Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nice chilly ride & strange tire issue

I went for a nice ride today for the first time in ages. Up the bike
path, to the narrow gauge trail to Fawn Lake, and back via Rt 4 & 225.
it was cold - mid 20s - so I was bundled up good and proper.

On the way back, my back wheel started bumping along and I discovered
that the tube was slowly eeking its way out of the bead, creating a
giant goiter that was threatening to explode at any time.

Of course, I'd neglected to bring a pump with me today (though I
rarely forget to do so). But luckily, a friendly dude rolled up and
loaned me his - he even insisted on doing the pumping. I'd hoped that
by re-seating the bead, it would pump up normally, but it soon popped
out again.

So I just carefully ride on home, and made it without further trouble.
I guess I'll have to get a new tire, which is annoying. Or maybe I
just stick to my bianchi until it's time to get carbide-studded snow

PS: facebook and twitter have ruined me for blogging. I vow to be better!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Three nice rides near Ellsworth Maine

Three nice rides around Ellsworth

Our visit to Patten Pond with extended family is always a highlight of the summer. Tons of reading, swimming, relaxing, and eating (mostly lobsters!). This year, I've also managed together some very nice rides in! Here's the lowdown.

1. Schoodic Peninsula

Here's a nice 30ish-miler around Acadia's lesser-known Schoodic Peninsula. No Thunder Hole or tea and popovers here, just beautiful views, tidepools, and smooth, quiet roads. I only experienced limited views because the a thick fog had descended on the area when I did the ride, lifting only as I was finishing up. Still, a great ride, and can't wait to do it under better conditions!

The road around the park is straightforward enough. But I followed the loop that begins on West Gouldsboro documented by the Maine DOT at . There are lots of good tours documented there, though not as many as you'd expect.

2. Surry & Newbury Neck

Here's a ride that I haven't quite done all of, but seems to have great potential. Newbury Neck is another peninsula that extends down between Morgan Bay and Union River Bay. If you start in Surry at the intersection of 172 & 176, follow Newbury Neck Rd south, avoiding the main signposted routes to Blue Hill etc. the road goes all the way to the end of the peninsula with rolling hills and very little traffic. Views are mostly limited to trees and the odd glimpse of water, since almost all the roads leading to the shore are private - but the real selling point for this out-and-backer is the opportunity to put your head down and just go.

3. Happytown Road

This us one LOVELY out-and-back. Like ride mo 2 above, this might not be worth travelling from a distance to do (really because it starts at Route 1, which is just about as inhospitable a road as I'd ever care to bike on). But this turned out to be a great ride for mr because it starts practically across the street from our cabin.

There are two big things to note about this ride. There us no Happytown per se, as far as I know anyway. So don't turn down Happytown Road expecting it to lead you there. The other thing is that this 24-mile ride is about half unpaved hardpack gravel with some washboardy bits. Absolutely perfect for me and Thorny, but anyone on a carbon fiber trifle might run into trouble.

So, as long as you aren't expecting to arrive in Stepford or Shangri-la-di-da Valley, and you've got a sturdy ride with fatties fitted, then this a nice ride for you!

The way I did it today, it's about 12 miles out and 12 back. I rode out Happytown Road from Rt 1 until I got to the crossroads with Winkumpaugh Rd and turned right, following the sign to Annie's Pride general store (isn't that a great name, though? Who wouldn't take that turn?) the store is just across another main road - Rt 1A. I didn't go in, but know it's got a good rep.

There seem to be lots of alternatives, including continuing on Happytown Rd (maybe there is a Happytown at the end of it somewhere?) - I chose this route because I was intrigued by Annie and it fit the time I had for riding today precisely.

The route is gorgeous, with sweet little farms, woods, and great huge fields with typical Maine blueberry bushes and boulders, and a couple very old cemetaries. Another highlight along the route for another time is the New England Telephone Museum.

It's also probably worth mentioning that it's pretty hilly, but nothing too ridiculous.


Here are a couple more rides in the area that I'll have to do another time....

4. Acadia's carriage roads

By next year, both of our girls should be able to pedal these with aplomb. I also want to ride Park Loop Road to the top of Cadillac Mountain.

5. The Downeast Sunrise Trail

Already partially complete, this is another rails-to-trails project employing crushed gravel surfaces and catering to ATVs in addition to walkers and cyclists (seems that's how it works round these parts...). See .

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Biking the Kennebec Valley Trail

I love rail-trails. So when figured out that there's a 16-mile trail near where I'm staying with family in Maine, I decided to forgo my plan to do a 40-mile route and ride the Kennebec Valley Trail from North Anson to Bingham and back.

There wasn't much information out there, though, which was surprising. So in the end, I went to Google Maps and looked up bike routes between Madison and Bingham, and it seemed to indicate that the rail trail started around the North Anson Cemetery so that's where I went. It was already a reasonable distance from Skowhegan, so I decided to drive to the start and bike from there (that irks me - it seems a bit of a cop out!).

I found the trail with no trouble, but it wasn't actually clear that it was the start at that point. It seemed as good a point to start as any, though. There wasn't any parking so I parked around the corner at the North Anson Community School, though that might not have been an option if it wasn't a Sunday.

I knew it wasn't a typical rail trail from the get-go: the surface was variable, with gravel, sand, rocks, and washboard sections. I'm accustomed to hard-packed fine gravel, but this was a bit of a challenge. I really wouldn't recommend it for people with road bikes, and even mountain bikers should be sure to have good treads on their tires. I was riding my Thorn with 1.75-inch tires pumped up far too hard - but I preferred less traction to a puncture.

Turns out that the primary users of the trail aren't bikers or walkers at all - they're ATVs in the summer and snowmobiles in the winter. I came across a half dozen or so ATV riders today, and they were all pleasant enough (except one, who was going too fast and didn't give me much space). And for their use, I'm sure the trail would be perfectly fine. But I didn't see any other cyclists today.

The first half of the trail was pleasant (apart from the surface), but a bit monotonous: woods and the odd bit of cornfields.

At about halfway, I reached Solon and the big dam and bridge. It was a nice oasis there - a beautiful open space with views up up and down the Kennebec and even a picnic table. After that bridge, the path is more scenic, running right along the river. But with the views come more ATVs, and the road surface didn't really improve.

Finally, I reached the unceremonious end of the trail at a motel in Bingham - and popped out on busy 50+ mph Route 201. I asked in a little grocery store how to get back to North Anson and it turned out that all I had to do was cross a nearby bridge and head down Route 16 (201A). That was really nice - a wide, newly-paved road with some nice rolling hills. The only catch was that the road was officially closed just before North Anson, but since the road works weren't active on a Sunday, I was able to walk my bike the 100 feet through the mounds of dirt and diggers. And in a few minutes, I was back at the car and headed back.

So at the end of the day, I probably wouldn't do the trail again without different tires and even then, there are much more interesting places to go around here, I think. Very much looking forward to my ride around Acadia later this week!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Larz Anderson 14th Annual Bike Super Meet

Real nice time at Larz Anderson today! Here's a little video.

Goodbye, project bikes!

Over the past three years, I accumulated a dozen or so "project" bikes that I hoped to refurb, build up as a fixie, or do something else productive with. Needless to say, I'v had neither the skill nor the time to do anything except watch them collect lots of dust in the space under our porch.

So not too long ago, I met a guy who works for Bikes not Bombs who also happens to live around the corner from us. So we arranged to do a pickup today, and he left with a truckfull! Now I've got a lot more space under the porch (neighborhood raccoons rejoice!), and the bikes are off to good homes somewhere.

I kept a couple of the more interesting ones, though, so maybe I'll get to those projects yet....

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Christiania much improved after service!

Just picked up the Christiania from Landry's on Comm Ave.

Initial impressions are very good - they gave it a general once-over, replaced the worn rear tire, and overhauled the hub.

Also a new chain and cog to make the hills easier.

For $150 all in, it certainly came in much cheaper than i'd expected!

One issue seems to have persisted: the noise from the coaster brake. I noticed it almost immediately andcalled the shop. They told me it should go away after a couple days . I hope so - neither the girls nor I could tolerate it!

Overall, though, Landry's was great to deal with; everyone in the service dept was really helpful and friendly - which is an unfortunate rarity.

When I picked it up, one mechanic piped up wih "that bike has captured the hearts and imaginations of everyone here!" Nice.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Exploratory surgery got Christiania

I've been using the Christiania a lit this summer - taking the girls
to camp, on excursions.... Last week we loaded it up with 4 folding
camp chairs, a cooler, and various picnic provisions for a jazz
concert at our local park.

Anyway, while I did get the front disc brakes replaced last year, it's
really time to get the hub looked at. The coaster brake screeches like
a banshee, and you can practically feel the shards of metal inside
when pedaling.

So on Saturday afternoon, I rode it to Landry's on Comm Ave and left
it. The'll have to open up the hub before deciding what yo do about
it. Repair or replace? We'll see. I spoke to a couple helpful and
knowledgeable dudes, and I'm confident that they'll do a good job with

The really nice thing too was that they gave me a loaner bike! I would
gave been screwed without it. But as it was, I zipped right home in a
half hour! The question it left me with was: why does an older Globe
commuter bike shift better than my "racing" bike and feel much faster
than Thorny?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

More fun in the Berkshires

Another week in the Berkshires is coming to a close already - sigh.

Due to various family comings & goings, this visit has been a bit
frenetic, but great fun nevertheless.

I've managed to get some great cycling in too. My Beartown Mtn ride
was wonderful, a big improvement on last year when I managed to get
turned around and lose the paved road (though that was fun too). The
interesting thing that struck me this year was that there's a ton of
climbing initially, but the downhill payoff doesn't really happen
until much later on the approach to Tyringham....

Last night, though, was a different affair all together. I met my
friend Simon at his house in Pittsfield and went for a quick ride of
30-something miles into NY State and back. He knows the roads around
here exceptionally well, so we had a great route. And while Pittsfield
itself isn't terribly picturesque, there are beautiful, quiet roads
all around.

So last night's route was gorgeous, and once you've crossed into NY,
everything seems much more peaceful & pastoral. And the hills - man!
Nothing terribly steep, but there's lots of em, and many do go on for
ages. Here, though, the descents almost seem more plentiful than the
climbs for some reason, and they're consistently smooth, sweeping
roads that make it easy to work up to 40mph+. Fun!

So it looks like this probably won't be the summer I conquer Mt.
Greylock. But we did go for a wonderful hike with llamas yeasterday
and do tons of other fun family stuff, and I wouldn't think of
trading any of that for an hour of uphill torture, no matter what
excitement the subsequent downhill would promise.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Good as new

I went to Wheelworks this morning to get Thorny repaired. Since my
unfortunate collision with the door of the Cambridge taxi a few weeks
back, I've been riding with only my rear brakes and no front light.

So today, they replaced the barrel of one brake lever and both sets of
cables, and I replaced my front light. (I'm still amazed that that's
all it needed! The taxi was in much worse shape!)

I was pleased that they could do it while I waited - a pleasant
surprise, especially on a summer Saturday morning!

What wasn't so pleasant was the bedside manner of my mechanic. He was
certainly competent enough, but not chatty at all. Didn't appreciate
Thorny either. That really bugs me. I'm almost over it, but it still
leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Still, I'm really lucky sustaining less than $100 in damage an no
bodily injury at all after an accident like that.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My interesting neighbor, the bike builder

I dashed off to Trader Joe's just before the girls' bedtime tonite and came across the most interesting fellow! He was riding what I thought was a Bakfiets cargo bike - but on closer inspection, turns out he built himself! I had a quick chat with him about it - this bike is version three, and he's been experimenting with angles to get it just right. I had a quick look and it seems very simple - an excellent trait! I plan to find out more soon, but here's a photo in the meantime. If you'd like more info, you can email him at fredsbikes at

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Good-natured story provokes hateful comments

I spoke to a freelance reporter not too long ago about how I bike with my girls in our Cristiania trike. The article came out yesterday (with big inaccuracies, including where I live and the number of kids I have!). Here's the article. I read it yesterday and was more or less pleased, apart from the errors.

Then today, I had a look at the comments. Here's a sampling:
  • Any parent who drives through traffic with a child in one of those little, flimsy trailers ought to have his / her head examined.
  • I would suggest parents use and encourage their children to use this path rather than putting their safety at risk riding busy streets.
  • Biking on busy streets, intersections, with children is not a great idea.
  • Boy, you should have seen the Mom who rode against the light and all kinds of traffic with her adorable 2-ish little girl in the back today. I wanted to pull her over and smack her in the face
  • $4500 for a big tricycle? L-O-L! Rule #1 for parents riding with their kids should be that the parents are required to know how to balance a bike themselves....
  • If you want to be frugal, walk! This is so dangerous- I've even had to deal with one of these kooks traveling during a snow storm, kiddie cart swerving side by side the whole way
  • These parents are selfish people. They don't want to give up their own enjoyment of riding a bike so they strap their kids in some little 2 wheel contraption behind the bike and tell everyone how great it is for the kid. You see that's the problem with these stupid green tree huggers. It's all about their needs and how they don't want to miss out on their enjoyment. When you raise children, their needs and safety come before your own.
This last one is my favorite. Geez. There were a few supportive comments there as well, but the narrow-mindedness of these people really horrifies me.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What a great trip!

So here we are on our interminable flight home to Boston from Florence via Paris. We had a GREAT time at the Fattoria degli Usignoli with the guides.

We did a lovely group ride on Friday, with some great hills and lots of twisty turnies. A bit too much traffic, but the nice smooth pavement just about made up for that.

On Sunday, we woke up to steady rain. We had been planning an early ride up to Loro Ciuffena, but it was snowing up there! So we carried on with our meetings in the morning then we shot some photos and videos when it cleared up a bit. I interviewed all the guides and I'll be putting together clips for YouTube later this week with any luck. Lauren got some nice shots of the group, and I did a little behind-the-scenes video:

Then, once the meeting was adjourned, the sun made an appearance and Lauren and I went for a nice leisurely ride to Via Setteponti - undoubtedly one of the most beautiful roads I've ever ridden! It's part of two of our tours - Tuscan Fantasy and Assaggio Toscana. Here's a short video I shot.

Then we met Paolo for dinner at the Fattoria's wonderful restaurant. The charming owners were at the next table, and I was sure to extend my compliments to them and let them know that I hope to be back with the girls later this summer!

For dinner, had pasta with sausage and olives, then wild boar with white beans. Mmm!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Tuscany day 1!

Or is it day 2? Very hard to tell. Lauren and I left Boston early Wednesday evening, now it is approaching 8pm on Thursday, 6 hrs ahead. The flights were uneventful, except for a slightly hair-raising dash across Charles de Gaul airport to the new terminal G2 for our connecting flight to Florence. But all was fine in the end. Of course, I didnt sleep one single wink, so I was already pretty tired.

After Davide picked us up and took us to the Ciclismo HQ in Montevarchi. We relaxed there for a bit, then the three of us plus Suzie headed out on a ride. And what a ride! We headed out to Radda in Chianti and then to Castellina before turning around and riding back. Davide and Suzie had some work to do back at the office, so Lauren and I sought out a lunch place in Radda. We wound up at a little bar, where we gorged ourselves on sandwiches, gelato (Lauren had two cups!), and coffee.

The ride itself was perfectly breathtaking. All typical Tuscan scenery, with beautiful rolling hills, villas, cypress trees, olive groves, and vineyards. Radda was also wonderful, and I recognized it as soon as we rolled in. I had already been there with Lauren, probably 15 years back.

Apart from the scenery and the company, the most remarkable aspect of the ride was the HILLS. From Montevarchi, there is a climb of about 10 miles, varying steepness, but not insubstantial by any means. There were more hills after that as we headed in and out of Radda, but this long one is quite different from the short, sharp climbs I am used to in New England. In any case, heading up was not too bad at all - but the ride home was nothing short of awesome! There is simply nothing like cruising through all those switchbacks!

The other remarkable thing is that I did all this using energy from who knows where - I still have not been to sleep!

Now we are off to dinner, then with any luck, I will have a normalish bedtime and be all aclimated for a great day tomorrow.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mass Bike Lobbyists @ National Bike Summit

Here we are! Photo taken at the end of a long day of meetings on the Hill.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Freecycle score!

This weekend was GORGEOUS! Finally high 50s and beautiful. I took Thorny to Broadway Bicycle School for a springtime makeover to the tune of $200+. Fine, I suppose, since I've ridden it through the winter and it's sorely in need of a new chain and hub oil change, and who knows what else.

We also got the Christiania out and went for a couple really nice rides with the girls. Ah, springtime really seems right around the corner now! The hub gear really seems to need replacing, though, and I'll probably get that done in the next couple weeks. I'm looking at a SRAM iMotion 9, which should be more robust AND give me a much more favorable gear for climbing our hill.

So, now for my big score! Kim is forever picking up bags of free stuff that she hears about on one of our local Freecycle lists. (She does contribute too - good karma!) Every once in a while, between the bags of fabric scraps and "gently" used kitchen appliances, she spies something good for me too. And today, we hit the jackpot! Here's the list of stuff that a person in Lexington put on the list - she responded within 10 minutes and I got the lot! I'll make use of just about everything eventually, but the high-power lights are superfantastic and I really need them!
  • (1 pair) Specialized SPD pedals with cleats and hardware, look similar 
to Shimano but not sure if compatible, used on a road bike
(1) Assorted pedal cleat mounting hardware and special tool

  • (1) Roll of canvas rim spoke end protector tape

  • (1) Real brake lever, unused, very light
(1 pair) Kool Stop V-type all weather brake pads, in unopened package, 
includes pins
(1) Shimano Deore XT front derailleur, has a removable ring bracket 
that mounts under crank bearings somehow, used but believed to work
(1) Bontrager seat post about 31mm diam, about 9 inches long, good 

  • (1) Curly cable, low security, stretches to about 5 feet long, add 
your own padlock
(1) Kryptoflex cable, about 7 feet long, medium security, add your own 

  • (1) Bianchi Vetta seat, blue and black, good condition
(1) Specialized seat, black, good condition
(1) Blackburn thin 26X1.25/1.50 tube, unused
(1) Camelback 100oz/3 liter reservoir with Big Bite Valve, unopened in 
package, this is the old rectangular style, could be used in any knapsack
(1) Camelback Hydrobak 50oz complete, very small and light, good for 
racing or kids, good condition
(1) Trek multitool, has wide range of hex keys plus flat and cross 
(1) Planet Bike helmet and bar lights (2 independent lights), inline 
switches and water bottle style battery cases. Put out a lot of light but 
these are incandescent and each light uses 4 D cell batteries (not 

  • (2) Blackburn saddle bags, narrow profile, zipper expandable, big 
enough to hold flat and minor repair items plus snack bars
(1) Nightstick light kit: One 15w incandescent head, one 10w 
incandescent head, 1 bar mount, 1 remote switch, 1 cord, 2 Nimh battery 
sticks, 1 dual battery mount (fits under bottle cage), 2 AC chargers, 1 car 
charger. Very bright, battery life 45 min - 1 hr each.
Sweet! Thanks Freecycle!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Early morning tour of Boston

For the first time in MONTHs, I went for an early Sunday morning ride today. I was up by 6 (daylight approaching!!!), and out on the road by 7. Despite recent snow, the roads are in pretty good shape.

I decided to do a tour of Boston and Cambridge instead of heading out of town, where it's more countrified, but where there are fewer sights and distractions - and distraction is just what I needed this morning.

I took it easy, never really exceeding 14mph or so, often going slower to take in my surroundings. I made my way to Harvard Square via the Cambridge end of the bike path, largely avoiding Mass Ave and going in via Garden Street. After Harvard, I did went straight to the river on Mass Ave, then got onto the path at the Esplanade, then all the way down to MHG. It was all very quiet, being an early, chilly Sunday morning!

From there, I went up the backside of the North End along the river, and back up the length of Hanover Street, where people were already out and about, mostly getting their coffee and pastries and such. Once I hit the artery, I defiantly rode onto the Rose Kennedy Greenway, where no biking is allowed - what a travesty!!! So I flouted the law along the greenway to the Aquarium. I said good morning to the sea lions in the enclosure in front, then rode around to the back and greeted the seals in the new area in back. They're in a beautiful new enclosure facing the harbor, with a lovely public space along the water.

I continued along the footpath on the water all the way to the rickety old bridge by the Barking Crab, then crossed, heading towards the Seaport. My next stop was the ICA, where I took a short break. It's a wonderful route, and as much as it's fun to see the sights of Boston, it also really really reminds me of my old early morning rides around London to the Docklands.

From there, I rode back past the Children's Museum and over the Summer Street bridge - then home along my old commuting route: Over the Longfellow Bridge, to Kendall Square, Inman Square, Davis Square, and up Mass Ave and home.

I'm knackered! And it's only 9:30 now, and the whole day is ahead of us.