Thursday, October 28, 2010

Guest Post: IL to CT Part I

Dear reader, we're mixing things up with a guest post from a fellow named Tony Cherolis, who has returned to the Hartford area from Champaign-Urbana. Part II'll come tomorrow.

Chambana to Connecticut in 16 Days - Part 1

I’ve been itching to do a long distance bike tour since 2007 when I first moved to Urbana from Connecticut. My move to Urbana in was actually supposed to be by bicycle but I was thwarted by an extremely untimely knee injury sustained just two weeks before I was planning to hop on my bike. After a year of physical therapy and three years in Chambana it was time to try again in reverse. My move back to Connecticut would be done via bicycle and I avoided soccer like the plague so there wouldn’t be a crippling injury repeat.

After shipping my belongings via ABFs ReloCube(r) I commenced loosely planning an unsupported tour. The planning was on the informal side as I really didn’t pick out an exact route or print cue sheets. The planning consisted of picking a sequence of cities I was going to pass through and getting a rough idea that the route was passable using Google’s beta bicycle setting. The route planning was heavily influenced by whether friends lived at convenient way points. The route also purposefully bypassed the mountains in Pennsylvania by scooting up into New York and following the Erie Canal as water doesn’t flow up hill.

I had some vacation saved up and figured I could stand to part with up to 2 1/2 weeks still leaving something for the holidays. My plan was to leave on September 18th and arrive in East Hartford, Connecticut no later than October 6th. That gave me 19 days to ride roughly 1200 miles. At 60 miles a day this seemed reasonable and might give me a day or so to stop and recuperate if necessary. Prior to the ride I had been ramping up my riding somewhat, but not nearly enough to consider myself even marginally prepared for a serious solo tour.

If you’re only slightly interested, here are the quick stats right up front. The ride went better than planned and I was finished by October 3rd including one day off in Rochester, NY. That averages out to 80 miles per day. Most days were tail or cross winds, but two days were pretty miserable weather as Tropical Storm Nicole swept through New York and battered me with headwinds as well as constant rain. Two broken spokes and one broken rack mount, but none requiring me to delay things severely. I camped five nights, spent one night in a hotel, and the rest of the nights were passed inside various homes. Riding with packed panniers day after day was slower than I expected and I spent a lot of each day riding. All in all it was a great time, a memorable life experience, and something I’m excited to do again. I want to take this opportunity to heartily toast Bag Balm and a surprising absence of saddle abrasions.

Now those that are interested in the ride details and funny stories I picked up along the way can keep reading the daily summaries below. This will be split into a two part article with the second half of the day by day summaries and my “lessons learned” in the second part.

My Gear: I rode a Specialized Roubaix road bike that had a rear rack attached in a non-standard fashion. The saddle was a favorite I had picked out 3 years earlier for the original tour attempt and was well accustomed to my posterior. The bike has a triple chainring up front with a pretty generous granny gear. Packed light with a hammock, light sleeping bag, change of riding clothes, some cold weather layers, and a small bathroom kit. Basic tools, spare tube, spare spokes, and a cable lock. I took an Economist and a David Sedaris book to pass the time. Two waterproof panniers and a small rack trunk carried my load. The back end of the bike was disproportionately heavy. I was rightfully worried about spokes and the rear rack breaking.

Saturday, Sept 18th - Don’t drink wine 25 miles into a 120 mile ride.

I told a couple of folks that I was planning to ride out at noon and was surprised by the large group of people eager to get me on my way. I think around twelve folks rode me out of town and five came with 25 miles out to Sleepy Creek Vineyard. Geoff Merritt bought a bottle of wine and I drank more than my fair share. We chatted and hung out and then they sent me on to Indianapolis. I had planned to do the whole 120 miles in one shot, since its not that interesting of a ride and I’d done it several times before. After realizing I’d like to take a nap at mile forty, I stopped at a gas station and got a large caffeinated soda. Using my sugared soda power I plowed through and arrived at my sister’s house around 10PM, somewhat loopy. When I say the ride wasn’t interesting that is except for Camp Drake Road, which kicks ass. Unfortunately Camp Drake Road is 25 miles from Urbana, although the surrounding area south of Kickapoo is very nice riding for those looking for a long loop.

Sunday, Sept 19th - Oops. Connecticut is East of Indianapolis, not West.

A nice lunch with my sister in downtown Indy and then a 1PM start heading Southeast. Planned to get halfway to Miamisburg, OH and camp at a state park. Leaving Indy I accidentally turned west instead of east and headed the wrong direction for five miles. I’ll bet this doesn’t surprise my riding companions at all. Take the sun away and I’m useless for cardinal directions. What’s an extra ten miles though in the scheme of things? Peanuts. Due to the late start I finished the day in the dark and pulled into a fortuitously located Quakertown State Recreation area on Brookville Lake that happened to be vacant of both other campers and park staff. Scored free camping and a hot shower.

Monday, Sept 20th - I forgot how pretty / hilly SE Indiana and SW Ohio are.

Beautiful rural riding with a healthy helping of hills. Lots of livestock and small farms. Not really following a map but just keeping an Eastern bearing on lightly traveled roads. Decided to detour through my old hometown of Middletown, OH and then followed the Miami River Valley bike trail almost all the way from Middletown to Miamisburg. Seeing my brother, his wife, and my new niece was the highlight of the day. There’s no place like home.

Tuesday, Sept 21st - Bike paths and corn.

Tuesday started off interesting. There is a bike path on the Miami River that goes straight up into Dayton, jogs down to Xenia, and then continues on almost all the way to Columbus following an old rail line. The bike trail allowed me to ignore almost all the route decisions that I would need to make on a usual day and kept me out of traffic. The riverside multi-use paths around Dayton were relaxing and scenic at the same time. Two shy coyotes along the path surprised me just as I was leaving Miamisburg.

The long stretch between Xenia and Columbus made me feel like I was on an extra long bike path in Central Illinois, like this one proposed between Urbana and Kickapoo State Park. Super boring, but at least I didn’t have to think much about my route. After a harrowing 6 mile dash down Broad Street into downtown Columbus, I remembered my friend had specifically recommended against that route into the city. A shower, tasty dinner with friends, some beers, and a downtown stroll help wash away the bad vibes I’d accumulated for Columbus during past visits while my sister attended Ohio State.

Wednesday, Sept 22nd - A broken spoke, sustainable farming, and a Pulitzer?

My friend Ariel is an Urban Planner in Columbus, particularly focused on bike / ped issues. His Wednesday morning was already booked with the Columbus bike / ped count as he was scheduled to be counting passersby on a local multi-use path. The route North out of Columbus took me right past his counting station and is where I got my one photo from the trip. There were a surprising number of bike commuters heading into downtown on the path, which made me think lots of good things about urban multi-use paths that connect homes to work.

My target for the evening was Malabar Farm State Park about halfway to Cleveland. I arrived at the farm just before 4PM and took an opportunity to tour the large main estate with a park staffer. Totally worth it. I would have never known that Louis Bromfield was a Pulitzer prize winning author and sustainable farming advocate. The Malabar Farm restaurant was also delicious and had a spring right next door to fill up my water bottle. Halfway to Malabar I broke a spoke on my rear wheel, drive side. This would be my first order of business to get fixed on Thursday.

Thursday, Sept 23nd - Mansfield, OH has friendly people!

My broken spoke on the rear wheel required a trip to Mansfield (slightly out of the way) for the closest bike shop. A classic rust belt city with lots of vacant industrial buildings, I wasn’t at first impressed. After having a talkative couple buy my breakfast at a downtown diner and the local bike shop owner replace a spoke for only $7 I am now a #1 fan of Mansfield. The bike shop owner ended up filling me in on a Mansfield business that expertly refurbishes classic bicycles. I kept that business card for future reference.

Swizzling my way Northeast towards Cleveland, I was unsure where I would be spending the evening. Around 5:00PM I zoomed downhill into the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and wandered around looking for a sign pointing to camping, but no dice. A couple of helpful volunteers and an extremely friendly local pointed me towards the trailhead store where I could reserve my spot at the largely unknown (and unsigned) campsites located behind the now closed youth hostel. I set up camp and headed the nearby town of Peninsula for a hearty dinner at the Winking Lizard. Just as I arrived at the restaurant I got a call from the staffer from the trail store, I had left my wallet (a ziplock bag) at the register while making my reservation. The staffer kindly dropped it at the restaurant on her way home from work, averting what would have been a possible disaster.

Friday, Sept 24rd - Hills. Big hills in Northeast Ohio. When do I get to the lake?

Just south of Cleveland, I headed up and out of the Cuyahoga Valley that happens to have a very nice stone dust trail along the remnants of the Ohio and Erie Canal. I didn’t have a route planned other than to approximately follow the southern edge of Lake Erie in the direction of Erie, PA. I was astonished by the abundance of vineyards and wineries that I would continue to pass for the next two days as well. After zigging and zagging in a roughly northeast direction though surprisingly hilly country, I finally made it to the lake around Ashtabula just in time to scope out somewhere to camp for the night. After dinner in Ashtabula I stealth camped in a city lakefront park a mile or so east of the city. This evening was the end of the unseasonably warm weather in the 90’s that had cooked me in Ohio. It was a comfortable 70F as I settled in to sleep, but I awork shivering at 50F. A hammock is a poor choice for cold weather camping.

At this point, I’ve cycled roughly 600 miles in seven days and reached the northeast corner of Ohio. Ohio is huge when traversed diagonally. The warm weather has turned cool and crisp, and I’ll be heading into the remnants of a tropical storm next week in New York. I’m halfway there and so far so good from a physical and mechanical point of view. My biggest complaint at this point was a sore sitter, but I was expecting that. The most interesting riding is yet to come as I ride places I’ve never visited and stay with people I’ve never met. Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this article, and you’ll get to follow my progress across New York along the historic Erie Canal and over the Berkshires in Massachusetts.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stuff to do this weekend

While The Eel is obviously on the top of the list of things you're doing this weekend. There are some notable other things that should check in preparation for or recovery from the world's most important bike ride.

Friday: There's some burlesque and something else at the Whitney House. I don't know what time or any of the details, but my friend Marisa invited me, so I think she wants people to go.

Satuday at 8pm is another CATALOUGE!

Kim Mikenis, The Human Light Box in Knock Twice To Enter (A Shadow Puppet Fort Show)

8:00 pm (show will begin shortly after and run roughly half an hour)
56 Arbor Street
Hartford, CT 06106
Suite # forthcoming

Kim is a sculptor, assembler, collager, painter, animator, sewer (soh-er, not soo-er), and puppeteer. This CATALOGUE performance is the quintessential Halloween pre-party. There will be a tunnel. There will be drinks. There will be a fort made of sheets, cushions, carpets and candy (candy will be in the fort. You can't eat the fort). Check out Kim:

Kim Mikenis creates beautiful, ephemeral environments that are both haunting and womb-like. Using audio, puppets, light, and other objects and contraptions, she will perform original stories for us, as we watch from within our fort. She'll be working hard, filling our heads with oddities, candy, and narrative splendor. This is a puppet show. The performance will begin shortly after 8:00pm and run for roughly half an hour. Happy Halloween, boo.

CATALOGUE is a monthly event that showcases artists, musicians and other creative endeavors, and is hosted by Joe Saphire and Nick Rice. The event is a collaboration between artist, curator, community and space. Contact us for directions or questions:, and please pass this invitation along to those we might have missed.

Joe Saphire, Nick Rice

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Monday, October 25, 2010


As much as I love Vermont, driving six or seven hours in one day is a lot of work. So, I stayed in Connecticut. There was a 'cross race in Avon on Saturday. The course was fun and the race had lots of people. The downside was that they started it 15 minutes early so I didn't get a chance to ride any more than 1/3 of a lap to warm up. I pulled a hamstring, which sort of sucks. It had a "death spiral" which is the course design gimmick de rigeur (it is fun, though) and three sets of triple barriers.

I did eh, having a crappy start and finish. Matt Lolli of Ghostship killed it on a singlespeed. 2nd place, damn! Johanna took some pictures of me not killing anything:

On Sunday, Salem and I wandered around the woods of Salmon River State Forest and Day Pond State Park. I found $15! Having never ridden there, I was impressed with the singletrack in the greater Colchester area. There aren't many people living around there, but they've sure built a lot of good trails.

I didn't take any mountain bike pictures. This is at the bottom of that viaduct on the Air Line Trail.
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Bikes Outside: My Other Bike is a Broom

Downtown Hartford played host to the annual Hooker Day Parade this past Saturday. The atmosphere was festive, spirits were high, and airborne candy and beads were the order of the afternoon. Bikes were out and about both in and around the event. Hartford Denim Company had a trike, and ostensible fellow Beat Bike Blogger Ken Krayeske rode his trusty Cannondale along with some other cyclists touting his bid for Congress. Also, there were witches.

This pair of freshly-paraded witchy hybrids was spotted at the terminus of the parade, where people socialized while Hartford Police officers worked to herd them off the promptly reopening streets. The sloping top tubes of the blue frame is particularly well-suited to broom-mounting. A larger broom, or perhaps a rake, could look even more intimidating and double as a skirt guard. The handlebar skeleton is a nice touch. I could see how a front rack-mounted reaper, with scythe of course, could be helpful in certain traffic situations.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

If you were me...

Would you drive up to Vermont this weekend for the Circumburke? While only 26 miles, it sounds like an awesome back country race. I know some of those trails near Kingdom Trails that aren't maintained and they're pretty awesome. It's a lot of driving for only 26 miles of racing. Read more!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Eel Eel Eel

Ok, I've got a proposed Eel route here. It's lacking in some details, but you get the general idea. The only thing I need now is a cool logo. One thing about it of note is that if you want to bailout, you easily can. Also, it's not starting in Middletown. It's probably easiest just to start from my house (not presently pictured on the route).

This car was spotted on the proposed eel route. It definitely portends good things.
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Monday, October 18, 2010

Weekend Weekend!

I did lots of things this weekend and now I'm going to tell you about them.

The parts of cyclocross that are exciting on a bike generally do not photograph well.

On Saturday morning, I went out to Mansfield for the Mansfield Hollow Cyclocross race. I love that race. They're so friendly and they've got free seasonally appropriate food and drink. Every year the course changes a little bit. It was harder this year than last, but hard in a fun way. I had a good start again, faded a bit, but ended up finishing 9th. I should probably start running a 12-28 in the back instead of a 12-15. Or perhaps a 39t chainring. 42:12-25 is too tall for me.

Then I got home and put on pants instead of tights so that I could help plant trees on my street. Since I was late, Johanna and I only planted one tree. Usually, I try to plant more. Also, have you realized that you can't spell street without "tree"? I just did. That's why street trees are important or something.

Looking south from Heublein Tower at what I would ride my bike on the next day.

Also, it was the Avon Land Trust's fall hike (my dad is their treasurer), which corresponds with the Heublein Tower "Tower Toot". So, Johanna and I went up there and tooted. We love the Tower Toot. Since you probably haven't done it before, you should go next year. You can see these guys.

Then, we ate some Korean food from a stone pot.

On Sunday, it was the big river cleanup. The Snails and Trinity College were well represented. As it was the third anniversary of the beat bike blog's participation, I rode a bike and transported supplies with my indefatigable ortleib panniers and snake bike. Snake bike painter, Peter, waxed poetic about his days of racing on the snake bike.

Then I went mountain biking and figured out how to ride south of reservoir over to Mountain Rd. in Farmington and then back to rt. 4. It was cool finding trails I imagined to exist, but had never ridden on. I also broke in a 2.3" Hutchinson Bulldog because my beloved Panaracer Smoke wore out. I'm not particularly impressed with this new one. It was more of an experiment to see how well a 2.3 would fit in the back. It fits fine.

Then, Johanna and I went to Johanna's mom's house for dinner.

The end.

Oh yeah, on Friday I pixilated my coworkers by transporting a large box contain my new synthesizer home on my bike. The hardest part was getting it out of the building.

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Bikes Outside: Ride Me to Firenze

Today's bike outside is a feast of well-preserved 1970's Bike Boom bling. Everything you need to make your own low-budget remake of Breaking Away (and impress the ladies) is right here.

You've got the Italianate name, The snappy paint job on the lugged frame, color coded cable housings and decals, and some fine-looking drilled brake levers (with bonus turkey levers to boot!)

The "Precision Drive 15 Speed" drivetrain (with narrow-range triple crankset) will make you half-again better than the jealous haters on their puny contemporary 10 speeds.

Luxurious foam drop bar grips are the perfect finishing touch to this period piece. They're like little handlebar afros.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hey Whippersnapper,

It's not enough that you had to go tearing across traffic and then the wrong way on a one-way street. I was willing to overlook that, ignore your lack of helmet and bad fashion sense. But at some point, someone needs to intervene. Maybe your momma is too tired from workin' it all day to raise you up right. Maybe your father is in jail. Or worse, maybe he taught you to do this. In any case, I will be unable to sleep at night if I do not say something.

You're doing it wrong.

Your saddle is wrong. So wrong that I almost choked on the lunch I was eating as I watched you speed by. As I'm sure you know, all manner of depraved kink can be located on the internet. Take this as a sign. If one searches for "backwards bike saddles" on Google images, nothing of the sort resembling your rig appears in the first hundred or so photos. If it's too kinky for a search sans filters, it's too kinky for a boy your age.

There is nothing macho about flipping the saddle around so that you risk impaling yourself with one wrong move. Now, maybe because I'm an old bag, or whatever you youngsters today would call me, you might think I know nothing. To indulge you in that fantasy, I did some research. Jim Langley, who I'm sure has his sphincter intact, notes that:

"If the nose of the seat bothers you, tip the seat down 1 to 3 degrees. Don’t overdo it because a tipped seat will cause your body to shift forward putting added pressure on the knees and preventing the seat from supporting your weight adequately. If the nose bothers you enough that you want to tip is excessively, try different seat designs."
See how he never says that you should flip the nose of the saddle complete around and tilt it skyward? Sheldon Brown, another expert who presumably has not ripped himself a new hole, says:
"The angle of the saddle should be pretty close to horizontal. Some men prefer the front to be slightly higher than the rear; some women prefer the front slightly lower than the rear, but extreme angles should be avoided."
See? No extreme angles. Peter Jon White, yet another expert, says:
"In order to fit a bicycle, you need a saddle you can sit ON."
One website states the obvious: "Bicycling is supposed to be fun, not painful."

Nobody gets street cred by landing in the emergency room with a saddle up his ass. Nobody. Read more!

The Eel Again!

Remember The Eel? First, it was this cool off road race thing in the rain with a respectable number of participants. Then, it was an alley cat and not too many people came. After that, it was a short ride that Brendan, Salem and Dario took and we froze are our asses off.

Now, there's a new one. On Oct. 30, my plan is to start at 10am and ride the CT River in a mostly offroad fashion from Hartford down to Middletown, up to Windsor Locks and then back down. Does this sound like fun to you? It's not going to be competitive. It's going to be an adventure. Just the other day, Dario and I were riding part of the proposed course we were navigating fallen trees across treacherous canyons. It was awesome.

Email me if you're interested in participating. Soon, I'll try to make another sweet logo.

Speaking of the Connecticut River, our Source to Sea cleanup is back on for this Sunday the 17th at 10am. See you then?
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Monday, October 11, 2010

Bikes Outside: Happy Thanksgiving!

Today we celebrate the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday with a street-seen mountain bike from the Great White North.

The Velo Sport brand is new to me (also annoying to research on search engines, due to how frequently "velo" and "sport" are joined together in the bicycling world). It kind of reminds me of the Skykomish, sans the Deore-level componentry. My Canadian bike knowledge is very limited, though I did ride a Rocky Mountain 'cross bike last year at Interbike and enjoyed it quite a lot.

Like my late Quebecois grandmother back in the day, this Velo Sport Banff is strong and sturdy. It also has a fair amount of dirt on it (albeit less than six feet of it, and this is getting uncomfortably weird so I'm going to stop comparing it to my Grandma riiiight about now)

One thing that stands out to me is that this bike has some generously long rear stays. There is a lot of room back there! I kind of want to do another 700c mountain-street conversion one of these days a la the Frankengoose, so I'm more attuned to rear triangle size lately. I was tempted to claim that I "discovered" this bike and claim it on the spot right there on Trumbull Street, but that wouldn't be in keeping with the spirit of Thanksgiving.

Have a happy Monday!

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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Good Things Come in Tens

Tomorrow, 10/10/10, please consider grabbing your bike and taking part in 350 for Hartford's 375th. This Global Work Party event will begin at noon at Hartford City Hall (enter at the rear of the building) with a one hour bike maintenance and repair demo/workshop. From there, the group will ride to clean up some of the bike paths and bike lanes in Hartford that need some attention; Sandpit of Death, anyone?

Finally, all attendees can rest their bones and fill their gullets at Kenney's. See the first link for details. Read more!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Soda review

About a month ago, I got an email from someone named Victoria asking me if I wanted to review soda for the blog. Snow soda to be exact. Since this is a bike blog, I explained that I generally prefer drinking beer. None the less, it's hard to refuse a free case of anything, so I consented to review and a few days later a case of soda (12 pack?) arrived. It would seem by googling "snow soda", this type of free-case-of-soda-for-review model is major part of their advertising plan. Other companies have tried this with us and to date, I think I reviewed some kind of training dvd and I was sent some knock-off camelbaks. They weren't very good, so I decided that maybe reviewing them would be a disservice for the knock-off camelbaks. The training dvds were ok, though I still think I prefer riding outside in the winter to watching a dvd involving riding while I'm on rollers.

Anyway, snow makes three kinds of soda, Cola, Cranberry Pomraz and Lemon Lime, that they put in a tall can. The can is 12oz., but it's tall like a red bull can. The Cranberry Pomraz, despite having a weird name, is quite good. Not too sweet and it tastes like cranberry, pomegranate and raspberry. The cola isn't too good. It tastes slightly off and a little flat (kinda like Tab?). I understand they purposefully don't carbonate their sodas too much, but I think this cola needed more bubbles. The addition of rum didn't really help either. The lemon lime is ok, but could probably be just slightly more sour (or bitter)- maybe in the direction of that San Pellegrino Limonata stuff or Ting.

In the grand pantheon of sodas, I'd say the Snow ranks better than Jones. The Pomraz is better than all of the Boylan sodas, except for grape. It's not as good as Hosmer. It's not as good as the old recipe for Fresca. And, nothing is as good as Northern Neck Ginger Ale. So, if it's Sunday and you're out of Miller Lite, maybe you should grab a Pomrazz. Although, they do have more calories than a Miller Lite, so only grab one.

Ed. Note: Johanna also drank some of the soda, but she doesn't have a blog, so we'll never know what she thought.

Another soda related thing to which I would lend my seal approval are these Portland Design Works sodapop fenders. I put them on my Diamond Back and rode it around in the rains of last week. They work 90% as good as complicated fenders, but are 90% easier to install. They're supposed to be removable, but the way that the fender mounts to the rear "brake" bridge abridged that, so I can only easily take off the front one.

It rained so much I became blurry.

In other news, I found a new and steep way to get over Talcott Mountain. It's especially helpful if you need to get from Tapas in Bloomfield to the Pickin Patch in Avon.

don't fall in this well on the Avon Land Trust's Hazen Park trail.

On Sunday, I went for a hike.

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Bikes Outside: Double Dutch

This Monday's Bikes outside were spotted at last Wednesday's Hartford 2000 First Annual Pasta Dinner. This SoDo fundraiser was held to strengthen community and help fund a sorely needed upgrade for H2K's outdated name. It was a very nice event, full of goodwill and unlimited carbohydrates.

The Amsterdam is Electrabikes' west coast interpretation of the classic Dutch city bike. They took the time-proven design that has served millions of European commuters for a century and made it more laid-back. I ask you, where else but California could people think anything from Amsterdam is not sufficiently laid back? They are handsome machines at any rate. I really like enclosed drivetrains on city bikes 97% of the time. The other 3% of the time involves incredibly vexing rear tire changes.

The super-slack geometry and vertical riding position mean the owners of this his-and-hers pair are upright citizens in more ways than one. The baby seat (and the corresponding baby they walked in with) show that they are city biking family style, which is nice to see.

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Friday, October 1, 2010


Due to the potential for flooding, we're not going to do the clean up tomorrow. Sorry! Read more!

Clean the river

Do you care about the world? If you do, come down to the CT River tomorrow at 10am and help us clean up. We meet, as we have for the last two years, at the confluence of the Park and Connecticut Rivers. It's a tradition now!

Email me if you have any questions. Wear good shoes and pants. I'll provide bags and gloves.
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Bread Cycle Works Fiesta This Saturday

Artist Ted Efremoff and company's Bread Cycle Works Project began this past march in a vacant lot on Broad Street. Join them this Saturday at the green at Billings Forge (563 Broad St. Hartford, CT) starting at 3 PM to share in the fruit of their collective labor. Here are a few pictures and memories I accumulated over the course of their community-focused, bicycle-powered journey from seed to feast. I wasn't around for the plowing and planting stages, but I did take part in the harvest, where my story begins.

Part one: Harvest M(ons)oon- July 10

The email had gone out a few days prior, scheduling the wheat harvest for 11:00 AM on Saturday. The sky looked threatening that morning, and it wasn't long after I arrived at 11:00 that the first few drops of rain began to fall. The next few minutes were a frenzied attempt to beat the rain. Sickles, scythes and my saw-chete (a machete with a serrated saw teeth on its back edge) were swished about with haste cutting, stacking and bagging as the rain increased its intensity to biblical. A couple of local guys came and pitched in, which was pretty awesome.

There were four cargo bikes on hand: The Bread Cycle Works plow trike with a trailer, a cycletruck-style conversion with a massive woven basket, a bakfiets-style conversion with a massive steel basket, and my Yuba Mundo with the trailer. We loaded as much as we could before the wheat got too wet, using trash bags and a shower curtain to protect as much as we could. We slogged up Broad Street, soaked to the skin, and arranged the wheat on drying racks in Ted's studio. We rode around the corner for coffee and lingered as our clothes slowly dried.

Part Two: Back For More- July 12

With rain forecast for Tuesday and beyond, Monday looked like the best day to harvest the remainder of the wheat. It was short notice and a weekday so extra hands were in short supply. I met up with Ted and Alex in the afternoon. I sharpened my dull Saw-chete to help facilitate cutting wheat and not accidentally damaging my own extremities.

As it happened, I did not cut myself with my clumsy blade-slinging, but by drawing my finger along a wheat stalk for a wheaten equivalent of a paper cut. The cut itself was minor, but I quickly demonstrated my God-given talent for bleeding. I disposed of the affected wheat (as bloodstained wheat is both nasty and non-vegan) and set aside my (t)rusty blade to tend to my wound. Unfortunately, my first aid kit was in the pannier I had left at home and nobody else had any band-aids, so I wiped my bloody hand with a baby wipe, tied it around my finger and headed for the nearest bodega for a box of bandages. Bodega #1 didn't have any, but bodega #2 not only had Band-Aids, they sold them individually! I was familiar with "Loosie" cigarette sales, but this was my first observation of the practice extended to first aid supplies-- freaking brilliant! I bought a loosie-depleted partial box for a dollar, figuring that it would be good to have a few extras on hand. No more were needed, but I was sufficiently amused for the afternoon.

Monday's harvest took a couple of hours with only three adults on hand, but we managed to get it all cut and hauled back to Billings Forge studio to scatter on the drying racks in preparation for the pedal-powered threshing and milling process. Passers-by stopped and asked about the project regularly.

Part Three: I'm Gonna Thresh You Sukkah- September 18

I wasn't able to attend the bike-powered thresh and milling session, but I did see the Sukkah (a Jewish feast booth) they built from the leftover hay when I was at the Farmers' Market. Here's a pic of the threshcycle setup courtesy of Ted:

Part Four: Eat!- October 2
Hope you can make it. Read more!