Thursday, May 3, 2018

TNR-love

Photo credit: Eric Thornburg

Last week's Thursday Night Ride attracted a huge crowd, including some friends I'd invited, and lots of people I don't see on any other rides, including folks new to Portland.  The vibe was super inclusive-feeling and welcoming.  Mark (last week's leader) made a nice announcement at the beginning about leaving no trace, riding safely and considerately of others, with a clear "don't be a jerk" message, and a suggestion of buddying up with another rider for safety.  He also mentioned that these "community guidelines"  are listed on a spoke card that was previously handed out.  Pretty nifty!

We meandered around downtown with many dueling sound systems, which usually sounds terrible, but sometimes creates a perfectly magical mix.  We headed up Goose Hollow, regrouping a couple of times on the hill.  Mark is good at keeping people together, and other regulars like TJ, Phillip, Austin and Josh (and maybe others I'm forgetting) helped sweep and keep us together. A bike rider who was not part of our group made a turn (crossing our path) and yelled JACKASS loudly.  Because he said "jackass" singular, I can only guess he was referring to himself. 

An observation I have about corking, which is not exclusive to TNR rides by any means, is the corker's body language.  They often face away from the vehicle and toward the cyclists, who then say "thank you corker" as they pass.  When I cork, I face the car driver who is waiting, and wave at them and thank them.  This is my method of preventing escalation.  When others cork, I say "thank you Portland" and wave.  It sounds kind of like "thank you corker", but then includes the car drivers.  It's amazing how far a smile and wave go to create good will and patience.

We ended up at a nice river side campfire and I didn't get home until 1:30am, which is pretty late for me.  It was neat to ride through southeast late at night, seeing nary a motor vehicle and just an occasional lone cyclist winding their way home.  Gal dang it I love Portland.  And Shifties.  And TNR.

None of this TNR-love is meant to negate or deny that there's ever been problems or harassment on the ride.   There certainly has, but I see deliberate development from the regulars and leaders.  It's definitely a "hooligan ride" and there's a partying component to it.  I personally like that but can totally get that others don't.  Luckily, there's a ton of other rides to choose from.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Tour de Beavs #7

A gang of ten ventured from Champoeg to Corvallis, for our seventh annual Tour de Beavs.  The day before, I enjoyed a short but pretty ride from home to our rental cabin at Champoeg Park.  On the way, I passed several signs in yards reading "Don't Give Up".
 
The forecast called for rain, but it never came.  All of the car drivers who passed us did so courteously.  A man on the sidewalk saluted us.  Later a teenaged boy fist pumped us.
We are lightly loaded ladies on your left.




Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Stupid Little Circles

The Third First Annual Ladd's 500 did not disappoint.  Over a hundred rider/racer/relayers showed up to ride 100 miles of circles.
James, Justin and I formed the Steens Mazama 1000 Reunion Team, or SM1KRT (pronounced "smirked").  Just like last year, we used jelly beans to count laps, and I noticed at least two other teams also using candy to make counting easy and delicious.
Team SillyCones set up next to us and were tons of fun to compete with. In addition to using giant cones to mark their picnic territory, they wore little cones on their heads like orange unicorns.  My team wore sashes, which I made to tell the story of our Steens Mazama 1000 adventure.  There was a strip of blue cloudy sky, some jungle, a map, bright orange to represent the pylon Justin carried, and some numbered sheep.
The fun part of riding 167 laps of circles is that you stay together.  Finally a no drop ride everyone can keep up with!  During a rest break, someone came up to me and told me there'd been complaints I was riding too fast.  I thought he was serious until I turned and saw his smirking face.
A little girl who did laps on a unicycle, skateboard and balance ball won "Best in Show" and boy did she deserve it.  Her smile and everyone's cheers lit up all of Ladd's Addition.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Three Speed Campout!

Do you like riding bikes?  How about bikes with less than a jillion speeds?

I'm organizing a group camping trip to Oxbow Park the weekend of April 28-29 and invite you to come along.  This will be a Society of Three Speeds ride, so it'd be grand if you can ride a 3 speed bicycle.

However, I want to have a nice sized group of fun-lovin bike campers, so bring whatever bike you have!  We'll meet at Cafe Delerium in Gresham at 2pm on Saturday, April 28th, then ride about 8 miles to the park. The cafe is a mere hop, skip and jump from the end of the line Cleveland MAX stop in Gresham.

Are you interested?  Please drop me a note to bicyclekitty@gmail.com.

If there's no interest, we won't go!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Gorge Gravel Grinder

There were at least 200 people on bikes at the start line.  I don't know whether to call them racers or riders, because I don't know if this was a race or a ride.  Sure, we had RFID tags on our ankles to track our finish times.  Sure, we had bib numbers.  There was a good amount of rigamarole at the start line too.  But in many ways it felt like a ride, and many participants were "just" riding it, including me.

My friend Linda and I rolled through the start line at 9:05am, well behind the main pack.  We left The Dalles in the reverse direction that the Dalles Mt 60 race-ride finishes.  Soon we arrived at the gravel turn and SAG wagon after SAG wagon passed by.

I lost Linda and passed another lady who told me her fitness was poor.  After a while, I passed another woman and a man.  I was winning, I just knew it!  The rest of the morning was wasted climbing.  Maybe my fitness was poor too.  I want it to be rich, so I'll just keep on making deposits.

The promoters had described the course as having "rolling hills".  Rolling hills feature downhill portions!  This was all up.  After pushing hard and never exceeding 6mph for at least two hours, I finally passed a sign that said "Summit Ridge 2200 feet".  Sheesh!
There was a little van and a tent and a table with banana halves and miniature cinnamon rolls on it.  I think they were miniature based on the fact I could eat a whole one in one bite.  A friendly tweener boy assisted me in filling my water bottles, and I was on my way again.

Things started looking up after that.  Or looking down, as we were finally descending a bit.  My red Wolverine had found a friend, an orange Wolverine.  Orangey ditched Reddy at the checkpoint, but they were destined to ride together later.

It was afternoon, and right on cue the gorge wind began to blow.  It felt like lunch time, and sure enough, there were some rider-racers, including Orangey's captain, hiding from the wind by leaning on a nicely positioned berm.  I joined in and soon was enjoying a pickle generously shared by my new friend.  A giant dill pickle is my new favorite bike lunch.  He also offered brownies, but I felt the need to go.

I was now up to "7th to last place"!  Bob Roll would be proud.  I kept seeing two riders up ahead, who I called "Orange and Red", not to be confused with the orange and red Wolverines.  These guys made nice carrots so I chased and chased.
I caught them and took this nice photo, then they were gone again.  Pretty soon Orangey, his captain and friends caught up.  We rode together and I told them about my 2015 Oregon Outback team credo "Sharing is caring and we don't give a f#ck".  They asked if they could join my posse and I said yes.  

The first initiation was the dare to avoid drafting.  It was plenty windy and I ate those words between bites of chocolate bar.  The truth is I love riding in the drops into a headwind, and this day was barely gusty as far as gorge winds go.

Before you know it, we were on the home stretch back to the Dalles.  The Gorge Gravel Grinder organizers did a bang up job.  In addition to a beautifully marked course and well-stocked snack stops, our registration included dinner, a beer and a nice souvenir pint glass.  Cheers!





Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Dalles Mt 60, version 4.5

This post is dedicated to BicycleKitty reader Holly, who is a bad ass biking babe and rode the Dalles Mt 60 on a single speed sparkle pony with her team, Dirty Fingers.
The Dalles Mt 60 was originally (dis)organized by Velodirt, but they've fallen off the map.  Quite literally, Velodirt is off adventuring away from the Oregon gravel grid they helped create.  Yet the ride goes on.  Over a hundred riders showed up for an unseasonally sunny day, and took off at 10am to head over the bridge and into Washington.

On the bridge, someone commented "your bike looks like a ferrari", triggering me to make a loud engine growling sound. I was delighted to sport a brand new steed, the Soma Wolverine.  It has the same geometry as the Soma Smoothie ES (Extra Smooth!), but room for 45mm wide tires with fenders, and disc brakes.  Aside from a few commutes, this was the Wolverine's maiden voyage.  
My riding friend started to pedal off and called to me to catch up.  I said no, I need to pace myself.  Personal growth has opened my eyes to the idea that chasing leads to blowing up.  Soon, I was all alone, and the climb hadn't even begun.
Up, up, up the hill I rode.  I rode with Brock of the Sprocket Podcast and Eric of Grilled by Bike fame.  Brock warned me that he was recording every conversation and asked for my permission to broadcast whatever I said.  I told him in no uncertain terms he has lifelong permission to broadcast anything he'd like.  After a while, they were ready for a rest stop.  I continued on, occasionally passing a rider, but mostly alone.  The views were gorgeous, the temperature a pleasant 50 degrees, with just a gentle little wisp of wind. 
The road surface was like a dream.  Like chocolate-flavored talcum powder pressed into a perfect riding surface.  Or maybe that's the Panaracer Gravel King tires talking.  I was surprised to see my odometer read 20mph on the gravel descent; this is unusual for the Bicycle Chicken Kitty.

I missed the Maryhill Loops, although I heard later that others enjoyed them.  I kept remembering the year that two gentlemen, or at least men, sat in the back of their pick up truck brandishing shotguns and warning riders to stay away.  I stayed away.
 
Soon enough I was in Biggs and enjoying french fries and a soda along with much of the Dirty Fingers team.  I was excited to find my own teammates there as well, and we rode out together into what should've been seven miles of headwind.  Instead, it was seven miles of tailwind.  It felt like cheating.
 
We turned onto Old Moody.  I have an emotional connection with this road, the first gravel road I ever rode.  Or walked anyway.  This year, I rode it in its entirety and never dismounted to walk.  I rode alongside some jogging cows and enjoyed the continuing tailwind, the sweet road surface and the sweeping views.
 
At the end of Old Moody, where it meets the pavement, the Dirty Fingers Team was regrouping.  I said hello and one of them said "I have to ask you, our teammate wanted to know - are you Bicycle Kitty?  She wants your autograph."  Well, this made my day.  My week, really.  I said yes and introduced myself and shook hands with the nice lady who said she loves the BicycleKitty blog and reads religiously.

The Wolverine surprised me again.  It was swift and reliable, and I railed the rest of the ride back to the Dalles.  As a cherry on the cake of an amazing day, I slept in a snow cave on the side of Mt Hood at a slumber party called the Cave Rave.  Cinnamon whiskey kept the chill away, the cold kept cramps at bay, and the miles helped sleep come easy. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Thursday Night Ride - Grrrrrls Up Front edition

There had been some rumblings on the internet about the Thursday Night Ride (TNR) being dominated by men, to the point of excluding the women.  I've never felt harassed or excluded on this ride, but it's important not to discount what my sisters are saying. It's tricky when these complaints and comments come over any sort of online forum.  Some people express themselves more angrily and awkwardly in these forums than in person, and it seems to escalate an issue instead of resolve it.

I put these thoughts in my pipe and smoked them up and came up with an idea.  I put out a shout out:

Hey ladies!!! Gals, chicks, dudettes & sprockettes, young women, old, femmes, all sizes shapes colors and rainbows, let’s party at TNR. (7pm Salmon Street Fountain).  Of course our dude pals will be there too! A cool co-ed co-operative taking of the streets (politely but firmly) on our bikes. With loud music.

Minutes later, I received an invitation to lead from T.J., who usually leads and organizes the ride.  And so, I had my second opportunity to lead this critical-mass styled party ride, along with the fun of shouting "GIRLS UP FRONT" throughout the evening. To T.J.'s credit, he had purchased firewood and dropped it off at our campfire location, and he was super helpful and positive all night.
I routed us past several lady-centric sculptures and fountains.  It was a chilly but dry evening and the 15 mile route felt just right.  My odometer often showed a speed of 7 miles per hour, and we regrouped half a dozen times during that short distance.  After all, it's supposed to be a group ride and friendly to even the slowest of riders.  My hope was that this pace, along with the on-line map I provided in advance, would help prevent anyone from feeling dropped.

There was one crash.  A man in our group hit the temporary construction barrier on the Burnside bridge and went down.  We waited on the other side of the bridge and I wondered what to do.  Rider after rider would come up to me, breathless and panicked, to tell me urgently "SOMEBODY CRASHED!!!".  While I stood there, distracted and deliberating, a tall athletic lady on a fixed gear rode up and calmly offered to circle back and check out the scene.  I wanted to kiss her, but held back.  When she returned, she said there was nobody around and no ambulance either, so we continued ahead.

Many times throughout the evening, a rider (always a man) would come up to me at the front and reprimand me for something.  One guy told me I had ditched a bunch of people at Velocult.  We'd taken a super short stop there, while I sneakily snuck in to drink a quickie pint.  I had announced both indoors and out, at least five times, in a very loud voice, that we were leaving.  He continued to whine at me, so I gave him an assignment to go back and round up any laggers.

At our store stop, a man in a delivery truck backed up to unload, and started tossing his dolly and equipment onto the pavement near where I stood, and near our bikes.  He had a giant lift gate that he was lowering, with his back turned and earbuds in.  I asked that he be extra careful, as I saw an opportunity for injury.  He said we were just a drunk bike ride and if anyone got hurt, we deserved it.  I expect this sort of treatment from men, but what I didn't expect was for a woman in our group to defend his behavior.  Part of being a feminist, at least to me, is to back up other women when they're standing up for themselves.
  
Grant Park was closed for construction, which threw me off, as that was our rest room rest stop.  I entered the park where I could, which took us on the new running track, which we are apparently not supposed to ride bikes on.  I managed to talk riders out of doing laps and instead pull off to a grassy area on the side to hang out.  While we were there, one poor dude with a flat tire made his repair while many of us watched and critiqued.

We continued on, and I made many loud warnings about curbs and bollards and crappy pavement, which usually ended up with me shouting "NO CRASHING PLEASE!".  It seemed to work as no one else crashed all night, although I came close to crashing myself as I clumsily attempted to get on the sidewalk of the Sellwood bridge and smacked my front wheel into a curb.  Amazingly I didn't fall and didn't even get a pinch flat.

The best and worst part of the night was on the beginning of the southbound portion of the Springwater trail, where it parallels the Willamette River.  It's a 5 mile straightaway with no turn-offs and I'd been itchin to get a little exercise all evening, so I announced that I'd wait at the turn and took off.  Some riders kept up with me, others fell off the back.  

One man caught me and yelled at me "THIS IS A NO DROP RIDE, SLOW DOWN".  I apologized and hit the brakes.  I felt my soul shrinking and shrieking.  I simply couldn't do it.  So I reversed my position and said "No, I take it back, I'm not sorry.  I'm going fast, catch me if you can!".

My original intent of leading this ride was to expose that misogyny wasn't happening.  Sadly, the constant instruction and criticism I received during and after the ride alerted me that my initial thought was in error.  So, instead we have an opportunity to overcome this challenge.

There are definitely lots of great guys and supportive male riders on this ride, but there are also a lot of bossypants riders that I hope can grow into the role needed from the men on this ride.  I feel it is absolutely vital for women to show up to this ride, or any ride or event, where there might be misogyny.  It might be hard, but it's the only way we can overcome it.  It gives me great hope that so many riders came to my defense during and after the ride, and someone even made a meme for me!



Tuesday, January 16, 2018

F*ck Brunch training ride



I have officially begun to dig myself out of the fitness hole the winter doldrums left behind.  It started with bike path commutes instead of town commutes, which is a teensy thing, but what else is fitness and good health besides a big conglomeration of lots and lots of little things?

Next, I joined a race team!  Team No is no more, for now anyway.   TeamAF is all about riding hard, having fun and eating snacks.  What could be better?  Our early season training series is called F*ck Brunch, which is just what I need - less brunch and more rides.
  
A dozen of us did a quick and dirty, well, clean, road ride with pacelining and pushing hard and even little pats on one's tush to invite another rider to grab a wheel.  While huffing and puffing along, I chatted with another rider and we contemplated the idea of competition.

Competing can bring out the very best, and the worst in us.  What about competing with yourself?  What about competing with yourself as a losing proposition?  If you've reached your peak, or are simply on a plateau in your athleticism or speed or whatever measurement cyclists are using nowadays, what then?

I used to live by the code "training is for pussies", or the more common "training shmraining".  I proudly abstained from training and instead just rode my bike, then showed up for hard events and races ready to rock.  But for the first time in many years, I don't have a hard event or race on the horizon.  Yet, I'm training like a bandit.  Gym workouts have doubled and mileage is starting to trend up.  I've become the yin to my own yang.

To underline the immense privilege I enjoy, the universe threw me a little curveball on the way home from effing brunch.  As the rest of the team headed west to return to the Breadwinner cafe, I continued homeward on the bike path.  Soon I was calling 9-1-1 for a transient gentleman who was experiencing severe abdominal pains.  At the direction of the 9-1-1 operator, I was yelling over the din of freeway traffic to ask this poor man questions like "RECTAL BLEEDING?".

The perspective gained from moments like this is priceless.  It all started pouring in as I departed the despairing scene where emergency personnel helped this poor soul   Poor me!  Worrying about what big fancy bike race I might compete in.  Poor me!  Missing out on the Swift Summit 200/100 because I have an amazing wedding to attend.  Poor me!  Lamenting that a "hard winter" has my fitness in the crapper.  Poor me!  Backed into a corner where I work on my physical fitness for no other reason than good health.

And, so, I am happy to proclaim that I'm ready to embrace a new outlook this year, and enjoy "training for training's sake!". 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Everything Old is New AF

A year ago I set my heart on an unknown race, the Swift Summit 200/100.  A double century with time cut-offs and no drive along SAG sounded like a dream challenge!  I ended up not finishing the race, missing the fourth control cut-off by a half hour.  I made big plans to return to the scene of the crime in 2018 and exact my revenge.

Then I learned that a pair of my dear friends are getting married on that very day.  As important as bikes and racing are to me, my friends come first.  This particular race has won all sorts of accolades since its 2017 kickoff and will have huge attendance, so my absence will have no effect on anyone but me.  Still, a "did not start" feels icky.

Pair this news with the cruddy dark weather of winter and the hibernation required by the flu, and your dear Bicycle Kitty has been spending way too much time at home licking her wounds.  While licking, I often check out facebook or intsagram and lo and behold - the rest of the world is having fun on bikes without me!

To combat my isolation and feeling of leftouted-ness, I joined a team.  A race team.  Of ladies who ride fast in all sorts of conditions on all sorts of terrain.  They are TeamAF and now I'm BicycleKittyAF.  While waiting to find "the perfect challenge" to replace the Swift Summit, I'll have training rides with cool riders.

I've started making a 2018 ride schedule to soothe my frazzled nerves.  Here goes:

  • F Brunch Series with Team AF - January Sundays - no idea what to expect
  • Caddyshack! Bill Murray tribute ride - Saturday, February 3, facebook event here
  • Worst Day of the Year ride - Sunday, February 11th - find me at the breakfast table
  • French Toast ride - Saturday, February 24th at 10am - email me for details
  • Dalles Mt 60 - Saturday, March 10th - tentative, I need a car ride out there!
  • French Toast ride - Saturday, March 24th at 10am - email me for details
  • Gorge Gravel Grinder - Sunday, April 8th
  • Tour de Beavs - Friday, April 20 - Sunday, April 22
  • Oregon Epic Gravel - Saturday, May 5th - tentative, I need a car ride out there!
  • Oregon Northback - May 25th - June 2nd - like the Oregon Outback only shorter 
  • Strawberry Century - Saturday, June 9th
The rest of the summer is a grab bag of who knows what.  If you'd like more details, to join any of above, or to offer me a car ride to the Dalles Mt 60 or Oregon Epic Gravel, drop me a note or comment below.

Thanks, readers and riders, and I hope your year is off to a grand start.




Monday, November 20, 2017

Cyclocross

Team NO was hatched when pre-registering for the first race of the season.  I entered "NO" in the slot for team name, and here we are.  We have just one member and our credo is NO!, unless the question is "beer?".  Team NO jerseys are scarce, so I stuck with an O jersey instead.
The new Troll is definitely not a cyclocross bike.  It's heavy and doesn't have gears.  But it's nimble and comfortable and accommodates super fat tires.
Cyclocross is a fun way to get some exercise while occasionally drinking beer and improving your off-road handling skills. A typical race starts lining up with at least a hundred other women, of several different categories. I am in category five, which is a nice promotion from my usual category six racing.
  
I took last place in almost every time, except for costume day when I managed to beat six whole racers.  I dressed to match my basket that day, which must've really given me an edge.  Or mayhaps it was the whipped cream and whiskey shots fed to me at the beachy part of the course.
 
Race organizers use existing land formations or build new obstacles to challenge racers.  These can range from stairs to wooden hurdles to gigantic muddy rooty "run ups". The stairs at Bend, which are actually railroad ties used as landscaping, are least 20" tall, and there are a dozen of them.  Somehow I kind of managed to struggle up them on every lap instead of taking the bailout path.
The format of cyclocross racing makes it perfect for athletes of many levels.  Faster, more experienced racers are given the extra obstacle of slower, less experienced racers while everyone picks their way through gravel and sand and mud.  Racers only need to ride for forty-five minutes.  For many, that means completing five laps.  For Team NO, that translates to three laps.

Cyclocross is all about friends and strangers shouting at you, heckling you, cheering you and even pouring beer down your gullet.  Here are my favorite heckles of the season (all directed at Team NO):

"Is that bike a dog?  'Cuz you're walkin' it like one!"
"Hey honey, will get me some milk while you're out?"
"Do you have that milk in your basket" (same guy, later race!)
"You need to put some TRY HARD in your basket!"
"If you hurry, you can still make the cat show!"
 "It's weird, 'cuz she's so fast on the road" (a comment I overheard!)