Monthly Archives: July 2011

Friday Shout-Outs

People, we’ve made it to the end of another week. Good job! I was a little tired this week from all my weekend fun, but it was still a pleasant week to be a D.C. resident, and a few things warranting some shout-outs happened, too. (See how hip I am, using this word shout-out? Ha!!!)

Monday evening walk by the U.S. Capitol

  • Felkerino and I celebrated our wedding anniversary, and it involved no bike riding, just a delicious dinner and a long walk. Gasp!
  • Alec B. wrote a lovely post about the upcoming randonneuring adventure that is PBP on the Velo Orange blog. Check it out here. Thanks for the writeup, Alec, and for the words of encouragement.
  • Fellow randonneur George S. is riding in his first 200K after being seriously injured in an accident while riding his bike almost one year ago. George, I am so excited for you and so glad your healing has come so far. Bonne route! I’m cheering you on from D.C.!!!
  • I ran into met one of my blog readers at the White House Plaza today. Hey, Scott! Thanks for reading and for wishing Felkerino and me well on PBP. See you in France in 2015?

Hey, I have a bike just like that one!

  • And last but not least, to my friend Courtney, for exploring the White House Farmers’ Market with me. And for holding my bike while I bought peaches and bread. That bike looks good on you, but I think you might need a 54 cm!

A Perfect Storm: Recreators, Tourists, and Cyclists on the National Mall

If you have ever visited Washington, D.C., you have most likely been to the National Mall (known also as the Mall). It is a large national park (more than 1,000 acres) managed by the National Park Service.

For Washington, D.C.-area cyclists, the Mall is a prime commuting zone. Many local cyclists traverse the area daily, including me. The Mall offers a nice expanse of car-free riding amid the limited green space of the city.

Surly LHT. Morning commute on the Mall

It’s also prime tourist territory. According to the National Park Service website, thousands of people from all over the world go to the National Mall daily. Daily! I guess that makes sense. After all, it is a beautiful national park.

In addition, the Mall is a popular recreational spot, where kickball leagues, ultimate Frisbee teams, soccer players, softball leagues, runners, and others gather to hang out and have a good time. You see? It truly is a park.

While I’m certain bike commuters appreciate the beauty of the Mall, the main impetus for our use of this area is to get from home to our j-o-b’s as quickly as possible without the interference of vehicular traffic. I appreciate that. I’m one of those cyclists.

The recreators? They spend most of their time off the main paths, or if they are out running, they know the walk-on-the-right-side-of-the-path drill.

In contrast, tourists come to the Mall during school trips or vacations to walk the expanse of the park and explore the monuments that commemorate our country’s history. We cyclists might wish that people would all walk around the area single file, hugging the right side of the paved multi-use path, and in a totally straight line, but that is simply not reality. Like I often note, if wishes were horses, then there’d be a lot more poop in the bike lanes. (Has anyone else come across this issue in the 15th Street Bike Lanes? Bleah!)

A crowded summer afternoon on the Mall

Multi-use population density on the Mall has become even more exacerbated with the reconstruction of the Reflecting Pool. Cyclists, commuters, and recreators are all funneled onto fewer paths than usual. It’s a real drag.

While people usually find a way to make traffic flow on the Mall fairly smooth, things can take a turn toward the awkward or even perilous when bike commuters forget about the “park” aspect of the Mall and find themselves converging with these other groups.

I’m sorry, cycling friends, but most tourists will walk in clumps, meander all over the path, and possibly turn or stop when you least expect. All the while, they have no clue that we are trying to get by them, let alone exist. It’s best to just accept that fact and plan our movement accordingly.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. A tourist took my picture on my commute!

It will mostly likely not work to screech “Passing!” or repetitively ding a bike bell in the vain hope that some someone will hear you and move right. They won’t. First, they are too distracted by their own issues: map reading; monument-seeing; stroller-pushing; vacation-induced family dynamics; and who knows what else.

Second, many of these groups don’t know the laws of the multi-use path, which include walking on the right and passing on the left. Tourists are generally not that clued in to the Mall dynamics. They’re just trying to make through their vacation unscathed.

If that rare tourist does hear “Passing!” or notice a bell, they don’t know what to do. I’ve seen many a tourist just turn around and look at me, frozen, completely uncertain as to what their move should be. Or worse, my warning only serves to mobilize them into a more immediate collision path with my front wheel.

Me: “Passing on your left!”
Tourist thinks: Which left? OK, this left!
Front wheel comes nearer, calamity approaching!
Tourist realizes: Oh no! My other left.

It’s best to just slow down the pace, use stealth, and quietly pedal around groups when the opportunity arises. The only outcome I see to aggressive cycling behavior is raining on somebody’s vacation. (“Remember our trip to Washington, honey? And those kamikaze cyclists?! I’m never going back there, ever!”) And who wants to do that? Not me, that’s who.

Pedicab and the Lincoln

I know it’s easier said than done. While tourists bring kind of a fun energy (and money!) to our city, they can be a frustrating obstacle to the commute when I’m just trying to get somewhere.

And as a cyclist, I always feel at the bottom of the transportation food chain, (Cars, tour buses, people, strollers, dogs, puppies, squirrels, my bike and me), which is an ongoing bummer that I try to mentally rally against.

But I don’t want to be that cyclist that sticks in somebody’s memory as a thoughtless party pooper. If I’m riding on the National Mall, I’m taking it slow. After all, it is a park. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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

Randonneur Alec B. recently moved to our area and began riding brevets with the D.C. Randonneurs this year.  Alec lives car-free and impressed many of us by not only riding the brevets and the Shenandoah 1200K, but riding his bike from Annapolis to the ride starts, often camping under the stars the night before. Felkerino and I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know and ride with him. Unfortunately, his bike can’t talk so I had to ask him to spill the beans about his randonneur steed of choice.

Alec on the Velo Orange Randonneur

1. What kind of bike do you have?

Eeets a Velo Orange Randonneur, 59 cm.

2. Where do you ride it?

On the road, mostly. On dirt and gravel occasionally. Across my backyard every day, through deep puddles at the city docks when it rains, down the Metro platform when nobody’s looking, up hills and
down hills and across cobblestones and rumble strips and potholes and broken glass.

Past other people sometimes, but mostly into the sunset and through the night. In North Carolina once, and on the Blue(s) Ridge Parkway. To the grocery store and the beach and to work. To get Thai food, and ice cream, and lettuce, and to friends’ houses. In the rain and in the snow, and in the wind.

With buddies and with strangers and by myself.

3. What do you like about your bike?

It’s comfy and well-mannered enough to keep me moving forward all the time.

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

Blue

The Blue Velo Orange Randonneur

5. Fenders or no fenders?

Fenders. That sounded like multiple-choice, but I like fenders.

This is my speedy bike. I almost didn’t put any on it, but then I realized that it’s just as fast with them, and they keep me happy when it rains. Then I realized that it’s just as happy with low-riders, and they let me carry a winter sleeping bag, or groceries. The racks haven’t slowed me down either. Now my fast bike is a versatile bike….

6. What is one of your favorite memories with this bicycle?

It’s all a blur. Most of my memories involve food. (Feed me if you want me to remember your name.)

I recall one time digging out of my handlebar bag a big wedge of cheese, fishing out my pocket knife, opening it up, slicing off some cheese, eating a bit, slicing off some more, all while riding at about
15 miles per hour. I like multi-tasking while riding this bike.

Alec and Lane, Old Rag 200K

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

“that thing”

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

How do you define “accessory?” There’s no belly button ring or ankle bracelet on my bike. I suppose the home-made phone charger that runs odd the generator hub gets a lot of geek points and isn’t strictly necessary, so it might be an accessory.

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

“Where are we? You’ve been looking at the cue sheet, right?”

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

Oh, I don’t know. Is anyone still reading?

We are definitely still reading, Alec. Thanks for sharing your bike with us, and we’ll see you out on the road soon!

Paris-Brest-Paris Training

Hi, everybody! Did you get out this weekend? If so, I hope you hydrated! It was toasty out there.

It’s 100 degrees outside!

It’s not 100 degrees where I’m riding. Merely 95!

Felkerino and I completed our final big weekend of training before we take on Paris-Brest-Paris next month. 176 miles on Saturday, and 146 on Sunday. Those miles don’t hold a candle to what we’ll ride on PBP, but I think they’re a good start. I’ve posted a ride summary over at The Daily Randonneur so click here and check it out! Oh, and HERE you will find my photo set.

Hot in the City! Commute Wrap-Up

Holy hot sauce, Batman! It’s been a steamy week in the city, and I confess that I focused much of my energy on gym workouts and a pokey pace to and from the office. Here is a rundown of the week in a few photos.

I dusted off my art bike, the Dahon Hon Solo, and rode it all week. Felkerino rode the Bleriot. The Dahon is a lovely bike for hot summer days. No pressure to go fast. No room to carry much stuff. No confusion about what gear to pedal.

Dahon Hon Solo and Rivendell Bleriot

One day this week I rode home in a dress. I would have changed into commuting clothes, but I didn’t feel like taking the extra time. Instead, I threw on my Sidi’s and ran out of the office.

Dress and Dahon Hon Solo Panda

How about those Sidi’s and that dress? I like that combination, and don’t understand why more people don’t wear Sidi’s at the office. :)

As I rode home, I remembered that I prefer unfettered commuting. Shorts and a t-shirt, that’s the life for me, AND I don’t have to dirty up my office clothes by commuting in them. The next day I rode in shorts and a t-shirt. Yay!

Single Speed Commuting on the Dahon

Felkerino and I got our Paris-Brest-Paris t-shirts in the mail this week. Now, we have to ride it. Can’t wait!

Felkerino and the PBP t-shirt

By Thursday it was steamy hot! Here is a shot of the Lincoln from Thursday morning’s commute. Only one tourist! That’s not a usual occurrence here, but the heat pushes people off the streets and into the air-conditioned Smithsonian Museums.

Lonely tourist at the Lincoln

Not everybody went inside, though. I saw several people dipping their feet in the Boy Scout Memorial Tribute Pool. As an added bonus, I never knew what that pool was until I took a picture of it today and decided to find out. This place is teeming with memorials. Have you noticed?

A relaxed moment by the Boy Scout Memorial Tribute Pool

Suddenly, it was Thursday afternoon. Almost Friday! That made me smile. I stopped at the White House Farmers’ Market, picked up some peaches and fresh bread, and that made me smile even more.

Fresh peaches and it

The heat may not abate, but I’m not letting it keep me from pedaling my bicycle. Did you have a good week? I hope so! Stay hydrated, all, and I’ll catch up with you soon.

D.C. Commute Smells: the Fish Market

I’ve posted various photos on this blog of scenes from my commute to give a window into what my commuting life in Washington, D.C. is like.

Some things, though, defy visual depiction. The Southwest fish market is one of those things. I pass the fish market almost daily, and usually pick up fish from there a couple of times per week.. It’s a fine local place, and if you’ve never been there, I highly recommend that you go.

Fish Market, aerial view

Felkerino at the Fish Market

That said, try never to go by the fish market on a hot summer morning before work. Or maybe you should go, just to get a sense of what I’m talking about. The morning smell of hot rancid garbage and fermenting fish is one you won’t soon forget.

It’s one of those smells that make you take an involuntary step backwards (or shock you out of pedaling) and say to yourself,

“HOLY COW! Did that really smell as bad as I think it did?”

And you take another whiff to be sure the smell horrified you as much as you thought.

“HOLY COW! Yes, it did!”

Then you heave all your weight onto the pedals and exit the area as quickly as possible wondering how something can possibly smell that bad.

The fish market is a fun place to visit, and I am a loyal customer who has enjoyed many delicious pieces of fish from their vendors. If you are ever in the area, it is a must-see spot. But it has a morning summer scent like no other I’ve experienced since moving to Washington, D.C. HOLY COW!

Sheer Shorts Syndrome = Sheer Embarrassment

The booties, balaclavas, and jackets are long forgotten as the summer heat cranks up and the time for riding in bare arms and legs is in full swing. It’s glorious!

Now is also the time for all cyclists who wear spandex to assess the state of their cycling shorts collection. Your favorite shorts that you bought three years ago? It may be time to send them on their way.

Those shorts with the oddly placed mesh panel in the back? Yes, you know what I mean when I say oddly placed. I saw you on Hains Point last week. Please stop wearing those.

People, I’m talking about the dreaded sheer shorts syndrome. Because just as summer is the time when people bust out in the bare minimum for their bike rides, it is also the time when people are prone to sporting those shorts that just don’t cut it anymore.

No sheer shorts here… phew!

Unfortunately for me, I’ve been seing sheer shorts a lot lately, primarily on my post-work laps around Hains Point. I’m not going to include any of these incidents on this blog because I have a certain standard I like to maintain, but you know the shorts I’m referencing. Time to reassess your wardrobe choices, people!

I know, I know, it’s tougher than it seems to avoid the dreaded sheer shorts syndrome. Those unstretched shorts that looked fine when you pulled them out of the dimly lit closet? They might not look so fine when you stretch them up around your legs and ride off into the afternoon sun.

Nobody has eyes in the back of his or her head and none of us has the ability to swivel our noggins around like that lady from The Exorcist. It’s nearly impossible to self-diagnose the level of our own cycling shorts’ sheerness.

The key to avoiding sheer shorts syndrome is to designate a sheer shorts liaison. Yes. You need a dedicated someone (ideally, someone you ride with and like), who can look at your shorted derriere and tell you, “Insert your name here, you really cannot be seen in those things anymore.”

If you don’t have a sheer shorts liaison and you ride in spandex cycling shorts, then you are courting trouble and embarrassment. Do yourself (and those around you) a favor. Secure a sheer shorts liaison today!

Bikes to Like: George M.’s Boulder Bicycle

For some randonneurs, 650B bikes are where it’s at. I’ll use my randonneur spouse (who is also my real-life) spouse as an example. He became enamoured of the notion of a 650B ride and used a 650B Rivendell Bleriot as his primary randonneuring bike for the 2007 brevets as well as Paris-Brest-Paris. For Felkerino, riding this 650B bicycle was, as he said, like riding along in a plush Cadillac.

Fellow D.C. Randonneur George M. recently acquired a lovely 650B Boulder Bicycle for his randonneuring adventures. I was intrigued by this bike, and particularly curious if it is up to all the Vintage Bicycle Quarterly hype that it has received. Thanks to George for being part of Bikes to Like so I could learn more about what makes his Boulder Bicycle tick!

George and his Boulder Bicycle

1. What kind of bike do you have?

In February, I received my first custom bike, a Boulder Bike from Rene Herse and Mike Kone. It was made by Waterford to Mike Kone’s specifications. It’s an “All Road” with 650B tires designed to be ridden on both paved and dirt roads.

2. Why a Boulder Bicycle?

First, I was looking for a wide-tired randonneuring bike to take to PBP. The Boulder Bike All-Road was nerly perfect for this, and had solid reviews from Bicycle Quarterly. Second, the price for a custom frame was very reasonable. Third, fairly rapid delivery was important to me; given that I’m 62, I couldn’t wait years for a PBP bike.

3. Where do you ride it?

Since I got it, I don’t want to ride my other bikes. I use it for everything from commuting and neighborhood rides, to club rides and brevets. I can easily take it on dirt and gravel roads to explore areas I couldn’t get to before.

Bike Only shot of the Boulder Bicycle

4. What do you like about your bike?

Beyond items mentioned already, I like comfort, aka wide tires; fit; clean lines; full fenders; cargo space up front; tradition and the way it looks.

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

Floating.

6. Fenders or no fenders?

Full 55 mm hammered Honjo fenders to cover the 42 mm wide Hetre tires.

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

Yes, because of The Full rando setup, I call it Monty.

George and his PBP bike, the Boulder Bicycle

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

I really don’t have one single “accessory” that is my favorite. What I like is the way the bike is designed to integrate the parts, having them work together as a whole.

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

I’ve been surprised at how many people really like the bike. This includes random people walking on the street who gawk even when it’s parked, other randonneurs, other riders on bike trails who pull up alongside to talk, and even bike shop mechanics.

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

Let’s go.

Thank you, George, for sharing your Boulder Bicycle/PBP bike with us. That is one fine PBP bike!

P.S. George has a full set of photos featuring his bike that you can check out here.

The Urban Forest Project D.C.

One day last month, I was out for a lunchtime walk in downtown D.C. when I noticed a poster on a nearby light pole.

See the Forest and the Trees

“See the forest and the trees,” it read. That is a really good poster to hang near an office full of analysts.

A few days later, I noticed more posters scattered about the downtown area. All of them were accompanied by another poster mentioning the “D.C. Urban Forest Project.” Finally, my curiosity could stand it no more and I went to my good friend the Internet to find out what the heck the Urban Forest Project was.

The Urban Forest Project is a “unique environmental, public arts and educational initiative.” Basically, it is an urban outdoor art exhibition going on NOW in Washington, D.C. Artists have designed banners (not posters!), using the tree as inspiration, and they are currently on display in certain parts of downtown.

The first city to sponsor an Urban Forest Project was New York. Since then several other cities, including Washington, D.C., have joined in the fun.

You don’t have to work downtown to tour the posters banners. You can take a virtual tour via the D.C. Urban Forest website. You should check them out. There are several that call upon the tree and the bicycle for inspiration.

It is thought-provoking to walk amid the asphalt jungle and ponder the various messages and visual depictions on these banners. I’m not sure how we get to a tree-filled city that isn’t so full of concrete and metal, but I like considering it.

Below is a banner that captures something else I like contemplating.

Make every day a ride your bike to work day.

What would life be like if more people decided to leave the car at home and ride a bike to work? What if our workplaces actively supported and promoted bike commuting? What kinds of changes would we see in our city then?

reCYCLE Art of Bike Project in Takoma Park: Part II

As promised, I’m showcasing the final three sculptures of the public art sculpture project, reCYCLE. (Missed yesterday? Scroll down, dear reader.)

If you get a chance, it is worth a ride to Takoma Park to see the artists’ creations. Don’t forget to take this map when you go, though.

All sculptures are constructed primarily of bike parts and each one has its own personality and feel. This exhibit goes from now until October, at which time the pieces will be sold at the Takoma Park Street Festival.

Note: Just so you don’t think you’re reading the insights of a famous critic, all commentary that follows is by me.

  • Old Town Shopper, by Richard Lorr

Abstract, upbeat, prickly, and bold. If I was a bike sculpture going shopping, I might look like this except my head would be smaller and my fork arms longer.

Old Town Shopper

  • Mandala, by Robert Wertz

Awesome! Sparkly. A bike tour must-see. The Hope Diamond of the reCYCLE Art of Bike Project. Best U-lock EVER!

Mandala

Mandala U-Lock

  • Wheels in the Sky, by Howard Connelly Design

Gigantic, statuesque, complex, interactive, something for everyone and bike parts galore!

Wheels in the Sky and Felkerino, too

Wheels in the Sky

Detail on Wheels in the Sky

Like the angel atop the Christmas tree, but it’s a BICYCLE!

And there you have it, folks. A glimpse at what the reCYCLE Art of Bike Project has to offer you. Now get out your bike, clip in, and go see it!