It’s Just Like Riding a Bike…

Mostly because it is a bike.

I managed to get my ass up on the saddle for the first time in nearly a month, and don’t worry I have plenty of excuses for that; starting with the holidays, ending with the weather, with a whole bunch of B.S. in between them. But I woke up yesterday morning and while I was eating a rather too large breakfast that I took great enjoyment in1 I resolved that it was high time I start in on the cranks again. Quite frankly my attitude has been utter shite lately and it is mostly due to lack of exercise and recreation, two things that my bicycle was built for.

The devil car had other ideas. Oh no, wait, my wife needed me to drop her and my daughter off at the all-inclusive-super-mega-big box store so that she could do some shopping and to possibly get the girl’s hair cut; because despite her protests it is getting a bit shaggy in the front, and she can’t see things right in front of her face2. Which I agreed to because, well it’s what proper and responsible husbands do. Getting a six-year-old ready for a potential hair appointment tends to always take longer than expected, and what with driving there and getting myself back to the house nearly made me miss my time window for a comfortable riding experience.

Alright, getting on the bike was fine once I tracked down where my lock and cable ended up, and my helmet, and that pack of spare batteries for my lights; after all I wasn’t going to be riding home until late at night. About half way down the driveway, right before I mounted up, I remembered to check my tires.Sure enough, the front one was low and I had to stop and put air in it. On the plus side my frame pump was still where it was supposed to be, but it still took a while to get enough air in. After spending a moment fiddling with my phone to get it to track my ride I was off.

On the road I decided I wasn’t going to push myself to hard since it had been a while, this was a good idea. Soon I could feel the grinding of my knee, the one I fractured a few years ago, letting me know just how long it has been since it had a good work out. This caused me to change my route in favor of a slightly shorter one to lessen the impact on my aging and out of shape body. After about a mile and a half more I reached down between my legs and realized I forgot to fill my canteen. The change in routes cut off any option to stop for a bottle so I was just going to have to be parched until I got to the restaurant.

Once at work I checked my time and distance. A measly four miles but not that much slower than my normal pace. Rooting through my bag I realized that I had forgotten to transfer my Ibuprofen from my panniers, one of which had broken clips so I didn’t use them, to my shoulder bag. I sighed and went inside to find that the first aid kit we keep in the kitchen was woefully devoid of any analgesics. I poured myself a tall glass of water and set about my tasks.

I had forgotten how to ride a bike.

 


  1. I like big breakfasts and I can not lie, other eaters can’t deny… 
  2. Also you can’t see her face at all and she is far too cute to be hidden away behind her bangs, though she does have a nice early eighties mod look going on. 

Commuting and Exercise | The Full 180 Completed

At the beginning of this month I set the a few modest goals  for myself to see if I could stick to cycling as more than just a means of transportation. I started off very strong achieving nearly a third of my mileage goal in the first seven days. This bulk of miles served me well going into the following week when illness and maintenance issues kept me off the bike enough that I didn’t even make eighteen miles that week. When I did start to ride again a few close calls reinforced my decision to buy a helmet and ride a bit more cautiously for my third week and I brought my miles per day average back to where it should have been. At the posting of this journal I have exceeded my goal of one hundred eighty miles for the month by two and a half mile with a couple of commuting trips left to go before November lets out.

I also  easily beat my goal of riding at an average of six minutes per mile, coming in at 5:32. This goal was a gross under estimation of my own capabilities and variations in this number tended to have more to do with the route I was taking than anything else; obviously I was slower when my travels involved more inclines, bringing to mind that my total elevation climb for the month was 2,757 feet, which is nearly a thousand feet higher than october. I will also say that my faster averages also came out of purposely taking longer, better planned rides where I could get a going at a good pace without having to get caught at every single traffic signal.

The final few rides were, I think, the most disappointing. As I approached my goals I just kind of rolled into them in small increments. I would take the shorter way to work and took a more lazy pace once I knew my speed average wasn’t in any real jeopardy of falling below my target. In short the closer I came to success the less ambitious I felt about the whole project.

From here I think that my main concern is maintaining my speed and distance for the month of december. It’s going to be a busy and stressful month personally and my daughter will be spending a lot of time on holiday breaks; she is a bit young for really intense riding, though I do plan on getting her on the bike to help keep her entertained and get her at least some exercise while school is out. I think my major objective will be to just spend as much time as possible riding for the next few weeks, for both my physical and mental health. I will be pushing myself from time to time, I just won’t get too caught up in the numbers.

Yeah I think December is going to be mostly about biking for fun and travel and we’ll see where we are come the new year.

Happy biking.

Commuting and Exercise| Heading Into November’s Final Stretch

It took the better part of the week but I have managed to catch back up with my mileage goals, after spending most of week two out of commission between illness and maintenance issues. Though I am just now getting back to full health I am fairly confident that I will hit my objective of  pedaling one hundred eighty miles this month.

This third week I discovered what I think is my new favorite route for my commute. It is three miles longer than my usual path but, quite a bit more level so I can really get a good turn of speed going, the added benefit is that the traffic lights seemed to be timed in my favor, at least based on when I have to leave the house for work. The overall result is being able to pick up a few extra miles by leaving the house an extra ten to twelve minutes earlier, something that I intend to do more often. I learned a bit about riding in the wet and drear as well recently and that if I want to stop in damp conditions I should probably try to give the bike as much notice as possible.

I know I mentioned a couple of times what a good idea it would be for me to get a helmet for my rides. I finally ordered one but an accidental click had it shipped timed with my wife’s Christmas present so it won’t get here until maybe this evening, probably after I’ve already left for work. Hopefully I will be able to bore everyone with pics of me sporting in an a very serious cyclist type of manner soon.

I did manage to add a frame pump to my standard gear as well as some tire patches for emergencies, though with any luck I won’t have to use them. Which leads me to the question of the week:

What kind of roadside repair equipment are you packing in your kit?

Feel free to leave a comment with your answer or any other feedback you’d like, if you feel so inclined.

Down to brass tacks; This week I managed to get in gear and stretch this weeks rides to a total 52.7 miles bringing me up to 124.8 after 21 days with 8 days left in November I need just over 55 miles to complete my goal distance wise. Speed has not been an issue I am currently running at an average pace of 5 mins and 32 seconds per mile, almost thirty seconds faster than my goal for this month.

I am finding that my endurance continues to improve and that the setbacks of the previous week have has little effect on how often I get winded going up hill during my ride, though my expedition on Thursday showed me that fighting a good head wind while traveling up an incline can be a bit of a pain in the ass. As a side note my fitness tracker thing-a-ma-jig tells me that I have set a new personal record for monthly elevation having climbed 2,239 ft and still counting, so I guess that’s cool.

Going forward from here I am looking for a strong finish for the month. My main obstacle is that my daughter, who is six, will be out of school for nearly the remainder of the month so fitting in rides other than basic commutes might be a bit rough, but I am determined to do it especially since there should be a very large turkey dinner in my near future, the preparation and cooking of which should also take up quite a large chunk of my time this coming week.

Also I am intrigued to find out if there really is such a thing as Risk Compensation involved with wearing a helmet when you ride. I am not normally the danger seeking type so it might be interesting to see what effect additional safety equipment has on my psychology. I’m betting on not much.

Happy biking.

Commuting And Exercise | A Rather Poor Second Week

This week was definitely a let down performance wise. A very severe cold and a moderate repair issue managed to put me off track on my goals. But I did learn a few things this week:

  • Fifteen minutes into a ride is a bad time to realize that I left my canteen on the kitchen counter
  • If my canteen is on the kitchen counter, I will probably find this out because my unsecured pant leg just got snagged on the empty bottle cage, and I will nearly wreck my bike discovering this.
  • I really do ride in, and around a lot of traffic.
  • I absolutely need to get a helmet.
  • Now that the air has gotten cooler and dryer I should apply lip balm before riding
  • The little handy-dandy emergency repair multi-tool that I have is pretty freaking useless for any real maintenance tasks.
  • Riding a bike with severe head and chest congestion sucks.
  • My local bike shop is manned by a pretty awesome guy.

All of this aside after I did manage to bike the fiddling small sum of 17.1 miles this week bring me to a fourteen day total of 72.1 miles. This is 11.9 miles less than my expectations. I am trying not to beat myself up over this, I was ill after all. I do suppose this is where I should take advantage of leaving for work ten minutes earlier whenever possible to tack on an extra mile or two.

My average pace was 5:41/ mile still under my goal of 6:00 flat but four seconds slower than last weeks average. Based on the pacing of the ride I attempted while heavily congested, which came to six minutes forty-five seconds I should be thankful for the bent rim keeping me off my bike until I could recuperate a bit as forcing myself to ride would have both put me in worse condition and ruined my average pace for the month. I am still not feeling tip-top so while I am going to be keeping pace I am going to watch how hard I’m pushing myself for the next few days.

As I mentioned before the weather lately has been cooler and drier, going into winter I am going to need a set of gloves to keep the wind off my knuckles. I hadn’t really thought much about wardrobe when I started this little project; also, as I’ve already said, I will be looking into purchasing a helmet by the end of week three. My budget isn’t the greatest but, I think this is definitely one piece of gear that I should not be buying off the used rack.

Between being sick and fixing my wheel I really haven’t put much thought into expanding my exercise routine, just yet. I am still mainly into the cardio workout that cycling is giving me and will be mostly concentrating on that; I will keep my options open though. It is hard to evaluate any noticeable change in my overall fitness as circumstance had me spending little time on the bike. Once the repairs and recuperation were done my endurance definitely seemed to have dropped off significantly, while my speed and strength seemed to change little by comparison. One concern of note is that due to not riding as often, my bad knee seems to have regressed in it’s flexibility quite a bit.

Halfway through the month I am still in reach of my goals but I do have a bit of ground to make up. Though this week has been a bit disheartening I can take some satisfaction that It wasn’t a complete stall out. I’ve missed being on the bike quite a bit, this week has driven home how important riding it is to me for my over all mood as well as physical health. Going forward from here I am still confident of reaching my goals for this month.

Commuting and Exercise | The First Week of November

At the beginning of this month I talked about how I recently became a cyclist for commuting purposes and how it started to transition into a fitness routine for me. I also set a few goals for the month. The long version of this story can be found here.

As I mentioned last week the stats I can get my head wrapped around are distance and speed so I am, for now, going to remain focused on that. I do know that how long I maintain a workout for has a lot to do with its effectiveness so, to be clear, I only count a ride as exercise if it is twenty minutes of activity or more.

The distance goal I set was one hundred eighty miles this month, up nineteen miles from October’s total. It was a nice round reasonable number and I think I chose it subconsciously based on how neatly it could be divided by thirty. The potential problem being that the lazy portion my brain quickly worked out that I just needed to put in six miles a day making this more into a quota than a goal. My meaning here is that if I just do my commute which is roughly eight miles a day then every three workdays I would be able to skip a day of riding. This could lead me to rely on my aversion to being behind the wheel of a car and a need to blow off some steam after work as primary motivators, which isn’t necessarily such a bad thing but it does take the exercise objective out of it just a bit. My wife is helping me combat this by scheduling rides for the two of us to take together, which is very cool and a lot of fun for the two us.

When I set the goal of reaching an average of six minutes per mile, nine seconds faster than last month, I may have been underestimating my ability substantially. I didn’t factor in that at the beginning of October when I started keeping track that I was going about 6:45/ mile and by the end of that month I had some rides where I was clocking in under six minutes, with my best single ride average being 5:15/ mile.

Bearing this in mind, I am currently at fifty-five miles after the first seven days of November. This puts me on track for my goals distance wise. I am, compared to my expectation, going strong at an average of 5:37/ mile. The month isn’t over so I do expect my speed to fluctuate some as I go forward.

The weather hasn’t been much of a factor so far, the harshest thing that I have had to deal with so far is some mild drizzle. I live in Florida so even though it is technically autumn we still get days that are eighty degrees and up. This brings me to the fact that I am probably the only man in the south eastern United States that does not own a pair of shorts, something I should remedy by next spring I think.

A point worth mentioning is the muscles that I notice getting sore lately aren’t my legs so much as my upper arms, shoulders, and back. I am pretty sure that this relates to holding myself into position on the seat as well as pumping the handle bars as I go up hills (maybe that is why the elevation climb statistic is relevant). This draws my attention to how uneven the workout is from riding a bike and I am considering adding some light upper body exercise into my routine, maybe push ups or some hand weights. There is some equipment of that nature lying around the house but I think a bit of research should be done before I screw around with it. If anyone has suggestions in this area I’d like to hear them.

All in all things are going well so far. I am coming down with a cold but, since that doesn’t get me out of work and hence my commute, I don’t see it interfering with my exercise either. I am not making any plans for my next set of goals just yet, but I am happy with my performance this week.

A healthier way to get there.

I want to preface this by pointing out I am not a fitness nut.

A short while ago I realized part of my daily frustrations was how much I was driving everyday. I had been a pedestrian and casual bicyclist for the last 15 years, give or take, but family emergencies required that I begin driving again.

I really hate driving as it turns out.

This came as somewhat of a shock as my memories of the activity from when I was a teenager seem quite fun.

I like what driving allows me to accomplish but, I do not like traffic, traffic lights, other drivers, and bumper stickers. When I am driving I do not like pedestrians or bicyclists. In short being behind the wheel of a car fills me with anger. Most of all I do not like what it costs me to drive a car. Fuel, insurance, licensing, registration. Plus it is just a whole lot of sitting down and feeling my butt get wider. For these and many other reasons I decide that I was going to dust off the bicycle and begin riding it on my commute to work.

It was going well for the first week I managed to use the bike four of my five shifts and was feeling pretty good about it. Then a coworker asked the innocent questions of how far of a trip it was and how long it took. I had to Google Maps it. According to them it is 4.1 miles and should take approximately 25 minutes by bike. I could tell that it was taking me longer than that to travel, and I knew I wasn’t always using the exact route Google recommended. So I dialed me up a fitness tracker on my phone and began mapping out my routes.

On October 6th my daily commute became exercise as well. Through the app that I am using I began to keep track of not just distance and speed, but elevation climbed, calories burned, how often I ride, and for how long. I started planing my routes to take get a good mix of flat land and hills to climb. I started tacking on extra miles if I found myself running early for work. Most recently my wife and I have decided to make a point of the two of us going on one non-commute long ride a week. Which is an awesome excuse to spend more time with her.

I have noticed since I started riding my bike this often I seem to have more energy in general, I have a much larger appetite, and I am sleeping better. I also feel much better about myself and am making better choices about what I eat almost subconsciously.

I am still not a fitness nut, I am however becoming very interested in maintaining my health.To this end I am keeping track of my activities and learning better ways of taking care of myself.

In the month of October I biked 161.9 miles at an average pace of 6 minutes and 9 seconds per mile. I climbed a total of 1,874 feet in elevation during the course of 35 rides, with a combined duration of 16 hours 35 minutes and 56 seconds. I burned 7,195 calories.

I really don’t know what to make of all these numbers but the fitness tracker app seems to think they have some bearing on my life so I plan to look into it. Based on what I can get my head wrapped around at this point I am setting what seems to be the reasonable goals of increasing my miles in November to 180 miles for the month and bringing my average speed down to a flat 6 minutes.

I’ll be touching on this subject from time to time to compare notes with you all if you like.

Do you folks do much in the way of exercise? what kind? Any advice for a beginner? Let me know in your comments.