Friday, March 18, 2011

What's On First - Base Miles

Baseballs Off-Season by Randy11Kat
Full Color postcard printing on Zazzle

The promise of a day closing in on 60 degrees lured me into uncharted territory.

The Blackstone River Bikeway in Rhode Island is 12.5 miles of bike/walking and practically car-free path. It is quite often used as a "train" of sorts where cycling advocates join up and ride together to their jobs from the northern areas of Rhode Island into the cities of Pawtucket and Providence with minimal interference from motorized vehicles. As an added bonus, there are volunteers that patrol the path via bicycle

For me, the most difficult part of the ride was finding the parking lot. I am not familiar with most of these cities and one wrong turn onto a major highway proved it once again. Note to self: Next car should include a GPS installation.

As far as clothing went, I stuck with what worked the last time. That proved to be sufficient and not too hot. I'm used to sweating in a spin room anyway so over-dressing at this point isn't going to be a problem.

The path was beautiful and as smooth as you can ask for given the weather we've had. There was some debris from trees but nothing extraordinarily obtrusive. In fact, the biggest problem was the entrance which still had a snow bank of about 4 feet high and wide sitting smack in the middle of the path, leaving only inches of wet mud on either side as an access. This was not much of a problem to me as I just made the decision to portage the bike over the curb and then jump on and take off. I'm sure it was much more disconcerting to both the couple with the child-bike trailer and the other couple trying to get in with a wheelchair.

The ride itself follows along the Blackstone River and a commuter train line. It's a gem in an otherwise urban area that features some of the old fabric mills that have now been mostly converted to condos. There are picnic tables, maps, and other areas that provide users with a self-guided tour of the river. In other words, it's the perfect place to get started putting in base miles and getting used to my bike.

Photo courtesy

I must admit that I had some problems getting used to just finding the shifters. Since my Fuji has friction shifters, I found myself absentmindedly reaching for them at the headset instead of on the brakes.

The other things I needed to address; braking, stopping, and drinking, were not as difficult as I had feared although the second time I reached for a drink, I remember thinking that I had to be careful because if I dropped the bottle, it was more than likely going to wind up in the river. The bank along that stretch was, at the most, 3 feet wide with a steep drop-off, which meant any chance of recovering my beloved Fat Cyclist water bottle was... *THUNK*.

You've got to be kidding. Not kidding - it had slipped right through my fingers.

Stopping on the other side of a little foot bridge, I slowly turned around and looked down the path. Not seeing any sign of the bottle, I took a deep breath, and decided to walk back to take a closer look anyway. I love "Team Fatty" and didn't even know if I could replace the bottle until next year. I kept looking for the bottle in the river but lo and behold, it had stayed on the path. It says something for the smoothness of the path that the bottle hadn't rolled into the water. Retrieving the bottle, I vowed to only drink in the grassy sections for the duration of the ride and from now on, only use my bottle at the gym. Camelbaks are easily replaced unless it's a Twin Six Fat Cyclist bottle.

When the path hit a major intersection, I decided to use that as my turn-around point. Still working on using that cycling computer, I had no idea how far I had traveled and just decided that it was high time to head back.

Getting back home and checking out the ride online, it turns out that I was only 3 miles from the end of the current path anyway. Final total for the day was 18 miles and the discovery of a beautiful ride in Rhody.
Sunday, March 13, 2011

Maiden Voyage

Fregate Pandora by seawolf is for sale at Zazzle

A whirlwind of a week had me dropping off my bike at Foxboro Bike on Sunday for a tune-up. The previous week, I had purchased a Selle San Marco Glamour ASPride saddle that I had found on the Returned Items list at Bike Nashbar. It's pink. Not a pretty pink, either. I am not thrilled about the color but the price was right. I figured my ASP is supposed to be covering it anyway and perhaps it would be a deterrent to someone stealing the bike. My husband also pointed out that it would be easier to spot the bike in the transition area during triathlons, too. Thanks, honey.

The bike was scheduled to be ready on Wednesday so I had a bike fit scheduled for Thursday. While I found it a bit unnerving to walk on a tiled floor in cleats, I am beginning to think that an hour at a bike fit for me is what a manicure and pedicure is to most women. Getting measured and set-up and just getting waited on by a nice guy in general was fun! Going into it, I had visions of falling over, not being able to pedal without gassing myself on the trainer, nothing fitting, getting talked into a new headset - whatever might go wrong would go wrong because that's how my life usually works. It turns out the only problem I had was remembering how to parallel park - we don't have much call for that out in the 'burbs. The store is right in the center of town and it was the most embarrassing moment of the day. The guys were so nice, they didn't even make fun of my pink saddle.

Then came the rain. So much rain has fallen lately that most traces of the huge snow banks have washed away. It wasn't until this morning that I finally had a chance to ride.

Clear skies and dry roads... and 32 degrees. Okay, not ideal, but I'd been planning for this, hadn't I? Wearing a Russell technical tee with Wigwam arm warmers, I layered a Bellwether thermal long-sleeve jersey over that ensemble and topped it off with a simple windbreaker from Walmart. The polypropylene thermal shirt would have been too much. Starting with my cycling shorts on the bottom, I layered the polypropylene tights over those and a shell pair of shorts over the tights. I went with the ski socks and mountain bike shoes but I could have used another pair of thin socks layered underneath. I could have also used my glove liners but forgot to grab them (here I go with my mise en place again).

I FINALLY got out the door and riding by 7:45 this AM. I thought I would take the bike for a quick test ride around the local side streets before trying something longer. As I cruised around the neighborhood I realized the one thing I had not accounted for at all. The long, eventful winter didn't just do a number on our collective psyche - it had done quite a number on the roads as well. There were chunks of asphalt near the over-sized potholes, leaving the once-smooth roads now pock-ridden like a construction site. As a driver, the flat tire and cracked cv axle my car suffered through should have been a clue, but I never really connected the dots until Ride Day.

I made a quick decision to stay local and just rode for about 90 minutes - pretty much in circles - getting used to Shimano shifters and brakes and otherwise getting familiar with my new ride. I maybe logged 12 - 15 easy miles but I hadn't reset the computer (something else I have to familiarize myself with). The saddle felt great, the handling is so much more precise than my Fuji, and I finally feel comfortable standing on a climb. That was never the case when trying to climb with my Fuji Monterey.

I guess the decision to leave early and not wait for the promised 50 degree day was the right one. Shortly after returning home, the bright sky and increasing warmth did a 180 and became cloudy. Now, it has started to rain and there's a rawness coming through the region again. Hopefully, I'll be able to hit the bike paths this week. I was a little apprehensive about this as they're right by the waterways and there has been some local flooding in the area. We'll see how that goes.