D2R2 GPS files

I’ve been noticing on the Twitter-O-Sphere that people are having trouble with the GPS files for D2R2.  Fear not, dear children, as I have re-mapped GPS files based off of the posted cue sheet.  Since I have a Garmin Edge 500, which sometimes does not play nicely with courses over 50 miles, I have mapped each stage individually.  You can export them as .gpx, .tcx, or .kml files.

I only mapped out the 180k route, but if you search ridewithgps.com for “D2R2,” you will find the other routes as well.

Enjoy!

D2R2 180k Stage 1

D2R2 180k Stage 2

D2R2 180k Stage 3

D2R2 180k Stage 4

Disclaimer: I’ll be using these same files, but I’ve never tried them before so if you get lost, I’m sorry.  I’ll be lost with you.
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

On Bike-bashing in the Formerly Respectable Media

Call it satire if you dare, but a recent glut of formerly-respectable news outlets slamming bicyclists is a real problem.  Perhaps you have read the supposedly tongue-in-cheek anti-bike articles published in the Wall Street Journal and Boston Globe recently (by authors I will avoid naming and linking to) or seen Michael Smith and company laughing about pro cyclists Juan Antonio Flecha and Johnny Hoogerland getting hit by a car on ESPN’s “Around the Horn.” (Link is to BikesnobNYC’s well-written response.)

Commentators on ESPN found it hilarious when two cyclists were severly injured by a car in Stage 9 of the Tour de France.

It is clear that the 21st century, Internet-driven media model is in effect.  This is a model in which page views attracted by controversial statements trump dedicated readers attracted by responsible reporting.

So who cares about a few controversial statements by columnists working hard to prove themselves irrelevant?  I mean, right? Right?

While it would be nice to dismiss the anti-bike drivel with the wave of a hand, but unfortunately cyclists’ detractors have a large megaphone and their inflammatory prose can do a lot of damage.

Take, for instance, when Michael Smith remarks about the accident that severely injured Flecha and Hoogerland, “I hope nothing happened to the car, I hope it didn’t sustain any real damage.”  Joking about car/bike collisions is only funny to those who aren’t the more vulnerable road users and emboldens people who drive SUVs and pickups for “safety.”

From now on, every time I read an online comment that says something like, “4000 lbs vs. 200 lbs.  I’ll mow down the next cyclist who swerves into my path” I’ll burn a picture of Michael Smith in effigy.

Furthermore, these page view-generating attention whores do a great job to perpetuate myths about cycling.  For example, common themes include:

  1. Cyclists are a bunch of Lance Armstrong wannabes.
  2. Cyclists don’t pay for use of the roads.
  3. More bikes = more problems.

I think I’ll dedicate a separate blog post to debunking these myths, and I think MassBike did a great job of responding to those in he Boston Globe article with their response.

At the end of the day, I don’t know what these “columnists” are going for besides a pat on the back from the empty suit in the corner office.  If you care not to ride a bike, I’m sorry for you, but I understand your right to choose.  However, it makes no sense that drivers wouldn’t want everyone else to ride a bike.  The result would be less traffic, less pollution, less demand for gasoline, easier parking, more attractive neighbors, and less risk of getting hurt in an accident.

For those of us that do ride, we fight an uphill battle against an car-dominated culture that is slowly becoming more accepting of bicycles.  Whenever, Michael Smith or the like belittle cyclists (especially those who get hit by cars), it’s a step in the wrong direction for everyone.

Note:  I criticized Boston Cyclists Union, among others, on Twitter for linking to the recent Boston Globe article calling for a ban of bikes in Boston.  Patrick from BCU e-mailed me back very quickly explaining that the article was already the most e-mailed on Boston.com and posed the following question:

“Do you think it would make more sense to comment without linking, or were you suggesting it would be best to ignore completely this sort of writing?”

As you can see above, I commented on the articles without linking them.  My original goal was to ignore McGrory’s piece about banning bikes in Boston because it was so unoriginal and lame.  However, his article combined with the Wall Street Journal piece and the a-holes over at ESPN pissed me off enough to write this blog post.  Would it have been better if I had linked the articles?  Maybe, but for the anti-bike attention whores, page views means success and that is a hand I will not lend.

Posted in Around Town, General Belligerence | 2 Comments

Nothing Makes Me Self Righteous Like a Good Traffic Jam

Which rush hour do you choose?

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100 Miles of Nowhere Race Report

This past weekend, I participated in a bicycle race. Despite only having one other teammate in the field, I felt as though our chances were good. Sure, no one was competing against us and our task was seemingly simple – ride 100 miles without actually going anywhere, raise money to fight cancer, and enjoy a beautiful June day in Boston – but challenges remained. I’ll get to those in a minute.

First, I must introduce my teammate to you (well, as much as is possible given that I haven’t fully introduced myself). Despite my charm and wit, the only person I could cajole into joining my 100 mile march of mind-numbing, uh, ecstasy was my better (and decidedly more feminine) half. She was decidedly against me referring to her as the Reluctant Cyclist and insisted that any reluctance to cycling she harbors is purely meteorological. So, for the purposes of this blog, she will be the Fair Weather Cyclist.

We chose an 0.83 mile loop adjacent to Boston’s cruise ship terminal for its lack of traffic and elevation change.

The spirit of the ride was to go nowhere, and the general lack of aesthetic appeal continually reminded us of this sad fact.

As soon as we arrived at the course we got right to work. The first order of business was acquiring a mountain of quarters to feed this bad boy, the CITY TOILET:

With its musical serenade and self-cleaning abilities, it blew away every porta-potty I had ever visited - and we visited this one often.

As the laps ticked by, the stiff headwind took its toll. As we discussed in the team bus before the race, I would be on lead out duty and I would be starting the lead out from mile zero. Despite the blustery conditions, the weather remained reasonably fair just behind my bespandexed backside.

As mile 50 approached (the agreed upon feedzone location), the winds seemed to shift. The laps ticked by with increasing rapidity and we posted our fastest lap time.  This turned out to be a cruel mental trick as the mere thought of food made us ride faster.  We had also been joined by bicycle-wielding friends who brought us bananas, cheer, and a most important break from the monotony.  We enjoyed a much protracted lunch break.

Well over fed, we reluctantly climbed back upon our steeds (you can actually get off your bike in the feed zone when no one’s chasing you) and quickly found out that the headwind had, in fact, not been lessening and we were stuffed and lazy.

Lap times soared.  Moral was low.

The same potholes were avoided,  the same wind was fought, and a tiredness set in.  I began to drop the Fair Weather Cyclist with increasing frequency.  Despite being pre-race favorites we were cracking under the pressure and monotony.

You see, the Fair Weather Cyclist had never ridden more than 67.5 miles before and around mile 85 she admitted to me, “I’ve been on the edge of tears for the past three laps.”  She was only half-serious but the serious half of her statement was telling – the wind and monotony were taking their toll.

We devised a new plan.  We’d continue on our course until mile 92.  Then we’d take the scenic route home and surely we’d be beyond 100 miles.  As we turned on to our street, my eyes leapt out of my skull.  We were less than a quarter mile from home and we were at mile 98.7.  A large lap of the neighborhood ensued and we ended the ride at 100 miles and not a tenth more.  We are proud winners of the “Seeking refuge from headwinds in the music playing CITY TOILET” division.

The Garmin in its inexact glory shows 108 mind-numbing laps.

Thanks to the Fat Cyclist for coordinating this event, although in my humble and self righteous opinion, he went somewhere on his 20 mile course.  I know we’ll be back at it next year, but only if the weather’s nice.

Posted in Around Town | 1 Comment

Ride Inspiration from Rapha

Since Google Analytics tells me that no one reads blogs on Fridays (and why would you?) I have postponed my regularly scheduled self righteous rant until next week. Between now and then, you should go outside and ride your bicycle.

If the humidity has you discouraged, I’ve included some motivation below. Nothing makes me want to crank out the miles like Rapha Continental videos. Below is their latest. Enjoy!

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Bike Karma

Note: The Group Rides page is being continuously updated (moreso than the front page, as of late), so check it out if you’re tired of riding alone.  I also realize that the whole page is in need of a re-design.  Stay tuned!

See sad, broken bikes on the side of the road? A quick minute of your time could drastically improve your fellow cyclist's ride.

A couple weeks ago I planned a new route to ride which included almost the entire length of Trapelo Road in Belmont.  I knew I had ridden the route years ago and all I remembered was that it wasn’t an ideal road for bikes.  My lack of vivid memories of the semi-paved carnage of Trapelo Road may be due to two possible things.  Either:

  1. My mind was attempting to avoid post traumatic stress disorder by erasing any memory of the lack of any road markings and presence of road craters. OR:
  2. I missed news reports about an air raid on the town of Belmont, MA.

Needless to say, the road was in rough shape.  Fine.  This is New England,  and I though I did a reasonable job avoiding the must treacherous of tar divots… at least until my rear wheel took on an all-too-familiar squishy feeling that was soon accompanied by an all-too-familiar hissing sound.

Luckily, I had an extra tube and a hand pump and rapidly repaired my brutalized butyl.  Soon enough, I was on my way through Lincoln Center and on to Bedford, and Lexington.  The sun shone brightly and the temperature was in the mid 60′s, a perfect combination for an afternoon ride.  I rode carefully, though, because I knew I hadn’t pumped up my wheel all the way with my hand pump and headed toward the nearest bike shop to borrow their floor pump.

Two miles from the bike shop, the squishy feeling returned.  And the hissing sound returned.  Expletives were uttered for I hadn’t another tube.  Without any other options, I began to walk.

Luckily, I was along one of the most-traveled bike routes in the area.  Surely someone would have a tube I could trade them.  What did I have to trade them, exactly?  One chocolate chip Clif Bar semi-melted from my body heat.  Delicious.

So I walked.  And walked.  The road was eerily devoid of bicycles and their generous pilots.  I stopped to check my phone to see if there was a bus I could catch to the bike shop and a bespandexed rider flew by me before I could so much as utter a pathetic plea for help.  Shit.

And I walked.

Just before I reached the bus stop.  A cyclist heading the other way appeared and asked me if I was okay.

“Double flatted,” I responded.  “But I’m going to catch the bus at this intersection.”

He insisted on helping me out and gave me two patches before continuing on his ride.  He politely declined my molten Clif Bar and said he was glad to take on the bike karma and be on his way.

A patch kit. Bloody brilliant. I will never again leave home without one.

This got me thinking about the bond between cyclists and whether one exists at all.  When a friendly nod or wave to a fellow cyclist goes unanswered, I tend to think the idea of kinship between two people enjoying a similar and somewhat rare activity is overly optimistic.  Yet, days like the one in Lexington gave me great hope.

As two-wheeled users of the road, we share common dangers and common enjoyment.  There are a number of reasons why a cyclist my be stopped at the side of the road – maybe they’re fielding a phone call.  But, on the other hand, they may have a deep gash and are without a cell phone, or maybe they forgot to put another CO2 cartridge in their saddle bag.  Why not stop and build those karma points?  When you’re stuck on the side of the road, you’ll be glad you did.

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Group Rides Page

Update: The Group Rides pages is now live (see the menu bar above).  I will continue to add rides as they come in.

As the weather improves, the idea of riding with other cyclists becomes more agreeable (you know, not having to worry about being sprayed with salty slush from someone else’s wheel).  There are tons of regularly-scheduled group rides happening all around Boston every week.  The trouble is, there’s no one resource that aggregates info about all of these rides.  I am going to try to do this, and I need your help.

In the comments leave the following info about your favorite group ride, and I’ll start a running list:

Name of Ride:
Type of Ride: (Road, Mountain, Cross, Unicycle, etc.)
When:
Leaves from:
Returns to:
Pace/Duration:
Drop/No Drop?  (Will I get left behind if I can’t keep up?)
Link for more information:

General rules:

  1. Suggested ride must occur on a regular basis (weekly, biweekly, monthly, etc.)
  2. Suggested ride must be open to anyone who wants to join (i.e. not private club rides)
  3. Suggested ride must be legal and follow the rules of the road. Sorry folks, but I don’t want to be involved in advertising rides that regularly and notoriously show a lack of regard for traffic laws.
  4. These are rides, NOT races.
  5. For simplicity’s sake, and to keep it local, I’m limiting the list to rides that at least start within the Rt. 95/128 corridor.

 

Posted in Around Town | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Rainy Day Rant

So much is going on in the two-wheeled community right now, I don’t even know where to begin.  The bike-related Boston Globe articles are coming fast and furious these days. The Mass Ave bike lanes, bike share, and the usual “Road User ‘X’ is the Biggest Road Menace Ever” op-ed have already made an appearance with the customary vitriolic comments.

More than anyone, I believe that cycling is the perfect transportation alternative to expensive, polluting, space-hogging autos and a seemingly defunct public transit system.  Cyclists, however, as a whole, aren’t doing much to increase the public perception of riding a bike.  So, when I see a comment like the one below, I almost have to agree.

Let me allow Jim Carrey to succinctly introduce the point I will thereafter try to make (NSFW language):

Let me be clear, I am no angel on the bike. When I come to a red light, I stop. But, if there are no cars or pedestrians coming I will continue on my journey.  I may even proceed through a red when all directions have the walk signal as long as I know I will not come close to hitting anyone.  What I’ve been seeing recently, though, as masses of our two-wheeled brethren take to the streets, and in many cases the sidewalk, is far more reckless.

To the person riding without lights last night who I saw coming toward me in the bike lane last night just before you swerved around me into oncoming Comm Ave. traffic, you have a death wish.

To the person hauling ass through an all-walk signal on a full tri bike (with trispoke front wheel and full disk wheel) in Copley Square yesterday afternoon, a big W-T-F to you.

To people who ride on the sidewalk anywhere at any time during any day, STOP THAT!

As I rode east on Comm. Ave. yesterday, a cyclist I’ve seen before rode into oncoming traffic in Kenmore Square, dodged traffic through several red lights in the Back Bay and then mounted the sidewalk to complete his journey.  Jesus H. Christmas.  It’s no wonder people associate riding a bike with mortal danger in this city.

I attended the bike share announcement on Thursday and listened to what seemed like a dozen politicians proclaim their support for cycling in Boston as the sustainable, healthy form of transportation that it is.  I wonder how many of those politicians would support the kind of reckless bike riding that I’ve been seeing lately.

As Boston cyclists, we’re the beneficiaries of a pro-bike city government that has laid out as much bike-friendly infrastructure as any other city in the past few years.  While I’m not going to agree with the notion presented at the Mass Ave. bike lanes meeting that we somehow have to “earn” bike lane with good behavior, we have to wonder when our collective bad behavior will erode the enormous political capital we currently enjoy.

Had the Mass Ave. bike lane meeting been more widely advertised, it could very well have been attended by more people pissed off at bike riders who nearly killed them on sidewalks than cyclists themselves.  How easy would it have been politically for MassDOT and Nicole Freedman to push on with the lanes then?  Not very, I assume.

Moreover, the comments sections of these Boston Globe articles make it clear that there’s a lot of pent up rage among motorists in this town (you know, nothing out of the ordinary).  I don’t want to be victimized by someone in a two-ton steel cage because the last cyclist they saw ran a red light right in front of them, nearly hit them on the sidewalk, et cetera.  While I am normally the last person to be in favor of appeasing aggressive motorists (who are no more adherent to traffic laws than cyclists, by the way), I’ll consider it when my personal safety is on the line.

While I assume that people who read bike blogs aren’t the same scofflaws I’ve detailed above, I hope many of you share my concerns as we head into the busy riding season.  How do we address these issues?  Do we petition local law enforcement to step up enforcement of all traffic laws?  I even contemplated stopping and turning my bike sideways in the bike lane when I see someone riding at me the wrong way.

Thank you for entertaining my rainy day rant.

Posted in Activism, Around Town, General Belligerence | 2 Comments

Big Changes Ahead for Boston Cyclists

Note: First of all, I’d like to welcome all the new BostonBiker.org bloggers.  The site seems to have exploded with activity in the past  few days.  I started this blog 10 weeks ago with the goal of adding my voice to the bike community here in Boston, and today I would like to discuss some important changes coming to Boston this bicycling season.

I recently met with Boston Bikes director Nicole Freedman, and she told me about a few policies she’s been working on, and while they initially seem bizarre, I think they will pave the way for safer transit for all road users.  I am very excited to share them with you today.
The sensible way to end bike lane backlash

The installation and subsequent removal of the bike lane on Main Street in Charlestown was an embarrassing affair for Boston Bikes, and the backlash the lanes initially received highlights the challenge of balancing bike infrastructure development with public support.

The fight over the Park Slope bike lane in Brooklyn is another example of bike lanes that have greatly angered the motoring public despite their effect on decreased vehicle speeds and accident rate in the area.

“People often expect that we can show up and paint lines on the street,” Nicole said to me at our recent meeting. “But, there’s a much more involved political process.”

Often, Nicole said, she wonders if putting in bike lanes is really worth the effort and taxpayers’ money.

“If you think about it,” the Bike Czar mused, stroking her chin, “money from all tax payers is going to fund something that benefits a select few.  I’ve discussed this issue with the powers that be, and I believe we’ve found a way to eliminate that disparity.”

Nicole somberly explained to me that future plans for new bike lanes have been scrapped.  Most existing bike lanes will be ground off the pavement by crews working under the cover of darkness.

“Cambridge has always had better bike lanes, anyway,” she shrugged.

Nicole saw my worried look as she clarified this new plan and quickly explained the political pressures at work.

“You see, the Big Dig really asserted the automobile as the main method of transit in the city.  The fact that the MBTA has to pay the debt for an car-based project is an excellent example of the state’s priorities.  Unfortunately, the new bike lanes have severely restricted traffic flow in key areas of the city – areas of resistance that must be cleared.  Bicycles, only having been around since 1880 are increasingly seen as a fad that interferes with Bostonians’ main goal – getting from A to B as quickly as possible.”

Trust me, I was stunned.

In some areas of the city, however, such as Kenmore Square, the lanes will be kept as designated taxi lanes.

“Taxi drivers were previously discouraged from double parking in bicycle lanes due to the severe and frequently issued fines.  They are very relieved to be able to double park in congested areas without reprimand,” explained Nicole.

Speaking of traffic fines, we also discussed a controversial change to traffic laws that would improve traffic flow in the Hub.

Traffic laws will now better reflect reality to reduce burden on BPD

As you know, Boston is known for its reckless drivers and scofflaw cyclists, and it sure takes a lot of effort to conduct the necessary traffic stops to keep the impetuous behavior manageable at the very least.  Nicole informed me that Police Commissioner Ed Davis was very concerned about the degree to which traffic enforcement was distracting his officers from other duties such as attending parades, patrolling construction sites, and fighting crime.

So, in order to improve traffic flow and to “decriminalize the Boston mindset,” several new innovative traffic policies will be implemented starting this Spring:

  • Taxis will finally be allowed left-turn-on-red privileges.
  • General automotive traffic will still be required to stop at red lights.  However, they will be allowed to inch forward until they are in the middle of the intersection.  At the point at which they are completely blocking traffic flow, they will be allowed to proceed through the intersection.
  • Any vehicle exiting a parallel parking space will have the right of way.

The policies pertaining to bicycles should bring the police much needed relief:

  • Cyclists who are either riding a bicycle with multiple gears or are wearing protective gears such as a reflective vest or helmet will be required to obey all signs and signals.
  • Helmetless fixed-gear riders must slow when approaching a stop sign, but may stand and sprint through the intersection when opposing traffic is approaching and their life is in imminent danger.
  • Bicyclists wearing earbuds or headphones will no longer be required to obey any traffic law.
  • Bicycle cops will be forbidden from riding their bicycles, except in extreme circumstances when they must ride against the flow of traffic.
  • Cyclists will be encouraged to ride on the sidewalk when it is safe to do so.  Motorists should remind cyclists of this whenever possible.  MBTA bus drivers will be instructed to use their buses in such a way as to force bike riders into the curb, and thus up onto the sidewalk, whenever practical.

By this time next year, we will reflect on the nefarious, retrograde desires of the cycling minority to have experimental lines installed painted throughout the city with the people’s money.  We will wonder how we lived our lives without the momentous flow of automobile traffic to ferry us along.

Posted in Around Town, General Belligerence | Tagged | 6 Comments

Righteously Reviewed: Strava

Update 1/27/12: This article continues to be the most popular post on this blog.  The original post, which was published on March 29, 2011, is a bit outdated because Strava has been updated several times since then.  I am currently working on an updated review of Strava.  Stay Tuned.

As cyclists, we are confronted with myriad products that promise us everything from lateral stiffness to vertical compliance.  When making difficult gear choices, like determining whether Aerospokes or Zipp’s Sub-9 “negative drag” disk wheel will provide the most comfort for your commute, you turn to a respected source.

Often times that respected source is your trusted bike blogger.  Through my prolific bloviating (okay, okay – 8 posts) over the past two months, I know I’ve become that source for you.

So, today I present you with a bike product review, and that product is Strava – a site that collects GPS data from your rides, analyzes it, compares it to others who’ve ridden parts of the same route, and presents it in a neat user-friendly package.  While it may seem geared toward serious athletes (and it is), even the casual commuter can have fun with the program.

The best part about the prospect of analyzing your rides is that you don’t need an expensive power meter or even a GPS-enabled cycling computer to upload your data.  You can use a smartphone to record your route, and Strava’s algorithms will chew up your data and spit out (estimated) power data and other fun statistics for your ride.  If you do have a fancy-shmancy Garmin unit and power meter, it will integrate any power, heart rate, and cadence data you provide. (Strava just released an iPhone app this week. Android users can use the MyTracks app do record their GPS data.)

Perhaps the most entertaining feature is that Strava will compare your performance on certain challenging sections of road, that Strava refers to as segments, to other people who’ve ridden the same segment.  Below is the segment for Summit Ave. in Brookline:

If you haven't ridden it, Summit Ave. averages over 10% for a third of a mile. Ouch!

You can create your own segments (such as your daily commute) and compare your daily rides to each other.

Pros

Some days, especially this winter, its really hard for me to get myself motivated to get out and ride by myself.  Why push hard? The benefit from training isn’t seen until your next race, if at all.  Strava, however, offers instant gratification for your hard work.  If I push really hard on that one climb, I’ll upload my GPS file as soon as I get home to see if I’ve captured a new KOM (King of the Mountain – there’s a Queen of the Mountain for women, don’t worry).  Strava has definitely made me train harder by raising the stakes of a training ride.

Strava is also a useful tool for finding ride routes and climbs in your area.  Below is a list of categorized climbs (similar to how climbs are rated in the Tour de France) in the Boston area:

There aren't too many climbs in the Boston area that can compare to the cols of the French Alps. Are you surprised?

Additionally, nothing beats good customer service, especially with a relatively new service like Strava.  Strava succeeds in this area.  When a site update left me unable to log in, I tweeted about it and heard back from Strava within minutes.  Also, Strava has a support forum that allows users to prioritize new feature development.

Cons

Strava is undoubtedly a very social tool.  Strava isn’t very fun if you don’t have others in your area to upload new rides, create segments, and challenge you on your created segments.  Unfortunately, in some areas (I’m looking at you, Western Mass.) there just aren’t that many users on Strava to make it worthwhile.  However, in the Boston area, there are plenty of active users and some very contentious segments.

If there aren’t many people on Strava in your area, it’s easy to think that Strava is a good idea that’s just not catching on – something I thought at first.  However, I just read that Strava recently received $3.5 million in venture capital to ensure it fully develops some features that are sorely missing.    

Price

Strava lets you upload five rides per month for free.  To upload more, you have to fork over some cash, either $6/month or $59/year for unlimited ride uploads.

Overall

Some cyclists love to crunch data from their rides.  Others prefer to gauge their rides simply by the smile on their face.  If you’re in the former group, Strava is worth a try.  You can upload five rides a month for free, so you have nothing to lose except for a little bit of time.

Certainly, Strava has some features that need further development, and its utility is dependent on the number of cyclists using the service in your area.  The recent capital investment and its recent increase in users bodes well for Strava’s future.

Full disclosure:  I paid $6 for a month of unlimited Strava uploads – no special deals for me.  The only benefit I get from writing this review is from having a few more people on Strava uploading routes, creating segments, and challenging my KOMs.

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