Sunday, April 26, 2015

Diverged 2015 Ride Report

Yesterday I rode in the 2015 version of Diverged, the third version of this ride.  This one was sponsored by Overland Base Camp, which seems to be an extension Rob and Patria from Ride Studio Cafe and their interest in off road riding.  The ride was based at the studio and it was great fun.

First, I think that Rob's email describing the ride was the best ever - if you had any doubts about what you signed up for, Rob covered them, and they were accurate, like this one:

Always be ready for a sudden turn, and ride single file on the road.  Many of the turns into the woods are not readily apparent from the road.

On the way to the studio, I was overtaken by Brad Smith, a Seven/Honey welder, formerly of Geekhouse Bikes.  Brad is a very nice guy who I see occasionally at Union Square Donuts.  We rode in the last 1/4 mile together.  Given the 150 riders who were expected, the studio was less than chaotic and I was able to get to the sign in sheets (mine wasn't out yet, not surprising since I was early) then discovered breakfast.  I talked with some people who I had met on previous studio rides and some new to me.  It was easy to get motivated by the people also getting ready to ride.  And soon Rob announced that it was last call for the ride I signed  up for (it was also the first announcement for my ride).  While I was getting my bike unlocked (there we a lot of nicer bikes there but this is my commuter and I'd be bummed to lose it), I overheard someone say that Mo, a professional racer, was riding.  It's pretty cool that this cycling community includes a lot of very nice people, among them are pro racers, including recently retired ones like Mo Bruno Roy.

I was pleased to hear that Brad would be my group's leader/navigator.  Rob and Brad quickly got us on the road and we soon made a surprising turn that brought us into a parking lot and over a curb into another lot and soon onto smaller side streets in Lexington.  Brad bunny hopped the curb, as did several other people, including one who person who crashed (fortunately with no ill effects).  I chose to walk it.

We were soon on trails and the pattern for the ride was set - riding a side road, or a major road, and seeing (barely) a trail and turning on to the trail.  I missed the first side trail.  This one was part of a previous Diverged ride and I knew it was steep and once I saw people taking the turn, I realized that I needed to downshift before getting on the hill.  My Surly has Shimano 105 shifters and my only major complaint is that a shift on front chain rings to the granny gear is slow, very slow.  So I made the shift and got back in line.  One person in front of me tumbled over from riding to slowly on the steep hill.  She brushed herself off and checked her bike and was soon back riding, as I followed her up.

This ride, all 17 miles of it, was contained within the boundaries of Lexington, as was the part of last year's Diverged ride that I completed.  Not surprisingly, we rode some of the same trails from last year but a fair number of miles was also new.  And they were nice trails and dirt roads.  We enjoyed a number of boardwalks, which fortunately weren't slippery like last year, although one person tumbled off of one.  There were a number of other minor crashes, including one on a paved road - this one because of a deep gash in the pavement.  I also took a tumble, more a controlled fall as I pedaled up a steep hill.  I knew I was losing sufficient momentum to stay upright and made it to a point that left a small distance before I hit dirt and not rocks.  No harm done physically or to my ego.

The post ride time at the studio was great.  I enjoyed a second breakfast (the crew was still cooking!) and chatted with a few people who I rode with and some who I know from following them on Twitter.  I was early enough to enjoy 45 minutes there before heading back home.   Just before I left for the ride my wife asked, in seeming desperation, when I would be back.  I had originally thought I might do the Minuteman to the Reformatory Branch to Battle Road after the ride but duty called and I made it back home by the time I promised her.

All in all it was a great day of riding and socializing.  Overland Basecamp is planning a few more rides but some of these are out of my league and being overnight, out of my 'time away from family' budget.  I do have a few more group rides booked in my calendar: the May 31 Firefly ride (I hear there is a mixed terrain ride and a road ride - I'm undecided on which I will do), the Dunes Dynamo, and the D2R2.  I'd like to try the 250 mile MaNeHa ride but think I would do well with a 50 mile each day version.  125 miles of mixed terrain riding each day is over the top for me right now but it happens that I will be away that weekend so the question is moot.  I'll consider the Dusk to Dawn ride that I was planning on last year.

Some pictures:

We crossed paths with the medium speed 38 mile ride led by Jenny.  She took some pictures of my group but they somehow disappeared.

The trail led through the trees.

And across fields.

There was a decent amount of waiting while regrouping.  Notice the houses in the background.  Sometimes we were barely in the woods for a few minutes and sometimes the patch of woods was much bigger.

Getting started after a break to regroup.

Brad was a great navigator and trip leader.  He made it look easy, made everyone feel welcome, and was very patient.  He is also a mechanic.  One person's chain broke and another rider happened to have a spare.  Brad was happy to change it and get everyone back on the road very quickly.  Brad is part of the Drifters and fellow Drifters Greg and Tony came along.  Tony swept the ride and I barely met him but I had the chance to talk with Greg, who I had previously met at Union Square Donuts (there is a pattern here).

Miles for the day 27 (10 were commuting to and from the ride).  Miles for the year: 450.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Beavers, deer, and some minutemen

I did my second consecutive early Saturday morning ride, getting home a few hours before a GI bug caught me and dragged me to the ground (I've since recovered completely).  I took a familiar route, riding out to the Maple Street Bridge and then south to Sherman Bridge Road.  It was a great day to be out.  I wasn't fast and I stopped a lot, and I stopped for a cup of coffee in Lexington.  When my wife saw the pictures of the beaver and deer and the video (mostly sound) of the wetland, she commented that it was more of a spiritual journey than a bike ride.  I'd agree with her. I set no land speed records and still enjoyed myself immensely.  While I love my family and my job, it is nice to get out on my own with no agenda.

My only complaint of the weekend was that I missed riding with friends on the midnight marathon ride.  They had a great time.  I hope to do it with them, and many others, next year.

I was in Bedford by 6:30 and spotted the folks training for Monday's battle.  They were happy to pose for me.

I spotted a beaver while I was admiring the view from the Maple Street bridge.  It went under and slapped its tail on the way down.  Another one soon surface a decent distance from where the first went under.  This one patrolled the perimeter for a while and was not shy.  Despite a lot of time spent in beaver habitat, I've only seen a few prior to seeing this one. Another cyclists, John from Sudbury, stopped to check out the beaver.  We started out together and parted way soon after but he caught up with me later and road for a couple of miles together.


A few minutes later a couple of deer ran across the road in front of me (not alarmingly close but close enough to remind me to keep an eye out to the sides - I wouldn't want to hit a deer, or be hit by one).

There were less than scenic parts of the trip, passing MCI Concord included.  It's a pretty forbidding place.

Scenic Water Row.  I couldn't resist and took a quick spin down Water Row to the first wetland before heading back to Sherman Bridge.

A video posted by NEBicyclist (@svillecyclist) on
Another scenic spot on the ride, Sherman Bridge.  It's a great bridge and you get a sense of the breadth of the river near flood stage from here.

I finally spotted pony henge.  I thought this was in a field far from a paved road.  When I stopped here I was certain that this wasn't the pony henge but I have been corrected.

I did the ride on my IF road bike.

The ride wasn't all perfect.  On Concord Road, a quarter mile from the Lincoln, Sudbury School, I saw a deer, clearly struck by a car not so long before.  I called Sudbury Police, who promised to contact the people who would take it away.  It's always unsettling to see death, especially a large mammal.  There wasn't much for me to do, aside from a short prayer.

Miles for the year: about 390.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Commuting, sometimes

Well, the year has restarted.  The snow melted and my tendon is all healed and I started riding my bike to work.  Actually I went out for coffee once while waiting for my car to get fixed.  But that's it.  I had dreams that I would bike more but circumstances and weather conspired to slow me downand recreation rides are still in the future.  Bad weather is part of it but for commuting, I'll ride in the rain.  I am usually a fair weather commuter but riding in the rain seems like fair weather ride after this winter.  I did ride in the rain several times last year but it was less than 10 times, I think.  So I have to enjoy everything when I do ride, even if it's through the city and I won't worry about the rain.

Last Friday I finally did a little recreational riding, through an urban area.  I've seen pictures on Instagram (via Matt Roy and Rob Vandermark) of a walking/riding bridge under the Zakim Bridge.  I was meeting a friend for dinner and he needed more time so I decided to ride to the bridge before I went to my friend's house and it was fabulous.  It was gritty and very noisy but it was great fun and I highly recommend checking it out.  This route on Ride With GPS isn't exactly my route but it gives you and idea of how to get around.  I ended up in East Cambridge at my friend's house so I reversed this route and ended up on roads that looked pretty scary but it wasn't all that bad.

Miles for the year: 200

The bridge from the dam.  You can see the last of the ice from this winter.  The  TD Garden looks small from this perspective.  This was probably the noisiest part of the ride.  I wish I could have measure the sound but I assure you it was overwhelming.

The bridge from below.  It isn't the bright, colorful bridge that you will see on the Wikipedia site but it is cool perspective.

The deck from underneath.  It seems pretty wide when you are underneath it but it doesn't come out in this picture.

One of the four supports for the towers holding the cable stays.  It's not all that big but it seems to do the job.  You can see one of the supports for the entrance ramp in the distance.

You will pass by the tracks for the commuter rail heading north from North Station.  I don't know how often this bascule bridge is raised but I know they are still active.

Past the bridge, I came across the turn around for the Green Line at Lechmere.  It isn't fancy.

At one point during the day I also took a wrong  turn and ended up at the Longfellow Bridge, which is getting a much needed renovation.  Ice is piled up here  as well.

Matt Roy pointed out an owl that he saw on his commute and I stopped there last week. Unfortunately it wasn't there when I came with my son, who has been interested in owls since we saw one when he was four months old.

Finally, people carry many things by bike.  I was particularly impressed by Dan, who was carrying his goalie equipment, after an early morning game.  I played goalie a couple of times and I still have the sense of how massive the equipment is.

Friday, March 13, 2015

N+1 or S-1?

The Velominati have a rule (#12 - this link points to #11 since the #12 link makes you scroll up to #12), which states that the minimum number of bikes you should have is three but that the correct number your should have is N+1 where N is the number of bikes you currently own.  There is a corollary, which states that the optimal number of bikes to own is S-1, where S is the number of bikes which would cause your spouse to leave you.

For a long time (since 2009) I have owned two bikes.  One is a road bike with fenders for occasional rain.  It is also equipped with dynamo powered lighting for early morning rides.  The other is a dedicated commuter with racks, fenders and also has dynamo powered lighting.  It has decent tires for off road recreational rides and also serves as a child hauling bike with a rack compatible with a child bike seat.  In the past I also pulled a trailer with one of my boys on this bike.  Do I need a third bike, which I would find useful but would also help me meet the Velominati minimum and would also help me meet the N+1 imperative and actually help my life?

This all depends on what your perspective is.  Mary from Chasing Mailboxes recently talked about her stable of bikes but her situation is far different from mine, not least because her husband has a large stable of bikes so they they both are on the same page.  It seems like a nice merging of interests in a relationship.  While my wife rode when we met, that sort of fell apart during the years we were trying to and having children.  And she hasn't been on the bike very much since that period.  But she recognizes that I like to ride and we manage to make some time for riding and some room, and money, for bikes.  But space in our small house is at a premium and money is tight so I have to make a strong argument for why I need another bicycle.

It's an easy argument to make at first glance.  I want a bike to ride to Alewife when the weather is bad so I can take public transit the rest of the way to work.  I also might consider taking it all of the way in in less than perfect weather, knowing the bike may be abused some and not perfectly maintained. (Matt Roy calls this willful neglect.)  It would also be nice for short trips around town.  Optimally, this bike would be a simple 3 speed with a steel frame (and I don't mean hi-tensile steel) with platform pedals and good brakes and fenders and eyelets for racks for the future.  I'd carry a backpack with a couple of u-locks (because it is would be an inexpensive bike doesn't mean I want to make it easy for a thief to take it).  To answer the question, "what would it do for the family?", I'd say it would give me some exercise in the middle of the worst weather.

My wife might counter with this, "you always want to add something to your bikes", which is true, especially in this case.  I'd want studded tires (I know some people ride without them, but I'll chose to have the security) and they cost real money.  I wouldn't add dynamo lighting, except by moving a wheel and light from another bike, so it wouldn't be excessive.  Maybe I wouldn't be able to restrain myself but I think I would be able to.

A more complicated problem is this - aren't there other bikes that I might like to have?  And the answer is yes.  I would love to get a long tail with the children's seat that Xtracycle sells.  But before we went that route, we would really need to decide if we want to be an occasional car-free family, which I don't think my wife is ready for (and she agrees with me).  And more importantly, I'm not completely sure my boys would love to get around on bike.  They sometimes enjoy going with me on the bike seat, to some degree.  But an investment in our lifestyle like a long tail, we'd have to do it on marginal weather days and days when they really didn't want to ride.  I think about our trailer, which wasn't all that big of a success.  Our older boy really didn't like it.  He is a talker and would be talking with me but I wouldn't hear him until he was crying inconsolably.  He was fine when he fell asleep in the trailer but he would always wake up before we got home and you can guess what happened then.  The second guy enjoyed the trailer but enjoys the bike seat more.  And both boys are about grown out of the bike seat.  We have used a trail-a-bike, which is pretty hard to ride for me but we will continue to use it.  We are likely to get new bikes for the boys this year but I'm thinking training wheels for now, by their request.  I'd also like to get a Ti randonneuring-ish bike one day and maybe something like the Honey All Roads bike.  But that's for the future since my current bikes do just fine.  At a minimum, they are fabulous for much of the riding I do .  So there isn't any new bikes that I want to have now and commit space and money to.

So we made a decision and an inexpensive 3 speed with decent brakes and a decent frame is on its way.  This mythical 3 speed I am thinking about might be fun to ride with the boys and maybe it will help me to motivate the boys to ride.  I'll share more about this bike when I've had it for a few weeks or a few months.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Generator lighting, my history

In the winter of 2012/2013 I moved from battery powered lighting to generator powered lighting and I did it slowly.  I made the move because I was doing early AM rides (have kids, get up early or don't ride, for the most part) and some times the batteries didn't last and sometimes they weren't charged in the first place, which meant I didn't ride. I remember one late night/early AM when I woke up quite early but couldn't leave for an hour since my fully charged light wouldn't make it to sunrise.  Yes, I could have bought more battery powered lights that lasted longer but I didn't want the worry.  And I wanted lights that didn't blind people riding, walking or driving towards me.  Patria from Ride Studio Cafe once told me that it looked like a train was coming towards her when it was me with my light on low. The first time she told the story she said that she thought I was a car so maybe there's some exaggeration here.  In any case, that's reason enough for me to change to generator lighting.

So I had Harris Cyclery build up a wheel with a Shimano 3N80 hub laced to a Mavic Open Pro rim, matching the rear rim.  I also bought a last generation Busch and Mueller IQ CYO headlight and a Spannigo Pixeo taillight.  I mounted all of this on my commuter/dirt road bike.  This has been a great combination for both commuting and recreational night rides.  I did a number of late rides last spring and a few in 2014 and the lights worked well for fun and certainly great for commuting.  It isn't quite enough light for rough dirt roads but my small battery powered light fills in enough to feel safe.

My only complaint was that I didn't want to use the same wheel on my road bike, which I thought was possible.  But that meant that every time I wanted to ride my road bike at night I needed to unmount the tires from both bikes and remount the road tire on the commuter dyno wheel.  I soon bought a second set of lights (same headlight, BM Secula Plus for the road bike's tail light) because switching lights could happen only once before you wanted a second set of lights.  But the time for moving tires between the wheels was eating into my riding time.

The next step, in the summer of 2014, was to get a new wheel.  I wanted a hub to match my custom built road bike and the current rear hub and I wanted to minimize weight and friction when the lights weren't on so I went with the Schmidt SON Deluxe, mounted to the a matching rim.  This setup works quite well.  I now always ride with lights on for safetly, with one exception: I was barely making it up the east side of Hurricane Mountain Road, near North Conway, NH (the road tops out at a 17% grade).  I have no regrets about this.  The Deluxe shouldn't be able to charge a device (like a Garmin) while running the lights but I'm on the very low probability for riding a 600 KM brevet so that won't be a big concern.

If I had to do it all over again, I'd do the same thing with both bikes.  The Shimano hub has been a workhorse, with about 4000 miles on it without any complaint.  I know that Brad, then from Geekhouse and now with Seven, put a Shimano Alfine hub on his beautiful bRad  touring bike.  I got to ride with him on the 2013 Diverged ride and he still had it on the bike for off road use.  I saw him in the late fall and he still has it on the bike, which is now built up as a commuter (and it's still a beautiful bike).  If I were to put a generator hub on an inexpensive commuter, that I might leave at Alewife, then I would look at the stock generator wheel sold by Harris Cyclery and the BM EYC, which Peter White recommends as a great commuter light.  I'd worry about the lights but I've been parking my commuter at work for a couple of years with the slightly more expensive lights so I don't think I'd worry that much more at Alewife.

(added 3/5) One potential significant difference between the Shimano and Schmidt hubs is the Schmidt's claimed resistance to internal rusting.  The potential circumstance - taking a warm bike into cold rain.  The temperature difference would draw moisture into the hub, ultimately causing corrosion.  Schmidt claims to have solved this. The solution for Shimano hubs is to get the bike outside, under cover, before the ride to allow the temperature of the hub to cool.  I'm not sure if this is still the case but it's worth researching if you can't leave your bike outside to allow the hub to cool to the ambient temperature.

Having said that I prefer generator lighting, I do continue  to carry and use battery powered lights for front and rear (USB charged in a couple of cases) and set the dimmer front light to blink when the traffic doesn't seem to notice cyclists (which could be most of the time in urban areas).  In total, I use up to 3 lights in the front and rear.  No sense in not doing everything reasonable to be seen.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

More winter dreaming - D2R2 2015

It's still winter and more snow is expected tonight.  The great melt started already but it's been slow and will come in fits and starts.  We expect rain and temps in the 40s on Wednesday but I'll be shoveling snow tomorrow morning.  It's not great fun at this point in this long, heavy, cold snow season and it impacts travel a lot.  And that means, for me, very limited opportunities to commute to work for bike, let alone recreational riding.  So, I continue to dream of summer rides, and that includes the D2R2.

I've done the D2R2 in various forms for the last two years and also in 2009.  I rode the 100K version in 2009 and loved it, in a way.  The roads were crowded, especially the narrow dirt and gravel sections and the more experienced dirt road cyclists barreled past me in ways that made me feel uncomfortable.  You can read my thoughts that I wrote right after the ride here.

I had a second child the next year and it was impossible to even consider doing the ride and it remained out of mind until 2013 when a colleague. Alex,  and his now wife were interested in riding it.  Carla's family runs a Franklin County farm and she has long been aware of the Franklin Land Trust, which benefits from the D2R2.  So I looked at the ride again and did the Green River Ride, which worked.  Another friend, Carl, joined us and we all loved the ride, which was pretty easy compared to the 2009 100K version.  You can read about that ride here.

Alex and Carla were interested in going beyond the Green River Ride in 2014.  There had been an extra loop for people like them, people who could do the dirt road ride and maybe wanted to see what the rest of the D2R2 looked like.  Unfortunately the covered bridge at the lunch spot was closed so the extra loop that the ride organizer, Sandy, planned on was not feasible, unless we wanted to cross the Green River on foot, which we didn't.  Very fortunately, Sandy emailed us instructions on how to extend the ride in a different direction, giving us 4 loops that we could take and see if we still wanted to do more.  His instructions were impeccable and I used these to make a GPX file for my Garmin.  As it turned out, Alex and Carla did the first loop but, with social activities planned for the early evening, bailed on doing more.  I decided that I should go through with at least one or two more of Sandy's extensions, which brought me onto the 100K route, some roads not on any route, and later to the 115K leaving lunch (which made more than a few people questioning their route finding skills, not mine).  I loved this ride and really enjoyed the quieter dirt roads and the busier roads, and I got to ride the last 15 miles with Mike Flanigan, which was a pleasure.  You can read more about it here.  Carl came with me to take pictures with his large format camera and hung out at the cornfield.  You can see his picture of Josie and Tyler here and his picture of Alex and Carla here.  I'm still waiting to see the picture he took of me.

So now people are planning on riding the 2015 D2R2, with a deadline of less expensive registrations fees expiring yesterday.  Alex and Carla already registered for the 100K.  I'm a fair weather dirt road rider and will pass on it and may pay the higher fee the week of the ride.  Or maybe I might just be happier taking the road less traveled while still participating in the big event.  I compiled all of Sandy's route extensions here and it looks like a fabulous ride for late summer, especially from this snowy vantage point.  Maybe Carl will join me for the ride or maybe I'll just do it on my own, joining other riders when I'm on the official route.

Friday, February 20, 2015

While the winter keeps me off the road

I've been thinking of fun rides to do this year, which is how I am spending my cycling time since I'm not actually cycling right now.  Eventually this winter will end, the ice dams will melt, and the water will drain of the basement.  And when that happens I'll be outside and, hopefully, on my bike.  It's not like I don't get outside now but it's never relaxing, especially watching your kids tumble down a steep sledding hill or helping them up a steep snow covered incline on snowshoes (all of us, usually).  So I dream of the summer, or at least the spring.

One ride that I'm thinking of is the Portland Dart, the short version.  This ride is part of the New England Randonneurs' Fleche weekend.  The fleche is over the top for me this year, seeing how this year is going.  The fleche is a 24 hour 360+ kilometer ride.  Besides not being in shape, I don't think I can get approval at home for this one.  The long dart is a 200+ kilometer ride, which might just be too long for me, even I get a lot of miles in this spring.  The Dart Populaire is more my speed, though it will still be a stretch at 120 kilometers.  All of these rides end in Portland, ME, which I can get a train back from Boston but the starting point and the routes are all what you choose.  And that choice is a team choice.  The fleche and both darts have to be completed by a team of 3 to 5 riders.  That is a problem unto itself - how to find 2-4 people who are interested in this kind of ride and can commit to it.  The ride itself could be fun - a train ride to Newburyport then the coast route as much as is feasible.  I'll take advice on reasonable cycling routes.  Knowing Cape Elizabeth, I'd pass by that section of coast, which isn't all that busy in May.  The train to Newburyport is a bit dicey - it gets you to Newburyport at 10:40AM, and the short dart should be done in 8 hours, and there is 80-90 miles between Newburyport and Portland.  Maybe that's my winter legs being a little afraid.  Or maybe it will be easy to do then. But if you want to go for a long ride in May, let me know.