Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Morning After: Post-Sport Transport

Today is a day like any other. I unlocked my bike from our outdoor storage area, clipped my pannier onto its rear rack and took off for the day, wearing my regular clothing. If I get home after dark, I will give my dynamo bottle a little push and the lights will come on - sustained by my pedaling. I cycle carefully in traffic. I sit upright. Drivers and pedestrians see my old-fashioned loop frame bike and they often wave to me and smile. I have been doing this more or less every day for over two years. As a mode of transportation it is perfect for me; I have truly found something that works. And I enjoy helping others who feel that it could work for them.

But cycling in traffic this morning, I am also remembering what happened last night - and it's like a fuzzy memory of a drunken party in its sheer unreal-ness. I went on another paceline ride, starting off in a faster group this time. Five miles in I dropped my chain accelerating uphill, which was mortifying and had never happened to me before. But disaster was averted ("Chain off!! Slowing!"), the chain was soon back on, and we (the woman who stayed behind to help and I) caught up with the group in no time. The chase was a nice warm-up. Toward the middle of the ride, we ended up splitting in two again, with myself and a couple of others in the front. We received minimal instruction in this slightly more advanced group, and I took frequent turns rotating. I was on a high from the sheer excitement of it, not even feeling my legs - only the speed. As the end of the ride neared, the leader asked who wanted to go on an extra climb instead of straight back, and I was among those who came along. We were allowed to pass each other uphill, and I did - passing the others, then waiting at the bottom of the hill for a good few minutes. Next time, I am told I can join the next group up. There was also discussion of joining the team. Then I cycled home for 10 miles, elated but not particularly tired. Even as I write this, it sounds like I am making it all up. My mind is swirling.

Riding my bike for transportation, I feel at ease and familiar with the city where I used to resent living just a couple of years ago. Everything seems friendlier now, more accessible, more connected to my life. I have a personal map of the city in my mind, where every area includes the sensory experience of riding my bike there. I continue to discover new neighborhoods that surprise me, feeling like an explorer every time I need to venture somewhere new. It's wonderful, and I don't write about it daily only because it has become so incorporated into my everyday routine as to become mundane.

I wonder whether I will ever experience this sense of familiarity and belonging with cycling as a sport. I feel wildly different from the other women doing the paceline rides, who seem so comfortable with the very notion of it all.  They've been running, going to the gym and playing other sports all of their lives, while I've stayed as far away from such activities as possible. And it's not just a matter of being intimidated. The non-athletic have prejudices against the athletic, whether they want to admit it or not. I grew up with perceptions of athletes as shallow, aggressive, cliquish and bullying - nothing us artsy kids wanted to be a part of. It's hard to get away from that mentality, even as an adult, and it's hard to get comfortable with the idea of being something I am not. Hearing things like "put the hammer down, girl!" followed by appreciative cheering, makes me feel conspicuously out of place.

Cycling to the training ride in my shorts, jersey, gloves, styrofoam bonnet and sunglasses yesterday, I got a "Hey, slow down!!" shouted at me by a woman strolling on the wrong side of the bike path, accompanied by a look of pure hatred. I glanced at my computer and confirmed that I was in fact going very slowly. But she saw me as fast, aggressive, and dangerous nonetheless. Would this same woman have waved to me and smiled had I been riding my loop frame bike wearing a dress?

Since I began writing about paceline rides, some readers have told me they feel I am sending "the wrong message" by getting involved in roadcycling and publicising this involvement: My "turning into a roadie" only confirms the stereotype of cycling as an extreme sport. At the same time, the supportive emails I've gotten from the pro-roadcycling camp border on pressure - from suggestions for which local team to join, to being told that I am in a unique position to advance the cause of getting more women into racing. For the most part, I am just confused by it all. I admit that I am now addicted to the paceline rides, and that joining a local cycling team is appealing. At the same time, I am socially uncomfortable both within a group of roadies, and also with being perceived as one. Call it a mild cycling-identity crisis.

I cannot take seriously the idea that to take part in paceline rides is to "betray" transportation cycling. I see the two as completely independent activities that can be pursued in parallel. Am I being unrealistic? Today I am cycling for transport while daydreaming of sport, and it seems completely natural.

106 comments:

  1. It's all cycling and it's all good. Forget about your own prejudices and don't worry about the prejudices of others. If you enjoy it, that's all that matters. Ride on!

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  2. All I know is that you have inspired me and helped lessened my anxiety about using a bike for transportation. It is your posts that helped me see that I can not only ride for fun around the neighborhood, but actually use it to commute to work. For that I am thankful because you made me feel less intimidated. I don't think that it would be a stretch to think that you may do the same for a woman considering a road bike and riding with a team some day. No, you're not being unrealistic. You're inspiring and don't you forget it! <3

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  3. Top racers from the Netherlands ride a big, heavy, steel Gazelle when they're doing their grocery shopping. I'd say you're in a pretty health position of realizing that both 1) A bicycle is a very useful tool for daily transportation and 2) it can also be very enjoyable to use a bicycle to participate in sports.

    There is no either/or - no individual *has* to participate in both, but there is no reason any person should not, if they feel so inclined and are able.

    We're all about categorization and compartmentalization and artificial conflict here, and if you participate in one thing, that clearly means you're against other things which are loosely related (for instance, because I don't wear a helmet, I am therefore against anyone wearing one, or anti-helmet).

    The reality is that you are just a person who rides a bicycle for transportation and for sport. That is no more unusual than a person who walks to the grocery store and runs for exercise. A bicycle is a shoe. Different ones suit different purposes, and they are all useful.

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  4. Transport cycling and sport cycling are both cycling. If you enjoy each of them, more power to you. Can't be both a roadie and a transport cyclist? Of course you can. Two other quick points. First, you may never have thought of yourself as an athlete, but it seems apparent that you're becoming one, if you're not one already. And, second, being an athlete is not incompatible with being brainy, artsy, musical, or having any of a hundred other abilities and interests. It's just another dimension of oneself. So, you're good at pacelines and you enjoy riding in them. Don't worry, be happy! (Oooh, I hate that song.)

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  5. Ride what you want when you want. We should promote cycling in all forms. There will always be naysayers, do what pleases you.

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  6. I am in a similar situation. I use a "road" bike for my commute everyday. Nights and week-end are for my race bike and lycra. I do not like the lycra look but I must admit it is comfortable for long rides. I keep it as simple as possible (plain color) and no marking on it. I don't think I have the thinking of most roadies but I have to admit, 35km/h on a road horse, you don't get that feeling on a beach bike. There is a time for everything, as long as it involve pedaling.

    Nice blog by the way.

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  7. Let others label you if they find it necessary but don't worry if you fit their criteria. Conformity and peer pressure don't disappear (or diminish) after high school. I don't see how one type of cycling can be anything but a compliment to the entire spectrum.

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  8. I understand your conflict as I have had conflicts similar in nature to yours. That being fond of fishing, canoeing and other tranquil water sports conflicts somehow with enjoying waterskiing which requires powerboating. I like both activities each for their own contribution to mental and physical health and don't feel that I am betraying either one by enjoying the other.

    Due to physical limitations I no longer ski but I was able to enjoy both activities for a number of years. I know that traditionally power boaters and sail boaters have not gotten on in a friendly way and that is too bad because both persons are enjoying the outdoors each in their own way. The world is big enough for all of us to have a place to play.

    As in everything else, people need to be willing to accomodate others and that is not as common as it should be.

    I've dressed in cycling gear and in street clothes while on a bike and people do treat me differently depending on how I am attired. In street clothes I imagine I appear more approachable. It's just a fact of life.

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  9. I think these ideas of cycling for transport vs sport hold both of them down. I look at it this way, people race car, drive cars and even intentionally crash cars, no one gets mad at a racecar driver for "betryaying" the car as a vehicle of transportation, why should anyone be mad at you for "betraying" transport cycling by getting more sporty?
    I appreciate your blog because it grounds home an idea that so many people seem to miss. There are no rules in cycling, only meaningless stereotypes. People can tell you you can't tour on a looped frame, or cycle for sport in something not made of lycra, or put classic french components on a japanese bike, but they can't stop you. That's the beauty of the bicycle. It's everything.

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  10. I appreciate the tension you're feeling. I wasn't an athlete in school either, but the racing bug bit hard and I've developed a lot of great friendships in the racing community. But like Ababord, I use my racing bike to commute to work too (when I'm able) and always find it amusing - and sometimes confusing - how much there's an "us/them" mentality even among cyclists. Like the other commenters have said - "it's all cycling." Whether you ride for transportation, ride for sport, or both, you're still enjoying one of the greatest inventions there is.

    I'm really enjoying your blog. Keep up your riding and writing.

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  11. People from certain cliques or groups are always determined to get others to join up. But it's the clique mentality that makes it undesirable. Just because we become attached to one activity does not mean other activities must be shunned or banned. Keep your mind open and enjoy life for all it's variance. Let the cliques cluck in someone else's ear.

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  12. I just think it's great you've found a completely new way to enjoy bicycling.
    What are you going to do when you have to return your Seven?

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  13. If you can do it and do it well, don't let other people spoil your fun.

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  14. We started cycling as children, wobbly concentration gave way to visceral unconstrained exhilaration. In embodiment and movement, in companionship or solitude, summertime laughing or riding home fast in the freezing rain. Skilled activity created the sense of flow, and pleasure and satisfaction in turn.

    Might those non-cognitive elements remain the ur-inspiration? Racing mountain bikes; spending months pedaling in far away places; cycling to work with a leather briefcase, wearing oxfords and tie and sweater vest; training three times a week with the fast road club. None of these is remarkable, and there are superficial answers to what they are individually for: fitness, education, utility, community. But when I think about how they relate to each other, well, there's the beauty of the bicycles but mostly there is what was always there since we started.

    You do fast training rides on your road bike. You use bicycles for transportation. Of course you do.

    (Thanks for your inspiring writing and photos.)

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  15. This is your blog, so you should write about things that interest you.
    Your interests will change over time, that's only to be expected. So the content of the blog will change. It's just life.
    The message I've gotten from your blog is that "cycling is fun"--all kinds of cycling. There's nothing wrong with enjoying a loop frame bike or a road bike.

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  16. I am glad to get feedback that is not as polarised as some of my behind-the-scenes interactions have been. Thanks all.

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  17. Jon Webb - I am selling everything I can think of (including my vintage roadbikes) and will be getting a new bike this summer. Details are not clear yet. It may be partly sponsored and I am also eligible for industry discounts, but all that will only take me so far since these things are fricking expensive.

    Having spoken to some of the women about their bikes, it seems there is a 2-step process. They buy a starter bike to begin with, which is usually in the $1K range and is something like a Specialized Allez or a Giant. Then, if they stick with the rides, they get another bike, which is almost always a Trek Madone or a Specialized Roubaix/Ruby, or maybe a custom bike from some local builder. If you tally up this 2-step process, that is a lot of money to spend during one season. I would rather start with step 2.

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  18. I agree with the other commenters, there's nothing wrong with being a multi-discipline cyclist. Gaining experience with different kinds of bikes, terrains, and riding objectives will make you a stronger rider and enhances your skills.

    Who knows? A few years from now you might be trying a mountain bike.

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  19. No MTB or cyclocross for me, of that I am pretty certain!

    But I am waiting to hear re whether the NE Velodrome will permit my Power Grips : )

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  20. People need not give you grief, this is your blog, you are writing about your cycling life. You started biking 2 years ago and have really expanded your horizons. You have an advantage over people who only go for rides because you are cycling every day on a variety of bikes in all conditions. I would not separate the two because you gain from both. The sport cycling will improve your commuting and if you go on a little tour it will be easy. Plus you are going to get sculpted! As I am sure you have noticed, the more you bike, the easier it is for your body. You can do the pacelines without getting into the jock aspects you do not relate to.
    If I had a fast road bike I'd be out there, but have never really had one. I'm a bit scared of falling, crashing etc.., but having biked for so many years my skills and experience could easily put me on a cycling team if it's what I wanted. I commute long distances so would be better off on a road or randonneur that can still carry everything.
    I often get asked to join the local roller derby league because the women see me out biking everyday and assume I am hardcore. Maybe I am, but am so used to riding that I just do it. The roads are intimidating where I live though.
    But these women are mostly in their 30's and up, discovering skills they never knew they had, reclaiming their toughness that had been disgarded for femininity. Most never thought of themselves as athletes. As an art nerd, I do wish I had been put into something because now I see the local women's soccer teams and wish I could join, but they've been playing for over 30 years. Well, I've been on bikes for that long so I shouldn't underestimate all the commuting, day trips, store runs all these years.
    To put things into perspective you should look at bikefag's blog. It's hilarious. He started by making fun at fixie culture, ironically wearing vintage cycling gear on his fixie, got into cyclocross seriously, and then discovered loaded touring. So as he changed, the blog changed. It went from cynical to sincere.

    As for the divisions between cyclists, I think if all cyclists paid a bit more attention to being friendly, courteous and following the cycling rules the antagonism would end. If I get passed by a roadie, they say nothing, no bell, no warning often spooking me as I trudge to work. Mountain bikers on the road often have total disregard for rules, salmoning straight for me without apologizing or moving over etc.. The one thing that really annoys me are the mountain bikes being driven around. Someone at the top of my road has a mountain bike park in his hard and lots of trails up the road. As I diligently bike up my gravel steep road, I get passed by perfectly healthy young men in big SUV's with bikes in the back.

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  21. It is really hard to shake the self-images we grow up with. I didn't do a single athletic thing until I was in my early 20's. I started running in graduate school for stress relief and it stuck. In the past 5 years I've taken up mountain biking, trail running, downhill skiing, and most recently, road biking. I'm not great at any of these things, but I do all of them, and they seem to be an integral part of my life. Still, I do not consider myself athletic.

    I really enjoy reading about your paceline adventures and am excited that you found a new passion. I hope you'll continue to share it with us (along with all the great things you share about biking for transport).

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  22. I agree that they are two separate activities that can be pursued concurrently. I find perplexing the mentality of those who lump all cycling together, proclaiming that "cycling is cycling," or pondering how we can get more people involved in the "sport" when they are referring to daily transportation.

    Transportation, whether by bike, motor vehicle, or foot, is an activity that is completely separate from sports in purpose, time, and process. I also do not notice much overlap amongst participants. Few sports cyclists who show up for group rides out here travel to the start point by bike, which I find sad but unsurprising. Paceline riders are no more likely to use bikes for transportation than anyone else, and may be less likely (there was some interesting discussion on this issue on a recent Ecovelo post**). Similarly, you would be riding to the court if you were playing tennis, or to the aquatic center if you took up swimming as a sport. Your use of the bicycle as a mode of transportation should not limit you from whatever activities you choose to engage in, sports or otherwise. Perhaps you can even demonstrate the benefits of the bicycle as transportation to your new paceline companions. If you are encouraging a whole new audience to consider more efficient and less harmful transportation choices, I think that your conduct is the exact opposite of a betrayal of transportation cycling.

    **http://www.ecovelo.info/2011/06/13/the-low-hanging-fruit/

    It may be that sports cycling can grow out of transportation cycling. I never cycled as a sport or hobby, and got back on a bike simply as a mode of transportation. For a while I had little motivation to cycle as a voluntary hobby. It felt too much like work. But as I learned more about bicycles and developed more stamina, I started becoming a bit more interested in cycling for exercise. Seems a natural outgrowth to me, though I think resting your cycling muscles becomes trickier. Adding weekend sports rides to weekday transportation makes finding rest days harder. I suppose the impact of transportation cycling on a training schedule could alone be a huge obstacle to getting more sports cyclists out of their cars and onto the roads.

    Garth-

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  23. It's funny that many of us have the same prejudices against road cycling as most people have about cycling in general. Just riding to the grocery store seemed pretty intimidating to me at first, and now it seems natural to ride everywhere. It's amazing what you can achieve when you take things step-by-step.

    I'm not ready for a paceline ride at this point, but I'd be sad to rule it out as a future option just because I don't identify as a roadie. Maybe I'll try it someday, or maybe I won't, but either way, I love experiencing the ride vicariously through your writing, Velouria. For me, cycling is about inclusiveness, and I love it all - even when it's not for me.

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  24. My roadie friends think I'm hardcore when I commute to social events. Like Heather at 3:39 - people think you're hardcore just for riding in the road. I think it's hard for my friends to understand that just because I'm on a bike in traffic doesn't mean I'm riding fast! There are just many different ways to enjoy riding a bike.

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  25. The blog is called "lovely bicycle". The Seven you've been riding is definitely more lovely than the yellow fake-canadienne fake-mtb/bmx commuter thing you reviewed, or the ghastly trek fake commuter bike. Road-riding is "lovely" in its own way, so you're covered there. This content is totally appropriate.

    The fact that you tag stuff under "sporty cycling" (always good for a giggle) and such makes it even more goofy for ppl to criticize these posts. I read your blog often, but i tend not to read the ones about whether or not BrandX bag is "ravishingly effing cute or soooooooooooo five minutes ago"; that these posts endup here doesn'tdiminish the value of your blog.

    However, your persistent refusal to even consider mountain bikes as a "lovely" cycling endeavor is totally perplexing. You could ride an outmoded and pretty bike at a slow pace thru beautiful trails and see some exquisite views while doing so, but something about the "hey, dude!"culture of mountain biking keeps you away. A shame, really. No one is asking you to drink Mountain Dew and holler nonsensical adjectives as statements (eg, "EXTREEEEEEME"), but maybe hit some singletrack and see what you were missing?

    This whole blog is so incredibly 90s (and, thusly, beyond "5 minutes ago" and approaching "2 decades ago"...), it is painful to see one of the loveliest cycling disciplines not only excluded, but derided.

    -rob

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  26. I think the majority of the animosity between cyclists comes from either ignorant or willful misunderstandings. Heather, even after talking about bringing the cycling communities together, you insist on spreading stereotypes and making ignorant statements. There is nothing wrong with moving a bike around by car. Would you look down on someone taking their track bike to the velodrome by car? Mountain bikes are designed for a specific purpose and riding them on the road is not it. Not to mention that they may be coming to that park from 20 miles away. Their bikes are not made to ride easily on the road. Are you implying that they are somehow lesser cyclists because they chose a bike that does a particular job very well instead of something more utilitarian? And none of this means that the people in that SUV won't go home and ride their town bike to the store to get dinner. I personally use my bike to get around town, but when I want to ride trails, I put my cross bike on my car and drive to the trails north of town.

    Some people insist that their form of cycling is the most pure or the most useful or otherwise the best. Generally though, the more people ride, the more they want to explore other types of riding. Branching out and trying new things is what brings us together.

    At the risk of overstepping myself, I would say that the goal of any rider should be to become the best cyclist they can be. Becoming a good cyclists does not require you to be fast or be able to ride the most technical trails or be able to ride 100 miles a day for a month with 40lb of gear. Being a good cyclist just means that you have an understanding of bikes and know how to use them for your purpose. A good way to develop this understanding is to try all different types of riding. Except triathlon. Nothing is every gained from doing a triathlon.

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  27. Heather - As much as I wanted to believe otherwise, I don't think cycling for transportation prepared me at all for roadcycling. I probably made more progress in terms of speed, endurance and bike handling skills over the past 4 weeks than I had over the entire two years prior. And the girls who've been runners or taken spinning classes for years have a far greater advantage than anything I gain by pottering along on my Gazelle back and forth. It is a romantic idea to imagine a loop-bikey transportation cyclist getting on a roadbike and beating everyone, but I think it is a myth.

    Rob - Just for you, a review of the Po Campo pannier is coming up. Ravishingly adorable and so now that it's practically tomorrow.

    I am not saying mountain biking is not lovely; I like the look of many mountain bikes. I just know that I don't enjoy cycling off road. I know, because I've tried it multiple times now. Fire trails, packed dirt roads and gravel with minimal changes in elevation - fine, but that's not "mountain biking".

    Sporty cycling... served as a more accessible term for beginner cyclists (myself included) to get acquainted with the idea of riding faster, longer, and- well, sportier. You have no idea how many people will read or hear "roadcycling" and just tune out because it evokes such horrible associations. Sporty cycling is friendlier. If it gets me mocked, whatever. There is no shortage of meanies out there.

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  28. When I first came across your blog and started reading: I came into it as a mountain bike rider 1st, a newbie roadie 2nd, and a transportation cyclist 3rd. So, to me it's perfectly natural to have an interest in a variety of different bicycles. I know I have been shunned, but I'm too old to care. I keep coming back to read this blog because it offers more than just writing about transportation bicycles, which I still do appreciate btw.

    Now, if only I could get you to write about mountain bikes. I kid, I read your comment, but... never say never.

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  29. "Except triathlon. Nothing is every gained from doing a triathlon."

    : ))

    I agree. Forgot to include triathalon on the list of the types of cycling I won't do.

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  30. Don't worry about what are saying or thinking other people. Cycling for transportation does not exclude cycling as a sport. I understand your feelings about your roadbike (alias race bike). I love my roadbike. But I also love cycling for transportation and I commute daily with my vintage Raleigh sports to work.

    I live in Switzerland, where bicycling with your normal street clothes is normal and you can see a lot of people on the streets who use their bikes for transportation, not only for sports. Your blog inspired me and was the reason why I own two vintage raleighs now and use them for my commute to work. Before, I used a modern mixte bike and another bike similar to a cannondale's bad boy for my commute to work (beside I also own a mountain bike and two race bikes). I like the mixte but it did not feel as comfortable and easy to ride as the vintage raleigh, although its rather new and has 24 speeds... With my vintage raleigh my white trousers stay white, when I commute to work...

    Here in Switzerland you have another problem when you bicycle for sports, especially if you are a "roadie". A lot of my friends say to me things like: "You cycle for sports, do you also dope like the professional riders?" It's a kind of image problem I think and its really bad because cycling is one of the best sports you can do and such statements damage the image of bicycles as a whole. Did you ever get similar comments?

    You should follow your heart and go on with both things. Bicycles are so multifaceted, that is what makes them great for me. In my opinion your commitment to cycling for transportation does not exclude using a bicycle also for sports, as bicycles are made for both things; both are equally worthwhile.

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  31. A couple of things: first - no one should give you grief aver anything you choose to write about. Its your blog, not theirs.

    Second, I've noticed in the couple of years I've been riding the disdain that "serious" sport cyclists display toward us commuters. I occasionally ride with a group from the LBS on 25 mile rides. I usually finish somewhere in the middle of the pack, even though I'm the only one not on a "road" bike. I don't have "cycling" clothes (no lycra) and just use other athletic clothes. Back at the shop about the only one who speaks to me is the LBS owner, who wants to sell me a better bike.

    I've never called them FREDs, but to be honest, I've thought it. There's definitely a us vs them dynamic out there.

    And, I never see them on the road doing errands or such. Their cycling is narrowly defined in the "sport" category.

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  32. To each his/her own, but when I put my bike on a rack and drive out to the Mt. Misery trail ion the Pines,and ride thru that sugar sand, there is always one moment--typically not at the same spot on the loop, but always at least one moment-- where i stop to catch my breath and realise that I am so far out that i can't hear the roar of traffic, nor do I feel the contemptuous gaze of the douchebag (you know, the guy with the Po Campo panniers). I'm out, in nature, on my bike, but I can get back to my car and back to my home in time for dinner. It's nice. I live in south jersey, so there are no mountains (although I have road Allamuchy and others in NJ), but one can ride real singletrack "mountainbike" trails almost anywhere in this country. And, unless you're there with a bunch of guys from a turn-of-the-century Mountain Dew commercial, I cannot imagine how such riding could be anything but enjoyable.

    What bothers you about it? The varying trail surfaces? The climbs? The fact that, if you crash and you're alone, no one will find you for days? I'm not challenging you; I'm genuinely curious.

    -rob

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  33. Peppy (the tri-cat, swimming last)June 22, 2011 at 5:02 PM

    Kyle--you are definitely overstepping yourself. I think your goal as a cyclist should be to overstep less.

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  34. More on which types of cycling appeal or don't appeal... The reason I know that I like roadcycling and not, say mountain biking, is not because I somehow decided it was better, but because of how it makes me feel. When I went on my first paceline ride, the best way I can describe it is that it rocked my world. Wrong bike, could hardly keep up, constantly yelled at by the leader - fine. I knew that I *loved* it and I became highly motivated to (1) overcome my fear, and (2) get better at it. Now that I've gone a few times and am getting better, it's downright electrifying. The response I have to it was so physical, such a rush, that it's difficult to describe or to argue academically in its favour vs against it.

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  35. Paceline riding and fast road cycling is definitely a betrayal of your transport cycling roots, the same way that jogging is a betrayal of walking ;-)

    Bicycles are wonderful in all their forms, and anyone who says you can only enjoy one type of cycling or another can go stuff it in their Carradice.

    As someone who's dabbled in all sorts of riding (even sprint triathlons, so there! :-P ) I enjoy reading about your growing experience with other aspects of these wonderful machines. And, as someone else said above, a well-designed, built-to-last fast road machine is as lovely in its own way as your Rivendell or Gazelle.

    I remember reading a blog by Dave Moulton about the old British club riding scene, about how most of the club guys would ride their bikes to work Monday-Friday, because they didn't have cars, and then come Saturday morning they'd be unbolting the fenders and stripping off the racks and lights, and riding them out to the local time trial (they'd even bring their racing wheels along strapped to the front of the bike, and change them out when they got to the starting line).

    The things you learn from "sporty" cycling can make your commuting and "practical" cycling better as well. I know, for example, some of the bike handling skills I picked up from mountain biking have saved me from some potentially nasty crashes riding to work, whether because of slippery or icy roads or because I had to dodge the occasionally dangerously inattentive driver.

    The thing about bikes is, well, they come in a lot of different shapes and sizes, some are good at going fast, some are good at carrying a lot of stuff, some are good for cruising up the boardwalk, some are good for going down mountains, some are good for getting UP mountains, some are good for not much in particular but are cool to look at, most of 'em are faster than walking, and no matter what they look like, feel like, and what they're made out of, you've got to push the pedals down to make them go forward.

    Having fun? That's what matters, and I for one am happy to hear about it.

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  36. Behind-the-scenes lobbyists = whatever. Jocks vs. Outcasts is so Breakfast Club.

    Epic post. I wouldn't mind hearing about some Boston mudanities, since I'll probably never go there.

    Physicality - it's an animal thing that makes words seem stupid. Dreaming about tranpo cycling while nailing it? Doubt it. Very easy to be self-limiting until there's a breakthrough.

    Mrs. GR has a mid-level Ruby and it's great. Biggest issue for you might be in jumping from 17 lb. Seven to 19+ lb. Ruby unless you go full monty. Major $ then. Only 2 lbs. but...Ti nectar is sweet.

    Pressure to race - big dif btwn respectful fast group to full on race. Takes a few steps, no pressure. ITT is always there. What is the "team" - race or club?

    "Several minutes" Nice. Grimpeur power. Not feeling your legs and dropping everyone clearly means you're now in the wrong group.

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  37. Velouria's Need for Speed.
    Wouldn't that make a doozie of a bodice-ripping romance novel?

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  38. @Kyle
    There is nothing stopping an individual from using a more versatile transportation bike to transport both him and his specialty sport bike to an event.

    I particularly like this example, using a Surly trailer:
    http://www.ecovelo.info/2011/04/25/gallery-brandons-surly-bill-trailer/

    The method we choose for transportation has little to do with what sport we're traveling to play, any more than it has to do with what job we are commuting to.

    Garth-

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  39. Cyclocross never? When there's already a cross bike in the family? While I do not visit this blog to see photos of people covered with freezing mud and puking, I'm also reminded of the title of a James Bond film that starred Sean Connery and contained the word "Never" twice.

    As with motoring, cycling incorporates a vast range of activities.

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  40. This is a fascinating process to observe Velouria. I'm keen to see what you do with it, which way you go. Darn it, it IS a doozie of a bodice-ripper! (if you replace "bodice" with "style of cycling" and "ripping" with "earnest re-evaluation").

    Main thing is I am confident that when the time comes you will purchase something much more interesting, more surprising, more individual and more lovely than a Terk, Gaint or Sepcialized.

    Don't surrender to Peloton-thinking! :D b

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  41. GR Jim - Hey my teenagehood was very Breakfast Club. Albeit c.1990s and with some Stephen King action mixed in.

    I do not understand the team/race thing at all, and whenever someone tries to explain it only gets more complicated. What is the difference between club and race? I mean, there are teams with club in the name, but they nonetheless race. I also don't entirely get co-ed teams and how that works when it comes time to race in separate categories. I've been advised not to join a co-ed team, because "the men don't care about the women and you won't have a chance to develop." I've also been advised not to join a women's only team for other reasons.

    My problem with mainstream bikes, even the Ruby & Madone, is that I cannot use the Shimano brifters comfortably. I have tried a bunch of them, but it's Campagnolo Ergo for me - which raises the price, and also means that I cannot properly test the floor models.

    Having ridden over 500 miles on a Seven Axiom, I have to say it seems like the safest option might be to go with what I know. Shopping for a new bike (which would require test riding it all over again - and most bike shops don't exactly welcome high milage test rides) is a daunting prospect.

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  42. Velouria, which would have been a better choice for the pacelines: the Sam Hilborne or your vintage road bikes (before you got the loaner)? What are the disadvantages of using a vintage road bike? (advantages: they are cheaper, and "prettier")

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  43. I think you're doing fine, and I applaud your efforts to try different things! I just wish I was fast and strong enough to ride in a group like that. It would also help if I were 20 years younger. :)

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  44. Garth, You may want to take some time to re-evaluate your statement.

    There are any number of factors that prevent many people from using a bike or trailer to transport a more specialized bike to a particular location. If you intended to say that it is possible for some people to use a trailer or cargo bike to get to an event, provided they live close enough for it to be practical and are privileged enough to have the money and space for a cargo bike or trailer, I fully agree with you. But I am willing to bet that this does not describe the majority of people who currently transport some of their bikes by car.

    For example, I live in the middle of a major city and am within riding distance of one short set of trails. There was one cyclocross race out of twelve last year that I could have ridden to. I hope you will excuse me for wishing to expand my cycling horizons beyond my limited local resources.

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  45. When I went on my first paceline ride, the best way I can describe it is that it rocked my world.

    Same thing happened when I road fire trails, fast, on my 650B. One ride and I was hooked. But I also like fast road riding. But in my new world, it's just not the same. Maybe a 29er is in my future, ha!

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  46. Julia - Purely as a bike, a vintage racing bike would have been better. But these bikes tend to habe downtube shifters, and in this kind of paceline everyone is using "brifters" and shifting instantaneously and constantly, without removing their hands from the handlebars. So on a vintage racing bike, you would have to install brifters. And in order to do that, you would need to replace the entire drivetrain with one that is compatible with them. And in order to do that, you would need to spend over $500, plus spread the drop-outs, since they are too small for a modern cassette with 8+ cogs. It's a mess really. I rode my Rivendell on the first paceline ride. It wasn't ideal, but all things considered it was my best option at the time.

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  47. What are the disadvantages of using a vintage road bike? (advantages: they are cheaper, and "prettier")

    Hard to say, but for one, vintage bikes would have to be upgraded to modern drivetrains with brifters, and more narrowly spaced gearing. This can be done without too much of an investment. If you modified a vintage road bike with modern components, you'd have a bike that's still 5-6 lbs heavier than the Seven. How much of a disadvantage would that still present, I don't know.

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  48. How can a regular person switch from DT to brifters without too much of an investment? They wouldn't scour ebay for gently used levers or know where to look. They would likely go to their neighborhood LBS and if it's a nice LBS they will gladly spec out some entry-level Shimano deal that will require a new rear wheel probably.

    I just don't see a way to do this sort of thing on the cheap if you're starting with a vintage 10 or 12 speed style bike, even if it's a mint Bianchi (or whatever) with nice parts.

    And now for some snarkiness: I would say it makes much more sense to just get some entry level road bike and use that for sport. After all, that's probably what most people who ride pacelines do. It's a sport at that point and you need to buy supplies to play the game. It's still cycling, of course, but it's not about the bike. People who do that type of cycling probably don't even care about bikes or transportation cycling, or bike culture, history and loveliness. They probably think about their bikes in a similar way to how other athletes think about their specific equipment. Would you seek out a vintage outfit from the 60s to enroll in an exciting new scuba diving class? Yeah, I didn't think so. :)

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  49. For me, I would just go ahead and ride a vintage bike with DTs (like I already own and love) and use that as part of my training. Change gears a bit less often. Get up out of the saddle more often. Experience how efficient pedal stroke, angle of my feet on the pedals and changing posture calls different muscle groups into play. Feel the gearing with my body. Try to perfect the art of soft-pedalling through changes, etc, etc, etc. Kind of like how people used to ride. So what if I'm in the bottom group? I'm in it for the journey, to see how the journey improves me (or not) as a person. I wouldn't be in it for the win. I reckon that's better than forking out a lot to join the peloton. b

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  50. I love it. Love it. You do what you are drawn to, how it works for you period. Enjoy. Have fun, keep on.

    I'm a non athlete too, my dad a jock and coming to sports as an adult has been wild. I never though it was for me. And when I do do it ESP with coaching, oh the high. And to do a race or event, it makes me teary. I'll never be a true jock. But I really appreciate what sports has done for me. You are perfect, and I relate and love all of these posts. Spot on.
    Xx

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  51. Clubs are just like any other club, you pay fees most of the time, have functions, buy the kit and represent. Each one has its own personality. Members ride together but it gets broken down into ability groups, hence the men don't care comments in a coed group. The more serious clubs may have a collective goal to show well in races due to sponsor obligations or ego. The more nurturing social clubs' goal might be to develop riders; perhaps the NEBC focuses on this and is a feeder org. A large club like this can guide you step-by-step to get faster and think better. Sometimes clubs = teams.

    A race is physically against others, as opposed to an ITT, and club members form a Race Team for a specific ability level (Pro, Cats 1-5, Masters 35+, Women's cats, juniors, etc.) This is where road racing differs from most other forms of riding: it is a team sport with team strategies and a designated (strongest) rider, or perhaps multiple designates depending on what happens on the road. Race strategy is unendingly fascinating to me because often times it's not the strongest who wins but the cleverest. The team works to exploit its strengths.

    I can only say through what I've heard about some women's clubs is there tends to be a negative competitive vibe while being ostensibly about competition. It's weird and made known to the person who is too strong that she's on the outs. Be interested to hear what you've been told.

    A used Axiom might but the way to go, as Ti frames are lifetime in that the liveliness doesn't die.

    I find the amount of lever travel harder and longer on my Ergos than STIs. What specifically is bothersome - is it the hood shape, where they are on the bars, shifting, wrist pain? There might be a solution here.

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  52. 'On the cheap' ended up being around $700 for my son who didn't like the off the rack stuff he found in the shop. The price included everything other than frame, fork, and headset. He ended up with Dura-Ace component group and laced his first set of wheels. Of course it took about a year to pull it all together :) But now he's got a sweet ride at around 18 lbs. As MDI said it would have been much easier to buy something at the store....but he 'loves' this bike and gets lot's of stares from others as he stacks up the miles.

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  53. Nanseikan - That is what I thought I would do, and did on my first ride only with bar-ends. It did not work, it just didn't. We were not allowed to get out of the saddle. And I was just constantly out of sync with everyone. It was a struggle, but not in a good way. More like an intentional handicap. To each their own, but I don't see how I can discover my potential if my equipment handicaps me compared to the other cyclists. Might as well ride alone, or in a non-competitive group with mixed equipment.

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  54. Wow. It's your blog. Why would anyone tell you what to write on it? I mean, the very nature of a blog is that it's personal, and generally somewhat journal-like. People are weird.

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  55. Quotes from a children's book, Molly Lou Melon
    “Walk as proudly as you can and the world will look up to you.”
    “Smile big and the world will smile right alongside you.”
    “Sing out clear and strong and the world will cry tears of joy.”
    “Believe in yourself and the world will believe in you too.”
    Do what feels right to you!

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  56. Anon 10:08 - What frame and fork did you use, and how much was the total? The cheapest method I can think of for myself, would be "unfix" my Francesco Moser, spread the dropouts and buy the Veloce group. Not sure whether the dropouts on a bike like that would accommodate a 10-speed cassette though.

    The next cheapest option would be to buy an $800 "budget roadbike" from the LBS and then replace the Shimano Sora components with Veloce. But that would be a waste of money IMO.

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  57. Spreading a rear triangle to 130mm is so simple that it often gets done on the fly. Go to race, flat, someone shoves hard to get 130 spare in frame. Done. Optional step #2 is go back to shop and throw the H-tool in to align the ends properly. Two-minute job if you're slow.

    A vintage frame will likely be 4 to 4-1/2 pounds in your size. The steel fork will be 1/2 to 1 pound heavier than the plastic Axiom fork. Vintage steel race bike need not be more than 2 pounds heavier than current production. Possibly much closer.

    Mosey over to Sargentandco's Blog to view a vintage 52cm Allin of Croydon already set up Ergopower. Formerly owned by world-record-holder Daisy Franks. Owned by her in her senior years so it's not raced and beaten up. Bespoke, impeccable provenance, 680GBP. With shipping probably about $1300.

    That one also has a short toptube and I'm sure lots of toe overlap. But there's a bike out there for you. I didn't look long to find the Allin.

    Racers go through lots of bikes. Teams buy fleets of bikes of which many never get used. There are bikes. So the flavor Ergo you like is $500. A vintage bike has to be seriously special to command over $1000. Over $2000 only happens for uber-bikes that collectors are collectively salivating over this week. Or if you're shopping amongst those who imagine their Trek retains more than 20% of its value 2 years later.

    For what a Seven frame alone costs you can get two bespoke steel bikes, grant them new Ergo, swap saddles stems handlebars pedals, and have money left over to buy a season's worth of silk sewup tires. Or if you shop smart three bikes and normal tires. You don't get extended testrides w/vintage. You can, however buy three bikes and like one a whole lot.And have fun with the others. You know enough by now to look at that Allin and spot the toe overlap at 2000 miles. You know a lot. Now buy smart.

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  58. "For what a Seven frame alone costs you can get two bespoke steel bikes"

    I think you are misinformed on that one. A custom Seven ti Axiom S frame (like the one I am riding, only made from scratch) costs less than a custom Rivendell frame. A complete bike starts at $4K. Not trying to promote them, but honestly I think people have an exaggerated sense of how expensive they are.

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  59. Velouria....Here is a photo of the bike during the early stage of his build. Total cost, including frame and fork, around $950. Mostly he did it for the education :)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/61932626@N07/5861644653/in/photostream

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  60. "Mosey over to Sargentandco's Blog to view a vintage 52cm Allin of Croydon already set up Ergopower. Formerly owned by world-record-holder Daisy Franks."

    Oh, nice! Here is the link for anyone interested. Would love to have that bike if I had cash to spare.

    Serious question though: Would you guys honestly spend serious money on a road/racing bike without trying it, or a demo equivalent?.. I'd be afraid to risk it, both when it comes to building up vintage frames, buying frames online, and even going to a custom builder.

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  61. Dropouts are dropouts. The Moser dropouts would handle 10spd cassette. To the extent the drops are any different than current production they will have enough versatility to handle a small cog of 12 or 13 teeth, where some goofy new stuff won't play except if you've got an 11.
    I wish I could get a 10spd cassette w/ a small of 14. I am not faster than Jacques Anquetil.
    If you can accept the pedal strike sounds good. If not, find some other nice-as-Moser frame.

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  62. Anon 10:39 - The Moser only has pedal strike as a fixed gear. Otherwise I could coast on corners.

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  63. ThirdEye Chainwatcher will keep your chain on.
    Widely perceived as Fred gizmos, extensively used in pro peloton.

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  64. I am kind of unnerved by the chain having come off, since I thought it could only happen if the derailleur was not adjusted properly. We spent a half hour checking the drivetrain today and everything is adjusted perfectly. I was in the big ring trying to shift to the small while applying force uphill when it happened. Will look up the ThirdEye Chainwatcher. Don't care if it's "Fred" or not.

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  65. One small incompatibility between some vintage steel frames and modern 10-speed cassettes arises when the RD cable routing is above the bottom bracket and the cable stop is right in the chain's path when in the small cog. With a small 11T cog, the chain will slap against the cable stop. If a frame has the cable routing under the BB, this is not an issue and honestly I can't think of any other reasons why vintage steel frames can't be upgraded with modern drivetrains.

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  66. "It did not work, it just didn't. We were not allowed to get out of the saddle."

    Whoah! OK the fun for me died right there. Knew there was a reason I never got into road-racing. b

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  67. Hola,
    I have a road bike now and love it. I'm also experimenting and at times get the same mixed feeling but I'm sticking with it. I ride my mixte for around time and my bianchi for fast exercise. I like to read about your road bike experiences because I learn from you and get encouragement.
    Hey, on a different note, I have been meaning to ask you what kind of shoes are you using for the road bike, I'm terrified of using cleats so I wear my tennis and keep my feel in the cage with the toe clip but I get bad cramps. What are you doing? What works for you?

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  68. SPACE RIDER GAL- I wear stiff-soled, narrow Adidas sneakers and tuck the laces inside. I use Power Grips instead of toe clips, because I find that they provide better foot retention and are easier to get out of (unless you properly tighten the toe clips - in which case getting out is harder than clipless). Can't use clipless, but will start practicing on a trainer as soon as I have some free time.

    Nanseikan - If you think about it, you cannot randomly get out of the saddle when there is a wheel 6" behind your wheel. Paceline rides are what they are, and not everyone finds them enjoyable. But you don't know unless you try : )

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  69. A bit of your problem on how to proceed in the sporty bike realm, is that you like lovely bikes. I would talk to some of the frame builders that you know and have them confirm what size frame you should be on and look for a used frame or bicycle in that size. The seven you are on is too big. If your Moser is close, you could set it up with a new rear wheel and chorus components and use it. Later, if you do get a custom frame you could transfer the parts. A frame that is a few pounds heavier is fine as long as it fits you, is stable and descends well.

    Enjoy your fast riding with the group and worry about racing later. Racing can be brutally hard and is a big change lifestyle, training and distance.

    I love your blog no matter what you write about.

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  70. Not sure if you have ever seen this one, if no, enjoy. One of my all time favorites.

    http://vimeo.com/10647514

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  71. I must say that stereotypes exist for a reason and it's not that people sit around and think them up just to slight others. There would be no stereotypes if certain behaviors that create them didn't exist.

    So...the stereotype that roadies are aggressive, don't obey traffic laws, ignore pedestrians, horses and hikers, etc. exist because the behaviors exist. It is a rare day here in the valley where I live that a skivvy clad roadie stops for a stop sign or rides the posted speed limit if below 30mph. They're special after all and that is the stereotype they have created...at least those with bad behavior.

    So don't be surprised if these stereotypes are applied to you. And if indeed you decide to advocate for female roadies to join the ranks of racing, I would suggest you use your authority to advocate for a proper place to race as well. Neighborhoods and thoroughfares are not proper places for racing bicycles any more than racing automobiles or motorcycles. Cycling disasters and angst from non-cyclists occur because of that. A self-absorbed cyclist is the same as a self-absorbed driver and both beg for trouble. A cyclist's trouble will inevitably be far more traumatic unfortunately.

    As for this blog, Keep it as it is and start another about road riding. There is nothing lovely about road or mountain biking. The charming thing about this blog is that it is for the rest of us, the regular people who aren't interested in lives of "passionate involvement" and are quite happy with being regular folk who enjoy the simplicity and beauty in life. I could care less about road riding and mountain biking. I outgrew them both, along with Harley-Davidsons, BMWs and Vespas, years ago. Be what you want to be...be passionate about what you wish...but carry a blog for each of those rather than mix it all up :-)

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  72. If you are on a bike and you are pedaling it, you are a cyclist. Take it from someone who's done it all--except for BMX and bicycle polo!

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  73. Velouria: I've loved reading your recent paceline posts not only because they deliver a vicarious rush, but also because you, in expanding your embrace of bicycling in its various forms, inspire me--and others, I'm sure--to do the same. In fact, thanks largely to you, I'll soon start commuting by bike. (No, it's not a paceline, but it's something.) As for your discomfort among athletes, I hope it will diminish with time. If they accepted an "artsy type," they can't be that bad.

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  74. Don West - I sympathise with what you are describing, but 90% of the roadies I see around these parts (in the vicinity of Boston, MA) exhibit none of this behaviour. Ever since I began riding here for transportation, cyclists in team kit have been nothing but courteous to me; no complaints. There are other types of cyclists who've been rude, but not roadies.

    The team offering the paceline rides I've been writing about has very strict rules about adhering to speed limits, stopping at stop signs, passing other cyclists safely and politely, not meddling with drivers, and so on. They communicated these rules very clearly to us all. I suspect other teams are similar in this respect - so if a roadcyclist or a group of them is behaving otherwise, it is possible that they've gone rogue.

    Not sure what you mean about proper places to race. Training is done in the countryside, where there are relatively few cars and intersections - no one seems particularly bothered. For racing, they will often have a closed-off course.

    I do not plan to advocate for women's racing, as advocacy generally does not interest me. But if I end up racing in the future, as unlikely as that is, I will of course write about it - as I do about my other cycling experiences.

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  75. I have had the reverse experience from you Velouria in that I used to be into fitness cycling (including triathlons :) ) and gym workouts. I used to occasionally use my racing bike to ride to work, but always hankered after a way of cycling that was functional, ie using the bike for transport rather than fitness or recreation. One day, at the ocean baths, I saw a woman ride up in a dress and heels and realised I could do the same, if I got a "girls bike". Since then a health condition has stopped me from doing the athletic wrokouts I used to do but I now use my bike for transport and am so glad that my years of training have given me the basic fitness I need to do that. I love using my bike to get around and to see the whole neighbourhood from a different perspective as well as the camaraderie of being part of the biking community, and without my earlier training I don't think it would have happened.

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  76. You could get yourself a bike trailer for your transpot bike that is big enough for your racing bike and gear. This way you would satisfy both camps at the same time or you could just ignore all the peer preasure and just have fun doing what you want. Riding a bike should be about fun first. So have fun and the rest, well will take care of itself.

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  77. just do what you do.
    don't over think it.
    if you like it, continue.
    life is about you,
    not what other people think you should do.
    i celebrate anyone on a bicycle that makes them smile.
    no pretense. no stereotypes. just you.

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  78. The interesting thing is that until about 1980 road bikes came with clearance for about 30mm tires and with eyelets so that they could be used for a variety of uses. I don't think the 49mm brakes can work enough better to forgo the advantages of wider tires. I saw British riders who would ride to an event and then remove their mudguards, ride the event and then reinstall what they had removed. They also had devices on their forks to carry their event wheels.

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  79. Ride how you want and write about it how you want. I won't feel bewildered or betrayed unless you buy a Hummer and twine the gearshift.

    RE: the folks who have all the criticisms of your blog; what are they doing here reading it then, if it's so insufferable?

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  80. It's very difficult to keep up enthusiasm for writing one blog, much less multiple ones. If you'd like to keep all your work in one place, at least for a little while, go right ahead. The Lovely Archive can help people skip posts they aren't interested in, surely.

    And Rob, your sincerity is rather obscured by your snideness, but if Po Campo now offers panniers (much less hipster douchebag approved ones) kindly provide a link. This could provide me the opportunity not only to carry items to the cubicle ranch on my bike in a "corporate approved" way, but to be so fashion forward as to be positively futuristic (i.e. not five plus forty five minutes ago as my current panniers look). Much appreciated!

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  81. P.S.
    Didn't Alan at Eco Velo start out All About Recumbents? This blog is about your journey (on/with/for Lovely Bicycles), and that can take you to some interesting places. I must admit, I'm not planning to go paceline racing myself (Art School Vet representing!), but I am finding your writing of interest. And I may have become intrigued by the Seven Cafe Racer. From a distance, of course. A nice, wallet-sized distance.

    Archive Loving Anon.

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  82. Kyle, my comment was not intended to propose the bicycle as the exclusive mode of transport for play or work. I am merely pointing out the possibility, which seems to be generally missed, of using another bike if whatever specialized bike you had in mind could not make the trip on its own two wheels. Obviously, if transport by bike is not practical, the traveler should consider other modes, such as train or car. However, latching another bike on or popping it on a trailer are entirely valid choices, which do not seem to even occur to most individuals, whether or not they are cyclists.

    What seems practical will vary - some cyclists would not think twice about an extended ride to get to an event, even a distance that would likely kill me. I don't want to limit anyone's imagination :) The same applies to work commutes - some regularly commute 20 miles or more one way, while others, even well traveled sports cyclists, dismiss such a distance as ludicrous. Like I said, this has nothing to do with the sport or job that awaits at the destination, but about the priorities and perceptions of the traveler.

    You may have only 1 in 12 destinations that seem practical to you. At the events I have been to around my area this year, it has appeared that the majority of cyclists who drove were traveling a short enough distance that they could have easily done it by bike. Regardless of the frequency of practicality, I disagree with your argument that bike transportation requires a privileged amount of money or space. A bike, even with a trailer, costs a lot less money and takes up a lot less space than a motor vehicle. Our hypothetical assumes that they also already have a specialized (and possibly expensive) bike that they are managing to feed and house. If they can afford a car for transportation, even a cheap old car, they can afford a transpo bike, and if they can't afford the car, they need to reprioritize their finances, and probably take a basic budgeting class (how many problems would a mandatory household budget class for adults solve in our country?). And if you're pulling up in a $50,000 land rover, with a couple of $5,000 specialized sport bikes strapped to the back, but you have never biked to an event, a little reexamination of your priorities is definitely in order. People generally do not transport their bikes by car because they lack the privilege to bike, they do so because they lack the imagination to consider biking as an option.

    Garth-

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  83. Hurry up with the review of the Po Campo pannier will ya?...lol. I can't stand the suspense.

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  84. As one who's made the journey from riding around town on my city bike, to trying a triathlon, to eventually twice-a-week criterium racing... if there's one thing I've learned about cycling it's universal, in that there is no one type of person that you can call a cyclist, and in a group of spandex-clad crit racers, the only thing you can be sure they have in common with each other is bikes. Labels like 'jock' and 'geek' and 'arty' are for schoolchildren. When we grow up, we are just ourselves, doing what makes each of us happy. For many of us that's cycling, and I think that's positive no matter what form the 'sport' (yes, it's a sport) takes.

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  85. good news is you'll now know which bike to take to the Cape for combatting long hilly rides

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  86. I try to indulge in what I call Tootling, cycling at leisure for pleasure, going distance but take the time to look around and meander.
    I see my purpose as being distinct from those of both the racer and the commuter. Inevitably I now commute on my Ridgeback Panorama but could never contemplate racing on it. I have the competitive urge, but I don't have the physical power for it.
    But could I direct you to my own cycling blog?
    It's called : twowheelsgood.posterous.com

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  87. Velouria, have you excluded using a Jtek shiftmate or other to combine Ergo brifters with a Shimano setup as a workaround for the STIs on a mainstream bike? Just a thought.
    I have an early 70s Raleigh Competition built up with 105 group, Weinmann brakes, and Ergo Chorus shifting that is lots of fun. Thanks for your great writing and true grit!

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  88. My backyard neighbor is an artist (Sculpture and Paintings) that got through University on an Athletic Scholarship, running 400m hurdles and was nationally ranked, back in the late 70's. My wife has an art degree from the 70's and she is a mathematics genius; physics and finance alike are playthings for her. My father was a nuclear physicist who enjoyed playing chamber music and sports car racing. Talent and gifts combine in ways that are not predicted by stereotypes.
    Your blog is interesting because you write, photograph and publish your viewpoint well. Your journey is of interest, not because of any authoritative value, but because as you explore and learn, you change your mind. The weighing in of all your experience in this process is what I enjoy - kind of a coming-of-age story, only an adult one instead of an adolescent one, where the end is never certain.
    So I would not be a fan of splitting your content to another blog. And I would be afraid that maintaining two blogs would be too much for you. I'd love to see more of your art, but I wouldn't advocate a separate blog for that either.

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  89. Tootling -- I love it! I tootle too. I mean, I like to have a functional reason to ride, like running an errand, but on the bike I want to enjoy the process and usually take the long way around.

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  90. "Po Campo" and "douchebag" in the same sentence... Someone should alert the Po Campo women of this unlikely combo.

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  91. I LOVE your blog so much, am now completely addicted. This is fantastic stuff - and I agree that image and preconceived ideas are an important part of how people make sense of their world - have a peek at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schema_%28psychology%29 - useful idea. Anyways, go ahead and keep doing what you're doing, keep challenging yourself, and people's ideas and pre-conceptions.

    I've taken on board a lot of your observations in choosing a bike - I tend to wear more skirts than pants, and in buying my new bike I've ordered the frilliest pinkest girliest panniers I can get my hands on, with the idea that I won't be as harrassed by local motorists. I have actually had mostly positive experiences with motorists, and the only time someone got all shirty at me, I think was because she didn't realise the path she was on was a shared bike/footpath. Mustn't have been a local ;) LOL Canberra is literally riddled with shared bike paths, and this one even had a bicycle stencilled on it not 50m from where she was walking. Heh. I guess this shows that if someone's gonna be cranky, there's probably not much you can do about it anyway. (At the time I was riding so slowly as to be only just faster than walking pace too!)

    I'm utterly fascinated by the difference in your experience as a "girly harmless cyclist" and a "hardcore athlete cyclist" and how people respond to this. Would love to hear more of the comparisons from yourself and from others.

    As for "are you with us or with them?"... you can be both, and you're proving this, every time you hop on one of your bikes. You make me want to cheer :) *hooray!*

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  92. Dropped chains

    Front derailleur properly adjusted prevents chainthrow to the outside pretty effectively. To the inside it's a much harder job & the derailleur tries. When the chain leaves the big ring it has a lot of slack. The extra chain bounces, waves can set up. It's just a spring twisting a pulley cage to control that chain. Chains have weight and they can have speed. Sometimes the spring momentarily loses to the chain and flop, it's off.
    ChainWatcher is just a peg that sits and makes a barrier in the path of a loose chain. Works most of the time. 8 grams, $8, worth it. It's still possible to screw up. If you're leaning hard left, going through a corner full of potholes, that's a bad time to attempt a simultaneous front & rear shift. The new stuff feels so automagic it encourages shifts without thinking. You still hafta think.

    Wide spaced chainrings are just a problem. I notice many fewer problems on 52/39 than on 53/39. In the old days combos like 49/47 or 52/49 were common, not because the derailleurs couldn't do more,but to keep the chain on. 50/34 compact is asking for trouble. When you build the Moser (?) consider a large of 48. Few of us need more. When you can spin out a 48x12 your publicist can write the blog.

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  93. Anon, I believe the reason that there were very closely spaced chainring combos "in the old days" is because in the old days of 5 and 6-speed freewheels, especially wider-ranging ones, the closely spaced front chainrings provided a half-step of gearing between rear cogs. Hence the term "half-step" gearing. I think the choice of chainrings was based more on how it played into the bike's gearing than the ability to keep a chain on. Today, bikes don't need half-step chainring setups because we have 8-11 speed cassettes that can provide much tighter gear spacing.

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  94. Velouria, you might find some useful info in this article on bike fitness from the Guardian newspaper: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/bike-blog/2011/jun/23/bike-blog-avoid-injury

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  95. Why dont do both, transportation ride and road cyclig/racing? Both is fun. Why having scruple?

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  96. Steve A wrote...

    "Cyclocross never? When there's already a cross bike in the family? While I do not visit this blog to see photos of people covered with freezing mud and puking, I'm also reminded of the title of a James Bond film that starred Sean Connery and contained the word "Never" twice."


    Cyclocross is like everything I fear and loathe about cycling conveniently wrapped up into one neat package. Conveniently, because I can readily identify it as something I want to keep away from.

    With cyclocross I am pretty much guaranteed to crash repeatedly, to end up carrying my bike half the time, to cycle off road, to have to make constant tight turns in a claustrophobic course that looks like an army training center, to be soaking wet and covered in mud and filth, and to endure a brand of socialising that is not my personal idea of fun. And did I mention crashing repeatedly? It just doesn't excite me. I prefer the open road, speed, not getting off my bike every 5 minutes, and to be surrounded by cyclists who grind their teeth in silence as they focus on pedaling harder. To each their own : )

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  97. Just enjoy riding your bike, V! I have an olde English 3 speed, a touring bike, a modern road bike, a vintage race bike and a mountain bike kitted out for winter riding. I like them all, use them in various ways, and I don't take any guff from armchair critics! :)

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  98. It's all riding and pleasurable! The need for speed is fun; racing is a blast, delightful unless / until it isn't, in which case, you adjust again. . And there are many different types of fast road rides and races to choose from, to try. It's a heady pleasure to go from being a non sporty type, to an athlete; very empowering, even as, especially as, an adult never having done it as a kid. Enjoy it, find one or 2 people, women, who can guide you, mentor you, and get the most from them; and then do the same for someone else coming into it as you do here through your writing. When you do any kind of daily practice involving breath and constrained physical activity,, be it road riding, fast walking, yoga etc, there are huge mental benefits along with the physical changes. Delight in all of it, and keep writing!

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  99. Christopher FotosJune 24, 2011 at 9:07 AM

    I am late to this party as usual but Velouria's newfound joy in pacelines is like Dylan going electric at Newport.

    I love it.

    Those who are booing--thankfully not too many here--overlook the clear unified theme: V pursues activities that fascinate her, without being excessively concerned about the obsessions of others not similarly fascinated.

    But with malice toward none.

    That's what she has been doing with her love of vintage bikes and exactly the same principle applies to pacelines. Some people say What is that? when a vintage bike appears as if an apparition in 2011 (I mean shellacked grips, really?); others, when said vintage biker is doing pacelines. Same thing.

    I don't have the latent, untapped athletic ability that is helping to fuel this newfound joy and I'm a few decades farther down the road so I don't think pacelines are in my future, but I love to ride fast and man that Seven is sweet. I've tried for an hour online to find someone say something negative about it, without success. So I think that may be in my future, though only with patience.

    Because--definitely under the influence of this blog--I've been transforming my awesome Soma smoothie ES into a slightly more civilized transport bike with fenders, Soma's stylish art deco rack and plans for panniers. I'm beginning to get a feel for targeting different bikes for different missions.

    It's all good.

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  100. Sounds like an awesome rush! I enjoy reading about your paceline rides, although I don't see myself doing anything like that myself. Isn't that what's great about blogs, getting a glimpse of life from someone else's perspective? So when some readers try to dictate how a blogger lives her life? Well, that's just ridiculous. Ride on, my dear!

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  101. I have to open a new browser to comment here, so that must mean I have something to say.

    Velouria-- I am SO VERY delighted by this post. I was thrilled when you first posted after your initial training ride and then worried you might betray your interest for lack of fitting in with the club. The most pressing concern was the bike issue. Then along came the SEVEN! I was so excited for you.

    Racing is something I will probably never do because I'm too chicken shit and feel too old. I am a bit scared that I might get hurt (excuses, excuses), but I do want to try (maybe just try) a paceline ride someday. What you're doing allays my fears a bit, probably much in the same way that the many posts you've done on bicycle commuting and cycling for transport have gotten other women into the saddle regularly.

    You inspire people. I am living vicariously through you and enjoying every post, you speed freak. Have fun and tell me all about it, please!

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  102. Sounds like you've made a good distinction. When in Japan recently on a one gear commuter bike, I had to change my normal mindset to adjust to local conditions and styles. It was altogether pleasant to take things a little slower than the hustle and rush for space of Seoul, for which I need gears and a much more vigilant, courier-like approach.

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  103. Have your cake. Eat it too. What's the harm in that?

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  104. I am glad to see you making steps into other types of riding besides just transportation. It gives points of reference for other riders from beginners who want to ride to work to sport-riders who may not have considered riding to the store. They are all equally viable, educational and fun. I started riding for fitness and it turned into a lifestyle. You never know how something will affect you or change you unless you try.

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  105. Hey have you seen this book?

    http://www.amazon.com/Watch-Your-Line-Second-Edition/dp/1463517629/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330792582&sr=1-2

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  106. Such is the beauty of the lovely machine we call the bicycle! It can be so many things all to the same person. Why shouldn't you enjoy the thrill of speed in a paceline while also enjoying the charm and relaxation of a leisurely ride through the town?

    I say more power to you! Don't listen to the critics.

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