I’ve abandoned WordPress for Tumblr for the bazillionth time.
That said, I’m still riding centuries. After Cumberland Valley, I rode the New York City century, Backroads, and Seagull. You can click on those links and read my not-so-thought-out recaps on, yeah, Tumblr.
In between the latter two, I did an 80-miler on the W&OD. It was OK. I was cranky most of the day and asked Chris if we could turn around at Leesburg instead of completing a full century. We got some good sandwiches, but I still haven’t ridden the W&OD all the way to Purcellville.
Route- and snack-wise and overall, Cumberland Valley was my favorite organized century this season, but the others had their merits. The New York City century was a cool way to see parts of Queens I will never, ever go to again; I felt very strong for the majority of Backroads and maintained around 17MPH on the flats even when I was riding alone; I was able to pace with Chris for the entirety of Seagull and we finished in 5:37, which I’m incredibly, incredibly proud of.
Here’s a picture of me looking happy at Backroads:
Century season is over, but I’m committed to the one-per-month thing, especially since I’m getting faster.
I’m still riding a century per month, even if I’m not good at blogging about doing so. Part of the reason is that I was having trouble getting my Garmin to connect to any computer. It turns out I was using the wrong cord. Not all USB cords are alike, it seems!
Chris and I rode to Baltimore in July. It was incredibly hot and we only committed to a full century at, like, 11 p.m. the night before. Chris wrote his cue sheet the morning of, then left it behind. We forgot sunscreen. My Garmin died at mile 79, around the Greenbelt Metro station. This was also the point at which I slowed down significantly; severe headwinds appeared out of nowhere, we went the wrong way on the Paint Branch Trail through College Park, and I bonked hard in the last five miles. It was not my best day, but I did it.
You can see 80 percent of our ride on Strava. I modified slightly the output from May’s Monument to Monument ride, taking out the BWI loop (the mileage for which is made up for, I think, on the Paint Branch Trail) and simplifying some of the turns.
I’ve been having a lot of trouble with my right hand and wrist since I began riding my Terry Tailwind, no doubt exacerbated by near-daily hot yoga and the occasional Crossfit WOD. Chris and I had a very nice dinner at Table during which he had to cut my lamb for me, which was embarrassing enough to get me to see an orthopedist. The numbness, immobility, and loss of strength in my fourth and pinky fingers is related to ulnar nerve damage. This sucks—and also makes it very hard to type, which is what I do all day. My orthopedist told me, essentially, to stop riding my bike until my followup appointment in September.
I thought this might derail my plans for a century per month. But a combination of spontaneity and stupidity led me to register for the Cumberland Valley century, which I rode with Ryan and Kevin on Saturday. I got the Serotta in rideable shape with assists from Chris and Justin, registered for the century on Friday, and did my best to drink a lot of water that night.
The ride, which involved a mountain, kicked my ass. My head started pounding—and I started talking to myself—around mile 70. I rode with a flat and didn’t notice for what Ryan says was about 40 miles (it was probably less, but it was a leak, not a pop, so who knows), which dragged me down in the 80–90-mile span. And, the start location doubled as the lunch rest stop, which made it very, very tempting to quit at mile 64 and call it a metric. My Garmin output says there was over 6,000 feet of climbing. Washington County is beautiful, but no joke.
That said, the weather was as perfect as possible for early August, wind wasn’t an issue, there were beautiful views, and I’m very, very happy that we didn’t bail. This was the most challenging ride I’ve done—maybe ever, maybe since the time I thought I was going to die on a highway in Poland last summer—and it was rewarding. I got custard at the finish. I drank a showerbeer with such gusto I didn’t take a picture of it. I told a bunch of people I rode my bike up and around a mountain. I passed out on my couch at 8 p.m.
Do as I say, not as I do—though the Serotta was a vast improvement over the Terry, my fingers are clawing again today. But I can endorse the Cumberland Valley Cycling Club and the century, absolutely. We might have confused a few roadies with our Brooks saddles (and with the fact that I rode this in Vans), but the rest stops were well-stocked—with nectarines, which might beat out oranges as my favorite rest-stop snack—the barbecue at lunch was delicious, and some of those downhills were really, really nice.
Strava output here. Props to the other #bikedc riders who tackled centuries this weekend, and thanks to Ryan for getting the Cumberland Valley century on my radar.
I have read the majority of Harukami Murakami’s books (those that are in print and translated to English). I don’t always love his work, but I do always enjoy his writing—even if I am very turned off by the seemingly consistent fetishization of romances with older women as life-altering for young men (see: Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Wood).
I haven’t read any Murakami in a few years, and I haven’t read IQ84 (I was waiting for the paperback to show up at Kramerbooks). But a friend gave me a copy of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which is one of the few Murakami books I haven’t read. I flew through it during my trip to Atlanta.
Subsequently, I’ve decided to reread all the Murakami titles I’ve read before, and read the ones I haven’t (South of the Border, West of the Sun; Sputnik Sweetheart; IQ84). This will, I hope, help me accomplish a few things. For the nth year in a row, I’ve set out to read at least 52 books. Despite a Goodreads account, I struggle to keep track. I’ve been more diligent with my accounting this year, and I’m behind! TGMRRP will compel me to get up to speed. I’ve also complained quite a bit about Murakami’s tropes. I want to see if I still feel the same way. And, truly, I enjoy his prose. Magical realism has always been my favorite literary genre.
I just ordered the Murakami books I don’t own (why I prefer to own books instead of borrowing them from the library is worthy of its own post). Forty-one dollars and some change later, I am committed to TGMRRP.
This could result in a significant amount of Murakami bingo. Or I might book a trip to Tokyo. At any rate, I hope to blog a bit about TGMRRP; I haven’t written about literature since I finished my English degree.
Here’s what I’ll be reading—Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 aren’t readily available, so I haven’t included them—ordered by original publication year (I’ve already gotten started, hence the strikethroughs):
- A Wild Sheep Chase (1982/1989)
- Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1985/1991)
- Norwegian Wood (1987/2000)
- Dance Dance Dance (1988/1994)
- South of the Border, West of the Sun (1992/2000)
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1995/1997)
- Sputnik Sweetheart (1999/2001)
- Kafka on the Shore (2002/2005)
After Dark (2004/2007)
- IQ84 (2009/2011)
Image via this GQ piece, which has this wonderful quote from Murakami about the experience of reading a really great book (I didn’t enjoy Never Let Me Go, but still!):
I was living in Cambridge [England] when Never Let Me Go was published. I read the book in English, which is my second language. It took me four or five days because I had to read it very carefully. But if it had been written in Japanese I would have read it in a single sitting. This book carried me somewhere else. A good book can do that. It’s a physical feeling, like I was squeezed by some force. It’s a feeling I love. When I was a kid, I was moved so many times. When you grow old, those occasions become rare. But this book gave me that feeling. It’s a physical feeling. I love the feeling. It also gave me the feeling of being isolated. Your soul, your mind should be isolated sometimes. You need that. I need that. And I get that from this book. It’s serene, it’s beautiful, and it’s scary.
I am working on a much longer post about the injustices of what I call women’s-cycling-ish-clothing-that-looks-like-street-clothing, inspired by Elly Blue’s solicitation of North American-made clothing of that genre.
In the meantime, I thought I’d catalogue here the clothing I’ve found really good for riding my bike. I still want to write longer “reviews” of cycling-specific products (I already did this for Outlier’s women’s daily riding pant and have a few other items in mind that I think might be worthwhile to specifically describe), but there’s plenty of stuff I wear that’s not built for biking or, really, any kind of serious outdoor adventuring, that works pretty well.
Take this with a grain of salt: I have a white-collar job (nonprofit communications!), but I don’t have a dress code (bike advocacy!). I rarely, rarely dress like I’m working in an office. There are a few items of clothing I’ve held onto since I worked in a business-casual environment a few years ago for the occasions that I need to look nice. But I don’t wear them daily.
- James Perse relaxed V-necks: so expensive, so flattering, and cut long enough to not ride up if you’re carrying a bag. Won’t shrink in the wash.
- Target microrib tanks: I wear these to yoga because they’re tight, stretchy, and won’t slide around; to Crossfit because, well, I usually go to Crossfit before I go to yoga; under stuff because they’re long enough; not under stuff because they’re flattering on their own. The back is high enough and the straps are wide enough that you don’t have to worry about bra straps showing. I bought two a few months ago and realized they’re the only thing I want to wear when it’s hot outside, so I bought a bunch more.
- Outlier’s women’s daily riding pants: I’ve already written about how great these are.
- Outlier’s women’s shorts: These are greater than the pants, because I hate shorts, but they’re shorts I don’t hate.
- Levi’s jeggings: Less like jeggings and more like really stretchy jeans.
- BDG cigarette high-rise jean: These are more akin to the Levi’s jeggings than jeans, because they’re so stretchy. They’re a little thinner than the Levi’s and have full front pockets, not awkward half-pockets. The back pockets are large enough that I can bike without my phone, wallet, or U-lock slipping out.
- Tiny black miniskirts: buy in bulk from ASOS, wear with black underwear, give no fucks
- J. Crew classic ballet flats: The soles aren’t very stiff but the flats themselves are super-durable (I love a leather shoe, but these aren’t leather, and that’s for the best). Buy at J. Crew factory for maximum discounts.
- Vans classic slip-ons: The greatest
- Vans canvas authentic lo-pro: I bought these last summer because Chrome was out of the Delores in my size. I wish the soles were stiffer, but they’re so comfortable that at this point, they’re what I use on longer rides (since I don’t ride clipless) in addition to daily wear.
- Loeffler Randall rain slip-on: I sprung for these before I went to Amsterdam last year (I didn’t want to deal with wet shoes all the time, but didn’t want to pack full-size rainboots), and they were the best “fancy” purchase I’ve ever made. I wear them on colder rainy days with wool socks.
- Patagonia Winter Sun hoodie: Best ever: pockets, hood with drawstring, windproof. Also, squishable, so good for packing. I have a very nice Schott peacoat that for a few years was my go-to winter jacket, but this has replaced it entirely—mostly because it’s windproof, and this year D.C. decided winter would manifest itself as wind.
- Patagonia Torrentshell jacket: Packable, lightweight, and breathable enough that it’s OK for warmer weather. I have it in white—not my first choice, but it was on super-sale—and it gets dirty but cleans up after a run through the wash.
- Chrome merino Pasha hoodie: I don’t love how this looks on me, but it’s warm, has great pockets, hasn’t pilled after many washings, and has a hood and thumb loops.
- Smartwool socks: For all those pairs of Vans, because canvas shoes are kind of useless for keeping feet warm. I try to buy on-sale colors or scoop them up at Marshall’s or Nordstrom Rack.
- Smartwool The Tight II: Merino wool tights are infinitely warmer than jeans. I have yet to get anything resembling a run or snag in these.
- Carhartt acrylic watch caps: Warmest, best
- Ibex Balance bralette: A strappy bra whose straps don’t cut into your shoulders. Also, it’s merino. I wore it for, I think, all five days of my Poland-Lithuana bike tour last summer and washed it once and it was fine.
And here’s some stuff on my to-buy list:
Portajohn and Rootchopper John noted their interest in a century-of-the-month club on my June century ride report. I would be happy to be the rallying force behind such a thing if there’s interest.
I’d need help, though. My riding experience is limited, so I’d probably be soliciting input to pick and plan routes. But I’ve enjoyed all the rides I’ve gone on that have been organized ad hoc on Twitter. I envision this being a slightly more codified system of setting up those rides—no pressure, largely no-drop, not-the-speediest, smallish group rides once a month, so that we’re all riding, well, a century per month. For fun! Together. With showerbeers at the end. Showerbeers for everyone. I mean, individual showerbeers.
And if you can’t make the chosen date, you can come the next month! Or—in a move that would force me to be diligent about posting a recap and a route—you can ride the route on your own in the same month.
Comment here or tweet at me (@alexbaca) if you’re interested in such a thing, and I’ll start floating dates for July.
At this week’s Pedaling Professionally event, one of the panelists, Keya Chatterjee (of the World Wildlife Fund and WABA’s board), scolded the unfendered masses for their propensity to soak their fellow commuters on rainy days.
I don’t have fenders on (almost) any of my bikes.
I’ve been meaning to do a post for some time on my bike stable. I’ll get around to it. In lieu of having such a thing to link to, here’s the short version of the bikes I’ve got and what I use them for: 42-centimeter Wabi Classic single-speed with 650Cs (daily commuter, anything and everything up to about 40 miles); 42-centimeter Terry Tailwind with 650Cs (road bike); Brompton (I rarely ride this anymore but keep it for guests and for the rare occasion that I do have to go multi-modal); Schwinn Caliente (sweet ’70s-era mixte with drops;currently in pieces in my building’s bike room); and a 50-centimeter Serotta Tri Classic with 26s (once I work out the tire and wheelset situation on this, I may choose to ride it over the Terry because Shimano 600 is so great).
Why would any of those bikes have fenders?
The exception is the Brompton, which came with fenders. The Schwinn would look cute be-fendered, but I’m not interested in buying, say, hammered metal fenders for a bike whose main utility is “mechanical experiment” (I have learned a lot about bike maintenance by taking it apart and putting it back together; it weighs at least 35 pounds and while I did ride it as a daily commuter for a bit, it wasn’t my favorite). There’s no purpose for fenders on a road bike. And, being the aesthetic snob that I am, I don’t even have a water-bottle cage on the Wabi. It’s a beautiful, minimalist bike undeserving of fender sullification.
I’m no fair-weather rider. I will ride in rain that completely eviscerates the usefulness of fenders because biking is the fastest way to get where I need to go. After serious downpours, you need a bathroom, a towel, and a change of clothes; if you wear a lot of black, like I do, you likely don’t notice tiger-striping.
But Alex, what of everyone else who rides a bike and might be affected by my spraying water all over them? I’m not a typical commuter. My office is a mile from my home, and I don’t run into too many white-collar workers when I hit 16th Street at 9 a.m. My “second commute,” to College Park, is one evening a week and ten miles each way, during which I rarely see other cyclists. See above on how fenders would be completely worthless on such a ride (which I have ridden in several total downpours; tiger-striping is the least of my worries). Yeah, there are plenty of off-times where it’s likely I’ll spray someone, plenty of non-downpour days when a light rain is enough to flick mud everywhere, plenty of wet pavement even when the sun’s out. I feel bad about this! I do! But I don’t feel bad enough to install fenders.
I am willing to consider the purchase of a snap-on fender, but it’s very far down on the list of bike stuff I need to buy and I generally exceed my own budget for said bike stuff every month. When I have a bike that’s fender-appropriate (my touring-bike saga is nowhere near its end), I’ll happily stick them on.
Call me lazy, call me a hipster with a fixie (fun fact: the Wabi has a freewheel, not even a flip-flop), call me a scourge on #bikedc’s commuter populace, call me an asshole. But, hey, if fenderless riders are the most significant problem* on your commute, then biking for transportation in D.C. is going pretty well.
*It’s probably not. Poorly maintained lanes, U-turning drivers, and salmon are a lot worse. But if it were!
I rode a century last month, the in-reverse Monument to Monument organized by John. I didn’t write about it because, welp. It was the first century I had ridden since my tour in Poland last August, during which we did one 100-mile day, and certainly my longest ride of 2013. John has a good recap here, but despite the air being a bit chilly and having to battle a headwind to Baltimore, it was a fantastic ride with a wonderful group of people: lots of sunshine, good conversation, good pacing, and a fun way to shake down the Terry (yes, seriously). And I taught a few of the guys about the holy grail of post-ride relaxation: the showerbeer.
I also rode a bit on subsequent May weekends: to Annapolis (80 miles), and in a few loops on the Anacostia tributary trails (~50 miles). Last weekend, I rode Mount Vernon out and back, plus an extra 10 for #dcbrewvet purposes; more on that later, when I blog about my brewvet controls.
I was hoping to get a long ride at the beginning of the month, so when Justin tweeted to ask if anyone was planning on doing something like that, I was like, “Yes, except I don’t have a route, or know where I want to go.” He had a map of a ride out to White’s Ferry that connected to the W&OD through Leesburg, which appealed to me because I have to do some grad school-related things regarding a connection of the W&OD and C&O. I confirmed at 6 a.m. on Sunday that I wasn’t completely catatonic from drinking, like, nine beers the day before, and off we went.
It was humid as all get-out. (I was squirming in my short-sleeve jersey, but these Hincapie shorts continue to impress me.) The remnants of my hangover hit me while climbing MacArthur, so getting on the C&O felt like a recovery. My Terry is a roadie-road bike (aluminum frame, carbon fork), but I stuck Gatorskins on it shortly after I bought it. Thanks to the tires, my Brooks saddle, and the shorts, my bike handled the unpaved portions of the ride as well as could be expected. We took River Road all the way to White’s Ferry, ferried across (adorable!), and stopped in Leesburg for lunch.
We were at about 45 miles when we got on W&OD. Riding on smooth pavement felt great after the 20-something bumpy miles we had covered. But it was hot, there was a headwind, and the very slight upward grade on the W&OD, which is typically not noticeable (it’s, like, one percent, sometimes two), was kicking my ass. I was having trouble picking a gear and staying in it, and my wrists and hands—which are the quickest parts of my body to give me significant trouble—were starting to lose feeling. Around mile 60, my enthusiasm was totally sapped. A water stop and some shot blocks got me through the next 15 m iles to the Custis, which was a joy after the W&OD’s extreme flatness.
Regarding mileage, my Garmin didn’t pick up a signal until I got to the Lincoln Memorial, so those four miles are unaccounted for. I was at 82 miles when Justin and I split off in Rosslyn, so I took the Roosevelt memorial bridge back into D.C. and did a few laps on Hains Point. I zig-zagged over to 11th Street to add a little bit extra (and give my legs a break; I didn’t want to climb 14th Street), and ended with around 101 on the Garmin. Here’s Justin’s Strava output; I’ve been tracking all sorts of stuff on my Garmin, but can’t get it to connect to Strava, so I’ll have to wait on my own map. After my showerbeer, I met Chris in Meridian Hill, rode to The Pig for dinner, and rode home via 14th Street on the Wabi. Everything hurt.
I’m now at two centuries in two months. I’m planning on riding the NYC century in September (it’s on my birthday!). I’d rather like to accomplish one century per month, at least for a six-month span. If you’re interested in riding centuries in July and/or August with me, I’d be happy to have you along. I’m pretty slow!