Monday, May 31, 2010

Bikes Outside: We Remember on Zion

This Monday, Bikes Outside takes us to the military section of Zion Hill Cemetery in Frog Hollow.

Far from complete, today's "bike" is merely the chainwheel for a British WWII Airbourne bicycle. I humbly suggest that your Memorial Day would be similarly incomplete without some time and thought devoted to its reason for being.

Ride safe, and have a good week.

Read more!

Bird Watching

Between the beautiful weather, holiday weekend, and a wedding featuring a gorgeous couple, I was grateful that we decided to bike to Elizabeth Park. We had our choice of spaces to use on the bike rack, but parking spots for cars looked very hard to come by, unless you were lucky enough to be driven to the Pond House in a sexy, gleaming classic.

After we had our fill of sunshine and roses, we meandered down too quiet streets in West Hartford toward the Center. I've never seen the streets so empty of traffic. I even rode on Farmington Avenue without pissing myself. I had to make a stop at R.E.I. for to buy an accessory using Interstatement's member discount. The secret to not dropping an entire paycheck there is to show up accidentally ten minutes before they close. That leaves no time to try anything on. From there, I did venture up to try out Chipotle, the new Mexican restaurant. I'd rank it as better than Moe's, though given the length of time I had to wait in line, it probably will be some time before I go back. Also, I think I weighed five pounds heavier after eating the burrito; thus, when we tried to see what our speeds were by zooming past the speed limit checker machine on Boulevard, I think the lasers hit my thick-with-burrito stomach and broke the machine. It said that I was going faster than Interstatement, who was a block ahead of me.

On what was possibly the easiest ride ever -- barely broke a sweat, didn't get cut off by any drivers -- I noticed that the bike lanes on Capitol Avenue in Hartford were recently repainted. The arrows were a little smaller and I think this helps put more emphasis on the bike stencil. Not sure if the two are related, but I did not see any cars drive in the bike lanes there, for once.

This picture was not even taken today, but I felt guilty putting up a photo of a car but not one of a bike. This belongs to a friend who should ride it to Elizabeth Park. See -- connection made.
Read more!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

No Resevoirtions

If I had not read recent blog posts here on Beat Bike Blog or at CT Confidential by Rick Green, I would have had no idea there was any controversy. When I went to the West Hartford Reservoir this morning, there were no signs posted indicated that the MDC is thinking of closing access to bikers. Even after I dug through their website, I found nothing substantiating or denying this rumor. It still says that the recreation area is "more than 30 miles of paved and gravel roads for joggers and bicyclists." Cyclists were about. Nothing new was blocked off (the "roads" that had been off limits for at least a year due to construction were just marked better as being closed). It made me wonder how much truth there is to this rumor. It also made me wonder why they would only consider closing the area to biking, when clearly there are many other ways to wound oneself. Take the double-wide baby strollers that regularly infest the paths. Those could hit a small pothole and launch an infant into the reservoirs! What about joggers? They could run into a tree if they accidentally stray from the path. Okay, there are far more likely dangers one might face when venturing into the outdoors. There are deer ticks, spiders, snakes, black bears, mosquitoes, and other wildlife that can cause problems. But part of being human is taking risks. Deciding to get onto a bicycle, a person assumes a higher level of risk. Wearing safety gear, paying attention to surroundings (including gates painted a hue of retina-scalding yellow), maintaining one's brakes, and riding within one's abilities are ways of minimizing risk.

Closing the area to biking sounds impossible to regulate. I'd like to see one of those rangermobiles chase a biker up a dirt path. It's not going to happen. There are several entrances into the recreation area, anyway, besides the main entrance.

Maybe some signs have been added since the accident that prompted the frivolous lawsuit, but in any case, they are there now. If someone misses all of the million signs that decorate the recreation area, he is just one fleshy pile of FAIL.

Below, you can see a packed parking lot, showing the demand for use of the space. You can't see from this photo the number of people who chose to simply bike into the area, rather than drive their bikes there on top of their cars.

While out, the only real risk of injury I saw was of that to a little girl named Makaya (not pictured because I was too horrified to do anything but give "you die now" looks to her mother) who was about seven or eight years old. Her mother was yelling at her for not tying her shoes (the girl had stopped and was tying them) and then, ever-so-reasonably, followed the yelling by hitting the girl, very hard. I swear that I could feel the thud.
Someone who will beat her child in public will do far worse behind closed doors. (Makaya, if you read this, I am sorry that you have such a hateful and abusive mother). People who have no patience for kids shouldn't be popping them out. There's this great invention called the condom -- use it. If we want to talk lawsuits, then I hope that some day Makaya wins one against her mother.

See that water? I just paid my bill for it. The money should go for delivery of a natural resource, not to pay for a ridiculous lawsuit.

Read more!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Calling you back to action

If you read the Courant, check out Rick Green's column today. It takes a much dimmer view than the positive rumors I've been hearing lately about trail closure at the Reservoir. It also makes mention to public hearings, to which we all must go.

If you live in a member town, you have commissioners who are appointed by your city council. There are also commissioners who are appointed by the legislature and the government. While not elected, these commissioners are supposed to be accountable to us, so we need to let them know what we think. Here's a list of the commissioners. In checking the agendas, I don't see anything yet about any ordinance changes pertaining to mountain biking.

Maybe we should be like Salem and make plans to move to a libertarian state like New Hampshire.
Read more!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Firstly, Johanna & I were riding to get some Mexican food from the West End last night. When we passed through Pope Park, we saw deer. That was pretty cool. They were just chillin in the, well, meadow. I guess that's what happens when don't mow the whole lawn.

This weekend is the Coyote Hill Race. I've always wanted to do it because the rumor is that it's a fun course. So, we'll see. I like fun and I'll be in Vermont anyway.

Read more!

Monday, May 24, 2010


So, I wasn't lying in my last post about going to Massachusetts for Johanna's brother's wedding in Lenox, MA. I really went and I brought my bike. I did everything that I set out to do in that post. Since Johanna is family and I'm just a glorified +1, she was busy and I had some free time. On Friday, I rode down the street and ended up on this cute little ribbon of singletrack about a mile from downtown named after some guy named Dan. I returned from my little sojourn and learned that I still had like two and half more hours until the rehearsal dinner. This would allow me to fulfill my dream of riding at October Mountain State Forest.

Well, October Mountain sucked, or at least I only found the shitty trails. I was also besieged by heavy gunfire. Maybe it's because I live in a city with gun violence, but even when I'm wearing orange, gunfire kind worries me when I'm in a forest. I guess in Lee, unlike in Hartford, "shots fired" means recreation instead of a reason to call the police. The trails were also totally eroded to the point of being marginally to totally unridable by ATVs and dirtbikes. And, I kept bottoming out my car. As much as I pretend, my Passat is not yet ready for the WRC.

At least my car isn't painted as garishly. (photo credit to for Loeb's car)

So anyway, not being able to do awesome mountain biking while attending a wedding is ok. I'm not that selfish and/or self-centered. Johanna and I went for a walk around Lenox & I bought some really good cheese and Miller Lite. I still had some more time, so I decided to explore Kennedy Park, which is like 500 yards up the hill from the center of Lenox, by bike.

And the day was saved! Kennedy Park has several miles of awesome singletrack and the bad memory of October Mountain was erased. Kennedy Park is like a hillier Keney Park with more letters in its name, however, someone took some time to put in some sweet and swoopy singletrack. I even rode down this steep thing and off of a wall, which I didn't see, and didn't kill myself. The wall a big surprise.

the picture makes me look like a liar (or a wimp), but I swear that it's really steep and that's a death wall!

Then, due to the improvement in the mountain biking, the wedding was a great success for all to remember for years to come! Seriously, it was a really awesome wedding.

ornamental cannon
Read more!

Bikes Outside: Handrails to Trails

This morning finds the roving Bikes Outside eye between the State Armory and the Legislative office building. While these structures are best known for their vital proximity to and support of the Capitol Ave. Dunkin Donuts, they have other important functions. The armory is a beautiful stone structure, and the LOB helps keeps legislators off the street.

The adjacent compounds also form the all-important gateway to the path to the southeast corner of Bushnell Park. It was on my way to this always handy, often sandy bit of the East Coast Greenway that I spotted this clean Trek hybrid tethered to a railing. I say tethered rather than locked because this is one of the more halfhearted locking jobs I have seen. Bike theft is a drag on many levels, and I cringe when I see such an easy target.

This style of handrail is probably the best of the non-bike-rack-bike-racks out there. A longish one like this can accommodate many bikes and any sort of lock, from a heavy-duty chain to a compact U-lock to a glorified bungee cord of the sort we see here. Actual bike racks would be even better, of course but barring that, a decent railing at your destination is a nice find. If the powers that be won't see fit to dot the cityscape with bike racks, someone can lobby for a bunch of small, short handrails to be installed on every sidewalk for pedestrian safety. I'm sure the lawmakers will get right on that.

Read more!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Over Hill, Over Dale

Honestly, anytime I venture into Farmington, I am surprised by its existence. That's how far from my daily consciousness the place is. A colleague once spoke of how the trails enabled her father to have an easy commute to work-- a factoid I quickly forgot as this little world had no relevance to my own. Then, after a different coworker raved about the trails -- she is over 60, had not ridden in a long time, and decided to hop on the trails one day, during which she easily, effortlessly rode about 20 miles -- I felt more inspired to see what exists on the other side of Death Avon Mountain.

She directed me to take Route 44, then Route 10, and park in a lot that would be visible fairly quickly. I found the Farmington Valley Trails Council site and stared at the intricate maps for awhile before having a duh moment. She meant going from her house on Route 44, not from Hartford. Finding the parking lot was probably the simplest navigation-related part of this adventure, and before I start hearing all kinds of judgment, Interstatement challenged me to bike to the trail from home before the end of summer. At the lot in Avon, we tried to plan our route by using the posted maps to guide us. In the future, we will print out maps to take along. Some sections of the trail were well-marked; others, not so much. I found myself yearning for the faded ECG emblems painted on the sidewalk in Hartford, if that tells you anything. The most confusing section we encountered was in an area undergoing construction. We kept looking for where the trail continued, only to learn later that we were riding a segment that uses the road. This stretch was not terribly long, but when you have no clue where the trail may or may not pick up, such things seem like an eternity. Just as I was ready for a fullblown meltdown (feeling lost, riding in direct sunlight, and having to pee), we arrived at Stratton Brook State Park. There, we found shade, the path, and a restroom with running water, hallelujah. This park has a beach, places to kill/torture fish, and a few cool bridges. Our original plan was to ride in a loop, going through Collinsville and so forth. So, we continued out of the park, expecting to find clear trails once more. This did not happen. We rode down a very rural road past about ten firetrucks, casually parked there, as if it were their natural setting. Just as I thought I could hear Dueling Banjos in the distance, we came to another small park with picnic tables and a sports field. There was a cool playground that was absolutely deserted.
I find it utterly depressed that kids would rather go to the newfangled plastic-everything-no-sharp-edges-playgrounds than to a little one (next to an equally deserted pond) where there is a metal backhoe with which to dig in the sand. It used to be that getting a bruised knee or removing a splinter was a routine event. Now, if a kid so much as has access to a metal slide, people panic. Being raised in a culture of fear makes it understandable why children are prone to obesity and videogame addiction; they simply are not allowed to have real fun.
We biked a little past the playground to see if there were any signs indicating where we were or if this was the trail. As the road turned into gravel, with no sign of ending, we said to hell with it and turned around. On the way back, we caught more of the bike trail that ran through Stratton Brook. Originally, we had missed the loop turn and had taken the trail North. It looks like it goes to or beyond the stateline, but we did not make it quite that far. This section runs along/through another park and has nice views of the Farmington River. I noted the picnic table which could come in handy on another day.

I was taken aback by how many cyclists were using this trail, as well as how many riders get their kicks apparently training for some race or another. If I want to sweat, I'll just ride downtown during Friday evening rush hour.

We obviously aborted our original plan, but shall return, at least to see if we can navigate the other half of the loop we did not quite get to attempt.
Read more!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Legalize(d) It!

Brendan informed us a month ago that biking is now legal in city parks. Have you been exercising your rights?

There have been more bicycles about lately, but since this newly found freedom has not received major press, I doubt it's related to anything except the more enjoyable weather and more expensive gasoline.

Speaking of expensive gasoline, what is with the state capitol police who drive through the park? Aren't we in an economic abyss? If they do not feel like walking or biking laps around Bushnell Park, all they need to do is grab a pair of binoculars and sit on a park bench. It's a park -- get out of the cage and enjoy it!

Something sweet that I've noticed is that on weekends, I man rides with his grandson to the park. I've seen them a few times. The little boy--wearing a motorcycle-type-full-helmet-- rides on the sidewalk while the older man keeps pace next to him on the street. I would love to see more of this intergenerational cycling.
This was the first outing since I added a bell to my bicycle. Lacking the opportunity to use it with purpose, I have been daydreaming of going to Commercial Street in Provincetown, where I can ring it at throngs of pedestrians who make the jaywalkers around the Old State House seem predictable and well-mannered in their habits.

Read more!

Friday, May 21, 2010

May Bike to Work

Today was the monthly Bike to Work event, and from what I hear, the only one scheduled for the year. Finding this hard to believe, I read over the Bike Walk Connecticut website, clicking here and there, hoping to find evidence to the contrary. In the extensive spreadsheet of upcoming bike rides, I saw events listed throughout New England and New York, but no more monthly rides from wherever-to-downtown-Hartford for breakfast. What a shame! Could it really be that the first Bike to Work I managed to participate in will be my last for the year? I hope that Bike Walk Connecticut simply forgot to update their website on this matter. As lovely as all the legislation they are working on is, they must remember that the way to get asses on the bike seats, is, well, by getting asses on the bike seats.

Old banner?
I took some black and white photos, not to be artsy, but to remove the amount of neon yellow from the scene. Personally, I find motorists to be more attentive to my needs as a cyclist when I ride without my shirt. They respect the three-foot-law and slow down. Win win.

Read more!

Riding Massachusettsly

People who live in central and western Mass seem to be good at riding bikes. To figure out why I'm going up there this weekend. Well, no, that's not really true. I'm actually going up there, because Johanna's brother is having a wedding in Lenox. Maybe I'll have interesting stories upon my return, maybe I won't.

But, you can take some time from the edge your seat to stop by Catalogue over at 56 Arbor Street. This month it's Dawn Holder, she's awesome (and rides a bike to boot (maybe even rides a bike in boots)). It'll be at 8pm and here's a descriptive email about it:

Greetings and happy spring. May is the greatest.

This is an email announcement & invitation to our May CATALOGUE, featuring Dawn Holder:


Saturday, May 22
8 o'clock
56 Arbor Street
Suite # forthcoming
Hartford, CT 06106

Dawn is curious. She is an explorer, however an introverted one, navigating psychology rather than terrain. Her work is scary, and also fluffy. Porcelain explains it all. So does sugar. These are common tools.

Dawn is an adjunct faculty member and ceramics technician at the Hartford Art School. For CATALOGUE, she will venture into an odd, natural world, using oddly natural materials, creating environments with phosphorescence. We will walk in and look.

CATALOGUE is a monthly event that showcases artists, musicians and other creative endeavors, and is hosted by Joe Saphire, Nick Rice, and Joel VanderKamp. The event is a collaboration between artist, curator, community and space. CATALOGUEs for March, Brendan Mahoney, as well as other previous shows, will be available on Saturday the 22nd.

Contact us for directions or questions:, and please pass this invitation along to those we might have missed.

Joe Saphire

Nick Rice

Joel VanderKamp

Read more!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Riding Silently

I don't really like themed rides. Actually, I'm pretty sure I don't like Critical Mass.

None the less, I was asked to lead Hartford's Ride of Silence again this year. Since I got hit by a car, I think it's important to memorialize others who weren't as lucky as me.

Come out and be quiet. Wednesday, 7pm, Elizabeth Park Pond House. Email me if you've got any questions: oiseaux at gmail dot com.
Read more!

Bikes Outside: YES! (Postcard from Portland)

I have been back in Hartford for less than one day as I type this, having spent the past three weeks taking classes at United Bicycle Institute in Portland, Oregon. When teaching new languages, there are many who feel that full immersion is the best and quickest way to achieve fluency. I think full immersion would be an accurate term to describe my sojourn in Portland. My days were spent studying, disassembling, reassembling, riding, modifying and intently geeking out about bicycles to a hitherto unknown level in my life. It was pretty freaking cool. While I am far from fluent in the language of bicycles and bike repair, the past few weeks have made me a bit more conversant, or at the very least less effluent.

Pictured at the top is the sheltered bike parking area used by the students at UBI and the employees of Queen Bee, located one door down. Also, we have a random pile of kids' bikes, a ridiculously heavy-duty cargo-hauling reverse trike, and a forlorn red Radio Flyer that had its handlebar swiped. How shady do you have to be to steal components off a kid's tricycle?

I found bike racks to be in abundant, if not downright decadent supply in Portland. The sheltered ones were somewhat less common, but were much-appreciated during the first two rainy weeks of my stay. Many businesses had signs inviting customers to park their bikes inside. One bike shop had a remote switch behind the counter that held the front door open as you wheeled your bike through. I may have cried a little at that one.

I saw a lot of older bikes locked up and in use during my stay, with a surprisingly large amount of Chicago Schwinns and French-made road bikes among them (the second bike from the front of the pictured rack is a 1970's Motobecane mixte, for instance) This post would be crammed full of many more street-seen bike pics if my camera had not bitten the dust a few days into the trip. I took a few more with a single-use film camera from the supermarket, but it will likely be a while before those get developed and scanned, so you shall be spared. Thanks to Schleppi for picking up the Bikes Outside slack for me. I have procured a substitute camera for interim use, so your man-in-the-street will be scoping out some local iron once more. It's good to be home.

Read more!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Post-lawsuit Reservoir

picture unrelated to the rest of the psot
I went on the CTNEMBA RAW @ MDC WH Res, or the Connecticut Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association's Ride After Work at the Metropolitan District Commission's West Hartford Reservoir. Living in the post-lawsuit mountain biking landscape, I was worried that I'd get there and have my bicycle confiscated. So, I rode my mean looking 29er. I met up with Don (from whom I bought my Kona, coincidentally) and Gary. Well, actually, they'd already left, so I rode to hopefully catch up. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of people riding in groups, so I kept asking each group I saw if they were the NEMBA group ride. Eventually, I caught them.

Nice slow pace and I was shown some cool new trails. Who knew that I'd keep finding new trails at the Reservoir. Also, lots of speculating about which gate was involved in the lawsuit.

Anyway, for the past few weeks there have been these strangely placed and confusing "trail closed" saw horses and they're still there. I don't know if they're related to the lawsuit, because they've been there since before the verdict was announced. Some are there because it looks like they're working on drainage stuff, but others don't make any sense.

After the ride, Johanna and I headed back into the woods for a five mile run. I slept well last night.

Not really any new updates on our beloved Reservoir. Hopefully status quo prevails. Read more!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

USA Today

through a friend of a friend i got interviewed for this story and then a photog came out and took some pics, ended up being a pretty good way to get hartford's bikers at least mentioned in a national paper!

the comments do illustrate that we have a LONG way to go on making the roads safe for all users. Read more!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Call to action!

If you live in the Hartford area, ride a mountain bike and read the paper, you've probably been following the story about the $2.9 million awarded to Maribeth Blonski of Rocky Hill. Ms. Blonski crashed her bike into a gate at the reservoir, broke four vertebrae in her neck and sued the MDC.

Mountain biking is an inherently dangerous activity. I've hurt myself mountain biking at the Reservoir, because sometimes I'm not very good at staying upright over rocks, but I wouldn't sue over that. Conversely, I feel that if someone is willfully negligent and creates an unsafe environment, a lawsuit is warranted. So, I'm sort of torn here, because a gate is a man-made (so, a created dangerous environment), but hitting a gate indicates a lack of control over one's bicycle. I'm going to stop there, but I don't know any more details in the case. I'm sorry Ms. Blonski got hurt.

However, as I freaked out yesterday, so did Rick Green. As someone who pays for MDC water, I want mountain biking kept legal at the Reservoir. I hope you do too. Please, contact the MDC and let them know your thoughts by email,, or by phone, 860 278 7850. Rick says there's a meeting of the personnel, pension and insurance committee tonight. These meetings are public, as far as I know, and are at 555 Main St. in Hartford.

Read more!

Monday, May 10, 2010


I got my Stumpjumper back with its new headset and was excited to take it for a ride. I went up to Granville State Forest. I think the Hartland/Barkhamsted Dam/Mid-western Mass area is pretty and hilly. Trails aren't too trodden, but I was having a good time. They ran along side pretty, rocky streams. I like riding trails in remote and unpopular places, because it feels a lot more like hiking and nature-y. They may not have the most mountain bikesque lines, but that's ok.

So, I was about two miles in and having a good time, when all of the sudden my right foot feels weird. It was like I wasn't pedaling on something flat. In fact, it wasn't like I wasn't pedaling on something flat, I was not pedaling on something flat, because the pedal had eaten up the threading on the cranks. I don't know how I did it, but I did. Nothing felt cross threaded when I put the pedals on. My nice old Sugino cranks are ruined and it abruptly ended the ride.

And, shortly thereafter, a stick stabbed me in the face.

Note the odd angle of my foot.

What is this?
Read more!