Friday, June 29, 2012

VeloGames Tour de France Fantasy League

Get on board and pick your Tour de France team on Velogames. I've formed a JBar Cycling Mini-league. It's fun, it's free, and my team will kick your team's ass! Or not. I'll buy the league winner a couple of beers.

Follow the link, read the rules and pick your team; then, it is GAME ON!!

League Name: JBarCycling Tour Team
League Code: 29202829

Star Spangled Criterium: Arkansas State Crit Championships

With a burn ban on and fireworks not a possibility for many areas for Independence Day, shuffle on down by the river on Sunday for the Dr. Feelgood Star-Spangled Criterium Championships! There will be fireworks on the race course as riders from around the state battle in out in a spectator-friendly venue.
Here's the press release, followed by the event flyer;

The fireworks start early this year as bicycle racing comes to North Little Rock’s Riverfront Drive during CARVE’s Star Spangled Classic and State Criterium Championship on Sunday, July 1. Racers from all over the state and region will compete for cash prizes and the coveted state champion’s jersey in a variety of classes. Spectators will get a chance to see the action up close as cyclists speed through multiple laps over the flat, one-mile-long course. Racing begins at 8 a.m. Come on out to enjoy a day of fun and spectacular racing. Proceeds to benefit CARTI & Teen Challenge.

  Last year's SS Crits saw big crowds and great racing, so come on out and support local bike racing. Thanks to Michael Mattox and CARVE for providing this information and for sponsoring this and other cycling events in Central Arkansas! We're on a roll!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Yep, Sure Has Been Hot Out There....

....spit, kick dirt, then complain about the gub'ment. That's typical conversation these days as Arkansas is experiencing record heat for this early in the summer. It can be tough on folks, but most dedicated riders, who regularly who spend time outdoors, acclimate pretty well and are able to continue on with their routine, That said, I could have sworn on Sunday afternoon that it felt like it was 100 degrees. It was actually only 99, so I guess I'm getting soft.

Extremely hot days like last Monday, when the temperature had dropped to 102 by my ride time, tend to thin the traffic along the River Trail, but the heat doesn't have to be a show stopper for fit, prepared cyclists.

Stay hydrated, but just water will not get it done for long efforts!

This is  basic information to outdoor athletes operating in extreme heat, but we simply have got to maintain proper hydration and electrolyte, mainly sodium, intake to perform and to simply survive in relative comfort.  Every year, it seems that many of us have to learn the hard lessons that come with dehydration or failure to replenish electrolytes. Heat exhaustion or heat stroke are extreme conditions, but for cyclists, the punishment is usually just poor performance, excruciating cramps, and a really shitty ride home. I feel like most riders know this stuff, but while visiting with a friend this week, who happens to be an accomplished ultra-distance runner, she mentioned that she was just realizing that plain water was not enough to get her by on long runs in hot weather. She must be doing something right, as she has completed a number of 100 mile-plus events in extreme conditions, but she was just starting to get more methodical about it. Never having had any formal coaching, I'll call her a "native talent" who just loves to run, but her experience is not the norm. Most folks really have to pay attention to the details of hydration and nutrition to perform at that level.
I'm a numbers guy and several years ago I set about calculating my sodium needs, because I also sweat like the proverbial pig and knew that I needed to replace more than water. Here is a little information from the Power Bar website:

Sodium and water are required in appropriate ratios based on an athlete’s sweat rate. It is recommended that an athlete determine their sweat rate in various conditions (link to Sweat Rate Calculator) and consume sodium based on the amount of fluid they require. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that people who are active for more than one hour consume 500–700 mg of sodium for every 32 oz (~1L) of water they consume. However, there are some who recommend 500–1,000 mg of sodium per 32 oz of water, or per one hour of intense exercise.

Experimental data has demonstrated that sweat rate and sodium loss is highly individual, ranging from 460–1840 mg/L of sweat. This can be further influenced by numerous other factors including genetics, fitness, acclimatization, and weather conditions. As such, both the sweat rate and the amount of sodium per oz (or liter) of sweat is highly individual. Athletes must experiment in training to find the right balance that works for their body and exercise conditions. 

 I will typically drink a bottle of sports drink to every 1 or 2 bottles of water in the summer, and can easily got through 2 bottles an hour when it is really hot. A 24oz bottle of Gatorade mixed to the label proportions from powder contains 300 mg of sodium. While that amount allows the body to readily absorb the drink, it is far short of the amount of sodium needed to replace what I sweat out over the course of a long ride. To compensate, I add salt and salt substitute (potassium chloride) to my Gatorade and sometimes carry along Enduralyte supplements. We've been conditioned to avoid salt, but for active folks in hot weather, unless you have a blood pressure problem, you are unlikely to overdo it if you eat a normal healthy diet.

Experiment to find out what works for you, and even then it's possible to get into trouble. Last Saturday, I failed to mix up my standard drink load, but felt like I was still OK for a moderate 60 mile ride on a humid, but not extremely hot morning. I was at less than peak form on the ride, but felt OK until reality set in as cramps fired off in both of my legs as I headed over the BDB about 10 miles from home. A gracious friend gave me a bottle of GatorAde that I gulped between spasms and then I stopped at the Argenta Market to simply grabbed salt from the lunch counter and lick it out of my hand. Not real appealing to the diners perhaps, but the cramps soon subsided and I made the last climb home, but my experience shows how quickly a ride can go from good to very bad while operating in extreme conditions.

Enjoy the ride, but be careful and pay attention to what your body is telling you!

A Note To Readers: I'm still here!

A couple of folks, due to recent inactivity, have asked Mrs JBar if I was laying off the blog. Absolutely not, says I. That's how rumors get started. My paying job has been particularly busy and we took some time off for our usual Colorado vacation. Between work, travel, and riding there simply have not been enough hours in the day to do much writing. I'm about to have some extended time off of the bike as I'm having some repair work done on an injured hand (no, not a bike wreck. I don't ski worth a damn.), so I should be regaling with tales of some sort as I rehab. The Tour de France starts Saturday, so that should provide fodder for commentary.

Arkansas River Trail Survey

The Arkansas River Trail Task Force has enlisted UALR to conduct a user survey for the Arkansas River Trail. The survey takes about 10 minutes and has various questions regarding trail users’ opinions and concerns for the Arkansas River Trail. This survey’s data will be used to help our task force address users’ concerns and formulate a strategy to improve the trail. We are especially interested in cycling clubs and out of town visitors. All data collected is confidential and NO emails will be kept on file. UALR will tabulate the results in house.

You may have received an invitation to participate from other sources, so please complete just one survey.

Click here to participate. The user pass code for the  JBarCycling group is 1200

Friday, June 22, 2012

Pinnacle Valley

The Big Picture and Sharing The Love
The recent agreement laying out 88 miles of Arkansas River Trial System may be optimistically seen as a turning point toward the ultimate creation of a statewide network of bike trails and designated routes; at least that's how I'm going to choose to view it. There is obviously a lot of work to be done in terms of overcoming fiscal and engineering barriers and changing the mindset of government agencies and the public, but every monumental endeavor requires an idea, a plan, and a good foundation. The ARTS concept is a big step in the right direction. I regularly heap praise on NLR Mayor Pat Hays and Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines for their leadership and resolve in the building of the River Trail and its associated bridges, so now I feel compelled to throw a little love at folks like Rob Stephens, who chairs the ART Task Force, and Marsha Guffey and Jim McKenzie of Metroplan for their roles.  These are not people you'll see riding every afternoon along the river, but they see the value of alternative transportation as a means of enhancing the health and quality of life of our citizenry and as an attractive engine for economic development.

Mark and Mike seem to be getting on board.

That would be Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola and Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe. I have been somewhat critical of what I considered to be half-hearted efforts on the part of Little Rock to fulfill long-made promises on a number of issues, but I'm becoming cautiously optimistic that Mayor Stodola and his staff have stiffened their resolve to get some things done. I sat in on a meeting of the LR Bike Friendly Community Committee, chaired by Ed Levy, recently and was pleased to see his honor,  the mayor, present. Assistant City Manager Bryan normally represents the mayor's office and, while Bryan is a sincere and genuinely nice guy, the nature of the arrangement often leads to questions and requests being passed on until the next monthly meeting as Bryan seeks answers or confirmation of information. Now, I see that Mayor Stodola will be speaking at the July 11 BACA meeting at the Capital Hotel to discuss the city's opportunities to incorporate cycling and alternative transportation into future plans. Funding from the recently passed sales tax and the possibility of the renewal of an existing property tax millage, along with community support, will be the key to these plans coming to pass.
On the state level, it appears that Arkansas's recent ranking of 50th among states in terms of bike friendliness by the League of America Bicyclists has created some impetus from the governor's office to change things. Nobody wants to finish DFL, and Arkansas's dismal ranking was mostly the result of having virtually no statewide policy position on cycling. I've heard from several souces that Governor Beebe got his staff together and has initiated discussions that will hopefully change that. This could include changes in driver's license training manuals, enforcement policy and road construction planning among other things. The simple fact that cycling is on the radar at the state level is an improvement.

A More Focused View: Getting Along With the Neighbors and Location Specific Behavior 

Pinnacle Valley Road

The opening of Two Rivers Bridge has allowed droves of cyclists to easily access already popular road rides in western Pulaski County to the Pinnacle State Park and Wye Mountain areas. The resulting bike traffic has been readily accepted by some area residents, not so much by others. I had heard that residents of Pinnacle Valley Road had started a petition drive to ban cyclists from the road between County Farm Road and Maumelle Park and the rumor was confirmed on a recent Saturday as our small group of riders awaited a group member who had flatted on exiting Two Rivers Park. As we waited off the road at the corner of County Farm Road and Pinnacle Valley, a gentleman pulled up and rolled down his window to shout, "I signed a petition to make you people ride on that bike path and get off the road". Unfortunately, the well-intentioned 'bike path' constructed by the county, limited by right-of-way and drainage requirements, is little more that a sidewalk and cannot be ridden safely at normal road bike speeds due to driveway crossings and various zigs and zags around trees and other obstacles. This is especially true when it is shared with local residents who are using it for walking or jogging. It is important that we as cyclists be sensitive to the fact that these folks live out there. It is also a matter of looking out for our own safety. Please be polite and move to the right and stay single file as traffic approaches. This is simply good manners and is required by law in many cases.

Near Pinnacle State Park Visitor's Center: Danger Lurks

Related to the traffic on Pinnacle Valley Road, another area that represents a hazard to both cyclists and to motorists sharing the road is the hill just east of the Pinnacle Mountain State Park Visitor's Center. While most of PV Road is relatively flat and straight, making for good sight distance, the approach to this hill is troublesome.

Cycling super-model Chuck Richesin demonstrates the limited sight distance when approaching the crest of the hill east of the Pinnacle S.P. Visitor's Center.

Motorists overtaking cyclists at this location have three choices as I see it. They can:

1) Patiently slow down until they and the cyclist are over the crest of the hill so that they can see far enough to safely pass. I believe the speed limit here is 35MPH, so they may lose upwards of 20 seconds if they wait behind a 10 MPH cyclist for the full 1/2 mile distance of the climb.

2)  Take their chances entering the oncoming traffic lane in order to give the cyclist the 3-foot safe passing distance as required by state law.
3) Blast by the cyclist dangerously close at their normal driving speed of 45-50 MPH

Obviously, #1 is the most desirable, though least likely, option in my experience, with variations of #2 and #3 being the most popular.

I think that Pulaski County plans to ultimately have bike lanes along this stretch of road and even a bit of shoulder on this short section would be a good thing, but for now we have to work with what we've got.

Another factor that makes riding to the right on this narrow stretch of road important is the possibility that passing car will encounter cyclists traveling in the opposite direction as occurred during this demonstration. I've also noticed riders stopped at the crest of this hill waiting for slower buddies. That's fine until a car comes along and is forced into unseen oncoming traffic; especially if that oncoming traffic is me!

Afternoon sun further complicates the scene for westbound drivers. Keep in mind that if you don't ride single file to allow cars to pass, you are forcing them further into the oncoming traffic lane which may be occupied by unseen cyclists. Drivers focused on passing riders may not notice riders coming in the opposite direction, like the rider in this shot.

Except for the afternoon sun factor, the situation is the same for eastbound traffic.

I'm not just writing this to be preachy, though I do seem to love my little sermonettes, but Pinnacle Valley is a regular route for me and I've observed these situations time after time. The one that irks me is when I encounter a group of 3-4 cyclists riding two or more abreast seemingly oblivious to the fact that a couple of cars are stacked up behind them. On more than one occasion, the cars have blown around them into my lane at a high rate of speed, not even recognizing a lone rider as oncoming traffic.

Let's be good neighbors and safe riders by being aware of the situations that exist out on the road, whether they be political or structure related. See you on the road.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Break Time

Hey, folks, I'm going to take a bit of a break. I'll lob a post or two, but we're going to take a little down time, so things will likely be a little slow here at JBar Cycling over the next couple of weeks. The day job has been intense and I always feel compelled to keep up the blog, so I'm looking forward to a little decompression and feel the need to step away from the keyboards!
Back at you soon!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Arkansas River Trail System: Yes, It Is A Big Dam Deal!

 An 88-Mile River Trail System will create both transportation and recreational opportunities for Central Arkansas residents and visitors.

On Friday, June 1, city, county, state and federal agency representatives joined in signing a Memorandum of Understanding creating the Arkansas River Trail System, an 88-mile route consisting of a combination of existing multi-use trail systems and designated routes on public roads and highways. Approximately 75% of the now-designated trail system is on public roadways. I was delighted to see that the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department was among the signatories, as it gives me hope that non-motorized transportation might indeed be somewhere on the fringes of the AHTD's radar. I was also somewhat disappointed that Governor Mike Beebe was not present, as his leadership could certainly add impetus to efforts to elevate the State of Arkansas from our recent last-place showing in the League of American Bicyclist's state-by state ranking.
 The iconic Big Dam Bridge serves as backdrop for new Arkansas River Trail System logo in this photo.

The MOU is largely the result of  efforts by the Arkansas River Trail Task Force to provide a more uniform system of signage, policies and construction standards, such as adding bike-friendly shoulders to road construction, to help guide the growth of cycling and pedestrian infrastructure throughout Central Arkansas. Hopefully, this effort will continue to ultimately have statewide reach. The agreement is not a plan to build more miles of multi-use trails such as the existing Arkansas River Trail,  but instead takes the important step of putting designated bike routes on public roads while creating a template for further expansion. While cyclists already have the right to share the roads and highways of Arkansas, any experienced road rider will tell you that our presence is not accepted by much of the motoring public.That is unlikely to change anytime soon, but changing public perception is somewhat like answering the question, "How do you eat an elephant?" The answer is, of course, "One bite at a time."

Not all cyclists embrace the concept of a "trail system", but the recent ranking of Arkansas as 50th among states in "Bicycle Friendliness" indicates that we have a long way to go and that virtually any step is one in the right direction. While we would all would love to see more urban bike lanes, bike boxes, and traffic calming measures on busy urban thoroughfares, let's be realistic and pick our battles wisely. By nature, I'm a "fix it now" kind of guy, but I'm learning that the wheels of government and public policy turn slowly and that those things will come with time as our bike culture evolves and grows in acceptance.

Friday, June 1, 2012

We're Number 50! Arkansas Ranks Last In Bike Friendliness

 Arkansas was recently ranked dead last, 50th of 50, among states in terms of being "Bicycle Friendly" by the League Of American Bicyclists.

Here is Arkansas's scorecard. It's kind of like two C's and the rest F's.

This news is a week or two old to most of you, as Celia Storey did a write-up in the Dem-Gaz and there has been quite a bit of discussion on the BACA Facebook page and among local cyclists. It also go mention on local TV news stations.

Here's a graphic view of how Arkansas ranked among the other states. Nice colors, but not a pretty picture.

Last year, we ranked 48th, so obviously we're not headed in the right direction. The drop, however,  is more a reflection of others doing better rather than of Arkansas getting worse. The fact is that we're just not doing anything at the state level. I think we got credit for the Safe Passing law, which requires motorists to give cyclists at least 3 feet of room when passing. Nice thought, but the last I heard there had not been a single ticket issued under the law, even in cases where cyclists had been hit by automobiles. In fact, a cyclist was issued a citation in Little Rock in March for failing to ride far enough to the right when he was struck by a passing car's mirror. The ticket was later dismissed, but it demonstrates the mindset of much of the law enforcement community when it comes to bikes on the road. Arkansas also ranked very high in the number of cyclist killed by motor vehicles at 18.

The rankings were based on a survey with an objective set of questions, most of which were answered simply "Yes" or "No", so we were fairly ranked with little or no room for discrimination or favoritism based on regional or other biases.We got what we deserved under the criteria of the ranking, which were for the most part specific to state laws, transportation policies, road construction policies, and the accommodation of cyclists employed or served by state agencies. There was no accounting of the efforts and accomplishments of individual cities or regions, such as Central Arkansas's River Trail System.

So, what does it mean? The application was completed by Bud Laumer, Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinator at the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, and Bud answered the questions honestly. The fact is that the State of Arkansas, and the AHTD in particular, simply ignores bicycles as a mode of transportation. The AHTD is referred to by some as the "Department of Cars and Trucks" and that is not unfair. In the AHTD's 49th Biennial Report, the department reported expenditures of $1,746,711,929.44, almost Two Billion Dollars, with construction lettings of close to a half-billion dollars, and the word bicycle appears once in the 30 page report. That was in reference to the inclusion of bike lanes for an overpass in Maumelle. Granted, it is largely a financial report, but alternative transportation systems do not appear. This also holds true of the AHTD Strategic Goals, where the term "alternative transportation" refers only to "intermodal transportation activities (air, highway, rail, transit, waterway, pipelines, etc.)."
The AHTD and the legislature are largely responsible for for the decisions that can influence the State's position in the rankings and it is clear that the AHTD's only priority is motor transportation over highways. Period.
Again, the survey does not reflect any of the local efforts like those underway in Fayetteville, Conway, and all of Central Arkansas, where even now an agreement is being formalized to create an 88 mile Arkansas River Trail System. While we point to these wonderful achievements with pride, it is obvious that a statewide vision will be required to further our progress in accommodating people-powered transportation. The embarrassing last place finish is serving as a wake-up call for bike advocates, as conversations are underway on how to best create some sort on statewide bicycle advocacy group or an umbrella organization to unite existing entities, such as BACA, into an effective voice.

Cycling in Arkansas is big and is growing. Now, we need to get the State of Arkansas to recognize the value of this robust, healthy, and attractive transportation and recreational alternative. The cycling infrastructure in Central Arkansas is already serving as a magnet for tourism and industrial development. Let's expand that vision to include all of Arkansas.

Expounding On Expansion: The Local Shop Scene

Almost all aspects of cycling are growing in Central Arkansas. OK, we don't have a track, but we do have a growing community of road riders and racers, bike polo players, commuters, multiple-child-baby-pullers, mountain bikers, cyclocross racers, scavenger hunters, retro-tweed riders and every kind of recreational riders. This diverse bunch helps to provide a market for a variety of very good bike shops. I heard many locals riders wonder whether the market could support another shop when Mat and Regina Seelinger opened Spokes in January 2011. After all, we already had Chainwheel, Arkansas Cycling and Fitness, The Community Bicyclist, Riders Ready, J& P, and Competitive Cyclist   offering a wide range of bikes, accessories, clothing and service; but the market has grown and Competitive Cyclist was bought and moved to Utah, taking a big number of  rider friends with them but losing what was left of of its local feel. In the meantime, Spokes has prospered with products like Niner, Orbea, and the popular Cervelo lines and two other shops, Chainwheel and the Sherwood AC&F Location, found that they needed more room to serve their customers. Both shops have added square footage; AC&F by adding on to their existing building and Chainwheel by consolidating their leased spaces at their existing Rodney Parham location.

 The Chainwheel

 The Chainwheel now has an expansive feel to it. Merchandise is attractively displayed and easy to find.

 The Chainwheel expansion has given the folks there an opportunity to display more bikes in an attractive open environment.

 The departure of Competitive Cyclist from the local market allowed Chainwheel to pick up Pinarello, the ultimate Euro line for many bike aficionados. Pat Baron reported that the move had been a good one, with steady demand for the high-end, high performance, and very sexy brand.


 Still have a few bucks left over after buying the Pinarello or just want to upgrade your current ride with some functional bling? Bump things up one more notch with some Zip wheels

 The expanded service area had bikes lined up and the guys were getting the work out!

Arkansas Cycling and Fitness- Sherwood.

Arkansas Cycling and Fitness now has more room for inventory in Sherwood. This location has always had a strong following in the mountain bike community.
In addition the Specialized and other lines, AC&F in Sherwood has retained the Trek and Trek/Gary Fisher lines.

The lovely and charming Tracey Villano is helping this customer (and JBar reader!) with the purchase of a sweet new wheelset.

 The new service area at Arkansas Cycling is clean and well-lighted.

The growth of cycling in Central Arkansas is reflected in the expansion of these two shops and the continued success of the many others. I will plead guilty to having done some mail-order business over the years, and will still snatch a bargain for some commodity item that I keep in my personal stock. Over the years, I've learned that more and more I find it to be in my best interest to shop local due to competitive pricing, broad inventories, and great service; not to mention the fact that it's always fun to go to the bike shop!