Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pasta on the move: Spring edition

The tulips bloom for my puttanesca.

The Spring floods still haven't abated for us. Look at this forlorn snail as he dares to cross the Scheldt.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Planning is hard

It looks like about 40 emails have been exchanged and few of them make any sense. To wit:

Brendan Mahoney to Damian, salemm, dario.delpuppo, lamosca
show details Apr 26 (1 day ago)
Jeez. I try to make my life easy because I'm unfamiliar with new haven and you get all offended. Fine, let's meet near the Meriden/Middletown line on 66.

Sent from my celluar telephone
- Hide quoted text -

On Apr 26, 2011, at 6:21 PM, "Damian" wrote:

I'm going to paint my tongue chartreuse and have someone else pedal my recumbent.

It sounds like you know interesting ways to get down New Haven way, so I'm leaning towards that.


It goes on like that for 35 more emails. Anyway, the East Coast Greenway is having a ride from New Haven to Simsbury. We Snails support the greenway, so we're going. Some people are taking a bus down from Simsbury. We're going to ride. Damian, maybe Dario, and I are leaving from my house at 8:15 this Friday. We're meeting Salem and Peter a little bit south of rt 66 around 10:15 to ride together to New Haven. We'll then ride with the group from New Haven to Simsbury for activism's sake. Then, we come home. All told it's right about 100 miles.

If you want to do the ride with me. Email me.

If you want to do it with a bus. Here's more information. It costs $10 if you don't take the bus.

It's pretty cool that the East Coast Greenway's annual meeting is in Simsbury. I guess Connecticut is more bike friendly than certain surveys have indicated.
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Monday, April 25, 2011


I took a solo wander yesterday down through Portland, across the ailing Arrigoni Bridge to Middletown, then up to Hartford. Much of this was retracing my old tracks, but I'm always impressed how easy it is, with a bike and little time constraint, to find something previously untraveled. Yesterday, that something was Watrous Park in Cromwell.

The park is a mix of playing fields, pavilions, a skate park, and lots of woods with some trails. That last part of the list was of the most interest to me as I worked my way north. From those trails, I connected to a gas line cut, which brought me to open fields with a solid road meandering this way and that. Eventually, all this delivered me to Brook St, over a mile north of where I entered the park, yippee!

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Earth day irony

I have a relative who likes to go to parties. Trying to party at Spring Weekend, she got her car towed and I was the only one who could retrieve it. So yesterday, instead of riding an epic century out to the wilds of western Massachusetts, I had to ride to Mansfield to get an SUV. However, this did afford me an opportunity to ride the length of the Hopbrook trail and test my Manchester intuition (it's getting better).

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Friday, April 22, 2011


I live in the end of Hartford with giant grinders. I try to follow suit by putting giant tires on my bike. A little more than a year ago I bought this lot of a couple dozen (or maybe more) tires. There were a lot of downhill tires, which aren't much use to me because the front fork of my Stumpjumper is the only place with clearance for them. None the less, I really enjoy putting a giant tire on there. For awhile, I had a super tacky 2.5" Maxxis High Roller. It was pretty good, but I knew I could do better. A couple months ago while wasting time on eBay, I spotted 2.8" Bontrager Big Earls at a good price. So, I bought them. I finally took it out yesterday and it's quite the experience. And, it has surprisingly low rolling resistance. However, I think I've met my match in terms of tire width with rim brakes (or at least V-brakes), because under heavy braking, the left arm hits the outside knobbies. Read more!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I've never been to Seattle, but I'm supposing that we're having Seattlesque weather right now. Undeterred at quitting time yesterday, I rode off for the Reservoir with a rain coat, some fenders, plenty of racks and an awesome pannier. Winding my way through West Hartford, I happened upon some secret dirt jumps in an undisclosed location. While only a couple feet tall, the doubles seem pretty well constructed. If you're nice to me, perhaps I'll take you there.

Then I rode the Resvervoir, which was probably a mistake because it was much wetter than I anticipated. Saturday's storm was no joke. While I regrettably added a couple of ruts, I did unblock a creek that some doofus had put a clog-bridge in, thereby flooding this whole low spot. So my trail impact probably zeroed out.

Clam sauce on the move, with fancy bucatini. Perhaps my best clam sauce to date.

And, perhaps my finest beer-battered cod to date!
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Monday, April 18, 2011


While Salem was attempting to visit Hartford in the most difficult way possible yesterday, I decided to go out to Farmington to race on what I'm assuming were the only passable trails in the state: Winding Trails. I grew up near Winding Trails and that's probably why I'm a bad mountain biker. The Farmington River valley probably has 20-25 (30?) miles of trails from rt 4 in Farmington to rt 44 in Avon, it's twisty, but there aren't any rocks or climbs. My parents wouldn't let me ride up to the Reservoir until like ninth grade because they thought the roads were too busy. Sometimes we'd climb up this cliff at the top of Stonefield in Farmington and but through a friend's dad's yard on Deercliff, but that was really complicated. Going downhill into the river valley was way easier.

So, anyway. Winding Trails is a popular mountain bike race. Every year it seems to get a slightly better course and this year, due to construction at Walton Pond and the world's biggest sand castle, the course was slightly shorter but featured a lot more singletrack. It was great.

29 people started with me. I didn't get to the line at the first call, so I took a spot in the second row. To my annoyance, people later than me still tried to crowd in the front and to the side of me. For that reason, I started out the gate in like 15th or 20th, but everyone went to the left up the first little dirt road climb, which was weird because I thought that was the bad line. I went left and entered the singletrack in 9th or 10th. I beat a few more people in wider sections and got into 4th near the rails-to-trails with the three person lead group about 100 yards in front of me. I caught them on the way to the powerlines. I passed a sort of hipster-ish guy on an S-Works to get into third. The trail turned back on to singletrack and this guy in the Bike Barn kit rode off the front and I never saw him again. The second place guy from Rhode Island, or at least his jersey from was Rhode Island, tried to bridge the gap, but succeeded in getting about 200 yards ahead of me. I stayed in third by about 30 seconds for the rest of the race. The fourth place guy, who was not the hipster, but instead a guy in a bikereg kit, stayed about 30 seconds or so behind me the whole time. It was a fun race, even if all the action was in the first 1/3 of the first lap. And, for the first time in ages, I wasn't lapped by any of the 30-39 guys. It was close, they were closing near the finish.

Speaking of lapped riders, I have a bone to pick. I'm crappy racer, no doubt, but I'm respectful and pretty chill. So, when I came upon a guy that I'm lapping and he tells me to "pass at my own risk" or another who blocks my pass when I'm announcing it, I get pretty annoyed. The women I lapped were very nice (and I was totally impressed by the woman racing on a 'cross bike). I have to admit that it's pretty weird that people were being lapped in a three lap race, but just because your ego is being bruised, it doesn't mean that you have to try and wreck the races of others. It's Cat 2 and there weren't even socks to win!

In other racing news, alley cat(s) racing is tentatively returning to Hartford (or at least the Hartford line). There hasn't been one since that Halloween one a few years ago. It's being put on by Orion and his friend Matt. Orion won the alley that I put on a few springs ago. So, you should do this one in May:

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Low and Wet

Looks like I hexed myself with today's earlier post. I headed out to take the long route into Hartford via the east side boardwalk, but was thwarted at multiple turns.
I did get to where I was headed, but probably rode a sum total of 30 feet of boardwalk. Next time, flippers.
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High and Dry

This past Friday, with his hibernation completed, Peter came out of his den to join Brendan, Dario, and me for a Friday jaunt. With the elder statesman and his road bike along, the Snails avoided their typical magnetic attraction to water, even escaping the CT river valley completely with a foray over the Metacomet ridge.

We paused long enough from the business at hand to pose for this group photo,
high and dry above Tariffville Gorge.

Unfamiliar with these surroundings, we even broke into a strangely quick pace, sprinting for town line signs, as Peter tried to trick Brendan into sweating through his cotton T before the cool ride home. Despite his absence, Peter has lost none of his playful cruel cunning, although I believe Brendan did survive the test despite some mighty pink arms and hands at the end.

Almost entirely unrelated:
Brendan may stake claim to the world's best panniers,
But I doubt their up to transporting frame boxes.
My backpack, a frame box, two trash bags, a swatch of hi-vis orange and I
made a rainy trip to the post office this past week.
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Flood porn

The Connecticut River is high. NOAA is saying intense things (IN ALL CAPS and spelling "officials" wrong) like this:

So, I rode down to the river yesterday evening and look around.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

World's greatest panniers

I think cyclists fall into three camps when it comes to moving things by bike: bag on bike, bag on person or basket. And, then there are some weirdos use pockets or plastic bags hanging from bar ends.

I used to always put my bag on my back, but then I started carrying heavier things longer distances. That makes for back pain and sweat. So, I invested in Ortleib Roller Classics (for the back rack) and my life has changed in so many positive ways. They're so waterproof that it's incomprehensible and practically take themselves on and off the bike. Even yesterday as I was ruining by hubs and bottom bracket in the flooded meadows, my pannier contents stayed dry.

Speaking of carrying things around. Soup art returns! Tomorrow at 7pm!

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Debut of mediocrity

As a crappy cyclocross and mountain bike racer, I decided it was finally time to try racing on the road for once and went to Battenkill. Salem told me that racing in the Cat 5 field may be frustrating because I'd have to do a lot of work. I wasn't totally sure what he meant by that, but I think I get it now.

Johanna came with me to Albany and we spent the night there with brother and sister-in-law. It's very pretty in Cambridge, NY and I'd say that the scenery comes close to rivaling D2R2. It's got dirt roads and I love those. It's got three 1/2 steep dirt climbs.

The race itself was ok. It started slow. Going against all advice I've ever been given, I rode off the front around mile three or so. My awesome solo break didn't last very long, as people caught back up to me right after the covered bridge and into the first dirt section. That was fine. A lead group kind of developed and sort of a chase group developed. But they didn't stay very well organized as far as I could tell. By a couple miles after the first feed zone, there weren't really any groups at all. People had ridden ahead of me and I caught a few. I rode with a nice guy from New York for awhile. Around mile 48, there are a bunch of dirt rollers with a climb preceding them. I rode ahead the guy from New York around there and rode the rollers by myself. It flattens out near the end, except for one mile long climb with 6 miles to go. There's a descent and the last three miles are totally flat. I noticed the guy from New York had reappeared about 500 yards behind me, so I rode quickly (for me) and finished ahead of him.

It would appear that the winning times for 3's, 4's and 5's are all about the same, but more people drop out in the 5's. My field started with 50 and only 38 finished. I finished 19th in my field, which is pretty poor. If I'd raced with the 4's, I would have finished like 70th or something. I think because of the frenzy to register for this race, people aren't totally racing in the category in which they normally find themselves.

But, anyway, that's my boring race report. I saw another guy racing on an old Waterford like mine. He did better than me. Happily, I wasn't the only person with unshaven legs. Also, while I like this new to me bike, I developed some crazy lower back pain for the last thirty miles.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Bikes Outside: I like the Sprite in you

Today, the Bikes Outside lens drags itself away from hiatus with a proper steel workhorse. This 1970's Raleigh Sprite 27 shares both the color scheme and solid, overbuilt construction of the Checker Marathons that still ruled the streets of New York back in the day. Given that this one could actually accommodate a passenger, the taxi comparison is somewhat appropriate.

Aside: I was obsessed with Checkers as a child, once asking for a ride in one for my birthday (we almost never splurged on taxi rides). They were increasingly outnumbered by Chevy Impalas by the early 80's, so my Dad's attempts to hail one resulted in an errant Impala stop or two, followed by Dad explaining to an irritated cabbie that his shiny new Chevy was not what he was looking for.

Between the bright colors, the trailer flag and the massive twin horns, this rig should be hard to miss (or hit, as it were) The bright Brit machine was parked at a gas station convenience store on Albany Avenue, making it the first Bike Outside profiled in the Clay Arsenal neighborhood. Read more!

Friday, April 8, 2011

When is a dog a Snail?

The Snails were joined for a few miles today by an enthusiastic new member.
Also, as you can see by this partially blurry image,
the Snails were uncharacteristically moving fast enough to warp the space-time continuum.

It was just another average run-of-the-mill Friday in Hartford, which is to say the Snails were out and enjoying themselves admirably. I rode one of those archaic bikes with an 8 speed cassette and of course kept breaking down, while the others basked in their Zen bliss of trouble free riding.
By the way, have you noticed the green bits sprouting and making it really start to seem like spring?

Brendan enjoys the trouble-free operation of a simple bike,
while my bike decided to "excessorize."

Also, with the snow, then water, then mud finally clear of our haunts, we found some ways blocked by trees, forcing us to alternate routes. Luckily, Brendan was able to demonstrate the cyclocross technique for which his bike was breed.

You can almost hear the cowbells.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

When is a reason reasonably well reasoned?

While recently reading a forum when I probably should have been doing something useful, I saw a question asking what the advantages of a fixed gear are. There were the usual responses of simplicity, training a good spin, and the Zen art of bicycle riding, but being my frequently unhelpful and sarcastic self, I proffered, "What is the advantage of riding a bike when cars are so much faster and easier."

My bike for the coasting-challenged cyclist.
(While I didn't vote Technium for the frame material poll here, it's a sweet ride and I would like to find another 440, 460, or 480 model with the downtube shifter mounts.)

Actually, I wasn't really trying to be sarcastic and unhelpful, but rather to subtly make the point that simple enjoyment of something is sometimes a hard think to qualify, no matter how real it is. Admittedly, I more often opt for easy riding bikes with multiple gears and the ability to coast, but something about the fixed gear is nice. To that end, I road it last night with Brendan and a bunch of others from my father's house. With everyone else shifting and freewheeling along with the greatest of ease, I made use of every other advantage I could find. What fun!
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I was all excited that the City had built dirt jumps down by Colt Park where the snow mountains had been. Sadly, they're actually just gravel mounds into which I sank when I rode on them. Read more!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Topsy Turvy World

Survey says that 73% of women who have a safety concern related to bicycling named "distracted driving" as the concern.

In conversations (that are generally one-sided) with "well-meaning" (re: busybody) coworkers and acquaintances, not a one has asked if I was afraid that a distracted driver would slam into me. No. The fear that they try to transfer from themselves to me is that of being attacked by a stranger. According to the same survey of female cyclists, only 13.1% named stranger attacks as one of their concerns.

In the February issue of Bazaar, Liza Minnelli is quoted as saying, "Keep moving. Always be a moving target. [...] Marilyn Monroe taught me that." Those who have concerns of being ambushed might calm themselves by keeping those words (completely out of their context) in mind. Read more!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Something with which you can disagree

I like my Mondays oppositional. Read this and feel the same way. Read more!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Suitably epic

While we didn't get a Nor'easter of snow in Hartford, it did rain and was kinda gross. No one else wanted to ride with me on Friday afternoon, but I wasn't about to let that stop me. So, in the twilight drizzle I rode off in the boardwalks of the Hockanum. Descending the stairs behind the East Hartford town hall, two nice young men with bmx bikes warned me that it was slippery and pointed at muddy pants. Of course, I'm Brendan the awesome mountain biker. Therefore, I crashed about a half mile later. Believe it or not, wet wood with a fine coating of river mud is slippery. My left foot still hurts. Other than that, it was a pleasant Friday evening ride.

That was the warmup for yesterday's reconnaissance ride for the Detour de Connecticut. I don't want to divulge too many details, because it should be something of a surprise for those who embark. At 113 miles, it took me about an hour and a half or so less than the D2R2, but I also stopped more during the D2R2. It's though, but I recommend. It's funny that rides like this beg so much comparison to D2R2, but I guess that's the ride that most accurately captures the New England dirt road zeitgeist.

Of note is definitely how ignorant I am of CT east of Willimantic and I bet most people are. When riding on dirt and paved roads out by Riverton, the Barkhamsted Reservoir and all those scenic places out to west, you'll still see some cyclists because it's still relatively close to some population. But, when you head out that way and the biggest population center is Willimantic, nary cyclist (or person, really) is to be seen. It's cool, our suburban state generally doesn't feel so remote.

So, mark your calendars for May 7.

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Too much of a good thing?

Last fall, I played host to the first Detour de Connecticut with great success, or as Brendan put it, "Nobody died." That ride included such novelties as traversing officially closed dilapidated bridge girders and mid thigh deep Glastonbury Cove crossings, but for this year, I'm scaling back the "adventure course" aspects and substituting an extra 30+ miles. Introducing: 2011's Detour de Connecticut. This will be the "Bow Tie" edition, based on the rough shape traced by the route.

Not yet convinced this is a bad idea? Learn more here.
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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Flinging Mud

In the spirit of the Red Sox, I also had a completely bootleg opening day for cycling. Now, it's not that I stopped during the winter. It's just that my cold weather cycling was transportation-only, not joy riding. So, with today's forecast of temperatures in the 50s and sunshine, I was excited to get out and go down by the river, where it would not be flooded anymore.

I loaded up the Jenny, who does not go out when there is snow and ice on the ground. The plan was to ride around, read a book in the sunlight, and maybe stop for coffee before meeting up with friends on the other side of town. Everything is all set and ready to go, and I realize the tires are really soft. I usually make such observations once I'm miles for home. Oh, and I have no idea where my pump is. I had to unload everything and take Starry Starry Bike, which does not have a basket and which still does not have the seat/handlebar arrangement quite to my liking anyway. I like to sit upright, not hunched forward.

Since the tires are all inflated and I needed to get out for fresh air, I was not going to be too annoyed about it. Anyway, it's got working brakes, which is more than can be said for most local bikes.

The first thing I notice is that everything is out of whack. The shifting is rough. There are three separate sounds coming from the bike that ought not be. But the brakes work and the bike can move, which is all I need for the time being. I just wish it would be a more stealthy ride.

The public path is, of course, blocked with a gate. There's enough room to walk my bike around it, but a cargo bike wouldn't fit. This is total bullshit and there are other barriers that could be put into place that would allow bicycles to go through more easily, while blocking cars. Patrolling of the Riverfront is sporadic -- heavy during the week and less so on the weekend -- which is only a concern in so far as I wanted to immediately complain about the gate to someone.

So, there is a new crop of graffiti, none of which is impressive. Really, if you're going through the trouble of making illegal "art," why not write something worth reading? Step it up guys!

My irritation with how inaccessible this awesome path is continues. The elevators to the elevated plaza were marked "closed for season." It's April, sunny, and warm. What season are they waiting for? So, I have to either go all the way around from the edges of the Riverfront path (which I do) or I have to portage my bicycle up all the friggin steps. I can't walk up half the stairs without getting winded. Those are crap options.

A large section of the path is now muddy from what the Connecticut River gifted us when it overflowed its banks. It ended up being better that I took Starry Starry Bike because the Jenny's tires probably would not have liked it. As sloppy as it was, the mud only got on my boots, thanks to my fenders.

It was fun watching people sliding around on the path. Looked like the MDC trucks had trouble with the path too. Suckers.

When I got to the Riverside Park I saw that there was a festival of fire or something on the East side of the river.
One marvels at the things that go on over there. Fires. Dirtbikes on sandbars. It's comforting to have a river in between us and that nonsense. We only have to contend with uninspired graffiti and drunks passed out on the stone benches.

Like a drifter I was born to bike alone.

When I finally abandoned the riding around in circles aimlessly, I thought I'd stop off for a late breakfast. After manhandling the quaint sidewalk cafe so that I could lock up my bike, someone came over the inform me that the new cafeteria-with-canned goods has a bike rack inside of the parking garage next door. They might want to post signs advertising that. Anyway, I sat where I could see my bike just in case some ironic young professional decided to mess with it. Next time, the bike is coming in with me. If people can bring strollers into stores, I can bring my bike. There's nothing on my bike, after all, that wails or shits itself.

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