Monday, December 30, 2013

It was a very good year

My cycling year is done.  Except for a December commute, I've been mostly running and just starting to use a trainer in the basement.  But it was a very good year.  I had no specific goals but hoped to come close to the 2200 miles I rode last year.  I ended up riding over 2800 miles, which is the second highest mileage I have recorded.  There was that year that I rode 2000 miles to Cape Breton and back and commuted by bicycle (an 16 mile round trip) for several months before the tour but that was long before I was aware of convenient bicycle computers and can't be sure of how far I rode.

It was a great year of cycling.  It was fueled in part by training for the Ride Studio Cafe's Highpoint Ride, an out and back (from 4 starting places) to the highest point in Massachusetts, Mount Greylock.  The ride turned out to be a blast.

My road bike:

But the year started out well after I went out and bought a better lighting system for my bike: a Busch and Muller IQ CYO 60 lux headlight and Spanniga Pixeo taillight, all powered by a Shimano 3N80 dynamo hub on a wheel built up by Harris Cyclery.  It gave me the chance to do a number of night rides and leave for morning rides well before sunrise, something that grew difficult last year with a battery powered light.  All of those early and late rides gave me a nice base to start to do longer rides.  I think the optimal ride is 50-60 miles and I managed 15 rides of at least 50 miles this year.  I think the average mileage for a ride on my IF was 45 miles.

The lights also came in handy for commutes.  With all of the bicycle/motor vehicle crashes, I wanted every chance to be seen.  I had my lights on for most commutes, even at 8:30 on a sunny mid summer day.  And I felt safer.  In fact, I am now setting up my IF for generator lights.  For now I will use the one wheel but it makes sense to not move lights between bikes.

A friend's wheel after contact with a concrete barrier, after being cut off with a right hook:

Some of my more memorable rides this year were off road.  These include Ride Studio Cafe's Diverged Ride, of which I did about half, along with some commuting to and from the ride.  It was my first organized ride off road and it was fun but I don't have the best bike for it, although a new set of tires would go a long way if I wanted to do more riding like that.  I had the chance to test ride Lovely Bike's Rawland and wrote about the experience.  I also did the mini-D2R2, the Green River Ride, with several friends.  The  ride was a lot of fun but it is nothing like the hillier D2R2 routes.  I did the 2009 version of the 100K and this ride was far easier.  I finally explored Thorton Gap by bicycle.  The gap and Tripoli Road have been on my radar for years.  And, finally, I did a 30 miler out to Concord and back that included 12 miles of trails of various surfaces.  It was great fun and served as my coffeeneuring training.

Experiencing how dirty a bike can get:

I did try to complete MG's coffeeneuring challenged but failed to get out of the house enough.  Nevertheless, it was great fun trying and by virtue of the maps I made, MG made me the New England Regional Office for the challenge.  Working with MG to make the maps was almost as much fun as the riding.

I have no specific goals for next year.  I'd like to ride as much as this year but that is highly dependent on scheduling that I don't always control.  The D2R2 was fun and at least a couple of my companions are interested in doing the Green River Ride again so I may do it again.  Ride Studio Cafe may do a similar ride to the Highpoint Ride.  I'd like to do it if possible.  They planned and executed a great ride this year.  Other than that, I'd like to commute more, even if just getting to the train by bike during the winter.  I'm also interested in doing more 50-80 mile rides in western Massachusetts.  I have done a lot of riding out there and have no shortage of ideas for routes.  Hopefully I will find time to ride a few of them.

Lights on for safety:


Monday, December 16, 2013

Ice covered and slippery

I've been running some since the 5 miler I ran on Thanksgiving.  It's fun to get back into it, even if it means getting out of bed at 4:30.  I'm not my usual regular self (six mile runs, four to five days a week before children) but I am developing a habit.  That said, I seem to be checking out the cycling conditions while running.  Today looked like a studded snow tire kind of day.  Sidewalks were treacherous (sort of, but only if you weren't careful) and the bike path was snow covered and slippery. A local rider agreed about the proper tires:
That's not what is keeping me off my bike, however.  It's the sloppiness of the roads - salt ready to corrode my frame and all of my components.  So I'm looking for a cheap bike to get me to the T.  I'll use battery powered lighting since my commute would be largely bike path, and short enough to walk home if the lights failed me (read: I may forgot to charge them).  My wife offered her ancient Miyata, which sees very little use these day.  But even with that bike, I need clean roads and paths unless I get more appropriate tires.  The temperature is fine for me, if I dress well.

In other news, I've been working very slowly on getting my Independent Fabrication road bike ready for next year.  I've been thinking of two things, longer rides in changing conditions and lighting.  For the latter, I now have an identical headlight (Busch and Muller Lumotec IQ CYO 60 lux) on both bikes and have a Busch and Muller Secula Plus ready to mount on the IF.  The front fender is currently off the bike, since the longer break bolt (through the fork) to accommodate the headlight mount is too wide to fit the daruma.  So I now have an L bracket that I need to mount.  I also have a new set of leather washers, which I will replace all around (3 years seems to be their lifetime).  I also will finally cut the fender stays, which weren't cut by the folks who originally mounted them (and I had to remount them to lift them off the fork, where they were grinding into the paint - ouch!).  Once all of this done I have to decide on how to power these lights.  At a minimum, I will be moving the Shimano E80N/Mavic Open Pro wheel from my Surly to the IF when I want lighting for that bike.  A second, more expensive option is move that wheel permanently to the IF and buy this slightly less expensive wheel from Harris.  For more money I could add the same 3N80/Open Pro wheel to the IF.  For even more money, I could have a Schmidt SON hub laced to a Mavic Open Pro rim.  That would best match the IF.  I would get it in black to sort of match the DT Swiss 240s hubs on the bike.  It would also be lighter and more efficient than the Shimano hub.  The goal here is safety.  With the rash of cars hitting bikes, I'd like anything to help the cars notice me.  I've been very happy using daytime running lights on Surly on my commutes into the city, with the sun shining or not.

Working on the front fenders stays is for aesthetics but the rear is so I could accommodate a rack, like this Tubus Fly.  Alternatively, I've also been thinking of a very large (in my experience, small in the maker's words) seat bag like this one from Dill Pickle.  Both would extend the kinds of days I could ride a longer distance.  We aren't talking 200KM rides but 60-70 miles in the Berkshires on a cooler day that would require more clothes at the start of the ride.  All of this is in the future but it's best to do it now, not a few days before I have the opportunity to ride some big hills next spring.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Late fall commuting

Once Daylight Saving Time ends in the fall, commuting gets dicey, at least in my family.  My wife is not a fan of me riding at night, which is reasonable considering car traffic around here.  I'm more apt to do a recreational ride at night in very low or no traffic areas than ride through Cambridge during the dark, evening commuting hours.  But there are days, like today, when riding is worth it, even if it means getting home in the dark.  Today I had an early obligation that would have conflicted with day care drop off, if I were driving.  So I rode.  And I was on time.  In fact I was just ahead of the person I would be working with while riding in on the Beacon/Hampshire Highway, unbeknownst to both of us.  I finished the ride at close to 13 mph, which is a commuting record for me. So riding in the morning was just fine and it saved the day for me at work.

The ride home, however, was a completely different story.  I left a bit early but with the light drizzle it was already pretty dark and the roads were starting to get wet.  I had all my lights on and wore my reflector vest and my tires have reflective sidewalls.  It was a safe ride home but only because I was cautious to a fault - it must have taken me close to an hour to ride 9 miles, with stops for lights included.  I also adjusted the route to avoid a stretch in the woods.  I normally ride it in the dark but I thought it would be too slick with the day's precipitation so I saw more cars than I normally see later in my ride.  I made it home safe and sound.  My average speed dropped to less than 11 mph but that is a decent average for commuting.

Miles for the year: over 2800.  I now have rode in all months except for January.  And I have run more miles in December than I rode (17 vs 15).

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

People driving cars hating people riding bikes

On my (driving) commute home today I witnessed two related incidents that illustrate some of the feelings that people who drive cars have about people who ride bicycles.  I am purposely avoiding "drivers" and "cyclists" since both are people, right?

The first one: I was driving down Shepard Street, which is one way in the direction I was traveling, from Mass Ave to Garden Street in Cambridge.  It was long after sunset.  There was a tight squeeze with a car (the one in front of me) before Avon Street and it was tighter in part because there was a person (often called a ninja in this circumstance) on a bicycle riding the wrong way.  He was unlit and had no apparent reflectors and was wearing all very dark clothing, which is why I might refer to him as a ninja, as some people commonly do.  There were words exchanged as the person riding the bike passed the car.  I heard something like "shove it" from this person riding the bike without lights.  If someone was at fault, it was certainly the person on the bike but no damage was caused to the car and both could have safely passed without pause if the person driving the car would have chosen to do so.  I was annoyed at the person riding the bike, if only because his actions seem to cause many people driving cars to be annoyed at all people riding bikes, assuming, incorrectly, that none of us follow rules.

The second one: the same car is involved, of course.  This occurred on Garden Street before the Huron Avenue intersection, still in Cambridge and less than 1/2 mile from the first incident.  The person driving that car saw a person riding a bicycle in his* rear view mirror.  The person riding the bike had decent lights (and reflectors) so she was obvious to him if he was paying any attention to his surroundings.  Once he saw the person riding the bike, he moved to the right, eventually keeping her from passing the stopped cars, starting with his own, on the right, with less than a foot between his car and the curb, leaving a lot of room on his left.  This happened over a couple of blocks and I was still right behind the car in question so I could have shouted to the person in the car, if his window was open.  I talked briefly with the person riding the bike, who had no appetite for confrontation, which is about where I would be in a similar situation.  She did say that she heard "get out of my way" far too many times when she was riding in bike lanes in Cambridge.  I haven't heard that myself but I can believe it, even before seeing the way the person driving the car was behaving.  I turned off in the next couple of blocks so I didn't see what happened after this but I suspect the person on the bike had a very slow commute home today.

So, there is this person driving a car out there being purposefully mean to a person on a bike because he saw someone misbehaving while riding a bike (and worthy of a ticket, which he would have earned if any police happened to be there).  The second person riding the bike, who was behaving in a way that couldn't be considered unlawful by any stretch of imagination was the victim of minor road rage.  Perhaps hate is too strong a word.  Perhaps minor road rage is too strong.  But it certainly wasn't nice and was intentional.  Should I have reported this?

* I believe it was a man driving the car, based on what I could see in the driver's side and review mirrors, but I can't be sure.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Making a coffeeneuring map

So how did we make that coffeeneuring map?

It was simple - we used Google Fusion Tables.  These tables are geographically enabled by default and can be shared easily.  I made a table with specified columns (this one is for the cities map):

and then configured how the data would be displayed on the map.  Locations that can be displayed in a Fusion Table are the same as those that can be found in Google Maps.  For instance, try searching Google Maps for "Harvard Yard" or "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC" or "Boulder, CO".  Something like "the starbucks in Lexington, MA" works but only if there is sufficient information and a single point is returned (there are two Starbucks in Lexington) and the location exists in Google's files - which are a nearly comprehensive set of businesses that Google's vendor supplies to them. These can be considered as complete addresses and are stored in a single field in the fusion table, with one or more Coffeeneurs' blogs associated with the location.  In our case we are only using cities (city+state+country or city+country) as the locations.

Then I added the maps to a blog post with code that Google Fusion Tables generates for you automatically (this example is also for the cities map):

I changed the symbology for the states map, so you can distinguish between states with few and many coffeeneurs:

Then I shared the editing rights to the two tables to MG, the person running the challenge.  She enters the data, which is added to the already published map.

The entire process was very quick.  I changed the schema (which columns we used) in the cities map in mid stream but that took less than half an hour, including copying a lot of data.  The original work may have taken an hour at most.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Coffeeneuring failure

First, I must thank Mary from for running this challenge.  It was a lot of fun, even if I didn't make it to the finals - but I was close.  We all need extra encouragement to ride at this time of the year and I need extra encouragement to get on my bike to do the errands that I can do without a car.  Second, I appreciate Mary's trust in me to get the digital version of the Coffeeneuring map online and run the regional office.  We have never met or talked on the phone but managed to get a map that I set up, am hosting on my blog, but having data that is maintained by Mary.  This is one of the ways that the net makes things happen that otherwise couldn't happen and it is fun to be a part of it.


This could be a story of woe but it is not.  Instead, it is a story of triumph, and fun.  The goal was simple - 7 trips for coffee by bicycle  with what some would consider arcane rules put in there to remind us that this challenge was rooted in the world of randonneuring, which is chock full of arcane rules, if you ask me.  But you aren't asking me so I'll be quiet now.

The failure culminated in one day, the last day of the challenge.  I had one last trip to do and I couldn't do it.  The day started out with a challenge of a different sort - raking the yard yet again.  I packed a full 20 bags of leaves last week yet the yard was looking like I had neglected it all fall.  I raked while my wife planted a hundred bulbs for us to enjoy in the spring.  The boys kept her busy except for a brief time when the older boy jumped in the huge pile of leaves I was making.  Next came the gutters, my least favorite task ever.  But they really needed cleaning before the winter.

Doesn't this look appealing?

After cleaning the gutters, I had a very quick snack before taking my oldest son for an impromptu play date with one his buddies from preschool who he doesn't get to see often now that they are in different schools.  I like the friend's parents and, in particular his dad, Art.  It was entertaining and I did get to use the Coffeeneuring completion map as an example of how the Art might show the reach of his business.

Later I thought of an evening ride but I really needed a shower and it was pretty foggy out there and the roads were wet and more rain was coming so I thought about a beer instead.  That might be covered in the rules but, again, I'm not going out on my bike so it doesn't count.

But enough of this story of woe, here are the successes.  Previous blog posts are used when I wrote one up, tweets otherwise, except for the most recent trip.

Coffeeneuring #6

This was yesterday, the second to last day of the challenge.  I had to drop off the extraordinary recycling, something that happens a couple of times a year.  We had electronic junk and styrofoam to discard and I used my bike to haul it.  Just the electronic junk remains here, the styrofoam filled the back seat to the brim before I dropped it off.


I decided that I should head over to Kickstand Cafe, the new coffee shop that replaced Jammin' Java, that replaced Carrberrys.  This was the second day of their existence and they were busy - I was halfway through the line at this point:

I ordered a single expresso shot and the delivery was quick so I actually had a few minutes to enjoy it.  And I could see my bike from the window:

Coffeeneuring #5

This made it as a blog post.  It was my only trip that I managed to do with someone.  That's the state of my life right now.


I really intended for this to be a coffeeneuring trip but I let my son convince me to try to meet my wife in Concord and check out the farm that we order some meat from.  We did meet my wife, made it to the farm, and saw a four point buck (the first deer my son has seen) so it was a success even if I didn't get a cup of coffee out of it.

Coffeeneuring #4

An errand combined with a stop for coffee.  Can't beat this.


Sometimes things are harder than you can imagine.  We managed to get out of the house on bicycles, the four of us, on a pretty cold day to meet friends to watch the Head of the Charles Regatta.  That is fun in itself, as was seeing our friends.  We talked about stopping for coffee but getting two boys on and off of the bike more than twice (we also stopped at an open studios) is daunting.  Maybe I should have looked for coffee at the open studios. They did have great food, including a veggie chili from Flora that was yummy if nearly too spicy for me.

Coffeeneuring #3

This ride almost didn't happen.  The fog didn't hit until I was 3 miles into the ride and it didn't lift until I was off the bike path, which was around the time the sun rose, although it didn't show its sleepy face then.  I did make it to Ride Studio Cafe, which is always a worthwhile destination.

Coffeeneuring #2

This trip is part of my too early rides.  I missed Ride Studio Cafe on the way out of town (in the dark - no surprise there) and even on the way back into town.  But I found coffee.  This post was written in the form of a guest post on, accelerating a trend.

Coffeeneuring #1

This was covered in three tweets:

And a post with a rant on how bicyclists are perceived.

Coffeeneuring training

Yes, you can train for coffeeneuring.  This was my longest coffeeneuring ride and also the hardest. But it was fun going off road and riding in the dark.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Number of coffeeneurs who finished the challenge

A map of coffeeneurs in the US.  Numbers are updated by MG.

The numbers should read 0-0, 1-1, 3-4 etc.

Cities where there was at least one coffeeneur.  Click on a point to see the city.  If there are links to blogs, you can click on them to see the blogs.

How the maps were made.

Maybe one more map is on the way - map by participating country.

Bloc 11, Coffeeneuring #5

Coffeeneuring #5

Apparently these are the  questions you should ask any coffeeneur, if you get the chance and he or she is the talkative type:

1) Where do you live?

2) How did you decide to coffeeneur?

3) What bike are you using as your coffeeneuring bike?

4) Where did you choose to coffeeneur for your nth coffeeneuring trip?

5) Is the Coffee Shop beautiful.

6) What other types of riding do you do besides coffeeneuring?

7) What else did I forget to ask you that you want to share?

Questions 1-3 and 6 are not related to this specific trip and have been answered in a previous post so that leaves just 3 questions to answer here:

4) Where did you choose to coffeeneur for your fifth coffeeneuring trip?

Sunday we went to Bloc 11, in Union Square, Somerville.  I actually rode alone but met Paul at the coffee shop.

What, you went with someone this time?  Yes, I did.  I had a reasonable amount of time to ride but figured that since I never see Paul, I ought to call him and see if he was available on short notice and he was, and company is always better than just putting on miles.  Paul came from a couple of miles away, in a different direction that I was riding from, but we had coffee together.  He had a double expresso and I had a pour over in a pint glass, which might be considered too big a cup, or glass, of coffee.  Since Paul lives in the city and rides a lot, he had his basic single speed, locked with what I understand to be the original Kryptonite lock:

I rode my Surly Cross Check.  The ride was about 12 miles.

5) Is the Coffee Shop beautiful?

Sure, in a vaguely hipster way - but remember that I'm nowhere close to being a hipster and might be making assumptions here.  The shop is in an old bank.  There are cool rooms in the back, including old safes, which seem private, more or less. I once came here with a two year old and he loved checking out all of the spaces - but it was empty on a rainy winter morning, unlike the full house we experienced. The coffee is great - I sometimes stop there on my commute if I am driving.  And there are many bikes parked in front, including in one of those bike racks that occupy an on street parking stall.  We saw this nifty porteur in front:

It had a Novatech generator hub with a Schmidt headlight, a Sturmey Archer internal gear hub in the back, and, obviously, a nice porteur rack.  The wiring for the lighting was hidden the frame and the fenders.  I couldn't tell if it was a new bike or if the wiring ports were added recently.

7) What else did I forget to ask you that you want to share?

What was the rest of your ride and weekend like?  Well, on Saturday there were five loads of laundry and I packed twenty bags of leaves (and we aren't finished yet).  It's not like we have a lot of trees but our neighbors do.  We brought in some plants for the winter, including this elephant ear, which must be 6 or 7 years old now:

That leaves Monday, Veterans Day, which was a holiday for me but my wife had to work.  I tried to get the boys to ride and had the bike trailer out and the child seat attached to the rack but at 45 degrees it didn't seem like a good day for coffeeneuring with young children.  But it was a good day for a playground.

Oh, and the ride back home.  I really enjoyed riding through the city on a warm fall day.  Rain was coming so I eventually packed away my wool sweater and pulled out a soft shell jacket when the first drops started coming down.  But not until after I checked out the new boardwalks off the Fitchburg Cutoff Path:

A sign said this was in the Mystic River Watershed.  Unfortunately it soon joins a brook that gets sewage overflow and it is surrounded by office parks on both sides but it still feels like a nice corner of the world:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Saturday with the five year old

Every trip out of the house when the sun is out is worth it these days.  With winter weather and early winter sunsets coming our way, seeing the sun and colorful leaves, even if thinned out some at this point in the year, is a pleasure.  So last Saturday I rode out to Bedford with my oldest son, the five year old.  The initial intention was to ride to Davis Square for coffee then a playground but mom and little brother were somewhere out in the world and he decided that we should see them in Concord, where they were headed.  I should have been firmer and tried to convince him otherwise but we headed west, not east.  Riding was slow.  The five year old packed the snacks so he knew what he could eat and drink.  We had three snack stops in the first five miles.  At 7 miles into the ride we heard from mom, who was 2 miles away, near a bike path crossing in Bedford.  We headed there and called it a day.  The best part of the ride was seeing a 4 point buck, just shy of the bike path.  My son hadn't seen a deer before so this was a great sighting for him.  It was fun watching the buck leap away, seemingly jumping brush as tall as he was.  After we met up with the rest of the family we headed to our favorite farm and picked up some meat and eggs and then checked out the horses.  All in all it was a great fall day.

No pictures - my 4 year old smart phone is acting its age - more software glitches and the power button works only infrequently.  Otherwise I would have had a chance of a decent picture of the deer before it bounded away.

Total miles: 9, miles for the year: 2750.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A classic right hook

I was driving back from Boston on Sunday with a friend and both of us noticed all of the bikes en route.  It was dark so I was curious to see how well lit and otherwise visible the cyclist were, as I wonder if I will commute past the end of Daylight Savings Time.  I was driving so I didn't have time to do a thorough assessment but I did have to pay a lot of attention to cyclists that I passed or was passed by (usually the former at that hour).  What we did see, my friend better than me, was a cyclist who was just right hooked by a car.  The driver of the small truck, which was traveling towards Boston, was taking a right off of Hampshire onto a side street near Windsor.  The rider was up with a decent crowd of people who appeared to be helping, or maybe were witnesses to what just occurred.  I couldn't tell if the rider had lights or not (following on the Boston Globe's bad habit, I will mention that she did wear a helmet) but I can say that all of the riders that I saw, well lit or not, were easily visible.  Passing a rider and then taking a right turn and cutting them off in those conditions seems like either the driver wasn't paying attention or doesn't notice bikes, which amounts to not paying attention.  I hope the rider is OK.

Coffeeneuring 4

Sometimes you can hardly get out of the door.  Last Saturday I got out for familyneuring but couldn't fit in a cup of coffee.  This weekend I barely made it of the house on my bicycle, running a couple of errands, including mailing a bill, getting stamps, and getting a new bulb for the brake light on my wife's car.  The trip was fast, just into the center of town.  I was lucky and managed to bring my bike into the parts store and found a pole to lock my bike close to the post office.  Finally, I found the two empty racks at the local Starbucks (that's my bike in the picture, taken from my seat in the shop):

The coffee was just fine, a short (they don't have this size in the menu but do sell them):

While this was hardly an amazing ride through beautiful country to a new and wonderful coffee shop, it was still a very nice excursion, as most rides are.  It is always nice to get out on a bike, even on a 35 degree morning.

Sunday was taken up with a work conference so I am invoking a personal 3 day weekend rule for next weekend, although the weather forecast for Friday doesn't look good right now.

Total miles for the ride: 4, miles for the month: 243, miles for the year: 2725.

Monday, October 21, 2013


We finally had a second family bike ride this year.  The first was on Feast of the East day in East Arlington on what seems like a long ago summer day.  We had a few boys' rides with me taking the boys out for coffee or breakfast, usually on a day with my wife out of town leaving me with a captive audience.  But family rides are even more rare, particularly since the boys don't love cycling for the sake of cycling as I do.  Instead they are destination focused.  So it was a bit of a surprise when we all managed to agree that we should ride our bikes to the Head of the Charles Regatta to meet friends along to river to cheer a favorite team of theirs'.  I guess the idea of boats racing on the river appealed to them.

It all seemed to good to be true, especially after my wife went outside and announced that it was very cold and the weather forecast agreed, at least for the morning when we were getting started.  We bundled up more than we initially intended, packed up the bags with spare clothes (our youngest is abandoning diapers this week) and snacks, put on the child seats and headed out on a bike ride!  The ride is generally flat, which is helpful when carting around boys - my bike was as heavy as it would be for loaded touring.  We followed the bike path then Mass Ave right into Harvard Square.  We found our friends on the curve right before the Elliot Bridge, in the sun and, amazingly, out of the wind.  We enjoyed watching the big boats fly past - the double oared four person boats and eight person boats really move:

Our friend is a former coxwain and raced in the Head of the Charles in his college years.  He loved the spot for its view and comfort (he had his 10 year old twins with him and they enjoyed the heat of the sun as we did) but wished he could watch the near misses under the bridge, which he tells me is one of the cruxes of the race, where boats sometimes collide, or at least lose time as they maneuver safely through in a crowd.

We left after a quick lunch on the bikes (at least the boys were sitting down) and then headed to the Arlington Center for the Arts and their open studios.  We saw this watercolor print in various formats:

That water tower is the goal on hill training rides for many people.  There were other local artists, including Emily Garfield from Somerville, who paints pictures of imaginary maps, which I really enjoyed and would like to have in my house one day:

It is coffeeneuring season but with the four of us, including one potty trainer, it seemed impossible to stop for coffee, close as we were to good coffee shops, including Peet's in Harvard Square.  

My wife gained confidence with riding a bike with a big boy on board but routing is important.  Busy streets like Mass Ave can be easy on a Sunday morning but narrow streets like Rindge can be a challenge.  In retrospect, we should have stayed on Mass Ave to Tufts rather then trying to avoid the section of Mass Ave in Cambridge and East Arlington.  I like to avoid this area at commuting time but it was likely no worse than the riding through Porter Square, which wasn't all that busy at the time.

We laughed about getting into bike so late in the year but better late than never.  But next year might be better.  I was with my older boy in a bike shop after work today and he found a bike with training wheels and he hoped right on it and rode through the shop.  I wanted him to try out the Extracycle Edgerunner, but he was enjoying his ride too much to check it out beyond sitting in the seat.

My bike back, fresh from familyneuring with front panniers and child seat installed:

Miles for the month: 200, miles for the year: almost 2,700.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Foggy coffeeneuring

I finally made it to Ride Studio Cafe for a coffeeneuring stop but even this ride almost didn't end up as planned, due to heavy early AM fog.

 It was an early cold start to the ride, 35 degrees at 5:30, when I left but it least it was clear.  Wait, it was clear until I passed by Arlington Great Meadow in Lexington, MA.  The fog in this area was not unexpected but it remained foggy once I was past the meadow.  And it was foggy after I passed the center of Lexington and after I passed 128.  I was cautious and rode slowly past the Bedford High School towards Route 62.  By the time I was there it was getting light and the fog was lifting and I didn't feel unsafe in the light traffic, most of which was heading toward Bedford so I went on, instead of returning back to town on the bike path.

There was fog off in the wetlands that you pass on Virginia Road on the way to Hanscom:

And it was foggy out on the Cambridge Reservoir but it was otherwise clearing:

And Ride Studio Cafe was open when I passed by so I stopped for a pour over and read a recent issue of Bicycle Quarterly.  For those who haven't been here, RSC is filled with great bikes, mostly Honey and Sevens, and has an indoor rack that can get crowded on weekends, but if you are lucky, you get to not lock your bike, or not worry about having an unlocked bike outside.  The coffee is great, either pour overs made for you or espresso drinks.  The pour overs can take some time - they purposefully pour them slowly - but are well worth it.  And the staff, both the cafe side and the bicycle side, are very nice and knowledgeable.  I once had an espresso with a friend after a ride and the barrista gave him a great lesson on how she makes espresso drinks.  I was entertained although I'm a lot less of a coffee connoisseur than my friend, as evidenced by my coffee, below, adulterated by milk:

After the ride I took the boys to watch my wife in the Tufts 10K.  We saw a lot of women on the course as well as a few men.  The boys eventually saw mom and gave her a high five as she passed by.

Miles for the month: 160, miles for the year: about 2650.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Too early for Ride Studio Cafe, twice

This is written in the style of a Chasing Mailbox guest post.  It was my second coffeeneuring trip.

1) Where do you live?

Arlington, the one just west of Cambridge and once called West Cambridge and Menotomy before that.  The Old Men of Menotomy killed some of the retreating British soldiers fleeing Lexington and Concord but Arlington largely misses the historical tourist traffic.

2) How did you decide to coffeeneur?

I saw the post and vaguely recalled the challenge from last year.  I also remember the errandeneuring challenge but that was outside of my ability to compete, being a mostly fair weather cyclist.  I frequently stop for coffee or a shot of expresso on my road rides so it seemed like something that would be easy to do.  In practice, it's hard to get out of the house and making plans for rides is always hard to do.  7 times in 7 weeks could be close to impossible.

3) What bike are you using as your coffeeneuring bike? Tell us a little about it and what makes it a good coffeeneuring bike.

I originally described the bike here as a response to Lovely Bike's "questions to ask when buying a transportation bike".  It is a Surly Cross Check built up with Shimano 105 components, including 105 hubs built up with Mavic Open Pro rims and a racing triple.  It now has a new front wheel with a Shimano 3N80 dynamo hub, Busch and Muller  IQ CYO 60 lux headlight and a Pixeo rear light.  I also use a 2012 Nite Rider MiNewt 600 lumen blinder light and an older red blinker for the back.  The bike has fenders and a Blackburn expedition rack (which fits the Co-Pilot child's seat) and Tubus front rack for carrying clothes, food, and locks when carrying one of my boys.  It usually has the Burly trail hitch since we still use that when I take both boys.  The bike largely functions as my commuter and child hauler and night (or early morning) bike, which it does well at.  The lighting helps with early coffee trips.  I usually carry a pannier with more locks than I need but it is nice to be able to lock a bike up for coffee stop.  The wide tires (700x32) helps with city coffeeneuring trips.

It's a good bike for anything and I'm much happier leaving this one outside than my road bike, which I can't easily carry a lock with.  While I can put a rack on the road bike, it hasn't had one mounted since I had the Surly put together.

4) Where did you choose to coffeeneur for your first coffeeneuring trip?

Well, I chose Sofra but this is about my second trip.  I chose Ride Studio Cafe, my favorite coffee shop and bike store but the hours don't always work for me.

Ride Studio Cafe, Lexington, MA at 6:15AM - it's a little too early:

With RSC still far from open, I headed out to Lincoln, MA, taking the Lincoln/Lexington/Mill cutoff.  Traffic was very light.  I headed from 2A to Lincoln on Bedford Road to Weston Road to Conant and Old Conant roads and by then I had a decent amount of light.  I saw a patch of ground fog on this freshly mown hay field south of Lincoln. There was a lot of ground fog like this:

By the time I was on Trapelo Road heading back into town the sun was up and you could see the trees turning.

I was back in Lexington by 7:30, half an hour before RSC was open, although it looked like Ariela was inside getting the machines ready.  Peet's and Starbucks where open but I decided to stop at the Starbucks near Trader Joe's in Arlington, still a couple of miles from my house.  But that turned out to be a mistake.

5) The Coffee Shop is beautiful.

Not really but the parking lot wasn't too busy that early.  I drank my latte (part of the mistake) outside with a rider who was heading to the RSC Saturday AM ride.  When you go to Starbucks you get decent coffee but the experience can be odd.  First, the wait was long and the room isn't well set up for that.  Second, I saw one employee verbally abuse another, when the latter didn't have a clue to how to make a soy latte hotter and when he pulled too hard on the switch for the steamer.  I felt bad for the guy and also wondered if they train these people before they let them on the floor.  I should have just got a drip coffee and I would have missed this unpleasant interaction.

6) What other types of riding do you do besides coffeeneuring?

Road rides, commuting, occasional errands, and bringing the boys to playgrounds - they need a destination, cycling for the sake of cycling doesn't work for them yet.

7) What else did I forget to ask you?  Do you anything that you want to share?

What did I do after my early AM coffeeneuring expedition?  I went out with the boys to Ashfield, MA, a 2+ hour drive.  The leaves were just past peak and the area was beautiful.  We mostly spent time at our good friends' house, picking carrots, peas, chives, beets, radishes, and asian pears, which the boys loved.  We also played some games at the Ashfield Fall Festival and met Sparky, the firehouse dalmatian:

A beautiful tree we saw on our way to the festival:

Miles for the month: 115, miles for the year: about 2600.

Monday, October 7, 2013

What I learned on Coffeeneuring #1

Besides the difficulty of getting out of the house sometimes, particularly in bad weather, I learned one thing: many people don't think cyclists follow the rules, and that they should be following the rules (which I agree with).

It all started when I took a left off of Belmont Street onto a driveway to the left (west) of Sofra Cafe on Sunday morning.  I used this driveway to get on the sidewalk, the same part of the sidewalk that cars use when using that driveway.  Once on the sidewalk I immediately dismounted.  At that very instant, three women looked back, horrified that I was approaching them on a bike but then relieved when they realized I was no longer riding and was no longer on my bike.  Hey, I was on a sidewalk so I wouldn't be riding, right?  That's the rule as far as I know.  And I had to get it on the sidewalk for a safe and secure place to lock my bike.  I used the driveway as any other vehicle would.

I said hello while in line and the three of them, one from out of town, noted that all bike riders behave erratically and don't follow traffic regulations.  My rule is that I follow them, which unfortunately surprised them.  My key learning: we have, apparently, a bad reputation.

In some ways this doesn't surprise me.  I am acquainted with a number of careful and law abiding cyclists.  But I also see some bad behavior on the part of cyclists.  For instance, last Thursday while waiting for a light on Somerville Avenue in Somerville, MA, four cyclists ran the red light without pause.  A driver, with her young daughter in the back seat, gave me a thumbs up, presumably because I waited with her and the rest of traffic for the light to turn.  In my world view I don't need a thumbs up for following rules that apply to me.  But because the other 80% of the cyclists who passed that intersection didn't follow the rules, I was perceived as different because I followed the rules and was worthy of praise.  That is a sad place for all of us to be.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Estabrook by Reformatory Branch Trail and Battle Road

Let me preface this by saying that the only reason I was in town to do this ride was because we are running around like chickens sans heads trying to get boys to school and ourselves to work.  I would have much rather been in a particularly lovely spot in Maine with great people who I've been with a lot and like a lot.  But getting ready to go there and getting ready for the week after being there looked impossible so we felt we had to bail on it.  So I got to do this early on Sunday morning and still had most of the day with family ...

A couple of weeks ago I missed the Honey Hundred, a 100K with a lot of the miles in the woods.  It was a more linear ride than the very local Diverged ride that Ride Studio Cafe offered last spring.  I really liked the idea of the ride, although I knew that I might need to bail on it, if I did get the chance to ride it, since it was billed as a 6-10 hour ride and given my skills I would take more time than average.  Instead, the day of the ride was the first day of soccer practice for my five year old and that preempted even trying to plan for the 100K.  The idea was nice, however and I thought I could put together a shorter ride for myself.

At the same time, Chasing Mailboxes was again issuing a coffeeneuring challenge.  While I can only hope my schedule can accommodate 7 visits to coffee shops by bike during the challenge, I will do what I can and enjoy what rides, and coffee, I can get.  So, as practice coffeeneuring, I intended to visit the new coffee shop in Concord, Haute Coffee, and failing that, see if Ride Studio Cafe wasn't too crowded on National Coffee Day.

This is the route.  It is a great route except the trails going north in Estabrook can be better handled with a mountain bike, depending on your skill.  I definitely needed to walk a few sections.  Alternatively, there are trails to the east of what I took that are easier to ride. has these mapped.  I knew all of the other riding and knew the Estabrook section both by foot and on skis and have mapped these trails with GPS multiple times.

I left early, around 5:15AM. It wasn't foggy at home but there was clearly a lot of mist in the air - I could see it in my lights.  Soon, I could see that at lower elevations it was foggy and conditions worsened over the first hour.  I planned to take the Minuteman Bike Path and Reformatory Branch Trails and was happy to be off the road because of the fog and lack of light.  My Busch and Mueller 60 lux light was fine for roads and the bike path but I turned my battery powered Nite Rider 600 lumen light (on low) on for the Reformatory Branch Trail and it was necessary.  It wasn't needed by the time I reached Estabrook.  Estabrook was lovely as usual.  It feels like a little corner of Vermont, a short drive or bike ride from my home.  There are plenty of wetlands in Estabrook and they are especially pretty at this time of the year.

One issue with the conditions and the soil on the Reformatory Branch: the moisture in the air caused the dirt to fly and then stick to my bike.  My front fork and most forward facing surfaces were covered by the time I reached Concord.  I had to use one water bottle to clean the other, both being coated with dirt.  My bike needed a thorough cleaning after the ride.

Estabrook was easier on equipment except when I rode around a fallen log where there was a herd path.  I managed to drag a substantial branch I ran over with my bike before it broke.  It was caught between my rear derailleur cable and the cable guide.  This managed to pull my cable off the guide.  While I was looking at the issue, a mountain bike rider, along with his dog, came by and provided the other two hands necessary to get the cable back in place.

I was in Concord by 8:15 and looking for the new coffee shop, whose name I could remember and address was either not listed or was listed in an obscure location on its web page.  I ran across a couple of cyclists who were stopping at Main Street Grill who recalled a new sign on the alley where the old sandwich shop was located.  I checked it out and it was indeed the new shop but it opened at 8:30.  The owner saw me outside the shop (how could he miss me - all of my lights were blazing) and was kind and let me in and made me a pour over which I enjoyed outside of the shop.  Coffeeneuring success!

By then it was getting late for me.  I road back via the Battle Road Trail.  The trail was relatively crowded by then.  Up to that point I had only seen the one mountain biker and a few road cyclists just getting going, or stopping a the Main Street Grill.  There were a lot of walkers and runners and a couple of cyclists.  I was passed by Bill from Lexington near the Mill Street cutoff on Route 2A on the trail.  We ended up riding together for the last few miles into Lexington where he lives.  He was riding a used Sycip cross bike, which he just bought off of Craigslist, after some equipment failures on his road bike during the Honey Hundred ride.  It looks like a great find.  He also frequents Ride Studio Cafe and while another coffee would have been delightful, neither of us had time for one.

It was still foggy so I opted for the bike path to get to Arlington.  It was crowded at that point, around 9:30.

It was a long ride for a cup of coffee but it was worth it.

Miles for the ride: 33 (12 on dirt of one sort or another), miles during September: 300, miles for the year: just under 2500.


It's slow to ride on trails.  After the Diverged Ride and this ride, it's clear to me that that it takes time to navigate the surfaces you find on trails.  The 6-10 hour estimate of the Honey Hundred seems reasonable to me.

Bikes get dirty when riding off road.  Plan on spending time cleaning up a after a ride.

It's beautiful in the woods in the early morning and well worth the effort getting there, whether by bike or not.

It's fun riding alone although it was a lot of fun riding the Diverged ride in a large group.  I pushed myself more on that ride, partly because its fun to do so when in a group (and if you are the slowest one in the group it is necessary) but, for safety's sake when riding alone, I preferred to keep a slow pace on this ride.

The food would have been much better on the Honey ride.  All I had between getting up and getting home was a bar and a croissant.

Equipment can break.  Hopefully you can fix it yourself or find people who can help you.

Lights open up a lot of riding time.

Coffee makes a good destination or stop on the way.

Pictures from the ride

The observation tower at Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge in Concord.  There was nothing to see this morning, although I could hear a lot of birds.

Foggy conditions just beyond the Concord water treatment plant:

Near the Heron Rookery:  It was a beautiful place early in the morning:

First hints of color, Estabrook Woods, near Hutchins Pond and the Punkatasset entrance:

The trail going north in Estabrook.  It was easy going in this section.

Downed tree across the trail in Estabrook:

Estabrook Road, heading south from Carlisle:

Mink Pond in the fog:

My bike was a mess, mostly from the dirt flying on the Reformatory Branch Trail:

Coffeeneuring evidence:

Spider webs were easily visible today:

Bill's recently acquired Sycip.  This is only the second Sycip I've seen:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Comfortable In The City, In Daylight

I rode into the city yesterday and chatted with a fellow rider in Arlington along the way.  I asked him about his route, which took him by Fresh Pond then to the river paths into Boston.  I mentioned that I took the Beacon Hampshire (bike) Highway.  He decided to ride in with me rather than on his usual route.  He was good company and I agreed to ride in with him.

He has a much longer commute than me, coming from west of Concord, and I thought he might save miles and maybe time on my route.  I'm not sure that he did.  He was aware of the number of lights we stopped at, which slowed us down.  I have to admit, it was a bad day for making lights and progress was slower than usual but progress is never great if you follow traffic laws, which I do.  I think he also noticed the congestion and tight roadways with a lot of traffic.  At the point where I headed off his route, he mentioned that the ride was intense.  I felt that way at one time but I have become accustomed to the congestion and the proximity of cars and other cyclists and it all seems normal and almost calm to me.  It's not like I have my guard down as I am aware of every parked car that might have an occupant about to open a door and don't assume any driver sees me.  But cycling in the city has become a relaxing way to get to work.

But I could see how this could change - the end of Daylight Savings Time.  A fellow elementary school parent said that his bicycle commuting stops when we turn back the clocks.  And riding in heavy traffic at night seems intense to me.  I certainly have more than adequate lighting and reflectors to see and be seen by cars but driving down the Beacon Hampshire Highway in the dark at commuting hour may be outside of my comfort zone.

So, should I be comfortable riding in the city?  Should I be even more cautious about riding in the city in the dark at rush hour?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Recent rides

Sad to say, all of my recent rides have been short, early AM, night rides, and commutes.  Traffic at this time of the year is horrible so it is a relief to commute by bike, even on a hot day like today (high temp around 95F).  I have sufficient lights for riding in the dark but these are never fast rides - at least I'm not willing to ride fast, even with the best lighting.

My Tuesday commute was marked by the high number of silly cyclists bombing through red lights.  I'm always amazed at how people disregard their own safety but they do it.  I heard one interesting comment when waiting for the light from Mass Ave to Somerville Ave in Porter Square: "it's just so confusing".  Hmmm .... there is a red arrow and all of the other vehicles (all motorized) are waiting for the green arrow.  That doesn't seem confusing to me, even if 75% of the other cyclists choose to run the red light.  Interestingly, I saw two Somerville policemen, on bikes, looking for errant cyclists a quarter mile away.

Mileage for September: 125, mileage for the year: 2315.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Does Beacon Street need more cycling infrastructure?

Somerville has been struggling with the idea of putting cycle tracks on Beacon Street for some time.  The actual plans look like this.  Some people disagree with the concept or at least the implementation.  See Jan Heine's recent blog post about cycle tracks and cyclists' opinions on them (and look for hist other posts on this topic).  Between the vehicular cyclists, the neighborhood opposition, and the reality of how well these things work, it seems that Somerville ought to be sure this is what they should be doing.  What is clear is that the Beacon/Hampshire corridor is one of the busiest in the Boston area.  What's clear to me is that it is pretty well signed and marked right now.  It does have one pressing issue - the quality of the pavement.  It's unfortunate that with all of the money coming from outside Somerville that the issue has taken so long to come to a resolution.

I personally don't want the cycle tracks.  I'm happy with a bike lane, although I would want it wider so I could avoid the door zone without getting so close to the main travel lane.  Otherwise it all works for me and, apparently, a lot of other people.  So why go through with this tedious process?  And where are we in this process anyway?  The above document from the City of Somerville suggests that construction starts in 2014.  Is is really on track for that timing?  Is this what that corridor really needs or should Somerville focus on other, needier places?  My least favorite place is Elm Street from the just west of the Somerville Theater and on Highland Street heading into Davis Square.  In the latter case, cyclists can't ride on the section reserved for buses and walking a bicycle is often difficult at commuting hours and Highland Street is very congested.  This corridor is the obvious cycle route between the linear path and the Beacon/Hampshire corridor.

As an Arlington resident, I don't have much say over what happens in Somerville, except that Beacon/Hampshire is considered differently as it connects multiple towns and state and federal funds are involved.  But the final say ought to be with Somerville residents who can make their city whatever they want.  I'd be happy with decent pavement and bike lanes.

Arlington itself has had some growing pains in this area.  The Mass Ave project from the Cambridge border went up to a popular vote and narrowly lost (admittedly on a minor election - but the pro bike candidate beat the anti bike candidate).  And this eliminates a lane on the chaotic stretch of Mass Ave (multiple lanes but no lane marking) which, in my opinion, would work smoothly in any configuration if people would drive competently.  And the most recent Mass Ave reconstruction didn't even include bike lanes.  The bike path does parallel Mass Ave in the reconstructed sections but the access points to the bike path are few and far between for young and/or inexperienced cyclists.  I was hopeful they would be included.  There was no public discussion and I guess they weren't deemed important.

Regarding Beacon Street and cycle tracks, I have a couple of questions:
  • How many accidents and reported incidents are there on Beacon Street?
  • How many accidents in cycle tracks (wherever they may be implemented) can be attributed to drivers not seeing cyclists as they emerge at intersections and how many can be attributed to cyclists misunderstanding they rights and responsibilities at the intersection of cycle tracks?

Any thoughts are welcome.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Green River Ride

I went for a ride last weekend which is called the Green River Ride.  It is legitimately part of the D2R2 but the distance and the lack of hills makes it something different and the organizers recognize that and I agree.  But the ride did get us on dirt roads in western Massachusetts and that was fabulous.  If you don't know about the D2R2, it is worth reading about here and search around the web for stories about doing this ride.  In short, think hills on dirt roads and those hills are frequently steep.  I did the 2009 version of 100K D2R2 and it was indeed marked by steep hills and dirt roads.

I rode the D2R2 with Carl, Alex, and Carla.  Alex and Carla dropped off their tandem (which didn't fit in their car) Friday evening and went out to stay in western Massachusetts, a half hour or so from the start of the ride.  I left my house on Saturday around 6:30 AM and picked up Carl around 7 and made it to the starting point before 9.  Alex and Carla, with Carla's mom, arrived around the same time and put the wheels on the tandem after we all checked in.  It looked like we were ready to roll.

As he headed over to the start, Carl's chain jammed and in the process he bent or twisted his front derailleur.  While Carl and I messed with it, Alex and Carla went off on their own, expecting Carl and I to ride faster than they would (it didn't happen).  While we were finishing up, Alex called to say that one of his crank arms was too loose to continue.  We arranged to have the sweeper, who we thought had tools, check on them.  The sweeper didn't have tools and instead brought them back to the start.  Carl happened to have the tool and after tightening the crank arm, we finally got started around 10AM with one tightened but suspect crank and one dubious front derailleur.  It all turned out well despite some initial worries.

The approach to Greenfield was nondescript and uneventful.  We did get to ride on a lightly traveled bike path (except for the other Green River riders) and made our way north to Green River Road and dirt.  By then we had picked up Dave, who I met briefly at Ride Studio Cafe when he came in for a test ride and fitting for the bike he was riding.  The river road, while not spectacular, was very pleasant and scenic.  There were some sections that were right above the river with a significant drop from road to river.   The river road was was smooth enough - although there were certainly a decent amount of rocks on the road - and not too steep.  The section on Jelly Mill and Jacksonville Stage Roads were the nearest that we came to anything similar to the D2R2 proper.  They were quiet roads with some hill climbing and some great views of hills across cleared fields.  These roads led to the lunch stop at the covered bridge.

Lunch was good enough to keep all of us going, consisting of sandwiches, snacks and water.  There was sufficient space to find a place to sit despite the crowds already there.  Carl and I sat together after losing siight of Alex and Carla.  The more amusing part of lunch was the range of cool bicycles and the well known and local (to Boston) bicycle people.  The people who I talked with included Somerville Bike, Elton from Harris Cyclery, Rob Vandermark, and Jamie Maderos from Firefly.  I saw Tyler Evans from Firefly and J.P. Weigle but didn't talk with them.  And there were others who I didn't recognize - I hear the owner of Boulder Bicycles was there.

The return trip was fast or it seemed fast to me.  It was largely downhill and the return past Greenfield was less urban than the Route 5 approach that used on the way north.  We were back at the start/headquarters of the ride by 2:30, in time for dinner and the Preservation Ale, which is a great beer.  I talked more with Elton there as well as John Bayley, who tells me my debt of beer (incurred at the Greylock lodge) was forgiven and I should forget it.  After a quick dinner and packing of bikes, we were off.

Carl shared his pictures with me, noted below.

Dave ("Ive never had this much fun at 10 MPH") and Carl:


At the first water stop (from Carl):

On pavement (from Carl):

 Leaving the lunch stop:

Some of the bikes we saw:

Weigle's Weigle (from Carl):

 Elton's Weigle:

A Boulder Bicycle (from Carl):

Somervillain's Rawland (from Carl):

Grant Peterson designed Soma (650b in this size) (from Carl):

Seven Ti 605b (photo from Carl):

A collection of NFG bikes after the ride:

Total miles for August 445.  Total miles for the year: 2120.