Sunday, December 31, 2006
The weather today was nice - sunny and mid-40s. On the way, I went to Quad Cycles in Arlington Heights, which I'd never been tremendously impressed with previously. But this time, the chappie who helped me was very friendly and, well, helpful! He even remarked at my Brooks saddle and pointed out my Speedhub to a colleague. He also asked about my Tubus rack and the mountain hardware for Gem's seat. Best of all, he adjusted my headset and filled the tires at no cost! This bepierced part-timer has almost completely redeemed the shop for me!
The ride was also very nice. I rode up Mass Ave and puttered around Lexington, Bedford, to Hanscom AFB before heading home. It would have been miserable on most other days, but, being a holiday and a Sunday, there was no traffic to speak of. I thought I'd recognize my old routes out, but no luck. I did buy a nice map from Quad, though, which should help with future rides.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
One recent bikey high-point was a wonderful holiday ride with Lauren and her cohorts from Ciclismo Classico. I've been wanting to see her, Mauro, and the family since we moved, and this was the first opportunity. Lauren publicized the ride on the Arlington Parents list and that's where we first spotted it.
So the Saturday before, we went up to Mahoney's and bought a nice wreath, a bow, and some evergreen cuttings and I went to town decorating the Christiania! For her part, Kim baked up a giant batch of cranberry muffins, which we doled out to our fellow riders.
It was a chilly but perfect day for a ride. We met in Arlington Center outside Starbucks. Kim and Elsie came down to say hello and see us off. The Christiania generated some buzz, but there were several couples dressed in complete costume on $5000 tandems, so our novelty appeal was somewhat limited (especially in light of the pair of grinches with full makeup!). There was also a nice fellow on a Quickbeam with a Shimano hub (same as on my trike).
The ride was very nice... we headed down the Minuteman Bike Path to Alewife, which was nothing new for us. But I didn't know that it continues all the way to Davis Square! That was a big revelation and a delightful ride that I've done several times since.
We eventually ended up in Harvard Square, where we stopped to do some singing before riding across the Charles and joining the bike path on the Boston side. That part of the ride wasn't as nice; while you do get the scenery of the river on one side, proximity to Storrow Drive really detracts. At one point, the path was so narrow, I wasn't sure I was going to fit! Fortunately, though, I arrived at that bit just after the oncoming handcycle had come and gone. Tree roots under the surface also bumpied it up quite a bit, and we even lost the wreath at one point (but we salvaged it, and it's on the front door now!)
We collected ourselves again at the Hatch Shell for a few photos before riding on to Downtown Crossing and Quincy Market for lunch.
Gemma fell asleep just after the photo stop and continued to sleep all the way through lunch (Kim and Elsie met us there), and back over the Longfellow Bridge! She woke up at Kendall Square, and we had a fine ride back home via Davis Square and the path once again.
We came back on our own, leaving the rest of the group (30+ people) to dine in leisure. When we were slogging up Park Ave in the home stretch, someone I'd spoken to on the ride pulled up along side (driving, bike on roof) to say hi.
Who knows - with Christmas approaching, this could be the last big ride for us this year, and even if so, it was certainly a fitting end to the season.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Our container arrived last Friday as expected, and after they broke the seal, the first thing off was the Christiania. Other bikes followed.
I went on a little trip to the bagel place with Gem the next day, and it sure was nice to be out on the road, all car-free for a change. On the way home, we tackled our big hill, and I made sure Gem was all ready to give me encouragement as we neared home.
"You can do it, Daddy!" very helpful - I almost abandoned at a few spots but didn't want to disappoint. I've been out with her a few times since, and now she knows the routine for powering me up those hills. She has also somehow remembered what I said on our way out that first time, so whenever we start downhill she says "I don't know how we'll make it up this one again!"
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
We are now a car family. It's been necessary for the past few weeks as we get settled in and get our house sorted out. But still.
We've become all too familiar with the 8-mile stretch of Mass Ave between the South End and Arlington. Where to stay left, where peds are likelilt to jump out, we know all the ins and outs.
We also know that because the route goes right past the Berklee School of Music, MIT, and Harvard, there's a good chance of running across reckless student bike riders. And, being in my unfortunate driverly state of mind, I was apt to get really annoyed by any irresponsible behavior coming my way.
So there we were, just across after the Comm Ave intersection, heading towards the South End, when a biker darted out across traffic in front of us. And then another and another. By the time I really started to grumble, it occurred to me that it was the last Friday of the month: Critical Mass Boston.
While not the spectacular happening it is in London, it certainly got its punt across to me, stopped in traffic, watching all these free-wheeling bikers glide past. I offered encouragement to a handful before closing the window to sulk and vow to myself to stay on the right side of things.
We've moved. Or, to be more accurate, we're still in the process of moving. Not that we haven't accomplished a lot, of course: packed everything up, carted family to Boston, bought house, sold flat, started new job, went over to the computing dark side... All in the past month or so.
Hard to believe. Haven't actually moved into the new place yet, but it shouldn't be long now.
Which is all just an extended explanation as to why nothing new has appeared on the old blog for a while. I'm very VERY much looking forward to resuming my life in the saddle once the bikes have arrived. There is still velo-notable stuff to note, though, and I'll get h that sooner or later.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
One of those things is a Bobike Maxi bike seat for Gemma. She's now too big for the front-mounted Mini, but it's worked so well that we've decided to try the rear-mounted version. There's a lot more choice in rear-mounted seats, but this one seems well-made, comfortable, and relatively unobtrusive. It can also be switched from one bike to the other reasonably easily.
It also appears that I should be able to attach panniers to the rear rack with the seat on, which will be really good for longer journeys.
This will allow me to zap out for a fast ride up the bike path or into town with Gemma much quicker than on the Christiania. We'll also be able to take both girls out in the Spring, when Elsa is old enough for the Mini on Kim's bike.
I also took this opportunity to have a kickstand fitted by my friends at Velorution. Again, this one is relatively low-profile, and I already love being able to leave the bike standing on its own without looking for a suitable leaning place!
As ever, Andrea at Velorution was very helpful with these two purchases; I can only hope that I'll be able to find as friendly and interesting a shop where we're moving.
Friday, September 15, 2006
It was a beautiful, perfect day for a bike ride. We met at the Inner Circle in Regents Park, and rode down Marylebone High Street, then across Oxford Street and through Grosvenor Square. We followed the London Cycle Network to the Mall, then up Constitution Hill, which are both traffic-free on Sundays. We used the cycle (and horse!) crossing at Hyde Park Corner, then through the park to the Broad Walk in Kensington Gardens and up to the playground on the north side.
All the kids were perfect angels on the ride, and they all also enjoyed the playground and picnic.
Not too long after leaving the park after our picnic, Gem started to doze, and then she went right to sleep in the Christiania and slept all the way home!
Monday, September 04, 2006
Then I managed to keep it slow and virtually bump-free all the way to Regents Park, where she woke up for some reason but remained content to lounge in there for quite a while.
There was lots of varied cycling excitement going on, plus good kids' stuff too. Gem did some crafts and got a glittery rainbow painted on her face. And we all enjoyed nabbing free goodies from Transport for London and others, and being plied by the propaganda for the London start of the Tour de France next year (could we possibly return for it???)
We also watched a bunch of the amateur racing, which we also all enjoyed. The most serious of the lot turned out to be a bit of a disappointment for Gemma, though. It was sponsored by Bob Chicken's company, one of the UK's leading distributors of racing kit... so Kim was referring to it as the Chicken Race... and Gem couldn't understand where all the chickens were.
We had a very nice picnic lunch from Inn the Park (hate the name, love the pork belly sandwiches!), then headed back up to Regents Park to see the pros come through. We stationed ourselves where Avenue Road enters the park, figuring that the sharp turn into the outer circle would provide some excitement.
In the end, though, the most exciting bit was the flotilla of 30+ police on motorbikes that came screaming through before the peloton. The racers were good too, as was the convoy of support cars, but it all went by in a flash. We dashed home later to see the BBC coverage but were disappointed to find that it skipped all the London riding and went right to the circuits around the Mall! Okay, it turned out that the only real competition during the road race was for the sprints and hills, but it was still fun to see.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
So this was my last chance to do the ride again since they go on the last Friday of each month and we'll be in our new house in Boston for the September ride.
I loaded Gem into the Christiania with a brimming snack bag and various other provisions and set off for Waterloo, where the ride was to start. This was kind of a big deal since it was our longest ride on the new bike ever. But the weather was nice, and Gem had just had a long nap.
We used the Kim's and my tried-and-tested route: Regents Park to Hampstead Road, then down Gower Street to Covent Garden and across the bridge. No problems at all on the ride there - we both enjoyed it tremendously. One valuable lesson about the trike, though. I wanted to bring the covers (top & sides) in case of rain or cold, but I didn't want to start with them. So we set off with just the aluminium frames in place.... and when the road got bumpy, they sprung out and started swinging out to the sides! I managed to secure them and eventually put the side covers on, which solved that problem.
We got to the South Bank nice and early, which meant that we could see some of the wackier bikes being prepared, and there was live music as well. There was interest in the Christiania from various folks, and we had a nice time chatting about it.
The ride itself was super-fun. After a LOUD rendition of Queen's Bicycle Race from one of the boom-box-bikes, we all headed off around the roundabout at Waterloo, then back over the bridge. We certainly succeeded in taking over the streets - southbound traffic over the bridge was entirely stopped, as was the traffic approaching the roundabout.
Then we went up the Kingsway to Holborn, then west along New Oxford Street to Oxford Circus, and south to Trafalgar Square. It went a little slowly because we all had to stop at various times. This gave us opportunities to chat with other riders; lots of people were curious about the trike: "Isn't it heavy?" "How much did it cost?" "Can you put other stuff besides children in there?"
By the time we got to Trafalgar Square it was starting to get dark and Gem was getting tired, so we peeled off and went up the Mall and home through Mayfair.
It was getting coldish by the time we reached Marylebone, so we put the cover on, and Gemma was quite content for the rest of the ride.
I reckon we did about 12 miles or so on the ride - it's great that we were all up to it: my legs, Gemma's attention span, and the Christiania too! Certainly makes me optimistic for long rides in the spring, once we've settled in to our new house (and the snow has melted...)
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Things at home and work got pretty busy, then we were off on the long US trip that is finally nearing an end. After a week and a half in Florida, we came to Boston to visit family and look at houses to move into when we arrive at the end of September. Could we actually buy a house in a week or less? Yes!
It's remarkable, but we seem to have done just that. It's the perfect house for us in every way - except that it happens to be on top of a 3000-ft hill. We settled on Arlington after looking at a bunch of places in Providence and Newton. The Arlington neighbourhoods seem wonderful - alive with activity, with lots of parks and trees and children - and it's also overflowing with cyclists!
This is due in part to the fantastic Minuteman Bikeway, a traffic-free path that goes from Alewife Station in Cambridge all the way past Lexington. It seems to attract all sorts of bikers - lycra louts, families, everyone. This was one of the big selling points for the area driven home by my old friend Lauren of Ciclismo Classico, who has lived there for years. There are also lots of bikers in the streets around there - many of them probably heading out of town towards Concord, where I remember there being great riding 16 years ago.
During this whole process, I've had a lot of help from complete strangers on the Charles River Wheelmen email group. I've sent questions about where to live, cycling to school, good local bike shops, and coping with giant hills, and I've always had many long, considered replies.
The only real downside of the new house is its altitude. The most direct route up from Mass Ave is also the most daunting, with several short, sharp climbs of what I suspect is at least a 10% grade. There are other routes up as well, but since the house is on top of the hill, there's really no avoiding a climb. This may do my quads some good, but it may curtail some of the spontaneous family trips for a bottle of milk and that sort of thing.
Apparently (according to one of my CRW correspondents), Sheldon Brown says that "bicyclists shouldn't live at the tops of hills" - but there's not much we can do about that now, and we'll just have to adapt. The Christiania will be the most daunting conveyance to pedal up, but Andrea assures me that the gearing should be low enough (I compared the climb to Highgate West Hill for him).
So apart from this little wrinkle, we couldn't be more excited. I'm really looking forward to my first New England jaunt for over 16 years!
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Saw a clever setup just now. Elsa & I are waiting for music class to end, and a dad came tooling up the Finchley Road on an electric-assist PowaBike with a kid on the front and one on the back. The seat in front was a Centric Safe Haven, but I didn't catch what the back one was.
Everybody concerned seemed comfortable and safe. Okay, it's not for us, but it's good to see that they've come up with a unique solution that works for them. I wonder if Mum rides it too?
Saturday, July 01, 2006
The model I've specified will be very similar to the one we borrowed. Here are the details:
- It's a "Model light" with the box with sloping sides and a shiny red finish
- We got the bugatti hood, just like our loaner (we considered getting a straight box with two facing seats, but that would have precluded the use of this top, which we really liked
- We got the same bench seat with single seat belt as on the loaner, but we also ordered the three-point harness for Elsa next Spring
- And instead of the knee-wrenching three-speed hub, we got a deluxe Shimano 8-speed model with a coaster break that's meant to be much more powerful than the one on their 3- or 7-speed models
- Finally, we also got the clever Axa frame-fit lock, which stays on the trike all the time and simply immobilizes the rear wheel. Probably not ideal for a bike that could easily be picked up and carried away, but that's really not the case with this one!
Monday, June 26, 2006
It's been a wonderful few days with the trike, and I think it's put us in a good position to order one! More about that soon.
It was perfect weather for our last ride withe the trike today - steady rain!
I put on my waterproofs and got Gem psyched for a ride in the rain. When we came down, I had prepared the trike with the top cover and one side on. I started talking about riding in her special coach, and she went right in with happy squeals.
I showed her that she could see out both sides, the front and me throu the back, and we were ready to go.
The trike handled great in the rain - no diffs anywhere. Gem really enjoyed the ride, too, singing to herself and enjoying her raisins all the way.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
When we got home, once again, she didn't want to come out.
I was amazed to find that there were really no good, close-up photos of Christiania trikes on Flickr or elsewhere before I hired this one. So I've put together a little gallery about this rental one; of course, if we buy our own, I'll do many more.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
But it also seemed that the saddle was a bit low, so last night I raised it by four inches or so.
And today it was a whole new story! It seems to pedal easier, and I'm much more comfortable all round. No more knee pain on the bike, and much less off.
Result! Though I guess one could argue that I should have known to do this before leaving the shop with it...
In any case, I took Gem to nursery in it this morning and it was a great ride. We both really enjoyed it. I took a roundabout route home and tested it on some minor hills, and no problems at all!
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
I picked up a reasonably basic trike this afternoon at Velorution and rode it home. Today is Wednesday, and I'm planning on keeping it until Monday. That will give me lots of chances for runs to Waitrose with or without Gem, plus one and a half school runs (since I'l return it after drop-off Monday). The weather looks like it will cooperate as well, with no rain and temperatures in the high sixties predicted.
This is a pretty basic model, but it does have some good features & more deluxe bits. On the more basic side, it has a three-speed Shimano hub gear with coaster brake - fine, but really only for very flat terrain. The seat is also a bit basic, a padded, springy affair. The nylon bench seat for little passengers seems to work well enough, and there's nice (but unsecured) space underneath for stowing this and that. The safety belt is a single belt, which is okay for a child Gem's age, but not much younger. I'd go with a three-point harness on mine. The other obvious upgrade is the bright red colour, which I think Gem likes very much indeed!
This takes a bit of getting used to. When I had my first try-out, Andrea warned me to lean into turns to avoid flipping over, which turned out to be good advice! I've managed to avoid any incidents on the road as well.
At almost a metre across, it's a bit of a wide load, but that isn't really noticeable since the load is out front. As much as I've ridden with my trailer (about the same width), I still have close calls every once in a while - no such problems here.
Perhaps the biggest difference from a normal bike is that it's articulated in the middle. The handlebar is a continuous length across the back of the box, and steering moves the entire front end. This means that it's veryresponsive and easy to turn in a tight circle, but this can be disconcerting at first. I expected going round corners to be different, but what I didn't expect was the subltle back-and-forth movement as I pedal. And still, not a big deal, it's just a bit disconcerting at first. It all feels quite stable most of the time, but going over bumps at speed can be a hair-raising experience that I've now learned to avoid.
Another interesting foible has to do with the upright stance of the trike. Sitting on three wheels, it's always dead upright. So leaning round corners means that you lean, the bike does not. And when on a road that slopes off towards the curb, the bike rides at an angle. This is one of those things you never think about while riding on two wheels - you just stay upright even if the road is banked a bit.
I don't mean to be too negative here - it really is a nice bike to ride; it feels very solid and well-made. It's clear that a lot of thought has gone into refining the design. It does take more work than riding a normal bike, but I stopped thinking about that once I decided not to try to keep up a normal pace.
The Christiania in Use
As I've said, it just takes some getting used to. One person who didn't need any time at all to become comfortable with the Christiania is Gemma. She had a great time during our brief try-out in Regents Park, and she was as excited as could be when she saw that I'd brought this one home. (Think squeals and arms flailing.)
We had a brief foray to the playground yesterday - Kim walked and we biked a longer route. I removed the "bugatti" soft top to give her a good view all around, and back up at me. This is one of the nicest things about it. I've always thought it was wonderful that she had such a good view from the Bobike Mini and dreaded relegating her to the back of the bike. Her position on the bench of the trike gives her a great view, and she's still close enough that we can hear one another talk.
Apart from the novelty of it ("I'm riding a funny bike!"), she also really loves the space and the freedom. It wasn't long yesterday before she discovered her bag of food under the seat... She set it out on the seat beside her, unzipped the top, and went rifling through. Sure, I wouldn't want that to happen every time, but just having it there I think made her feel as though the space was her own. As much as we both love the Bobike Mini, after not too long she could become restless: "I'm stuck!" Giving her room to move and stuff to hold is a definite plus. Also, the strap seatbelt gives her some freedom of lateral movement as well. (Though I had a real tough time getting the seatbelt to stay tense; it was something going on with the buckle. I ended up tying a knot in the belt to solve the problem.)
Another thing I noticed straight away was that, instead of feeling like I'm being edged off the road constantly, on the Christiania it seems that drivers give me much more space. I think the road presence of the thing makes me more confident about taking my lane, and it also makes drivers keep their distance.
More posts to come...
Friday, June 16, 2006
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
A very nice event, and I'm now all the more enthusiastic about getting a Christiania trike!
Monday, June 05, 2006
What fun! A gorgeous day, too. Nana, Papa, Kim, Gemma, and I walked down around noon had had a lovely day. The weather was perfect and sunny, and the park was packed. Not too packed, though.
We started by visiting the bikey bit, which consisted of a Camden Cycling Campaign stand (my first time in four years not working!), a cycle training thing, and a try-out area with recumbents and folders from Bikefix and a Christiania from Velorution.
Gem and I had great fun riding around on the Christiania, and Andrea kindly adjusted his son's Like-a-Bike for Gem to ride (she's so keen now!). Papa also tried out a nice folder and had a good time at that. There was a gigantic turnout for Doctor Bike, with a long queue.
We had nice sausages for lunch, then spent the rest of the day walking around and listening to music. Gem loves the blues, and the harmonica especially!
Gem and I also met Jan and her lovely Harry Hall racer, lovingly assembled by her cycle-mad dad in Manchester. While I would like to have seen some swept-back handlebars and a nice Brooks saddle on it, the five-speed Campagnolo Record drivetrain and touring pedals were gorgeous and fit with the lugged Harry Hall frame perfectly! All in all, a beautiful package. I told Jan and her companion Darren that I'd post a picture of it, so maybe I'll have an email from one of them?
Lots more photos on flickr!
Sunday, June 04, 2006
And remarkably, it was one of my best days of riding, ever! The weather was perfect, clear, and warm. I set off at first light around 4:30am and rode through Hyde Park to Richmond, where I picked up the marked route. Of course, not a soul in sight anywhere. The road through Hyde Park by the Serpantine wsa closed at that time, so I eeked in a pedestrian gate and made my way to the cycle path, taking some lovely photos along the way. (See flickr for lots of pictures from the ride.
No problem getting into Richmond Park, thankfully, and I did my usual route across, seeing lots of nice deer in the morning mist.
Then on to the Thames towpath, which took me pretty much the rest of the way. The surface was variable but nice and dry, and never mucky (one nice side-effect of the current drought!). I stopped for a ham sandwich at Hampton Court at 06:30 and continued along past Weybridge and Chobham, finally coming away from the Thames at Runnymeade.
Runnymede is a large swathe of National Trust property with nice forest walks and tons of memorials, ruins, and old houses. Most notable for me was the only significant climb of the day, on the worst surface I encountered all day. Probably 10-12 percent. Not so bad, though, since I'd been riding along on towpaths for most of the day!
Not too long after, I entered Windsor Great Park and spent the next 45 mins or so riding leisurely around the most beautifully-maintained roads I've seen. It's all royal, of course, so it's no surprise that it's kept up so well. It's essentially a huge and varied park, and the public has use of much of it. I was there around 8:30 or so, and the only people I saw were Crown Estate workers and the odd jogger here and there. I got some water and used the loo at the one little shop in the one little village, which was as cute as could be.
Windsor Great Park must be one of the best places for family cycling in the South East. I hope to be able to come back with Gem in the trailer or child seat and spend the day. The only slight downside is that the way markers for the national cycle routes aren't marked inside the park.
After that, there's another nice parkland ride towards Windsor, but after that the markers become really poor. I got really turned around and ended up following an A road into the centre, but that's not a major issue. After only a short break, I walked over a bridge and rode through Eton, where I found my only Sustrans waymarker of the day.
I probably should have gotten on the train there and connected through Slough, but instead I decided to ride to Slough... which only served to confirm for me that Slough deserves its reputation as one of Britain's worst towns. I've said enough about that. But that wasn't enough to sully day for me!
Important note about route 4 The most recent Sustrans map shows a long route that continues along the Thames after Weybridge that was not approved at the time the map was made. It is now approved, and signs on the street reflect that route, not the one on the map.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
I have a little vise mount that I attached to my handlebars and set it going as we left home. The mount isn't very good quality, so I had to adjust it a bit as we went along. But the camera is brilliant, and the giant display on the back fascinated Gem and made her feel like a right little Stephen Spielberg.
The camera shoots very high quality video, so we filled up a 1gb card in less than ten minutes! Next time I'll try shooting at a lower res. In the meantime, I've picked out three nice clips:
- Leaving home, across roundabout to South Hampstead station
- Crossing the Finchley Road on Boundary Road, Gem identifying the white bike on the street, and an irresponsible cyclist at the crossing
- Cycling down Woznarow Road in St John's Wood, singing ba ba black sheep
As I get better with the camera and all that, I'll be doing more video!
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Today I hauled my old PowerMac 8600 200 and Sony monitor off to the Regis Rd recycling centre and left it there to be disposed of. Also finally got rid of the 100 or so AA and AAA batteries we've been saving since Fresh & Wild stopped accepting them (Must be the Whole Foods influence again....)
In any case, it was a triumph for the me and the trailer, which I finally retrieved from the storage space this week. It was a heavy load, but I tied it down well and took it slow - and no problems at all! I was trying hard not to tip over on a busy road like I did not too long ago with our old TV, and my efforts paid off.
I always find a trip to the recycling centre to be a buoying experience, and today was no different. After leaving the computer, batteries, plastic bags, and oatmeal tins (which had once held the batteries) in their respective recepticles, I asked someone for a couple curbside containers, and he found two and deposited them happily in the trailer.
The really nice discovery is that two of those containers fit perfectly in the trailer, and we packed them both with shopping after Gem's music class!
This photo also shows the nice reflective lolly pop I've installed in the hopes of keeping cars (and bikes!) from coming to close when I've got Gem.
Friday, May 26, 2006
Looking back now, though, it would have made a superb fixed-gear bike (which is how I billed on ebay, actually, but I just didn't think I'd want one myself), or the frame would have been the great basis for a nice upright.
As a memorial to old Celeste, I've posted the photos I used on eBay on Flickr . Just look at those lovely lugs!
I hope you're enjoying your new home in Hull, Celeste!
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Thankfully uneventful ride, but still a few things worth mentioning.
Maybe it's the improving weather, but I noticed lots more families cycling to school today. I spotted most of them, strangely, right on our corner! Mostly one parent cycling along with a youngster - on the sidewalk! Very annoying, particularly considering the congestion on our sidewalks. I really wanted to say something to them, but the usual bad behaviour of the drivers along that road made me bite my tongue. It's fine in theory to suggest that children of 7 or 8 be required to ride in the street and obey the law, but how can you know that a child will react with the same reflexes and judgment as an adult? Difficult one.
There was also one parent with a kid on a tag-along bike in tow riding in the street, and another one on his own bike on the sidewalk. This seems the worst solution of all because the parent's attention is divided between the road and the kid on the pavement - and the pavement rider will have to resort to some dangerous tricks to keep up.
Then, after we crossed over the roundabout, there was the usual congestion at the top (or bottom?) end of Loudoun Road next to South Hampstead station. A cyclist behind us was riding quite responsibly, taking his rightful space in the road, but incurring the wrath of a black Mercedes, who then proceeded to roar ahead of both of us and intentionally block our way. He roared off again as we cyclists turned up Boundary Road. During the moment we were stuck behind the Merc, Gem looked back at me and said "Too many cars!" I shared this with the other cyclist as we all waited to cross the Finchley Road. He was a friendly Aussie on a beautiful black Thorn XTC.
Finally, on my way home, I came across a welcome sight in Regents Park. Two community support officers were stopping cyclists who were riding across the footbridge into the park. Cyclists who do this make me angrier than I can say: they endanger pedestrians and sour the general public on all cyclists. One miscreant was having a citation written for him as I went by! That'll learn him!
Monday, May 22, 2006
Just approaching 0900, and the sun is shining. An hour ago when I biked Gemma to nursery, it was a different story - light rain and dark skies. But that's English weather for you, I guess.
But for some reason, what is usually a relaxed and uneventful 20-minute ride today was one close call after another (all really just petty annoyances, but probably enough to rattle a less confident rider with or without a little passenger). The 4x4 Porsche overtaking and blocking the access lane to the ASL on Boundary Rd was a small thing. But the cyclist who rocketed past leaving no room for error between us and the queue of cars as we aproached Regents Park might easily have turned bad for any of us. (Carradice saddle bags & 1970s gym shorts and bike of similar vintage - sound familiar to anyone?)
Then there was the HGV on th Outer Circle that came too close and sprayed us with filthy water... And a few other incidents like these.
Sure, nothing that we as cycle commuters don't see every day in London. But today, it just seems that there was more of it than usual.
Which leads me to my question: Anyone notice this today, or is it just me? Is it because of the weather, or because it's Monday - or a combination? Or maybe I'm just hyper-aware on potentially treacherous days...
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Not having an iPod, I've been a little behind on PodCasting and such things. But I've been listening to a couple good shows I subscribe to from NPR (technology and pop culture) recently, and today I decided to branch out. Since I'd already gone through my NPR PodCasts, I had a look for some bikey ones and came across The FredCast, and it's really good! It's done by a super-keen Californian cycling enthusiast every week or so. It's very well-produced, and David (there's no one named Fred, that's a term that racers use to refer to bad riders who spend too much on their stuff) is a great host.
It's a bit too focused on pro cycling, but still really interesting. There's a good companion website too at http://www.thefredcast.com. Makes me want an iPod even more now, but I can't bear to get one until a new model comes out.
UpdateI had a comment on this entry (which I've opted not to post because it's anonymous) indicating that Fred is a real person and that I made other errors in my piffle of a post. I'm pretty sure I got it right... here's what the FredCast website says:
The FredCast is produced by me, David Bernstein. I am an avid road cyclist, and I live in Southern California with my lovely wife, Donna, and our two daughters, Meghan and Emily. I am a former bicycle industry executive now working in my family’s industrial machinery manufacturing company. I attend frequent industry functions and I am (proudly) one of the few people in the room who doesn’t play golf.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
My Fahrrad Manufaktur T100 is finally firing on seven gears again! A welcome development after almost a year of failed attempts to restore gears 1 & 2 to working order.
Andrea, the mechanic at Velorution, ended up replacing the shifter box and the twist shifter itself, now everthing works pretty much as it should (still the odd skip or stick, but no big deal).
The odd thing is that he said he'd onlly seen this type of failure in a SRAM hub in thier heavy-duty work bikes.
The new shifter has quite a different feel to it, but it's growing on me. But the really neat thing is that the direction of twisting is different, which makes it the same as my Rohloff - much less confusing in the long run!
I had some time off in Paris last week. It was a nice afternoon, and I sought out a place to rent a bike. I was hoping to find a place near my hotel just off the Champs Elysees, but the closest place the concierge could find was at Les Halles, so that was still a good excuse to walk over there and have a jambon buerre along the way.
When I found the place without too much trouble and got a bike. It was a bit of a disappointment straight away - seat askew, brakes scarcely working. But functional enough, and I'm sure Henry Miller rode worse.
My rental bike
I set off towards Le Marais, and soon found Paris to be one of the least hospitable biking cities I've experienced. The Paris à Vélo map indicated lots of of routes, but even the primary routes were shared with buses. What you don't realize as a tourist on foot, though, is how heavy the traffic is on small streets, which all seem to be one-way in the opposite direction you want to go. And whenever I wanted to stop and pop in somewhere, I couldn't find a place to lock up. There are some racks here and there, but no parking meters or any other accessible fixtures.
Traffic in Le Marais
I had a nice ride by the end of it all, with a lovely ride around the islands and a bit of ice cream.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
I was cycling home through Regents Park (clockwise around the Outer Circle, that is), and I stopped a red light .
Coming the opposite way, another biker stopped as well, and a p
big police van pulled up behind him. This guy waited a bit, then took off through the red when the green men appeared.
Then to everyone's surprise, on came the flashing lights! Nicked! I kept going (despite the temptation to take pictures!). I suspect he was just told off, but he certainly set a example for all the bikers who passed by after!
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Sunday, April 30, 2006
It's essentially just a big black bag with a zipper and a zip-loc type closure at the top, so it's waterproof too. There's one zippered pocket inside for keys or whatever, and long shoulder straps for carrying while off the bike.
One of the most convenient things about it, though, is that the clips you use to clip onto the bike can also clip right onto a shopping trolley, as seen here at Marks & Spencer in Marble Arch!
We were in Primrose Hill watching the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery practice the other day see pictures on Flickr, and among the heavy police presence was this chap on an electric-assist bike! He was friendly and posed for this picture. He said that the Met has two of them, and he apologised for the white battery pack not matching his silver bike.
I'm not quite sure what purpose they serve, since a fit officer on a decent bike can surely get up more speed than on the heavy electric Eco-bike.
The bike also had some interesting branding from the IPMBA, or the International Police Mountain Bike Association, which I haven't come across before, but which seems to do a good job at promoting emergency services on bikes.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
I spied a couple new Community Support Officers in Primrose Hill this afternoon, so naturally, I took a picture. Being all comunity focused as they are, one said hello and asked me if I liked their bikes.
I didn't particularly, but I was interested in who makes them. He said "Smith and Weston, the same that makes our guns."
Okay, first of all, it's Smith & Wesson (as any good Clint Eastwood fan knows). But not only are these guys not allowed to carry guns, neither are most Metropolitan Police officers.
This guy went on to tell me about the important work they do patrolling the royal parks and in communities. I didn't ask what, then, his partner was doing in Primrose Hill's chichi flower and nick nack shop. I'm sure it was just community outreach.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Reason one: they make the absolute best gelato I've had outside of Italy.
Reason two: Basilico, our fave pizza delivery in London, delivers their stuff in 2-flavour tubs
Reason three: they now have a stand on Oxford Street ouside Selfridges consisting of a massive three-wheeled work bike!
Friday, April 14, 2006
Did a lovely ride today, using a route from Nick Cotton's excellent series of English cycle routes. This one was called "From Whitchurch to Kingsclere via Hampshire lanes and Watership Down" from 24 One-day Routes in Dorset, Hampshire and Isle of Wight.
The ride started and finished in Whitchurch, which is just an hour on a fast train from Waterloo (but £18 return on a holiday? pure madness!). All the directions from the book were spot on, with a few exceptions where signs have been replaced. There were a few stints on busy A-roads, but nothing terrible, but the vast majority were on very VERY quite country lanes. Some were really lane-y, with high hedges on both sides and a gravelly hump in the middle - but there were also lots of very smooth paths that could have been mistakened for Dutch cycle paths if not for the presence of horse riders and absence of road markings.
Mostly really rural, with the odd bit of 1950s ugliness on the outskirts of bigger towns like Overton and Whitchurch. But that was more than compensated for by the giant country houses and thatched cottages! Lots of springtime animal scenes, too, with tons of ducks, horses, rabbits, cows, and lambs. I made sure to get lots of pictures of these for Gemma.
Despite the title of the ride in the book, Watership Down never made itself evident. I had a look at the map afterwards, and know exactly where it was, but it would have been nice to have known about it at the time. I'm telling myself it's where I got a good picture of the hare standing up on its hind legs...
The weather was the only downside of an otherwise perfect, lovely ride - it stayed very wet for most of the three hours or so I was riding.
I took the clunky Minolta along, and I've published a bunch of photos on my flickr photostream.
I've been hankering for a good bag for daytrips for a long time (ever since I got my Raven, actually). I've usually ended up using my Ortlieb shopping pannier (okay, but no structure thus very floppy) or an Altura rack bag (which my Tubus rack doesn't accommodate well, requiring a web of bungees to get it to stick).
So last weekend, I ordered a Carradice Barley. Carradice is a venerable English company that specializes in cycle bags and other cycling bits.
I got a chance to test it out today, and it's fantastic! It fastens on very securely, with leather straps that fit perfectly through the mounts under my Brooks saddle and around a wooden dowell inside the bag; and another strap that fixes the bag to the seapost. My initial concern was that my legs would hit the bag when I pedal. It turns out that my thighs do actually touch the bag on the downstroke, but it in no way hampers movement. Strangely, it feels quite comforting to have it there - being able to feel it replaces my compulsion of reaching down to make sure my panniers are still there.
The seven litre capacity is perfect for a day's ride. Today, I packed a big bag of DIY trail mix, a couple bananas, my toolkit, some tissues, and my big Minolta digicam - and there was plenty of room left over. There are two side pockets, into which I put my saddle cover, a bunch of faux fig newtons, and some Frusili bars. I wasn't sure how I'd use the side pockets since they don't close as securely as one might like, but it turned out that the loose-ish flaps do hold stuff in, but it's easy to pull goodies out without unbuckling, while riding!
Inside the main compartment, there's a drawstring that closes up the opening some, but not all the way. I'm not tremendously keen on this feature, but it works okay. It would also be nice to have some compartments inside for keys and change; I ended up hanging my housekeys from the plastic loop using a mini carabiner.
And despite what I'd read about the cotton duck fabric many of the Carradice bags are made from, I sort of doubted that they'd actually be waterproof. And I got ample opportunity to test my skepticism today! For much of my ride, it was very wet, but the bag kept everything bone dry. The bag itself never got a proper drenching because of its position behind me, and the mudguards kept it protected from below. I remain optimistic for my next full-on drenching, though!
This bag is a design departure for Carradice - most of their cotton bags are black - but if they start producing other bags to match this one, I could be pursuaded!
View more pictures on my flickr photostream .
Thursday, April 06, 2006
When I arrived today, I found that the main cycle park was torn up for unrelated construction, and there was a series of signs like this:
It turns out that they've temporarily relocated the main cycle parking facilito to the courtyard facing Regents Park - it couldn't be a lovelier spot, but it's much less convenient than the regular place. It's also a bit awkward to navigate the narrow passage filled with bikes!
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Don't get me wrong - I love my Raven Tour, and it's definitely the most versatile bike I've owned. If space and funds allowed, though, I'd have all sorts of exotic stuff. Here's my list of dream bikes.
- Steel road bike: I'm torn between Mercian, Waterford, and Rivendell
- Titanium road bike: Independent Fabrication Crown Jewell Ti
- Utility bike: Christiania trike
- Tandem: Thorn Raven Discovery (of course!)
- Folder: new Brompton Titanium
- Recumbent: A tough one! Probably a Burley, though
- Misc: A hand-built Moulton of course, a Pedersen, and maybe a six-passenger Delfino!
What's on your list?
(BTW, if it seems like I'm going a bit stir crazy, subsituting online time for road time, that would be accurate! I've been traveling a lot, but I'm looking forward to hitting the road again soon!)
When vacationing in Palm Beach this month, we wanted to do some cycling on the Lake Trail. We'd planned to get a load of bikes and child seats to accommodate the four adults and three kids, but the Palm Beach Bicycle Trail Shop didn't have enough of the seats.
Instead, we rented a Delfino four-wheeler, which accommodates four pedaling adults, a kid (with potentially precariously dangling feet) in between each pair of pedalers, and two kids in the front. What fun that was! I think the only place I've seen them before is in the Villa Borghese in Rome. It worked out perfectly for us, and we spent 90 mins or so on the trail. The shop also has one of these with only one bench seat. It was a bit hot (high 80s F), and the canvas top was missing, but the breeze off the lake kept us pretty cool.
Okay the title isn't quite accurate. But we did have a nice little bike around the Fort Wilderness campground, where we stayed during our three-day Disney vacation.
Fort Wilderness is right on the Disney grounds, so it was as convenient as any of the big resorts; but we still had the autonomy of our own little cabin. The campground was ridiculous, really, with cabins scattered among hook-up points at which million-dollar RVs were stationed. And while not exactly "wilderness", it did seem like it to Gemma, who really enjoyed our little deck and walks around the grounds.
See more photos from our excursion on on Flickr.
On our last day, we rented bikes and cruised around the grounds a bit. Nice bike/walking paths, which are used liberally by RVers on their own rubbishy bikes. The real revelation was that Gem enjoyed the rear-mounted seat! This could have something to do with her opening up my butt pack and finding my wallet, of course, which is one of her favourite things to play with...
Saturday, March 04, 2006
My buddies at the Camden Cycling Campaign have organised a series of three cycle maintenance workshops, and today was the first. It was held in the basement of Velorution, my new favourite cycle shop in central London. The workshop was conducted by mechanic Andrea (as opposed to proprietor Andrea, who also chimed in here and there).
Thoroughly enjoyable, but not as hands-on as I expected. We looked at all the parts of a bike and variations between different sorts of brakes, headsets, and transmissions. I got lots of questions in, and at the end of the day, I always enjoy talking about bikes!
I'm hoping the next session is more practical, and that I'll actually get some grease under my fingernails!
Sunday, February 12, 2006
I noticed a couple interesting things on my recent trip to the US...
I biked up to Potters Bar via my usual route through Hampstead and Barnet, then followed the route precisely all the way up to Letchworth Garden City and got the train home from there.
The ride was really nice, all in all. But it was more interesting as a tour of suburban cycling infrastructure than for the scenery. It's actually much nicer off the route in the area - going straight through Welwyn Garden City and Stevenage are is a bit of a nuisance, but the cycling facilities in both towns are good and comprehensive, particularly the latter.
The start after Potters Bar is really very nice, but it's a little treacherous around the M25 underpass - it's nice to have a marked, traffic-free route, but the surface is no good and could be dangerous if any miscreants were loitering about. When I did the ride, it was just approaching 7am at that point, and the only illumination I had was my single headlight; I'd want to do it in real daylight next time.
There's a mix of surfaces over the route, including muddy nastiness (not too much, though), trafficked roads, and lots of nice traffic-free hardpack. One high point of foresty goodness is in Stream Woods (I think), alongside Hatfield.
Stevenage has a remarkable network of cycle paths which generally run along the main roads and then pretzel around under the many roundabouts. It's great if you want to go from the town centre to a giant box-shifter superstore on the outskirts, and there were plenty of walkers and cyclists who were clearly using the paths for transport. As a scenic sunday ride, though, I'd prefer to stick to the countryside.
A final highlight was around Letchworth, where there's a really nice network of traffic-free paths Garden City Greenway.
The biggest disappointment of the ride was my failure to get a look at Knebworth House (a giant privately-owned country mansion), despite skirting around the grounds for at least 20 minutes!
I rode all the way up to Bedfordshire, then turned around and came home. I probably won't do that ride again (unless I do it with others), but it was a nice objective for a day.
I took a crummy camera, but here are a few shots that came out.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
I took my Raven to Bicycle Workshop finally last Saturday for a quick tune and (more importantly) to get the top of the fork trimmed off. It looks much tidier now! I've also put on a Klik Fix map holder, which is great - it obscures the cyclometer, which doesn't cause any trouble because it isn't working anyway!
Thursday, January 05, 2006
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Monday, January 02, 2006
I'd passed this couple with thier baby on the canal before, but that would have been a highly inconvenient time to talk. We had a quick chat this time, though. The Bobike Mini was mounted on a Dutch Filipak from a shop in the Netherlands called 't Mannetje. I had a look at the website, and there's some really interesting stuff there - lots of exotic but practical city and cargo bikes.
I told the chap at the zoo we're expecting another baby, and he recommended the t'Mannetje Filiduo for us. Interesting, but but I don't know about having TWO kids behind (let alone one), and the next one will be a bit young for that sort of thing anyway.
I wish we'd managed to exchange details, but I'm sure we'll run into them again - that bike is hard to miss!
We picked out the special edition Puffin from Velorution and Kim ordered over the phone. (It has a cute striped saddle, and it comes with a little puffin to ride along!) We had thought about getting the propstand with it, but Andrea assured us that we didn't need one, but we did go for a red matching saddle bag that drapes over the crossbar (of sorts).
I'd hoped to be able to pick it up myself, but work plus holiday pandemonium scuppered that plan. Instead, Velorution arranged to have it delivered by Zero Couriers on a three-wheeled Christiania, which attracted lots of attention by passers by when it arrived.
We kept it under wraps until Christmas morning. Gem was delighted with it of course! She's a bit small as yet, only able to touch both her tippitoes at once. She loves being pushed along, though, and she has lots of fun stuffing various things (the puffin included) into the saddle bags. We went out on Boxing Day for a trial run and she had a great time. We'll head out again once the weather improves a bit, or when we've got time to head to Kilburn Grange where she can have a proper go.
This is the start, though - her own custom-built Thorn just like daddy's is only around the corner!