Gone Fishin'


I'm not actively blogging here anymore. But if you got here because you were searching for something about bikes, you might want to check out my latest project, Vermont Goldsprints. In summer of 2014, I bought a used goldsprints racing setup and have made it a mission to get more bikes in more people's faces by putting on fun races in unexpected places. Come join me!



I'm in Chicago through tomorrow for a work training. I'm in class all day and haven't gotten out much yet, but I'll get some pictures tonight. I did get out and buy this delicious pizza for dinner from Gino's East two night ago, however.


Bike Commuting: Barriers, Benefits, and Rookie Mistakes

A bunch of ideas have been rolling around in my head in regards to bike commuting lately, here they are:
So, when Kate and I moved from Missoula to Burlington, and I found myself working in Williston, I knew I would have to start really practicing what I preached about bike commuting.  Sure, I was a big year-round bike commuter in Missoula, but this was different.
For people who have never been to Missoula, commuting by bike year-round might sound like a big deal, but it really isn't.  Missoula is essentially flat, with grid streets for the most part.  Our very reasonable apartment was 1.2 miles from my office, and 3.2 miles from my other work at REI.  Distance from office to REI- about 3 miles. These distances meant that I never really had to dress to ride- I would don a a pants clip and helmet and be good to go.  In addition to being flat and compact, Missoula has a mild winter, something I would never have expected before moving there.  I never had to ride in very much snow, and there were few stretches of truly bitter cold. 
Burlington is different.  My commute is 7 miles each way.  To ride it efficiently, I must dress for cycling and plan to clean up and change at the office.  My commute involves hills and significant higher-speed traffic. The winter will be more snowy and less mild than the winter in Missoula. 
A couple of calculations based on some pretty conservative estimates of gas prices and calorie consumption suggest the following:
Based on my salary, the mpg of our current vehicle (gas-sucking Cherokee) and the average recent price of gas, bike commuting half of the year and therefore saving gas is like getting a 27 cent an hour raise.  That does not include the savings of not having to join a gym, or the reduced wear and tear on the car.
Based on my distance, current weight, and an estimated average speed of 10 miles per hour, commuting for half of the year should resut in a weight loss for me of about 15 pounds.
There is a time savings as well.  Bike commuting adds about a half hour a day to my commuting time, but all of the time i spend commuting counts as exercise time i don't have to spend elsewhere.
So, if somebody asked you if you'd like another quarter an hour at work, to lose 15 pounds over the next year, and if you'd like more free time, what would you say?  What barriers would you be willing to overcome in order to garner these benefits?
Barriers and Rookie Mistakes:
Those in the bike/walk/bus commuting advocacy world (yes, those people exist, and I'd like to consider myself a small part of that group) talk a lot about "barriers."  Barriers to bicycle commuting are many and variable, but I certainly found that this summer, I had introduced a whole bunch of new barriers into my commuting routine by moving to Burlington.  Sometimes you don't overcome a barrier completely- most of that can be attributed to "rookie mistakes" as you get used to the organizational regime required by regular bike commuting.
1. Clothing.  My new commuting distance means that I need to bring office clothes with me to change into when I get to work.  This was the source of my biggest rookie mistake.  Thing is, when you are not putting the clothes on to your body, and it is early in the morning, it is really easy to forget an article of clothing.  I did this on numerous occasions in my first few weeks of "real" commuting. No belt. No boxers. Others have reported forgetting pants.  My solution to this has been to bring extra clothes on the few days I drive and leave them at the office. Of course, this requires a place to store clothing.  In my case, our office has a small locker room. The lack of a place to store cothing or the difficulty in transporting it can be a major barrier.
2. Cleanliness.  Our office has a shower, though I do not often find occasion to use it.  I shower before riding in, towel off when I get in, and change.  This has worked well so far.  I also benefit here from having a very simple hair style to maintain. 
3. Bike storage.  We have secure (but not covered) bike storage at my office.  I also ride a bike to work that looks pretty unattractive, and work in an area with very few problems in the way of theft.  Another rookie mistake I have made a few times is forgetting my lock.  I have resolved this by leaving my lock at the office. I have another lock at home for use there and when I take my bike elsewhere.  This also takes a couple of pounds off my back for the day. 
4. Mechanical issues.  One of the few times I rode without a pump and patch kit this summer I got a flat.  It was on the way home but lengthened my commute by about a half hour.  I am a firm beliver that any bike commuter should know how to fix a flat and mend a broken chain.  These are the two things that can totally stop you.  Fear of mechanical problems can be a barrier, but in practice, I've been stranded by my car far more times than I have had to fix something on my bike.    
5. Fear of traffic.  I'm pretty fearless (not reckless) about riding in traffic.  This is a topic for a whole other post, or several.  Education, bike lanes, and even bike paths (despite their tendency to spawn rollerbladers and strollers) are all part of the solution here, but the biggest is experience. Most cyclists will complain bitterly about dangerous traffic situations when they happen, but the truth is, most of us have pretty safe commutes every day.  That's why we keep riding.
There's more here, and this could probably be a greatly expanded conversation.  In fact, I'd like it to be.  My comment count for posts typically stands at zero, but if you're out there and reading this, how about it?  Why do or don't you ride to work?  What was your biggest rookie mistake?  What is your biggest barrier to commuting? How does bike commuting enhance your life?


On Getting the Memo

To: Cyclists From: Matt Re: The meaning of "On your left." Recently, it has come to my attention that many of you have decided to employ this term while riding down the Riverside Bikeway. I do not think it means what you think it means. "On your left" means "Hi there pedestrian! I am approaching. I have noticed that I will be passing you soon and did not want you to be alarmed. I'll be occupying some of the four feet of path next to you momentarily, on your left, so please do not be alarmed or make any sudden moves in that direction." "On your left" does not mean: "I noticed that you have deigned to WALK on MY path, which is all mine, all eight feet wide of it. The four feet of path to your left is in no way satisfactory amount for me. Although there is no one coming in the other direction for at least 500 yards, I DEMAND that you jump to the grass on the side immediately, that I may continue unimpeded on my superior form of conveyance. I am not concerned with the fact that all path users in front of me have the right of way, nor that I must slow, nay stop if necessary to avoid hitting them." * Yelling it twice does not make it mean the above, either. I am as big an advocate of cycling as they come, and I live what I preach every day. Nevertheless, the sheer cluelessness and arrogance that populates our ranks is a daily frustration. Cyclists who break traffic rules, run red lights, pass cars on the right, etc. do nothing but create less and less of an expectation of predictable cycling behavior in the drivers that I encounter every day. That lowers the safety and consideration factors for me, and for all of us out there on bikes. Please distribute this memo widely, and especially to the young woman who spawned this frustrated blog post tonight. If you're reading this (yes, you- with your two flashing lights and Nantucket Red pants) I just wanted you to know that yelling at us on the path tonight was rude and inconsiderate- it made you and by association all other cyclists appear arrogant. Can't have that. *This memo is in no way meant to apply to those clueless pedestrians who walk four abreast or wander all over the path. They deserve a frustrated and loud "On your left," though to avoid confusion I would advocate for a simple "outta the way, you mook!" Please disperse this memo as widely as you see fit.


The Invasion

There was a huge car show in Essex Junction this weekend. Hot rods of all types descended, in candy-apple red, flame orange and deep purple, their throaty growls echoing across Burlington. That was not the car show I went to this weekend, though. Dad and I took his 1959 Bugeye Sprite up to Stowe for the British Invasion. On Sunday, British cars (even those not registered in the show) may come on to the exhibition field, where they park by color. We parked with the white cars. I have always wanted to be a car nut, but have never really gotten into it. Still, the smells, sights, sounds and stories that get passed around an event like this have some universal appeal. The drive up to Stowe was great, cruising back roads with our butts three inches off the ground and our eyebrows above the top of the windscreen, we shouted merrily over the motor in the fall fog. We arrived and parked in our row to have a look around. There are makes and models I've never head of, and others I've heard of all my life but never seen. There is great camaraderie, and handlebar mustaches, and tents full of imported British junk food. There are car parts, t-shirts and picnic sets for sale, the perfect thing to lash to a chrome luggage rack for a drive off into the country. There are two other bugeye (frogeye across the pond) Sprites, a stately black one, and a bright yellow one, vanity plate: RIBBIT. There's also a later, non-frogeye Sprite for sale, complete with period 8-track player and cartridge: and tale of woe: Many, many more photos here.
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You know what day it is?

That's right, it's talk like a pirate day.  I let my socks do the talking.


Elmore Mountain

We braved the fog to go on a hike to the fire tower at the top of Elmore Mountain near Morristown today. The hike was short and sweet and only really steep at the very end. There was about a 20-25 knot wind blowing at the top of the fire tower, but other than that the wather was just calm and damp. An added benefit to the trip was that we drove back through Stowe. This is an odd time in tourist towns in Vermont: school has begun but fall color has not yet arrived. The main drag in Stowe still looked really busy, though.
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Knitting for Men

That's what Kate calls wheel building. Although I've only done a few wheels, this was a new one and held some interesting lessons. I have been considering a more exotic spoke pattern for my next project. The pattern is called "three leading, three trailing," which describes how the spokes are arranged as they leave the hub: three spokes point in the direction of the rotation of the wheel, and three point away. This pattern can only be done with a number of spokes divisible by three. The wheel I'm planning to build will have 36 spokes, so this will not be an issue.

I wanted to practice the pattern, though. Various websites mentioned that for hubs with an even number of spokes not divisible by three, a similar pattern with two leading, two trailing spokes could be done. In the case of both patterns, it was mentioned that the length of the spokes used would be about the same as if the wheel was built three cross, for a three-leading wheel, or two-cross, for a two-leading wheel. That last detail becomes important in a moment.

Thus fortified with internet information, and recently in possession of a 32-spoke, three-cross wheel (which means that each spoke crosses three other spokes before it touches the rim) I wasn't using for anything else, I set out to build a practice wheel, and this is it:

There were challenges, however. I initially neglected the fact that I would be re- lacing spokes from a three-cross wheel into a pattern suited for spokes of the length of a two-cross wheel. As I laced in the new pattern, spokes and spoke nipples prtruded through the rim bed, a bad sign that the spokes would be too long. Of course they would be too long, for as three-cross spokes they left the hub at a tighter tangent than they would have to for a two-leading, two trailing wheel, which uses spokes similar in length to a two-cross wheel. This all happened last weekend. I finished lacing the wheel, confident in my abilities but dejected that the finished product would probably be unrideable, with spokes poking up and popping the tube, no matter how many layers of rim tape I used.

I returned to the project today. As I looked the floppy, misshapen wheel over, I remembered that the rim was a deep-section rim and that there might be just enough room between the eyelets and the rim bed to fit all that extra spoke. It was worth a shot. I tightened everything up, tensed and trued, tensed and trued again. Lo and behold, a rigid, true and totally useable wheel emerged. It was a great exercise and convinced me to continue in this pursuit when it comes time to build my new project wheel. I have no bike to really use this wheel on right now, but I threw it on my cruiser for a short while today and it ran true with no pinging sounds or loss of trueness. I'll call it a success for now, and can't wait to get started on the next set of wheels.
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More on Labor Day

As promised, some more words on our weekend on Cape Cod:

Kate and I took off after work on the Friday of Labor Day Weekend, flying down the interstate as we made our way south and east to Cape Cod.  We are both used to driving Montana distances now, so the first couple of rural hours from Burlington to Concord flew by, as we watched the hillsides cut by pavement and retraced by the dirt road crossings through innumerable bridges.  We passed through Boston in darkness, the Zakim bridge spooning us handily into the tunnel and spitting us out the other side.  We got to the Cape by 11:30 or so.

Saturday broke rainy and cool.  We relaxed around a great breakfast prepared by Marci (Kate's mom) and took off to meet our friend Katie in Orleans.  Katie took some time from her day's project (packing for a move to Boston for grad school) to meet us at the Hot Chocolate Sparrow for coffee and then a walk through the red maple swamp at Fort Hill on the National Seashore.  The swamp walk is all decked and railed, and then opens on to the wild dunes and a great boulder, a "sharpening stone" worn smooth by centuries of knives and ax blades.

We returned home to a great dinner.  Marci had created some six quiches, redolent with homegrown tomatoes, asparagus and excellent cheese.

Sunday morning came with a breath of salt air through the bedroom window and a bright clear sky.  We ate and hopped on the road bikes, headed back to Orleans.  Eleven miles later, there we were, meeting up with Ben, who rented a bike there to ride the next section with us. We took the bike path to its terminus at Lecount Hollow in Wellfleet, then continued along the shore to Cahoon Hollow Beach, home of the Wellfleet Beachcomber.  We turned around there.  Back to Orleans, where Ben dropped off his bike and Kate caught a ride back home, while I pounded out the last eleven of the 52 miles I rode that day.

What awaited us in Yarmouth?  Chocolate croissants, warm from the oven and constructed of the most perfect dough I've ever seen.  All the way home, though I had been dreaming about getting back to that sparkling beach and waves we had seen on our ride.  Marci wanted to take us for a tour of her garden, but we plied her with offers of onion rings at Liam's, and thus were on our way to Nauset Beach.

Onions at Liam's are sliced finely, dredged in four and spices, and fried quickly until just golden. It's not right to eat them anywhere you can't have your toes in the sand.  We did exactly that.  The people watching as the masses made their way off the beach was excellent.  I did a little skimboarding later on.  The light was golden and perfect, so I took a few pictures, too.

The sun sets in the dunes behind you at Nauset.  There are a few perfect minutes, when you can stand in the shade while the water and waves stay illuminated and golden, but before it gets cold and the mosquitoes descend.  We were there for that.  The tide was really low, so it was a rare opportunity to do some flat water skimming at Nauset,  Just as well, too, since the waves were only about knee high.

We returned home, I'm sure to another amazing dinner and to finish off the croissants.  Monday took us out to Bass River for coffee with Ben, and then we were on the road with everybody else, leaving the Cape for the summer, with full bellies, sore legs, and salt in our hair.   



Got down to the Cape for the long weekend. Skimboarding, bike rides and food ensued. More photos and words later.
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