Saturday, October 29, 2011

City Of Little Rock: Signs of Progress on the South Shore

I recently had the opportunity to visit with Little Rock Assistant City Manager Bryan Day. It was a bit of an accident of scheduling that I met with Bryan, as he was originally going to meet with Sam Ledbetter to discuss street/trail maintenance issues along Rebsamen Park Road as viewed by cyclists. Sam and I had scouted and discussed what we felt were some threats to rider safety so I volunteered to fill in when Sam could not make the scheduled meeting.
We were not setting out to resolve any of the big problems, such as the LaHarpe/Cantrell trail gap, but we wanted to show Bryan some problems that we felt could be addressed with existing resources. It turned out to be a learning experience for me and, hopefully, Bryan was able to gain some insight as to the needs and views of at least a segment of the cycling community. We started at the intersection of Riverfront and Rebsamen Park Roads where the bike path ends. Some recent utility work had resulted in the effective narrowing of the trail as some dirt and large rocks had been left on the margins of the trail. We felt this represented an unnecessary hazard to riders and walkers as sight distance is limited, west bound riders are coming off of the road and east bound riders are trying to assess traffic in both directions as they leave the trail and cross multiple traffic lanes at a fairly complex intersection. I learned to my surprise that the utility work was being done in preparation for the construction of a traffic circle at that location. So much for my being in the loop!

The overlay shows the location of the planned traffic circle and extensions of the bike lanes on Riverfront Drive.

In addition to the roundabout, the bike lanes on Riverfront Drive will be extended a few hundred feet to the east. As I understood, the bike lanes will not extend all the way to the existing bike lanes, which will still leave a few hundred feet of shared single lane road. I would hope that will be addressed, as that particular westbound stretch is fairly narrow and is divided by a median, preventing drivers from moving to their left when encountering cyclists. I typically just take the lane to force drivers to slow for the few seconds it takes me to pass through.
The other things we discussed were general maintenance problems like patching potholes and trimming back brush. After some input from cyclists, the bike lanes and path have been recently swept and some of the major pot holes have been filled, but hazards remain, mostly in the form of long, narrow cracks or pot holes which are difficult to effectively patch. The road has not seen resurfacing in many years and as a result there is an accumulation of patched utility cuts, poorly executed repairs, and deterioration at the seams where the road meets the separately paved shoulder/bike lanes. In addition, the white side lines are of a material that looks like some sort of reflective ceramic that is beyond its useful life and that flakes off in shards that can easily cut a bike tire. The bottom line is that the road won't get much better until it is resurfaced. Bryan was candid in saying that any street resurfacing would likely have to wait for the recently passed sales tax increase to provide a funding stream, but that he would attempt to make this a priority. I'm certain that since Little Rock has been unable to do any street resurfacing in recent years, there will be a long list of "priority" projects, so I suggest we take a realistic view of a timeline. It's on the radar.

I appreciated the opportunity to visit with Bryan and he was very positive about Little Rock's efforts to become more bike friendly. He asked that cyclists report specific problems to his office or by dialing 311. I've had mixed reports on the effectiveness of the 311 service, but would be interested in how it works. Would someone like to call in their favorite Little Rock pot hole to 311and let me know if it gets fixed?
I know that the Little Rock Bike Friendly Community Committee has been working hard toward earning Bike Friendly status with the League of American Bicyclists, and the City has been responsive. With the funding provided by the sales tax and what seems to be renewed interest on the part of the City of Little Rock, I think we'll finally see some very positive cycling related developments on the south side of the river.

The elephant in the kitchen...
The elephant in the kitchen, of course, is what I've fondly referred to as the Moronic Mile. That gaping hole in the River Trail system has been the biggest target for criticism of Little Rock's commitment to cycling infrastructure. I don't want to go too far beyond my specific knowledge, but the general consensus is that the completion of the trail from downtown to Riverdale has been effectively blocked by Stephens (Cathedral School) and/or Dillards interests. At this time, Metroplan has been given the task of seeking a Tiger Grant to fund a plan that would route the trail behind Dillards along the river. Given the current political climate, I would not make a bet on the grant being approved and the project would still need cooperation from Dillards for the right-of-way. An article in Friday's Democrat-Gazette reported that a public hearing on the matter had taken place on Thursday, including the presentation of an ambitious design that runs along the bluffs behind Dillards HQ and the Packet House. According to the Dem-Gaz, Metroplan has $592,000 in federal funds and $148,000 from Pulaski County to complete engineering and environmental studies. I question the wisdom of spending that much money without at least tacit approval of the plan from Dillards, but I can be naive about the politics of such things, and the fate of this trail section is certainly all about money, politics and the influence of a few powerful local figures.Let's hope that the interests of the community are served. By the way, the "elephant" has been given a more attractive name. The proposed trail section was referred to as the "River Bluff" trail section. Very nice. Let's hope that it happens. I'm already tired of the "Moronic Mile".

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Forming Now! "No Drop" Winter Group Rides

Are you looking forward to a winter of cold, lonely rides, legs growing pasty white and more hairy by the day? Or, worse yet, watching your hard earned fitness disappear beneath the rubble of beer bottles, pizza boxes and Cheeto bags that surrounds your La-Z-Boy recliner?
Would you rather skip the lights, tights and shoe covers and sweat it out on a nice warm ride with a bunch of like-minded motivated cyclists? A ride on which you will never be dropped?
Well, folks, it ain't the vision of paradise that is currently running through your mind, but it's an option. Scotti and Ernie are offering indoor cycling classes at the Chainwheel to help you get through the winter without becoming a blob and perhaps even help you roll into next spring with better fitness than you have now!

I'm not a poster boy for training discipline and I will readily admit to an aversion to the trainer (the device, not Ernie!), but there is probably no better way to stay fit or get fit than a regular supervised program that is cycling specific. You may not see me on the trainer, but in exchange for this pitch I expect Scotti to send me a list of the stars of this class. And those folks can expect me to be latched to their wheel come spring.

Just got word that spots are filling fast. Make the call if you're interested.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Some Stuff That's Going On

The Felt truck comes to Spokes this Thursday afternoon, October 27, with the 2012 models for your perusal. This is not a test ride or demo, but a chance to see the eye candy of next year's Felt product line. The truck should be there sometime Thursday afternoon and the folks will stick around at least until closing time. Look at Spokes on Facebook for an update with details.

November 13 Full Moon Walk on the Big Dam Bridge. Diane and I did this walk last year and it makes for a spectacular evening out on the river if the weather cooperates. This is not a bike event, but it was nice to stroll the bridge and it might be worthwhile to take a walk up to Two Rivers Bridge.


OK, this is some real bullshit, but two local riders have had their bikes stolen in the last couple of days. I hope it's not a sign of things to come as dirtbags learn the value of bikes and find a market.

The bike in the photo was stolen last weekend. If you see this unique bike, let Jonathan Sebring know. It was stolen early Sunday morning in Little Rock. I don't have his info, but you can contact Arkansas Cycling and Fitness.

This bike was stolen from Jeff Pascoe   []. It was equipped with Mavic Cosmic Carbone wheels when stolen.

I have no idea how to chase these bikes down, other than checking Craig's List, E-Bay and local pawn shops. As riders, we need to keep an eye out for high-end bikes in unlikely places. A guy riding down the sidewalk in an overcoat carrying his belongings in a trash sack is unlikely to be the legitimate owner of an S-Works road bike with carbon wheels.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Slowing, slowing.....

Wintertime Blues? Well, not quite.

I can almost feel things slowing down as I try to hold on to every last warm afternoon. Six o'clock sunsets and morning darkness serve as reminders of impending winter and, while I must admit that I'm struggling to adjust, I'll find my rhythm soon enough. My summertime routine of riding the River Trail almost every evening does more for me than just keep my legs turning. For many of us, those weekday rides are where we see our friends and make some new ones, where we get local news and gossip, and where we can regularly burn off any tensions and frustrations gathered from a day on the job. So, I'm approaching winter with an emotion somewhere this side of dread, though there are some things that I'm looking forward to.

Mountain Biking
I just can't get interested in mountain biking during an Arkansas summer. I'm not averse to the heat or to getting dirty; however, I do manage to get enough chigger, tick, buffalo gnat, and mosquito bites while working at the river place without heading to the woods. On days when it's harshly cold and windy, I'm driven to the cover of the trees and then get my mountain bike groove on. Frankly, I'm not a technically good mountain bike rider, but I do get into it and out on the dirt is the only place I ride with earbuds, so I select one of my "Ride Tracks" playlists and disappear into the woods. I seldom have any problems staying warm on the mountain bike, so I love it on the coldest days.

I don't have much ambition to ride cyclocross, but I think it is probably the best cycling discipline for sheer crowd entertainment, and I've missed some really rowdy events. Mostly just because I haven't been paying attention. Here's a link to the local 'cross scene. I've got the November 27 Turkey Burn on my radar with high expectations of frites and beer.

Night Time Rides
I haven't done many winter night rides in the last couple of years, but my lights are charged and I'm determined to get in more "light" rides. It's more fun to start with a group because once you're on the bike, you can't identify passing friends. Some of the Nerds have been having a blast riding single track at night. I'll need a new lightset for that, but it's on the "to do" list.

Note: riders who have lights over about 67 lumens, please beware that oncoming riders may be blinded by your approach. Please try to keep your light out of my eyes and I'll do the same.

My reduced activity level also slows my stream of subject matter, so forgive me if you feel you're not getting your money's worth here!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Chainwheel and CARVE Anniversary Extravaganza

Chainwheel and CARVE  celebrated 40-year and 10-year milestones on Sunday with a ride and party alongside the River Trail at Murray Park. I showed up right on time to sign a waiver, gather some great swag, and saddle up to go on a 40k ride in recognition of Chainwheel's birthday. The point was made that it is unusual for a team to be around for 10 years and downright remarkable that a bike shop is still prospering after forty years. The folks who put together bike businesses like Competitive Cyclist and Orbea USA all paid their dues at Chainwheel before launching their own successful endeavors, so that says a lot about the culture.
 CARVE has always enjoyed sponsorship and a close association with Chainwheel. That bond remains, though the current leadership has tried to make CARVE more inclusive and a bit less of a "store team".

Cyclists who joined the road or mountain bike rides were presented with some pretty good swag, including mugs, some new style water bottles, and Swiftwick socks. Throw in some Fat Tire  and barbecue and it's no wonder there was a large turnout!
The road ride group was huge! It was supposed to split into A, B, and C groups and I guess it did. I guess I was in the A group, but I don't think I saw the front until we turned around at Barrett Road near Pinnacle State Park. The pack was smaller by then, but the rollout was bigger than that of many event rides.

Both pavilions were teeming with hungry folks. I made it a point to stick around for cake.
Scott Penrod introduced the CARVE juniors, cyclists 18 and under.
Michael Mattox and Sid DeGarmo presented a $1000.00 check to CARTI, represented by Rebekah Howe, Steve Bentley, Dustin Hearne. CARVE raised the money with the hugely successsful Star Spangled Criterium and promises more such events in the future.
Scott Penrod presenting $1000.00 to Sallie and Jim Culbreth of Teen Challenge of Arkansas.

Pat Barron used the opportunity of the event to introduce Chainwheel's newest bike line, Pinarello. Pinarello reflects the best in current bike technology in classic Italian style. The brand should be a great fit for Chainwheel.

It's great to see both Chainwheel and CARVE successful and growing. Central Arkansas is fortunate to have a bike culture that is thriving and that gives so much back to the community in many ways.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times blog asked readers if anyone had some photos of migrating monarch butterflies to share. It just so happened that I had been stalking the critters with my SLR as they visited the monster zinnias in our front yard Saturday, so I offered some pics up to Max. He used one here and offered a link to this blog, so here are a few more shots for visiting Times readers and my regular crew. 

I hope these guys moved on ahead of last night's cold front. The weekend was certainly perfect weather for flowers, butterflies, and bicyclists!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Energetic Rider: Trying To Do It All...

....and failing, of course, but a big Saturday, nonetheless!
To start the day, the CARVE Ride.....
 It was a clear, cool morning when I had a quick breakfast and left the house in time to make the short ride down JFK/Main St. to join the 7:30 CARVE ride at the sub. A pretty big group of probably 30 or more riders rolled out for the loop east of town, and when we finished up a couple of hours later, I had ridden 45 miles. The pace on the winter CARVE rides are pretty civil, but I wasn't done and needed to prep for round 2, so I rode up to the Argenta Market and refueled with a half-pint of pasta salad (very good, by the way!) and a banana. After second breakfast, I headed back to the sub to meet the next ride.

 ..followed by the Spokes Cervelo demo ride...
Cliff Li, Virgil Young and two mystery riders ready to ride out on Cervelo R3's.

The Spokes and Cervelo folks were getting pedals mounted and bikes fitted up for their second demo ride of the day when I arrived a little before 11:00. I had the opportunity to ride an R3 a few weeks ago, so I just jumped in with this group on my own bike. We rode up the River trail, over the BDB and out through Two Rivers Park to Pinnacle Valley Road. The trail portions of the ride were kept to an easy pace, but once out on the road, these guys wanted to test the bikes, so the speed picked up and there was always some smart-aleck rocketing off of the front. This ride was about 25 miles and we got back to the Spokes portable world HQ near the sub around 1:00.

...and then the after-party at Spokes
One of the reasons I wanted to  poach on to this ride is because there was a post-ride party at the store at which they were drawing for a world champion jersey signed by current champ Thor  Hushovd. I managed to ride home, grab a shower and a third breakfast, fetch Diane, and still get to Spokes by 2:00 in order to take my chances on what I now considered to be "my Thor Hushovd signed world champion's jersey". Spokes really does a good job most of the time and I've been impressed at how much a part of the cycling community that the store has become in less than a year, but I must say they did a lousy job on the drawing.

The coffee bar at Spokes allows customers to enjoy their refreshments while supervising the hired help in the shop. Here, Mat appears to be squaring away his S5 after letting it go on the ride without him. 
Jeremy, the Cervelo rep, prepares to draw for the coveted jersey. Everything from bike shorts to shop aprons had already been given away before the awaited moment.

And, as had been the case with every other prize, I was shockingly NOT the lucky winner! The real lucky winner shown here, Gary Fowler, was delighted!

Mat and Regina Seelinger of Spokes, along with Steve, Scott, Adam and the rest of the crew, really know how to be hospitable. There was a big spread of good food and plenty of swag give-away to complement the usual congenial atmosphere. Mat told me early in their operation that his goal was to be known as the friendliest bike shop around. That's a good way to earn some business and it seems to be working for them.

...and then I had to cook dinner!
By the time we left Spokes, I felt that I'd already had a full day. Eighty-something miles on two separate rides, three breakfasts, and an afternoon social were on the books when Diane reminded me that I was cooking pork tenderloin for dinner. My work is never done.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Teens On Mountain Bikes: Look Out, Trail Riders!

My young friend Alex Bumpers, along with Garrett Phelps and others, have been recruiting mountain bikers from among their classmates, with support from Chris Randle. This is 15-year old Alex's initiative and his goal is to form a juniors mountain bike race team for Catholic High and attract other juniors to mountain biking. Pretty ambitious! I came across them Thursday night near the Pfeiffer Loop as they gathered for a workout and some fun and games. Maybe it's because feel like I missed out on a lot as a kid for a number of reasons, but it just delights me to see these guys out riding, racing, getting fit and have a blast doing it. They are the polar opposite of the image of today's youth being overweight underachievers. They warmed up on Pfeiffer loop and then I think they did a time trial loop before setting out cones for a slalom drill. Spokes also provided Chris with a big bag of water bottles, cages, and other swag to serve as prizes.

The teens are lined up, along with Chris Randle and Scott Penrod, for a Thursday evening of mountain bike race training, drills and games. I know several of the young guys, but was impress with their numbers and the fact that there were several girls in the bunch.
They were still working on the methodology, but the orange cones were set up in a dual slalom pattern to allow riders to go head-to-head. The fun thing about this arrangement is that the crowd can see (and laugh at!) every move. Judging from the crashes, putting the course on the grass was a good move.

Some of these young folks are experienced and capable riders, while others are just learning the basics, but all of them were enthusiastic and having fun. There is a lot of youthful talent around and people like Chris, Scott and Ernie Lechuga are helping them with training and logistical support. This bodes well for the future of cycling.

Note: My apologies for the poor photo quality. Some dirty thieving SOB rifled my apparently unlocked truck and relieved me of my pocket camera.

Notes to self:
1. Don't leave valuables in truck.
2. Lock truck.

Reminder: Arkansas Freedom Fund Challenge Ride

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted this. I think Bryan is expecting a pretty good turn out!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

From Spokes: Cervélo e-Ride Demo Event; plus Post Ride Store Event

Edit Fri 10/14: In addition to the ride, there will be a drawing at Spokes for a Thor Hushovd autographed world championship jersey!

Join us October 15th @ 2:00pm for snacks and refreshments at the SPOKES Bike Shop immediately after the Cervelo eRide and register to win a Thor Hushovd autographed jersey.

Riders that participate in the Cervelo eRide will have their name submitted 5 times for a chance to win the jersey, and those that drop by the shop around 2pm for snacks and refreshments can enter their name once.

Hmmmmm..., if I do both test rides, can I get 10 chances? I'm willing to work for this kind of swag!!!!

I told you that there is a lot going on in the cycling community! Spokes is bringing back the Cervélo e-Ride demo event this Saturday. As some of you disappointed readers may recall, the last time this event came to town, all of the bikes were reserved early and by the time the in-store reservations were added to those taken by the Cervélo rep, there was a waiting list for R-3's.  Mat hooked me up for that ride and I've got to say, the R-3 is an impressive bicycle! This go 'round, the Saturday date will make two rides possible if required to fill the demand. If the 11:00AM ride goes, the energetic rider could start off with the CARVE winter ride out east at 7:30, return in time to go by the Boathouse Club hydration station for refueling, then hop on an R-3 for the demo ride.

Here are the details from the Spokes website:

Cervelo e-Ride Returns to LR October 15 @ 9am
éRide 2011 is coming back to Little Rock, AR October 15th at 9am.
éRide, Cervélo’s national test ride program is coming back to Little Rock, AR on October 15th, brought to you by Spokes Little Rock. The demo will depart from 100 Riverfront Park, North Little Rock, 72114 (Locals know this as "The Sub") The ride will leave at 9:00 am, 25 miles, average speed approximately 17 mph. Pre-Registration is required. We will offer a 2nd ride at 11 am if need be to allow for all to participate.

If you’ve dreamed of riding a Cervélo, this is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. éRide allows you to throw a leg over the same racing bikes ridden by the Garmin-Cervélo team and other top athletes.

The demo fleet will consist of 2011 Cervélo R3’s. The R3 has been the standard for lightweight, stiff, strong and comfortable frames. Its super-thin seatstays, Squoval tube shapes, and in-house developed layup were a major leap forward in frame design. This season, Cervélo again raised the bar with the introduction of BBright – a new bottom bracket standard that optimizes stiffness and weight of the frame and crankset as a system.
There is no charge to test ride, however you will need to complete a waiver and provide a photo ID and credit card while riding. Please remember to bring your pedals, shoes and helmet!
For more information go to:
Join us at éRide. Call the shop to register or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Attention: CARVE Members and Chainwheel Customers...

If you live in Central Arkansas and ride a bicycle, chances are very good that you are a Chainwheel customer. I think that means that this is for you! If you're not a Chainwheel customer yet, you can rush on by and spend some money to become an instant qualifier. All of you CARVE types should already be in the loop, but for the rest of you, here's an invitation to what should be a cool fall event!

October 16: Chainwheel/ CARVE 40th/ 10th Anniversary Picnic





Join us and help celebrate 40 years in Central Arkansas. Our co-host, Team CARVE, is celebrating their 10th anniversary and we're making it an extravaganza - group rides, food, music and more. Chainwheel wants to give thanks to it's community and customers,
hope you can make it.

Plus, Chainwheel will be unveiling an exciting new brand option available in our store!


Join us on ROAD and MTB group rides
for all experience levels

Wheels roll at 1:00PM 
leaving from pavilions 1&2

The road ride is 40km for our 40th - (26 miles)
or you can ride off road for 1.5 hours

I edited this post to include the official invitation.

Pay Dirt Day at Burns Park; Hydration Station at Boathouse Club

The guys at CARVE are really active these days. From Tom Burks of CARVE:

CARVE is sponsoring a Pay Dirt day on Oct 22 from 8:30-12:30.  Meet at the BMX track. Will be working on some of the off-camber stuff that is likely to deteriorate with winter rains, horse traffic, and riders, like me, who have trouble staying on the trail. Might clean up a few rock gardens, if we have the man power. People need to bring tools, water, etc. Ride great IMBA trails afterward. My # is 317-6934. Thanks, Tom

OK, you Nerds, this is home trail. You know who you are!

From Lawrence Finn of the Arkansas Boathouse Club:

The Arkansas Boathouse Club is hosting an open house on Saturday morning 10-15- 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.

Arkansas Boathouse Club Discover Rowing Opportunity

OK, so now I'm a shill for the Boathouse Club. Diane is going to give it a try and I'll report unless she swears me to secrecy.

It's not all about the bike!

Well, not all the time, anyway. Things are hoppin' around Central Arkansas these days, so much so that I haven't done a great job keeping up with reporting events, much less participating in all of the things that interest me.
Among the many things that I didn't do were the Arky100, the Heber Springs Tri at the Lake, the Spokes Orbea demo, and the Clinton Park Bridge dedication. I did manage to get some time on my bike, made the first CARVE winter ride a couple of  Saturdays ago, toured the new bridge, visited the Two Rivers Bridge at night for the first time, and attended a recent BACA meeting. I pretty well skipped riding last weekend in order to spend Friday evening through Sunday at our place on the Little Red near Heber Springs, only saddling up to preview the short bike course for the Heber tri with my friend Chris Irons. Obviously, Chris was paying close attention to my style as we scouted, as he won his division on Sunday. I don't know how to take credit for his run and swim legs, but I'll think of something.
Like many of us, I start getting a little anxious about bike time during the fall. The days are getting shorter, weekends are filled with other demands and my appetite seems to crave fare that is better suited for hibernation prep than for long hours in the saddle. Last weekend, for at least one weekend, I just let riding go and fully enjoyed sleeping in until past dawn on a cool Sunday morning, eating cheese dip, counting fish caught instead of miles, and simply soaking up some of life's many little pleasures. Other than the short Saturday ride, my weekend was devoted to tilling up some new garden spots, getting some fall planting done, trimming tree limbs, mowing a few acres, trout fishing in the river, bream fishing in the pond, watching football, and eating all the wrong stuff.

Along with my nephew Jack and his buddy Kyle, Diane and I harvested some big bluegill from our pond.

There is no chance of this crew missing a bite! Diane is an excellent fisherman, but she has nothing on Willie when it comes to focusing on the bobber, here wading in for a closer look. He has fallen off of the dock a couple of times in his excitement over a caught fish.
Willie has little interest in trout, leading brother Frank to deem him a redneck hound. I think Willie knows that our trout fishing is catch-and-release and he's all about eating something.

There is no better eating than bream fillets and very few things more fun than fishing with some capable 12-year old boys. Remarkably, all of my companions had disappeared when it came time to clean the fish. My expectation is that they'll be back just in time for a fish fry.

Now, it's back to the bike or I'll be fat before Thanksgiving. And Diane is baking cookies.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Along The Trail: From the Eyes of a Visitor

Monday evening, I set out for my ride in a very laid back and lazy state of mind. I wanted to see the Two Rivers Bridge with lights on, so planned to be up that way around dark. Just because the Clinton Park Bridge is new, I headed that way to start my ride from Burns Park. The new bridge is pretty cool and definitely has a different feel than the BDB and Two Rivers Bridge. As I slowly made my way across the bridge, stopping to take some photos and admire the views with the rest of the tourists, I decided to ride the entire loop of the River Trail. I wanted to view this ride from the eyes of a visitor intent on riding the River Trail Loop as described in the tourism publications.
The Clinton Park Bridge, which long ago served the Choctaw Line, is once again open for business. It is a very nice addition to the Clinton Library and to the River Trail system, and should be a boon to commuters using the NLR trail to access downtown Little Rock.

This sculpture is a fitting welcome.
The views are spectacular and the mix of old and new structure on the bridge makes for interesting geometry. The ride down the NLR trail to here is easy to follow and mostly isolated from traffic. That changes at the foot of the new bridge.

After crossing the bridge, I made my way along what I assumed to be the trail as it winds behind the River Market and on to the Medical Mile.   The trail isn't really well marked as it crosses drives and parking lots, but manageable if you have confidence in your general direction. As I made my way out of the River Market, the trail passes under a shady arbor, beneath which two very drunk middle aged guys appeared to be having a domestic dispute as one whirled around a bike on its kickstand in the middle of the path while the other derided him for some offense. Under the Broadway Bridge, the trail passes a food kitchen for the homeless and several dozen folks were lined up for dinner. A block further down and the trail comes to an end. Part of the trail collapsed into the river a couple of years ago and remains impassable. That's of little consequence, because even with the Medical Mile intact riders were simply forced back to Markham Street at the UP RR tracks instead of at Arch Street, as is presently the case.

End of the line.

 From here, the designated bike route takes Arch to Markham St., then continues on via Cross to the point where riders are forced to cross oncoming traffic lanes and take to the sidewalk, gravel-strewn North Street, more sidewalk, a little misdirection down a one-lane one-way bit of street under the Cantrell viaduct over the UP tracks, and across an often busy parking lot and driveway for Cajun's Wharf before connecting back to designated bike paths and lanes.
I have not really been much of a crusader for completion of the River Trail along what I like to call the Moronic Mile, but my recent loop ride from the eyes of a visitor was a revelation. All I can say is that it's a damn shame that the City of Little Rock can't get it together to complete this now confusing and potentially dangerous gap in our trail system. While our bike advocacy leadership debates how to reel in "rogue cyclists" on the trail, I'm not hearing nearly enough discussion aimed at promoting cycling and pushing Little Rock to carry their share of the trail system. LR got a million dollars from the state several years ago to go toward the project. The recent sales tax initiative was passed. Surely, out of the $500 million that the new tax should generate over the next decade, a way can be found to complete the trail along what is now the "Moronic Mile".

The original mission...

And, yes, the Two Rivers Bridge looks very cool with the new lighting!

More on the BDB100: Rouleurs and Strollers

NLR Leadership on a Roll
I was remiss in not mentioning this in my earlier post on the subject, but when it comes to bike advocacy, there are several folks in North Little Rock city government who do more than talk the talk. They ride the bike! Mayor Pat Hays and NLR Parks Director Bob Rhoads both rode the 104 mile distance, while Alderman Charlie Hight rode the 68 miler.
Charlie Hight was very enthusiastic about his wholesome post ride chocolate milk, while also promoting a Miller product for his day job at Harbor Distributing.

Taking nothing away from Charlie or Bob, I've got to show some admiration for the Mayor. Bob is a long-time roadie and Charlie elected the shorter distance so that he could make the Arkansas-Alabama kick-off (too bad about that result!). Mayor Hays went all in. I believe that it was his first century and I know that the hilly route was much harder than his favorite ride on the pancake flat Harper's Loop. It was a long day on the road for him, but he stuck it out to the finish. Good job by all!
NLR Mayor Pat Hays is greeted by his grandchildren at the finish. A well-earned reward for a long, hard day in the saddle. photo by Bud Laumer

I didn't come up with a picture of Bob Rhoads, but we've chatted some recently about his riding "back in the day". The man has got some history on the bike and can still turn a crank.

Now, about all of that hill walking...
By all reports, every major climb on all of the routes, including Wye Mountain, Fortson Road and Batesville Pike, saw large numbers of riders off of the bike and hoofing it. I'm certainly not belittling anyone, but I'm curious about the phenomenon. Yes, there were some hard climbs, but I've heard surprising confessionals from strong riders who admitted to taking the stroll. I think there are a several classes of walkers:

- The "step up to a challenge rider": these are the folks for whom this ride is about as hard as anything they've ever done on the bike. They accepted that they were at the limit of their current ability and that if walking was what it took to finish, then they were going to walk. Frankly, these folks had a much harder day than many of us and they are to be commended.
- The "lemmings": It's OK, everybody is doing it!  I'm only poking a little bit of fun here, but many of these riders would never have stepped off of the bike if there had not been a parade of walkers strung out on the hill in front of them. All of that company made it acceptable, whereas if they had been surrounded by merciless friends like mine, pride would have never let them put a foot down. As Diane's dainty riding partner so succinctly stated to her on Batesville Pike, "I'll f'ing die before I walk that hill.", and up they went.
-The "intimidated by a sign" riders: apparently there was a sign on Batesville Pike warning of "steep climb next 4 miles" or something to that effect. I spoke to several riders who were so disheartened by the prospect of such a daunting climb that they gave up before they ever started. To them I say, "Don't believe everything you read." It's usually not as bad as your worst fears.

Climbing is a mindset. Once doubt sets in and resolve is broken, the legs soon follow. I'm not much of a climber, but so far I've managed to finish what I've started, often with more whimper than roar. I will admit to having danced on the side of a steep street near home at the end of a long, hard ride, dealing with screaming leg cramps while eying the top of a hill temptingly within easy walking distance. It took a couple of tries to get my leg back over the bike, but I remounted and squeaked up the hill. I'm not the toughest guy around and my day will surely come, but I just couldn't bring myself walk it. Of course, I didn't have another 25 miles of ride in front of me!

Joe Jacobs had a nice write up on the BDB100, and includes some interesting demographic information:

Joe does a very nice job. After you read his BDB article, click on "home" to check out his more recent work. Good stuff!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Favorite Time of Year: Ladies Month!

Ladies Month is something that Hallmark should embrace, perhaps, but for now it is the domain of Arkansas Cycling and Fitness. I was remiss in getting this out just after the Specialized demo ride. I hope that Addie will forgive me and that she had a big turn out, but there is still plenty on the calendar for all of you femmes out there!

October is Ladies' Month at Arkansas Cycling & Fitness

Ladies, I have organized lots of fun stuff for you for the month of October! We have road and mountain bike rides (all levels are welcome!), Specialized Ladies Demo, fix-a-flat class and sales!!! Read below for the details! If you have any questions, please email me: I hope to see you gals at these events! - Addie.

  • October 1st – Ladies mountain bike ride in Barling, AR. We will be pre- riding “Springhill” race course. Email Addie at if you want more info and are interested in going!
  • October 3rd – Specialized Ladies demo from 3-7pm.
  • October 8th – Fix-a-flat clinic at will be held in the big pavilion at the base of NLR Big Dam Bridge at 9:30am before the ladies road ride at 10am.
  • October 15th – NO RIDE this weekend!
  • October 22nd – Ladies road ride at 1pm.
  • October 23rd – Ladies mountain bike ride at 10am.
  • October 29th – Ladies mountain bike ride in Arkadelphia, AR. We will be pre- riding “Iron Mountain” race course. Email Addie if you want more info and are interested in going! 

All road rides meet in the big pavilion at the base of Big Dam Bridge in North Little Rock. This is a social, no drop ride. Beginners/newbies are welcome! We will ride from NLR Dam Bridge to River Market to have lunch/snacks and back.

Mountain bike ride on Oct 23rd meet in the Victory Lake parking lot in North Little Rock. This is a social, no drop ride. Beginners/newbies are welcome! We will ride from Victory Lake parking lot to Pfeifer Loop, yellow loop at Burns Park and/or other sections

Specialized Ladies' Demo

Monday, October 3, 2011

Kate Finefield: North Little Rock Park Ranger

The North Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department has created the post of "Park Ranger". With over 30 parks and thousands of users, whose interests range from tennis and soccer to cycling and fishing, there is certainly a need for such a post. Details of the ranger's role are still being defined, but the ranger has been hired and I recently sought an opportunity to meet with her.
Kate Finefield is our new ranger. She is a Little Rock native, graduated from UALR with a degree in wildlife biology, has worked for such entities as Audubon Arkansas, A.D.E.Q., the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and as a field biologist for the Natural Heritage Commission.  Kate is genuinely excited about her new job as the only city parks ranger in the state and, after visiting with her, I'm excited about her new job, too!

Kate Finefield, North Little Rock Park Ranger. I asked Kate to pose on Pulaski County's BDB as it is an iconic representation of the River Trail, just as her Smokey Bear hat is an icon that says "Park Ranger".

I met with Kate and her supervisor, Project Coordinator Jeff Caplinger, on a recent sunny afternoon in order to discuss the ranger job position and to try to get some personal insight into the first holder of that position. I had actually run into Kate earlier in the day as I grabbed lunch at the Argenta Market. She was on a similar mission and recognizably attired in her NLR Park Ranger shirt, so I introduced myself and firmed up our meeting for later in the day. My first impression was that she is confident, approachable and friendly, all good attributes for someone whose job involves making contact with the public from a position of authority. Kate lives in a rural area along with her husband, 5 dogs, a collection of mostly rescued "mutt" goats, a mess of cats, a mini-donkey (I'm taking her word on it!) and about 50 chickens, so I think it is fair to say that she has a soft spot for animals, which reinforced my initial positive impression.
I'm probably a poor interviewer, as I tend to simply get engaged in conversation, but I did get in a couple of question and answer exchanges. When I asked Finefield what had attracted her to the job, she didn't hesitate. "This is the job that I went to school for. I wanted a job that put me in a position to be outdoors and to educate and inform people." Her previous jobs all had some of each, but the NLR Park Ranger seems to have found a position with a job description that she could have written to define her dream job.

Ranger Finefield's enthusiasm is apparent as she discusses to possibilities of her new job.

I also asked Kate about her cycling experience, and she responded that she had used a bike for transportation while living in downtown Little Rock, but that her current home location doesn't lend itself to riding. A self-described tomboy, Kate participated in track and field and volley ball, though her ambitions to play football were quashed by her parents. She loves being outdoors and recognizes that she will be serving a broad constituency of parks users. At this time, her hours are divided between patrol and office duties while she works with city authorities to fully define the role of the ranger. There must be some changes made by ordinance to empower the position and define its areas of authority. In the meantime, Finefield will undergo some training with the NLR Police Department, whose members she describes as extremely supportive. Ultimately, Kate sees the primary duty of the park ranger to be that of educating, informing and helping the public understand how to share the many resources that fall under the purview of the NLR Parks and Recreation Department, but she will also have an enforcement responsibility. She believes that initially she will spend a little more time with enforcement than will be the norm. There are few serious problems in the parks, but some folks have taken a lack of enforcement for granted in such areas as alcohol consumption, parking on playing fields, and littering, for example. As ordinances are being updated to define the ranger job, discussions are being held on a fairly wide variety of topics. These range from horse poop on trails shared with mountain bikers to tobacco use in the parks. Some of these issues may be addressed by ordinance while others with simply fall to policy positions. Most of the parks rules simply codify consideration for others, and once the public understands that the rules will be enforced, it is likely that most of Kate's time can be devoted to helping people appreciate and enjoy the spectacular  NLR parks system.

Jeff Caplinger, Project Coordinator, is Ranger Finefield's immediate supervisor.

 Jeff Caplinger has been with Parks and Recreation in the City for 7 years, and he is very pleased to have Kate on board. Along with parks director Bob Rhoads, Jeff is working to get Kate equipped with the tools she needs to perform her duties, including legal authority, training, and equipment.
When I think of NLR Parks, I think of the River Trail, but Jeff reminded me that our ranger will have much more to cover. It is almost certain that she will have a bike and access to some sort of ATV to patrol the River Trail and other "off road" areas and, when the newly proposed off-road ATV park was mentioned, the tomboy perked up and said, "I told them I need a dirt bike."