Thoughts While Cycling (3)

  • Every year seems to bring an increase of motor vehicles on the W&OD.  Park Authority trucks, Dominion Power trucks, contractor trucks, town vehicles.  At some point this has to be managed better.  Perhaps when the Beltway project is done?
  • As a former beekeeper I was shocked yesterday, April 16, to see that the Black Locust trees are in full flower in Arlington.   These trees, a staple for annual honey production in this area, usually come into bloom between May 10 and May 15.  Another sign of a very forward spring.  Go bees!
  • Washed two of my bikes the day before yesterday.  The Trek and the Fuji, the two I have been using the most.  There was much less road grit than usual on them, because of the mild, non-slushy winter and the dry spring.  Drought is going to be a possibility if we don’t get rain soon.
  • The other day a car left-turned in front of me at an intersection without signaling.  But how can you blame the driver?  She had one hand on the wheel and the other holding her cell phone, thereby maintaining the hierarchy of priorities held by most drivers in our area.  Maybe we just need voice-activated turn signals.
  • I ran over a Blacksnake recently, and felt awful about it.  Just looked down when I was right on top of it, and couldn’t swerve fast enough.  It felt like running over a garden hose.  Right after my elation about seeing the first one of the year, too!  I got it near the tail, and hope it survived.  If not, I suppose it was an easy dinner for a fox or other carnivore.  The food chain goes on.
  • Why oh why oh why do moms think it’s a good idea to be pushing a baby buggy on the trail while a toddler toddles erratically along behind or ahead of them, often way behind or ahead, without supervision?
  • Back into my Rudy Project glasses now.  Currently using the mirrored blue lenses, but may go with the Race Red when the sun gets even higher in the sky.  The blue ones block something like 85% of the light, while the reds more like 75%.  Ironically, you need to see a little better when the contrast between the sunlight and shadow is greater.
  • My left knee continues to bother me.  I am coming to the conclusion that it is arthritic, and just has to be assigned to the category of managed pain.  And since I have ridden the last four out of five days, and the knee felt better today when I got home than when I left, I can hardly claim that I am crippled.  All the same, I am stronger without the pain, I think.
  • And while the knee seldom is very bothersome in daily life, I was at a Moscow City Ballet performance of Cinderella last Saturday afternoon at which my principal state of consciousness near the end of the first half was that there were nearly twenty dancers on stage who were routinely landing and pushing off on their left legs with no sign of pain whatsoever, and I envied them very much.  Once I could stand and walk a bit at intermission, all was much better.
  • Before the ballet performance the ballet’s manager talked with us about the troupe.  They had, it turned out, been touring in the US for several weeks.  When asked about the daily grind and the physical state of the dancers after all this, he said that the dancer who personifies Cinderella had been weeping the day before over the pain in her feet.  Then he said that when you’re a dancer if you wake up in the morning and nothing hurts, you’re probably dead.  So I’m in good company, and alive!

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2012.


Trail Improvements

The Regional Park Authority (I assume it is they) has done extensive repaving from Park Street near the Vienna Rec Center eastward past our right-of-way access.  The surface is glorious, its blackness already compromised by the extensive tree pollen fall and the dusty air of a dry spring.  How far eastward they have gone I am not sure, but I think they’re not to Gallows Road yet.  I’m going to hold off finding out as long as possible, because I noticed that when they were crossing Cedar Lane they were paving one side at a time, and letting trail traffic pass in alternate directions along the other half.  That’s a nuisance when you’re cruising along.

One downside of repaving is that I have lost some of my “marks,” notably the bad, rough patch about 2/3 of the way up the hill riding eastbound from Vienna.  That is the spot where I always have to drop a gear as the grade steepens slightly.  But I won’t miss it.  It’s the same spot where I had to stand on the pedals going westbound downhill to avoid a bone-jarring banging over the rough pavement, then stay to the left to avoid a circular “pothole” dip on the right.  A set of diagonal bumpy ridges angling across the trail near the eastern foot of the hill is also gone, removing a distraction when passing a walker on a curve where the rider needs to look ahead and uphill.

Between Vienna and Hunter Mill Road much contractor work is going on.  One item seems to be a new electric substation or something right in the middle of the low, mucky area to the south side of the trail.  Other workers are clearing the bridle trail and other areas near the power lines with chainsaws, and yet others seem to be working on final repairs to three spots where there were serious washouts under the trail surface during the torrential rains of last fall.

As usual, my complaint is that the contractors park their vehicles halfway on the trail surface even when there is ample solid ground to get them all the way off the trail.  I just don’t get it, and I sure don’t like it, because it breaks up my rhythm and slows everything down.

But all that is secondary to the washout repairs.  The trail is often closed entirely in a section between Clark’s Crossing Road and Hunter Mill Rd., traveling westward.  Cyclists are diverted onto the bridle trail.  That trail has sections of loose fine gravel, hard-packed fine gravel, hard-packed dirt, and/or loose sand.  This is not an ideal environment for road bikes with 23mm tires inflated to 8 atmospheres.  The best bet is to stay to the edge of the bridle trail, just off it in fact, where the surface is hard-packed dirt and now well-worn grass.  Of course that edge often gets extremely narrow or disappears altogether.  And then at either end of the detour there are steep descents/ascents as you get off/back on the trail.  And they’re almost pure fine gravel, tough to deal with.

In a way the alternate provided by the detour is a pleasant challenge, but it’s also an annoyance, one that keeps me from judging my speed and thus my conditioning very accurately for this familiar route.  I’m trusting they’ll be done in a couple of weeks.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2012.

Frazz, the Cyclist’s Comic Strip

As a cyclist, I’ve got to praise Jef Mallett. Not only was he the first and only cartoonist ever to work the title “Omloop Het Volk” (the former name of the first northern European race of the spring) into a daily syndicated column, but he makes an even better point about a recent race in this strip.


Check out Frazz on GoComics

Mallett also draws for cycling magazines, and sees so many great aspects of the humor in endurance athletics, perhaps because he is a triathlete himself.  Makes my day every morning.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2012.

April Fooled

Wheeling down the W&OD on the Fuji at just under 20 m.p.h., approaching the crossing at Columbia Pike, I was reveling in the cool, sunny glory of a breezy April day.  Suddenly there was a loud “bang,” and my world was in chaos.  I could barely control my bike; I was practically sitting on the rear wheel; I couldn’t find the brake levers.  My bike veered to the right.  I steered mightily to get it back on the trail before I crashed.  Unevenly, still careening and veering, the bike went off the left side of the trail.  By then I had regained posture and the brakes, and got the bike to stop without falling off.

As is often said of such episodes, the whole thing seemed to unfold in slow motion, yet it probably took a total of four or five seconds.  I can’t remember every nanosecond, because I was so bewildered, trying to figure out what had happened and what was happening.

Off the bike, I checked myself out.  There were some abrasions on my chest, and some on my butt.  Then I noticed the bike.  It had no seat.  Or to be more precise, the saddle was attached to the bike only by the wedge, the small tool carrier bag that hangs from the saddle and loops around the seat post.  The saddle was not attached to the seat post.

My discomfort and danger had been wrought by what apparently is the weakest link in the seat post, the white metal threaded bolt that tightens the clamp that holds the rails on the bottom of the saddle in place atop the seat post.  It also determines the forward/backward tilt of the seat depending on how it is set.  The bolt had simply snapped.  That was the bang.  The saddle was instantaneously detached from the post, which is why I found myself suddenly almost sitting on the rear wheel.  I had the seat adjusted nearly to its farthest back position, and apparently over time that considerable weight and pressure was put on the bolt, especially when I went over a bump and came back down on the saddle hard.  (Though I had not done that immediately before the crash.)  Right after it snapped, I must have descended fast, with my chest hitting the top of the seat post.  Then I must have been partially sitting on the still spinning wheel, hence the posterior abrasions.  Amazingly neither my jersey nor my shorts were torn, or even visibly abraded.

I walked back along the trail to find and pick up the two pieces of the clamp.  It was remarkable how far I had traveled in those few seconds.  Perhaps 100’ to 110’.

Jane responded quickly to my emergency call.  Since the crash happened almost right at a major intersection, her route was straightforward enough once we had located the spot on the map, amid the tangle of Arlington roadways, in a phone dialogue.  I was very grateful, even though the ride only covered 8.75 miles of a projected 24.  The weather was so nice that I considered a short ride on another bike after we got home, but decided this was enough adventure for one day.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2012.