Monday, April 14, 2014

The Carlisle Circle

We had a beautiful weather this weekend so I decided to explore Carlisle a little more by bike. I left my house on Sunday morning, very shortly after sunrise and took Minuteman Bikeway towards Bedford. At this time of the day this usually busy path was completely empty and dead silent. No cyclists, no joggers, no dog walkers and no cars on intersecting streets. I quickly reached Bedford and entered the Narrow Gauge Trail north.
It was still quite chilly and the early morning sun was still too shy to peek between the clouds. But I was moving forward rapidly and I quickly reached Concord River.
I crossed it and found Moran Rd to eventually reach North Rd and enter Carlisle. North Rd is a fun place to ride a bike. This winding, hilly road runs through the forest and sees little traffic. There are several places along the road worth checking and stopping for a moment such as bogs, ...
lakes, ...
hiking trails, ...
and the Great Brook Dairy Farm (They sell home made ice cream in the summer).
Once I reached Lowell St I decided to continue on its other side and take Curve St towards Cranberry Bog. The huge field of cranberries was glowing brownish-red even though we would have to wait until October to see fresh cranberries on it.
I continued on Curve St to Cross St, then South St and eventually I reached Concord center and I ended on the Battle Road Trail. I was back home 58km (36mi) later at exactly 9:00 am - right for breakfast and at a perfect time as it was just starting to rain.
It was a good ride, especially that I had a chance to try something new. I started running my Clement X'Plor USH tires with less air in them and I really like it! About 30psi in the front and 35psi in the rear tire seems perfect. The USHs are still fast rolling at this pressure and definitely don't feel sluggish on pavement. At the same time they become very cushy and swallow all small bumps of the road much, much better. The only real drawback is a significant deflection of the front tire when riding out of saddle but that's minor compared to all the benefits mentioned above. For my 84kg (185lbs) this pressure seems optimal but I wouldn't try anything lower than 30psi as this would mean asking for pinch flats to happen. USH tire continues to please me and seems to be a perfect road tire for off-road use.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Charles River Ride

Spring starts somehow slowly this season. Snow is gone, it's getting warmer, but I still can't spot a single new green leaf or flower on trees. Despite cold nights and mornings, weather this last weekend has been very cooperative so yesterday I decided to drag my sleeping body out of the cozy bed at 6 a.m. and go for a bike ride.
 
Instead of exploring the usual rural suburbs of the city, I rode straight south to Waltham and then picked up the greenway along Charles River.
 Prospect St Bridge in Waltham

It was pretty chilly at this time of the day (about 27F or -3C) but fortunately the air was still with not much wind. I quickly reached Watertown.
 A rare unpaved section of the Charles River Greenway

This is where Charles River gets a bit wider and where I joined the bike path along Soldiers Field Rd. Next, I passed Harvard and got to the BU Bridge. I was moving pretty quickly forward even though the bike path along Storrow Dr is very narrow in places.

 BU Bridge - one of those rare places where 4 means of transportation could (theoretically) meet in one place at the same time: a plane, a train, a car and a boat

The sun was up higher in the sky and heating me nicely, which was very welcomed as I finally reached North End and I could feel the cold wind coming from the ocean. I didn't spend much time there and crossed Washington St bridge to get to Charlestown.
 USS Constitution in Charlestown Navy Yard - in active service since 1797
 USS Cassin Young, across from the "Old Ironsides"

I circled around Charlestown visiting "Old Ironsides", the Navy Yard, Bunker Hill Monument and finally moved towards Museum of Science.
 Tobin Bridge
 Riding downhill from the Bunker Hill in Charlestown

From there, it was just a simple ride back home along Memorial Drive in Cambridge. The views of Boston are obviously great but the bike path itself is not so much fun to ride as you can easily encounter here swarms of joggers and very bumpy surfaces.
Zakim Bridge and I-93

I was back home after 60km (37mi) at 10 a.m. - right on time for a late Sunday breakfast.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Thursday of things

First of all, it seems that spring has finally arrived. Well, almost. I still can't find a single flower or a single new leaf on a tree.
Nope, not yet.
But anyway, it feels like spring, it smells like spring and it looks like spring so it must be spring. Finally.
All this means that I started using Minuteman Bikeway more often again, especially that my company moved to a new location just 2 weeks ago. This also means that my commute is 10mi (or 16km) long one way, so it takes me more time than ever to get to work. And the best way of getting there is to take MB all the way to Bedford. Quite a ride on a slow bike like my Schwinn, but at least I stay away from the car traffic.
Speaking of car traffic, it may be a royal pain in the rear end sometimes, especially  when some (mostly truck) drivers think that they own the road. Bikeyface shows us what would happen if this "ownership" has changed:
"If I owned the road" by Bikeyface.
In my new workplace I had to ask the question of where to park my bike because this brand new building obviously has no bicycle racks of any kind at all. The answer was encouraging: "Just leave it in the hallway". Great! I can park my bike inside. We'll see for how long.
The weekend is supposed to be nice and sunny. I am looking forward for another bike ride.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The (Wet) Lincoln Loop

I think I really have enough of this crappy weather and the main reason for this is that I just want to ride my Poprad a lot more. Traversing snow, ice, mud and wetlands is just not what brings smile to my face.

Nevertheless, despite the rain on Friday afternoon, roads on Saturday morning didn't look bad at all so I decided to go for a bike ride. The day was supposed to be really warm, which means air temperature of only 10C (or 50F) - that felt almost like a heat wave compared to the earlier days of this crappy month. I started rolling along the Minuteman Bikeway and as I expected, it was actually pretty dry so I was moving forward quickly. Next, I reached the Battle Road Trial in Lexington and unfortunately here is where the fun ended. The trail was just very muddy and had huge patches of ice all over the place making it impossible to ride without studded tires.
The Battle Road Trail in Lexington in this so-called Spring.

I gave up on the trail and took North Great Rd instead, then connected to Sandy Pond Rd. From there I was planning on taking the trails crossing Pine Hill and merge with Concord Rd but again - despite being nearly April this winter is just not gone yet. The trails across Pine Hill had a lot of frozen snow and ice and I ended up carefully walking my bike there.

I finally reached Concord Rd and I promised myself not to take any forest trails until the end of this ride. This means I had to stay on the pavement so I followed Concord Rd all the way to Weston center, crossing the Weston-Wayland Rail Trail.
Tracks along the Weston-Wayland Rail Trail.

From there, I moved towards Waltham and using greenways along the Charles River, I reached Watertown. I got back home on time for a late breakfast after just 50km (31mi), wishing that all this bloody snow melted very soon.
Historic trestle over Charles River in Watertown.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

NAHBS and after - 2014+ wish list

This year's NAHBS is long over and while I didn't attend the show, it made me think about a few innovations we have seen during the recent years and share some thoughts on the direction the bicycle industry should, in my opinion, follow in the nearest future:
 
1) We desperately need a new road groupset(s) from the Big Three (Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo) designed for "normal" road bicycles, that is, those used by "normal" people - not racers. It should offer a 44/28T or 46/30T crankset with a 12-30T or 11-32T, 10-speed cassettes and be paired with standard 2x10 speed integrated shifters. These combinations make just much more sense for everyday use than those 50/34T cranksets and 11-28T cassettes found on today's road bikes.
 
2) I would also like to see a SRAM XX1 drivetrain designed for a road bike. The XX1 is a unique, fully integrated drivetrain that uses a single 28T or 38T chainring and a very wide range, 11-speed cassette: 10-42T (!). It is designed for mountain bikes only, but a simpler and cheaper version with a 10 or 11-speed cassette could be introduced to road bikes as well. A single 37T chainring paired with a 10-36T cassette offers a very useful range of 100-28 gear inches of development (with 700c wheels) and this would work very well for most "normal" road cyclists. The drivetrain is simplified and lighter - no need for a second shifter, chainring and a front derailleur.

3) But since this is supposed to be a wish list, let's take SRAM's idea a bit further. For decades, bicycles have had 2 derailleurs and SRAM wants us to give up on the front one. But I would really like to see a complete solution where all gearing is placed right where it is supposed to be - in the crankset (or the bottom bracket - the be precise). Picture a bicycle that has a single cog on the rear hub and a single chainring in the crankset and all gears are internal, hidden inside the bottom bracket. Something like a 11-speed Alfine or 14-speed Rohloff hub but moved away from the rear wheel. Sure, this would require a special frame and a crankset and it's not a solution for everyone. But theoretically, we could benefit from a better weight distribution, a stronger, symmetrically-dished rear wheel, a stronger, wider chain or belt and a nearly maintenance-free gearbox.

4) City bicycles (and others too) with fully integrated electric assist motors. I touched this subject here, already.

5) Wide 700c forks. I know this makes you think "huh?" but let me explain. A few things happened in the cycling world during the last few years and two of them were: gravel bikes (1), whatever they really are, and 27.5" or 650B tires (2). The gravel bikes are supposed to be pretty much cyclocross bicycles but perhaps with a little less sporty geometry, disc brakes and even wider, than cyclocross, tires. We routinely see 40mm tires on "dedicated" gravel rigs. What I would like to see is a gravel bicycle that features a frame with enough tire clearance to fit either a 40-45mm 700c tire or a 2.0" one on 27.5" wheel. This can be done even using narrower, 68mm bottom brackets. In worst case the frame would need sliding rear dropouts to increase tire clearance when 27.5" wheels are used. But there is still the unresolved problem with forks. There are virtually no forks designed for cyclocross or gravel bikes with 700c wheels that would clear a wider 2.0" tire on a smaller wheel. Currently the only solution to this problem is to use a rigid 29er as a gravel bike. However, that's more like a mountain bike, not a "road" bicycle. I think it would be nice to have more options.

6) The handlebar of the future -  the crowbar!
Just kidding...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Taken for a ride - part two

As a follow up to my post about the demise of public transportation in United States, here is an article about the history of our cities - how we lost the streets for cars and how crossing freely anywhere we wished became illegal jaywalking. Worth reading and worth remembering how
"At some point, we decided that somebody on a bike or on foot is not traffic, but an obstruction to traffic." 
Sixth Ave in 1903, New York City. People ruled the streets and public transport was a dominant way of travel. (Source: CollectorsWeekly.com)

Most countries followed U.S. example and opened their cities for cars, pushing people off the way, onto sidewalks. Few tried to fix the problem. Obviously the best example of one of those few is Holland, where some time in the 70's the Dutch realized that the best way to avoid having their cities plugged permanently with a slow moving car traffic is to take the streets away from the drivers and give them back to pedestrians and cyclists. It worked! Dutch cities are often quoted as the most walkable in the world.

Meanwhile in the U.S. traffic congestion is growing three times as fast as U.S. economy but we are still too afraid to make driving unappealing and stimulate drivers to to switch their cars for other means of transportations. On the other hand, we demolished our streetcar lines back in the 40's so there are few alternatives left. Are we just destined to be car-dependant forever?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Spring time?

Looks like the warmer weather has finally arrived. At least for a short while (We had another snowfall today). Snow is melting and somehow more cyclists start to show up on the streets. Many of which will quickly realize that "fender season" is now in full swing.
I generally avoid Minuteman Trail and other bike paths in winter since they are at the opposite end of I-95 when it comes to snow plowing priority. But as Tuesday's weather was just so warm and inviting, I decided to take a longer route back home and try to ride on the bike path instead. Unfortunately, while Minuteman Bikeway looked mostly clear and free of snow, you couldn't tell the same about the Lower Vine Brook Trail:
And this means that I was a bit too quick. Yes, spring is slowly coming but it's not here yet. I will have to wait longer and until the snow is gone for good. For now, I stay on the road, with cars.