Schwinn Collegiate

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Right Hand Turn

Apparently, not hi-vis enough!

I've had a couple of close calls with cars in the past that over take me and take a right.   I remember having read that this is one of the most common types of accident.  Perhaps it was only a matter of time, but yesterday it happened.  A car overtook me and took a right hand turn into me.

The hit was a bit frightening, but it was slow and I mostly just slid down the side of the car.  I came away with some scratches and bruises, but was glad when I realized my fragile hip was still intact.  There was an ambulance two cars back and they took me to the hospital just to be sure about my stupid hip.  I was horrified though when the police officer came into the hospital and told me he didn't cite the driver.  He said that the damage on the driver's car was towards the back so it was my fault as I hit him.  I was completely mortified.  I had damaged the back section of the car because that is the part that I slid down, not the part I necessarily impacted.  When I tried to explain this, the officer said I need to follow the rules of the road even though I was on a bicycle.  I told him I had and that I was allowed to pass on the right on a bicycle.  He either didn't care or didn't want someone to contradict him as he was certainly unfazed by my explanation.  I think the cause of all of this is general ignorance of bicycling laws and the lack of suburban cyclists.  When everyone in town rides their Huffy mountain bike on the sidewalk ignoring the rules of the road, no one expects a bicyclist to be part of traffic, knows the actual rules, or believes a rider who tries to explain that he was following the rules.

In the end, my argument didn't really matter, as the driver has no insurance....even though everyone in Massachusetts is required by law to have it.   So, that was kind of a bummer.

I always go out of my way to obey the rules of the road....even if it means waiting for a car to pull up behind me to cause the red light to finally trigger even though there is no traffic on the road I want to turn onto.  So I guess what upsets me the most is the officer's implication that the accident was somehow my fault....well that and the fact that I wore a nerdy hi-vis vest for the first time, still got hit, and the vest ripped...grrr!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Winter Conundrum

The winter is at hand, and it is time to make that yearly decision: rough it outside or ride the trainer indoors.  Last year I chose to ride the trainer indoors.  It was really effective.  I went to a class twice a week at a bike shop and they put me through a rigorous 1-1.5 hour workout.  In the end it really paid off.  When spring hit, I was riding like a champ and able to do my first century not long after.  But I also must admit that by the end I was bored senseless.

Each session we'd watch a DVD of a Tour de France or Paris-Roubaix.   At first, it was pretty cool.  But they only seemed to have a handful of DVDs.  I quickly found myself watching the same couple of DVDs over and over again.

There was no wind, no scenery, no freedom, no fun.  It made me realize the reasons that I rode.  I rode to because it was fun.  I could go anywhere (that my legs could take me), see anything, enjoy the fun of rolling along quickly into the wind.  However, I also remembered that one of the reasons I wasn't riding outside was that it was so cold that outside wasn't fun anymore either.

So this year, I have invested heavily in winter clothing: two pairs of tights, a new set of winter booties, a pair of lobster mitts, a neck gaiter, and a hat....I guess that is what it is goes on my head and makes me look like I'm about to go swimming.

My coldest ride so far has been a 31 degree ride.  My toes and my fingers were both pretty cold.  The good news is that I hadn't taken out the lobster mitts yet. The bad news is that I had wool socks and winter booties on.   The temperature around here will hover in the 0-20 range for most of the winter or about 4-5 months of the year.

From what I can tell, fingers and toes are the key.  My torso is the easiest to keep warm.  A couple layers and a wind-breaking jacket do the job.  My head is pretty easy too.  In fact, the hard part is how much my head warms up over a ride and the need to be warm at the start.  The face can be tricky too, but a balaclava and a pair of sunglasses seem to do the trick.

The legs are the next coldest part.  A pair of bib shorts under a pair of tights doesn't cut it.  I am not in pain (yet), but I am certainly cold to the touch.  A pair of long tights under a pair of winter tights keeps me pretty warm (for now).  I'm not sure what will happen when it gets colder, but I think this won't be a problem.

Next comes the fingers.  These are tough, too.  They are always cold at the start of a ride and often get warm over the course of a ride.  The good news is that it is easy to bring along a couple of pairs of varying weight gloves.  I am hoping that the lobster mitts will get me through the winter, but if they don't a pair of wool gloves under them might do the trick.

Finally, there are the feet.  The feet are really hard to keep warm.  My old booties were too light so I bought heavier ones.  Combined with wool socks and I was still cold.  My next idea is two pairs of socks under the booties, but my shoes are probably too tight for a whole lot in the way of socks.  I had read that multiple layers of booties is a good option (won't restrict blood flow like multiple pairs of socks).  However, my feet are so incredibly large I can barely get one pair of booties around them, never mind two.

My plan for this year?  To try both.

...I also bought a new trainer.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cars vs. Bikes

Unfortunately, this is a subject I think about quite often...when I'm riding.  I find myself upset at cars quite often.  Yesterday, I was going around a large pot hole and a car approached and beeped and yelled at me to "get out of the road".  I hadn't moved in front of them, they just thought I didn't belong there.  I often almost get hit, I get cut off, I have things thrown at me, etc.  All of these things really make me angry at drivers: I mean really angry!  I spend too many rides fuming over these drivers.  This does at times lead to some pretty fast "angry rides", but I'm not sure it is worth the extra speed.

Two days ago I was going to a group ride that started at a bike shop.  When I pulled into the parking lot, there was one open space with several riders standing in front of it talking.  I politely pulled up to the space and signaled that I wanted to park there.  The riders continued talking and showed little interest in moving.  I inched up and they very slowly  moved a couple inches out of the way.  I squeezed into the space and they didn't so much as acknowledge me as I pulled in.  When I ride with this same group we are usually prepped with a talk about being polite and respecting the rules of the road and the busy traffic.  Nevertheless, some of the riders habitually run red lights and show no regard for traffic.  I've seen some of these riders riding four abreast and when other riders called "car back" over and over the other riders didn't even look.  I can only imagine that this infuriates the drivers.  God knows my father always complains about "kids on bikes in Cambridge".

So who is the culprit in this feud?  Who "drew first blood"?  Well, I suspect both sides feed off of each other's insults and past transgressions.  However, if I had to point my finger I'd point it at a lack of education.  Bike riders don't always know the rules of the road, and driver's know even less.  After all, if you think the bike belongs on the sidewalk, you're certainly going to get testy when one has the audacity to ride on the road.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My Fallability

Not Me

Unlike the Pope, I am quite fallible.  I recently had someone comment on one of my pages about some mistakes I had made.  When I read it, I noticed I certainly had made some mistakes and wasn't even quite sure why I had made them.  My point is, that I am always learning more about bikes and would really appreciate any input and help anyone has to offer.  If I made a mistake, forgot something, or my attempts at providing information would be improved by adding something, please feel free to let me know.  Sometimes I write about random things here, but I would like this to be a place where someone like myself can come and learn more about bikes.  I obviously only know so much, so I would appreciate any help I can get so that this can become a place of shared experiences and learning.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Road Bike Accessories

So you have a road bike and are wondering which accessories to invest in first.  Well, these are certainly not going to be the same for everybody as we all have distinct needs (e.g. night time riders need lights).  Here is a list as I might recommend them though!

File:Bicyclehelmet da 060713.jpg
1.  A helmet: any helmet.  Get a bike helmet.  Yes, they are nerdy.  But so was the person in high school who is now a CEO while the cool kids....well, you can finish the thought yourself.  The truth is that just like a seat belt, after a while you don't even notice it is there.  If you do, then it might not be adjusted correctly, so just ask someone at a bike short for a hand.  The good news is that you do not need to spend a fortune.   All helmet have to pass a minimum safety level in the U.S., so if you want to spend 20 dollars or 200 you are going to be equally safe.  You are probably wondering why anyone chooses to pay the 200, and the reasons are usually because of reduced weight, increased ventilation, and style.  I sincerely think Target's 17 dollar special is a really decent looking helmet, so don't cash in your 401k for this accessory.

This person was clearly not so concerned about matching

2.  A water bottle and bottle cage.  These are not expensive and are generally a must have for any ride where you're exerting a decent amount of effort.  I do like to have two matching cages with two matching bottles, but it I find I really only use one bottle of water for every 20 miles or so.  This can be a fun place to personalize your bike, so if that is important to you, look around a bit for one that speaks to you!  Hint:  The metal cages are flexible to accommodate most bottles.

3.  A floor pump with a gauge.  This is far from a glorious accessory, but in reality is a must have.  I absolutely hate inflating my tires (apparently, that is where I draw a line in the sand), but I inflate them every ride.  I know this is a huge hassle, but it'll extend the life of your tires and make you ride more efficiently.  If you are riding on low pressure you'll probably feel like you're riding through mud.  I was really skeptical about the whole inflating my tires each and every ride, but I have been swayed.  They seem to drop 20 psi with every ride, and new tires are expensive and a hassle (much like flat).  Do yourself a favor and drop twenty dollars on a floor pump with a gauge (apparently squeezing the tire is far from an effective method of testing pressure).  Hint:  Get a pump that inflates multiple types of valves...or at the very least the type your bike uses!

File:Cycling Bibshorts.jpg
So....this is what Wikipedia offered me.....frightening.....(P.S. He would wear a jersey, too so that he looks like he is just wearing shorts and not about to wrestle.)

4.  A pair of decent shorts.  I know they are intimidating and not the first thing you want to wear out into public, but a decent pair of shorts with a nice pad (chamois) will go a very long way towards your comfort.  I think many people new to road biking are afraid of their seat and really which they had a beefier one, but in reality the saddle is probably a good one for a road bike that will offer you support in just the right places.  If you want to augment that comfort go for new shorts, not a new saddle.  Shorts will not only add sit comfort, but will add comfort in terms of wicking sweat away from your body (keeping you dry and cool!).  If you get lycra shorts they can also decrease your wind resistance (making riding a bit easier) as well as offer you compression which should benefit your riding muscles.  That being said, they make baggy shorts for those of us who are a bit more shy.  Hint:  Spend the extra couple of dollars on bib shorts, they are far more comfortable because there is no elastic to dig into you (though also a bit nerdier as you will look like Andre the Giant).

In my estimation, those are the most pressing accessories.  You can bike forever with just those things and be as happy as a clam.  Of course some of us have a sickness and can't help but turn a simple hobby into a habit that requires a second job to support it.

If you are wondering what comes after these, my next suggestions would be: jersey, gloves, sunglasses, bike shoes and clipless pedals, and a flat kit.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Providence Cyclo-cross Festival

A talented rider (note his intact hip)

Well, not surprisingly I did not race at the Providence cyclocross races.  These of course are the races I've been to every year for the last three years.  These are also the reason I broke my hip.  That being said, they were great to watch and each year they just get better.  This year there was rain (and cross races seem to be far better in the rain) and a much larger accompanying festival with more venders and food trucks.  It was also a great place to get some deals on bike gear.  I saw some friends, had some vegan soft serve from Like No Udder, and of course what would cyclocross be without a good cow bell?

Well, actually, you might not know that cyclocross requires a good cow bell, so let me back up.

Cyclocross was born at the turn of the 20th century when racers in Europe would race each other from one town to the next, cutting across grass and leaping over fences (carrying their bikes of course).  This developed into races in the fall and winter off-season.  These races continue today as short multi-lap races across roads, grass, and mud that last about an hour.  They usually involve obstacles that force the rider to either get off the bike and carry it over the obstacle or jump the obstacle on the bike.

Of course this really means that you see a bunch of muddy people race like crazy all over the place and sometimes take a spill here and there.  Of course the fun part is seeing the riders go over the jumps and struggle through the mud, but the impressive part is watching their fluid movements as they gracefully dismount and remount the bikes at each obstacle.

The events are made more fun by wacky costumed fans (and riders at times!), plenty of beer, and the vigorous ringing of cow bells to cheer on (or heckle) the riders.  Anyways, my favorite part was watching the riders use a pass-over as a jump! (and buying a wonderful jersey for $10!)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Walking vs. Riding

Ok, I don't have any pictures of me limping.

As I recover from my broken hip, I have really surprised myself (and many others) by being able to ride my bike far better than I can walk.  Everyone looks shocked when I tell them that I'm back on my bike.  This might be because it is relatively sudden (two crutches one day and suddenly on a bike the next day).  Or perhaps it is because I walk like Quasimodo and yet can still ride with a little bit of zest.  I certainly don't have the stamina or speed that I once did, but I am still far ahead of where I was when I first starting riding.  I've been on a bike for about three or four weeks, and did a 31 miler a week ago.  Again, this isn't going to break any land speed records, but after watching me pathetically drag myself around the workplace on a single crutch it is sincerely surprising.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What to expect when you break your hip at 30

I've been putting off any new posts.  Although, I ironically had all summer with little to do, it was hard to bring myself to actually post anything.  But I figure I might as well document the recovery process for those who might find themselves in a similar situation and wondering what to expect.

To clarify, if you are not yourself in the midst of healing from a similar injury, this post will be beyond boring.  Please skip it!  I'll post a picture of a fun bicycle or something tomorrow to make up for it!

   Around five in the evening I fell off my bike in the woods.  About an hour after I called 911, I was found and brought to the hospital.  I was brought directly into the trauma ward of RI Hospital.  I was given a healthy dose of drugs (which did little to help me) and a number of x-rays were taken.  I remember telling the nurse that I was still in pain, and her telling me that I already had an exorbitant amount pain killers.  When the doctor came in after looking at my x-rays he told the nurse to give me more pain killers.  Apparently, it was a bad break!
   Lying still didn't hurt, but what stands out was that transferring from one bed to another was excruciatingly painful.  I was told that the surgery would be in the morning.  I was caught off guard a bit as I felt it was awful and that I needed immediate surgery.  After some reflection, I realized that surgeons need to sleep and live their lives, and so the next morning was a realistic "immediate".  As I laid drugged (yet in pain), I lost track of time and eventually fell into an uneasy sleep.

    If memory serves me correctly, I was expected surgery at 10, but there was some waiting to be brought down to surgery before it actually happened.  Truth be told, my memory of my time in the hospital is a bit fuzzy, perhaps because of all the medication.  Eventually, I was brought down to prep and the surgeon introduced himself and asked if I had any questions.  I think I asked about when I'd get back on my bicycle, the same question I asked everybody.  Most people, including the surgeon, told me "the fall",  which of course is a very vague time when you're itching to ride.  I don't remember much after this.  Of course I was eventually gassed to sleep, and I awoke in the recovery room.

    My time in the hospital is pretty fuzzy, but there are certain things I remember distinctly.  For one, there wasn't enough room in the orthopedics wing, so I was kept in the neurological wing (which made for strange roommates who thought Teresa was a nurse and asked her to do things).
     I don't know what I was expecting after the surgery, but the truth is that my left leg was completely straight and completely useless.  It was strange. I couldn't bend it, move it, etc.  The nurse's told me that some muscles had been cut through to repair the bone and that all the muscles in my leg had tightened up to protect my leg after the trauma.  I didn't think much of it and spent a lot of time trying to mitigate the pain and watching marathons of Storage Wars and Pawn Stars on the tiny tv next to my bed.
     I wasn't able to do much on my own.  I couldn't get out of bed without help, and to walk I used a walker.  I could put no weight on my left leg, which was good as it was essentially useless to me.
     I was given the occasional "physical therapy", but it was so infrequent that it amounted to very little.  I was given a walker to use, but its grips were so small that it pained my hands greatly to use it.  Additionally, I could only use it with help, which was rarely available.  In fact, I got the impression that the hospital staff was spread thin as a number of my calls for a nurse went unanswered and I was once even stuck half in my bed waiting for help, until I finally called again for help.  This was an awful time of helplessness and pain.  I felt depressed and really lamented my impending summer of nothingness.
     One realization that I made while lying in bed one day was that I couldn't move my all.  I don't know what it took me so long to figure it out, but it was completely useless.  I don't exactly know how to describe the sensation, but when I tried to move my leg it would not respond at all.  I was initially horrified.  I had a moment of panic when it struck me that my nerves could have been severed mid-surgery.  I decided that this has to be normal though and calmed myself down.  Yet, one of my few distinct memories was of my realization that my leg was "dead" to me.
    I was encouraged to sit up every day in a chair for a while, but it was incredibly difficult and painful when I finally got to the chair.  I also fatigued easily both mentally and physically.  Finally, there started to be talk of my discharge.  I started to panic. I was told I'd be going to a rehab.  I didn't feel prepared and things got worse when I heard I'd be going to a nursing home instead of an intensive program.  Yes, apparently nursing homes have short term rehab programs.  Where better to put a person with a broken hip anyways?

    An ambulance transported me from the hospital back to a nursing home in Attleboro.  It wasn't painless, but it certainly wasn't as bad as I'd feared.  When I got there I once again felt panicked.  It was a nursing home: pretty much exactly what you'd expect.  The temperature was too warm, the people too old, and the cable too basic.
     In reality, the nursing home was far more than that.  As for my recovery, I started both physical therapy and occupational therapy.  I was plagued by not knowing when I would have which, but I had them about three times a week or so.  At OT I mostly showered.  Thankfully, the nursing home had walk in showers and shower chairs.  My OT was quite kind, but that was essentially what I did.  For physical therapy, I did some small exercises (many for my arms as a wheelchair was my primary mode of transportation mixed with the walker that left my hands in pain or numb).  I did do a number of exercises on my own, but they mostly consisted of flexing my ankles and pressing the back of my knee into the bed I was sitting on.  These exercises are certainly not impressive to read about, but they required some effort on my part.  I was quite excited when I was first able to actually move my leg in any way whatsoever, but truthfully, my leg was still quite useless.  By the time I was leaving, I spent my PT time practicing up and down stairs on crutches as that was what I'd be doing when they released me to go home.  One PT session was even devoted to the physical therapist coming to my house to do an evaluation where she gave suggestions for ways to rearrange the house to improve my accessibility and safety in the house as well practice going up and down the stairs.
     By the time I left the nursing home I could competently use crutches, though there was one point where I almost passed out from over-exertion....which was really not all that much exertion.  I didn't get many opportunities to move around in the nursing home as I wasn't allowed to walk on my own (with the crutches of course!).  Throughout this time, I had what they called "toe touch weight bearing status".  This essentially meant that I should put all of my weight on my good leg, and just a smidge on my bad leg to keep my balance.  Of course my bad leg got weaker throughout this time as the bone healed.

     When I got home I found things pretty difficult.  The good news was that I wasn't experiencing much pain anymore.  However, the stairs were challenging, sitting for long periods was difficult, and I was completely helpless.  Of course, I couldn't carry anything while on crutches, so I couldn't feed myself. I couldn't shower without both a transfer bench and a little help.  I couldn't get up and down the stairs alone, and I was stuck stationary most of the day.  Once home I had a visiting nurse come to see me about once a week and a PT come to see me three times a week.  The visiting nurse was actually rather superfluous at this point, but the PT had me do little exercises under her supervision/with her help.  These were knee bends, stretches, and the likes.  She also had me doing some exercises three times a day on my own.  Strangely, straight leg lifts were impossible and seemed to be the most challenging leg movement to attempt.

     I went to the doctor expecting my weight bearing status to be changed from "toe touch".  My PT suspected he'd change me to 50% weight bearing or partial weight bearing "as tolerated".  Like it sounds, this means that you can put as much weight on the leg as you can tolerate.  When I saw the doctor he said that I could now be partial weight bearing.  When I asked him how much that was, he essentially told me some of my weight.  When I asked "So just put weight onto it and stop before it hurts?" he said "It is ok if it hurts a little".  Eventually, when I went to the outpatient physical therapist he told me these two claims were contradictory.  One said "partial" and the other described "as tolerated".  He then contacted the surgeon for clarification.  The surgeon told him "50 pounds".   This was quite upsetting as it was a very small amount of weight and very surprising to my physical therapist.

     This was my first day of outpatient physical therapy.  It started with an intake, and then twice a week, I started to attend outpatient physical therapy.  Here I was stretched, shown exercises to do at home, and led in exercises that I did there with their equipment.  They were really kind and attentive and most of the exercises were gentle though strenuous.  At this point I was still on two crutches and limited in what I could do.

     I went to the surgeon this day expecting to be changed to full weight bearing and told to use a single crutch of cane.  Once again, I was surprised.  I was told I could put full weight on the leg, but I was told to continue using two crutches.  I asked about riding my bicycle, and the surgeon said "No, you can't ride, what would you do with  your crutches?"  I felt stupid having asked, but only later stropped to consider that the surgeon had said no on the basis of not having anywhere to put the crutches on my bicycle.  In truth, I didn't need my crutches on my bike. I wasn't going to commute by bicycle, I was going to ride a loop and finish where I began...where my crutches were.  Nevertheless, I followed the doctor's orders as per usual.

     I went to the PT and the physical therapist suggested I try to walk with a single crutch.  In truth, I wasn't really using my second crutch much, but I didn't want to disobey the doctor. I tried and realized that the second crutch wasn't doing anything anyways, and I moved to a single crutch.  My physical therapy  became much more rigorous as I was not full weight bearing.  Now I was doing exercises like balancing on my injured leg, squats, and other exercises that really did require full weight on my leg.  I also started to go for short walks at home.  At first I was easily exhausted by this, but I slowly got stronger.
     I tried walking a bit without  a crutch.  It didn't really hurt, but my leg was too weak to support me, so I heavily limped.  This amounted to my walking like Quasimodo or an orangutan.

     I asked my physical therapist about bike riding.  He told me that it didn't actually require full weight bearing status to ride (though mounting and dismounting obviously would), so he was very surprised the doctor told me not to.  The next day I decided to ride my bike.

     I started by riding my Specialized Hardrock mountain bike.  The biggest struggle was mounting  the bike.  I put all my weight on my bad leg, and threw my good leg over the bike to get on.  I helped balance myself by leaning on my garage while I did this.  Then, to my surprise, I mounted my bike and started to ride.  It was actually quite easy.  I mean, my left leg was incredibly weak, but I didn't feel any pain, and I wasn't even skittish.  I didn't record the ride the first day, but  the second day I went about 4.5 miles.  I also suspected I'd ache after the first ride, but I didn't feel anything.  The second day, I started to feel sore though.  My entire leg.  In fact, the only part of my leg that wasn't sore was my hip.  I did have an intense fear that I'd feel the device in my leg that they used to repair my leg.  In the x-ray it looked horrible and like I'd definitely feel it.  However, when I did finally ride, I felt nothing in my hip or thigh (other than tired muscles).  Apparently, my leg happily accepted the device as part of my leg and the muscles healed around it good as new.

      I had been a bit worried about riding a bike that I needed to clip into.  I feared my leg would be too weak to rotate in the manner needed to disengage the pedal or that I'd be unable to unclip when I came to a stop.  I decided I needed to up my game though, and I decided to take my Ridley XBow out.   I stuck to the bike path in order to avoid any sudden need to disengage my pedal.  When I first got on the bike I moaned a bit as I stretched out into the aggressive riding position and worked to lift my weak leg onto the pedal, but other than a loss of flexibility, I felt little to no pain or discomfort.  I did a couple more 5 mile rides, and then a 9 miler, 11 miler, and a 12 miler.  My biggest obstacle has been my loss of conditioning.  At the end of each of these rides I am pretty exhausted.  In fact the first couple were the most exhausted.  I very quickly started to build up a tolerance to the effort with each day, and while I was continually sore, I felt great after each ride, and my leg became much stronger at a much quicker pace than it had been.  I was even able to double the lengths of my walks without tiring.

This bring me to today.  I really feel like these rides have kicked my recovery into full speed, even though I am constantly sore.  It is strange not to be able to walk, but to be able to ride.  I'm not sure what the next step in my recovery will be, but I feel confident that it will come soon.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

This is the End

Yes, while waiting to be rescued, I thought taking a picture of myself while stranded in the dirt would be appropriate.

On Wednesday I got ready for my daily ride.  Originally, I planned a hilly ride with a friend.  I am so hillaphobic, that I figured it would be a good idea to face my fears.  However, he ended up being too busy,  so I went out alone.  I decided to try something different.  I took out the 'cross bike and headed for the Manchester Reservoir.  When I got there it seemed like a great spot.  Wide open dirt paths around the reservoir.  Then as I went deeper things got rockier.  I felt like the 'cross bike wasn't the right tool for the job though a friend of mine told me it would help me work on my handling.  I went a bit further, but finally decided I just needed to head home. I searched for an exit, but not knowing the area I couldn't find one.  Eventually, I found myself climbing a hill I had previously descended.  For much of the hill, I simply walked (or ran) my bike, as it just wasn't terrain I could handle.  As I neared the top of the hill, I remounted the bike and started out again.  Not long after I started, I approached a rock that was about one to two feet in diameter.  I deftly went  around it into a small bush, only to slide on some rocks that were hidden under the bush.  I saw it coming as my bike slid out from under me and I fell onto the large rock.  I was going slow, but I hit the rock hard hip first.

The pain was excruciating.  I screamed.   I tried to crawl off of the rock only to realize that  the pain only increased as I wiggled.  I finally escaped from under my bike and found myself on my back with the pain mildly alleviated.  I laid there for a moment hoping the pain would subside; it didn't.   I then decided that I needed to access my cell phone, which was inconveniently under my back in my camelback.  It took some time for me to fidget the camelback off my back and finally access the phone.  I started calling everyone I knew.  My plan was to see if they'd help me hobble out of the woods and if my hip still hurt I'd drive to the hospital.  The only person I could reach was my special lady friend who had little change of helping me out of the woods on her own.  After laying for about a half-hour I started to realize that the pain wasn't subsiding; I gave in and called 911.

The police spent a long time searching for me and with the help of a runner, gps, and an officer familiar with the area they finally found me.  After turning me over in excruciating pain, they strapped me to a board and slowly lugged me all the way to 295.   I showed up at RI Hospital, and after a day of laying in extreme pain, they operated on me and repaired the hip using a plate and some screws.  This was all awful, but it wasn't  until I was lying in the trauma room that reality actually set in.  They told me I wouldn't return to work this school year and that I wouldn't ride again for 2-4 months.  My entire season of riding was gone right before my eyes.  As I lay in the hospital I am still trying to cope with this devastating news.  The pain is agonizing, the bills will be high, and missing work racks me with guilt, but perhaps the worst is that all my hard work riding has simply vanished before my eyes.  I have been counting down the days until summer.  Dreaming of 30 mile rides every day combined with 70 each day of the weekend. I was hoping to do a double century by the end of the summer.  Now, I will do nothing but atrophy.  One small little fall has thrown everything off course.  I used to spend my down time sorting through bike ads, or reading about training, or searching for "much needed" accessories.  Now I can't do any of that.  Now I have no idea what to do.  I realize that I could be worse off, but it is hard not to feel incredibly depressed right now.  Here's to a summer of crutches and rehab. :(

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The $89 fixie

So when I'm at Target, I always sneak away to peak at the bikes.  Bikes at department stores are essentially junk.  I thought people were exaggerating when they said this, but after a number of brushes with these bikes I quickly realized that these bikes earned these reputations.  Most noticeably, the components are ineffective trash.  The brakes seem able to usually slow the bike, but unable to stop a bike without the assistance of dragging your feet on the ground.  Additionally, they make horrible noises and often hop all over the place when it comes to shifting.  As far as the frames are concerned, I realized that they are incredibly heavy.   So much so, that a young girl's frame far outweighed my my own 63 cm steel frame (how is this possible???). On a plus note, the bikes often have wild paint jobs that may border on garish, but are at the least impressive to most kids.

So on this particular trip to Target, a bike stood out to me as not a cruiser or a mountain bike: a fixie.  I really stopped and stared.  I was shocked. I knew that Wal-Mart had started selling a 99 dollar fixie, but never went there and so didn't think about it much.  When I saw this one, I started to think about it more.  The frame is hi-ten.  This is far from surprising.  But then again, a number of brand name bikes are hi-ten.  This doesn't mean the frame is decent or even on par with these other frames, but it is certainly forgivable and functional.

As I thought about it more I realized that it didn't really matter if the brakes were junk because the bike was fixed.  The drive train on a fixie essentially consists of a bottom bracket, chainring/cranks, rear cog, and chain.  Even low-end components are fairly simple and hard to mess up.  So that really leaves the wheels...which I read online reviews and hear are pretty hit or miss (in particular in regards to their trueness).    I also suspect that all of the bearings could use some more grease.

So, what's my point?  If you true it and grease it, you might have a good-enough 89 dollar fixie....that looks like it is intended for a 10 year old girl. I don't know what to tell you about the aesthetics. I think Target might have missed their "target" audience when they did their research for this one.

This screams cool hipster bike, doesn't it?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Search for a New Bike: Where to buy it.

So once I decided I wanted a carbon fiber bike, I had to choose which brand and which model to purchase.  I started by looking at my choices at some of my favorite bike shops.  Providence Bicycle offered Specialized, Cannondale, Felt, and Pinarello as some of their major brands.  Landry's carried both Specialized and Trek, while East Providence carried Trek and Giant (the only retailer I could find with Giant bikes in the area).  Finally, Caster's offered Trek and Scott's as their two brands.  In my never ending search I test rode Specialized's Roubaix and Tarmac, Trek's Madone and Domane, as well as Giant's TCR.  The reason that I didn't try more bikes is because so few shops had any bikes that were my size.  It was very frustrating.  I wanted a shop that had them all and had them in my size, so I could ride them and compare them side by side.

I spent countless hours reading about the various bikes and all I could determine is that everyone's opinion conflicted.  Once again I was at a loss.  I started to decide that more important than one brand over another was my commitment to one shop over another.  I started to move closer and closer to EP Bicycle and Caster's and so my choices were quickly becoming Trek, Scott, or Giant.  I was very interested in Giant, especially their Defy as it is constantly rated as a great bike and a great bang for your buck.  I went to EP, which was essentially my only option nearby, and they didn't have any Defy's close to my size.  In fact, they didn't have a TCR in my size either.  They let me test ride a 58 cm TCR, and I was pretty disappointed.  Admittedly, it may have been the fit, but it felt like a tiny plastic toy.  When I test road the Specialized bikes and Trek bikes, they felt much more substantial and responsive.

After doing more research on bike shops, I started to really focus in on Caster's.  They employees were friendly and professional and really made me comfortable.  They offered lifetime yearly tune-ups, and were willing to match the sale that EP Bicycles was having.  They also included a free fitting, which I knew was a must with a new road bike.  In fact, they were the only local shop I could find that offered a fit for free.  One finally sealed it for me was when I met with Reed Caster himself, and he really treated me with kindness and respect.

To be continued....

Friday, April 19, 2013

Thinning the Herd

With my recent acquisition of two new high budget (for me) bicycles, I've started to confront my need to thin the herd.  For one, I have many redundant bicycles.  Do I really need 5 vintage steel touring bicycles?   Well, I really want to say yes, but truth be told most of my bikes are sitting around not being ridden.  This feels like a travesty as I love my bikes and think they should all be loved and ridden daily.  As is, I often want to take out my orange Gran Turismo, but am so excited to ride my new bikes that I simply don't.  I also have a number of projects that I haven't even completed including my Bianchi Alfana and my beloved Specialissima.

So, I decided to post some of my beloved bicycles on craigslist.  It was easy to know where to start.  My golden Univega Gran Turismo is a duplicate of my orange Gran Turismo, and is in good condition as I put a lot of work into it over the winter.  I have read about people struggling to appropriately price their bikes because of their sentimental attachment, and I certainly recognize that this will be a problem when it comes to pricing the bikes.  I also would love to recoup the money I put into the bikes but realize that a lot of that money is put into consumables, and it simply isn't always possible.  That being said, I am starting  to price my bikes at how much I put into them and seeing how much of it I can recoup.  In the end though, it is more important to me that the bikes get a new home with someone who will love them than that I recoup every dollar I spent.

Bikes ready to sell:
1980 Univega Gran Turismo
1987 Univega Gran Touring
1980 Univega Sportour

Bikes sold:
Specialized Crossroads Crux

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Search for a New Bike: Aluminum vs. Carbon

So I got the Ridley XBow in January, and I am very excited to ride some trails on it, but I decided to make the dive into a new road bike.  After talking to the very nice person at Caster's On Fourth, I started to realize that even though I love my steel bikes, technology has come a long way in the last 30 years, even in steel construction.  Enjoying the ride of the aluminum XBow with the carbon fork, I figured I might really enjoy a new bike.  I started with a basic knowledge of what I wanted.  An aluminum bike with a carbon fork and 105 components.  Should have been easy, right?


Knowing that I wanted an aluminum bike should have made this all easier, but as soon as I got out to the shops, sales people immediately started to sing the praises of carbon: I was suspicious.  Were they just trying to upsell me?  Were they fanatic racers who had a hard time understanding that not everyone needed to spend the extra thousand dollars to save a pound?  I did extensive reading online and the results were clear:  everyone disagreed.  Half the people insisted carbon was a must and the other half insisted that aluminum was the way to go.  In the end I finally decided to take the plunge into carbon.  Why?  Not to save a pound, but to take advantage of its ability to dampen the feel of the road.  Most people seem to agree that steel does this well, and that aluminum has come a long way in becoming a less harsh ride, but that in the end carbon is superior to aluminum when it comes to easing the feel of the road.

Truth be told, I ride my bike a lot and often on less than perfect roads.  For me I think that carbon was the right decision.  It suits my long rides on rough roads, and because of my commitment to riding, I don't feel that I was over-investing in a new bike.  So it was a very difficult decision, but ultimately I committed to the carbon and I have yet to regret it.

P.S. One of my big hesitations was in regards to the durability of carbon.  Thankfully, I haven't been able to test this at all, but everyone assures me that it is hardier than I give it credit for.  I was also glad to see that many brands give life time warranties on their carbon frames: something I hope to never need.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

X-bow hits the trail...and the ground

The X-Bow meets its first trail
So I took out my new Ridley X-Bow for my first off road adventure.  I took it onto the trails behind LaSalette in the hopes of experiencing some nice biking trails.  On the way there I cut behind Brook Haven and took a path I remember riding as a kid.  It was radically shorter than I remember, but also bumpy as can be.  I expected a better ride on a name brand cyclocross bike than the Huffy mountain bike I rode as a kid, but the truth is that the snow obscured the path, and it made it impossible to know what I was riding on.

When I arrived at the shrine, I road up and down a snowy hill, which I found enjoyable.  Then I made my way along a path to a field.  The gravel path was fun to ride, but the field had very tall grass flattened beneath snow, and was once again more challenging than fun.  Once I got to one of the paths that spun off from the field, I started up and down a rocky and root-ridden path.  It was incredibly challenging but also fun.  I slid all over the snow as I ricocheted off of rocks.  I was knocked off my bike numerous times and took the opportunity to practice a couple runs with my bike.  Overall, I was slow, awkward, and exhausted.  The ride was certainly more muscle building (upper) than aerobic, but it was clear that I was getting some sort of workout as I sweat and ground through the paths.

I begin to question whether this path is too rocky

My vigor was tempered by my fear.  There was snow covering rocks and I simply didn't know if the bike could take the kind of abuse I was doling out upon it.  In reality climbing wasn't bad because it was an excuse to move slowly and made the slips off my bike easy.  But going downhill was wild, exhilarating  and terrifying.  I also found it difficult to know where the path led in the snow, and finally turned back when I found myself at a river crossing.  It was tempting to blow across it, but I feared my foot going through some ice and having to pedal home with soaked feet.

On my way back, one of the difficult ascents turned into one of the terrifying descents.  As soon as the path hit a frozen over puddle, I slipped and found myself on the ground.  My first spill on the new bike.  It is also my favorite spill, because either the extreme cold numbed me from the pain, or the light snow layer padded the ice.  Either way it didn't hurt, and my bike is fine.  On the way home I went along a path at Finberg field, which was once again fun.  The road was a bit brutal because of the wind and my own poor condition, but not so bad.

Crash eye-view

Her first crash

This one didn't hurt. Yay!

My overall first impression of the bike is still unsure, so I'm not going to say much yet. I will say that I know cantilever brakes can be a bit weak, but I think these simply need to be tightened as they were quite weak.  I am excited to get out there some more though and go everywhere on my new bike!