Get Your Wheels Rolling

Tomorrow is the final day of National Bike Month.

bikes

However, that doesn’t mean you have to stop showing love to your two wheeled friends!

How many of you enjoyed the events of this past month? Such as Bike Week, Bike to Work Day or the Bike to School Challenge? Appreciation doesn’t have to be confined to a 31 day window.

Did you know?

According to a bicycle survey sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: More than 20 million new bicycles are sold each year in the United States, and, approximately 57 million people age 16 or older rode a bicycle at least once during the summer of 2002.

I bet that number has only increased over the years, especially with the cost of gas and the push for everyone going green! Not to mention the countless health benefits, physically, socially, mentally, emotionally, perhaps even spiritually?

So, for those of you who are continuing your journey or those who are just starting, let’s go over some need to know information. One of the first things a person should know about biking, is what type of bike is out there? While there are an insane amount of types and combinations, I would suggest new riders focus on the following four:

Types of Bikes

Traditional or cruiser bikes – The best way to explain this type of bike is to say it’s the cliché of what people imagine when they picture a bike. Generally the rider sits up straight, with a nice comfortable seat. The design of this bike is for comfort and typically they are very heavy. If you live in the area, it is probably what you see people using to cruise down the Towpath.

 
A picture of pink Schwinn cruiser style bike

Racing or road bike – Similar to the traditional bike, however built from materials making it much lighter, usually some combination of carbon I used. Lighter = faster. This type of bike is what you see during the Tour De France or other races. They are not necessarily built for comfort; the handlebars are shifted so the rider is seated in a forward slanted position, making them more aerodynamic.

 
A picture of a man on his Giant brand road bike, note the seated position, the different handlebars and the difference in frame

Mountain bike – The other end of the spectrum from the road bike. A mountain bike is going to be heavy and it is going to be built to take the punches. Designed to conquer Mother Nature’s obstacle course! The key to this design is going to be your shocks as well as the knobby tires for traction.

 
A Scott brand mountain bike


Hybrid bike – The hybrid bike is what happens when a road bike and a mountain bike have a baby. Maybe not that simple. I believe this is the best bike for a beginner; it was also my first bike. The design of this bike allows it to take on terrain a road bike might not be too good at, while being comfortable enough for the longer rides. A lot of times the handlebars can be adjusted from a traditional position to a down position (like the road bike) and the tires can be switched out from something thinner to a knobby model as the rider gets a feel for what they most enjoy.

 
A Giant Cypress hybrid bike…this was my first type of bike

Now, once you have an idea on the general type of bike you want, you should know some of the lingo. Perhaps you’ll forget to use it when you enter the store, but it might help to know what the salesperson is saying when you ask for help! Especially if you’re shy and don’t want to admit you’re confused. Buying a bike should be an ENJOYABLE experience! It’s a worthy investment and potentially a costly one as well.

Terms

Aerodynamic: cuts down on wind resistance. Generally in biking, this refers to the frame design and how much you lean forward while riding.

Alloy: a mixture of different metals that are combined to take the best features from each.

Cage or toe-clip pedals: a platform pedal with a strap and a cage or clip that your foot slips into.

Carbon fiber: a light but strong material used for frame tubing. It’s also known as graphite.

Clipless pedals: have a clip on them that allows a cycling shoe to clip in to it

Cycling shoe: Special shoes that attach to the clip-in system on the pedal via a cleat in the bottom of the shoe.

Diamond frame. A high top tube makes the frame diamond-shaped. This is the traditional, “men’s” bike, where the rider must sling his leg over the back of the bike to mount it.

Drop handlebar: handlebar that is curved forward and down so the rider can lean way over or sit more upright depending on conditions. It’s used for racing bikes.

Fork: the front part of the bike frame that holds the wheel.

Knobby tire: a tire with “knobs” that stick out from the tire for maximum traction on trails.

Platform pedal: the standard type of pedal where the rider can rest his foot on either side and the surface is flat.

Step-through frame. This is the old-fashioned “ladies” bike where the top tube (crossbar) is low (in comparison to a diamond frame)

Where to Buy a Bike

Excellent, now you know the type of bike, and can navigate your way through a conversation about personalization when you arrive at the store. But wait?! Where is the store? Well, I can only speak on what I know from my Akron/Cleveland Ohio experience. For those of you in other areas here are some tips I could suggest to finding a good bike shop.

1.      General internet search. Go to Google Maps, type in your address and search nearby. Read online reviews other customers have left. If you need to, search again for the store to see if the reviews are on a different site.
2.      Ask friends/family for advice. I won’t assume anything, but it seems chances are rather good when someone wants to get into cycling, they already know someone else who partakes.
3.      Call information for a number. Be brave and ask the shop who you get what other shops they know of in the area. If a place stands behind their service and products they should not be afraid to lead you to a process of comparison shopping.
4.      This is just my personal opinion…but do not just buy a bike over the internet. While some people don’t agree with this logic on either account, I see a bike like a good pair of shoes. Chances are you need to wear them to see how they fit. Without real life evaluation who knows what is being sold and committed.

I recently was informed of this great new site: My Cycling Events. I played around with it for a while and it could be a good tool for those getting started or those looking to branch out. There is a search feature to find local dealers as well as local routes anywhere in the USA. Under each tab you might find stories of success or tips and tricks. It seems to be focused a lot on road riding, but that doesn’t make it any less of a good source.

(NE Ohio) Local Shops
My first bike came from this store. An old family friend once ran it, he probably still does. When I walked in to buy my bike I knew NOTHING. I wanted a bike because my boyfriend at the time was obsessed with riding and I was thinking of getting into triathlons. They were very kind and helpful, even when it was obvious I had forgotten how to ride!
EDDY’S BIKE SHOP – Stow, Montrose, North Olmsted Willoughby Hills
A good friend of mine has a boyfriend who works at one of the shops. He is the one who helped me land my perfect road bike. I tested a lot of bikes and I asked a lot of questions, I asked questions I didn’t even know I was asking. Despite wanting a bike, I could not find one I liked. I was about to “settle” when I saw a bike where I LOVED the color. It was a “upgrade” from one of the bikes I had tested. It was love at first test ride. Eddy’s always has literature about upcoming cycling events, both family friendly and competitive.
CENTURY CYCLES – Peninsula, Medina, Rocky River
The 2011 sponsor of Grunt Girl Racing, I was privileged to get to know a shop I might not have walked into otherwise. I’d say the biggest thing this company has going for it, is community outreach. They are all about getting anyone and everyone involved with cycling. In the store you will find buttons, sticker and clothing stating “Define Your Life, Ride a Bike”. They also have buttons of People for Bikes.org. I noticed a few brands here I hadn’t seen at other stores, but I also saw a few missing.
BIKE AUTHORITY – Broadview Heights
The 2010 sponsor of Grunt Girl Racing, I never got a chance to visit their store. However, I know they are the only authorized dealer for USAT (Triathlon) so if that is your thing, this is your one stop shop.
THE BICYCLE HUB – Mentor
Honestly, I have not been to this new store yet. It recently opened (2011) but I can saw one of the owners (Emily) attended a cycling event for Lake Metro Parks and was very kind and helpful. Both her and her fiancé are active in the cycling community (and triathlon) and would be a great source for those in the area.
Events

Two quick sources to help you find a place to show off your new bike and make a few friends in the process.

Active.com
MyCyclingEvents.com

Looking for more information on cycling? Check out the League of American Bicyclists.

Race Report : Vulture’s Knob 15K

For the second week in a row I could not sleep the night before my “event”. I went to bed at a reasonable time; in fact I’ve been going to bed between 11 and 12 on a consistent basis. True, I sleep until 10 or 11 (I blame allergies) but Friday night I just laid there, not thinking of anything…not sleeping. I know at one point I looked at the clock and it said 4:00. The next thing I knew it said 5:15 and the last train of thought I could recall was certainly made up so I concluded I slept. Every other train of thought I had was real and totally controlled…so perhaps no other sleep?

I got out of bed at 5:30 and was out the door around 6:00. A quick stop for coffee and breakfast and I was on my way. Hindsight says I should have had something to eat from the house because HOLY GOODNESS the Big N Toasty from Dunkin Doughnuts might look amazing and might taste even more amazing but it has like 600 cals and a million grams of fat. I totally blew my diet! Now, I’m not gonna lie…I had a secondary motive in getting that sandwich…it was the greasiest on the menu. And if you can’t figure that clue out, you don’t need to know.

When I arrived in Wooster a little over an hour later, I was reminded of just how rural they are! Luckily it was a drive through some of the more “cute” or “quaint” parts and not the scary run down parts. The road leading back to the site I swear was totally a path toward a slaughterhouse death.

I walked over in my slippers to get my stuff. They were out of my shirt size, so that’s being mailed to me and I grabbed my bib. Back to the car to switch into shoes and then over to the bathroom line. In line Gale informed me it’s “very buggy” out there. So being the pal she is, brought my spray to me so I wouldn’t lose my place in line.

Finally done with the bathroom and over the grass and rocks to the start. I was bummed I didn’t have time to stretch, but I did have time to exchange a few words with Gale and Tap (along with a picture) before it was time to getting rolling.

Everyone calls out their race strategy as we get started. My personal thought is if you don’t have a strategy already, then you probably don’t belong on this course. Hey! It’s challenging!

Calls of “Make time up on the road” or “Don’t blow it all in the beginning” fade out as we enter the woods for a quick loop. The lead people are already pushing past  as they return on the loop, before my group even has footing in the rocks and water. I fall into a good pace and find I am right behind Tap and another woman. They start to pull ahead of me at the first hill, as I’m slowed by looking around at the green and flowers. Green I’m used to, the flowers and colors, not so much and they are BEAUTIFUL!

I don’t wanna spend the race “walking” or “alone” so I kick it up the hill with my small fast turn over steps (thank you again Lee) and I catch up to Tap. We fall in line with the woman in front of us and decide this is a great pace.

The first section in around 3 miles (or so I’m told) My Garmin wasn’t working! I wonder if that’s because I forgot my wrist strap and had to carry it in my bra (spoiler alert…I didn’t chafe!) The first part I felt was a perfect combination of hills. As I reached the top and thought “I can’t do this anymore” we would enter a straightaway or a downhill. I was able to cruise…working for it…but cruise. After 3 miles we stopped at an aid station. According to the official timers report my time at 3.2 was 48:54. I was VERY pleased with this pace, especially since I felt I could keep it the whole time. I drank a Gatorade and used water on my back and the three of us were off!

Along the way we chatted about life, about trails, about everything. I made my usually comment about how I always sucked because I couldn’t train being in school and working full time. Tap made a comment about how she is also in school, working full time and a single mom to two young kids. At first I felt like an ass for making my comment. I felt like she was trying to “win” or something. Then I realized, she was just making a comment and went on to say she often wonders if she could train what she would be capable of doing. And I realized each person is different in their desires and goals and abilities. Last year I never would have even come to this race…this year with training I can keep up with her! It’s personal achievements after all.

We noticed we all wore the SAME model of shoes! Points for Brooks Cascadia! We called ourselves Team Brooks. Tap was totally the life saver of our group too. Passing out some sports beans and these Hall’s refresh drops. Shortly before aid station 2 we got “lost” we ended up in a loop and couldn’t figure out how to break free. Finally we took a risk and went down the steep rocks slope to the river. Sure enough! This was the way! Two girls behind us caught up at this point and I was too scared to move too quickly. I ended up losing Tap and the woman I came to know is Cindy.

After a few minutes I was sick of being alone and could hear the other two in front of me. I kicked it into high gear and after a while caught up with them. Tap was shocked when she saw me again, and I felt proud I could impress them! We made it to station #2 and I knew I was in trouble. I drank down two Gatorade and barely could tell what they were. Crap my salt was OFF!! I wore some more water and away we went into the woods with the hopeful announcement of “Three more miles”.

The final 3 miles found us back on the first loop. I tried to remember what it was like, but as we made it through my legs started hurting more and more and I started to feel my body slipping away. I started having the dark and mean thoughts people get when they aren’t fueling properly. I tried to stick with my “teammates” and distract myself…this worked for about a mile. With around 2 miles left I fell behind. I didn’t want to, but I physically couldn’t move. My calves started to cramp and I began to sway all over the trail. I suddenly became quite cold and got serious chills. Great, the heat got to me.

Now here is a good time to side note…this course is actually a mountain bike course. And from the signs I saw it’s a black diamond course. It is also built on a previous landfill. This final item didn’t bother me (us) too much for most of the race. You’d see the occasional tire, broken bottles, ice cube tray. However, we were running too fast to care. As I stumbled my way through the final section, all of these things became apparent to me. Along with the STENCH and how badly I did not want to be in the mud with all this smell and trash. I was miserable. I wanted to cry. A few times I leaned against a tree to steady myself.

When I pulled Garmin out, it said I had over 2 miles left. WHAT? I called to Tap and Cindy on a hill, they said it was 2 miles. Frick! Where would they send us? I knew the loop was ending soon. Since I didn’t know what to expect, I slowed down even more. Despite believing I could have caught my friends. When I broke out of the woods, I heard cheers and clapping. I knew it was the Grunt Girls, but I was too shamed to look at them…and I wished they wouldn’t look at me.

I had been doing so well before, and now I was falling apart and I didn’t want to embarrass the team. I hopped/ stumbled into the woods and was able to walk again. Coming back out into the field someone from a tower told me “Around the corner and you’re done”. I was so MAD! I thought I had another 1.5 miles! I would have done SOMETHING a little faster if I knew it was truly the end. MaYbe even had caught up to Tap and Cindy!

I finished in 2:51:59. Very depressing to me in a way, very exciting in other ways. I wanted to finish in under 3 hours…however when I saw Tap and Cindy finished in 2:40 I was very jealous and wished I had kept up. Gale finished about 30 seconds behind me.

After I finished I fell onto a ramp for the bikes and laid there until the chills stopped. This was on my back. Next I moved over onto my stomach until the nausea went away. When I opened my eyes I saw I was lying about an inch away from touching a GIANT snake skin. I didn’t have the energy to freak out.

As everyone was leaving I kicked off my shoes and socks and went to get a Muscle Milk. I drank it in record time. Along with more water and Gatorade. Not long after I made it into my car and sucked down my Sobe Life Water.

I decided the experience allowed me to see what pace might be comfortable for Buckeye in a few weeks. More than that though, it showed me the weather is HOT now and my dumb butt needs to take my water/drinks and salt tablets with me. I cost myself over 10 minutes getting sick. NOT OK. This was just a 15K crap like that will cost me the whole race in a 50K.

When I felt better on the drive home I was able to smile at my accomplishment. I mean this time last year who know what I was doing?  Oh according to blog history I was taking it easy. AKA I did a bike ride Friday night where I suffered through 12 miles. Prior to that I dropped out of the track work out Tuesday night (I sat down and literally cried) I tried to do a brick work out Wednesday and my leg flared up, I dropped out of the CRTR run 1 mile into it. Not really a “strong” week?

This year? 11ish mile bike ride on Monday (cut short from the tornado) 10 mile bike ride Wednesday (cut short by another tornado) 18 mile bike ride on Friday (no issues). Along with Jillian’s 30 day shred nearly every day and 3-5 mile walks with my dog. I’d say I’m doing mighty better!

I leave you with a picture of the finish shoot and an idea of the woods we were running through behind it…

Call me Dorthy Gale

Tonight I went bike riding. It was the same route I mentioned from 2 weeks ago with the Grunt Girls…along the Towpath, remember? Well, you should! At any rate, I missed last week because of all the rain we had in this part of Ohio. Tonight, I looked up the forecast and it was BEAUTIFUL. Sunny, 70’s only a 10% chance of rain. TEN PERCENT. That’s nothing! Without considering any other options I loaded my bike, put on my Team Marathon outfit and made the 40 minute drive north.

On the way there I knew I was running late, but did not want to call Shannon, the leader, because I would only be like 3-4 minutes late. I wanted to see if I could catch the group! Well, the person in front of me obviously wanted to be a jerk and drove about 10 – 15 under the limit! So needless to say I was more than 4 minutes tardy. Still, I got the bike out, clipped my Garmin on and turned on Cardio Trainer for my phone and prepared for the quick first loop. My plan was to grab 2 loops, and hopefully the ladies would wait for me when we crossed paths.

A few miles into it I realized I was moving at a GREAT clip! I was passing people and only gaining speed. I was so proud of myself. Look what I was doing only 2 days after the OC hike! Wow. Around mile 4 I saw Shannon coming back from the turn around point. Shortly after I felt a few drops of rain. It even felt like they could have blown off trees and not have come from the sky.  The more I went, the more I knew these drops were coming from the sky. Grrr. Ten percent my butt. Seriously? What what that crap? I kept thinking of stats with 10 percent rates. I thought about having my gallbladder removed and I think I was told there was like a 20 percent chance of issues…and I took that chance! Who wouldn’t bet on 90 percent success chance? Sheesh.

By the turnaround it was raining. Still, it was a bright and sunny day. The temps weren’t dropping and the rain wasn’t horrible. In fact it was a lovely spring rain. Not a scary issue in sight or mind. I rode past walkers and fishermen and other cyclists. We smiled and called to each other how the rain felt good and it was a nice day to be out. See, nothing creepy. My only concern was my phone and Garmin getting wet.

Slowly though, things started to change. On the first part I rode past a variety of people and animals. I was within touching distance of a handsome buck and a blue heron. I passed several geese and their babies. On the second half all of these creatures weren’t present. The sky wasn’t as blue, the rain was heavier and was I wrong or did I hear a siren in the distance?

I decided the siren was nothing, but I biked a little faster. Each passing mile I knew something was wrong. Too much rain to see through, no other people on the path, clouds becoming dark and thunder, thunder I felt on the path.

With only a few miles to go I pushed as hard and fast as I could. As I was coming down from the final bridge the sky lit up with a bolt. I caught my breath and found I was trying to ride even faster! Legs were burning! A rain drop hit my contact and when I shook my head to clear my vision I saw to my side the sky was turning black and the clouds were billowing. I looked to my left and started to find an escape plan.

To my right were industrial plants. There was no way anyone was over there. Random generators were scatted, enclosed in fences. To my left was the canal and then the main road and beyond that, up ahead, was a shopping plaza. I thought I remembered a few areas where you could walk across the canal on a bridge to the road. I decided this was my plan to wait out the storm. The closer I got to the center, the colder it become, the windier it became and the sky was mixing around. All my years of fearing storms and reading too much was catching up to me. If I wasn’t working out so intensely I might have started to cry or scream…if I thought it would help! There weren’t cars on the road…there was no one to know where I was! Even if I could get to my phone, I wasn’t safe!

About a mile from my car I was starting to feel I would make it, when the warning siren went off. This thing must be located in the shopping center. It was so loud! I couldn’t even hear my thoughts. All around me it looked terrible and I was so scared. It was then I decided I couldn’t find a bridge! I was headed INTO the storm! I wad to ditch my bike, run down to the canal, walk or SWIM to the other side and run across the road to the plaza. Just as I was getting up the courage to execute my plan I saw a car on the road near the path. I thought it would be a MUCH better idea to flag this person down for help.

As if drew closer to me they began to honk and try to get MY attention. They rolled the window down and I saw it was Shannon!! The other Grunt Girl! She told me to get in! I asked if it was a bad siren, she said it was and I needed to get in! So I saw with her in the car, with my bike in the grass, trying to get my thoughts together. She said it was just a bad storm and I calmed down. Then, we heard THUMP THUMP THUMP she looked at me puzzled and I looked into the road in front of us. HAIL. Yes, GIANT hail! She was like WHAT? I told her…hail means tornado we need to not sit here in the road.

We drove to the parking garage to wait out the storm. It looked horrible. Suddenly, it stopped! My phone told me it was a tornado warning. Later I would find out that supposedly the tornado hit a few roads from where we were.Shannon apparently lived in an area where they didn’t have hail and tornadoes, just snow. She was fascinated and excited! Her pleasure helped me to stay calm. I can’t believe I didn’t have a full on panic attack.

She ran around barefoot in the parking lot and took pictures. We got into my car and picked up my bike. We decided NOT to try for another loops, despite the reports the storm was gone. I drove home, through various flooded out roads, past cars flipped over, and a really strange amount of dead animals.

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Happy to be home and safe…and to have the support of training group! How about all of you? Everyone safe and sound?