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The new year is well under way and everyone in our family is back to the typical routines; school, work, and play. This morning the house was unusually quiet giving me the perfect opportunity to share my plans for 2014 with you.

It is always tempting with the promise and energy that comes with ringing in a new year to make the typical resolutions but I’ve learned over the years that being goal-oriented throughout the year works so much better for me. My plans are not entirely unlike what they have been in past years and I’ve already alluded to some of them over the last month.

"gotcha, Mom"

“gotcha, Mom”

Tobias will be 13 this year. Egads! I will be Mom to a teenager. It’s so hard for me to believe that the little guy in this photo has grown so quickly. It seems like yesterday that he was drenching me with that water gun. Kaia will turn 4 and she’ll be starting school in the Fall. That went fast too!  I enjoy motherhood immensely and I love passing on wisdom and life skills to my darlings. I am always learning new things from my children too. I believe that being able to learn from the those around me also makes me a good teacher. We’ll be participating in loads of outside stuff with the kids including the usual running, hiking, cycling, and camping.

I’m working towards running the Mississauga Marathon. I am running the half distance in that race as well and my intention is to knock a great deal off last year’s pace (21 minutes to be exact). Then, three weeks later, I will run the 25K at the arduous Sulphur Springs event. 25K will be a new personal distance record for me and my goal is simply to finish with a smile. Of course, there is also the race ambassador role that I have taken on—Digital Champion with CRS for the Toronto Yonge Street 10K. I’m having lots of fun with that and can’t wait until race day on April 13th, 2014. It is wonderful to be involved with such a great group of runners and the support from the other Digital Champions has been incredible.

I’ve started boxing and kick-boxing inspired workouts for cross-training and Bryan suggested that I could use a heavy bag as part of my workouts. I don’t want to be in the basement as the space is uninspiring, to say the least, so he suggested setting up a little training area in our backyard once things dry up in the late Spring. This way Kaia could play in the fresh air while I pound it out. I did a bit of yoga out there last summer and it was wonderful. We’ve also been talking about ropes and tires and other things that could be used outside to add some intensity to our training.

Living a healthy lifestyle which includes being active and eating a whole foods based diet will continue to be a big part of our lives. Being as healthy as we can is important to Bryan and I. We also strive to continue being positive role models for our children. This isn’t just about physical health but about the mind and the spirit too.  We make an effort to unplug the whole family from electronics and spend time together without that sort of distraction. 2014 will be no different in that regard. Speaking of which, we will be camping again this year. Last year we invested in bike-packing equipment and camped along Le P’tit Train du Nord in Quebec. The trip was a bit of an adventure but we learned so much from it and will return that region to explore some more. It will be interesting this year because Kaia will be on a Trail-A-Bike rather than in a child trailer. With that in mind, we will plan shorter days. We are also going to be camping and cycling with our dear friends Sandi and Phil as well as their son Tyrel. Funny I’ve known Sandi for decades and we have lived together but never camped together. We even have a spooky Halloween camping adventure planned.

I will be taking that climbing lesson and belay certification that I had planned for my last birthday. Sadly I had to cancel it because I broke my toes a few weeks before the date. I was much more disappointed than I expected to be. I’m considering a few other activities that I swore I’d never do, including zip lining. Did I mention that I am utterly terrified of gravity? Time to get over that!

From a business perspective, I finally closed GJ Studios and started a new company called Outdoor Adventure Press. The new identity suits the direction I am headed in career wise. I’m currently finishing up the manuscript for my third camping related cookbook after having to extend the project when my Mom passed away. It should hit shelves in early 2015 and I will be happy to share it with the world. The other two books continue to be fairly popular titles in their genre. I’m also launching a new outdoorsy related project that has an emphasis on children and families. This has been in the works for some time but writing the book took more time than anticipated. I will continue my freelance writing for outdoor publications and there will also be a few running related articles as the year progresses.

I’m curious to see what else this year has in store for my family and me. I love the fact that a new year is like a blank book just waiting for the pages to fill and the story to unfold.

Hello 2014!

So, tell me, what are your plans for this year?

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It seems like I haven’t posted in quite some time, much to my surprise. I didn’t realize that it had been so long but I have had an adventurous summer and time to blog has been scarce. So many things have happened since July 16th and here is a little bit about what I’ve been doing with myself…

The Family Adventure

chutes aux iroquois - Labelle, QC

chutes aux iroquois – Labelle, QC

In mid-August, my husband Bryan, the kids, and I embarked on a cycling adventure in the Laurentiens with our dear friend Mandi. We biked with gear trailers from campground to campground. Well, I had my daughter in a child trailer behind me but everyone else towed gear. Around the 120K mark, after two days of cycling in a lot of rain, we decided to switch things up and we camped next to a gorgeous waterfall for the remainder of the trip. Mandi left on schedule via a shuttle back to the start of the trail. Bryan went back to the start with her and then returned to the campground with our Jeep.  We even played on the beach at Chutes aux Iroquois.

The trip was beautiful, despite the rain and we will return to explore the region a little more next year.  I have fond memories of peddling past Mont Tremblant in the downpour and riding along Lac Mercier.  There was one spot, past Tremblant, where there were horses in a field which was dotted with big hay bales. The hills were in the background and the mist was dancing near their rounded tops. It was almost magical in some strange way. If it hadn’t been so rainy I would have loved to have taken some photos. We had some delicious meals at little bistros along the trail. In all, our Quebec adventure was a wonderful one and although it didn’t turn out quite the we had anticipated, we learned a few lessons that will be applied to future bike-packing excursions.

Giving Back

Team Tyrel

Team Tyrel

Bryan and I have friends, Sandi and Phil, who have helped us through so many difficult times including our house fire. I’ve been friends with Sandi for a very long time—since my days at university and before I even met Bryan. Sandi and I have been there for each other over the years but this has been the toughest thing Phil and her have had to deal with. You see, their 13-year old little boy, Tyrel, was in renal failure. This required hemodialysis 3 times a week and being put on a transplant list. He wasn’t on that list long and the transplant happened shortly after we returned from camping in Quebec.  Everything transpired very quickly. Sadly, even though much of the expense is covered in Ontario, there are some things that aren’t and it is starting to mount for the family. These include loss of work, transportation, fuel, modifications to the home and such. Once he is home there are medications that aren’t covered by the family’s prescription benefits. I don’t have the means to help as much as I is needed and I felt helpless. However…

There were a few things I could do. I could be a friend and offer emotional support but I wanted to do more than that. I thought about how I could raise money in a way that people could afford and that would make it interesting for Tyrel—something that could make him smile. Thanks to some inspiration from a fellow runner named Laura Ingalls, who is founder of the Happy Races, I came up with a great idea to host a virtual 5K run/walk!! With Laura’s help I made our event a reality and now runners and walkers all over the globe are helping out. You can find out more at www.racemenu.com/teamtyrel and if you could sign up, that would be great! It’s fun for Tyrel and his family to see runners, from countries around the world, sending in their photos.

Health

In August I went back to the cardiologist, Dr. J., for another set of tests including an echocardiogram. In February 2012 I was diagnosed with LVH or Left Ventricular Hypertrophy (enlargement of the left side of the heart). That has been reversed and the mild aortic stenosis I’ve been dealing with is vastly improved. This just shows the positive effects of a healthy lifestyle. In the words of Dr. J., “Laurie, I’m pleased to tell you that your heart is very happy!” He gave me the go ahead to train for a full-marathon or any other distance as long as I keep it under 50K. Yay!

Training & Fitness

While I’ve kept my fitness up, I haven’t been training as hard as I probably needed to. That’s okay; I’m on track for my next race that takes place later this month. It’s the 10K ZooRun in Toronto and I’m participating with friends so it will be great fun. In October I’m also running in a 50K relay named Run for the Toad, the 5K Colours of Hope, and finally 5K at Horror Hill. That will be it for races until the New Year. I think.

Last year at this time I was extremely excited because I was anticipating training for my first half marathon. I’m going to run the same half marathon in 2014 but my big goal race for next year is the Sulphur Springs 25K trail run. I loved running in that area during training for the TREAD relay in 2012 so it will be a beautiful place to participate in an event.

I’m tossing around the idea of taking my first climbing lesson and becoming certified to belay at the Guelph Grotto. Bryan and I have also been discussing the possibility of joining a local boxing gym. Both would be quite fun although I might have to get over my extreme and irrational fear of gravity if I am to even consider climbing.

Career

I finally ditched the business name GJ Studios. I’ve never been keen on the name since it was first registered in the nineties. It was time for a change and one that suited the direction in which I’ve been working. My company is now named Outdoor Adventure Press and I couldn’t be happier with this new business identity. The new brand will better reflect the adventure related publications, camping cookbooks, and my other freelance writing projects. It’s exciting and there are a few new things in the works.

I’m still working on that third manuscript and having great fun with it. The book should be complete by the New Year and then I’ll embark on the tedious task of the final round of editing. I’ve been having issues getting great photos for the work because it always seems to rain when I am cooking at camp.

The Big Basket of Peaches

Remind me next time my darling friend, Kristin, sends out an open invitation to come over with a basket and take home some peaches, that it will be a crap-load of peaches! I had expected the typical quart basket worth of yummy deliciousness. It was practically a bushel! I happily took her up on the offer and spent an enjoyable morning in her kitchen before I went home to embark on the process of preserving what she had given me. I ended up with several large Ziplocs of frozen peach slices, three 1L jars of canned peach slices, four 500ml jars of freezer jam, and days of heavenly fresh peach eating. I had never canned peaches before so it was a learning experience. It was also the first time I had ever made freezer jam. Kristin canned a considerable amount and I was quite inspired by her dedication to the project. Thanks Kristin!!

So, that is where life has taken me since I last wrote on my little blog.

Have a Happy Tuesday!

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“Of course motivation is not permanent. But then, neither is bathing; but it is something you should do on a regular basis.” ― Zig Ziglar

I talk about motivation quite a bit and there is another tool I use to help with that—dailymile.com. What is it? It is a fitness log and social networking tool geared towards runners, cyclists, and walkers. Even though a many a runner is down on this free online fitness tracking website, for me it is a matter of perspective. Let me elaborate by telling you how I use dailymile.com.

Inspiration

There are days when I don’t feel like working out or sticking to my training plan. As I sip my morning coffee I pop online to read what my friends on dailymile.com (DM) have been up to from a fitness perspective. Seeing everyone’s posts seems to spark my desire to get off my ass and go do something. When I see a friend who is tight on time or one that is coming back from an injury moving forward with their workout it reminds me that I really have no excuse to be lazy. Reading my friends’ race reports or about their latest trail run through the woods makes me want to get out there. Some feel that DM is nothing more than a competition. I only compete with myself and the people I connect with are very much like-minded so the competition factor doesn’t play into it for me. Inspiration certainly does though and it is my hope that I inspire others like they inspire me.

Camaraderie

There are a few people in my DM circle whose posts I love to read. Alan, the Barefoot Kilted & Shirtless one has the most detailed run data I’ve seen and I love seeing the older photos he posts. Marina writes interesting posts that often make me smile and sometimes even wince. Peneloperae is a tri-athlete who is on quite the planking streak and always has witty twist on things. Mari is the queen of hot yoga who was also at my first race. And then there is Emma, who posts about which song was her best during her run. Thanks to Emma I have a much better playlist. There isn’t enough room here to list the things I find endearing about my friends on DM but suffice to say they are an interesting bunch.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet many of them as our paths cross at races and some were part of my life long before I ever used DM. Many of the people I see in other facets of my life. We’ve planned non-fitness excursions together. Some of us have camped together or just hung out for an afternoon. There are some friends that I even see a few times a week for a bike ride or a run. As much as fitness can be a solo activity, it can be a social one as well and it is great to connect with people who have similar lifestyles and really get what I’m trying to do even if we are involved in something totally unrelated.

Motivation

I do find dailymile very motivating. When I look at the week ahead as a blank space it makes me want to fill it with fun fitness activities. And when I post an activity it is really nice to hear feedback from those who I am connected with. This isn’t just the “good job” pat on the back sort of thing but often there is solid advice in those comments. Also knowing that posting a goal makes me accountable is huge for me. Accountability is a terrific motivator, at least for me. Knowing that I have support is super-motivating too and it is something I never had when I was younger.

Seeing my goal approaching helps tremendously. Take the half marathon I ran in May. When I would go in and post that I ran 15K or 17.5K and each week it was a new distance for me, I would get excited. To see it in writing made it seem so much more of a reality and that really made me exuberant about the next week and the next milestone.

Reassurance

Sometimes I just need reassurance because I tend to second-guess myself. While I have a great support system there are people that don’t understand my passion for being as fit as I can be. Like-minded folks, like the people in my DM circle get it and they also experience similar ups and downs… like post race blues. Reassurance is helpful when I aim for a new and daunting distance or I plan to do something I’ve never tried before.

Take yesterday for example. I am training for a 460K cycling trip on Le P’tit Train du Nord in Quebec that will take 8 days. I’m going to be towing my daughter in a trailer specifically designed for a child her age. The trailer is stable and safe—it even has a roll bar. Me… well, I’m not so stable and I’ve been stressing about this vacation. I had taken her behind my bike once on campground roads that were wide and with zero traffic but yesterday evening was a proper training session.

My post read… “Scared out of my freaking mind! This was the second time I’ve towed the child trailer and the first time I’ve ever done it on city streets or single track. I was terrified, to say the least. In fact I was going so painfully slow at the beginning, out of sheer fear, that I could have probably run faster, after all… precious cargo. By the end I was up to my regular 18-20 km/h pace and going in-between barrier posts like I didn’t even have the trailer. I hope that the weather cooperates enough tomorrow that I manage to get in a good strong ride (one where I am a little more confident).”

One of the replies, from a lady who knows the area, was “I can imagine that being quite the challenge (emotionally too!). Glad it worked out in the end. Oh, it is so safe on the P’tit Train du Nord that you’ll be rolling along with no problem (no cars!!!).” 

And… it really helps with my confidence concerning this upcoming journey.

Reflection

I’ve been using dailymile for quite some time—enough to see great changes in my fitness level. I do love that I can look back and see how I have improved especially when it comes to running. For example, in November 2011 my first official Couch to 5K training run was 2.4K in 30 minutes at a pace of 12 minutes and 30 seconds per kilometer. Since then I’ve run 5K and 10K races, trail relays, and a half marathon. This week I ran 3K in 23 minutes and 28 seconds at a pace of 7 minutes and 49 seconds per kilometer. Seeing this and how far I have come is a form of self-inspiration. It makes me want to keep moving forward to see where I can go in the future. Another great thing is that I can go back and re-read my comments about why a specific run or bike ride was really wonderful or why it wasn’t my best. I’ve also been able to export my data into Excel as a chart and share that with my medical team which has proved beneficial on more than one occasion.

dailymile.com, is an invaluable tool for me when I use it in conjunction with my training plan. Aside from all these things I’ve mentioned, I also appreciate that I can store my routes and see countdowns of when my next races are. Inspiration, motivation, camaraderie, reassurance, and reflection are all extremely helpful in keeping me on track with the goals I have set out for myself. There is a Pro version of the website and while I haven’t had the opportunity to try it out, but I am seriously considering it.

As of last night I’ve logged 1,851 total kilometers, 244.13 hours, and burned the caloric equivalent of 1,148 donuts since I started recording my workouts a year and a half ago.

B(e) Positive!

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it wasn't a finish line

it wasn’t a finish line after all

With all that was going on in my life I needed to take some time for myself especially after losing my Mom. I tend to retreat a little when grief strikes but life moves forward whether we want it to or not. And it is moving forward around here. With that I figured it was time to return to blogging.

Of course, this time of year always brings about lots of planning. There was a time when the only planning was for wilderness camping trips but now there is so much more. I’ll be doing my usual camping, canoeing and hiking but this year we are venturing out on a 9-day bike-packing adventure in Quebec that will cover almost 460K. There are also lots of running events in my future and three of those cover consecutive weekends. Part of me wonders what I was thinking but I am committed enough to conquer these goals and have fun at the same time.

Here is this year’s race schedule…

Happy 5K (5K Run)
Brantford, Ontario
March 17, 2103
Status: Registered

The Ford Race to End Diabetes (5K Run)
Oakville, Ontario
April 27, 2103
Status: Registered

Mississauga Marathon (Half Marathon)
Mississauga, Ontario
May 5, 2013
Status: Registered

TREAD 6 Hour Trail Run Relay (4.2K per loop)
Mansfield, Ontario
May 12, 2013
Status: Registered

Brantford Grand Trail Run (10K Run)
Brantford, Ontario
July 27, 2013
Status: Leaning towards registration

Oasis ZooRun (10K Run)
Scarborough, Ontario
September 21, 2013
Status: Registered

Run for the Toad 50K Relay (12.5K loop)
Paris, Ontario
October 5, 2013
Status: Registered

Colours of Hope (5K Fun)
Hamilton, Ontario
October 6, 2013
Status: Waiting for Registration to Open

Some of these events are about fun and others are about achieving new milestones.

It’s going to be a year full of adventure… so bring it on!

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This year was a tumultuous one that was full of contrasts.

2012 was a time to re-evaluate friendships and remove negative influences from my life. We had friends whose focus became solidly rooted in materialism and competitiveness at every turn, to the point where what is really important was left to the wayside. Bryan and I felt it best for our family to distance ourselves entirely. We found that stepping back also opened up space for new and wonderful connections to be forged with other people who are on the same page we are—people who embrace that the most important things in life can’t be purchased. Time and love are at the top of that list.

On the subject of time and love… there has been sadness this year. There is never enough time to spend with the ones we love. My brother passed away in February. He wasn’t exactly a big part of my life, but I still miss and love him. Around the same time I had a serious heath scare and that brought up a lot of memories of my Dad’s battle with heart disease. Then the worst of 2012, for me, was a mere week ago… on Christmas Eve. My Mom was admitted to hospital and we were called to say goodbye. She is still hanging on and while the outlook is not very favorable, I still hold onto hope. Mom is, by leaps and bounds, the strongest and most determined person I know.

Being Scottish, Hogmanay (New Years) has always been a big deal for Mom. She always told us stories of first footing, breaking shortbread, and other celebratory tales from her homeland. On this New Years Eve I am thinking of her while reflecting on the good that came this past year. It’s a year that I am thankful is coming to a close, yet it also had some really terrific moments. Mom always reminds me to focus on what is positive in life so here we go…

Tobias turned 11. He has come into a sarcastic sense of wit that is typical of his age group and very much like his Dad. He is very charitable and asked me for extra snacks in his school lunch because there are a few in his class that don’t get enough to eat. Some days you could find him running to catch the neighbor’s little dog that escapes under their fence and onto the road. Speaking of running, he ran his first races this year. He ran his first 5K and helped me raise money for the JDRF. The next day he ran another 5K race with his schoolmates. Despite not having a lot of training he did extremely well on a trail relay in May. He placed first in his age group at a 10K event in October. Even if he hadn’t won a medal, I am so very proud of him.

Kaia turned 2. Ah, the trials and tribulations of being the Mommy of a toddler. Yet, I find her inquisitive thirst for learning contagious. She keeps big brother on his toes and drives him a little bit batty. She is smart and precocious and simply adorable. She has Daddy and the Grandparents wrapped around her little finger. We bought her a first trike and she adored going for bike rides on it. Kaia also spent a lot of time in a bike trailer going on rides around the local trails. She loved camping this summer and wanted to help with everything.

I finally bought a new bike and learned how to use the gears on it. I rode up hills that normally would have me hopping off halfway up. We went cycling several times a week as a family and it was wonderful.

I ran my first 5K race in April and received and award for collecting over $1500 in donations for the JDRF. My friends came and ran with me. It wasn’t a finish line but a starting line and I went on to complete an arduous trail relay a month later. I even ran a few times when we were on a family vacation in Algonquin Provincial Park. This fall I ran my first 10K race—a nighttime trail event in mid-October. I was last but I did it and was very proud of that. I even booked my first half-marathon which I will run in 2013. It has been amazing—who knew I’d adore running.

We went camping, as we do most summers. As usual, Bryan brought the rain. It actually came down so hard on the way into the Barron Canyon area that we turned around and drove back to the permit office to book a car-camping site. Although the wilderness portion of our trip was changed, we had a blast hanging out at camp together in the rain. The weather even let up long enough that we sat on our private little beach to watch the Perseids.

I decided to pursue writing a third cookbook. After being rejected and having a good cry, I picked myself up and got on with things. I approached another publisher and a deal was struck. I’m still working on the manuscript and it will go to the publisher on April 1, 2013.

At midnight we welcome in 2013. I will leave the negative side of 2012 behind and I won’t be making any resolutions again this year. For me the New Year is a book consisting entirely of blank pages that I will fill as the year progresses. Resolutions, I feel, set one up for failure. Sometimes this is because the goal seems too big or the timeframe isn’t realistic.

So instead, here is my outlook for 2013.

My darling children will have many wonderful moments—I will embrace that as they are the light that gets me through the rough stuff. Bryan and I will continue on our journey of wellness which includes being active and taking on new adventures. Part of this will be a 460 km journey on a cycling path in Quebec called Le P’tit Train du Nord. I will move closer toward my goal weight and likely achieve that in mid-2013. I will be training with a great coach and then completing my first half marathon in May. Some friends and my darling, supportive husband are running in that event as well. I am very excited. The week after the half marathon I’m running the TREAD trail relay with some of the same friends that where there with us last year. Good thing we are doing it for the simple fun of it. There will be Trek or Treat again in October and perhaps some other races as time permits. Of course, I’ll be camping and such too. Who knows what else I will get up to. I’ll have to get back to you on that. 🙂

With this I leave you until next year, my dear readers…

May you look back on all the positive things that 2012 has brought you and may 2013 bring you peace, happiness, and health.

Happy New Year!

(B)e Positive!

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Tomorrow is a beautiful word and one so full of promise. It signifies a fresh start and a day with potential. Tomorrow is also the beginning of a new year for me so I’m taking a few moments to look back over the past year and to the future.

Last year, the day after my birthday, I wrote about my milestones. Today, as I await the arrival of a dear friend for a running date, I am going to share how that has changed in a mere year and what new things I have decided to add to the list.

First on the list was achieve my final weight loss goal. I didn’t set a timeline for this but I am within 17 pounds! I’m almost there and I’m very proud of that. It is certainly refreshing to be able to shop in regular stores now and it is definitely more economical. The second milestone was to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It is, simply put, my way of life.

Third, I was planning to run a 5K race. I did it, as you’ve likely read, and I also went on to run 8.4K in a hilly trail relay and 10K at a nighttime trail run which was comparable to the relay for difficulty.

I mentioned that one of my goals is to write a book about my weight loss journey and that is still on the table. I signed a contract for a third camping-related cookbook that will be released in 2014 and have been concentrating on it. That said, I’ve started writing my story and will work on it as time permits.

Being Mommy to a toddler and a pre-teen is busy especially with a husband who travels extensively so there are some milestones that will have to wait a wee bit longer. That didn’t stop me from trying some new things though. In early July I bought a bike. We rode about 425 km over the summer. Our family did some camping and hiking as well. I even ran in Algonquin Park—twice!

In August I made the decision to run a half marathon after getting the all clear from my medical professionals. I chose a race and booked it which means I will be running my first half in May 2013. So much for it just being one 5K race!

Here is the revised edition of my milestone list. Just like last year, some of these goals are more immediate than others.

  • Run the Mississauga Half Marathon (already booked!)
  • Learn how to drive (I’m studying for the G1)
  • Finish my third cookbook (in the works)
  • Bike the entire L’Petit Train du Nord (230K each way)
  • Write a book about my weight loss journey
  • Pursue a career in Health & Wellness (motivational speaker, dietitian, or diabetes educator)
  • Complete the 25K Run for the Toad
  • Participate in the TREAD relay (again)
  • Complete a triathlon or adventure race
  • Hike the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu
  • Visit Nepal
  • Hike the Annapurna Circuit
  • See a Kermode or Spirit Bear
  • Visit the East Coast
  • Volunteer for an expedition on another continent
  • Learn to speak French
  • Rock climb
  • Learn to rappel

I’m sure I’ll have loads of other things to add to this list as time goes on.

What are your milestones?

B(e) Positive!

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So, I bought a bike. A real bike. Let me elaborate.

A few years ago I bought a really pretty bike from Walmart made by a company called Huffy. I looked at consumer reports and reviews on line and it seemed like a good value. I hadn’t been on a bike in 23 years and back then you had two choices; a touring bike or a 10-speed. There was no such thing as a mountain bike, well, at least not in the mainstream. This time around I wanted a mountain bike style even though I wasn’t going to be doing any hardcore off-road riding. With that in mind I made a purchase. The Walmart offering seemed tall enough, it was cute with a sparkly purple and silver paint job and it was cheap. I’d normally use the word “inexpensive” but in this case “cheap” fits the bill. After 169 kilometers I realized that Huffy Canada makes the biggest piece-of-crap-sorry-excuse-for-a-bicycle on the continent and maybe even the entire planet.

First of all, it wasn’t assembled properly from the get-go. Secondly, the components are so cheaply made that it is laughable. The brake levers were partially plastic which I didn’t notice until the lever was fully engaged. The frame wasn’t the right size for me; in fact, I can’t see the configuration being right for anyone. I spent much of my time hunched over and I was starting to have pain in my left knee after each ride.

Last week, when I went out with Bryan and the kids, it felt like I was pedaling lead. Bryan checked the bike over for me and the back brakes were not aligned properly. By the wear on the brake pad it had been like that for more than one outing. The brake wasn’t rubbing enough to cause a noise but enough to slow the wheel and wear the pad in an L shape. Lovely. The crank wasn’t made properly, the brake holders were low-grade metal, the welds underneath the frame looked like someone had chewed up bubblegum and stuck it there. There is no pride in workmanship at all. I was beginning to realize that this wasn’t just junk made by some low-grade manufacturer from Canada who gets things done for the lowest price in some off-shore locale, but also that this bike could be dangerous. What appalls me most is that they sell many of their bikes for children.

This wasn’t my first negative experience with Huffy either. The same day I bought my bike, I also bought one for my son. He was 8 at the time. The very first week his gears failed completely. They were integrated in the handlebar and the interior “teeth” were plastic and weak plastic at that. I called Huffy and they refused to fix it under warranty. Walmart wouldn’t take it back. So I ordered a new shifter for him. The price was under $30 which surprised me. I was guaranteed it would be there in 2-3 weeks. Almost 8-months after they billed my credit card, I was still waiting for a part which I was finally told was on back order. A month later I called back and was told that the part was discontinued. Two days later we bought him a Haro from a reputable dealer.

Bryan, darling husband that he is, spent part of the weekend McGyver-ing this shoddily made hunk of junk enough so I could safely go out on a 20 K ride with kids and him. After this latest adventure, I vowed that I would never ride this so-called bicycle again. Ever! I didn’t even want to lay eyes on another product made by Huffy Canada ever again.

My favorite bike shop isn’t open on Sundays (for the staff to have family time) and Monday was a holiday here in Canada so practically everything was closed. The moment Brantford Cyclepath opened on Tuesday morning I was through the doors and getting advice from my friend and bike sales guru, Julian. Just over an hour later I had chosen a really nice bike—a Louis Garneau Helix 20°. Even better, it was on sale! I paid for it and a CO2 pump, then arranged to have Bryan pick it up when he got home from work.

I was akin to a child at Christmas time. In fact, I’ve been smiling since he brought the bike home on Tuesday evening. I have a REAL bike! It fits me perfectly. It has a seat that doesn’t make me feel bruised. It has metal pedals which incidentally hurt when you accidentally bang them against your shin. Said bike has disc brakes. Holy stopping power, Batman!! It has decent gears. It even has front shocks. The brake levers are well made. The entire bike is well-engineered.

Of course, wouldn’t you know that second that he brings my new toy home, the skies open up and we are treated to a thunderstorm. I did end up getting out for a little bit and rode about 8 km on backstreets. Yesterday evening we cycled a 20 KM loop that I had only ever done on the bike from hell. The difference between having a decent bicycle and something that belongs in a dumpster was 15 minutes. You are wondering what I mean by that? Well, I was that much quicker which is amazing given that we had record breaking heat and humidity yesterday. The difference I attribute to the Helix 20° being considerably easier to ride… it is lighter, the gears change smoothly, the brakes are wonderful, and my position on the bike is so much more comfortable. It didn’t feel like I was working as hard as I usually have to. Even better, I didn’t experience any knee pain last night or this morning.

The moral of this story… Never buy a department store bike especially something made by a manufacturer like Huffy Canada. Go to a proper bike shop and get fitted for a bike that suits your intended use. You’d be surprised at how inexpensive a good bike can be and you’ll save yourself a lot of the headaches that I had. Per kilometer a better quality bike works out to be much more economical. As my darling husband says, “sometimes you can’t afford the cheap stuff”.

With that, I’m off to go wash my new ride. She’s a little dirty and dusty from yesterday’s fun.

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