Building a Bicycle:Stems and Handlebar

It’s time to return to  writing about assembling a bicycle. I left off after having attached the wheels to the bicycle frame.Part deux is composed of adding the stems (a Quill stem, seat post) and the handlebar (a Velo Orange Porteur Handlebar). This is when it starts to get a little greasy–literally. As mentioned in the first part, I used Phil brand waterproof grease.

From Jim Langley

1. Take the quill stem–the part which holds the handlebars in place–and slides into the fork. The handlebar actually is held in place by tightening up the stem faceplate (basically, just a tube that you thread the handlebars through). On the other end of the Quill style stem (which is L-shaped) there is an expanding wedge on the bottom, which when tightened, moves (expands) to jam itself against the inside the fork, securing it in place. I used an Allen Key to tighten the parts.  On the expanding end of the stem, there is a small notch, which is the minimum depth that the stem needs to be in the fork. Using a small amount of waterproof grease, lube up the bottom of the stem up to the notch. It might be handy to have a piece of tissue or rag handy because you will get greasy. 

Mmmmmm grease

2. Once you have greased the lower part of the stem, you need to drop it into the fork (or slide it) until the small notch is at the top rim of the fork. Tighten the top bolt on the stem with the Allen Key until it’s snug in the fork. The height of the stem might be changed after, once the seat is on. 

Making sure I can see the notch

Tightening the bolt

3. Once that is in place, it is time to slide the handlebars through. The handlebars I have can face “up” or “down”–ultimately whichever way they face will affect the body position on the bike. Slide the handlebars through the groove between the stem and stem faceplate. Then, to center the handlebars, it is easier to stand in front of the bike and make sure the middle of the bars is basically in a straight line with the stem and top tube. Using the Allen Key, tighten the bolts in the faceplate, which will secure the handlebars in place.

Tightening bolts

Total Concentration

4. Now, time for the seatpost. My seatpost already came assembled with a saddle clamp and bolts needed. This step is similar to the insertion of the Quill stem. There will be a notch (the manufacturer’s line indicating minimum recommended height) on the seatpost. Using grease, lube up the seatpost.

5. Now, slide the seatpost into the seat tube. The height of the post is not important, since the saddle has not been placed yet. But, slide the post until you see the manufacturer’s line. Then, tighten, tighten!

It's easier to stand behind so you can try to keep the post in line with the top tube

Tighten away

Et voilà, your bike is now ready for a saddle…and the rest of the parts still needed!

What still needs to be added

It's coming along!

It helps when you have a good teacher

Get a bicycle.  You will certainly not regret it, if you live.

–Mark Twain


Building a Bicycle: Part One: The Wheels

The bicycle is the noblest invention of mankind. ~ William Saroyan

From A. Kuehn

Not to sound lazy, but I must admit I never thought I would ever put together a bicycle from scratch. I know my fair share about bicycles (having numerous ones of your own somewhat goes hand-in-hand with a small amount of bicycle knowledge). Flat tire? No problem- I’m a pro at changing tubes. Need your seat adjusted, or aerobars put on? Let me get my Allen key. I know the difference between Sram double tap shifters and thumb shifters. Needless to say, I am not a bicycle expert at all, and compared to other bicycle enthusiasts, my knowledge is actually next to nothing. I mean, that is what bicycle shops are for, right? I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve driven to the shop with (one of) my bike, or a part of my bike, charging into the local bicycle shop with a pressing issue. “Hi C, how’s it going? Listen, I have a question…..” or “Hey B! Yeah, I think something is wrong…” Not only do I have no problem heading to the shop with a question, but I always figured they’re the ones who can be trusted to put a bike together after you order it…And if you have ever met me in real life, you know that I’m known to order new bikes.  (I had no idea putting a bike together after it comes in one of those ginormous boxes is actually somewhat easy to do).

It all started one evening a couple of months ago after eyeing a Bridgestone X0-4 dark blue, small frame in my friend’s house, when I decided I wanted to build a bike from scratch.**Note: by build, I mean assemble. All the parts, and frame, were readily available. And it just so happens, my friend’s basement is filled with boxes of random bicycle parts, and he assembles/builds almost all of the bikes he owns. Furthermore, I decided I wanted him to teach me how to do it. I asked nicely, of course. 

Finally, after weeks of waiting for the missing parts to arrive, it was time to build my first ever bicycle. And, as I go on this journey of grease, I decided to document it, and share what I’ve learned. So that incase readers ever decide to assemble a bike, they can!

Parts before assembly

More Parts before assembly

Bicycle parts used in Part One, aka Specs

  • Schwalbe “Big Apple” Tyres, 26 x 2.0 (x2)
  • Kenda Tubes (x2)
  • Fond De Jante Rim Tape (x2)
  • Shimano 7 speed cassette
  • Quill Stem (Stock)
  • Velo Orange Porteur Handlebar
  • Seat Post (Stock)
  • Bridgestone X0-4 Royal Blue bike frame

Tools (and grease) used

It is also of some importance that there is also classic Reggae playing in the background, and beers readily available prior to starting.

And so, let us begin assembling a bike! In this segment I’ll be talking about assembling the wheels.

First, it’s easiest for you to place the frame of the bike in a bike stand holder, and if you prefer to work sitting down, have a seat available.  Take the wheels and look for the small hole in which you put the inner tube’s valve through–Kenda brand tubes usually have Presta valves (really just a fancy name for a type of valve). When you find the hole, then take the Rim Tape and match the hole of the rim tape to the hole in the wheel. While holding the end of the tape (as it might rip away if you do not use pressure on it) continue to feed the tape along the inner part of the wheel, trying to keep the tape as much in the middle as you can. The purpose of the tape is to protect the tube from the ends of the spokes which are threaded through the wheel. When you reach the valve hole, cut the tape. Then, run your finger along the middle of the rim to make sure the tape is secure and will not move.

Aerial view of the rim tape

2. Take a tyre and place it so one edge is in the middle of the wheel rim. Some wheels have “Drive ←” which tells you the direction the tyre needs to face. If you want to be like a bicycle fanatic, you can match up the tyre name with the valve hole. This actually helps locate where the valve is quicker.

3. Take a tube, and unscrew the cap, then open the built-in valve cap (looks like a tiny piece that you screw off). Then, inflate the tube using a bike pump just enough so that it looks like a circle–enough to get the kinks out if you just removed it from a box.** Make sure to screw the built in valve back, or else you’ll loose air. 

Once there is enough air, place the valve into the valve hole in the rim of the wheel, and place the tube under the tyre. If you have ever changed a flat before, this step is basically the same as changing a flat. You can use tyre levers if you need to, to help putting the sides of the tyre into the rim, or you can use both hands working away from each other, pulling the tyre into the rim. **This can be difficult, but it’s possible to do. Just give it time. And breathe….While swearing under your breath.

Fastening the valve

Putting the tube under the tyre

Sometimes it's easier to stand up for this part

It's easier if you are strong...

Once the tyre is completely in the rim (my lack of upper body strength lengthened the process of pulling the tyre on), inflate the tube to the appropriate pressure–I inflated my tube to about 20 PSI. Next step: repeat the same thing with your other wheel!! And yes, if you were wondering, my tyres have reflective stripes on them. 🙂

Yes, inflating is fun fun!

4. Now, it’s cassette time, and I don’t mean those cassette’s that used to play in Walkmans (am I dating myself with that attempt at a joke?). A cassette has different parts to it. Once you take the cassette out of the package (if you were lucky enough like me to get a new cassette), unscrew the top part (Lock Ring, to be correct).

I should model for Shimano...and shower before photo sessions

If you notice inside the cassette, there are different groves which match up to the Splines of the rear bicycle hub. Find where the groves match, and slide the cassette on. Then, tighten the lock ring onto the cassette.

With a lock ring tool (which fits right into the middle of the cassette), stand the wheel up, as that will give you more leverage when further tightening the lock ring in place.

Tighten, tighten, tighten!

5. When you feel the cassette is in place, take the quick release and feed it back through the hub.

6. Now, you are ready to put the wheel on the bike! Sometimes it helps to have another hand, but this is do-able solo. With the frame of the bike in the stand, take the wheel with the cassette on your right side and slide the wheel so that parts of the quick release slide into the rear drop-out. **The drop out is the part of the frame with little groves that hold the quick releases. When it is in the drop-out, tighten the quick release so that the wheel stays in place.

7. Now, do the same thing with the front wheel. Et, voila! Your wheels are now a part of your bike! (Yes, I received help holding the front wheel in place.)

In the next installment of my mini series on how to put together a bike, I’ll go into how to put the stem and post on!**My apologies to you hardcore bike enthusiasts if I’ve mistaken some bike tools. I’ve never done this task before, so am still learning myself. 

My teacher

Please stop by soon for more information on assembling a bicycle…Or to see me trying not to make a complete fool out of myself.

Welcome, 2012!

I don’t think I could welcome a New Year more than this year. Has it been a year since I wrote about my thoughts on New Year “resolutions” already? And I must admit 2012 has started off quite well in my book. I find a new year is similar to a new beginning– another year has passed, many lessons learnt, and I am–you– are here. Yes, 2011 did not end with the happiest of endings (a car accident puts the miracle of being alive into perspective), but what better way to start a new year, thankful for everything that has occurred?

I’ve welcomed amazing warm weather, which has allowed me to spend more time outside doing the things I love and not cooped up on the trainer. Not that cold weather has stopped me in the past year from doing anything outside, but for some reason with this mild weather we have had recently in the Northeast, I’ve become more sensitive to the cold; perhaps because I’m simply not used to biking or running in sub-freezing weather yet. It’s only a matter of time before I’m dressed like an insane person. And, I learned that watching The League while riding the trainer doesn’t work so well. Trying to stay focused on target heart rate/interval time and cracking up with tears in my eyes from laughing so hard/the inability to breathe because of laughter are two things which I cannot do at the same time.

Cheesy smile, matching my bike mountain bike ride at 909. Yes, I'm working on the shoes.

For those of you in the area, there are specific places in the Hudson Valley which have great, well maintained mountain bike paths. Click here for a great website which hosts numerous different mountain biking paths in different counties in the area.

Frozen fingers, toes, and frozen smile. If only I wore my white helmet, I'd be completely color coordinated with my bike, again.

I’ve welcomed the ability to experiment with my knife in the kitchen–and, knock on wood, I have not sliced off any tips of my phalanges. If you are looking for a simple, easy, healthy dinner idea, I cooked Eggplant and Chickpea Curry the other night, which can be spiced up for those who can tolerate spicier foods, and was a hit, even for the non-vegetarian I prepared it for. I cannot wait until I can test out other recipes…Perhaps another dinner party might be in my future.

It looks like a one-pot mess, but smells incredible. Yay for spices!

The only thing in the recipe which takes time is the eggplant, which needs to be baked before being added to the chickpeas and red pepper/tomato/onion mixture.

With fresh parsley garnish served over couscous

I’ve welcomed being introduced to new places, including the  Stockade in uptown Kingston, which is a must-visit small bar in (yes, you guessed correctly) Kingston, New York. What was at one time a sewing location is now a quaint bar with old sewing machines as tables and serves clever beverages from different eras, and almost perfectly symmetrical ice cubes. If you have never been there before, I would advise asking the waitress what the drinks are when she does ask if you have questions about the menu. I did not really have a clue as to what I was ordering, only upon leaving was it when I realized that the reason my choice was so incredibly strong and why I could not finish it was because it was composed of five different alcohols.

Holy strong drink, the Grand Carre

I’ve welcomed being able to spend time with friends and those whom I care about– I am determined to spend more time with others this year…And I’ve welcomed living a non- nocturnal life. It really is incredible how different running at two in the afternoon feels than running at two in the morning. Ohh sun, how I’ve missed you.


I’ve welcomed the ability to start afresh.

I wish you a belated very happy, healthy, and fantastic New Year!

And, once again, I leave you with a couple music videos– the first being the theme song to my first mtn bike ride of the year (or rather, it was on the radio and I knew exactly who was singing it). The second, from a movie which put even more crazy cycling ideas into my head. Ohh man, it’s dangerous to introduce me to anything related to running or biking…Or climbing…Or anything dealing with the outdoors that pushes you mentally and physically and emotionally, actually.

Every end is a new beginning. 

Looking Back on a Year of Tri Training

The other day, well actually yesterday to be more precise, I was lamenting the fact that I wanted to write a post but felt incredibly unmotivated to do so, even though I have quite a bit I would like to share with the world. My friends response, “You could just start writing it and not publish it yet, right?”

I did take his advice to heart, and decided to start writing…Twenty four hours later. And, in order for me to sit down and watch a football game (I cannot ignore the fact that Boston College is playing Notre Dame…Even if the TV is on mute because I cannot really stand the commentators–is it obvious I’m not a huge American Football fan?), I needed to do something. Hence why I’m writing now. (FYI, Boston College is not doing so well. And I don’t like the change in their uniforms since I last watched them play, which was over a year ago…I know, I’m a bad alumnus. Honestly, their football went downhill after Doug Flutey).

So, it’s been almost a year since I started training for my first “big triathlon”–or really, just a triathlon. And after recent runs/rides/swims, I cannot tell you the difference I feel from when I started. I’m not saying I was in bad shape before starting my training–I had just never followed a formal training plan, nor had a coach before guiding what I should be doing, and when I should be doing it. And to those of you who are just starting out training for something–whether it be a running race or biking race or triathlon or duathlon–when you first start out, how you feel you are doing may be discouraging because you can’t really see the progress you are making in the midst of training. But after you finish that race, or in my case, attempt to finish, and look back, your strength and growth as an athlete increases tremendously.

My favorite place to swim at dawn

Last October was the first time I had entered a pool in years. Swimming 100 yards felt like infinity. I choked on water, swam into the swimmer next to me. My form was horrible–I didn’t kick, my body sank as I swam, my arms crossed below my body with each stroke…I could go on and on about what I was doing wrong. Oh! And, I didn’t put my head under the water (which you need to do when swimming, just FYI if you don’t swim). When it was time to swim in a lake with fish–might I add, a cold lake–in a wetsuit–I was terrified. I won’t be redundant because I’ve written posts about my first experiences with OWS.

When I went to the pool last week, I felt like a completely different swimmer, and, truth be told, I am. Strokes come with ease–all of the “high elbow/head under water/kicking….” etc my coach told me–is there when I swim. 100 yards now is nothing, especially after spending the summer swimming in a lake , which as you know, I enjoy better than swimming in a pool. I no longer swim into other people, or swim into the wall, or feel like I’m drowning. Crazy! Although, I cannot say how I feel in a wetsuit, since the last time I was in one was Mooseman–which, I will dominate next year. Just you wait. I don’t give up that easily.

Off of Turkey Hill Road

As for biking, I cannot begin to tell you the change I’ve seen in my stamina and strength on a bike (road bike that is). And it’s an awesome feeling when you can see how much you have improved. The “time trial” I had before I started my training program last year I can do in half the amount of time  as it took me last year, if not more. And, it seems like nothing. All the dreaded hill work and hill repeats my coach had me do made a huge difference. I remember when I first rode up my “hilly route,”  I thought I was going to have a heart attack and die, or that my legs were going to turn into mush. Since then, those “hilly” routes have become standard rides  (i.e. all the “Hills” in my area, including Turkey Hill, Millan Hill, Academy Hill…My question of why there are so many hills in this area will be saved for another post), and yes, I can feel the burn, but they are no longer dreaded challenges that make my heart rate increase to above 200. Okay, my HR never went that high, but I felt like it did at the time. And, I’ve come to realize that slimming down/eating healthier does make a difference in your performance. But to feel the progress that has occurred in a year rocks (woohoo! Riding in 11 degree weather dressed like a crazy person last winter paid off!) Furthermore, after spending so much time on a bike, it’s funny when you actually drive past roads you’ve ridden on and think, “Dude, that’s the road I ride on!” Okay, so my navigational skills have not really improved over the past year and I still get lost easily, but I do know my way around country routes in Dutchess/ Columbia/ and Ulster Counties better than I would ever know if only driving. And, even though I always somewhat knew this, I’ve realized I love biking (I know, I know, you already know this after the number of bicycles I’ve purchased in the past year). Not only this, but I want to pursue bike racing come spring. Don’t worry though, I won’t be one of those anal, mean road racers. Maybe.

Along with the positive aspects of my training also comes many things I learnt–and continue to learn. I would not neccesarily call them mistakes, but rather things I did/did not do which definitely affected race performance–most of which I’ve addressed in prior posts. No one (person or athelete) is perfect. Some might think of that as a blessing, some might think of it as a flaw. I’ve chosen to think of it as a positive–and this not only applies to training but about life in general. Everyone can improve upon something; they can learn, and grow from experiences. How boring would life be if you knew everything, if you were perfect at every single thing you did? Yes, maybe life would be easier. But the growth you have throughout life is what makes it exciting. And, you never know what will happen tomorrow, which is one thing my job has taught me–never take anything for granted. Because it could be gone in an instant.

Well, Boston College still isn’t doing very well, which I blame on their uniforms. How can you beat a team like Notre Dame which has awesome gold-colored helmets? And, I’ll end this post by telling you that if you dedicate time, and work hard, and continue to train towards something even if you feel you aren’t progressing, as I mentioned above, in the end, you’ll succeed.

OH and, if you are in the Hudson Valley and need baked goods for a special occasion, contact Thea at Thea Sphere Sweets— not only is she amazingly sweet, but will bake custom cakes, cookies, cupcakes…You name it. To say her baking is simply food is an understatement. Her baking is an art.

Preparing for CX Race Number Two

I must admit that these past two days of 65 degree weather in November has definitely given me a more positive outlook on life after struggling with “what should I be doing with my life?” for the past couple weeks. I spent the past two days outside as long as I could–soaking up the sun which seems to lack in my nocturnal life–the dwindling sunlight does not help, either. Not that the lack of sunlight ever stopped me from running outside, but to spend time outside off the trainer in the fresh air (which I definitely do not get enough off–as my doctor said, I had a critical vitamin D deficiency. Well, duh, I work night shifts, run in the dark, and do most everything in the dark.)

Becker Hill, off of Turkey Hill Road

But these couple of days off have been incredible my rides have been awesome, and being in the fresh air definitely helped whatever bug I caught. Not only that, I realized that time spend on my bike whether it be my Giant CX bike, mountain bike, or beloved road bike, always puts me in a good mood. I might start the ride in not-the-best spirits (I know, me, in a bad mood? I think work is doing that to me) but then after climbing which I tend to do a  lot of, and long rides up through Columbia and Dutchess counties on county roads where you rarely pass cars, I can’t help but feel a grin across my face. Whether it be that, or the fact I am not freezing, or am getting my vitamin D…I simply don’t know. I do know, however, that I love biking. And that is something which (I hope) won’t change. There is no better feeling than finishing up a 55-60mile ride in 65 degree weather in the sun! I know those days won’t be here for very long, but I’ve been taking advantage of them as much as possible.

Who ever guesses where this is will get a free prize from me or, a free hug

On River Road, looking at the Catskills

So, my last cx race was cancelled a couple of weeks ago because of the odd snow storm that we got (which was slightly annoying, because I was very excited to attempt my cross skills again.) But, since I took a holiday this Sunday, I’ll be able to take part in the 21st West Hill Shop Cyclocross Race in Putney, VT. It will be more difficult than the last one I did in Saratoga Springs– this course has a “run up” –I’ve never done a run up or practiced a run up before in my life. But, hey, that’s what makes the sport fun!

courtesy of West Hill Shop Race Page

I’m not sure if I should be worried, terrified, excited, or all three about this race– I keep needing to remind myself: this is FUN. And you’ll never know how to do it until you actually do it! (that’s my motto at least). Below is a video from the race last year, and, I must admit, min 5:34 of the video slightly worries me…

After the race, which I hope to have all limbs attached by the end of it (bruises and scratches are okay as I always seem to have some sort of bruise or scratch on my legs anyhow),  I’ll be heading to New Hampshire to do some hiking! Ahh, to spend a weekend doing activities with I love is the best… (Get ready, J. N. for a fun-filled day with yours truly, if I am still alive….)

So get ready, Vermont (and I suppose New Hampshire). Molly G. and her not-the-best-cyclocross-skills-in-the-Northeast, will be coming to visit you shortly for some mud, run ups, obstacles, and all around fun, rockin’ her Overlook Jersey.

Thanks to Billy D. and everyone at the shop for making my cyclocross dreams come true.

And to leave you with a song that was stuck in my head on a recent mountain bike ride (you get another free hug if you can tell me which movie this is from):

She Survived!

I am not sure what I was getting myself into signing up for a cyclocross race after having had very little time to practice, or attempt to practice, as in my prior post about the sport. The race was in Saratoga, very close to the famous race tracks, which I realized after 1. passing a sign indicating it was home of the Saratoga Springs race track and 2. why there were so many horses everywhere. The experience, as a whole was fun, and I cannot remember the last time I raced just for fun. Really, all races should just be fun anyways, right?

First Bike Race Number!Thankfully my new friends told me i put it on the wrong way

My innate poor sense of direction made it slightly difficult finding the race as normal– perhaps if I had a navigation system things would have been slightly easier. But even with a printed out mapquest directions, I still got lost a couple of times (okay, a few illegal U Turns were made as I was passing the bridge going into Massachusetts, which is definitely not where I wanted to be.) And, it gave me directions which made no sense to me. Then again, it really wouldn’t be a true racing experience if I did not get lost trying to find the place.

I did make it in time to get my number and meet a couple new friends and did a couple of practice loops on the course which consisted of a run up, a couple little hurdle/obstacles, and a long sand pit, which the really good racers could just plow through on their bikes. I, on the other hand, attempted to ride through which was unsuccessful, and probably wasted more time, hence simply carried the bike and ran through the sand. (Hey, people carried their bikes in the YouTube videos I studied).

waiting to see the men go through the sand pit

One of the hurdles--those are what they are called, right? And no, I was able to stop before and jump over with my bike and not fall into it.

I was with the cat 4 women and it was the first time I’ve ever actually been in a group of cyclists all starting at once, which was a little nerve wrecking being so close to other cyclists.But, a quick “good luck and have fun!” from Billy D. as I was waiting at the start definitely helped ease the nerves a bit. Throughout the race, you are in close proximity to the other racers for the first lap or so (depending on category determines how many loops you do in the allocated time.) Falls can occur, and often do, with a course that has sharp turns, or areas where you have to ride through thick mud, and if you cannot brake in time to avoid collision with the cyclist in front of you.


Cat 3/4 men on the course--they are good.

Basically, it’s a sprint from the very start. You start fast, run up the hills fast, bike down hills fast, carry your bike fast, run over the hurdles fast, if your shoe falls off, put that on really fast too(no judging, I’m still getting used to my pedals).The course zig zags and marked by tape.  Your lungs are on fire the whole time and your thighs burn. Like running a 5k or short sprint race.

Shimano tape!

This guy knows what he's doing

Compared to running races/ multisport racing (as I cannot really compare it to a road race, but from what I heard from a female road racer yesterday, a lot of female road racers can be non-friendly and “bitchy”), the pre-race atmosphere is quite similar– instead of you asking someone to zip up your wetsuit for you, or ask if they have ever run the particular race before, you talk about other cx races which you have participated in, who won the last race, where the next one is (of course, all I could say was, ‘no I wasn’t at the last race,’ and ‘ um, no, I don’t know anything about this course, or cyclocross.)

Bike handling skills, like in mountain bike racing, are of vital importance in a cyclocross race. You need to be able to control, or attempt to have control over your bike, because the course has sharp turns and “obstacles” and people cycling past you. My mountain bike handling skills are better–my best is road skills, probably because you rarely have sharp turns except for when riding in a town.

Like other races, lots of cheering is going on by spectators, and it helps you going esp when you think you can’t do something. Cause you can. Like ride through thick mud which might be just as hard as riding through sand, or harder. Other women racers, who are not in the race with you (obviously, when you are in a race, you want to win and don’t give a crap about the other riders around you) cheer you on, saying “you can do it!” which really does help. And, cheering goes on for all racers. For me, it was fun knowing people who were racing, so I knew names of the people who bikes on Overlook Mountain Bike’s team. If I didn’t know them, I just called out, “Go Overlook!”

Mixed with cheering is the sound of cowbells. I think I heard a cowbell once when I ran the Boston marathon. Perhaps there have been cowbells in other races too and I just don’t remember them. And, apparently, there is heckling which can go on during these types of races. I didn’t hear any. I thought that was just a mountain bike thing you do. But, apparently it isn’t.

All in all, it was so much fun, and I am excited to be able to do the wicked Creepy cx race next weekend (I love when I have weekends off and can race, even though, yes, I haven’t quite switched back to normal sleep patterns yet). And, despite how quite and shy I can be, at races, it is totally different. I have no problem talking to the other racers and, am actually outgoing (which you need to be if you don’t know too many people who are there earlier enough to watch you race). Otherwise, just being at a race by yourself and not talking to anyone else, just isn’t fun. (And yes, imagine me being outgoing!)

To sum up the first cyclocross race, I must say it was wicked fun, and tough. And to show that I raced, I noticed after getting home before taking a shower that I have nasty bruises ALL over my thighs and inner thigh (from the “mounting”  and a nasty one on my right shoulder from flinging my bike over my shoulder when running through the sand…) .And that is the reason why I didn’t go to the pool today, in fear of someone saying, “what happened to you?” I think I just bruise easily.

My new Mavics broken in!

Pre race shot

Thank you, NYCROSS for putting it on, and for the words of encouragement from others, and Overlook Mountain Bikes for getting me a sweet cyclocross bike to use. And the quick words of encouragement!

Video courtesy of Mississippi Queen, has some shots of some of the Overlook team cat 3/4 men!And, the cow bells!

Ohh, and I didn’t get lost going home!Sweet!

Getting Ready for My First CX race

” It’s better to pin a number on and finish last than to never pin on a number at all all,” K.H. An aquainence of mine, and cyclocross racer himself, sent me a text with that message a couple minutes ago.

Mountain bike/cyclocross shoes are quite different than road shoes

Yes, I am preparing for my first cyclocross race. Actually, it is my first bicycle

different than pedals I'm used to

race, ever. Triathlon bike racing are a completely different type of cycling, and cyclocross is different than road racing (how is it that I know the difference between different types of cycling racing?) I may have used the TIME ROC ATAC pedals for the first time Thursday afternoon, after going down to my favorite bicycle shop and picking up my new Mavic shoes, attempted to teach myself how to clip-unclip quickly from the pedals, which is quite different than the road pedals that I am used to.     My first race will be the Saratoga Spa Cyclocross Race, one of the NYcross.comseries.

Courtesy of Saratoga Spa CX

I’ve spent numerous hours–okay, more like minutes– teaching myself how to mount/dismount my bike quickly, which is needed in cyclocross racing. And, even set up a small obstacle course in my back yard in order to become somewhat prepared. I know I’ve spent a fair amount of time “attempting” to mount the bike as pro cyclocross racers do as evidenced by the large, tender bruise on the inside of my right inner thigh– man, that hurts. So does falling off your bike when attempting to dismount quickly before a pre-made barrier in your backyard. Actually, so does running into the barrier and falling over it with your bike because you were unable to clip out quick enough.

My mini-practice barrier in the back yard--notice how it is on an incline

Pro cyclocross racers, or racers who are somewhat good at the sport, make the dismount/ mount look so graceful and easy. I, on the other hand, have found instead of making the mount/dismount look graceful, I tend to fall (and swear words have the tendency to come out of my mouth) and make it look like a painful, horrible, and embarrassing process. Then again, if this girl can fall over when her bike is mounted on the trainer–and no, not rollers–then the potential of my falling off anything that moves is tripled. (The secret is out, my friends, I fall off my trainer. Perhaps I should put training wheels back on my bikes.)

The newest addition, and weapon of attack, a Giant Cyclocross bike--which glitters in the sun

I’m not sure if I am excited, terrified, or both, about this race. I would even comment on what I plan on bringing (clothing/gear wise) so that if you decide to become a cyclocross racer yourself, you will know how to prepare. Honestly, I have no idea what I need to bring, except for my bike, shoes, gloves, sunglasses, helmet, and perhaps change of clothes since I’ll be waiting around to watch friends who will be racing later in the day. But come tomorrow at 10:00am when my race is finished, I’ll let you know what you should bring to a race. And everything else that goes along with the sport.

“Perhaps the single most important element in mastering the techniques and tactics of racing is experience. But once you have the fundamentals, acquiring the experience is a matter of time.” Greg LeMond

Chapter Number Three

I think it was about a year ago when I added a new chapter to my ever changing life story: the beginning of training for a triathlon. Which I believe started after getting my first road bike. On and off throughout the winter last year I kept tabs of my training through this blog. And, random posts would creep up here and there. Then, come spring, after countless rides on either my nemesis or bundled up like an insane person outside riding in frigid weather, it was time to add a new addition to the family, and take up mountain biking as cross-training for triathlons, which I would consider the second chapter of the “cycling” portion of my life. And, at the time I figured, you can’t use a road/TT bike with X-Terra racing. I must admit, the mountain biking was considered the second priority after road riding. Even though on the rare occassion I did spend trying to stay on the mountain bike riding over roots, through mud, ramming into trees, I did (and still do) find it to be a breath of fresh air and far more challenging than road biking–again, as mentioned in prior posts. However, mountain biking is still somewhat intimidating to me– I think I need to spend more time doing it (which will come early next week when I’ll be heading back to VT for some quality time with family, and my Contessa Spark, before Kingdom Trails closes for the winter. I am praying the person I’ll be riding with will not break any bones– i.e. clavicles–which he is known to break when mountain biking. Actually, I hope I don’t break anything either.

I am looking forward to the break after what seems non-stop insanity working in a place which I’ve come to realize is starting to wear on me, more physically than mentally (as pointed out by someone the other day who I had not seen in months stating, “Wow, are you okay? You really look like crap.” But, he worded it differently). And, it did dawn on me the other day on my 55 mile ride before heading into work the reason for my feeling like I was running on an empty tank was, infact, because I was literally running on an empty tank. Yes, it took 50 miles for me to realize the reason that the ride seemed like the longest ride of my life was due to the fact I had not slept for more than four hours or eaten anything for a couple of days. Ahh, yes, despite the fact I work as a nurse and know more about the importance of fueling your body for physical activities, I failed to acknowledge how stress has been taking its toll on my own body (which, for an athlete to lose their appetite isn’t the best thing in the world). You would think I would have realized something was up when I did not touch, nor could stomach, two of my favorite types of food: sushi, and a-m-a-z-i-n-g guacamole (on that note, if you live in Dutchess County, you need to check out Santa Fe restaurant in Tivoli. Food there is wicked good, and, even better, accomodating to vegetarians).

So what do I do in order to deal with stress? (Okay, other than baking). If you’ve ever had a conversation with me, you probably already know.

Buy another bike and decide it’s time to pick up Cyclocross.

Welcome to the family, my gorgeous, glittering (yes, it glitters in the sun), blue, Giant TCX-W Cyclocross bike.

It was bound to happen eventually. Some people knew it before I did. And, it is kind of funny the bike I’ve been secretly, or not so secretly, admiring for a couple months was ordered when I wasn’t even present in the store. “B., how did you know that is the bike I’ve wanted when you ordered it?” Were the first words out of my mouth when I went to order a new pair of shoes for the bike the other day, with, perhaps the biggest grin on my face.

I admit it, I have a weakness when it comes to really pretty bicycles.

That are blue. And glitter in the sun.

Now, before you think, “Man, this girl is really insane,” I do have a theory behind my bicycle purchasing madness.

Not only is this type of bicycle preferred in cyclocross racing (which, after watching videos on how to swiftly mount/dismount still terrifies me–it might be easier for me simply to fall off),  it is something I can use in winter months to ride, when I want to ride outside. Road bike tires have no traction.

Cyclocross tires, on the other hand, are like mountain bike tires and have more traction.

Hence, I’ll have a bike to ride and not need to worry about my road bike getting dirty nor need to worry about slipping and sliding everywhere on the road–even though I already know is bound to happen to me anyway.

traction traction traction

AND, the shoes used I can use with my mountain bike.

Now, with work I’ve only been on this bike once which was yesterday (well that, and, it is hard to ride a bike when it has no pedals), and I’m proud to say I think I have the Sram “double-tap” shifting under my belt. Kind of.

The mounting/dismounting is a whole different story.

And to end, with a song that was stuck in my head on my run this morning….

One Year and 112 Posts Later….

My original plan was to write on the same exact day when I had started this blog in the first place, but life and work got into the way (like always) and tonight i decided to sit down and reflect on the “blogging” world, since I’ve had mine for over a year now. Insane how fast time goes by!

I started this blog originally about my biking, running, and nursing. Over time, I started writing on different topics- most related to those three topics, and then some random topics about nursing, relationships, food and little insignificant things that popped into my head which I felt a need to relay to other people. On that note, I just made the most amazing Vegan Banana Bread with Carob powder swirled through, and carob nibs throughout the bread. Mmm. No, I’m no longer vegan, but when you run out of eggs and milk, and have vegan margarine and soymilk in your refrigerator, then you can create any type of vegan baked goods possible. And, they are actually pretty healthy for you! Thank you, Post Punk Kitchen (great website for vegan baking, FYI).

Vegan Banana Bread with Carob chips

A lot has happened within my year of blogging–it’s interesting to start a blog, and even more interesting when some people subscribe to it, which, no doubt about it, makes you feel good about yourself because they obviously think your blog is awesome. One of my first blogs was about my new Scott road bike (ahh, I love that bike) which is still one of the main focuses of my life. Last August, it had been years since I had entered a pool.A year later, I have no problem swimming in open water. Infact, this morning, there was no better place to be than Lake Onteora while it was raining, and have the whole lake to yourself. Just the pitter-patter of the raindrops on the lakes top  while you swam in complete silence. A year ago that thought would have freakend me out. Heck, in May swimming in open water freaked me out. Now, it’s incredibly scenerene and peaceful. Just you, the drops of rain, and the water. No better feeling. (Okay, well, maybe there is a better feeling).

Favorite time to swim at Lake Onteora: daybreak, and when it is raining

I don’t want to write the same things as I wrote in my Reflections of Two Years  post. But, even more has happened since I wrote that post. I managed to survive two of the worst storms New York has seen in years (the one in January when I had a little accident shoveling) and then this past tropical storm which lead to the destruction and devistation of communities I’ve come to know quite a bit within the past few months, esp, in the catskills. Unless you live in the area, or know the area, you would never know how much damage was done by Irene. Not only down south, but  all the way up through Vermont. If you feel the desire to help those communities out, including Windham mountain, you can check out a website to help them repair and rebuild the area.

Flooding in driveway after Irene

Within this year of posting, I had started working night shifts at the Kingston City Hospital. I love my coworkers to death ( if this is redundant from prior posts, I apologize). I was able to absorb an enormous amout of knowledge working there, especially working night shifts.  I must admit at this time, I might be going through a quarter year crises as in what I want to do with my life. Do I stay in the area, or relocate somewhere different. It would be the perfect time to go someplace different, or make a change in my  career ( no offense to Kingston City Hospital, but I don’t think I’ll be abe to work there forever).  Working in an intensive care unit has it’s stresses (major stresses), but after being there  a year an a half, I’m thinking there might be something else out there for me to do. I’m not sure what, or where whatever it is I want to do may be, but I’m looking. I used to hate change. But now I’m ready for it.

I developped a stronger bond with any Scott Bikes. I have two– the scott contessa spark (so pretty!) and my CR1 Team. Although, I think i might need to branch out to other brands of bicycles (gasp!) when it comes to my cyclocross bike, which I plan on purchasing at some point, and a TT bike, since, there are other brands out there with pretty decent products for those people like me who may have a (small, but healthy) addiction to anything bicycle related. Within this year of blogging, I developped a love for mountain biking with my mountain biking baby (contessa spark) whichI had always wanted to do in the back of my mind, but never really did it until April of this year. It is completely different than road biking, and actually helps training/cross training for triathlons. And ofcourse, I have already written about that subject.

I love my Scotts!!!

I must admit, with work being insane, and working night shifts, and the crazy rain we have had as of late, I have not been able to be out training as much as I would have liked. But, the Vassar brothers du/tri is next week (which, I am not at all prepared for but, whatever) and I need to get back into the biking-running-swimming mode .  Deep down inside I still want to compete a full ironman race. And, for a while, I thought I had to do everything right now. I had to complete a HIM, I had to do this and I had to do that. But, I have my whole life ahead of me to do things– I am only 25. One day it will happen. One day. I’m not that easy of a person to give up on something I’ve wanted to do for years. And if it doesn’t happen, well, no big deal. There are bigger, more important issues in life I’ve needed to deal with, and am sure, will come my way.

Within this year of blogging, I’ve been blessed to meet amazing friends, some who are incredbily patient with my poor mountain biking skills, others who are incredibly patient and I never leave their company without knowing more about the hunting world. I’ve had friends come and help  fix the flooding in my garage…Tell me how to start the John Deere lawn mower when I was pretty sure I had broke it (oops). And then come and kill spiders for me (I can deal with snakes in my house, but have an incredible fear of spiders.) And I can’t forget about some others who would never tell me to shut up and give great advice on relationships, and life (who is a fabulous baker and if you need someone to bake you a fantabulous, delicious cake, let me know, cause I can hook you up with this incredible woman), when I’d go to them in tears not knowing what to do. Or spend their two personal days driving up to New Hampshire with me to cheer me on for my first attempt at a triathlon. Everyone knows who they are. Thank you. Each one of you has a very special place in my heart.I know, I know, I’m corny.

I’ve learned how to use a bow and arrow, and, might I add, am quite good at it.

First attempt at archery

I went on my first ever road trip/vacation by myself in the United States, and being lost outside of Albany during rush hour was more stressful than getting lost in Slovakia on their public transportation system, where I could not communicate with anyone or read their written language since their alphabet is so different than ours.

But, anyway, we shall see. I tend to take one day at a time and  blog when I feel like it (yes, I know, it’s been awhile since I have blogged) to share useless information that is on my mind…And do want to take advantage of every possible opportunity that comes my way.

I cannot believe it is a year since I started this.

And, to finish this, I leave some songs for you.

Thank you S.F. for putting the above song in my head

And one that played on my Pandora station which I hadn’t heard in awhile.

And, some White Stripes, because I just learnt to play it on my guitar.

And lastly, yes I have a very ecclectic sense of music, just….because.

I hope this post finds you safe, happy, and after reading any of my posts in the past, might have sparked some inspiration for you to try new things which you never thought you’d do. This past year I realized nothing is impossible. It may be strange, and difficult at first, but if you try, and continue to work hard, the task you have at hand is possible.

Laugh at yourself, but don’t ever aim your doubt at yourself. Be bold. When you embark for strange places, don’t leave any of yourself safely on shore. Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory….You have to leave your city of comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself. – Alan Alda

Reflections of Two Years in the Hudson Valley

Yes, it is hard to believe I have been living up in the hudson valley for two years. Wow. It seems like forever ago, and so much changed during that time– hospitalizations, learning how to live with certain illnesses, being unemployed, a horrible break up with the man I was going to marry, living (for a short period) which my grandmother–God rest her soul– switching jobs, stress with job hunting. Then, there was returning to my amphibian roots and actually loving when I can get into the water and swim…I could go on and on

Two years ago today, or to be more precise, two years ago minus a day, I got my first drivers license in VA. Wow, and I remember my first car trip alone to Boston on the Mass pike not even a month after I got my license and how t-e-r-r-i-f-i-e-d I was.They don’t call Massachusetts drivers Massholes for nothing. Yes, boston is only about 3 hrs away. But I am planning my first vacation where I will be driving longer distances in my car for my vacation next week (which will be a post in itself!)

It’s amazing how much can change in two years. Job wise, the amount of knowledge that I know is insane. There are still times when I freak out (internally) and when horrible things happen, but that is the nature of the job. It is not a place I see myself for very much longer, but we’ll see.

Personally wise, I’ve developed amazing friendships with amazing people, and have had the ability to get to know my cousins and aunt and uncle more than I ever did growing up. (My dear friend who also moved here about the same time as me has a blog–City Mouse in the Country— about her two years. You should check her blog out- it’s awesome, and I love her dearly).

I love the fall in the Hudson Valley, esp in the Catskills. Gorgeous.No, it’s stunning. The hiking and mountaineering possibilities are endless. I love being able to be so close to places where I can pick my own fruit. I love that mini pumpkins are beginning to grow in the garden behind the house.

I started biking again which I had not done since high school (except spin classes) and can’t remember why I ever stopped, because it is a passion of mine. Not only that, but starting to pursue different types of biking–like mountain biking, and I hope soon cx biking, which will be easier in the winters.

I’ve developped a passion for racing. I always did small 5k or 10k races, and then the NYC half and three marathons, but those are different from triathlons. In the midst of my vacation, I’ll be doing my first sprint triathlon. I decided to be easy on my body and move my way up in terms of training for larger event races since I was unable to finish the other race (I am no quitter). And, this fall, inbetween the triathlons, will do my first mountain bike race ever. Who knows, maybe even start cross racing.

The two years weren’t all peaches and cream. Work has been stressful. My grandmother who I had lived with passed away. A dear friend of mine passed away in November of 2009. For the past couple months, I had family living with me, which can be hard when you work a night schedule, and all the construction/lawn mowing is done in the morning right when you want to go to sleep. I’ve spent so much time on my bike that running, actually, has been more difficult for me due to some weird knee problem that has resurfaced.Living alone in a house during the last winter of 2010/2011 was horrible–old houses plus lousy/long/cold/ bilzzards is no fun. I think I worked every holiday. It was the first Christmas I spent alone while the rest of my family was back in Luxembourg. Talk about depressing.Esp. when you worked the 23/24/25th of December. But, I did have someone come over to say Merry Christmas to, which, if you read this and know who you are, I thank you dearly, because it meant a lot to me.

I’ve matured in so many ways, not only into a young adult, but in what I do, too. I used a John Deere mower for the first time (by my self!) today. It was a bit dicey–there were definitely lots of “eeks” when riding down the hills around the house (if you have seen the house, you know what I am talking about). But, I did it! I’m learning how to garden, and seeing the produce spring up is awesome.

I don’t know what is going to happen in the future, or happen tomorrow even (although I have a pretty good idea about what will happen). But, despite all the ups and downs of the past two years, they have been good ones, and I’ve made great memories that will be with me for the rest of my life.

The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.

~ Abe Lincoln

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