New bike, new attitude

At the end of my last post I left all y’all with a teaser – photos of my smashing new grey and orange bike, Freddie. I’ve been waiting for a new bike for a long time, and this was the year the stars aligned: I’d saved up, I knew I was at a point with my strength and fitness that my old bike was working against me more than anything else, and my club friend L had been surreptitiously sleuthing around one of our top local bike shops with my list in hand: racier than my beloved Roubaix, mostly orange.

(Two photos of the bar tape and top bar of my new bike, Freddie. The orange tape and highlights will feature prominently in the following post!)

So one day in April, after term ended, L and I headed for TO Wheels and had a nose around together.

It took a good while for me to settle on the right bike with the right group set and the other bits and pieces you don’t think about until you’re actively shopping for a new bike. But once I had done all my fussing and reading and testing and more fussing, I ended up with the best bike I’ve ever had, and I’m not just thrilled – I’m faster.

No, really.

So, this is my “top five things I learned in my first month with Freddie” post; it’s mostly about how to buy the best bike you’ve ever had, too.

Spoiler alert: it ends really well, with me loving every minute on this great new machine.

1. Buying an expensive road bike is a big deal! Take your time, do your research, insist on helpful and supportive service.

I know lots of folks who turn up at club rides, or at the office, or in the bedroom (!! *eyeroll*), to say, “hey! I just bought a new bike! It’s got $$$$$$$$ on it and cost a million dollars!”

But that’s not me. I’d thought long and hard about a new bike since returning to Canada from the UK in 2014, and I set my budget at $3000 all in, or as close as I could get (given Ontario’s somewhat onerous 13% HST). I planned the spend and knew I could afford it this spring. I chose TO Wheels, our (I think) top local indie shop, because I knew the folks there (it’s owned by a woman, yo!) and knew they’d be helpful, supportive, and would match me to the best bike I could afford without up-selling.

When L and I got there one busy Saturday afternoon, the lovely and talented Andrew was awash in stuff to do, but still he took almost an hour to talk me through options, look at my bike fit data, put me on the Retül jig (see below!), set it up to my bike fit spec, and then we tweaked it together. We worked out that I’d fit the Cervélo R2, or the Liv Envie, almost exactly. (A pro bike fit – see below – is fantastic, and works especially well if you are having a bike custom built exactly to your spec. That’s really pricey, though, and beyond me at this point. Maybe next time.) I took that info, plus the new jig data Andrew had generated for me, away to do research on my own. I told him I’d be back, but he was not fussed; for him, an hour helping a customer discover important information about her bike needs, sale or no sale, was an hour well spent.

At home I read around the net to learn more about the bikes on offer. The R2 – the bottom of the line item from one of the best manufacturers in the world, sort of the cycling equivalent of the least impressive house on the best street – got superb reviews and sounded like a really ideal buy for me. The Liv, as a woman-specific frame, interests me, but truthfully I’m tall, stocky, and weigh as much as a fit guy my height, so that detail mattered less to me physiologically. While researching I also read a bit about Felt, a fantastic race bike series from the US; I got in touch with local dealers in nearby Dundas, Ontario and they chatted with me about custom group set options over Facebook.

In other words: I took my time. About a week, to be precise. Then I headed back to Andrew, and asked to take the R2 for a test drive.

2. Buying an expensive road bike is a big deal! Take it for a test ride. Take it for two test rides, in fact: one that mimics your commute, and one that mimics a training ride.

My first spin on the R2 was along the cycle paths that line the river between my house and my office. They are often busy with pedestrians, and they have some short, sharp hills that are great fun to punch. It was another sunny Saturday when I took the floor model R2 out onto the path and spent maybe 20 minutes in a commute-like doddle. I ended up having to portage around a small flood, to fight off some angry Canada geese, and then I punched the hill at the private school that leads back up to downtown and to the bike shop.

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(A shot of a sunlit bike path in London, Ontario, with a yellow line dividing traffic and trees on either side. Think this, but more geese.)

I loved the feel of the bike on the hill; the compact cassette gave me all kinds of power, even in the big ring, and I knew this bike was a fab climber. But I found the reach awkward; I wasn’t sure the fit was as it was meant to be, based on the jig work we did in the shop. I queried Andrew; he dropped the handlebars further and I went out again. Again, it felt great. Again, the reach worried me.

I told him I needed to think a bit more and that I’d be back.

Our next club ride saw me spend some time in the peloton with the always lovely and helpful Paul and Allan, who reminded me that to know a bike is YOUR bike you need to really test it – take it out for 40, 50, 60km at least. Don’t rely on a commute test run, they said; take it for a proper spin. So, shortly after, L and I did just that. I grabbed the R2 from Andrew and we headed North-West out of town. The ride was hard into the wind, but fantastic on the way back. I was still having reach issues, but L assured me I was both looking much more comfortable on this bike than on my Ruby, and that I was obviously accelerating faster and more smoothly. This came to pay dirt on our local “heartbreak” hill, where I accelerated up past L and held him on my wheel until the summit. Normally, he’d be off like a flash past me; he’s four inches taller than me, and rides with a substantial drop, making him a very quick puncheur.

The next business day at the shop I told Andrew about the reach issue; he didn’t need to hear it, in fact, because he’d already talked to L and had a plan. We set the jig again, and he showed me what a difference a shorter stem would make; it felt great. We then ordered the bike: the colours I wanted (groovy grey and orange highlights!), the group set I preferred (the Shimano 105 – basic but solid, and it will allow me to upgrade as I wish, to whatever brand I wish, in a couple of years), a 90mm stem, ORANGE BAR TAPE (OMG!), and a gorgeous black Shimano crank. I paid, hugged Andrew wildly, and prepared for my new road adventures to begin.

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(Time from first shop to arrival of bike: 3 weeks, all well spent. I left secure in my decision, and delighted with my new friend. Shown here: Freddie, complete, at the shop on the day I took her home.)

3. A new bike should fit like a glove. Take the time to get yourself a bike fit.

Remember above when I mentioned this thing called the “Retül jig”?

This is a Retül jig:

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(Image of a black bike fit machine, with tall central saddle, handlebar jig, rear tire and chain set. Sort of like what they might ride in The Matrix…)

It’s a tool bike shops use to help you figure out the very best position for you on a bike – and thus the ideal specifications for any bike you buy. A custom bike fit can be expensive, but it’s worth it. Good bike shops like TO Wheels will put you on their jig and help you find an ideal, comfortable position with good power, but a custom fit is more involved: it’s usually up to 2 hours with a pro or two, and it’s designed to assess your current power output, position, and comfort level on your existing bike, and then it compares that against ideals.

I did my custom fit in March 2014 at Le Beau Velo in Shoreditch, London with Mal Pires and Jo McRae; they took loads of photos of me on my bike, on the jig, and in different positions, and afterward set my existing bike up as close to the ideal measurements they’d taken as possible. Then they sent me five pages of photos and data to use when purchasing a new bike.

This is the data Andrew used to set me up on the jig and tweak things for Freddie, and it’s the reason why my new bike is perfectly fitted to my body and to the ways I produce power. I’ve got a much, much more significant drop on this bike (drop = vertical distance from top of saddle to top of handlebars), my quads are positioned more vertically in relation to the pedal stroke, and the top tube of this bike is flatter, meaning my reach when I hold the hoods (the very top part of the handlebars, where you access the brakes) is shorter and easier on my mid-back and shoulder blades. When I stand to climb I can get up in one smooth movement, without having to heave up onto my quads, and I sit equally smoothly in one swift movement. I feel powerful and yet also easy and free on Freddie, and I move visibly more quickly compared to what I could do on Ruby. All thanks to custom data and a careful fit at purchase time.

4. A new bike should make you feel good in your heart. Pick the accessories you want so you can admire it!

ORANGE BAR TAPE. I asked, Andrew delivered. I love orange; it makes me happy on the greyest day. I knew I wanted orange, but it’s not the easiest colour in the world to get hold of for a frame; when I was cruising the options at TO Wheels it wasn’t lost on me, even before we talked data and options, that the R2 was available in a grey-orange combo.

Would I have turned the R2 down, after all that research, if I couldn’t have had the orange? Probably not. But the nice part is I didn’t have to worry; I realized I could accessorize the bike the way I wanted, adding colour at will. Andrew found me the gorgeous bar tape (EVERYONE compliments Freddie on her bar tape!), the mat black crank and water bottle cages for complementary styling, and now I am in the market for shiny orange bike shoes. When I climb onto Freddie with my Foxy Moxy gear on, lime green helmet, and orange vest, I feel terrific: stylish and fast and strong. That feeling carries over onto the hills and the flats, and I love it.

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(Orange Giro cycling shoes with black accents. WANT.)

5. A new bike may give you the mental boost you need to say: yes, I CAN go faster. Embrace that!

My first club ride on Freddie was a windy, grey May Saturday, but wow did she attract attention! My pal Sue, the only other woman in the club who is a regular on Saturday tours, grabbed me and said, let’s go with the fast guys. Come on.

I said: ummm……

Freddie said: let’s do it!

So we did. Hard work into the wind on the way out but I did my turns at the front and hung on when at the back. At St Mary’s, we grabbed a quick bite and took right off again. Then it was tail winds the whole way home, and that’s when the fast guys opened it right up. Time for anxiety.

Brad, my Tuesday night ride friend, took care to make sure Sue and I were riding efficiently, drafting a lot and surging only when needed; Sue and I found it was not nearly as hard as we thought to stay with the guys. We made it the whole 95km, our average speed well above 30kph – a new record for me. And one I repeated two weeks later, when we barnstormed with the speedy dudes home from Ingersoll, riding an average of 40kph on the back 35km.

I KNOW. Like, insane fast.

What can I say? Freddie made me do it! Or, rather, Freddie showed me I had it in me all the time.

All I needed was a bike that was properly fitted to my frame and power profile, a heady new attitude, and the all important orange bar tape.

 

 

 

Your first metric century: Some suggestions about your first 100 km ride

Americans say that a century ride is a bicycle ride of 100 miles. Americans call what we ride, 100 km, a metric century. But given that the rest of the world uses kilometers and that cycling in particular is a Europe based support, I say 100 km is a real century and what they ride is an “imperial century.” See Rule 24. Whatever. Ours is easier. It’s often a new rider’s first big distance and that’s what I’m talking about today.

There are quite a few people associated with the blog doing the 1 day version of the bike rally (you can sign up, there’s still time!). Hi Catherine! Hi Sarah! Hi also to readers Serife and Judy! Since the one day version is Toronto to Port Hope (108 km) a post on riding 100 km for the first time seemed apt.

Want to come with us? See Ride with the Fit is a Feminist Issue bloggers! Consider the 1 day

It’s been a slow start to cycling this spring and I know some people are feeling nervous about the distance.

100 km is nothing to sneeze at. But it’s totally doable if you regularly ride your bike.

 

Suppose you’re just starting training now. We leave in 9 weeks and 3 days. Where to begin?

Most training plans recommend riding 3+ times a week. They also recommend a longer ride on the weekend.

How much do I ride when I’m actively training? I usually commute by bike (just 10-15 km a day) and then do longer, faster rides (40 km) Tuesdays and Thursdays. On the weekend I do a longer ride at a more relaxed pace. That’s a pretty normal sort of schedule for cyclists.

But what I do doesn’t matter really. You’re just starting out. This is your first 100 km ride.

The pattern remains the same though, regular weekday riding and a longer ride once a week. Each week the longer ride gets longer.

Right now with 9 weeks to go you might want to start out with a 25 km long ride on week 1, a 30 km ride on week 2, a 35 km ride in week 3, a 45 km ride in week 4, a 55 km ride in week 5, a 65 km ride in week 6, a 75 km ride in week 7, an 85 km ride in week 8, and a 100 km ride in week 9. Most people to their long rides on Saturday and Sunday and if you’re in Toronto you’re welcome to join in on the bike rally’s official training rides. See details here and here.

Some notes:

  • Now you don’t actually have to ridden the full distance before the actual date. Lots of people train for marathons and don’t ever run the full distance before the race. Riding a century is the same. Before I  rode 100 km the most is ridden was about 60 km. But it turned out that stopping for lunch and resting made it easy to get back on the bike.
  • When you’re riding each week trying to increase your mileage you need to find routes. A good resource is Ride with GPS. Local bike clubs often share their maps too. Print out a route map and/or load it on your bike computer.  Vary your route to avoid boredom and to get used to riding on a variety of terrain.
  • Once your rides start to get longer, don’t go it alone. Ride with friends, ride with a training group, ride with a local cycling club. You’ll need someone to talk to and it’s more fun and safer not to be out there alone.
  • If you’re riding in the city you might get downhearted thinking it takes forever to ride 20 km. You’re right. It does take forever to ride 20 km in the city. But without traffic once you hit country roads you’ll find the kilometers go by a lot faster. It’s hard work stopping and starting on a bike.
  • Speaking of stopping, there are rest stops on an organized century rides. The bike rally has rest stops and a lunch break. You can stop at the rest stops. Eat! Drink! It feels good to get off your bike and stretch. Don’t sit still for too long though. It can be hard to get back on the bike.
  •  One of the things that makes a long ride easier is maintaining a steady pace. There’s no need to speed up and slow down. Pick a pace you can maintain and maintain it. Later, when you’re sure you’re good to ride 100 km you can speed up, zoom zoom!, but for now take it easy and be consistent.
  • Pack snacks and eat and drink a lot on the ride. Enjoy.

Links:

How To Prepare for Riding 100K

Training & Preperation for Your First 100km Ride

Preparing for your first ‘Big One’

How To Train For a 100km Bike Ride

Also here’s a cute short film about training for a century. Read about it here.

“Based on a true story, a father and son set a goal to complete a 100 mile bike ride (a century ride) together. Months of rigorous training lead up to the final ride in Lake Tahoe. As the ride progresses, the viewer is immersed in the beautiful scenery of the lake, and we see how the father and son are brought closer together by the shared experience.”

Have you ridden 100 km in a day before? What advice would you give to people trying it for the first time?

5 boros, 32,000 riders, 40 miles, 0 cars, and 1 great day, #tdfbbt

It’s a ride I’ve been wanting to do for awhile, the New York City Five Boro Bike Tour. I’ve tried to talk lots of people into doing it with me but it’s a big trip for not so much cycling really. Part of the thrill for me was the thought of seeing New York on bike, with no cars. I asked Sarah (she likes New York and likes driving) and this time got a “yes.” YAY! Now I’ve done it!

Here’s the medal as proof.

What’s it all about? Here’s the official blurb:

On the first Sunday in May, 32,000 cyclists of all skill levels come from around the world to roll through every borough of New York City on streets totally free of cars. For one day, the roads are yours, the bridges are yours, the City is yours—there’s no better way to experience the Big Apple. Produced in conjunction with the City of New York, the TD Five Boro Bike Tour Presented by REI is the largest charitable bike ride in the U.S., with proceeds funding our free bike education programs. Last year alone, we taught more than 17,000 kids and adults. When you ride with Bike New York, you’re helping us in our mission to empower more New Yorkers with the skills to ride safely and confidently on city streets.

Confessions: I’ve visited New York a lot but until this visit I’d never left Manhattan. I’m usually in the city for work and so don’t get out and about enough. Or I’m there with my kids and family to see plays. So this was a new experience. The bike tour was a great way to see the city. 

Also, I’m anxious about travelling in the US these days. My opposition to Trump’s policies on immigration and visitors’ visas means that I’ve cancelled some work travel. But I’d registered for the tour ages ago. It’s not cheap and there are no refunds or cancellations. So off we went.

Impressions: It’s not for the faint of heart. So many bikes. So many people. But the atmosphere was terrific. It was relaxed and fun and full of smiling faces. I actually think Tracy would like it. There are no cars to worry about and you don’t need a road bike. It would be perfectly fine to do this ride on your everyday commuting bike.

Thousands of cyclists lined up for the 730 am start. New York looks different without cars.

Thousands of cyclists lined up for the 730 am start. New York looks different without cars.

It’s also not very fast. I think my average speed was 17 km/hr, comparable to my usual noodles on the bike paths.

The Bike Expo held for the two days before was also fun. Yes, there was a ton of stuff to buy, everything from Bromptons (drool) to all the bike gear you’d ever need. I’d say the majority of the bike clothes were pitched at women. I even bought a cycling dress. I’ll report back on it once I’ve given it a try. There was also a pretty reasonable amount of plus sized clothing for sale. Nice to see that at a cycling event! There was also a lot of bike tourism being advertised and it was great to see all the booths from Canadian destinations, a lot of them in Quebec.

There were lots of women on the ride. It was probably the cycling event I’ve done that’s had the highest proportion of women. There were also people from all over the world riding, along with local cycling clubs, and judging by the accents, lots of New Yorkers too. I loved seeing groups I’d only known of through the internet out there, like Black Girls Do Bike. 

And so many different kinds of bikes–fat bikes, ellipitical bikes, cruisers, road bikes, fixies. You name it. They were on the tour. Lots of people talked about the choice to not wear cycling shoes with clipless pedals but I thought they were fine. I was also worried about the state of the roads and my narrow road bike wheels but given that we had the entire road to choose between you could avoid the bumps if you needed to.

A highlight for me were the bridges! They were fun to ride over without cars.

I was also impressed with the vibe. Given the number of riders I thought there might be more jostling for position, more crashing. But mostly no one expected to get anywhere fast. People were pretty happy and relaxed.

That's a rear view of me, riding over the bridge. Black cycling vest, back tights, red Castelli logo.

That’s a rear view of me, riding over the bridge. Black cycling vest, back tights, red Castelli logo.

You can view the ride’s route here.

I’ve got lots of photos to share and I’ll let them tell some of our story.

We drove to New York with bikes in the back of the car and stayed at a hotel very close to the start. We were allowed to keep bikes in the room and pretty much the entire Holiday Inn was full of cyclists. Saturday we did our registration at the bike expo and dined out on Thai food with friends. The alarm went off at 5 am to start our Sunday.

Early morning pre-coffee selfie.

Donuts for breakfast! Mine was a suitable breakfast donut, oatmeal. Sarah chose pistachio.

 

At the start we were so surprised to meet up with Canadian friends. I knew Kim and Sarah, from London, were doing the ride, but I didn’t expect to successfully make contact. Their Canadian jerseys helped!

 

Here’s me riding along!

 

Here’s Sarah and me at the finish. (I should have left my helmet on)

 

 

We ended on Staten Island and took the ferry home (along with thousands of other cyclists). Here’s the view of Manhattan from the shore.

 

What I do it again? Yes!

Have you done the Five Boro Bike Tour? Did you like it? Would you do it again?

Working it on the hoof

I woke up this morning with the running tally of all the stuff on my plate scurrying through my brain: a PhD dissertation to read, a journal issue to get out the door, other graduate student work to assess, a manuscript to read and evaluate for an academic press, plus, oh, you know: my own research, writing, and teaching…

AAGGHH!!!!!!!

Every April this happens: term ends and I think to myself, with no more prep and students to deal with I’ll have SO MUCH TIME! The problem is that, way back in January, I had the same magical thoughts. And that’s when I said yes to a bunch of extra stuff, due in April, that I haven’t got the time to do now because I said YES! to so much stuff that’s due in April.

Cue office chaos.

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Then there’s the OTHER problem with April: the weather has turned fine! So I want to get out on my bike, out on the lake, just be outside. Marking outside is ok, sure, but playing outside is much better. Finding the work-life balance is more imperative than ever when it’s 23C and sunny, with minimal wind.

This past year I’ve been undertaking an experiment: I’ve tried hard not to work on weekends (single mid-career academics like me succumb to the work-every-day temptation too much entirely; it’s bad for your health and sucks for your brain). I’ve also made a point of putting my own self first, even if it seems like I might be back-burner-ing some important work things in the process. (As my therapist says: no academic deadline is a hard deadline. Nobody will die if you take until next Tuesday.)

So that means, this year, if it’s a competition between reading that manuscript chapter and riding my bike on a perfect afternoon, the bike wins. I might go back to the chapter in the evening; or, it might wait until morning.

Nobody dies; more importantly, I return to the work refreshed and in a better mood, which means I’m more inclined to evaluate it fairly and comment supportively as I prepare my review.

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I want to stop here and check my privilege: I know that getting out on my bike or into the boat when I choose is something I am able to do because my caring responsibilities to other humans are currently minimal, and because I am fully physically able. But I also want to acknowledge the many different kinds of bodies – parent and child bodies, paraplegic bodies, cognitively different bodies – I see out on the trails and in the sunshine when I’m bopping around town and along the country lanes.

Getting outside, instead of sitting inside at our desks stewing about how nice it is outside, is better for all of us long-term. Let’s just do it – even if it’s just for half an hour here or there. Your body and your brain deserve it!

Kim

PS: I treated myself to a new bike, after five years on my dear old Ruby. She’s orange and grey and makes me feel as sprightly as a summer day. She will feature in my next post; meanwhile, though, here she is. The bar tape is my favourite bit! (She’s called Freddie, btw.)

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My mother the cyclist!

Regular readers of the blog know that I’m part of a family of cyclists. My daughter Mallory and I ride together a lot. See here for our most recent adventure. But I didn’t know that my mother, Kathleen Brennan, rode a bike as a child.

It’s not that she’s never ridden a bike. She did ride my old bike for awhile as a grandmother caring for grandchildren when my sons were riding bikes to school and needed accompaniment. My mum took care our kids while Jeff and I both worked from the time our third child was born. So I have seen her on a bike. It’s just that I’ve never thought of her as having a bike riding past.

I made the discovery about my mother’s bike riding past this week when we had a basement flood. Boxes of old family photos were in the basement and Facebook friends know that we’ve been traveling down memory lane a bit. I keep taking pictures of photos and sharing them in Facebook albums (with family members’ permission, of course) before they dry all curled up. Our houses are interesting places to be right now as the old photos are being laid out on all flat surfaces everywhere to dry.

It turns out that my mum got her bike Christmas when she was 10. She lived in small town northern England, in Lancashire that’s part of a cluster of connected towns and communities–Colne, Nelson, Barrowford, Brierfield, and Burnley.

The photo below is from her school’s Bike Safety Rally in 1954 when she was 12. Notice the lack of helmets. But I love the smiling faces and her basket!

That’s my mother, Kathleen, on the far left.

I asked her some questions about riding a bike: Did she remember riding? Did she like it? Was safety a big deal for kids who ride the way it is now? Why did she stop?

Here are some of her replies, “Yes, I remember riding my bike. It gave me a certain amount of freedom. It was a big deal when I got the bike as it was new, a Christmas present. I remember being so excited as there wasn’t any snow and I could use it that day. No, I don’t think safety was as big an issue. We had the safety rally at school but I don’t remember getting much in the way of advice from parents as neither of them rode a bike that I know. Also, we never really had to use the main road, so many small local streets you could get into Nelson easily. I used to go to the library for me and Dad. I think there was equal riding for both girls and boys. I loved riding and for a while went to work by bike then I changed jobs and went by bus. I think I stopped riding when your Dad came on the scene. He had a motor cross motor bike and we used to go to rallies.”

Thanks Mum!

Spinning in the cold and the dark in Nathan Phillips Square, #thirty4thirty

Sarah and I had signed up for the 10 pm shift. It seemed like a better idea in the light and warmth of the day but we had dinner plans with a friend early in the evening.

We were ready to ride bikes on trainers in Nathan Phillips Square for an hour at the time I normally like to be settling down to sleep.  I knew my FitBit would scold me. Cate did too. Also, we were riding in a temperature that better matched warm blankets than outdoor exercise.

Why? We were part of the bike rally’s thirty4thirty spin-a-thon.

THIRTY 4 THIRTY SPIN-A-THON

“PWA’s Friends For Life Bike Rally will be honouring PWA’s 30th anniversary with a 30-hour “spin-a-thon.” It will be 30 hours for 30 years – that’s where “Thirty 4 Thirty” comes from. We’ll continually ride bikes on trainers, recruit, fundraise, and engage with the media, all with the Toronto sign and the reflecting pool right behind us. Through coordination with City Hall and the media, we’re arranging quite a bit of activity, building towards a major media event at 12 noon on Tuesday, April 25.

During the 30 hours, we’ll be telling the story of the 30 years of PWA and the nearly 20 years of the Bike Rally in the context of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and its effects on Toronto. We’ll do that through visual presentations, speakers, and special-guest spin volunteers.

We’ll also have incredible support from local bike shops, notably , who will be operating “pop-in tune-up” tents for commuter cyclists to get a quick tune-up or ask any bike maintenance, equipment, or sales questions.

This is an incredible opportunity to share the story of the Bike Rally and PWA broadly, and we’re very, very excited. Together, we can create an amazing event, attract more Participants, and raise more money.”

So yes it was cold and dark and past my bedtime. Yes, riding someone else’s bike on trainer without my clip in shoes had its challenges. But we got to chat with lots of people who stopped by to a)tell us that the Raptors won, and b)ask what we were up to and why. It felt really good to tell the story. It was also really nice to reconnect with the bike rally community of cyclists and support people.

And you’re part of that extended community too, blog readers who read about the bike rally, sponsor me, and in many other ways support my big summer ride.

You can sponsor me here. Thanks. I really appreciate it.

I also stopped by for the last hour, hour 30, to show support for people who’d be riding in the very hard rain all morning. Here we are, smiling but also cold and wet.

My mental health bike ride

I announced here recently that I am sick of being sick. It’s a good thing that I don’t get sick that often. The last time I had something like this was March 2013 and I had to take nearly a month off working out.

What’s wrong? Just a persistent nasty cough that seems to settle in and hang around after I’ve a cold. It happens once in awhile. It’s not pneumonia so that’s good but I’ve been coughing so much my abs are sore and I’m nervous about breaking a rib.

Persistent cough is one of those annoying things. I went to a medical ethics conference in Austria a couple of years ago and was fascinated to learn that coughs are responsible for approximately 30 million clinician visits annually in the United States. Cough is one of the most common symptoms for which people see the doctor and in some practices half of all visits by adults are for cough.

Worse yet, there’s not much they can do. Cough medicines don’t do much.

So there is a question of whether we should discourage adults from heading to their doctor when they have a bad cough given the cost to their health care system and the worry that they can’t do much besides rule out serious causes.

Oh, and women get bad coughs more often than men. We have more sensitive  cough reflexes apparently. Thanks.

So I’ve been couch bound for awhile now. I’m drinking lots of tea. I’ve nearly finished a very long novel.

Yes, I went to a conference in Iceland and did some driving around the countryside. But I was lucky to have my friend and fellow Feminist Philosophy Quarterly co-editor Carla Fehr to do all the driving. She even had to bring me food to the room at the end of the day a couple of times as this cough gets worse at night. Thanks Carla for taking care of sick me!

Post Iceland my feet have been pretty itchy, wanting to move. When the sun came out on Sunday and the day just got warmer and warmer, I really wanted to ride my bike. I knew I couldn’t go far and I certainly couldn’t go fast but I thought it would be good for my mental health, for my mood, to get out for a ride.

I know some people would counsel against this. But I pledged to go slow. Sarah and I noodled along the multi-use pathway riding around geese, lots of people walking, children learning to roller skate and ride bikes. We waved at people, made bell noises (ring ring!) because we don’t have bells on our road bikes, and we slowed right down and smiled lots. We did our part to improve the reputation of road cyclists on the multi-use pathway.

We even stopped to look at the baby owls nesting in a local park.

After of course we stopped for cruffins and coffee at the Black Walnut and sat outside in the sun.

The bike ride was definitely the right choice. The slow 23 km didn’t do much to improve my fitness, I’m sure, but it did improve my mood considerably. I love you spring!