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.