Monthly Archives: February 2012

Space Issues and Ugly Ducklings

Growing up, I lived in a small town of about 500 people. Our back yard abutted an expansive cornfield. Neighbors lived across the street and behind their yard stood another cornfield.

Streets were tranquil and what little traffic there was plodded along. Stoplights? None. My sisters and I could ride our bikes from one end of town to the other, sometimes without ever having to touch our brakes to pause for oncoming traffic. We were the only traffic and it was beautiful.

Space. We had lots of it in that little town. Sometimes it was boring, but when I was on a bike, I loved it.

Tandem panda shot

After moving to Washington, D.C., I kissed that kind of space and pace goodbye. Every day cars clog the roads. Narrow trails around the city fill with bike commuters rushing to and from the office.

During the spring and summer months, groups of tourists bus into town and converge on the National Mall to take in a little history and to stroll around the monuments together.

Pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers constantly have to share space. Rare are the moments when I have the path or street to myself.

The outskirts of town offer multi-use paths, but as more commuters choose to bike commute, the greater the congestion on these narrow spaces as well. Cyclists are limited in their ability to choose alternate routes because they are dangerous and unsuitable for bikes due to the volume and speed of the car traffic.

Currently, cyclists are smooshed into an awkward hybrid of movement amid already-crowded roads and paths. Pedestrians sometimes frown at or ignore us and drivers honk and yell at us to get on the sidewalk. Cyclists try to make do in an inadequate transportation system.

When I’m out in the city, I try to be mindful. Ride my own pace, safely pass pedestrians on the left, and respect other cyclists and cars in the hope they do the same for me. I assume that no motorist sees me and I’m always on the lookout for a right hook. I operate under the pedestrians first rule, even when they get confused and somehow end up in the bike lane.

Commuting home by the Washington Monument

It’s tough to be perpetually mindful in these overcrowded areas that aren’t ideal for anybody. Basically, I have to turn on a tape in my brain every time I venture out onto the roads or paths: be aware, be peaceful, and stay steady.

Constant vigilance can fatigue a person, but outsized and overpowered on the road, it’s the best approach I’ve got. Yeah, we all have rules to follow, but the fact is people don’t always follow them (drivers, cyclists, pedestrians). People get tired, distracted, and who knows what else. Sometimes we’re not as careful as we should be, and that can be disastrous for the little guys on the road, i.e., my bike and me.

While D.C.’s streets don’t set up ideally for any group, cyclists are the ugly duckling of transportation, with a few miles of absurdly narrow, disconnected bike lanes and the occasional sharrows. The lanes interspersed throughout the city are often crowded, bumpy and sometimes full of trash or horse poop. And sometimes runners or parked cars. Bike lanes are not for running or parking. They are, supposedly, for bikes.

Usually this doesn’t get me down too much. Generally, motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, and even the crazy squirrels are ok and I’m just happy to live in a place where I can ride my bike as my main form of transportation. But there’s the occasional bad apple or near mishap, and it’s tough to feel like getting on the bike the next day.

Sharrow shadow panda

Despite the shortcomings of bike transpo, it has improved my quality of life and I cannot imagine my state of misery if I had to cage myself in metal every day or go subterranean on Metro. And even if they are not ideal, bike lanes and sharrows send a visual message that cyclists have a place in our city.

I hold fast to the belief that bicycling is the best form of travel and transport, and that gradually others will recognize that and make meaningful changes so that cyclists become integral to the transportation infrastructure, rather than a haphazard add-on.

I confess to being impatient. I wish the future was now, that cyclists had a thoughtfully interconnected network of roads and multi-use paths to ride throughout the city ample enough to encompass the growing cycling population.

A truly bicycle-friendly city. Maybe someday we’ll get there and the ugly duckling will turn into a beautifully lugged swan or something. In the meantime, I’m grateful for my bike and glad for all the people who happily make space for me, be it on a multi-use path, the National Mall, or the streets.

Life in D.C. is nowhere near life in my little town, where my sisters and I virtually owned the roads on two wheels, but it’s a better city for bicycling than many other places in the United States. I just have to keep riding my bike, hold my ground, take the lane when necessary, and let my voice be heard.

Randonneur Q&A for Beginners

Over the past few months, people interested in dabbling in the randonneur lifestyle have asked me various questions about getting into randonneuring. After answering them, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts with you.

Since I started doing brevets in 2005, I’ve realized that randonneurs vary widely in their approach to training and riding brevets. Over time, I’ve figured out some of the methods that work for me, and those are the foundation for the answers to these topics.

My experience is based primarily on brevets with the D.C. Randonneurs. Other clubs may operate slightly differently, though the general approach is the same.

2010 PA Endless Mountains 1000K

What are Brevet Check-In/Registration and Controls Like?

These are pretty easy. The most important parts are: allow yourself sufficient time to get ready before the ride, get your brevet card, and get your gear organized. Make sure to keep track of that brevet card at all times.

If you pre-register for a ride you will save some time, but usually there are 5-10 minute waits to sign in at the beginning of a ride.

You check in or register, the ride organizer or volunteer has you sign a waiver and provide an emergency contact, they hand you your card and a cue sheet, and off you go. You will want to make sure you have a way to affix the cue sheet to your handlebars.

Keep your control card in a plastic baggie, safe from the elements and put it somewhere it will not fall off the bike or you.

DC Randonneurs 300K

Controls themselves are easy, especially on brevets. You just stop, get your card signed (try and buy something as a thank you for their helping) and off you go. Some brevets have information controls, but you will know that in advance, and the ride organizer will have pencils available for people.

The other thing about controls is that you have a certain window within which to reach each control. That means you need to keep a little bit of an eye on the clock and be somewhat efficient about your stops, depending on your pace, of course.

DC Randonneurs 300K

How Do I Prepare for Hillier Rides?

If you have not done much riding in hills, I suggest doing less-than-century distance rides (populaire distances) to gain comfort and confidence on hillier terrain. The next step is to get in practice with longer miles (ideally, one or two centuries a month) to accustom yourself to the time in the saddle as well as strengthen up your legs.

Being from Iowa, the hills out east were a shock! I think it’s just the practice of riding challenging courses that has allowed me to get a little bit better at/more tolerant of climbing, as well as more used to encountering them and how they affect my pace.

Also, I find there are variations on hilly, which sometimes makes discerning profiles difficult. For example, the Old Rag 200K out of Warrenton is fairly hilly, but it only has two mountain climbs (that I remember) and they are both short. However, the terrain keeps coming at you via constant rollers. Other rides may have more concentrated or extended climbing.

I think D.C. Randonneurs offer good hilly rides that (for the most part) won’t leave your cartilage all over the pavement you traverse.

That said, there are a few rides that have a reputation for being extra tough. You should be able to figure those out by reading the D.C. Randonneurs blog or people’s ride reports.

I think when you look at a course profile, perhaps look at the overall elevation. Of course, the ride description should also do a great job of clueing you in to its difficulty, AND look to see where the major climbs are, and how they stack up over the course of the ride. For example, I LOVE the Frederick 300K, because the climbing is in the first part of the ride when the legs are freshest and the last 50 miles are pretty much flat. I think that’s awesome!

Rides that go into orchard country are hilly. Rides that go into the Catoctins will have gnarly sections. West Virginia? Generally pretty hilly!

DC Randonneurs Cacapon 200K

How Do I Build Up to Brevet (200K+) Distances?

There are multiple ways to approach a brevet. I like my rides to be comfortable and to not feel at the mercy of the clock/control closings. That requires some training. That said, getting in weekday miles is important. I think if you commit to randonneuring, you will find space to get weekday miles in, either pre- or post-work.

Also, you could do one or two centuries a month, and try to do back to back 50-mile+ rides on hillier roads on other weekends. We have some incredibly beautiful areas to ride near D.C. which are fun and challenging to explore, provided you are up for a remote start.

I also love going to the gym (most days!), but other people (including my tandem partner) hate it. It’s ride or bust. However, I have found that I am more comfortable on the bike with a stronger core and a stronger upper body and lower back. Maintaining that forward-leaning position on the bike and sitting at a desk during the day was doing a number on my shoulders and neck. Lifting weights really helped me.

I also found that spinning was an excellent cardio workout, provided that I adjusted it to meet my training needs, e.g., not grinding big gears in class, not going all out if I have a brevet the next day OR if I just did a big ride. Spin also helped me with my seated climbing, which surprised me.

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

What about Finishing within the Time Limits?

Of course, individual pace will vary, but all riders have to maintain a minimum speed in order to officially finish a ride.

The important thing on brevets is to make sure to keep moving. One of the best ways I’ve found to save time on a ride is to bring your own food. It takes preparation the night before, but I’ve found it pays off during the ride. That way, you don’t have to worry about waiting for a meal or wandering around a convenience store looking for something that you could potentially eat. You can just get a drink at the control and move on. Also, preparing your food allows you to eat in a way that matches your own schedule, versus being at the schedule of the route.

2011 D.C. Randonneurs 400K finish. Yay! (c) Bill Beck

Overall

The first year I rode brevets, I decided to consider tackling each of the distances as they came up on the calendar. I developed a base where a century finally became “just another ride,” and then started doing back to back rides, including some back to back century rides.

After completing the 200K brevet, I examined how I felt afterward and considered how I would do on the 300K. I repeated the pattern for deciding whether to complete a 400K. This helped me not get overwhelmed by the time, distances and general commitment of randonneuring.

It is an ongoing balancing act to manage randonneuring pursuits amid the other commitments and activities that compete for our time. Sometimes my randonneur training goes off according to plan, and other times, I have to make adjustments.

In the end, while I have found randonneuring to be one of the most enjoyable physical challenges in which I’ve ever engaged, the brevets will always be there. Whenever I can do them I will, but if life intervenes then I’ll just deal and know that the next ride is just around the corner.

Hope you’ve found these comments helpful, and if you have anything to add or if there is something you’d like to know, please email me or share it in a comment.

Utilitaire 12 Roundup, Week 4

Utilitaires are a great way for me to get out the door when I might be swayed to stay inside otherwise. This Saturday the winds were howling in the D.C. area, but I had a baby shower utilitaire to attend. I pedaled my way diligently to the shower, totally focused on my destination and blocking out the windy conditions with my mind. My reward was a lovely baby shower, a bit of exercise, and an awesome tailwind on my return trip. Thank you, utilitaire cycling!

Friday ride home into the sunset

What other utilitaires have been happening, you ask? Let me fill you in…

  • PhysicsGirl on the Loose went to a grocery store with a glass-encased wall of cheese. I’ve never seen anything like it! She made a tactical error in purchasing a mediocre macaron, but other than that and the inadequate bike parking it sounded like  a successful ride. (And what is up with the general lack of decent bike parking in cities? Plenty of space for parking garages, but not for bike racks? Grrr.)
  • Chesapeake Sailor attended his son’s middle school basketball game (sporting event), and couldn’t help himself from prooving en route that he could pedal faster up a hill than a motor scooter.
  • In more school activities, One Speed: GO! rode to a music concert. Because he chose to go by bike, he didn’t have to compete for parking. Nice!
  • Biking in Heels went to the library to pick up a book for her friend, the Scientist. I learned about her library’s “speed read” section and I also like how she bungeed her book to the rack.
  • As a utilitaire substitution, An Old Guy on Two Wheels pedaled over the the county tax assessor to pay something that, ironically, had to do with his car. Later in the week, he went out for breakfast tacos and a cup of coffee. The tacos sound delicious!
  • @katychancy utilitaired and has a new French press to show for her efforts.
  • What’s this? Lynne’s bike is actually locked outside on this breakfast utilitaire!
  • BikesNCoffee went out for coffee. How fitting! He also did some other things along the way, calling the full trip coffeelunchanneuring, and noted that the cold weather really makes his sinuses go. Yes, that’s true.
  • @tangobiker took a page out of Lynne F.’s book and rolled his bike right into the “bottle shop,” rather than lock it outside. Later he attended US Representative Suzanne Bonamici’s town hall meeting.
  • Berlin by Bike went to a cool museum, the Berlin Unterwelten. She also added a coffeeneuring trip to a place where they served Ritual and Stumptown coffee. How is it Berlin by Bike can find a place in Germany that serves San Francisco coffee, but I can’t find the tasty Ritual beans in Washington, D.C.? At least we have Stumptown.
  • @sognrider pedaled the Rawland to the grocery store. Who makes those panniers?
  • @rebalancedlife went to the grocery store, too. Will there be a blog post?
  • shebicycles beautifully documented her ride to her volunteer job with the American Red Cross. I was sorry to read about the reduction in staff at their local chapter. shebicycles wrote several posts about the incredible damage from the previous season’s tornadoes and the involvement of the American Red Cross. On a lighter note, she coffeeneured, too. Great behind-the-bars shot!
  • JDAntos multi-modal-utilitaired by using his bike to assist him in dropping off his car.
  • Port-a-John has been logging some longer miles on the road, including a recent solo century known as the “Weenie One Hundred.” He rewarded himself for his efforts with a utilitaire to a hot dog place, ha ha!
  • Bicycle Bug pedaled himself to the library for a history workshop so that he could learn more about the area where he lives. I didn’t even know groups offered workshops like this. Like!
  • And finally, our man Rootchopper over at A Few Spokes Shy of a Wheel. What can I say except… Whoops. Good thing he was riding on steel.

That’s all I’ve got. Know something I don’t? Please add it to the comments!

Thanks to everybody who’s participating, writing, tweeting, and blogging their adventures. I heart utilitairing!

Link Love: Another Day in Paradise Edition

What fantastic weather this week. Made for some lovely night riding. The sliver of moon illuminated while you could still see its fullness in shadow, suspended over the Lincoln Memorial on a clear night? Stunning. I only took a photo with my mind cam so you’ll have to trust me on how gorgeous the scene was.

It's really the geese who run this town.

Things worth checking out on the interweb this week:

  • Bike Overnights. Adventure Cycling recently started a new section on their blog about short touring trips. I love bike overnights (though I frequently always forego the camping part).
  • One Day You’re a Diamond and then You’re a Stone. Tales from the Sharrows’s writeup one of his rides into work this week so honestly captured the conflicting sentiments that I, too, have about being a commuter and utility cyclist in the city.
  • Bike Racks were Made for Yarnbombing. Yarnbombing fascinates me, and this story from Streetcolor’s Blog of a recent yarnbombing of some bike racks outside of a coffee shop and the reactions it provoked made for a good read.
  • Justice in the Bike Lane. Sometimes cars don’t understand that bike lanes are for bikes and not for parking cars. This driver didn’t and in return he got a parking ticket, a nastygram, and eventually towed.
  • Bicycle Books Department. You might already know that the man behind Rivendell Bicycle Works, Grant Petersen, has a book coming out about cycling. In case you don’t, the Atlantic posted an excerpt about it this week. Coming soon to a book store near you.
  • Female Touring Cyclists. Skalatitude has a nice roundup of women who are endeavoring or have completed various extended bike tours. It always inspires me to see what other people are accomplishing by bike!

Have a great weekend! <3

Guest Blog Post by Me

I’m totally copying this post title from Bicycle Bug. Earlier this week, the man behind the D.C. bicycling blog Tales from the Sharrows put out the call for a guest post. Both Bicycle Bug and I drafted up the happenings from one of our commutes as potential posts. However, another local commuter rose to the challenge and we were left with our Sharrows-inspired posts and no place to publish them. What to do? Guest post on our own blogs. Ha ha! Yes, it makes no sense!

To that end, here is my experience of last week’s ride to #FridayCoffeeClub. Will you be attending? Please do!

Mixte Commute Racing and #FridayCoffeeClub

Last Friday, I gave my Surly Long Haul Trucker a break and instead rode to #FridayCoffeeClub on my bold blue Velo Orange mixte. As some of you know #FridayCoffeeClub is a weekly java-slurping gathering of mostly cyclists that takes place weekly at Swing’s Coffee. It’s a growing group that always gets my weekend started off on just the right note.

I love the setup on the mixte: Berthoud bag in the front, useless-but-attractive bell that states “coffee” in sweet serif letters, Velo Orange matte silver fenders, and tan Acorn saddle bag on the rear.

Front view of the Velo Orange mixte and bell and the pretty, but useless, bell

I felt so stylish as I left home in Southwest D.C. that I decided to take advantage of the quiet (and recently widened, yay!) sidewalk by the Fish Market and shoot a few pictures of my bike as I rode. Pedal pedal click. Click Click. Pedal. Click. Happily I tootled along, taking pictures of the mixte and me.

Hi pretty bike! Taking pictures of the Velo Orange Mixte

In the middle of my photo-snapping reverie, a cyclist politely announced his passing and went by. He was on a road bike wearing what I believe was a waterproof commuter backpack and cycling shoes.

Mortified at being caught in the middle of my Southwest Waterfront mixte photo session, I quickly deposited the camera back into the front bag, and went into pursuit mode.

I am sure I looked pretty ridiculous, as chasing down another rider is far beneath the aesthetic and soul of my beautiful Velo Orange mixte, but I wanted to prove that I wasn’t some narcissistic goofball. I was a “real cyclist.”

I don’t even know what being a real cyclist means, but in that moment I decided it meant not taking any more photos and catching him.

If there’s one thing that makes me batty, it’s the commuters who try to turn their morning rides into races. First of all, I can’t figure out why people are that excited to race to the office. It’s much better to make the bike ride last, right?

Second, there is absolutely no point to the made-up bike race, since nobody really knows where the start began or finish line is, except in our own minds. This is an imaginary race nobody can win. Third, they actually can be dangerous if they involve aggressive shenanigans, shoaling, or illegal movements.

Yet here I was, suddenly that person, in a ridiculous commute race of my own invention. Except that my fellow racer was so far ahead of me he had no idea what was going on.

My rival and I both made our way around the Bureau of Engraving up to the corner Independence Avenue and 15th. The mixte was gradually gaining on the rider. At least, in my mind it looked like it was.

At Independence, the competition took a left and sailed around the Washington Monument, past the World War II Memorial and up to the light at Constitution and 17th.

I took the same left at Independence, but then rode across the Washington Monument paths to the crosswalk to the Ellipse on Constitution between 15th and 17th.

I can’t stand the intersection at Constitution and 17th. It is a swirling rush hour hellfire of craziness, with drivers making illegal left turns and regularly running red lights.

And guess what? The light sequence near the White House favored me and I was able to get a slight lead while my unsuspecting rival waited for the light at 17th to change. Yippee! Why was I doing this? I don’t know. Too late to stop now.

I pedaled the mixte mightily around the Ellipse and veered onto the sidewalk over to 17th. Standing on the pedals, I sprinted up to the corner of Swing’s Coffee and over my arbitrary finish line. First! Go me!

The mixte makes the podium at Swing's

As I parked my bike, I saw the rider head up to Pennsylvania Avenue. Slightly embarrassed and yet excited, I shared the story of my victory to my coffee buddies, exclaiming, “It was all about route choice!”

Somebody said, “MG, what if he was coming here for coffee?”

Good point. “But he wasn’t,” I said. “I saw him ride off. But I’ll keep that in mind.” Phew. I was safe this time!

Just as I finished my story, a new face rolled in and joined our group. He said he’d overshot Swing’s by a block and had to backtrack. As I listened to him say he also lived in Southwest, I realized that he was my morning competition and apparently, my neighbor and now fellow #FridayCoffeeClub member. Unbelievable!

Obviously kicked in the pants by karma, I shouted, “No WAY!” and smacked him excitedly on the shoulder with enough vigor to cause some of his coffee to spill. Oops!

Fortunately, I picked a made-up race with the right commuter. Jason is a really nice person who was completely unaware of my antics and said he’d even be back for another #FridayCoffeeClub, despite my efforts to beat him in a race in which he did not realize he was participating and my inadvertent attempt to spill his coffee.

As we rode off to our offices, I told my friend Lane that the mixte made me do it. I’m not normally like that, and I never feel like going into race mode on the Surly Long Haul Trucker.

“That mixte is a menace,” he responded.

The menace mixte. Maybe it isn’t the sweet bike I thought, but I still learned some valuable lessons from this ride:

1. I need to practice stealthier bike photo sessions.
2. Mixtes are not good racing bikes.
3. You never know who’s going to show up at #FridayCoffeeClub, so practice good manners on the road.
4. Made-up commute races are just undignified silliness.

Please come to #FridayCoffeeClub tomorrow. My racing days are a thing of the past, I promise!

Utilitaire Curiosities: How We Light Up the Night

In order to officially complete the Utilitaire 12, at least two rides must be completed in the dark and thus, require lights.

What do people use to ride in the dark? Some people, not part of this challenge, use nothing. Boo. Bike ninjas are all over. At least, I think they are. I have a hard time picking their silhouettes out of the darkness.

Most people who commute and utilitaire, however, end up adopting some type of front and rear lighting system to get them through dark times. Literally dark, I mean.

Headlights

I have a front lighting around-town system with which I am quite satisfied. Prior to my current setup, I used an older Nite Rider MiNewt X2, a bright front LED light with a rechargeable battery. I liked this light, except:

  1. The cord had some issues which eventually caused some of the wires to become exposed and I ended up covering them with electrical tape; and
  2. One day it stopped working, never to work again. It gave me three good years of service, though, so I can’t complain too much.

In the interim, Felkerino loaned me a rechargeable Ixon IQ from the Dining Room Bike Shop. We use the Ixons a fair amount on brevets. That light was bright and worked well, except it took a little effort to remove the attachment system from one bike to another.

Ixon IQ headlight

Fortunately, I did not wait long for a new light. Soon after the death of the MiNewt, I won a Light ‘n Motion Urban 180 Commuter that is my go-to, go-anywhere light. This light is fantastic because:

  1. I won it.
  2. It easily attaches to any of my bikes. It’s also easily removeable.
  3. The light does not have a separate battery pack and recharges via a USB port. This makes it easy to charge either at home or at the office.
  4. The run time of this light is several hours, supposedly up to eight on the lowest setting, which is still decently bright. I haven’t tested it over an eight hour ride in darkness, but it has lasted several hours in the dark, which is all I need from this light.

Light ‘n Motion Urban 180

Neither Felkerino nor I have any hub generator lights. People love their generator lights, but we’ve found that, since we are jostling multiple bikes for multiple purposes, the portable rechargeable battery lights work well for us.

Taillights

As for rear lights, I haven’t found a perfect system. I like to use two rear tail lights when riding at night, but many of the lights I’ve used have not been bright enough. I found an easily attachable runner’s light, but it doesn’t hold its charge well and the brightness of the light fades quickly.

I have a couple of older Cateye rear lights that serve both as a light and reflector, but I realized that the light they cast is rather dim.

Inadequate primary rear light. Sorry, Cateye.

On my Quickbeam’s Tubus rack, I’ve attached a German-made Spanninga rear light. This light is awesome and I’m totally satisfied with the brightness of it, but it does not move easily from bike to bike.

Spanninga and backup Cateye light on the Quickbeam

I probably should just bite the bullet and purchase another Spanninga, but I’d like to find a light that is bright, hold its charge well, and moves easily (via clip or something) from one bike to another. Also, things like lights fall into the “not much fun to buy” category of bicycle gear. I prefer to take from what’s in stock in the Dining Room Bike Shop.

Reflective Vests

This year, I finally got serious about wearing reflective gear when I commute. I realized through watching other runners and cyclists at night on the trail, that those who wore some kind of reflective wear in addition to lights were a ton more visible than those who only used lights. I figured, the brighter the better and, even if I look nerdy in my vest, at least I have a better chance of showing up in drivers’ headlights.

My current reflectivewear of choice for commuting is a bright orange fabric vest with two big reflective horizontal stripes. Felkerino picked it up for me when he went to PBP in 2007.

Reflective Vest

The vest closes in front with two smallish velcro patches, making it easy on and easy off. It also stows easily in my Carradice.

Reflective Vest – Front

My backup system is the RUSA reflective sash. I feel a bit like a crossing guard when I wear it, but it’s easy to thrown on and takes up very little space in my bag or pannier.

Crossing guard uniform. RUSA Reflective Sash

I do not think the sash is as bright as the orange vest, but I like using the sash in the summertime because the vest can get a little warm, even though it is not a heavy fabric. I’m still searching for a better or brighter summer reflectivewear solution. I think I may have one, but I haven’t tested it yet, as it is not yet summer (ha ha!).

What’s in your nighttime arsenal? I want to hear about it.

Weekend Training Ride: 112 Miles of Dogs, Hills, Sun, and Dogs

This past Saturday, Felkerino and I met up with a couple of riding friends to take on some challenging terrain near Skyline Drive. Starting in Marshall, Virginia, we scaled Massanutten via Chester Gap, rolled our way over to Edith Gap, descended into Luray, and climbed back over Thornton Gap under Skyline Drive before biting off the final miles back to Marshall. Truly beautiful riding.

Felkerino wrote up a fine summary of our challenging day, and you can find it here.

The extended climbing on this ride was definitely one of the aspects that made it special, as was the unseasonably warm February weather.

Another highlight was the number of dogs that pursued us at various points during our day. I don’t recall the last time so many dogs tried to chase me. At a convenience store about 18 miles out from the finish I saw this sign.

Chained-up pups were certainly not an issue on this ride.

Bennett and the setter? golden?

First, this guy thought we looked like fun to chase.

Dog number two

When his efforts to catch us failed, his buddy took off after Bennett’s ankle.

By far my favorite, though, was this cute little threat machine.

Pup in the distance. Looks harmless enough.

Dog in pursuit. Lane assesses the situation.

This dog was thrilled to live where he did, as the road’s incline allowed him to chase us a while. One minute, it would look like we were escaping, the next, the road would pitch further upward, and the dog was in his element. Chase! Bark! Chase! Bark! You are mine, cyclists. MINE!

Lane pedals fervently to escape.

It was difficult to keep the bikes upright, as we were laughing so hard and really working on the climb. I can’t wait to visit this dog again in the spring.

Dog wins the day, and we escaped safely.

We thought our unchained moments were over, when we ran into this guy and his friend around 10 miles from the finish.

The chase is on!

These dogs totally know how to take advantage of the rolling terrain. Again on an incline, we pushed the pedals to make our escape.

Safely back at the car, we reflected on our day. Beautiful weather, excellent climbs and views, and a few unchained buddies along the way. A fine day on the bike, and an excellent day away from the District.

Utilitaire 12, Week 3 Roundup: Wheels Keep Turning

Friends of the spoked wheel, I am having the best time reading about all the utilitaires people are doing. I’ve found that it’s the everyday adventures that give life its spice, and that’s what I see in the utilitaire posts, tweets, and photos. In daytime, darkness, weekdays, sick days, and all kinds of weather people are out pedaling to get things done and make the everyday routine special.

Additionally, people often turn their utilitaires into multiple destination rides, which has given me a great idea for my NEXT challenge.

So let’s talk utilitaires. What’s been going on? Here’s some of what I know:

  • Porta-John finally got his library card. He also shaved his beard, but said it does not make him a faster cyclist. Are you sure?
  • Bicycle Bug got a bad haircut, and believes the Utilitaire 12 is partly to blame, as his usual barber lives closer than the minimum utilitaire qualifying distance. While I’m sorry for the haircut, the writeup made me laugh. Maybe next time, you should just extend your route a little, Bicycle Bug!
  • Biking in Heels attended a meeting for one of her local cycling advocacy organizations, Livable Streets. She even made sure the Massachusetts Secretary for Transportation was familiar with the state’s transportation issues. On a separate outing, she went out for a haircut. Apparently, it went better for her than Bicycle Bug.
  • bikesncoffee took a lovely photo of his recent utilitaire to the Baltimore Museum of Art, and included some cool sketchbook photos.
  • @tangobiker saw a concert. Or would this be a movie? Guess I’ll know when the control card arrives! Oh, and need I mention… he also coffeeneured?
  • Another utilitaire tweep, @SognRider, took on wind and rain for one utilitaire, and went out to lunch on a nice day for another.
  • There are two people with Rawlands participating in the Utilitaire 12. @SognRider is one, and Five Toed Sloth the other. Five Toed Sloth ventured out with his to the hardware store and the grocery store. Because of the low trail of the Rawland, he prefers carrying weight in the front, as opposed to panniers. Did you see his nice basket?
  • bikesncoffee wasn’t the only one at the museum. PhysicsGirl on the Loose, who’s been doing some catching up on her various utilitaire writeups, ventured out into some snowy streets to see the the Royal Ontario Museum. Extra credit!
  • I always enjoy Chesapeake Sailor’s utilitaire observations. On one ride, he observed that his Ostrich bag needs more cushioning for his banana, and on his most recent utilitaire to breakfast, he learned that bamboo on the trail hangs low with snow.
  • shebicycles went to the bike shop, and what I would consider a community meeting on wheels. Loved her photos from the ride. Earlier in the week, she took the Xtracycle to the grocery store. That bike is so cool!
  • Pedal ‘n Pearl intrigued me with her recent utilitaire to a “tiny desk concert” that featured the Cranberries. She also coffeeneured to Lot 38, a new shop I want to check out.
  • I’ve been remiss in highlighting Big Orange Bike‘s posts. She’s been out utilitairing with her little one!
  • One Speed: GO! coffeeneured, ate, and picked up some camera stuff, including this item he called “film.”
  • A Rebalanced Life purchased some cool stuff at the Cascade Bicycle Club’s Bike Swap, including a Swift Industries bag that I’d like to know more about.
  • Over the Hedgerow picked up groceries and utilitaired to a haircut. I think it looks nice, as does his bike setup.
  • Lynne Fitz ventured out for a haircut, too. What’s wrong with this picture? Her bike is outside and not sitting in the salon.
  • An Old Guy on Two Wheels went on a date with his Dahon to see a movie. He went to REI, too, and bought a Clif bar in a flavor I want to try. It has coconut! And guess what? He also got a haircut!
  • Not sure which category this one would fall into, as it could be “Any Store that is not a Grocery Store” or a substitution. but Rootchopper dropped off his car at the shop and, rather than sit and wait, rode home on his bike to do other things. Smart thinking, Rootchopper. You’re definitely in the running for an honorable mention!
  • This other guy I know, The Daily Randonneur, finally wrote up his first seven utilitaires, and I even made it into a couple of the photos!
  • Our most far-flung member of the challenge, Berlin by Bike, took a night ride to the library and then took herself out to dinner. Later in the week, she coffeeneured to a flat white and some awesome-looking pancakes. And I learned about KeepCups.

That’s what I know. If I missed something, fill me in via the comments, and I hope everybody has a great week of utilitairing!

Link Love: To Be Inspired Edition

I blinked my eyes and the now the weekend is upon us. I like weeks like that.

Hope all is well with all of you. I’ve been spending some evening hours perusing the utilitaire posts. Thanks to everybody who is taking the time to write up and tweet their trips. They make for such fun reads!

Valentine's Day Card from Satsuma Press

That’s not all I’ve been doing. I read a few other bike-related posts and took in a couple videos I think you’ll like:

  • PBP 2011 Video. For those of you who have not yet seen the official video of Paris-Brest-Paris, campyonly put a copy up on YouTube for your enjoyment.
  • Make your Life Awesome. This post about 100 People Doing Extraordinary Things provided hours of inspired reading. I didn’t see any randonneurs on the list, but it does note some athletic endeavors.
  • Sew Your Own Bike Accessories. 2wheelerme decided she wanted some accessories for her cycling. Rather than purchasing them at a store, she has started sewing hats, caps, and sunglasses cases to use on the bike.
  • Bike- and Pedestrian-Friendly Cities. The Mineta Transportation Institute of San José State University recently issued a study analyzing what cities can do to better integrate bike and pedestrian traffic. Based in part on case studies, interviews, and surveys, you can read the full shebang or choose the summary version.
  • An Alternative to #FridayCoffeeClub. Is #FridayCoffeeClub too early for you? Pedal ‘n Purl is coordinating a couple of evening get togethers for the #bikeDC crowd and wants to know if you can attend.
  • I can do that. Wait. No, I can’t. Mickael Dupont took a vintage step-through bike and turned it into an agile stunt machine. I was especially taken with his forward flips off the bike. I wish I could do that. I would really impress people at my office.

Looking forward to finishing the work week and heading for the country. Hope you can get outside, too. Good weekend, all!

Bikes To Like: Pedro Gringo’s Surly Troll

Avid cyclist and stalwart commuter Pedro Gringo is one of my favorite people from the flickrverse. I regularly check in on his two-wheeled activities, which range from power naps and puppy rescues to mountain biking and gear tests.

When I saw his fat bike (see how hip I am saying fat bike?), I knew it would make a great contribution to Bikes to Like. Thanks, Mr. Gringo!

1. What kind of bike do you have?

This bike is a weird one. The frame is a Surly Troll. The fork is from a Surly Pugsley. The rest of the parts come from an assortment of other bikes and boxes of parts that I’ve collected over the years.

The front wheel is from a snow bike with a 26×3.7″ tire. The rear wheel is a single speed hub built on a Downhill mountain bike rim with a 26×3″ tire. It has road bike drop handlebars and is set up with the same dimensions as my road bike with the exception that the handlebars are about 3/4″ higher.

The drivetrain is also an odd mix. It has 2 chainrings up front (20/32T) and there are 4 cogs in back (17-23) and Shimano Ultegra STI levers to do the shifting duties.

Surly Troll at Fountainhead (c) Pedro Gringo

2. Where do you ride it?

It is my townie bike. It is great for liquor store runs. I’ve taken it mountain biking many times and have found that it handles VERY well on rough, rocky trails. It is a bit scary on bigger drop-offs.

I’ve done roadie hill workouts on it. Nothing like hauling a 37 pound bike up a 17% gradient to really get your blood flowing. The gearing isn’t really friendly to doing much of a long ride. Top speed is about 17 miles per hour on the flats if I’m pedaling really fast.

3. What do you like about your bike?

Surly’s description of the Troll model ends with this line, “Build it up, ride it for a while, then reinvent it.” I take that to heart.

This bike has started its life as a drop-bar, fat-tire, snow bike that gets ridden all over the place. Next week it will likely be a fixed-gear commuter with fenders. By spring it will have touring wheels, racks, and fenders on it. It will definitely be pulling a 7′ utility trailer later in the year. It won’t do everything, but it does almost everything I love doing on a daily basis.

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

Huh? (I know that’s more of a syllable than a word. It is, however, people’s reaction when they see it for the first time.)

The Surly Troll at Patapsco (c) Pedro Gringo

5. Fenders or no fenders and why?

Today? No. No-one makes fenders that will fit it. I have been building a set for a while now by going old school with sheet metal, a hammer, dolly and sand bag to pound out my own fenders for it.

So far I’ve just managed to mangle up a lot of perfectly good sheet metal. When it goes fixie in its next incarnation, I’ve got fenders and mud flaps ready for it.

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

Crossing Seneca Creek in 30 degree temps in the middle of January because I’m too stubborn to ride a bridge that was built that ruined my favorite creek crossing.

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

Tuna Casserole Surprise. When I was a kid, tuna casserole surprise was made by taking a can of tuna and mixing it with whatever was in the fridge, stirring it up, putting breadcrumbs on top, and shoving it in the oven. 1970′s Americana cuisine at its best… or worst when mustard and raisins got their call to duty. “But you said you liked raisins!”

That describes this bike perfectly. The frame is the can of tuna. The mixture of roadie and mountain bike components came out of the fridge. The fat tires are the raisins and the drop bars are the mustard. My brain is the oven.

This bike is utterly ridiculous and should be horrible to ride. I can’t explain why it is so much fun. It must be experienced to be appreciated.

No road needed when you ride the Surly Troll (c) Pedro Gringo

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

It is a tie between the unofficial Lance Armstrong “Livestrong” Truck Nut and the Hello Kitty stickers. Neither serves any purpose except to amuse.

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

“Feed me, Seymore!”

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

Why? I have no answer for that question. There’s no good reason for this bike to have come into existence. I’m glad it did though. I can’t help but have a huge grin on my face while riding it.