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Wyman Park Drive, after it crosses Sisson Street by Stieff Silver and goes toward the Jones Falls Trail and Druid Hill Park is being resurfaced right now.  While it will be awesome when it’s finished, you might want to find another way home tonight.  Sorry for the lack of pictures.


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.

[Pardon the terrible camera-phone picture.]
After last night’s rain and this morning’s wind, there’s stuff all over Baltimore’s streets and paths, waiting to get in your way on your ride to/from work/school.  I was dodging sticks and wet clumps of gravel this morning, when I happened upon this big mess on the Jones Falls Trail, just South of the 28th and 29th Street[s] bridges.  If I were not already late for work and had a saw/ax on me, I might have contributed to getting it out of the way.

I also saw an open box of Trek bike frames near the Streetcar Museum’s shed.  Bizarre.  They looked new?

Also, in a score for cyclists, a piece of my apartment building’s slate roof was on the walkway when I left this morning.  It was large enough, sharp enough and came from high enough that it would probably have killed you if it landed on your head.  In a Nutcase-esque helmet, though, I don’t know.  Maybe not.  Though, damn.  It’s scary to think of what a piece of slate the size of a small pizza could do, from the top of 4 1/2 stories.

Anyway, I made it to the Maryland Avenue bridge, two blocks from my office this morning, before the rain started.  I heard these bangs and thought, “What the @#$% is that?”  It was huge rain drops hitting my hardshell helmet.  In the two blocks in which I sped to work, I got completely drenched.  But on my entire ride up to that point, the very very wet roads and paths didn’t affect my sandal-clad feet, as my excellent fenders kept me very dry.  I’m wearing wet jeans and wet flannel now at work on my lunchbreak, though.  Not very comfortable.

It was a good ride.  With the wind that woke me up two hours before my alarm, I almost took the bus.  But with how nice it’s going to be this afternoon, I’d have felt like a schmuck standing on Charles Street and watching everyone else have all the fun.  To boot, the rain window during rush hour probably beckoned more folks than just me who were teetering on whether to ride or not in that wind.  Until the end, the skies were dry, if very cloudy.

And the wind: a moderate headwind for my entire ride, with some scary gusts.  I had to pedal downhill.  But it was good.  I need the exercise.  My bike was drenched, so I carried up the 14 flights to my office.  That hurt more than I want to admit.  My big ass is very out of shape.

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.]

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.

(My former set-up. I used to run the smaller light at the left seat-stay, and even jerry-rigged to the back of my rack.)

It’s been said in several places on the byke innernetz that if your LEDs are a few years old, you might want to replace them. Why? LEDs last nearly forever, no? Because the technology is getting cheaper, brighter, more efficient, more durable and easier to mount!

These are Giant lights that I had on my (crashed) Giant bike. The larger one ran me nearly $30, and the small one was about $10 I think in 2006. The big one was bright enough to do the job fairly well, but it ate batteries like I drink coffee — as they said in Lost in Translation, “with much intensity!”  The smaller one died pretty quickly, too.  Both fell off the bike several times.  In fact, that larger one was actually stolen from ElRo (click here to see image of baby in her tummy) since mine fell off in traffic and got destroyed.  When I crashed that bike in April, someone who got to the scene handed me my pump and this smaller damned light.  I can vouch for its durability — it fell off a few times and took quite a big roll a couple of those.

When I got my new bike this summer, I wanted to get new lights, too.  My five LED headlight was Okay for being seen, but it went dim in a few hours and had a very narrow beam.  I wanted some improvement in that area, too.  The light I had was about $25 in 2006 also.  There were some very awesome lights out since then, and I was excited to try some out.

Planet Bike all the way.  Not only are they brighter and easier to mount.  They also were cheaper, and they haven’t fallen off yet.  I should really get around to posting something about my cheap/simple light set-up.  Maybe next week.  Stay tuned!

[Apologies for the cross-post!]
Yesterday, I took a [hybrid!] bus to work, with my floor pump in my backpack, my helmet in a box on my lap and my rear-mount kickstand. I put the stand on at lunch and was shaking with excitement and nervousness all day at the idea of getting to ride again. I mean, my last ride didn’t go so well. My wife had to work late, so we had dinner at the delicious Cafe’ Mocha near Penn Station after work, and then I set off to North Baltimore! I stopped by my parents’ house in Hampden to show off the new ride to my folks, my brother and my aunt and uncle — and to have a cream soda.
Then I rode home, up Roland Avenue. At one intersection, I was behind another cyclist at the red light, and there was another gent coming from the opposite way — and it wasn’t even close to rush hour anymore. Being out of commission all spring and early summer, I missed the increase in ridership. The gentleman in front of me ran a red light I didn’t want to run after a block or two, so we parted ways. I rode around Evergreen, through Stony Run Park and back home, not really wanting to stop. I came home, took off my sweaty shirt and had some water with lemon in the lazer-etched bike pint glass I got for Valentine’s Day this year and watched “The Simpsons.”

Sweet first ride. Chromoly steel rides like a freakin dream, but I kept hearing something bell-like when I hit bumps. I think the rear brake cable was banging the toptube because the little rubber things weren’t on right (my fault). That steel literally rings. But it also could have been the dangerous thing I found when I got home. When I was installing my front fenders last week, I forgot to check that the stays were tightened at the dropout eyelets. Holy shit, that could have been disastrous! Also completely my fault.

Rode to work this morning with the Mrs. — our first joint commute. I was completely drenched with sweat when I got here, and I wasn’t cycling hard this morning at all. I have to go back to a shoulder bag and away from my backpack. Thank God for the baby wipes and extra shirt I keep in my desk. I was a mess.

But I’m sitting here with my helmet on the AC vent, my new tires dirty and my bike begging me for 5:00. I am very happy.

My wonderful wife just landed a sweet job at a university that is a few blocks from the one where I work, in the heart of Central Baltimore. We are both enormous fans of the MTA, and the #61 stops yards from our apartment building. But, as she understands and as I’m sure anyone who cycles would, once I get back on my bike after not riding [without crashing] since April 7th, there’s nothing that will stop me from cycling to work. Not that anything but bad ice did after the installation of my awesome fenders in December. Unless ElRo wants to take the bus, this means that I’ll get company for my commutes!

It used to be my “alone time”, but my wife and I happen to get along very well and enjoy each other’s company, enough to elicit gags at times from a few less happy people. But I rarely took the really long way home before because I wanted to get home to my favorite person. Rather than losing alone time that I don’t really care about, I view this more as getting to saunter-on-wheels home rather than mashing my way up Charles Street and University Parkway. The long way, the scenic way — they’re all ours for the taking.

And it’s fun to point out your favorite way to get to work and all the places to get coffee around there. A week or two before my crash, I was still in North Baltimore for a super-early meeting one Thursday. Afterward, Dan and I met up and took my relaxed way to work, parked in my office and enjoyed coffee/chocolate at Sofi’s. I talked his ear off about what’s around my job, etc.   Bob wrote a nice post about this kind of fun last year.

Anyone else get regular company for their commutes?

Anyone ride in?  I have AWESOME fenders, but even they were no match for the snow and slush and gunk flying around this morning.  It was still a fun ride, though.  My bike dripped puddles of NASTY water all over my office when I got to work.  Poor little rug.  My “salmon” Kool Stops are grey as all hell right now.  I don’t know if it’s wise to ride home, after my ice-fall last week.  But it’s so tempting and fun. I doubt I will be able to resist.  Plus, I don’t wanna leave Mr. Bike in the office, especially when it looks like tomorrow might turn out to be a snow day.

My only scary moment was coming down the switchback on the Jones Falls Trail this morning.  I realized that my thin shoes were covered in snow, so I stopped and pulled off to knock the snow away.  I slid a bit in so doing, but I caught myself.  I got off my bike to stomp my shoes against the wall and get the snow off, and there is a skid mark, surrounded by footprints.  I hope no one thinks it was the scene of a crash, LOL.

No other bike tracks on the switchback.  But there were tracks from an MTB on the trail itself, as the road was covered in salt trucks waiting their turn to get filled on Fallsway.  Saw one other cyclist on the JFT, and we exchanged not just a nod but a full one-hand-off-the-bars wave, which is appropriate to anyone brave/stupid enough to ride in Baltimore in the snow.

At the risk of sounding overly self-righteous, I am.  It’s either the craziness my co-worker playfully accuses me of or courage or utter stubbornness.  Or  I’m a pleasure-seeker, and there’s no more pleasurable way for me to get to work than on a bike.  Or something.

I was at an event last night, when it was 20 degrees sans windchill, I asked a fellow cyclist if he rode. “Is there any other way to get here?” he replied. Frikkin A. No, there’s not.

I’m finding less cycling company in the mornings. This morning, it was 11 degrees when I left with a windchill of -2 (without the windchill of barreling from North Baltimore to downtown at 25mph). I rode with ElRo and left her in the Chillage.  I didn’t see any other cyclists, but my glasses were fogging up, so maybe I missed them.

But I discover daily as I leave the office on Charles Street after work, that I just head to work late because I can get here so quickly.  Turns out that I just usually leave after other people.  Even with this weather, I’m never alone at night.  Which makes me less crazy, less self-righteous, because these are relative.  I know that I will see other blinking, fender-ed commuters on my way home tonight.

If there’s actually bike traffic in Baltimore in the middle of January (and there is), that’s a sign that cycling is really here to stay in Charm City, no?  Yes, it gets much colder in some places.  But those places don’t have the doggy summers we have to put up with.  We’re Southerners used to winter temps in the 40s.  Central Maryland weather really runs the spread, and I tip my, er, helmet to those who ride when it’s 10 and when it’s 110 degrees.

It snowed all over my bike this morning, not long after I got to work.  It was very pretty, but I was glad to already be in my office, thinking about my wet seat.  I hope it dries up a little.  I’m not going straight home tonight, and my fenders are crappy.  (New ones on the Xmas list!)

I’ve not been as alone as I have been in years past commuting in the cold, but the numbers of bikes on the racks near where I work are shrinking weekly.  That there’s still bike traffic at all with gas prices going down makes me happy as a warm bike seat.

We missed doing a Halloween ride, and we haven’t gotten together in months.  Are folks still riding into the winter?  Anyone wanna do a short holiday ride, with warm goodies?  🙂

My favorite rear blinky was bought a few hours before my bike, two years ago.  It’s served me well, despite getting rained on, being dropped and kicked down St. Paul Street on a cold day last winter, falling off in traffic on University Parkway, etc.  All you could ask for from a light.  Well, the week before last.

Two weeks ago, I was leaving work and crossing the bridge on Charles Street that goes over 83. This is a tricky spot with horn-crazy cab drivers, buses and wanker-weiner-poopheads who insist on parking there, next to the signs that say not to.  You know, in addition to drivers flooring it as they get on 83 or otherwise try to get in front of one another before the messy construction on Charles Street. I heard a bump-clatter-bang and knew it had fallen off because I had, once again, not put on it correctly.  Out of the corner of my eye, as I approached Lanvale, I saw the grey bubble bouncing and heard crunching repeatedly.  I couldn’t stop because, well, I’d get flattened.

I knew it was a goner and got really sad.  Er, mad because it fell off from me not connecting it correctly.  I cussed a lot on my ride up Charles Street.  I was entirely too upset over a light, probably.

A day or so later, I was walking up to Sofi”s to get coffee with a co-worker, and I found this big chunk of my light.  It made me feel better.

While we hear of gear failing us, it’s sad when it’s we who fail our gear.  Or something.

(Why can’t we all get along, like ElRo and Big Red?)

I was on my way to work last Tuesday after the holiday weekend.  I had gotten a few flats that weekend and was being extra-aware of everything that morning.  A person I often see riding his bike to work also was ahead of me as I approached a certain intersection.  I saw him do what I usually see him do — break a traffic law.  (I’ll admit to making right turns on red that are not allowed for certain times of day and bending or breaking other laws when it’s going to keep me safe.  Heading North from Downtown on Calvert Street, for instance, stopped at a light, I’ll run the danged thing if the car behind me is turning right, not looking and has been crowding me for a few blocks.  I’d rather get a ticket or even be a bad example than a smooshed example.  But this is an extreme example.)

I hate to generalize, but he looks and acts smug.  He never waits at any red lights, never looks before turning, even left turns, etc.  So I thought it would be funny if I caught up to him before the Jones Falls Trail, maybe pass him on my milk-crated bike and make him feel like poo.  I did catch up with him at the red light where Wyman Park Drive and Sisson/Keswick meet because there was too much traffic going by for him to run the light yet.  Yes, the one where it’s impossible to see to the right if you’re heading toward Druid Hill.  He went to run this dangerous light and lost his chain.  Inside, I laughed so hard that I might have snickered out-loud.  He wasn’t hurt or anything, just pulled off to fix it and get his hands greasy.

I went on and rode my bike on Fallsway that morning because there was a lot of debris on the trail.  I was running kind of close to the clock, so I was in a relatively high gear and pushing toward Downtown much faster than I usually do.  Low and behold, this kid who usually uses the road is next to me, on the trail, and it looks like he’s racing me.  I didn’t want to get sucked into this stupid race-head bullshit.  I let him get a few feet ahead of me because the place where he would have to cross the road or enter the road was coming up, and I didn’t think he’d be reckless enough to dart out into the road without looking.  I was half right.  He looked, but he still jumped out, right in front of me while I was doing about 25 mph and he had slowed down considerably.  I had to slam my brakes and still almost hit him.  I was on his back wheel until Maryland Avenue.  I was almost late for work, too, from slowing down.  Traffic picked up, so I couldn’t pass him, and he was riding slowly from wearing himself out with his racing nonsense.

If you are he, what you did was dangerous and stupid.  You could have gotten us both hurt, and you’re damned lucky I wasn’t a car.

It’s bad enough that we have to contend with drivers who are jerks and idiots.  Now we have to deal with rude cyclists, too?  I passed a guy who was slowing me down yesterday morning on San Martin Drive.  But I politely warned him verbally and with my bell and gave him a good six feet — all of which was more than he deserved, since we came out of the same building and he dropped the door on me when I was right behind with a bike.

I can’t figure out if the wankers are new commuters or what.  (Somehow, I doubt it.)  I’m as glad as anyone to have the company on the road, but we’ve gotta work together more.  There’s no excuse for doing things that are dangerous and stupid at the same time.

Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie rides his bike to the ballpark six days a week.  Apparently, our home-boys are some serious cyclists.

Fans are accustomed to the players’ lot being filled with expensive rides – sports cars, HUVs, private jets. But you should check out the clubhouse sometime, or the weight room. There are enough bikes parked there to hold the Tour de France. I keep waiting for players to change into yellow jerseys, though that honor probably should be delayed until they’re in first place.

At last count, the cyclists include Guthrie, Luke Scott, Aubrey Huff, Brian Burres, Garrett Olson and Lance Cormier. Nick Markakis dropped out after buying a house in Monkton.

The Orioles might be the only team that has more use for a bike rack than a bat rack.

Read the rest of the story here.

Via Commute By Bike.

My commute to work certainly isn’t among the City’s most challenging rides.  Most of it involves a trip down University Parkway — in the morning, heading east, it’s a delightful zip down the bike lane, almost keeping pace with my four-wheeled friends to my left.  On the way home, however, I’m faced with an inevitable uphill climb, and here I think I meet one of Baltimore’s most feared cycling obstacles: the University Parkway Monster — the stretch between Keswick Road and Roland Avenue that is grueling, merciless, and unrelenting.  And don’t even try to make it easier on yourself by cutting through the residential streets to the right (the Evergreen neighborhood).  There’s beautiful scenery, but not much relief.

Since I started my job last fall, I’ve developed all manner of artful ways to get around the University Parkway Monster.  I’ll turn left on Tudor Arms and come through Hampden, or I’ll take a detour through Stony Run.  But last Thursday (and it was H-O-T that day), I made it to the light at University and Keswick and thought, why don’t I give it a try for once?  So I started the climb and actually made it this time!  I was a sweaty sight (and smell) when I got home, but for once, I beat the Monster!

What are some other Monsters you’ve beaten, or have plans to beat, in Baltimore?  I also nominate the stretch of 37th Street between Keswick and Elm in Hampden.

Stay tuned for some upcoming information about the Baltimore Bike Pageant on August 2!

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