I’m a bike rider. I have 2 wonderful bikes – my Haluzak recumbent, and a Giant mountain / trail bike. I’m not one of those rabid riders who feel they must have top of the line equipment, lycra everything, and be emblazoned with screaming corporate colors like a mobile billboard. I ride because I enjoy it.
Today I rode into Somerville, as I am wont to do, to do some work at the Diesel Cafe, a wireless enabled coffee shop in Davis Square. This was my longest ride this summer, and not only did I break my record for a single days ride, it was also my first time riding in the city proper. Read on for some interesting observations.
First of all, a long bike ride for me isn’t like long bike rides for others. I rode the entire Minuteman bikeway, one of the finest bike trails in Massachusetts, all the way from Bedford to Alewife. From there, it was a short hop on the extension over to Davis Square. Total end to end distance there is about 13 miles, give or take.
In my brief history of reasonable riding, this was by far the best riding experience I’ve had. The weather was magnificant (blue skies, never got above 65 degrees, dry air). It’s fall here in Boston, so the leaves were in full color riot. I put on my headphones and listened to some Afrocelts, and just enjoyed. Made durned good time too – End to end was 44 minutes, which works out to about 17mph average… not too shabby for someone who has been slacking seriously this summer. Course, going East on the bikeway involves a long slow grade downhill (particularly from Lexington through Arlington), but even still, I wasn’t complaining – the ride was just too nice.
Had lunch with Rosa, and got back to work for a while. While I was in town, I thought it would be a good idea to zip over to Kendall Square and pick up registration forms from the Arisia mailbox (seeing as I’m running registration and all. This of course meant riding across Somerville and Cambridge, something I had never done before, let alone doing it on the recumbent. No time like the present. After checking the maps, I set off.
First things first. Riding a recumbent in the city has its own challenges. ‘bent bikes are lower than upright bikes, so there is a visibility issue. This has been hounded on on many forums already, so I won’t go into it now. My experience was – this wasn’t the main problem. Recumbents are also -wider- than most bikes, so that got to be an issue when squeezing between cars in traffic. The last problem was stopping. On an upright, you just put your foot down, and stop. On a ‘bent, getting started again can be dramatic unless you’re really prepped (lowest gear, right foot position, not on a hill, have a moment to get situated, etc). This doesn’t happen often in town.
Despite all these issues, I enjoyed it. The trip was about 3 miles through the city, and I made decent time, including times running with the traffic at speed (‘bents are zippy :). Got the usual assortment of double-takes and “MOMMY, LOOK AT THE FUNNY BICYCLE!” sort of things, but that’s par for the course.
After doing my business in town and heading back, I reflected a bit on things that could make this a worthwhile daily ride. Couple things I learned from the entire experience:
- Cars do not watch you. I knew this, particularly from motorcycling days. Always assume that drivers are idiots. I had one fellow put his blinker on to turn right onto Beacon Street, and blast right through the intersection. He missed me.
- Decent paniers or bags are a must. I was bungie-strapping my laptop and cargo bag on the back of my seat, which is ‘okay’, but cumbersome when you stop and go a lot (like stopping to get things, where the bike needs to be locked up)
- If you’re going to listen to music, get a lot of it. I need more albums in my phone.
- Not having a sprung (ala shock-absorber enabled) frame in the city is -bad-. Particularly on parts of Beacon, which are torn up, I could feel going from the ‘grooved’ pavement to flat pavement straight through my spine, and my poor ‘bent, hauling my 250lb framearound, plus 40lbs of cargo, surely groaned.
- I need a decent bike computer. I have none now (at one point I had a Bikebrain, but that was 3-4 PDA’s ago), and I do miss max/min/average speed.
All in all, a truly outstanding day. Probably too MUCH time spent travelling, but the ‘getting outside and exercising’ thing was important, and just felt nice. I logged about 31 miles total, which as I said is teeny for serious bikers, but I’m surely feeling it in my legs tonight.