To Market

Saturday in Burlington – a ride to the Farmer’s Market followed by lunch at Flatbread with family and friends. Goodness all around. (I love the new Ergo carrier for the little one… its well crafted and comfortable – more comfortable than the Bjorn, and I can put the little one on my hip or my back – and a bit more functional than my minimalist Karma sling, which I absolutely love for when I don’t need to be working with 2 hands.)


In August the family will be traveling to Cleveland, Ohio for a family reunion / party / bonfire of sorts. I’ve been scheming to get a long, self supported brevet under my belt this year. To break up the trip from Burlington we plan to stop at my in-laws in Utica, NY. The distance is about 193 miles – perfect for a 300k. The plan is for me to ride the distance, with Jen leaving Burlington later in the afternoon and meeting me mid route. If all goes well I’ll arrive in Utica for a late late dinner, and the following day we’ll car top the bike and head off to Cleveland.

View Larger Map

The route follows the shore of Lake Champlain (along much of the bikeway route) and then heads into the heart of the Adirondack Park in New York, traveling through the mountains and following Route 8 most of the way to the Utica suburbs. The terrain will be a challenge – the route gets progressively more difficult as the ride goes on – there is a fair bit of climbing as I leave the ‘flatlands’ of the Champlain Valley and climb into the mountains. The tentative plan is that Jen will meet me somewhere near Speculator, NY for lunch and re-supply. This will also give me the option to sag the balance of the trip if I have mechanical, weather, or bodily reasons to abandon.

Most of the route finding is complete, as we’ve driven a similar route many many times. I’m planning to take a day connecting some quieter country roads around Utica when we are in town to run the Boilermaker (eek! just 15 days away!) – and I have a few roads to scout in NY after I cross Lake Champlain. There are few options for the majority of the miles in the Adirondacks – Route 8 seems the safest and most scenic option. This ride will start early on a weekday morning – so I shouldn’t have to worry about tourist traffic in the mountains.

While this will not be an official brevet or permanent, I plan on riding it as such and researching and coordinating the route for a future registration. Seeing as we make the trip to Utica several times a year, and to Cleveland at least once a year – this would be a great way to combine training and work towards and R-12 award. Now to get my 200k and 300k local permanents registered so I have options that start and end out my door!

June Century – Lake Champlain

I rode my first century in quite a long while this past weekend. The Sunday morning crew was down to 2 – so Patrick and I took off north to the Champlain Islands. We stopped for breakfast on North Hero and made our way to Rouses Point, NY through Plattsburgh and to the Port Kent ferry back to Burlington. We kept our average speed fairly high (for our social sunday long rides) – and coming out of Plattsburgh tried to race to make a ferry. Wind, a bit of terrain (the route to this point was fairly flat) and more wind (we dodged thunderstorms all day) took its toll. When it looked like we would miss our boat we eased up and settled into a steady ‘finish the ride’ pace.

This was a shakedown ride for me – so I carried everything that I’m planning to take on the ‘OneWay300k’ that I have planned for August. The 300k will take me to Utica, NY from Burlington, VT by way of the Adirondacks. Rain cape, extra layers, food, maps, tool kit, mini first aid kit, extra shorts, digicam, etc… I brought along everything except my dyno lights which I need to re-wire and remount to my newly replaced Schmidt hub. Patrick was riding the Kogswell, fixed. I’ve debated building an ENO hubbed wheel for the IF – I’m going to try a long fixed ride on the Surly this coming weekend before I change anything. To be honest, even when I was beat at the end of the ride I tended to hang out in 3-4 cogs while in my large ring.

My experiment of riding a century in ‘street’ shorts almost worked – I tried wearing some touring style shorts and some breathable boxer briefs – I hit my limit at about 75 miles when the seams started to fight it out with my saddle. I’m not sure if it was the combination of the fabric and the wet wet morning – but part of the problem with street clothes is the shape of the Selle An-Atomica at the nose. The leather flares a bit and does not drop vertically like on the most Brooks’ I’ve ridden. As weight is applied to the saddle the flare increases – driving the edge of the leather into the inner part of my thighs. This happens with cycling shorts and street clothes. I love the saddle for the comfort on my rear end – but the front end is much more sensitive! Upon return I pulled the Selle An-Atomica off the bike again. I’ve remounted my well worn Brooks Swallow and I’ll try the experiment yet again with a slightly different wardrobe and see how it works out. The Brooks is a great long distance saddle – but I tend to bruise on my sit bones – something that has not happened with the leather ‘suspension’ An-Atomica – but I’ll take sit bone bruises at distances over 100 miles to raw rubbed thighs.

Nader Lives!

I see this fellow all over town. Lately he has been in full regalia – wig, banners, etc. I’m curious if he is paid staff for the Nader campaign – he’s everywhere – and always out. His latest banner when tabling on Church Street (without the wig and the bike) read “A vote for Obama is a vote for McCain”. I saw a small crowd around him debating and arguing. Is he in it for change? or to be the center of attention? Does Ralph know that this gent appears unsafe at any speed?

127 / North Ave. Intersection Public Meeting

The Burligton Department of Public Works has scheduled a meeting at the North Ave. Alliance Church at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, June 24 regarding the 127 / North Ave. Slip Ramp closure. It is vital to our neighborhood that the slip ramp be closed and the intersection with North Ave. be redesigned.

The current study configuration is far from perfect – but it is a huge improvement from the original. The original interstate style configuration had traffic merging from a 50 mph road onto a busy commercial and residential street. Repeated attempts to calm traffic with an ever lowering speed limit have not helped – as peds had to cross an essentially blind ramp with no way to stop traffic. Bikes heading north had to cross this merging traffic to get to the right side of the road. This was while watching oncoming left turning traffic and looking over your shoulder to watch for traffic hitting the street at 40-45 mph (on a slow day).

With a new configuration bikes heading north (a popular commuting route) will have a real chance of getting through the intersection as traffic now must make a 90 degree turn (this significantly slows the speed of exiting cars) and forces drivers to look at the road as they turn. Peds now have a control button to stop all traffic to allow them to cross. The Ward 4/7 NPA, Local Motion, the Burlington Bike Council, and the local AARP all support closing the slip ramp and working to make this intersection safer for cyclists and pedestrians – as well as traffic that is flowing at the posted speed of the street.

GoogleMap of the intersection (this is the original configuration, prior to the DPW scoping study closure):

View Larger Map

Come out and support the closing of the slip ramp!

In other news – we have a stretch of new pavement on North Ave. Smoooooth. Lane paint went in this week.


Just lovely. Thanks Comcast! Hook me up so I can sit on my bum all day and I wouldn’t care about where you parked your trucks!

This is on a seldom used bike path in a neighborhood we use as a cut through (cars can’t make the connection – but bikes / peds can). As far as I know this is the home of the Comcast installer – as I’ve seen the truck parked in the drive, on the street, and several times before in the bike lane. We went by again last week and have not seen the truck out – I think the moving van we saw here bodes well for cyclists in the neighborhood – and it looks like the house is empty.

Slow(ness) / Deceleration

Adjusting to my new role as primary care provider for our little one has been an emotional adventure. When we first hatched the plan for me to cut back my hours so I could take on care I thought about all the wonderful things I could share with our daughter – and I glossed over any issues I thought I might have about work, my value to the household, and my ‘career’ (if you could call the path I’m on a ‘career’).

Adjusting away from work has been the biggest challenge. In order to juggle the bills I still need to bring in a bit of cash each month – this means design consulting for a few clients doing anywhere from 10-20 hours of work a week, depending on who’s paying and what I’m doing. Squeaking out those 10-20 hours has been challenging – and its been hard not to say ‘NO!’ when I see the work piling up and I have ready clients willing to pay for it to get done. Occasionally I’ll cram in a busy busy week – but the price is little time for solo rides and runs – and more time in front of the computer feeling guilty that I’m neglecting our little one as she plays in the office (we’ve wondered if baby gear can be an itemized business expense?).

It has taken a good few months – but I’m finally finding ways to let go of the go-go world I used to live in. Homes are still being built, good people are doing good design, and the world goes on – without me. I’ve jumped from the plane/train/car riding laptop toting cellphone ringing design/sales consultant to a much different world – and the deceleration has caused me some whiplash.

Letting go of the $$ was the first challenge. Realizing how much child care is worth (through interviewing nanny agencies and shopping for day care) put me a bit more at ease not being an ‘equal’ financial partner in our household. The math works out that even if I was bringing in my old salary – I’d be giving most of it up just for someone to care for our little one. Investing time, not cash, is what I’ve come to love about being a new parent. Little ones require such simple things – but the things that we bring to our little one’s lives mirror our values. Giving up on ‘making a living’ to taking care of a living has been a shift. Value is relative.

Letting go of working with and designing / solving problems for people is something I have had the hardest time working through. The connections to good people doing good work is what drove most of my projects – and without that creative outlet there are days that I feel a bit empty. I’ve been working through this by applying my energies to projects around the house or on acquiring skills so I can produce bike related gear – all the while including our little one as much as possible in my everyday world. Dishes, cooking, bike repair, laundry, errands – the everyday. Transitioning from a lead designer and team player on complex projects to ‘daddy day care’ is a work in progress. Most days are wonderful – but there are days, especially just prior to sending off a batch of work, that are mental challenges.

To help reorient my compass and ease my deceleration I’ve tried to embrace the slow, the everyday, the wonder of the moment. It seems I was much better at this when it was an option for me – as a short lived student of Zen I found delight in trying to blend the everyday into my hectic life. Now that I have the time to embrace ‘now’ – I have found it can be stifling and hard to wrap one’s head around.

This week has been different. It seems that the parachute may have finally opened and my body recovering from the sudden deceleration before touching ground. While drifting a bit in the wind I’m eager to get my feet on the ground and explore. Pacing myself to the rhythm of our little one has opened a new perspective on the world.

Beach sand never felt, nor looked so interesting. Grass – its texture on the skin is a joy under the blue blue sky and early summer sun. Loons can swim under water a surprising length of time. Cottonwood blossoms make it snow in June. Park swings are relaxing and exhilarating. Tree houses still inspire this boy’s sense of adventure.

Pedaling slowly also has its advantages (aside from not breaking a sweat) – dew on the leaves glisten, frogs croak at sunset, waves ripple in pattern, clouds become dragons and mountains and birds, rain falls softly on the forest above – and the little one sleeps and dreams of a perfect world, a perfect day, of discovery and of life to come.

Climbing with the Bakfiets

With the warm weather we have the top down and are getting used to our trips into town. The Bak gets plenty of attention on the road and at many of our stops in town. “How does it do on the hills?” is a question I’m often asked.

The answers usually turn into a long conversation (typically one sided) and often ends with the questioning party leaving with glazed over eyes. I try to keep it short and non-cyclist friendly – but some days I can’t help myself as I spread the good word of getting about by bike, discussing the pros of having a bike ready to go for all weather, and digressing into gear ratios and how many ‘speeds’ you truly need to ride about for ‘everyday’ cycling.

The question is a good one – as the town center of Burlington, Church Street, is mid-way up a fairly steep (to most cyclists and non-cyclists alike) hill. There are a fair amount of commuters in Burlington – so hills are no stranger to the 2 wheeled crowd – but it seems the purely ‘recreational’ cyclists and the non-cyclists have the hardest time picturing getting everywhere in town by bike.

Marching up from the lake front on foot is work – pedaling a loaded Bak that comes in about 130 – 150 – 175 pounds (+ pilot!) depending on cargo is also work. Straight up College to the hospital (where we’ve ridden to pick up prescriptions) is a 287 foot climb over 1.63 miles. Fast walkers usually keep up with us – and the traffic signals are a blessing (rest!) and a curse (break in our momentum!). Our typical day into town is about a 6 mile cruise using either the lake front bike path or a combination of streets. Once in town we climb up from the lake to our destinations – typically the Church Street area, City Market, and the Library. We rarely head straight up College – instead choosing a round about way that adds 1/2 mile to the trip – but cuts down on the gradient as we create our own switchbacks, one city block at a time.

Last week we extended our range and traveled to the in-laws for dinner. We were out all day doing our errands and enjoying the sun, the grass, and the blue skies. Timing our arrival for dinner we climbed up to the Dorset St. area of South Burlington. When I’ve done the trip solo I can pick a route of about 10 miles door to door. We stretched that to 14 to stay away from crowded and congested roads during the evening Friday rush. We meandered our way along the lake front, then a short crossing of some heavily traveled commercial areas, back to a bike path that winds its way up, up, up, and finally onto some quiet(er) neighborhood roads high atop Dorset St.

We started down on the lake and ended a bit higher than where these last two pictures were snapped. According to an online mapping and topo website the real climbing starts at Swift St. and is 260 feet in 3.28 miles – about 79 feet per mile – to the top of Dorset. If we map from the lake it is 5.15 miles and the climbing registers at 320 feet.

It is work, for sure. The geometry and balance of the Bak do not reward you for struggling up a hill. Leaning forward puts you at odds with the geometry of the frame – and standing up is out of the question. The only way I’ve been able to climb on the Bak is to gear down and spin. (or grind, depending on how steep it gets…)

I have the gearing set up with a 38t front ring (standard) and a 22t rear cog. With the Nexus 8 speed rear hub this gives me a low gear of 23.4 inches – which is as low as I can get without changing the chain rings and the cranks. So far we haven’t found a road too steep – I’ve been able to sit back and spin up everything we’ve encountered in town. I can spin out on the flats and downhills with ease – the high gear is only 71.8 inches – but with the cargo bike I’d rather have the lows than the highs.

So, “How does it do on the hills?”

The bike does just fine – its the engine that could use some work…!

The reward for the 28+ mile day was a wonderful dinner with family – and a sunset view of the ADKs on our drop back to the lake.


Check out ecovelo, Alan’s new project:

EcoVelo is the public expression of my personal commitment to reduce my impact on the environment by employing bicycles as my primary mode of transport. By sharing what I learn from this endeavor, while also providing an aesthetically pleasing experience that celebrates the beauty of the bicycle and the joys of everyday bike riding, I hope to inspire others to make a similar commitment.

Drop on by. You’ll find our Bakfiets in the gallery, along with my IF, rigged for utility and rando riding.

Spring Rain

Wonderful trip into town today amidst a softly falling rain. The smell of spring is wonderful. The Carradice rain cape kept me dry, and Ava stayed snuggled in the Clarijs cover. We took a short detour to cross the Winooski bridge a have a peak at the Adirondacks.