Saturday, August 26, 2006

Critical Mass Ride

Critical Mass - Waterloo Bridge
Originally uploaded by ahconway.
Years ago before Gemma was born, Kim and I came upon a Critical Mass ride in the West End and joined it for a bit. Great fun: hundreds of cyclists riding happily through the centre of town escorted by dozens of Met Police on bikes - not to mention cyclists and bikes of every description.

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

A week's worth of groceries

A week's worth of groceries
Originally uploaded by ahconway.
Hooray! The Christiania has arrived! More detail soon, but it's just as sweet as I'd expected, and the nice black alloy wheels were a great surprise. Here's Gem with a week's shopping.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Arlington, here we come!

Hasn't it been forever since my last post? (I wonder if anyone noticed...)

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!