Women on Bikes SoCal

What Makes a Real Cyclist?

I remember sitting in my car at a traffic light over twelve years ago. I glanced to my right and there he was!  I had to do a double then triple-take because he was mesmerizing.  A tall dark-chocolate brown man standing perfectly still balanced on his bike. His chiseled body hugged by a silver Lycra shorts and jersey. His bike, shoes and helmet were also silver. The sun glinted off all that silver as he made micro movements to stay upright in his track stand. His glasses: a silver mirror finish that obscured his eyes and of course the frames were also silver.  He had a on an aerodynamic time-trial helmet.  I knew just by taking all this in, that he was the god Mercury ready to take flight. Imagine my disappointment when he didn’t fly away when the light turned green!  I knew at that moment that I had seen a CYCLIST. 

Everyone else riding a bike was just fooling around.  But I was judgmental when I came to that conclusion.  The dictionary defines cyclist as a person who rides a bike.   In my crazy thinking, a cyclist is someone who rides a bike and trains hard.  Where did that point of view come from?

My dad taught and modeled this mindset for me.   My Dad starting running track in high school and competed for six decades.   That’s not a typo: he competed in the Master’s Program well into his late 60’s.  His events were the 400 and 200.  My sisters and I liked to tease Dad about his muscular legs saying he didn’t have calves but instead his calves were grown up so we should call them bulls!  He had a six-pack and fuel-lines well into his 70’s.

I was a “chubby” kid who lost weight after graduating high school. I decided to train with my Dad and he put me through various drills to build my running skills and stamina.  He built an athletic mindset in me: you train to compete. Training is about challenging your body so, when you compete, you get better.  We competed in several 5 and 10-K runs.  I even have a trophy for a 10K run.  When you rode your bike or ran there was a reason to do those sessions.  Going for a bike ride or jog just for fun was a waste of time.

This mindset was so deeply ingrained in me I didn’t stop to think that there just might be another way to look at sports.  Maybe you could just enjoy moving your body.  Maybe you didn’t have to keep track of how many intervals you ran or how much weight you pushed or your riding cadence.  Maybe you could just enjoy what you were doing instead of competing against yourself and others.

When I applied the athletic mindset to other cyclists, I discounted people riding beach cruisers. After all you can’t get a decent workout on a beach cruiser.   I would wonder why so many cyclists didn’t have a computer on their bike.  What good is a bike ride if you didn’t know how far you rode or your average speed or even the cadence while you were riding?

Here I am, years after being programmed that the only reason to get on my bike is to train, and I have an autoimmune disease that has left me much weaker than I was a few years ago.  I am frustrated that I cannot open most bottles that I encounter.  Surely there must be a conspiracy by bottle makers because my hands can’t really be THAT weak.  My body has been forced to slow down but my mind is saying go faster, push harder, accomplish something! 

I had to examine my programming and decide if made sense to cycle in this same way at this time of my life.  And if I was going to change my mind set what were the alternatives? 

I have learned how to ride my bike without a computer.  That’s a big leap for me. No more tracking stats. Now I check out the scenery and enjoy the sights and sound on my ride.  I still do some workouts with my computer to track my progress but now that’s not every ride. 

My husband and I are taking a short active vacation this week.  We will car camp and spend time kayaking, hiking and cruising on our bikes in Morro Bay, CA.  Last time I rode through Morro Bay, I was cranking on a 60+ mile day as part of a charity ride.  This will be a very different experience.

I have concluded that we all have been programmed. Perhaps you hate exercise. Where did that programming come from? Perhaps you are afraid to ride your bike. Where did that programming come from? I had to ask myself if my programming made sense for me now.  Maybe you will also ask that of yourself. 

I still love competition.   Watch me when I see another cyclist approaching me from behind on the bike path.  I DO speed up. I still want to make them work to pass me. 

 

Commuting by Bike: Give Yourself Permission to Save Your Money & Your Life!

 

Give yourself permission to save money and your life by trying a different way to commute to work. I’m a Los Angeles native and have spent decades driving alone to work.  I was able to carpool with a good friend for a few years then tried vanpooling for about 18 months. Those were all good alternatives for me but it did take an adjustment to my commuting mindset.  I was so used to making side trips on my commute home.   

Then I accepted a one-year contract where the work location was only six miles from my home.  My work as an IT Project Manager could be high stress. I knew that commuting to work by bike would help me both focus before and unwind after work.  Those morning rides lowered my blood-pressure. I spent my commuting time mediating on different things: life, solving a work problem or just enjoying the feel of my body moving.  I even spent some commutes thinking about nothing!  

My Kaiser primary care physician was always reminding me that I needed to exercise a minimum of five times a week.  Since six miles was a reasonable easy commute for me, it made more sense to ride to work than to drive to work and then drive to the gym for cardio exercise.  Since I went to the gym for cardio workouts, I decided to put my membership on hold while I was riding to work. That saved me $20 a month!  I saved even more on gas money since I wasn’t driving to work every day and was not driving to the gym at all.

One of the surprising benefits was I had more time with my husband on the weekends. Before I started riding to work, I spent my Saturdays mornings to early afternoons getting in a long bike ride.  Now that ride was spread over two to three days. 

I backed into the plan carefully

My first task was figuring out where I could shower/clean up when I arrived at work because I am a sweaty mess after my ususal ride.  I met my first roadblock: even though there was a gym on campus, I was not allowed to use it because I was a contractor. Bummer but that didn’t stop me. I decided I would just freshen up in the women’s bathroom.  I brought a collapsible bucket, a wash cloth and Dr. Bronner's liquid castile soap. I half-filled the bucket with hot water, added a few drop of soap and hung the bucket in the handicapped stall. I stripped and wiped myself down with the washcloth after dipping it in the soapy water and wringing it out. I also decided I would carry my work clothes to work instead of bringing them to work the day before. 

(Note: At that point in my bicycling life I was riding a road bike and felt compelled to ride as fast as I could everywhere I rode.  If I had it to do over now I would have taken a slower more leasurly pace, skipped the sweating, wore my regular work attire and would have skipped the clean-up.  It was only six miles but back then I was always in a rush.)

Second task was where I could secure my bike.  This very large campus had no bike racks near the building where I was working.  In fact there were no bikes racks in any of the surrounding buildings.  Not a good sign.  I asked and received permission from security to bring my bike into the building. I also invested in a good lock just in case I got any push back and would have to lock up my bike outside.

Third task was driving the route. I know that the route I used to drive to work would not necessarily be the route I used to ride to work. I researched different routes using my Metro Los Angeles bike map.  I drove my car the various routes I could ride during the exact times I would be riding. My goal was to see the traffic patterns.

I stayed away from very busy streets when riding especially during a commute. Most commuters are focused on getting to work or getting home and can get very cranky when anything slows their travel.  I settled on two possible routes.

The fourth task was testing the routes on my bike. I tested out my routes by riding them on my bike on a Saturday morning the exact time I would ride them during my commute (no sleeping in that morning!).  I could get a good feel for how much time it would take me and discover any challenges along the route that I could not observe while driving the route.  This was also a great time to check out nearby bus stops because on a day when I didn’t feel like riding home, I knew where I could catch a bus and load my bike on the bus rack. I also used the combined bike/bus route on the Metro planner to find the appropriate bus routes. The Metro planner covers several bus lines, not just Los Angeles Metro buses: http://www.metro.net/

The final task was to actually ride to work. Since I had planned my commute, the ride to and from work was uneventful.  My fellow commuters even got used to seeing me riding and often waved.    I rode to work two to three days a week during the contract. I felt empowered commuting to work on my bike and have given myself permission to try other adventures by bike which I look forward to sharing with you in future articles.