Hockey Tape, Duct Tape, Carbon Fiber and Beth

About a month ago, Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, broke. Literally. The front fork broke off. While I was riding.

This was not fun.

Easy Racers, the manufacturer, has apparently gone out of business. Long before that happened, they put out a recall on the fork on my bike. My fork had something like 30,000 miles on it. What me worry? Doh.

With little hope of success, I conducted a nationwide search for a replacement fork. After a few recumbent bike shops sent me regrets, I had just about given up hope when Peter Stull from Bicycle Man shop in Alfred NY told me he had just what I needed. To be sure that it would work, I had Peter talk directly to Tim Fricker, owner of my somewhat (23-miles away) local recumbent shop, Bikes at Vienna. They determined that the fork would work on my bike but I’d have to replace the headset and the stem. I took Big Nellie out to Vienna and dropped it off.

After the usual delays due to summer backlogs, pandemic supply chain problems, and such, repairs began. Beth, who like Tim and me owns an Easy Racers recumbent, worked on my bike. In addition to replacing the fork, I asked her to replace my chains (it’s a long bike) and the cassette. I also figured I might as well replace the grip shifters that were in very rough shape. For the last year or so, the rubber grippy part was worn off. I’d “fixed” them with hockey tape.

During her work, Beth discovered that my bike needed a whole bunch of other repairs. (Deferred maintenance is my middle name.) The middle chainring was bent. (How I could do this without bending the other two chainrings is a wonder.) One of the crank arms was also bent. My plastic rear fender mount was cracked. (How they could have an obscure part like this lying around is beyond me.) She replaced all three.

Beth also noticed that the brakes worked very poorly (don’t need them if you crash, is my motto) and that all the cables and housings needed to be replaced. I think they were all over 10 years old. Maintenance? Moi? Mais non!

Lastly, Beth could not get my 20-year-old bike computer to work. Considering the fact that it was literally held together with duct tape, I wasn’t surprised. I’ve been searching for a replacement for ages. Sure enough, the store had one in stock.

Before I went out to Vienna to pick up the bike, Beth advised me that it would take an hour to dial in the set up on the bike. The set up on Tour Easys is complicated. As it turned out, she needed to cut the grips on the shifters, replace my bar end mirror, adjust a limit screw on the front derailler, and tweak the handlebar position.

The handlebars need to be a bit higher to allow the bar ends to clear my knees and for my hands to be a bit closer to my body. Beth put in an order for a stem riser that will solve the problem.

I think we could have done what we needed to get done in 20 minutes but as the 43 emails suggest, Beth is rather loquacious. (In this regard and in physical appearance, she very much reminds me of my friend Klarence.) We talked up a storm about our bikes and bike touring. She wants to ride to Key West. I said, “No Way So Hey!” I also told her about my Erie Canal tour which I did on Big Nellie.

With bike repaired and new friend of the wheel acquired, I headed home.

Today, I took Big Nellie out for a test ride.

Sweet!

It needs a few more tweaks. There is an odd intermittent noise from the drivetrain that may have something to do with the cassette. When you replace a worn chain, you should also replace the cassette but, thanks to pandemic supply chain delays, a new cassette was not available. The noise may just be an issue of links and cog teeth meshing improperly. No worries.

The last time I rode this bike I crashed so my steering was a bit tentative. The new handlebar position isn’t terrible but I am looking forward to a more compact steering posture.

The quality of bike computers is generally lousy these days, but the replacement computer seems to be working fine. I’ll keep an eye on this one. (Beth, mindful of my ego, keyed in the mileage – over 45,000 – from my old computer.) I am pretty sure the wheel size is on the generous side but that’s something I can deal with.

Big Nellie back home. Note craptastic duct tape fender extension.

My plastic fenders, with duct tape extensions, are all about keeping my bike and me dry. They are ugly. Beth wanted to replace them.

I declined but in the course of the email conversation she learned that I had stashed in my shed an Easy Racers carbon fiber front fender. Beth owns a Ti Rush, the titanium version of my bike, that retailed for 2 and a half times the price of my bike. It is a thing of beauty and weighs nothing. It also has a stiffer seat back and can go faster miles and hour.

One of these days I’m going to steal it.

In the meantime, it needs fancy fenders. I gave her mine.

Big Nellie Update

On Thursday evening, I was riding Big Nellie, my long wheel base recumbent, home from a social event in DC, when the front fork (the part that holds the wheel to the steering mechanism) snapped off. The bike is a Tour Easy which was made by a company called Easy Racers. Easy Racers apparently went under a few years ago. Many of the components on this rather exotic looking machine are standard bike parts made by companies like Shimano and Grip Shifter. Alas, the fork is not one of them.

I posted a picture of my fractured friend online and tagged Bikes@Vienna, the shop where I bought the bike 20 years and over 43,000 miles ago. To my surprise, Tim, the shop owner, said he might have a replacement fork. I drove Big Nellie out to Vienna and dropped it off.

The next day I heard back from Tim and one of his mechanics. The forks they have are not the right size so Tim advised that I send an email to the man who last owned Easy Racers and cross my fingers.

I followed his advice but also sent emails to several well known (to me anyway) recumbent dealers all over the country. One immediately responded with a “no.” A few hours passed when I received an email from Peter at Bicycle Man in Alfred Station, New York. (I am a native of upstate New Your and had to look this up on a map. It’s between Elmira and Buffalo.)

Lo and behold he had a few original Easy Racer forks. After a couple of phone conversations made unproductive by my rank ignorance of bike components, Peter offered to call Tim and iron out a solution. As it turns out, the fork is incompatible with my stem and headset (parts that connect the fork to the handlebars) but that can be remedied by replacing the latter two components which are standard bike parts.

As I write, my new fork is on its way from upstate New York to Northern Virginia. I won’t see the completed bike for several weeks because this is the peak time for bike repairs, a situaiton exacerbated by the pandemic.

The bike also needs a new middle chainring, which was damaged during my crash somehow. And, since I haven’t done any maintenance on the bike in years, there is a laundry list of other repairs. For example, the Grip Shifters lost their tackiness a long time ago, an issue I have been remedying with hockey tape. And since the bike is in for work anyway, I am getting a new chain and cassette (rear gears). The chain is pricey because this bike uses three chains linked in one long loop.

I am not replacing the bar end plugs. I have plenty of wine corks which had a little panache.

So thanks to the interwebs and the brotherhood of recumbent bike dealers, I believe I’ll have Big Nellie back on the road in time for some riding later this summer.

When you get to a fork in the road, break it

This last week or so I’ve been getting out and about, almost like the before times. My daughter and I took in our first Nats baseball game since September 2019. The Nats were kind enough to reward our presence with a win.

On Wednesday, I returned to the ballyard alone for a day game. They won again. My seats were less than ideal. Half the stands were in shade. Sadly, I was not and my legs were fried by the strong summer sun even though temperatures stayed quite comfortable. My sunburn was not for naught; the Nats won again.

Section 317, Row A.

Thursday began with my first trip to a diner in over a year. Later in the day, I attended my first post-pandemic #bikedc social event with the return of Third Thursday Happy Hour. In an exchange on social media, my friend Miles mocked my recumbent. Big Nellie was offended and insisted on being ridden to the get-together. About 20 people assembled at the snack bar at the golf course in East Potomac Park. I haven’t seen so many golfers in one place in my entire life. It was crazy.

The bike crowd was in a good mood and the conversation flowed along with the beer. I did not partake of the brews because of last Saturday’s tummy issues. After a couple of hours I rode home.

All was going splendidly. About seven miles into the ride, the Mount Vernon Trail has a small curve to go around a wooded wet area next to the river. At the peak of the curve, on a slight incline, all was well. I banked Big Nellie to the left to continue down the incline. As my front wheel hit a sizeable bump from a tree root, I began my lean to the right to negotiate the next turn.

And then I crashed.

It happened before I could react. I realized before my right side hit the pavement that my hands, still on the handlebar grips, were in an odd place, off to the left instead of directly in front of me. I landed on the pavement. Ow. My right shoulder, hip, and elbow took the force of the fall. (Just scrapes. No broken bones.) I managed to scoot myself off the trail and onto the grass to avoid being run over.

The pain seemed to intensify as I stood and tried to upright my bike. Then I realized what had happened; both blades of my fork had incurred catastrophic failure. I had to drag the bike to the grass because the front wheel would no longer roll.

No bueno. Over 43,000 miles of wear and tear.

A runner saw the crash and came along to see if I was okay. I said “I want my mommy.”

Okay, I lied about that.

His name was Rob and he carried my bike about 200 yards to a parking area. Thanks, Rob.

Rob. Dead Bike Carrier Extraordinaire

My wife and daughter came to my aid and we drove the last 8 miles home.

I posted pix on the Internet and tagged Bikes@Vienna, the shop where I bought the bike, hoping rather desperately that he could help with a repair. The bike’s manufacturer is no longer in business and the fork is a rather exotic part. It has unusually long trail, which means it situates the front wheel well in front of the frame.

To my astonishment, Tim, the owner of the shop, texted me back saying that he may have a replacement fork.

This morning I rode The Mule to my first Friday Coffee Club since March 2020. My motivation was to see my friend Lis who has been overseas for most of the last couple of years. Lis and I didn’t get to talk much but I did manage to chat with several other people. The weather cooperated splendidly, dry and slightly warm with a soft, cool breeze.

On the ride home I managed to negotiate the curve of doom without incident. The Mule abides.

This afternoon I took Big Nellie out to Bikes@Vienna. Dr. TIm and his able assistant Igor (actually she’s Beth and somewhat disappointingly doesn’t have a hunchback) will take things apart and see what can be done.

My fingers are crossed that Big Nellie can be saved from the recumbent graveyard.

A Lot Can Happen in 61 Miles

Today was my first ride over 60 miles since the last week of September. It was also my 19th day in a row of riding and 11 days in a row with over 30 miles. My weapon of choice was Big Nellie, my long wheelbase recumbent.

My travels took me about 30 miles northwest to Potomac Village, Maryland. Along the way I passed Old Town Alexandria, a decommissioned power plant, National Airport, the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, the Kennedy Center, the Georgetown waterfront, historic Glen Echo Park, and a series of neighborhoods that grew posher by the mile. So many gorgeous houses. So much stellar landscaping. A suburban aspirant’s wet dream.

Along the way on the Capital Crescent Trail I spotted a sure sign of spring in DC. A dozen or more cormorants were perched in leafless trees overhanging the Potomac River. They wait there to pick off bass that are swimming upstream to spawn.

For a couple of miles I rode the rolling hills past the famous golf course of Congressional Country Club. This course has hosted four grand slam events since 1964. I haven’t played golf since the Nixon administration but I know an elite course when I see one. Dang.

At Potomac Village I turned back toward the river on Falls Road. After a ten minute break to devour a peanut buttered bagel, I rode the winding, wooded downhill on MacArthur Boulevard, north out of Great Falls Park. On a recumbent this is pure street luge.

Lunch stop

I re-traced my route back to Georgetown. Along the Capital Crescent Trail I was startled by a beefy looking hawk that swooped down in front of me and cruised about 15 feet above the path until it flapped its wings and climbed up through the trees and back toward the river.

All day I was seeing vultures surfing the winds, turning long graceful arcs as they searched for carrion to feed on. Vultures are so beautiful in flight and so ugly up close. At one point I spotted an enormous vulture doing its acrobatics along the river bank near the power plant. It was being shadowed by a much smaller vulture, a young one learning the tricks of the trade.

One advantage of riding a recumbent is the heads up riding position. You see so much more than when riding a conventional bike. Near Dyke Marsh I searched the trees for the bald eagle nest near Belle View Boulevard. Before I saw the nest, I saw a huge bald eagle perched high in a tree. It was standing guard over the massive nest immediately below it in a crotch in the tree. Pity the squirrel that gets too close to that nest.

My legs were pretty well spent when I arrived at home. 61 miles in the books.

When I went in the house and walked downstairs my left knee gave me a stabbing pain and buckled. Oops.

Maybe I should take a day off.

Nah.

Spring Cleaning

Colors

It’s been an odd couple of days around here. Every day a new plant seems to burst into color. Crocuses, forsythia, daffodils. Cherry trees. Redbud trees. These have mostly come and gone but now we are in tulipalooza. I grew up in Ak=lbany NY, a former Dutch settlement. Every year there was a tulip festival. It was a big deal. Or so I am told. I never once attended. Around DC you can’t help but attend. Tulips are everywhere. The Pentagon Reservation (they actually call it that) and the Arlington Memorial Bridge are two places with tulips on display. The front of our house, and countless other houses in suburbia, are another.

In time the tulips will shrivel and die back of course. Don’t despair; azaleas are about to go nuts! We have three azalea bushes that are ready to burst into color any day. Two other azalea bushes planted last year did not survive the winter. My theory of the case is that they were planted too far under the eave of the house and didn’t get enough moisture. If you want to get your azaleas on, there are two pretty cool places in the DC area. One is Bluemont Park in Arlington. It’s right off the W&OD and Custis Trails. The other place is the National Arboretum in Northeast DC. It’s a bit tricky to get to by bike but once inside the biking is grand.

My ungodly looking lilac bushes (they are more like skeletons) are starting to leaf out. Soon their aromatic blue blossoms will emerge, as long as my attempts to cut the bushes back last fall didn’t do them in. I love the smell of lilacs. They remind me of my grade school. I remember going out the door and getting hit with a wave of that glorious scent. Alas, the DC are a is too far south for serious lilac bloomage.

Taxes

Somehow, someway I did several things today that worked out right. The other day I e-paid my estimated taxes. I screwed up the Virginia filing and called the tax office in Richmond this morning to clear things up. After waiting less than five minutes, I talked to an honest-to-god human who told me that I would be fined $500 for my error.

Just kidding.

She was very helpful. She told me my error didn’t stop affect the payment and everything should be okay.

Changing

The other day I brought Big Nellie out of the basement – as sure a sign of spring as you’ll ever see. What you can’t see from this photo is the bald rear tire. It turns out that riding hundreds of miles with the rear tire contacting a resistance unit is not the best thing in the world for tread life.

I found an old Schwable Marathon Plus tire and decided to use it as a replacement. This tire probably has over 5,000 miles on it but you’d never know it. Marathon Plus tires are practically indestructible. And, better yet, they rarely get flats. This is especially good news because installing a Marathon Plus tire is a total pain. I have lost quite a lot of skin on my fingers getting one of these beasts mounted. To make matters worse changing the rear tire on a long wheel base recumbent is like wrestling a dolphin. The bike has a very unbalanced weight distribution. Trying to keep it in one place while working on it can be next to impossible.

So I decided to use my repair stand.

It took me three attempts to get the bike on the stand. The first try worked but I placed it on the stand with the chain facing the lever that clamps the bike to the stand. Not gonna work. So, I took the bike off the stand and turned it around. Picking the bike up was significantly harder because I am right handed. With the bike oriented in this direction my weaker left hand had to pick up the heavier rear end of the bike. I managed to get it into the stand but somehow in the process of applying the clamp the dolphin came loose. Eek. I fed the bike a fish (just kidding again) and tried again. This time the bike stayed on the stand and I closed the clamp. Now I could tilt the bike so the front tire was on the ground and the rear tire up in the air right at the ideal height for swapping out the tire.

The old tire came off with only minor assistance of a set of tire irons. Now came the hard part. I started working the Marathon Plus onto the wheel. I worked my way around the wheel, pushing the tire bead over the rim wall. After only one attempt, the bead popped over the top of the rim. Then I turned the tire around to work on the other side. Somehow, some way I had managed to install that side too. Do you believe in miracles? I flipped the tire around to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. In another few minutes the wheel was back on the bike and I was good to go.

Practice

I have participated in the Chasing Mailboxes Errandonnee every year except last year when it was cancelled because of the pandemic. (I suppose it could have been held but it would have had to be renamed the Infectionnee, or something like that.) The Errandonnee is a friendly challenge to do errands on your bike (or by foot or scooter or some means other than an gasmobile). Errandonneuring is not for the faint of heart. It takes determination and focus.

This year’s Errandonnee starts April 15. I suppose you could just jump right in to the event. With all the good weather we’ve been having, well intentioned errandonneurs often end up with errands undone. You just ride right past the store and end up doing a tour of tulips. There is only one way to avoid a failed Errandonnee.

Practice.

Yes, I know Paul Hornung and Allen Iverson made fun of practice. Let the record be clear: neither Horning nor Iverson ever completed an Errandonnee.

Little Nellie and I would not make the same mistake. Today, I rode my trusty Bike Friday to Walmart to pick up my glasses at the Vision Center. We made use of the fabulous bike parking at the shopping cart return. Walmart ain’t exactly woke when it comes to Errandonneuring. We were not to be deterred and finished the errand in fine fashion.

Then I went for a ride to look at the tulips.

The Errandonnee is open to the public. That means you. You can achieve errandonneuring greatness.

Riding nowhere – October

Another month, another 913 miles of riding around in circles. Except for a single one-way 57-mile ride on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail that is. It’s inane to be doing this but it’s that kind of year, isn’t it.

After putting 676 miles on my Cross Check (which passed the 18,000-mile mark) and another 51 miles on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, I switched rather cautiously to Little Nellie, my folding travel bike with little wheels. Little Nellie has been known to beat my lower back to a pulp so I have been avoiding riding it. I was considering selling it until, on a whim, I tweaked the saddle height and found a sweet spot. I can now ride it pain free. So it’s been my ride of choice for final 186 miles of the month.

So far this year I’ve ridden 8,655 miles. Getting to 10,000 is going to require some determination and a whole lot of help from the weatherman.

I also bought some new bike junk. I have a set of rechargeable blinky lights that are reasonably useful. They are be-seen lights, meaning they improve my visibility to others. The headlight will keep me from rear ending a parked car but I will use one of my more powerful Light and Motion headlights for nighttime navigation.

I also picked up a wind vest. It is bright yellow and has a big dorky reflective arrow on the back. The arrow points to the left. (The manufacturer makes a version for left side driving countries too.)

I also bought an Arkel Tailrider bag. This probably will replace my Carradice LongFlap , a huge saddlebag. The LongFlap uses leather straps that are a pain to open and close and it weighs a ton. The Tailrider is lighter and has zippers. I will give up some carrying capacity but I rarely maxed out the LongFlap. The rack on my CrossCheck has two levels which means I can use the Tailrider on the top of the rack and still attach panniers if I need to.

On to November. Brrr.

White’s Ferry Loop

One of the long rides I try to do every year is the White’s Ferry Loop. This ride links up several trails in the DC are for a 90-mile circuit. Including the 9 1/2 miles to the loop from my house brings the total mileage to 99. Typically, I add a mile somewhere along the way for the full century.

I chose to ride clockwise because the forecast called for heat and humidity. This would put me on the shaded C&O Canal towpath for the hottest part of the day.

I boogied along for 23 miles taking streets and two trails (see below) before stopping at the Vienna train station building to refill a water bottle. Then I was back on the W&OD Trail all the way to Leesburg, about 47 miles from home. Whenever I could I topped off my water botlles. To be on the safe side, I carried five bottles, two on the bike and three in a pannier. I also brought snacks. Peanut butter on bread, pretzel sticks, and a couple of old chewy granola bars.

I rode on King Street through Leesburg, which had many tempting places to eat. In fact, if you stopped at every microbrewery along the way you’d pass out before the ferry.

North of Leesburg is the sketchy connection to US 15, a busy north south highway. I lucked out as there were no cars coming. The highway has a big shoulder along this part (because bicyclists were hit and killed several times in years gone by).

After a half mile , I turned onto Whites Ferry Road for another 1/2 mile of quiet country road to the ferry. If cars are coming toward you, you can take your time, because the ferry is crossing back to Maryland. I arrived at the ferry and waited in the shade for the trip back. As ferry trips go, this one is pretty calm. It only takes five minutes.

The store on the Virginia side is up an embankment. The exterior of the building has marks with dates next to them showing the high water marks for major flood events. Suffice it to say, Hurricane Agnes did a number on this river valley back in the early 70s.

After some ice cream, Gatorade, and a port-a-potty break I headed south on the C&O Canal towpath. The double track of the past is gone, replaced with an unpaved smooth surface. For five miles, that is, until it’s back to the bumps. Riding a recumbent means you feel every bump because you cannot easily lift your butt off the seat.

Near Seneca Creek the towpath is muddy. I was slipping and sliding but I didn’t fall.

From time to time, I saw deer, squirrels, herons, and large ominous looking birds. Mostly I was just trucking along and enjoying the shade. I particular like the sections where you can see the river with all the large rocks randomly poking above the water line and the places where the canal is filled with water and bordered by ominous rock walls.

After 32 miles I switched back to pavement on the Capitol Crescent Trail. This brought welcome relief to my back. The bumpy towpath was messing with my stenosis and I was constantly dealing with achy feet and an achy butt.

The CCT leads to the nifty Water Street cycletrack which connects to a side path that runs past the Watergate and the Kennedy Center along the Potomac River. After passing the Lincoln Memorial I switched over to Ohio Drive, which is the epicenter of the Cherry Blossom Festival in the spring.

At the Jefferson Memorial, I crossed over the river on the 14th Street Bridge which connects to the Mount Vernon Trail and the 12-mile ride home.

All aboard!
Waiting for the ferry
Imagine water well above the treetops. It happens every so often
The White’s Ferry Store serves food and sells snacks.
Groomed towpath is a big improvement
Rocks in the river
Cliffs, canal, towpath
Little Falls Dam northwest of DC

Here’s a cue sheet. Most people just do the loop starting and ending at Step 3.

  1. Three Miles of suburban streets to the Mount Vernon Trail
  2. Mount Vernon Trail north 6 1/2 miles through Old Town Alexandria to Four Mile Run Trail.
  3. Four Mile Run Trail west 3 miles to the W&OD Trail
  4. W&OD Trail 35 miles to South King Street in Leesburg
  5. Right on South King to US 15 north of town, about 3 miles
  6. US 15 to a right on Whites Ferry Road, 1/2 mile
  7. White’s Ferry Road 1/2 mile to the ferry
  8. Ferry across Potomac ($2)
  9. Go 100 yards up the hill on the Virginia side
  10. Take a right on the C&O Canal towpath and ride 32 miles to Thompson’s Boat House
  11. Switch to paved Capital Crescent Trail and Water Street in Georgetown for 3 miles
  12. Right onto Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway path to Ohio Drive (1 mile)
  13. Ohio Drive to 14th Street Bridge (1/2 mile)
  14. Cross bridge to Mount Vernon Trail (1/2 mile)
  15. Take a right on the trail. Go 9 miles.
  16. Re-trace suburban streets home. 3 miles.

Finally, if you do this ride, bring water and snacks. There are pumps along the towpath but these may be turned off. Also, the National Park Service treats the water with iodine. The store at White’s Ferry has limited hours so I assume it’s closed. On this day it was open.

Catching Up with Myself

  • 180 miles in nine days + clouds and rain = day off. That’s the math.
  • I went to see Doctor Pain on Monday. Two days before the appointment, my pain subsided. I conclude that my back is afraid of the good doctor’s needles.
  • I went for a walk on Sunday, a day before the appointment, to see how my lower left leg would respond. It did fine, but my lower left back stiffened up even though I used a cane. Doctor Pain said there is a treatment she could administer but it would involve the approval of my insurance company. In the end, we decided to leave it alone. I asked if ibuprofen is okay to use. And she said the concerns about it making people more susceptible to coronavirus infection is overblown.
  • Doctor Pain seemed quite anxious about potentially exposing patients to the coronavirus. Her office follows strict disinfecting procedures and other protocols (e.g., masks for staff and patients, touchless disinfecting lotion dispensers everywhere) but there is always a chance that someone could transmit the virus. When I was checking out the receptionist advised me to wash my clothes when I got home as a precaution. I did.
  • I went for a walk today without a cane. I made it 1 1/4 miles and had only minor discomfort. In fact, I broke into a jog a few times just to see how my back and leg would respond. The discomfort, which was in my lower left back, went away, replaced by some stiffness in my lower right back.
  • A few days ago I brought Big Nellie, my long wheel base recumbent, out of the basement. It’s rather cumbersome so I was concerned that pushing it up the stairs (a half-flight of steps) might cause my back to go whacky. No problem.
  • Three of my last four rides were “bent”. I ended up riding over 90 miles on Big Nellie. My back and legs felt great afterward. My left knee not so much. I think I may be mashing the pedals too much. Riding a recumbent requires different techniques than a regular bike. One difference is that you can’t stand and use gravity and your upper body muscles to climb. This means that your legs have to work exceptionally hard when climbing hills. A second difference is that using high gears (the ones that are tough to pedal) can trash your knees. It takes a few weeks to adjust to spinning little gears. I’ll get there soon enough.
  • One odd effect of recumbent riding is that my walking gait is much more comfortable. Back in my running days, I found that running immediately after riding a bike is awkward. My legs didn’t want to function normally. (How triathletes deal with this is beyond me.) My quadriceps muscles (in the front of the thigh above the knee) were tight and I tended to bounce a bit as I ran. After riding a recumbent, my stride feels much freer. Pedaling a recumbent seems to distribute the workload more evenly among calf muscles, quadriceps, and hamstrings.
  • I retired in August 2017. Over the next 22 months, I did three bike tours carrying 40 pounds of gear and covering over 9,000 miles on The Mule, a conventional touring bike. From 2017 through 2019, I rode 30,000 miles, far more than I had ever done before, and only about ten percent of it was on Big Nellie. I think maybe the best treatment I can give my back and leg is to ride my recumbent for t he next month or so.
  • Finally, a shout out to fellow blogger Brittany. She’s an American who has been living in Bavaria for a little over a year. One year ago today, she bought a bike to explore the area around her new home. Mostly these have been modest rides of 10 or 20 miles. Today, she went a bit nuts and rode 55 hilly miles. She loved it. I fear she has contracted the cyclovavirus. Fortunately, there is no cure.

It’s Not the Heat; It’s the Blossoms

People keep asking me what the best part of my bike tour was. I honestly don’t know. I’m still processing it. I did a quick review of my blog posts and was surprised at all the things I had forgotten. I’ll probably write a postmortem soon.

In the meantime, I am back on my bikes. While The Mule is in transit from San Francisco, I’m re-familiarizing myself with my other steeds. A few days ago I took my CrossCheck out for a twenty mile spin. It missed me.

Yesterday, the CrossCheck and I hit the road to check out the sunflowers at the McKees-Besher Wildlife Management Area in nearly exurban Montgomery County, Maryland.

The ride began with a trip to Friday Coffee Club. It was good to be back among my two-wheeled peeps. At about ten a.m. the last of the worker bees headed off to their respective offices and I made my way to Georgetown and the paved Capital Crescent Trail. After a few miles I cut over to the unpaved C & O Canal towpath. For several miles I dodged mud puddles. The surface was ridable but the CrossCheck was getting mighty grimy.

As I passed under the capital beltway, my sunglasses obscured the view of the towpath in the shadows. A chunk of the right side of the towpath had completely eroded by an epic rainstorm last week. Had I not slid my sunglasses to the tip of my nose, I could easily have crashed.

A few miles later I rode past a rather scary looking section of the towpath at Mather Gorge, where the river runs fast. In this section the towpath runs between the canal and a cliff above the raging boulder-strewn Potomac River. The Park Service had narrowed the path and banned cars (usually just maintenance vehicles). I duck walked part of this section not wanting to fall into a big mud puddle or over the side into the rocks far below.

From Great Falls Park the towpath alternated between perfectly passable to some of the nastiest washboard I’ve ever ridden. The washboard wasn’t like tractor tracks. The rains had carved erratic channels across the path. The CrossCheck became a bucking bronco when I hit them. I am a bit surprised I didn’t damage the bike in the process. I made it across but I may need to see a dentist soon.

The canal itself was in decent shape. I saw dozens of sunbathing turtles including a huge snapper who was splayed across a log. Three great blue herons stood motionless in the canal right next to the towpath. I didn’t bother trying to take a picture because as soon as I stopped they were sure to fly off.

I left the canal at Rileys Lock and headed toward the Poole General Store in Seneca for food and water. It was closed. No bueno.

Since there was no alternative I headed west on hilly River Road toward the sunflower fields. The hills here normally wipe me out but all that climbing out west made them seem trivial. Running out of breath was not about to happen either. The warm, humid air felt almost liquid. The residual effects of being at altitude made deeps breathing unnecessary.

I walked around two of the three sunflower fields. The sunflowers seemed to be in a state of morning with their head bowed. Still, from the proper angle, they put on a decent show.

After about an hour I headed back home. This involved a ten mile roller coaster ride on River Road to avoid the towpath and find food. At Potomac Village I went into a grocery store and bought water, a sandwich, and a yoghurt parfait. It didn’t begin to dent my hunger but I decided to ride on and find something else later.

After descending the long, windy hill on MacArthur Boulevard at Great Falls Park I cruised along flat canal road all the way to DC where I stopped at a gas station for a Gatorade. (Gone in 60 seconds.)

All day I had noticed a clicking sound coming from my right pedal. At the gas station I noticed that the platform of the pedal and become disengaged from the pedal axle. I was holding the pedal together with pressure from my foot.

The remainder of the ride took me across Georgetown, down and across the Potomac, and into Crystal City where I attended an outdoor happy hour. Cold beer tasted pretty good at this point.

The ten mile ride home was a wobbly affair. My legs were done, but I was pleased with my day’s work. 86 miles in all.

Today, I rode to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in DC to check out the lotus blossoms and water lilies. Because of the pedal problem on the CrossCheck, I rode Big Nellie, my Tour Easy long wheel base recumbent.

My legs were pretty beat. I stopped after four miles to buy some new pedals. They sold pedals with toe clips and straps already installed for $3 more than naked pedals. Sold.

The ride along the Mount Vernon Trail featured oncoming weekend warriors and tourists who kept passing as I approached. Fortunately for them, I left my bicycle death ray at home.

Into DC, I made my way across Southwest and near Southeast until I crossed the Anacostia River at 11th Street.

I followed the river and the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail upstream for several miles until I found the unpaved path to the Aquatic Gardens. The place was fairly crowded. Music was blaring from a stage. Both aspects didn’t appeal to me. I like quite with my lotus blossoms, thank you very much.

 

After walking around the ponds, I was drenched in sweat. I headed home, retracing my route along the bike trails. People kept tempting me into head on collisions all the way home. “Sorry.” “Oops.” “My bad.”

Head. Table.

I stopped for a quart of Gatorade and an chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich. At home, I fought the urge to go inside and collapse. I spent a half hour swapping out the pedals on the CrossCheck. I also cleaned the towpath dirt off the bike and lubed the chain. Ready for another ride.

Tomorrow I am going hiking. I am hoping that the hiking poles that I bought before my tour, help my wonky hip and knee make it through the day without pain.

 

 

Errandonnee 2019:Assume an ATM

I arrived at home last night at the stroke of midnight. I rode 20 miles to the doctor’s office in the morning then did 31 miles to the Nationals game at night. I awoke today with tree pollen in my eyes and lead in my legs. Coincidentally I was low on cash.

So I pulled Big Nellie from the basement, cleaned and lubed her chain, and pumped the tires up. I rode to an ATM in Old Town Alexandria for some cash. (You’ll have to imagine the bank and the ATM because I forgot to take a picture when I got there.)

After that, I rode a few more miles to enjoy the beautiful weather and avoid yard work.

Errand 7

Category: Personal Business

Place: Suntrust Bank, Old Town Alexandria

Observation: The best thing about riding a recumbent is heating the remarks of little kids.