Thursday, December 27, 2012


I pride myself on being able to cook eggs in all styles. I've decided to apply that theory to pedals. When you start with bikes, you start with flat pedals. Then, you move on to clips and straps, which seem pretty good for a long time. But, all the good people ride clipless and you eventually switch. This is especially true if you start racing.

I've decided to start regressing and riding flats, because they're the poached eggs of pedals.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Hey, Christmas!

I may be an ordained minister (and a Justice of the Peace (I'll officiate your wedding for cheap, cheap, CHEAP!)), but I try to keep religion off the beat bike blog to avoid controversy. While I skipped Eid al-Fitr and Hanukkah, and I'm sorry about that, I'm still going to wish you merry Christmas (Kawanza is tomorrow through New Year's, so happy Kawanza and happy New Year). I hope you get a bike or a nice hat. Or maybe peace on earth or no more ATVs.

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Leaf blowing

I don't like leaf blowers to begin with. They're loud, unnecessary, fill the air with particulate matter and waste gas. A nice thing about riding in the woods vs. the road is that you get away from the things. Or so I thought.

Can anyone explain to me the new trend of mountain bikers leaf blowing trails? If you're so terrified of terrain why would you pick mountain biking as your recreational activity? It's bad for all sorts of rational reasons, but chiefly it's a concession that you're terrible.

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

I love Connecticut

A week ago, a terrible thing happened in Newtown. The limited intelligence of the beat bike blog can offer no answers as to the circumstance, but it got me thinking about my small state. I've lived here for all 29 years of my life and over that time I've developed some connections throughout a lot of the state. That's the nice thing about living in one place for a long. However, when terrible things happen, they don't feel remote, because you are connected.

In the last week of stunned, depressed confusion, I've been thinking about Connecticut. Most tragedies like this happen elsewhere and I can fall back on this notion that we don't do that here. Although, I live in a city with a gun violence problem. It's getting better, but we've still had 21 homicides (I don't know what the weapon was for those) and 119 shooting victims. Not that there's a ranking of tragedies, but shooting up an elementary school was not a level of evil contemplated by many. It is still beyond my comprehension as to how someone could muster the hate to kill a room of six and seven year olds.

And, not being a teacher, I also wonder how someone musters up the courage (not to mention the incredible bravery shown the day of the attack) to teacher a room of six and seven year olds. It seems really difficult. I can only handle one or two kids at a time. Who knows, maybe someday I'll be able to be a little league coach, but two hours a week is probably my maximum with a group of kids.

So, I wondered how this came out of Connecticut. I like it here and despite what people say about chilly Yankees, I think people are friendly. Excessive small talk is for people who don't have the fortitude to deal with silence. I went to do some thinking; this is how: Johanna and I got a Christmas tree and wandered around the Canton Land Trust trails on Ratlum Mountain (or maybe it's Breezy Hill). I attempted to walk to my parents' house, but dad got concerned and picked me up with his car at the Farmington line. I rode around Middlefield and Middletown and discovered Middlefield has an awesome skatepark. (I also rode passed CJTS, which is a dark spot in our state's recent history) I went for a hike in the greater Rockland (yes, that is a Mapquest link, because Google didn't seem to recognize Rockland, CT as a place) area and discovered lots of awesome trails on and around the Mattabesett. I went to Home Depot and ran into a classmate and former coworker of mine. Johanna and I went to El Sarape. Between the geology and Mexican food, my faith was renewed in Connecticut. I probably could have used more human interaction, but I had two take home exams this week, so when I wasn't standing in the woods, I was holed up in my living room writing about Dillon's Rule.

I think all communities probably have evil lurking at their margins, but their good can be measured in their responses. I was impressed that a vigil materialized in Bushnell Park Friday evening. Politicians in our state, and elsewhere for that matter, seem to want to address this with meaningful legislation (Where you aware that you can buy weapons that look like they're from Doom (my violent video game knowledge stops in the 90's) right off the internet?). Regular people seem even to want to address this with action beyond hand wringing. The outpouring of emotion that I've seen makes me think that as a community we're not callous to tragedy. And, unlike other times when this has happened, people don't seemed resigned to mass shootings as an acceptable way of life. They really appear to be demanding of changes to gun laws and our mental health system.

When I was riding passed CJTS, where the Connecticut Valley Hospital used to be (it's a wicked depressing place on top of that hill), I was thinking about the decline of public mental health facilities. I live right near Cedarcrest and that's gone now, too. Obviously, publicly run mental health institutions don't have a great history, but I don't think their demise has done anything other than put the mental health infrastructure in prisons. Therefore, for people without means, access to mental health services may mean that you have to commit a crime to get them. I know of two people with children in their 20's with mental health problems that have led to serious criminal or antisocial behavior. The problem is that once these 20 year olds are off their parents' insurance, their access to mental health services disappear. Middle class people cannot afford to get services for their children in these circumstances and there's no public service to pick up the slack except the prison system. One of these kids (I say kids, but they're like the same age as me) has been in and out jail and the other may be soon. It's only once the criminal justice system intervenes that access to mental health services seems to start. Why do we have to wait until a crime has been committed? That's really stupid public policy.

So, I originally had wanted to write about my cyclocross season. I had finally upgraded to a 3 and rode singlespeed all season. It was a lot of fun and maybe I'll tell you about it sometime. That's the kind of stuff that people want to read about on a bike blog.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Does bicycle riding lead to radical thought?

Relying on one's self, physically, for transportation.  Periods of time spent with reduced commercial stimuli while directly experiencing nature, humanity, and community.  Absence of one of the most expensive and enslaving necessities of modern life.  Participation in common and often maligned public transit.  Assumption, founded or not, by others that you are of limited means seeing that you're riding a bike for God's sake.  A brain that is well supplied with oxygen and time to turn over thoughts.  The necessity of creativity when transporting objects and resultant limitations on consumerism foreign to the automobile driver.  Social interactions, face-to-face with neighbors, pedestrians, and other cyclists allowing one to discuss issues of interest without the insulation and amplification of electronic mediums.

All the while, threats from without.  Car and truck drivers isolated from external stimuli, blaring radios, phones in hand, texting.  Hot exhaust, rising temperatures, road rage, global climate change.  Absolute disregard for responsibility and the safety, lives of others.  Communities divided and damaged by highways.  Disgust with the status quo.  Participation in the minority.  Confusion and irritation with the pesky bike in the lane.  Fear of the other.  Passing too close.  Why don't you get on the sidewalk?

Sounds like a recipe for something.  Radical thought?  I would challenge that.  No.  A recipe for thought.  A recipe for discourse.  Comrades.  Let us think.  But perhaps merely thinking is radical in our watered down and anesthetized culture?

And then sometimes we act.  Advocating for safer roads.  Volunteering at a non-profit or charity.  Shopping locally.  Feeding those in need.    Stopping to help a blind fellow find his way to the library.  Calling the police when shit goes down right in front of you.  Asking someone to stop beating a woman.  Running for office.  Pointing out racism.  Not just letting it slide.

Let us ride.  Let us think.  Let us act.

And now, your thoughts? Read more!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Icebike to Work East Hartford - Corrected

I screwed up.  My BBB posts listed IceBike to Work on the wrong day.  We will be meeting up tomorrow, Tuesday, December 11th at Maddies in East Hartford.  7am.  Right across Main Street from P&W, next to Subway.

See you there!

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Two Months, Two Wheels

On the evening of October 9, I drove my 1996 Buick Regal to East Hartford, handed over the title and keys and left with my registration and a small handful of cash money. The next morning, I rode my bike to the DMV in Wethersfield to turn in my plates and became officially car-free. Today marks two months.

Not long before that day, on a late September Sunday evening, I drove the Regal to the Mansfield Drive-In with Schleppi for their last show of the season. We saw Premium Rush and Finding Nemo. The bike movie was a fitting choice. Beyond that, there was something particularly satisfying about sitting at a drive-in theater in an American car with a bench seat, a dying breed of machinery standing proud in its vanishing natural habitat. It was a fond and fitting farewell to the car I had inherited from my father in 2009. The Buick's residual sentimental value was sky-high, but that only goes so far. It was time to let go.

I liked my car. It was smooth and comfy, but I have little use for sedans and I drove it very rarely. Eventually, the battery died and wouldn't hold a charge. The car sat through the spring and summer as I prioritized paying the mortgage and other bills with my then part-time wages over resurrecting a car I didn't seem to need. It was vandalized in my driveway. When the insurance lapsed, Geico ratted me out to the DMV and I was fined $200 for failing to insure an undriveable car as it accumulated dust and pigeon droppings. It had become a compounding burden in my life.

A new full-time job at the end of August was the final push I needed. I bought and installed a new battery, repaired the damage wrought by vandals and others, changed fluids, touched-up, buffed, waxed, and detailed the paint until it shone and looked half its age. I insured the now-operable car for road use. I knew I wasn't going to profit from this final investment of time and money in a modest, 16-year-old sedan, but I had to feel like I was doing right by the thing. I needed to allay the guilt I felt about giving up that which I never stopped calling "Dad's car." The sale itself was unsatisfying, but it was done. The Yuba was my car now.

On that October 10 morning, It rained. A shard of glass on Wethersfield Avenue penetrated my flat-resistant rear tire AND the flat-resistant tire liner within it, popping the tire in the middle of the busy Airport Road intersection.

The tire change made me late for the DMV and subsequently late for work. The rain soaked through my jacket. My first official day as car-free transportation bicyclist was a cluster of setbacks, irritations and discomforts.
And it was fine.
Good, even.

Everything worked out. An empty strip mall portico provided shelter from the rain for me to change my tire. A previously forgotten energy bar in my pannier provided me with a timely snack and a wrapper-boot for my breached tire. The DMV visit took less than ten minutes. My tardy, dampened arrival at work was met with sympathy and hot coffee. I called Geico at lunchtime and saved hundreds on my car insurance with one immensely satisfying cancellation (though I still have the lapse fine to pay, eff you very much). The modest proceeds from the sale of the Buick covered the month's mortgage payment, a practical and necessary use of funds that would have likely met my pragmatic father's approval. It was the right thing to do, and I don't regret it.

A few days later, I rode out to Trader Joe's for an evening grocery run. My own procrastination meant I was running out of everything, so I ended up piling two bags of dog food, a cooler full of perishables and a couple of bags of canned and boxed goods into the Yuba's bulging panniers. The bike looked a bit ridiculous, and probably outweighed me at this point. I pointed close to 300 pounds of bike+rider northward and began the 5.5 mile return trip.

I rode home, unburdened.

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

My study plan

It is once again the sad time in during the year when I have exams. It's sad, because I have free time all of the sudden, but it's free time during which I'm supposed to be studying. As you can imagine, I am terrible at this and sneak out for a bike ride every day. While obviously I have done this the past two semester, strangely I haven't failed out yet. I wish that I rode with headphones, because I could probably find "Evidence on Tape" or something like that.

Anyway, here's a picture of a really, really rocky trail I found the other day at the Reservoir that I don't recommend.

Unrelated, I am taking "Boats" this semester, but I really wish they offered "Bikes". Sadly, most cases, except Blonski and Martel and mountain bikes involve divorces. I am encountering the same thing with canoes for the paper I'm endeavoring to write about canoe law.

Also, I just discovered that they have mountain biking license plates in Idaho. See I.C. § 49-419E. I thought they were for your bike, which is bizarre, but they're for your car, like the Sound plates or those greenway plates here.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Chips on a Mother Fracking Bike

Brendan left out this priceless photo of Ken K riding hands free and cheesing it up on our early hour on the Eel.  We both dropped early for other Sunday plans.  I was meeting a beautiful woman for lunch and Ken had actual work to do.  I know.  Horrible excuses.

I want to include a product placement here.  Uncompensated of course - unless the good folks at Pan de Oro want to drop another box of chips on me.  These are organic corn tortilla chips made right here in the Heartbeat.  Up on the Northend off main street.  You can drop by their factory / HQ / warehouse on Main Street between the hours of 9AM-3PM M-F and score an amazing deal (not published on the internet) on a case of 12 bags of tortilla chips.  This "Bread of Gold" is also sold at Whole Foods if you live in West Hartford, and you'd rather get shelled than drive into the Northend (sissies).  The box fits conveniently onto the back rack of your bike.  

And just another plug here for Icebike to Work in East Hartford on Wednesday, December 12th.  7AM at Maddies, right across the street from Pratt & Whitney. 
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Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Eel Goes West

Thus far, The Eel has never gone west of Prospect Ave in Hartford. Today, things got real and went to the New Hartford. Have you been to that place? Independent grocers, a popular movement against satanic parks, summer camps, haunted summer camps and we didn't even go to the site of Salem's first cyclocross race.

We weren't thick in ranks, but I realized when I got home that it was a beat bike blog reunion of sorts. You had new faces like Tony, medium faces like Salem, old people like Ken and me, and then beat bike blog ghosts like El Presidente de Chine. Ken and Tony left early on business, Salem left in Simsbury because he lives in some obscure town east of the of the river. 

The route wasn't exactly how I planned it, but that's ok because no one actually knew what the real route was. There was some Newington meandering, then we went through the mall. We tested a non-existent short cut at the mall, that was a very small mistake, but seemingly a large source of derision. We did half of the stations of the cross. We went by Miss Porters. We went through Farmington's only park. We saw how water gets made. We ate sandwiches. We went above Ski Sundown. We went where Brendan learned how to mountain bike. We went home.

Tony took second two pictures, not me.

This is where the things went.
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Saturday, December 1, 2012


Eel postponed until tomorrow. Bad weather today and good weather tomorrow.

Of course in doing that, the weather will be nice today and terrible tomorrow.

See you then.
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