The Perfect Commuter Bike: my Surly Long Haul Trucker

Recently, I took a break from riding my Surly Long Haul Trucker because it was just too dirty to ride. Every time I touched the bike I deposited dirt somewhere on my person. I washed it over the weekend (OK, Felkerino washed it over the weekend) and now it’s too clean to ride.

Surly Long Haul Trucker

In the interim, I dusted off my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket and have been tooling around on it instead. I really like my Bike Friday, but spending the week on the Pocket Rocket made me realize why I hop on my Surly LHT almost every day for my commute.

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It’s Life Changing: Marc M. on #BikeDC Speaks

This week I’m launching a series of guest posts called “BikeDC Speaks.” And I don’t mean “Passing on your left.” We’re going beyond that. This series explores local cyclists’ thoughts and views about their bicycling experiences in the D.C. area.

My first post features Marc M., a fellow Tweep and FridayCoffeeClub regular. Thanks so much, Marc, and I hope you all enjoy the upcoming series!

Marc M.’s Bianchi on top of Sugarloaf Mountain (c) Marc M.

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Tandem Cycling 411: Is She Really Not Pedaling?

Riding tandem on the 2012 DCR Hyattstown 200K (c) Bill Beck

Those who have never ridden a tandem have a lot of thoughts about what riding a tandem must be like, and they will often share them with Felkerino and me when they see us out and about. I’m not quite sure why; there’s just something about riding that bike.

People say some crazy stuff when I ride my single, but riding a tandem is somewhat akin to being pregnant. Certain people just can’t keep themselves from saying extra weird stuff.

I believe most of these comments stem from a lack of understanding about riding tandem and not because they’re trying to get on my nerves. Therefore, the next time anyone says anything to me about it, I’m going to refer them to this post, which is designed to clarify some of the questions and misconceptions people have about tandem bicycling.

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The Evolution of a Transportation and Recreational Cyclist

Dahon HonSolo and me

Today as I rode home listening to my chain plead loudly for me to lube it, I thought back to my return to cycling as an adult. I had used my bike some for transportation in college, but after graduating and moving to Des Moines, Iowa, I essentially stopped cycling and drove most places even when they were only a few miles away. I have never been a fan of driving, but I lapsed into accepting that it was a necessary way of life. I did not seek an alternate transportation method.

After moving to Washington, D.C., driving was less palatable. Narrow streets, overcrowded roads, limited parking, and a (mostly) reliable system of mass transit opened the door to a new way of life where a car did not figure into the equation.

Initially, I used Metro and my own two feet to take me all the places I needed to go. Eventually, though, I dusted off my old Ross mountain bike and decided to give transportation and recreational cycling another whirl. I packed up a backpack and hopped on my bike.

At first, I was pretty hopeless with the whole cycling thing.

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DC Randonneurs 600K. Shadow Panda. Obligatory Cow Photo

Randonneuring: When it’s Worth the Effort

I completed my first brevet and Super Randonneur series in 2005. Since then, I’ve completed rides of at least 600K distances each year with the exception of 2007, which I spent in graduate school. Seven years of brevet riding.

Up until this year I’ve excitedly anticipated the arrival of the Super Randonneur series. Time to hit life a little harder, test my physical conditioning, enjoy long days on the bike with others, and find a way to balance cycling with competing life priorities.

This year, the attraction of brevets faded. The car rides, 4 a.m. starts and 2:30 a.m. wake-ups, reflective clothing and Camelbaks, convenience store food, pushing through while managing various physical discomforts, and post-ride grogginess and fatigue started to get to me. The effort randonneuring requires began to overtake the overall enjoyment I experienced in previous years.

Sometimes it’s good to hang it up and other times it’s worth it to hang in and see what the next ride brings. I chose the latter and I’m glad I did.

On some rides, you get something back for each thing you give up.

A car ride takes you to a ride start in new territory beyond your regular radius.

That middle-of-the-night wake-up rewards with sparkling stars and moonlight. Dawn offers up breathtaking morning light that makes you want to take a million photos, even though there’s no way they can truly communicate the morning’s beauty.

The burdensome Camelbak becomes a good friend that lets you not worry about water as you traverse segments that are lovely, but have no services.

Riding diligently takes you to places you never thought you could reach in one day on a bicycle, and it’s almost like living two days in one.

A hot day in the saddle yields to a gorgeous sunset and a cool and dreamy night ride where you see fireflies glow and hear the steady chorus of little frogs.

There is also that rare brevet moment that compensates in its unexpected perfection. After waiting and waiting, this weekend’s 600K gave me that gift.

Morning riding on the DC Randonneurs 600K

Felkerino and I had ridden 177 miles and just eaten a warm meal. We grouped up with Bill Beck and David R. for the final miles of the first day. The late afternoon sun warmed my skin. A gentle breeze blew over me and sifted through my hair.

The bike meandered smoothly in and out of tree-lined shaded sections of a lightly traveled country road. We only had 65 miles to go for the day and I knew that a peaceful starry evening awaited us. I found myself completely in the present, thoroughly engaged in the ride.

Those elusive idyllic moments keep me coming back to brevets. They don’t happen on every ride, but if I just hang in there, theywill happen.

It’s those moments that fill my heart and make all the effort, time, and discomforts of randonneuring absolutely worth it.

Ride Organizing: Why We Care About Tweets and Facebook Updates

On longer brevets, riders tend to get pretty spread out. During the recent D.C. Randonneurs 400K, the first finisher arrived at 7:30 p.m., and the lanterne rouge ended its journey at 5:50 a.m. Other rider arrivals were interspersed throughout the evening. The 17 finishers spanned more than 10 hours (and one good night’s sleep) in their completion of the brevet.

Waiting up for the 400K Riders (c) Bill Beck

Felkerino and I were able to make it out to a couple of the early controls and saw how the riders were beginning to shake out in terms of pace and placement in the field. That helped give us a visual of rider progress as the brevet unfolded.

A couple of the other things that really helped us as the miles added up and the hours passed were the tweets and Facebook updates we received from riders. Continue reading