Saddles and Rain and Turtles and a PSA

A short while ago I did a ride with my friend Florencia. I had a good time. Most of her had a good time. Her bottom did not. Her saddle is pretty much shot. It offers little support and is fraying all over the place. Ow. While I was messing around in the midwest, Flor and her friend Emilia rode to Harpers Ferry and back along the bumpy C&O canal towpath. Emilia rode a hybrid with wide-ish tires and a decent saddle. She rode the 120-mile ride with a big smile on her face. (If you are reading this Emilia, you are definitely ready for your first 50-States Ride next month.)  Flor not so much. She rode her road bike with its skinny tires and the same old saddle. OW!  At one point she even wrapped her saddle in what looks like a jacket of some sort to give her some cushion. 

Flor’s misery got me to thinking about the saddle on Little Nellie. It’s a Brooks Flyer, a leatherIMG_0220[1] saddle. You’re supposed to keep the leather taut by tightening an adjusting bolt on the underside of the saddle’s nose. I didn’t do this on The Mule’s saddle and the bolt bent rendering adjustments impossible. Well, long story short, the same thing happened on Little Nellie. If you look closely you can see the bend in the bolt as it extends from the nut. Today I sent the saddle off to Aaron’s Bicycle Repair in Seattle to get the bolt replaced. They did an excellent job doing the same repair on The Mule’s saddle. 

As it turns out, I have two bikes and four Brooks saddles, three Flyers and a B67. So I put my third Flyer saddle on Little Nellie today. The ride in was pretty nice. The saddle being relatively new was firmer but I had no discomfort. I rode to work in my usual trance only to be startled by Chris M. speeding by in the opposite direction. “Rootchopper!” (I am so glad I don’t use an off color Internet name.)  I met Chris on last December’s Cider ride. After seeing Chris I climbed up to the Rosslyn Intersection of Doom. It nearly lived up to its name today. I took my usual left across the I-66 ramp. The light facing the ramp traffic was red and had been for a few seconds. The driver of the car in the right lane stopped and made no attempt to take a right turn. The drivers of two cars in the center lane however blew through the light and made right turns. They didn’t come close to hitting me only because I always assume that drivers will ignore the light. One of these days this kind of thing is going to get someone killed.

From the looks of the weather radar I thought I might get wet on the ride home. It seems the radar display is delayed a few minutes. Either that or the storm moved really fast between my last peek at the radar and my leaving the garage at work. I left the garage in a light rain which gave way heavier and heavier rain. It didn’t quite reach full on downpour status but I was soaked to the bone within a mile or so. Riding in the rain is pretty simple because once you get wet, you’re wet. Nothing to it. Cyclists and runners took cover under the 14th Street Bridge and the US1 access bridge at National Airport. Message to these cyclists: if you are wet and you stop, you will be cold and wet. If you are wet and you ride, you at least will generate some body heat. I kept riding.

The rain let up near Old Town which was a good thing since the rainwater had gotten into my eyes making them sting. I was riding blind for a while. I’ve often said that I’ve ridden the Mount Vernon Trail so often I could ride it with my eyes closed. I proved myself right tonight.

About two miles from home, the heavens opened up with roars and flashes and buckets of rain. By the time I got home, I was soaked to the gills. I normally ride across the lawn into my backyard. Because of mud and wet grass I dismounted on the front lawn. As I did, I spotted what looked like a clump of sod near where my foot was about to land. It wasn’t sod; it was a box turtle. My yard is a zoo. 

Finally, a note about last night’s commute. I was 1/3rd of a mile from home, slogging along at my usual 12 mile per hour pace when a pack of riders (probably doing the weekly Potomac Pedalers ride in my neighborhood) passed me so closely that they forced me into some damaged pavement on the edge of the road. They gave no warning. A less experienced rider could easily have crashed. To the riders in the pack I have this to say: If you want to ride like a bunch of hyperagressive douche bags, do me a favor. Ride somewhere else. I don’t need the aggravation. Better yet, why don’t you chill out, call your passes, and give other traffic a little room.

Little Nellie Turns 13

Little Nellie reached yet anothe milestone, 13,000 miles. My Bike Friday has been my main ride all summer and seems to be handling the task well. I can’t say as much for the saddle and the chain, however. The chain started to skip the other day, almost surely because it is stretched. By now, my cassette (the gears in back) is lilely ruined so I’ll keep the chain on until I replace the whole works this winter. The saddle, a Brooks Flyer, has the same problem as the Brooks Flyer on The Mule. Somehow I bend the adjustment bolt in the nose of the saddle and I can’t re-tension the leather. So I’ll send it out to Aaron’s Bike Shop in Seattle for a repair. 

In a bit of a freak coincidence my odometer turned on the same day. And today was my 99th bike commute of the year. So everybody sing:

99 bike commutes on the year, 99 bike commutes. You change your bags and clean your chain, 100 bike commutes on the year.


It’s Not Illinois but You Can’t See It from Here

The plan was to ride from North Judson IN to Kankakee IL to tour some Frank Lloyd Wright houses with the misses. She preferred visiting with her friend in Valparaiso IN. So it was off to Valpo 17th state be damned.

At least the weather cooperated. It was beyond perfect. And the terrain was a pool table. In fact I’m pretty sure the roads around here are paved with felt.

If you’ve ever ridden in northern Indiana you know that there are two constants. First you’ll be riding among soybeans and corn and little else. Soy. Corn. Soy. Corn. Tofu and popcorn. The second is the grid. Roads are numbered from the centerline of each county. W 100 is a. north/south road 1 mile to the west of the centerline. It’s easy to navigate as long as you pay a attention to county lines. When you cross the county line the numbers go a bit haywire. 1200 W is followed by 1100 E. It’s like going through a wormhole.

I pedaled along oblivious to the map that Google gave me. I even found a marked bike route which seemed silly since every road is ridable.

A wind picked up from the west but my countless was legit northerly. I hid behind the 6-foot corn and rolled effortlessly. I could ride this pool table forever.

I made it into Valpo and rolled around a traffic circle. No worries. Local drivers gave me plenty of room, probably because they’d never see a Bike Friday before.

The center if Valpo has an impressive man drag with boutiques and interesting restaurants. It seems like a city on a roll.

Speaking of rolls, mine was coming to an end. I stopped at my brother-in-law’s house. Mrs Rootchopper’s friend’s house was about a Mike away. I chatted with my sister-in-law who warned me about the hills Campbell Street. I laughed having just ridden most of it. It was barely a false flat, imperceptibly uphill.

I arrived st the destination well before my wife. She showed up and we spent a couple of hours talking to her friends from high school. All during the conversation toe dogs circled round us. By the time we left my eyes were red and sore and my sinuses were a mess.

With Little Nellie in the boot we made our way back to her parents’ place stopping at a Target to get some antihistamines. By this point my eyes were a complete mess. Fortunately they seem to be responding to the medicines we bought.

It was a fun ride. Maybe I’ll do another one someday – on my way to the coast.

The State Slacker

I’m here in Greenfield In preparing yo move my daughter back into college at Butler University. In my day (he says wagging his knarled index finger) we moved on crowded Boston streets on an oppressively hot and muggy Labor Day. The weather here couldn’t be better.

After the move is complete we’ll head to Columbus IN (or maybe Columbia, I’m new around here) to check out some eclectic architecture. Then it’s off to the middle of northern IN to check in with the in laws.

My hope is to ride Little Nellie (currently folded in the trunk of my car) to Kankakee IL to check out some Frank Lloyd Wright houses and add Illinois to my list of biked states.

Irony alert: yesterday I wore my red 50 States ride shirt. Whenever I stopped for a break during the 10 hour drive somebody approached me and asked “You rode your bike in every state!”

Truth be told I’ve only ridden in 14 states. I’m a state slacker. So I gotta up my game.

Well, the Ride in Was Fun

On the recommendation of Bob “Don’t Call Me Rachel” Cannon, I took my son’s car to Baird Automotive in Clarendon. They are a little pricey but seem to have their act together which is sadly unusual in the world of auto maintenance. 

I could have walked to Metro but then why do that when Little Nellie’s around?

Off we went through Clarendon when suddenly the smooth pavement gave way to a milled mess. The milling was deep in spots, tossing LIttle Nellie wee wheels this way and that. Please cars, don’t kill me. The good pavement returned after three or four blocks, just in time for a screaming downhill to my office in Rosslyn. Once past the Clarendon Metro station I caught every green light. I felt like I won a prize. All too soon, I arrived at work, my two mile bike commute was short but invigorating.

The ride home, not so much. Riding back to the mechanic involved grinding back up that monster hill. Fortunately, the ride back had no milled pavement to deal with. Just one long mother of a hill. I crested the hill just shy of Clarendon as rain drops started to fall. Wouldn’t it be nice if I got to the mechanic without getting soaked in a down pour. And it was. 

I always think that the people working at shops will take one look at me and my itty bitty bike and bust a gut laughing. I entered the shop and there was a nice Trek road bike on a workstand in the waiting area. Well, gaaawlee. 

I do believe I’ll come back in the future.

A Sunday Ride with The Impermanent Resident

Did you know peripatetic is a noun? If you look it up, you’ll see a picture of my friend Florencia right next to it in the dictionary. Would I lie to you? 

Flor and I have been doing rides together since we met on the 50 States ride in 2007. It doesn’t seem possible that seven years have passed since we met. We were going to do it again this year, but she has a conflict. Boo. Her friend Emilia is riding for the first time and is a little worried that she won’t be able to handle the 50 States course. So Flor thought it would be a good idea to get us together for a little shakedown ride.

Florencia at the Watergate

Florencia at the Watergate

It was a nice Sunday morning so I decided to bypass the Mount Vernon Trail and ride Fort Hunt Road to the streets of Old Town and Potomac Yards in Alexandria, Crystal City in Arlington, and (according to the sign on the side of the road) the Pentagon reservation. (Apparently the Pentagon was one of the little known tribes of the pre-colonial days.) I met up with Flor at the Jefferson Memorial. Emilia was a no show. Sad face. Flor later told me that the two of them are doing a 120-mile two-day ride in the weeks ahead. I do believe Emilia will drop me after about 10 states.

Flor and I soldiered on. We rode the Halfvasa route from DC to Potomac Village and back. We managed to survive the onslaught of tourists on bikes and idiots looking for parking spaces on K Street in Georgetown. The Capital Crescent Trail had little traffic allowing us to settle into a nice groove. At Fletcher’s Boat House we cut over to Resevoir Road managing to avoid several toddlers who seemed determined to die by under our front wheels. 

The ride up reservoir was long and slow. For me. Flor didn’t seem to be working with the same gravitational field. We rendevoused at the top and proceeded side by side out MacArthur Boulevard chatting all the way. The hill near the reservoir made us work a bit but we cruised over the top and enjoyed the breezy downhill on the back side. 

Flor Is a Way Better Photographer than I

Flor Is a Way Better Photographer than I

MacArthur has no shoulders making it hard to ride side by side so we took to the side path and chattered away. Yoga, rolfing, vegetarian food, being a proud big sister, DC condo values, riding motorbikes in Thailand, and Montessori education. She has a lot going on. She also gave me an update on our pal Richard who rode the 50 States with us in 2011. It’s good to hear that he’s still the kind of person who never has a down day.

Along the way, Flor yelled, “DEER!” There, dead ahead. was a young deer grazing in the grass next to the road. As we approached the deer bolted, thankfully away from us, and joined two others in the roadside shadows. 

We reached the dreaded hill at the end of MacArthur and slowly, ever so slowly, made our way up. The chatter stopped. The work was honest. We made respectable time. After a brief stop to discuss our route, we headed down Falls Road to Potomac Village. 

We chilled in the shade, enjoying iced drinks and continued the conversation. Once we were talked out, we headed back to DC via the Avenel neighborhood of massive houses. “They’re just boxes holding stuff. Once you get enough stuff, it owns you.” Life according to Flor.

We made our way back to MacArthur. Since Flor lives in the city uphill from the river and the memorials, I thought it would make sense to cut through Georgetown instead of heading downhill to the river. And so we did. 

Once we crossed Rock Creek Park, Flor took over navigation. She knew the best route to her place. Just before we got there she asked if I wanted to go to Meridian Hill Park and hang out. And so we did. 

We sat in the sun and talked with Jeff, a friend of Flor whom I met at a happy hour last winter. We talked and listend to the drum circle drummers until the sun wore us down. Flor and I headed to our respective homes. She got the better of the deal by about 15 miles. Or maybe not. Riding down 16th Street to the White House followed by ten miles along the Potomac River is a mighty fine way to go.

Flor and I took some pix.



Car Repair by Bike Friday

For the last three days, I’ve been dealing with car repairs. I took one car in on Monday to a body shop. I folded my Bike Friday and put it in the trunk. After dropping the car off, I rode to work. On Tuesday I rode to the body shop after work and reversed the process.DSCN3223_374

Today I drove to North Arlington with my Bike Friday in the trunk of another car. I dropped the car at a dealer for routine maintenance. Then I rode my Bike Friday the 3 1/2 miles to work. I didn’t break a sweat making me wonder why anybody who lives within four miles of work would drive a car or wait for a bus. Just ride a bike!

In the evening I reversed the process. Easy peasy.

So if you have a car and it needs some work done, get it done by bike. Works for me.