Thursday, December 31, 2009

Join the world's first biking dixieland band!

I'm putting together a dixieland band on wheels! All I've got so far is myself and my ridiculous idea - so I'm looking for some solid musicians who are also keen cyclists.

We won't play while riding, but we should be able to carry all of our kit on bikes so we can participate in group rides, parades, and community events. This will be easier for some than others, but I will be riding my Christiania cargo trike, with plenty of room for an amp and some other unwieldy equipment.

I anticipate that most of our summer performances will be at outdoor events relating to cycling in some way, but as we progress musically, we may also take on gigs without the bikes. I'd like to start rehearsing in February so we're ready to go this Spring.

I've got trombone covered, but here are the other players I need:
  • Trumpet
  • Clarinet/tenor sax
  • Guitar/banjo
  • Bass/tuba
  • Piano
  • Drums
Apart from playing great traditional dixieland music, the band (which still needs a clever and catchy name), will also be about cycling advocacy. So it's important for all of us to be passionate about the music and about cycling.

I live and work in Arlington, and I expect that most rehearsals will be in the same general area. I'm sure there are lots of questions I haven't thought about yet, and I'm looking forward to sorting them out as a group.

Are you interested? If so, please email me at and tell me about your music and your cycling - and any other genius ideas you have for making this band work!

About me: I've been active in cycling advocacy in New York, London, and Boston since 1990. I can be spotted around Arlington doing the school run with my two daughters on the Christiania most days (when the weather cooperates). I play tenor trombone with the Chelmsford Community Concert and Jazz Bands, and other gigs as they come up.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

12 degrees fahrenheit

12 degrees fahrenheit
Originally uploaded by ahconway
Today was one of the coldest mornings of the year, 12 degrees or so without chill factor. Elsie has school today (which she was very excited about: pajama day!) Kim had an early meeting in Boston and took all our car keys with her so I biking with them was really the only option available. Fortunately, while crazily cold, the weather was very clear and the road surfaces were clear. So I bundled up both of them in a few layers and two blankets and set off down the hill to Elsa's school.

Since I'd also bundled myself up pretty well, we arrived in good shape, everyone chipper and ready for the day! Even the unicorn.

The ride home was a bit tough - my lungs suffered a bit when breathing hard, but I took it easy, walking up the steepest bits.

Then Gem and I had a lazy morning doing crafts and unpacking from our holiday trip to NYC.

And then, of course, I found the spare car key!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year's Resolutions for 2010

I'm not big on resolutions, but why not? There's definitely a handful of things I want to make sure to get done next year - if I resolve to do just that, looks like I've got a list of resolutions. Here goes, no particular order.
  1. Form the world's first biking Dixieland band. It's about time two of my great life passions converged: Cycling and playing trombone! I've already sent out a call for cycling musicians and had a great response. Now I just need to make it happen! (And find a tuba player....)

  2. Get a snazzy lightweight road bike. If I learned anything about myself as a cyclist this year, it's that I have loads of fun and can go 25% faster on a sporty bike than on my trusty expedition tourer.

    The budget will be a challenge for sure. But my devotion to steel will probably work in my favor here. I could end up with a nice vintage Colnago or a new bike built around a Soma Stanyan or Thorn Audax Mk3 (which would match my Raven exactly, unless I go with the red finish). As long as I don't need the latest carbon fiber frooferie and refuse to ride aluminium, I have lots of options on a budget. Another nice option is the Fratello from Condor Cycles in London - I ADORE the yellow one and the champagne one - set it up with a nice brown Brooks B17 and brown leather bar tape and it's a time machine back to 1978.

  3. Do some overnight touring. Even if it's just credit card touring, I ought to be able to spare a couple days to spend on the road for a bit of adventure! I may even be able to mate this up with the old D2R2 or our summer trip to the Berkshires.

  4. Blog more! Facebook is great for lots of stuff, but it's also reduced my time & desire to blog. I've been at it here for about 4 1/2 years, which is pretty good! Facebook and Twitter are fleeting, and it's easy for your little bit of genius to disappear down the queue. So look for my best stuff here (which, conveniently, automatically appears on Facebook anyhoo!)

  5. Get out on the road with the family. We had some nice family rides this year, but Kim didn't have much time for riding. Hopefully, she'll be able to work it into her commute. Gemma's all for the trail-a-bike, but she should start riding on her own this summer. Elsa should be ready for the trail-a-bike when Gem graduates.
This is just the personal and family stuff. Of course, it's great that many of my worky resolutions are also bike-related! But I'll leave those alone for now. Overall, I managed to get into really great shape this summer, pretty early on. One reason I was able to do this was getting out on longer organized rides - I intend to do the same this year without question.

Buon anno!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

2 quarts of hot mulled cider to go, please

Did a great ride out to Great Brook Farm today with a very nice Ciclismo group. We stuck to a moderate 13mph pace, so it was all very relaxed. Perfect for an Indian summer day like this! Plenty of leaves everywhere, temperature peeking into the 60s!

For our snack at Great Brook Farm, I brought a pannier of Kim's famous apple hand pies and a big thermos of hot mulled cider.

In addition to my clever handlebar bags doubling at compact color-coordinated panniers, I made use of the eyelets on my saddle and a pair of good old leather toe straps to carry the thermos! Toe straps are a completely underappreciated cycling accessory!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Kindred spirits at Trinity

I had a perfectly delightful coffee & lunch last week with Trinity Italian professor Dario Del Puppo and student Jamie Merolla (class of 2010). Both kindred spirits: keen cyclists and Italophiles, and Dario in particular is completely in tune with my velo-sensibility: he rode a beautiful vintage Fat Chance fixie to our rendezvous, and he has a great variety of steel bikes in his stable. I'm looking forward to riding with them in the springtime, if not before!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Andrew meets Joe Breeze

Andrew & Joe Breeze
Originally uploaded by ahconway
I went to Providence this weekend to the Interbike East gear demo & Providence Cyclocross Festival. What a fantastic day!

The CX course was very technical, and all sorts of talent was there trying their skills. It was set up in Roger Williams Park, with most of the trail in plain view of everyone - very nice to be able to see multiple action points from just one spot!

In addition to the cross racing, lots of bike companies had tents set up to show their wares, many with demo bikes available. I met "Masiguy" Tim and tried one of his steel Masi cyclocross bikes. I also rode a high-end Felt with top-of-the-line SRAM transmission - it took me a while to figure out the "double-tap" shifting!

When I made it to the Breezer tent, I was intrigued by the new MTB offerings. Joe Breeze was one of the original mountain bike guys in the 70s, and he's since done immeasurable good for the bike commuting world with his line of commuter and comfort bikes. So it was great to see the company going back to its roots. When I mentioned this to one of the guys at the Breezer tent, he said "There's Joe now, you can tell him about it!"

So I had a great chat with Joe Breeze! Very nice guy indeed. Then I rode one of the mountain bikes, which was sublime.

The try-out course, by the way, was a delight. A great combination of grassy flats and technical singletrack - not without hazards! A fantastic day all around.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Working the Berkshires

After the fantastic time I had with the family this summer in the Berkshires, I knew I'd try to come back soon. I didn't even guess that it would be for work!

We developed a custom your for a group from New York, and I'm driving the support car! I got to Lenox this afternoon to check over the bikes and get the car all set up, then I met most of the group and adjusted their bikes for them. All very nice and agreeable, excited for a great weekend.

The weather report is a little grim for tomorrow, but no one seems too daunted.

The other guides and I spent some more time after the bike fitting going over the plans and routes - everything looks great! We're doing lots of the same routes I explored when I was her last time.

Even if tomorrow is a little wet, Sunday and Monday gave lots of potential. Of course, I hope to get some riding in myself at some point... Maybe crack of dawn on Sunday or Monday? Or maybe after lunch on Monday.
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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Christiania always fun!

We had Elsie's 3-year birthday party today (rain date, several weeks late!). Among many fun activities, I gave the kids rides around the neighborhood in the Christiania. So fun! Lots of them had seen me bringing the girls to school on it, so getting a ride was something they'd always wanted to do.

What a shame that more parents in the US can't experience the same excitement and joy! It just isn't the same with trailers, bike seats, and trail-a-bikes. We've got to figure out a way to make these things available here.

Monday, September 07, 2009

First Ride on the Bruce Freeman trail

Yesterday, we planned a hike with friends in Great Brook Farm State Park - one of our favorite spots.

So I took that opportunity to bike up and do the first leg of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail - it's delightful! The first phase opened just a couple weeks back, on the rainiest day we in August. (My band played at the opening too, though I must say that the quality of our playing was appropriate to the weather.)

I got onto the trail at its southern end, on Rt 225 in Carlisle at Rt 27 (Acton Rd). There were lots of people out - biking, walking, skating, etc. - just what you want to see. The quality of the paving and infrastructure are all first rate. The width of the path is a little variable, but that isn't a big deal. Seems like some of the markings aren't consistent yet, so maybe they'll work on that.

I only had time to do the first few miles, since I was meeting the family for the hike. Hart Pond was a great place to duck out - it's a beautiful spot with a little beach and a playground. From there, it was an easy jog onto Proctor Road, which turns into Old North Road after a bit, and finally turns into one of our fave trails in Great Brook Farm! That was a surprise to me - I was toddling along a nice path, and popped out right behind the interpretive center in the park.

Here's a little video from the morning.

Flat tire in Boston

On this lovely Labor Day, which also happens to be my birthday (observed), I thought I'd do an early ride around Boston for a change. I used to really enjoy my old commute, and this was a chance to revisit the old route.

In Thursday night rush hour, it was usually a bit crazy, but with virtually no traffic on a holiday morning, it's a pure delight.

So I rode down Broadway from Arlington to Davis Square, then past the back side of Porter Square, and over the bridge to Somerville Beacon Street. Then Inman, Kendall, and over the Charles on the Longfellow bridge. Next, along Cambridge Street and down to Post Office Square. From there, I rode over the newly reopened bridge over the Channel into South Boston, cruised down past the ICA and Seaport before heading back up Summer Street.

Then, just at South Station, I got a flat.

I had my new CO2 air thingie and a spare tube, but it wasn't until after I had changed the tube that I discovered I didn't have the cartridge that goes in the thingie. Bad luck all around.

The culprit, I discovered, was a little shard of pointy rock or something.

So I soon gave up hope of borrowing a pump from another biker - still too early, and not a popular area for cycling on holiday mornings. I could have hoofed it to the Charles, but it was too far to carry the bike, and I didn't want to damage the rim.

Finally, I thought I was very clever for searching the bikes locked at South Station for a pump to borrow. But I guess the owners of all those bikes were too cautious to leave their pumps, or maybe they'd already been borrowed.

So now I'm on the Red Line, approaching Alewife. I reckon I have a good chance of finding a pump or good samaritan here - if all else fails, I can always call Kim.


Hooray! Just met a friendly Canadian dude at the start of the bike path at Alewife. He loaned me his pump and i'm all set! I should be home in time for my b-day breakfast of challah French toast, bacon, smoothies!
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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Saturday Palm Beach training ride

Every time we come to Palm Beach, we end up having breakfast at Benny's on the Beach or John G's at the beach in Lake Worth. And on weekends, I always see dozens of cyclists gathered in the park there, preparing to go on a ride, or just returning from one. So when I rented my bike for this week, I asked the proprietor of Top Cycle about organized rides. He told me that people meet for a fast ride around seven each Saturday.

The next day, I stopped into Fat Cat Bicycles in Lake Worth to have a look round and ask them about it too. They were more forthcoming, telling me that it's a very fast ride, averaging speeds up to 30mph. Hm. A bit quick for me, but okay. Later, I went to the Fat Cat website and found out more: It's an informal race, complete with intermediate sprints! Yikes.

What did I have to lose? I figured I'd check it out and see if I could keep up. I turned up at the start point and met a couple people who informed me good naturedly that I should expect some pain, and that speeds would top 36mph for the ride. One guy I spoke to as we spun a bit to warm up was expecting to do an Ironman later that week. So I was in good company.

Many of the riders gather a few miles south, and take it easy until Lake Worth. I saw the peloton of about 75 riders approaching at around 7:30 and merged into the middle. It seemed reasonably relaxed for a bit, and it was exciting to be pedaling along in the middle of a tight pack! I kept up just fine all the way to the public beach in Palm Beach - then it really started to hurt. At that point, I told myself I'd be satisfied if I could keep up with the group until the turn-around at the inlet, put my head down and kept on going.

The rest of the riders were a serious lot. Many rode tri bikes, most were quite new and probably cost in excess of $6k each. Nobody was particularly interested in chatting, which I guess is fair enough at 32mph. Lots of good communication among the riders anyway, warning about cars, road hazards, and that sort of thing. But no casual chatting, that's for sure.

After the burst of speed at the beach, the pace slowed a bit and I felt comfortable again. I felt just fine, in fact all the way to the inlet for the turnaround, and most of the way back again. Finally at the turning at Southern Bridge, I started to lag behind.... and then a gap opened up.... and then I tried to catch up and my legs just didn't have it in them. So I rolled in a couple minutes after the rest of the pack, but nevertheless felt quite pleased with myself.

I did a warmdown over the Lake Worth bridge, and had a look at Fat Cat to see if there was any activity, but it was quiet. All the riders seemed to have dispersed shortly after the ride, heading off with whoever they'd arrived with.

But I still had a stack of Ciclismo business cards with me and I was dying to talk up the company before heading home. So I went back to the park and sure enough, I found a dozen or so cyclists and ended up speaking with them for a while about cycling, travel, etc. Apart from the purely commercial aspect of my chats, it felt good to spend a while in animated conversation about fun stuff - something sorely lacking from the 30mph+ peloton!

Hutchinson Island & S Indian River Drive Ride

If I ever complain about the cycling in these parts again, please remind me of the ride I did this morning. We're staying in a hi-rise condo on Jensen Beach, and I brought my rented bike up from Palm Beach for these couple days.

After a bit of map consulting and checking with local relations, I decided to do an early 35 mile ride this morning before breakfast. Here's the route I came up with:

Don't I love Mapmyride so much?

The area right around here is kind of one condo tower after the next, each separated from the public thoroughfare by tall walls and gates... but just north of here, things open up quite a bit and the views are lovely as you enter Blind Creek Park, which goes for miles, nearly all the way to Fort Pierce. I'm sure that a patient person could see lots of birds, fish, and maybe even a manatee or gator in the wetlands on either side of the road (I stopped here and there, but not for too long.)

Things get to be a bit more built up as you approach Fort Pierce, but in a more authentic Florida way - smaller houses, shops, and restaurants, not condos dating from the 1980s. After heading across the bridge at Fort Pierce, it's easy to find Route 707, South Indian River Drive. The designated Scenic Highway extends all the way from the Fort Pierce Bridge to the Jensen Beach Bridge, running along the Intracoastal all the way.

The tide was pretty low this morning, so there were lots of people in waders fishing, and the sunrise over the water was lovely. The road itself was ever so slightly rolling and curvy, just enough to make interesting, and the paving was pretty much flawlessly smooth. The houses along that stretch are also nice traditional Florida houses - some big, some not so big.

For about 15 minutes, I was treated to a nice Florida downpour, soaked me to the bone. I was home about 30 minutes later in the blaring sun and I was pretty much dry from the rain but soaked through with sweat again.

This ride ranks among my new favorites - fast, smooth, easy to navigate, and very beautiful - perfect!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Biking Palm Beach

Here we are in Palm Beach! Dreadful time of year: high humidity, temps regularly into triple digits, frequent thunder storms. But who cares? It's Florida!

Every time we come down, I see the cyclists riding up and down the beautiful roads of Palm Beach and wish I were among them. So this time, I thought ahead and called Top Cycle and arranged a rental for the duration of our stay. I dealt directly with Patrick, the owner, so that's who I sought out when we arrived yesterday.

After I arrived at the small (but high-end.... lotsa Colnagos, Pinarellos, etc.) shop, Patrick went into the back and emerged with a yellow Specialized S-Works M4. Not bad! We adjusted the saddle (he gave me a lecture about why I should know my saddle hight "It never changes!", made me think about all the clients I speak to regularly about this topic), put on my pedals, and I was good to go.

The bike is a slightly unattractive yellow, with an oversized downtube and teardrop seat tube (it was probably intended to be a tri bike originally). It's aluminum with prominent welds but otherwise nice finish. Time carbon fork. Traditional spoked wheels by Wheelsmith, and Campy Daytona 10-speed transmission.

This morning, then, I set off on my first ride down here. I rode all the way down to the Boynton inlet, then turned around and headed back up. The roads in Palm Beach are lovely, of course, beautiful surfaces kept very clean, not much traffic on a weekday morning except for the service vehicles heading off to groom the expansive lawns of the mansions. Details of the ride are on Mapmyride (it's my first try!)

There was a brutal headwind for the initial leg of the ride, whipping straight at me at a consistent 15mph or so. On my way back north, I stopped at John G's in Lake Worth for a bit of breakfast, which turned into a gigantic breakfast sandwich. What I really needed was some coffee since our condo isn't stocked yet, I got a big one there.

Of course, that was entirely too much heavy food for the 25% point in my 33 mile ride, and I was really sluggish for the rest of the ride to the inlet at the northernmost tip of Palm Beach. When I reached that point, I took a little break and watched the boats and some sweet stripey fish, then cruised back to the condo. I expect I'll do something similar tomorrow morning, but eating properly before I go will be a good move.

Here's some video about the bike.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Video: Kim and me on the Ashuwillticook Trail

We had a great morning on the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail! Here's a little video. (It doesn't show our chance meeting with good old Ernie, the gent I met in Adams earlier in the week.)

Friday, July 03, 2009

Final Berkshires ride

Did one last ride during our Berkshires holiday this morning - and the loveliest yet.

I rode up and over Beartown Mountain, including about 5 miles unpaved. The gravel roads were in good condition, and they were cris-crossed with hiking paths through the state forest. The torrents the night before created lots of nice water hazards, including a spot where I had to hoof it through a flooded it almost up my knees. 

I re-joined the paved road near Monterey, then rode up through Tyringham and back. The last bit was wonderfully scenic, highlighted by Santarella, a bizarre gingerbready house. 

Our visit to the Berkshires was spectacular, and the cycling certainly added a lot to it - we'll definitely be back later this summer.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ride from Lee to North Adams

Yesterday, we had a perfect plan. Kim would take the girls to an set class in North Adams, and I would bike 36 miles or so to meet them.

Everything went to plan until about 30 miles. My trusty Rubel Western Mass bike map helped mestick to a good route which, my now, is reasonably familiar to me. Ran into a bit of bother around aptly-named Pittsfield when I couldn't find a good quiet route and ended up on big roads - I knew there we alternatives, but I was trying to make it to Mass MoCA by 1130...

A highlight was the wonderful Ashuwillticook Rail Trail. We'd discovered it on Sunday - it's very well marked along busy Route 8. It starts at a big-box mall north of Pittsfield and goes 11 miles to Adams, through wetlands and forest, and along Cheshire Reservoir, with gorgeous views of the water and mountains beyond. The quality and state of the path surface and infrastructure were almost equally impressive.

I was maintaining a good pace until about mile 30, about 2 miles before the end of the bike path, when my rear tire started to feel low. On inspection, there wasn't a noticeable puncture, but I was losing air for sure. So I pumped and rode, pumped and rode, all the way to Adams, where the trail ends. I had a close look at my tires and discovered that they were in pretty sorry shape and definitely needed replacing. (I knew this to be the case, but didn't know the urgency.)

I had no phone service at the Adams Visitor Center where I was waiting, but a very friendly guy I met let me use his phone, and I left Kim a message to come and get me. This guy was 82, snd he rode the path almost every day. He worked his whole career at Crane Paper - he told me that the company was wonderful to work for, and is still the major employer in the area. Then another couple arrived, it was Ozzie and Irene, on holiday from Ontario. Ygr four of us chatted about cycling, travel, the Your, etc....

And 90 minutes went by. By this time, it was clear that Kim also didn't have service, so I changed my tire in a flash and sped off to North Adams, where I met the girls, who were just getting in the car to head back and look for me! Whew.

On the way to Tanglewood after that, we stopped at Plaine's bike shop, where I got a set of Kenda Kwest tires to replace my threadbare Paselas.

I'm going to put them on this morning and do a short ride on the unpronounceable bike path with Kim.
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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Good morning Stockbridge

Our first morning in the Berkshires, and I have time for a nice early ride before everyone wakes up. Beautiful so far! Coffee and pop tarts in Stockbridge. Scouting out a nice route for kim and me later.

Heading towards Lenox, I am warned of a bear on the road ahead by a walker. Apparently equally a danger and a curiosity. Glad to have 1 remaining pop tart to divert bear if it comes to it.

Found tanglewood! Eating pop tart.

Back at condo. Got lost after Edith Wharton's house. Home at last, great ride!
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Saturday, June 20, 2009

I did the B2B today! Sort of.

The Harpoon Brewery to Brewery is known as one of the toughest rides in New England. It's about 145 miles, starting at the Harpoon brewery in Boston to the one in Windsor, Vermont.

It's all hard core riders, and when you sign up, the minimum avg speed you can commit to us 16mph. That's pretty fast! The ride is also moderately hilly.

Ciclismo manned the last rest/food stop, so Lauren and I decided to skip the first 50 miles or so so we could get a nice head start and be at the rest stop in time to help out the rest of the gang, who drove there directly. Trouble was, the first riders left Boston an hour earlier than last year, and because our stop was at mile 120, it took us a while to get there. So we weren't that helpful and just ended up hanging out, chatting, and refueling. Then we headed off for the last 25 to Windsor. (I felt bad about missing the first riders at the stop, but the gang did a GREAT job without us!)

In any case, Lauren and I did 100 miles on the dot. I hope to do the full ride next year! It was a good route and generally nice and scenic, though there were some pretty busy stretches.

The hills everyone was griping about were really no big deal.... Nothing compared to the Mt Washington Century, the CRW Climb to the Clouds (Mt Wachuset), or the D2R2.

Mauro lent me his 10 year old Merlin, which mad all the difference for me. I actually managed to average between 15 and 16mph for the century! The bike felt great - really stable and fast, particularly compared to my Thorn. I'm really looking forward to riding it for the rest of the summer!

We're on the bus back to Boston now, and I only hope our bikes will be there to meet us.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

What's that noise, Daddy?

That's what the girls used to ask me on the way to school when the brakes on our Cristiania cargo/passenger trike would squeal. Now, it's been going on so long that the question has become "Daddy, why haven't you had the brakes fixed yet?"

Well, girls, today's the day. I have an appointment at Ace Wheelworks in Cambridge. I've been nervous about doing this because the trike is a bit unusual, and I don't want anyone mucking it up.

But after 3+ yrs, I guess it's time to have some work done. The real problem is indeed the brakes - the no-brand discs in front aren't really that powerful, and I think I've pretty much ground the coaster brake in the back down to a nub. Is that even possible? I haven't the foggiest what goes on in there.

In any case, in addition to the brakes, I imagine I might need a new chain, and the big pivot underneath the box surely needs a bit of lube.

One way or the other, I need it back today because I'm giving rides to the toddlers at Elsie's birthday party tomorrow!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Visit to the Dutch Bicycle Co in Somerville

Yesterday, we finally visited the Dutch Bicycle Company in East Somerville. It's a bit out-of-the-way, so it took me a while to finally make it there.

It's housed in a big space that's shared with a used car dealer of some sort, which is ironic to be sure, but it does provide lots of great indoor space for test rides.

I was most looking forward to test riding the Sorte Jernhest Carrier Bike, a cargo/passenger trike that's roughly comparable to our Cristiania. The proprietor insisted that we all give it a try, all four of us got to check it out in detail...

Having three wheels and a box in the front is where the similarities between this trike and ours is where similarities end. Our box is made of plywood, this one seems to be aluminum. This one has smaller wheels. And most interestingly, this one steers with the rear wheel alone, while ours pivots the whole front box.

It appears to be much lighter than the Cristiania thanks to the materials used, but I don't know how the lighter materials would translate into durability. I'm absolutely confident that our trike will still be on the road when our girls have kids of their own, but it's impossible to know about this one.

It's very comfortable to ride, and the passenger compartment is also very accommodating - though there are some poky-outy bits on the inside of the box that could be scratchy. The roof is very nicely made, but lateral visibility is limited, and there seems to be less space inside overall than we have.

But any differences mean very little in practical terms, because it's the only human-powered vehicle of this sort that's really available in this area. Sorger imports them directly, and he's got full liability insurance for everything he sells. (Cristiania won't import to the US, and anyone who tries to do that independently is taking a big liability risk.)

So, based on my limited experience with this trike and the shop, I'd absolutely recommend it for anyone who wants carry kids and/or cargo around town in comfort and style.

The shop also carries lots of other exciting stuff, including super-stylish Sogreni bikes, a big selection of Gazelle products, and Conference Bikes. Not to mention a GIANT spaceship, which Sorger claims is a boat that he's storing for a friend.

We also test-rode the Gazelle Cabby, which is a more refined version of the Bakfiets cargo bike. The original Bakfiets has a plywood box in the middle and steers via a front wheel out front. The arrangement of this version is similar, but it's lighter, and the cargo/passenger compartment is heavy fabric around a sturdy frame, which folds when not in use. (A little web surfing reveals that the Gazelle doesn't have a rain cover, though, which is a big problem if you're going to rely on this for regular transport! There's a comprehensive review here.)

Great to see all this stuff being made available in the US! According to Sorger, his sales are going great - so I hope to see some of these beautiful bikes out on the Minuteman Bikeway soon.

Look who's on a Trail-a-bike!

I finally set up the Trail-a-bike I bought second-hand for Gemma yesterday. What a triumph! She caught on straight away and was pedaling like a fiend. It was a bit fiddly to attach to my slightly-oversized seat post, but I got it on there in the end.

I also got Elsie's free-on-curb bike seat set up on Kim's new bike, and she was equally thrilled. We had a nice family ride around the neighborhood to celebrate.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bike Week is here again!

Hooray! Bike week! We (Ciclismo) are doing a bunch of events... Lauren led a nice ride on Monday, and today (Wednesday), we're hosting a bike breakfast at the office. Lauren made it downtown for the kickoff on Monday and even met the mayor there. I had a nice surprise on my way to Cambridge for a meeting yesterday when I came across this bike breakfast at the Alewife end of the bike path. Forgive me if I was more interested in the utility bikes than the coffee and scones!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Great ride with Kim today!

You did it, Kim!
Originally uploaded by ahconway
With the girls happily settled in with a fave babysitter, Kim and I were free to ride for the morning - her first jaunt out of Arlington on her new Rivendell Betty Foy.

We did one of my usual loops up through Lexington, Bedford, Concord, and Carlisle, with an ice cream break at Great Brook Farm. Kim was a super trooper, managing the 34-mile distance with no trouble at all!

The Minuteman path was, of course, a highlight of the ride, as was the ice cream! The bike fared well also - Kim described it as "awesome!"

Only 466 more miles until her saddle is broken in!

Applying the finishing touches to Betty

Amber shellac & brush
Originally uploaded by ahconway
Yesterday, I applied three coats of amber shellac to Kim's cork grips. This sort of thing is a real hallmark of Rivendell geekery, but I have to admit that the finish and color really look nice!

It was pretty easy to do too. My stroke of genius was inspired by my dentist, who likes to drill a tooth that's poking through a sheet of latex... I put a black trash bag over the front of the bike and made holes for the grips.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

New Betty Foy video

Here's a video that's as lovingly crafted as Kim's new bike itself! Highlights include: Kim's first test ride, Elsa & Kim trying on a Rivendell cap, Betty's arrival at our house, our first family ride, avoiding a baby in the street, and a slide show of the details.

Go to Youtube to watch in all of its HD splendor!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Betty est arrivée

Meet Betty Foy
Originally uploaded by ahconway
At long last, Kim took delivery of her shiny new Rivendell Betty Foy! It was worth the wait. She's only taken it for a couple short spins, but she adores the ride and the look.

As the photo shows, it has a nice upright position, but there's plenty of scope to lower the quill stem if she wants to do that later. It ended up pretty much like we'd originally specced it, with a few exceptions. She really wanted a front rack/basket, so we got a tidy little Nitto rack, and we'll have the choice of a Wald basket or a little bag, depending on whether we're riding town or country.

The other change from the original spec is that we went with Nitto Dove handlebars instead of Albatross - they're more compact (and much less expensive!), much better-proportioned to the bike and its rider.

The rear rack was a big question, and the black Blackburn rack that's on there now is clearly not consistent with the Betty/Riv aesthetic.... But she'll need to carry a passenger, and this happens to be the best compromise - the rack serves its luggage-carrying purpose with aplomb, and the Elsie's child seat can snap right on when needed without any further rigmarole.

I'm shockingly (but unsurprisingly) considering having the rack powder coated in a matching Riv blue or contrasting red....

We're planning our first big ride into the country for next weekend - we'll call the babysitters tomorrow!

There are lots more photos on Flickr, and a nice YouTube video is in the works!

BTW: Elton at Harris Cyclery in West Newton was great throughout this process! Very knowledgeable and enthusiastic!

Go Gemma go!

Go Gemma go!
Originally uploaded by ahconway
Gemma loves climbing up into the driver's seat. One day she'll reach the pedals! Elsa's a willing passenger too.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Kim test rides Betty

Yesterday, at last, Kim, the girls, and I went to Harris Cyclery where they've got a Betty Foy frame on hold for us. I'd been corresponding with sales guy Elton, who said they were building one up as a floor model, and she could test ride that.

Elton wasn't there, but we had a good time talking with Jim. He set her off on a test ride - not too long, though, since rain was threatening. Plus, this was her first experience with non-hub-gears for ages and she was still getting the feel for it.

For the sake of comparison, she also tried a couple hybridy bikes - a Jamis and Giant, I think. She said they were a bit nippier, but didn't shift as crisply. And of course, they're completely lacking in the personality of Betty.

So Betty Foy it is. We talked through some of the details with Jim, but we'll finalize everything with Elton via email this week. With any luck, we'll have it by Easter!

Here's the spec we're looking at for now:
  • Nitto Technomic stem
  • Pyramid Northroad bars
  • Cork grips
  • Deore front & rear derailleurs
  • Sugino triple (26, 36, 46) chainset
  • Ultegra 8 speed bar-end shifters attached with Paul Thumbies
  • 8-speed Deore cassette
  • Tektro 73mm brake calipers with Shimano levers
  • 650b Synergy-Deore wheelset
  • Panaracer Col de la Vie tires
  • SKS fenders
  • Pletscher kickstand
  • Nice red cabling (to match the little apples) and a red Blackburn bottle cage
Still undecided: Saddle & pedals. Maybe bars too.

The thing about saddles is that Brooks certainly look the part, but they're also vulnerable to rain. And Kim prefers an upright riding position, so she'll be putting more weight on the saddle than I put on my B17. Does that mean she should have a saddle with springs? I'm a little nervous about that because Elsie will be a passenger at times, and I'd hate to have her little fingers get pinched. Also, it might take her a while to break it in... so I'd rather spare her the rigmarole if possible.

What alternatives are there, I wonder?

As for pedals, it's going to be platforms. There are various quill-sorts by MKS and others, but they aren't too sneaker friendly with the narrow contact points. I do like the Grip Kings, but they're a little odd, and a little dear. The pedals we've got on our German commuter bikes have good surfaces and built-in reflectors, and I think something like that would be just fine. Just gotta find them now. I think they're something like these bargain Wellgos. Or maybe something like these red Easterns?

As for bars, the Pyramid North Roads are similar to Nitto's Albatross bars, but not quite as wide. But they are definitely more swept back than the bars Kim's used to. I may send Elton a photo of her current pedals & bars and see if there's something similar he can find for Betty.

So, it's all very exciting! I did a lovely ride out to heretofore undiscovered corners of Carlisle today and all I could think about was how Kim will enjoy getting out there too! (She assures me that this will indeed happen.)

Will post pics & further developments as they come.

In the meantime, comments welcome!

(BTW: We're grateful to Dottie and her Let's Go Rid a Bike blog for her comprehensive entry about her own ambition to own a Betty Foy!)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bicycling Magazine surpasses itself

With every new issue of Bicycling Magazine, I grow increasingly amazed at how unappealing it's become. (Lucky I have my archive of mags from the 70s and 80s!)

Most issues contain precisely 0 articles that are of any interest at all to me, which should be surprising because I'm so fascinated by so many aspects of the cycling world. But there you are. The magazine seems to try to appeal to the masses and the lycra louts without much consideration for the many, many different interest groups in the cycling world.

One bright spot in the May 2009 issue is the cursory review of the Alternative Needs Transportation Boston Roadster. As usual, the piece lacks any insight whatsoever. One of my least favorite features of the magazine is how it boils down every review into "Buy it if" and "Forget it if" - and this is where the review of this wonderful bike goes off the deep end. "Forget it if you're a real saddle snob - this one isn't real leather."

What? Author Emily Furia couldn't have thought of anything better than that? Of course, its ridiculous to think that a hand-crafted utility bike available in 20 colors wouldn't have any saddle options.

I think a better soundbite might have been "Forget it if you're reading this magazine - you probably don't care about this type of thing anyhoo."

New Bikescape podcast from Sacramento

When I arrived at the media meet-up in Sacramento, I was delighted to find two of my fave podcasters - David Bernstein of the Fredcast and Jonathan Winston of Bikescape. When I arrived, the latter was in the process of interviewing the former!

Now Jonathan has posted the podcast that resulted. He warns that it's a bit noisy, but I can't wait to listen!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Great springtime ride today

Didnt seem so much like spring when I left home at 7am, though -it was clear but really cold, about 25 degrees. Still, it was very quiet on the roads, and while there were lots of potholes and sandy patches, at least the snow and ice has largely gone. I made it home just in time to head out with the girls to Gem's last skating lesson of the season.

As I was heading home, I went past a good-sized group on the Quad Cycles Sunday ride, with the owner bringing up the rear with a child in a trailer. I must do that ride one of these days!

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Sunday, March 01, 2009

What's a bicycle tour, Daddy?

Last night Gemma and I were talking about what I do at work. She asked me "What's a bicycle tour, Daddy?"

So I asked her what she thought it was, and she said "Is it when you shrink down really small and give people a tour of your bike?"

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Media meet-up at R15 in Sacramento

Over the course of a very long day at the Tour of California, my Sambas somehow rubbed most of the skin off heels. That didn't stop me from walking a mile and a bit to R15 to meet up with various bikey blogey folk. I'm glad I went! I talked to lots of great people and met a few who I know from their podcasts and blogs.

Among them, Fritz of Cyclelicious, David of the Fredcast, and Jon from Bikescape. What a treat!

I also met Jonathan of (before he had to dash off and post coverage of the day's action), Markus of Cyclefilm (who has done a video of the route of L'Eroica I must watch immediately), local Sacto blogger Saccyclechic, and Paul, co-author of The Bike to Work Guide (thanks for the copy you gave me, Paul!) and blogger on bike commuting.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tyler Hamilton

Tyler Hamilton
Originally uploaded by ahconway
In my first ever video posting to Flickr, here's a brief glimpse of Tyler Hamilton in the Prologue.

Cannondale arrives at the Capitol

I went for a nice walk around the site of the Tour of California Prologue stage in Sacramento this morning. It was still pretty early (I'm still on East Coast time!), but I was in time to see lots of the big vendors arrive.

Friday, February 13, 2009

In Sacramento for Tour of CA

So, here I am in Sacramento for the Amgen Tour of California. Exciting? You bet! Justin and I arrived this afternoon, and we'll be exhibiting at the so-called Lifestyle Festival tomorrow. The weather is looking pretty grim, though. It's cold now and wet and cloudy.

It's neat to see the other bikey companies around - there's a big Orbea van at the Clarion hotel next door, and Schwalbe is here at the Holiday Inn Express with us. I had a nice chat with the proprietress of a really good newsagent on 20th Street - she said everyone in town is psyched for the race.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Oh my goodness

So I rang up Harris Cyclery and asked about a Betty Foy. They are planning to get some in for April, but people are already putting down deposits. The frame/fork/headset/seatpost is $1000, and they'll build it up however you like. All very similar to what Rivendell will do.... And, like Riv, they require a deposit to secure one. But the Harris deposit is refundable, and Riv's is not. So I did it! Scandalous, but very exciting. For Kim, of course. (Tee hee hee!)

Monday, February 09, 2009

Betty Foy for Kim

Okay, here's what I'm thinking for Kim. She wants/needs (I want/need for her...) a bike that's sweet and stylish, easy to ride, and geared for pedaling up our big hill at the end of a long day.

She loves her 35lb German city bike, but it doesn't have the gearing she needs. There's no shortage of performance women's bikes out there, but she prefers an upright riding position.

So I think we're going to go with the new Rivendell Betty Foy. It's as pretty as could be (as befits the rider in this case), and should last her for decades. It should be available soon, and we're lucky that we're near a dealer that should be able to sort us out too!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Ah, what a great feeling!

My ride today was pure bliss. I didn't break new ground by any means - I just did my usual loop up to Carlisle, then Concord and home via Mill Road, about 30 miles.

But still, I managed to keep great energy up the whole time, and a pretty good pace, particularly considering how little exercise I've had over the past several weeks. Now I'm home and completely invigorated! Ready for a fun Sunday with the girls.

Since I left just before 7, I didn't see too many other riders. Lots of runners in the hinterlands of Carlisle and Lexington, though. Much of the road surfaces are still a bit treacherous. The main roads are bordered with streams of melting slush and berms of ice, and the edges are very gravelly. Lesser roads have SERIOUS potholes in spots, and many also (like Mill Road in Lexington) have patches of thick ice and dirty packed snow. Not a big deal if you're expecting it, but it could be nasty if you're not.

Before tackling the Park Ave hill towards home, I saw at least a dozen cyclists congregating outside Quad Cycles on Mass Ave in advance of the 10:00 regular Sunday ride. I'll make it out on one of their rides eventually, but I really do like my early-morning solitude. Very calming and restorative, plus, I have all my best ideas about work at these times - and today was no exception.

(As an aside, Quad Cycles is in the process of moving to new premises, even closer to our house in so-called Brattle Square. It will be interesting to see how they do up the new shop! I wonder if they'll renovate attitude at the same time.)

Finally a decent day for a ride!

It's 43 degrees and really mushy outside - perfect for a short ride! I'm dosing up on coffee & oatymeal now, which should hold me until my snack stop in Concord.

In the meantime, I was just browsing through this & that, and via the Best Buddies website, I've come across Interesting! It's a nice Google-map-powered app that lets you document rides & routes, and even track your bikey workouts. It also has a downloadable iPhone app, which is REALLY fun..... if you have an iPhone, anyway. Better get one quick!

The site immediately identified me location and presented rides recorded by others in the area. Neat!

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Wheelmen's Machine

Last night Lauren and I went to the opening of the "The Wheelmen's Machine - The Bicycle and Its Innovators" at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation. Nice exhibit with lots of bikes and info from the real early days of penny farthings and velocipedes. So not my primary interest (I really only get excited around 1960...), but still pretty good. Lots of food and drinks, and we met lots of Wednesday Wheelers from the Charles River Wheelmen. The rest of the museum was actually more interesting - it's set in the old Waltham Watch factory and there are lots of exhibits about watchmaking, and a few giant clocks with the works exposed.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Great morning of snow shoeing

As planned, I drove up to Great Brook Farm State Park this morning around 8, and spent a lovely 2 hours or so shoeing around.

It was my longest jaunt on snow shoes yet, and I must say it was a great success! I parked at the main lot for the Great Brook Ski Touring Center and ventured straight out onto the Lantern Loop. I must admit that, while I've wanted to try this for months, it's never been clear to me whether or not it's allowed to go out on the ski trails with snow shoes. Signs explicitly say that there's "no hiking" - but I wasn't hiking, I was snow shoeing!

In any case, the weather was a bit nippy at 5-7 degrees during my time out there, but I managed to keep warm thanks to lots of layering.

The ski trails were very well groomed, with smooth ruts on the sides, where the skiiers apparently go... I was informed of this fact by the first skiiers of the day I ran across, once I'd moved on to the Maple Ridge trail. They were none too pleased that I was tromping all over them, and they also let me know that I wasn't supposed to be on those trails at all.

After I made it back to the parking lot sheepishly, I discovered that the ski center had opened, so I went in to find out the deal. They were very helpful, informing me that the trails on the other side of Lowell St are open to all. They also rent skis, shoes, and pulks (child sleds to pull behind - click to download a great book about these).

I was actually a bit knackered at that point, but I wanted to see what I was missing on the other side of the road, so I ventured across and did the Acorn Trail and Acorn North. These trails were not groomed at all, narrower, and a bit more challenging than the ones I'd done earlier. The bad news is that in that 30 mins or so, I probably covered a third of the multi-use trails offered by the park. If I'd stuck to the allowed trails all morning, I could have done the lot without too much trouble.

Still, it was a beautiful morning! Also made me start thinking about taking up XC skiing again.

More pics in this Facebook gallery.