Thursday, July 29, 2010

More Bike Route Improvements!

Many of you ride the same roads and trails that I do, so you may have already noticed some of the things noted below; however, when I see improvements in local bike infrastructure I feel compelled to take notice and give credit where credit is due.

Pinnacle Valley and County Farm Roads, Two Rivers Bridge: Pulaski County

This area had been a mess as a sewer line was installed along these roads, but the roads have been rebuilt with  bike lanes and nice, wide traffic lanes. The plan is to eventually have bike lanes from Two Rivers Park to Pinnacle Mountain State Park. It is great to see what sounded like a pipe dream only a couple of years ago becoming a reality.

New bike lanes at the intersection of Pinnacle Valley and Prison Farm Rd. leading to Two Rivers Park

This structure's primary purpose is to carry a new sewer line over Little Maumelle Creek along Pinnacle Valley Road. A little foresight on the part of Pulaski County allowed it to also carry a bike and pedestrian bridge. This photo was taken July 5. The deck was added this past Tuesday, according to a county official.

Two Rivers Bridge

The bridge is well ahead of schedule and will likely be open next June. The next major step is the placement of the steel center span (mistakenly described in an earlier post as 292 feet in length, the span will be about 210 feet long). A landing has been placed on the Two Rivers side, but the major construction and materials staging will continue to take place from the Little Rock side.

North Little Rock
Responding to input from trail users, North Little Rock Parks and the streets department have added striping and signage in the area of the wooden bridge near the Burns Park boat launching ramp to enhance the safety of riders and walkers.

New signs and striping direct eastbound cyclists to the right of the wall when approaching the wooden bridge. Limited sight distance had made this approach to the bridge dangerous when cyclists chose to go to the left of the wall.

Westbound riders are also directed to keep to the right.

North Little Rock continues to look forward in planning bike infrastructure while responding to suggestions from the community with enhancements to existing resources.

Little Rock

Uhh.......well...they haven't bulldozed the existing bike paths.......

Lucky the Lizard

We went to our place near Heber Springs last weekend and as we walked across the screen porch, Diane noticed that there was a lizard caught in a spiders web, hanging by his tail below our porch swing. I thought that he was dead, but Diane assured me that he still had some wiggle so we proceeded to free the skink!

Skinks are known for being able to pull their tails off to avoid capture, but this guy was at a loss for traction.

Diane gently removed the spider web.

We figured he would be thirsty and he drank a bit before heading out.

This obviously has nothing to do with cycling, but I like a lizard story with a happy ending.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Proofreaders Desired

While I don't really want to be edited, when I have a glaring error like the post titled "Why The Hate Us", please point it out to me! There's an e-mail link or bust me in comments. I'd much rather be embarrassed immediately than notice a week later that I've posted something that doesn't make a bit of sense, my opinions notwithstanding.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The 2010 Tour de France: As expected....but not!

The 2010 Tour de France is winding down, and much is as one might have predicted, but this was to be an unpredictable Tour and there were plenty of surprises.

The expected:

-Fabian Cancellara won the prologue and put on the yellow jersey
-Alberto Contador currently wears the yellow jersey ahead of Andy Schleck with a long time trial ahead. Contador will have to fall off of his bike and not get up to lose this Tour.
-Mark Cavendish has four stage wins, but has seen the green jersey passed around over his head before being nabbed yet again by Thor Hushovd, then passed on to a resurgent Alessandro Petacchi. Cav is the best sprinter out there, but the points competition rewards the most consistant rider out on the road and Cavendish doesn't chase the intermediate sprint points.
-Radio Shack leads the team classification.
- Cadel Evans was effectively out of the race after stage 9. (see related below)

Some surprises:

-Cadel Evans gained the yellow jersey on stage 8.
-Lance Armstrong was effectively out of the race after stage 3.
-Team Astana was very strong, riding in effective support of Alberto. Vinokourov actually rode well as a super-domestique and also attacked like the madman that he is to take a stage. As the French would say, "chapeau".
-French Riders: the French have kicked ass, winning six stages, so far.
-Mark Renshaw was kicked out of the Tour.
-The best placed GC rider on the loaded Radio Shack team is Chris Horner at 10th.  And that's after riding most of the race in the service of Armstrong or Levi.
-Alessandro Petacchi has won two stages and wears the green jersey of the points leader.
-Cavendish dispels the notion that he can't win without his leadout train as he worked through traffic on the stage into Bordeaux a la Robbie McEwen, then found Petacchi's wheel as Petacchi accelerated out of the scrum. Cav then lit 'em up to put a few bike lengths between he and everyone else to win handily. The guy is in a class of his own, now having won 14 tour stages in three years. That's 2 more than Eric Zabel and Zabel rode the Tour 13 times, including an amazing 6 consecutive years as the winner of the green jersey.
-Team Sky, with its huge payroll and handpicked team of stars did ........well, nothing.

This thing still isn't over, but it's already been a wild ride!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Why They Hate Us...

....because we're free? No, wait, that's copy for my Fox News gig. This is supposed to be about bikes.
We all complain about inconsiderate drivers, and rightfully so, but sometimes cyclists can seem to go out of their way to antagonize otherwise patient drivers. I was riding home from a road ride on Saturday morning and as I headed east on River Road from the skate park, a car passed me. Up ahead a rider was passing a couple of other cyclists by taking the oncoming traffic lane. He then proceeded on down the road on the left, creating a situation in which the car could not safely pass and I was stuck behind the car. I yelled "car back" over the car in a voice that could have been heard a block away, but got no reaction. After a half mile or more, the guy drifted back to the right, having never looked back, allowing the car to pass. He then proceeded to serpentine back and forth across the lane, swooping from side to side and obviously enjoying his ride. As I rode up behind him, I called out "bike back" and got no reaction. As I rode past, I yelled from 5 feet away, "That's why drivers hate us.", which got me a silly grin that said, "I have no idea what your saying, but I'm having a blast riding my bicycle with my IPod turned up REALLY LOUD!!"

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gone Local

As you might have surmised, I've been fairly excited about events at this year's Tour de France. With all of its warts, professional bike racing is still an exciting, beautiful sport to me; however, there are still things going on locally that bear mention.

North Little Rock Bike Plans: Not Standing Still

I have been involved with NLR's Bike Friendly Community Committee for some time now and Thursday night we took our committee meeting out on the streets. North Little Rock has an ambitious  bike plan and our most recent goal has been to identify some viable routes to serve as feeders to downtown/ the River Trail from various neighborhoods with an eye toward getting them officially designated and marked. The route we looked at last night would serve Levy, Park Hill and ultimately Indian Hills. The centerpiece of the route would be the rail spur that runs from Levy to Camp Robinson, running parallel to Camp Robinson for some distance then turning near  Kierre Rd before crossing Remount Rd. and entering Camp. A trail on this line would allow for the bypass of the heart of Levy, a congested retail and commuter zone that is problematic for cyclists at the best of times and near-impossible at peak traffic times. The City has been working to obtain ownership of the right-of-way and that should eventually come to pass. In the meantime, we're working with what we've got to create safe designated routes for commuters and recreational cyclists. I'm excited about what we are doing and look forward to being able to announce firm plans as they are decided upon and approved.

Clinton Park Bridge

I was also able to get a look at the current plans for the North Little Rock end of the Clinton Park/ Rock Island Bridge development, for which construction is scheduled to get underway in August. NLR's RV park, which initially was to be a temporary use of the property, has proven to be profitable and immensely popular. It provides a rare opportunity for RV campers to be in the heart of a city, close to restaurants, museums and other urban amenities. As a result of the success of the RV park, it will be reshaped, greened up and made an integral part of the redevelopment of the area. North Little Rock's plan looks great, with the bridge ramp exiting on to access to the Harper's Loop to the east and the River Trail to the west, with a great deal of consideration being given to the needs cyclists and pedestrians.

Two Rivers Bridge

Little to add here except that the bridge construction appears to be a little ahead of schedule. One item of interest came up in conversation with a friend who is in the structural steel business. The center section of the bridge will be a single 292 foot-long steel span. Due to its length and the inherent flexibility of steel, there will be the likelihood of significant motion on the span during windy or heavily loaded conditions, like a mass run. That may be an issue with folks who are easily made queasy, but easy access to Two Rivers Park will be well worth a moment of discomfort.

It's starting to look like a bridge!

Our Goose Problem

Geese and their droppings have been a problem along the River Trail for a few years. As their population has grown, so has their range. There is now a large gaggle fouling the Riverfront Park downtown, as shown in this photo from last Sunday afternoon. This spot is often used by a local boot camp as an exercise area, but I don't think anybody will want to plant their mat here.

I don't think this is the kind of first impression that we want to give visitors entering our park.

In case you've been wondering what the green slime on your tires and brakes is, wonder no more. This can't be healthy!

Once the flock figured out that the ugly duckling was really a beautiful swan, she was banished to live with the geese.

I have no real suggestions regarding control of the goose population, but eventually it seems it will have to be addressed. Rebsaman Golf Course has a border collie to keep them run off the course. In NLR, we have a couple of well-intentioned ladies who drag bags of feed onto the Burns Park golf course for them. Perhaps the kind ladies could be convinced to take a few hundred of them home with them, or maybe we could have an urban hunt during the holidays and distribute a big fat goose to any family expressing a need for Christmas dinner. I'll throw in the cranberry sauce.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Battle To The Line: Stage 11

Son-of-a-bitch!!!! The sprint in today's Stage 11 was about as good as it gets!! The run in was at 63kph/ 39 MPH and then they really ramped it up!! Tyler Farrar's lead-out man Julian Dean leaned on Mark Renshaw as Renshaw led out Mark Cavendish in the final straight. Renshaw gave him a few good head butts just before Cavendish lit 'em up from for his third win of this Tour. It was really a long sprint for Cavendish, but he has definitely hushed his critics. He simply will not be beaten if he can get a clear shot at the finish line. I really want to see Tyler Farrar win a stage, but I have love the banty roosters like Robbie McEwen and Cavendish.
And now, Renshaw has been thrown out of the Tour!!!! I just have to throw the bullshit flag on that one! This was a battle for position between two of the best lead-out men in the business and Renshaw has a great reputation for riding clean. Heads and shoulders are generally accepted contact so long as the hands remain on the bars, which they were. Had Renshaw given ground, he would have been in the barriers and could have cut off his own man's run to the line. A few years ago, Robbie McEwen head-hooked countryman Stuart O'Grady on a sprint, a much more clear-cut and egregious case of interference as both were going for the win. McEwen was relegated to last place in the stage, but not thrown out of the race. Perhaps the race officials are trying to level the field, but Renshaw's punishment, and subsequently that of Columbia-HTC and Mark Cavendish, far outweighs the offense.
Many folks seem to support the decision to punish Renshaw, but I think it goes much too far.
Check it out on Velocenter highlights:

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Party's Over: Lance's Luck Runs Out

In Lance Armstrong's run of tour wins, he displayed a near-magical ability to avoid trouble. Credit much of it to his attention to detail, his impeccable bike-handling skills and his razor-sharp survival instincts. And credit the rest of it to a remarkable string of good luck. Lance didn't seem to bring that bag-o-luck along on his comeback. Last year's broken collar bone was just the beginning of a series of crashes, illness and poorly timed mechanicals. Crashing out of the Tour of California disrupted his training on approach to the Tour, but, nonetheless,  Armstrong came into the race looking light and strong. Then shit just started going wrong. On the cobbles of stage 3, where RadioShack's strategy to put time on Contador seemed to be coming to fruition, a puncture at a critical moment cost him contact with the leaders and a couple of important minutes. Then, three crashes today ended his contention for an eighth tour win, the second of which put Armstrong hard on the pavement, his saddle torn off and a tire rolled off the front wheel, forcing him to get a bike change and use his team in an attempt to catch the peloton just as the rest of the contenders blew up the pack on the penultimate climb. At the top of the climb, another rider went down in front of him  in the feed zone, forcing Armstrong to dismount and pull his bike from the tangle. At that moment, Lance knew that he was done. You could see it on his face.
I didn't really give him much of a chance to win this Tour, but he has been riding well and would likely still be in contention if riding well is all it took to win the Tour de France. Unfortunately, it also takes incredible luck and Lance Armstrong's long string of good luck in the Tour de France ran out.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Local Bike Shops Step Up: Lucky Us

As I've noted before, we are very fortunate to have many really good bike shops in town. Lately, I've noticed that some of them have really picked up the pace of their activities in the community and they deserve mention.

 Competitive Cyclist sponsored the Ronde de Burns Crit Series in Burns Park, which was very well-supported with good participation and a pretty vocal crowd. As usual, local USAC guy Steve Shepherd of Orbea headed up the officiating. The racing was competitive and left me with no doubts as to why those guys drop me when they come out to play on the Tuesday and Thursday night Fast Girl rides. CC also has a fantastic retail website that is home to hundreds of well-produced video product reviews and one of my favorite reads, the "What's New" blog under the Service Course header.

The subject matter ranges from industry insight to product reviews and opinion but it always entertains. The writing is as good as you'll find anywhere and the perspective is what I'll call "international homeboy". Most of Competive Cyclist's business is done via the internet and they are recognized worldwide for the quality of their products and service.

Chainwheel has improved the content and format of their website to include more interactive features. In addition, they are producing a nicely done electronic newsletter, The Wheel. On a recent visit for a service repair to Diane's Cannondale Lefty fork (OK, I'll confess at this point that I screwed something up and had to get somebody else to fix it. I screwed up out of that often dangerous combination of confidence and ignorance. The repair required a tool that I didn't own.), Sarah mentioned that they were going to sponsor an evening short-track mountain bike series at Burns Park this fall. In addition to holding the races, they will also have Light and Motion headlight systems available as race rentals for those of us who don't own the flamethrower lighting systems required for riding single-track in the dark. Sounds ambitious and fun!
They continue to host regular road rides. Chainwheel has also partnered with local trainer Ben Stone to provide high-level training to local riders. I know several riders who are clients of Ben's and their comments and results have all been very positive.
The leadership at Orbea USA, the Orbea store, Competitive Cyclist, etc. all have their bike industry roots at the venerable Chainwheel.

Arkansas Cycling and Fitness has also upped the ante. Bryan Shipman, Robert Mooney and other team riders are actively blogging on the site. Bryan leads the weekly CARP rides and is very active in building and maintaining the trail systems at camp Robinson, while Dan Lysk, Sherwood store manager is also leading weekly Tuesday night road rides that are drawing increasingly large crowds. I tend to think of ACF as the local epicenter of the 29er movement, in large part to Richard Machycek's devotion to the concept. Show up at Camp for the Wednesday night ride and you'll see what I mean. Small wheels are welcome, but most of the crowd rolls BIG!

These are the shops where we do most of our business and the folks that I cross paths with most often while on the bike, but they are not the only players in town. These shops also serve the community:

The Orbea Store: this concept store is in the process of evolving from outlet to full-service bike shop.

Riders Ready

The Community Bicyclist

J and P Bike Shop

All of these stores have their loyal followers and I doubt that you will find another city the size of Little Rock that enjoys the same number and quality of bike shops.
Lucky us.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

More Mayhem

Stage 3 of the Tour was as advertised.
The predicted carnage abounded, but the results were not quite as expected. Frank Schleck is out with a broken collar bone. An untimely flat took Lance Armstrong from being a minute up on Contador to a desperate battle to limit his losses. Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck put substantial time on Contador as teammate Vinokourov unknowingly dropped Alberto on the run to the finish, putting himself ahead of Contador in the GC and allowing Contador to lose seconds to his rivals. Evans is somewhat surprisingly in the best position of the likely contenders.

A rejuvenated Alessandro Petacchi is winning sprints while Mark Cavendish fired blanks on today's stage which was the first clean sprint of the Tour. I thought Petacchi's earlier win could be attributed to the huge crashes behind him, but today the 36-year-old showed the pure power that earned him the nickname of "Ale-jet".

What is going to happen next!? No friggin' telling with this Tour!
It's a long way to Paris.

Gathering of the Clans: When Group Rides Come Together

 Cycling communities, like all others, are constantly evolving and reforming, all the while retaining their same basic character for the most part. People come and go and the result is that most groups enjoy the presence of some new riders at most times. Here in the heart of summer, we see a fresh crop of relatively new riders jumping confidently into group rides, fresh off of spring and summer events and training rides. Last Saturday, my frequent ride partner, Sam, and I joined a small group of friends for a ride. Our group subsequently decided to join a larger group, which itself was comprised of a self-described "mellow" bunch combined with some more aggressive riders with whom we ride fairly often. The product of the mix was a congenial but disparate group that  lacked a clear leader and a clear plan. The result was some confusion and misdirection that should and could have been avoided.

Here are a couple of areas where we went astray and what we could have done to avoid them:
We lacked a clear ride plan regarding pace line protocol
 Early on, the group was often three or more wide. The large group was also pretty stretched out, making it difficult for drivers to safely pass and the group didn't respond to calls of "car back" by moving to the right and consolidating. Nobody was being purposely irresponsible, but as a group we just weren't functioning very well. This can really piss off even the most patient drivers. Put yourself in their place and try to make it as easy as possible for cars to safely pass the group. Sometimes, they'll just have to wait, but on flat, open roads at the very least stay no more than two abreast and move to the right. Let drivers know that you're aware of them and that you're working with them.

We lacked a clear leader and route plan
Early in the ride, the leader of the biggest faction of the group went straight through a major intersection with several of us following. The bulk of the group followed other riders, made a right turn and started yelling at the misdirected bunch. As a result, the rider in front of me, in a moment of indecision, grabbed an handful of brake which caused me to do the same thing to avoid a collision. When approaching a turn or any intersection in which there is any question of direction, make the plan clear to the group before the junction. If you miss a turn or are unsure, DO NOT slam on the brakes. Look around, assess to situation, then do whatever is appropriate.
Even after our group split into smaller factions, there were a couple of times when a turn was called out, only to have a change of plans made in the middle of an intersection. Dangerous stuff.
Groups should go over the ride plan at the start of the ride and call out directions for upcoming intersections well ahead of the approach.

Some things should go without saying, but we had the usual couple of guys riding in the paceline on aerobars. Unless you are in the front, that's a big no-no in my book, just ahead of riding in a group with your I-pod. I mentioned the danger of riding tri-bars to one of the guys and was assured that he rode with one hand out on his brake. Needless to say, that position is uncomfortable, unstable and wasn't maintained.
 I also took issue with a rider who on several occasions turned his head and spit. After getting sprayed on the leg, I finally had to say something to him. I realize that I was already covered with sweat, road grime, salt and dead bugs, but adding someone else's spit to that soup did nothing to enhance the mix . If you've got to spit in the line, spit under your elbow, preferably between you knees. I'd much rather spit on my own leg than that of a fellow rider. That's just good manners.
We'll discuss snot rockets come fall.

Groups who ride together regularly seem to naturally roll smoothly, but that success is the result of the experience of many miles on the road. Joining new group rides is almost always fun, but there can also be an element of danger as the group gets itself lined out. Though many people are uncomfortable handing out advice (not a problem on this end!), it is important to communicate and help less experienced or inattentive riders understand the dynamics of the pack out on the road. Be safe.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fireworks on the 5th of July

The descent of Col de Stockeu in today's Tour Stage 2.....

OK, so that's not quite true, but I couldn't find any good photos of the carnage in Belgium today. Things exploded and we continue to see a race that is wide open and unpredictable as wet, slick roads put virtually every major contender and damn near the whole peloton on the pavement. With Andy Schleck chasing back on a borrowed bike and Contador, Armstrong and the rest of the pack spread all over the road, an agreement was reached to let fallen riders catch back on and to not contest the sprint finish. The resulting win by Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) puts him in the yellow jersey as riders neutralized the finish and most of the pack came in about 4 minutes back. Big losers include Dave Zabriski and Christian Vandevelde among others, who each lost about another 6 minutes, putting them out of reach for the GC in all likelihood.
It will be interesting to see who starts tomorrow, as there were some serious-looking injuries to riders like A. Schleck, who showed all signs of a broken collar bone before hopping on a teammate's bike and starting to chase, Tyler Farrar and many others.

Late update: Vandevelde is out with two broken ribs.
 The guy just keeps catching bad luck and breaking bones.

Few of the leaders were unscathed...



Lance Armstrong shows the effects of his crash on Monday's stage between Brussels and Spa

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"Things Like This Happen In Bike Racing"

That's from Tyler Farrar, showing his class after an Ag2R rider collided with Farrar's rear wheel, leaving his bike attached to Farrar's rear derailleur. It's tough to win a bunch sprint at the Tour while dragging a second bike along the road! It blew a perfect opportunity for Farrar to grab a stage sprint after a clusterf#*+k of a run-in left Mark Cavendish, Oscar Freire and others on the ground and Alessandro Petacchi taking the win in front of Cavendish's main man, Mark Renshaw.

Earlier in the stage, a dog darted into the pack, send a mass of riders including several contenders to the tarmac.

Look for Farrar dragging the AG2R bike on this video.

We're just getting started and things are already pretty crazy in thie Tour. Now, we'll just have to see if things settle down or if they'll continue the unpredictable spin!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

And.....They're off!!

The Tour de France rolled today with the 9K prologue. Not surprisingly, Fabian Cancellara dominated. Somewhat surprisingly, Lance Armstrong was 4th at :22 and bested 6th place Contador by 5 seconds. Not huge time, but it puts the pressure on Alberto.  The Schlecks, Basso, Wiggins, Leipheimer and Evans all have a little time to make up, not much, but it's hard to see where they can put time on Armstrong and Contador. That will likely have to wait for the mountains unless someone is carelessly caught out on the flats or falters on the cobbles over the next few days.

More Floyd:

More from Floyd in the Wall Street Journal. You'll have to find the article yourself if you're interested, because I want it to go away.

Lance Fever:
You know the sponsors and teams are all holding their breath, but in the meantime, the race is on and Lance's image is everywhere. has devoted space to the "Daily Lance", your direct path to Lance news-of-the-day:

Tour de France 2010: Lance Armstrong

Armstrong Bests Contador

DAILY LANCE: The first race-inside-the-race goes to Lance Armstrong.