What do do when you’re not riding – Read about riding

Posted: February 7th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Book Review, Cycling | No Comments »

I’ve read more about riding this season than actually have ridden. It has not been unusually cold or snowy, I just haven’t done it. Part of the reason is that I no longer commute to work, which got me out every day in every weather. Working from home all day and by the end of the work day t seems to take me a herculean surge of energy to get myself out from the warm cocoon of home and out onto the paths.

That’s not to say I haven’t been riding at all. I’ve been cruising up and down the bike paths (see: Ent’s Graveyard), confirming and correcting the routes I’ve written up for a book I’m working on with a friend.

ut more often I’ve been staying in and reading about the races, scrapes and dieting experiments of the Wankmeister author of Cycling in the South Bay.  Then there’s Barbara Savage’s epic Miles from Nowhere.  Her cycling adventure with her husband is humbling, inspiring and deserves to be read twice.  I think about her sometimes when I’m riding along perfectly paved, completely separate bike paths and begrudgingly accept that I have it really very easy in Boulder.

I mean, how can you read this and not put the book down, walk around your space and think “I don’t know how I would handle that”

This section she describes riding in Egypt

….”But those last thirty-six miles packed a real wallop. The mood in the villages between Qena and Luxor was ugly, even brutal. Instead of grabbing for a single rock or stick when we approached, the villagers gathered mounds of debris to hurl at us. …Some of the villagers came at us brandished tree branches.”

I can’t imagine the strength and stamina it must take to ride a touring bike, packed with your worldly goods and having to joust with people to move forward.

Sadly, Barbara was struck by a truck and killed in her native Santa Barbara. I think it’s what’s so disturbing yet so powerful and enduring about her story.  You’ll have to pick it up the book yourself to understand the disconnect you feel to read about a life so fully live, cut short so quickly.


Cycling to get “Closer to the Ground” and other titles

Posted: December 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Book Review | No Comments »

Ever since I read Closer to the Ground, I’ve been devouring naturalist books. I don’t know what you call a genre of book that describes peoples, families, communities living   close to the natural environment. It’s not that they’ve turned their back on this modern world – many wrote their novels on a laptop – but they appear to want to live more fully and more appreciatively in their surroundings and natural world. They write about big dinners with neighbors, shopping at grocery stores but also about the best place to go clamming, winter night walk-abouts, and children growing up knowing the sounds of different birds and how to set lobster traps. I’m sure to some degree it’s romanticized but by not too far of a stretch; there’s nothing romantic about your car sliding down the road and off the side nor of cutting enough fire wood to last through a winter. And although the tasks they elect to do themselves are often hard-work and challenging, the hands-on approach provides them with so much more than simply a cord of wood or a dinner of clams. It seems those chores and tasks become imbued with and additional sense of well-being and feeling of stewardship towards the land and what they take.

Dylan Tomine, who wrote Closer to the Ground (awesome book –get it now), also included a wonderful list of similar natural-living inspired books.  I quickly logged into the Boulder Public library site and put a hold on Just Before Dark, Wild Marsh and The Collector. I enjoyed the Wild Marsh but for some reason the writings of Jim Harrison in Just Before Dark have made a deeper and I think longer-lasting impression.

Like this line:

“It has dawned on me that we appear to make specific decisions on a subconscious level far before we realize them, then simultaneously war against these decisions on a conscious level”

I think that provides the well-spring to guilt. Anyway, next up is The Collector, which is about the David Douglas, the guy who  lent his name to… guess.. the Douglas Fir.

Will these books inspire  me to begin hunting for my own food, chopping wood for our fire and looking for mushrooms? Inspire me? Yes. But I’ll definitely have to start small, like harvesting my vegetables when they’re ready instead of waiting for the dogs to develop a taste for cucumbers. And I guess in some ways, using the bike for quick errands is my  attempt to enjoy the process instead of simply just trying to get wherever, as quickly as possible. Oddly, working from home has gotten me out of the habit of jumping on my bike for those quick errands around town. The ritual of riding into work, got me used to doing most of the my running around on two-wheels. It’s one of things I miss about working in an office regularly.

In the meantime, I’ll keep reading, checking in with Whole Larder Love and poring over some the crazy ideas captured in Just Before Dark.

My First Rapha Jersey – A Review

Posted: October 31st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Gear Review | No Comments »

First off, I readily admit that I’m a sucker for the Rapha ads. The sweeping vistas, the crazily steep switch backs, and the light patina of tradition that covers all their shots. They make me want to get into some splendid cycling gear and cycle straight up and finish my descent at a table full of amazing food prepared by someone’s Italian grandma. The cycling up anywhere is quite possible in Boulder, after all we sit at the foot of the Foothills.  The getting clad in splendid cycling gear poses more of a challenge, which is why I saved up and with the addition of some birthday cash I splurged and bought a Rapha jersey. Online. In cream.

For many people, spending that type of money on a single-use type of clothing is ridiculous. Buying it online without trying it on adds another layer of stupidity. Purchasing workout gear in a cream-color and you may as well drop a maraschino cherry down the front of this particular decision.

But that’s what I did and here’s my story.

From a quality and packaging perspective, Rapha has it dialed.  My jersey was folded into a musette bag along with other Rapha branded materials. It was an exciting experience just unfolding the package.

I could not wait – even til a day of sunshine and planned rides – to try it on. So I did. I pulled the delicious-feeling fabric  over my head and thought ‘hmmm…this feels a little snug’ but I was still wearing a light wool top. My birthday is in March so here in Boulder we’re still layer dressing when the rest of the country it seems is wearing shorts and flip-flops.  I also have to admit being lulled by the new fantasy-sizing that many companies use in order for us all to feel better about our expanding girths. Rapha does not deign to flatter; they want you to earn that rider’s physique so you don’t mess with the clean lines of their clothing.

There were two results from this hasty trying on event: 1) I didn’t realize that breathable meant thin and sheer  – it’s not noticeable in other colors but very obvious when you wear cream (without an under layer) 2) maybe large would have been more comfortable.

But I still love it. I’ve been out riding in it a few times – generally wearing a light jacket over it – and it’s super comfortable and just feels good against the skin. The fabric is light but not flimsy. In other words, it’s rugged enough for any sort of cycling. The fit is aggressive but a) it’s not their fault I’m between a medium/large b) is probably meant for fitter, faster bike riders.  The craftsmanship – this jersey is well made and I don’t expect to need another  –  sheer, cream-colored – one anytime soon. Nor really any other color.

But I will not buy online again. cream-colored. jerseys.


What You Find, When You’re Not Looking

Cycling Boulder’s LoBo Trail

Posted: October 15th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling, Riding Trails | No Comments »

Without too much strong arming, I was able to persuade my husband to help me find the cycling-friendly route to Longmont instead of cycling to the Ward.  It’s like substituting a climb up your nearest Fourteener with a stroll around the park. The two rides couldn’t be more different but I sweetened the deal with a promise of an Old Chub at Oskar Blues and my sparkling personality.

I had heard and even unintentionally cycled along parts of the LoBo trail but had failed

Sponsored by Vecchio's - Not Really

to find the connecting points from Niwot to Longmont.  I had warned hubby before we started that my general knowledge and confidence of finding the route was slim at best.  Armed with that knowledge, we decided to ride along and see what happened – so long as we ended up at Oskar’s.

The Boulder to Niwot route was fairly easy, picking up the LoBo trail just off of Jay Rd. heading East. You actually ride through Gunbarrel – hopping on and off the Twin Lakes/Niwot Rd trail – on the LoBo trail.

There were a couple of spots, where you could have lost the plot had you not been paying attention or in my case, brought someone along who was paying attention (i.e somewhere near 83rd/Glen Village Lefthand, you have to take a left).  We did manage to find most of the connecting roads and trails to Longmont but most of the fun was  in following a trail because we liked the look of it or it was pointing in the general direction.  Using whim and luck we found all sorts of really lovely off-road trails that snaked and curled around creeks and green open space, and that, in places, made crunching sounds as we rode over fallen leaves. Even better they all more or less lead us in the same direction – at one point, we appeared to be riding parallel to the Diagonal Hwy and adjacent to farm land that still had the brittle remains of summer corn stalks standing upright in the field.

The ride was a great mix of off-road and on-road and come to find out you can ride the LoBo trail for many miles past Hover St (and Oskar Blues). Next riding plans are going to include a packed lunch and a few extra hours to allow for some aimless dawdling and new trail discovery.

Why Can’t Cycling Just Be Fun…

Posted: October 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling, Sustainability | No Comments »

I’m reading this truly amazing book called Closer to the Ground – the story of  a family that appreciates modern conveniences while enjoying the bounty they get from foraging, growing their own food and fishing.  Dylan Tomine’s tale is not about rejecting modern life but about appreciating and nurturing the natural world around us. But it’s this line from the introduction that I think best defines his approach:

People are baffled at having to choose between the gang plows of industrial farming and a two-man goat cheese operation.”

It does often seem like life’s choice are cast in extremes; the unappealing description of both sides is at best unflattering, at worst deceiving.  And in most situations in life, the question is not really one of either or. Much the same can be said of cycling. It’s either portrayed as some sort of elite, exclusive, exhausting endeavor or as a completely unrealistic form of transportation.

Is there a middle way

There’s a time and place for both, I guess, except if you are one of the ducks. But I think cycling should be more like:

Fun with a friend

If you can’t own a bike shop…

Posted: October 8th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling Shops | No Comments »

Have a seat

Then you may as well visit and hang out at bike shops like Huckleberry Bicycles in San Francisco.  F-man and I were in San Francisco a few weeks ago and wandered into Huckleberry bikes on a whim and were thoroughly jazzed to see a whole wall dedicated to Brooks saddles and gear, a folded Brompton and clothing to make a commuter’s journey a little more comfortable.

I’ve often played with the idea of opening a bike shop that catered primarily to commuters. A place where you could hang out for coffee while waiting  for a quick tune-up, get access to easy-riding commuter bikes and try out commuting gear.


In Boulder, where elite cycling and cyclists can sometimes take the lion share of attention in bike shops, it was encouraging to see a bike shop branching out and

Pedal Panties

catering to more than just one type of rider. I wonder if a similar concept could work in pace-line crazy Boulder.

Huckleberry Bikes had a pretty good range of women’s clothing, a full service shop and – ahem – pedal panties (how have I gone this long without them). More importantly, the whole vibe of the shop was about having fun on your bike.  The guys in the shop were really friendly and only the lack of room in my suitcase prevented me from taking some Chrome goodies home. Although, had they had a hoodie in my size, I would have stuffed that in hubby’s case.




First Draft of My First Ever Cycling Guide to Boulder – Almost Complete

Posted: October 4th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling | No Comments »

I’ve been neglecting this blog a bit because – well, I’d like to say I’ve been exclusively focused on writing my cycling guide but that would be only partially true.  I’ve been traveling, got distracted by an amazing book about Fell running (Wild Running) and have been absorbed by the day-to-day activities that can so consume you, it’s October before you realize the year is coming to a close.

A Guide to Cycling for Coffee (and pie, and other yummy stuff)

In between the ebb and flow of ‘too much to do’ and ‘way too much to do’, I’ve been working on a cycling guide. Yes, there are tons of cycling guides out there already – what could someone have to say that could possible be new?  Well, how about a cycling guide that emphasizes riding in heels instead of spandex and instead of pace line tempo the goal is coffee shops and restaurants? That’s what I’ve been working on most of the summer. I still have tons more to do: confirm directions (not my strongest of skills), capture a few more images and illustrations and edit (and edit and edit).

Still, I’m excited. I’m sending the draft out to a few friends, which is something I’ve never done before.   But if I can’t handle a friend’s criticism then neither I nor this little project will move very far forward.  Onward.

Most Spectacular of Rides – No Special Riding Attire Required

Posted: September 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling, Rides | No Comments »

Living in Colorado, we are spoiled by impressive, awe-inspiring natural scenery.  But when I trundled across the Golden Gate Bridge on a fat-tire, aged rental, I was dazzled by the immensity of the bridge and the breathtaking coastal scenery below. It had to be one of the most scenic rides I have ever been on. We rented bikes at Pier 29 in San Francisco and rode over the bridge to Sausilito. We were having such an awesome time, fueled by yummy tacos and margaritas that we decided to keep riding to Tiburon and then catch the ferry back.  It was a wonderful reminder that you don’t need special kit, even a decent bike to go exploring and be moved by the natural and man-made world around us.

When the end is high – Scaling Super James

Posted: August 22nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling | No Comments »

His hike

A few weeks ago, I discovered this amazing hike up past Lyons called Ceran St. Vrain. It’s a great little hike: tree-lined, rushing water nearby and an elusive smell of Colorado conifers. After one hike, it quickly became my favorite hike of the summer.  It’s pretty easy to get too, as well. Just take Left Hand Canyon up to Jamestown and keep driving until a sign says to take a right. The drive up is beautiful and you can watch the dusky mountains rise up in you rear view mirror as your car strains to take you up and over the mountain pass. The sound of the engine working hard to accelerate through some of the switch backs should have been an early warning that cycling up this behemoth would be no small undertaking and should only be attempted after months of training, appropriate snacks and beverages could be carried on the journey and an overnight stay arranged somewhere. With all that in mind, I decided to try it last weekend with a Kind bar, two water bottles and a change purse with money.

The ride up to Jamestown was pleasant, the weather was cool and I kept my eyes open for fall

One Fur

changing leaves.  I met my hubby up the near the Merc, where we organized our approach to the “Super James” portion of the ride. The agreement was that we would each ride our own pace, which really meant we would ride alone.  But the idea was that he would ride to the trail head, turn round, meet me coming down and we would ride together back down. I didn’t know how long it would take me to do the whole ride and I didn’t want to spend all afternoon away from the furs.

Off Frase went and I settled into an easy pedaling rhythm that lasted for…oh…about 20 yards outside of Jamestown when the road kicked up like a rearing rodeo horse. And it never really leveled out, it just became less steep and then more steep.

I actually enjoyed most of the ride. It was obviously very challenging and I was on the edge in some parts, where I wasn’t certain I could actually keep turning the cranks.  But it was quiet and serene, broken only by gunfire (I guess you can shoot up there so long as you’re not in a residential area). I made it within 3 miles of the peak-to-peak highway before hubby collected me as he came shooting down (no pun intended).  It was actually a good place to turn-around as I was beginning to make square shapes with my pedal strokes and still had to get home. I didn’t make it to the off-road part but from what I understand the road kicks and twists, all with the added fun of loose gravel and sand.

I so badly wanted my pictures to capture the unexpected beauty of that ride but whether from vertigo, exhaustion or just plain bad composition none of them do the scenery any justice. I may have to go back up and retake a load of pictures but it may take me some time to recover.

Time-Trialing Against the Rain

Posted: August 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling | No Comments »

It doesn’t usually rain in Boulder. When it does it causes all sorts of panic on the roads as the same drivers that plow through snow storms with reckless delight, slow to a creep when there’s a hint of mist in the air. Which is why when I saw this floaty, misty stuff hanging around the Flatirons, I was not entirely convinced that a) it would actually rain down here in the flat lands b) if I did get caught how wet could I possibly get?

I rolled out towards Goose Creek path and cycled down past 55th, heading towards what looked like a sliver of blue. I figured if I could head out east quickly enough I might outpace the rain clouds and perhaps they’d peter out and lose interest in heading east.

But then the wind picked up and rain clouds stitched up the seam of blue and I thought, “hmmm…maybe I have some misplaced confidence and I should head home before I have to figure out how to ride in the rain”.

It came down fast and hard

I turned my bike around but it was already too late. The floaty, misty stuff I had dismissed earlier in my ride had blown hard, cold rain down the mountain.  I had on high-summer clothing, sunglasses and sun block. The rain approached me sideways, bounced up off the pavement and drenched me within moments. It was the type of rain where it seemed like my wheel was kicking up as much moisture as the clouds were dumping. The water was pouring into my shoes. Fortunately, I hadn’t gone out too far so it didn’t take long for me to get home and peel my drenched clothes off of me. I did not outpace the rain but I did get some great pictures of the clouds rolling down and  that delicious feeling of warmth after a cold, outdoorsy experience and it only took 15 minutes.