bike

The cycling fall that was bound to happen

It was bound to happen.

If I was going to traipse around the world, hiking, cycling, marathoning, and triathloning, I was bound to

The day after the fall, making our way to Amsterdam by train instead of bike.

The day after the fall, making our way to Amsterdam by train instead of bike.

hurt myself somehow.

It comes with the territory. You can take as many precautions and reduce the risks as much as possible, but you can’t prevent the inevitable.

Living life is a risk. Sitting in a moving vehicle is a risk. Heck, spending most of your time in a chair in front of a TV or a computer is even more of a long-term risk than any hiking, cycling, gyming or marathoning I might be doing. Do I need to remind you about obesity, diabetes, heart disease and all the other myriad risks of sedentary living?

What was bound to happen? My bike wheel got caught in a tram track—you know, those huge, menacing, gaping linear holes in the ground present in many modern European streets. I fell—my right arm outstretched—and as I hit the ground the first thing I was aware of was that my shoulder had popped out of its socket. The second thing I did was to look behind me and make sure I wasn’t in the way of cars (or an oncoming tram). I wasn’t. I slowly pulled myself up from my strewn position on the road in downtown Brussels and as I did, my shoulder slipped back into its socket. (more…)

Cycling Europe Day 33: The Small Stuff

We haven’t yet discussed the bug situation.

I'm starting to think Italians have a thing about leaning towers. The Duomo in Portogruaro.

I’m starting to think Italians have a thing about leaning towers. The Duomo in Portogruaro.

You know how when you’re driving, insects manage to smash themselves in your windshield sometimes? Or how flying geese smash into the windshields of planes? Same thing happens while cycling. Except that it’s all kinds of flying bugs smashing into your face. And if you’re wearing sunscreen, like I do, they stick. Or if you’re breathing with your mouth open, they fly inside. I had a paroxysm of coughing today while cycling because a bug went straight into my windpipe. Sometimes they fly right between the openings in your helmet into your hair. Because I’m camping sometimes on this trip, I’m getting a double dose of bugs. I have to admit I’ve come to like the little critters. They are my company since I’m all alone these days. We’ve figured out how to get along with each other.

In Spain, everywhere I cycled I saw so many little creatures crossing the roads. I would think that if drivers knew what was happening under their tires, they wouldn’t be driving at all. I was constantly swerving to avoid killing bugs and caterpillars. I haven’t seen many bugs on the roads in Italy, though. I wonder if Italian bugs just have more “street smarts” than Spanish bugs by avoiding roads altogether.

I had another road sign situation today. I was cycling out of Treviso and heading towards Portogruaro. The signs said while still inside Treviso that Oderzo, a town en route to Portogruaro, was 24km away and that Portogruaro was 54km away. I thought that was perfect. I’d have a short cycling day again. Couldn’t ask for better. But as I cycled towards Oderzo and got nearer to it, eventually seeing a sign that said it was 19km away, Portogruaro was moving away from me no matter how hard I tried to get closer. When Oderzo was 19km away, Portogruaro was STILL 54km away. It seems that I eventually was able to pick up enough speed to be faster than Portogruaro. It was actually 65km away from Treviso. (more…)

Cycling Europe Day 19: El-Awady Galactica

Every day it’s pretty much same ol’ same ol’. There’s hardly any point telling the story

It was an especially beautiful morning in the galaxy today.

It was an especially beautiful morning in the galaxy today.

anymore. It’s getting old.

Captain Nadia El-Awady, now the elder of the El-Awady clan after their father passed away (ألف رحمة ونور عليه) and thus the captain, quickly downs her breakfast before she begins her work for the day. She takes her seat at the helm of El-Awady Galactica, a small ship that in no way properly represents the greatness of the El-Awadys. It does, on the other hand, reflect their sense of humility.

As Captain Nadia steers her way through the galaxy – as one does – she receives a red alert from Little Man In My Head, her constant companion (one of a multitude).

“Warning! Warning! Meteor shower approaches from the northwest!” shouts Little Man with his very big voice.

The meteor shower threatens to push the Galactica off course. It is severe today and we are heading right towards it.

(more…)

Nadia’s Maniacal Plan to Conquer Europe by Bike

Tomorrow is the day I set off for Lisbon, Portugal. I might not get to see much of it, which is quite disappointing every time I

A Facebook follower was very generous in helping me design this for a tshirt after my husband and I cycled from London to Paris last year.

A Facebook follower was very generous in helping me design this for a tshirt after my husband and I cycled from London to Paris last year.

think of it.

I’m freaking out. I spent most of the second half of yesterday holding back tears. I’m so scared. And for the gazillionth time I asked myself, “Why I am doing this?”

On the train on my way back home from a short wedding anniversary trip to London, I posted the following on Facebook (feel free to follow me on FB but I will have to apologize for not accepting friend requests) as my mind went round and round and round:

Questions that will soon be answered:

1. Can I enjoy myself when completely on my own? As in COMPLETELY on my own.

2. Can I motivate myself when I’m ready to give up?

3. When faced with a problem I do not know how to solve, is my solution to just break down and cry? (Yes is the answer to this one)

4. Can I be the kind of tourist who does ABSOLUTELY no shopping (except for food) for quite a long time?

5. How long can my back last sleeping on the ground?

6. How long can I last without a shattafa?

7. How much pain can I REALLY handle?

8. How long can I go without soap and clean clothes?

9. How much do I REALLY enjoy nature?

10. How long can I go without getting my eyebrows done without looking like an ape?

I have a very contradictive personality. I’m superstitious. I don’t want to tell people about my plans in case it jinxes it. I fear their collective evil eye. Yet I am, at the same time, a compulsive sharer. I want to be able to write about my plans and my experiences. It helps me process through my thoughts much better than keeping them to myself in my head. And I will not lie: I also need the support and encouragement of my friends.

So I’m just going to get it out there and tell you about this trip I’ve been planning for the past few months. If anything bad happens before, during, or after the trip, I’ll lay it on YOU, the reader, for your evil eye. So before you read any further, cleanse your heart, purify your thoughts, and send me nothing but good vibes. (more…)

London to Paris Cycle 2013

Part I: The Training

When my husband first told me that he was thinking of getting a few guys from the office together to cycle from London to Paris, my

Andrew, Colin, and Nadia after three days of cycling from London to Paris. We made it!

Andrew, Colin, and Nadia after three days of cycling from London to Paris. We made it!

first thought was, “Who does crazy stuff like that?” The words that came out of my mouth were, “Can I join?”

I hardly had any experience cycling but that was not going to hold me back. I bought a cheap mountain bike in Egypt just before I climbed Kilimanjaro in 2009. I cycled a few times in Cairo as part of my training for the climb. That training consisted of leisurely cycling on flat road for no longer than half an hour at a time. I did not think it was leisurely then, of course. I now know what real training means. (more…)

Things I learned from today’s bike ride in Cairo

I’ve cycled in Cairo a few times before but I’ve always limited my distance and my area of travel. Recently I came across a cycling group who do long distance training sessions, mainly on a couple of our out-of-town highways. I cycled with them last weekend for the first time and really enjoyed it. We cycled from Lebanon Square to Smart Village, 20 km away, and back. I never would have thought that possible by bike before. But it was a truly enjoyable experience. They weren’t cycling this weekend so I decided to do a long distance solo cycle.

Here is what I learned:

  • We have way more potholes on our streets in Cairo than I originally thought we had.
  • People on the street will think of you less as a woman if you wear loose clothing and you put a geeky bike helmet on your head (and thus you don’t get harassed as much).
  • You know those large families riding on a single motorcycle that we stare at as if they are aliens? Well, they all stare at you if you’re a woman in a geeky bike helmet cycling on the streets in Cairo.
  • Dogs like to chase people on bikes. I screamed like a little girl today when one dog growled at me while sticking close to my right leg. Apparently little girl screams frighten dogs away.
  • If we had bike lanes in Cairo, microbuses would use them as their private bus stops. We may as well not have them at all.
  • Note to self: next time wear a gas mask while cycling if you can’t handle breathing in extensive quantities of automobile exhaust.
  • Cycling among Cairo traffic is frickin scary. The only way to go about it is to pretend you’re a car, honk a lot, and give crazy hand gestures to idiots who don’t treat you like a car. Seriously, it isn’t the safest thing in the world to do. You need to be confident and careful at once. You do need to ring your bell a lot so that cars know you are coming. You need to make a lot of hand signals so that cars behind you know what you are doing. You need to anticipate the movement of cars/busses parked on the side of the road so they don’t start moving just as you reach their blind spot. You need to be extra careful when you reach side roads that open up onto a main street. Cars tend to swerve into the main street, not looking over their left shoulder, and expecting other cars to avoid them. They are an accident in the waiting. Be very vigilant.
  • Wearing cycling goggles might be a good idea for Cairo. Our streets constantly spit sand and pebbles into your eyes.
  • Cycling in Cairo may not be like cycling along the coast of Italy, but it’s all Cairenes have. If more of us just got out and did it, it will become more commonplace. It’s also a great way to keep fit.