Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring is (Almost) Here.

Long time no see, right? Pardon my absence; winter has been wearing me down. Is it over yet? I've started seeing small signs of spring: robins, daylight lingering just a bit longer, and the temps (very gradually) heading in an upward direction. I look forward to the days when I don't have to wear 10 layers just to be outside.

I've moved to a different work location and my commute has changed from a leisurely stroll down a hill, to a 4.5 mile ride to another quadrant of the city. I've picked a relatively direct & flat route, and its mostly fine. The major problems I face are potholes. Potholes everywhere. And they spring up just as quickly as they are repaired. I've learned to take the entire lane when I'm riding to/from work, or else cars will not give me the room I need to maneuver around them. I don't feel bad because there's usually at least 2 other open lanes for them to hog.

Snow and ice have been a problem as well. There were a few days in the last couple of months when I had to throw up my hands and beg rides off of coworkers or use UberX, as the snow made it impossible to ride safely. I've been riding Kermit, my Velo Orange Polyvalent with 650B tires. Sturdy enough to handle the rough streets, and still nimble & light enough to not wear me out. Knock on wood, I haven't had a flat yet (I've probably just guaranteed myself a flat tomorrow).

My coworkers still look at me like I've got two heads when they see me riding in, or getting ready to ride home. Mind you, these are guys that will run toward gunfire and regularly chase down armed criminals on a daily basis; yet apparently riding a bicycle is just the CRAZIEST and MOST DANGEROUS thing anyone could do, ever. They're getting used to the idea though. I think its the cold that boggles them the most. I don't think they understand that one can actually dress warmly and feel perfectly fine in cold temperatures, and that the act of cycling tends to warm a body, not cool it. Still, once the temps start warming up on a consistent basis & the sun shines regularly, I'll start to see some jealous looks, instead of incredulous ones.

Next week I will be running the Rock n Roll Half Marathon, and its going to hurt. I signed up for the full marathon, but due to the change in my work circumstances, there is a 3 month gaping hole in my training. I'm sure I can knock out 13.1 miles (barely, and its gonna hurt), but there is no way I'll be able to to 26.2. I entered my name into the Marine Corps Marathon lottery, so maybe I'll have a full marathon to look forward to in the fall. And then of course, I have the Police Unity Tour coming up in May. This will be my 3rd year riding with Chapter IV of the Police Unity Tour. I've still got some fundraising to do, and I'll have a link up very soon for those that would like to help out (all funds go to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, which goes to the upkeep of the Memorial, and also to building a new museum.).

In the meantime, I've been passing the winter looking at blogs from warmer climates & reading. Mostly daydreaming of living somewhere warm. Thankfully, Bicycling Magazine was kind enough to send me a few books that I wanted to pass along....

First up is the book that has come in handy for me many times already, and is my favorite: Essential Road Bike Maintenance Handbook, by Todd Downs. I have the Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair, but I've found that a bit overwhelming for my purposes. This little handbook is simple & very easy to use. It's divided into color coded sections (Controls, Drivertrain, Wheels, Etc) which are then further divided into more specific parts. It makes finding the information that you actually need very simple, which is important to me. I don't want to be flipping through page after page of information that I don't need. The other reason why I turn to this book is that every chapter has a "Troubleshooting" section with common problems, and the solutions right there. Chances are you will find your specific problem, and possible solutions are listed right with it. Easy. Brakes squeaking? "Toe" them in. Still squeaky? Sand the rims. Chain skipping? It might be worn out. There are also video links in the book in case you need a bit more guidance. Don't be fooled by the title. The information in this book is good for any type of bicycle, not just road bikes. I keep this book by my "bike repair" area, since I reference it pretty often. It's a good deal if you need a straightforward book for bike maintenance.

I've also been reading Bike Your Butt Off by Selene Yeager. I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of weight-loss books. I don't ride a bike for weight loss purposes (although its a nice benefit). I ride to get from point A to Point B, and also because I enjoy it & the places it takes me. If it felt like a "workout", I probably wouldn't do it. With that being said, I did find some parts of this book useful. Since I now I have an indoor trainer, I like to use some of the indoor workouts in the book so I don't get bored. I've also learned a few new strength moves & stretches that I've incorporated into my exercise routine (which mostly includes running for cardio, and strength exercises). If you are looking into getting on a bicycle for weight loss though, I would recommend this book for you. It's perfect for beginners and for those that are already experienced with riding a bike. The book includes workouts that can be done outdoors on the road (including tips for riding in traffic & sharing the roads, common hazards, etc) and workouts that can be done inside on a stationary bike/trainer. There are workouts for short rides, hilly rides, and long rides. The book contains weekly plans that increase in skill/duration, including drills to improve technical skills such as turning, braking, etc (I really should work on those!) Of course, there are sections on nutrition & fueling as well. If you are looking for a comprehensive weight loss plan that revolves around cycling, this is the book for you.

Lastly, I've been reading the Big Book of Cycling for Beginners by Tori Bortman. If you are new to cycling or thinking about getting a bicycle, this book will answer any questions you have. I've been riding regularly for quite a few years now, and I still found stuff in this book that was useful (group riding techniques, pedaling techniques). Most importantly, it contains a women-specific section. I find it irritating when cycling books/articles automatically assume a rider is male. Want to know what kinds of clothes to wear? Equipment/Accessories you need? Where to ride? How to ride? How to fix a flat tire? How to carry stuff on your bike? How to shift? Rules of the Road? Seriously, any question that you might have as a beginner will be answered in this book. I plan on gifting this book to friends that are new to biking.

If you're local to the area and want to borrow any of these books, let me know! Or you can always purchase your own copies. (Seriously, the road bike maintenance handbook is a must-have. It's small enough to throw into a bag so you can refer to it during a ride if you need to).

I miss riding my bike at work, but the rides to/from work kinda make up for it. Maybe when the weather gets warmer I can sneak a ride in now & then. The Metropolitan Branch Trail is in my district (although not my specific area). And I am now the mountain bike coordinator at my district (oh, did I not mention that? Yeah. Still doesn't necessarily mean *I* get to ride--it just means I keep track of all the bikes/equipment & make sure the officers have what they need to ride). Still, its something.