Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Last Canal Walk of 2009?

Probably. It's not likely I'll be on the C&O Canal again before the new year.

I won't use a lot of words here. Suffice to say it was a cold and breezy and wonderful walk. Many birds, different ones now... we're into the season of juncos and titmice. Also saw a beautiful red-tailed hawk and a pileated woodpecker. I'm always taken aback by just how big those pileated woodpeckers are.

Photos from today are at:

December 29, 2009, C&O Canal

Our Winter Wonderland Last Week

I didn't find the gumption to sit down and write about it, and it seems a little silly more than a week later to spend the time, but I did want to post one picture and a link to more, from the lovely snowfall we had on December 18th, here in the DC area. A rare event in this region, a heavy snowfall before Christmas, and in this case, apparently record-breaking, with reports of from 16" to 22" or more.

This picture is from the woods behind my place. More can be seen at:

December 18, 2009 ride home from work

December 19, 2009, walk to work

Dec 19, 2009 walk home

December 20, 2009 walk to work

December 21-23, 2009

It Ain't Macy's, but...

... the only real "decorating" I managed to do this Christmas (aside from my mom's lights) was to put a few strings of battery-powered lights on the bike I built, the Goshawk. The shop was scheduled to do our annual Christmas Eve Luminaries Ride (in which we ride around a local neighborhood that puts out the little candles in bags for the holidays)but due to ice and snow on the roads and on lawns, John decided it was best to cancel. This came about, of course, AFTER I had decked the bike out with lights! So John suggested I put the bike up in the front window of the shop to join our spiffy new "Open" sign and the Christmas lights I had already hung there.

So the only question now is, what is the correct protocol with a decorated bicycle in a shop window for the holidays? Does it come down at the Epiphany or sooner? Later? Decisions, decisions.

Might require serious thought. I know! A walk along the Canal would help with that! On a blustery, cold winter afternoon. Delightful.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Vienna, VA in snow

The old train station, taken as I walked to work Saturday morning.

Snow ride!

One of my favorite and rare treats since moving back to the DC area seven years ago (where did that time go????) is a night ride in freshly fallen snow. And tonight I had the chance to do that for the first time in a few years. We've got what promises to be a major storm going on here right now, and it started before I left the shop tonight.

Once I headed out in it, I just couldn't make myself go straight home... I just had to stay out and enjoy it a while, so I rode past my usual cutoff point on the local rail trail. All told it was probably about a six mile ride, which isn't much, but it was lovely. Saw one other cyclist and a couple of walkers, including one guy with his dog, but mostly I had the trail to myself.

I did have one fun wildlife encounter... a fox trotted across the trail not far ahead of me. I passed where he ran across, then doubled back and took some pictures of his tracks in the snow, crossing my tire tracks.

All in all, a gorgeous night out there, and a pleasure to enjoy the snow before others tramp it down.

My Miyata 210, with studded tires, out in the snow tonight. More pics at:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Very minor moment of not quite fame

Okay, I'm a geek, but I have to share this... today I had an email I wrote to the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU, (DC public radio station) read live on the air!

They were doing a show on things to do outdoors in winter and ways to dress for it and such, and I wrote in my experience with winter riding in Lake cycling sandals, with layers of some combination of silk, wool, neoprene, and nylon, depending on conditions. I was kind of surprised they read it, but they did.

The text of what I wrote:

"It may sound crazy, but my favorite footwear for winter cycling is the cycling sandal, available from Lake or Shimano. The advantage of these is that the straps are nearly infinitely adjustable, so you can add layer after layer of liner sock, wool sock, neoprene bootie (such as Sealskinz), and if it's really cold or wet a nylon wind/waterproof shell. I've been riding this way for 6 winters here and have never found it inadequate. The problem with conventional shoes or boots is that the more layers of socks you pack in there, the poorer your circulation, and it actually makes your feet colder."

And a link to listen to the program:


It's funny, because I had just been discussing that very thing with a customer, and then the show came on and I decided to write in.

A Little Christmas

I haven't really done anything in the way of decorating my place or
anything, but yesterday I ran a string of lights on my mom's house.
I've done that most years since I moved back to the DC area in 2002,
and it's a nice little ritual for me. I like helping my mom (that's
her standing there) and it's a little bit of Christmas spirit for me.
And it's kind of cool that I get to decorate the house where I grew
up. How many can say that at 48?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Noble Boy

On Friday I had one of those interactions that warm my heart. I was working at bikes@vienna when a woman and her young son (oh, probably 9? I'm terrible with guessing ages) came in. At first I assumed I was going to have to disappoint them and tell them we no longer sell children's bikes, something that happens fairly often this time of year. However, this visit was different. The mom asked if we were still involved in taking donated children's bikes and passing them on to a local charity that gives them to needy children at the holidays. It seems the little fellow had outgrown his bike, and they wanted to donate it. The whole process was really very sweet... mom told her son that he didn't have to do it, but that it would give another child a chance to have a bike for the holidays, and that would be a good thing. The boy was clearly torn... he loved his bike, but wanted to do something generous and good. All in all he was very brave about the it... he straddled the bike one last time before letting it go, and he seemed to really "get" it that what he was doing was, well, noble.

It reminded me of my time at the Community Cycling Center in Portland, OR, a non-profit bike shop that had a number of programs to put kids as well as adults on bikes and teach them about bikes. I started there in the fall of 2000 as a volunteer, fixing up bikes for their annual Holiday Bike Drive, where donated bikes get fixed up and given to needy children. That was a much larger operation than our local group here in Vienna, but it's not about size, it's about doing good in this holiday season. I told the little boy and his mother about my experience at the CCC, including the day I helped give out the 700 or so bikes we'd recycled that year. It's an amazing thing seeing that number of children receive a bike they probably never figured they'd have. Sure they were used, not new and shiny, but you'd never have known if from the smiles and looks of awe.

So the little boy and his mom yesterday brought back fond memories for me and gave me a bit of a needed holiday boost. Another good deed done, even if they didn't realize it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

First Canal Ride on Brompton

Well, I finally took the Brompton out on the C&O Canal, one of my favorite places to ride. It was just a short ride, totalling 15 miles, a simple out and back from the Carderock area, a really convenient place for me to start. The bike handled the dirt towpath with aplomb, although I have to admit the few really muddy patches I hit were a bit tricky. Then again, they're not that fun on a bike with full sized wheels either.

It was Tuesday and a day off for me, and I was due to visit my mom over in Maryland, but I had a little time of my own, so I decided to stop at the Canal on the way. I'm really glad I did, because it was a beautiful day, and I had a GREAT time. I always find the towpath a joy to walk or ride, and having some quiet time alone to enjoy it was a good thing. The air was clear and fresh, the sky was blue, and the ever-changing light was beautiful. And it turned out to be a good day for wildlife as well.

The first thing that really struck me while riding was the amazing reflections on the surface of the canal. The air was clear and calm, so the water was like glass, mirroring the sky, the trees, and rocks. I don't know when I last saw it so mirror-like... take a look at the pictures below and see:

I also had the good fortune to see a number of birds... vultures, cormorants, a couple of kingfishers, and several great blue herons. I spied one of the latter out of the corner of my eyes while zipping along the path, almost missing it entirely. Much to my surprise, the heron stayed put while I took photo after photo. In the picture to the right, you can see how well he blends into the background. Herons are among my favorite birds, so I'm glad I spotted this one.

And while I was busy snapping pictures of the heron, I heard a rustling sound in the underbrush near him, and shifted my gaze just in time to see a rather large red fox pop out of the brush and trot along the opposite bank for a while. He was pretty skittish, so I didn't get a good shot of him, but take a look at the picture to the left and you'll see him. If you can't see him, click on the small image to see a larger version. (Actually, that works with all of the images here.)

Finally, as I was making my way back to my starting point, the moon swung into view above... a big, beautiful, full moon! It was stunning the way it just appeared, shining through the bare branches of the trees, and reflecting on the still waters of the canal. All that was missing was a figure on a broomstick to complete the image!

All in all, a glorious afternoon! Quiet solitude and fresh air, gorgeous scenery and interesting wildlife. It all gave me a bit of a needed boost, and made for a great day off.

And the Brompton worked out just fine on the towpath. So much so that I might try to use it for an overnight trip there sometime, perhaps taking a train to a start point and riding down into the city. I'd have to pack lighter than with my full size touring bikes, but that might be part of the fun of it!

Sun setting over the Potomac River. More images at: C&O Canal, Dec 1, 2009

Riding by Moonlight!

Riding home tonight on the rail-trail, I thought to myself "I wonder if this moon is bright enough to see by?"

So I turned off my head light.

And the answer was yes! I even went so far as to ride up the dirt path through the woods solely by the light of the nearly full moon. Very fun! Shafts of clear light through the dark trees. Beautiful!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

First Yoga Class in over a Month

I just came back from my first yoga class after about a month of missing classes due to helping out my mom after her recent knee replacement. It was challenging, to say the least, having had such a long break from it, but it sure felt good! So good, in fact, that I'm probably just going to climb into bed and sleep very soundly here tonight, which will be nice. All in all, I've had a good couple of days off... some solitary time on my bike on the C&O Canal, a nice visit with my mom (including a "reunion luncheon" for patients who've had joint replacements at that hospital) and a good yoga class that left me feeling well stretched and relaxed for the first time in a while.

Tomorrow I'll write about my Tuesday ride on the Canal. It was the first time I've tried it on the Brompton folding bike, and it was a very nice ride. Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

After MANY years...

... I finally own a bike built by Proteus Design, of College Park, Maryland!

So what's so special about that?

Well, for one thing, Proteus, while still open for business as a bike shop, stopped being a framebuilding concern a number of years ago. As near as I can tell, their heyday was the late 70s to mid 80s, framebuilding-wise. I grew up not far from College Park, and in high school and college, I'd often visit and gaze longingly at the lovely hand built frames and fully assembled bikes. These were the first truly hand built frames I ever saw, and they were amazing to me. I hoped one day to be able to own one, but the prices seemed completely out of my reach back then. And honestly, they were.

So in 1980, I did buy a bike built around a hand built frame, but it was a production model from a new, relatively unknown company in Wisconsin called "Trek". It was and is a wonderful bike, but I still always held out hope of one day owning a Proteus. Who knew it would take so long?

So how did it come about? Well, a friend and customer, Marty, emails me a lot of links to bikes on Craig's List. A while back he sent me a link to a Proteus bike for sale in Baltimore. At the time I thought I should let it go, as I really wasn't in a position to buy another bike, and the price was more than I could afford. Imagine my surprise when Marty sent me a link a few weeks ago, with a new ad with a lower price for the same bike! This time I couldn't resist going to take a look. So off to Baltimore I went after work one evening. I was a little put out at first when I arrived and nobody answered the door, but after repeated knocking, just as I was about to give up, the owner appeared.

The bike was even better than I expected. It looks like it's had very little real use in the 30+ years since it was sold to the original owner. I'm now the fourth person to own this bike, and I'm a very happy fella to have it. It's beautifully made, and a very nice riding bike. The parts are almost all Campagnolo Nuovo Record, which were seen as the creme de la creme back in the day. The brakes are not Campy, but are from the French CLB company, which were known for their light weight. They seem very well made, and very pretty. All in all, a wonderful bike. About the only downside is that it was built with 27" wheels in mind, and can't easily take the now-standard 700c size more common today. I can live with that though, as the wheels are in great shape and there are still good 27" tires and rims made.

So there you have it... a dream deferred, but achieved!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Good News for bikes@vienna!

Our shop, bikes@vienna, just received Adventure Cycling's Sam Braxton
Bike Shop Award! Read more about it at http://bikesatvienna.blogspot.com!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Unexpected Sad News

Just as I'm trying to get my gumption back, to get my creative energy flowing better, and get back in gear with writing here, I received some very sad news. I'll probably post more details later, but the short version is that I just discovered that a woman I dated and loved back in college passed away in 1993, at the far too young age of 32. I'm in a bit of a state of shock right now... we'd fallen out of touch long ago, but the news still saddens me. Please bear with me and keep checking back. I will get back in the swing of things.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

England Photos

Below are links to all the photo albums I currently have posted from my trip to England in October. Enjoy!

England 9/29/09-10/01/09

London, 10/02/2009

London, 10/5/09

BWC 2009

I hope to post a few photos from my visits to the Brompton (folding bikes) and ICE (recumbent trikes and bikes) factories when I get the chance.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fun in my home town....

My apologies to loyal readers... I've been in a pretty big slump lately, as you can tell by the lack of recent posts here. Sometimes the creative juices just don't flow, but I'm trying to get my gumption back. I came out of a similar slump about a year ago, so if I did it before I figure I can do it again!

I've been helping out my mother lately, who just had a knee replacement, and Wednesday she asked me to drop off some food for donation at a church near her. There were two fun bonuses to this trip, aside from simply helping her out. First, I spotted this car in the parking lot:

Now, I'm not really a car nut, but I have to admit, I've seen few enough of these that it was kinda fun to spot this one. What is it? Well, the more astute among you will recognize it, but here's another hint:

Give up? Well, here's the final clue, a close-up of the famous (or infamous) "Zero" grille, complete with the model name:

Yep, it's a Ford Edsel! One of the great automotive failures of all time! I'm no authority, but as I understand it, the car was introduced with much fanfare, and was supposed to be a world-beater, with many advanced features, but it was a huge flop in the marketplace. I've heard a number of reasons, most of which elude me right now, but the two that immediately spring to mind are the name (Edsel was Henry Ford's son's name, and not very catchy as a car model name) and the odd looking grille, which met with a lot of negative reactions. Add to that some quality control issues and you have a car whose name is synonymous with failure.

The other fun part of visiting this church was that I directed a production of The Fantasticks for another charitable cause, way back in 1983, while I was between semesters in college. Aside from a high school one-act, this was my one and only attempt at directing a play, and a musical at that! I make no claim to great art, but all in all I think we managed to put on a decent production at the community theatre level, and the audiences seemed to enjoy it. Most of all I have some good memories from that summer, in part because the show became an opportunity for my brother and I to get to know each other as adults. He and I are nine years apart, and growing up didn't really spend a lot of time together. But he'd just moved back from the West Coast, and I needed a bass player for the small orchestra for the show... and he plays bass, among other things! We had a lot of fun working together, and it went along way toward bringing us closer. And we raised money for a good cause to boot!

Ironically, nowadays the Edsel is highly collectible. It was rather odd to see this one sitting in a church parking lot, slowly rotting away to all appearances. It has a sign on the side for what might be a retirement home or nursing home, which seems kind of peculiar.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The 2009 Brompton World Championship

So here goes... my report on the Brompton World Championship, October 4th, 2009.

I first learned of the event shortly after bikes@vienna became a Brompton dealer. In with all the various catalogs and promotional materials we received a poster advertising this rather unusual race in which all riders rode Bromptons and were dressed in business attire... jacket, tie, and collared shirt. I have to admit, it appealed to me immediately, largely due to the offbeat nature of the race... and the fact that it was all Bromptons... but I never thought I'd really get the chance to participate.

Then this summer, when I mentioned it to John, owner of bikes@vienna, he said he thought it would be a good idea, and might even be an opportunity for us to get the word out on Bromptons if I were to ride in the BWC! So off I flew to England on September 29th, arriving in London on the morning of the 30th. I'll write other posts about other aspects of the trip, but right now I want to focus on the BWC.

The morning of the event was a bit harried for me. I'd left myself a LOT of time to get to the Brompton factory, since I really wasn't that knowledgeable about London's public transit system. Brompton had coaches (what we'd call a bus, such as Greyhound) arranged to transport riders to Blenheim Palace, so I didn't want to be late for that. Based on spending some time on the official London transit website, I'd mapped out a pair of buses that should get me to there in plenty of time.

Well, the best laid plans... Making a long story short, I missed several critical connections and had to adjust my plans on the fly, ending up on entirely different buses, but I managed to sort it all out, making it to the factory in time. In fact, I even had a moment to pose for a couple of photos in front of the factory.

Then it was time to box up our bikes and stow them in the baggage compartments of the motor coaches. Fascinating to see about 80 folks stuffing nearly identical folding bikes into identical boxes. Note that some folks are already decked out in the required shirt, tie, and jacket. At this point I had my fingers crossed... I had neglected to pack my "outfit" and was relying on one of the Brompton people, Nigel, to bring me some clothes to borrow! He was traveling to the event on his own, so I wouldn't know for sure that I was all set until I got there.

The coach trip took about an hour and a half, I think. Time went pretty quickly as I spent the ride talking to Ed Rae, the new U.S. agent for Brompton. He's a nice guy, and very informative. We mostly chatted about Bromptons and some of the ups and downs of being a dealer in the U.S. It was a good conversation and left me feeling glad they decided to hire him for the job.

On arrival at Blenheim Palace (birthplace of Winston Churchill), we all made our way to the registration tent and picked up our timing chips and number cards, both of which were attached to the bike. I did a little racing back when I was in college, but that was long ago, and I honestly never imagined I'd have a timing chip fastened to my bike! Least of all, a folding bike!

Once all that was taken care of, I tracked down Nigel, who true to his word, had the clothes for me... a blue shirt, blue tie, and a maroon jacket with the Brompton logo prominently displayed in several locations! It was the same jacket their team was wearing, so I caused some confusion when folks would ask me questions and I had to confess I didn't actually work for them, I was just borrowing the jacket!

Before the start of the race we were instructed to place our fully folded bikes on a spot that was marked with the same number we were issued at registration. Next we were given a briefing that explained the basics of how the race would go. There were a total of 600 riders, so we were divided up in groups of 100, and guided (herded!) to a series of roped off "pens" where we were to wait for the start signal. There was a lot of good natured joking and talking as we waited, along with some sheep-like bleating to go along with being herded and penned.

We had all been told that once the horn sounded for our group, and the rope was dropped, we were to walk or run to our bikes, unfold them, then walk them to the road and mount and ride, crossing the official start line which would activate the timer when our chip crossed the line. Obviously that means that the speed with which one got to their bike and unfolded it and made their way to the road didn't affect your official time.

Regardless, once the horn sounded, most of us made a mad dash for our bikes, unfolded them rapidly, and raced to the road, some walking, some running and some mounting their bikes right away and riding to the road! I guess it's just the adrenaline rush of a start signal, combined with the mindset of a group competition.

The race consisted of two laps around a lovely, narrow, rolling road that wound around the grounds of Blenheim Palace. Each lap was a bit more than 6.5 km, making the total distance around 9 miles. We all started off very quickly, with the first stretch leading to the gates of the palace, where we took a sharp turn around the building and down a nice hill. Not quite half way into the lap there was a pretty challenging climb that took me a bit by surprise, and honestly took more out of me than I expected. But the bike and I soldiered on and I recovered my pace as I came back around the palace after crossing a small stone bridge. All in all, it was a beautiful setting, although I confess I didn't fully appreciate it until I took a relaxed lap AFTER the race! I'm not the most competitive person in the world, by any means, but in the rush of actually racing, I really didn't admire the scenery so much.

In the end, I finished the 13+ kilometers in 32 minutes, 50 seconds, right smack in the middle of the field, placing 338th out of 600. That's pretty much where I expected to place, so I was pleased. My worst worry was that I wouldn't fall into the "30 to 40 minute" range that I had predicted when I signed up. I had no illusions about actually competing for a high placing... for a frame of reference, the winner, 3 time Tour of Spain winner Roberto Heras completed the race in 21 minutes, 45 seconds! But it was a lot of fun, and I have to admit the adrenaline rush of competition was fun to feel for the first time in a long time.

After the race the kind folks at Brompton provided tea for the competitors... for the Americans reading, that means not just tea, but tea, small sandwiches, and small cakes. I have to admit, it's a very civilized custom that I kinda wish we had in the States! And it really hit the spot after the ride. The rest of the afternoon was spent chatting and getting acquainted with Brompton fans from all over, which was a lot of fun. In many cases, it was a chance to put faces with names I had grown to know through the internet, which I always enjoy. I even had the gratifying experience of someone telling me they've read this blog (Hi Steve!)!

Before re-boarding the coach to return to London, I took some time to explore the palace gardens and grounds, which were lovely, and to ride around the race course one more time, slowly. What a beautiful setting! And a gorgeous day!

You can see more photos of the event and the course, as well as a few of the palace, in my BWC 2009 set on Flickr. While you're there, you can also check out some of my other albums from sightseeing in London and Cornwall.

There I am, borrowed clothes and all, leaning into a curve, racing around Blenheim Palace on my Brompton. Even I have to admit it's a somewhat comical sight!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Here's one of the photos from the official photographers, showing me zooming past Blenheim Palace, decked out in the official Brompton jacket. Despite the look of "grim determination", I was actually grinning like a schoolkid inside! It was just so fun to think that here I was, in England, with 599 other people, racing folding bikes around the palace where Winston Churchill was born. Besides, it was such a beautiful setting... rolling fields, thick groves of trees, sheep, pheasants, dove... a lovely place. I didn't really pause to enjoy the scenery so much during the race, but went on an additional lap afterwards, when I stopped and took photos along the way. Look for them in my BWC folder on Flickr.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

BWC Photos on Flickr!

Okay, I haven't captioned them yet or anything, but I put my photos from the Brompton World Championship in a set on my Flickr site:

Basically a bunch of before and after shots, since I couldn't race AND take pictures at the same time. Reportedly one fellow who tried that crashed as a result. We had two
crashes in the race, both in the same location.

More to come!

Back from England!

...and the official results of the Brompton World Championship are in! And I'm still a bit tired, so it may be a bit before I get cracking on writing in detail about the trip.

But, I wanted to post how I did. About where I figured, actually, smack in the middle of the field. Overall, I placed 338th out of 600. In the Men's catgegory, I was 315th, and in the Male Senior (adult under 50) 247th. My time for the whole race, two laps, was 32 minutes, 50 seconds, split as 15:41 on the first lap 17:10 on the second. Yes, I know the math doesn't work, but that's what the official site said. Clearly the first lap took a lot out of me. Thinking back, I probably hit it too hard on the first lap, not realizing there was a pretty sizable hill about halfway in the lap, which really knocked me for a loop. Now that I know the course better, I could probably do a little better, but I'm happy with my time. Roberto Heras has nothing to fear. :-)

I also wanted to take this opportunity for thanks... most of all to John, for making it possible for me to take this trip, as well as helping keep you all posted while I was gone. And thanks to all who have been following along. I'll post more soon, about the BWC and about the rest of the trip. Watch here and on the bikes@vienna blog From the Pocket. If you check out that link, you'll also see some of the photos I took of the event and while exploring England. More photos will appear on my Flickr site as well, soon.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Off to England!

In a few hours I board a flight for my first ever trip across the Atlantic! Staying in England for a week, with the primary goal of riding in the Brompton World Championship, a fun-looking race around the grounds of Blenheim Palace (birthplace of Winston Churchill) in Oxfordshire. Watch this space for news upon my return. Watch From the Pocket (the bikes@vienna blog) for Twitter updates as I post them.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Day at The Beach

Well, it's taken me far too long to write about it, but last week I got the chance to spend a day at the beach for the first time in a long time. One of my sisters rented a condo out in Ocean City, MD, one of the recreational destinations of my youth. I even spent the obligatory "summer at the beach" there, back in my college days. That proved to be a lot less fun than anticipated, but I'm glad I did it anyway. Nowadays, I prefer my beaches less developed and crowded... come to think of it, I always have... but a chance to stay overnight for free was too good to pass up, so last Tuesday I headed over there.

I got a late start on my day, so I didn't arrive until early evening, and to top it off, I timed my arrival to coincide with a pretty good storm that parked itself over the coast. Most of my stay, from Tuesday evening to Wednesday evening, it rained. But that didn't dampen my enthusiasm (groan)... I still had a great time. For one thing, I got the chance to spend a good chunk of time with my sister and my niece for the first time in a very long time. And I also got to spend time with my niece's kids... two year old Becca and three month old Abby. Beautiful kids, and Becca was a lot of fun to take to an indoor amusement park on the boardwalk with kiddie rides. She really enjoyed all but one ride, but the carousels were clearly her favorites. You can see her here smiling and waving as she goes by.

Aside from the family time, I also took the opportunity for some quiet, solitary time, something I truly enjoy at the ocean. First off, I rose early on Wednesday to see if there was a sunrise worth watching. With the rain during the night, I wasn't optimistic, but it turned out to be a lovely morning. And I do love watching the sun rise from the ocean. It may sound silly, but it's sort of reassuring to see that it is "still working" when that ball rises out of the sea. Besides, it's a very quiet, beautiful time at the ocean, no matter how busy a beach it may become later in the day. I walked a couple of hours, taking lots of photos, watching the sun, the gulls, the sandpipers, the sea, and one little Shetland sheepdog, intent on herding the ocean.

Before I left the shore, I wanted to stop in at one of my favorite spots, not far in miles but very distant in feel from Ocean City. The place is Assateague Island, famous for its wild horses. I first learned of the island from reading Marguerite Henry's Misty of Chincoteague, and Stormy, Misty's Foal as a kid... I was one of those kids that read all the "horse books" I could. Legend has it (fueled in part by the Henry books) that the wild horses are descendants of ponies that came ashore from a shipwrecked Spanish galleon, on it's way to mythical gold mines in the New World. Historians say it's much more likely they are simply descended from farmer's animals that got loose, but the galleon story is more fun to imagine. Either way, it's delightful to see these wild creatures among the salt marshes.

It's also wonderful to explore other aspects of the island... wide, often deserted beaches, windy dunes, wetlands full of waterfowl, and thickets of loblolly pines. It's particularly striking how wild a place it feels in contrast to Ocean City, which can be seen in all it's neon glory from the beaches of Assateague. And it's all the more remarkable that it's stayed so wild, considering that there were roads and houses there in the 50s and early 60s, and plans for further development. It all came to an abrupt halt when a major storm blew in in 1962, flooding the island. Afterwards, it was decided to cease development and turn the island into a National Seashore, preserving precious wetlands, dunes and woods for the wildlife there. You can still see the remains of the one paved road that was there before the storm.

In addition to the ponies, there are Sika deer, a tiny little species you don't really see anywhere in the US except the Delmarva penninsula. There are also a wide variety of birds of all types... I've seen herons, egrets, hawks, gulls, sandpipers, terns, etc, as well as heard whippoorwills at night while camping there. I've not yet tried it, but I hear that one great way to explore the more remote parts of the island is by water, in a canoe or kayak. I'll have to try that one day.

All in all, a beautiful place... and one of my very favorite places to visit the ocean. The solitude (except in the height of summer), the quiet, the wildness of it... all just resonate with me.

Time with family, a beautiful, quiet sunrise walk, and a few hours at a favorite island... truly a wonderful 24 hour respite.

More photos:

Ocean City Morning


Assateague Island

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A First...

Tonight, while riding home on the Brompton, I had one of those small "first" experiences that make me smile.

I see a lot of deer along the paths I ride, especially in the evening. And lately, I've seen a good sized buck on a number of occasions... a "six-pointer" (meaning he has six tips on his antlers) at least. I've seen him on the trail near where I live, and even in the back yard once or twice (my cat, Tybalt, was very excited at this!). I've even gotten fairly close to him without him running off... but tonight was the best.

My route home consists of a short stretch of town street, then a paved, multi-use trail. From there I turn off onto a narrow paved trail, over a creek, which then turns into a dirt path for the final leg home. Tonight, just as I was about to reach the dirt portion, I saw the glow of eyes in my headlight beam. Now, this isn't uncommon in itself... it happens often in fact. But something struck me as different tonight, so I kept my light (mounted on my helmet instead of the bike) aimed at the eyes as I drew nearer. It soon became clear what was different... the eyes were lower to the ground than I would have expected... because the deer was lying on the ground, resting... and it was the buck I have seen many times now.

I've never seen a deer at rest like this before, so I slowed down, and spoke softly as I drew nearer. I do that... when I see an animal when I'm out and about, I tend to talk to them, quietly, to try to let them know I'm not a threat. It may be silly... it may have no effect at all... but it seems the right thing to do, and I do it without thinking now. And tonight, for whatever reason, the buck just rested there on the ground, in a little thicket in the woods, as I slowly rode by, and told him I meant no harm.

Beautiful creature... beautiful night... a gorgeous full moon...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I prefer "folding"...

We hear it a lot at the shop, and just last night, while rolling the Brompton through my local Whole Foods, a woman asked me "Is that one of those collapsible bikes?" I explained that yes it was, and that it was really fun and convenient, and she seemed to think it was pretty cool too.

But "collapsible"? Well, sure, strictly speaking the word is correct... but it conjures up images in my mind of my bike abruptly reducing itself to a tangled, messy heap beneath me as I ride. That's why I prefer "folding bike" or "folder", or perhaps even "foldable bike" as a term to describe it.

Whatever you call it the folding bikes are a very handy thing, and they keep improving every year it seems, with new designs and refinements of old designs. The Brompton is pretty well evolved now, having been around for around 30 years, so changes are minor from year to year it seems, but most welcome. Mine has the new BWR (Brompton Wide Range) hub from Sturmey Archer, which combined with a very simple two sprocket derailleur system, gives me a very wide and comfortable gearing range.

And folders are a growing part of the market it seems too. I see more and more of them on the roads and trails here, and more and more stories in publications and on the web keep cropping up. I suppose one sign that folding bikes have "arrived" is that the latest Bicycling magazine has a full article about one man's adventures with folders. It's a quirky sort of story, but it's a sign of their growing popularity that they gained such recognition in a major cycling magazine in the US.

Me? I own two folders now, my Dahon Hon Solo single speed (a limited edition model I just couldn't resist), and my Brompton P6R that you see here, ready for riding, and folded. And in October I'm off to England to ride in the Brompton World Championship... 600 well dressed lunatics racing around the grounds of Blenheim Palace on Brompton folding bikes! Should be fun! Watch this space, as well as the bikes@vienna blog, and our Facebook page, for updates on my prepations. Oh, and I've started "tweeting" about it too. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"Spotted" Along the Bike Trail

Yeah, a bad pun...

This morning I got together with my best buddy Steve for breakfast at our usual local spot (The Vienna Inn, famous for chili dogs, but makers of good breakfasts as well), followed by a bike ride. It was a nice ride, despite the astounding amount of moisture in the air (ah, August in the mid-Atlantic states!), and the company was good. Steve and I have been riding buddies since college, when I helped him buy his first nice road bike, way back when. We have similar paces and outlooks on riding (it's supposed to be fun, first and foremost), so a ride with him is always good.

This morning, we were treated to a couple of "nature" moments... one, a pair of dazzling Tiger Swallowtail butterflies on a bright purple flower, I only caught a fleeting glimpse of as we whizzed by... the other, this pair of beautiful little fawns in the woods alongside the trail. They were very young, still in their spots, and wide eyed as they looked at us looking at them.

Monday, August 3, 2009


It's been a while since I've posted anything... motivation has been lacking lately, for personal reasons, but I was hoping to pick it up again. I even had some ideas for some fun topics to address, like my recent 30 year high school reunion. Ironically though, Sunday brought an event that I feel compelled to write about, even though it's not a fun one.

Part of my work as a bike mechanic is to test ride bikes... both new bikes and bikes that are in for service. And sometimes the process is fairly long, especially when I'm trying to solve a thorny problem, or track down an intermittent glitch with a bike. Well, Sunday I was trying to get an old Brompton folding bike working better for a customer. It was built in 1989, and has a Sturmey-Archer five speed, internally geared hub. Now, most of Sturmey's hubs are models of reliability and longevity, but from what I've read and experienced, some of the five speed models are the exception to this, or are at least finicky. This one had been giving the owner a hard time since he'd recently bought the bike used, and he's had it in several times for me to work on. Short of completely tearing it apart, most work on this type of gearing system involves adjusting the control cable, or in this case, cables, as it's one of the less common 2-cable designs. Anyway, I had done some careful adjustments and was riding the bike, shifting through the gears and pedaling hard, to see if I could make it slip out of gear as it had been doing. After quite a few laps of our parking lot and many shifts, I thought I had the problem licked, and was just about ready to call it done, as I made another short sprint up the slope of our parking lot when...

WHAM!!!!! The gear hub slipped, and the pedals just spun free below my feet, surprising me and throwing me forward, where my chest apparently hit the handlebars with enough force to knock the vertical handlebars completely horizontal, before continuing forward over the bike into a somersault onto the pavement. I heard the distinct sound of plastic on asphalt as my helmet thwacked into the ground just before I rolled over.

Needless to say I was stunned. John, my boss, rushed to my side and told me to lie still for a minute, but I was already starting to slowly rise to a sitting position to check out what I had done to myself. I was definitely disoriented, but soon figured out that nothing was broken. I did however have some nasty scrapes on my right knee, right hand, and left shin, not to mention a very sore chest from impacting the bars. With help, I picked myself up and gingerly made my way back to the shop, where I sat for a good, long while before beginning to clean up the wounds and dress them. Thanks to my background in tech theatre and all the training and experience I had there, I always seem to end up tending my own wounds, as I'm the one who best knows how to do it. Weird, but true.

This is the first bike crash I've had in a long while.... I guess 4 or 5 years. I've never had an accident with another vehicle (well, there was a minor mishap when I was a lot younger and ran into a friend on his bike...), luckily, but I have had a few wrecks on my own. I'd have to say though, this was the worst as far as injuries are concerned (unless you count a dislocated thumb from a really stupid mountain bike fall), and the most shocking. One moment I was zooming along, the next I was flying through the air and hitting the ground hard. Ouch!

Today I'm still sore, but the scrapes look a lot better, thanks to keeping them clean and dressed, and using anti-biotic ointment on them. I'm moving a bit slow, but I am sure I'm on the mend. I'm very glad I was wearing my helmet, I have to say... that whole "I'm just going around the parking lot" argument really doesn't fly with me now.

Pics are at:


And another blog post at our shop blog is at:


Oh, and yes, I write notes to myself on the back of my hand. I figure my hand is always with me, and if it's ever not, the least of my worries is what's written on it!

Monday, July 20, 2009

And sometimes they just show up unexpected...

By now, regular readers have figured out that I have a pretty sizable collection of bikes, most of them older, "classic" road bikes of one sort or another. And I'll admit, I find it really hard to resist buying a bike if it comes my way at a good price, especially when it's a bike that I've always wanted. And it's been my good fortune that a number of such bikes have come my way over the last 5 years or so. But as far as plain good fortune goes, this one may take the cake.

A few months back, a customer called and asked if I had the tools and knowledge to do a few things to an old Peugeot PX-10 that he'd recently bought. Being old and French, there are a few odd things about such bikes, and in this case, he needed someone who had the fairly obscure crank removal tool for an old Stronglight crank. Being an old bike geek (um, I mean, I like old bikes, I don't think of myself as old), I had long ago squirreled away that very tool, so I told him to bring it in. When he dropped it off, I casually mentioned that I was a little jealous, as I'd always wanted to find a PX-10 in my size. We chatted a bit and I took care of the work he needed a day or so later.

Fast forward a couple of months, and we get to Le Cirque du Cyclisme, an event all about classic bikes. I ran into Dave and his wife there, and we chatted about some of the great bikes we'd seen. A few days later, he arrives at the shop with his latest find... an early 80s Colnago Italian road bike, a very fine machine, and one that is pretty highly sought. While we were talking about the work he needed to have done to it, I asked if he had seen a really nice PX-10 that I had seen for sale at Le Cirque.. it was a pretty bike, in very good condition, but didn't have all original parts. Granted, the "new" parts were upgrades, technically speaking, but I have always wanted an "original" PX-10 or similar bike, as I told Dave. Next thing I know, he casually says he has a second PX-10 frame that he bought for parts to use on the one I worked on... and he says he'll bring it in and give it to me! You could have knocked me over with a feather. It's not every day someone comes by and offers to GIVE me a classic old bike.

So last week, in he walks with the frame... and a bag of parts. From what he'd originally said, I thought maybe there would be one or two spare parts thrown in, but in the L.L. Bean bag and on the bike were almost all the parts needed to make it complete. The only thing missing was the wheels, and he offered them to me in return for doing a bit more work in the Colnago. I couldn't say no, and now I have that PX-10 I have wanted since I first read about the bike in Richard's Bicycle Book when I was a young teenager. As you can see from the pictures, it's not the prettiest bike ever, and the paint is pretty rough, but then Peugeot was never famous for their paintwork anyway, and I'm happy to have it as a "rider", not a museum piece.

So what is it about the PX-10 that made me want one all these years? Back when I first got bitten by the cycling bug, the PX-10 was often the first racing bike "serious" cyclists would buy. It was lightweight, built from high quality Reynolds 531 double butted tubing, and equipped with moderately priced but serviceable alloy racing components. And it was one of the more affordable bikes to come from the factory with "sewup" tires... if you look at the rims you can see there's just a curved surface and no side wall for a tire bead to hook to.... you glue the tires to the rims. Today's wired on tires have come a long way, and are arguably as good or nearly as good as sewups, but back when this bike was built, there was no comparison... sewups were the enthusiast's choice for their light weight and supple, fast ride. So when I was a young teen of 13 or 14, knocking around on my all steel Raleigh Record, it was the PX-10, among other bikes, that I'd look at in books and catalogs and dream of. Not as lofty a bike as the hand-built and Campy-equipped Schwinn Paramounts and Raleigh Professionals I also craved, but still a "real" racing bike, and in team colors to boot. Many a great rider rode in the black and white colors of Team Peugeot, and their bikes weren't so different from the standard PX-10.