Monthly Archives: November 2010

Brrr! Cold Weather Riding!

Hi, everybody. Remember the good old days of fall riding? Well, I think they are over! Time to haul out the winter wool, booties, and heavier gloves. Maybe even the balaclava. As for me, I’m heading to Florida. Ha!

Ray and Mike near Harpers Ferry

Saturday, Felkerino and I made it out with a few friends for a mostly cloudy 90 miles. I felt duped by the weather people as they had been predicting sun all day, and a high of 49 degrees. That was a good laugh. Clouds were plentiful and the temps stayed in the low 40s. We even saw a few flurries. I need to stop putting my faith in weather forecasts. When will I learn?

Nevertheless, our little group enjoyed a pleasant and fairly hilly 90-mile ride out of Poolesville, Md. Our first destination? The savory Beans in the Belfry Coffee Shop in Brunswick, Md. Yum!

Morning Coffee at Beans in the Belfry

While enjoying our morning cups of coffee, we were approached by a local reporter who wanted to feature our group for his regular “Cyclist of the Week” column. So maybe we will achieve some level of fame in Brunswick, Maryland. Fingers crossed!

Holiday Time at Beans in the Belfy

We then meandered the ups and downs near the Potomac River over to Harpers Ferry and on to Sherpherdstown, West Virginia for lunch.

Barn outside of Shepherdstown, WV

Felkerino and me at the Blue Moon Cafe

After some delicious Yin and Yang at the Blue Moon Cafe, we made our way back to Poolesville via GaplandGathland State Park and the ever-popular Marlu Ridge.

Gathland State Park

We also met a friend, Mighty Tailwind, who helped push us back to our starting point. It was great to spend time with you, Mighty Tailwind, and I hope we meet up again soon.

Mike, enjoying the tailwind and a little afternoon sunlight.

Links to my photo set from the PooBrunShepGap ride are here. Felkerino took some good shots, too, and they are located at this link.

Have a great week, all, and stay warm!

Treasure! Velo Orange Mixte

This week, a present arrived for me.

Velo Orange

What? A present for me?! What could it be…

VO Box Contents

It looks like…

Opening the box

It is…

Unpacking the frame and fork

A bike!!!  A NEW BIKE!!!! Just what I always wanted!

Velo Orange Mixte Frame and Fork

I was defiitely NOT in the market for another bicycle frame, but when Velo Orange ran a recent promotion on its Mixte frames, I decided I had to have one. Some opportunities are just too good to pass up.

Now I just hope it plays well with the other bike residents.

Ed introduces the Velo Orange Mixte to the Surly LHT. Just kidding! We were mocking up sizing :).

Veterans Day


Arlington National Cemetery

Felkerino and I rode by Arlington National Cemetery this morning.

Capital Bikeshare. Crazy Dreams Coming True.

CaBi. Good news for the city.

If anyone had ever told me that one day in the future I would be able to walk around Washington, D.C., with a special key, pass by racks of bikes peppered throughout the city, insert my special key, and ride off with a bike underneath me I would have said “No way! That’s just a crazy dream.”

But sometimes crazy dreams do come true. Capital Bikeshare is proof of that.

I joined Capital Bike Share (CaBi) two months ago for a $50 annual fee. (Now memberships are up to $75, but that’s still a deal for a year of bike riding.) At first, I wasn’t sure why I was joining, given that I have a pretty decent bike stable at home that I can ride for free. I did it more out of a desire to support bike riding in the city.

CaBi Station

One rainy ride into the office made me see CaBi membership as an excellent commute alternative to my personal bike. Why dirty up my own steed when I can ride CaBi? They’ll clean the bike for me.

AND check out these amazing fenders and chainguards. Minimal worries about splatter, thanks to these babies!

CaBi Fenders

CaBi Chainguard

CaBi is not only good for rainy rides, I discovered. It’s great for any short trip. After paying my annual membership, all rides up to thirty minutes cost me nothing. If my trip is one hour or less, I pay $1.50, which is easily comparable to Metro. And since I do not like to pick Metro as my first transportation mode of choice, CaBi is an excellent alternative.

I live near a Metro stop with a CaBi station and work downtown in an area where we now have three CaBi zones. It’s awesome. (I can’t move and my office can never relocate. Ha!) The only hitches are if:

  1. The CaBi station on the departure end is empty. So far, that hasn’t happened, although the bike supply has run low.
  2. The CaBi station on the destiniation end is full. That did happen to me once, but just as I went to park a CaBi service van pulled two bikes for service, and left me with a space. If that hadn’t happened, however, I would have had to resort to pedaling off to another station, farther away from my destination, to see if they had any spots. While a manageable inconvenience, it would have still been a bummer.

CaBi bikes are step-through steel frames with tires that must measure in at two inches. You can roll over pretty much anything with those puppies. The internal hub has three gears spaced out enough to get a rider up a hill comfortably as well as over flat terrain without spinning out.

Worried about riding in the dark? Not to worry! CaBi bikes also have lights. The front light works better as a “be-seen” light as opposed to a “seeing the road” lumination, but in the farily well-lit streets of the city, that is not an issue. The two brake lights are excellent, and make a rider easily visible.

CaBi Panda

Saddle height is adjustable to accomodate tall and short riders alike. Handlebar height or reach is not adjustable, but these bikes are designed for short trips, not long-distance excursions. It’s convenience over comfort. There is also a space in the front for a purse or bag, and a little bungee cord is also attached to secure these items.

These bikes even come with kickstands. And bells. Unfortunately,

  1. I was not smart enough to figure out how to make the bells work,
  2. CaBi bike bells are not very loud, or
  3. all the CaBi bikes I’ve ridden have defective bells.

I could not make the bell do much more than a teeny little “deeeeing.” It was quite sad. Fortunately for me, my pipes are strong so the bell is not critical. (But I would still like to know how it works.)

What about helmets? I am a fan of helmets. Of course, no CaBi bike comes with a helmet, but I now try to carry one around with me so that if I do decide to take a CaBi bicycle out for a ride, I’ve got a little protection for my noggin.

Another CaBi Panda. Have to use hands on this one!

With CaBi, I don’t have to worry about looking for a parking spot for my own bike or leaving my bike locked up outside in the elements. Just park and go at a CaBi station (unless they are full. See above!).

CaBi has been an exciting addition to my commuting arsenal. It’s an amazing feeling to walk around Washington, D.C., with a key that unlocks bikes in places all over the city.

Sometimes crazy dreams can come true in this crazy capital city. Thanks, CaBi.

Catching up with George Swain

George Swain was about 25 miles into this past August’s Endless Mountains 1000K when his ride abruptly ended. A car rear-ended him at speed. I remember seeing George at the accident scene that day. Helplessness, shock, and worry all ran through my body.

I learned later that, by some miracle, George had escaped neurological injury. Doctors expected him to make a full recovery. That said, he broke 24 bones in his body and his healing process has been ongoing since the last week of August.

I’ve been following George’s journey through the Caring Bridge website. George and his family have been so great about apprising us of his progress. He has also been posting updates to his blog, the Hudson Valley Randonneur.

I wrote after the Endless Mountains 1000K that George’s horrible accident reminded me of our fragility as well as our resilience. Fragility in that anything can happen while we are out there on the road, no matter how careful or well lit we are. When we’re out on the road, we are totally exposed.

Resilience because George has been recovering each day, slowly but surely. From a bed to a wheelchair, to standing up, walking with a crutch, and now walking for extended periods without a crutch. This past week he actually was back pedaling a bike for the first time in nine weeks. It was a stationary bike, but a bike nonetheless!

George wrote in his journal and blog that “I now know for sure that I will ride again.”

George was lucky to survive his collision, and I am so glad, relieved, and heartened to know that he will heal from that awful day. It’s an added bonus to know that one day he will be back on the road with us.

Thanks, George and family, for keeping us updated. I hope you can be pedaling outdoors with the randonneurs sometime soon. Although maybe it would be ok to take the winter off, too. Brrr!

Pennsylvania Randonneurs Stillwater 200K

Tandem partner Felkerino, friend Lane G., and I packed up our bikes and our randonneur passports this past Friday and headed to Pennsylvania for their November 200K brevet. The ride up was a solid five hours, but the trip was worth it.

Tom Rosenbauer, the RBA, put together an awesome 200K course, full of beautiful river views, scenic climbing, and fantastic controles.

The morning sun over the Delaware River

Afternoon Fall Vista

Milford Station Bakery. Best brevet controle ever?

Tom even put together a “Crista-style” cue sheet so we wouldn’t be too confused when making our way over the course. Tom thinks of everything!

Crista-style cue sheet by Tom R.

Riding with the Pennsylvania Randonneurs gave Felkerino and me the opportunity to meet new riders, traverse many new roads, and pedal with cyclists we don’t get to see that often.

Chatting with Ron and Barb in the early miles

Peter and Paul at the Millside Cafe

Peter, Lane, and Ed on the Delaware River

I also reacquainted myself with the correct spelling of Deleware Delaware, since we crossed the Deleware Delaware River many times throughout the day. So not only was this trip good for me physically, it was also educational.

Thanks to Tom for the awesome course, and thanks to all our fellow randonneurs for making this such a great day to be out on the bike!

Felkerino and me on the Stillwater 200K

My full flickr set of the adventure may be found here.  Felkerino’s pics are here, and he also posted his account of our ride on The Daily Randonneur, my favorite randonneuring news source.

Hope you were able to get outside a little, too. It was a really nice fall weekend.

Our Co-Motion Tandem

Felkerino and I ride tandem together a fair amount, with our longest tandem ride being a 1200 kilometer grand randonnee. I only share that with you in an effort to brag socially unacceptably establish my tandem credentials.

While we initially rode a Cannondale mountain tandem and built it up as a touring bike, we eventually made the investment in a custom Co-Motion tandem. This was due to a variety of factors. Felkerino could never seem to get the reach quite right from the captain position, the stoker zone was on the small side for me, and we wanted a tandem that fit 700C wheels.

It was when we purchased the Co-Motion that I knew Felkerino and I were destined to be together for a while. At least until we got some good long miles out of that bike.

The Co-Motion is an awesome riding machine. Its responsiveness compared to the Cannondale was notable from our very first ride on it. We step out of the saddle to climb and the Co-Motion is right there with us. With our Cannondale, it sometimes felt like we would begin climbing and it would take a minute or two for the bike to concur with our decision. Felkerino used to call it the lead sled for that reason.

Riding the Co-Motion (c) Bill Beck

Our Co-Motion fits us both so well that we experience longer brevets and multi-day touring quite comfortably. Felkerino purchased the Nitto Wayback seat post with super setback in order to make his fit up front ideal. At least that’s what he told me. He may have just wanted an excuse to buy a lugged seat post, I’m not sure. I, however, am quite comfortable in the stoker zone with my Velo Orange Grand Cru seatpost. Its setback is just right for me.

This is the only custom bike I’ve owned (I guess I own the rear half?) and I must admit that having a bike made for your body and riding position is pretty nice.

The Cannondale did a good job getting us from point A to point B, but our Co-Motion is outstanding.

The one area where the Cannondale out-performs our Co-Motion is with regard to loaded touring. We built our Co-Motion with the intention of using it primarily for randonneuring. In our heads, we hoped we could use it both for randonneuring and loaded touring. However, it hasn’t worked out that way. When we add four panniers or a heavy load to the Co-Motion, it simply doesn’t handle that well. Given that all of our touring to-date has been hotel touring, that isn’t so critical. We just make sure to pack light.

If we do decide that we’d like to tour with tents and sleeping bags, we’re buying another custom bike loading up the Cannondale and leaving the Co-Motion for brevets and light touring.

In the meantime, it’s all Co-Motion, all the time.

Have you met my flickr friend, Pedro Gringo?

I have somewhat of an addiction to flickr.

  • Memorializing your bike ride? flickr.
  • Finding out what cycling is like in other places? flickr.
  • Checking out new bikes? flickr.
  • Meeting new randonneur paparazzi? flickr
  • Panda photos? flickr.

The site is a visual treasure trove.

As my interest in bike by shooting has grown, I’ve connected to many other cyclists through flickr. One of my Washington, D.C., favorites is Pedro Gringo. He appears to have a few commuting bikes, but my favorite is his pink Surly Steamroller.

Pedro Gringo on flickr

Pedro Gringo (pretty sure that is not his real name) is a daily D.C. commuter who is on a mission to educate himself about our city. During every bike commute, he takes a picture of a memorial or some other article of interest in the downtown D.C. area. It’s pretty cool, and I love seeing the city through his eyes.

Because of Pedro Gringo, I’ve learned about historic telephone call boxes, memorials I didn’t know existed, Sonny Bono Memorial Park, and what the city looks like really early in the morning.

Thanks, Pedro Gringo. Maybe someday we’ll run into each other on the commute. I kind of doubt it, though. You’re too much of an early rider riser for me!