My Evolution as a Bicyclist

Posted by Scott on Sep 23rd, 2012

I thought it would be fun to write about how bicycling has evolved in my life over the past five years, when I got back into riding as an adult.

My original goals when I bought my first road bike were to find an activity that I could enjoy doing outdoors that could be an alternative to spending time at a gym. I didn’t want to have to drive places to do this activity, and there were few options for decent mountain biking nearby, so I decided to get a road bike.

Of course, I figured what I needed was your typical racing-oriented road bike, so I ended up with an entry-level Specialied Allez:

Specialized Allez

This was a great bike, and it really epitomized that feeling of just ‘gliding’ along that is so special about road riding.

As I am somtimes wont to do with new interests that I deeply enjoy and become passionate about, I soon became a bit obsessive about learning about my new sport and spent a lot of time in online forums. Through these forums I found many examples of people who were bike commuters, and rode to work and to run errands on a daily basis. For someone who couldn’t get enough of bicycling, this seemed like the logical next step for me – after all, why wouldn’t I want to substitute ridng my bike instead of driving my car? Anything that could add more time on my bike was good in my book!

So I started riding to work, finding decent back-road routes to get to my employment, and no longer needed to hit the gym during lunchtime. I became a bike commuter, and quickly found that my bike was not especially well-suited for carrying loads. I wanted something more comfortable to ride, not just for commuting but also for the increasingly longer rides I was doing during the summer.

There are some things that can make a bike much more suitable for commuting and longer-distance rides; a taller head tube, more “relaxed” frame geometry, clearance for wider tires, and rack and fender mounts. Soon I had my eye on a new bike, and replaced the Allez with a Salsa Casseroll:

Salsa Casseroll

This was a significant step up in comfort and practicality while still being a road bike well-suited for riding centuries. I could set it up as above with a light set of wheels for my faster rides, and I could also put fenders on it for the mild but wet winters I started to encounter after moving to Portland. A rack gave me the versatility to mount pannier bags on the bike, and I had something I could run errands with:

Salsa Casseroll in errand running mode

For most people, a bike like this is a perfect all-around, general purpose bike. But the longer I lived in Portland, the more I found myself using the bike as a serious commuter and errand-running machine. Trips to the grocery store and carrying increasingly heavy loads were taking their toll on my wheels, which needed to be replaced. Also, if you ride much in the rain, rim brakes will quickly wear down the surface of your rims and require more frequent wheel rebuilds.

Four years after getting the Casseroll, I decided it would be worthwhile to have a second bike – one set up for wet winter riding and that could carry large loads without pushing the bike’s limits. Having a more upright riding position would be fundamental to this bike – no drop bars this time. And disc brakes work exceptionally well in wet conditions and no longer wear down your rims when braking. So meet the newest member of my family, a customized Surly Disc Trucker:

Surly Disc Trucker

Riding this bike is just plain fun. The upright riding position feels like I’m sitting high, as one would in an SUV vs. a sedan. The tires on this bike are even wider than the Casseroll, and the sprung Brooks saddle also offers a bit more give on rough roads. The bike is definitely heavier and feels a bit slower than the Casseroll, but more than makes up for it with the fun factor.

So there you have it – a case study in the evolution of myself as a bicylist. I could now care less if I ever rode a racing oriented road bike again. It was a great introduction to the joys of riding on the road, but comfort, versatility, and practicality are the main attributes I seek to fulfill in my riding nowadays.

I guess you could say that’s how I roll. 🙂

Worst Day of the Year Ride

Posted by Scott on Feb 16th, 2009

Today I rode in the Worst Day of the Year bike ride, which supports the Portland Community Cycling Center. The ride is held every year in the middle of winter and typically involves adverse weather. Fortunately today the rain ended just before the ride started, and the sun even came out by the end of it.

Worst Day of the Year Ride - Waterfront

Worst Day of the Year Ride - Waterfront

The ride is a great example of Portland’s quirkiness. Costumes are highly encouraged, and the ride has a fun and family-friendly atmosphere. There were lots of whoops and cheers among the 3,000 riders who participated in this year’s event.

Worst Day of the Year Ride - Bee Costumes

Worst Day of the Year Ride - Bee Costumes

The ride ended with some excellent spinach lentil soup and bread from Laughing Planet. I didn’t ride with a costume this time, but I’m thinking it would be worthwhile for me to piece something together to keep handy.

Portland Bike Infrastructure: A Few Examples

Posted by Scott on Feb 1st, 2009

My elation over living in Portland – literally a bicycling paradise in the United States – hasn’t subsided yet. As I ride through the city I can’t wipe the smile off my face from seeing all the other people out on bikes, and learning how progressive the transportation infrastructure is. For the benefit of my friends back East, here are a few videos I found on YouTube that describe what we have out here.

Of course Portland has bike lanes – over 100 miles of them – but you might be surprised to find that streets with bike lanes aren’t necessarily the safest way to get around by bike in the city. One of the most intriguing strategies the city has come up with is optimizing certain side roads as bicycle boulevards; streets where traffic flow is optimized for bicycles and pedestrians.

One of the coolest things about bike boulevards is how they’re such a win-win situation for the communities where they’re placed. Homeowners love having their street designated as a bike boulevard, as it makes the street safer and more family-friendly, and helps to raise home values.

When cycling around NH, I generally avoided routes with traffic lights on them whenever possible because of the difficulty or outright impossibility of tripping the traffic sensors to change the light. These kinds of intersections are also where plenty of crashes with cars can occur when a bike or car wants to turn. Portland actually has traffic sensors at many lights specifically designed to be triggered by bicycles, and in some cases, even dedicated lights for bicycle traffic:

…and to make tricky intersections safer for everyone, bike boxes (my apologies for the corny nature of this video):

All of this infrastructure costs very little as a percentage of the overall transportation budget in Portland, and the return on investment is huge. It reduces auto congestion and pollution, and helps Portland solidify its reputation as a sustainable and environmentally progressive city.

I’ll be continually smiling on my bike for some time, I’m sure. 🙂

Heading to Portland Again

Posted by Scott on Nov 9th, 2008

My plans are shaping up to visit the incredible city of Portland, OR next month.

Portland Bike Box

Portland Bike Box

My plans currently don’t involve renting a car because the public transportation and bicycling infrastructure is so amazing there. The one downside is I’ll be there during the rainy season (defined as October through May), but I’ve become hardcore enough about bike commuting that I already have some wet weather gear I’ll bring along with me. With plenty of bike shops that rent bikes, I’m really looking forward to exploring the city on a deeper level than my previous visits.

NH Fall Colors Bike Ride

Posted by Scott on Oct 11th, 2008

This blog is starting to become pretty heavily-themed as a cycling blog. I suppose it’s because things at work have been pretty hectic, and at this point all I do is work and ride (especially to relieve work-related stress). 🙂

Anyway, I went on a ride this morning with a friend and took some photos. Enjoy some of the fall colors of New Hampshire:

A Weekend of Cycling

Posted by Scott on Sep 22nd, 2008

Last weekend was a bike-filled one. On Saturday I rode 100 miles in the Tri-State Seacoast Century. This is the same ride I did last year, when it was my first-ever century ride. This time it was my third (having done my second one in late July).

Hampton Beach - Seacoast Century 2008

Hampton Beach

Rye Beach - Seacoast Century 2008

Rye Beach

Former Naval Prison - Seacoast Century 2008

Former Naval Prison

For once, I’m glad to say it wasn’t a dramatic experience. I rode on my own for most of the ride, but shortly after mile 80 I managed to hop on the back of a decent-sized paceline and enjoyed a nice draft for the rest of the ride (when it counted the most). I finished in 6 hours, 55 minutes of time on the bike. I felt really good after the ride, better than I ever have before. My new Salsa Casseroll is turning out to be a great investment in the type of riding I do.

Nubble Lighthouse - Seacoast Century 2008

Nubble Lighthouse

On Sunday I rode with a buddy out to see the Portsmouth Crit. We arrived just in time to see the men’s Pro race, though I could tell there was so much going on that it would have been worthwhile to make a full day of it.

Portsmouth Crit

Portsmouth Crit

A Tale of Two Centuries

Posted by Scott on Aug 4th, 2008

Having completed my first century last September, I made it my goal for 2008 to ride two centuries this year. I was hoping to do one in June, but that never worked out. Fortunately, during the last Saturday in July the weather in NH was expected to be clear of thunderstorms and with reasonably low humidity, so I jumped at the opportunity to get my first century of 2008 in.

The thought of doing a solo century was pretty daunting to me, so I managed to set up the route in such a way that a middle leg of the ride could be done as a metric century (100km/62mi). Chris decided to join me, and thus here is a tale of two centuries: my imperial and Chris’ (first ever) metric.

I began the ride at 6 AM and completed about 25 miles in the early morning.

Early Morning

At one point I saw group of something crossing the road. It turned out to be a family of wild turkeys.

Wild Turkeys

As I returned to the starting point, Chris was right on time and we promptly embarked on a journey out to the Nubble Lighthouse on the Maine seacoast.

Helmet Shot

A Typical Maine Road

The ride out the Maine seacoast was peaceful while we remained on back roads. Finally, we arrived at our destination: Nubble Light in York, ME.

Nubble Lighthouse

When we returned to our starting point, Chris celebrated his new milestone, but I still had another 10 miles to go to round out my imperial century. Those 10 miles were pretty agonizing, but I completed them (with more stops that I’d care to admit). I ended up completing the ride in 7h11m on the bike. It was more than a half-hour slower than my first century (6:35), but as far as I’m concerned, just completing a century is a feat in itself, whether it takes 5 hours or 10.

For my second century, I will be riding in the Tri-State Seacoast Century again. I’m really looking forward to it.

NH Bike Bill Passes in the Legislature

Posted by Scott on May 21st, 2008

As a cyclist and bike commuter, I’m thrilled to see that the NH “Bike Bill”, HB 1203, has passed in both the NH House and Senate and is on its way to the Governor’s desk for a signature. This bill establishes, among other things, that motorists passing a cyclist on the road must give at least three feet of clearance while passing, or potentially face a $100 fine. It also states that road construction projects must give consideration to use of the road by cyclists and avoid creating hazards (such as ill-placed rumble strips and drain grates) to cyclists.

This legislation was modeled after similar laws that now exist in 20 other states. I really hope it will help to improve riding conditions for responsible cyclists in NH.

Next »

Blog Badges

[FSF Associate Member]