Archives : May 2004

2004 May 1

Lessons learned

Last Saturday, I learned (while working on a new slipway at my parents' place, to replace the one damaged last fall by Hurricane Juan) that angle-grinders are even more fun to work with than they look. That, to my way of thinking, is saying something. Meanwhile, caulking guns are rather less fun than they look.

The jury is still out on hammer-drills. My father sank all the holes into the boulders before I got there.

This Saturday, I discovered a key to making it up a steep, rocky path on a mountain bike, apart from being in better shape than me. You start having issues keeping the front wheel on the ground once you get down into the bottom gear -- any time you have to really step on the pedals, to get over a rock for instance, the torque will throw you backward. The way to fight this is to stand up out of the saddle and get your body weight forward over the handlebars.

I think there's also a trick in there to bounce the whole front end of the bike back on line if the front wheel threatens to swerve the wrong side of a rock. (Which it does, all the time, when you're climbing too slowly on a rough trail.) I don't have that one yet, but I was working on it.

So I've just gotten back from riding the mountain bike loop at Middlesex Fells, which turns out to be a really demanding trail, with some of pretty much everything. Fire roads, singletrack, dirt, loose gravel, packed gravel, big rocks, tree roots, mud, streams, and a turtle. In the northern half of the loop, there were several climbs that I felt proud to make it up at all, and several more (and a technical descent as well) that were just beyond me.

Nevertheless -- RAAAR. I'm not going to bother posting a time or distance for this one, because a ride like that isn't about speed, at this point. It's about getting good enough to ride the whole thing without being forced to dismount.

2004 May 12

Past glories of Sluggy Freelance

Is it just me, or has Sluggy slid from "methadone" to "unwatchable"? Or am I a hopeless die-hard to have kept with it even this long?

This last week has been so painful that I got to wondering when the last piece of true brilliance was. KITTEN was June of 2000; the Storm Breaker Saga was July of 1999; hell, even GOFOTRON was June 2001. Pete was still doing Saturdays, for Pete's sake. Am I forgetting something? Has it been almost three years since there's been anything really worth reading?

Sigh. It's sad when a fanboy has to move on.

Fortunately, Schlock Mercenary is still kicking ass, to cushion my sorrow.

2004 May 23

Lincoln, Weston

Boston has the best suburbs of any city I know. Once you get past the zone of urban density -- the transition is somewhere in Arlington, going west from Cambridge, you get into an amazing tangle of winding, hilly country roads, mostly fairly narrow. All of them are forested, with old trees, and generally lined with houses built village-style. That is, every one was built individually, at different times by different builders in different styles. The lot sizes vary; the setbacks from the road vary; the house sizes vary. And of course, some of them are centuries old. There's some twee Ye Olde Signage, but for the most part, the area earns its character honestly.

It's a beautiful area to go biking in.

Andromeda and I did a 60-km figure-eight loop out to Lincoln and Weston, two of the most expensive of Boston's bedroom communities. I don't think I'm entirely stacking the deck by talking about how beautiful the area while using them as my example, because the whole area is like that -- Lexington, Concord, Bedford, Waltham.

Date Route Dist Time Avg Spd Year Total
2004/05/23 Lincoln -- Weston 60.2 km 3:23:37 17.7 km/h 292 km
I believe this is the longest one-day ride I've ever done, and I'm glad to say I seem to have survived. I could even have kept going, except that my jeans were chafing rather badly. (I know, I shouldn't have worn jeans, but the day was cool enough that shorts didn't seem like a good idea. Maybe I'm actually reaching the point where I have a need for Shiny Bike Clothes.) Anyway, in April of last year, the 49-km ride to Bedford and Concord hurt me a lot more than today's ride did, and this one was 20% longer. I've definitely gotten stronger.