Monday, July 26, 2010

Mid-summer Towpath Ride!

Today was a milestone.  It was the day I had the pleasure of going with my girlfriend on our first bike ride together.  Yes, after much poking and prodding...and the purchase of a new bike (a Giant Cypress DX)...we finally set out on a date with our bikes to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park's towpath trail in Peninsula, Ohio.  Having ridden the trail many times myself, both during the day and on our Century Cycles' night rides, I was anxious to take Maria on this scenic cycling adventure.

Well, if the smiles below are any indication, a wonderful time was had by all!
On my classic Raleigh Peak

Maria and her sporty new Giant Cypress DX
Of course, like the Metroparks that surround Cleveland, the towpath has it's own remarkable scenery to show off.
Towpath through beaver wetlands
Dragonfly cruisin' the marsh
Towpath crossing one of Peninsula's historic canal locks

Geese enjoying a little sunbathing
Today's ride covered about 14 miles and saw temperatures in the mid 80's.  Afterwards, a cold beer, refreshing iced tea, and tasty food at Peninsula's Winking Lizard rounded out a perfect afternoon of cycling.  Great job, Maria.  I see a Tour de France in your future.  ;)

Tour de Metroparks!

To many outside of our great city, Cleveland is the pitiful butt of countless jokes, even to this day.  But to those of us who call this place home, we know better.  Sure, we may have lost a superstar in Lebron James (may the Miami Heat never win a championship...ever), and our sports teams may leave us heartbroken every year, but one resource that can never leave, or ever let us down, is our beloved Metroparks system.  It is through this meandering system of picnic grounds, golf courses, historic locations, and beautiful natural scenery that I spend dozens of hours every week pedalling my bike.  Each time, I am grateful that we have such a wonderful resource in our own back yard.

On this particular day (07.14.10), I chose to cycle a whopping 70 miles, in 90+ degree heat, through that beautiful backyard. Below are but a few examples of the kind of scenery one can expect to see.
Berea Falls - Berea, Ohio (7/14/10)
The Rocky River, outside of Lakewood, Ohio (7/14/10)
Sweetwater Cafe, Rocky River Marina (Photo taken earlier this Spring)
It was an awesome day of cycling! So, if you live in the area, or ever visit from out of town, be sure to take a ride, by car or bike, through one of Cleveland's gems.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cycling in 2010...thus far!

Well, the year that is 2010 is, amazingly, half over. Say what??

Now, as a cycling enthusiast, I have taken full advantage of the warm, sunny days and pleasant, starry-sky evenings to put both my classic Raleigh Peak and my studly Giant Defy Alliance through their paces.  BUT, as a cycling blogger, who supposedly writes about cycling, well...there I have failed miserably.  And as if that were not embarrassing enough, I also have no clever retort prepared to cover this blogging faux-pas!  SO, in the interest of time, let's just sweep the whole dirty mess under the rug and move on, shall we?

Regarding that aforementioned riding, I have taken a slightly different approach this year.  Instead of cranking out the 60+ mile rides I normally do over the course of the summer, I decided to tackle shorter distances (30-40 miles) and load them with more challenging terrain.  I do so in order to hopefully gain more strength and power, subsequently improving overall endurance and speed on the bike.  The rolling hills of Hinckley and Brecksville, Ohio, have afforded me just such a challenge.  You see, I've done the touring rides, like the MS Society's 150 mile 'Pedal to the Point' Tour, for many years now, easily conquering the 80 mile days with a stamina I didn't have when I was ten years younger.  However, I feel it is now time to try the other side of cycling. The racing side! Hopefully, this new training will get me 'up to speed' quickly.  Stay tuned for more on this exciting venture...

But challenging terrains are not the only thing I've added this year.  I've also started looking at different riding techniques.  Firstly, I changed my pedals.  Yes, for the last 13 years of serious riding, I used those sometimes annoying strap-type cages.  Most of the time, I was able to easily blow off the peanut gallery commentary from fellow riders regarding my caged feet.  Everyone had an opinion, and I was fine with hearing them all.  BUT, when the 70 year old grandmas started getting in on the act, blowing by me on their high-end racers with toothless laughs that mocked my bike's lack of clip-in pedals, I knew my 'serious' cyclist status was shamefully hanging by a thread.  Caving under this geriatric pressure, I picked up a pair of SBD's...and immediately discovered all the truly efficient pedalling power that was so painfully lacking in my riding.  Lesson learned.  Secondly, I started to employ the 'standing to pedal' technique.  As odd as it may seem, I never rode this way because I never felt I had good control of the bike.  Recently, however, I decided to give it another go.  After several practice runs, I found that leaning forward on the bike while standing to pedal was the key.  Instantly, I understood the technique, and now use it with reckless abandon!

So, with these new approaches under my belt, I look forward to a stronger riding season and the challenge of entering the world of racing in the seasons to follow.

Finally, I came across this rather interesting ride (pictured below) when strolling through the town of Geneva, Ohio with my girlfriend several weeks back.

Naturally, my mischievous nature demanded that I ride this sweet set of wheels.  Unfortunately, upon closer inspection, I noticed both a loose bottom bracket and busted crank arm, clearly indicating I was not the only individual to contemplate tackling this behemoth.  Abandoning the endeavour, we both headed for a relaxing day on the beach.