Friday, December 23, 2016

Riding my bike in 2016

I was having a pretty good year of cycling this year and in September I thought I may ride 5,000 miles this year, if nothing changes.  I was commuting regularly and getting in a lot of rides, if not long rides, every week.  Then this happened.  I'm better now and the bike was replaced with a slightly nicer one and I while I didn't make it to 5,000, I rode over 3,832 miles this year, which is more miles more than I rode any other year except for last year.  So this is how the year went:

Road rides

I rode almost 1,500 miles on my road bike this year.  And I hardly rode in September before the crash, what with a wedding that we traveled for and conference in Canada that didn't involve bikes.  And I haven't been on my road bike since the collision.  So I must have been getting out regularly.  I did ride 200 miles over the two weeks we spent in Chatham.  But the rides weren't special, at least any more special than just getting on a bike and riding it is special.  And riding on Ocean View Road in Wellfleet is pretty special, especially heading south.  Besides those Cape rides, I can't say that I did any spectacular rides on the IF this year but any ride on the IF is fun.  The bike is 9 years old and it still feels new and crisp whenever I get on it.


This year I commuted mostly on my old Surly Cross Check until it was no more, a total of 1768 miles.  I rode 230 commuting miles on my Swobo 3 speed, either in the snow or when I was between my Surly Cross Checks or when I was leaving a bike near Harvard Square for the day.  And I commuted 215 miles on the new Surly this year.  I'm not especially spoked commuting (which I was doing when I was involved in that collision) but I did change the roads that I used.  A major change was trying to avoid the Porter Square intersection and trying to stay over Mass Ave as much as possible.

Anything else?

The rest of the miles where short trips with the boys and/or my wife, including some fun rides on the Reformatory Branch Trail and one in Estabrook Woods with one son on a third wheel or trail-a-bike.  I enjoyed what I think is my fourth Diverged Ride from Ride Studio Cafe.  I missed both the D2R2 and Honey Hundred because of scheduling issues.

I wasn't an active coffeeneur this year, mostly because I couldn't ride for the first part of the challenge and later deciding to ride was challenging for a while.  If you have been in a collision you may understand that sentiment.  I did make maps for the challenge this year and I hope to ride and drink coffee for the challenge next year.

Bike changes:

Well, I have a new Surly Cross Check, this one built up by Ride Studio Cafe.  It's largely the same bike with some nice changes:

  • A Chris King headset replaced the Cane Creek S3.
  • The front dynamo hub is a Som 28, an upgrade from the Shimano 3N80.
  • A set of Paul Components Neo Retro brakes replace Tektro (rear) and Avid Shorty 4 (front).
  • Velo Orange fenders replace the Portland Design Works city fender but that's because I wanted to run wider tires than the PDW fenders could accomodate.
  • 38 mm Compass tires vs the 35 mm Compass tires.
  • A narrow Tubus rear rack, replacing the Blackburn rack
While it's not that different from the old one, it feels like a much nicer bike and it is fun to ride.  The build by the Studio is pretty nice.

My 2007 Somerville Independent Fabrication Club Racer is largely unchanged.  I just replaced the tires, going from Clement LGG Strada 25 mm to the 28 mm Continental Grand Prix tires.  I would have tried the Clement in 28 but I couldn't find them locally.  In going to 28 mm, I had to drop the fenders.  Now that the Surly seems faster (and probably is as fast as I want to/can go), I felt that I didn't need fenders on my road bike.  If it's going to rain and I'm still riding then I'll take the new Surly.

My 3 speed Swobo Novak now has a front dynamo wheel, the relatively inexpensive one that Harris Cyclery sells, along with the Busch and Mueller EYC headlight and Toplight taillight.  I needed that after I was well enough to commute and my new bike wasn't yet built up.  I've enjoyed commuting all of the way to work and sometimes just to Alewife on the Swobo.  I already put the 35 mm Schwalbe Marathon Winter studded tires on it for an early December snow commute.  I'm surprised that I can make the 15 mile round trip commute on the very heavy Schwalbe tires without too much effort.  I've been through a couple of light snow events and am pretty happy that I bought these before last winter.

Next year?

All I can hope for is staying healthy and out of the way of cars.  I still dream of long rides on quiet roads in Western Massachusetts.  For those from Boston, or somewhere else, Western Massachusetts ends somewhere close to the east side of the Quabbin Reservoir.  Maybe I will get to go on a short tour or even a S24O,  Don't worry if you don't know what that means since I may not get the chance to ride one so we'll be about even.  I will continue to commute on my bicycle because it's fun and saves time.  It's not faster for me to ride but at least I get some exercise rather than sitting in a car for about 10 or 15 hours a week,

It's been a hard year in the world and getting some exercise and getting outside is an important strategy for me in coping with stress and uncertainty.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Riding in the snow

I went out for a ride in the snow this morning, just to get outside and play.  I didn't go far, just a couple of miles that brought me up the hill to nearby woods and a quiet neighborhood.  It was great fun and included a short bicycling history lesson.

I'm not sure if I have been on this street before.  Just down the hill is Pleasant Street.
The road surfaces were perfect for my tires, which are studded but not meant for deep snow (the 35 mm Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires with about 240 studs).  I felt pretty safe out there.  I also went through Menotomy Rocks Park, which was both a winter wonderland and a safe haven for dog walkers who are friendly and talkative.

The snow was deeper by the time I got to the park but still easily passable for me.
I met several people in the park.  One woman was impressed that I was riding and and though the studded tires were a great idea.  It turns out she is very closely connected to cycling.  She asked me if I knew about this race, really a ride that a few people did called "Boston Montreal Boston" (yes, I've heard about it although I never even thought of trying it!) that she finished and talked about riding with John Allison and knew Pamela Blalock. Her love of bicyling was passed down to her son: he rides a lot and lives near and climbs Mount Tam frequently.  She said he owns a Firefly and a Moots.  She didn't want the notoriety of having her picture on the web but did want a picture of me to share with her son.

I also met a guy who said he was a racer by telling me that he shaved his legs until he was forty.  That allusion may not have been clear to everyone.  He told me that he was a cat 4 racer and not very fast and that if I looked him up by his last name that I would find his cousin.  She was the real racer in his family.

And, finally, I met a group of women who were interested in how I could ride in the snow.  After checking out my tires they told me stories of cyclists in the neighborhood including a 78 year old guy who rides 300 miles a week.  And they told me about another neighbor, Bob Selker, who worked at the MIT Media Lab and commuted to work in a French speedo bathing suit so people would notice him.

Not bad for a short time on my 3 speed.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Coffeeneuring Finishers 2016

It's that time of the year - coffeeneuring season.  And people are finishing.  And here are the maps of the finishers and the places where we went coffeeneuring this year (and in 2014 and 2015).  Mary of Chasing Mailboxes is updating the map as people let her know that they finished the challenge.  If the first three maps are blank then it means that no one has finished and let Mary know.

First, the map of finishers by state:

And the same map zoomed into the Washington D.C. area:

And the map of finishers by city:

And finally, where coffee (and other eligible beverages) were consumed:

How these maps are made.

And if you want to add your coffeeshops to the map, please check this post on how to do so.  If you need permission, email newenglandbicyclist [at]  Please let me know your gmail account since that is required by Google, not me.  You don't need to do anything if you have added to this map in the past except add more stops.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The first few minutes after a collision

Josh Zisson, of Bike Safe Boston and an attorney specializing in bike law, offers a couple of important thoughts on what to do when you are in an accident.  The first is to collect two pieces of important information.  One piece, the driver's contact information, can be hard to get if the driver doesn't cooperate, but you can get additional information by simply getting their license plate number.  The second piece, the names of witnesses, could be harder.  There may not be any witnesses or they may not have time, or the desire, to get involved.  But if you get both, you should be in good shape.  He second thought was formalized into a card that prompts you for a more complete set of data that will help you out.  I have one of those cards.  I'm a big fan of Josh and sort of memorized what to do in case of a collision, not that I was expecting one.  I'm a pretty careful cyclist and a pretty slow one at that.  And I ride the outside of bike lanes to stay away from the door zone and I don't think anyone will do what the law requires them to.  I also follow traffic laws in all cases.

A few weeks ago I was heading east on Mass Ave, going to work.  I was riding cautiously, as I always do, averaging about 12 MPH when I entered an intersection a second after a car did.  The driver was creating what cyclists refer to as a left cross, which means a car takes a left turn and doesn't yield to oncoming traffic, like me.  I didn't have anytime to slow down.  I believe I hit my brakes but I still slammed into the car and was thrown off my bike onto the hood of the car and slid off onto the pavement, ruining my day.  The crash itself wasn't horrible.  I didn't brake anything although I bruised both knees and my thigh.  I had a couple of cuts on my left arm.  But I didn't hit my head on anything and my face was fine.  I had just gone from 12 MPH to zero in less than a second.  I don't recommend doing this at home.  I'm curious to know how far you would have to fall from to get the same impact speed but I've been kept busy between work and my family to figure that one out.

So, as I said, I didn't hit my head so I was fortunate in being as able as possible in responding to this new, post accident world.  The first thing I did was jump up and assess myself and I felt like I was largely intact.  The second thing I did was pull my bike off the road as the driver, who stuck around, pulled his car off the road.  He was a livery driver and had two passengers in the car, who were asking me if I was alright.  I'm sure it looked worse than it was.  I then noticed that my bike wouldn't roll straight and I thought, "I want to call the police because there is property damage."

The third thing I did was look for a pencil in my pannier but realized Josh's post accident card wasn't in my bag.  I also realized that I had nothing to write on.  I was a bit overcharged at this point and realized I might be in shock although I'm not sure if that is true.  I worked to slow down and consider how to continue.  I realized that I could take pictures of the driver's license and registration using my phone which, surprisingly wasn't broken since I hit my thigh right where I had the phone in my pocket.  I then managed to look up the non emergency police number and called them and asked them to come, which they did quickly.

The first thing that the officer asked me was if I was alright, which I responded in the affirmative.  He asked me if I needed an ambulance and I said no.  He asked me what happened and I told him.  He also asked me if I was wearing a helmet, which I was.  He then asked the driver what had happened and driver told the officer the same thing as what I said.  It didn't take much to describe what happened.

I felt pain in my left thigh but didn't think it was major.  But then I tried to bend my knees and the pain in my thigh was overwhelming so I decided that I would go to the hospital.  Just then the paramedics arrived and started checking me out while I was standing.  They poked and prodded and apparently decided that nothing was broken.  Still, my thigh was clearly a mess and I was more than happy to check it out.

At one point I realized that my GPS was still running and put it on pause.  I almost thought, "I should delete this ride" but then, luckily, I saved the track.  The GPS shows me stopping at all red lights lights and going about 12 MPH when I suddenly stopped.  When the police officer asked, I had estimated my speed at between 12 and 15 MPH.  It turns out I didn't need the GPS backup but it was nice to have.  I have a friend who was called in as an expert witness for a less fortunate person who was killed by a truck driver.  He is using the GPS track, along with data on Strava, to disprove the truck driver's story and prove that the cyclist followed his same safe riding habits (which couldn't account for a driver not paying attention).  I have considered not recording my commutes on the Garmin but I now think I will continue that habit.

I was aware enough to find out what the officer was planning to write in his report (that the driver would be cited and he was) before the paramedics dragged me into the ambulance.  I also watched my bike put in the back of a police SUV.  They wanted me to leave it on the street locked but I wanted the evidence preserved since the bike was clearly a mess (it turned out to be far worse than I initially thought, with the fork, the top tube, and down tube bent, among other damage).

So that's the first 15 minutes or so after the accident.  The insurance issues haven't been bad. The fact that the driver was cited led to the insurance adjuster stating that the driver was 100% at fault and making the process easier for me.

Medically I should be alright and I was very happy that I went to the ER.  When I was in the room waiting for the doctor, I noticed that my left knee was quite swollen, which led to x-rays which determined that nothing was broken.  I have full range of motion and my MD, who I saw in a followup the five days after the collision, thought no ligaments or tendons were damaged.  While I was in some pain for a while, which woke me up in the night when I turned over onto the knee, that's almost cleared up.  I still have pain if I try to kneel on that knee.  At my doctor's advice, I've been driving so I can rest my knee but I hope to be riding three to four weeks after the collision but I won't be bound to that, should I still need time to heal.  The pain in my thigh was diagnosed as a hematoma, which is no longer painful but I have ugly bruising that is just appearing now as the hematoma is breaking down.

While this was unwanted, painful, unpleasant, and a drain in time and other ways, I was indeed lucky.  I would much rather have hit the car than have entered the intersection a second earlier and had the car broadside me.

One further downside to the collision is that a colleague saw me from a bus as I was standing and getting checked out by the paramedics.  He mentioned this in a group meeting and I think it put, or renewed, the fear of cycling into most of the people present at that meeting.  I don't think that the collision alone would make my wife want me to stop commuting to work on my bike but the recent fatal collision in Porter Square has given me new fear of drivers.  I've been cut off by trucks and cars at that same intersection and while I can avoid it with a longer route to work, I can't avoid all dangerous intersections.  But I will be more careful than ever when I ride.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Reformatory Branch Trail with the family

Today was the D2R2 and I wasn't there.  I rode the 2009 100K version, the 2013 Green River Ride, and extended versions of the Green River Ride in 2014 and 2015.  I tried to put this year's ride on the family calendar but somehow didn't manage to do it and the morning was taken and I didn't get out to the valley.  I grew up in the valley and lived there for half my life and rode in the hills many times over the years I lived there and since then.  I was sad to miss the ride.

I did get some dirt miles in today with my family, riding from Bedford to Concord on the Reformatory Branch Trail.  It was the first time we rode it and it was great fun.  Our older boy rode it on his mountain bike and it was his longest ride to date - 9 miles.  Our younger boy came with me on a trail-a-bike behind my Surly Cross Check.  My wife rode her new Soma Buena Vista.  The trail wasn't heavily trafficked like the Minuteman but there was a substantial number of people riding, walking, and running.  But the trail surface slowed everyone down so we weren't quite as stressed with keeping the 8 year old on the right side of the trail.

We made a couple of stops at the observation tower overlooking wetlands at the Concord Unit of the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.  I've stopped by on rides in the last few years but my wife hasn't been there in a while so she appreciated checking it out with the boys.  And it was a Poke stop so the boys were thrilled to stop there.  And it was enchanted on the way back and we met the person who did the enchanting.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't fret.  I'd prefer that I didn't know anything about Pokemon Go.

We also stopped in Concord center, which was easily and safely accessible from the trail.  We ate at the Main Street Grill and had ice cream there as well.  We also wandered around town looking for Pokemon gyms and other Poke stops.  My sons took over the gym at the Concord common (that one in front of the Colonial Inn.

Overall it was a great day and everyone had enough to eat so we all had energy to get back to the car.  I'm pretty sure my wife likes her bike more after riding on the trail.

The meadows from the observation deck.

Our bikes.
Strava, just to prove it happened:

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bikes that I have owned (and some history)

Somehow I have managed to own only a relatively small number of bikes over my life, despite owning three bikes right now.  That number might seem large, depending on your perspective.  These are the bikes that I have owned and something about how I used them.

(1) My first bike was a single speed with a banana seat.  Much of my memory of it was riding down the street on my first successful ride, some months before the John Kennedy assassination.  I'm sure there was more use but memory fails me here.  It remains an important bike because it was the bike I learned to ride on.

(2) There was a single speed that I owned somewhere between that first bike and my three speed.  My memory is foggy about this one but I do recall that it had a light integrated into the frame and the light was powered by D cells.  I'm sure the light was less useful than the IQX on my current road bike.

(3) I owned  a three speed briefly in 1973.  I bought it to help with a paper route that I was just starting.  My paper route included a subsidized housing project for elderly people, next door to the low income housing project, and I delivered their papers for a few weeks.  I would leave my bike on the sidewalk and drop the paper at the doors.  As I dropped a paper off, I looked back and a guy was grabbing my bike and I raced over and grabbed it.  He was spinning around, saying "it's my bike" as I said the same thing.  He was bigger and won, throwing me to the ground and stealing my bike.  I stopped delivering papers that day.

(4) I started working at local grocery store a month before my fifteen birthday, a job I would keep through high school.  I bought a Sears Free Spirit, which in my mind was an English racer: it had ten speeds and a drop handlebar.  I rode it to work and back and sometimes rode it out of town with one or two of my brothers.  We rode from Springfield to Amherst through Holyoke and South Hadley and also from Springfield to West Granville, to a stream in the state forest there.  I've checked since and these rides were about 40 and 50 miles respectively.  I had a odometer and speedometer on this bike that gave the same numbers.  It must have been accurate but I recall once seeing that I was riding 50 MPH down the north side of the notch on Rte 116 heading towards Amherst, which seem unlikely now.  I owned this bike from 1973 through 1976.  This bike gave me my first taste of freedom allowing me the opportunity to leave the blighted neighborhood I grew up in, if only temporarily.

(5) After high school, I bought a real road bike (at least in my eyes then), a Motobecane Nomade Sprint.  I kept this bike until 1985, right through college and beyond.  I went on my first tour with it, riding from Saint Albans, VT down to Amherst, MA with my then girlfriend.  I was a connoisseur of tiny stream fishing back then and carried a five foot Ugly Stick and fished big trout out of small holes in tiny streams for dinner on that tour.

(6) In 1985 I decided that I would do a big tour and bought a real touring bike, sort of, a 1984 model Trek 520.  This was a full production bike and not a frameset, which is what friends of mine bought a couple of years earlier.  It was more of randonneuring bike then.  At that time, the Trek 620 was the full touring bike with eyelets for racks and fenders, including low riders.  I rode the 520 to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and all over New England that summer.  I used it on a number of tours after that including another New England tour (before I left to live in the upper Midwest in the late 80s), across Colorado, around the Olympic peninsula, around the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec, around the upper Midwest, and several shorter tours in New England.  I used it as my road bike until 1997.  I last toured on it on Labor Day weekend in 2001, riding from Machias to Lubec, ME and back.  After that tour it was on loan to three friends consecutively, two using it as a commuter and one of them pushing the bike to a 19.5 MPH average on a sprint triathlon.  I donated the bike to Bike Not Bombs in 2005.

(7) I replaced the Trek 520 as my road bike in 1997 with a new Lemond Alpe d'Huez.  I could never make that bike go much faster than I rode my 520 but I had 21,000 miles of fun on it, including a lot of riding hilly New England routes.  I gifted this bike to a friend after I took possession of my current road bike in 2007.  He was still using it as his road bike the last time I heard from him.

(8) My current road bike is an Independent Fabrication Club Racer purchased in 2007.  It's still fun to get on this bike. This is my first custom bike and while I love riding it, I hope it's not my last custom bike.

(9) My commuter/dirt road bike/child hauler is a Surly Cross Check from 2009.  The last time I hauled a child on it was a couple of weeks ago.  It remains a great commuter. Update: this bike was totaled in a crash in September 2016. I survived unbroken. It was replaced with a very similar bike.

(10) I bought a Swobo Novak last year as a neighborhood bike that also see use as an occasional commuter and a snow bike (with appropriate tires).

I have plans for my next bike but that's a couple of years off yet.

How many bikes have you owned?  And how many do you have in your stable today?

Friday, June 17, 2016

Commuting stories: near miss

A lot of bike riders are thinking some other bike riders are doing a pretty awful job following the rules.  And it seems that some aren't following the rules.  Just this morning, at Somerville Ave and Washington St in Somerville, I was noticing that one of the three bike boxes wasn't filled by cars (yes, drivers don't universally follow the rules either).  Just then a large group of students led by teachers was crossing in front of us on the crosswalk.  The light changed and the cars and cyclists waited.  But then another cyclist pulled into the intersection and cut through students to get on his way.  As another cyclist said to me, "now I see why everyone hates us".  It looked pretty bad although no one was hit.  I've long thought that the idiots (or bullies or massholes) who do such things on bikes probably drive like that as well.  And someone put that in writing for me just the other day:

I've been harassed by some of those bullies lately.  I've had people run red lights and cut me off and then yell at me and threaten me despite that I had the green light.  Lesson: don't talk back to bullies, they fade away when ignored (most of the time).  And they seem to be coming out of the woodwork these days, thanks to a certain presidential candidate.  I'm guessing that I know who they are voting for come November.

But the biggest bullies and the biggest massholes drive cars and buses - they can do a lot more damage than a bully on a bike.  I've heard enough grumbling about bus drivers although I've had few problems with them myself.  That is, until Wednesday morning.

I've leave it as the three unsent tweets I wrote:

If you saw only part 2 then you would have seen a dumb cyclist fall when he couldn't unclip his pedals. (1/3)

If you saw part 1 then you would have seen him start to get his left foot unclipped but then a big bus speeding 2 feet from him. (2/3)

The bus was running the red that the cyclist was stopping for. Option was to fall away from bus, onto sidewalk. Police called. (3/3)

Or in a haiku:

Big bus rumbles by
Has not a care in the world
Knocks me down, unseen

So I'm not a poet but still be careful out there.  It gets far worse than what than what I experienced this week.  Say a prayer for the victim but also work for change in laws and enforcement of the present laws because things like this don't need to occur:

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Estabrook on three wheels

Yesterday I convinced one of my sons to accompany me on a ride in the woods.  Actually, he was excited to go.  We had just rode over to the Arlington Jimmy Fund ice cream fund raiser and he didn't find an ice cream flavor that he wanted to try.  He did enjoy a chocolate chip cookie.  When we got home, I asked him if wanted to ride in the woods and he did so we packed up and headed to Concord and found a parking spot on Estabrook Road and rodeinto the woods.  I have walked and run here a lot and rode here a few times so I thought that I could manage the roads and trails with my son on a trail-a-bike.  It wasn't fast or easy but it was safe and we both enjoyed being in the woods and had at least one minor adventure.  I didn't have the ride mapped out but I managed to find the paths I had intended to follow without much trouble.  I did use RideWithGPS once to confirm a turn that I wanted to take and, fortunately, I had enough service for the map to draw quickly.

Bike parking.  We sat on an old stone wall for a pineapple juice break.

This is the first Pink Lady Slipper that I've seen since I moved to Boston.  I've since heard that they are common, sometimes in places that I've been a lot but apparently not when they are in bloom.

The Lady Slipper was just to the left of my bike by the big rock.  I didn't see it until I was off the bike.  We stopped at the rock because my son wanted to climb on it.

This picture probably doesn't capture it but the light and color of the leaves was so inviting and this trail was a pleasure to ride.

Our one mini adventure - seeing a water snake.  This was about 30 inches long and thick bodied.   We later saw it slip into the water.  As my son said, it was a great swimmer.
Our ride on Strava (no land speed records were broken):

Sunday, May 15, 2016

New Bike Day: Soma Buena Vista

Today was new bike day for my wife, a Soma Buena Vista mixte.  Well, we've had the bike for a week but today was the first day she had it off of our street.

We started thinking about this bike about four years ago.  We contacted Roy Cervantes at Grace Bicycles and Rob Vandermark at Ride Studio Cafe.  Rob didn't think he could build the bike.  Roy gave us an estimate but we declined to pursue the project at that time for a variety of reasons.  Then last winter all four of us took our bikes on the Arlington Jingle Bell ride.  As part of our version of that ride we went through the woods and my wife ended up walking.  Her bike, with its narrow wheels, just didn't give her confidence.  Then in the spring we bought our older son his first mountain bike (also his first geared bike with hand brakes) and he is interested in riding off road on it.  That made us think about the Buena Vista again, this time with 650B wheels that could accommodate a very wide tire that could roll on the dirt trails that my son was interested in.  My wife is also changing her schedule, which might give her time to ride more, both for pleasure and for errands (errandonnee, here we come!).  We got back to Roy, who designed and built up my IF and my Surly Cross Check, and this is what he built up for us.  It's not all perfectly color coordinated but it's a very nice bike that fits my wife well.

The bike has a dynamo hub but no way to use it yet.  I have a Busch and Mueller light to add and have get a rear dynamo powered light, which will be mounted on  the rear Tubus Vega rack.  (We would have preferred the silver version of this rack but it isn't imported into the US.)  My wife also wants to get a charger, which is why we opted for the SP PV8 over the SP SV9.  The SV9 is similar to the Schmidt Deluxe, which is offers lower resistance and lighter weight but less power output.

My wife is testing a Rivet saddle.  I'm hoping she loves it but she hasn't been on it long enough to be sure.  She has a front basket, which was a key requirement.  That's a Nitto B302 handlebar that a friend gave us.  He also gave us the Tektro brake levers.  Roy suggested the  handlebar grips, which my wife likes.  I suggested the Chris King silver headset for durability.

The drive train is an 11 speed XT group set and the rear hub is a disk hub (there is no non disk option and you need a mountain hub to work with the XT cassette.  The gearing is intentionally very low, with a 28/36 crank and an 11/40 cassette, which will make it possible for my wife to carry groceries from the farmers' market and our CSA without worry.  We went up and then down a local park on dirt trails on today's ride and she felt fine riding, both because of the low gearing and the wide tires (the Compass Babyshoe Pass 650Bx42mm in standard casing).  The fenders are the Velo Orange Zeppelin 52mm fenders built for 650b wheels.  The rims are Velocity Atlas rims, which are wide enough to mount the 42mm wife tires.

Matt Roy was generous with his time and offered opinions on the SP hubs, which helped me pick SP over the Schmidt and Shimano dynamo hubs, which I have on my IF and Surly, respectively.  Thanks Matt!

And thanks to Roy for accommodating several component changes during the process and for building the bike.

Overall the bike seems like a great bike and I'm even a little jealous.  Well, I'm actually very jealous.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Not quite 30 days of riding in April

There is a pledge you can sign is to let the world know that you intend to ride your bike for 30 days in April.  Besides being a good idea, it's also a fund raiser for World Bicycle Relief.  I didn't pledge because I knew that guaranteeing to ride every day in a month would be difficult, especially on weekends when my free time is often committed to my kids.  But I did do my best to get on my bike in April.  Besides getting out on one or more of my bikes on 20 days, I also rode all three of my bikes:
  • Four road rides on my IF (131 miles)
  • Three commutes on my 3 speed bike (27 miles)
  • One off road ride on Surly (45 miles) and Thirteen commutes on it (185 miles)
That's almost 400 miles last month.  While I didn't win any competitions, I feel like I got out as much as I could, given my other commitments. I rode to work most days and somehow I don't feel all that much of fair weather cyclist anymore.  That said, a hard rain as I'm about to leave my house may give me pause.

Thinking of fair weather cycling, I remember the one time my wife and I rode the King's Tour of the Quabbin.  This was in 2002 or 2003.  We were coaxed into going by a friend who apparently checked the weather forecast and didn't show up.  We headed out with far too little foul weather gear for the weather we encountered.  My wife had a light fleece jacket and I had a short sleeve polypro shirt under my jersey.  The rain started around 20 miles into the ride.  We made it to the turn around in the rain and simply turned around and headed towards our car.  I don't remember all that much from the ride except for the cars passing us and spraying water from the puddles onto us.  I also remember finishing and trying to get to the car to change into dry clothes while I was chilled to the bone.  It was a miserable experience that would have been easier to take if I carried the gear that we needed (and left at home).  But I'm pretty sure that a ride like that would have been less than pleasant with any gear.  That may be part of why I call myself a fair weather cyclist.  And I'm not ashamed of that.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Diverged 2016 - by road and trail to Concord, MA

Ride Studio Cafe and Overland Base Camp put on the 4th annual Diverged Ride on Saturday.  Unlike past versions of this event, this one stretched reasonably far from the Cafe, heading west to Concord and traversing some familiar and some unfamiliar trails, and some new to me side streets in Concord.   This was my fourth Diverged - I've manged to ride them all, not that I road all of the routes each time, including this one.  The ride was quick as promised by Rob Vandermark in the description:

"No Drop Ride", riding hard at times but not over your head, getting your heart rate near maximum a few times, taking a few blurry photos."

And we did go too fast for taking pictures.  That was a shame - there were dozens of places that I would have liked to stop and take pictures but since I was almost always last in our group, there was never time to do so.  No matter, the ride was quite memorable without having pictures and I'm sure I'll ride some of these trails again.  And I did get my heart rate up a lot, especially on the steep pitches that slowing down on was an option that included falling over.

I found myself on a great team led by Dan, who I hadn't met before.  In fact, everyone on the team was new to me.  Dan set a reasonably fast pace and while they didn't lose me, I was often the last one in our group.  I occasionally was in the middle of the pack but the fact is, I was slower than everyone else.  That didn't seem to matter to how quickly we finished.  We were passed by Bradford Smith's group but his was a faster group so no big surprise there.  In the end, I did leave early, realizing that if I left when I did (on the Reformatory Branch Trail, just east of the Rte 62 crossing), I could make it home by 2 PM, which is when I promised my wife I'd be home.  And I made it.  That said, I was tired out by the ride.  We did stop for snacks at Haute Coffee in Concord.  I'm pretty sure that the Diverged ride accounted for a lot of their business on Saturday.

One thing that the Rob and Patria did on this ride that worked particularly well was staggering the rides and sending some clockwise on the loop and others counter clockwise.  We passed a couple of groups heading in the opposite direction (including Michelle Smith's Hub team at the Route 2 below grade crossing) and were passed by another group at the crossing.  Otherwise it felt like we were a team alone in the woods, which was the best way to do this ride.

[edited 4/25/2016 - added this paragraph on the weather]  My wife asked me about the rain before I left the house.  I said that I wouldn't be doing the ride in the rain and didn't have to worry since the rain was ending and mostly south of us and was expected to stay south of the ride.  I did bring my raincoat and helmet cover, just in case.  And it's a good thing I brought them - a light rain started minutes before our starting time (9 AM for my group).  I got them and got on my bike and managed to start the Garmin but failed to find the correct course - I can't see much without my glasses.  Still, I managed to catch up with the group and not get all that wet on the ride.  The only issue was with my sunglasses fogging, which happened whenever we stopped.  I gave up on the glasses somewhere near Walden Pond and put them back after lunch when the world dried out some.

Some notes on the trails:
  • I've been on the trails between Bedford Road and Sandy Road in Lincoln before (on my road bike) and enjoyed that section.  It was even easier on my Surly with the 35mm Clement USH tires (still functional with almost 5,000 miles on them).
  • The section west from Sandy Pond Road and circling back to Walden Pond, ending at the Route 2 crossing was my favorite.  The crossing is below grade - again no pictures but check out Bradford Smith's Instagram feed, he has a picture and posts fun pictures frequently.  There were sections of meadow crossings, wide paths, and winding single track, with some steep pitches.  There wasn't much that I didn't try to roll over here and managed to stay upright in this section and on the entire ride.  One person on the trip described this as one big patch of woods and while that wasn't strictly true, this is a wild corner of eastern Massachusetts, not all that far from Boston.
  • There was a great section of woods road, just west of Lowell Road and separated by the Concord River from it.  I thought it would be a great, quiet road to bring my boys for a bike ride.  And I would have looked around for Egg Rock, which we didn't see on this ride.
  • Not surprisingly, Rob and Patria skipped most of the east section of the Reformatory Branch Trail, opting for a large network of side trails.  We did ride the western section of the trail and, while it was straight as expected for a rail trail, the woods were a bit wild.  And it reminded me to go check out the herons at the heron rookery we passed to the south of the trail.  I did ride almost the entire east section of the trail but was apparently channeling Rob when I diverged from the main trail and took the Yellow Trail to South Road.
  • All of the trails were worth riding again and some could provide short cuts on road bikes.  There were definitely sections that I was happy to see how roads could be connected.

I'd like to say that I've been riding off road a lot but this was most of the off road riding I have done so far this year.  Most of my riding is commuting and I've rode a couple of hundred miles on the road.  I enjoy this kind of riding but when my time is limited and I need exercise, I prefer a longer road ride.  That said, it's nice when I get the motivation to get out in a group to ride in the woods.

The motivation included a great breakfast and promises of coffee to buy.  I was pleasantly surprised that Ride Studio Cafe again offer decaf pour overs.  While that may sound treasonous to some, I'm mostly decaf these days and sometimes prefer coffee over an espresso.

I did take a couple of pictures at our one extended 10 minutes) stop on the trails:

Dan, our leader for the day.  While he claimed to have not been on the whole route before, he did a great job keeping us on track and enjoying the day/

Sudbury River at a brief stop.

My ride on Strava.

Miles for the day: 45, miles for the month: 278, miles for the year: 988.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

A Faraday Electric Bike in the wild

I ran into Chris on my Friday AM commute and asked to check out his Faraday Porteur, an electric bike.  This is the first Faraday I've seen around town.  It's a nice bike on the surface and he loves it.  As he said, it gets him out riding on errands, commutes, and for pleasure.  You can't beat that kind of motivation.  From a distance, it doesn't look like an electric bike but one with a big front hub, like it has drum brakes.  But it also has disc brakes so the front hub is a bit busy but otherwise that's all you notice on the outside.  That and the rear light, which looks like the battery enclosure, though I'm not sure of that.

OK, if the battery isn't behind the seat tube, where is it?
Rear dropout.  Not fancy but it looks like it does a good job supporting the rear disc brake.
The porteur rack is supported by the frame, not the fork.  You can also see the front headlight.
Chris has an uncomplicated cockpit on his Faraday.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

An unofficial freezing saddles entry, and the end of the winter of 2015/2016 (sort of)

The winter is over in two days.  That said, the temperature this morning was below freezing and a big snow storm was in the forecast for tomorrow evening, although that forecast is now in flux, fortunately.  Besides winter officially ending tomorrow, so is the Freezing Saddles contest.  I haven't been participating it officially, but it was fun measuring how much I got out on my bike this winter using their point system.  Officially I would have had to use Strava, which I barely do, despite a great argument in favor of using it shared by one of my favorite bloggers.  Besides not using Strava, I wasn't part of a team, so I really didn't qualify.

My results: 605 miles in 40 rides for 1005 points.  Most of those rides were commutes to work, 37 of them.  Five of the 37 commutes were short trips to Alewife when I didn't want to ride in the city (it was snowing all day on two of those days).  I also took three road rides totaling 114 miles.  I did manage to get on my road bike once in each of the three months of the challenge.  Those 605 miles are the most that I ever rode during this time of the year.  It helped that the weather was far more cooperative this year than it was during last year's snow-pocalypse.  I had intended to ride through that winter but an unfortunate but minor accident kept me off my bike for the worst of the snow.

Another measure of winter riding for me is counting how many days I rode to work during daylight savings time.  That's an important measure since I need lights for those days and it's usually much colder during that time (most of the period is during meteorological winter).  Of the 76 days that I went to work, I manage to ride 63 of those days, which is pretty consistent for me in fair weather (I'm a fair weather cyclist, after all) and quite good for less than fair weather.  I'm pretty sure I was a slacker and skipped riding in the rain or cold on most of those days but a few were for errands (usually picking up the boys) that I simply can't do with my commuter bike, or on any of the bikes I own.

Overall, I believe I rode more than 1,200 miles during a time of year that I didn't ride at all in the past.  Not bad for the freezing saddles season

A photo posted by NEBicyclist (@svillecyclist) on

Friday, March 4, 2016

Getting through the winter on my bike

I'm still riding my bike, despite the season.  While it's been a warm winter, there have been some very cold days and snowy days along with some very mild ones.  In February I rode 210 miles.  Most of that was commuting but I did get out for one very nice road ride last Sunday.  The previous weekend was spectacular but I was spectacularly sick and spent most of it in bed.  I was 14 of 20 days for commuting for the month.  That includes three days that I rode only to Alewife and included two snowy days.

My numbers for Freezing Saddles are pretty low, 360 points for last month and about 760 points for the season.  Translated to miles, that's about 450 miles.  I'm still barely on the leader board but I'm pretty happy doing what I'm doing.

Monday, February 1, 2016

January riding: not quite freezing saddles

BikeArlington (the Arlington in Virginia not the one where I live) is running a friendly competition called Freezing Saddles.  The point seems to be about getting out riding when you might think that you shouldn't, or your friends who don't ride in the winter think you shouldn't.  I'm not competing since I'm not part of a team (which seems to be important) and because I don't compete except against myself (and I usually win though I sometimes lose) and because I don't really use Strava, which is how they are keeping track of winning. I have a Strava account for checking out other peoples' routes, which I don't do often enough.  But I am keeping track of my rides on a spreadsheet somewhere.  I hear that you get 10 points for every day that you are ride at least a mile and 1 point for each mile you ride.   So for January I have 303 points.  I just checked this Freezing Saddles leaders list and I'm not leading but I'm pretty happy about how much I have been on my bike in January.

Almost all of my rides have been commutes.  I ride about 14 miles each way and I rode to work 11 times in January.  So far I skipped 3 days of bike commuting (it doesn't add up to your work schedule because of a work trip to the desert - no cycling there).  One was that very cold Tuesday morning (1/5/2016) when the morning temperature was 8 degrees.  I was fighting off a cold and I didn't need the added stress.  I was out riding the evening before when it was 17 degrees and very windy so while I wimped out, I was definitely pushing my definition of "fair" weather cycling from riding on sunny and warm days to the continuum: poor, fair, good, very good, excellent.  I also missed a day when I had to pick up the both boys but had to stay late at work before I picked them up (yes, I can get home from work faster by car than bike since I live just far enough out of town).  And I missed a day last week when I was exhausted after a travel day that ended well past midnight (yes, you can call me a wimp - I won't care).

I also went for one road ride.  It was a late afternoon into evening ride with the temperature ranging from 39 at the start to 34 at the end.  I rode in the dark for a while but it seemed pretty safe to do since there was no ice on the road.

But while it was cold on a few days in January, it was hardly a bitter cold month.  I think the local National Weather Service office called it an above normal January.  And today is February 1st and it was a really warm day (I think the afternoon temperature reached 60 degrees), although the temperature started to fall before I left work and the ride home wasn't all that warm.  So I'm sort of competing in the Freezing Saddle competition but the freezing part hasn't been all that appropriate, yet.  February is usually the coldest month in Boston (last year it was the coldest and snowiest month of the winter) so it could be a long month and my 24 points from today might be a big part of my February total.  We'll see.

From NWS Boston:

And now I need to lube my chain.  Nice winter though it's been, my bike is not quite pristine.