First Cold Weather Ride of The Year

I remember this. Layers of wool on top. Wool knickers. Warm hat. Heavy gloves. Thick socks. Insulated vest.

None of it is enough to entirely ward off the chill of the first 5 miles. But the mid fall day is sunny. The trees release their autumn leaves, which whisper their secrets as we ride through.

We enter the serious  climbing part of the ride, soon generating plenty of warmth. In fact, a bit too much!

Arriving back home, both sweating and chilled, we admit it.  The sudden arrival of this cold weather tested our fortitude!  By winters’ end a 45 degree day with a 37 degree will seem mild.

 

Aftermath of the Storm

Aftermath of the Storm

This Memorial Day weekend Old Town Ellicott City suffered it’s second devastating flood in two years. Each time a “freak” rainstorm destroyed business, damaged homes and local roads, and parklands in a horrific reply of the flood of 2016.  That one, we were assured was  a “1000 year” storm — an event that we’d never see again in our lifetimes.

That prediction turned out to be way off.

Trolley Trail #9

Our 1.5  Trolley Trail #9 is a favorite among hikers and bikers. This paved, 1.5 mile trail  connects Catonsville to Old Town Ellicott City.  Along it is a local bakery (perfect place for a break on a leisurely day), Benjamin Banneker Park (a local gem), and what is normally a small, burbling creek.

A few weeks after the flood, it. was passable but with the flood’s ravages evident. A wooden bridge, replaced after the 2016 storm, is tilted, as if giant hands grabbed  it and twisted hard.

Exiting the bridge (if you’ve been riding uphill from Westchester Road) there’s a pothole that’s eaten most of the trail, requiring cyclists to dismount and walk around it.

Mud, uprooted trees, and an intense, sunglass-fogging humidity bear witness to what happened a few weeks ago.

It will take a time and help for it to recover – and it may never be quite what it was.

My Personal Storm

I felt a kinship with this damaged-but-still-vital path as I rode along. I endured my own, personal storm during the past year and a half. It’s an experience I’m still recovering from.  It began in the fall of 2016 with an ultrasound and mammogram that established I had breast cancer.  A 3-phase treatment process that came next left me, too,  damaged-but-still-vital.

“We’re resilient, the trail silently told me as I rode along. We might look different, and feel different. But we’re still here. The birds still sing, the flowers still scent the air.

We have been through a lot, you and I. Even so, we continue on. We persist; our energy renews.  We quietly thrive and celebrate what is.”

 

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Sweet Soma Buena Vista For Sale

If you’ve read John’s most recent post, you know we’re the very pleased owners of new Bilenky bikes, and we’ve been logging some miles on them in preparation for plans to do the Civil War Century  metric in September and the Seagull Century in October.

Acquiring a new bike has over-filled our bike storage space. Options are a) build a new shed, b) sell a bike, or build one of these:

 

We’re going with (b). I’m selling the Soma. It’s quite a beauty, a 42 cm Soma Buena Vista mixte. It fits me (5″1″) well. Great for local rides, road rides long and short, light touring and general fun. Here’s the Craig’s List ad. This price listed doesn’t include shipping. Contact me here or via Craig’s List. It’s going for $1200 (plus shipping) – a big savings over the cost of the build and a perfect bike for your upcoming adventures!

 

 

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A Bit of the Hair of the Dog

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On John’s recommendation I took my aching body out for a short, easy ride this afternoon.  The idea being that would help work out some of the pain discomfort induced by yesterday’s longer ride.

And a what a gorgeous spring day it was. To my surprise, I had fun. And it only hurt a little. I got to see this flourishing tree (above). And (below) one of my favorite houses.

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Getting Back in the Spring of Things

Some intrepid bicyclists continue riding through the entire winter no matter what the weather brings. Me? Some years yes, but not this year. Being self-employed and working at home most days now, biking is a thing I do purely for fun, renewal of the spirit and fitness. It was a long and brutal winter and getting on my bike didn’t strike me as fun, spiritually renewing or a great way to exercise. That’s over for now – finally – and we’ve had some terrific spring weather.

Providing further motivation, we’re signed up for the Tour de Cure on May 2, starting from Cookesville MD. (donate here to support my ride in this fundraiser for diabetes research). The terrain for that ride is very hilly so it’s time to get serious about getting in shape. We’ve been out there and enjoying the spring that’s finally here. Today was a little tough, we took a great leap forward and did our longest ride so far of 2015. Yes, I’m  a little sore. Well, maybe a lot sore. But that’s biking. Sometimes it’s fun and carefree, sometimes it’s a struggle that leaves you stronger once you recover. Today’s ride was both.

So it’s spring and it’s beautiful.  I’ll stop complaining about achey legs. Or maybe I’ll complain some,  but keep it in perspective.  Yesterday as we neared home we met a guy who had been a cyclist for 50 years, and had to quit due to vertigo that has never gone away. He’s got it tough. I’m so very lucky to be healthy and strong enough to keep doing what I love so much.

Back to Blogging

It’s been a while since I’ve posted because

1. Work projects involving lots of writing; just didn’t feel like writing more
2. Getting ready for a wedding – mine and John’s!

I’m down to one writing project now and have some time and brainpower for writing about biking.

The wedding took place on September 14th and what a wonderful day it was! We’re honeymooning, with bikes, in Vermont and upstate New York. Our first stop is the lovely Three Mountain Inn, in Jamaica VT.

Yesterday’s ride was just short of 50 miles. The route was beautiful, with 3700 challenging feet of climbing, starting with the first 2 miles out of town. Just under 20 miles were on dirt roads. These were packed firmly enough to ride on but a little bit scary with little potholes and some loose gravel. I should have brought the ANT! My Soma was a little nervous on the rougher terrain, though it’s tires were fine.

The route took us through Londonderry, Grafton, and Townshend. It was one of the toughest – and one of the loveliest- rides I’ve ever done. None of the climbs were particularly steep. Instead, they were long and there were a lot of them. Let’s just say, when John realized we were just .4 miles short of 50, my reaction was “That’s close enough!”

Beforehand we agreed either of us could call a photo-op stop at any time, that we’d stop for lunch and walk around a little. Good decisions. We worked hard on the ride and had a great time. Leaves are just starting to turn, the weather is sunny and cool – perfect for cycling.

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It’s The Worst Thing In The World…

“It’s a $500 fine for a motorist to hit a bicyclist in the District, but some behaviors are so egregious that some drivers might think it’s worth paying the fine.” So opines Washington Post editorial writer Courtland Milloy. And the Post, fine newspaper that it is, prints this hate-mongering crap and calls it journalism.

Check out Chasing Mailbox’s to-the-point comments in response. Also scroll through the comments for a link to Bike Snob NY’s well-written thoughts.

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To be a driver behind a cyclist.

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Today is a bike tour rest day for Felkerino and me, and it coincided perfectly with an op-ed blowup in the Washington Post, which I am disappointed to admit is also my local paper.

Sadly, I’m sort of used to anti-cyclist, get off my road articles. However, my heart jumped when the writer of this particular piece stated that he could see why drivers would be willing to pay a fine of $500 to hit cyclists. Thanks, Washington Post. Thanks a lot.

It is terrifying to read a writer– in the Post, no less– who suggests that deliberately striking a cyclist in an act of vigilante justice or whatever reason is understandable, if not okay. It is not. This is people’s lives we are talking about here. My life. I am crying in anger and fear as I write this.

I am not…

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Brooks Cambium – My Take

It was time to replace the much loved but irretrievably sagging Brooks 17S. I had it transferred to my to my Soma when it was built last year. It was only 4 years old when it developed a very uncomfortable sag. It was fixed once and held up well for about a year. There are many who say Brooks leather saddles aren’t what they once were. Two summers in a row that included week long tours in the rain may have hastened it’s demise. I used a saddle cover of course but after enough days and nights of rain maybe some damage was done. I’d been curious about the Cambium for a while. Given John’s positive experience with it (see previous post) I was ready to give the C17S a try.

I’ve now ridden over 300 miles on it and overall, I like it. I agree with John that it’s amazingly shock absorbing. I didn’t find that it was easy to fit or instantly comfortable though. Part of this might be that the C17S is longer in than the B17S, which changes the feel of the contact points quite a bit. It also made it a little tricky getting the right “fore and aft” position. We couldn’t just copy the positioning of the B17S.

This saddle doesn’t break in. That’s no surprise. What you feel at first is what you get. So I had to toughen up. After a couple of weeks the bruised feeling subsided though was still not entirely gone. I think this was largely due to how long it took me to get the right seat post adjustment.

The Cambium has less height than the B17S. I read other blogs suggesting a need to raise the saddle post .5″ to compensate. That wasn’t the right adjustment for me. After fidgeting with it over a number of weeks (and having the predictable pain behind my kneecaps and then in the muscles around my knee) it dawned on me to look up how to fit the a seat post.

Grant at Rivendell Bicycle Worksg says to adjust the seat post to PBH-4″ from saddle top to the middle of the crank arm. I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant. Which way should the crank arm be positioned? My next “aha” was to check this out using my perfectly fitted ANT (thank you, Baltimore Bicycle Works!). It emerged that you position the crank arm to be parallel with the floor. I made the needed adjustment and now I think I’ve got it! It turns out not only does the right seat post height relieve knee pain and give you full use of your quads for climbing, it also relieves undue saddle pressure. I don’t know the bio-mechanics of that, just reporting the experience. Now when I hop on the ANT the B17S on it feels oddly short and lacking in support. I might end up with Cambium on it, too.

If you read John’s review you’ll see he had no fit problems with his Cambium. He just put it on the bike and he was fine from day one. So there you have it. My experience may not indicate what yours would be like in any way.

Verdict: The Cambium may never give your butt the nice custom comfort that comes with a broken-in leather saddle, but it is noticeably better at smoothing out the ride and it is comfortable when positioned properly. Rain is no problem for it. As others report repositioning yourself on it is easy even though it’s not as smooth as a leather saddle. I expect it to be more durable but won’t know about that for 4-5 years!

Paradise Found

I live right near Paradise but rarely go there. This  isn’t a philosophical metaphor, it’s a fact! Paradise is a neighborhood   just a mile or so down the road from us. It’s  a little hard to access Paradise by bike due a busy highway interchange that separates it from the rest of Catonsville. The interchange is nearing the completion of a long term construction project. Once it’s done it promises to better connect the two parts of town. It’ll  actually have bike lanes and sidewalks, or so I hear!

On Thursday I decided to find a way to visit Paradise by bike. I picked out a route that would let me dodge the under-construction interchange and check out the Short Line Rail Trail, a project of Catonsville Rails to Trails. The 8 mile round trip involved taking Edmonson to Prospect and Prospect to the trailhead.  Late afternoon traffic was moderately heavy  on Edmonson, but the road’s wide enough that wasn’t a problem. Prospect would  take you right to the trailhead as shown on Google Maps, except that once you cross Frederick, Prospect is one way. That lead to getting a bit lost some exploring of  Paradise’s charming side streets. Even though I have no sense of direction I managed to stay oriented and before long  found my way to the Short Line Trail.

The 2.2 mile trail is covered in flat loose gravel which made my bike skittish. I travelled it pretty slowly, concentrating on staying upright and appreciating the trail’s woodsy surroundings.

Short Line Trail Head at Paradise and Prospect Sts

Short Line Trail Head at Paradise and Prospect Sts

 

It passes behind the Baltimore National Cemetery, which I’ve previously only seen from Frederick Road. The trail ends shortly beyond the cemetery. This is a VA cemetery which explains why the gravestones are all exactly alike and lined up so symmetrically.

 

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From there I rode to the other end of the short trail, marked by this mural:

 

End of the Line!

End of the Line!

 

The return trip was easy, even the part where you bike past the Beltway on- and off- ramps on Edmonson. The traffic signals and maybe the design of the ramps keeps traffic slow and drivers alert. This little trip to Paradise was just the break I needed that day.