Monday, June 24, 2019

Increasing Tension

man riding bike in front of building during daytime
If that pack were any heavier and the hill
steeper, he'd probably tip over backward. Just say'n.

Original photo by @joelstylis on
For the last couple of days I've been trying to increase miles ridden, as well as the tension on the bike, clicking up and down through the next two highest levels to mimic those monster hills west of town.

Through the window of a vehicle, they're not so intimidating, unless they're covered in snow and ice. Then they are, again, the roller coaster they appear to be. 

On a bicycle, especially to a rider unaccustomed to pedaling those types of hills, they're monsters. I can see why folks favor cycling out along the flat stretches of Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming, or riding the Rails to Trails paths.

I will eventually master those hills . . . I'm pretty sure. For now, the tension setting on the trainer is growing closer to being maxed out. What then? Weights. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

A Strong Headwind and Extra Weight On The Bike

Every time you go out on a bicycle the potential is there to learn something new, and to relearn old lessons. This morning that was, for me, a reeducation in just how much a strong headwind can impede your progress, and a new lesson on packing lighter.

I set out this morning to ride the bike to town, an 8.5-mile journey. It should have presented few problems, as on the stationary bike I could average about fifteen to seventeen miles, on the next-to-last tension setting, and pedal for over an hour and a half without a break. Of course, there were no wind factors to take into consideration in the bedroom, where the stationary bike is located. Had I encountered such strong gusts there, reducing them would be a matter of merely closing the window. There, too, the stationary bike doesn't offer much opportunity to battle wind resistance as it's, well, stationary.

When I set out this morning the wind was mild and the temperature was perfect, about 66°. The first big climb was a half-mile west of town. At that point, the wind was to my right and strong enough that it threatened, more than once, to tip me off balance. I persevered and made it to the highway, two miles away, facing two larger climbs along the way. Yeah. I admit it. I'm not proud. I pushed the bike up those monster hills and coasted down them. When I reached the highway, I turned into the wind, and it didn't take long for fatigue to set in and for my muscles to start screaming at me. I really wished town was in the other direction. Of course, my energy was low anyway as I didn't sleep all that well the night before. Another great thing to keep in mind: Get a good night's sleep.

I was looking forward to the ride to town today, the first real opportunity I have had to get the bicycle out for a ride of any distance. Despite a couple of rumbles of thunder and some light cloud cover, I decided I would make the journey. Well, I gave it my best shot, anyway. I made it a little less than half way to town before I decided to turn back. My adversary, the headwind, suddenly turned into an ally and made pedaling a might easier. I should have remembered this lesson. Having ridden years ago, I hated riding into the wind and tried to avoid windy days or simply head in the opposite direction. I'm not that aerodynamic, even with the cycling pants on.

As far as the weight issue, I'm not a lightweight and the bike isn't either. I needed to take my laptop with me. It's an older one and quite a bit heavier than those made today. I wanted to carry a small camera, too, in case a photo moment presented itself. And, I felt that a few bike tools would be a wise choice. All this amounted to about an addition ten to twelve pounds, in a set of canvas panniers. I didn't think how much this added weight might work against my efforts to reach my destination, but it didn't take long to realize that the gentle ride to town was going to be a bit more laborious than intended.

I put the items in the panniers, which I bought last year, grabbed the helmet and headed out. Had I taken the bike trailer, which I considered and then dismissed, the added weight might have seemed less of an obstacle to success, as the weight would have on the trailer and not the bike itself. I've pulled a couple of toddlers in that trailer across relatively flat ground, without much difficulty. But, just carrying those extra few pounds on the bike itself, up and over those roller coaster hills, felt like the items weighed twice as much. So, it's time to finalize those modifications to the trailer before the next trip.

I turned around and headed back home, somewhat bummed that I never made it to town - on the bike, at least. I'll try again soon. I may have to spend a bit more time riding on flatter terrain, or at least terrain with smaller hills, until my muscles are ready for monster hills. But, really, I'm okay with meeting half the goal today. I have no doubt that with less weight and the absence of a headwind I could have made it. You're not going to know unless you get out and try, and find out what works and what doesn't.