Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Speaking of bridge openings.... Updated 10/2

It has been reported that the new bridge on Ferndale Road just north of Kanis is complete and open to traffic. That reopens up several routes that use Ferndale and it should also reduce traffic on the detour route along Kanis and Denny Roads back to normal levels.

The good news of the bridge re-opening was tempered by the news that the nearby Ferndale grocery closed on Friday, September 30. The owners said that the detour created for the bridge construction caused their sales to drop by 75% and that they simply could not sustain the loss. There is another store nearby on Kanis, but the Ferndale Grocery has long been a convenient stop for cyclists.

Orbea Demo Day: Sunday, October 2

The fine folks at Spokes are hosting an Orbea factory demo ride at Victory Lake in Burns Park (that's the ski lake). Get a new mountain bike dirty on the Burns Park trails or check out one of the snazzy road bikes for a quick spin, perhaps down to the newly opened Clinton Park Bridge. I may have to ride on down and temporarily trade in my ti beauty so that I can sport some sweet new carbon around town on a Sunday ride.

Get in touch with Frank to reserve a bike. They plan to run a couple of shifts so that more folks will be able get on a bike. It's just good business to allow riders to experience the object of their bike lust on the road or trail. Bikes are a big investment but it's often impossible to get much of a test ride, so these demos are appreciated. To the uninitiated, bikes can seem absurdly expensive and impossible to rationalize. To many cyclists, getting out on the road on the saddle of the right bike makes the value of a few thousand bucks become pretty abstract.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Clinton Park Bridge Dedication, Freedom Fund Challenge Ride

There are several things going on around town in the coming weeks. I've received this information from a half dozen or more sources, but here it goes again, just in case you are on no e-mail lists.

from BACA:
Dedication and Opening of

Clinton Presidential Park Bridge

Friday, September 30, 2011

Come make history!  Ride the Bridge!   

Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas riders will start assembling at 10:30am at the River Market Pavilion, and arriving together at the Clinton Presidential Park at 11:00am.  Anyone on a bike will be able to stand in a special area just for us on the eastern side of the stage near the Clinton Center Fountains.   Now's the time to get out that BACA shirt and wear it!  There will be some available at the River Market.   

The program is scheduled to begin at 11:30am. After the conclusion (approximately 12:30pm) the stage will be cleared and our group will make history as we cross the bridge for the first time.   

The Bridge will be opened up especially for us...and will close at 2pm later in the day, but will reopen on Sunday at 8am for good. 

Arkansas Freedom Fund Challenge Ride

My friend Bryan Shipman asked me to share this timely ride information with you. Riders can dedicate the bridge this week and then jump on the first cycling event to use it!

Looks like a nice way to spend a fall day and help some soldiers and veterans.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

In The Bag: Another Successful Big Dam Bridge 100

Saturday broke cool and overcast and, as the day wore on, remained cool and overcast, which was perfect weather for the 2299 registered riders who rolled out LaHarpe Blvd in downtown Little Rock to begin the sixth edition of the Big Dam Bridge 100 bike tour. After crossing the BDB, riders headed north through Maumelle to Mayflower, where they headed east and north around Lake Conway. From there, the 100 mile riders headed west to cross the Arkansas River at Toad Suck to Wye Mountain, while the 55 and 68 mile riders headed east for their own little hill fests.

Get Over It! I liked the theme of this year's ride jerseys and the 55, 68 and 105 mile routes all had a little something to get over! This was about all the blue sky we got, but conditions were perfect for a ride!

Though I heard reports of many riders walking up Batesville Pike on the 55 and 68 mile course, the routes were not really that hilly and each was, in fact, quite excellent by all accounts! Every distance seemed to have some bonus miles thrown in with the "century" being shown as 105 miles, the "half-century" was 55 miles and the "100k" was 68 miles.
OK, I was ready to be done at 100 miles, so the extra 4.23miles was not necessary at all! My time was respectable enough, but the baddest boys also had another "4:23". That is, they finished in 4hours, 23minutes. Good job, boys, that's fast.

We had a good plan, but, like many good plans....

Our group saddled up for the century with a stated plan of sticking together, not dropping anyone from our bunch, enjoying the rest areas and generally making a leisurely day out of it. I don't know why we make silly declarations like that, but in that spirit we positioned ourselves well back from the front even though our pack was already split up by the time we rode the three blocks from our gathering point to the start area. "We'll get together on the road", we said, and we half-assed did just that, though it was reported that our leisurely pace out of town had dropped a portion of our group somewhere in the area of 200 yards from the start. I won't bore you with the details of our ride, but it was "game on" from the start and our bunch splintered into groups of 3 and 4 as we hooked up with different packs. Nobody wants to give up the power of the peloton to wait for somebody who may or may not still be behind you, and the strength of the big numbers can eat up the early miles with little individual effort if you're in at a pace you can work with. For much of the ride, I felt like I could have gone a little harder, but by the time we finished, I was toast, so I think I rationed my efforts well enough.

My best moment....

We made the stop at the Spokes sponsored station at mile 35 and stopped again at Bigelow to get some fluids before climbing Wye Mountain. As we rolled out from the Bigelow stop, a guy in an Air Force jersey slid up beside me and asked, "Are you JBar?". I introduced myself and he said something like, "I just wanted to thank you. Your blog kept me from going crazy while I was deployed in Kuwait. Reading your blog helped me keep up with the riding scene and stay in touch with what was going on at home, so I wanted to thank you." No. Thank you! I was admittedly touched.

Post Ride Party

For the last couple of years, Argenta Main Street has been an open street party, allowing the local establishments to sell "to-go" beverages and serve at tables outside on the street. The live music was good, hot dogs were served along with food from the area restaurants, and riders stuck around to enjoy the vibe and watch later finishers roll in.
Spokes seemed well represented at their rest stop, with the Spokes-mobile running SAG and a lot of kitted-out riders on the road. We were handed a finishers pin and chocolate milk at the finish, and the cold milk really hit the spot!
Good seats and good business. The local bars and restaurants enjoyed a busy afternoon as riders refueled with cold beer and good food as they recounted the tales of their day.
Food and a beer were at the top of the order for me, but many riders had other ideas, and I do love a post-ride massage!

Chad Cragle poses in front of the massive bike parking area and the food tents. Look closely and see if you can spot a bike nerd hidden in this photo.

Diane and I had a beer and hung around for a while before grabbing a very good pizza to-go from the Cornerstone and heading home for a nap and the Alabama beat-down of the Razorbacks, respectively.  This ride just keeps getting better and the routes for this year's event were by far the best yet! I really hated the old return down Maumelle Blvd.
Trraffic control was good and the rest stops we used were stocked with the right stuff by volunteers who were friendly and helpful.

Thanks to everyone involved! It was another great ride event for the BDB100 organizers and the central Arkansas cycling community.

Friday, September 23, 2011

From One End To The Other

Things seem to be in a constant state of evolution along the River Trail. The shine is still very much on the new Two Rivers Bridge and now two new features are open for use or soon will be.

From one end....
 Next Friday, September 30, dedication ceremonies will be held for both the long-awaited Clinton Park Bridge and the adjacent Bill Clark Wetlands, with the event being kicked off by President Clinton walking across the bridge from North Little Rock, then I assume he speaks, then cyclists are invited to ride en masse across the new bridge. Cyclists who want to participate should meet at the River Market Pavilion at 10:45 on Friday morning to gather with the BACA folks. I would suspect that there will be some waiting around before the riders are dispatched for the grand procession, but it should be fun nonetheless. The bridge will then be open until 2:00PM, after which it will be closed until it is opened to the public on Monday. I'm going to miss the dedication, but will scout out the new bridge very soon thereafter, I'm sure.

...to the other.

There is now a mountain bike trail(in the rough, at least)/hiking trail off of the base of River Mountain Road. It was reported as very rough with plenty of unridable hike-a-bike by some visiting nerds. Initial reports had it only needing a little "riding in", but I'll go with the more recent reports from the folks who have ridden it. Or tried.

I'll poach this photo from Joe Jacobs's excellent Arkansas Outside blog and then invite you to follow the link above for his article and more photos!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Big Dam Bridge 100

I finally got around to registering for this weekend's BDB100 this morning. I knew I was going to ride and just kept putting it off until I could pay the maximum fee in the spirit of community support. Diane thinks it's commitment aversion, but, heck I'm married and committed to all sorts of stuff, so that can't be it.

Boy, were we excited about the first BDB100, and it was a fantastic start to one of the best rides around.

In the excitement that led up to the first BDB100 on October 1, 2006, there was a lot of talk about growing the ride into the scale of the Hotter'n Hell Hundred in Wichita Falls, Texas. I haven't been for a few years, but I think there were close to 14,000 riders staged at the start for last HHH in which I participated. It was soon realized that the numbers for the BDB100 have to be somewhat limited if the ride is to utilize the bridge and trail system that inspired it. Central Arkansas is also very different place from Wichita Falls, which, frankly, is out in the middle of nowhere. Once you clear the nearby edge of town, 14,000 riders can actually cover up to 100 miles seemingly without disrupting a whole lot of traffic.

If you look carefully at this Google Earth shot of nowhere, you'll notice that Wichita Falls is right in the middle of it.

Here in God's country, the route has many more choke points in the form of bridges, overpasses, lakes, rivers and other limitations posed by the topography of the area, along with miles of sharing open roads with highway traffic. The accommodations made for rider safety last year left Maumelle Blvd / Highway 100 backed up for hours as riders trickled back into town. This year's course will be a very interesting one and it is made possible by the opening of the Two Rivers Bridge. The folks on Maumelle Blvd will be relieved and the route should have less traffic than the return through Mayflower and Maumelle; however, the new 100 mile tour is actually 105 miles and includes a bit of a stinger with a climb up Wye Mountain on Hwy 113 that comes at about mile 66. The old route included a much-cussed climb on Fortson Road, but that climb is much easier and came a little earlier in the ride. I should also mention that the Metric Century version of this year's ride is 68 miles instead of 62 and includes both Fortson Road and a lovely little climb on Batesville Pike that is late enough in the ride to cause some pain. The new routes will solve many of the traffic problems, but still are not suitable for moving huge throngs of riders such as those at the HHH; however, the BDB100 is growing and the vibe in Argenta for the finish was very nice and gave folks a reason to hose off at the open showers, put on some dry clothes and stick around for awhile. The bars and restaurants did a brisk business and everyone seemed happy with the day.
I don't expect the BDB100 to roll out 15,000 riders any time soon, but I think it can grow as big as it is allowed to. In the first year or two, the ride got page after page of coverage in the Democrat-Gazette and the event was promoted regionally.  The Dem-Gaz doesn't give it much coverage these days, but the newspaper business is hard and some of the novelty is gone, so the abbreviated coverage is understandable. I think organizers are allowing 2200 riders this year and will likely get close to that. With any degree of promotion it will grow, but for now the BDB100 is "right sized".
Now, it's time to eat well, hydrate, and get ready to ride on Saturday!

JBar's Lost and Found

My writing hasn't been flowing lately, so it looks like I've become the Lost and Found Department.
Passed on by my friend Liz:


We need your help.  Last night after our group workout, we accidentally drove off while both of our front bicycle wheels were resting against the side of Jeff's truck.  They had fully disappeared in less than 15 minutes - probably between 7:30 pm and 7:45 pm.  This was in the parking lot at the end of Catfish Drive on the NLR side of the River Trail.  Both wheels are in red Mavic wheel bags.  One is a Zipp 404 and the other is a Flashpoint without stickers. 

We hoping that a fellow cyclist may have picked them up and might try to find the owners.  Our contact information is below.  If you wouldn't mind, please forward this email to other relevant distribution lists you might be a part of.  We appreciate your help!!

Jeff Jenkins (jeffdjenkins@gmail.com, 501-351-3775)

Amy Jenkins (amyjojenkins@yahoo.com, 501-231-9674)

David Fike at River Trail Station said someone reported leaving a wheel in the same manner across from his shop. One of the local homeless guys later attempted to sell it to David, who notified the owner, though David was unable to talk the guy out of the wheel. That's a little far up the trail, but some of those folks ride bikes, too, and the wheels would be a target of opportunity. I'd try the pawn shops in downtown NLR before giving up. I hope they turn up!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thursday Evening Festivities on the Junction Bridge

Ride on down to the Junction Bridge on Thursday evening for a couple of exhibition events presented by the Arkansas Boathouse Club and the Grande Maumelle Sailing Club. I know that the Boathouse folks can show their stuff, but it will be interesting to see what the sailors bring to the party. Sailing on the river is a unique challenge due to the narrow channel, squirrelly winds and plenty of obstacles in the form of bridge pilings and jetties.

Found on River Trail: Seat Bag

Seat bag found in Burns Park area, Monday 9/19. Call me at 501.680.4127 or David at River Trail Station, 501-374-5505, and identify contents to claim.

Friday, September 16, 2011

So...what are those kickers for?

Some of my nerd friends reported from the Burns Park mountain bike trails that some fellow trail users had been less than polite. Apparently, a number of equestrians had used the trail. I say "apparently" because nobody saw the horses, but they were pretty certain that there had been horses there.
From what I was told, the trail was pretty well littered with gifts like this. Photo compliments of J. Gaston.

I don't blame the horse folks for not wanting to deal with the poop, but if you're going to ride horses on an urban multiuse trail, you need to kick it off of the trail. You'll feel better about it and it will make those shitkickers look and smell authentic.

On a similar thread, Labor Day weekend was cool and sunny, so the crowds came out to the Big Dam Bridge and the Two Rivers Bridge, bringing their dogs but leaving their manners at home. After the published warnings from Judge Villines that dogs could be banned, and the efforts of Nancy Elliott in spending many evenings at the BDB gathering signatures and speaking to dog owners in an effort to prevent the ban of dogs from the bridges, the bridges were a mess after the holiday weekend. Somebody ventured that it has just been too hot for the dogs to poop for awhile, but that's not quite the case. The folks who use the trail year-around seem to know the drill. The regular runners, walkers and riders get along pretty well , as we know what to expect from one another, but the tourists and other people who only show up on peak days seem to leave a trail of complaints and dog turds. They certainly have a right to be there and I'm glad to see the big crowds, but their poor behavior can threaten the privileges of responsible trail users.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Along The Trail

Turning The Seasonal Corner
The days have been getting shorter since the solstice, but darkness will be bumping into my ride times soon, and some of my commuter friends have been sporting lights for a couple of weeks. A few folks are already pulling on armwarmers in the morning and the sun is slipping to the southern horizon. I don't mind the heat as much as the dark, but we can't pick, so we have to adapt. We have to return to our winter ways and that means getting out the winter wear and also getting visible. It's a good time to change the batteries in your blinkies and charge up the headlights. We'll be riding at dawn and dusk more often, which also means that drivers will be all the more challenged to see us.

Open House at the Boathouse
The Arkansas Boathouse Club invited cyclists to drop by last Saturday to grab a snack, fill bottles, and register to win a $150.00 rowing experience. Diane and I rode down Saturday morning to check things out, as our kayak and canoe experience tends to make us attracted to people-powered boats and Diane is very interested in doing some rowing.
These aspiring oarsmen are doing dock drills in the 8-boat, a racing shell for 8 oarsmen and a cockswain. Protocol requires the cockswain, who barks orders but doesn't have to row, to be short and bossy.
The oar-to-boat ratio says a lot about the potential speed of these craft.
Design aside, the crew determines performance and these beginners are just getting a feel for things as they glide out on the Arkansas River.
One reason I gave up tandem canoes was the need for a reliable partner, so this single scull has appeal to me.

Thanks to the Arkansas Boathouse Club folks for hosting us!

Ya' just never know what you're gonna see....

I was taking it easy and just cruising around the trail system on Saturday. It was a beautiful day and the trail was active but not crowded. I was riding home along the NLR trail and, as I approached the point where the trail transitions onto River Road, I noticed a couple of photo shoots taking place. I have an interest in such things and always hope to pick up some ideas or information from more experienced photographers, so my attention was first drawn to the two guys on the right side of the road who were getting some  shots of their Dodge Ram pickup. My discerning eye immediately told me that the pickup photogs had been drawn to a shooting angle in which the river provided an interesting backdrop, but that they had totally ignored the position of the sun.  Their results may have been satisfactory for Craig's List or the Thrifty Nickel, but were unlikely to win any awards. After dismissing these guys as amateurs, I swung across the way to where another photographer, also photographing a pickup, was set up in front of the small structure across from the FOP. The building is used by a model train club and is painted in Union Pacific yellow, making for a background that has a little pop.

This shooter had good light and the elements of the yellow building, green grass and blue truck nicely divide the scene into thirds, which is very pleasing to the eye.
My made-up pseudo media credentials gained me immediate access to the set.
 My new friend's name was Cheyenne. I was tempted to put "Cheyenne" in quotation marks, thinking that it was unlikely to be the name that her mother gave her, but I refrained from doing so. Cheyenne and her photographer were very nice folks, so I wish them well and hope they sold the truck.

Budget Hold?
The price exceeded the budget for the new bridge across Shillcutt Bayou to replace the wooden bridge at Burn Park, so I understand that the project is on hold until additional funding is available.
I've heard that initial pricing for the Diamond Bear brew house project also exceeded expectations. The plans that came out for bid were not complete and contractors are often asked to bid from preliminary plans to help create a more realistic budget from which to go forward. I have no direct knowledge of the current plans for the project but would expect it to go on in some form. Diamond Bear will be a great addition to the area and will add the new facet of on-the-trail dining to the River Trail experience. I guess the closest thing to on-the-trail dining currently is Doe's on Markham, but the view from Doe's lacks grandeur. 

MS150 Ride the Rock
I admittedly didn't get on board for the MS150 this year as I have in years past, but thanks to a generous friend I was able to participate. I was only available to ride on Sunday but the course was ambitious enough, a 75 mile clockwise loop around Lake Maumelle from River Trail Station in North Little Rock. On Saturday, riders got to climb Wye Mountain about 2.5 times on an 83 mile route, the .5 coming on Ross Hollow Road which offers a descent off of Wye, followed by a sharp climb before continuing the descent. Since I only rode 35-40 easy miles on Saturday, I started Sunday with fresh legs, though I have to report that they didn't stay that way! By the time we headed back into town, I was dreading the climb up the BDB, but my companions dragged my sorry butt in and I rallied to BBQ and a cold Diamond Bear Presidential IPA back at the River Trail Station.
The MS150 is a ride for a great cause and I really enjoyed the years of riding from Mather Lodge at Petit Jean Mountain State Park

There were fewer riders that in years past, perhaps in part due to the new location and almost certainly due to the fact that 50-70,000 people were heading to War Memorial for some Hog football tailgating, but the support was very good with vehicles out on the road and plenty of rest stops. Our little group didn't need much more than water, but it is always nice to know that you will have an opportunity to fill bottles and grab some free food every ten miles or so. There was a lunch stop, but it was only about 9:30 when we went by and we rolled on and grabbed some bananas a little further up the road.
Lisa Brown has done a great job with this ride over the years and I expect it to regain momentum if it remains in Little Rock. Riders are able to choose from many events these days and this one requires a little planning and effort, but it is a fabulous organization for a worthy cause. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

No Speed Trap: Radar Cop At The BDB

There was a little buzz last Saturday morning among riders on the River Trail concerning the fact that a NLR police officer was parked at the foot of the Big Dam Bridge with a radar gun, clocking riders coming off of the bridge. Contrary to what I was told by one rider, Officer Beaston was not handing out tickets, but was gathering data on the speed of riders as they came down the north ramp.

Though he was parked discreetly in the classic speed trap mode, Officer Beaston was just in the "information gathering" mode. He had clocked and noted the speed of about 300 riders, only a few of which appeared to be riding above a reasonable speed.

The study was prompted by a couple of recent cyclist-pedestrian accidents that resulted in injuries, one to the cyclist and the other to the pedestrian. Beaston is a rider and has done some racing, so his perspective on cycling was an informed one and, while I won't put words in his mouth, I will say that we were of about the same opinion as to what appeared to be safe and reasonable and what appeared to be irresponsible. North Little Rock officers have been present on the trail, either on a 4-wheeler or on a bike, the last few Saturdays and I think that's a good thing. The best way to get a feel for trail use is to be out there.
There has been a lot of discussion about sharing the trail of late, much of it centering on somehow controlling cyclists. In my opinion, folks cannot be forced to use good judgement. The speed limit on the I-30 bridge may be 65 MPH, but there are many times that you will get passed by almost every car on the road at that speed. There are also periods of heavy use when only a madman would attempt to maintain 65 MPH. The same principal applies to the bridges. There are many times when descending off of the ramp at 18-20 MPH is perfectly reasonable and other times when it is difficult to maintain 5 MPH, as was the case on Two Rivers Bridge last Monday.
On that note, there were very few what I'd call "serious" cyclists out Labor Day evening when I got to ride. The biggest hazards I encountered were the family of five with bikes parked sideways across the trail while Mom untangled her earbuds, the guy on the BDB with two dogs on 20' leashes, each extended in a different direction, and the oncoming runners who couldn't decide which side of the trail to run on, so they split up and took the whole damn thing. All of those are everyday occurrences on a shared trail, so I'm unlikely to do any letter writing to complain.
It's really not too hard to get along if you start with reasonable expectations and some good manners.

Share the trail. Share the responsibility.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Bike to Boathouse: Saturday Morning Open House, Sept. 10

The Arkansas Boathouse Club will be holding an open house "Bike to Boathouse" event from 7:30-10:00AM next Saturday morning, September 10.

"The Arkansas Boathouse Club is hosting an open house on Saturday morning 9-10-11 from 7.30a - 10.00a  We're setting up a "Hydration Station" at the Boathouse to offer free energy food and drink to all cyclists.  Plan your Saturday ride to take a quick rest, refuel, and check out what rowing the Arkansas River is all about.   Rowing is a great way to cross train and we'll be raffling a free Discovery Row - a weekend learn to row - a $150 value- to all that stop by and register.  Pass along this hydration station invitation to the rest of your Peloton. "

Drop by to register for the "Discovery Row"! We've all seen the rowing shells gliding down the river and now, it could be you! Drop by to visit or top off your bottle before the MS150.
Thanks to Lawrence Finn for including us in the loop!

Two Rivers Bridge Closure: Light Installation

The Two Rivers Bridge will be closed  next Tuesday, Wednesday and  Thursday, day and night, as LED lighting similar to that on the BDB is installed. The closure was reported in the Dem-Gaz and elswhere, but I've seen conflicting reports on the duration of the closure. My information comes from the Pulaski County Department of Public Works.
I'm looking forward to seeing the new lighting. It is possible that the closure may stretch to Friday. I'll get an update next week.

The above has been  corrected. The bridge will be closed Tuesday, Wednesday and likely Thursday.