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I don’t think it’s my imagination that the number of cyclists seems to go up in Baltimore each spring — not merely up from the winter, but up from the year before. I’m sure even non-cyclists have noticed the increase in two-wheeled warriors over the last few weeks (especially the end of this week).

But I was wondering today if this year’s particularly terrible winter might have something to do with an increase in people engaging in outdoor activities in general. Were there folks who thought, “This winter’s been a doozy. I want to get outside more this spring. How can I? Riding a bike would work….”

Or maybe I’m universalizing my own relief that spring is here, matched perhaps only by my last winter/spring in Boston in 2003.

Winter cycling has its own rewards. But spring cycling means more company. (Check out Let’s Go Ride a Bike, for a post about commuting company, and this old NBBB post.)  My co-worker and I went 1/2 way home together yesterday.  And I haven’t been the only cyclist on the Jones Falls Trail at all since spring got here.


I haven’t. This is a terrible cell-phone picture from when I was waiting for the bus this morning. I can walk to the grocery store and didn’t work last week.  So getting-around sans bike hasn’t been much of an issue for me.  But I realize that not everyone lives a ten minute walk from two markets and can telecommute when necessary.

Anyone have any cool snow/ice/bike stories from this storm/these storms?


When we think we have a rough time with snow here in Baltimore this winter, think of our Northern comrades in Alaska.  Check out Bicycles and Icicles.  It made me feel kinda wimpy for my bike being inside for a week.  These folks are serious adventurers!

I realize that comparing climates is futile.  Plenty of cities with much harsher winters than Baltimore have great bike ridership and strong “bike cultures.”  But we do also have pretty long and terrible summers. But there are hotter cities with plenty of ridership, too.  Maybe it’s just a matter of cycling being incredibly fun and of lots of people wanting to do it, wherever they live?

Still, this is some wild stuff I’d love to try one day.  If we keep having winters like this (and climate change scientists often say we might), I think I might have to invest in a hardcore snow bike like these intrepid cyclists pedal around the snowy North.

Wow.  Feet and feet of snow this winter, ruining so many nice bike rides.  Sure, riding in snow is fun and do-able, but not in two feet of the stuff.  Or maybe I’m just a sissy for not riding when my hubs, bottom bracket and feet would be under snow.  With what else is coming, I’ll bet half the bikes in Baltimore lost their minds.  Maybe their riders’ minds, too.


I did!  I am almost ashamed of the bevy of bike goodies I scored this year for Christmas from my family members.  Even more than last  year.  First, there’s the Christmas bulb pictured above.

Next, there’s the Planet Bike Blaze 2 Watt LED front headlight. I’ve had the 1 Watt Blaze for a while and have really liked it. I’ve sort of always mean to “review” it, but we don’t usually do that stuff — not on principle or anything. Anyway, on the way back from Moonlight Madness, a Honda stopped while Dan and I were pulling out from getting some soda. The driver said something like, “Your light is giving me a headache. That’s a crazy light.” We didn’t know what to say, and I think she got embarrassed because she just said, “Well, at least you’re safe,” and drove off. Another time, more recently, I was riding up Roland Avenue in Hampden. There’s a lady on a motorized chair who rides in the bike lanes. It would piss me off, but she always does it against traffic, always yields to bikes and always gives you a, “Hey, Hon.” I like her.  One night she said, “Hey, buddy, I like your light!” I thanked her as I sped home in the dark. I can’t wait to see what the 2 Watt will evince from folks.


The mini pump I carry is a piece of junk. It was literally the cheapest one at the store that I picked up to have on me just in case. It’s gotten me home before when I got flats. But it’s a work-out to use that beast. My brother got me the Planet Bike Peace Pump (mini) I wanted. It doesn’t quite fit my saddle bag with my other stuff in it like I’d hoped, but I plan to work it out.

Half of the reason we all carry repair gear (I assume) is to help other people out of a jam.  This pump only does presta valves; so I almost feel like a jerk carrying it. Also, my tire gauge needs the schrader adapter anyway. I might have just made more work for myself next time I run a flat. But: It’s so pretty!


I feel like a sucker carrying my repair gear on my back, but I don’t feel like loading up (or paying for) panniers — when it’s hard enough to get my bike out of my bedroom, then apartment, then building. So my brother also gave me the Big Buddy Saddlebag. It attaches just like the Timbuk2 version I bought and returned this fall. However, it wins over the T2 version because it has reflective piping (which you can see in the picture) and because, well, it has a light loop like almost every other saddlebag out there. Timbuk2 was so worried about their logo that they did not include a light loop. I have a rack-mounted light (I run two rears lights), but most folks would lose their lights with the Timbuk2 version, since it covers up the entire seatpost anyway. Bad design, bad. The light loop on the Planet Bike version, by the way, perfectly fits Planet Bike’s rear lights, pretty securely. And the big one holds (with room to spare): 3 tire levers; tire gauge; big patch kit; multi-tool; 32×700 tube.

(Seen here with Superflash Stealth)


Finally, my winter gloves are missing since I moved in June, and my lighter full-finger gloves got, literally, destroyed in April when I crashed. (I should take some pictures; there’s still some blood on there.) From my parents, who gave me the bulb and headlight, I received the Planet Bike Borealis Winter Gloves. These suckers have the pinky and ring-finger together for added warmth and are supposed to be waterproof. The Giant gloves I had last year were very warm. But in weather like we’ve been having lately, speeding-winds usually rendered my pinkies numb and useless — not to mention that when they got wet, I froze. I haven’t gotten these wet yet, but I’m hoping they’ll help with my cracked/bloody knuckles. This one, from this past weekend, cracked like an egg in a few places and really bled a lot.

So what kind of awesome bike gifts did ya’ll give/receive? I gave someone awesome a nice rear light for a birthday in December, but I can’t say I gave a single bike-related holiday gift this year.


Obviously.  Snow riding can be fun.  But riding through the mounds of frozen goo left by plows and cars and people shoveling into the street — not to mention black ice — is not the casual ride we had in mind. Five people getting hurt on a ride isn’t going to promote or celebrate cycling so much.

How about next week or a New Year ride?


Monday, December 21st. Early evening/after work. Stay tuned for the time/place, as we watch the winter weather unfold. As much as riding in snow and ice can be fun, doing it for the hell of it sounds like an invitation for injuries.  So if the weather’s bad, we’ll have to do a post-Christmas or New Year’s ride.

This is a mega casual ride — not a critical mass or memorial ride by any means. Bring a Thermos!  It’s just fun to get together and celebrate winter cycling. If the weather does not cooperate, perhaps we could all get some beers somewhere fun that night?

More info this weekend.

UPDATE!!!!

The forecast looks grim, with snow this weekend, which will thaw a little and refreeze Monday night (in the 20s), making for black ice and other nastiness.  As much as winter riding is fun, we’d like to be uninjured and enjoy it.  Personally, I’d hate for anyone to get hurt when we should be having fun.  We’ll have to call it after Saturday when we know how bad it is.


It’s next week already! The short idea is to meet in North Baltimore somewhere and just have a quiet little 15 (or so) miler around town to celebrate winter cycling, the holidays, lights — hopefully including a spin to the Harbor and possibly to the 34th Street thing. We’re going to count the votes by 9:00pm EST on Wednesday the 16th and post the date on the 17th.

I’ll message folks via the Facebook group to hopefully get some more responses.  For the 21st, it’s the start of WINTER.  So it has a nice ring to it.


There’s a great post at Bike Radar about how to survive a bike crash, since we will all have one eventually. Before the safety dogs go nuts, think about this: How many people do you know who have never ever ever been in a car accident? How many people do you know who have never ever ever fallen down walking or running? I’m thirty and have been car-free for four years. And I’ve been in exactly five car accidents, one o of which I caused and one of which (not the one I caused) totaled my car. Sure, I know people who have been in fewer accidents, but I know people who have been in more, also, even people younger than I am.

I don’t know if everyone is going to crash on their bike, though.  There are people who ride way more than I do who haven’t crashed as adults.  Last winter, I went down on some ice on January (just a bruise and scratch in the paint of my downtube and a lot of thankfulness that there were no cars and that only one person saw me) and infamously went down in April (from which my hands are still busted up).  I know Mr. Zack had a (literally) scrape with the wall on the Jones Falls Trail switchback at Stieff, but he didn’t go down — just got rock-wall-rash on his arm.  Certainly, there are veritable bike heroes in Baltimore like Barry, who have been in some crashes.  But in a cases like this, I chalk it up to just plain high mileage.  I don’t know anyone who rides their bike more than folks like Barry and Greater Brown Bear.  In other cases, I’m sure, crashes get caused by people riding drunk, on dark streets sans lights, by not paying attention, easily-prevented equipment failure, etc.

Sometimes, as happened to me (with my little 8 mile commute) and as happens with high-mileage folks (certainly not including myself in that category), cars and infrastructure might eventually get you.  But will it get all of us, as cars are getting more used to seeing us and when the infrastructure for cycling in Baltimore gets better every single day?

I wouldn’t want to tell someone whose interested in cycling but afraid to take the plunge, “Dude, you’ll crash one day.  A pot hole, car door, ice, gravel, drunk guy — it’s gonna happen.”  But I wouldn’t want to outright lie, either.


Okay.  We’re trying to pick a date.  We’re down to December 21, 22, or 23 (Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday).  Which do folks prefer?  Please vote in the comments section!


With this cold, wet, snowy mess hitting Baltimore today, I thought perhaps we could use photos of that beautiful, sunny November day when we all paid tribute to Jack Yates and to cycling in [North] Baltimore.

Josh, from Baltimore Bicycle Works.


Liam, from Cyclosity.


GHCC board member John.


Finally, Mr. Dan finishing the ride!


Please excuse the absence. Trust that it involved BABIES, both future and present Babies. For instance, Johnny and ElRo found out the sex of their/our half-way-cooked Baby this morning.

But fun cycling things are in the works! Okay. Dan and I (Johnny) are meeting tonight for coffee to go over some details for a spirited ride through Charm City next month, complete with LED Xmas lights on our bikes. Lots of people and lots of lights.  Last time we tried to plan it, we literally drank too much PBR on a Sunday afternoon and lost track of what the hell we were talking about.

Anyway, next month. Big fun. Oh, yes. Stay tuned.

Today, it’s cold. Cold by October standards. If today was a day in March, things would be different. But when I rode over to Service Photo on Falls Road to pick up film today, I seriously regretted leaving my pants in New York when I was there last. I slightly over compensated by putting on a fleece vest over my rain jacket. And rubbed some embrocation on the legs which actually worked pretty well. Actual pants would have been ideal. And to top it off, we are in for one very snowy and cold Baltimore Winter.

snow day

Days to look forward to

Anyway, I look at these few weeks as a good way to gauge which commuters you won’t be seeing for the next 4 months. The short distance commuters at MICA and Hopkins seem to thin out and retreat to the warmth of the school shuttles. The racks at MICA are half full, which is a plus, but also lonely.

Sometimes it’s downright depressing with so many empty racks, I even start to miss the backwards locked, space hogging cargo bikes and fixed gears with inexplicable hand-knitted top tube warmers. Seriously. – But enough about that. Point is, this time of year, commutes downtown seem even more desolate. The Hopkins ride listserv slows down just as I need to start doing more base miles, and as I ride north on Charles or Guilford, I see less and less little blinky lights shimmering off in the distance.

We can look forward to awesome snow rides though.

[Liam lives in Oakenshawe, and studies photography at MICA, with a minor in complaining about the way people lock their bikes.]

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I usually try to keep my ride pretty clean. I’ve been a little lazy about it lately, and it really needs a good bath. This got me thinking.  My dad has always said, “Before winter sets in you should put a good coat of wax on you car.” One of his points being is that it helps keep the salt off the car’s finish in the winter months. This does make sense to me. So I’m thinking of cleaning up the old horse and putting a coat of wax on the seat/chain stays, down tube and fork. Can anyone think of a good reason not to do this?

Also with winter on the horizon does anyone have any cold weather riding tips you would like to share with the cycling community? One I use, I got from Sheldon Brown. Use clear tape to block off a few air vents on your helmet. It’s a easy and very inexpensive way to help keep your head a little warmer and  not compromise the fit of your brain bucket.

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That’s me on the right, with a beard that got about two months longer than that before I shaved it. This was taken at a wedding in November 2006 with my brother, striking an odd GQ-esque pose.  [Larger and more beard-ilicious version here.]

When we read about the Fred phenomenon, a thick beard is often mentioned with cargo pants and sandals. I’ve been referred to as a Fred more than once, and I was wondering: Whence the cycling beards?

For myself, they keep me warm! I grow my famous (infamous to ElRo) Winter Beard every year, much the same way that some animals produce their winter coats. I have a modest beard currently, which means only moderately shaggy and somewhat “well”-trimmed. I let it get nice and full before the holidays but went beardless for a week or so around Christmas because I was being an idiot and forgetting that I don’t drive and still need to get places all winter. I immediately noticed how cold my face was getting on my bike, so I grew the Old Man Winter Beard back in ASAP. Now I seldom need a scarf wrapped around my face, though it is February now, not January, so maybe it’s just not as cold. But I do get very red cheeks where there is no beard.  I’m rosy and raw today from this week’s wind.
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This is me on moving day from Southern Illinois in a hot day in August 2006, with the beard I had to trim for my doctoral dissertation prospectus defense a few days before.  This was the trimmed start of the bitchin beard in the first photo.
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It’s probably in poor taste for me to post photos of Zack from last winter without him knowing, but I was incredibly impressed with the vigor of Mr. Zack’s beard. I’m sure it kept him warm on the food drive we helped with, which is coming up again in the next two weekends.
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I shouldn’t tease about beards because Mr. Dan has a job which dis-allows him to grow a beard. But he’s a handsome guy and looks nice without it.
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How about all you cycling folks? Who rocks beards to keep warm? To savor the flavor of coffee or good beer? For religious, fashion or health reasons?

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