Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Pluvious Christmas Ride

Did you ever discover a word so close to your heart that you use it every chance you get? Yeah? That’s me with the word PLUVIOUS; or PLUVIOPHILE. But, in my defense, this Christmas day fit the bill. Grey, wet, foggy. Temperature, dew point and barometric pressure all converging for the perfect proverbial soup.

I, the Reluctant Cyclist, happened to have received the best Christmas gift a person could ask for on such an extraordinary day. Velo Junkie presented me with me a pair of new bike fenders and then installed them on my Salsa for me. Yippee! Black, hammered-metal fenders. It’s what every girl wants under the tree on Christmas morning. Now that I had the proper protection I had no excuse to not take advantage of the warm, spring-like day.

We decided to get lunch, but where? December 25th and the choices are pretty scarce. There are three places in riding distance for us to choose from. Waffle House, Waffle House, or Waffle House. So we decided to ride to Waffle House, affectionately known as “The Awful Waffle”. We pulled out of the driveway a little past 11:00 a.m. for a 14 mile ride to relish in smothered, covered, chunked, diced, capped, and topped – hash browns that is. Headwinds and a cold mist travelled with us all the way.

Traffic was light, or rather non-existent, so we took our chances and pedaled over the Hopple Street Viaduct, a route you would be risking life and limb on any other day of the year. The route we chose took us through the very historic, very industrial part of the city. When you ride up Spring Grove Ave. it is easy to imagine the heyday of Cincinnati that was soap making, chemical processing, meat packing, and margarine blending. Names such as Kahn’s,  Powell Valves, and Kao Brands, (formally Jergen’s), Ryerson steel

Crisco, Smucker’s,

Enough nostalgia already, it was one week away from 2016, not 1916. We were wearing lycra tights and helmets, not tweed overcoats, knickers, and ivy caps. It is amazing, though, just how many well-known brands were born on this stretch of road. I love this town.

Watch this short video of our trip up Spring Grove Ave. to our destination, Waffle House

About five miles out from our destination was the City of Lockland, named for the locks that used to control the flow of flatboats on the Miami-Erie Canal until 1929. Here was the first real incline of our trip, not very steep but just long enough to cause the Reluctant Cyclist to twitch. Running low on fuel it was a slow haul up the hill but each rotation of the crank took me closer to the “Awful Waffle”. 

Once again the lack of traffic opened up the road for us even as we pedaled past the on/off ramps for Interstate 75. Being it was the only place open, Waffle House was standing room only. And, true to the rumors, everybody and anybody was eating there.

Two eggs and a peanut butter waffle and the Reluctant Cyclist was (somewhat) ready for the trip home. For once the wind remained out of the north giving us a sweet tailwind and taking 15 minutes off of the trip home.

Happy New Year. May your days start getting longer and the wind always be at your back.

#thereluctantcyclist #procter&gamble #springgroveave #awfulwaffle #wafflehouse

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Waiting for the Riders to Return, a Reflection

I attended an event called Roll-Out-The-Barrel the other night, a bike-and-bourbon fund-raiser for Cincinnati Off-Road Alliance, or CORA. I do not ride off-road, it hurts too much, but I wanted to make a contribution and I love spiked cider. It was kind of iffy as to whether we could even make it in time for the group ride, which, alas, we did not. (Work interferes with everything). No worries, though, we made our own short ride around Covington and then went back to sample the libations before everyone else.

While I was sitting there with Velo Junkie waiting for the riders to return I asked myself what I was doing there. I wondered “what has brought the Reluctant Cyclist to a place in her life that she wants to be around a bunch of gravel-eating, hill-jumping bikers”. Hmmmm….

I have a couple of degrees and 25+ years of experience in manufacturing and maintenance. And yet I write about my life through simple bike rides. As I pondered this fact I wanted to come up with a reason why. Then it got bigger than me. Why do some people identify with their work and others with their past-time or passion? I could just as easily have started blogging about enterprise asset management or industrial chemicals, but I didn’t. I chose to start a blog about my life through cycling.

I used to identify with my work. If people asked me what I did, I assumed they meant for a living, so I answered in context. If the roles were reversed and I asked the same question I expected a likewise response. How narrow minded of me. We are so much more than that. We work to live, not live to work. So, then, why? Why does one person say “I’m a mechanic, or I’m an engineer”, and another say “I’m a cyclist”? Or one responds “I work at Company A” while the other says “I advocate for bike safety”?

This is my unprofessional, unsolicited explanation.

I identified with my work when I was foolish, and believed someone actually cared. Get over yourself. No one cares what you do for a living unless you are at a business conference. They will never take part in that facet of your life unless you can offer them a job.

So, just like I did, I think folks believe that someone else may find their title, or the name of their employer impressive. Yeah! Right. When in truth, if your title or employer is impressive you are probably not at liberty to share the information. Tell me you run covert operations for an underground band of reclusive, royal, vampires, you might catch my ear. Or tell me that you were part of a team that just launched the first SpaceX rocket, yes you will grab my attention.

Gotta love a room full of Geeks.

Tell me you test the rust inhibition characteristics of amines in a salty environment for “Major Company A” and you will get a blank stare. Not that your work isn’t important, it may save many a marine vehicle, it’s just that, well, it’s a title only a mother could love.

As I have grown wiser I find it much more enthralling to recognize people for how they live, not how they exist. So now my short truism has come full circle. Why do I blog about cycling, which I spend less than ten hours a week doing and don’t particularly excel in, instead of the thing I spend 40+ hours a week doing? Put simply, because I can; because cyclists are fun, neat people to be around; because I feel less judged around a group of urban commuters than I do in a room full of business professionals, albeit, many of those cyclist are professionals as well. I believe that can be said for any group of people who all share a common interest, a passion for something. Whether you run, bike, or play video games, it’s much more interesting to share those trials and tribulations than try to explain what you do for a living. Unless you make money doing what it is that you are passionate about. At that point you are the envy of the rest of us.

Let’s be honest, not many of you care about my work or education, unless you are in the same profession. Cycling, running, or any other pursuit of endurance can reach across boundaries, can bridge unlikely comrades, and can introduce us to friends across all walks of life.

I guess the moral of the story – "Do the best you can in all aspects of your life" and "All work and no play makes for a dull life"!

Happy New Year!

#rolloutthebarrel #CORA #simplebikerides #whatdoyoudo

BTW… If you are interested in my work, that's a picture of my desk (nothing too exciting there). You can click on the Minions Caption for a link to my latest Webinar.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

If We Make It Through December

If we make it through December
Everything's gonna be all right I know
It's the coldest time of winter
And I shiver when I see the falling snow
                                    -Merle Haggard, 1973

Merle obviously wasn’t in Cincinnati this past weekend. December 12th and the mercury hit a record high of 72 degrees. Overweight, out-of-shape, and even I, the Reluctant Cyclist, couldn’t say no to a 50 miler. Three other friends longing for the open road on two wheels joined Velo Junkie and I for an unseasonably sweet December day.

I was excited to give the new Mavics a spin and right out of the gate we got to enjoy a series of downhill switchbacks. As nice as that was I couldn’t help fretting over the return trip. Hopefully the new wheels would smooth out the hills to make it a wee bit easier to cart my birthday cake laden, holiday food overloaded, Christmas Ale soaked girth back up the switchbacks to the sunny yellow Subaru waiting at the top.

Now here’s something you don’t see on every bike ride – a parade. Surprise!! Less than five miles into the ride we crest a hill happen upon the Christmas Parade lining up in Miamisburg, OH. Frosty the Snowman had to stay home and poor Santa was sweating in a Hawaiian shirt but the horses and politicians were out in full glory. By this time we were warming up and starting to shed layers (like an onion). Wow! December and we are in shorts and short sleeves.
1967 Beetle

I had quite a scare on the way out. We were nearing fifteen miles or so and I heard the dreaded “PING”. Damn. A broken spoke. I feared it was my new wheel suffering under my new-found bulk. Alas, it was not my wheel but one belonging to the rider beside me. His wheels had many more spokes than mine so he was able to limp along with (n-1) spokes. It did cause us to abandon the goal of riding all the way to the end of the trail. OH DARN! *dripping with sarcasm*

As with every event during the holiday season the goal was to find food, and food we found. If I wasn’t slow enough on the way out, I was even slower on the way back. Velo Junkie took us on a foodie adventure to Rob’s Restaurant in Brookville, OH., home cooked food and family owned since 1976.  After filling up at the buffet I had the double chocolate brownie pie. I took a ladle full of caramel sauce from the ice cream bar and drizzled it over the pie for a sugar high only a five-year old would crave.

My body was begging for a recliner to practice the art of digestion. Although I filled my plate with a small amount of protein, some potatoes, and a lot of vegetables, the pie did me in. I was struggling to keep up, which was OK because it afforded me the opportunity to get some good shots and footage of the crew ahead of me. Knowing that the uphill switchbacks meant we were close to the end gave me the strength to pedal to the top, albeit slow as molasses in January.

Check out the 90 second video to get a real feel for the December day. This pluviophile wallowed in it.

I hope you all had an opportunity to enjoy nature’s gift this past weekend. It doesn’t get any better than this.

#ifwemakeitthroughdecember #robsrestaurant #miamisburg #christmasparade #newwheels

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Annual Cincinnati Cycling Summit


December 7, 2015 was the annual meeting for Queen City Bike in Greater Cincinnati held at Roebling Point Books and Coffee . I’ve never attended one of the meetings because, quite frankly, I am still coming to terms with being a cyclist. Cyclists are those Spandex and Lycra clad dudes riding carbon fiber bikes that cost as much as twelve months of my mortgage, right? I think they call themselves MAMIL’s.

So I walked in and what to my wandering eyes should appear?
Cyclists in sweaters and flannel sipping bourbon and beer.
The 20-something men with gauges and beards
Talking to women about frames and gears.
Neighborhood spokespeople and group-ride leaders
Sharing ideas with philanthropists and bike dealers.
Local promoters and business owners alike
Finding ways for everyone to ride a bike.
Rich, poor, middle-class, Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky,
Joining forces to make 2016 even more lucky.

OK, so a poet I am not, and please don’t let the grammar police find me. I am certain I have broken more than one literary rule in my eloquent rhyme, even after being surrounded by many great volumes during the meeting. The real reason for my blog was not to create clever prose but to share the phenomenal success the dedicated people of Cincinnati and NKY have worked tirelessly for over the past years. 

Below is the list of some of the groups represented at the gathering. I had no idea there were this many different collectives working for cyclists in the city.

Bicycle Friendly Destinations
Queen City Blinkies
Cycling Backroads
Cincinnati Bicycle Dealers Association
Urban Basin Bicycle Club
Street Skills 101 Classes
Cincinnati Connects
Streetcar Safe Cycling Clinics
Bike Valet
Cheviot, OH "Slow Ride" Group
Thursday Night Slow and Steady Ride
Queen City Wheels
Seven Hills Racing
May Bike Month

….and all the other cycling clubs, organization and activities that make up our cycling community.

I was the nerd taking notes, not because I am that diligent, but because my over-50 memory can be fleeting at times, especially when so much information was being shared. I didn’t want to miss any of it.

Here is my very brief rundown of what was started, completed, or dreamt up in 2015 to be continued in 2016.  

  1.       Green Umbrella is working to connect nine counties with a network of trails. Visit the Tristate   Trails FB page at https://www.facebook.com/tristatetrails1
  2.       98,000 rides have been taken on Cincinnati Red Bikes since January 1, 2015. http://www.cincyredbike.org/
  3.       Groundwork Cincinnati Millcreek is working on connecting a network of trails in Cincinnati including Wasson Way, the Oasis, River West, Lunken Airport, and the Little Duck Creek. When complete it will be 42 miles of urban bikeway.  http://groundworkcincinnati.org/recreation/
  4.      Connecting Active Communities Coalition building a network of pedestrian and bike trails and routes in the northern neighborhoods. https://www.facebook.com/Connecting-Active-Communities-Coalition-141975832584290/
  5.       SouthBank Partners are working with the State of Kentucky to build Riverfront Commons which includes a trail from Ludlow to Ft. Thomas. http://www.southbankpartners.com/projects/riverfront-commons.aspx
  6.       Marge and Mel Red Bikes organize rides throughout the area on weekends in the summer and the Bright Ride in December. They are credited with Summer Streets, an initiative to close neighborhood streets for community activities. https://www.facebook.com/MargyAndMelRideBikes/?fref=ts&ref=br_tf
  7.       Urban Basin Bicycle Club is responsible for such events as the Tuesday Night Slow and Steady and the West Side Death Ride. https://www.facebook.com/groups/391316300890025/
  8.       Cincinnati Off Road Alliance(CORA) is tirelessly working on a dirt road trail map and building natural surface trails in Mt. Airy Forest. https://www.facebook.com/Cincinnati-Off-Road-Alliance-381648891214/?fref=ts&ref=br_tf
  9.       Riding Forward is a Kentucky non-profit that uses wheel sports to get people out. https://www.facebook.com/ridingforwardnonprofit/?fref=ts&ref=br_tf
  10.       Ride With Us is working with STEM students at 16 schools teaching them bike engineering and rebuilding.
  11.       CPS Safe Routes Allegiance Project is helping young students get to school via safe walking and biking routes. http://www.cps-k12.org/parents-students/student-safety/safe-routes
I am certain I did not do any of these groups justice. Please feel free to add information in the comments or contact me through the form at the bottom of the page if I need to make a correction.

I hope you enjoyed my blog as much as I enjoyed the meeting.

Crank On!  And Happy Holidays from The Reluctant Cyclist!

#queencitybike #cincinnatcyclingsummit #Crankon

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Friday, December 4, 2015

Not-so-Random Acts of Cycling Kindness

Some may say this is just road etiquette, some call it kindness. I say it is a simple way to respect each other. I know drivers and cyclists are perceived as arch enemies, but as Christmas approaches and everyone is talking about the season of sharing and caring, let’s be mindful of our everyday actions and the ripples they may cause.

    1.       Right of Way
a.       If you are a driver and you see a cyclist getting close to an intersection, don’t cut in front of them. Instead wave, say “hello” and let them continue their momentum. It is much harder for a cyclist to start at a light than an automobile, and even worse if there is a grade.
b.      If you are a cyclist and you are approaching a stop sign or red light, stop. Put your foot down. Don’t be “that guy” or “that girl” who is irritating or hazardous to drivers and don’t give the rest of us a bad name by disobeying traffic rules. Shame on you.

    2.       Pedestrian crossing
a.       If you are a pedestrian do not jaywalk in front of a cyclist. They may be going speeds you can’t even fathom on two wheels. Getting hit by a bicycle at 20+ mph is not pretty, for the pedestrian nor the cyclist. The cyclist could suffer life changing injuries but will have his head protected by a helmet. The pedestrian, on the other hand, will have no protection and will end up with unwanted tattoos that resemble tread marks in conspicuous locations.
b.      If you are on your bike and you see a crowd of people crossing ahead or sharing the path, stop and wait or get off and walk your bike. Keep everyone safe. Besides, flesh and blood do not look appealing on that magnificent piece of machinery.

    3.       Bike lanes and parked cars
a.       Drivers should always be aware of their surroundings and must be certain the path they are about to swing their car door into is clear of any moving traffic, be it cyclists, another car, a dog walker, or a skateboarder. There are no excuses for opening your door in the path of a cyclist. NONE. (This happened to me and I was one of the lucky ones. I walked away with minor injuries)
b.      Cyclists, on the other hand, have every right to take a lane and ride far enough away from parked vehicles so as not to be in the path of car doors. Do yourself and the vehicle operator a favor, take the lane. It also gives you more time to react if they start to pull out. At that point yell as loud as you can so they hear you. I tend to yell “WHOA!”, or “STOP!” with a trailing “you F**@%# Idiot” inaudible to the driver or the masses.

    4.       Bike trails and multi-use paths
These are the worst. I ended up with nine stitches in my chin on crowded a bike path.
a.       A high number of oblivious riders, undisciplined children on bikes, and people with small dogs on long leashes flock to these designated recreational areas. I don’t know what to say to each of them except parents manage your kids, owners manage your dogs, and newbies manage your bikes.
                                                               i.      Don’t stop in the middle of the path
                                                             ii.      Don’t park your bike, or your kid’s bike, on the path
                                                            iii.      Shorten Fido’s leash so it doesn’t become a booby trap resulting in a tangled mess of fur and spokes.
                                                           iv.      Don’t ride side by side on the narrow part of the path, especially if there are others approaching.
b.      As for experienced cyclists on these paths, why? Just kidding. I know they are nice, long routes away from traffic. Just be aware of who you are sharing the path with and be cautious of hazards, be they little dogs or little people.

    5.       Lastly, Riding in the Dark.
a.       Don’t wait till the holidays to light yourself up like a Christmas Tree. The moral of the story is to See and Be Seen.

I wish you joyful cycling all year long.


#seeandbeseen #treadmarktattoo #everydaycyclingripples #joyfulcycling #bikeetequette