Sunday, September 27, 2015

I think I set a record

So I might have set a new record for myself: the most miles I rode my bicycle in a calendar year.

But that comes with a caveat.  The last time I rode this many miles, about 3,060 miles, was in 2000 and I used a Cateye computer that I think was pretty accurate  Now I use a Garmin, which I switch between bikes.  It seems pretty accurate but it isn't perfect, especially under a dense forest crown, but it's pretty good.  So I may have set a new record or I might in the next few days, depending on the accuracy of those two devices.

A little more than 1,500 of those miles are on my IF Club Racer.  That means they are purely recreational miles.  And usually they are faster miles than those I ride on my Surly or the Swobo (like today, 6 miles on a bike trail with my younger son on a trail-a-bike behind me and my older son on his bike weaving in front of me with two of his cousins).  In 2000, when I last rode this many miles, it was all on my old Lemond Alpe d'Huez, a great, fast road bike.  And I was faster then.  I often went out for 60-80 mile rides and finished with 17-18 MPH averages.  And that wasn't the only difference.  I also ran about 1,000 miles that year, running 100-125 miles monthly during the winter months and less during the spring/summer/fall riding season.  I also commuted to school, walking and taking the T and my job required a ton of walking as well.  I also skied (backcountry and telemark) a lot then.  And I rock climbed regularly, mostly at a gym but outside a lot as well.  I was a pretty active guy.  This year I wouldn't call myself even half as active as I was then.  I certainly shoveled more snow this year and I do walk a lot but I don't think I've run a hundred miles this year and I'll feel good about myself if I run another hundred miles by the end of the year.

That said, I don't feel that I'm doing all that badly.  I now am married and have two young boys and work takes a decent amount of time, both in the office and at home in the evenings.  And I'm a bit older now - a lot more of my fifties are behind me than in front of me.  I certainly could be doing worse than I am.  I rode a somewhat hilly 67 mile ride yesterday, including 4 miles of gravel, doing it at a decent clip (except for the gravel stretch) will no ill effects.  And assuming good health and decent weather, I'm hardly done for the year.

Not that I'm all that determined to ride a certain number of miles.  Last year I stopped at 2982, close to a nice round 3,000.  I could have easily go out for those missing 18 miles but it wasn't anything I was worrying about so I didn't.  I could do another 500 or 1,000 miles before the end of the year, depending on the weather.  But all that I'm looking for is to get outside, get some exercise, and enjoy time alone or with friends, old and new.

Pictures from the weekend:

A home made (from parts bought online) motorized bicycle.

The Assabet River from the Assabet River Trail.

The worst gravel I had to ride on Taylor Way, after I left the Assabet River Trail.

Independence Greenway.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Lazy Saturday, energetic Sunday

Saturday ...

43 miles at 13.5 MPH.  Yes, it was a lazy morning with too many stops for pictures and a brief ride on trails.  Some times it seems like I just can't be fast with an early start, especially when combined with fog, not that I'm ever that fast.  But Saturday was an especially slow day.  Some pictures:

The Cambridge Reservoir, looking low.  

Hanscom runway.  I didn't hear any planes taking off or landing and I certainly couldn't see any.

It looks bucolic but this is the prison farm at the Concord prison rotary.

This is what I learned from Rob Vandermark - signs sometimes aren't all that meaningful.  Yes, you would need a jeep to exit at the other end but I could make it on 25 MM tires.

Trail riding.  I headed down here for a bio break but decided to see where it went.

It went here.  Some roots and few rocks, except for one short section.

A runner suggested that I keep left here, despite the road surface.  My Garmin suggested this way as well.  The road was rough but not impassable.

Umm ... this hole is 2 feet deep and much wider below the asphalt.  I hope Sudbury repairs this soon.

My favorite road.  Apparently it is  quite old.

The Saturday ride route, except for the short diversion onto a trail on Old Mill Road.

After getting up so early and staying up late for working during the week, I was much too tired to get to Adam Myersons #lastlap retirement party and fundraiser for Bikes Not Bombs.  I had a hall pass but was too tired to consider riding or driving into Boston.

Sunday ...

No pictures.  It was an energetic ride - 26 miles in under 1 hour and 30 minutes with no stops except for stop signs and red lights, and there were few of those.  I took the Page Road/Grove Street route from Bedford to Lexington, just to try to ride a hill without losing too much speed.  I had a lot left in my legs but had to get home to help with dinner.  The difference between sleepy legs and not is amazing.  I love early morning rides but this ride was great fun.

Miles for the weekend: 69, miles for the month: 380, miles for the year 2920.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The theme is fog

Last weekend I got out for three rides.  They were short rides. mostly in an effort to find time to get on my road bike and be available for family obligations.  This meant that I was going to do early morning rides.  With last weekend's cool mornings (Bedford was in the mid 40s when I was riding Saturday morning) there was fog, ground fog and river fog.  Saturday was the best example, documented here with two Instagram posts.

The heaviest fog was on the 225 bridge over the Concord River:

Looking down at the river, you could see the swirls of fog, right on the river:

A video posted by NEBicyclist (@svillecyclist) on
The fog was a lot less widespread the next morning (Sunday) but there was a great stretch of fog along Silver Hill Road in Lincoln.  Here is one picture from there:

Monday was warmer and a drier day and I had lots of sunlight early.

This morning, Saturday the 12th, was a different story.  The late Friday forecast called for heavy inland fog early, with the potential to burn off with the sun.  With that in mind, I left a bit later than usual, about 5:40 AM.  Fog was present along the bike path in Lexington and it was also readily apparent at the 128 bridge on the Minute Man trail.

It was worse, as expected at the Maple Street bridge in Calisle.

Along with the loss of some visibility, there was a lot of water in the atmosphere that I rode through.  My wool sweater was wet and there was ample evidence on my bike as well.

Fog was variable and it was particularly bad up on Nagog Hill Road in Acton.

And on Lake Nagog.  There is a heron in this picture, which you can barely make out on a big screen.

While there was fog on the road and I thought I should be careful and ride with care and reasonable lighting, I never thought it was a dumb idea to be out.  Traffic was light and cars could see me, evidenced by the wide berth that they generally gave me.  I do turn around a lot and that somehow forces the rest of the drivers to give me more room.


Busch and Mueller last generation IQ CYO front headlight and Secula Plus rear taillight, both run off of a Schmidt dynamo hub.  Supplemented on the front with a Light and Urban 350 lumen light, run on low (about 75 lumens) and in flash mode when I had more light, and on the rear with the 2 watt version of the Cygolite Hotshot.  I have side reflectors on my spokes, wore a reflector vest and two wide reflective ankle straps.  I'm pretty sure I was quite visible, as my neighbor noted on a recent evening when I rode home late.

One bummer for the day was that I wanted to ride the moderate paced 50KM version of Ride Studio Cafe's Honey Hundred ride this morning.  I had a middle of the day obligation that I needed to be home for and missed it.  The good news for me was that most of the Honey riders were out by the time I stopped there for coffee.  With a short line, I actually had time for a latte. Yummy.

Mile for today, about 50.  Miles for last weekend, just under 100.  Miles for the year: 2770.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Riding on the Clement Strada LGG 25MM 120 TPI

Don't take this review so seriously or don't read it as a review, just as one person's experience.  I don't write a lot of reviews and while I have a lot of opinions, I don't necessarily have a lot of experience to base those opinions on (about 80,000 miles of riding over my lifetime, which may seem like a lot but consider that John Bayley has ridden 20,000 miles in a year).  I did write this review of the Clement USH.  I likely wouldn't have picked the Clement Strada LGG tires if I had not had a good experience with the USH tires.  It hasn't been all roses but I had a generally very positive experience with those tires.  After I wrote that review, I had my first flat on those tires, coming on the first evening after daylight savings time so I was riding in the dark.  I since had two slow leaks, one on the 2015 D2R2.  The tires are a bit loose on both of the rims that they are mounted on - Mavic Open Pro (19 MM) and Mavic A719 (23 mm) requiring a lot of checking so that the tube doesn't burst when I inflate the tire with a bit of tube hanging out.  That said, I'm still very happy with the tires, which now have over 3300 miles on them.  I had a great mixed terrain commute this morning with a friend who was riding a mountain bike with front suspension and had to dismount.  I stayed on my bike and just picked another line.

Lovely Bike said in her review of these tires that her three most important features are speed, comfort, and durability.  Mine are slightly different: affordability, puncture resistance, durability, and comfort.  Call me cheap but $80 or $90 tires are over my budget.  And buying tires frequently will also break the bank.  Ride quality is important but I wouldn't compromise on durability over a softer road feel.  I like Jan Heine's ideas on wide tires but the Kool-Aid hasn't affected me completely, yet.  I have the 25 mm, 120 TPI version of the Clement tires.  My IF has room for the 28 mm but my current fenders make that size a tight fit.  Had I had the money for, say, the Portland Design Works City Fender, I would have tried the 28 mm.

For the record, these tires are on my IF (Independent Fabrication Club Racer).  The bike weighs about 20 pounds and I ride with 2 water bottles and carry a small u-lock on longer weekend rides, just in case I have time to stop for coffee.  I weight about 160 pounds.  I've been riding on these tires for about 1300 miles now and have a decent feeling about them.  They replaced a set of 25 mm Michelin Krylion tires, which I rode for about 3000 miles.  Those tires, in turn, replaced the original tires that my bike was built up with, 23 mm Michelin Krylion tires, which I rode for over 7000 miles.  The latter were nice tires but I blew out two sidewalls in the first 2000 miles of riding them and had a third flat on them.  Once my bad luck ended, the tires were great, if a bit fast on wear.  I don't think I ever got close to 3000 miles on a set and only then with frequent rotations.  I didn't do much better on the 25 MM but the comfort on the 25 mm was noticeably better on them than the 23 mm tires.

I'm not a super fast cyclist.  I tend towards 50-75 mile weekend rides at 14-16 MPH.  I also do shorter rides, 25-40 miles at 15-17 MPH.  My average ride on this bike this year is about 43 miles.  I won't shy away from dirt roads but then I don't look for them on this bike.  If I had the 28 mm version then I might.  I don't think I take corners all that fast but I am frequently surprised how much I lean into turns.  I inflate these tires to 110 PSI, within the 105-125 PSI that Clement recommends.

Now that you know where I am coming from, here is what I think of the tires.  First, the tires are a true 25 mm tire mounted on the Mavic Open Pro rims (19 mm width).  They are, however, a bit narrower than the Michelins that they replaced.

I read a tire review that Clement tweeted in the last year, about a ranking of tires that placed the Strada LGG at the top of the list.  The tires were described as very good, not spectacular but very affordable and a great deal for the money.  And that's about what I would say they are.

The tires just about disappear when I am on the bike.  The road feel is great with a significant damping of the bumps, making the ride less harsh (not that my steel IF is all that harsh to begin with).  Another way of saying this is that I don't feel much unless the road is rough.  That may be a product of my riding style: I slow for potholes and try to relax my body as I go over the ones I can't safely avoid.  Handling on corners is great for a cyclist like me.  I feel a lot of confidence on corners and haven't yet felt like I was about to slip.  If anything, I feel like I can lean more when I want to.  I haven't had these out in a real rain so I can't talk about wet weather handling. And the tires feel fast.  I didn't notice and change in going from the Michelin 23 MM to its 25 MM version to these 25 MM tires.  I suppose Jan might be right about speed and tire size for riders like me.

I don't ride on dirt on this bike often but the tires do well enough, especially considering the tread.  I managed to get through 3 miles of dirt and sand on a ride on Cape Cod this summer.  I was definitely cautious, checking out the sand, but otherwise the tire does well.  Also, I often test out trails that are found frequently on my local routes.  I don't take them far but the bike rolls over the terrain easily enough.  I do avoid rocks in these situations.

The wear has been fine - the tire tread and center look new, if a bit discolored by time on the road.  Flats?  None so far (knocking on wood).  I have driven over some glass and rough roads but the tires have have done well so far.

These tires are great for road rides on reasonable roads, which is about what you find outside of Boston.  I would not take these tires on my commute, which sometimes takes me on brutal road surfaces.  The Clement USH does well on these roads so no need to test the IF and the narrower Clement LGG.

What's next, once these tires are retired?  I will see if I can fit the 28 MM version of these tires with either my current Velo Orange fenders or the PDW fenders.  I would love to try the 32 MM version, if they make one in the future - I've heard that they had a test version out there but haven't seen one on the market.  That's assuming I could fit one on my bike, this one or a new bike that I have planned for 2018.  But I would be happy with another set of these in 25 MM if that's all I could fit on my bike.

[9/28/2015 Update - riding on gravel roads]  While I didn't get these as off road tires, I do end up on dirt and gravel roads on some rides.  I rode about 4 miles on dirt and gravel last weekend on this ride, between miles 40 and 45.  The tires did do well enough and I made it through flat free.  I'd be more apt to ride gravel on this kind of tire if I had the 700x32 version that saw some press at the 2015 Interbike show.

Some reviews of these tires:

Sunday, August 23, 2015

D2R2 2015, or another extended version of the Green River Ride

Well, I did it again.  I made it out to western Massachusetts for the D2R2, a fabulous dirt and mostly minor road randonnee that does a lot to fund the Franklin Land Trust.  I almost didn't go.  If you've read enough of my posts, you know that I'm a mostly fair weather rider.  That doesn't mean that I haven't rode in the rain (I have, and once I stupidly rode in a thunderstorm and lived to tell the tale, but I won't tell it here) but it does mean that riding in mud isn't my thing.  But I have a small ownership stake in the D2R2.  It starts in my home valley and traverses the hills that are as familiar to me as any place on the planet, hills that make me feel right at home.  So I was looking for the change in forecast, which had been predicting rain on weekend, that was suitable for a dirt road ride for me.  And it happened on Thursday.

Late Friday evening I managed to get my car packed with bike, cycling clothes, food, and filled water bottles.  I knew in advance that I'd be without many chances to get food en route (based on the route that I intended to ride) and that there would be a 30 mile gap when I wouldn't easily get water so I wanted to be sure to have two bottles with me.  I woke early, made a portable bowl of muesli, yogurt and fruit, which I ate at the rest stop on Route 2, and a moka pot full of coffee, and said good bye to everyone.  My two boys now wanted to go (after refusing the invitation all week) but it was late for that and I could only take one, which wouldn't work well, especially with both wanting to go.

This is the first year I started out alone.  Arriving at the starting point,  I saw some familiar faces and said hello to Jenny as she set off.  Otherwise I was on my own.  I did meet Mark and saw his very cool Horse Bicycle, with front and rear racks that are amazing.

After registering (yes, I held off too long and missed the online registration window), I headed north, skipping the dirt roads behind Deerfield Academy and fell in with some riders, most doing the Green River Ride and one doing the 115, who was doing his best to pay attention to his cue sheet.  Eventually he turned off and I followed the Green River group and, thanks to them, didn't make a wrong turn onto last year's route.  Sandy (the ride organizer) found a nicer way up to the first water stop near the covered bridge at Eunice Williams Road.  Leyden Road was wide and you might expect to see a lot of cars going fast on the road but it was mostly empty.  I finally saw the covered bridge, which looks brand new.  And I saw the historical marker that told the story of Eunice's end.

Having mentioned missing a turn, I might add that I had a cue sheet but was mostly following my GPS, which had last year's route on it, along with some additions that Sandy suggested last year.  This probably wasn't the smartest move ever but it all turned out fine in the end.  The rest of the Green River Ride was the same, at least the part I covered.  Soon after I left the water stop, I headed up Nelson Road for an extra loop.  Nelson is part of the 100K but it was too early for any riders to be on it then.  That first loop kept me off of the Green River Ride for 5 miles.  Most of it was dirt but there was smooth pavement as well and I saw my first views of the hills.  I next branched off of the ride at New County Road, which brought me up to the intersection of Franklin Hill Road and Amidon Road, and the 100K route, again.  This time there were people on the course, going in my direction. I chatted with a couple of guys and then left the course again at Stark Mountain road, which is a steep drop on dirt onto Route 112 and the North River.  I followed 112 north to Branch Road, which was the 115K route, except they were descending.  There wasn't all that much traffic on 112 or Branch.  I was clearly in Vermont now.

I made it to West Halifax and here is where my equipment issues surfaced.  First, I had to get over a bridge under repair.  There is a bypass just a short backtrack to Sprague Road and then onto my intended road, Reed Hill Road.  Somewhere on Reed Hill, I noticed that I was losing air in my rear time.  It seemed more like a slow leak so I pumped it up and carried on.

Somewhere near there I also noticed that my front derailleur, which was just checked at one of the two shops that I usually get help from, was no longer able to drop my chain onto my small front chain ring, which is what I need for the steepest hills.  The problem has a somewhat complex origin.  First, I changed my chain but it was obvious that my middle front chain ring was worn.  I was on my commuter and that is the chain ring I used 95% of the time so that wasn't all that surprising.  I brought it in to the shop and they said, yup, the chain ring needs to be replaced and ordered one for me.  Unfortunately my bike is so old, that the part was no longer available (it's a 2009 Shimano 105 triple and I already had issues finding a new free hub body when that part failed last year).  The mechanic put on an older style chain ring, without pins and ramps, and told me to let him know if I had issues with it.  I didn't.  I did notice some chain rub when I was in the 30 tooth ring in front and the 30 in back (that combination I would use on the steepest hills).  I decided to bring it to the shop that I pass on my commute on the Friday before the ride.  It seemed like the rub was coming from the front derailleur but as I slowed as I approached the shop, I tried to shift it into the 30 tooth chain ring in front and the chain fell off onto the bottom bracket shell for the first time (in a couple of hundred miles since the new chain ring was put on).  The mechanics decided this all was happening:

  1. The chain ring is what is throwing the chain off.  I don't know why this happened only once up to that point but it sounds logical to me.  They suggested I replace the entire crank if they can't source the new chain ring, which isn't likely, since the other shop couldn't find one for me.  My dilemma: I want a 30/30 combination for the steepest hills but I'd much rather have a compact double - I'll never get a triple again.  The stock Shimano compact cranks are 34/50.  Is there something out there that I can use that is compatible with the rest of my Shimano drive train and shifters?
  2. What I was hearing was the chain rubbing the bigger chain rings on the cassette, which was caused by the re-positioning of the wheel, which I used to have pulled all of the way to the back of the Surly's horizontal dropout. The mechanic did that to improve shifting, which it did. But now my bike is pretty noisy and doesn't sound healthy, especially on steep dirt hills when no one else is around.

So I continued on my way.  On two steep hills I had to dismount and manually shift my chain.  You might be saying, "just turn the screw and you'll be all set."  I would be but since I was unsure of which screw and which direction to turn, I might have been in worse shape after I messed it up.  You might be saying now, "learn to do it right."  I'll take that advice, thanks.

I found my way back to the 115K toute after what I thought was some of the nicest riding of the route, including nice stretches of great dirt road that was largely flat with almost no traffic (a couple of cars) and no other cyclists.  A lot of people live in that loop and the roads are kept up, they just don't happened to be paved.  The 115K route (which again I was riding against the traffic) was in use and a number of people were descending as I pedaled my way up the steepest part of the road on the part that was in the roughest shape, though not terrible shape.  At last I made it back to the 100K route and saw people riding but they weren't following the route on my GPS.  I then realized my how my mistake, using last year's route on my GPS, might cost me time and energy.  I could just follow that route, or I could take the new route and hope that I could keep up with these people or someone else might come by and let me know where to turn.  I probably should have followed my GPS but what is the D2R2 if not a time for a bit of adventure, right?

Well, those folks were faster than me and soon I was on Deer Park alone, without a map (don't count on your smart phone for most of this ride, there are precious few places where you will get service) so I soldiered on.  Eventually a nice couple from Pennsylvania caught up to me. I stayed with them until I was in earshot, or maybe just a bit further than that, from the covered bridge and lunch spot on the Green River.  That's when I noticed my rear tire was again getting low.  I stopped to pump up my tire and then found the lunch spot.  I was greeted there by Sandy, the ride organizer, who remembered giving me advice last year.  Despite the busy day and the 1200 riders and who knows how many volunteers (there were a lot!), he had time for a short chat.  I also ran into Julian, who I met last year and have been enjoying his Instagram feed since then.

I was pretty late but I hoped to get a quick bite, refill my bottles and change my flat.  The amazing folks at Blue Steel Bicycle Company, doing mechanical support for the ride, offered to fix my slow leak (i.e., just replace the tube and check the tire for sharp objects) and adjust my derailleur while I found some food and ate. I was close to heaven at that point, feeling the support of the volunteers who make the D2R2 possible.  Soon I was on my way home, the Green River Ride route straight from the cue sheet, and rode as fast as I safely could.  Suddenly, thanks to the folks from Blue Steel, I had a lot of confidence in my bike and it shifted when I wanted to and the new tube was holding air.  The lunch spot was mostly empty when I left and I didn't pass any 100K riders heading south (maybe 4, including a couple I met last year, who were still deciding if they had time for the rest of the 100K).  Finally, almost in Greenfield, I started to see other riders.  I passed a number of folks and then on Lower Road, I rode with a dad and his 11 year old son for a mile or two.  The dad had done previous versions of the D2R2 but this was his son's first.  And the son was doing well and enjoying himself.  We stayed together until the Deerfield River crossing.

I made it back to D2R2 central around 5PM, a little over seven hours after I left.  I was feeling great all day, except for the frustration with myself for not being able to fix my bike,  But the riding itself was great and the hills on my version of the ride weren't more than I could handle.  The roads were in excellent shape and the dust was minimal after the recent rain.

I saw my friend Carl, with his large format camera by the ice cream truck and said hello while he took my portrait.  I then looked for food and saw Dave Wilcox, who I rode with briefly on the 2013 High Point Ride (Mt. Greylock being the high point).  He remembered me from that trip and I caught up on where and what he is doing.  After eating I said hello to John Bayley and Pamela Blalock.  I also saw much of the Firefly crew and chatted with them and Carl.  Carl managed to get Kevin Wolfson to pose for a portrait.  I didn't get ice cream -seemed wrong to stand in line for Bart's ice cream with a Ben and Jerry's jersey.  What struck me most about the Boston bike people I ran into (Dave counts because he lived here for a while) is just how nice and open everyone is.  Sometimes I'm a bit shy about going to these big events but people like Dave, John, and Pamela make me feel welcome and part of the community.  And the folks from Firefly are pretty nice to me although it might be some years before I could afford to be their customer.

Then it was time to ride my bike to my car to change and get and drive home.  I noticed that I was tired and would be sore (the latter didn't turn out to be true) but felt great about the day.  I could have been more proactive and registered early and had the right GPS track and maybe I could have got my bike in order beforehand (although two trips to two shops in the week and a half before the ride didn't help completely) but the ride was fabulous.  I could certainly do this on my own and while I did a lot of the ride alone, I did get enough of the camaraderie to make it worthwhile.  And the cause is a worthy one.

Ride stats: 70 miles at 12 MPH, about 5:50 ride time, 7 hours elapsed time.

Miles for the month: 400, miles for the year 2400.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A short visit to the Element Brewery tasting room

This being a cycling blog, if you could call it that, I suppose I shouldn't be writing about beer and a brewery but a lot of cyclists drink beer and it's my blog so I'll go ahead and write about beer.

I took Friday off, both to get a ride in before the weekend started since we were heading out to a wedding in western Massachusetts and I wouldn't be getting in ride on my road bike, and to get an early start on driving to western Massachusetts.  So I got the kids to camp and then got out for a reasonably fast road ride (for me), 35 miles at 17 MPH.  That's about as fast as I've been this year so I felt pretty good about it.  I also felt good that when a bee flew into my helmet and I managed to get my helmet off (and then confirmed it was indeed a bee) and stopped without incident.  I've been stung in my head 3 times in the last few years and really didn't want to get stung again.  After the ride I packed up for the boys and packed the car and the bikes (including trail-a-bikes and both boys' bikes) and went to pick up the boys with my wife.

The ride out Route 2 is a lot nicer than the Pike, at least in our opinion, and we managed to miss all of the congested sections of Route 2.  The ride was pleasant and the boys were watching a movie and I was drifting between watching the road and catching up with everything folks on Twitter were tweeting about when, in the corner of my eye, I saw a sign, Beer To Go, and another in the same window, Element Beer.  This is what it looks like in Google Maps Streetview, without the signs that caught my eye.  I was introduced to Element Beer by my brother-in-law, whose taste in beer are much more eclectic than mine, and instantly thought, "we need to stop here."  My wife, who was driving, said we had time and found a place to turn around and dropped me off and told me to go enjoy myself, probably thinking that I'd just grab a bottle and we'd be off.

A photo posted by NEBicyclist (@svillecyclist) on

But it didn't quite work out that way.  I walked in, entranced by the bottles, all wrapped in paper, that I recognized from having my grimy little hands on a few bottles of Element in the past.   The room was empty so I announced my presence and soon Dan, one of the brewers, came into the room.  Element is a small brewery: the two founders and a part time helper along with a salesperson.  Dan lived in my town in the past before heading west but seemed more of a western Massachusetts native (I'm a native as well, but it's been close to 30 years since I lived there so I've lost the glow).  Dan calmly offered my a taste of a beer, or more accurately, a taste of which ever beers I wanted to try and had time for.  Time stopped for a few moments as I tried the Dark Element, which I eventually bought a bottle of.  I then tried the red and another and then, since my wife and sisters are gluten free, I tried the gluten free beer (and it's a fabulous beer, gluten free or not).  And since my wife doesn't gravitate towards higher ABV festive beverages as I do, I tried also tried the 5% gluten free ABV.  This all took just a few minutes but was pretty fun.  Dan is a great guide and let me sip as much as I had time for and was great company as well.  Finally I came to my senses and bought the Dark Element and the lower ABV gluten free IPA and headed out to find where my wife and kids parked.

Of course I was kidded when I got back to the car.  I heard that my son said that I was drinking a beer instead of buying one (sort of true) and my wife said that I was learning to brew beer (completely false).  But joking aside, they let me back in the car and we found our way to our hotel.  I would highly recommend a visit to the brewery if you are passing through, or near, Millers Falls.  It's a great room with a great host who will let you try some of the best beer in the universe.  And, if you are lucky, your partner won't mind the time you spend trying out some of those beers.

Later that evening, we enjoyed a great dinner at Hope and Olive.  In the morning we gave our younger son his new bike (with training wheels) and headed for the bike path from Northampton to Amherst.  The little guy enjoyed his ride across the river and eventually we all went for a ride on the bikes and trail-a-bikes.

A photo posted by NEBicyclist (@svillecyclist) on

And we enjoyed the wedding that evening.

Oh, and that beer that I brought home?  My brother-in-law and I drank it this afternoon.  And it was fabulous.  My wife is holding onto the gluten free one for a festive occasion in the near future.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A little vacation ride to Truro on Cape Cod

Reading about some of the fabulous rides that people have been taking this summer, I might be feeling left out with one long ride on a family vacation.  But that's what you get when you have kids.  We made our choices and those choices led to less time for bicycle adventures.  But I did have one day, or at least one morning for a ride.  My goal was to check out Ballston Beach, where you can see the lowest section of dunes along the Gulf of Maine side of the Cape, at least north of Eastham.  The ride turned out to have minor adventures, including 2 miles of dirt, and sometimes sandy, road surface and a portage over Ballston Beach.

We were staying in Chatham, not far from the Cape Cod Rail Trail extension.  My wife has gone on a bike ride or two in Chatham and was wary of me riding the roads around there so, despite my early departure, I followed the bike paths to its northern terminus, and that is where the ride started to get interesting, although I did see a fox in Harwich:

The rail trail is in pretty good condition.  I remember riding it some time before 2007 (on my old Lemond Alpe d'Huez) and thinking that I needed more cushioning the next time I rode it.  So for the past several years I brought my Surly, which now sports 35mm Clement USH tires, for the trail, and to haul one or the other of my boys on a trailer or a bike seat (on  the rear rack).  But I have been using my new 3 speed for hauling my boys (now on a trail-a-bike) and my Surly is in the middle of repairs so I took my Independent Fabrication Club Racer.  The main advantage of that bike is that it is faster and the fit is perfect (which is what you get with a custom bike).  It has lights and small bags  that allow me to carry food, a lock, sunscreen, and room to stow no longer needed clothing.  The trail was also very quiet that that hour.  I was off the trail and at the first Wellfleet town beach on Ocean View Road by 7AM and I saw very few other cyclists.

At the ocean on Ocean View Road:

While on Ocean View Road, I met another cyclist, who was confused by me asking about getting to Ballston Beach and she said it couldn't be done.  I was a bit nervous but decided to trust my Ride With GPS route.  I found my turn and it was where it was promised but I failed to check whether or not it was a decent surface for a road bike with 25mm tires.  With nothing to lose but time (and the possibility of actually seeing Ballston Beach) I gave it a try.  The road was largely passable at first, with some sandy spots that were difficult on my narrow tires.  Turns were easy to spot while following a bread crumb trail on my Garmin GPS.

A section of dirt  road:

One difficult spot was near the site of Wellfleet's first school house.  The road was more of a trail that sometimes felt like something Rob Vandermark would love but then I might have felt differently if I were riding on USH tires.

Local tourist spot:

I finally made it to a paved road, Old Kings Highway.  This led to South Pamet Road, which led to the beach.  I confirmed this with a cyclist I met coming south while I travel north.  She happened to be from Cambridge and had been exploring what is left of Old Kings Highway in that section of the Cape.

The suspect road surface - some of these rocks are big and the surface was rough:

The beach was, of course, underwhelming, except for the ocean itself, which was pretty impressive.  There were some nearby houses that were still standing, although I wonder for how long.  The 2013 and 2015 breaches were documented and look quiet impressive.  This video from 2013 shows the waves coming in.

Looking at the breach from the north.  The small dune that remains is visible in the video linked above.

A precariously sited house north of the breach:

Photo op.  Yes, I did carry my bike down to the beach, along the beach, and out to a trail:

The road heading back to Rte 6, North Pamet Road, is beautiful.  There is a youth hostel very close to the beach and would make a great first stop on a tour from Provincetown, assuming you weren't traveling all that fast.

From Rte 6, which I passed under a bridge, I followed what I think is a well know route from Truro to Wellfleet.  I met a couple of other cyclists, Jonathan and his son Sam, and rode with them into Wellfleet before they turned north back to Truro where they were staying.  They took me on a different path in that gave a new (to me) view of the harbor.  It turns out that John and I spent time in Woods Hole together.  We never met but knew some of the same people.

A selfie with Jonathan and Sam:

From Wellfleet, I made my way back to Ocean View Road, which has a much better ocean view heading south:

After lunch, or breakfast in Wellfleet, I made a minor detour to see Rock Harbor, one of my favorite stops in that part of the Cape.  The tide was out but it was still beautiful.

The ride was 75 miles for me, which was my longest ride of the year.  It felt great riding, especially when Jonathan, who is a Cat 4 racer, pushed me while riding into Wellfleet.  I was home by noon.

That ride wasn't my only Cape riding but the rest was riding my 3 speed with one of my sons or their younger cousins, all of whom loved getting a ride in the neighborhood.  One even figured out that the gears work on our new to us trail-a-bike.

The remainder of the week was fun, even if it didn't involve riding.  We enjoyed a big party with part of my wife's extended family.  Two of her sisters and families were neighbors for the week so there were always kids around.  We also were on the water twice, once on Goose Pond on rented paddle boards (which are much more relaxing on flat water than on the ocean) and a double kayak.  The second time my wife's uncle, who lives in the area, took us past Chatham Light Beach into the Gulf of Maine.  On the way we saw a thousand or so seals basking in the sun on a bar that was covered by 6 inches of water.  All in all, it was a great vacation and I was pretty happy that I had a chance to get one long ride in.

One word of warning - don't try to start and finish your ride at Marion's Pie Shop - there is very little parking there.  But do stop in for a pie or a cinnamon roll.