Friday, July 30, 2010

Ur Doin it Wrong

I was doing an internet search to find out some boring facts about bicycle usage, and the top website results all had something in common -- they either mentioned fatalities or included some sort of baloney like "you can ride in CT if you don't mind feeling like you are taking your life into your own hands." It's like some unwritten rule exists that every conversation about riding has to allude to danger, helmets, and hellish drivers. I swear it's all to keep the masses complicit in the destruction of the environment by coercing them back inside their cars via stories of bicyclist fatalities.

. Sometimes bike crashes are hilarious.

For instance, Snooki, some creation out of Jersey that I do not understand entirely since I lack cable tv, but whose existence I know of thanks to Perez Hilton and TMZ, tested the boardwalk with her face today. And of course, you can watch it, over and over.

No, you're not a bad person for mocking someone who is famous for being an obnoxious partygirl. Read more!

Thursday, July 29, 2010


I'm 15 years late to this technology, but I have a phone with GPS now. And, it can track me. I forgot to turn it on yesterday until several miles into the ride, so this isn't the most interesting track.

None the less, check it out:

Some more pictures:

And, what am I planning here?

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Hours

It wasn't that great of a book.

Anyway, I have an observation to make regarding the sanity and insanity of drivers in Hartford. From what I can tell, it all depends on when you're on the road.

  • Before 8:25am, people are ok.
  • 8:25am to 8:50am everyone is insane.
  • 8:50am to 2:30pm everyone is ok.
  • During the school year 2:30pm to 4:30pm everyone is insane (very, very insane!)
  • 4:30pm to 7:30pm everyone is ok.
  • after 7:30pm Thursday through Saturday everyone is crazy
I have some theories on this, but they aren't very scientific. Bullet point number two doesn't actually seem to have much to do with people running late to work. That just seems to be when people who drive like assholes go to work (or where ever it is they go in the morning). Bullet point number four's craziness is ascribed to people with kids being crazy, or maybe crazy elementary school kids are driving the cars. The last bullet point is because drivers are on their way to go get drunk or are already drunk.

The strange thing about inter-town commuters is that they get worse when they get further out of Hartford. I think this is because they just spent some terrible time on the highway and by 6:00pm when they're in their town, they're angry.

As a whole, as I've said before, Hartford drivers are amongst the best when interacting with bikes (knock on wood). They seem to be used to weird things on the road.
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Bikes Outside: Think Globally, Park Locally

Fans of Shakespeare, when they aren't dropping clever bardian quips that sail over my head, dream of someday making a pilgrimage to the legendary Globe Theater, just off Park Street in London. As it happens, travel budget restrictions dictate that this midsummer Monday finds us instead on Hartford's Park Street a few blocks west of the under-cherished Lyric Theater looking at a Globe of a more prosaic sort.

Don't take that "prosaic" comment as a slam, mind you, this is a very nice commuter bike. I don't mean to damn it with faint praise. It's both unfair and pointless to compare any bike to a world-famous theater. They serve different purposes with very little overlap (see how informative I am? I'll bet that last sentence cleared up a ton...)

Anyway, today, across from the Park Branch of the Hartford Public Library we find one very well-appointed Specialized Globe, with lights, fenders, rack, bouncy fork and springy seatpost to help tame the urban jungle with maximum efficiency. I doubt it's the lightest thing around, but I'll wager it's mighty comfortable.

If memory serves, this is only the second Bike Outside that rocks a dynohub. I've been thinking about generator hubs a lot lately. I've been itching to build a new wheelset for the cargo bike, and the notion of seeing better at night without using batteries is very appealing. I will have a long time to mull this over, as generator hubs are pricey, and disc brake generator hubs (as the Yuba sports a front disc these days) are jaw-droppingly pricey. As always, I'm willing to help test and review any parts manufacturers will send my way (Schmidt, Shimano, I'm looking in your direction...) Exposure on the Beat Bike Blog can potentially introduce products to dozens of mildly interested cyclists!

Have a good week.
Ride safe! Read more!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Shake a fist

Taking the opportunity on to the trip to the Granby CVS, where Johanna gets prescriptions filled because it's close to work, Johanna exercised her right to ride around on her new 'cross bike. We rode around on those dirt roads out that way and it was pretty good.

No hot sulfur rained upon us as rode/hiked up Sodom Mountain.

This sign was a the beginning of a cool dirt road, the kind upon which I like to drive my Passat. So, I don't think a Passat is an "own risk" at all. Or, maybe it was like Passats own risk, because that's definitely true.
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Ride Snake Shake Down Jake Down at the Blow Hole

Johanna was in need of a sturdy-ish bike for a secret thing involving a bike in a couple of weeks. Looking around on the craigslist and the ebay, there were some things, like a pretty sweet long haul trucker build and some old mountain bikes. There was also a Kona Jake the Snake for sale in Waterford (which at first I thought was Watertown and almost drove down 84). We went there and got a good deal from a nice guy.

It was set up more like a hybrid, but I changed that stuff and swapped out the tires. Now it's a flat bar 'cross bike. I've seen people riding them sometimes. I've thought 'cross bikes needed drop bars, but that required some effort with cables and stuff, and I wasn't in the mood.

Johanna wasn't feeling well, so I took it on that "shakedown" ride or whatever the cool people call the first time you ride something. I rode down to Cromwell along the river and the bike worked pretty well. Flat barred 'cross bikes work ok despite their aesthetic disadvantage.

I've also decided that while limited, the Blow Hole State Park trails are pretty good.

And I saw this guy get attacked by a swan.
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Thursday, July 22, 2010

The gears of D2R2

D2R2 is now less than a month away. I'm scrambling to figure out what bike to ride. I had a long haul trucker, the ideal bike, but I don't anymore. I have lots of suitable bikes, but none with the drive train and gearing needed for such a long weird ride. In fact, it's as if I've purposefully surrounded myself with bikes that all have some kind of short coming.

What I thought was a brilliant plan was to put compact cranks (50t & 34t) on my road bike with one of those megarange freewheels (14t-34t). I still think it's a brilliant plan, but I can seem to put a 34 inner ring on the bike without the chainring rubbing the chainstay. I could probably do something with the bottom bracket, but I'm not entirely sure what to do.

It took considerable work to get to this point, because my plan was to swap out the 34t from my diamond back with a 35t from an unused set of kludgey xtr cranks with an improperly install spider (not my fault, this is how I got them). After doing some things you're not supposed to do to bike parts, I finally got everything put back together, only to learn about the chainring rubbing problem.

My solution is to run the 34t chain by itself upfront in the outer position, but I'm concerned about cross chaining with a 7 speed freewheel. So, I've also bought a six speed megarange freewheel (13t-34t).

After all this stupid stuff, I'm probably going to end up riding my Stumpjumper again, because I'll want bigger tires.

PS. Sorry, the thunderstorm yesterday confined me to the basement, so I've got no bike ride to talk about.
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pubic Herd

The MDC's public hearing on the future of recreation on their (our) lands was last night. Unsurprisingly, everyone who spoke was in favor of keeping the trails open. It's clearly a hot button political that has attracted numerous Democratic candidates (and people who are already elected): Blumenthal, Glassman, Slifka, Rep. Baram (D-15), Rep. Fleischmann (D-18), Syd Schulman, and Malloy, Wyman and Cotto in absentia. There are obvious a lot of voters in the West Hartford and reservoir-abutting towns. They talked about the imperativeness of keeping public lands open to the public and the necessity of amending the statement's municipal recreation liability statute. The public, myself included, talked about the same thing. I also delivered Hartford's keep-the-trails-open resolution to the commissioners (which I think is a pretty kick ass resolution).

A few people assailed trial lawyers, though not as much as one would have thought. That surprised me, because I figured there would be Republican candidates there to take that position. I mean, Linda McMahon's office is right in West Hartford, mere yards away. I guess she doesn't either hates public land, the woods, mountain bikers or all three. There was one sort of crazy, Republican throw-the-bums-out member of the public, who spoke after me. For reasons I don't understand, he singled me out as a lawyer who was to blame that the CGS hadn't been amended after Conway v. Wilson. Since, I'm not a lawyer and didn't represent myself as such and also didn't talk about that case at all, I'll assume that he's just out of his mind.

While I was waiting to speak, I emailed my state rep, Hector Robles, and asked him to cosponsor Rep. Baram's proposed bill (though, yet to be written). He consented, which was nice.

So, I guess mountain biking and democracy go well together. I'm cautiously optimistic about all this now.
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pubic Hearing

Lots of emails have been flying around email distribution lists that involve trails and land lately, so you've probably already heard about it like eighteen times, but... The MDC public hearing on the future of recreation on our rate-tax-payer-funded land is tonight at 5:30pm at the West Hartford town hall. Come, sign-up, speak and hopefully the commissioners will listen to us and maintain status quo.

I rode at the Reservoir this evening, it'd be a shame if they closed it.

In other news, I got a new phone/camera, so I can take pictures again.
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Monday, July 19, 2010

Bikes Outside: Jazz On a Summer's Day

This Monday finds us remaining downtown for another bumper crop of bikes outside. Friday through Sunday found some of your humble bike bloggers and friends enjoying the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz in Bushnell Park. This very evening will find us there again for the latest in this summer's continuing Monday Night Jazz series. What's better than four consecutive nights of free live music? How about riding directly to your viewing spot of choice and parking your bike inches away!

I saw a young man ride by on last week's Bike Outside Fuji as I chatted with the proud owner of this old Puch Mixte 10-speed. Not far from this spot were a hardtail Trek and a blue 70's Raleigh Sports 3-speed. There was an early 90's Trek Antelope, which reminded me of a high school girlfriend who bought one partly because of a Phish reference. A sharp-looking balloon tire replica had bebop-era styling while a Next genericruiser left its vendor owner kind of blue. I saw multiple Bianchis, an 80's Shogun ATB and a likely Bikes Outside repeat Breezer last Monday night. Everything else pictured here was spotted this past weekend.

Whether or not you are a hardcore Jazz fanatic, Monday Night Jazz shows are a great opportunity to meet up with friends to enjoy some fresh air and lax open-container policies. That said, if you can't get into hearing La Orquesta Espada and Rolando Matias & the Afro-Rican Ensemble tonight, you might have to check your pulse for possible signs of death. Caliente! Tonight's show kicks off at 6:00.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Riding the East Coast Dirtway: Let's Go Ride a Bike Summer Games

Is it right to say that I missed the boat? Maybe if it's a hybrid boat-bicycle the idiom would make more sense.

Really, I do not know how it happened. I read Let's Go Ride a Bike religiously, which for me is more often than sporadic, sometimes with vodka involved, and no dread of hellfire. Then again, I'm not getting younger and certain pieces of information go in one eye and out the other. What makes my neglect in this instance particularly odd is that prizes (that I would want) are involved.

I noticed that the LGRAB Summer Games existed sometime in mid-June, yet did not figure out until a few days ago -- conveniently during a heat wave -- that I could still participate. Just in time for the third part (new territory), I was able to go on a little adventure that incorporated three of the challenges, and provided for a possible new one that they might include in future competitions. I promise that I'm doing this for all the right reasons, but the possibility of winning a Queen Bee pannier sweetens the deal.

On Sunday, I met the following challenges:
1. Explore new part of town by bike
2. Ride a greenway
3. Have a bicycle picnic

That's the short version.

The recent heatwave kept me inside for days on end and before that the Jenny was making some unhappy sounds (still bitter about being strapped to the front of a bus I think) as well as automatically shifting through several gears, so I had not ridden in awhile. I took the LGRAB Summer Games as the incentive to make time on Sunday to go for a picnic just off the East Coast Greenway, and to get to the ECG, Interstatement and I would travel through a section of Hartford that I'm not too familiar with. This loop would take us through Hartford, Windsor, South Windsor, Manchester, East Hartford, and then back into Hartford.

Before fun and games, I agreed to accompany Interstatement to his church in the North End of the city, as it was on the way. To be more precise, it's in the North East neighborhood, which is terribly stricken with violence. This is where Hartford gets its reputation from. I was not thrilled to be going through here, but it was early on a Sunday morning, which meant that most of the troublemakers were probably still sleeping after causing problems all night. I had not biked in this area before, so this fulfilled one challenge.

I have also never evaded a cop before.

I did not mean to, exactly. As we were traveling past the site where a police officer was shot a few nights before, a cruiser rolled up. The cop rolled down his window and began talking. I had just gotten into a good rhythm and did not feel like breaking it. About a block ahead it occurred to me that maybe I ought to stop. By the time I did and turned around, I saw that Interstatement had satisfied the officer with some answer that caused him to go on his way. In my own neighborhood, I'm not exactly among the racial/ethnic majority, but I spend a bit of time outdoors and must look like I fit in more. The experience yesterday annoyed me, but I guess it is not horribly offensive. White people, traveling in that neighborhood, are most likely there to buy drugs. (Side note: the data is a few years old now, but only 1.1% of people living in the North East neighborhood are white.) And yesterday, before my day of riding, I was definitely white. Now, I'm more of a red hue.

We did the church thing and then fielded questions from churchgoers who were surprised to see bicycles (instead of cars) being used as going-to-church-transportation. (Hey, if you want to show respect for God, stop crapping all over the planet with your SUV.) From here, we traveled through more sections of Hartford that I am not too familiar with, but which felt far less blighted and dangerous than those we passed through to arrive at the church. We went through a section of Keney Park, which I had not been through before. Keney Park is one of the largest parks in New England and I had previously only seen about one-third of it.

Eventually we landed on Windsor Avenue and started searching for the side streets that would get us to the Bissell Bridge, which would take us over the Connecticut River and along I-291.

While I have traveled over I-291 numerous times by car, I have never done this on a bicycle, nor have I seen the part of South Windsor that is still farmland. This is exactly where the bike path took us. South Windsor, a town I grew up near, is a place I associate with the worst ills of suburban culture -- strip malls and cheaply-built McMansions. Despite what the graffiti on the bridge might want us to believe, it's not threatening enough to "run this shit."

After a pleasant ride through corn fields, we cycled through an industrial section, finally winding up at where I-291 begins/ends in Manchester.

We arrived at Wickham Park dripping sweat and more than ready for our picnic lunch of wine and cheese.

A lot of parks in Connecticut do not permit alcohol, a fact I had forgotten until we arrived. Not sure on Wickham Park's policy, we planned to do a quick photo shoot, pour the wine, and then put the bottle back in one of Interstatement's cargo bike panniers.

I took photos, poured wine, set out the crackers, and was just about the open the cheese when a ranger came over. I had already evaded a cop that morning, but I have the utmost respect for park rangers, so I took a deep breath and waited for it. We learned the area we were using was actually reserved, but that there were other non-reserved areas in the park we could go to. He suggested we "chug" the wine and find another table. What? No trouble?

Since the church group of 150 or so people were supposed to show up for their tables any moment, we quickly packed the crackers and smartly chugged the wine. Just following orders.

The new picnic area actually worked out well, if not better. There was a lot of shade from trees and it was closer to the side we would be exiting from anyway. After lunch we visited the park's Aviary (or "birdiary" if, like me, you can't ever remember the word "aviary"). My photos are not as awesome as they could be since the fence was in the way.

The last stretch of the adventure would involve riding on a greenway. The East Coast Greenway is described by its website:

The East Coast Greenway is the nation's most ambitious long-distance urban trail project. By connecting existing and planned shared-use trails, a continuous, traffic-free route is being formed, serving self-powered users of all abilities and ages. 3,000 miles long, the Greenway links Calais, Maine at the Canadian border with Key West, Florida. Alternate routes will add another 2,000 miles to the ECG trail system.

This green city-to-city travel corridor was launched in 1991 when the East Coast Greenway Alliance formed to make this vision a reality. The East Coast Greenway will be entirely on public right-of-way, incorporating waterfront esplanades, park paths, abandoned railroad corridors, canal towpaths, and pathways along highway corridors.

I had previously ridden on most of the section planned for that day, but it was when I rode less frequently; thus, I was looking forward to conquering the hills that used to be awful for me. No such luck. I rode it, but due to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act the pavement was all dug up! Almost the entire section was dirt. Not hardpacked dirt, or even gravel, but loose dirt which made riding even on flat surfaces a challenge I was not expecting. We had to keep stopping because my thighs were burning. Little did I know, I was also getting wicked sunburn in spite of having diligently applied SPF45 sunblock that morning.

By the time we hit the street section of the ECG, I was happy to ride in traffic because it meant a hard surface. Next time, I am bringing more water and the bottle of sunblock.
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