Riding My Asterisk Off

…one mile at a time…

Went into a bike shop in nearby Davis to look at bikes, told the kid there what kind of riding I do, the distances I shoot for, and that I need to be upright because this old body is not leaning over drop bars. He immediately thought of several possibilities and we took a couple of bikes outside to test ride, one by one.

The first one I tested felt so much better than my old Raleigh, but the bars were a bit far forward and I was on my hands harder than I’m comfortable with. But, bonus, the bars and stem are quite easily adjustable, and with a few tweaks, that bike felt amazing.

The next one I tried was a Specialized step-thru, the color was spiffy, and the grips felt good. All in all, it was a close match to the first bike, but there was something about the first that edge it out a bit. The ease of adjusting the bars is part of it, I think, and the bars are also a little bit wider (men’s frame versus women’s, maybe) which worked better for my broader shoulders.

There were variations on the theme–lots of bikes that fit the parameters of what I was looking for, but the price point on these two bikes was what I was willing to spend on what I hope is just a starter bike. For just under $500 I got a bike almost as comfy as the Pedego (and with bike shorts I think it will be equitable) and that I can really work with.

Marin Larkspur City-Sport Two

As soon as we got it home, we slapped a bottle cage on it and a Garmin mount, and headed out for a shake-down ride. I honestly thought I would struggle, that my heart rate would skyrocket and a couple miles in I would have to stop, but we did five and I could have done more if not for my achign asterisk and sore hands.

The seat is not as cushy as the one on my ebike, but it’s not a torture device, either. I’ll get used to it. The bars might need to come up a half inch still, or moved toward me a touch more, but I’ll adjust to that, too. It felt a lot like going from a cruiser motorcycle to a semi-sportsbike–hurts at first, but you adapt.

And here’s where getting someone who really knows what they’re doing fit a bike to you: my knees didn’t hurt at all during that five miles. Not to say they won’t, but I really expected that starting from a stop would bring about quite a bit of pain, but it didn’t.

The plan from here is to start every bike ride on this one, get a minimum of five miles in (that will go up) and when I’m done, go home and get the Pedego for the rest of the miles. It’s too much fun to not ride.

And oh man, I was so slow on the Marin…slower than I used to be on a road bike. I think I averaged about 9mph when I used to do around 12 (which was still slow) and I only topped 10 when going down an incline. There was a subtle difference in my heart rate; today I averaged about 125 on the Marin, 120 on the Pedego afterward. The main thing is I hit the 120s much sooner on the Marin and kept it there; it took me a good 3-4 minutes longer to get into the 120s on the Pedego. Over 5 miles I burned 300 calories on the Marin, and only 150 in the next 5 on the Pedego.

That takes nothing away from the progress I made on the Pedego; I lost 30 pounds riding it. But I might burn more now, which is what I really want.

So, we’ll see.

…and I use “road” to mean a non-electric. I know that a road bike is not a catch-all term for hard core riders, but I am not hard-core and I just want something to ride that I’m comfortable on.

Raleigh Venture, probably from 2010 or so. I really don’t remember.

This is the current non-electric that I have up on a trainer in the room of pain. I feel horribly cramped on it, which, until last night, made no sense to me. It’s a women’s bike, the large sized frame, and I’m not tiny, so it should work.

But then I talked to a few people who know bikes better than I ever will, and one pointed out something that was obvious to him but not to me: women’s bikes tend to have narrower bars and a slightly shorter distance from stem to seat post. I am a bit taller than a lot of women, and I have broader shoulders and a longer torso. The average women’s bike might not be what works for me.

A lot of the bikes I’ve been looking at online are women’s bikes, but I may need to switch gears and pay attention to men’s bikes.

And either way, there’s a shop near here that does bike fitting, even using lasers to measure a rider. So I think I’ll see if I can get a fitting appointment next week, and see what they come up with.

I’m kinda chomping at the bit with this, just because I want to see how well I can ride without the motor. And I’m pretty sure I’ll get my heart rate a little higher now with a road bike; I’ve kind of tapped out HR-wise on the electric. I’m struggling to hit 130bpm, where before I reached it easily.

Maybe a change up will help get the scale moving again.

Mostly, though, I want the challenge. And before you laugh, yeah, it will be a bit of a challenge. I need to get over the idea that I’ll pass out on the bike, and over the idea that I can get into trouble.

Those things might happen, but…chances must be taken.

The ebike will still be my favorite toy, regardless. I just have stupid amounts of fun on it.

There’s a Pedego Facebook page, one meant for owners to connect and not just the company pimping their wares for the masses. They moderate the page, but rarely interfere, even when there are complaints.

I appreciate this, I really do. It leaves the members open to discuss the bad along with the good, and one of the things most complained about is the brakes. For a spendy bike, the brakes are annoyingly squeaky; you’d think a company making a bike this expensive would figure out how to put brakes on it that you can’t hear from 5 blocks away.

I’ve put up with the squeal since I bought the bike in August 2017. It’s annoying, yes, but the brakes always stopped the bike and felt solid.

But this week it felt like I was pulling the rear brake lever further to the grip than usual, and I assumed it meant it was time for new brake pads. The dealer is an hour away and I really didn’t want to haul the bike there, leave it for who knows how long, and then make the drive back to get it. So we took it to a local bike shop; really local–as small as this place is, there’s a shop that sells and repairs bicycles, and the owner was willing to take a look.

Initially, he didn’t think I’d worn the brakes down,so he did a few adjustments and I took it for a test ride…and it still squealed horribly.

I admit, I would have left it like that. He’d done more than adjust the brakes; he tightened some loose parts on the front end, reattached the wires on my headlamp, and taken some slack out of the brake cables. But he wanted to figure out the squeal, so we left again so he could figure it out.

He wound up changing the pads and discovered that they’d not only worn unevenly, one of them and a weird little lip on it. The brake was engaging, but was off alignment so part of it never touched the disk. New pads, more tightening of things, truing the disks…and the squeak is pretty much gone. The front has a tiny squeal to it, but given how bad it was before, I can live with that.

It feels like a new bike now. I didn’t realize there was anything amiss up front, though now I can feel the difference. I’ll be able to brake more efficiently; I’ve been letting up at the first squeals and riding the back brake since it wasn’t quite as noisy.

Finger crossed it doesn’t start up again.

And I discovered I won’t melt while riding. It was raining on the way there, and it was raining on the way back, but other than my glasses getting wet and it’s annoying to try to see through droplet-covered lenses, the bike still felt solid on the street surface.

I’d almost be willing to do it again.

I also started researching road bikes online. I don’t think I can do the same 20-30 miles I do now on one, but I’d like an entry level hybrid to ride around the neighborhood, and build on that. I don’t want to spend a lot, but damn, some of the prettiest bikes out there are $10-13K.

Yeah, no.

I can’t imagine ever getting to point where a $13,000 bicycle would be optimal for me, not at my age.

But, we’ll see what I eventually wind up with…as long as it’s under $600 or so. And spiffy looking. And fast.

Raleigh Venture on a Kinetic trainer

The start to Thumper’s Room of Pain.

The treadmill has been in the room for a while, though it was moved to free up floor space for the bike and a rowing machine…the latter of which is not set up at the moment because one of the wardrobes on that wall needs to be removed first. It’s about nine feet long and the room is only 10 x 10; the wardrobe takes up a good 2 feet of the floor.

It’s empty and can be used in the garage, so the rowing machine should be up soon.

The main thing for me right now is the bike. The problem for me is that I feel super cramped on it, but I’m not sure if it’s the frame or that I’m so used to the cruiser bars on my Pedego that leaning just a tiny bit forward throws me off.

I’ll still use it, but it takes a good 5 minutes of pedaling before I feel like I can keep going.

At some point, I’ll want to ride something that an electric bike outside. The plan was to take the Raleigh off the trainer but I’m now leaning toward looking for a good used bike to ride, and just leave this one where it is. It works, and that’s all I need right now.

And today, I’m going to need it. We’d planned on taking a long ride this morning, but it’s raining and frankly, we’re not that dedicated.

I got 20 miles in yesterday and 10 the day before, so I’m not, like, ohmygod I need to ride, but I would like to get a few miles in and then take tomorrow as a rest day.

Yeah, I’m learning. I need rest days. My knees are too old now not to.

We ride together…a lot

I often ride to Starbucks; if I have a choice, I take the bike. I take the long way and get there at right about 5 miles, and then take the longer way home. It’s a heck of a lot more fun than driving, in spite of the idiots driving around here who seem to think bike lanes are a suggestion and have no clue that bicycles are allowed to use the roads.

My favorite toy has an electric motor; I have another bike, a standard step-through 8 speed road bike, but because of reasons, I’m not comfortable taking it far from home. Hence, it lives in the spare bedroom on tp of an indoor trainer and I always take the pretty pink bike. A while back, I got to Starbucks and started to lock it up, but when I went to turn the controller off, it was flashing an error code.

Because the Internet is a thing, after I got online and whined about it, and then posted to a Pedego FB group, I got the answer I needed and was not stuck there all day waiting for the Spouse Thingy to come pick me up. But I did whine about it BECAUSE OF COURSE I DID THAT’S WHAT I DO, which set off a IM conversation that would have pissed me off if I hadn’t known it was tongue in cheek.

Dood: Electric. That’s cheating.
Me: Electric. That’s fricking FUN.
Dood: Cheat, cheat cheat, cheat, cheat.
Me: Says the guy with an electric skateboard. And an electric wheel.
Dood: That’s different. Those are for fun.

Here’s the thing… a lot of people–a lot of a lot–think riding an electric bike is somehow cheating. A “real” cyclist pedals using nothing but body power and sweats like a whore in July, developing massive quads that can crush small children and delicate women with zero effort. He was teasing me because he knows I’ve heard that grunted in my direction: “yeah, it’s a nice looking bike, but she’s cheating.”

If you ride a regular bike, more power to you. The Spouse Thingy does; he likes his bike. I like mine. He uses his gears to adapt to changes in the road grade and surface. I use different levels of pedal assist. It’s basically like using the gears, which I have but have never changed, but I save a lot of wear and tear on my knees. And I’m not young anymore. I like the idea of saving that wear and tear.

The motor isn’t a heart-rate curbing device, either. If I take the road bike a mile, I get my HR up to about 130. If I take the electric, I get my HR up to about 130. The difference is I get there faster…so I go further. If I take the road bike, I might ride 3-4 miles. If I take the electric, I might stop at 10 but I’m just as likely to go 15, and often 20. My longest ride is 30, and I only went home because I was hungry and had to pee.

Road bike = 20ish minutes at 130
Electric bike = 60-120 minutes at 130

For what I want…it’s not cheating.

But here’s the kicker. I don’t only ride the electric because it’s more fun for me. I ride it because a couple of years ago (hell, maybe 5-7 at this point) I was pedaling my merry way home, and a quarter mile short I started feeling super nauseated and light headed. And then I passed out. I was damned lucky to not be going at speed when that happened; I was able to get off the bike. The only thing that saved my asterisk was recognizing the symptoms of over-heating combined with a blood sugar crash.

I don’t always recognize it when it happens. Most of the time I do (ask the Spouse Thingy how many times I’ve just stopped and told him I need to eat. Like RIGHT NOW) and deal with it. But afterward it feels like a ton of ick, and getting back on a bike I’d have to pedal very slowly is not the best idea in the world.

Because the bike has a throttle, if I get into trouble, I can get my asterisk home without having to pedal. I can get to food, or sugar, or a/c (and seriously, I now know the distances between just about everything in this little town, at least the places I would need to reach quickly. All hail 3 Day training.) Riding an electric gives me freedom I don’t have otherwise.

So no, it’s not cheating. I get more exercise, and I feel a hell of a lot safer on it.

It doesn’t even matter if that safety is my own perception. I FEEL safer. Thusly, I get out and ride when I can. And isn’t that the point? Ride safe, ride over drive, have some fraking FUN.

And older folks…this is an awesome way to get back into activity. If you can’t ride anymore, an electric might make it possible. If you can’t balance, there are electric trikes. Pedego has some seriously great options.

So, yeah. I don’t wanna pass out on a bike.

I want to have fun.

So I do.

A matching water bottle was necessary…right?

It took a bit of finagling, but I’ve moved this blog from Blogger to its own domain. I’m not 100% sure why, because I liked the look I had and I’m familiar with the Blogger layout and know how to tweak a template there. Yet I also wanted to play with WordPress, and figured the blog that has zero traction is the one to tinker with.

Moving it meant going back and reading old posts; not everything made the cut, but even the stuff I kept from the beginning is pretty goddamed boring. I’d like to make this a whole lot less boring, but I didn’t think I should scrap everything and start over.

It’s not like anyone is going to go back and read that crap. If you do, well, I’m sorry. But you were warned.

I’ll probably play with the template until I find something I like better.

I’ll definitely pay more attention to content. While this is my journey–the ups and downs of trying to carve around 80 pounds off my body and keep it off–it doesn’t have to be a snoozefest. I’m a writer, dammit, I should be able to do more than whine about water weight and plateaus.

It might be a lot of bike riding, especially once I move beyond riding around my little town. I’d like to explore, to check out bike trails and long rides in the area. I’d also like those rides to be a hell of a lot safer than they currently are, but I can’t have everything, I suppose.

I’ll never be the cyclist in padded shorts and a skin tight jersey, bent over a slick, spendy 12 speed. I might be in leggings, but chances are I’ll be the old lady riding a cruiser-style bike while rocking the track pants, t-shirt, and neon pink hair. Most of the time I’ll be on my even more neon pink electric bike, but I’m slowly working toward a road bike.

I have a whole lot of fears wrapped around a road bike. A few years ago I was tooling around town on mine and my blood sugar crashed. I barely got off the bike before I passed out…and now in the back of my mind is the idea that it will happen again, though I won’t be able to stop and get off in time.

That’s the biggest reason I ride an electric. I usually know when I’m about to crash and burn and can do something about it. With the electric, I can stop pedaling and hit the throttle and get to help pretty freaking fast. It’s largely a mental thing, I know, but it’s also been a whole lot better on my knees and my back, and as a result I ride longer and harder than I used to.

Losing weight is no longer my primary focus, though it is still a major goal. Mostly what I want is to be active and healthy; if I can do that, I think the weight will take care of itself.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I really, really want to be able to wear a tight t-shirt without having a raging muffin top flopping all over the place. I think if I can achieve that, all while continuing to ride and distance-walk, I’ll be satisfied.

But first…tweak the template. This one is kind of boring.

It’s a nonscale victory that I’ll totally take. On a whim, I bought a pair of pants at Walmart–only $15, so why not–and I picked a size smaller than I’ve been in.

They’re a tiny bit snug in the waist but fit perfectly everywhere else. Three to five pounds and the waist will be perfect, too.

Scale victory: it finally moved today. I am just .75 pounds from being at my lowest weight in 20 years. That’s still well into the realm of overweight, but fuckitall, I’ll take it.

It’s raining AGAIN today, but once my lunch settles, I’m totally getting on the indoor bike to nowhere.