Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Knocked the Bastard Off - Indoor Festive 500

Sir Edmund Hillary's first words to lifelong friend George Lowe upon returning from the first successful summit of Mt Everest in the company of Tenzing Norgay were...
Well, George, we knocked the bastard off.

Later he expressed great regret to his mother for the embarrassment she felt as a result of his infamous declaration. Taking inspiration from his epic feat, I have found it a great way to announce the impending completion of some not-so-epic, but still a reasonable challenge. That said, I do try to be sparse with it, saving it for the end of truly hard rides like a 24 hour fleche or a double century on mountainous dirt roads. Usually, just as we are about to start the last leg, I'll suggest we "get on with it and knock the bastard off."

But after my latest challenge, the Rapha Festive 500 on my indoor trainer, I might just have to retire my use of that phrase in the future! But, by George, I knocked the bastard off!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Mudguards - Indoor Festive 500 2013

Why am I writing about mudguards when I am riding inside?

The last time I did any real exercise indoors was over 20 years ago. After I moved from North Carolina to Boston, I was certain that I would never be able to ride outside in the winter here, so I acquired what at the time was a very expensive indoor trainer, a Schwinn Velodyne. It was outrageously expensive for my income at the time, so I left the price tag hanging on it just to encourage me to use the blasted thing! The velodyne was a magnetic resistance trainer controlled by an on-board computer. It was actually quite a nice trainer and I must say much simpler to set up than the devices I've been looking into recently. I recall it had a few modes, including a target heart rate, intervals and courses. The computer controlled the resistance, and varied it to simulate up and downhills on a route, or to keep a heart rate steady or for intervals. The display wasn't fancy, but it didn't need to be. One could select the mode and get basic feedback. I didn't need to see a video of the route I was riding, or super details of the terrain. None of that really replicates riding outdoors, so I might as well enjoy a nice action movie instead!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Screw Loose - Indoor Festive 500 - 2013

Various friends, near and far, have commented on my activity this week as a sign that I must have a screw loose. But I asked the doctors last week about the screws, and they said that all the hardware was firmly in place, no loose screws for me! Check the X-rays!

Admittedly, I have - in the past - gone out in ludicrous conditions for outrageous distances on what some might consider silly bikes. I admit to rarely turning down the opportunity to do something outrageous on a fixed gear bike, including my quest this week. I've made good use of studded tires over the years, and I've considered bad weather to be a great opportunity to make use of all my expensive bad weather clothing. Of course, this year, the studded tires sit unused and all my cycling rain gear and cleated cycling boots and overshoes and such are still packed away from last winter.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Indoor Festive 500 - Christmas Day

Broken Pixie's Indoor Festive 500 continues...

I don't know how anyone tolerates riding indoors, and I have to admit that after just two days of long sessions on the trainer, I feel the same way about riding indoors as I do about ingesting anything with Marmite on it. Izzi on the other hand may be asked to star in their next commercial!

Big Red Bicycle Christmas - By Nora and One Left

Merry Wednesday - thanks to Nora and One Left

2013 Indoor Festive 500 - Dec 24

For the past two years, the last week of the year has been filled with cycling and blogging, as Fear Rothar and I have taken up the challenge from Rapha to document a week of riding at least 500km, in what can be pretty extreme weather conditions. The challenge in 2011 was subtitled The Ride to Redemption, and we took it quite literally, as we designed routes that included Redemption Rock, Purgatory Chasm, Brimstone, and Mt Grace. We were almost sad to have no snow to make it Rapha-Epic, but for us the bitter cold more than made up for lack of snow - what a shame cold doesn't show as well as snow in photos! In 2012, we had a bit more company on our rides as lots of our fellow Ride Studio Cafe club members took up the Festive 500 challenge. We even had some snow last year to help with our epic-lite photos.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Howth Head revisited

While I was off galavanting around the countryside on bike with my brother, David (some posts about which will follow!) Pamela had pretty much exhausted the walking possibilities from my childhood home. I knew that Howth Head, to the north of Dublin, was both scenic and relatively accessible. I hadn't walked there in over twenty (!) years, so I thought it might be a good choice for a little variety.

Looking on-line, I found that there was now a series of signposted walks starting and finishing from the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) station in Howth. So, we bought ourselves day-passes, hopped on the commuter rail in Castleknock, changed to the DART in Connolly Station and were ready to walk in Howth about an hour later.

We decided to do the Bog of Frogs walk, listed at 10km in length. This seemed long, but doable, for Pamela. However, it ended up being quite a bit longer, at around 13km in length. Under normal circumstances, this wouldn't have been significant, but given that this was by far the toughest walk she had done since her accident, the extra distance made its presence felt.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Life Interruptus

After riding 18,000 miles last year, I made a New Year's resolution to ride less this year. Getting run down by a truck wasn't exactly what I had in mind to help reduce my bike miles, but it certainly has helped me keep that New Year's resolution.

Of course, as Darwin so aptly put it, it's the one who adapts that survives. So, I'm adapting in order to survive.  Given the restraints of no bending or twisting, this has meant lots of walking. It's not exactly how I had planned to spend the autumn. I may not be able control my destiny, but I can control my response to it !

The truth is that I haven't done much walking since we moved back from New Zealand in 2004. I returned to America with pretty bad osteoarthritis in my knee. At the end of every multi-day backpacking trip in NZ, I would have a massively swollen right knee and severely limited range of motion. A surgeon removed a loose bit of cartilage and carved some more off the back of my kneecap that was close to breaking off on its own. This helped, but I still found myself preferring to cycle rather than hike. I used to joke with co-workers that I biked to work to avoid the long walk in from the parking lot!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Mt. Auburn on Ice

I have again been neglecting the blog! (Do all my posts start this way?) I had hoped to spend my down time on the blog, but that just hasn't happened. My last post here was almost 6 weeks ago, when Mt Auburn Cemetery was on Fire.

Fear Rothar and I do have some backlog to get through. We took a trip to Ireland recently to visit with friends and family there. I did lot of walks while John was able to get out for a few rides. His long suffering brother got to play the part of bike model on this occasion, riding back and forth while John got the perfect shot. Of course now Fear Rothar just has to go through 1000+ photos and select a few for a blog post. I have a post in the works from my walks. In the meantime, I give you the beauty of Mt. Auburn on Ice.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mt Auburn on Fire

Autumn is one of my favorite times of the year for cycling. The colors of changing leaves, the bluebird skies, the crisp cool air; they all make this time of year special. But since September 8th, I've not been able to ride my bike. Instead, I'm learning to appreciate my nearby neighborhood on foot. Despite living in Watertown for 8 years, we had only attempted to explore the Mt Auburn Cemetery once, because while they allow cars on the roads within the cemetery, bikes are banned. We were practically tackled at the gate the one and only time that we attempted to explore.

Sadly, it's not that the caretakers don't want tourists to come appreciate this beautiful place with lovely trees and chapels and monuments and an amazing view of the Boston skyline. In fact, every year the local paper includes Mt Auburn Cemetery as a great place for leaf peeping. But after being chased away, we found other tree-filled park like cemeteries where we could ride through on our bikes at a respectful pace and take in the beauty of autumn.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Stress Relief

A very good and wise friend reminded me a few days ago how very essential it is to have some way to relieve stress. You wouldn't think anyone would actually need to be told this, but amazingly when in an incredibly stressful situation, it is entirely possible to lose sight of that!

I have cycled for almost my entire life. Fear Rothar has done the same. We use bikes for transportation as well as recreation and sport. For as long as I can remember, I have used a bike to commute from work. In the past, one of the great advantages of my bike-commute home from work is how well it would help me to de-stress from my day at work. I might still get home and vent about some stupid policy or decision at work, while Fear Rothar and I prepared dinner. At least the carrots and cutting board would feel no pain as I chopped with an intensity fueled by work frustration. And Fear Rothar is probably even more alarmed to read that my rants came after a supposedly calming bike ride home. Imagine if I had not had the outlet of a bike ride! Our poor partners, who suffer through listening to us voice all our exasperation that we cannot openly do in a polite society, and still stay employed! Many of us are lucky to have a special person in our lives who act as sounding board for both our brilliant ideas and our great frustrations. We don't intend for them to feel our anger is directed at them, but sometimes, it's hard not to feel a little hurt when your partner unleashes on you for folding the towels the wrong way when you really know it's about something else and someone else.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Baby Steps

Warning: if you read this blog for the lighthearted humorous stories of frivolous adventures on a bike, don't read any further. This is a different type of prose.   

The secret to happiness is low expectations.

For someone who just a few months ago, wouldn't have to think twice about doing a 200 mile bike ride with 20,000 feet of climbing and 70% dirt roads, it's been a real adjustment to find myself seriously challenged by a walk around the block. But this is my current reality. On September 8, I was out for a short bike ride, when I was hit from behind by a truck. The resulting spine fracture was stabilized with surgery. My latest x-rays now feature lots of rods, plates and screws in various parts of my body. I am quite thankful to the deputies and paramedics who were first on the scene, as well as the surgeon that I am still able to wiggle my toes and attempt that walk around the block. Every time my pain level spikes to 10, I do remind myself that I'm lucky that I can even feel the pain.

Monday, September 16, 2013

2013 has not been a good year

Fear Rothar often teases me about my totally irrational superstitions, most notably my rule that no one can discuss the weather during a bike ride, since merely by mentioning that things could get worse, things do get worse. 

I really am a logical scientific person, and I know that when a cycling companion says something foolhardy like, "At least it's not raining," that he or she doesn't really cause the heavens to open up on cue. But it's fun to have someone to blame when weather conditions get worse, right after said rule violation!

Now despite having this no-weather-talk-while-on-a-bike rule, I really don't subscribe to superstitions. I don't have lucky or unlucky socks. I don't have a lucky ritual to do before races. And I don't panic when I draw the number 13 as my race number.

But I've got to admit that 2013 is really shaping up to be my unlucky year, and while I'm not one to wish my life away, I will be happy when 2014 arrives. 

Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean that no one is really following me.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Belting Up Mt Washington

Yes, this post is about an event that happened a couple of weeks ago. Yes, I'm behind on the blog. What's new? At least I'm not as far behind as my friend Rob!

The 6 weeks between July's Newton's Revenge race up Mt Washington and the traditional August Mt Washington Hillclimb race was a very busy time for me. But with the motivation to do proper justice to my new Seven belt-drive fixie with extra special Mt Washington gearing, I decided to kick it up a notch and do some actual hill training.

I made a nuisance of myself on the various roads leading up to the Arlington Water Tower. I am either now considered part of the neighborhood watch program, or I've been reported by the neighborhood watch program. However, not being one for repeatedly going up the same road, I've found over a dozen different routes  up and a few different ways down, some of which had no Strava QOMs prior to my taking them! Of course, I don't expect them to last. Seems some of my fast female friends take great pleasure in finding and annihilating all my QOM times.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Mars Hill, NC 200km brevet

Apologies again for getting so far behind again. Between riding, weekends away and going to lots of physical therapy and doctor appointments, there's just no time left to blog!

Also after my accident, it seemed I had various collarbone related appointments every other day, so I put off going down to NC for a visit my dad until things settled down a bit. But I'll also admit that my hesitation to go to NC in the middle of summer was also partly due to the heat. If it was miserable in Massachusetts, I couldn't imagine what it was like there.

After a few weeks, I finished up PT, and my dad was starting to ask me more often about coming down, so I booked a flight for the end of July. I then checked to see if there were any rides of interest in the area while I'd be down and noticed a full set of brevets on for the weekend. To make it more enticing the rides were in the mountains of Western NC and this was the route profile of the 200km...

Monday, July 29, 2013

Grand Fundo - Seeking Jelly Beans!

My wakeup call at the wonderful Starlight Llama B&B came from this fellow

My favorite ride in 2012 had to be The JAM Fund Grand Fundo, in large part due to my obsession with jelly beans. So when planning out our must-do rides for this year, this one was at the top of the list. I loved the quiet dirt roads. I loved the quiet paved roads. I loved the climbs. I loved the scenery. I loved the ice cream truck and the post ride BBQ. But more than anything I loved riding from rest stop to rest stop and filling my pockets with jelly beans.

This year, I came better prepared than mere jersey pockets. See, I have this cool new handlebar bag from Dill Pickle. According to her blog, Emily has measured the capacity of her bags macaroni, but I figured it would be fun to measure my new bar bag capacity in Jelly Beans! So I planned to start the ride with a completely empty bar bag, and then fill it throughout the day with as many of those little bags of jelly beans as I could scavenge at the rest stops. Last year, they had boxes and boxes at every stop. I filled my pockets at each stop, but then ate them all in between! Maybe with the bar bag, I could get enough to power me around the course and also have some for the drive home!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rapha Rising - more like Mercury Rising

According to our local meteorologists, a heatwave is defined as more than three days in a row where the temperature exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Growing up in the south, a heatwave would typically start in April and end in October! But thankfully I left that weather behind long ago when I moved to Boston. The reward for putting up with long cold winters here is supposed to be a nice pleasant summer. But life isn't fair, and this year, we had a cold miserable winter, followed by a chilly wet spring, and you guessed it a hot humid summer. So careful what you wish for... it's not cold now! We have had many days of 90+F temps along with some brutal humidity this summer. Once every 7 to 10 days, we'll get a lovely 75F day with low humidity, but then the oppressive stuff comes right back... thus multiple heatwaves...

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mt Washington Demands Respect!

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. " -George Santayana

Research suggests that for women who experience mild to moderate pain during childbirth, the euphoria and relief of having a happy healthy child seems to overwhelm the memories of pain such they later report their pain as less severe than those present for all the screaming might otherwise expect!

So maybe it's like that with me and Mt Washington. I just remember the relief and euphoria of being on the top and done, and forget all the dread leading up to the start, and all the suffering during the actual ascent. Or maybe I'm really just a masochist.

However, the article I read about mothers seemingly forgetting the intense pain of childbirth did go on to say that those women who initially reported their pain as unbearable - worse pain ever, did not have diminished memories of the severity of their pain later.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

HighPoint Ride - presented by Ride Studio Cafe

A bit over a year ago, Rob Vandermark starting talking about doing a hilly ride. And by hilly, he meant he wanted to find the biggest climb in Massachusetts, and ride there from Ride Studio Cafe. Exploring on Strava, he found that Mt Greylock was the only Hors catégorie climb in the state, so he decided that would make a good destination. I pointed out that it would be more than 300 miles round trip, so we started planning a two day ride. Even with two days, it would still be quite the challenge, so he made the concession of allowing remote starts for folks who might be a bit less ambitious than to want to do 160 miles and 16,000 feet of climbing out to Greylock and 160 miles and 12,000 feet back!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

At Long Last the Winner of the Tikit is...

Apologies for the delay in announcing the winner of the Bike Friday Tikit. If you've been reading the blog in the last month, you are aware of my little set-back. Between surgery and PT and a little riding, I have had lots of time to read through all the blog comments, and really appreciate all the kind words. It has been cool to hear from some long time readers as well as pick up some new ones.

I am curious now that Google Reader is gone what folks are doing for their blog reading. I've switched over to Feedly. I'm really looking forward to their Android Widget coming soon, but so far the basic functionality I seek seems to be working well both on my phone and laptop.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Soft Like Kitten, Stubborn Like Mule

In 1987, as a young naive randonneuse, I headed off to France to attempt PBP. For various reasons, I ended up starting the event on a brand new bike, with somewhat untested equipment. It didn't go well, and I was initiated into Team Randonneé Abondonneé. You may have heard the AAA advertisement, "Someday you'll break down and join AAA." Well, I'd might suggest that folks may be playing it too safe and aren't really pushing their own boundaries enough, if someday they don't eventually break down and join Randonneé Abondonneé (RA)!

And I'd even go so far as to say that becoming a member of Randonneé Abondonneé can be a great opportunity, as lessons learned from the experience really stick with you more than anything you read in a blog! And in the years since my initiation into RA, I have applied lessons learned on that ride to many parts of my life, not just cycling.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dirty Kanza 200 :: 2013 edition

I've often observed that the most difficult ride and race reports to write are those about rides and races that went perfectly smoothly. It seems that every story worth telling  features a protagonist or two overcoming a great challenge or three on their way to a conclusion that is in doubt until the last breath.

While I can't promise a story with an ending of that magnitude, the 2013 edition of the Dirty Kanza 200 certainly didn't lack in challenges. Starting and finishing in the town of Emporia, Kansas, the race traverses 200 miles of gravel roads through the nearby Flint Hills. While your mental image of Kansas may conjour up visions of vast plains or, dare I mention it, a Yellow Brick Road, it doesn't apply to the Dirty Kanza route. Instead of endless flats, there are countless hills to admire and continuous gorgeous scenery to be endured. However, speaking of "endless flats," the Flint Hills are renowned at providing those too. The original inhabitants of the area, The Great Kanza Nation, made arrowheads from the flint that abounds in these hills, so tyres need to be chosen with care.

Do Not Make Important Decisions

198 km into a 202 km permanent, my ride came to a sudden unexpected end. I had slowed and signaled to my two riding companions for the left turn ahead. The corner is tight, and I was taking the (left) turn wide and aiming for the far right side of the road. Sadly, the cyclist coming from the other direction was not taking such precaution. He came around his right-hand corner at high speed on aero-bars and was on his far left-hand side of the road, taking an arc directly through me. I was going slow already and braking hard, but his line was on a direct collision course. The impact was from my right and I fell hard on my left. Instantly I was on the ground and clutching my collarbone, with the realization that Green Mountain Double would go on without me the following weekend.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Dirty Kanza 200 - the crew perspective

Fear Rothar announced back in the winter that one of his big targets for the year was to be Dirty Kanza, a 200 mile gravel road race, based in the Flint Hills of Kansas. This was to be the premiere event for the Ride Studio Cafe Endurance team, with their new Seven Cycles bikes, with SRAM gear,  Clement tires and Rapha clothes.

DK was on my calendar too, but only marked as a weekend where I'd be on my own at home and outnumbered by demanding cats. Matt, David and John would be off racing and Mo would be crewing. But then Matt finally finished off his eight years of work on his PhD this spring, and decided it might be nice to actually attend his graduation. And after all the sacrifices one must make when a partner takes eight years in pursuit of a PhD, Mo wanted to be there too. So this is how I found myself crewing at DK200.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

DROVES - 2013 - Sunshine

Crisp and sunny! That's more like it.

Traditionally, Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer in the USA. But this year, it sure didn't feel like the start of summer. We'd had snow and sleet and cold and rain so far. Then Monday morning, the sun poked out and by the end of the day, the warming rays had even melted the snow on the Burke Mountain Ski slopes. It was still quite chilly in the morning, but by the time we packed up the car to go home, we were in shorts - so maybe summer is starting now afterall!

A few folks headed home Sunday night, either just not having any confidence in the improving forecast or needing to work (w-o-r-k is nasty 4 letter word). Those of us who stuck around were rewarded with a glorious day. We split into several groups. David and Mo decided to go back out on the Kingdom Trails for more shredding opportunities. Matt and Constance went out for more picture taking, and Ted joined John and me, as we took the tandem out for its first anniversary ride. And in case you are wondering, after a year, we still love 007!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

DROVES - 2013 - Get on Yer Bike!

My alarm alerted me that another night had passed. The hammering on the roof had finally stopped. It wasn't bright out by any means, but the ground outside wasn't white either. It was still quite chilly, so that winter jacket would come in handy yet again. I headed down stairs and fired up the coffee pot, and pulled out cereal and yogurt and coffee cake. And soon I heard the floorboards overhead start to creak as others woke up and started to stir.

David made us all envious with the smell of his wonderful asparagus omelet. And soon folks were buzzing about gathering warm clothes and rain jackets. GPS's were loaded with the route for the day and not long after we had a crowd gathered out front impatient to get moving.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

DROVES - 2013 - Shamed into Riding

Maybe it's old age or maybe it's too many prior rides in the rain, but the Bike Barn was still quiet at 8AM. Well, I say quiet, but that's not really true. Rain continued to pound off the tin roof creating quite a racket. It was quiet in that there weren't any cyclists stirring about when I rose. Although to tell the full story, Cristine and Dominique were up well before any of us and had headed into St. Johnsbury for an indoor swim class. But everyone else was enjoying a rare lie-in on a Saturday morning. However the smell of coffee and omelets soon filled the barn, and not long after, the bike stand again was the center of attention, as mechanics-extraordinaire, David Wilcox and Matt Roy, set forth to swapping the lines of John's hydraulic brakes to his preferred orientation.

A few of us headed down to the general store for coffee and to pick up more food. East Burke was a ghost town. The place is normally packed with mountain bikers on this long holiday weekend, but there were almost none to be found. We saw a couple of friends who were taking shelter at the store, as they were camping up on the mountain and had grown tent-weary.

Monday, June 3, 2013

DROVES - 2013 - Going with the Flow

Apologies for another long delay without a blog post. If you are the impatient type, follow me on twitter - @fixie_pixie - where the posts are more frequent and much shorter! Current twitter followers are keenly aware of how busy things have been for us in the last 10 days. And that now we have lots of stuff to blog about! So let's get on with it...

DROVES 2013 will not be soon forgotten. For many reasons: the hills, the dirt, the bike build, the rain, the epic rain, the cold, the snow and the fun.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Flèche 2013 - Café Loiterers

Last year, I tried to convince my Flèche teammates to do the Provincetown to Portland Flèche on fixed. It was a perfect fixed route, I said, but the Misguided Angels were having none of that.

As the night and day wore on, they all seemed to agree that it really was a fixie-friendly route, and next year would be a fixed year.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bike Friday Tikit Give-Away

In a purely shameless attempt to increase the readership on this blog (from my two loyal readers to maybe 4 or 6), I am going to give away my Bike Friday Tikit. If I can't increase blog readership based purely on my riveting stories, maybe I can buy it :-)

But first, let me say thanks to Velouria of Lovely Bicycle for helping me out with this shameless promotion and for taking all the awesome photos below.   

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Do you want the Good News or the Bad News?

"Do you want the good news or bad news?"

This is what Fear Rothar said as he came upstairs just before we were to load the tandem into the car to drive out to Westfield for the Bash-Bish 300km brevet.

A few weeks before, while cycling out in the Catskills, we noticed that the rear tire on the tandem was rubbing the fender a bit. These darn aluminum fenders are such a pain. We supposedly have the right sized fender for our tires, but like Dr Who's Weeping Angels, if you look away, bad stuff happens! Or if the tire isn't perfectly round... or seated just so, bad stuff happens. The Grand Bois Hetres that we use on the tandem seem to have a reputation for fiddly mounting, so the plan was to remove and remount the tire, or just put on a completely new tire. I was supposed to do this, but my brand new belted fixed gear bike showed up a few hours prior, and I had to go for a ride first. I mean it would just be inconsiderate to the builder not to take the bike out for a ride as soon as I got it, right?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Domestique to a Brand New Randonneuse

The greatest blog post ever written was almost ready to be published when I added one more link and lost the whole thing! Darn auto-save! I've tried to rewrite it, but it's not as good. What follows is the 2nd attempt... 

I met Constance Winters about 18 months ago on a Thursday morning ladies rides from Ride Studio Cafe. I was made aware of her very popular blog a few months prior and had become a fan. Constance is actually a pseudonym, and since she introduced herself with her real name, I didn't make the connection right away. But as we were riding along, I realized that I was in the presence of a celebrity, and suddenly blurted out, "Are you Lovely Bicycle?" To which she shyly replied, yes. We continued riding and chatting until we got back to RSC. Finding we had some common interests, we decided to get together again for more rides.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Climbfest in the Catskills - Part 3

The smoker's cough seemed to be getting worse. Almost to the point that John considered passing on the planned long ride for Friday. I'd initially plotted out this brutal century route, but also created a shorter option with a remote start.

Just as I had the car packed up and was about to leave, I convinced John to come, so we put his bike back into the car and headed out a little later than planned. We drove out to Phoenicia where we are becoming regulars at Mama's Boy Coffee Shop. After a quick coffee, we headed out on our bikes.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Climbfest in the Catskills - Part 2 - Nectar for the Honeybees

We had a couple of goals for our week in the Catskills. One was to do lots of climbing, and trust me, we did not suffer from any lack of hills. The other was to make full use of my new Honey All Roads and find some good dirt roads. We'd found a little dirt in our initial rides, but not quite as much as I was hoping for. So I sat down in front of my computer and typed the words, dirt and Catskills into the search box on ridewithgps, and found this route created by somervillebikes. I've never formally met somervillebikes, but we have a mutual friend, Velouria of the blog, Lovely Bicycle. In the week before we headed away, Velouria had mentioned that somervillebikes had a holiday home and some good dirt road routes in the area. So I had great confidence in this route when I found it. But then I noticed a level of detail rarely seen on routes one might randomly find online. He had color-coded the route to show what was dirt and what was paved. And every cue was annotated with additional details. This was very promising indeed.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Climbfest in the Catskills - Part 1

Longtime readers may have spotted a theme to our vacations at this stage. It seems that we find some place with lots of concentrated climbing and travel there to concentrate on climbing.  This spring, we decided to go to the Catskills in New York. I joked with a friend recently as I referred to this as a "Staycation", since we weren't flying anywhere. Despite this area being just a few hours away by car, we had not ever truly explored it. We've cycled through Woodstock, NY on the Westfield 600km and really enjoyed the scenery and the climbing. So it's long been on the list, and this year it bubbled up to the top.

We decided to rent a house for the week in Woodstock and since we were driving out, we'd bring both the tandem and a couple of single bikes. I have a brand new Honey All Roads, and I was eager to put it through its paces. But we also love riding the tandem, and since we could bring multiple bikes, we did.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Not quite a cycling post, but then again...

Never again, when someone asks where I am from, will I have to respond "just outside of Boston". Now I can just say "a few blocks from THE boat in Watertown, MA."

Last week left me and John feeling very lucky. While we got to experience a stressful day of lockdown at the end of the week, we were nowhere near the marathon on Monday, and on the far side of the river from all the action in Watertown on Friday. And this was the message that I attempted to send to far distant friends and family throughout the drama all week. At times, it felt wrong to post messages on FB or twitter, that we were safe and sound, while so many others were not. But our families needed to see these messages from us. And it turns out social media is actually a good way to broadcast a message like that to a far distant audience. I admit to being quite relieved to see the check-ins from various friends that I knew were doing the marathon on Monday. But I was still heartbroken to hear of the deaths of people I did not know, but who's stories I will not forget. And I was devastated by the news of all the severe injuries, including so many leg amputations, a most cruel attack on fans of running!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Permanents and Transcience

As a fixie rider, my feet are always moving. Could it be some form of hyperactivity that draws me to riding a fixed gear bike - since I just can't seem to keep my feet still? Or maybe hyperactivity is why I am always seeking variety. I'm not one of those riders who can go out and do the same route week after week after week.  I just read about a Kiwi rider who did the same century route every day for 65 days in a row to celebrate his 65th birthday. While an impressive feat, I would have gone insane by day 3!

While it may help someone training to compare their time or performance on the same loop from week to week, that's not why I ride a bike. Yesterday, while leading my Tuesday ride, someone asked me how to get strong. I laughed, as I said that I was the last person to ever ask about training advice. I ride my bike to get to great places to eat, to enjoy the view, to enjoy good company and to have fun. If fitness comes as a side benefit of my riding, that's great. But it's not my goal.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Little Diversion

I know. It's been a while. But radio silence on this blog is coming to a screeching halt! I have a serious backlog of things to write about, so there may be a flurry of posts in coming days.

Despite the backlog, I'm going to start with my most recent diversion. I went on a seriously fun bike ride last Saturday, and tonight I'm still smiling and giggling with glee. Ride Studio Cafe and Honey Bikes put together an awesome event and they built a bike, just for me, just for the occasion. Really! They did! How cool is that?

And in the true spirit of Just-In-Time manufacturing, it came off the bike stand about 15 minutes before the start of the ride. But no fear, I hopped on the new bike, rode it around the block, across some cobblestones, down a trail and off and onto curbs a few times, and then headed out to do a group ride on twisty trails, with rocks and roots and bridges and boardwalks, grinning ear to ear the whole time!

I had a blast, but for some reason, kept thinking about coffee!

Photo courtesy of Rob Vandermark

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pay It Forward

Last week I was having a chat with a friend about different styles of bike trips. John and I have done all types of bike tours, including structured group tours, partially pre-planned tours with a few friends, and trips on our own or with a few friends, where only the start/finish point is pre-planned, and the rest is done on the fly. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages.

On an organized trip with a large group, you may meet and ride with lots of new people as well as some old friends. You might also have the bad luck to find a PITA (pain in the a$$) among the group! Many organized trips include vehicle support to carry gear, as well as providing snacks and support throughout the day, allowing one to fly up mountain passes without carrying a lot of stuff on the bike. Organized trips also come with assurances that you will have a place to eat and sleep, at a known distance. They also typically include a well-scouted route and a good set of directions. Occasionally, though, the directions can leave you desiring more while the actual distance can leave you wishing for less! Disadvantages with a pre-planned route are that one can't really make big changes based on weather, or the discovery of an interesting road or a cool looking place to stay.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Elusive Howlin' Grits

History repeats itself...

A few years ago I bought an inexpensive fixie to use on the local Saturday morning fitness ride. Part of the appeal of riding fixed is that it is lightweight and simple. But prior to this acquisition, I'd often use my commuter fixie, with its lights and racks and fenders and studded tires. That bike is definitely not lightweight, and those studded tires can be a real drag.  But it is such a joy to ride a stripped down lightweight fixie, so I got the new bike purely for fun spirited group rides, like the Saturday ride.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

No one!

According to Wikipedia, Nemo is a Latin word meaning "no man" or "no one".  So it seems that "no one" banned vehicle traffic from Massachusetts roads for a day (much to the delight of the plow drivers, not to mention local pedestrians and cyclists). "No one" shut down public transportation for almost two days, much to the chagrin of folks trying to get in and out of town without a car, bike or xc-skis. "No one" helped sell every bit of bread and milk and batteries in the region. Then "no one" came to town and left more than 2 feet of snow at our door. Interestingly "no one" seemingly told folks in Long Island about the pending storm, but that's a different story, although maybe those folks should upgrade their smart phones, so they get the message next time.

Finally, and the point of this post, is that "no one" made me use and abuse lots of non-cycling muscles over the weekend.

Before Nemo

Friday, February 8, 2013

Southern Hospitality

Today as I write this, I am back home in Massachusetts, looking out at snow falling on our eerily quiet street, as our governor has taken the almost unprecedented measure of banning all non-essential driving on roads state-wide, with the threat of 1 year in jail for violators.  I was surprised to learn that in addition to exceptions made for public safety, there are also exceptions granted to the media. This will enable them to interrupt regular television programming with frequent updates on the growing height of snowbanks, as well as demonstrating how dangerous it is to be out, by showing a low-in-the-pecking-order reporter standing in the surf without a hat or gloves, so we can appreciate the blizzard-force wind-speed based on the frozen reporter's soggy and windswept hair. But the more surprising (to me) exceptions are for vehicles supplying essential businesses like convenience stores and hardware stores.  I was one of the lucky folks who got that very loud blaring blizzard warning through my smart phone a day before the storm even started. After I changed my underwear, I headed out to the shops to join everyone else in the northeast stocking up on bread, milk, beer and driveway salt. Actually, since I don't really live under a rock, I was already well aware of the storm forecast from many news sources (both traditional and new media) and had already purchased plenty of fresh bread and milk before that panic-inducing alert was sounded. But I can say that this new cell phone based Emergency Warning System was very effective in causing general panic and clearing the shelves through the northeast of all bread and milk.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Strange But Familiar

I headed out on unfamiliar roads. A change is as good as a rest, some say. So this should make for a nice adventure.

But let me back up a little first. 

I'm a little removed from my usual stomping grounds here. My father moved to a retirement community in Durham a few months ago, and the only riding I have done here so far is to and from his old home in Sanford. Not needing to ride to Sanford on this day, I decided to look for some new roads in a different direction. I looked around on various online bike route mapping sites trying to find a good route. I wanted something relatively rural and quiet and rolling, maybe about 60 miles.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

2013 season coming into focus

With the click of a mouse yesterday - or, more accurately, with some frantic tapping on my phone - the 2013 season suddenly snapped into focus. As we sat eating noodles-to-die-for at Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe after a foggy spin out to Chelmsford, Pamela reminded me that registration for the Dirty Kanza 200 had opened that morning. Matt Roy, The Wilcox and I had tossed around the idea of participating this year, but we hadn't fully committed to it yet. I knew that registration had filled in 2-1/2 hours last year, so a combination of noodles and mention of registration caused a sudden adrenaline spike. To make matters straightforward, Matt and David were in Madison, Wisconsin, supporting Mo in the Nation Cyclocross Championships (where she finished 7th - way to go, Mo!). There followed some frantic texting and frenzied attempts to break my own Bikereg and Paypal passwords (not having logged in to either account on my phone before). Gene & Co. were kind enough to not kick us out into the chilly fog while all this was going on and (not so) soon, the deed was done!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 - In Review

2012 was an amazing year for me on the bike. Due to a lack of any type of weather that would normally pass for winter in New England, I logged a lot of early season bike miles, and then just kept going. A Strava climbing challenge in March and April saw me accumulating some big climbing numbers, and well...  I kept going with that too. By the end of the year, I'd clocked up over 18,000 miles and over a million feet of climbing. My only resolution for 2013 is to do less! This should actually be an easy resolution to keep! Check back in January 2014 to see if I did!

But it wasn't numbers that made my year on bikes an amazing one. It was the new and old friends that I rode with, the cool places that I explored and the spectacular scenery that I encountered along the way.

The lack of a proper day job and a very understanding spouse, Fear Rothar, made it possible for me to do a lot of exploring by bike last year.  Using a cool tool, created by Jonathan O'Keeffe, I was able to overlay all my rides for the year on a single map. While I did ride back and forth to Ride Studio Cafe enough for Google Now to decide that I work there, I also managed to cover a lot of other ground in eastern Massachusetts last year.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Festive 500 - 2012 - One for the Books

We coordinated with the great folks at Ride Studio Cafe this year to put together a series of rides, based from the Studio, for the Rapha Festive 500.  This was actually my selfish way of ensuring that I would have some company as I tried to complete the challenge. And it worked. We had fabulous turnouts for most of the rides, with everyone else showing better judgement than me on the cold rainy day. It was really nice to see such large turnouts, despite the seasonable weather this year. Last year, we suffered a snow drought and while we had some very cold rides, we didn't have any good epic snowy photos. I wanted to get a few snowy shots for this year, and routed a few of the rides by ice rinks, so we could at least get "Zamboni snow" shots if we again failed to get any natural snow. But that proved completely unnecessary. We had snow on the ground Christmas morning and got quite a bit more more as the week wore on.