Thursday, January 24, 2013

Woodworking Trail Fairies

Of course, I mean "fairies" to be taken in a very positive sense, as in wondrous creatures who do are seldom seen as they go about the business of doing things from which many of us benefit. You know, like the Tooth Fairy. I've never seen the Tooth Fairy, but my discarded baby teeth were worth a quarter, which was good enough way back in the day. I've already mentioned the great work done on by NLR Parks, Central Ark. Master Naturalists and mountain bike volunteer groups in clearing the Burns Park and Pfeifer Loop mountain bike trails of recent storm damage. Other groups went to work cleaning up Allsopp Park and Pinnacle Mountain trails.
On Sunday, I loaded up my Niner and Willie dog to check out conditions at Camp Robinson. I had a folding saw in my pack and chainsaw in the truck, but I wasn't necessarily on a work mission. I only had a couple of hours and Willie and I both needed to burn some calories.
Early on in the ride, I came across an obstacle.
My inexpensive folding saw from Lowe's was surprisingly effective.
OK, OK. Willie looked a little impatient and slightly disappointed that I did not hop this log as easily as he did.
I had seen signs of trail work all along the way and I soon came upon a common sight on the Camp trails-- Basil Hicks Jr. and III, along with their pack of energetic Irish setters, out clearing trail.
The Basils were getting some serious work done.
I followed the Hicks boys to a point where the trail was blocked and we went to work. After helping for a bit, I headed on up the trail, stopping from time to time to cut out a broken down cedar or white oak.
Willie is sociable enough, but having three large, red dogs sniffing his butt made him a little nervous. He would back up under my bike, only to get approached from the other side.
Seeking refuge: Willie had enough and made the leap to my hip without his usual command of "flying dog". He caught me by surprise but I caught him anyway. The halo effect comes from being kind to needy dogs.
The trails at Camp Robinson were in great shape other than the fast-disappearing obstacles. If you're a Central Arkansas mountain biker, you've got to get out there and explore to appreciate the wide range of quality riding opportunities that Camp offers. Remember that a Sportsman's Pass is required. My thanks go out to the core of folks, mostly CARP riders, who regularly contribute their labor to keep this resource in good riding condition for the rest of us.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Lance Armstrong Interview. Your thoughts?

I'll preface my statement by saying that I have assumed for several years that Armstrong doped and I was still a fan. I thought that he came across as properly humbled and quite sincere, but he is SO good at that!

Lance Armstrong interview watch party at Vino's, sponsored by Arkansas Cycling and Fitness.
For me, it brings a kind of relief to hear him say that what most of us have believed was actually true. This may quite possibly just be my nature, but I have a tendency to believe people. That creates a bit of a dilemma when faced with conflicting information, as when almost everybody ever associated with Lance Armstrong has confirmed the doping suspicions, but a angry and earnest Lance is filing and winning lawsuits for defamation and passing drug tests. I think he's an asshole, bully, user, etc, but I still think he won 7 Tours de France against equally doped riders at the top of the peloton. The victims were the folks who refused to dope and who didn't succeed as a result, so it was wrong.
It has been very interesting to listen to the reactions to the interview that are coming out of the mainstream, non-cycling media. Some folks feel that he was not contrite enough and that he still came across as a coldly calculating character. If he had sobbed and begged forgiveness, he would have been painted, and rightfully so, as an insincere fake, because that simply is not who Lance Armstrong is. Cold calculation, even in a humbling public confession, is as much a part of his identity as were the yellow jerseys.
Other people seemed to feel that he owed the public a more detailed account, naming names and gushing details. I think that Armstrong got points with most folks for staying out of the trap of making accusations or providing information about others. He will probably be compelled to do that under oath at some point in time and there was nothing to be gained for pointing fingers in this venue. Most of his answers were direct and most were damning of his actions and character, so they came across as being honestly offered, but, again, Lance is good at that.
I'm still deciding how I feel about all of this, but I will say that I don't feel outrage or disappointment or anger. Too much time has passed and too much has been known or assumed for too long for this to rally strong emotions.
There was little humor in this 90 minutes, though when he was called out about calling Betsy Andrieu a fat, lying bitch. He said, "I never called her fat."
We'll be talking about this some more, I'm sure!
Feel free to comment.

Gimme Three Feet, Gimme Three Feet, Mister...

No, that's not the hook from your second favorite Lynyrd Skynyrd song, it's the law!
As most cyclists, but few non-cycling motorists, are aware, it is illegal for a motor vehicle to pass a cyclist closer than 3'. Here is the applicable code:

27-51-311. Overtaking a bicycle.

(a) The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle
proceeding in the same direction on a roadway shall
exercise due care and pass to the left at a safe distance of
not less than three (3) feet and shall not again drive to the
right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken

(b)(1) A person who violates this section shall be
subject to a fine not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100).
(2) A person who violates this section with the
violation resulting in a collision causing death or
serious physical injury to the person operating the
overtaken bicycle shall be subject to a fine not to
exceed one thousand dollars ($1000) in addition to
any other penalties prescribed by law.

There has never been a ticket issued under this 2007 act, even in cases where cyclists have been struck and killed while lawfully operating on a public road.

North Little Rock Takes Action to Inform the Public

On Wednesday, January 16, NLR Fit2Live coordinator Bernadette Rhodes announced a public awareness campaign to inform drivers of their responsibilty under the law.

Bernadette Rhodes announces NLR's awareness campaign at City Hall as other officials look on. City Council member Beth White holds her "family yard stick" to give graphic meaning to the idea of 3 feet.
NLR Alderman and avid cyclist Charlie Hight expresses his support.
I was pleased to see the support for this program from other city officials, including police chief Danny Bradley, Aldermen Steve Baxter, Beth White, and Charlie Hight, along with Mayor Joe Smith and representitives of the NLR Fire Department and the parks department. Though long-time Mayor Pay Hays has been replaced by the newly elected Joe Smith, I don't see North Little Rock slowing down in its support of healthy lifestyles in general and cycling in particular. Mayor Smith has repeatedly stated that he believes that such initiatives help bring young, educated, employable people to the city. While he is not a cyclist as was Mayor Hays, he is an ecomonic development guy who recognizes the value of quality-of-life projects in bringing positive growth to our city.

The campaign will include bumper stickers, yard signs, and billboards.
North Little Rock continues to do a lot for the cycling community, with infrastructure projects like the recently completed Highland Trail, repair or repaving of the River Trail, and the rapid response in clearing trails after the recent winter storms. I expected fast action on the River Trail, but was really impressed with the speed with which crews from NLR Parks and volunteer groups cleared the Burns Park and Pfeifer Loop mountain bike trails. Bernadette and Charlie Hight are also leading the committee working to try to get a Silver Level Bike Friendly Community award from the League of American Bicyclists. NLR earned bronze two years ago and much has been done since then.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

River Mountain Road Access to Two Rivers Closed!!

Yep, there's a little problem here! Cyclists and walkers were bypassing the road closure on Thursday evening by crossing the ditch or by way of the adjacent RR tracks.

From the Arkansas Times blog:
THE CITY VS. WINTER, PART I: Little Rock City Hall reports:
Due to a collapsed drainage pipe, a portion of River Mountain Road in Two Rivers Park will be closed off to vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle traffic effective immediately until further notice.

This part of the road is located at the bottom of the hill headed east. There will be no access from the west side of Two Rivers Bridge. The expected repair time is approximately 8-10 weeks.

Until repairs are completed, the Two Rivers Bridge may be accessed through Murray Park via Rebsamen Park Road. We apologize for any inconvenience.

The Lance Dance: Doing The Tango with Oprah

Well, Lance's interview with Oprah is in the can. It airs on Thursday night and I predict that millions of people will be searching their cable listings to find out what channel OWN is on. I found OWN on Channel 77, and almost got sucked into a Dr. Phil episode on the topic of overprotective parents. 12-year-old Ashley finally got to ride the school bus and go to the mall, but Dr. Phil had her followed by a staff member with a hidden camera so that her overbearing mother could watch. I guess that this is the kind of high drama that OWN delivers on a regular basis, but even that doesn't compete with Lance's tell-all.
The leaks of what Lance was going to confess started long before the actual interview took place on Monday, and now a few details of the actual interview are being leaked, giving the public time to digest, speculate, and parse what we think to be the facts. ESPN, CNN, and other outlets are abuzz with news flashes as producers seek out damn near anybody associated with cycling who is willing to use the words "Lance Armstrong" in a sentence.
Even on Tuesday morning's local sports talk radio, it was the hot topic, edging out the NFL playoffs, Razorback football coaching staff moves, and basketball. My reaction ranges from interested to amused at some of the comments being made by folks whose only exposure to professional bike racing has been Lance's career as seen through mainstream media. An example is the caller who said Lance's fall compared to that of Tiger Woods, but, since Lance was a cancer survivor, "they should find out what he was taking and see if it could help other people with cancer."  Hello? The magic potion for endurance cyclists has been EPO, which was developed to enhance red blood cell production to treat anemia in people with chronic kidney disease and cancer patients undergoing radiation or chemotherapy. Add to the list HGH and various steroids mostly well-known for their effects. Sadly for the sport of cycling, most of us have undergone a years-long education in applied biochemistry as we have followed the twists and turns of doping-related drama in elite bike racing.
The bottom line for me is that Lance cheated, along with most other top riders, but he also made a ton of money and took a slash and burn, leave-no-survivor approach to his many critics. While the word is that Lance just wants to get all of this behind him so that he can compete in triathlons again, I think his ultimate motive is to avoid poverty and prison. Unlike Lance, team director Johan Bruyneel has elected to fight sanctions imposed against him; a move that could put Armstrong in the position of testifying under oath. While many of the possible charges against him have been avoided due to statutes-of-limitation, any current sworn testimony will be subject to the scrutiny of eager prosecutors.
For many cycling fans, the worst part of this affair is being forced to admit that the French were right.

It's sad, it's frustrating, and so very depressing to watch a true American icon as his storied career is crushed to smoldering rubble,  so......
Let's have a watch party!!

Arkansas Cycling and Fitness is sponsoring an Oprah and Lance watch party at Vino's Thursday, January 17, at 7:00PM.


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The Lance Armstrong Confession-Viewing Event

Join us and your local cycling community for the Cycling interview of a lifetime.

Where:  Vinos Brew Pub 7th and Chester
When:  Thursday, January 17, 2013.  Mingle and meet at 7:00 p.m. The interview starts at 8:00 p.m.

Vinos will air the event on their big screen in the back room and they will be offering Pizza and Beer specials.    

Arkansas Cycling & Fitness Gift Cards
AC&F has adopted a new gift card system. Old gift cards will be discontinued on February 28, 2013.

Old gift cards with the Gary Fisher logo can be redeemed or have their balance transferred to our new gift cards. THIS MUST BE COMPLETED BY FEBRUARY 28, 2013, or the value of that card will be lost.

This is what the old gift card looks like:

Saturday, January 12, 2013

What to do, what to do....

Today's weather forecast, and that of the next several days, is bleak for those of us dependent on two-wheel outdoor activities for recreation and fitness. Hopefully, my ever-alert readers took advantage of the window of opportunity to log a few miles last week when we had a few days of fine conditions between the thaw of the Christmas blizzard and the current blast of rain and cold. If not, woe to your expanding waistline, you missed your chance and you're now faced with deciding how you will spend the next few days. You can open a beer, grab that bag of Cheetos and wallow in your remorse or you can do something productive. ('Scuse me while I lick my fingers. I'm getting salty orange stuff all over my keyboard.)
Here are a couple of suggestions of worthwhile activities for the house-bound rider:
(Note: If you are one of those sickos who can enjoy time on a trainer, knock yourself out. This is directed at normal people.)
Wrap it up: Look at your bike. Is your bar-tape feathered, tattered, dangling, incurably dirty (yeah, Euro-white is cool for a while.), or otherwise unlikely to make it through a season in acceptable condition? If so, go to your local bike shop, select some bar tape and then go home and wrap your bars. The bike shop is also a good place to see some buddies and hang out for a bit on a rainy day while being tempted by new bling. There are many on-line tutorials for this simple task. I selected the Bicycling link because it is pretty straightforward and the guy has some killer sideburns. You've got time on your hands, so check out a couple of sites before you get started. You'll be learning and you can pick the instuction method that is most comfortable for you.
When selecting tape, if you have no established preference, go with something basic but of good quality. I've probably use Cinelli more than anything else over the years, though I have enjoyed some gel tapes for their vibration damping and I am going to try some Lizard Skins, perhaps today! The Lizard Skins tape is expensive, probably overly so, but I bought it on a whim and a recommendation from a friend. You can get perfectly good, quality tape in the $12-25.00 range. Warning: resist the temptation to get all matchy-matchy with your tape, saddle and tires, unless all are black. A white saddle and tape may be acceptable, but remember that you don't have a team crew to keep all that shit spotlessly clean.
A lot of folks have convinced themselves that they are too inept to do anything remotely mechanical to their bike, but the only tool required for taping the bars is a pair of scissors (yes, you can use your rounded point school scissors if you're not to be trusted with sharp objects), and the experience will make you a little more familiar with your bike. Bar tape comes with strips of adhesive tape to finish off the end of the wrap, but I suggest using 3M electrical tape. 3M will cost a couple of bucks more than the cheap stuff, but a roll can last for several years and is well-worth the cost difference.
Most bar tape is very forgiving and can be easily unwrapped and re-done if you find that you've left a gap or have come up short at the top of the bar. Inspect before you cut, especially if you have more than a few inches of tape to trim! You may have shorted yourself on the overlap. The most trying bar-wrap experience I've had involved some pink leather tape that I volunteered to install for one of Diane's cute co-workers. The material had no stretch and had to be perfectly aligned to lay flat in the curves of the bars. It caused me some frustration, but it looked good when I finished, totally suited character of the rider, and did not fall into the overly-matchy category. Be patient and you will enjoy a clean-looking cockpit and the satisfaction of learning a new skill.
Clean it up: I save my serious bike cleaning for days when I can put the work stand outside and use a hose. Lubes and degreaser can be a little stinky, but you can still take the opportunity to wipe your bike down with a wet rag and, while doing so, inspect your tires, cables and drive train. If your bike has mud and grit on it, be gentle so that you don't scratch the finish in the course of your cleaning efforts.
Sort it out: Though it is beyond belief for those folks who have seen my desk, I'm pretty organized when it comes to my bike kit and gear. Even with my penchant for organization in that part of my life, it pays to periodically just go through everything.
Whether you keep all of you stuff in a specific drawer and closet space, or store it where it falls in floorboard of your minivan, etc., use some down time to take everything out, clean the dust bunnies from the corners and start over. You will likely find some piece of gear that you gave up looking for last summer or that pair of winter gloves that had fallen out of rotation and simply been forgotten.

One month ago, I picked the last of our cherry tomatoes and Diane cut zinnias before our first hard freeze
We enjoyed a long, warm fall before winter set in, and we will be back in the sunshine soon enough, so use this time wisely. You won't want to take the time off the bike on those pretty days of spring.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dusting It Off: Sofa To Saddle Ain't That Easy

Like many of you, I have spent a significant part of the last two weeks sitting on my ass while indulging in all-too-readily available holiday fare. Yes, I've played in the snow and participated in some very manly chainsaw work, but that has been more than offset by hours of lethargy and recreational dining.
Last Wednesday, determined to overcome the lingering effects of gravity, 10" of snow, and a string of miserable weather days, I ventured out on my road bike for a ride. It was 37 degrees, near dark, breezy, and there was still quite a bit of snow present in the shade ( Though shade implies sun, of which there was none top be seen). In other words, conditions were less than perfect, but I struggled through a fairly uncomfortable hour of freezing fingers before beating a whimpering retreat back to the comfort of my car. Friday saw me doing a short scout on the mountain bike--much more comfortable, but a late start and several detours around downed trees prevented me from getting into much of a groove, but I was on the bike and had a little mud to show for it.

Saturday was another gray day, and even the BDB was not immune from the intrusion of fallen trees.
When Saturday came around, I knew that I had to venture forth with resolve. I e-mailed my small circle of regular ride buddies and got minimal response, the most positive of which closed with "call me in March". Actually, that statement is not true. One guy did commit to the ride. To save him the embarrassment that is to follow, we'll just call him by the pseudonym of "Jason W".  Jason had to beg off so that he could take his Shih Tzu to the groomer while his wife took his son deer hunting. Sonny boy got a doe and Jason got this post and a fluffy pup, but I digress.
Returning to the bike after a layoff  can produce a variety of results ranging from "ugh" to , "Hey, I'm feeling pretty darn good!" I started off with the former and was ready to head home and call 30 miles good, but after running into a couple of acquaintances and extending my ride, I started feeling pretty darn good! I certainly wasn't suffering from overtraining and the legs felt good. There really is something to be said for taking a few days off the bike.
The troops rallied on Sunday, so we had a small band of hearty souls on board to share the chill. There's nothing better than day of brilliant sunshine to awaken slumbering critters from hibernation, even on a still-cold day, and I appreciated the company!

No, these were not my ride partners. Most of my ride partners whine a lot more than these girls. There were a lot of little Christmas bikes on the BDB Saturday, though the lead rider in this pair told me that she got her bike for her birthday.
Cyclists were not the only ones anxious to take advantage of the day. The oarsmen from the Boathouse Club were seen getting in a little work near the Broadway Bridge. 
Winter can be tough on those of us cyclists who don't have much of a "Plan B" for exercise, so it's important to jump on those opportune days and get in a few miles. Even though a couple of 50-mile days did nothing for my winter weight problem, the effort made me feel better about my slovenly self and put me about 100 miles ahead of my sofa-ridden brethren.

Monday, January 7, 2013

NLR Burns Park Trails Come Back To Life

Jeff Caplinger reports that the Burns Park mountain bike trails have been cleared as of Sunday. That's great work and our thanks go out to all involved.

I ventured out to the Burns Park mountain bike trails late Friday afternoon to scout things out after getting a report of numerous trees down on the red and green trails. It was no surprise, as pines were hit hard in the recent heavy snow and there were already some obstacles resulting from recent high winds. I had less than an hour before dark and only had time to ride the green trail, but found that while it was evident that trail crews had been at work, there was still work to be done at that time.

Good news, bad news: Trees had been cleared from the road, but had piled on the green trail at the crossing.
Though a lot of clearing had been done by Friday, there were still plenty of scenes like this one.

This mess required a little bushwhacking to bypass.

Here is Jeff's post on NLR trail conditions, including a shout-out to the folks who worked hard so that others can play! The Red and Green trail surfaces are in good shape, with minimal mud and a few small water crossings. As usual, much of the yellow trail lowlands will be a mucky mess, so avoid it.

UNPAVED and NATURAL SURFACE TRAILS - I heard from our work crews this morning - "After a combination Master Naturalist/Burns Park Mountain Bike Group workday, the Red, Green, Blue, White, and Orange Connector trails have all been cleared of downed limbs and are ready for travel! We did not clear the Yellow Trail because it is so wet at the moment. On Saturday while we were working we had all users groups on the trails—bikers, equestrians, joggers, hikers, ..... This thing is coming together!

AMN plans to work on Pfeifer Loop sometime next week (probably Tuesday or Wednesday). Will let you know when that one is clear. We hear it is a disaster area, but I haven’t looked at it yet."

Thanks to the Central Arkansas Master Naturalists and the Burns Park Mountain Bike Group for the quick trail clean  & look forward to their report on the Yellow and Pfiefer trails.

More Work Stations: Help Decide Where They Go!
North Little Rock is set to receive 3 work stations similar to those at the BDB pavilion, and Two Rivers Park.You can help decide where they are installed!

BIKE REPAIR STATIONS - NLR is to receive three new bike repair stations. Help decide where they need to go by completing the survey shown here:

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Lazy Me:Inertia and Trail Report


[in-ur-shuh, ih-nur-] Show IPA
inertness, especially with regard to effort, motion, action, and the like; inactivity; sluggishness.
the property of matter by which it retains its state of rest or its velocity along a straight line so long as it is not acted upon by an external force.
an analogous property of a force: electric inertia.
Synonyms: torpor, inaction, laziness
I've fallen victim of the tendency for a body at rest to remain at rest. I keep making plans to get on the bike "tomorrow", then tomorrow shows up wrapped in a cold, gray, wet toga and my initiative oozes on down the gutter with the slowly melting snow.
Oh, yeah, Happy New Year!!
I could have gone boating this morning. The Cossatot River is up to a respectable level for the first time in months, though it is dropping fast. I could have, but we slept late, it's cold, and I had no enthusiasm for the 3 hour drive. My dry suit would have kept me cozy even on this 38 degree morning, but.......inertia is all over me like a lead blanket.
If things brighten up just a little I do resolve to get out on my bike and check out the state of the River Trail, but until that time, I'll rely on this report from Jeff Caplinger of the NLR Parks and Rec Department:
ARKANSAS RIVER TRAIL - After the snow event last week, our crew has cleared the trail of major obstacles (trees, limbs, branches, etc.) making the ART passable.  There are some hindrances (branches and twigs) on the ground and hanging from trees and many of them have now been marked with flagging tape to help draw your attention to them.
ISABELLA JO TRAIL - After the snow event last week, our crew has cleared the trail of major obstacles (trees, limbs, branches, etc.) making the trail passable.  There are some hindrances (branches and twigs) on the ground and hanging from trees and many of them have now been marked with flagging tape to help draw your attention to them.
NORTH SHORE TRAIL - After the snow event last week, our crew has cleared the trail of major obstacles (trees, limbs, branches, etc.) making the trail passable.  There are some hindrances (branches and twigs) on the ground and hanging from trees and many of them have now been marked with flagging tape to help draw your attention to them.
SOCCER COMPLEX TRAILS - After the snow event last week, our crew has cleared the trail of major obstacles (trees, limbs, branches, etc.) making the trail passable.  There are some hindrances (branches and twigs) on the ground and hanging from trees and many of them have now been marked with flagging tape to help draw your attention to them.
EMERALD PARK / HIGHLAND TRAIL - to be updated later today
UNPAVED and NATURAL SURFACE TRAILS - These trails have many obstacles (trees, limbs, branches, etc.) due to the snow event last week.  These trails will take a while to get cleared and made passable - do not attempt to move, cut, etc. any obstacle - we have a crew that will take care of these once the snow melts and the ground is drier.  Hikers should be able to move around the obstacles but will require more effort for horses and bikers.  Look ahead and look up.
Update 2:
EMERALD PARK - HIGHLAND TRAIL - The section by the eastern overlook (Martha Smith Overlook) has been paved and the full trail is open for use.  However, after the snow event of last week there are a few trees blocking the trail and many branches and limbs on and over the trail (thanks to James B for giving me a heads-up).  We will get the trees moved off the trail as soon as our schedule allows and then come back later and do a more detailed removal of the branches, etc.