Wednesday, November 30, 2011

a perfect size 9

Bike fit is tailoring.  It's the process of taking something stock, off-the-shelf, and altering it to fit your body perfectly.  A nip here, a tuck there and voila!  The new garment fits like a second skin.  You look fabulous, you feel magnificent, and all eyes are on you.

Now, we all know how it usually works.  You head to your local clothing store, pick something out, you're between sizes, it's big in the boobs and small in the waist, it's too long or too short, you debate possible weight loss, and end up with something that looks vaguely like a sack of potatoes.  Yeah, because if you're like me, you're not a size 8 and you're not a size 10, but rather, a perfect size 9 (which doesn't exist except for juniors).

So back to bike fit.  I remember my first "real" bike fit (not the stand-over-the-frame-and-it-works type of fit that was common in bike shops in 1999).  This was a two-hour session that involved tape measures, and levels, and goniometers and someone who asked questions about my history and my goals.  This was many years after I'd been riding a frame that was too big, handlebars that were too wide, and a saddle height and stem drop that didn't reflect my current flexibility.  It was like magic.  Suddenly, with some small adjustments by an experienced and educated bike fitter, I was riding "with" my bike, not "on" my bike.  My bike and I worked as one.  My bike was an extension of me and I felt good.  And suddenly, my bike handled like a dream -- cornering and descending like nobody's business.  Yeah, my cycling paradigms were shifted forever and I made it a personal goal to become the best darn bike fitter I could be.

A good bike fit is like wearing a fine, tailored suit.  And a custom frame with a good fit is like wearing a fine, custom-made tuxedo.   There's nothing quite like it.

I'm an admitted custom bike junkie.  I love having a bike that fits me just perfectly and is designed to meet my riding style, my unique weight distribution, my flexibility, and my goals.  I love having a bike that is unlike anyone else's in the entire world.  I love choosing my frame material, paint, and every single component.  I'm completely addicted and will likely never own another stock bike.

My first custom bike was a Luna cyclocross bike, designed and built by Margo Conover, back in the day when the stock options for cross bikes were pretty limited so most of the racers I knew had custom bikes.  My Luna was very pretty and even made it into Velo News (see below).  Currently, my road, touring, geared mountain bike, and single speed mountain bikes are all custom.

I've been fitting bikes for 10 years.  So it was only a matter of time before I started working with custom bike builders, like Natalie Ramsland of Sweetpea Bicycles, to fit clients for custom frames.  It's exciting to be part of the process and also feed my addiction.  After all, who doesn't want to help other folks feel (and ride) like a million bucks?

What's your favorite bike?  How do you feel when you ride it?  Do you have or have you considered a custom bike?

Monday, November 28, 2011

munday funday -- 28 November, 2011

remember those flip-books we made in childhood?  yeah, this is like that except on a bicycle wheel!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Links I Like -- 25 November, 2011

Action Wipes -- a 20% thank you from Velo Girls partner -- like a shower in a bag!  There's nothing better to refresh and recharge after a ride.

Bike Flights -- great options for flying with, or shipping, your bike!

Grease Monkey Wipes -- one of my favorite products with a HOT discount for Black Friday.  I use the canisters in my bike fit studio and carry the single packets on rides.

Pactimo Black Friday Sale -- check out our latest partner with 30% off all orders with discount code "blackfriday" and free shipping on orders over $100.  

Savvy Bike on Facebook -- go, like, get savvy!

The Holstee Manifesto: Lifecycle Video

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

bollards, oh bollocks!

bollard:  (n) a pole or structure erected to direct traffic or obstruct access to certain road users (cars).

bollocks:  (n) literal meaning:  testicles.  common use:  an expletive uttered after a misfortune.

One of my coaching clients recently crashed his bike and suffered some pretty serious injuries.  He was commuting to work on the SF Bay Trail as part of a group ride.  The route was detoured to a narrow section of trail with a bollard at the entrance.  He didn't see the bollard and hit it.

This crash has prompted heated discussion on the local bicycle advocacy email list.  The debate had focused on the illegality of the bollards and how dangerous that type of structure could be for trail users.  The debate transitioned into a discussion of the intended use of that trail with respect to large fast-paced group rides.

I don't typically participate in debate on email groups or on-line forums.  We all know how they end up.  But I felt strongly that there was another message that should be considered and perhaps some learning to be done.  Yeah, I was the person who mentioned that the speed limit at that high-use section of trail was only 5mph and that a change in rider/group behavior might have prevented the crash.  And the personal attacks flew -- good stuff.

I know that section of trail very well.  For 12 years I lived just a mile from there.  The intersection in question is very busy -- with lots of kids, joggers, older adults, and folks visiting the dog park.  The speed limit there is reduced for that very reason.  I also led a fast-paced, early-morning group ride on the SF Bail Trail for a number of years, until the numbers grew so large that I felt it was no longer safe for us to share the trail with other trail users.

For more than a year, I commuted by bicycle from San Mateo to San Francisco -- long before commuting became popular and a group activity.  I also commuted for a year from San Mateo to Los Altos Hills.  I understand commuting.  I get it.  Your goal is to get from point A to point B with as few transitions (red lights, stop signs, turns) as possible.  You might go slow or fast, flat or hilly, short or long, but in the end, your goal is to get there.

So, back to last week's crash.  While I agree that bollards create unnecessary hazards for road users and that there are other alternatives, I would also challenge riders to think about how their behavior could prevent something like this in the future.  Is a multi-use path the best place for a large, fast-paced group ride (even in the early morning hours)?  Are there alternative routes that still offer a good, solid commute but would be more appropriate for a large group?  Can we remind participants to call out hazards, leave more space between riders, and slow down a bit as the group encounters bollards, and then soft pedal to re-group after the entire group has passed through?

Many of the folks who participate in this particular ride are relatively new to cycling, commuting, and/or group riding.  They trust the de facto leaders of the group (whether it's a cycling club, an employer, or just a group of friends).  They trust that those leaders will lead them on routes that are safe and hazard-free.  They trust that other riders in the group will communicate obstacles/hazards, changes in pace, and changes in direction.  They trust that we're all in this sport together and that we'll look out for each other.  After all, isn't that one of the reasons we choose to ride with others?

Monday, November 21, 2011

munday funday -- 21 November, 2011

an oldie but goodie!  this reminds me of my first "real" mountain bike ride back in the early 90s with a couple of cute boys from the ski club in NY.  little did I know, when I said "yes," just what I was getting myself into.  have you ever had a cycling experience that was a bit over your head?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Links I Like -- 18 November, 2011

I've been thinking a lot about blogging lately.  I've had a blog for the better part of 10 years.  In the pre-Facebook days, lots of bike racers had blogs and we built our own social network of sorts by commenting on each other's blog posts.  Nowadays, when we've got a thought, a photo, or a status update, we take the quick + dirty and post to Facebook or the quicker + dirtier and post to Twitter.  That's all fine + good for an instant gratification type of bonding, but I think there's something to be said for creating a longer-term archive -- something we can see and read and refer back to.

One of the things I think about are all the fun resources I find online.  In the old days, I'd add these to a links list on my website, but with the dynamic nature of the web, that's one of the "features" I'll be eliminating from my new website.

So, I thought I'd share some of the recent links I like.  Maybe you'll even comment on this post.  And maybe I'll do it again sometime, too!

Bicycle Friendly -- a campaign to recognize businesses who are bicycle friendly

Bikesy -- a bicycle route-mapping site specific to the San Francisco area

Cycle Chic:  Female Cyclists Through The Ages -- a beautiful photo essay

Momentum Magazine's Holiday Gift Guide -- some seriously awesome bike bling here

Friday, November 4, 2011

Savvy Tips -- The Nose Knows

After 13 years of riding a bicycle, I've acquired lots of simple tips + advice to make the experience more enjoyable.

For example, who hates the smell of their gear bag?  Yeah, me too.  You know, as diligent as you are with keeping your cycling clothes + what-not clean, there's still that unpleasant odor of gloves + shoes + mysterious other stuff that then permeates everything you own.

Here's my simple solution to that stinky problem.

Take a bar of "real" soap -- you know, the kind of soap you would find at a craft fair or a farmers' market or a coast-side gift shop.  Yeah, the fancy, handmade stuff.  Then, cut it into small blocks and place those blocks in various places in your gear bag (your shoe bag, the side pockets, your helmet pod, etc).  You could even put a piece into your sock drawer or the drawer where you keep your base layers.

I'm very sensitive to scents (lots of allergies) so perfumes are no bueno with me, but the subtle fragrance from a bar of milled soap doesn't seem to bother me.

Bonus points if it's a scent that reminds you of one of your favorite cycling trips.  This weekend we rode to the coast with our Bike Touring 101 clinic and made a stop at the San Gregorio Country Store.  I've always looked around at the books and scarves and hats and other items and thought I'd love to go shopping there, but on a typical ride I don't have the capacity to carry much with me.  But this weekend I picked up a bar of fennel soap (from the River Soap Company).  The scent reminds me of riding on the coast  so it's filled with great memories for me.

Men, don't think this tip won't work for you.  There are lots of scents that are masculine (like evergreen) that would be appropriate for you, too!  And trust me, your female cycling partners would appreciate it!

What are your tips for keeping your cycling gear smelling clean + fresh?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Join Velo Girls on AIDS/LifeCycle in June 2012

Hey friends + fans!  Have you ever imagined how incredible it would be to ride your bike every single day for a whole week?  Maybe even ride all the way from San Francisco to Los Angeles (it's all downhill, don't you know)?  And, in the process, raise funds + awareness for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation?  Yeah, we have, too!

As a matter of fact, many Velo Girls members are alumni of AIDS/LifeCycle (and its predecessor event the California AIDS Ride).  I started riding my bicycle again in 1999 to participate in CAR7.  I hadn't been on a bike in over a decade.  I was woefully not fit.  I smoked and drank.  And I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it sounded like a BIG challenge, and I was all about BIG challenges at the time so I signed up.  And it was a life-changing experience.

If you're looking for a life-changing experience, if you want to do something really good for your body and your community, and do it with a supportive group of women, then join the Velo Girls team for ALC 11.   We'll train together.  We'll fundraise together.  And we'll support each other on this incredible journey.

And if you prefer a support role, you can participate as a roadie -- one of the hundreds of crew people who make the entire event happen -- from bike techs, to rest stop staff, to massage therapists and lunch crew.  It's hard work but your contribution makes it possible for the riders to ride their bikes each day.  Roadies aren't required to fundraise (but are encouraged to do so).

Sound like fun?  Learn more at a special Velo Girls AIDS/LifeCycle info meeting on Thursday, November 10th at 6:30pm at the Presidio Sports Basement.  RSVP to

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

corner office with a view

This past weekend we premiered a new clinic: Bike Touring 101. The goal of this clinic is to introduce cyclists to all the opportunities available in cyclo-touring and then to support them on a short two-day excursion. The clinic included a two-hour pre-trip seminar that covered all the ins + outs of various types of touring, bikes, equipment, clothing, etc.

The weekend started Saturday morning in Woodside where we loaded all the bikes and headed out for the coast to our evening destination: Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel. Of course, this meant a trip up and over Skyline. With loaded bikes, no personal records were set on Old La Honda, but the extra weight on the bikes made for smooth sailing all the way down to San Gregorio. On Sunday, we returned to Woodside through farmlands and redwoods. In between, we feasted on local produce, specialities like Olallieberry pie, visited local highlights like the San Gregorio General Store, the Harley Goat Farm, and even had lunch at the world-famous Alice's Restaurant.

The weather was simply perfect: warm, sunny, and clear skies on both Saturday and Sunday. Sitting in the hot tub at the hostel during an amazing sunset on Saturday evening was a rare delight (no fog!). We cooked an amazing dinner on Saturday evening from local foods gathered in Pescadero and everybody slept well at the warm + cozy hostel.

This clinic is definitely a keeper, and I've already started planning more advanced options for 2012.

Here are a few of my favorite images from the weekend:

holiday decorations in La Honda

unique signage at Harley Goat Farms

Jan, happy that the climbing is over and the goat cheese is beginning!

lovely goat cheese

the historic Pigeon Point Lighthouse

post-ride zen

the perfect ending to a perfect day


Next up is a late addition to the coaching calendar:  co-ed Bike Skills 301 (pacelines + group riding) on Sunday, November 6th.  There's still time to register so come learn how to play nice with others on the bike!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Announcing the 2011/2012 Velo Girls Endurance Challenge

We want to keep you on your bike this winter!  Why?  Because you'll be that much fitter for all the great rides + events we've got planned in 2012.  So, I'm excited to announce the 2011/2012 Velo Girls Endurance Challenge!

What's that you say?  Well, it's a little contest of sorts to keep you motivated and put a bit of a competitive spin on your cycling motivation this winter.

Here's how it works:

#1 -- You must be a current (2011 or 2012) Velo Girls member.  Not a member?  Not a problem.  Join here:  2012 Velo Girls club membership

#2 -- You must record your bike rides on Plus 3 Network as part of the Velo Girls group.  Plus 3 is a super-cool website that lets you keep track of your training and earn donations on your behalf to your chosen beneficiary.  Just click on over to Plus 3 and check it out.  It's fun and it'll make you feel good too.

#3 -- Ride your bike!  Each ride earns points in the Velo Girls Endurance Challenge.  Every foot of climbing earns points, too, so log your rides with your GPS for more opportunities to win.

That's it!  Three simple steps.

At the end of each month (November, December, and January), we'll announce three lucky winners:

Winner #1 -- most road miles logged.

Winner #2 -- most mountain bike or cyclocross miles logged.

Winner #3 -- most elevation gain.

I've got some super-awesome prizes for the winners, like Velo Girls cycling jerseys and other fun gifts from our sponsors.  So, what are you waiting for?  Get ready to have your best year ever on the bike.....with Velo Girls!