Monday, May 31, 2010

Great Ride

Today, Stef and I had a great ride that more than made up for yesterday. We did part a of a route that we got from the Charles River Wheelmen site. If you are looking for some great local cycling resources, CRW is a great place to start.
I've finally started to remember to take my camera with me when we ride. Here are some scenes from the road. I think this is Virginia Rd in Concord. It is a nice way to get to Concord Center without taking Rt 2A.This is a rose bush that smelled wonderful.

One of the cool things about riding this spring has been smelling all the flowers as they bloom. It started with the apple blossoms, then lilac, mock orange and, this week, roses. I've smelled a lot of flowers that I can't even name but it always makes our ride delightful.

Here we are in Concord Center. Stef is texting updates to the team's home base. Last week, when we got lost, she texted her husband 'We're lost'. He texted back 'Use the phone, Luke', which we did and got back just fine.
This is Andrew. We met him in Concord. He is a cyclist and an origami artist. Check out his work here. It's extremely cool!

He was kind enough to offer to take some pictures of us with the bike.
We started out like this which was too serious for Andrew.

That brought us to this,

this,and, eventually, this.

Thanks, Andrew!

Folks, if his live origami presentation is half as much fun as just running into him in Concord, you should call him up!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Riding with People

Riding a long ride with other people can be challenging. People have different riding styles that depend a great deal on their body type, fitness level and even their bike. I am, of course, heavy, I’m moderately fit and I ride road bikes which have what I call ‘good roll-ability’. This means that I ride up hills slow and down hills fast. It works pretty well for me if I can get some momentum going. This effect is multiplied on the tandem. But pair me with someone who rides up hills fast and down hills slow and I have a terrible time. I end up struggling up hills trying to keep up with them, only to go down the hills riding my brakes the whole way wasting all that momentum. Stef and I had exactly that happen to us today. We went on Quad Cycles Sunday morning ride and got put in the slow group (which is legit). This group was lead by a fast uphill, slow downhill rider who also liked to stop for an extended break every 5-7 miles. These breaks, unfortunately, were just long enough that we lost our warm-up and had to start from scratch every time we got going again. After over three hours of this, we’d covered only about 25 miles and were tired, stiff, cranky and just about beside ourselves. Fortunately, we were able to head home from there with some other friends who were also riding a tandem and get in a few miles at a pace that worked much better for us. The difference in how we felt was amazing.
We learned a couple of super important lessons from this. First is that we have got to go our own pace and use our downhill momentum to get us up the next hill. The second is that though we do like to get off the bike once every 5-10 miles, we mustn’t do it for very long. Stretch, drink some water, have a snack and get right back on the bike.
So, riding with people is tricky. Most people are the fast up hill, slow down hill type. It is one of the reasons that I have done most of my riding alone up to this point. The great thing about a tandem is that it solves this problem. You can ride all you want with someone and you are always going the same pace. Of course, you have to ride with the right person and I’m very lucky to have found such a great stoker in Stef. I don’t know if we’ll do that group ride again anytime soon. If I lose a bunch of weight it would change our riding and possibly help our style match what more people do. Unfortunately, that’s a big if and I’m not holding my breath. Meanwhile, I’d definitely like to do more riding with Kit and Ramie, our friends on the other tandem. They are faster than we are and climb hills way better but don’t seem to mind staying with us on the flats and waiting for us at the tops of the hills.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Weighty Thoughts

Well, I lost a couple pounds this week which was nice considering I didn't lose any last week. Dr. Rothfeld prescribed a couple of suppliments to try while we wait for the blood work to come back and I haven't been able to figure out if they've been doing any good. I feel like I'm taking a big chance discussing my weight on a blog. My experience is that as soon as I bring up my weight, people feel like it is then okay to lecture me about how I should go about losing weight. I've got news for you. Fat people know all about dieting, everything. If it's been in the mainstream media, we've heard about it and tried it. Unfortunately, no one believes this because, if we have all this knowledge, why would we still be fat? And, if we do have this knowledge, we must be lying about what we've tried because, you know, fat people do that....
Wow, I didn't set out to write a rant today. I guess, what I'm saying, is that I'd like to be able to discuss my weight here without being subjected to a lot of well meaning advice on the subject. I've spent a lot of years figuring out what doesn't work for me and now I've finally, FINALLY, got a doctor who's willing to work with me on it instead of offering me the same old tired advice and then blaming me when it doesn't work.
So, I'm not looking for weight loss advice even though I know people give it with love. I'd just like to share what I'm going through and what I'm learning about my body.
That said, here's the stats this week:
Number of miles cycled: about 97
Average calorie intake per day (according to my Fit Day program): 2022
Suppliments I'm using: Metagenics Ultra Inflamex for inflamation (also doubles as a multivitamin), Crave Arrest for hunger and Omega 3 fatty acids for whatever it is they do.
Weight lost this week: 3 lbs.
Current weight: 269 lbs. (122 kg)
Weeks until the MS Ride: 4
Overall feeling of wellnes: Pretty good. The Caveman Diet definitely agrees with me. I'm less tired and achy than when I started it and my knees feel real good.

Friday, May 28, 2010


People who are thinking about cycling around here often ask me how to stay safe. The traffic makes them very uncomfortable which is completely reasonable. For some reason, I have a very high tolerance for traffic. But the question got me thinking so I've been trying to observe the things I do. What I've found is pretty simple.
Don't do anything unexpected.
Some components of this are:
1. Pay attention, head up, look around and listen.
2. Follow the rules of the road.
3. Communicate with drivers as best you can. For example, make eye contact at intersections and use hand signals when turning.
4. That said, always assume they don't see you.
5. Never get in a pissing contest with a car. You. Will. Lose.
6. Look out for people in parked cars who maybe just about to open their door in your path. I've actually heard of more cyclists getting hurt from being doored than from moving cars.

I've been pretty lucky so far (knocking on wood). The only time I've every been hit was actually out in the suburbs and that, fortunately, was just a side swipe from the proverbial little old man in the land yacht. He bumped my arm with his side mirror but it folded up and didn't even knock me off the bike. I did learn some important advice from a former bike messenger friend of mine (Hi Paul!). He said always get contact info from anyone you are in a tangle with no matter how minor. You may feel fine at that moment but it never hurts until the next day.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I read a wonderful article in Cycling Magazine last summer and it was all about sprints. I followed their advice and added sprints to my rides. Sprints are a great way to get a lot more bang out of a short ride. Their research showed (who knew they were doing all this research) that a half hour ride with four 30-second sprints with a 4-minute rest in between them was roughly equivilent to a two hour regular ride (I'm sorry I don't have the magazine so I can't give you the source of the research).
My experience with sprints is that doing even one sprint increased my fitness by quite a bit. It also taught my body to do fast, powerful accelerations whenever I needed them. This comes in particularly handy at intersections, especially when the light is yellow ;-)
Sprints are pretty powerful exercise. I've been doing them for almost a year now and I'm up to two in a ride. If you want to try one, find a flat or slightly uphill section of road without obstructions for at least a quarter mile. Using a watch or bike computer, ride like hell for 30 seconds shifting up as you need to. You get extra points if you can do this standing up on the pedals (I can't manage that yet). When you have finished your sprint, you should be pretty out of breath. Give yourself four minutes to recover, and if you're feeling it, do another one! I bet you are surprised by how much they increase your fitness.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Alternatives to the Bike Path

The Minuteman Bikeway is one of the best bike paths around. Unfortunately, this time of year I start avoiding it, especially on weekends. It is strange to say since the path helps us avoid traffic, but I don't feel safe. This comes from the fact that there are at least four distinct groups (pedestrians, families biking together, runners and adult cyclists) with widely varying ideas about what the rules are. The section from Lexington Center to Arlington Center is a particular problem because it is slightly down hill and cyclists can reach speeds well in excess of 20mph (Lucy looking all innocent and 'who me?'). You put all those groups together in a crowd and you have a problem. This problem came to a head for me last spring when I almost ran over a kid on a bike who popped out from behind a group of runners as I was trying to pass them. Since running over someone's child is not on my list of things to do, I decided to swear off that section of the path in good weather, especially on weekends. I feel like, if I want to ride that fast, I should be on the road anyway.
Which brings me to the lovely Mystic Valley Parkway. My friend Kit introduced me to this ride when we went camping in Andover last spring. It is wide and shady and, once rush hour is over, very quiet. It runs along parts of both sides of the Mystic River and Mystic Lake. You get there by taking a right in Arlington Center, going through the first stop light and taking a right at the second stop light. This heads you sort of south down one side of Mystic Lake. Take a left at the rotary and another left at the next rotary and you headed up the other side of the lake for several miles of quiet riding. A ways up, it takes a jog by taking a right on Bacon St, going under the railroad bridge and then left for another section of the parkway which will bring you to Winchesters Center. If you are feeling adventurous, you can climb the big hill up and over. This is Border Rd which goes through a whole bunch of state park land. The road ends at I93. I just tried to do a Google route but it doesn't seem to be working. You should be able to see the route if you look it up on Google maps. This is one of my go-to routes for an easy, relaxing ride. Give it a try sometime.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Today is a recovery day which means taking it really easy. Stef and I both agreed yesterday that we are over doing the training a little. We rode 33.5 miles Sunday and felt great and then 32.5 miles yesterday and were really dragging. It is very easy to over train when you're biking. Any other sport would give you an injury to signal over-training but cycling is fairly easy on the joints so you tend to suffer from fatigue and even depression before anything starts to hurt.
So, today is a rest day and we begin to reassess our training schedule.

Welcome to Fat Chick on a Bike

Those who know me know that I really love cycling. I've been riding for years and I'm fat. Not fat like all those cyclists who complain about how fat they are when what they mean is that they aren't skinny but, as you can see, actually fat.
It is interesting loving and participating in a sport where the body ideal is so completely different from the body I have. For example, it has taken me a long time to find a bike shop that will sell me bikes and help me maintain them in line with how much I ride and not how much I look like I ride. Let me take this opportunity to give a big shout out to my bike shop Quad Cycles. They respect their customers no matter what they look like or what they're riding which is more than you can say for a lot of places.
Right now, I am training to ride the MS Society Cape Cod Getaway on June 26 & 27. This is my first time riding this ride and I will be doing it with my dear friend Stefanie on our big blue tandem. If you would like to donate to the effort just click here. We appreciate your support!
This blog will be all about my obsession with cycling and my work on my weight. I had pretty much resigned myself to always being fat no matter how little I ate and how much I exercised. I mean, seriously, I rode my bike 2000 miles last season and gained weight! But now, thanks to the recommendation of a friend, I have found a doctor that sees my weight as a treatable medical condition and not some type of personality flaw. He and I are at the beginning of the process but it seems promising. I have an appointment in early June to go over a bunch of blood work he had done so we'll see what he has to say.
So, keep pedaling and I'll see you on the road!