Type 2 Diabetic. Cyclist Flâneur.   Coffeeneur.    Errandoneur
A bike / map geek with a gadget obsession and a high-viz fetish.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

May Closeout

5.31.2014 27m #222
Great day for a ride. Rode from the Bastille down to the PumpHouse, back to Big Dog Coffee with MC, then back to the Bastille. Lots of folks out on the trails, including a major group fundraising walk around the Hot Metal Bridge.

Today's ride was made possible by Vitamin Z (zirtec). There was some sort of pollen or allergen in the air, I'd been coughing from it by a Zirtec kept it in check.

Jan 2014: 315 miles/month, YTD 315 miles.
Feb 2014: 280 miles/month, YTD 595 miles
Mar 2014: 538 miles/month, YTD 1133 miles
April 2014: 537 miles/month, YTD 1670 miles
May 2014: 811 miles/month, YTD 2481 miles.

Projection: 2481 miles/115 days so far= 16.43 miles/day.
16.43 miles/day * 365= 5997 miles/year

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Downed Trees N'At, Leaderboard Top Ten

5.29.2014 #223 46m
Started off early today, parked under the Birmingham Bridge in case it was raining. Rode southeast on the GAP to the Waterfront, met a couple of cyclists who were riding out to DC. Near Boston PA, the overnight downpours had knocked a tree down across the trail.

Reversed at Boston, and the rain started once we passed Kennywood inbound. Stopped at Kelly O's for breakfast. Encountered the Market Square Farmer's Market, which was much more significant than I expected.

Stopped at Big Dog Coffee for some wifi and electricity, did a bit of geekwork.

So totally impressed at the increased presence (compared to 2013) of women riders on the Pittsburgh leaderboard for the National Bike Challenge.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Best Terrible Ride of the Year

5.28.2014 #218n 26m
Started off the day in commuter-mode. Rode to work in one side of the campus. After a few hours, rode to the other site across town, and then rode home.

Drove out to the Ride Of Silence, but my poor bike-rack technique left a wheel dragging behind the car and by the time I got to Oakland, the front tire was shot. Stopped at Steel City Bikes, where they took good care of me.

The 2014 Ride of Silence was a more sophisticated event than in previous years. Two city councilpersons were at the pre-ride briefing. There was a police escort vehicle with lights and sirens. Cyclists help banners identifying bike casualties at the respective locations along the route.

This is the group crossing the Bloomfield Bridge.

At the end of the ride, Mayor Peduto came and spoke about bikes and Pittsburgh and plans for a complete streets program. That's an unprecedented level of engagements compared to other administrations

This was an extremely well run advocacy event, compliments to all involved. Participants included Flock of Cycles, Pittsburgh Major Taylor Cycling Club, Bike Pgh, Western PA Wheelmen.

The title of this post comes from Lucia, who commented "this is the most terrible ride of the year (because of the memorial theme) but it's the best terrible ride of the year" and I'm glad I didn't miss it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Contrived Opportunistic Logistics Ride; The Bridge We Deserve

5.27.2014 219# 51m
Today's ride was a bit of opportunistic logistics; my progeny was supposed to go back to school Monday evening for a Tuesday morning class, and I suggested: Hey, stay at home and I'll drive you up early Tuesday morning while you sleep in the car, and then I'll ride my bike back.

It's sort of like the guy who owns a pickup truck and faux-regrettably agrees to help people move. He wants to help them move, he needs to help them move, and - in fact - it's an act of kindness to allow him to participate in your move. Same thing here; sure, honey, Dad-ums will drop you off and then ride my bike back maniacal laugh BWA-HA-HA-HA whatever you need, I'm here for you.

Anyway, the ground track ended up looking like this:

Stopped in Ellwood City, PA (named after Mr. Ellwood, one of the founders explained a helpful road marker). I love this marquee, it reminds me of the long-gone epoch also presented in the movie A Christmas Story.

Stopped in National Grind Coffee, for a blueberry muffin and really, really good iced coffee, and wifi.

From Ellwood City I took Route 351 across the Beaver River, which is a great ride except the bridge has fairly low side railings and it's a 200-foot drop, and I just take the lane - but I've never had a problem there, and it's not that long a span.

Rode through Beaver Falls, rode past DJ's Island and Geneva College, passed through New Brighton and then I came upon Beaver County's just-opened bridge. In Beaver County, you don't get the bridge you want; you don't get the bridge you need; but you do get the bridge you deserve. So now we have a brand-new bridge connecting the YMCA with Bruster's Ice Cream. Fabulous.

I did get rained on a bit over the last few miles, just enough to clean the bike but not enough to pose any discomfort. This was a really nice ride, 51 miles.

Monday, May 26, 2014

FEL862 30-Secong Timeout in the Penalty Box; Failure to Communicate

5.26.2014 #221 48m
New Business: an excellent post from Invy involving police residency, white privilege, conflation of sexuality with vehicles, abuse of police authority, and the high utility of ubiquitious digital photography.

As for me, I started today at the Bastille, quite early in the morning while it was still cool and the trails were empty. Rode to the Waterfront and escorted some transient cyclists out of Pittsburgh. Very nice ride.

Parted ways at Boston, PA and turned back along the Versailles Bridge and the McKeesport Loop. Came upon a well-attended Memorial Day service at the McKeesport eggshell.

Riding back through the Waterfront in the lane, encountered a driver going to SandCastle who seemed disinclined to support my existance in the roadway and made a few gestures to that effect. Sandcastle is open now, and I guess some portion of the new season's cohort of customers is discovering that there are bicycles in the universe.

Rode through the Valley of the Shadow of the Eagle's Gauntlet, Now! with road traffic going into Sandcastle. I actually got off my bike and walked across the roadway, it just seemed prudent. The Keystone Metals path was jamb-packed and resembled a street fair more than a pathway or trail.

AND: that's great. More people using and enjoying the trail, who may identify as trail-users; I need them.

I also needed caffeine in a big way, so went to Big Dog Coffee and asked the staff's advice. I said I needed: caffeine, cold, in volume and they suggested: iced coffee. It was sooooo good, it did not seem like hot coffee put into a cooler - it had a completely different taste. Quite possibly a new summer riding habit.

Coming back into town, took the Hot Metal Bridge and the Jail Trail because I think it's more tolerant of the crowding that happens on weekend-holiday afternoons. Had the great treat of encountering Marcel, Jordan, and Mrs. Marvelous - that was awesome.

Stopped at Golden Triangle Bike Rentals, it was crowded. People were doing yoga in the grass, the place needs an espresso machine, scones, and wifi. All their bikes were rented and people were waiting for returning bikes. Wow.

At Grant Street, chose to take Blvd of the Allies to move away from the volume of cyclists. On the NorthSide, I was riding on Allegheny Ave north of Reedsdale, moving toward Western Ave. There's just a single lane there, it's narrow, and it's climbing.

A driver of an RV saw fit to get just a few feet behind me and then felt the need to blow his Large-Marge double-air-horn to get my attention, signalling I suppose his displeasure with having to slow down so as to not kill me.

I turned and waved, which was easy because the RV was right close behind me, but the driver seemed to want to demonstrate his air horn again with a longer blast. At that moment, I felt like we had a failure of communication so I stopped to speak with him.

To get down-into-the-weeds-detailed, I stopped in the lane and turned to face him and his monstrous motor home while occupying (if I may use that term) the lane, and it appeared that he was not interested in profound communication but preferred pantomine while we faced each other, neither moving, which was OK with me because I am interested in understanding my fellow travelers.

My understanding of his gestures was that he wanted me to move to the extreme right of the lane so that he could squeeze his Bismarck by me somehow, but I slyly pantomined in reply that I wanted him to sloooowwwww dowwwwnnn. We did two rounds of that and I'm not sure that anything became better but I think sometimes process is undervalued.

Anyway, I got back on my bike after making him stop and endure my personal version of 30-seconds Timeout in the penalty box, and he was right back on my fender. When the street grew to two lanes he passed me and then cut back to the right to make his right-hand exit ramp - but that did not surprise me. What surprised me was the bicycle strapped to the rear of his Hindenbergh-on-wheels.

Reflecting on it, I should have used our face-to-face moment to take a photo of him. The license plate on the behemoth was FEL-862, from some other state where they must not have a 4-foot rule or even a 1-foot rule. Back to the Bastille, 48 miles, great ride.

I need to become more Zen-placid about these fools, because G^d made a lot of them and I don't know why She did that.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bioswales and Permeable Sidewalks Who Knew?

5.25.2014 26m
Rode to meet H at the 40th Street Bridge. Got there early, took a bike nap for a while.

Met D at the Smithfield St. Bridge, rode out to see the eagles and were treated to a few loops of the female flying around.

Stopped at the Green Front Inn, Southside, for a meal. The Yelp review said,

Friendly, divey, cheap and delicious. I paid $22.55 plus tip to feed 3 people. A great deal. Nothing fancy here, but you'll get good service and a good meal. Portion sizes were great and everything tasted fantastic.
and they are exactly right. Completely different from their open-air next door neighbor, the Green Front Inn had great food, generous portions, reasonable prices; a great dive meal.

Crossed the Hot Metal Bridge, around the Chute, and in Four Mile Run H. showed me something I've passed by a hundred times and never apprehended: a bioswale and permeable sidewalk demo outside the Operating Engineers Local 95 property on Saline Street. (ok: bioswale, Saline Street? can't make that up).

Rode up Junction Hollow, saw a young man taking a bike nap but you really can't take pictures of strangers taking naps - that just seems a bit skeevy-strange. Rode Ellsworth out to East Liberty, where H and I parted ways. Coming back on Penn I saw an updated version of the Spak Brothers Pizza mural up on their wall:

Descended through the Cemetery, across the 40th Street Bridge, ended at Millvale. A very nice ride, with friends I hadn't ridden with before.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

I Wish This Was . . .

5.24.2014 11m
Had a small window of opportunity to ride today, between other slices of life. Started at Millvale trailhead. I don't know why the restrooms are always locked there, but I saw a few people trying to figure it out.

Rode over the 40th Street Bridge, east along Butler Street and Allegheny River Blvd, to Highland Park and Tazzo D'Oro for coffee and pastry. Very, very good. Departed via Penn Ave, where I encountered the place where BabyLand used to be.

click to embiggen

The owner of the property wants to put an AutoZone on their land, and people in the neighborhood wish for: something else. I heard a phrase once, "wish in one hand and poop in the other, let me know how that works" or something like that. I'm pretty sure that ownership means, you get to do what you want - unless it requires a zoning variance, a tax break, etc, in which case it's all in play.

Anyway, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to make my own preference known. I wish this was: a bike commuter station, with bike lockers, personal lockers, showers, work stands, parts for sale, and a bike shop.

Continued along Penn to the Cemetery, down to Butler, across the 40th Street Bridge, back to the car.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Goldilocks Day

5.23.2014 #217 29m
Today was a Goldilocks Day; it was cool but not too cold, breezy but not too windy, bright but not too sunny, and the trails were occupied but not too crowded.

Started at the Bastille. Got to see world-famous PaulB working his rounds. Rode around to Federal St. to check the status of the railroad underpass mural and nothing much is evident. Rode across the 6th Street Bridge, closed in anticipation of the evening baseball game, very nice thank you very much.

Out to Uptown, hoping to see Sir Samelot in some regalia befitting Memorial Day, maybe some Doughboy OliveDrab, but no such luck. Over the Birmingham Bridge to Thick Bikes, happy to run into MC (who really doesn't look sixty) & Dyan. Out to Homestead, checked some murals.

Stopped at the Waterfront, took a look at the smokestacks all in a row. Last week I was told by a tourist that they were originally somewhere else and had been moved to this location, but a 1910 photo on the site places them in the same position relative to what's now the Whemco Plant.

Apparently, these were not smokestacks but cooling towers to vent off heat from the soaking pools, giant heated vats of 2400F liquid that steel ingots were soaked in, to equalize the interior and exterior temperatures of the ingots before they were sent to the rolling mill. It was probably not "goldilocks conditions" inside that operation.

Value-Added Link: Click here for an amazing 1910 panoramic photo of the Homestead Works. Extra points if you can identify the still-existing Pump House and the adjacent cylindrical building which today houses the trailhead restrooms, shown below in 1910 and 2009.

An uneventful transition back into town, Ft. Pitt Bridge, Ft. Duquesne Bridge, back to the Bastille. Saw several small groups of cyclists carrying gear who looked like they were heading out of town for the weekend, and encountered one group of cyclists arriving in Pittsburgh on the GAP.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

ABB: Even Milk Runs Need Fuel

5.22.2014 #218 30m
In one month, the daylight starts getting shorter. You're welcome; there is no charge for this service.

Rode to a meeting with GC to work on his social media presence. Climbing Bucktail Hill, traffic was one-alternating-lane, so the normally complex climb with passing traffic was quite calm; thanks, tree pruning guys!

Spent an hour or so at Moon Starbucks tweeking his blog, was pleased to meet TK by chance, that was very nice. Finished what I was doing, packed up, started riding home. Crossed the Sewickley Bridge, proceeded via Beaver St to Ambridge. Decided to cross the Ambridge Bridge.

Originally intended to cross Monaca and take Route 18 past the WalMart, but I wasn't feeling any energy and then realized, hey maybe I should have eaten something, anything since breakfast. So I popped a honey packet and then ate a snack bar and began to feel better, but for a little while there I was ABB - All But Bonked. That was a silly place to put myself.

Took the shortest, least demanding route home and felt better to be off the bike. Memo to self: even milk runs need fuel.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Sighting

5.21.2014 #219 14m
Today was another RideToWork day, where I really rode my bike to work.

Although the forecast called for terrible dramatic rain at mid-day followed by thunderstorms at 4pm, the precipitation stayed north and it was dry all day.

The key point of today's commute was: a sighting! Another bike commuter! In the place where I live! Extraordinary.

The evening's planned Ride of Silence was postponed a week due to the weather forecast. That was a great call. Anytime somebody makes a no-go decision based on safety-of-people, you have to get behind it, whether the forecast risk appears or not.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

French Pastry Day

5.20.2014 31m
Took a really nice mid-day ride in Pittsburgh with K, S, and R. The route looked like this:

We made our first provisions stop at La Gourmandine:

We rode up through the cemetery, out to Whole Foods (excellent guacamole samples, thank you!) then through EastSide to Bakery SquareSQUARED and out to Squirrel Hill. Stopped at ProBikes for obligatory homage.

Parked at Commonplace Coffee for really good coffee, then K and R ducked into Gaby et Jules for take-away pastry wonders. Rode Murray Ave. looking for a new mural site, didn't find it.

Took Pocussett and Schenley Park to Boundary Ave and Junction Hollow Trail, and then the Jail Trail home. A very nice ride.

In the evening, I dropped the car off at the garage (because cars are like that) and rode my bike home for some more miles. total for the day: 31 miles

Monday, May 19, 2014

My New Crank

5.19.2014 24m 221#
It happens after years and years; what was once hard and reliable becomes a bit soft and troublesome. I My bike needed a new crank.

Went to ThickBikes and they took good care of me us my bike. They put on a new crank after actually asking, What size is your crank? hah hah hah hah. As if.

Had to take it for a test ride. Drove over to Southside Riverfront Park, parked next to a car with the Best. License Plate. Ever.

As I was putting my panniers on my bike, the cyclist who owned the car arrived so I introduced myself and asked about the license plate. Turns out, the rider is Peggy, the founder of Triangle Bike Rentals and now the leader of a weekly retiree group ride CyclePath2000. I was glad to meet her, her business was way out in front in terms of recognizing Pittsburgh bike development.

Rode out to the south-east. Met FrankB on one of his two Rivendells and we rode together to the Riverton Bridge, where I turned around. Stopped at REI for minor geegaws. 24 miles on a real pretty day.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Doing the Tighten Up

5.18.2014 47m 221
Drove out to the Waterfront to start today's ride. On Route 837 I could see a crowd on the trail by Keystone Metals, eagle watchers. There must have been 60 or 70 folks standing there.

At the Pump House trailhead, the parking lot was filled to capacity and people were parking across the street at US Steel. There was trail traffic, and the Sunday farmer's market, jewelry and tie-dyed sale and there was also a local dance company putting on demonstrations:

I love both of those two events - the crowd of eagle-watchers on the trail, and the crowd of dancer-watchers at the trailhead-slash-community-center. The more people that become users of trail facilities, the more people who become trail consumers, the better.

Departed the Pump House southeast-bound along the GAP to McKeesport, intending to cross into Glassport and intercept the Montour Trail. No sooner had I reached Glassport than I found three lost cyclists who thought they'd run into the Minotaur's Maze and couldn't find they way to the proper trail. I lead them back to the GAP in McKeesport where it crosses the railroad tracks behind the newspaper plant and saw them on their way. It reinforces my belief that local trail signage still isn't up to snuff.

Back on the trail road and I noticed that my left pedal was getting wiggly. Turns out it was my left crank getting wiggly. I tightened it up and kept on track. Glassport to Clairton and I needed to "do the tighten-up" again.

Continued along the seamy underbelly of the Southern Montour Trail, stopping to tighten up the left crank as needed, until I reached MP36, the Library Trestle and the site of today's groundbreaking ceremony. Found R1 and RR. Saw Mary Shaw and Roy Weil and a few familiar faces. A few photos, a few macadamia-nut cookies, back on the trail in reverse.

I think Route 51 (in little-old Large, PA) remains the most-likely place to get killed on this segment. The trail markings suggest that the safest technique for passage is to keep off the road and I suppose that's mostly true, although technically the safest technique would be to stay home in bed. I'd like to see more share-the-road markings and a 35-mph speed limit there.

I am gobsmacked as to the cause of the crank loosening. I think my response is to apply thread-lock and tighten it up one more time.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Vitruvian Jolly Green Giant

5.16.2014 #220 61m
Today was Bike To Work Day 2014 (BTWD14) so I had agreed to lead a BikeTrain from Sewickley, through Coraopolis and Neville Island, into the NorthSide and Market Square with the intent of providing some group-ride comfort and encouragement to a potential commuter who would not have otherwise ridden to work.

My train was scheduled to begin at 0630 and nobody had shown up, and at the last moment A. arrived in hi-viz and we started riding together. She was a strong rider, well-equipped bike, she knew what she was doing. Said she'd always wanted to figure out a way to get into the city from Sewickley.

The ride in was uneventful. We took Neville Island, McKees Rocks, and then the McKees Rocks Bridge. We tear-dropped down to the Western Penitentiary and I pointed out the trailhead and that seemed like the valuable take-away of the day for A, the notion that she could drive into Chateau, park at the trailhead and ride into work - it would save her $40 a week in parking, she explained. So: win.

Stopped at the BikePgh Coffee Station so that A. could pick up a map of bike-friendlier streets, and C. took this picture of us coming in. I got to meet Jeff, who was running the opposite-direction train: Millvale to Ambridge, and we talking over the finer points of the route, I enjoyed that.

I rode with Marko over to Market Square, where there was a media event and some speakers. It was kind of cold once you stopped riding. Pedaled over to Tunnel Park at SouthSide works where R. and S. were staffing the booth. Got to say hello to Kordite and his award-winning moustache/beard, who I haven't seen IRL in like five years. Saw but didn't greet @Shadow, who I know URL but not IRL.

Couldn't stand the cold any longer, bailed out on R and S and went over to Big Dog Coffee for shelter. They have new artwork on display, I particularly liked DaVinci's Vitruvian Man version of Jolly Green Giant in the Backward Hat Club.

R and S joined me, we had coffee and treats. I had a pour-over coffee for the first time, much more flavor-full than Sanka. Departed and rode to Thick, then to Point State Park, then continued solo back to Sewickley. On this leg I routed via Chateau Street because I wanted to see that the new ADA ramp would deliver in terms of moving from the river-bottom streets to the top of the hill.

The bottom of the ramp looks like this:

The GPS track of riding the ramp:

The top of the ramp looks like this. It's an effective way to move up the hill.

Continued back to Sewickley via Route65. A lot more traffic, and faster traffic, than the Neville Island / Route51 route, which I think was the right way to take unknown riders. 38.5 miles in the morning.

In the evening, K and I went out for the Flock ride. We parked at the Bastille and rode Jail Trail, Panter Hollow up to Oakland. We met Kitaira who joined us for a snack at Conflict Kitchen.

The Flock ride probably had 50 cyclists, it was (predictably) a very nice time. The group stopped at a grocery for supplies for the post-ride picnic and K and I kept riding, since we were parked off-route and had a ways to go. 22.5 miles in the evening and a good group-ride experience for K.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Do Not Hump on the Steel Valley Trail

5.14.2014 #220 47m
Great day for cycling. Started at the Bastille on my road bike. Went to Point State Park, futzed around with my seat post for a while. Rode across the North Side.

Down across the South Side Trail to OTB, joined the PMTCC ride to McKeesport Marina. This was an excellent workout. My friend Mikhael-E has guns of steel, way impressive.

Saw these Norfolk Southern dormitory train cars next to the Steel Valley Trail, between the Phantom's Revenge and Duquesne's Grant Street. There were a few workers milling around outside.

In case you can't see it, the dormitory cars contain this behavioral proscription on the outside, which seems anachronistic in this modern day and age.

Those of us in the know, of course, realize the message refers to: do not send over a rail yard hump, a hill used to send cars rolling towards a set of electrically switched tracks, usually near a control tower, to sort individual cars into trains going in different directions.

So, the warning means: do not send this car with sleeping inhabitants over the rail yard hump.

We hope that former sailors will be forgiven for misunderstanding the message at first glance.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

#FDGB, Braddock Community Cafe, Two Types of Big Dog

5.13.2014 34m
Rode with K today, starting at the Bastille. Blue skies, warm temps. Ft. Duquesne Bridge, Ft. Pitt Bridge, Station Square trail-plaza (which is a Most Likely kind of place).

I ended up playing Hashtag-Fall-Down-Go-Boom (#FDGB) due to my own bad judgement and poor skills. Fortunately, as K explained to me, Goofus sends the distaff rider first to encounter any risks while he rides safely in the rear (under the ruse of protecting her from overtaking cars), while Gallant goes first to encounter the risks himself, and occasionally take advantage of learning opportunities to demonstrate poor response techniques to the less experienced rider behind. Yeah. Color me f**king-A-Gallant, sprawled on the cement on the plaza, worried tourists looking aghast. I am an idiot.

Rode with much less eventfullness down to Thick for some shopping, then down through Sandcastle (where I realized for the first time that the blue parking lot posts present a rising and falling wave) and the Waterfront. Departed the Trail and crossed the Rankin Bridge to get to Braddock, took K to lunch at the Braddock Community Cafe. Excellent as always - two fresh, high-value-content salads and a very tasty tuna wrap, a Pellegrino lemonade and a peach tea. Totally excellent, very reasonably priced. I love riding out to the the Braddock Cafe.

Came out of the Cafe and headed uphill. Checked out the what seems like a new mural on the back of what used to be the Mayor's house (now Kevin Sousa's abode), checked out Brick Woman, further up the hill checked out the Super Adobe Abode, took a look at the Transformazium - unfortunately, Swoon's Sea Goddess is not weathering well and there's some atrocious racial graffiti on the fence.

Rode across the ridge to the North Braddock Aviary (tagline: male birds in courtship plumage!) which simply must be seen to be appreciated. Back to the main drag, back across the Mon and back on the trail. Riding through the segregated bike lane around Marciagaglion Metals I saw a curious, familiar friend in the distance; I thought it might be a sculpture or an out-of-control plush doll, but it turned out to be an inflatable Clifford The Big Reg Dog at Scholastic Books:

North to BigDogCoffee where I had my first-ever IcedChaiLatte; cold caffeine goodness. Back on the trail, through Station Square without falling, around the Casino which is now an obstacle course with tents to keep out People Who Don't Belong (which seems to include me). Back to the Bastille and the car that is still there. 34 miles.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Ride the Pittsburgh Bike Train to Work on Friday!

Friday, May 16th: Bike to Work Day. But maybe you're uncertain about riding yourself. Maybe you'd feel better in a group. Hey, there's a solution: the bike train!

Used for the last few years in LA and NYC, making it's introduction this year in a city that actually has a name instead of an acronym, a BIKE TRAIN is a scheduled route (with stops and stations) for bicyclists to join up and ride as a group along a route.

I'm riding the train from Sewickley Starbucks at 0630, stopping at the Coraopolis Park-n-Ride (Route 51 and Thorn Run Road) at 0645, and the Nevile Island RMU Hockey facility at 0700. Arriving at PNC Park at 0750 and Market Square at 0800. It's your basic Sewickley-Moon to NorthShore-Downtown Express.

Here's Pittsburgh's Bike Train layout as of press time:

Click on any blue-cyclist symbol for a popup-tooltip that explains what Bike Train stops there (and when).

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Future Wheelmen

5/11/2014 48m
And somehow, May is 1/3 gone. Remarkable.

Started myself at the Bastille, joined R and S. We met a party of four itinerant cyclists at the Waterfront and escorted them out to Boston, PA. Riding through McKeesport, one of the cyclists wanted a picture of himself in front of the Olympic symbol (his colleagues work with the Olympics) and when two young boys rode by (David and Clayton) he invited them into the picture:

I thought that was very cool, because a lot of times there is no interaction between trail users and McKeesport residents. We continued with this foursome to the green train car in Boston and then bid them adieu and reversed.

Being about 1pm on Mother's Day, there were a lot of eagle-watchers and family formations on the trail. We stopped at Big Dog Coffee for caffeine and snacks, then we departed. A very nice day, met some nice folks. Saw: Charlie F, J Marko.

Bravo Thick Bikes; Cycling's Transcendental Numbers

5/10/2014 16m
Transcendental Numbers, as everybody knows, it is not a root of a non-zero polynomial equation with rational coefficients — or to put it much more dramatically, it's a number that suggests a basic characteristic of the universe that we've come across but can't explain. For instance, π or e. If you don't think these numbers are weird, then you don't understand string theory. Or relativity, or something.

Anyway, had a call from an out-of-town cyclist who was having major bike problems and was supposed to ride to DC tomorrow. Introduced him to Thick Bikes and they took wonderfully good care of him. Got to talking with Chuck and he asked, what's the optimal number of days to ride from Pittsburgh to DC? And I answered, funny you should ask, there's a formula:

formula for the Optimal Number of Days (OND) Pittsburgh to DC


where N = number of decades you've been alive

Experienced cyclists will recognize the eerie similarity to the formula for the Optimal Number of Bikes (ONB)

ONBnow = N+1

where N = number of bikes you own now.

This exposes the First Great Truth of Cycling: The Optimal Number of Anything is: N+1

When Chuck picked up his bike, his buddy Clyde mentioned to Thick that he was popping spokes so they checked out his bike. Turns out, spokes are like fuses; when they're popping off, they're an indication that something else is wrong. About an hour later, Clyde is leaving Thick all ready to roll to DC on Sunday. Bravo Thick Bikes for saving two out-of-town bike travelers.

It was raining pretty consistent but this was my first time in several days to get out on the bike and I was so happy to get to ride again. The rain kept the faint-of-heart off the trails. Met two cyclists near Costco wrestling with a flat. I tried to help with my pump but I wasn't able to reconfigure the components for a Schrader valve, so I had to reach into my kit and pull out my can of Big Air to reinflate the tire. The Big Air holds 40 grams of compressed gas and it pumped the tire right up. Unfortunately, it was the last bit of gas in the canister.

This does call to mind the Second Great Truth of Cycling: The Optimal Quantity of a Gas or Fluid is: 40.

OQgas or fluid = 40

Anyway, I rode out on the Steel Valley Trail and enjoyed having it mostly to myself. Reversed and stopped at REI, hoping to replace my can of Big Air. Disappointed to see that they're not carrying that product any more. Can't say I'm surprised, since it was a 40-oz. can of propane and it always seemed a bit like a hand-grenade in the making to me - but it sure did inflate tires well.

Saw this amazing product: dry-marker helmets. Wow. I want to get a high-viz helmet and scribble, Hashtag-Tourettes on it. Kids get all the good stuff.

Took a picture of the directions for converting the pump I have from Schrader to Presta, to keep in my phone for future use:

Went back to my vehicle. It was a nice, pleasant, mild-temperature rainy ride. I had my sandals on so it was very comfortable. 16 miles

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Unlocked: Utility Cycling Day

5.6.2014 12.6m
Rode to work today (car in shop), then rode to the garage to retrieve the car.

Car is a pain.
Work interferes.
Bike is a joy.

That is all.

Monday, May 5, 2014

West Newton to Pittsburgh Bike Trip

5.05.2014 33m
Day Two of K's first overnight bike trip. Woke up at Bright Morning B&B in West Newton to fresh coffee and a superb breakfast, really very good. Got to our morning preparations and packing up.

We had arranged to have cyclist / photographer / trail-advocate BetsyM. of TrailPhoto.biz come out and take some photographs of us, since we don't have a lot of pictures and this was a special event. It was a pleasant (painless) session and we had the proofs in our email before we got home from the day's ride which was impressive. Quick conclusion: helmets don't add much to photo sessions.

We reversed course, and I'd planned on our stopping in Boston again - and we did, but the shop was closed (Monday), so we opened my bag of snacks in my pannier and made do with what I had. Fortunately, I had a pretty good selection of things to eat.

Back on the trail and I was pleased that the wind (usually out of the northwest) was quite low today. We might have stopped at the Pump House, but we continued through to REI where I used a $20 cash card I'd received that was about to expire. Bought a bunch of trail snacks for future rides.

Rode a few blocks over to Big Dog Coffee. Cappuccino, Latte, rugula, oat bar; life is good.

Back on the trail, rode to Station Square and the van that was still there. Paid $24 for parking for 28 hours, which is like a bargain if you've ever parked in Manhattan.

Between today and yesterday we met several examples of two of The Five Cyclists You Meet on the Trail: the
cigar smoker, and the loud-yelling speedy passer (on your left! hey take your time! passing here!)

This was my first real use of the Garmin -200 GPS tracker, which is rechargeable through a USB cable. It's got a great display, very good mount. I like the upload, particularly with the National Bike Challenge.

Trip Summary: Pittsburgh to West Newton is a trip suitable for low-time overnight cyclists. The navigation is fairly straight-forward, although there are some places in the Get Out of Pittsburgh segment that are not intuitive; generally, if you stop at the puzzles another cyclist will be along within five minutes.

The trip roughly breaks into thirds, with stops at the Pump House - Waterfront (several food opportunities) and in Boston PA (some limited food opportunities). There are three hills on this trip - the two trail bridges along the Kennywood segment of the Steel Valley Trail, and the Durabond Bypass segment between Port Vue and Dead Man's Hollow. Neither are character building but they're significant for the low-time or flatlands cyclist.

West Newton offers an excellent destination: a trail shop (jerseys, shirts, geegaws), the West Newton Bike Shop at the trailhead, The Trailside restaurant, and the Bright Morning B&B. Also recommended to us was The Chuck Wagon for breakfast, but the B&B breakfast was excellent and so we didn't want anything else.

First pedal to last pedal, we took 4.5 hours from Station Square to West Newton (including all stops), and exactly 4.5 hours on the return trip (all stops included). An excellent trip, highly recommended.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Pittsburgh Bike Overnight to West Newton

5.04.2014 34m

Set out today on a K's first bike overnight, from Pittsburgh to West Newton PA via the GAP. Although all Pittsburgh trips should start at the Point, the Marathon was in progress so we parked at Station Square and departed from there.

Stopped at Big Dog Coffee because: well, because it's Big Dog Coffee, why wouldn't you stop there? Coffee and pasties and yum. Back on the trail, rode past Eagle Row and out to the Pump House. Stopped to see the season's first Farmer's Market and Artisan's Flea Market. Glommed a small trinket-sachet bag to keep my Garmin-200 GPS in when it's off the bike, that will come in useful.

Rode underneath Kennywood, saw the coasters rolling by on their first weekend. Rode through McKeesport. I am increasingly verklempt about the choice of route through McKeesport: better to stick on the published trail route, or to take the straightline from behind Police HQ to the Port Vue Bridge and skip the gratuitious ride through McKees Marina? I've developed the habit of taking the long route outbound, and the direct route inbound.

In Port Vue, we moved Beyond The Pale and crossed into new territory for K. Climbed up over the Durabond Bypass, and descended into Dead Man's Hollow and got to see, for the first time on this trip, what the surface of most of the GAP looks like.

Stopped in Boston PA for cold Cokes and a peanut-butter cookie. On the eastern outskirts of Boston, came across this sculpture in a metalworks yard and I don't remember it being there before. If memory serves, I think this was once installed at either a deaf-school or a blind-school in Pittsburgh.

Stopped at the Dravos Campground, once known as the Dravos Cemetery Campground. They've really developed this nicely. Tremendous firewood supply, one Adirondack shelter, water pump, SST, lots of camping space. Continued riding, and we saw the White Waterfall and then the Red Waterfall.

Continued to West Newton, home of (among other things) the best trailhead on the GAP. Rode a bit further, got two Cokes and sat by the river for a bit. Rolled back to the Bright Morning Bed and Breakfast, which is a place I've wanted to stay for a few years but I've never had occasion to overnight in West Newton before.

Bright Morning was great. Excellent condition, lots of hot water, fast wifi, everything just like you'd want. After we cleaned up we walked over to The Trailside restaurant for dinner. Food was excellent, service was very good, price was reasonable. K busted out and tried an IPA, Curious Traveler which had a lemon edge to it and it was very good.

We walked back to the B&B. The bikes were under cover on the rear patio. It was a really nice ride.