Monday, November 30, 2009

The Dark Times Are Upon Us

No allusion there, it's just dark. Starting tomorrow, we have less than 10 hours from sunrise to sunset each day until January 11, 2010. The bad news is charted below:

Dec 1, 2009 6:58 AM 4:58 PM 9h 59m 44s − 1m 00s 11:58 AM 33.4° 147.496
Dec 2, 2009 6:59 AM 4:58 PM 9h 58m 45s − 58s 11:59 AM 33.2° 147.473
Dec 3, 2009 7:00 AM 4:58 PM 9h 57m 50s − 55s 11:59 AM 33.1° 147.450
Dec 4, 2009 7:01 AM 4:58 PM 9h 56m 57s − 52s 12:00 Noon 33.0° 147.428
Dec 5, 2009 7:02 AM 4:58 PM 9h 56m 07s − 50s 12:00 Noon 32.8° 147.408
Dec 6, 2009 7:03 AM 4:58 PM 9h 55m 19s − 47s 12:00 Noon 32.7° 147.388
Dec 7, 2009 7:04 AM 4:58 PM 9h 54m 35s − 44s 12:01 PM 32.6° 147.368
Dec 8, 2009 7:04 AM 4:58 PM 9h 53m 53s − 41s 12:01 PM 32.5° 147.350
Dec 9, 2009 7:05 AM 4:58 PM 9h 53m 14s − 38s 12:02 PM 32.4° 147.332
Dec 10, 2009 7:06 AM 4:58 PM 9h 52m 39s − 35s 12:02 PM 32.3° 147.315
Dec 11, 2009 7:07 AM 4:59 PM 9h 52m 06s − 32s 12:03 PM 32.2° 147.299
Dec 12, 2009 7:07 AM 4:59 PM 9h 51m 36s − 29s 12:03 PM 32.2° 147.283
Dec 13, 2009 7:08 AM 4:59 PM 9h 51m 09s − 26s 12:04 PM 32.1° 147.268
Dec 14, 2009 7:09 AM 4:59 PM 9h 50m 46s − 23s 12:04 PM 32.0° 147.253
Dec 15, 2009 7:09 AM 5:00 PM 9h 50m 25s − 20s 12:05 PM 32.0° 147.239
Dec 16, 2009 7:10 AM 5:00 PM 9h 50m 08s − 17s 12:05 PM 31.9° 147.225
Dec 17, 2009 7:11 AM 5:01 PM 9h 49m 54s − 14s 12:06 PM 31.9° 147.212
Dec 18, 2009 7:11 AM 5:01 PM 9h 49m 43s − 11s 12:06 PM 31.9° 147.199
Dec 19, 2009 7:12 AM 5:01 PM 9h 49m 35s − 07s 12:07 PM 31.9° 147.187
Dec 20, 2009 7:12 AM 5:02 PM 9h 49m 30s − 04s 12:07 PM 31.9° 147.175
Dec 21, 2009 7:13 AM 5:02 PM 9h 49m 28s − 01s 12:08 PM 31.9° 147.165
Dec 22, 2009 7:13 AM 5:03 PM 9h 49m 30s + 01s 12:08 PM 31.9° 147.154
Dec 23, 2009 7:14 AM 5:03 PM 9h 49m 35s + 04s 12:09 PM 31.9° 147.145
Dec 24, 2009 7:14 AM 5:04 PM 9h 49m 43s + 08s 12:09 PM 31.9° 147.136
Dec 25, 2009 7:15 AM 5:05 PM 9h 49m 54s + 11s 12:10 PM 31.9° 147.128
Dec 26, 2009 7:15 AM 5:05 PM 9h 50m 09s + 14s 12:10 PM 31.9° 147.120
Dec 27, 2009 7:15 AM 5:06 PM 9h 50m 26s + 17s 12:11 PM 32.0° 147.114
Dec 28, 2009 7:16 AM 5:06 PM 9h 50m 47s + 20s 12:11 PM 32.0° 147.108
Dec 29, 2009 7:16 AM 5:07 PM 9h 51m 11s + 23s 12:12 PM 32.1° 147.104
Dec 30, 2009 7:16 AM 5:08 PM 9h 51m 37s + 26s 12:12 PM 32.2° 147.100
Dec 31, 2009 7:16 AM 5:09 PM 9h 52m 07s + 29s 12:12 PM 32.2° 147.097

Looks like a long stretch doesn't it, and that's just December! I didn't have to heart to subject you to the whole thing.

On the bright side, we turn the trend around after the Winter Solstice on December 21, when the days start getting longer. Facing winter can be a little oppressive to those of us accustomed to being outside for several hours a day, but here in Arkansas we only have to bear a few weeks of it and the lack of daylight is more of a limiter than our usual temperatures. For those of us who don't have a training plan, winter can cause a serious lapse in fitness, often accompanied by weight gain. When it gets dark at 5:00, I'm hungry by 5:15, whereas in the summer, we seldom eat dinner before 8:30 and the closest thing to a snack for me is a Clif bar on the bike.
Thank goodness, it's not really that hard to dodge the worst-case scenario of having to drag out the fat pants. The key for me is to keep things simple and convenient.

Here are a few things that I manage to do in the winter in order to avoid becoming something akin to bloated algae:

Walk: just put on your shoes and jacket and walk out the door. Don't make a big production out of it, just do it often. Running is an obvious choice but even my short runs require a little warm-up, cool down and a shower. You can be impulsive about walking. Instead of walking into the kitchen for cheese dip, walk out the door and around the block. Walk 10 minutes. Do it often.

Weights: I have 3 pair of dumbbells, some stretch bands and a yoga mat. Not much of a home gym, but it's close at hand and I do a lot of micro workouts, sometimes just one set of a specific drill, but 2 or 3 times a week I get a fairly well-rounded upper body workout with some squats, lunges and step drills thrown in. Probably just enough to keep my body from going into shock when I ask it to work again.

Ride: This is obvious, but hard to get done. Night riding is a viable option with our trail system and for many of us, lunch rides are also possible. The good thing about winter is that you can actually get away without a shower. I ride alone or jump on a noon ride group from time to time. It really makes you feel better to grab some miles and get some sunshine during the week. It takes me less than an hour to do a loop from the sub to the BDB and back, so I'm off the phone for less than an hour and back at my desk in an hour and a half. Well worth it if your schedule is flexible enough! I seldom take more than 20-30 minutes for lunch, so I don't guilt over the time when I get the chance to get in a ride.

Micro Diet Steps: I'm as undisciplined about eating as I am about training. I don't stick to plans , so I don't bother making them. I do weigh every day so the pounds don't sneak up on me. That goes against the weight loss gurus, but I'd rather spot a trend early than have to face losing 6-8 pounds. Reach for salsa instead of sour cream. Ditch the glob of salad dressing and have balsalmic vinegar. Eat more green beans and less rice. No deprivation, just making choices that can easily add up to a couple of hundred calories a day, which is a couple of pounds a month, which easily translates into 10-12 pounds of ugly fat ready to reveal itself on the first warm days of Spring. Please spare us the sight and I'll try to do the same.

On Topic: How's Your Vitamin D?

Maybe a few nanograms short of a full load if this article is any indication.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Deer Strike Back!! Urban Assault.

At this time of year 300,000 heavily armed Arkies head out of town to do battle with the wily white-tail deer. ATV's are gassed up, Bud Light is selling like hot cakes at a church breakfast, stands are erected, feed plots have been planted, trails are scouted and, finally, guns are loaded for the offensive. For the rural deer, it is a time of escape and evasion, hide and run, live or die, but even with the massive army on their trail, the deer population is huge and I think they're getting organized.

My imagination or a frightening new reality???

Could it be that while the rural deer are laying low or running for their lives, the herd inside the city limits is on the move, taking retribution for the carnage being visited upon their country cousins? A few weeks a go, a local rider was blindsided by a deer as he zipped along 3rd or 4th in a paceline in the Hooper's Crossing/ North Shore Trail area. The rider suffered a shoulder injury and according to a buddy who was on the ride, "He was out like a light. He never saw the deer. I thought he was dead." When I heard about this incident, I wrote it off as an accident, just a unfortunate crossing of paths. Then, last week, while on a trail tour, another deer attack occurred when a large deer ran directly into the path of a young lady riding near the same area. The rider was taken to the surgical hospital with a likely broken wrist and ribs. Coincidence? Another "accident"? Unlikely, I say.
While I know there are many deer along the River Trail, and in particular the new North Shore Trail crosses the regular path of the deer herds seen each evening in the fields to the East; however, these deer are usually cautious and do their best to avoid trouble. What could be causing these once passive creatures to attack? I think they are fighting mad and they have sensed our vulnerability while on the bike.
As I considered defensive measures that could be taken by cyclists, I looked to the Deer Whistle, which produces subsonic tones that cause deer to freeze in their tracks; however, the Deer Whistle requires speeds of 35 MPH to be effective. That might protect the average rider descending River Mountain Road but is unlikely to help many of us out on the flats. Pending further research, it looks like we'll just have to depend on a sharp eye, good luck and the mercy of the marauding bands of white-tails.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

JBar Cycling: Nine Months In

Nine months isn't much of a milestone, but I was asked just Monday night how long I'd been writing this blog. I stuttered a little bit and said,"uh, I don't know....since Spring...maybe"

Well, as has been the case with disturbing frequency of late, I was wrong, though close. My first post was of February 25th, 2009, though I had set up the blog in May 2008 with no idea what I'd do with it. After my first article or two, I sent a link out to a couple of folks of the nonjudgemental friend variety, then later posted a link to the ABC site, which, unfortunately, has got to be one of the loneliest forums around. In spite of the fact that I assumed that I had maybe two or three mildly interested readers, I've plugged away to the tune of 135 posts. At times, I feel like a guy who talks to himself as he walks through the woods. If somebody is listening, then he's not really crazy and if nobody hears him, then, what the hell, it doesn't really matter.

I still enjoy the writing and wish I had more time for it but I feel that I'm meeting my own small goals of providing some information and insight about our local cycling community, pulling in some pro racing and technical stuff (some homegrown, much flagrantly lifted from other media), along with some off-cycling stuff related to boating and universally interesting subjects such as our dogs, coots, fashion and nuts.

It is very gratifying to me when a rider tells me that he's learned something useful or just enjoyed reading something that I've written and, lately, I've received some good feedback. Of course, well-mannered folks are more likely to say, "that's nice" than "you suck", so I prefer to take well-mannered folks literally when it is in my interest to do so. Many of the people who have commented are surprised that I've been at this as long as I have. I have no idea how many hits I get. I tried a counter widget, but it doesn't seem to have a report function, so I don't know what it is counting or who it is telling about it. Based on the positive feedback, I've spread the word a little via an e-mail signature and by posting links when I see somebody ask on a forum about some topic that I've covered.

If there is a point to this post, it is just to say thank-you for reading. Feel free to drop me a note if there's a topic you'd like to see covered, particularly if it has to do with our local cycling scene. If I don't know anything about the subject, I can readily make some stuff up. I'm also eager for information about anything happening locally that has to do with bikes. There are a lot of positive developments for cycling in Central Arkansas and I look forward to things just getting better and better. I hope that this space can be a small part of it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Hound In The House

Diane and I lost her 16 year-old Josie dog a few months back, leaving us with one dog in the house. We changed that Saturday when we adopted a young male dog who is now called Willie. He had been found with a broken leg, dropped off at the house of the woman who ended up fostering him through the Maumelle Animal Shelter. He was listed as a Border Collie, but other than the fact that he's black and white and medium sized, he bears only a passing resemblence. He does have some kind of working dog genes and he seems to be a sweet, smart boy. He's pictured above in portrait view and with Zuli.
Nothing to do with bikes, but an important change for the household! Zuli started off liking him, but is now showing some signs of jealousy as she realizes he's staying. They'll work it out and she needs some dog company.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

..And It's Got Little Nanopockets to Hide Your Dope.

Nalini has introduced a new line of clothing that incorporates “basket-molecules nanotechnology” integrated into the fabric. These nanobaskets are capable of capturing "vitamins" (wink, nudge)and then releasing them where they are absorbed through the rider's skin. Nalini provides the vitamin packs, which are added to your laundry. Though described in the article I read (link below) as vitamins, other information indicates that the design is for electrolyte infusion rather than vitamins.

This technology begs some questions like, should we be looking for Testosterone Tide on the supermarket shelves? Maybe some vitamin E(-PO) rinse from Amgen? How does it know what to absorb? Will it capture my stinky, salty sweat and give it back to me on the next ride? (No, thank-you! You can keep that!)

I'm just not sure about running around in a crowd of nanoparticles. Research is still in its infancy, but indications are that some of these little machines can have a mind of their own and that their use can have unintended consequences. For at least the time being, I think I'll keep absorbing my nutritional supplements the old-fashioned way. Pills.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Bids Are In!!! Two Rivers Bridge

Bids were taken on Thursday, November 19, for the Two Rivers Bridge project.
I dropped by for the bid opening. There were three bidders on the project and the bids ranged from $5,326,962.62 to $6,961,086.10. The low bidder was Jensen Construction and their price was very close to the Engineer's Estimate. Hopefully, it is also within the county's budget for the project.
This is another big step forward in the development of Central Arkansas's bike infrastructure!

In my haste to put this out, I got almost everything wrong! The date and the contactor's name have been corrected from my original post. Jensen is the same contractor that built the BDB. Their bid was appreciably below that of the other two bidders, so their experience and familiarity with the site makes me feel better about their ability to bring the job in.

I do strive for accuracy so I am appreciative of the reader feedback.

Monday, Nov.23, 5PM, River Trail Station: Be There!!

North Little Rock has been awarded Bike Friendly Community status by the League Of American Bicyclists. The League's Executive Director, Andy Clarke will be in town next Monday, November 23rd to present the award to the Mayor Hays and the NLR City Council.
Prior to the City Council meeting, there will be a reception at the River Trail Station (aka: River Trail Rentals) starting at 5PM. Come on out to hear a little bit about the League's Bike Friendly America initiative and to show Andy a warm welcome from our community.
North Little Rock is the only city in Arkansas to receive the award (Little Rock's application got honorable mention last year). It is a big deal for our cycling community and is something to be proud of!
Refreshments will be served.

Reflections On the River Trail

On a ride just before dark one evening last week, I caught this image of the Arkansas Queen paddle boat as it passed a towboat pushing barges upstream. I thought the scene of river commerce and recreation sharing the corridor was a bit of a reflection of the use of the River Trail itself. While the River Trail was built primarily for recreational use, it is a major link for many bike commuter routes and has served to help attract commercial and residential development along the Arkansas River and in the downtown areas.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Stop! Thief!!!" Oops, Sorry, It's Just a Cyclocross Rider

Pardon my reaction, but when I see somebody running like hell with a perfectly serviceable high-end bike on their shoulder, instinct tells me that it ain't theirs! In this case, the suspect is a participant in the growing sport of cyclocross. Cyclocross has bored me for the last several off-seasons. I pick up VeloNews and see guys with trashed bikes riding through mud pits and then jumping over barriers and running while carrying said bikes. Frankly, this is NOT what brought me to cycling. I really enjoy putting on my fresh, stylish kit and riding off on my sparkling machine with my drive train tuned like a Swiss timepiece.
Cyclocross is different. Bikes are muddy. Riders are muddy. The couse is, by design, muddy. I try to avoid mud while riding my bicycle but, in reading up on a couple of events, I came across tidbits like this:

"Water was $2.00, beer was free."
"Every participant gets a beer at registration"

I remember reading about a BIG, national level cyclocross race last year in which the race leader lost time and a couple places because he slowed to grab a beer on his way to the finish.
I'm a lightweight in the field of drinking these days, but I like the attitude, so maybe there is something to it after all.

Cyclocross bikes look like road bikes at a glance, but require wider clearances for bigger tires and mud and are equipped with caliper brakes for reliability in, you guessed it, mud . Some are actually designed with toptubes featuring a flattened bottom surface to facilitate carrying the bike on your shoulder. While I've carried my bike from the road to a rest stop at Hotter'n'Hell to avoid flat-causing goats heads, I've never considered buying a bike for which "ease of shouldering" is a desirable design feature.
Locally, there is a bit of a movement to introduce cyclocross. This from the ABC website:

The Community Bicyclist Cyclocross Training Series
9:30am Sundays now through January 25 at North Shore Business Park (SE corner- next to ADEQ). Mountain bikes welcome. Questions? Call Frank at 663-7300.

Competitive Cyclist held a race or two a few years back, but it got about as much traction as a road tire in the mud pit, but 'cross seems to be catching on.

I'm always glad to see anything that brings more people into cycle sports and the area along the river can certainly produce the key ingredient of mud, so maybe it will attract some participants. Besides, it will eventually require serious riders to go out and buy more bikes! That's got to be a good thing!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Local Justice

A few months back, an incident occurred along River Road near the skate park and Fort Roots in which a young man reportedly crossed the center line while passing a group of westbound cyclists. He was supposedly yelling at the cyclists as he passed and this distraction caused him to scatter an unnoticed group of eastbound riders as he drove head-on into the paceline. His actions resulted in several minor injuries and landed him in traffic court. My information isn't first hand, but my understanding is that the judge fined the driver the maximum $1000.00 for reckless driving, wished that he could have done more, and chastened the kid and his mother for their courtroom demeanor and lack of responsibility.
I won't try to add any more detail given my lack of direct knowledge, but it was gratifying to hear that the cyclists' right to be on the road was not questioned and that our system worked. The victims are still working on settlements with the car owner's insurance company to compensate them for their injuries and damage to bikes. The car belonged to the mother of the driver's girlfriend.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Race Across The Sky" Trailer

I've missed the showings of this movie about the 2009 Leadville 100, featuring , of couse, Lance Armstrong. This is trailer is very cool and worth your five minutes if you haven't seen it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Night Riding: Don't Give Up Your Weeknight Rides

OK, it pretty well sucks that it gets dark by 5:30. As the season winds down,so does my riding as the days and my weeknight rides get shorter together. After a few evenings of finishing up in the dark, I change the batteries in my blinkies and eventually get out my headlight. This usually happens after a few very dark rides through the woods along the trail, the result of my failure to fully appreciate the fact that 6:30PM is NIGHT TIME! And then the time changes and...BOOM! suddenly it is dark when I get off of work.
I had an especially harsh transition this year as we returned from the Grand Canyon just in time for a week of rain and the later-than-usual time change. I find it hard to head out when it is already dark, but it can be very gratifying.

Tonight, I decided at a little before 6:00 that I needed to ride. I usually drive to the trail at that time of day as it's just minutes by car and rush hour in the dark isn't my favorite time to ride my bike through town. I parked on Main in Argenta and as I entered the park at the sub, a group of riders flew by. I chased them down and found them to be a bunch of 6-7 guys, most of whom I know. We headed up Fort Roots, then up to the BDB where the guys finished up their ride. I headed back down the Trail and soon encountered a skunk ambling along, and then another. I am very deferential to skunks. We had just been discussing the best place to be positioned in a paceline that has a hostile encounter with a skunk.I've given it much thoughtful consideration and figure that the first rider will only startle the skunk, the second rider will serve for target acquisition and the third or fourth rider will likely have to ride home alone. Yet another reason to ride in the front!

I also saw three buck deer along the trail in Burns Park. We see many deer, but I don't see many bucks along the trail. All three of these guys were solo and had pretty good racks. As I crossed the wooden bridge by the launch ramp, a fearless bunny blocked my path. I actually had to stop and shoo him along, the silly rabbit. He's supposed to at least act scared.

It is beautiful along the Arkansas River at night and our winter temperatures are often mild enough for riding. While a light is necessary, it doesn't have to be the expensive flamethrower you would demand for blasting through the woods on your mountain bike. If you are on the River Trail, you can get by with a simple $40.00 LED headlamp, like the Black Diamond Spot shown above,and a couple of flashers. I have a handlebar mounted LED light that cost about $100.00 and have started putting the headlamp on my helmet. This allows me to have light both in the bike's direction of travel and wherever I'm looking.
If you get on on the road, the flashers are important, as is reflective clothing. Street lights may allow you to see fine, but being seen has to be your priority. A couple of patches of ScotchLite can make a dramatic difference when it comes to being seen by drivers. Only a few of my jerseys have reflective features, so I try to grab one of those when dressing for the dark.

If you've never ridden at night along the River, then you will likely be surprised by the number of folks that you'll see along the way. And be careful, as many walkers and runners foolishly have no lights or reflective gear.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

L.A Doctor Convicted In Cyclist Assault

In a case that has received much attention in the cycling media and in the Los Angeles area, a Los Angeles physician was found guilty on all counts for his actions in which two cyclists were seriously injured. The Doc was trying to "teach them a lesson" when he pulled in front of two cyclists last July 4 and slammed on his brakes as they descended a hill at 30MPH, which is the speed limit for the road.

While I'm glad to hear of the conviction in this case, nobody really wins. The cyclists were seriously injured and the doctor will likely serve prison time and lose his license to practice medicine. The only positive thing is that the cyclists right to use the road was not overlooked as has been the case in many incidents involving cars and bikes and a very dangerous, self-righteous individual will get his due. Doctor Thompson obvously felt that his inconvenience justified the life-threatening assault. If you read the related stories, you will find that this is not the first time he's taken such action and his previous unprosecuted actions were a factor in this trial.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It's Been A Tough Few Days On The River Trail

I've been off in the hills boating again, but got back in time to get on the bike for a few hours on Sunday.

Natural Calamities:

The signs of the recent flooding rains were evident in the rocks, sand and gravel washed across the trail in numerous locations and serious riverbank erosion in a couple. In North Little Rock, a large section of bank washed out, apparently from water draining from the quarry. I'll bet the waterfalls from the bluff were impressive Thursday night when we got 3" of rain in the hour between 8:30 and 9:30! The trail is intact, but the area will need some attention.

In Little Rock, a section of the Medical Mile; aka "Trail to Nowhere", collapsed into the river. The trail dead ends a few hundred feet upstream at the UP rails, so we're not missing much. The area is gated off to protect a temporary Verizon optic cable. The original cable was in a conduit that was sheared off as the trail slid into the river.

Not so natural calamity:

We rode up to River Trail Rentals, now "River Trail Station", to find a large contingent of NLR's finest on the scene and in the act of investigating a shooting. David, the proprietor, said that he was told there had been a shooting at about 7:00AM in the grass parking area across from his shop.
I've always felt very safe down there and still do, but hope that this doesn't represent a trend. I'm not a fan of surveillance cameras in public places, but as NLR looks at expanding their existing downtown network, the park and parking area should be a likely location.

Erosion of riverbanks and civil order aside, it was a beautiful day to be out on the bike!