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.