Thursday, August 30, 2012

Recent rides

I have been on my bike a few times in the last few days:

40 miles with my friend Karen (visiting from Norway).  Having successfully borrowed bikes from me in the past, she was on my Surly.  That was a bit merciful - I suspect it would have been a much faster ride if she had her Enigma.

The next day I did a 25 miler out to Concord and Bedford.  It was an early ride, getting out of the house at 5AM, in the dark.  I came back into town on the Minuteman Bike Path, which is preferable at early commuting hours.

I was off yesterday to take the boys to the MD for well visits.  I did the same ride, more or less, as the 25 miler, only in reverse and during daylight, which made it a much different day.  It was a very cool morning but comfortable by the time I left.

I now have 1600 miles for the season, which is nearly double what I did last year but 700 miles shy of my average mileage over the years since I started using a bike computer (1995).  2000 miles is possible this year, depending on the weather.  Morning rides are getting shorter - you just can't go all that fast in the dark, even with my very bright headlight.  I may commute more in the early fall once the boys are in the same preschool.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Changing seasons, already

I rode this morning, starting out around 5AM.  It was a dry day and about 61 F degrees.  I wore cycling shorts, a light long sleeved polypro shirt, a light short sleeved polypro shirt, and a cycling jersey.  I never really warmed up and getting back to a cool house left me slightly chilled until I took a shower.  It's not fall by any means but it is a significant change from those mornings where I would wear only cycling shorts and a jersey and I'd be fine.  I have cycled in the lower 40s Fahrenheit.  That is easily possible but it is an entirely different activity.  It has been nice getting outside early, even as sunrise has gotten later but it will get harder to get out early as it is both dark and cold.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

New Hampshire Vacation ride

After a short family canoe ride on Conway Lake, which was lovely, I had a brief window to get out and ride.  Staying off of West Side Road made the Bear Notch Loop the obvious choice.  The loop is over 35 miles and with the ride to West Side Road and back, my ride was close to 40 miles.  The link (gmap-pedometer) includes an elevation profile.  That profile doesn't do justice to the rollers on West Side Road, which do slow you down. It does show you that the steep approach to the notch is from the north.  The advantage to this is that you have a long, fast downhill run down Passaconaway Road along the Swift River and the southern end of West Side Road is flat.  The disadvantage is that you face the 5 miles of climbing on Bear Notch Road.  However, it isn't all that bad a climb.  I believe I averaged 8.5mph on the climb mostly on a 34/25 chain ring combination.  It was both a minor challenge and great fun.

I made it to the covered bridge over the Swift River by 4:40 and had to be back at 5, which wasn't possible.  I called the house then to let my wife know I wouldn't be home.  There was a fellow cyclist who wanted to talk hills and rides but I was in a great hurry, both to get back to help take care of the boys and to beat the rain.  It was sprinkling by the time I rolled into the neighborhood and the skies let loose shortly after I brought my bike inside.  In short, I was very lucky to get the ride in and very, very lucky to miss the rain.

I did the ride in under 2 hours and 40 minutes, door to door and averaged 15.0mph.  The fast decent on Bear Notch Road and Passaconaway Road helped my average speed quite a bit.

I saw a woman riding a nice orange Circle A Cycles single speed at the covered bridge.


Looking out towards Bartlett at the first overlook:



Looking towards the Pemigewasset Wilderness from the second overlook:



There isn't much to mark the summit of the notch, except warnings to drivers and cyclists:



Looking down the Swift River from the covered bridge.  There were several people in the water and it looked appealing, although I had no time to check out the water.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bee stings while cycling

It happened again this morning.  I was out early, getting started a half hour before sunrise (with appropriate lighting and reflective gear) and was approaching Carlisle, MA on East Street.  I felt something crawling on my head and reached into my helmet through one of the vent holes and touched something fuzzy.  At that instant that fuzzy being stung me in my head.  I stopped to clear the bee out and the pain came on - it really hurt.  I still had a significant discolored bump on my head by the time I made it back to Arlington.

Bee stings are relatively rare, at least in my case.  I was stung three times on my head a couple of years ago, all within the town of Concord, MA and two times with the same stretch of Lowell Street, within a mile of each other.  I was also stung while on a tour in downeast Maine some years back.  I recall wearing a short sleeve rugby-ish shirt and the buttons where open and  a bee flew in.  I was easy pickings for that bee.   Each time was painful but fortunately I don't have an allergic reaction to bee stings.

My ride this morning.  I rode nearly the same route yesterday on my Surly.  Today was my first day on 700x25 tires.  I had them inflated more than necessary for my weight and the road feel was similar to the 700x23 version of this same tire.

My total mileage for the year is starting to inch up - it stands at 1367 right now.  Much of that total is road miles.  I have commuted only 6 times so far this year and rode with the boys only 8 or so times.  That's a total of less than 200 miles - not that getting home quickly or cycling with the boys (the equivalent of loaded touring) is not exercise, it's just not going fast.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Dogs, giving chase

I was on a long ride from Arlington to my in-laws in Londonderry, NH today and had to stop to check my map.  As I started back up I heard a dog breathing heavily and I looked to the right and saw it heading towards me fast, really fast.

You might be inclined to do one of several things if you were in my position.  You might stop to see if the dog would calm down if you were on your feet and not on a bike and you could  easily position yourself between the bike and the dog to keep it at bay while you waited for the owners to take control of their dog.  I did this once while touring in the Olympic Peninsula but my bike was too heavy to move in front of the dog.  Fortunately the owner was on the street quickly before anything happened.

You might try to out run the dog.  I was coming from a complete stop so I couldn't really do this.

You might grab your full size frame pump, if you happen to carry one, and I do, and whack the dog in the nose.  The problem with this is that you might knock yourself off the bike while doing so, which might put you in a bad position with the dog, who you might miss whacking.  You might also be violating a law that protects canines in hot pursuit.  This likely depend on what state you are in.  In Massachusetts, you are allowed to take extreme measures to protect yourself from a dog:

Any person may kill a dog which suddenly assaults him while he is peaceably standing, walking or riding outside the enclosure of its owner or keeper.

But that seems much too extreme for me.  I would avoid this alternative, unless you were really physically threatened by the dog.

The fourth, and I think best approach is to spray the dog with water.  If the timing is right, you will have water in your in one of your bottles when a belligerent canine is heading your way.  The trick is to get some speed - you need to have the canine breathing hard when you spray it.  Once you have speed, squeeze your bottle in the direction of the dog's face.  You are aiming for its eyes.  If you are lucky, you will nail the offender and it will cease its pursuit while it figures out what just happened.

That's what I did today and the pooch did stop and reassess its intentions.  Fortunately the road was mostly empty and while I didn't stray into the opposite lane, I did occupy the full lane.  There was a sympathetic driver coming my way who understood what just transpired.  It happened pretty fast, probably within 6 or 7 seconds.  I saw the beast, I accelerated, I pulled out my water bottle, I aimed and squirted water towards the beast, and I was safe.

For those who might wish to avoid the untamed brute, avoid slowing down at the intersection of Frost Street (Route 3A) and Lawndale Street in Tyngsborough, MA.

It's been a long time since I had a dog chase me.  The incident in the Olympic Peninsula was in 1989.  In 2000, I was riding in the southwest US when a dog gave chase.  Unfortunately for the dog and fortunately for me, there was a lane of traffic between us and the dog did not consider that the lane might be occupied when it crossed the lane.  It was.


An early morning ride, again ...

I was out of the house at 5AM on Saturday.  Sunrise was at 5:40 and I was well equipped with a good headlight, a flashing red light on my seat bag, and a reflector vest.  The bike trail was littered with bunnies at that hour.  I made it to the Maple Street bridge (in Carlisle) by 6AM and was back home after 33 miles by 7:15AM.

The Arlington Great Meadows at 5:30:


Maple Street bridge looking to the east.  A great blue heron lifted off from the open water in the foreground as I arrived.

There was a nice light looking to the west:














Bike Lanes

I commute only occasionally - it's pretty hard to arrange with two day care/pre-school drop-offs and pick-ups, as my wife can attest to.  But when I do, I am thankful for the bike lanes in Cambridge.  Streets are safer for me when they have bike lanes.  I watch for opening doors and tend to stay on the left side of the lane to avoid a dooring.  It is amusing to see the other cyclists in the lane and there can be a lot of them.  On Hampshire Street, there are often posses of bikes waiting for the lights and the lanes are often full at commuting hours.

Here are a few bikes coming to a stop at Hampshire and Portland Streets; the bike with the reflective triangle also had a drum set up in the cockpit - you never know what you might see:



Bike lanes are not always sacrosanct.  Here is a delivery truck occupying a good part of the bike lane at Hampshire and Columbia Streets:


Friday, August 3, 2012

Concord ride

Today was the first day I rode with my new headlight.  I was out early, before sunrise, and wanted to be legal and to be seen by drivers.  It worked well but it wasn't the best test - there was plenty of light by the time I was on Mass Ave.

It was a foggy day in places, at least over wet ground.  Here is McHugh Farm on Old Bedford Road in Concord, MA at 6AM:



Being a damp morning, and with heavy traffic on 128 (adding to the particulates in the air), that odd shadow from the fence on the bike path bridge over 128 was particularly visible:


Lincoln Ride

This ride is an old favorite that I rode last evening, which was cool and very pleasant after another series of damp days. The ride is short and hilly, at least for eastern Massachusetts. I take a long cut under 128 to avoid the 128 crossing on 2A and some of the busiest sections of 2A. I also take a long cut on Winter Street and Old Country Road to avoid a steep descent and bad roads on Trapelo Road approaching the Cambridge reservoir. The latter long cut also avoids the intersection of Trapelo and Old Country, which you would hit at 30mph+.

The ride.

Bike: IF Club Racer 2007