Pedicabbing Tales

I picked up a second job this summer to make a little extra money for the school year. As a hobby, it’s wonderful. I get to ride a bike around an amazing city, pestering people and generally getting paid for it. It’s not very much money, but it’s a lot of fun. Getting the job was very easy – we’re independent contractors so I called up, went for an interview and paid a fee for training. After that… I was officially a professional cyclist. Sorta. :) I sign up for shifts, go into work, pay my shift fee and then take my cab out. Our particular company works solely off of tips – we don’t charge specific rates or mileage. We range all over the downtown area, which lets us take rides that are a couple miles long and gives us plenty of hills to climb.

Unfortunately a couple of weeks into my pedicabbing adventure, my boss told me they’d run out of work for me to do… they didn’t want to but they were going to have to send me home for unpaid leave and when they were ready, they’d call and ask me if I still wanted to work for them. That left my fun pedicab hobby as my sole source of income… I’ve been pedicabbing a lot. A lot, a lot. So I thought it was time to start blogging some of my adventures on the bike. ^_^ Expect stories to be forthcoming!

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A Surreal Experience

It has not been a quiet week in the land of Arienna… Well, two weeks really. First, I lost my job. My perfect, wonderful job that I was constantly grateful for having… Gone. Then, I broke my tablet laptop, that which I use for school notes and art work… And being freshly unemployed am in sort of an awkward place about replacing. Merf. While I was whimpering about that, my young man announced he’s trying to get into a training school (he’s a soldier) that will take him out of state for at least a year. And my great aunt died. I’ve been pretty tempted to feel overwhelmed.

My parents went away to attend a wedding, so I had promised to house and cat sit. I almost canceled as, after this whole mess, the thought of being alone in a large house in the middle of nowhere for a whole week was pretty distressing… but they had no one else, so I packed up my bags and hied me hence up north. I wavered briefly on which bike to take with me. I knew I was going to take -a- bike, but solid, sensible Ariel? Or the sleek, fast Bella Donna who has troubles on rough terrain? Remembering how flat and lovely the terrain is, I cheerfully loaded the Bella Donna onto the back of my car and headed off!

First thing on waking up Friday, I climbed into my new bib shorts. I was pretty excited about these shorts. I promised myself a pair after my first saddle sore, since everyone told me that bibs are a lot better – the shoulder straps keeps them in place better than tight waist elastic and they’re a little slimming besides. I got an AMAZING deal on them from a friend who ordered the wrong size and couldn’t return them. So I climbed into my bib shorts, put on my second favourite jersey and off I went!

I was having an amazing ride! The weather was cold, but not so cold that I needed a balaclava (which lately is my definition of very, very good weather). The Bella Donna loves those flats and there was no one else out there so I cranked up the music (bike trails, no cars!) and kicked out hard. The trail is beautiful with lovely scenery, following a creek with just enough twists and turns to keep it interesting. The Bella Donna steers through psychic suggestion – you don’t so much manipulate the handle bars as you think vague thoughts of going in one direction or the other and suddenly you are.

So there I was, flying along at approximately 17-18 miles per hour… when up three deer burst out of the trees onto the trail.

“Oh.” Thought I. “So this is how I’m going to die.”

Only an amazing thing happened! Instead of fleeing across the trail (and into my suddenly small and fragile self) as I expected them to.. they curved slightly and ran beside me. For nearly two miles, I raced along the trail in a pack of three deer, their graceful leaping run keeping effortless pace with the Bella Donna and me. I could’ve reached out and touched any one of them. It was… amazing. As suddenly as they had appeared, the three of them pealed off and vanished into the trees, leaving me feeling as if something world changing had just happened.

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Back on the Road!

So I spent most of the last couple of weeks off my bike, waiting for this saddle sore to heal (and I will never, ever use that saddle again, so say I), eating too much junk and feeling cranky. But yesterday, my various bits and pieces felt pretty good so I bundled myself up in my below freezing costume, and biked to school.

My trip started a little badly because I haven’t ridden Ariel (my pretty blue hybrid) since I got the Bella Donna… But I can ride the Bella Donna to school, ever, because she’s just.. way too nice of a bike to leave barely locked outside of a school near a bad neighborhood. I mean, I’m sensible and I lock up right next to campus security, but still.

So I climbed on Ariel and started peddling, grumbling to myself about how heavy we were and how much stuff we had and how I wished I was on Bella… But then I started my first big hill of the route and stopped thinking about anything but climbing. Once I got off the hills and onto the bike trail flatland, it suddenly occurred to me that I was having a really good time. I was on my bike again, which I’ve been whining about for the past two weeks. I was outside in the fresh air and chilly sunlight, all my extremities were covered up exactly the way they needed to be, so I wasn’t cold anywhere… I was just completely, blissfully happy.

Ariel is not a fast, sleek ride the way the Bella Donna is… But she’s a really -comfortable- ride. Knowing that she’s not built for speed seems to give me permission to slow down and relax. With her upright geometry, I’m sitting tall and pretty and I can look around at what is the best beloved and most beautiful state I’ve ever been in.

Life is good. ^_^

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A.. sensitive subject.

I own currently have four saddles for my bikes. They are:

  • The Bell Gel Seat – This $20 wonder was the first saddle I ever bought, several years ago when I was also buying a department store special to get me around town for the month I expected to be without a car. It’s not really a good saddle but, you know, I rode it successfully with no complaints until the little gel pads started getting pried up from wear and tear. The fact that I could go for short rides without my tuckus complaining at me really helped me stay with biking.
  • The Bontrager Boulevard Gel Plus – This is a women specific comfort saddle and the first real saddle I bought, shortly after I started biking for more than a few minutes at a time. It’s a bit like a much more expensive version of the Bell Gel, but it’s really, really comfy for slow rides over uncertain terrain, making it perfect for my commute. The foam is soft and forgiving, but the whole thing is firm enough that nothing goes numb. Lately I think I might have outgrown this saddle as a biker though because I find I spend a lot of my time moving around on it. Not because I’m uncomfortable, I’m just trying to find a nice, firm position to push off of.
  • The Specialized Lithia 155 – This saddle came with my beautiful, exquisite Bella Donna.. I’m pretty sure it’s not a stock saddle because it’s surprisingly comfortable. It looks, to the untrained eye, like an especially pretty torture device but I’ve found it surprisingly comfortable on my 10 and 15 mile rides in that I can feel it while I’m riding and I can tell it’s a harder, rougher saddle than I’m used to, but when I get off I feel just fine. We’ll see how it treats me as I try longer rides.
  • Planet Bike Comfort Gel – Lemme start this by saying I love Planet Bike. They donate 25% of their profits to bicycle advocacy and I find that so awesome, I buy lots of my random accessories from them (lights, fenders, mirrors, etc. All Planet Bike). That said… This saddle is Awful. No exaggeration, I’m pretty sure this saddle is evil incarnate and is out to kill me. Sometimes when I wake up late at night and sneak downstairs, I find it sacrificing cute baby animals and cackling. Why do I have this saddle, you ask? It came with my Ariel Sport, which I bought off a guy whose wife clearly had different experiences. (That happens with saddles. Arses are like snowflakes – no two are ever the same) I took it off and forgot it existed until I got a chance to set Bici up on the trainer. I thought I’d stick the soft, squishy gelly saddle on her so I wouldn’t have to play musical saddles whenever I wanted to ride (which would clearly become an excuse not to train). This is the only saddle I own that leaves me feeling bruised. After 25 minutes, I have to get off because my butt and some related areas I find highly important have gone numb. After an hour and a half (in 30 minute blocks), the next day I will ache and whine about my poor butt. It’s also made with a lycra surface… which is highly slippery when combined with my lycra bike shorts, making it impossible to stay in place. And last week, this damn thing gave me my first ever saddle sore – an experience I’m not looking to repeat.

So, uh… Anyone want a slightly used, never loved Planet Bike Comfort Gel Saddle?

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The End of the Year

So it’s officially the last day of the year and like many people, I’m reviewing my year. There were, like every year, lots of good and bad things. I… have no inclination to dwell, I want to keep this reasonable, so I’m going to list some of the things I’m proud of.

  • I went back to school full time
  • I maintained a 4.0 GPA
  • I biked to school all but two days last semester (the first, and last day of school)
  • I rode my first bike event
  • I finished and submitted my application and portfolio to my university of choice. (Everyone cross your fingers!)
  • I have an -awesome- bike!

It was a pretty busy year. :) And there’s so many good things in my life and on the horizon. I have an awesome roommate who makes my life better every single day, whether he’s patiently pedaling at my pace, leaving sacrifices of chocolate cake in the fridge, or putting on a ridiculous costume for his role in whatever Devious Plan I’m involved in. (Thanks Scott!) I have the best possible of all jobs, which allows me to make my own schedule and go to school fulltime. (Thanks JJ! Thanks Mark! Please don’t fire me!). I’ll hopefully be transferring to university come Fall. And I have several really awesome bike events I plan on attending this year, all supporting really important causes.

Next week I’ll be meeting with the first of what may turn out to be several doctors regarding my ankle. Please cross your fingers for me, I’m hoping medical science will get me back on my feet and running races again. One of the worst parts of this year has been living with a constant, low-grade pain in my right ankle that occasionally spiked up to high grade pain when I did something stupid. It’s a minor complaint but it’s left me with some serious admiration and empathy for people who have to live with serious injuries and pain in their regular lives. I’m feeling really positive about a better year.

Now I’m gonna get back to work and log another couple hours, before I go ring in the new year properly… On my bike. See you all in 2011!

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Christmas Ride

My parents usually go away for Christmas, but this year they decided to stay home and since I had loose plans to see the young man, come New Years, I thought I’d head up to their place and be fed. Somehow I also talked my father into going for a ride with me… though he warned me that trail conditions might be a bit rough so I should bring my Ariel hybrid. Whilst I was loading my stuff into my car, I thought long and hard over which bike I should take… The sensible hybrid.. or my lady? I really, really wanted to ride my lady, but I didn’t want to lose out on a ride if conditions were too bad… so I went ahead and loaded both of them. It’s a three hour drive so it was a good test for how the bike rack and my little car handled having both my darlings. I made it safely, both bikes intact.

My parents live way up on the wee north tip of North Carolina, in the only place that’s flat in the whole state. My poor father pulled his Mongoose mountain bike out of the garage, blew some of the cobwebs off, we pumped up the tires, and headed off. It was a lovely day, at least 45 and beautiful outside. Not too much wind, everything was lovely. I headed out on my Bella, rationalizing that if conditions on the trail turned out to be too rough, I could turn around and get Ariel and be just fine. Conditions were not too rough. We kept an easy pace – my father was at a severe mechanical disadvantage to my lady and I’ve really been getting some good, distance covering legs from my trainer. So as we started up, I got us talking and made sure to stick with him at a talking pace. Most of the time. xD

My father’s neighbor’s are fabulous! On the Durham trails in my city, you have to call out loudly when you want to pass people because they’re all over the trail, on both sides of the little painted lines. And when you do, with a “‘Scuse me! On your left! Can I get through please?” They often don’t care. Or, if they’re runners, they have their headphones on and can’t hear you. I know bikes yield to heels but on a wide trail I feel like I should be able to pass. :) My father’s neighbors however, not only kept to one side of the trail, when I’d call out a howdy, they’d clear to the side of the road with their dogs. I was all excited about not having to break speed, and kept thanking everyone and wishing them a Merry Christmas. The dogs were good too! Only one broke discipline and tried to chase me, and his owner had a firm hand on the leash. Such good doggies.

Like I said, everything is flat out here so I had a fantastic ride. I felt so strong and fast and capable, me and my lady, that I just couldn’t wait to do it again. I decided to stay the night so I could get out on their trail for a really good long ride the next day before going home…

… And there’s now 13.5inches of snow out there. Holy cow, it’s looking like I’m not going to be able to ride or drive home anytime soon. Send trainers!

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That’s My Bike!

The universe occasionally decides it ought to heighten my pleasure by introducing anticipation delaying tactics into my joy. Yesterday I was all set to take my new bike out during my lunch break but her tires needed some air and when I clocked out and ran downstairs, half in my bike shorts and giggling like an idiot… I discovered I didn’t have the adaptor for her high pressure tire valves. And Scott had taken his hybrid out to Lake Crabtree, blocking me into the driveway so I couldn’t go up to the store. I was full of boos and hisses. When he came home we hopped off to the REI center where we bought a spiffy new floor pump (we’ve been using my cheap car pump to handle our tires) and some sport beans (JELLY BEANS!) as a treat for our next long ride. By the time we were done drooling over all the things we weren’t buying, it was much, much to late to go on a real ride. I couldn’t help myself and took her on a quick spin around the neighborhood… But still it wasn’t enough! So today we headed out to our favourite pub to get a bite to eat and a delightful 10 mile ride. ^.^

Now you all know anything as loved as this bike is requires a name and after hardly a moment of thought, I decided the only name that would do was the name of the wonderful woman who arranged for me to have this bike. Ladies and gentlemen, please meet the Bella Donna.

I'm waiting sooo many layers...

Here we are, getting ready for our first ride. Can you count how many layers I'm wearing to beat the cold?

There we are! I’m bundled up for the cold and armed for were bear, ready for an adventure! We wasted no time getting started – while Scott usually takes the lead and lets me draft off of his superior fitness, this time I pulled ahead to stretch my legs and test out my darling. I’d already warned Scott that I wasn’t sure on her balance and I’m was going to be adjusting to her shifting so I’d be a squirrel (someone who can’t be trusted to hold a line) the whole time and he was prepared. The Bella Donna pedals effortlessly so here’s what Scott spent most of the trip seeing:

VrooooomWith occasional bits of this

After a couple of miles we coasted up to a stop light and Scott said, “I dunno if the Bella Donna is treating you right or it’s all the time on the trainer, but I’m actually getting a workout today.”, which made me feel pretty awesome. Although, to be fair, I did decide to give him a bit of a handicap before we left… I loaded my 6 lb bike lock onto his rack and threw some sand into his derailleurs. And occasionally when he looked like he was catching up, I slowed down kicked him a few times. These are things you have to do, to keep life challenging for your roommate.

Scott managed to get a good picture, despite me kicking him in the ankle.

We made it in good time to Tyler’s Taproom, our favourite pub and our regular weekend ride destination.. but discovered they were CLOSED! Some silliness about Christmas Eve or something. Totally ridiculous. Fortunately, I was too busy being extremely happy to care, so we just turned around and went home.

Wheeeee!

Thanks Donna. <3

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Best Christmas Ever

Those of you who talk to me in real life (and haven’t been driven away by my constant chatter about bikes, rides I’ve gone on recently, rides I’m planning on going on, and etc), know that I’ve been pretty intent on getting a road bike. I was originally saving up for a road bike when my beloved Bici was deemed no longer fit for the road and I had to spend my road bike money (and then some) on a new hybrid. Ariel, my hybrid, is a Specialized Ariel Sport and an excellent bike for me. She’s strong, sturdy, comfortable, and very durable… Infinitely capable of handling all the terrain and broken glass my commute can throw at me. Together we’re strong, capable, free, and joyous and in her saddle I’ve lost 18 lbs and gained a whole new ridge of muscle in my legs.

But she is not a road bike.

My father surprised and delighted me by writing me a check to cover Ariel’s purchase as an early Christmas present, allowing me to take the strain off my bank account and put my pennies back into my road bike fund. And I did! I saved and set aside money and researched with loving attention, fantasizing over the exact bike I wanted to get. I wanted a Specialized bike because I love their philosophy towards biking and their body geometry work is genius. As an especially short and some what oddly proportioned girl, it can be really hard for me to fit in… just about anything. Specialized’s women specific stuff really is women specific. I drooled lovingly over their spiffy top of the line racing bikes but I aimed myself at the Specialized Dolce, their entry level endurance road bike because a road bike aiming to be a little more comfortable than uber-fast sounded just about my speed… And of course, it was much  more in my price range than a few thousand dollars of racing rawr. ^_^

As I mentioned earlier, I’m really aiming for doing the 24 Hours of Booty this year to support the Lance Armstrong Foundation… But my main other teammate is suffering some pretty debilitating health issues (aim some good karma at her – she’s in a wheelchair now) that’re probably going to keep her from riding with me… so more and more it’s looking like I’m going to be tackle the 24 Hours on… my own… Err. The thought of dragging my beautiful but very, very heavy hybrid through a significant portion of 24 Hours of riding was making me feel very demoralized.

But no more, ladies and gentle! During my daily craiglist bike sale troll I found a local woman selling a Specialized Dolce. I wrote her an email, making the ridiculously low offer of what was in my road bike fund and she wrote me back with a somewhat higher counter offer, but still really low for what the bike’s worth. I told her if she hadn’t sold the bike in a few weeks, I’d see if I could save it up.

Annnnd then she sent me an email asking me if I was the Arienna with the website, who rides her bike to school in the freezing weather.

I have a bike now, ladies and gentlemen. She is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever laid eyes on.. Fast and light and just… -wow-. I’ve got her here in my bedroom right now so I can look over and giggle like an idiot while I pretend to work. I was going to ride her today during my lunch  break but I lost my presta valve adaptor, so I went and got a one after work. It was already too dark to go for a long ride, so I took her for a quick spin around the neighborhood.

And, wow. <3 She’s sooooo fast and effortless. I’m gonna have to condition my bottom to her much sterner saddle (my saddle is roughly the side and consistency of a Sealy sofa), but wow. Long ride and pictures tomorrow, during my lunch break. <3

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Below Freezing Cyclist

This past week has been a pretty serious test of my bike commuter devotion as every morning and night when I’ve been making my rides, it has been approximately 25 degrees outside. (A little over -4 on that funky celcius scale) Having adjusted somewhat to NC, I find that pretty dang cold… especially on a bike. But we all know a bike commuter’s locomotion is powered by smug (and cookies!)… So I didn’t wanna whuss out just because of a little thing like weather.

"There’s no such thing as bad weather", I told myself as I picked out my layers. "Just bad gear." I biked to school wearing cycling tights, cycling socks (with blue butterflies), over-the-knee stripped socks (thanks Djinn!), a long-sleeved base layer, a cycling jersey (with blue butterflies), a pale-coloured hoodie, my roommate’s ninja mask, two pair of gloves, and a helmet. And sunglasses.

Lemme tell you ladies and gentlemen, I was the epitome of style*.

And I made it! It sucked pretty badly, but I made it. Petroleum jelly kept my exposed skin from chapping too badly, though I couldn’t bike very fast without freezing my eyes out. I need to replace my sunglasses with goggles and my roommate’s face mask with a real venting balaclava, but I survived relatively intact. I can do this. ^_^

*If you’re all very lucky, I’ll get my roommate to take a picture of me and my bike loaded down for school (and were-bear, of course) so you can see exactly how goofy I look.

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Got my bike trainer!

My new (to me) bike trainer arrived a couple days ago and my roommake was kind enough to set it up for me while I slept, which is what I’ve been doing for the past couple of days. I’m comfortably shed of all the turkey and pumpkin bread I ate over Thanksgiving break and ready to get back on the way to progressing again, so I tackled it today. I was a little nervy about it, because people online have been talking about how their trainers wore their tires or damaged their paint jobs… and then my roommate and I discovered we don’t have the proper adaptor to accomodate (or replace) the quick release latches on our beautiful modern bikes… But! I happen to have a 16 year old Bici who’s been sitting all lonely and unused in my yard.

Her cassette and crank are all worn down so she can’t be trusted under lots of strain and the replacements really are more than she’s worth… In fact, her tires are worth more than she is at this point. I’ve known that, really, and known that the sensible thing to do would be to strip her for parts and then retire her honourably (what’s the ceremony for ending the useable life of a bike? Cremation?) or atleast donate her to the co-op where someone in great need will find more use for her… But the truth is I love her. I love her with a sentimental passion that is irrational and unflinching. She brought me freedom from the depressing pain in my ankle, an escape from running, and a new hobby that is rapidly taking over my life. In the none too far off distance future, I will be quick and solid and strong and proud and that will all have started with Bici.

So it gave me an inordinate amount of pleasure to set her up on the trainer and rebirth her as a stationary bike. While I checked her chain for reliability and reinstalled a saddle on her, my cat perched nearby, one eyebrow cocked in curious disapproval and helpfully stole my bits, nuts, screws, and little round, wiggly bits (the technical term, of course) to enhance my anticipation. I was a lot more pleased to realized that if I put the basket on the bike, put the tiny larp shield I made for Mama Elf’s child on the basket, and then put the laptop on the shield… well damned if I’m not surfing the internet while I pedal. My life improves by leaps and bounds!

My cat’s life does not. You see, Theo is a loving, dignified gentleman who enjoys being near me while I conduct my business. So me being in an unusual part of the house and doing Unusual, Arcane Things with That Machine… well, he wasn’t leaving me to the deprevations of my activities. Who knows what kind of trouble I could get into?! But the trainer makes a uniquely annoying grrrrr-eeeeee noise and simply would not stop, no matter how fiercely Theo attempted to stare it into submission. Poor Theo.

He’d better get used to it.
 

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