Saturday, March 10, 2012

My Sweet Ride

Before Dan and I moved out of Boulder last year, I was a great bike commuter. It was only 2.5 miles from our home to my library, and I got good at negotiating the bike path in all but the iciest of weather. My trusty steed for the commute?

This little beauty:

Taken before my ride this morning, freshly extracted from the utility shed.
Now I know some of you hard-core cyclists and triathletes may be jealous, so I thought I'd tell the story how I acquired this bike.

For much of my adult life, I got around on my little brother's old Klein. It was a wonderful bike that my brother had left in our mom's garage. When I asked him for it, he said yes. It was light and well-made....and almost big enough for me. But not quite. My brother had gotten it when he was 15, and it was definitely sized for a 15-year-old. Even with the seat jacked all the way up, I was too tall for it. My knees started to hurt when I rode it. So three years or so ago I sold it to a nice 12-year-old boy.

I've never been one to spend lots of money on either cars or bikes. To me, they are transportation, and therefore need only one quality: reliability. I kept my eye on Craig's List, but this being Boulder, where cycling is as serious as running, I almost never saw anything suitably modest. Then one day I was chatting with Lorin, the security officer at my library, and somehow the subject of my need for a commuter bike came up. He told me he had repossessed a stolen bike that no one had claimed and that might be my size. He said the police had given it back to him, so it was free for the taking.

And that, my friends, is how I acquired my sweet ride.

It's a Diamondback, a brand I've heard of, though not as fancy as my brother's Klein. But it was my size and once the gears were replaced it mostly ran fine. It was all I needed to ride 2.5 miles to work and 2.5 miles home. And you can't argue with FREE.

Now having a checkered past does mean my bike has some, um, features that you might not want in a bike. For example, the handlebars:

When Lorin gave it to me, the entire frame was covered in utility tape. The thief had done this to cover up any identifying markings. Dan and I did our best to remove it, but some of it will be there forever. The handlebars are also slightly crooked. The brakes are creaky--the back tire makes a swish swish sound--but they work, and that's all I care about. Finally, the replaced gear system doesn't always hold up on steep uphills and can also be quite noisy, but I figure this just makes me work harder, which I need to do anyway to keep my aerobic fitness up.

It was on this chariot that I embarked on the first long ride of my rehab this morning. It was a gorgeous day, the kind of day you see in late April when spring is well-advanced. The sun was shining, the birds were singing--and packs of Boulder County's colorfully-clad, expensively-equipped road cyclists were out there on the backroads. I had decided to join them. Two hours on the stationary bike on a day like today, where people are meant to be outside, might well have been the end of my tolerance for this "getting better" thing.

A moment of silence indeed! Thanks to I <3 to Run for timely sentiment.
Lucky for me, my ego is accustomed to being knocked down by the athletes around here. As fleets of mantis-like Lance Armstrong dudes wearing rainbow-hued shirts plastered with sponsors' names sailed by me, my bike swoosh-swooshed (the brakes) and click-clacked (the gears). But I think I held my own (and at least I had no flat tires, which would have required a call to the sag wagon). Dan, ever my Zen master in these matters, had said "bad cyclists like us" can expect to go about 10 miles an hour. So of course I wanted to do better than that.

In the end, I put in 30 miles for the two hours. My average heart rate was only 120, the lower end of the range I'm looking for. I'll need to improve on that next week--130 would be much better. I need to find a route with less downhill. But all in all I'm pretty pleased with this as a first go at it.

My plans for this week include taking the bike to a shop for a tune-up and perhaps scheduling a "bike fit." Meanwhile, I have two questions for the veteran cyclists out there:

1) With my history of UTIs (I'm back on antibiotics; another one hit me on Wednesday morning), I'm a little worried about all this sweaty seat time and my girl parts. I changed out of my clothes and showered immediately upon arriving home. Anything else I can do to avoid problems?

2) My knees hurt a bit when I first got off the bike, though they recovered quickly and don't hurt at all now. I *never* have knee issues running. Should I be worried about that? I do not want my "cross-training for rehab" to result in another injury.

I miss running--painfully--but this is do-able. It's much better than being allowed to do *nothing.* If my PT lets me add walking to the mix, I'll feel as satisfied as a benched runner can be.

Here's an inspirational video courtesy of my awesome friend Kathy:


  1. I didn't realize you were benched. :( Or I had forgotten. Sorry to read that. I hope the bike works out well and you are so right! You can't beat FREE.
    My bike is a restored schwinn. It is a 12 speed and pretty nice, but not very light at all.

  2. I just knew that you would have to get outside ... it's way too pretty out there today!!! A 15 mph start is really great!! I marvel at the "equipped" bikers with all the duds ... sponsors? Really?

  3. By the way, did you ever take your bike off any sweet jumps??

  4. Well, first thing  don't ride your bike naked like the girl in the video and I think you will be okay with the UTIs.  Just kidding, you are doing the right think by getting out your clothes as soon as you can!

    I love your bike and that you are out there cross-training!  If your knees are hurting you may need to raise or lower your seat.  It depends on where you are feeling the pain on which way the seat should go.  There is great information out there on the internet about that so google it. 

    Have a great weekend and enjoy the weekend!

  5. Caroline CummingsMarch 10, 2012 at 8:17 PM

    UGH...I have sacro-iliac joint instability also...anterior innonimate dysfunction on my right side.  I wasn't aware of it until recovering from hip surgery where it started to become a problem for me...Really can be a problem...I have avoided certain stretches for now, yoga is out as well for now...and I really haven't been cleared to run yet...but I am wondering how it will be once I start again...i am wearing a heel lift becasue my right leg is shorter than my left and that has contributed to the aggravation and pain...

    I sure hope you feel better soon and can begin to run again...Love love Queen btw...awesome song;)

  6. Terzah!  Glad you are biking.  If you love it, you should consider trying to get clips :).    Riding 30 miles without clips (it looks like you don't have them on) is no joke!

    Anyways, RE the girl parts.  I believe that most cycling shorts have a little pad built into them that help to prevent any infections.  If you're going to be biking a lot I'd really recommend getting some (they feel SO much better it's really worth it).  Otherwise, I've heard if you lysol the seat regularly that helps too.  

    On the knees - you could ask a bike shop to help you with fitting the seat.  My guess is that it's probably too low (or that the bike fit is generally not right).  Play around with it and see if that helps?  Good luck! 

  7. Getting outside was smart. I should dust off a bike I can use and do the same. Well done.

  8. I'm jealous! My bike could definitely use an update, but I really don't use it enough to make a purchase like that, maybe if I do a duathalon or tri someday.  30 miles in 2 hours is awesome-- so glad we can bike through these injuries!

  9. Oh no, benched runner????  What have I missed!!!  I haven't been on blogs in the past couple weeks and this isn't the news I wanted to hear!  I think I need to read the post before this one next.

    That is a pretty sweet ride.  Did you get a lot of dirty looks from the cyclist?  Like, how dare you ride on OUR road.  I have been meaning to do a post for a long time about Colorado cyclist and their legendary snootiness (which is not at all exaggerated).  Most of them won't even make eye contact unless you are on a high end road bike, in a jersey, with bike shoes, and no body hair.  Sheesh!  Enjoy this week of riding in the AWESOME weather...finally!!! 

  10. I love the visuals your bike inspires!  I'm a casual biker - as in, I pull my bike out of the garage when it's a pretty day and I'm not running, so I'm not very helpful for your questions.  :(  I'm glad you got to get out there and enjoy the weather!

  11. Tia @ Arkansas Runner MomMarch 11, 2012 at 9:09 PM

    I do not have any biking advice but I do love that stationary bike "moment of silence" quote you posted!  I hope you are able to get back to running soon! I tried biking during my stress fracture days and I was not very good at it at all! (Had to swim or do elliptical) Anyway, I understand your frustration.  Hang in there! :-)

  12. I really want to get out and bike more.  Just waiting to get around to buying shoes that fit with my new pedals.  But in the meantime, I've been trying to do some spin classes at the gym.

    I hope your back, etc. heals up asap!!

  13. man do I feel you on the trying to be ok with biking and not running. i am trying to let my body dictate what I do until we can get things resolved, but it just isn't running :)

    I try to watch horrible shows like Real Housewives to pass the time though :)

  14. I agree with the change out of shorts as soon as possible, but I've never had an issues it's just what I've heard. Also 2nd the seats probably to low and thus the knees. Also I find that if I'm grinding to hard my knees will get sore. Better to get in an easier gear and spin faster. And just ignore all the snooty people out there...not as if most them acutally have sponsors...they just buy the kits. :) But I get it..I used to feel the same way when I road my hybrid. You go girl and if you keep it up I'm coming up to ride with you!

  15. I really think life has a way of forcing us toward things we wouldn't normally do because we don't think we have space in our busy lives for it. That was the case for my bike and I last year. I fell in love with her. Does yours have a name??

  16. The cross training will be a good thing!  With regard to the achy knees - make sure to not 'push' too big of a gear - try to 'spin' at least 90 revolutions per minute on each leg, especially important when getting back into the groove of riding.  Secondly, making sure your saddle isn't too low or pushed too far forward will help with the knees.  A slight bend at the knee, with your foot level on the pedal at the bottom of the pedal stroke is a good place to start.  You don't want the saddle too high, either - then you'll be reaching and rocking your hips back and forth.  Having the saddle too far forward, too, will cramp your style and affect the knees.  Have fun riding!

  17. I love my bike! It was a birthday present, so I was very lucky to get a decent road bike.  Getting to spend more time on my bike is definitely a huge plus for tri training.

    Bike commute is impressive! I have fantasies of bike commuting here, but I never know how to deal with all my "stuff" and I don't want to show up to work all sweaty. Plus I'm a little nervous leaving my bike out of sight...I feel like I would get nothing done because I would be so busy checking on it every 15 minutes lol

  18. There is nothing wrong with that bike!!!  Plus it came at a good price.  :)  I am glad you have something to use for cross training.