autumn happens

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Usually I dread this time of year.  The days are getting shorter, the sun is weaker and  at a more extreme angle, and it’s getting pretty chilly.  I would see each falling leaf as fresh sorrow that long sunny days are over.  And I’d dread the cold months ahead.  I wouldn’t stop riding – I’m lucky to live in a climate favorable to year-round riding.  But I would sigh with resignation as I pulled my long cycling tights out of storage and made sure my jacket is clean and ready to go.  Where did I put my full length gloves?

But something interesting happened this fall.  I’ve been wanting to write about the change of seasons but I didn’t know what to say that didn’t sound like complaining.  So I decided to take my camera out with me and  really look at the change of seasons.

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Seeing my environment through a camera lens has given me new appreciation for the beauty around me.

The days are crisp and the sky is a bright vivid blue.

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There’s music in the sound of the leaves fluttering in the breeze and skittering across the path.

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However, some trees appear confused – some of their branches are vibrantly changing color and some are tenaciously still hanging onto summer.

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The birds are much quieter than they are in mid-summer.  Maybe they’re listening to the breeze rustling through the leaves that remain.

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And now I realize there are some things I really enjoy about cycling through the winter.  The trails are deserted, giving me the temporary feeling of owning my little corner of the world.  There is peace and serenity in the crisp blue sky and an empty trail in front of me.  Bare branches make for better sightlines around the twists and curves along my route.  The few people I see now are the trail regulars and we know each other, fostering a feeling of community.  We nod to each other in recognition.

I learned to accept this seasonal change and to appreciate it.  I hope your rides allow you the same. Because we all know that cycling doesn’t require warm summer days in order to be good for the soul.


sharing the trails with friends

I’m usually riding the trails by myself, sometimes enjoying some fine tunes as I pedal along.  But I’m never truly alone.  It isn’t just the human trail regulars I encounter every day – there is a whole network of wildlife regulars as well. Riding the same daily route gives me the opportunity to  encounter my network of critter friends regularly.

Along my ride I see bunnies, squirrels, quail, field mice, wild turkeys, snakes, lizards, coyotes, and deer.  There are the neighborhood cats, some of whom are so used to me they don’t run away as I pass.  I lectured one today, telling him that he knows he can trust me, but maybe not others so he needs to be careful.   There’s the big dog sitting in his back yard watching me go by.  I can always tell when someone in the neighborhood just moved in or got a new dog because it barks.  My buddies are used to me and they just watch me go by.  I wave as I glide past.

I watch the seasons reflected in the wildlife I’m fortunate enough to see.  The Spring is full of bunnies.  Mid-summer is when the mama quail have their little baby quail with them.  It seems like there are dozens of tiny quail.  I have narrowly missed them as they run across the trail, their little legs a blur.  Now that it’s Fall the baby animals are grown.  The snakes and lizards no longer sun themselves on the hot, sun-drenched pavement.  However, the deathwish squirrels are active, running in front of my tires with mouths full of acorns.  I call them deathwish squirrels because inevitably when I see one at the side of the trail, it will run across my path just as I near it.  Crazy knucklehead squirrels.

I have been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a river otter sliding back into the creek as I approached early one morning and there were a few times I saw bobcats watching me from small bluffs at the side of the trail.  Above me soar hawks, looking for prey.  And I see lots of red-winged blackbirds clinging to the reeds in the marshy areas.

Seeing a critter makes the ride so much more enjoyable.  Imagine people in cars, never getting the opportunity to see a river otter silently slide back into the water or never noticing the coyote standing in the middle of an open field, intently watching for field mice.  They miss out on so much.  They miss hearing the birdsong along their travels.

One of the truest joys of cycling is feeling in harmony with all the critters I know are just over in that clump of trees or down that riverbank.  Sometimes  they make themselves known and sometimes they don’t.  But they’re always there.  And I feel honored to share this little corner of the world with them.


cycling chic

I’ve been thinking a bit more about cycling style.  Some think there are two distinct styles: “Militant Cyclists” and “Civil Cyclists”  as described in this article.  The Militants are the aggro dudes – fully decked in lycra emblazoned with logos, on fast, high-performance road bikes.  The Civils are said to be the people wearing regular street clothes and regular shoes riding commuter bikes on flat pedals.

I think most of us are a combination of the both.  If I’m going for a ride just to ride I’ll most likely wear my lycra bike shorts, sports bra, and a tech fabric top.  If I’m tooling around town on errands I’m likely to be found in street clothes.  I always wear my helmet and gloves anyway – I feel naked without them.  But sometimes I wear a combination of cycling lycra and street clothes.  Most jeans have bulky seams where I don’t want them and they sure don’t give in the knees when I pedal!

Lately I’ve been seeing more cycling-specific, fashionable clothing for women.  Some are projects that are just starting out and they haven’t been funded yet for wide commercial availability.  Others are readily available now.  Below are some links for you to enjoy.  Jeans, trim skirts, casual pants – we can now enjoy the benefits of cycling-specific clothing that looks like regular fashionable street clothing.

I’m thinking we need a third category of cyclists.  Along with the Militants and the Civils, we’ll now have the Hybrids?  What do you think?

Let’s start with the undergear:

  • Chamois Panties – two styles to cushion your bum; they look like regular underwear.

Then pants:

  • Club Ride Women’s Rale Jeans – these don’t have a chamois pad but they do have nice touches like a higher waistband in the back so they don’t ride down when you’re pedaling and reflective accents.
  • RYB Denim jeans – these have a loop for a u-lock, higher rear waistband, reflective touches, and a nice chamois.  Really nice.
  • Grey Bike to Work Jeans – These also have stretchy denim for flexibility and reflective touches, including on the inside of the cuff when you roll the leg up.  No chamois.
  • Ladies Slim Fit Jean – These have a light chamois, stretchy denim, and are water-resistant!

And a nice skirt:

  • Women’s Reveal Bike Skirt – This is a tailored straight skirt with a unique hidden zipper and additional fabric in the back  to allow movement when you’re on the bike.  It also has a higher back waist.  Classy looking.

All of these are made with technical fabrics that stretch or give so you can feel comfortable moving in them.  They all have a higher waistband in the back so you don’t have that uncomfortable gap when you’re leaning forward.  Many have chamois but even if they don’t, the cycling underpants can provide you with cushioning.  Most of these have extra pockets or hidden pockets for your keys, phone, wallet.

I am so heartened to see the smart and stylish cycling clothing now coming out for women.  No longer do we have to make do with men’s items or wear street clothing that gaps at the waistband or doesn’t have enough give in the knees for pedaling. We can cycle in in comfort and style!


follow-up post – bicycle chain lube

I’ve now been riding for a couple of weeks with Dumonde Tech D1 bicycle chain lube.  I wrote about it here: clean bike chain joy in the change of seasons.  Now that I’ve had the chance to ride some miles with it, here’s my assessment:  I love it.

It’s a little bit different than a traditional chain lube due to the way it is applied and several reviewers have written about grunge on the chain after first use.  I noticed it too after my first ride, but it was because there was definitely some residue I could still feel and it attracted dust.  Dumonde Tech says the trick to using it successfully is to wipe your chain dry after the lube has had a chance to adhere to the pins in your links.  And they mean really dry (always start with a glistening clean drivetrain before applying new chain lubricant; this is how I clean my drivetrain).  After my first ride I wiped my chain with a clean rag and it came off pretty dirty.  I rinsed the chain with plain water and let it dry, then I applied a second coat and let it sink in.  I then was very meticulous in wiping my chain dry again, and I mean really, really dry.  I held my chain with a clean rag and rotated my pedals backwards.  Then I held my pedals still and ran the rag back and forth over a section of the chain, rotated my pedals again to get a new section of chain, wiped a clean section of the rag back and forth over that section of chain, etc.  I kept repeating this until it felt really, really dry to my bare fingers.

All bicycle chain lubricants work best when the pins in the links are lubricated; not the chain link surfaces themselves.  Otherwise your chain will act as a dirt and grunge magnet.  This one is no different.  However, I’ve noticed it stays cleaner than an oil-based lube when it is applied correctly.  After every ride I wipe down my chain and very little dirt comes off, if any.  Mostly only if I ride through a puddle and dirty water splashes up on my chain.  After about 75-100 miles my chain is still silent and shifting is still a breeze, just like when I first applied it. And it is SHINY!  It takes a little bit more work than traditional oil-based lube to make sure it is applied correctly but it’s worth it.


how to crash

crash

If you ride a lot, accidents and mishaps are inevitable.  Hopefully with the following tips they won’t be disastrous.

Today I had a minor crash with minor injuries.  Thankfully they were minor.  I have had more serious crashes in the past, including one where I was knocked unconscious (some discussion is here).  I’ve been reading up on crash techniques lately and I tried visualizing how to put them into practice if needed.  I visualize myself tucking and rolling, trying to go limp, and not locking any of my extremities to brace my fall.  As I ride along I imagine myself doing exactly that.  And you know what?  It works.  I’m scraped up and my ribs are pretty sore but my head never hit the ground and I haven’t broken anything.

So here’s my advice:  as you’re riding along, try to imagine how to react if you crash:  think relax, tuck, and roll.  Don’t try to stop yourself from falling; go with it.  Don’t hold your arms straight in front of you to brace your fall; try to tuck them into your chest and land already rolling, with your body relaxed.  Tuck your head in so you don’t land on your helmet. Let  momentum carry you until you stop rolling, staying relaxed the entire time.  Skinned knees and elbows heal rather quickly; bones take a lot longer to heal.

Stand up and take some personal inventory to see how you are – if you have grit embedded in road rash you can use your water bottle to flush some of it out.  It’s also helpful to ride with some band-aids and a wet wipe or two.  Hopefully you don’t have any broken bones.

Check your bike.  Your handlebars may be askew.  Are your pedals okay?  Is your seat crooked?  Do your wheels look to be relatively in true or are they wobbling?  Are any spokes loose?  In today’s crash I bent my rear derailleur; I managed to un-bend it enough to limp to my REI and the wonderful mechanic there straightened it out for me at no charge.  I have only accolades for the bike mechanics at my REI – they have always treated me so very well.

Since I am car-free and my bike is my only transportation, getting my bike fixed was my  priority.   Only after it was back in good working condition did I ride home and pop two ibuprofen before cleaning my road rash and jumping in the shower.  My bike is ready for the next ride although my ribs may need a couple of days to heal before I can lift my bike to carry it up and down my stairs.  But at the end of the day I’m so glad all the time I spent imagining crash techniques paid off and my body automatically did what my mind trained it to do.  Try to visualize these techniques as you ride along – they may help you avoid more serious injuries.

Ride safely!


clean bike chain joy in the change of seasons

Previously I posted about how I clean my bike’s drivetrain and the products I use.  During the summer I prefer to use a “dry” chain lubricant because it’s dry here in Northern California and it doesn’t rain for months.  Using a dry lube (teflon or “dry” polymer) is much less gunky and allows me to keep my chain clean for a long time with a simple wipe after each ride to get the dust off.  But during the rainy season I have never trusted dry lubes and I prefer to use a more traditional wet lubricant, a petroleum-based chain lube.  A rusty chain makes a very unhappy bike!

So I went to my fancy LBS (local bike shop) to pick up some winterizing supplies.  Previously I had been using White Lightning Clean Streak Degreaser but  the LBS I visited doesn’t carry it. They sold me Finish Line Citrus Degreaser.    On their recommendation I also bought Dumonde Tech Bicycle Chain Lube – Lite.  The LBS said this lubricant was good in wet or dry conditions and I could use it year-round.  The LBS sponsors racing teams and they use it so  I figured it was worth a try.

Now that I’ve tried these two products I am switching my loyalty to the Finish Line Degreaser.  That stuff is miraculous!  As good as White Lightning is, this is even better, which I didn’t know was possible. All the gunk just melted off my chain.  It’s such a wonderful thing to run a clean rag over the chain and have nothing come off – no dirt, no grime.  The cassette is shiny and clean and I think my chain has only been this clean when it was brand new.

I let my chain dry off for a couple of hours, then I applied the Dumonde Tech.  It’s a polymer, which is intended to bond to your chain surfaces, forming a protective coating.  The company instructs you not to use it liberally, unlike other chain lubes – use it sparingly and wipe it until it’s dry.  And by all means, wipe the chain after each ride.   That’s a really good practice to get into no matter what you use on your chain. It will increase the lifespan of your drivetrain components.

So I was eagerly anticipating riding on this blissfully clean chain this morning.  I was happy – it was perfectly silent.  It was like riding on satin.  My pedaling felt effortless and shifting was so smooth I could barely feel it.

I can highly recommend these two products.  I still think White Lightning Degreaser is good, but Finish Line Citrus is better.  Time will tell regarding the Dumonde Tech chain lube but I’m pretty impressed so far.


congrats, California! 3-foot law passes

California finally joined 22 other states with its own 3-foot passing law today.  Jerry Brown signed it!

From SF Gate.com:

The proposal from Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, is intended to better protect cyclists from aggressive drivers. It states that if drivers cannot leave 3 feet of space, they must slow down and pass only when it would not endanger the cyclist’s safety.

The law will go into effect Sept. 16, 2014. Current law requires a driver to keep a safe distance when passing a bicyclist but does not specify how far that is.

At least 22 states and the District of Columbia define a safe passing distance as a buffer of at least 3 feet, according to a legislative analysis of the bill.

Bradford’s bill, AB1371, was sponsored by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, an avid cyclist who was injured in 2010 after a taxi driver abruptly pulled in front of him. It also drew support from several cyclist groups, such as the California Association of Bicycling Organizations.

Whoo hoo!  Go out for a ride to celebrate!