Cycling for the Running Challenged

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I have my gold sparkly headband on, which means one of two things. My hair is really dirty or I’m running. I’ve had a hate-hate relationship with running my whole life. It goes back to when I was 14 and my best friend started running track. We used to walk to this stretch by the creek and she would run to the end and back while I sat on the grass and waited for her. I think I ran with her once or twice and that was enough for me. Several years later I got into cycling and never looked back. Yes, I was 20 when I got my first Bilenky bike. Sad, I know. Take it up with my dad.

I tried running again when I lived in Texas and it was too hot to bike during the day. I’ve never felt super comfortable with night riding, especially in the land of duelies (that’s a pickup truck with double rear wheels for all you city slickers out there – Yes I know, I’m a bit of a hillbilly), so running was my other option. I think I kept that up for a handful of times before swearing off running again.

I don’t know if it’s because I ride slow and don’t compete, but running seems like much more of a chore than cycling. Running is purely a form of exercise, a means of burning calories and moving my tush. I feel good when I’ve completed the run, but in the same way as when I finish a session on the elliptical. When I ride I feel light and free. I feel fast even when I’m not. The breeze is luxurious on my skin and I take in the sounds of birds chirping, streams babbling and trees rustling. I am able to block out unpleasant sounds and smells and I finish my rides feeling exhilarated. When I run, all I absorb is the smacking of my feet against the pavement (making me wonder what it will do to my joints in the long run), the laboring of my breath (making me feel like a fatty), and the dripping of sweat on my face (straight up gross).

I recently ran with my husband and he left me in the dust after half a mile. I meandered my way back and clocked in at 17 minutes for the mile and a half. I know, I don’t think I’ll be entering any marathons anytime soon. I attempted to run again today to keep my brother company on his warm up. I did about 2 miles and was over it. All I could think about was sitting on Granny’s porch in Texas drinking ice tea in a rocking chair with her. When I ride, even when it gets tough, that’s the only place I want to be. I always felt that running and cycling were so different, but many people I know run and ride. They seem to love both equally. What is the secret? I like the ease of running – lace up your sneakers and go. Especially since I’m mechanically challenged and don’t do much long distance riding alone for fear of flats and broken derailleurs. Maybe one day I will learn to enjoy running. But I know for a fact, I will never love it like I love cycling. Although I’m no pro, riding is my passion. It is in my blood.


Stoker Life

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What will stoker life bring, I wonder, with the impending arrival of our belated wedding present tandem? I’m one of those people that pumps imaginary brakes when someone is driving too fast and not slowing down as soon as I think they should. This makes me wonder how I will handle relinquishing my control of braking and steering on a bicycle. Having the drag brake should help a little with my control issues… and I have to admit I am looking forward to the extra help on those big climbs. I think 66% Justin and 33% Bina is fair. Just take a look at the slope of our top tube and those percentages will make sense. Don’t ask me where the final 1% went to, I don’t know who will be providing that.

I’ve ridden a tandem a few times, mostly with my father when I was a little kid. We did some more tandeming (yes, it’s a real word!) when I was a young adult, hung-over, and lacking the energy to ride a single. These excursions earned me the honorable nickname of “liquor legs”. Oh, and by "young adult," I mean last year. Other tandem rides with my dad included a jaunt through North Philadelphia. If you're familiar with Philly, then you know the magnitude of this adventure, tandem or not. Yet another notable tandem ride involved getting dumped off the front of a Bilenky Viewpoint by you guessed it, dear old Dad.

Unfortunately, I have never attended a formal panel on the effects of tandems on relationships, but I imagine there would be two points to argue: First, tandem riding could be viewed as a race-pace divorce machine. You are stuck staring at your partner’s back for hours and best of luck if your hubby’s training diet revolves around Tex-Mex. You are forced to ride at their cadence and you better hope they are ready to take a break when you see that cute coffee shop or that irresistible barnyard animal that needs petting.

My romantic self prefers the other side of the debate: Tandems provide amazing, anaerobic couple’s therapy, strengthening relationships with each mile. It solves the problem of one person leaving the other in the dust. The more you ride together, the more in sync you will be with each other’s cadence, gearing and power. And if not there is always the option of independent gearing (thanks DaVinci Designs!) If you add couplers to your tandem, then voila! – marriage counseling that is transportable!

If you are passionate about cycling (which I know you are if you are reading here), sharing a self-propelled machine with the person you are passionate about just makes sense. I apologize if this piece is a little sappy, but we are only 2 weeks from Valentines Day, and tandems are foremost on my mind.

A few words of wisdom from Stephen Bilenky (Dad) on introducing yourself and your partner to the world of tandems:

  • 1. Find a knowledgeable friend or specialty store where you can demo a decent tandem.
  • 2. Initially buy a used tandem to get to know what works for you; then put the investment in a quality tandem that fits your size and cycling style. Try before you buy!
  • 3. Make sure it has reliable components and adequate gear range and braking for the terrain and conditions you plan to ride.
  • 4. The stoker must have trust and a go-with-the-flow attitude.
  • 5. The captain must always think of each move from the stoker’s perspective. No excess leaning of the bike during mounting and starting, for example.

You can snag a look at the baby blue and maroon marriage mobile at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Denver. Our booth will be the one radiating with awesomeness. And beards. (Not me).

P.S. Check back with me in the summer after we have been riding our love machine for several months and see if I still feel the same…


Dear BB25 #2

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I know, I know, It’s been a while. I have started a part time job herding alpacas through the mountains and Internet access there is preeetty inconsistent. Just kidding. Spring has sprung and that means Philly Bike Expo prep is in full swing and keeping me pretty busy! Although I do love alpacas and that could be an idea for when I am ready for a career change…

We are gearing up for year 3 of said Philly Bike Expo and, as always, it will be bigger and better than before. We have been running all over the place attending events to promote the awesomeness that is the expo. As busy as I am, though, I can’t neglect my readers and their questions so another installment of “Ask BB25” is in order.

*Dear BB25:

Is it OK to have a Berthoud bag mounted on my front rack and a milk crate on the rear?

Dear Mismatch,
You can mix and match your bicycle accessories to fit your utility purposes, budget, and personality. We all know that a matching set of several Berthoud bags can get pricey and that a milk crate may perform better when carrying potentially messy items. A stained Berthoud loses some of its classiness. However, with all the uncoordinated pieces, you want to be aware of the mixed signals you may be sending. Sort of like the message a mullet sends; you know, business in the front, party in the back. Or a blazer with shorts. You get the picture. You don’t want to be the classy in the front, crapster in the rear cyclist. Before you know it, you will be attracting men (or women) wearing navy blazers with cargo shorts, sporting their best 80’s comeback mullets. So mix and match wisely, my friend.

*Dear BB25:

I have a pretty significant spandex shorts tan. When I am not riding, do I have to wear shorts or skirts that are long enough to cover my cycling tan?
-Sunkissed Cyclist

Dear Sunkissed Cyclist,
Well… you know what I am going to say first – Wear sunscreen! Lots of it, high SPF and reapply often. Because if you don’t, in a few years you will be asking me what I recommend for leathery, wrinkly legs and there is no easy fix for that… Ok, now that the lesson part is out of the way, some tan lines are unavoidable even with sunscreen if your skin is exposed for long lengths of time. I say, show off those half & half tanned muscular legs of yours. It lets everyone know that you are strong endurance athlete. It is a testament to your hard work and determination as a cyclist. So what if a helicopter tries to land on the pale portion of your leg.

The only exception to this rule is a formal event such as a wedding. I would wear a dress that is longer than your bottom half farmer’s tan or a self-tanner that will make you all the same color. At least for one night.

*Dear BB25:

Is it OK to wear a jersey with your face printed on it if you are not Alexander Vinokourov?
-Vain Velo

Dear Vain Velo,
If you have also won 4 stages of Tour de France, beaten Cadel Evans in a time trial, and received a silver medal at the Summer Olympics (just to name a few), then go ahead! The whole thing is a little over the top and self-centered if you ask me. If we were making a football comparison, it would most likely be Terrell Owens or Chad Ochocinco wearing their face on their jersey. But if it is acceptable for anyone, it would be the cream of the crop, beasts of the cycling world – Tour de France racers. You also may want to consider if you have the kind of face that people would want to see twice. Rumor has it that Vino waxes his eyebrows, which leads us to believe that he is polished and pretty enough to be screen-printed for the world to see. Again. At the same time. Just a few inches below his chiseled cheekbones. Side note: Vino could be doing this to prove to the world that he is nothing like his countryman, Borat. And what better way to do that than to plaster his blonde, hairless face to his chest?

Until next time…and please, as ever, feel free to write in with your questions and quips.


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