Commuting these past few days has just been hellish, and I have no idea why. There have been some changes in environment and a few changes in my bike, but I would never have expected them to turn my ride as grueling as it has become. The same path I was taking in the 7th or 8th gear most days, I now can barely managed in 6th and sometimes slip down to 5th. (well... ok, I should say I don't know how to talk about gears. On my bike I've got 1-3 on the left and 1-8 on the right. I was hovering at 2-8 and now I'm down to 2-6 or 2-5 most days. The last time I rode a bike, we talked about gears in base ten. Did we lose two fingers? )
For the first month, I was doing fine. The length of my ride hasn't changed, it's still about a 12 mile round trip. I use the same route almost every day, right beside Lake Michigan from a neighborhood north to Downtown. The frequency of my commute has maintained at sometimes three but usually 4 days a week, plus a few pure pleasure rides on the weekends.
Lately, though, every ride seems a lot harder than before.
Here are a few changes that coincide with the new, tougher ride. For information's sake, I'm on a Trek 7200 that I keep tuned and in good condition with air pressure (700s) at about 70-75psi.
1. Switched from backpack to pannier. I can't imagine this has anything to do with it; if anything, I'd expect a better ride out of that change.
2. A few minor changes to the bike fit, trying to get comfortable. I've raised the seat so my legs don't get crunched on every upswing, shifted it forward and lifted the bars a bit so I don't have to stretch so far now that the seat is higher. I do feel like something's still not right with the bike fit; my fingers still get numb and I still feel like I have to lean over too much and reach too far. The harder rides predate the changes, though.
3. The weather has changed. Chicago has left behind it's long string of gorgeous, cool, sunny days and entered a string of slightly rainy, fairly cold and windy days. I picked up a base layer to keep me a bit warmer, figuring I can pile on whatever I need as I need it. I don't feel cold on my rides, except around the face and sometimes the fingers. It's possible I have the wind in my face more these days than I used to, I guess, and maybe it's blowing harder...
I started commuting by bike to get in better shape, and I think it's working; I haven't lost weight to speak of, but I've certainly gained quite a bit of muscle. I try to listen to my body and rest when I feel like my legs need it; usually I ride two days, then get that spaghetti-leg feeling and take a day off so I can build or rebuild or whatever it is muscles need downtime to do. Then I ride the last two days of the week and rest a bit on the weekend. Lately, though, I've been more sore than usual after my rides and feel more tired and less refreshed. I'm not dieting, and I'm not under-eating (ha!), so I don't think that's the problem - unless possibly I'm not getting enough protein, hmmm.
I wonder if maybe the days off are part of the problem? I'm so new to this whole exercise thing it's possible I'm just doing it wrong. Or maybe just having a fit of whining... =)