Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Gray Morning in New England

This post is going to be a bit of a departure from my usual sunshine-filled photos. A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how much I dislike riding in the rain. Well, I've had a change of heart...

It was raining pretty heavily when I woke up yesterday morning. But I really, really wanted to ride. So I checked the forecast ... "gradually clearing". Good enough! I waited a half-hour until the heaviest rain let up, threw on my rain jacket, biking gloves and helmet, and headed out...

The light rain was actually pretty refreshing on this warm spring morning. I enjoyed hearing the swish of my tires on the wet roads. The rain ended after about fifteen minutes or so, and off in the distance the Boston skyline emerged from the misty gloom...

Inspired by the the beauty of the moment, I decided to ride out to Hough's Neck (pronounced "Hows Neck"), which is a rocky stretch of land extending into the southern part of Boston Harbor.

At the very tip of the Neck is "Nut Island". This was a true island until the late 1700's, when farmers built a connecting path to the Neck to give their cows more land to graze on (it's amazing how much influence cows had on Boston's landscape!). The path eventually became a causeway, and now the island is simply a little bump-out at the end of Hough's Neck.

At the far end of Nut Island is a long fishing pier. I got off my bike and walked out...

Pretty eerie, don't you think? Looks like a good place for a Cold War-era spy exchange (it wasn't actually as lonely as it looks though; there were some folks fishing just behind me). Standing there on the end of the pier, I looked out on the great expanse of Boston Harbor...

The air and sea were were quiet, but normally this is a place of constant movement. Planes roar overhead, tugboats pull in container ships from faraway places, ferries rush between islands, and speedboats leave foamy wakes in the paths. Beneath the water is a vast network of channels, drainage pipes, tunnels, and countless shipwrecks.

I thought about the unseen navigation grid that allows captains and pilots to move through this complex old harbor. Lighthouses, buoys, and the control tower at Logan Airport are its only visible signs. It reminded me that Boston Harbor is first and foremost a place of work. Thousands of untold stories are played out on its shores every hour of every day.

So the harbor did seem calm that morning ... but it was a deceptive calm. That's what makes this place so wonderfully mysterious.

Later that morning at about 9:30 am, I was sitting at a sandwich shop enjoying my morning coffee and bagel. The sun was shining brightly now; there was no hint left of the gray, atmospheric beauty that hung over the harbor just three hours earlier. That was a unique moment in time ... well worth a short ride in the rain.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Morning at the Harbor (and links!)

First a nice photo to get the post started...

This was from my Memorial Day ride. Such a beautiful morning it was. The temperature was in the mid-60's, with a light breeze ringing a ship's bell somewhere off in the distance.

I love marinas in the morning, seeing people preparing for a day out at sea. Sometimes I simply enjoy hearing the irregular rhythm of the boats bobbing in the water, tapping against the docks. After I took this photograph, I took my bike back out to the road, began pedaling again, and thought: this is a good morning.

On another topic ... I just added some blogs I like to my sidebar. What fun! The first is "Up in Alaska":

I'm so glad I came across this blog. Wonderful photos, so nicely written, and sincere. I'm still exploring it, but my favorite post so far is "First Day of Spring" ( Those photos of Alaska are incredible.

The next is "Pat's Bike Blog":

I love bike touring logs, and this one is great. The tour itself is completed, so you've got the whole trip there for you to enjoy. I really like the early entry where he photographs his fully-loaded bike. He also has some interesting posts about Underground Railroad history.

And then "Cyclin' Missy":

It's a cyclist's journey toward riding her first century (a 100 mile biking event). Even though a century is out of my league at the moment, I can still relate to much of what she describes, especially her passion for riding. She writes so easily and honestly. Great blog!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Does anything beat a nice wide shoulder to ride on?

When I took this photo at 5:45 this morning, I was riding back from having been on this same road earlier, going in the opposite direction. It's a beautiful causeway leading out to a semi-island of glacial till in Boston Harbor, surrounded by wetlands and the sea.

On the way out though, I had to fight a massive headwind. So I tucked myself low in the drops of my handlebars and spun around in a ridiculously small gear. But then coming back ... ah, relief! What was once an ornery headwind was now a magnificent tailwind! I could put the bike in a whopping big gear and fly away.

Such is the beauty of an out-and-back morning ride.

The only problem though ... the tailwind put me in such a confident mood that when I stopped to take the photo, I forgot to downshift beforehand. Ugh! Starting up again from a giant gear was no fun! It's a nice photo though...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Ride

It was a beautiful morning on this Memorial Day. Here are some sights from my ride...

With deep gratitude and remembrance. Memorial Day 2009.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Rhythm of the Ride

Bike riding is all about rhythm ... the rhythm of the pedals going round and round, your knees rising and falling in a steady cadence, the gradual downshift as you move through the gears on a steep hill. Sometimes it takes a while for this rhythm to work itself into motion, especially if you have a lot on your mind. But then after about 15 minutes or so, the sights and sounds of the ride sink in and everything feels as if it's falling into place. You're back in the zone, and the horizon seems limitless again.

Sights you may simply pass by in a car take on a quiet kind of beauty in this bicycling zone. Like an abandoned mill...

Or the remains of a once-busy fishing dock...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Safety Tip

So a couple of weeks ago, I was at my parent's house sitting across from my mother at the breakfast table. We were chatting about what safety items to bring on a bike ride (like an i.d. card, etc) ... and boom! one of the lenses falls out of my glasses. I hadn't even noticed it was loose. The little screw at the temple was just kind of hanging there on its last few threads. Mom went into action. "Don't worry!" she said, "I have an eyeglass screwdriver". She brought it out and I thought ... wow, now that's a bike ride necessity!

Here's the little screwdriver that came to the rescue that morning (thanks Mom!):

For those of you who wear glasses, imagine if this happens during a ride. You're speeding down a hill, enjoying the brisk morning air and the hum of the road beneath your tires .... then your glasses come apart and you loose half your vision. Yikes!! Even worse, imagine that you can't find the little screw to put them back together. Bad stuff. From now on, I add a "glasses condition check" to my pre-ride routine, and a little eyeglass repair kit sits happily in my saddle bag.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Giro d'Italia, Stage 9: Milan

What a stage it was in beautiful ...

Or more accurately, what a stage it wasn't, as the riders decided the course was too dangerous for racing and instead rode together at a reduced speed. The situation was far more complex and interesting than it first appears though. According to Lance Armstrong's video message posted on his blog (, here's what happened:

1. The riders are immediately unhappy while riding the circuit through Milan, encountering parked cars, oncoming traffic, tram tracks running parallel to the riders' course, and extremely tight curves.

2. Riders talk about not racing, but Lance Armstrong decides they need an official ruling. So he takes the initiative and drops back to talk to the race commissar.

3. The commissar agrees to nullify the General Classification rankings for the day. Those who want to race for the stage win, can. But those who don't need not worry about loosing their place in the overall Giro standings.

4. Lance tells the news to the rest of the peleton. They all stays in a pack and ride at a reduced speed.

5. At the return to the start line after one of the circuits, the peleton stops and the Pink Jersey wearer, Danilo Di Luca, takes a microphone, explains the situation to the Milanese public, and apologizes for the lack of a good race.

6. Riding resumes and eventually Mark Cavendish wins the stage.

Now I know there are those out there who will automatically call the riders whiny and lazy, recalling the "good old days" when Giro stages went on from early in the morning until late at night. Well, you know what ... I'm tired of that knee jerk reaction. I thought what happened was actually kind of cool.

I mean look, riders were worried for their own safety, which was completely understandable after the crash of Horillo Munoz the day before. So they did something about it. But rather than simply stopping, Lance Armstrong consulted the race commissar and everyone did the right thing. Then ... and this is the best part ... Di Luca actually stops the race for a moment, personally explains the situation to the public, and apologizes! Can you imagine that happening in baseball or football? No press conference, no prepared statement ... simply a direct message to the people. But that fits the culture of bicycling. Spectators aren't kept in seats; they're right there on the streets or hanging out of their windows. It's personal, you talk directly to them.

Besides, looking at it from a sporting perspective alone, too much danger on a course doesn't make for a very good race. It prevents the riders from racing at their full potential. So a balance needs to be reached between thrilling technical courses and courses that are unnecessarily dangerous.

Stage 9 in Milan was a day out of balance. But on a purely human level, it was a great day for people speaking their minds and doing the right thing.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Magazines I'm Reading

My current subway reading material:

Great issues, all of them. The one on the right is an Australian magazine I found at Barnes & Noble, with a nice article about Lance Armstrong. The current Bicycling Magazine (left) has a wonderful piece about legendary Italian rider Fausto Coppi (what a great name ... Fausto!), and VeloNews is usually by my side as I watch the Giro d'Italia, since it has an annotated course map. Good reading...

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

So I get up early for my bike ride today and this is what I see...

Rain! Argh!! Sure, it makes the flowers grow...

...and it's nice to sleep by as it taps on the roof. But I have no desire to ride a bike in it. I know, I know -- there are the diehards out there who throw caution to the wind and head out anyway. But I'm not one of those people. To me, riding in the rain is just downright miserable! It seeps through your helmet, sloshes around in your biking shoes, and fogs up your glasses. Ugh. I've gotten caught in some big rain storms unintentionally at the tail end of long rides, and it turns me into Gollum on a bike: Rainses, we hates it! It gums up our gearses, rusts our pedalses. We hates it, precious, we hates it!

Yeah, it's that bad...

Catching Up with the Giro

I brought myself back up to speed on the Giro d'Italia today, after having missed the streamed video on for the past three days (I had to work late a couple nights, and I had some computer problems). It's natural when following a long bicycle race like the Giro or the Tour de France though. Sometimes you have to pick up snippets of news here and there, carve out weekend or late-night time to watch taped segments on the computer or t.v., or you read some blog and twitter entries whenever you can. It's not like football where everything stops for four hours on Sunday. A Grand Tour Bike Race race kind of winds its way around your life (but that doesn't mean its any less exciting).

Whoa, it's late! I want to get up early tomorrow for my bike ride...

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Giro Visits Trieste

Whenever I visit a new city, I like to take photos of street scenes. You know ... narrow roads, big apartment buildings, cobblestone alleys, old shop signs. Sure, the main tourist attractions are great. But it's pictures of everyday life that remind me of what it was like to simply breathe in the morning air of a new place.

Watching Stage 2 of the Giro, I realized that this is also one of the reasons I love watching bicycle races. Take the stage's thrilling circuit through Trieste, for example. Now if you were to watch a show on the Travel Channel about Trieste -- a fascinating city in the far northeast corner of Italy -- they might show you a castle or two, some beautiful old churches, and maybe a Roman theater. All incredible, of course. But when you watch a bike race, you see those things AND so much more ... like little residential side streets, quaint houses that line the roadside, wide avenues running aside beautiful working harbors. It's as if you're watching the great city unfold onscreen layer by layer. And best of all, you actually see where people live. Combine that with the thrill and suspense of the race itself, and you've got one incredible travel show!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Giro d'Italia Stage 1

This sure is going to be an exciting Giro! It's already gotten off to a great start with today's beautiful team-time-trial on Lido Island just outside Venice. Can there be any better place to begin a race?

Actually, I take that back. Start it in Venice itself with the racers leaping their bikes over the canals -- now that would be awesome!!!

Ahem ... anyway ... it was a nice outing today by Team Columbia High Road, whom I've decided to root for along with Team Garmin Slipstream, as the only two American teams in the race. Of course I'll root for Levi Leipheimer and Lance Armstrong on Astana as individuals. But it's nice having a couple of American teams to cheer about as a whole as well. And the Team Time Trial has to be one of the most graceful events in all of sports -- the way the riders keep that perfect straight-line formation, each taking a brief turn at the front of the pack before dropping to the back in a smooth, seamless motion. Watching this occur on the beautiful streets of the Lido was an incredible sight.

The only downside to this year's Giro is not having television coverage by my favorite commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen (see my post from April 11). Races really take on a mythological, epic flavor with them. So I've decided to go an individualistic route when it comes to following the 2009 Giro D'Italia. I'll be pulling in news from a number of sources, including the streaming coverage on the Universal Sports website (, some blogs and articles, and a Twitter or two.

Today I watched a bit of the archived Stage 1 live stream on the Universal Sports site, followed Lance Armstrong and Paul Sherwen's Twitters, read a blog by Michael Barry (who is riding with Columbia High Road and keeping a journal with VeloNews []), and read articles on by Frankie Andreu, Connie Carpenter, and the ever-eccentric, always-entertaining Bob Roll. That's really what makes bicycling so much fun. It's not just about the races; it's all these one-of-a-kind characters who also happen to be great writers.

So tomorrow it's off to Trieste in Stage 2...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

May 5th New York Times

There was an interesting article in the May 5th New York Times about yet another controversy surrounding professional cycling: Equipment Crackdown Brings More Turmoil to Cycling’s Time Trials.

At issue ... whether the current trend in exotic and aerodynamic time-trial bikes makes pro cycling unfair, especially to under-financed teams that can't afford all the new technology.

Personally, I kind of like current rhythm of bike races. The regular stages feature bikes that don't look that much different than ... well ... a regular bicycle. But then for the individual time trials it's a virtual free-for-all. Out come creatures from the bicycle-zoo's exotic animals exhibit. Weird alien-style helmets, wildly unstable bikes with strange curves and geometries -- all meant to cut through the air like a knife.

Forcing racers to use conventional bikes for time trials takes a lot of the techie, innovative fun out of the race. To me, the current system seems like a good balance. Keep firm standards in place for the regular team stages, but then let the time trials be open to experimentation. No one faults Greg Lemond for using an aero-helmet for the first time in the 80's. It was bold, brilliant ... and geeky and cool all at the same time.

Let's face it, bike riding is about the bike. Pro racing is esoteric and tradition-steeped enough as it is. Limiting technological advancement will just make it border on stodgy. Besides, the bike companies that are making money selling the new bikes that come out of the Tour aren't some giant corporations. Many are little, innovative companies that love biking as much as you and me. They deserve to be part of the process. And hey, just imagine if some great rider comes along using none of this new aerodynamical stuff and blows the competition out the water anyway. Now that's a story line worth telling ... and worth being given the chance to be told.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tips for Riding Early in the Morning

Here's a handy to-do list, to ensure an enjoyable early morning bike ride before work:

1. Set your biking clothes out the night before. There's nothing worse than being up at 5:15 am, feeling great and ready to go ... and then spending 20 minutes looking for your favorite biking socks. Actually there is one thing worse than that...

2. Iron your work clothes the night before. There truly is nothing worse than coming back from an invigorating morning ride, only to have to iron your shirt for work. Ugh. It's like ending the ride by hitting a brick wall. Iron your clothes and shave the night before (scruffy is in these days anyway).

3. Go to bed early the night before. Now I have had some wonderful rides on 5 hours sleep, but I pay for it later in the day. In the end, a full night's sleep makes for a better ride, and ... just as important ... a far more productive day ahead.

4. Check the weather report the night before.

So, taking all these steps lets you get up and experience such early morning ride-vistas such as these:

That little bright dot in the left-center of that last photo is the famous Boston Lighthouse.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Dreaming of the Giro d'Italia

There's a wonderful article in the new issue of Bicycling Magazine about the Giro d'Italia ( Such a wonderful race, the Giro is. A number of years ago -- right around the time I began riding a bike again as an adult -- I caught a glimpse this strange thing called the "Giro" late at night on the old Outdoor Life Network. It seemed like such a remote, odd, faraway ... and enchantingly beautiful race. At the time, OLN used music from Carmina Burana as its theme, which added even more magic to the Giro's already mystical allure. But mostly what I remember is watching this graceful race wind it's way through medieval villages, over rocky Dolomite peaks, and through the wide streets of Milan. It seemed like it came out of a dream. It was thrilling, and I was hooked.

Versus won't be showing any of the Giro this year; and while that's a shame, it's tough to fault a channel that already does such a great job broadcasting the world's best bicycle races with the absolute best commentary. So now the Giro 2009 retreats back into hard-to-find coverage. In a way, that makes it even more mysterious...