Thursday, June 30, 2011

CT ranked 21st. Huzzah!

Just noticed on the Bike Walk CT website that CT vaulted forward in national bike friendliness rankings.  We moved from an embarrassing 40th to a middling 21st.  Much props to the folks over at Bike Walk for driving important legislation, supporting local bike / ped committees, and banging the drum with the CT DOT.

This ranking means something to environmentally concious young professionals.  Moving up from 40th removes a, ' Why would I live in such a backward state?' stigma.  Going further and getting into the top ten would actively draw folks looking for sustainable transportation and recreation to CT.

Taking CT to the next level will take more than new bike lanes and legislative policy.  Connecticut needs to show real progress in increasing bike, ped, and transit mode share.  Get on your bikes and Ride!

PS - I'm riding up to Boston this weekend (and back).  Should be hella fun.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mountain biking popularity

I think in the 1990s, 117% of all bikes sold in the US were mountain bikes. Everybody was mountain biking and therefore not everyone mountain biking was great at it. Being not great at mountain seem to make you much harder on trails. Trails got beat up and then got closed. Then mountain biking got less popular and trails started to heal. However, the Salem-theory of full suspension is that the learning curve for mountain biking is now much shorter. With the ubiquity now of those kind of bikes, people can ride on trails much more easily that before. So, I guess popularity is increased. To that end, the trails at the West Hartford reservoir are beat to hell this year, but I hadn't noticed because I haven't been riding much there. I did yesterday: The braiding is worse than I've ever seen it, like it's so bad that it's tough to tell what the original trail is, so braids get worn deeper. The cheater lines have cheater lines. The trails that have steep ascents don't even seem to be ridden anymore because they're too hard to get up. Puddled areas are so wide, they've become quintuple track.

I'm not trying to be holier than thou. I'm happy that popularity is increasing in the sport, but the poor and worn down reservoir probably can't sustain this. I know there have always been complaints about lack of NEMBA presence in West Hartford, but there desperately needs to be some trail maintenance. I don't know anything about trail building, but I'd be willing to learn. Either that, or I could just stop riding there. Maybe Salem's got something in his revulsion of the place.

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Monday, June 27, 2011


The CT siting council approved the windfarms in Colebrook and everyone is upset. People are really upset about Capewind, too. The wilds are the North East Kingdom have big, tall hills, so people want to put turbines there, too, and there are two sets of turbines showing up within 25 of Johanna's place in Vermont. There's also sorts of NIMBYism there like here. I had always wondered where the Sheffield one was going and I finally figured it out. Sheffield has the highest point on I-91 and this cool road called New Duck Pond Road parallels it. They're going there. I rode my bike there this weekend. It'll look kinda cool from I-91. What did you do this weekend?

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bike size and ground hogs

I am a pretty terrible mechanic, but one thing I have figured out how to do is adjust the parts of the bike that involve how I fit on the bike. I also kind of understand now that if I'm not comfortable on my bike, there are a bunch thing I could try adjusting. I'm not expert and Salem thinks all my bikes fit me wrong, but I can sit on my bike for eight hours and it doesn't hurt too bad.

I'm also a big advocate of used bikes. While I think bike companies are fine, there many bikes out there with many miles left that don't belong in the dump. So, when people ask me about buying a bike, much like buying a car, I tell them to go used. The problem of course being that while standover height of a bike is really easy to figure out, more picayune things like fore/aft saddle adjustment or saddle tilt aren't. So, people buy a bike for that for all intents and purpose fits, but is just uncomfortable enough that s/he won't want to ride for longer than 45 minutes.

Anyway, I bring this up because two friends of mine bought used bikes lately that were just slightly off. Once fixed, the bikes were comfortable and nice again. I'm not sure where I'm going with this diatribe, other than to say that your bike is probably not as messed up as you think it is. Five minutes of loosening a few bolts, adjusting and retightening can go along and even the inept like me can do it. Move the saddle forward 2cm can go a very long way.

Also, you may recall that I ran over a groundhog a few years ago. Interestingly, on Tuesday I saw a man with a bmw wagon stopped on the side of the road down by the meadows releasing a groundhog. I'm not sure how he caught the groundhog and what the groundhog was doing that caused him to take it to the meadow, but I like to think it was a positive thing.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Break from routine

I've ridden out to Canton and New Hartford like a million times and I get kinda set in my ways. I reserve exploration for when I get all the way out to Hartland or Barkhamsted, because I assume I know all the good roads to get out there. Well, I was wrong in addition to finding a cool seasonal road in New Hartford (Beney Road), I discovered Breezy Hill Road and how it gets up Ratlum Mountain. It's steep, partially paved and awesome. I don't know why I never rode it before. There appear to be a bunch of Canton Land Trust trails and old fire roads that require me to return. It must be cool living where my uncle lives.

Perhaps the Detour can go west of the river someday.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Quite a Day

The beer tasting festival at Martin Park offered oodles of local and not so local brews.  Still wondering how I almost managed to miss this.  CT event publicity leaves a bit to be desired.

Post festival I rolled over to the East Hartford transfer station to review the scrap dumpsters for fine pickings, and several fine pickings were had.  New in box (circa 1973) Coleman stove and lantern, and a sterno fuel mount were premium picks.  Also stashed a bench vise and Sturmey-Archer 3-spd bike that I will return for today. 

The evening was capped with a flamboyantly illuminated, and remarkably well attended, sur-Real Ride, put on by the creative folks at Real Art Ways.  A little nervous about so many (> 100) riders, many inexperienced, on the mean streets, but thankfully no one managed to off themselves.  The ride entertained curious downtown denizens and revelers.  Many asking, ' What is this?'  I was asking the same question.  Is this the tip of a bike culture iceberg in Hartford?  Where are these cyclists the rest of the time?  All in all a spectacular, firework punctuated party.  Hopefully the success of Real Ride is a signal that bike commuting may eventually garner something more than an embarrassing less than one percent in metro Hartford. 

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Free Bicycle!

Remember those old home security commercials featuring a "burglar" who brags that he can pick most locks with a credit card? No tools at all required to snag this bike. Read more!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Beer and Bike Party

Got quite a weekend coming up.

Burnside Craft Brew Festival during the day Saturday. 1-5PM in East Hartford's Martin Park. After sampling I'll stop by the transfer station for some tipsy dumpster diving.

Then it's time to wobble over to Hartford's Real Art Ways, Real Ride. Deck your bike out and yourself, ride and party. Shake and roll.

See ya'll out there. - Tony C

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It's been awhile since there's been art to look at on Arbor, but it's coming back. See here:

By then we will have passed into Summer, and we will celebrate.

Come to CATALOGUE!: Saturday, June 25th, Matt LaFleur, WOOD AND PAINT
8pm, 56 Arbor Street, Hartford, CT, Suite# forthcoming

If you know Matt, and you graduated from the Hartford Art School, then you've probably been influenced by his work at some point or another. He's the guy who did the work that hit you in those juried Goldfarb shows as being sort of perfect. If you currently attend HAS, you're probably affected by him and don't know it. He's in the walls. Matt LaFleur is an incredible artist who values purity and deconvolutional ya know, straight talk, materials like sleek varnish, construction paper, wood, paint of course, log cabins, wood-burning stoves, pencils, and foam core. Matt is a chimney sweep who loves race cars and lives with his wife in Taborton, NY on a lake and is a storybook character or something. I am absolutely pleased, and honored in a way, to present Matt LaFleur in our June CATALOGUE.

Come round, from Boston, New Haven, wherever you be. Check out Matt's site, And CATALOGUE on Facebook and at CATALOGUE is a venue for events, a network for artists, and a workshop for ideas. It is a collaboration between artist, curator, community, and space.

Joe Saphire
Nick Rice
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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Spoke quest

As you know, I've been breaking a lot of spokes lately. As cool as the 31 spoke pattern is, I want my rear wheels to stay burritos and not tacos. So, while eating pho yesterday, Dario and I decided that we should buy new spokes in Berlin. So, we rode down to Berlin Bike yesterday on two of my 63 spoked mountain bikes. Berlin Bike is a good bike shop, because they take the time to sell you the correct length spoke even if you're going to lace it yourself. I really appreciate that.

Vietnamese car cats

Greatest veggie burger ever made
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Monday, June 13, 2011

Foul play and otherwise

There was an article in the Courant today about a body found in the Rocky Hill sandpit. Dario and I were riding there last week, as I was showing him some trails in Dividend Park. This is part of a not-so-pleasant trend of bodies turning up where we ride our bikes. The obviously joke to make is that because we live in Hartford, that's bound to happen, but it's not the case for the most part. It's the suburbs. From Dario's email, to wit:

Dario to me
Show details 4:47 PM (13 minutes ago)
Don't know about Sheffield, VT. I've never ridden up there, except for maybe D2R2.

Here is "the list":

Wintergreen Woods (man, no foul play)

Colt Park (man, probably lots of foul play)

Rocky Hill Sand Pit (likely a child or perhaps female or both, don't know yet,but probably foul play)

Hop River Trail (man, no foul play)

North Hartford train tracks (woman, accident)

Rocky Hill Cemetery (male police officer, apparent suicide)

Rocky Hill (woman near Dividend Park, don't remember what was cause of death).

Unless you were riding in all of these places when the events occurred, you're alright. Might not be so good for your political career though. You got bad karma.

Seriously though, consider where we rode the other day, right in and out of pretty densely populated areas. Great drop zones. Not very automobile accessible, though. Maybe they're bringing them in on bicycles?


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Saturday, June 11, 2011

More alley cats

Just when you thought it safe to sell your fixed gear, take a year off and become a full time randonneur, there's another alley cat in Hartford. Here's a flyer:

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Friday, June 10, 2011

City hall singletrack

When I bring my bike into work through the side door and into the basement. Often, I'll do a lap of the basement hall, with its two little ramps and cabinets to dodge. Today, I decided to ride the elevator up to the fourth floor, which is used for storage. It's way more technical. Four sets of stairs and a ramp that's in a really tight corner.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Is there a google group?

So when I lived in Champaign-Urbana there was a google group of  similar interest riders who used the list to set up impromptu rides.  Is something like that already in existence for Hartford area Beat Blog-type riders? 

Just thinking it would have been nice to toss out a couple of my recent rides as an opportunity to a larger audience.  For example,  I'd like to ride to Boston and back over a long weekend.  Anyone want in on that?

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Going South, by the Water

I randomly headed south from East Hartford with the intent of logging a longish ride, between 60 to 80 miles.  Stayed close to the Connecticut River and see what there was to see.  I hadn't been much past Portland along the river and was clueless on routes and features of interest.  The roads picked with the help of google maps and a personal bias for hills, low traffic, and dirt roads ended up creating a new favorite 60ish mile loop.

I started out heading South on Rt 17 and hit the mandatory Old Maids warmup hill.   Crossing the river into Middletown, I continued South on Saybrook Road, taking a left on Brooks Road and heading up into the hills.  A rewarding reservoir view was the bonus at the pinnacle of the steep winding climb.  Crossing Aircraft Road near the gates of my illustrious employer's Middletown location, I turned onto bone rattling River Road.  Until now I'd never seen a gravel road laid with railroad grade stones, but don't worry, it got better.

Higganum had a small grocery where I picked up a grinder and some Ben & Jerry's, a guaranteed calorie bomb.  I stashed the nosh in my small trunk bag.  A couple miles further down Saybrook Road was Haddam Meadows State Park where I dined overlooking the swollen waterway. 

Continuing South I came to the swing bridge adjacent to the Goodspeed Opera House.  While stopping at Eagles Landing State Park to take in the view I found a group organized in protest of a land swap ( that would give private developers access to 17 acres of protected riverfront in Haddam, an interesting issue that I'll now read up on.

The massive bridge rotated open to allow the passing sailboats and sizable yachts to pass.  I've always wanted to see one in action.  Unfortunately my phone decided to fail on photos today, the reason for a photo free missive. 

After waiting for the bridge traffic to clear, I headed across and started picking my way North.  Near Moodus I took a left into Macimoodus State Park and rode one of the dirt roads to a river view and a potential future stealth camping haven.  From Leesville Road I turned right onto Wopowog Road and the promise of more dirt.  A right onto Tortia Road plus a couple other swizzles dropped me onto the Airline Trail.  I was back into familiar territory, recently traversed on Salem's DeTour.  A pass through Mesh SP brought me back to South Glastonbury.

Looking back on the route, I've already thought about improvements and potential variants.   I'll probably head down next time with the intention of hiking a couple of hours.  The parks I visited were particularly lightly utilized.  This is fine for me personally, but limits the number of folks motivated to fight a land swap.  I worry sometimes that the coming Virtual generation will value wilderness and our environment even less than my Suburban generation, if that's possible.  Not sure what to do about that, other than enjoy the wilderness while it lasts.

I'm toying with a future tour from Sound to Source (in Canada) and have scouted from Haddam to Springfield.  A ride to Saybrook will be forthcoming, and I will explore a bit further North than Springfield a couple times this summer.  Others with adventurous leanings are welcome to tag along.

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