Friday, October 31, 2008

new ride to work

I moved to Fairfield Ave and slept there for the first time last night. Thus, this morning I had my first new commute.

Yt's pretty much all downhill, so I get to work right quick. I thought that cutting through the Trinity College campus would make things easier, but people actually drive worse there. Some asshole in a minivan decided that rather than wait for the weird green golf cart thing in front of him to get out of the way, he should try to get in a head-on crash with me.

Not the same minivan from this morning, this one is much cooler.

Vernon Street. I could stop at CLIO on the way home tonight for their weird/dirty Halloween party.

Also, Vernon Street has cobblestones. The Paris-Roubaix thing is kinda cool and I do have 32 spoke wheels, so I shouldn't break a wheel. They also wake you up.

Hopefully the return trip is as much fun.

Here's another crazy minivan:

Read more!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Riding Bikes Can Send You To Jail So Buy A Car"

Strange as it is to believe, there are other cities where bicycle riding is so common, so beloved by the populace, that government is obliged to take the activity and its practitioners into account, to create special committees to address their needs, and generally to make more than the most passing attempts at sensible, bike-friendly planning. No, I'm not talking about the distant wonderlands of Portland, Ore., or Berkeley, Cal. Friends, I'm referring to Connecticut's second largest city, New Haven. If you have ever been to New Haven, you may have noticed that a lot of people ride bikes there, to the point where it's sort of normal and you don't do like we do in the Beat and feel a little surprised if you see someone on a bike whom you haven't seen before.

New Haven's bike advocacy organization, Elm City Cycling, has apparently been pretty successful in getting the city's police department to respect bikes, ticket drivers who do wrong by bikes, etc. With this has come some more serious enforcement of traffic laws against cyclists. And with that has come the awesomest stupid craigslist post debate ever, which is reproduced below. Why is it awesome? Because some fool who got a ticket on his bike, failed to pay it, and is now facing a warrant, is angry at ECC for being so successful and bringing bikes to the cops' attention. Some other person's pithy response is also below. Take a look at the sorts of things people get to squabble over when their cities have achieved the luxury of some semblance of bicycle awareness (as always, click on the picture to see a bigger, legible version):

Read more!

Convoys, Automotive and Otherwise

Do you ever look at the photo at the top of this blog and wonder, "Who are those Reservoir Dogs-looking, bike-riding badasses, and where are they going?" I do not, because I know the answer: It's me, Brendan, Joel, Ken, and Chillwill's shoulder, going to the CCBA annual dinner. That's pretty prosaic, but one of the nice things about pictures is that while they are worth a thousand words, those thousand words might vary significantly if you don't know the back story. For example, perhaps in the photo above, Brendan is actually our prisoner and we are leading him on a long Trail of Tears-type death march/ride to some unsavory fate in Manchester. He does have the downcast look of a doomed man, and we are more or less surrounding him, making escape attempts futile (except that in real life, he is faster than any of us, but you don't know that, in keeping with my point about the back story). Why am I saying all this? Because the other day I saw a real life prisoner convoy on I-91: a Judicial Marshal truck heading up the highway at 80 mph with an unmarked state trooper car in front of it and another behind it. It was pretty tough:

(Click on the picture for a larger version with insightful annotations.) Read more!

Concerning Early Mornings

In my youth, I was unapologetically nocturnal, which predilection was well accommodated for some time by my job waiting tables. My usual routine was to work from 4:00 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., then ride my bike into Manhattan (work was in Brooklyn) and carouse until around 5:00. This allowed me the lyrical opportunity to stumble home just as dawn was extending her rose-red fingers across the Brooklyn sky, and was made all the more delightful (in my mind, anyway) by the fact that in the lot behind my building there was an actual rooster in residence, which would frequently be crowing as I got into bed. As far as I'm concerned, that was the life, and I think back on it fondly (except for the no money, the busted-down apartment, the dead-end job, and the frequent bouts of crushing, booze-soaked loneliness; but I digress).

There was also a time in my younger days when I worked the morning shift as a bike messenger, from 7:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Now, I should say that it wasn't a bad job, hours notwithstanding. I worked for a color printing lab, so I drew an hourly salary, had a warm office with free coffee to take refuge in between runs, and was additionally blessed because the manager who frequently ran the shop when the owner was out had a side gig as a purveyor of medicinal herbs, and was a generous man by disposition (if you catch my meaning). All of that said, I recall those early morning starts as something of an ordeal, especially in winter, when I had to start my eight-mile commute in the cold, slushy dark.

The combination of my night-loving nature and my experience at the messenger job left me with the firm conviction that people who get up before they have to for the purpose of engaging in any physical activity other than coitus are fools. But the time must come, I suppose, to put aside childish things, including rigid beliefs about how best to live one's life (I used to hate animal abuse, for example, but now that I'm married with kids, I kick puppies all the time). So today, at the tender age of 31, I fully abandoned my 21-year-old self's abhorrence for needless early rising and got up extra early so I could ride my bike from New Haven to Bridgeport instead of taking the train.

And you know what? It was great. Sure, it was cold, but I was mostly pretty comfortable (except for my toes; Christ, my toes were cold, even with the thicker socks I picked out for the occasion. I need to do a separate post like yesterday's gloves post about what to do to keep feet warm when riding in winter). And certainly, it was dark, which is a little scary on the busy-ish state highways between New Haven and Bridgeport (Rte. 162 and Rte. 1, in this case). But it wasn't that busy at 6:15 a.m., and the dark was kind of cool, because day was just breaking off to my left over the Sound, so when I rode through a wooded area or a valley, it would seem like night, and then when I crested a hill or caught a view of the water, the sky would be on fire and beautiful. And when I got to work in Bridgeport, I felt energetic and healthy, which is actually sort of a nice feeling. Also, there was this view:

(You should definitely click on this picture to see the larger version.) Read more!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Brendan's new losing pursuit

Looks like fun, huh? I don't have any pictures of the run up.

I bought a used Raleigh cyclocross bike off of ebay a few months ago to help the economy of the Pennsylvania. It's one of those 1x8 dealies with an older dura ace rear dérailleur, STIs, and older dura ace cranks. I stole Johanna's Maxxis Steve Larsen tires for some traction. It came with really terrible tires. Well, don't get me started with what I was presented with from UPS.

Since none of our local parks have cyclocross courses in them, I've gone off to the eastern part of the state for some racing. I went to Mansfield Hollow two weeks ago for my first race and Dayville last weekend. Obviously, I didn't finish anywhere near first, because I'm not very fast. I'm not too depressed with the results, though - more or less midpack results in both. Well, I was futher back in the first one, but moved up in the second. I have the same problem I do with mountain biking, in that I start pretty strong but let people pass me in the middle laps and do adequately catch up. Although, with the field being bigger. There's a lot more actual racing taking place. The Mansfield Hollow race had 50 or so and Dayville had 30 something. Midpack is nothing to complain about. Besides, riding with one of the cheapest bikes out there is definitely worth some bonus places. Read more!

Mitten Weather!

Yes, my friends, it's that time again: suddenly, it's chilly outside all the time and my tender knuckles and delicate fingertips need protection from the elements when I ride the old velocipede. At my son's school, they sing a song to remind them how to get their mittens on, which goes like this: "Thumb in the thumb place, fingers all together/ this is the song that we sing in mitten weather." (It's a catchy little number.) So my question to you, dear riders, is this: What hand-coverings do you favor for various cold-weather bike-riding situations?

Rich and I both like the work gloves sold at Home Depot, labelled "FG" (for "fixed gear," presumably). They are warm enough for non-freezing cold weather, they have some padding and grippy stuff that's nice for holding onto handlebars, they are available in muted gray or with safety-conscious day-glo colors, and they run under $20. Unfortunately, I recently lost/misplaced my pair and had to dig out my back-ups, a well-used pair of liner-weight black ski gloves. These gloves are three years old and for some reason, even though they only cost me $10, I keep patching them rather than replacing them. This morning, I continued that process by reinforcing a few fingertips with bits borrowed from even cheaper, older cotton work gloves. (The effect is super-ghettofabulous, which makes the gloves perfect for riding my super-ghetto-modified Mercier.)

(You should really click on this to see the larger version and appreciate the two generations of patchwork; the index finger was done two winters ago; the middle and thumb are from this morning.)

In colder and wetter weather I use these as liners and add a waterproof shell. Right now I have some ski gloves for that purpose, but I think I might like try pogies, which are said to be very very warm and allow the rider to wear stylish lightweight gloves. But I might get some mittens so I can sing that song. Read more!

Spoooooky goings on in the Beat! we messed up in joining the Hooker Day Parade on Sunday. We had a plan, we had a theme idea. I was in Vegas, Joel found himself in Wethersfield, El Prez in New Haven, Karma was most likely working, Chillwill is in Cali, Ken was confused, and I think I heard that Brendan was ready to go. Oops. Well, it sounds like the parade was a lot of fun, and it got people in Hartford excited, so that's always a good thing.

But what's on tap now that fall has fallen, you ask? Good question! Here's some things for your calendars for the next 1.5 weeks:

Friday, Oct. 31st.

Bike to Work??
Old State House, 7am - 9am
last Friday of the month

Hmmmm...this event appears on the BBB calendar over there on the right. It does not appear on the CCBA Bike Everywhere calendar. There it says that they ended in September. I know last year, they had "Icebike to work" things for the colder months. I'll look into this in the next day and report on the status, and I'm sure future scheduling will occur after the next Bike Everywhere meeting in a couple of weeks.

Critical Mass, Halloween Edition!!!
Meet at 5:30pm, Bushnell Park Carousel.
It’s the last Friday of the month! Celebrate with riders around the world for this global, grassroots celebration. Join a hundred of your newest friends on a ride around the city at a chill pace for about an hour and a half. Check old posts to see past rides. The summer’s rides were wonderful, and now we can REALLY freak out!!! It's October 31st! All Hallows' Eve! Helloween! The last ride in Daylight Savings Time! Dress up yer bike! Dress up yerself! Bring some candy! Get some candy! By the time we push off, it'll be dusk, the leaves will be flying, and it'll be extra spoooky! Seriously, feel free to ride in costume. Creativity encouraged. Anything can happen!

Tuesday, Nov. 4th.

Progressive Happy Hour (PHH), Election Night Edition.
Kenny's (Red Rock), whenever to whenever.
Holy Shit. HOLY SHIT!!! Really??! The election?! We've only been exposed to this election cycle since about 1971. That's what it feels like. You know...Canadians held a national election in October. Guess how long that took from the time they announced it to the time it was over. No seriously, guess. 30 days. By law. Anyway...hell, here it is in the US of A. Obama. McCain. Nader. Barr. And the rest, with Palin & Biden popping in to provide comic relief. Polls in CT close at 7 pm, so I'm thinking of getting there early to start drinking the pain away while we watch the pundits on the teevee make big asses of themselves. I'll probably be making up the drinking game as the night goes on and others are welcome to join in. Early rules I've thought of are 1) sports metaphors, 2) calling a state before 20% of precincts have reported, 3) unnecessary and excessive use of expensive touch-screen zoomy maps, and 4) any appearance of a dry-erase whiteboard. I'm also going to bring presidential games and activities. Points to those who show up with trivia about our lesser-known presidents like Millard Filmore. up. And for cripes sake: VOTE. Or exercise your right not to vote. Freedom, baby.

Wednesday, Nov. 5th

BBB English/Irish Pub Bike-Crawl
7 pm - 11 pm
After the success of Beat Biketoberfest, it was suggested that we try some sort of irregularly scheduled bike-based pub crawls around the Beat. Well, my first thought was to try to do them on some sort of occasion. November 5th is known in the British empire as "Guy Fawkes Night" (aka "Bonfire Night") in commemoration of some catholic extremist dude with an unfortunate name who tried to blow up Parliament with gunpowder on that date in 1605, but was a complete douche and failed miserably. So the Brits, with no 4th of July celebration because they lost that whole silly affair in the colonies, put this as their holiday to blow shit up. Well, we aren't going to blow shit up, so I'm leading a tour of popular English/Irish drinking establishments in the area to mark the date. I think the order will probably go: Vaughan's, McKinnon's, Half Door, & ending at the Corner Pug, unless someone can come up with another viable stop. Yeah,'s a school night, so it won't be a big blow out all-night affair, but a classy traipsing affair as our first public pub bike-crawl. We'll start at 7 pm at Vaughan's on Pratt Street in downtown Hartford. All are welcome. "Remember, remember the 5th of November!"
(someone want to add this to the blog calendar, please?)

Saturday, Nov. 8th

Charter Oak Landing, 3 pm
A gentleman's race along the river that is both on the road and off. This is so going to rock. Any further updates and promotion will be provided by Brendan.


Read more!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Good Repair Website

I've just blown an hour at There are a lot of good tips and tricks in videos, transcripts, and discussions here. For example, drop a little tri-flow on your spoke nipples before you adjust them and true your wheel. And here is the rest of it. Read more!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Book Review: Off the Rails

(Photos Courtesy of Tim Cope:

Off The Rails, by Time Cope and Chris Flannery, is the true story of two bold young Aussies riding recumbent bikes from Petrozavodsk, in Western Russia, across Siberia, over the steppes of Mongolia, and finally into Beijing: about 10,000k.

This story is inspiring. These boys were 20 years old when they did this expedition, and their plans were far from perfect. Preparing in Petrozavodsk, as their custom-built recumbents arrived in pieces in two boxes, Tim "realizes" he's never ridden a recumbent before. As for mechanical experience with a regular bicycle, he had "patched a tube and adjusted a seat". Later on, deep in Siberia, the duo would have to canvass several villages before finding a guy who could weld a broken frame.

They also find themselves dragging their loaded recumbents through waist-deep snow for miles on end, drinking hot fermented milk and waking up to animal slaughter in Mongolian Yurts, pushing their bikes through sand in the Gobi Desert, and furtively sleeping in ditches at the edges of rice paddies before finally being arrested in lowland China.

There are two famous old thoughts of famous old wise people that rose to mind as I digested this story. The first is Goethe imploring us, "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it." Personally, I have felt genius, power, and magic only weakly and fleetingly. Perhaps my boldest actions are still ahead of me. I have seen it though, in the boldness of people close to me, and in the heros of Off The Rails. The adventurer W.H. Murray knew it and saw it too: "The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too." Following winds magically replace stagnant airs, like a matching contribution from the universe.

The Babushkas of Siberian villages are a good example of Providence for Chris and Tim. Because of massive casualties during WWII and currently dismal life expectancy, elderly Russian men simply don't exist in a lot of remote Siberian villages. For Tim and Chris, this meant they had Babushkas fighting over the privilege of feeding them potatoes and giving them a warm place to sleep when they limped into town on muddy, icy, rutted dirt roads.

The second old chestnut is that necessity breeds invention.

A pure heart and a strong will are all we need to find the means to our end. Chris and Tim overcome hardship by making things up as they go along. No maps? Ask someone where to go. No foresight, no experience because you are green and 21? Use determination and charm instead.

This is not like reading about Sir Edmund Hillary, or Amundsen, or Lewis and Clark, or James Cook, or any other legendary adventurer. To be sure, Tim and Chris are first class adventurers (Tim Cope has turned pro). The difference is that Tim and Chris are honest about their emotions, mistakes, and ignorance. Early on, Cope describes how he crashes his bike like a novice, overwhelms himself with self-pity over tick bites, and gets childishly annoyed and frustrated with Chris. These small things, to which we can all relate, are why this book is more inspiring than most of the stories of the old classic adventurers. Many of the old dour legends don't tell us about these soft spots in their character, either because they couldn't admit it to the world, or because they couldn't even admit it to their journals.

Ditch the fear and sarcasm. Try reading this book about a couple of bold kids who make shit up as they go and become unknown legends.

Photos Courtesy of Tim Cope:
Read more!

Buffalo, Bikes, and Beer

If I had my way, I'd shuffle off to...
A lot of you know that I'm originally from Western/Central NY State. Buffalo, despite being the butt of many a joke is the city that I often use to describe where I'm from geographically to elitist west coast types who only think about NYC when you say "New York." Buffalo, like Hartford, is a pretty gritty town. The population of the city is quite a bit larger than the city of Hartford (300,000 to 125,000) but when you compare the greater metro areas of each city, Hartford and Buffalo have very similar populations at over 1.1 million people (#45 and #46 nationally)

Perhaps this is more of a job for the CCBA, but I thought I'd point out an effort that has been established in the aforementioned Buffalo, NY that may be of interest:

Blue Bicycle has partnered with Flying Bison Brewery to launch a specialty brew; the “Rusty Chain”. This new amber ale will help to promote bicycle infrastructure in Buffalo. With over twenty restaurants and bars around the city on board, every time you purchase a Rusty Chain partial proceeds will go towards bicycle racks, signs, lanes, etc. Rusty Chain will quickly become the beer of choice for cyclists and beer aficionados alike.

And they had a fundraiser this week which went for the installation of bike racks and bike rings around the city. I honestly don't know if such an similar suds-spoke synergy effort is possible here in the 'Beat, but given our bike community's proclivity for the enjoyment of beer, I can't think of any better situation for bike advocacy than the purchase of beer going to help fund bike infrastructure improvements. It's just a thought.

I can't believe I'm saying it, but I'm jealous of Buffalo. Read more!

KAPOW! Car accidents

whee, clip art!Monday evening, I got out of work a little after 6 pm and was riding my usual route on Tolland St. in East Hartford. I was thinking about how I should replace my blinkie batteries soon for the upcoming time change, and also how in the twilight it was difficult to see since it was still too light for the street lights to be very effective. All of a sudden, about 50 feet or so behind me, I heard some really startling sounds:


I quickly put on the brakes and spun around just in time to see the end result of a pretty substantial rear-ending of two cars. As far as I could tell, I think someone merged onto Tolland from the weird S-curve on Burnside and just didn't see the car in front of him. My first reaction was that oncoming traffic might not see the lead car resting in their lane, so I immediately used my corking skills and started signaling for those cars to slow down and use caution.

Being pretty mobile on my bike, I also realized I was the closest person on the scene to check on the condition of both drivers, so I turned back to do just that. The lead car's entire rear bumper was lying in the street. That driver was on her phone, and had a passenger who was also talking. Both people were wearing seat belts and signaled to me that they were OK. The striking car was about 30 feet or so in the other lane, and had a really smashed up hood. About this time, a woman in a 3rd floor apartment (corner of Tolland and Ann) started shouting out to me asking if everyone was OK. I shouted back that I was checking and that I had a phone to call the police. She responded by saying she had already called 911 and just wanted to let them know if anyone was seriously hurt. As I approached the 2nd car, I noticed that a tow truck had come up from behind and had parked (probably seeing a business opportunity) with its flashers going right behind, thus alerting oncoming traffic to the accident. The driver of the 2nd car was just getting out of the vehicle, and verbally told me he was OK. I stuck around until the police arrived on the scene...probably another minute or two. The officer asked me what I saw and I told him that I didn't see the impact because it was behind me, and he thanked me and told me it was OK for me to go.

So it wasn't a serious accident or anything, but a couple of things went through my mind: 1) being mobile on a bike is a pretty quick way to negotiate the scene of an accident and 2) wow, that was close. If those cars were 50 feet behind me, a little different timing or whatever could have had that sliding car completely taking me out. Being aware of cars which are in control of some strangers is one coming at us when they are not in control of the driver is something else.

At first, the thought occurred that maybe the first car was reacting to seeing me and my reflectors/lights on the road, and the 2nd car didn't expect that reaction. Seeing where the cars ended up, I determined that this wasn't the case. I've never actually seen an accident happen in real life, but now I've heard one at close proximity, and it's pretty unsettling. Read more!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Attention Tables

This a funny, cryptic sign I saw in a deli window in New Haven. It has nothing to do with Hartford or bikes, but it is amusing (and I do ride my bike in New Haven often, and also in Hartford, so, you know, there's that to consider). Read more!

Concerning Bike Shops

Something I often bemoan is the lack of a gritty, old-parts-bin-having, evil-genius-mechanic-employing, old school bike shop in the Hartford area. When I lived in Boston, I was a frequent patron of Broadway Bicycle School, where you could rummage through old parts bins to your heart's content and, with some patience, find pretty much anything you might need to cobble together or repair whatever old bike tickled your fancy. They also had work stands and tools that you could rent for $9 an hour, which was extra-specially nice. And they seemed to look at every weird bike problem or repair as a happy challenge.

The shops around Hartford, though, are very much in a different mold. Now don't get me wrong, I like a lot of the folks who work at the shops - for example, I often stop into Pedal Power in Middletown for this or that, and the guys there are unfailingly nice and helpful. But their focus, as is the case with most area shops, is fancy road bikes, and my focus is ghetto-fabulous hacksaw-based engineering (see the previous post), so a fertile supply of fancy road bikes is about as useful to me as a reduction in capital gains taxes.

The result of all this is that I lately tend to turn to the internets for my bike part needs, which, while emotionally unsatisfying, usually gets the job done. But when I inherited the Special Tour de France, I found myself with a problem that even a system of tubes as vest as the internet could not solve: Will's bike came with a seatpost that was about five inches long, which may have been good enough for Will's short self, but was entirely inadequate for my 6'5" self. Unfortunately, the post did not have any markings on it to tell me its diameter, and I don't own calipers or even (as I discovered) anything with metric measurements on it. Could I measure in inches and then convert? Sure. I did. But it felt a little imprecise, and I was reluctant to order a new, longer seatpost from the web on the basis of my questionable measurements. (Strangely, despite being emotionally empty, e-commerce seems to require a lot of commitment.)

If I lived near a good old-fashioned bike shop, I would just head there and try lots of different seat posts until I found one that fit. But I live in West Hartford, so I did something else: I took the old seatpost, cut it on either end and down the length of it on one side, and made it into a shim. Lacking a post that fit neatly inside the shim, I took an extra straight handlebar with a slight rise and jammed that inside the shim, then cut it to size at the top. To keep the whole thing from turning all the time, I had to tighten the seatpost bolt on the Special Tour de France to the point where the housing got all mashed up, then use an extra seatpost collar around the protruding part of the shim and tighten that down with a spare quick-release lever. Not an elegant solution:

So inelegant, in fact, that on my Monday morning ride to work, it strted to come loose. It can't get lower, because the middle part of the handlebar-cum-seatpost is wider than the shim, and it won't come out of the frame because there is a 200-pound person sitting on it, but it rotates, and that is annoying. So on my lunch break, I zipped over to the REI in West Hartford to see if they had a seatpost that would fit, or at least if they could measure the thing properly.

I didn't know what to expect going into the bike area at REI. On the one hand, they don't sell used bikes there (obviously), so I couldn't hope for the greasy relic-repository of my dreams. On the other hand, they don't sell any stratospherically priced road machines made from the ground up hopes of orphans, either, so maybe they would have a middling, semi-utilitarian approach.

The mechanic was a nice guy and helpful, and he busted out the digital calipers and sundry other tools necessary for me to extract my monstrous post and shim so he could get a good measurement. But all the while, he seemed to be choking back disdain (or vomit), like a med student who wanted to become a cosmetic surgeon in Greenwich but was forced to do a rotation in the pustulent syphillis ward at apublic hospital. I had the feeling he knew in his heart of hearts he was meant to be diagnosing the tiny squeaks and frictions of carbon-fiber rigs, not helping some numbskull jury-rig an old road frame into a poor semblance of roadworthiness.

I suppose I shouldn't complain, because at the end, the mechanic guessed at the right post diameter (I had crushed the seat tube to the point where it was no longer round, so we couldn't be sure) and ordered a post for me. But somehow, the whole thing left me a little cold. And he didn't even compliment me on my incredibly awesome 26" wheel dropout adapters! Read more!

A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever: My New Bike

So, upon the departure of our dear Chillwill, who has repaired to the welcoming climes of Northern California to work in the agricultural sector, many of us were graced with cast-offs from his large stuff collection. I was lucky enough to get his Mercier "Special Tour de France" road frame. How awesomely beautiful is this frame? Just click on the photo above for a larger view of its orangey goodness. Plus, "Special Tour de France" sounds like a multi-stage bike race for people with cognitive disabilities (like the Special Olympics), and I like that.

Will gave me the frame with a five-speed rear wheel and matching front wheel, but no saddle or handlebars. Clearly, this elegant beauty needed to be spruced up and put on the road stat. I had some three-speed coaster brake wheels in the garage and really wanted to used those (because derailers are lame but internally geared hubs + coaster brake = bringing the ruckus). However, I long ago learned from hard experience that when you put 26" wheels on a frame that is accustomed to 27" wheels, everything is lower and your pedals will hit the ground when you make turns, and this phenomenon, known as pedal strike, can lead to events such as spectacular wipeouts on crowded downtown Boston streets at lunchtime, which suck. Now, a reasonable person might cut the three-speed hub out from the 26" rims, cut the five-speed hub out from the 27" rims and lace the one to the other. But three factors militated against that approach:

1. I wanted to get this business done and get to riding;
2. I didn't want to spend any money, even on new spokes; and
3. I don't know how to build bicycle wheels and didn't want to pay someone else to do it for me (see # 2, above).

Instead, I devised what is, I humbly submit, a really neat solution. I bought a piece of steel at Home Depot ($6.99) and used my trusty hacksaw to fashion the adapter you see below (two of them, actually), which bolts into the bike's dropouts and lowers the rear axle by about an inch.

I am absurdly proud of myself for this feat, and you should be proud of me too. It really works.

Why am I telling you all this? Because after you take time to congratulate me on my engineering acumen in devising the adapters, you should reflect on how nice it is that this lovely old frame has been passed along from one member of our beat bike crew to another to continue bringing joy to me and (hopefully) to anyone who sees it plying the streets of the capital area. Good friends, old bikes, and sharing are all things this world needs more of (along with love, sweet love, of course). Read more!

To Broad Brook!

Before Sunday, I had never heard of Broad Brook, let alone ridden my bicycle there. But thanks to Rich's strong desire for Grandpa Tony's unpasteurized apple cider, his ability to print a map from Google, and his kind invitation, all that has changed.

On Sunday at around 12:30, Rich, Julia, and I set out from Rich's swingin' Hartford bachelor pad on our bikes, full of vim and visions of cider, donuts, and New Englandy, autumnal goodness. We took Windsor Street north into (wait for it . . .) Windsor, and after a few wrong turns that led us to strange, quasi-agrarian backroads teeming with disaffected local youths, we found our way onto the bike path of the Bissel Bridge. Once we'd crossed the river, the industry/farm/suburban mishmash of Windsor gave way to the stone-walled, birthplace-of-historic-people charm of East Windsor. We thought it was beautiful, but based on what was written on the pavement, some people were nonplussed (click for a bigger view):

Honestly, I don't know how anyone could be bored by a stretch of road with the Porch Horse, the Pumpkin-Butt Gardener, and the birthplace of the "first American theologian and philosopher."

(We liked that the only notable thing about Aaron Burr, as far as the people who made this plaque were concerned, was his having been the third vice president.)

After consuming much cider, and many cookies and donuts (and yummy pumpkin fudge), we took a longer way back, via the I-91 bridge, and I shortly realized I was running late and had to ride at full speed from Windsor Locks home (and when I say "realized," I mean "received a phone cal from my justifiably angry wife, wondering where the hell I was to take the kids so she could go to a 4:00 engagement"). As a result, I only took one more picture on the way from the farm:

So who's coming with me next Sunday? Read more!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What you need to be doing on Nov. 8

EEL!Don't confuse this with November 4, that's when you need to be voting.

The Eel! November 8! 3pm!

It's gonna be awesome!

Maybe prizes beyond the cash sort!

Come race!

Also, they opened that South Branch Greenway last week. Read more!

Sharrows Explained

Karma's recent post along with his excellent photos of the new road markings in West Hartford got me wasting a perfectly good Monday evening scouring the intrawebz looking for some information on that pattern that I remember seeing sometime before. Rather than bury the results of my research in the comments section of his post, I thought this information would better serve the community as a separate post.

I've never seen such a thing actually implemented in person until they appeared in West Hartford, but the new markings aren't just a result of someone in the WH government smoking crack. They're called "Sharrows" (which I'm guessing is the result of some fan of mashing words together got when they looked at "shared" and "arrows") and they have become implemented in just the manner that we've seen in West Hartford in an increasing number of bike savvy cities: San Francisco, Portland, and Boulder, for example.

The brief history is that this particular design and use was started in Denver in the mid-90s. Generally, they were ignored elsewhere, until a 2004 study released by the city of San Francisco recommended sharrows be implemented to mark shared-use roads. Caltrans (the CA state DOT) adopted the markings that same year and use has expanded. In 2007, the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices unanimously voted to endorse the marking in federal manuals of traffic control devices.

The two main purposes of these markings are: 1) to alert motorized traffic that the road is to be shared and 2) to correctly position cyclists outside of the "door zone" of parked cars. This also serves to correct the bad habit of bikes traveling on the wrong side of the road, as well as encourage not-so-experienced cyclists that it's OK to take the lane. We'd probably see fewer a-hole drivers screaming at us to get out of the road, too. It's important to point out that in general, they aren't preferred to a dedicated bike lane, but rather recommended in areas where the streets are too narrow or dangerous to have such a lane.

The only problems I see with the markings in West Hartford is the previous designation of the side stripes as being a "bike lane," and the absolute lack of communication about these markings. We've all seen how cars are often in that side lane, and we've complained about it a lot on this blog. I think someone somewhere made a mistake at calling those things on the sides of Boulevard "bike lanes" and it was decided to make these routes "shared roads," and the sharrows were eventually laid down. The sharrows are even defined in the West Hartford Master Bike Plan. (see page 19). However, the fact remains that there has been NO COMMUNICATION by the town or state government about these markings and how to use them. When some of the most experienced cyclists I know in the region seem confused by these markings, you would think that some form of public announcement, or press release, or some mention in the newspaper would be in order. At the MINIMUM, a mention on the town's website. Nothing. When SF implemented them, they put PSA signs on city buses as part of their educational campaign.

There's some great reading on the sharrow movement, and I'll throw a list of links down in order of usefulness:

After consuming all this, I'll say I'm in favor of sharrows, as long as cyclists and drivers get educated about them, what they mean, and how to properly use them. Read more!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Roads: The New Bike Lane.

IMG_1383I took this picture shortly after composing this post which discussed an incident in which a bicyclist was hit at the intersection of Boulevard and Whiting Lane in West Hartford. As can be seen there are newly painted bicycle images in the middle of both lanes! I had never seen such a symbol in this area of the road and spent a few moments trying to figure out what they meant. This is a section of Boulevard between Troutbrook and Prospect but I have also seen them further along Boulevard, past Main Street, and along Quaker north of Farmington Ave. Most of these are areas where the oft-discussed shared bike/parking lanes have been created. So while the city has stopped short of painting bike symbols in the lanes they have painted these new images directly in the road! What does this all mean? My argument is that it confirms the fact that the road IS the bike lane! The images are a subtle suggestion to drivers that bikes and cars share the same infrastructure and a quiet reminder to motorists that bikers may be in the road. However if one looks at the picture below the reality is that much of the time the bike/parking lane is more of a parking lot and the road is our travel lane.
As you can see the bike lanes are full and riders are forced into the street. So are the new images a positive move to warn drivers of the presence of bikes or are they a failure to properly execute the bike lanes? Of course when I look at the pictures above I think delusionally of a time when the cars are relegated to the fringe parking/travel lanes and bikes take the primary center lane as the spray-painted alabaster icon suggests.

Read more!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

X-Room Mystery Solved!

I actually own this book.

I know people who've attended meeting at the Main Branch of the Hartford Public Library are usually wondering why the x room is called the x room. It's not very exciting. The supports for the ceiling have x-shaped trusses between them and the library staff decided to name the room accordingly. Read more!

Teenage Bike Jacking

A disturbing report caught my eye in the Courant today:

Teens Sought In Theft Of Bicycle

October 15, 2008

HARTFORD - City police are seeking five Hispanic teenagers, one believed to be armed with a handgun, in connection with a robbery Monday afternoon.

According to police, about 5:50 p.m. outside 147 Franklin Ave., a 14-year-old boy was approached by the teens, who demanded his bicycle.

The victim told police that one of the teens, who he said were ages 15 and 16, pulled a pistol before they took the bike and headed south on Franklin Avenue. The victim was not injured, police said.

Now, I can't be sure that the victim is completely telling the truth in his report to the police. But if his story is true, that's cold, man. Read more!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bike-to-beer-fest: Images!!

Without further adieu a few shots from the festivities. Ill spare the complexities of the "Read More" and let them roll.

Love the sight of bikes lined up along an iron fence. Nice parking spots!

More bikes. Nice space maximization folks.

Walls of marble. Rich is a high roller.

Ten people in an elevator and space for all. Not sure how I got the angle on this shot as the back of my head made it in the picture. Odd.

Oooooooo mirrors on the ceiling and everyone is captivated.

The laundry cart, my legs, and a packed elevator. Little can you tell a human is trapped beneath us. Fortunately the plastic held and no one was hurt.

Group shot. Check out the moon and the Capitol on the left! Awesome view.

More nightscape views from the top!

The Traveler's.

Its kind of hard to see but here you can make out the lines of the walks through Bushnell Park. Looked like a perfectly manicured model in miniature from the skyline.

A rooftop group shot.

Getting cozy at Krash's place. Joel you took Brendan's spot on Shoupy's knee and he looks angry!

Everyone is enjoying the comfy couch, beers, and a nice fireside (fire not included).

After the ride to Joel's we all locked up in the carriage house. Gorgeous architecture but not a lot of places to lock up. I grabbed a lawnmower and threw a can of gasoline on the U-lock to discourage any thieves. Guess what, it worked!

Argyle socks, who doesn't like argyle.

Down, down, down the stairs. Thanks for the mini-bags of cheese puff Joel, hits the spot.

The previously promised blurry photo!

The last stop, warm food, another comfy couch, and great hospitality.

Joel getting into his story. I forget the punchline. It was not long after this shot that everyone headed their own ways and headed out into a cold yet beautiful night.

A great time, thanks to all. Cannot wait for the next event! Read more!