Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Cycle of the Seasons

The shadows are getting longer these days.

Boats vacate their slips, as cold air makes for brisk morning rides...

...and winter spirits quietly begin inhabiting the newly empty spaces.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bike Lanes of Harvard Square

I love bike lanes! It goes beyond the merely practical. Yes, they make riding safer and easier -- that's reason enough to love them right there. But bike lanes also have a subtle, quiet grace about them.

Look at these photos I took of the bike lanes in Harvard Square...

It's as if Cambridge is saying: we make a little room for everyone.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Seven Cycles & Ciclismo Classico

This past Tuesday night I was invited to a reception hosted by two great Massachusetts bicycle-related companies: Seven Cycles & Ciclismo Classico. The event took place at the Seven Cycles headquarters in Watertown, Mass.

It was a dark and chilly night...

But inside all was warm and pleasant.

Ciclismo Classico is a bicycle vacation company based in Arlington, Mass. I first received their catalog in the mail a year or so ago and spent many happy hours on the subway browsing through it and dreaming about their trips. Their tours cover a range of experience levels, from the "easy" Venice con Gusto tour to the "expert" Majestic Dolomites. Each trip is led by a guide and consists of a limited number of participants. Here's the 2012 catalog that I picked up at the reception:

Really beautiful, don't you think? Log onto Ciclismo Classico's website, request that a catalog be sent to you, and have a look. I enjoyed chatting with a cyclist at the reception who went on their Norway tour. Actually, I seem to come across Ciclismo Classico "alums" all the time. On my very first event ride in Connecticut, a woman in our group wore a Ciclismo Classico jersey. I remember her saying how tired she was after riding our 22 miles through western Connecticut, which seemed odd because she had just told us all about her much-longer Ciclismo Classico ride through Italy. She must have sensed our quizzical looks though, because she soon added: "but we stopped for great food and wine in Italy, so it felt easy!"

Seven Cycles makes custom bicycles, building their frames right there at their Watertown headquarters. I'm afraid I didn't take many photos, but here are two shots I snapped of their bikes on the showroom floor:

The top frame is titanium and the bottom frame is steel. Bicycle racing fans: do you know why the steel bike is painted pink? It's a custom "Giro d'Italia" themed bike! Very cool.

Seven's frame are true works of art. Look at the gracefully curved seat- and chain-stays. And the unpainted titanium. Beautiful.

Here's the Seven catalog that I picked up on the way out (the 2012 bikes are being announced this Saturday):

We were also given a tour of Seven's small factory, which was truly inspiring. Come to think of it, maybe "workshop" is a better word. Even with its high-tech computer generated schematics, spic-and-span cleanliness, and precise machinery, Seven's old-school artistry is what impressed me most. There is no assembly line -- each craftsperson works on multiple processes in the creation of a frame, sometimes building an entire frame from start to finish. Pride in one's work, the magic of seeing disparate elements come together into a cohesive whole, and the mysteries inherent in crafting metals ... they all really come alive in this remarkable shop. In fact, there's even an anvil sitting in a corner! The artists at Seven are carrying the great traditions of New England framebuilding into the 21st Century, and that's wonderful.

So what a great evening! Extraordinary travel and exquisite bicycles ... all inspired by one thing: the quest for the magical ride.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ghosts of Races Past

When it comes to commemorating great bicycle races, there's no Boston Garden on which to hang a championship banner...

...or Fenway Park.

That's because only a few hours after a road race ends, like the TD Bank Mayor's Cup criterium I attended here in Boston last month...

...the city settles back into...

And that's o.k. This is what makes cycling so special.

In the Mayor's Cup race, which consisted of multiple laps around City Hall Plaza, the scene of cars speeding down Cambridge Street that's repeated night after night...

...for one special day was preceded by this scene for the women's race...

...and this for the men's...

The race results certainly look solid enough...

1. Jen McRae (787 Racing)
2. Samantha Schneider (Team TIBCO/To The Top)
3. Coryn Rivera (Peanut Butter & Co.TWENTY12)

1. Ken Hanson (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda)
2. Dan Holt (Team Type 1)
3. Luke Keough (Mountain Khakis p/b SmartStop)

But what you may not notice in these photos I took of the winners... that if you take away that temporary stage, all you'll be left with is...

So how do we keep the memory of great races alive? Through blogs, paintings, books, collages, photographs, and magazines. That's why "cycling culture" is almost always tied to some sort of creative endeavor. It's from those elusive arts that our own championship banners are hung.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Saturday on the Minuteman

It's autumn in New England, and the Minuteman Bikeway just gets more and more beautiful with each ride.

Beginning at Alewife Station in North Cambridge, the "Minuteman" is an old rail line that was converted to a bikeway in 1993. Remnants of its passenger train heritage still exist, such as this "W" marker which directed engineers to blow the train's whistle...

...and this old railway car at the trail's Bedford end:

On weekday mornings the Minuteman Bikeway is one of the country's busiest rail-trails, and for good reason. Running 11 miles through the towns of Bedford, Lexington, Arlington, and Cambridge, it's a fast and direct car-free route from the historic western suburbs to Boston's Red Line subway. I like to think this makes the Minuteman uniquely "New England"; it's as practical as it is scenic.

Although shared by cyclists, runners, skaters, and people simply out for a stroll, the Minuteman Bikeway's smooth surface and yellow center-line make it easy to pass slower traffic. In fact, while the path's multi-use purpose rules out high speeds, on quiet early mornings we cyclists can still pedal along at a pretty good clip, which is quite thrilling without having to worry about cars.

The Minuteman Bikeway isn't very close to where I live, but there are two great ways for me to get to the start of the path from my home on the South Shore.

The best way is by bicycle, of course! It's a spectacular 25-mile ride, running by the beaches of South Boston...

...the ships in Boston's Cruiseport...

...commercial boats on Boston's Fish Pier...

...on bike lanes into downtown...

...through Boston's historic North End...

...and on the Charles River Bike Path.

The other way for me to get to the start of the Minuteman is to take my bike on the Red Line subway (the "T", as we Bostonians call it).

The T allows and encourages bikes on most of its lines. If you're reading this and live in the Boston area, check out the T's guidelines here.

Within the past three weeks, I've both cycled and taken the T to the start of the Minuteman. Yesterday morning I chose the T, since I wanted to get to the Bikeway as soon as possible to ride its full length and then continue out beyond its western end.

Arriving at Alewife Station around 7:45 am...

...I entered the Bikeway, which is just across the street.

I then rode the entire trail...

...taking a short detour through the center of Lexington...

...and stopping to admire the Minuteman's quirky mile markers along the way. This one indicates Mile 7. Can you figure out how?

(Hint: Think Roman numerals!)

Reaching the end of the Minuteman in Bedford, I then rode on extraordinary tree-lined roads out to the nearby town of Billerica and back.

Feeling the need for that most favorite of cycling beverages (coffee), I stopped in Lexington's Ride Studio Cafe on my way back down the Minuteman (you can read about the Cafe in my Oct. 17th post). It was full of cyclists! I enjoyed a great iced coffee while chatting with an amateur racer relocating to the Boston-area from Pittsburgh. Thanks so much to the Ride Studio for putting my Oct. 17th post on their facebook page!

After enjoying about a half-hour at the Ride Studio, I got back on the trail, rode to Alewife Station, and took the T home. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning in New England, don't you think?