Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Food is an important part of a balanced diet. (Fran Lebowitz)

Sometimes you eat to ride. Sometimes you ride to eat.

Hobe Sound
Al and I are eat-to-ride people, especially when we travel. Which is a good thing. Florida has areas with sophisticated dining, but it also has areas where the cuisine is based on barbecued critters, dares, and deep fryers. Because a lot of our travel is to places with few dining opportunities, we really appreciate road trips with cyclists who are in the ride-to-eat camp.

Walking to dinner on the nearby recreational path.
When we heard that a group of cyclists we'd met through the Everglades Bicycle Club was heading up to Jupiter for a weekend of riding, we jumped at the opportunity to join them. We had done this weekend road trip with them once before. This was a group that enjoyed good conversation and interesting places to eat. Excellent.

Jupiter is the northernmost town in Palm Beach County. Just an hour and a half north of Miami. (And just 20 miles north of Donald Trump's Florida home.) The area is great for cycling. It also has beautiful beaches, waterways, ocean parks, and  lots of restaurants.

We were staying at a hotel on the Intracoastal Waterway. It's a brilliant choice for a bicycle weekend. A paved recreational path runs behind the hotel. We used the path to walk along the water to a nearby marina and restaurants in the evening. The hotel's pool area had a couple of large tiki huts that made hanging out at the pool an inviting option.

When we arrived, we ran into another friend from the Everglades Bicycle Club. He and his wife were also staying at the hotel. He was doing a ride with some randonneurs on Saturday. (He is working on a 12-month award again this year.) He and his wife said they would join us for our Sunday ride to the Jupiter Donut Factory. (I ask you, who can resist doing a donut ride?)

The weekend's cycling was excellent. Our Saturday route took us past Blowing Rocks Preserve, to Hobe Sound, down quiet residential roads along the ocean, and over intracoastal bridges with lovely views. We looped back past the hotel, heading down to another ocean park before finally heading back. Sunday's route took us over a bridge or two and past a basball training park then on to an excellent donut shop. After a quick stop for a donut we pedaled on to the Jupiter Pier. We stopped for a stroll down the Pier. Then Al and I rode with the group back to the hotel to say our goodbyes. They would be packing up, checking out, and heading to a nearby restaurant for lunch. We were staying another day, so we were going to keep pedaling for another loop up past Hobe Sound.

Good food, good conversation, cycling friends, laughter, and beautiful summer weather. A perfect cycling road trip.
Amazing food and good conversation at The Food Shack.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Anytime you see a turtle up on top of a fence post, you know he had some help. (Alex Haley)

Sometimes I think I ride a bicycle as an excuse to take pictures.

My camera is an Olympus. It isn't fancy. We are talking your basic easy to use point-and-shoot.  Its picture quality is decent, and its HD video is excellent. Its best feature is that it is tough and waterproof. It has survived, mounted on my bike's handlebar,  rides in heavy rain. It has been in a couple of crashes (crashes that did more damage to me, my pride, and my bar tape than the camera). I've dropped it while riding. I've even accidentally stepped on it.

When I first got the camera, I looked at the instructions briefly. I figured out how to use it by trial and error. (Does anybody read the instruction manual?)

I got bored one day last week. So bored I read the camera's instruction manual. I was looking at all its settings when I saw one I had never noticed before. It simply said "Magic." Magic? Curious, checked it out. Turns out there are a dozen special effect filters built into the camera. Who would have guessed?

So I flipped the dial to Magic and started taking pictures. In the course of a week I went through all twelve effects, using each on different subjects and in different light conditions.

The appeal of using the built in filters is that they are easy, much easier than using an app or photo editor. Most weren't very interesting or useful. But two were outstanding. One filter creates dramatic shots in low light (think restaurants or the city at night). Another creates a mirror image (reflection). I found myself playing with that one quite a bit. It's most effective with very geometric objects. Like bicycles. And I take a lot of pictures of bicycles.

So I now have a new (free!) toy.

Hocus pocus, abracadabra!    ...Magic!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

When you're average, you're just as close to the top as you are the bottom.

Ever worry that you aren't working hard enough on a ride?

Happens to me. I think it happens to everyone.

Growing up, I lived exactly one mile from school. First on a dare, then for a long time just because it was fun, some friends and I used to run the whole distance home. We would arrive home panting and laughing and red in the face. We didn't care who was fastest or who was the slowest. We were just friends having fun.

Those handy little computers on our bicycles and our much-loved GPS data have changed the way the average cyclist takes a ride. The computers and GPS data are useful and helpful and fun. But, sometimes we have too much information. Information that is addictive.

All that performance information makes training more efficient and lets us enjoy some fun competitive moments. But is the data and the competition more important than enjoying the ride with friends? When that becomes the case, then maybe we need to take a step back from it all.

When all is said and done, we are just out there riding bicycles. Wonderful, beautiful, bewitching, elegant, darn good-looking bicycles, to be sure. But we are just out there riding bicycles.

So when I worry about the stats while I'm out on a ride with friends, I take a deep breath. And another. Then I remind myself that the Olympics aren't in my future: focus on the ride.

Pedal, pedal, pedal. Just enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific. (Lily Tomlin)

Bicycles are beautiful machines. Some people think any bicycle will do. I've never found that to be true. If you like to ride a lot, you need to pick your bicycle with care.

Bike fit is important of course. But the bike must also meet your individual needs. The better the bike works for you, the more you will enjoy riding.

Take our road bikes. My current road bike is the fourth good road bike I've owned over the years. My last bike was a great bike with a great ride, but the vibrations from choppy pavement and the stress of shifting made long rides difficult for me. I was having some issues with stiffness and arthritis. So we looked at road bikes that would make those issues less of a problem for me. We needed endurance bikes with electronic shifting. The bikes we chose (Trek Domanes) are lovely to look at, but, more important, I no longer suffer on long rides. My arthritic joints are very happy as we pedal and pedal and pedal.

A friend asked, "You sure do ride those bikes a lot; are you any good?" I just smiled and replied, "The bikes are good; we just enjoy the ride."

Bicycles are beautiful machines. Picking the right one makes all the difference in the world.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory. (Albert Schweitzer)

We ride our bicycles a lot. We have a car, but these days we put more miles on our bicycles than our car.

Some is fitness cycling with friends. Some is travel. Mostly we do everyday, ordinary cycling. Cycling for cycling's sake. On our carbon fiber road bikes. On our ancient slow-but-sweet titanium mountain bikes. Fast or slow, long rides or short rides, we ride because of something difficult to express in words. Seeing places from the seat of a bicycle shapes our view of the world.

Cycling lets us observe up close the transformation of our city's landscape. The speed of change in Miami is stunning. Neighborhoods that were recently residential or low clusters of small storefronts are being replaced by mid and high rise commercial and residential buildings.

Some of the new buildings are architectural gems and delight the eye. Some are prosaic, so ordinary your eye sees them only as mundane shapes among their more interesting neighbors. Some are giant pillars of sparkling glass, others towers of concrete, still others columns of fanciful colors. Some are detailed by squares and rectangles, others by sinuous curves.

Each ride brings a new discovery. Change is rapid. Like insecure middle-aged humans, older buildings get face-lifts to keep them looking younger. 

Cycling keeps us interested in what the future will bring.
The new high rise city on one side of the street; the older low rise city on the other side.
The city rising above a pocket park on the Miami River.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Suburbs To The Sea Ride

We popped the bikes into our car's bike carrier and headed off for a Saturday ride with the West Side Sunset Bandits.

WSSB had posted its weekend ride schedule. We did a little happy dance when we saw it. A new route! And an early start, too, which in South Florida in the summer is a very good thing.

The new route was from West Kendall Lakes Park in the west Miami suburbs to Key Biscayne out in Biscayne Bay. An east west route, close to 50 miles. Suburbs to the Sea.

We arrived at the start point. After some pre-ride chatting and a picture or two, we clipped in, formed into a nice double paceline, and pedaled toward the glowing clouds in the eastern pre-dawn sky.

Pedal, pedal, pedal. The route was a nice one. Urban, but with long stretches without the stop-and-start of many urban routes. We moved along at a nice pace. Soon we were wheeling along streets of the close-in Miami suburbs.

We swung north as we rolled through the Grove. It was past dawn now and sunlight sparkled off the windows of high rise buildings. Traffic was blissfully light. We were heading for the William Powell Bridge and the Rickenbacker Causeway. That would take us across Biscayne Bay to the islands of Virginia Key and Key Biscayne.

Part-way up the bridge...and the top still seems far, far away.
Crossing the William Powell Bridge is fun. For flat land cyclists, the bridge seems like a fair-size mountain with the top of the bridge way high and far away. The group took the bridge well. Like any climb, those who love climbing looked happy as they charged over the bridge. Most of us, though, found our rhythm and rode up and over, pleased that we were keeping up with the pack. Then the best part: a fun descent down the bridge! Once everyone was over the bridge and on the Rickenbacker, we reformed and enjoyed the beautiful causeway ride out to the islands.
Out on the Rickenbacker (Photo by Alex Pruna)
Our destination on Key Biscayne was the Oasis Cafe, a favorite rest stop for cyclists visiting the Key. Living in Brickell, Al and I go there regularly, but this was the first time we were there with all our friends from WSSB.
At the Oasis Cafe (Photo by Alex Pruna)
West over the William Powell Bridge.
Break over, we rolled out for our ride back to West Kendall Lakes Park. We wheeled down the causeway. This time turning onto Virginia Key for a loop of that little island. Then back to the causeway and over the bridge to the mainland. We regrouped at the bottom of the bridge.

Heading back.
We pedaled on through the Grove. Our route gave us lots of canopy from the sun as we rolled down residential streets on our way west. It was a sweet urban route that kept the group on low-traffic roads but with few turns and a minimum of stops.

Pedal, pedal, pedal. Now we were heading west. There was more traffic, but the road was a good one for bicycles. And we had a tailwind. We were having a great time. There were long stretches of road where we could get into a good rhythm and enjoy the flow of the ride. Delightful.

Then we were pedaling the last miles to West Kendall Lakes Park. I looked at the time, pleasantly surprised that we had been to Key Biscayne and back, and it was just mid-morning. We were all smiling. What a great ride!

A good east-west cycling route through Miami is hard to come by. This one is outstanding.

Can't wait to do it again!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Self-delusion is pulling in your stomach when you step on the scales. (Paul Sweeney)

It is July. We are watching the Tour de France and remembering that in just a few months we'll be riding again in hilly places.

Bummer. I probably need to get ready for that kind of fun.

A couple of years ago we got power meters on our bikes. I used to think power meters were just for younger, talented, competitive types. Luckily, someone explained to me how a wimpy older rider could get her money's worth from using one. And he was really, really right. I love my power meter!

When I first started using a power meter, I was seriously humbled by the power numbers I could crank out. We are talking seriously tiny power numbers. Humiliatingly tiny power numbers. I spent a bunch of time figuring out how far I could push those numbers up without a melt-down. It was wonderful and useful. I learned how to track my average power numbers for rides. I also learned that because I was a fairly small rider, I didn't need big numbers. It was all about the power-to-weight ratio (PWR).

This year I was determined to use the power meter to get better at chasing Al up and down the hills. The thing I needed to do was to improve my power-to-weight ratio. I did intervals. And more intervals. And more intervals. And my average power output slowly got a bit better. (I loathe training, but I will admit it does help.) But my numbers were still humiliatingly tiny

This month I realized that getting stronger was just part of what I needed to work on. There is another way to make the PWR thingy better. Lose some weight. I'll admit that I've gained a few pounds in the past year. Less than 10 pounds, but I'm just 5'2". A few pounds is a big deal when you are just 5'2".

While there have been no changes to our nutrition plan for rides or for eating at home during the past year, we have been eating out a lot. And I have been over-indulging my love of ice cream cones. Losing a few pounds would be an easy-peasy way to make that PWR look sweeter for the hills. All I really need to do is rein in the total number of ice cream cones consumed and be a bit more sensible when eating out.

It may not make me charge up the hills. But at least I'll be able to slowly crank my way up climbs with a little dignity. (Even as I watch Al happily charge ahead, leaving me in his dust.)

Lose a few pounds. Easy-peasy. I'll miss the ice cream cones, but I'll smile as I pedal up the hills at Mt. Dora and the Horrible Hundred.