Friday, September 28, 2007

Warning: This post ends a little gushy

Today we shall delve into the dark underbelly of the relationship between Dave and myself! Dr Phil-like material is going to be coming straight at you so strap yourself in!

Dave was not born with a sense of urgency. My first encounter with this aspect of his personality occurred after a few weeks of dating. We were in the laundry room in my apartment complex emptying my clothes from the dryer when a huge summer monsoon storm hit. Lightning was crashing; thunder was crackling; rain was beating down; streets were flooding. In order to get back to my apartment, we had to walk down a couple of flights of outside stairs and across a courtyard.

I left the laundry room in a full sprint, with the awkward basket in hand, dodging rain drops, trying not to slip on the pavement, my heart skipping a beat when the lightning brightened the sky and the thunder rumbled. At one point I paused under an overhang and glanced back, expecting to see Dave right behind me. However, to my surprise, he wasn't on my heels -- he was barely two feet from the laundry room! -- strolling along with the basket in hand as if it was a pleasant spring afternoon and he was on his way to a picnic - a picnic that he was wading to in ankle deep water and arriving at soaking wet.

I shook my head in disbelief and yelled back at him, (and said words that I would utter many a time over the course of our relationship), "Do you think you could move with a sense of urgency?" He slightly picked up the pace but boy oh boy that was my introduction to being in a relationship with someone who takes the phrase "living in the moment" literally.

Additionally, waking up early is at the top of Dave's list of dislikes. I don't love waking up early, but I don't mind it, and once I am up (even if it takes a couple of hits of the snooze button) - I am UP. I get dressed for running, biking or walking the dogs - or on the rare occasion when I don't do any type of activity - I get up to make coffee and read the paper (my absolute favorite moment of the day). For Dave, waking up is a prooooooocess. As he repeatedly tells me he likes to wake up sloooooowly. He always expresses disbelief how I can just wake up and "function."

Therefore, take the lack of a sense of urgency and couple that with hating to wake up early and there's a definite hurdle to overcome in sticking to any kind of regularly scheduled morning bike ride. Most of our weekend ride mornings went something like this:

Me: Honey, get up we need to get going.

Dave: My eyes won't open.

Me (5 minutes later): Honey, It's 6:45 we need to GO - I don't want to be stuck riding in a bunch of traffic like last week or the week before that.

(In the first couple of months of bike riding we talked about TRAFFIC with the same gravity as one might talk about a medical diagnosis).

Dave: My eyes are glued shut.

Me (7 minutes later): DAVID! GET UP!

Dave: Go without me.


(one mile=one dollar).

Dave: Kiss my eyelids. They're so heavy.

Me: Oh my god. I can't take this. I'm going alone.

(I then stomp off to the kitchen to bang some pots and pans and to annoyingly grumble to myself under my breath about how I am "codependent" and "enabling").

Dave: My eyes are so heavy I can only open one eye....

Me: (more muttering)

Dave: Who are you talking to?

Me: (more muttering)

Dave: Are there any crazy people in your family?

With that charming little domestic scene etched in your brain, I think it is a good time to dovetail this post with the timely word of the week - yes - aptly chosen by IronShane- it is CHANGE.

I am absolutely fascinated by how people deal with change. F-A-S-C-I-N-A-T-E-D! Why is it that some people seem to navigate life's changes better than others? Why can some people move through an event like a divorce or a job loss or college graduation and create a new life, while others get stuck? How do some people go from being non-athlete to athlete? From non-cyclist to cyclist? From couch potato to finishing an Ironman?

Lots of models of the change cycle exist but the one that makes the most sense to me is in a book called Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck in which she delineates four squares of change that everyone goes through when an unexpected change happens (winning the lottery), a natural life transition occurs (graduating from college), or when a change occurs because of an internal desire that rises within (riding a bike):

Square 1: Loss of Identity....Confusion...Rebirth
Square 2: Identity realized at the end of Square 1 - Dreaming and Planning
Square 3: Down and Dirty Doing - Execution of the Plan
Square 4: "The Promised Land" - Goal Achieved

Each square requires certain skills and abilities to navigate and as Beck says in her book most of us have a natural preference for only 1 or 2 of the squares. (She also says that those who are a natural at all of the squares are "extremely wealthy"). Lucky for all of us, we can all learn to navigate the stages - or at least understand the skills and strategies needed to navigate each square so that we can successfully make it through points of transitions and not get "stuck" or end up in what we think is "The Promised Land" but still have feelings of confusion and frustration (and - hey - in the end- perhaps become wealthy - if not very, very wealthy).

For Dave and myself - in moving from "non-cyclist" to "cyclist" we were/are firmly entrenched in Square 3 - "doin' the work to make the dream a reality" (my favorite square to hang out in but not Dave's) but in many ways -as is often the case in Square 3, the dream didn't match up to reality. When you are in Square 3, it takes a lot of hard work and reassessment of the Square 2 "plan" to overcome the challenges that Square 3 throws at you - and for us, one of those issues was adjusting to weekend morning rides together.

I had to let go of my compulsion to get out the door immediately and Dave had to let go of waking up as slooooooowly as he desired. We now set the alarm earlier so that Dave can still go through his waking up process, but on his part he is really appreciating what bicycling is doing for his life and his health, and though he doesn't like the alarm ringing at 5 AM -- the motivation to get out on the bike overrides the impulse to stay in bed for a long period of time.

Now for sure we are not in "The Promised Land" yet, however the banging and the grumbling in the kitchen has lessened, and I no longer badger Dave with "honey its time to get up"! He knows he'll miss one of his highlights of his week if he doesn't get up -- and if it is taking longer than usual -- I just remind myself that I am "Codependent No More!"

We're kind of proud of ourselves - but isn't that what marriage is about? Adapting? Compromising? Learning and growing? Meeting each other halfway? I need to bask in this glow for a moment - this doesn't happen everyday for the Newbies!

Oh yeah - and sometimes, even if he doesn't ask, I kiss his eyelids. He says that helps them become less heavy.

I warned you this was gushy!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

They say it's all about the fit...But is it?

Dave and I are on our way to being fully inaugurated into the Cyclists Club! We just had our first roadside mechanical emergency! I'll save the details for another post when I can actually compare and contrast what you should and shouldn't do on the side of the road ('cause right now I only have expertise in what shouldn't be done) -but to whet your appetite to keep you coming back for more of the Cycling Newbies, I can let you know it involved a gashed tire, reading directions on how to use a CO2 cartridge, an exploding tube, frightened pedestrians, a broken tire lever and lots of "Try this." "No, Try this." "Leave me alone I know what I'm doing." "Why did you do that?" "Cause you told me to." Well I don't know how to do this, why did you listen to me??"

(We could've used this guy's help a few weeks ago!)

Anyhoo, before you get the pleasure of standing on the side of the road in the 110 degree heat (or freezing rain or gusty wind or pick your weather condition 'cause you know it won't be a pleasant, partly cloudy 72 degrees the first time it happens) trying to figure out what to do about giant holes in your tube and tire, you need to actually buy a bike - which is an endeavor and adventure in and of itself.

The bike buying journey reminded me a bit about going through the whole bureaucratic process of applying to grad school years ago (in Ancient Times Before The Internet and E-Mail) - filling out application after application, writing essays, tracking people down for recommendations, making copy after copy of all the application packets -- at times I would think, "My god, I've worked so hard to try to get into grad school I don't see how the actual program can be as hard as this." "HA HA HA HA HA HA HA," laughed the universe, "Your work has only just begun!"

Decide what kind of bike you want before you hit the bike shops - do you want a tri bike or a road bike? Tri bikes and road bikes have completely different geometry - so as you begin looking for a bike and going on test rides, stick with one or the other and have a good reason for picking the kind of bike that you want.

Example Right Reason: Pick a road bike if you think you someday might want to compete in triathlons but just aren't sure - you'd like to just get used to riding a bike first.

Example Wrong Reason: Pick a tri bike because you "like the way it looks."

Sigh. As you might have already guessed, Dave wanted to get a tri bike because of the Wrong Reason.

Go out to the bike stores (we've already established that while they can be intimidating you will survive) and ride lots of bikes to find one the one that "fits" you best. Bike Shop Guys (BSGs - includes both men and women) will help fit you and help determine what size frame works best for you.

Do NOT buy a bike because of the color.

Sigh. You know what's coming. Dave called me up at work one afternoon. Yup, he was at the bike shop and yup, after several days, multiple test rides, and lots of conversations with BSGs, he found The Bike. "Well," I say, "What kind is it? Is it the Trek? You found a 52 cm? You know that's what you need."

"Ummmmm......It's red, white and blue."

"Okaaaaaaaay - but what kind is it?"

"Ummmmm....Its red, white and blue."


"I like it. I'm getting a good deal. I'm gonna get it. Let me check on the rest of that stuff."

To be fair, Dave reaaaaally loves the red, white and blue combination. Dave likes George Hincapie as a rider and this year George was the U.S. Professional road race champion so he was decked out in Red, White, and Blue splendor at the Tour de France -- which I think made Dave admire George even more. While watching the Tour, on one occasion he saw George tuck his gels in the bottom of his shorts rather than in his jersey pockets - so what does Dave do now? He does what George does! (The first time he did this he forgot where he put them and got all upset as he swore that they fell out of his jersey - but that's another story).

Luckily, the BSG took good care of Dave and before he presented him with the red, white and blue bike, he did make sure the bike actually fit him.

I didn't have it as easy as Dave. I went to almost a million different bike shops and got information overload. None of the bikes fit me right due to my freakishly long legs and freakishly short torso - which many a BSG commented upon -- (thank you Eastern European farming ancestors)! I definitely got frustrated - ladies, it felt like I was shopping for jeans! The only thing that kept me from drowning my stress in chocolate was the looming prospect of having to put on Bike Shorts! I finally figured out what I needed after spending some time in the bike shop poring over the Trek top tube geometry (let me tell you, when I decided to buy a bike I never pictured myself doing that activity) with a very helpful BSG.

Unfortunately, the bike frame size that we decided I needed was nowhere to be found in the metropolitan Phoenix area. I was going to have to order a new one and no one seemed interested in cutting any deals.

I can always count on Dave to come through in a pinch (he once found us a hotel room in San Diego when the entire city was sold out because of the half marathon and a bunch of other events - we paid 200 bucks for a room at the Motel 6 but at least we weren't sleeping on the beach the night before I was supposed to run the half) and he came through yet again.

"I found your bike!" he told me. I confirmed it was the the size I needed. "And," he said, "I'm getting you a heckuva deal!"

FINALLY! I found the perfect bike at a great price. I was relieved and grateful and happy - I was going to have a bike. Of course, I said none of the things when I heard the news. I didn't express my relief, my gratefulness, my happiness. What were the first words that popped out of my mouth? Not "thank you"........ Not "when can I pick it up"........ Not "My dream is coming true"........ After all the research and searching and work, the first thing I asked Dave, the first thing that popped out of my mouth was.....

"What color is it?"

Note: Next post coming September 28th.....stay tuned!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Bike Shop's Hallowed Halls

Once you decide to buy a bike, sooner or later you are going to have to go into the bike shop. Now, for those who are mechanically inclined this is less of a big deal- but for those of us newbies who are decidedly NOT, the bike shop with all its sharp edges and sleek tubes and twisted sheets of metal and steel and titanium and foreign sounding names of tools and parts and guys and girls covered in grease - well, it can be somewhat intimidating.

Ironically, I grew up going to bike shops with my dad - which is probably why I was a bit nervous about going to one once I decided to buy a bike. I had seen the inside of many a bike shop and knew what was in there and I knew that it was waaaaaaaaaaay outside my comfort zone.

Cycling is my dad's passion. He is an Old School Roadie. He's been riding over 30 years and put over 7,000 miles on the bike last year. At 60 years old, he kicks off the summer riding season with The Assault on Mt Mitchell --11,000 plus feet of climbing for about 100 miles and finishes the season with DALMAC - a ride across parts of Michigan for five days.

I don't know if he has ever tasted a gel and I'm pretty sure he's never worn toe warmers. While growing up I recall Snickers candy bars and crackers as his fuel of choice - if anything at all.

In the wintertime, his extra layers aren't the latest in technology for breathability and warmth - all he needs is a section of the Sunday New York Times tucked inside his jersey. And what if it is below 32 degrees you ask? Why, he just layers two sections across his chest!

Occasionally he might pull out the tights, but then the temperature would have to be close to zero. "It was a little nippy today," he'll say when he gets back from his 65 mile ride. When I was very young, I would wonder why my dad's water bottles on his bike never seemed to empty - he would start the ride with water at one level and then he would return and the water would be at the same level. Did he fill it up along the way? I'd take a drink and spit out the warm, stale water trying to comprehend how he didn't get thirsty on the ride!

Needless to say, he loves everything about bikes (including the suffering that goes along with being a Roadie) and if he can't be on the bike, well, he'd like to be at the bike shop. So,while I was growing up, on the weekends, to give my mom a break every once in a while, my dad would take my brothers and me to the bike shop for what seemed like an eternity but was probably only a half hour.

I hated the bike shop. The bike shop was so BORING! I don't know what my dad did there - talked to the guys about tubes? Looked at wheels? Touched the bikes? Yearned for one of those new aluminum frame Cannondales (which he eventually bought without first telling my mother)? The bike shop smelled like a mixture of rubber and oil, it always seemed dimly lit, and there were only a few kids' bikes in there - and I already had a bike and we couldn't ride them there anyways! I had nothing to do except wander around looking at the weird metal contraptions - trying hard to be interested but just royally bored out of my mind! The guys who worked there looked scary too - they were always holding some awkward-looking object and their clothes and hands were always dirty with grease.

I am told there was one time when my dad was engrossed in a conversation with the Bike Shop Guys (about tubes?) and I was excitedly jumping around at his feet trying to get his attention - but apparently he was so captivated by the conversation (Was it about handlebar tape? Derailleurs? Did bikes have derailleurs back in the 70s? I'm kidding!) - he ignored the pitter patter and went on with his conversation. Well, apparently I had a good reason for getting his attention, I needed to go to the bathroom! So I did! Right there in the the center of the bike shop floor.

Oh - and I was 12.

I am just kidding! I was little! I don't even remember this - I was probably 7. No, I am just kidding - I was 2 or 3! or 4 or 5....

My dad's trip to the bike shop was cut short and cost him no end of embarrassment. I don't think he was embarrassed because I wet my pants - if my lack of bladder control had happened at - say - the mall I am sure it would not be mentioned 30 plus years later, but because it happened at the Bike Shop in front of the Bike Shop Guys - well, I'll never live it down.

Needless to say, I don't have the fondest memories of bike shops and wasn't excited to visit one as an adult. However, IronShane and Tri-Dogmom accompanied us to several stores and I found that it wasn't as bad as I had anticipated.

Number 1 (no pun intended), all had a restroom so I had no anxiety about where to use the bathroom. Ha ha - ok that's enough of that joke.

Number 2, it helped to have two knowledgeable people along to help navigate this new world. However, after the initial Sunday visit to four or five different shops, Dave and I did venture out on our own.

Number 3, perhaps because of Lance and triathlon becoming more common, the cycling industry has grown and most of the people who work in the shops want to make a sale and are interested in helping you find the right bike. We did run into a few bike snobs during our quest to find the right bike (we didn't buy our bikes from them!), but all in all, most of our experiences at the bike shops were good. The workers were friendly, knowledgeable, helpful and patient as they tried to explain to us Newbies some of the basics about buying a bike that would be right for us.

Now I can't say I love going to the Bike Shop - I still feel out of my element when I go into one, but it doesn't scare me as much as it once did. The more comfortable I get with my bike, the more comfortable I get in the bike shop. I even hung out at the bike shop the other day for almost an hour while the guys did some work on my bike. My father, the Old School Roadie, thinks there's hope for me yet!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Bike Shorts: The Horror...The Horror

Well, it has been a long time between posts but with the Tour de France (compulsively watched the same stage a minimum of 3 times a day), my new found obsession with professional cycling (religiously visit and, the release of the final Harry Potter book and recovering from bike rides in the 110 degree heat (not to mention the time spent at the Regular Job) - a Perfect Storm was brewing and something had to give - so blogging took a temporary back seat - but the time has come to continue on the emotional journey of becoming a cyclist.

So, what was the biggest mental road block to cycling bliss?

Was it the mechanical/technical aspect?

No, though it did play a part.

Large vehicles knocking me over?

No, though that thought crossed my mind several times.

How to work those damn clipless pedals?


Financial commitment?

No, I can suck that up too.

No, it was....The Outfit. Specifically, having to wear........ Spandex.

Though I have been active and athletic for most of my life (basketball from grade school through high school) - with the exception of my freshman year of college (Freshman 25)- and then getting back on track (walking, aerobics, hiking, some mountain biking) and on to grad school where I discovered running - I am not genetically blessed with a body type that is typically thought of as "athletic". My ever so sensitive new husband has even commented in disbelief, "You'd think you'd be more cut with all the working out that you do." He then starts talking about how he needs to work out more to reduce his own "man boobs" so I don't take offense.

Then again, a few weeks ago after a 50 mile ride as I was peeling the sweaty shorts off my body, he was looking at me in a quizzical rather than an amorous manner and then curiously commented (quite spontaneously - almost as if it was against his own volition):

"I don't understand how your butt can be so jiggly after all that running and biking that we do?"*

I shot him a dirty look and rolled my eyes, and threw the sweaty bike shorts at his face - but as I walked out of the room in disgust I did have to admit - it's not like this was a revolutionary thought he was having...

*(Note: I am the only member of "we" that does any running of significance!)

I'm fit and have an average build but my heritage is Eastern European - farming folk - I'm sure I have ancestors that at some point gave birth in the fields and then continued on with the potato crop. And while I do try to eat healthy - I am not a nut about it - I certainly appreciate a good steak, sizzling bacon, a nice cold margarita (or, hell, tequila straight up) and the occasionally fries and chips after a good long run (and Dave's not the only one who enjoys a Saturday afternoon lunch of chicken wings).

So, genetics plus fair to middlin' impulse control aren't working for the friendliest of spandex images, but once I made the decision to buy a bike I knew that I was going to have to face the music and put on bike shorts.

So luckily I know Tri-Dogmom. She had already done the ground work in finding the perfect short that worked for her so she invited me over to try on some of her old pairs. And within a couple of changes, I decided that the the Pearl Izumi Sugar Short worked the best for me.

I was pretty much in shock that they felt good and I didn't look too bad. I mean, yeah, put me up next to Hedi Klum (and yeah, she's had 3 kids) and it would be pretty horrifying - but I was actually comfortable!

Now, for Dave, when he made the decision to get a bike, he told me that he already had bike shorts from "back in the day" (i.e, mid-90s) - when he used to rollerblade through the streets of Tempe, AZ as a single guy living the life. I had to break it to him that I had secretly given the jade green and black spandex atrocities to Goodwill several years ago, as I was greatly disturbed that I was living with a man who at one point wore jade green and black spandex shorts (with a tank top - which I think we still have) - in public, on purpose, and thought he looked gooooooood. (We've both agreed multiple times that if we had met in 1996 rather than 2002 - we wouldn't be together today- it's soooooo all about the timing). Besides they were a small - and, ahem, he is no longer a small in the bike shorts department.

I managed to appease him by reminding him that I did not give away his two pairs of camouflage pants (waist 27-31 inches - one with drawstrings around the ankles and one without) and his form fitting black wool sweater with polyester shoulder and elbow patches -

(apparently good for sniper missions).

Additionally, he still had his penny loafers (complete with 1948 & 1952 pennies intact) and several Bill Cosby-like sweaters from the 80s and 90s -

I am extremely grateful that there are only 1 or 2 days a year that you can wear a sweater in Phoenix.

So he grudgingly agreed to purchase a new pair.

Of course when we went to the Performance store to try on bike shorts he was immediately attracted to the Neon Blue pair. Not that there is anything wrong with Neon Blue bike shorts - but maybe let's get in shape first and then break out the Neon in celebration???

Dave's a very independent guy so I don't comment on what he wears (except if there is a stain or things are horribly mismatched) - so I was just holding my breath while he tried them on and proactively began coming up with ways to "accidentally" misplace them. Luckily he found some black ones by Performance that fit him much better and that he was pretty comfortable, phew, all my proactive strategizing was for naught - but better to be safe than sorry.

The really cool thing about the bike short thing - is that once you get over the mental hump of having to put spandex on - it becomes a non-issue. There are so many different types of shorts you'll find something that fits you. And - the really, really, really cool thing is that you'll feel so good riding your bike - you don't even care what you look like!! The day you go on bike rides you will be excited to pull out your bike shorts - it is like you are part of a secret club and the bike shorts are just part of the uniform that unlocks the door to pure unadulterated bliss!

Then again, every Sunday morning at 5:15 am as Dave sits in his underwear with bike shorts in hand he proclaims that today is the day he will wear his underwear, rather than the shorts, on the ride - as, visually, he says, there's not much difference between the two. He hasn't actually done this yet, but I apologize in advance if you are ever in the Phoenix area and see this sight - like I said, I don't comment on his clothes.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Titanium Pedals 'n Such

So, I arrive at Landis Cyclery to see my bike for the first time and watch Dave get fit on his. He's standing at the counter across from Joell, our fantastic bike saleswoman. Joell is punching some things into the cash register and Dave is standing there face flushed with excitement, debit card in hand. "Hi Honey," I say, "What's going on?" He looks at me with a slight grin and says "I'm just gettin' some pedals." "Oh good," I say, "What did you end up going with?"

"I'm gettin' some niiiice pedals," he says again.

"I know - that's just what you said - what did you go with?"

"They're Titanium."

"How much are these Titanium pedals?"

"I'm gettin' a good deal."

"So, how much?"

"Well, they're $400 bucks."

Oh jesus - where did it all go wrong?

Now, just that very morning - THAT VERY MORNING - we had an in depth discussion about pedals and what we should get. He was ADAMANT that he wanted to get pedals with - and this is an absolute direct quote - with "BASKETS ON THEM."

(Of course this discussion came after the talk earlier in the month about how a $2000 bike doesn't come with pedals).

In that moment, I pondered, how in the world - over the course of 8 little hours - did he go from wanting "pedals with baskets on them" to "$400 Titanium pedals"???

As I stood staring at him, jaw dropping to the floor, Joell is called away to help another customer. I take the opportunity to say "Um, honey, why do you need $400 Titanium pedals?"

I tried to keep my voice low but I think some hysteria might have been creeping in. This bike buying thing was getting out of control. The whole point of riding was just to be able to cruise around town on our bikes on the weekend for fun and exercise. I was going to get the better bike cause I wanted to eventually do a century ride and maybe get into triathlon. Dave would get a bike so that we could ride together for leisure. Suddenly we are both getting bikes that cost a couple of grand and he is about to purchase titanium pedals! Again, oh sweet jesus, where or where did it all go wrong?!??!?

With that one question, Dave says reality suddenly struck him and he knew the party was over. Joell had shown him several different types of pedals and of course, without knowing the price, he picked out the most expensive ones.

After all, they were titanium. The same type of material used on the Space Shuttle and Military aircraft. And they were on sale. How could he say no? I mean, come on, they're TITANIUM! It's the Space Shuttle!!!


I am sure images of pedaling at the speed of light must have floated through his mind as he prepared to make his purchase.

But alas, with reality striking its heavy hand - much like Paris Hilton hearing the jail doors clang behind her (the second time) - he realized that $400 for a pair of pedals-- for a bike he hadn't even ridden yet, wasn't sure how far or how fast he was even going to ride, and wasn't even sure how much he was going to like - was a lot of money to spend. After all, they're pedals. It's not like he was buying an X-Box.

When Joell returned Dave said he changed his mind and though she was careful not to look at me, inside she had to be cursing the timing of my arrival as she saw her commission on the pedal purchase dwindle away. With the dream of the Titanium pedals a memory now, Dave decided to purchase the Shimano Dura-Ace PD-7800 SPD-SL pedals (also on sale).

Now these are probably fine pedals, but he doesn't really recommend them for beginners. He says that they are tricky.

When you clip in you have to make sure the pedal is on the correct side and you have to carefully insert your cleat directly into the pedal. It takes some getting used to - especially if you are used to riding bikes with pedals that have the "baskets." Clipping out is harder too - he's had some (well, several) falls because he says it is easier to unclip at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Sometimes when he is stopping, he pushes his heel out to unclip, but as he is stepping out he puts his foot straight down on the pedal and clips himself back in at a dead stop -- and the next thing he knows - he's keeled over - with his feet clipped in - again direct quote coming -- "like a sack of potatoes."

We started riding in January and up until a few weeks ago he kept talking about how he wanted to switch his pedals out for "ones with the baskets" - but something clicked for him at the beginning of June and his comfort level increased and he is starting to like his pedals now.

The whole pedal thing is super confusing. We asked a bunch of people about what type of pedals we should get and we did get a lot of information (which I of course immediately forgot because half the time words like "spindle" and "float" and "3 hole mounting" were used that just sounded foreign and I had no frame of reference of what was being referred to) - but we never did find the "pedal bible" ('cause we didn't look that hard) that states 'X type of pedal works best'. It seems like the type of pedal you use is a matter of preference, knowledge and experience, all of which take time to learn and develop.

is a great source of information - not only does she get good deals on everything she buys - she gets the best of everything for the price she wants to pay (we're talking shoes, purses, clothing and when it comes to athletic equipment - few can compare to her taste and shopping prowess)- so when she makes a recommendation - I take note. She told me that she uses Speedplay pedals.

She's had some knee problems in the past and her doctor recommended these pedals because they have more "play" in them - which just means that your foot is not completely locked into the pedal and you are able to move your heel from side to side (in strict bicycling terms, I believe this is referred to as "float" - Dave's pedals have "float with friction" while the ones I bought have "free float"). I have some knee problems too - so Tri-dogmom's recommendation was good enough for me.

I did buy my pedals the same day Dave made his purchase and I didn't let Joell sweet talk me into any titanium pedals. When she asked me what type of Speedplays I wanted, I said "X/5" - not really knowing anything about them except that Tri-dogmom told me that they are the entry level Speedplay pedal and would be sufficient for what I needed them to do -- i.e., pedal.

Unlike Dave, I love my pedals and don't yearn for the "ones with the baskets." They are great for beginners. I haven't fallen yet, though I certainly have come close. The Speedplay's are structured in such a way that with a quick flick of the ankle, I am able to get out of the pedal really quickly. Clipping in is fairly easy too -- you can clip in on either side of the pedal - unlike Dave's - there is no "right" side. The only minor problem with the Speedplay's is that the cleats on the bottom of the shoe can trap dirt and gravel and you'll have trouble clipping in unless you clean the cleats out.

And yes this has happened to me twice already - you'd think I'd learn not to put my foot down in a a pile of gravel, but well, I'm slow on the uptake sometimes.

As for the titanium - if you are just getting into cycling and you really have no idea of what you are initially doing, you probably don't need titanium pedals yet. Buy something basic to get started and see if you like them. Once you have some experience you'll be able to make a better assessment about what you need and want - at least that's the idea - you can't stay a newbie forever, right?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pump It UP!

"I can't get the thing down"
"It's stuck!"
"Ow, that hurt me!"
"Just press on it harder"
"It's not getting any bigger"
"Put it on tighter"
"It's not working..."
"Ahh, it's a little bigger"
"That'll have to work..."
"Fine! We'll just have to do it like that"
"I don't even want to do it anymore...."

And thus began the afternoon of me, Dave, our bikes and the floor pump.

As we learned in a previous post, you should pump up your tires (inner tubes actually) before every ride -even if - and especially if - you haven't ridden it in awhile. Tires lose air and need to be pumped up again with fresh air. Trust me on this - and if you don't trust me -- go ahead and google "bicycle tires air" - you'll find lots of articles that explain the science behind this phenomenon - something to do with synthetic rubber, molecules and black magic.

So after Dave went on a bike ride with half the tire pressure he should have had in his tires, we went out to buy a pump and ended up buying this Ascent Mega Force:

(It should go without saying at this point that you should just buy a floor pump when you buy your bike. After all another $30 on top of the thousands you are already spending isn't going to put you any deeper in the poor house.)

This pump didn't work right. It was really hard to get on and off the tube's valve. Well, it might have something to do with the people using it, but look - if you are new to this sport and don't know what the hell you are doing - don't make it harder on yourself by using this pump!

After the ordeal of pumping up our tires for the first time, we met our friends for a ride at a park. As we were waiting for everyone to arrive, we saw our friend Sara pull out her pump from her car- and effortlessly - EFFORTLESSLY -fill her bicycle tires with air. It was almost as if she just wiggled her nose a la Bewitched and the tires were deliciously full and ready to be ridden across the roads of Arizona.

Dave & I watched her do this with mouths' half open - spell bound by the ease at which she executed this task that had taken us well over an hour and had been accompanied by some snappish words with one another.

Dave was intrigued and asked Sara what kind of pump she had... Her back was turned toward us, but when she heard the question, she slowly turned around and gave kind of a secret, shy smile and then slowly turned the pump around to face us and slyly said "Why, it's Joe Blow."

Joe. Blow. We went out and bought the Topeak Joe Blow Sport pump immediately. And let me tell you, It works!

(Yes, I know this pump looks just like the Ascent - don't get them confused!)

One thing you should know about Joe Blow and other floor pumps of its kind is that it is constructed to be used with both Schrader and Presta valves. Most road bikes are going to require tubes that have a Presta valve. You can go ahead and google "Schrader and Presta" to get the technical differences between the two...

However, I associate the Schrader valve with my childhood bike "Big Blue" -
the silver and blue sparkly banana seat, the bright blue streamers hanging from the handle bars, the white basket with a flower on it. Yeah, there's some rust on the handlebars but - it's my bike and it gives me freedom! If my tires were ever low, I just stuck the pump on the tube's valve, gave it a couple of swift pumps and away I went, sans helmet, pedaling with sandals on, cruising around the neighborhood 'till the streetlights came on....

The Presta valve is a different story. Once you figure out how to use the damn thing and actually get air in your tires (to the correct psi of course), you get out your "bike shoes" and shove your feet in them, and then you put your helmet on your head - this is of course after you've squeezed yourself into some bike shorts and a jersey. Then once you are actually attempt to get on your bike you have to "clip in," and then you start pedaling, concentrating hard when you have to "clip out," being ever vigilant for vehicles. You make sure you have your water, gatorade and some gels....

You get the picture...the differences between Schrader and Presta go beyond the technical....

Things to remember about the Presta valve include the following --

The Presta valve has a little tiny brass top on it (I call it "the little hat"). Make sure you twist the little hat open when you are trying to put air in your tires. This will allow air to enter your tube as you are pumping. Do not just attach the pump to the inner tube valve without first twisting the little hat open - that is kind of - no really -- stupid. Of course, that's what we did the first time. But seriously! These things don't come with instructions (well, maybe they do - but we didn't read them).

[Our conversation after we attempted to put air in the tire without twisting the little hat open:

D: "There, it's done."
S: "Uh, honey, I don't think any air went in there." (while squeezing the tire, easily smooshing both sides of the tire together)]

So twist the little hat on the tube's valve open, attach the pump (if you are using Joe Blow, you will use the gray skinny side), fold the pump's lever up to lock the valve to the pump and PUMP it UP! Well, pump the tube up to the recommended psi....

So what's the recommended psi? Why, you can find that on your tire's sidewall! My tire's sidewall says "Inflate to 100 PSI/ 7 BAR - 120 PSI 8.5 BAR" - I have no idea what the Bar stuff means, but I believe the psi stuff means that I should pump my tires up to between 100 psi-120 psi max. Joe Blow even has a handy little red arrow on its pressure gauge that tells you about how much air you should be putting in your tires. Note: Check out the pump gauge when you make that first pump stroke on the pump -- it will tell you how much air you initially have in your tire.

One other thing - the tube's valve will initially have a little plastic black top (which I like to call the "Top Hat") on it.

IronShane says to get rid of the Top Hat immediately (well he didn't call it the Top Hat - I think he said something like "this is a useless piece of ...."). Apparently nothing says Newbie like a little black cap on your tube. So if you are pedaling up a hill in your large chain ring and you tip over, make every effort to make sure you are not caught with a little black cap on your tube! It could be the difference between being silently ignored as you lie on the side of the road with your bike on top of you and having empty gel packs thrown at you.

And that's it! Dave and I now happily pump up our tires before every ride with our Topeak Joe Blow Sport Floor Pump.

Now changing a flat, that is an entirely different post, or rather series of posts... Stay tuned...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Inaugural Ride

On a freezing, windy January morning Dave and I circle around a parking lot on our brand new bikes waiting for Krista, Shane, Melisa and Matt, all very experienced cyclists, to meet up with us. Conditions that day were't ideal for a bike ride, but what did we know? It was our first "real" bike ride and we were very excited.

Our ride is supposed to take place on Pima road, which has a slight incline -- Krista said it would be kind of tough on the way up but pretty easy on the way down. We feel a little nervous, but Krista and Shane told us not to worry, the ride will only take 1:15 and everyone is going to take it easy. I was a little hesitant to go on our first bike ride with people who have been riding for a number of years but we were assured over and over again that they are all “out of shape” and need to go “slow” to stay in their heart rate zones.

The group finally arrives. Dave rides up to them and is so excited to see everyone, he forgets he is clipped in and promptly topples over as a greeting. It is not the first time he’s fallen and it won’t be the last!

Everyone showed great decorum and did not laugh.

Once Dave gets back on his bike, we begin the trek up Pima. Pima is a 50 mph road and is pretty busy. More on this to come in other posts, but a congested road is probably not the best choice for your initial bike rides. I remember warming up pretty quickly but Dave says he just became numb to the wind and cold – (however later in the ride --when the fear kicked in --we both just felt an icy cold trickle of sweat running down the center of our backs). Shane hangs back with us and gives us some good advice and pointers about how to ride and how to take care of our bikes.

As we climb to the top Shane notices that Dave’s back tire looks “really” low.

So Shane asks Dave when he last put air in his tires. Dave responds that it was at the bike shop…..when he bought the bike….about three weeks ago.

I must intersect here that I asked Dave that very morning, THAT VERY MORNING- I asked Dave, “Do you think we should put more air in our tires ?” He said, “No, I think they’re fine.” I said, “Are you sure? I think someone mentioned something at some point - that we need to put air in them before we ride.” He says “Naw - they’re fine.” He even squeezed the tire together -- “See there’s air in there,” he said. Oh okay -whatever. We don’t know how to work the pump we bought anyway.

(As an aside, though I tend to be more cautious we both tend to jump into things and assume that we’ll figure things out as we go along. We always say how bad could it be? Well, more on how bad it can be in later posts…there’s never a dull moment that’s for sure.)

Shane loves this moment in the ride and it was pretty funny -- He used his CO2 cartridge to add a little more air to both of our tires (Dave’s comment after his tire pressure went from 60 psi to a whopping 85 psi “Wow, it is so smooth now! It is like riding on air!) -- however my favorite moment of the day came a little while later…

As we climbed toward our turn around point Shane said, “Well, we are almost near the top and then it is all downhill which is fun and easy. Sometimes we fly down Pima going 35 miles an hour. But don’t worry we won’t do that today ‘cause you guys are with us.”

Wanna know why this is my favorite moment?

Because once we got to the top, everyone TOOK OFF! Matt, Melisa, Krista, Shane - GONE. Dave’s a risk taker through and through -- so he just starting flying down the hill too. Again, as I am more cautious and as I had been on the bike only 2 times prior, it still felt quite foreign beneath me - like I wasn’t quite in control - so I went as fast as I could – but it was definitely outside of my comfort zone. I just tried to keep everyone in sight. All I kept thinking was “Slow? This is slow? What’s fast if this is slow????”

Shane stopped and waited for me at one point - I told him to keep going, that I was fine (“fine” being relative - I was pedaling - I hadn’t fallen - I even switched my gears - so yeah, I was fine!) but he stopped and rode with me – I am assuming out of concern -- and he then said another thing that is emblazoned in my brain:

“Stacey, do you realize you are going 28 mph??!?!”

Let me think about that for a minute. Let’s see no - I didn’t realize I was going 28 mph.

Is that why I feel like I am about to throw up my heart?

So I careen and Shane smoothly rides to the halfway point where the rest of the group has stopped. I check in with Dave -- “are you alright?” “yeah, I’m fine, how are you?” “good, good” “have some water.” I’m trying not to breathe too heavily but at this point I am kind of overcome with a sick feeling of fear and anxiety and stress but I am holding it together. I just spent a couple thousand dollars on this bike and accessories - I’m gonna have fun, gosh darn it!?!?! The fun’s gotta start soon, doesn’t it??? Doesn’t it????

As we regroup Melisa says “Do you want to climb Dynamite?” Everyone protests. This “Dynamite” is apparently a steep hill. Is everyone up for that? What about Stacey and Dave? Can they do it? Everyone is asking us newbies if we can do it - we don’t have to - but we can tell that they really want to go up the hill and we don’t want to ruin anyone’s ride so we say why not? I just went 28 mph down a 50 mph road with semis and rocks and glass and sand flying everywhere, surely I can go up a hill. At least I can stop going downhill for now.

I say that I’d love to but could someone please tell me which of these thingees I have to click to get into an easier gear?

We then go up this Dynamite hill. I manage to get the bike into a workable gear. Shane, our good mentor, rides with Dave. We even passed a guy on the way up.

The ride to the top wasn’t too bad. I like to run hills - so even though I didn’t really know how to ride a bike I liked pushing it to the top. (As for Dave, he was "exhausted" when he reached the top). Phew. The hard part must be over… yeah, right… what goes up must come down and down another hill we must go. Down a road called Happy Valley – which before the day was over in my mind became Happy $%#@ Valley Road.

Everyone, including Dave, takes off (side note: even though Dave kept up with the group, he was gripped by the icy fear of death during his descent as well). No problem - I am a fast learner - this must be what cyclists do. Climb up Big Hill. Go Down Fast. However I don’t really know where I am at and I am not really sure how to change a flat tire – so I need to stay with the group so that I can get back to our truck and off this beast - er bike and back to the safety of my home. The thought crosses my mind that if I lose them I will be stuck out in North Scottsdale riding aimlessly in circles on my bike afraid to clip out of my pedals, dodging traffic and pedestrians until I just fall over from exhaustion, fear and delirium.

Amidst the tempestuous wind, the shoulder that is about as wide as the white line, cars flying by at 90 mph on the left and sand, boulders and cactus to the right, we do our best to keep up. I am pedaling as fast as I can, gripping the handlebars so tightly the veins in my fingers are bulging and pulsating. I wanted to stop or at least slow down but the fear of losing everyone was more overwhelming. SUVs and trucks fly by – I think I even saw a flat bed truck with some chickens and goats in it - gravel and rocks are flying -- I’m dodging holes in the road, and metal grates and steel 2x4s and shattered glass….

Shane waits for me at one point and when he sees me he exclaims “Stacey, I don’t think I’ve ever seen your eyes open that wide! They’re HUGE!”

I must have said something to him - but I don’t remember - because I don’t think I could hear my voice or my thoughts over the hammering of my heart.

Suffice to say, we finally made it back to our truck – in one piece – pumped up with excitement, adrenalin and endorphins. Although it was a crazy and treacherous ride-- we were hooked -- we couldn’t wait to do it again!

Lessons Learned

Put air in your tires before every ride – More on pumping up your tires in future posts

Dress for the weather - More on clothing in future posts

Know the route

Understand how the group rides - Do they drop people? Does everyone stay together? Will they wait at lights? Will they modify their riding style for you? Don’t be afraid to ask for the plan so that you know what to expect.