GentleSoul Arts

Living a Creative Life


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Reflections on cycling

This past weekend, I had an opportunity to really push myself on a 30-mile gravel ride that I ultimately opted out of. I rode a 20-mile gravel ride with friends previously, and that was pushing past my comfort zone (I’ll more about that on my podcast). 30 miles while probably doable, was more than I wanted to push right now.

I started thinking about the WHY of my cycling. I started 2 years ago for health reasons. My mom had passed away, I had turned 50, I didn’t want to turn into a “little old lady, piddling around the house”. That may still be my motivation for getting out the door, or starting a Zwift session but what do I get out of spinning it out?

Quiet time to myself, knowing that I can travel 30 miles easily under my own power. If it comes to where I don’t have a car, or can’t afford gasoline, I have reliable transportation. Noticing trees, butterflies, flowers, a slower way to travel, on paths that a car isn’t allowed.

Do I want to race? No. Do I want to ride gravel all the time, or roads all the time? No. I enjoy being able to ride in various areas. I’m not strictly a roadie or a graveler. I have zero interest in mountain bikes, bunny hops, or flipping over my handlebars after hitting a root.

I want to ride for fun, to see what my body can accomplish. Sometimes I want to ride alone, sometimes with my cycling friends. I don’t really know about riding events. I did two this past year. One I didn’t know anyone, and it was enjoyable. The 2nd was a larger event, but my cycling group was riding, so we ended up mostly together so it didn’t feel like a large event once we started rolling. I enjoy having a supported ride with traffic being stopped for us. I don’t want to ride with a large group I don’t know. Everyone I’ve met has been welcoming though, but I have my core group that I know will support and encourage me

I’ve accomplished a lot in the last 8 months in terms of my cycling goals. I went from a normal ride being 8-9 miles to it being 18-20 miles. I’ve become consistent, riding in groups when the weather permits, getting out on my own or with a friend on the weekend, or on my trainer now that the time has changed and it’s dark when I get home. I have 2 bikes (Frida, the road bike and Kismet, the gravel bike) and although I know the N+1 rule, there’s not a ‘next bike’ in mind. I’ve gone from flat pedals to clipless on my road bike. Although I don’t always embrace the term, I finally feel like a cyclist.

Looking towards 2022, I would like to learn basic maintenance & repair for my bikes. Maybe my next bike will be an upcycled scrapper I put together myself, just to learn to build one. I’ve done a few 30-mile rides so my next goal will be 50 miles (road miles – my gravel goal will be becoming comfortable with 20 miles and hills).

Mostly, I just want to keep riding.


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Clip Clip Clop

Another busy week, with lots of new adventures in cycling and a few adventures in art. 

After my group ride, I decided it’s time to go clipless and work on joining the faster group. I had taken the day off on Wednesday for another group ride (more on that in a bit) so I took my bike to my Local Bike Shop and I now have mountain bike (Crankbrothers Candy 1) pedals on my road bike & easy release cleats on new cycling shoes.  

I practiced a bit in the hallway, learning how it would feel to clip & unclip. I almost went sideways but luckily hallways are narrow enough I could put an arm out to catch myself.  I didn’t have much time because I had a beginner gravel ride to get to!

Gravel is SO MUCH FUN!  I took my geocaching ‘trail bike” (It’s really a fitness hybrid bike but it has big 700×42 tires so I call it my trail bike. It has flat bars so it’s not what people think of as a ‘gravel bike” but it worked well enough!).  Sand is challenging, trying to keep going when you’re being bogged down.  It’s really a metaphor for life.  Gravel & rocks were easier but you still have to let the bike tend to go where it wants and gently steer it back instead of forcing it.  It reminded me of driving on ice.   It was a short 10-mile route but a full-body workout.  Lying in bed, I noticed how sore my abs were.   I will definitely ride gravel whenever I have a chance. 

Thursday evening, stationary clipless practice.  I brought my road bike to the living room and practiced clipping out & in, one foot on the ground while watching TV.  I managed to fall twice, both to the left.   Replaying it in my mind, I had to have leaned left while clipped in.  Well, I think I know now what prompted it but I had my first fall out of the way.  Notice the word FIRST

Friday Evening – Sushi night!!  I planned on practicing on the grass at a nearby park for a bit, ordering sushi, and practicing more until it was time to pick up my order.  Clip-in, push off, fall over.  Okay.. get up and try again.  Clip-in, push off, fall over.  I sat for a while pondering if clipless really worth this effort, should I just have my LBS put my flats back on.  Could I even return the shoes & pedals?  Should I just keep them until later or sell them on a cycling Facebook group.  I reminded myself that I’m a perfectionist and that failing sucks but it’s part of the learning process. Giving in to that is the worst way to go.  Keep practicing.  If you stop to look try to clip in without pedaling, you’re going to fall due to a lack of momentum.  Basic physics. An object in motion tends to stay in motion, so even if you can’t clip in right away, keep pedaling.  

I managed to clip in and go a bit, but when I tried to clip out on my left foot, I fell over. My heart was racing at the fact I did ride clipped in for even a few yards.  I’ve noticed I push off with my right when I start so planned on stopping with my left.  But I also naturally stop with my right foot, then step off the bike, swing my pedal into position with my right foot to take off again.  I’m going to have to learn to push off on my left, keeping it clipped in, and not try to go against what my body wants to do when I’m stopping. 

I fell over at least one more time, maybe twice.  At this point, I lost count.  I order my sushi and kept practicing.  I would have kept going if it hadn’t been for picking up dinner for me & my son.   It was much harder to unclip with my left foot so I practiced stopping on my right, keeping my left clipped in.  It felt more natural but still, I have to actively remember to unclip as I slow, instead of waiting until I’m braking.

Saturday: Morning ride with a new friend.  I took my trail bike because there’s no way I’m going anywhere near asphalt or cement until I can ride & stop without gravity’s assistance.  An easy 10-mile ride.  I noticed we really didn’t come to a complete stop often, and I did practice the “clipping out” motion on my flat pedals to reinforce that muscle memory. 

When I got home I contemplated rearranging the living room to set up my trainer & road bike to practice indoors.   I had a sketching event in the afternoon I had to get ready for too, along with running to the bike shop to have my trail bike’s gearing adjusted & to make sure my cleats were okay.  I was told the more I use the pedals, the more they would loosen up, and that they really couldn’t adjust my cleats to make it easier to unclip. When I got back from sketching, I rearranged bookcases &  made room for my trainer.  I practiced some, so much easier to unclip on my right. 

My Road Bike, Frida.

Sunday:  Stationary trainer clipless practice!  I accidentally unclipped on my left, as I had my right foot down.  When I have my weight on my right foot, my left foot tends to point out. Experiment time.  I clipped in my left foot,  turned my heel towards my bike, toes out and instantly unclipped.  I’ve been trying to turn my heel out.    Also looking at my cleats, the left was angled more than the right. A google search on cleat placement verified that my cleat was angled to clip out heel inward.  So I counted the little marks on my right shoe cleat & lined up my left cleat to be similar.  When I went to tighten the cleat, it shifted …. Ahh, so tightening the cleat is what caused it to go crooked.   After I straightened it again, tightening it equally so it wouldn’t go sideways, I clipped in, heel out, unclip.  SO MUCH EASIER!!!  I can go back to training muscle memory to always go heel out to unclip instead of one foot one way, the other foot the other way, but I can clip out heel in as well.  More trainer practice…. 

In the evening I had another group ride with friends on the trail bike, a slow 10-mile lap which felt good.  Again, noticing my stopping (favoring the right), and working on starting on my left foot to get into the habit of it. 

Tonight I’ll take my trail bike to my long group ride, staying with the slow group as I really can’t ride it as fast as my road bike.  I’ll go back to a park to practice on grass sometime during the week, and hopefully, I’ll feel comfortable enough with it to ride my road bike in the group ride next week. 


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Facing the Challenge

Every week I pull a card from a combined deck of Brian Froud’s The Faeries’ Oracle and The Heart of Faerie Oracle.  This week is from The Heart of Faerie, The Challenge. 

During my bike ride Saturday I accepted a challenge, although I hemmed & hawed about it.  I had two options for my route.  A 13 mile out & back I’ve ridden plenty of times before, or do a lap around the lake, which would be around 17 miles.  I had never ridden on the west side of this lake, but I was feeling good, keeping my heart rate in the “green” led zone on my cycling computer. 

I thought the lap was doable but new and unfamiliar.  It was early enough there was very little traffic.  A few fishermen here and there, people walking and other people on bikes (not the cyclists I expected to see but later I learned there was an event happening the same day) This would be the best time to try something new.  But still, something new. That’s scary.

I was on the trail near the lake road, and a car passed.  The license plate contained the number 555.  I’ve been noticing triple numbers aka Angel Numbers a lot more this year.  As I looked down at my cycling computer, I had ridden 5.5 miles.  Okay, time to face the challenge and ride around the lake. 

I rode the lap without incident.  I stopped for a few bike photos, and as I headed back home a car passed with the license plate containing 888.  Another wink from the universe. 

I realized that I would have my longest ride if I rode a few more miles.  So I meandered through the neighborhood, taking “the long way” home.  The total ride was 18.5 miles.  

I’ll continue to look for challenges throughout the week, listen to my inner voice as I face them, and messages of support from the Universe.