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Sunday, August 24, 2014

D2R2 2014

There is something epic about the Deerfield Dirt Road Randonee (or D2R2), even if you don't do the epic versions - the 180K, 160K, and probably even the 115K.  I rode the 100K in 2009 and while it was a hard bike ride, it was nowhere near overwhelming in terms of how much effort it is to ride it.  It was quite beautiful and surprising, however.  And you felt like you were in great company with the 180K riders (I don't recall the other distances being offered that year).  The end of the ride meal and beer brought everyone together under the same tent, so speak.  I recall seeing the guy who went over his handlebars and broke his collarbone at dinner, after I heard rumor of an ambulance having come through a section of the ride shortly before I rode that section.  It was a hard ride indeed.

I loved the ride but with kids it became impossible to think of riding it again soon.  My second son was born a week before the next D2R2 so the ride wasn't even a possibility.  The following year, 2011, with two very young children, was a bust for riding.  I think I managed just 350 road miles that season and another 500 miles commuting.  By 2012, the D2R2 fell off my radar and despite being in shape for it I didn't even consider it.  In 2013, it came back to my attention via a colleague, Alex, who's girlfriend Carla grew up in the valley and the two of them and another colleague, Carl, decided to ride the Green River Tour.  It was great fun and with a couple on a tandem, and being relatively new to tandems, we decided that the tour was best.  After the ride, my colleague decided to ride the next year, 2014, and do the extra loop, the Carpenter Hill loop.  We recently contacted Sandy, the ride designer after we heard that the covered bridge would be closed during the 2014 ride and the Carpenter Hill loop would be inaccessible.  (It was actually accessible, if you wanted to ford the river, which the locals were doing and many riders did.)

Sandy apparently thought that our interest in extending our range was worthwhile and, in a late night email, he suggested several extensions to the ride.  He also suggested that we make sure we could read maps and see if his instructions made sense, since he wrote it from memory and not by reading a map. (He nailed it.)  He gave us one loop that was self contained and then a series of extensions that sent us farther afield, sometimes on roads used in one version or another of the 2014 D2R2 and others that were not.  This was way over the top for someone trying to tie all of the details of a 1000+ person ride on the eve of that ride.  

I mapped Sandy's instructions on Ride With GPS.  Carl decided to spend the day photographing at the headquarters of the ride and Alex and Carla decided to ride only the first loop.  I decided that I'd see how I feel.  I had a decent start to the year and then got sick in the early summer.  That slowed me down substantially and I rode over 40 miles only once since June.  I didn't think I would be in shape for the 100K and with Sandy's extended version of the Green River Tour, I had the opportunity to test the waters and see how far I could get.  And now I had the chance to see.

Alex, Carla, and another rider who joined us did the first loop starting on Nelson Road, which is on the 100K loop later in that ride.  We enjoyed a nice climb despite a dog that just couldn't let us go, even after we spotted a deer and a fawn and the dog investigated their scent.  The good news is that after this excursion and the rest of the tour, Alex and Carla decided to ride the 100K next year.  I think I'll join them.

Alex and Carla decided to skip the next side trip.  I persevered and enjoyed a harder climb up New County Road and then Amidon Road riding solo.  At Amidon and Franklin Hill Road I met up with a number of 100K riders on a section of road that was probably in the worst shape of anything I saw that day (though probably not the worse on all of the routes).  I felt great so I left the route and opted for the second of Sandy's extensions, taking Stark Mountain Road down to Route 112 and then climbed out of the valley on Branch Road and then Jacksonville Stage Road.  I saw, and confused, a great number of 115K riders, some of whom wondered if they were going the wrong way.  I assured them that I was.  After climbing over the high point on Jacksonville Stage Road, I enjoyed a long downhill run to the lunch spot.  Sandy was the mechanic there and I thanked him for the great ride that he gave me with his instructions.  I had already done all of the climbing that I planned, about 4000 feet, and I was feeling great.

I talked with Julian of the Buffalo Lazy Randonneurs at lunch and then headed out in a mass of riders.  I chatted with Sawyer and Hannah, a couple from Sunderland, MA until the Nelson Road turnoff, where a lot of people stopped.  I was checking out this cool ANT bike then noticed the rider was Mike Flanigan, the creator of many very nice bikes, one of the founders of Independent Fabrication, and the designer of the Club Racer, the model IF that I own.  Mike was heading back to Deerfield and we decided to ride together.  Mike is a great guy and a competent cyclist.  The big crowd that we were part of broke up, between splitting off for the 100K route and stopping for a mechanical.  I enjoyed the quieter ride with Mike and we found our way back to the headquarters.  Mike went off to change before dinner and I went off to see how Carl was doing.

I spotted Carl near the food tent with his camera. He was happily shooting pictures but the process is very slow, given his equipment.  Later I somehow managed to drag Tyler Evans from Firefly and the Bayley brothers into Carl's vision.  I hope to see the results soon.  

I had dinner with Sam, a guy from New York, who was barely able to get out for a weekend of cycling.  I gather that cycling is newer in his life and something that his wife was not expecting for him to spend a lot of time on.  I hope he enjoyed the weekend and continues to get out.   I later said hello to Jamie Medeiros from Firefly and watched Tyler and Carolyn Johnson, one of the Firefly Expedition Team riders, come in.

I finally managed to extricate Carl from his camera and the gracious support folks allowed me to get my car close for carrying back the heavy equipment.  I was sad to leave the party but happy to get home a couple of hours later.

Postscript: while I didn't feel that I was in great shape, I did fine on the extended Green River Tour, riding 58 miles and climbing 4000 feet.  My Garmin told me I averaged 12 MPH and I felt I could have gone faster, farther, and climbed more hills.  I'm talking the 100K and not the 180.  There is always next year.

A second postscript: my Surly has been suffering some lately.  I needed to have a new freehub installed.  The freehub was hard to find since it is out of production.  The new one I have has a small burr on it that makes a very easy to hear sound on every wheel rotation.  On quiet roads it is annoying but I can live with it, for a while.  And the shifting has been getting worse and worse.  My mechanic tells me that I really need to replace the chain (1100 miles) and the cassette (maybe 3000 miles) but don't do it before I grind a lot of dirt during the D2R2.  I can't wait to replace these and maybe have a nearly quiet drive train.  The shifting was fine as long as I compensated (shift twice to a harder chain ring, then shift back up one) but I'll be happy when this is fixed.

I owe a lot to Sandy for taking some time to show me the way, adding some very nice hills to the Green River Tour.  The river ride is nice but the high points with the great views are, in my mind, the best part of the D2R2.  That and the camaraderie.  This was the tenth year of the D2R2 and Sandy has to be happy with it, both the fun that the riders experience and the fund raising success.

At the headquarters before the ride.  The person riding this bike planned on the family ride.  I did see similar bikes in the hills later in the day.



My companions for the first part of the ride.  Yes, they just got married!  This was quite the honeymoon.


First big view from East Colrain Road, looking down, I think, into the Green River valley.



I believe Carla noticed the banana in my pocket (which I grabbed from the first water stop, knowing I might wouldn't see lunch until 36 miles into my ride) and Curious George, who loves bananas, on my jersey.


Stark Mountain Road.  This was a fast, steep,  and long descent and wasn't part of any other D2R2 route.  Needless to say, I took great care on this descent and didn't bomb down the road as Sandy may have.


State line on a major road (by the standards of the D2R2).


A private bridge on Route 112 in Vermont.  The folks parked on this side of the river and walked over the bridge to their house.  I'm not sure if this is Hurricane Irene damage but you can see the substantial footings in some disrepair.


I didn't stop at the gun shop.  It did remind me of a tour in 1996.  We stopped for lunch in Whitingham, VT on a rainy day.  We saw a guy there with a pistol in his belt (no holster).  I guess Vermont has open carry laws.



19th century headstones in a cemetery on Jacksonville Stage Road.



Tandem riders on the 115K.



A meadow overlooking the valley in the distance.



Near the lunch spot, almost in the valley.



Julian from the Buffalo Lazy Randonneurs.



Mike from ANT.



 Tyler checking out Carl's camera, Carl checking out Tyler.



Carl photographing the Bayley brothers.




Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sometimes you don't get to take only back roads

If you follow certain folks on Twitter and read certain blogs and magazines, you might think that the best roads are the most empty and unpaved roads.  And I agree, they are the nicest routes to ride on.  I've done a small share of trail and dirty road riding and enjoy it immensely.  And I try to plan all of my rides to be on lesser used roads if at all possible.  But sometimes your day doesn't go as planned.  Today I rode to my in-laws in New Hampshire and while that was fabulous, the route I took was based more on time than scenic values or traffic volumes.  I picked out a nice route based on the Ride Studio Cafe Pioneer ride that I did in early June and the last route I used to get to my in-laws.  But the morning got the better of me and instead of leaving early, I helped pull up a failed raspberry bed (not enough sun, no fruit) and did some trimming and other yard work.  That all had to be done and while it left me hot and sweaty and with just barely enough time for me to get to New Hampshire for my son's second birthday party, I did what I could.  My route looked like this:


The big problem heading north is the Merrimac River and the few rural places to cross it.  I originally aimed for the Tyngsborough crossing but that wasn't feasible on the shorter ride I needed to take.  Instead I made my way to the outskirts of Lowell on less traveled roads and bike paths and then crossed the river on the ancient and temporary Rourke Bridge.  From there I found my way to Mammoth Road and took that towards Londonderry.  Mammoth Road isn't all that well traveled but the speed limit is fast and today there was as much traffic on the road as I've ever seen, although that doesn't mean it was heavily traveled as say, Rte 2A from Lexington to Concord at 7:30 AM.

My route did take me away from Route 4 into Chelmsford, instead taking small roads and then the Bruce Freeman bike path so I can't say that my ride was all on major roads.  But the second half of the ride, north of Lowell, was a far cry from the quiet roads I planned, but getting out safely and enjoying a long ride was far better than not riding my bike at all.

Miles for the ride: 45, for the month: 235, for the year: 1680.

Crossing the New Hampshire line on Mammoth Road, NH 128:

Monday, August 4, 2014

Vibrations from generator hubs, not a test

When I first started looking into generator hubs in early 2013, I found a nice set of articles by a cyclist in the Netherlands who reviewed a number of different pieces of equipment, including hubs and lights.  One issue that he found annoying, but not a show stopper, was vibrations felt in the handlebar from the generator.  He gives some reasons for why this may occur but concluded that there were too many variables to narrow done a cause or to lower the vibration effectively.

After doing some reading, I had Harris Cyclery build a wheel for my Surly Cross Check.  They used a Shimano 3N80 hub laced to a Mavic Open Pro rim to match the Surly build.  And guess what ... I have a decent amount of vibration coming from the hub.  It isn't evident below 18 MPH and it doesn't get stronger the faster you go.  Not that I am exceeding 20 MPH often at night but I do have it turned on during the day for safety.  It's not to the point of annoying but it is obvious that I am feeling vibration in the handlebars.  If I were on a road ride, riding above 20 MPH for a decent amount of time on the ride, I might think it would be annoying.

My reasoning for building a generator hub for this bike was that I would have lights for commuting and would have the wider tires for the bumps that I wouldn't see quite as well in the generator light.  It all worked out well.  I used the daytime running lights on all of my commutes and feel that it works well for me.  I also have done a substantial number of early morning and late night rides, some on dirt roads, and have loved getting out at night.  It's magical and as long as you take great care, especially if you are riding alone (it's more magical and you need to be much more careful on your own).  One issue for me was that I was trying to do longish rides (for me, maybe short for you) and starting at 5 AM in late August or September meant that I needed lights.  And that meant I was on my Surly, which isn't built for speed or distance (not that I haven't rode 60 road miles on it once or twice).  I found myself wanting to go farther and faster once the sun rose and I was slowed down by the bike.  So I thought I should add lights to my IF so that I had my fast bike for those early starts.

I started out with getting a last generation Busch and Muller IQ CYO headlight (that matches the Surly and is sufficiently functional for me) and a Busch and Muller Secula Plus taillight for the IF.  I had these mounted before my first ride in the spring (and probably looked dorky to every who noticed my generator lights sans generator hub - only one person said anything to me).  I tested the wiring using my Shimano hub and all was well.  And when I had enough money (or permission to spend the money), I order a wheel from Ride Studio Cafe.  I think that Harris Cyclery did a great job building my first generator wheel but I didn't love getting there.  West Newton is a pole of relative inaccessibility for me and I ended up going there a few times getting the new lights and the Sheldon Problem Solvers (for mounting the front fender after you had the headlight set up - ask me if you want to know more), and something I can't remember anymore.  In any case it seemed like a major trip and Ride Studio is a great shop and much easier to get to.

Ride Studio built up a great wheel with a Shimano Son Deluxe hub laced to a Mavic Open Pro rim (there is a pattern here).  I picked it up in late July mounted it last week and, guess what - no vibrations:

Based on my Garmin feedback, I hit 25 MPH and there was still no vibration.  I don't think I ride over that speed all that much, except on downhills, so I think I am pretty sure that this combination (IF, straight blade steel fork) is a good match for the wheel that Ride Studio built for me.  I was out this past weekend on an early morning, misty ride and it was great to have solid lighting.  I did have my Nite Rider battery powered light but I didn't feel like I needed it and didn't turn it on.  I also had a Portland Design Works Radbot to supplement the Secula Plus, and I did have it on when on the road.

In short - get generator lighting if you can afford it and hopefully your frame doesn't transmit a lot of vibration to your handlebars.  I experience it on my Surly, but not on my IF.  And at the speeds that I feel it on my Surly, I don't feel it that often.  And it is nice to not worry about charging batteries.  And maybe I'll buy a charger so I can charge up my phone and Garmin on long rides when I don't need my lights.  (That's one drawback of the lighter Deluxe vs the Son 28.)

If I really wanted to test the vibrations on the Surly vs the IF, I would have switched the wheels (and the tires) and the connections (the Shimano generator hubs uses a very different connector from the raw connectors that the Schmidt hub uses).  I would be able to tell you that the Surly does, or does not, have vibration with the Schmidt hub and that the IF does, or does not, have vibration with the Shimano has.  But as my buddy Carl suggested, like the Netherlands writer did, there are so many variables that you really can't control for everything.  So this was not a test, just a recounting of my experience with these two hubs on different bikes.

Update: I noticed some vibration at 28 MPH on a recent ride.  It disappeared when I turned the lights off.  The vibration is hardly noticeable and much less than I feel on my Surly at 20 MPH.

The nice part of being on the road early (yes, that is light rain falling and yes, I am slightly less of a fair weather rider than I once was):

Lights.  Camera.  Picture of a dynamo hub:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A pristine 1984 Schwinn Peloton in the wild

Last week I saw a shiny new red bike that just didn't look right as a new bike.  I recall riding with a local collegiate cycling club and one of the members looked at my bike and called it a through back from an earlier time, though it was only a couple of months old at the time.  But it sort of a through back - it's an Indy Fab Club Racer with narrow tubing and mostly 1980s classic lines, except for a sloping top tube.  But on close inspection you could see it is TIG welded, not lugged like bikes of that period generally were.  This shiny red bike was lugged and the decals looked pretty dated to me.  Of course I chatted with the rider, who had time to tell me about his bike and let me take a picture.  It was owned by a racer, Andy Flemming, who, apparently, owned a lot of bikes.  Steve, the new owner said he knew Andy through Andy's work with his mom and when Steve said he wanted to try riding, Andy gifted him this bike.  This was six years ago and the bike was still in the box.  It was a 1984 Schwinn Peloton, which means it sat in that bike for over 20 years waiting for the right person to ride it.

Steve offered to send me some information, which he did.  Here is a link to the original catalog.  And this is the spec sheet for that year:


Interestingly, the bike has a "Campagnolo" decal on the left side of the top tube near the head tube.  The specs clearly call for Sun Tour derailleurs and Dia Compe brakes so perhaps this was a special model of the Peloton.  I'm not sure but it looks like Steve built the frame up and the shifters are clearly much more modern than the frame so if it was intended as a Campy bike, it no longer is and probably never was.  But Steve has kept it in excellent condition and it still looks nearly out of the box.

Steve found one for sale on Ebay, although the brakes are the ones spec'ed above.

Steve lives nearby so perhaps I'll see him on the road again.

The bike (unfortunately I didn't get a good picture of Steve so he doesn't appear complete here):


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Reflecting on Scott Simon's response to seeing a few bad cyclists

Scott Simon of NPR posted this thought this morning (and has been bombarded and supported since then):
Hey Scott, I ride a bike most days and am appalled at the behavior of a subset of cyclists, too.  They run stop signs and red lights, pass me on the right without warning, and generally do dumb things that, at times, are dangerous.  I am also appalled at the behavior of a subset of drivers.  They run stop signs and red lights, pass me on the right without warning, and generally do dumb things that, at times, are even more dangerous than what a cyclist could do.  Living in Boston, I'm aware of the car that flipped on Beacon Street in the Back Bay and killed a young couple.  People on bikes have killed people but the number is low.  The number of people killed by errant, distracted, drunk, or otherwise disengaged drivers is quite large.  I bet you know the numbers better than me.

I am troubled by generalizations, such as the idea that since some cyclists disregard laws that being a cyclist leads to almost any nefarious outcome, athletes doping to win big included.  I also am troubled by thinking that some drivers are bad means that all drivers are bad.  They aren't.  You probably drive sometimes and I bet you consider yourself a good driver.  And you probably don't want me inferring from the legions of bad drivers that you are also one of those bad drivers who doesn't deserve a license.

What you saw with your children was some people doing something dumb and potentially very dangerous.  Try riding your bike to work tomorrow.  I bet you will see as many, or more drivers doing something dumb and potentially very dangerous.  And you and I are very vulnerable on our bikes, just two people trying to get to work.  But stop at all stop signs and wait at the red lights.  You will be safer for that, usually.  (See this short post and a reflection on the same event and other crashes.)

I think you got the message already. You have noted that the response was sometimes some unkind, unpleasant, and sometimes beyond mean.  These came from a community that is too often disparaged and almost always dodging cars whose drivers think that we have no right to be on the road.  People should be nicer but I can't control that.

By the way, I think Lance Armstrong was a product of his times.  I recall a whole lot of competitive cyclists from that era going down but maybe I'm wrong.  And there was that BALCO scandal ...

We do have the right to use the road in Massachusetts.  (You should watch this video, produced by MASSBIKE in cooperation with Boston, Massachusetts Police Department.)

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Blue Honey Commuter

A couple of weeks ago I checked out a nice Honey commuter at the Ride Studio Cafe shop, ready for its new owner.  It was a dark blue with very subtle text.  And it was well equipped as a commuter.  It had a disk brake Shimano Di2 Alfine rear hub and Schmidt disk front hub generator hub.  I don't see lights yet but it is lights-ready (differing from my road bike, which has lights and is waiting for a generator hub).  It also comes equipped with fenders and a rear rack.  The fenders aren't painted, as many on Honeys are, but this looks fine to me as is.  It looked like a great commuter in the shop.

I happened to have been passed by its owner this morning and I had to catch up with him to see his bike again, despite having returned only recently from the injured reserve list.  Andreas was happy to stop and let me take a picture of him and his bike.  He loves the bike so far.  He mentioned taking some time to dial in the shifting but it seems perfect right now.  There is a comprise in the simplicity offered by internal greared hubs and the electronic shifting.  Otherwise the bike seems low maintenance and ready for rainy commutes with the fenders and disk brakes.


On a complete different note, I just moved my commuting panniers from the rear rack to the front rack to get a feel of how they perform.  Given changes in drop off schedules, I could benefit by dropping off our youngest by bike after getting the older boy on the bus.  It could work.  Handling in the city was fine but I noticed that my rear tires had substantially less grip ascending on some local gravelly trails with more weight in the front.  Otherwise this is a go, when I have sufficient energy for carrying a 30 pound boy.