Monthly Archives: April 2011

D.C. Commute Scenes

Which would you rather do?

Option 1.

Life in the Car Lane


Option 2.

Life in the Bike Lane

I know what I’d choose.

Felkerino and me on 15th Street

Happy Friday!!

Bikes to Like: Mike B.’s Surly Long Haul Trucker

I am a big fan of the Surly Long Haul Trucker. 

Fellow blogger and cyclist Mike B. owns a Surly LHT in my favorite color, truckaccino. Mike is also a member of the Severna Park Peloton in (guess?) Severna Park, Maryland, and has ridden his Surly for both commuting and brevets. Read on to find out what he had to say about his bike.

Mike and his Surly on the Civil War Tour 200K (c) Felkerino

1. What kind of bike do you have?

Surly Long Haul Trucker 54 cm.

2. Where do you ride it?

I commute to work between Severna Park, Maryland, and the BWI Airport in Linthicum, Maryland. I also ride a lot of weekend miles around the greater Annapolis area with the Severna Park Peloton. In 2010 I completed my R-12  and a few other big rides. Along the way I got to pedal through parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Delaware.

3. What do you like about your bike?

The touring bike geometry is perfect for me. Not pitched quite as far forward as a conventional road bike, it’s quite comfortable for a recovering couch potato like me. It’s capable of carrying my commuting payload (laptop, change of clothes and lunch), accommodates fat tires, it’s simple to maintain with bar-end shifters and cantilever brakes, and it holds up well to my less-than-ideal bike handling skills.

4. If you had to describe your bike in one word, what would it be?


5. Fenders or no fenders?

Gentlemen always ride with fenders.

6. Does your bike have a name? If so, what is it?

Not really, just The Surly.

7. What is your favorite accessory on your bike and why?

My steel thermos; it fits in the bottle cage.  I actually have 2 for cold brevets, but I only use one while commuting. I stop at the coffee shop at Andover Road and West Nursery in Linthicum. It’s at the top of a hill and the highest point in my commute. I fill her up, then enjoy a quick half mile descent to my office. (We don’t speak of the first half mile on the way home.)

8. What did I forget to ask that you want to tell me about your bike?

Like most bikes, it has magic healing powers. It’s cured me of chronic fatigue, morbid obesity and sore joints. I honestly believe it’s adding years to my life.

Mike’s Truckaccino Surly LHT

Mike, your bike is awesome! Thanks for the great writeup and I hope to see you on a ride again soon.

D.C. Randonneurs Old Rag 200K Brevet

I know Felkerino will be doing a roundup of this brevet on my favorite news source, The Daily Randonneur, but until he does, here’s a quick summary from the stoker.

Charlie and Scott on the Warrenton 200K

I had a tough time kicking myself out of my house at 5 a.m. to run off to Warrenton, Virginia, for the D.C. Randonneurs Old Rag 200K this past Saturday. It rained most of Friday, and Saturday promised more rain. Yippee.

Oh well. Felkerino and I had pre-registered, our legs felt good, and we thought we’d give it a go. We packed up the Gore-Tex and off we went.

After checking in with ride organizers Chuck and Crista, we took off with 40+ riders into the morning cloud cover, wondering what we were in for. Turned out only a few drops of water fell and we spent a beautiful day on the bike with temps that quickly climbed out of the mid-40s into the 70s.

We rode through a course exploding with dogwoods, redbud, and pretty patches of tulips.

The End.

Wait! That isn’t all! There’s more. Read on, my friends.

In addition to the warm temps and dry day, even more happened to make this ride special. That’s right. Even more!

      • We got into a couple of shootouts at the Randopaparazzi Corral;

I shoot Bill

Felkerino shoots Bill (c) Felkerino

Bill shoots Felkerino and me. Kapow! (c) Bill Beck

  • We escaped the clutches of a determined dog.

Don’t eat me, Fluffy!

  • We got to see Chuck and Crista, the ride organizers, at various points on the ride.

Crista at the top of Old Rag. Hi Crista!

  • I saw my shadow. Only six more weeks of winter!

Remember this? It’s called a shadow.

  • I spent a few hours in the glorious sun, and the last 10 miles with bare arms and legs.

Bare arms and legs the last 10 miles

  •   I documented people documenting the ride. Meta randonneuring!

Taking a picture of Alec taking a picture

Taking a picture of Felkerino and Bill taking a picture of Ritchie

  • I spent the day in the good company of my randonneur spouse (who is also my real life spouse) and some good riding buddies. We rode much of the day with Alec, Lane, and Lowell, and frequently crossed paths with Charlie and Scott, too. Thanks to everybody who passed the miles with us and thanks to Felkerino for being an awesome captain.

Lane and Alec

What a fun day! The humidity of the morning ebbed, the sun emerged, and I felt the toasty warmth of spring the latter part of the ride. Each mile felt better and better, despite the fact that the Carradice kept getting heavier and heavier from all the clothes we kept depositing into it. Even Piney Meetinghouse Road wasn’t so bad.

My full set of pics can be found here, and Felkerino’s are here. Oh, and Bill’s pics are here.

Now it’s back to the commute. See you out there! And watch out for the tourists!!

Reverse Tandem Double Panda Shot

Previously I wrote about “panda portraits,” which are typically self-portraits you take while riding your bicycle. This past summer, though, Felkerino and I worked on taking photos of each other while we were riding the same bicycle. See?

 Reverse Tandem Panda

Double Panda

Ed has called this the “reverse tandem panda shot.” I call it a “double panda” or “tandem panda.” I don’t know if these technically fit the letter and spirit of panda category law, but I think they work on some level as a sub-genre. I’m sure there are special rules for tandems. The administrator of the Panda portraits pool let us add them to his group so I count that as some sort of validation.

Here is a more recent one from this past weekend’s gloriously sunny Sunday ride. We’re really perfecting our technique, I think.

Springtime reverse tandem panda 1

Springtime reverse tandem panda 2

By the way, this is as far as it goes, ok. You won’t see any double tandem reverse danger pandas in the near future. None where we managed to stay upright, anyway.

That’s all from me for the week. Will I see you in Warrenton for the DC Randonneurs 200K brevet?

Bikes to Like: Rootchopper’s Specialized Sequoia

This week I’m highlighting D.C. commuter, Rootchopper, and his bike. I love the look of this bike and when I saw it dressed up in Ortliebs on his flickr page, I wanted to know more about it. 

As Rootchopper is a dedicated commuting cyclist with a lovely steel bicycle, I thought he’d be a perfect candidate for Bikes to Like. Take it away, Rootchopper!

“The Sequoia”

1. What kind of bike do you have?

My bike is a Specialized Sequoia purchased in February 1993 from Spokes Etc. in Alexandria Virginia. I was looking for something a bit more robust than my Trek 1200 for commutes and possibly for touring. The Trek was a great bike but the spokes on its wheels broke from time to time. Don’t you just hate when that happens? (“Ping!” “Damn!!” No swearing on this blog :))

I should point out that this bike bears absolutely no relation to the current Specialized Sequoia models. For one thing, my Sequoia has a heavy chrome-oly frame; the current models are aluminum. My bike was marketed in the U.S. as a commuter and, I am told, it was a very popular touring bike in Europe. Today’s Sequoia’s are built for fast day rides. To use a car analogy, my Sequoia is a Ford F-150 pick up truck; today’s Sequoia’s are more like Ford Focuses.

 2. Where do you ride it?

I mostly ride it to and from work. I live in the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County, Virginia, and work at L’Enfant Plaza in Washington, D.C. It’s about a 29 mile round trip mostly on the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River.

3. What do you like about your bike?

It’s really a sturdy steed and it’s pretty comfortable, for a diamond frame bike at least.

 4. Fenders or no fenders?

One of the cool things about this bike is that it came fully equipped with all sorts of goodies. In addition to a rear rack, it came with front and rear fenders and a generator light system. The generator was located at the base of the seat post between the chain stays. It was activated by a shift lever mounted on the seat post. The power from the generator made it was via wires through the frame to a headlight and into little metal snaps on the rear fender that fed the juice to the taillight.

This system looked good but it had three shortcomings. The lights were actually not very bright, so I had to use additional lights anyway. The fenders were kind of flimsy. I damaged the front fender by some over aggressive parking. Finally, the generator contacted the rear tire directly (not the rim or sidewall). This caused rapid tire wear and made pedaling a bit more difficult. So I removed the entire set up and replace the fenders with a set from Planet Bike.

5. Does your bike have name? If so, what is it?

I have tried to come up with a name for this bike on several occasions but he won’t come when I call him!

For a while I called him Scout, after Tonto’s horse. Then I found out that my friend Keith Adams had a bike named Scout so I dropped it. Since I am a fan of the Lonesome Dove miniseries, I thought about naming the bike the Hell Bitch after Captain Woodrow Call’s horse but that sounded a bit harsh. So I just call it The Sequoia.

 6. What is your favorite accessory on your bike and why?

That’s a very tough call. I love, love, love my Brooks Champion Flyer saddle. The bike came with a Specialized saddle with a depression in the rear for private part preservation or PPP. The foam in this saddle lasted several thousand miles but then started to compress, potentially compromising my PPP. So I bought a Terry Liberator saddle. This had a big cut out for PPP but the opening was lined by stitches. This featured cause extreme discomfort during my first bike tour. So I replaced it with a Brooks B-17.

Even without a cutout or divot, the B-17 was comfortable from the get go and excelled at PPP. That saddle lasted about 7,000 miles before a saddle rail snapped on it during a day ride in the Catskills. I liked the suspension feel of the snapped rail so I replaced the B-17 with a Champion Flyer (which is just a B-17 with springs). That saddle also broke a rail after 7,000 miles, but it was so comfortable I bought another.

There are several other parts that I like. I replaced the original stem with a stem with a higher rise. This gives me a more up-right riding position for my surgically repaired back. The bike came with every narrow drop handlebars. I like the wider handlebars on my Bike Friday so I replaced the narrow bars on the Sequoia. Wunderbar! My little rubber pump peg thingy lets me carry a frame pump under the top tube. The third hand chain keeper keeps my chain from falling off. I replaced the Shimano 105 chain rings with 3 smaller chain rings which IO spec’ed after consulting Sheldon Brown’s website. My knees are much happier. And finally the rack, which is still the original Blackburn, gets used nearly every day with red roll top Ortlieb panniers.

7. What did I forget to ask that you want to tell me about your bike?

I think the only thing I would add is that this bike has well over 30,000 miles on it over 18 years. If a bike fits reasonably well and is mechanically sound, there is no reason (assuming you can find replacement parts) to spend a bunch of money for a new bike.

Thanks for sharing all the ins and outs of your Sequoia, Rootchopper. I’ll see you on the commute!

Weekend Rain = No Hains Point

What a lovely Monday! Felkerino and I thought we might enjoy a morning lap on Hains Point, but it was not to be.

The Potomac River is running high and Hains Point is closed due to flooding. In addition, a small portion of Ohio Drive (near the George Mason Memorial) was covered in water.

Hopefully we’ll be back on the Point soon, but in the meantime we’ll need an alternate route to get in those extra cycling miles.


Bikes to Like: World’s Greatest Randonneur’s Sam Hillborne

Because I am surrounded by so much bicycling goodness, I’ve decided to run some Q&A posts on some of the bikes I’ve seen and admired in the D.C. randonneuring and commuting scene. The first post features the World’s Greatest Randonneur’s (WGR) bike.

WGR’s Hillborne

It’s a Sam Hillborne, from Rivendell. Here’s what WGR had to say when I asked him about his bike.

1. What kind of bike do you have?

I think a Samuel Hillborne, but next time I ride it I’ll make sure.

2. Where do you ride it?

Mostly in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Once a year it rolls into North Carolina, buts it’s dark and I don’t stay very long!

3. What do you like about your bike?

I can ride with fat tires and full fenders!!!

4. Fenders or no fenders?

If I didn’t have full fenders how would I express myself artistically with my rockin’ mudflaps?

(c) Bill Beck

(c) Bill Beck

(c) Bill Beck

(c) Bill Beck

5. Does your bike have name? If so, what is it?

My bike gets called names at times! Think of the 7 dirty words. But I’m starting to like Sammy. Ok, from now on I’ll call my bike Sammy.

6. What is your favorite accessory on your bike and why?

My Bell. I like to ring it after getting to the top of a long climb. It also reminds me of Susan, my significant other, since I stole the bell off her bicycle.

Riding the Hillborne

8. What did I forget to ask that you want to tell me about your bike?

Yeah, bike questions are boring! I always wished someone would ask me questions like: What is you favorite movie and why? Answer: Jaws. Captain Quint is my randonneuring hero. If someone is lucky enough to ride with me in the middle of the night on a 1200k, I will entertain them with some of the best lines from the movie. “We’re going to need a bigger boat!”

One last look at the Hillborne

Thanks, WGR!

D.C. Randonneurs 300K Brevet: The Contrary Mother

It’s prime time for randonneuring and all my bike riding is encroaching on my blogging. Imagine! I wrote a summary of my weekend ride over at my favorite randonneur’s blog, The Daily Randonneur. The story is here, and the teasers below. Oh, and the pics are here.

Contrary Mother 300K

Things I learned on my 300K bike ride:

  • Pay no attention to the forecast. Just wear wool and hope for the best.
  • Fog is the enemy.
  • Take the time to wrench your saddle.
  • Dogs that don’t bark are trouble.
  • Ascents on the tandem are tough, but the descents are incredible.
  • You can pedal at 2.9 miles per hour, but is it necessary?
  • PBP Anciens are everywhere.
  • Hilly rides scatter the groups, but that does not mean you are alone.
  • The Branch Mountain United Methodist Church on Jersey Mountain Road has a lovely outhouse and slippery parking lot!
  • Just keep pedaling. Seriously.

In more local news, I saw my first blooming dogwood tree today. Could spring really be here?

Blooming dogwood

Bikes to Like: Titanium One-Off

Whenever I ride my bike, I try to:

  1. follow of the rules of the road;
  2. take a panda photo; and
  3. keep an eye out for bikes that interest me.

Sometimes all three of these things happen, and sometimes only one of them does. However, one morning commute after taking my regular panda shot I came across a rider on an eye-catching steed. I liked it so much I stopped to talk with him about it. Check this bike out.

Paul’s One-Off

Because of the wheel size and general frame shape, I initially thought the bike was a Moulton, a bike rarely seen in Washington, D.C. (unless I’m missing something). Paul, the owner, informed me that it was not a Moulton, but a One-Off.

Until this day, I had never seen or heard of One-Off. Paul informed me that his custom One-Off was made by Mike Augspurger, who is also one of the founders of Merlin Bicycles. Augsperger left Merlin and started One-Off in 1989. A little on-line research revealed that One-Off now focuses on making custom off-road titanium handcycles.

Here’s another shot of Paul’s bike. The chainrings are gigantic! I think the big ring is an 82. I love how the small wheels allow for the giant chainring look. It makes you look extra tough! And are those Paul brakes? I’m not a full-on gearhead so I am not sure. Sorry if I got your hopes up and I’m wrong.

Another look at the One-Off

I was so happy to see this bike, and that Paul was kind enough to take some time to chat with me. One-Off has an interesting story and a unique product. Learning about it made for a fulfilling commute.

  1. Rules of the road followed? Check.
  2. Panda photo taken? Check.
  3. Interesting bike sighting? CHECK!!

Cake Commuting: the Gersemalina Way

You may recall that I recently had a birthday and that Felkerino birthday-cake-bike-commuted with a somewhat messy, yet still savory, outcome.

Birthday Cake

I also embarked on a cake-commuting expedition earlier this year, and was waiting for just the right moment to write about it. I now realize that the right moment would have been one week before my birthday. Nevertheless, I share it with you now in the hope of educating others about successful cake commuting. Yes, it’s cake commuting class. Pay attention!

Rule 1. Do not have your birthday or special occasion in the middle of summer, at least not in Washington, D.C. The sweltering heat makes the cake frosting too delicate.

Rule 2. If you must have your birthday in the summertime, make sure to live close to a bakery to minimize the effects of the heat on your cake.

Furin's Cake Inside

Rule 3. Take a pannier or bag that allows the cake to lay flat. It’s a gravity thing. Also, don’t get greedy. Make sure to order a cake that fits in a box no larger than your carrying device allows.

Rule 4. If you have any worry about marring the icing, eliminate the custom message, or add it on yourself when you get home. That way, the icing can get a little messed up in transit, but it won’t be as noticeable.

Rule 5. Be kind to your cake. Don’t ride like a maniac or go over lots of railroad tracks or bumps that might send your cake rocking around in its box. Save that for another ride.

Fragile: Birthday Cake Inside!

Rule 6. Don’t sneak a piece before the celebration, thinking that no one will notice. They will notice.

During my own cake commute experience (which also featured a scrumptious Furin’s of Georgetown cake), I told the manager that I would be transporting my cake by bike. He informed me not to worry. Furin’s bakes the cake, places it on a piece of cardboard, and inserts the cake and cardboard in the box. They tape the cardboard down securely to minimize any movement.

That sounded like a bicycle-friendly method to me. I paid for my cake and hit the road.

Birthday Cake Commute = Pretty good

After taking my own cake commute (following all of the above rules), I concluded that my cake looked pretty good. There was a little frosting indentation on the right-hand-corner, but overall not bad. I give myself an A-. And the cake itself deserved an A+. Furin’s chocolate cakes are incredible!