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A recent bike shop experience

December 31, 2012

I got out of the kiddie pool and jumped into the deep end.

I’ve been fantasizing about three bikes for the better part of a year, a Rivendell Sam Hillborne, a Velo Orange Campeur, and a Tern Verge S11i. Each is for a specific niche of riding and I had daydreamed ad nauseum about how I would use each. The Sam for long wandering hills through the country, the Campeur for barreling down unpaved and double track fire trails, and the Tern for zipping around the city in search of good coffee. A few problems with these scenarios though. First, all my proposed niches were already filled (Bridgestone, Trek, and Dahon). This severely limited my convincing fuel. It would predictably always dead end at sure I want it but I don’t need it. Everything considered, the Tern would probably be the “wisest” purchase of the three based on where I live (city) and how I get to work (train on most days). Fantasizing persisted.

Over the long holiday weekend, I convinced the Mrs with the prospect of Tyson Corner’s malls to come with me to Bikes@Vienna. Bikes@Vienna specializes in recumbents and folding bikes and they have tons of models to try out. I had no little intention of actually purchasing a bike on this day. No, really. In fact, a few months ago I test rode a Tern Verge Duo (a cable-less 2-speed with coaster brakes) I had been admiring. I wasn’t smitten. That fantasy faded and I was once again a mostly normal-functioning human being. I believed something similar would happen on today’s test ride. Plus, bringing the wife along would ensure I at least slept on it.

I arrived at the little shop to find the large display of bikes that normally sit outside were not there. Instantly bummed, I realized they must be closed for the holidays, I… oh, never mind, they’re open! I ran towards the door like a little kid running to the gates at Disney World. My wife sprinted behind me (though because it was freezing cold and windy).

The shop was packed with bikes normally reserved for the parking lot. Too windy, the mechanic explained. Unable to get between the bikes, I timidly inquired if they had the Verge S11 in stock (This crept into my mind: I want a Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time). They had one ready to go. Strapping on the shop’s helmet (and realizing I have a small head), I was off…

Holy. Crap.

It was instant. This bike was unlike anything I rode before. It was not like other Dahons, or the Brompton I tested, or even the Verge Duo from a few weeks ago. To give you an idea of how it felt, sit on a comfy stool, move your legs in tiny circles in the air (and then travel down the road really fast). It was smooth, easy, and natural. I rode the bike for a bit up hills, through traffic, over gravel with quick stops. Really, the only thing on my mind was figuring out how to leave the shop without giving the salesman my credit card.

Back at the shop, my wife (who I brought along for control) was on her phone. I gave her a big thumbs up and a goofy smile. She continued her conversation. I was all alone. I told the salesman how great it was and then quickly tried to steer the conversation away. Oh, so do you have any of the titanium Bromptons in stock (I really had no desire for a Brompton at that moment).

Somehow, I made it out and headed back to the car. I debriefed my wife. Then she said, ok do it! I tried to respond but my shock produced only a whimper. She went on, “You’ve obsessed. And researched. And obsessed. If you don’t get it today, you’ll be back in a couple of months. Why wait?” Reverse psychology, of course. Somehow the keys made it into the ignition but, it was impossible for them to move anymore than that.

This back and forth went on for a while. Then she said, “well I don’t want to hear you keep obsessing if you don’t buy it today.” Oh! So I would be doing her a favor. Well in that case.

New bike!

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Obligatory bike shot in front of DC landmark

PS: Despite itching to pedal home, I still had a prior commitment I made with the Mrs. Bike conveniently stored in the car trunk, it was off to the mall. Ugh…

PPS: Thanks honey!

2012 in review

December 31, 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 8,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 13 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Sunday no destination ride

December 2, 2012
tags:

One of those rides today where I’m amazed I actually get to live here.

Waking up to a beautiful December morning, I knew I needed to get out for a ride. I had a few options in mind. One centered around a 70-mile romp out to Annapolis and back. But since too much daylight had already passed for an already short day, I would hold off on this exploration trip (also, I have a fear that if I get too close to this place something “bad” might happen).

Another consideration I had to think about was that my wife was away for business so I couldn’t leave the dog alone for too long. Ok, why don’t I just bring her with me. As I unfolded her dog trailer, she leapt up and waited at the door. Our first stop was to Adams Morgan’s Walter Pierce dog park. I had never been here before and didn’t even know it existed until I caught a glimpse of it at the start of the 50 States Ride. The dog area is a nice shady area tucked into the corner of the park. Butts were sniffed, slobbered-covered balls were thrown.

We hopped back on the bike and headed somewhere. I really had no idea of where I was going. And that was ok. I worked my way south then cut onto the bike lane on Q Street. Q Street is a one-way street. So why was another cyclists headed straight towards me? I held my ground. Onward. If my experience, if someone decided to salmon the wrong way, they usually have the courtesy to get out of your way. She did not. Then she motioned for me to get over. ME!?! With the wide trailer in tow, I shifted left slightly to guarantee I was now taking the whole lane. She motioned again, waving me over…and smiling. I glared. At the last second (in truth, it was more like that steamroller scene in Austin Powers), she moved herself over. I glanced back at her, hoping that she was waving to a friend and not signaling at me. Nope. I yelled at her. Onward.

I picked up the 15th Street cycle track and continued our journey south. Passed the White House where they were erecting some type of inauguration stand/stage thing. I decided to turn onto Pennsylvania Avenue to check the progress of the bike lane repainting. Plus, since Mayor Gray formally made it illegal for cars to cut across the cycle track I would be perfectly safe. Oh, nevermind. A van with Maryland tags decided he was above the law. He made his turn. He didn’t make eye contact even though I pointed at him (looking very much like a tattle-tailing 5-year-old).

There were painting crews parked in the bike lanes. This was ok since it was for the greater good, I reasoned. So, maybe I just never realized this before and maybe it’ll be different when the final markings are done but why are the traffic lights directly in the middle of the westerly bike lanes at the intersections? The only way to get around this was to shift right into the traffic lane or cut into the path of the eastern bound cyclists. Take a look next time. I don’t think I like it.

We made it down to reflecting pool by the Capital. I sat admiring the dome and Christmas tree. Raven sat fascinated by the seagulls.

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Going back home I decided to take 7th Street since it has a dedicated bus/bike only lane that is strictly enforced (BAWHAHHAHAHA!!!). A few blocks in, a cab driver honked at me. I turned around (remember I had my fur-child onboard), pointed at his cab then pointed at the next lane. I followed up this silent outrage by next pointing at myself then our current lane (the bus/bike lane). It was sort of lame but hopefully got the point across that I would continue to ride in the middle of this lane. The light turned green. He drove up beside me, window down, and said, “I wasn’t honking at you, I was honking at that asshole next to me.” Stunned, I gave him a wave. Who would have thought that honking could be directed at something over than a cyclist?

I continued up 7th Street mostly because this has one of the least steep hills to return home. Another cyclists pulled up alongside me and asked a few questions about my trailer. He was curious if my dog minded sitting back there. I told him, “no, I really think she likes it. She just sits back there and doesn’t say a word.” And as if on cue, Raven stood up through the top opening and started barking at the man.

A few negative observations. But really, who cares? Overall, it was a good day to BikeDC.

Coffeeneuring: I would have but…

November 20, 2012

Outside at Big Bear

So yeh, I had every intention to complete this coffeeneuring challenge. I anticipated knocking out 7 weekend trips to coffee shops without too much trouble. I like coffee. I like bikes. Really, this wouldn’t be much of challenge at all. Bringing the Mrs. along, things started out great.

Then Hurricane Sandy came. But didn’t the weather not actually get bad until Monday night leaving the weekend free for coffeeneuring? Well sure, technically. I did have to freak out over how my dog would relieve herself if it rained for 2 straight days. And that took time.

Ok, no problem. I would just double up next week. The only issue was that on this Saturday, the wife had made reservations at a very nice restaurant for my belated birthday dinner. Wait, so that meant I couldn’t eat or drink anything in the morning? Yep. Moving on…

I can’t specifically recall what happened that Sunday. Something having to do with a food coma, I assume.

The next weekend I was stuck at a FedEx copy center in Adams Morgan. And everyone knows that neighborhood is a coffee desert. I mean besides Tryst, Crumbs & Coffee, The Diner, L’Enfant Cafe, Locolat, Adams Morgan Coffee Shop, Pleasant Pops Farmhouse Market & Cafe, Starbucks, and 90 Min Cafe, where is one expected to get coffee here? I know, there’s nothing!

Animal crackers at Tryst

And that’s it. We lost. I think what really held us back was our coffee addiction. See, before our day officially starts we NEED coffee. This means that I had to have coffee before I could leave my house to get coffee. And if I already had coffee why would I need to get coffee? Well, we’ll have one year to figure this one out.  Next time this coffeneuring challenge will be all ours!

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The short list:

#HubsnPubs Report

November 17, 2012

I’ve been in a bit of a bike funk lately. Between a new internship cutting potential commute days in half, back-to-back conferences, and finishing projects, my cycling opportunities have been limited (which I guess explains why I haven’t posted anything for the last month and a half). So when a heard that @crysb had organized a 15-mile ride that would swing by three DC breweries, I figured grant proposals could wait another day. This would be too much fun to pass up.

Convincing Mrs. Bicyclebug (@workforcashmere) to come along, we met up with a growing group at Big Bear Cafe. I thought about grabbing a pre-ride muffin, but after poking my head inside at a very long, typical Saturday line I decided to just mingle outside instead. Shortly after noon, our crowd was off.

@Gyspybug and @DailyRandonneur the Grand Marshalls of #bikeDC had stopped by to snap photos and send their regards to this bike parade.  Which reminds me, I really need to get my coffeneuring stuff over to her  (I’m in the “I was going to complete the challenge but…” category).

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Hey, I know her!

My favorite part of this ride was the meet up with tweeps.  Besides some of my favorite twitter personalities including @dirteng, @rootchooper, and @sharrowsDC, I also met for the first time in person @MrTinDC and @DizzyLuv25. There’s something slightly weird but also great about knowing somebody so well you never actually met (did this sound crazy to people who don’t check twitter as much as I do?).

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After our second brewery, Crystal realized we left someone behind. Oops. Luckily for the straggler this ride had a strict no drop policy. We spent the next few minutes mingling on the side of the NW Branch trail. The sky was blue and beer filled our stomaches so it didn’t look like anyone was upset waiting. Ted was even kind enough to snap a photo of the two of us (I smell Christmas card…)

Not Ted’s photo, not our holiday card

By the time the lost party arrived, we had decided that this was as good a time as any to head back. With a nice sampling from both Chocolate City and DC Brau, this Saturday ride was a great and welcomed distraction from the errands of life. Thanks again to Crystal for putting this one together.

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PS: Unfortunately, I did later hear that a rider took a nasty fall when his scarf got caught in his wheel. He ended up going to the hospital but all things considered he appeared to be “ok.” It was nice to find out that the riders stayed with him and a group even transported his bike home for him.

The Big Rock (Shh…it’s a secret)

October 4, 2012

Although, I don’t remember when exactly, I suppose I learned about it from my older brother and my friends from their older siblings. Eventually, I showed my little brother the way. With lunch and supplies in tow, it was a day’s hike deep into the woods. The only indication we were on the right path were benign natural markers – left at the half fallen tree nestled behind the forked branches of another, straight when the trail becomes very sandy, a final climb up a foreboding, winding hill meant you were just about there. These waypoints were always intrinsic to the boys of Rolling Hills. We just knew.

The Big Rock, a mammoth boulder, stood in stark contrast to the otherwise flat, sandy terrain of Long Island’s Central Pine Barrens. As we climbed the rock face (the younger kids reaching only the small ledge of the first tier, the older boys making it to the summit), we gave little thought to why this was here. Something having to do with a glacier, maybe. Actually (Science Alert!), boulders like this are called glacial erratics and caused by retreating glaciers 20,000 to 11,000 years ago. There are quite a few sprinkled throughout Long Island (thousands of various sizes, in fact). Geologists believe the erratics originated either from Westchester, NY or Connecticut. Being on the eastern end, ours probably came from Connecticut. One of the more famous, Shelter Rock, even has a road named after it.

Our erratic wasn’t on any map, had no advocacy group fighting to preserve it, and was not part of any trail guide. That was fine by us though. It was ours. No one else knew about this treasure. Sure, the rock face was covered in graffiti. But, we reasoned that this could have only been left my Native Americans many, many years ago. For example the ancient paint scrolls declaring, “Jason wuz here, -87″ clearly showed that the Indian Jason was here in 1487 (5 years before Columbus made it to the West Indies). Yes, that was proof enough for a 10-year-old boy.

A few weeks ago, I took my mountain bike with me on a visit to see family. After a fun afternoon romping around new trails at a nearby county park, my brother asked if I wanted to detour to the Big Rock on our way home. I looked at my watch. Remembering the times when packing a sandwich was required, I asked, “It’s already 3 o’clock. Do you really think we’ll have enough time to gets there and back?” He told me to just follow him.

We hit the trail hard but not too aggressively. Despite years since I was last here, everything came back quickly. I did stumble a few times. Wait, this can’t be the left turn already, I thought. But it was. To my astonishment, we reached the boulder clearing within 10 minutes. I dismounted and stared at the Big Rock. Hmm, smaller than I remember. Weathering. Yes, that must be why the rock looks half its old size. Or was it my memory that’s been weathered by years of relentless nostalgia?

Later, my brother posted a photo of his bike hoisted onto the rock on Facebook. The comment block immediately flooded with 30-something-year-olds who grew up in the area that (1) instantly remembered the adventures they had there as kids and (2) couldn’t believe anyone besides their closest neighborhood pals knew about the Big Rock.

Some secret, I guess.

When the miles matter

September 23, 2012

“How many miles did you ride today?” The conventional standard to mark your achievement is distance. Then there are those who feel this metric is useless without the additional dimension of time. “I killed this workout today – kept an 18 mph moving average for 20 laps.” Rivendell founder, Grant Petersen discourages both of these and instead insists on counting minutes or even days ridden instead. “Count things that add up fast, come easy, and encourage you,” he says.

Yes, counting things can be fun. But in the end, who really cares? What it really comes down to for me is this: it’s not how you rode but who you rode with. Looking back on my previous year’s ride reports, the ones I look most fondly back on are those that I shared with friends and family. I think back to a toe-numbing trip for authentic Serbian food, romps to the sources of delicious beers and wines, and lazy circuitous pedaling around the neighborhood. There was the afternoon when Mrs. Bicycle Bug and I stumbled onto the DC Scoops event with free Ice Cream – that was a good one.

The memories I’ve taken away from these experiences have been selective. I don’t remember exact distances (ok, I remember my first 100-mile day), my cadence, speed, or heart rate. I do remember benign conversations, destinations, and wrong turns. I remember the people, not the numbers. So, maybe from now on I should count conversation with other riders, track cups of coffee drunk, or log jokes per hour (JPH) – for these things are where the miles really matter.

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