Monday, December 29, 2014

Closing up the year, goals for next year

It looks pretty likely that if I get to ride my bike one more time before the end of  the year it will be a short early morning or late night ride so it's pretty safe to say that I know how my cycling year went in 2014 now.

First, by the numbers ...

It was a very good year.  I rode 2982 miles so far and that could easily be 3000 miles in a couple of days.  This is the second highest total for me, ever. I rode my bike to work about 120 times, that's about 1,800 miles, or 60% of the all of my riding this year.  I rode almost 900 miles on my IF, all of that being pure recreation and usually faster than riding my Surly Cross Check.  I also rode my Cross Check for fun about 300 miles or so.  Much of that involved dirt road rides of one sort or another.  Not bad for a busy guy.

Bike Commuting

If you remember, it was a cold winter in Boston in early 2014.  Because of that I didn't ride to work until a couple of trips in March.  Both of those rides were inspired by the errandonnee challenge.  After returning from a 10 day work trip that month, I started commuting somewhat regularly in April and kept it up through December.  I pushed my limits of fair weather commuting to light rain and cold temperatures and urban night riding.

At the end of daylight savings time in November, I promised myself that I would ride at least the first day, to see how I felt riding in the city in the dark.  I have some experience riding for recreation at night but commuting at night seemed a bit daunting.  It was fine, as it turned out, although I did get a flat that first Monday night.  The part of my commute that concerns me the most is the dark bike path, both because not everyone is lit or has reflectors on and security issues (there have been thefts in this section late in the evening).  A lot of T riders do have lights and that does help.  In any case, I found that I enjoyed the night ride although I am even slower commuting at night.  I'll quit bike commuting for the season once the roads are salted, unless I can get a bike that I am willing to either leave at Alewife or riding on the slushy and/or icy streets of Cambridge.  I'll miss it when it's gone - riding is much more pleasant than driving and it has to be pretty cold for me to not want to ride.

Road Riding

 This year wasn't as good as last year, when I was prepping for the Mount Greylock ride with Ride Studio Cafe.  I had a good start, until I had a major tummy ache in June, which slowed me down substantially.  I really enjoy riding my IF, which is, for me, a very fast bike.  I equipped it with a dyno hub so I could use it for road rides late in the season and I enjoyed a few early morning rides on it - hopefully there will be more next year.  The 900 miles of road riding I did this year pales in comparison to my only other 3,000+ year (in 2000) when all of my miles were recreational road rides.  But those days are gone for now with kids taking up a lot of my time.


I was again the Northeast Regional Office for the 2014 Coffeeneuring Challenge.  The chief coffeeneur and I added one new map to the set, which showed the shops where many coffeeneurs drank coffee or other allowed drinks.  I, of course, managed to not finish this year but it was fun trying.


I did my best but didn't finish since I was getting ready for a significant work trip.  But it is a great idea which got me on my bike earlier in the year than I otherwise would have.


Coffee and bikes?  I guess it is more than just my taste.  Thanks to Russ and Mike for advice on alternatives to a pump espresso machine and thanks to Grimbeur Bros for some great coffee.  And thanks to all of the shops I visited on the Coffeeneuring Challenge.

Special Events

I did several fun special event rides: the Diverged Ride, the Ride Studio Cafe Pioneers Ride, the  Honey Hundred, and the D2R2.  The Pioneers Ride was my longest ride of the year (and maybe of the last 7 years) and was a great test of riding in a group as well as navigating with a Garmin GPS unit.  The other 3 rides were largely dirt road rides on my Surly.  I replaced the commuter tires on my Surly with Clement USH tires, which was a great change.

While the following two rides weren't special event like in that they were solo rides, they do deserve special mention.  While on  the family vacation in North Conway, I did my favorite New England road ride, Bear Notch.  I also rode over Hurricane Mountain Road for the second time.  The first ride is easy, with one short by very doable hill followed by a long, largely downhill run back to North Conway.  On the other hand, the Hurricane Mountain ride was very easy for most of the miles, followed by one of the hardest climbs I have ever done.  It wasn't made easier by not being in very good shape but it was fun to try and see a sign at the top telling me that I just rode up a 17% grade.

Bike changes

I didn't replace or add bikes this year but I did make a couple of significant changes.  I changed out the rear wheel on the Surly after persistent issues with the 105 hub, which couldn't be fixed with a hard to find free hub body.  It now has a White Industries MI5 MTB hub laced to a Mavic 719 rim with 36 spokes.  I also went for a full time dynamo hub on my IF, a Schmidt Son Deluxe 32 hub laced to a Mavic Open Pro rim with 32 spokes.  It's great fun having easy lighting on the IF.

And thanks

Overall it was a great year of riding and commuting and I thank everyone who I rode with, even if for just a few miles.  For a guy who leaves the house alone, I tend to ride with people for a few miles or longer when I can and I appreciate the lift and the camaraderie.  I also thank Ride Studio Cafe and Honey, and the volunteers) for organizing rides as well as Sandy Whittlesey (and all of the volunteers) for organizing the D2R2 and giving me additional route options.  And thanks to Hub Bicycle and Ride Studio Cafe for keeping my bikes running.

I get inspiration to ride from a lot of people who I either don't know or just met a few times, like Shoji, Matt Roy, Chip Baker, and Pamela Blalock.  It's nice to know that there are people much more focused on bikes than me.

With two young boys, my life is pretty constrained right now.  Getting out riding, even on a commute through the city, provides some measure of sanity and I'm pretty grateful for that.

Goals for 2015

I'd love to continue bike commuting as much as I did in 2014.  It really is the best way to get to work.  Last year I  started late and then had a decent number of days that I had to do two preschool/school/day camp drop offs and pick ups.  I don't have the bike for that although I can dream about a Surly Big Dummy or Xtracycle Edgerunner.  Maybe I'll get one a long tail in 2015 but that is hardly certain.  If I do, I'll be picking up the boys by bike when I need to.  Otherwise I will commute by bike that many less days.

I'm hoping for more long rides on my IF.  I may have to get back into my habit of 50 or 60 miles by 8:30AM and it will be worth it if I do.  I'm hoping to get something like a Dill Pickle bag to extend my riding in marginal weather.   I'd love to be able to add or drop a layer and be able to comfortably add to carry it when not in use.  I imagine longer rides in the Berkshires.

I'm not all that into group rides but I'd love to do the Diverged, D2R2, and Honey 100 again this year.  I loved doing the highly modified D2R2 and heard from Sandy that I was hardly the first to mix up routes.  I really appreciated Sandy taking the time to help me modify the Green River Ride to include significant climbing and get away from the crowds on the main routes.

I would like to try a populaire or two but they would have to be later in the year than the April NER event.  I can't see myself having time to get in shape for a 200K or longer brevet, although the idea is appealing.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Bike accidents in Cambridge, MA 2010-2013 #2

(See my conclusion here:

I'm continuing to think about the "contest" from Open Data Discourse.  I managed to deal with the sunset data and also processed the data so I can geocode in QGIS.  First result: 4PM to 7PM, Monday through Friday.  Not unexpectedly, nearly all of the accidents are on the major commuting routes.  It thins out if you look at the same period but for after sunset:

If you look at the after work commuting hours after sunset, you see that most accidents are on Mass Ave and the major routes leading into, and in, Inman Square but the density is far less.

The short answer, so far: riding at night, on major commuting routes is probably a less than safe time and place to ride but accidents happen during daylight.

Sunset times were derived from here but I used only 2010 data, which is within 1 minute for times for other years.  I used this site for timing of daylight savings time for the 4 years.

The table is here, if you want to look at it directly.

See the first post on mapping bike accidents here.

Two thoughts about the data.  1) these are reported accidents only.  I don't have any idea of what accidents are not reported and there are certainly no near misses in this dataset and  2) I noticed a significant (so significant that I remembered it from 3 years ago) accident at the corner of Mass Ave and Vasser.  This accident was not in the data set.

More later.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mapping Cambridge, MA Bicycle Accidents (1 of many), raw data

(See my conclusion here:

Open Data Discourse has a contest to best represent accident data in Cambridge, MA from 2010 to 2013 in an effort to improve safety in our fair city.  I'm interested in bicycle accidents although the data includes car/car and car/pedestrian accidents.  You can find their contest here, for now.  I downloaded the data and put it in a Google Fusion Table for now.  It looks like this:

There are 765 records.  You can see one errant point in Somerville, which is supposed to be at the intersection of Parker and Cambridge Streets (and this doesn't exist - I think this should be the intersection of Parker and Concord).  Clicking on the points show you the time and what "objects" were involved.  There is an object 1 and object 2.  I presume these mean that the object 1 crashed into object 2 but that isn't clear.  There are 26 cases of bikes crashing into other objects, including one case of a bike crashing into another bike and other cases where bikes crash into parked cars, among other objects.

The points were geocoded by Google, which is a feature of Fusion Tables.  When a street address is available, the point maps to the center of the nearby land parcel.  When the location is an intersection, the point maps to the center of the intersection.

I tried to include a heat map but heat maps produced by Google Fusion Tables can't be published (and added to a web page or blog as my map of the raw points is published here).  It doesn't tell you much you can't see here: the preponderance of bicycle accidents are on Mass Ave, Hampshire, Broadway, and Cambridge.  I was a little surprised about the stretch of Mass Ave west of Porter Square.  It doesn't seem all that dangerous.  I think I will take even more care when I am on that stretch of road.  One thing about the heat maps - the intensity is based on nearness of points and that is measured in screen pixels, not distance on the ground.  So if I could publish a map and add it here, you zooming in and out would change what I intended so not having heat maps is no great loss.

The next step for me is to parse the data and time field so I can map by location and time of day and day of the week.  I also need to calculate the time of sunset for a given year since darkness could be a factor in accidents.  I'll use this code from NOAA to make  the calculation.  I'll post more on this once I work through these next steps.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Coffeeneuring 2014 - DNF, again

A few weeks ago I was talking with Shoji about coffeeneuring on the ride to work.  We happen to cross paths and ride in together, although not all that frequently.  Shoji was a successful errandonneur this year but didn't plan to try to complete this year's coffeeneuring challenge.  As a dad with two young children, he couldn't count on always have free time on the weekends for the coffeeneuring challenge, although he is free to commute by bicycle, which he does every day.  It's relatively easy to finish the errandonnee if you are riding 5 days a week already (not that I finished this year's challenge) but it is another thing entirely to always be able to carve out alone time on the weekends when you have young children.  And so it was this year.  I missed the first weekend of coffeeneuring with a trip to Maine that didn't include bikes.  I made up that lost weekend with a second coffeeneuring trip on another weekend and had just one trip for this weekend.  And it didn't happen.  I could go out now for a cup of tea or a mulled cider but if I did it would violate one of my rules for coffeeneuring - it has to be fun.  And right now I have some energy for typing but not enough for going out in the cold.  Not that the cold and dark bother me but I do have to get ready for the work week and getting the boys out the door tomorrow.  So here is the record of my successful trips.  Maybe I'll earn an honorable mention.

Coffeeneuring 1 - Diesel Cafe in Davis Square, Somerville, MA.  This is one of my favorite places for coffee and hanging out. 9 miles.

Coffeeneuring 2 - An early morning ride out to Concord and Carlisle with a stop at Haute Coffee in Concord, MA.  Lights were required for this one. 43 miles.

Coffeeneuring 3 - A carbon nap for my son without the carbon.  We stopped at my current favorite coffee shop, Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington, MA. 15 miles.

Coffeeneuring 4 and 5 - A quick trip to Kickstand Cafe in Arlington, MA, taken the long way with a detour though trails in Belmont, the town to the south of Arlington.  Included is a quick trip to a Starbuck the following day after running errands in town. 8 and  4 miles.

Coffeeneuring 6 - Sofra Bakery on the Belmont/Cambridge, MA line.  This also included a detour through the same trails through Belmont but I got a little lost in the woods.  Sofra is a great place to stop for coffee and/or treats.  I never had breakfast or lunch there but it looks like it would be great.  11  miles.

While I didn't finish the challenge, I did work with the Chief Coffeeneur on the digital maps.  We added a coffee shop map this year.  Let us know if you participated in the challenge and want to add the shops you visited to the map.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Coffeeneuring #6 - getting lost in the woods

Coffeeneuring #6 is complete!  If you read my blog last year, or the results from the Chief Coffeeneur, you might recall that even as the New England Regional Office of Coffeeneuring, I wasn't able to complete the challenge.  I stand a better chance this year, with one weekend remaining in the challenge and only one more coffee shop to visit.  Or I could say, darn, only 1 more coffee shop that I get to visit, with my wife's blessing.  In fact, I'm hoping that my wife comes with me, and the boys, too.  I'm hoping for a combination of Union Square Donuts and Bloc 11, which I visited on last year's challenge, as my last coffeeneuring event.  Maybe I could ride there and they could join me via the van car.

I picked Sofra for this trip.  It's a fabulous bakery, specializing in Middle Eastern fair (although the owners are not from the Middle East, at least as far as I know).  They have a lot of savory options and while they call themselves a bakery, you can certainly get breakfast and lunch there as well.
Sofra is in Belmont, the next town over, and I decided to again ride through the trails on my way there.  I again used the Diverged ride route and decided in advance to avoid the steepest section, just above Snake Hill Road.  Just before the turn off I noticed, for the first time, an old water tower, probably connected to Maclean Hospital.  For an isolated spot, at least a half mile from the nearest road, it was covered in graffiti:

The top is capped with a conical roof, which I couldn't capture from below and couldn't focus on it from a distance.  It's colored with rust, above the graffiti:

Just beyond this was, I thought, the steep section.  And just before the steep section was a turn.  I think that's were I left the known route or maybe I already veered off since I didn't have the GPS route and I had only been on these trails twice before.  In any case, I soon found myself descending into the Maclean Hospital grounds.  The hospital is expansive and some of the buildings looked like there were in the middle of renovations:

There was also the new residential development that was built within the grounds after some lean years in the 1990s.  It was odd seeing the modern somewhat dense residential development surrounded in places by the older institutional buildings.  I didn't have a map (although I could have looked at Ride With GPS on my phone (I added a route, just in case I got really lost) but knew that the road I was looking for, Mill Street, lay to the north.  I was lucky that the path I followed led quickly to a road then I simply followed what seemed to be a one way road until I saw an exit sign, which did lead me towards Mill Street.  From there I followed Trapelo Road to Sofra.

Sofra was packed.  The line for ordering and waiting for your order was long but it seemed to move quickly.  I grabbed a seat but noticed that there were empty seats outside.  I considered that but I was lightly dressed and it was fairly cold so I stayed inside.  The coffee (a cappuccino) was fabulous and I had a savory and a sweet pastry:

I shared my table with a woman waiting for a friend and enjoyed some conversation, but also a relaxing few minutes on my own.  It had been a busy morning, with my wife away for an appointment and me playing with the boys while I raked up a considerable volume of leaves, hopefully most of what I need to do this fall.  I'd love to come back here for lunch some time.

I managed to find more trails on my way home, descending from Huron Avenue down the path along Fresh Pond, and then taking the bike path into Arlington.  It was a 12 mile ride with a decent amount of uncertainty about where I was and mostly very nice roads and trails.  Trapelo was the exception but there was a lot of room (seemingly enough for parking and a good bike lane) so it wasn't bad despite the traffic.

Miles for the ride: 12, miles for  the month: 58, miles for the year: 2621.

My personal coffeeneuring map (let me know if you want to do this for yourself):

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Coffeeneuring #4 2014 or a ride in the woods + coffeeneuring #5

A couple of weekends I had the chance to get out for a second coffeeneuring excusion on Sunday.  I believe I spent most of  the day getting the boys out of the house so my wife could work so she generously gave me an hour and a half to get in another coffeeneuring adventure.  I thought I would stay in town and try out Kickstand Cafe, which I rarely go to, but decided on a longer route to get there.  I had the Ride Studio Cafe Diverged 2014 route on my Garmin so I decided that I'd try to get on the route to ride through some woods in Belmont.  I had tried this route in the spring without the GPS and didn't get lost but thought I might increase my chances of getting home on time so the GPS would give me confidence in doing so.

This area is a bit of a ride from my house so I had to navigate hills, semi-urban streets and a Route 2 crossing to get there but it was worth it.  The trails, for the most part, aren't technical but there is one descent that I did in the spring but I balked on since the trail was now leaf covered and, again, I wanted to get home on time and get home without blood showing.  The Garmin route from Ride Studio Cafe had a nice cutoff to avoid the Concord Ave morass where it emerges from the underpass (below the commuter rail tracks) and eventually brought me to the Fitchburg Cutoff and Minuteman Path.  All in all, I think well over half of my ride was either on dirt trails or bike paths.

The Kickstand Cafe is a nice place for coffee, especially in the afternoon when it isn't too busy.  The room is big and there is bar seating overlooking the parking lot.  Well, at least you could see the sun.  There is minimal outdoor seating.  I suggest that they do a better job with bike racks, however.

I think I take a left here ...

A quiet trail through the woods.

The wetland along part of the Fitchburg Cutoff.

I stopped and chatted with Jeremy on his Rivendell Simple One on the Minuteman.

Coffeeneuring #5 - not much to say about this except that the challenge motivated me to get out of the house before last weekend's nor'easter .  I had to run an errand in the center of town and had time for a quick cup of coffee (as in a short, which is not on the printed menu).  I did get some trail riding by going out of my way but mostly is was an excuse to get out of the house for a few extra minutes that morning.

My well locked bike attached to one of the only two racks here.

Official proof for the coffeeneuring challenge.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A communal coffeeneuring map

Updates for 2017: 

We are ready have you add your stops.  Old stops are in blue, new ones are in green.  If you find your shop is already there then just add you link as an additional coffeeneur.

Updates for 2015:

The Communal Coffeeneuring map is back.  If you added your stops in 2014 then you still have permission to edit the map this year.  If you didn't edit the map in the past then please send your gmail address to me at newenglandbicyclist @ and I'll give you permission.  Expect and email from (the account where I own the map).  You will need to login with a Gmail account to edit the map. The map is intended to track coffee stops on the current year's Coffeeneuring challenge so please include only coffee shops that you visiting in the current Coffeeneuring season.  Also, please add the year you visited.  We didn't do this last year so I'll figure out a way to add the year in for those entries.  Years will be nice to have, if this map continues to be a part of coffeeneuring.

One more change - 2015 visits are large red points, the rest are small purple dots.

Please check this page for how to deal with duplicate entries - sometimes we visit the same shop that another coffeeneur already stopped at.  It also tells you how to show only your coffee shop visits on the map and add that map to your blog.

Last year I helped the Chief Coffeeneur supplement her classic colored pencil map of coffeeneuring with a digital version of the map.   One person commented, suggesting that we should map all of the coffeeshops that people visit on the coffeeneuring challenge.  That would have been a lot of work last year and even more coffeeneurs are riding this year so having me or Mary add everyone's destinations would be more work than we are capable of doing.  But the idea is a good one and I made a map of my destinations and then I thought that I could share editing privileges for this map and anyone who is coffeeneuring could contribute.  This still could get unwieldly, with me having to send an email to anyone who expresses interest but I think it's worth a try and Mary thinks it could be worthwhile.  So here is the map, with the three coffee shops that I visited on it (and maybe more by the time you read this) and ready for more coffee shops:

If you are adding your coffee shop(s) and they don't appear on the map, go back to the table and open the Map of Location view.  This will geocode your address(es) and they will then appear in this map.

So this is how it will work ...

Anyone interested in adding their stops to the map should email me directly.  Find my email address in the About Me section of the right column of this blog.  Please send me your Gmail account, which seems to be the easiest to work with.  I will give you editing privileges via email.

Notice that you will have editing privileges, which means you can add rows of data but also accidentally delete or otherwise edit another person's data.  So you you will have to be careful.  This is what the table looks like so far:

If you want to add a coffeeneuring stop, you go to the Rows view (note the tab for Row, Cards, and Map of Location) and then in the Edit menu, select Add Row.  You might select Delete Row by accident, which will delete all of the rows and end this experiment.  The Add Row interface looks like this:

You need to fill in the coffee shop name (Shop), which is a simple text field.

Next, add the address (Address).  The address could be something like "1720 Massachusetts Avenue, Lexington, MA 02420" (the Ride Studio Cafe address), or it could be "Concord, MA", which would be less precise.  It's best to check the address in Google Maps.  For instance, something like "Starbucks in Lexington, MA" yields the less helpful (in this instance) map of all of the nearby Starbucks.  "Ride Studio Cafe Lexington, MA" works since there is only one Ride Studio Cafe in or near Lexington, MA.  An address could be a latitude, longitude pair, like "33.023513, -113.049178", works.  Try this one in Google Maps.  I've had lunch at this place, but didn't get there by bike.  If you think you don't have access to where you visited in spherical coordinates, simply open Google Earth and zoom to where you had coffee and look at the bottom of the Google Earth window.  Google Maps likes Decimal Degrees and not Degrees Minutes Seconds, which is the Google Earth default.  Change this in the Tools menu under Options.  In the Options window, look for Show Lat/Long then click on the Decimal Degrees radio box.

Now add a link to the coffee shops website (Link).  This is a hyperlink, if that term is still used, which take the map reader to the website and will hopefully help other coffeeneurs figure out if they want to visit the shop as well.

You can add notes about the coffee shop, or your visit in the Notes field.

The last field, Coffeeneur, is meant to identify you, the person entering the data.  And by identifying you, I mean your online presence, if you have one.  For instance, I put in a link to my Twitter page or a blog post about my coffeeneuring trip.  You could have put in a link to your blog, or Instagram account, or a link to your blog post about my visit there.  Anything works but it should be a legitimate web address or leave it blank and leave your first name in the Notes field.  Once you added a row and saved it (see the above image) then you need to click on the Map of Locations tab.  This geocodes the address, making it possible to put a pushpin on the map representing the shop and the data about it that you added.  Doing this may change the map extent.  While it is presently centered around Lexington, MA, adding a point in Finland, where there is an active coffeeneur, will center the map over the Atlantic and scale it so that both the eastern United States and Europe are in the map.

So be brave and contact me and I'll give you permission to edit the map and soon you will be adding to the map on this page.  A word of warning: I work a full time job during regular-ish business hours and have two children.  That means it might take a day or two after you send me an email to invite you as an editor.  If I seemed to forget, don't worry about pinging me.

I'll stop accepting requests to edit this page not long after Mary's final posts about this season's coffeeneuring exploits.

Coffeeneuring #3 2014, or a car nap, without the car

I probably never would have got out of the house today except that it was the day of the spooky walk (a Halloween walk around a pond in a wooded park in town) and the little guy needed a nap before we went, since we would be up past his usual bedtime.  He is too old for naps in his bed and car naps work great.  But we weren't going anywhere before the walk so I decided I'd run a couple of errands and then see if I could get my son to sleep in his bike seat.  We rode to the library in town then the post office then I said we'd take the long way home, a very long way home.  As it turned out, we took the bike path to route 128.  He didn't fall asleep until somewhere in Lexington and remained asleep until I pulled off the bike path to Ride Studio Cafe.  The studio wasn't hopping like it would be before or after a ride so I found a place inside to lean my bike so I didn't have to lock it for a second time on this trip.

Questions to be answered:

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

My Surly Cross Check commuter, equipped with a Co-Pilot child seat.  We are outgrowing this seat.  The big guy no longer fits in it while the little guy will be out of it next year.

BTW Rob Vandermark, president of Seven and Honey and co-owner of Ride Studio Cafe needed to grab something out of those drawers behind where my bike turned out to be inconveniently located and graciously moved it to get what he needed and put it back into place.  It's always nice to see Rob here.

4) Where did you choose to coffeeneur on this trip?

Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington.  If you don't know it already, it's a great shop with very nice people both on the coffee side and bike side.  The make great espresso and pour overs and sell very beautiful bikes.  It's my favorite coffee shop and I'd be there a lot more if it were closer to home.

It's obviously bike friendly, being part bike shop.  They have indoor bike parking and have worked with the town the have a two parking stall mini parklet and bike parking outside their shop.

The communal table:

7) Anything else to share?

I did get in trouble for getting home too late.  Fortunately we all survived.

Some things I saw on the bike trail ...

A high school boy insisting on passing an older couple on a bridge, forcing me to the side so he didn't hit us head on.  But he is immortal so no problem.

A man with a young girl on a child seat, pushing his son on his own bike, with training wheels.  I saw him on the way out of town and back in and either he was in a hurry or this was how he was training his son to ride.  I still remember a crash I witnessed a decade ago, a couple of hundred feet from where I last saw this family.  In that case, dad pushed his daughter to the ground while pushing her on her own bike with training wheels.  He went down as well.  This can never end well so don't try it at home.

An older child getting pushed by her mom, with mom screaming, "PEDAL, PEDAL!"

Overall, there were a lot of sane cyclists on the path today.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Coffeeneuring # 2 for 2014 or riding your bike in the dark

Coffeeneuring #2 for 2014 coincided with my second road ride since the beginning of September.  I tried to plan an early morning ride with another coffeeneur that combined road riding with his desire to ride trails but that coffeeneur's family life leaves him even more time constrained than me.  For that route I had planned on riding my Surly, which is well equipped for dirt roads.  Instead, I choose a similar route that kept me on paved roads so I could ride my IF, which is well equipped with lights: a Busch and Muller IQ CYO 60 lux headlight and Specula Plus taillight, both powered by a Schmidt Son Deluxe dynamo hub.  I have a back up 600 lumen Nite Rider headlight and used a Portland Design Works Radbot tailight in steady mode (in the dark; I switched to flashing mode in daylight).  The wheels have reflectors and I have reflective material on my shoes, supplemented by reflective ankle bands and also wear a reflective vest.  I was safe as I could be riding at night.  I left at 5:30 AM, which meant I had an hour and a half of riding before sunrise.  It was clear when I left my house but clouds moved in, making it a dark morning.

I really like riding my Surly, which is a bit of a tank but useful for a lot of the riding that I do (read: mostly commuting) but I enjoyed riding my IF for the coffeeneuring ride.  It's a great ride for me - very crisp response and quick handling, as designed.  It also weighs almost ten pounds less than the Surly.

The route

I followed well known roads out to Great Brook Farm Park then south to Concord, coming back into town on 2A and then used the Mill Street cutoff.  I would have taken Old Bedford Road and Virginia Road but I was somewhat pressed for time and didn't want to be late so I took 2A.  On the way out I avoided the bike path since it was leaf covered and wet and I didn't want to slip alone in the dark (or any other time).  4/225 wasn't very crowded so I didn't regret my decision.  The full route is here.

Coffee stop

Since this is a coffeeneuring post. I have to mention where I stopped: Haute Coffee in Concord, MA.  I had been there twice before, once on a partially dirt road ride I did in the early morning last fall in advance of coffeeneuring season.  I came by before they opened but they saw my lights and let me in and served me a pour over.  The make a great cup of coffee and I later enjoyed another cup after my boys and I explored the Concord heron rookery this spring.

They continue to make great pour overs and have nice treats.  I had a granola bar, which was great, especially since I had just a couple of bars for sustenance, because I was out too early to eat breakfast at home.  There is a nice place to sit indoors but the weather was fine and they don't have great places to lock bikes (you might see a mini u-lock attached to my seat bag) so I sat outside in what became a communal table.  Just as I got my coffee, I small group of riders from the Blue Ginger (yes, that nice restaurant in Wellesley) cycling club arrived and eventually joined me.  They were great company and I ended up staying a bit longer than I intended but probably was more in line with the spirit of coffeeneuring.  The coffee was served in a small carafe making it all a bit fancy but I got over that.

Riding in the dark

I have to say that I enjoy riding in the dark, although it takes a lot of equipment and care to be nearly as safe as you are riding during the day.  My wife doesn't quite get it but it is an interesting experience and not at all thrilling in a death defying way.  In fact, I wouldn't be riding in the dark if I thought it was unsafe.  I do prefer riding in the early morning when drivers are less likely to have been drinking and there are few people on  the roads rather than in the late evenings.

I have come to like the Busch and Mueller lights that I now have one on both of my bikes.  It gives me a great light on the road when I am traveling up to 20 miles per hour and has a decent spread of lower intensity light so that I can see to the side, something that I couldn't do with my battery powered headlight.  In that case, I feel like I am riding through a cone of light, although the light is better for rougher terrain.  I have a Spannigo Pixeo rear light on my commuter (which someone actually told me it was quite visible on a later afternoon commute a couple of weeks ago).  I thought the Specula Plus would be better, more than a point source of light, which some people say is not as easy to gauge distance by.  The Specula, which is the light mounted just below my seat post on the picture at the beginning of the post, seems to do better.  I still like to have a second light whether commuting or riding out of town.  I think the prettiest light is just around sunrise and sunset and in  the summer and I prefer to not ride in the heat of the day so I occasionally end up riding before sunrise and after sunset.  I end up traveling a lot slower at night, but the effect seems similar to riding on trails in the woods - it seems like you are riding a lot faster than you are.

Be careful out there if you do ride at night!

At the Maple Street bridge in Carlisle.  Lights on for safety

West Street before it turns into North Street and goes into Great Brook Farm Park.

The foliage show is fading fast but there are still some nice color out there.

Despite all of the rain that we have had in the last couple of weeks, the area is still very dry.  This is the inlet of one of Cambridge's reservoirs.

Not quite retro, not quite modern.

A map of my coffeeneuring destinations (this will change as I hope to ride more):

Miles for the ride: 43, miles for the month: 200, miles for the year: 2428.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Coffeeneuring 2014 - #1

Now that it's coffeeneuring season, I realized, again, that getting out of the house on some kind of schedule is hard, especially when it comes to cycling.  First, you need to understand that I managed to get on my bike 27 times (including today) since the beginning of September and 23 of those times have been commuting and another of those times was a family trip by bicycle.  So riding for fun seems to have largely faded from view.  Having said that, I already have family approval for a coffeeneuring trip to Western Massachusetts next week and that includes 40 miles, 4000 feet of climbing, and somewhere close to 15 miles of dirt roads.  But generally it is hard to get out of the house and this coffeeneuring season is getting a slow start.  To be honest, a lot of it has been my fault.  I instigated a trip to Cape Elizabeth in Maine, accepting friends' invitation to spend what turned out to be a rainy Saturday and sunny Sunday in a beautiful corner of the world with great friends.  I could have squeezed a coffeeneuring trip in early Saturday before we drove up there but it would have been stressful so I didn't.  Yesterday, the Saturday of the second coffeeneuring weekend, found us driving again, this time to the Ashfield Fall Festival and visiting some of my oldest friends, from college back in the 1970s.  We all had a great time, except my wife was pretty tired after driving back late with the boys (late for boys, not adults, except adults with children).  Riding before the trip was impossible, especially with me trying to get the the boys hair cut, which was successful.  So today was my first chance.  And here is what it looked like:

My wife is now aware of this challenge and while she undoubtedly scoffs at it (and is reading this post), she did encourage me to get some paint after I got some coffee (unfortunately the paint store was already closed for the day before I left the house) and even mentioned the challenge.  So I got out for some coffee and a nice ride, even if it was on busy streets.  On to the questions.

1) Where do you live?

Arlington, MA

2) How did you decide to coffeeneur?

I like coffee and I like to ride my bike.  And I ran the Northeast Regional Office for Coffeeneuring last year, making the digital map and I'm making the digital map again this year.

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

Well, it's a Suly Cross Check frame built up with Shimano 105 shifters/brakes and derailleurs along with a Shimano 3N80 front hub and a White Industries MTB rear hub.  It has fenders and racks, lights powered by the generator and others powered by batteries and it even has a bell.  It serves as my commuter and carries the boys and one day I'l go for a short tour on it.  The racks make it a good coffeeneuring bike since I can carry panniers and fill one of those panniers with locks so I can confidently lock my bike.  (The locks include two Kryptonite locks and two cables, one locking and one used with one of the u locks, so I can park it for all of 20 minutes without worrying too much.)  I guess being able to carry locks is what makes it a coffeeneuring bike.  That said, I intend to do a coffeeneuring without walls sort of trip this coffeeneuring season and I'm thinking that I won't be locking my bike on that trip.

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

Diesel Cafe, Somerville, MA.  That's where my wife and I met, 12 years ago.  It's a great place but my wife always complains when I go there by myself.  Maybe she worries that I'll meet someone else but it's more likely that she wants to feel like she has a life outside of work besides kids.  Believe me, no one was interested in me and I just wanted to enjoy a cup of espresso.  Expecting to meet someone wasn't on my radar, nor was talking with anyone - I seriously needed alone time.

5) Would you recommend the Diesel Cafe?

Heck yea!  I met my wife there and you might meet your future spouse there too.  And the coffee is good and the space is expansive and cool, although at my age I can't even be considered a hipster.  You can play pool while you drink coffee, if you happen to time it right.

6) Is there bike parking?

Yes.  The city of Somerville re-purposed a parking stall or two in front of the cafe and put in a decent bike rack.  I even found a spot there today although bike parking in the Davis Square hipster district is tight, given all of the people who ride bikes and like to hang out there.

7) Did I forget to ask you anything that you want to share?

Well, no.  I think you have it covered.

My coffeeneuring bike:

You may notice that I was carrying a tire on the bike.  I made a stop at a bike shop to get a new tire for my son's new-to-us bike.  So this could have also qualified as an errandoneuring trip, if you happen to know what that is.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Visiting Firefly

My trip to Firefly Bicycles started with my friend Carl taking pictures of people after they finished the D2R2 (and several people helping out at the start/finish).  I suggested that Tyler and and Josie, who I had just said hello to, might be great subjects.  And they came over, perhaps in part to check out the camera, a 8x10 inch format camera.  It's hard to not be interested in Carl's camera.  It's one of those that require the photographer to get under a hood to see the viewfinder, if you can call it that, and you focus from outside the hood and you use a separate light meter.  The process is quite long - I know because I posed for a picture that day.  In any case, Carl took a picture of them, which you can see here.  Tyler suggested a shop visit for Carl, who invited me along.  Carl was interested in photographing their shop.  I was interested in looking at the process and checking out the bikes they were working on.

Carl and I arranged with Kevin Wolfson to take a tour of the Firefly factory a couple of weeks ago and it was well worth the effort.  Their shop is clean and somewhat sparse.  They seem to have more room than what seems like is needed but that made moving about, while holding a frame, more comfortable.  And they had time for us, at least Kevin had time to greet us and show us around, and Jamie gave us a more detailed tour, including a great explanation on welding, and showed us a number of frames and bikes in process.  Then Tyler came back from lunch and talked with us as well and checked out Carl's more portable camera (more portable than his 8x10 but still much more substantial than my DSLR).

I think I got one clear message about Firefly and how they operate.  They seem to want the space and time to make each bike perfect for the owner, which, by all accounts, they do.  It was fun to see several bikes in process.  The frame for Jamie's new super commuter was in the tacking jig and nearly ready for tacking.  It was alarming for me to see him pull a piece out to show me and have to get it back in place but it was also great fun to see the details that aren't visible once the frame is welded.  I had the opportunity to check out how all of the complicated tube cuts fit together, and how tight the tolerances were.  We also got to see the new disk road dropouts before they were well known (there are beautiful and now well publicized).  We saw a bike in the welding stand, waiting for Tyler, who finished the dress welds for the big tubes and was about to work on the small parts.  Except for the discoloration from the welding and finish work, it looked ready to ride.  We looked at  a couple of mountain frames looking nearly ready to build into bikes.  We also saw a light touring bike with S and S couplers, waiting on parts but very nearly finished.  We also saw Josh Zisson's frame from Saila Bikes, ready for a bead blasting finish.  There was the shop Bones project bike leaning against the wall, and the shop Adventure team bike waiting for its next adventure.  We also saw a small collection of seat posts and stems and parts ready to make more of them.  We also saw  the waiting list on a white board.  I was tempted to take a picture of it but this wouldn't be something to share if I did.  It was a long list with lots of names, each holding a dream of a perfect bike, waiting its turn to come alive.  Their process seems very deliberate and their results are spectacular.

It was an inspiring visit, even if I'm a few years away from buying a new bicycle.  Having a custom made frame makes me want another and Firefly is certainly high on my list of local custom builders.  I already have a bike that Tyler and Jamie had a part in building so I would certainly trust them, and Kevin, to make another great bike for me.

Overall, I felt like a kid in a candy shop, with very expensive candy that was well worth the cost.  Just after we left Carl asked me if I wanted a Firefly.  The answer was obvious.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

How do you carry your kids?

I've now gone the whole gamut of carrying kids on my bike (realizing that other bikes, such as mid and long tails and bakfiets, are out there, but I don't yet have one of these).  I started out with a Burly trailer, which didn't work out with my first child - he is a talker and I wouldn't hear him until he was crying and then it would be too late.  On the other hand, my second child enjoyed the trailer and sometimes prefers it to a bike seat.  Next came the bike seat, although I did carry the older child in a bike seat and the younger child in the trailer numerous times.  By the way, that is hard, especially up hill.  It's like an awkward touring bike, with, for me, a hundred pound load.

Next up, is the trail-a-bike, or third wheel, or whatever its proper name is.  In any case, I finally had cause to try it out this weekend.  My wife, whose schedule makes it harder to get outside, wanted to ride to the Wright Locke Farm, which has a pretty big raspberryfield.  The field is ancient, with some plants as much as 30 years old.  The picking is usually good and, if you are lucky and are interested in such things, you might see the Yellow Orb Spider (hopefully the link stays around for a while), which we saw a couple of years in a row.  Or you might not want to see it and still come across it.  Anyway, we knew we are outgrowing the bike seat for our oldest boy.  I picked him up after school one day a couple of weeks ago and realized that there is no longer a place for his knees, unless you count poking into my back.  So when we planned on riding to Wright Locke Farm, we also decided to install our hand me down trail-a-bike.  Unfortunately there is no longer a quick release (it seems frozen up so I couldn't pull it apart) but I managed to install it with the knowledge that I would have to take the bolts off before my next commute to work.  I recall that long ago I spec'ed a steel seat tube with the thought that one day I'd be hanging a trail-a-bike off my Surly and that day, five and a half years later, has come.

So, how do I like it?  First, let me say that my wife was a bit jealous that I would have my oldest boy helping me push the bike up the hills.  That didn't happen.  While we were taking a tour of my street, my child complained of his pedals being loose.  It didn't occur to me right away but what he was complaining about was that his gearing was so easy that as long as I was pedaling, he couldn't pedal fast enough to make any impact.  He eventually got used to this and my wife understood that she wasn't missing his effort.  Instead, she had our younger son in a bike seat and that was a known effort.  What I had was the big boy on what turned out to be a very challenging ride.  I urged him to not lean the bike, which I've seen to be a challenge for the rider, and he avoided leaning.  But he did turn around, something that amounts to a lean and it was hard to handle.  I constantly felt like I was being pulled into the street or the curb.  I never could let go with one hand and I was constantly ready to pull us back in line.  In short, someone ought to teach a class on how to handle this kind of rig.  I know it was pretty tough for me.  I can take hope that my child is now interested in riding his own bike, though training wheels seem to be part of the deal for him.

My wife had a hard day as it was, her first time riding this year - 470 feet of climbing in 6 miles, carrying a 35 pound boy on her bike.  But she was a trooper.

So how do you carry your kids, or do you?

Miles for the month: 314, miles for the year (2200).

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review: Clement USH 60 TPI

One thing I didn't mention in this post as it first appeared was my weight, which is 165 pounds.  The bike in its current state weighs about 30 pounds.  I routinely carry 20 pounds on my rear rack on my commutes.  Add that 20 to my front racks and 35-45 pounds (depending on the child) when I am carrying a child in a Co-Pilot seat.

Last year I rode a few rides that pushed me, a lot.  First I rode the Ride Studio Cafe Diverged ride.  Frankly, I shouldn't have been there.  It was a long ride through the woods, mostly on trails and I never rode on trails like that.  But I really liked the idea that Rob Vandermark has about finding places to ride where you don't expect them.  I also rode the Green River Ride (part of the D2R2 but far easier than the 100K version I rode in 2009).  While the slopes were easy, Green River Road, a dirt road following the Green River in Vermont, was in comparatively rough shape with a lot of decent size rocks that you had to roll over or around.  Then I missed the 2013 version of the Honey 100 and made up for it with a solo, early morning trip to Estabrook Woods in Concord.  If I didn't think I needed better tires before Diverged 2013, then I certainly knew I needed them after Estabrook.

I plotted and planned and decided what I wanted was either the Clement USH (700x35mm) or the Clement MSO (700x40mm).  Then I hemmed and hawed (or whatever that expression is) and finally just didn't do anything.  Then I went to the MM Racing end of season party and won these:

A photo posted by NEBicyclist (@svillecyclist) on

 I sort of liked the idea of the wider MSO tires and I sort of thought that the 120 TPI tires would have given me a more supple ride but, hey, I had these in hand, so I was sort of all set.  Sort of, because my then current narrow fenders wouldn't fit.  In fact, the rear fender bounced off the tire on commutes so I knew I needed to change the fenders.  Money, as always, was tight so even though I really wanted the Portland Design Works fenders, it wasn't happening.  I had some money in my REI dividend remaining and they sell the SKS Longboards, which isn't a bad choice, just not as aesthetically pleasing as the PDW fenders.  And they came in the right size for my bike and wheel.  So I was ready to roll.  My new tires looked so clean and new compared to the Panaracer commuters I had been using:

But now they look like this, after 1200 miles:

Which really isn't all that bad.  The rear tire looks a little more worn but the central ridge, for riding on pavement, is still in decent shape.  In fact, one fellow rider on the 2014 Honey 100 said mine looked as good  as her new USH tires.  I have done a decent amount of dirt road riding on them.  That dirt road riding includes:

Diverged training:

And the 2014 Diverged ride.  It also includes a diversion on my way to work the week after Diverged:

I also did an extended version of the Green River Ride, including 4000 feet of climbing, a very shortened version of the 2014 Honey 100, about 5 miles a week on dirt and gravel on my daily commute, and this:

So, what do I think of these tires after 1200 miles and some off road riding?  I love them!  First, 60 TPI vs 120 TPI may make a difference but these 35mm tires, inflated to 65 PSI front, 70 rear when commuting or carrying one of my boys on a rear rack seat, and 60 front, 65 rear off road are comfortable for me.  Maybe there are other issues that come up but they are great for now.

These tires are great on the commute.  They are not noisy (and noise = energy lost) and I have not had a flat crossing the sometimes less than optimal roads of Cambridge and Somerville and a lot of very rough surfaces.  I'm knocking on wood now.

But where they really have helped me is off road.  I really enjoyed the 2014 Diverged ride and was amazed at what I could ride over.  In addition to their ability to climb over rocks, they were good enough (and much better than my old commuter tires) on muddy sections of trail.  They were fabulous on the Green River Ride, which for me included a decent amount of climbing on pretty sketchy roads.  I was alone, off route for a number of miles, and I rode confidently on these tires.  I relied on these tires for my solo night ride (in preparation of Rob Vandermark planned Solstice over night ride that didn't happen, yet).  I was moving relatively quickly over generally good dirt surface  on the Reformatory Branch Trail and found my footing to be confidence inspiring.

These tires really came through on the 2014 Honey 100.  The trail conditions in places was what, in the past, I would have called impassable.  But everyone in my "fun" group was riding over it and after a tentative start, I started to gain confidence.  I started to just gun it, if you really call riding as fast as you can in a 30/30 gearing gunning it.  And I made it up every hill I tried, which turned out to be the rest of the hills, and I made it down a lot of gnarly descents.  I think my test hill, if there was one, was a very rocky ascent with some pretty big flattish rocks.  I remember rolling over some big rocks that I thought - this is it, I'm tumbling over.  And I didn't.  The wheels just rolled over them and I smiled and thought, this is possible. Wow.  These are great tires and I have some experience and confidence that comes from that experience on good equipment.  I'm still a relative novice and while I'll tackle more dirt roads and single track, I think I won't do it alone and at night.

So I think I was lucky in winning these tires and I will definitely not be going back to a commuter tire anytime soon.  These Clement USH tires are too much fun and get me to places that I wouldn't easily get to otherwise.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Trying to avoid the right hook

It happened twice today - two people didn't notice me riding beside them.  They passed me and turned right.  The first driver didn't even have her blinkers on.  But I could tell she was turning into the grocery store parking lot 50 feet down the road.  I think caution is the better part of valor when I'm riding.  So I proceeded very cautiously, slowed down, and let her take the turn.  Great.  It was my right to use the bike lane but I don't do battle with any size vehicle and this one was a medium size SUV and would have won handily.  I had the right to proceed but that doesn't mean that I had to use my right, especially if it meant a crash with me on the losing end.

The second time happened less than a half mile down the street.  This time the driver of a Mini was signaling to take a right turn just after passing me and then slowing down for traffic.  He might not have seen me and started his turn.  By then I had slowed to a crawl and shouted 'HEADS UP' and he turned to look at me and stopped.  I sure would have stopped if he didn't.  Again, I had the right of way according to Massachusetts law but that doesn't mean that I choose to exercise that right at risk of life and limb, for a second time in half a mile.

My wife describes me as being pretty cautious when driving and that carries over and is more evident when I ride.  That caution has been amplified as I hear of more and more collisions between cars and bicyclists.  I don't know if drivers are worse these days with smart phones taking up too much of drivers' attention.  As a cyclist, I get a good view of drivers as I pass cars waiting in traffic and I see a lot of drivers with smart phones in their hands.  I'd like to tell them all that they really should put their phones down.  Maybe the texting law is too limited.  I like the New York law, which I just noticed this weekend.  You can't use a handheld device while driving, period.  But what is happening here isn't necessarily distracted drivers on their phones (the Mini driver didn't have one in his hand).  It might be drivers who simply don't pay attention to bicycles and manage to not seem them.  Or it could be that one time when that driver didn't pay attention to their passenger side view mirror.  Who knows?  In one sense, it doesn't matter.  The message to me is that I always need to assume that I'm invisible or worse - that I'm a target.  I see an intersection and the light is mine and I look both ways to see if someone isn't paying attention to that light before I proceed into that intersection.  And I'm always slow.  I can't tell you how many people pass me on their Hubway bikes but I don't care.  All I want to do is get home.

So how do you deal with cars on your commute?  Do I sound too cautious or do you think I should just drive my car?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Coffeeneuring 2014

Mapping the finishers of the 2014 Coffeeneuring Challenge:  Mary from Chasing Mailboxes will be updating the base tables that will fill in the map.  We added a new map this year, the coffee shops where we all stopped at for this year's coffeeneuring challenge.

Coffeeneurs in the US by state:

DC is the epicenter for coffeeneuring  and it is small relative to the rest of the country so here is a detailed look at it:

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 the links to see the blogs.

From last year: the process we use for making the first two maps.

The communal coffee shop map:

How we are making the coffee shop map.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Riding an abbreviated version of the Honey 100

Saturday the 13th was the Honey 100, a ride that has the intent of getting you off road as much as possible and, in this instance, of getting you to ride east of Lexington and not west.  The ride was sponsored by Ride Studio Cafe and Honey Bicycles, with the ride starting in Lexington at RSC.  I missed last year's version, which went north and west of Lexington and was more of a long linear pursuit.  This year's version looked more like the Diverged rides that RSC has sponsored.  That is, you never get all that far from where you started but you sure get to find many trails along the way.  I speak from someone who rode the 50K version (and didn't even finish that).  Those who did the 100K might have other opinions.

My ride, with the group, is in red, the complete 50K ride is in black, and the towns are in blue.  I wandered home along the Mystic Lakes to Arlington solo.

The cafe was hopping when I arrived around 7:45.  The fun (that is, the slowest group) 50K group was scheduled to head out at 8 but in the chaos of 140 cyclists in and around a small shop, we didn't leave until close to 9 AM.   Lesli Cohen led the ride with Dan, who lead the RSC Pioneer ride I did in June.  They did a great job keeping us moving and generally keeping everyone within their limits.

I rode my Surly Cross Check, which I was very happy with.  I appreciated the 30/30 gearing, which kept me moving up loose, rocky paths that I thought I were beyond my previous limits.  It was useful riding the Clement USH, a 700x35mm, a tire intended to move between gravel and pavement.   The Surly is my commuter and it felt quite stable on this ride.  One can easily be seduced by the beautiful (and well designed and built) Honeys but this humble Surly build does the job for me for now.

The ride starts out on now familiar trails and roads to Winchester center and then into Middlesex Fells.  Cycling is legal on certain trails in the Fells and while I walked there in the past, this was my first time cycling there.  The trails, as promised, where rocky and rough after the washout of the previous weekend but there were a lot of relaxed stretches of dirt paths as well.  The part of the Fells east of I93 were even nicer than the west side.  There we were passed by a group led by Chip Baker.  In his group where were a lot of folks in orange from Philadelphia, led by Lone Wolf Cycling.  They were at the break at mile 16 or then raced on ahead of us.  The break was great with light snacks, enough to keep my energy level up.  I hear there was a nice lunch for the 100K riders that the 50K riders missed.  And there was likely great food at the finish, which I didn't  get to.  After a precarious start getting out of the house in the morning, I decided to cut my losses and promise to get back earlier than I should have, causing me to bail earlier than I would have liked.  After leaving the group in Winchester, I picked up lunch for my wife and me at Arlington Town Day, then rode home.

Surface conditions

"Washed out access roads:  The rain from last Saturday caused some new washing out of access roads and single track.  This means trails can be a bit rockier and looser than some people may expect.  Take extra care on these types of descents, ride slowly and well within your abilities; or, walk your bike if that makes more sense for you.  Riding slow on these is also wise because somewhere along that descent is probably a quick turn onto some other trail so you don't want to risk overshooting the turn.  Take these descents as opportunities to regroup.  Warning:  The most washed out section of the entire ride is in the Middlesex Fells between mile 10 and 12.  If you're more comfortable, please walk the rockiest sections."

We were warned - the road and trail surfaces were as advertised (the above is from one of the emails participants received before the ride).  I still consider myself a novice on this kind of riding.  My bike works my much better these days with my Clement USH (700x35mm) tires and a little bit of confidence.  This ride added to that confidence.  There were a large number of rocky descents and ascents.  It seemed like there were more hard ascents than descents, but maybe I'm better at descents, though I don't think so.  I generally was near the back of our group, which was about 13 people for much of the ride.  People seemed to ride confidently and not need to walk the gnarlier sections (gnarly to me, that doesn't correspond to any kind of universal rating system) so I pushed myself some.  And I was surprised.  After a cautious start, I started trying to get up and down every hill, despite the rocks cluttering the paths.  I believe Rob Vandermark mentioned that the side of these trails were best and often you had to take one side then cross over to the other side of the trail to find the smoothest sections.  I hit a lot of rocks but my wheels carried me over them and I wasn't forced off my bike.  By the end, I felt pretty good about my ability to travel over this kind of terrain, but I certainly won't be doing it solo, or at night, any time soon.  I heard of one crash that shortened one person's ride but otherwise I believe our group finished intact.

Some pictures of the ride

First bridge of the ride, a boardwalk through Arlington Great Meadows.  These were some faster riders doing the full 100K version of the ride that passed our group a few miles into the ride.

Regrouping along the way on a very easy section of the ride.

The route took us around the Middlesex Fells Reservoir.

We were passed by a faster 100K group in the Fells east of I93. They were largely from the Lone Wolf Cycling posse and were a lot of fun.  That's Charlie from LWC in the orange helmet.  He was riding a beautiful single speed Hanford and was handing out chocolate.

Charlie's Hanford.

Chip, from Honey and riding his Honey, who lead the LWC posse and did a lot to make the ride happen.

Break time.  Coincidentally, these are the two bikes with generator lighting in our group.

The last of the LWC group taking off from the break.  The drivers of the cars we encountered on the route were very polite and would stop for a group of cyclists making turns and crossing roads.

This was a pretty fancy bridge on a trail that crossed between a couple of backyards and ended up on a city street on the other side of the bridge.

Yes, I rode my commuter and carried my son to school on it the day before the ride.  There is a reason for those front racks.