Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bombarded and barraged

It was very windy on Thursday, I was getting knocked around a great deal. I stayed off the trails because they were even windier being right along the rivers. Everyone was respectful, even a PAT bus who passed me and stayed out of my lane... except this driver. I tried to catch up with her when she was stopped at the light ahead of me, but she pulled away and into the valet area.

Too close, lady! One gust of wind and I'll get blown under your tires!
Silver Chevy JDJ 8331 is in a big hurry to get to the Casino!
Gotta park your rear in front of that special slot machine at a certain time? Can't be late!

After that pass, I decided to put this on the back basket:

I'm not sure I like it. Opinions are welcome.

Who wants to see Herring gulls?

I'm childish, I know. Every so often, the 4 year old in me likes to run through groups of pigeons and today, it was a flock of seagulls. I had to indulge the 4 year old today. Luckily, none of them crapped on me.

WARNING! Music: Surfin' Bird by The Cramps! Turn down your speakers if you're not a fan of Surfin' Bird or The Cramps (one of the greatest bands on Earth, IMHO).

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

FIKS Hexalate reflective stickers

It's no secret that I love being reflective, being seen. I love Fiks Hexalate stickers.
I was frustrated with my inability to get the stickers nice and straight and in any semblance of a pattern on the Lilac Monster. My 'patterns' looked awful. I discovered a trick from a Japanese site where they used masking tape to get a nice, perfect pattern. I'll demonstrate on Ruby:

Cut the pattern you wish to use

Place masking tape on the stickers

peel the backing off

Press the stickers onto the bike

Peel the masking tape away....


Viola! Perfectly aligned Hexalate pattern!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

First Flock and encounters ensue

Friday was the first chance I had to ride with Flock of Cycles and with the wonderful weather, I couldn't pass up the chance. I skipped out of work a bit early and headed to Dippy where about 25 of us embarked on a 10 mile ride through Oakland, Squirrel Hill, East Liberty and Friendship (not necessarily in that order).  I ran into Marko and Yale again and met Joyce, Marcel and Mick for the first time.
A gentleman called Xuth showed up wearing Xuth's Coat of LEDs. It was beyond awesome.

Here's 52 seconds of my perspective riding behind him:

Frankly, video doesn't do it justice.

It was considerable fun, very organized and plan on going again. I didn't even mind the hill or being the last one up. I hung back with Joyce and stayed with her when her chain fell off going up the hill. I think we needed a third arm to point at all the potholes. One pothole was as big as a car.

I really need to make sure my headlamp is properly charged before night riding. It died before I made it back to base. The Strip was eerily quiet when I pedaled back through. I could hear my own breathing and the faint click of the loose spoke reflectors on the front wheel.
I enjoyed the silence.
a lovely 22 mile evening. I kicked my Fitbit steps over 17K. Nice.


Saturday brought even better weather, the sun was out all day and so was the wind. I departed base after lunch with Hubby with intentions of returning Ruby's hospital tag to Thick Bikes. On the Hot Metal Bridge I stopped to check out the flooding at Riverview Park and Marko rolled up while I was snapping a shot. We chatted for a bit and then Terry rode up.

It was nice to finally meet Terry after having read his blog for a while. It turns out Terry was also heading to Thick so we all rode together. It was a crazy day on the South Side with a giant Soup Crawl event of some sort. Everyone was walking around with special Soup Tags and a glazed look of soup satiation in their eyes.

At Thick I returned Ruby's tag to Chris and decided to look at a secondary headlamp but I didn't find any USB rechargeable ones that I liked. I settled on *more* FIKS reflective stickers. My ridemates poked fun of me, telling me that if I put any more reflective stuff on my bike that I'll need *more* bike to do so. There's no such thing as 'too reflective', I told them.

I'm playing with the features of iMovie, here's a portion of Saturday's ride in hyperspeed:

We headed back into town and dropped Terry off at Wingharts, but not before I pointed out some of the new Hades tiles to them. Marko rode with me back to base as he was going to check out the condition of the trail down to the Bastille.

When I caught my trolley car to head back home, I looked down from the T station and there was Vannevar and SR waiting at the light! I manged to snap a shot of them as the car pulled away.

It was a wonderful day of spectacular weather, good company and chance encounters.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Leg cramps, cadence and uprooting from the South Hills

Recently, I started getting leg cramps of a new sort. There's the usual calf leg cramps that nearly all women are used to getting in the middle of the night. When we turn into adults, these awful things are bestowed onto us for the rest of our lives, and I'm told they worsen during pregnancy.
Then I started getting cramps in my thighs, these are ten times worse. It feels like your muscles are tearing off of your bones. The first one caused me to bellow like a dying farm animal in our bed. Hubby's so used to my nighttime leg cramps he just lifted his head, asked what was wrong and said "Oh." and went back to sleep. How anyone can sleep through their partner writhing and whimpering in agony right next to them in bed, is beyond me.

I'm straining my gracilis and/or vastus medialis.
Googling "gracilis and vastus medialis cramps" brings up a mountain biking forum discussion in the first two results. How about that.
I've known about and employ the drinking more water and potassium/magnesium preventions, but pickle juice? Mustard? Never heard of that! I'm reluctant to try quinine.
I may stretch, take a swig of pickle juice (because, hey... pickle juice is delicious!) before bed and try the heating pad.
UPDATE: the morning after pickle juicing, stretching and using the heating pad, my thigh didn't spasm in the night and it feels fine. Considering I went to bed with the hair-trigger feeling that they were about to go into spasms, this is good news.

Cadence notes on flat parts:

I can get up to 85-90 but no more than 9.1 MPH and I'm spinning like mad.

If I concentrate on getting there, 75-80 and 11-13 MPH.

No more than 73.

Previously, my favorite gears were 2/6 and 2/7 on flat parts. I've switched down to 2/5.

Cadence on hills: achieving 85-90 on hills in a low gear (1/3) is easy.

I'm starting to wonder why I have a third ring on the crank. I never use it.


Hubby is giving serious considerations to moving. We have a very long, steep driveway and this past winter was his last straw after falling several times trying to walk down our skating rink of a driveway. Getting a car up a steep, snowy driveway is beyond challenging too. I'm surprised we haven't slammed into the side of the garage or slid on the ice down into the street and killed a child who was trying to walk to the bus stop.

My first thought is "Can I commute to work on my bike?" when considering a new home. He's leaning towards something in the North Hills, O'Hara township or Fox Chapel, which is better than the South Hills as far as riding a bike into Town, but it's further than I'd like. I'd like something in the City, but he won't hear of it. *Sigh*.
We need a house with a yard for the dogs and enough room and sunlight there for a vegetable garden. Having my garden back would be fan-freaking-tastic. I can't garden currently at our house because the backyard doesn't get enough sun.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Begone, snow!

I'd debated with myself a great deal today about riding. I'm sick to death of snow... I want to see this stuff melt away and soon.
The roads were crap. I hadn't been out in several days and was in dire need of some biketime, so I put on my big girl britches and went out despite my misgivings about the roads.

Roads still have ice and slush on the sides, narrowing travel lanes.

The trails are crap too. I turned around at the EFT and decided to stay Downtown and in the Strip District.

The Eliza Furnace trail. Icy and dangerous.

The Fort Pitt Bridge Switchback and pedestrian footbridge looked great though.

I enjoyed pedaling about my limited range.
I had an abnormal number of close passes... Maybe the narrowed lanes made for a few close calls with drivers? Maybe it was the holiday? I cannot account for so many violations of my space today.

A compilation of today's squeezins from the handlebar camera:

I think I'm guilty of not taking the lane with enough authority in those instances. I tend to scoot over to the right and drivers think "I can squeeze in there!"

Sometimes I fall for no apparent reason other than I'm clumsy:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Goose herding by bicycle

These Canada geese decided to take a nap in the middle of North Shore Drive today. Geese aren't particularly bright. Traffic starts to back up behind the geese. Drivers opted to just sit there and beep at them. Could a motorist have gotten out and shooed them away? Yes, but some motorists aren't particularly bright.

I happened upon this impasse of stupidity and decided to save them from having to put their cars in park, open the door, get out and shoo the resting geese away. I may have also saved the geese from being crushed under the wheels of the impatient backup of traffic.

I put a "Hold on, people, I got this covered" finger up to let them know was taking care of their goose issue. I don't think they saw my index finger signaling this while I was wearing gigantic mittens, but they got the idea. While geese ignore cars, they respect the bike and move quickly when one is coming towards them as you'll see in the video below.

I got a hearty "Thank you!" from one of them at least.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

My thoughts on the Fitbit Flex

I haven't been able to ride due to the weather, so I've been working on a Fitbit critique. I cannot wait for the trail ice-pack to melt.

Things I love about it:
  • It makes me move more.
  • It has a 'silent alarm' to wake me and remind me of certain things throughout the day.
  • I can track what I've eaten (I'm super lazy about this though).
  • The food tracker reminds me of how calorie dense some foods are.
  • I can compete with my friends.
  • I like the word 'dongle'.
  • It only needs charged once a week.
  • I can track my cycling by putting the bracelet through my shoelaces.
  • I love the graphs. LOVE the graphs.
  • Badges! I can earn badges!
i didn't get a harrumph outta that guy

Badges We don't need no stinking badges

Things that I'm not crazy about:

  • Tracking my sleep patterns requires a $50 upgrade to a premium membership. Boooo!
  • The bracelet color choices didn't do anything for me. Too bright! I went with black. 
  • I'm not comfortable wearing a watch AND the Fitbit. I wish I had gone with the Force model that has a built-in watch. I'm constantly looking at the Fitbit to see what time it is and getting disappointed many times a day. I really should have gone with the Force. I miss my watch.
  • They claim you can shower with it. I'm not sure Fitbit had in mind the sort of abuse I'd be inflicting on my tracker. I take the bracelet off for my scalding hot showers as a precautionary measure.

Logging my food is depressing, it's not even 3PM and I'm nearly out of calories?

I much prefer this way of looking at my calories consumed vs calories burned:
Not in the 'goal zone' but close...
I'm eating well too! (never mind the English muffin with butter.)

Bottom line:
I have to exercise like a fiend to match my calorie intake.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The joy of a custom bar extender

I retrieved Ruby from Thick Bikes on Thursday and beheld the awesomeness of this custom-made bar extender that Chris made for me. Dude, way to make a customer for life.

It's not straight. *twitch*

OMG, it's so... big!
Can you imagine all the stuff I can fit on there? I also picked up this tire lever and instructed the most mischievous of our three dogs about it's use.
This is not a chewtoy, Macallan.
I also FINALLY remembered to use my 10% discount for BikePGH! members. I might have saved myself a few bucks had I remembered the last two purchases there.

I was told that the reason for my shifting issues was because I'd run a ziptie for the cadence computer line around the shifting cables. Doh. That's embarrassing.

I also noticed that the hospital bracelet was still attached to the underside of the saddle. I'll have to return that the first chance I get.

The Fitbit dashboard: I like looking a the bar graph they give you mapping what times you were the most active.

I cycled between 8 and 8:30 and noon and 1PM.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I am Pavlov's Dog.

Monday, I wasn't 100 percent.. or even 66%. I had a bad case of fatigue and angry hip. So bad in fact that I relented to the pain and took an ibuprofen, which I take very rarely. I used to take 800 mg at the mere thought of discomfort, but over the years reading so many reports of how bad NSAIDS are for us long term, I've hardened up when it comes to pain. I have to be dragging a limb, unable to stand upright or I need to see bone sticking out before I'll pop a motrin.
This was a bad day. I didn't ride. I wanted to curl up in bed with a heating pad and take a nap.
Later in the day, I was able to limp around to the side of the desk where I'd parked the bike, I noticed the rear tire had deflated.
I'd only logged 7,000 steps on the fitbit. This disappointed me, but sometimes, we just don't feel well enough. I'd logged 24K steps on Saturday and Sunday, so it evened out, I suppose.

Tuesday, there'd be no riding. I wanted to take the bike back to Thick again to get my drivetrain issues ironed out, the cadence magnet stable and let them fix my flat. I dropped it off after work. It was also my last day with my personal trainer and massage therapist, Laura. She was moving out of state in a few days. I will miss her. My piriformis will miss her more. Discovering that I needed 1300 more steps to hit my 10K target, I made an effort to move around the house more at the end of the day. It seems wearing the fitbit is changing my behavior. I check the lights and feel a sense of reward when most of them are lit up and smile broadly when I get the 10K lightshow and buzzing. Awesome.

Wednesday, Mutha Nature blanketed Pittsburgh in a slushy, crusty coating of ice, even if I had a bike, it would have been suicidal to try and ride in this cold, soupy slop. I have a new habit of using the bathrooms at work that are located furthest away from our offices with the intention of logging the extra steps. Sometimes, I use ones located upstairs. If I become permanently conditioned to doing that, this will be one small step forward. Pun intended.

Thick called to say my bike was ready. They mentioned that Chris had 'made something special' for my bar extender. What? MADE SOMETHING SPECIAL? OOooooh, this, I gotta see.

I gather that Chris dislikes when something isn't quite straight or level on a bike, he noted that my rear rack could have some pieces put on to make the rack level. I could tell it's a peeve with him. He probably couldn't stand that my bar extender was off-kilter and made some adaptation to straighten it out. I have to admit, it was bothering me too,  so I can't wait to see this thing!

I brought home the tire levers so I could practice changing a tire on the Monster. I had it done in about 10 minutes, much better than my first try. I went back downstairs to the garage to put the wheel back on and Hubby called down to me to let me know that The Macallan was eating one of my tire levers. I need to buy a pair of new tire levers when I go to Thick tomorrow. Grrrrr.

My dog ate my tire levers.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Bill Murray jinxed my bike.

I wanted to head out to Lawrenceville today to make two stops. The first was Crystal Bead Bazaar and the other was La Gormandine for a lunch of croissant. It rained intermittently, so the rain cape was taken off and put back on several times. It was about 34 degrees.
I stopped a few times to adjust the mirror and then when I made a tight turn, my knee hit it and it came off the post. Jeez.
I was making a tight turn because I had noticed a Blek le Rat style Bill Murray stenciled bit of guerrilla art. I needed to stop and get a shot of it. I love Bill Murray, this was Groundhog Day.  Groundhog Day was shot in Pittsburgh. I was just watching a clip of Bill Murray destroying a bike in 'Rushmore' just a few hours ago. This was an omen.

"This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather"

As soon as I left Bill, the rear tire was flat. 
I blame Bill Murray for my flat tire.

But I was glad. It wasn't terribly cold, I had plenty of time and I wasn't going to be holding up anyone with my tediously slow never-changed-a-flat noobery.
I also had great place to change the flat:

Several passers by asked if I needed help or if I had 'everything I needed'. I was good, I told them. I got the tube out, found no sharp objects where the puncture was, replaced the tube and filled it. Something was very wrong though. I'd been sold the wrong size tube. I'd made sure that the person that I bought them from looked at my tires to make sure I was buying the correct size. Not happy.
Just then, a gentleman dressed head to toe in camouflage, on a tricked out camouflaged tricycle rolled up and didn't even ask if I needed help... he just started helping. At this point, I welcomed it. His name was Ricky. He is an interesting fellow.  He suggested patching the tube with the hole since I didn't have the correct tubes. He was surprised I had my own patch kit and he lamented that most folks don't ride with them. I  realized that for as many times I'd watched YouTube videos of flat changes, it never occurred to me to watch an instructional video of a tire patch. I watched closely and he had it patched in under 5 minutes, inflated too. He made interesting "do-dee-do-dee-dooo" sing-songy noises while he worked.

Here's Ricky's cool ride:

He named his tricycle 'Wolfbane' I believe. Even the cooler on the back is camo-painted.
Before he left, I shook his hand and thanked him profusely. He told me he was on his way to help repair someone's power wheelchair. Ricky's got a lot of karma coming his way.

I debated heading back to the office and abandoning the plans for Lawrenceville, but I forged ahead on a patched tube. I live dangerously.

I happily shopped at the Bead Bazzar for more earring beads and fittings, I'd lost many of my earrings recently when I'd remove a scarf, so I needed supplies to make more earrings.

LaGormandine was closed. Grrrr. Denied ...again.

"Too cold to bake"? You're kidding me, right?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The luxury of time

Pittsburghers suffering with cabin fever were rewarded for their patience with a delightful 52 degree day. Snow and ice melted and everyone was out and about. They were jogging, cycling, walking, shopping and eating out in restaurants.

Hubby and I shared a gigantic omelet breakfast at Pancake House before he dropped me off at work and I got the bike and on the road early-ish. I made sure to put my new Fitbit through my laces so it would register my pedal strokes as steps.

I decided to get over to Thick and see if they could help my cadence computer issue and take a look at my front derailleur. The chain was still skipping and it was having a heck of a time shifting into the small ring despite having a tune up last week. It was raining when I started, but not long after I was on the road, I removed the Cleverhood and stashed it.

 The ice was melting on the Mon.

When I walked into Thick, Adam and Chris remarked at how bright my hi-viz pink was. I think I like the hi-viz pink much better than the yellow or orange. I chatted with the owner of Thick (Chris), we talked about the MS150 and I oggled the wares at Thick while I waited for the Wrenches to work on Ruby. I decided to get a different Bar extender and the Oberlauda mirror with the intention of attaching the mirror to the bar extender. As it turns out the mirror fits just fine on my handlebars, I was told it wouldn't work when I tried to buy it a few weeks ago. Yaaa! Rear-view mirror is back! I like this one much better than the Mirrycle mirror I had before my grip-change. I have buttloads of handlebar real estate now. I also picked up a much needed ParkTool chain cleaner contraption.

I stopped at BigDog in another attempt to have some oatmeal for lunch, but I was denied... again. I opted for a coconut macaroon and a latte. I had to be careful with the macaroon and restrain myself from eating the whole thing at once so I didn't have a hypoglycemia issue later. I love macaroons and it was difficult to not scarf down the whole thing. Even if the oatmeal was available, I would have had to go easy on the sugary dried fruit.

The cadence computer still registers no more than 50. *sad face* The chain fell off while downshifting before the Hot Metal Bridge switchback. *very sad face*

On the EFT, a rider coming in the opposite direction held up his arm to shield his eyes and jokingly said "I can see you!". Smartass.

I ran into Marko going the opposite direction on the return to base, and we had a brief chat on the Duke bridge before we went our separate ways. I thought it was very nice of him to turn around and make conversation. The weather was so nice that no one is trying to get to a sheltered destination in a hurry, so chit chat is no longer a dangerous luxury.

I stowed the bike in my office and walked to the T station (the TROLLEY for you non-Pittsburghers). I saw this poor frame at the racks at the station and I had a moment of silence for it. My Fitbit vibrated and lit up on the walk there, so I had met my 10,000 steps minimum! However, it told me I'd only gone 4.7 miles. Wrong.
Only one jerk flipped me the finger while left-crossing me on East Carson.

I took the T home and was happy to ride through Beechview, my old stomping grounds. I hadn't been through there in a long time and it was interesting to see how things have changed on Broadway. I was able to glimpse the Beechview Mural as we zipped by.

I lovely unhurried ride, 17 miles.