Saturday, August 20, 2016

Reformatory Branch Trail with the family

Today was the D2R2 and I wasn't there.  I rode the 2009 100K version, the 2013 Green River Ride, and extended versions of the Green River Ride in 2014 and 2015.  I tried to put this year's ride on the family calendar but somehow didn't manage to do it and the morning was taken and I didn't get out to the valley.  I grew up in the valley and lived there for half my life and rode in the hills many times over the years I lived there and since then.  I was sad to miss the ride.

I did get some dirt miles in today with my family, riding from Bedford to Concord on the Reformatory Branch Trail.  It was the first time we rode it and it was great fun.  Our older boy rode it on his mountain bike and it was his longest ride to date - 9 miles.  Our younger boy came with me on a trail-a-bike behind my Surly Cross Check.  My wife rode her new Soma Buena Vista.  The trail wasn't heavily trafficked like the Minuteman but there was a substantial number of people riding, walking, and running.  But the trail surface slowed everyone down so we weren't quite as stressed with keeping the 8 year old on the right side of the trail.

We made a couple of stops at the observation tower overlooking wetlands at the Concord Unit of the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.  I've stopped by on rides in the last few years but my wife hasn't been there in a while so she appreciated checking it out with the boys.  And it was a Poke stop so the boys were thrilled to stop there.  And it was enchanted on the way back and we met the person who did the enchanting.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't fret.  I'd prefer that I didn't know anything about Pokemon Go.

We also stopped in Concord center, which was easily and safely accessible from the trail.  We ate at the Main Street Grill and had ice cream there as well.  We also wandered around town looking for Pokemon gyms and other Poke stops.  My sons took over the gym at the Concord common (that one in front of the Colonial Inn.

Overall it was a great day and everyone had enough to eat so we all had energy to get back to the car.  I'm pretty sure my wife likes her bike more after riding on the trail.

The meadows from the observation deck.

Our bikes.
Strava, just to prove it happened:

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bikes that I have owned (and some history)

Somehow I have managed to own only a relatively small number of bikes over my life, despite owning three bikes right now.  That number might seem large, depending on your perspective.  These are the bikes that I have owned and something about how I used them.

(1) My first bike was a single speed with a banana seat.  Much of my memory of it was riding down the street on my first successful ride, some months before the John Kennedy assassination.  I'm sure there was more use but memory fails me here.  It remains an important bike because it was the bike I learned to ride on.

(2) There was a single speed that I owned somewhere between that first bike and my three speed.  My memory is foggy about this one but I do recall that it had a light integrated into the frame and the light was powered by D cells.  I'm sure the light was less useful than the IQX on my current road bike.

(3) I owned  a three speed briefly in 1973.  I bought it to help with a paper route that I was just starting.  My paper route included a subsidized housing project for elderly people, next door to the low income housing project, and I delivered their papers for a few weeks.  I would leave my bike on the sidewalk and drop the paper at the doors.  As I dropped a paper off, I looked back and a guy was grabbing my bike and I raced over and grabbed it.  He was spinning around, saying "it's my bike" as I said the same thing.  He was bigger and won, throwing me to the ground and stealing my bike.  I stopped delivering papers that day.

(4) I started working at local grocery store a month before my fifteen birthday, a job I would keep through high school.  I bought a Sears Free Spirit, which in my mind was an English racer: it had ten speeds and a drop handlebar.  I rode it to work and back and sometimes rode it out of town with one or two of my brothers.  We rode from Springfield to Amherst through Holyoke and South Hadley and also from Springfield to West Granville, to a stream in the state forest there.  I've checked since and these rides were about 40 and 50 miles respectively.  I had a odometer and speedometer on this bike that gave the same numbers.  It must have been accurate but I recall once seeing that I was riding 50 MPH down the north side of the notch on Rte 116 heading towards Amherst, which seem unlikely now.  I owned this bike from 1973 through 1976.  This bike gave me my first taste of freedom allowing me the opportunity to leave the blighted neighborhood I grew up in, if only temporarily.

(5) After high school, I bought a real road bike (at least in my eyes then), a Motobecane Nomade Sprint.  I kept this bike until 1985, right through college and beyond.  I went on my first tour with it, riding from Saint Albans, VT down to Amherst, MA with my then girlfriend.  I was a connoisseur of tiny stream fishing back then and carried a five foot Ugly Stick and fished big trout out of small holes in tiny streams for dinner on that tour.

(6) In 1985 I decided that I would do a big tour and bought a real touring bike, sort of, a 1984 model Trek 520.  This was a full production bike and not a frameset, which is what friends of mine bought a couple of years earlier.  It was more of randonneuring bike then.  At that time, the Trek 620 was the full touring bike with eyelets for racks and fenders, including low riders.  I rode the 520 to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and all over New England that summer.  I used it on a number of tours after that including another New England tour (before I left to live in the upper Midwest in the late 80s), across Colorado, around the Olympic peninsula, around the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec, around the upper Midwest, and several shorter tours in New England.  I used it as my road bike until 1997.  I last toured on it on Labor Day weekend in 2001, riding from Machias to Lubec, ME and back.  After that tour it was on loan to three friends consecutively, two using it as a commuter and one of them pushing the bike to a 19.5 MPH average on a sprint triathlon.  I donated the bike to Bike Not Bombs in 2005.

(7) I replaced the Trek 520 as my road bike in 1997 with a new Lemond Alpe d'Huez.  I could never make that bike go much faster than I rode my 520 but I had 21,000 miles of fun on it, including a lot of riding hilly New England routes.  I gifted this bike to a friend after I took possession of my current road bike in 2007.  He was still using it as his road bike the last time I heard from him.

(8) My current road bike is an Independent Fabrication Club Racer purchased in 2007.  It's still fun to get on this bike. This is my first custom bike and while I love riding it, I hope it's not my last custom bike.

(9) My commuter/dirt road bike/child hauler is a Surly Cross Check from 2009.  The last time I hauled a child on it was a couple of weeks ago.  It remains a great commuter. Update: this bike was totaled in a crash in September 2016. I survived unbroken.

(10) I bought a Swobo Novak last year as a neighborhood bike that also see use as an occasional commuter and a snow bike (with appropriate tires).

I have plans for my next bike but that's a couple of years off yet.

How many bikes have you owned?  And how many do you have in your stable today?

Friday, June 17, 2016

Commuting stories: near miss

A lot of bike riders are thinking some other bike riders are doing a pretty awful job following the rules.  And it seems that some aren't following the rules.  Just this morning, at Somerville Ave and Washington St in Somerville, I was noticing that one of the three bike boxes wasn't filled by cars (yes, drivers don't universally follow the rules either).  Just then a large group of students led by teachers was crossing in front of us on the crosswalk.  The light changed and the cars and cyclists waited.  But then another cyclist pulled into the intersection and cut through students to get on his way.  As another cyclist said to me, "now I see why everyone hates us".  It looked pretty bad although no one was hit.  I've long thought that the idiots (or bullies or massholes) who do such things on bikes probably drive like that as well.  And someone put that in writing for me just the other day:

I've been harassed by some of those bullies lately.  I've had people run red lights and cut me off and then yell at me and threaten me despite that I had the green light.  Lesson: don't talk back to bullies, they fade away when ignored (most of the time).  And they seem to be coming out of the woodwork these days, thanks to a certain presidential candidate.  I'm guessing that I know who they are voting for come November.

But the biggest bullies and the biggest massholes drive cars and buses - they can do a lot more damage than a bully on a bike.  I've heard enough grumbling about bus drivers although I've had few problems with them myself.  That is, until Wednesday morning.

I've leave it as the three unsent tweets I wrote:

If you saw only part 2 then you would have seen a dumb cyclist fall when he couldn't unclip his pedals. (1/3)

If you saw part 1 then you would have seen him start to get his left foot unclipped but then a big bus speeding 2 feet from him. (2/3)

The bus was running the red that the cyclist was stopping for. Option was to fall away from bus, onto sidewalk. Police called. (3/3)

Or in a haiku:

Big bus rumbles by
Has not a care in the world
Knocks me down, unseen

So I'm not a poet but still be careful out there.  It gets far worse than what than what I experienced this week.  Say a prayer for the victim but also work for change in laws and enforcement of the present laws because things like this don't need to occur:

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Estabrook on three wheels

Yesterday I convinced one of my sons to accompany me on a ride in the woods.  Actually, he was excited to go.  We had just rode over to the Arlington Jimmy Fund ice cream fund raiser and he didn't find an ice cream flavor that he wanted to try.  He did enjoy a chocolate chip cookie.  When we got home, I asked him if wanted to ride in the woods and he did so we packed up and headed to Concord and found a parking spot on Estabrook Road and rodeinto the woods.  I have walked and run here a lot and rode here a few times so I thought that I could manage the roads and trails with my son on a trail-a-bike.  It wasn't fast or easy but it was safe and we both enjoyed being in the woods and had at least one minor adventure.  I didn't have the ride mapped out but I managed to find the paths I had intended to follow without much trouble.  I did use RideWithGPS once to confirm a turn that I wanted to take and, fortunately, I had enough service for the map to draw quickly.

Bike parking.  We sat on an old stone wall for a pineapple juice break.

This is the first Pink Lady Slipper that I've seen since I moved to Boston.  I've since heard that they are common, sometimes in places that I've been a lot but apparently not when they are in bloom.

The Lady Slipper was just to the left of my bike by the big rock.  I didn't see it until I was off the bike.  We stopped at the rock because my son wanted to climb on it.

This picture probably doesn't capture it but the light and color of the leaves was so inviting and this trail was a pleasure to ride.

Our one mini adventure - seeing a water snake.  This was about 30 inches long and thick bodied.   We later saw it slip into the water.  As my son said, it was a great swimmer.
Our ride on Strava (no land speed records were broken):

Sunday, May 15, 2016

New Bike Day: Soma Buena Vista

Today was new bike day for my wife, a Soma Buena Vista mixte.  Well, we've had the bike for a week but today was the first day she had it off of our street.

We started thinking about this bike about four years ago.  We contacted Roy Cervantes at Grace Bicycles and Rob Vandermark at Ride Studio Cafe.  Rob didn't think he could build the bike.  Roy gave us an estimate but we declined to pursue the project at that time for a variety of reasons.  Then last winter all four of us took our bikes on the Arlington Jingle Bell ride.  As part of our version of that ride we went through the woods and my wife ended up walking.  Her bike, with its narrow wheels, just didn't give her confidence.  Then in the spring we bought our older son his first mountain bike (also his first geared bike with hand brakes) and he is interested in riding off road on it.  That made us think about the Buena Vista again, this time with 650B wheels that could accommodate a very wide tire that could roll on the dirt trails that my son was interested in.  My wife is also changing her schedule, which might give her time to ride more, both for pleasure and for errands (errandonnee, here we come!).  We got back to Roy, who designed and built up my IF and my Surly Cross Check, and this is what he built up for us.  It's not all perfectly color coordinated but it's a very nice bike that fits my wife well.

The bike has a dynamo hub but no way to use it yet.  I have a Busch and Mueller light to add and have get a rear dynamo powered light, which will be mounted on  the rear Tubus Vega rack.  (We would have preferred the silver version of this rack but it isn't imported into the US.)  My wife also wants to get a charger, which is why we opted for the SP PV8 over the SP SV9.  The SV9 is similar to the Schmidt Deluxe, which is offers lower resistance and lighter weight but less power output.

My wife is testing a Rivet saddle.  I'm hoping she loves it but she hasn't been on it long enough to be sure.  She has a front basket, which was a key requirement.  That's a Nitto B302 handlebar that a friend gave us.  He also gave us the Tektro brake levers.  Roy suggested the  handlebar grips, which my wife likes.  I suggested the Chris King silver headset for durability.

The drive train is an 11 speed XT group set and the rear hub is a disk hub (there is no non disk option and you need a mountain hub to work with the XT cassette.  The gearing is intentionally very low, with a 28/36 crank and an 11/40 cassette, which will make it possible for my wife to carry groceries from the farmers' market and our CSA without worry.  We went up and then down a local park on dirt trails on today's ride and she felt fine riding, both because of the low gearing and the wide tires (the Compass Babyshoe Pass 650Bx42mm in standard casing).  The fenders are the Velo Orange Zeppelin 52mm fenders built for 650b wheels.  The rims are Velocity Atlas rims, which are wide enough to mount the 42mm wife tires.

Matt Roy was generous with his time and offered opinions on the SP hubs, which helped me pick SP help over the Schmidt and Shimano dynamo hubs, which I have on my IF and Surly, respectively.  Thanks Matt!

And thanks to Roy for accommodating several component changes during the process and for building the bike.

Overall the bike seems like a great bike and I'm even a little jealous.  Well, I'm actually very jealous.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Not quite 30 days of riding in April

There is a pledge you can sign is to let the world know that you intend to ride your bike for 30 days in April.  Besides being a good idea, it's also a fund raiser for World Bicycle Relief.  I didn't pledge because I knew that guaranteeing to ride every day in a month would be difficult, especially on weekends when my free time is often committed to my kids.  But I did do my best to get on my bike in April.  Besides getting out on one or more of my bikes on 20 days, I also rode all three of my bikes:
  • Four road rides on my IF (131 miles)
  • Three commutes on my 3 speed bike (27 miles)
  • One off road ride on Surly (45 miles) and Thirteen commutes on it (185 miles)
That's almost 400 miles last month.  While I didn't win any competitions, I feel like I got out as much as I could, given my other commitments. I rode to work most days and somehow I don't feel all that much of fair weather cyclist anymore.  That said, a hard rain as I'm about to leave my house may give me pause.

Thinking of fair weather cycling, I remember the one time my wife and I rode the King's Tour of the Quabbin.  This was in 2002 or 2003.  We were coaxed into going by a friend who apparently checked the weather forecast and didn't show up.  We headed out with far too little foul weather gear for the weather we encountered.  My wife had a light fleece jacket and I had a short sleeve polypro shirt under my jersey.  The rain started around 20 miles into the ride.  We made it to the turn around in the rain and simply turned around and headed towards our car.  I don't remember all that much from the ride except for the cars passing us and spraying water from the puddles onto us.  I also remember finishing and trying to get to the car to change into dry clothes while I was chilled to the bone.  It was a miserable experience that would have been easier to take if I carried the gear that we needed (and left at home).  But I'm pretty sure that a ride like that would have been less than pleasant with any gear.  That may be part of why I call myself a fair weather cyclist.  And I'm not ashamed of that.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Diverged 2016 - by road and trail to Concord, MA

Ride Studio Cafe and Overland Base Camp put on the 4th annual Diverged Ride on Saturday.  Unlike past versions of this event, this one stretched reasonably far from the Cafe, heading west to Concord and traversing some familiar and some unfamiliar trails, and some new to me side streets in Concord.   This was my fourth Diverged - I've manged to ride them all, not that I road all of the routes each time, including this one.  The ride was quick as promised by Rob Vandermark in the description:

"No Drop Ride", riding hard at times but not over your head, getting your heart rate near maximum a few times, taking a few blurry photos."

And we did go too fast for taking pictures.  That was a shame - there were dozens of places that I would have liked to stop and take pictures but since I was almost always last in our group, there was never time to do so.  No matter, the ride was quite memorable without having pictures and I'm sure I'll ride some of these trails again.  And I did get my heart rate up a lot, especially on the steep pitches that slowing down on was an option that included falling over.

I found myself on a great team led by Dan, who I hadn't met before.  In fact, everyone on the team was new to me.  Dan set a reasonably fast pace and while they didn't lose me, I was often the last one in our group.  I occasionally was in the middle of the pack but the fact is, I was slower than everyone else.  That didn't seem to matter to how quickly we finished.  We were passed by Bradford Smith's group but his was a faster group so no big surprise there.  In the end, I did leave early, realizing that if I left when I did (on the Reformatory Branch Trail, just east of the Rte 62 crossing), I could make it home by 2 PM, which is when I promised my wife I'd be home.  And I made it.  That said, I was tired out by the ride.  We did stop for snacks at Haute Coffee in Concord.  I'm pretty sure that the Diverged ride accounted for a lot of their business on Saturday.

One thing that the Rob and Patria did on this ride that worked particularly well was staggering the rides and sending some clockwise on the loop and others counter clockwise.  We passed a couple of groups heading in the opposite direction (including Michelle Smith's Hub team at the Route 2 below grade crossing) and were passed by another group at the crossing.  Otherwise it felt like we were a team alone in the woods, which was the best way to do this ride.

[edited 4/25/2016 - added this paragraph on the weather]  My wife asked me about the rain before I left the house.  I said that I wouldn't be doing the ride in the rain and didn't have to worry since the rain was ending and mostly south of us and was expected to stay south of the ride.  I did bring my raincoat and helmet cover, just in case.  And it's a good thing I brought them - a light rain started minutes before our starting time (9 AM for my group).  I got them and got on my bike and managed to start the Garmin but failed to find the correct course - I can't see much without my glasses.  Still, I managed to catch up with the group and not get all that wet on the ride.  The only issue was with my sunglasses fogging, which happened whenever we stopped.  I gave up on the glasses somewhere near Walden Pond and put them back after lunch when the world dried out some.

Some notes on the trails:
  • I've been on the trails between Bedford Road and Sandy Road in Lincoln before (on my road bike) and enjoyed that section.  It was even easier on my Surly with the 35mm Clement USH tires (still functional with almost 5,000 miles on them).
  • The section west from Sandy Pond Road and circling back to Walden Pond, ending at the Route 2 crossing was my favorite.  The crossing is below grade - again no pictures but check out Bradford Smith's Instagram feed, he has a picture and posts fun pictures frequently.  There were sections of meadow crossings, wide paths, and winding single track, with some steep pitches.  There wasn't much that I didn't try to roll over here and managed to stay upright in this section and on the entire ride.  One person on the trip described this as one big patch of woods and while that wasn't strictly true, this is a wild corner of eastern Massachusetts, not all that far from Boston.
  • There was a great section of woods road, just west of Lowell Road and separated by the Concord River from it.  I thought it would be a great, quiet road to bring my boys for a bike ride.  And I would have looked around for Egg Rock, which we didn't see on this ride.
  • Not surprisingly, Rob and Patria skipped most of the east section of the Reformatory Branch Trail, opting for a large network of side trails.  We did ride the western section of the trail and, while it was straight as expected for a rail trail, the woods were a bit wild.  And it reminded me to go check out the herons at the heron rookery we passed to the south of the trail.  I did ride almost the entire east section of the trail but was apparently channeling Rob when I diverged from the main trail and took the Yellow Trail to South Road.
  • All of the trails were worth riding again and some could provide short cuts on road bikes.  There were definitely sections that I was happy to see how roads could be connected.

I'd like to say that I've been riding off road a lot but this was most of the off road riding I have done so far this year.  Most of my riding is commuting and I've rode a couple of hundred miles on the road.  I enjoy this kind of riding but when my time is limited and I need exercise, I prefer a longer road ride.  That said, it's nice when I get the motivation to get out in a group to ride in the woods.

The motivation included a great breakfast and promises of coffee to buy.  I was pleasantly surprised that Ride Studio Cafe again offer decaf pour overs.  While that may sound treasonous to some, I'm mostly decaf these days and sometimes prefer coffee over an espresso.

I did take a couple of pictures at our one extended 10 minutes) stop on the trails:

Dan, our leader for the day.  While he claimed to have not been on the whole route before, he did a great job keeping us on track and enjoying the day/

Sudbury River at a brief stop.

My ride on Strava.

Miles for the day: 45, miles for the month: 278, miles for the year: 988.