Saturday, May 8, 2010

Gearing up for riding

So, I have 3 exams down, and 1 to go! Law school can be such a pain. I mean, I like it most of the time, and practicing law is going to be much better than what I was doing before (I was a records clerk at an energy company in a previous life), but the schooling part is mega-stressful at the moment!

I took a break from studying yesterday. I had a 24-hour take-home final that I did from Thursday morning to Friday morning (yes, it took me almost the entire 24 hours to complete), so I needed a break from my desk!

I rode out to Stone Mountain and back, which is just over 26 miles round-trip for me. Stone Mountain is a granite outcrop near Atlanta, and there's a bike path that runs from my house to its surrounding park.

First, I had to gear up! I feel like I have a lot of biking gear, but all of it serves a purpose.

First, my Camelbak. I fill it with mostly water, a little ice, and about a cup of Gatorade.

Gatorade freaks me out because of the fake colors and flavors, but I haven't found a feasible cheap alternative yet. When you're biking in 90 degree heat, you need some help with hydration!

Next, of course, my beloved Garmin 305.

It's important for me to keep an eye on my distance and speed because I'm not a very experienced biker (I started just a month or so ago!), and I don't want to burn myself out by pushing too hard or too fast. Getting stuck somewhere between my house and Stone Mountain is NOT an option; those aren't the friendliest of neighborhoods.

Next, ginormous sunglasses and a bondi band.

Yes, yes, the sunglasses might look ridiculous, but they stay on my face the best of all the ones I've tried. They don't slip when my nose is wet with sweat, and the ear parts stay firmly around my ears. I don't mind looking ridiculous! I've tried biking without sunglasses before, but I think it's just not a good plan. Being blinded constantly is quite dangerous!

The bondi band is a wicking headband. Never heard of bondi bands? Check out the website here. They keep the sweat from dripping down my face. I just stick the helmet over it, like so:

All ready to go!

Gear I don't have, but want: gloves, clipless pedals and shoes. To any of you bikers out there, do you think gloves and clipless pedals are totally necessary, or just good to have? Should I invest in them now, or is it okay to put it off for awhile?

I did most of the trail on Wednesday, too, but didn't get all the way to the end because the sun was setting. Yesterday, though, I left early enough to make it all the way to the park and back.

Yesterday's ride was MUCH easier than Wednesday's! I'm not exactly sure why, but I was much more powerful going up hills, and I kept up a much faster speed on the flat parts. I have some theories...

  • First, it could be because I had Gatorade mixed in with my water in my Camelbak. You may not think this makes much of a difference, but I think I could actually feel the extra calories coming into my body! I think that helped with my muscle power, especially at the end.
  • Second, it could be because I started using my lower handlebars when going up hills. I don't know if y'all use yours on a regular basis, but I just started using mine, and I love them! I feel like it forces me to use a different pedaling motion and thus a different set of muscles in my legs. If I put my hands down and my head down, I can power up hills like I never could with my hands on the top bars.
  • Third, I know more about how to use my gears to my advantage. I'm still learning how to ride a bike properly, and that means learning how to choose the best gears for different situations. It's a learning process, and I know more with each ride I go on.
  • Fourth, I knew the route better. Each time I ride the path, I know a little bit more about how to best attack it. I know when I need to shift my gears, when I need to be prepared to stop, when I need to drop to the lower bars, etc. It makes the ride much smoother. Many people might think that doing the same route over and over again is boring and tedious, but when you haven't mastered it yet, there's always something new to learn.
  • Fifth, I properly carbed-up before leaving. On Wednesday, I hadn't really eaten enough during the day to fuel my body through a 26-mile ride. For me, that costs me about 1,600 calories! Yesterday, I ate properly in anticipation of that sort of calorie burn, and my muscles thanked me. Luckily bike riding isn't like running in that you have to pre-fuel with only foods that sit well in your stomach. However, you do need most of your fuel to be carby so that your body can burn it. My solution? Take-out Chinese food! Bring on the rice!

Anyway, it was definitely more enjoyable!

So, in case I haven't mentioned it yet, I'm going to be doing volunteer work in Haiti from May 12th to May 16th. I wish I could stay down there longer, but my summer classes start promptly on May 17th, so I just had a couple days free. I think it's going to be an awesome experience, and I'm super excited about going!

I hope that I'll be able to post again before I leave, but if I don't, I'll see you on the 16th when I get back!


  1. When I used to bike a lot I had gloves and LOVED them. Mine were the gel kind. They reduce vibration from the road and make it more comfortable to ride long distances (and I've had carpal tunnel so gotta protect the wrist-nerves!)

    You should check out Nuun sports drink--I love it! None of the weird chemicals and colors. It comes in dissolving form, like little effervescent cakes. I think I paid about 5 bucks for the tube I've been using for quite some time, because one capsule makes 16oz full strength and I never use it full strength.

    Go you for fitting in a bike ride amid all the work! My runs completely suffered this week because of grad school :\ Have a good trip!

  2. No Meat beat me to the punch on the Nuun tablets. They're brilliant! I like the Kona Kola ones, but if you're still off of caffeine you might not like them.

    IMHO, neither gloves nor clipless pedals are absolutely necessary, but both are great to have. Clipless pedals take a bit of time to get used to, but they really do boost your speed. If you have the extra money, they're well worth it. Gloves are good to have for longer spins too, but you shouldn't be putting so much weight on your wrists that they hurt after 26 miles, even without gloves. Then again, they might be useful for wicking sweat off of your skin in the Georgia heat. (I'm going to die if I ever move back there!)

    Good luck in Haiti! :)

  3. I'm totally going to check out the Nuun tablets! Those sound perfect!

    I know I should wait to buy gloves and clipless pedals because I'm not going to start training hardcore for biking until after my marathon, but I just really love buying new toys! Haha! I'll see how long I can hold out. :-)

    Thanks for the well wishes!

  4. that's awesome about your volunteer work! have a great time and take a ton of photos (:

  5. Hey! Good luck in Haiti!! I really miss your posts, recipes, etc.!! Can't wait to hear all about it!! xoxo