Monthly Archives: August 2012

What I Learned Bike Touring from Wytheville to Floyd, Virginia

Today Felkerino and I headed off to Floyd, a southern Virginia town that abuts the Blue Ridge Parkway. A scenic and challenging day in many ways, it brought home a few themes about bike touring.

image

1. If the route isn’t working, change it.

Felkerino and I initially planned an 85-mile ride, but because we wanted a little time to explore Floyd, we shortened it by 10 miles.

However, we chose a trafficky alternative with lots of blind corners. Quickly summing up that this road did not meet our comfort level we took to the much quieter and also hillier back roads.

It was a good move that allowed us to feel safe and immerse ourselves in the terrain.

image

2. Don’t be afraid to explore.

Our afternoon re-route was full-on exploration. We also took a couple of morning detours, one to check out an old shot tower by the New River and another because the road looked too beautiful to pass up. It was as if it was beckoning us to ride it.

image

3. Appreciate every kind comment from strangers you meet.

People all along our route have encouraged us in various ways, from complimenting us on our tandem to wishing us well on our ride.

To so many people cyclists are at best, invisible, and at worst, inconvenient road obstacles. The kind remarks from strangers give an extra bit of daily inspiration.

image

4. Believe that you can.

No matter how arduous the day or how steep the climb, I hold onto the thought that Felkerino and I can and will handle it.

The latter half of today’s 70+ mile ride was rife with granny grinding rollers that challenged my legs and my patience. My blind belief that Felkerino and I have climbed so much together and my trust in our tandem got me over each hill.

image

5. I love bike touring in Virginia.

Close enough to home that it’s easy to access, far enough away that I feel like I went somewhere, and spectacularly beautiful and rewarding cycling.

Bike touring. It’s a thoroughly invigorating and immersing vacation. More please.

Bike Touring from Blacksburg to Wytheville, Virginia

The weather:  Sunny and dry
image

Miles ridden:  92

image

Mountains:  Three, one being the notable Walker Mountain ten miles outside Wytheville.

image

image

Bodies of water:  New River and Wolf Creek.

image

Pastries consumed:  Three

image

Helmets thrown:  Zero

image

Conclusion: A good day on the bike.

Into the Teeth of the Virginia Highlands

The past two days of riding have brought home the fact that all rides are not created equal.

image

Felkerino and I plotted our 70-mile days, climbing away from Clifton Forge, over Dolly Mountain to Covington, and across Hay’s Gap to overnight in Paint Bank.

image

This morning we awoke to an immediate climb out of Paint Bank via Potts Mountain.

image

After a stretch of rollers, we crawled over Johns Creek Mountain (a climb that is part of the Mountains of Misery course) to get closer to Blacksburg.

image

Finally we routed our way through several roads with the word “Mount” in them, eventually arriving at our overnight stop in Blacksburg. Take deep breath here.

The tandem is working well, with the exception of its occasional reticence to drop into the little ring.

image

Yesterday we chain sucked at the foot of Dolly Mountain, and Felkerino had to break the chain to free it and get us going again. Nicely done, Felkerino. Fingers crossed that our shifting remains solid.

The climbing has been strenuous, often switchbacked and steep, and has required many stretches out of the saddle. We’re almost always rewarded with spectacular views of vivid green Virginia hillsides.

image

Trips like this remind me of what a little blip I am on this earth. It’s oddly comforting.

Bike Touring Southern Virginia on the Lead Sled

Felkerino and I are off bike touring in  Virginia this week. We began our ride in Waynesboro and are winding our way south to Wytheville.

Day 1 we rode to Lexington, a quaint historic town.

Yesterday, Day 2, we arrived in Clifton Forge, part of the Alleghany Highlands region.

We’ve employed the mountain Cannondale tandem for the trip. So far so good.

Two small Ortlieb panniers in the front, Carradice Camper saddlebag in the back. The bike handles well with a load and climbs solidly.

We’ve moderated our mileage to around 70 miles a day for the first three days, which allows us to sleep in, stop when we feel like it, and savor the journey.

Highlights so far include crossing a pedestrian suspension bridge over the Maury River, passing through Douthat State Park, and stopping by the C&O museum in Clifton Forge.

I hope to send a few updates along the way, and I’ve inserted a few pics to give you a flavor of our trip. image

image

image

image

image

image

My 2012 Colorado High Country 1200K Story

Hello, readers. Big news! I wrote up my account of Felkerino’s and my Colorado High Country 1200K. It took a while, but it’s finally finished.

Felkerino and me on the Colorado High Country 1200K

I call it a highlight reel because, instead of chronicling the ride as it happened each day, I honed in on the aspects that made the High Country unforgettable.

Check it out here: 2012 Colorado High Country 1200K: A Breathtaking Trip out West. I hope you enjoy reading about this ride even a little bit as much as I loved riding it.

Bikes to Like: Felkerino’s Cannondale T700 Tourer

Some people have inquired about the various steeds that call the Dining Room Bike Shop home. You can check out most of mine on the “My Bikes” page. Over the next few weeks (or however long that actually translates in terms of time I have to blog) I’ll be featuring the bikes Felkerino rides.

These reviews will not be uber technical so if spec description overload is what you seek, best go check out some other blog. Rather, they will be descriptions through my eyes, my eyes being those focused on the practical and other aspects that catch my attention.

First up is Felkerino’s aluminum, made in the USA, Cannondale T700 tourer. This bike, of 1992 vintage, is one of the first road bikes Felkerino ever owned as a grownup, and serves as his primary commuter.

Felkerino and the Cannondale T700

Shimano A530 pedals allow Felkerino to ride in his business shoes to any meeting.

A sturdy Tubus Cargo rear rack easily accepts the load of commute necessities contained in his Ortlieb Downtown Pannier, and his extra-long Kryptonite U-lock rests tightly on top of the rack, thanks to a strategically placed bungee cord.

A front Wald wire basket provides the perfect space for him to stash his suit jacket so he does not sweat up riding around town on warm days. Felkerino’s not worried about the anything popping out of the basket at the first pothole he encounters. He bought some netting from BicycleSPACE to prevent any untimely suit jacket escapes.

A good look at the T700. Flat pedals, Ortlieb rear pannier, front Wald basket (with suit jacket inside!)

The ever-important bike tools are stashed snugly in a Velo Orange Croissant bag, which fits just under the saddle.

Felkerino doesn’t ride this bike around much in the dark, but just in case, he’s set the bike up with a rear Spanninga taillight (oo la la, I love those lights) and an easy-on easy-off battery-operated LED front light from CatEye. That light doesn’t cast a big bright throw, but it does just fine in the street-lit city. He is able to see the road immediately in front of him, and his front light makes him visible to others.

SKS fenders protect him from the puddles. Yeah, they don’t match (one is black, one is chrome), but they both work equally well at keeping him dry.

The bike is currently set up with drop bars, but there’s been discussion among the Dining Room Bike Shop staff about switching those out for bars that sweep back to allow a more upright ride. That might do a better job of keeping the shirt from wrinkling and reducing any pull on shirts’ shoulder seams.

The Cannondale’s rear Tubus rack, Spanninga light (oo la la), and Velo Orange Croissant saddle bag, Kryptonite U-lock

This is a perfect commuter bike. Not too priceless or dear to be ripped off, dinged up, or locked to a post, but carefully set up to comfortably manage the daily commute.

Hope you enjoyed this summary about Felkerino’s Cannondale T700 Tourer and the introduction to the first of a few of the bikes I’ll feature from the other half of the Dining Room Bike Shop.

Using Shared Infrastructure Sharingly: Chris on #BikeDC Speaks

After several weeks of #BikeDC Speaks posts from the women of the #BikeDC community, we are back this week with a guy’s point of view on riding in the D.C. area.

Chris is another familiar face from #FridayCoffeeClub and, if you ride along MacArthur Avenue, you may spot him there as well. During his years of commuting in the area, Chris has observed and learned a lot about cycling in the city. AND as a new parent who hopes to have his daughter accompany him on rides, I thought he would make a great guest contributor.

Without further ado, here is Chris’s take on riding in D.C.

1. How long have you been riding in the D.C. area?

I moved to D.C. in 2004 for graduate school and started using my girlfriend’s bike to get to and from class pretty much immediately. I did this until her bike was stolen while I was in class one evening. We’ve since married, so I don’t think she held it against me.

After about a year’s hiatus, I inherited one of her father’s bikes (1978 Schwinn Super Le Tour 12.2), resumed riding, and have been since.

As of this year, I’ve been a year-round daily bike commuter for about six years.

Chris and his Schwinn fixed gear

2. What sorts of things do you do by bike?

I’m lucky enough to live close to work so I commute exclusively by bike. Off an on over the years I’ve done group rides and solo long rides. Living on MacArthur Blvd means I have an easy route out of the city (with all the other cyclists!) whenever I want to ride some miles.

More recently, I acquired a trailer for my daughter (15 months old) to start joining me on rides. The first ride -only about 10 minutes- was a success, but it’s going to take some time to get her comfortable with a helmet!

3. What do you like about bicycling in D.C.?

While up in New York recently, I was struck by just how far you have to ride (or drive with the bike on the rack) to get out to ride low-traffic country roads. There are plenty of in-city routes, and you have some good park riding, but to really log some miles you have to make an effort to get out of town.

By contrast, I think that D.C. (and Northern Virginia) offers the best of both modes. There is lots of riding to be done within the city for a relaxed summer evening ride, and it’s also really easy to quickly leave the city behind (on two wheels) and ride some really pleasant roads through Virginia and Maryland.

But you don’t have to get out of town to enjoy riding in the District; the residential neighborhoods offer plenty of low-speed side streets for relaxed riding. If you can avoid tourist traffic, the Mall can make for some pretty spectacular sight-seeing on two wheels. Several stretches of trail/road along the Potomac and Anacostia rivers also give a unique experience.

The fact that both the train station and National Airport are easily accesible by bike is a claim that not a lot of other major cities can make.

4. What are the challenges of bicycling here?

As with just about any dense urban space, it can be tough to have the various modes of transportation use shared infrastructure “sharingly.”

I don’t spend a lot of time riding busy streets other than those between my Foggy Bottom/West End office and home, although none of the streets that I do ride on regularly have sharrows or dedicated lanes (yet).

Mixing with cars on a daily basis has taught me to be a good deal more patient – and this goes for riding on the local multi-use paths (MUP) where there are pedestrians, such as the Capital Crescent Trail and Rock Creek.

One other difficulty that I’ve experienced lately is inter-trail signage. That is, finding signs to point you to nearby trails when you’ve reached the end of the one you’re on. Riding in Arlington recently has made me aware of the lack of signs here in the District.

All of that said, I can’t say very much comparatively, as I have limited experience riding as an adult in other cities. Things I see as challenges may be something that we D.C. riders take for granted compared to cyclists elsewhere.

Chris at #FridayCoffeeClub. People, it’s time to go to our jobs!

5. What parts of the city do you consider bike-friendly and why?

Generally the Palisades (MacArthur Boulevard) is friendly, if for no other reason than being used to lots of riders. The expansion of CaBi stations throughout the District and Northern Virginia has the potential to increase goodwill towards cyclists.

Another sign I keep an eye out for are quirky/fun bike racks. If a property developer (or DDOT) is willing to spend a little bit more on a non-standard issue bike rack then I’ll take it as a good sign. Even better are the unseen bike parking facilities. Any employer that has dedicated bike spaces (with extra security) and showers/lockers in their building is a step ahead of most.

6. What could the District do to make it an even better city for cyclists?

Many of the things that DDOT is already working on will continue to improve the landscape: more dedicated lanes and separated lanes better signage. My longtime personal gripe to DDOT is about the lack of a “No Outlet” sign on Water Street heading towards the Capital Crescent Trail in Georgetown!

Where it makes sense and where there’s room, multi-use trails should have separate paths for walkers and cyclists. Northern Europe has got this figured out – and even Chicago’s Lake Shore trail has some divided stretches that work pretty well. It would be nice for some of our region’s trails as well.

7. Any thoughts about Capital BikeShare? Also, if you use it, what kind of trips do you use it for?

I think that CaBi has been a success and affirms the notion that multi-modal transportation (metro-bus-bike-walk) works and works well. I have colleagues who use it regularly and can frequently be seen checking their smartphones for dock/bike availability before leaving the office for a meeting across town.

I’ve never had the occasion to use a CaBi; they haven’t really expanded out West very much (sadly, not a lot of demand in the Palisades); and around downtown I like to walk.

8. What is one of the best pieces of advice anyone has given you about bicycling?

I dont know if it’s advice, but one great saying about cycling that I read on Twitter lately – @lkono, I believe gets credit- was something like “Only when you’re a cyclist do you actually wish that your commute lasted longer!”

Chris takes to the 15th Street Bike Lane. @sharrowsDC button attached to the commuter bag!

9. What advice do you have about cycling in the city?

Be patient. It can be easy to get frustrated with motorists and pedestrians every time you hop on your bike, and this frustration will wear on you to the point where you won’t be happy riding anymore. It’s happened to me plenty of times over the years, but now I do my best to enjoy my time riding and relax.

One peculiar tip that I can pass along: If you have a U-lock, when locking up to something, put the cross bar against your frame (as opposed to the thing you’re locking to). If a thief is going to pry the lock, he/she will want leverage and using the frame to produce that leverage will likely result in a damaged or bent frame which is no good to the would-be thief (except for parts maybe). It’s not much of a deterrent, but it might help now and then.

10. What is a word or phrase that summarizes your D.C. bicycling experience?

I’m grateful to have the kind of cycling environment that I get to share with my daughter. It’s a warm community with welcoming places to ride.

11. What did I not ask about #BikeDC that you want to add?

While you can certainly do plenty of riding (utility, commuting, sport) without running into too many other people, I’d encourage new-to-town riders (or those who have been riding solo) to seek out the community of cyclists. Ever since I’ve found a couple different groups, I’ve been much more energized about getting out and riding and spending time on the road with other people.

There are plenty of different groups out there for all tastes and skill levels, be it the randonneuring aficionados or the Hains Point trainers. As I’ve learned, a friendly hello and some small chat- even with a cyclist you’ve just encountered and don’t know- makes the ride much more enjoyable.  It can be anything from asking a tech question of one of those Hains Point lappers to finding out about the route in from Cumberland, Maryland, from a mud-covered C&O Canal rider.

I agree! Good #BikeDC company improves a ride and puts a friendly face on the city. Thank you again, Chris, for being part of #BikeDC Speaks!

BicycleSPACE and the D.C. Murals Ride

After all the heat and humidity we’ve endured over the summer, this past weekend we received a welcome reprieve. Especially Saturday.

Warm sun, light breezes, pleasant temperatures. Far too gorgeous of a day to stay inside, Felkerino, his daughter, and I joined BicycleSPACE’s mural ride to see where it would take us and to simply enjoy the day.

Jordan and the “Monkey Wagon,” issuing last-minute instructions

We weren’t the only ones with this idea. A large group of locals assembled at BicycleSPACE’s shop to take part in the ride, which toured approximately 25 murals located in various parts of the city. Who knew D.C. had so many murals? Not me!

Apparently, many of these murals are “new” (2007 and up), as a result of the efforts by Murals DC, which secured  funding and arranged space for the creation of more than 30 murals in the District.

The BicycleSPACE organizers and the Murals DC spokespeople treated us to a tour of the murals, many of which are located in nooks and crannies of the city that I would never have thought to explore. Alleys opened up to walls of artwork. Artists had drawn beautiful works on out-of-the-way side streets.

New Community Church mural in an alley off “S” Street

Other murals were more prominently positioned. Even so, without the BicycleSPACE ride, I would never have thought to go out and find them.

We paused at almost every mural, and one of the members of Murals DC would explain a little bit about the artist and/or the work. Education AND bike riding. On a Saturday, even!

DC Mural and Surly – Peace is its own Reward. Located off Columbia Road

BicycleSPACE does a great job of bringing the #BikeDC community together through its group rides. Also, a moment of bliss subtly emerges at some point on every ride I’ve done with them. Strange, but true.

On this ride, it happened as a small group of us watched an artist work quietly on his mural. The artist painted, we paused in the driveway in front of his mural, and quietly watched. Peaceful. Sunny. Perfect.

Artist at work on one of the DC Murals. Location: Driveway off 8th Street NW.

This BicycleSPACE ride would not fall into the “workout” category. My computer showed that I averaged just over 3.2 miles per hour for our 10 mile jaunt. I believe that might have been my moving average, but even so, I had many moments where I was impressed with how slow I could turn the pedals and remain upright on my bike.

This ride was obviously not about aerobic activity. It was put together for us to meander, explore the various artworks, and soak up the sun.

I loved this section of mural. So did the Surly LHT.

In case it isn’t evident from the photos, my Surly Long Haul Trucker was my mural tour steed. Around town, it’s hard to imagine riding anything narrower than 32s. With speed of no concern and the bumpy D.C. streets to contend with, the Surly was an excellent choice.

I was intent on participating in the full ride, but Felkerino’s stomach had other plans, and we peeled off from the group after 14 or so murals to grab lunch. Fortunately for me, BicycleSPACE provided riders a cue sheet, which means I can go back and complete the tour of the murals I missed some other time.

What did one wall say to the other wall? Meet me at the corner.

Felkerino’s “I met you at the corner and I need to eat now or else” look.

I ended up riding with a few new people on this ride, including Phil, one of the BicycleSPACE owners. We also talked a little bit with Erik, another one of the founders of the shop. I wish I had an opportunity to meet more riders on these rides, but with all of the maneuvering through the city (in traffic) it doesn’t always work out that way.

Erik, of BicycleSPACE

Thanks so much to BicycleSPACE for organizing the ride, and to Murals DC for putting art in public spaces. The city is more inviting bathed in splashes of color instead of drab concrete and brick. More pics of the murals and the ride can be found here.

By the way, if you have suggestions for murals in the D.C. area that you think are worth a look, would you please let me know in the comments where I can find them? I want to see more murals!

Bikes to Like: Rick R.’s Trek Elance 300 (650B Conversion!)

It’s all about bikes this week, and today features a guest post from Rick R. about his Trek Elance 300.

A North Carolina rider, Rick completed a full Super Randonneur series with the D.C. Randonneurs. Felkerino and I rode many miles with Rick (and Christian) on this spring’s Warrenton 300K. Felkerino and I joked that we were under attack by the 650B brigade, as both Rick’s Trek and Christian’s Terraferma are set up with 650B Grand Bois Hetre tires.

Riding similar paces allowed me to thoroughly admire Rick’s bike, and I’m so glad he agreed to be a guest contributor for Bikes to Like.

1. What kind of bike do you ride?

My bike is a 1986 Trek Elance 300. I purchased it over the internet, complete & original for $125. Then I converted it to 650B.

Rick’s Trek Elance 300

2. Where do you ride it?

I live in Wilmington, North Carolina, and do a lot of riding locally. I also do training rides in the Raleigh-Durham area to get in some hills.

My main purpose in building this bike was to ride brevets in comfort.

3. What do you like about your bike?

I like the comfort level I have on long rides. With the steel frame, wide tires, fenders, and Brooks saddle, I’m living the good life. Plus, I have a place to put my stuff with the two bags.

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

Suave!

5. Fenders or no fenders?

Definitely fenders. In 2010 I rode for four days in the rain with no fenders. That experience made me realize fenders are good!

Riding some wet roads on the Warrenton 300K

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

My first “hill ride” on the bike was at Morrow Mountain State Park. Ride 30 miles of rollers, climb Morrow, then ride 30 miles of bigger rollers back to the start.

At the top of Morrow, a young guy pointed at me and said to his friends, “This guy is my hero for riding that heavy bike up this climb.” He and his friends were all riding lightweight carbon bikes.

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

Yes, his name is KERT.

Editor’s note: It took me a minute, but I get it.

8. What is one of your favorite accessories with this bicycle?

I like all of my accessories but the one that gets you the biggest bang for your buck is definitely the Velo Orange front bag. Everthing you need while your rolling is at your fingertips and it holds the cue sheet.

The bell gets a lot of attention, and it’s really useful.

Storing the essentials in the front bag. The bell just peeks out below the handlebars.

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

Why did we stop?

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

“If you had it to do over, would you build the same bike?” The answer is, yes I would.

Thank you so much for being part of Bikes to Like, Rick. Your Trek is a great bike and you have definitely put it to the test this year with all the brevets you have ridden. Well done!

Summer Commutes on the Velo Orange Mixte

I tend to have an overall preference for diamond frames, and never considered myself a mixte sort of person. However, a couple of years ago Velo Orange was selling off a batch of their mixte frames at the attractive price of $300 so I mixed up the bike stable by adding a mixte to it.

Velo Orange Mixte, acquitting herself well after climbing a steep hill

Over the next year Felkerino and I (okay, mostly Felkerino) built it up with a variety of parts from the Dining Room Bike Shop, including the front Rivendell Mark’s rack by Nitto, Nitto S83 seatpost, gearing, pedals, Tektro brakes, handlebars, and the bags.

I also purchased a couple of things especially for the mixte, including matte Velo Orange fenders, VO saddle, and a Pletscher kickstand.

I love that we were able to build up the Velo Orange mostly with things we already own. One of my favorite parts on the bike are these double-sided Shimano A530 pedals. Good for wearing with street shoes or SPDs.

Shimano Double-Sided Pedals

Also, it may go without saying, but I am especially proud of the bags on this bike. They’re just delicious. The front Berthoud bag was a gift from Felkerino. It’s big enough to carry my lunch and a few personal items, but not so large that it feels bulky or weighs the bike down in front.

Front Small Berthoud Bag

Nitto Front Rack for the Bertoud. Securely affixed.

The tan Acorn bag, which I purchased on a whim, is made by a couple out of California. Sadly, they no longer make this rear saddlebag, which I find to be the perfect size for a bike like the Velo Orange. Not too big, not too small… just right.

Rear Acorn Saddlebag

After the build was complete, the mixte spent a lot of time languishing in the Dining Room Bike Shop. For some reason, I convinced myself that I wasn’t stylish enough to ride it. I also wasn’t sure about its carrying capacity.

I needn’t have worried on either front. First, I may not be stylish enough for it, but I don’t care. There’s no requirement that a person has to be stylish for a commute around town. A regular shirt and shorts work just fine.

No fashion police arrests. A shirt and shorts work just fine for commuting on the mixte.

The Velo Orange mixte is a great getting-around town bike. It’s carrying capacity is somewhat reduced compared to my Surly LHT (which is set up for panniers in addition to a Carradice bag). I can pick up a little something at the store after work if I need to, but the Velo Orange is definitely not well-suited to a big post-work grocery run.

Nevertheless, there’s still ample storage in the Acorn saddlebag and the Berthoud. The bags easily stow my workout clothes, lunch, U-lock and tools, as well as any other daily essentials.

The upright position and handling make it lots of fun to ride. The bike is quick to respond to any turn I make, and the wider hand positioning compared to drop bars is a refreshing change.

With the exception of the more upright handling, the Velo Orange does not feel much different than my other bikes. For some reason, I thought sloping top tube would make it feel stodgy or noodly or something, but I have not found that.

The bike accepts a small front load easily, and it still handles well. It even passes the no-handed test. See?

No hands? No problem. Going no-handed on the VO mixte.

As I mentioned, I do sit more vertically on this bike than others in my stable, and it makes me feel like I’m just tooling around, seeing the sites, taking in the tourists. There’s no pressure AT ALL to ride fast. Just ride my pace and get there when I get there.

Even so, the bike feels responsive and zippy. I push the pedals and they go. I turn the bars and we’re off and running. I don’t know if that’s because I am forced to not haul a bunch of stuff around or if that’s the natural feel of the bike. I tend to think it’s a little of both.

With the Pletscher kickstand, I can park the bike anywhere. No leaning! That’s a great convenience, especially when I’m overcome by the need to take a bike glamour shot.

VO Mixte glamour shot in front of the World War II Memorial

Last week, I finally put the Surly LHT back into service after a full month of nonstop mixte commutes. I needed to haul more than the mixte was able to carry. It was nice to be back on the Surly and to have its extra carrying capacity, but this past month has been great for solidifying my appreciation of the Velo Orange mixte.

The mixte is a perfect bike for days when I don’t plan to do any post-work grocery shopping or general hauling of stuff. On a day-to-day basis, I require less storage space than I’ve grown to think I need.

The Velo Orange also reminded me of the “just ride” principle. Just get on your bike. Wear whatever clothes you want. Ride your bike. Commuting is not a fashion show (though I do like to get a little bike love now and then). It’s about getting around town on whatever you choose to ride and meeting your transportation needs under the power of your own two feet.