Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Years' Eve Ride

New Year's Eve in Boston was amazingly warm for this time of year- high in the 40's,  damp and overcast.  The Scientist and I took advantage of the warmth to take out his road bike, and my Shogun and ride to the next burb out (Belmont),  an area which we haven't ever explored much, and ride around in a new to us neighborhood.

First we aired up using another one of Christmas bike presents- a Lezyne pump with a thread-on chuck.  
While I have no problem with the pumping part, I've always hated the flip levers on most pump heads- it seems like either you whack your fingers on the spokes while trying to flip the lever, or that even after the lever is flipped, you have to wrestle the head off, all the while listening to the leak of air that you just squeezed in there.   So the screw on chuck of the Lezyne is a dream come true for me- so simple!
You can unscrew the gold bit from the silver link,  and the first silver link turns freely on the second silver link.  To change from Presta to Schrader, you just unscrew the gold bit, and turn it around.   The "Classic" pump has other nice features, like a wood handle, and substantial alloy feet,  but this screw on chuck is the real selling point in my book.

wore a rain jacket, just in case
 We rode out to Fresh Pond Reservoir,  and then took the new cycletrack on Concord Ave to the Belmont line.

This turns into a bike lane at the Belmont line, and we rode around a bit in the neighborhoods off to the sides of Concord,  just to explore a bit.  We had lunch in Belmont Center, and then did some more serious hill climbing in the neighborhoods between Belmont center and Arlington.  I was glad I took the Shogun, because I would have never made it up those hills on any of my other bikes!  I think that a combination of feeling more comfortable on this bike and riding the (slightly too big for me) DL-1 for the last two months means that I'm ready to raise the saddle another inch or so, to be closer to level with the handlebars.

As it is, I think I need to adjust the rear derailleur because it keeps popping out of the lowest gear, which is annoying when climbing a hill.  It also seems to want to switch more than one gear at a go, but that might be my imperfect technique.  First of all I need to figure out how to adjust a derailleur.   I have an old "Bicycling Magazine"  guide to bicycle maintenance  that my Dad gave me years ago.  It's old enough that it probably is about the same vintage technology as the Shogun.  Time to pull it out and figure out how that works.  I have some serious work to do on Gilbert first, (which is why he hasn't been featured on the blog for while now)  which I hope to do in these next early days of the new year.

I wished I'd had a handy reference book as I tried to replace the headlight bulb on the Scientist's car once we got home.   I managed to figure it out, but it's always an adventure the first time on a new (to us) car.  I wanted to get it done before we head out to our yearly appearance at what I call the Nobel NYE party.  It's held at a Nobel Laureate's house (the Scientist's PhD advisor), and the Scientist is always asking me on the way home "how did you like talking to "XXX" - did you know he won a Nobel prize in "XXX"  And here I'd been talking to him about the sweater his wife made him.  Sometimes it's better not to know to whom I'm talking, or I'd be too tongue tied to make conversation :)

It's been an exciting year in biking for me- I've gotten a lot more involved in advocacy in a more official way through the Livable Streets Alliance,  and there are a lot of exciting and challenging projects ahead in the next year.   I'm also looking forward to doing some real touring on the Shogun in 2012.   This year, I finally completed my upgrades of  Minerva the DL-1 from a Sundays-in-the-park bike to a daily rider, capable of carrying just about anything.  As mentioned above, Gilbert is due for a couple of upgrades,  and may get a new higher tech BB and modern crankset as well- continuing in his bionic bike evolution.  So lots to look forward to in 2012!  Hope everyone has a safe New Year's Eve,  and best wishes for great biking in 2012!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Minuteman Connections

One of the real problems with the Minuteman,  either as a thru-way for travel, or a pleasant corridor for family recreation is that it cuts out at the complicated intersection at Mass Ave and Route 60.  Users who are separated from traffic along both ends of the route, are dropped into this nasty intersection without any guidance or signage- except the frequently ignored signs not to ride on the sidewalk.  Going westbound,  first you have to make an unprotected left across a 4 lane road.  And then you have no way of turning right on 60, and making a legal left onto the path, because of a high median with no turn pocket-  you HAVE to either ride or walk on the stretch of sidewalk from the intersection to the path.
The crossing is a bit better going East,  but still forces more timid riders either to mix it up with the right turning traffic and then take the lane on Mass Ave,  or walk/ ride on the sidewalk.

The town of Arlington is looking at a number of options for improving this connection for bicyclists and pedestrians,  some of which are quite progressive.   As you may have heard, there are a number of Anti-bike loudmouths in Arlington, who will almost certainly be there, and be fighting tooth and nail about possibilities that include removing the median to make space for bike lanes,  or even (gasp)  removing a couple of parking spots!!!

Information on the options can be found here,  and I strongly recommend coming out to support this potentially great project if you use the Minuteman- January 10th, 7PM at Town Hall.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A very merry Christmas

My parents came to visit for Christmas, and we had a wonderful time- makes me wish we didn't live so far apart.  Apart from a road trip to Newport to see the mansions decorated for Christmas, we hung around the house together.

We set up the tree that I carried home on Minerva- you can see how the small brown dog is assisting the Scientist and my dad as they mess with the stand.

There was a little bit of bike riding (my Dad took Minerva around the block after I came home from a massive Christmas eve grocery run).

I got an assist from my Dad (the electrical engineer) on a wiring project I'd been wanting to do since we moved in.  The problem with wiring in an old house, is that you open up the boxes and they look like this !!!!!
Cue the violins from Psycho

  We cleaned it up as best we could and ran a new wire to a new wall switch so that we can turn on the lights at the top of the stairs from the bottom of the stairs,  which is a vast improvement.

We opened presents:
is that one for me?
How about this one?
Do you need any help unwrapping that?

One of a couple of bike-related presents I received was a Yakkay helmet- something I've been wanting for some time now,  and which are now available in the US, in a US approved model, the smart 2.  I rode in it to work today,  but I think it needs some adjustment still-  the crazy winds were catching the brim and blowing it up out of position.  But overall, I'm very excited about the look of it, and it's incredibly light compared to my Bern.

It's gonna be a cold one tomorrow- the temperatures dropped dramatically this afternoon, and it was cold and very very windy on the ride home- I think we're going to get some real winter after all!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Reclaiming Cities for People

A great article here about a project in Madrid to replace a highway with a waterfront park
"All around the world, highways are being torn down and waterfronts reclaimed; decades of thinking about cars and cities reversed; new public spaces created."
Got some very exciting "bike presents"  that I'll share later in the week when things get back more to normal...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Don't look now

But the days are officially getting longer now (in this hemisphere anyway)!

It's nice to be over the hump and headed towards more and more light in the afternoon/ evening.
Even though it's a long series of gradual changes before it will really make things better, it's nice to know it's coming.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


BU Bike lanes are officially IN!

Rode the long way in along the river this morning to check them out.  Decided to ride over and come back just to check them out, and the experience is SO much better than before.   In my ride to the bridge, I had just seen a brave and very fast guy riding across the River street bridge vehicularly,  and was thinking how scary that must have been.  Fortunately on BU, now there's a better option.  (And someday there will be a better option on River too I hope).  UPDATE: lots of great photos  (including this one of me in full transpo-geek mode) on the livable streets flikr page.

 Livable Streets Alliance volunteers on the Boston side were out handing out "thank you" postcards to send to Mass DOT and breakfast.   

On the ride from there to work, I ran into Mark, a friend that I've met through the blog and got to chat and say hi, which is nice.  It's great to be able to run into friends while traveling through a big city,  and even nicer, when on a bike to be able to pull over and chat for a moment or two- hard to do that in a car.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Packing heat

In all kinds of unlikely places, (in the comments anyway) I see half facetious suggestions for cyclists to ride carrying weapons, along the theory of "an armed society is a polite society"    I can only imagine the catastrophic consequences of my trying draw and aim  a gun while riding,  or really at all,  so I'll leave that alone,  but today I was packing heat of a different sort:
Nerf gun, received in an office gag gift swap,  on its way to Toys for Tots.
The Scientist was sad that it was going away, because he thought it would be cool to play with.  But honestly he'll play with it for a half an hour and then it will just clutter the house, while some 7 year old who might not get any other presents will drive his siblings crazy with it for months :)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Why Yes, Virginia

You can carry your tree home by bike!

The guy at Home Depot was totally cool with it-  He asked me if I needed help putting it on my car, and I said, nope, but I do need help putting it on my bike.  He trussed the tree up, and then I strapped it on with a bungee brought for that purpose.

Handling was decent, though a bit wobbly at low speeds.  I rode most of the way home on the bike path along the Charles,  where fortunately I didn't meet many pedestrians, since I was taking up the whole path width.

Hope everyone is having a good lead up to the holidays!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Some good news

At the street talk I went to on Tuesday,  it was announced that the striping on the BU bridge was "imminent".  While striping is highly weather dependent there is a good chance that the new bike lanes will go in next week.   I rode across the bridge on Monday night, and it was wonderful not to have that "shooting the rapids" feeling of taking the lane and pedaling like mad up between the jersey barriers and over the bridge while the car behind you follows with a varying degree of patience.
Having the striping down will be a nice closure on the battle to accommodate bikes on this bridge, which started many years ago, and has really reshaped the way that people think about the bridges and what kind of facilities should be expected on them.  The battle isn't over as we wait for the reconstruction of Longfellow, River, Western and Larz Anderson,  but this is the place it all started, and it's nice to think it's finally coming to fruition.

If the weather holds warm, and dry we'll get the markings before the new year, and Livable Streets is going to celebrate with goodie giveaways on the approaches to the bridge, as well as postcards to thank the head of DOT for this safer new crossing.

In other good news, I hear from the project manager of the Longfellow bridge work that the jersey barriers on the Cambridge side of the Longfellow will be gone, and the bike lane re-opened in a couple of weeks as well.   I don't ride the BU very often,  but the Longfellow is my daily route, and I will be very very relieved not to have to negotiate this closure in the dark any more:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Street Talk Tonight

If you're not totally overwhelmed with holiday obligations,  there's a talk tonight with an interesting concept.  Livable Streets Alliance holds a monthly "Street Talk"  and this month they put out a call for short talks by members of the community on various transportation related issues. There will be 10 seven minute talks, with a break in the middle.  6pm to 9PM at the Livable Streets Alliance offices on Sidney Street.
More info here

Friday, December 9, 2011


Ok, so I should probably wait to post on this until I actually get it and make something of it, but I was so excited about the rain skirt, that I just couldn't help myself, especially when I found a pattern with bikes subtly embedded in it.

Can you see the little skeleton on a bike at the bottom?  
I actually ordered it in yellow, but shots of that colorway didn't show the bike

I also ordered some more straight ahead lace pattern if this ends up being too much.
I can always make panniers of the leftovers, right?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rainy inspiration

I rode home in a bit of rain  a couple of nights ago,  and I'm happy to say that Minerva's hub brake passed with flying colors!  Even the Koolstops on the back weren't doing much of anything, but the hub brake worked flawlessly, even in a pretty consistent drizzle., and then rode in in a bit more rain than I would have liked to ride in.  I wore my butter yellow trenchcoat, and was perfectly dry.

 I don't love riding in the dark AND the rain,  and so I turned on every light at my disposal:  Superflash on my helmet,  steady generator taillight, backup blinkie on seat post,  "to see" light (IQ Cyo)  and christmas lights on my bike wreath.  Literally lit up like a Christmas tree.

I can't wrap my head around why anyone would ride without lights, and I saw a couple of them .  I wanted to ask them, in a sincere, non snarky way, why?  Did they forget them, or forget to turn them on?  Have them stolen and haven't replaced them yet?  Feel that they're too expensive?  Do they think they're not effective, or not necessary?
It feels like cyclists tend to divide into three camps.  Arms racers, (who tend towards the stereotype of the "bike commuter" in neon gortex)  who have the latest 1400 lumen Magic Shine, often in seizure inducing flash mode)  Ninjas,  who have nothing,  and the middle ground of citizen cyclists, who have a cheap set of blinkies,  probably don't identify as "cyclists"  and who are just getting from A to B on their bike.

I'm much less likely to ride TO work in the rain, because, as happened yesterday, I have to sit in my clothes if I get wet.  In my defense, it wasn't really raining (just spitting a bit) when I left the house, and I was running late, so I didn't have time to take the T.  I just threw on a shell and hopped on my bike, and got damper as I went along. My wool tights and leather boots are fine, but my cotton skirt got soaked below the hem of my jacket.  Should have pulled the trench coat off the rack instead.

I did however have what I think might be a very useful idea.   I've been flirting with raincapes, including the possibility of making my own out of waxed canvas.   However, they have a sail like tendency,  and I just don't ride in the rain enough to make them useful.  Rain pants seem like too much work, and too hot, and I have to change my clothes to wear them  but what if I made a rain skirt?  Something just below the knee,  full cut to slip over whatever skirt I was wearing,  and with a simple elastic waist to hold it in place. It would self-ventilate like a cape would (to some extent).  I'm really excited about the possibilities of this as something that wouldn't require as much pattern making as a cape, but which would protect me better if I do choose to ride in the rain.

Against my better judgement I'm going to post photos on the internet of the prototype- a drawstring garbage bag, from which I removed the end,  using the drawstring as a waistband.

the small brown dog looks on with curiousity
Works pretty well, but doesn't win any style points.  Stay tuned for further, and hopefully more fashionable developments.
And on a final note,  I stopped at the store tonight for this:
Yes, as a matter of fact that IS 7 pounds of butter.
Let the holiday baking begin!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Brief commercial interruption

I'm not a sponsored blog, but I'm a big believer in dynamo lighting, and the reason that most people don't use it the cost/ hassle of finding a pre-built wheel or having a custom wheel built up.

I just saw that Clever Cycles is offering an amazing deal on dynamo wheels- $99 for either 26" or 700c.  (unfortunately it doesn't look like it's the 26" that fits old Raleigh bikes- stupid tire conventions)

Pair that with a $60 Lyt and you'll never need batteries again.  IIRC my generator hub alone was more that $99, several years ago.  While this one is probably not the same line, it's a nice deal, and I thought it was worth passing along.

We now return to our regularly scheduled riding!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Day on a bike

This morning we raked the year's leaves, which even with out tiny backyard ends up filling 15 or so paper leaf bags.  We have a LOT of deciduous trees back there.   We ran out leaf bags mid-rake, so I ran to the hardware store for more, and also got an extra rake- we had one leaf rake and one fixed tine "rake"  which is more for breaking up clods of dirt than raking leaves,  so I thought things would go faster if we had two proper leaf rakes.

Raking complete, I puttered around the house cleaning a bit, and then made a Home Depot run to get a new snowshovel, some red loctite, and a square bit screwdriver for adjusting our french door, which is rubbing on the jamb.  I also just couldn't resist a giant poinsettia.  

After this photo was taken, I went to Target across the street, and got two grocery bags worth of toiletries, cleaning supplies and and general stuff,  including some solar powered LED Christmas lights for our front yard which has no outlets.

After unloading at home I turned right around and went out to the grocery store- where I got a lot of "stock up" items like flour, canned goods, etc etc.   40lbs of etc- I was a geek enough to weigh it.  Reverse weight weenie I guess.  Velouria posted recently about just how little you need to go on a ride.  My problem isn't what I take with me, as what I bring back!

 I've been using these Dutch "Fast Rider" panniers,  of the saddle-bag style a lot lately.  I bought them from Somervillain, some time ago, and didn't use them much because they're too big to sit comfortably on Gilbert's rack, and I wasn't using Minerva much for transport.  Now that I've got her brakes working so well,  I've been riding Minerva a lot, so I dug them out and have been using them when I need XXL carrying capacity.  Somevillain had a system rigged up to semi-permanently attach them to the bike using P-clips, with the idea of leaving them on all the time, as the Dutch do.  But I find that I like to take them off more frequently,  either to move stuff in them inside, or to strip down the bike a bit.  So for now, I've been attaching them with a little strap to the rack.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Scattered thoughts

Cambridge recently repaved and re-striped Mass Ave through Central square which is a huge improvement!   Interestingly along much of the distance they striped three lines-  the parking lane, a 18" or so buffer, and what looks like a 5' bike lane.   Where they found the space, I can't say, because the lanes were already pretty narrow.   The idea is to encourage bikers to stay further away from the doors (although if you rode the right of the lane, you'd still be well within the door zone).  Unfortunately this buffer disappears at the cab stand, where it might be most useful and is almost  completely absent on the eastbound side.  I think it's a useful improvement,  I just wish that they could find some way to extend the bike lanes all the way to Trowbridge/ Putnam.  I'm afraid the only way to get real lanes in would be to remove parking though,  which is an issue that Cambridge hasn't really attacked yet.

I was riding the Shogun on the Minuteman, and noticed a runner doing a head check before he passed someone who was in front of both of us.  When in turn, I passed him, I slowed and asked him if he ran competitively.  He said "Yes,  why?"  When you run in a dense pack, you learn pretty quickly to do a quick check before you pass someone, to avoid collision with someone coming behind you.
If you just jogged on the MUP by yourself, you might never develop that habit, so he had to have experience running in a pack.  I've also seen a lot more runners with head and/ or tail lights,  which is fantastic when they're using a MUP- makes them much easier to see and makes everyone safer.

Dec 6th is the last day to write a letter in support of the Casey overpass,  send it to   and he'll get it where it needs to go.  They're going to make a decision on it by Dec 15 I think,  which is amazing turnaround!

Transportation Alternatives in NYC is leading a new initiative to investigate traffic enforcement and accident investigation by the NYPD.  I think that this is very important work, and as I keep repeating here, liability, and holding drivers accountable for negligence is as important, or possibly even more important than infrastructure in creating safer cycling for everyone.

I see this biking family pretty regularly on my route- they look like they're on their way to school in a mini- bike train.
Bike lanes on Atlantic Ave/ The greenway!!!

They've been going in in stages over the last couple of weeks, looks like they've gotten as far as my office. will have to ride them soon to see how they work.  Now that Hubway is gone for the season, I don't ride that corridor as much,  but will make a special trip to investigate further

Finally I liked the effect of the wreath I carried home the other day so much that when I saw a mini- wreath for $5, I had to get Minerva her own seasonal decoration.  Held in place with zipties, which sneak between the rod brake rods and the handlebars
While I was taking these photos outside my office, a construction worker came up to ask if it was a new bike (perhaps thinking that's why I was taking pictures of it :)  ) and he said "I hear those old style bikes are coming back"   You heard right!   I told him that Minerva is actually a lady of a certain age,  but we agreed for a couple of minutes about how great the old heavy duty bikes are-  I said that she's like a Cadillac - she needs a V8 (patting my thigh) to get going, but once she's moving, nothing stops her, and the ride is fabulous.