Saturday, May 31, 2008

Jamaica Plain Commute

My bike commute is always a one of the best parts of each day. There are a bunch of different ways to go. My favorite may be the route through Jamaica Plain. A fews short turns gets me to this pathway through Olmsted Park.

Over the little bridge.

The bike path going up along the Jamaica Way.

Going past Jamaica Pond.

The long uphill on Pond St going towards Larz Anderson Park.

Not sitting in traffic near the school on Brookline Street. Watch out for the crazy minivans!

Cruising along Nahanton St.

In the back door.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rescued from the Heap: Princeton Tec Switchback

Gear failure is miserable. Bringing back good gear from the trash heap is bliss.

Recently, my Princeton Tec Switchback 3 stopped working. This was a huge disappointment because it was a terrific headlight. It's one on the nicest brightest bike headlights around, and it has very long battery life compared to similarly bright lights. These qualities are perfectly suited to my regular night-time commutes and plans to ride a couple of around-the-clock brevets this year. When the light went out, I was not looking forward to finding a new light or shelling out hundreds to buy one either. It felt like a hangover from a fleeting moment of gear euphoria.

After realizing the high cost of getting a comparable new light, I resolved to fix the one I had. My local EMS store helped to figure out that the headlight was still working and the battery pack was to blame. The battery pack is expensive to replace, so I emailed the manufacturer to see if the battery could be fixed. Robert at Princeton Tec was really helpful, and he understood the urgency of getting this thing running because I depend on it regularly. He asked me to mail the battery and light to him - that was a Tuesday. Two days later he called to say that a new battery would arrive in the mail in a two or three days; it came the next day. Quick fix. What was the problem that they fixed? The old version of the Switchback battery had female pin plugs for the power cord that were not durable and prone to failure. The new and improved version of the battery pack fixes this design problem with recessed pin plugs. Instead of hacking my old battery, Princeton Tec just sent me an entirely new battery. They also included some new straps and accessories for my troubles. The light is as good as new, better than new in fact.

My outlook on lighting and gear at large is optimistic now. I've got my favorite light working again and have no worries about replacing it. PrincetonTec was really helpful. It's good to know that they fixed the design issue instead of just sending another old battery with the same problem. They also did it for free. I don't really know if I'm still under warranty or not, but it's great that it didn't cost me anything. They could not have been more friendly, helpful and timely. Thank you Princeton Tec.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Red Sox

Can you see the bicycle in this shot? That's right, they don't allow bicycles in Fenway Park. David Ortiz is at bat. I took Mrs. Wheelie to see the Sox play the Brewers recently for her birthday. She took these pictures, and I wanted to share them because there are some good shots. The good guys won 11-7. It was a great game. Below is Manny Ramirez. Shadowy mystery arm holding a bag of nuts is really excited for Manny to hit one out.

I wondered for a moment, do baseball players ride bicycles? What kind of bike would a ball player ride if he did? Definitely not a super light racing bike - too fast and too delicate. Maybe a cruiser - something easy for the off-season? Perhaps a mountain! It turns out that slugger Manny Ramirez was moving out of his Ritz apartment and looking for more space in the suburbs. The photo below from the news story from 2006 shows some of his stuff that took up space. Apparently he rides a nice Specialized S-Works mountain bike. It looks pretty clean, so maybe he's not riding much. That's a good thing because he should be focused on playing baseball.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Laundry Day

Today we honor our fallen soldiers and celebrate Memorial Day, but the Biscuit knows this day as Laundry Day. It's a day to celebrate the blissful enjoyment of stale stinky clothing. Nothing compares to the sublime pleasure of laying in a pile of week-old sweaty polyester. Luckily for him, he can celebrate Laundry Day almost every week not just once a year like most holidays.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


I took this photo the other day on my ride home from work. It's a view Boston looking over the Brookline reservoir on Beacon Street out by Boston College. I'd never noticed how amazing the view was before, and I've probably been by it 1000 times. The clouds are very intense in this shot. There are a bunch more spots along my typical routes that are pretty remarkable. I'll have to snap a few more commuto-photos sometime soon.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

World's End

World's End is a place down in Hingham, MA that I've been meaning to get to for a while. Saturday was a nice enough day so I rode there. The ride was considerably longer than I had estimated, but it was definitely worth it. It's surprisingly difficult to find even though there aren't that many roads in the area. Maybe it's better that way. World's End is actually a peninsula leading to another peninsula, each section has a large hill.

The park is open to hikers, bikers and dogs, but it was pretty empty. There were plenty of dirt paths that allowed me to test out the AHH off the pavement.

The Hingham cross-country race course used to finish at the top of this hill. It was always a treat to come race here back then.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Panera Bike

I'm a self-proclaimed Panera-hater. Without fail, something really irritating happens each time I go into Panera Bread. Someone is really rude, or they screw up my order, or I try something new only to find that it is swimming in mayonnaise - there is really no end to the ways in which Panera can frustrate me. However, I always give them another chance once enough time has past since the last chapter of annoyance. The mini egg souffle is delicious, and Panera opens early enough for coffee during my walks with the dog. I'm really doing it to myself, but I still complain about it.

My office is full of pranksters. During my recent time away, they capitalized on the opportunity and gave me a dose of Panera whoknowswhattocallit. A bike I left in the office is now wrapped in Panera bags. Really pretty funny.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bikes in Washington DC

I just returned from a short trip to Washington DC. It was mostly for work, and my bicycle didn't make the trip. I did however take a brief survey of cycling in the area. Perhaps it was the neighborhood I was in (just north of the national mall area) or the wide avenues not well suited to bicycle traffic, but I didn't see a whole lot of bicycles around. Nevertheless, the few sitings were remarkable.

The requisite urban tall bike. Rather than the typical double decker frame, this one opts for a piggy-back. It still makes no sense. Maybe it's helpful for keeping an eye on traffic.

It must be nice when your beater bike is an Independent Fabrications with snazziest parts around. Love the spoke cards.

Nice vintage step-through.

Pile of abstract bicycle wheels at the Hirshhorn Museum.

Boston Brevet Series 200K

There is something very satisfying about a good tough ride. The Boston Brevet Series 200K was last Saturday (I'm a little behind in updating), and it did not disappoint.

A sizable crowd of maybe 40 showed at 7AM in Bedford under overcast skies. It was nice to see a bigger group than that of the 100K a few weeks ago. Maybe it was the nicer weather, maybe some randonneurs don't get out of bed for only 100 kilometers. The best part of milling around before the start is chatting with new people and checking out the bikes. Randonneurs rarely ride bikes that I would consider normal or commonplace. Most bikes have at least some interesting aspect that you wouldn't get off the shelf. The variety of fenders is exhausting. You could write volumes on gearing and drive-trains. Perhaps my favorite was the sun-burst finish Gunnar Crosshairs with dirt drop style handlebars - the spread on these is enormous and I bet they work nicely for long rides. I wish I had snapped a photo of that bike. Anyway, lot's of unusual bicycles, though they were all in some way perfectly suited to the day's task. I suppose I'll have something on lights in the longer brevets.

The ride started out nicely with a very large pack cruising along to the first check point. Lots of chatting with familiar riders. I now realize that the question "what have you been up too?" is silly in this context, because the answer is almost always "riding, a lot." Gradually, the crowd spread out and I took a quick break to shed some layers and get a snack. Getting back on the road, I caught up with some scattered riders. One rider Jake, explained how he had built his bicycle in a class held at Hot Tubes. Overall the craftsmanship was impressive and the neon green paint job is perfect for a bicycle. We also discussed the merits of generator vs battery lighting - neither are perfect, but both have merits. We soon arrived at the first checkpoint in New Boston, NH.

The forty miles between the first and second checkpoint was the most challenging part of the ride but also the most enjoyable. Straight out of New Boston, there is a significant amount of climbing. The ride up to Mt Vernon is long. Coming down the other side is fast and exciting, perhaps even a little scary. If one wanted to know how fast a bike can go, this is a good place to find out. Scenic vistas are frequent and provide a nice distraction from the difficulty of this section. Soon enough the hard part is over. The second checkpoint in Brookline, NH came up eventually even though I thought I was completely lost until I was right at the checkpoint.

Coming back into Bedford was pleasant enough, though I rode mostly alone. This last forty miles has relatively little climbing and I was very happy about that having 90 miles under me already. I stopped briefly to snack and take in the sun. Coming through Westford was generally pretty hilly with a downhill that leads to the crumbiest pavement in Carlyle. Though crossing into Concord, the road is smooth and easy. An older rider caught up with me and pulled me along for a bit - a demonstration that sometimes the guys who have been pedaling forever can teach you a thing or two. I was very tired and very thankful for the pull. Soon enough I was back in Bedford, finished. At this point, I had a real hankering for a chocolate shake, and I quickly took off in search of that. In all, the ride was challenging, but I enjoyed it tremendously.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Gray Rainy Day

Today was a gray rainy day, the kind that's damp, cold and dark. I'd been looking forward to a leisurely long ride this weekend, but the weather decided not to cooperate. I let the morning pass by and hoped the afternoon would look better. It didn't, but I resolved that I would head out anyway at least for a shorter ride and maybe explore a little. Riding in the rain has been surprisingly fun lately.

Well I should have stayed home because the gray rainy day got the better of me. The ride started well enough as I took a new road to the same old place I like to go - it had recently been paved. That was quite a treat. I turned a corner and then things started to just feel...blah. My energy faded even though I had plenty of food with me. I looked down and saw that my rear tire was squishy. Flats are something I'm usually able to avoid and don't mind fixing when they occur, but l've had a string of them lately. It happens on different bikes, so I suspect it's bad karma rather than a faulty wheel or tire. This was just one too many. Changing was a feast of grime and rainy road nastiness. The CO2 inflater was temperamental too - I'm switching to hand pumps from now on. I finished and debated continuing my planned ride, but the raw afternoon was starting to get to me, and the darkness was more evident by the minute. Maybe I'd cut short and head home by a good bike shop and pick up a new hand pump - perhaps that would salvage the day. The store just closed when I arrived, perfect. I rolled home and decided to tidy up the bike mess in the basement only to find that my almost new expensive wonderful bike light appeared not to be working at all. Terrific, just perfect.

Most days I think riding a bicycle is one of the most pleasurable activities that I could happily do forever, each and every day without ever getting bored. Today is a different story. After today, I could take it or leave it, and I certainly am not looking forward the next commute or ride or whatever. Some times things just get annoying, difficult and tiresome. One bad day out of many good days is a pretty good record still. The gray rainy day just got to me.