29 April 2010

Nice Bike!

This is my bike. I like my bike.

After a long descent the other day on my "other " wheels, my Mavic Ksyrium ESs, I have decided the wheels on the bike in this photo (Mavic Cosmic Carbone), are being left behind when I go to the Tour de France this year. This is like telling one boyfriend that I am taking another to France.

These fancy wheels have a rear power tap. A power tap measures my watts. I am supposed to care about my watts, but I don't, enough. It has always been difficult for me to explain to another rider next to me, that they should slow down and not power up the base of a climb because my personal watts might go too high. I realize high watts sound like a good thing, but they're not if I intend to ride day after day, or keep my head out of the soup bowl at dinner time.

Wouldn't you agree these wheels make my Scott CR1 look good? They match. Matching is a good thing in cycling. My bike gets called slick bike and flashy bike when we are out in public, which is often. I had an old friend with the nickname Slick, and an old boyfriend with the nickname Flash (true cycling nicknames), so I cringe when I receive these compliments. Just call my bike Luke. There is a much better story behind that name.

On ascents and descents, the wheels pictured here feel like what I can imagine the wooden wheels on the covered wagon trains must have felt like. They may look good, but they are heavy and they are not fun. (I'm talking about the wheels again, not the old boyfriend). People like to argue with me that these are great wheels, but I weigh in at less than 130 lbs, so they only feel fun to me when zipping around corners.

Besides who needs a slick flashy bike in France. Riding in France is all about the steep climbs, and the long descents. I want to enjoy the glorious descent off the Col d' Aubisque lightweight and carefree.

I also happen to know this lighter version of my bike, plus bike box, weigh in at 49 lbs; just under the airline baggage weight allowance. Perfect!

Post post update March 2011: I got new wheels! A beautiful set of Reynolds MV32C UL, sweet!

The Mavic Ksyrium wheels below came with me to France in 2010, but the new Reynolds are more deserved of a trip to Italy.  (photo coming soon)

Ice Cream Anyone?

I heard these guys are in New Mexico at the Tour of Gila serving up ice cream. I think the guy on the left drives the truck.

Sure I'll take some ice cream with my walkie-talkie.

Image from an article in www.bikeworldnews.com

28 April 2010

For the love of a bike

I love bikes. I am a crazy cycling fan.

My love for bikes formed as a child when I received my first hand-me-down bike, with the added basket, from my older brother Tom. When I later took over his daily bike paper-route, it was a proud day indeed. That paper route was then passed to my younger brother Mike, who himself is now a crazy cycling fan.

My own love of pro cycling emerged in 2001 as I stood roadside in Pau, France, in the heart of the Pyrennes, waiting for Stage #15 of the Tour de France to depart Northeast 232.5 km to the city of Lavaur. Eight months earlier I was told I should never run, swim, or bike again. As any endurance athlete would do, I responded to the doctor's recommendation with an honest, "you must be kidding".

Now I found myself in Pau, France, with my brother, his wife, and good friend Stevo. We were standing inside the barriers (due to a lucky last minute VIP pass). I recall watching George Hincapie with his wide grin roll by on his blue Trek bike. Next came Jan Ullrich, and then JaJa, Verenque, Zabel, Beloki, Eki, and Mayo. Standing there watching the pageantry roll to the start line, I felt a clear moment when the air stilled and a calm came over me and I dared myself to think, "I have to do this".

Here it is - the look that changed my life:
(George Hincape, 2001)

And so began my journey to learn about the sport of road cycling. Of course I had been a mountain biker in Colorado, something I explained, I did solely to keep in shape to carry those heavy backpacks to the base of rock and ice climbs. But this new sport of road cycling was something more - it was a lifestyle change. I had found my new passion. I became not only a rider, but a huge cycling fan. The shift was slow but complete.

In 2003 I returned to France for 23 days to ride 16 days and chase the Tour de France from the Alpes to the Pyrenees to Paris. In Paris, I participated in the Randonnée du Centenaire, a ride with 10,000 other citizens, up and down the Champs Elysees to celebrate the 100th Tour de France. I saw Miguel Endurain and Lance Armstrong and other legends of cycling past and present. I remember being thrilled on my flight home to introduce myself and speak to a long admired climbing legend Conrad Anker. Somehow I was keenly aware that my idea of hero was now shifting.

I was changing, rock climbing was no longer my passion. My pristine training regimen was easily let go. I laughed at myself as I dug into a grilled basque sausage, of unknown origin, on the top of Luz Ardiden while waiting for Lance Armstrong to emerge from the fog to win Stage 15 in 2003. By now, it had sunk into me, that going with the flow at the Tour de France leads to wonderful unexpected experiences.

I was fortunate to return to France again in 2005, 2007, and 2008. I happily (and sometimes painfully) pedaled my way up many of the mighty passes of the Alpes and the Pyrenees. I participated in the Etape du Tour, learned the roads and towns, got stuck in the traffic near TDF mountain-top finishes, and learned just how incredibly hardy the French cycling fan could be.

I am proud to be a cycling fan. Back in the USA, I happily awake at 5:30am to watch the races in Europe live online. I can bore anyone who pretends to listen about history and race predictions. I think cycling humor is about as funny as it gets. The problem is I only know about 16 other die-hard cycling fans, and 7 of those are in my own family! I have decided I need to encourage 2 more fans every year, and 3 new riders.

I am certain, all 16 of my family & friends love cycling and love bikes - and I love them more for it. 

Thank you George!

Dancing on the Pedals

Dancing on the Pedals
A little history: well known cycling commentator Phil Liggett coined the term in 1987 while describing Dag-Otto Lauritzen climb Luz Ardiden in the Pyrenees. The actual term Phil used was, "He's dancing on the pedals in a most immodest way!". Classic.

Read a story in Outside magazine about the phrase here: They're Dancing on the Pedals

Phil Liggett has also written a book using this phrase Dancing on the Pedals: The Found Poetry of Phil Liggett, The Voice of Cycling

27 April 2010

Participate in a Cyclosportive

Anyone going to the Tour de France in 2010 and interesting in participating in a citizen cyclosportive in June near Foix, France? Check out L'Ariégeoise 2010 the finish is on Plateau de Beille

Contador tests out the cobbles

Defending Tour de France champion Alberto Contador took to the treacherous cobbled roads of northern France on Tuesday, preparing for terrain he admits could dent his bid for a third yellow jersey this year.

Read the full Velonews article Contador tests out the cobbles

26 April 2010

Just the Facts Ma'am

"You're going to France for 5 weeks!"
Yup. 5 weeks.
"who are you going with?"
"well I guess you know France by now"
Yes, but I am going to explore new places, ride new climbs, take new hikes, try new food. Meet new people.

  • I have been to France before, my first time was in 1982, then 1995, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008. I am going back in 2010 for 5 weeks.
  • I am flying into Toulouse, I will be staying in Bedoin, Rocamadour, Arrens-Marsous, Biert, Crechetes, Guchan, Saint-Martin-le-Vieil, Saint-Mamet, Beaucens, Paris, and back to Toulouse.
  • I am chasing the Tour de France for 8 of those days.
  • I am going with my Scott CR1 Road Bike, 1 suitcase, an iPhone, a laptop, a bunch of maps, and a leased Renault Scenic (which will be used for 4 weeks prior by my brother and his wife).
  • I intend to ride, hike, float, explore, work, rest, eat, drink, and be merry.
France is a hard place to leave. In 2008 I did not want to leave France. I stood with my rental car return envelop hovering above the return slot for eight minutes on a dark morning in Pau. The techno music, from a nearby dance club, was blaring across the airport parking lot early in the morning, beating out a rhythm, as I rolled my bike box and suitcase into the terminal to that box where I now stood.

I did not want to leave. Just the day before I had ridden up the Col d'Aspin to watch a stage of the Tour de France. I had met some incredibly fun lively friendly Brits near the summit. They made me a sandwich and entertained me for hours as we played in the onslaught of caravan trinkets, and awaited the pro riders. The entire day was amazing.

I had looked forward to that day. I was going to the Tour de France - alone. But not really alone, I had the joy of riding my bike up the mountain next to a warm and funny French man who called out to everyone along the roadside as we ascended. I had decided I would ride to the summit and then descend until I heard "my language". I was not so much interested in my own Countryman, as much as my own language. After all one spends hours waiting along the road on a mountaintop route of the Tour de France.

I couldn't have found a better group to spend the day with. They talked cycling just like me, they knew all the riders, the history, the local climbs, and they were hardy folk. It was cold that day on the Col d'Aspin, yet the Brits filled the atmosphere with cheer. After the tour passed they invited me to ride down to the town of Arreau, "It will be quite the scene," Justin had said. I wish I had gone.

I was going home to Colorado. I needed to drive back to Bielle, to pack my bike and bag, and get to the airport in Pau very early that next morning. Oh how I wish I had stayed. That is why I am going back. Every time I hear techno music it reminds me that I have a choice in all things I do. I think people repeat "5 weeks!?" back to me as if to say, I could never do that. Yes, you can. The same Justin who invited me to join the group for a beer that day, had himself been a banker in London and was now living in Saint-Lary-Soulan as a bike guide. My brother and his wife return to France yearly for 3-4 weeks. When I lived in Thailand and Indonesia, I learned that there are many many ways to live a life.

Choice and diversity is what travel teaches me. And every so often I find a place that is hard to leave.

EuroTrash Monday

I am a big fan of Pez's EuroTrash Monday

25 April 2010

Eats, bikes, and leaves

It certainly seems that every 30-40 year old women has by now read the book Eat Pray Love. I have just now cracked the cover, and yet I must confess, I have read the grammatical book Eats, Shoots & Leaves, as I am sure you all have. Mine was a gift from my Mother. I am sure she gave you all a copy. Through blending these two book titles, I thought Eats, Bikes, and Leaves might be a fitting title for my first blog post. Primarily because I do plan to eat, bike, and somehow pull myself away from the best place to ride a bike ever, which is France. Secondly because the whole grammar thing involved in writing a blog, has me a bit intimidated.

I am mainly intimidated because I expect my Mother will be spell-checking my blog posts. You see, my Mother has an enormous vocabulary culled from a voracious book reading habit throughout my childhood. I recall her giddy excitement when an Author would use an unfamiliar word. She would pencil it onto the inside tab of the book, and later look up each and every word in a dictionary. I am also a bit intimidated because I grew up with southern California beach lingo, further refined by using extremely primary English, with an emphasis on hand language, while living in SE Asia in the 1980's. It doesn't help that my love of cycling has resulted in me answering every question put to me in a phrase that can be sputtered out between two breaths. This adds up for some very colorful word selection and interesting sentence structure.

Rising above this intimidation is my inspiration. I am inspired by the foods of France, and the efforts of seeing where my legs can take me on a bike. I am inspired by making my way solo through France for weeks. I am inspired by the challenge of spell-checking and editing on an iPhone while reporting from the Tour de France.

Wish me luck! I go forth to eat, bike, and leave.

12 April 2010

Pedal Dancer arriving by bike soon

I will be pedaling my way onto this blog very soon ...
Some incredibly fascinating, entertaining and worthwhile posts coming soon ...

01 April 2010

A really long About Me - Karen Eileen Rakestraw

A lot about PEDAL DANCER

The concept of Pedal Dancer began in 2003 after a trip to the Tour de France. The Pedal Dancer blog was created in 2010, inspired by watching the incredible competition of the Paris-Roubaix.

Contact Pedal Dancer

Do you have ideas or comments for me, please email me directly at (remove the spaces) PedalDancerBlog @ gmail.com and also to PedalDancer @ comcast.net (if international, please use both emails in case our servers block email). I answer every single email and am always happy to hear from you. I welcome any comments on the Pedal Dancer Facebook page where I now add all of the posts on this website. Thank you for visiting!

Life is like a box of chocolates. In Breckenridge, 2013. Photo by a fellow random USAPro fan.
About Pedal Dancer

Pedal Dancer® is a bike blog and guide for Cyclists, Travelers, and Fans. A blog about the cycling lifestyle; a resource for cyclists and cycling fans. Those who ride or attend bike races and events in the USA and Europe while enjoying travel, tourism, food, drink and fun before, after and in between. Light on opinion and heavy on information and joy of the sport, topics include: race and event calendars, bike routes and cycling climb descriptions, educational topics and news about the pro racing teams, riders, rider's interests, and the bikes and equipment used in the sport of cycling.

I have chased pro races for thirteen years on the Continent and in Europe. I am a huge fan and supporter of the sport of cycling. I have worked hard volunteering my own time and resources to write, photograph and travel to races where I sometimes request to be Media. I share with you my inside tips on how to see and enjoy a professional cycling race and what is going on behind the scenes. My love of travel, maps, photographs and human interest blend with the love of any bike, a good competition in sports, and a better story. Welcome and enjoy the ride!

View Pedal Dancer travel and race photography: pedaldancerphotography.com
Follow Pedal Dancer: Facebook; Twitter
I am a photographer listed at: Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado.

Been There in 2016
2016 Amgen Tour of California
Been There in 2015
2015 Amgen Tour of California
2015 USA Pro Challenge
Been There in 2014
2014 USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships
2014 Amgen Tour of California
2014 Giro d'Italia
2014 USA Pro Challenge
Been There in 2013
2013 North American Handmade Bicycle Show
2013 Amgen Tour of California
2013 USA Pro Cycling Challenge
Been There in 2012
2012 Tour of Flanders
2012 Paris-Roubaix
Stories from Belgium (and Italy)
2012 Amgen Tour of California
2012 Elephant Rock Century
2012 Ride the Rockies
2012 Tour de France
2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge
2012 Interbike
2012 Cross Vegas
Been There in 2011
2011 Tour of California
2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge
2011 Interbike
2011 Cross Vegas
Been There in 2010
Five Weeks Cycling in France
2010 Tour de France
2010 Tour of California
2010 Triple Bypass - done and dusted!

Been There in 1982-2014
Ireland, England, Scotland, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Hong Kong, Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, United States.

Purpose of Pedal Dancer®
PedalDancer.com helps promote events, races, equipment and the sport of cycling to national and international audiences online. I intentionally drive traffic to news sources and services, equipment and events, so that cyclists may find the best information to learn and enjoy the sport. My focus is Colorado, France, the Grand Tours, Spring Classics, ATOC, USA Pro Challenge, National and World events, bike shows and equipment, local event rides and races in the western United States, plus generalized cycling topics for fans and cyclists.

History of Pedal Dancer®
Pedal Dancer is created by Karen Rakestraw. I am the writer and main photographer, the one who pumps the tires, and the one who packs and unpacks the bags. A long time skier, kayaker, climber and mountaineer (and guitar player/singer), I turned to road cycling in 2001 after attending the Tour de France with my brother and sister-in-law (huge cycling fans). Pedal Dancer® was created in 2003. PedalDancer.com sprinted onto the scene on April 12, 2010. Inspired by the date of the Paris-Roubaix (one of my favorite races) and friends who where attending the race. I wanted to share my stories and what I had learned by chasing races for a decade.

Pedal Dancer® at the race
I have been to the Tour de France 6 times, to the Giro d'Italia, Critérium du Dauphiné, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Tour of California since its beginning, and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge since its beginning. Interbike, NAHBS,Cross Vegas, USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships, plus ridden many long distance event rides.

Climbs in France I have ridden on a bike:
Alpe d’Huez, Col d’Agnes, Col des Aravis, Col d’Aspin, Col d’Aubisque, Col de Boderas, Col du Chaussy, Col de la Columbiere, Col de la Core, Col du Croix Blanche, Col de la Croix de Fer, Col de Fer, Col du Galibier, Col d'Ichere, Col d'Izoard, Col de Lauteret, Col de Latrape, Col de Marie Blanque, Col de Murs, Col d' Ornon, Col de Peyresourde, Col de Port, Col de’Portet d'Aspet, Col d’Portillon, Col de Soudet, Col du Solour, Col de Tamie, Col de Telegraphe, Col du Tourmalet, Col de Tramassel, Cormet de Roseland, Hautacam, Hourquette d’Ancizan, Lac d'Estaing, Lancets, Luz Ardiden, Mount Ventoux, Pla d’Adet. (Areas: Bordeaux, Roussillon, Provence, Vaucluse, Vercours, Alpes, Ariege, Pyrenees, Basque Country, Cautarets, Cirque de Gavernie.

Event rides I have participated in:
Triple Bypass, Etape du Tour, Bicycle Tour of Colorado, Ride the Rockies, MS 150, Ragbrai, Copper Triangle, Solvang Century, Elephant Rock, Santa Fe Century, Moab Century and many other century rides.

Hardest climb (for me) that I have ridden (yes even of the climbs in France and Colorado)
Mt Baldy, California (I know, and that was with my Campy 50/34 32!)

My favorite climbs
Col du Soulor - Cirque du Litor - Col d' Aubisque, both directions, including the cafes on either side and both Cols. Mont Ventoux, France, which also has a couple cafes (I think I see a pattern here). Also the Hourquette d’Ancizan - Col d’Aspin loop in the Pyrenees. And along the wineries in Foxen Canyon near Solvang, California.

My favorite places to ride a bike

Pyrénées, France, Rocky Mountains, USA, Le Grand-Bornand area, Haute-Savoie department, Rhône-Alpes, France.

Copyright and Trademark
Pedal Dancer® is a registered trademark for content and this website. My photography and original content is marked as © copyrighted. However I am happy to share with sites promoting cycling, please ask me prior to use or please credit my work with direct links to Created and Published © by Pedal Dancer® . My purpose is to compile and share information about the sport of cycling. In return I always include links and credit to photography and content of others if made available. I appreciate your help in spreading the word that PedalDancer.com is an excellent resource for the professional cycling fan. Thank you.


Karen Rakestraw, Writer/Photographer
About Karen:

I am an American and an Irish citizen. I grew up near the beaches of Los Angeles County, California, and now live in Colorado to enjoy the mountains. I enjoy the creativity of writing, love maps and discovering new places. I especially like the unknown of travel. I learn all I can before I go, expect the plans to go awry and find the best times in total surprises. I have no tolerance for routine, if I did, I'd be a much better bike rider. Mostly I'm an adventurous artist who knows how to move around at a bike race. Being media is important so that I can learn the inside scoop and capture original photographs for posts that I write throughout the year and especially pre race. You'll notice my photography is always from the angle of being a fan or being on the bike itself, with real life perspective of what it was like being there.

At the summit of one of my favorite climbs - Mont Ventoux in 2010. Photo by a random Belgian rider I climbed with that day on Ventoux.
At the 2012 Tour de France on the Col d'Aubisque.  Photo by my friend Monica.
That's me (center) singing with my instant Belgian friend at the 2012 Paris-Roubaix in the Trouée d'ArenbergPhoto by Gregg Germer of The Chain Stay, Belgium
My dog Jack Denny and I chasing and photographing cyclocross races in Colorado in 2012-13.
Photo by Annette of Mountain Moon Photography

Willie Reichenstein, contributing Photographer at Amgen Tour of California 2012, 2013
About Willie:

An introduction by Willie's wife Liz

As an athlete and Coach originally from Scotland, Willie is a California transplant with a passion for most things competitive. As a long time avid bike rider and with a history of canoeing at the highest level, he stays active in these endeavors. For the last several years he has embraced photography, be it birds, landscapes or sports. At the local high school where his son had attended, he is a constant figure capturing athletic events. Volunteering his time to create a website so that the school and parents can view and use his photos has introduced him to many new friends. Able to ride one amateur stage of The Tour of California last year, his interest was peaked. He is attending with a camera this year but will certainly understand the grimace of these amazing competitors. (meet Willie)
Willie Reichenstein at the Tour de France

Ryan Wallace, contributing Photographer at USA Pro Cycling Challenge 2013

About Ryan:

Ryan is a graduate of photojournalism and photographer at RevLine Photo. He is an excellent action photographer of motocycles, cars, and bikes. One single photo of Ryan's is like gold. You can see some of his images at www.RevlinePhoto.com. See Ryan's work: Ryan Wallace Photography of the USA Pro Challenge.
Ryan Wallace shooting Cyclocross in Colorado, 2012.  Photo by Karen at Pedal Dancer®
Contributing Photographers: For more about the other generous talented photographers who have shared their work with me including Laurie Valaer, Ron Long, and Chuck Parsons, contributing Photographers at USA Pro Cycling Challenge in 2012 or 2013, please go to: Pedal Dancer Photographers

More Contributing Photographers (and people who inspire): Mike Rakestraw, Susan Benner, Kenny Rakestraw, Brian Graves, Jason Maxwell, Monica B., Duke Mike N., Katie Strausser.

< The image at the top of PedalDancer.com blog is the Cirque du Litor between the Col du Soulor and the Col d'Aubisque in the French Pyrenees. A place of special meaning to me, and a highly recommended ride!

Read my list of cycling industry Recommendations and Resources.
Read my latest opinion piece on the sport of cycling and its sponsors: Cycling is Growing

A sampling of my favorite posts on Pedal Dancer®