Saturday, December 31, 2005

Signs of progress

Some very conspicuous signs of progress of the Roanoke River Flood Reduction Project and Roanoke River Greenway are appearing in the Southeast corner of our fair city.

Bench cuts on both sides of the river along Riverland Road are starting to show what the new profile will eventually look like through the entire city. The first thing that catches your eye in the width. What were once closed-in, un-maintained riverbanks of brush and trash are now becoming wide, neat and inviting. On one of these shelves (on the side of the river I stood on to take the following two shots) will be the Roanoke River Greenway. A smooth, paved bike trail running the entire way through the city. This will be the backbone for an extensive network of Greenways that will eventually be capable of carrying trail users to all points of the Roanoke Valley- all completely free of vehicular traffic.

Soon, the river will become more of an attraction than it has ever been. In addition to the obvious benefits of flood reduction, the quality-of-life value of such a project is immeasurable. Having grown up in Pittsburgh, PA with it's three rivers, I've seen first hand what an attraction a riverwalk can be - even to those who never actually go in the water. Cyclists, runners, walkers, tourists and Pittsburghers who want to get outdoors without having to travel out of the city, all use and enjoy the riverwalk for recreation and relaxation. San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Columbus and Minneapolis are also cities that I've visited who have successfully turned their waterways into tourist and community attractions.

I believe the Roanoke River Greenway is start of something very big or the Roanoke Valley. Not to mention an absolutely fantastic development for cyclists. Just imagine being able to ride from Green Hill Park in Salem to Explore Park without ever getting on the road! Fantastic!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Yea, it looks funny but...

I'm all into trying new things. Especially bike things.

Lately I've been seeing a new crop of mountain handlebars that are new in design, but somewhat retro at the same time.

Meet the Mary bar, manufactured by On-One in Great Britain. I had Santa bring a pair for my wife, and while he was at it, put a pair in my stocking too.

How do you descibe a Mary bar? Sweep. About 40 degrees to be exact. When you first latch on to these babies, they immediately feel comfortable. Unlike a flat bar that feels like you're grabbing a broom handle, the sweep on the Mary puts your hands in a more natural, comfortable, ergo position. Riding with the sweep was very easy to get used to from the first time I hopped on.

From the front, the bars look like any other riser bar when mounted in the "normal" upright position. Rise is about an inch and a quarter; nothing too unusual. Once you make your way to the side of the bike, you notice the sweep in the lie of the grips.

I mounted my Marys to the Rig in the "normal" way (but inverted -6 stem) at first, and did two separate hour and a half rides, mostly on back roads in western Pennsylvania over the Christmas weekend. This setup felt a bit high, so I flipped them ( and the stem to +6) to a drop bar set-up, more like a road or cyclocross bike. I rode an hour and a half tonight with the set-up in the picture here, but it seemed a tad too low, so I'll do some more tweeking and do another follow-up post soon. Either way, the back-sweep stays about the same, and is ultra-comfortable.

What I like best about Mary is that you have many different hand positions at your disposal. With the bar inverted and a make-shift continuous grip, I was able to shift my weight all over the bike both on and off road. The only position that I disliked was how far forward I was when climbing out of the saddle. I'm hoping a 5mm spacer and a slight rotation to bring the grips higher will do the trick.

Stay tuned for more...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Poster boy Skippy!

Check out the pic of Team El Toreo racer and all-around good guy Skip Huffman in this report on iplay! Cool!!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Holly Jolly Christmas...

I want to spread the love, man. I want to share the joy of the season. I want to show my seasonal spirit with the traditional Christmas lights on my house, along with wreaths and bows and mistletoe, blah, blah, blah.

I want to take the party to the streets. I want to be George Bailey screaming at the top of my lungs "Merry Christmas you old building and loan!"

So when a co-worker heard my plan to host a Christmas-light viewing night ride as a prelude to the Christmas party we threw this weekend, she offered on loan two strands of battery-powered Christmas lights to help with my quest to spread holiday cheer. "You could put them on your bike and ride around". What a splendid idea! But I wanted to take it to the next level...

A lot of light displays you see throughout the holidays are cool. Folks drape their homes in white, blue and green lights. Some blink, most twinkle, some even move. But none can come to you. If you want to see them, you have to drive (or ride) down the street.

Well, the residents of Raleigh Court were treated to a very special display this past Saturday evening. The lights came to them. Unsuspecting dog walkers were stopped in their tracks. Oncoming traffic had no idea what was coming toward them. Lights from head to toe. Moving through the night with every pedal stroke.
Bulbs about 8 inches apart all the way up and down both legs, and in the shape of a Christmas tree on my back. A sight to behold.

I'm sure it was weird enough to see two grown men riding their bikes through town at night leisurely looking at Christmas lights. It's another thing all together when one is fully illuminated.

I can't wait until next year to do it again. I may even do it a few nights this week leading up to Christmas. Why? The reaction was not at all what I expected. Folks were stopping their cars to wish us a Merry Christmas. Once folks figured out what they were looking at, you could see them smiling from ear to ear. Kids were pointing at the "Christmas tree man". It was awesome. Spread good cheer, I say. And Happy Holidays!

Virginia tops IMBA report card for 2005!

This report is proof: we are ALL making a difference! It's easy to "just ride" and hope the trails get built and stay open. It's hard to get out there and help build them, and deal with the political BS that we sometimes face to keep them open. But, it's all worth it to preserve and expand our awesome mountain biking here in VA. Kudos ya'll!

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Ever wonder how Santa is able to able to pull off delivering toys to every good girl and boy each and every Christmas Eve? This exclusive spy photo tells the story: He trains with Lance.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The most wonderful time of the year.

I love winter. I love the snow, the ice, the cold winter wind...all of it. I don't like being outside in any of that junk, unless of course I'm riding my bike. I can't explain it, but the cold never bothers me when I'm riding.

It doesn't matter what type of ride, or what type of bike, or where I go. This time of year just seems so peaceful. I enjoy touring the alleys and city side-streets, looking at all the Christmas decorations.

Hibernate? Not a chance. The colder the better, I say. My wife (bless her heart) often feels a little less enthusiastic than I do when the temps dip below 40. But she toughs it out anyway to get in some winter miles.
Besides, there are some pretty unique sights and sounds to be found out in the snow. Maybe there are unique sights and sounds other times of the year too, but winter slows you down enough to notice them.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Worried about getting two flats in a race when you only have one tube? Afraid you may break a chain? Bend a rim? Bust some spokes? Crack your frame?

Just bring a spare.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Deep thoughts

Winter is an interesting time for cyclists. I've talked to all kinds of racer folks who have as many different approaches to training in the "off-season" as there are types of bikes on the market.

There are enough books and articles and websites and blogs that discuss training (both on and off season) that I'll refrain from going into detail about the program that I follow. You can find tons of training outlines everywhere.

I will however share this...don't do what you hate doing. Sounds like a no-brainer, but I know several people who can't get out of "race mode". They insist at doing tons of winter training both on and off the bike because they want to out-work their competition. Training becomes a chore when it should be fun - year round.

I was once like that. Two winters ago I wanted to keep as much fitness through the winter as I could, so I ran 3 days every week. Trouble is, I hate running. For some reason my body revolts when I do it. My feet, shins, legs and hips ache. So, this year and last I didn't run a single stride, and haven't missed it. I certainly didn't feel any less strong when I got back on the bike in the spring.

So find some fun stuff to get you through the winter. If you like swimming, then swim. If you like hockey, skate. If you like basketball, shoot. Don't make your training another job or you'll want to quit by April.

OK, change of subject:

I got to share some pretty cool things with some great people this past year - all because of cycling.

Back in April, Dale Heath showed us a tree in Douthat state park that has been completely hollowed out inside, yet is still standing. These pictures don't do it justice.

On another trip to Douthat, we ventured outside the park to some of the most beautiful views I've ever seen.

We rode "Beauty" at Pandapas in Blacksburg - a first for me, and now one of my favorite trails.

....and I drank lots of beer.