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.”





Philly Bike Expo

Today, Nancy, and our guests Sa'ad and May Ann Raouf went to the bike expo in Philadelphia. It was a quick trip mostly since I did not drive. The show was well attended but not crowded. We enjoyed the great handbuilt bikes and the cool accessories.

I bought a great hat company's socks since I already have bought like five of their caps. Walz

Nancy got me a cool performance shirt. Fairwear and a new wallet. Alchemy goods

Sa'ad got a great helmet. Bolle

Mary Ann got a great front bag Po campo

Some Instragram love.

Cambium Saddles

I have moved from some beautiful leather Berthoud saddles that were amazing comfortable but a bit fragile. Berthoud saddles are supposed to be weatherproof and they are to a degree. They are to a degree but theory and reality are not always aligned.

However, I live in the East (MD to be specific) and it rains here. A lot, in fact. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been caught out without a saddle cover and I begin the look for a shopping bag to cover my saddle so I don’t ruin it. I love the look and feel the Berthoud saddles and the Brooks leather saddles. I just had the hassle. It is like a manual transmission, the idea of it is way better at this point in my life than the reality.

Cambiums by Brooks are amazingly comfortable and they are completely waterproof. They come in now three sizes: the ‘normal’ C17 is the equivalent of the Brooks B-17, the C15 which is probably the equivalent of the Swift, and a new C19 which is even wider.

I have a C17 and a C15 and they are both amazingly comfortable. And two other people are now happy with my Berthoud saddles. If you are wondering about these saddles, they look pretty good (they are not a Swift with hand hammered copper rivets by any stretch) and they are incredibly comfortable to me. As with any saddle review, your mileage may vary.

Papa has a brand new bag

Recently, I ordered and received a new Swift Industries Hinterland Randoneur handlebar bag. I added a Nitto decaleur and viola i have a new setup on the bike to carry stuff that is convenient and lightweight. The bag comes in any color you want as long as you like black. For a handlebar bag, it is well thought out; it has elastic straps sewn into the inside of the bag so that you can strap small stuff to the edges and not have that shit roll around and piss you off (not that it would necessarily piss you off but you get what I am saying). It has a decent pocket in the front, slash pockets on the side, and two small pockets that would hold a smallish mobile phone. I have an iPhone 6+ and no way that is fitting in there. I put sun screen, lip balm, Scatch, and chamois cream in these pockets and it works fine for me. The top of the bag has a map pocket with a clear screen for a map — do people still use paper maps? — that allows you to interact with your mobile phone also. The main space — I have the small — holds my TiGr small bike lock, a flask when needed, tools, tube, second set of gloves (Spring is here…), different hat (Spring again), and could easily hold a jacket, a thermal layer, arm warmers, leg warmers, and a bottle of wine with some space to spare. It could hold most of that and a six pack of good beer. It definitely cannot carry the flask, the wine, and the beer but then you should probably just go to a bar eh?

Updates from previous handlebar bags

They redesigned the top ‘latch’ so that you don’t have to try to snake your hands to the clip between the small rear pockets. It is still there but even with my small hands, it is still completely inaccessible. Most bags ‘clip’ there and most are never clipped since no one can actually get in there.

The sewn in elastic is simple and damn brilliant.

You can interact with your phone via the map pocket. Works pretty well with an iPhone. Your experience may vary.

Damn this thing is light.

Fast shipping on ready made stuff. Honestly, they have a great process for made to order stuff also.

Stuff I don’t like

Not a damn thing and I can bitch about almost anything.

The company

I cannot say enough nice things about Swift Industries products. They are well made. They are great people to deal with. I have more of their products than I should admit to. They are made in the USA.

Ten ideas for a Commuter Bike

  1. 8-speed IGH
  2. One chainring
  3. narrow handlebars
  4. Interruptor brakes
  5. 32+ tires
  6. Fenders
  7. Rack
  8. Flat grippy pedals
  9. Cambium saddle
  10. Ortlieb Office bag (waterproof and reasonably light)
  11. rear and front light
  12. One water bottle cage
  13. Bar end shifters not a fucking grip shift
  14. Not too good so you are not distraught if it gets wrecked or stolen
  15. Probably two locks just in case
  16. Needs to go fast enough you can haul ass through crap neighborhoods
  17. Needs to be able the get through crap on road/trails
  18. Schwalbe tires to get through the crap on the road

Baltimore Bike Commuting Challenges

A colleague of mine and I commute by bike from Catonsville to Locust Point 2-3 times a week. With the state’s current level of construction surrounding Baltimore, most days the bike commute is a faster commute. It is 45 minutes in (almost all downhill), about an hour home and almost perfectly 9 miles door-to-door. But there are challenges…

There is a bike trail that covers over three miles of it but we avoid it. There was a spate of bike jackings there in June. In fact, the guy who discovered that the city of Baltimore was closing their police stations at night was bike jacked [Link].  Also during July, there was  the week the city was pumping water — in theory — into the Gywnns Falls but most of it was on the trail. The fellows doing the work seemed very unconcerned that their work was wrecking the trail.  We had been using the trail in the morning with the idea that most bike jackers would still be in bed at 7:30 am.  I have been commuting on my Atlantis Rivendell and I have no desire to lose it. So we have been riding Frederick to Wilkins to Pigtown to Federall Hill to Locust Point and the reverse.  Until last Wednesday, this has worked great. Last Wednesday, I was hit head on by a teenager in Pigtown on a BMX bike. I flatted, wrecked my Wald basket and apparently bent my front fork. Personally, I got a small amount of road rash and a minor concussion. The Uber ride home is a bit of a blur… The teen rode off without a word of concern.

I love the idea of the commute. I get energized on the way into work and unwind on the way home. But I am beginning to wonder if it is worth the hassle. The cops are not arresting murderers so the chances they care about bike safety is probably a negative number. Politically, Baltimore is probably on the way to being the murder capital of the US for 2015. Bike safety is probably lower on the mayor’s priorities than the cop’s. I get that a runaway murder rate and a currently ineffective police force should be the top priorities. I am not asking for a task force but a bike cop on the Gywnns Falls trail during morning and evening rush hour would go a long way to making Baltimore a better place.