Getting Back in Shape

My body has had a tough winter. For a few weeks I was really falling apart. I couldn’t stand up straight. I walked with a pronounced limp with pain in my left knee and hip.

Setting Aside Little Nellie

It occurred to me that my back pain was probably caused by the impact shocks I get while riding Little Nellie. Those little wheels don’t absorb much of the hit from countless tree roots on the Mount Vernon Trail. (The National Park Service is starved for money and their maintenance has really gone south in the last two or three years.)

I switched first to The Mule, then to my Cross Check, both of which have normal sized wheels (700c x 35 for the bike nerds). My back responded almost instantly to the softer ride on The Mule. When I switched the Cross Check some new back and knee problems cropped up. I re-measured the seat height and the distance from the saddle to the handlebars. The seat was about 1/2 inch higher than The Mule’s. After I adjusted it, I took off. The Cross Check’s bigger gears were just what my legs needed. I feel like my old self again.

I rode it to Friday Coffee Club today. The strong, persistent tailwind made me feel like a bike god. The ride home was a bit challenging but I actually enjoyed fighting the wind. I am back to my old commuting mileages. My last 8 days were: 30, 23.5, 45.5, 28, 31, 32, 32, and 30 miles (252 total). A couple more weeks like that should put me in decent touring shape.

Cross Check at Dyke Marsh
The Cross Check at Dyke Marsh on the Mount Vernon Trail


Working Out Off the Bike

I am also doing on alternate days: yoga, weight lifting, and physical therapy exercises including some with a foam roller. I don’t much care for any of these but you gotta do what you gotta do.


My pre-tour shopping spree has begun. I’ve bought mountain bike shorts, glasses (clear and polarized, both progressive for map reading while on the bike), Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, Croakies, Koolstop brake pads, and a combination lock. (I am trading off weight for some security but I can’t recall ever having someone try to steal The Mule while on tour.)

The other night I attended a presentation by Jim Sayer, the Executive Director of  Adventure Cycling. Adventure Cycling makes the maps that I use. Jim’s presentation really helped get my head back in the game. Jim talked up La Route Verte, the bike touring network in Quebec. This is definitely going on my to do list. The website is amazing. (And it’s in both English and French, of course.) I need to do a key word search for “black flies” though.

And just to add to the preparations, spring arrived in DC. It may be temporary but two 70 degree days are just the tonic. I rode in shorts and a t-shirt today and it was bliss.




Ten on a Sunday

  1. I hate pathletes. These are bike riders who ride trails as if they are in the Tour de France. They have no regard for anyone else on the trail. With nice weather, they were out in force today. May they die from infected saddle sores.
  2. I am no big fan of parents who take their kids on the trails either. Yes, I realize it’s a park but little kids have zero situational awareness and run in front of bikes and scooters. I saw several near misses today.  (That said, there were so many cute little kids out there today riding their teeny bikes and running on wobbly legs.)
  3. Weathermen are not floating my boat lately. They’ve over forecasted the temperature two days in a row. I go out thinking it’s going to warm up and end up freezing my butt off. You don’t need a weatherman to know that how fast your noonoos are freezing. Didn’t Bob Dylan say that?
  4. It took me most of the afternoon to ride 45 1/2 miles from my house in Fort Hunt to Bethesda and back. From DC to Old Town I had nothing in the tank. I rallied for the last six miles though which gives me cause for optimism. It was my longest ride in over four months.
  5. Before my ride, I spent 45 minutes doing my yoga routine. Some people believe yoga is self love; for me, it is self torture. Whoever invented the side plank deserves a special place in hell.
  6. I haven’t ridden Little Nellie in over a week. My body is nearly pain free. It may be time to find my Bike Friday a new home.
  7. I do my best thinking on my bike. Today, for instance, I figured out when I hurt my left rotator cuff. On my 2017 bike tour of Wisconsin and Michigan, I took a ton of pictures with a point and shoot camera while I was riding. Being right handed this meant that I had to control my loaded touring bike with only my left hand. When I was done, I noticed how sore my left triceps was.
  8. I destroyed the map case on my old Ortlieb handlebar bag during last summer’s tour. My bag lid closes with metal snaps. The more recent design of the bag closes with magnets. It also uses a redesigned map case. Last night, I stumbled on a website that carries the old map cases. So I guess I won’t have to buy a new bag.
  9. My friend Charmaine found $52 on the street while riding her bike. She’s buying.
  10. I follow someone on Twitter who likes bicycling and Neil Finn, and named her dog Lily (which is my daughter’s name). This has all the makings of a horror movie. Cue the Bernard Hermann strings….


Every bike tour uses up things. I had three pairs of bike shorts during my last tour. One pair were a bit snug at the start of the tour. I didn’t much like them. I ended up shrinking into them over the first half of the ride. By the time I reached the west coast they were my favorites. After 4,300 miles, they hung on my hips. Sadly the nose of my saddle tore the stitching out of the front. They died a hero.

My gloves wore out. I wore them every day. They were just shreds of fabric at the end. They were old school, mesh gloves with no padding in the palm. I could tell I needed more cushioning when the top of my right middle finger went numb.

With these things in mind, I have made a list of stuff to acquire for this year’s tour:

  • Shorts. I learned today that it is a little early to be shopping for bike shorts.
  • New glasses, both sunglasses and clear, with progressive lenses. This will help immensely with map reading on the go. I bought these yesterday.
  • Croakies (the thingies that holds your eyeglasses on your head). Acquired at the optician yesterday.
  • Headsweat. The one I liked was last seen hanging on a shower rod in a motel somewhere west of the Ohio River
  • Adventure Cycling maps. All I need to do is commit to a route. Derp.
  • A new bag and map case for my handlebars. My old map case was help together with packing tape from the post office. The new ones won’t work on my 15-year-old bag.
  • Tires. The Mule’s current Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires have over 5,000 miles on them. I’m confident they have another one or two thousand miles on them. That’s not enough though. My baby needs new shoes.
  • New Koolstop brake pads. My brake pads have been on the bike for two years. It would be nice to be able to stop now and then.
  • Gloves.
  • Water filter. I have never used one but something tells me that way out west I may need one.
  • Health. I am waiting to see if the cortisone shot I had fixes my left rotator cuff. So far, the spasms of acute pain have been dialed down to mild, occasional discomfort after less than a week. I am encouraged. I seem to be over all the colds and body aches that plagued me this winter.
  • A lighter motor. Alas, I have gained quite a bit of weight since last summer. I am confident that warmer weather and a few 200-mile weeks will do the trick.
  • Motivation. Cold March weather is sucking the enthusiasm out of me. Fortunately, two things are coming in the days ahead. On Sunday, temperatures will rise into the 60s. Next Wednesday, I am going to Adventure Cycling’s get together in DC.
  • Train ticket: I need to get to Chicago if I am riding Route 66.






A Shot in the Arm

Yesterday I went to the orthopedist to have him examine my wonky left upper arm and shoulder. He took xrays which revealed nothing more that a smidgen of arthritis, pretty much the norm for someone my age.

Then he examined me. He moved my arm around, had me exert pressure this way and that. His diagnosis was what I expected, a damaged rotator cuff.

He can’t tell if the damage is from tendonitis or a tear in the tendon. My guess (and hope) is that it is the former. This arm problem has been nagging me for at least 18 months. If it is related to recent trauma, the only significant trauma would be a fall I had on my 2017 bike tour to Key West. (It wasn’t a bicycle crash per se; I fell off a porch and my bike landed on me. I don’t recall hurting my left side though.)

For now, we are operating under the assumption that this is tendonitis. Accordingly, he gave me the option of anti-inflamatory medications or a cortisone shot. I chose the latter.

“Will it hurt?”

“Not really.”

“OW. Fuck!”

The pain lasted only a few seconds while the needle was in my arm.

Eight hours later my upper arm aches. This is normal for the first few days. Then the medical magic should start. If I am painfree in four weeks, no further treatment is needed.

If I’m still hurting, I can get an MRI to see if the tendon is torn. If it is, I can opt for arthroscopic surgery. My doctor said the surgery is straightforward. The recovery isn’t. It takes six months, including six weeks with my arm in a sling and beaucoup physical therapy, to get my arm well.

I asked about delaying the surgery until after my bike tour. He was not at all encouraging. One crash and my arm could get much worse depending on the extent of the existing injury.

By the end of March I’ll know if I will be spending my summer riding a bike tour or sitting in Nationals Park. Time will tell.


February – Not Quite in Gear

My bike riding seems to be lagging this year. In January I had only 381 miles, 140 of which were in the basement. I suppose a week without a bike explains some of this.

In February, I rode 589 miles, a 200 mile improvement with 3 fewer days. I switched from mainly riding my Cross Check to Little Nellie, my folding travel bike. Little Nellie put in 428 miles over 15 days. I replaced the stem with a shorter one and my lower back was very happy. My upper back is now rather stiff though so there ain’t no such thing as  a free bike ride.

I began doing yoga and physical therapy exercises in earnest once more. This came about because my body went wonky in painful ways while I was hoofing it around London in January. I’ve also started up my daily meditation practice which had lapsed after my bike tour last summer. The break did me good and I am now less fidgety and more focused.

I completed my second month on the medical hampster wheel. There is good news. All my blood tests and my CT scan of my gut turned up nothing worrisome. So now I am focusing on fixing my stiff upper back with targeted exercises. (My doctor wants me to go to the physical therapy place but I already know all the exercises.)

I am visiting an orthopedist about my wonky upper left arm and shoulder. For more than a year, my left arm has sent my spasms of severe pain at random intervals. (For example, when I sat up  in bed this morning, I was treated to a tremendous ache.) Oddly, this problem went away during the second half of my bike tour and for about a month later. It has gradually returned. I am hopeful that I can find out what exactly is wrong and get some treatment beyond the PT I did last winter.

For the year I’ve wracked up a rather unimpressive 970 miles. As the weather warms I hope to get back up to 600 or 700 miles per month.


Fore Signs of Spring

As the weather slowly warms, people get out and about. This includes golfers.

I ride by golf courses all the time. If I pay attention, I can usually pick up a stray ball. A few days ago I saw one on the side of the road. This appears to be a driving range ball that ran away from home. It was at least 100 yards beyond the end of the range.

Yesterday, I hit the jackpot on Fort Hunt Road which runs along the edge of Belle Haven Country Club. I found three balls, all in good condition.

When I get a dozen or so, I’ll ship them off to my sister who is an avid golfer up north.