Saturday, July 26, 2014

On the Importance of Persistence

I have almost tweaked my bike exactly how I like it. It took lots of cajoling and convincing of the bike shop mechanics that, yes, some people actually like to have a more upright riding position on a touring bike with drop bars. They told me my fit was perfect how it was! That my downward angle would give me so much more power and efficiency and let me ride faster and longer!

I told them I didn't care. "I won't ride if I'm not comfortable. Then efficiency will mean nothing."

"Well," he said after swapping for a more upright angled stem, "we can't get the handlebars any higher."

"What about a stem riser?" I asked.

"Well... I GUESS that would work," he said.

Me: "Is there any reason -- besides 'efficiency' -- why a stem riser is not a good idea?"

Him (thoughtful pause): "Aesthetics?"

Yep. That's what it came down to. This guy couldn't comprehend the idea of someone who wanted a bike that fit, that looked, a little different. It would look weird. So much for the wants and needs of the customer.

I eventually convinced him we are going with a stem riser. He reluctantly agreed. I picked one up on amazon and brought it to him the next day. He threw it on the bike and told me to go ride it for a few minutes and then we can tweak.

I left the shop and rode across Key Bridge. And within about twenty feet, I got this huge grin on my face, and I actually started laughing, because the fit was so perfect! I was more upright, and more comfortable, and I could look ahead without straining my neck upward... This was all I wanted!

I rode four miles to Reagan airport and called the bike store. Congratulations, I told them. It's fixed. I won't be returning. :)

It's been about a week and I still love the fit, although I do plan to tilt my seat nose upward a bit, as I've found myself sliding forward a bit too much. So we're still dialing in the mythical *perfect* fit... but even as it stands now, I'm extremely pleased.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

My New Bike Will Take Me Across the Country! soon as it fits right

I got a new bike! It's a Trek 520, which is made for touring but I'm also told is great for commuting. I was going to get a Trek 7.4 FX, which is a hybrid fitness bike, but when I mentioned to the salesperson that I dream of riding the trail all the way to Pennsylvania -- and maybe even riding cross country one day -- he steered me directly to the Trek 520. "THIS is the bike you want," he said. The 2013 model was on sale, and I saved more than $200. I love the color -- the dark olive/bronze is so classy!

It's a beautiful bike -- and very different than what I'm used to. I've never ridden a bike with drop bars before, and frankly the position is all wrong for me. They said I'm supposed to ride on the hoods (the part up by the brakes), but I feel so stretched out there. It's not very comfortable. They say I'll "get used to it." The store manager did a fitting, watched me ride and said he would even suggest a longer stem that pushes the handlebar out farther, getting me lower. "It will be much more comfortable, trust me."

NO! I trust no one. I know how I like to ride, dammit. I'm an upright guy. I like to see the scenery. Drag? Inefficient pedaling? Meh. Not important to me. I'm not trying to win a race. I do, however, have a vested interest in staying comfortable. If I'm not comfortable, I won't ride.

I did a quick 10 miles this morning, and while I'm sure I could get used to the more aggressive position, I can't imagine ever really liking it. I found myself on the flats (the top bar) most of the time, which was better but still not as high or comfortable as my hybrid was. Plus there's no brakes up there, so it's less safe.

And so! I will be modifying this otherwise very nice bike. I've ordered a Brooks B67 saddle, which is made for an upright position, and is said to be supremely comfortable. I'll be ordering new pedals. And, most importantly, I'll be taking the bike back into the shop to put in a new stem with a higher angle. That should raise the handlebars an inch or two, and bring them closer, so I'm not as stretched out. If that's not enough, I'll install a stem riser. And if, on the long tours through the countryside, I find the need for a more aerodynamic position or one that lets me pedal more strongly, I'll just get into the drops, which will still be pretty low and stretched out.

I'm very excited because I know this bike CAN and WILL be awesome! But the frame is SO different than what I am used to, with the handlebars SO far forward, that I need to make some serious adjustments before said awesomeness will thrive. For comparison sake, here's an animated GIF showing how much farther the new handlebars are than my old ones were. Yeeeeeeah.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Still on track!

One month later, and I'm still on track to hit 200 somewhere around the beginning of August!

That is with a very conservative weight loss of about 1 pound per week.

Following this diet is proving pretty easy. I no longer have cravings for fattening food like pizza or Chinese! And when I do indulge, it turns out no longer to give me the pleasure it used to. I went to the movies the other day and ordered a movie theater popcorn with butter... and it was okay, but I felt like crap for the rest of the day, and on balance it certainly wasn't worth the calories. I'm thinking of just packing a bunch of grapes and berries the next time I go to the movies -- that's infinitely more delicious.

You'll see a period of about a week where my weight stayed in the 208 range. That's when I was on vacation in Michigan, partaking of all my old favorites (Sy Thai, Buddy's Pizza, etc). As soon as I got back to DC, I got back to my (mostly) healthy eating ways that makes me feel so much better.

So! 200 pounds is well within reach, and this time I'm not stopping once I get there!!! If this pace continues, I'll be back to my pre-law school weight by the fall. What a miracle that would be!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Kale and Berries and Veggies, Oh My

I went in for a standard check up last month and saw that my triglycerides and cholesterol were way out of whack. The doctor told me that if I get my weight down to a healthy level, the problem should clear up on its own. So I decided to start preempting my cravings with a bunch of healthy and tasty food. Blackberries and raspberries and blueberries for breakfast! Delicious salads from Sweetgreen for lunch! Home-cooked dinners consisting of sautéed onions, garlic, broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower, snow peas, and a bunch of ground turkey breast! And maybe my secret weapon: baked kale chips for a late-night snack.

I still let myself eat the more fattening food I sometimes prefer, but I have found that when I overeat – an entire pizza, or an entire gigantic Kung Pao lunch special -- I feel like crap. So I try to limit portion size there, and I try not to have that stuff too much.

Is it working? Take a look at the graph. If I can keep it up, I'll be below 200 in no time. Will see if I can keep this up, but it isn't too hard, and I like the way I feel, and my old clothing from nearly a decade ago is fitting me again. (I'm glad I kept it!)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Another Cherry Blossom Run...

T-minus 100 days until the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run...

Tonight I went on my first run in about two years. It was pretty cold, somewhere in the low 30s. My plan was to jog until my heart rate hit 160, walk till it got below 130, rinse and repeat. I also brought "The Stick" in case my legs tightened up -- which they did after the third running session. I spent a couple minutes on my calves, and by then my pulse was down below 130 so I set off again.

I felt good. My calves were feeling better and my form was much better. I found myself picking up the pace. My pulse quickly hit 160, but I didn't care. I was going to push this one. 165, 170, 175, and I showed no signs of stopping. I was breathing hard, sprinting ahead, holding the Stick in my right hand like it was a baton and I was on the last leg of a relay race.

I crossed 180. Usually I'd pull back around now, but tonight I didn't want to. Before the run, I had estimated that my max heart rate was about 186 -- and I wanted to see if that was true. 182, 184, 186... 187! I held it there for a couple more seconds, before I felt my body pulling back. 187 -- the hardest I'd pushed things in years.* I walked the quarter mile back to my apartment, tired yet energized all at once.

100 days to go.

*Even when biking 13 miles to work, I never got my pulse that high; the highest I usually pushed it was into the mid-170s. There was one time a month or two ago, however, when I decided to sprint up the entire Dupont Circle escalator. I wasn't wearing a heart rate monitor, but I probably got very close to 187 that day too.

**If you click through to the web site, you may notice my pace was pitifully slow. This is normal.  Anyway I am just working on conditioning right now. Speed will come...... eventually.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Still Waiting...

Well, one month has come and gone. Actually it's been more like 7 weeks since I ordered the Brompton from BicycleSPACE, and they said it would be here by the end of April, but it is now pretty close to the middle of May and they are just as clueless as I am. "Brompton told us they shipped it... at this point it's probably hung up in Customs... we don't know if it got stuck in Customs though until the boxes arrive and they're covered with stickers..."

The Brompton has been showing up in my dreams. That's how badly my subconscious wants it. In last night's dream, I had just returned from a choir trip and I decided to head by BicycleSPACE to store my regular sized bike there while I walked around. That's when they told me that, as it happened, the Bromptons had just arrived that morning! "ARE YOU F'ING KIDDING ME?" said I. They asked if I wanted to come to the store room and unbox them. YES.

Then, in a bit of dream logic, we ended up playing basketball in an attached gym. I kept slipping on the floor because I was only wearing socks. Then I woke up without seeing my new bike.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

One Month and Counting...

I've ordered a Brompton. It's a folding bicycle, and it's going to change my life. And yes, I am a wee bit obsessed.  But I hear that's what happens to people once they stumble onto these things, realize what they are, and what they can do, and how they can make everything so much easier.

For the uninitiated, Bromptons are full-sized bikes made in the UK that can fold up in about 10-15 seconds to a package a little less than 2 feet by 2 feet by 10 inches. This puts them neatly into the "carry on luggage" category, and as such they are allowed on the Metro during rush hour. I can't tell you how many times I've planned to ride to work in the morning, but when I wake up I'm too tired, so I just Metro in instead. And because my current bike is full-sized, I can't take it onto the Metro with me until after 10 a.m., which is too late. So I'm left for the day without a bike, and thus unable to bike BACK home, and so I have gone the whole day without a nice long bike ride, which is bad for my waistline and my attitude. I need that ride -- it centers me.

After reading a ton about them online, I went to go see them in person at Bicycle Space. I took a few test rides around the block with various models, and found my favorite -- an "H6R," meaning it's a six-speed high handlebar model with a rear rack.

Here, I tried to capture my excitement.

The store let me borrow a demo model and use it for a couple days. It was pretty awesome! I was able to:

Bike to the Silver Spring metro station in 3 minutes -- shaving 7 minutes off my normal walk -- and keep it next to me during rush hour!

Bring it inside and put it under my table at Starbucks!

Ride 13 miles home on the Capital Crescent Trail!

About the only thing I didn't like about it was the stock saddle, which is fine for a couple miles in the city, but frankly is pretty uncomfortable after a 13 mile ride. It was so bad that even with all the Brompton's merits, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go through with it. That is, until I went back to the store and tried one with a different saddle, the Brooks B17. Here's my final test ride:

The B17 rocked. It's a pricy upgrade but it's worth it.

So, I placed my order for the H6R with a Brooks saddle, using the extended seatpost (for taller chaps), and I also picked up a C-Bag which will sit on the front luggage block. Here's a mock-up of my new bike, complete with some Go Blue Cheer!

It's a custom bike, so they have to make it from scratch, and it's scheduled to get here in ONE MONTH. I cannot wait, and every day I notice times when having my Brompton would be so convenient. For instance, I had biked to rehearsal on my full-sized bike, and I was pretty tired and wanted to just metro home. But because it was 5 pm, aka "Peak of the Peak," there was no way a Metro worker would let me take my bike on the train. For that I'd have to wait until 7 pm. So I ended up, in my exhausted state, biking uphill 7 miles to get home. Yeah, it was my exercise for the day, but I'd really rather have had the option to Metro. With my folding bike I'll be able to!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Waiting for Spring

I told myself I would be the kind of bike commuter who rides to work during the winter months. I knew it would be cold, but I prepared with lots of gear. I went on an Amazon shopping spree for gloves and balaclavas and toe warmers and everything. I was ready. Yet I didn't anticipate just how cold it gets, just how dark it would be, just how difficult the weather would be. Snow, I could deal with. But DC hasn't gotten a lot of snow this year; instead we get cold, icy rain. There is NOTHING worse than icy rain -- not only is it super uncomfortable, it's also slippery (as my skinned arm and ripped cycling jacket can attest to). And the wind! It turns out 20 mph steady winds are doable, but those gusts of up to 35 mph are not, especially when it's 30 degrees outside.

I've barely ridden 20 miles this month.

I long for Spring. As the days slowly inch toward warmth, as the sun stays out slightly longer each day, I realize that we're just a few weeks away. Soon temperatures in the morning will be around 50 degrees, which is so comfortable for biking. Anything greater is just icing on the cake. I won't have to wear gloves anymore, and my outer layer can get ever lighter until one day, a few months from now, it will be 90 degrees and the breeze on the bike will provide sweet, sweet relief.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hitching a Ride

Sometimes I'll ride my bike to work on a Friday, but because I don't like to ride 26 miles in one day, I'll leave it there instead of riding it back home. When that happens, I often drive to the office the next day and bring my bike home on my trunk! Back in the spring I picked up a trunk mount rack from Amazon, and it's proved mighty handy when I just Can't Be Bothered to ride back. Here it is!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Winter Riding

I fully planned to ride my bike to work throughout the winter months, cold be damned! But a quick check of my log shows that I only rode 34 miles in the entire month of November – and the worst part is I went over three weeks between rides. In fairness, I was sick for much of that, and I had a bunch of evening commitments, making logistics difficult. But it was still disheartening (and, sadly, fattening).

I'm doing a lot better this month. With almost half the month complete, I have ridden close to 50 miles. It's not nearly as momentous as what I achieved during the summer, but then, I didn't have to bundle up with five layers and toe warmers during the summer! This morning I rode 13 miles to work -- impressive considering I'd left both pairs of gloves at the office. What did I do? I wore socks on my hands. Not the most stylish, but it worked in a pinch.

It had been a week since I last went riding. I really wanted to go sooner, but my Bionx crapped out on me, and it turns out riding to work without it is not nearly as fun. I can do it, sure, but it takes about 20 minutes longer. And that "quick" 4 mile jaunt from work to rehearsal at the church? It takes a lot longer than 20 minutes when you have to manually power up a 5% incline for at least half a mile! It's hills like that that really make me miss my pedal-assist.

Luckily, my dealer dropped off a spare system while mine is in the shop. He is without a doubt the best shop-owner I have ever dealt with, installing the entire system for free, and then making two housecalls to help with problems I was having. I'm a 45 minute drive from his shop! And he didn't have to give me a loaner system while he tries to fix my faulty battery. He's a real class act and I heartily encourage anyone who's thinking of the Bionx or any other electric system to head down to Green Pedals in Annapolis, MD.

I can't ride tomorrow because I've got an early conference to attend and then a swanky formal dinner at night. But Friday evening I shall brave the dark and cold!

Here's a picture of me this morning:

Under 40 degrees. I wore an under armour base layer,
T-shirt, fleece, Pearl Izumi shell, balaclava!
Also toe warmers.