Monday, October 16, 2017

Hero's Welcome


Parking your bicycle in front of Hero’s Welcome, a classic Vermont general store on North Hero Island, is a tricky business. Two long benches, perfect for leaning one’s bike against, sit out front, one labelled Democrat, the other Republican. These two benches are kind of famous, and meant at least partly as a joke, I think.

People think of Vermont as a solidly blue state, famously progressive and liberal minded, the home of Bernie Sanders, for God’s sake. But it’s not all blue. There are pockets of Trump support in parts of the state, mostly the rural, less affluent, un-solar-paneled areas. So you never really know, even in Vermont, who sits where.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

East Burke



I spent all of about 16 hours—and half of that asleep—in the small mountain village of East Burke in the Northeast Kingdom region of Vermont. But the place felt familiar and comfortable right away. I liked it immediately and I can imagine returning there some day for a longer, more leisurely explore.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Gravel Glossary: Prairie Shale


Hey, Manitoba, you've got shale!

On my recent trip to the Morden area, south of Winnipeg, I stumbled onto a couple of these weird shale-gravel roads near the town of Miami.They look more treacherous than they actually are. The thin plates of shale are so soft and brittle that they basically crunch apart like potato chips when a bicycle tire rolls over them.

Friday, September 8, 2017

T of A 2017


Photo credit: cyclingnews.com
Poor old Tour of Alberta. Canada’s only pro cycling stage race, which wrapped up Monday here in Edmonton, is hurting. 

This year’s edition shrank to a measly four stages (the first two years, 2013-14, it was five stages plus a prologue; in 2015 it was 6 stages, no prologue; and then last year it went down to 5 stages). (The only part of the Tour of Alberta that is growing rather than shrinking is the Velothon, the mass participation event held on the closed course in the morning of the final day. This was a huge hit last year and had even more participants this year.) Then word came out last week that government funding for the event is going to be cut even more. Plus, I get the sense that communities aren’t exactly lining up to pay the hefty stage-host fees that this kind of event counts on.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Dusty Lens: Lake Champlain Piano


The western shore of Lake Champlain, in New York State, is full of surprises. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Windsock 100

 

Strava Jeff, inspired by a Velocity Cycling Club ride he'd heard about, came up with the idea of a day-long, all-asphalt ride around the edges of the Edmonton, visiting as many small airports as possible. He pitched it as a kind of Airports Gran Fondo, with a randonee component, where we'd take pics of ourselves and/or our bikes at each of the airports en route.

But seeing as how it was just him and me doing the thing, the "Gran Fondo" name seemed a bit of a reach. So we re-branded, as they say, and called this ride the Airports Century: 100 miles and 5 small airports to the north, east, and south of the city. By the time we finished, however, we'd come up with yet another name for this endeavor: the Windsock 100.   

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Goldy


I've heard and seen pictures of winter bicycle-tire chains modelled on the style used on car and truck tires, but I'd never actually seen one in person until I visited Green Mountain Bikes in Rochester, Vermont. (This is a gem of a shop, by the way, a cool, eccentric space full of small wonders, including some fine bicycle poetry. It's one of those rare bike shops you just want to hang out in forever.)

On a neglected shelf in a corner of one of the many small rooms, I found this beauty: a gold-metal, wrap-over grip strip, designed to fit over a bicycle tire (mountain-bike tire, I think). Essentially, it's an ingenious tire-chain-like get up that is installed in one go, over a removed tire. Does it work? I have no idea.  

Judging by the dusty packaging, I'm guessing old goldy here has been on that shelf for many moons. I thought of buying it as a souvenir, stuffing into my already full pannier, but, in he end, I decided to leave it on that dusty shelf, for someone else to find. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Maple State



Okay, Vermont, enough already about your maple everything.

I get that you have a lot invested in this, that your whole maple-identity is a lucrative business. I know that you are the United States’ leading producer of maple syrup, generating over 2 million gallons of the stuff in 2016, accounting for 47% of the entire nation’s output. I get that it’s a big deal.

But the proliferation of maple “products” I saw in Vermont was just silly.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Vermont Bike Ferry


The Island Line Trail, a popular 14-mile cycling path which runs from Burlington, Vermont, to South Hero Island, Vermont, is missing something—200 feet, to be exact.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Old Brick Store

Quarter past a boot. Tractor o’clock. Ten to the hammer.

I can’t help it. The huge clock on the exterior wall of the Old Brick Store in Charlotte, VT, invites such cornball jokes. And the grand old building invites visitors to step inside, and into a charming mixture of past and present.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Green July


About a month ago, when Val and Tando said, “Hey, let’s go ride our bikes around Vermont for 10 days,” I immediately thought of Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby in the 1954 classic film White Christmas, part of which takes place in the fictional resort of Pine Tree, Vermont. Kaye’s character says, in response to Vera-Ellen’s invitation to join her and her sister for a winter adventure, and again later trying to convince Bing’s character to go along, “Vermont should be beautiful this time of the year, with all that snow.” The only difference, in my case, was the last part of my response. “Vermont should be beautiful this time of the year,” I told the fellas. “All that . . . green.” 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Solar Shields




At first, I told myself I’d only wear them while cycling. They were, after all, ridiculous—cheap, oversized, drugstore sunglasses, the kind with side-wraps. The kind you see being worn only by old, cane-wielding  men in the park. The kind that fit over your actual glasses. They cost $25, my Solar Shields.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Dusty 100 2017 Report


A big, dusty shout out to the 15 riders who rolled up to the start line on Sunday for the third annual Dusty 100 Gravel Challenge. We had a little bit of everything: racing bikes, mountain bikes, fat bikes, a single speed, aero bars, a skin suit, a floor pump lashed to a top tube, and a thumping bass line from the campground down the road. And, of course, a solitary bugle.


The gravel gods must have liked the bugle call, because they definitely smiled on us: perfect weather and better gravel-road conditions than anticipated made for a stellar day on the quiet, scenic roads of Smoky Lake County.

Friday, June 2, 2017

A Few More Dusty 100 Notes

This rain today may actually be a good thing for Sunday's ride; a little precipitation (the key word being little) may well firm up some of those soft gravel sections on the Dusty 100 route. 

A couple of route notes. We had a question about why we're not using the Iron Horse Trail that runs parallel to our route between Smoky Lake and Waskatenau. That's a fair question. Fact is, the first year of the Dusty 100 we tried the Iron Horse Trail, but it was so horrendous--we're talking 6-inch-deep river rock and baby heads--that most of us bailed and went over to the road. (Val stuck it out on his fatty, but he paid for it. He was vibrating for days.) 

But we're going to allow the Iron Horse as an option; it's a little bit longer than taking the road, but certainly more scenic than the infamous Warspite Mind Warp Zone. I've included the turn off for the Iron Horse on the cue sheet.

Also, Aaron kindly sent a link for a turn-by-turn GPS file:https://ridewithgps.com/routes/21742703


We ride regardless of weather. 9 am start. The bugle waits for no one.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Dusty 100 Route Details


The route for Sunday is confirmed, after a recon drive out to Dusty country last night. Same as last year. Here's the map.

We'll have cue sheets to hand out. The GPX file is here. It's from a few years ago when the start was at Victoria Settlement, but the route is the same.

The meeting/starting point is the small parking lot beside the monument with three flags, about one km east of the Metis Crossing campground. 

This year's Dusty 100 looks to be especially challenging. The gravel is fresh, soft, and deep in places, especially on the first half of the route. It's going to be a grind.  I would not attempt this ride on tires less than 32 mm wide, and even that could be pushing it. (In fact, you could quite literally end up pushing your bike for stretches.)

Have a look at the route and scope out a back up plan for if you have to bail. There are a few obvious places where you can cut the ride short. 

Oh, and the Dustometer is off the charts. I'll be packing the dust cover for my bugle. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Gironimo!


Tim Moore is a funny guy, a talented writer, and the author of three popular cycle-travel books. His first, French Revolutions (2001), recounts Moore’s hilarious attempt to ride—with virtually no training—the route of the 2000 Tour de France. I loved that book’s very British brand of eloquent profanity, self-deprecating humor, and (also very British) anti-French satire, as well as its entertaining tidbits of Tour de France history and mythology. That formula worked so well that Moore went on to apply it to the second-most-famous grand tour, the Giro d’Italia, and the result is his thoroughly entertaining Gironimo! Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy (2014). (No, Moore’s third cycling book is not about the Vuelta. It’s called The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold: Adventures Along the Iron Curtain, and I have to admit I haven’t read it.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Guest Post: Dust is Hard by Allan Thompson


There are a lot of hard things in cycling. Hardmen race the classics, mountain bikers ride hardtails and are hardcore (or not), and roadies prefer hard tires. We go hard and then bonk hard, and in a velodrome, the shouts from coaches of “Hard! Hard! Hard!” are common. So, last year, when I read in the fine print that the Dusty 107 was also hard, I didn’t give it the thought or respect I should have. I stuck the widest tires I own--35c knobbly cyclocross tubs--on my steel road machine, packed a towel, and was off.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

In Pursuit of Spring


Over the Easter weekend in late March of 1913, the thirty-five-year-old English writer and naturalist Edward Thomas rode his bicycle west from South London to the Quantock Hills in Somerset. The 130-mile trip was a pilgrimage, both seasonal and literary, his destination the place where spring traditionally comes first and, more specficially, Nether Stowey, where, in the late 1790s, the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge had written some of his most famous poems.  

Thomas is best known now as a poet himself and for being one of a handful of accomplished British poets who died in World War I. But in 1913, Thomas was a prose writer, a literary critic and author of more than half a dozen books about English country life. It was only after publishing In Pursuit of Spring that Thomas re-invented himself as poet. During the next four years, up until his death at the Battle of Arras in March, 1917, Thomas produced an impressive and influential body of verse.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Steve Tilford


I miss Steve Tilford. The internet sucks without him.

For those who don’t know, Steve Tilford was a legend of American bike racing and, in recent years, also a successful, if eccentric, blogger, who was killed in a car accident in Utah on April 5. Tilford, who was from Topeka, Kansas, won the first US mountain biking championship in 1983, was a four-time national cyclocross champion, and road-raced professionally in the US and Europe with and against a who’s who of cycling greats from the 80s, from Lemond to Phinney to Hampsten.

His palmares are impressive, but even more remarkable was the longevity of his racing career. He continued to race his bike regularly and successfully up to the end of his life at age 57. Every weekend, for three seasons of the year, he’d load up his truck and drive hundreds of miles to get to some dinky Midwestern race, ride it balls out, and then drive home and write about it on his blog. That, somehow, was the life he loved.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Fat Free


I’ve got to lose weight.

End of March I always start to feel this way—bloated, heavy, settled. Winter is, inevitably, a time of taking on extra pounds.

But when spring hits and the days start getting long, you can feel that change in the air. That’s when you know it’s time to shed the weight.

I’m putting the fat bike away for the season. Bring on the skinny tires.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

3rd Annual Dusty 100 Gravel Challenge

The bugle is back.

Sunday, June 4, 2017.

The start/finish is Metis Crossing, AB (1.5 hour drive northeast of Edmonton); park one km east of the campground entrance, by the monument.

9 am bugle call and roll out.

The route is a 107-km loop on picturesque GRAVEL roads that include the scenic Victoria Trail, the oldest continuously used road in Alberta.

Everyone is welcome: gravel lovers, the gravel-curious, and anyone up for a dusty adventure. But a ride like this isn't easy.

More info on our facebook event page.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Monuments


It’s spring classics season in professional cycling, the time of year when racers and fans turn their attention to those grueling and glorious one-day races in Belgium, The Netherlands, France, and Italy. The five oldest and most celebrated of these classics--Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Lombardy, Milan-San Remo, and the Tour of Flanders, all but the Italian race taking place in March and and April—have come to be known as “the monuments,” and winning one of these is, for most pros, an accomplishment second only to a Grand Tour victory.

The Monuments: The Grit and Glory of Cycling’s Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, 2014) by British cycling journalist Peter Cossins offers a useful, if somewhat two-dimensional, primer on the history and legacy of these big five races. If you are a casual fan of pro cycling and curious about the classics, Cossins’s book is a reasonable jumping off point for learning more.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

SoCal Postcard

A view of the hills of Encinitas. 
Hills and traffic, that’s what I found riding my bike around the San Diego area for three days. Oh, and also a Jaws-style shark head sticking out of some dude’s driveway marker in La Jolla. It is California. Southern California.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Up the Creek


Just before winter vanished last week, the Dusty crew had the good fortune to return to Whitemud Creek for a second fat bike exploration, following up on last winter’s initial foray. This time we met up at the parking lot of Snow Valley ski hill. As most folks tramped their way uphill, we dropped down into the  creek bed and headed south.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Turd Window



One thing you can’t help but notice when winter off-road cycling is all the frozen turds. I guess it’s a matter of context. I’m sure there are just as many turds on the paths and trails at other times of the year; turds are just less conspicuous without the white background of snow. In spring, summer, or fall your typical turd blends in with the surroundings, neatly camouflaged amid the leaves, dirt, branches, and grass.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Baiyu Superbright Spoke Lights


Got me some cheap Chinese spoke lights for my crap commuter bike. I had been thinking for some time about the need to improve side visibiIity on my daily ride and concluded that some kind of wheel lighting was the way to go. So I ordered these on amazon for $13, shipping included. They arrived remarkably quickly, shipped from China complete with curiously worded “English” instructions, in time to make a little Christmas gift to myself. I see them as an experiment. I know they’re cheap, in every sense. But, hey, 13 bucks.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Gravel & Creek


Our first ride of 2017 was a winner, an auspicious undertaking that has me hopeful for the year ahead. I mapped out a route that combines gravel roads and a frozen creek west of St. Albert, between Meadowview Road and Highway 633, to be exact. Val, Penn, and I parked at Sandpiper Golf Course and rolled off into a fierce north wind, with the plan to ride straight gravel roads north and take the meandering creek back. (In hindsight, I see we probably should have done it the other way around, to account for that north wind. Next time, I’ll work that into the plan).