2019 Biking Year in Review

It’s time once again for my annual wrap-up of my running and biking adventures for the year. This year marked a huge change in my biking behavior, due to a couple key things. First off, having a fat bike meant that winter riding was more comfortable for me. Even though I only got out once in January, it still meant that I was on my bike every single month of the year. That’s a huge milestone for me.

IMG_0388.JPGThe other aspect that changed for me was seeing my bike as a viable means of transportation, more than I ever have before. This meant that even in February I was using two wheels to get around and get places I needed to be. A couple of these early rides took me up to Anoka for some singing gigs my wife was doing, and it showed me that I didn’t need to depend on the car for everything.

This attitude propelled me into main riding season with a sense of purpose to try and reduce my dependence on my car. This was helped by my job change in May that brought be back to working for Metro Transit, and working in downtown Minneapolis. That means my job was less than 10 miles away from my house, which is a great distance for commuting. For days when I didn’t feel up to the full distance, I also had the option of the train, which is only 1.8 miles from where I live. In fact, towards the end of the year my car sat in the garage most weekdays.

IMG_0235.jpgIt wasn’t all business though. My wife and I also went on some adventures together, and with our friends Abe, Chuck, David, and Dale. We’ve did the Gateway Trail, around Coon Rapids, some trips to the Lake Woebegon Trail and Paul Bunyan Trail. This is all in addition to some jaunts around town for food and beer. This meant that my 2019 mileage was almost double what I’ve ever done before. As it stands right now I’m finishing out the year at 1385 miles, which is a HUGE improvement from previous years. Especially when still running 1500 miles a year. With my perspective on using my bike for more commuting, I’m positive I can up that mileage even a bit more next year without impacting my running too much.

IMG_4801.JPGI also continued to ride with the Beer & Bikes gang, which got me on the road at least once a week. It continues to be a great way to keep me biking consistently throughout the year, even when I may be slacking at other times. In addition I held my annual Fall Fifty+Five ride, which is 50 miles and 5 breweries. It’s an all day excursion that draws a lot of new people out, and is a great time. This year we ended up with some wet and cold conditions, making it not quite as enjoyable as years past, but still a good time overall.

74812796_778611725912448_6806050840780996608_o.jpg
Beer & Bikes at Free Bikes 4 Kidz again!

In bike news, I also had a big change. Since 2011 I’ve been riding on a Trek FX 7.2 hybrid bike. It’s been a solid ride for me, and it’s launched me on a great number of adventures. However, I felt like this year was the time to make a change. I had been testing bikes on and off for months, and had narrowed down to the gravel bike category. I felt like it was a great fit for the types of adventures I like to do. Coincidentally, it also fit with my wife. She came along for some of my test rides and fell in love with the Salsa Journeyman, which she picked up mid way through the year. I still hadn’t decided on what I wanted yet (I take a long time to decide these things), but knew there were a few models I was focusing on.

DSC01584.jpg Eventually I had an opportunity to test ride a Salsa Vaya and immediately fell in love. The steel frame was supple, and the geometry fit me perfectly. It comes with a Shimano 105 with a 1×11 groupset, which was exactly the drivetrain I was looking for. It was exactly the bike I wanted, and at the time was on sale, so I jumped at it. It’s been an amazing tool the second half of the year. Before I put it away for the season I had already logged close to 300 miles on it in just a couple short months.

IMG_0061.pngSome of those miles were due to my spur of the moment bike packing trip with my friend Mike. He had picked up a bike this year, and since both of us love camping and the outdoors, it was a great fit. We headed out to Carver Park in Victoria, MN and spent the night. It was really cool to be able to bike somewhere, set up camp, and enjoy a night outside. It was a bit cooler and wetter than we wanted, but we still had a great time. I can’t wait to do more adventures like this in 2020.

Screen Shot 2019-12-26 at 10.45.37 AM.png2019 was an amazing year for my biking, and I’m excited for the future. I feel like I’m in a great place with both my running and biking. I do plan to hit a couple gravel ride events in 2020, to get some exposure to that side of things, but otherwise, I’ll continue to build on my desire to use my own power to get myself around. I can’t wait to keep building next year.

Fitness week recap – 12/2/2019

Week Starting 12/2/2019
Running:
 14.3 miles
Biking:
 33.4 miles
Steps: 68.787
 (34.33 miles –  20.03 walking)

Impression: Two weeks ago was vacation week for me and my running and biking was pretty much non-existent. This last week though I got back on the horse a bit and got in a solid week of runs. None of them were double digit, but I’m OK with that. I’ve been dealing with a knee niggle, so I’m trying to not push things too much.

I did manage my longest fat bike ride ever though on Global Fat Bike day, totaling out at over 18 miles. That long on the fat bike has shown me though that I need to make a few adjustments. Some things aren’t as comfortable as I would like them to be.

Next week I need to get into serious sled pulling. Tuscobia is coming up soon and I’m still trying to ride my fitness level from earlier this year. We’ll see how this goes…

 

Fitness week recap – 11/18/2019

Week Starting 11/18/2019
Running:
12.5 miles
Biking:
 14.8 miles
Steps: 83,999
 (41.5 miles –  29.00 walking)

Impression: Pretty simple week this past week. Rode my bike to the train 4 out of 5 days, and got a few runs in. Still working back in to things, however dealing with some niggling issues. I’ve got arthritis in my right big toe that’s causing me pain after I run, as well as a ganglion cyst in my left foot. It’s inflamed a bit, which is putting pressure on my left ankle. Needless to say I’m cutting back a bit and giving my body a break, but without completely stopping activity. My doctor was adamant that I should do what I can to keep being active, as that’s one of the best way to help anything arthritic.

My long run was almost 7 miles, and I combined it with some errands. It made it a bit slower of a run, but I had fun using my two feet to get me around where I needed to go.

Fitness week recap – 11/11/2019

Week Starting 11/11/2019
Running:
9 miles
Biking:
 38.1 miles
Steps: 71,932
 (35.14 miles –  26.14 walking)

Impression: Didn’t get out an run much this week. Still dealing with some troublesome muscles and joints. Working on stretching and rolling things out, but it’s recovering slowly. It’s not that I can’t run, I got in a couple solid runs this week, but that it doesn’t feel like I want it to. It’ll come with time. I’m not too worried about it. I do have one pain in my foot though that I might get some imaging done on just to be sure.

On the biking front though this was a nice week. I got in a couple solid rides, including a 15 mile day on Saturday hitting Silverwood Park for Pokemon Go Community Day, and then over to the new Forgotten Star brewery in Fridley. Was a beautiful day out… as long as you were traveling north. There was a really cold wind coming from the south that slowed you down a LOT. Thankfully my Vaya was back from the shop and I got to ride it again before the snow gets too crazy. I might get a few more rides in with it this year, but eventually I’ll hang it up so that it doesn’t get all gross through the winter months.

Trying to be less car-dependent

When I was a kid we didn’t own a car until I was 15. We lived in a neighborhood in St. Paul and so bus service was readily accessible. As I got older though I started to dream of the day I could get my license and experience freedom. I even tried to take my driver’s test on my 16th birthday (spoiler: I didn’t pass). Once I had my license I drove everywhere. I don’t think I took a bus again for years.

A couple of years ago I waxed poetic about the freedom that cars give you. In that post I did mention the big downsides of cars as well, and recently I’ve thought more about how dependent I am on trying to get around in my own private vehicle. Partly, I think I’ve been influenced by all of the biking I’ve been doing this year, and the whole bike commuting culture. When I changed jobs this year I moved to an office that is only 9.5 miles away from home, and it meant that I had more options. The Northstar train goes through my suburb and so there’s little reason that I need to drive into the city. I can bike or train it without much difficulty.

However, I found myself driving even the 1.8 miles to the train station, which in some ways seemed silly. It’s close enough that I’ve even walked it at times. Why would I bother moving my car such a short distance when I have options that don’t use gas or pollute? Therefore, I’ve committed to trying to make a change.

I’m going to commit to getting to work by bike and public transit four days per week. One day per week I have to be in St. Paul and that commute will only happen occasionally. However, there’s very little reason why every other day when I’m in Minneapolis that I couldn’t leave the car parked. I’ve been working on doing this for the past couple weeks and have been mostly successful. I had a conference to be at a couple days last week, but otherwise I’ve tried to leave the car in the driveway.

We’ll see how well the winter goes, but even on a cold snowy day, 1.8 miles to the train station shouldn’t be too bad. Once there I have a nice bike locker where I can store my bike out of the elements, or I can bring it on the train with me in case I want to bike the whole way home, or somewhere during lunch. I’m excited to give this a try, and hope to report nothing but success over the coming weeks.