Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A whole new adventure

I love bikes.  I love camping.  I love my son.  The logical thing to do is combine them all together and take my 5 month old on an overnight bike-packing trip on a trail I'd never been on with rain and near freezing temperatures in the forecast.  What could possibly go wrong?

Sunset on Ray Roberts Lake. When the sun goes down the Great Fussy Baby comes out of hiding. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Watch "Where the Trail Ends" for some jaw dropping downhill action!

A group of crazy downhill riders research and then ride some of the most remote and challenging terrain around the world.  Amazing video, huge air and tricks where no bike has gone before, and hospital trips in the middle of nowhere.  The video below is of the premier. I don't know if it will be up forever so watch it while you can!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What does safe cycling in Dallas mean?

Eliot Landrum, one of the instructors for Cycling Savvy DFW, has a guest post on the Biking in Dallas blog.  There aren't really any tips for safe riding in the post, but it provides the insight and background for starting Cycling Savvy DFW which provides a whole strategy for riding safely.

“Be safe”, you hear folks tell you as you cycle away. We hear it everywhere in cycling circles. But what exactly does that mean? Wear brighter clothes? Be more vigilant for rogue motorists? Wear 1500 watt blinking lights to out shine the sun? Wear the most expensive helmet money can buy? Pick low-traffic roads? Don’t text and cycle?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Spend a day with Cycling Savvy DFW. It might save your life.

I spent this past weekend in a skills workshop with Cycling Savvy DFW.  It was well worth the time and money and anyone who rides a bike on the road should sign up for a class like this.

We met up Friday night in a classroom setting where instructors Elliot, Richard, and Waco reviewed the biking rules of the road and showed diagrams of some tricky road conditions.  The class discussed the best strategies for negotiating the road and learned the importance of riding in the center of the lane.  While many people think a cyclist should ride as near as possible to the curb it is not required by law and can actually increase the danger for the cyclist as well as unintentionally create more conflict between bikes and cars.  Riding in the center of the lane makes it apparent to drivers that there is not enough room to pass safely and gives them plenty of time to move over to another lane.  Riding too near the curb can encourage a driver to create an unsafe situation by passing too closely within that lane.  It was a lot of great information and the diagrams and videos helped demonstrate the lessons.

Instructor Waco explains the next practice drill

The next morning, we met bright and early for bike handling skills practice in an empty parking lot.  The instructors set up cone courses and drills for us to hone our skills. I was the only person who rode to the meeting place and apparently made quite an entrance as Neandertrailer bounced and rumbled behind me, passing by the gathering people, and finessed it next to a curb to lean it on as an impromptu kickstand.

I  brought the trailer for several reasons.  One, I practice low speed skills fairly often and figured I should up the ante and get some practice with the trailer hooked up.  Two, I want for other cyclists as well as drivers to see that a bicycle can be used for utility as well as recreation and basic transportation.  Three, just because I'm a jackass like that.

A "follow the leader" drill to practice riding straight as well as hand signals.  All types of bikes were present including dual suspension mountain bikes, townies, road racers, and my frankensteined beast.

We started off with some slow races, then did a slalom course, 90 degree turns, follow the leader, and other skills.  In a lot of ways it was similar to a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course (which I'd also highly recommend to anyone who rides a motorcycle).  The instructors wondered aloud if the trailer would even make it through the courses without knocking over cones, but it did great and goes to show how useful a utility bike can be.

Then, it was on to the open road.  The group of students and two instructors rode over to a local establishment for lunch and some discussion of what we were about to do, and then headed back out to practice riding various road "features" around Dallas.

Riding on the open road.  The instructors would signal when to "single up" and when it was ok to ride side by side.

This was probably the most valuable part of the class.  We would all stop and gather while one of the instructors would explain the next feature, sometimes even making a quick chalk diagram, and then the instructor would demonstrate it and wait at the next gathering point while the students followed one by one.  That was the key part - each student had to go it alone to really see how the classroom lessons could be applied.

Instructor explaining the best strategy for this stretch of road

A student navigating the route and demonstrating proper use of hand signals

I'm an experienced cyclist with thousands of miles logged over the years, and yet this was still an enlightening and eye opening lesson for me.  The instructors took us over areas that I would normally avoid like the plague - crossing highway 75 at Northwest Highway as well as Park Lane, riding in front of shopping malls with many entrances and exits, and so on - and showed us strategies on how to navigate them confidently.  I'm not sure what all the drivers thought of us, but they all seemed to respect our place on the road.

Waco diagrams an upcoming intersection as we discuss the hazards of the area and which lane is best.

The class was made up of all skill levels and the instructors would gladly ride with anyone who didn't feel confident about the situation.

I want for bikes to be a bigger part of our culture.  For health, for the environment, for fun, bikes are a great way to get around.  But that won't happen unless we have confident and skilled cyclists who are comfortable riding in traffic.  I encourage cyclists and drivers alike to take this course (or one like it) so we can all be better users of the road.

Regrouping after riding through a road feature. 
A student signals a turn while practicing "control and release" of the traffic behind her.  While a smaller road such as this seems safer at first, it can actually create more conflict because there are many points where the cars are not able to safely pass.  Also, the parked cars pose a huge risk in the event that a driver suddenly opens a door.  A cyclist should ride 5 feet from the side of a car to prevent this.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Chaparral Rail Trail. It ain't for sissies.

I've been working on a meditative phrase.  It goes like this:  "Seek out your fear.  Look your fear in the eye. Tell it to go f--- itself".  That meditation was being put to the test and it drifted at the edge of my rational thinking as the bike shifted and the front wheel turned and sunk in to a two foot wide gap between the ties of the abandoned railroad bridge.  I held gingerly on to the seat post and could feel the weight of the bike, the saddle bag, and the loaded trailer hanging in the balance along with all my gear and myself.

This isn't the worst gap on the trail.  My bike is too heavy to lift, so it has to ride on the long bridge beam as I somehow find a place for my feet and push the bike across to the next railroad tie.

The rail road bridge didn't have a deck and walking across those open timbers would have jangled my nerves under normal circumstances.  But here I was, wearing hard soled bike shoes with a metal cleat and almost zero traction, holding up a loaded touring bike and trailer, bu-bumpa-bumping along each rail road tie until there was a gap so large that the trailer tire got stuck in it.  There was another large gap ahead of me, so if the trailer jerked out and I stumbled forward I would then most assuredly crack my jaw as I fell through the bridge through 20 feet of open air and then land in a foot and a half of stagnant water that reeked of cow shit.  It is not my day to die. I heaved on the handlebars and pulled on the seatpost and the rearmost wheel of my rig gradually lifted out and up on to the next timber as I caught the brake and prevented everything from meeting an unsanitary fate.  I looked back and realized that the trailer had dragged a decaying loose timber up with it.  I had been standing on that timber only a few moments ago.  I jiggled the bike back and forth and the timber dropped with a thud.  The bike stabilized and thankfully didn't go over the edge, and even more thankfully neither did I.  Out of nowhere, the word "butterfly" flitted through my mind.  I looked down in to the gully through the gaping maw of the bridge and serenity washed warmly over me.  Tell fear to go f--- itself.

You really don't want to fall in that.  For many reasons.

This trail is not for the faint of heart.  This trail is not for wussies, sissies, slackers or other non-hackers. There are many obstacles and many opportunities to bail out and go crying home to mama. You have to be committed to pushing through the whole way.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Caprock Canyon Trail - The Trail of Flats, part 2

(Read Part 1 of the adventure)

Dan moving on down the trail
Somehow, we managed to get in to the campsite just before sunset.  What should have been an easy ride of 12 miles had taken us all afternoon and in to the evening due to all the unplanned repairs.  We were camping by the Clarity tunnel, which was previously the last operating railroad tunnel in Texas.  Now, it's just a long dark cave that's home to thousands of bats.  Or, it is during the summer, anyway.  We walked the length of the tunnel hoping to see the bats and watch them fly out majestically at dusk, but it turns out that they had already migrated south to Mexico so all we found was a 742 foot long pile of guano.

Jason was incredulous.  "You mean we drove all day then rode bikes all afternoon to just to camp near a tunnel full of bat shit?!"  Yes, yes we did.  And storms were looming on the horizon.

Inside the Clarity Tunnel.  The deeper you go in, the deeper the guano is piled.