Safety First in Cycling

share the roadI pulled my June 2017 issue of Bicycling magazine out of my mailbox and inwardly groaned–another issue focused on rating new road bikes. You’d think based on the number of issues dedicated to it that every cyclist buys 4 bikes a year. I dove into it today to see if there was anything of interest to me and I was thrilled to find that much of the issue was dedicated to cycling safety.

If you are not a cyclist you may be thinking, bicyclists should follow the rules! This is the most common response I hear when people learn that I ride as my main form of transportation. And I get as aggravated as you when I see bicyclists riding on the sidewalk or jamming unsafely through an intersection. Arrogant and reckless cyclists hurt all of us because they erode respect for our vulnerability. But when I’m behind the wheel of my car I remember that cyclists (and pedestrians) are so much more vulnerable, cars are so much more numerous on the road, and road design is car-centric.

There have already been a few high profiles of professional cyclists hit by vehicles while training and some have died. The risks of dangerous drivers are real if you ride regularly. Italics are quotes from Bicycling magazine. 41% of you who pedal four or more days a week have been hit. 66% of you observe distracted drivers on most or every ride.

Dangerous drivers are sometimes intentionally aggressive: 31% have been the target of a thrown object. 52% of women say they experience aggressive driver behavior on at least some of their rides. 33% of men say the same.

reflective tires
Bontrager tires with reflective sidewalls keep you on the right side of the law and are extremely effective.

This issue also includes many stories about the lack of concern by law enforcement when there are altercations between cards and bikes. Two pages are dedicated to the names of people killed by drivers in the last two years. They represent just 36% of the estimated 1600 cyclists killed.

The good news is that cycling is getting safer. And this issue shares research on the benefits of daytime running lights. Cyclists who draw attention to their moving parts are up to 83% more noticeable. Human eyes are wired to see motion. While a reflective jersey is good–highlight your feet, ankles and legs with reflective materials.

I am guilty of taking more precautions for children than for myself. This information is motivating me to invest in some reflective gear for my daily commute. It is worth it because the health benefits of cycling way outweigh the risks of riding alongside cars.

 

 

Coping with Le Tour Rest Day Withdrawal with Netflix

Watch on Netflix: Rising From Ashes about Rwandan bike racing team.
Watch on Netflix: Rising From Ashes about Rwandan bike racing team.

I do not expect many of you to relate to my Tour de France withdrawals on a rest day. You have to be obsessed to find the rest day between stages 9 and 10 a trial. I was distracted by my drive from Roseburg OR to Sacramento, still I got home at 5:30 p.m. and all I had was stage reruns on-line. I wish I had known about the clutch of cycling movies on Netflix. Bicycling magazine just tweeted these five titles.

A couple of them I have watched on Air New Zealand: Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist and Stop at Nothing: the Lance Armstrong Story. They are both intense films that give you a window to the passions that drive a world-class cyclist. Any film about Lance makes me angry. So how do you cleanse?

30 for 30: Slaying the Badger is a documentary focused on Greg LeMond. He is one of my heroes and this focuses on Greg’s relationship with Bernard Hinault (the Badger).  One of the other films I have yet to watch: Clean Spirit. I have yet to watch it and the description reminds me of my favorite cycling film, Chasing Legends. Clean Spirit is about the Argos-Shimano (now Giant) team in 2014 Tour de France season and includes Marcel Kittel. Rwandan cycling team

The final film is the most inspiring cycling film yet made: Rising From Ashes. I first learned about this documentary about the Rwandan cycling program after the genocide at Storylines Conference. I ordered the DVD and watched it many times even though my copy skipped. It was my first choice for viewing today. Parts are difficult to look at especially because it is real; however, it is overwhelmingly uplifting. Everyone should watch this film! Plus watching people ride on homemade wooden bikes will make you hug your bike.

Cycling Along the Portland Riverfront

I love Portland. I have visited almost once a year for many years. I returned with Sarah Harriet and Marcos to attend the World Domination Summit and enjoy the city. I drove my Mini and packed my Brompton bike.

The Springwater Park Trail is very busy on weekends.
The Springwater Corridor Trail is very busy on weekends.

I still need to get some miles in before RAGBRAI but I felt under the weather. Finally on Sunday I was able to go across the street to West End Bikes and add some air to my tires and get directions to the Springwater Corridor Trail.

Springwater bike and pedestrian trailIt was a quick downhill glide on Stark Street to the parkway. My plan was to ride across the Steel bridge then east to the Hawthorne bridge and return, then do a time check and see if I had time to do another loop.

I turned right because the Farmers Market on my left blocked my view of the Steel bridge. The weather was in the 80s and there was no breeze so it felt warm. It felt great to be on my bike so I kept meandering down the path looking for a bike-friendly bridge to cross. People and bikes share a wide path so now is not the time to ride fast.

new bridge?I missed the Hawthorne bridge and rode to a new light rail and bike/ped bridge that is not open yet. I followed a couple of other cyclists to the Hawthorne bridge and crossed to the other side.

There was less congestion and I was able to enjoy my ride. I was so relaxed I missed the jog toward the river on to the ramps and trail right on the river.

he view from the Hawthorne bridge across the Columbia River is refreshing.
The view from the Hawthorne bridge across the Columbia River is refreshing.

This led me directly to the Steel bridge. I enjoyed riding across the river and back toward the Farmer’s Market. I did a time check and decided to head back to the Mark Spencer Hotel in the Pearl District. Portland is often listed as one of the top bicycle cities in the USA. They have dedicated bike lanes in bright green and traffic controls with special bicycle signals.

I am glad I got on my bike in Portland.

The Tour de France Fan Tribe

Whilst I am traveling around England and France chasing the Tour de France, I am part of a unique tribe. We are not just cycling fans, we are keen enough to spend our vacation time and our savings to traipse around the countryside, stand in the freezing rain for the privilege of seeing the peloton go by in about 30 seconds.

You can usually recognize the tribe by their clothes. Many are wearing bicycle kits with team jerseys or Tour de France leader jerseys– telltale signs on trains and on sidewalks that these people are following the Tour. 

 A tribal subgroup is the English speaking fans who do not speak much French.  Today I met Greg and Lorrie from Cincinatti, Ohio in my hotel breakfast area. They stood out in the freezing rain on the sixth section of cobbles yesterday. (Hopefully Lorrie will guest blog and share her photos). “Our clothes may never dry, “ they said like happy fans able to partake in the suffering on Stage 5. 

 At the start of Stage 6 in Arras, I found myself standing next to Mark and Jessica from the Lake District in England (see photo). They were going to just follow the Tour in Yorkshire and then they went to London, and then they found themselves driving their car onto a ferry to Lille and now Arras.  We traded information like news starved sports fans that we are. They got soaked on the first set of cobbles and spent the day waiting and wondering what happened to their favorite rider Chris Froome.

 Thank goodness for Twitter and Facebook, Bicycling and Velo blog sites, and other English speaking fans. Together we piece together how the race is going.  Everything in France is in French only, of course.

 When I got on the train to Paris, I noticed a young man who was also following the tour. As we disembarked he caught my eye and gave me a knowing look that said, “The Tour, right?”  We had a brief conversation. He is from Australia and is wrapping up his Tour today, spending a few days in Paris before heading home.

I did not make it to Reims in time to see Andre Greipel win his first stage of this Tour de France. Although crosswinds split the peloton, all the leader jerseys remain the same. At dinner a friendly couple from Boston just happened to be from in the area and decided to watch the finish. They loved the experience catching swag off the caravan and then seeing the front group race for the finish. 

Communication challenges abound. Most people have been super gracious about my lack of French vocabulary. I stopped at the Cafe de la Prefecture and tried to order a jambon sandwich off the board. The waiter said something to the effect of “no, no you want this” and he pointed to a special that I thought was erased. Sure, why not. It was a delicious sausage with a warm mustard sauce, fries and a salad. Other situations have been more stressful. Like taking the train to Reims through Paris and discovering with just 28 minutes until departure that I am in Paris Nord station and need to be in Paris Est station “five minutes away”.  Everything is 5 minutes away, except when it is 10 or 15! 

Other times no communication is attempted at all. I was shifted to another hotel without any email or attempt to communicate. Fortunately both hotels were fairly close to the train station in Reims. I have to credit Eurostar, for all the delays related to the recent repairs, they have done A+ work on communicating with customers. 

This is why travel is fun. It is not always easy and it stretches us. Even simple things like stepping into the pharmacy to get contact solution and throat lozenges. It took quite a while to communicate that I wanted Bonbons au Miel. Meanwhile I discovered that in France you can get flea medicine for your dog or cat at the pharmacy.

Prepping for Le Tour

I rode out towards Winters about 8 a.m. The sun was shining and the farmers were already plowing and planting transplants. A welcome site in this drought. A red wing blackbird perched on the fence sang in full song as I whizzed by on my new bike, yes NEW road bike. I quietly passed wild turkeys grazing along the side of the trail as the spring sunshine caught the beautiful colors on their feathers. My new Trek Lexa is super fun to ride.

Trek Lexa S in Platinum
Trek Lexa S in Platinum

I bought the bike from Joe at the Freewheeler Bicycle shop in Davis. He did a superb job fitting the bike to me and his colleague helped me learn to use the clipless pedals on the trainer when I picked up the bike. They adjusted the pedals so they are easy to clip in and out. I am still nervous about all of my bike handling skills and gaining confidence with every kilometer.

I am 10 weeks away from my departure for Le Tour de France. I am using Bicycling magazine’s Simple Plan to get in shape. The Simple Plan is a six week training plan by Selene Yeager and Leslie Bonci. It is living up to its name and it pushes me on my gear shifting skills.

In March I set a goal of riding every day for 30 minutes. It was an achievable goal and it motivated me to take Black Beauty to Seattle so I could keep riding. At the end of the 30 days I felt much stronger and comfortable on my bike. I made the pledge to ride everyday in April with the 30DaysofBiking. So 3 days a week I do an interval training ride and the other days I ride to commute or to relax.

Davis Adult School offered a bike repair class and conversational French class–both on Tuesday evenings. I decided that knowing how to repair my bike would be a useful skill for the long haul and not just this summer. We work on our bikes at the workshop at Martin Luther King Continuation High School. I had to laugh though, when I told one of the women who is an accomplished bike mechanic why I wanted to take the class she laughed and said, “You don’t need to know how to change a tire. The ratio of men to women in cycling is so great that all you have to do is wait by the side of the road and someone will fix it for you.” Hmmm. Not my style. Then I met a woman from Montreal who speaks fluent French and she said, “Well you can’t really learn much French in 10 weeks.” All I can say is Theo, our instuctor is a great teacher and I am enjoying the class.

People in my class are fascinated by my Brompton foldable bike. As soon as I am done overhauling Gidget (my beach cruiser) I will watch some more videos on the Brompton website and take it in and practice changing tires and other repairs. I found a great bike shop in San Francisco, Huckleberry Bicycles, that carries Brompton Bikes and parts.

It is getting real.

 

Telling the World: goals not resolutions

About those cycling goals I am telling the world (or you my blog readers)…  Even before I read the article “Tempt Yourself Thin” by Lisa Marshall in the January/February issues in Bicycling magazine, I learned that setting goals and breaking them into “bite size chunks” works well for me. I do not make resolutions in the new year; however, I do spend time reviewing the goals in my journal and making new ones. This article helped me better understand how rewards can help me stay on track.

Eat my vegetables!
Eat my vegetables!

The article also includes profiles of six people who have been transformed physically through cycling and exercise. I found these inspirational and full of practical tips, including:

  • “I map out my riding schedule at the beginning of the week, anchoring it around my long ride on the weekend, with smaller rides during the week.” from Trish
  • “…mounting research suggest that tantalizing dieters with material rewards (or the threat of material losses) helps them lose weight and keep it off.”
  • “Don’t put work first. Put yourself first.” from Anne.
  • People are motivated the first week or two..but as time goes on, it’s harder to maintain self control, so if you have a lot of weight to lose, make your rewards incrementally larger.

In the next two weeks I will eat my vegetables everyday, and bike 2 times a week for at least 30 minutes (using the trainer if it rains) and one longer ride of an hour or more. When I accomplish this I will reward myself with clipless pedals and a bike fitting at the bike shop that makes me drool.

Reward: clipless pedals
Reward: clipless pedals

I will continue to set goals every two weeks. I may experiment with the website gym-pact.com where I can earn money if I meet my goals and pay others if I do not.

On my way to the Tour de France I will need to build up to being able to ride 50 miles on rolling hills with ease; to maintain my bike and make repairs (especially to flat tires); to shift gears, use clipless pedals, and travel at higher speeds; to speak more basic French phrases.  Also I want to lose at least half the weight I would like to ultimately lose, or 20 pounds.

I decided to enter the Bicycling magazine “You Lose You Win” contest. I submitted the following paragraph to describes my goal and commitment to weight loss. If selected, I win coaching from Selene Yeager and the opportunity to earn a brand-new Raleigh road bike.

After years of watching the Tour de France from my couch, I am committed to following it in person from Yorkshire to Paris. I am part of a Trek Tour in England and must be able to cycle 50 miles at an average of 15 mph. Today I am 40 pounds overweight, cannot shift gears very well and have never used clipless pedals. I am sharing my journey on my blog Adventures of American Julie. The testimonials in Bicycling convinced me to ask for help meeting my goals of becoming a level 3 cyclist and shedding 20 pounds by July. 

Before.
Before.

Wish me luck!

No More Excuses

Compared to most of the Northern Hemisphere, the weather in NorCal has been balmy. For this weather wimp it has been too cold to ride… in my current bike kit, in this wind, and so on.  I opened up the January-February issue of Bicycling magazine and read several inspiring stories including “Conquer Your Mountain” on page 18 by James Herrera.

Step One is to identify your goal. My big goal is to follow the Tour de France and to ride on a Trek Tour through the first stages in England.

Step Two is to make a plan. I have the tour and hotel reservations done for the Tour de France. The harder part is learning to ride well enough and be fit enough to enjoy the experience.  July 2014 seems so far away, so I am making a lot of excuses and not riding any miles lately.

Step Three is to tell the world.  Okay, so this blog is not the world, but you are willing to stand in for “the world”, right?  I realized that I needed to set some very short term goals, like 2 weeks at a time, to stay on track with my big goal. Even before I could do that I had to go to the bike store and buy some winter riding gear. I do not like trying on kit because it is all so unfamiliar. It feels like just yesterday I bought my first pair of bike shorts; and with the long Indian summer they worked well until about mid-November. Off I went to B&L bike shop in Davis because they have a good selection without an overwhelming number of choices. Jenna helped me find tights, a long sleeve jersey and a windbreaker. I also bought mountain bike shoes for another short term goal: learning to use clipless pedals. I made my purchases on Wednesday, so when do you think I tried it all out?  That same day? The next morning? Not until Saturday morning! I will not bore you with all the reasons.

Never been too worried about being matchy-matchy; more interested in visibility on the road.
Never been too worried about being matchy-matchy; more interested in visibility on the road.

Finally I got on my bike and I rode from 8:45 to 9:22 a.m.  I planned to be out the door at 8:00 a.m. but the sun was still creeping up and it was bitter cold. So I waited a few more minutes and then coached myself. How important is my Tour de France goal? Very big deal. So get on your damn bike and get cold.

Step Four is track your progress.  There are so many apps to do this. I like Map My RIde for knowing how far I biked and then I make notes in my old fashioned paper journal.

Step Five is be present. I did enjoy my time on the bike today. I am not very fast. I hope that as I drop weight I will see my speed pick up.  I am still trying to identify interesting routes of varying lengths near my home depending on my schedule. I picked my way down an olive tree lined path toward the airport, then toodled along a quiet road that serves the University farm, then punched it on a busy county road with a short stretch without a shoulder, then enjoyed the sunshine as I headed back towards home. I noticed a big crow eating walnuts, a lot of runners out pushing themselves hard, and groups of dog walkers with their coffee mugs enjoying a more leisurely pace. I could hear an airplane preparing to land, and cars a long way off on the road (prompting the thought: what will it be like to ride when more and more cars are silently electric?)

Finally, step six to achieving success is put in the effort.  Okay, okay. No more excuses.