Washington, DC — The Tidal Basin

The Martin Luther King Memorial

The Martin Luther King Memorial

I was in Maryland again this week and I decided to use the opportunity to go ride my bike in Washington DC. I went into the city on a Monday night around 7:45. During the summers, a different military band gives a free concert every week night on the steps of the US capital. So, I parked my rental car in front of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and rode up to the Capital. I really enjoyed the Navy choir, the Sea Chanters — technically they are part of the US Navy Band.  They put on a great performance with a number of soloists and small groups in addition to the ensemble pieces. Their performance of the Navy Hymn (Eternal Father Strong to Save) was amazing.

After the concert I rode along the Mall to the WWII Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.

The Jefferson Memorial

The Jefferson Memorial

I have been to these many times but on this occasion I decided to ride along the Tidal Basin by the ML King, Roosevelt and Jefferson Memorials. I had been to the Jefferson Memorial before but I did not know that the MLK and Roosevelt memorials were also on the Tidal Basin. From the WWII Memorial, it was a short ride to the Tidal Basin. You do have to be careful if you choose to ride the sidewalk right next to the water. It is narrow and I had to duck to make it under several tree branches. At night even with a 600 lumen light it was hard to judge the clearance.

Halfway around I road away from the water towards another trail and I found myself at the Martin Luther King Memorial. The massive statue of MLK is cool and the quotes on the wall (in the photo above) were illuminated. After riding past the King Memorial, I found myself at the Roosevelt Memorial. I had no idea how massive this memorial was. I really enjoyed the walls with quotes and the waterfalls. Finally, I rode to the Jefferson Memorial. I spent some time just enjoying the view of the Washington Monument across the Tidal Basin from the steps. Nighttime is the best time to see the DC monuments and a bike is the best way to do so.

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Burlingame, CA — Coyote Point/Bay Trail (Rockin’ the Neon Lycra)

The Bay Trail

The Bay Trail

The Bay Trail is an ambitious project to create  a 500 mile trail around San Francisco Bay. So far there are over 300 miles completed. I got off work early on a Friday and decided to try riding a portion of the trail. Since I was staying in Burlingame, I decided to ride the trail from Coyote Point

. The wind was blowing steadily from the Northwest so I decided to ride North towards San Francisco. As every cyclist knows, you should always ride out into the wind and ride back with the wind. I made the right decision choosing the direction to ride, but it turned out to be the wrong decision about where to ride.

There were two problems. First I didn’t read closely enough. Coyote Point charges a $6 entrance fee and the area closes at 8pm. Barely 100 yards out of the park I came across several areas with free street parking along the bay. The other problem is that Coyote Point is near the northmost end of a section of trail. It is only about 3-3.5 miles before the trail dead ends. Next time I ride, I’ll start farther south by Oracle in Redwood Shores.

The trail itself was nice with great views of the wind and kite surfers off Coyote Point. There was a short section of road but even near rush hour it was pretty isolated.

I did have a funny thing happen to me on the ride.

As I was sitting on a bench, watching windsurfers and kite surfers in the Bay, I was approached by two attractive young Asian women. Through broken English and pantomime, they indicated that they wanted a picture taken with me. I sat with each young lady on a bench while the other took our photo with a cell phone. I forgot to ask them to take a picture with my phone :(

I suspect they thought I was somebody famous, like Jason Statham. Either that or I am the largest guy they’ve every seen wearing neon yellow lycra. Maybe, as the song says, “I’m too sexy for my shirt …”

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San Mateo, CA — The Sawyer Camp Trail

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Sawyer Camp Trail with Crystal Springs Reservoir

On my last few trips to the Bay Area, I have wanted to take my bike and ride the Sawyer Camp Trail

. The trail is located near I-280 and at the southern end, follows the shore of Crystal Springs Reservoir. Most of the Internets sites I visited described it as one of the best trails in the Bay Area. The trail is extremely popular. I rode it on a Thursday evening and the trail head was packed. Cars were parked up and down the street. I’m told that on weekends it can get really crowded.

The trail is relatively flat at the south end with great views of the reservoir. Later on the trail enters the woods and eventually begins a gentle but steady climb. Along the way the trail passes the Jepsen Laurel, the largest and oldest Laurel tree in California. The trail is paved with asphalt and shows signs of repeated patching. Overall it was pretty smooth and made for a nice ride.

There were a number of benches along the route, several with a view of the reservoir. There is a restroom at the trail head and a couple more spread along the trail. The trail is wide but there are several sharp curves and s-curves so you do need to pay attention as you ride. Even in the evening, this trail was full of joggers and walkers. On the weekend there are a lot of kids on the trail, walking and on bikes.  I will ride this trail again when I am in the Bay Area.

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Living with S&S Couplers — a Love Story

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My Baby

For years I have dreamed of getting S&S Couplers put on my bike. S&S Couplers are stainless steel connectors that allow a full size bicycle to be disassembled and packed in a single airline legal suitcase.  I am probably not the typical S&S Coupler user, I did not get the couplers put on my bike so that I could do epic rides in Tuscany or ride through Mongolia. I got the couplers because I am a business traveler and I log about 75-100,000 air miles and 120 hotel nights a year.

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Packed (minus tube protectors & TSA Net)

This spring I sent my beloved Bridgestone RB-1 off to Bilenky Cycle Works

in Philadelphia to have the conversion done. The cost for the conversion, hard case, powdercoat, and accessories was about $1700. Some of the accessories, like the Velo Orange Quill Stem Adapter and Threadless Stem were necessary to make the bike easier to pack, others like the upgrade to Dura Ace BR-7700 brakes were not :) Since then I have taken the bike with me on 9 domestic round trip flights. Since Delta Airlines charges $150 each way to transport a bicycle, in 4 months I have already saved $2700in fees. One might argue that I would not really have spent $2700 transporting my bike — true, but I would not have had my bike with me either. To paraphrase the commercial, getting my bike converted $1700 — being able to ride my bike in San Francisco, Memphis. Washington DC, Annapolis, etc. … PRICELESS!!!

So, even though I have had the couplers only a few months, I consider myself a veteran. If you are considering S&S couplers for your bike, here are some things (in no particular order) that I have learned:

  • Packing will get easier — the first time I packed the bike, it took me forever and I could barely make it fit in the case. Now I am much faster at it and it seems that every time I pack it, the case gets bigger.
  • The TSA thinks your bike is a bomb — I fly out of the same small airport 2-3 times every month. No matter how many times the TSA sees my bike in its case, they open it. I think it’s ‘da bomb, apparently they think it’s a bomb. :(
  • Use the TSA net and compression members — buy the TSA net and the compression members to make the case more rigid and make it easier for the TSA to repack once they open the cast.
  • Chain wax is your friend  — consider waxing your chain. (Try this tutorial) I de-greased my chain with Simple Green and then I bought a potpourri sized crock pot to wax the chain in. The advantage is that the chain stays mostly dirt free. Since I take the chain on and off the bike almost weekly this is huge!!! I pack the chain in a ziploc bag in my case.
  • Use a quick-disconnect link on your chain — If you wax your chain, use quick disconnects so you can take it on and off the bike easily. I am able to easily disconnect the chain my hand.

    sfo

    San Francisco

  • Carry spare disconnect links — the disconnects are small. I keep a spares in my seat bag, in my suitcase, in my computer bag and in the small tool bag that I carry in the case.
  • Pump your tires at an LBS — on the advice of another traveler, I bought a Topeak Morph pump. It is small, light, has a pressure gauge, and acts like a mini floor pump. I still carry it with me but now I take my bike to local bike shops (LBSs) to get the tires pumped. It is simpler, faster and I get to check out bike shops — what’s not to love?
  • Ask the locals where to ride — another advantage of going to the LBS is that you can ask about where to ride. The Internet is a great resource but nothing beats going into a shop and asking local cyclists about current trail conditions, route recommendations and other advice.
  • Get an aheadset adapter if you have a threaded fork — most S&S owners will tell you that the hardest part about packing a road bike is making the drop bars fit. My bike has a threaded fork (old school!) so the stem made this task even worse. My first post-conversion purchase was a Velo Orange threadless adapter and threadless stem. I just remove the stem from the adapter but since it is a four-bolt stem, I could also remove the stem from the bars if I had too. The stem and adapter are shiny polished aluminum so I bought a polished aluminum seatpost to match :)
  • The cable disconnects work — I was surprised, I thought I would spend a lot of time adjusting my derailleurs. But the cable disconnects do a really good job. I do not spend any more time adjusting my derailleurs now than I did before I got the couplers.
  • Get a cart — the S&S case (I have the original grey one) is fine for short walks but in SFO, where it is a looong walk from baggage claim to the rental care, I have started using an airport baggage cart.
  • Check the tightness of the couplers before every ride — one day in Memphis, I was riding and something didn’t sound or feel right. After stopping and examining the bike I realized that my top tube coupler had come loose. I had to hand tighten it for the 7 mile trip back to the car :(
  • Carry an S&S wrench in your seat bag —I have a very small seat bag and the standard S&S wrench (the one with the pedal wrench on the other end) doesn’t fit. I bought a lightweight spanner wrench to go with the standard wrench that I got from Bilenky. It fits in my bag and now I have it as a spare.
  • Use high quality supple tires — one of the problems that I had initially with the bike was the tires. I had Continetal Ultra Gatorskins in 700×28. The problem was that even deflated the wheels really had to be forced into the case. The rear wheel was no problem but when the TSA opened the case, they always had to force the front wheel back in and on an early trip the case and wheel got somewhat damaged. My first attempt to solve this issue was to simply remove the front tire and tube. The problem is that the combination of the Gatorskin and Velocity Deep-V rims was very hard to work with. I’ve been working with clinchers for almost 40 years and these were still difficult to get off the rim. Even worse, I found myself puncturing a tube about 30% of the time and it was getting expensive. I decided to try a different tire. I switched to Shwalbe Ultremo ZXs with a folding bead. I originally switched because I believed they would be easier to remove. Even better, the tires are very supple and when I deflate them they fit into the case without forcing them at all. I also like the ride.
  • Toss some rags in the case — make sure you bring some rags along. There are many reasons, sometimes i use it to soften the grip on the S&S pedal tool when I need extra torque. I also give the chain a quick wipe before packing it and you never know when the bike will get dust or even mud on it and you’ll want to wipe it off before packing.
  • Bring the right tools — I bring a Park 3-way allen wrench with 4, 5 and 6mm heads, The S&S t0ol with pedal wrench, a small phillips screw driver (which I have yet to use) and a Pedros 8mm wrench for extra torque mounting and dismounting my crankset. I also bring along a tube of Finish Line Extreme Flouro Grease for the couplers, stem, seatpost and pedals. Of course I also bring a frame pump and seat bag with an extra tube,patch kit, tire irons, allen wrenches and lightweight S&S wrench to carry on the bike.
  • Protect the area where the freewheel rubs against the down tube — the one consistent problem that I have is that the way I pack my bike the freewheel has chewed up the powder coating on my down tube. Sort of removing the freewheel or the threaded headset, I just cant make the geometry work. Waterford recommends protecting the tube with a piece of heater hose. Oh well, I am going to get the bike powdercoated again this winter. Bilenkey’s shop did a good job, but I chose the color over the Internet and it’s too orange. I am going to have a local shop redo it in Little Red Wagon Red.
  • Wrap your seat and bar tape — Your seat and handlebar tape will get scuffed if you don’t protect them. I use plastic grocery bags and rubber bands.
  • Ride, ride, ride! — after all, that’s why you wanted S&S couplings in the first place.
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Dublin, California — The Iron Horse Trail

arroyo-bikeI am out here this week, working for a healthcare company in Pleasanton, California. The whole Bay Area has been going through somewhat of a cold spell with the summer temperatures about 10 degrees below normal. I brought my bike jacket with me just in case. When I hit the trail in the evening after work, the temperatures were hovering in the upper 60′s with a very strong wind. The wind was steady around 15-18 mph.

I decided to ride the Iron Horse Trail. The Iron Horse Trail is a paved regional trail that currently runs about 26 miles from Pleasanton to Concord. This trail follows an old railbed and will ultimately run about 55 miles and collect with several other East Bay trails. The trail follows a drainage canal or arroyo. The trail is flat and while the section I rode had a few road crossings, many of them crossed lightly traveled streets. Much of the trail is open with little shade or protection from the wind. On a hot day the lack of shade could be a problem.

Before my ride I stopped by Dublin Cyclery to use a floor pump. I was pleasantly surprised, Dublin Cyclry is a pro shop with a good selection of custom steel frames. While I was poking around, I saw my dream frame, a Waterford Reynolds 953 polished stainless steel frame. It was even a 56cm — just my size. (I would skateboard-dograther have a steel fork than carbon fiber.) I wonder if my wife would notice if I put $3850 on my credit card?

When I asked the guys at Dublin Cyclery, they said that the trail started practically in their parking lot. I had a great ride but riding into the wind, out in the open was brutal. Fortunately, I rode out into the wind and when I was tired I had the wind at my back. I had two free nights this week and I rode both times.

The Iron Horse Trail is a popular trail. A number of commuters use the trail since it starts at the Dublin BART station. There were several walkers an runners on the trail in addition to a large number of cyclists. Fortunately the trail is wide and straight so it was easy to pass people, even in groups. It’s even wide enough to pass longboarding dogs. I will be back in the Bay Area in two weeks and I will be sure to ride the Iron Horse Trail again,

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Salt Lake City — The Jordan River Trail

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This week I am working with a client in Salt Lake City. I am staying at the base of Cottonwood Canyon. There is a bike path right outside my hotel but it climbs steeply and I decided not to brave it. Instead, I went out and rode the Jordan River Trail. The Jordan River Trial follows the river almost all the way through the valley. I got on the trail at Millrace Park and intended to ride anout 10 miles North for a 20 mile round trip. The picture is one of the open sections of the trail with the Wasatch Mountains in the background.

I got on the trail in the early evening. There were a lot of walkers and bikers out enjoying a warm evening. The temperature was around 90 degrees with very little humidity. There was a slight breeze and it was a beautiful evening

The Jordan River Trail is interesting. Since it follows the river it is pretty flat. There are access points all over and the section that I road had briges or tunnel and absolutely no at grade crossings! At abut mile 8 I got to a road crossing and spoke to some local cyclists. they said that the next several miles were full of street crossings and som eon street riding, since it was getting late, I decided to cut my ride short and turn around.

The trail surface is asphalt and it is decent shape. One caution, there are several s-curves on the trail some with limited visibility. You really do need to watch your speed. There is also a section of boardwalk over a swampy area for about 100-150 yards on the trail. You need to be especially careful riding the boardwalk. It is very narrow and has some very sharp turns that I believe are too narrow and sharp for two bikes. Some of the tunnels and over passes are also narrow.

The other notable feature of the trail is the lack of signage or trail markings. There are several side trails and trail entrances and I found myself riding several dead end spurs. At one point I even found myself on the opposite side of the river riding on a path that became gravel for almost a mile, while watching people walk the paved section on the other side of the river.

The trail goes past a number of residential neighborhoods and some industrial areas. There is also a prison, a golf course and a water park. All in all I enjoyed the ride and hope to ride some other sectons of the trail this week.

 

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RAGBRAI

IMG_20130723_143012I have been riding RAGBRAI on and off since 1977. This year, I had hoped to ride a couple of days and one day with my wife. The problem is that Janice tore her ACL and Meniscus in January and has been recovering without surgery since. Originally we planned on riding half of the day from Perry to Des Moines, about 25 miles. I think it was a good decision to not do the ride. The longest that Jan has ridden since her injury is just over 10 miles and she has not ridden any hills.

Instead we decided to ride the bike trails in Des Moines and spend some time with the RAGBRAI crowd. Jan and I enjoyed the time with the tribe in Valley Junction. We also managed to take her longest ride of the season at about 12 miles. The weather was perfect and other than a detour on the trail it was a great ride. Along the way  we had our pictures taken at Gray’s lake.

Next year, I plan on riding all seven days of RAGBRAI and bringing Jan along for one day.

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The High Trestle Trail

trestleThis week The Bike Wife and I went to Des Moines to ride a bit of RAGBRAI (a week long ride across Iowa). I have ridden several RAGBRAI’s starting 37 years ago with RAGBRAI IV. Originally, we had hoped to ride at least a full day but she tore her ACL and meniscus. She is recovering nicely but it will be some time before she returns to normal. She has been riding her bike on a trainer and riding some trails with me. She really is not ready for hills so we decided not to ride the full 50 miles.

god-beamsWe got to Des Moines on a Monday night and before we checked into our hotel we decided to go ride the High Trestle Trail from Woodward to Madrid. The High Trestle Trail is one of the gems of the Central Iowa trail system. The route from Woodward to Madrid is about an 11.5 mile round trip. The highlight of the trail is the trestle bridge, 13 stories high and almost half a mile long. the bridge spans a river valley and is lit up at night. The bridge is made up to look like a mine tunnel and it is lit up at night. We had hoped to catch the lights on this trip.

We were riding near dusk. As we rode, a storm front began to develop and we could see the thunder clouds forming. As time passed we began to see lightning on the horizon. We decided to hurry back to our car. Good thing, because shortly after we got to the car the Des Moines area was hit with straight line winds of 50-60 mph and heavy rains. One of these days, we’ll see the bridge at night. Even so, it was a great evening to be  on the bike with my wife.

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Washington, D.C. — The Capital Crescent Trail

capitol-crescentThe Capital Crescent Trail runs from the trendy Georgetown district of D.C. to Silver Spring, Maryland. Only about 7 miles (half) are paved in the section between Georgetown and Bethesda, MD. I found the trail head in my GPS near 3303 Water Street, Washington, D.C.

I read a number of things about this trail on Yelp and elsewhere. I must say the reviews were mixed. The most common complaint, since this is a mixed-use trail was of bike-pedestrian interaction. This trail starts in the heart of the city and is heavily used. Cyclists invariably complained about walkers (especially those with strollers) taking up the full width of the trail. Walkers/joggers on the other hand complained about Lance Armstrong wannabes buzzing by and pushing them off the path with no warning. I am sure the truth is somewhere in between.

In my case, I drove to Georgetown after work and waited until after rush hour. So, I arrived at the trailhead around 8pm. There were still a large number of cyclists on the trail with lights but few runners or walkers.

To my Fellow Cyclists: PLEASE do not set your headlight/taillight to flash on the trail —it’s really annoying. I set mine to flash in traffic for maximum visibility so I don’t get run over by a two ton hunk of steel. But when the biggest hazard is a jogging stroller — it’s overkill. Yes, I want to show off my 1 watt tail light and my 600 lumen headlight as well, just be considerate :)

The trail roughly follows the Potomac River and the C&O Canal. It is paved from Georgetown to Bethesda and offers some really cool views of the Potomac and some old railroad bridges crossing both roads and the canal. The C&O Canal also has a packed dirt/gravel tow path that is easily firm enough for road bikes.

Since i got a late start, I did not ride all the way to Bethesda, I only rode about 5 miles out and back for a total of 10 miles. I started in Georgetown because the trail climbs steadily, albeit gently, all the way to Bethesda. The grade was noticeable but not at all difficult. All in all this was a very enjoyable ride. Since this is a heavily used trail be sure to ride defensively and announce passing, stopping, etc.

One last thought, since this is an urban trail, I wondered about safety/security. My concerns were allayed when I got to the trailhead. Even near dusk there were a number of women biking or jogging alone in the neighborhood and on the trail. Next time I am in town I will ride the entire paved portion.

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Washington, D.C. — The Mall

IMG_20130708_195514This week I am working for a client in Silver Spring, Maryland just up the road from Washington, D.C. The weather was questionable for the week, hot, humid and a chance of storms each day. The the best chances for good weather were Monday and Tuesday so I decided to drive into the district and ride my bike. Summer evenings are the perfect time to ride in D.C.

I decided to start my ride on the National Mall. Since I went after work, I didn’t get down there until about 7:30, after the Smithsonian closed. On a weekday evening, there was no problem finding parking on the mall. I parked in a free space in front of t.he Smithsonian Castle. One of the treats of a summer evening in D.C. is listening to the various military band on the West steps of the Capitol. A different military band plays each night from 8-9pm. I rode up to the capital and had a seat on the steps. As the band set up, I was curious about their instrumentation. I saw an electric guitar, an electric bass, a fiddle, a trap set, a flat top steel guitar and a banjo. Monday night’s band was Country Current, the United States navy country/bluegrass band. The Navy has a bluegrass band — who knew? They were very good and I like both bluegrass and country. And when the lead singer sang the National Anthem a cappella (in traditional style) I got tears in my eyes.

While listening to the band at the Capitol, I decided that i really dislike Segways. Or maybe Segway riders. There were a group of tourist on a Segway tour and a couple of them were moving about among the spectators changing directions and backing up without looking. One guy almost ran over a child and their tour guide had to grab him before he hurt somebody.

IMG_20130708_213758In 2010 the Washington D.C. region was hit with an earthquake. The quake was strong enough to damage both the National Cathedral and the Washington Monument. The Washington Monument is still closed and covered with scaffolding. I heard a local radio commentator say that scaffolding on the monument during peak tourism season is, “like getting braces just in time for prom.”

To make up for the eyesore, a local philanthropist donated several million dollars to add lights to the scaffolding. I happened to be there the first time the lights were turned on. Very impressive. After listening to the band I road down towards the Washington Monument.

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From the Washington Monument it is a short ride to one of the most impressive and newest monuments in D.C. — the World War II Memorial. By this time it was getting dark but after dark is the very best time to see the D.C. Monuments. This is a great place to ride the Mall is nearly tabletop flat from the all the way from the Lincoln Memorial to the base of Capitol Hill.

The World War II Memorial is especially beautiful at night. Every time I visit i walk all the way around . I read all of the inscriptions and look at every bas relief. If you go by bike, the National Park Service requests that you walk your bike through the World War II and Korean War memorials.

At the far end of the Mall, I rode along the reflecting pool down to the Lincoln  Memorial. Big crowds as always but still enjoyable. In the end the Mall is not a great place to ride for a workout. There are too many people and too many stops to ride fast. But if you want a great way to spend a summer evening in D.C. I can think of few better options than a nighttime ride on the Mall. I can’t wait to bring my wife and her bike out here.

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