Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Ghost Bike in Bloomfield

For anyone who knew Paul Hughes or is interested in showing support after this loss to Bloomfield and the cycling community I've added the information below on his funeral service and an associated memorial bicycle ride this Friday.

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Join us this Friday, Aug 1, Valley Cycling will host a ride to the funeral of fellow Cyclist - Paul Hughes at 10:15 out of Starbucks in Granby, CT (10 Hartford Ave). The ride to Paul Hughes Funeral will be slow, everyone will wear a black arm band - if you have one or can make one - bring it (piece of a black trash bag works fine).

Paul's service is at Old Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church, 59 Tariffville Road, Bloomfield - about .5 mile from where he was killed. Go past the ghost bike and take the Tariffville Road exit from 189 and go right at the end of the exit onto Tariffville Road. You will go down and then up a hill and see the church, a quaint, beautiful white New England structure, in front of you.  After the service, if anyone wants to visit the ghost bike and lay more flowers, please join Caryn Stedman in doing so.
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A reminder that we've got to look out for each other out there.
Heya folks.  Be careful out there, whether you're driving a car or riding a bike someone's life is on the line.  Looking at your lap for 30 seconds to check that random text message about cute kittens isn't worth someone else's life or livelihood.  A cyclist was killed last week in Bloomfield, and it probably wasn't an accident.  The cyclist was killed on a stretch of road that I've ridden often, and there is a wide shoulder.  I haven't seen the police report (if someone gets a copy I'll post it), but I'm guessing the driver was distracted and drifted into the shoulder striking Paul with the right corner of the car - where you see the damage to his truck in the news story.  Overtaking type crashes such as this are supposed to be very uncommon, but with distracted driving now the norm the trend may be changing.  Put down your fucking phone!  The fellow driving the truck may have been a nice guy, but now he's going to have to live the rest of his life knowing that he's murdered a fellow human being.
Note the huge shoulder!
The following information and photographs were provided by a friend of the cyclist that was killed, Caryn Stedman.

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Ghost Bike Installed for Fallen Cyclist

Friends and fellow cyclists installed a “ghost bike” Tuesday morning, on southbound Route 189 in Bloomfield, near the Tariffville Road exit,  the site of the crash that took the life of Bloomfield resident and Maple Syrup maker Paul M. Hughes.  Paul was an avid cyclist who rode for the joy of riding and for his health. He often rode the Duncaster Road, Tariffville Road, Route 189 circuit, a popular cycling route for recreational, training and fund-raising cyclists.  Paul was killed Friday afternoon, July 18th, at about 5:15 p.m. when he was hit by a pick-up truck along a section of Route 189 with a wide shoulder well-marked for various fundraising bicycle rides.

Ghost Bikes, an international movement, are eerie, haunting memorials to fallen cyclists. They are placed at the site of fatal cycling accidents to remind drivers of the fragility of life, that cyclists have road rights, and to drive carefully.  Ghost Bikes help remember the life and love of the fallen cyclist, provide comfort for the family and friends, and remind other cyclists to ride safely. Hartford cycling activist and blogger Anthony Cherolis donated the bike.

Paul is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren, as well as his maple sugar and cycling friends, and his Spaniel, Henry. Hughes Maple Syrup is well-known in the Hartford area for its quality and flavor, a craft he in which he took great pride.  A memorial service will be held August 1 at Old Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church on Tariffville Road in Bloomfield, just around the corner from where he was killed, on August 1.
For more information on the Ghost Bike movement, go to http://ghostbikes.org/.

Related Articles:

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Monday, July 14, 2014

A Short History Tour of Hartford, Sunday July 20th

This Sunday, I'm organizing a very informal, free, and short bicycle ride in Hartford as part of the Sam Colt 200th birthday festival (www.200colt.com).  I've got some complicated thoughts and opinions on the legacy of Sam Colt and firearms in Hartford.  That said a community festival that gets residents and visitors to think about and debate history (and current events) is a win-win in my book.  Colt Park is also conveniently located only half a block from my house.

Colt 200 History Ride – Sunday, July 20th.  9AM.
Meet at the Sam Colt statue near the Wethersfield Avenue entrance of Colt Park.  There is some parallel parking at the Wethersfield Road entrance, and additional parking in the lot off Warwarme.  That said, if you ride your bike to the ride, parking isn't something you have to worry about.

What kind of ride is this?
This is a very informal ride of friends, old and new.  The ride doesn't cost anything.  We’ll meet up and you may choose to ride along the suggested route below.  At several points on the ride the group will stop to chat about the Hartford history we are passing by.  The ride will be very leisurely in pace.  The distance covered is approximately 7 miles if you follow the route described below.

What you need:

  • Your bike.  A bicycle in safe riding condition.  Brakes, lubricated chain, pumped up tires.  If in doubt, get a tune up at your local bike shop.  Fatter tires will be more comfy on some of the bumpy roads.
  • Helmet. A helmet isn’t required, since you’re simply choosing to ride along in the same direction, but I would highly recommend it.
  • Water.  Although this is a short ride, we will take an hour or more to cover the distance.  You’ll probably appreciate having a water bottle, especially if you’re planning to hang out in the park after the ride.   It’s summer time.  Sometimes it gets hot out.
  • Bicycle Lock.  If you plan to leave your bike and walk around any of the historical sites, stop for breakfast, or explore the park after the ride.
  • A great, or at least tolerable, attitude!  You should bring it with you, as we don’t have many spares on hand.

Turn-by-Turn:

Route Note – This is not a closed course.  You are choosing to follow a suggested route on city streets.   The riders will be obeying the rules of the road and practicing “vehicular cycling”, which is how cyclists are treated the best by motorists.

1) Starting at the Colt Statue head down the hill (East) on the park road.
2) Take a right turn onto the park road before you get to the swimming pool.  Careful.  The park road is a bit rough.
3)     Pass the parking lot, and take a left on Warwarme Ave.  Appreciate the skyline of Hartford looking over Colt Park.
4) Veer right onto Reserve Road.  SAFETY NOTE - Ride slow across the choppy railroad tracks.
5) Quick left into Charter Oak Park. SAFETY NOTE - There are off angle tracks into (and out of) the park – and you should make sure to cross them at a right angle.  We’ll make a quick stop at the gazebo to talk some history.
6) Leaving Charter Oak Park, we’ll take a right on Reserve, and then Left on Warwarme. SAFETY NOTE - Remember to slow down and cross the railroad tracks at a right angle.
7) Right turn onto Huyshope Ave.  Stop in front of Colt CafĂ© and we’ll take a look at the Colt Armory
8) Left on Charter Oak Avenue.  Stop at Church of the Good Shepherd, on the left.
9) Right on Prospect.  Stop at the Amos Bull / Butler-McCook garden on the left.  Then stop at the plaza between City Hall and the Wadsworth Atheneum
10) Left on Gold
11) Left on Main Street
12) Right on Wells Street and continue around Pulaski Circle (traffic circle).  Turn onto Elm Street, and we’ll stop briefly at Bushnell to talk about the Park River and the history of the park.
13) Continue up Elm.  Turn Left on Trinity Street.
14) Turn Left again on Capitol Avenue.
15) Right on Hudson.
16) Left on Buckingham.  Continue straight on Charter Oak.
17) Right on Charter Oak Place up a short hill.
a. Stop at the top of the hill to learn about the Charter Oak.
18) Left on Wyllys Street
19) Right on Osten Boulevard
20) Left on Luis Ayala
21) Right on Van Block Avenue
22) Right on Masseek Avenue.  Enter Colt Park from the East end.  Stop and chat a bit about the history of baseball in Hartford.
In addition to the ride on Sunday, there is a whole day of festival on Saturday



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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Heaven in Hartford - Grand Opening Party

This is kind of a big deal.  Heaven, the community graffiti and skate/bike park located just north of downtown Hartford, is throwing a grand opening party this Saturday, July 12th.  In my (not so) humble opinion, Heaven is significantly more interesting than a $60 million AA baseball stadium.  Saturday is also the Riverfest Fireworks (nearby to Heaven) and the Real Ride (biking to the fireworks from Real Art Ways).  The Real Ride will be stopping at Heaven on the way to the riverfront, so if you're chilling there with your bike (or board, or skates) you can hook up with the rolling parade for the final stretch to the park.  More info below on Heaven from Luis Cotto.  

Get there.  Because 'Merica.
Big Shiny Burners
I'm a sucker for sugar skulls
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Hartford's first skatepark to open this Saturday, Celebration noon to 4 pm.

Please join us this Saturday at noon at Heaven (New Ross, County Wexford Park) in downtown Hartford, Connecticut at noon for the ribbon cutting ceremony and opening celebration of the City's first skatepark. After five years of effort by members of skateboard, BMX and hip hop community, the park is reopening again in its entirety with a world-class poured concrete skatepark for Hartfordites and others to enjoy. Of course, the history of the park with respect to skateboarding goes back nearly 20 years; as many know it was featured in several seminal 90's skate videos and established Hartford as the secret skate mecca of the Northeast.

The program will be begin at noon on Saturday with remarks from the Friends of Heaven Skatepark, local elected officials and others involved in the creation of this park. Invited and/or confirmed guests include Mayor Pedro Segarra, the Hartford Court of Common Council, former Councilmember Luis E. Cotto, 860 Custom Skateshop, Underground Coalition, the Tony Hawk Foundation and others. Please stay afterwards for demos, live music, graffiti, breakdancing and to use the park (or spectate). Starting Saturday, the skatepark will be open dawn to dusk everyday.

The Hartford Court of Common Council created the Hartford Skateboard Task Force in 2009 with the purpose of advising the City on the potential location, design and construction of a skatepark. Comprised of representatives of the skating, BMX, business, government and park communities, the Task Force fulfilled those goals and undertook fundraising and grant writing measures to ensure that the park would be built. The design for the park was created with strong community input and a devised process via a series of public meetings. Pulling together a United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant through the City of Hartford, a Tony Hawk Foundation Grant (first one in CT, making CT the final state in the country to get one) and individual donors, the park was able to secure funding and grow from a dream into reality. Through a competitive bidding process, the design/build team of Stantec and Who Skates was selected, designing and constructing the skatepark in 2013-2014.

The Friends of Heaven Skatepark is a group born out of the legacy of the Task Force to maintain, promote, program and encourage the free use of the New Ross, County Wexford Park and Heaven Skate Park by providing a space that fosters grassroots arts, recreation and culture for Hartford youth and residents.

More information about the Friends group and the history of the project and the space is available at www.heaveninhartford.org.

In the event of inclement weather, the rain date is Sunday with the same schedule.
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Real Ride Details - BIKE DECORATING BEGINS AT 6:30 PM, RIDE LEAVES AROUND 8:20 PM.  Starts and ends at 56 Arbor Street, Real Art Ways.  Stopping at Heaven on the way to the Riverfront.  Bring your lights, music, loud clothing, and your awesomest self and friends.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Rankling



Ranking is beloved by all. This is especially true it seems in Connecticut. Whenever I go to other states, I don't seem to see lists that rank all the towns. We do it here, though. Bike Walk Connecticut just came out with a new one. The methodology seems a little weird. Cyclists satisfaction and municipal engagement are equally weighed, which doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. Simsbury being first and New Haven second was not surprising, but New Britain being number three was pretty surprising. I guess New Britain is only bad if you're trying to ride from Hartford to New Britain. Once you're there, it's not so bad.

Hartford is 15. That's pretty good.

The big surprise is West Hartford. They're number 83. That's pretty damn terrible. I guess those few sharrows didn't do much good. However, this bad rating seems to be because they never returned in the survey. I'm pretty sure that they have some bike commission and they have that dorky Wheel Fun Day, so there is municipal engagement. Not that I'm one usually to defend West Hartford, but crappy surveys do no one any good. I mean, West Hartford is full of those dangerous curb bump outs, but I don't know if that's so bad as to rank them 83rd.

Secret new halfpipe discovered.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Eel in a strange place

Studying for the bar exam has cut into the amount of time I allocated to do fun stuff. While writing beat bike blog posts doesn't really count as fun, it has also cut into that. I have some time periodically to ride a bike, but not additional time to write a well thought out and thought provoking blog post about the ride.

However, when doing some practice questions today, I found a great beat bike blog tie-in. While this doesn't seem to be the same eel chronicled on the hallowed pages of this blog, it is a dangerous eel none the less.

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Pygmy Village



If you've ever gone passed the DMV in Plainville, you end up in a weird place. I went there one time in high school with my friend Bobby and it was our mutual opinion that it was weird. Later, I learned that it's the site of the Pygmy Village on Rattlesnake Mountain. While some dispute its spookiness, the rest of the internet is convinced of it spookitude. I had never been from the New Britain direction, so I set out that way on Saturday. 

Crossing the I-84 overpass on to west side of the highway, there are these walls made of giant concrete blocks that are about eight feet high on both sides of the road, creating an Escape from New York aesthetic. The blocks end and there's a fenced off area with a lot of no trespassing signs where someone was mowing followed by two rundown occupied houses and one abandoned one. My goal was to ride down North Mountain road back into Plainville, but what appears to be North Mountain road is just a cut for powerlines. Perhaps that's where the Pygmy Village lies, but it did not particularly possible to ride that way. Instead, I continued on what was sort of Long Swamp Rd up Rattlesnake Mountain and eventually came out at the Tilcon quarry. There was some very impressive corduroy.


I'll admit that the spookiness of the area discouraged me from checking out the powerline cut further. Perhaps that's where the Pygmy Village is, but I'll never know for sure. I am interested in exploring more of the ATV trails on Rattlesnake Mountain. I once rode the Metacomet over Rattlesnake, but it was mostly unrideable, hike-a-bike stuff. It looks like it would be possible to do a Tour de Talcott-type ride, but south from the West Hartford Reservoir. I rode once from there to Southington and the Rattlesnake section was the most discouraging. Other than that, it was ok. Discovering these ATV trails and dirt roads make for a pretty good alternative.

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Open Letter to Fishers Island Ferry

I was thinking about heading over to Fishers Island for a weekend to visit a friend working in a summer seasonal job.  It looks like the Fishers Island folks don't like poor folks on bicycles crudding up their view.  My attitude about the Glastonbury-Rocky Hill Ferry is exactly the opposite, especially since it was free this past Saturday for CT Open House.  I was so excited about the free ride that I purchased a t-shirt with the ferry on it.

An open letter to the Fishers Island Ferry
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To whom it may concern,

I was planning a bicycle ride to visit a friend on Fishers Island.  Was pretty excited about it as I hadn't yet had the chance to visit New London or that part of Long Island.  Excited until I learned about the steep bicycle fare.

It seems absurd that the rate for bringing a bicycle on the ferry ($55) is more than the rate for an automobile ($51).  Whats the logic there?  A bicycle takes up significantly less space, can be stacked together, and is the environmentally responsible choice.   The bicycle as transportation is also the clear choice if one were to worry about the quality of life in a vacation community, where traffic and parking are irritating issues.

Thought I'd put my two cents in.  Based on my initial judgement of Fishers Island from the ferry rate, I'll skip the trip across the Sound and spend my vacation elsewhere.  Not a big loss I'm sure, but if you've ever been to bicycle and pedestrian friendly towns and cities - you'll notice that life is better where cars aren't taken for granted as the only way to get around.

Have a beautiful smog filled summer, and I wish you short term profit followed by decades of rising sea levels. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Tony Cherolis
Beat Bike Blog
Hartford, Connecticut
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Question to readers.  Am I missing anything by skipping Fishers Island, or is it just a bunch of white, over compensated investment bankers?

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Monday, June 2, 2014

In defense of mowing



Some say that mowing is an activity for lumpen conformist suburbanites who believes in marketing mumbo jumbo. I heartily disagree. I love mowing. I hope to some day own a home so that I can mow, compost and building a pump track in my back yard. The drone of the mower, the verifiable accomplishment of making high grass low, walking around a yard and the beer afterward make mowing a zen activity nearly as fun as going for a bike ride.

This is not to say everything should be mown, but there should be a place for everyone to roll a bocce ball or put a lawn chair. The rest can be woods or tall grass, but a lawn is a great thing-- a rug for the earth.

I had been hearing a lot of mowing denigration lately, but then I read this. Done right, mowing and landscaping can be a form of expression. It isn't cul-de-sac oppression, it's a canvass upon which one makes grass their own. Contrary to the atomization of the suburban existence, it is the means by which one can personalization and beauty to the terrain. The management company for your apartment or condo can't do that. That's where the conformity and submission lies: living under the authoritarian landscaping of a common interest community. There's no individualism in the lawn someone else mowed for you.

Long live the lawn! Express yourself with stripes!

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Absence fonder grows heart?



I went to that great state of Vermont this weekend as I enjoy doing. I canoed, I plumbed, I mowed, I walked, I grilled, I attempted to get a marriage license and I made the best tomato sauce that I had made in a long time. I don't know what it was; maybe it had something to do with adding all of the sauce ingredients instead of using a single ingredient for a sauce, but it was awesome. I still have some left, which I am willing to sell for $25/jar (limit one jar).

However, I only went for one small bike ride. This was generally due to a lot of rain, but also due to doing other things. As you can imagine and have probably heard if you've read this blog for more like a few day, I like riding a bike in Vermont with an emphasis on Orleans and Caldonia counties. I don't really mind it, though. I am reminded that I like riding a bike and I want to go do it some more, but I have developed some peace. Read more!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Using the Wrong Tool

This came to me today while I was riding home on Main Street East Hartford.  I noticed a bicycle lying in the back of a full size pickup truck.  The kind of pickup truck that hasn't ever been used for a construction job.  Spotless paint and shiny.  A vanity truck.  17 MPG and obviously the wrong damn tool for the job, unless the job is compensating for something.  How is that truck the right tool for picking up groceries or commuting?  It's insult to injury to see a bicycle in the back of a vehicle like that.  The funny thing is that they were probably driving to a bike path.

The ultimate lean machine
As an engineer, I think a lot about efficiency.  The entire reason that P&W is still in business is the geared turbofan engine, a step change in air travel efficiency.  At work, we're trained in things like Lean Principles and improving a Value Stream.  Being so trained, it always amazes me that folks, especially P&W engineers, don't apply some of those concepts to their day-to-day life.  Not so much that life gets boring and work-like, but just enough to improve your quality of life and save some wasted time.

For example.  So, so many of the engineers I work with have the typical house in the burbs with the sprawling lawn and the long commute.  They complain about cutting the grass, talk about their "new expensive tools" needed cut the grass faster, and bitch about getting stuck in traffic.  If they spent 30 minutes evaluating the things they like to do (consider that their value added activities) and then listed the fluff and suffering (non-value added activity, wasted time, and rework).  Consider the list below for example.  I know some folks enjoy cutting the lawn and their jobs, but let's not get stuck on that.   You can make your own list, it will be different.  The important thing, I think, is to actually make some sort of list like this once in a while.

Value Added (increase these)

  • Spending time with family and / or friends
  • Unstructured time spent relaxing or recreating
  • Going out to a nice dinner
  • Seeing shows or attending cultural events
  • Exercising and staying healthy
  • Improving my community
Non-Value Added, Wasted Time (reduce or eliminate these)
  • Stuck in traffic.  Commuting to work and other things.
  • Time spent at work - assuming that your job is stressful and you'd rather do other things
  • Cutting grass
  • Standing in line
  • And it could go on and on...
With that list in hand, a reasonable person might conclude that their lifestyle is set up to maximize non-value added activity.  The full hour spent commuting per day in a car.  The two nights per week spent cutting grass or pulling weeds in the lawn.  The 400 yard long driveway that requires an industrial snow blower.  How did they get there, in a life overweight with wasted time and busy work?  The opposite of a Lean lifestyle.  Spending their valuable time during the week making money to support expensive after work activities that they don't even enjoy.  Tirelessly chasing the suburban dream until they retire and full time commit themselves to the non-value added list.  If they moved closer to work, down sized the lawn (moved near a park), and changed some structure in their lives the balance of the list could change.  

A side benefit of a value added life is that things get more interesting.  As soon as someone starts talking about mulch, cutting the grass, or highway traffic - it's the most boring thing in the world.

The closed section of Mountain Road over the ridge into Tarrifville
And we'll be hip deep in the "right tool" on Saturday, June 7th.  In the morning, there is a bike swap meet in Wethersfield.  Then Dinner and Bikes that evening in Hartford.  After Dinner and Bikes, there are local bands and DJ's at Arch Street Tavern - come get some Shag Frenzy.  This is what I call maximizing the value added activity.  Huzzah Hartford!

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wethersfield Swap Meet (or swamp meet)

Tire pile

Apparently, there's a bike swap meet sponsored by the Wethersfield High Bike Club in June and it comes with free coffee in the "cuppa" form. It's free to browse and $25 if you want to sell your tire, fork, stem, bottom bracket or other type of pile. It may not be Trexlertown, but it's also not in Pennsylvania.

Here's the email I was forwarded about it:
Hi Everyone,
If you like to look at bicycles and bicycle parts with a cuppa coffee in your hand, or you're looking for parts for a project build, or looking to sell a bunch of parts or bicycles you have laying around… The High School Club I run is hosting a Bicycle Show / Swap Meet in Wethersfield.
If you haven't been to a bicycle swap meet, this is your chance to go to a close one. (Usually the closest one's are in Mass.) I love going to the Munson and Dudley Shows. You can check out bikes of all styles from vintage to contemporary. You might see your first "ATB" up for sale. You might pick up that cable stop, or that brake handle for your sister's kids bike. Maybe you can clear out your stable and make some cash for new parts.

Please spread the word! It should be fun and for a good cause.
General Admission is free, and there will be sellers and demos including a flat tire clinic... If you want to sell, it is only $25 a spot.
Flier is attached.

email tbrown@wethersfield.me or call me at 860-944-8436 c
-Tom Brown
Hope to see you there, and out on the trails again in September.


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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why not every day?

East Hartford Bike to Work. Many of these folks cycled over from West Hartford.
Living in Connecticut and riding a bicycle for 90% of my transportation puts me in the curious position of being an extremely fringe element.  The thing that I do everyday, rain or shine, is something that the overwhelming majority of Connecticut residents consider absurd.  There is a small percentage (< 1%) that once a year think, "Hey! Driving to work every day is silly seeing that I'm less than 5 miles away and the weather is beautiful."  These open minded folks come out during Bike to Work Week in May, and try something new.   They have a great time and get their picture taken, but then the bike usually gets put back into it's marginal role of weekend recreational toy.  What is the mental block preventing more commuters from trying something that I've found to be an amazing alternative to single occupancy vehicle transportation?  Why not every day, or at least, why not many days?

Enjoying the camaraderie, food, and schwag
I'm torn between soul crushing frustration and the realization that this is a great opportunity.  The opportunity lies is the fact that only 0.3% of trips to work in Connecticut are by bicycle, that's even lower than the 0.6% national average.  That is a huge opportunity, a gaping hole of opportunity.  I was discussing with Pratt & Whitney's health and wellness coordinator our plant in Poland where 40% of the employees cycle to work.  How much healthier and wealthier would we be if just 10% of work trips were made using cycling, walking, or a combination of that with some public transit?  If anyone is interested in making that transition, or recommending a resource to a friend, they should check out www.ctrides.com.  CT Rides is a comprehensive resource for anyone trying to go "car light" - car pools, van pools, transit, telecommuting, biking, and walking.   Taking a two car family down to one car isn't rocket science, really.
Bikes overloaded the three racks by my office.  
In the interest of maintaining bike month momentum, I am organizing Dinner and Bikes on Saturday, June 7th.  You can get your tickets online, and tickets go up $5 at the door.  The tickets are sliding scale from $10 to $25.  The event is benefiting Bike Walk CT.  In addition to a vegan dinner, bicycle movie shorts, and a chat about Bikenomics, we will be highlighting Hartford Food System and local urban food production.
Because bikes deserve their own cultural events
The photo below has nothing to do with Hartford, expect that I rode my bike there.  This past Sunday I taught a Traffic Skills 101 course in Collinsville at the Canton Town Hall.  The support of cycling in that community was refreshing.  The attendees were sponsored by the local bike shop, Benidorm.  Folks were recreating joyfully on the Farmington Valley Trail.  The nearby coffee shop and deli was over flowing with bicyclists stopping in for a snack.  Bikes were organically taking over car parallel parking spots on the road.  Collinsville is looking to add bike corral parking, something I've suggested as a seasonal solution for Pratt Street in Hartford.  The East Coast Greenway is routed through Hartford, and would have a tourism draw and commuting utility like the Farmington Trail.   Instead of getting frustrated, I'm focusing on the opportunity.  Let's do this every day!

Not in Hartford, near Collinsville along the river.  Graffiti and rusty industry.
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Saturday, May 17, 2014

A man and his rocks



Editor's note: I have always been a big fan of Stone Field Sculpture. Some of my earliest memories of Hartford are of me climbing up the rocks. For the 30th anniversary of the piece in 2007, I founded the "Friends of Stone Field Sculpture" and had a picnic there. When iQuilt was planning on turning the rocks into some sort of stupid water feature, I got back in touch with Carl's wife to prevent foutainification of my favorite piece of public art in Hartford. Dario shares an affinity for Stone Field Sculpture and wrote this:

Leaning on my bike in the shade on a beautiful warm spring afternoon, gazing at the rock sculpture on the long isosceles triangle of a lawn in downtown Hartford, I realized actually how beautiful the scene was. Carl Andre's 1977 controversial sculpture of eight rows of boulders (the first at the tip of the triangle has only one; the second, two; the eighth which runs parallel to Main St. has eight, for a total of thirty-six) has aged very well. Rocks do that. The seasons pass and the rocks slightly weathered by time develop a patina. They are of basalt and gneiss, two types of rock easily found in this region. Since its creation, the "Stone Field Sculpture" has been a source of controversy. "It's just a bunch of rocks. That's not art! Anyone can do that!", decried many at the time and over the years. The City of Hartford even tried, unsuccessfully, to recoup the $87K it had paid the artist (not with taxpayer funds, by the way). The rocks have become part of the urban landscape, the sculpture is appropriate to the strip of no-man's land between Main St. and Gold (a short, winding street) and the city's oldest and most historic cemetery. The artist, Carl Andre, now in his mid-70's, is one of the fathers of Minimalist art. He is featured in a NY Times article (May 7, 2014) about the upcoming exhibition, a retrospective of his work, at DIA in Beacon Falls, NY. Andre is known for his use of local, simple, natural, but also industrial, materials and for arranging them in simple and suggestive forms. He is "exacting" in the materials' disposition. 


Prompted by the article and short video about the exhibition, I rode my bike from campus, down Vernon St., across the Learning Corridor, down Retreat Ave., through the Hartford Hospital campus, down Park, left onto Wadsworth St., across Bushnell Park, to the field of stones. And what did I see there besides a bunch of rocks? I saw something magical and quite beautiful. Buses unloaded students on Gold St. who marched up the sidewalk to catch their transfer on Main. Mothers and children cut through the field of stones, following their more direct desire lines. A heap of clothes and personal belongings was behind one of the boulders in the middle of the sculpture, not a late addition, but a temporary locker for one of the urban denizens. A passerby took a break and sat on the rocks. I wasn't sure myself if I could do so, the field of stones being a work of art and all. And then I realized, what Andre's sculpture does to us: It invites us to inhabit it, to view it as part of a landscape. It's next to a cemetery of headstones and it is a gracious, quiet complement to that historic and human artifact. I've ridden by Stone Field Sculpture on my bike hundreds of times and have always known it was there, but I have never really observed it. Why? Because we just don't look at rocks and because the beauty of the installation is not what it is, but how we interact with it. For many, Andre's minimalist work blurs the line between art and non art, but whatever is beautiful is aesthetic and art is the realm of aesthetics and, for me, Andre's field of stones was beautiful yesterday. I expect it to be so today, too.




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Friday, May 16, 2014

Keney Park really is the best park

Doing my part and fixing the bridge to the Leadership Trail.

I know that it's cool to say that you like Keney Park. It's the edgy one. It's the one that unhip suburbanites say is scary, allowing you to be the cool urban contrarian and say that you go there at night without a care in the world. That's stupid posturing and you sound like you're just pretending to show off your grittiness.

Keney Park doesn't need your liberal defense. Keney Park doesn't even need you! It's you who needs Keney Park.

I was riding through Keney yesterday after a surprisingly difficult secured transaction exam. The trail system is slowly rejuvenating/expanding this spring because of that grant the Friends got and I was exploring some of the newly accessible stuff.

Probably the coolest thing about the park is how big it is. You can be off by yourself in the semi-wildness, but the park can actually be pretty full. There was cricket practice, some guy hitting golf ball at the improvised driving range, several little league games, lots of basketball, people on jungle gyms and just general park-style chilling. What really possessed me to wax poetic about the park began with some rhythmic booming. I was in Keney Waverly when I first heard it. I thought maybe there was a concert going on, which seemed weird because it was a Thursday. I was meandering south and the booming kept going and getting. Eventually when I ended up by the pond, I found the source of the booming. There was a drum line practice happening on the handball courts (Keney has handball courts. I've never figured out what handball is, but it's a big deal in New York. And according to that video, it's a way of life.).  Come on. How cool is that? There's no other park that I can think of anywhere where people can do such different things and everyone gets their own space. You can have a drumline, you can be a fixed gear cyclocross guy, you can be playing chess, you can drink a beer or you can fish. It's the ultimate recreation space. Try doing that at Elizabeth Park. Read more!

Monday, May 12, 2014

AAA considers B's



AAA (the American Automobile Association) has not generally been known as an ally of cyclists. They've lobbied against bike infrastructure, public transportation and more bike friendly laws. However, starting in Portland, OR in 2009 and now migrating into Colorado and Southern New England, they're providing pickups for stranded cyclists

This doesn't seem to have an effect upon their lobbying efforts, though there are some scattered reports that AAA supports bike infrastructure as long as it does not involve diverting money from road projects. The catch with the pick for cyclists, though, is that they'll only take you ten miles. If I'm only ten miles from home, do I really need a ride? Although, the base towing with the regular AAA card is only 5 miles. I guess the ten miles is something. It's a 100 miles of towing/year with your car if you have the higher end memberships. It'd be nice if the better membership brought you increased bike pick-up service, too. 

It would be interesting to see if anyone is using this service. Moving a broken car a few hundred feet can be pretty much impossible, but moving a few miles with a broken bike is not too hard. I sort of want to test it out just to see what the service is like and if it really exists.

UPDATE! I confirmed with greater Hartford AAA that the service is available here, too.




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Sunday, May 11, 2014

So Much Bike

Bike to Work.  Bicycle skills.  Dinner and Bikes.  The next couple of weeks brings a critical mass of bicycle based activity and I'll be trying not to drown in the sea of spokes and chain rings.  I'm finding myself a bit over programmed, but it's hard to say no to the goodness of non-motorized transportation and what it does for a community, the local economy, and our much maligned planet.  Any way you can chip in to spread the word or volunteer at an event would be much appreciated.

Overflowing bike parking at the Urbana Farmers' Market.
After traveling back to the Midwest last week for vacation, I was reminded how awesome Champaign-Urbana, Illinois is with it's huge bicycle, pedestrian, and transit mode share.  In a small community of approximately 150,000 they support three bustling business districts.  The community has the typical chain mall crap north of the I-74 highway that skirts the northern edge of the city, but you won't see the bike, walk, and transit users spending much time there.  Their dollars get spent locally, and at the weekly Urbana farmers market - that includes local and regional food production.  It is mind shifting to see entire families show up to the market riding bicycles.  Not just that one odd ball, but many families.  On cargo bikes.  With bike trailers.  Using trail-a-bikes.  Some with the little ones riding along on their own separate pixie bikes.  It can happen, and there is no reason this can't become the norm in Hartford.

With that motivating vision in mind, I'll take the space below to remind folks about the fantastic bicycle orgy that is taking place in the next couple weeks.
  • Wednesday, May 14th.  6:30-9:00AM.  Bike and Walk to Work Breakfast in East Hartford.  Sponsored by Pratt & Whitney, Goodwin College, American Eagle Federal Credit Union, and the Town of East Hartford.  Right across the street from Pratt & Whitney on Main Street.  Near the Goodwin College Community Garden plots.  We'll have bagels, coffee, fruit, and juice to fuel the rest of your day.  There will also be retro-reflective and very adherent stickers being handed out to participants.  As bicycle commuters we know that visibility is important, both in numbers and in reflectivity. 
  • Wednesday, May 14th.  6:00-7:30PM.  Free bicycle safety information session at the Arroyo Recreation Center in Hartford's Pope Park.
  • Thursday, May 15th.  Free admission to the Real Art Ways Creative Cocktail Hour if you show up on a bike.
  • Friday, May 16th.  Bike to Work in downtown Hartford at the Old State House.  There are 23 total Bike to Work events statewide.  Bike Walk CT is trying to change the norm for Connecticut commuters.  Facebook event invitation - for spreading the word.
  • Sunday, May 18th.  Traffic Skills 101 course in Canton in cooperation with Benidorm.  A comprehensive 8 hour course including classroom topics, hazard avoidance drills, and a road ride.  Special note - I plan to brave Rt 44 (Avon Mountain) at the ass crack of dawn on the 18th since I'll be riding over to teach this course.  
  • Sunday, June 1st.  A 4 hour course (TS101, Part 1) in Simsbury.  This continues quite a streak of bicycle awesomeness in this Hartford burb.  They are already a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community, there is a town bike share program, and the Farmington Valley Greenway goes right through town.
  • Saturday, June 7th - Dinner and Bikes in Hartford.  Vegan dinner.  Bicycle movie shorts.  A book talk by Elly Blue on Bikenomics.  Facebook event invitation - for spreading the word.
Dinner and Bikes.  Bikes and Dinner.  We'll see you there.
Whew.  I'm worn out, and the week hasn't even started yet.  Keep being awesome and I'll see you on two wheels (or on foot).

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Giant tires



I don't know anything about downhill. I go on pinkbike sometimes, but I can't figure it what those people are talking about. Too many motorcycle helmets, goggles and pushing bikes up hill. I thought you get good at riding a bike to avoid walking. Then again when they jump off cliffs, I'd probably be waking that.

Anyway, a few years ago I bought a pile of tires for $50*. Included were a number of downhill tires that I haven't know what to do with. A lot of them are tubeless, so they're also really hard to mount. However, there's a set of Maxxis Minions that are not tubeless and are 2.5"s. 2.5"s are usually no trouble in the back, but I don't really have a frame with that kind of clearance in the rear. Actually, that's not true. I somehow got it to for my mongoose Alta. I took it or yesterday and now I understand how those downhill guys stick to the trail so well. These things are amazing. Maybe not amazingly fast on pavement, but sure footed beyond what I'm used to.

*Really a pile of tires. Johanna was not happy about this. I've decided to sell some of them and if you want to buy them, they're on ebay.
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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Peaceful Hartford



I was in Keney Park this evening meeting with its Friends about the proposed mountain bike trail. It was a very good meeting. We're going to try and walk the proposed trail next week and if goes as planned, maybe it'll come into existence by June. Hooray!

I rode home in the the quasi-direct route through the park, then down Woodland, Gillette, Forest, Laurel, Pope Park and then Hillside, pretty much the backbone of Hartford. Somewhere around Gillette and Farmington, it struck me that it was one of those magical spring evenings when Hartford gets peaceful. All the commuters have gone back to the suburbs and the city quiets down. People are stooping and drinking beers, kids are playing little league, dogs aren't barking, I wasn't gesticulating wildly at cars to get them to stop trying to kill me and even the ATV'ers were driving slow. We only get these evenings when the days get long, but the temperatures aren't yet too hot and they're pretty awesome. These are the times when you reflect fondly about not living in the suburbs.

Also, I saw this crazy bird. There were some people looking at something on the side of the road on Hillside. Turning to look at what it was reveal this large, weird white bird with webbed feet and a bill. It was just standing on the sidewalk like it was waiting for the bus on one leg.

Update! If you're interested in the Keney Park proposal, it is available here and here is a map. Read more!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Bike Education, Cantonese style

Tony and I will be teaching our next Traffic Skills 101 class on Sunday, May 18 in Canton, CT.
Register here! Read more!

A race report, strangely


I haven't raced a mountain bike in awhile. The last time I did that was at the Circumburke. That was a pretty high note, because I won. In fact, it's memorialized on their website in a pretty funny way (I'm lying there because I tweaked my back, not because of exhaustion. I swear!). I really like mountain biking, but back when I was a Cat 2, it sort of sucked: drive to race, ride on mediocre trails for and an hour and fifteen minutes as if it were a 'cross race with some rocks and go home. Circumburke was cool, because that took a long time. Racing for over five hours means you got your money's worth. I upgraded, because I had some good finishes awhile ago, but I hadn't really done anything with it. The entry fees had also gone up, which wasn't particularly attractive. Also, I sort of suck and didn't want that to be further proven by getting my ass kicked by all those fast guys.

But lo! A race that was only $25 and it was on those weird New Haven trails I rode with Marko a few weeks ago. And, I've finally started getting up the gumption to ride a singlespeed bike in public. I should enter that one. So, I did. The start time wasn't too early, but it wasn't too late. It was 20 miles and for $25, that seemed like a reasonable deal.


Preregistering didn't have too many people registered and no more registered day of for singlespeed. It was a field of four. One of whom, Gary Hoehne, I have raced the cyclocross bikes against and two I didn't. One guy was older than me and friendly and the other guy was wearing jorts. I like riding in jorts, but not when it's so muddy.

The start was on payment and we were spinning at our crazy maximum speed of ~17mph right quick and then dropped into the woods. I was in second, but all four of us were tightly packed until the little ascent, where I took the lead. Then we crossed a road and there was some more ascending, but there was also a bog, so there was some walking for a minute, then back on the bike whereupon it turned into stone steps and then there was a guardrail where people were helping lift your bike over said guard rail. Afterwards, there was a climb on the road for like a half mile, then a little bit of rocky single track to climb and finally a this nuts rocky, steep descent. I think it dropped like 400 ft in a tenth of mile. The rest of the course was mostly gravel paths with another rocky single track section that had one mildly steep ascent that caused me to drop a chain on laps 1 and 3. On lap 1, I got passed by the guy who was older than me and friendly. I didn't realize that it was him at the time and thought it was the leader of the 50+. So, when I caught him at the beginning of the second lap, I was all confused and he said that he passed me when I dropped my chain. Then I felt really bad for having sort of accused him of cutting course.

He never caught me again and I kept on doing my thing. The course deteriorated and so did I and I ended up walking a few more steeps than I would have liked on lap three (well, really just one more than the previous laps).

So, that was that. It was a good race and I was really impressed that the New Haven parks and rec people came out and opened up their facilities for us: two hoses, a bathroom and a little spot for me to stash my messenger bag (I parked really far away) in the nature house.

Apparently, CT singlespeeders haven't been doing great this year, because winning one race also made me state champ. I wish I could do Winsted Woods, but I have law school graduation that day. Stupid law school ruining my life some more.

Photos stolen from the Root 66 facebook page and taken by Geno Esponda.


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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Bro'd Rage: My ugly encounter with a dangerous young driver. PART III- Brospotting, follow up, and support

This is the truck.

Only 1 of 4 wheels remain on the driveway, so your highest possible grade would be 25%. You definitely failed, dude.
Whilst traversing campus on my Wednesday lunch break, I caught a glimpse of a familiar sight: the nose of a green Toyota Tundra with New Jersey plates. It was driverless and parked this time around, thus thankfully not split seconds from hitting me head-on, so I walked over to have a look. It was clear that: 1) This was definitely the truck from last Friday's run-in. and 2) It had been parked by a person severely deficient in the finer points of parallel parking. The truck was where the people are supposed to go.

What? No truck nuts?
As I made my way around the truck to snap a few pictures, a young man approached and got into the driver seat. In our short, seconds-long conversation, he said it was his truck, that he was not on campus on Friday, and that his roommates borrow the truck. It's not my job to grill the guy, but I recommended that he get in touch and cooperate with Campus Safety and the Hartford Police ASAP. He seemed genuinely surprised to hear of the Friday incident. If I give the benefit of the doubt that this is true, then that means that the college administration had not contacted him five days after the incident. If it's not true, he's an accomplished liar. Either way, somebody's BSing me, and I don't appreciate that one bit.

Schleppi said this photo looked like a "TMZ shot"
 In the meantime, I had gotten nothing meaningful in the manner of updates as to progress being made by Campus Safety and the Dean of Students office. Either nothing was happening, or I was not being updated in a timely fashion. I got a few more updates and clarifications on Friday, but only after I had sent out a rather exasperated Thursday afternoon email that pulled no punches. Not long after my Bro-spotting lunchbreak, I did receive an invitation to speak with the Campus Life office, which I will do early this coming week.

As much of a drag and a timesuck as this incident has been over the past week, it has brought out the best in a lot of people. A number of Trinity staff and faculty approached me with encouraging words and, fairly often, a personal story of a student whose misdeeds went unpunished. Trinity Professor Jack Dougherty composed and circulated a letter of support which was co-signed by Dario and other bike riding Trinity faculty and staff members. All of the above lifted my spirits and reminded me that I work with some truly excellent people (and that they are by no means in short supply.) I still believe that positive outcomes and change can come from this ugly encounter.

My work week ended on a high note. The weather was beautiful, the day was full of unexpected delights, like a dogs and (Tastease!) donuts gathering on a nearby quadrangle late in the morning, an impromptu Spanish guitar and percussion jam outside of the Austin Arts Center, and a successful opening at the Broad Street Gallery. This Saturday Hartford will be filled with Samba, films, friends, and one of the best parties for one of the shortest sporting events of the year. In between that, I have some bikes to repair and ride. It will be nice to get back to that.

Lucy in the Quad With Donuts


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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bro'd Rage: My ugly encounter with a dangerous young driver. PART II- making contact

In Bro'd Rage Part I, I left off with my trip to Hartford Police Department HQ to file a report. I later sat down and wrote a detailed description of the incident, a version of which became yesterday's post, and more detailed, names-naming version of which I emailed to a selection of HPD and College officials first thing on Monday.  On that morning's commute, I had noticed a few security cameras along Summit Street where the  took place, so I asked to see the archived camera footage for the appropriate time period.

If Big Brother is watching, he oughta help a small brother out once in a while, amiright?

I heard back from both Campus Safety and an HPD officer the same day. I visited CS headquarters and saw footage of the Green Toyota Tundra turning right from a campus parking lot and heading northbound on the wrong side of the street. It then disappears from camera view, followed a few seconds later by me pedaling southbound. Less than a minute later, the Tundra reappears, heading southbound at a high rate of speed. A different camera captured the moments where the truck pulls up even with, then in front of me, its brake lights ablaze as I veer toward the left. This not only validated my report, it actually made things look a bit worse than I had thought. I was told they would share this with the HPD and with the Dean of Students Office for review.

This was encouraging, not only because it seemed like Campus Safety was being much more proactive and transparent than before, but also because this was verifiable proof of my account of the incident. In addition, it occurred to me that this video would be great to incorporate into the next Traffic Skills 101 class I'm co-teaching with Tony. I asked for a copy of the video, but was told (not at all surprisingly), "...it's the policy of the institution to only release our reports and video to the administration."
So much for transparency.


Later on Tuesday, I took a look at The Trinity Campus Safety Daily Crime Log for the Friday of the incident, which was posted sometime Tuesday afternoon. This above screen shot, taken at that time, shows my disappointing discovery. There is no mention of this incident, despite my having reported it to Campus Safety and followed up with them multiple times since then. It appears that I am officially less important than two computer monitors and a cell phone. My brief flirtation with optimism for the college's administration's response was fading away rapidly.

More developments as they come in Bro'd Rage Part III
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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bro'd Rage! My ugly encounter with a dangerous young driver. PART I - The Incident


The Trinity Admissions Gate: area of my initial encounter with the wrong-way driver.

Last Friday morning, I was commuting to my job at Trinity College here in Hartford, riding my Yuba southbound along Summit Street as usual. Suddenly, I was startled to see that a dark green Toyota pickup truck had completely crossed the double yellow line and was heading northbound, directly at me, in my southbound lane. I yelled, "YO!!!" as loudly as I could to alert the driver of the truck whilst swerving to avoid a head-on collision. Collision avoided, I continued southbound on Summit, a good sight more shaken and annoyed than I had been moments earlier.

Trinity's Hamlin and Mather Halls overlook the scene of the verbal abuse and brake-check
I continued southbound toward the south side of campus and my office. Just south of the College Terrace intersection, I was startled anew to see the pickup roar up by my left side. The driver of the truck, a white male around 20, shook his middle finger and screamed obscenities (unintelligible but for the many F-Bombs) before pulling ahead of me, swerving toward the right and slamming on the brakes. I veered left, avoiding another potential collision, pedaled hard and caught up enough to get the license plate number and a better look at the truck. Having apparently turned around specifically to harass and threaten me with the truck, the enraged bro sped off heading southbound.

I immediately called the Hartford Police Department to report this incident upon arriving at my office. An HPD officer meet me a bit later at Trinity's Broad Street Gallery, where Studio Arts majors' Senior Thesis shows were being critiqued (I work in the art department). I stepped out of the Gallery and gave him my account of the incident. At this time, a Campus Safety officer was driving by on Broad Street, and the HPD officer motioned him over. He parked and joined us, I repeated my story and description, and shortly thereafter rejoined my colleagues in the gallery so as not to miss any more of the critiques. Both officers seemed friendly and efficient.

I called Campus Safety after lunch to follow up on the case and was told that HPD did not file a report, opting instead to let Campus Safety "handle it" based on the truck's description (NJ plates and a Trinity decal) making it likely the truck's driver was a student. The CS officer I had originally spoken with said that the truck had not been registered with the college (which is required), so they didn't know whose it was.

I was outraged. It was pretty clear to me at this point that this case would go nowhere if I didn't pursue the matter. My report of a Class D Felony was poised to go nowhere fast, and there aren't enough "Oh, Hell No"s in the world to describe how willing I was to accept that. Unfortunately, I had a wake to attend on Friday afternoon (this was kind of a lousy day), so I was unable to follow up until the weekend.

On Sunday afternoon, I spoke with an officer at the Hartford Public Safety complex on High Street and filed a report. Now I had a case number and a List of things to do first thing on Monday. I let you know how that went soon in Bro'd Rage Part II

NOTES:
This incident took place at approximately 9:45 AM on Summit Street in Hartford.
Dark Green Toyota Tundra extended cab pickup truck with a Trinity College decal on the rear window of the cab. White male driver, approx. 20 Y.O. New Jersey registration M91-CXN 
If you have any information to share, call the Hartford Police Department and reference Case# 14-13179

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Keney Park Mountain Biking



I'm glad "mountain", "biking", "Keney" and "Park" don't have any s's in them, because I just went to the dentist and the tip of my tongue is numb. I'm going to have to say those words a bunch tonight because I'm* delivering a presentation to the City's Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission about putting a mountain bike trail in Keney Park. I don't mean like a walking path that you can ride a bike on, but a curvy and twisty thing that's funny to ride a bike on. As you know, this is something I've want to have happen for a long time and kizmet between people interested in expanding the trail network at Keney (Friends of Keney) and people wanting to expand mountain biking (Jon Tarbox) both talked to me around the same time. I'm really excited to start raking things with Jon. When I organized that 'cross race five years ago, he was awesome, so this should be equally awesome.

I'll keep you posted about what sorts of things you can do to help.

*Actually, it's a we. Jon emailed me to say that he'll be able to make it tonight. Read more!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I have no idea how suspension forks work



I have this bike that I don't talk about very much. It is a Kona Kula Deluxe from 2006. I bought it in like 2009 (2010?) and I rode it for awhile, but after this race in Massachusetts that had a section with 3' of standing water, it didn't work well for awhile. I've finally fixed most of it. For some reason, I decided to replace the suspension fork. I don't know that much about those things, but I decided to upgrade the Fox Vanilla R to an F32 Float 120 or some such thing. I bought it on ebay and it said it had 100mm of travel, but it's got way more than that. It's actually pretty awesome once set up correctly for going fast downhill. However, it raised the front end and I seem to have no braking power on loose terrain. The raised front end makes it hard to climb steep stuff (keep popping wheelies) and the lack of braking makes it hard to stop. I also go downhill a lot faster with the suspension fork thingy, so I'd hope for more stopping power, not less. Lower my bars? Is that all I need to do? Fox makes a shorter travel-ma-jiggy, but it costs money. What advice do you have? Read more!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Detritus

I was looking at twitter this morning and saw this bizarre promoted tweet from REI. Why are all these clothes in the bike lane? What does this mean? I'm usually annoyed when a bike lane is full of junk. I don't stop, inspect it and then buy it.

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