Saturday, June 30, 2012

Don't Hit Me Bro!

I am currently training for the "Tour de Shore" bike ride that is to take place on July 29th. For those not familiar with the ride, it begins at the Irish Pub in Philadelphia and spans 65 miles through South Jersey to end at the Irish Pub in Atlantic City. Last year was my first year doing it and besides being extremely dehydrated and spending the time after I finished in the Medical Tent, it was a really incredible experience. Somehow my quads forgot that I almost died (why am I so dramatic? honestly!) and I signed up for the ride again this year with my BFF's mom and two of her long-time family friends.

Naturally I have been slacking on my bike training after running Broad Street, so the month of June consisted of riding my bike pretty much every. single. day. My butt says noooo but my waistline says hellll yes! And since I've been riding so much I've noticed how many times drivers don't notice bikers or are just ambivalent to our existence on the road, thus they speed past our bikes with only inches to spare (thank you for not hitting my elbow with your side view mirror I so appreciate it).

Smiling through the tears crossing the finish
line. Only I was so dehydrated no tears
came out!
So for any of my (3) readers (hi mom and dad!) that may ride bikes or have an interest in buying a bike to start to ride (I promise you haven't forgotten how to) here are some tips I have for you, with WATCH THE DRIVERS being the longest and most important. Because let's be real, between the cell phones and the iPads and America's overall attention span of 0.2 seconds, drivers are more distracted today then ever.

1. Wear a helmet. Stop laughing and get serious. The Tour de Shore REQUIRES that us riders wear a helmet through the whole ride. I wear one every time I get on my bike. And you know what, Lance Armstrong does too. Because it's not about looking fashionable that you should be worried about. It's the crazy drivers (see my next paragraph) that are more likely going to hit and injure YOU that you should be worried about. Or that one time your chain snaps which causes you to go flying over your bike's handles and crashing to the ground (hey, it could happen).

Do you really want to risk permanent brain damage just because you feel you look silly? Honestly, I care way to much about myself and keeping myself intact (as an accident prone individual this is a requirement to my survival) then how I look. I'm not here to make an impression; I'm here to sweat and get some mileage under my belt. But people who care too much about what they look like when they work out is a subject for an entirely different post.

2. Watch out for drivers because they sure as heck aren't watching out for you.
Prime examples are of the three times I almost got hit in just the past 2 days. Mind you, I'm not a small person. I'm 5'10", riding an over-sized framed bike because my legs are so long, and wearing obnoxiously colored t-shirts. If you can't see me you are literally blind.

- Backing out of driveways: Little old lady that lives down the street from my parents was backing out of her driveway. I immediately slowed then stopped my bike even though I was on the other side of the road as I realized she didn't see me. When I tell you she pulled her car out of that driveway, into the road and only INCHES from my bike, I'm not lying. I thought I was going to have to jump off and run myself with the bike backwards to avoid being hit. She waived apologetically when she finally put her vehicle in drive.

- Yield signs: Drivers ignore these on a regular basis, so why on earth would they yield to a bicycle even though the same rules apply to bikes as vehicles? I crossed over a major intersection that has a yield sign to traffic turning off the road, and I saw the car coming through but not slowing. I instead stopped my bike and got another apologetic wave as the driver continued through the yield sign, apparently unfamiliar with how their brakes work.

- Stop signs: These are by far the worst, especially living in a small farming town where most people find them optional. I was already slowing in anticipation of a turn I was to make as there are trees blocking the oncoming traffic for the stop sign. As I approached the turn I had a Range Rover skid to a halt at the stop sign with it's front end well over and around the corner just barely missing me even though I had slowed significantly. I just shook my head at him as I made my turn since he was the one barely stopping.

I have to say that being a bike rider has made me a more attentive driver. And when I see bikers on the road I make sure to slow down and give them extra room, as they deserve to be on the road just as much as I do.

2. Hydrate. Hydrate. HYDRATE. This was my problem last year. The rest stops were unfortunately cleared out by the time my team made it there, which left us with no food or water. Hook your bike up with more then one water bottle holder. Have both water and Gatorade. Drink one of each an hour you are on your bike on a hot day. No I'm not joking.

Have you ever been dehydrated? It's terrible. At the finish line last year I wasn't sure if I was going to pass out, throw up or both. I was literally in a state of panic because I didn't know what was wrong with me. Huge thanks to the Medical Tent for helping me cool off and get water back in my system.  It took me the rest of the day (and gallons of water/Gatorade) to feel normal and I still had residual effects in my quads and calves for the next week or so.

A friend of my mom's recommended the Speedfill for my bike which I am going to order for this years race, and keep my current rack still on there as well. Plus my wonderful parents have offered to be our ride crew this year, meeting us a pit stops with our own water and food!

3. Push through the pain. Honestly, the worst and most uncomfortable you will be is the first two weeks of riding. Your, ahem, "seat", will be sore. I'm talking notice-while-you're-just-sitting-at-work or try-to-sit-on-the-toilet sore. Push through it. I kid you not after two weeks your body will have adjusted. A good pair of bike shorts or a padded seat cover helps with this as well. Me personally, I don't train with the bike shorts, but absolutely use them on my race day.

4. Have fun. Seriously, I used to ride my bike in my driveway as a kid zillions of times. My brother and sister and I would make up stories and adventures just in that little patch of blacktop. It was a blast. Which is probably why I still love riding to this day. I enjoy getting on that bike and pedaling all over. If you're not having fun you're not doing it right!

So I will just keep training and (trying) to not get hit by drivers until and on the ride July 29th. Which I'm sure I will post about after in a (hopefully) fully hydrated state this year.


  1. Hi, Natalie! Not sure if I'm getting less courageous as I get older, but I used to ride my bike without fear. Every time I get on now, I feel like I'm in a video game dodging enemies. When I was a kid, it seemed different. Of course, when I was a kid, I was a moron. Ah, well.

    1. Mr. Matt I sincerely doubt that as a kid you were a moron. Imaginative, I'm sure, and just as adventurous as any other child!
      You hit the nail on the head; it truly is like dodging enemies. And that shows how as we get older our perspectives change. I also remember jumping on my bike as a youngster with no fear and now I'm overly cautious every time I go out. But I suppose that just as the saying goes 'with age comes wisdom'.