Saturday, January 17, 2015

IceBike - Operation Polar Vortex

Hardy cyclists riding through the winter have been socializing monthly in East Hartford for breakfast at Maddie's and this month we're expanding to Downtown Hartford.  It's important that we band together and practice our conversation skills.  Riding through the winter is considered weird enough that others may start giving you a wider berth at work.  Not sure why Hartford metro is so allergic to winter cycling, as it seems that other interesting cities (Boston, Chicago, NYC, Montreal, Minneapolis, Fort Collins, Madison) aren't so fickle.  There is even an official global Winter Bike to Work Day, where you can commit to ride on February 13th.

Ken K on the Bissel Bridge.  It's better now.
This month's IceBike theme is "How Cold Will You Go?"  January is the frigid month and many folks have their lowest temperature limit.  Let's push that limit a little further.  Much to discuss about how to dress and get comfortable at colder temps.  Personally, I've found that my limiting spots are my hands and face.  Fortunately there is a whole industry supplying skiers with gear that handles very similar challenges to winter cycling.   With a good pair of ski mittens and a snowboarding helmet with ear flaps (and even goggles), one can get comfortable at arctic conditions. 

These breakfasts are an informal and flexible meetup to carry bike commuting through the winter and hopefully increase alternative sustainable transportation in the region.  All alternate transport commuters are welcome.  It is entirely reasonable to take bus transit, walk, car/vanpool, or take the train, and having that flexibility in your commute method helps cut down on single occupancy car use.  If you just want to stop by for winter cycling tips we've got you covered.  Bicycle commuters are generally stoked to share the tips they've learned the hard way to save others the trouble.  We'll see you out there!

IceBike to Work
Friday, January 23rd

Maddie's in East Hartford
Right across from Pratt & Whitney on Main Street
6:45AM - 8:15AM 

Jojo's in Downtown Hartford
Pratt Street, just off Main Street
7:00AM - 8:30AM

VERY IMPORTANT - In advocacy news, your attendance and public comment is desperately needed on Wednesday, January 21st.  The informational and public comment meeting is conveniently located at the Hartford Public Library with an open house (general chatting and looking at maps) starting at 3PM.  The presentation starts at 5:30PM.  Want to fill seats with cyclists (bring your helmets inside), walkers, and transit users.  Very important to look at this project as an opportunity to stitch our community and neighborhoods back together.  The CT DOT now has an adopted Complete Streets policy.  Let's make sure the I-84 plans are safe for all road users, particularly where the entrance and exit ramps hit neighborhood streets.  More information at

PROGRESS - For some reason you're still reading.  Here at the bitter end I'll give our veritable BBB contributor Salem and other bike advocates credit for hassling the CT DOT until they got serious about snow and ice clearing on the bike/ped sidewalks along Connecticut River highway bridges.  In years past the I-91 Bissel Bridge between Windsor and South Windsor was a mess of three foot tall ice piles that would last well into the Spring.  The CT DOT now recognizes that they are legally required (by statute) to clear the bridge.  It took several years of contacts from Bike Walk CT and local bicycle commuters, but progress has been made.  I even saw salt laid down on my daily route across the Charter Oak Bridge.  In previous years the Charter Oak bridge was plowed, but still had a 1/2-1" thick icy layer remaining during snowy weeks.  Not having a large icy patch at the downhill turn on the Hartford side is much appreciated.  Keep up the good work folks.  Thanks to Salem, CT DOT, and the DOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board.  It feels like the recently adopted Complete Streets policy is actually affecting a welcome cultural shift.
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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Cross Racers Will Descend on Hartford

Cross racing.  Have you seen it?  Not a horde of queens sprinting in heels, although that would be equally awesome.  Cyclocross is a newer format of bicycle racing where masochists on road-like bikes hammer around a snaking route through a field or park.  Consumerism has morphed the road bikes into race specific rigs with carbon wheels and tubeless low pressure tires.  The course is set up to maximize punishment and spectator viewing.  Weather be damned, the event runs in rain, sleet, or snow.  The obstacles and mud/sand pits have cyclists running with the bikes over their shoulders.  The crowd is encouraged to ring bells, holler, and even heckle the racers to eek out their deepest energy stores.  It's a hoot, and "Hartford Has It."

When there is an obstacle, you'll see running.
Just announced!  
Hartford will host the 2017 Cyclocross Nationals.  

We were chosen over many other cities based on an impressive cooperative bid by Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program (CCAP), the City of Hartford, and the Connecticut Convention and Sports Bureau.  Hartford is well situated in the Northeast where cyclocross racing is booming and the population density allows for many nearby races, racers, and spectators.  This is a big deal folks.  The influx of bike racers and spectators to Hartford, up to 20,000, for this national event in December will be a great off-season economic boost.  Hartford gets to show off as a destination on the national stage.  Leading up to the Nationals, there will be more regional races in Riverside Park and Colt Park in 2015 and 2016.   With the 2017 race on the horizon, the regional races will have increased exposure.  To get full bang for the buck on a national race, we need to grow and expand the regional races both before and afterward.

This national opportunity didn't materialize out of thin air.  In 2013 and 2014 there were two cyclocross races in Hartford proper and a series of other races across the state.   One of them was right next door to my home in Colt Park.  You may have missed the races in Hartford.  For some reason the larger cycling community in the area didn't mobilize and show up to cheer and spectate.  I'm still trying to understand why.  Connecticut has a bevy of bicycle shops.  Those shops have mailing lists and Facebook pages.  Growing cyclocross as a racing and spectator sport is a clear way for our local bike shops to extend their customer season into the otherwise quiet Fall and Winter.  I'm imploring our cycling community, riding clubs, and bikes shops to do better publicity in 2015.  Let folks know that this is an engaging spectator sport.  There are always beginner races for those that want to try it out for themselves.

There should be a hipster bike category.  Single speed required.
In addition to the racing community the event publicity must tie into the advocacy groups that promote bikes for both recreation and transportation.  A cyclocross racer who enjoys riding a skinny tired bike through cold, semi-frozen mud would be a champion bicycle commuter.  Bike commuters, like myself, often got their start as racers.  Explaining to a cross racer that bike commuting year round results in free and efficient training miles is an easy sell.  Also bike commuters and recreational (non-racing) riders love bikes, and often enjoy watching them being ridden in circles by others that are suffering (schadenfreude or sadism?).  Bikes aren't just toys, although they are really fun all around - for racing and commuting.  I'll do my best to connect Bike Walk Connecticut and Transport Hartford to the 2015 cross races.  Cross promotion and cooperation between racing and advocacy is the next step in Connecticut.

Another item to improve for 2015 - food.  These cross racers are hungry and thirsty.  I didn't make it to the Riverside Park CCAP race, but I noticed a lack of food and drink at the Colt Park Veteran's Memorial Race.  We've got great food trucks in Hartford.  They will show up if you put a call out and let them know there will be hungry customers nearby.  If you need suggestions, here are a few - Whey Station (gourmet grilled cheese), Amor (healthy, vegan), and Lucky Taco.  It's also relatively easy to get a permit for beer sampling or a beer tent at a park event.  Let's get some Hooker, City Steam, or Burnside beer out there for the 2015 races.  For the Colt Park race, there is also a nearby grocery store, C-Town, for racers looking for Gatorade or some hot rice and beans.  Just across Wethersfield Avenue.

Excited for this announcement.  We need to ramp up the events in 2015 and 2016 so Hartford is ready to blow the doors off in 2017.  Let's do this!

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