Friday, December 30, 2011

Gotta Get that Pedaling Thing Down Pat

December continues to offer us mild weather days, and we have taken every opportunity to get outside on our bikes whenever our schedule allows us! As today's temperatures approached 50 degrees, we decided to let Katie try out her new Raleigh bicycle she got for Christmas.

Katie posed with Dave before our ride in the photo above.

What we thought would be easy and exciting didn't turn out to be that way. We had plans to meet up with family later in the afternoon at an Italian restaurant in Rhode Island, so we figured the bicycle path in Cranston would be a great place to squeeze in a quick ride beforehand. The bikes were loaded into our minivan, and we all piled in with excited anticipation.

As we started off on the path, Katie had difficulty with pushing off to pedal. She claimed her knees came up too high when she went to pedal, so David raised her seat. Then she had troubles because she could only reach the ground on her tippy-toes. Her biggest overall challenge was in pushing off to start pedaling. It simply felt too different compared to her old bicycle.

Then, once she finally got going, she needed to stop because... she needed David's handkerchief to blow her nose. Then she needed a drink. And we hadn't even gone a mile yet.

Finally after pedaling away from our parking area, we decided to turn around. On the return ride, heading back towards our vehicle, Katie got the knack of it, and she went a good distance!

Off ahead of us, she successfully rode quite a ways going back to the minivan.
Katie and I stop for a photo as we neared the end of our ride.

We gave Katie a break, and we went out to lunch, enjoying wonderful pasta and great conversation!  The bike riding thing will get another chance.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Smiles and Close Calls, but so Worthwhile!

It's the day after Christmas and David had the day off!!! We had no kids with us last night, so... We slept late. We walked around the house freely and comfortably. We enjoyed a breakfast of french toast with butter and syrup and leftover brown sugar glazed ham from our holiday dinner, and sweet delicious orange juice. Then, we went outside, and we stacked more wood that was retrieved from David's brother's house in Massachusetts. And, somehow we worked together and managed to figure out how to get an extremely heavy wood stove so generously given to us off from the trailer and inside our home. It weighed a ton!

And then... we dressed in layers, with double socks and booties, and we took a 30-mile tandem ride from our home to The Brooklyn Fairgrounds and back. The sun was shining. It was a little bit windy. The temperature ranged somewhere in the area of 35 degrees to the low-forties.

David wore a Christmas gift from me. It's a Winter Thermal Fleece Jersey that I found on eBay. He was very happy with it. It kept him cozy, warm, and comfortable while riding. I was very happy to see him happy!

There are some things I especially like about tandem bicycling. People smile  when they see us! This is especially true with small children who may be playing in their yards or looking outside from a back seat window in a car going by. Some seem amazed to see a two-person bicycle. Sometimes they wave at us, and we wave back. Some just smile and stare in amazement.

Today we saw one other cyclist on the road. Had we not braked coming down a steep hill on a side road, we could have had a collision with him. But we did brake, and he waved and smiled, and yelled out to us, "Nice bike!".

Then, as we rounded a corner and worked our way up a steep hill, a motorist slowed and shouted from his car window, "Nice work!"

That has happened before. I like when people offer encouragement. Oftentimes, they give us the 'thumbs up". That same hill used to be very challenging for us, and it has become easier with practice.

It was a very good ride. We are so glad to be able to ride on the roads in December, even though we both experienced some soreness in our muscles today from not having had an opportunity to ride over the past 10 days or so.

However, on the tail end of today's ride, our positive mood was brought to a sudden moment of panic. Cycling through the small town of Moosup, a white SUV pulled up to the main road we were traveling on and barely stopped before pulling out into the road with less than a foot of space in front of us! The windows were blacked out, so we couldn't see the driver. We assumed he saw us -- he should have. David's colors were bright, and the jacket I was wearing was the screaming fluorescent yellow color that's really hard to miss!

That near-miss caused my heart rate (monitored by a strap I wear that I can view on a watch) to skyrocket to 205. I've never seen it get to that point before -- ever. How can we possibly encourage motorists to be more aware of cyclists on the road? Why don't they realize that we're clipped into our pedals, and we can't come to a abrupt stop as quickly as they might assume?

It took us a couple miles to regain our positive attitude, but it did resume. The fresh air, exercise and togetherness makes it all worthwhile!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christmas Surprise!

We have finished making payments on Katie's new bicycle, and we actually picked it up this week! It's exciting to realize that she worked hard all summer long and well into Autumn on her riding-without-training-wheels skills, and finally she has it down pat. In honor of that accomplishment, Dave and I agreed to put out for a very nice bicycle for her for Christmas!

Waiting for Katie to awake Christmas morning, under the tree there will be a beautiful 24-inch girls purple Raleigh bicycle, 7-speed, with three chain rings in the front. She will now get to learn about shifting!

To make it extra special, we added a few fancy accessories to sweeten the surprise. After getting a price of $40 for just a wicker basket from a bicycle shop in Norwich, I decided to check out our local Benny’s Home & Auto Store. These stores are something like a retro, scaled-down version of a Walmart store, but with small town flavor. I was able to get a white basket, a bell, and even a simple cycling computer -- all for around $20 total!

We're optimistic that this is a bicycle Katie can grow with as she gains new skills, and hopefully she will acquire a deeper affection for the joy of cycling!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Challenge of the Tree Stump

Sometimes life's responsibilities can get in the way of riding.

It's a week before Christmas and while the sun was shining over the weekend, we had wood to unload and stack, and then -- of all things -- we started into more yardwork! That wasn't the original plan. Before we got outside and started stacking wood, we thought it was too chilly and windy for a road ride, and we were considering going to the gym instead to get in a good workout.

In the process of doing the woodwork, we warmed up, and the sunshine was wonderful -- although it was definitely cold. Sunday's temperatures maxed out at 33 degrees. We decided to take care of the wood in the morning, and then planned to get on the tandem in the afternoon, so long as the wind wasn't stirring too much. However, our idea for riding wavered as the day progressed.

We stacked our wood pile, and we started to clear out some brush at the edge of our yard. We chatted briefly with a neighbor who ooffered us the wood from an old oak tree that fallen behind his property. And then I mentioned to David about a stump in the front of the house alongside our old stone wall. I came up with this  nifty idea that it would come right out of the ground if David tied a chain around it and then pulled it up and out with the pickup truck.

But that stump sure was stubborn! At our first attempt, it looked as if our old Ford pickup was going to drop it's bed in the street! The stump didn't budge an inch. So David got a pick ax and a shovel. Probably a dozen large rocks needed to be dug out from around the root system. Then, David took his chainsaw to those roots! We tried the pickup truck pull-out again two or three more times, and finally -- after two or three hours time -- he got that big old stump to release itself from the earth!!

That was it for our idea to go for a tandem ride. It was after 3:00 in the afternoon, and by 3:45, it's dark around here. I was chilled and needed to be warmed up too! I went inside and stood next to the wood stove for a bit. We washed up and changed, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and headed out to the stores for some last minute Christmas shopping. Next weekend, we'll enjoy family get-togethers and delicious dishes brought to share. We may not find much time to ride outdoors this week, but we'll at least try to get in a walk or some time on the elliptical machine or rollers, as we gear up in preparation of a wonderful family holiday. We may not find the time we'd like to have for ourselves right now, but these days pass quickly, and we are looking forward to spending much needed and cherished time with family!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

5 Great Holiday Gifts for Tandem Cyclists!

Looking for unique holiday gift ideas for your favorite cycling couple? I suppose because tandem bicycle riding is a specialized niche, that explains why it's not so easy to find tandem themed items we would love. Some of the best gift ideas I've found are on websites like eBay and Etsy where creative individuals market their own creations.

Here are my favorite gift giving suggestions for tandem bicycle enthusiasts. Many of these items are things I couldn't pass up, and we've actually bought them for ourselves.

1.) Matching Jerseys -- to be worn while riding.

2.) Bicyle Glasses ~ the kind you drink from, not the kind you wear. These are nice sturdy 16 oz. size, four to a pack.

3.) Tandem /Cycling Jewelry -- I purchased this fun necklace on eBay for myself this year! Tandem Bike Pendant - stainless steel cyclist charm. There is also a sweet selection of jewelry, pins, necklaces, and earrings and a big variety of tandem related gifts on
4.) Bi Polar Bears T-Shirt -- to be worn anytime!
5.) Tandem Bicycle Christmas Tree Ornaments

My idea for great for stocking stuffers for any cyclist would be sports nutrition items such as GU Energy Gel (Mocha is my favorite! hint-hint!) and CLIF SHOT BLOKS Energy Chews which are semi-solid, easy-to-chew sources of carbohydrates and electrolytes -- the body's preferred source of fuel during activity.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Reaching Milestones and Recognizing Amazing Cyclists

What a fantastic weekend of good friends and great cycling too!

On Saturday, we weren't able to join the Thread City Cyclists morning ride due to other commitments, but Dave and I did manage to squeeze in a 20 mile tandem ride on our own from our home before dark. The temperature was in the low 40's and the wind wasn't too bad. It felt good to get in the exercise.

The evening's highlight was TCC's Annual Christmas Party. We were excited to go, because for the last couple of years we had conflicts, and we weren't able to attend. It was held at a fire station, and the event had a good showing of members.

One nice thing is that this is the end of our second year with TCC and by now we have ridden with a majority of members at one time or another. Plus, there have been other club sponsored activities where we've been able to mix with some of other members in various capacities. One of the most positive aspects of being involved with a bicycle club is the way social connections are formed. The mix of people and professions makes for interesting conversation and healthy interaction with people you may not have otherwise had the opportunity to meet. There were a whole lot of familiar faces at the gathering!

Pizza was delicious, and there were plenty of gluten-free options for those bothered by wheat. Cake, cookies, and brownies were offered for desserts.

An entertaining slideshow highlighting activities and people of interest throughout 2011 was put on, with awards given. We were glad that the club's regular tandem riders were acknowledged: Dave and I, Glen and Sue, Joe and Lisa!! It's growing in popularity, and we think that's a very positive thing.

We were given special recognition with the Two's Company Award!!
Granted, they failed to realize that my last name is now Etchells, but a new certificate is in the making.  : )

Sunday morning brought us colder temperatures, low 30's! But the sun was shining and we were excited that Judy Borrman was leading a 40-something mile ride. Seven cyclists with six bicycles met up at a shopping center parking lot in Manchester, Connecticut.

Some of us were working towards mileage goals for the year. Judy reached 6,000 total miles at the 25 mile mark of this ride, and Dave & I met our goal of 3,000 tandem miles at mile 35. 

Karen & Dave and Steve & Judy celebrating MILEstones in attaining our mileage goals for the year!

Judy is an absolute inspiration! Not only in reaching 6,000 miles for this season, but she and her husband, Steve, have completed 21 cycling centuries this year!! Amazing.

Another club member who stands out with high mileage numbers is Dave Waldburger. He commutes to work each day, and he has tallied a total of 7,500 miles for 2011! Wow.

David Waldburger with Steve Shongut and Walter Treschuk

Friday, December 9, 2011

Trimming Calories to Increase Climbing Effectiveness

As soon as I had gotten both of my daughters off to school this morning, I brought my hot chai latte into our home office, and I settled into my black leather chair for a moment of reflection. This is a time when I'm not fully awake, but it's my first opportunity to organize my thoughts as I move forward with a productive day.

Just then, David came into the office with the newest issue of Bicycling Magazine in his hands. Apparently he's been inspired, and he wants to share the joy. There is an article in there by Selene Yeager entitled Stay Lean - And Fast. David reads to me a line in the article stating that five extra pounds will make you 30 seconds slower on a 5K climb.

I know. I need the inspiration. But I hadn't even had my morning shower yet.

We've been dreaming of someday somehow getting ourselves a lighter tandem bicycle. Ours is a steel Burley Duet, and while it's a solid ride, it's 48 pounds heavy even before we add on our four filled water bottles. However, the reality is that it's worth serious consideration of how our own weight greatly affects our riding.

I lost quite a bit in 2010, but regained much of that last winter. And while we've tallied up almost 3,000 mile in riding time this year, I've lost only about 10 pounds -- even over the hottest summer days. David, on the other hand, has done incredibly well! He has lost about 30 pounds this year, and so far, he has kept it off. He looks fantastic too!

I consulted my doctor about why my increased physical activity has not made much of a dent towards my weight loss goals, and his explanation is simply that I am getting older. I'm 48 years old. It's frustrating.

We need to put out more effort to ward off the extra pounds piling on, especially as wintertime is approaching, and we need to make this a daily effort.

We plan to ride outdoors as long as the weather and conditions allow. And when it's not possible, we have a elliptical machine downstairs, and rollers and a trainer for spin training on our bicycles. I can always take a walk in the middle of the day too.

More than that, we know one of the biggest challenges is watching our food intake. Selene's books and articles are inspiring. And, of course, my husband is most influential over my day-today challenges. He's wonderfully supportive. I will make the commitment.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Difference Between a Cyclist and Your Everyday Bicycle Rider

I came across this on Facebook and wanted to share it here. Very amusing!

Mild December Weather Brought Us Out!

It's been amazing weather in Connecticut lately! Kind of crazy, actually. In October, a freak snowstorm hit our area, leaving a large number of residents powerless for up to a week. I was thinking that we were in for a rough Winter... again.

Last year, we had a Winter for the record books with so many severe snowstorms hitting us one after another. Working full-time with a long commute, and  having a daughter in elementary school that was repeatedly being cancelled, I was lucky to have been able to make it to work many times -- never mind ever getting to squeeze in a bike ride or even hit the gym. It was depressing, and I gained back weight I had worked so hard to lose the year prior.

Fortunately, November gave us Indian Summer weekends, and Dave and I took full advantage of it! We keep track of our cycling mileage on DailyMile, and it's interesting to note that last year in November, we had in a grand total of 23 miles. This year has tallied up to 352 miles!

And so far, for December, we have 50 miles in.

On the road just after sunrise on December 6th, 2011!
Skies like this might have scared us away from riding in July,
but in December, 50 degree temps lured us out.
Twenty three of this month's mileage so far has come from two early morning rides. I've been providing childcare for my grandson, Carter, who just turned 6 months old. My daughter leaves for school a little after 8 a.m. each weekday, so Dave and I got up extra early and we were in the driveway, on our tandem at 7 a.m. to squeeze in our 11.5 mile loop.

To be able to ride in December, yesterday morning's gray skies and drizzle did not hold us back. We were grateful for the chance to get some time for US!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Riding with Champions!

It isn't always easy maintaining balance when it comes to exercise if you're a cyclist. So our weekend consisted of two different kind of workouts. Saturday was a lower body workout and on Sunday, we had an upper body workout.

Saturday was a day David had been anticipating for a while -- Bike Ride & Book Signing with John Allis.

(John Allis (born May 31, 1942) is an American cyclist who entered into international cycling competition in the 1960s. He was one of the strongest competitive cyclists in the United States in the early 1970s, winning the United States National Road Race Championships in 1974. He was inducted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in 1993.)

John Allis shows off his vintage cleats!

Bill Humpheys watches as John Allis signs a copy of Bill's book, The Jersey Project,  for Dave Etchells

And, while I didn't know anything about the man previously, I have to say that meeting this man was actually very exciting for me too!

Peter Mooney is in the background while David chats with John Allis before the ride.
David's cap and jersey were both vintage and kept in good shape over the years!

The event on Saturday was held at Belmont Wheelworks -- a bicycle shop near Boston that is familiar to many  area tandem owners because this store has a wide variety of tandem bikes on display. (Wheelworks Too which is located just around the corner from their main store, serves as the TANDEM CENTER OF NEW ENGLAND - with a selection of tandem bicycles by Cannondale, Co-Motion, Santana and Trek.)

Bill Humphreys hosted Saturday's ride and book signing celebrating the launch of his new book, The Jersey Project. It was an honor to ride with both John and Bill. Although we weren't aware of it at first, we also met and rode with Peter Mooney, a custom bike frame builder. The stories they told and the memories they shared clearly conveyed a love of the sport of bicycle racing. It's a passion David shares, and it was a joy to hear of their experiences and reflections of the training, dedication and the suffering! What was also evident was the pride and satisfaction of having been a part of it all.

Dave and I were surprised that there was another tandem in our group as well. As a couple, these riders were strong. We learned afterward, that the captain was an employee of the bicycle shop and he was an expert in properly fitting couples to their tandems. He had a great deal of knowledge and superior riding abilities!

Right off the start, Dave and I were hanging on to the back of the pack. There were a few steep hills, and while we are good with speed on flats, climbing with our 48 lb. steel tandem is another story. I didn't voice my concern, but I had my doubts about us keeping up with this group. These guys are considerably older than us, but they are way more experienced -- and on top of that, extremely comfortable with the Boston area and this particular route.

John Allis
As the route progressed, we caught up, and we were better able to stay within the group. Our fellow cyclists were very supportive, and they took turns on upcoming hills in lending us some of their pedal power with a firm hand pushing on my back. For those efforts, I was extremely touched and appreciative.

We enjoyed engaging conversation with them along the way. Both John and Bill spent considerable time riding with our tandem for good stretches, and we chatted comfortably. Their stories were captivating and inspiring.

After the ride, everyone regrouped back inside the shop where Bill and John were available at a table display. The relaxed atmosphere continued, and we all enjoyed looking through the pages of The Jersey Project book. David was surprised to have owned a couple of the jerseys pictured inside the book!

David and Karen Etchells with Bill Humpheys and John Allis
 After the event, Dave and I headed over the Quincy Market, where we enjoyed people watching, the hustle and bustle of the holiday shopping, and getting a bite to eat!

That was our lower body workout -- a very memorable day of cycling, and walking to and though one of Boston's most visited tourist attractions.

Our upper body workout came the next morning in the form of  harvesting wood from some fallen trees on the property of Dave's brother, Marc. Dave brought along his trusty chainsaw, and he cut the trunks into manageable sized logs. We split those right there and then in the woods, and then we loaded two vehicles. Phew! That was a bit of work. But it was so great to spend time with Marc and Maureen! Dave snapped a great photo of the two of them coming out of the woods after we loaded our pickup truck.

Marc and Maureen

The end result of Sunday's efforts neatly stacked in our back yard.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Exciting Weekend Ahead!

Saturday will be an exciting day for David.

David loves bicycle racing. He has fond memories of group rides and racing himself when he was a young man. He still holds onto a great collection of old yellowed Velo News issues from his teenage years. He has met Greg Lemond twice. And he has his autograph. It's framed and on the wall in our living room. We upped our line of cable channels when the Tour De France was televised, and it when it is televised, it is on our TV while David is dressing for work, and as soon as dinner is finished until he goes to sleep at night. He really loves bicycle racing!

Several weeks ago, when we were invited via Facebook by Bill Humpheys to attend a Bike Ride & Book Signing with John Allis, this Saturday (December 3, 2011), David was thrilled, and most definitely we are going!

Until we were invited to this event, I did not know of the name John Allis. I googled him. But David surely knows who he is, and we will be at Belmont Wheelworks in Belmont, Massachusetts tomorrow morning to meet John Allis, ride with him, and of course, to buy ourselves a copy of Bill Humphys' new book, The Jersey Project.

As described on

The thick, four-color pages show from one to 12 jerseys each, some of them captioned with the name of the rider who wore the specific jersey photographed, some merely identified by team and nationality. 

If you would like to meet a three-time Olympian who has ridden in five world championships and been inducted into the Cycling Hall of Fame, join us tomorrow morning at Belmont Wheelworks

If you can't make it, but you think Bill's book would make an awesome gift for your favorite cyclist, check out Bill's website,, where you can buy a copy online.