Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sharing the Joy of Cycling... Sore Butt and All!

Not only were we able to ride early on Thanksgiving morning, but since David had the following day off from work, we joined a group ride on Friday too! For the last two years, Dave and I took part in Ron Manizza's day-after-Thanksgiving spin class at the gym to work off the excess calories, but this year it was another unseasonably warm day, with temperatures eventually approaching 60 degrees! Who could pass up that opportunity? There were ten of us who met up at a shopping area parking lot in Manchester, Connecticut.

The ride was great, speedy, and a good workout for us. Again, we did about 40 miles. Our average speed was just under 17 mph.

With a weekend forecast just as wonderful, we decided to share the joy of cycling with my daughter, Katie, on Saturday. She has just recently learned how to ride on her own bicycle without training wheels! On Saturday, we loaded three single bikes into our minivan, and we headed east to Rhode Island where they have a nice kid-friendly bicycle path along flat ground.

Upon arrival to the path in the Warwick area, the three of us put on our helmets and started out. While there were piles of crunchy fallen leaves along the way, Katie was pretty confident. She was hesitant at times, but through the piles of leaves and into tunnels and over bridges, with people walking dogs and moms with strollers unaware that we told Katie to stay to the right at all times... she did very well!

 Katie was doing great for the first few miles of our ride!

The part of the path we covered was approximately 8 miles one way and 8 miles back. As we approached each intersection, I asked Katie how she was feeling ~ Did she want to head out further or turn around for our return trip?

Somehow it didn't click with her that the distance she had already covered was going to be done again in reverse... She claimed she was fine at each intersection, she was happy, and we went on further. Finally, we reached the end point in my mind, and we changed direction. About 1/3 of the way back, Katie stopped unexpectedly. She got off her bike and started to walk.

I asked her what was wrong, why did she stop? She told me that her butt hurt.

Well, at 3:30 in the afternoon in late November, we had only about an hour of daylight left. We tried to explain to Katie that walking those miles would not get us back to the car in time. I encouraged her to get back on her bicycle.

She pedaled ahead maybe another half mile. Then she stopped again. Then she got on again, and pedaled ahead further for a while.

This happened a few more times, and it was trying our patience to get her to continue to pedal to make it back to the van before dark. But, all-in-all, she did it. I've told her that she should be very, very proud of herself!! I don't think many 7-year-olds can say that they have ridden a bicycle for 16 miles in an afternoon!

A Cycling Day to be Thankful!

I am still in amazement over the great weather we've been having in Connecticut this month. It's late November, we've enjoyed lots of riding days!

Niantic Bay Bicycles hosted a 40 mile ride from their shop on Thanksgiving morning. Since we were eating dinner at Dave's parents' home, and dinner time wasn't until mid-afternoon, we woke up extra early and bundled up for the 8 a.m. ride.

David wears his vintage wool jersey for
the 40 degree temps!

Even with glorious sunshine, the temperature was still a bit cold at that time of the morning. David looked sharp in his vintage Molteni wool jersey; I actually wore 6 layers on top! This group was comprised of approximately 20 riders of varying abilities. We took off with the pack up front, since our average speed has been considerably faster in our most recent group rides. We were the only tandem riders. Within the first couple of miles, a few people off the back fell out of sight. We were glad to find ourselves still with the pack.

The ride was enjoyable and the scenery was exceptional, mostly rolling hills on tree lined roads. We crossed a bridge alongside a hi-way which brought us into a waterfront town. The view was stunning with glints of sunshine playing off the ocean. (This is one of the pluses to being a stoker! I'm able to soak in the incredible views and take photos, while David keeps his eye on the roads.)

After turning off a stretch of road with amazing views, the route brought us through a residential area with many turns. It was around the 23-mile point or so, and with a headwind, we started to fall behind. A couple of other riders were off the back too. We caught up once or twice, but then with so many turns, we lost our way.

As we rode on, we passed another cyclist riding alone. Initially, we weren't sure if he was from our group, but in fact, he was! At 15-years-old, he was riding without clip-in pedals, and we learned that while he had done some off-road riding with the bicycle shop, this was his first group ride on the road. Dave took him under his wing and led the way back over the bridge by the hi-way and then back to the shop. (I'm grateful that Dave knows Connecticut roads pretty well, because if it were me out there on my own, I'd have been lost for sure!)

Eventually, we arrived back. It still came out to be just over 40 miles, and the rest of the leading group somehow arrived back just about 5 minutes after us.

David chatted for a while with fellow cyclists, while I peeled off layers, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine streaming in through the windows of our mini-van.

We drove home, and I gathered up a side dish and desserts we were contributing to Thanksgiving dinner at Dave's Mom and Dad's house. It was a wonderful way to spend the holiday, enjoying the company of family!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tandem Tires Wearing Thin

Dave & I have been a tandem couple for just three years, but we've gone though a whole lot of tires! In fact, I'm pretty sure we get new bicycle tires far more frequently than we buy tires for our vehicles.

A fellow cyclist pointed out the condition of our back tire a couple of weekends ago. The overall wear was clearly evident, and it had actually worn through on spots. Ever-fearful of accidents or even having a breakdown being far away from our home or vehicle, I carried a sense of awareness about it over every bump in the road. However, once safely on our way home in our Dodge Caravan, the bicycle tire's condition was unfortunately, quickly forgotten... Busy with work and kids, we hadn't taken the time to get the tire replaced. We actually rode on it two more times, and we were lucky it lasted. As I recall, that tire was brand new this year and it was quite pricey!

Now, our rear wheel is again at a bicycle shop.

Earlier this year, we experienced a stretch of time where we were constantly popping spokes. Since the Spring, we've naturally dropped a few pounds, and that issue eventually resolved itself.

Come to think of it, it seems that issues we've had to deal with regarding the functionality and smooth operation of our tandem bicycle seems to hit us in cycles.

For a while last year, we experienced difficulties with our chain. Broken links, dropping while shifting, etc. On one memorable ride, we were caught in a rain storm climbing a steep hill when the chain let go. Not fun.

Then for a series of rides we experienced a series of flats. In fact, there was one particular ride from home on our own when we flatted out 4 times in a row!! That 30-mile route was shortened to about 15 miles and it took us almost 4 hours to complete with all the time spent on the side of the road.

Let's hope that our new tire is good and strong and holds us well. We plan to ride tomorrow for an early morning Thanksgiving Day group ride from Niantic Bay Bicycles!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Who has a Saddle Fetish?

Last Friday's post about David's cherished Cinelli #2 Unicanitor red suede saddle triggered a curiosity within to check out the current availability of one of those rarities today.

Well, guess what? There actually was one on eBay!!

New Old stock Cinelli Unicanitor saddle

suede #2 padding

New in original bag

There was no way Dave could let it slip away. He had to have it! And I love the way he lights up when he has his hands on a bicycle part he adores.
Somebody has an early Christmas present!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Is it Really November??

Hard to believe it's actually November! I'm loving this Indian summer weather.

Dave & I rode with groups both yesterday and today, and we've logged in 101 miles over the two days! Wow. In looking over our stats (We keep track of these things on Please friend us if you use the site too!) we did only 23 miles for the month of November a year ago. For this month alone, we are now at 254 miles.

Saturday's ride was an end-of-season Thread City Cyclists ride. Our group was comprised of riders at varying ability levels and we broke off into two smaller groups. This ride turned out to be a spontaneous route put together on the fly to Coriander Cafe & Country Store in Eastford, Connecticut. We like that rest stop. Their rest room is clean, the staff is pleasant, they sell unique country craft items, and they whip up super-delicious food choices!!

We did try something different this time. It was lunchtime. So I ordered a lunch item. The tuna on whole wheat sandwich with lettuce, purple onion, and tomato, was thick, fresh and tasty! At $6, Dave and I split it, the chips and a pickle. For me, it was great. For Dave... well, he confessed to having an urge to vomit as we pushed up hills on the return ride. I guess a huge lump of tuna and mayo might not have been the best option for him.

We did 43 miles, hills and flat sections, it was sunny and with the wind a little bit chilly, but not too bad, temperatures in the mid-50's.

Today we did 58 miles. This ride was called the Tree Farm Road Ride, departing from Manchester, Connecticut, entering into Massachusetts, and back. There were 10 bicycles, 11 riders. We were the only tandem -- as it was yesterday too. 

This ride was slated to be 17-19 MPH Average Speed. We rode with this group last week, and we did great. However, we weren't so sure we could keep up at the pace posted this week. I emailed the ride leader, and she assured us that based on our ride of the previous week, we would do fine.

We did do fine, but honestly, this was 58 miles of us pushing really hard, all the way! I'm not complaining. Today's weather was in the 60's with sunshine. And this ride pushed us both to ride harder and faster. My heart rate was steadily in a higher range. Plus, I'm really hoping that it will nudge my weight loss plateau to budge too.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Best Loved Saddle!

It's funny how particular many cyclists can be when it comes to their bike seat. This is a cute shot of David's Cinelli #2 Unicanitor red suede saddle. It's been his #1 preference in saddles since his teenage racing days. He still has an old one I doubt he'll ever let go, even though it's battered and torn.

These days, vintage seats like this one in great condition are very hard to find. We actually purchased this one on ebay 2 years ago, and it was new and unused, arriving to our doorstep all the way from Japan!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Donut Overdose!!

What a great ride David & I enjoyed last Sunday! It was an AMC Road Bike Ridea 55 Mile Fall Foliage Tour of the Farms ~ Manchester. 

These rides have been posted throughout the riding season, but we've been hesitant previously because we weren't so sure we could keep up -- especially on the hills. Their average speed is posted at 15-18 MPH. Closer to 15 MPH, we can handle but if the group was quicker, we could have had issues. 

However, although we've been blessed with an extended Indian Summer, the weather is much cooler. That means more comfortable. Add to that the fact that Dave and I have roughly 2700 tandem miles tallied up so far this year -- AND -- that we've had a few faster-than-our-average rides on our own familiar routes in recent weeks. The hills can still be challenging, but we are handling them a lot more efficiently!

So we were pleasantly surprised that we were able to prove to ourselves that this ride was within our capabilities!

We passed through miles of scenic, mildly familiar territory. We rode by tobacco fields and dairy farms. But all along, there were piles upon piles of branches and debris along the roadside - a result of October's freak Connecticut snowstorm. Winds from that storm left many residents without power for over a week in duration and the cleanup efforts were still in the works. Heck, we even saw a man up on a ladder alone operating a chainsaw! That made for interesting conversation during the ride.

Finally, we pulled into a parking lot for a rest stop / bathroom break. I was very grateful to see there was a Dunkin Donuts in this plaza. I needed a rest room urgently! (While Dave is able to hop off the bike just about anywhere there are trees, I usually wait until we find suitable facilities.) So since I was carrying our money for the day, I asked Dave if he would get us a bite to eat, while I visited the ladies room. I pulled out a folded twenty dollar bill from my jersey pocket and rushed inside.

Inside the ladies room, I am fascinated to see the depth of instruction necessary for Dunkin Donut employees to properly wash their hands.  <--

Since the technique is fresh in my mind, I most effectively wash my hands and head out to the doughnut counter. ; )

I see Dave directing the young lady to fill a bag for us. The variety of kinds he is ordering surprises me. Normally, we share an ice coffee and a single goodie that we split in half. Then I realize, he was special ordering Munchkins -- phew!

We head outside to sit with the other cyclists and Dave proceeds to peek inside our bag. Inside there is a bagel stick, two jelly sticks, AND a pile of munchkins! Then we have an ice coffee to share and a Vitamin Water to fill our empty water bottles.Wow!

I think Dave was also having a conversation with a fellow cyclist while he was placing his order. But he did admit to being hungry! We offered up the extra sweets to others who were happy to help us out with the doughnut overload.

On the way back, we did especially enjoy this speedy rolling downhill which we were encouraged to lead. Dave loves these things! I love it too, but my love for speed on unfamiliar roadways is mixed with a strong sense of trepidation.  : )

Friday, November 11, 2011

Make it or Break it

Ha! Here's a funny Craigslist ad I came across recently...

They say when a couple gets on a tandem together, it will either make or break their relationship.  I guess this one didn't make it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Gaggle of Geese and a Rafter of Turkeys and a Murmation of Starlings

With daylight savings time in effect and an Indian Summer forecast on a mid-November day, Dave & I were given reason to try to squeeze in a quick 15 mile loop tandem ride at sunrise. We were rewarded with a few spectacular wildlife sightings.

Our most recent tandem rides before the daylight savings time shift took effect were near dusk, when we've had occasional close calls with deer. Those encounters were somewhat scarey for me.

Our area is quite rural, and our route brings us around numerous farms. During the first part of our ride, it was the cows who seemed most interested in us as we pedaled past them. Many followed us with their eyes as we rode by.

On Route 49, a scenic road fairly close to home, we pass by a Turkey Farm... Surprisingly quiet. It is getting closer to Thanksgiving.

As we continued on, we noticed a tractor in the distance on a turf farm. That's funny, we didn't realize there was a turf farm on that road before.

Then to our left, I point out to Dave a group of wild turkeys feeding in a corn field. There were maybe a dozen or so. (Is that enough to be considered a gaggle?)

As we went on further, we both commented to each other that we could hear geese. We looked far and wide, and even upward... as we went further ahead past a cluster of trees, finally we could see the geese - throughout a huge cornfield - possibly thousands of them as far as an eye can see! What an amazing sight. (Did you know a group of geese is called a rafter?)

And then, wow... starlings! As we turn the bend passing yet another stretch of farmland, feeding here was a murmation of starlings! With our approach, they rose into the sky all at once.

Birds of different kinds all found early morning feeding abundant in cornfields, but each kind of bird collected with their own on different stretches of land.

This entry on our blog has inspired me to research the proper terms as to what various groups of birds are called. Even though I am officially a grandmother this year, I continue to experience new sights with wonder and learn new things everyday!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunny & Cold November Weekend

It's November. It's cold. Last night we had to turn back the clocks. I hate that. It means darkness before 5 pm. That's the end of weekday after-work rides. Blah!

BUT... What a great weekend this one was for bicycling!

On top of our list, my 7-year-old daughter, Katie, has mastered BICYCLE 101 --
No more training wheels!!


Her accomplishment was on top of two great days of cycling for Dave & I -- We rode with fellow Thread City Cyclists on Saturday morning for 35 miles. Although it was cold, there were 9 of us all layered up for warmth, and the sun was shining. It was a great group of friends with a stop in Eastford at Coriander Cafe & Country Store. There we enjoyed a great break with coffee and tasty treats. The route was mostly rolling hills, quite an enjoyable ride!

For Sunday, we met up with fellow tandem riders, Joe & Lisa. Somewhat warmer but still sunny and cold, we took a 25 mile route through Scotland, CT. This was a hilly ride, but the uphills meant thrilling downhills! We spent some time afterward at Joe's home, and we relaxed with great conversation and delicious pizza.

While we are sad to see these ride-able days slip away, we'll bundle up and brave it so long as there is no snow or ice on the roads.

On a side note, some residents of Connecticut are still -- unbelievably -- with out power 8 days after last weekend's freak October snowstorm. My thoughts are with them. While Dave & I were out for just over 24 hours this time, with the not-too-long-ago storm, Hurricane Irene, that hit us in late August, we were out for a full week, and I know how frustrating it is to be without light and modern day conveniences -- and now, throw in the cold temperatures too.

Some of our fellow TCC members gave of their time today to help clear a bike path of fallen tress which resulted in the aftermath of the storm. I had no idea it was as bad as this! Wow.