cycling · fitness · Guest Post

Law-breaking commuter (Guest post)

Two incidents with quasi-law enforcement marked my first week back at work, and my first week back squeezing cycling into limited morning hours. I was a little rushed.

On my way to work, I enjoy the recently painted “Corbett Porch,” where street activists brightened the shoulders of two streets. They created a place for people to walk, bike, or sit outside at tables for the local coffee shop. But I’m running late.

Hurray! I learn that my building has a bike room, I have a card key, and there are two shower/changing rooms attached to the bike room. It’s great to park my bike inside because there’s been a rash of bike thefts in town, with thieves using small power tools to cut right through kryptonite-type locks.

To get to the bike room, I walk through double doors, and into an overly long passageway to another set of doors, and down another hall to the bike room door. I’m rushed this morning, so I save time riding my bike inside! The passageway is wide enough to accommodate at least five people riding abreast, in fact, it probably used to be a driveway. There is no one else in this very wide hall. It’s perfectly safe to pedal on through. At the second set of doors, I dismount, and walk the final 30 feet to the bike room.

After I change, I breeze past the elevator security guard with a chipper “Good morning, Scott!” And he says, “Was that you riding your bike inside?”

“Yes,”

“Don’t do it”

“Ok, sorry.” [not sorry ]. Obviously, there was a camera and he is monitoring the feed.

Busted #1!

I get up really early the next morning to beat the Tucson heat, and take a longer ride before work. This ride takes me through the foothills and to Sabino Canyon National Recreation Area, a 3.7 mile paved road open to pedestrians all the time, and cyclists before 9:00 am. So at 7:00 am I’m climbing through the canyon, enjoying the beautiful cliffs and stream and trees and shade. On the way up, I see a volunteer ranger heading downhill on his bicycle, I give him a friendly wave because I am always friendly to quasi-law enforcement.

I reach the top and descend. It’s steep, so without effort, I’m going fast. Ok, so the speed limit is 15 mph, and I know I’m going a little faster than that. Although it is a guesstimate because I have no cyclocomputer. I catch up to the volunteer ranger, and pass him just before the small hill that leads out of the park. I’m going hard uphill, so definitely not more than 15 mph speed limit at this point.

I crest the hill and begin another delicious descent to the exit of the park. The volunteer ranger chases me down and asks me to stop so he can “talk to me for a minute.” He accuses me of going 25 mph, and I want to say “prove it!” but instead say “really? wow.” I’m outwardly repentant, and inwardly “whatever.” And he goes on for too long about hikers complaining, bikes might be banned, etc. And I continue to apologize and when he suggests I get a cyclocomputer, I say I will. I will next year. And now I’m running late again because of volunteer ranger scold.

Busted #2!

Occasionally I will bend laws on my bike; for example, slow rather than stop at stop signs. However, I have been actually stopping at stop signs, putting my foot down, as I commute through neighborhood and university streets.

Have I become an evil scofflaw cyclist? A renegade rider ignoring all rules and laws designed to keep everyone safe? I do have a little of that in me, and it comes out when I see drivers running red lights, car drivers turning in front of me, cars parked in the bike lane. If they’re breaking the law without consequences, why can’t I?

The next week, I’m better organized and not so rushed. I’ve figured out the best route door to door. I can relax a little and enjoy my commute. I take in the scenery and see this great sticker:

I see my city and its beautiful people, from the great vantage point of my bike saddle.

cycling · fitness

Brompton meet hills, hills meet Brompton

One question that everyone asks about my new Brompton is how it handles every cyclist’s favorite landscape feature, hills. The answer is, not as bad as you might think. The bottom gear is pretty spinny. I took it to Vancouver this week for Congress and enjoyed riding it around town. The ride to the University of British Columbia was 12 km. There and back twice equals 48 km of Brompton riding, plus some bonus “getting lost/exploring” kilometers. I was super glad I brought it because even if I’d taken the bus to campus, it’s a huge sprawling campus and things I needed to get to were kms apart.

💖Highlight of riding Brompton in hilly Vancouver: Chasing road cyclists up a hill and staying with them for longer than I thought possible. They looked around and smiled. I think my helmet might be the giveaway that I don’t usually ride the Brompton.

Image description: Bright pink Brompton bike resting against a wooden fence at the top of a hill.

😞 Low point: When my heart rate finally recovered after the hill chase effort I was passed by a runner going uphill. He also smiled and suggested a race. I declined.

It’s true that on hills I was working hard. My heart was pounding and I could feel my legs working. That said, I was able to climb everything I encountered and even passed some people going uphill.

Four more random thoughts about riding the Brompton about town. First, it’s not an introvert’s bike! People love to stop and admire the bike and ask questions about it. Second, I had no problem bringing it in everywhere I went. It’s small and cute enough enough that it doesn’t get that immediate “no bikes allowed” reaction. Third, I love being in a city with bike lanes and so many cyclists. Fourth, so many e-bikes on the road here and I totally understand why, The commuting distances are big and then there are the hills. For many people it would be 20+ kms to work. I can see wanting an e-bike to extend the range of what’s commutable and also not arriving at work tired and sweaty from the hills.

Here are some more photos of my very scenic Vancouver commute.

Image description: The top of a hill, looking down, with the ocean in the distance.
Image description: Trees, beach volleyball, and sailboats.
Image description: Me in the mirror with my pink Brompton and pink toenails, all dressed in black with a white helmet.
Image description: More beach, with logs for sitting.
Image description: More beach views with trees and flowers.
accessibility · body image · cycling · Fear · fitness

Sam gets told “Get off the road fat bitch” and mostly feels sad and confused

It had been one of those days.

My university age son, home for the summer, has a summer job that has his alarm go off at 5 am. I get up with him and mostly that’s great for my summer schedule.

He rides his bike to work and packs his lunch. It’s a physically demanding job and there’s no food there.

Except this day he got part way to work and remembered that his lunch was on the kitchen counter. Return home, retrieve lunch. Then he got back on his bike but his chain fell off and it wouldn’t go back on. This time I just drove him.

I got to work later on my bike and remembered that I was almost out of Synthroid. I had thyroid cancer a few years back and take Synthroid everyday now. That’s okay, I think, the pharmacy is open until 6 and the last thing on my calendar ends at 4 and I can bike there.

Except it was one of those days. I checked the pharmacy hours. They close at 5 on Fridays and they’re not open all weekend. I checked my calendar and the last thing ended at 430. Yikes.

Needless to say it was a speedy bike ride through traffic. But I made it. Whee! Zoom! Yay! I left the pharmacist feeling fit and powerful.

But leaving the pharmacy there’s a four way stop. I’m great at four way stops. I don’t go straight through. I stop and wait and take my turn. I make eye contact with drivers. That’s easier at four way stops than it is at intersections with lights, less time for phone checking.

So two cars go and it’s my turn and the driver next up at the sign on the other corner signals for me to go. Nice. Clear communication! Except the guy in the oversized pick up truck behind him (why is it an oversized pick up truck every time?) starts honking. “Don’t wait for her! Go! Go!”

Nice guy waits anyway and I proceed through the four way stop. Next through is angry pick up man who continues honking, roars out of the intersection and yells some variant of”Get off the road fat bitch” at me. It’s always “fat bitch.” Okay, you can tell I’m fat but how do you know I’m a bitch, I wonder. I’m on a bike. Even though I’m smiling, I guess that’s enough to merit the bitch badge.

I’ve written about this before, this abuse hurled at cyclists, especially women, maybe especially larger women. I’m genuinely sad and puzzled.

I’m sad and puzzled a lot these days as I struggle to understand the world around me and our collective political choices. Things seem so mean and small minded. I understand wanting less government and a balanced budget. I don’t understand the right wing populist politics that’s around these days with its not so thinly veiled racism and transphobia. The anti-immigration stuff makes zero sense to me.

I try to get inside his head, the guy who bought the large pick up truck and is now driving through a neighbourhood full of speed bumps and four way stops. What’s his world like?

I also want to defend myself. I’m exercising. Surely that counts? Surely even if you think I’m awful to look at because fat, I’m out there exercising and that’s better than sitting at home or driving a car?

But I stop myself. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing. I deserve respect as a person. I don’t need to be a person exercising to merit non-abusive treatment.

Friends joke about making the small penis hand sign at him.

But the thing is I’ve always thought that was unfair and body shaming to men with small penises. I’ve got a thing about treating men’s bodies with respect too.

May 27 was Bike to Work Day here in Guelph and June is Bike Month. I’m pretty immune to drivers hurling abuse at me but I tried imagining if the insult did get beneath my skin what that would feel like. What would it feel like to be new to bike commuting? When the angry aggressor is driving a large heavy metal box that can go fast and hit hard, and you’re a woman who has been hit hard and yelled at by men before (that would be most of us) it’s especially frightening.

In the end I land on the usual line of “some people are just jerks”and move on. I’m angry though that male jerks in particular feel free to comment on women’s bodies and yell at us from their vehicles. Mostly though in sad and puzzled. And I think we need a signal for toxic masculinity that doesn’t rely on body shaming.

#deanslife · cycling · fitness · habits · motivation

“How’s the #writeandride goal going?” Sam is glad you asked.

Image description: Puppy Cheddar, with surprised look on his face. White text over image says, “Shouldn’t you be writing?”

So last week I pledged to write 30 minutes and ride 20 km everyday (except Fridays when I can write for an hour and weekends when I can ride more). I didn’t make it everyday. Life got in the way of writing one day, riding another, and one particularly busy work day neither happened.

In general I’m not someone who throws daily habit goals away if I don’t make them work every day. Maybe I’m too easy on myself. Tracy and I noticed we have different approaches to the corporate step counting challenge that way. Me, I happily get up the next day and try again. Still, I rode 120 km in a week and that’s not too shabby. I finished one book review and two abstracts.

Still on the overdue list: one update of an older encyclopedia piece, one book review, and one companion chapter. Due June 1st, another abstract, 1000 words. Due June 2-4, two contributions to panels at Congress.

I did some of each, writing and riding, at Susan’s cottage on the long weekend. I loved writing on her comfy sofa, curled up with my laptop in front of the fire, surrounded by friends who were also reading, writing, napping, and cooking. It felt so good to finally be outside riding with friends. And best of all, after a weekend of riding hills my knee felt better not worse. Yay!

By the way, in case you think there’s too much talk about academic life here on the blog. Deep breaths. Don’t worry. I’m starting a Dean’s blog over the summer and some of this talk will likely land there. My first post is “Yes, I work at the university. No, I don’t get summers off.”

Image description: A group of young white women with white helmets in matching black and white stripey team kit. They’re riding road bikes, in a close pack, and smiling at the camera, making thumbs up and peace signs.
cycling · fitness · planning · training · traveling

Sam goes spring riding with friends (finally!)

Sarah front and center takes a selfie. On the photo’s left are the blog’s Kim and Susan and on the right are David and Sam. We standing in front of the sign for Billie Bear Road.

It’s been a cold wet spring. As Tracy posted last week we’ve had a miserable few months of cold wet weather that hasn’t exactly been inspiring outdoor activity. I was envisioning months of outdoor riding leading up to our Newfoundland trip. (I think there’s still room, by the way.) Instead I’ve been riding inside even in May!

Well this weekend is the May holiday weekend in Canada and while the weather wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t terrible for riding either. Susan invited Sarah, David, Kim and me to her family cottage for the weekend and we all brought our bikes so could ride and get ready for our big Newfoundland adventure. Susan got to introduce us to her favorite nearby hilly road. You could tell it was warm and the holiday weekend because on Sunday there were three other groups of cyclists on that same stretch of road.

I think we all felt a bit rusty. Well, I did. Susan got to ride her fancy new bike. We all got to practise our group riding skills. The hills were demanding on the way up and “whee!”on the way down. I loved the hills. I wasn’t a big fan of all the gravel that had washed into the road. But there was a big smile on my face doing one of the things I liked most in the world, riding bikes with friends.

This week it’s back to work and back to my resolution of riding 20 km and writing 30 minutes each day.

The weekend ended wth the other great Canadian spring tradition, bbqing in the rain. Quite the thunderstorm. Thanks Sarah. Image description: Sarah in a red raincoat tending the BBQ on the deck with the lake in the background.

After riding there was food, of course. Here’s a bagel with black bean spread, avocado, and melted cheddar cheese. Yum!
cycling · fitness · traveling

How Sam gets pretty in pink! #Brompton

I did it! I’m now the proud owner of a Brompton folding bicycle. Instant love.

I decided (finally) to buy one while in New York. Sarah and I got home Monday and checked to see if it was in stock at Curbside. Sarah picked it up Tuesday and I flew with it Wednesday and I’ve been riding around Halifax, giddy and grinning, while here for the Canadian Council of Deans of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

(Catherine’s traveling with a Brompton story wasn’t quite so happy. So it’s not all kittens and rainbows in the Brompton world.)

Have you ever done a thing and instantly known it was the right thing? Thought maybe you should have done it years ago? That’s me and this bike. I started browsing in earnest last year but I’ve been thinking about it for ages

❤️  So far I’ve had great experiences riding it, folding it, and taking it in places. Zero objections so far and so many smiles. I will say that it’s not a go fast road bike and I was a bit nervous that I couldn’t accelerate and change lanes across traffic if I needed to. On the other hand, I’m upright and more comfortable around pedestrians. I can take it on the sidewalk if I need to.

It feels great in bike lanes and riding around the city in traffic.

I’ll write more later about riding it, folding it, and taking it places.

Everything pink!

Bright pink manicure at the gate. Colour to match the new bike of course.

My bright pink Airbnb in Halifax.

Bright pink Brompton.

cycling · fitness classes · traveling

Sam worships at the church of spin and empowerment in Halifax, #SpinCo

The back story: I travel a lot for work and I struggle to combine work travel and fitness activities. I blog about it a lot. It’s a challenge. See here and here and here and here.

But it’s also a challenge that’s changed a lot over the years. Certainly it’s changed since we started the blog. The big difference is that I used to be able to count on walking a lot while traveling, carrying my own bags, and a little hotel room yoga to meet my fitness needs. These days though I can’t walk as much as I’d like. My knee is unreliable. Some days I can’t walk much at all.

So I’ve realized that to achieve my fitness goals and stay emotionally healthy I need actively pursue fitness while I travel. I need to take time out of my days to do specific fitnessy things. Everyday movement just won’t cut it. My knee even feels better with exercise so riding my bike has a kind of urgency about it these days. Heading out to Halifax for the Canadian Council of Arts, Humanities, and Social Science Deans annual meeting, I decided to take some spin classes while there.

So I searched online and found Spinco. They had classes at a time I was free and it was right downtown. I signed up for two classes.

Here’s my quick review:

👍 I loved the staff,. They were so warm and welcoming and enthusiastic. They helped store my new Brompton behind the counter, talked with me about Guelph and about spin classes, and they helped get me set up. They were probably the friendliest and most helpful fitness studio staff I’ve ever met and I’ve been to a lot of fitness studios in my life. Give these women raises!

👍 I loved the energy and the music. I even went looking for playlists on Spotify. Here’s one. The vibe was upbeat and happy. We worked hard but we also had a lot of fun.

👍 The physical space was bright and light and comfortable. They had nice lockers and showers. There was zero weight loss messaging and no scale in the locker room.

👍 I loved that I could use my road bike shoes. These were the first spin bikes I’ve seen that have Look Keo pedals. Most people won’t own them and the studio had cycling shoes which most people there were wearing.

👎I wasn’t a big fan of the music volume. I had a hard time hearing the instructor over the music. I kept thinking of your post Cate on what makes a good spin class. You would have also hated the volume. At one point I thought the instructor kept yelling “Wall Two, Wall Two” and I wondered what that meant. Some special SpinCo thing? No, it was of course “One Two.”

👎I also wasn’t a big fan of the dark. I couldn’t really see what the instructor was doing. There was a disco ball and groovy lighting but still, too dark for me.  When I went to get weights I couldn’t read the numbers of the end to see how heavy they were (not very) and to make sure I got a matched set. I nearly tripped returning my weights when it was all done! I would’ve put on my phone flashlight except I’d followed instructions to leave my phone in the locker.

👎 I missed having access to the data. I want to know my speed, my cadence, my power. These bikes didn’t have computers with the data. Now, this  is more a “spin/dance” class than an “indoor cycling” class but still. I missed my numbers!

👎 I felt a little bit out of place. There might have been two people in the class over the age of 30! There were a lot of pony tails and yoga pants and sports bras. It’s okay not to fit in and I’m comfortable with that most of the time but this was a bit much. (I went twice though and the weekend class was better. There were two guys and a couple of women closer to my age.)

❓ There was a lot of bike dancing. Check out the video below if you don’t know what I mean by that. So much moving around on the bike to music. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either. I might have preferred less of it truth be told, much as I love dancing off the bike. In order to keep my knee happy with all the dancing I had to keep a lot of tension on so I was in control but it’s nice to be able to do that now.

❓I was intrigued by the SpinCo motivational jam. It was like being at church with Oprah on speed. “You are enough. You are not broken. You are not the habits you acquired while coping with trauma. Those habits do not define you. It’s a new day. You are powerful. You can leave all your bad news behind in this class.”

You get the idea. It was pretty unrelenting. I didn’t mind it but it’s a definite thing.

It’s obviously connected to the company’s mission.

“It is our mission to empower and inspire our community. We are in the business of revolutionizing lives and know that our work is never done. We believe that strength comes from within, but that we are stronger as one. Our aim is to infuse our community with a positive, never-quit attitude, which reaches far beyond the doors of our studios. This is our culture. We believe in it. We live it. We breathe it. It’s who we are.”

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@brenden.butchart ⚡️🏁#SPINCOhalifax

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See lots more on their instagram page. Would I attend regularly if I lived in Halifax and worked downtown? Maybe. It was a pretty good workout. It was fun. I left in a good mood.  If i’m in Halifax for work again I’ll definitely go back.

YMMV.