Monday, March 26, 2012

Positively ranting- it's an art form!

It was beautiful, sunny, t-shirt weather here in S.W. Washington yesterday.  We took a ride to the playground so Jack could start working on his new found fear of slides, he did manage to make it down once with lots of persuasion. The ride was really enjoyable but I think I may have pushed my knees a little too far because last night they ached, then this morning I had to retrieve a ball from beneath the bed and my knees felt painful and weak.

Walla Walla sweet onions growing- one of the things I look forward to every year is the smell of onions that permeates the air in fall, it smells wonderful and always leaves me longing for a bag of Sour Cream and Chive potato chips.

Last night I decided to write a post on Bike Forums, this is how it went:

Hi fellow cyclists!

If you've had a rough day and if you don't want to be depressed by the likes of me then I warn you now to click the "back" button
. The truth is I'm feeling a little run down and old right now and thought I'd seek comfort by venting a little and also asking how everyone else copes with the aches and pains of cycling.

Since going car free in January it has been very slow progress. When I'm on my bike I feel like the slowest thing on the road and my pedals feel like they are barely moving. I haven't been cycling daily, maybe about 2-3 times a week...I'd like to get out daily and was thinking that might help? I ride everywhere with my toddler in tow on my cargo bike so my set up with him and the bike and his seat, plus panniers makes for 100lb of "bike" + my weight (which I just can't mention right now)...I feel like I'm barely moving. I've been experimenting with gear use and find I work better with higher RPM's and get less knee pain that way.

Prior to my life as a cyclist I was about as sedentary as a mum of a toddler can be, I keep busy- but not really the same output as cycling. There are times now where my heart feels like its going to beat out my chest.

I've signed myself up for the 30 days of biking event, and therefore have committed to getting on the bike every single day in April- which is scary for me right now.

I guess my questions would be:

Did most of you feel like this when you started but not so much now?

Or, is it going to be this tough all the way through- or at least until a major amount of weight comes off?
Do any of you take supplements for joint pain?
Do you have any words of advice or inspiration for me?

Below is a picture of my awesome bike from my little trip to the park with my family today. Thanks again for letting me vent, I write about my journey in my blog but didn't feel like doing a long blog post tonight- thanks!!!!

Very much appreciated in my time of need! 

As I expected, I received lots of truly helpful advice from people who have been where I am right now.

Most of them mentioned the same thing- seat positioning. I have played around with my seat height since I got the bike and I do actually feel like it's in a good position. I started with it rather low, purposely just so I could reach the ground with both feet while I got used to carrying Jack on the back. Since starting I've adjusted it up twice, till now my legs seem to be at the right angle.

The second thing most commonly mentioned in the replies was cadence.  In the past I admittedly was a gear cruncher- preferring to pedal less repetitions with more push behind them.  I realized rather quickly that this wasn't going to work for my knees and have now been opting for faster pedaling. As was pointed out in the comments at Bike Forums, faster repetitions stress your heart and lungs, whereas harder pedaling places more work on muscles and joints- I thought that was an excellent point for me to remember.

When I consider yesterday's ride I do remember when we left the park I cycled on the grass for about 100 feet in a hard gear and really had to power through it, I now realize this was probably a bad idea. I'm trying to include some of these more mundane details in the blog because if I do manage to inspire someone in a similar situation I would like them to be able to learn from my mistakes. 

I also hurt my hand yesterday and almost dropped the bike twice, once while mounting and once when I was attempting to dismount.  Kyle was with me and got really concerned about my abilities- offering advice I won't repeat. I hope to never let this blog become a depressing rant, but I do want to include the realistic challenges of someone in my position.

I had no intention of even including this topic in a post until this morning when I retrieved the ball that Jack had lost.  The pain reminded me to check my post at Bike Forums and the answers inspired me to go ahead and include this chapter of my journey.

My plan after careful consideration of the excellent advice given is to rest for a few days with some help from ibuprofen.  Maybe take a leisurely stroll in the field opposite our house and be content with that for a few days.  Then as I refuse to be put off from my 30 days of Biking commitment I will map out a simple, stress free route for days when I want to keep it light, and then maybe a few tougher ones for days when I'm really hoping to get some mileage in.

It would be unrealistic to not expect mishaps and bumps in the road to health and a car-free lifestyle and I refuse to let these things get me down.  I still hold fast to my aspirations of becoming a healthy role model for Jack and every day when we enjoy our morning snuggles I feel refreshed and re-inspired!


  1. When you mentioned knee pain, I immediately thought the same think about seat height. When your knee is bent at the top of the stroke and you push hard on the pedal, that puts a lot of strain on your knee and quadracepts. Think of how much your knee bends when you walk; some, but not a lot. No matter what, your knee has to bend more to pedal a bike because the leg stroke is longer than walking.

    I had a hard time pedaling with weight on board when I first started riding the Mundo. I raised the seat little by little until my knees and quads didn't hurt so much. Now I can climb hills pretty good.

    It is OK to go slow. Just shift down into whatever gear is not too hard to pedal in, spin as much as you like and go whatever speed that is. 90 RPM is where I like to stay for a good cardio workout. So something in the 60 to 80 RPM range should be maintainable without getting your heart rate way up.

    I think that you may also want to consider getting shorter cranks. The Mundo is a one size fits all deal and so the cranks may be a little long for your legs. With shorter cranks, you won't have to get the seat so high to keep your knees from bending excessively at the top. Your LBS should be able to help with this. I think you could get shorter cranks installed for less than $100.

    In regard to starting out in a too high gear, one major disadvantage of the derailer type gear system is that you cannot shift when stopped. For utility bike applications I feel this is a poor situation. You have to stop quickly all the time and thinking about downshifting when you are making an emergency stop is just not gonna happen. For your future upgrades, you may want to look at an internal gear hub (IGH). To get the hub laced to the wheel would cost between $300 and $500, so it isn't cheap.

    You are doing great Lindsay. Take it easy on your knees. It is OK to go slow, don't push it. Speed will come. Many people say that riding a bicycle is something you never forget after learning how to do it. But in reality there are all these little things you need to do to ride a bike efficiently for long distances. I quickly saw when I started riding that I didn't know how to ride even though I've ridden bikes all my life. Take your time, make small adjustments and note how you feel. Group rides are a great way to learn because other people can see what you're doing and can offer immediate suggestions.

    Take care,

    1. Hi Ian-

      I do believe you are right about the crank being too long, I did wonder that at one point but thought it was in my head. I do have shorter legs for sure and just can't see having the saddle any higher, and yet I still feel "cramped".

      I won't be able to remedy that situation for a bit, but will ask at my LBS to see what they can do for me. The hub too is not in the budget. I'm usually really good about remembering to change to an easier gear before stopping, I think I got caught up in the moment yesterday;) Parks are very exciting things when you have a toddler lol.

      Thank you Ian for your words of encouragement- they surely mean a lot to me! Cheers- Lindsay

  2. I lost about 50 pounds ~2 years ago and remember some of the things you're talking about all too well. It was hard to get to a point where exercise wasn't a struggle and where I didn't feel constantly embarrassed. Weight loss helped, of course, but taking it easy on yourself also helps. I wasn't riding a bike at the time but agree that gearing down is a great idea; the heart and lungs are capable of picking up much more work (true for everyone except maybe professional athletes), but your joints are already under strain. And ibuprofen is a friend; there are weeks when I down a couple with my multivitamin every morning.

    Although the IGHs are fun they tend not to have as much range as a derailleur system so another possibility might be to see if you can get the gear range lower with different rings--cheaper and helpful on the hills. If money were no object I'd suggest an electric assist--lowering the assistance as your strength increases would be a great application, especially on a loaded cargo bike.

    I think that 30 days of biking is a great idea. Someone once told me that you didn't have to clean your tub well if you cleaned it every day to make it sparkling, but you'd be scrubbing for hours if you cleaned it once a month and it would still be grungy most of the time. True for exercise as well, I think: a little every day is better than all-out effort less often. (I still don't clean my tub every day or even anywhere near that. But for several months I did exercise 6 days/week, even if that exercise was something pathetic, and that definitely worked.)

    And we've all dropped the bike with the kids on board (seriously, all the family biking blogs have written about doing this at some point or another). Mortifying, but it's not like a car crash, worst case scenario is some tears and scraped skin.

    Good luck!

    1. Dorie-
      Congrats on your weight loss! I do feel constantly embarrassed- that is so true! I'm embarrassed by my slowness, my breathing, my size;( I try to just forget about it because obviously it's not a positive emotion. But we live in a small town and I really don't want to be the "fat lady with the kid on the weird orange bike"...
      Your bath tub analogy is perfect for me! I love it, totally needed that today. I'm like that in many ways too, if my house gets messy I get irritable- I like to clean as I go! Thank you for sharing!
      Hearing that others have dropped their bikes makes me feel better too! I tend to beat myself up a bit about anything in regards to parenting (typical mother in many ways)...I'm pretty sure Jack is such a little toughie he probably wouldn't even cry if I did drop it...I would for sure!

      Thank you so much!

    2. Lindsay,

      your "fat lady with the kid on the weird orange bike" quote made remember a Zits comic strip from back in the day. Jeremy, the high school protagonist, walks out of the cafeteria line with his lunch on the first day of school with a thought bubble above him saying "is anyone looking at me?" then the next image is panned out to most of the cafeteria and every single student is thinking exactly the same thing.

      In short, be the fat lady with the kid on the weird orange bike. At least you are riding your bike, and it makes you happy. The fact that riding makes you happy, makes you healthy, and having Jack behind you is just the icing on the cake. Let the people looking at you worry about their own individual destinies, you go about making your own.


  3. To follow up on Ian's comment, I'm loving my new NuVinci N360 combined with a road front triple on my recumbent trike which I'll use as a tractor for cargo trailers, among other things. I have a huge gear range from as slow as walking (while spinning at approximately 75 RPM) to as fast as a car.

    With the NuVinci, you have a continuously variable transmission inside the rear hub. It's actually easier to change the gear ratio without torque on the drivetrain so changing while stopped, coasting, or during the easy part of the pedal stroke is the way to go. It's expensive and a little weighty but it's well worth the penalties.

    1. dygituljunky-

      I have heard good things about them and would love something like that one day - probably a long way off for me financially...maybe by the time I can afford it I will be in better shape lol. Thanks for your comment!

  4. I have definitely learned that I need to start off in a lower gear, whether it's pulling out of the driveway or at a stop sign. I'm fortunate to have a system that can shift when I'm at a stop, but I still make it a habit of downshifting in advance when I can, coasting up to the stop in the lower gear I'll need to start off in.

    People warned me about seat height too, but I'm short (5'4") with long legs so my geometry may seem odd. Turned out I had to lower the handlebars to get the fit at a good place. Suddenly the bike was MUCH easier to push up hills when I couldn't pedal up them. Just one more thing to look into.

    1. Hey Kath!

      What is frustrating is I'm usually really good about shifting down before I stop, before I pull in the driveway (downhill coming home) and I knew it was going to be tough, I knew my knees already hurt and I still just did it anyway!

      I too think my handlebars need adjusting. I didn't actually go and get fitted when I bought my bike, kyle just went and got it- I think I shall make some adjustments.

      Thanks for your comments! Cheers!

  5. Don't forget that it might not just be seat height but also seat position, front and back. You don't necessarily have to have a mechanic look at that, just play around with it and see what feels best. Also, youtube would probably have some great videos about proper pedal stroke, maybe you could set up a mirror and sit on the bike and check out how yours compares. It'll be super easy when your stand-alone comes in. You're going to love it! We all have down days. Take a few days off or just lighten the trips, lower the gears and coast ;)

    1. Hey Elle- I will certainly check Youtube- I use it for everything from recipes to cartoons for Jack. Thanks for the idea! Its amazing the resources we have now! Thanks Lindsay

  6. Somehow I managed to hit delete rather than post on this comment and was unable to recover it- seems like a oversight on blogger that they haven't put a safety net on this:( Anyway here's a comment from T.D.C!

    I'm sorry I hadn't logged in to BF last night/today,haven't/hadn't seen the post until now...looks like people have been giving you great thoughts already though,same things I would have mentioned,and....

    "Don't forget that it might not just be seat height but also seat position, front and back. You don't necessarily have to have a mechanic look at that, just play around with it and see what feels best"

    ...awesome thought,I wouldn't have thought of that unless it were my own bike and knees,good thinking Elle :)

    Lindsay: AWESOME that you're keeping your attitude positive,my friend,and yes you have awesome inspiration (role model for Jack),and the benefit of a great,supportive spouse. You can do it,you've proven that,keep going my friend,I have much repsect and faith :)

    And remember,if you get discouraged in April,LOTS of fellow cyclists (myself included) are right there with you (in spirit of course,LOL,all of us living all over the globe ;) ),me included,look to local friends,LBS,KYLE,BF,all kinds of places for support and inspiration. That's one thing I truly love about this lifestyle (being a cyclist,whether car-free,car lite,recreational,it doesn't matter),of all the areas in my own life,cyclists are by far one of the best groups of people I've had the pleasure to know. I have faith in you Jack and Kyle,my friend,keep on :)

    The Disabled Cyclist

    1. Hello TDC-

      Yes, I got tons of good advice! I haven't actually made any adjustments yet as I'm letting the knees rest for a few days- just enjoying some walks.

      It is amazing to me how much support I have on this journey- I am very lucky! Even Yuba themselves have been amazingly supportive and my community of bike friends, like yourself!

      April is just around the corner...even if I just go around the block I intend on cycling everyday- unless I really shouldn't for my health- but I'm sure that won't be the case. As the days are lsting longer I can always zip out on Kyle's bike when he gets home if I have to!

      Cheers Lindsay

  7. Lindsay-

    It is hard. I totally feel your pain. Every time I get on my bike I have the worry about the "fat girl on a bike" issue. For years that was one reason I wouldn't even get on a bike- I thought I may break it!

    My knees hurt when I don't keep my toes in. I got pedals that have little cages on it (sorry for my lack of bike lingo- I love riding but don't have the jargon down) that keep my toes in line which keep my knees in line and also that helped with my hips.

    I don't carry the baby or pannier weight that you carry but I do carry the same person weight and sometimes that can seem heavier than it is. Trust that even if you are going slower- you are doing it right. Trust that even if you "think" people are calling you the "fat girl with a baby on the orange bike" what they are really thinking is - I wish I was on a bike today instead of my stuffy car; or - look how cool of a mama that woman is for riding her bike, her baby and groceries around town, I want to be like her!

    I am proud of you! Keep up the good work and take care of your bones, body and mind!

    Tricia Duffin

    1. Hi Tricia-

      Maybe those toe clip things (my mind can't come up with the right word either) would help me. Worth a try and they probably are not very expensive.

      You made me shed some tears reading your comment, just knowing I'm not the only one- knowing its okay to just be yourself sometimes. I really am lost for words. THANK YOU! Lindsay

  8. When I first started out trying to commute every day to work, I got very concerned for a while because my muscles started to ache very badly a few weeks into it- not when I first started, but maybe even a month afterwards, so the change worried me. I had to use my hands to get up out of the driver's seat or off the couch. Because it was just achy muscles (and I was just coming out of another try at P90X where muscles hurting is commonplace) I just was able to hop onto the bike and keep going- I think this helped me pull through that much faster than simply medicating.

    As for my knees- I also learned very quickly that they were not up to what I thought was normal riding- using the biggest (smallest? most difficult) gear you can so that you go further for each pedal rotation. I felt that the easier gears had me pedaling like mad but getting no-where. That was when I was just going out during lunchtimes.
    When I actually had to get somewhere every day, I had to go to the easy gears out of necessity- it was all I could manage and I felt like a wussy. But, I got there every day. Out of breath and wobbly-legged, but there.

    Gradually I didn't breathe so hard, and that easy gear felt weird and too fast, so I'd shift up one, then back down when I couldn't handle it. Eventually I just didn't shift down. For a while my derailleur was out of adjustment and the bike shifted up for me. It was such a royal pain that I advanced another gear because I was tired of constantly putting it back in the gear I wanted. I started out going everywhere in gear 1, and now I'm up to gear 4 most of the time on my 7-speed bike.

    I'm sorry you hurt yourself, but I promise it will get better. Everyone wants to help you, even if we can't be there riding with you (which would be fun!). Just go at your own pace, and don't let anyone tell you that you can't.

    Also, I think it really helps to look at pictures of other people, such as the ones posted on I know most of the women in my side of the family hate to have themselves in pictures, but I think my twin always looks great. I also don't like myself in pictures, and she thinks lots of my photos are great. Most of the photos I see posted might be of people who don't like something about themselves or don't want to be "on display", but honestly, how many people do you look at and think twice about? I notice people on bikes now, but just because they are on bikes, and more often than not, I'm checking out their baskets and fenders, you know? You are not a giant eyesore on that wacky orange bike :) Don't give a thought to how you look, because most likely- other people aren't going to either, and only you can know how good that bike makes you feel.

    1. Red-eyed Tree Froggy-

      This post was perhaps one of the more emotional ones for me, and seems to have continued that way. The comments on this post have made me tear up a few times now- thank you for your comment!

      Your perseverance is truely inspirational, many people would have become frustrated and refused to ride a bike with gear issues like you describe.

      I know what you are saying about pictures. My mum refuses to have her picture taken- she hates it! I managed to get a picture with her for the blog and I know she only did it because she didn't want to not be supportive (my mum's great!).

      I'm have decided quite solidly that I won't let me feelings of aches and pains or self-consciousness keep me from cycling EVERY day in April! It's my challenge of the month and I'm feeling ready!

      Thank you as always for your support!


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