Living a Cycling Life

Along with my good friend Barbara, my husband Peter and I recently travelled to Budapest where we boarded a Viking River Cruise (vikingrivercruisescanada.com).  We sailed up the Danube River stopping in: Bratislava, Slovakia; Vienna, Durnstein, Melk and Linz Austria then ending in Passau, Germany.  Barbara and I are avid cyclists and frequently wanted to rent bicycles during the trip.  We know that touring a city by foot and by bike offer very different viewpoints and a bike can, of course, allow you to travel further, faster.  We spent a day in each destination.  The only location we were able to find a bike rental shop that was near to the harbour was in Passau.  During the trip we tossed about the idea of bringing bikes with us.  My astute husband took note of the conversation and asked me last week if my next bike might be a folding one?  There is a great saying in the world of bikes that the number of bikes you need = n (number of bikes you own) + 1. I said that I was actually thinking about folding bikes after our trip.  He said that he and my two boys have decided that for Mother’s Day 2017 they want to buy me a folding bike for me to take on vacation, in particular ones that involve air travel.  With Barbara’s help, Peter did the heavy lifting with regard to finding the folding bike company he thought I should buy this bike from which is Bike Friday (www.bikefriday.com).

BFFolding

I reviewed the website and of course, immediately fell in love with these bikes.  I was excited about the idea of building my own bike.  I used their on-line design tool and was somewhat scared off by the on-line build price.  They have a “pre-loved” section to their site and those prices looked more approachable so I picked up the phone and called them.  Phoning them was THE RIGHT THING TO DO.  I recommend if you are considering a Bike Friday to just pick up the phone and call them.  Walter, their Sales Consultant & IT Assistant, was the best!  He asked what my budget was and custom built me a pakit.  I was able to discuss and choose all of the components I wanted along with my frame paint colour and decal/wire colours.  They also took all of the measurements related to the most favorite ride I currently own along with my height, weight and age (not sure how age plays into the equation).  I really loved the buying experience with Walter and felt he was keen to ensure I received the bike I wanted at the price I could afford.  I  decided this was going to be the best “girl” bike ever and it will be pink and white!

BikeFriday

Because they custom make every bike I now must wait.  Their turnaround time is 5-8 weeks depending on the availability of parts.  My pakit is scheduled to arrive June 9th.

One Year Later – YES, YES & YES

Did I continue to cycle commute for the balance of 2016? – YES
Did I manage to keep exercise built into my daily routine? – YES
Did I return to a healthy body weight? – YES

My last Blog post was in April 2016.  This time also aligned with the move from winter cycling to summer cycling.  I thought it was more than overdue to provide an update.

As evident in the above before and after photos, I have lost close to 50 pounds over the past year.  I returned to a healthy body weight in October 2016.  Cycling was a large component of that transition the other was properly tracking my calorie intake and ensuring that I was getting enough to eat and making healthy food choices.  I follow the Weight watchers plan, because I need the structure that a program like that offers.

CONCUSSION

The year was not without setbacks, in the late summer, the front wheel of my hybrid bicycle slid off a trail edge near a gated entrance. I, of course, fell bringing the bike with me.  I cracked my bike helmet in this adventure and I received a concussion.  At the time, my stubbornness reared its ugly head and I addressed my concussion symptoms for about 3 weeks, after which I deemed myself good-to-go.  I know…I know…where did I get my medical degree from? and yes Dr. Google should not be relied upon.

Honestly I felt great until about November at which time my concussion symptoms seemed to really flare up.  I don’t know why it happened in November, but I have been receiving treatment for the concussion symptoms.  They did curtail my cycling for November and December, but I am cleared to cycle now.

PROUD MOMENTS

Cycling all of 2016 was, in itself a big achievement for me and one that I am thankful I took on.  In September I decided to stretch my comfort level and support Waterloo Regional Police Sgt. Pete Viol in his fundraising efforts for the Grand River Hospital cancer Centre. This saw me and my friend Barbara cycling for 5-days straight on and off 60-70 km/day each from Riviere-du-loup to Chambly Quebec.  This was an amazing adventure.  Much of the time was spent on the off-road Route Verte (http://www.routeverte.com/e/) in the beautiful Province of Quebec.  Training for this ride then undertaking it created wonderful memories.

DOUBTS

As January 2017 approached I doubted my ability to winter commute.  I suspect my concern was founded in the fact I was off the bike as a part of the concussion recovery.  This blog, was a game changer for me.  I  re-read my entries from 2016, I considered the weather I already proved I could ride through and I reminded myself I can do it I just need to gear up and make it happen!

So I am back into a routine of winter cycling, my “Batpod” Norco Fat bike continues to be a stable ride that increases my comfort level on snow and ice.  The daily exercise helps clear my mind, ready me for work and build my physical fitness levels.

I am not alone and routinely see other winter cyclists on the road.  The key to winter cycling, in addition to having a ride you feel stable on is LIGHTS, REFLECTORS and more LIGHTS.  It more important than ever to see and be seen in the winter so I ride with highly reflective gear and a flashing rear tail light day and night.

 

Still Cycling….And Lovin’ it!

April 11, 2016

Weather: Mainly cloudy. 30 percent chance of showers early this afternoon. Fog patches dissipating early this afternoon. Wind becoming southwest 30 km/h gusting to 50 early this afternoon. High 12. UV index 4 or moderate.

Attire: Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) rain resistant, breathable knee length jacket, winter motorcycle gloves with high gauntlets, waterproof rain pants pulled over my skirt, short boot.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: long-sleeve dress, tights and a wool scarf.

The winter bike was back on the road today for my commute to work.  It feels like “old man winter” just does not want to release his grip on Southwestern Ontario.  Last night we had a mix of snow, freezing rain and rain.  The morning roads, in particular the bike lanes, still contained some of the snow and ice from last night. The Norco Big Foot was the ride of choice for the day.  It was as easy ride to work.  Hopefully the forecasted high winds will have passed us by before I head home.

Although I have not updated my blog for a few weeks, I can assure you that I have remained on a bike 3 to 4 times per week.  With the return of sketchy weather and crazy schedules requiring me to be more agile to get to meetings i.e. needing a car….I have turned to training indoors.

Trainer

Indoor Training Setup

I love my cycleops trainer set up and to motivate me I watch YouTube training videos created by the Global Cycling Network (GCN) www.globalcyclingnetwork.com .  They have large number of videos to choose from based on your set up and available time.  I have used the 20 min. spin class, the 20 min. fat burner, the outdoor training video and more.  If I chose a 20 min. workout then, depending on my time, I can do more both before and after the workout.  The great thing about spinning is that you can choose how hard you want to push yourself.  If I am at the top of my game, then I push myself.  If I am dead beat tired, but need the exercise to clear my mind, then I can let up a bit.

To watch the videos I mount my ipad on my handle bars using a set up designed to hold an ipad to a microphone stand.  I often train in the morning before my family is awake, so to listen to the video I use cordless bluetooth in ear headphones.  I did not want to spend a fortune on headphones so I purchased the rechargeable ones I own on clearance at Winners.

I really want to get my road bike off the trainer and on the road, but with the weather so up and down I have been in a quandary when to change out my rear tire from a training tire back to my road tire.

The long range forecast is looking up so hopefully, the next update will say that I have put down some 20-40 or more km road rides….thanks for reading!

Ride Don’t Hide!

Week 11 – March 15, 2016

Weather: Showers ending early this morning then mainly cloudy. Fog patches dissipating this morning. High 12°C. UV index 3 or moderate.

Attire: Rode indoors today on a trainer.

My ride today was actually a 30 minute spin class at Come Alive Fitness located in Waterloo, Ontario.  The ride represented the ‘kick-off’ for a road ride on June 26, 2016 called Ride Don’t Hide.  The event is in support of the Canadian Mental Health Association.  The fully supported 8 km or 47 km ride will take place on paved picturesque Waterloo Region roadways.

As many of you know, in 2013 I completed a 127 km Grand Fondo road ride in Niagara Region.  Just two weeks after that ride I was hit from behind by a car while cycling.  The driver was charged with failing to share the road with a bike.  My recovery from that preventable collision was long and sometimes arduous.

In 2014, just when I thought I was getting back on track, the ceiling in our living room collapsed in our home as a result of water entering the roof space through a damage chimney that we were not aware of.  This resulted in $140,000 of unplanned, un-budgeted renovations; not covered by insurance.  The stress of 2014 continued with our dog suffering a life threatening illness, 5 family weddings, 3 bridal showers (that I hosted), a torn meniscus in my left knee, a working trip to Spain and a contested municipal election.

I ate through much of my stress, gaining an unsightly amount of weight and then….I became breathless….all the time….I couldn’t concentrate at work…..  I didn’t know what was happening to me.  I thought I was getting asthma or that my allergies were out of control.   A visit to my doctor confirmed I was suffering from anxiety attacks brought on from stress.

Anxiety is a form of depression.  I think of it as a form of depression where instead of being depressed about what happened in the past I was anxious about what might happen in the future.

Exercise is a critical component to fighting mental health disorders and combined with medication I am really back on track.  I am losing weight gradually and continuing to try to cycle daily.

It is for these reasons that I will “Ride not Hide” in support of Canadian Mental Health on Sunday June 26, 2016.  Will you join me?

I’m Cycling in the Rain,  just Cycling in the Rain…

Week 11 – March 14, 2016

Weather: Periods of drizzle. Fog patches dissipating this afternoon. Wind becoming southeast 20 km/h gusting to 40 this afternoon. High 10°C.

Attire: Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) rain resistant, breathable knee length jacket, cycling gloves, 180s ear muffs, waterproof rain pants pulled over my skirt, and Shimano SPD cycling shoes.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: long-sleeve sweat wicking top, skirt, tights.

There is a very fresh feeling that exists when you cycle in the rain.  The rain scrubs the air of pollutants and makes it just feel very clean.  With the proper rain gear, I really only feel the odd rain drop on my face and I arrive dry and ready for work.

Today was the first time I have rode using the clipless side of my pedals since January 4, 2016.  I love my Shimano SPD cycling shoes.  The SPD shoes have recessed cleats that connect into my clipless pedal so when I arrive at my destination it is easy to walk. The other type of clipless shoe is very difficult to walk in, some refer to is as a “duck walk”.  This system allows for a substantial increased use of the legs because you are now pulling up on the pedals as well as pushing down.  They take a bit to get used to because when you are connected to you pedals (known as “clipped in”) you have to remember to disconnect (known as “clip out”) when you stop.  When you are first learning how to use this system it is easy to forget and you simply fall over and take your bike with you.  How do I know?….done it (embarrassed to say more than once and in a dress).  My Norco A1 Forma road bike and my Trek Cacao commuter are both equipped with duel pedals so I can either ride with a regular shoe or with my SPD Shimano’s.  My Norco Big Foot, winter bike will only ever have regular pedals because I want to ensure my feet are free to move in the event of a slip or slide.  I met a fellow winter cyclist last month who was riding “clipped in” and he had just taken a bad fall on black ice.  If he had had his feet free perhaps the fall may have been less painful and maybe even avoidable.

“Build It and They will Come”, movie quote – Field of Dreams 1989

Week 10 – March 8, 2016

Weather: A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming southwest 20 km/h this afternoon. High 13.  UV index 4 or moderate.  Mainly cloudy. Wind southwest 20 km/h. Low 8

Attire: Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) rain resistant, breathable knee length jacket, cycling gloves, 180s ear muffs.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: sleeveless dress

Over the past few weeks I have spent time in meetings related to creating bicycle friendly communities.  On Monday February 25, I was privileged to speak at the Ontario Good Roads Association (OGRA) Conference in Toronto.  I was a part of a panel of speakers talking about building bicycle friendly communities.  Jamie Stuckless the CEO of the Share the Road cycling coalition (@STRCanada) spoke first.  The Share the Road Cycling Coalition is a provincial cycling advocacy organization working to build a bicycle-friendly Ontario. We work in partnership with municipal, provincial and federal governments, the business community, road safety organizations and other non-profits to:

  • Enhance access for bicyclists on roads and trails
  • Improve safety for all bicyclists
  • Educate citizens on the value and importance of safe bicycling for healthy lifestyles and healthy communities.

Jamie spoke about surveys that undertaken on behalf of their organization that identify without a doubt that the majority of Ontarians support government investment in cycling and other active transportation corridors.

The second speaker was Shawn Everitt who is the Director of Recreation for the Town of Blue Mountains.  Shawn spoke about the investments that the Town has made related to cycling and cycling tourism and was able to demonstrate that the investments have paid off dramatically. Town of Blue Mountains is a destination for cyclists and host the annual Centurion Cycling Race sponsored by Subaru.

I was the third speaker and my comments were focused on building an Accessible Community.  My opening remark is formed in a question related to “who am I”.  The following is an image of my slide.  Many people define me as many things such as a cyclist, a mother, a wife, and a sister.  I am all of these things, but I am also a temporarily able bodied person (TAP).  As a member of Council I know that investments in active transportation also ensure that I am investing in an accessible community.

TAB

On Monday February 29 I was invited to join the Ontario Minister of Transportation – Cycling Strategy Working Group.  This meeting was focused on provision of comments to the Ontario Government related to their #CycleON strategy.  At the meeting the government provided an overview of what they have done and what they plan to do related to delivering on a 20 year vision for cycling in the Province of Ontario.  There was resounding support for the plan, and many voices around the table that said Ontario is ready, the citizens are ready, and municipalities are ready.  Continued consultation is not needed….please Minister,  build it and they will come.

fieldofdreamscorn

Back in the Saddle!

Back in the Saddle!

Week 10 – March 7, 2016

Weather: Mainly cloudy with 60 percent chance of showers early morning then mix of sun and cloud. Wind southwest 20 km/h gusting to 40. High 10°C . UV index 4 or moderate.

Attire: Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) rain resistant, breathable knee length jacket, motorcycle cold weather leather gloves with high gauntlets, MEC thermal barrier tights.

Variable Attire based on the temperature: sleeveless dress, and 180s ear muffs.

My last blog post was February 12th and since then I have been travelling all over the Province, but unfortunately my bike was parked in the garage.  My week in the Dominican Republic was beautiful and warm.  In keeping with my commitment for heathy living, I walked over 10,000 steps per day and played three rounds of golf.  I worked hard to rest and eat well, but with unlimited food and alcoholic beverages …. Well you get the picture.

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The week of February 22 saw me in and out of Toronto every day for 7 days straight, along with two days in Ottawa.  My vehicle was of course needed for these trips and I did not enjoy the time away from my bike.  The Ottawa trip was complete with a winter storm and significant flight delays.  This resulted in a last minute change to take VIA rail back to Toronto and the UP Express to Pearson where I met my driver for a ride back to Waterloo Region.  I was home and in bed before my flight from Ottawa even landed in Toronto!

Last week saw me back into Toronto on Monday followed by a winter storm event Tuesday night and into Wednesday.  I put my upper back out and spent much of Thursday at the Chiropractor and Massage clinic….Friday started at 7 am in Downtown Kitchener followed by work then travel to Niagara Falls for #cuvee2016.  Suffice to say, cycling was not in the horizon for last week either.  I thought about my bike a lot in Niagara Falls this past weekend as the weather was stunning and there is so much investment in cycling infrastructure in and around the area as well as the surrounding wine region. I was longing to be on my bike.

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It is 10 degrees of beautiful today! I cycled to the office. I am uncertain if I can still refer to this commute as “winter cycling”.  Today will also be my first commute from my new workplace to City Hall.  There is a lot of construction along my preferred route related to a new rail commuter train known locally as the #ION so I am a bit uncertain as to what trails are open, partially open or altogether closed, but I plan to find out.