Photo by Jason DeVarennes



Friday, January 27, 2012


Back when I was in high school, I did a week long backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail (AT). It was not terribly long, but a good challenge for me at the time. And it was just enough to whet my appetite for backpacking in the future.

I had never done anything like it before, and had to prepare from scratch. I used a large part of my allowance for the year to buy boots and pay for the trip. I borrowed a backpack from a friend, who had done the trip the year before. She had raved about how much fun it was, and encouraged me to go. I had my own sleeping bag - all kids do, right? In retrospect, I should have tried to borrow a proper one. The rest of my gear consisted of shorts, a pair of jeans and a couple of t-shirts, pretty simple.

We would also be carrying some group gear, so we were to only use half our packs for our own gear, since we'd also need to add food, or pots and pans etc. We used two person tents and each had a tent-mate. I can't remember whether the tents were supplied or if we worked this out between us. I definitely did not have my own tent.

I remember getting the letter with the training tips and packing list beforehand. One of the tips for preparation was to walk lots and to walk lots with the backpack on and wearing our boots. One suggestion was to fill the pack with cans of diced peaches. I think I substituted Campbelll's soup, since we only had fresh/frozen peaches at home! I was quite the site, walking around the neighborhood wearing this backpack, filled with cans of soup.

There was no mention of high-tech gear.  Goretex and Polartec all came later.  I'm not sure much was said about avoiding cotton. I did have wool socks with some sort of liner, and I used a lot of moleskin that week. I don't remember any emphasis on lightweight stuff, although by the end of the trip, I had decided jeans weren't a great choice, since they never dry out after getting soaked, and I sure would have liked a nice warm lightweight sleeping bag like some of the other folks had.

We did about 10-12 miles a day. We actually had two groups of hikers, each with about 15 students and a couple of adult leaders. The two groups drove to opposite ends of our planned route, and hiked toward each other, swapping car keys in the middle. We hiked through Rhododendron Gap in full bloom. This was a massive thicket of 8 and 10 foot high rhododendron bushes that seemingly went on forever. I had never seen anything so beautiful in my life. We also had some amazing mountaintop vistas combined with some thigh burning ascents and knee-torturing descents. 

One morning at breakfast, our leader read out the description for the day, describing one uphill section as a trail that was passable by jeep. And I still remember everyone taking photos of the broken down jeep half-way up that trail! Passable by jeep indeed!

I also remember getting quite chilly in my inadequate sleeping bag, and having to put on soaking wet jeans in the morning after the previous day of rain. But I had such a great time that I signed up for the trip again the next year. We did a different section of the trail the next year, and I was hooked enough at that point to buy some of my own equipment and planned to do lots more hiking and backpacking in the future. 

But my story today isn't about how I got hooked on the outdoors. It's about this 1954 Cadillac Eldorado that I spotted coming home from a bike ride earlier this week.


On one of of those AT trips, we were hiking along when the skinniest person that I had ever seen, went zipping past us. Our leader described him as looking like death warmed up! I think we were in southern Virginia, heading north. He had a very minimal pack, and was moving rapidly. I didn't see him smile. I think I just saw the blur of the bottom of his shoes as he seemingly sprinted past our group.

A short while later, another fellow caught up to our group. He was friendly and slowed to chat with our leader for a while.  He was a through-hiker, doing the entire AT from Georgia to Maine, in one go. He'd take most of the summer to complete his trek. Today, when people do multiple 1200km bike rides in a year and 50 people climb Mt Everest each season, AT through-hikers are a dime a dozen. But back then, I don't think it was so common.  Most of the folks in my group, who were well and thoroughly exhausted at the end of each day, were duly impressed with anyone who was doing this all summer long.

Then he told us about the skinny guy. Skinny guy was from New York City, and despised the outdoors and hiking and pretty much any type of physical activity. But his father had promised him a Cadillac Eldorado if he did the entire Appalachian Trail. So he did a small amount of research - no internet in those days - and came up with a minimalist approach. 

There are lean-to shelters at various intervals along the AT. The rule is that through-hikers get priority, allowing them to travel lighter - without a tent. Of course skinny guy was making use of the lean-to shelters. These two through hikers had met at a shelter the night before and had hiked together a bit that day. Skinny guy's one concession to weight was a listing of the shelters and distances between them. He had determined he could make a shelter about 10 miles further up the trail that day, and was on a mission when he passed us. It was pretty late in the day when we saw him, but friendly guy was pretty confident he would make it, both to the lean-to and to the end. 

But the part of the story that really stuck with me was that skinny guy had determined that he could save a lot of weight and live off the land, in part by cooking and eating stinging nettles. He would soak them to remove the stinging effect and then boil them. It was rumored that it was a bit like cooked spinach, providing some amount of protein and vitamins. Although my memory of skinny guy was that he didn't look like he was a diet high in protein!

I've thought about skinny guy occasionally, when I have some big challenge and need some motivation. I can't imagine doing what he did - a couple of months of misery for a car, even a Cadillac Eldorado. But these days I hear about all sorts of motivation and inspiration that make me pause. The news is full of stories about performance enhancing drugs in big money sports. But those drugs are also being used where the prize is just your name in the paper, or a medal. What is the motivation?

I'm not sure how proud I could be of a medal I got through cheating. I recently took part in a contest that included a public vote on facebook, through their *like* system. The top prize was a bike, with a some smaller runner-up prizes. One of the competitors apparently bought his likes. Yes, there is a company that provides a service, where for a fee, they provide you with some number of Facebook likes. Fortunately my motivation for the contest was to have fun, do some rides and take some pictures. No prizes for me, but i did some nice riding, had some great food (no twice-boiled stinging nettles), and took a few photos for posterity.

But what gets me out in the rain, or cold, or doing a really hard climb, or a really long day, or through some really drab scenery? Is it the fame, the glory, or just to have something to write about in the blog :-) I'm not so sure but I know it is not me seeking a reward like a car or even a bike. 

There's a well know story of a Zen Buddhist Master who saw his students riding their bicycles and asked them, “Why do you ride your bikes?”

“I ride it for my health and exercise.” one said trying to impress his master.
    “Ah … then you will live to an old age.” the master said.
“I return from the market and use it to carry my load.” said another student.
    “Ah... then you will not have a crooked back like me in your old age.” said the master
“I ride my bike to ride my bike.” said the other.
    “Ah... I am your student!” the master replied.

So while I won't claim to be a zen master, I agree with the sentiment. I ride my bike to ride my bike.

So tell me what inspires you?

Monday, January 23, 2012

At Least it's Not Raining

-Forbidden Topics of Conversation on Bike Rides-

As you may know from reading a previous blog entry, I like my bike rides to include lots of conversation. But there is one subject I just will not tolerate being discussed during any ride, and that's threatening weather. RAIN is a 4 letter word. There is simply no disputing that. And it is just imprudent to discuss rain out loud (or even think about it) during any bike ride.

Bring on discussions of politics and religion. By all means, we should get our heart rates elevated occasionally on a bike ride. The more controversial the better. And don't hold back when talking about your favorite sports team, especially if they aren't local.  Although don't expect me or Fear Rothar to have a clue whether the team you are talking about is in a sport with a large round ball, a small round ball, a large odd shaped ball, or a puck.

As cyclists, of course, most of us can chat away all day long about the pros and cons of carbon-fiber anything or integrated shifting or 1/4 inch ball bearings, as well as the best technique for blowing one's nose on the move, or how frequently one needs to pee and what drugs are the most effective at reducing that frequency. Hmm, the final one might actually be more an indication of the age of most of my riding buddies.

But we absolutely must not discuss weather. How many times have you been on a ride with threatening skies, when some fool utters, "At least it's not raining", shortly followed by the crack of thunder, a bolt of lightening and a torrential downpour? Sadly this has happened to me far more times than I can count. I do very distinctly remember the first time it happened. John and I were leading a ride into southern NH that we named, "It's a Long Way From Tipperary" for what should be obvious reasons. Just to set the mood, we arranged for dreary Irish skies. We were about a third of the way into the ride. Clouds were hanging low from the weight of all that moisture, but they were hanging onto it quite well, until our now-former friend, Bill said, "At least it's not raining." It wasn't 60 seconds before torrents of water were washing down the road. I've never seen such a display of the ill-temper by the weather-gods. Bill learned his lesson and has been allowed to ride with us again, but he knows not to utter the R-word ever again during a ride.

It happens again and again. Various friends refuse to believe that simply saying the R-word can actually conjure up a storm. But it has been proven causative repeatedly. Well, except when that its the actual goal... I do recall on one brutally hot sunny day, standing in the middle of the road, and screaming the forbidden phrase over and over. It just got hotter! The weather-gods can be vindictive.

But just let rain be unwelcome, and let one of your riding companions start talking about how the weather is holding, or repeatedly saying the dreaded R-word, and soon, very soon, the rain will come. Go ahead, test it out...  just not when you are riding with me, OK?

Also should the sun start to poke out on a cloudy day, the mere verbal acknowledgement of sunshine or shadows, often will scare it away. Just appreciate it... silently. Stopping to apply sunscreen is likely to bring on biblical flooding. Fear Rothar and I almost felt responsible for major floods in Europe in 2002 when we bought a tube of 50 SPF sunscreen. We called it cloud-genie-in-a-bottle. As soon as we opened it, the clouds formed and it rained for weeks!

And it doesn't stop at rain. It's any discussion of weather conditions. One must also never talk about an anticipated tailwind. The joker who says in my presence, "At least when we turn around, it will be a tailwind. " will suffer my wrath, when the wind-gods show how fickle they are, and turn on us!

So next time you find yourself in a heated political discussion, and someone suggests changing to a less controversial subject, like ... say ... the weather, remember my rule. Weather may only be discussed in the past tense, once everyone is safely home, including those who rode to the start! Best to wait until the day after!

Incidentally, as proof, the mere fact of my typing out this article, repeatedly spelling out the 4 letter word, and the offending phrases, caused rain to fall here. Fear Rothar just rode home from work in pouring rain. Shame on me!

Friday, January 20, 2012

OK, for real this time...

Yes, I must live under a rock. I don't watch reality television - so I'm not terribly current on the whole public vote-for-me thing. I just signed up for facebook to get some photos from a friend last summer. But we have had the website for a while, and I would occasionally get a query from someone asking if we had a mailing list or a way to notify folks of updates. I finally realized that blogging would be the best way to 1) get me to post photos from trips and rides in a more timely manner and 2) allow folks to subscribe or get notified when we have something new. So we started the blog.

It was quite timely as the Rapha Festive 500 - Ride to Redemption came soon after, and gave me something to write about for a while, and provided some inspiration for using the new camera, as well as a chance to possibly win some swag.

So we came up with a funky theme for our rides, based on the name of the challenge - Ride to Redemption. We started by riding to Redemption Rock. But being a bit cheeky, we continued by riding to Brimstone, Purgatory, World's End and other similarly themed spots. We had some fun, took a lot of pictures, learned a bit more about facebook, strava, and blogging, and logged a lot of kilometers in the process.

If you haven't seen the earlier blog entries and don't know what I'm talking about, check out our Festive 500 page.

So after all that, we made their short list, which the grew to a long list, but we are still on it. So now we are seeking your support so we might win a pair of socks or something. Facebook users, please go to our photo on Rapha's Festive 500 gallery on Facebook between now and Friday 27th January, and like it.

And if you don't do facebook, here's a great excuse to start!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why I Love to Ride in the Winter

I do love crisp winter rides. Although I could have passed on the gale force winds today...

But once we got into more sheltered areas, and especially once we started heading home with that strong wind at our backs, we were better able to appreciate the deep blue sky and sunshine that makes winter rides so nice.

Bob selected a route that took us past the wind turbines on top of Mt Wachusett. But apparently the wind was blowing so hard that the turbines had been disabled for the day.

We had a short section of dirt, with a light coating of ice, but we managed to all make it through upright.

We took a break at the ski center to warm up a bit with a fabulous lunch inside the lovely heated restaurant, and when that still hadn't helped Ira's toes, we resorted to stronger measures. We climbed Justice Hill!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

35F and Sunny

We finally got some snow in eastern Massachusetts. There is still not enough to use the cross-country skis, but enough to prompt me to mount a studded tire on front of the Green Queen (aka my green Cielo by Chris King). It has been amazingly mild this year and this is definitely the latest I have have ridden into winter without studs.

The Green Queen is my nominal commuting bike. John calls it my 50 year old hammer - with two new handles and three new heads.  I've had the bike for 18 years, and over the years I have replaced almost everything except the Phil Wood Fixed hub.  Yes, even the frame has been replaced.

My commuter bike started life as custom Ted Wojcik cyclocross frame spec'd to get clearance for fat studded tires, with rack and fender eyelets. Sadly when I mounted the fat studded tire and fender, I discovered a bit of toe overlap. I put up with this for many years until, after all those years of abuse from winter salt and such,  I noticed a bit of paint bubbling near the bottom bracket (a sure sign of internal rust). I used this as an excuse to replace the frame with one that didn't have TCO.

I spotted the Cielo frame a few years ago in Richmond at NAHBS. One of the big appeals was the lack of TCO in the small frame size. It also had all the features I look for in a commuting bike, like horizontal dropouts and fender and rack eyelets. You may not realize that horizontal (front facing) dropouts work better than track-ends (rear facing) for a fixed gear bike with fenders, until the first time you try to take out your rear wheel to repair a flat tire. I practically had to remove a fender once on a bike with track-ends, so if I want fenders with a fixie, I either go for front facing horizontal dropouts or use an eccentric hub like the ENO with vertical dropouts.

As I mentioned above, I have a vintage Phil Wood flip-flop hub, which is currently laced to a Sun CR18. I'm trying hard to wear this rim out, so I can replace it with one that is easier for mounting/removing tires. You may be getting the idea that I have a lot of punctures on this bike, but that is not really the case, thanks to the big cushy tires that I can fit into the frame. But as a commuting bike that gets used lots in foul weather, when I do have a flat, I like it to be as little hassle as possible. Currently I use an ancient Avocet 32mm tire on the rear and a Schwalbe 37mm studded tire on the front. 

The front wheel has a Schmidt generator hub, proving an endless source of power for my Supernova headlight and taillight. I also have a B+M D-Toplight battery taillight and plenty of reflective stuff on the bike, rims and spokes.

The bike sports ancient SKS gold colored chromoplast fenders. I love the gold color. They have some rockin' Angel of the Highway mudflaps from Buddy Flaps, which often gets me a cheery greeting from passing motorists.

I recently installed a very elegant Middleburn crank, with a single splined chainring.

The brakes are old Paul's NeoRetro cantilevers mated to short reach Cane Creek levers, with a handy quick release in the lever. The bars are my favorite narrow TTT Morphe bars - no longer made, but I stockpiled a few when I could.

A Tubus Fly rack enables me to carry an Ortlieb pannier (or panniers) full of gear, like work clothes and laptop. I also have a Topeak Morph pump, along with a couple of spare tubes, a quick patch kit, tire levers, allen keys and screwdriver.

I've commuted on this bike for many years. I did get a Bike Friday Tikit when I worked downtown, but this is really my preferred and most used commuter. I love the simple maintenance of a fixed gear, especially for all the mucky conditions that I ride in. And the fat tires are great for Metro-Boston's less than pristine roads. 

Today was our first real snow, but the roads were clear (of snow but still wet) when I headed out. Thanks to my worth-their-weight-in-gold-fenders, I stayed comfy all day. The sun even came out and made a lovely shadow!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Social Riding

While the weather holds this winter, I will continue to lead what I call a social ride on Tuesdays out of Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington, MA. This is a ride that starts and ends with a coffee, covers some quiet scenic roads and usually includes a lunch stop. We ride at a Goldilocks pace - not too fast, not too slow, just right! (If you're in the area and have Tuesdays free, please come join us.)

So what exactly is a social ride? Recently a conversation erupted on the email list of my local recreational club about riding etiquette. I was rather surprised by some of the opinions expressed about what makes a good club/social ride. But I suppose more to the point is whether a recreational club ride is a social ride. In the case of this club, the word social is very much part of the club charter. When I go on club rides, I am looking for a social ride.

So I thought I'd share my thoughts on social riding here on my own little soapbox :-)

First and foremost, a social ride is not a race***. If you want to race, fill out the entry form, pay your fee, pin your number on, warm up, race, and then go stand on the podium, and collect your medal and prize money. This doesn't mean that you can't occasionally sprint for a town line on your social ride, but don't assume that the rest of the group will join you or be impressed by your athletic prowess as you raise your hands in victory. I have yet to see newspaper headlines proclaiming any winner of the Concord Town Line Sprint*. I do know of plenty of people who treat a weekly Tuesday evening club ride like the world championships, but I honestly don't know anyone who is impressed that someone else won it.

For events with a large number of riders, ideally groups should split into smaller social groups to keep things at a manageable size, which will vary a bit depending on conditions. On a large club ride in a busy suburban area, folks might start out in small groups of maybe 8-10 riders according to pace. But often riders will see groups heading out and think everyone is leaving them to ride alone, so they jump in and the small group becomes large. Experienced riders will hang back, knowing that it's not a race and there's no need to start (or finish) first! They know there is potential to make new friends and possibly mentor new riders.

Many of my rides are with old friends, which doesn't just mean friends who have AARP cards, but rather friends I've had for a while. Some are with new friends. I often go out with a small group of regular riding buddies. We all know each other pretty well. We chat away about anything and everything. Sometimes I meet new people. I usually start by asking how they got into cycling and about some big ride they may have done. It goes from there. Many of those new friends soon become old friends.  
Since we've established that a social ride not a race, it should be ridden at a steady pace. Race tactics really have no place on a social ride. I am surprised that some people just don't understand that sudden surges in speed do not actually constitute a steady pace. No one else is impressed that you can surge around the group to reach the top of the rise first, especially when you slow down to ask about the next turn. Either ride with the group or don't.

Half-wheeling is where one rider keeps pushing the pace up by riding half a wheel in front of the rider at his side. The first time that I saw this term was many years ago in a column from one of my favorite cycling writers, Maynard Hershon. Maynard says it's just not nice, so don't do it. 'Nuf said there.

Since the point of a social ride is to be social and have a conversation, this means riding side by side when reasonable. A few weeks ago, I was on a club ride and tried to pull up alongside another rider to chat, but each time that I pulled along beside, just as I was about to introduce myself and start the conversation, the rider sped up, presumably because if I could come along beside, he must be going too slow. But when I did not subsequently sprint to close the gap and fall in behind, he resumed the previous pace and we all came back together. I finally managed to let the rider know that I was trying to be social, not competitive. As we talked, he indicated he was new to club riding, and wasn't actually sure about the etiquette. So I said that as long as the roads were not busy, it was much more pleasant to ride along side by side, talking. The rest of the small group did the same thing, with folks riding side by side, in line. We did this for the remainder of the ride, except on a couple of busy stretches, where the whole group dropped down to single file, resuming side by side riding when back on quieter roads and where safe and reasonable. The time passed much faster as we chatted away. I'll even venture to say that the hills probably seemed easier too. If I want to go ride myself, I'll just go ride by myself. I do the club rides for company. If I want competition, well... see above... I'll fill out the entry form...

Once a small group has formed, stronger riders may need adjust their pace to keep a mixed speed group together. More experienced riders will graciously pass on tips to the new-comers, all the while being aware of the difference between being a know-it-all and a good teacher.

When you have a group of 8 to 10 riders, riding along in a group, side by side, 4 to 5 deep, it is important to ride steady and to alert riders behind to things they cannot see, like potholes, branches, ice, dogs, walkers, etc. When you see a pothole, point to the side where the hole will be as you go around it. Calling out, "Hole, right" as you go to the left of the hole, will also alert the riders behind who may not see your hand signal. It's also good to indicate rough pavement or tracks with voice and hand signals, as well as slowing and stopping.

All the usual pace-line riding etiquette is appropriate. Maintain a steady speed. Don't speed up when you get to the front. Avoid sudden stops.  Don't blow your nose (or spit) on other riders - move out or give some indication that phlegm is being ejected! If a rider has moved out and is waving you forward, it may be for this purpose.

If a call goes out for ice or angled tracks, riders may need space to maneuver.  This usually means the group spreads out a bit. Do not come up beside a rider trying to cross badly angled tracks squarely. Do not pass a rider who is trying to negotiate through ice or slush.

Indicating turns is also critical. I prefer to use right hand for right turns and left hand for left turns. The old left arm up for a right turn is necessary in a car (where no one would see your outstretched right arm inside the car), but not a bike. But try not to poke out the eye of the person riding next to you!

Calling out "Car back", will let riders in front know that a car is overtaking, but unless riders are in the middle of the lane, and clearly oblivious, it is not necessary to repeat it twenty times.

A nice aspect of social rides is that folks are considerate of each other. This means that a group stops for mechanical problems, clothing adjustments, bio-breaks, and even photos as appropriate. Riders help each other out with the loan of a forgotten tool or tips on how to get a stubborn tire on or off, or maybe with the loan of a jacket, or even the offer to carry something when there is a space issue. If you've ridden along with a group for 95 miles on a century, it is considered bad form to sprint when the person doing all the navigating suddenly has a flat tire. Karma will haunt you for this.

Unless you live in the desert, or a truly dry area where roads are never ever wet, fenders are one of the nicest things you can do for your riding companions. Even if it's not raining, roads may be wet from snow melt, or run-off from garden sprinklers. There is nothing worse that riding in the rooster tail of a fender-less rider. I hate having to floss grit from my teeth. Even if your bike has tight clearances, you can get fenders like the Crud Roadracers or SKS Raceblades. Oh, and they'll keep crud off you too!

Finally keep your lights considerate on a group ride. Flashing or exhibitionism, is usually not considered socially acceptable. So when in a group, if you have your lights on, please use the steady mode. (This includes on busy bike paths too). 

Please mount your taillights so they aim straight back, not up into the eyes of the following rider. Lots of folks mount lights on seat stays and they end up angled upwards into the eyes of a following rider and alerting low-flying airplanes. Please make sure they are aimed straight back. Also the lower a taillight is mounted, the less likely it is to shine directly into the eyes of a following rider. Maybe it's because I'm a pixie, and my friends are all giants, but their seat post mounted lights tend to be right at the wrong height for me.

Also I don't understand why anyone uses a flashing headlight. You see... you don't see... you see... you don't see... But for some reason, lots of people that I meet on the bike path use this less-than-friendly-to-fellow-path-users mode. Please just say no to flashing!

As I said early on, a bit of spirited riding is not out of the question. However, if you get to the top of the hill or the town line first, it doesn't mean you are better looking. Have fun and go for it, but the display of peacock feathers is just that.

Finally the best riders will make everyone feel that their company is enjoyed, rather than endured. If your friend says, "Go on, don't wait for me", consider that you might be half-wheeling or not showing appreciation for your friend's companionship. Did you come out to ride and enjoy time with your friend or to fuel your testosterone poisoning**?

*Yes, I do occasionally sprint for the Concord Town Line, and sometimes even slip up and try for victory or a podium spot in the local, weekly, Thursday morning world championships!
**Yes, females, including yours truly, can suffer from testosterone poisoning, also known as peacock syndrome - the need to show off.
***I also occasionally enter races.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Vote early and often

For those of you who do facebook...

Seeking support for our effort at Redemption - Rapha style. There will be a public vote to decide the top three for the Rapha Festive 500 on Rapha's facebook page on Friday 13th January, postponed to the 20th January.

Vote early and often!

And if you don't do facebook, here's a great excuse to start!

If you haven't seen the earlier blog entries and don't know what I'm talking about, check out our Festive 500 page.

My Love/Hate Relationship with Bib Tights

I must admit to having a love/hate relationship with bib shorts and tights. When I first starting cycling, I was thrilled to find women's bib shorts. I gave Dawn Urbanek lots of business back when she was making some lovely stylish women's bibs. One of the advantages of bibs is the lack of a binding waistband, which for me, seems to add pressure on a full bladder! The disadvantage, especially for women, is that they add a little hassle, when the bladder is full and in need of emptying.

OK, maybe if I didn't start out every ride with coffee...
Or if I kept my rides short...
Or if I only rode in temperatures where jackets aren't needed...
Or if I didn't want access to jersey pockets...
Then I wouldn't have to deal with running out into the woods and removing jerseys, jackets, etc, and then freezing while I'm just trying to pee.  It doesn't help that cold weather seems to make me pee more. So at some point, I gave up bibs, just for the convenience of quick stops.

But bibs are great for warmth, especially on the lower back, where they eliminate any chance of a gap between the top and bottom. I am amazed when I see a rider whose shorts or pants don't quite meet the jersey or jacket, leaving exposed flesh on the lower back. In the summer, this can result in a small, but nasty sunburn! But in the winter, it has to lead to lower back pain from the chill. Suspenders can help keep the shorts/tights, pants up, but they have the same pitfalls as bibs.

My catch-22. One thing that has helped me, is finding shorts with a less binding or wider waistband. It can be tough to find the magic combination of enough elastic to stay put, but not so much to annoy.  But in the winter, as I add tights or pants to the mix, I either get too many waistbands, or suffer the ride down factor.  So I end up going back to bibs.

I haven't really solved my dilemma, but I do really like my new Rapha ladies bib tights enough to put up with a little hassle factor these days. The ladies version addresses the other issue many women face with suspenders or men's bibs, eliminating straps in awkward places. They have no chamois, so are won over shorts, meaning I can wear them several times between washing. I do not like tights with a chamois for exactly this reason. They have a reinforced seat, which is exactly where I usually wear out tights or pants. Mine have a nice big white stripe, on one calf, which adds the visibility from behind. As a UK product, I am a bit surprised that the stripe is on the left side as it is most visible where folks drive on the right, but it works for me in the US! There is also a bit of reflective piping for added visibility when riding after dark.

I still have my love/hate relationship, and unless I get  bladderback surgery - it will stay that way.

BTW, for even more info on clothes for winter riding, see this article on the website. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Knees and Elbows!

Yesterday I thought I'd need to apply some sunscreen to the backs of my calves today, figuring I would likely be in knee warmers. I guess I forgot what 70F feels like. Hopefully I didn't get sunburned on all that exposed flesh today. And hopefully no one was blinded by the glare off the snow white legs. Given what I heard about conditions in the Boston area today, I might have needed some sunscreen there too. So I shouldn't get too much hate mail for showing off pictures of knees from my ride today.

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy!

Knees and elbows!

Is that the wee little giant taking shelter from the sunshine?
Never fear. I will back back in Boston Monday afternoon, and will return to regular programming including pictures with neck warmers.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sunny and 65F

John was pulling a shot of espresso Tuesday night as I was reading aloud the forecast for the weekend: 65F and sunny. It didn't take him long to realize I made good on my threat to redeem some frequent flier miles and head off somewhere warm and sunny! My Dad's 83rd birthday is next Tuesday, so I decided to head down to NC to help him celebrate. Really it had nothing to do with the weather. Or the desire to ride without a neck warmer.


Notice the lack of neck warmer and headband!

Those are fingerless gloves

the wee giant

Tomorrow, sunscreen will be applied to my calves!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


There are times that it seems I live under a rock. Credit the lack of television.  I seem to miss out on a bit of pop-culture. But thanks to the internet, I know there was a character on TV called Carrie Bradshaw, who seems to really like shoes. From what I can tell, I'm not in her league or anywhere close, but I will admit to being known in some cycling circles for my brown leather cycling shoes. I do love these shoes. They are from a company in the UK called Dromarti. I first saw them in a UK magazine several years ago and lusted after them. Then I saw them in person at NAHBS in Richmond a couple of years ago and had to have them. Sadly they didn't have any in my size at the show, so I couldn't get them on the spot, but I ordered a pair as soon as I got home. They are absolutely gorgeous, especially when freshly polished. And to confuse metaphors, they fit like a glove. They are the most comfortable pair of shoes I own - and given the amount of time I spend in them, that's a very good thing. I've abused them a bit with rain and sun and mud, and they handle it just fine, responding quite well to a little brown shoe polish. However, I have called the line at salt and snow. They are pretty well ventilated, so are great for summer, but I have a dedicated pair of winter cycling boots.

Racing up Mt Equinox with my Dromarti shoes

A little dirty and dusty after D2R2

January came to New England and so did winter... well sort of.... Cold Temperatures have teased us a few times. We had a strange pattern of cold, then mild, then cold, then mild, but a few days ago, cold put on a stronger show of force and has stuck around. What we are missing is snow! These are the boots I should be using at this time of year. But we don't have any snow!

So instead of x-c skiing, I am bundling up for bike rides. Thank goodness for my Lake Winter Cycling boots. I bought mine a few years ago and bragged to John about not even needing overshoes until the temps approach 0 Fahrenheit . He hesitated for a while, but finally broke the piggy bank and is now a convert as well. They are by far the most popular winter cycling shoe among Boston area cyclists. They are pricey, but if you ride in proper winter, they are one of the best investments you can make. Mine are roomy enough for my thick wool socks and insoles. They have a nice thick sole and good insulation and, of course, no ventilation.

In most conditions, I use them alone. But combined with toe warmers and overshoes, they have handled the coldest conditions here in Boston, including temps with minus signs!

So until shorts and brown leather shoe weather returns, and while the snow continues to boycott us, my Lake Winter Cycling boots will be getting plenty of use.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Dear Rapha,

John and I lost some weight doing the Festive 500. We need new, smaller clothes. Please send the following in size small for Pamela to replace the now too big and worn out items

before Redemption
after Redemption
  • ladies small shorts
  • ladies small winter tights
  • ladies small rain jacket

and for John

before Redemption
after Redemption
  • men's medium shorts
  • men's large tights
  • winter hat (he claims his head is smaller now)

Thank you for challenging us but now nothing fits!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

January 1 - Restrospective on Redemption

There will be a public vote to decide the top three for the Rapha Festive 500 on Rapha's facebook page on Friday the 20th January.  

Rapha ran this crazy challenge for the last week of 2011 called the Festive 500 - Ride to Redemption. The challenge was to ride 500 km between December 23 and December 31. We took the challenge quite literally and kicked it off by Riding to Redemption Rock on December 24, and tried to stick with a somewhat irreverent take on the redemption theme throughout the week. We invited others to join and had some company along the way. The challenge provided great motivation for Pamela to make use of her new camera. Here are a few highlights from the week. Click on the daily blog entries for complete stories and many more photos.

We had great company and help along the way. Our riding companions during the challenge logged 2740 kms at well, so maybe we should really get to count 4182 kilometers worth of redemption.

Grand Total - Pamela - 838 km,  John - 609 km

Dec 23 - Seeking out Redemption Centers
Pamela - 55 km,  John 30 km

Dec 24 - Ride to Redemption Rock
Pamela and John - 164 km

Dec 25 - Fire and Brimstone for the Unredeembale
Pamela - 75km,  John - 75km

Dec 26 - Disgrace and Redemption
Pamela 96km,  John - 100km

Pamela 130km, John 44km


Dec 28 - From Purgatory to Paradise
Pamela 110km, John 51km 

Pamela 105 km, John 28 km 

Dec 30 - World's End 
Pamela 74 km, John 87 km

Dec 31 - Recuperating from Redemption
Pamela 29 km, John 29 km