Monthly Archives: May 2011

D.C. Commute Scenes: Capital Bikeshare and True Love

The throngs of tourists combined with the rising temps make mornings the best time to ride in the city these days.

This morning Felkerino and I were en route to coffee and passed by the Lincoln Memorial. It always surprises me how serene the Lincoln is in the early-ish morning. It’s a much different place than the populated tourist spot it becomes in the afternoon.

As we rode, we saw a few tourists and this lovely site.

Lincoln Memorial, Capital Bikeshare, and true love

It was touching to see this romantic couple posing for pictures. However, I still thought the Capital Bikeshare bike silently stole center stage.

Capital Bikeshare and that special moment

What a beautiful morning commute.

1992 Bridgestone MB-4: Free bike = FIGHT!

Recently, I sent a bike of mine off to the hospital to be parted out. Last week after our morning ride to coffee, we ran into  saw a coffee buddy of ours who said he had an old mountain bike that he wanted to give away. Specifically, he wanted to give it to us because he said “You guys will know what to do with it.”

Who, us? How did he know? And how did he know that we had just freed up some space in the dining room bike shop so we could accomodate one more steed?

Felkerino asked him what kind of bike it was and our friend said, “Oh, it’s an old Bridgestone mountain bike.” Hmmm. That piqued our interest, but we tried not to give it too much thought.

When we picked up the bike, we discovered it was a 1992 Bridgestone MB-4 in pearl white. It was kept in a loving home and does not appear to have many miles on it. Most of the parts, which include a lovely Sugino crank and Shimano Deore gearing, are original.

Felkerino on the Bridgestone MB-4

We were so excited about my  Felkerino’s  our new bike, that we immediately pumped up the tires and took turns spinning gleefully around the parking lot. While the MB-4 is not among the most prized of the Bridgestone models, the pearl white frame is pretty and the ride feels good.

Plus, it was really cool that our coffee connection thought of giving this bike to us. Sometimes serendipitous things like that happen and those are fun moments to treasure.

Me on my, um, I mean our Bridgestone MB-4

After treasuring the serendipity, I started eyeing Felkerino suspiciously. “He doesn’t really need that bike. I need that bike.” I knew he was thinking the same thing about me. Don’t ask me how. I just knew.

During our series of parking lot test rides, I thought one of us might try to make a break for it and just ride off victoriously into the sunset. Ultimately, though, we got all the excitement out of our system and realized that:

  1. We live together and there is really nowhere to escape to;
  2. We both have enough bikes (well, that’s what I told Felkerino, anyway); and
  3. It was generosity and good luck that got us this bike in the first place.

We decided the Bridgestone is something we can share. Our measurements are fairly similar as is our enthusiasm for the bike.

Sigh. Do you know anyone who likes sharing? I might need some pointers. I’ll let you know how it goes. :)

Memorial Day


Korean War Memorial

Vietnam War Memorial

Arlington National Cemetery

District of Columbia War Memorial

World War II Memorial

Bikes to Like: Russ’s Rivendell Custom

Russ and the Rivendell on the Korea Southern Beauty 600K (c) RUSTYCOOL7

Felkerino and I used to see Russ quite regularly on D.C. Randonneurs brevets. Russ is great riding company. He loves wool, flat pedals, steel bikes, and being outdoors. Also, he always seems totally relaxed when he’s on the bike.

Unfortunately, we don’t see Russ on D.C. Randonneurs rides anymore because he is now stationed in Korea. However, we keep virtual tabs on Russ and his bike via flickr. He’s still riding brevets, only now he does them with the Korea Randonneurs.

(Lothar Hennighausen, a D.C. Randonneur who travels frequently to Korea, started the Korea Randonneurs, and they now offer a full Super Randonneur series. Is that cool or what?)

When we first met Russ, he was riding a Surly Long Haul Trucker in Olive Green, and one day he turned up riding a knock-your-socks-off gorgeous Rivendell custom. There was a lot of ooohing and ahhhing that day. Read more about the bike and check out the pictures. I dare you not to oooh and awww.

Panda Shot on the Rivendell (c) RUSTYCOOL7

1. What kind of bike do you have?

I have a 2000 Rivendell custom that I acquired on eBay in 2007. It was custom built for a gentleman in Alaska who, unfortunately, died of a heart attack in 2007. His entire stable of bikes was auctioned by a professional seller. The bike came to me nicely equipped and as far as I could tell was seldom if ever ridden. The seller even included the original correspondence with Grant Peterson on the details of the build. So it is custom, but not to me.

2. Where do you ride it?

I am stationed in Waegwan, South Korea with the U.S. Army so I ride it only in Korea. Generally I use it for long distance randonneuring and touring.

Russ’s Custom Rivendell, pre-Ostrich bag (c) RUSTYCOOL7

3. What do you like about your bike?

I like that it’s heavy, strong, reliable, and yet graceful and beautiful.

4. Fenders or no fenders?

I do not understand why people ride bikes without fenders.

Rivendell, with fenders (c) RUSTYCOOL7

5. Does your bike have a name?

No, but it is female.

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

My favorite accessory is the Ostrich bag because of the cool saying on it: “Excellent equipment of pack and carrying gear for all cyclists at heart. OSTRICH. The Big Bicycling.”

Close-up shot of the Ostrich bag (c) Felkerino

Thanks for sharing your gleaming Rivendell, Russ. I’m so glad you are able to ride brevets and complete a Super Randonneur series in Korea. Pretty cool.

Russ on the Eodu 400K in Korea (c) RUSTYCOOL7

D.C. Randonneurs – Frederick, Maryland 400K Brevet

What is 252 miles, starts at 4 a.m., and has many hills and valleys? It’s the D.C. Randonneurs 400K brevet. Ha ha ha!!

I may be laughing now, but I certainly was not on Saturday morning when my alarm went off at 2:45 a.m. I never imagined that my idea of fun would require this kind of early riding rising. I propped my eyelids open with toothpicks, felt heartened by the comfortable morning (or evening?) temperatures and forecast, ate a banana, and hoped for the best.

I tend to ride myself awake on these rides, and Saturday was no different. The sun came up, and by 8 a.m. I was happy to be on the bike. For a blow-by-blow of the route’s twists and turns, see the D.C. Randonneurs website. For an impressionist view of our ride, read on!

  • Excellent ride organization and volunteers.

Chris and his volunteer crew were extremely organized. Check out the route markings he left on the C&O Canal for us to make sure that we all knew where to exit. The combination of the “R” with the arrow gives it extra style points.

D.C. Randonneurs exit here

I was also quite impressed by all of Chris’s organizer accoutrements, including his Official Brevet Clock and his 400K Ride Organizer Binder, complete with the club logo.

Chris, with his official clock and event binder (c) Bill Beck

  • Spectacular weather.

This requires no explanation. Just. Perfect.

Outside of Mercersberg, Pa. Beautiful day for a ride.

Descending to Arendtsville, Pennsylvania

  • Cyclocross!

Our route included a brief bit of cyclocross, where we had to hike our bikes from the C&O Canal Towpath up to the road. You don’t get that on every brevet.

Cyclocross on the 400K

  • Friendly and fast controls.

The controls were great! People were so nice about signing our cards, and Kane’s Subs in Newville provided super-fast service to make sure we got fed and back on the road quickly.

C&O Bikes in Hancock, Maryland. Thanks, guys!

Kane’s Subs in Newville, Pennsylvania. Fast and friendly!

  • The hidden and unpredictable pop machine stop.

150 miles into the ride, close to “Short Cut Road,” which was my favorite street name of the ride, Felkerino and I started to feel like we were slogging along and in need of a break. Felkerino’s eagle eye caught sight of a pop machine underneath the awning of a church and Felkerino, Alec, and I bee-lined our way over to it.  Pops were only fifty cents. What a bargain!

Alec fed the machine a dollar, pushed the button for cherry Coke, and out popped an iced tea. I put in my fifty cents, selected Power Ade, and was served a root beer. It made me want to keep putting in money and pushing buttons to see what various drinks would come out.

  • My best obligatory cow photo yet!

I do not have the gift that Felkerino does in the obligatory cow photo department. Even though they are obligatory, I don’t always end up with one. But look at this beauty. I was so proud to be able to add an obligatory cow photo to my brevet photo set.

Obligatory cow photo goodness

  • Varied terrain that kept me mentally engaged, sometimes forced me out of the saddle, and had Felkerino and me hitting 50 mph on three different downhills.

A few of the climbs had some mighty payoffs. The descents off of Snickers Gap, Tuscarora Mountain, and Big Flat were wild and dreamy. I even heard a “WHOAH!” from two teenagers who were outside in their yard as we passed by them at 50 miles per hour. It must be somewhat unusual to see a bike flying by you at that speed. Yeah, that was pretty fun.

Descending Snickers Gap in the morning sun. 50 mph, baby!

  • Dramatic dog action shot!

What can I say? This is my best “Don’t eat me, Fluffy,” shot yet!

Dog action shot. DON’T EAT ME, Fluffy!

  • Good Samaritan moment!

Felkerino, Bill, and I paused in Arendtsville to put on our “don’t hit me” stuff, and Bill forgot to buckle his Carradice. He noticed it a few miles later when something fell out. He lashed it back up and said, “I hope nothing else fell out.”

A few minutes later a couple drove by, held up a jacket, and asked, “Did one of you drop this?” Turned out that Bill’s jacket had fallen out, and they had been working in their yard (which other people apparently do on weekends) and seen it happen. They retrieved the jacket, hopped in their car, and drove down to intercept us. Is that nice or what?!

  • Beautiful night riding

The night riding of the early morning was lovely, as was the night riding of the early evening.

My bike comes with a ready-made draft (Felkerino) so I was protected from both bugs and any evening cool. The skies were clear and the moon and calm winds made for peaceful night riding.

Last year’s 400K ended in strong downpours. Remember those? Memories of last year’s rains helped me appreciate the dry evening miles.

In Gettysburg, Pennsylvania at the last bit of daylight. (c) Bill Beck

Night riding on the 400K. Nice camera, Bill! (c) Bill Beck

  • Fine riding company.

I love brevets because it’s always fun to run into see and ride with other randonneurs. Yes, I enjoy the social aspect!

It’s simultaneously fun and odd to embark on a 252-mile “day” ride with other people. And it’s just great to be out there with people who like to spend time on their bikes as much as we do. We don’t all run in the same social circles, live in the same places, or even pedal at the same pace. However, when we come together on a brevet, we form a unique community. I’ve met people through randonneuring that I probably would never have met or gotten to know otherwise. I love that.


Alec, Charlie, and Scott

Riding together on quiet roads

Bill, climbing through the Michaux

Does it get any better than this? (c) Bill Beck

Our group at the finish. Yay! (c) Bill Beck

There are even more photos! See mine here, Felkerino’s here, and Bill’s here.

Bike to Work Day, aka Friday

Today was Bike to Work day! Of course you all knew that.

In a fit of irony, Felkerino and I rode away from work  and headed to the Rosslyn stop to join the Bike to Work festivities. I have found Rosslyn to be a fun stop and not quite as crowded as the Freedom Plaza location.

After arriving, we ran into friends and had a good time people- and bike-watching. We also scored some free stuff, including lip balm, ankle bands, blinkie lights, and our annual Bike to Work Day t-shirts. The t’s are purple!

I hope some of you were able to join the festivities and freebies. It’s fun to have at least one day out of the year wear you can gather with other commuters and scrounge for water bottles.

Oh, and did I mention that the weather was fantastic? It’s true!

I’ve included a couple phone pictures of my camera pictures. Yes, it makes no sense.

Happy Friday Bike to Work Day!


Bikes to Like: Ritchie’s 1979 Austro-Daimler Vent Noir II

This year I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and riding with Ritchie, a D.C. Randonneur. The first time I saw Ritchie, I had to rub my eyes and take a second look to make sure he was real. He looked liked he might have stepped out of a time machine and somehow ended up on our ride. I later learned that he had not emerged from a time machine; he just embraces vintage treasure. Ritchie’s Austro-Daimler is one of those treasures, and I asked him to tell me more about it. 

The Austro-Daimler with Fenders (c) Pants Pants

1. What kind of bike do you have?

I have a 1979 Austro-Daimler Vent Noir II. That’s well-aged and lovingly lugged Reynolds 531 steel, baby! It’s one of the more unique products of the ’70s bike boom, which was marketed by its manufacturer, Steyr-Daimler-Puch, as being a European thoroughbred with no Asian parts. I’m still riding it with 100% of the original Campagnolo Nuovo Gran Sport Gruppo – right down to the seat post and pedals.

If you’re not familiar with Steyr-Daimler-Puch (And why would you be? It’s sooo defunct these days.) this was an Austrian manufacturing firm founded in the late 1800s that made everything from guns and mopeds to cars and beginning in 1901 … bikes!

Puch bikes spring from this same company, in fact there are Vent Noir IIs that boast Puch headbadges instead of Austro-Daimler. The company has a somewhat crazy, slightly nefarious lineage that weaves itself through the travails of early 20th century European history.

An excellent chronicle can be found here, and a catalogue page for the 1978 Vent Noir II is here.

2. Where do you ride it?

Generally I ride it any direction a Sunday might move me – around to museums, out to Old Town or Bethesda along the greenways, or on the roads outside of town. This isn’t my go-to commuter. I treat it a little better than that. But I will break it out if I’m running late and need to get to work fast on a sunny day.

Lately I have been putting it through its paces with some D.C. Randonneur brevets and a ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville, North Carolina. The bike has performed better on these rides than I have.

3. What do you like about your bike?

I friggin’ love the smoked chrome finish. This was a “secret” finish that Daimler deemed “unscratchable.” That might have been an exaggeration but it is tough stuff. This isn’t the sort of chroming they use for hubcaps and Bianchi Pistas – it’s not going to flake off. This is the chrome they use on aircraft engine crank cases. Serious business. It’s not as flashy as other chromes. Takes a minute to sink in. It’s subtle and understated, and I like that.

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

Stealth. I’m no fan of the military-industrial complex, but on its more ingenious days it popped out a few machines of extremely sleek design, made of some truly wild materials. The B-2 stealth bomber springs to mind. When this bike is sailing along nearly silent and simultaneously seeming to absorb and reflect all light, it makes me feel all stealth bombery.

The Austro-Daimler, being stealth (c) Pants Pants

5. Fenders or no fenders?

That all depends on the weather forecast on my pocket-computer-phone-like-app-driven device. Regrettably this model year did not come with fender eyelets—or rack and water bottle braze-ons for that matter. (I know, WTF Heck?) But I like to keep things clean so I’ve rigged a set of SKS longboard fenders (the cream ones sold through Rivendell … but don’t cop my style) with some small P-clamps that fit snuggly just above the front and rear drop-outs. They are easy on and off, which lets me make game-day mudguard decisions.

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

I haven’t anthropomorphized this bike yet, but the model name “Vent Noir” is French for “black wind.” And don’t think for a second that the coolness of riding the dark winds was lost on me. I do sometimes call the rear derailleur some choice names when it starts getting shi(f/t)ty on steep grades.

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

Right now that would be the Ostrich handlebar bag and the very-handy Velo Orange rackaleur that allows me to carry it. While I respect minimalists and all that they do (or don’t do), I am not one of them. I find it nearly impossible to pack light. A featherweight carbon frame would be lost on me, because I would have 20 pounds of luggage hanging from its saddle.

That said, when my derailleur cage flies to bits in the middle of the road, I’m glad I have this big boxy bag. It’s filled with all the not-so essentials, like the tiny spanner I need to repair and carry on. Sometimes I feel like Mary Poppins with all I pull out of this bag, including the snacks that contain way more than a spoonful of sugar.

The Austro Daimler, bagged out (c) Pants Pants

8. What is your favorite photo of your bike/your bike and you?

I think this is the only one I have of us together, taken during a brief but wonderful flirtation with Grand Bois Hetres:

Ritchie and the Austro-Daimler with Hetres (c) Pants Pants

9. What about that 650B conversion? How does riding the bike as a 650B conversion compare to the 700C ride?

One of the many positive points of these older frames (along with a fresh and welcomed wave of new designs by companies like Rivendell, Velo Orange, and Soma) is the way they open themselves up to mechanical experimentation. They’re like cars before they went all computerized—easier to customize.

This frame has a generous chainstay clearance that begged me to try out my favorite wheel size, 650B. For the same reason that I like Brooks saddles and leather bar tape, I love the buttery smooth ride of 650B. And slapping on a set of Tektro 556 long-reach calipers is really all it takes to let me run any 650B tire up to the voluptuous and bouncy 42mm Grand Bois Hetres (with <1mm of clearance to spare).

But some days you want to slice across the road, rather than float. On those days I can be back on 700c road skinnies in just 15 minutes.

650B Conversion (c) Pants Pants

10. What about that camera case??

Ritchie. Vintage jersey and camera case.

If I love any pastime as much as riding, it’s photography. For shooting while riding, my weapon of choice is the tiny but sharp Canon s95. It has all the dressings of a big juicy SLR turkey stuffed inside an itty-bitty quail body.

Unfortunately a tiny camera is tough to hold onto while you’re pedaling, so I found a vintage-looking leather case made for Canons that lets me keep the camera hung safely around my neck at all times. Just search “Canon s95 leather case” on the Bay, and you can find one super cheap (probably a knock-off, but hey) that will arrive—literally—on a slow boat from China.

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

Well, while you’re not asking, this actually isn’t my first Vent Noir II. The first one came with a seat post so epically seized that it became my Excalibur. Unfortunately that sword is still in the stone, but that is a long (and educational) tale of trial and error that I’ll leave for another day.

Thanks for the beautiful pics and story of your bicycle. I had no idea the parts were all original! Also, Ritchie has an excellent flickr photostream that includes a couple of our D.C. Randonneurs rides. Check it out here

Requisite D.C. Bicycle Glamour Shots: Big Wheel Bikes Mural

Washington, D.C., is a lovely city for bicycle glamour shots. While what might come to mind most readily are pictures of bikes and monuments, that is not entirely true.

One of the spots where I’ve always wanted to take a glamour shot is by the bike mural at Big Wheel Bikes in Georgetown. This eye-catching sight is tucked into an alley just off of  33rd and M Street.

Recently, Felkerino and I were out on our Rivendells and I took the opportunity for a couple of photos.

Rivendells at the Big Wheel Bikes mural.

According to the Big Wheel Bikes website, “the big bike on the yellow wall is a Washington, D.C. landmark.” I don’t know about that, but I do think if you ever get the chance to have your bike photographed there, you should do it. We don’t have that many bike-specific murals in town. And see how nice the bikes look hanging out there?

Felkerino and I also staged the photo below. While it looks like Felkerino is celebrating a grand cycling accomplishment, really we’re just coming back from a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Felkerino arrives at Big Wheel Bikes. Congratulations!

Like I said, if you’re looking for good glamour shot locations in D.C., Big Wheel Bikes in Georgetown is a definite must. Just make sure you go before 1. the weekend insanity kicks off; or 2. the weekday rush hour chaos ensues. You know how Georgetown gets.

Commute Scenes: Tourist Photos Edition

I’m crushing the Capitol

In case you haven’t noticed or don’t live in the area, it’s PRIME TIME for tourists.

I love watching tourists. It’s also a requirement if you are a pedestrian or cyclist, because you never know what a tourist is going to do. One minute they are walking on the right side of the mall path, and the next blink of an eye they could be standing right in front of you. It can be quite disconcerting.

That said, tourists do some pretty fun things, one of them being the poses they do around the monuments. I get a kick out of riding around the National Mall and seeing people set up their photos.

We’re holding up the Washington Monument!

I’m holding up this sculpture with my nose!

You know, those pictures where they’re holding the monument in the palm of their hand, eating the Capitol, putting their foot on the Lincoln… you get the idea.

Look Mom, I’m carrying the Lincoln Memorial!

At first, I would come across these tourists and feel completely confused. What the heck are they doing? I know they’re not from around here, but really. What are they doing?? Then I figured it out and thought it looked like fun.

Felkerino and I decided we would try to do our own tourist photo, but in true bike commuting style, we set out to do it on our bicycles.

We used the two tourists below as our inspirations, as they are both putting their fingers on top of the Washington Monument. Yes, I know you can’t see the final product. Just trust me, it’s the Washington Monument.

Got my finger on the Washington Monument. And look at my red galoshes!

Yeah? I have MY finger on the Monument, too!

Our first commute photo attempts were not that successful. It’s hard work to yell directionals, ride, watch for traffic, and pose for photos. (That’s why all of our shots took place in the morning, which is a much calmer time around the monuments.)

Felkerino pierces the Monument

After a number of tries, we got our shot.

Felkerino puts his finger on top of the Monument. NICE!

Well done, Felkerino! It’s moments like these that I know why I married you.

Have you ever tried these shots? They may seem silly, but I think the tourists are on to something. They are great fun, and actually a bit tricky to pull off. Have any you’d like to share? I’d love to see them!

Hey, did you hear the news? It’s FRIDAY! Have a great weekend, all!

Bikes to Like: Ron and Barb’s Burley Paso Doble Tandem

I remember the first time I rode with Barb and Ron. I spied the Berthoud bag adorning on their steel Burley, their matching Swobo jerseys, and thought to myself, “These are some stylin’ randonneurs. I must find out who they are.” And so I did. Ron and Barb are great randoneuring buddies with wicked senses of humor and one awesome  tandem. Don’t believe me? Read on, my friends!

Barb and Ron

1. What kind of bike do you have?

We have a 2006 Burley Paso Doble tandem.  It’s a mid-price range Burley with a True Temper steel frame and Ultegra drivetrain. We bought it at Tandems East during their ’06 spring Tandem Expo. We went to “just look.” That Mel is a clever guy holding his open house at just about the time of year people are expecting their tax refunds!

2. Where do you ride it?

We ride mostly near home in New Jersey. We routinely ride brevets in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania with occasional forays to surrounding east coast regions for variety.

Burley, Swobo, and Berthoud goodness

3. What do you like about your bike?

Our Burley has adapted very nicely to what we’ve asked of it. When we bought it we had never heard the word “randonneuring.” After more than a few changes (ditched the STI levers for bar ends, new wheels with sturdier rims and wider tires, etc., etc.) it serves as a very comfortable, reliable, competent ride over the longer distances.

4. Fenders or no fenders?

Yes FENDERS! In fact I think I may be a little obsessed with fenders. I’ve gone through several different variations, made every mistake you can make, and spent more money than I care to admit trying to fit a set of fenders “just so” on a bike that wasn’t really made to fit them.

I am very proud of my custom installation of a set of SKS/Esge plastic fenders mounted with a pair of Berthoud aluminum stays and topped off with a PDW Fenderbot light. Or I should say, I WAS very proud of my custom installation until 5 miles into the Boston 300k last Saturday we hit a bump and the rear fender cracked completely in two at the stay. We had to stop and manually rip the remaining fender off so it wouldn’t get caught in the wheel and cause an accident. I’m presently pondering whether to try (again) to mount some metal fenders or give it another go with the SKS’s slightly modified to avoid breaking.

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

We never felt the need to name our Burley. Not even quite sure if it’s male or female (or how to tell for that matter…). I suppose a Paso Doble should have a Latin name. Maria…? Esmeralda…? Salvador…?

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

I’m really fond of our Berthoud handlebar bag, or as I like to call it our designer French luggage. It rests on a Nitto rack that was custom fit to the fork by Stephen Bilenky of Philadelphia.

Barbara wanted me to say that her favorite feature of the bike is her captain, but I won’t let her. It’s way too mushy! She also likes the little $10 piece of stainless steel that holds her waterbottles upright and within easy reach.

7. What is your favorite photo of your bike/your bike and you?

I’ve always been really fond of this photo taken by Maile in the early morning hours of the 2010 New Jersey 400k. It makes us look fast!

This is a pretty good shot of the bike just leaning on our garage:

Burley Paso Doble

I also like these two that Felkerino and you took of us at last year’s Civil War Tour:

Ron and Barb on the Civil War 200K

Ron and Barb at the Civil War 200K

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

Did I mention it’s PURPLE? In photos or in low light it often looks black, but get it in the sunlight and it’s a beautiful deep metallic flecked purple. If you catch it at the right angle it can sometimes look green.

Thanks to Ron and Barb, for sharing all the great details about your fine randonneuring tandem! Also, who knew that fenders could be such a complicated issue?!