Monthly Archives: June 2011

Bikes to Like: Eric P.’s Titanium Lynskey

This week Chasing Mailboxes turns its gaze away from steel and toward titanium. That’s right, people. Titanium!

During a trip to Tennesseee last year, I became familiar with Lynskey Bikes, based out of Chattanooga. In an odd coincidence, Felkerino and I started riding more with cycling friend and randonneur Eric, whose primary randonneuring bike is a Lynskey. I wanted to learn more about it and asked Eric to guest post for Bikes to Like.

He graciously accepted (thanks, Eric!) and this is what he shared with me about his lovely Lynskey. 

Eric and the Lynskey, crossing the Potomac on White’s Ferry

1. What kind of bike do you have?

A custom titanium Lynskey.  SRAM drivetrain and handbuilt wheels by Travis Evans at Just Riding Along Bike Shop.

2. Where do you ride it?

Where ever I can, of course. But mostly on the roads of Maryland and Virginia, with forays into Pennsylvania, West Virginia and the District. She is my weekend bike for long rides.

3. What do you like about your bike?

Everything. She fits me very well and I can finish the longest rides with no serious discomfort. She is responsive and lively, and is always ready to ride some more. Plus, she looks awesome.

Spring riding on the Lynskey

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

Mmmmmmm.

5. Fenders or no fenders?

There is not clearance for full fenders so I mount race blades for wet days.

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

Usually just “the Lynskey,” or “the bike,” but on formal occasions I refer to her as Lady Lynskey.

Lady Lynskey goes to high school

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

Me!  As for other accessories, I am not sure where the bike ends and accessories begin, and I don’t usually have a lot of bags and racks.

I really like my bottle cages, which are King Cage “tulips” in stainless steel. They look modern and elegant, but in keeping with the traditional lines of the bike. I got the bike with S&S couplers for easy travel but have not had the chance to use them yet.

8. Why titanium?

I wanted metal instead of carbon for the durability and lively road feel, and preferred ti over steel so I would not have worry about paint or rust.

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

This is really Lady Lynskey II. My first Lynskey was stolen last fall. Luckily insurance covered (most) of the replacement cost so I am back on a Lynskey. I picked up the bike in mid-March and she now has ridden with me for about 1000 miles.

10. If your bike could talk, what is one thing it would say to you?

Truthfully, I am glad she cannot talk because I suspect she would say things like “wash me” or “is that as fast as you can pedal?” But really I think she would say “Can we go for a ride, and even longer than the last one?”

Quickbeam Single Speeding and its Pleasures

Quickbeam visits the White House

Lately I’ve been riding my Rivendell Quickbeam around. It started because my Surly got so dirty I just couldn’t take it anymore and I set it aside for a bath. Then I cleaned the Surly and now I still can’t ride it because it’s clean, and riding it will make it dirty again. And since Felkerino and are no longer dating and he is my real life spouse, I have to clean all my own bikes. Sigh. Life is rough.

I did not always ride single speed. I used to have an aluminum Specialized Langster fixed gear.

Have you ever ridden an aluminum fixed gear? Holy cow!

Every time I rode it over the city’s bumpy streets I was sure my teeth would all fall out. Also, even though I had brakes, I could never figure out the synergy or whatever is supposed to exist between you and your fixed gear bike. I just felt like I had no business being on the road with it. Riding fixed was just NOT for me.

Because the Langster’s ride was so rough, I sold it instead of setting it up with a freewheel, and put the money towards the purchase of a Rivendell Quickbeam.

The Quickbeam is one awesome bike for getting around town.

You’re riding that now?

First, I don’t have to worry about it getting dirty because it’s already dirty, although not to the point that I need to wash my hands every time I touch it.

It’s also a fairly springy steed, especially when compared to my Surly. (However, now that the Surly is clean, it is quite possible that it weighs a few pounds less and could be slightly springier than it was.) When I push on the Quickbeam’s pedals, it jumps. I like that feeling. It’s also a great fit. The saddle height, setback, and reach all feel perfect. Rivendell did a nice job with this bike.

The Quickbeam is good for danger pandas!

The Quickbeam is a simple riding experience. The gear ratio is 40:18. Do you know what that means? It means no commute racing! The mellow gearing eliminates my ability to even compete in those kinds of antics. Yes, I’m totally out of the running, which makes my commutes that much more serene.

In addition, I never have to think about shifting (sort of like stoking the tandem). I ride with the terrain and alter my pedaling accordingly. For riding around the city and gentle rollers, that suits me just fine.

Quickbeam visits the Lincoln Memorial

I will be back on the Surly, my go-to commuter, soon enough. In the meantime, the Quickbeam is a nice change of pace. It offers some simplicity and pleasurable riding amid the heat of the summer, the mobs of tourists, and crowded D.C. streets. And I don’t have to worry one bit about riding through a puddle or in the rain because, hey, it’s already dirty.

D.C. Randonneur Randy Mouri Completes Race Across AMerica

It’s been an exciting 11 plus days for many D.C.-area randonneurs, as we followed fellow randonneur Randy Mouri on his solo attempt at Race Across AMerica (RAAM). Today, we finally got a glimpse of our hero in-person as he succesfully made his way across the USA to be an official RAAM finisher.

Randy, official RAAM finisher

It was inspiring to see Randy continue to press forward through the final miles of the course, even though I could not even imagine the physical and mental fatigue he was enduring. He did it with such grace and style.

Ultimately, Randy’s official time stood at 11 days, one hour, and 13 minutes. Outstanding!

Randy prepares to leave Mt. Airy

I loved seeing all the support and love for Randy from his crew, friends and family, the Severna Park Peloton, and other D.C. Randonneurs. What an adrenaline rush to see Randy on familiar roads, knowing that he was nearing the end of such an epic ride, and that we got to see just a small piece of it. Incredible!!

Randy, Chuck, and Crista in Mt. Airy

Randy and crew at the official RAAM finish

Congratulations to Randy and his crew. Also, thanks to the crew for the excellent updates on Randy’s progress throughout the ride. It meant so much to us to hear about how Randy was doing! Now, I hope you all get some well-deserved rest and relaxation!

Randy and Felkerino in Annapolis, MD

I’ll put up my full set of pics on the flickrverse soon. In the meantime, Maile’s photos are here, Chuck has a set here, Charlie’s got some here, and Mike took some that are here. And one more time… CONGRATULATIONS, RANDY!!!!

Tandem notes: “She’s not pedaling!” Seriously?!

As you may already know (since I really like to talk about it), Felkerino and I met on a tandem first date and we’ve been riding together ever since. Riding tandem with Felkerino was my first exposure to this family of freak bikes, but at the time I don’t remember thinking much about it.

Tandeming on Skyline Drive

Now that we have been doing this for a while (since 2004), I’ve figured out that lots of people do think about people who ride tandem, and they like to share those thoughts with us when they see one ride by.

I understand that a tandem is an unusual sight. Seeing a single bicycle on the road is not that common of a sight, either. Add an extra cockpit to the bike, and it’s noticeably freaky. Freaky in a good way. I get it.

Take my picture. I’m on a freak bike!

However, I am not clear why the sight of a tandem engages some people’s “let’s say something weird” side.

Like many people, I love it when people wave at cyclists or ask about our ride. Being acknowledged in a positive way when you’re on the road is a great feeling.

However, I am shocked by the number of people (generally men; sorry, but it’s true), who love to shout out strange things to us. In particular, “She’s not pedaling!” is at the top of the list of weird things that get my goat.

What is this about? Do people exclaim this because they truly believe that I am not pedaling? Do they think it’s funny? What?

When I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, I like to think they say “She’s not pedaling,” because it is their way of trying to connect with us and share a moment with a beautiful tandem. Little do they know that it is backfiring miserably.

When I am grumpy (say, after 150 miles of “not pedaling” or a stressful week at work) I conclude that it is a sexist comment made by people that have no appreciation for the strength, abilities, and partnership of women.

Look, I’m pedaling! (c) Bill Beck

Am I overthinking it? Maybe. But please, if you see a tandem on the road do NOT say anything about whether anybody is or is not pedaling. That’s right. No matter how much you might be just exploding inside with the desire to shout out those three little words.

She’s
NOT
Pedaling!

Don’t do it! That tandem might be pedaled by Felkerino AND ME, and trust me, I have been pedaling. My legs are very strong and you don’t want to make me angry. As they say, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. (Blog bonus points if you can name that quote.)

And on that note, let’s go ride our bikes! It’s the WEEKEND!

Ride for your Life: Grocery Shopping

Felkerino and I recently acquired a bike to share, the Bridgestone MB-4. To-date, the sharing has consisted of me letting Felkerino ride it. That’s ok. My day will come.

We realized that the Bridgestone is perfect for hitching up the $40 mint-condition Burley trailer that Felkerino got a few years ago from Goodwill. He’s been threatening to use it for years, and with the Bridgestone in our possession, he finally got his chance.

We’re going grocery shopping!

First he did a couple of test rides. We picked up a Nishiki mixte frame and took it home, using the Burley. We donated a frame to Velocity Bicycle Co-Op, and used the Burley for that errand as well.

Last week, Felkerino decided it was time for the real test, and we biked our way to Whole Foods. Upon arriving, Felkerino found a place to park the beast. That thing takes up a lot of real estate and, even though the P Street Whole Foods has decent bike parking, there is no space dedicated to jumbo bikes.

Once inside, we started filling our cart. While I went to grab the hummus, Felkerino STUFFED our cart full of at least two weeks of food. All totaled, we left with three large bags stuffed full of groceries.

Stuffing the Burley. Are you sure?

I was worried that this load would be more than the Burley and Felkerino could handle, but Felkerino assured me that everything would work out just fine. “That’s what it’s made for!”

Still unconvinced, I watched as Felkerino bombed his way down 15th Street in the early evening traffic. An urban warrier with a cargo trailer. I love it!

The Burley did just fine, and we made it back home with all our groceries intact. We even got a hearty wave from a fellow cyclist. Maybe he thought we were touring from some far away place, and not just P Street.

Felkerino said that the trailer pulses some at the point where it is attached to the bike, but overall it rode well. For the next trip, we decided not to load the Burley up quite so much, as the weight Felkerino hauled was a bit more than optimal.

Wow, I am so impressed and happy. First, I’m impressed that the Burley trailer and bike setup works. Second, I’m ecstatic that we can get at least two weeks of food into our house by not using a car. The more I can reduce my reliance on a car, the happier I am on this planet.

That was $40 well-spent, Felkerino.

Bikes to Like: Mark B.’s Velo Orange Randonneur

When I saw Mark B.’s Velo Orange Randonneur making an appearance on rides this year, I knew it had to be part of Bikes to Like. 

His bike is so lucky. It gets to traverse the stunningly beautiful terrain of the Shenandoah Valley, which Mark calls home.  Here is what Mark had to say about his lovely steed and the riding he does on it.

Mark and the VO on the Cacapon 200K (c) Bill Beck

1. What kind of bike do you have?

I ride a Velo Orange Rando frame built up from miscelleneous parts from an early 90′s Cannondale and a newer Bianchi. It’s all steel.

My wife and I also share a Burley Rhumba tandem that is a hoot to ride. As you know tandem riding is great fun, though Rhonda says she doesn’t think our marriage would survive a 300K.  Apparently, I get crabby toward the end of a 200k brevet.

2. Where do you ride it?

The majority of my riding is commuting to and from work three to five times a week. I have several routes that keep me off main roads and are very scenic. I live outside Middletown, Virginia, and ride to work in Winchester over lightly traveled rural roads.

The longest route is 34 miles round trip; the other is 22. About half the distance of the longer route is on dirt roads and passes old farms and apple orchards. The car people stay off these so I can travel the first eleven miles or so without traffic.

One route takes me over a ridge line with views from Snickers Gap to the northeast to Signal Knob in the south. But once in Winchester traffic picks up and I use a very narrow bike lane into the historic district where I work.

I’m doing my best to reduce my participation in the suburban sprawl that is eating up our local orchards and farms. Oh, did I mention oil dependency and global warming?

Mark and the VO on the Urbana 200K (c) Bill Beck

Otherwise, I ride the occasional brevet with the D.C. Randonneurs or Randonneurs of the Mid-Atlantic. I’m not keen on driving long distances to rides, so I rarely travel more than a half an hour away. If there is a brevet starting nearby (Middletown, Matt’s house), I have few excuses for missing it. But, as MG knows, I do drive to local brevets– sheer laziness.

Skyline Drive is 25 minutes away by car, so I can easily get in a mid-week ride in the evening. There is usually less traffic and the evening sun lighting up the Shenandoah River in the valley below is mesmerizing. I can get in a bit of birding too as I climb the 10 miles to Compton Gap.

When we roll out the tandem, we can hit familiar brevet terrain around Oranda and Middletown, Virginia. The Shenandoah 1200 route passes down the road from our house so we ride a bit of that route.  This is great place to ride.

Alec (who also rides a VO) takes a picture of Mark’s VO on the Old Rag 200K

3. What do you like about your bike? 

Lugged frame. Steel. Horizontal top tube. Low trail. Subdued graphics. It has an unmistakeable classic look.

I was riding in Montana last summer and fell in with a club ride. They were all guys tricked out in advertising wear and carbon fiber componentry.  I was on the VO. One guy looks at my bike and says “you must have a lot of miles on that thing.” Well, I’d bought it previous Fall and had only a few thousand miles on it, but it fooled the youngsters.  I imagine it will still be on the road long after the carbon cracks.

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

Economical

5. Fenders or no fenders? 

A bike without fenders is a mere toy. All my bikes have had fenders. And lights. The VO has hammered aluminun fenders from Velo Orange. I thought they would sort of pimp out my bike because they are so shiny metallic, but I have come to like them.

Mark’s Velo Orange Randonneur (c) Mark B.

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

Oh yeah. I named it Hirundo, which is the genus name for a species of bird. Years ago I used to ride in the Clifton, Virginia, area before it was destroyed by development. Had to have been in the middle 70′s, back when the area was mostly forests and farms.

I used to ride out to Hemlock Regional Park and spend the day birding and on one particular occasion I was shadowed by several Barn Swallows for a few hilly miles. I was struck by their grace and agility, in contrast with my efforts, but when they flew close in they looked like they were really working hard.

I thought I could see their flight muscles cranking away to achieve those effortless-seeming moves. They were more like athletes than flying jewels. Years later when I saw  the color of the graphics and frame of the VO, I was immediately reminded of those Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica.

But I don’t call my bike by that name. I just call it My Bike.

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

There are two:

  1. The Son generator hub, which powers both head and tail light.  No more recharging batteries. No more failed batteries. No uncertainty about batteries.  My lights are on all the time; why not, I’m off the grid.
  2. My VDO wired MC1.0 bike computer with altimeter.  I had the wireless version for a time, but the sensor batteries kept crapping out when I really needed it so I switched to the “old fashioned ” kind. The altimeter feature is really wonderful because it shows why I have suddenly lost speed–I’m on a 1% grade; of course I can’t ride as fast!  We do a lot of climbing out here and it is fun to know that such-and-such climb is 15% or whatever. The max on our favorite route is 15%, but at least its gravel.

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

Am I going to keep this bike?  VO is making noises about a new 650B in a great color with a real nice curve to the front fork. Sadly it won’t be lugged. With the type of mixed surface rides I do and the limitations to tire size on the Rando frame, I just might have to make the leap.  The 650 would take over all the functions of my bike so the components would have to shift over and this frame will be up for sale.

Wow, after reading about all the areas you can ride during the week, I have to say I’m a little jealous. Thanks, Mark, for being part of Bikes to Like, and I look forward to riding out your way soon.

Two Day Tour! D.C. to Martinsburg, WV and back

Planning our escape

This weekend Felkerino and I rode with our friend Lane G. from our front door in the District to Martinsburg, West Virginia, and back. It was a great way to spend the weekend. I got to ride my bike for two straight days and never had to worry about carrying a card.

Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy the brevets. However, I also like to limit the “event” riding that I do because, for me, it can get restrictive. In general, I think that touring is my favorite way to ride.

That said, I don’t think I would appreciate touring half so much if I did not complete a Super Randonneur series. After the 600K, a 200K with a century chaser feels like a completely reasonable ride. Almost like we’re shortcutting. AND we can even start at 7 a.m. as opposed to 4 a.m. How civilized!

Lane, on gentle terrain

This weekend’s ride took us from the heart of D.C. to Poolesville, Maryland, and around to the Catoctins. I’d like to give a special shout-out to Meeting House Road for trying to break my legs in half. Nice try, Meeting House. Better luck next time!

I earned this view! Meeting House Road, MD

After several miles through the sawteeth, we fell out near Smithsburg, Maryland. We then made our way through the Antietam Battlefield and into West Virginia, ultimately ending our first day in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

Sunday, we meandered the morning away on quiet roads, stopping for a few minutes at the Sheperdstown, West Virginia, farmers market. Best coconut macaroon ever!

Vendor at the Shepherstown, WV, farmers’ market

Felkerino and me, Harpers Ferry

We zipped over (ok, we were not zipping anywhere) to Harpers Ferry, made our way across the bridge, and pedaled five miles on the C&O Canal to Beans in the Belfry in Brunswick, Maryland.

I love that place! Cycling friends Eric and Jeff were waiting for us, and Eric’s wife even showed up to say hi, Happy Fathers Day, and take our picture. Thanks, Suzanne!

The Sunday Group: Jeff, me, Lane, Felkerino, and Eric

We passed through Leesburg, Virginia, for a sweet treat at Mom’s Apple Pie. Our group chose to then leave Virginia, and head back home via Maryland. This required the use of White’s Ferry, which I always like taking. Feels so old timey!

This was Eric’s first time riding the ferry, too, whoo! By the way, White’s Ferry has increased its rates from one dollar to two dollars per bike. Still a bargain, but make sure to have an extra dollar handy if you ever take it.

Waiting to board White’s Ferry. Two dollars!

We meandered back through Poolesville, Maryland, successfully avoided the U.S. Open golf tournament traffic in Potomac, and steadily made our way home to the District.

It was a fantastic weekend. A carfree escape from the city, gorgeous terrain, long days, good fellowship, and the freedom to ride without a card or the pressure of time. The full set of pics from our leisurely two-day adventure is here. I love summer!

White House Plaza Moment: Welcoming the Touring Cyclists

Earlier this week I took a couple of passes through the White House Plaza, first to take some pre-work bicycle glamour shots and later to enjoy a bit of afternoon sun.

On my a.m. stop, I saw a Capital Bikeshare tourist. Awesome! I love seeing tourists navigate Washington, D.C., using Bikeshare bikes. She asked me to take a photo for her in front of the White House, and then I took one extra for myself.

Capital Bikeshare tourist

Go Bikeshare! I pedaled to my j-o-b, spent a few hours there doing j-o-b-related things, and then took a midday walk. I meandered back through the White House Plaza, and as I was about to return to the office I saw two fully loaded bicycles roll up near the White House.

I sprinted over to them in my non-sprint-friendly heels and excitedly asked them where they had ridden from.

“Pittsburgh!” they answered.
They had JUST completed the full trek of both the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Trails. It took them nine days to complete full 330 miles. They asked me if I rode, too. I had forgotten that I was walking around incognito.

I said it must feel strange to come off the C&O trail into the heart of Washington, D.C. on a weekday. One of them said “Yeah, it’s crazy. We just got here and there’s horns honking and taxis everywhere!” They asked me to take their picture and then I grabbed a photo with my own camera as well.

Touring Cyclists finishing the GAP and C&O trails

I thought it was so awesome that my little lunch break stroll coincided so perfectly with their tour completion. It made my whole day better, although I was sad to have to go back to the office. A few hours later, though, it was my turn to ride.

And now, it’s the weekend. Let’s go ride our brains out!

Bicycle Tchotchkes: “I heart your bike” Bikemail

If you’re like me, you ride with one eye on the road and one eye checking out what other cyclists are riding. There have been a few times where I’ve stopped to admire a bike parked somewhere in the city, pulled out a pen and paper, and scrawled a note to the owner about how much I like his or her bicycle. I then wedged it somewhere on the bike for the owner to read. I call it bikemail.

Middle Gersemalina, who is quite familiar with my passion for the velocipede, found an alternative for my hand-scrawled bikemail. She discovered some elegant letterpress tags made by Heroes and Criminals Press out of Asheville, North Carolina.

Why leave a note like this?

Hand-scrawled "I like your bike" note

When you can leave something like this?

"I heart your (Surly) bike"

If this bike looks familiar, that’s because it is my Surly. Hey, if you can’t heart your own bike, how can you heart anybody else’s? But please don’t think that my bikes are the only ones getting any bikemail love from me.

I also heart this one:

I heart Felkerino's Bleriot

And this one, too!

Olek, I heart your bike, too.

Of course, these letterpress tags are pricier than a hand-scrawled note, but as long as you don’t like too many bikes, I think you’ll be ok.

Olek’s Yarn Bomb Bike

Remember when I spied a little yarn bombed bike in front of the Renwick Gallery a couple of weeks ago? Curiosity piqued, I returned to the gallery to find out if the staff there knew anything about it.

I discovered that the bike was a gift to the Renwick from Olek, a noted New York City-based yarn bomb artist. She is amazing! Bicycles, statues, apartments… she yarn bombs it all. Check out more of her work here. I mistakenly thought she knitted her projects, but Olek’s site clarifies that she, in fact, crochets. Perhaps there is hope for me in this arena yet.

Below is a photo of a photo of a photo of Olek with her bicycle in front of the Renwick.

Olek and her Bicycle

According to the Renwick site, Olek (born in 1978) will be part of the 40 under 40: Craft Futures exhibition that will kick off in mid-2012. I can’t wait to see more of her work in person!

While Olek gifted the bike to the gallery, it is not part of the Renwick’s collection. Someone there takes care of it, though, locking it outside for all to enjoy during business hours, weather permitting. People are free to photograph and touch the bike. Good thing, because I am developing quite a collection of pictures of this little bicycle.

I heart Olek's yarn bomb bike

The sweet image of this little bicycle with training wheels, the bright colors, and the soft yarn texture make it one of my favorite things to see on my commute. It is a sharp contrast to the concrete, brick, and many hues of gray that abound in the city. Thanks, Olek, for giving this bike to the Renwick so that all of us can enjoy it.