Monday, June 29, 2009

Critical Mass...what's right?

Bici has taken over Critical Mass here in the magic city, and this past Friday we had a great turn out (for us that is).  Things got off to a pretty good start, but pretty soon some differences in opinion developed regarding how the group should behave.  It all started when a few of the riders were blocking cars so the group could ride through red lights, and at one light there happened to be a cop right there.  The popo didn't do much beside a quick siren and a yell of "quit blocking traffic!".  Some of the other riders got pretty upset at this point and started complaining about how the ride was being handled and how we could get "citations" for behaving badly and breaking laws.
So then we get into what might be called Critical Mass philosophy: one side thinks that Critical Mass should be a group that shows drivers that bikes and their riders are non-threatening.  The other side thinks that we should to raise awareness by raising hell. 
And I guess I'm in the middle: who cares?! lets just ride and certainly not tell each other what to do.

What's your take on the Critical Mass conundrum?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A case for clipless

(can you tell I enjoy taking on the saddle shots?)

Well, I have done it. I have gone clipless. Sold out, gone roady...say what you will. I can take it. Go ahead.

ok, done?

Cycling friends (and the local bike shop guys) have extolled the virtues of clipless riding since the beginning. I eschewed the very idea, saying that I didn't want to be a 'clippy person', clicking into shops and being forced to wear special shoes. I was perfectly happy with my Power Strips. I loved them actually, as much as I loved being able to hop on my bike in heels, or Vans, or flip flops. I was simply not ready to commit to being a 'roadie' (a term I hate, like fixie kid, or commuter...can't we all just be cyclists? I digress...).

Then I did a really, really hard ride. My feet kept slipping from my Power Grips, they broke off midway through an uphill climb, the soles of my feet were aching from soft soles and I knew I could get more power if only I could pull on the uphill. Not to mention the hiking I had to do in soft soled Vans (still my favorite shoes for riding, btw). Power Grips are incredible on normal hills, but major climbing is a bit of a strain for them.

A week went by and I talked to my 'clippy' friends. I visited the bike shop. Most importantly, I found out that I could get reversible pedals! Not forced to wear only clipless shoes?! This is getting better. Wait, there are shoes that I can wear that don't click?! All for under $200. Things were looking up. I was still nervous and, honestly, a bit worried about what friends would think. We have always said that we want cycling to be more accessible and scoff at the idea of full spandex kits, choosing a bike for it's weight and spending all of our money on accessories.

I was at a crossroads. Do I go clipless and increase my speed and make my climb over the mountain easier, or do I hold tight to my 'urban riding' pride? For a flat city, there would be no question-no clipless. However, with a mountain to traverse and rolling hills the entire way, a little help would be nice.

In the end, efficiency won out (hey, I do have a degree in Economics). I bought the pedals and shoes, had a quick lesson at Homewood Cycles and was ready.

I love it. I was really kind of hoping to hate it. Nope. My average speed increased 3.5 mph and my knees feel better. My climb each day is still hard, but not as hard as it used to be. Between the heat and the mountain, my commute is a bitch. However, now it is my bitch.

Shoes: Bontrager Race Mountain Shoes $89.99
Pedals: Shimano PD-M545 $89.99

If you decide to take the plunge, I highly recommend these for beginners who don't want to fully commit. I can take off for the bars in heels, or clip in for a serious ride. Best of both worlds.

Oh, and I have only fallen twice. I consider that a success.

Are you clipless? What do you think of it?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This is where we live

Birmingham has a plethora of amazing photographers, and Cary Norton is the best of the best.  So for the next installment of this is where we live, I thought this photo of Cary's was perfect.  This is most definitely where we live. ride. sleep. drink. eat. love. fight the good fight. be.

You can visit Cary at one of his many internet locales:

Huntsville Alleycat

Put on by our friends over at TwoFiveFix. Go spend this hot weekend up there where it is (a bit) cooler. Should be a good time. If I wasn't going out of town, I would so be there.

Friday, June 19, 2009

View from the saddle on a balmy Friday

Freddy Mercury chillin outside Rojo while I enjoy a beer and yumminess with friends

Scary from the saddle shot after leaving Rojo

Beautiful church directly in front of my little house. I love it.

On the side of the road shot

This is steeper than it looks. I have to climb this to get home, no matter which way I go!

Pulling up to the humble abode.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wednesday Haiku

An ode to Anna:

Anna, what a gal
totally girly, kicks ass
She's a true bikeskirt

Anna, you are awesome!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This is where we live

Ok I am seriously slacking on documenting our Birmingham experience!  I forgot last week (personal stress will be my excuse), and although tonight Elisa and I had a fabulous time riding and eating and drunking, a lapse in memory forced me to not bring my camera.  Thus, the festivities were not documented.  It was a good time though, that's fo sho.

So, anyway, I will post a photo of Birmingham.  Admittedly, it's about five years old, but it looks exactly the same here.  This is close to where Sunday Night Sprints happened; which was a lot of fixed gear fun for the whole family.  Why don't we do that anymore??

Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer Lovin'

Only June and it is already 100 degrees out when I leave work. Seriously folks, it is HOT. When I leave at 7am, we are talking about 80 degree...that is hot for the wee hours.

Because of this extreme heat and the knowledge that it is only going to get hotter as the summer goes on, I have compiled some tips and tidbits about trying to ride out the heat

1. Leave early-you don't want to be in a rush in this heat. Add in some panic and 80 degrees suddenly feels like 100, 100 feels like...well, you get it

2. Action Wipes-I don't have a shower at work. So I have to use these puppies each day when I get to the office. I arrive sweaty and gross, but a quick wipe down with a large Action wipe does wonders. I really don't think I (or my coworkers) could survive the summer without it.

3. Don't bother with make-up or getting cute till you get there-it is a waste of time to put on make-up and cute clothes only to sweat it off. however, you MUST put on sunscreen.

4. Dress the part-cotton is my enemy. It gets so hot and sticky that it feels disgusting when you get to your destination. I use Icebreaker Wool shirts and cotton skirts (with cycling shorts underneath) for my rides. Anything else gets hot and gross. Bring your work clothes in a bag or keep some in the office. Shoes and all. I carry mine, but also keep a spare pair of shoes, panties (I have forgotten these and going commando OR wearing cycling shorts all day is awkward), and a dress in a file cabinet just in case.

5. Hair care-I had to cut my hair short. It was the only way to combat helmet head. I have thin hair that luckily looks good short. If not, bring a blowdryer to work at the beginning of the season, because you will need it. I have a great stylist so my hair actually looks better with helmet head (unbelievable, but true!). Little tip: bike to your stylist so he or she can see what they are working with, helmet head wise. Best decision I made regarding summer riding hair. Oh, and dry shampoo is incredible.

6. My bag full of essentials: deodorant, Action Wipes, Dry Shampoo, light natural perfume, dry towel, make-up (primer, cheek stain and powder especially), hair creme.

Other stuff: clean socks for your ride home. I can put on my shorts and shirt again, but the socks never quite feel right after a sweaty morning ride. Ick.

Your stuff will be a bit different, but these are the things I can't live without. That and my water bottle. Clearly

Garden Party Success!

We had so much fun this past weekend at the Bici Garden Party at Jones Valley Urban Farm!  Some friends from Atlanta came down and seriously rocked the race.  Before the race we did a seed bomb ride, and everyone had a great time throwing bombs all over the place.  While I was handing out the seed bombs, everyone was asking "what is this?" "will this blow up upon impact?" "this smells delicious, can we eat it?"  So I thought I would share with you all what the story is with seed bombs.  According to wikipedia:

Seed bombing, also known as "Seed Grenades" is a technique of introducing vegetation to arid soils or otherwise inhospitable terrains. A seed bomb is a compressed clod of soil containing live vegetation that may be thrown or dropped onto a terrain to be modified. The term "seed grenade" was first used by Liz Christy in 1973 when she started the "Green Guerillas". The first seed grenades were made from condoms[1] filled with local wildflower seeds, water and fertilizer. The seed grenades were tossed over fences onto empty lots in New York City in order to make the neighborhoods look better. It was the start of the Guerrilla Gardening movement.

Isn't that cool?!?  We made ours out of red clay, used coffee grounds (hence the yummy smell), and the seeds of sunflowers, cosmos, black eyed susans, and daisies.  My fingers are crossed that in a few weeks there will flowers EVERYWHERE!!!

Now you all must go out and bomb some shit.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Garden Party!

Thanks to Paul Halupka for the awesome poster! See you Saturday. Come throw some seedbombs and hang out with us. Oh, and beer and food included. WHAT?!

Bike Love

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Epic Bonk

Last weekend, I decided to organize a group ride. I always love riding and pushing myself, so I was trying to think of a fun but challenging route. Bump and Grind, a Mtn Bike Race, was in town so I thought "Why not ride out there and back?"

I asked a few friends for routes, and kept hearing "It is not a fun ride, Elisa. Bad roads and nothing but hills. Are you sure you want to do that?" Of course, this clearly made me want to do it all the more.

I sent out a mass email recruiting folks and 3 gentleman took me up on my offer. Three accomplished cyclists, might I add. Heath, Alan and Brett. I was nervous to put it mildly.

Started out a bit rough, due to lack of sleep and general icky feeling. But I kept going. heath and I met Brett and Alan at Primavera Coffee, which Brett had kindly opened for us, offering us coffee and pastries. A bit later we took off.

Uphill both ways. Seriously. And getting hotter by the second. The hills seemed endless and the suburbs treeless. We made it to Oak Mountain and then made our way up the mountain to our watch point.

Oh, did I mention that I was left behind repeatedly? I was slower than the fellas and kept losing them up ahead. At one point, one was way ahead, the others were behind, and I had no idea which way to go. So, I kept on pedaling. Up the mountain we went, having lost Heath miles back. At the top, we look around, and realize that we have clearly missed our turn.
Back down we go, only to have to shoulder our bikes down the trail for about a mile (in Vans!). By this time, my pedal had broken and I had run over a squirrel (but didn't fall!). Eventually we all met back up, fixed my pedal, rested for about 1/2 hour to watch a bit of the race, and headed home.

I had officially bonked. It was bad. I was walking up the steeper hills and barely pedaling up the longer ones. Luckily, Heath felt enough pity to stay back and ride with me (Alan and Brett went ahead as Brett's tire was quickly losing air!).

It look at least twice as long to get back, what with all the resting and the stop for ice cream and gatorade. But, 8 hours after we left that morning, we made it back. My hands were bleeding and my body had streaks of salt on it. But I was triumphant. I had done it. I was in over my head and made it. We had gone over 60 miles, crossed 2 mountains (twice) and arrived home alive.

I am realizing that is how I will become a stronger rider, by taking chances and doing things that I am not sure I can handle. I may have taken rest stops and ridden more slowly than I would have liked, but I did it.

I am pretty damn proud of myself. Was it Epic? You decide...but I think it was pretty damn incredible.

Here's to a summer of Epic rides, being in over my head, keeping up with the boys, and keeping the rubber side to the road.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Long Bike Back

The gentlemen at Urban Velo brought this to my attention today. sorry if you have already seen it, but it is too good not to share.

This is inspiring and beautiful. Some days I don't ride b/c I just don't feel like it...not even thinking that one day riding may not be possible, due to a hit and run. Makes me want to get out and ride as much as I can. Keep the rubber to the road, and my hopes high.

Check it out at The ride has been over since 2008, but the film trailer is just ready. I can't wait to see the full length. Maybe we need a screening in Birmingham?!

How does it feel to be in last place? Sort of terrible, actually.

I was reading the latest post over on lets go ride a bike and, after reading about Trish's disappointment over Tennessee's low ranking on the League of American Bicyclists list state's bike friendliness, I decided I would check Alabama's.  I knew it would be low, but I certainly didn't expect that we would be in the very last spot.  Number 50; seriously harsh!

I guess it's time for Alan, Elisa, and I to change that...ALL HAIL BICI!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

This is where we live

I think this is a coke factory

For today's post we have a ride that Elisa and I went on for Memorial Day with the BBC (Birmingham Bicycle Club).  Thankfully we didn't have to get up too painfully early, and arrived at our meeting sight ready for action and adventure.  Many of the people that were there we didn't know, but thankfully there were a few familiar faces.  I was on whitey, my faithful steed, and Elisa was on a tandem with our pal Jerry.  The excitement and suspense was high folks, owing to the fact that this trip was Elisa's first tandem experience, and we were both secretly wondering how she would deal with her face right up to Jerry's ass for a whole day.

Elisa and Jerry - not lovers

We got off to a good start and made our way through downtown Birmingham, our destination being Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in Pinson.  No accidents, no car harassment, a few daunting hills, and some friendly chit chat, so overall a nice ride.  Once we arrived at Turkey Creek, Elisa and I were ready to jump in and have a grand ol' time splashing around.  Unfortunately most of our companions were not feeling so fancy free, and Elisa and I had to strip down to our bikinis in front of everyone (who, to say politely, were to the large part gentlemen not quite in our age range).  Awkward!

some of the crew

We had fun anyway squealing at the freezing temperature of the water and being grossed out by the muck in the water.  We crawled out after a few minutes and dried off on a rock before hitting the road home.  When we went to retrieve our clothes one of the friendly gentlemen noted that I had tossed my dress pell-mell into a fire ant pile.  He then proceeded to pick them all off for me while I contemplated riding back in my bikini.  Thankfully that did not happen and my dress was ant free by the time I had it back on.

The ride home was not quite as easy as the ride there for various reasons:
1. There was a fast crowd and a slow crowd, with me riding pretty much solo in the middle, so the fast group had to wait a lot for everyone to catch up.  That made the ride take a lot longer than anticipated
2. One dude got like 3 flats
3. One lady busted and broke her elbow while crossing a pretty crazy intersection
4. Another lady fell over while attempting to climb an insanely steep hill (I walked up, faster than those biking I'll add)
5. We took a faster way back because of the time crunch, which was along a 6 way highway with no tree cover - I got incredibly sunburnt
6. We were hella hungry

Patrick! He's a nomad, in case you were wondering.

By the end we were both grumbling, but overall had a pretty good time.  And lots of beer and margaritas afterward.  

Total mileage: i think around 42?