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.

Coffeeneuring 4

Coffeeneuring 4

(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.)

Coffeeneuring 4

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.

Coffeeneuring 4

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.

Coffeeneuring 4

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.


Chai was delicious, as always.


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:


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.

Coffeeneuring #2

It was a lovely day today. Perfect weather. It was a little cool heading out–not so much because it was cool as because it’s dropped about 20 degrees in the last few days. I was starting to think that summer was never going to end.

The plan was to hit up a new place. It’s the rare beast around here that’s easier to bike to than to drive. It’s in a hipster neighborhood, with the attendant parking problems (they do have a lot, but it’s shared with a popular restaurant and a popular bar.)

The bike parking was great. A nice bike rack, plus a nice bike rack next door. Also, as an even better bonus, there’s a station for the city’s relatively new bike share program just across the street.


The coffee was a little disappointing. I don’t even know how this was possible. They use the same roaster as our favorite place, who also roasts the beans we brew at home. And, if I’m getting this town’s kind of incestuous restauranteering right, the roaster is actually co-owner of this shop. Still, the coffee is better across town.


My croissant, on the other hand, was amazing. Perfectly balanced between crisp and tender, buttery enough but not greasy. Marmalade was just bitter enough, creme fraiche just tangy enough.


I think I’ll add it to the rotation, but I may stick with regular drip coffee.

8.92 miles total.


The Saddle Shuffle

I have three bikes.

1) A titanium road bike, with fairly moderate geometry.
2) A mountain bike, front suspension only
3) A flat-bar commuter-type road bike.

I have three saddles.

1) An expensive Selle Italia Diva, which is a lot like the Terry Butterfly. This one came in the build kit for my mountain bike.
2) A Brooks B-17. I bought this one from Harris Cyclery, back when they were still my semi-local shop, to go on the titanium bike. I wanted to soften the over-sporty look a little.
3) A powder blue Fizik Vitesse, which you can see in the header. I bought this unridden for a screaming deal (Maybe $25?) back before I knew what I was doing. It was cheap, it was a famous brand, and the stock saddle on the flat-bar bike was excruciating.

That Vitesse saddle is like a parody of bad bike seats. It is narrow. It is hard. But I just can’t escape it. The geometry is, apparently, just perfect for me. I didn’t want it on the TI bike, mostly because it’s powder blue. My road bike fantasy involved Cinelli’s Celeste Green bar tape.

So, I mounted the Brooks on the road bike, in accordance with my fantasy aesthetics. This left the Vitesse on the commuter and the Selle Italia on the mountain bike. The Brooks turned out to be too wide for the road bike. So I switched with the mountain bike, and put the Selle Italia on the road bike. The Selle Italia kills me. I rode it for weeks, hoping that I would get used to it. It’s a very similar width to the Fizik, but because of the cutout it is wider in the center. This made the edges of the saddle dig in to my upper-inner thighs.

Finally, I realized that I was being a stupid. I pulled the Fizik off the flat-barred bike, where it had been for probably 2000 happy miles, and put it on the road bike. Perfect. I left the Brooks on the mountain bike and threw the Selle Italia on the commuter, until I had time to switch them both.

And now everybody is happy. The Brooks would be a more logical choice on the commuter, but it seems to benefit from the mountain bike’s most-upright posture. The commuter bike gets ridden for shorter distances, where the slight-wideness of the Selle Italia isn’t a problem.

Moral: pick the saddle that fits, not the one that “looks right.”

Coffeeneuring Ride #1

The coffeeneuring challenge from Chasing Mailboxes came along at a good time for me. On the one hand, I’m a terrible urban cyclist. I live within biking distance of a lot of things. Finding a safe route to those things isn’t impossible, now that we’ve lived here long enough to know the back streets, but it does take me out of my safety zone.

I’ve also spent all summer doing basically the same ride both days of most weekends. I’m trying to extend my long ride mileage, though. That means shortening the other day, which means that it isn’t worth driving all the way out of town.

Enter coffeeneuring!

I missed the first weekend, because I wasn’t paying attention.

Saturday was Kolache Saturday at our favorite local coffee shop/grocery store, though. They have almost no parking, and it’s easy to connect with a separated bike path for part of the route home. A perfect candidate for biking.

I had to (literally) dust off the mountain bike for the ride. My “townie” bike has some kind of serious drivetrain problem. I’m so afraid to shift that I might as well be riding the world’s only 3×8 single speed. With my minimal bike handling skills, I’m not a fan of skinny tires and drop bars (not to mention clipless, which I’m still learning) for city biking. That leave the mountain bike. I don’t know why I own a mountain bike. I think I imagined myself riding along through meadows or something. I am, like I said, a terrible bike handler AND I have a strong instinct for self preservation. Not only do I own a mountain bike, it has nicer components than my real road bike.


It’s also, in a twist of total weirdness, where my Brooks saddle wound up. I’ll have to post sometime about the lively game of musical saddles I played at the beginning of the summer. It was mostly a holding place, but it turns out to work quite well with that bike geometry.

The ride itself was uneventful–a little over 8.5 miles round trip to have kolaches and lattes. I did panic and walk over the very narrow bike/pedestrian bridge. No picture of the latte. I forgot until after it was in my belly.




That was a longer break than I meant. And, honestly, I’m not sure if being a cycling blogger is really my thing. (I do blog a lot about that puppy in the previous post, over at My Imperfect Dog.) See, blogging depends on variety. I don’t have the cash lying around to create content by buying things, nor the influence to finagle new things to review for free. On the other side, I’ve manage to come to terms with biking in this town, and those terms are “do all my long rides in exactly the same place.”

I’ve learned how to start from my house and bike to a few select places, but if you want to do anything except moderate density urban riding you have to drive out to the ‘burbs. I finally found a long stretch of bikeway that isn’t stuffed to the gills with horrible people (although I did get run off the trail last week by a woman who was too busy glaring at the person she passed to get back over to her side), and mostly I ride it every weekend. Sometimes both days.

For me, this came down to a choice: what do you love about biking? Would you pick varied routes on roads that are neither designed for nor welcoming to cyclists? Keep in mind, if you pick choice one, that it is over 20 miles in a straight line from my house to the closest open road. Oh, and it isn’t pretty biking, either–just urban sprawl. Or would you pick a scenic but monotonous route where you can just pedal along to your hearts’ content? The thing I love about cycling is the zen, so I picked the latter.

In any event, I’ve been riding consistently for the last two months, which would make it the *only* two months I’ve ridden consistently since we moved away from New England. If that takes boring boring boring, I’m okay with it.

So, why dust off the blog at all? Coffeeneuring! Which I’ll post more about in a bit. Also, I’ve formulated this crazy plan to bike a century on New Year’s Day, which means building up a lot of mileage in the intervening months. My longest ride ever is 45, I think, and that was years ago. I’d like to keep track of my training.