End of Year Review – 2014

While has been a slow year for biking, biking gear, and biking adventures 2014 has been a wonderful and interesting year. Much has happened this year, Nancy and I got married, I lost a job that I had been at for 19 years, I got a new job that started a week after the wedding, and I had my first summer off since 1977. But, no bike vacations. No century rides. So with that:

  • Epic ride of the year was the Three Mountain Inn Half Century (link) – this was a 50-mile “All Roads” type ride with lots of climbing, beautiful views, dirt roads, and some lovely little towns. This has spurred us to begin thinking about bike riding that is not just paved roads but having spirited bikes that could handle less-optimum roads also. That should be a fun process into the new year!
  • Best new product – Brooks Cambium saddle (link)- Incredibly comfortable with no break-in period, great road vibration absorption, and waterproof. If any of these apply to you this could be your saddle:
    • You are a Brooks fan but like me keep losing those little rain covers for your saddle.
    • You ride the Bon Ton Roulet or other rides where it rains for days on end.

    Then this is the Brooks saddle for you. I think I like the Bethoud leather saddle a bit more. Both the Cambium and the Berthoud are excellent saddles if you like the Brooks/Bethoud experience.

  • Honorable mention – Rapha lightweight bib shorts (link)- These are the most comfortable bike shorts that I own. They are lightweight (pretty good name then eh?) with great compression. I have used them on long rides (50 + miles) with no issues. I have washed them for a summer without any wear or issues. The interwebs seem very divided on Rapha. You either love them or hate them. I fall into the first category. I have ridden centuries in the Rapha bibs and have been extremely comfortable but like saddles this is a highly personal experience. Comfort at mile 80 is almost priceless…
  • Second summer update – Garmin 810. If the price does not scare you off, this is truly an amazing GPS unit. I cannot say enough great things about it. It syncs with the iPhone easily. It syncs with the Mac desktop in a reasonably non-sucky way. Garmin Connect is very nice. Importing maps from Ride with GPS or Map My Ride is straightforward. You can have it notify you via turn-by-turn or visually with a live map. They are both pretty user friendly.
  • Whelmed mention – gloves. I bought a new pair of summer Endura Aerogel gloves (link). They are very comfortable. My biggest gripe is the front pads are covered in a goofy plastic mesh. I tend to wipe (blow whatever) my nose with the fronts of my gloves rather than the backs and uh stuff gets caught in the damn mesh. I am not sure what they were thinking with that idea. Or me for that matter since I have always used the fronts of my gloves for that…

Companies that I still love using their products:

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.

chasing mailboxes

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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Early 2014 Bike Review

Christ, it has been awhile since I have posted here. Work has been crazy and I have not bike commuted since before the Seagull Century in early October of last year. Also shockingly for me, I have not really bought much bike schwag this year. But I did buy some…

Brooks Cambium saddle

I have seen these at the Philly Bike Show. They looked interesting and they claimed waterproof. Since I live in Maryland where it has been known to rain more than say New Mexico, I was interested. I perpetually lose the damn Brooks saddle covers for the regular leather saddles like twice a year. While this is good for Velo-Orange and Rivendell, it sucks when I am awaiting my order.

So I bought a grey one this spring and put it on the Rambouillet. Comfortable, check. Attractive, check. Waterproof, check. FWIW, I got the grey one since blacks shorts apparently stain the tan ones and it does not look pretty. Nancy got the tan one so we will see…

What I Like

What I have learned is that this saddle is comfortable immediately (for me at least. your mileage may vary). I did find it a bit “grippy” when I first got it and was trying to slide back into the saddle. This faded in the first couple of rides though.

Waterproof.

Stylish though not a leather saddle.

Absorbs a lot of road vibrations.

What I did not like

Not a damn thing.

strong buy recommendation

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.

Ride Before the Storm

Winter is normally a short-term visitor to the Baltimore-DC area.  This year it settled in for a long stay. Heeding the forecast of 3″ to god-knows-how-many inches of snow coming this evening with more, apparently, over the next 3 days, we got out for a ride this afternoon. Yesterday was a lovely cycling day, sunny and in the 60’s. Today, well, it was colder. Mid-40’s with the wind chill making it feel like the mid-30’s.  Not desperately cold but a far cry from our normal March weather.

While yesterday was warm it was very windy, the kind where you have to peddle pretty hard even going downhill. Today the lighter wind made the chilly ride do-able. I shifted from spring weather bike wear to winter layers and for once got it pretty much right. Wool cap under my helmet, long sleeved wool T plus wool pullover and a light wind-resistant jacket over all that, wool capris, heavy wool socks and fingerless gloves. I worried a bit about that last part but I find full gloves too hot once I get going, unless the temperatures are in the 30’s or lower.

I was pretty comfortable in this outfit, other than my right foot getting cold toward the end of the 15 miles. Why, I have to wonder, does just one foot get too cold? It happens every time I ride in cold weather.

So far in March, I can count on one hand the number of days I’ve ridden.  Following this snowfall (dare I hope it’s the last for this season?) and a work trip next week, my plan is to get out for at least 3 one-hour rides during the week plus our longer weekend rides. Time to start racking up some miles!

Back on the Bike

How was your February, bicycling-wise? Ours, not so good! Aside from the first weekend of the month, cold, snowy weather, icy roads and protracted illness kept us off our bikes. This first weekend of March  we rode both days. Speaking for my out-of-shape self, I felt sluggish and was very slow. Saturday we both got pretty chilled in spite of our layers of wool. Sunday was warmer, but the impending winter storm started earlier than we expected. We got rained on for the second half of the ride. At least it wasn’t sleet or snow (yet). Both days I have to admit I enjoyed the end of the ride more than the ride itself! It’s like that sometimes.

Lake Champlain Inn-to-Inn trip August 2013

North Hero Island

Now that is one hell of a title. In early August Nancy and I went on the Adventure Cycling Lake Champlain trip. The trip started in Burlington, Vermont — one of my favorite towns in the country. We spent seven days on the road with one rest day circling Lake Champlain which sits between upstate New York and Vermont and Canada eh? Our route was


  • Burlington
  • North Hero Island
  • Plattsburgh
  • Westport
  • Ticonderoga
  • Middlebury (rest day)
  • Burlington



The route was just amazing. The routes were well designed and for an area of the country that has winter, the roads were in great shape. the places we stayed varied but they were all very pleasant. They ranged from the lovely North Hero Inn and the Middlebury Inn on one end and two nondescript motels whose hey days were 30 years ago. All the others were nice business hotels (Best Western and one that escapes me). All of them had nice showers, beds, etc. 

We averaged high 35–45 for mileage every day with the exception of the rest day. We carried our own gear.

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Our fearless leaders — Kevin and Happy — were both excellent and had the patience of Job. Kevin repaired a front hub that had come apart on the side of the road. Having attempted once in my life to rebuild a hub in a workshop, doing it on the side of the road was awe inspiring. Happy was the second most appropriately named person I have ever met. Lunches by bike trip standards were quite decent – cold cut sandwiches, cheese, fruit, cookies, etc. Dinners were way better than average. All the meals were good and several were exceptional. The riders like all bike rides varied but were very nice.

I would absolutely recommend this trip.

Small photo set here.