Terii’s Cycling Babble

Riding and Creative Solutions
February 19, 2019, 12:29 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Out for a ride yesterday and… it was so NICE.

As mentioned in the last post, for the better part of 3 weeks, I’d not done anything fun or interesting outside the apartment for myself. Jens and Loke both being sick and then Loke going all tender-footed so he can’t deal with gravel covered asphalt, which is ALL there is in Sweden except perhaps further north where ice and snow still rule instead of spring.

I was starting to go down right batty and feeling cornered isn’t good for one’s mood. I was starting to growl at everything like a caged beast. So, as Jens was finally feeling somewhat human again, when he came staggering out the door at 5 am on February 16th, I loudly declared, “I’m leaving Loke with you today and going for a ride when I get back from Starbucks.” He blinked at me in that bleary I’ve-not-had-coffee-yet fashion and mumbled, “Okay.”

Jens was worried Loke would go nuts if he saw me getting into the ‘magic clothes’ so, as I started pulling on my single layer of wool under my cycle stuff, he went out on a long walk with the fuzzy. I waffled a bit about adding more layers, but with the reported temp in the 50’s, I didn’t think I needed it and also left the electric socks put away.

I didn’t get out as quickly as I’d hoped, not arriving at the storage until almost 11:30. There was still a thick layer of crunchy snow and slick ice on the ramp in front of the storage door. Since I’d not worn Icebugs, I searched for the least slippy parts to step as I started pulling everything out and up.

I was a bit nervous as I went to settle into the trike. Was it going to be uncomfortable and something to be endured as it was for pretty much all last year. Would I be fortunate and it would be awesome like the ride a few days ago with a owie-footed husky?

Turns out it was the latter. I sat down in the trike and it felt comfortable and right, instead of something like an ill-fitting shoe. As I pushed off on the pedals, the muscles of my legs seemed strong and the movements smooth. As I made the turns that would take me on the beginning of the River Loop, it was almost like flying, even with chunky, studded tires and pushing through an inch or more of gravel over asphalt.

The annual Great Sweeping can’t come soon enough.

Feeling surprisingly (but deservedly) fit and powerful, I was going for a countryside ride. Originally, I’d thought to do the Gamla Uppsala/Vaksala loop for 10 miles, but Jens had taken Loke out to Gamla Uppsala, and better that I didn’t go cruising past the furball. He’d perhaps decide to be an even bigger PITA than he’s been the past couple weeks.

That left me with heading out down Old Börje Road where I’d have a choice of three loops.

There was one aspect of my current fitness levels that I’m not particular thrilled with. Lactic acid build up in my legs seemed to happen very quickly and my cardio-respiratory system needs some work. There were some moments when I was trying to spin up a hill and just felt kinda breathless and ran out of muscle strength in a very short time. Disappointing.

I didn’t let it stop me from pressing onward. Just as I didn’t let the shock and cold of the howling winds turn me back.

In the residential fringes of northern Uppsala, there’d been no hint of significant winds. Even with my thinnest layer of wool under my usual riding clothes, I felt over-dressed and hot.

That changed almost the moment I crested the first steep hill right at the beginning of Old Börje Road and coasted down to a mostly flat section just before the big fields.

All that open space and the wind came screaming across it, sucking up cold from the lingering snows and the ground that’s still frozen underneath an inch or two of the frozen muck. It went right through my 100 g weight wool as if it were bare skin and a direct bite to the bone. 18-20+ mph winds out of the south-west.

The wind chill was horrendous. Suddenly, I felt like a block of ice and tucked my fingers under my arms as much as I could while riding. When I couldn’t stand it much longer, I dug in my side bags, with no real hope.

Amazingly, I came out with a thin pair of knit glove-liners as well as another cycle shirt with an additonal 100 g weight wool layer top. Meager as it was, I pushed on without feeling warm, but at least it didn’t feel bitterly cold. My feet didn’t have any real problems even though I was wearing sneakers rather than boots. Without the electric socks and in the wind, they felt cold, but not painful.

I pondered my choices as I pushed on into the raging air, my flags snapping and popping behind my head. When I’d gotten up to pull on the extra shirt layers, and could actually see the flags, the flex in the poles alarmed me. It seemed any moment my very nice, very expensive flags were going to get ripped off to go dancing across a muddy field.

My first choice, to turn left at the crossroads to head toward Läby Church was discarded. Hard as the wind was, it was coming from over my left front wheel, which was a smidge better than head-on. A left turn would put me right into the teeth of it.

That left the 18 mile Börje/Ulva Mill loop or the shorter, 14 mile Ulva Mill loop. Stressing, I looked at the time. No, not Börje. With the wind, my speed wasn’t exactly blazing and time was passing. I’d planned to get home in time for spaghetti before 4 pm, but it wasn’t looking good even if I did Ulva Mill. Just maybe though, with the wind at my back, I’d stand a chance. I really wanted more for food for the day than a serving of fruit yogurt, a oatmilk hot chocolate from Starbucks, and small handful of hazel nuts.

Another nice thing about having the wind at my back, it didn’t feel nearly as bitter or biting. My speed did pick up and for a good mile or more between the cross-road and the big road, it’s either flat or slightly downhill. I smiled wide, easily cruising along at 10 mph.

Clipping along so briskly, I enjoyed the scenery around me. Sadly, though the some fields have so rapidly cleared of snow, they were silent. No soaring, warbling song of larks. I’ve heard larks even when there was still a foot of snow on the fields, but I guess, clear or not, it’s just too early for those wonderful little singers to have arrived from their winter havens.

I did get several little surprises though. I’d hit a higher speed, almost 15 mph, where the landscape takes a slight downward tilt toward the small stream. Grinning, I spun the pedals, determined to see if I could get even faster. Then I saw a small black shape on the road surface and it was moving.

A black wooly teddy bear caterpillar?! Really? Sure enough. I shifted the line of the trike’s path enough that I wouldn’t squish the cutie even as I tore past it. I thought about rescuing it from the road, but remember the last time I tried to take pity on a caterpillar which almost turned painful. I saw 2 more a bit further on.

Every time I do that, spot something very small and swerve to avoid it at speed, I think of one of the biggest subjects of contention among us recumbent trikers. Visibility.

A lot of riders on the FB cycle groups I’m part of, take a kind of arrogant attitude about how those of us who ride on roads are taking our lives in our hands. They NEVER go off trails and there have been many time when they sneer at me for saying how sick I am of the River Loop. These are also the same people who would be snarky and mean about my putting the trike in the car in search of new places to ride.

Their main argument is that they are so low to the ground that drivers can’t see them. A low of hooey. People see small animals scurrying across the street. Lines on the road are lower still. Speed bumps? When I drive, I see those things just fine.

It’s further reinforced when I’m on the trike and going at a brisk pace and yet, I can see a vole scurry into the road, or swerve to avoid a black caterpillar, smaller than my pinky, inching along dark, wet pavement. Froglings, just fresh out of the river on pavement after a rain look just like pea-sized pebbles and yet, when riding the trike, I can spot them even when they aren’t moving and try to avoid them.

That said, there are circumstances where our low profile is a disadvantage. Riding around parked cars or hedges and the like. On the open road, no. The only excuse that a driver didn’t see us is because they weren’t looking at the road.

Personally, I’ll take the sneers and yeah, I’ve had a couple of tumbles from bad drivers. Yet, my trike world is so much bigger than those who stick to only those trails they can easily reach to ride over and over and over, like my endless River Loop. So many things I would have missed. So much I have missed these past years with my body keeping me trapped on the hamster tracks. I pine for those open roads.

I don’t know if true freedom will come this year, but I’m working hard for it. Going to the gym 4x a week and hopefully more and longer country hamster tracks this year at the very least. Jumkil and Vänge. Maybe even manage to do the huge loop out to Wiks and back to Uppsala.

But I’ve gone off track..

Wind or no, it was turning into a good ride. I felt comfortable in the trike and, when not battling the wind, I felt fairly strong and zipping along on the flats and gentler hills. A vivid reminder of why I love riding. A sense of freedom and being off the River Loop helped that right along.

About mile 8 though, it turned into a bit of struggle as my knees started to ache. I guess I was pushing a bit harder on the pedals than I should have, but with all the wind, it was no surprise.

But that was about the only discomfort, other than the cold, on the ride. I wasn’t desperately stopping every 500 yards to jerk my feet off the pedals to work out cramps.

I was borderline frozen when I turned into the collection of buildings at Ulva that sit above the mill. It looked rather closed. The cafe definitely was, but then every few minutes, someone would walk from one building to another and all signs were turned to ‘open’. I was a tiny bit bummed about the cafe being closed. A hot chocolate would have been so welcome.

I scuttered into the bathroom to warm up a bit.

It was about 2:30 pm by this time. Getting home in time for a hot dinner wasn’t looking good, but I was gonna give it my all. I’d have had to drink the cocoa on the go so I guess it was just as well the cafe was closed.

The trike buzzed down the hill to zip over the mill race and it was another steep hill to leave the water behind. I looked over at the new cycle path, only to see snow and packed ice. Staying on the road was quicker with no ice or gravel, but less interesting.

Even with aching knees, I felt the strongest I’ve felt in a while. It was just so wonderful to be pedaling along with feet, hips and all but my knees feeling good. It was also a wonderful mental boost to away from River Loop.

I came down the hill toward the intersection with the old E4 and saw the southern end of the new cycle path was actually completely free of the white and slippery stuff. It likely would have been a mushy ride, as hard on the knees as the first part with snow, but I filed the information away for later.

I was actually making pretty good time for the last few miles of the ride. By the time I hit the last 2 miles, I was so glad that it was almost completely downhill except for the underpasses. My knees were getting painful enough that they were interfering with the joy of the ride.

As the time edged toward 3 pm, I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t have time to eat if I took the trike back to the storage where the car was parked. Better that I stop at home, cook the spaghetti, and stuff it down my gullet before the 4 pm deadline, and THEN ride the trike back to storage.

Or maybe I’d just put the trike away here at the apartment instead. Give my knees an early rest and then once food had settled a bit, I could walk with Loke to fetch the car.

That sounded like such a good idea! Didn’t happen. Every route to the trike’s spot here was blocked by mounds of snow knee deep or higher. Reluctantly, I parked it beside the other bikes.

I was slapping ground meat in a pan right about 3:05 pm. Had just enough time to cook and eat.

Loke was interested as I put his harness on him. The trike was still where I’d locked it up and soon we were inching along. The gravel was just horrid on the poor fuzzy’s feet. Fortunately, it was just a few yards to cycleway along Svartbäcken Street which is kept clear of gravel when it’s as warm as it’s been.

I finished with just a bit shy of 14 miles. Half a mile of that was with the furball.

Back home, Loke was his usual pain in the rump. Just relentless of late. It got my mind working on how to protect his feet without socks that clench around his ankles and cause him as much or more pain than gravel covered asphalt.

Sunday, I ran around looking for the things needed to try an idea.

I spent all day Monday arguing with denim, needles, thread, elastic and Gorilla Tape.

Oh, Gorilla Tape. How I wish I had discovered you back when Loke was still able to wear socks. One set would have lasted 4 or 5 times longer than with the standard duck tape! Of course, for all I know the stuff is a recent arrival here in Sweden. Just from my handling it the little bit to reinforce the test socks, color me impressed.

For my next ride, I’m going to replace the duck tape on my chain tube with it.

But for my sock experiment, it came to nothing. If I had the elastic attached between harness and sock just short enough to keep the sock in place when Loke lifted his foot for a step, it was too short for when he extended, jamming his toes and nails uncomfortably into the end of the sock. If it was loose enough to accommodate his extension, it was too loose and let the sock twist and slip down at the left which would then trip him when he tried to extend for the step.

Wasted an entire day on that. Now I know though. Just one more obstacle to Loke coming with me, as if his general slowness and foot frailty wasn’t frustrating enough.

So, that’s my most recent ride and so nice to get out and about.

Other cycle related things I’ve been pondering are possible upgrades to my tent. Feels ridiculous to even consider that as the tent I currently own has seen so little action. I don’t think it’s been erected more than 5 times in the years I’ve had it and only slept in twice. It’s a good little tent. I just haven’t been able to go tour as much as I’ve desperately wished to do.

A few months ago, Jens posted me a link to an Amok hammock. Supposedly, you can sleep flat and the orientation of the sleeper is across the line of the support ropes. It can convert into a chair shape as well. It has a built in bug net. To keep the rain off, you need a tarp. It got my mind thinking wistfully of sleeping up off the uneven ground with rocks and roots. I’m just a bit wary about it because a lot of wooded areas are so densely packed with undergrowth and young trees that it’s practically impossible to find an open space between two trees big enough to suspend a hammock.

I suppose I could just bring my tent to leave my options open.

It’s led to me to look at other possibilities though. I’ve found one called ‘Flying Tent’, which is a more traditional like hammock, length wise on the lines. Best of all, it can be used as a bivy tent as well, which is VERY intriguing, but reviews have shown a tendency for the bug fly to tear along the seams.

There’s another that also can swap between tent and hammock that I’m researching. My feelings are pretty mixed though. I love the idea, but wary of spending a chunk of change on something I can’t really use…

We’ll see.

Muddling Along
February 13, 2019, 8:14 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’ve been very quiet here, I know, but that fits right in with the fact that since the first week of January, I’ve only had one ride and that one just a dash on my hamster track of the River Loop.

The weather was staying pretty cold for a while. Firmly below freezing even during the daylight hours, which is amazing, given it was winter and all.

Loke continued to have a bit of an up and down thing with his recovery from the hospital visits, but fortunately, nothing that put him back in the hospital. I finally just quit offering him ground deer meat to take his pills and now, it all seems hunky dorey. I guess he’s just gotten allergic to the meats we’ve been giving him since all domestic meat went off the table. Just kibble from here on. Oh, and dried rabbit ears for treats.

About a month after his last visit to the hospital, I took him to our vet clinic for blood tests to check his B vitamin levels. I also had the vet check him for kennel cough because, well, he was coughing and his nose was running like faucet. I read that correct. Kennel cough. *bangs head on desk*

So, he couldn’t go out with the trike thanks to that too.

Not that the trike was calling much. Every time I’d even consider going for a ride, I’d look at the pile of wool and electric socks and just UGH. 40 minutes just to get ready for the ride and to ride what? The River Loop? At a snail’s pace? Actually, a pace that would be easy for snails to beat. Just no. Go out for a walk, takes 3 minutes to get ready and going about the same speed. Not to mention, I could also jump in the car and say, drive to Wiks for a far more interesting walk than another plod on the hamster tracks.

Truly a pity in some ways because some of the days were just A-MAZ-ING. Mother Nature rolled up her sleeves and had every tree across the landscape perfectly flocked with snow and frost, all set against a backdrop of flawless blue skies. Days with not a breath of wind to shake the delicate layers loose from even the smallest of bare twigs.

To have gotten out and ride across the countryside in that would have been breathtaking. Then there was the wool and the socks and Jens insisting I take Loke for a ‘short’ ride which would eat into 3 hours or more of the brief daylight we have at this time of the year…. and no. Just go for a walk.

And walking has been much easier of late. I don’t even dislike it, amazingly enough. All thanks to the gym. I may hate the gym, but for the results I’ve finally been getting the past months, I can push through that hate and keep going. That combined with intermittent fasting (8 hours of the day where I eat – 16 hours I fast), I’ve lost about 11 pounds and feel worlds better.

Most shocking about it, it’s been easy. When I first researched about it, there were the all the articles talking about adjustment periods and such. Feeling hungry in the middle of the night and what-not.

Nope, none of that for me. Even the first couple days. I held off breakfast until 8 am, and had my main meal of the day around 2 pm, and finished off with some salad a bit before 4 pm. Not hungry through the evening and slept the nights through like a baby. Woke the next morning and felt fine. No low blood sugar, no gnawing hunger pangs, no headaches. Felt a bit hungry about 6:30 am, but nothing that even tempted me to throw myself at an early breakfast. I made it to 8 am just fine.

Honestly, it’s been much easier this way than going with my traditional 1400 calorie restriction diet. That one, I had headaches and hunger pangs. Sometimes, my blood sugar would have me shaking and feeling light-headed. All gone.

An even bigger surprise with the fasting, it’s completely derailed my compulsive comfort eating. Decades of struggling with that and now, it’s like it never existed. Just… wonderful and weird.

Does make things like dinner with the family a bit challenging, but I’m willing to be flexible if I need to.

The biggest challenge I think will be if I get back to REALLY riding my trike. I’m not talking plodding around the River Loop for the 10,000th time, or even my old Börje Loop or the like. I’m talking, I wake up to birdsong at 3:30 am and by 4 am, I’m dressed and either pedaling or on the road for fresher roads and staggering home 6 or 8 pm.

Breakfast in that scenario wouldn’t be a problem. Just put my fruit yogurt in one of the travel cups and stop out in the gorgeous countryside to tuck in when 8 am rolls around.

My main meal, that’s where it’s gets tricky. Just pass the entire day snacking on some fruit, nuts, and granola? What about a good solid protein source? A protein bar doesn’t count and not sure I could stomach any of them on the market.

Jens doesn’t much like the idea of me stopping with my camp stove to whip up something resembling a proper meal, but if I’m gonna stay with this fasting thing, then that’s likely what will need to happen. I’ll look at it as touring practice. Hehe.

And I do hope to tour… at sometime. I would love for it to be this year, but as long as Loke’s still in our lives, I’m not sure it will happen. If the past 2 weeks have shown anything to me, it’s how hard it is to escape him to go ride. Really ride, never mind just pedaling off across the Swedish landscape for days with a trailer full of camping gear.

The past two weeks, Jens has been home sick with a brutal cold. I kid you not, other than going to the hated gym, every moment out of this apartment has been to walk the dog, get something for Jens, or get something for the general household. I’m about to start clawing at the walls.

And even just going for a walk with Loke has gotten complicated. The weather did a major jump. In less than 2 days, it went from single digit temps to nearly 40 F. 2+ feet of snow on the ground and what had been packed into hard ice on the roads and paths suddenly turned into miniature canyons where the flush of melt water carved into it. One of my friend posted photos of daffodil shoots and buds that practically exploded out of the ground where the snow and vanished overnight.

It was so pleasant and Loke was being such a huge PITA, that I decided there was no help for it, I had to go for a ride. At least I could skip all but one layer of wool and didn’t need the socks at all. The roads and paths were mostly clear of ice too.

Loke was thrilled as I got dressed and off we went. I had a bit of a pleasant shock when I sat in the trike.

Before Christmas, when I’d ride, I felt kinda… precarious in the trike since making the swap of the seat cover for one that wasn’t coming all to pieces. It was just like I was kinda ‘pushed out’ and not comfortable at all. Of course, even before I swapped the seat cover, I’ve not often felt comfortable in the trike for a couple years or more.

Well, this ride, I just fit better in the trike. I felt comfortable. Nothing was painful. I also felt nicely strong. Admittedly, with Loke along, it wasn’t like I was exerting myself. My heart rate was barely 70 bpm the entire way.

The complication reared its head rather quickly though. I headed down the road to connect with the cycle path. Less than half a mile down the path, Loke was walking uncomfortably. The paving of the path was under a good half inch of gravel, all that the city had laid down for traction on ice and snow which had melted away. It was killing his feet. He can’t wear socks any more. The 3 miles to get him back to the apartment took over 2 hours.

I would have called Jens to come get him sooner, but he was loopy from various medications it wouldn’t have been legal for him to drive.

That just depressed me to no end. It makes me feel even more trapped since Loke can barely even go for a walk on that stuff. We were doing walking speed with the trike as it was. The walks since then have been with a ‘owie’ footed husky unless I just wander up and down the sides of Svartbäcken Street where they keep the cycle way clear of ice and gravel for commuters to go faster.

I’m hoping I can get out for a ride soon. The weather forecast seems to hint that spring is here. No daytime temps below freezing for the next 10 days at least. I truly hope that doesn’t mean we’re going to get another hellish summer like last. I just need something positive for me and my riding to happen. I’m so… trapped.