Wednesday, August 28, 2013

In Praise of Expedition Speed: A Sort of Ride Report of the 115km route of D2R2.

A guest post from Dario about the D2R2, because I wasn't there to see how it was:

The ride couldn't have begun better. Sandy Whittlesey (D2R2 founder and promoter) and his progeny, Fin, smiled at our motley, nearly arthritic crew. We knew then and there that it was going to be a great day of riding. Accompanied by friends Dave and Ken, Peter, Bruce, and I rolled out at about 9 am on one of the most perfect days of riding this summer. The different routes of the D2R2 all have their challenges, namely many steep hills and lots of loose gravel and sand. There is also the most incredible scenery and certainly some of the nicest people you'll ever meet, anywhere. I saw other riders, more fit than I, young and old, hammer up and fly down hills with 6%, 8%, 12%, 15%, 20%+ grades. (Personally, I refuse to go down anything steeper than 20%, even if I make it up the hill to begin with.) D2R2 is renowned for the hard men and women who tackle the 150km and 180km routes. But it's chief accomplishment is to bring together under one tent (literally) the different kinds of cyclists (racers, experienced randonneurs, tourers, and supposedly fit recreational riders, such as my companions and me), in what is easily one of the great cycling events around. (Granted I don't do big group rides much and I don't get out much.) So, rather than sing the praises of the seasoned racers and the bikes of the famed frame builders present at D2R2, I'd rather chant the virtues of expedition speed and its well-intentioned practitioners.

What is expeditions speed? It's all relative of course, but it's as fast as you can ride in six inches of snow without blowing up. It's making it up Patten Hill Rd. (a very steep, longish hill on the D2R2 course) with a smile at the top. It's riding the flats at conversational speed. You have to be able to chuckle, if not laugh, at expedition speed. It's making sure that you are all together especially when someone is a little slower. It's when the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. It's stopping when you can because you can. You know that you are at expedition speed when one of your mates stops to take a pee and before he can say "go on, I'll catch up to you guys", everybody is stopping for a nature break. Expedition speed is about the clock, but not about besting your record, but about making sure you're home for supper in time. "Chi va piano, va sano, e lontano" goes the Italian saying (He who goes slowly, goes safely, and far) is the way I put it. And, there is, very fortunately, different ways of riding at expedition speed.

For example, my fellow expeditionists and I recall the amusement provided by the jeep track, just off Packer Corner Rd at about mile 19 of the course. Y'know, the one that's marked with a very evident "Posted" sign on the tree. By the time we reached the exotically named Abijah Prince Rd, which according to Sandy W.'s cue sheet, reads "Jeep track gets more civilized", we were already nostalgic for the barbaric singletrack section we had just ridden. Bruce, I realized, is a consummate artist at riding in surplace. Using less than one to one gear ratio, he is able to negotiate obstacles and steep pitches by keeping up a consistent rhythm. It isn't as easy as it sounds. If I were to go that slow, I'd fall over.

If you ride slow enough in any case the major climbs begin to resemble one another and this in a curious time-warp continuum way can prolong your ride and, hence, your life. You can try to go fast up Ames Hill Rd (mile 29), Pennel Hill Rd. and Phillips Hill Rd (miles 49, 51) and the previously mentioned Patten Hill Rd (mile 58) and then when you realize that you've used up all your gears you stop, lean over the bars, feel like you can't go on, catch your breath, and then pedal some more. And if you apply this tactic assiduously, you eventually get to the top of the hill. I hadn't realized that Ken had perfected this art. He was our trailblazer and he frequently paid for being so avant-garde. Once recovered, he bounced back to his immense credit and deep satisfaction.

Now let me tell you how real expedition speed cyclists approach Pennel Hill Rd., which is an excuse for a road, by the way. It's really a long sandbox set at a 15% pitch. Turning right off of Rte. 112 S, Bruce declared that we should gear down. As Sgt. Rock might say, "Smoke 'em if you got 'em". I mean it's not like I had been in the big ring all day. So, we made lots of crunching and grinding noises while sliding around in a few inches of sand as we rode in circles at the bottom of the hill. A flock of ducks crossing the road? Or more likely, we resembled the newly arrived souls on the shores of Purgatory. We knew we had to go up the mountain, but we would rather have hung out at the beach. As each of us tried to make our way up the hill, I happened to remember (about 100 meters up, DUH!), Jan Heine's advice about very very steep hills: Sometimes it's faster to get off and walk. Sage advice. So I walked fifty yards or so. I cleared the rest of the hill, but only because I wouldn't allow myself to roll backwards.

There were many other memorable moments in which our well-honed expedition speed techniques were put to good use. As Sandy emphasized in his pre-ride email, try to stay within your limits and you will enjoy yourself immensely. This we did. Thank you Sandy!

Look at that smile! And that was before the ride.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Let's all be more friendly

I'm trying to get my head around the behavior of  cyclists in Connecticut, or perhaps this is a larger New England phenomenon.  The situation - I'm poking along on a commuter bike or 3-speed laden with groceries and someone kitted up rides by me on the left.  First issue - no verbal communication that they are about to pass on the left, which is a straight up safety issue.  Secondly - more of a pet peeve - they don't even say hello.  I try toss a cheerful howdy as they churn away, and some can't even be bothered to say hi even then.

Seriously.  What's up with that?  This occurred three times this this summer, and I was on a different bike each time.  First occurrence was on Silver Lane at the intersection with Main Street.  I was on my 3-speed Schwinn Traveler with baskets full of groceries and stopped waiting for the light to change.  As the light turned green and I stepped on the pedals, I was passed by a road cyclist going full speed just as I crossed the stop line.  Not even an "on your left" to give warning that I was about to be shelled in the middle of an intersection.  Not cool.  What if I was a drunk homeless guy?  I could have swerved left and caused serious harm as I wobbled my way up to speed.  For your own safety, announce your passes.

The second occurrence was on Main Street, approaching Silver Lane.  Poking along on my Schwinn Super le Tour built up as a single speed fendered commuter complete with rack and panniers, I was passed by an older fellow out on his daily constitutional.  He blew by with no "on your left" and I decided to catch up and say hi.  He proceeded to take a right at the next red light, turn left into a store parking lot, and continue straight.  The maneuver was all sorts of awkward and dangerous.  He was very intent on not stopping, but was a bit sheepish about blowing the light.

The latest happened tonight.  While riding out to meet up with a friend to ride in Manchester, again on Silver Lane - actually Spencer Street on the Manchester side.  Damn that street, it was the only common factor aside from males riding road bikes. On my Kona commuter bike with panniers I was heading up a hill and a fellow ripped by.  I said hiya.  He ignored me.  At that point I decided that I was confused and needed to go to the internets to help me clear things up.

I don't think it's cranky of me to expect at minimum a verbal communication (or bell) from a cyclist approaching and passing on the left.  Unlike cars, many bikes don't make any noise at all.  I also might not see you with a quick glance over my left shoulder as you could be directly behind me.

Above and beyond, I will also think better of you as a human for saying hello.  In my opinion greeting fellow cyclists in the otherwise bike commuter sparse Connecticut helps build cohesion in the community and in my personal experience makes the ride more pleasant.  When we, cyclists, are regularly in danger on roads not designed for cyclist safety, those personal connections and pleasantries with our human powered compatriots keep things positive.

Does this guy look like a jerk?  Very excited to say hello.  
Wise Beat Bike Blog readers - I welcome your comments and tales of personal experience.  Do I just look like someone that should be shunned and passed as quickly as possible?  I have included a recent photo for folks that don't know me personally.  I'm on a commuter bike wearing something not unlike the stuff I would wear to work or on local commutes.   Do you say hello or make a point of announcing your pass when you come across a fellow cyclist or bike commuter?

Did a quick Google on this since I'm sure that this isn't the first time it has been considered.  Appears that it isn't just a Northeast thing.

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Monday, August 26, 2013

How much awesomeness can Hartford handle?

In a previous post, I waxed on about the overwhelming bicycle packed weekend approaching in September.  In this post I'll break it down a little and focus on Saturday, September 21st.  The weekend has become so saturated that I can only process it one day at a time.  We start with the Discover Hartford Bicycle Tour, the best way to pedal around Hartford and take in the history, beautiful parks, and diverse neighborhoods.  10  mile and 25 mile routes stay within Hartford proper, and the 40 mile includes a loop over into Windsor, South Windsor, Manchester, and East Hartford.  South Windsor was particularly keen on getting into the tour, as they are now a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community.  All three routes include updates, improvements, and route changes from previous years.  Bike Walk Connecticut is looking to far exceed 1,000 riders this year. The success of the tour is key to BWCT's 2014 state-wide advocacy and education efforts, as this is their biggest annual fundraiser.

Lot's of Discover Hartford Bicycle Tour links and info below:
  • The tour is Saturday, September 21st and starts at 9AM.  I recommend arriving by 8:30 AM if you've registered online and by 8:00 AM if you are registering that morning.
  • To save $15 and avoid the chaos of day of registration I recommend registering beforehand online.
  • The tour is also registering event volunteers.  Those that want to make that extra effort to make the tour amazing can pitch in.
  • Are you a local or regional business that would be interested in presenting at the event Expo in Bushnell Park?  Expo Registration is now open.
Following the bike tour, cultural institutions and creative leaders of Hartford take the ball and run with Envisionfest.  What is Envisionfest?  Straight from the website - 

  • "Envisionfest Hartford is a free one-day festival on September 21st and a unique opportunity for people of all ages to discover and celebrate the capital city’s transformation.  Every aspect of the free city-wide event will showcase Hartford’s abundance of innovative history, arts and extraordinary cultural assets. Hundreds of live entertainment and hands-on activities will stimulate the senses, from free live musical entertainment and dramatic performances on six stages, to free admission to more than eight museums, landmark building tours, and lawn games in Bushnell Park."

And what's better, all of the Envisionfest activities are within easy biking and walking distance of Bushnell Park.   Check out this exhaustive list of ways you could spend your afternoon after the bike tour.  Last year post tour I just wandered around clueless and was amazed by how many different events and activities were available.  Perhaps this year I'll be more prepared.

And the cherry on the sundae.  Wait for it.  Are you ready?  THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS.  Free concert at 6:30PM in Bushnell Park.  What the Hell?  TMBG has fans from teens to folks in their 40's and 50's and they keep pumping out music.  I saw them seven or eight years ago at a free show in Boston, and it was great.  Looking forward to sitting on the lawn and unwinding (and maybe bouncing around a bit) while listening to the diverse grab bag of tunes that TMBG might pull out.  FYI - There is liberal BYO activity in Bushnell for concerts.  Great opportunity for a picnic.

On Saturday, September 21st my head is going to explode.  Apologize ahead of time for the mess.
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Friday, August 16, 2013

Even fewer protections for cyclists

Salem and I rode up to Massachusetts yesterday. We felt that it was a pretty expressive ride. We felt marginally protected by the Constitution. Well, we were wrong. As soon as we crossed the Mass line, our first amendment protections as cyclists fell by the wayside. Apparently, a Federal district court in Mass determined that riding your bike is not in and of itself a first amendment protected activity. See Damon v. Huckowitz (D. Mass Aug. 9, 2013). Also, it would seem that taking the lane in Hadley will get you stopped by the cops. I rode my bike there last weekend and was taking lanes.

Also, the court seems to have ruled as mater of law that riding in the middle of the lane (something the League of American Bicyclists, etc.) is more dangerous and is not allowed.

As you know, Hadley is in greater Northampton, which is a pretty pro-bike area. Are they going to protest?

Here's the link to the Volokh Conspiracy post where I saw this. Read more!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Gut Check

Before: My bike was oh-so-sleek.

It seems my heavy hoisting ways have caught up with me, in the form of a pair of inguinal hernias. This has been far more disconcerting than painful, as I find the notion of torn muscle and rogue bits of intestine conceptually bothersome. Fortunately, said breaches are small as these things go, and I have managed to go about my business and ride my bike as usual for the most part without making things worse. In the wearier/achier moments, I've taken to sitting as bolt upright as possible, maintaining tenuous contact with the aft end of my handgrips with my fingertips. This is not the best arrangement, control-wise, so I purchased a stem raiser.

With a few minutes' labor, the part was installed and the bars had reached new heights of both altitude and dorkiness. The “Delta” brand name on the extension has a cool factor more in line with the eponymous bathroom faucets than jetliners or the home of Mississippi blues. The silver linings are: 1) the looping cable routing I had previously done to accommodate the Yuba's front rack meant the cables were plenty long as-is, and 2) said rack's vertical capacity just increased by a few more inches.

Tomorrow, I go under the knife, or laparoscope, more accurately. It's fairly routine, as surgeries go, and I should be just fine, if a bit sore for the first few days. I will be able to wrench on bikes sooner than I can resume riding them (reportedly in the 2-3 week range), so I hope to get caught up on a few project bikes, including something substantially lighter than the Yuba for my first days back in the saddle. I'm waiting on a few more parts for the oddest of these, which will combine elements of obsolete English utility with recumbent part oddity, old school BMX toughness and a dash of modern road bike. I'll fill you in on that soon enough. Read more!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Stuff no one will steal

At one point, I was a man who had nothing made by Campagnolo. Then, I bought this old raincoat off of eBay. Now that I'm rich, I've bought actual Campy components (from the 1990s). They're pretty good.

I still use my mediocre raincoat. Last Friday for instance, I wore it and only got 96% soaked on the way to work. There's a coat rack next to the bike racks in the parking garage and I left the coat there, forgetting about it when I left on Friday afternoon. I remembered before I left for work that I left it there and then when I got there, it was still there. Well, looks like Campy isn't attractive to thieves as you think it would be. Better not leave my SRAM raincoat, though, might not be so lucky next.
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Friday, August 9, 2013

Tired Tires

In the last two weeks, I've gone through the sidewalls of four tires. Can this be explained? Two weeks ago it was Maxxis Xypher (road tire), but it was pretty old and beat to hell from riding dirt roads. One week ago it was a new Hutchinson Bull Dog. Three days ago it was an older Panaracer Rampage. Two days ago it was a Specialized Ground Control (NOS). Thankfully, I have a giant tire pile in the basement, but eventually they're going to run out.

Advice? Stop riding my bike? Stop using tires? Stop riding near rocks? Lose 100 lbs?
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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Sage marriage advice

 Appalachian Gap. No pictures of Lincoln Gap, my camera wouldn't work because it was too steep.

I've been a delinquent here, but I've been doing worthwhile things out in the real world. I rode that Six Gaps thing in Vermont. It was a lot of work. I should have had some compact cranks. I failed miserably at the Tour de Glover this year with a triple flat.

I also received some sage metaphorical advice from Dario in light of my happily changed circumstances that I feel strongly about sharing with the world despite not receiving any consent from him to do so:

In marriage, you want to go "expedition" speed. You don't want to race. You're in it for the long haul. That said, I don't recommend a fat bike, even though there will be some rough patches. Your old Diamondback should work just fine. Keep it in the middle ring and keep the small ring on because there will definitely be some steep climbs. At some point in the marriage, you either go fixed or single speed most of the time.


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