posts tagged with 'biking'

a ride (and walk)

In pandemic days we get to do a lot at home, but not as many adventures. I want to try and fix that, so yesterday we went out for a bike ride. It had good parts and bad part.

I wish I had taken more video of the part where we died, but we were a little busy trying to find a path that kept getting smaller and wetter, and also trying to convince ourselves that we would be able to get through if we just kept moving forward. Well, two of us were doing that: Zion knew from the beginning that we should have just turned back. Eventually we did, after getting soaked up to our knees and scratched with thorns and bitten by mosquitoes and ticks and maybe poisoned by poison ivy. It was a little dispiriting retracing our steps through all that horror.

But the riding part was great, and we're excited to go out again soon. On the big paths.

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practice makes progress

Despite many moments feeling really busy lately, when I reflect on it we've also had more time to work on some things than we do in our regular life. We're all practicing music. Last week Harvey put in all sorts of work on cycling no-handed, and now can do it quite casually. Zion doesn't want to be left behind, so he's practicing too: he can now turn no-handed, though he's not solid on pedaling. Today Lijah also joined the bike work, though his hands were firmly on the handlebars as he practiced coasting on a bike with no training wheels. We're also doing ball sports. Several days of intensive run-the-bases games improved Harvey and Zion's throwing and catching quite a bit (in that case the competitive aspect led to lots more improvement than many hours of casual catch). The last couple days the lawn was too wet to run on, so we played in the street with the playground ball and practiced basketball passes and dribbling, and volleyball serves and passes (we have a long way to go on volleyball!). It's all very exciting!

today in the pandemic

This morning Leah sewed up masks for all the family—or, as the boys like to call them, templates (the templates were a couple days ago, but the name has stuck). Only they're wondering how much chance they'll have to wear them, because they're not allowed in stores or anything anyway. I've been hinting that before too long they might need them every time they go outside past our fence. Because yes, they are getting out—even seeing friends from the neighborhood from an appropriate six-foot distance. How can you not, especially on days as beautiful as today? Today some of their time was spent sitting some distance apart on the street and chatting, but Harvey, Zion, and Jack also did some cycling.

That's my favorite, because it means they have to stay safely apart from each other and their hands are busy and likely away from their faces. There's not really anywhere to go, but they didn't let that stop them. Harvey and Jack went around the block seven times, which by my calculations is over five miles of riding. Not bad! Harvey tells me he spent much of the time working on riding with no hands. I'm proud of him, but I kind of hope he doesn't get comfortable enough with it to be able to, I don't know, pick his nose while riding. See, those masks may get some use yet.

maybe I should get a bell

Yesterday it occurred to me that three out of the four "altercations" I've had on the bike path in ten years of cycle communing came when people got mad at me for passing them without warning (the fourth was when someone called me out for drafting behind him, and he was totally right to do so—I don't do that anymore!). There was that "on your right" guy, and then another time I almost got in a fight with some office bro who yelled at me to get a bell. I was thinking about all this because the fourth incident happened yesterday morning.

I was riding along on the bike path just east of Arlington Center. Just by Spy Pond I caught up to a gentleman wearing street clothes and riding a road bike, who was moving at a moderate pace at the far left-hand edge of the lane. There were a few walkers on the path and we were coming up to the crossing at Linwood Street, so I slowed down to stay behind him (at a reasonable distance, as per the previous paragraph!). He must have known I was there; the bike I'm riding these days has an audible ratchet noise when coasting, and I as slow as he was going I was mostly coasting. Far from moving over, though, he moved even more to the left: a foot or so into the opposite lane. So I didn't pass him. After we crossed Lake Street he was going slower than ever and I saw my moment—since he'd rung his bell when passing a walker I knew he was that sort of person so I gave him a quiet "on your left" as I started to go around. I guess he didn't hear me, because as I came up on him he moved even more left and yelled at me in an aggrieved tone, "let me know when you're passing!"

As I went by I told him that I did, and I apologized that he hadn't heard me, all in kind of a rush since I was already leaving him far in the rear. And I'm not good at saying things fast. Which made me wonder. What was his behavior all about? I had thought at first that he just wasn't paying attention, which is why he was taking up the whole path in the manner of a six-year-old out on a two-wheeler for the first time. But he hit me with the angry comment so fast I couldn't help but think that he must have known I was there the whole time! That made me wonder... was he trying to keep me from passing? Or trap me into passing without letting him know so he could make a remark? I don't know.

I do know why I don't ring a bell or say "on your left" every time I pass someone: it's super annoying (that, and I don't have a bell). When I'm riding I stay over on the right hand side of the path, and I trust anyone who's going faster than me can pass without comment and without any problem. I want to say that at least half of the people who do say "on your left" do it just to point out that they're passing you, and therefore are better cyclists. Not necessary, since their superior speed shows that on its own. The only time any notice might be necessary is when the rider being passed is coming up on an obstacle that might make them swerve—but in that case, it's clearly the responsibility of the overtaking rider to hold up until the way is clear. Without any verbal communication needed. Especially not yelling.

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my strong young cyclists

Yesterday we biked up to the farmers market in Lexington faster than we ever have before. Zion was pushing hard in the lead the whole way, not letting us pass him and even trying to stay on the wheel of some unrelated adults who went by him. I'm sure Harvey could have gone in front if he wanted too—he has a lighter bike and more gearing—but he was feeling pretty relaxed so he didn't see a need. No, the one who was suffering to stay in the pack was me! These boys keep getting older and stronger, and while I'm certainly getting older the strength is more of an open question.

Of course, if I wanted to I could offer some facts in my own defense. Namely, I'm still carrying Lijah, who is also getting older and stronger and, more to the point, heavier. So maybe I should be proud of myself for keeping up with the youngsters on a 20 lb bike carrying has to be 50 lbs of kid and gear. That sounds reasonable.

Every second Tuesday of the month is Bike to Market day, when everybody who rides gets a two dollar coupon to use anywhere at the market. I gave mine to Lijah, and all three boys topped up the coupon with some of their own money to buy giant sweet pastries. Two of them really deserved that treat!

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ready to roll tomorrow

Tomorrow is the PMC Kids Ride. The boys are super excited; or they were, until I took them out to ride the course this afternoon. Now they're tired and aren't sure they can do it again. You might think it wasn't wise to wear them out less than 24 hours before the big ride, but I figure kids recover quickly—and knowing the route will be more helpful than totally fresh legs. The hardest thing about a long ride is not knowing how long it's going to be, and having landmarks to look out for will make it feel that much easier. So will having friends to ride with, as part of a big crowd. They'll do great. And then when we get to the middle school there'll be a big party, which wasn't the case today.

Harvey and Zion with their bikes in the empty middle school parking lot

Zion saying "I'm dead"

You see that they're already wearing their shirts. We picked them up yesterday evening, along with the other swag and our raffle tickets. I was hoping, as we visited the early registration, to have some acknowledgement of our fantastic fundraising effort this year—a cool $500 (thanks so much to everyone who donated!)—but the volunteer at the table didn't make any mention of it. Unlike last year when we got rolls of tickets for our paltry $365. Was it a mistake last year? Or have standards gone up? Anyways, I was proud of what our friends and family members contributed towards cancer research and treatment, and proud of the boys for their pre-ride today... and I'm ready to be proud of them again tomorrow!

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we're begging again

Speaking of cycling, it's about that time for our favorite sign of summer's imminent arrival, the PMC Kids Ride. There was some question about whether it would even happen this year... most the folks in charge of organizing last year decided they were done, and as late as mid-March the call for volunteers was plaintive enough that I, for a tiny moment, thought I might help out. Thankfully for everyone that wasn't necessary, and even without my organizing skills the ride is going ahead on June 15. Which means it's your turn to help out!

We've got a donation page up here... as of this writing our total pledged stands at $0.00, so every little bit helps! The kids are excited about the ride and about the party afterwards, but they also do enjoy knowing that they can make a contribution towards cancer research. Harvey and Zion will be riding the longest course offered this year, 7.5 miles, and Lijah will once again be wheeling his way through the tricycle obstacle course. For the last time, I promise! Thanks so much for any amount you can give.

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Zion's cycling birthday

Zion's birthday was nearly a month ago, but we needed to postpone his party a little because of Harvey's Pokemon tournaments. Such is the life of a second child. So it was that a couple weeks ago three of his best friends and their siblings gathered to celebrate his turning 8.

Zion ready to blow out the candles of his birthday cake

party!

It was a cycling party. May is usually a fine time to celebrate with outdoor activities, and though this year most of the month has been more like April the day of the party was clear and mild. After a little bit of running around here I gathered the kids and we all headed out for a ride to Fawn Lake. Not everybody rides all winter, so a few of the guests were a little rusty—as were their bikes. But I had chain lube for the literal rust, and since we were in no hurry there was plenty of time to work out unused muscles on the 2.5 mile trip to the pond. When we got there we had a picnic lunch.

kids picnicking by their bikes on a field above Fawn Lake

a fine spot for a birthday lunch

After lunch the kids ran and then biked on the lawn there, then waded in the pond, then climbed on the cliffs. Then we rode home—downhill, and with newly confident legs—for cake and ice cream. How do you make a cycling cake? I don't know, how about a wheel? (A singlespeed wheel!)

Zion's bicycle cake

a classy cake for a classy kid

Happy birthday, Zion!

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Patriots days

In the first half of April we celebrated nine days of Patriots Day festivities in Bedford and Lexington. Things kicked off here in Bedford with the pole capping parade; I've written before how cool it is that we get all the minute companies to start the season, and this year was no exception.

minuteman firing a volley in the Pole Capping parade

Patriots Day starts with a bang!

It wasn't all guns and aggression; there was lots of lovely fife and drum music too, and a handful of colonial women and children.

colonial women and girls walking in the parade

rounding out the picture of Colonial life

The weather was beautiful—clear and mild—so for the first time ever we actually stayed for the pole capping itself. We were there with friends, and all the kids endured the politicians' speeches without complaint (it helped that we gave them snacks). Our friend Andrew, who moved to town a couple years ago, said it was the most Bedford thing he'd ever experienced. It was especially fun cheering for our neighbor Samantha, who won an award as the most notable high school senior and had to sit up front looking respectable through all the speechifying. Then they put the hat on the pole.

the lucky minuteman atop the pole waving his liberty cap

made it!

The following Saturday was again warm and beautiful, perfect weather for cycling to Lexington to watch the big reenactment at Tower Park. I take pictures of it every year and they're all about the same, but it's such an experience I couldn't resist yet another round.

redcoats forming up in a haze of gun smoke

the fog of war

One difference this year is that, having biked, we were in position to watch the proceedings from the back side. That was great for the first part of the battle, but less optimal as the fighting moved east with a swamp between us and the action. I followed some other people into the woods to see what we could see, but the minutemen yelled at us so we had to go back. Unlike the more famous reenactment in Lexington Center, though, this one is big enough that there's always something to see.

minutemen in the woods

like watching from backstage

The weather was looking iffy for Monday's parade, the highlight of the week's festivities. It was cancelled last year due to rain, so we were really hoping not to miss it again. Morning rain led us to cancel our own plans for a pre-parade picnic in Lexington, but things looked fine for the parade itself at 2:00 so at quarter to one we gathered up our three-family group of cyclists and headed out. We were feeling pretty good about ourselves until my mom called me ten minutes into the ride to let us know that, due to more rain in the forecast, the parade start had been moved up to 1:15. Yikes!

So we hurried. Zion was feeling week (he had skipped Saturday's ride because of sickness) so I carried him and his bike, but all the other kids (and adults) did great, and we made it the five miles up the hill in just 28 minutes—in plenty of time to find a good spot along the strangely empty parade route, and fortify ourselves after all our hard work with fried dough and Italian ice. We're always glad to be out for a parade.

Lijah smiling waiting for the parade

happy to be there!

Besides the reenactors and bands—and there were some fine bands this year—the parade highlights Lexington's increasingly diverse cultural makeup. We all liked getting up close and personal with this dragon.

a chinese dragon surprising the boys at the parade

roar

We were talking smack about the Shriners as their first units rolled by, but then we had to take it all back when the mini-big rigs—pretty great themselves—were followed up by a trio of motorized tricycles—basically powered big wheels. Two of them could drift and the third could turn on two wheels. Very exciting.

After the parade was exciting too. The decision to start the parade early was an inspired one, because just as the last unit went by our spot the sky turned dark, and within five minutes the first drops were falling (the parade still had close to a mile to go past us, so sorry to those folks!). We were prepared, and got everything packed up and everyone into raincoats in record time.

Lijah bundeled up in the cargo bike, Harvey on his bike in a raincoat

good thing we're tough!

Then the ride home featured weather that ranged from drizzle to torrential downpour. It was actually pretty great. I consider Patriots Day to have been celebrated.

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NOBR AKES

Bad weather for sledding this winter at least means fair weather for cycling, and while we aren't doing any recreational rides lately our riding for transportation hasn't slipped at all. What has slipped, though, is bike maintenance. The cargo bike has a rusty chain that grinds some, Zion's bike needs some serious oiling, and Harvey keeps getting after me to fix his brakes. I want to tell him his problems have got nothing on mine! Not on the cargo bike; carrying the precious cargo that is groceries or library books—oh, and Lijah too—I need to be sure of my stopping power. But on my work commuter, that I now ride just once a week, I have no stopping power at all.

It's not so bad: most of my ride is on the bike path, which besides being straight and close to level is also pretty empty in the winter. Not a lot can really go wrong. But the first part of the trip, after I drop the boys off with Grandma, is down a big hill towards a busy street. For the last several weeks—months?—I've found that on the steepest part of the hill, pulling the break lever as far as it can go will keep me from accelerating further, but it won't slow me down—to say nothing of bringing me to a stop. Never mind, that's why I wear boots with thick soles I can drag.

My history of deferred maintenance is a long one. And I haven't come to any serious grief yet! The worst part about the current situation is that I could fix it in just a couple minutes by putting on some new brake pads. I have the technology. But I never think of it until the morning I have to use the bike, and at that point I have no time. I've got to get the kids out the door and get to work! Then by the time I get home—and the ride away from work is all uphill—I'm ready to lay the thing aside and forget about it until next week. Of course, I was clearly thinking about it this evening, so I suppose I could have taken care of the problem... but I thought writing about it would be more interesting. And now it's time for bed. So, another time!

[If you're wondering about the post title, it's from this. Hard to believe I've been reading Bike Snob for 10 years!]

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