Breathing In, Breathing Out

After battling bronchitis for three weeks, a tentative ride on the bike was very welcome. I didn’t go very far or very long — I just wanted to see if I was ready to come back. I think I am.

This picture is six years old, but I still look like this when I ride, with my mouth open.

This picture is six years old, but I still look like this when I ride, with my mouth open.

It didn’t take long into my ride before I became aware of something I don’t think about during my “normal” rides: breathing. My lungs have been so congested these past few weeks that I haven’t been able to take in a deep breath without bursting into a coughing fit. But this time, I could.

My throat was still a bit raw, however, so I started experimenting with my breathing technique. Normally, I breathe through my mouth, both inhaling and exhaling. But the air passing down my throat this time stung its sensitive lining, so I breathed through my nose. I can’t take in as much air that way, and going up even easy hills forced me to revert to my mouth breathing.

Then, I thought maybe I could breath in through my nose and exhale through my mouth. That seemed to work pretty well, until I realized that it was so unnatural to me, I had to concentrate on nearly every breath.

So, as I make my comeback to biking, what’s your take on breathing? Is there a right way for cyclists to do it? Or should I just baby my throat a bit until I can breathe in and out of my mouth as usual?

Does how you breathe matter?

Door Zone Warning

Last week, when I went for a ride against my better judgment and wound up aggravating my bronchitis, I was cruising through a new housing development that still has some construction going on. I saw one of the workers shoulder some tools and head toward the street, so I swerved a bit to my right to avoid him. Just then, the door of a pickup truck on my right opened. I had just a second to swerve back and thread the needle between the tool guy and the door.

I got through that all right, but lots of cyclists get nailed by the opening door. So I was glad to see some new striping go down on streets in my area, with a feature I hadn’t seen before.

I’ve already written about the new double lanes they’re putting in. The right lane next to the curb is for parked cars. Then there’s a bike lane to the left of the parking lane, then the lane for cars. It recognizes that people have been parking their cars in the bike lanes, and tries to make room for both.

The additional feature is a diagonal line that cuts into the bike lane every ten yards or so. It appears to designate the door zone — that area that a car door will cover when it’s opened.

The door zone stripes aren't obvious, but bike riders should be able to spot them easily.

The door zone stripes aren’t obvious, but bike riders should be able to spot them easily.

I don’t know how accurate it is, but it’s a nice reference point. And the new bike lanes are wide enough that there’s plenty of room for a bike to stay outside the door zone while staying inside the bike lane. I hope the city continues to add these kinds of features as other streets are re-striped.

Relapse!

Apparently, I pushed it real good. Too much, too soon. I rode four days in a row, which was great, but after a hilly 26-miler Monday, I returned home with that same hacking cough I complained about in an earlier post.

“I thought the exercise would drive it out of me,” I said to my wife.

“No. That just made it worse,” she said. “You’re staying off the bike until you get rid of this.”

I obeyed.

Which killed me, because although some rain was in the forecast this week, it never really materialized. We’ve had three glorious days in a row, and I was stuck indoors, doing actual work on the computer.

I’m fine, except for the cough. It’s not frequent, but when it comes, it’s loud and deep. I have even been banished to the guest bedroom because my coughing woke my wife the other night, and she had trouble getting back to sleep.

So, like a rider with an injury, I’m impatiently biding my time. It’s supposed to rain heavily here over the weekend, so those rides wouldn’t happen, anyway. I can only console myself knowing that this thing will go away, as it has done in the past, and all will be rolling again. It just can’t happen soon enough.

Let the Training Begin!

Finally, I’m back in the swing of things. It’s Spring Break, and I have a week off! I got on the bike Friday, and have ridden each day since then.

It’s important that I do so, because I’ve committed to a bike ride at the end of the month that will involve some challenging hills. It’s not a race or anything — just a semi-organized ride over some roads in Northwest Austin that I’ve never ridden, but have always wanted to.

But my lackadaisical attitude this winter has set me back, fitness-wise. If I’m going to ride hills — and on a ride whose mileage is not a challenge — I need to start training for hills.

Today, I did. I headed out through my immediate neighborhood and worked my way over to Convict Hill, a place I’ve written about before. I used to climb Convict Hill regularly, in both directions. But I haven’t been there in weeks, and I hadn’t ridden it in weeks before the last time I rode it. I knew I’d be pushing myself.

Sure enough, I was. I’m still not quite over the hacking cough that’s been bothering me for the last week, but I’m almost over it. It’s not badd enough to keep me off the bike, anyway. But when I hit that hill, I could tell I hadn’t been there for awhile.

Where I could climb it in the big ring before, I struggled in the small ring today. But I rode all the hills on the route, even if slowly, and reminded myself of where I need to be in a couple of weeks, fitness-wise. If we hadn’t had to be at an event in the afternoon, I’d have ridden longer.

When I pulled up to the garage and hopped off the bike, I was anxious to see just where I stood, according to Strava. How did I do today compared to previous rides on that route?

I’ll never know. I had one of those pesky Strava fails. It registered exactly zero miles on the ride. (Before I could delete it from my account, one of my wise guy friends gave me kudos.) I retraced the route on Map My Ride, and it came out to 17.4 miles. Problem is, I have no idea how long it took. I didn’t check my watch when I started, and I didn’t bother to bring the cheap bike computer along on the ride, because Strava is always there.

That’s okay. I intend to ride every day this week, so I’ll have a chance to cover the route again soon. In the meantime, it’s fun to have something to shoot for.

How Badly Do You Want to Watch Yourself Ride?

Over the last couple of years, it seems that drones have become the go-to tool for all manner of applications. Now, drones are invading the biking world.

A French make, Hexo Plus, is touting its drone’s ability to get Hollywood-style action shots of not just bikers, but athletes generally. The drones are small, as the photo shows, and a GoPro camera is easily attached.

It's actually a pretty small unit.

It’s actually a pretty small unit.

It’s also easily controlled, by swiping a simple iPhone app. The drone can do a 360 overhead, and keep up with a rider while doing it. It can zoom up on a rider from behind, and soar past.

The footage can be dramatic.

The footage can be dramatic.

If you have a GoPro of your own that you take on bike rides, you might be open to putting it on a drone. It would sure supply a new variety of shots, and put you in them, rather than having a helmet-mounted camera shoot the approaching road.

On the other hand, to me, the drone seems like overkill. I know how my rides went. If I’m desperate to remember them, I can snap a photo or two, and that will be enough. Besides, I’m kind of a minimalist biker, and although I did give in to the Strava craze last year, I can easily pass up a drone. The Hexo Plus, for those of you who can’t, can be pre-ordered on their website for $1,200.

Biking Helps You Avoid Getting Sick, Right?

sickHere we are, well into March, and I haven’t been out on the bike yet this month. Weather, as I mentioned in the last post, has been terrible. And on Friday, when we finally had sunny, dry — if chilly — conditions, I came down with something.

What started as a tickle in the throat Thursday blossomed into a full-blown sore throat and deep cough Friday. The cough is still with me Sunday, and now the rain is back again.

What kind of a bike blog is written by a guy who hasn’t been riding his bike?

A short one, I think. I’m going to pour another hot cup of green tea and lie down.

Bamboo Bikes

This has been a tough week for Bike Noob. Tough, because the weather has gone to pieces, and we’ve had irritating light rain and chilly temperatures for the last several days. I’ve gotten in no riding at all this week. So, since I have no riding to write about, I thought I’d take a look at an interesting development in the biking world.