cycling · fitness · training · Zwift

It’s Tron Time for Sam and Sarah

Screenshots of Sam completing the Everest Challenge

I told you about it when I was halfway there. I made the home stretch my winter cycling challenge. And last night, I did it. I completed Zwift’s Everest Challenge. I climbed more than 50,000 m. I got my Tron.

I finished the Friday night Smash Fest race which had 400 m+ climbing and discovered I was really close. With Sarah’s encouragement I went down the hill and turned around at the bottom and started climbing again. It was late. I was tired. And it wasn’t easy. But I did it!

Even Strava called it a “massive effort.” Thanks Strava.

Let us celebrate that!

What’s in it for me, aside from looking cool and bragging rights? The Tron is the fastest all round bike on Zwift. I’m excited. I’m not sure what colour I’ll eventually land on (you can change it easily with a slider bar) but here’s me on the bright pink version.

Sarah got hers the week previous, with less fuss and fan fare. (She’s like that.) She was determined to have it for a race that was on this week and so spent last weekend climbing. We both want to thank Neil at the Bike Shed, where we Zwifted pre-pandemic, who suggested we make the Everest Challenge our first Zwift challenge. It was also Neil who first rented us and then sold us our trainer when the pandemic shut things down. Thanks Neil!

Here’s Sarah’s Tron story:

“The long process of getting the Tron was an interesting one for me. I am really not much of a climber and would never normally have chosen workouts or recovery rides on steep hills, but the advantage that the Tron provides, and the peer pressure from teammates to get one, was impossible to resist.

After spending a year warming up and doing group rides on 10%+ grades (flattened and lengthened by Zwift algorithms as needed), I can say that I’ve gotten better at climbing. Practice makes perfect? Familiarity breeds contempt? In any case, I can say that in my few outdoor rides last year I was less intimidated by the usual hills. And this year I might actually seek them out and practice.

So thanks to Zwift’s “Everest Challenge”. I’ll never be a mountain goat but I’m a better all-rounder thanks to Tron temptation. Like the glowing neon wheels the lessons learned will be with me for years to come.”

charity · cycling · fitness · Zwift

Make Your Own Route Badge!

Red Dress Day Route

I love it!

Someone designed a tool to make your own Zwift route badges.

I made one for the Bike Rally’s Red Dress Day. What’s the Bike Rally? It’s a charity ride, normally from Toornto to Montreal, to raise money for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation.

We don’t ride the whole thing in red dresses but on one special day, the short ride into Kingston, we do.

And yes, I’m registered for this year though I am not sure what form the ride will take. You can sponsor me here.

commute · cycling · fitness · racing

Competitive cycling and everyday commuting: Not as distinct as you might think

Normally we think of everyday bike riding as distinct from competitive cycling. I’ve been part of many community groups focussed on active transporation–hi GCAT!–and such groups spend a lot of time staking out room for people riding bikes as transportaion, as opposed to people who take on the identity of ‘cyclist.’ No lycra required!

Mostly I think that’s a sensible thing to do, even as someone who moves between these worlds. I bop around town on my Brompton, I trundle over the snow on the trails on my fat bike, I ride gravel paths for recreation, I Zwift indoors, and I ride my road bike some pretty long distances with friends. Clearly I’m a cyclist and I’m an everyday bike commuter.

And then I read this piece on the cumulative benefits of micro commutes. It’s about the training benefits of everyday riding.

“Most Dutch citizens can calmly and competently navigate cobbles, traffic, corners, bumps and berms in the rain. Commuting by bike or foot as a child is not only good for the development of skills and health but is also the best way to build long term athleticism.”

It’s the everyday cycling that makes so many of the Dutch excellent racing cyclists. Think about running and Kenyan young people, Michael Barry writes. Young people gain skills and confidence that translate into sports excellence.

Getting kids on bikes is good for the environment. It’s good for their health and everyday fitness.

It also turns out to be good for sports development and athletic skills and confidence. I started to think about that link and the connection between young girls and everyday movement. Girls move less than boys starting at a very young age. Part of the story no doubt has to do with the gendered nature of the protection paradox. We want what’s best for our children and so we protect them from risk. Not shockingly, it turns out parents worry more about girls than boys.

If boys are allowed and encouraged to ride to school more than girls, we see how the gap in skills and confidence develops. If we want to encourage equality in cycling as a performance sport we ought to care about boys and girls riding their bikes to school.

Riding bikes along a canal

cycling · fitness

When good bikes go away…

We are creatures of habit. We don’t like change. Change is hard. But what can you do when one of your favorite bikes is no longer being made? This is the situation for die-hard fans of the Surly Pugsley, Surly Troll, and perhaps its most beloved bike, the Surly Long Haul Trucker.

The Long Haul Trucker has been, for years, the workhorse of the bike touring world. It’s tough, it can haul lots of gear, and parts are easy to come by. Joe Cruz of says in this obituary-of-sorts:

On a personal note, my first Surly was a Long Haul Trucker. That decision was probably inspired by the fact that when you typed “touring bike” into the search bar back then (probably Yahoo!, or who knows, maybe even Ask Jeeves), a boatload of photos featuring gear-bedecked LHTs were usually the first to be found. Surly had that market cornered. 

Oh yeah, other companies did and do make touring bikes. But the classic Long Haul Trucker, it will be missed. Here are a couple of pictures below– fully loaded and ready to roll, and in action.

Full disclosure: I’ve never owned a Surly Long Haul Trucker. But, I know lots of people who have.

Another full disclosure: Surly is making a new version of the LHT with disc brakes and different geometry. But it’s not the same. Hence the nostalgic outpouring here.

But surely you get this, right? Tell me, what bikes or boats or other gear are do you have oh-so-fond memories of, but which are gone now, replaced by newer but not better-to-you models? Feel free to unburden yourself; I’m here and I’m ready to be very sympathetic.

And maybe we can also dish about the new models coming out this year… 🙂

#deanslife · cycling · fitness · rest · yoga · Zwift

Saturday is Sam’s rest day

For me, the grind ends Friday at the end of the workday. I eat dinner. I race my bike in the TFC Smashfest Friday night series. 🚴 Maybe I watch something. I definitely eat something. And then I collapse into bed. Zzzzz. 😀

Saturday is my rest day. It’s not that I don’t move at all. I often walk Cheddar. I sometimes do Yoga with Adriene. But there’s no fast riding or heavy lifting. This is a chance for my body to rest and recover.

I try to make sure I eat well too. And I aim to get enough sleep, sleeping late if necessary to log the needed hours. It’s a conscious effort. Sometimes naps are involved.

So when this image flashed across my social media newsfeed, I thought actually yes it does. On Saturday I rest.

The grind doesn’t stop just because it’s Saturday.

Tomorrow I’ll do something more active. I’ll also get back to some university work, the review essay I’m trying to write and the college budget for sure.

In my pre pandemic busy times I didn’t need to plan a rest day. Often they just happened when life got in the way off intentional movement. These days I’m finding it helps with the blurriness of time to have things I do on particular days.

On Sunday for me it’s a gradual return to work, a preparation for the week ahead, and my Zwift team social ride. I race in a series on Monday nights. On Tuesdays I watch an episode of Star Trek Discovery with my mother. Wednesdays are the one day, pre stay at home order, that I work on campus. I’ll start doing that again next week when the stay at home order is lifted. Thursday is team time trial night. Friday we order take out from a local restaurant.

None of these things is a big deal. But it helps me to place myself in time, and keep track of time in the pandemic blur. Also since working out is one of the fun things that I can do, I’m realizing it’s easy to do too much of it.

And so on Saturday, I rest.

A blond dog resting in a red hammock

charity · cycling · fitness · Zwift

Toronto Hustle is Crushing Covid, Round Two: Join our team or sponsor us!

Toronto Hustle presents Crush Covid

#CRUSHCOVID – Ride for MindFriday, March 13 2020. The day Toronto went into lockdown. In response, we launched CRUSH COVID – a 24hr virtual cycling marathon to raise money to support COVID-19 relief efforts. Together, we raised a quarter million dollars and united communities and cyclists from around the world. For 2021, exactly one year to the day of our first lockdown, CRUSH COVID – Ride for Mind, is responding to the pandemic’s growing mental health impact. Join us, MGH Foundation and cyclists across the globe for all, or a part of the 24 hour cycling marathon. Donate and spread the word. Let’s finish this off

I’ve started a blog team. Register here and select “FitFeminists” as your team name. SamJBFitFeminist is the Team Captain.

My plan is to divide up the 24 hours between team members. And if’s just me, well it’ll be a lot of riding. Lol.

You can also just sponsor us here.

Q: What is CRUSH COVID: Ride for Mind?

A: CRUSH COVID: Ride for Mind event is a virtual 24-hour cycling event open to all cyclists and gives them the opportunity to raise funds to support our community through the mental health crisis arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual ride will take place on the Zwift app.

Q: Where and when is the CRUSH COVID: Ride for Mind event taking place?

cycling · fitness · Zwift

Sam’s Winter Climbing Challenge #Zwift #Tron

The last day of winter is March 19th. What do I want to accomplish before then?

I have a thought. It’s doable and I need a deadline. My Everest challenge on Zwift is 93% complete and at the end I get a fancy new bike, the Tron. I’ve been at it for awhile. In October I posted Sam is not a climber but she’s halfway to Tron.

So here’s the deal. By March 19th, I want to do the rest of my climbing. That’s 3,354 vertical metres. I’m climbing about 400-500 a week but that won’t be enough. Probably I’ll need to do a trip or two up the Alpe du Zwift.

Here are some route options:

Road to Sky — A 12.4 mile (19.9 km) climb with 3,753 ft (1,144 m) of elevation gain. The most direct route to the mountain.

Tour of Fire and Ice — A 15.6 miles (25.1 km) trek with 3,825 ft (1,166 m) of elevation gain. This route combines the Volcano KOM for some extra fun.

Four Horsemen — It doesn’t get more epic than this. A 55.5 mile (89.3 km) ride across all KOM segments in Watopia, with an elevation gain of 6,929 ft (2,112 m). If it’s a giant hill, you’re going to climb it.

Why do I care about getting a Tron? It’s the fastest all round bike in Zwift, good on flats and rolling hills.

What colour will I choose? I think I like the multi-coloured bikes the best. Maybe blue and purple?

Blue and purple Tron
Black History · cycling · fitness

Black women and the history of cycling

As blog readers know, I’m interested in the history of cycling and the ways in which the history of cycling and feminism overlap. See, for example, Bicycles: Making good women go bad since the 1800s. Sadly, not suprisingly, lots of the history of feminism is the history of white feminism and that looks to be true of the history of cycling as well.

But some poking and prodding reveals that though there are fewer photos, there were lots of Black cyclists, including some terrific Black women on bikes doing pretty amzing things.

Here’s one of my favourite stories:

Read Five Black Women Cycle 250 miles in 1928

“Easter Weekend, 1928 in New York City five ladies; Marylou Jackson, a student at Hunter College, Velva Jackson, a nurse at Gramercy Hospital,  Ethyl Miller, a public school teacher, Leolya Nelson director of Physical Education for the Y.W.C.A (Young Women’s Christian Association ) and Constance White a student at Sargent School of Physical Training (The New York Age 14 Apr 1928, Sat) embarked on a 250 mile bicycle journey to Washington D.C.  in three days.”

Listen to The Bicycle Story on SoundCloud.

“In 1928, five African American women set off from New York City on a 250 mile adventure to Washington D.C. Their three day ride was about personal pleasure and challenge and calls into question our ideas of who bicycled in history and why.

Thank you to historian Marya McQuirter for her deep insight into the 1928 ride. Thank you to Liz Jose for sharing her experience with touring from NYC to DC.”

May be an image of 5 people, people standing, bicycle and text that says 'Photo: Baltimore Afro-American newspaper, 1928 Addison Scurlock, photographer. Photographcourtesy the Smithsonian institution.'
Black History · cycling · fitness · Zwift

Black Celebration Month on Zwift!

See Zwift launches Black Celebration Series to commemorate ‘Black history, athletes, heritage and joy’

“The year of celebration will include multiple events held in New York along the Mighty Metropolitan route. This is a nod to the roots of many legendary Black cyclists like Major Taylor, and Olympic medallist Nelson Vails who will be joining events as a special guest. Other guests will include Ama Nsek (L39ION of LA) and Rahsaan Bahati, (Bahati Foundation Elite Team) as well as community leaders from the Black Cyclists Network and Level Up Cycling Movement.

All Zwifters will receive invitations to join the hour-long social rides in New York, where the pace will be managed by ride leaders and kept between 1.5-2 watts per kilogram of body weight.

In addition to celebrating Black athletic achievements, the virtual training platform has chosen LA Bicycle Academy (LABA) — a youth education program, community bike shop and youth cycling team — as its charity partner in a bid to expand its impact. LABA was set up by Damon Turner, who has mentored the likes of Justin Williams, Cory Williams, Rahsaan Bahati and Coryn Rivera, and its mission is to support communities without exposure and access to cycling. In addition to making a donation to LABA, which sponsors young athletes without the resources to continue their cycling careers, Zwift will be offering them mentorship opportunities.”

Zwift launches year-long Black Celebration Series –
“We rise up”

Change begins when we come together. I’ll see you out there fellow feminist Zwifters! Let’s ride. And as part of our celebration of Black cyclists I’m hoping to share some of their stories here on the blog.

cycling · fitness

Navigating pandemics, riding down cliff slabs: similar rules

Y’all have got to watch this video.

Danny MacAskill, world-famous and multiply-injured trials bike legend, rides down the Dubh rock slabs on the Scottish Isle of Skye. He’s not a novice at biking on and around and up and down and off a variety of relatively unbikeable terrain. You can see him busting out his skills here and here and here and here. And there’s lots more where that came from (YouTube, that is).

So, what makes this particular video noteworthy?

At the top of the cliff slabs, Danny MacAskill looks down and says, “that’s scary”. And then he proceeds to do it anyway, feeling his way, letting us see him go slow, even bobbling a little on a tough line. He repeats his pronouncement at least twice more. But he found a line through it.

Watching his ride down these slabs (which he filmed in one take, using mainly his helmet GoPro camera), I found some good advice for getting through the rest of this pandemic period. Feel free to stop reading and pull up the video at the time stamps noted, and see what you think.

1.Know this: some experiences we embark on, or confront on our way, are going to be scary. Period. That’s just how they are.

2. Be ready to go slow. Plan the slow-downs– find places where you’re forced to go uphill or pause what you’re doing. It helps you scrub speed, stay in or regain control.

3. Have really good brakes (MacAskill talks about his brakes set up– he knows he’ll need help, so he got some). Your brakes may be that inner voice saying, “uh, let’s not rush into this”, or friends helping you temper some urge that’s important, but which may need to wait a bit.

4. Draw on skills from different experiences and areas of training to get through this. For MacAskill, his trials bike training and downhill expertise gives him control and choices– pop the front wheel up, swing the bike around to change direction (2:04), track stand and bunny hop to gain a better position, stay loose when he’s closer to vertical, etc. Staying loose when things are going vertical seems like a very good skill to develop.

5. In that rare moment of beauty and grace, let yourself be with it. You and the bike are one (2:20).

5. But, what looks beautiful and effortless from the outside will often be staccato and exhausting from the inside. MacAskill lets us see both perspectives (2:10–2:21), and they’re both true.

At 2:45, he enters a rocky ridge line route. Even though you can’t hear it, you can tell he’s taking a deep breath to focus on this extremely dangerous and difficult line. You can feel every bump and the effort it takes to stay upright. Watching him bumping up the face of that sheer rock to a small ledge (3:42) nearly did me in.

6. Sometimes, there’s no place to hide. At 4:11–4:25, it’s just him and the cliff. He’s committed, and has only his skills and experience to get him down. Note how he drops way behind the saddle– a graceful dip– for a close-to-vertical section (4:22). He trusts himself and he trusts the bike.

7. Life occasionally demands some serious body english from us, and MacAskill shows us how it takes some jostling to get the next descent prepared (4:30).

8. Don’t forget to celebrate when you finish. MacAskill’s triumphant and relieved whooping commences at the 5-minute mark. At 5:12, he says, “Oh that was scary!” Yes it was.

In case we didn’t hear it the first couple of times, he takes off his helmet, points the GoPro camera at himself, and says, smiling, “That was pretty scary.” But he was thrilled and happy and uninjured.

Dear readers, are you feeling scared right now? Are you ready for the descent to the bottom of this period in history? What skills are you feeling in need of? Which ones are you drawing on these days? I’d love to hear from you.