Managed to squeeze in two days of biking this weekend with the Quad group, 54.94 miles yesterday (route map) and an additional 43.61 today (route map). Today's looks almost exactly like one of the "Beyond the Minuteman" route cards: go out on the Minuteman, wander around in Concord for a bit, and take the most direct route back to the Minuteman.

Yesterday's ride started slow for me but picked up, and seemed to turn into a reasonable hill-climbing day. Today's ride started at a reasonable speed but then slowed down a lot when I was heading home. I didn't feel too wiped out at the end of it, just slow. I'll take that as a weekend result.
Near-term, I'm planning on doing the Quad ride again this Sunday morning. Starts at 9:30 between Arlington Center and Arlington Heights, about 25+ miles depending on what routing options you pick, think of it as a "training opportunity" instead of "people who go faster than me". Any local interest?

Longer term, I'm thinking about maybe doing the CRW Spring Century again (May 16) since yesterday was more successful than I had expected and the date doesn't conflict with the bridge schedule. And I'd also like to do Climb To The Clouds (July 18) and actually make it up to the top of Wachusett this time (the road to the summit was closed last year). Takers?
My current work schedule may be dumb, but at least it allows for afternoon biking. Thursday I managed to forget my evening commitment (oops) but did get to orbit the Fells for around 15 miles. (Route map)

Yesterday was incredibly nice out, and I figured it would be a good day to take my bike out and call it "spring". I waffled some on which way to actually go, and so cleverly avoided the Mystic Lakes in favor of a plan that would skirt the Fells and go straight into the big rotary at plan. The ultimate route involved climbing the hill on Waltham St. in Woburn and Arlmont Hill from the Arlington side, plus (in an attempt to involve the paving disaster that is Forest St. in Arlington) a little climb up Johnson Rd. in Winchester. (Route map)

The short conclusion from this, I think, is that there is some success in my attempts to use the gym to not totally atrophy over the winter. The various hills were, if not easy, at least continuous: winning on the traffic lights, I didn't stop between the light at Park Avenue and Mass Ave in Arlington Heights and the light at Route 60 in Belmont, for instance. Speed was not quite there, maybe 15-16 mph on the flat parts, and it didn't feel like my endurance was there either (though I wasn't really out that long).

Maybe next weekend, weather permitting, I'll go get thwomped by the Quad ride. And maybe I'll think about doing the CRW Spring Century again this year and hope for less rain.

On Saturday I did finally accomplish the "four centuries in one year" plot, riding the whole of the Granite State Wheelmen's Seacoast Century. For being a much much flatter ride it also wound up taking me longer (8:45) than some of the earlier ones I've done this year; obvious factors I can add into that are an extra water stop, having to walk across five bridge crossings (including the pretty long one north from Portsmouth), and fighting the interminable headwind southbound. Also, we wound up waiting for the bulk cargo ship Gypsum Integrity to pass (especially frustrating because the lift bridge had just closed when it showed up). There was also some company; [ profile] fredrickegerman rode the metric century plus the first 17 miles of the full century, [ profile] nuclearpolymer and [ profile] proven rode the tandem for the half century. (Route map)

I feel like I did a bad job of pacing myself on this one. Also that I wasn't eating enough, which was a little odd, since I also felt like a pigged out a little bit the first time at the Maine rest stop (but was hungry 10 miles later). And unlike last week, where killer hills need buff thighs, I was feeling this week's ride in my calves.

The clientele of the two centuries was also visibly different. On the CRW century if I could keep a 16 mph pace and finish in under 8 hours, I'd be towards the back of the pack. This week there were many more riders without clipless pedals, several more racks, more than a couple tandems; I almost always felt like I was "in the group" even when I was pretty visibly lagging coming back. I passed the hand-powered recumbent about three times. It also apparently was a big Team in Training event, with jerseys from pretty far away (Hudson Valley, Long Island, Pennsylvania) and per-group helmet thingies (one group had giant silver stuffed Hershey's Kisses). They also seemed to have their own water stop at Cape Neddick, which I didn't quite get.

Missed attraction: the Fun-O-Rama at York Beach.

There was this theory that I might attempt all three CRW centuries this year, and today was the third of three. It was in fact quite scenic and quite rural, to the extent that the pre-ride spiel included a mention that there was nothing at all between a store at mile 34 and the rest stop at mile 52. I'm not convinced it's actually easier than Climb to the Clouds, in that CttC had the one GIANT CLIMB, a couple of moderate climbs, and the rest rolling hills, whereas the CRW Fall Century had several hard climbs — no single climb was as big as Mille Hill Road, but there were at least a couple of places where I was running a full mile or more in my bottom gear.

I was again a little worried about prep for this ride but it came out okay. Significantly, I did not fall over around mile 60, and while I was definitely slowing down around mile 90 I'm willing to accept that. The whole thing, climbs and all, came in at 102.88 miles, in about 7 hours 45 minutes. (Route map; incomprehensible graphs)

Read more... )

With the CRW fall century coming up this Sunday, this past weekend was the time to take a nice, relaxing 50ish mile ride. Instead, I did the Quad ride, good for 55 miles, but comparatively intense. The variant du jour was the dinosaur ride down Route 4, which as a bike ride is more notable for the two moderate climbs than anything else. As a positive sign, I did okay on both climbs, and was still alive climbing up inside 128 in Lexington. I was starting to lag just a tiny little bit on the last mile before Arlington, with the one unfortunate side effect that the new woman who was following us didn't know to stop at Starbucks. (Route map)

Major plan for during the week is to bike to Littleton tomorrow (much like this) for a work thing, for, say, 23.78 miles each way. It'd be clever, but at this point unlikely, to hit the gym tonight; Thursday or Friday night would be clever too. Weather is tentatively looking good for Sunday (clear, high around 71). Still planning on the Seacoast Century the weekend after next too...

With the CRW fall century coming up in two weeks and the Seacoast Century the weekend after that, it seemed like a good long weekend to get two days of biking in. The weather was quite accommodating, and I successfully went 54.5 miles on Saturday (map) and 49 on Sunday (map). I guess "successfully" for Sunday was pushing it a little; I was visibly sagging going up Strawberry Hill Road in Concord, fell out of the group heading for the airport route, and limped back home along the bike path. It was still 100 miles in two days, though, which is good to be able to do, and suggests if I do in fact sufficiently rigorously hit the gym the two centuries should be fine.

Yesterday I again did the Quad Cycles ride. I seem to have this bad pattern going where I'll do a big ride or hit some other distraction, take a week or two off, and wind up almost starting from scratch, so yesterday's ride was "only" 63 miles and I was pretty wiped when we made it to Starbucks. (I think I'm still on track to hit the September centuries.) After speculatively eyeing the weather for most of the week, it did wind up being a beautfiul day, especially when you were moving, though I also discovered the joys of iced Gatorade when I got home. (Route map)

Read more... )
100 (or less) pretty flat miles along the New Hampshire coast. The half, metric, and full century rides go up a little bit into Maine; the full century also dips down into Massachusetts. Last weekend of September (could be either Saturday or Sunday or both), $35, registration closes 31 August.

I have my eyes set on the CRW fall century the weekend before, but I could use another T-shirt, and this is almost certainly an easier ride; if there was interest in riding this one socially I'd be up for it. More details online.

I figured a reasonable goal for yesterday would be to try to hit South Street in Needham, and while I accomplished this it just wound up being too hot to really go fast or far. Maybe actually getting out in the morning instead of starting after noon would have helped; so would have going with the usual group. Still, 42.52 miles. (Route map)

Also, the vaguely productive thing I did today was generating KML files from the data I have lying around so it can be plugged into various Google tooling. (Route map) If you want to look at everything all together this file can be plugged into Google Earth; Google Maps doesn't seem to want to try to display more than 8 routes at a time and doesn't even try on the rest.

I was a little worried about attempting the CRW Climb to the Clouds century today, but it turned out fine. A key detail this time around is that it wasn't raining, so I got to see some of the scenery places like Justice Hill Road instead of it being this interminable damp uphill slog. Mile Hill Road was too much Hill for me to do in one pass, but with three or four stops it wasn't a big deal. End result was 101.54 miles in about 7:45. (Route map)

Even if I wasn't riding with "the pack" this time (I thought the ride started at 7:30, the first departure from Concord was actually at 7:00) I did a much better job of keeping up, and that was a huge psychological help. I did start to run out of steam around mile 60, but when I decided I just couldn't handle the next hill and stopped about 20 people came up from behind me and passed me. The water stops were similarly busy, and the parking lot at the start area quite well populated by the time I finished.

The big disappointment was that the road up to the summit of Wachusett was closed. They made up the four miles by tacking them on to the end in boring parts of Concord, which was a little sad as well. But, I didn't die coming down route 62 in Princeton at 42 miles per hour...
In the names our ride gives bits of the route, today was River/Monument, Strawberry Hill, Dinosaur, 62 to Concord, reverse River/Monument, reverse Dinosaur, Airport; or if you prefer a list of towns, we went through Arlington, Lexington, Bedford, Carlisle, Concord, Acton, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Billerica, Bedford, Concord, Carlisle, Bedford, Billerica, Chelmsford, Carlisle, Concord, Lincoln, Lexington, and Arlington. At any rate, all of this going around in circles was at least on an absolutely gorgeous day ("it's stopped being March in June") and came in for me at 82.13 miles. This was a little longer than I was planning, and I was seriously thinking of bailing the second time we got to Carlisle Center (ca. mile 60), but I got talked into the longer route and it was good for me, and I even did a good job with the big hill just inside 128. Yay me. (Route map)

Weather aside, this was an absolutely gorgeous ride. It was practically all rural roads, taking the long route through Harold Parker State Forest in North Andover, quietly ducking into New Hampshire, and returning via the nice part of the Merrimack River in Amesbury and Merrimac. I even caught the train stations in Wakefield and Topsfield for paying attention. In all this came to 101.80 miles for me (route map, since to my surprise my treacherous GPS batteries didn't die).

Biking in the rain wasn't actually so bad. I maybe went a little fast at the start, hitting the first rest area at mile 47 right around 3 hours, and so after the second stop at mile 76 I was pretty much crawling home in that "mild rises make me shift into my bottom gear and curse the world" sort of way. I wonder if focusing on longer rides would help; if I'm going to do CTTC I definitely need to practice climbing.

Was I the very last person back? It wasn't obvious; the home base was starting to be cleaned up when I got back around 4:20, and I didn't see anyone come in after me, but I also wasn't obviously being followed the way [ profile] narya and I were when we did CTTC. Overall the support was present but minimal, and if you're actually traveling light you could definitely get by on the water and food at the stops. In a couple of places I would have liked to see a couple more arrows, and I would have liked the cue sheet be a little closer to reality (especially where it could have said "no really ignore the 'road closed' signs").

I finally got passed around mile 88 by the guy riding the century on an ancient fixed-gear bike. The fully enclosed recumbent was cool, particularly given the weather.

Today we'll put the (route map) link early, because it's a good illustration of the "only two roads in Carlisle" problem. We left Arlington and went the usual way up the bike path, west on 225, down River Road, out up Strawberry Hill Road, and thence to Carlisle Center. I joined a small subgroup that went out via Great Brook Farm ("no dinosaurs and a mile or two shorter, but much prettier"), and we regrouped at the 4/225 split in Bedford. With an eye towards distance, we went west on 225 again, going straight to Carlisle, straight to Concord, and then back via Hanscom. From Arlington Heights I struck out on my own up Middlesex Turnpike to Lexington Street to Horn Pond, and came back from there, totaling 72 miles in all.

It was apparently an "on" day for me, and I was able to keep up with the group pretty well. The downside of this is that I burned myself out by about mile 50; I was on my own (but not last!) between Carlisle and Concord, and had to stop climbing the hill just inside 128. The extension to hit 70 miles was somewhere in between "tired, wanna go home" and "really should get in some distance if I'm doing a century in two weeks".

Speaking of that century... )
My personal trainer [ profile] narya suggested going on the Arlington ride both days this weekend, so I was out yesterday too. This was fine until my subgroup decided it was going to climb The Hill in Carlisle. I didn't even realize there was a Hill, until I finally gave out on the third or fourth segment of it, and then I was well and thoroughly dropped. Finding my way back to Carlisle Center and the group on 225 was straightforward enough. I opted for the "dinosaur" return route home via Chelmsford; the ride leader's summary, when I caught up with the other five of them lounging around at the gas station at the 4/225 split, was that it was a great ride for demonstrating that if you kept your speed up rolling hills weren't a big deal. And, to add insult to injury, I missed a light and got dropped on the Minuteman too.

Post-ride coffee was spent desperately trying to stretch some very sad leg muscles, and discovering that the board of directors of a bicycling team is very much like any other volunteer group's board. And it had in fact warmed up considerably by then. So I got home a little later than I had planned, but still on two wheels, and for 51.35 miles for the day (clearing 100 for the weekend). (Route map)
Theories du jour on the bike bags: I'm going to Maine after getting back to Arlington; I brought lunch for 50. It didn't help that I stuffed my colder-weather clothes in on one side, so there was a lot of volume there. The weather worked out very well, warm enough to be out in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt but cool enough that there was no risk of overcooking.

I think today I was towards the head of the "slow" group. (I think getting workouts in mid-week helps a lot here.) This had the one unfortunate consequence that, leaving Carlisle for Concord, I wound up significantly behind the "fast" group and significantly ahead of the tail, but at least now I know this group's "standard" route back even if I rode it alone. The hill behind Hanscom didn't utterly slay me, and in a promising sign, coming back via Teele and climbing Clarendon Hill at the end of the ride was just fine too. Just under 49 miles in all. (Route map)
Yesterday I figured I'd go out with the Arlington group again. (Saturday's trying-to-beat-the-rain mob apparently totalled three; yesterday maybe 20 people left the shop.) Temperatures in the 40s, plus a significant headwind, meant that everyone was being slow and cranky; we lost our Charismatic Leader (and, somehow, three other riders) in Concord to his second flat tire of the morning. Then going up to Carlisle I again fell into the "I'm 0.5 mph slower than the back of the group so I can *almost* keep up" pattern.

After Carlisle the collective decision ("it's cold", "it's my first week out this year", "how does the PMC expect me to raise so much money", "it took me 9 hours to ride 130 miles", "the wind sure is annoying") was to head straight back to civilization via 225, so we did. This eventually resulted in a smallish group coming back down the Minuteman so at least there was some company there.

Anyways, 41.83 miles in all is less than I was hoping for, but I was definitely glad to get home. (Route map) With various scheduling conflicts I have only two more weekends before the CRW spring century, but in between being able to take rest breaks and hopefully being able to make a runtime decision on length it still looks attractive. So far this coming weekend looks good, so I again need to make a decision on whether to go for speed or distance, or trying to tack on extra length to the back of the Arlington ride again. Decisions...

Those who pay attention to my biking endeavors may recall that last week I went on a group ride in familiar territory, but somewhat faster than I usually go. This week I went with the same group on essentially the same ride (added about 5 miles in Carlisle) and it went significantly better for me.

A bicycle trip )

When all was said and done my bike computer had 58.85 miles on it for the day. And I was still able to run around and do things the rest of the afternoon. This does make the goofy four century plan look a little more plausible. (Route map)

At [ profile] nuclearpolymer's suggestion I went to the Quad Cycles Fitness Ride starting in Arlington Heights. (Via means not totally understood by me I wound up abandoning everyone I might have known on the trip.) I'd describe it as a medium-core ride going to well-trod areas of Concord and Carlisle, with a couple of back-road connections I wasn't totally aware of plus a route back from Concord I hadn't found yet orbiting the back of Hanscom.

Did I say "medium-core"? I felt like the slow end of the group was maybe half a notch faster than I was; I could often keep up with the tail end of the half-dozen people I was following until I'd start falling behind, and I'd trickle last into the next rest stop. The group as a whole was large enough that there were lots of options, so if you wanted to go faster or slower or shorter or longer there were choices. (I think a very few people including myself took the longer option back from Carlisle through Concord, but it happened to include the group leader, so there was at least someone to escort me back.)

Shop-to-shop I rode 39 miles in almost exactly 3 hours, counting the short breaks, so a 13 mph average. Counting the ride to and from Arlington Heights, I got 49.07 miles...which isn't bad for aiming for 40, and especially isn't bad for March. The flip side of this is that my legs are sore and I'm awfully tired, but it's a good start. (Route map) It looks like they run the same ride Saturday and Sunday mornings, 10 AM tomorrow and next weekend and then starting at 9:30 and from their new store in April.

I've been sort of saying I want to do more "real" bike rides this year (especially after failing to do any organized rides at all last year). I think "do all three CRW centuries" is a bit of a pipe dream, but what actually is when?

  • CRW Spring Century, May 17. Looks like it's about a unit inland from the GSW Seacoast Century. I almost certainly can't do a full century then (both one and three weekends before I'm out of town) but the half or metric centuries could be interesting.
  • CRW Climb to the Clouds, July 19. Will I actually do it this year? The hard part would be preparing myself for Mile Hill Road, the distance itself is probably doable (especially if I do ramp up to 60 miles by two months before).
  • CRW Fall Century, September 20. I've eyed this before and it looks like it heads for the "northwest from Fitchburg" corridor, but never actually tried it. Reviews from before worked out to "somewhat scenic, rural, definitely easier than CTTC".
  • GSW Seacoast Century, September 26 or 27. This is the one I've actually done. Easy terrain, but miles 70-90 can run into a terrible headwind.

In theory nothing stops me from doing all of these. Matching it up with the bridge schedule could be exciting. It's already reasonably bikeable now, though (my bike computer already has about 50 miles for the season) and if I'm serious about ramping up I really could do this. But, it also means being reasonably serious about my weekend biking, and probably a little more planning my weekends around it and going out even in not-perfect weather.

I took advantage of the 60-degree weather today to go on a little bike expedition. After a not-so-promising start involving breaking yet another valve on my tube, I headed out past the Mystic Lakes, up Washington Street in Winchester, and back home via [ profile] fredrickegerman's crazy hill route. (Yes, the Arlington/Winchester line is just that obvious in the pavement.) 24.11 miles, 2 hours almost exactly, my back of all things is feeling tired, but hopefully a good start. (Route map)

After not really having been out for two weeks, I figured today might be a nice day for a bike plan that was "tackle Chickatawbut Hill in the Blue Hills, then go clockwise around 128 until I get tired and come home". I wound up taking the long way around in a couple of places (warning: all roads lead to the Arborway rotary), did just fine with the climb up Unquity Road, but had to stop partway up the steeper climb on Chickatawbut Hill proper. Once I got to the top I decided maybe "just go home" was a better plan, but then got to deal with little problems like the routing roach motel of Quincy. Did successfully make it back, for 41.04 miles in all in roughly four real hours. (Route map)

I did figure out that if you're in Central Square and want to head towards Inman, then you can turn right on Essex Street (the light before Prospect). This goes two blocks and forces you to turn right on Harvard Street. At the stop sign, you can turn left into a contra-flow bike lane, cross Broadway, and then turn left on Hampshire. This seemed much more pleasant than trying to deal with Prospect proper.

A flat tire is not, in and of itself, embarrassing.

Two flat tires in two weeks is sad, but not embarrassing.

What's embarrassing is having two flat tires in two weeks, both while the bike is on the repair stand.

I might not do the Climb to the Clouds this year. I just don't feel like doing the training I'd need to do for it. I feel a little guilty for blowing it off, but I did kind of say at the end of last year that I wanted to do something else with my weekends than just bike.

Fast fifty

Jun. 22nd, 2008 08:43 am

I had this grand idea of taking the train to Fitchburg, riding outbound to Ashburnham, then back to Boston yesterday, but when I actually got there a variety of factors (time, nervousness about cell phone reception, not having been out for three weeks) convinced me to skip the initial loop. I instead recreated this trip from the DNC in 2004 -- if memory serves, my first 50-mile ride. Starting riding west a ways, then south to central Leominster, then back only seemed to add a little distance, and the whole thing came in at 52.24 miles; but where I say the earlier ride took six hours in all, I left Fitchburg just before 1:00 and got home just after 5:00. (Route map)

Getting out of the house was more exciting than I had intended. I figured I'd lube my chain and pump up my tires a bit before I left, but successfully exploded the valve on the rear tire. Oops. Frantically dealt with that, but was still okay on the train schedule, so I pulled the bike up to the door...and didn't see the bike computer. Ran around the house, didn't see it anywhere, finally found it in one of my bags, tossed everything together, and just barely made in on the 11:30 train out of Porter. The train has lost some of its enchantment, but Mr. GPS tells me it does get up to 60 mph in Lincoln (on jointed rail there) and outbound from South Acton.

Scenery-wise, this wasn't bad. Fitchburg is still a dump (though a dump with a Christian coffeehouse...?), central Leominster looked better. My grandfather was fond of saying of Chicago that there were two seasons, "Winter" and "Construction", and that was true yesterday, Leominster Road in Shirley was bare dirt with a grader and closed westbound, and several other spots had visibly brand-new pavement. And if you know where you're looking, you can see the remains of the New Haven lines from Leominster to Fitchburg and at West Concord.

The thing that impresses me about this ride though is how quick it was. Not as fast as [ profile] chrysaphi, but still...I spent a good fraction of the ride between 16 and 20 mph, and while it wasn't a terribly hilly route the hills didn't bother me a whole lot either. An early climb out of the valley in western Fitchburg was effort but not that hard; I remember crossing 495 on Taylor Street in Littleton to be really hard but yesterday that climb didn't look bad and in fact I took it continuously in not-my-bottom-gear. Maybe spending a little time at the gym is doing something for me.

After planning out something too ambitious launching from the Fitchburg commuter rail, I combined the awesome powers of Google Maps and the Eastern Massachusetts bike map to combine together various scenic-looking bits into a 60ish mile route. (Where's my physical-virtual mashup when I need it?) I found another bad route across the Charles, down to Readville, across to South Street in Needham to Dover, then rode across back roads to Sherborn and Framingham. From there, carefully miss the neighborhood identified by Google as Lokerville, and instead go north along the eastern border of Sudbury, then back via Lincoln and Lexington. This came in at 63.2 miles (a metric century!) (Route map)

I think pretty much the entire corridor a town or two south of the Worcester commuter rail is pretty recommended. We've done a couple of rides down there, both west from Dover and east from Holliston, and it's quite prettily rural. Also recommended: Water Row in eastern Sudbury, which goes by the meadow part of Great Meadows NWR.

Not so recommended: most of Framingham, including the prison district. And whoever in the 17th century decided that putting the town of Lincoln on the side of a big hill was a good idea. Doing an extended climb after 50 miles wasn't so friendly...oh, wait, that's what I want to do in another month and a half.

Random rail observation: where Landham Road in Sudbury crosses the Central Massachusetts line just south of MA-20, the date on the bridge is "1970"; commuter rail service ended in 1971 (claims Wikipedia). It'd still make a nice bike path.

I wanted a longer trip than the one last weekend, but didn't really feel like planning, and since I cut last week's trip short and the first half was scenic I decided to try to do the whole thing. In the process I successfully orbited the (former, as it happens) B&M shops in Billerica and did find the way I was looking for to Carlisle. Came in at 48.88 miles in just over 4 hours. (Route map)

That all having been said, the effort wasn't really worth it. Pan Am "if we really wanted to run trains we wouldn't name ourselves after a fallen-flag airline" Railways has its headquarters in an abandoned yard, with a second condemned building with the old Guilford logo on it. The bike map makes Rangeway Road look like the better way between North Billerica and Carlisle, but Treble Cove Road, in spite of having an interchange with Route 3, is easier to find, has fewer annoying stop signs, and is less irritatingly industrial. Carlisle is still pretty, but there's probably better places to go from there.

Approximate stat: one water bottle seems to last me about 15 miles.

My goal for yesterday was to go about 40 miles without too much in the way of hilliness. I also didn't feel like planning a whole lot; looking at past attempts, I figured a good thing to try would be the plot of "get to Washington Street in Winchester, then go north forever, then go via North Billerica and Carlisle home". This went fine until I remembered an hour in that I had an evening commitment and maybe I should try to get home faster. Plan B was "okay, punt Carlisle, but take the route back via the Bedford VA Hospital"; plan C was "oof, still feels out of the way, go straight back via Middlesex Turnpike". Didn't die by the Burlington Mall, and in fact still came in just over 40 miles. Route map

I feel like I'm pushing myself a little this year, mostly because I'd kind of like to do the Climb to the Clouds century in July. That's good, really, even if I don't quite have my bike legs back yet. I was clearly slowing down as I crossed back inside 128, and biking on autopilot through Lexington was a little weird. I also need to figure out how to carry more than two water bottles' worth of liquid (not hard, now that I have panniers and not the backpack of three liters of water).

Those paying special attention to the map will note that I very carefully avoided the MBTA/B&M shops in Billerica. This wasn't intentional, honest! I had a route in mind, and I think next time I go that way I'll go around North Billerica rather than through it. The parts of the route that weren't 3A, the military-industrial complex, or the Burlington Mall were in fact quite nice...the challenge, as always, is getting outside 128.

This weekend I was hoping to bike "about 30 miles, with some hills". I set off towards the Fells while trying to avoid 93 with some success, and found this odd little neighborhood on top of a hill in northeastern Medford. (It has a park, and a church, and a firehouse, and...) I rode through the Fells on the obvious road route, took Montvale Ave. across to Woburn Center, and from there followed the Insane Hill Route up Turkey and Arlmont Hills. This came in, says my bike, at 23.52 miles. Route map

I clearly Wasn't Making It up Arlmont Hill, but I also didn't feel like I was pushing hard enough or something. I was definitely slower on the Concord Ave. back to Camberville segment, but I also didn't feel like I pushed and pushed and couldn't do it, more like I ran out of steam partway up, repeatedly. This clearly means something, probably that I need to get my endurance up and push myself more even on the relatively flat bits.

My goal for today was to bike 30 miles, but I didn't have a clear destination in mind. This is the kind of awkward distance where you're clearly Going Somewhere but the local geography makes it hard to find an interesting route. I wound up heading up through Winchester and Woburn, then up route 3A into Billerica, then back down towards the bike path, totaling a little over 34 miles. (Route map)

For next time I really should try harder to come up with a good plan. I wound up changing course midway because I decided the original plan was too short, but even so, the Main Street, Winn Street, 3A route was pretty much all pretty depressing. Heading southwest out of Billerica Center was pretty nice, though, and going through the VA Hospital grounds in Bedford was pretty worthwhile. And then...well, the Minuteman is the Minuteman, and around mile 27 I started wearing down.

I've also concluded that Japanese knotweed is the cue dot of the horticultural world: unless you know what you're looking for, you don't notice it, but once you do, it's everywhere. Like pretty much the entire length of the bike path.

Rumor was that [ profile] fredrickegerman had this route that went past Horn Pond and then up Turkey and Arlmont Hills. I attempted this, and got misdirected in the middle, but still came up for 20ish hilly miles on a rather nice spring day. Route map

I had somehow gotten it into my head that, where Route 3 crossed into Arlington, there was a place to bear right and go up the hill. After not finding the turn I pulled out the map and realized that, no, that was entirely wrong, the correct answer is to go west on Pleasant Street in Woburn on the north side of Horn Pond, which I'd conveniently left several miles behind now. So I turned right somewhat arbitrarily and climbed and wandered around until I found the bit of Turkey Hill I recognized.

I don't quite have it back in my legs yet, but the Arlington side of Arlmont Hill is in fact significantly easier than the Belmont side. Also, Clifton Street in Belmont is paved pretty well, so zipping downhill at 30+ mph works just fine without worrying about dying in a pothole.

Lunchtime seemed plausibly temperate, so I tried pulling the bike out of the basement for a quick ride. I got to use the very exciting repair stand to pump my tires up from "flat" and apply chain lube as needed, and tried dressing up as warm as I have bikeable clothes for, and headed out in the general direction of Boston Ave. Let's say that I remember how the clipless pedals and the general bike thing work, and that I made it as far as West Medford before turning back for about 6 miles in all. It was windy, and I've kind of fallen out of shape a little over the winter, and I do need to act on that Hiveminder item to get warmer bike clothes ("high of 51" isn't that warm).

Still, if next weekend will be this warm (very preliminary forecast is that Saturday will be sunny with a high of 47) maybe I'll start calling it "spring" for biking purposes. Or else, I'll call it my last chance to go skiing this season. Hmm.

From the ride yesterday:

  • Almost everyone had a bike computer and clipless pedals of some sort. I had among the least-nice bikes of the people there.
  • Almost everyone depended heavily on the ride support. Few people had anything beyond a butt bag with emergency repair supplies and two water bottles.
  • A couple of people carried small Camelbak bags, supplementing their water, but there visibly wasn't anything else in there.

Which says to me that the cool kids don't try to carry a full day's worth of supplies for this sort of ride in any case. Which in turn says that if I am going to carry a full day's worth of supplies, it's not any more wrong to put them on a rack instead of my back.

[ profile] fredrickegerman and I rode the Granite State Wheelmen's Seacoast Century yesterday. It was a pretty good route, for covering all of coastal New Hampshire and then some; we went down into Salisbury, MA almost to the Merrimack River and up into Maine past York Beach (and the Fun-O-Rama there). There were also enough little loops off the main road to satisfy some "huh, I wonder if that goes anywhere" curiosity. Somewhere between 99.1 (if you trust my bike) and 100.8 (by the cue sheet) miles, in just over 8 hours. Route map (kinda slow coming up for me right now, need to fix JS)

The weather was pretty nice for the ride; it was a bit chilly leaving Hampton at 7:20 AM but it did warm up. The canonical problem with the New Hampshire coast is a strong wind from the south, which kicked in nicely leaving New Castle. I think part of the point of the random 10-mile inland segment in North Hampton and Rye is to break up the death headwind, because the last five miles were really painful that way.

There turns out to be a lot to be said for being in the big group ride, and actually staying with the group. We'd occasionally get passed by groups of a dozen or so really fast people, but when we turned around in York it was pretty clear we were right around the middle of the group that had left Hampton right after registering. Having it be more of a group event, and less of a solitary thing, was kind of reassuring in its own way.

Big group of us southbound got hosed by the lift bridge between Portsmouth and Kittery. Road construction was mostly better than during the summer, in that there were only a couple of 10-foot sections of totally unpaved road. It was a good ride in all, though, and I'll probably do another one...eventually.
The group was summoned for a 40ish mile ride, returning via the Minuteman. In an effort to try to get around the problem of there being only a couple of good routes out of Boston, I played the "huh, that street looks interesting" game with the bike map, resulting in it taking 20 miles to get out to Bedford. The other consequence is that some of those roads had little arrows on them, where I've somewhat fastidiously avoided them previously. I appear to have gotten rather competent at climbing hills. Once we got out of interesting bits in Bedford, I basically decided to take the obvious route to Concord and back to fill out the mileage. Route map

Next weekend is the GSW Seacoast Century, which I believe myself to be riding with [ profile] fredrickegerman. Indications right now are promising -- mostly sunny, high around 77 -- so it's mostly dependent on the wind, and on us not heading full out and being totally wiped by mile 50. After that, maybe it'll be a bit off the bike until spring or so.

Set off on my own before the afternoon wedding yesterday for a quick half-century, through Carlisle and Westford. Big accomplishment: my bike hit a thousand miles, all since April! Route map

My actual "destinations", such as they were, were the IBM building-to-be in Littleton and the current IBM buildings in Westford. They're suburban office park buildings. Enh. Aside from the I-495/MA-110 corridor, though, Westford is actually quite pretty, and the ride out on MA-225 is pretty worthwhile, even if the Rubel bike map only ranks it pink. Coming back inbound from IBM Westford looked pretty familiar...and then I realized that I was recycling the inboundmost half of the Ayer-Nashua-Boston trip without recognizing it on the bike map, go me.

Today I abandoned ET to go biking, and maybe try to do the distance I failed at last week. I had a great start setting out, and got progressively slower and slower. But I followed bike route 1 (the Claire Saltonstall Bikeway, conveniently to my knowledge the only numbered bike route in Massachusetts) down through Avon, Brockton (again), and East Bridgewater ultimately to Plympton, then came back on back roads via Wampatuck State Park, Quincy, and the length of Dorchester Ave. into Boston. 95.11 miles, and I can still move afterwards, so I'm doing pretty good for the century in three weeks. (No route map yet; at some point I suffered a mysterious GPS failure, probably just dead batteries.)

Speaking of bike route 1, don't bother. At least half the signs are missing, so you need to take note of where the route actually is before you set off. And at that point, you've almost planned out a route anyways, so pick one that has more pavement and fewer junkyards.

That having been said, the leaves were just starting to turn in Stony Brook Reservation, and the greater Plympton/Halifax area had some nice pine forests, if you're into that sort of thing. And it is in fact possible to get through Wampatuck on a bike; you just can't drive a car through the gate at the southern end of the park.
This was the weekend of divergent plans. [ profile] nuclearpolymer wanted to do a shorter ride on Sunday, I wanted Saturday to have Sunday with [ profile] narya, mb was doing a bike/ferry to Long Island plan. So I set off for Taunton yesterday with the goal of making 90 miles, but giving myself punt options via the T in Braintree and the commuter rail further south.

The ride did not have a promising start. I got a flat at the intersection of Centre Street and VFW Parkway heading out towards Readville; taking the whole thing apart, my suspicion is that the Franklin people did a bad job replacing the tube and I finally got the inevitable pinch flat. Then it got hot...really hot..."stop every five miles, drink water, and don't cook" hot. I did in fact make it to Taunton, with many double-checks that I had typed up the right route, but punted in Brockton at mile 57 to head home instead. Route map

The route went through Easton (and the bike map thinks North Easton is in fact north of South Easton), but south of Easton was Norton. The potential commuter rail right-of-way between Stoughton and Taunton was surprisingly cleared when I crossed it; but the parking lot of the Burger King by the commuter rail in Bridgewater had a two-head color-light rail signal randomly set up in the parking lot. Outer Brockton was the site of a closed landfill and more junked-car shops than I could count (but if you happen to want one, going rate seems to be about $150/ton). Some parts of Bay Road heading south were kind of nice, I guess, and bike route 1 ("Boston to Cape Cod") was pretty well-signed and seemed to be a reasonable route for the 4ish miles I was on it.
Yesterday's trip (a small one with just myself, [ profile] nuclearpolymer, and mb) headed out towards 495 and the Pike, heading through Marlborough, Northborough, Westborough, and Southborough. We seem to have successfully skipped all of the actual town parts, but we did run into an enthusiastic gas station attendant on Route 9 (his real goal was just to bike to work, though). My bike showed 79.4 miles, after almost exactly 8 hours; the 80-mile range seems to be my sweet spot right now in terms of "can definitely make it but I'll be really tired afterwards". Route map

This also came up as a reasonably good route ("yes, I can still pick things off the Rubel bike maps and not just rehash last year's rides"). I correctly registered the Mass. Central crossing in Hudson, and we passed some UTLX tank cars on a siding off the CSX Framingham-Leominster line in Northborough. Northborough is this kind of fascinating pastoral/industrial area, which is to say, it's nice and green except for the regular squat manufacturing buildings. Nobody was left at the Westborough State (mental) Hospital, thankfully.

Ride-wise, this was the ride of long, gradual climbs. Concord Road in Marlborough, for example, was definitely sloped uphill for pretty much all of the three miles we were on it; not so steep that you needed to shift down a lot, but still steeper than, say, the Minuteman. MA-85 in Hopkinton was the same way, except that the bit from Southborough to Hopkinton actually was a significant climb, and then it kept going up some more. (Yes, Hayden Rowe Street in Hopkinton was on the route; no, we didn't pass Upton Tea Imports.)
The bike plan for today (arranged somewhat stealthily and on short notice, perhaps) was to recreate the route from Somerville into Rhode Island that we did shortly before the 90-mile Climb to the Clouds working up to [ profile] narya's PMC ride two years ago. There were in fact PMC route signs all over the place, especially southbound in the Medfield-Norfolk area. The end trip for me wound up coming in over 83 miles, in somewhere under nine hours. Route map

Things started off fine. We stopped 20 miles in in Dover, and had just crossed into Rhode Island and were looking for someplace plausible for lunch (past the 40-mile mark) when my rear tire suddenly gave out. Sometimes these are subtle things where you spend ten minutes trying to find where the puncture is; the half-inch gash across tire and tube a sixteenth of a rotation from the valve was not subtle at all. The tube went on fine (and the CO2 inflator worked as advertised), except that the hole in the tire was not particularly happy, and in fact the tube was starting to bulge outwards there.

Franklin was about 6 miles away so we went there; the Eastern Massachusetts map showed two bike shops there. The nearer one was closed. The further one was a little ways out of town, but they in fact had the exact same tire, and thus it was that money was able to solve my problems. (I am not asking the Internet how much less money it could have been if I didn't need it right now).

After that, and depositing [ profile] nuclearpolymer at the Franklin commuter rail, we picked up the pace a bit, but enough to totally drain me by 10 miles from Franklin (around mile 60). I ate the rest of my food, added more sunscreen, drank the rest of my water (hmm) and we started up again. We wound up finding a happy medium of moving reasonably quickly but not so fast that I died (15 mph on flat sections worked well). The group started to dissolve around Watertown Square -- [ profile] fredrickegerman made a light that I didn't, then mb got ahead of me and appears to have taken the "follow MA-16 to glory" directions a little too literally at Alewife Brook Parkway -- but I assume everyone made it home okay from there.
Yesterday's trip was advertised as "70-75 miles, probably touching New Hampshire". Some pre-planning wound up cutting out some of the New Hampshire bit, but came up with something that came in at 69.9 miles. In the end we made it up to Pelham, NH, with my bike registering just under 71 miles (though not as far as some people). Route map

We largely did okay on the execution part. We practically flew from Davis Square to North Andover (about 20 miles in I came up with a 14 mph moving average and 12 mph overall, where we're usually more like 12.5/10). After that things were somewhat more sedate, as people wore out as the day went on, but we did good at only taking a couple of stops (at 25, 45, and 60 miles) and generally moving (rather than stopping entirely just because the group is spread out). Except... )

Routing-wise, the big problem is getting across the Merrimack. Your choices in the area we were were a couple of bridges in Lowell, a couple of bridges in Lawrence, a couple of bridges in Haverhill, 93, or 495. We weren't going to Haverhill or on the freeway, so we wound up doing Lawrence again. Bleah. The route we took into Lowell (from NH-128 to Mammoth Road, then east into downtown) took us through the projects. Bleah. But Haverhill Road in Reading and Tyler Road in Methuen were both quite nice, and the general New Hampshire bit was pretty pleasant.

Planning-wise...I really need some software. There were a couple of revisions in the route (going west to NH-3A was Just Too Far), and some reformatting (but I can get 2 columns in a quarter sheet). The result of this was at least two math errors in the total mileage and one missing direction, plus a lot of hand work with Google Maps.
For last Sunday's ride, [ profile] nuclearpolymer adapted last year's Seacoast Century half-century route, with one of the add-ins that makes the actual century add up to a hundred miles. That brought us up to pretty exactly 60 miles from the Hampton Beach State Park parking lot (in view of the Seabrook reactor) to Kittery and back. We didn't actually escape the parking lot until about 10, but got back there around 4, so about a 10 mph real average. Route map

This iteration of this ride did not have the killer headwind coming south, for which we were all thankful. The routing took us out via New Castle, which I always like, but the corresponding bit of road in Portsmouth was totally unpaved, which wasn't fun. Fairly high on the "flat" side, which I've discovered means there aren't any downhills to build up momentum on. The 10-mile inland section was actually kind of pretty and refreshingly shady.
Oh right, yesterday's ride had more than its share of bike failures. We lost a tire in outer Carlisle, and the tandem's rear chain needed to be reseated several miles later.

Ever since I've had it, the new bike's front derailleur has acted a little funny. It feels like the shifter has four positions, but there are only three chainrings, and getting it to act consistently takes a little effort. Somewhere in outer Acton, the shifting started to get really bad, and then the chain fell off the inner chainring. In the process of reseating it, I discovered that the entire pedal assembly shifted about a half inch side-to-side, which explained the current exceptional badness. On further examination, it seemed like the left-side crank was half an inch too far out, which is odd because repairing it required first moving the crank inwards and then screwing in a piece on the outside.

Question the first: is this something that could Just Happen? Or is it a possible problem when the bike was initially put together that I just haven't noticed, or something Wheelworks might have touched in the "30-day checkup" (a good 100 miles before this)?

Question the second: the screws that hold the crank on had strange blue stuff on them, and several of the parts around there have specific torques printed on them. Should I take the bike somewhere to have the crank taken off and put on again, or is what I'm able to accomplish with hand tools in my backpack good enough?
[ profile] nuclearpolymer has the full set of "Beyond the Minuteman" laminated route cards, and proposed doing the longest of those this week, a 56-mile route from Bedford up to Harvard. [ profile] narya had a houseguest so I couldn't take the car all day to start in Bedford, but biking home to Bedford to Harvard to Bedford, and then getting a ride home, seemed like a plan (68 miles vs. last week's 63). In the end we would up taking the short route from Concord to Bedford (Carlisle is so blah these days), knocking a couple miles off the card route, and I had enough energy to bike home (started to lose steam past Arlington, but I made it in the end).

Vital stats: 75.80 miles, bringing my bike up to 517.8. Bike computer claims just over 6 hours in motion, but I left home at 7:45 and got home around 5:15, so three and a half hours stopped (!), for moving and total averages of 12.6 mph and 8.0 mph, respectively. Route map

This was a pretty nice ride, for largely keeping to back roads. There's a nice view of the Fitchburg/Shirley/Wachussett area from northern Harvard the ride took us through. Harvard is, in fact, Big Thigh Country, but it's also quite pretty. There was one really substantial climb after we left the Still River area, but once we did that we joined up with the Climb to the Clouds route for the nice downhill bits. But if hills bother you at all (the route card said "some rolling hills, some not-so-rolling hills") this might not be the ride for you. I did okay with them, though I did wind up needing to stop on the really big climb a couple of times.

(And after all that I was still able to maintain 12-13 mph on my own on the "uphill" part of the Minuteman coming back into Lexington, which was a good sign.)
Didn't try to arrange the mob this week; instead decided to go out for 55-60 miles on my own at the speed I usually bike at on my own. Failed to die in heat and my body just giving out in Sudbury; made it back home with 63.87 miles on the bike computer (and a reported average of 14.0 mph!) in about six and a half hours. The route went out to Tewksbury and Billerica, then headed southwest to Carlisle and south to Concord, then wandered around in Sudbury briefly before heading back via Lincoln and Lexington. Route map

Speed )

Wrong turns )

Chain failure )

Me failure )

Homewards )

And thus I made it home, having successfully made it 100 km in a day for the first time this year.
I have come up with a reasonably nice bike. It makes me happy. I can go on longish trips with it, and perhaps the Climb to the Clouds people's assertion two years ago that a mountain bike outright takes 20% more energy to go the same distance is correct. (We were trying to account yesterday for it apparently being easier to climb on this bike, in spite of not having super-low gears for it...but that's not my point here.)

My actual question is this: how do you go on a long unsupported ride on a nice bike, and still have all of the stuff you need? With a seat bag you can carry a spare tube, tire levers, and a CO2 inflation kit; you can put two water bottles inside your frame for 2L, give or take, which goes pretty far. But for this I have no food, no lock, no maps, and only minimal tools. Right now I carry this all in a backpack, and while having 3L of instantly-accessible water is nice, my shoulders complain some about the load.

How do people go on long trips deal with this sort of problem? Credit cards and energy bars in their jersey, and hope to not get lost? Is putting a rack on my bike sacrilege, assuming it's possible?
I haven't said much about last week's trip yet, though most everyone else involved has by now. We took the inland route to Beverly, and from there to Rockport, thus avoiding the protracted unpleasantness of Lynn but trading it off for not being hugely scenic either. We did, however, make it to Rockport just in time to catch the early (2:00) train and so didn't actually head out to the dock area. End-to-end distance, including the segment back from North Station, worked out to 47.16 miles on my bike. Route map

Today's trip headed out through Brookline and Stony Brook Reservation, then via Needham Center, the very scenic bit of Needham and Dover, then back through Natick, Wellesley, Weston, and around the back of Cambridge Reservoir. This went largely according to plan; we took an alternate route along the Muddy River and through Arnold Arboretum, which was okay until we had to climb a big hill south of Roslindale Square. (Probably flatter on the whole than my proposed route would have been.) There was a fair bit of up-and-down, and a couple of noticeable climbs. Beyond the halfway point, we started slowly shedding people for either shorter or longer routes home. Outer Waltham saw a restroom stop, followed by an immediate emergency tube replacement. Didn't cook. Did finish getting through the last of my water in near Lexington. Aimed for 50.6 miles with some very careful manipulation of Google Maps, actually got home at 55.20 after 8 hours. Route map

Encounters today also included a deer dashing in and out of the road along South Street in Needham. The CSX Needham-to-Dover line looked pretty unloved. Interestingly, Wellesley Street in Weston has a bridge over the remains of the Central Massachusetts line; Wikipedia thinks it hasn't seen rail service since 1971.
Now that everyone else has written about it...six of us took the train out to Ayer yesterday to ride up the Nashua River Rail Trail to the New Hampshire state line, then back via scenic Westford. This was the same route we did last year, in fact, exactly a year ago, and much of the commentary from then applies. We were pretty good about not taking more breaks than we needed, which was good, and there was another "try out each other's bikes" session at the end of the Minuteman. Same lunch stop, even. 46.66 miles from Ayer commuter rail to home. (The GPS track claims over 47, but maybe my distance estimation is off?) Route map
I don't seem to have downloaded anything off my GPS in ages. How odd.

At the start of May, [ profile] nuclearpolymer led a group in a loop from the Ipswich commuter rail. I didn't follow the group out to the beach; instead, I tried harder (but successfully) to make it back on the earlier train. Ipswich was also in the "remove all of the pavement to start from scratch" phase of road construction. My loop was 20 miles, not counting the trip to and from the commuter rail. Route map

Last weekend, amidst uncoordination and some unwillingness on my part to do a 60-mile ride, I went alone around Brookline and Newton. I am reminded that even the bits of south Brookline that don't look hilly on the map, are a little hilly. Also, I am reminded that I shouldn't take month-long breaks from biking, because it means I don't go far. This 24-mile trip was fine, but I was awfully sore the next day. Route map

My new bike also cleared 200 miles last weekend, and I'm wondering about the ever-elusive thousand-mile goal. If people are doing the Seacoast Century at the end of September, that's 15 weeks away; if I ride 10 miles after work twice a week, that's an additional 300 miles by then. And if the century and its preceding warmup rides are 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, and 100 miles, that's another 450. That leaves a lot of weekends to catch up 50 miles, so this all seems pretty doable.

Weekend plan is to redo this trip, from the Ayer commuter rail up the Nashua River Rail Trail then back to Somerville, on Sunday, leaving Porter by rail at 8:45 AM. Will hopefully survive 45 miles. Hopefully won't get rained on.
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