‘Tis the season– for coffee rides!

Just when I thought it would never end, my semester is (almost) over. My last exam is Tuesday, and grades are due soon after. The weather has turned gorgeous (for now), which means my fancy has turned to: coffee rides!

My friend Pata and I have been cycling together since 2007, when we met at the NEBC (Northeast Bike Club) Women’s Ride. One of my favorite types of rides with her is the coffee ride. It is what it sounds like– we meet up and ride to our favorite local coffee place (Peet’s in Lexingon, MA) for coffee and possible baked goods, depending on when we arrive and what’s left. It’s one of my favorite summer pleasures.

This summer we’ll have to be intentional about planning them, as Pata’s work schedule is much busier. But our love for 1) cycling; 2) coffee; and 3) each other will, no doubt, prevail.

Here’s a post from 2017 about the bliss of coffee rides. Enjoy reading, riding, and sipping!


cycling · fitness · weight loss

To listen, read, watch on a Monday, #ListenReadWatch

To listen

The Myth of the Childhood Obesity Epidemic
Virginia reads Chapter 1 of FAT TALK.

To read

Krista Scott Dixon, The First Rule of the Fast Club (on her Stumptuous Blog) It’s from 2012 but it’s still one the best things I’ve read about intermittent fasting. Fasting is in the news a lot these days (again!) and if you’re curious, go have a look.

Nutrition Research Forgot About Dads
When it comes to their influence on kids’ eating habits, dads are far less studied than moms. But they may leave just as big a mark. (The Atlantic)

“One 2018 study of 658 parents by Yale researchers found that although nearly everyone (93 percent) demonstrated some sort of weight bias, fathers, as well as parents of any gender with the perceived privilege of “healthy weight,” were more likely than mothers to agree with negative statements such as “Severely obese children are unusually untidy” (findings on the differences between mothers’ and fathers’ food parenting vary). Other research concluded that fathers with more education and a higher family income were more likely than other fathers to endorse fat stereotypes. And kids absorb this stigma: Adolescents were more likely to diet and binge eat if their parents talked about weight, according to a 2013 survey published in JAMA Pediatrics of 2,793 kids.”

To watch

“Canada’s Kelsey Mitchell won gold in the women’s sprint finals on the second day of competition at the UCI Track Nations Cup on Saturday in Milton, Ont., collecting her second medal in as many days.

The 29-year-old from Sherwood Park, Alta., was matched up with Colombia’s Martha Bayona in a best-of-three final, already guaranteed more hardware a day after finishing second in the women’s team sprint alongside compatriots Lauriane Genest and Sarah Orban.” From CBC.

Sarah and I dropped in to the velodrome Saturday night to watch some of the racing. It was pretty exciting seeing riders from all over the world, racing all the different track race formats, and lots of women. I couldn’t stay very long. I’m still very much recovering from knee surgery. But it was pretty exciting viewing and it felt great to get out of the house. If you haven’t watched bike racing at the velodrome, I recommend it.

cycling · fitness

Having a thing about islands

This story about Ontario islands came through my social media newsfeed recently–7 Breathtaking Islands to Visit Around Ontario That Feel Like a Slice of Paradise — and I confess I was intrigued. I’ve always had a thing about islands. I was born on an island, Great Britain. More specifically I was born in England but the island is called Britain. I spent some formative years, ages 4-10, on a large Canadian island (Newfoundland). I’ve sabbatical-ed on some big islands, Australia and the South Island of New Zealand.

And since then I’ve spent a few vacations bicycling on or around islands. And there’s a bit of a “bikes and boats” theme to my vacations.

There’s the usual Big Island Bike Ride, near Sarah’s family farm. And then Manitoulin (also in Ontario) and Bora Bora (definitely not in Ontario). See Sam Likes Riding Around Islands.

Mallory continued the family trend cycling on Prince Edward Island’s Confederation Trail on her most recent solo bike holiday.

Of the 7 Ontario islands listed above–Manitoulin, Flower Pot, Mackinac, Wolfe, Pelee, Toronto Islands, and Heart Island. I’ve been to most of them, and a few aren’t suitable for biking. But I’d like to go cycling on Pelee Island this summer.

The Waterfront Trail might be a great first ride after my second knee replacement surgery while I’ll still be riding short distances. “The Pelee Island Waterfront Trail is a 30km circular route, following close to the Lake Erie shoreline all around the Island. The route travels quiet country roads, through farmland, vineyards and natural areas, and has equal sections that are paved and unpaved. The Waterfront Trail also connects to the Islands’s Ecological Trail System, providing access to beaches, forests, sand dunes, marshes and alvars found nowhere else in Canada. “

Pelee Island

Any other islands you’d recommend for cycling?

Of the big, faraway islands I often think I’d like to go cycling in Tasmania.

cycling · disability · fitness

Cane storage while bike riding

This knee issue has me googling odd things. The latest? Where to store your cane while riding your bike.

The days are getting brighter and just a little bit warmer. I’m hoping to get a few bikes ride in outdoors before my next knee surgery.

But the thing is I can ride a bike. I just can’t walk anywhere without my cane. Don’t worry. It’s not my left knee that’s the issue. It’s happily replaced and rehabbed. Mostly, some stiffness aside, it’s working fine. But my right knee is in tough shape. It’s painful, not particularly stable and not happy bearing weight while walking.

Now if I were only going bike riding it would be fine. If I stop somewhere I can even use the bike as an assistive device while walking. The issue is if I’m going somewhere with my bike where I need to walk around indoors, say my office. I guess I could leave a cane there. But what about shopping inside?

I think I need to carry the cane with me. I might get a collapsible one for my backpack but I like the idea of being a cyclist who is visibly in need of walking assistance. See ‘A rolling walking stick’ to find out more about cycling as a way of getting about for people with disabilties.

“In the context of an ageing global population, mobility experts are increasingly seeing cycling as a way to help people with disabilities move around cities independently. A bike can act as a “rolling walking stick”; yet looking at its owner you wouldn’t know they had a disability: around 40% of disabled cyclists simply use a regular two-wheeled bike. For two out of three disabled cyclists, riding a bike is easier than walking, easing joint strain, aiding balance and relieving breathing difficulties. According to recent research by Transport for London, 78% of disabled people are able to cycle, while 15% sometimes use a bike to get around.”

There are some great photos here on the Cycle Chic blog of people riding while carrying various assistive devices.

Photo from Scopio. A bike’s rear wheel in front of bright leaves.
cycling · fitness

Please let Sam have some good (even passable) bike riding weather before surgery!

On the one hand, there’s this: The Beautiful and Terrifying Arrival of Early Spring.

On the other hand, there’s my second knee replacement surgery April 11th.

So I’m wishing for early spring so I can ride before surgery at the same time I’m worried about what that means for the pace of global warming and climate change. The week before the last surgery I rode Toronto to Montreal and while I won’t manage that, I could at least like to get some bike commuting in.

This fall I had hoped to recover quickly enough to get out on bike outdoors before winter hit. That didn’t happen. I did get to ride outside in Arizona in January. And I did remember how to ride a bike. Yes, I’ve been riding on the trainer but it was the getting on and off and stopping and starting that was rusty. I loved riding outside again and was happy to discover that I could still ride my road bike. I’m not switching to a recumbent or a trike just yet. (To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with that switch and when I get there I will happily do it.)

But the week in Arizona wasn’t long enough. Ever since getting back I’ve been waiting for the day when I can commute to work by bike again. I miss my cheery pink Brompton! To be clear, I’m not that worried about temperature. I am worried about clear pavement. I can’t afford to take a tumble on the ice on my bike.

So here’s to some warmer weather, maybe even some rainy weather to clear the roads, and then some 10 degrees C + days for riding to and from the university.

Kids on bikes, photo by Arseny Togulev on Unsplash
cycling · Rowing · running · yoga

What sports do you pair?

For Catherine, it’s cycling and kayaking. I’m also a fan of this combo.

The case for cycling and kayaking as companion sports

In general, I think a number of us on the blog are fans of water based sports. When I first started the fittest-by-fifty challenge, one of my goals was to take up something new and I went for rowing. In this older post I talked about the skills overlap between rowing and cycling.

Kim Solga is another fan of the rowing/cycling combo.

These days for me, during the summer months, there’s a lot of boating and biking–Snipe racing and road bike riding.

For many of the bloggers, I think it’s running and yoga that are their favourite pairing.

How about you? Of all the sports and physical activities that bring you joy, which is your favourite pairing? Let us know in the comments.

Yoga in the park, Scopio
cycling · fitness · hiking

Feb 13 is 24 weeks since total knee replacement and Sam wishes her new knee a Happy Valentine’s Day

Oh, new knee. I love you.

We had a wonderful trip to Arizona, with lots of regular movement, hiking and biking galore.

And then I got home and my physiotherapist pronounced that I don’t have to use my cane if I don’t feel I need it. My gait is pretty normal. (And yes, I’ll still use it or my hiking poles outside while it’s snowy and icy.)

I’m feeling confident now that more movement is better than less for my knee after Arizona. I’m going to try to use the trainer everyday and as soon as I can, get back to commuting to work by bike.

Strength training is going well too. I’m starting to feel more like my old self at the gym. You can see muscles in my leg again.

Happy Valentine’s new knee!

cycling · fitness · hiking · holiday fitness · holidays

Themes from riding in the Arizona sunshine

As this blog post is published my flight home from Arizona will be touching down at Pearson airport in Toronto. (Update: Fight delayed and so this blog post will be published first. Fine.)

It’s been a wonderful week of philosophy, riding bikes, hiking, and generally hanging about in the Arizona sunshine.

Arizona Workshop in Normative Ethics

I’ve been trying think about how to organize my reflections on this trip which has been very different from past Arizona bike trips but successful and important in other ways.

I mean the biggest difference was that it wasn’t an organized bike tour with tour leaders, a schedule, other riders, and big distances. I’m very much still recovering from knee replacement surgery and I can’t commit to riding a certain number of kilometers each day. I wanted to go riding for a week in Cuba but with my right knee now getting worse, I knew that was too much.

What’s the same? Disassembling bikes, loading them and all of our cycling clothes and gear for a week into bike boxes and then reassembling, moving clothes into bags packed in the bike boxes. It’s like going from a plane trip where everything is carefully organized into checked bag and carry on to a car road trip with stuff strewn across the back seat including random roadside snack purchases, and then back again.

Bikes in their boxes on a luggage cart with suitcases

What’s different about the do it yourself trip with bikes is making individual decisions about where to go and where to stay and where to eat. I kind of like that bike tours take that out of your hands. We stayed in the full range of places from the conference resort hotel for a couple of days after the conference, to a bed and breakfast in Ramsey Canyon, to a KOA cabin near Picacho Peak to a Best Western on the outskirts of Phoenix, and finally a cute boutique hotel in Sedona.

This trip was more like ‘rent a car and drive around and bring the bikes along’. It’s not my usual style of riding from place to place. We were heavily car dependent and not even riding everyday. But we did ride most days and it felt so good and so important to get back on the bike.

Often Sarah and I would hike in the morning (when it was colder) and drive to the new place and bike there. That’s the other difference between past Arizona trips. Not surprisingly January is colder than February. It was below freezing most nights and we even had some snow. But by lunch hour it had warmed up to 13-15 degrees Celsius most days.

My longest day of riding was 25 km. We also did more riding on bike paths than I usually do. I needed the safety of the path and the ability to concentrate on pedalling and the mechanics of riding without worrying about cars and drivers.

The really good news is that it felt better each day. It’s remarkable. On the first day, when I struggled just getting on and off the bike and clipping in I began to understand why some people just give up. I began to understand why someone might just decide that the road bike riding stage of their life is done. It was hard. But it helped that the road bike is the bike I had in Arizona and it helped that Sarah was super patient. And so we continued to ride and things got better.

I have a friend who had knee replacement surgery and who gave up riding with clipless pedals. She said it hurt too much clipping and unclipping. I thought it wouldn’t bother me because I’ve been clipping and unclipping on the trainer, but it was different out in the world. It took effort and concentration to do it in a way that didn’t bother my knee. After a few days, I think I’ll be fine with my pedals and shoes.

On the one hand, it’s an incredible luxury to have my bike here and just ride a bit each day in the sun. On the other hand, road cycling is a thing that really matters to me and I’m so happy to be back on the bike. I’m looking forward to longer bike trips again, like Arizona and Cuba and maybe even Newfoundland. But for now I’m enjoying my little 20 km rides on sunny Arizona bike paths and quiet roads. It was confidence building and a reminder of how much I enjoy riding my bike.

I’ve really loved my US winter riding trips and I’m hoping to add Cuba to the rotation soon. I’ve also been wondering about bike tours in New Mexico. Anywhere you’d recommend for a week of warm weather riding?

Here’s my accounts of past winter bike trips:

March 2022 Alton Illinois. See here and here and here.

January 2020 Mount Dora, Florida

January 2019 Clermont, Florida

2015 Arizona in February and South Carolina in March

February 2010 Arizona, see here

Here’s some photos from this trip.

Finally let me just say there’s nothing like holidays to make fitness feel fun and easy. Even while recovering from knee surgery, I met my step goal everyday and even logged enough intense activity heart points.

Here’s hoping for some dry pavement and warmer weather at home so I can start commuting to work by bike again soon!

cycling · fitness

Can Sam still ride a bike? Let’s find out!

Yes! The answer is “yes.” Phew!

I was worried.

Since knee replacement surgery five months ago, I’ve been riding on the trainer. That’s true. First my goal was a full rotation of the pedals. I could do that backwards first, then forwards. Then I got my seat back to its regular height. (It’s easier backwards and easier with the seat elevated.) Next up were some distance goals. I rode my bike on the trainer 20 km the other day for the first time.

But I’ve been nervous about riding outside. I had hoped to try it with my Brompton outside late this fall but our roads have been a mess of ice. There hasn’t been any good weather for outdoor riding for someone as nervous about slipping and falling as I am right now.

My right knee is giving me issues now too. In the end I said no to the big Cuba trip I was hoping to do. Bah, but it was the right choice. Next year, I hope after I’ve recovered from right knee surgery.

Now as you might know I’m in Arizona for the Workshop in Normative Ethics. And Sarah came with for some sunshine and we brought our road bikes. Best yet, Air Canada didn’t lose them. Sarah assembled the bikes (and worked and rode horses!) while I was conferencing and today was the first time I was able to get out for a ride.

We’ve had our eyes on the Tucson Loop, a 130 mile bike path that circles the city.

Love the Loop

Obviously, 130 miles is too too much, even at the best of times, and these aren’t those. So, what section to do? We’re close to Oro Valley and the Catalina State Park so we set off to ride around there. We took the bikes in the rental SUV and off we went.


I keep hearing from friends whose parents had knee replacement and who would never ride long distances again. I have another friend who can still ride her bike but gave up on clip in pedals. Another friend’s mother struggles to get on the bike and can’t swing her leg over the frame. I had all these stories running through my head.

I knew I’d be slow. I’ve been slow on the trainer as I struggle to get my cadence back up but that feels like I thing I can work on. It’s the mechanics of it all that had me worried.

I kept reminding myself that I was struggling to walk and dealing with more knee pain than now when I did the Toronto to Montreal, 660 km, bike ride. This isn’t new even though I haven’t ridden in four months.

First, I noodled around the hotel parking lot making sure the seat height was correct and it all seemed fine. And then we set off to find the trail.

There was a lot of sunshine this afternoon–love the desert weather, cold nights and high teens by the middle of the day, perfect for riding. The loop seems well used by locals and visitors. We even gave directions to some cyclists from Montana.

My knee held out okay and while there was some fussing clipping in and out that too was fine. We stopped for a quick patio lunch after about 10 km and then rode another 10 km or so after.

Here’s some photos from our ride:

cycling · fitness

Joy in 2022: Hammock Happenings and Manitoulin Magic

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m still processing 2022. 2023 can wait a bit longer!

2022 rocked me in more ways than I’m prepared to list. I truly don’t know how I would have survived without my friends and community care. Nonetheless, I managed to photograph some truly magical moments throughout the year.

I am deeply grateful for the many wonders I experienced in the midst of what sometimes felt like non-stop curveballs. Profound kindness; unexpected moments of connection; sunrises; sunsets; hammocking under a blanket of stars in the crisp spring air; listening to distant loons while falling asleep on the beach; and that time a beautiful yellow bird (a Philadelphia Vireo) landed so close he was practically on my head… I could go on and on.

This first collage of images are all from London, Ontario.
Read on for stories and images descriptions.

1. After an intense thunderstorm, this tiny bright green frog slid along the zipper of my hammock before perching atop my black cooler bag in the dark of the night.

2. On a windy morning, I snapped this photo looking directly up at the blue sky from amidst a grove of trees at St. Peter’s Seminary. Four tree trunks stretch skyward, alongside multiple tree tops.

3. One morning when I was hammocking near Sanctuary London’s food forest, I woke up in time to witness this spectacular sunrise. I grabbed my camera, rushed out of my hammock, and started snapping photos.

I know that years of community tending have led to the robust food forest in the foreground of this image. A tall stadium light shows evidence of the baseball diamond which is mostly hidden behind the food forest. Large deciduous trees tower at the edges of the park.

The colours in this photo are simply magnificent! The bright sun had just risen above the lowest trees in the distance. Yellow streaks of light emanate closest to it, then orangey-pink, then a neon pink, and finally above the tallest trees the sky became awash in lavender.

4. A thick tree stump covered in bark rests in a garden bed of wood chips. Directly in front of it, a yellow-ish orange bird (a female Oriole) strides purposefully and swiftly. She appears to be in a rush to attend to some sort of very important business.

5. An adorable female house sparrow is looking directly ahead, pausing to check her surroundings as she searches for food. She is on the ground in the middle of a low lying juniper bush. Several sprigs of green clover are poking through the foliage in front of her. This photo brings back fond memories of watching house sparrows who were nesting about a foot away from my hammock for a few weeks during the summer.

6. I witnessed this final London image at Fanshawe Conservation Area as I looked out across the Thames River, through the silhouettes of deciduous leaves. It was early in the morning and the sun had risen halfway above the forest along the opposite shore. In this sunrise the gradient shifted subtly from yellow, to orange, and finally pink. The reflective water visible through the leaves sparkled vibrantly in contrast to the soft sky.

This collage is of images from the West end of Manitoulin Island.

7. Kagawong is a beautiful little municipality that I adore. I spent this fall in Kagawong and enjoyed a few peaceful days at this beautiful beach. Coniferous trees border the far end of the sandy beach as it curves to a nearby point in the water. In the fading sunset, the sky transitions from a soft yellow, through pink, and finally blue, before being mirrored in the still water.

8. A friend and I went kayaking in Pleasant Valley on Thanksgiving weekend. After watching a Great Blue Heron for a bit, it was fun to get a closer view. As it soared above us through the clear blue sky, I twisted in my kayak seat and snapped this photo seconds before it sailed over the brightly coloured autumn deciduous trees.

9. Misery Bay is the furthest I’ve been West on the island yet… going here this fall was very exciting. I had been hearing about it’s beauty since before I left London in August 2021. Misery Bay did not disappoint! And yes, I overdid it and had a massive symptom flare after. I should have turned around part way rather than doing the full “short” loop. I’ve decided that I need to find a super light portable chair for seated breaks throughout hikes; let me know if you’ve found something like this that works well. I also should have set up my hammock for a rest earlier than I did… lessons for next time. But damn it was an amazing adventure!

The solitary thin green stem is barely visible amidst a foreground of dry reedy brown stems. Yet the delicate violet hued bluebell stands out majestically atop it, in full bloom despite the late October chill. The ground in the background is dark bedrock with soft green moss covering large areas it. Bright sunlight adds sparkle throughout the photo.

This collage is of images from North Eastern Manitoulin and Islands.

10. Little Current is the biggest city on Manitoulin Island… it’s still tiny, but it has all the amenities within five kilometres, making it a delightfully bikeable and walkable community. On a sunny fall day I noticed a small plant with red berries growing out of the cement in the water at the edge of the harbour. Deep blue water stretches out into the distance where the Little Current swing bridge separates the water from the blue sky.

11. Sheguiandah (mentioned in One Way Bike Camping) is on the North Eastern end of Manitoulin. This bay photo taken about 5 minutes before sunrise is one of my favourites from the spring. The colours have a soft and gentle feel to them with a thin line of reddish orange fading to yellow before enveloping it in greyish blue. Mid photo the horizon line shows where the sky meets the calm sheet like water that mirrors it. On the right a silhouetted forest of trees stretch into the water, the gradual thinning of trees narrow and combine with their reflection in the water to form an arrow. Surrounding and paralleling the tree arrow is an arrow shaped cloud, which points directly at a small silhouetted duckling family mid photo. In the upper left corner of the sky is a soaring silhouetted seagull.

12. It doesn’t feel like Christmas for me without a snowy bike ride! In the midst of a symptom flare this year, my energy was low and I knew I couldn’t go far without harming my health. Lucky for me, there are picturesque spots like Goat Island within a few kilometres. Having beautiful places close by means that I can get out to enjoy nature more often than would otherwise be possible when chronic illness symptoms are flaring.

Several centimetres of fresh snow had recently fallen. But for a single set of tire tracks, the unplowed side road looked like a giant fluffy pillow. Several leafless deciduous trees could be seen to the left of the road, increasingly so in the distance. Bare ground revealed where had snow rolled down the steep hill. To the right, the serene snowy expanse was dotted with a handful of small, but inviting evergreen trees. In the distance, several clouds melded into a large mass; in contrast, the sky in the foreground was completely cloudless. The sun had begun to dip closer to the horizon, positioning the insistent light in just the right place to sneak through every tiny break in the clouds.

I didn’t notice them as I rode, but when I stopped to take in the view from Goat Island a large flock of birds took off from the tree above me. They danced collectively over the icy water before disappearing into the distance. I’m grateful for these moments of beauty and wonder in the midst of cold dark days.