Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jingle Bell Ride

Two festive bikes from the ride:

I rode part of the 2012 Jingle Bell Ride out of Arlington this past weekend.  I rode with a couple of friends and two late additions: my two boys.  We never offered the ride to the younger boy because it conflicted with his nap schedule and we wanted to preserve that since we had afternoon plans following nap time.  We offered the ride to the older boy but he declined.  I was leaving with 30 minutes to spare for a 5 minute ride to the registration desk.  Both boys watched me leave.  I was a quarter mile down the street when I got the phone call - both boys really wanted to go and let my wife know that in no uncertain terms.  Wailing might describe their reaction to my leaving the house.  I headed back home and put on the bike seat for the big boy and unfolded and attached the bike trailer for the little boy.  These days the little boy is usually in a bike seat on one of our bikes but he didn't seem to mind the trailer.  My wife helped with getting the boys dressed and pumping air into the trailer tires but I was still late.  By the time we got to Jammin' Java, the registration table was closed up and the ride was about to start.  We just got in line and started out with everyone else.

The ride was fun.  Lots of people - 80 or so - and a few other trailers with children.  Everyone I talked with seemed to be in a social mood.  The pace was slow and we ended up waiting at lots of lights - I think we caught every light on Mass Ave between the bike path and Harvard Square.  The peloton was so slow in getting started that only part of the group could make it through a green light after we all waiting during the red light.  The route was imperfect: the Minuteman Path to Mass Ave in Cambridge then Mass Ave into Harvard Square.  The Mass Ave section was fine in the large group - no one could miss us but I wouldn't want to return that way with the big load of boys that I had with me.  We stopped for cookies in Harvard Square.  The little boy was happily napping by then but the big boy was starting to get cold so we headed home when the group was leaving for Boston.  We followed the rest of the riders to the river path but then headed back towards Arlington while the group went east.  There wasn't much traffic so crossing Memorial Drive with two children and a trailer in tow wasn't at all scary.  We took Mt Auburn going west then cut across to Huron Village and Huron Avenue and then got on the bike path around Fresh Pond.  From there we took sidewalks to Alewife and then the bike path into Arlington center.

The most interesting part of the ride was seeing/hearing Luke wondering where we were.  He is very spatially aware, like his dad, and tells us when he recognizes places that we've been before and recounts what we were doing (bike rides vs driving vs running).  He was definitely lost on the way from Memorial Drive to Alewife.  He let me know that he was never in the those places and he was generally right.

With that ride, I have now been out for at least one ride in 10 of the months in 2012 (I didn't get out in February or March, not that it wasn't possible given our mild winter).  I had boys with me in both the January and December rides.  And I have actually topped 2200 miles (2202 to be exact) rather than just rounding up to 2200 as reported in a previous post.

Monday, December 3, 2012

How the year went

Life has been busier and busier with the two boys so while I hoped to ride a lot this year, I couldn't really expect to do.  The year started out slow and I didn't really start riding until the younger child could sleep late.  He started to do so and I started to do ride when he did.  That sleeping late was 7AM and that started right after the summer solstice.  That meant I could leave for a 25 mile ride after sunrise and still get home before the little guy woke up.  I started almost all of my rides by 5, even after the sun failed me (I started riding with lights, reflector vest, and a lot of caution).  I continued this pattern late into the fall and this is what my year looked like, by miles:

500 miles (590, really) before July 1
500+ miles in July
500+ miles in August
500+ miles in September and October
and 50+ miles in November and December

Everything after July 1st would not have been record breaking for me but would have been a very decent year.  Still, 2200 miles was beyond an optimistic goal for me.  I also ran 350+ miles, most of that in the first 4 months of the year, and had a reasonably good finish time in the Feaster Five run on Thanksgiving (8 minute miles), even though I didn't put on more than 50 miles since May.  I also used our trainer in the basement for about 20 hours in the late winter and early spring.  I didn't start until February this year and already started back on it for the winter.  Not that I am abandoning running; I ran 6 miles this morning.  I'm hoping to keep up both cycle training and running all winter and maybe, just maybe I will get some skiing in this winter.  I was invited on a half marathon ski race this winter and I'd do it if I get a trip or two in before then ...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Riding the Battle Road and Reformatory Branch Line

Last Sunday I had a chance for a short ride.  The day was cold and my original intention was to ride to Londonderry, NH but the morning temperature of 37F was a bit too much  I would need booties for an extended ride and maybe more clothes than I could comfortably ride in for 3-4 hours).  Since I couldn't go far and my IF is in the garage for repairs - it needs a new chain - I took the Surly.  Since I had wider tires (700x32), I tried a dirt path that I have been curious about, the Reformatory Branch Trail (search the page for it).  This path goes from Bedford, west of the bike path, to Concord center.  I didn't have time for the whole ride and left the trail near the Concord waste water plant.  I returned on Battle Road (mostly crushed stone surface) to Mass Ave and then the bike path.  The ride looked like this.  In the end it was a very cold day for a ride and had I been thinking I would have run out in Estabrook Woods.  It is the best time of year for running in the woods.

And like all rides at this time of the year, it could be my last ride of the season.  I have about 2200 miles on my bikes this season, which is pretty good for how constrained my time can be.

The entrance to the Reformatory Branch Trail in Bedford:

The only impediment on the trail was this recently downed tree, which you could carry bikes over, with care:

 The path was reasonably smooth.  It was never all that far from houses and Route 62:

 On the north side of Route 62, you pass the Great Meadows NWR:

 There is an observation tower in the parking lot that gives a great overlook:

On the return on Battle Road there were a couple of boardwalks that you have to dismount for.  One of them was quite long.  The fall from them were significant so I gather that the NWS was just being cautious:

View from Battle Road.  Unfamiliar, although I have passed close to this spot many times:

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Last ride of the season, again

It seems that every ride is the last ride of the season, or could be.  The weather is certainly colder and the days are shorter.  Once the roads are salted then I am off my bike.  I already have the basement spinning setup in place and did a session last night.  I did get out on the 12th (Veterans Day day off).  The day was very warm.  I was about to go in the basement to spin and my wife wondered why I didn't get outside.   I took her advice and rode out towards Lincoln on Mass Ave then Battle Road towards Concord.  The road was iffy for a road bike before the Old Mass Ave/2A intersection but west of there it was crushed stone.  I had my Surly, which handles much rougher roads than anything on that stretch.  It was nice to be outside and riding in shorts and in the woods for a couple of miles.  The ride was only 15 miles but it was much nicer than spinning in the basement.  I did get out running recently, 22 miles in the last week.  I now have run more miles in November than I rode in November.

On Battle Road before heading back to town on Mill Street (to the 128 underpass):

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Foggy morning

Last Saturday I went for one of my last rides of the season.  I left late, around 5:30AM, so I would have enough battery power for the ride.  It was short, 34 miles, and took me to Concord, Carlisle, and home by way of Maple Street in Carlisle to the bike path.  I had energy for a lot more riding but no time.

The ride was more difficult in some ways that I thought it might be.  There was definitely humidity in the air when I left but it really wasn't foggy.  Heading down 2A towards Concord, it turned foggy then really foggy.  There weren't many cars on the road and I turned to let the ones I did see know I was there (my very bright light was mounted on my helmet) so I didn't feel unsafe.  The worse conditions were at the low point on 2A just east of the intersection with Lexington Road but got much better by Concord center.  The fog conditions never got quite as bad as that stretch during the rest of the ride but it was never what you could call clear either.  I stopped to snap a picture from the Maple Street bridge.  A few minutes later a small peloton (about 12 people) came towards me in the opposite direction.  There were well lit like I was and quite visible, making me think I wasn't quite so dumb for being out there in the foggy conditions.  It turned into a very nice day after the ride.

Fog from the Maple Street bridge, a couple of minutes before I saw the peloton:

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Leaves are turning fast

Fall is coming faster, especially out of town.  In town the leaves are still mostly green but out of town it is past peak.  I took a long ride out of town this morning to check out the leaves.

It was an early morning ride - I was out of the house by 5:30 - and I looked for the Leonid meteor shower.  I stopped in dark spots a few times and looked towards Leo but didn't see anything.

The ride was cold but not too cold.  I was well dressed for the coldest parts of the day but was never too warm - I never broke a sweat.

I was amused when crossing Rte 2 at 126.  There was a large group of riders waiting for their light, most of them patiently.  Suddenly have of them took off, blowing off the red light.  One of the patient riders yelled out, "DUDE!", clearly exasperated at his fellow riders' respect for the law.  The light changed in a couple of seconds and they all made it across, as far as I could see.

Sunrise on Pope Road in Acton:

Farmland off of Baker Bridge Road in Concord:

Fall greens on farmland off of Baker Bridge Road in Concord:

The other pond in Concord, near Walden Pond:

Near the pond:

Giant spider at Wilson's Farm in Lexington, part of the Halloween hayride:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Early morning, wet roads

This is what it looks like:

The worst aspect of riding in these conditions in the fall are the wet leaves.  It makes for a very slow ride in the dark.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Next western Massachusetts ride

I have done all of these roads, except for the climb out of the Deerfield River valley to Rowe, Massachusetts.  The descent from Hawley to the Deerfield River can be difficult. The river road north of Rte 2 is only slightly uphill and you pass the east portal of the Hoosac Tunnel.  The road from Monroe crosses the river just downstream from the site of the old Rowe Yankee nuclear plant, which my father helped build.  I can't say that the road above it heading to Rowe is not gravel but I'm willing to try it.  The descent to the Deerfield River on Bardwell Ferry Road is great and the bridge at the ferry is one of my favorite bridges around.  The distance is a bit long but with an early start it should be very possible at this time of the year.

The route.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cooler weather ... all of the time

It seems that there are fewer and fewer nice days to ride - days with sunshine and warm temperatures and no wind.  Yesterday had one element in my favor, sunshine.  It was cool throughout my ride, the max temperature was under 50F.  And the wind, for much of my ride, was 10mph in my face.  Still, it was nice to get outside and move as quickly as I could.  My ride was closely timed.  I needed to get back at a specific time and I did.

The ride was nothing special - out Mass Ave to Rte 2A to Lexington Street into Concord center.  Then Lowell Road to Church St to 225 to Bedford and the bike path.  Mass Ave is difficult on road tires for a stretch in Arlington because of road construction so I used the bike path as a bypass.  31 miles.

That's over 2000 miles for the year.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fall ride

I rode 34 miles this morning, out to Carlisle and Bedford, leaving around 6AM and getting back after 8:30.  It was not a fast ride, like any ride starting out in the dark, and I stopped for a couple of bars along the way. It was the coldest morning yet and I was bundled up.  Weather Underground lists the temperature at 41F at sunrise and that seems about right to me.

Sun rise, looking north on Concord River from Route 225:

 And looking south:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Water Row, plus a few miles more

I did my second longest ride of the year, 58 miles, today, which I took off from work.  It is nice to have vacation time.  The loop included my usual run up through Great Brook Farm Park, stopping by the old cranberry bogs, then down to Concord and then south of Concord to Water Row and Glazen Lane down to Weston.  It was the first time in a few years that I rode Water Row and down into Weston, which I did commonly back when I lived closer to Boston (and often rode into Cambridge by way of Beacon Street in Brookline).  Water Row remains a lovely road and worth the mile on Route 27.

I'm closing in on 2000 miles for the year.

The old cranberry bogs just west of Great Brook Farm Park on Curve Street - a lot of people walk out there:

 A wetland on the north end of Water Row.  There is a great blue heron somewhere in this picture:

Along Water Row:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Get out of the rain

This is a prototype of a rigid, popup rain cover that a couple of people are working on.  Not bad for part of a day's work.  A future version will have a clear cover. They would have fenders on this bike if it had eyelets but this bike works for testing.

That people are thinking about extending the use of bicycles is great.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Where's the light?

This year has been a pretty good cycling year, mostly because my 2 year old finally started to sleep late. So in the weeks before the summer solstice, I started to get out for early morning rides, leaving as early as 5AM, just before sunrise, to enjoy a ride before everyone else woke up.  I developed a decent routine that didn't much interfere with the rest of my family and gave me sufficient time on the saddle to get in what I think is good shape.  I was riding 120 miles per week through July and August and almost all of those miles were before 8AM.  But in late July a funny thing happened - those early morning rides started to become impossible, unless I had a light.  So I found one, a Nite Rider, that seemed to work for me.  It has one flaw, which is not fatal - it shuts off your wireless bike computer, a known issue.  That is easily resolved by moving the light either to your helmet or to the left side of your handlebars (my computer is set to the right of my stem) .   So I continued riding, often starting rides in the dark and riding as much as 25 miles before sunrise.

Why morning versus evening rides?  There is so much less traffic at 5AM than at 8 or 9PM.  I have been out to Concord by 6AM and fewer than 15 cars passed me in the 12 or so miles on my route.  And those drivers are much less likely to have an after-work-drink in them.  And it fits my schedule.  I have been doing early morning runs and rides for years and my body seems to have no trouble getting out that early for exercise.

It is a fairly odd experience riding in the dark.  On dark roads your vision is restricted to the illuminated oval from your light.  You can look up at the moon in the sky but if you do you might miss the bump in the road, or an animal that is crossing your path, or veer off the road and any of those would mean trouble.  It still is a fun and interesting experience although riding fast is really not all that possible, except on well lit streets.  I did ride over into Lexington for a 15 miler that I did at 17mph, which might not seem fast during the day but it does seem fast at night.  I also did an early morning ride on the bike path in a light rain at 12mph and that seemed fast enough for me.  So you do get a workout but not like you might on a morning in early July.  And on longer rides you experience sunrise and that is never a bad thing.

Might animals cross your path?  It happened this morning, for the first time.  I have seen a million rabbits, some raccoon,  and other smaller creatures, including domestic cats.  They were very aware of me and stayed out of my way and I gave them room.  But today my top tube was hit by something that I saw cross the path from my right in Bedford.  I felt it hit the bike but it did seem to have any heft to it.  It seemed like a shadow, it was so small and was not directly lit by my front light, but I am guessing it was a bird.  I stopped to look for it but saw nothing so I am assuming that it survived.

Besides the light, or lack thereof, there is also the issue with temperature in the early morning.  As the season gets on, morning rides might mean temperatures in the mid 40s, which is close to my limit for a lengthy ride.  I have done rides this fall that I really need a shower after but not because I had been sweating but because I am chilled and need a very hot shower to warm up.  It  is getting late in my cycling season and while there might be a large number of good cycling days left, I might be working or otherwise busy and miss most of theme.  I have plans for at least one ride in Western Massachusetts late this month but that is highly weather dependent: rain cancels and temps below 40 degrees (in the hills) cancels.  So I will continue to  try to get out early as long as I can manage it and try to be ready for those one or two long rides that I have time for.

My bike in Bedford.  I had my light on my helmet today, which is on my rear rack with the light still on.  You can also see the red glow from my flashing rear red light, and reflective sidewalls on my Panaracer tires. I was also wearing a reflector vest and have reflective material on my cycling shows.  I think I am well lit:

For me the most beautiful part of the day is just before sunrise and just after sunset.  You can't see it in this picture but the clouds were a brilliant orange this morning:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sunday mornings, riding in the dark

I have had the time to take an early (5:15AM) Sunday morning ride the last couple of Sundays.  The routes were similar and looked something like this.  I would have liked to get out longer but rides that early (in the dark) are slow, even with the best headlight, and I just don't have that much time to go that much past sunrise.  I had a few other rides, including two early morning trips out to Concord and Bedford, both entirely before sunrise.  I also rode into work one morning, my only recent ride that did not include riding with a headlight for at least part of the ride.

That brings me close to 1900 miles for the year.  My goal for the year was 2000 miles but it seemed unreasonable for much of the year.  But given good health and good weather, I should get that last 100 miles before the roads are salted.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Descending hills on a bicycle: how fast is too fast?

If you haven't figured it out already, let me tell you: cycling is an inherently dangerous activity, as are a number of other activities like skiing, driving, and rock climbing.  In any of these activities, and hundreds of others, your goal is to minimize risk.  With cycling, you ride defensively, maintain your bike, and assess road conditions before you get there by bicycle (and continue with an abundance of caution if you don't know exactly what you will find).  If you can't see around the bend in the road, then you should approach that bend with caution.  And that bend might be sandy, so slow down before you get there.  I could go on.

Given the above, some of us still love to ride hills, for both the challenge of the ascent and the thrill of the descent.  I would call myself someone who loves to ride hills and have managed to do quite a number of significant hill rides over the years.  I have found that I have maximum speed on hills: 50 MPH.  I don't go that fast on every hill and I will never pedal madly to achieve a high speed on a downhill.  And I don't think that speed is safe - a tire blowout could be impossible to handle safely.  Now that I am bit older and have children, I am more risk averse and I may not hit 50 MPH again, or even 40MPH.

But speed alone doesn't tell you the risk of a crash.  My maximum speed depends on traffic, road conditions, how straight the road is, how tight the turns are, how wet the road is, and how mortal I am feeling.  I realize that racers exceed my maximum speed and do it in races with other riders in close proximity but I am not a racer.  Riding is my pleasure not my business.  I will try to give a hint of how I might assess a road and how fast I may ride by way of a few examples.  Links are to either maps.google.com or gmap-pedometer.com, which is handy for looking a elevation profiles.

I did this ride in the summer of 2001 on my 1997 Lemond Alpe d'Huez.  There were two significant climbs and descents on this ride, Franconia Notch and Kinsman Notch and the descents could not have felt more different.  The descent of Franconia Notch north into the town of Franconia was harrowing between miles 12 and 13, a very steep pitch on a narrow section of road with significant curves, and there was traffic on the road.  I was holding on with white knuckles.  The road was in rough shape at the time and I braked at 45 MPH trying to slow myself down - I checked my max speed after the descent; I didn't have the leisure to check the computer in those conditions.  It was one of the scariest descents I have experienced.  Now look at the descent of the east side of Kinsman Notch, around 34.5 miles into the ride.  The road was wide, freshly paved, more or less straight, had a wide shoulder, and was empty.  I started the descent and quickly accelerated but felt that I wasn't going all that fast.  I took a quick look at my computer and saw that my current speed was 48 MPH.  I was amazed.  I went from terrified at 45MPH to completely relaxed at 48 MPH.  The primary difference is that one road was in bad shape, had traffic, and had a significant turn and the other road was in great shape and empty.  In retrospect, if I would have braked much earlier on the descent into Franconia I would have been far happier.  High speed didn't prove anything and in that case it could have been my undoing.  Here is the Google Street view of Kinsman Notch looking at the top of the descent.

I did a descent similar to the east side of Kinsman on the 2009 100K D2R2 on my 2009 Surly Cross with 700x32 tires.  The descent into Colrain is about a mile long and loses about 450 feet of elevation.  The road had curves but were quite gradual, the road surface was smooth, there was a decent shoulder, and the cars were few and their drivers were very polite.  I watched my computer on this descent as my speed increased from 30 to 35 to 40 to 45 to 50 MPH.  It was a slow acceleration but the road was long enough for me to attain my highest speed I achieved on  a bicycle.  The handling of the Surly, with its reasonably long wheelbase and the wide tires made the descent remarkably safe feeling.  There were several other cyclist on the road with me but we were well spaced for a safe descent.  I might be tempted to let go on that road again, given good conditions.

I did a cool ride in northwest Massachusetts in the summer of 2001, again on my 1997 Lemond Alpe d'Huez.  The ride starts in Ashfield, MA, where some friends of mine live, and traverses some hilly, beautiful, and mostly empty country.  The significant descent is from Hawley to Charlemont on East Hawley Road.  There is a hairpin turn about 2.5 miles into the descent.  The road turns sharply left and straight ahead is a gravel driveway.  The turn comes suddenly and a bike with 23 or 25mm tires would likely not survive the driveway at high speeds.  When I tried to signal the upcoming turn to my riding partner, I didn't brake and increased my speed to the 40+ MPH range.  I slowed to a stop rather than trying to make the turn, which would have been next to impossible.  The next turn, to the right a little over 3 miles into the descent, is quite difficult as well.  Again, I signaled the upcoming turn to my companion and gained speed.  The turn at approximately 45 MPH was difficult physically.  The momentum of my bike was overpowering my ability to turn and avoid running off the road.  With some braking I was able to make the turn.  I did this descent one time earlier, on my own, and did not find it quite so scary.  Signaling was my main problem on this ride.  At 40+ MPH you travel pretty far in 4 or 5 seconds - close to 300 feet, that's 300 feet closer to a hard turn you have to make.  Having good maps and having a plan before a descent is the best idea to avoid this.

Winds issues can influence your stability on a bike, especially on a descent.  On this ride, on my 2007 Independent Fabrication Club Racer, the descent to the Deerfield River valley on Route 9, west of Wilmington, VT is not overwhelmingly fast but is considerable, about 700 feet in 1.5 miles. What stood out at the time was trying to stabilize my bike at the top of the descent in a strong wind.  I did what I should have been doing earlier, clamping my seat with my thighs and my top tube with my knees, with my body back a couple of inches from my usual riding position.  Once locked in, my ride stabilized and I was off enjoying the ride downhill.  At the time I attributed the instability to the bike design, which was described by the designer as a refined stage racer, responding easily to body movement.  The usual Club Racer design was shortened a bit while retaining room for 700x25 tires with fenders and 700x28 tires without.  I thought the shorter design was the root cause of this which was a bummer.  I have not noticed this since and I now think the wind was indeed the culprit.

Some other notable descents:

Hurricane Mountain Road in North Conway, NH - winding, steep, you will use your brakes!
Route 143 east of Worthington, MA - the curve at mile 1 is intense at high speeds, use caution here.
Obstruction Point Road to Hurricane Ridge to Port Angeles, WA - I rode up to Obstruction Point from the campground (at around 1800 feet) and back on one day and did the last of the descent with my panniers on the second day.
Monarch Pass heading east on US 50 - not that big a drop (1000 feet in 3 miles) but I did it after sunset on a fully loaded touring bike.

Don't take my word on what your maximum speed should be.  You should be doing what is comfortable at the time, based on the road conditions, wind, and the rest of what I described.  There is no winning on hills, only enjoyment of the climb and the descent.  Who cares if you don't set a new land speed record on your way down?  Survival in one piece is my goal.  And now that I have kids and am finally growing up, my speed is likely to be less than what I talked about here.  YMMV.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Western Massachusetts Hill Ride

This ride is perhaps one of the more difficult rides I have taken someone on (my brother, in this case). We did this in June 2001. At the time I described it as a 3 bar (energy bars) ride. The ride has a hazardous descent from Hawley to Route 2 followed by a river run (slightly uphill) to the east portal of the Hoosac Tunnel. We watched a train enter from the east. The rest of the ride is rolling to flat (except you gain over 900 feet of elevation by the time you make the turn just past Pelham Lake) until the a steep uphill ride and then descent to Bardwell Ferry (check out the bridge - the pictures on the links at the end of the article show how pretty this bridge really is). The ascent from the river isn't hard but it's long at the end of the day. The rest of the ride seemed unrelenting at the time. We we lucky to have a great bbq ready for us at the end of the day. I have done many of these roads on many occasions but I never replayed this route exactly as shown here.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Three seats, two handlebars, one of which steers the bike (The rear handlebar).  I'd love to see this bike in action.  Made by WorkCycles.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Two Bridges

I was lucky this morning and had the chance to get out for a 50 mile ride, if I left the house around 5:15AM, which I did.  Here is the route.  My routes have gotten stale this year, mostly because of time constraints, usually heading north and west of Concord.  I rode south of Concord and Route 2 past the DeCordova Museum last week.  This week I stretched it further south by heading past Verrill Farm and then past the golf course towards Sudbury.  I would have liked to ride Water Row but I was already short of time so saved that for another day.

The ride brought my total mileage for the year to 1740.  That is over double the 850 miles I rode last year when the 1 year old was not sleeping late and life was far busier than this year.

The ride brought me to the bridge on Maple St. in Carlisle by 6:15AM, just before sunrise:

I road south to Concord then south and then west by the Lincoln-Sudbury High School and on to Sherman Bridge Road:

I made my way back through Lincoln and to Lexington for a quick shot of expresso at RSC.  Fortunately the place was empty and my expresso came fast and was delicious.  I raced home and came back in quite warm.  My wife was surprised, thinking that the day was cool (windows were open and it felt humid inside to me). It was, in fact, quite warm even at 5:15AM.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Labor Day weekend rides

We tried a Cape camping trip over Labor Day weekend, leaving Thursday with friends and family joining us on Friday.  The older boy was sick so we bailed on Saturday morning.  Before he got sick, we did get out for a ride for coffee and wading in the water, and checking out the CG 36500, before heading back to the campground.  The younger boy fell asleep on the way so I did a moving, non carbon nap in the bike seat, riding to East Harwich and back.  The little guy woke up a mile from the tent.  Most of the ride was on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, which was busy in places.

At home on Monday I did this ride.  It was 46 miles from my house and while I wasn't fast, it was a refreshing ride and was finished by 9:15AM, which was a bit late for my family.

I rode 14 miles this morning at 16.5mph before 6AM.  Full lighting was required.  Sunrise was at 6:15 today.

The bikes parked at Rock Harbor, Orleans:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A honey Honey commuter

Sort of a perfect commuter - 8 speed internal gear hub, disk brakes, rack (with panniers) and fenders.  I see this bike on the roads a lot, either while driving or riding into work.  I'd like to be bicycle commuting as much as this guy does.

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

ANT Truss Commuter

I spotted this ANT Truss commuter the other day.  It looks well used but cared for.

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

Sunday, July 29, 2012

More vacation riding

Besides the Rock Harbor ride, I did a few other rides on the Cape and at home:

A short ride to Chatham Light to see the ocean at 6AM:

I rode 24 miles with Matt, my young cousin (by marriage) and his dad, Uncle Paul.

And a 22 mile ride with my wife and the boys.  We passed the bike path rotary:

Stopped at the airport to check out the planes and their unusual weather forecaster:

And checked out this old canvas fish spotter plane, now in use as a shark spotter by Cape Cod Shark Hunters:

We also stopped at the new-ish Chatham playground, adjacent to the Anglers' field.

At home, on Sunday, I rode out towards Concord, turning around 9 miles into the ride when it started to rain.  I started the ride at 5:30 and while the sun had officially risen, it was still pretty dark out.  I now have a rechargeable Night Rider light so I will feel better about these early morning rides.  Not sure if it will go on my IF or my Surly.

All of these rides were on my Surly.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Good day to drive

Torrential rains, damaging winds, lightning and haul - a good day to have driven to work.

Monday, July 16, 2012


This morning I rode 18 miles on a single speed titanium bike on the bike path from Arlington Center to Bedford and back.  I was in the house by 6:35.  The bike is the demo Seven Cafe Racer single speed you can see at Ride Studio Cafe.  The ride is as smooth as the advertising tells you it will be - silky smooth.  I had the 700x23 Ultrema tires inflated to 100psi, which helped but the frame material and geometry helped much more. What a nice ride!

It is not my bike so that is the end of that but it was to quite fun ride it!

The bike, back at its home:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hot summer weekend rides

Two weekend rides, both very early - back by 8:30 on Saturday and 7:30 on Sunday:

Saturday - I decided to check the radar with only 10% chance of rain but it was headed towards where I intended to ride at 5AM.  I waited for 30 minutes to see that it was passing just south but, just in case, I rode the Surly and carried a pannier with a gortex jacket.  This is the route.

I did a shorter but fun ride on Sunday morning, leaving the house about 5:45.  I hadn't been on Monument Road in Concord in some time and it was beautiful at 6:30: