Thursday, April 23, 2009

Morning Rides

Bike riding on the New England coast in the morning ... nothing beats it ...

Now that I'm about two weeks into keeping my normal ride going, everything is starting to feel better. The hills get easier each day (which also means I can climb the steps in the subway station better too!).

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Heading for a Few Hills

It was a beautiful morning, so I decided it was time to head for the hills for the first time this season. I try to lead up to these things, so that each day brings new challenges. Building back up to my normal ride in stages has always felt like a healthy approach.

Here are some photos:

Those are Egrets on that last photo, as best as my 3X Optical Zoom lens camera could capture them.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Music to Bicycle By

So what's the best music to bike to? You know what I mean ... it's 6 am, and you're cruising down the open road; the wind is at your back, your legs feel like well-oiled pistons turning the cranks, and you're swiftly but silently cutting through the air like an arrow. It's so amazing that you feel you need some accompaniment.

Now that being said, one of the great joys of bike riding is that special kind of serene silence. You, the air, the road ... all joined as one with nothing but the gentle hum of the tires and the occasional accent of a shifted gear. But then all of a sudden, a tune pops into your head and it feels just right too.

So what are those tunes? What music fits so well for bike riding? It's a fun topic...

I'm going to begin with something so obvious, it's almost silly to mention. For anyone who has seen Breaking Away, you can't help but find yourself shifting into the electrifying musical gear that is the last movement of Mendelssohn's Fourth Symphony. It's from the scene where the main character is riding in the wake of the 18-wheel truck, building and re-building up his speed again and again to match the trucker, until he is racing ahead at an unbelievable rate. But this scene would be nothing without the music. And what music it is!! Fast, powerful, yet light as a feather ... clicking along with brisk string bows and staccato woodwinds. It truly matches the rapid cadence of a bicycle -- bright, swift; yet rich and full of meaning.

Here's a great box set that I love featuring all Mendelssohn's five symphonies, plus some overtures too (these photos are from both sides of the box and the booklet inside):

I got it a used cd store (as you can probably tell by the smudges on the cover), but while this is an old copy, it has been re-released by Deutsche Grammophon in beautiful new packaging. The London Symphony Orchestra and Claudio Abbado perform all these symphonies and overtures wonderfully. So if you like the Fourth Symphony, listen to the Third too. Its cool, bittersweet beauty always reminds me of an autumn morning ... and a late-season bike ride.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Morning Bike Ride

Here are some photos from today's early-morning bike ride (still cold ... 41 degrees ... but at least it wasn't windy):

Nice sunrise, don't you think? It actually wasn't quite as dark as it looks, but it sure came out cool in the photo. For my usual morning ride, I get up at around 5:20 am, hit the road, come home, take a shower, then head off to work.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bicycling Book Review

Here's a great way to keep "mentally bicycling" during the cold-weather months. Read about it! Fiction, sports journalism, coffee table books ... there are shelves full of interesting, enjoyable, and enlightening things to read about bicycling. So let's start with a simple but fun genre, the Bike Travel Guide...

You know the type -- the "Best Rides in [enter your region here]" books. They usually have about 45 chapters or so, each of which details a particular bike ride in the area. Every chapter follows the same pattern: a map, a four or five paragraph description of the ride, and a step-by-step list of directions. Here's one I just bought:

Now for me, the fun of these books isn't just having them as a practical guide. It's using them to dream about a cool new ride in an unfamiliar place. I live in southern New England, so it may take me years before I pack my bike in a car, head up to the White Mountains of New Hampshire and try the Franconia/Kinsman Notch Challenge (page 115). But just reading about it is thrilling in itself, and thinking someday...

"Road Biking -- Northern New England" is a great example of a Bike Travel Guide. It's well written by someone local to the area who is a bike rider herself. You can pick it up, start reading anywhere, and learn so much about this most mysterious, breathtaking, and beautiful part of the U.S. That's another great thing about bicycle travel guides ... they're fantastic local guidebooks in general. It says a lot about the nature of bike riding. We see life on a personal level, where a general store, a hill, or a winding road are monunents in themselves.

It's written by Sandy Duling and published by Falcon Guides (Pequot Press).

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I took another cold-weather bike ride this afternoon. Will it ever warm up? The temperature wasn't so awful (44 degrees), but the wind was howling out of the north. Just look at these whitecaps on the water:

Nice shot of Boston, but wow ... the wind sure was brutal. I saw many of signs of the rough winter we had this past year. Huge potholes, sandy roadsides -- I felt like I was riding Paris-Roubaix myself.

It still felt good to get out there and ride though.


Quite a Paris-Roubaix on Versus today (for more info, go to: A shame about George Hincapie; something went wrong with his back wheel and he had to get a wheel switch from the mechanic. That was it ... he never caught up after that. Poor George. Not his year, again (but he sure does make things interesting).

Other than the Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix is probably my favorite race to watch. It reminds me of the Boston Marathon here. Sleepy little roads that no once notices all year long suddenly have their big day in the sun. But those roads in northern France ... can you really call those cobblestone paths roads?! It looks like a car could barely get by on them. Maybe they're ancient highways going back to the Romans ... or something like that. I'll have to look it up. Anyway, I love the tradition that each of the cobblestone "sections" are numbered, 1 through 27. Reminds me of the numbered switchbacks on the Tour de France's Alpe d'Huez. It's as if some mystical force descends on those little roads during the darkest nighttime hours, illuminating them with magic numbers for the day ahead. Very cool.

Here are some photos I took of my TV with my digital camera during the race (came out pretty artsy, don't you think?):

Oh no, I just read on the VeloNews website that some spectators were injured by an organizer's motorbike that ran off the road ( Sure hope everyone is going to be o.k....

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen ... and J.R.R. Tolkien.

So why am I linking the two legendary Tour de France television commentators with the even more legendary author of the Lord of the Rings? Well, let's first look at J.R.R. Tolkien. He not only came up with the Lord of the Rings books, he created languages for his characters, sketched out huge family trees, wrote myths and histories that pre-date his trilogy by thousands of years, and created a unique Middle Earth geography and topography; all done over the span of a lifetime. In other words, he seemed to live in what he created ... and allowed us to live in them too, through his books.

Listening to Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen cover bicycle races like the Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix (coming up tomorrow on the Versus channel), or the Tour of Flanders (last Sunday), I get that same kind of feeling ... that this isn't just one race on one particular day they're describing. It's part of a great history and tradition, filled with endless stories and visual images, and yes ... even it's own geography (because bike racing is all about a love and exploration of place). I really admire people like that, who can build a deep and rich mythology around the things they love.

Friday, April 10, 2009


So I'm waiting ... waiting ... waiting to finally begin my morning bike ride routine. But it's been so cold here in New England! I usually like to get up very early before work and head out for my usual 45 minute spin. It's that special time of the morning that's uniquely my own. Me, my Raleigh road bicycle, the sky, the sea, and the road. But temperatures have been stuck in the high 30's or low 40's every morning now for months. Argh!

I did take one ride two weeks ago though. It was about 42 degrees outside (which is still pretty cold on a bike), but I just had to get back on the road after such a long, brutal winter here in Massachusetts. Besides, my bike looked so raring-to-go sitting in my living room. I kind of felt sorry for it. So I put on my long biking pants and a sweater, zipped up my bright red windbreaker, pulled on by biking gloves and my helmet, and headed out into the windy, brisk New England dawn. It turns out the cold didn't feel so bad, really. I stayed pretty close to home, away from the waterfront, where the ocean wind from the Atlantic can still pack quite a punch this time of year. But after an half-hour or so, my fingers started to feel pretty numb. So it was time to head back. Nevertheless, clicking into the pedals for the first time this season sure felt great.

And tomorrow's forecast ... rain! Well, maybe I'll hang out at the local bike shop, look at all the beautiful new 2009-model bicycles, watch the rain fall across the window, and hope...