My Experience in the Mile High City

Denver Colorado has an active bicycling scene. There are dedicated bike paths, lanes, and numbered routes. You can pick up a map of the numbered routes to navigate your way around. They also have a bike rental system where you can pick up a sturdy, but heavy bike at a kiosk and ride it to another location and drop the bike off. Beware, if you use one of these rental bikes make sure you read the fine print or you can find yourself hit up with extra fees. If you are just visiting the city and want to ride around exploring the city and the roads out to the mountains, I would recommend renting from one of the local bike shops.

I ended up renting my bike from the Edge Doctor bike shop, on Broadway and 9th. I ended up with a nice new 2015 Fuji aluminum frame road bike with cable disc brakes. Helmet and flat change kit included for a little more than $40 per 24 hour period. Unfortunately, I only had one day to rent a bike and it was on a cloudy sometimes misty day with temps in the low 50’s. So, I did not head out towards the mountains instead I chose a nice flat bike route.

The route I took was the Cherry Creek Trail. This trail goes from the confluence of Cherry Creek and the Platte River out to the Cherry Creek Reservoir. I can’t be sure of the exact distance but I almost went the whole distance but the weather turned a little more nasty. Here is my link to the ride:

http://ridewithgps.com/trips/3431228 . This path, when possible separated the bike riders, from the pedestrians on the different sides of the creek.

If I get back to Denver before my son moves east, I hope to ride out to Golden and maybe up Look-Out Mountain. I would also explore some other rides maybe out to Boulder as well.

I made some other observations about Denver. Some of them do not put the bicyclist in a favorable light. To list a few: 1. A rider going against traffic. 2. A couple of instances of riders blowing through stop signs and red lights and not taking their turn at four-way stops. 3. A bike rider pulling a left hook (my son said this was common) where a bike rider came down the left side of a row a cars stopped at a traffic light and then making a right turn in front of the first car in the line. I will note that the riders doing this were either the young hipsters or maybe a commuter. (I didn’t see too many roadies except on the bike paths or way out of the ‘burbs.) 4. Last but not least, I noted that there seemed to be more riders without helmets than I saw wearing helmets.

Denver, Colorado is indeed a great area to bike ride in. I just hope the local residents don’t spoil it for themselves and everyone else.

D2R2 2014 Experience

There was something different in the air, that had been building up for weeks, prior to this year’s ride. It was the weather. The summer had been cooler than prior years and the weather was more of different extremes. It would be dry for a couple weeks then the Berkshires would be hammered with rainfall measuring anywhere from 2 to 5 inches in a 24 hour period. This led to erosion and reroutes. The people from the Franklin Land Trust, who put on this event, kept riders up to date with changes in the routes and some lunch stop locations. They even advised on the road conditions and what tires we should consider.

The week leading up to the D2R2, I kept an eye on the forecast. It was to be dry and cool at the beginning of the week with some rain on Thursday and showers Friday. The day of the ride was to be cloudy to partly cloudy in the low 70’s and only a slight chance of rain. The roads would be rough.

After driving through rain and heavy traffic I checked into my hotel on a somewhat gloomy late Friday afternoon. Outside the hotel was guy from U.K. putting together a brand new (3 days old) Moots Bicycle. We chatted a bit about the rides we planned on doing and wished each other good luck for the upcoming ride.

I woke up early on Saturday morning and looked out my window. It just looked gloomy out. If it wasn’t for the ride, I would have probably crawled back into bed. I made it up to the start parked and made the final preparations to get ready. I registered and by nine o’clock I was rolling out of the gate somewhat slowly. It was starting to sink in that despite all my road bike riding this year (over 1450 miles including 3 metrics and lots of hilly rides) I wasn’t prepared to take a fat tired hard-tail mountain bike over the rough Old Albany Road and when I had nice pavement I had too much rolling resistance. The bike, in its current set-up, was fighting me. It was the equivalent of pushing a chain up a hill and there are a lot of hills in the D2R2.

In years past I had run on narrower 1.75 or even 1.5 x 26 inch tires that were more like a road/gravel grinder tires. For my prior D2R2 rides I had pulled my mountain bike out of storage around mid-July. Then I would make a point of spending more and more time riding it so my body would be familiar with the stresses of day long riding on it. I did not do it this year; my back let me know.

As I rolled out of the start down Mill Village Road, I felt pretty good. I continued on this relatively flat route until turning on to Upper Road. I managed this climb decently as I listened to the hum of my knobby tires on the asphalt. Little did I know that this too was going to lead to my downfall.

I have ridden this route before in 2011 and 2013. Soon the tough part began: Old Albany Road. This road was heavily washed out in places and seemed a lot steeper than in years past. This is when I realized that maybe my lack of preparation during the last three weeks had caught up with me, and maybe a few extra pounds that I put on over the winter and hadn’t worked all of them off was having something to do with it too. Back to Old Albany Road. I was geared down but I couldn’t find the right gear. I was spinning my pedal, but could not find that sweet spot where there was ease of pedaling combined with enough speed to power through the washed-out gravelly areas. So I was off the bike and pushing at a few spots. Finally I hit pavement and was doing good for awhile, but my back was making noises. I hit the rolling hills and enjoyed the downhill parts even though I had to be cautious as I did not want to go too fast and lose control.

More rollers and my back was killing me. I was looking at my GPS and was getting discourage. I was being passed up, my time was a lot slower than in the past and I was figuring I would be lucky to hit the first water stop before it closed. The clouds looked like they could open up and rain at any minute. The real kicker was my GPS screen would scroll by with the upcoming topography and there were places where it looked like a giant vertical wall. I finally had another nice downhill and caught up with some riders waiting to cross Route 2. We crossed and it was more climbing. The pavement, quickly turned to nice hard packed dirt. I was on the bike and pedaling but in pain. I had to stop and walk again and again as a result of my back and neck spasms.

Finally, I made it to the first water stop with about 15 – 20 minutes to spare. One of the volunteers noted my pained look and another had a car with a bike rack. So after a bit we drove down from Patten Hill and back to the start.

Back at the start finish, I checked in and was given some Ibuprofen. Another volunteer help me take my bike back to my car and I got my duffel bag to take back to the tent. (I noted that the muddy field I had parked in just hours before was nicely dried out.) Soon the shower shuttles were running and then I was able to get cleaned up and feel somewhat human for dinner. Dinner was great, and I met some people I knew. It’s always good to have dinner with great company.

Even though I had a giant DNF, the event was great. I enjoyed the hot breakfast onsite and the dinner/lunch was great too.

I will probably do it again next year, but I will have to consider what ride to do.

Road Behavior, Riding With Groups, Alone and Dealing with Drivers.

I have been riding a lot over the past few years and seen some good and bad behavior on the part of both bike riders and car/truck drivers.  With more people riding bikes we as bike riders have to show better awareness and safety habits or more of us are going to get hurt or die.  We can’t rely on car drivers to change their habits overnight.  It will be a long process.

For those of you who ride in groups there are lots of things to consider, especially if you do not have that much experience riding in groups. First do not ride close to the rear wheel of the person in front and never ever overlap wheels. A little touch of the wheels can send several people down. Know how long it takes your bike to stop and if possible check out the rider’s bike in front of you. If he/she has disc brakes they can stop a lot quicker than bikes with regular caliper brakes. Listen to the ride leader at the beginning of the ride for any last minute safety briefing such as road construction, busy intersections, rest stops and rally points. Also if there are no cue sheets some groups will use human arrows. This technique means that the rider behind the ride leader will peel off from the group at a turn and point his or her bike in direction of the turn so the rest of the riders can see which way to turn. This rider waits until the sweep (designated at the beginning of the ride) comes along and tells this rider it’s okay to go on. The arrow can then feel free to catch up with the rest of the riders or stay with the sweep, but should not fall behind the sweep. When riding in a group it is important not to ride more than two abreast, unless you are overtaking two other riders abreast and there is no car or truck traffic around and you can safely pass. If you see a car coming from the back, call out “CAR BACK!” and if on a narrow road and a car is coming towards you yell “CAR UP!” When other riders hear this they should get over in single file so the traffic can pass. Another thing to consider when riding with a group or even by yourself: Take the lane when making a left turn. Check behind you, put your left hand out and get as far over to your left, in the lane, to make your turn. If you are in the group and see the group leader or the person in front of your group get ready to make a left and you are in the back it is incumbent on YOU to take the lane for the rest of the group. This will make it safe for you, the other riders, and let the car/truck drivers know what you are doing.

There are different type of drivers out there that scare me:  !.)  The distracted soccer mom driving her min-van and talking on the cell phone at the same time.  2.) The Prius drivers, not that they are jerks or unsafe but you just can’t hear a Prius come up behind you on a slow winding road.  3.) The redneck pickup truck driver who makes a point of making sure you get a full dose of their exhaust as they pass you by.  There are also some variations in between; we all have seen them.

There are just as bad bicycle riders too.  Most of them think they are professional bicycle racers wannabes, thinking that if things would have fallen right they would have spent some Julys riding in Le Tour De France. These riders have no regard for anyone else on the road, including other bicyclists. They wear replica professional team jerseys, local racing or bike shop racing team. They pass other bicyclists very close, sometimes they blow through red lights and stop signs. What is even worse is when you get a bunch of these riders together usually from the same racing club. They give the rest of us bicyclists a bad name. They will ride 3 or 4 abreast and they think it is beyond them to get over to single file when a car or cars that need to pass. This leaves a bad memory in a driver’s mind and he or she (probably a he) will take it out on the next bicyclist, who is out riding alone.

As a cyclist, I had encounter where a driver in his late 50’s early 60’s and his friend stopped their pick-up truck after I did not get up on the sidewalk when they laid on their horn from about 1/10 of a mile back. They swore at me and I thought I was going to get doored. It was not a pleasant experience. Now I keep my phone handy in case something like that happens again. This was about two years ago and now I just usually get a mouth full of exhaust fumes.

So we just need to get along and realize each other’s rights. One, no matter how right you are you are not going win in a collision with a car. Just be nice don’t cause a confrontation and let them go. Drivers need to be educated that bicycles have the same right to the road as they do. Bicycle riders do need to stay to the right as safely possible. But bicyclists have a different view of the road. A bicyclist has a better view of the potholes that may be small to cars but, could cause a serious crash for a bicycle or at the least give the bicycle rider a flat tire. So the next time you see a bicyclist out a little further from the right than you think they should, remember this they are trying to avoid pot-holes that could put them down right in front of your car.

So share the road, be nice and bicyclists remember to wave or say thank you when a car driver lets you into traffic. Who knows, you may make that car driver into a future cyclist.

The Promises of June – Crash and Burn.

June started out so promising. My mileage was up and I was feeling good. I even managed a climb up the back side of Mount Wachusett. My training for Cape Cod Getaway MS Ride came to a screeching halt about 10 days before the ride.

It started with nausea and a headache on a Wednesday evening and by Sunday I was in the ER being admitted for an Intractable Migraine Headache. This landed me with two nights in the hospital and being ruled out for the MS Challenge Cape Cod Getaway. But the MS Society said there is another ride I can do in three weeks which I plan to do.

Right now I am recovering and getting rest. I do have two metrics for the month and will have a metric for July and one for August..

As for the roads. The Massachusetts roads are awful this year. It seems Massachusetts is putting its priority elsewhere.

I will keep you posted.

Riding Season is in Full Swing for 2014

May was a month of starts and stops for me.   I had good times and bad.  Thankfully no accidents but a couple of mechanical breakdowns that should not happen to a bike that is less than 6 months old and does not even have 600 miles on it.   I won’t bore you with the details since they are covered under warranty, but it is pretty damn frustating and one could have been almost dangerous to a less experienced rider.

I spent a lot of this month preparing to lead my first ride for my club the Charles River Wheelmen (CRW).  I had to set up a long and short route, map it out, ride it to see if there if the route is appropriate and safe and then go back and arrow the route.  It’s not as simple as it sounds.  Arrowing is best if you do it with someone because you can carry more spray cans and have someone to talk to.  I had some obstacles to overcome which included bad cracking pavement, sand, wet weather, time and street cleaners.  Street cleaners have a nasty habit of obliterating arrows.  I retouched the best I could, but the I found out the arrow that the dreaded street sweepers might have messed up one turn.

As for the ride itself we had about 20 to 25 riders.  About 1/3 went on the long ride and the rest on the short ride.   I received a lot of compliments.

As for my other riding activities I volunteered to help park cars for the CRW Spring Century and then took off and rode the metric+ (65 miles).  I road at a pace of over 15 mph which was one of my best in a long time.

Now if the weather, my home improvements and bike all align and cooperate, this should be  great summer to ride.

 

 

April Showers bring May Flowers and Hopefully an End to Potholes.

It is now May 3.  I doubled my mileage for the year in April and hopefully in May I do one metric century and maybe add a full century to it.  Now if the weather and my migraines cooperate, I should be able to do it.

My fund raising for my MS Ride is going well,  I am halfway there with about two months to go.  If you want to donate, contact me at ajgemperline@gmail.com and I will guide you through the process.

In April I had my bike refitted as well as my bio-mechanics evaluated.  I found out that one of my legs is shorter than the other and some adjustments here and there including putting a shim in the cleat of my shoe should correct it.  I highly recommend it for anyone who plans to ride a lot, over 1,200 miles per year, or has experienced some pain during or after their ride.

Another accomplishment I did this month was to put, or I should I say fit SKS Longboard Fenders on my Cannondale Synapse with Disc Brakes.  There is a Youtube video on how to put them on a regular road bike and you have to use this as there are no written instructions or diagrams included.  I had to watch the video several times but it was about 50 percent useful.  The rest of it was trial and error.  There was some error belive me, as well as some modifications.   All in all, I probably spent the greater part of a day and evening getting the fenders to fit, including doing some cutting of the front fender to fit around the front fork.

I am looking forward to May,  the weather is still moderate, but the only problem up here will be the Mayflys.  So I will have to remember to use insect repellent.  I hope everyone else has good riding this month.

The Weather and Roads are Improving.

Here is is, April 22, 2014.  So far this month I have racked up 212 miles, bringing my total for the year to 436 miles.  I did back-to-back rides Sunday and Monday of approximately 38 miles and 48 miles respectively.  To say the least, I was tired last night and went to bed about 3 hours earlier than I normally do.

The good news is I felt strong on the hills.  I even took on my dreaded nemesis, Green Street Hill in Northboro.  At no time during the whole ride or with the steep pitch ups in the climbs did my heart rate reach my max and trigger warnings.  It was a great day for a ride.  It started out cold but halfway through I had to shed my windbreaker and buy some more water.

As for the roads, they still  are not in the best condition.  Most of the potholes have been filled but there are still some nasty man-eaters out there if you do not pay attention.

So stay safe out there and get out and ride!

 

Spring is FINALLY Here! (The roads still suck but are improving.)

If you have been following my mileage (see widget page) you will notice my mileage has been going up.  The snow is gone, except for the big piles in parking lots , driveways and some shady places.  The temperatures are getting above freezing during the day for a while now.   The street sweepers and road crews have been out cleaning up the sand and fixing the potholes.  So spring is definitely here.  It is time to get in more mileage.

My goals are for this year are to do at least one or two centuries plus ride at least one metric per month, from May through October.  This is rather ambitious, I know.  I also want to log 2,000 miles.  I had 1,650 miles last year.  So I think this is obtainable maybe even 2,500.

One other event I have decided to do is to ride the National MS Society Cape Cod Getaway.  This is a two day ride totaling 150 miles, from Boston to Provincetown, MA,  this includes an overnight stay in Bourne, MA.  It is a charity ride and as far as charity rides go this one does not break the back or bank of the rider by requiring an outrageous amount of money to be raised in order to ride.  However, I would appreciate your donation.  The ride is the last weekend in June and my goal is to raise $750.  You can donate to me by going to this page.

https://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/gemperline2014

You may have to copy and paste that link into your browser.   Thank you in advance.  A.J.

 

Winter is STILL here and the roads SUCK!

What started out as a promising January did not continue.  It got cold, snowed, stayed cold snowed some more with a very brief warm-up then more storms, cold weather and potholes.  There was one pothole in Boston that was so big that when the driver hit it the airbags in his car were triggered.

So February was a tough month to keep my base up.  I went to the gym, took and I am enrolled in a body toning class.  It’s still no substitute for good road riding.  Since I could not get out on the road,  I found the next best thing.  I went to a Cyclops computer training clinic and road 11 miles.  This is not an ordinary resistance trainer.  A bicycle is hooked up to the trainer with a heavier skewer for the rear wheel.  The trainer is fluid filled and hooked up to a computer. Information is logged into the computer such as your height weight and if you have a heart rate monitor.  You pedal for about two minutes to calibrate everything and then a course is selected.

I had two courses selected for me.  The first course was climbing up Mount Wachusett.  It is about a 4 mile climb and I actually did this ride this past summer.  The ride on the Cyclops trainer was just as tough.  The view on the computer screen matched my speed and when the grade steepened on the climb the resistance matched it.  If I didn’t know better, I would swear I was out on Mt Wachusett.  It was that real.  The next ride was 15 mile relatively flat ride somewhere in Iceland.  I could certainly distinguish the ups, downs and flat areas.   Overall I got in 11 miles.

So, I think for next year I might sign up for some of these training sessions.  One local bike shop has 20 session pass for about $175.  They also have options for storing your bike over the winter.  This would be a great option if you have a spare bike, that way you don’t have to schlep your bike back and forth to the training session in crappy weather.  So if you are looking to add some variety to your training during the winter, I recommend that you look in to this.

 

Winter Blahs!

It’s January 22, 2014.  I just spent over an hour and a half snowblowing and shoveling out from this last winter blast in New England.  It is now 7 degrees F outside.  For the next several days we will be in a polar vortex, so any ice on the road won’t have much chance of melting.  There is also a chance for more snow in the coming week.  I am just thankful that I got 119 miles of riding in this month.  It sure beats last year when I only got in about 15 in January.

How do I cope with these cold days.  Well I do have a stationary exercise bike in my basement.  No, it is not one of my road bikes on a training stand.  It is just a resistance trainer.  I have a couple of Carmichael Training System DVDs as well as a few other more scenic ones where I don’t have to look at people sweating on their bikes in a gym like setting.  I also am doing some kettlebell training and other core training for my abs.  Next to your legs, I have been told your abs are most important for balance and power.  I am body toning.  This weight and resistance training won’t bulk me up but it will give me more tone and strength.  I still can’t wait to ride outside again.

Riding outside in winter is not for the faint of heart.  You have to be prepared.  You should have a wicking underlayer as well as breathable top layers and the ability to vent the heat your body will build up during a strenous workout outside.  If not, that sweat stays trapped and gets cold and may lower your body temperature leading to hypothermia.  I highly recommend that you wear booties for your bike shoes, especially if you have the ventilated type of shoes.  If you don’t have booties, your pedals will act like heat sinks and draw heat away from your feet, even in temperatures as low as 35 degrees F.  Also, when riding a bike you are creating your own wind chill.  So if it 30 degrees out on dry roads, check your wind chill chart for your average speed and the speed the wind is blowing to figure out how really cold it is going to be.  As for my hand, I wear padded bicycle gloves underneath my three finger mittens.  I have never had any problems with my hands.

Another issue to consider when riding in the winter is the road itself.  Freezing and thawing will bring out potholes galore.  You have to be vigilant.  With the low sun of winter there is more glare on the road.  This glare hides such dangers as black ice, sand and potholes.  Any of these can put you down on the road with a hard fall, or at least give you a flat tire or damaged rim.  Also beware of black ice if you go out when it was warm and the snow was melting but the return temperature is below freezing.

Other equipment you should have for winter are blinking lights front and rear and fenders.  In winter it gets darker earlier, especially when the clouds move in.  If your blinking front light can turn into a headlight, all the better.  Hi visibility or reflective clothing will also help you be seen.  Drivers don’t expect bicyclists out in the winter and when you ride near intersections you should go out more towards the middle of the road to be seen, especially if there are tall snow banks.  Fenders are important in that they help keep the majority of road grime from your drive train.  When I mean fenders I mean front and rear.  They also keep the grime off your clothes and help to keep you dryer.  After your ride, take the time to clean up your bike,  clean your chain and drive train, and give it a nice wipe down.  If you have caliper brakes take a soft cloth and get the sand a loose grime off the rims.

So is winter riding worth it?  If you ask me, heck yes!  You don’t have to put up with bugs that seem to want to bug you as you go up a steep hill, barely doing 6mph.  There is more to see, since the leaves are all gone.  You can sometime get the scent of a wood fire as you go past a house, and when you are done a cup of hot tea or chocolate really hits the spot.  “Another added benefit is that winter rides can help get you lean by burning brown fat, which unlike regular fat is only triggered by cold weather and burns calories instead of storing them.  Fully activiated brown fat can raise your restin metabolism by 20 percent…” (Source Bicycling Training Journal, Rodale Press page 8 (c) 2012).   So if you can, get out and ride this winter.  A.J.