The View from a Brooks

Posted: July 24th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling, Rides | No Comments »

For a time, when I rode I rode to train. Long rides on very hot summer days to get used to riding long on hot summer days for events, like the Elephant Rock ride or the Santa Fe Century. It was fun and exciting to be part of a large moving mass of cyclists, all riding towards a goal. My only regret from those times is that I never took any pictures. I was more focused on miles, RPMs and eating horrible-tasting GUs (the thought of eating one of those now, even makes me want to gag). So I missed out on taking pictures of some of the amazing places, people and scenes on those great rides.

Today, I always ride with a camera slung over my shoulders. It’s a little cumbersome on climbs and I’m a bit wary to take it on very steep climbs in case I’m moving too slowly to turn the cranks and end up landing on it. That’s one of my biggest fears. Hitting a super tough climb, barely turning the cranks and toppling into the path of a car coming up beside me.  It’s irrational as the only time I’ve ever toppled off my bike is when I’ve come to a stop light or sign, forgotten I’m clicked in, and slowly flopped to the side.

Recently, my rides have been closer to home and it’s really amazing what you see.

Granted, the pictures may be a little out-of-focus and most likely framed a little off-angle as I attempt to keep balance. I am thinking of taking the extra time to dismount and get a decent shot and I’ve been doing that more lately. It’s just a little more difficult when the road shoots straight up, like the one taken just at the start of Flagstaff Road.

The 2012 Ascent of Ward: Inspiration, Tears & a Wet Descent

Posted: July 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling | No Comments »

Barely the start

On July 4th, hubby and I had the day off so we made loose plans the night before with a friend to tackle Ward. Here it should be noted that the decision to undertake one of the hardest local climbs was made at the Lucero concert at the Boulder Theater, when everyone was feeling strong, young and healthy. Needless to say, once the concert had ended many of us were feeling feeble, old and and a bit pukey; staying up really late sometimes gives me an upset stomach.

The goal was a 7am start to avoid the blistering, suffocating heat of the afternoon. Colorado NEVER used to get this hot, so this early so planning to avoid the heat of the day has become a priority. Considering how late we got in, we were only a half hour off schedule when I left the house at 7:30. I decided to leave a little before the guys and expected them to catch me towards the top.

But that never happened.  At the turn-off to Ward from Left Hand Canyon, we each entered our own private world of woe. I know it has been a few years since my last ride up to Ward but I cannot believe how much cycling fitness I’ve lost in that time.  That’s not to say, I have not been working out, I just haven’t been getting the miles in on the bike and it showed, I felt it and I’m sure casual observers noted my struggle. For each of us, the ride challenged us for every mile, especially the last 6 and particularly the tight, abrupt turn to the right where the road rose up and up and up.

First off, I couldn’t drink enough and was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t have enough water to get me to the Ward spigot, located randomly on the side of the road about a mile from the Ward general store. It may surprise you that you can hop off your bike, casually remove a hose from its rocky resting place and use it to fill up your water bottles without concern of some sort of flesh-eating bacteria. But you can and I have.

I have to admit that the first 10 or so miles, up Left Hand Canyon, were not bad. And

The Peloton

early in the morning, the weather was cool and it was relaxing to hear the creek splashing along just below the road.  It was just the remaining 6 or so miles that left me feeling ragged and trashed. I also thought it would be pretty quiet once I got up there. Nope. It was like the entire cycling community of Boulder had had similar ideas and had left earlier, been faster and probably had not stayed up til 1am listening to Lucero (wouldn’t trade the concert experience tho’, they were superb!)

Once I arrived, exhausted and with a slight Elvis twitch to one of my legs, it began to rain. Initially, it felt wonderful and then enjoyment turned to concern when I realized I would have to ride down the steep hill I just climbed, in the rain, on a slick road. I stood under a few leaves to avoid the rain. I didn’t feel much like moving and waited for hubby to arrive. He did, saw me looking like pained and drenched, and intelligently made the choice to go inside the store, buy something and warm up a bit. Savvy man.

I waited for a bit and thought “I’m not getting any warmer, might as well start on down”. I made what I thought were very clear hand gestures to hubby and started my slow, water-spraying descent. It was raining pretty hard by this point and I wasn’t at all certain if descending was such a good idea, after all. But in time, we put enough distance between ourselves and the rain clouds, that the road became dry and we dried off, as well.

We threw complete caution, remaining strength and ego at getting over the back side of Old Stage. I hobbled over the remaining climb and coasted nearly all the way home. After inhaling a vast expanse of mexican food, I was supremely happy and impressed with ourselves. There were so many times where my internal, lazy-ass commentator almost had me convinced to turn back. But I didn’t.  Now, I’m just trying to figure out a time to try it again.

Copenhagen Cycling

Posted: June 25th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling | 2 Comments »

Even the dogs go by bike

Even Danish dogs go by bike.

We’ve all seen the glamor shots of gorgeous, Danish people cycling. Even Danish grannies move with speed and confidence down the cycling lane.
But do they have Rockabilly-inspired cruiser night rides on Thursday? I think not.

Finding My Climbing Legs on Lee Hill Road

Posted: June 5th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling | No Comments »

The only cycling route that may be more difficult and humbling than the first season’s ascent up Old Stage would have to be the first season’s ascent up Lee Hill (For the locals, yes, I know there’s Ward & Gold Hill but I have gotten to those yet).

On Sunday morning, I dragged myself away from reading about the dissolution of the European Union, to begin my efforts to get back my climbing legs. I used to love riding up hill. A few years ago, one of my favorite after work rides was up to Jamestown; I could power up Left Hand Canyon and o into Jamestown with enough energy to make dinner when I got home. Not no more. I guess age, a few pounds, and a steel frame I love have all conspired to turn these hilly assaults from a quick burst of spontaneity to one requiring  planning and post-ride recovery time.

I wanted to get an early start because a storm was supposed to be blowing through Boulder and I don’t really like riding in the heat of the day anymore.  But I didn’t get out of the house until 9am. I rode along 28th waiting until the right moment in between spurts of church-bound traffic to make my turn up Lee Hill.

Lee Hill  road used to be fairly quiet but since a couple of big housing developments went in on either side of the road, traffic has increased. But that’s ok, because Boulder has done a great job with the shoulder. Of course, there’s not much of a  shoulder when you begin the climb up Old Stage but there’s enough signs to remind drivers to be on the lookout for slogging, heavy-breathing cyclists.

Oddly, Lee Hill actually forks to the left instead of going straight, which turns into Old Stage. I took a quick breather before the left to gather my confidence and determination, because I knew this was going to hurt. And I was bit concerned about being unable to turn the cranks just as a car passed me and ending up under their wheel.

The thing about climbing, for me at least, is controlling my breathing. If I can control my breathing and still maintain a tempo so that I don’t fall off, then I can make it up just about anything. And that’s what I focused on as I climbed Lee Hill. Slowly.  I thought about making it from one shady spot to another. Lee Hill starts off harder than Old Stage because there’s quick kick just at the beginning; you do get some relief during the switch back but it’s short-lived.  I made it up the first ‘summit’, and then started downhill. The views on the descent were spectacular. Big fields, tight turns, and varying shades of green zipped by as I flew down the road.

The descent was fast and over in an instant when I hit the proverbial wall of the second climb. At this point, my calves ached. I don’t know why as that is one part of my body that has never ached from riding. My ass, my lower back, my upper back, all those have hurt in the past but never the butt. I finally reached the top of Lee Hill and savored the breeze and speed of the descent until turning right onto Left Hand Canyon.

You don’t realize how far you’ve climbed until you begin the descent down Left Hand. Nor do you realize just how many people are out cycling on a summer day in Boulder. There was a huge unbroken ribbon of brightly-colored spandex from the Buckingham Park turn off and where I had turned right onto Left Hand Canyon.

The night before I decided I wanted to ride up Lee Hill but then come back up over Old Stage. And as I made that right turn onto Old Stage, I considered it probably one the worst possible ideas I had had in a long time, including the extra slices of pizza the night before.

I turned the wheel up and just hoped that my calf muscles would remain in my legs and not explode down my ankle. I was briefly distracted by a huge mule deer sitting contentedly in a field. I was all but spinning in one place for some time, so I had the chance to see her courted by an enormous stag and produce offspring. Finally, I made it to the top of Old Stage, festooned with a dozen or so mailboxes.

The descent down Old Stage unnerves me for a couple of reasons: the mule deer, I mentioned earlier, do wander across the road and there’s a stop sign at the intersection with Lee Hill. Traffic descending Lee Hill don’t have to stop but you do and it’s difficult to stop when you are all but parallel to the road.

It’s a challenging, beautiful loop that combines great climbing, beautiful views and savory descents.  There were a few times when I thought the effort was not worth the discomfort but as I crested each hilltop and made my way home, I was so thrilled to be back riding and riding up hill.

Riding to Rivendell – Getting My Climbing Legs Back

Posted: April 30th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling | No Comments »

A few weeks ago, before my trip to NYC and a cold that made my head feel as though it were filled with cement, I pointed my bike west for the first ascent of NCAR. NCAR is the acronym for the National Center for Atmospheric Research and it sits like a citadel of deep thinking above Boulder.

The NCAR ride is a great way to ease back into the joys and pains of riding hills. I know I can’t hit a ride to Ward right out the gate, so the NCAR ride is a gentle reintroduction to running out of gears.

One of the great features of the ride to NCAR is that I can ride the bike paths nearly all the way out there. I catch the bike path that runs parallel along  the ugliest road in Boulder  Foothills Pkwy, take the flyover, and keep heading straight until I hit CU Boulder East. I continue onto Bear Creek Path. I can actually continue on the bike path(s) for most of the way until turning up onto Table Mesa.

The initial ride past Safeway and some of the residential streets off of Table Mesa are not a bad way to ease into the ride. It’s not that the NCAR ride is outrageously hard, like Old Stage, it’s just a bit short and tart for the first 1/3. But what I find distracting is how amazingly gorgeous the views are and I generally have plenty of time to savor each section because I am not moving quickly. But if I could create a road to Rivendell it would be the climb to NCAR. The blues of the mountain range in the distance, the dark greens of the short grasses that cover the hillside create this enchanting setting, where you can almost imagine Legolas and folk sunning themselves.

Why I Ride?

To Have Two-Wheeled Adventures Like My Mom Had Posted: April 17th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling | No Comments »

Sarai Snyder over at Girl Bike Love is promoting Cyclo Femme – a day to encourage women to get back into the saddle and ride. One of the ways she is promoting this event is to ask women, who ride, why they ride. Sarai asked me a week or so ago to contribute one, so I’ve been weeding through my memories to pick a story that’s both accurate and worth repeating.

One of the reasons I began riding was because I wanted to follow in the adventurous footsteps of my mother. My mom cycled quite a bit growing up in Liverpool. She belonged to a cycling club, which included people with all sorts of ranges of talents and bikes.  One guy was all but semi-pro and went to the Tour de France one year. My mom rode a 3-speed, racing green, Raleigh Hercules.  She said Liverpool had several clubs and many of the smaller towns nearby also had their own so the roads would be busy on a Saturday morning as all the clubs began their rides. I can just about imagine the roads clogged with cyclists after watching the string of vibrant colored spandex cycling out of Boulder on a warm morning.

A common ride for her club was to ride from Liverpool to Wales, stay overnight and then cycle home. It was a big ride for her. She was in her early teens and the route  covered 50-odd miles round trip and involved a ferry ride.  She said her younger brother, Bill, once fell asleep on his way home from one such ride. They would ride through Betws-y-Coed and rent space in barn from a farmer.

When I began to ride beyond my neighborhood streets, I imagined myself cycling down country lanes, passing into ANOTHER COUNTRY and stopping at quaint country pubs for rest. The reality, of course, was quite different. I grew up in San Antonio, which is ranch, truck and football country. It has changed tremendously since I was riding along but during the early 80′s and 90′s, there was nothing particularly quaint about my rides. But they were adventures in their own way. Some rides took me into the leafy, well-healed streets of Alamo Heights (a small, wealthy, annexed part of SA) ; others straight downtown past San Pedro Park (the oldest park in San Antonio) for a swing by Charles E. James bike shop (the oldest bike shop in San Antonio) and then past the Alamo and other major landmarks. I actually felt safer cycling downtown because there wasn’t a whole lot of activity going on down there; San Antonio’s downtown was quite vacant at the time.

Many years later, I live in one of the best cycling areas (that doesn’t have a cycling culture) in the country and get to experience more closely her stories of adventure. But it was her  stories of riding with her brother, through the countryside  that began my affair on two-wheels.

Thanks, Mom!

Don’t Buy A Bike

Until you’ve had a bike fit

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

That's gotta be uncomfortable = Image from Ask Howie

Sarai from Girl Bike Love and Chris from Pro Peloton put on a great learning event on Thursday. The theme of the evening was getting the most fun, efficiency and enjoyment out of your bike. And one of the ways you can work towards that goal is to get a bike fit BEFORE you buy the bike. Yes, you might see the total dream bike: right colors, sweet design, and after a quick cruise round the block decide this is IT. But before you plunk down the coin right there and ride home, take a moment. This an opportunity for you to dial in the little measurements: seat height, brake position, handle bar width that can turn your dream ride into a lifelong affair.

I, of course, have never actually done in that order: bike fit then bike purchase. But after hearing Chris talk, plus his obvious passion for helping people, I know that next time I’m plunking down a wad cash, I’m going to hunker into a bit fit approach to make the most of my investment.

Cycling with Flair: Cycling Wearing Heals

Posted: April 9th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling, Cycling Flair | 2 Comments »

There are numerous articles on the types of clothing you can ride to make a spin more comfortable. Wicking or blended fabric, wool or synthetic, lycra or cotton, the discussion about performance materials rages unabated.  I know I was a dyed-in-the-wool lycra proponent when I first began riding Boulder roads. Living in Texas, I had never really considered changing attire to ride, I just hopped on my bike and cruised around San Antonio and Austin. But after moving to Boulder and catching the cycling bug, my closet soon bulged with all manner of brightly colored, spandexy shorts and tops. I wore all of it, a lot, every weekend I was out on a long ride somewhere appropriately attired and clicked in for a ride of miles of miles.

I guess my cycling attired reflected how I had organized my life. When I was out riding, I was out: right gear, power bars, and some barely palatable sports drink. I rode into town but not very often so when I wasn’t riding long distances, I wasn’t riding. Commuting rarely figured into my life, let alone every day so I never considered that having separate clothes for cycling might be a bit redundant.

It wasn’t until I got my first single-speed that my ‘cycling wardrobe’ really expanded. It was an old steel-framed, single-speed Trek and I loved it. Loved it and rode it as often as I could in all sorts of clothing: jeans, pants, skirts (if I was able to position the bike to get my leg over the top tube), sweaters, t-shirts – you get the idea. And I began to ride more often, to more places, my wardrobe limited only by my ability to swing my leg over the top tube and not get chain oil on my leg.  I fell in love with commuting and all of a sudden didn’t feel the urge to put in long mileage for the sake of putting in long mileage. It became about fun, and meeting up for dinner, dropping into the library.

I won’t mention what happened to that much loved single-speed, suffice it to say that even steel crumples when it is jammed into a garage door.

Today, I want to ride in clothes that I can wear when I arrive at my final destination. Granted for longer rides out amongst the hills of Boulder, I’m probably not going to get clicked in wearing a pair of heals (although..). But most of my time spent in the saddle is cycling to work, to the grocery store, or out for dinner. So, I decided I’m going to check out some of the cycling-inspired attire companies have been making.

If you have any suggestion on where I might look, drop me a line.

Biking Across America – Bicycle Diaries the Movie at the Dairy

Posted: April 6th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling, Cycling Events | No Comments »

The Dairy in Boulder had an exhibition devoted to bike art, including a showing of Bicycle Dreams. Some of the art work was pretty conventional but there were a number of pieces that were really inspirational and obviously took a lot of creativity and hard work to create. I was mightily impressed and would have happily purchased and walked out with several pieces. As it was I walked out with some pretty intense memories from a movie that made me rethink adventure, extremes and hardship. I don’t want to give away any of the key moments of the movie but I think explaining the overall message I left with won’t betray too much of the story.

I can’t imagine sleeping as little as these cyclists did in order to finish in the allotted time. There’s the whole physical and mental stress of riding long miles but add to it a lack of sleep and I’m not sure how the people who finished held onto their sanity.  I don’t think I can ever fully appreciate the depths and breadths their psyche traveled during this event. What they experienced must have been transcendent and hellish.

Staggeringly beauty of the natural of the world. I think most countries can boast of dramatic scenery and breathtaking vistas. I also think the US as large as it is provides tremendous a rich and varied landscape. But can you imagine being exposed to them all so nakedly and so intensely?

Riding outside your comfort zone. I wonder what’s it like to keep riding. I go out for a ride and know that my final destination is really my back patio with a glass of beer at the end of a day on the bike. These guys/gals mounted up each day to take them farther and farther into their journey and their ultimate destination was measured in miles not location. How do you prepare mentally and physically for ongoing discomfort and an end that is more of a concept that an actuality?

This is a great movie to see. It doesn’t romanticize adventure; it very much exposes the toll it takes both on the participants and supporters.  It does a good job of honestly conveying both the extreme risks and delights of doing something extraordinary.

Even if you don’t ride, if the idea of walking out your door and stepping out for a great experience excites you, you’ll get something out of this movie.





A Fearful and Loathsome Descent

that last 2 seconds

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

From David Byrne's Journal

I’m just kicking off the season’s riding. Looking for the sweet, warm calm between wind storms and biting Spring cold temps/rain. And on those days where the needle falls comfortably in the middle temps, I head out to the false flats and flats that run parallel to the Foothills (it’s too early in the year to kick off the big climbs). Most of the time, I take 36 out of Boulder, following the ribbon of other cyclists in their brightly-colored spandex. The slow incline out of Boulder gives me a chance to warm my legs and stretch out. Once past the Gateway Park, round the concrete works, I begin the big descent.  This is my least favorite part of the entire journey. I would rather take my chances and ride over broken glass than take this swift bend out of Boulder.

Yes, I am exaggerating, of course, but this one section of road with its fast turn and close proximity to cars gaining their top speeds reveals to me all the vulnerabilities of wearing flimsy clothing and riding skinny tires. I don’t know what it is that turns my stomach quivering as I am not generally either a timid nor a scared cyclist. If I was, I certainly would not have continued to ride as often or for as long. And it’s not as if Boulder hasn’t done a superb job on the shoulder, which is wide; or with their signs, which say “Share the ‘effin’ road with nice, groovy cyclists” (or something like that). I just feel unusually exposed on this one section of road. To get through it, I point my wheel straight and close my eyes. Ha. In reality, I get into my drops so I have quick access to my brakes, sit back on the saddle and pedal. I stay far to the right so that the speedsters can overtake me on the left and keep my eyes open and alert. The section is fast so the moment of fear passes pretty quickly and then I’m climbing again.

Are there road sections that scare you? If so, where are they and how do you ride through with confidence?