Archive | April, 2010

Cleaning 0.01

26 Apr

I made an earnest attempt at cleaning my bicycle over the weekend. Oh sure, anyone might look at the end result of my efforts and scoff or put on that parental mask of admiration over such crude work- but hey, it’s all in good fun. My bike’s slightly cleaner now, so that’s a step in the right direction.

My goal for this project was to clean the chain and wipe off the frame since its acquired a nice coating of road dust and grime from riding. I used an old Race for the Cure shirt as my work space, placing it beneath the bike chain to catch anything gravity might claim. Using pieces of this year’s Race for the Kids shirt as rags, I focused attention on the chain. It was black with gunk. After a few awkward moments, I found that an over-under degreaser approach worked best for me: pour degreaser over chain, absorb excess with the rag underneath, and scrub.

Not completely satisfied with the rag’s thoroughness, I solicited the help of one of my most favorite (and loathed) cleaning supplies: the toothbrush. With its help I was able to clean away a good deal of the muck… the rags and toothbrush were completely black by the end. With the majority of the grit out of the way, I applied some chain lube with the toothbrush to finish work on the chain. Lastly, I wiped down the spokes and frame, which had amassed a good deal of dirt and random road stuffs.

While my cleaning efforts may have been sub-par in comparison with a person who actually knows what they are doing- I’m glad I’ve found a use for all these race shirts I’ve acquired over the years. I’m sure I’ll be more efficient and exhaustive with cleaning and maintenance once I become more familiar with bicycle parts/mechanics in general… and that, like clipless pedals, will take some time.

Long Island Ride

21 Apr

In preparation for the Montauk Century, I went for a weekend ride to Medford, Long Island this past Saturday/Sunday. The idea was to familiarize myself with the lay of the land, as I’ve not invested enough time exploring “the island” for an all out trek across it. So with that mindset, a deviously roundabout route was created to get from NYC to Medford: cutting through Brooklyn, and following the South Shore eastward. With this routing, what should have been about 60 miles transformed into a nice little 85 mile day trip (plus the miles added on from “creative” “improvisations” to the route).

Day 1: Saturday morning was brisk and cool, the skies murky with clouds that shook showers, but I was prepared for the weather, wearing leg warmers over the tights underneath my cycling shorts and a rain jacket on top of the arm warmers over the thermal underarmor beneath my Bike & Build jersey… Yes, I do enjoy layering. I find it fun- and useful, for though it was cold for the first half of the day, by the afternoon the clouds had scattered and it was a warm spring day.

I followed the Hudson River Park Greenway and crossed the Brooklyn Bridge over the East River- familiar territory. Once in Brooklyn, I made my way southeast and wound up at Prospect Park and just HAD to ride around it- but in doing so, I somehow lost Flatbush Avenue… which is quite ridiculous if you look at the map. Looking back, I’ve no idea how this occured, but it did. And for the next hour and some, I was drifting about Brooklyn’s roads: Church, Kings Highway, Bay Parkway, Ocean Parkway- had I known how the grids were laid out, I may have been able to pull off the improvisation, but in the end, I asked a few people how to get back on track.

Finally following Flatbush Avenue, I skimmed the edge of the Jamaica Bay National Recreation Area and crossed the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge. The bridge is a pedestrian bridge and there were signs which stated that cyclists were to dismount and walk bikes across. I complied for the first half of the way, but seeing as I was the sole person using the bridge that morning, I decided to ride the rest of the way. No one seemed to mind as there was no one to notice.

Once across, I made my way to the Boardwalk and rode down it a ways before stopping for a late morning break. The boardwalk stretched for miles, the beach was deserted but looked inviting, and I was content snacking away, reading warning signs in Spanish, and enjoying the sound of the waves in their never-ending concert with the shore. It was a welcome contrast to the morning’s madness through Brooklyn.

The rest of the ride was, for the most part, uneventful. I followed my directions with little incident and found my way to Medford in no time at all. Long Island’s South Shore is quite flat, so the ride wasn’t too challenging in and of itself. It was quite interesting riding through the towns and hamlets, the incorporated villages and whatnots- it made me wonder what sort of governing system all these places have and how it relates to the overall state… yes, as the wheels on the road turned, the wheels in my head mused over government and local politics.

Day 2: For the ride from Medford, I opted to go more or less straight across Long Island’s mid-section so that I could cross the Triborough Bridge and visit Randall’s Island for the first time. While slightly shorter in distance, this ride was a bit more challenging, but no less enjoyable, due to the rolling hills.

Still a bit fazed from yesterday’s Brooklyn adventure, I clipped directions to my brake cables- an ingenious idea from my Bike & Build hero, Sonya. As enjoyable as it always is, I was determined not to get (too) lost- and for the most part, I succeeded. I followed the directions to a ‘T’. I was good. I was on top of the world. And about a third of the way back, I found myself on G Road just as the directions stated- except G road became dirt road became muddy state park fire road…

I doubted myself, turned the directions upside-down and sideways, and cursed at myself for not printing a visual map. But I continued on, taking a break to collect myself and to take a picture of an abandoned vehicle that seemed a manifestation of my darkest thoughts: “It’s over man! Bail out!” Still, the hum of a main road, what I hoped was “Old Commack”, was just barely audible- so I kept on, keeping on the so called ‘G Road’. After more than a few WTF moments, I emerged from the underbrush and was indeed at the “intersection” of G Road and Old Commack. I muttered a few unsayables, thanked my lucky stars, and continued on without any other mishaps.

I stopped at a little church to admire the spring blossoms, and by mid-afternoon I was crossing the Triborough Bridge back into the city. I rode around Randall’s Island a bit, and then took the Bronx Kill’s Crossing north since I could not find the Harlem pedestrian walkway. This slight deviation was much more manageable as the terrain is more familiar and I found the 145th street bridge with ease. Officially back in the city, I went straight home, promptly cleaned up, and then passed out after another interesting cycling adventure.

does that make me crazy? probably

14 Apr

It’s not my fault. The button on the website said “click here” so I did. Now I’m registered for the Montauk Century Ride– and not the 60 or 100 mile ride either, mind you… I’ve gone and done myself in with the 145 mile ride.

So now what? Well, I’m going to take this one sitting down, thank you. Over the weekend, I’ll be riding to Patchogue, Long Island via the Gateway National Recreation Area, skirting the southern borders of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and following the South Shore eastward.All in all, it’ll be about 160 miles over two days, give or take a few extra miles due to the inevitable deviations along the way.

Ollie the Weatherman says, “IT GON’ RAIN!” Perfect for testing out my weatherproof camera and the staying power of sharpie directions on my arm. Hopefully the weather will deter the fair-weather outdoors-men and women from traveling, leaving the roads traffic free! We shall see…

of god and tartans

12 Apr

This past weekend was the 12th annual blessing of the bikes at at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York city. Considering my recent close encounter of the automobile kind, I figured a little divine help was a good idea. So, I woke up early Saturday morning and hopped into my super fabulous bike shorts and bike & build jersey, put on my gloves and shoes, and strapped on my helmet for the quick morning ride.

Despite the sunshine, the morning was crisp and cool. A few clouds speckled the pale blue sky, hinting at another beautiful spring day. It was perfect riding weather; though as I picked up speed on Riverside, I wished I had worn a jacket.

I arrived at the church early, event information warned to be on-time or risk missing the blessing altogether. I spent the down time watching cyclists arrive, some brought fancy road bikes, others brought mountain bikes, frames… a man mused that he might just bring his derailer next year, as a man walked in with a wheel.

I wasn’t keeping track of the time, but it must have been 9:30 when people began forming two lines down the main space of the cathedral. Reverend Tom (or more properly, Reverend Canon Thomas P. Miller) led a short service at the front of the cyclist columns, pausing now and again for praise in the form of bicycle bells- my usual aversion to the sound (or rather the aggressive cyclist) was calmed by the space and its acoustics.

After the blessing, Reverend Tom invited the cyclists to do a circuit around the cathedral’s interior. I obliged and followed the cyclists once around before heading out and back home for a quick nap.

Blessed and refreshed, I made my way to the Tartan Day Parade. Early, again, I meandered up and down 6th Avenue, collecting swag, talking to kilted folk, and taking pictures. By 2 PM, I was fully tartanized (minus the kilt). I donned a white Scotland cap and tucked a small Scottish flag into my “utility” belt. Flowing heroically in the light spring breeze, my cape, a Scottish flag, was kept MacGyvered into place by the handle of a small American flag, allowing both hands free to take pictures!

Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I’d enjoy the sound of bagpipes as much as I did on Saturday. There were hundreds of players, and I never thought I’d say this, but I think the more bagpipes the better. It was simply wonderful- and the drummers! I was absolutely entranced by their twirling batons, it looked incredibly fun to do, but must take a good deal of hand-eye coordination to pull off in time while marching. Maybe the kilts help.

The parade lasted for about an hour, with various groups and associations displaying their pride and showcasing their talents. One of my favorites was the Scottish Terrier owners. While I’m usually not a fan of dressing up animals… this kilted pup got two thumbs up for being super awesome. This Terrier is captaining her wheeled ship down the street. Look closely and you’ll see there’s a pirate skull on the back. This is one cool dog with an outfit that works.

insomnia, insanity, and insatiability – oh my…

9 Apr

The variables in tonight’s equation for insanity were not unlike any other given night- save for the addition of the desire to create something, anything really. Earlier in the day, I’d failed at finding a capo for lil’kmart (my $30 toy guitar bought from its namesake) and I was aiming to make up for the shortfall. So when I arrived home early (10:30 pm), it seemed I had all the time in the world to let creativity free.

Lil’k-mart is well-loved though well worn- what with it falling on the hardwood floor and all that jazz. It needed a case, a place to call home. Inspired by duct tape’s almighty powers, I decided I’d create a guitar case fitting for lil’k-mart.

With no planned course of action,  no schematics or how-to book- I did what I love to do: improvise. I knew I needed to discern lil’k-mart’s dimensions, so I traced its outline on paper. Then I used a medium-sized cardboard box to create the 3-dimensional frame from the tracing. (Thanks to my super roommate, Stephanie, for the box.)

In order to give a little padding to the inside, I used one of the NYC marathon volunteer shirts I have, but will never wear because they are far too large for me to ever fit. One shirt provided all of the padding for the main area of the case, and then I found some left over foam from when my bike & build bicycle was delivered; and I lined the top part of the case with that.

Duct tape provided the final touch and smoothed out any curious angles. I made hinges at both ends and one in the middle. Now lil’k-mart has a home and my room looks like kindergarten.

Make life worth the while- make something beautiful today.

my first century (and then some)

3 Apr

Well, I did it, NYC to New Haven, CT and back in one piece and two days! It was an epic trip, the stuff of straight-to-DVD comedies, full of events that could/should never happen in real life, but somehow do… I rode logged over 200 miles in 2 days, fell a few times, crashed & burned, saw new places, met interesting people, and had an all around awesome adventure. Sure, it was a foolish, last minute decision- but I don’t regret the experience garnered from this ride.

FRIDAY: I checked my favorite online maps resource for directions and wrote them down rather than relying on my memory as I did for my last but-not-quite-epic ride to West Orange, NJ when I nearly doubled the distance I should have ridden to get to my destination. Not wanting to pull out an actual map or piece of paper while riding, I opted for a more natural and readily accessible solution: my arm. With directions on arm, I packed my backpack with a change of clothes and vitals for the road: 2 liter camelpack water supply, 2 packs of jerky per day, 2 cliff bars (apple cranberry and apricot- yum!), and 2 amazing meal blends for each water bottle per day. Gear-wise I brought 2 tire levers, 2 spare tubes, a multitool, and a tire pump. Once everything was sorted and stowed away, I started riding around 8am, east and north through the Bronx.

I took Pelham Parkway, riding through Pelham Bay Park, and turned onto the Boston Post Road in New Rochelle. I ended up disregarding my original directions and opted to follow the old postal route, roughly the current US-1, to New Haven. I was thrilled to be riding the path that postal riders used to deliver mail to colonists hundreds of years ago- it helped to distract my mind from physical distractions like the inevitable pain and fatigue. Along the route there are milestones dating back to the 18th century, however I didn’t see any during my ride.

I stopped to take a few pictures in Greenwich and Stamford, Connecticut. They were quiet and hilly towns, though Stamford was definitely larger. Some colonial style buildings still stood and the harbors were beautiful, but I didn’t tarry too long as I hoped to be in New Haven sooner than later.

Somewhere between Norwalk and Bridgeport, I lost US-1 and had a near life experience- let me preface this moment by saying that a Honda CRV iHurtside door has more give than my current saddle, the Selle Royal Seta W… Yes, I abandoned my directions for more creative routing and, yes, I was hit by a car- a lovely silver CRV. I added quite a few miles to the trip and the collision scratched up my right side a bit, though my backpack and helmet took the brunt of the impact when I was thrown off of the bike.

Three girls jumped out of the CRV and asked if I was okay. I honestly didn’t feel anything, other than surprise, and told them it was all right- no harm, no foul. There wasn’t any major damage to the bike, some paint had been chipped off, some metal scrapped, and the front brake handle had been knocked out of alignment – nothing detrimental, but out of precaution I ceased using the front brake for the day. I reassured the girls that all was well and walked my bike to a little grassy area on the side of the road to settle and get my bearings back.

Following my gut instincts, I rode eastward passing through Fairfield and into Bridgeport where I reconnected with US-1 by pure luck. Bridgeport was the largest city outside of New Haven that I rode through; even so, it still had a very contained and small-town feel. One of its most famous residents was the circus-promoter, PT Barnum– incidently, the road that led me to US-1 was Barnum Ave.

Determined not to lose US-1 again, I rolled into New Haven around 5pm, exhausted but elated to have made it in one piece. I meandered around the city since the sun was still up, and fought off the urge to go straight to bed for as long as possible… I was fast asleep well before 9pm…

SATURDAY: With Friday’s lessons and events freshly set in my mind, I started the day around 8am, cruising onto US-1 West with the sun at my back. The ride back seemed shorter, perhaps because the landscape was familiar and I stopped less. However I did have one major setback.

Speeding down the hill entering Bridgeport, I hit a series of cracks in the road and sustained a flat tire from the wear. While trying to fill the tire, I could hear air hissing from the tube… as luck would have it, a police officer pulled into a parking spot nearby and, seeing my dilemma, directed me towards a bike shop, Chris’s Spoke & Wheel, just a half mile away. Figuring I could get my brake handle realigned and an overall frame check, I made my way to the bike shop. Bubba, the shop puppy, kept me company while my bike was tuned up and checked for damages that may have been overlooked.

With a little professional TLC, my bike was as good as new (no damage found) and I headed into Bridgeport’s downtown. In the city, I met a most interesting and kind man named Thomas. He is an avid cyclist and has taken his children on cross-country cycling trips. We spoke for quite some time, though I wish I had had all day. He shared highlights from his cycling trips, gave me some tips and gear advice for the summer, and set the plans in motion for another cycling adventure: Mohawk Mountain.

The rest of the journey was for the most part, uneventful (in comparison with Friday’s madness). Perhaps this was life’s way of balancing itself. Admittedly, I’m grateful- both for the insanity and the calm.

a new month, a new day, a new plan

1 Apr

It’s April Fools, and I’ve stolen the fool’s crown. Perhaps it was Sony’s prank for the day, but for the life of me, I could not log into the server, rendering me nearly useless and unreachable. While biding my time “researching future project ideas”, I discovered that Sony takes off Good Friday, so suddenly I have a three day weekend! Having taken the fool’s crown as my own, doing something foolish with my new found time was mandatory.

After a few foolish moments of half-hearted research, I decided upon a destination: New Haven, CT. I’ve never been there before and it’s only about 90 miles away – a day’s ride. Foolishly perfect. See you on the road.