Thursday, March 18, 2010

riding on the trails again

Last weekend we saw a pretty massive rainstorm. Major areas of New Jersey are flooded and southern Connecticut (Greenwich, etc) lost power and had fallen trees. Hartford saw the rains around Sunday and Monday. Lots of it too.

We took a chance with our weekly Wednesday ride this week. Temps were in the 50s and sunny. Road or trails? We chose trails and low and behold.... They were dry! For mid-March, I am overly impressed. Especially since it looks like NJ is pretty wet as well as Mass and NC.

The crew I ride with on Wednesdays typically ride in the Meshomasic State Forest on but we figured that would be quite wet (it usually takes longer than others to dry out). This week we ventured over to Case Mountain and found nothing but relatively dry trails. Got a solid 2hr mountain bike ride in. Saw Brendan from the beat bike blog whilst out there too. Parking lots for trail heads were quite full as well.

It took me about 45minutes to get a grasp of riding offroad again; albeit very rocky offroad terrain. I haven't ridden stuff like this in a few months. It was also the third ride on my 1x9 and I was still trying to figure out this shifting thing. It wasn't that long ago that I rode a geared mountain bike (2006 and once or twice since) but since then I have completely changed how I ride a mountain bike. I found a method that allows me to ride a singlespeed just about everywhere which is a completely different method than 2006 and earlier.

I was having fun being able to shift gears and such but more often than not I was in the wrong gear. Huh? With the singlespeed I just motor through stuff and deal with it. Kind of float over everything so to speak since I have a bunch of momentum. With the 1x9 I found myself shifting to 'spin' the pedals more. This resulted in me catching a ton of rocks and slowing myself down. I think its easier to ride a singlespeed on those trails.

The 1x9 did allow me to pedal through all but one of a few areas that I can't get through my singlespeed. The one I couldn't get is a sharp 90deg turn left around a tree with a bunch of rocks the size of 5gallon buckets. That 36x30 is pretty cool. Having said that, I really only used the 20, 23, 26 and 30 on the cassette. I found myself splitting the difference between the 36x20 and 36x23. That makes sense, my singlespeed gear (34x20) is right in-between those two in terms of roll-out. I think I need to go back to a singlespeed. My new singlespeed better arrive soon otherwise I'm going to have to bring the 1FG back to a 1FG.

All in all, it was good fun and pushed me the second hardest I've gone this year. I needed that. My bike stayed pretty clean too. Most of that dirt in this picture was from a forest service road ride in early February.

Tomorrow I'll swing a leg over my Vicious 29er and ride across town to work. Saturday looks like good weather. I want to go ride some more of the Metacomet.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

commuting fail

Weather has been nice so it was incentive to kick me in the ass and get me back into riding my bike to work because I am a slacker.

I made it halfway to work this morning and next thing I know I am catching some air and landing on the pavement in the middle of the street.

What happened? I was coming down Asylum St. (heading east) making my way towards the center of Hartford and a car got a little too close to me. This is a stretch (between Flower St. and Broad St.) were Asylum opens back up from one lane to two lanes (it is two lanes from Woodland St. east to Sigourney St. and then necks down to one lane up through Flower St.). The right lane being a turning lane and the left lane being a left turn and straight lane. Seeing as downtown was straight I wanted to go straight.

I was about a foot off the white line and followed the white line (it pulls away from the curb to create the left lane) into the new left lane. I do this every time I ride to work, except today I was being extra cautious leading up to this event. What do I mean? I stopped at every red light and stopped within traffic like a car so people could see me. I did not weave in and out of traffic even if traffic was slower than I could ride.

Just prior to the 'event', we were at a red light. The light turned green and I started riding. Once I got up to a comfortable speed I pulled out of traffic and towards the white line (cars were going faster than I was). As I followed the white line into the new left lane a car got a little too close to me (no three foot law being obeyed today). My speed was probably inside of 10mph and the car's speed was inside of 20mph.

I had a passenger side mirror tangle itself with my handlebars only after it got me in the left thigh (which gave me a Charlie Horse for the better part of the morning). My balance was now off so I was kind of pushing off the car to help me keep my balance. Once I found the back of the car I had nothing to keep me upright (my balance was still off) and I fell. I landed on my back but my Bailey Works Super Pro cushioned my fall (and somehow did not destroy my eyeglasses that were in my bag). My bike flew out from me and landed on the other side of the yellow line. My left shoe (Vans slip-ons) was on me but my right Vans was stuck in my toe-clip and I was shoe-less.

Yes, I was riding my track bike. Yes, I was brakeless. Either way, a bicycle that can coast and has brakes would not have made a difference in this case.

I got up and grabbed my things and moved to the sidewalk. I felt fine and did a once-over and realized I was okay. No blood no pains anywhere. The driver of the automobile stopped. Another bicyclist going the other direction stopped. Said something along the lines of "Whoa! I saw all of that!" and when I started looking around (after I got to the sidewalk) he was no where to be found. Cars that witnessed it kept on driving. Got to love rush-hour morning traffic.

Somehow my front wheel taco'd and my tubular tire flew off. The impact of the ground also cut up the left side of my beautiful cork tape job. I was pretty upset knowing that I had the right of way and was doing just about everything correctly.

The road where the event occured. I was traveling from left to right in this picture.

You can kind of see how the road opens from one to two lanes up just past the traffic light.

In the end, I was compensated for the wheel, tire and handlebar tape without having to involve the police or the automobile driver's insurance. I was also driven home so I could clean up and drive my car to work. Got to work really late.

Tomorrow we are riding off-road after work (Finally! the trails are dry.).

Thursday I will try my luck at riding to work again, albeit a route that is slightly less traveled by automobiles and on a different bicycle. The difficult part is that there are a handful of arteries that run into Hartford from the west. Since the city is divided by the Connecticut River running north to south I have a handful of locations to cross the river. The largest, and safest, sidewalk is the Rt2 bridge (where I was going) but that is in downtown Hartford. This requires me to take one of the main arteries into the city which is also chock full of automobiles and people that have no idea how to drive when there is a bicyclist on the road or not.

Hartford, and Connecticut have to do something about bettering their infrastructure for bicyclists. Asylum St. was great for about a week or two when they took the two lanes and made them one lane with a huge shoulder. I was a great bike lane. The CT DOT quickly realized that one lane causes too much congestion so they ground up the new paint stripes and brought it back to two lanes. I've never been happy about that.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

time flies

February has come and gone so quickly. What have I done this year? Well, we know from my previous post how my January went. I also finished painting one of my bedrooms; which I started around Thanksgiving but got busy with other projects.

(I never got into that show after waiting in line for hours on end. Still upset about that)

February saw me trying to be active. I was going to the gym anywhere from one to two days a week. I borrowed a set of rollers from a friend of mine and rode them anywhere from once to two times a week. I had goals (gym twice a week and rollers three times a week for an hour or two) but kind of came up short with them.

I had to spend a very long Saturday earlier in the month working on my car. Fitting and welding a custom exhaust pipe was not easy and what I thought was a 4hr day turned into a 20hr day. The last remaining item is to finish the software and then this fine German automobile will be making out over 500hp from the 2.0L motor. Not sure when I'll get to that. I've lost motivation on this 2+ year-long project. Think its time to take a break and come back to it at a later date.

The middle of the month saw a weekend spent near Burlington, VT snowboarding at both Jay Peak and Stowe. I spent the entire day riding this one section of woods at Stowe in knee-deep powder. It was the most fun I have had on a snowboard since the heli trip at Whistler in 2007. Best part of the day was when I boardslide a fallen tree.

A week later I am on a plane to the Tetons. That plane narrowly escaped "February Fury" and was one of the only flights that was not canceled that day. It was an emotional adventure. On one hand I wish I stayed home for Vermont received over four feet of fresh snow. On the other hand I wanted to be back in the Rockies and also wanted to be riding some awesome terrain. The Teton trip was also booked and paid for so backing out would have cost me some money. Needless to say, it was very enjoyable. I'll share some more pictures soon but will leave you with this:

I am also riding for the High Gear Cyclery / Watchung Wheelmen Elite Mountain Bike team this year. A new 29er singlespeed is in the works.

Looks like my first race is the NYC Hustle and Flow as well as the SingleSpeed-a-Polooza in the end of April. I need to ride my bike more. I thought shaving my beard and leaving a mustache similar to Dicky would make me fast.

Mr. Unprofessional Cyclist himself

Some guy from Connecticut

Turns out all it did was make me look like the steward on my flight into the Tetons. Oh, and allow me to fit in with the locals while I was out there. Yeah, that didn't last long. Buh Bye James Hetfield...