cycling · fall · season transitions

Fall noodling in the countryside

Big Island Bike Ride

I’ve written lots about how much I love fall riding. See here and here.

Fall is my very favorite bike riding season. All those beautiful colours, all that summer fitness, and sunshine-y cool weather. So much fun. See Reasons to start riding in the fall and Looking ahead: The quiet season and the joys of fall riding.

This weekend Sarah and I were at her family farm in Prince Edward County. We frolicked in the swimming pool. I did swim some laps but mostly I enjoyed splashing about.

We had friends visit for physical distanced BBQ dinners. We ate outside with lap blankets and toques!

This year I want to make sure we squeeze every last drop of pleasure and togetherness out of summer since we know we’re heading into a tough fall and winter.

We also made sure we got out for a Sunday bike ride. Our plan was to noodle around Big Island. What’s “noodling” on a bike? The dictionary says it’s the action of improvising or playing casually on a musical instrument. How does that translate to riding bikes?

Well, we had no speed goals. We went just as fast as we felt like. We were open to route changes.We stopped to adjust things on our bikes. We also stopped several times to take photos (see some of them above.) We smiled and waved at children and dogs. We chatted lots about houses and plans. We also created a new Strava segment, one that reflects the playfulness of the day. It’s called “Osprey2Osprey” and it’s from one osprey nest to another, It’s about 3.5 km. Later we’ll have fun sprinting that stretch and racing one another home but today was all about noodling.

We’ve got two more weekends with bikes planned, one more with road bikes at the farm and another, with our gravel bikes, on the Guelph to Goderich trail.

Here’s what our noodling looks like by the numbers!

cycling · fall · habits · weight lifting · yoga

Fall weather and Sam’s five part fitness plan!

image

What are your fall fitness plans?

I’ve got a few–five in fact–and the first two are new. I’ve never done them before.

First, fall is time to get the gravel bike out and explore. The lovely folks at Speed River Bicycle, my LBS, shared this list of multi-surface rides with me when I took to Twitter with my autumn cycling plans. Sarah and I have a weekend away planned on the newly finished Guelph to Goderich rail trail.

Second, I’ve signed up for Zwift Academy: “Unlock your untapped power with the program that started it all. World-class coaches bring killer workouts to boost your performance on the bike. New friends bring fun.” That’s October 1-November 25.

Third, my mum, Sarah, and I are going to keep working out outside in the backyard with a personal trainer for as long as weather permits. We’re all cold weather hardy. But rain might put us off. But we have flexible schedules. Let’s see! Maybe I’ll even lure my mum into blogging for us.

Fourth, there’s Yoga With Adriene. She’s a bit of a fitness fixture around here.

And finally, fifth, there’s strength training of various sorts. We’ve got lots of resistance bands, kettlebells, dumbbells, and the trusty TRX. Sometimes I think I need to get organized about it. Other times, I think it’s okay to do random, snack sized fitness-y things when the mood strikes.

What’s your plan for the fall? Anything new?

Photos from Unsplash. This one is a white hand holding up a bright red maple leaf against a dark background.
cycling · fashion

Bike dresses in white?

It’s finally here the first bike friendly dress now in white.

Dear Frank and Oak,

Have you ever stopped to fix a flat? Have you ever tried to put a dropped chain back on?

CLEARLY NOT. Because if you had you’d realize that of all the colours for a bike dress, white is just not on.

I realize you don’t have to do what I tend to do–wipe bike grease off on my black bike shorts–but still. Even for the most fastidious of cyclists–say one who carries wet wipes for wiping their hands (here’s looking at you Martin!), white isn’t a colour that works.

I’m not sure what makes this a bike dress. Almost any dress can be a bike dress. Like the nap dress. I’m sure it has special features that make it bike friendly but still, no matter how good those features are, they are overruled by the not very bike friendly colour.

Thanks,

Sam

camping · covid19 · cycling · fitness · snow · winter

Is this the year to try snow biking?

Sam riding her fat bike on a trail on a sunny winter day

I saw a tweet the other day that made me smile.

I loved all the snow and the sun and the smiling faces.

We’re going into this winter knowing it’s going to be hard. And I find regular falls challenging. See here and here and here. Oh, and here! It’s a bit of a theme on the blog and in my life. Lol

The reporting about winter in the time of COVID-19 is gloomy and hard to read.

See A Canadian coronavirus winter is looming — and it could ‘amplify loneliness’: “But winter is coming and, according to experts, so too is the accompanying seasonal woes. And this time, it will be “amplified” by the confines of the coronavirus, according to Roger McIntyre, a psychiatrist and professor at the University of Toronto. An epidemic of loneliness long preceded this pandemic. And just by the nature of winter, people are less likely to come in contact with others. It’s a realistic concern.”

Since March, Canadians have been told to stay apart to stop the spread of the virus. The ability to be outdoors has provided safer alternatives to exercise, recreation, commuting and dining, among other things. In the winter, those options will dwindle. Experts have warned the risk of transmission also increases indoors.”

So what’s my plan? Because it’s clear that I am going to need a plan. I’m trying to remind myself of all the things I like about winter. I’m fending off anticipatory sadness with thoughts of snow biking and winter camping.

So far my plan has four parts but the fourth is still a bit sketchy and needs the details filling in. There’s time.

First, more time outside, including winter riding.

Second, I’m bringing home my SAD lamp from my university office and I’m going to use it in my home office.

Third, I’m following Catherine’s advice and getting a small warming fireplace for my deck so I can visit with friends outside even during Canadian winter.

Fourth, I used to joke about Canadians who went south in the winter. The truth is though between riding in Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina for the past number of years (I’m not even going to check to see how many!) I’ve become one of those people. It’s only ever been for a week at a time but this year that won’t happen at all. I’ve already booked some time in a yurt for winter outdoor sports. And I’m still scheming about what else I might do.

Suggestions welcome!

How about you? Are you in a northern climate heading into what looks like a long, lonely winter? How do you plan to keep body and spirit moving?

cycling · fitness

If only real world cycling had a fence….

The images above are of a virtual group ride in Zwift. It’s the Sunday afternoon TFC team social ride where we are divided into two groups by pace.

That’s similar to cycling in the real world where clubs often have an A group and B group. My old club in London, Ontario even had a C group. There’s an advertised pace for these groups and since C starts last it’s the no-drop ride. We often picked up people dropped by the faster groups.

In Zwift it’s done by watts per kilo. Here I’m riding with the sub 2.5 watts per kilo group. My ego feels the need to tell you that I can ride with the faster group and have done so in the past but it doesn’t feel like a social, recovery ride. I’m kind of working hard at the back of the pack. Often real world cycling groups specify an average pace. In Guelph Speed River Cycling describes their rides as “leisurely,” “moderate,” and “advanced” where advanced is averaging 29-31 km/hr and leisurely is 25-27 km/hr and moderate is in the middle.

So that’s the way things are supposed to work. But we all know that sometimes, in the cycling world, the advertised pace isn’t the actual pace. You show up for a group ride where you know you can keep up with pace they say they’ll ride but instead they are all speedy and zoomy and you’re either being left behind or exhausted struggling to keep up. Ugh. Often, though not always, this behavior is gendered. It’s not a race, guys.

There’s a fix for this problem in Zwift and it’s called The Fence.

The Fence sits out in front–see above–like a sheer, red band. Go faster than the group leader and eventually you’ll run into the fence.

There’s also the stern warning, “Return to group!”

I got close to it in this ride so I could share some pictures of it with you.

Here’s a video about how it works.

The etiquette of the group rides is that you don’t speed off the front and make others chase you. Inevitably it splits up the group as some struggle to keep up while others pursue the faster riders. In the real world there’s yelling, “ease up” for example.

In Zwift there’s the fence. I’m a fan

cycling · Guest Post · running · swimming · triathalon

Why Will Writing Make You a Better Triathlete? Or Ten Maxims of Writing for My Students (Guest post)

by Şerife Tekin

I turned 40 last Friday. To celebrate my efforts to become a triathlete in my late 30s I went to the beautiful Canyon Lake with a super-triathlete friend. With no actual race or scheduled event in sight due to pandemic, we executed our very own choose-your-own-adventure triathlon. We swam for 40 minutes, rode our bikes on high hills for 40 minutes and ran for 40 minutes. I would have never considered waking up at 4am and pushing hard nonstop for two hours a kind of celebration but, hey, maybe that was what 40s were for. I suffered with so much joy. It was the fittest I’ve ever felt; I could have probably gone for another round of 40+40+40 (after having snacks!)

How come it felt easy and fun even though triathlons are still so new for me? Two reasons: First, the foundational triathlon training program prepared by my awesome coach and my ability to stick with it thanks to pandemic’s side effect of no travelling. Since March, all my work-related trips (averaging 2 per month) were cancelled and I stayed put with a solid uninterrupted time to dedicate to my research, writing, and training. The second reason was me discovering that triathlon training and writing have so much in common. Since March, I have also been thinking about the graduate course I was going to be teaching this Fall, on Philosophical Research and Writing. As I contemplated on my own research and writing process to find the best way to pitch the course to my students, I realized how much in common (academic) writing and triathlon training have. I started transferring my attitude to writing to my training. Triathlon training, just like writing, I realized, involves a lot of suffering and joy. Here are the ten maxims that have been working for me; perhaps they will work for you too!

1. Do a bit everyday

Noone ever wakes up one day to find themselves transformed into a strong athlete or a prolific writer. It takes a lot of consistency. Develop a routine and do a little bit of writing/training each day.

My habit of writing by using the Pomodoro Technique – in 25-minute chunks – served me well in my tri-athletic endeavors. Even when I don’t feel like writing (I almost never do!) I convince myself to do it just for 25 minutes. Most of the time that one 25-minute chunk turns into 4 or 5 because I eventually start enjoying it. Similarly, I started taking a look at the training I have for the day and dividing it into 25-minute chunks. It helped me overcome the mental obstacle of say, having to run 70 minutes in the summer heat of Texas: It was only two chunks of 25 minutes with a 10 minute warm up and 10 minute cool down.

2. Track your progress

Tracking your progress enables you to celebrate small victories or think about what you can do to improve. In other words, don’t wait to finish the project you are working on to celebrate – your dissertation is not going to be done in four Pomodoro sessions. Instead, give credit to how much time and work you’ve already put into it. As a bit of a productivity technology junkie, I use an app called “forest” to track my writing time; after each 25 minutes the app plants a tree. It is so fun to see a forest emerge out of nothingness. Similarly, it is motivating and sobering to see how many hours per week I spent running, biking, and swimming on my smart watch and Strava.

3. Don’t worry about perfection; allow yourself be awful.

Accept that every day is going to be different. Sometimes you spend eight Pomodoro sessions just writing random sentences with no sense, logical coherence, or whatsoever; sometimes you pump out a well-argued paper in just four. Similarly, sometimes (often!) running sucks all the life out of me; everything hurts, I am short of breath even after 10 minutes. I learned to accept the pain and carry on. As my coach always says, it will always hurt, regardless of how fast you can go; even the elite athletes suffer. Just plow forward. You need to be really bad at it before you can be good at it. If you need more inspiration listen to Ira Glass on storytelling.

4. Read or foam-roll if you feel stuck.

Sometimes, you just can’t write, you are stuck. After hiding under your blanket with your eyes tightly closed having a panic attack (this is a very typical process for me when I start a new project), get up, wash your face and read. Just relaxing into reading will help get back to writing. I think the reading-equivalent of triathlon training is foam-rolling; when everything hurts and I “can’t even…” anymore I get on the foam roll, it relaxes my muscles as they get stronger.

5. Rest. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

Take at least one day off per week. Get enough sleep. Take naps. Eat. These all fuel your writing and training. Always keep snacks around.

6. Balance between sprint and endurance workouts.

Sometimes work on multiple projects simultaneously in one day: 25 minutes for that article revision, 25 minutes for that conference abstract, etc. Make sure to also work on a single project for a long time in a given day, such as your dissertation or book. Endurance writing is necessary for big projects. Similarly, do multiple sports in one day (combining cycling and swimming in a day is always a good idea; or a bike-run brick) while training but make sure to do one long session per week on one of the three sports.

7. Enjoy solitude

Get comfortable being alone, in your head, for hours at a time, both for writing and triathlon training. Yes, you need to spend time, writing, by yourself. That is the only way you improve. Similarly, you need to run, ride, swim, by yourself, for hours at a time, to make progress. It will get uncomfortable at times, be ok with it.

8. Find your peeps

Yes, you need peeps. You need them to feel inspired and motivated but you also need them for the honest and sometimes brutal feedback they will give you. Get comfortable with sharing your work with your peers, supervisors, or anonymous referees and receiving feedback. You might hate it at first but taking the feedback seriously will make you a better writer. I love receiving feedback; someone took the time to challenge you, that’s just so precious! Similarly, get comfortable training with other people and getting feedback on how you are doing. You might be the slowest in the group (I often am!), or you might have no idea about the technicalities they are talking about, but listen, learn, enjoy. Try to incorporate their recommendations into your training.

9. Listen to yourself but not too much.

Listening to yourself is a double edge sword: acknowledging how you are stuck in your writing or you really don’t have time because you have to fulfill x,y,z, responsibilities are important; you can work on addressing these so that you can dedicate time to writing. But don’t always believe yourself– these thoughts might be your mind making up excuses to avoid the discomfort of writing. When you feel this way, go back to advice number 1, do it for 25 minutes. Similarly, while training, listen to yourself: if your knee is stabbing in pain, be sure to skip the run that day, but maybe try to drag yourself out of bed and go for your run-meet even when you really feel like sleeping in.

10. Showcase your progress

Whether submitting a conference paper or sending articles to journals for publication, get out there and see how you do. You will learn a lot and make solid progress. Similarly, do races or group events once in a while to see how much you’ve improved and what else you can do to push your limits.

Şerife Tekin is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Medical Humanities at UTSA. When she is not moving around she can be found petting her kitty cat Cortez. Her website is www.serifetekin.com,

accessibility · cycling · family

Safe cycling is a feminist issue: Sam talks with David Isaac about cycling infrastructure and women riders

I’ve been enjoying my exchanges with David Isaac on Twitter. Like me, he’s got both the word “philosophy” and the word “cyclist” in his bio. We’re also both interested in the issues facing women cyclists. I’m just on the edge of the cycling advocacy community here in Guelph but David is quite involved in bike advocacy in London, Ontario, the city he calls home.

Here’s our recent chat about women and bike safety.

Hey, welcome to Fit is a Feminist Issue! Maybe we can start by you telling us a bit about your background as a cycling infrastructure advocate and also as a cyclist.

David: I have always been a cyclist – I’ve been riding a bike to work and school for over a decade in Kitchener-Waterloo and London. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve started to get more involved as an advocate. I’m a personal injury lawyer, and in my line of work it’s not uncommon to see cyclists who are hurt in collisions with drivers. As I started looking into why these collisions were so frequent, it became clear that infrastructure played a big role. Where proper bike infrastructure is in place, more people ride bikes, but collisions are less frequent. As I came to understand this better, I started advocating for proper infrastructure. A lot of that advocacy is just on Twitter, but I’ve also given a few talks and interviews about cycling. 

What’s the connection, do you think, between good safe cycling infrastructure and the goal of getting more women on bikes?

David: Research shows that where safe cycling infrastructure is built, more women will ride their bikes. “Safe infrastructure” generally means bike lanes that physically separate the cyclist from vehicles – the old joke is that “paint isn’t infrastructure”. It’s important to note that the research does not show that this correlation is due to a sort of evo-psych explanation about women being inherently risk-averse. Each person’s risk tolerance is different, and this of course intersects with race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, etc. 

Léa Ravensbergen, a PhD student at the University of Toronto, has done some excellent research into the differences between what women and men use bikes for. She uses a great term “vélomobilities of care” to describe the ways people meet their and others’ household needs using bicycles – for instance, by taking kids to school or running errands. She notes that because women take on a disproportionate amount of this work, the types of activities women use cycling for are often different for women than for men. So the location of infrastructure matters. If it only serves commuters, but doesn’t connect to a daycare or a grocery store, it will mostly benefit male cyclists. Protected bike lanes are the go-to example of safe infrastructure, but it isn’t the only thing that matters in getting women on bikes. Bike parking that is well-lit and safe is also important. 

Cycling has a reputation of being a male-dominated activity, and the discourse around cycling infrastructure suffers from this same problem. This can lead to issues in determining where cycling infrastructure is built. If cities only listen to advice about bike lanes from white men, they will end up building bike lanes that are primarily useful to white men. Viewing infrastructure through a feminist lens means building cycling infrastructure in places that benefit women, and making sure cyclists are protected from gendered violence. Again, it goes without saying that other identities play a large role in this. Bike lanes in wealthy neighbourhoods will only increase cycling among wealthy women. 

I’ve heard it said that women are the “indicator species” for safe happy community cycling. Countries with a big number of cyclists also have lots of women out on bikes–commuting, recreationally riding, etc. Why is that, do you think?

David: I think there are probably two main factors at play here. The first is that those countries generally have a large network of bike lanes, which are more likely to connect to places that women are more likely to cycle to. The other is if you are a woman who wants to ride, and there are lots of people riding, it’s easier to find other people to help you get started. Ravensbergen noted that trips that are considered difficult by bike (such as a grocery shop or taking children to school) can be made easier if you have mentorship opportunities to teach you how to make those trips more easily. 

Why is safe cycling a feminist issue?

David: People who cycle regularly have significantly improved health outcomes compared to non-cyclists. This applies to both mental and physical health. Cycling can save you money and is better for the environment. Plus, it’s fun! It’s important that these benefits are available to everyone, not just men.

Safe cycling is also key to creating healthier, more interconnected communities. If people live in disconnected places, they can’t access things they need like social connection, fresh food, healthcare, or child care. Safe cycling infrastructure can make cities more equitable. 

David and his cargo bike
Winter riding

David Isaac is a personal injury lawyer and cycling advocate in London, Ontario. He specializes in helping pedestrians and cyclists who are injured. He tweets about cycling, law and philosophy at @DIsaac8.

birthday · charity · cycling

Some days even I’m a completist…

Three years ago I wrote about not being a completist and about blogger Cate and accountant/duathlete Cathy who are. See Are you a completist? If so, you’ll wonder why Sam didn’t go for a short Sunday night bike ride!

Yes, this Sunday night, just home from the farm and a long drive from Prince Edward County, here I am just getting off my bike having ridden an oddball number of kilometres on the trainer. Why, you ask? It’s a reasonable question.

Again, weekly distance goals on Zwift that were almost, but not quite, met. My goal is to ride 100 km a week on Zwift. This week, I had done almost that (94 km or so) plus 50 km in Prince Edward County, the last of my summer charity rides, Pedal for Parkinson’s. But those were outdoor kms and they don’t count on Zwift.

You can sponsor me here by the way. I’m still a few hundred dollars away from my goal.

But likely the weekly Zwift distance goal wouldn’t have gotten me back on the bike.

However, tomorrow is also my birthday and I have a tradition of riding my age in kilometres on the weekend nearest my birthday. I’d ridden 50 but I am turning 56.

Back on the bike!

I chose to ride in virtual France. I kept going after 6 km had passed, just because. It’s very pretty virtual scenery.

Now I can call it a week. I’ve ridden more than 100 km on Zwift and my age in kilometres.

Night night!

Person standing by a bike at sunset. Photo by Robert V. Ruggiero on Unsplash.
cycling · stereotypes

Gender, bots, and speed: Sam is happily surprised that the fastest bot is female

Occasionally I think, when it comes to gender and athletic stereotypes, things are definitely improving.

First, there were the resistance bands I bought as part of our pandemic, home workout prep. . I actually bought some that were too strong– because they had a woman on the box, I was charmed and surprised–and blogged about it: Pleasant surprise!

And now, Zwift is introducing virtual riding buddies, Bots. They’re pacing partners who ride at a certain pace and you ride with them as motivation to keep riding at that pace. See “PACE PARTNERS” PACER BOTS NOW RIDING IN WATOPIA.

Here’s what one looks like:

“Pace Partners” Pacer Bots Now Riding in Watopia
Pacing bot in Zwift

But you know what I was worried about. I thought they all might be men. Or, there would be a mix of men and women and all the fast bots would be men.

Instead, another pleasant surprise. Zwift came through on both counts. There are equal number of male and female bots and the fastest one is a woman.

According to an article in Zwift Insider here’s the pace partner line-up!

  • “Diesel Dan” (1-2.4 w/kg)”: Casual-paced group ride with a few gentle hills
  • “CoCo Cadence” (2.5-3.1 w/kg): Moderately-paced group ride with occasional hills
  • “Bowie Brevet” (3.2-3.9 w/kg): Expert-paced group ride with frequent climbs.
  • “Amelia Anquetil” (4+ w/kg): Elite-paced ride on a challenging route. Many tough climbs!

Amelia is the fastest!

Also, although everyone is describing CoCo and Bowie as female and male, respectively, those are pretty gender neutral names. Maybe they’re non binary bots? I’d like that. Thanks Zwift.

Thanks Zwift.

charity · cycling

Sam, Sarah, and Susan are Pedaling for Parkinson’s

You can sponsor me here.

“This summer I am taking part in Pedaling for Parkinson’s – a cycling event that was created to raise awareness about Parkinson’s and raise funds for research. Your donations support the Pedaling for Parkinson’s Research Grant and the Parkinson Canada Research Program.

Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disease. Movement is normally controlled by dopamine, a chemical that carries signals between the nerves in the brain. When cells that normally produce dopamine die, the symptoms of Parkinson’s appear. Currently, there is no cure. The need is only increasing. More than 25 Canadians are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every day; more than one person every hour. By 2031, the number of people living with Parkinson’s in Canada will more than double. Your support fuels the increasing need for research to improve quality of life and ultimately find a cure.

With your support we can help Parkinson Canada realize their vision of a better life today for Canadians living with Parkinson’s; a world without Parkinson’s tomorrow.”

To hear about the blog’s connection to Parkinson’s and raising money for Parkinson’s research, you can read Susan’s 2019 post on pedaling for Parkinson’s and her 2017 post on embracing life on a bike as someone with a diagnosis of Parkinson‘s.