A Bike Life

Four decades of touring, racing, commuting and recovery … a bike life indeed!

Category: The Bike Wife

The High Trestle Trail

This week The Bike Wife and I went to Des Moines to ride a bit of RAGBRAI (a week long ride across Iowa). I have ridden several RAGBRAI’s starting 37 years ago with RAGBRAI IV. Originally, we had hoped to ride at least a full day but she tore her ACL and meniscus. She is recovering nicely but it will be some time before she returns to normal. She has been riding her bike on a trainer and riding some trails with me. She really is not ready for hills so we decided not to ride the full 50 miles.

We got to Des Moines on a Monday night and before we checked into our hotel we decided to go ride the High Trestle Trail from Woodward to Madrid. The High Trestle Trail is one of the gems of the Central Iowa trail system. The route from Woodward to Madrid is about an 11.5 mile round trip. The highlight of the trail is the trestle bridge, 13 stories high and almost half a mile long. the bridge spans a river valley and is lit up at night. The bridge is made up to look like a mine tunnel and it is lit up at night. We had hoped to catch the lights on this trip.

We were riding near dusk. As we rode, a storm front began to develop and we could see the thunder clouds forming. As time passed we began to see lightning on the horizon. We decided to hurry back to our car. Good thing, because shortly after we got to the car the Des Moines area was hit with straight line winds of 50-60 mph and heavy rains. One of these days, we’ll see the bridge at night. Even so, it was a great evening to be  on the bike with my wife.

The Longest Ride

Southern 1/3 of the Grand Rounds

For my wife’s birthday this weekend, I talked her into going to Minneapolis to ride bikes. Since my wife is a novice cyclist this was quite an accomplishment. Friday night we enjoyed a leisurely ride around Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriett. For Saturday I had more ambitious plans. Minneapolis is one of the most bike-friendly towns in America. They have an extensive trail system and a culture that embraces an active outdoor lifestyle. I decided that we would ride a 20 mile urban loop covering the southern 1/3 of the Grand Rounds. The portion we would be riding starts out by Lake Calhoun, follows the Midtown Greenway  east to the Mississippi and then takes the bike trail on West River Road south to Minnehaha Falls. From there, it follows Minnehaha creek back to the Chain of Lakes.

Jan on the Midtown Greenway

It turned out to be a perfect day for a ride. There was a breeze from the south but when we rode into it we were on West River Road riding mainly downhill and somewhat protected from the wind. We started our ride by getting on the Midtown Greenway. The Greenway goes across town parallel to and just north of Lake street. It follows an old trolley or rail line and has exits for the major north-south streets. Most of the Greenway (and many of the major trails) have two bike lanes and a separate walking lane. Along the Greenway we passed by the bike-friendly Sheraton hotel. The Sheraton is right on the Greenway and has bike packages including a bike valet! Next time I am in Minneapolis, I am going to give them a try. This is a picture of my wife on the Greenway in her neon bike outfit.

Near the Mississippi, the Greenway crossed several roads at grade level. I was impressed with how courteous the Minnesota drivers were. In every case, cars stopped to let us and other cyclists by. In fact I felt guilty because a couple of times, I stopped at a road crossing to rest or wait for my wife and traffic on the street stopped to let me cross — I ended up having to wave them on.

At the Mississippi

The next portion of the ride was along West River Road. The path in this section parallels the river and is nicely shaded with woods on one said and stately old homes on the other. In the direction we went this section of the ride slopes gently downhill most of the way. There are a number of scenic outlooks and benches where one can stop and enjoy the view. We took a brief detour to ride across the river and back. The bridge is a couple of hundred feet off the river and had great views north and south. Since the day was beginning to warm up we appreciated the breeze. There are some businesses along the route near the Lake Street bridge, where one can purchase food and drinks. We saw dozens of bikes parked outside one of the establishments near the bridge. They had outdoor seating and looked like they were drawing a large crowd.

Sea Salt at Minnehaha Park

At the south end of West River Road, we came to Minnehaha Park. The last time I had ridden this route was in the evening so I didn’t stop at the park. Minnehaha Park is home to Minnehaha Falls. I thought the falls were some distance from the trail so I had not planned on stopping. About this time, we needed to refill our water bottles so as we got to the park we saw that tere were concessions and pulled in. To my surprise the park and concession area were packed with bikers, walkers and picnickers.  We stopped at the restaurant, Sea Salt to have lunch. Lunch was perfect. The restaurant prides itself on fresh fish so we ordered a fish sandwich, avocado stuffed with crab salad and a strawberry and walnut salad. We must have waited 30 minutes to order and 45 minutes to get our food, but we needed the rest. When the food arrived it was worth the wait. I generally do not like breaded fish but the sandwich was crispy on the outside and a perfect moist flaky white on the inside. The crab salad was equally good and I love avocado in nearly all forms. A perfect way to enjoy the halfway point of the ride.

Wearing Neon at Minnehaha Falls

After lunch we walked the 50 or so fee to Minnehaha Falls. The falls were spectacular and you could hear the cascade over the dining area. The picture is the two of us in our camouflage jerseys next to the falls.

After the falls both of us were getting a little tired. My wife was tired because it was her longest ride to date. I was tired because not only was it the farthest I have ridden my fixed gear bike but by far the most time I have spent on it. Fixed gear bikes do not allow you to glide so whenever the bike is moving, you are pedaling. I also discovered that while my saddle is comfortable for about 10 miles, after that it is not. I am going to have to look for an old school Selle Italia Turbo Special like I have on my road bike. That saddle is comfortable all day long.

Looking Up

The last part of the ride follows Minnehaha creek just north of the airport. The creek meanders through a residential neighborhood with some really nice homes and lots of green space. We saw people tubing and canoeing in the creek along the way. This part of the trail also has a few small rolling hills. As it got later in the ride we stopped more. This is a picture I took lying in the shad of a big tree and looking up into the sky.

After following Minnehaha creek we returned to the familiar territory of Lake Harriett. I had been carrying our swimsuits and towels in my front panniers but I was too tired to look for someplace to change and swim. When we got back to the car my odometer read 19.99 miles. I spun my front tire to make it an even 20. We had a great time, perfect weather, great scenery, excellent food and the chance to celebrate Jan’s birthday. We are definitely going to have to do it again.

The Perfect Evening Ride

Sunset on Lake Harriet

This weekend was my wife’s birthday. So, being the romantic kind of guy that I am I decided to take her for a weekend getaway that included bicycling. It wasn’t too long ago that I would never have considered such a thing but since she has been riding her bike I decided to give it a try. Since our oldest daughter just moved to Minneapolis, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

A couple of years ago, when she got her bike, she came with me on a business trip to Minneapolis and we rode some of the trails in the area. She had a good time but we really only rode about eight miles at a time. Even now she has been riding between 8-10 miles at a time. For her birthday I wanted to try something a little more challenging.

We got to Minneapolis in the late afternoon and after visiting my daughter, we checked into our hotel. We had a snack in the hotel restaurant and decided to head out for a short ride before dark. Our goal was to ride around Lake Calhoun and maybe Lake Harriett before dark. The last time we were in Minneapolis, my wife did not want to ride over the hill between the lakes. This time was different. We parked the car, set up the bikes and hit the trail. It had been a hot day but was cooling as the sun set. We rode around Lake Calhoun and she was willing to climb the hill to Lake Harriett.

Lake Harriett has a band shell on the North end so we listened to the music for a while and rode around the lake. The photo shows our bikes in the setting sun on from the southeast side of the lake. It was a great ride. We rode about seven miles at a relaxed pace and we both enjoyed every minute. My wife is a much stronger rider than she the last time we were here. It was a good warm up for our big ride the next day.

Rockin’ the Big Ring

The Big Ring!

My wife is a cycling newbie. It is fun to watch her improve as we ride. She is riding faster and farther nearly every time we go out. Today was no exception. We rode just about 10 miles and while she felt she could have ridden more we decided to call it a day.

On our last ride, she got on her bike after our daughter had ridden it. Our daughter had left the bike in its highest gear (52×13) and when my wife started out, she almost fell off! Today I decided I would try and help her shift the front derailleur. This was easier said than done since her bike is nearly new and has brifters (shifter combined with the brake levers). When I re-built my bike I stayed with downtube shifters and since I have never ridden hers I could not remember which way to shift up or down.

Up until today, my wife has ridden exclusively on the middle chainring. Her bike has a wide range rear cassette so she rarely has need to shift off the middle ring. Today, however I saw her pushing pretty hard up a hill into the wind, so I talked her into dropping to the small ring up front. She found a gear that she liked and rolled smoothly up the hill. On the way back, downhill with a tailwind, I coaxed her onto the BIG ring. It was her first time but she really got going, we rode quite a ways spinning in in high gear. She had a blast but was afraid to go any faster.

I am sure this won’t be the last time she is out there rockin’ the BIG ring.  Next I need to  teach her how to ride one handed and drink from her water bottle.

When I am old I shall wear … NEON!

Wearing Neon

My wife said it not me. Of course she was paraphrasing Jenny Joseph’s When I am an old woman I shall wear purple. Today, riding to the downtown farmers market is the first time I got my wife to wear biking clothes.

I have actually been trying to get her to ride for decades. A couple years ago I bought her a woman’s specific bike, a Specialized Dolce. The bike fits her perfectly and has a comfortable saddle … it has made all the difference.

This year after much prodding I convinced her to try cycling clothing. We were in Schaumburg, Illinois and I got her a pair of Terry bike shorts. It helped that one of the salespeople in the shop was a woman who (let me say this delicately) was not a typical 105lb cyclist. She gave my wife some excellent advice and shared her personal recommendation. My wife and I ordered matching neon yellow jerseys from Aerotech Designs. Finally I bought her Pearl Izumi SPD compatible shoes from my LBS. She doesn’t ride clipless yet but she likes the stiffer sole.

So today she and I wore our matching bike outfits to the farmers market. She said that the clothes were comfortable and equally important she did not feel self-conscious wearing them in public. As a bonus when we got separated in the crowd at the farmer’s market, the neon made her easy to find. 🙂

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