Thoughts on STRAVA … 🚴🏻

Unexpectedly, STRAVA has opened new doors for me.

I never appreciated the social features of STRAVA as much as I have since the start of the COVID lockdowns.

I have a new set of cycling mates 😂 I actively follow local cyclists that get out regularly to learn new routes, and share “kudos” and messages of encouragement. Since all of the cycling events have been cancelled, and group rides discouraged, I look forward to sharing rides with my new friends.

I follow men and women of all ages that live in the area, that have cycled 3,000+ km to-date this year. I’m surprised how many serious cyclists live nearby. And, I’m surprised how strong, and fast some of them are. Stronger, and faster than me ☹️ Some are a real inspiration. One woman gets out EVERY morning at dawn for a walk and coffee posting beautiful pictures of the sun rise. Another young woman, who just returned from Europe after completing her PhD, completes all of the local routes in record times. One fellow, a local cycling coach, climbs all of the local mountain regularly.

My new mates are an inspiration. They get out regularly, and encourage me to do the same. I actually feel I’m letting them down if I don’t ride 🤷‍♂️ And, they don’t just post rides. They also record swims, walks, SWIFT sessions, and Peleton workouts.

I walk a lot these days, taking every opportunity to get outside, and have begun to record these as well. A walk is a workout, right?

If you aren’t already using STRAVA’s social aspect, I encourage you to check it out.

“The Worst Retirement Ever” … 😂

I’m spending too much time on YouTube, but it has its benefits 😂

Phil Gaimon was a professional cyclist. He retired in 2016 to find a real job (he wasn’t that good apparently), and developed a YouTube channel called The Worst Retirement Ever, where he travels the world trying to earn KOMs on the worlds toughest climbs. A formidable task, and the worst ever retirement.

Or is it?

I learned of Phil when he visited my hometown to attempt the Triple Crown. We have 3 local mountains, and each year there is a race up each of them in succession. Phil attempted to KOM each of them. I don’t know if he was successful or not. I haven’t found the video yet but it got me thinking.

I identify with Phil.

I’m retired, and all I really want to do is train, and cycle. I’m nowhere as fit, or fast, but then again, I’m also a lot older. By a long shot. And, I never raced professionally. No, I’m a recreational cyclist with an obsession. Instead of chasing KOMs around the world, I chase local PRs. It’s encouraging to see that even at my age, I can improve.

So maybe my blog needs to be renamed from PedalWORKS to The Worst Retirement. Certainly most people my age are not interested in pushing themselves physically the way I do. But I look at it differently.

What is more important than your health? My health?

Nothing.

Cycling gets me out the door, challenging myself, and engaged. What more could I ask for?

There is something.

Warm weather all year round. When we are done with COVID-19, I hope to spend the summer months at Camp PedalWORKS, and the winters in Arizona 😃

Cycling efficiency …🤔

I’m a deep thinker 😂

I have been thinking about this for awhile now.

I am preparing for several long, challenging events this year ranging in length from 100-150 kms. It’s important to pace myself, conserve energy whenever possible, and cycle efficiently.

What does that mean? Cycle efficiently 🤔

The French have a word for beautiful pedalling: souplesse. And it’s not just elegant, it’s usually more efficient too. However, it’s not the only consideration and pedalling efficiency is often guided by personal and physiological preference – what feels right is probably the most efficient.

Over the years, it has meant different things to me. I frequently train in Stanley Park, completing several laps around the road. Each lap is approximately 10 km and includes a 2 km climb, a 2 km descent, and 6 km of flat, and rolling terrain. Each lap provides an opportunity to practice climbing, descending, and sprinting skills.

This is what I think about, and work on, while circling the park with the goal of maintaining a consistent pace, and reducing lap times.

  • Pedal in circles. What does that mean? Well, it means engaging all legs muscles throughout the entire pedal stroke – quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.  This sounds easy enough but requires concerted practice. Even after decades of cycling, I continue to practice, making the movement from the the top and back a powerful, seamless motion.

Best done on an indoor trainer for obvious safety reasons, single-legged drills are one of the most effective ways of improving your pedalling. After a warm-up, select a medium gear/resistance that is easy to turn smoothly at 90-100rpm without causing muscle fatigue.

  • Maintain a high cadence. There was a time when I thought I needed to push large gears to go fast, and have some of the largest chainrings ever made to prove it. Boy, was I wrong. It took me a long time to realize that if I pedal faster in a lower gear I not only go faster, but with less effort.

Higher cadences often yield better efficiency – look at Chris Froome’s unnaturally high looking cadence and it does no harm to practice riding at a higher RPM.

  • Pedal while descending. I used to stop pedalling, and rest when descending. Why not? I had worked hard getting to the top, and deserved a break. Right? Wrong! I learned if I shifted into a higher gear, and continued pedalling, even with modest effort, I descended faster, and still recovered.
  • Get on the handlebar drops while descending. Get out of the wind. Get more aerodynamic. Get on the drops, tuck elbows in, and lower the chest.

The rider’s body accounts for 70 to 80 percent of drag while cycling; the bike, clothing and helmet the remainder. So getting aero on the bike will dramatically improve efficiency.

  • Select the straightest line on the descent. The straighter the line, the faster the descent. When there is no traffic, I have the full width of the 2-lane road, so that I can pick a straighter line, and descend faster with less effort.

Though you may not get a chance for some really great descending too often, chances are your regular riding gives you an opportunity to practice the basics on familiar roads.  Simple things like disciplining yourself to descend on the drops and focus on control and body position should be well drilled on the small stuff before you hit the bigger challenges.

  • Get on the handlebar tops while climbing. When climbing, position hands on the handlebar tops. This opens the chest allowing me to breath more deeply, and positions me back on the saddle which engages the glutes more.

This position can allow you to ride a bit more upright taking more pressure off your back as well as hands. This position should only be used when you are on a straight, open stretch of road, or climb, where you most definitely won’t have to use the brakes quickly as your hands will be further from them. Also, never ride the tops in a group as again your hands are too far from the brake levers.

  • Shift early. Don’t wait until it is too late. Get in a lower gear before the climb begins, not when I’m when already on the hill.
  • Hydrate regularly. Take in fluid, once every lap, and usually before the start of the climb.

That’s what I think about.

Deep eh 😂

First ride of the year …

2016 began the same way 2015 ended, only longer.

Chas and I did a 80 km workout around the city enjoying the cool but clear weather, stopping at our favourite watering hole, JJ Bean, for a customary, mid-ride coffee and wrap.

I can think of no better way to start the year.

Chas’s new drive train and tires stood the test of several lengthy climbs and fast descents. He is a wonderful ride despite his 35 years. His steel frame and new, wider 28 mm tires make a big difference on the bumpy city streets and bike paths. A steel steed. I feel like I could ride with him forever.

We are quite the pair, Chas and I. Long past our prime but intent on being outside, continually challenging ourselves, and discovering new roads to share. I think we have a long trip left to make, one last epic ride to places we have never seen before. But that is for another time.

Today is about a new start, and new possibilities. Chas and I re-traced a familiar route but in a new way. He was better dressed with his new chain, cassette and tires. And I start this new year with a more open mind. I am finished with work. Retired. I’m not certain what that may look like. All I know is that I am looking forward to spending even more time with Chas, Lou, and Thatch. We have a few trips and cycling events planned but I’m open to new possibilities. New places. New people. New challenges.

Today I was introduced to Kajsa Tyler, a young British woman set on breaking the women’s world record for the Furthest Distance Cycled in a Year. The current record (29,603 miles) was set in 1938 by Billie Dovey on a 3-speed bike. Think about that for a moment. 29,603 miles. That’s 47,641 kilometres – 131 km each and every day for 365 days. That is a lot of cycling.

Setting a new world record is certainly not on my Cycling Bucket List but Billie and Kajsa are an inspiration for us all.

I’d like to make a toast. Here is to a new start. Happy pedalling and may the wind always be at your back.

🙂

iPhriday – cold, sunny rides

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We have had several sunny, cold days this week – snow on the local mountains and, at times, black ice at sea level. I have enjoyed my rides more than usual for this time of year.

These photographs were taken with my iPhone 5C while cycling by the water, and have not been edited in any way.

I’m joining Lisa from GrayDaysAndCoffee to share smartphone photos each Friday. Please join us each Friday and share your favourite iPhone photographs.

The Burrard Bridge …

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I cycle under the Burrard Bridge most days, but seldom stop to look. It is one of 3 bridges connecting the downtown core with the residential areas to the south.

This heritage, Art Deco, steel truss bridge was first opened in 1932, and services 65,000 automobiles each and every day. As the city has grown, so too have cyclists needs. Amidst considerable controversy and resistance, one of the 6 lanes was converted to a dedicated cycling lane in 2009. Ever since, bike traffic on the bridge has steadily increased.

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Between 2013-2015, the monthly cycling trips over the bridge has almost doubled lending support to the municipal government’s initiative to improve and expand the cycling infrastructure within the city (last evening the proposal was approved by council).

It demonstrates that if you build it, people will use it. Kudos to the local planners with the insight and political conviction to make cycling a priority, and a viable alternative for thousands. It takes vision, determination, and political will to connect these memorable destinations in Vancouver with safe, low traffic bikeways.

I have never thought of it before, but Vancouver is a premier cycling destination for all types of cyclists. For road cyclists, there are numerous scenic, fast, challenging routes, and mountains to climb. For mountain bikers, there is the Pacific Spirit Regional Park, not to mention the legendary North Shore mountain biking trails. And, for casual, recreational cyclists there is an extensive network of dedicated bike lanes and traffic-calmed bikeways.

I’m sounding like a billboard. Never mind. If you are planning a trip to Vancouver, get in touch. I’d be pleased to share my favourite rides with you.

 

 

Grey skies can’t darken my day …

The weather has changed. The high pressure system that brought clear skies, and cold temperatures, has given way to a moisture-filled low that is threatening rain and warmer temperatures for a week. Maybe longer. Never mind.

Grey skies can’t darken my day.

I cycle rain, or shine. You see, for me, a day without a ride is a day without sunshine. It’s my time. We all need my time. Right? Time alone to get our thoughts right. For me, I do that best on my bikes. My mind clears. Problems dissipate. Solutions emerge. At the end of a ride, I am renewed. Strengthened in a way not possible otherwise. It’s moving meditation.

You see, I have this daily ritual. I do laps on the seawall and perimeter road in Stanley Park doing 35-50 km depending on how I’m feeling that day, what bike I am on, and the weather. When it is warm, and I’m feeling well, I’ll ride for 2-3 hours. Sometimes longer, challenging myself to faster climbs, and riskier descents. When it is windy and wet, I may only do 1 lap around the flat(ish) seawall.

And then, I stop for a post-ride meal. A veggie wrap, salad, and a black drip coffee. Every day it’s the same thing. Laps and a wrap.

You would think I might change things up. I do on the weekends, of course. I have several longer routes I enjoy but during the week the park is my place. It is close to the office. Close to the house. And, connected by a traffic-calmed bike pathway.

“Can’t you at least eat something different once in awhile?”, you ask.

No. I can’t!

“Can’t you try another route just once?”, you ask.

No. I can’t!

You see, this is my advanced health formula. It boosts my immune system. I’m seldom ill. It increases my energy. I accomplish a lot each and every day. I sleep soundly for 8-9 hours a night. My weight is managed. And, I have a positive attitude basking in sunlight, even when it rains. It is just part of my day. Part of getting to and from the office. I don’t have to make time for it. I don’t have to book a tee time. A court time. Or, make time for the gym.

I just do it. It’s involuntary, like breathing.

Chas gets a turn …

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Chas and I went for a ride today. This is the last day of clear, but cold, weather. Rain and warmer temperatures are forecast beginning tomorrow.

It’s really not bad cycling in the cold provided you have the proper clothing. For me, that means a helmet cover to dissipate the wind, a balaclava, yellow tinted sun glasses to block the wind (and cold), a cycling specific wind/rain jacket over at least 2 layers, full-finger winter gloves, lined cycling wind tights, cold-weather booties, and heavy wool socks.

Last week I purchased a new pair of lined cycling tights – MEC Flyer Tights – that I can’t say enough about. The front panels block the wind, and repel light rain. The knees are articulated providing a full range of motion when pedalling. And, inside they are warm and cozy, perfect for winter cycling.

It was 2 degrees Celsius when Chas and I headed out. We don’t cycle as fast, or as far in this weather. I concentrate on maintaining a consistent cadence, and an efficient pedalling stroke. And, the scenery. It was beautiful by the water.

Tomorrow it will be much warmer. And wet. Thatch will get a turn tomorrow, and the rest of the week. And, I won’t be stopping to take many pictures.

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I made a commitment …

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Three years ago I made a commitment to myself. I committed to commute by bicycle throughout the year, not just when it is warm and dry, or when it suited me. I committed to cycling to and from the office every day regardless of the weather. No excuses.

Cycling was not new to me. After all, I had trained, toured, and even commuted for years. It’s just that when the weather got cold and wet, I would drive, walk, or take public transit. This time, things were different. This time, the stars aligned. I had a suitable bike, and clothing for all seasons. I could bring my bike into the office without fear of the ubiquitous bike thief. The office had a very casual dress code. There was a shower in the office to clean up, and change when necessary. And, there was a community of like-minded cyclists in the office.

What started as a one year experiment, turned into a three year adventure. Although I had cycled seriously for years, cycling became an indispensable part of every day. Every day I cycled 40 km, and very often, a lot more. It is only a 5 km trip to the office in the morning but a 35+ km workout on the way home.

There are the obvious benefits. I saved money on gas and parking, managed my weight without much effort, and spent more time outside.

And, there are unexpected benefits.

I didn’t expect to become a much better cyclist. I guess I thought I was good to begin with. Today, I am more technically proficient. I pedal in circles without even thinking about it. I spin faster in lower gears minimizing the wear and tear on my knees. I climb, and descend faster. I shift easily, and often, maintaining a consistent cadence. I cycle longer, and farther. I complete centuries faster, and more easily than ever. And, the wind and hills are actually fun.

I take better care of my bikes. I need to. I depend on them. I’m a better bike mechanic confident installing and adjusting stems, saddles, bars, derailleurs, tire, tubes, wheels, chains, cassettes, cables …

I eat better. I eat to fuel my rides, not to feed insecurities. No meat. No fast food. No sweets. And fresh, local produce whenever possible.

I’m acutely aware of how inefficient the automobile has become, creating more problems than it has solved. Congestion. Noise. Pollution. And, the wasteful use of land for roads and car parks.

And, perhaps most importantly, I live more simply. I need less, but have more. What began as an experiment to cycle more has shifted my priorities.

Cycle commuting isn’t for everyone. I understand that. Some need a vehicle for work. Some live too far from their work. And, others are not able. But, as urban densities increase, there is an opportunity, no a necessity, to get more people cycling. Municipalities and local businesses have a part to play by providing the necessary infrastructure – bike paths, dedicated bike lanes, traffic calmed streets, end-of-ride change facilities, bike lock ups … A carbon tax and bridge tolls are being considered here, and if implemented, will spur commuters to look for alternatives.

What are you doing to reduce your carbon footprint?

He was a Christmas present | 5 Day Story Challenge

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He was a Christmas present.

A surprise gift from my partner 25 years ago. A hand-made, rigid mountain bike. Perfect for exploring the local lanes with my 2 young sons. Or, so she thought.

He has served me well, and like all of my bikes, has seen several reincarnations. In the beginning, we did explore the neighbourhood lanes with my sons, teaching them how to ride safely. When they were ready, we began cycling the trails in Pacific Rim Park. The park boasts a network of trails, including several lengthy climbs and fast descents, where you can easily lose yourself for several hours. And then, when they were ready, we progressed to the legendary trails on the North Shore. These are more challenging, more difficult, and for some like me, downright dangerous. At this point, the bike wasn’t enough. I needed suspension. We needed suspension. We now have a stable of hard tails and full suspension bikes suitable for the North Shore, Squamish and Whistler trails.

These days, my Christmas present serves a different purpose. He is equipped with a set of narrow, slick, street tires, a pannier rack, a decommissioned Brooks Professional saddle, and an assortment of used parts from other bikes. Now, he serves as a utility bike and commuter.

Chas: “Hey! That’s my saddle.”

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I have put a lot of kilometres on him. Still do. He is my main ride throughout the work week, and in the winter, when the weather is wet and cold, I continue to ride him regularly. Chas and Lou don’t like wet.

Chas: “Hey. It’s not me. It’s you. You don’t like getting me dirty.”


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We have shared some great times.

He accompanied my son and I to London, England for a month. My son had a trial with one of the top London “football” clubs. He was only 15 at the time, and I wanted to be with him, but needed something to do throughout the day while he was training. Every day I cycled throughout London and points north exploring every park I came across.

Thatch: “That was fun. I like going to new places.”

Another time, we climbed up to the Elfin Lakes, a popular hiking destination. It’s a long, steady climb up, and no place for a rigid MTB, particularly on the way down. I had my hands on the brakes all the way and could barely straighten them by the time we were down. The trail is rocky, and without suspension, it was a very uncomfortable, and dangerous, descent.

Thatch: “I’ll say. That was hard but I did it.”

Once we even cycled to Squamish, a popular, very hilly, 80 km route popular with road cyclists. It took us a long time. Four hours I think. The rest of the group were on road bikes and waited patiently. Or, so they said.

Thatch: “I think you liked doing it with me. My small chainring made the long, steep climbs easy for you.”

I have even flown him to the cottage several times to cycle the quiet rural roads. So, you see, he has been a good friend for a long time. Almost as long as Chas.

Thatch: “I’m not that old.”


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Here he is leaning against a tree overlooking English Bay. His tree. The same tree he has leaned against for 20 years. When we first started stopping here to rest, enjoy the view, and exercise a little, the tree was a sapling, only a few inches in diameter. Today, it is wide around the girth, a bit like me.

Thatch: “This is my favourite place! Take note. I haven’t put any weight on.”

Unlike Chas and Lou, he didn’t have a name until recently. That’s because he isn’t a he. He’s a she. Her name is Thatch. An iron lady. Strong. Tough. Determined. Resolute.

Thatch: “That’s me. Not like those other two that can’t handle heavy loads, rough surfaces, and inclement weather.”

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5 Day Story Challenge 

Becky of Restart Urgently Needed nominated me for this challenge. She wanted to hear more about my bikes she said. Thank you Becky 🙂 I have to write 5 posts about my bikes and, with each post, nominate another blogger to accept the challenge. This time, I am nominating Ellie (A Writer’s Caravan) for the 5 day story challenge because I would love to read a story about how music has shaped her life.

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