Saturday, December 31, 2011

Electric Assist Christiania

When we were in London this fall, I rented a lovely Christiania from my friends at Velorution. Quite similar in most ways to my own trike (though black & red as opposed to red & black!) - in all ways except the addition of an electric assist motor!

London isn't as flat as Denmark by any means, but it was pretty sweet, very much appreciated on a full day out! Especially when we discovered that we'd forgotten something and I had to whizz back three miles to the hotel...

I shot the video at the playground in The Regent's Park.

Kim rented a green & purple Brompton to ride that day. It worked out just great, though more favorable gearing would have been appreciated. Perhaps she rode it a bit too hard... my friend Richard (in London for work completely coincidentally!) had trouble with the gearing when he rented it the following day!

Also: Here's a longer video from our trip, including a tour of Primrose Hill by Christiania!

I like Paradise Garage in Columbus

One quick highlight of my visit to Columbus was a stop at Paradise Garage, a very nice, personal, quirky bike shop in the Short North district.

When I say "quirky" of course what I mean is:
  • Nothing by Trek or Specialized as far as the eye can see
  • Lots of steel, wool, tweed, and leather
  • Nifty stuff I've never seen before
  • My bushy holiday beard feels right at home
I was particularly interested in the bikes by All City Cycles, which were new to me. Very nice lugged steel goodness with an urban flavor (plus some sweet single-speed cross bikes!). Also lots of nice Surleys with giant fatties.

Plus, when I checked in on Foursquare, I got a $10 to spend there from American Express from a small business promo they're doing! (Of course, I didn't have time to do it then, hopefully I will before we leave Columbus!)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

2011 Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee

I tell people all the time that my favorite ride ever is the Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee, an epic mostly off-road super-hilly ride in western Massachusetts. The first year I did the ride (2008), I produced a little YouTube video (from which Google has unfortunately seen fit to remove the soundtrack). I did it again in 2009. Both times, I opted for the 100k version, both because I figured that a metric century would be challenging enough with the hills and terrain, and also because the long 180k version really demanded an overnight stay the night before. Each time I did that ride, I really enjoyed the challenge of the route, the gorgeous scenery, and the diverse, quirky, congenial group of riders.

Last year I preregistered but had to miss it because of a family vacation conflict.

So this year, I started planning early and rather ambitiously registered for the new 115k route. Only 15% more distance than the shorter route - but it seemed twice as difficult! It was all about the climbing: this ride had over 9000 feet of climbing, including lots of long dirt-road climbs of over 15% grade and some in excess of 20%! Geez.

I drove out early with my friends John and Sam, and it was sure nice to have the company. I've been talking up the ride for ages, and the messages the organizers send out beforehand gave them a nice set of nerves heading into the ride. As the veteran, I was calm and just looking forward to a good ride. Which is probably just as well, since I probably wouldn't have had the cojones to attempt it if I'd had an accurate idea of what it was going to be like!

The organizers state that, while the big climbs on the 100k ride are mostly before lunch, on the 115k, they're after. I had a really tough time in the morning, which actually made me consider taking advantage of a bail-out point at the lunch stop....

The ride started off fine, with a nice, quick 15 miles leading to the first rest stop. It would be 25 more miles to the lunch stop, which turned out to be among the most miserable miles I've ever ridden. We started off just fine, with a couple really steep, rough tracks to climb. (On one of these, I was stymied by a volunteer who saw fit to put her hands on my bottom and try to push me through the rough spot while suggesting that I "steer! steer! steer!" - but she ended up pushing me off the course entirely.) I generally love that sort of climbing, but it wasn't long before I started feeling sick. Really sick, like with an upset stomach, swimming head, and all that. My stomach had been a little queasy for a while, and I certainly didn't help matters by overeating the morning of the event. This is often my downfall - I'm so afraid of bonking that I eat too much and end up feeling sick.

This feeling persisted and was at its worst at about mile 30, heading into a long, steep climb. I felt pretty bad during the whole thing, primarily with an upset stomach. It was a seemingly interminable ride up a twisty dirt road, and there was always more climbing around every corner. I seem to remember shouting to someone up ahead at one point "any end in sight?" as he rounded a bend. Several people had started walking their bikes by now. I didn't resort to that, at least, but I did take breaks from pedaling quite often.

It was at this point that I started thinking about ditching the ride. But what would I tell my buddies? Surely they'd try to dissuade me, and I was in no mood for that. What would I tell my girls when I returned home? And how could I let this the ride I've been looking forward to for months end in failure? So I figured that I'd reassess my fitness after lunch and then make a call.

And I was glad I did. I didn't have much for lunch, which did help my tummy start to sort itself out. I had a little pasta, a big dill pickle, some fig newtons, and a banana. (In retrospect, it sounds like a pretty gross combo, but it worked for me!)

After lunch, we headed into the most challenging riding of the day for sure. 20 miles and more than 3500 feet of climbs! The pithy description on the cue sheet describes this stage as "a hard dirt road climb, a very hard dirto climb, then a super-hard dirt climb!" Ah, the beauty of understatement. I remember thinking on each of the first two climbs "Geez, it can be worse than this one?" But I just slogged it out, spotting a landmark up ahead, pedaling to it, and taking a break. Then doing it again. And again. Some climbs were in excess of 15%, and the steepest topped 20%.

This was definitely a ride of superlatives. Sure, it had some of the difficult terrain I've ever tackled, and the pain I felt in the morning was my worst ever. But smack in the middle of this stage was also the best downhill I've ever ridden. Ever. A long, smoothly-paved twisty-turny rollercoaster of a ride, allowing just enough visibility up ahead to let me top out at 46mph. There were also some 20%-plus bits on this section that made me feel almost weightless. Unparalleled, unforgettable.

The last climb brought us to the rest stop at the Little Big House Gallery, where the volunteers were great about cheering on incoming riders. With only 12 miles and 1100 feet of climbing to go, this stop was a big relief to all, I think. I believe it was about 3:30 at this point, so we'd been riding for seven hours - and feeling it.

The weather had been lovely all day, starting with fog and temps in the mid-60's, and occasionally getting very bright and sunny. The combination of hard riding up, fast riding down, riding between heavily wooded lanes and open fields made me glad I was wearing a wool jersey with a full zip, and I stayed comfortable in that respect all day. At this last rest stop, though, the sky had started to darken and it was clear that the weather associated with Hurricane Irene was headed our way.

And it caught up to us during the last stage. It started to mist heavily at first, and by the time the end was well and truly in sight, there real drops coming down. This wouldn't have bothered me in itself, but it was an indication that I needed to get home before the real weather hit Arlington.

Just when I was in the home stretch and the weather was getting wet, it became clear that I'd missed a turn somewhere.... I met up with someone who'd done the 100k ride and got back on track after that, but I ended up going a few miles out of my way. I'd lost track of John and Sam, but found them waiting for me a few miles from the finish. We rolled in together and celebrated a good ride as we loaded up the car, then skipped the ending festivities to get home to our families as the weather roiled. We spent the 2-hour drive home recounting the climbs, the descents, the food, and the personalities of the day. And in my own head, I was celebrating a big personal accomplishment and the fact that I stuck with it to the end.

My trusty Thorn Tour didn't let me down yesterday by any means... but I'm thinking that this route in particular would be a lot easier with a cross bike. Thorny weighs in at about 35lbs, after all, almost twice what you'd expect from a nice cross bike. The Thorn is perfectly happy cruising along on dirt roads. But it on the steep climbs that I'd like to get out of the saddle a bit more, and the weight and geometry of my bike really just don't encourage that. (Incidentally, I was excited to see another Thorn on the route yesterday, but I never managed to meet its owner!)

I'm a bit sore and definitely fatigued today, which is perfectly fine since Hurricane Irene has us sequestered inside all day. I'm already looking forward to next year!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Recommended touring bikes

A friend of mine asked me recently what touring bike he should get, not too expensive. Based on these broad requirements, here's my list:
  1. Surly Cross Check - The most versatile of the lot - use for commuting, touring, or cyclocross, and you can get it as a standard build, or built to your whims for not much more (in Boston, go to Broadway Bicycle School for either) (or go for the Long Haul Trucker if you're doing serious miles - see a nice example pictured here!)
  2. Novara Randonee - Great combination of modern & classic bike design, and very good value - and you can't go wrong shopping at REI (You can also do the Fuji Touring or Jamis Aurora for about the same price, but I still like REI)
  3. Bike Friday Companion Select - A nice economical folder, great if you need to travel by air to the start of your tour
  4. The Trek 520 is a modern classic, but about 40% more expensive than any of the above
  5. Or, for a beautiful classic touring bike, go to Bikes Not Bombs in Jamaica Plain and get a nice steel Schwinn, Nishiki, Bridgestone, or Raleigh.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Ride with Ride Studio Cafe this morning

I finally made it on a ride with the crew from the Ride Studio Cafe this morning. It was a nice (if chilly) morning and there were about 25 riders in all. We set off not too long after nine, after everyone had had a few minutes to warm up and chat over coffee in the store. It's a great place to start a ride!

I could only do 45 mins out and 45 back because I've got a gig this afternoon, but it was a great time. We kept up a reasonable pace (18mphish) and stayed in a pretty tight group. It was a really congenial group - really looking forward to my next ride with them. Hope to do the full ride next time

I wore my new gilet from Quad Cycles, which kept me nice and warm over two layers of wooly goodness.

One shocking revelation: The ride leader Jeff told me that Pietzo electric assist cycles has run out of cash and is out of business. Really a shame. He said they're liquidating their inventory, but the website doesn't seem to have any special deals. Maybe this is the time to snap one up?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

New bike for Andrew!

After an idle conversation with a friend of mine recently about my affection for lugged steel bikes, he sent me a few posts from Craigslist - for some reason, lots of beautiful bikes are coming up in Boston nowadays.

One particularly struck my fancy - a Guerciotti from 2000 kitted out with all Campagnolo Record from 2003, plus carbon handlebars and seatpost. And superbargain to boot! Even included Speedplay pedals.

So I set up an appointment to go see it in Belmont, walking distance from the office. I did just a short test ride, but it felt very light, nimble, and solid - and of course the Campy stuff shifts, stops, and goes like a dream.

The dude selling it raced at one point, and he assembled this bike several years ago, but hasn't ridden in years. I think even he realized that he'd underpriced it, since he bumped the price up by $200 before I turned up to see it - but this must have been in case I didn't buy, because he accepted the original price, and I rode off with it happily!

It's been supercold and I've had musical thingies every night since, so I've scarcely ridden it yet - but I'm really excited!

More to come...

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

2011 National Bike Summit

I'm back in DC for the second year running for the National Bike
Summit! It's really a thrill and an honor to be here with so many
dedicated cycling advocates. Like last year, I'm meeting tons of great
people and learning lots.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

New bike path Alewife-Belmont

There's been a bike path between Alewife station and Blanchard Rd in Belmont for ages. As long as I've known it, though, it's been hardpacked gravel, hard to find, and treacherously close to the railway line.

So today on my way back from the periodontist, I saw the new entrance from the Belmont side - very nice indeed! The nice wide paving with a yellow line down the middle was too inviting to resist. I started down the path and wasn't daunted by a few snowy spots, which I rode or walked through. The newly-paved path looks great (still dangerously close to the railroad tracks, though)!

Unfortunately, just as Alewife station was about to come into view, the paving stopped abruptly - I guess they haven't finished the work yet! And the snow and ice really precluded riding further.

Nevertheless, I'm glad I gave it a go, and once everything warms out and dries up, it'll be great - pavement or no!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Back in Palm Beach


The holiday we've been looking forward to for ages. After the snowiest winter we've had since moving to Boston (and I guess it still isn't over - it's freezing rain all weekend, apparently), a few days in sunny Florida is just what we need!

Like during our last visit (almost 2 years ago!), I've rented a nice bike from Top Cycle in Palm Beach for the duration of the stay. I've got a Specialized S-Works very similar to the one I had last time.

I picked it up from Patrick this morning and it was just great. I rode all the way up to the Inlet and back through Palm Beach to Lantana. Just after coming through the center of Palm Beach, I met another cyclist and I commented on his cross bike - not something you'd expect to see around these parts (which is what I said). He was really friendly, and we got to chatting.

Turns out he's from Indiana, just here on a short vacation like me. He brought his cross bike to do some gravelly roads tomorrow - sounds like fun. We kept a pretty good pace going, probably 18ish mph. He told me that he knows of a titanium bike maker in Lantana called Habanero, and he was going to drop in and see what it's all about - so I decided to tag along. Of course, I figured that it was unlikely that there was a ti and carbon framebuilder actually building frames in Lanatana, and it was more likely an enterprising marketer importing frames from Asia and selling them here....

So when we turned down South Oak Street in Lantana and found it to be a residential neighborhood, I wasn't terribly surprised. Nevertheless, this Lantana dude must have some pretty good connections in Asia (and/or at the customs house!), because he's flogging titanium frames for less than $900. I do like titanium....

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I'm riding the PMC!

It sure seems like Spring is around the corner with the nice weather we had this week. Just a week before, we were in the single digits (okay, we'll be there again soon, I'm sure) - but on Thursday the weather was so nice that we closed the office early and did a nice ride, followed by wine & snacks chez moi.

We all did pretty well considering that the incessant snow has kept most of us cooped up inside for weeks on end - I, in particular, am not in the best shape. But there's nothing like a good group ride to get the legs a-pedaling once again.

My latest news, though, is that I've signed up to ride the Pan Mass Challenge this year! I'll be doing the Sturbridge to Bourne route, 111 miles of hilly goodness, described as the organizers as the "most difficult" option. (I'm just doing one day; there are lots of other options, including two full days of riding.... maybe next year.)

I've committed to raise $3000, 100% of which will go to organizations dedicated to finding a cure to cancer. I've been thinking about doing the ride ever since moving to Massachusetts, but I'm finally doing it this year - and I'm inspired by my mom and my brother-in-law, both of whom beat cancer in 2010. I'm also riding in memory of our friend Nanette, who died this month after a long struggle.

Please help me reach my goal and contribute to finding a cure!

You can read about my fundraising and training progress or donate online here.