Sunday, May 30, 2010

Family Bike Rides - Things learned along the way

When it comes to bicycling I’m learning how to manage hills, how to pedal at a constant rate, how to go an extra mile when I’m tired. I can tell I’m getting better at bicycling because I can get up hills faster, I stop to rest less often and my body’s getting more toned. I’m so excited with all that I’m learning but our family ride a week ago Saturday taught me some lessons about biking that I wasn’t expecting. 
Here’s what happened - 
Last Saturday afternoon we loaded up the van and headed out for a family bike ride on the trails near Minnehaha Falls in Minneapoils. We got there, unloaded our bikes and set off. It soon was clear that neither Owen nor I knew where the trails were and that we weren't in a good frame of mind to work together.
Guess what? It wasn’t a fun ride. We were all grumpy. Ryan cried. I yelled. I cried. I felt like a failure as a parent and spouse and I feared my kids would never want to go on a family bike ride again.
I guess you could say that this ride was “interesting” which is what my mother says when she doesn’t like something but doesn’t want to hurt my feelings. Interesting. Yep. But not a total disaster because here’s the good news - the ride ended with ice cream, we were able to laugh at our debacle and the kids want to go on more family rides.
Dairy Queen stop after our "interesting" bike ride.
So yesterday we tried a family ride again. This time I knew the trail, a quiet path along Lake Marion in nearby Lakeville. We rode in the morning when we weren’t tired. We all set out in a good frame of mind and Ryan set the pace. We stopped to play at a playground, got lunch afterwards and ended the adventure with a trip to our favorite bike shop where we always have fun.
Riding on my own teaches me things, riding with Owen teaches me others and riding with the whole family teaches me still more. Here are a few things about riding with kids that we have figured out so far. I’m sure we’ll learn more along the way.
•Know your route. If you don't, find a map or ask for directions.
•Get an idea of what kinds of obstacles you will have to deal with along your route -ie: traffic (car, foot and bike), sun (wear sunscreen), bugs (especially if you are stopping along the route), etc. and prepare for them
•Ride when everyone is fresh and in a good mood.
•Have one of the kids set the pace.
•Stop for breaks - especially if the kids see something that interests them (nature along the trail, a playground).
•Have full water bottles and some snacks (Rose and Ryan love Clif Bars).
•Have the kids help with ride planning.
•Work in a kid-friendly reward at the end of the ride (a special snack, lunch at a favorite spot).
•If the ride isn’t working out it’s okay to stop riding and call it a day.
and a few more things to remember....
•Be kind - to yourself and to everyone else in your family.
•Remember that we all make mistakes.
•Pat yourself on the back for getting out and attempting a family ride.
•Say you’re sorry if have a less than stellar parenting moment and screw up.
•Forgive yourself if you did have a less than stellar parenting moment.
•Get out and ride again.
Playground rest stop on yesterday's ride.
I’m relieved that our “interesting” ride was a blip on the radar screen of our days, that the kids are willing to forgive, that they are happy to set out on a family bike ride again. And  guess what? Tomorrow is a holiday -  Memorial Day - and Rose and Ryan are planning our next family ride on a nice flat bike path near our home. We’re looking forward to another nice ride. Yep, it’s time to move on and ride again.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bike Saddles - in search of a good fit

When I bought my road bike this year I worried that I would find the tiny saddle, forward position and drop handlebars uncomfortable and that I wouldn't want to ride because of it. Much to my surprise, my Giant Avail is very comfortable and my bike of choice when I want to go out for a ride. I discovered, however, that there are two big disadvantages to riding my Avail on family rides like the one we just took on the Cannon Valley Trail.
  • My road bike is way faster than everyone else's bike. This isn't too much of a problem when Ryan is on the Trail-a-Bike but will be more of an issue when he wants to ride on his own.
  • My hard soled biking shoes with SPD cleats are not good for hiking when Rose and Ryan decide to check out things along the trail.
We're planning another family ride for this weekend, this time around the beautiful Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis. Ryan is going to ride his own bike this time so I expect even more starting and stopping on this ride and a slower pace. Plus, with the falls and hiking areas, I expect I'll spend a fair amount of time off of my bike walking around and looking at things like water striders and cool flowers along the way. Riding my road bike just doesn't make sense so I plan to take my Specialized Crossroads hybrid, the bike I rode last September on the 30 mile Jesse James Bike Tour.
Me with my Specialized Crossroads at the start of the Jesse James Bike Tour last September.

Trouble is, I don't really like my hybrid that much mostly because I've never gotten a saddle that is comfortable and rides over 10 miles, especially those without bike shorts, leave me with a sore butt. I did a lot of tweaking with my saddle last year and ended up with a decent fit but I'd still like a bike seat that fits better and is more comfortable.

So last night Owen, the kids and I headed over to Valley Bike and Ski and consulted with two of the guys, John and Cayman, about my butt problems, um, I mean my saddle problems. John set me up with a wider seat which I tried and did not like. Then he put on another wide-style seat and I did not like that at all. Then Cayman gave me a narrower seat, more like my road bike seat, to try.  It was okay but I decided to try another, a Selle Royal Dardo gel saddle. It felt okay on a quick ride in the parking lot so I bought it knowing that I can return it if it doesn't work out.

This afternoon Ryan and I headed out for a two mile ride around the neighborhood so I could try my new saddle. Eh, it's okay. My butt was a little numb feeling after the ride. Granted, I was not wearing bike shorts and I probably need to adjust something or another but I'm still a little disappointed because I hoped the saddle would fit just right. An hour or so after the ride I still felt a little discomfort on my tailbone, somewhat of a surprise because I usually feel discomfort on my sits bones. Now it's a few hours later and my butt is feeling fine but my brain is feeling kind of stressed thinking about bike saddles. I'm wondering if I should ride tomorrow for a few miles and see how it fits or just head out for our family ride on Saturday. Maybe I should try to adjust the seat or put on my old one that worked okay. Or perhaps I just need to spend more time on my hybrid and simply toughen up.

It's just too much to think about just before bedtime, it's already well past ten p.m. and I need to get to sleep. Oh wait, here's one more idea - maybe I'll just go buy a cyclocross bike for family bike rides. I understand they are sort of like a hybrid or mountain bike as far as gearing and tires but you sit the bike more like a road bike therefore they are more comfortable than an upright hybrid. Okay, maybe not. I just bought a new bike and don't have money in the budget for another. But I can dream. And while I'm dreaming I'd like a composite Orbea Diva road bike. Wait, then I'll go really fast and that won't solve my family biking problem at all. Oh well. I guess I'd better stick to my original plan and see what happens with this new saddle and work from there.
The Orbea Diva *sigh*

Monday, May 17, 2010

Family Fun on the Cannon Valley Trail

I'm glad to report that I'm back on my bike! After biking 32 days in a row for the 30 Days of Biking challenge I took what I thought was going to one or two days off from riding. No worries, I figured, I'd be riding again soon. But then a day or two turned into four and then it rained for days and I got sick. Bummer. I was pretty much out of commission all of last week.

I was finally back into nearly normal form by the end of the week so we decided to head out Saturday morning for a family bike ride on the Cannon Valley Trail. The trail is about a 30 minute drive away in Cannon Falls and as we drove there I worried at first that the day wouldn't go well because Rose and Ryan were picking on each other. But once we go to the trail head an started unpacking the bikes the kids got so excited to ride they forgot to pick on each other. Owen go the bikes ready and we all put our helmets on and got ready to go. Soon Rose was ready on her mountain bike, Owen was on his hybrid with Ryan on the Trail-a-Bike behind him and I was on my road bike. The Mibus Family was ready to hit the trails!
Here we are at the Anderson Memorial Rest Area - Myrna, Rose, Owen and Ryan

The longest ride we've done as a family has been about 6 miles. The Cannon Valley Trail is about 20 miles from one end to the next and we knew we didn't want to tackle 40 miles of riding so we decided Rose's endurance would determine how far we would bike that day. If she still felt good at the Anderson Memorial rest stop, about four miles into the ride, we would continue on to a five mile marker and turn around for a total ten mile ride.
Our first of many stops along the trail. Ryan standing next to my bike. Note the 30 Days of Biking/Raccoon Rally water bottles

When Owen and I biked the Root River Trail two weeks previous we set out at a good pace and kept it going until it was time to stop. Riding with our kids, we soon discovered, is not about riding at a good pace - it's more about enjoying the adventure. Within the first two miles Rose had to stop and see what was on the other side of the trail so we stopped and climbed a little hill and discovered a farm field. In the process we found a cool mushroom and some wild raspberry bushes. Another mile or so up the trail we just HAD to stop to see the people canoeing on the river. All along the trail  Rose and Ryan marveled at the nature around us, at the utter quiet, at the fact that there were no houses, that other than seeing other bikers, we were out in the middle of nowhere riding our bikes on a trail built on an old railroad line.

By the time we made it to the Anderson Memorial rest area we had stopped at least three times but the kids were happy and having fun. At the rest area we ate Clif bars, talked to some other bicyclists, looked at water striders in the stream and looked for salamanders (we didn't find any). We checked in with the kids to see if they felt up to another mile or two before heading back. Rose saw a sign that stated we had six miles to go to the Welch rest area and said she wanted to bike all the way to Welch. Owen and I had our doubts. If we went to Welch and back we'd end up biking a total of 20 miles instead of our planned ten. But the kids were willing so we decided to give it a go.
Rose having fun at the rest stop along the trail. Note her "biker chick" jersey

And go we did. Six more miles to Welch and without a complaint from the kids. I'm not kidding. We made Welch in fine style had a snack and rested a bit then got back on our bikes for the ten mile ride back to our van.

I was a little worried about the ride back because I figured the kids would be tired and crabby. But, except for a couple of minutes when Rose panicked because an inchworm was hanging from her handlebars and then she was sure she was covered in spiderwebs, the whole ride back to town went very well. Ryan got a little tired but since he was on the Trail-A-Bike he just stopped pedaling when he needed to. We kept biking and stopped from time to time but for the most part we kept up a decent pace while we sang songs, well, mostly I did (several bits of songs including Over in the Meadow with most of the verses out of order and the words all wrong. No one seemed to mind). We talked a lot. We stopped to investigate a pile of big bird feathers along the trail and look at flowers (Columbine and others). We watched a turkey cross the path ahead of us - it was huge!  Before we knew it, we were just a few miles from the end of the trail. And the next thing we knew we were back in Cannon Falls! We biked 20.4 miles in over 2 hours and 12 minutes. It was time to put the bikes back in the van and get some lunch!

We found a great little spot, The Old Market Deli, in Cannon Falls. The kids split a chocolate shake and Ryan drank his half so fast that he got a tummy ache and couldn't eat his hot dog. Oh well. I had a latte, a great sandwich and pasta salad. Owen and Rose had sandwiches and everything we ordered was good!

Ryan with his chocolate shake

As we ate lunch we we talked about our ride. We were all tired but all agreed we were so happy that  we could ride so far and do so well. And, you know what? I almost cried happy tears right then and there because we are so lucky. So lucky to have bikes, first of all, a relative luxury to many people. And to have a family that likes doing things together, that's a blessing in itself. And I feel especially lucky that we are all fit and able enough to head out on a Saturday morning and ride our bikes for 20 miles. And to have trails to ride on and, well, I could go on and on.  I like the fact that I'm getting more fit now that I'm bicycling, that I'm setting goals as a rider and making them. It's all important stuff. But riding with the kids, taking time to stop and take in the sights, to notice feathers along the trail, to look for water striders in the stream, to have lunch together after our ride. Yeah, that's the part of bicycling, about becoming a bicycling family, that's I really like.
Looking for water bugs and other fun things in the stream

Monday, May 10, 2010

Got T-Shirts?

Feeling the urge to do something good? Have a few extra t-shirts around your house that are in great condition? Northfield's multi-sport store,  Fit to be Tri'd, is collecting t-shirts, athletic shorts and money to ship them for the Nepomuceno Boys Home in Nepomuceno, Brazil through the end of this week. 

Fit to be Tri'd features an athlete in their monthly email newsletter but owner Tom Bisel decided to change things up a bit for his April issue and feature the boys home instead. Here's what Tom wrote in his newsletter, "This issue we are featuring the Nepomuceno Boys Home in Nepomuceno, Brazil rather than a local athlete or club. This change comes due to the death of a friend of mine that started the orphanage for boys some 50 years ago. One of our core values here at FIT to be TRI'd is to take the opportunities that come along to give back to causes bigger than ourselves. My friend was Arnold Boich...I would like to honor him this month by partnering with the orphanage and providing for an ever-present need at the home -- T-SHIRTS."

It sure is nice to see people doing something good - and it's a good feeling to be a part of something like this. Help out if you can! Read all about the challenge and how you can donate t-shirts and money to ship them to Brazil by clicking here. 

I talked to Tom earlier today and while he has gotten many donations of t-shirts he hasn't gotten much by way of monetary donations to ship them. If you are in Northfield and have an extra dollar or ten in your pocket stop on by and drop it off. Drop off some gently used athletic shorts and/or t-shirts as well, shirts with text and graphics on them are especially well received by the boys.

While you are at the shop you can check out the local events calendar and find out where to run, bike and swim in the Northfield area. You may also find fellow athletes wandering in - I met a member of a local bicycling group last time I was in the shop and am now on the group's distribution list for rides. You can also check out the clearance stuff like I did a couple of weeks ago where I found a Skirt Sports Tough Girl Top at 40% off the regular price. Cool! The Tough Girl Top is intended to be a cool-weather running top but I'm using it as a base layer when I'm cycling, throw it on first thing in the morning to walk the dogs and also use it as a regular shirt. I'm wearing it right now. The shirt is long sleeved and because of some clever construction is fitted under the bust. I'm happy to report that I don't look like a shapeless blob when I wear it. The sleeves have thumb-loops so you when the sleeves are pulled all the way down and you put your thumbs through the loops it's almost like you're wearing fingerless gloves. I didn't think I would like this feature at all but find that I use my "gloves" quite a bit of the time.
Skirt Sports Tough Girl Top on some ultra slim mannequin body. 
Imagine shirt on shorter, curvier woman who, due to clever construction of Tough Girl Top, does not look like a blob.

Sad to say that I haven't ridden my bike in several days now. I took a couple of days off then we got hit with rainy, cold weather. Then I got a monster cold of some sort and though I wanted to ride today, have been inside sleeping and drinking liquids from my 30 Days of Biking/Raccoon Rally water bottle. No, I'm not drinking wine this time. More like water with Nuun electrolytes. And tea, but I'm drinking that from a regular mug. I'm hoping that with some more rest I will be better soon. I'm looking forward to getting back on my bike -  I'm suffering from bicycling withdrawal so spent some of my non-sleeping moments today searching the internet for local charity rides that I can do this summer.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

After 30 Days of Biking

Well, the 30 Days of Biking challenge is over. I'm happy to report that I did, in fact, ride my bike "Every. Friggin. Day." (quote from the 30 Days of Biking website). I even made it 32 days straight. I'm feeling pretty good about that because I don't think I've done anything for 32 days straight - other than brushing my teeth and getting dressed and things like that. I certainly haven't done any sort of challenge, especially something exercise related, for more than a few days before running out of steam. So, I'm proud of myself for sticking to something I didn't think I could do.

Here I am after biking 22 miles on the Root River Trail last Sunday, May 2nd

Here's some information to recap my 30 Days of Biking experience:
I biked every day for 32 days straight.
My shortest ride was 3/4 of a mile.
My longest ride was 31 miles.
Fastest ride averaged 14.4 mph
Total miles biked in 32 days: 154
I biked in the rain at least once.
Biked in my slippers one day.
Biked in the dark another.
Took my bike to a belly dancing conference in order to get my ride in one day.
I learned how to use Twitter, sort of, to post my rides.
My kids got into biking and in the last couple of weeks have each logged over 30 miles
Owen did not do the challenge but biked a lot more because of it and logged over 190 miles in the last month.

I met many people through the challenge. Most were from Minnesota but one is from Scotland, another from Canada (Darryl from I expect that Darryl, and hopefully some of the others, will be friends for years to come.

The 30 Days of Biking guys and sponsor Urban Bean Coffee put on a Raccoon Rally and 30 Days of Biking Celebration Party last night. (Urban Bean Coffee, by the way, is supposed to be one of the, if not the, best coffee place in Mpls. Their Power Smoothie was the official drink of 30 Days of Biking)  The Raccoon Rally was, in case you don't know (I didn't) an informal bike race through the city where the racers discover the route and stops as they go.

I did not plan on doing the race but wanted to go to the party to meet some of the people I've been tweeting with this past month. So last night Owen, the kids and I drove to Minneapolis for the 30 Days of Biking Celebration Party. I expected most of the party-goers would be cool young people and that Owen and I would be some of the oldest party goers and Rose and Ryan the youngest. Yep. I was right.

When we arrived some nice young guys looked at us like we might be lost and asked if they could help us. We told them we were looking for the 30 Days of Biking party and though I think they were a little surprised we were there for the party they welcomed us right in. They told the kids they could paint on the garage wall (the owner of the building and garage was there and was okay with that) so Rose and I painted raccoons on the wall (for the Raccoon Rally) and our initials. Ryan was shy and didn't want to but got out there later and painted a big R and M and a raccoon on the wall. Inside the party building, a cool loft-like apartment, there was music playing and lots of people. Beer and wine was served in bright yellow 30 Days of Biking/Raccoon Rally bike bottles. Fun!

Beer and Wine glass of choice at the 30 Days of Biking Celebration Party

I got a chance to meet Patrick, one of the 30 Days of Biking founders, and got to talk to him quite a bit. Very nice guy. I wanted to hug him (I'm a hugger) but come to think of it, I never did. I saw the other founder, Zachariah, but he was on his phone when we got there and I couldn't find him before we left. Bummer. He was tall. I probably would have wanted to hug him, too. We talked to several other people, listened to some music, showed the kids real records spinning on the DJ's turntable and talked to a woman about the Twin Cities Bike Walk Week which is taking place June 5 - 11. I could have stayed a lot longer but it was 8:30 by this time and we needed to get the kids home and to bed. So we said our good-byes and headed off towards home.

I haven't ridden my bike now for four days. It's been nice to have a little break but not riding feels strange like I'm missing part of my daily routine. Like I'm missing part of what makes me tick.