. But that wasn’t to be. It was cold, really cold, -25 and windy cold. It was also icy. Instead of light puffy snow there was hard, cold ice.

See this sign? Marginal conditions, skiing not recommended. Great. Even the ski instructors weren’t that enthusiastic. Try another time, they suggested.

Image description: A red sign on a white ski hill. In both languages it says marginal conditions, skiing not recommended.

Instead, I went for a long walk up the hill and wandered around the shops at the base of the mountain. I stopped for lunch solo while braver, much more experienced, souls were off skiing. I’m better about eating alone at restaurants these days. I positively enjoyed it. And don’t panic. There was rice underneath. I haven’t abandoned carbs.

When I got back to the hotel I changed and wandered down to the fitness centre. It was small but with a lovely view. They had treadmills and nice spin bikes (guess which I chose?) a bench and dumbbells. That’s enough to keep me busy. So I watched an episode of Sex Education and pedaled away. It wasn’t my first choice of activities but it felt good. Sunday we all abandoned skiing and went to the spa.


Fit at Midlife: A Feminist Fitness Journey now available in audiobook format!

You can buy your copy and listen to sample here.

Tracy and Sam
Photo by Ruthless Images
cycling · equality · gender policing

Heavy weight racing and gender

This bike jersey keeps popping up in my social media newsfeeds. I don’t mind the “heavy weight” label. It’s me. But it’s striking that the jersey only comes in men’s sizes.

There’s this phenomena I’ve noticed about gender and size and athleticism. I know men don’t always have it easy when it comes to size and body image. I’ve blogged lots about that. See here and here.

But sometimes big men get to own their size in a way that big women just don’t.

See Fat Lass at the Front? for one company’s efforts to extend that way of thinking to women cyclists.

health · nature · snow · winter

Sam Goes to a Spa. Yes, Really.

So I went to a spa. First time ever. First pedicure a couple of years ago (never since!) and now the spa.

What next? What’s the world coming to?

I’m just joking (sort of). In my mind spas aren’t meant for me. Like pedicures, I think of spas as a THING RICH PEOPLE DO.

It’s not that I don’t spend money on luxurious things, like expensive bicycles, I do. And it’s not like I don’t spend $60 (the price of spa admission) on meals or concerts pretty regularly. I do.

But for reasons of family background in the first part of my life and resisting normative feminity, in the second, spas have never been on my radar. I’m the kind of person who didn’t have nail polish or make up for my own wedding. I did my own hair and it was touch and go whether I’d shave my legs.

I resisted getting a hot tub at our old house for years but then loved it and used it lots. I love sitting outside, in the heat, surrounded by snow and ice. I loved soaking after long rides and tough Aikido classes. My highlight of my holiday in Iceland a few years ago was soaking in a hot river after a long hike.

We went to the Scandinavian Spa on the Sunday of our weekend at Mount Tremblant when it was too cold and icy to ski or fat bike. I loved how much of it was outdoors. I really liked the steam rooms and the sauna and the hot tub but probably my favorite thing was relaxing in front of a fire outside wearing a bathrobe while covered in a giant warm fuzzy blanket. I loved basking in the sun, surrounded by trees and snow.

Some quick observations:

I loved wandering around outside in a bathrobe and bathing suit in the middle of winter. I love the outdoors and I’m almost always happier in the sun.

I’m so glad it was a silent place. I realize that I’m quiet anyway but I was so glad I didn’t have to listen to other people’s conversations. I found that really relaxing. I didn’t mind the other people there with everything quiet.

There are a lot of beautiful bodies out there. But it’s mostly the women who are on display. That’s no surprise but I forget that sometimes. I saw a lot of women in thong bathing suits with men in baggy board shorts. What’s with that?

I loved the idea of swimming in the river in the freezing cold water between hot things but I couldn’t make myself do it. Instead I settled for the cold bucket of water over the head a couple of times. That actually felt pretty refreshing.

I didn’t count the spa time as a workout though it turns out that time in hot water does have similar health benefits to exercise.

I’d definitely go again.