How I ruined my summer biking

Last year when I dusted this blog off for the coffeeneuring challenge, I was hoping to stick with it. Then I struggled all winter with the fact that we had well below average temperatures. It wasn’t too cold to bike; it was too cold for the gear I own. I could have bought new gear, but the weather was so weird. I mean, people had to cover their tropical plants for weeks at a time. We’re talking coldest winter since they started keeping records. I kept expecting it to warm back up to average temperatures, and it never did. This was a serious betrayal. I cope with a lot of summer misery to get our wonderfully pleasant winters, and then winter wasn’t pleasant, either.

In the spring I rallied myself. I got back out on the bike, prepared to do the whole summer thing again. It quickly became obvious that I had to have a new saddle–the one on my road bike had been transferred from my very first adult bike, and it had accumulated a lot of mileage over the years. The cover was worn through to the foam, and it hurt in places it had never hurt before.

Somehow I cajoled my husband into loaning me his saddle. A lot of women’s saddles are too wide in the middle for me, even when the actual sit bone measurement is fine. And his saddle was perfect. Slightly narrow in the seat, but it came in a version that was wider only in that one measurement. Desperate to get his own saddle back, he bought me one for my birthday in May.

It was miserable. I chafed. My toes went to sleep. My arms hurt. Some good adjustments took care of the last two, but I was still so uncomfortable.

Why was this saddle not just like the perfect one? They were exactly the same! Except, I finally realized, the perfect one probably had 1500 miles of riding on it.

So, right at the beginning of the summer, when I already really hate being outdoors, I had to break in a new saddle. And, because I couldn’t do longer distances, thanks to the saddle, we were having to ride the world’s most boring route.

Triple disincentive!

My total biking, from mid May until now?

122.6 miles.

Yep. I ruined my summer biking. Now the question is, can I recover enough baseline bike fitness to enjoy my winter?

Coffeeneuring #7: Not as planned

About halfway through the coffeeneuring challenge I found a perfect little bagel cafe on my favorite bike path. When I’m on a long ride, it’s about mile 20 out of 40. In other words, perfect for a mid-ride snack. For some reason I didn’t buy coffee that day, and then we’ve been away from the regular ride schedule.

Today was the day! The day we were going to ride out for bagels and coffee! Except it took us forever to get going, and we got there an hour after the shop closed.

Fortunately there was a Starbucks right up the street. I was trying to make it through the challenge with exclusively local shops, but I didn’t quite make it. After a little check of the map to find a way around the very busy road we were on, and a little cutting through of some shopping center parking lots (mostly empty, because it’s Sunday) we settled in to a pair of peppermint mochas. I like to have one a year. I always enjoy it, then decide that they’re really much too sweet.

Have I mentioned that it was 85 today? (Yes, that’s freakish even for Texas.) I should have gotten it iced.

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By the time we got our late start and stopped to drink coffee that was much too hot for the weather, it was getting dark. The ride itself ended up a little shorter than planned. 18 miles instead of 30. Oops.

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Coffeeneuring challenge complete! A few close calls, but done. As I said yesterday, it’s really been a very interesting and quite useful experiment. I’m so pleased that I participated.

Coffeeneuring #6: The One That Almost Didn’t

I was so tempted to just stay home today. Errands took up most of the day, traffic was heinous, and it rained off and on. By 7:30 I was past hungry, past cranky, and on to completely apathetic.

I rallied, though, prodded my husband to get the bike lights ready, and off we went.

Last time we were at our favorite dinner place we’d noticed that they had both a bike rack and hot tea on the menu, so we decided to get dinner and tea all at once. It’s equal opportunity tea and coffee around here, after all, and tea had yet to make an appearance.

One very interesting thing that coffeeneuring has taught me is that biking is really fast. I got to the restaurant in three minutes. Three! I doubt I could beat that by much in the car (we usually walk), not counting the time it took to lock the bikes. I was wearing a skirt and ballet flats and not even trying to bike fast.

Now, it was well past dark outside and in an “atmospheric” restaurant, so you’ll have to forgive the blurry photos.

Tea:

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And, more importantly, a darned good burger:

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We had to bike around a little to get the mileage up and wound up just scraping in:

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It was an interesting ride. It brought home to me that I really do feel reasonably safe on our local streets now, at least as long as I’m riding with someone. That’s a huge change from when we first moved here. I’ve learned where you can bypass busy roads with strategic sidewalk riding and where that’s a terrible idea. I’ve learned the back way around a few dangerous intersections. I’m not about to bike out during lunch rush or anything. I still think every car on the highway was looking at me and thinking “Good heavens, that person is crazy for biking on these roads,” but I’ve come a long way from being too worried to ride around the block.

Coffeeneuring #5

Here’s the hitch with the Veteran’s Day Coffeeneuring allowance: my husband and partner in all things bikey had to work. It gets dark here at about 5:30, which is about half an hour after the earliest he can get home.

So today I resorted to something I’ve been saving for a rainy day: the coffee bar of the Whole Foods just down the road.

My photos are very un-artistic for this round, thanks to said darkness.

Coffee and an orange cinnamon roll:
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Closeup:

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Mmm coffee. This was actually some of the better plain drip coffee in town.

We managed to get the outbound ride done in daylight. The return trip required the use of my husband’s fancy-pants bike light:

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Scraping the minimum length requirement at 3.26 miles. I think it took me longer to lock and unlock the bike than it did for the whole ride.

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Coffeeneuring #4

Skin of my teeth, people. Skin of my teeth. I’m not even sure if today’s post really counts. Even if it does, I’ve got to hit Veteran’s day plus both days next weekend.

This isn’t procrastination–we got a last-minute chance to go back home and visit some family, which we gladly took. Packing destroyed last Saturday, and Sunday we drove sunup to sundown. The first weekend of the challenge I just missed.

So, on Saturday (the 9th) we drove a way out of the town we were staying in to bike a new-to-us bike trail, the Chief Ladiga.

The problem? It was freezing. Okay, okay, it was 58 degrees. But I didn’t pack a bike jacket, because when I packed my suitcase it was forecast to be 70. My new bike bag with room for the jacket isn’t here yet, so I haven’t learned to over-pack clothes. Stupid, yes? In my defense, I’m still used to the upper 70s to mid 80s. My brain hasn’t switched to “you might freeze” mode yet. The only thing that saved me was that I still had my neck-cooler (like a neck warmer, but in a wicking fabric) in my bike bag, and it worked well enough as a headband to keep the wind out of my ears. I had forgotten how much my ears hurt on the bike below 60.

Back to the bike trail: I was sure there would be a chance to buy a cup of coffee. I did not count on the rural-ness of rural Alabama and the fact that both of us are unfamiliar with the towns nearby. I mean, we biked through a college campus. What kind of college campus doesn’t have a single place to get coffee?

In any event, it was a chilly overcast day, but the trail itself showed a lot of promise. I’m hoping we’ll be back sometime to cover more of the distance. I can’t quite wrap my head around the logistics of the whole 95 mile length of trail, but it would be fun.

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(The ground was too soft for me to get a close-up, drat it. If you can’t make out the sign, it says, “Biking Good, Rapture Better.” Oh, Alabama.)

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That’s cotton, not snow. Some of the fields had been harvested already, some hadn’t. It’s pretty, but I shudder to think how many chemicals get sprayed right next to the bike trail.

At ten miles, we finally saw a sign proudly proclaiming that there would be coffee and ice cream in the next town . . . eight miles away. Combining my total lack of appropriate clothing with the fact that the Nuun tablets in my water bottle had gone undrinkably rancid, I called the ride and we turned around.

Fortunately I was prepared for this possibility, so at the trailhead I stopped for fresh water and (brace yourselves) instant coffee.

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I somehow don’t think that instant iced coffee is quite what the challenge meant by “coffee shop without walls,” but it’s the best I’ve got with no time for a make-up trip. I’m also standing right next to my car in the picture, but I promise I carried the coffee packet on the bike with me. (See lack of water, or I would have happily made it at mile ten.) The iced Via really isn’t bad, except that I prefer my coffee without sugar and with milk.

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20 miles. Not too bad for 1) the wrong clothes 2) no drinkable water and 3) my poor husband being on his mountain bike.

Coffeeneuring #3

The weather this weekend was a little dicey–a big storm front was due to arrive . . . sometime. The forecasts ranged a good twelve hours in when it was expected to start raining.

This pushed the big ride for the weekend (45 miles) onto Saturday. Not only is it a higher priority, but that bike path tends to submerge after heavy rain. Last weekend was quite the aquatic adventure. I can ride two miles in the rain to coffeeneur if I must.

Luck would have it, though, that it rained mostly overnight and Sunday morning, and Sunday afternoon was lovely. Damp out, but lovely.

We elected to hit up the best tea place in town for chai.

The problem with the best tea place in town is that, despite being a hipster-y place, they don’t have a bike rack. Not so much as a tall signpost or a fence. So, you have to sit outside with the bike, and they don’t have much outdoor seating. Outside of coffeeneuring it isn’t a huge problem, since this shop is on the way to our #2 shop from last weekend. No tables? Bike on.

Conveniently, though, the tea place has taken over the vacant lot behind the building and turned it into a seating area. Very good to know. A little dampish, but quite serviceable. We picked the driest table.

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Chai was delicious, as always.

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I was a little silly to order the hot. It was FLAMINGLY hot and I think it took me an hour to drink it. Then I had a very ginger-y belly for the rest of my ride. But the hot is just so much better than the cold.

We left the tea place and went the long way home, cruising through the nice neighborhoods and looking at the over-the-top Halloween decorations. This year we’re on a continuum ranging from enormous inflatable animals to tasteful displays of mums and pumpkins. I was also proven right about the state of the local bike path–they put down new pavement, THEN decided to do extensive excavation work, so it is perpetually muddy. K: “Let’s go on the bike path! They cleaned up all the mud!” Me: “I think it rained four inches overnight. Don’t you think there will be new mud washed over?” Yep. New mud. Thankfully Florence is running a set of cyclocross tires these days.

Ten miles at toodling around speed:

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Bringing me to about 55.5 for the weekend.

In Which I Bike Like A Grownup

I have a weakness as a “serious” biker.

I like to be able to touch the ground.

With both feet.

Surprisingly, because my road bike has the world’s lowest bottom bracket, I can actually squeak through with adequate leg extension. The downside is that I have to watch how I turn corners, but that’s easy enough.

On my other bikes, not so much. Especially on my mountain bike. You see, on a mountain bike, you are supposed to be riding over rocks and roots and stuff. People seem worried that you will hit your chainrings or cranks. So the bottom bracket drop is less. And the tires are tall. To ride without killing my knees, I am sitting a long way from the ground.

I am having to learn how to lean in order to put my foot down at a stop.

Hold me.