Goodbye, Diane

Our friend Diane was hit by a car in November, while riding her bike. She spent over a month in the hospital, in a coma, before her death last week. I think it was hard for everyone who’d known her to wrap our heads around the loss of such a beautiful person, in such a difficult way.

2012 12 15 Diane

I feel a little self-conscious for taking it so badly, since I hadn’t known her as well as many of our other friends had. Is it because I feel sort of responsible for bad things that happen to cyclists in LR because I was involved with trying to make things better? Is it harder for me because my granny died in such a similar way? I don’t know. When it comes right down to it, loving people means knowing we’ll hurt when we lose them. Continue reading “Goodbye, Diane”

Arkansas Footdown Championships

2012 12 14 Vinny Footdown 1

What, we’ve found yet another ridiculous bike-related thing to do? Ummm. Yep.

Avoiding ‘foot down’ is a highly valued skill in bike polo; if you can’t balance on your two wheels and your mallet, and your foot touches the pavement, you’re penalized. I suppose it’s also good to be able to balance without touching down in things like cyclocross and mountain biking, too, since putting a foot on the ground would mean a loss of forward speed and rhythm. Even road bike people like to be able to ride very slowly so that they don’t have to unclip from their pedals. And it goes without saying that people who ride tall bikes and unicycles should avoid the need to put their feet on the pavement. Learning to improve balance, in all kinds of cycling, is important. Continue reading “Arkansas Footdown Championships”

Training Rides, New Bike

Mandy and Kathy have spent the last couple of weeks getting ready for their trip to New York. Neither has been riding a lot, so now that Mandy’s back from her trip to Tulsa, they’ve been getting together nearly every day to spend some time on the bikes.

It was a good idea, except that on Thursday, on the way home from their practice ride, Kathy’s little grey Mini got rear ended on the interstate. The liftgate is crumpled, the bike rack is ruined, and – the worst news – both bikes are twisted up. Both front wheels look like flattish Pringles. Mandy’s frame is only bent a little, but because of it the bike won’t shift properly. Kathy’s carbon fiber is dinged enough that two or three bike shop people have said it would be unsafe to ride. Continue reading “Training Rides, New Bike”

A Jaunt Around England

Mandy’s bike needed an inaugural ride, so we planned a loop through from Scott to England and back to Scott (we didn’t do the spur to Toltec this time). I didn’t realize it until partway through the ride, but this almost-thirty-mile loop is by far the longest Mandy’s ever ridden on her own bike (as opposed to ‘ridden as the stoker on a tandem.’) We invited our friends Gordon and Lois to come along for what was also Lois’ longest ride up until now. Kathy decided to join us as well.

We picked up another cyclist just five miles shy of our ride’s end. She was alone and was at the side of the road working on her bike. We stopped to help, and Bryan found that she’d broken some spokes. He was able to get her wheel straight enough that she could ride back toward Scott, and she called a friend to meet her there.

Mandy has New Wheels!

Mandy’s only concern about selling the GTT was that it would leave her with no bike to ride – she’s been too big for her last pink-and-purple Schwinn for at least a year now, and still too small for anything else in the garage.

So Bryan did a little shopping online and found a good deal on a Motobecane cafe bike. It’s got thin “road” tires but flat bars. We measured for frame size and chose something almost but not quite too big. She approved the color (black and white, emphatically NOT THE PINK ONE), we placed the order, and two days later a big box was delivered.

She grew enough in those two days that the bike fits her perfectly. We put my old Terry saddle on it, which works well for her. After her first 30+ mile ride, her only request was a change in handlebar grips, so Bryan ordered some Ergons with bar ends, and she loves them. He surprised her with a bike computer, too. We added a rack and the white Ortlieb bags she picked out. Mandy’s ready to roll.

Tour de Hoot

The Tour De Hoot is an annual bike ride in McGehee, AR, offering cyclists a chance to help support the small town’s Boys’ and Girls’ club. There’s a pasta dinner and other fun activities the night before, free air conditioned indoor camping, a big breakfast on Saturday morning. We’ve had a busy week though, so we just rolled in on Saturday morning just in time for the ride.

We opted to do the metric century: 100km, which is about 62 miles. (There were other options, too. Riders could register for as little as 25 miles, or as much as 100 miles.) Rest stops along the way were sponsored by area organizations. The best stop by far was the first one, around mile 15. The Red Hat Society of Arkansas City (and the county judge) provided sliced melon, homemade cookies, dried fruit, and cold drinks.

Sag support trucks were never far away, and an ambulance made the rounds too. It was clear that if anyone had trouble, help would be nearby. Food might not be, though — some rest stops had only weak Gatorade and warm pickles by the time we arrived, and there were no convenience stores or restaurants along our route. The weather was lovely. It was about 90 degrees, but the sun stayed behind clouds almost all day. Most of our route followed flat, two-lane rural roads, and though shoulders were narrow or nonexistent, the traffic was so light it didn’t matter.

We hadn’t brought much to eat, so our energy was flagging toward the end, and Bryan’s legs hurt. My new Brooks saddle is beautiful but not yet broken in, so I wasn’t totally comfy, either. We were both glad to get back to McGehee, where a handful of people sitting outside the Boys’ and Girls’ club clapped as we pulled into the parking lot.

When Emil gets helmet hair, he REALLY gets helmet hair. We caught up with him, finally, at the end of the ride, when we shared barbecue sandwiches and chocolate milk. He’s 67 years old and still using his original legs, but he’s still faster than us.

When I say “Our friend Tom is an excellent wind-block,” I am not commenting on Tom’s width. What I mean is that Tom is an understanding sort of fellow, who can see when Bryan’s hurting, or when I’m frustrated with the wind. Tom just gets in front rides a straight line, at a perfectly even speed. You can put your front tire right on Tom’s back, and he’ll pull you in. And that, I think, is just about the best kind of friend to have.

Bike to Work Week

It’s National Bike Month! All three of us rode to work/school this month at least once.

Bryan’s been getting things together to begin commuting to work on occasion. His goal is once a week through the summer months. His first commute went well, and he even established a safe and convenient bike-parking spot. He’s looking forward to many more commutes just like this one.

 

I commuted by bike to my annual two-day workshop in Ferndale. It’s about 15 miles, much of which is very curvy and hilly, on shoulderless roads. I enjoyed it so much I’ve done some research into the possibility of riding all the way into the university area in LR to my office. It’s farther but flatter, and with better shoulders, and if I time things right I can use Little Rock’s bus system for part of the trip. Stay tuned!

 

Mandy had to take her unicycle to school this week, and decided to make it into a one-wheel commuting day. I let her out of the car in a neighborhood near the school and she rode in on the unicycle, heavy school backpack and all. She stashed her wheel in her GT teacher’s classroom. And after school, she rode to a nearby park and alternately practiced riding and relaxed until we were able to pick her up.

Ride Crowley’s Ridge: The Final Day


Once again I wasn’t able to join a group for their entire week of riding but I was able to join them (~20 people) for their last day. This group was organized by the Mississippi River Trail organization in partnership with Delta Scenic Byways, Arkansas State University and the Jonesboro Parks and Recreation Department. Their goals for the week included:

  • Scouting a possible alternative route for the Mississippi River Trail through Arkansas
  • Exposing the Crowley’s Ridge/Arkansas Delta area to local cycling groups
  • and exposing the communities on Crowley’s Ridge to the idea of promoting and accepting cycle-tourism

The group started in Cape Girardeau, MO on Monday and will finish the week 320 miles later in Helena-West Helena, AR. I was meeting them on their final day at Village Creek State Park and would wind up riding about 65 miles with them (new record for me!).

This wasn’t an ordinary van-supported tour though, these folks had appointments with mayors, county judges and chamber of commerce folks in the various towns along the route. I got the impression that there had been some education/explanation phone calls and materials made to these folks prior to the ride and meeting with them was a way to show that cyclists that want to ride in the delta DO exist.

So our day started off with people leisurely packing up camp, loading gear into the trailer and heading out at their own pace for a Waffle House breakfast in Forrest City (about 12 miles away). After a filling breakfast, we rode to the county courthouse where we waited to meet with the county judge and present him with a certificate for his support of cycle-tourism in the delta region.

As the day went by we met with the director of the Mississippi River State Park, the Mariana chamber of commerce president and several others whose names/positions I’ve forgotten.

Our group stopped at the Delta Heritage Trails State Park and met with a group of local (Helena-West Helena) cyclists and supporters. This state park is at the beginning of a future 72 mile rails-to-trails project! They currently have about 14 miles made into a nice gravel trail and in the future the trail will extend south to Arkansas City. From there it may be possible to have a gravel trail on top of the Mississippi River levee and ride all the way into Louisiana. That’ll be cool!

At the end of the ride there was a balloon arch, beer, cookies and Gatorade awaiting the participants. The mayor and county judge were also present to meet these cycling advocates and to express their support for cycle-tourism in the delta region.

Downhill speed: the LHT on River Mountain Road

So today I finally got to take the LHT out for a good first ride and we drove to Little Rock to meet up with the Arkansas Bicycle Club’s “Sunday @ 1 o’clock” ride on the River Trail.

At the end of the ride, mind you this was after 29 miles of riding and a stop at the Community Bakery, I decided to ride up River Mountain Road (see route map below, make sure to check out the elevation profile!) and see how well the Trucker climbed since it was geared about 25% lower than my previous bike.

I’m pleased to report that the LHT climbed amazingly well. I stopped once on the way up for a 60-second water, leg and lung break and then finished the climb. I don’t think I’ve ever made it up that climb (c:

On the ride down, I tucked into the drops, watched the road ahead of me and bombed down the hill. The bike tracked perfectly and wasn’t twitchy at all. Being a touring bike, I was afraid that it might be twitchy since it had no baggage today.

After arriving back at the car, I checked the “max speed” on my GPS (shown above) and was flabbergasted to see it say 42.8 mph! I wouldn’t have guessed that based on how the bike had performed and I definitely wasn’t trying to go stupid fast. Mandy and I have had the GTT up to ~42 mph before but I’ve never had a normal bike above 30-35 before.

All told, today was a nice ride though I wasn’t able to keep up with the main group since I had to stop and adjust my saddle twice. First time it was nose down which put too much weight on my wrists and the second time it was nose high which put too much weight on my parts and pieces. I think it’s about right now though.