Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Three signs

I updated an earlier post to include a third sign that I mentioned but did not have a photograph of, this one also in Cambridge.

Three signs, maybe more than one message. 

The first sign is in Cambridge at the intersection of Main Street and Galileo Galilei Way and and routes you around a construction site, with the sidewalk taking up the bike lane and bikes moving into the right turn lane.  This small sign, propped up on a traffic cone, might be hard to see from a car driver's perspective.  And this sign might subject travelers to some confusion.  Does it say "bicyclists, share the road with cars, because you act like you own it" (which we certainly do in part because we pay for it with our taxes) or "cars, bikes are on the road, share the road"?  I know the law so the I understand the second interpretation to be correct, although not all drivers may see that.

Not the most obvious sign.
To give Cambridge some credit, there is a much clearer sign on the corner of Ames and Main Street, right by Legal Seafood.  I don't go by there much but I went back today to get a picture. I much prefer this sign over the first sign.  It could be clearer but you have only so much space on a sign.  I do recognize that Cambridge is paying attention to cycling and this sign shows it.  In fact, there is a bike lane with a separation from the parked cars on both sides of this street.  I've seen photographic evidence of cars parking in the bike lane.  Hopefully police respond when/if people call it in although it isn't clear to me that parking in a bike lane is illegal in Massachusetts at this time.

This one seems easier to interpret, at least for me: "Bikes, cars - share the road."

The next sign, in Somerville, is much clearer than the first two.  Granted, it has three screens to get its message across but it does educate drivers and cyclists in about five seconds.  This is at the east end of the recently repaved Beacon Street and is part of a much larger project to improve the street for all users, including cyclists.  That Somerville and the state spent money on the temporary pavement is recognition of how bad the street was, in particular for cyclists  Somerville had already advised cyclists to take a signed detour, which I used a number of times and will likely use frequently during the full depth reconstructions.  This is a video and you need to click on the image to start the video.

In short, It looks like Somerville's political leadership recognize that there are a large number of people, residents and neighbors like myself, who cycle on its roads and is doing a lot to make it easier and safer to ride bikes through the city.

A video posted by NEBicyclist (@svillecyclist) on
Thanks, Somerville.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Coffeeneuring finishers, 2015

The coffeeneuring challenge is past its fourth weekend so it's time to publish the digital version of the maps - here there are.  Mary from Chasing Mailboxes will be updating the base tables that will fill in the map for the next few weeks.  The communal coffee shop map is being updated and you can find out how to add to it here.  Feel free to contact me to get permission to edit the map.

Number of coffeeneurs 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 with coffeeneurs and links to the blogs, if they have one (a blog is not required to finish but they are fun to read):

And here are the coffeeneuring stops (big red points are 2015 and purple are from 2014):

How these maps are made.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Coffeeneuring #4 2015, an exercise in checking how I dress for cold weather cycling

It is fall and it is getting colder, if only in fits and starts.  I had a pretty cold weekend coffeeneuring ride last weekend and it was even colder today.  According to wunderground.com, the low in Concord this morning, about the time I passed through, was around 25 degrees.  That turns out to be pretty cold when you are riding a bike.  I was prepared for it, as much as I could given what I had on hand.  I ended up riding 43 miles, starting at about 5:15 AM, and rode through Lexington, Bedford, Concord, Acton, and Lincoln.  It was a beautiful morning, including about an hour or so of riding in the dark.  I was well lit and had a lot of reflective material on me and felt pretty safe.  And I wasn't alone out there.  I saw 5 or 6 cyclists about to get started at the Concord rotary (the one near the Colonial Inn in Concord center) and not long after saw a couple of women riding into Concord center on Lowell Road.  But that's all of the cyclists I saw before sunrise.  I also saw a few people running. And I saw a cat near Arlington Great Meadows on the bike path looking feral, two bunnies and one coyote.  The coyote was about to cross the bike path then it saw me and changed its mind and headed back into someone's yard in Lexington.

I was pretty well dressed for the weather but I had two weak points - my arms above my elbows and my feet.  I think I could deal with my arms getting cold and they really only got cold on fast descents, which isn't all that much when riding in the dark.  My feet were another matter.  By the time I was in Acton center, heading south to Taylor Road and a Route 2 crossing, I was actively working my toes around to get them warmed up.  It was probably 25 degrees about then.  I was wearing a heavy pair of wool socks, my cycling shoes, and neoprene overshoes, the kind with the bottom mostly cut out to accommodate walking and hardware for clipping into pedals.  In retrospect, I could probably do fine with this set up if I got some insulated insoles and, maybe, chemical heaters.  With both, I'd bet that I could ride into the teens for a decent distance.  I'm in the market for a warmer glove and that would be necessary at that temperature.  I'm also in the market for fleece lined tights, thanks to Matt Roy's advice.  My light tights did well enough today but I would appreciated something warmer at cooler temperatures than today.

Anyway, to get back to coffeeneuring, my feet were getting cold and I thought that getting off my bike sooner than later was a good idea.  My route was planned to stay closer to town and on familiar roads.  This was because I had a deadline for getting back home and also for safety, considering the cooler temperature and the lack of light at the started of the ride.  I also included three possible stops for coffee: Nashoba Bakery in West Concord, Haute Coffee in Concord, and Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington.  Given my cold feet, I opted for Nashoba, which was the first one I would pass, and rolled in not long after then opened, though I wasn't the first person there.  Comfort food was pretty desirable and they had what I needed.  I also order a latte.  The food was great, the coffee was hot, and the room was warm enough.  I was very happy to be inside long enough (and it was a quick breakfast) to warm up and for the sun to warm the atmosphere a few degrees.  And that was enough to make me comfortable for the rest of the ride home.

So do I recommend Nashoba?  The food is fine.  If I had more time and was hungrier, I would have tried a pastry, which I enjoyed in the past.  The coffee was OK, but not great.  The room is comfortable and bike parking is ample in back (there is no parking in front of the shop.  I parked my bike within sight of the window and didn't bother locking it.

Comfort food is sometimes necessary, especially when you have cold feet and the rest of you isn't exactly overheating when you are wearing everything you have with you.

I made a quick stop at the Gropius House. My wife tells me that a tour is worth your while but it was closed when I went past.  Note the clever use of my helmet as a kickstand, copyright @coffeeneur.

It's looking like late October on Flint Pond in Lincoln, MA.  Peak leaf peeping season has passed, which is expected about now.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Spin Arts Cyclocross bike in the wild

On my way into work today, I ran into Shauna, riding her Spin Arts cyclocross bike.  I have never heard of Spin Arts before.  When I saw the head tube with an unusual badge, I asked her if I could take a look at her bike.  She was happy to show it off.  She used to race and this was once her racing bike.  Now it's her commuter.

After checking out her bike we enjoyed a rainy commute into Somerville together.  We both manged to remember rain gear so the commute wasn't all that bad.  But my gloves didn't dry by the time I left for home, which tells me I need a better drying arrangement at work.  By the way, the pictures were taken when the rain was still very light.  I wouldn't have asked to check out her bike if I ran into her 20 minutes later.  By then I just wanted to get out of the rain.

The bike:

The unusual head badge that caught my eye.

Side view of the bike.  It has nice lines but certainly is a little retro looking, with curved steel forks and lugs.

Lugs everywhere.

Bottom bracket, also lugged.

Beautiful details in the head tube and and fork crown.

As Tom Stevens says on his web page, each bike he builds is durable.  I'd say this one has stood the test of time.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Coffeeneuring map: duplicates and making the map your own

Apparently there are only so many coffee shops - people are visiting the same shops that others have been to on this year's coffeeneuring challenge or last year's, when we started this map.  And this is a challenge for the those adding their coffeeneuring stops to the map.  I have an interim measure to deal with  this, although not gracefully.  There is now a new column in the data: Older visits.  For now, if you see that the shop that you want to add is already in the map, you can do two things, depending on the year the shop was last visited:

1) If the information is from the current year, put your name/twitter feed/blogpots into the More Coffeeneurs 1 2 3 columns.  If you run out of columns, let me know.  Add anything you want to the notes but write that a second coffeeneur is adding the notes.

2) If the information is older, feel free to add to the notes before the older notes and put your name/twitter feed/blogpots into the More Coffeeneurs 1 column (or 2 if 1 is filled in or 3 if two is filled in).  If you run out of columns, let me know.

These extra columns aren't showing up on the map now but I'll fix that this evening.

Making the map your own

Having a group map is great but you might want to include a map of your stops on your blog.  You can do this easily.  First, when looking at the map view, use the filter to find only your entries.  If you did this with single entry, like I did last year (with "https://twitter.com/NEBicyclist"), you can easily find your data by clicking on Filter, then Coffeeneur and then clicking on the checkbox for you name.  You might search for your name, as I did in the example below.

Or you might have added your stops with a blog post for each entry, which I am doing this year.  In this case, you need to scroll down through the list and check off each of your entries.  Remember that this list is alphabetic and where how you entered a link matters.  For instance, some of the twitter links are http:twitter.com and others are https:/twitter.com.  Therefore all of the https links are after all of the http links

Once you have your stops selected, you can publish you maps.  Publish is under the Tools menu.  You will get two options: a link like this one for my map or HTML so you can embed your map using HTML as I have done here:

The form that you pull the link and HTML looks like this:

You may have to mess with how the map is centered as long as  your stops are in the center of the map but it is mostly a trial and error process.

It should be put before the last DIV in the HTML in Blog

Once you have your map all set, go back to the original fusion  table and delete your filter.  The link and embedded code still have the filters.

Give it a try and ask questions via comments here or send me email.

And also feel free to leave comments on how you thinks it's best to deal with duplicate coffeeneuring stops.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Coffeeneuring #2 2015 or a 3 state multi modal tour

In interview form:

1) Where do you live? Arlington, MA, just west of Boston.

2) How did you decide to coffeeneur? This is my third year and I've held the title of the Northeast Regional Office (NRO) for that time, based on my mapping assistance to the cause.  The mapping is easy and fun so it's not a problem for me. How could I not participate being the NRO,  And it's fun to do.

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 used my 2007 IF Club Racer.  It's for long, fast rides (both long and fast are relative to me and maybe not you).  And it has about 6 liters of carrying capacity, which makes it ideal for longer rides where I might shed or need more clothes, carry some food, and carry a u-lock (if I can't bring my bike inside a coffee shop).  I used that capacity fully on this trip.  The bike has ample generator and usb-charged lighting capacity so I ran lights on for safety.

4) Where did you choose to coffeeneur for this coffeeneuring trip? I chose Caffe Kilim, which I found in obscure way.  There was a post by a local cyclocross rider that had a picture of a racer from somewhere else who had a picture of coastal NH and someone commented, saying that she or he (I can't remember) should stop at that shop when near Portsmouth.  Got that?  When I knew I might be riding through Portsmouth, I pulled the shop out of my memory banks and figured out that it wasn't out of the way and decided to try it.  And there was a decent restaurant next door.  How could I lose?

5) How was the shop, was it worth the trip?  Well, the trip was worth it for other reasons, which I'll get into later but yes, they had decent coffee and a nice, hippy-ish atmosphere.  There were a number of other people in the shop, one buying coffee beans so I knew it wasn't going to be bad.  There was a Turkish theme to the cafe, which wasn't surprising since one of the founders is from Istanbul.  Having been in Instanbul for a couple of weeks, it was familiar place to enjoy a shot of espresso.  But it was definitely an American cafe.  Bike parking was limited but there was a street sign right out front and I locked my bike in sight of where I sat and in view from the restaurant next door.

Official Coffeeneuring photograph.

I wasn't all that hungry (5 hours after breakfast) but I knew that I need substantial food before I made it to my final destination, Ogunquit, ME, so I stopped at The Kitchen.  The Kitchen was an even more appealing place to sit and enjoy a few moments off of the bike. I ordered a sandwich to go and promised to return with my family one day.  I had room in my seat bag for the sandwich and rode off to find the recently renovated Memorial Bridge and ride the last 17 miles (according my GPS) and find a place to eat lunch.

6) What other types of riding do you do besides coffeeneuring? I love taking my IF out for road rides.  I also commute on my Surly Cross Check and take that on trail and dirt road rides when I have the chance.

7) What else did I forget to ask you? Do you have anything you want to share? Sometimes (maybe almost always) the journey is as much fun as the destination.  This ride was a somewhat hastily organized trip to join my family for a large family gathering at the Cliff House in Ogunquit.  At first my wife said that it was fine to ride then she said that she wanted a family trip and it was better for me to ride early and then be bike-less on the trip.  Then, on the evening before the trip, she told me that her sister wanted to go with her since my brother-in-law was working and needed to come up later in the day.  In short, me riding up to Ogunquit was fine with my wife.

I knew I couldn't do the whole ride from home before dinner so I planned on catching the 9:30 AM Newburyport commuter train from North Station.  I left my house about 8:45 and rode to Alewife and picked up a ticket got on a mostly empty Red Line train.

On the Red Line train.  There train was mostly empty and the space wasn't otherwise needed on that trip.

I bought my commuter rail ticket to Newburyport while on the Red Line train and then talked to a very nice guy heading to an Ingress event while on the train.  We both got out at Charles/MGH and I rode the bike path to North Station.  The timing wasn't all that tight - I had 10 minutes to spare.   Bikes are allowed on the commuter rail on weekends but the space is right in front of handicap seating, which wasn't needed on this trip.  There were at least a dozen cyclists on the train and the bikes spilled out of the designated area to another car, which was fine with the conductor.  I sat next to Jake M., who was a cool guy.  He was riding a custom built Surly Cross Check and was heading to a party on the North Shore and then riding back to Boston the next day.  He is also is putting together a Moots light weight touring bike for a two month tour in Central Europe this fall and a planned trip from Vancouver to Alaska next year.  He was great company and an inspiration.

Getting on the commuter rail.  I think I rode about 4 miles between my house and the Red Line and between the Red Line station and the commuter rail station.

On the train.  I texted this picture to my wife to let her know I made the train.  She was surprised that the conductors still wear these traditional uniforms.
Once at the Newburyport station, I followed a Meetup bike trip into Newburyport and over the Merrimac and then headed north.

I've never been on the coast here so I didn't know what to expect.  The first stretch from Salisbury, MA to Seabrook, NH was wind swept and less than pleasing, even with the ocean on one side of the highway.  It had that desolate look of a vacation area when not in season with too much capacity for how many people were there at the time.  The homes were a far cry from Chatham or other well to do Cape Cod towns, and not always in good repair.

Homes with a view - Route 1A and the ocean on one side and a nuclear power plant on the other.

Hampton was in much better shape than Salisbury and Seabrook but still desolate and mostly empty on a cool, breezy October day.

The scenery changed in Hampton, NH, especially north of town.  The road hugged the coast here and everything looked more prosperous than further south.  I saw many people walking on the side of road, with ample space for them away from traffic.  Portsmouth was even more appealing - we'd move there in a minute if we could find work nearby.  I found the coffee shop and restaurant with no problem, enjoyed the brief stop and found my way into Maine.  Before getting to Maine, I watched the vertical lift descending on the Memorial Bridge.  It was an impressive site.  I took a series of pictures and will add the link here in the near future.  The coast hugging road ended so my hope of finding a rock to sit on and enjoy the view and the sandwich I bought in Portsmouth didn't materialize.  Instead I found a nice spot near the Barrell Mill Pond Dam and got out of the sun.

The bridge over the outflow from the Barrell Mill Pond.  The water was running fast!

The remaining miles where easy with some hills and the road again was closer to the coast.  A guy who was staying locally paced me to the hotel.  I found my way to my wife and kids and immediately drank a glass of cold water and enjoyed a hot tub with the boys.  I'm not sure if a hot tub was a good idea immediately after a long ride but it felt good and my muscles were fine the next day.  I later stepped outside to watch the boys swim in the pool.  The water was warm but swimming with temps in the low fifties wasn't fun.

The hotel wasn't exactly my style but the company was great and the rocks were a lot of fun to climb on.

Awaiting sunrise from the rocks.  We had coffee for my wife and me and hot chocolate for the boys.
The route from Newburyport to Cliff House in Ogunquit.

Miles for the ride: about 50, miles for the month: about 200, miles for the year: almost 3,300.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Touring blues

I've been following NutmegCountry on his Instagram feed for a while now and really enjoy his photographs.  I recently discovered his blog, which doesn't have all that many posts, unfortunately.  His recent posts are documenting his cross country tour.  One of those posts struck a chord with me.

This post.  It documents his struggles with touring and it seemed familiar to me.  As he said in the post, "i'm sure plenty of distance tourists have run into this but i've never heard anyone ever talk about it. it's probably just like anything else, in retrospect you forget much of the bad and candy-coat everything."  Well, that strikes a nerve, deep down somewhere in my memory.  I have these thoughts of times on long tours, by myself, when the rain came early and cold, or the hills were relentless and I didn't have enough food to stop for the night, or the cars and logging trucks were running me off the road or the wind just made traveling nearly impossible and I needed to get to a place to sleep or eat.  And at those times I, too, wished I were somewhere else.

I think he's got it right, that doing something every day, all day for as much time as you would spend on a full time job, and more, makes everything, even cycling, difficult, for a time.  I never got home wishing I didn't take that tour but I definitely had some days that made me wonder.  Maybe I did what he did and found some refuge and rested and found energy to make myself happy about what I was doing.

I'm not sure when I might get to spend at least a couple of weeks by myself on bike.  Maybe since I'm older I'm also wiser and I'll avoid getting into a rut and getting too tired or wet and cold or caught on the wrong roads.  Probably not.  I'll just make the mistakes and figure out how to sort it out yet again.

But read the blog, it's totally worth following: www.pedalpedal.net.  And he is back on track after a rest in Lincoln, NE.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Coffeeneuring #1 2015 or how much of this ride can I get off the road and still get there

Coffeeneuring season has started and I got out yesterday for #1 and could have done #2 today, but I was in too big a hurry.


Yesterday's plans evolved a lot.  We had planned on going to the Topsfield Fair, parking nearby and riding a mile on the Topsfield Linear Common to the fair.  We invited my sister-in-law and her daughters but the cool weather turned them off so they ended up coming over for a play date with the cousins.  I was given a hall pass so left before everyone came and headed over to Tamper, in Medford on Boston Ave.  I've stopped there for coffee and pastries on my way to work once but never sat down there.  I chose a route that looked like a big S, clearly not taking the most direct way.  But I managed to use the Minuteman Bike Path and the Alewife Greenway and spent most of the ride off road.
The Greenway north of Broadway.  The structure holding up this bridge/ramp down to the path looks pretty light to me.
Boston Ave in Medford is under construction, which isn't  a bad thing since this was pothole heaven before they ground down the asphalt.
Tamper is a nice place.  I was there around 3 PM and it wasn't empty but was quiet.  The cookies were tasty and the latte was worth the ride.  I enjoyed a few minutes of quiet before heading home to chaos.  While there were some bike themed ornaments (a tab was a chain ring - yes, they serve beer, Rapscallion, once one of my favorite beers, back when the bottled Blessing), there wasn't much in the way of bike infrastructure helping me out.  But that's true of the entire area around the Boston Ave/Winthrop intersection.  And in fairness to Tamper, there isn't space to fit a bike rack on the sidewalk, and Medford hasn't experimented with bike corrals, something you see in Somerville, at least in a couple of places.

A photo posted by NEBicyclist (@svillecyclist) on

I went out of my way on my return trip, prompting my wife to say, "Belmont isn't on the way back from Medford."  And it isn't but after heading back through Davis Square, I didn't take the Minuteman and instead took the Fitchburg Cutoff into Belmont.  From there I found my way to Snake Hill Road and eventually the Western Greenway.  I managed a wrong turn on a trail but found familiar sites and eventually made it back to Arlington and home.

Along the Fitchburg Cutoff. 

My wrong turn brought me here, at the edge of the cemetery.  I followed this trail out to a road I recognized and found my way back into my town.
All in all, it was a great coffeeneuring trip with great coffee and nice roads.  It was a 12 mile ride with 7 of those miles on bike paths or dirt trails.


I went out for an early ride on Sunday, getting out of the house shortly after 5 AM, about 1.5 hours before sunrise.  The goal was to get in a decent road ride and, if I was fast enough,  to stop at Ride Studio Cafe for a quick espresso.  That sort of meets the coffeeneuring criteria, although I like the concept of making a trip to a coffee shop the goal.

Riding that early means riding with lights.  I have ample lighting and used it to ensure my safety.  I did take the Minuteman out to Bedford.  Sometimes the trail seems less safe if I ride it in the evening but early morning, especially on a cool morning, it seems just empty. (And it was cool, 42 degrees in Bedford, according to wunderground.com.)

Looking towards sunrise, a bit too early.
Lighting my way.  This is on the west end of the bridge over 128.  The message and new pavement is from recent work.  It seems temporary - some of the new surfaces are quite bumpy.
Maple Street in Carlisle, looking south.  I still had my lights on but I could see well enough without lights, at least for walking.  I kept my lights on for safety.
I made it to Lexington not long after 8 AM but I promised my wife that I would be back by 8 so I didn't consider stopping at the studio.  I did enjoy a moka pot outside as I joined my wife in a landscape project, splitting up a number of hostas and other plants.

Mile for the ride: 43, miles for the year: 3,160.