Biking in 2015

I am feeling rather sentimental at the moment and though I hadn’t planned on doing an “end of the year” post, I have hastily cobbled one together anyway. I have included a picture from each month and added a few highlights underneath them.

DSCN0004[1]

January

Had my first subzero ride at -17, which was my toughest commute of all time because I was unprepared to deal with that level of cold. But I made it and subsequent subzero rides were much easier.

011

February

So much fun in the snow, this is the month where handling my bike in snow started to feel more natural. I discovered the wild world of snow dunes and crunchy ice rides.

026

March

Errandonee! Mary from Chasing Mailboxes organized a fun event that turned mundane errands into exciting adventures.

DSC00088

April

I used clipless pedals for the first time and promptly fell over. My mom rode with me, the first time since the start of the year that I had a biking buddy! I also clocked in my longest ride ever at 39 miles.

DSC00345

May

I bought my first road bike, on our first ride we went 50 miles. The next week we rode our first century. May was a month of giddy excitement.

DSC00581

June

My sister came home and we were able to go on some rides together through the rest of this year. She even biked with me to work one day, which no one had ever done before.

I raced an Amish horse and buggy for the first time.

I bought a bike trailer which has hauled everything from my dogs to groceries to garbage.

DSC00910 (1)

July

I went on some adventures to lakes and parks in my area, over 700 miles in total for the month.

DSC01124

August

I rode with a local group of 3-5 cyclists for a few Monday nights, my first ever group riding experience. I also biked in a city for the first time.

DSC01197

September

I went on my first ever mini bike tour; 3 days, 320 miles. I rode 150 miles the last day and came to the conclusion that I will never, ever bike long distances without cycling shorts again. Ouch!

DSC01410

October

I bought a new mountain bike to use for the winter. We had our first snowfall and it made me so excited for winter-which unbeknownst to me would take forever to properly arrive.

DSC01882

November

Lots of pining for snow and some fun trail riding on my mountain bike.

me and the bike

December

My favorite ride in the snow ever!

6,788 miles in total.

I had a great year on my bike and I didn’t do it by myself.

Even I biked the majority of these miles solo, God was always me with me. In reality, I never rode alone.

My dad was my 24/7 emergency hotline, troubleshooting problems over the phone whenever I ran into problems.

My family gave me so much love and support this past year and I even got various family members to join me on rides which was really special.

And last, but certainly not least, all of you have encouraged me so much in the past year. Your blogs have inspired me and taught me many things. Thank you for investing in me by taking the time to comment on my posts; whether you gave me a new perceptive, shared a personal story, passed on helpful advice, shared links to invaluable information or funny stuff, made me smile and/or told me to “keep it up!”, you made a difference. From the bottom of my heart, thank you! I wish I could give all of you great big hugs…

Happy New Year to all!

Advertisements

A Messy Ride

icy fencepostWe got a decent layer of snow overnight but morning brought sleet/ice pellet stuff that morphed into rain. The roads in town are a mess.

I had planned to go on a 25 mile ride but when I was running errands on my bike in town, a lady that I know well stopped me and questioned my sanity, saying that no one should be on the roads, especially on a bike.

Her words made me pause. Should I really go out on a “just for fun” ride when the weather was nasty? Was it really worth it?

After a few minutes I pulled my thoughts back into line. I bike every day, that is what I do. I wasn’t going to let someone else’s fear get in the way of that.

I headed out of town and found the roads to be in much better condition than I had pictured. As the miles ticked by I found myself feeling rather epic, I was out in the rainy cold, battling a headwind, biking through slush, dodging falling shards of ice that were coming down from the trees and all the while my legs were becoming colder and wetter because I had made the mistake of wearing my water-resistant pants.icy guardrail

ice shards

Shards of ice everywhere

 

Fifteen minutes from the halfway point all feelings of epic-ness had faded from memory. Soaked though, snot running down my nose, my right leg on the verge of cramping from the wet and cold-as I climbed hill after hill I struggled to remember how this was ever a good idea. I tried to keep my mind focused on one thing,

“Soon you will have a tailwind, soon you will have a tailwind…”

Oh the joy of helpful gusts of wind! Once I turned that corner and the wind started pushing me along, the world became a much better place. I went into my highest gear and flew down the road with all my might.

For the first time on an open road I felt completely bonded to my Mountain bike. I will be the first to admit, it was tough for the first few weeks to switch from the speedy, efficient Trek to a slower, heavier bike. I have had fun on trails and dirt roads from the start, but on paved roads I could feel a huge difference.

But today on the way home, we were totally in sync and I didn’t miss my Trek at all. (Don’t worry little Trek, you have spring to look forward to.)

Twenty-eight miles of messy roads. Most of them fun, a few of them tough. I know one thing, it sure beats sitting around all day.

0% Chance of Snow

snow on my commuteWhen I checked the weather before heading to work this morning, the forecast said there was no chance of snow. But before I had even finished my ride to work, snowflakes were flying through the air.

It continued to snow off and on all morning.

My boss came in and was wiping her snowy shoes on the doormat.

“It wasn’t supposed to snow today!”
She exclaimed.

Then she looked me right in the eye.

“Don’t look so happy about it, Bri!”

But I couldn’t help myself, I was excited to see a bit of snow covering the ground. My boss shouldn’t be sad for long however, because the meteorologists are predicting rain tomorrow afternoon. Secretly, I am hoping they will be wrong again and the rain will turn out to be more snow. Don’t tell my boss.

winter cycling glovesIn other news, I wore one of my Christmas presents on the way to and from work today. My parents gave me Borealis winter gloves from Planet Bike and I had to try them out. The temperature hovered around 20 degrees and I had a stiff headwind in the morning. Even though I just used the outer shell, my hands stayed wonderfully warm and super cozy. Niceness.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas snowAs the final hours of Christmas slip away, I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

“I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” is an iconic Christmas song and it echoes my personal mantra,

“There should always be snow for Christmas.”

But we had no snow for Christmas. Actually, when I was outside yesterday I saw flowers peeking their heads through the soil. That is not supposed to happen in winter!

Well, I slept over at my parent’s house last night and got up this morning so I could get a short ride in before everyone else woke up.

My ride had one objective: to find snow for Christmas.

I had heard rumors that snow still existed to the Southwest, so I headed in that direction, hoping to find a few patches of white.

And guess what? I did. I found snow. Real live snow. It wasn’t much and it wasn’t pretty, but I was happy anyway. Mission accomplished, we were going to have a white Christmas after all.

I filled my pannier with snowballs and a mini snowman before returning to my parent’s house.

Christmas snowman

Mini Snowman

 

dying snowman

Turns out that snowmen do not survive well as table centerpieces…

Once home, I woke up my brothers by throwing snowballs at them while singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. I am such a mature older sister!

snowballs

Good morning, dear brothers!

 

I had a wonderful day with my family. We opened presents, ate lots of food and most importantly celebrated that Jesus was born.

That’s even more important than having a white Christmas.

 

Because of snow, I am on the right track.

Ever since I found out what a track stand is (early on this year) I have wanted to learn how to do them. Besides being “cool”, I could imagine how handy this skill would be at intersections.

I watched some videos online and tried it myself. The cyclists I saw made it look so easy, but I couldn’t even get myself to stop fully, I was too chicken. Whenever I slowed almost to a stop and felt unsteady, I would unclip and put my foot down to avoid falling.

For a few days I tried to overcome that instinct but to no avail. So I quit trying because the only thing I seemed to be learning was how to clip out of my pedals at lighting fast speeds.

That was months ago.

This Sunday, I spent the afternoon biking in the snow. In some places it was very deep, making it really tricky to get enough momentum to start pedaling. There were moments when for a split second there was no forward motion whatsoever and I was just balancing from side to side. It slowly dawned on me,

“If you can do this, you can do a track stand.”

Yesterday, I re-watched the track stand videos.

 

 

Then I went to a secluded grassy field and confidently started practicing. My confidence melted away as quickly as our snow has-I found myself doing the very same thing that I had been doing months before-putting my foot down when the bike felt unstable.

I realized I was trying to do too much, too fast: I needed to take baby steps. I went around the field again, this time never actually stopping, just getting my body and bike into the right position.

Then I began using my brakes and stopping fully, but only for a microsecond, pedaling away before I felt the urge to put my foot on solid ground. Around and around the field I went, slowly gaining confidence and lasting longer at each stop. Inevitably, at some point I would prolong my attempt at balancing too long and be forced to take my foot off the pedal to save myself. Then I would go back to microseconds and build up again.

After a good half hour, I had a track stand last for what seemed like a long time (maybe a full second or two, haha) and pedaled out of it successfully. I decided to end my practice on a positive note, so I went home.

Today I worked in the morning and on the way home I practiced again. It felt more natural this time.

Body out of the saddle, arms and legs slightly bent, eyes at the horizon, fingers gently touching the brakes, wheel at an angle…

I worked up to balancing a bit longer than I was able to yesterday. Once again, after a track stand that felt really good, I stopped practicing and finished my ride home.

I need quite a bit more practice before I can take this skill on the road, but I am finally making real progress.

Thank you, snow!

Biking in a Winter Wonderland

snowy river

Rain has been falling in spits and spurts all day, wreaking havoc on our glorious snow. Temperatures are predicted to continue their relentless rise throughout the week, by Christmas snow will only be a happy memory.

But what a happy memory!

Yesterday my church held a special Christmas service which started early and ended around eleven. I went home, grabbed a bite to eat and quickly set out. I biked to a state park in the area, hoping for a quiet place to ride in the snow.

I arrived at the park to find perfection. The snow was deep enough to be challenging, but not so deep to be impossible to ride through. And as I entered the woods, I found the snow to be completely pristine-not a single human had set foot in this place since the snowfall.

There is something so special and magical about an untouched layer of snow, it almost felt wrong to spoil it with my studded tires and hiking boots. But it was so much fun!

before

Pristine snow

snow after

Not quite so pristine snow.

snow bike rut

Sole responsibility lies with this machine.

me and the bike

I guess it wasn’t JUST the bike’s fault…

 

I raced up and down the trail, sliding and slipping the entire time.

Note: My “racing” speed in snow like this is probably 3-6 mph, so you might want to take that into consideration.

At one point, a strong gust of wind shook the trees tops furiously, all the snow held captive in their branches fell gently down creating an instant snowstorm. It took my breath away.

After plowing through the snow for awhile, I decided to check out another section of the park. Here I met a gentleman as he was packing up his skis and heading home.

We struck up a conversation: my bike tends to make people ask questions. We went on to talk about skiing and he told me that his son used to be his skiing buddy, but three years ago he drowned while out fishing.

“I learned soon enough that I had to keep on living.” He said to me.

How bittersweet it must be for this man every time he goes out skiing. Remembering all the adventures, good and bad, that he shared with his son over the years…

We wished each other a, “Merry Christmas” and I continued down the path. The snow was deeper here and I had trouble finding enough momentum to get started. A snowshoer saw me and took and double-take. He proceeded to stare at me like I was a triple headed unicorn for the longest time. (I can neither confirm or deny any allegations that I am, in fact, a triple headed unicorn.)unicorn

Not eager to have a curious witness watch my waffling attempts at biking, I walked down to the stream and took pictures until he was out of view. When I tried again, I got started on my first attempt. Ha! leaves and rivericicles by the river

The woods were so peaceful and beautiful and I felt so utterly blessed to be able to spend my afternoon in a snowy wonderland.

But the day was coming to an end and I had to say goodbye to the wonderful trails and head home. But riding home itself turned out to be quite fun. I had the wind at my back and a gradually downhill route. Add to this that I was riding on pavement, not deep snow, and I felt like I flew home.

Then I washed my bike, which was the filthiest I have ever seen it. I ended the day by caroling around town with my church family.

It was a good, good day.winter berries

If I am loopy, I blame the chemicals.

Shammah in snow

I don’t know who is more excited about the snow, me or my dogs.

After bidding my dogs farewell this morning, I carried my bike down the stairs and out into the snow.

 

Locking my door behind me, I set out down the road. The streets in town were covered by a few inches of snow and it was still snowing steadily. When I hit the main road, I found that it was well cleared and I was able to make good time, giving me the freedom to explore a few trails along the way to work.

It was a great ride but I did make a grave mistake, I pulled my water bottle from it’s cage and unthinking, put it to my lips.

Yuck!

All the salt and who knows what chemicals from the road had coated the outside of the bottle, including the nozzle. From the sloppy state of the roads I should have known that would have happened. I cleaned my mouth out as best as I could. Now if my body corrodes from the inside out, at least I will know why!

I arrived at work feeling ready to tackle the day, although I must admit it was hard to be stuck at work when I knew that there was fresh new snow outside.

But finally I cooked one last meal and my shift was done. I scurried around quite comically, until at last I was suited up and ready to face the cold again.

Everywhere I looked there was beautiful snow and the closer to home I rode, the deeper the snow became. Passing snow plow drivers waved at me and suddenly it felt like no time had passed since last winter. Everything clicked into place and I felt so happy and light, like I was back where I belonged. Don’t get me wrong, I had so much fun during the spring, summer and fall…

…but winter will always be a special season to me.