Not The One

So, it’s another summer riding season upon us, and my stable of bikes is now 3. 

Veda, the sturdy hybrid. Not light but has lights.

Geoffrey, the sedate faux-vintage tourer. Also not light, but has lights.

Sara Maude, the step-through starter. Really not light, now chiefly on the training stand. I may keep her as an occasional Burley hauler and loaner for a friend.

Sometime soon, I’d like to have a lightweight road bike, as I’ve tried a couple on recent trips (most recently the unclogged Arizona trip in February, and the unblogged Honolulu Tour de Cure from last November). I liked the road bikes once I got used to the forward-rotated position. But the rentals were really high-end bikes, not in my price range.

My criteria: Lightweight, but aluminum, with a carbon fork. At least 20-22 gears (this means Shimano Tiagra or 105 to a gearhead). Women’s specific design, for narrower handlebars and other differences in geometry. Price range: south of $2000.00. Preferably well south. Brands: something well enough known that it’s not a dark horse.

This one, although the price is attractive, is probably not the one. 


It looks good, the price is good, it’s got 105 components, but it’s an REI house brand – and an unproven, brand new house brand at that. It’s the Co-Op Cycles ARD 1.2 Womens bike. On a whim, I went over to REI to check it out, because they had one in my size in stock. This is an important point, because most bike shops don’t typically have a lot of women’s bikes in stock, built up; you have to test ride the men’s version and order the women’s version “on spec.”

I rode around the lot, and to be fair, the seat was probably a little low, but I didn’t care for it. Shifting was fine, but the saddle was not my cuppa tea; it was slick and glossy, so I’d have to buy another one of my preferred saddles to go on there. 

It’s really a good deal, but it’s an unknown quantity; my husband David thinks I should pass on it because of this.

I’m also looking at the following, but have yet to test ride:

Fuji Finest 1.0 Women’s LE – Meh, the flat blue-grey color is ugh, but the price is good and it has other features. However, David thinks Fuji isn’t a well-known brand (although a friend rides a bike much like this one and loves it.

Specialized Dolce – one of various ones like this EVO, but they all have Tiagra gearing (meaning 20 gears), a bit less to work with on a hill but similar to Veda’s setup.  To get 105 22-speed gearing, I’d have to go up to the carbon-framed Ruby, which is a pretty big price increase, and I have to think whether I want to invest in carbon. I did enjoy the lightness of the carbon bikes I rode, especially the one in Phoenix, but really only rode that one a couple of times. HOWEVER, I’m interested in Specialized’s FutureShock stem technology, which MAY be added to next year’s Dolce Comp EVO. It’s on the Ruby (I think, possibly only selected models).

Trek Lexa 4 seems to be the best of their aluminum line for endurance/all around. Tiagra again. Readily available in several nearby shops.

There are other brands – Felt is locally available, and Liv by Giant is well regarded and carried by a local Giant “superstore.” Of the Liv line, it would be one of the Avail Discs endurance bikes (meaning set up for long rides, not racing).  The 2017 Avail SL 1 Disc has 105 gearing. But I don’t like the colors. The 2018 Avail SL Disc has great colors, but only Tiagra gearing.  It’s maddening.

This brings up a frustrating fact: bike shops generally carry just one or two brands, though there are exceptions, like Spokes Bikes and Kozy’s. Naturally, these Omni-bike dealers aren’t close by. When you’re bike shopping, you have to put some miles in, and a lot of shops don’t have searchable inventory on their websites. So not only do I have to “make do” with test riding men’s bikes before ordering a women’s frame bike, but I have to look around in about a 20-mile or more radius. David bought one of his bikes in Glenview; and he bought the latest one in Wheaton. I bought mine here in Hoffman, and one is from Elk Grove Village; I stuck pretty close to home.

Don’t get me started on the big, fancy bike shops in downtown Chicago. Even though one of them carries this gorgeous Bianchi Volpe, which is not all what I’m shopping for, but pleases my sense of bike aesthetics. Aside from that, BFF Bikes has a nice idea in offering bikes for a female clientele, but their road bikes are Liv. I don’t need to schlep downtown just to see what I can see right here.  

So from a price point-and-features standpoint, I’m stuck. I want what I want, but can’t test ride it and have to make do with trying the men’s version before ordering. Or, I can get something close to what I want, but the colors are garish.

Tweetly Weeks

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Cold-Weather Cycling Has Its Moments

Our friend Larry does a Thanksgiving Day ride every year from Harms Woods to the Chicago Botanic Garden. Lunch was soup and a 7-layer bar. It’s chilly, but dry and mostly not windy. Not much traffic on the (paved) trail or road crossings.

Source: Larry’s Gobble Gobble Ride | Ride | Strava

The Midwest, the joke goes, has 2 seasons: winter, and construction. For Midwest cyclists, there are 2 seasons: winter, and cycling around construction. Some do extend their seasons into late fall and even into the bitter winter by investing in cold-weather gear, lights, beefy gloves, and even “bar mitts” that fit over their handlebars to keep their hands warm.

We belong to a loose association of cyclists that get together using the MEETUP app or by posting notices in local Facebook groups about rides. Sometimes we meet other cyclists at rides hosted by bike shops, sometimes we sign up for an “invitational” ride out in the hinterlands or on quiet local roads and trails. My husband David is a much more avid cyclist – he’s an intermediate to advanced road cyclist, I’m a recreational-speed “casual” that prefers paved paths, quiet country roads, or neighborhood streets. Occasionally, I manage to go for a longer distance, but that’s mostly during the summer.

After we returned from our Hawaii vacation, it was like going from summer to late fall/early winter. I haven’t been riding much anyway, and I didn’t ride as much as I’d have liked in Hawaii, but at least it was decent weather and I did get out there and to some extent, was forced to be a road rider on the recent charity ride. I didn’t go as far as I’d committed, but 38 miles is a decent day’s effort. And I am pleased that I was able to get over a lot of my on-road fears, especially at crossings – though I wasn’t able to get over the steepest hills well at all. That’s for next season.

Since our return, David was talking about the next ride opportunity; Larry Gross’ annual Thanksgiving Day ride. He’s been on this ride before, sometimes when it’s REALLY cold. Somewhat unenthusiastically, I decided to go, too. I wanted to see Larry, and was familiar with the trail we’d be riding.

We didn’t leave the house until almost 1015am, after a leisurely morning drinking coffee, eating cereal, reading the Internets, and searching for all my cold-weather gear. The report was that although it was only about 42 degrees, it would remain dry and relatively windless.

My lack of enthusiasm was greatest in the last 20 minutes or so of warm, sleepy almost-snoozing, but then I slowly started finding bits and pieces of my anti-freeze riding stuff until I had assembled everything. Tights, bike shorts, under layer, over layer, jacket, long-fingered gloves, and a fleece headband to cover my ears; this outfit could almost double as cross-country skiing attire with the exception of the padded shorts.

We drove out to Harms Woods, and found the parking lot where Larry and a few other people waited for us. We compared bikes, chatted, and set off. There was one other woman, a younger one named Chris on an older ladies’ Schwinn that she said was the best kind of bike; “free to me.”

Never judge a rider by her bike, she could definitely keep up and was quick off the mark. I stayed with Larry, who was fighting a head cold and is not a speedy guy at the best of times. David, of course, was farther ahead, and the others were quite fast indeed and decided to go on and skip lunch at the halfway point, the Chicago Botanic Garden. At lunch, another cyclist joined us for the company, remarking that he wasn’t the only lonely rider out there. Actually, there were lots of other cyclists out, and at one road crossing, we were greeted by a southbound group with a friendly “gobble gobble!”

Let’s face it, I’m 59 years old and not likely to get much faster, but also in the cold air, I wasn’t really trying to make PRs in my Strava log for the ride. It was just a grey, chilly day that was good for getting outside, breathing, and listing to one’s body. I wasn’t trying for a PR, but was pleasantly surprised to get one, along with a lot of other 2nd place “bling” logged by Strava,

It’s quite a meditative state, cycling; I watch for cars at crossing and I’m alert for obstacles and hazards on the trail, but my mind goes into a pleasant state where I think about things while simultaneously operating the bike, shifting, pedaling, and avoiding pedestrians.

For more than a year, I’ve been trying to become a better cyclist, but struggling with my own fears and trepidations. My progress has been ridiculously slow. I still get anxious, but am better about just getting a move on rather than whinge. One of the hurdles was crossing busy streets; the recent ride in Honolulu forced me to just get on with it and not hang back waiting to start. I’m hesitating less, thank God; once I get going I tend to remain in motion, but once stopped, I do tend to want to remain at rest too long.

Damn entropy.

One mental habit I need to drop is overthinking how far I’ve gone, how far yet to go. Meanwhile, the cold woods on either side of the trail keep their secrets; who cares how far before lunch, we’re out here in the woods! Watch for coyotes and listen for squirrels! Crunch the brown leaves under the wheels and play a game of “goose poop obstacle course!”

It was a good ride, for all the chilliness in the air. We made good time on the way back, said farewell to Larry and Chris in the parking lot (we’d lost another rider during lunch, who couldn’t stay). On the way home, I enjoyed the pleasant feeling of relaxed fatigue that seems to spread through my muscles; it’s that feeling that you’ve worked hard and earned the rest.

With extended family that night for Thanksgiving dinner, I was teased by a cousin. “You ride right by our house all the time, and never stop by!” They live near the Botanical Garden, and we turn around there on trail rides. Another cousin asked how far we rode. “Only 17 miles.”

From her reaction, you would have thought it was a cross-country tour.

Anyway, sometimes riding in the cold isn’t all that. Yesterday, David and I got all suited up to go out and ride again, as the temperature was to to be about the same. We were to start from East Dundee and ride up the Fox River Trail as far north as we wanted. After noodling around, we got to the start point, stepped out of the car, and immediately thought better of it. The wind was sharper, it was slightly colder, and it was damp. There had been sprinkles of rain on the way over, and it felt like more was on the way.

Suddenly, lunch seemed like the best decision, and we ended up at a place called Pita Pita for some delicious Mediterranean food. No bike ride that day. That was a moment when we looked the wind and the weather in the eye, and blinked.

Today, David took off at about 9am to meet up with the regular Saturday Fox River ride. They ride south to Aurora for lunch at Two Brothers’ Brewery. I opted to stay in bed and drink coffee, but as it’s supposed to be warmer, may go for a ride around here. I do have a yearly goal to meet and I’m just a few miles short of it; I;m just not that crazy. Also, I’d be on my slower upright bike “Geoffrey,” as my flat-bar hybrid “Veda” is now installed on the indoor trainer. Sure, I may ride a bit later when the temp gets up a bit.

And tomorrow, it’s supposed to be almost 50 degrees…

Live Aloha

David and Ginny

November 2016 – we went to Hawaii to ride bikes and raise a little money for Honolulu Tour de Cure, and I some how managed to ride a road bike 38 miles on a very hilly course. Woo! Most of the time we stayed on Maui, and when we came back, autumn was over and winter was on its way.

Something else happened in November, but I can’t put my finger on it.

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Tweetly Weeks

Tweetly Weeks