Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I may be tiring of winter

For a second day in a row, the office was closed. Every school district in the area had classes except Pittsburgh Public. I slept in until Cal decided it was time to play his favorite game: 'step on mom and stick my cold, drippy nose in her eye until she wakes up because we're hungry'. Ask me if I like playing that game.

I was loathing the thought of dragging myself into the office and undertaking the task of layering.  Getting ready for a ride takes as long as the ride itself when the temperatures are very low. Boots, socks, glove liners, mittens, toe warmers, goggles, ear warmers, 3 layers of pants, 4 layers of shirts. Damn, I am finding this rigamarole tiresome.

OK, I had to get on the bike somehow today. I really needed to try out the new toys on this last cold day for some time. A long range forcast for February looks good as far as temperatures.
I mustered up and I brought the bike back to work and got caught by the president in the office when we're not supposed to be there. Ooops. I used the excuse that I was dropping work off that I had finished at home and was collecting more work to take home that night. Never you mind that bike I'm rolling in.

Cadence computer: I must have it installed incorrectly, I can only get a reading of 45-56.
Pogies: Ugh. I'm glad I only spent $20 on them. I feel like my arms are lashed to the handlebars. This might be OK for long trips where one doesn't need to brake and shift constantly. These may be good for trails, not stop and go on the streets. They come up very far on my arms and it's difficult to pull my arms out of them. I don't like feeling tied to the bike, (bedposts, sure, but not a moving bike!) I'll never use clips. I could not use them today.
Bar extender: I don't like where I've positioned it.

Ohferthree on the new toys.

With a pair of Gore-Tex Cabela's mitts, two layers of liners and a set of toe and hand warmers I was great starting out in 10 degrees. I decided I might try and get over to Thick to see if they could adjust the cadence computer and re-situate the bar extender, but I had forgotten my wallet... again. I'd remembered everything except my wallet. This was a bad habit I needed to get out of.

So, I went as far as the Cork Factory in the Strip to get more shots of the icy Allegheny.

The view of the Allegheny from the Cork Factory

A warped panorama from atop the Clemente Bridge.

I saw this cyclist on the Clemente Bridge, one of three I saw along my travels today.

On the way back, gusts nearly knocked me over, twice. My hands were perfectly toasty. No one beeped at me and only one close pass by a distracted driver. I was able to use the still-warm toe and hand warmers around our chilly house in my slippers: BONUS! On this cold, sun-drenched day, a 1 hour ride that ultimately, I didn't regret.

2014 YTD Miles: 151
BMI: 25.9

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Vortex vs Pogies

The Allegheny river is frozen save a narrow route for barges.

I'm messing around with Photoshop's Photomerge Panorama feature again. I took these shots with the Nikon on Monday the 27th when it was about 16 degrees and very windy. The trails were once again impassable and even the streets were iffy in spots. I can only tolerate 30 minutes at those temps before I scamper back inside with my tail tucked between my legs.

Even Bill looks cold

I'm working on organizing my handlebar stuff. I got a Topeak bar extender with the hopes I could add the phone holder, blinky, rearview mirror and potentially a bottleholder, because I'm not coordinated enough to reach down on the frame to get a drink while the bike's in motion. I see other people performing this acrobatic feat and I'm in awe. I'd eat pavement if I tried that.

Tuesday, Pittsburgh woke up to another Polar Vortex. It's damned cold. Again. Yesterday's 16 degrees seems balmy.

It's warmer in a dark Northern Alaska than it is here when the sun is shining

I spent the latter part of the afternoon in our cold garage installing the cadence computer and the bar extender. For my sanity's sake, I should have left them to professionals. Eventually, I got the computer working and the handlebar gadgets arranged to my liking (for now).

My cheap ATV pogies arrived! Just in time for another cold day tomorrow!

Pogies Update: Ugh. I'm glad I only spent $20 on them. I feel like my arms are lashed to the handlebars. This might be OK for long trips where one doesn't need to brake and shift constantly. These may be good for trails, not stop and go on the streets. They come up very far on my arms and it's difficult to pull my arms out of them. I don't like feeling tied to the bike. I could not use them today.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Gambling with Fat

I like reading about other bloggers' struggles with weight and food. I can relate, it's not that enjoy watching them struggle. I discover tips and tricks and live vicariously through their triumphs over food addiction... sometimes, I'm inspired by them.



So, when Fat Cyclist posted a weight loss challenge to his readers, I perked up.

Here's how it works:
  • You create a goal at Beeminder.
  • Swear your honesty at tracking. (yeah, it seems pretty easy to cheat at this)
  • Lay some money on the line. 

I'm hoping I'll be more successful at getting back to that normal BMI (that I was only able to achieve for a fleeting moment) and ultimately, achieving better eating habits and exercise regimen.

I need to develop a cue-routine-reward habit for myself in regards to non-cycling exercise. I'm really drooling over the Fitbit... I'd be the sort of person obsessed over getting all those LEDs to light up by the end of my day. I watched Charles Duhigg on the Colbert Report recently and became so intrigued by habits and rewards and developing good habits that I borrowed a book of his from the Library.

So, much to my dismay... here's my Beeminder page. Why am I dismayed? It shows my weight. I really should have set it up to track BMI. I figure most folks can take a look at me and determine I'm on the pudgy side without the benefit of charts, graphs and numbers, so I need to stop minding so much that folks know how much I weigh.

A Reward System.

The other day, I was looking at cycling clothes. I like the idea of cycling in non-spandex clothes, but I'm not interested in returning to work in a dress riddled with sweat stains. Ewww. I found a blog that promoted the Perfect Pants, so I checked out these pants... made with Schoeller Dryskin fabric that dries quickly, repels water and does your taxes. They make tailored skirts out of this stuff too.
They're damned expensive, clothing made from this crazy, space-age Jetson's fabric... so I put them on my "I should save these as a reward." list. Looking at the sizing chart, I need the largest size they make. *sad face* Really? I'm as big as a female cyclist gets? *even sadder face*.
  • Goal: not to need the largest size they make
  • Reward: the cycling pants made from the skin of aliens.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Gloves, gloves and more gloves.

It's been over a week since I've been able to ride and I was desperate to figure out a cold fingers dilemma. Today it was zero degrees for a morning ride. With 3 layers, I was able to go for a 24 minute ride before my fingers told me they'd had enough. Not bad, I suppose.

I wore two layers of liners and one giant pair of Hubby's gloves over them. I brought in a variety of our gloves to test out, trying a cheap and dirty method of getting around buying a super-expensive pair of mittens. No doubt, if I do spring for a pair, the weather will improve by the time they arrive.

I think between the two of us we have too many gloves, none
of which can keep my fingers toasty with minus windchills.

One of my co-workers took these shots of me as I headed out in the afternoon (4 degrees) because she thinks I look like an alien. I do, actually.


Do these gloves make me look phat?

Our Google Supreme Overlords informed me that I would like an animated .gif of the shots. Freaky.

I rode down to PNC Park on this glorious sunny day and got a shot of the snow-covered yard.

I rinsed off the salty drivetrain this time with water with the assumption that the salt was damaging the components.

2014 YTD Miles: 140
BMI: 25.7

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New and improved!

Ruby looks nekkid without the basket and pannier. I think she's checking out that red Brooks saddle.
Ruby was released today. Thick gave her lots of new, more durable parts. I hope I don't ruin them so quickly this time. 
I took her back to my fitter to have a new, shorter stem installed with a spacer to raise the handlebars. I hope the weather improves so I can get out and try the properly fitted version of my bike, but I think Mother Nature has different ideas.

They look worried.

When we got back to the house, I discovered the computer installed isn't one that measures cadence. This is entirely my fault, I didn't explicitly express that I wanted a cadence computer. I am an idiot.*facepalm* Well, at least I have a computer.

I think I need more space on the handlebars, I'm out of room even though I removed the bulky camera mount and want to add a mirror and cellphone holder that won't fit on my oddly-shaped handlebars and mirror-unfriendly grips. I think a bar extender is what is needed to increase the real estate for all the necessary gadgets.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ruby goes to the hospital/Viking prep

The Bike Hospital, that is. I dropped her off at Thick Bikes on Thursday to have the wrenches figure out why the chain was skipping and generally, making bad noises that no bike should make. I left her there for a few days while they gave her a new cassette, chain and general tune-up. I also asked to have a double kickstand and computer installed. I could pick her up on Tuesday. This proved to be a good time as I'd not be able to ride due to appointments, obligations and weekend wind chills in the single digits.

In the meantime, I looked for ways to decorate my helmet for the upcoming Viking Biking ride.

I had an old plastic Viking helmet lying around the house. Not a typo. I also have fake brains and a severed arm in the 'box of weirdness' we have in the spare room. You never know when you'll need a rubber severed arm.

I took the horns off the Viking helmet and velcroed them onto the bike helmet. They just looked like devil horns: not the look I was going for.


After examination, I decided the horns needed to be lower.

Much more Viking-y.      The P is for 'PILLAGE'
I suckered Hubby into stopping at Goodwill (OK, I didn't have to twist his arm very much) to see if I could find any furry items that I could disembowel and add as trim to the helmet. I found a brand new faux fur jacket with the tags still on it and a child's toy armor breastplate with a dragon on the front. 

Hubby just shakes his head at me.

2014 YTD Miles: 133
BMI: 25.5

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Pannier Disaster

No, I didn't have a mishap with my bike bag, as the title of this post might lead you to believe.

One day last week, Yale and Vannevar were having a conversation about Panniers and the Latin root, Panis. Panniers means 'Bread Basket' literally... as they explained.
Perhaps that's where Panera Bread got its name? If it did, it's rather redundant.
The conversation drifted off to speak of a company on Pittsburgh's North Side, the Pannier Corporation. While they have nothing to do with bread baskets or bicycle accessories, I noted to Yale and Vannevar that I remembered reading about a horrific and historic fire that took place at that very building in the early part of the last century. I sometimes have a Cliff Claven-esque moment and provide obscure trivia. The conversation re-triggered my interest in the disaster that took the lives of 13, mostly women and girls, almost 100 years ago that sparked changes in the way fires are fought and building safety.

The building on GoogleMaps as it appears today

Ruby pays a visit to the Pannier Corporation:

The Brown Building (as it was called then the fire broke out)

A Post-Gazette piece on the fire:

The Pannier Brothers Stamp Company moved into the restored Brown Building 2 years after the fire and have been there ever since.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Noizy Wheelz and bruise perks

Monday, Jan 13th
I took the day off from riding because my knee insisted upon it. I spent much of my hallway chats with my co-workers explaining why I was particularly gimpy today... a limp that was out of the ordinary from my regular everyday limp. "Speegs, what'd you do to your leg?" or a joking "Red, did you fall off the bike?" (I'm pretty sure there's an office pool about when and how I'm going to end up in the ER) to which I replied "Yes, but that's not why I'm limping." and then I'd show my blue lump to my squeamish co-workers. Even my supervisor, who is an EMT, grimaced at the sight of my arm. Funny, I was able to get her to gasp at the sight of a large oozy-blistery burn on my hand a few months ago, how does she deal with the really gory stuff she sees when she has to work the meat wagon?

The Lump, 48 hours after impact.

The Lump has diminished 5 days later, but was very colorful.

Being unable to ride, this was an opportune time to give Ruby's chain, cassette and rear brakes a good cleaning and re-lubing. They were making rubbing noises that no doubt annoyed and perplexed the heck out of my fellow riders on Sunday. By the end of the ride, the chain was making a squeaking noise and the chain was skipping in certain gears. I gimped over to the loading dock bike rack on my lunch hour and brushed quite a bit of gunk and debris out of the chain and rear derailleur. I don't think the cleaning of the brakes helped with their stickiness, I may have to take it to a professional.

Bike fitting follow-up

It had been 3 weeks since my bike fitting. My fitter had told me that the stem he was ordering would be in 2 weeks ago. I've not heard from him, so I sent an message to him to see what's up.

Tuesday, January 14th
My knee was somewhat back to normal-ish so I took Ruby out in the rain to see if I had mad skillz at cleaning and lubing a drivetrain. The good news was that I heard no annoying rubbing noises! Even the rear brakes were silent. The bad news was that the chain still skipped when I'd shift into or out of my 2 most frequently used gears. Ugh.

More bruises emerge
There's a bruise and tender spot on my left hip, so I guess I hit that too when I took my spill on Sunday.

My trainer/massage therapist took pity on me when she saw my arm and I explained my knee and shoulder might not be 100% for a vigorous workout, so she massaged me instead. Bruise perk!
She also scolded me for poking at it. She explained that it could trigger a hematoma or loosen a clot. Good to know.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bruises and sweets

Vannevar invited me on a ride out to Oakmont Bakery, this interested my husband more than anything. He loves sweets from exceptional bakeries, and this was an exceptional bakery. Among the troupe were S, Yale C and Rusty.
The hour he suggested we meet was ungodly early. This was a good thing though, we were able to wrap up early.

It was dark on the way to the trailhead.

I decided to forsake the gravely trail and took to the street that ran parallel to the trail. There, I met with a set of railroad tracks, didn't ride over them properly and went down hard on my left arm when the wheel slipped into the tracks. I got up slowly, testing my arm and shoulder because I heard a snap when I hit the asphalt. Nothing felt broken or out of their sockets. Maybe the snap was just my snap-crackle-pop prone neck? I knew I'd have a nice mark on my arm though. It swelled up considerably by the time we got to the bakery and had a nice blue shade.

Hubby will tell me "I told you so" if he hears about this!
Looks like these tracks used to serve the Heinz plant
Damn you, wet railroad tracks!

I got hubby a small burnt almond torte... that's his favorite. I had a heck of a time deciding what to get for him... there were so many wonderful choices! I almost got a tiramisu too. I considered some bacon cupcakes for me, but I restrained myself.

On the way back, S got a flat. This was her 3rd in the past month. I watched her working in the hopes I'd learn something useful.

The fix-it DIY repair station in front of the Bike Pittsburgh offices.

My knee also got very angry on the way back. I was limping and pedaling with one leg by the end of the trip. I'm icing it now and plan on soaking all of today's injuries in alcohol.

A very good time was had in spite of my agony and I got to know all these wonderful folks a bit better. 32 miles logged. I'm not sure that I'll be able to break this record for a while.

2014 YTD Miles: 113
BMI: 25.3

Saturday, January 11, 2014

"Be safe out there." and the final Soupaneuring

Thursday, 1/9/13 I learned that my personal trainer/massage therapist is moving out of state. This disturbs me greatly. I think I've employed her for 4 years now. We've been through a lot: once, my knee dislocated during one of our sessions. She knows exactly how my piriformis and IT band needs to be massaged on my angry leg. I've tried other massage therapists, but they didn't have her expertise or willingness to bring me to tears and wince in agony with that 'hurt so good' sort of pain.

On Friday I had enough time before work to ride into the Strip for produce and such. The trails were still crap and I took streets the entire route. I stopped at PennMac and a baby Swiss caught my eye. I never seem to be there at the right time to be called "Dearheart" by Carol. It's frustrating. I've lived here for a quarter century, and have not yet had this honor.

Someday, Carol. Someday
I had a young woman with a funky hairstyle wait on me instead. As she handed me the cheese, she told me "Be safe out there." This was the best sendoff I could have asked for. I still had my blinking helmet on and I was hi-vized out the wazoo. It was rather evident that safety was a concern of mine. Was she a cyclist too?

On my lunch hour, the ride was much more pleasant. The trails had almost no ice on them and cyclists, joggers and walkers were out in droves as if it were Spring! The rapidly increasing temperatures were melting everything.

I'm messing with Photoshop's Panorama Merge and compiled this shot from several taken on the Fort Pitt Bridge.
I should try this again then the skies aren't so gloomy.

While I was up in the bridge taking those shots, I noticed Yale C riding down at the Point and waved a hello at him when I passed by.

The wild swing in weather also meant that my joints were going to become angry. Sure enough, by dinnertime I was tempted to dig out some ibuprofen but chose to use more natural methods of dealing with the pain: soaking them in alcohol. I chose a cabernet.

Saturday January 11th

I was able to work from home with a borrowed laptop this morning. Working in my jammies with the distractions of a dog on my lap and the other two dogs continually giving me a toy to throw/fetch is a much better work environment.

Afterwards, a ride in the rain was in order. I had several stops to make, I wanted to check out some bags at the Downtown Army/Navy store, but they didn't have what I was looking for. On to lunch at Smallman Street Deli for the final trip in the Soupaneuring Challenge. I was glad to learn the matzo ball broth was MSG-free!

While I ate, the rain started letting up. I traveled down to Lotus and picked up some much-needed soy sauce and then over to another market where I found organic kale and some parsley. The kale wouldn't fit in my basket without poking out like a giant green floral arrangement. Several other shoppers commented on my cape and helmet. It's apparent that I'm quite the freakshow. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

On my way back through downtown, they were dis-assembling the Horne's Christmas tree. Yes, I'm always going to call it the Horne's tree even though Horne's hasn't occupied that building in well over a decade.

When I got home, a delivery of ski-goggles was waiting for me. I saw so many other cyclists wearing them at Icycle Bicycle and had S's glowing endorsement of them. I was tired of my glasses fogging up in the cold when I wore a gaiter. I managed to score an insanely cheap eBay find and figured what the heck. I think I'm going to like these.

2014 YTD Miles: 81.5
BMI: 25.3

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Rule #9 might be the DumbAss Rule.

Almost 11 hours later, my fingertips still feel weird... numb I suppose is the word to describe them. I've found my Achilles heel when it comes to riding in brutally cold temperatures: keeping my fingers warm. I've mastered keeping everything else nice and toasty and free of frostbite.

I went out for a ride before work when it was 8 above zero, stayed out in those conditions for an hour. I stopped twice to stick my hands inside my layers and warm my screaming fingers. I continued once they warmed up. When I got back to the loading dock to lock my bike back up, my fingers began to ache and throb intensely. Holy crap, that hurt. I paced back and forth in the bike rack room flinging my arms around and rubbing my hands trying to get the blood flowing to them again. After a few minutes of this, the intense pain went away, but I'm still left with numb fingertips.

Wow, I was wearing liners and thick lobster gloves and I still managed to get a mild case of frostbite? I now have a healthy respect of severe cold. That's not stuff to screw around with. Looks like my tolerance level for long rides in the cold is about 20 degrees.

A fellow cyclist over at Twitter suggested circulatory issues are to blame.

The rivers are chunky style.
The Lands' End boots kicked ass though, no cold toes, no toe warmers needed. I'm completely head over heels (pun intended) in love with my boots.

Thankfully, the days ahead are promising better, more hospitable riding weather.

2014 YTD Miles: 50
BMI: 25.3

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sleep inertia and Gazelle stalking

Monday: I didn’t ride in the morning… I was experiencing ‘sleep inertia’. This was due to the dogs letting me sleep the entire night for the first time in almost two months. Two of them got into a new habit of waking me up sometime between midnight and 3:30AM to go outside, sometimes one would wake me at 1AM and the other again at 3AM.
I was surprised I was able to make the drive in without a nodoff while waiting at a traffic light. I hadn’t had a case of the redlight nodoffs in a long time, not since I was heavy and sedentary actually. Another benefit of regular exercise, I suppose. Even with adequate sleep, the heavier me would sometimes take naps for a few seconds while my foot was on the brake at redlights or stopped in heavy traffic. Neither I nor my passenger was very happy about these side effects. It was odd that a good night’s sleep was suddenly a detriment. I needed an extra dose of caffeine.
Instead of riding, I took the opportunity to hang in my office two of my Christmas presents:


The calendar was meant to be my bike porn, but all of these bikes were drop-bar touring bikes designed with humans 5’11 and taller in mind: they didn’t do much for me. Give me a little mixte Pashley, Bobbin, Gazelle, Betty Foy, Linus or even an old, black, lug-welded Omafiets… that was *my* idea of Bike Cheesecake Calendar Girls. The gift-giver had good intentions though and I hung it with pride in my office.  

Stalking a Gazelle

During the summer months, I stalked the owner of a Gazelle that I found parked around the city on two different occasions. The first time I came across the Gazelle, it was parked at the Casino. I ogled this gorgeous piece of machinery up close and took my time hoping the owner would return so I could fawn over her bike. A few weeks later, I saw the same bike parked at Marty’s Market on the day of Pedal Pittsburgh. I pretended to have a sore leg and let Hubby go off shopping in the Strip by himself while I waited at the Market. Again, admiring the Gazelle and lingering in the area, hoping the owner would return. I was sad to see it only locked with a cable. I restrained myself from leaving a note on the bike: 

A Gazelle would have much prettier handwriting than this.

Pittsburgh Schools announced Monday morning that they’d be closed on Tuesday due to severe low windchill temperatures. This meant our office would be closed too, putting the kibosh on riding in -35 windchills on Tuesday as well as riding Monday afternoon as the office was closing early. Dammit. This would mean 3 days with no riding.