ADHD · cycling · family · fitness

Like Riding A Bike…ish

I’ve always owned a bike and I’ve always enjoyed riding my bike but most of my extensive riding was when I was a kid.

Since then, I’ve never really done enough cycling to build skill, strength, or any sort of endurance.

I think the issue started when I graduated to a bike with gears. I could never quite grasp how to use them properly. The knowledge that the gears were supposed to be useful but I couldn’t use them well was frustrating and I got out of the habit of going any real distance.

This is an ADHD-related issue for me – this kind of thinking crops up for me again and again. I have to keep reminding myself of the issue that Geraint Evans describes so succinctly below.

a screencap of a tweet by Geraint Evans (@Geraintworks) The background is black and the text is white. The text reads “NT: Not everything about you is ADHD Me: Ok, which parts of you aren’t anything to do with how your brain works?”
Image description: a screencap of a tweet by Geraint Evans (@Geraintworks) The background is black and the text is white. The text reads “NT: Not everything about you is ADHD Me: Ok, which parts of you aren’t anything to do with how your brain works?”

If I add the frustration with gears to the effort required to get out on my bike and then add those things to my ADHD-fuelled notions that a) I needed long rides in order to get good at cycling and b) that once I had the skills I would have to either head out on steep bumpy trails or head out into traffic (neither of which is a burning desire for me), you can see why my desire to ride didn’t add up to much actual riding.

You can, of course, see the flaws in my (previously unexamined) thinking. But I didn’t even realize that I was working from those assumptions and frustrations until recently when my husband has gotten back into cycling.

I really admire the way that Steve gets into new (or renewed) fitness things. He does enough research to ensure some base knowledge and his safety and then he just gets started.

He doesn’t have to make a big plan, he doesn’t generally have a clearly defined end goal. He just gets started and works in small sessions until he feels an improvement and then he increases the challenge in some way.

This is a stark contrast to the way my brain wants to approach any fitness plan. I want a clear plan with fixed time intervals and incremental milestones…

…and then I probably won’t follow it because it is too rigid and doesn’t allow for the way my life works.

So, as Steve has been getting back into cycling, he has been heading out for short jaunts on the side roads and paved trails near our house. Sometimes he is gone for 10 minutes, sometimes it is half an hour or more, depending on his capacity that day.

I’ve decided to copy his approach.

And I’ve decided that I never have to go on a busy road or a bumpy trail if I don’t feel inclined to.*

Taking those possible end points out of consideration made things a lot easier for me.

The other night Steve and I dragged my bike out of the shed, checked it over, and then I took a little spin around the cul-de-sac. Since I only had a few minutes right then, I would have normally just put the bike back in the shed until I had time for a ride.

But because I am employing the Steve method, I went out for a few minutes. Obviously, not a skill-building ride but it was fun to spend even that little bit of time on my bike.

And while I was riding I had a lightbulb moment.

Not only can I ride in small bursts of time but I have the perfect practice spot nearby.

There are two empty-for-the-summer schools just minutes from my house. One of them even has a significant slope down from the road so I can get better at hills (a necessity in this province!) It won’t be an exciting place ride but it will be a safe and useful one.

A woman stands astraddle a black bicycle in a parking lot. She is facing the camera. There is a light-haired dog in a harness at the bottom of the image.
Steve and Khalee came with me for my first practice session. Image description: Here I am , in black capris, a pink jacket, sunglasses and a white bike helmet, standing astraddle my black bike. I’m in a school parking lot and I look apprehensive. My dog, Khalee, is on her harness in front of me. My husband, who is taking the photo, is holding Khalee’s leash.

So, you may never see me on a road with traffic and I may never go on a bumpy trail, but this will be the summer that I finally use my bike as much as I would like to.

Thanks for inspiring me to rethink things, Steve! 💚

A ‘selfie’ of two people in sunglasses. The person on the left is wearing a bike helmet.
Steve and I after my cycling practice. Image description: My husband Steve and I are facing the camera as he takes a selfie. He’s smiling a little and I’m smirking. I’m wearing my helmet, sunglasses, and a pink jacket. He’s wearing a blue T-shirt with the word Texas on the front and orange framed sunglasses with blue lenses. We are slightly leaning towards each other.

* The bumpy trails may become a possibility, the busy roads are extremely unlikely. My particular manifestation of ADHD makes riding very complex, adding traffic into the mix means waaaaaaay too many things to pay attention to at once. Perhaps that will change as my skills with the bike improve but it’s not even on the table as of now.

aging · birthday · cycling · fitness

What are the rules for birthday rides!

A white coaster bike on a street under a sign that reads “Follow that dream”

I’m a member of a Facebook group for cyclists over 50. There’s a great group ethos of supporting one another however far and fast we’re riding. We even seem to have, knock on wood, laid the e-bike controversy to rest. It’s also the most geographically and racially diverse cycling group I’ve ever been a member of. 10/10 if you’re a cyclist over 50, who uses Facebook, recommend.

One of the common things that members post are photos of birthday rides. I love them. But what I don’t love are all the people who seem very insecure about what counts. Like, someone says “I’m 68 and I want to do a birthday ride. Is it okay if I do in kilometers or does it have to be in miles?”

Just today someone asked if it still counted if they did their birthday ride on a trainer because it’s cold and snowy in their part of the world on their birthday.

Can we scream together?

In response someone recently posted this lovely list of ‘birthday bike ride rules.’

Rules for birthday ride

  1. You must do your age or not.
  2. You must do it on your birthday or not.
  3. You must do it in one continuous ride or not.
  4. You can’t substitute kilometers for miles or not.

These rules must be strictly adhered to or not.

Next month I’m turning 57 and likely I’ll gather up a group of friends and ride 57 km but I also hope that if I make it to 80 while still riding bikes I won’t feel pressured to ride 80 km. Any distance, at any age, is a celebration of life and movement.

Happy Birthday and have a great ride!

Bike with a basket of flowers
cycling · fitness

To wear or not to wear lycra: it’s up to you

Not all cyclists wear lycra. How do I know this? The New York Times said so this week. In a lovely article, the reporter promoted cycling for people who may be new to it, coming back to it, or have felt uncomfortable about it because of issues ranging from road safety to fitness to being racially targeted or excluded in a sport that’s largely white and middle class.

If you haven’t read Samantha’s interview with Monica Garrison, the founder of Black Girls Do Bike, you can find it here.

In Boston (my town), Vivian Ortiz, a member of Black Girls Do Bike and Boston’s bike mayor, shows us that cycling-specific clothing is not at all needed for fun on a bike. Here she is, leading a group of kids and grownups in Lawrence, MA, at the Cyclovia event.

Boston’s own Vivian Ortiz, in yellow safety vest, riding with kids and grownups, with no lycra anywhere in sight.

Does your town have a bike mayor? If you’re not sure, you can look at Pattie Baker’s blog, Traveling at the speed of bike, which has loads of stories about riding bikes around and through our towns in sustainable and safe and low-speed ways.

Here’s a question: why aren’t these folks wearing lycra cycling clothing? I mean, cycling-specific clothing is designed to suit on-bike needs, like having zippers for ventilation, close-fitting shorts and tops that won’t catch on anything and won’t flap around (which, trust me, gets annoying really fast), and deep jersey pockets for carrying all sorts of things.

On the downside, lycra clothing:

  • is super-form-fitting, which isn’t everyone’s thing;
  • can be expensive;
  • doesn’t translate gracefully from on-bike to off-bike situations.

Riding to and from work or school, lots of people prefer regular street clothing. I don’t happen to be among them. Why not? One word: sweat. I start sweating as soon as I throw a leg over my top tube, and wearing, say, jeans and a sweater to ride (even to do errands) would be incredibly uncomfortable for me. Lycra dries quickly, and I don’t look or feel so disheveled walking into a store in cycling kit. I’ve gotten used to the form-fitting profile, and where I live there are lots of lycra-clad people on and off bikes.

But who says you have to be all one way or the other? Mixing and matching is a time-honored tradition, so we can feel free to be a creative as we like for cycling wear. For me, I have a few pairs of around-town cycling shorts that impersonate regular shorts. On top, I wear something that wicks away sweat (or tries to), and bring a change of shirt if say, I’m going to a restaurant (we can do that now (or soon)! Yay!) or meet-up with friends.

Unless it’s Halloween, in which case I’m wearing a banana suit. As one does.

Rachel and me in banana outfits, and Steph as Cruella, on wheels for Halloween.
Rachel and me in banana outfits, and Steph as Cruella, on wheels for Halloween.

Hey readers, what are you wearing on bikes these days? Have you made any changes lately? I’d love to hear from you.

cycling · fitness · inclusiveness

Celebrating the Awesomeness that is Black Girls Do Bike

The cyclists on the blog have long been fans of Black Girls Do Bike. Founded in 2013, with more than 100 chapters across the US, BGDB has been “growing and supporting a community of women/girls of color who share a passion for cycling” and “proving that black girls bike for fun, function, fitness & freedom.” I reached out to the founder of Black Girls Do Bike Monica Garrison, pictured below, and was thrilled when she agreed to a blog interview.

Image description: Black Girls Do Bike founder Monica Garrison.
 Photographer: Sydney Garrison

Our bloggers are in awe of the work you’ve done with Black Girls Do Bike. Great numbers, great advocacy and joy! Also cool kit. What’s been the key, do you think to your success?

Well, thank you very much! It has been a tireless and rewarding adventure. I think the secret sauce has been consistently providing inspiration with the perfect combination joyful imagery and compelling storytelling. In addition, I feel that there was a void in the cycling community that we’ve filled. Our leaders have a self-sacrificing spirit and our rides are welcoming to all, but especially, inexperienced riders.

We were curious if the mission has evolved or grown since you started?

At the core, our mission and methods have remained the same. We want to grow and support a community of women of color who share a passion for cycling by creating safe spaces where ladies can ride together, skill share, and fellowship. As we have established ourself and gained strategic partners what has grown is our ambition to effect change. We’ve recently transitioned to a fiscally sponsored non-profit, as this will open funding doors that were previously closed to us. We now have more than 180 ladies around the world in our leadership ranks. Our network is far reaching and our leaders have seats at many decision making tables.

What’s the single best event you’ve held?

Our first national meetup in Atlanta 2016 holds a special place in my heart. I stepped out of my comfort zone to plan an event in a city some 700 miles away from me. I wasn’t sure if anyone would actually make the trip and show up. Our local chapter stepped up to lend support and lead a ride for attendees. We received overwhelming support from a number of vendors which allowed us to giveaway some amazing prizes. We raised thousands of dollars for a great cause. We all managed to survive the Atlanta heat and create some great memories.

Cycling can be a pretty divided sport with lots of different kinds of communities—roadies, commuters, mtb enthusiasts, gravel riders. How do you bridge that?

We realize that we cannot be all things to all people. It’s true, our audience skews toward road and trail cycling which is a great place to start. We realize, though, we cannot be all things to all people. Our intention is to be an entry point into the larger cycling community. We are giving women skills that can translate into any type of cycling they chose to pursue. When ladies get going with us they often figure out what type of cycling they enjoy and go from there. They can also meet other women who have similar cycling aspirations. We have cyclists within our membership that cover just about all niches. For instance, about a year ago, our Denver Colorado Chapter was invited to attend a Mountain Bike 101 clinic. Our ladies took on the challenge and really enjoyed it. We also partnered recently with LittleBellas.com a mentoring mountain bike camp for young girls to help expand the vision of what women and girls on bikes look like.

Have you encountered any resistance?

Not as much as you’d think. I mean we still get the occasional internet troll who comments one one of our uplifting posts spouting nonsense and calling us segregationists. And I get reports from your Sheroes (that’s what we call our lady leaders) that at some events they’ve dealt with some micro-aggressions from other cyclists. What I’ve found is that you either get it or you don’t. Objections usually come from people who don’t take the time to learn what it is we are all about or who are generally uncomfortable around topics of race. We’re not in the business of changing minds. I you think the cycling world thrives when it is more diverse, then we are here to be a part of that vision.

What’s a big long term dream/goal/stretch ambition? What next? Any talk of a Canadian chapter?

And our next goal is to create a non-traditional BGDB team of athletes around the country who we can help move through the ranks of competitive cycling. We also certainly want to continue to expand our reach. Our first international chapter was established in London in 2020 during the pandemic and we hope to add many more. We’ve had inquiries over the years to start Canadian chapters but none have materialized. That would be amazing!

What should the world know that the world seems to overlook about Black women and bikes? 

Know that there are thousands of women of color riding bikes. There are some challenges, however, that are unique to women of color who want to incorporate cycling into their lives. Most of us did not have an example of a female cyclist in our lives to model cycling. We sometimes struggle with caring for our natural hair in it’s many sizes and shapes while trying to fit a helmet correctly for safety. Some scenarios that would be intimidating for a women can become even more intimidating when you enter them as a women of color. For instance, the first time you enter a male dominated bike shop, showing up solo for a new group ride, or even riding on the road as a person of color can unnerving.

I confess I love your t-shirts that say “I ride bikes. You ride bikes. We should hang out!” but I wasn’t sure, as a white woman cyclist, if I should buy one! Would that be supportive or appropriating?

That would be a a totally appropriate way to show your support. That shirt is an example of something we designed to be welcoming and with universal appeal in mind. It’s just a cool bike t-shirt for bike people that happens to be made by blackgirlsdobike.org. Honestly, though, women and men of all races wear our gear. It’s a great way to show your support.

I’ve done some research on early feminism and cycling and the stories of Black women on bikes are hard to find but they are there. Do you have a favourite?

My favorite would have to be the story of the five women who biked from NYC to DC in 1928. In the context of the times, I just can’t even imagine the bravery it must have taken to set out on such a long journey full of unknown dangers. And considering the bike tech of the times, those miles had to be hard off their bodies, but they did it anyway and most certainly had many stories to tell from their journey. They also took the train back to NYC after completing the ride. I am a big fan of bike travel by train so I thought that was pretty cool. https://myrootsmyblog.wordpress.com/2020/08/05/five-black-women-cycle-250-miles-in-1928/

Also, what’s your favourite place and route to ride? Do you have a dream ride in your sights?

Close to home my favorite place to ride is the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. It’s a beautiful quiet trail that shows off Pittsburgh’s riverfront and has access to business districts and some local attractions. Beyond that, I’ve got a dream to one day ride from Miami to the southernmost point of Key West by bike. I think that would be a breezy ride with spectacular views and a big payoff the end.

cycling · fitness · habits · hiking · holiday fitness · swimming

Getting on board with the slowness plan

You would think that, now more vaccination is happening in the US and Canada, that we would all be waiting at the thresholds of our homes, raring to go, just waiting for Dr. Anthony Fauci’s starter pistol (which, in a way, has already gone off). Time to get out there, do the things, see the people, go to the places!

Track lanes, or the countdown if you prefer. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.
Track lanes 1–7, , or the countdown if you prefer. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

I’ve gotten the message, and am venturing forth. I’ve driven through 9 states and back to see family and friends, had a bona fide dinner party, and eaten in a few restaurants inside, with no masks. I’ve been to the beach and the pool, the grocery store and parks. It’s so nice to see other people I know and don’t know, out enjoying everyday life. Yay! Whew. Thanks, science!

Probably not a scientists pouring COVID-vaccine into a flask. But the color is pretty. Photo by Louis Reed on Unsplash

But, life doesn’t feel back to normal. Not yet. Not even close. Just thinking about adding new things to my to-do list, filling my social calendar, resuming all the activities I used to do, makes me anxious and fearful. I’m not ready. Or at least not ready to do it all right away and fast, like the pandemic never happened. No sir.

But, but: life is returning, coming at us, speeding up, expanding to fill all available space and time. What are my options?

I can go slow.

What?

You know– slow.

Turns out I already have the start of a library of how-to-do-stuff-slowly books. Here are two of them.

I’m taking a memoir writing course online with an old friend and former colleague, Edi Giunta. One of the things she assigned for us is being part of a 100-word writing group. It works like this: people are assigned different days of the week. One starts, writing 100 words exactly. Then the next person writes exactly 100 words, taking inspiration from whatever strikes them in the previous writing piece. And so on.

I love this! It’s breaking down writing into sentences, words, punctuation. I admit I don’t write my pieces very slowly; but, given that it’s just 100 words, I feel like I have all the time in the world to complete it. What luxury– the feeling of rafts of time to do something, and then doing it within that time. WOW.

So I’ve been thinking: if slow writing feels this good, what else will be very satisfying doing slowly? Here’s one: swimming. After reading the Why We Swim book (which we reviewed extensively, you can start here if you want to take a look), I felt the urge to be in water, but not to swim fast or hard or long. I like just being in the water, moving around at my own paddly pace, stopping and treading water or floating to look around. There are slow swimming groups (here’s one on FB; I’m guessing Diane knows about them), but I am happy (for now) being a group of one or two or so.

There’s also slow hiking. Admittedly, I don’t have much choice on this one: I am a very slow hiker, no matter what my age, fitness level, geopolitical situation, etc. If and when it’s okay to hike slowly, I almost sort of like it a little bit. I mean, the outdoors, and woodsy hilly outdoors, are lovely. Being able to appreciate however much or little I want of it seems like an good approach for me. And yes, there is internet information on it, but I warn you: several pages I went to (like this one) featured a picture of a snail. Sigh… Still, it seems promising. And when I’ve done this with fully-on-board-with-the-plan friends, it’s been marvelous.

And then there’s slow cycling. That one’s hard, because I remember being not-as-slow and am not as satisfied with slow-as-I-am-now. But maybe this is the most important one. Why? Because 1) I love cycling; 2) I’ve missed cycling; and 3) I simply am a slow cyclist. At least right now. Given the choice between slow cycling and no cycling, I pick slow cycling.

My sister and I have done a bunch of slow cycling on beach bikes. It’s so much fun. She likes riding around beach neighborhoods, looking at the houses, and wondering aloud how much they cost. I like riding with her. This situation suits us both. In lieu of my sister (who lives, alas, far away from me), I’ll have to slow-cycle on my own or with friends who I’m comfortable slow-cycling with.

Dear readers, what do you like to do slowly? Anything? Have you considered taking up an activity or returning to it, but in the slow lane? I’d love to hear about it.

charity · cycling · fitness

Riding with friends again! Tour de Guelph 2021

We’re getting back to normal riding! And I know there’s a lot of worry about ‘normal’ and what getting back to it means but this is one case where I liked what we had an awful lot and I want it back.

It’s true that this year we’re not riding in a big group. There aren’t hundreds of participants at on etime but it’s better than last year when a full summer of charity bike rides all turned solo or virtual. This year started off virtually, see “Crushing covid” on a virtual bike ride. but the Tour de Guelph is being held in person.

You can ride with small groups and Sarah and I rode with our friend Ellen, who is a nurse here in Guelph. We saw lots of other cyclists out there but I don’t know if they were riding in the Tour de Guelph.

You can choose your own route and we chose the 50 km route, leaving from U of G, heading north past Guelph Lake to Barrie Hill and back through Edon Mills and Arkell, stopping for iced coffee and baked goods at Cavan on the way home. All told, counting getting to and from campus and coffee, it was more like 54 km but who’s counting! (Here’s our activity on Strava.)

Sarah spotted the selfie station just past Guelph Lake so we stopped and got a group photo.

We’re smiling in these photos but honestly I think we grinned for most of the ride. Whee! A great ride for a great cause.

You can still sponsor me here.

Tour de Guelph – Tour de Guelph
cycling · fitness

Reasons to Ride a Bike (That Don’t Include Weight Loss)

So one of the things I do as the person mostly responsible for our Facebook page is follow a bunch of other blogs and scour the internet for fun things to share to the page. I really like the blog GIRLBIKELOVE and when I saw HOW CYCLING BENEFITS WOMEN: 10 REASONS TO START BIKING NOW I almost shared it without reading. Almost! Phew.

Because Reason #1, is, you guessed it, weight loss. Argh! It also mentions, sigh, toning your legs.

For a wide range of reasons that’s not the sort of thing I’d share to our FIFI Facebook page.

Why we don’t we want to be seen as endorsing biking for weight loss? Lots of us on the blog are living proof that you can ride your bike an awful lot and not lose weight. See also “On yer bike” for oh so many reasons, but weight loss isn’t one of them and an older post, Big Women On Bikes. But also you might not lose weight and then quit and miss out on all sorts of other good things about riding a bike. Or you might not need to lose weight or want to lose weight and think therefore, there’s no reason to ride. Rubbish!

I asked some of the cyclists in our blog community what their favourite thing is about riding a bike.

Here are our answers:

Diane: “I would start with “it’s good for the environment”. Also, since I have a basket and panniers, it’s a convenient way to buy groceries and carry them home (much less work than walking with bags). I can use it to explore parts of the city I would not otherwise see (I am currently mapping my way to all the trendy ice cream shops so I can bike there and have a celebratory cone). It is something I can do with my family. It’s often much easier to find a place to park my bike than a spot for my car. It’s great on hot days because you always create a breeze when you cycle. It’s relatively easy on my joints. You can decorate your bike with cool stuff – goofy horn, flashing lights for safety, little reflectors on your spokes, even tassels if your heart desires. Or get a helmet with spikes or flowers or kitty ears. What other sport has that?”

Catherine: “My favorite thing about riding bikes: bombing downhill as fast as my legs, nerve and reason allow. It was true when I was 8 years old, and it’s true now at 59. It feels like flying on wheels. Who can say better than that?”

Kim: “Feeling the breeze, looking at the scenery, feeling strong!”

Cate: “On my bike, the world is accessible. I’ve ridden bikes in more than 25 countries, and every time I experience the landscape, the smells, the people, the feel of the ground, the rhythm of the wind, the ache of a hill in a way that makes me feel part of the space and community around me in a way nothing else could. I can find new places further and faster than on my feet and much more intimately than any other vehicle. Plus, what Catherine said.”

Sam:

But if you want health benefits, here’s a better list of the mental and physical benefits of riding a bike.

cycling · fitness · holidays

Going with the flow, from bike packing to airbnb-ing on the Simcoe Loop Trail, sort of

The plan: a 3 day bike-packing trip on the Simcoe County Loop trail, staying in provincial parks.

“The Simcoe County Loop Trail is a 160-kilometer loop that travels through nine municipalities, reaches three major bodies of water, including Georgian Bay, Lake Simcoe, and Lake Couchiching. And, it is primarily on off-road, multi-use rail-trails!”

There are lots of videos out there of fast looking young men on gravel bikes doing it in a day. Ignore those videos. We did. We planned a three day version with time to stop along the way.

I blogged about our plans here.

But those plans were derailed a little bit when provincial parks were still subject to covid restrictions and our reservations were cancelled. I cried. I sulked for a day. And then I made other plans. My word of the year FLOW is serving me well.

What happened instead: We did three days, mostly sticking to the loop but with some deviations due to the location of our accommodations. We still brought the Bob trailer for all of our other stuff.

Day 1: Parked the car in Barrie, bought replacement frame pump that we forgot (thanks Trek Cycles), rode into Orillia on a stunning, shaded rail trail. Stopped to pick up burgers and beverages in town and then made it to our airbnb trailer. Total distance, 41 km.

Where we stayed in Orillia:

Lots to love about the trailer. Air conditioning! A shower! The owners lived in it while they were building their house and now they rent it as an airbnb. We were also impressed with how close to the Trans Canada Trail it was, just under 2 km.

Day 2:

On day 2 we had lunch at Em’s Cafe, at the 20 km mark. along with lots of cyclists.

Cheese and avocado and rockets. Also iced coffee.

30 km later we rolled into Midland. Dinner was provided by friends Bill and Sarah who’ve just opened their own business.

May be an image of tree, outdoors and text that says 'CHEF BILL PRESENTS DRUNKEN JAMS, JELLIES & MARMALADES'

But after dinner we biked what may have been the hardest 25 km we’ve ever ridden. And we’ve done a lot of tough riding together. Newfoundland! The ride out of town was fine. But once we hit the country roads we encountered hills that we feel Google really ought to have warned us about. I’m not a light rider, Sarah was towing the trailer, and we weren’t on our speedy lightweight road bikes. It was a slog. We were very happy to arrive at our airbnb bunkie and discover that we could use the pool. Phew!

Total day’s riding: About 75 km

Day 3: After a breakfast of coffee and BBQ’ed crumpets we set off, nervous about hills and heat. We took it easy, stopping lots along the way for water, ice cream, butter tarts and visits with friendly dogs. I’ve got to say that riding on a heat alert day is something I usually associate with late July or August, not the first weekend in June. Maybe I acclimatize to it by then but this was just hot and humid and insufficient shade. I read this–Things all cyclists think on very hot rides— aloud to Sarah on the way home and we agree with most of them.

Total mileage day 3: 40 km

Some observations:

  • Wow. So many bugs–all different kinds. I took at least a dozen caterpillars out of my hair that were hanging from shrubs that we rode under. But also all the usual variety of flying things. The worst for riding? Clouds of midges.
  • We also saw lots of critters–a snake! a beaver! a fox! frogs! So many frogs. Also, so many birds! Lots of ‘turtle crossing’ warning signs but no actual turtles. Also, we warned about a coyote on the path but didn’t see one.
  • The upside of going with the flow was getting to do the trip but it involved more time off the trail on hilly, no-shade country roads than I would have liked.
  • We missed the Tiny Trail on our route and we’re definitely going back at some point during the summer to ride it.
  • I deliberately decided to go casual, bike dresses and my usual sunglasses, spd sandals instead of bike shoes. This way I’d feel better going 15-20 km/hr rather than 25-30, I reasoned. Nevermind all of that. Gravel and trails are hard in their own way and I should have stuck with my more technical cycling gear. It’s designed the way it is for a reason. It works.
  • I’ve never ridden this bike this far before and now I am starting to have dangerous new bike thoughts. I’m browsing lists of best gravel bikes for bike-packing.
  • There’s nothing like exhausting yourself on the bike to get a good night’s sleep. Night 1 was 9 hours and 45 minutes and night 2 was 9 hours and 55 minutes. Yawn!
  • There were a range of surfaces in the trails. Some paved, some chip, some gravel but the hardest trail we rode on was sand. That was a challenge.

Anyway, will definitely do more of this kind of travel. It feels like a real adventure even though it’s close to home and you don’t have to be gone that long to feel like it’s a holiday. Maybe next time we’ll even get to camp!

covid19 · cycling · fitness

Finally Getting Out and About on My Bike

May be an image of 3 people, including Samantha Brennan, bicycle and outdoors
Sunday on bikes

Last May, in the early days of the pandemic, I wasn’t riding outside much at all. Hospitals were at max capacity and I really didn’t want to be part of the burden. Riding seemed risky and since I had a safe option, riding the trainer at home on Zwift, I took it.

This May, a year later, we’re starting to ease restrictions here in Ontario and I’m finally getting out and about on my bike. Mostly though I’m not riding my road bike. Mostly I’m riding my jack-of-all-trades bike, my bike that I’d choose if I could only have one bike. We’re riding on trails for fun and I’m running errands with it too.

Friday was Bike to Work Day and since I’m working from home still, there was no actual riding to work. Instead I took the afternoon and ran work-related errands by bike. I stopped by campus for a photo op with the Gryphon!

Sunday, see photos above, we biked out to Guelph Lake on the gorgeous multi-use pathway in Guelph that runs alongside the river.

Photo
Bike to Work Day, hello Gryphon!

June is Bike Month and I’m hoping to get out lots more.

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It’s also the month of our bike packing trip and the Tour de Guelph. So I am sure that we will.

We’ll take our bikes to Prince Edward County later in June and ride a bunch more there too.

It feels great to be outside again!

Where are you riding in June?

cycling · fitness

Science says we can get a workout on e-bikes. Duh…

The New York Times, paper of record, reported this week on a new study comparing levels of exertion (perceived and measured on participants using road bikes vs. e-bikes.

tl:dr conclusion from NYT:

The study, which involved riders new to e-cycling, found that most could complete their commutes faster and with less effort on e-bikes than standard bicycles, while elevating their breathing and heart rates enough to get a meaningful workout.

tl:dr conclusion from the study abstract:

The faster times and the lower perceived exertion associated with the e-bike may incentivize active transportation. Further, while the cardiometabolic responses (e.g., HR [heart rate]and V̇O2[roughly, how hard your lungs are working for your body]) were lower for the e-bike, they were indicative of being at or near “moderate intensity,” suggesting that e-bike use may still benefit health-related fitness.

Well, that’s nice. However, digging a little deeper revealed some more interesting points. Here are some takeaways from them and me:

Them:

Essentially, e-bikes are designed to make riding less taxing, which means commuters should arrive at their destinations more swiftly and with less sweat. They can also provide a psychological boost, helping riders feel capable of tackling hills they might otherwise avoid. 

Me:

Duh. Since we know (from the article and elsewhere) that in in the US, fewer than .5% of commuters ride bikes to work, increasing those numbers by any means necessary is a good thing. E-bikes definitely lower some barriers to bike commuting, which, by the way, needn’t be an all-or-nothing activity. Becoming a fair-weather e-bike/bike commuter or errand-doer is an excellent goal. It all counts.

Them:

In the study, participants rode a flat 3-mile course outside three times: once on a road bike, once on a e-bike with low-assist, and once on an e-bike with higher assist.

…the scientists found that the motorized bikes were zippy. On e-bikes, at either assistance level, riders covered the three miles several minutes faster than on the standard bike — about 11 or 12 minutes on an e-bike, on average, compared to about 14 minutes on a regular bike. They also reported that riding the e-bike felt easier. Even so, their heart rates and respiration generally rose enough for those commutes to qualify as moderate exercise, based on standard physiological benchmarks, the scientists decided, and should, over time, contribute to health and fitness.

Me:

Duh. Of course it’s easier to ride an e-bike. And yay, glad to hear they got in a bit of a workout!

Them:

But the cyclists’ results were not all uniform or constructive. A few riders’ efforts, especially when they used the higher assistance setting on the e-bikes, were too physiologically mild to count as moderate exercise. Almost everyone also burned about 30 percent fewer calories while e-biking than road riding — 344 to 422 calories per hour, on average, on an e-bike, versus 505 calories per hour on a regular bike.

Me:

Who cares? The calorie expenditure difference is minimal, and (in my view) irrelevant. The study was testing comparative exertion, not comparative energy expenditure (aka calories burned). The study concluded that some people found riding the e-bikes really easy on the higher setting. So how about adjust it to the lower setting if you want more of a workout? See? done…

Them:

This study, though, was obviously small-scale and short-term, involving only three brief pseudo-commutes. Still, the findings suggest that “riding an e-bike, like other forms of active transport, can be as good for the person doing it as for the environment”.

Me:

Duh. And yes, the study’s results make me optimistic that those riding -bikes for longer rides (doing errands or for recreation and exercise and fun) will also find barriers to those activities lowered, so they’ll ride more often and for longer distances. Yay! Did I mention that it all counts? Yes? Well, it’s still true.

One last Them/Me takeaway:

Them:

for the sake of safety, practice riding a new e-bike — or any standard bike — on a lightly trafficked route until you feel poised and secure with bike handling. Wear bright, visible clothing, too, and “choose your commuting route wisely,” Dr. Alessio says. “Look for bike paths and bike lanes whenever possible, even if you need to go a little bit out of your way.”

Me:

Duh. Obvs. Don’t throw a leg over your new e-bike and rev it up, careening down a heavily-trafficked road. Start off carefully and slowly. But then again, you knew that. Duh.

Readers– are any of you riding e-bikes? How do you like them? What do you use them for? We’d love to hear from you.