A guest post on bike camping from Laura Colbert from Loose Nuts Cycles in Atlanta, GA.
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From mid-September to March I am living in knee warmers. My tan lines will prove this as it is pretty far into the summer before the lines around my mid calves start disappearing. Here is my ode to knee warmers…
In efforts to not write a post about disappointment in retailers around Black Friday, Cyber Monday and all things THANKSgiving I am sitting in Starbucks on the side of I-77 to pounds keys and focus on something I can control. 2013 race planning.
For the 2013 season I’m really focusing on a handful of endurance mountain bike races and then a slew of cross country mountain bike series (SERC, Southern Classic and the Georgia State MTB.) Then in the fall of course will be cyclocross domination (it will be domination and not just participation!)
Looking at my schedule and thinking of bikes for work/demo and brand representation I had a lot to chose from. My rock steady go to bike for the past year has been the Salsa Spearfish. Made to crush endurance with 29er wheels, 100mm front, 80mm rear and a very stable handling platform. As a rep I have many brands to represent and having ridden a Spearfish non-stop for the past year most of my stores have seen that bike, or at least listened to stories of how killer the bike is.
Enter the Foundry Cycles Broadaxe
Back in 2004 I picked up mountain biking seriously. A friend and I would go 3-4 times a week, crushing the souls of boys on our pink (matching) single speeds. We rocked, we rolled and that year I grew more as a cyclist than any 12 month period in adulthood.
The other unique thing about these rides were our dogs.
Fiona – my Australian Shepard mutt. Kona – Taryn’s squirrel chasing yellow lab.
They kept us entertained in the woods, they gave us (or maybe just me) a feeling of safety. Fiona often would night ride with me when I was alone. Her blinky on her collar and loud barks if she got far off trail are a memory that makes warm and fuzzies in my heart when I think of night riding.
Then Life Got in the Way
I bought a house, my trail riding was snuck in after work or before. Fiona no longer went to work with me everyday but instead was at home, in a yard and bored out of her mind.
Fiona and I are back on our own. She will be going on dealer visits, road trips and I’ll be sneaking her in to hotels late at night. More importantly, Fiona is back on the trail. This past Thursday I took my cyclocross bike out on a mellow trail in Wilkesboro, NC called Overmountain Victory Trail. The trail is part of the Kerr Scott Trail network. Super mellow, but still a mountain bike feel to it. Perfect for my ‘cross bike and perfect for Fiona’s first day back on the trail. Some how I managed to sneak the 45 minute ride in between a 2 hour car trip and a handful of dealer visits/clinics.
Fiona did perfect. I feared that after 4.5 years of being off the trail (and surrounded by crazy dogs/boys) she would forget her commands. She didn’t. She trailed to my right, near my rear derailleur. When the trail got fast she would drop in behind, when the trail got technical she would run ahead and wait. Encouraging me with her wagging tail and cocked head. “hurry up mom, this is easy!”
We didn’t go far, at one time during the winter months she would be able to knock out 15 or so trail miles. This wasn’t the day for that, this was a mellow 3.5 miles. Stopping often for her to play in the water, to celebrate.
Do you ride with your pup? Not all trails is this legal or safe (for rider and dog) but proper timing and research can lead to a happy dog and rider!
Read my race prep, and now experience my race report.
Mountain bikes vs. real world
In my previous post, I wrote rather sentimentally about my love of mountain biking as a way to check out from real life, if only for a short time. Unfortunately for us, mountain bike rides end. At some point, we all have to rejoin reality.
Part of my reality is working in a 9-to-5 office at a company that loves its business casual dress code. I love my job and, to be honest, I kind of love business casual clothes (pencil skirts! patent leather heels!), so that part of real life is pretty awesome. What I don’t like about returning to reality is that evidence of my out-of-work activities is usually conspicuously apparent (e.g. a 4-inch, blue bruise on the outside of my otherwise professional shins framed beautifully on top by the hem of a skirt and below by the aforementioned heels). When my co-workers and superiors notice the new marks on my body, my mountain bike and professional worlds collide. Despite being fiercely proud of what I do and how I spend my time, these moments always make me a little self-conscious, like an awkward pre-teen who’s the only non-adult at Take Your Daughter to Work Day.
Let me give you guys a real-life example:
I recently returned from a shred-cation (My friends and I created several names for our 4-day, Oregon mtn biking tour of awesomeness–”shred-cation”, “shred-venture”, and “shred camp”. I’m sure you can pick out the theme there.) and returned to work the next day wearing one of my favorite skirts. My outfit revealed some small bruises, a couple minor cuts on my arms, and one patch of peeling skin near my elbow. At some point in the day, I was catching up with a co-worker and at the same time applying some antibacterial ointment to the cuts and scrapes. I apologized for doing this while we were chatting, although I’m not sure he had even noticed. This leads him to ask why I had bruises and cuts. (He’s a new employee. The rest of the office is very familiar with my recreational activities.) When I explained my choice of vacation and the consequences of coming around a washed-out, sandy turn in the high Oregon desert too quickly, his response was something between apologies and disgust. It was an uncomfortable and awkward reaction…”I’m so sorry for you”, “Why do you do that?”, “Ugh”, and so on…. Mountain biking was obviously an activity that he had never tried or considered.
I quickly felt like I had to defend myself and my choices, not because I was doing anything wrong, but because of this other person’s complete lack of understanding or comprehension. I felt like I was trying to explain my choice of feminine hygiene products to a teenage boy, rather than my choice of leisure time activities to an adult co-worker. I don’t think my co-worker meant anything by his reaction. I think the idea was just new to him and he was trying to understand it. That didn’t make me feel any less embarrassed in the moment though.
These situations are not uncommon in my work life and I certainly don’t mind being “the cyclist” for my co-workers. It’s just that when my mountain bike world and my work world rub against each other, it creates a really uncomfortable friction. I don’t want to have to explain what I do in my free time. I dread these moments. Having to justify how I spend my time and the resulting consequences (bruises and cuts) takes away from my enjoyment of riding. It steals a little bit of that awesome post-ride glow. It also unfairly makes me feel a little less professional, like I’m not as suited to be in the office as my co-workers. While I know it’s not their intent to make me feel that way, the result is the same.
My co-workers don’t have to explain why they choose to tailgate at college football games every Saturday in the fall or go to the gym a couple times a week. Why do I need to explain and justify what I do for fun? Whatever the answer, this battle between my mountain biking and professional worlds makes the return to reality after a great weekend of riding just a little more disheartening.
As with any sport it can be very daunting and overwhelming when you walk into a completely foreign arena. Questions, fears, hesitance, embarrassment, and so many emotions are rushing through you that by the time you even get on a bike you are stressed out.
Here is a list of things I wish I had known, and I wish more women knew, when they first walk into a bike shop or get into the sport. Over the next few weeks I’ll explain more in depth so they become clickable links.
- You do not have to ride a women’s bike just because you are a woman
- Don’t wear underwear under your bike shorts – it will cause chaffing and can trap in moisture
- Bike shorts will feel like diapers, the more expensive they are, the better they will fit, and the longer they will last.
- Do not put a gel pad on top of your bike seat, you are putting a band aid on a bad fitting bike or saddle
- Wear a helmet you idiot. It won’t save your life if your head gets run over a car, but most of my accidents it has kept me from getting a concussion, broken nose and in some states it can be looked at as negligence if you are hit by a car without a helmet and have head injuries.
- You do not need to feel uncomfortable while buying a bike. Just like a car, find a new shop, or in the beginning tell your fears or worries so the bike shop can address them.
- Bike shops can not read your mind. Tell them to the best of your abilities what you want to do with your bike, what your longer term goals are and what your budget is.
- As fast as humanly possible, find a group to ride with. It will make you a better rider and you will feel safer.
- It is okay to be scared and have fear. Learn to harness it and “push” through things. Always try to conquer your fear, if you can’t manage the hill or rock garden, get off but at least try. (I forget this one at times!)
- You do not need to have a fancy bike to enjoy riding a bicycle.
This list could be 100 points long. What are the things you know now that you tell beginner cyclist?
This is the time of year that all you want to do is ride your bike, not take it in for maintenance. One of my favorite things I would tell good clients was to ride the bike to the shop for a quick check over. Make it part of a monthly or quarterly event. As long as there isn’t anything rattling or falling off you’ll be able to ride there, tell them exactly what might be acting different since you JUST rode it, example “the rear is shifting slow going to easier gears” or “my crank clicks going up hill.” It also makes it so the shop understands you don’t want to leave your bike there. *Normally calling a head and making sure your favorite mechanic is okay with this would be recommended, along with bringing their favorite 6 pack.*
Fastest wearing items on a bike:
- Bar tape/grips
- Seals on suspension (fork and shock)
Using Strava for Bike Maintenace
While I am a data geek, and spend too much time on Strava I have found that it is also an easy way for you to keep track of your equipment. Depending on your riding style you are normally able to start gauging how quickly you wear your equipment. It is also a good reminder of getting check overs. I’m able to look back since the first of the year and figure out what bikes have the most milage, do a mental check of which bikes have gotten love and which haven’t. Even if it is as simple as checking chain lube, tire wear and chain stretch. It will help save you money and headache as the season rolls on.
Pathless Pedaled has a great quick, motivating, video to get out with your kids on the bicycles this summer!