I just saw a Boston Globe arti­cle in which cycling advo­ca­cy groups are demand­ing that 18-wheel trucks be banned from the city after yet anoth­er cyclist fatal­i­ty caused by a turn­ing truck.

I think this is a great idea, but cycling safe­ty shouldn’t be the only moti­va­tion. I have always been annoyed at how waste­ful and ridicu­lous it is to have enor­mous diesel semis roar­ing through com­pact city streets to cov­er rel­a­tive­ly short dis­tances with small amounts of car­go. Star­bucks uses 53′ trail­ers to deliv­er cof­fee and cups to their stores, for exam­ple. Real­ly, you couldn’t do that with a light­weight van?

I’m sure that with all the con­struc­tion in town, an absolute ban is not fea­si­ble, but there’s no rea­son we couldn’t head the direc­tion of more pro­gres­sive cities like Oslo and Paris by requir­ing that deliv­ery vehi­cles get small­er, lighter, and more elec­tric.

October 17, 2016 October 17, 2016 cycling by Scott 2 Comments

pedal-wood-03-pair File this one under “first-world prob­lems.” Since putting togeth­er my belt-dri­ve city bike last fall, I have been look­ing for a bet­ter way to ride (occa­sion­al­ly) with nice leather-soled shoes. Every met­al- and plas­tic-sur­faced ped­al I tried rubbed uneven­ly against the shoe, destruc­tive­ly dug into the leather sole with sharp points, or both.

The solu­tion seemed to come in the form of the Moto Urban Ped­al, which has an unusu­al­ly large flat fric­tion sur­face as well as a dis­tinc­tive ply­wood body. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the fric­tion is pro­vid­ed by “strong grip tape.” While their adver­tised claim is true–that the skate­board-style grip tape pro­vides slip-free con­tact even with wet leather soles–the man­u­fac­tur­er doesn’t men­tion that grip tape also destroys leather by grind­ing it down. As I found out, grip tape is just coarse sand­pa­per with an adhe­sive back­ing. That solu­tion is per­fect for the skate­board-indus­tri­al com­plex because it ensures a steady cycle of demand for new skate­board­ing shoes, but it is unsuit­able for my needs.

So I began my Edi­son-style exper­i­ment with every kind of fric­tion mate­r­i­al I could get my hands on. I tried sev­er­al dif­fer­ent mod­els of 3M Grip­ping Mate­r­i­al, the amaz­ing stuff that sim­u­lates gecko feet, but it quick­ly became clogged with debris. I tried a tex­tured self-adhe­sive neo­prene prod­uct designed for guns (?!), but it lacked the dura­bil­i­ty and adhe­sive strength I need­ed.

Final­ly, Feld­meier sug­gest­ed that the best fric­tion mate­r­i­al for shoes might be anoth­er shoe. From an online cob­bler sup­pli­er, I obtained two sheets of sol­ing mate­r­i­al: a 2 mm SoleTech sol­ing sheet for dress shoes and a 4 mm sheet of Vibram 7175 boot rub­ber. The Vibram mate­r­i­al is amaz­ing but way too thick and heavy for this appli­ca­tion, so I put it aside. The SoleTech (check-tex­tured SBR rub­ber) is per­fect.

I made a tem­plate of laser-cut acrylic so I could cut per­fect ped­al-shaped pieces from the sheet with a knife.

2014-09-14 11.19.01

Rub­ber con­tact cement pro­vides a per­fect (although pos­si­bly too per­ma­nent) bond to the plas­tic pieces that form the plain bear­ings in the Moto ped­als. It also smells awe­some.

2014-09-14 11.41.37

The new ped­al sur­faces are work­ing great so far, wet and dry. And they don’t destroy leather. We’ll see how they hold up in the long term.

2014-09-15 09.13.14

September 18, 2014 September 18, 2014 cycling by Scott No Comments

Mt. Washington HillclimbMt. Washington victory pose Race day was Sat­ur­day August 21.

Weath­er: 70 and sun­ny at the bot­tom; 46, clear, and unchar­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly calm at the peak. There was a nice 5 MPH breeze above tree­line. Vis­i­bil­i­ty: 75 miles.

Total climb: 4,727 feet over 7.6 miles
Aver­age grade: 12%

Race result: 1:23:46
Fin­ish­ing: 182/526


August 24, 2010 August 24, 2010 cycling by Scott 4 Comments

Hill climb gearing

July 18 was my one oppor­tu­ni­ty to attempt Mt. Wash­ing­ton by bicy­cle before race day. I had a cou­ple of goals in mind: find­ing a rea­son­able pace and test­ing my hill-climb set­up.

It’s worth point­ing out that the ride is much too steep and long for con­ven­tion­al road bike gear­ing to make sense—an effi­cient cadence would not be pos­si­ble. It seems like every­one has an opin­ion about what makes a per­fect set­up. Some peo­ple run with a road triple crankset up front, or maybe a com­pact crank. Some peo­ple install a moun­tain cas­sette on the rear wheel, which usu­al­ly requires a long-cage moun­tain derailleur to go with it. Since I have only one road bike, and re-tun­ing derailleurs is not my idea of a great time, I came up with a dif­fer­ent con­fig­u­ra­tion: a moun­tain crankset, hold­ing only a 22T chain­ring on the front, and a con­ven­tion­al 12–25T road cas­sette (and stan­dard derailleur) on the back. With this set­up, I can achieve bet­ter than a 1:1 gear ratio. And the only parts I have to swap out are the cranks, bot­tom brack­et, and chain! (Shame on Shi­mano for mak­ing road and moun­tain bot­tom brack­ets very slight­ly dif­fer­ent.) One unfor­tu­nate con­se­quence of hav­ing the bike con­fig­ured for hill-climb­ing is that my top speed on lev­el ground becomes about 8 MPH, which can be embarass­ing if you’re actu­al­ly try­ing to get some­where.

We stayed at a friend’s cab­in in Tam­worth, then drove up at the crack of dawn. There aren’t many oppor­tu­ni­ties to catch me awake and alert at 5:30 AM, but this was one, as the road would close to bikes after 7:00. Bad news greet­ed us upon our arrival, though: in spite of the stun­ning sun­rise and pic­ture-per­fect weath­er on the ground, the course was closed due to high winds. Above tree­line there was a steady 55 MPH breeze gust­ing to 70. Appar­ent­ly they will run the race in winds up to 45 MPH, but beyond that appar­ent­ly peo­ple have dif­fi­cul­ty stay­ing upright. After much moan­ing and groan­ing and re-check­ing of wind speeds, it was deter­mined that we would be allowed to ride only the first two miles of the auto road. So up we went. It was the hard­est two miles I’ve ever biked! At least there was a bonus: we were per­mit­ted the unusu­al oppor­tu­ni­ty to ride our bikes back down. Wheeee!

After all the bikes had cleared the course, the auto road opened to cars. We paid the toll and drove to the top so I could study the route. Check out the day’s pic­tures here. As you can see, the weath­er above tree­line is just as intim­i­dat­ing as the slope of the road!

August 11, 2010 August 11, 2010 cycling by Scott 6 Comments

One of my “res­o­lu­tions” for 2010 was to join a cycling team and start rac­ing. I have fall­en a lit­tle short on that task: although I trained all win­ter and even took a bike rac­ing class, my sum­mer sched­ule filled up so quick­ly that join­ing a team start­ed to seem like a waste of mon­ey. But months ago, when snow was still falling and every­thing seemed pos­si­ble, I seized upon a moment of mid-win­ter hubris and signed myself up for one epic race: The Mount Wash­ing­ton Auto Road Bicy­cle Hill­climb.

For some back­ground, let’s turn to a descrip­tion of the course from a Sep­tem­ber 2004 arti­cle in Out­side mag­a­zine:

The Rock­pile, as Mount Wash­ing­ton is unro­man­ti­cal­ly nick­named, tow­ers 6,288 feet above sea lev­el. We’ll be climb­ing the upper­most 4,727 feet, over a mere 7.6 miles. (For per­spec­tive, one of the tough­est races in the Rock­ies, the Mount Evans hill climb, near Den­ver, ris­es 7,000 feet over 28 miles.) With an aver­age grade of 12 per­cent and sus­tained stretch­es of 18 per­cent (high­way grades rarely exceed 7 per­cent), Mount Wash­ing­ton is steep­er than L’Alpe d’Huez or any oth­er climb in the Tour de France, Spain’s Vuelta, or the Giro d’Italia. Mile for mile, it is arguably the tough­est one-day bike race on the plan­et.

There are a whop­ping 72 turns on the Auto Road course, and the longest straight­away is only a few hun­dred yards—on dirt. Most hill climbs ease off at the top, allow­ing rid­ers to drop into a more mus­cu­lar gear and enjoy a burst of accel­er­a­tion. Not on Wash­ing­ton. In the final 100 yards—a sec­tion alter­nate­ly called the Corkscrew, the Lad­der, and the Wall—the grade steep­ens to a hor­ri­fy­ing 22 per­cent.

So there it is. Why did I sign myself up for this again? It’s true that I enjoy rid­ing on hills. And I do score rea­son­ably well on that gold­en met­ric of hill­climbers, watts per kilo­gram of body weight. But this is start­ing to sound a lit­tle intim­i­dat­ing. There’s no coast­ing: if you stop ped­al­ing on this hill, you’ll fall off the bike. And at a “race pace” of 5–6 MPH, draft­ing isn’t much use either. Will I even be able to eat or drink? Will my cus­tom hill­climb gear­ing pro­vide the right ratios for effi­cient rid­ing?

The Mt. Wash­ing­ton Auto Road is not nor­mal­ly open to bicy­cles, but to help answer some of these ques­tions, the orga­niz­ers allow for one unsup­port­ed prac­tice ride a month before the race. And with the actu­al race com­ing up on August 21, that prac­tice ride is hap­pen­ing this Sun­day. More to come!

July 16, 2010 July 16, 2010 cycling by Scott No Comments

Wells Ave 2010-05-02

As I have men­tioned, I’m try­ing a new sport for 2010: bike rac­ing. For this rea­son, I enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly took to April’s NEBC Spring Rac­ing Clin­ic, even when that meant rent­ing cars every Sat­ur­day and dri­ving all the way to Fort Devens. While the pace of the class was a lit­tle uneven, it was com­plete­ly worth­while. Two drills took me most out­side my com­fort zone: the water bot­tle pick-up drill and high-speed cor­ner­ing.

“Grad­u­a­tion” was par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Wells Ave Train­ing Cri­teri­um on May 2. A cri­teri­um is a short race involv­ing many laps around closed-off streets. This for­mat is ide­al for spec­ta­tors! For us begin­ners, the total dis­tance is only 12 miles (15 laps), and it goes by fast! My bike com­put­er record­ed an aver­age speed of 23.6 mph. The class­es pre­pared me well, but I also fol­lowed the last-minute advice of an expe­ri­enced bystander: stay to the front and the out­side to avoid crash­es. Good advice, I think, because there were two pret­ty bad wrecks. It’s dif­fi­cult to resist the temp­ta­tion to look at them, but there is too just much going on when you’re near­ly rub­bing han­dle­bars and wheels with a dozen oth­er peo­ple.

Wells Ave 2010-05-02 I was get­ting excit­ed about being near the front, since by the penul­ti­mate lap I had worked myself up to 3rd or 4th place. But sud­den­ly, the guys who I had been fol­low­ing dropped back, and I found myself lead­ing the last lap—with the wind in my face and legs start­ing to tire, not a great sit­u­a­tion to be in! After a sur­prise last-minute encounter with a car on the course, the fin­ish line came into view, and sud­den­ly 5 or 6 guys sling­shot­ted around me. I start­ed my sprint. It was too late to catch the guys who passed me, but I man­age to get my speed up to 36 mph, fast enough to keep the rest of the pack from pass­ing. This left me some­where in the top 10 (out of 39), close enough to feel like a suc­cess but not high enough to appear in the race results.

As we were fin­ished, an ambu­lance showed up to attend to the two crash­es. One was caused by over­lapped wheels, and anoth­er guy had been stuck on the inside of a cor­ner was trapped too close to the curb. A lit­tle scary!
circa 1992

Before rid­ing home with anoth­er Rapha-clad blog­ger-friend named Scott, we stayed to watch the first half of the B race. The speeds are a lit­tle high­er, but most impor­tant­ly, they looked so much more order­ly! I have much to learn. So I’m moti­vat­ed to find a team. And to keep train­ing for my big race in August, which I will write more about in a sep­a­rate post.

Also: it is con­firmed that the Igle­heart road bike I got last year rocks!

I recent­ly found this pic­ture of me at age 12. It’s fun­ny that it took me so
many years to dis­cov­er this sport, since appar­ent­ly I’ve always had some enthu­si­asm for it.

May 23, 2010 May 23, 2010 cycling by Scott No Comments

Cycling license

Meet your newest cat­e­go­ry 5 rac­er. Next task: find­ing a team.

January 25, 2010 January 25, 2010 cycling by Scott 4 Comments