Monthly Archives: May 2012

D.C. Randonneurs 400K

Some of you may know that Felkerino and I spent the last couple of months preparing to run the D.C. Randonneurs’ 400K.

Randonneurs doin’ what randonneurs do… on the Frederick 400K

The ride went off this past Saturday, and I put together a non-ride ride report of the experience.

Ed and me at the 400K finish. Up all night and still smiling! (c) Bill Beck

It’s not posted here, though. Find it on that other blog I know, The Daily Randonneur. Hop on over and check it out.

Special Ride Clothing: Ibex Cycling Jerseys

While it’s true that special clothing is not required for riding a bicycle, sometimes a particular article of clothing can make a ride that much better, especially a long ride like a brevet or fleche.

During Team Table for Five’s fleche ride last month, one of my teammates and I got to talking about what we had chosen to wear on our ride. We kept referring to our wardrobe choices as clothes we reserved for “special rides.”

2012 Fleche Team and our special ride clothes. Felkerino and I both wore Ibex. (c) Bill Beck

One of the essentials of my spring and early summer special ride closet are my short-sleeve merino wool Ibex jerseys. These jerseys have proven to be the most durable and comfortable of all the wool jerseys I’ve tried. I bought my first Ibex jersey in 2005, and I’m still using it on brevets. Since that time, I’ve collected a fair number of their jerseys and I’ve been extremely pleased with their performance. As an added bonus, the majority of Ibex jerseys are made in the USA.

I prefer to wear wool on brevets because I think it handles sweat better. That is, it does not get as stinky or show sweat stains as easily as a synthetic jersey will. I also prefer the aesthetic of wool, and think it looks more like a regular top than some of the synthetic crazy-print jerseys I’ve seen.

Compared to synthetics, wool will not get as clammy when it is wet and it can also be worn through a wider range of temperature swings. For these reasons, it makes an ideal day into night jersey.

Action shot in the Ibex jersey

The Ibex jerseys I’ve owned have also had two or three rear pockets. I think two are sufficient, but three is fine, too. The important thing is that, when I fill the pockets up, they don’t make my jersey sag. Ibex jerseys pass the non-sag pocket test.

I’ve also owned several Swobo jerseys. I liked the texture and style of the Swobos, but found they did not stand up to the wear and tear of brevet riding. They eventually lose their shape and will shrink up a little. Ibex stands up well to regular trips through the washer. Just throw it in the washer on cold, add wool wash, and hang dry. Voila!

Ibex offers wool jerseys in various thicknesses. For cool spring brevets (rides that start in the 40s), I’ve found the Giro fabric to be ideal. On warmer spring rides (that range between the 60s and 80s) I like the Indie fabric. Any hotter than that, and I favor a synthetic. For example, if I had been riding this past weekend, I probably would have ditched the wool for a light synthetic.

The Ibex Giro. A little Star Trekky, but not too bad. And SO comfy!

Sometimes Ibex has struggled with their color selection and overstyling. Recently, they have returned to a basic look that does not bring to mind any uniforms from Star Trek seasons past. They are simply designed with three rear pockets and mostly solid colors.

Ibex Indie jersey (Ed’s wearing a Giro)

If I’m going to be spending all day (and night) in one jersey, I want it to be one that fits well, stows what I need without sagging, and feels comfortable. My Ibex jerseys have served me well in all these aspects.

If you have suggestions for other wool jerseys, please let me know. I always have an eye out for new special ride clothing.

#BikeDC and the D.C. Cycling Bloggers

It’s a great time to be a cyclist in D.C. The city has a flourishing Capital Bikeshare program, bike lanes are being installed in various parts of the city, and Metro’s prices have gone up so much that commuting seems like a prudent thing to do.

But that’s not all. Twitter and the local blogs are bonding the D.C. commute and cycling community together more than ever before.

Let’s take our friend and tweep, @sharrowsDC (aka Brian). How many of you have seen this guy, read his blog, followed his tweets, or noticed his buttons around town? Of course you have!

Brian is a dedicated bike commuter who blogs about his commute every Monday through Friday. He is also a big advocate for more bikes and improved bike infrastructure in our city. That kind of commitment is not for the faint of heart.

@sharrowsDC on a cooler day in the White House Plaza

As many of you know, all the proceeds from Brian’s shameless button sales go directly to the Washington Area Bicycling Association (WABA). Many of us in the D.C. commute crowd are connected to each other through Brian. Don’t believe me? Stop by #FridayCoffeeClub; you’ll see.

Tales from the Sharrows

What about other local cycling bloggers? I avidly follow the rides and training of over 20 D.C.-area commuting blogs. We have some excellent writers and riders in our geographic circle. Want to feel more connected? You can check in on them, too, just by scrollling through my “DC-Area Cycling and Commuting” Blogroll.

Rootchopper (A Few Spokes Shy of a Wheel) and Felkerino

And how about Twitter? Through Twitter, I’ve gotten to know many of D.C.’s cycling regulars. #BikeDC. We give each other road and weather updates, commiserate, provide encouragement, and share details of our commutes with each other. If I want to know about gear, a route to a new part of town, or even a road closure, I often check in with my #BikeDC buddies first.

#FridayCoffeeClub and #BikeDC. I know you, you, you…

By the same token, if I want to share an event I’m doing, I use Twitter to get the word out. Last week, Felkerino and I rode the D.C. Randonneurs 400K checkout ride. That’s a long BLEEP ride. The #BikeDC tweets helped motivate and keep us going, even the ones where you told us we were crazy!

Old-fashioned advice on the 400K checkout

I can’t believe how much the local blogs, Twitter, and more specifically, #BikeDC have made me feel so much more a part of my community. It’s great to feel like I’m not alone on the roads and that other people are taking to the pavement just like me. I might even ride by a tweep or blogger I know, and that always makes my community more intimate and comforting.

#BikeDC. I know you, you, you.

There’s no reason to ride alone. We’re all in this together. I’ve got the tweets, blogs, and friendly waves from other #BikeDC riders to prove it. So if you ride in D.C., get thee a Twitter account today and start reading the local blogs. You will not regret it!

Bike to Work Day and #FridayCoffeeClub

This past Friday, the D.C. area celebrated Bike to Work Day. We had perfect sunny weather and only a hint of cool air in the morning so lots and lots of people (over 12,000, according to some reports) took advantage of the bike holiday. I don’t know how those numbers compare to the regular commute crowd, but it seems reasonable to say that a sponsored Bike to Work Day draws a lot more people than a regular bike to work day.

Bike to Work – Pete, me, and Felkerino in Rosslyn. I have no idea what we’re looking at.

Felkerino and I signed up for the Rosslyn stop and had a great time. I even passed Congressman Jim Moran who was riding to Rosslyn via the Mount Vernon Trail.

We saw some familiar faces, met some new people, including Mary Lauran, and connected with people we’d previously only interacted with through Twitter.

@MaryLauran and me. I won a t-shirt!

Rootchopper, blogger and member of the #bikeDC crew, wrote up a nice post of the Rosslyn stop in which both Felkerino and I are prominently featured. Thanks, Rootchopper!

Rootchopper and Felkerino

Pete B., #bikeDC flickrazzi member and regular #FridayCoffeeClub attendee, also made the Bike to Work Day rounds and his photos are here.

One of my highlights from Bike to Work Day was passing this gentleman, who was wearing Spam shorts and riding a high wheeler.

High Wheeler alert!

I wasn’t the only one who thought the high wheeler was cool. Felkerino fell in love. Sorry, Felkerino, the Dining Room Bike Shop isn’t big enough for that. The high wheeler’s owner, whose name I did not catch, said he’d ridden the bike as far as 100 kilometers in one go.

Felkerino, enchanted by the high wheeler.

After spending some time in Rosslyn eating bananas and picking up a couple of blinkie lights, we jetted off to Swings to see who had shown up for #FridayCoffeeClub. The Bike to Work Day edition of #FridayCoffeeClub was definitely a more fluid affair than normal, as many coffee clubbers wove both Bike to Work Day and #FridayCoffeeClub into their morning.

Some people grabbed coffee and headed off to a pit stop. Others, like me, hit the pit stop first and then happened by Swings for a cup. Still others fit #FridayCoffeeClub in between their Bike to Work Day world tours.

Lauren stops by #FridayCoffeeClub

Girl on a Bike made it to #FridayCoffeeClub. It was great to see her after her recent completion of the Policy Unity Tour. She’s got the tan lines to prove it. Well done, Kate!

Bike to Work Day #FridayCoffeeClub

John R. of the porta-john blog, also managed to find time for a cup of java at #FridayCoffeeClub amid final day prep for his wedding. Big congratulations, John!

As I made my way over to the office, I ran into met the well-known Joel Gwadz of the Gwadzilla blog. Fortunately for me, he had his DSLR and was able to get a couple of shots of Felkerino and me as we crossed through the White House Plaza. Thanks, Joel!

Joel Gwadz in the White House Plaza

It was a festive and fun day full of sun, bikes, coffee, swag, and #bikeDC buddies. To see even more of the morning, my full set of pics is here.

Bike to Work Day + #bikeDC + #FridayCoffeeClub = True Love Always!

That Sign on Ohio Drive. BIG SIGH

For the past month or so, the National Park Service has kindly placed a brightly lit sign on the northeast side of Potomac Park (by Hains Point) that “encourages” cyclists to stop at intersections.
Specifically it says this:

“Bicyclists must obey traffic LAWS.”

For a while, the Park Police were stopping cyclists who rode through the stops without even pausing or putting a foot down, but it seems they’ve now taken a break from that and left the sign as the primary reminder.

I was not too annoyed with this sign at first. It’s probably a good reminder to cyclists that we should be taking care at intersections. However, the longer the sign has sat there, the more irritated I’ve become.

Maybe it’s because the sign impedes the view of the channel, and the channel is actually pretty. But as I have the pleasure of considering this sign every single day, I’ve developed some additional complaints about it besides its blocking of my view.

First of all, I don’t know why the message had to be a two-parter. Was it so that we would put our feet down and anxiously await screen two? “Bicyclists must obey traffic…” What, sign, what?

Screen Two: “LAWS.” What? Sign, tell me something I don’t know. I stopped for that? They could at least have said something like “Bicyclists must obey traffic ZOMBIES.” Much more thought-provoking.

Bicyclists must obey ZOMBIES

If they had left the message up to me, I would have ditched the two-screen message and used something simpler. Something like “Bicyclists, stop at STOPS.” That seems to be the point that’s trying to be made.

I definitely would have left some oversized-capitalized words in there, too. It’s fun to think about writing in a MIX of CAPS and lower CASE. Try it. I’m SURE that you will AGREE.

Also, used effectively, messaging in this way can really TICK PEOPLE OFF.

I suggest a one-screen message reading “ALL must stop at STOPS.” Why single out cyclists? (And again, why make us read two screens? This is D.C.; we’re busy.) Yeah, ALL STOP. I have seen LOTS of folks not stop on that corner who were NOT the PEDALING kind. They never got specially illuminated signs for their transgressions.

Tour buses, cars, pedestrians, ducks. Let’s ALL stop. Not only is it the LAW, it also helps EVERYBODY stay SAFE. And then, ALL should maintain a reasonable speed when going down Hains Point and pass safely. That last part wouldn’t go on the sign, it’s just something I think everybody should do.

Better yet, take it down, at least for a while. We’ve all seen it and we’ve ALL read it. The MESSAGE has been RECEIVED. Foot down.

Rainy Day Riding Essentials: Gore Tex Path Paclite Jacket

The past couple of days I’ve made sure to carry or wear those essential items I want to have on hand for rainy days. One of the most basic things I make sure to carry is my rain jacket.

The rain jacket that has kept me dry and comfy in dreary weather over the past few years of riding is my Gore Tex Path Paclite jacket, made by Gore Bike Wear. I’ve used it in downpours, steady rain, and the occasional shower.

Paclite panda

The Gore Tex Path Paclite fully covers me from neck to rear. Unlike a wind shell, it hangs down over my back side to fend off road water splashing up from the tires. Fortunately, with my regular use of fenders on my bikes, the rooster tail is not that big of an issue, but it’s still nice to have a jacket that offers the extra coverage.

Gore Tex Paclite at the Old Rag 200K (c) Bill Beck

The front zips up easily to my neck with no chafing issues and the zipper can be concealed with the jacket’s storm flap and velcro fasteners. The adjustable velcro cuffs allow me to loosen or tighten the fabric around my wrists as I need.

The jacket is not thick and has no inner lining, which I prefer. If I want more warmth, I’ll put on another base layer. I’m using this jacket primarily to stay dry.

Velo Espresso Gelato Fleche team and matching Paclite on the right (c) Bill Beck

The Path offers a fairly sizeable rear zipper pocket for stashing essentials. When the jacket is not in use, it packs up into a rectangle about nine by seven inches. That makes it extra handy for stowing in a Carradice. It also has velcro loops which I suppose one could use to attach it to their handlebars, but that seems impractical.

Randonneur essentials, including the Gore Tex Path Paclite

I purchased my jacket for just over $100. I have checked various retailers’ prices and, if one is patient, they can still be found for $100 or less, at least for the ladies.

The women’s version used to be known as the “Power Lady” (there must be some marketing reason for why companies keep changing the names of their products besides to drive me crazy) and I picked one up in the fall of last year for $80 shipped.

The women’s jacket is similar to the men’s, but it is slightly shorter, more fitted for a woman’s shape, and offers an extendable flap on the rear. In all other aspects, it is the same as the men’s Path.

While there are other companies that offer effective rain wear, I’ve been impressed with the performance the Gore Tex Path Paclite offers. If you don’t have a rain jacket or have not found one you like, I’d recommend checking this one out. It might even make you love riding in the rain. Ah ha ha ha ha!

Spring Training Rides, Leaving the Pavement Behind

The Rawland and a nice rollout

The past two weekends, Felkerino and I put the brevet cards aside to enjoy some excellent training rides. As you may know, I like to qualify weekend non-brevet cycling as “training.” It’s like a doctor’s note that excuses me from my household responsibilities.

D.C. to Frederick, Maryland – 120 miles

Two Saturdays ago, Felkerino and I ventured out with friends Alec and Lane and pedaled from the District to the outer edges of Frederick, Maryland. It was a beautiful day for riding, made a little bittersweet since Alec is relocating. We’ll miss our friend, but I know we’ll ride together again.

Alec and Lane near Dickerson

We made Frederick our destination in order to check out some of the beginning roads for the upcoming D.C. Randonneurs 400K brevet. For some reason, I got it in my head that the ride would only be 105 miles. As we pedaled closer to Frederick, I noticed the odometer creeping up and up. 54, 55, 56… no way this was turning out to be a 105-mile ride. I told our group this was the Ride of Lies.

Our ride out to Frederick was mostly rolling, but the return leg had some significantly undulating parts. The most undulating was our climb up Mt. Ephraim road, a beautiful unpaved road that passes by Sugarloaf Mountain. It was a bit trafficky, but drivers made room for us. I highly recommend riding in this area if you have the tires for the hardpack.

Alec on Mt. Ephraim Road

Ultimately, Felkerino and I ended up with 120 miles on the day. I don’t know why I considered our mileage such a crisis, considering we had just ridden 189 miles the week before. Sometimes when I get it in my head that I’m doing one thing and end up doing another I get grumpy.

Dirt Road Riding on the Rawlands – 83 miles

Last Saturday, Felkerino and I left the tandem at home and took the Rawlands out to hilly horse country, Virginia. If you live in the D.C. area, you know that this past weekend offered up some absolutely stellar weather.

Felkerino and I took advantage of the sun and low humidity by completing an 83-mile loop from Haymarket, over to Purcellville, then to Middleburg, and back. This ride included lots of grinding hills through pretty rural Virginia areas. Probably the most significant climb of the day was the leg-shocker at mile 5 over Bull Run Mountain. Topping that climb felt good!

The unpaved roads were made more challenging because of the extensive patches of washboard and other myriad sections with newly strewn gravel. The rough and unsteady surface required us to take frequent squeezes on our brake levers. I love the feeling of an unfettered downhill, but Saturday’s roads did not allow for them.

Felkerino tops another grinder

The Rawlands are good for roads like this. A couple of times I wished for beefier tires, but overall the bike handled the washboard and gravel without much trouble. The Rawland felt solid, handled well, and the disc brakes gave me extra confidence in handling the downhills.

Everybody smile!

Our route choice, while perhaps not rewarding in terms of downhill speed, was stunning in its greenery. Horses and cows came out to say hi to us, too. We did not want to be rude so we stopped, hung out with them for a little bit, talked about the weather together, and took their pictures.

The horses check out the Rawlands

More photos from our rides are here and Felkerino’s are here.

It was recharging to enjoy a couple of casual, yet challenging, rides with friends. Now that I’ve taken a little break, I’m ready to return to the brevet series.

I’ve been following fellow randonneurs’ and the #bikeDC crew’s rides via Twitter and Facebook. Looks like a ton of riding is going on. Hope everybody is having fun!

Readying the Springtime Gear: Keen Commuter Cycling Sandals

While lots of people laud the greatness of flat pedals, I’m not normally a flat pedals person. I love riding with SPD pedals. The bright snap they make as I clip in, pulling up on the pedal stroke, and the little tick on the pavement when I dismount and walk purposefully to my final destination. I love it.

Usually I wear Sidi’s as my cycling footwear of choice, but when it comes to spring and warm summer days, I like to wear more ventilated shoes. Otherwise, my feet get SO HOT!

Last summer, I picked up a pair of the Keen Commuter Cycling Sandals and have since been using them regularly as my spring and summer commuting footwear.

The Quickbeam and Keen Commuters

I slip the Keen’s on, and a tightening “buckle” locks the laces into place. There is no tying of these laces, just cinch them down and go.

Pros: Ventilated, comfortable, easy to walk around and do errands off the bike, still make that cool clicking noise that cycling cleats do, quick to go on the feet, no shoelace tying. This last one is especially important, since no one ever taught me to tie my shoes. KIDDING! Just making sure you were paying attention.

Keen Commuters

Cons: Laces seem to uncinch a tad while riding, and they are not as narrow in the heel as I would like. Another con is that, since I don’t always wear my Keens with socks, they are developing some foot funk. This is important for you to know should you happen to run into see me when I’m wearing them. In addition, it takes a little more oomph to unclip with the Keen’s as opposed to my Sidi’s. Nothing unmanageable (or I’d return them), but noticeable.

Soles of the Keen Commuters

Verdict: They’re pretty good. I think, overall, they work ideally for people with slightly wider feet than mine (or at least wider in the heel). However, I love the Keen Commuters for days when I know I will be doing a lot of on and off the bike activity. The Keens may not be the best cycling-specific shoes I have ever owned, but they are the best spring and summer commuting shoes I’ve had.

I would only use the Keen’s for 50-mile rides or less, but I know one person that rode them last year at Paris-Brest-Paris. 1240K in Keens… it’s true!

Anybody out there also using the Keens or have other suggestions for some good cycling-specific commuter shoes? The comment line is open!

Ride Photos: Capturing the Moment

Since 2009, I’ve regularly carried a camera with me. Like the other essentials in my purse/pannier, I never know when I might need it.

Seeing Bill Beck (king of the randopaparazzi!) and Felkerino‘s ride photos inspired me to start taking my own camera on brevets and other rides. Yes, Felkerino and I are regularly on the same bike, but the way we see and photo the ride often varies.

For example, Felkerino is good about getting pre-ride shots. I’m happy to just be awake and upright before a ride begins. He also loves the brevet panda. I consider it one of his signature shots. See Exhibit A.

Exhibit A: Felkerino’s signature shot montage

Recently, a couple of my ride photos received some attention. First, a picture of our randonneuring friends Alec and Lane at last year’s Old Rag 200K was featured on the Spring 2012 cover of American Randonneur.

American Randonneur cover photo

This pic reminds me of rolling smoothly through pretty Virginia countryside on quiet roads, enjoying a good ride with friends.

Last week, my panicked photo of an airborne canine from the Warrenton 300K brevet was somehow picked up by flickr’s Explore. Explore showcases the top photos of each day from its flickr members. I’m not totally sure how it works, but it prompted an explosion of hit counts on this image.

EEEEEEEEEEEKK!!!

This ambitious puppy received almost 1,600 views over the past week, and some pretty funny comments.

Being featured on Explore was an unexpected treat, especially because when I ride, I’m not carrying around a sophisticated camera. It’s just me and my waterproof (at least it used to be until I dropped it several times) Sony TX-5.

Pedaling into the morning with your friends, having a dog spring out of the bushes and chase you at lightning speed while you pedal frantically and simultaneously try to push the shutter button… it’s only possible by bike.

I’m so glad that Bill and Felkerino inspired me to get out there with my own camera.

The American Randonneur cover and Explore shout-out reminded me of what unique experiences we have when we’re on our bikes. It’s a way of being in the world that many people do not regularly experience. Though they should. Riding a bike is awesome!