Friday, December 9, 2011

Too Local? Not to Worry!

Over the Hill
Today I made the decision to do something new and exciting: to rent an art studio close to home. My current studio situation is kind of disjointed. I have a small painting studio in our apartment, and the Co-Habitant and I share a photography studio outside of Boston. Neither has been working out very well. I have a difficult time painting at home, often feeling stir-crazy and unable to focus. And the photo studio, while a great space in theory, takes so long to get to that we do not go there as much as we envisioned. Some restructuring is in order if we want to be more productive.

When I began to look for studio space, I was hoping for a moderate bicycle commute. A manageable distance would be key to maintaining a daily practice - especially in the winter when it gets unpleasant to cycle in the snow in traffic. Good studio spaces are pretty scarce around these parts, but I didn't want to settle for something so far away that I'd end up never going there. I looked around and didn't find much. Then suddenly a great space turned up a 10 minute ride from my house. That's almost too local!

But while the studio is close by, it is in a neighbourhood I do not normally venture to - separated from my neighbourhood by a great big hill. In fact, the entire trip is basically the hill: Both going there and coming back, the first portion of the ride I spent climbing and panting, taking care not to weave in front of moving cars. The second portion I spent descending - careful not to go too fast, as cars appeared out of nowhere. Oh boy. This is what awaits me every day, twice or more a day, in high traffic and on an upright city bike! Laden with a heavy pannier, my 3-speed climbed faithfully, maintaining a consistent line of travel. I did it, but I didn't like it. Hopefully I will get really strong in a couple of months without breaking my knees first. Of course I could also just walk; it's close enough... but what would be the fun in that?

49 comments:

  1. I lived on top of a hill earlier this year and when coming home from grocery shopping, I often had to chant under my breath to distract myself from the hill!

    The chant went, "I love this hill, I really do, it makes my legs so strong, and when I'm coming down again, I'll really fly along".

    Simply remembering the words was enough of a distraction the first few times, after that the fun was in singing it to different tunes!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Get a lower gear.
    Medium gear, 2nd gear on the 3spd, is also direct drive and efficient. Medium gear should be low enough to get up the hill. First gear is for rain snow wind heavy loads & foul shit.
    Medium gear should be low enough you don't have trouble holding a line.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Congrats on the new digs! Sounds like a perfect place,and no worries,it's just a new route and will become normal\common place as you do it more often. Always be careful,my friend!

    Disabled Cyclist

    ReplyDelete
  4. You won't be missing that bike in the dead of winter. Walk your heart out up and down those hills and jump-start your creative side. Besides, winter can be a very productive time for art. Quit bemoaning (wink) the lack of cycling and start cross training!

    ReplyDelete
  5. "You won't be missing that bike in the dead of winter."

    Oh I will! The only thing that keeps me sane in the winter is still being able to ride my bike daily for transportation. Cross training... that's like eating ice cream and watching movies, right?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anon 12:44 - Well, the gearing is dialed in pretty much perfectly for me for riding around town and beyond. Don't want to mess it up just to climb this stupid hill for a couple of minutes. Would rather just deal with it or get off the bike and walk for a couple of blocks.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I found this to be one of your most encouraging posts! I have finally got my beautiful upright bicycle to commute to work, and I'm finding it harder and scarier than I envisioned, not having ridden a bike in many years and then only on holiday. Some of the journey is on a pitch black track which is shared by darkly clothed pedestrians that you don't see until the last minute, but more importantly, boy am I feeling it in my thighs! I am hoping to get stronger and more confident, and the thought of even my mentor panting up hill and trying not to weave in front of traffic will sustain me over the next few difficult months! Thank you once again for a wonderful post, and of course another beautiful photograph.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Reading the other comments, am I to understand that the gearing on my bike can be fine tuned? At the moment I am hard pressed to tell the difference between my three gears.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Pop on over to Antbikemike's blog and have a look at the Dirty Dozen race. That is one vicious hill and just watching them grind and crash is painful. I can feel the burn! Watch it every day, just before you head out to your new studio. Congrats on the new space, hope it works out great! Having a home studio is sure nice and not at the same time. I am hoping to be able to move mine out of the home so I get more done with fewer interruptions, even from my own mind. I am thinking your 10 minute bike commute sounds perfect!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Well, you need more gears, obviously. I'm pretty sure you can figure out a way to restructure your bikes to deal with this.
    I have found that a 10 minute ride to work is just too short. I have an hour commute now, over real hills, and the requirement that I do that -- or drive, which leaves me feeling logy -- is a big benefit to my fitness.

    ReplyDelete
  11. stephanie -- no, you can't change the percentage difference between your gears -- a typical range for Sturmey Archer is 33% up, and 25% down, compared to the middle gear. That is fixed unless you change your hub. However, you can replace the front chainwheel or rear cog and change the overall gearing to make it easier to get up those hills. That will reduce your maximum speed, though.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi,
    Totally agree with the cross training suggestion. We find it keeps us fresh mentally and physically.Biking,walking,XC skiing. Color, black and white,sepia tones.

    ReplyDelete
  13. That hill doesn't look too bad - a few weeks of struggling should reward you with powerful thighs! I agree with commenter Zoe about the singing - it really does make a big difference while you are building up your strength to sing because it regulates your breathing and forces you into a good rhythm. Congrats on finding a good work space.

    ReplyDelete
  14. If it is the giant hill that I think it is, there are a few ways to make it easier, particularly, on the way back towards the Porter area with a couple of turns through some neighborhoods. Check a map with terrain and you'll find a better route -- it adds a couple minutes but makes the ride much easier.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Talk to Maria at DBC City Bikes. When her shop was located in East Somerville, did she ascend the Somerville peaks on her oma? No, she went around them.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Sounds like an irresistible challenge. I wish your knees great strength!
    BTW is that a House of Talents basket I see? It looks lovely on the Bella Ciao. Any suggestions for stabilization? I've reluctantly retired mine for flopping around too much.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I've always thought it was the hills of Seattle that make it so hard to find any dutch bikes around town. Those hills require shifting gears into a low, low gear! I met one of those single speed cyclists at the bike rack one day and asked him how he does it. 'I walk when it gets too hard', he confessed.

    Good luck on the painting studio. As an artist I do my 'day job' illustration upstairs... and my painting on canvas down in the basement studio. I find I really need some distance from the painting on canvas. An outside studio (with other artists around) would be ideal... but expensive.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I think you will get to know that hill in an intimate and friendly way over time. You'll know the part where your breath starts to get heavier, you'll know the little level area where it gets easier for a moment or two and you'll know the feeling at the crest that says "You've done your hard stuff for the day, see you tomorrow". And one of these days you'll find that you didn't even notice that you were going up the hill until you were already over it.

    Dave (in snowy and hilly Vermont)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Congratulations on the new creative space! I know it must be nice to be able to functionally work (Unfortunately, I can speak from experience that a small room in the house just doesn't work - for many reasons similar to what you've mentioned). As for the hill, I'm sure in time you'll conquer it. I spent a good chunk of the summer attempting to tackle something very similar, and while I still huff and puff up my hill, at least I can get to the top without getting off to walk (usually). :O)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Congrats at the new space.
    Does that mean that the DL-1 is coming "home" We should get them together for a little parade sometime.

    Don't know which hill, but I'm guessing it must be Somerville. I don't know that area that well, but is there any way to go "around" that doesn't take you onto the onramps to 93? I'm sure Somervillain would know the best way around if there is one.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Glad to hear you have a space in town. If it is the hill that I suspect, you could always go around. Though flat, it would probably still take a bit longer. But you don't seem to be one to eschew enjoying a longer ride. It may also be a good alternative when the steep roads are horrid, or you are carrying a heavier load.

    I am quite fond of going around hills, especially when I'm carrying load on the cargo bike.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Some of the journey is on a pitch black track which is shared by darkly clothed pedestrians that you don't see until the last minute

    A little off-topic for me to comment on this but.... I recently, finally got a decent light and I'm blown away by the upgrade. I got a single 1,000-lumen light and it's so bright, cars at intersections are waiting almost too long (when they could make their turn without slowing or endangering me) because they see this awesome thing coming. Pedestrians can't miss me either. (Needless to say, I can see everything as well).

    I feel much safer at night though of course I still need to be vigilant. I shudder when I think of the accidents waiting out there. Pedestrians in anything other than reflective clothing are functionally invisible for the driver at night behind a windshield. Same goes for many bikes.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Congratulations on the new space! Working at home is hard.

    Finding the alternative routes can really help, especially in avoiding the scary cross traffic areas. A lot of my cycling in the 1980s & 1990s involved just finding the nicest fast route around odd geographical and traffic features. (Here on the west coast, the older city grids were often planned in offices in New England, with no thought given to the actual terrain on the other side of the continent. This makes for occasional hilarity when riding, walking, or driving.)

    ReplyDelete
  24. V,

    why not get one of the pedal-assist bikes that come with a battery pack? there's no shame in having a little help. (i know... another bike?)

    ReplyDelete
  25. i think you've answered your own problem: you said it might be too local, so rather than going up and down the hill, why not ride a little further and go around it? It might double your commute time/distance, but there's nothing wrong with that.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Peppy (that hill is too easy for my 53x11 fixie)December 9, 2011 at 11:44 AM

    We could install electric assist.

    ReplyDelete
  27. nice... if that's the building I think it is, I used to share a studio with 2 other artists in there a while back; interestingly enough, I had to let it go after I got my car back from the Ex, since w/ the addition of a car payment, I could no longer afford it. Le sigh... considering how much I (don't) drive, it hardly seemed worth the trade off... BUT since I moved, it's not nearly as convenient as it was when I lived in Cambridge.

    Yes, that hill is certainly the bane of that trip ;)

    ReplyDelete
  28. If it's a place you never go, I'd wager there are also more-gentle ways of getting there.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Can you ride around the hill for a longer but less steep ride?

    ReplyDelete
  30. good luck with that hill. You know I have made my peace with hills. I agree that you will get stronger very soon and it will be less of an issue.

    My hill trick ( stolen from my distance swimming trick) is to count pedals. I count to 25 fast hard push it up the hill pedals and then I go to slow and then catch my breath and count 25 more. It makes the time go and cuts the hill up and I find that I make big progress in the 25. I hate being in too low a gear and having that slow walking through water feeling so I prefer to push it a little when I can. glad to know the weaving while going up is a concern for others too.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Does this have anything to do with the flickr photo you posted of the steep hill in my former neighborhood?

    I used to have to ride up that hill daily, and I still have to ride up similar (but not quite as steep) hills to get to my new home. This is why I've always advocated for wide gearing. I routinely see fixed-gear riders walking their bikes up these hills. If I didn't have to tackle those hills on a daily basis (sometimes 4-5 times a day if I'm doing errands), I'd probably opt for a fixed-gear or single-speed gearing configuration for my daily commuter bike, but I really need gears.

    You WILL get better at tackling those hills. When I first started commuting five years ago, I couldn't make it up the hill, even with mtb gearing! I was so horribly out of shape then. Now I just zip up them, sometimes on a loaded tandem! And over this past Spring and Summer, Mrs. S and I rode up the hills outside of Union Square up to Prospect Hill just for the training (after fueling up at Bloc 11). I owe my being able to complete the 115k D2R2 to doing those Somerville hills daily.

    ReplyDelete
  32. 10 minutes out of the comfort zone daily is no bad thing. your climbing and descending will improve dramatically and in 6 months you will be looking for a new studio just 15 minutes away over a bigger hill......will maybe not that last part....congrats on the new space, you'll do great work there

    ReplyDelete
  33. Looking forward to the reviews of electric bikes with disc brakes, ha ha!

    ReplyDelete
  34. Oh, and for folks thinking the hill in the top photo is the killer hill that we're talking bout, forget it... this side shown in the photo is child's play. It's the *other* side of the hill that's the real deal.

    ReplyDelete
  35. You'll get so strong so fast and the hill will seem like nothing before you know it! :) I totally don't think you need to change your gearing, especially since you can make it to the top!

    I face this challenge with every new commute in San Francisco where some of the hills are just massive, and I ride a fixie. You'll love how much fitter you get!!

    ReplyDelete
  36. To everyone local - yes, it's the hill you think it is. The same hill Somervillain used to ride up and down on a Raleigh DL-1 twice a day, which I in turn used to cringe imagining, happy that I have no business going to that part of town : ) Well-well-well, look who has to climb it now!

    Anyhow, thank you for the good studio wishes!

    As for the hill, I was really exaggerating the extent of my suffering for comic effect. Going around it is entirely possible and could be a fine solution. I am not looking to avoid it however, am really hoping to use it as an opportunity to get stronger. If I can climb that on a 3-speed, than hilly rides on my roadbikes should get easier as well.

    Oh and no electric assist! Jeez : )

    ReplyDelete
  37. This is the same problem I faced when deciding to go full time at my job, and leave the donkey farm. I suddenly went from a nice 11 mile a day ride to a measly 1. My work is just down the hill from my house, 1/2 a mile away. I also have the hill problem, but because I live on top of one. So in the mornings it's a nice downhill ride, but no matter what route I decide to take home, it's a killer climb. You'll definitely build up your leg muscles!

    ReplyDelete
  38. Think about those finely chiseled calves you'll rub in our face next spring.
    I see you're using the Po Campo pannier. Love it too!!

    ReplyDelete
  39. Yup. The Po Campo pannier is probably the one I use most. Keeps my messy stuff organised!

    ReplyDelete
  40. Did anyone actually check out the Dirty Dozen race on Antbikemike? That is the meanest looking hill outside of Belgium, cobbles and all.

    ReplyDelete
  41. I walk 2 blocks uphill from the Seattle downown waterfront after work every day as there is no way in hell I am riding up them on any bicycle (heavy or light-- many or few gears). It is actually quite a workout just walking with a 40+ lb bicycle.

    I can ride a route that takes me through Pike Market that is more gradual, but then I am forced to go down a one-way cobblestone street the wrong way right in front of the market if I wish to avoid other really steep and cobblestoned streets, neither of which I am fond of. So I walk the direct route without shame.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Thanks for your comments Jon and Christopher : )

    ReplyDelete
  43. Hills get easier. The contemplation of hills is what makes them hard. I try not to look up if it gets hard. My daily route has a15 % grade on it, or a long detour with a long 8% grade. No matter what bike I have I get up it at the same speed! My goal has been to increase my speed up / decrease the time / learn not to sense the burn and effort as pain but as helpful. And I try to chase each car that passes. Woof. It's 99% in the head, at least for me, where there's either too much or not enough room.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Now you will have to decide what to do with the DL-1, though...

    ReplyDelete
  45. You have conquered so much this past year, what's a little hill? Best of luck with the studio.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Velouria et al, which would you rather cycle a short but extremely steep hill, or a long but steadily increasing gradient?

    ReplyDelete
  47. This blog gives me hope.I live in the Seattle environs. I live on the top of a steep ridge with multiple hills. I started riding a bike 4 months ago. I have a 7 speed upright bike. My goal is to bike to work next Spring for at least a day a week. I am taking a core and a spinning class. I get on my bike when I can and tackle a couple of hills. I think the singing thing is going to help me.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Hmm... I happen to have done both this week : ) Though the long one with a steadily increasing gradient was on a roadbike. Can't tell you which one I "prefer"!

    ReplyDelete
  49. Prefer was probably an eccentric choice of words:-)

    ReplyDelete