charity · cycling · fitness · training

Sam’s stormy scary bike ride

As we’re gearing up for friends for life bike rally training this summer, weekends will involve longer back to back bike rides. It’s all in preparation for 6 days of riding, 660 km, Toronto to Montreal.

A reminder, we’re raising money for an excellent charity. You can sponsor us here and here.

This was Saturday’s ride. It started like this. All cherry blossoms, sunshine and smiles.

Happy faces!

We were doing one of our favorite 50 km Guelph rides with coffee after, making it about 60 km total.

As we approached our favorite apple fritters and coffee shop, Sarah broke the bad news.

“Here have a cliff bar. We’ve got just enough time to make it home before this thunderstorm rolls through.” She pointed to her phone displaying the radar.

Reader: we did not have just enough time. The storm was moving very very fast. This was us about ten minutes later, not yet home.

Yes, that’s hail. Videos of the storm rolling through Guelph.

This is what it looked like on the radar.

“Daniel Liota, a meteorologist at Environment Canada’s storm prediction centre, told the Star that Saturday’s storm had wind speeds equivalent to a low-grade tornado. As a result, the agency sent out text message warnings urging Ontarians to seek immediate shelter. It was the first time this had ever been done for a storm in the province, he said.” That’s from the this story Intense storm rolls in from the Toronto Star, we read after it all happened. We also heard the very sad news that at least two people died.

Luckily we did not die.

What we did: When the wind picked up and the hail started we stopped by the side of the road, and then took cover in nearby subdivision. Continuing to ride wasn’t an option. I couldn’t see or stay upright. When things let up we biked to Hasty Mart and took cover under the awning there. When we could see the worst had passed we biked slowly home in bike lanes full of fallen trees, with no traffic lights working.

There were trees down everywhere. Power out everywhere. And sirens wailing as police and ambulances tried to get to those in immediate danger.

We got to hang out in the backyard and clean our bikes. They were covered in mud and grit.

Two bikes upside down in the grass, one orange and one black. A cat approaches and curiously sniffs the orange bike.

I’ve done a lot of bad weather cycling in my day. I’m tough and I can cope with cold and rain. But that thunder and hail and wind was really frightening.

I’m thinking of the cyclists we saw heading out of the city. We’d already ridden 50 km.

I’m also thinking of the biking rally training ride riders in Toronto. They got 10 km into their ride before being called off the road by those in charge of the ride.

Oh and then there’s Elan! She’s been asking Cate questions about touring since this was the weekend of her big ride. Yikes.

Hope everyone is well. If it’s like this again tomorrow, I might see you on Zwift!

camping · cycling · fitness · Guest Post · traveling

Riding Solo, Part 2: Baggage (Guest Post)

by Julia Creet

I wrote in my first post that every material aspect of touring by bike seems to have a metaphorical one as well. How you pack your bags might be the most obvious.

Baggage. It’s a loaded word that translates directly to a loaded bike.

The multiple decisions of what to take and leave tell you so much about your need for comfort, the things you think you can’t live without, the fear that you might need something and not have it, or suffer for not having it, or feel foolish for not having it, or feel equally foolish for having pushed it and hauled it and never used it.

The novice bike adventurer, that is me, has to rely on other peoples’ lists, what experience has taught them is necessary—or extraneous. The first decision, and one with the biggest consequences for your route and weight is whether or not to camp.

Cruising from bed to bed is delightful—and much lighter—but a tent and sleeping bag and a little mattress and a tiny stove and pot and an areopress gives you ultimate freedom and coffee in bed in the most delicious places. It’s a paradoxical combination of baggage and freedom. Camping will easily add ten lbs to the bike but will allow you to pull off the road wherever you can. Everything else is a question of comfort and fear.

Like most riders, I performed the ritual of unloading, sending home a package of heavy and accumulated light things—each light thing feels like nothing on its own—after riding for just a few days. Some of my protection and comfort and cleanliness went with those things, but hauling them around just wasn’t worth the weight. You see the obvious psychic metaphor here.

And, a week later, as I contemplate the mountains of Cape Breton, I’ve deemed another bag of stuff not worth the drag. The bike is still very heavy. I haven’t weighed it; I don’t want to know. I’ve climbed a few steep hills now and know that I can crawl up just about anything, but no question, I feel every ounce.

Have I missed anything I’ve let go? Can’t even remember what I packed off, except that most of it I bought last minute and because I was checking off other peoples’ lists. What’s the heaviest thing you cannot do without? Water. Unlike everything else, you need more of it than you think you do.

I think about weight and baggage with almost every pedal stroke. If even the minimum I have now feels too much, what about all the things I have left behind? The one object I keep excising and adding back in—and here my attachments as a recovering English Prof are most obvious—is a book.

Julia Creet is a recovering academic who just wants to ride her bike.

camping · cycling

Riding Solo, Part 1 (Guest Post)

by Julia Creet

I blame Cate Creede. She made it look so good, so easy. Just hop on your bike and go… wherever your legs will take you. No waiting for others, or trying to catch up. No discussions about decisions, where to go, when to stop, what to eat. Complete unstructured freedom.

That was the appeal. It seemed like a strange appeal after two years of more isolation than I could barely tolerate. Why chose then a trip on which I would mostly cycle alone?

I had an inkling that it would serve so many deep purposes for me. A chance for the wind to unravel the wired knots of my brain, cinched by two years of technology and teaching. Time to think through the decision to retire after twenty-five years of a full-on academic career.

And I needed new conversations. Riding alone would open my bubble to anyone who crossed my path. That felt exciting and random and the very opposite of my shrinking social circle and the rigid structures that were my scaffolding for surviving these strange last two years.

So here I am wandering around Nova Scotia, my home in my panniers, learning to crawl hills and stealth camp. I have some thoughts I’ll share along the way. Every material aspect of riding seems to have a metaphorical one as well. So thanks Cate. You said this to me early on in one of our chats about riding solo. “And for me there is something I really love about ending up in some random place with terrible food and knowing that I got there on my own.” You were right.

Julia Creet is a recovering academic who just wants to ride her bike.

commute · cycling · feminism · fitness

#BikeIsBest – We Can, You Can

From the Bike is Best campaign, ‘There has never been a better time to ride a bike. In so many ways. Cruise past the congested roads, free yourself of crowded public transport, and contribute to a greener planet that gives you cleaner air.

Two-thirds of all journeys are less than five miles. You don’t need to ride far or fast to make a difference. Half an hour of cycling is enough to improve your health, reduce your risk of illness, ease your stress levels and benefit your mental well-being.

Switching to cycling for short journeys means skipping queues and enjoying your own personal space. Bike is best for you, your community and the environment.”

I love the campaign’s emphasis on everyday riding, short distances, and everyday people. It’s good for health and for the environment, as well as mood. Bike rides make me happy and I hope they do for you too.

cycling · fitness

Pedal to Empower on World Bicycle Day

“World Bicycle Day is June 3! Join us for Pedal to Empower, a global movement to put more women and girls in need on two wheels. No matter how you ride, you can make a difference!”

Join in here,

cycling · Metrics · Sat with Nat

The glorious early gains of training

I’ve been writing the past few months about my newfound love of stationary cycling. The first month was all about adapting to the bike and classes, the second month was about gaining some confidence and experience. The third month I decided to try a structured program.

I chose “Discover Your Power Zones”. It uses a 20 minute maximum effort spin to determine your average power. You then work through a 5 week training program that culminates in a second test to see how your body has responded to training.

I had turned on the power zone option on my dashboard. It estimated my output to be 190 watts based on my age and weight. I did my test and hit 119 watts. Way lower. Dang!

The five week program has progressive workouts each week. The zones started feeling easier to maintain the end of week three. I was pumped to see the difference after a relatively short time.

The classes were challenging yet achieve able. I was nervous the day of my week five Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test. I had to jump off the bike to pee after my warm up. My throat was tight. I didn’t expect that to happen.

Having been in the military I have a complicated history with fitness tests. But it surprised me that this test had me anxious. No one was watching or evaluating. I could delete the workout or reject the results. There was only me to impress.

I worked through the anxiety and put forth my best effort. My latest FTP is 147 watts. A significant increase from five weeks ago. It’s kind of magical in the first few months of training the impressive gains we can make.

My body does respond to conditioning. I’m feeling good on the bike. Did I lose a bunch of weight or drastically alter my appearance? No.

Do I feel stronger, more confident and utterly badass? You bet I do!

A close up of the brilliant yellow blossoms of a forsythia shrub. They wake up this time of year in London. They are all about short, impactful change. When they bloom you know spring is well underway.
cycling · fitness · Zwift

The HERD of Thundering Turtles might just be the best behaved group ride on Zwift

Newborn turtles heading for the water. Photo by Pedro Novales on Unsplash.
What is it?

A slower, longer Saturday morning group ride on Zwift. It starts at 930 AM ET and goes for 90 minutes.


Here’s the event description, “Building up your endurance but holding a lower pace? This is the group ride for you! Join Paul as he leads The Herd on Elizabeth’s iconic endurance ride. Respect the leader’s pace and ride with the yellow beacon. This is NOT A RACE! Stronger riders are encouraged to fall back and help sweep the riders struggling in the back. Join us on Discord during the ride: (Please use Push-To-Talk) Check us out on Facebook:”

What’s to love?

They do what they say they are going to do. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against smash fests or rides where people who can’t keep up get dropped, as long as that’s what they say they are. That’s true IRL and in virtual cycling. The Thundering Turtles is a slow, steady, 90 minute ride where people stick together. There’s a veritable army of sweeps, more than 6 I think on the ride I was on recently.

They also wait and regroup. It’s the only Zwift group ride I’ve known to do that. In France the other week we all got the castle–at about the halfway mark–and waited for the rest of the bunch to catch up. This week we waited at the top of the leg snapper in Innsbruck. It was fun to race up and then wait, without falling off and down the other side. It got pretty crowded up there.

The group also sprints and you can join in if you want. Or not, again because they regroup.

The banter is friendly and supportive. There are lots of different reasons people are on a slower paced ride. For some it’s a recovery ride after a tough week of racing. Others are just starting out. Some people are coming back from injury. And for others that’s just the speed they roll.

Zwift agrees. Here’s their take on the state of affairs, GREAT GROUP RIDES: THE HERD THUNDERING TURTLES.

charity · cycling

Riding to Montreal with people again!

The Friends for Life Bike Rally is a thing we do around here.

Indeed, going way back, doing the rally was part of my half of the fittest by fifty challenge that got the whole blog rolling.

And in 2019, the last prepandemic year, it was year 6.

But like everyone else I don’t know how to think about 2020 and 2021, years of virtual riding with just a little bit of fundraising. They’re the hazy years. They happened. I’ll give them that. Were they year 7 and 8? I don’t think so. Maybe? I don’t know.

So this year is either year 7 or year 9. Depending.

I’ve even been putting off writing this post because everything still feels so tentative.

I’m just back from my first in person Philosophy conference and I felt the same way about that. I booked a ticket, I paid my registration, I got a room at the hotel but part of me was convinced that it wasn’t going to happen. I told myself that even if the conference got moved online, I’d still fly to Vancouver and take part virtually from my room at the Westin Bayshore.

But people, it happened. It really did. And it was amazing to see friends and research collaborators after more than two years apart. The energy at the Pacific APA was so good. We all kept smiling, hugging, talking and then looking around shocked that this was happening.

I’ve come home inspired by my discipline, by the work that we do as feminist philosophers. I was working on a paper on the flight home! Well, an abstract for a paper, but still.

So likewise I was been reluctant to start training, to start fundraising, because who knows maybe the bike rally won’t really happen?

Gradually though it’s starting to dawn on me that it will happen. This academic conference I’m just back from inspired me. The energy from that in person event has me excited about the other events I’m looking forward to, including the bike rally.

We will be riding to Montreal again with a community of cyclists to raise money for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation. We will!

Please help us out and make this feel real. Help us make a difference in the lives of people living with AIDS.

You can sponsor David, you can sponsor Sarah, or you can sponsor me. We’re all on the same team.

“The Bike Rally will take place August 7-12th 2022. Get involved as a 6-Day Rider or Crew (Toronto to Montreal), 3-Day Rider (Kingston to Montreal), or 1-Day Rider (Toronto to Port Hope). The Friends for Life Bike Rally is the only volunteer-led ride that brings people together for an inclusive, supportive, and life-changing challenge that inspires much-needed help for people living with HIV/AIDS in Toronto, Kingston and Montréal. The Friends For Life Bike Rally raises funds for three AIDS Service Organizations located along the cycling route, with the founding organization and primary beneficiary being PWA (Toronto People With AIDS Foundation). Participants from the Kingston area support HIV/AIDS Regional Services, while proceeds from Québec participants support AIDS Community Care Montréal. The money raised by the Bike Rally funds programs provided by each agency and include financial assistance, therapeutic care, access to affordable medications, harm reduction, food programs, and much more.”

Proudly riding to make a positive difference….

cycling · racing · Zwift

Do you Zwift? Want to give racing a try?

Team TFC

There’s space on my team which is competing in the Zwift Racing League’s Tuesday night series. We’re a D team. The races are at 730 pm and you don’t need to commit to every week. Indeed if our roster is full we might need to have some people sit out some weeks. Don’t worry. We’re a ways to go from that.

The team takes virtual riding seriously but we’re also about having fun. The goal is to learn and get better in a supportive environment.

I think it’s fun. Message me if you’re into Zwifting, think you might like to give racing a try, and you’re a Category D rider.

Here are some steps for getting started.

cycling · Sat with Nat

Nat never bothered much about workout tokens or achievements but she kind of likes them?

Recommended soundtrack: Gold by The Beaches

Maybe it’s fear of failure. Maybe it’s about being the fat chick at the back of the pack. Maybe my brain is full of metrics for my paid work. I never cared much for tracking fitness metrics. Steps. Sure. My phone does that.

But the Apple Watch ring thing? My partner LOVES IT. It’s his hit of happy to chase and win fitness challenges. Me, not so much.

Nat smiles at the camera. She has a blue v-neck t-shirt on and feels challenged enough just to show up to life these days.

But it turns out I do like little achievements. Peloton measures so many aspects and has so many little milestones it’s hard to go a week without getting a few.

Since I’m not chasing them it feels a bit random when a whole class high gives me. Huh. Wonder why? Oh that was my 75th ride. Hilarious!

Nat’s achievement dashboard with some tokens including gold and bronze monthly activity challenges. You can follow her as MadNatters if you’d like to. She high fives the heck out of everyone.

The workout minutes is fun to see how little choices add up. In March, on the 31st I finished a Power Zone ride and checked if I hit Gold for cycling distance. Nope! Just under 4km short. Sooooo I DEFINITELY did a 10 minute cooldown ride instead of 5 minutes to hit the distance. Why? It felt achievable and it was the first month that felt that way. Cool!

More than the little badges, I’ve been able to cycle hard enough to get sweaty. Finally!

I’m riding longer, easily hitting an hour in the saddle. I’m able to do rides on back to back days. No more glute or tail bone pain. Amazing!

I also have a personal rule, are we doing the class at the same time? You get a high-five. You hit a milestone? High-five! You pass me on the leaderboard? You hecking bet you are getting a high-five. And when I get a high-five it feels just a bit like being out on a group ride. And that feels AMAZING.