Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ridden to Distraction

Last Tuesday afternoon greeted me with a combination of mild weather and several errands to run. I had some potential carpentry work to scout out in Farmington near the country club, after which I needed to pick up some groceries, pick up a new bottom bracket and finish assembling a bike.

I called around to locate a 113mm square-taper bottom bracket and struck out repeatedly. Mini-rant: The majority of the bikes I see being ridden have square-taper BBs, yet bike shops seem averse to stocking them because they are "obsolete" Grrrr...

I set aside the BB quest for the moment and made the time-sensitive Farmington visit the first errand on my list. I made it to the appointed location on time in one hour and 11 minutes, a personal triumph not because it was particularly fast (not even for a cargo bike), but because I had estimated one hour and 15 minutes. It's rare that I am even remotely accurate in my estimates, rarer still that I err on the expedient side.

Post appointment, I rationalized a less-direct route back to Hartford with an arbitrary quest. I was in Farmington off of Town Farm road and decided to see for myself if there was actually any farmland on this bifecta of agrarian naming. I headed north. There was a polo club, which I decided was too toney to count as a farm, but I had a bona-fide farm sighting just before crossing into Avon. Things were getting so rural, there was even a red-nosed reindeer crossing sign.

I eventually ended up north of Route 44 and found myself en route to Simsbury. I remembered that there was a bike shop on Hopmeadow Street worth checking out, though I couldn't recall the name. Also, Simsbury has food and I was feeling a bit peckish, having polished off the last of my on-board snack rations.
The Simsbury sojourn was a success. The Bicycle Cellar came through with the bottom bracket and I was able to refuel and top off by demolishing an abundantly large eggplant grinder at the pizzeria next door. Have I had tastier grinders in my lifetime? Yes. Did I care? Not a whit.

Happily sated, I looped around northward to cross the Drake Hill Road Bridge and rode over Talcott Mountain through Bloomfield and back home as night fell. It occurred to me a bit late that it would have been wise to wait a few more minutes between stuffing myself silly and doing a sustained climb on a heavy bike, but my stomach took it like a champ. I never made it to a grocery store, but I was too full to mind. My afternoon to-do list was in for some culling, but I chose to not beat myself up about it for one day. It had been a while since I had ridden any significant distance and I realized more and more how much I had been missing it. As the sky grew overcast and the temperature dropped through the afternoon, my head felt increasingly clear. I needed that.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Eeeee L

Ok ok. I think the world is passable enough so that we can do that thing we were going to do a long time ago. This time, the ride will almost all be in Hartford and if you've ridden with me, you've probably ridden some of it. However, I don't think you've ever ridden all of it in one fell swoop. And some, I'm pretty sure you haven't ridden. So, Feb 11 meet me at 10am at Hyland Park (or my house) for the fifth or so riding of the Eel. Email me if you have any questions. More details to follow. Ride a bike for mixed media. Read more!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Glove final

I'm sure everyone is really interested in what my final determination was on the gloves. The new ones I bought from REI were not good, so went back to old reliable. And, they're on sale right now!

Also, this weekend I was able to live out my life-long dream of riding on a lake. It's difficult to take a picture while riding on ice, too much unbalanced movement.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Workbench from Heaven.

Just a short errand ride this morning.  My route was prescribed by the unnoticed ejection of my cable lock the night before while riding home from Hartford along the slippery Hockanum River boardwalk.  Heading back along the boardwalk just past the transfer station I found Salem, his bike rubber side up changing a flat.  We bs'd shortly about how bikes are great because you can jerry-rig just about anything.  Salem's rim strip had snapped during the repair, so he tied a knot in it and was cutting a piece of plastic candy wrapper to cover the gap.  On to the post office, I changed my address to downtown Hartford and if I'm lucky the closing will come off on Tuesday.  Bike move will follow on Saturday (2/4) and I hope to find one or two friends that think this will be a fun adventure.

My next stop was the Glastonbury Home Depot, but I decided to detour along the path that starts behind Kahoots.  Passing under the bridge I noticed that the hut was being rebuilt.  You may remember that Brendan bemoaned the burned camp in a recent post.  I stopped and started up a brief chat with the fellow who has been living at this industrious camp.  Carl (name changed) said that he'd gotten out of the hut before getting crispy himself, meaning he must have been inside when it started.  So far no one seems to bother him, and it looks like he's up-sizing his accommodations.  My initial impression was that Carl is a friendly sort.

While rolling along Main Street doubled up for a while with a fellow from Portland on a short road ride.  I kicked it up a notch to ride even and show that even with knobby studs, jeans, and panniers his pace wasn't that impressive.  Can't seem to kill the competitive bug, although I've been able to hide it mostly.  Being slow helps.  At Home Depot I reviewed their appliance selection and decided to pick up a couple of Rubbermaid bins and miscellaneous home goods.   As you can see, they fit nicely onto a rear bike rack - hint to those that might want to help me move stuff to Hartford.

Just a block from home (in East Hartford for now) there was a curbed home made work bench, complete with a functional bench vise. No shit.  From heaven.  I walked back and lugged the awkward and surprisingly heavy load home.  How did the universe know that I needed a workbench?  I can't wait to install my TS-2 and true some badly neglected wheels.   

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Briefly noted

If you've traveled the hockanum river trail in east hartford from the mouth to kahoots, you've probably noticed the little cabin under the bridge. It was neatly kept and was developing a lot of lawn furniture as of late. I regret to inform you that it has burned. I hope everyone is OK. I had on occasion seen guys huddled around a fire in a barrel there and there were always friendly. I assume it happened during the cold snap, because Tony and I rode passed a few weeks ago and it was fine. It's really too bad.

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Exciting glove shootout!

Good. Bad. Unknown.

Gloves are important. Some people say mittens are important, but I think mittens are for five year olds. It was a big deal in my life when I started wearing gloves instead of mittens, because it meant that I was growing up. Since I don't want to revert to being five again, I continue to wear gloves. Twice I have bought these gloves from EMS. They're great, but after a year the palms get blown out. I have just noticed that they're on sale and feel kind of stupid for not buying another pair. Oh well, sucks for me.

Since REI is easier to get to, I've been trying to buy gloves there. First, I bought these North Face gloves and they were terrible. The label said something about stopping the wind, but they didn't at all. I have now decided to try these. The reviews seem to indicate that I should not reach into rivers and streams with them without expecting my hands to get wet. I can accept that. If they're terrible, I guess I'll return them and buy the old reliables. I wore them home from the store and my hands were happy.

That's my story about gloves. Do you have any glove recommendations? I prefer to spend less than $40 unless they last for ten years. This post leads me to the conclusion that the beat bike blog no longer gets stuff to review because our reviews suck. Read more!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Ice Beard, the Winter Bike Pirate?

Salem and I went out for a snowy ride on Saturday during the first real snow storm since Halloween.  We followed the Hockanum trails and several other miscellaneous trails on our way from Manchester back into East Hartford.  Four inches of snow really changes the trail dynamics and speed only exists in the amount of time it takes Tony to go horizontal, which I did several times.

Our ever growing ice beards reached epic proportions.  Snow shovelers and passersby couldn't quite process the bright yellow, ice bearded, abominable snow bicyclists.  We did spot a couple of tracks along the bike path and passed a couple walking their bikes down by the Connecticut River, with whom we shared a hearty greeting.

Oh yeah - I'm organizing a screening of Bicycle Dreams, a documentary on the Race Across America (RAAM).  The screening will be held downtown at the Wadsworth Atheneum Aetna Theater on March 7th at 7PM.  We're also planning a bit of a social hour at a TBD Hartford establishment prior to the movie.  A portion of ticket sales will go to Bike Walk CT, your favorite and only statewide bike advocacy heroes.  Personally I don't understand what would possess someone to race across the US in 10 days while being trailed by a support vehicle, but hey, folks don't understand why I like riding my bike with ice on my face.    Maybe I'll learn something, and in the meantime we'll notch some bike culture points for Hartford.  Help us spread the word with this Facebook invite.  Get your tickets here. Read more!

Ski free

True to form, I went skiing this weekend. There wasn't a ton of snow. Well, I guess there was way more than a ton of snow, but not a lot of snow. It wasn't enough for places with roots and rocks, but I tried going there anyway on Saturday. It was uncomfortable for me and the skis.

Today, Johanna and I went to a place with fewer rocks and roots and slightly more snow. It was great. It's supposed to rain and be warm this week, so perhaps we'll be mountain biking again by the end of the week. It was a really nice weekend for being outside, hopefully you were.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

A stolen bike

Someone stole a strange looking extracycle in East Hartford and now its owner can't haul things around anymore. Using something called crowdsourcing, I'm going to put a picture of it on this blog and the bike will be returned to its owner. I've never seen another bike that looks like this and I bet you haven't either. So, if you see it, it's stole. You can email us at beatbikeblog@spiney.com, because I don't know if the bike's owner wants his/her email published in this den of inequity. Also, the number of the East Hartford police is (860) 528-4401. I guess you could also call 911. If the dispatcher gives you lip, say the bike cost a million dollars or something.

Here's a picture:

And here's the movie:

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Friday, January 20, 2012

First tracks

I cannot overstate how pretty it was! 

We got a little bit of snow and it was a beautiful day. So, I went to Case and Gay City. There's about 1-2" of snow, but it's been cold, so I feared that there was ice under neath. Also, I have these studded tires that don't get nearly enough use. They may have been free, but they say "deserve them" on the sidewall. I want to live up to the sidewall slogan, so I used them. They saved me from two crashes, but not a third. Other people got out, too, mostly hikers whom I didn't see, but I saw two other mountain bikers and two other sets of tracks. I really can't stress enough how pretty it was today.

Tomorrow, hopefully there'll be a post about xc skiing. I'm still not very good at it, but I look forward to it.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Red lights

In a car, I stop at stop signs and red lights. For many drivers around here, that isn't a very popular habit. I used to be against red light cameras, because I thought they were an invasion of some kind of privacy. I think it's mostly my opposition generally to surveillance cameras. I first gave this some thought when West Hartford foolishly installed them everywhere, while state law forbade their employment for issuing tickets. That might have been like 2004 or '05. I ride my bike a lot more than I did then and the threat of cars running lights is more existential. So, my position has shifted to favor stop light cameras. What do you think? There was an article about it, because the legislation is being reintroduced. See here.

On a bike, I'm much more of an Idaho stop kind of person.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hipster Ponies with Beards?

Brendan and I headed out for a mixed media ride on Saturday.  Starting out down Main Street East Hartford, some a-hole driving a Porche Cayenne (am I restating the obvious?) laid on the horn a couple of times before revving by and taking a fast right onto Riverside Drive.  I'm guessing it's because he never learned how to change lanes to pass.  We spent the next mile discussing the best way to communicate with courteous drivers while wearing ski mittens or bulky black gloves at night - fist shaking and the facetious parade wave.

The temp was just around freezing with a good hard freeze last night.  With the heavy rain this week, there was a sloppy mix of hard frozen mud, just barely frozen mud, and not at all frozen mud.  The ride headed south on the east side of the river, through the Glastonbury Meadows with an attempt to get all the way to Portland fairgrounds, but unfortunately the water was up - and we found oodles of mud - backtracked to Old Maids Lane and were roundly insulted by the digital speed detector.

Then turned up Isinglass to Meshomasic State Forest for some speedy dirt roads.  Brendan pulled off a spectacular endo trying to clear a downed tree.  Seems he WAY over lifted the rear wheel due to concern with jamming his big ring into the rather sizable tree.  Whatever caused it, I enjoyed watching the topple.  Had several over bar bike dismounts of my own when attempting to roll some ridiculous tree falls.  Hey, why not try?  Maybe someday I'll get better and they'll look less ridiculous.

On Coldbrook Road, one of the most fucking bucolic streets around, we found these odd little ponies with beards.  Left when one starting eating the other's shit.  Shit eating bearded ponies.

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For Rough Rides (that should not be)

When you nail a pothole that should have been fixed five years ago and wonder who to complain to (besides your friends and at The Beat Bike Blog) about the rim you just bent, there are now several options.

  1. The Connecticut Department of Transportation is sponsoring a website which allows users to submit data about both bike accidents/crashes and unsafe biking conditions. The accident form is for any type of bicycle crash, whether or not a motorized vehicle was involved. The latter form allows users to provide the DOT with suggestions for how the situation can be improved.
  2. SeeClickFix provides its users with the capacity for uploading photos of the issue in question. These concerns are published so that others in the community can view them, thus making a visible record of concerns. If an issue is reported on a particular topic or in a specific area, different entities are automatically notified. For items reported in Hartford, the 311 Call Center for non-emergency city services is contacted. Publicly documenting concerns is a way to cut through bureaucratic bullshit, or at least to prove that something requiring action has been reported on and consequently ignored by the City, State, or private entities responsible for fixing the problem.
  3. Calling 311 is a third option from Monday-Friday, 8-5. There is a map showing 311 open/closed cases, currently available online. It has been yanked from the City website in the past without explanation. A case number is assigned so that you can follow up.
What other ways can cyclists report poor street conditions and get results?
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Friday, January 13, 2012

The Much Anticipated Bike Move

**** Bike Move rescheduled for Saturday, Feb 4th.  My closing got delayed. ****

Time to show what you're made of Hartford.  I've decided that the market is down enough, and rents conversely high enough, to double down on a condo in the illustrious South Green neighborhood.
Since the ex cleaned me out in the divorce, and I'm short on heavy furniture (cept for one challenging sleeper sofa), I gamely propose a 'Bike Move'.  The bike culture starved Connecticutian may need an explanation of the concept.  Basically, I'm going to attempt to move all my worldly belongings approximately 5 miles from East Hartford to downtown Hartford.  To do this I need help.  Lots of it.   Why, you ask?  Don't ask why, just come out and help me with something ridiculous.

Move date set for Saturday, February 4th.  We'll start bright and early at 8am for those that want breakfast and coffee.  Time to BS and survey the task at hand, then a bit of packing and securing, followed by en mass departure at around 9am.  Depending on numbers and how much we drop, might come back for a second trip.  Stick around, and I'll order a bunch of pizzas.

Bring your trailers and biggest panniers.  For those lacking cargo capabilty, I'll have some bags of clothes that could fit in a backpack.  We'll also benefit from spotters and corkers. 
More info will be forthcoming.  Wish me luck with closing and getting the utilities turned on.  Let me know if you're in so I can get an approximate count for breakfast.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Hartford's downtown is not that big. I think it's like two square miles or something tiny. I worked in it for awhile and would ride my bike there everyday. Now that I go to school in the West End, I don't get down there as much. But, I had some business at City Hall yesterday, so I rode down. After I was done, I rode on to Constitution Plaza, down along the river in East Hartford, back over in Hartford, again to Constitution Plaza, to Spiritus and home. I worked downtown for a long time and never though much of it, but Dario has always told me that he likes to ride there. In my absence from the built environment, I think understand what he means. It's actually kinda pretty at night. The darkness doesn't really make it easy to take a picture when pedaling, though.

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

It's January? Riding in a t-shirt.

Global warming has its upside in Connecticut.  Was riding in a t-shirt today and got a full winter dose of vitamin D.  Meandered over to the Heublein Tower in Simsbury, via the Hockanum River path.  I picked up the path just off of Roberts Street by Rogo Distributors.  This is further east than I usually pick up the trail, and this portion of the trail is a bit newer and more technical than the rest of the Hockanum segments.  Since I was at full expedition pace, I noticed several great views that I'd missed on faster trips.  Someone did a pretty good job clearing the trail of fallen trees - thanks - and it looked like the trail was getting quite a bit of bike use.

Met up with friends and Heublein Tower and enjoyed the gusty views from the ridge.  First time I'd noticed the glass in the door.  I think Valerie rubbed off a bit and now I notice unique glass and windows more often.

While meandering back through Hartford I took Park Street, which is one of my recent favorites due to the hustle and bustle.  Hooked a right on Pope Park Highway since I'd never been down that way before.  The street runs past the ice house and Lyman kitchen store that are visible from I-84.  There is also an interesting looking nightclub - Divi Divi's - which the internet tells me is a gay dance club.  Will have to check it out, as I've found that gay clubs tend to have enthusiastic dancers, so I don't stick out like I usually do.  Across the street was a new little park with some unique sculptures, windy metal garden, a great spot to take in the sunset.  

Just a block from my place in East Hartford someone had put out a couple boxes of freecycle home goods.  Being the scrounger that I am, I circled back with trailer in tow and scored some excellent items to outfit my soon to be Hartford condo.  Check out the two Polish plates.  Score!

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Bike job

Want a job involving a bike, but don't want to work in a bike shop or be a courier? Be executive director of Bike Walk CT. See the press release:

Bike Walk CT Seeks Full-Time Executive Director
Bike Walk Connecticut, a 501 (c) (3) organization working for a bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly Connecticut, is accepting applications for a full-time Executive Director who will work from its office in Hartford, Connecticut. Become part of this growing organization and help it achieve its potential as Connecticut's premier statewide bike/walk advocacy and education organization. The Executive Director is responsible for managing the overall affairs of Bike Walk Connecticut including the implementation of Board-approved projects, programs, policies, and procedures in fulfillment of its mission and strategic plan.
Details will be are posted at http://www.bikewalkct.org/resources/news-items/executive-director-2011/, or you can e-mail EDsearch@bikewalkct.org for information and job description. 

The above picture was taken when I threw a picnic for the 30th anniversary of Carl Andre's Stone Field Sculpture. It is entirely unrelated to riding a bike. Read more!

Friday, January 6, 2012


I like the Hockanum River. Its watershed has a website and I just realized that it also hosts a canoe and kayak race in April. I don't know much about canoe and kayak racing, but it sounds like a lot of fun and I have access to a canoe. Anybody want to race with me?

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year's Day 2

Like liquor stores, I got a second New Year's Day yesterday. So, I went to Nassahegan for the second time since tenth grade. I've become increasingly loathe to drive to a trail. A lot of the mountain biking within riding distance isn't too bad has a pleasant route, so I don't really mind. It's 18 miles to Nassahegan, so that makes for almost 40 miles round trip minus the intended ride. That's quite a bit and I do have a car to drive, so I drove there. I guess getting dark early is an excuse?

Anyway, enough apologizing. Why don't I ride here more often? It's great. I used to drive out to Nepaug occasionally a few years ago, but most of the trails there are for people who like to spend all their time jumping off things or driving ATVs. This is all twisty, narrow and complicated. I wish the maps were slightly better because I wanted to ride further, but instead sent myself back towards my car. Despite not riding as far south as I would have liked, I still got a solid 2 1/2 hours in. Anyway, I'm going to go back despite all the car guilt. Too bad I don't know anyone who lives over there.

These pictures kinda suck, but when I'm having a good time I guess that I just don't want to pull over and take a picture. Read more!

Sunday, January 1, 2012


I bought a folding saw last week, because I want to become beloved for my trail maintenance. I started clearing the trail that runs through Goodwin Park for practice. The next day, Dario proposed that we go fix the trail from the Bissel Bridge to Loomis. It sounded like a good idea, so we set off along river, passed the dump, cross the train tracks and headed for the newly paved thing in Windsor. Surprisingly, we had the misfortune of doing this in view of an Amtrak cop. He stopped us, but didn't write tickets. I've ridden through there dozens of times, but I guess you're not supposed to. Interestingly, he didn't ask about my bag of saws.

I also went for a ride with Tony and found this cabin.

Happy New Year! Read more!