You just have to keep your eyes peeled

I cycle through my hobbies pretty regularly: I was seriously into knitting, then vegan cooking & baking, then gardening, and now biking. Each is a part of my daily life but I have periods where I FREAKIN’ LOVE [insert hobby of the month here].

With my most recent interest in biking, I decided to sign up for a metric century (100km or 62mi) with a women’s cycling group for the Rapha Women’s 100 Challenge. I was wary of the distance as the longest ride I’d done prior to this was the TD Five Boro Bike Tour, which is just around 42 miles. I’d also never ridden outside of NYC proper and this ride would take us into Long Island. I’d also never ridden long distance without Alex so I was going to be all alone.

All of the worrying was for naught! The ride was a lot of fun and I was surprised by my ability to ride almost 80 miles in one day and the seeming ease with which I was able to do it.

womens100

I ended up doing over 122km since I needed to get to the starting location from the Staten Island Ferry terminal (and back). I felt great! I was sweaty, covered head-to-toe in sunblock, and surrounded by like-minded ladies. We passed by three beaches, walked across two bridges, and biked through three counties. (I actually biked through 5, including Manhattan’s New York county and Staten Island’s Richmond county.) It was glorious!

I loved it so much that, a week later, I embarked on my own pseudo-long-distance ride. I biked along the eastern coast of Staten Island through two beaches down to the southern-most part of New York State. I then biked up to Bloomingdale Park before making my way back home. All-in-all, I rode 38.9 miles on Staten Island’s horrible roads with some heavy traffic on Hylan Boulevard. I don’t think I’ll ever do that again because, honestly, it’s hard biking on Staten Island streets. There’s debris, potholes, and psychotic motorists.

si_ride_-_20140726

The one upside of this terrible ride was that, as a result, I needed new tires. I’ve been riding on my bike’s stock tires since I got it back in January 2012. I estimate that I’ve ridden somewhere around 4500 miles on its tires. It’s about time that I replaced them! But it wasn’t until after this Staten Island ride that I really had a reason to: the threading on the sidewalls wore down to the point where multiple bulges had developed. It was no longer safe to ride on them so I got myself a pair of Gatorskin tires—and then installed them myself, like the badass that I am.

At the same time, I also got myself a couple of Castelli cycling jerseys, a pair of Louis Garneau cycling shoes, and a set of Shimano PD-A530 combination clipless/platform pedals. I look like a serious cyclist now, ready to tackle more long distance rides!

We’re good

My first biking experience every morning is a short but speedy descent down a hill. It’s a 72-foot drop over 539 feet (with a traffic light at the foot of the hill so I really have to be alert). It’s a fantastic way to wake up in the mornings. However, early on, I knew it wasn’t going to be all fun and games:

If every morning started off with a descent, every evening would end with an ascent. I’d have to climb a 13% grade every day. At first, I couldn’t do it. There’s a certain point where it becomes extremely difficult—when I can see the end in sight but my lungs and legs refuse to work any harder.

Gradually, I was able to conquer the hill. I would huff and puff up this tiny but mighty hill, with my legs turning into jelly when I finally get off my bike. These days, I’m much better but it’s still a struggle. I’m still out of breath and panting at the top of the hill, with a slight wobble to my gait when I dismount my bike.

…But not this guy:

This guy climbed a 38% grade (that’s 3 times as steep as my tiny hill!) and he didn’t even break a sweat. Ah, to be a tiny man on a lightweight steed who rides a bike for a living…

What’s in the bag?

For someone who cycles just under 6 miles (each way) in one of the world’s most urban cities, I carry a lot of stuff with me on my commute. So what’s in the bag?

Allie's bike on the Staten Island Ferry

  • Tool bag (with wrench, multitool, tire levers, spare tube, etc.)
  • Lunch
  • Sunglasses & case
  • Lip balm
  • Wallet
  • Cellphone
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sunscreen
  • Clif bar
  • Clothes (wrapped in a plastic garbage bag)1
  • Rain gear (pants, jacket, cover for bag)2
  • Tail light

And that’s just the bare minimum. On days when I have off-site meetings, there’s also hair product and shoes in there. (I keep a collection of shoes under my desk–and a hair dryer, straightening iron, styling creme, and hair wax in a drawer–but when I have to travel to meetings, I need to bring some with me.) Last week, I baked cookies that I took with me to a meeting. Today I brought my glass jar of coffee because I ran out yesterday.

I don’t normally carry a lock (because, luckily, I have a bike storage locker at work) but I do have to bring one if my day requires travel. I keep a Kryptonite U-lock in my storage locker at work (for when I have afternoon meetings) and a heavy-duty chain lock at home (for when I have morning meetings). If I didn’t have to carry a lock with me, I’d be a happy camper: it adds considerable weight and bulk to my bag. But, unfortunately, I live and work in a city where bikes are stolen in broad daylight on a regular basis so I just have to suck it up and deal with it.

Given all the stuff I carry with me, I’m extremely grateful for my rear rack and trunk bag combo. They work great together and I get to haul a lot of stuff. The bag has a carrying handle and a shoulder strap so it’s easy to slide the bag off my rack and carry it with me into the elevator and to my desk. I’ve also used it to go grocery shopping. It can do it all! But maybe not for long: I got it 4 years ago and it’s starting show some wear and tear. When it finally breaks down, I’ll be replacing it with the same model. Actually, I’ll probably upgrade to a higher-capacity one. Bigger is better, right?


1 Why the garbage bag? Rain! My bag isn’t waterproof so I need to make sure my clothes don’t get sopping wet on my morning rides. And it’s also easier to then transport the clothes into a bag I keep at my desk that I take with me to the bathroom to change, do my hair, etc.
2 I don’t trust meteorologists anymore so I take my rain gear with me everyday and everywhere.