Friday, November 23, 2012

Grin and Bear it

One thing about Minnesota weather is sure - it's always changing! Yesterday morning, Thanksgiving Day, it was 65 degrees and sunny. By evening the winds were gusting to 30 knots (about 40 mph) and it started to snow. This morning dawned somewhat overcast with snow flurries but by afternoon it was sunny and 25 degrees Fahrenheit with not enough snow on the ground to count.
Biking in shorts and a light jacket on Thanksgiving Day morning in Minnesota
You can't get bored with the weather around here, that's for sure. Warm and sunny one day and cold and snowy the next. One of the main reasons Owen and I bought our Salsa fatbikes (Owen has a Mukluk 2, I have a Beargrease that I call "Bear") is so we could bike all year 'round, even in the cold and snow, and stay healthy. We feel much better when we're biking - healthier and happier overall. So yesterday when it was nice and sunny and warm we biked. And today when it was cold and blustery we got out and biked, too.

I will say I do prefer biking in shorts like I did yesterday - Owen and I had a great gravel road ride with some off road trails thrown in - but riding in cold weather like we did today is, well, let's just call it invigorating.
Yesterday - 65 degrees F
Today - 25 degrees F. We're smiling despite the cold :)
Today's ride was on gravel but with some hills. Hard hills. And winds whipping at us from the west. Cold winds. And, even with layers and warmish clothes (long sleeved layer, jersey, jacket, balaclava, shorts, long socks, lined tights, winter gloves) I was kinda cold. I started to feel kind of sorry for myself out there, even with Owen to keep me company and pedal alongside me. But there I was out a ways from home and my only choice was to keep pedaling - so I did.

You know, I think I have a mantra for bicycling now - Grin and Bear it" as in, I might as well smile (or grimace?) and just keep pedaling my fatbike, Bear.

Because even though my ride today was a bit chilly and I had some frustration dealing with the hills, I'm still glad I got out and rode my fatbike  - I now have that nice feeling you get after having a good workout along with that "I'm from Minnesota and cold weather isn't going to stop me" sense of pride. On top of that  I feel rather fit right now sitting her in my office in my spandex bike shorts that were too small for me a few months ago and knee high bike socks. And a little stiff - but I'm going to focus on the fit feeling instead of the stiff feeling right now. Because I'm from Minnesota and pretty hardy and all that. Yep. And I rode my bike in 25 degree temps today. Yep. And I'll probably do it tomorrow, too. Because as long as I smile and keep pedaling I'll do just fine.
Lots of gravel and hills that don't look very hilly in pictures but sure look big when you're on a bike

Sunday, November 18, 2012

At last! A two Fatbike Family!

Today - after ordering our fat bikes in early September and waiting, mostly patiently, with great anticipation - Owen and I got to ride our fatbikes together for the first time!

Owen's Mukluk 2 was in at Milltown when I picked up my Beargrease last Wednesday but he wanted to switch out the handlebar for one with more of a bend. Curtis had to order the handlebar so Owen had to wait to ride until the bar came in. So I got my fatbike on Wednesday and Owen had to wait for his. By Friday Owen's bike was ready but we couldn't pick it up until Saturday. We picked it up late Saturday but it was too late to get out on a ride.

Finally today, after a busy morning at church and raking leaves this afternoon, Owen and I hopped on our fatbikes and headed out for a ride.

What fun! We rode our grass taxiway (we live on an airport with a grass runway) with the kids and Rocket the dog running along with us. Then Rose, Ryan and Rocket stopped at the house and Owen and I kept going. We rode some gravel, I showed Owen that, yes, the fatbikes will go through plowed fields (though it's hard!) and we rode through a hilly grass field near our house. There were some ATV tracks through the grass so we had a bit of a path but, nonetheless, the grass was long.

We rode about 45 minutes and, if my iPhone distance app was working correctly, probably went 4 miles at an average speed of 5 mph. The bikes worked well. We got a workout and we had a great time :-)

Can't wait to go again!

Owen and his Mukluk 2 and me and Bear

Equipment update for me and Bear:

  • With the small frame finding frame bags is a challenge but I found a nice little Revelate bag at Milltown that works well to carry my iPhone and a few other things. I think it's called the Mountain Feedbag. I used it today and like it.
  • I will likely add a Revelate seat bag later (I'm hoping to get it for Christmas!)
  • I may end up making a frame bag since I don't think there's one on the market that will fit my Beargrease's XS frame
  • I'm almost positive I'll switch out the WTB Devo women's saddle for another WTB women's demo saddle. I'm sitting on the Deva okay, my sits bones are, anyway, but I'm as comfortable as I'd like to be in, uh, other places
  • Also the standard 11 degree handlebar is feeling too straight for me. I'm having too much trouble with my right wrist especially and to avoid hurting I'm more resting on top of the bar now instead of gripping it
  • I may need a different stem so I have a more comfortable reach. Not sure on that yet but I seem to be stretching out more when I ride than I thought I would. That might be related to the way I'm gripping the bar right now, though, because of my wrist pain.
  • Now that I found both sets of shift levers, I'm going to adjust them so they are easier to see and reach. They are tucked back too far away from me on the handle bar

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Beargrease Rocket Run

My dog, Rocket, was stir crazy this morning. He was getting to the point of being naughty. Pulling things out of trash cans. Stealing socks from the laundry. He needed a walk big time. But I wanted to ride my new Beargrease fat bike, Bear.

I had only a half hour window of time and couldn't do both. It was looking like Rocket was going to get his walk but I wasn't going to get a chance to ride.

Or maybe not.

Why not do both at the same time? Ride the bike and walk, more like run, the dog.
Imagine this is a picture of me riding my Beargrease with Rocket running alongside me and the bike. Since I couldn't take a picture of myself riding Bear and running Rocket, this picture of Rocket standing next to Bear's front wheel will have to do. That's my glove at the bottom of the picture, by the way. It's black and turquoise just like my bike.

I've never taken the dog for a run from a bike. I can't say it worked perfectly. Rocket was a little puzzled as to why he couldn't stop a lot and sniff things. And my ride was full of starts and stops.

But I got to ride and Rocket got to run.

And now we're both tired.

And all of the socks in the laundry are safe.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Beargrease Report - or - No Road? No Problem!

Just last night I picked up my new Salsa Beargrease, a "fatbike," from Milltown Cycles. The bikes are brand new from Salsa and arrived at Milltown yesterday - I'm one of the first people to get one!

I'm a total non-professional in the bike world but have done a little ride report on my new Beargrease. It's not technical and all that. It's just my impressions of riding the Beargrease.  If you want to jump right to that report please scroll down. If you like a little backstory, keep reading :) If you want a more technical review, uh, google it. Or click HERE.
Big Tires! Here's some tech specs from Salsa: Tires are 45N Husker Du 26 x 4.0", 120tpi Folding and the rims are Surly Holy Rolling Darryls. In short the tires and rims are BIG and COOL!

I've wanted a fat bike ever since I first rode one over a year ago when I test rode a Mukluk and couldn't stop smiling because it was so much fun! Then Owen got a chance to ride a Mukluk 2 on trails a few months ago at a Salsa demo day and loved it - and that's where I saw the Beargrease and fell in bike-love. So Owen and I ordered fat bikes in early September and have been excitedly waiting to get our bikes since.

The Beargrease is marketed as "the ultimate snow and soft conditions racing machine." I'm not a racing sort of person. I'm more of an ordinary person who likes to eat chocolate and ride bikes (sometimes at the same time) so why would I buy a "racing machine" when a Mukluk 2 or 3 would have been just fine?

Here's why:
  • I'm short and, though strong, kind of a small person overall
  • The Beargrease weighs about 28 pounds, about 5 pounds less than a Mukluk 2
  • Less weight means an easier time for me maneuvering the bike and, likely, keeping up with Owen and the rest of the guys (I don't know any women with fat bikes yet but will probably struggle to keep up with them, too, because I'm more of a I'm slow but I get there sort of rider - but I have fun so I don't care!)
  • The Beargrease is absolutely gorgeous and just happens to be black and turquoise (turqouise is my favorite color - and if you're going to spend a ton of time with a bike you might as well love the color)
Did I mention the Beargrease is my favorite color? Yep. And it even matches my garden bench!

On Tuesday Ben from Milltown called to say my bike would be in on Wednesday. Yay! Owen and I got over to the shop as soon as we could after work last night and Curtis, one of Milltown main guys, helped me get it ready to go.

We made a few adjustments to the stock Beargrease:
  • I had Curtis cut an inch off the end of the handlebars so my hands would rest on the bars in more ergonomic position.
  • We put flat pedals on the bike - nice aluminum VP Vice Trail Pedals (the bikes come without pedals). The flat pedal instead of clipless pedal choice was based on the fact that I'll be riding this bike in snow boots and you can't really put cleats on snowboots. Well, I suppose you can but I'm not going to
  • We switched out the WTB Pure V saddle for a women's specific demo saddle for me to try out, the WTB Deva. 
  • We switched out the black top cap for a turquoise blue one with an owl on it - just because 
I've wanted one of these Salsa top caps ever since I first saw one - it has an owl on it! and it's turquoise!

I was going to add a bottle cage but the XS Beargrease is so small that it will be a challenge to carry a bottle on it. So I picked up a Camelbak instead and will carry my water on my back - a great benefit in the winter as body heat will keep the water from freezing.
Note the small space for a bottle on my XS Beargrease frame. A side opening bottle cage would fit but I opted not to get one for now. Note also the nice finish and the very clean bike chain (it won't be this clean ever again!)

Enough of details - what's it like to ride this wonderful bike? Well, last night it was dark when I picked up the bike. I rode it across the street to my van and that was fun. Then, when I got it home, I found a little headlamp thing in my son's room and strapped it on my head so I could see and rode the bike around my yard, over my landscape rocks, through pea gravel and through the leaf pile. It rode well! It was fun! I smiled a lot!

But today I got to really ride Bear (I think that's my new bike's name - Bear). It was an absolutely perfect day to ride, about 45 degrees and sunny, winds about 9 mph out of the west.

I got on my bike and headed out on the grass and - believe it or not - couldn't figure out how to shift. Did this new bike have some kind of special one lever shifters? I wondered. No, but for some goofy reason I couldn't see them/feel them/find them so could only manage to shift up into the big rings in front and back. Doh!

And now that you are laughing at me and my incompetence remember I told you I wasn't a racing sort of a rider, more like a chocolate eating sort of rider. Though I'm totally embarrassed I couldn't find the darn small shift levers - in my defense, the second set of levers are tucked back quite a ways and are, at first, kind of hard to find. And I have short fingers so it's a bit of a stretch to reach them. I will adjust them so they are easier to reach, if I can. If not, I'll manage.

Even though I could have skipped telling you this bit and saved myself from embarrassment I told you about not shifting anyway because the point I want to make is this:

Even with riding in one gear the whole time the Beargrease rode wonderfully!!!

Here's where I rode:
  • on grass
  • through a plowed field
  • through really long grass
  • on flat, hard packed gravel
  • on tar
  • downhill on gravel
  • uphill on gravel
  • on dirt two-track trails
  • in ditches
  • on loose gravel
  • through woodchips in my garden
Unlike riding on my road bike or my hybrid where I'm limited by terrain, on Bear I can go anywhere. No road? No problem! No trail? No problem! Plowed field? No problem! Snow? Yep, I can't wait to get some snow and discover that the Beargrease has no problem handling that, too!
Nice place to stop

How it Rides - The Beargrease is light and easy to maneuver. It was extremely stable going down gravel hills that are a challenge on my old Specialized Crossroads hybrid fitted with gravel tires. Bear was darn fast on downhills, easy to pedal on flats, and reasonably easy on uphills. On one of the hills I rode I have to I have to shift into my easiest gear on my Crossroads in order to get up it but on Bear I managed to do it fine in a middling gear with no downshifting (and I couldn't have downshifted if I wanted to because I'm brilliant with those shifters, you know). I live in the country and am surrounded by farm fields so I decided to ride through one. I wouldn't call it easy riding and it would have been better had I been able to shift but still, I rode through plowed dirt, stuff that's even hard to walk through, and managed well. On tar on my way home it was almost too easy to ride. It was as though he was begging me to take it off the road and get into some fun terrain. So I did.

As for comfort - the bike is extremely comfortable. I really didn't feel bumps when I went over them. The XS frame size is the right size for me. The reach feels about right. The saddle I tried worked fine though I may switch it out for a different WTB women's saddle that I've tried and like. I may end up switching out the standard handlebar (I think it has an 11 degree bend) for one with a 17 degree bend because my right wrist got a little sore (I've struggled with this wrist when biking for years) and more of a bend might help that. Another option might be some different handlebar grips to dissipate the pressure on my wrist.

So there you have it. My very non-technical review of the Salsa Beargrease.
In short - it's awesome!!
One of my favorite places to ride - not easily found on a road bike. Perfect for my Bear! 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Song to Sing!

Late yesterday my son, Ryan, said something that prompted me to think of a song - and despite having a sore jaw from having had a root canal a few hours previous, I started to sing. It hurt a little to move my mouth, but not so much that I couldn't get a few lines out.

"Mom," Ryan said, "you always have a song to sing."

I chuckled at that. "Yes, I guess I do." I said. And then I started to sing another song, but this time the song was the solo I sang when I was playing Sister Robert Anne in Meshuggah Nuns - "I'll Find a Song to Sing."

That song has a lot of meaning to me. Because learning to play a feisty nun with a song to sing (as well a couple of duets, several group numbers and and many, many lines that had to be delivered in a Brooklyn accent), was a wonderful experience for me. A life changing experience, really.

I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to push my comfort zone and play a nun with a song to sing! But I couldn't have done the show, let alone the solo, without the help of a bunch of people. And I want to thank them.

So here I go:

First to Julianna Skluzacek of The Merlin Players - thanks for casting me in the show as Sister Robert Anne. You had confidence I could do this part which gave me confidence to do it. Thank you! What a wonderful journey this has been. I'm already looking forward to our next adventure!

To my "Sisters" Lisa, Alane and Cynthia, to Craig who played Howard and to Hilary, our purser on our magical musical cruise  - Thanks for the fun. For telling me I'm funny and pretty. For all of the compliments and encouragement. For humoring me as I did my flower dance. And for the hugs. I like hugs. And more! Lots and lots more - but, gee, this is long enough already so I've got to stop somewhere!
Sister Amnesia (Cynthia), Sister Robert Anne (me), Sister Hubert (Alane), Reverend Mother (Lisa)
Our Purser, Crystal Clare Waters (Hilary) and Howard (Craig) Photo ©Ed Brown

To everyone behind the scenes -  Thank for the music, the music direction, the costumes, the sound, the lights, the lovely set, for having all of our props in the right place and all the help between scenes. And a special shout out to our pianist Doug who covered for me one night when I forgot a few lines of my solo...thanks to Doug and a little bit of luck I got through it okay.

Long before the show started Shari Setchell (brilliant Bodywork & Movement Therapist, dancer, choreographer, actress, singer and lots more) was getting me ready to play my part - she encouraged me to try out, helped me with my voice, with believing that I have something to say and sing. And once rehearsals began she helped me keep moving freely in body, voice and mind. Thanks, Shari!

Even before Shari there's been my friend Joy who has listened to me as I've talked about not feeling confident enough to play a big part in a play. Actually, she's listened to me talk about way more than just that - I talk a lot and Joy is a great listener and friend! And Joy would tell me I could do it. That I should try out. That I'm funny, even. She also tells me that I have things to write - and blogging again is a step in that direction :)
Gotta see Sister Robert Anne's purple shoes! Here's Sister Robert Anne, Sister Hubert and Sister Amnesia
just "potchkying around" and singing "The Potchky Polka" Photo ©Ed Brown

Once I got cast in the show I realized I was going to need some serious help with the music - and I had great help from two voice teachers.

Thanks to Chris Kallman who assured me I could sing (seems like there's a pattern here of not thinking I can sing) and worked with me on learning my harmony parts in one of my songs and learning my notes on several others. (It's fun to note that Chris is also a playwright and director who cast me as a nun, Sister Roma,  in a Northfield Arts Guild show a couple of years ago - Donata's Gift).

And thanks to Katie McMahon who helped me figure out how to sing Sister Robert Anne's solo. That song was tough! But with Katie's help I figured out how to differentiate between about a dozen musical styles in one song including a bit of jazz and blues, rock and roll, and opera with a little Ethel Merman and Elvis thrown in. (Katie, by the way, was the lead vocalist of Riverdance - her Celtic Christmas show is coming up soon. Get your tickets!)
Sister Robert Anne - singing "I'll Find a Song to Sing" Photo ©Ed Brown

Without a doubt, though, I couldn't have been in the show at all if it wasn't for the encouragement and support or my family - Thanks to Owen for doing a lot of extra work while I was at rehearsals and performances. And to Rose and Ryan for being extra great kids and putting up with me being gone so much. And for giving me things to smile about each day. And for giving me the best hugs. And for your your patience and love.
My kids, Rose and Ryan, and I - this picture was taken after the opening night performance of Meshuggah Nuns.

And for giving me reasons to find not just one but many songs to sing.

And now, in the words of Sister Robert Anne...

"So I'll say so long, But don't get me wrong. I'll be coming back strong. Baby, I've got a song, I'll find a song to sing. I'll find a song to sing. Amen!"