Cycling Canada’s National Capital with “Polly” pakIT

Ottawa Ontario is Canada’s National Capital .  It is located in the east of southern Ontario, near the city of Montréal and the U.S. border.  Sitting on the Ottawa River, it has at its centre Parliament Hill, with grand Victorian architecture and museums such as the National Gallery of Canada, with noted collections of indigenous and other Canadian art. The park-lined Rideau Canal is filled with boats in summer and ice-skaters in winter. It is easily accessed by automobile, train, Airplane, bus or pakIT :-).IMG_20170616_1356495

In June 2017, I attended a conference hosted by the Governor General of Canada (His Excellency David Johnston).  The Conference was for Alumni of the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference.  If you do not know about this Conference be sure to check it out at www.leadershipcanada.ca.

This was my first opportunity to fly with my Bike Friday pakIT (AKA Polly). This was the perfect journey to see if Polly was everything I hoped she would be and, quite honestly, one of the major reasons that I purchased a pakIT.  I custom built Polly to be as light as possible while still meeting my performance expectations.  I chose not to put a pannier rack of any sort also to reduce weight.  So here is how it went…

  1. Packing my pakIT: You know how they say, “The first time is always the hardest”? Well it is true. I watched the Ron Paulk packing video what seemed like a million times but I still spent the better part of 3 hours figuring out how to pack Polly, my helmet, clothing and the necessities for 3 days in Ottawa.  Remember, I was attending a Leadership conference, Lycra bike shorts were not on the suitable attire list.  As well, rain was in the forecast so that gear had to come too.  Some things I was glad I did:IMG_20170614_2246374
    1. Bought the pakIT packing kit. The heavy felt and protective tubes for the front forks and for the bike to prevent crushing were all well work the money
    2. Bought a Filzer Mini Roadie floor pump with a built in pressure gauge. Airlines require the tire pressure to be substantively lowered prior to travel.
    3. Placed all my clothes in Large and x-Large heavy-duty Ziploc bags. My pakIT has a rear de-railer and a chain. The potential for grease to get on clothing is high.
    4. Roll clothes into the Ziploc bags and squeeze to remove all of the air. This makes for very small items that can be placed in and around the bike parts
    5. Brought my Timbuk2 Messenger bag. This was the better than a backpack because it minimized coverage on my back and reduced sweating.
    6. Stable but beautiful footwear. I wanted something that was good for walking, looked awesome with a dress and was flat on the pedals.  All my shoes are Fluevogs, so the hardest decision was to bring only one pair 🙂 The Black, white and peach Mini Qtee was the chosen shoe. MINI_qtee-lo
    7. Rain shoes that I can wear with a dress. This is a bit of a tall order, but I have found that Crocs deliver on this front. They are lightweight and can look good, not fancy, but good with a dress.11215_48J_ALT140
  2. Polly meets Air Canada: Prior to leaving home, I weighed the luggage to confirm that I was below the applicable weight limit. I also checked in on-line and pre-paid for my check-in luggage so that upon arrival all I had to do was print the bag tag and head for the Gate.  Some things I was glad I did:
    1. I did not lock my luggage. What is the point? The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) has a key anyway. This is a clear indication of nothing to “hide”.
    2. I did not declare during the check-in process that my bag contained a bike, because the bag was not oversized, not overweight, and I was not requesting any preferential handling. I suspect this saved me $50-$200 in “up-charges”.
  3. Check-in Experience: At the Airport my bag was weighed. It was likely because of the size of the Samsonite Flite case.
  4. Airport Security: CATSA did open my bag during travel in both directions. This occurred after I checked the luggage and prior to receiving it at the other end (i.e. the inspection was not done in front of me).  I can imagine what a folded and partially dismantled Polly looks like in an X-ray machine so if I were a CATSA agent I would inspect it too. They are just doing their job and I am thankful for the job they do.  They left a note in the bag to inform me of the inspection and that nothing was removed.
  5. Destination Pre-Planning: Some things I was glad I did:
    1. I reviewed the cycling infrastructure on-line prior to travelling so I knew where the bicycle network was relative to my hotel, conference location(s), dining locations, and tourist destination locations.
    2. I know Ottawa very well, so I had advanced knowledge of the City prior to doing my research.
    3. I chose a hotel in the heart of the cycling network and within a comfortable distance to all of my preferred destinations. I really like the hotel too, it is a boutique hotel called the Metcalf located just a few blocks from the Parliament of Canada and a beautiful bike ride away from the By-ward Market, a very popular restaurant district.
    4. I knew that I wanted to unpack Polly in my hotel room so I called ahead and made arrangements for an early check in.
  6. Unpacking: I arrived at the Metcalf Hotel by taxi before 9am and was checked in early as requested. It took me less than 20 minutes to unpack, rebuild, pump the tires and head out on Laurier Avenue on route to the Opening of the Conference at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec.
  7. Managing Polly at my destinations: Security for a conference that involves the attendance of the Governor General of Canada is high, but welcoming. I folded Polly in front of security, picked her up, indicated that no bicycle lock would ever be able to protect the bike and walked in.  I have found security staff to be “the best”.  I asked if they recommended a location to place Polly and explained she could not be locked up because of the nature of the bike, and in every instance, they recommended behind the security desk or within plain sight of it.IMG_20170615_1941269

In the evenings, I enjoyed the foodie nightlife of Ottawa with friends.  I brought the folded Polly into the Restaurants and aside from a few interested looks, it all worked out.

The overall experience of travelling with Polly was so good that I kept thinking something has “got-to-give”, but nothing did.

As a proud Canadian, I cannot pen a blog without crowing about the incredible City of Ottawa.  If you have ever considered travelling to Ottawa this is the year to do it.  2017 marks Canada’s 150 Anniversary as a Country and the Capital is decked out to receive visitors from across Canada and the world.  I worked in Ottawa for a bit and came to love the City in every season.

The City has made significant investments in cycling infrastructure.  It is a “Gold” Bicycle Friendly Community as designated by the Share-the-Road Coalition and the League of American Bicyclists.  There are hundreds of kilometers of off-road, paved bicycle trails.  These trails follow the banks of the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal.  Most of these trails are cleared in winter months and available if you would like to explore a Canadian Winter by Bike.

In addition to the museums, the Parliament and other Government buildings, there are many destinations to cycle to in Ottawa including “burbs” known as Old Town, Westboro, Little Italy, the Glebe, and Chinatown. Cyclists can also cross into Quebec from Ottawa and connect to the “route verte” where they can travel across the beautiful province of Quebec on a combination of on and off-road trails.

If Ottawa is a destination of choice, pack you pakIT and plan to stay for a while, it is so beautiful I promise, you will not want to leave!

“Polly” pakiT!

It is hard to believe, that a month has passed since my custom made, pakiT arrive.  Yep I picked Pink and White, because I could and because I love how vibrant the colour is.  I have never “named” one of my bikes before, but I really can’t help myself with this one…she is “Polly” pakiT 🙂

Over this past month I have put Polly to the test including flying her to Ottawa on Air Canada.  The performance of this bike is both amazing and unexpected.  I really knew very little about folding bikes but in just one month of riding I have learned a ton!

  1. Dresses work: because of the low frame the bike is perfect for cycle commuting in a dress
  2. Travel Time: Was essentially the same as riding my hybrid
  3. Performance: the bike provides a very solid, steady and comfortable ride.  One Facebook friend asked if it was “wobbly” as it looked like it would be.  The answer was a very clear no.   It does not feel wobbly at all.
  4. The fold: My work colleagues could not help but comment on how small the bike was folded. They are accustomed to seeing my other bikes and were very surprised at the small footprint of the pakiT
  5. Air Travel: that is a story for another Blog.  Suffice to say it worked, it worked better than I could have hoped and I was so happy to have my pakiT with me during a conference in Ottawa, Ontario Canada.
  6. Travel commuting with non-cyclists: The pakiT is the bike of choice when I know I am meeting people and then traveling together by car.  No special bike rack is needed, the pakiT folds and fits in the trunk.

deepfoldPakit

The bike was made, just for me, by “the Green Bike” company in Eugene Oregon.  They are marketed under the brand of Bike Friday.

PakitTag

I would like to expand a bit on the travel time.  The following is from the Bike Friday website and describes the travel distance very well as “Better Gearing”.  The website goes on to say “Small wheels don’t equate to slower speeds, or having to pedal more. What gives you speed when you pedal is the distance that the wheel travels for every full revolution of the pedals, this is called gear inches. It’s understandable to assume that a smaller wheel would have fewer gear inches than a conventional bike, because with the exact same gearing it does. But folding bikes compensate for this by using higher gear ratios. Take for instance a folding road bike like the Pocket Rocket, which uses a 53 tooth chain wheel and 9 tooth cassette cog to achieve 116 gear inches. That’s nearly 10 feet of travel for every full rotation of the pedals, which is just as good, if not better, than any standard full-sized road bike.”

The Bike Friday website also addresses the “wobbly” question as follows “Another feature that makes small wheeled bicycles great for touring or transporting kids is the low center of gravity, which is the balance point of the bicycle. With small wheels, the balance point is naturally lower to the ground, and the lower it is to the ground the more stable it is.”

It was one thing to read the above on the website and quite another to test drive it personally.  I was expecting wobbly, I was expecting that my ride would be slow, I was expecting that this bike would be my travel bike and in between trips be used less…I was wrong on all accounts.  Polly pakiT is so pretty; she is hard to leave behind for any reason!

Pakit

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.