I ride for the adventure, for exploring and seeing, for being in the moment, and for being outside in all types of weather. My dad used to proclaim “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing” and “bad weather is like having a conversation with the atmosphere.” My rides often give me inspiration and clarity for my work in architecture and urban design. The adventures help me spot the smallest of architectural details to the bigger picture of how a well designed urban space can flow, feel safe, and bring joy.
My bike-riding-self has grown and expanded considerably since I started bungee-cording bags of groceries to a wobbly rack on my brother’s old GT mountain bike. Back in 2009, I remember when I thought riding 30 miles was crazy. And last year (2019), I thought riding 130 miles in a day was crazy. Yet, I rode 130 miles in a day not once, but three times over that summer.
I started touring in 2014. I rode 325 miles from Pittsburgh to DC on the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal trail, camping along the way. I didn't know what I was in for - mud, for starters. I had to learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, adapting as you go. I also greatly appreciated the kindness of strangers and the freeing feeling of navigating across multiple states seeing almost no cars.
Those prior lessons of adaptability and flexibility helped me while cycling in the Adirondack Mountains a couple years later. Those were the seven wettest days of my life, and I learned that those hard moments make for the best stories. I also understood that when faced with difficulty, you just have to keep moving forward.
These days I find myself doing more bikepacking excursions over long weekends. This usually involves long days riding and a train ride to help me get farther into the wilderness. The bike and train is the perfect combo because I like both road and dirt routes. When you miss the train trip back, you also get a chance to ride lots of extra miles you weren’t planning on. But hey, that’s better than waiting 2 hours, I say.
The D2R2 ride in Deerfield, MA ride has been a highlight for me the past few years and features a combination of lovely farms, woods, and winding gravel uphills so steep you can’t see the top. The routes brag about being “tough” and contain plenty of elevation gain, so I use the event to encourage myself to ride as many hills as I can. The stronger you are, the more fun riding is.
In the last few years I’ve found two things that have changed my riding lifestyle: a new gravel bike that fit me and a bike computer.
In 2018, a month before I was to ride in the Boston Cyclists Union’s fundraiser ride called Bostreal, a five day ride from Boston to Montreal, a truck smashed my bike while locked to a post in downtown Boston. This became the moment to get a more dirt-friendly but still all-arounder/economical bike - the All-City Space Horse.
Luckily, I found that Belmont Wheelworks was willing to let me specify the components for a really good deal. So, I spent time researching a custom build - wheelset, brakes, shifters, cranks, and importantly, the gearing ratio. I knew I would be doing a lot of climbing, and touring, so I geared down from the standard 50/34 chainring set to 44/28. I asked my bike nerd friends to check my chosen components and learned so much about bicycle parts I hadn’t paid much attention to before.
This personalized custom bike changed how I ride. The bike fits better, gives me more confidence, and feels solid. On each ride I learn more about the bike’s capabilities, especially as my own skills evolve. Tackling gnarly roots and rocks becomes easier with every ride. This bike has literally opened up new trails and opportunities for exploring.
The other significant bike component that changed my riding style is the bike computer I got from a friend, a Wahoo Elemnt Bolt. I first hesitated at the price, but wow, it has changed everything. Having reliable navigation makes me more confident and willing to go on solo escapades; enabling me to try new routes. If nothing else in this world, it’s nice to know where you are and where you’re going.