Monday, December 27, 2010

Bikes Outside: Swede Ride

This morning's Bike Outside is my first since November due to an extraordinarily busy stretch at my job. Thanks to Schleppi for filling in some of the missed Mondays for me.

Today's handsome example sports a classic frame from Crescent of Sweden. It appears to be a late 60's-early 70's Crescent Stainless Mark (something or other) The differences between the Mark IX, XI and XX models were in the components, so the current parts offer no clue as to its original spec. Whatever it was, it's still a really gorgeous frame, and the Brooks saddle looks just right. For me, a set of polished old school high flange hub/ box-section wheels would set it off beautifully. The mismatched deep-V rear looks as incongruous as billet rims on a Volvo Amazon. I would be happy to own both this bike and an Amazon wagon, come to think of it.

This past week's Downtown glimpse was my first sighting of this particular bike. Did one of our usual messengers add another bike to his stable or could this belong to someone new in town?

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Friday, December 24, 2010


There was supposedly an awesome mountain bike ride at Nathan Hale State Forest today, but I couldn't go. I was working on my car. It's a little sad when you work on your car and there's no awesome performance upgrade, but I do have heat again, it didn't take six weeks for to fix it and nothing broke along the way. Hooray!

Also, merry Christmas! (I don't discriminate holidayically, but it's Christmas eve, so that seems like that appropriate command.) and may your undertree be filled with awesome bike parts or awesome socks.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bicycle or Spaceship Part II

WARNING - Don’t park your spaceship in front of the Glastonbury Hilton Garden Inn. It may be removed from the premises by authorities for scientific investigation of alternative transportation.

I was having a grand time on the second day of an offsite work meeting being held in the Gideon Welles room at the Glastonbury Hilton. I didn’t see any spaceship parking and therefore unobtrusively parked fifty feet away from the entrance and locked to a signpost just off the sidewalk. A co-worker came into the meeting after lunch and in walking past my bike had found a terse missive taped to the jump seat. He had courteously plucked off the note and let the front desk clerk know that the spaceship parked in front of the hotel belonged to me, a hotel patron, and that I wouldn’t appreciate coming out to find my means of transportation missing.

Upon leaving the meeting I asked at the front desk, “Do you have any acceptable bike parking?” I was assisted by the head of maintenance who showed me a cozy spot at the base of an inside stairwell that would be hidden from aesthetically sensitive Hilton patrons. The suggested parking location was fine with me, but I was still a bit steamed that my property was threatened with destruction (cut lock) and confiscation because the general manager of the Glastonbury Hilton found a locked bicycle to be offensive to the Hilton brand image. Hilton’s anti-bike commuter policy reinforces the cultural norm of car centric transportation. If a supposedly “green” business doesn’t have designated bike parking, at least have enough sense not to hassle me about my choice of parking spot.

I wanted to point out that several of the upscale hotels in Champaign-Urbana with professional meeting facilities have significant designated bicycle parking. Champaign-Urbana has a remarkably high bicycle and pedestrian mode share and it keeps getting higher. Support from local businesses like convenient bike parking and the support of bicycle lanes in business districts makes a huge difference. Bicycle parking accommodations are inexpensive and can usually be installed in locations that are both convenient for cyclists and unobtrusive for business patrons. Bicycle commuters are loyal to local proprietors due to their limited range. I would consider the Glastonbury Hilton for future offsite work meetings due to its proximity to Pratt & Whitney headquarters (and my home) in East Hartford, but now I’ll think twice due to the veiled anti-bike sentiment and lack of bike parking.

To add insult to injury, I noticed on the third day of the offsite meeting that a patron of the hotel had parked their private helicopter in the Hilton’s front lawn. Seriously. I park my bike and get a nasty note. They muck up the lawn with a helicopter and get a free pass. Oh well, I guess I can take solace in the fact that the helicopter was probably only getting 2-3 mpg.

On a brighter note, while looking for bicycle parking at Hartford’s Union Station, I found this article on convenient places to park your bike in Hartford, Parking Bikes and Butts. The article linked to a map of bike parking in Hartford and turned me on to some excellent reading material. I’ll be taking my first long distance train trip and can’t wait. Yeah for bikes! Yeah for trains! Read more!

Pot kettle black

For some reason, the New York Times has jumped on the anti-bike lane and "cyclists break traffic rules all the time" bandwagon that is generally the realm of the Post. I don't know if someone on their editorial board had a bad experience with a bike a month ago or something, but it's an all of the sudden thing. See here, here and here.

Now I'm all for cyclists following traffic rules, but I think it's a good idea for everyone to follow traffic rules. And, that's the canard in this argument. There's no concerted effort to get everyone to follow rules, just cyclists. The argument implies that the only ones braking the rules are cyclists. If you think that's the case, you're an idiot.

What it really boils down to is that people in cars are jealous. They're stuck in traffic and someone who looks like they're having much more fun in commute has just cruised passed them. It's not because they feel like their safety is threatened. No one in a car feels threatened by a bike. So, they cry foul about some kind of vague "traffic law" thing... just as they pull into the parking lane to make an illegal right on red.

So, that's it. Not my greatest post ever.
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Moon zero xm

Winter is now here officially. There was also an eclipse and meteor shower and volcano thing.

So, I had a druid ceremony down in the meadows.

It was overcast, so I didn't get any of those crazy red moon pictures that I saw on the internet. Read more!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Epic deposit

Hard to ride on.

When you ride a bike, you try to strike a balance between the efficient way and the interesting way to get somewhere On Friday, I rode home from work via Manchester. That was all of the latter and none of the former. One Saturday, I rode to my Grandpa's house in Essex, mostly following rt 9 and rt 154, but Salem and I rode on the quieter and dirt-based roads. That was mostly the former. Yesterday, I rode to the bank in Bloomfield, but through the reservoir to get them and then returned on the regular roads. That was a combination of both.

Also, I saw a funny stolen license plate this morning. Lately, the stolen plates seem to come from Vermont and Maine. They stick out, because while they're New England states, they're aren't many people in them. I mean, Vermont is the 49th most populous state. Given the frequency I'm seeing VT license plates in Hartford, you'd think everyone had moved out. Anyway, I was behind this Cavalier with a Maine plate today and I was curious as to why there was white tape at the bottom. Why would you want to cover up "Vacationland"? Well, that wasn't what was covered. "Motorhome" covered.

Ed. note: People like our pictures in color. Now there's a new poll up.
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Falling water

It's the tail end of fall and it's cold and dark, but there's one sign of spring: the Connecticut River is flooded. There are even ducks. I attempted a lunch time ride up to Windsor along the riverfront, but was thwarted by the high water.

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How to go PRO

As you may or may not know, I'm trying to get better at racing. Former beat bike blogger Salem was PRO for a number of years and I've enrolled in his training camp. His methods are unorthodox:

photo credit to Damian.
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Monday, December 13, 2010

On a ride

I almost had a deeply philosophical ride last night, but it started raining and I lost my train of thought. On Saturday, I almost had a deeply philosophical ride, but I kept clipping out of my right pedal because my cleats are worn out and I lost my train of thought. On Friday, I didn't ride a bike. On Thursday, Damian, Salem and I rode to Bowl-o-Rama.

Two things that I do remember from my ruminating is:

1) We should do the bowels of Hartford ride later this week if the water is down.

2) I'd like to throw a secret Cedar Mountain mountain bike/cyclocross race/rally maybe within the next month or two. I think it'd be cool.

Would you like to participate in either one of those things? Let me know.

The power of water!
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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

AAA sucks

I used to have AAA. And for awhile, I'd totally recommend them. You get discounts on stuff, maps, triptics (triptychs? triptologies? diptychs? I can't remember what they're called) and free towing. A couple of times recently, I've been AAA reps on TV talking about roads not being designed for bikes and stupid things like that. I guess I didn't really pay it any mind and my membership had lapsed anyway.

This morning I received an email:

You are receiving this email because of your interest in topics related to biking and walking. We recently received an email from the Rails to Trails Conservancy regarding a proposal by AAA to eliminate transportation enhancement funding from the next surface transportation authorization. As many of you know, this source of funding has been responsible for the majority of multi use path construction in Connecticut and around the country and currently the state of CT has proposed a policy that will deliver more enhancement funding to trail projects. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, you can go to the Rails to Trails website: Be sure to click on the link for more information to understand the issue.
CRCOG does not endorse the positions of either AAA or Rails to Trails Conservancy, but we wanted to share this information with you.

Sandy Fry
Principal Transportation Planner
Capitol Region Council of Governments
241 Main Street
Hartford, CT 06106
860-522-2217, X220
So, AAA is actively lobbying to keep anything that isn't a car out of SAFETEA-LU. Great. AAA wants us to regress back to 1950. Give a care and tell AAA that you don't like this. I mean bike stuff is such a small part of SAFETEA-LU that it's not really the money they're fighting over, but the concept of bikes being transportation. As much as I find preachy bike advocacy annoying, I'm doing some today.
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Monday, December 6, 2010

Riding under the city

The Park River is low right now. It's so low that there's a good four feet of dry pavement on the side of the conduit. Yesterday, I rode my bike in. After riding in a few hundred yards by myself with a dim light, it occurred to me that this subterranean expedition speed thing could end in the end of me.

Therefore, I'd to go back with my brighter light and a partner. Who's interested? Who needs kayaks!?

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Bikes Outside: Fuller Wheels

Alfred C. Fuller was hardcore. According to several online biographical statements, the founder of the Fuller Brush Company -- what was the Hartford factory location is now the CT Works Center -- did not play around. His philosophy for running a business can be summed up in his own words: "There was no loafing on the job, no fringe benefits that encouraged idleness." Thus, it is appropriate that the largest number of bicycles found on the University of Hartford campus were located around the building named after this man.

The Fuller Music Center houses the Hartt School, which is where some of the hardest working students on campus can be found. Besides working hard, they have a lot of schlepping to do, which might explain the number of bicycles.

It's also likely that students majoring in the performing arts have longer commutes to their classes, as the new Handel Performing Arts Center is located off of the main campus, down on the corner of Albany Avenue and Westbourne Parkway. Biking sure is better than waiting for a shuttle bus.

There was also a giant menorah on campus. No bikes were locked to it.
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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Burbling anger

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you may recall that I got hit by a car about a year ago. It hurt, but thank heaven (seriously) nothing lasting happened to me. Also, the driver didn't drive off. He was sincerely apologetic. He contended that he didn't see me and obviously he didn't, because he hit me. But, he didn't seem like the kind of guy who have made a left turn and hit me if he had seen me. It was his fault. I did have lights, was operating my bike on the correct side of the road and had the right of way. Perhaps Christmas night last year taught him a lesson that you truly need to pay attention when you're driving, because you can kill people. So anyway, I bear no ill will towards the guy.

It seemed like the driver in this instance must be a minority, because attempted hit and runs or full on hit and runs seem to be the trend in the Hartford area (or Aspen, CO where the DA even seems to support cyclist hit and runs). Hit someone on a bike? Get the fuck out of there! Don't own the fact that you just killed or maimed someone's brother, father, friend or whatever. You've got a car and you're not the freak on a bike. Bike misfits rank below dogs, because I assume that people who kill dogs with their cars still might make some effort to call on the number on the collar.

This must be the moral zeitgeist. There must be plenty of people who haven't yet hit a cyclist, but if they do, they're driving off even if they've killed them.

I know that hit and runs happen with car-car accidents, too, but they seem a little rarer simply because car-car accidents often render both cars inoperable. Read more!

Saturday, December 4, 2010


It can be discouraging to ride this time of year. It's dark a lot and it's starting to get cold. There are also scary signs going up, but you shouldn't worry about that.

Riding a bike is still fun regardless of December-related incidentals. Last night, Dario and I showed Salem the Manchester causeway and posed for important looking pictures.

Today, Salem and I went down to a village I'd never heard of called Millington. Life is still great. And, I've learned (or experience has taught me) that the effects of Seasonal Affected Disorder can be warded off if you continue to do this things you enjoy the rest of the year. Light boxes be damned!@

Cool tricks!
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Monday, November 29, 2010

Non-competitve cyclocross

I like my family and I like to ride my bike. Since the Mayor, pursuant to §2-391(D)2 of the Municipal Code, gave City employees like myself the day after Thanksgiving off, I spent lots of time involving both of those things. I rode at Case & Gay City as well as the Reservoir. I tried a new tire and decided that it was great. I also found a fancy Camelbak water bottle. Not quite as good as finding $15, but close.

I also did one of those slightly protracted expedition speed rides with walking and riding, and got shot at.

What did you do with your four days off? Did you drink the Sam Adams Cream Stout? It's very good!

Flat tire!

Moody view...
...from Kilkenney Rocks
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Sunday, November 28, 2010


I don't do "heartfelt" or "sentimental," so the plethora of gratitude posts/articles leading up to and on Thanksgiving always infect me with good old-fashioned alienation and bitterness. People who do not have a fractured relationship with their families do not get this; so, it's been a week or so of knee-deep guilt and general annoyance. After all, a lot of these same people who love to talk about gratitude run out the next day to be rude to fellow beings at the shopping malls, nevermind support the Black Friday nonsense that requires minimum wage workers to report in at three a.m., forcing them to leave their own Thanksgiving dinners early so that they can take a nap before work.

What does this have to do with bicycles?

My pissy mood lifted enough today to recognize my gratitude for being able to ride a bike and for owning a decent one. This allows me to ride faster than the speed of street harassment. I can travel more safely late at night by myself. My brakes work.

Recognizing this, I took a shorter-than-expected jaunt down by the Connecticut River. When we begin to get snow and ice, I am switching from my Jenny to Starry Starry Bike, with the intention of maintaining Jenny's good looks and lack of saltiness. I had not even reached Downtown before realizing that I would have been better prepared for the ride with a balaclava and thermos of hot chocolate.

The ride to the river is always interesting. I cut through Sheldon-Charter Oak and South Meadows, which means passing buildings and beings that have both seen better days. The Capewell Horse Nail Factory and Colt Armory are two such places. As for the people, this area has a number of homeless shelters and soup kitchens, and it's along the highway and railroad, which some live along. I guess this traces back to gratitude too, because I live in a community where we actually have services and resources for the hungry, homeless, and ex-offenders. It might be uneasy at times to ride on past, but at least we are not outsourcing our "problems" for others to deal with.

Arriving at the secret creepy entrance to the Riverwalk, I saw the gate was closed and I could find no way around it. I suppose I could have jumped it and lifted my Jenny overhead, but honestly, that was a lot of effort to put forth on a Sunday morning. I figured I'd just ride on the roads further, go into Charter Oak Landing, and hook up with the path there.

What I discovered was that the path was obstructed by construction equipment. My assumption and hope is that they are finally getting around to completing Riverwalk South, the unpaved section of path between Charter Oak Landing and Mortensen Riverfront Plaza. It's never been too difficult to either ride or push my bike up the unpaved part, but as much as I might think I'm the center of the universe, other people may actually want to use this path, including the elderly and those in wheelchairs. What I learned over Thanksgiving vacation is that the elderly do not enjoy off-roading it through any parks. In fact, slightly uneven sidewalks can make them cranky.

I was hoping the Riverfront Recapture website would have more information on the project, but there's nothing more than a vague reference to the plans.

Circling back, I got distracted by something I wanted to take a photo of and ended up heading the wrong way on a one-way street. This would not be a big deal except that after I was halfway down the street, people came pouring out of a Polish church and I found myself standing on the sidewalk, with my bike, just waiting for the street gridlock to subside.

Thinking I'd get something more out of this, I tried to find coffee and a snack Downtown, but unless I wanted a F.B.S. there was nothing for me. The Sunday after a holiday is reason for all the good places (anything but DD) to shut down.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bicycle or Spaceship?

Being car free does limit some of my after work cultural activities. Realistically a range of about eight miles is what I’m willing to ride to attend an event or visit a friend after a full day of work. That puts downtown Hartford, West Hartford, Manchester, and Glastonbury within my commuter cycling range. Luckily there is more than enough going on in that range to keep me busy and entertained. On Thursday, October 28th I was headed over to Hartford’s Connecticut Science Center to attend a free (I heart free!) event put on by the CT World Affairs Council. The former president of Shell Oil, John Hoffmeister, was speaking about his new book, “Why we Hate the Oil Companies.” The futuristic new science center is only a two mile jot from work and the petro topic had me intrigued. The weather was beautiful and it looked like it was going to be an ideal evening.

That was until I arrived at the Connecticut Science Center on my two wheeled spaceship. Due to construction on the Founders Plaza entrance, I dropped down to Columbus Boulevard and locked my spaceship to the railing at the edge of the very wide sidewalk. Upon entering the building I was detained by a confused but friendly guard that wasn’t sure that spaceships could be parked on a city sidewalk in that location. I explained that I didn’t see any other parking options in the vicinity and that my spaceship was neither causing harm to property nor blocking foot traffic. Regardless I was detained as the guard radioed upstairs to another guard for further instructions. After waiting a good five minutes and now late for the speaker, I insisted that the bike was fine and headed upstairs.

The guard at the top of the stairs asked me to wait until he could get further instructions on spaceship parking. Another five minutes went by until he was able to round up a museum official, Cherie Sweeney, the Vice President of Operations. Ms. Sweeney said she was fine with my parking location if it was okay with me. I replied that the ship was locked securely and most Hartford residents wouldn’t even recognize a spaceship as a viable means of transportation. I had no concerns of it being stolen or vandalized. I did learn from the Cherie that there is spaceship parking in the museum garage, although as a first time visitor it would be unlikely that I’d know to look there. My huffy recommendation was that the CT Science Center, as a good example to other downtown businesses, should put in ample spaceship parking near the building entrances.

John Hofmeister was an engaging and inspirational speaker, so much so that I purchased his book at the post event meet and greet. His message was largely focused on the neglected US energy infrastructure and was foretelling a great “energy abyss” that would become real by 2020 unless real moves were made to increase energy capacity while at the same time improving efficiencies. John laid much of the blame on partisan politicians, elected by a superficial partisan public, that hadn’t done much to improve the energy infrastructure of the US in the last thirty to forty years. His arguments were solid and although I didn’t agree with all of his proposed solutions, I recognized that a pragmatic compromise solution to our nation’s future energy needs was required if the US was going to in any way retain our current cushy standard of living. The “energy abyss” will punish everyone, including the liberal greenies and the fiscal conservatives.

I think I was the only person who rode a bike to that event, and I would be surprised if more than a few of the fifty or so attendees walked. Everyone nodded when John mentioned the potential efficiency gains from intelligent urban planning, but the nods were empty of any real substance in a sprawling suburban Connecticut. When I mention my current, possibly tentative, carfree status to co-workers and friends I get the “Spaceship Stare.” This is my new term for the look of disbelief that I’ve come to expect from Connecticut residents when someone shows up on a bicycle or explains that a full life doesn’t necessarily entail car ownership. It is seems like I’m saying, “I’ve got a spaceship and its a nifty way to get around,” or “Where can I park this here whizzbang spaceship?”

After the event I contacted Cherie Sweeney at the Science Center to see what their plans were for bicycle parking. I knew the building was a LEED Gold building, and hoped there were some comprehensive bicycle parking plans in the works. At this point there is bicycle parking with one rack outside the parking garage (near the fuel cell) and another rack inside the garage. There are plans to install additional bike racks on Founders Plaza and on Columbus Boulevard, with total bicycle accommodations for 43 to 44 bikes. If you’re in a hurry you should be able to lock right up to the railing on Columbus Boulevard, but this entrance is used for large school groups so there will be lots of minimally supervised youths passing your ride during the daytime hours. The CT Science Center is also planning to put up more bike parking info on their website and will be increasing signage at the entrances to point out the bike parking. Based on this info, I’d say my first awkward experience at the Science Center was part of their startup stumbling blocks. I’m planning a full trip to check out the facility in the near future if anyone wants to join me and my spaceship.
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Monday, November 22, 2010

So much 'cross!

I'm not a very good bike racer. It's fun and I'm really starting to enjoy 'cross, but it's not something I'd drive a really far distance for. None the less, there were THREE(!) 'cross races within 50 miles of my house this weekend. I opted to do Cheshire on Saturday & Hop Brook (in Middlebury, CT) on Sunday. I didn't do Easthampton, even though it was the bigger race on Sunday. I would have had to get early on Sunday and I went out Saturday night. Besides, it was good to support to try and keep it from going away.

Cheshire is my favorite race around. A lot of it is in the woods, where it's rolling and technical. This year, the hill with the "hill people" was without the log & box, so it was rideable. The race was prey brutal for me. I had a bad crash caused by someone running me off course on the first lap, but fought my way back to first (and then second/third). I was feeling really good, but had some issues on the hill and dropped my chain. I lost a few places that I could regain because it took me like a minute to get the chain back on. When running up a bumpy hill, put the bike on your shoulder. Don't push it. I finished seventh.

The next day I went to where they have that mountain bike race down near Waterbury. There weren't too many people, starting field of seven, and it was a course that didn't suit the Brendan, long straights on pavement. But, after a bunch of high pressure races, this was welcome. Also welcome was that it was the battle of the Mahoneys. Mark Mahoney, whom I've raced against a few times this year, was present and he and I battled the whole race. We traded the lead a bunch of times, but neither one of us was able to sustain a gap until the last paved straight, where he pulled ahead and I didn't have it in me to contest. And, he won.

So, two races in one weekend. That's too much racing!
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