cycling · fitness

Is it ridiculous to ride inside in the summer?

Yesterday I read that in the UK riding for both leisure and commuting is down. As usual perceived lack of safety is the main reason people give for not riding and preferring other methods of exercise and getting to work.

Here’s British cycling policy manager Nick Chamberlain, “While cycling remains statistically safe, traffic speed, close passing or potholes can often make riding a bike in Britain intimidating and unpleasant, especially for those who are trying it for the first time. “The impact of this is clear in the numbers of people still making short, cyclable journeys by car – with all of the associated consequences for congestion, air quality and physical activity.”

I’m not sure what the numbers look like in North America and elsewhere but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the same.

Interestingly, indoor riding is on the rise. And I’m part of that trend. Oddly enough.

Chamberlin said British Cycling was pleased to see “a moderate spike” in the level of indoor cycling, “and we hope that last month’s inaugural British Cycling Zwift eRacing Championshipscan help to further grow the profile of this discipline and encourage even more people to take part in the coming years.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about Zwift lately, about safety, women’s participation, and the gamification of sports. I will have lots of things to say!

Truth be told, I’m even considering riding inside myself during the summer, some of the time anyway. There are reasons: I don’t like riding alone. I’ve got a very complicated schedule. But it’s not just that.

Zwift is also fun in its own right. It’s fun racing down virtual hills, zooming down hills without braking. Fun taking corners at speed. I’m not worried when Zwifting about crashing into other bikes. I’m not worried about cars or other traffic. I love sprinting on Zwift with zero tension or fear, no looking out for cars.

A white feather on a green circle.

It turns out that I enjoy the gamification of sport. I liked getting a virtual feather the other day that when applied dropped my weight by 15 lbs. I wasn’t sure at the time what it was our how to use it but now that I do it’ll be fun to see the difference that has on my climbing speed. You can also get trucks which increase the benefit from drafting and aero helmets that make you more aerodynamic. For a better, more complete, explanation, see here.

The weight thing is interesting. Zwift knows my actual weight and hills are harder as a result than they would be for an average sized cyclist. Both watts and weight matter when determining your speed. But my avatar–see below–doesn’t look as big as I do. What matters on Zwift is that she can keep up. And she can, because in the the real world I can. What matters is watts per kilo. I weigh a lot but I can also put out some pretty good watts. I’m okay–if occasionally disgruntled with the math and the physics of it all–with working harder to climb on Zwift. No one looks at me oddly. No one comments on my weight. Other riders just know my watts per kilo and I’m okay with that. I’ve had no weight loss suggestions, no comments on my size. That way, it’s a pretty relaxing environment. It’s made me realize how much people noticing my size bothers me in the real world. I’m sure I’ll have more to say later about this. I’m still thinking about it all.

Oh, also having good indoor options makes it easy to stick to a training schedule. Some articles I read about Zwift in road cycling magazines said that North American summer was a ghost town in Zwift. It’s just full of Australians riding at odd times of day and triathletes who prefer indoor training. But as indoor cycling becomes a sport in its own right, it’ll be interesting to see what the summer numbers look like.

That’s me below in the in the orange stripey jersey and my new sunglasses, earned for riding a certain number of kilometers. I also earned a helmet but opted out. This is one place I don’t need to worry about hitting my head.

cycling · fitness · Guest Post

Hammer Down in Flanders (Guest Post)

Pam! Let’s put the hammer down!

Let this be your cheer, your mantra, your slogan, your driving force in your next bike race or in whatever kind of racing you do. (Note Pam! is not someone’s name, but more like bam! or wham!)

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig gives an exciting play-by-play of how she raced in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, aka Tour of Flanders, bike race last weekend. The Dane came in third, but she’s a winner in her heart. She loves the race, the fans, the energy of big-time pro cycling in Belgium. At the critical moment in the race, she and her breakaway companions saw they had the lead, but the main group was closing in fast. At that moment: “Pam! Let’s put the hammer down!” so the break could stay away.

Direct link for mobile users:

The Tour of Flanders featured women’s and men’s races, with huge crowds lining the roads because: Belgium. Cycling is the most popular sport in the country. The women raced 157 km, and the men raced 265 km.  However, both women and men raced over the same famous short steep climbs like the Kanarieberg,  the Oude Kwaremont, the Paterberg. These hills brutalize the legs with uneven cobblestones and gradients from 8% to 22%. And the winner often comes from the leading groups over these climbs.

I’ve watched many post-race interviews with cyclists (men and women) who say milk toasty things like, “I felt strong, the team was great, I’m happy to win” in their I’m-too-cool-and-accustomed-to-winning monotone. Not so for Cecilie, who puts us on the bike next to her in the race: the effort, the anticipation, split-second decisions in the breakaway, the exhaustion. And most important: THE JOY OF RACING.

Unfortunately, some in the male-dominated cycling media christened this video “hilarious.” It seems like a bit of a put-down. Because it’s funny when women show excitement and emotion? Because she didn’t listen to the media-training about not moving around and using her hands? Because she laughs? Come on, boys, bike racing is fun! I prefer adjectives like “fantastic” or “awesome” for her race re-cap.

Cecilie inspires me, and I hope she inspires you.  Her compatriots in New York feel the joy, too.  @DenmarkinNY re-tweeted the video with: “May you live every day with the same confidence and enthusiasm as Danish cyclist Cecilia Uttrup Ludwig!”

For more about Cecilie and her path to pro cycling,  check out Rouleur’s Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig – conveyor belt to success.

Mary Reynolds splits her time between Berlin and Tucson, and blogs with her partner at

charity · cycling · fitness

Join Sam in the 2019 Great Cycle Challenge to fight kids’ cancer

We do a lot of charity riding and running around here. This year for me the big ones are the 1 day version of the Friends for Life Bike Rally (sponsor me here) and the Triadventure, Trying the tri-adventure in its last year… Join us!!!

What kind of event is the tri-adventure? “The TriAdventure is not a typical triathlon. Our activities are not timed, and there are no prizes for finishing first. Our participants challenge themselves with the physical activities involved in the event, but are also challenged to raise over $1,200 for 51 vulnerable children in Kasese, Uganda who have been left without family support through poverty, HIV/AIDS or violence. The reward is knowing that your effort helps fund a program that begins with food, shelter and education and aims to help these children become self-sustaining citizens who contribute to a vibrant, diverse global community.”

Sponsor us here.

When is the Tri-adventure? It’s August 16-18, 2019.

You can read more about it here,

And you can register here,

Those are both in August but in June I’ve also signed up for the Great Cycle Challenge to fight kids’ cancer.

It’s a virtual challenge. You ride on your own and set your own goals. I’m aiming to ride 500 km and raise $500. Join me? Sponsor me?

Great Cycle Challenge Canada
cycling · fitness · monthly check in

Sam’s monthly check-in: What’s up, what’s down, the March version

Thing 1. I am really tired. I don’t usually play the “I’m busier than you” game. I love my work.  But March in the academic world is not a fun month. My former Dean used to say, when I was a department chair, that we should never introduce anything new in March.  Faculty will hate it, guaranteed. Also, nothing anyone says in March really counts. Professors have been teaching all year and they’re tired. However, all the faculty also retreat to their research cocoons in April and so there’s some pressure to get projects that require faculty input and involvement finished. Add to that the tension around our provincial government’s budget and cutbacks to universities, we’re all busy, tired, and stressed. I work 12 hour days quite often and then I come home and do this. (Note though, unlike other Deans I don’t work on weekends other than showing up to events and though there’s lots of those they mostly feel fun and celebratory.)

Thing 2. My left knee saga continues: This is neither up nor down. But it’s official. I’m in the queue for partial knee replacement. The wait time is 6-12 months which is good because that’s after the 5 Boro Bike weekend, my Newfoundland bike adventure and likely also after the one day bike rally and the tri-adventure. Priorities. It’s not certain yet that I’ll go through with it. It’s scary stuff but I’m one step closer and I’ll get (yet more) expert advice.

Here’s an image of knees from Unsplash but they aren’t mine.

Image description: Someone’s knees, not mine. The knees are wearing brown cargo pants. A blurry mountain and some trees are in the distance. Photo from Unsplash.

Thing 3. My riding: I kind of hoped to get outside riding more in March but thanks to the weather that didn’t happen. Instead, I bought a monthly membership for unlimited indoor trainer riding at the Bike Shed. I’ve left my bike there with the goal of making it in three times a week. I love it there. I’ve left my bike there and I’ve been Zwift riding around New York City and London, UK.

Screen capture of my recent Zwift ride.

Oh, and Facebook and Google keep reminding me that in Novembers past I was riding outside in March. Thanks, I guess.

cycling · Fit Feminists Answer

You ask, Fit Feminists Answer: Soft pedaling, why do cyclists do that?

We have a thing here that we do from time to time, and that’s “you ask, fit feminists answer.” It goes like this — you ask, we answer (as best we can).

This question came from a new cyclist friend, what is soft pedaling and why do cyclists tell you to do it?

First, what is it? Soft pedaling is the act of turning over the pedals without applying any power.

Like my friend, I first encountered it when riding closely with others in a group ride. Sometimes I would coast and was told instead to soft pedal. Just shift to an easier gear and keep pedaling even though it has zero effect on your speed.

Okay but why?

Reason 1: “When riding in a group you often find that small changes of speed can mean that you do not need to pedal when the group slows down and have small bursts of power when the group speeds up. By soft pedaling when the group slows down your legs will already be spinning when its speeds up again. All you need to do to speed up is shift.” (from what’s the purpose of soft pedaling? )

Reason 2: Coasting is bad form in a group ride because it signals to the people behind you to slow down. If you can keep soft pedaling everyone will keep moving and you don’t get those big differences in speed between the front and the back

Reason 3: You avoid coasting which is also bad for your legs on a long ride. Your legs will be much happier if you keep spinning even with no resistance. You can read the posts of the late Sheldon “Coasting Is Bad For You” Brown and he’ll try to talk you into riding a fixed gear bike. With a fixed gear bike you can’t coast and it certainly breaks the habit. But you could just try coasting less without going that route.

Soft petals from Unsplash

Riding with friends in the springtime. Sam can’t wait!

It’s almost spring.

“Spring 2019 in Northern Hemisphere will begin on Wednesday, March 20 .”


Of course, my thoughts have turned to bike riding. My rough plan on riding is to bring my road bike into work and meet up with people to ride either before work, or after, or maybe even both. I’ll do longer rides on the weekend with Sarah and maybe other friends who are coming to Nfld too. See you on the roads!

I thought I’d share some of our older spring riding posts with you here today.

Spring riding, bad weather, and individual limits

I’m back! Thoughts on my first spring bike commute and why I take the lane

Spring on the Leslie Street Spit!

Sam and Sarah are springing into cycling fitness

Spring riding in my sights!

charity · cycling

Fight for life. Friends for life.


I was so happy when this photo of Joh and me came through on International Women’s Day from the bike rally. Happy memories and good times ahead. This is Joh and me on a training ride for the last year’s bike rally.  This year I’m doing the one day version and Joh is doing the new three day version from Kingston to Montreal. 

Sponsor me here. Sponsor Joh here.

Thanks everyone!