a peek inside the fishbowl

22 May, 2015

My summer cycling resolution

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

Ottawa bike

For the past few years I’ve been trying to challenge myself on my birthday in some way: via terrifying roller coasters and arduous hikes. In my book, there is no better way to celebrate another year of living than by pushing one’s boundaries. This is why I decided that I wanted to bike to Carleton Place with Mark this summer. Why Carleton Place? Good question. I needed to have a destination and I was researching ideas for routes when I found this information. (This part made me laugh: “We can only assume that the firing range is set up in such a way so that no one is shooting in the direction of the trail.” Great!)

The trip from Ottawa to Carleton Place is approximately 50K (that’s only ONE kilometre, fifty times!). We’d stay somewhere overnight and complete the return trip to Ottawa the next day. (Or call my inlaws to pick us up, depending on how I’m feeling.)

I put the question to my Facebook friends awhile ago and basically everyone told me to start training NOW. Alrighty then! I began with a short run to Farm Boy to pick up a few groceries earlier this week. It’s a 5km ride along the river, which is manageable, right? Ha. My ride there was 10x harder than the return trip because of headwinds, and I found myself shifting gears like a mad woman and praying to god that the trip to Carleton Place isn’t (a) windy or (b) hilly.

I obviously need to spend more time on my bike, but I’ve since realized that my bike is in sad shape and I think I might need a new one. I need a helmet too. My current one is missing a buckle and was bought in 1999, in other words, IN THE LAST MILLENNIUM. And I’ll need a new pair of paniers to carry my stuff. Gah. I hate spending this kind of money on myself, but I have to face facts. I can’t realistically make that kind of trip on an old mountain bike with a bent pedal and clunky gears, can I?

I’ve been on the bike a few times after that eye-opening ride to Farm Boy and it’s all got me thinking about comfort. My bike isn’t comfortable, but I’m not really sure what that means any more. I know that bike comfort isn’t the same as couch comfort, but it shouldn’t be uncomfortable, right?

I have a feeling I am more suited to upright riding than being hunched over, but can I do 100K in two days on something like this? I’d secretly like a purple bike with a banana seat, streamers, and a sissy bar but THAT is not going to happen any time soon. Sigh.

Any advice you’d care to share? I’m all ears.



13 Responses to "My summer cycling resolution"

1 | Misty Pratt

May 22nd, 2015 at 1:49 pm


Ya, I would think 100K would be uncomfortable on the upright bike :) For longer distances people usually recommend a road bike with drop handles. That said, I did Ottawa to Cornwall on my hybrid Trek, which is pretty heavy and annoying. I’m working my ass off while everyone else is passing me effortlessly. But…don’t have $1000 or more to spend on a nice road bike right now! One option is to have someone look at your current bike and see how it can be improved. (I think Bike 2 Body is one place that does this, as well as probably many other places in Ottawa). You’re right that you shouldn’t be in pain on your bike, including back, knee pain. That said, I feel like being hunched over is uncomfortable for most people until you get used to it!

2 | Misty Pratt

May 22nd, 2015 at 1:50 pm


(also, some great twitter bike community by using hashtag #Ottbike. Lots of people answered my question when I asked what bike I should get for my 25km commute from Orleans into Ottawa)

3 | Sarah

May 22nd, 2015 at 5:33 pm


It’s garage sale season. You can maybe get cheap panniers at one of those. We did. What about renting or borrowing a bike for your trek to Carleton Place? You want to enjoy your ride and not be miserable.

4 | Meg

May 22nd, 2015 at 7:29 pm


I rode 100km on an antique norco step-through 5 speed ladies bike – in one day. It was totally fine. I didn’t train, I just rode my bike because it was fun. I rode around my neighbourhood, to the shops, and only to places where I felt like going. As Lance Armstrong says – It’s not about the bike.

The bike was heavy – but the route was mostly flat (Hintonburg to Cumberland, ferry across river, and ride back). I was slow, but I was in no hurry. We stopped, ate lunch, drank a bit of wine along the river ;) and took our time. I’ve ridden the Montreal Tour de L’Ile on a crappy mountain bike. It was also heavy & slow, but I took my time and enjoyed my surroundings.

Buy the bike you want to ride around your neighbourhood and fits into your lifestyle. You can always rent bike/panniers/etc.

5 | Kerry Gogush Cule

May 23rd, 2015 at 9:15 am


I highly recommend getting your bike fitted properly. If you are interested, I can give you the name of the lady that my husband used. It was covered under our benefits too!

6 | Judy

May 23rd, 2015 at 10:37 pm


Go to a good bike shop to talk about what you want a bike for, how you will use it long term and see what they suggest. There are lots of options

7 | Robyn

May 24th, 2015 at 8:54 am


This sounds fun!!

For long rides, comfort and weight make all the difference. If you’re shopping for a new bike, hit the bike shops and try everything until you find the bike in your budget that feels like it was made for you. I did this last year – replacing my upright heavier Dutch-style with a light hybrid for the express purpose of a super long (200k in three days) ride on top of regular city riding and never looked back.

Also – don’t worry about buying panniers – ask around first! There is usually always someone who can lend theirs away for a few days before you make the investment.

Whatever bike you get – or if you upgrade your own – have it fitted! This will make a huge difference (especially around km 30 or so). Worth every penny.

Happy trip planning!

8 | wheelee

May 25th, 2015 at 9:27 pm


Your bike is probably fine. Get it checked over at a bike shop – and get a list of what it might need (something broken or too used). Do not hand it to a bike repair store and tell them to fix whatever needs fixing. They will change everything and it will cost you $400. And when you pick it up, they’ll chuckle and tell you $400 is the price of a new bike.
The advice about getting it adjusted for your body is good. Biggest problem I often see is folks with seats that are way too low. That and a simple adjustment of handlebars.

I say do your trip with your old bike (after adjustments). You will be happy you made the journey without blowing a pile of cash on a new bike. And if you like it, you might just do this kind of thing a few times a year. That’s when you get a new bike. Start with kijiji. My last three bikes were bought on kijiji for 1/3 the price of new. Great bikes.
And finally, the advice about getting in some saddle time is bang on. What will hurt on your long ride is the part of your body that doesn’t usually sit on a 2″ wide seat. And the only thing that will help is to sit on your seat. Often. Once a day for 20 min. Add in a few longer rides for say…an hour – before your big ride.
Cool idea. Go Andrea!

9 | CB

May 26th, 2015 at 7:24 am


You might find different opinions on this, but I switched from a mountain bike to an upright a few years ago and didn’t like it at all. I found I felt much less control with the upright, because of how the handles were gripped (from the front/side, rather than from right on top). It was great for riding around the neighbourhood, but in traffic I felt really uncomfortable. I’ve spoken to a few friends who had the same experience… maybe me and my friends are just clumsy ;) but I’d suggest try out an upright before buying.

10 | Ovenbird

June 3rd, 2015 at 1:25 pm


Here’s an idea. Take a bike tuning course with your kids. Tune your own ride. Cheaper than a tune-up and you’ll learn simple bike mechanics. I think RightBike offers a clinic. And MEC….

MEC Bike maintenance 101 – Know your bike – Jun11

Date: Thursday, 11 June, 2015
Time: From 06:00 pm to 07:00 pm EDT
Organizer: MEC Ottawa
Price: 10.00

11 | Jen_nifer

July 18th, 2015 at 2:30 am


I’ve been wondering how you’re progressing on this goal. More rides? Bike adjustment or new bike?

It’s inspired me to try the trek myself, but just one way. The ride from Carleton Place to Orleans is about 80 km. If I can manage it successfully this summer, I might try the round trip next. I’m building up my distance, and rode 40 km today.

12 | andrea tomkins

July 18th, 2015 at 12:56 pm


Ugh. I’m not! Blog post to come. :(

13 | Sputnik

July 20th, 2015 at 12:12 pm


Don’t sweat it. It stays on your bucket-list.

Have you tried the new VeloGO? omg. Such a cool system. Here’s a super Family activity (teens and parents). Head downtown and get a monthly pass for bikes ($15). Go for a one hour spin – be a tourist. Ottawa is pretty darned beautiful. You get an hour a day for the $15 monthly pass. Do this twice (or more) in a month. to maximize your investment (although $15 is a deal even for one ride). And bonus…if your kids aren’t doing much, they can get to the nearest bike station and grab a bike and cycle around for an hour – every day. The bikes are top notch. Good chance to try a more “upright” commuting bike, to see if you like it. Each trip is then available (mapped) on the web site. You can see exactly when you started and ended, time and the distance.

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