Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New waterproof gloves

It's miserable getting your nice warm gloves soaked through on your commute to work and having to ride home with cold gloves, still soaking.

Various bike store sales people have told me that "there's no such thing as waterproof". Fine. But could that really be true?

I couldn't imagine this to really be the case. So I asked one of my trusty email lists (internet-BOB) and got a range of replies from all over the world.

One kind soul who lives nearby emailed me off-list to say that he has a pair of completely waterproof fisherman's gloves that he'd sell me cheap. So we met in Davis Square this morning and did the deal. Had a very nice chat, too! Very likeable fellow.

The gloves (as this photo clearly shows) are utterly and completely waterproof, but perhaps not suited to stuffing cotton into little bottles and the like.

It was a great start to the day (which also happens to be a gorgeous 58 degrees!), after which I found a nice reflective trouser band in the street!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bedford Narrow Gauge Rail Trail

Wonderful afternoon ride yesterday. I allowed myself 90 minutes during naptime, so I rode up the Minuteman path, then I took my first real forray up the Bedford Narrow Gauge Rail Trail. (The Friends of Bedford Depot Park publish a very nice, detailed guide to the trail.)

Not many people on either path, so it was really lovely. Lots of leaves, and I took care not to go slip-sliding away, but I never really lost my footing at any point.

The real surprise was the second path, which picks up very near the Bedford end of the Minuteman path, across Loomis Street. It even has a bit of the old track at the start. The surface starts fully paved, then it turns to packed gravel, much like many of the Sustrans routes in the UK. Again, lots of leaves, but the surface was generally very good, allowing me to truck along at 17mph for most of its length.

I turned around at Fawn Lake (which warrants further exploration another time), which turned out to be precisely 10 miles from home.

Old Thorny performed exceptionally as usual, reminding me that it really is worthy of the odd off-road adventure.

Friday, November 16, 2007

1000 miles since July

About 35 miles ago, my cyclometer ticked over 1000 miles! Doesn't qualify me for Paris-Brest-Paris, but still, it's probably a record for me for I don't know how long. As it gets colder, I wonder how I'll stay in shape.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It's a rainy day in Balamory

And Boston too. I briefly considered taking public transport in today, but changed my mind because it's supposed to be really nice later today, and I didn't want to get stuck on the T with viruses running rampant (everyone I know seems to be deathly ill right now).

I bundled up a little excessively, going with fleecy mid-layers instead of wool, because synthetics should dry out quicker. It was a light but steady rain all the way here, and I do think my Gore Tex outer layers let some water through. According to my queries at local bike shops and in email groups, the thing to do is to wash and dry all of it, which should rejuvinate everything. There's also a product called Nikwax, which lots of people like. I'll give it a go without first.

I took the scenic route today (bike path from Arlington to Cambridge via Alewife, then along the river), and made a big discovery on the top end. To get from Pleasant Street in Arlington to the bike path, I'd always gone all the way down to Mass Ave and then cut in at what used to be Carberry's bakery. But today it occurred to me to turn off Pleasant Street and follow signs to the Boys & Girl's club, then ride along the path by Spy Pond and join the bike path a little later. That's a much, much better route, allowing me to avoid the whole right turn on arrow only nonsense of that intersection and also cut out a goodly part of (un)Pleasant Street!

This was also a nice test today for my Ortlieb trunk box - it kept my change of clothes bone dry!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Biking into fall

Early November, and it's well and truly Autumn in Boston. Many of our trees are still green, others are completely naked, but most are a bit colorful and somewhere in between. The weather is finally perfectly chilly and clear by and large, with 30s in the morning and 40s-50s later on.

Perfect weather for biking, in other words! My birthday wool jersey is now a staple, and I can wear it almost everyday without getting all stinky (of course, I air it out at the office during the day and also overnight at home).  It's from Earth Wind & Rider. I also have a nice wool beanie from Kucharik, and I have some wool tights from them on the way.

Of course, the time change last week means that I'm riding in the dark a lot more, but it's not a big deal, really. I tend to keep to Mass Ave on the way home if it's really dark... for some reason I feel like that's going to be safer than heading up Broadway via Davis Square because there's MORE traffic and cars are necessarily slower. More bikers too. 

The nice thing is that, while I haven't really managed much weekend riding because there's just so much fun stuff to do with the family, I've been averaging three to four days of commuting by bike each week, putting my weekly mileage between 60 and 75 - not bad! 

I've also been thinking about how I'll keep in shape when the snow starts falling... should I try snow-shoeing or XC skiing? Jury's still out. Those would still be weekend pursuits, though, but I'm going to try walking to Alewife for my commute, which is about 3 miles each way, I think. And that should be much easier now that the bike path will be plowed, at least part of the time!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ride Report - Pocket Rides Watertower Ride

Did a beautiful ride this morning from the Rubel Pocket Rides series. From "Beyond the Minuteman Bikeway, Bedford", no. 10 is "The Watertower Ride", featuring our own water tower here in Arlington Heights. It's listed as a 32-mile ride, but I cut a couple miles off by riding up the bike path to the Bedford end, where the ride officially starts.

On the bit that I cut out, there seems to be lots of twisty-turny-ness that I see little point to. Perhaps its a nice alternative to the bike path, which I guess could grow monotonous for some. The bike path was ideal for me when I set off around 6:30 since it wasn't quite light enough to see my queue sheet!

In any case, the weather was perfect early Autumn weather - leaves just beginning to fall, mid-40s and clear. The route is wonderful because it takes in beautiful countryside and also lots of genuine points of interest, like the Old North Bridge, Concord River (2 crossings), Walden Pond, and the Decordova museum. The other really nice thing about this ride is that it's easy to navigate - not more than 4 or so major turnings if you do it like I did.

A couple comments on the route:

  1. When the map indicates turning on "River Street", it's actually "River Road" - when there so many possible permutations of streets, avenues, ways, and paths, it's important to get that right.

  2. Heading into Belmont, there's a steep descent that the route description says is lots of fun, providing that you be prepared to stop at the bottom. In fact, it's quite a treacherous hill, particularly when the sun is coming up and the sun's in your eyes. While nearby Pleasant Street has been completely repaved, this bit hasn't been so lucky, and there are some VERY significant bumps on the way down. I hit a couple of them really hard and only quite managed to keep my hands on the bars because I was gripping them for dear life and not bothering to touch the brake levers. Which is why the sharp right-hand turn came as an unwelcome surprise and nearly sent me into oncoming traffic; there's also the possibility of going over the barrier on the other side if you really go wrong.

On the bright side, that little brush with my own mortality gave me the boost of adrenaline I needed to power back up the hill to the water tower before heading home.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Christiania on Cyclofiend

Cyclofiend is a fun site with pictures of people's bikes. Here's the entry about our Christiania.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hub Stripping

I'm not sure where the name of this blog comes from, but it's a very interesting site nevertheless, all about internally-geared bike hubs. (Which describes the gearing all of my bikes - the Fahrrad Manufaktur, the Thorn Raven, and the Christiania trike). One very interesting recent post is about a new Rohloff hub with greater range, smaller size, and less weight.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007


It's not as disasterous as all that, I just have a flat and no means to fix it.

I should have seen it coming. I've had a slow leak in front for weeks now, and it's only meant that I need to top up before I head out. Today, though, I thought I felt a little low but I set off regardless since I was running a little late.

But by the time I set off from South Street, it was pretty soft. I considered asking the gang of bike couriers I alway pass by at their financial district hangout if I could borrow a pump, but I didn't think it was a necessity then, and, sure, they're also pretty intimidating. Especially in large numbers, at leisure.

So I kept going. I bottomed out near Kendall Square, and I think I probably got a snake bite puncture, and from there, the end came swiftly.

I resolved to taking it on the Red Line to Alewife, locking up, taking a taxi, and returning with the car. But then Jim called and now the girls are coming to get me and the pizza I've ordered from Emma's' which I've alway wanted to try! I also squeezed in a quick beer at Tommy Doyle's' which certainly helps take some of the disaster out of it all.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Our Christiania trike

Here's our Christiania unladen. See more photos here.

Whenever we venture out in the Christiania trike, we get lots of stares and curious questioners. Here are answers to some of the questions we get most often.

Can I have a closer look?

Sure! Here's a bunch of photos. I'm happy to arrange to meet in Boston with anyone interested.

Did you make it yourself?

I'm afraid not. It was built by hand in Denmark by a small company called Christiania, after the commune settlement in Copenhagen where the company was founded (and based for a long time - but they've now moved, and the settlement is under threat from the government). See the Christiania Bikes website for more information (and some photos of us!) or this page for all the specs.

Is it safe?

I feel very safe riding it, and I have no reservations about riding with my two small daughters. The construction of the trike is very, very solid. The box is thick plywood, and the rest of the bike is steel, with very good quality components throughout. It has a coaster brake on the rear wheel and discs on the front wheels. There's a lap belt for older kids (like my 3 1/2 year old), and a three-point harness for younger kids (like my 14-month old) - these mechanisms probably aren't compliant with US safety standards, but I don't have any problem with them.

How much can you carry?

The other day, I popped into The Bike Stop on the bike path in Arlington and created a bit of sensation - and one one of the staff asked me to take his sister and her friend for a ride. Why not? When they emerged from the shop, it turned out that they were 7 and 9, and a little chubby... but we still had a nice ride and the bike handled perfectly well. The maximum weight recommended by Christiania is 100kg, or about 220lbs. I've carried all sorts of stuff, including children, dogs, groceries, rubbish, and a big portable PA system.

Is it hard to ride?

Not at all - once you get the hang of it. I would recommend some practice before taking on passengers. It can be tricky going round corners at speed, just because you have to lean into the corner to avoid flipping over (I've never flipped, but I've come close!)

What else can you do with a Christiania trike?

They aren't only good for schlepping kids around town, though they are great for that. Since they're all built to the customer's specifications, they can do lots of things, including carrying up to six kids, I think.

In London (and elsewhere), they're used in their purest form as courier and delivery bikes. The big box and 100kg capacity is definitely a couple steps above what your average courier on a fixed-gear bike can do!

This would also be the ideal vehicle (even in Boston with the harsh winters) as an alternative to a car. For journeys of six or seven miles, it's perfectly comfortable with any sort of load; I loved doing all the shopping in London with ours. And aside from the practical appeal, it makes a great statement!

Where can I get one?

If you're in Denmark, you'll have no problem, since you already see them everywhere. We bought ours in London, from the wonderful shop Velorution. They're very helpful, and they have all sorts of Euro utility bikes and elements of bike culture. If you're in the US, you're pretty much out of luck right now. Christiania does not export to the US, so the only way to get one over here is to buy in Europe and bring back as we did.

Having said that, I am considering importing Christiania trikes. If you might be interested in buying one, please post a comment.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

MassBike Festival 2007

It was pretty hot. I mean it was sweltering. In the parking lot of Verrill Farm where the festival was, our thermometer read 98 degrees. Pretty hot.

It was the day we'd been looking forward to for a long time - the MassBike 5th Annual Bike Festival. A large menu of organized rides to choose from, barbeque, and "bike expo". Despite the forecast, we stuck to the plan: I would ride out early with the Christiania, and Kim and the girls would meet me there with the car and Kim's bike on top. Then we'd do the 8ish-mile Canoe Ride with a nice paddle down the Concord River in the middle. Then barbeque, see the sights, and home.

Everything went more or less to plan, and everyone had a great time (except for a bit of crankiness on Gem's part on the first leg of the bike ride, which I attribute to the excessive heat). Our ride leader was John Allen, one of my favorite writers of yore from Bicycling Magazine in the 1970s & 80s. There was another very nice guide riding sweep, and two more families - one with a child on a trailer bike, and another family with four kids, three on their own bikes (including a small girl who had just learned to ride!)

The ride out was nice despite Gem's mood, and we arrived at the South Bridge Boat House to hear the supposed managers stomping around, slamming doors, and using the F-word before directing us to leave our bikes here, no there, NO, over here! In the end, we were dealt with by reasonably helpful high-school students, but our brief experience of the older folks would deter me from returning.

The canoeing was very, very nice indeed. Beautiful scenery, the river was nice and quiet, and Gemma in particular liked dangling her hands in the water and helping to paddle. Elsie kept Kim occupied the whole time, though, so it was up to Gem and me to do the paddling. Our guides John and Liz were great throughout.

The ride back was also very pleasant - even more so because the girls were really enjoying themselves by this time. We were the last ones to leave the river due to my slow paddling, but we caught up with most of the peloton on the way back.

Then we queued up for our Redbones Barbeque, which was identical to the spread they laid on during Bike Week this year: beef, pork, and mushroom sandwiches with cole slaw. We sat on the grass under one of the tents and had a fine time eating with our fingers.

We left before the Pie Race, though I have vowed to compete in it with both girls next year, when they're both at their pie-eating peak. We did have a chance to ravage the few vendor tents that were set up, including lots of free Glaceau water, Snapple samples, and nutrition bars from a maker I can't remember.

My ride home through Concord, Waltham, and Belmont was significantly tougher than the ride out, probably because I'd already humped 20 miles on the Christiania and paddled up and down the Concord River single-handedly... and it was still in the high 90s. It was a genuine struggle on some of the hills, especially on Trapelo Road. By the time I returned home, the girls were all sitting out front waiting to greet me, and I felt more exhausted than I did after my 110-miler just a few weeks back.

All in all, it was a really nice day... but it could have been better. The rides were great, it was very well organized, the food was very good, but it just didn't have an air of "festival" about it. There are so many local bike makers and shops, why didn't any of them turn up to show off their wares? Did I imagine the publicity about kids decorating bikes? There were certainly enough kids there, which was wonderful - just nothing much for them to do. I can't help wanting to compare this to the big bike culture gatherings in the UK - like York for one, and also the Regents Park bike fairs that are so much fun and a real draw.

I don't mean to be too critical of the event by any means, but I do think it could be so much more. If Kim and I can manage it, I really hope we can get involved next year to help make it happen.

Friday, August 24, 2007

My commute

I vary my routes to work, but here's the most direct route (pretty much, anyway, still avoiding some ugly bits!) - as I recorded it for the Boston bike mapping project.

View Larger Map

New Boston Bike Mapping Project

An encouraging program is underway in Boston to map new bike routes.

I've requested a mapping kit from nicole.freedman.bra@cityofboston.gov (which I will use to mark good routes on paper), but the more interesting program is online using Google Maps.

City of Boston: Hub On Wheels

Instructions for Tracing Routes

It should just take you a minute or two to map your routes. You have my word. Please note, if you rode twice in a day (for example morning commute to work; afternoon commute home) please map each leg as a separate ride.

1. Go to: http://maps.google.com/

2. Click Sign in located in the upper right corner

3. Login with the following information

* Username: bikeboston
* Password: bikesurvey

If you are already signed in with a personal gmail account, please logout and re-sign in using the above information.

4. Click the My Maps tab located under "Google".

5. Click the Create New Map button located under the My Maps tab.

6. An input box will appear.

* In the Title box, please write your full name, date of ride, and start time of the first one-way leg of your ride.

* Example: John Doe, 8/14, 5:45 AM.

* In the Description box, please write a current email address and the purpose of the ride, i.e. commute to job, errands, social, fun/exercise, work (messenger, courier)

* Example: johndoe@AOL.com ,commute to work.

7. You are now ready to trace your route.

* To Zoom in, click "+"
* To Start, single click the in the upper left corner of the map. Single click on the map location corresponding to your ride origin.
* To Change directions, single click along the intersections.
* To Finish double click on the map location corresponding to destination.
* To Edit after saving, hover the "hand" symbol over the route. When the route appears click and click once where you want to make edits.

8. After double clicking, an input box will appear. Please enter the reason you chose this route (i.e. most direct, most scenic, fewest cars, safest.) and/or anything else you want to share with us.

9. Click the Save button.

10. If you rode twice in the day, please go to #5 above and repeat to trace the second or return ride.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

New mixte!

Discovered this lovely Peugeot mixte for just down the road in Cambridge... I emailed the Craigslist seller a while ago and just heard from him today. Seems he was travelling and only turned up today with a queue of people wanting to see the bike. Remarkably, he was on his way to Arlington today, so we met behind Panero's and did the deal! It's ready to ride, though I would like to swap out the seat and wheels, and add a rack - all from other bikes I've scavenged!

Monday, July 16, 2007

On top of Mount Wachusett

On top of Mount Wachusett
Originally uploaded by ahconway
The day after, I feel remarkably fresh! Not getting on a bike today, but probably will bike to work tomorrow.

All in all, the ride was a really positive experience. I do wish there had been a greater range of abilities represented - it was a bit demoralizing being on the bottom end of the speed scale. My average speed overall was 12.9 mph, but for long stints, I was spinning along comfortably at 16-17 mph. My high speed was 41.

Thorny got lots of attention - lots of people thought it was a fixed gear - but very few people had heard of the hub. Towards the end, a couple people named it "coolest bike of the day!" It was certainly among the most unique - I'd say that over 80% of the bikes there high-end Trek, Cannondale, and Specialized. Snooze! If you're going to spend $3k, aren't there more interesting ways to do it? I saw probably 3 other bikes with mudguards, one other kickstand, and two other 26-inchers.

I certainly appreciated my gearing. I had just the right low end to make it up the steep ones comfortably.

I do find it odd in retrospect that I really didn't pal up with any riding buddies. Most people were either too fast or too slow for me, and there were virtually no people on their own like me. I would certainly have regular riding buddies if I had a more regular weekend riding schedule and could belong to a club, but I'm not too bothered. The last 28 miles or so were a bit rough, though, riding completely on my own, just trying to beat the rain with not another soul (on bike or not) in sight.

I definitely hope/expect to do at least another century this year, and I may even do this one again next summer! Now that I know what to expect, that will certainly make it easier.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Actually, I pulled in to the finish exactly 9 hours and 55 minutes after I started - in the middle of a heavy thunderstorm! There were still some cars in the lot, but not many. I made it!

80 miles, sore

But ok. It's my back & hands. Managing ok. Store at this stop, will get something cold! Lots of talk of thunder storms and anti-inflamatories.

60 miles - lunch stop

Bananas all gone. Glad I brought my own food! Feeling pretty good still, thoug not really looking forward to last 40.

At the summit!

I'm here! Tired and just halfway mileage. Deep hope relatively speakin, though. Gorgeous day, nice breeze now but pretty go in spots.

On the way up...

At the base station on the mountain. Just finished initial climb, more to come.

Feel pretty good, might throw up later.

40m * mountain in sight

Oh boy

One third done

At the 34 mile stop. Water & snacks. Real good so far. Somke nice folks, some snobby. Feeling good!

Crowds building at the start

I got to the start point just before 7, so registration was no problem. Of course, this gives me over an hour to get completely intimidated by all the hardcore racer-types! Probably 200 bikes here so far, none with my wheel size, most weighing half what Thorny weighs.

Must remember my big Audax lesson: go at your own pace!

Climb to the Clouds

Today's the day! It's the Charles River Wheelmen's Climb to the Clouds, starting (and finishiing) in Concord and taking in lots of big hills including Mount Wachuset. (See http://www.crw.org/CTTC/climb2clouds.htm )

I haven't been training much specifically for this ride, but I am hoping that my usual commute, plus my hill climbs back up to our house will serve me well.

The bike is all set - map holder, 3 bottle cages, seat pack - and I've got a bag full of provisions. One unknown: will it rain? Another variable: Can I do it? Gemma assures me, "You can do it, Daddy!" so I'll just have to remember that one.

Okay, time to load up the car! If I have the wherewithall, I'll post some updates from my phone later.

Ci vediamo all'arrivo!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Independence Day 2007 Bike Parade

Here we are bedecked in our stars & stripes finery on the 4th. Click through for bigger image on Flickr!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Day Tripper Dispatches links to Velo Fellow

Charlotte Pierce, publisher of the "Compleat Day Tripper" (which has provided us with innumerable days out and other valuable local guidance) linked to my post about our ride to Lexington. See: Day Tripper Dispatches: Bike 'N Play

Monday, July 02, 2007

Globe Rage

After returning from our beautiful ride to Lexington, I read the front page story of Sunday Globe, "Rage on the Bikeway", a pointless article discussing some some of the troubles that come with the popularity of the bike path.

Here's an email I sent off to the Arlington list about it (lots of similar posts have since appeared on the list):

I certainly experienced my moment of Globe rage after seeing thispiece, and it was all the more irksome because I saw it just as my family returned from the most lovely ride along the path to Lexington and back.

Sure, I've seen the odd spill here and there, and not all of the path's users are as good-natured as you would like. But Geez! Exactly what was the point of this article supposed to be? The path was a major reason that my family moved to Arlington, and I've yet to experience anything to make value it any less.

If the implicit logic of the piece is to be followed, we should probably close the path due to excessive popularity. But if we follow common sense, shouldn't we use this as a cue to develop more facilities that keep people fit, reduce traffic and CO2 emmissions, and contribute to our local economy?

Minuteman milestones

Big milestone yesterday! We did our first big bike ride with the whole family.

We loaded up a bag of provisions and set off for Lexington - with the girls in the Christiania and Kim on her Fahrrad. It was a lovely ride from Park Ave up to Lexingon center. Beautiful weather, if a little chilly, but that that actually cut down on the crowds a bit.

The girls both had a great time; Gem was in charge of the cheese bunnies and doled them out to Elsie when prompted by a finger in the ear.

As usual, we had lots of nice comments from various other path users, including a guy on a recumbent who said "Nice vehicle!" - typical for a recumbent, he was surely using "vehicle" as shorthand for "human powered vehicle" or HPV.

Our destination was the big playground near Lexington High School. Everything was brand new, including a great rock climb that Gem really loved. Seemed we weren't alone with this plan - there were lots of bikey families there as well. We even met a couple who were interested in the Christiania with kids of similar ages, and it turns out they live not too far from us in Arlington!

It was getting late by the time we left, so we got some snacks at a little fair in Lexington and went straight home instead of getting lunch out. Good thing we did, too, because Elsie fell asleep on the chug back up Park Ave, and we put her right to bed when we got home.

Another milestone: Kim cruised all the way up Park like a pro!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

You win some, you lose some

I left home for work at 5:30 this morning. It's trash day in Arlington, so I was naturally scanning the heaps of rubbish on the curb as I sped down Gray, when I spied two dusty old bikes standing gingerly among the trash and recycling just a couple blocks from the intersection with my street.

Closer inspection revealed one to be an early 1970s Phillips racer and the other was a late 70s ladies' Schwinn Suburban. Both were in great shape, with no rust or blemishes on the frames, but a heaping helping of dust and cobwebs all over.

I was late-ish for work, and still needed to shower and dress on arrival. So what to do? I grabbed the Phillips and hoofed it up the hill with it in one hand and Thorny in the other (which, in full commuting mode weighs about 40 lbs), then left it next to the house. I rode back down, but really didn't have time to do anything about the Schwinn.

So I sped off to Boston and emailed Kim to see if she'd collect it for me. All I really cared about, though, was saving it from the landfill. If someone else got it and would make use of it, fine - I've got enough "project" bikes festering away. But by the time she got there around 9, it was gone... but so was all the rubbish.

I'd like to think that someone saved it before the compactor came, but I don't think that happened. It was really, truly upsetting to think about that beautiful old upright ladies 10-speed getting thrown into the back of a garbage truck with the rest of the trash.

In retrospect, I could have moved the bike away from the trash, or even put it back into the driveway of the house, but it didn't occur to me. At least I saved the Phillips.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ride to Great Brook Farm

Old North Bridge
Originally uploaded by ahconway

I was out of house at 5:30 on Sunday morning and on the Minute Map trail a few minutes after that. My goal was to do a 27-mile ride from the Pocket Rides kit that starts at the Bedford end (Ride 8 from "Beyond the Minuteman Bikeway). The sun was out but it was still a little chilly, so the ride out to Bedford was perfect, and not a soul to be seen.

The directions on the map card were largely clear and accurate, and I had no trouble at all getting on at the starting point. The ride took me up through Bedford, Concord, Carlisle, and Chelmsford, taking in Great Brook State Farm Park on the top end. Well-paved, rural roads, with lots of farms and horses - gorgeous!

Many of the turns weren't signposted, though, so I did have a bit of trouble here and there - but I always found my way back on to the route, either through trial & error, or using Google Maps on my phone. I was glad to have brought all the provisions I needed, since there were few shops along the way - and none open at such an early hour on a Sunday.

On the way back, the route passes through Minute Man Historical Park in Concord, and I stopped at the Old North Bridge (where the American Revolution started) for a snack.

I try to vary my routes, but this one is definitely a keeper.

UPDATE: Took the family up to the park for a nice 1-mile hike in the woods on Saturday - beautiful! Very easy to get to by car (except for the delay caused by the annual parade in Carlisle center). We chose a combination of 2 paths, providing some nice open fields as well as some more challenging rocky foresty bits.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

An important lesson about locking

I've reluctantly started locking up outside the office on South Street, instead of over on Summer Street. Should be okay with my 3fer lock combo (U-lock to attach to parking meter, heavy cable around meter, front wheel and downtube, and flexi cable through seat and back wheel). But the whole affair is so cumbersome that I figured I'd leave it locked to the meter overnight.

What I didn't anticipate was the popularity of small dogs with the residents of this neighborhood, and the popularity of parking meters with the dogs. So today I'm actually hoping for a bit of rain to rinse my locks off before I try to find somewhere else to stash them.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

You bedda watch weah YAH goin!

That's no surprise! This was big in the news yesterday after a new report was released. My latest encounter with Boston's Rudest was just yesterday.

After crossing into Boston over the Longfellow Bridge, I was cut off by a glass installer's truck. I came alongside and in a shocking display of bravado shouted "Are you trying to kill me? You better watch where you're going, buddy!" Did that come out of me?

He immediately fired back "F--- You! You bedda watch weah YAH goin!" Touche, I guess.

I vowed to be calmer about these things in the future.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pancake breakfast at Broadway Bicycle School

There were supposed to be a total of three cyclists' breakfasts on my way to work today. First Alewife, where I planned to be at 7:00... but nothing. I looked around a bit, I couldn't find anything at all.

Next stop was Broadway Bicycle, where I was among the first arrivals for the 7:30 Pancake Breakfast. They were a little late getting going, but we had a nice social time chatting at the table over coffee. Turns out another chap won a complete fixed gear bike at the Redbones thing last night!

Real nice time.

It's Bike Week in Boston!

Last night, we Gemma loaded into the Christiania and headed to the big Redbones BBQ kickoff party in Davis Square. On the way, we met Lauren and her famiglia, and we rode down together along the bike path. How nice to have a virtually uninterrupted traffic-free route to the party!

The Bike Festival (as Gem called it) was fun, and the Christiania got lots of attention. For $15, we got a Redbones BBQ sandwich, a drink, and some condiments. Plus a lottery ticket. We had fun looking at the exotic utility bikes (like ones by ANT, and all manner of cool fixies. We also had fun petting a very small dog that came on the back of a nice lady's recumbent. There was also a big brass and percussion band which made up for its lack of musicality with volume and enthusiasm.

We left at around 6:45 as Gem started to wane, and gave Lauren our raffle ticket just in case.

And this morning, I had an email from her telling me that I won a fixed gear wheel from Paramount Bicycle in Somerville! Very exciting! I picked it up from the Ciclismo Classico office this afternoon and emailed the shop to find out what it would take to completely convert my $40 Schwinn World. Hooray! Another project!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Motobecane models

Since I embarked on the this project to restore an old mixte for Kim, bikes have been coming out of the woodwork. I've now got an old Schwinn (great for parts, particularly the center-pull Wienmann brakes), and a rather rusty old Motobecane. May come across another today. The one I have already seems to be a mid-1970s standard model; no quick release wheels, and steel rims with "go-slower" holes in the sides of the rims. The highlight seems to be the Motobecane-branded crankset and various other small parts. Seems to ride okay, though!

My research seems to indicate that a Grand Touring or Grand Jubilee would fit the bill precisely, as long as it's not too scratched or rusty. From what I've seen, it seems that old European bikes hold their finish less ably than certain Japanese ones - many of the Fujis and Nishikis I've come across are flawless.

What will I uncover today?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Boston ICA & bike parking

Boston ICA & bike parking
Originally uploaded by ahconway.
After a meeting at the Seaport the other day, I decided to stop by the new ICA for a bit of lunch. The building was gorgeous as I expected, but lunch was rubbish.

Equally disappointing was the bike parking - completely inadequate and a long walk from the entrance. And while the building itself looks nice from this angle (or from the sea), if approaching from the Seaport or from the Channel, it appears to be surrounded by a solid parking lot bounded by a low chain link fence.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Elsie's first ride on the Bobike Mini

Had a nice after-work bike ride yesterday with the whole family, and Elsie's first time in Gem's old front-mounted Bobike seat. She seemed to have a really nice time, talking and smiling the whole way. We also didn't have any trouble finding a relatively flat network of roads in the neighborhood for a leisurely half-hour ride.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

First big ride of the year!

First big ride of the year!
Originally uploaded by ahconway.
Today was the first really REALLY good biking day of the year. For the occasion, I fitted our new(ish) Bobike Maxi seat to the back of my Fahrrad T100. I'd taken the fittings off my Raven weeks ago, but putting them on the Fahrrad was pretty easy. It actually works much better on this bike for some reason... there's less clearance between the cargo rack and the seat, but there's also really no way for Gem to get her foot near the spinning wheel. That was one concern on the other bike, probably owing to the 26-inch wheels.

So we rode down to the bike path and went nearly all the way to Bedford before turning around and heading back. We had a nice picnic lunch in Lexington Center; we got a PB&J and a roast beef sandwich, and Gem ended up eating all the roast beef. We also got a couple home-baked cookies from Girl Scouts at Lexington Depot.

I couldn't have asked for a nicer day or a nicer outing (only having the rest of my girls along would have made it better). I was also really pleased with the new bike seat! Gem found it to be very comfortable, she kept her feet in the footrests, and she seemed to have plenty of space back there. The only trouble is that it leaves little room for cargo, so I may look into front low-riders, but a good bar bag is probably going to be the way to go.

I'll write more about the Maxi after we've ridden with it for a while.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Broadway bicycle school

Broadway bicycle school
Originally uploaded by ahconway.
Took both of the Fahrrads in to the Broadway Bicycle School in Cambridge today. The shop had been recommended to me by my friend Kathleen, who bought a refurbed 1950s Raleigh there.

It's a coop, and everyone there is exceedingly friendly and helpful. On a less busy day, I can go in there and pay a couple bucks for coaching on doing my own repairs! Very handy. Probably the least condescending bike shop I've experienced.

So they do an estimate while you're there, so you know the score before you leave the bike - also very helpful.

It's more of a workshop than a shop, with only a small selection of bikes and bits (though they do have some interesting urban bikes from the likes of ANT, Redline, and Kogswell!). But most interesting is that they're one of a handful of Boston shops that seek out older uprights and refurb them. I spoke to the nice woman I was dealing with about this, and she acknowledged the Boston Bike trend that I'm so fascinated with. (Also reflected in my growing batch of photos on Flickr!)

It'll take them until April 11th to do the work, but that's okay. They're also willing to have a look over the Christiania, but that will require some advance planning since they can't get it down the stairs, and it takes up lots of floor space.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Fritos for lunch

Fritos for lunch
Originally uploaded by ahconway.
With the girls away, I spent most of the day out on a lovely ride today. Instead of making my own way, I followed a 40-mile route from the Pocket Rides ride pack "Beyond the Minuteman Bikeway - Arlington".

The ride took me out through Belmont, Lincoln, Lexington, and neighboring areas. It wasn't quite as countrified as I usually like, but most of the streets were lightly trafficked and pleasant. Lots of big houses, old and new.

I got pretty hungry after 30 miles... I'd been looking for a snack spot for ages, but there was nothing! I suppose I could have ventured off the path if I'd gotten desperate. But in the end, I took a little detour in Lincoln to the wonderful Decordova Sculpture Park, where I got a nice tuna wrap at the cafe and ate outside amongst the art works. Also had some good Fritos, pictured above.

A couple other notables about today's ride. It was my first ride in my new Rapha knickers, which performed admirably! I've wanted some for ages, and they're actually cheaper here than in London, where they're made. That's rip-off Britain for you, I suppose. In any case, I was looking for a new pair of 3/4-length bib tights and these were about the same price, so I got em! Real nice, real comfortable, and not Lycra-loutish at all.

Also, I replaced my brake pads & shoes this morning, which is probably my most ambitious DIY repair yet. It took some doing, but they new pads are definitely a big improvement.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Gorgeous ride to Concord

After weeks of icy and sub-zero weather, today, Sunday, is approaching 50f and nice and sunny. And a perfect day for a ride! I packed up my little repair kit, bundled up as if the temperature could drop 30 degrees before lunch, and set off for Concord.

I know I've ridden up that way before; it's not too far from my first job after college near Hanscom Field, and it was also a good riding destination when I used to live here before moving to London. (I keep wondering where I might find a particular house called "Put Down Roots", which I remember from those days.)

I stuck to Route 2A pretty much the whole time, which took me through Lexington and into Minuteman Historical Park (site of the start of the Revolution) just after crossing 95. The ride from then on was beautiful, with lots of historical sites, perfectly preserved Colonial houses, and leafless trees, fields, and farms on both sides of the road. There's also a 5-mile unpaved bike path through the park that we can do once the weather improves.

I continued into the center of Concord and picked up a bagel with peanut butter to fortify me for the ride home.

The day and the route were also perfectly suited to my bike, with its bullet-proof wheels, grippy fat tires, and mudguards; I don't know how many riders I passed with skinny wheels and muddy stripes up their backs!

I look forward to doing this ride and variations lots more.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

First Visit to Harris Cyclery

Stopped by Harris Cyclery yesterday. That's the West Newton shop
where guru Sheldon Brown is based. I went specifically to get a
Rohloff oil change kit, and there was no problem there. I also picked
up a nice Rivendell cycling cap.

The visit was a little anticlimactic, I suppose, kind of like my
visit to St John Street Cycles. But SJS is really not set up for walk-
in business, and Harris is a genuine independent neighborhood bike
shop. The real thrill at Harris was seeing all the Rivendells up
close, all built up and ready to go. There were lots of Atlantis
frames and a few built up, plus a couple Bleriots, a Saluki, and
others. All were built with drop bars, not Rivendell-preferred
uprights, but they were gorgeous and fascinating to see anyway.

I had a bit of Rohloff banter with Harris Junior, who said they sell
lots of the after-market hubs, and that they run around $1400!
Remarkable. There was also one of the first generation Raven frames
there, painted in a god-awful blend of lime greens and yellows, with
lots of Celtic stripes. SJS sold it to Harris probably five years
ago, and it's been on the rack ever since. Harris told me that
they're going to build it up as a Rohloff demo bike, which make sense.

I didn't get a chance to meet Sheldon this time, but I'd like to save
that for another visit when all the girls aren't sitting in the car -
and when I've got one of my bikes with me.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Letter to the editor of Adventure Cyclist magazine

I'd like to begin by saying how much I enjoy Adventure Cyclist magazine; the features are always interesting and well-written. It's particularly good to features by venerable cycling writers like John Schubert, who I always enjoyed reading during another bike magazine's hay day in the 1970s and early 80s.

I do believe, however, that Mr. Schubert may have missed a category of touring bike in his otherwise excellent article "What Kind of Bike Should You Buy?" in the February 2007 issue.

While there are situations that call for a fully-loaded mountain bike on tour, it seems to me that a serious off-road long-distance cycle tourist would be best suited with an "expedition bike". With a steel frame, 26-inch wheels, wide rims, and either dropped handlebars or straights, these bikes are designed for navigating rough terrain and carrying heavy loads with aplomb - there's really no need to use a mountain bike that's been expressly designed for another purpose. The expedition bike makers with which I'm familiar are all English: Thorn (a large selection from St. John Street Cycles; Roberts (the Rough Stuff); and Orbit (the Expedition).

I ride a Thorn Raven Adventure Tour, which is equally well-suited to road and unpaved surfaces (I especially appreciate it in the winter months as road conditions deteriorate). This is one of Thorn's many models designed around a Rohloff hub, another wonderful product that you might consider mentioning in future buying guides. They're growing in popularity, thanks in large part to Thorn's efforts, but mainly because more and more people are falling in love with their versatility, simplicity, ease of use, and low maintenance.

I believe that your readers would find some mention of the expedition bike category of interest, and I also think they could benefit from coverage of the Rohloff phenomenon.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Who needs cleats?

As I've been riding around so bundled up, I've also stopped worrying about my cleats, and have just worn my Gore Tex hiking boots with heavy socks instead. Not bad! For urban riding I've had no problems at all with regular shoes. Makes me glad I got the double-sided pedals!

A hardcore cycle commuter!

I've ridden in to the office in the Financial District several times. It can be a very nice ride from Arlington, taking in the Minuteman path to Davis Square, then to Inman Square, Kendall Square, and to Boston via the Longfellow Bridge, then on to the South Station area.

It somehow seems a more serious affair when braving sub-zero windchill temperatures, and taking a shower on arrival. That's something I've never really done because neither the facilities nor the need have existed for me before. But let's face it: I am in no kind of shape to see clients after a 12-mile ride, drenched in my own sweat under layers of fleece and Gore Tex.

So I worked on Sunday last weekend and tested out the facilities. The building is a new build out, and there is thankfully a little shower room on the second floor. For what it is, it's really quite nice: two showers and 12 or so lockers, with keys available from Security downstairs for the day.

I anticipate it'll mostly be lunchtime joggers who use it, though. The company does little to promote cycling. The bike rack accommodates maybe 16 bikes in a pinch, and it's located in an alley behind the building, adjacent to the smoking area and shuttle bus stop. Doesn't leave much question about how the company regards cyclists, does it?

But as far as I'm concerned, it suits me well. The ride is very pleasant, and just the right length to get a nice little workout. One of these days, I'll put my campaigning hat back on and see about getting these guys to encourage more cycling.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Minuteman Bike Path ride on Christiania

With Gem's cousin visiting, we had a lovely ride from Arlington Heights along the bike path to the playground at Spy Pond.

Ladies' town bikes

I had an email from someone recently who saw my thing about the Bobike seat, asking what kind of bike Kim rides. It's a VSF Fahrrad Manufaktur, and it's a perfect bike for riding around town. Step-through frame, basket, lights, mudguards, very strong and robust (only it is a bit heavy). We'd heartily recommend it to anyone - the only trouble is, they're only available in Germany (where they're made) andn in London through Bikefix.

A couple years ago, crapola Bicycling Magazine declared a revolution in the making, in the form of Joe Breeze's Breezer town bikes. They thought it was revolutionary to offer a comfortable, upright bike with a step-through frame, basket, lights, mudguards... when, of course they've been riding these sorts of things in Europe for years.

In any case it's nice to see that other US manufacturers are finally catching on. Here are a handful of bikes that seem to be made from a similar mold - from Breezer Bikes, Raleigh USA, Trek, and VSF.

Woods valves?

I was about to put some air in the tires of my Christiania today, and when I unscrewed the little cover on the valve, I wasn't quite sure what I was looking at. The valve looked like a larger Presta valve, only without the little screw stalk in the middle. A quick Google search revealed that it's a "Woods" or "Dunlop" valve. Very strange indeed. According to Sheldon Brown, they're "very rarely seen in the U.S." He also says that they my Presta pump ought to do the trick on them, which is good news!

Here's a photo from Sheldon's site.

Monday, January 01, 2007

NYC pedicab

NYC pedicab
Originally uploaded by ahconway.
We spotted lots of these around Midtown, though not many with passengers. Got into an interesting debate with the family about whether it's safe to use these things... Amy said she'd never let her kids in one, and Kim and I both said "why not?" The real question, I guess, is whether NYC drivers are any more mindful of pedicabs than they are of regular cyclists.