Trek Women
April 30, 2008

Shiny and Dry is Bad

Before I turned 16 and was allowed to get my driver's license, my dad made me learn two things:  1) how to change a tire on a car and 2) how to change the oil in the car.  At the time I learned how to get enough leverage to get lug nuts off and also that it's tough to remove motor oil from your hair when you accidentally dip your ponytail in the oil pan.   Later, I realized that those were valuable lessons in my taking responsibility for the workings of my car and keeping it in good working order. 

My bike is a similar "vehicle" to me - lots of interworking parts that require knowledge and maintenance.  I feel I need to take responsibility for proper care of my bike and yet, everytime I go to the bike shop, I somehow feel the language and the methods are beyond me, the average woman.  So, when at Girls with Gears with Shop Girl Chris Garrison, I decided to have her teach me a thing or two figuring I would be less intimidated in that setting, plus, Chris is well, Chris and I don't think she could make a fly feel intimidated.

Chris' first tip:  "Inspect your chain - if it looks shiny and dry that's bad."  Oh, you are speaking my language Shop Girl -  if only every bike shop spoke in these highly technical terms I can remember!

Step #1 Put your bike in a bike stand:  This will hold it steady and allow you to freely rotate the chain as you work.  I currently don't own a bike stand and have to use Jeff, my human stand.  See picture #1.

Step #2  Degreasing your chain:  Use a citrus based, because it is biodegradable and environmentally friendly, degreaser.  Take a rag (aka my husband's old t-shirt - seriously, Jeff, it was 14 years old, let it go) and apply some degreaser to the rag.  Note from Chris:  "DO NOT use a terry cloth rag, the little fuzzies will come off into your chain - this is bad."  Then lightly pinch either side of the chain on the bottom and rotate your chain around.  You will probably have to move the rag around as it gets gunked up.  Rotate your hand and pinch the top and bottom and repeat.  (See pictures 2 and 3.)  How often?  Shop Girl says, "Once every couple of weeks or when your chain is looking nasty."

Step #3:  Lube the chain:  Use a drip lube and apply one drop per link to the top portion of the chain on the bottom.   Rotate through. This is tough to explain so see pictures 4 and 5 for where to apply and where NOT to apply.  By applying it in the correct location it will rotate through around the chainring where the chain and chainring come in contact.  How often?  Shop Girl says, "once a week, depending on how often you ride.  Definitely after every time you degrease the chain."

Step #4:  Additonal lubing:  Use a spray lube in the areas shown in pictures 6 and 7.  Important note from Chris, "Use a rag behind the area you are spraying becasue getting spray lube on your tires is not good.  Slippery lube and brakes don't mix!"

And Chris' last tip in addressing my fears of breaking my bike by attempting my own maintenance, "Nah, you're not gonna break it. . ."  If Shop Girl says, then it must be true.  I am now off to the bike shop with the knowledge of what products I need to add to my arsenal and feel better equipped to take care of my bike.  If you have questions for Shop Girl, look for her on the Fit for Women's Demo Tour or post your questions here and I will make sure Chris gets them.

-Jen

April 28, 2008

Together We're Better

Wwrgift Long ago, before I ever had cancer, before I ever heard of Team Survivor, before I ever knew of the existence of the Danskin Women's triathlon, I had the inkling in my head and heart to try and complete a triathlon.  The idea seemed big and I didn't know any triathletes or how to connect with anyone who could teach me the ropes, or would train with me.  And so that idea remained just that, an idea nestled in the far recesses of my mind.

Fast forward to the time in which I joined Team Survivor and then became a Trek Woman Who Rides.  I am now a triathlete and avid swimmer, cyclist and runner who loves to share my passion with, and encourage, other women to give it a try.  What bridged the gap between that notion in my mind and who I am today - other women.  If I hadn't had other women to train with, sweat with, ride with, laugh with and celebrate crossing that first finish line with, I think I would still be the girl with an idea only.

So, I am extremely excited that Trek Women's Specific Design (WSD) is now rolling out the Trek Women Who Ride Club.  When you join the club by clicking here, you will be connecting yourself with a community of women cyclists of all ages and abilities.  Women ride for many reasons, social, emotional, physical, competitive.  But, whatever your reasons, whatever your age or experience, this community is for you.  When you join you get all kinds of Trek goodies, including the snappy technical shirt you see pictured here.  In addition to cool gear, you will receive a monthly newsletter, training tips, product giveaways, and VIP access to Trek sponsored WSD events.

The one thing I know about women is that together we're better.  My training rides and runs always seem easier when I'm with other women.  We laugh, we joke, we sweat, and we learn together.  (Plus, other women always get what you're talking about when you reference the doo-hickie-ma-jig on your bike. . . )

So, whether you're new to cycling, interested in a triathlon, just want to learn to "go by bike" there are women here who are like-minded.   Let's get on the road together. . .

-Jen

PS.  No boys allowed. . .

April 25, 2008

Graduation

Longbranchhalf_2Graduation season is upon us.  I am no exception.  Next week I will officially graduate my ankle from physical therapy.  So, in a twisted way that only I and my close training-nut friends can understand, I am giving myself a present - it's a half-marathon.

Next weekend, on limited run training - only about 8 weeks back - I will run the Long Branch (NJ) Half Marathon as part of the NJ Marathon weekend.  It's funny how life comes full circle.  This was the first big race I ever did - two years ago - as a new runner, having only started running at the end of January 2005.  Because of the marathon, there were a ton of spectators and I was completely overcome with emotion at the start of the race and ran with blurred, teary vision for at least a mile.  Those swelling emotions later gave way to pain as my legs cramped and fatigued and nausea as I ate too much GU (just following package instructions - hadn't even tried it before that race).  I was so afraid in that race that if I stopped whatever motion that equated in my mind to a run, I would never start again.  But, I completed that race, even when the winds blowing in from the ocean during the last couple of miles slowed me to a virtual jog in place.  I think I might be proudest of that medal.

Because I got injured in November, when I had been training for the Philadelphia half-marathon, I think that my completing (notice I didn't say competing) this race will wrap up this whole injury and recovery process, proving to me that I am once again back to being a runner, no matter the pace.  Plus, being able to complete 13 miles of just running will mentally assure me that yes, running 6.2 miles after swimming and biking in an Olympic distance tri will be a snap (whatever tricks it takes!). 

I can't wait to compare my feelings from that first start and finish line to the feelings of two years and many miles later.  While the end of next week's race may have a banner that says "Finish," I think for me it will somehow finish one chapter and start the training for the next. . . .

Let's get training. . .

-Jen

PS.  This was a picture from that race in 2005.  Look at that running worry on my face and my crazy growing in afro-like hair!

April 23, 2008

What's Your Definition?

1894wombike Just for fun today, I thought I would share a question that a friend and fellow blog reader e-mailed me recently:

"In my world, a biker is a motorcyclist.  A person ridng a bike is a cyclist.  I see you use biker.  Can you clarify for me?"  -Amy

No, Amy, no I can not.  I hadn't thought about it but Amy makes an interesting point.  In my head, if I were to use the word cyclist, I would think that I should look like the picture I have included here.  Somehow, to me, cyclist sounds so formal, so not-sweaty - as if I should serve tea after a ride rather than sucking down a huge bottle of water and wiping away the sweat from my face.  So, I bike, not cycle and therefore my use of the word biker. 

I consulted Dictionary.com for help, in case I should change my vernacular.  (I know, you would think if I could use the word vernacular in a sentence I would be able to clarify this point. . .).  Here's what I came up with:

Cyclist: (noun)  a person who rides or travels by bicycle, motorcycle, etc. . .

Biker: (noun) a person who rides a bicycle, mtorcycle, or motorbike, esp. in competition or as a hobby

So, that really cleared things up - yeah, right.  Given those definitions I think I'll go back to being a triathlete (which somehow every non-athletic person confuses with being a marathoner anyway - but that's a topic for another day).  Does it matter what kind of riding you do for which word you might use?  Where you grew up? or Where you live?  What are you?

-Jen

April 22, 2008

Where Rubber Meets the Road

1w2w_logo_2color_2 When I was in eighth grade, our social studies class was assigned some type of project. My project was entirely about pollution and the environment.  I became insistent that we cut apart each link of the plastic that held 6-packs of soda (then "pop" because I grew up in Colorado) so that fish wouldn't get stuck in them when the plastic got in the ocean.  I didn't seem to consider that Colorado was completely landlocked and I couldn't make the connection for anyone of how those plastic rings would get to the ocean.  I was clearly green before it was cool to be green.

But, idealism of youth has eventually fallen prey to the conveniences of adulthood and the liberty of a car that will take me where I wish, any time of day, with no forethought.  I am still green, don't get me wrong - I choose products wisely, I recycle, I conserve energy and water, but, I am guilty of ignoring my car-crutch.  So, when Trek rolled out the 1 World 2 Wheels program encouraging me to "Go by Bike," it stopped me in my four wheeled tracks.  What blew me away the most were these facts:  1) 60% of the pollution created by automobile emissions happens in the first few minutes of operation . . .  and 2) 25% of all trips are made within a mile of the home, 40% of all trips are within two miles of the home, and 50% of the working population commutes five miles or less to work.

It hit me right where the stay at home mom rubber meets the road.  My job starts at home but on any given day could lead to: the bank, the drugstore, the dry cleaner, the grocery store, the post office, Target, Starbucks, a local friends house, the doctor, the dentist. . .  The knot of balled up pollution in my stomach comes from the realization that all of those errands are mostly within that 2-5 mile radius of my house.  So, while now it has become cool to be green, I don't want to get lost in all the hype.  I've realized where I'm mostly likely to make a change that will work for me - use my car less, use my bike more.  So, I thought today would be the perfect day to start.  Could I do my day-to-day without the car?

The idea started last night with the planning.  I had to plan what routes I could use to get from one place to the other and how much time I needed to allow.  Here's what the day was:

Stop#1: Physical Therapy - distance 4.3 miles. I left from my kids bus stop once they headed to school.  Arrived only 2 minutes later than had I gone by car.  I actually had to slow for a school zone.  Success!  Was able to get people talking. . .

Stop#2:  Blue Lotus Salon - distance from PT 8.5 miles.  Left PT a bit early to head for a haircut at a new salon.  Hoping they understand my helmet head when I arrive.  They do and I get to talk "Go by Bike."

Stop #3:  Township Building to Vote - distance from salon - 6.0 miles.  Left the salon with perfectly coiffed hair and then promptly put a helmet on over it (safety first!).  Enjoyed a nice ride along the river and learned exactly which way the wind comes off the river - right at me.  Got told I had a nice bike and that one of the polling volunteers would guard it while I voted.  Excellent!

Stop #4:  Home - distance from voting - 1.0 miles.  Back at home!  Car is still right where I left it.  My car odometer remains unchanged.  My bike odometer reads 19.8 miles.  I feel victorious, somewhat sweaty but proud that my "regular" plan for the day turned into a decent training session, and RAVENOUS.  On to lunch. . . .

Was it pretty?  Was it effortless?  No, but maybe that's the point.  Do I have some learning to do?  Definitely yes.  But, just because I can't figure out how I would transport a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread home from the grocery store without them ending up looking like freshly dripping battered french toast, shouldn't mean I'm unwilling to consider the change.  But, I do know that often I am guilty of that being the case.  So, here's my chance to learn.  Will this work all the time? - no, but, starting with a small change is better than ignoring the effort.  Sometimes a little less convenience can lead to more thought, more appreciation and a little global cooling.   I hope you will laugh, maybe learn and join me in my misadventures as I try to "Go By Bike."  Happy Earth Day. . .      -Jen

April 21, 2008

Girls with Gears

100_0211   Yesterday I attended the third annual Girls with Gears biking event in Limerick, PA.  My body was not happy to be getting up so early (5:45 roll out) but being the first customer at the Yardley Starbucks helped with my drive. 

The Girls with Gears (GWG) event is a women's cycling event offering 5, 15, 25, 40, and 62 mile rides to benefit the CAROL for Heart, a foundation working to prevent women's heart disease through education.  Event organizer Cindy Messerle said that she and a few others are into biking and they wanted to design an event that would let women come and try biking - "a place where they could do a group ride, ask questions and learn."  In its first year GWG had 200 riders, yesterday there were 625 riders (both women AND men) and those riders raised over $40,000 for the CAROL for Heart Charity.

Demo gal Chris, aka Shop Girl, pulled up soon after I got there with her Fit for Women Demo Tour trailer loaded down with WSD bikes.   I had a great time meeting women as they got set up on demo bikes.  Chris was kept busy - the Trek demo program was definitely known and popular as some women I talked to said they wanted to be sure to be there really early to get a bike.

One woman usually rides tandem with her husband but he got sick and so she stepped into a Trek Madone 5.1 WSD for the day. We then practiced her saying to her husband, "But Dan, I need this bike," as she speculated that after this ride she was going to want her own solo ride.  This is where Chris taught us the theory about bike ownership - she likened it alongside gravity - seriously - that the amount of bikes you own is B=N+1, where B is the number of bikes you should own and N is the number of bikes you currently own.  There's always room for +1.

When Chris ran out of FX bikes to loan out, we were able to convince Kim to give a road bike a try.  Kim was nervous about the road bike handlebars and not wanting to lean way over - a sentiment other women may feel.    We were able to convince her that the WSD set-up and adjustments by Chris were worth a try.

Girls with Gears is an event that is only in its third year but you would be convinced that it has been around forever.  I say this because of how well run it was.  Event organizer Cindy Messerle and her amazing volunteer team seemed like pros.  Event registration was a breeze, parking was easy,  and there were tons of ride leaders.  The rides were very well marked, both on the road and with color-coded cue sheets.  At rest stops, boy scouts were helping cut fruit, provide water, sandwiches and energy bars.  There were clean port-a-potties (always a plus at women's events).  After the ride, we were treated to lunch, music and an array of vendors (including chair massages).

Ginger, who after 25 miles of rolling hills while entertaining me with statistician jokes - "If the ride is 50% uphill and 50% downhill, then the average is FLAT" was heard remarking on her Trek Madone 5.1 WSD, "I think that's going to be my third Trek bike."  (Way to use that B=N+1 formula, Ginger!)

Next year's Girls with Gears event is on April 19th - I know I will be there again.  I hope you will be too.

-Jen

PS.  I was able to hang with Chris after lunch and use (I mean consult) her Shop Girl skills to pick up some tips for my bike.  I'll tell you about that later in the week, so look for her highly technical quote "Shiny and Dry is Bad. . ."
 

April 16, 2008

The Changing Landscape

Img_2100_3 Once I learned to drive I never paid much mind to the roads. I never gave thought road characteristics - that is until I became a biker.  In a car, the road was just the thing that connected point A to point B.  I realized the difference is that roads now are viewed for smoothness in paving, grade, side roads, wide shoulders and potholes.  These are all things that weren't there before - well I guess they were but I certainly didn't pay them any mind.   I never had much appreciation for the actual condition of the asphalt until last summer when down in SC.  I got 12 miles out on a great stretch of road and then hit a stretch that hadn't been repaved recently.  I vibrated my hands and butt so hard that I thought I was going to be buzzing for a week.  Clearly I had never noticed or appreciated THAT difference from the car driver's seat.  Roads that were once "flat" in my car now are appreciated (or not) for their ups and downs that come out of nowhere when in the biking seat.

Lately, I have been struggling to find good areas to bike.  The roads around me contain about an inch of shoulder and I find I am constantly sharing the road with large quarry, mulch or landscaping trucks, not to mention school buses depending on the time of day.  I find it hard to put in long training miles because it's hard for me to find areas that I can string together any non-unnerving routes.  I know a few routes but the irony is that they require I drive to them to start biking.  Is this my solution? 

It wasn't until Jeff and I were in Seattle late last summer that I learned that biking landscapes can be different. Seattle truly loves bikers.  Jeff and I were able to pedal away for miles on wide asphalt trails that were undisturbed by traffic.   

I know that this is a dilemma faced by many new bikers and triathletes.  When I bought my bike I was more concerned about the gears and learning clipless pedals.  My mind reasoned that roads are everywhere. . . clearly the biking landscape makes a difference.  Will I find more comfort in the area I ride as I become a more confident biker?  What type of landscape do you ride and how does it affect your training?

-Jen

April 15, 2008

"That's What We're About. . ."

Img_1585_2  We've just started the Little League baseball season.  Technically, it's not even Little League right now.  The boys are in "transition league" which means that they have coach pitching which will transition into some kid pitching later in the season (oh boy, that should be interesting). 

So, in our first game Cam (who, as I believe I have mentioned before is intense about his sports) hit a good hit and barreled down the line toward first.  Now, as kids are still learning about position play, the first basemen for the opposing team decided to stand/block first base.  Cameron, didn't slow up for an instant.  He ran all the way through first base, even though part of that was on his knee and face as he tripped over the cleats of the first baseman.  He was down.  I sat in the far bleachers, unconcerned while the coaches checked him out.  This is one of those things that sometimes has separated me from other parents.  We have always taught our kids the philosophy of "get up and shake it off."  We would never be unconcerned about any serious injury or gushing blood or anything but I think somewhere in us Jeff and I understand that kids bounce.  The more we don't react in a "bring in the stretcher" way, our kids do too.  Cameron got up, limped a bit and then took his base position, ready to run when the next kid came to bat - I know in part because, while we don't keep score officially, he does and he knew his team was down.

After the game, in the car on the way home, I told him he played well - even when he went down on first base.  With professional-sports like seriousness he said to me, "Mom, they almost had to bring in a pinch runner for me."  I said, "Yeah, well you got up.  You were tough out there."   He then replied, again very seriously, "Well, that's what we're about.  Our family.  Being tough."  He paused and continued, "Being tough, being smart, being intelligent which means the same thing as smart (here is where I wonder if this means he thinks we are twice as smart), and being good at sports.  That's what we're about."  I bit my lip to stifle the slight laugh and agreed with him in a seriousness that I thought matched his explanation to me.Img_1509

Later, after he was fed and tucked into bed, I reflected on the wisdom that this seven-almost-eight-year-old had offered me.  As a parent I have often wondered if I am really bestowing upon my kids the values that I would like them to have.  With Cam's birthday coming up soon, I have been stunned by how fast the first 7 years has flown by, 3 of those years containing an up close and personal view with cancer that I wish he didn't have to have.  Right now I worry that more than a third of his childhood has eclipsed me while I still am often trying to "get it together" with my perception of the "right" parenting skills.  But, in being who we are, in facing every battle as it comes, and as we "just keep putting one foot in front of the other, " somehow Cameron has found and spoke an eloquent mission statement for our family.  Within all his words, and the actions in living them, I know he is internalizing what I hope will become everlasting values.  Next time I need a gut check on my parenting I know that the easiest thing to do will be to ask my kids, "What are we all about?"

Gotta run (literally). . .

-Jen

PS.  I also secretly enjoyed being broadly included in the "good at sports" definition for our family.  That will get me through the next tough workout.  :)

April 11, 2008

What's in a Name?

When I first got my bike I had to refresh myself with certain rules of riding.  Some things were things that hadn't changed since I was a kid/teen rider - how to signal your turns, wear a helmet - those types of things.  Other biking etiquette has been less about rules and more things I've picked up  - usually after committing some biking faux pas.  For example, there was the time a year or so ago when I took my bike in for a tune-up and it was covered in dust.  The bike shop mechanics were horrified that I would even think of having a dusty bike, never mind that I had been not riding due to chemo and someone had been cutting tile and wood in the garage near my bike.  Oops - my bad.

So, here's the thing.  I need an answer to another burning biking etiquette question.  What's in a name?  I've noticed that many of my fellow Trek Women Who Ride have names for their bike(s).  So, what I need to know is this - should bikes have names?  Are they like boats, which also have names?  And if so, are bikes considered inherently male or female?  Am I less emotionally attached to my bike if it doesn't have a name?  My kids have names, which I sometimes remember and other times simply yell, "Hey you."  I don't feel any less endeared to them or they to me by calling them "Hey you."

So, I'm starting to worry that this bike name thing is going to define the kind of biker that I am - you know, in just the same way you look at a crowd of fans at a football game and say "oooh, they're a face painter" and that means something about their intensity level as a fan.  These things don't come in the standard Trek new bike owner's manual - I checked.

So, are you a bike namer or not?

-Jen

PS.  Thanks for all your encouraging "just do it" words this week.  I'm glad I have all of you out there to kick my training into gear for me.  I've been able to get in two quality runs and two good bikes so far this week.  Thanks.

April 9, 2008

Pajamas, Wine and a Multi-Tool

Img_2092 No we all know how mechanically inclined I am when it comes to my bike (not at all).  In fact, last year before traveling to Trek headquarters in Wisconsin I had to go to my bike shop and admit I didn't have the first clue as to how to get my pedals off my bike (only one bike at the time, why ever remove pedals?).  So, why, when I bought the Trek Fuel EX 7 I had Demo Gal Ross ship it, boxed, directly to my house, I don't know.  I have to say that the bike, in its pieces (not a lot of pieces mind you, but certainly not whole) and me are not a good combo.  I think somehow I was deluded with my "I am a parent who has put together many a "some-assembly-required" toys, under the pressure of a three-year-old's stare - how hard could this be? 

And so the bike sat.  Until last week - when somehow I had decided enough was enough and really what was the worst that could happen?  So, I attempted my first bike assembly while in my pajamas, with a glass of wine and with only my multi-tool.  Here's what I learned:

-I know nothing about mountain bikes.

-There is good reason for the "average biker gal" to own a bike work stand.  (Jeff did not appreciate being the human workstand)

-Disc brakes?  Yikes!!

-I could successfully unscrew and reverse the stem.  I could also, with a lot of work, and one scraped hand, attach the front wheel and the brake - jury is still out on the success of the brake.

-I could attach the handlebars - sort of (not really) - I couldn't manage to untwine myself from the bike cables and seem to get the handlebars right.  I finally just got them to the point where at least they weren't hanging off.

-And to recap: I know nothing about mountain bikes.

But, the biggest lesson I learned was a two-parter:  The biking world did not come crashing down because I attempted to unscrew a few bolts and mess around with the parts on a bike.  I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty.  But, facing an array of unknown and, to me, fragile and expensive parts that must be connected just so in order to have an operable bike coupled with my own embarrasment at my ineptitude was too much to overcome with such a prized posession. I just didn't want to take the chance.  The risk of failure seemed too great.  Giving me a bike that was, in essence, a spare, meant that I could be free to poke around and not suffer too many consequences.  Having this bike mentally relinquished me from my own fear of breaking beyond repair (obviously, my mind is prone to exaggeration) what has become such an integral part of my existence.  

The follow up to all of this was that I then took the bike in to Bucks County Bicycles, where I know owner Scott is a big mountain biker.  Scott he had a good laugh when he saw the bike because yes, I had done quite a number on how I tried to attach the handlebars.  I was able to laugh and say, "I know nothing about mountain bikes but I want to learn and the only tool I own is a multi-tool. . . " There was the second part of my lesson.  There was no shame and embarrassment in saying "I tried and I need to learn, can you teach me?"  Scott promised to make right my assembly, adjust the bike for me and then teach me some tricks. . . .  I think my biking tool kit may need to expand beyond the unconventional pajamas, wine and multi-tool trio. . .

-Jen