My first metric century

<DISCLAIMER: I am bad at remembering to take pictures, so they are so few as to be almost nonexistent. But it’s all true, I swear>

   This week I was as invited on a ride with a coworker and some other folks to ride to Kennebunk and back to Portland, a trip that totaled 68 miles. I was excited the whole week leading up to it, but busy too, so the excitement never got out of hand.  When I mentioned that I was planning to do the ride friends and family were flabbergasted. They couldn’t wish me enough luck or remind me sufficiently that I had to be especially careful for cars, hydration, Governer LePage, etc. I was never worried about my legs. I’ve done several 30ish miles rides and none have ever kicked my ass. The first one sent me into a hilarious cramp spiral, but I did a bad job that time and learned some valuable lessons. 

  Even though this was twice as far as my longest ride I knew that it was doable, and I find that riding with a small group makes the miles feel easier somehow. No one was in a hurry. Everyone was nice and pleasant to talk to. There was just enough familiarity between the different riders that one could always drop in or out of a conversation, moving back and forth between the small pods of two or three cyclists. We stopped a couple of times each way to snack, chat, and fill up on water. 


   I had never been on most of the Eastern Trail system that links up southern coastal maine. It’s so picturesque and well maintained. I kept thinking of how fun it will be to come down with the family and ride through the salt marshes in Scarborough and down into Saco Biddeford. Maybe we can visit some friends there before riding back north. The only parts that weren’t woodsy gravel trails were a short stint in south portland and pretty much all of Biddeford. There you had to ride through town, but there were still signs to guide you back to the trails and the roads we took were minimally trafficked. 

   After that we got back on the trail until we met up with the Kennebunk exit on 95, and from there we took the road into town for some much needed food and coffee. Everyone remained in good spirits as we mounted up to head right back the way we’d just come. The return trip went faster as it always seems to do, though it might have been the lengthy discussion of modern poets and poetry I ended up having for over half that trip with my younger, collegiate doppelgänger.  What an experience!

   We ended the ride at the Gear Hub for their Grand Opening Party. The band was playing, the BBQ was…flowing?  The yard sale was in full effect, as was the four square tournament. I left my fellow riders there so I could run home, shower, roll out my legs, gather my family, and finally return in time to see the festivities come to an end. I did pick up a few items from the yard sale bins, and my son did get a new, more legit game of four square going (legit because of the presence of a school child). 

   I ended a longish day of riding my bike by riding my bike home with my son, a trip that was mostly directed into the sunset. But we had our sunglasses. So it was cool. 

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The Long and Windy Road

   I took a ride out to Freeport yesterday, then turned around and headed right back. The funny thing is, all the way up Route One I was getting hit with a mild but noticeable headwind, and so when I got to Freeport and saw that I needed to head back in order to deal with some prior obligations I was looking forward to some sort of tailwind pushing me along.  But when I began my return journey I found myself riding into a much stronger headwind. This one was enough to slow me down on a descent, and it didn’t let up the whole time.

None shall pass!!!

   I stopped in Yarmouth for a slice of pizza to refuel. My legs had been feeling less and less willing to keep up the revolutions, and I had made the whole trip to that point on one fried egg, a piece of buttered toast, and two cups of coffee. I knew I was going to be late by then so I contacted people and rescheduled enough things that I could relax and enjoy my lunch in the sunlight. 

   I got back on the bike and after about five minutes of riding and digesting I felt much better able to haul my butt through the shoving, bullying wind. Bridges presented the most challenging sections, but only the Martin Point bridge was bad enough to get me weaving across the bike line in my lowest gear.  I let out a barbaric yawp or two since I so rarely get a reasonable opportunity to do so these days. 

   I eventually made it home with just enough time to let the dog out, “enjoy” a quick visit from my soigneur, Monsieur Le Foam, and then take a short, scorching hot soak before I had to meet someone about a bike. But I was happy to see that all of that exertion didn’t wipe me out. When I got home I felt like I could have kept going much longer if I hadn’t had responsibilities. But since it was my first long ride since last summer it’s probably best that I took it easy. 

Monsieur Le Foam

   I definitely did much better than on my first 25 mile ride. That one ended in double leg cramps that propelled me off the couch and onto the floor where I remained until I was finally able to drag myself down the hall and into the bath tub where I sat punching my thighs until the hot water covered them. It wasn’t my best moment, but luckily I was alone. And also luckily, the action of dragging myself backwards down the hallway rug helped to pull my pants down for me so that I didn’t have to bend my intensely cramped legs to get them off. Ah, memories. 

   I took this ride to scout things out for a near future ride with my son. The last time that we rode, or attempted to ride to Freeport it was autumn and it got way too cold for us about 14 miles in.  Also that time we rode up Route Nine which is not as bike friendly as Route One. Route Nine has many sections where the bike lane disappears and you are left to hug a very scrappy and unsafe few inches of the road while cards whiz past you, sometimes giving you a little leeway. Route One has a bike lane all the way up, I was happy to find.  And it is also significantly less hilly than Route Nine. Although I should mention that they are currently doing construction on a few parts and in those areas it is down to one lane.  They have to stop you in one direction and let traffic continue before you are allowed to go. But the cars were content to let me ride along and no one tried to crowd me out since there were construction people watching. And maybe out of the goodness of their hearts.  So now my son and I just need to pick a nice, wind free day for our adventure to the north.  And I look forward to trying it again by myself on a pleasant afternoon to see how my time compares. It’s not so much that I really care about my average speed, but I do tend to notice it from time to time.

The Great Maine Bike Swap was…pretty great!

   

   The Bike Swap was this morning at the USM Sullivan Center. The line began around 8, and by 10 when it officially began the line had filled out very nicely. There were over 1,000 bikes inside and more kid’s bikes and bargain bikes for less than $50 outside. There was a coffee truck from The Gorham Grind. Eventually there was pizza for the volunteers. So really everything you need to survive in this crazy, mixed up world.    


   Just before ten they made their announcements and then got the line moving. Within five minutes there were people coming out the doors with bikes, giving them the once over with the on-site mechanics, then taking them out for a test ride and, one hopes, falling instantly in love with the new bicycle in their lives. 


   As a volunteer I can tell you that the flow of people didn’t stop for the full three hours of the event. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, both volunteers and attendees. Lots of smiles and giddy excitement as folks queued up for their test rides. Several people commented on how nice it was to be able to grab a bike inside, then grab a helmet and a lock at one of the booths outside. It’s a regular one stop shop. 


   I really enjoy the bike swap as an event!  The folks who work it are always very bikey people in the best possible way. They’re all big fans of bikes and cycling, and they all get so animated when they get to talk about bikes with someone else who is at least almost equally interested. As a bicycle-type person myself I understand this emotional response. Pretty much all of the people in my life with whom I’m the closest have minimal to no interest in bikes, and many of them seem to find it strange how high the percentage of bicycle related books and movies I ingest on a regular basis. They also find it difficult to imagine that so many such books and movies exist. 

“Didn’t you already read that book?”

“No. That was a different book about cycling infrastructure.”  

“So <pregnant pause> does this one cover a lot of new ground?”

“Ummmm…”

  And so many people who show up there really want to get people on bikes. It’s the best part of the whole event for me. I only sell bikes that are as fresh and as road ready as possible there, and I always include a new bottle of lube and a small multi tool for adjustments because I don’t want to leave any room for excuses not to get out and ride one of the bikes I’ve worked on. Any time I see one of my former bikes locked up around town (or being ridden, though that happens less often) I get a swelling of pride.  Egoitis, some might call it. But it fills me with joy to know that I took a useful object that had been lacking for use, fixed it up and made it as desireable as possible, and that someone else is doing the exact thing that I had hoped for; making good use of that really useful object.  It makes all my efforts feel worthwhile. It makes me feel appreciated, even if I only see it locked up outside the library one random afternoon. And it is that kind of sentiment that everyone at the bike swap seems to share. I love attending and volunteering because I find myself surrounded by kindred spirits. 

   If you would like to feel that way you should do any number of the following:

-Continue to read this blog.  

-Check out http://www.Bikemaine.org (or your local equivalent) and see what they’re working on. While you’re there maybe make a donation or consider joining. 

-Keep an eye out for upcoming bike events in your area. The swap is great fun, but I also love our local alley cat races. And the Gold Sprints was a blast-and-a-half. 

Gold Sprints stationary bike race at Oxbow Brewing

   

   This past Saturday the new bike club in town, the WHARF Cats, put on its first planned event at Oxbow Brewing on Washington Ave. They had two stationary bikes with identical gearing set up on rollers, which were hooked up to a computer. People could then race head-to-head in a virtual 250 meter race. The results were displayed on a large screen behind them, so the audience had to participate, shouting out the countdowns and wildly flailing their arms to tell the racers when they could stop pedaling. And that was necessary because there was no resistance on the rollers, so racers were really focusing on spinning their legs and not much else. 


   After each race the board would show your time and your top speed, which usually landed between 65 and 75mph. 

   Racers showed up and signed in between 7:00 and 8:00, brackets were filled in, and then the races began. I won my first race (as well as a preliminary test race…ahem) but lost my second bout. Although I lost to the eventual winner, so I can’t feel too bad. But then again, first prize was a brand new, unpainted track frame in whatever size you required, so I can feel a tiny bit bad.  


   There were buttons for the WHARF Cats and buttons for the Gold Sprints event itself. And some really cool wood cut printed posters. There are several talented artists and creative types in this new bike club, and it shows. 

   The group was in great spirits since the beer was amazing, as always.  And the space was really perfect for the event. I really enjoy Oxbow on a lot of levels, and I’m definitely not a big beer guy. But they do great things and I love the staff in general. Plus it feels like a speakeasy that I’m cool enough to know about. Just explaining its location to people makes them think I must be “in the know”. 

   Overall this was a wonderful, fun, successful event that helped benefit the Portland Gear Hub’s move from St John St to Washington Ave. They will be relocating to the old Casale’s Garage sometime next month. To see what other events theWHARF Cats have in the works you can keep an eye on this site or look around at all the bulletin boards in town on a regular basis. For now, at least. 

Harlequin wrapping my moustache bars

I really like the look of a harlequin wrap job, so I finally made my first attempt on the XO-3’s new mustache bars. I saw a tutorial that suggested starting from the top out to the brakes, then starting again at the bar ends and working your way back toward the brakes, meeting in the middle. I just went for it, though, and I like the way it turned out. I did have to remove the shifters momentarily to finish the job, but that was a minor inconvenience at worst. I then applied seven layers of clear shellac, leaving at least an hour between each over the course of a couple days. I wish I’d taken pictures of the bike all wrapped and taped up, but alas I did not. If it helps you imagine it, the masking tape was the basic beige kind and the trash bags were black. Plastic bags from Hannaford covered the bars. Et voilà! It’s just like you’re there in the attic with me, smelling the funky, melting-rubber smell of the shellac and thinking about how this shit used to be bugs. I’ve imbued my bicycle with the tortured souls of countless dead insects. And now that I’ve been riding it for a few weeks I can say that I do enjoy the feeling of that double wrapped cotton tape and all those melted and then rehardened beetles. It’s like the Soylent Green of the bicycle world.

I finished Lily’s bike sometime ago, and she finally came by to pick it up this past weekend. In the end I really like how it turned out, and I think all of the gold accents work perfectly. Spray painting and then shellacking the handlebars worked in some ways and not so much in others, but in the end I feel like it came out ahead. The dirty gold matches the decals on the bike better than I imagined. I rode this bike around town all day running errands and it was incredibly fun and very fast. Glad to see it going to a good home. After all, Lily is in many ways Italian, and I know how big cycling is over there. Hopefully it will make her feel like she’s back home.