Category Archives: Bike

The miles flu by

Glorious weekend. Absolutely glorious weekend. Crisp, dark nights, bright pleasant days – just doesn’t get any better than this.

Of course, I worked Friday and Saturday, but still managed to get in a great run Friday evening, and a good run and bike* on Saturday afternoon, followed with some beers with friends in Newport before heading home.

This morning, I woke up early, strapped on the sneakers, and headed out for a run. Three miles in, felt like absolute and complete dog meat. Couldn’t breathe, couldn’t turn over the legs – nothing. Which was very odd, considering A) I’d had a great weekend running last weekend at New Haven 20k, and B) I’d had great but not terribly draining runs the previous two days.

I cut the run a little short, slowed way, way down, and suffered through. Got home, made breakfast, went to church…

About halfway through church, it hit me – my government-provided health care (Navy Medical) had given me a flu vaccine on Saturday afternoon. Me, being the brilliant guy I am, had gotten the spray up the nose, and then immediately proceeded to do 2 hours of pretty solid workout making sure I was sucking that virus down into my lungs. BRILLIANT!

Napped instead of having lunch, still feeling about 50%.

Stupid flu.

*So, the bike ride, as always, was awesome. Riding Ocean Drive never, ever, fails to bring a smile to my face. There was a little bit of breeze out of the southwest on Saturday – not so much that heading south to the point was super tough, but enough so that the ride from the Southwest corner of Aquidneck Island over to the mansions had a sweet tailwind the whole way. 20 MPH without breaking a sweat is always fun.

Anyway, we’re heading down Bellevue Ave back towards downtown, and there’s bumper-to-bumper tourists trying to find parking for supper in a town that was laid out in the 17th century, instead of just walking or riding. Bellevue’s pretty wide, and there’s usually plenty of “Bike Lane” between the cars and the curb – very pleasant place to ride, even in traffic.

Saturday afternoon in high tourist season – not so much. Drivers are pretty happy to give you the gutter when they’re passing you, but when you pass them …

We’re about two blocks from the stoplight on Memorial when all of a sudden a BMW SUV executes a perfect “Right Hook” in front of me. Traffic wasn’t moving, and the driver, I’m sure, figured they could take the side street around the light. Good plan, except he didn’t signal, just threw over the wheel and hit the gas.

I grabbed two fistfulls of brakes, heard the pleasant screech of Contis on concrete, and simultaneously put my left shoulder into the Beemer and unclipped both feet. I hit the car decently hard – good solid “Thunk”, bounced off, and managed to stay upright with my feet on the ground.

To their credit, the occupants of the car stopped, rolled down the windows, and asked if I was OK. Quick check of me (Nothing in pain, a decent amount of adrenaline, no blood) and the bike (No wobble in the wheels, handlebars still aligned), and I said “Yeah, I’m OK – didn’t see you signal the turn” with the “Jerk” left implied.

They asked again, I said “No I’m fine, please signal next time”, clipped back in and rode off.

Takeaways:

  1. Be Alert – can’t be said enough to both cyclists and drivers. Signal turns, know where you’re going to bailout, make eye-contact, check 6.
  2. Practice – Bike handling needs to be learned. Go to a parking lot or field and practice grabbing brakes and unclipping at the same time. Play some hoops or soccer, and practice making contact and staying upright. Jump curbs.

It didn’t make me feel lucky to be alive or anything – ultimately, it was a slow speed bump, not an “accident” or anything. Preventable, sure, probably by both me and the driver, or by better construction of roads – a painted bike lane would at least remind drivers that there may be cyclists cruising past when traffic backs up.

Good to get shaken up occasionally; but also a chance to think about the riders who don’t bounce off the car that hits them.

New Haven 20K / 2014 Bike Epic

Still the best run of the year. No question. Ran with Jon, saw a smiling Dianna at the finish, and I managed to get myself on the TV News talking about beer. Not a bad outing.
New Haven 20K start
The weather wasn’t nearly so flawless as usual, but the course was awesome, only had one person waiting for runners tell me to “F- Off”. But, despite the mist, we lingered on the green longer than we had in years. Youngest kid ran the kids race in a sub-7; oldest kid got caught in traffic in the 5K but still finished in sub-9’s. I managed to finish the 20K in under 2 hours, making 27 miles for the weekend, and showing I’ve got a decent Hartford base. And, I did get Pepe’s Pizza after the race.
Pepe's Pizza Post 20K

Big topic of conversation was how to do a big bike ride, outside of an organized event. It’s a continuation of a thread that I’ve had going on with Jeff and Warren ever since we did Mooseman back in *harumph*.

200 on 100, the classic Vermont Route, is the inspiration. It’s got a couple of great things going for it, such as:

  • being reasonably close to a critical mass of folks with whom I want to ride;
  • having all sorts of great beer on the route
  • Tough course but clearly doable

There is one chief disadvantage:

  • It’s freaking 200 miles
  • (Which is a long, long way)

So, in brainstorming, we came up with the brilliant idea: Why not make it a two day ride?. ‘Cause, y’know, two hilly centuries back-to-back, that’s super do-able.

Right now the rough outline is:

  1. Pick a date
  2. Find a place to stay about halfway up Vermont (Both Canadians and flatland New Englanders coming up)
  3. Arrive Evening of Day 0 (Geeky crews start with a clean register)
  4. Supper, beer, awards, and tea
  5. Wake Up
  6. Coffee and Bacon
  7. Ride to Canada on Day 1
  8. Have our awesome SAG drivers (who will likely be someone’s spouse/significant other) drag our bikes and sweaty us back to our HQ
  9. Supper, beer, awards, and tea
  10. Wake Up
  11. Coffee and Bacon
  12. Ride to Mass
  13. Have our awesome SAG drivers (who will likely be someone’s spouse/significant other) drag our bikes and sweaty us back to our HQ
  14. Supper, beer, awards, and tea
  15. Wake Up
  16. Coffee and Bacon
  17. Ibuprofen
  18. Return home, sleeping as the SO’s drive, and promise that we’ll do what they want on the next vacation
  19. Route map should be easy – “Follow VT 100”

    Anyway, there are details to work out. But, it’s giving me incentive for many more foggy bike rides next spring

    Foggy Bike

Fall (ing)

Man, I have no idea where this summer went. Between vacation, and camps, and not knowing if I was going to be working or not (I’m a fed, so the furlough thing hit close to home. Not in the “Oh my golly we’re going to lose our house” kind of close to home, more in the “Yippee! A summer full of three day weekends!” kind of close to home. Savings rate would have taken a hit, but, hey, who really retires these days?), and a couple other things, I never really felt like I was getting to relax.

More importantly, I never got into the groove this summer of doing bike rides with my lovely bride.

We rectified that this morning – 7 AM, out the door, and rolling down the road.

One of the reasons I love to ride (and only like to run) is that riding isn’t nearly so weather dependent during the summer as running is. As soon as you get moving, the miles just kind of click on by, and the temperature pretty much self-regulates. Make your own wind and what not.

Today was a great day for that. Wet and sticky, not hot in any way, shape or form, but uncomfortable nontheless (love New England summers!). But, once we got going, the weather was nice. Go too fast, and the humidity started choking the oxygen from the lungs. Too slow, and everything just felt damp. But, cruising along, watching the stone walls go past, everything was good.

We pulled into Stonington Boro about the time 7 AM mass was letting out; all sorts of confused by the huge volume of traffic coming over the railroad bridge – wondering if we’d missed a tsunami warning or something while on the road. Did the lap to the point and back, past the cannon that held off the British in 1814.

Back in downtown Mystic, Missy had to cruise on home to get ready for church. I loitered; had a coffee at Bartelby’s, and watched the Sunday morning crowd roll by. Downtown Mystic’s a great place to watch bikes on a weekend morning – there’s everything from the green stickers of bikes refurbished for Mystic Community BIkes (Free bike share for way longer than most places in the US) to the dude who rolled up to wait for a group ride on the Parlee with Lightweight wheels. My favorite, by far, are the tourists for whom this is like their only weekend on a bike, and for whom cruising down River Road (awesome road, next to no traffic, plenty of bikes, runners, rollerbladers, etc, so cars kind of feel like jerks for driving on it) and doing the short spin in traffic on Main Street (lots of cars, but enough pedestrians, parallel parkers, etc that noone honks at cyclists) leaves them feeling like I live in a bikeable community.

Ended the ride with a trip up to Old Mystic and B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill for a half gallon of sweet cider and a dozen cider donuts. Tucking the cider in my jersey was surprisingly refreshing.

Today was a good day.

I ought to be asleep right now, ready for the New Haven road race, but I’ve been unusually productive today, and can’t quite spin down. Which means I ought to crash hard once I get on the road.

Cold Steel

I. Love. Winter.

There, I said it. I love winter.

I love the contrast between inside and outside in the winter. Inside – warm, muted light, fuzzy, close to ones you love. Outside – The winter sun lights up everything without heat, and the snow removes contrast and context from the landscape, emphasizing . The imperative is to keep moving, to balance energy in the tank with work that must be done. Focus. Anything above the snow snaps into sharp contrast.

Today’s ride was everything good about that – teens when I left the house, bright blue, high clouds, and shadows that can slice bread. The bike complained. Last week I’d ridden her hard and put her away wet, so there was some rust flaking off the chain, and some creaking as the bike asked why I’d neglected her. But, she moved.

I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ve been getting slower lately. Just barely managed to get 12 MPH on the ride in. Not sure why so slow. I didn’t particularly try to hammer, but remember being really let down that it took so long, since i’d felt good on the bike, and the day was so beautiful.

Good chance to make it up this evening.

Slush / Splash / Chase

Today’s awesomeness began this morning. The overnight light snows left a little bit of a dusting on the shoulder. Not enough to make it slick, but enough to leave tracks. Pretty cool to roll the front tire through it, see it get shiny on the edges, and then watch a steady stream of dirty snow the texture of an Icee keep growing out of the front of the fender. Got to work with the bottom bracket a sloppy mess. Commuter Details

Swam at lunch, and tried out a new Jlab Go waterproof MP3 player. Dug swimming with tunes; wish I’d known how to make the player shuffle.

Ride home was awesome. The days are getting longer, and it was still twilight leaving the office. Warm (For February) during the day, so the snow was pretty much gone. I had an extra half hour before supper, so I took the long way home, cutting down to Bluff Point and across to Haley Farm as the light faded.

There’s a mile-long stretch between Haley Farm and Bluff Point that’s on the ballast for the Acela track. I’m kind of surprised there’s not a Strava segment on it, but also kind of don’t want to make one. It’s flat, flat, and a great stretch for group rides and runs – 5-10 minutes of plenty of room to stretch and talk. By the time I got there, it was actual no-lie dark, and I was enjoying the cold and silence and the tunnel of lights coming off of my handlebars and helmet.

The first part of the trail is an abandoned rail bed. Flew around the corner, and almost biffed – caught the front tire in a frozen rut from the ranger’s pickup – three oscillations, and saved it. The cross bike is awesome, but the drop bars aren’t the greatest for manhandling the front wheel around ruts. Plenty of light, but no contrast on the frozen mud. I was happier than a pig in poop.

The mud trail comes out onto the ballasted shoulder of the track. Cut the corner and managed not to clip the gate, and briefly sat up to enjoy the spin. About a quarter mile ahead, there was a group of three mountain bikers, so I dropped the hammer and chased until they went up the grade to the pedestrian bridge. Almost caught ’em, ‘cept they could make the sharp turn and rough cutoff. I had to continue on about another 100 feet, slow uturn, and crank up the grade.

One little patch of mud on a south facing grade, and I found myself wishing for knobbies instead of the reflective slicks. Kept it upright, cranked over the bridge, and chased the flickering lights through Haley Farm. In hindsight, I think I caught the tail end of the Mystic Cycle Wednesday Ride – bunch of folks with nice bikes putting them up on the cars in the parking lot.

Rest of the ride was uneventful – Thought I was going to die going up Fort Hill, but that’s pretty standard. Flanders headed north is the most awesome false flat for about 30 miles around. Flew down the Gold Star Highway, and kind of freaked out when a driver actually slowed up behind me for about 100 yards ’cause they were turning right behind me. Thanks Driver!

Longsuffering wife had green beans and fish ready when I got home, and it was still warm…

Somedays, I just love my life.

Shirtsleeves

Jimminy Christmas.

Actually, it’s blowing my mind – hit the 60’s up here today (Coastal Connecticut). Rode home tonight. In December. In shirtsleeves.

There’s another rider I see most evenings – always heading the other way, lit up like nobody’s business. Bundled up warmly. He’s a backpack, though, instead of a rack and panniers. Don’t think he’s got fenders, either, though. But it’s nice knowing there’s someone else out there, outside the cages.

Riding For Yellow

newport ride(1)

Last week, the bubble finally burst on the whole Lance Armstrong thing. I’d long since given up the idea that he’d raced clean, or that, in fact anyone had raced clean. Reading Tyler Hamilton’s “The Secret Race”, @Vaughters’ tweeting this summer, and the earlier USADA leaks had pretty much convinced me that cycling had been doped for most of the Postal/Disco run.

Reading some of the raw testimony, reading the statements of the confessed riders, and reading the continued denials from Armstrong himself were really kind of getting me down. On one hand, without a critical mass of cyclists confessing together, it’s really easy to keep the omerta going – reference Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton, and Bassons getting the cold shoulder from the entire cycling industry when they tried to shine a light (yes, after years of lying in the cases of Floyd and Tyler) on doping. So, giving out light punishment to lots of riders who confess at the same time has the effect of encouraging confessions.

On the other hand, think of a rider like Chris Horner – currently not implicated in any of the scandals – who spent the late 90s and the early 2000’s riding at the top of the US pro circuit, bringing in literally hundreds of dollars at races in office parks and beer primes, all because he chose to race clean. No podium girl wife for him, no villas in Girona, just a second shot at a EuroPro career once the peloton cleaned up.

The darkness was threatening to consume me – Armstrong’s story played a huge role in my becoming a cyclist.

Then, I got on my bike, and realized I had new yellow to ride for in the golden light of fall.

Longer shadows

So, I may or may not have turned 40 within the last month. If you’re only as old as you feel, I’m still 16 and probably ought not be trusted with much beyond car keys. Buying beer or raising children ought to be clean out.. If you’re as old as people give you responsibilities for, I’m probably in my mid 50’s. Or, if chronology represents age; well, let’s just say I’ll still lie and tell people I’m 29. Old enough to be trusted; not old enough to be wise.You wish you were here

Anyway, weather’s turning up here in New England. Saw a golden tree, and the shadows are definately longer on my commute. Sun’s waiting until 6A to come up, and it’s down by the time the kids are in bed. The weather’s still tossing between summer and fall – some days, we’re gettting hot and wet blown up from the tropics; other days, there’s cool and dry blown down from Canada (Thanks!).

But the pedals keep turning, and the feet ought to start striking pavement again on a regular basis following the New Haven Road Race.

Friday afternoon, I was supposed to spend the day riding Jamestown, RI. But, work intervened, and I didn’t get started until about 2 hours after I was supposed to (Stupid me, working first instead of riding first). Finally got out, and headed north on the island – great tailwind headed north. Kept taking turns I hadn’t taken once I’d rounded the head of the island; passed lots of cyclists out enjoying the beautiful day.

Then, while coming down Carr Lane, I hit a bump, and – dreaded pinch flat.

No worries – fixing a flat’s a 2 minute evolution.

‘Cept – The tube was a short valve tube, and just barely stuck above my Easton EA50 rims, and I hadn’t put a new CO2 cartridge after my last flat. There was enough gas to get the new tube up to about 60 lbs, which could pretty safely get me back to the car at Ft. Weatherill. Coming back up to the car, I was tempted to continue down to Beavertail, ’cause the day was that nice.

IN the end, I opted out – the rear end was squishy enough that one hard hit would have pinched this tube clean through, and I would have been hiking back to the car. And, I’ve been making a concerted effort to be home on time much more often, so didn’t want to risk irking the wife.

Soaked in the cove for a while to make up for it.

Longer shadows are all right.

Harpoon Point-to-point Ride

“Each year, the Feeding America network provides food assistance to more than 25 million low-income people facing hunger in the United States, including more than 9 million children and nearly 3 million seniors.” Up to 89,000 folks in Vermont, 500,000 folks in Connecticut, and over 4,000,000 in the Great State of Texas will face food insecurity this year.

Melissa/Missy and I are going to be riding the Harpoon Point To Point ride next weekend. It’s a benefit ride to support the Vermont Food Banks. Mostly, we’re riding to celebrate turning 40 at the end of the month.

However, the ride does have a fundraising component, so I’ll guilt y’all a little. Missy and I hit up our family for the ride in lieu of birthday stuff, and, frankly, ought to take it out of hide for the ride as well as being more pro-active about dropping off donations each Sunday morning at St. Andrew.

So, figure out where you can go in your community and drop off cash or good quality food. (Or watch for the Cub Scouts/Boy Scouts to drop off food drive bags at the end of October).

If you’ve pitched in in your community, and want to sponsor us and the good people of the Green Mountain State, links to our donation pages are below.

Missy’s fundraising page

Billy’s fundraising page