Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tour Of Flanders-Right Now

If you're sitting around on Easter Sunday waiting for the weather to clear, you can check out the Tour of Flanders on line at Cycling Fans or SteephillTV .
Flander is one of the big Spring Classics and this is sure to be a good one.
Typically, you go to the bottom of the live coverage page, find an English broadcast and click thelink . DO NOT download sofware upgrades! Wait a minute or two and you'll be able to close out the banner ad. If the broadcaster sounds as if he's coughing up phlegm, well, that's Belgian TV in Flemish.

Monday, March 25, 2013

March: In Like A Lion, Out Like A....

Freakin' rabid wildebeest on PCP!

I keep a fairly detailed ride log. Last March I noted that I broke out a sleeveless jersey on March 13 and we had 7-8 days that exceeded 80 degrees. To be succinct, the weather this March has sucked for cycling. Warmth is long overdue  and my enthusiasm for long hours on the bike has been diminished by the pervasive crappy weather. That said, after being called a whiner, a wimp, and the "P" word over the last week or so, I ventured out Sunday afternoon in search of some scraps of fitness and self-esteem. I had begged off of an early morning ride that, in addition to wind and cold, involved rain and darkness, so the afternoon ride seemed quite reasonable. I've had bad ideas before and this certainly won't be the last. Actually, there is always a certain smug factor that comes with pursuing outdoor activities in extreme conditions. With the right gear and attitude, I'm usually glad to have done it, whether it be kayaking in driving snow or sub-20 temperatures or riding the bike when the wind speed exceeds the temperature, as was the case on Sunday.

The flags on the BDB were tattered. Cammack Village's banner took the worst of it!
The temperature was 42-degrees and the wind was gusting to 45-MPH. I did see a few friends out on the bikes and in each encounter there was an exchange of that little smile and shrug that says, "Yeah, I'm out here, too."

Thinking ahead
This will soon be behind us and it is time to start thinking about some of the event rides that are over the horizon.
Here are a few rides for which registration is open:

65 Roses- April 27 Searcy
I've never done this ride, but it has gained a reputation as being a good one. Here's the low-down:
The 65 Roses Tour, presented by Bike City, is a fully supported charity bicycle tour, supporting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. It is held in Searcy, AR in the early Spring of each year, since 2010. SAG vehicles are provided, hydration stations are located every 15 miles, and lunch is provided at the finish. All proceeds benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Read the story of "65 Roses" and learn more about Cystic Fibrosis at

Tour de Rock-June 1 from North Little Rock
Opportunities for this ride range from 10 miles to the fastest century you've ever ridden.The course is a pancake flat "out east" route and if you plan to hang with the front group you'll need your big boy/girl spandex on. I rode my personal best century here a few years ago at 4:35, getting dropped from the lead group at around mile 80. The 2013 TdR is a week earlier than it has been in recent years, which means we'll be in town and I have no vacation excuse. Flat doesn't mean easy and there is no coasting. Of course, you can take your time and enjoy every well-stocked aid station if you wish. The Tour de Rock has a route and a pace for everyone and the popular weekly training rides leading up to the event are worth the registration fee.

The Big Dam Bridge 100- September 28 from Little Rock
This is the big daddy cycling event in Arkansas. It has grown every year since its inaugural ride on October 1, 2006. It's a ride. It's a party. It's a race. It's a celebration of riding in Central Arkansas and a tribute to the Big Dam Bridge, the iconic structure that seems to anchor our community.

For now, it's still cold, but let's ride. I'll go if you will.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Bay Trail : New Fairfield Bay Mountain Bike Resource

I was recently asked by Frank Wimberley of the Greers Ferry Trails Council to give a call out to Debbi Brawli and her efforts to develop a sytem of mountain bike trails at Fairfield Bay. Frank has been hard at work developing trails in the Heber Springs area. From the Council's website:
The Greers Ferry Lake Trails Council (GFLTC) is a local grass roots organization that was formed early in 2010 to promote, plan, and build a multiuse trails system in the Greers Ferry Lake (North Central Arkansas) area.

Frank and Debbi are at opposite ends of the lake, but both are on a mission! Debbi and her team have received the blessing of the City of Fairfield Bay and the Fairfield Bay Community Council to develop a system of mountain bike trails utilizing roads that were laid out for expansion of the community but that were never developed.

 Rather than paraphrase Debbi's responses to my inquiries, I'll take the easy way out and copy/paste from her e-mails:

The idea is to take some of the undeveloped areas of Fairfield Bay (up to 100 miles of roads) and turn them into mountain biking & hiking trails.  This has been approved by the city of Fairfield Bay and the Fairfield Bay Community Club Board of Directors.  Here is the article in the Fairfield Bay News:

 We have drawn out potential trails on the old plat maps, and I am sending Phase I to you.  There will be at least 3 more phases, I think.  Really, all we need is to have directional signs to mark the trails.  It would be great to have the trails rated, but we’re not really sure who could do that for us.  Frank Webber has mentioned coming here, but he won’t be here until late March.  I went out there Sunday and put white survey flags at each corner.  There are no street signs anywhere out there, so I would not have been able to find the turns without this plat map and MapmyRide.  Any help mapping out the rest of these trails (would involve just walking or riding) asap would be very much appreciated.  The sooner we get people out there, the better the community will accept it.  This is all very new to me, so I really don’t know what I am doing.  I just had an idea that it needed to be done.  I have ridden Syllamo a few times and hiked the North Sylamore Creek Trail many times last year.  I love Mountain View, but this is a gorgeous area also, with much potential, and much closer to Little Rock!

The most urgent need is to have people help with marking the trails so they can be used immediately.
Here is a link to the Bay Trails Facebook Page.
I have bemoaned the surprising lack of mountain bike resources in the Greers Ferry Lake area, so I am delighted by this initiative. We have a place near Heber Springs on the Little Red River and there are more miles of single track in Burns Park than there are in all of Cleburne County (please correct me if I'm wrong!).
Many of us spend some time around Greers Ferry, so next time you head to the lake, take your MTB, drop Debbi a note on the Facebook page, and check out the new trails. I didn't get directions to the start points, but I know she would be glad to give you a little information.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Diet Plan, Sock Drawer Conundrum and a Couple of Updates

Recent rides have driven me to reassess my fitness and diet plans. I may not have much of a motor on the bike, but I do have a bit of pride. One one recent fine afternoon I grabbed a pair of well-worn Giordana Carbon Red bibs and my Spokes bike shop jersey. The bibs have red leg bands and are cut low in the front and the sides, a fine configuration for warm weather, while my Spokes jersey is very close-fitting and incorporates quite a bit of black with red accents. Usually the effect is pretty stylish and very slimming, if I may say so, but when I glanced into a mirror before heading out, I wasn't pleased. My ice cream was bulging in a very unflattering way. As I related this to my ride buddy Jason, he knew exactly what I meant. "You were looking like a can of busted biscuits?" Yep. Count me among those with work to do before the swimsuit season.

This made for a great pizza, but the look isn't what I'd hoped for on the bike.
Yep, He Saw His Shadow!
When I mentioned the spring appearance my friend Fairweather Jones last week, I really thought the whole "if he sees his shadow" groundhog analogy held no merit. It was suggested by our buddy Sam and I thought it was pretty funny, as Jones is well known for his aversion to cold weather riding. That is, it was funny until I saw this week's weather forecast. I'm not going to press Tom to get out before May next year.
This leads me up to the sock drawer problem. I usually shift my gear around so that I can readily gather what I need for a ride.  I moved summer gear into my rotation in a fit of optimism and now  my "current season" drawers are overflowing. In the last couple of weeks, I've worn some of everything and I've got stuff piled everywhere.
I promise that I won't be cursing the heat when it surely arrives.
Buddy's Broadway Bridge Goes White
Judge Buddy Villines has given up on his plans to paint the new Broadway Bridge in a red, white, and blue scheme, citing future maintenance costs and a lack of public support. Justice of the Peace Tyler Denton did a casual survey of his constituents and the sentiment was clear with 135 against and 10 for the paint plan. Thanks for listening, Judge.

Diamond Bear Still Looking to Move
The Dem-Gaz also reported that the Diamond Bear Brewery is still seeking a new larger location. Many of us were excited when plans for a brewery and pub on River Road were announced; however, that plan was way over budget and an offer on a second location nearby has fallen through. All of the locations being discussed are in North Little Rock.

BACA wins agreement to improve North St/ Cantrell Road sidewalk junction

I wrote a longish post about this, but I was even boring myself.
Judy Lansky and the BACA leadership wrote a very good letter a requested a meeting with Jim McKenzie of Metroplan and representitives of the AHTD to discuss safety problems at the site. They got the meeting and they got some results! Follow the link and let Judy tell you about it.
Here is a link to the BACA report.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Bib Shorts, Short Sleeves, Long Rides

Short sleeve jersey- ü
Summer weight socks- ü
Polar bottles-ü
Sports drink mixed-ü

I think I'm ready for the weekend! While it's not quite time to put the arm warmers, tights and full gloves away for the summer, it sure feels like it today as the mercury pushes 80 degrees and the sweet smells of spring are wafting through my open windows.

While Spray-on Tan Day  is coming a few weeks later than it did last year, I still suggest going with your darkest lenses over the next couple of days to protect seasonally sensitive eyes from the glare that is sure to be reflected off of the many newly bared legs that will be out on the road this weekend. Anybody with a tan line will be suspect. If you do have distinct tan lines, expect to be challenged and it would be prudent to be certain that your papers are in order.

This is always a challenging time of year for me and for many others. While I ride all winter, I'm not "training" as some of my more disciplined friends may do. Of course, I'm not training in the summer, either, but long days mean longer rides and more riders and, as we all know, where 2 or more of us join together, some kind of a race will usually break out. The past winter was, well, winter, unlike last year's fall-straight-to-spring transition, so most of us rode a little less and had more solo miles. The result for me was apparent last weekend when I joined a small group for a longish ride of 55 miles. I paid dearly for every ounce gained and every work-out ignored but, what the hell, all I can do now is try to get over it. I can ride with the many other fat, slow guys who will be struggling to ride as well as they imagined they did last year.
I did realize that I was still in the short-ride winter hydration mode. I seem to get caught out on hydration and ride food a couple of times each spring. Attention to the basic details of ride preparation will help you avoid some suffering.

Busted: I was bemoaning my winter weight gain recently as I scooped Caramel Swirl ice cream on to a piece of chocolate cake and Diane said, "Well, do something about it."
I thought carefully and let her know that I would have been feeling very guilty if I wasn't doing something about it. Since when was whining "nothing".

Go forth and ride.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Prescribed Burns in Burns Park

There's got to be a joke in there, but you're on your own in that regard.
Mountain bikers and other Burns Park users need to be aware of upcoming precribed burns within the park.
This from Jeff Caplinger of NLR Parks:

The weather is looking good tomorrow (Wednesday 3/13) for the first in a series of prescribed burns at Burns Park.  Barring unforeseen circumstances or a change in the weather, we are planning to burn about 60-120 acres, basically inside the Red Loop Trail and possibly the north loop of the Green Trail.  A general map is available at

The Scout trailhead which is at the SW side of the Joe K. Poch overpass over I-40 will serve as our base of operations.  Only certified firefighters may be on the fire line or inside the burn unit.  Volunteers and park staff will be positioned around the burn unit to keep hikers, bikers, equestrians, and others out of the area. 

The Blue, White, and Yellow trails will remain open, but all visitors will be cautioned to be on the lookout for smoke and emergency vehicles.

My experience with these operations is that plans are subject to change due to weather or other outside factors, so don't be shocked if the time line changes.


I dropped by Spokes yesterday at lunch. I had not been in for a while and, besides, it was all-you-can-eat red beans and rice day across the street at the Oyster Bar. I really don't spend enough time at bike shops and it's always good to see what Mat and his crew are up to. I spotted something as I walked in the door that just tickled me. Spokes has produced some T-shirts that incorporate a bit of an inside joke for River Trail riders.
Local riders will recognize this message from the ramps on the BDB.
I recall the day that this message, along with an admonishment for RIGHT STAY WALKERS, were stencilled on to the ramps and we've been chuckling at them ever since. I still wonder who made the decision that folks would read the messages one word at a time as they approached versus top-to-bottom as is the instinct of most literate products of Western civilization.
This means you....whatever it means!
This philosphy did not stop with the bridge. Upon completion of the western ramp of the BDB last year, it was decided that some degree of traffic rights-of-way needed to be employed. Hence the message shown below:
This message is found on the trail approaching the west BDB ramp.
Hmmmm...TRAFFIC MERGING TO, can I just put my head down and depend on the traffic that is merging to yield? I don't think so.
I'm sure there is some protocol for this type of signage and it was likely followed, but it is amusing and perhaps confusing to the rigid literalists among us. Fortunately, most folks seem to get the message as intended and we all seem to manage our merging, etc., just fine.
Now down!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

And If He Sees His Shadow.....

Spring is upon us. Daylight Saving Time has returned to bring on longer evening rides, retailers are stocked with skimpy new fashions, and the garden centers are packed with ambitious planners.
I know that we're bit short on being "official", with spring equinox occurring on March 16, but I'm calling it close enough!
                       Sunrise    Sunset

Mar 16, 20137:18 AM7:18 PM11h 59m 50s+ 2m 11s
That said, I have gathered a bit of empirical evidence supporting my position that spring has indeed sprung here in the Natural State.

This spread of daffodils in Burns Park has been in bloom for a couple of weeks, but have now reached full glory.

- Willie dog came home from our last Camp Robinson outing bearing a collection of ticks.
- The weeds in our backyard have reached a mowable height, though I am choosing to ignore them for now.
- Tights and jacket have given way to knee warmers, arm warmers, and other bits that allow for mid-ride adjustments to warming days.

All of those signs are somewhat subtle when compared to our next harbinger:

While Pennsylvania hangs its top hat on the February 2 appearance on Punxsutawney Phil, the King of the Groundhogs, around here, we have little faith in large subterranean rodents when it come to prognostication. I depend on the appearance of our more reliable homegrown sign. Whereas Phil will poke his head out into the miserable conditions typical of February in Pennsylvania, our own seasonal marker, known from this time forward as Fairweather Jones*, will not poke his furry little head out for anything less than truly springlike conditions.

Fairweather at the moment he saw his shadow. "Damn right it's spring, or I wouldn't be here."
As you can see by the fact that F. Jones is fully attired in tights, vest, and other winter accoutrement's for a 70 degree day, he approaches spring with caution. His conservative, some might say wimpy, approach makes him a reliable marker. The fact that he saw his shadow doesn't necessarily mean more bad weather. The fact that he casts a shadow at all means that he's still got a couple of extra layers of fleece on his skinny ass.
 * all characters presented here are strictly fictional. Any resemblance to actual people is a remarkable coincidence.
Beware of crowds and construction.
With warm weather comes the opportunity for conflict. Most of the folks who create friction and complain are not the everyday, year-round trail users, but that is not to say that complaints are not legitimate.
 The crowds were picking up on the BDB last Saturday, and Two Rivers Park was very active with the usual family strollers. Two Rivers has taken some of the pressure off of the BDB, but that means riders need to be especially cautious and respectful in Two Rivers. Count on it to be crowded, and you can turn loose on the roads to the west.
Work to repair the washout between River Mountain Road and the Two Rivers Bridge will continue for the next several weeks. Cyclists and walkers can find their way around the mess, but the limited parking will be an issue. Beware when descending River Mountain at high speeds, as the area near the bottom of the hill will likely be congested as drivers seek out scarce parking places.
Work is in full swing on the construction of a fishing pier near the Burns Park soccer fields in North Little Rock. A short stretch of the trail will be closed during work hours, but it is easily detoured.
Folks, here we go, launching into another season of wonderful riding here in Central Arkansas. For seasonal riders, chains are being lubed, tires aired and legs shaved. If you've taken the winter off of the bike, give it a good going over before you hit the road, correct anything that needs fixing, then roll on out.
 It's time!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Escort Service: JBar Cycling is Branching Out

Thousands of scantily clad women....
Well, OK, there were thousands of scantily clad men, as well, shivering in the cold Sunday morning as they took to the line for the start of the 2013 Little Rock Marathon.
For the last few years, the Marathon has deployed volunteer bicycle escorts to help keep the route clear and communicate any problems encountered along the course. Bikes are unobtrusive, mobile, and provide a runner's eye view, so cyclists have a perspective that is unavailable to static observers or vehicular escorts.

Energy levels were high minutes before the start. When you're saddled up in front of several thousand eager runners and they say "GO", you had best be clipped in and ready to roll.
Initially, cyclists were employed to escort the wheelchair and hand cyclists since they go out ahead of the runners, but it was soon decided that we could be useful among the larger general field. The Marathon is very well-run and problems are few. Our main role has been to alert inattentive bystanders or walking participants of approaching runners, to alert aid stations of runners who appear to be having medical issues, and to do a little traffic control of the runners themselves. Runners cross the Broadway Bridge early in the race, with faster runners heading back south as huge numbers are still streaming north. The crowded northbound runners tended to cross the center cone line and spill into the path of the southbound runners, so we got to do a lot of arm waving in an effort to keep the route clear for the relatively fast bunch.
On escort duty in Argenta. Diane grabbed her cowbell and rode her town bike down to cheer on the runners (and snap this photo).
Two-way traffic on the Broadway Bridge made for a little congestion.
All of the participants seemed remarkably laid back. While there are many serious endurance athletes in the bunch, for many, the Marathon or half-Marathon is a singular goal. Most of the runners knew that they were not going to break any records, but they have worked hard in training for this day. The event itself is a bit of a release and spirits were high.
Some of the signs tickled us, like "Go, Random Stranger, Go" and "If it was easy, I  would do it". Another favorite was "Worst Parade Ever".
 Signs, signs...    Our friend Hadley was out representing lululemon in cheering the runners while her hubby, Little Rock bike-ped coordinator and Bobby's Bike Hike owner Jeremy Lewno, was on bike escort duty. I've seen the Oscar-Myer Weinermobile but I had never seen a pack of lemoncycles.
There were plenty of opportunities for runners to grab a Gatorade, water, or gel at the numerous aid stations. A few independent support stations offered more variety. One stop had Dos Equis and Bud while Vino's offered up the hydration/carb combo in the form of a nice pale ale.
For those runners who didn't want beer, US Pizza offered up pizza slices and Michelob Ultra. There was a brisk business in the Ultra hand-ups.
I'm not sure if the beer stations were new or if I had just missed them as I rode with the race leaders in previous years. My partner Jason joked that they were there "for those who have already given up all hope", but the folks grabbing the brews were mostly clipping along nicely and having some fun.
Drum roll, please.... and the award for the best sign goes to....
Bada BOOM!
It's always fun to catch a glimpse of all of the parties that spring up along the course on a fine Sunday morning. It seems normal after an hour or two, but who usually gets up on Sunday morning, fires up the grill, sets up a band and has things hoppin' by 9:00AM? Plenty of folks, apparently, especially around the governor's mansion and in Hillcrest.And the descent of North Lookout is always hoppin' with a string of porch parties and a generally lively scene.
Lonely Guy---3:05 pacer at about mile 24.
I always admire the pacers. These talented runners make a commitment to run a set pace, carrying a sign with their planned finishing time in support of runners with similar ambitions, but likely lesser discipline and experience.  Things were well in hand when we cut the loop of Rebseman Park Road short and headed to the finish, in the process catching up with the 3:05 pace runner. He was keeping the faith and the tempo, having dropped the last of his charges at mile 22.
 The finish is always a welcome sight!
I'm unlikely to ever become enough of a runner to bite off a Marathon, or even a half, but I'm glad to that the LR Marathon has become such a success. The big ol' medal is touted as a major attraction, but I must say that the 'cowboy shirt' motif volunteer T-shirt is really too weird for most folks to wear. If you're wearing yours, don't be embarrassed. I'm very picky, and I'll admit that I did for a moment feel compelled to pull it on as we passed a PA system blaring "YMCA".
The Little Rock Marathon is a huge endeavor and it is remarkably well run, making for a fabulous community event. In the past, there have been some important, high level bike races in Little Rock, but they ceased after a few years due to lack of funding and a very limited pool of organizers willing to take them on the job. I don't see it happening any time soon, but how cool would it be to have a closed-road urban road race using downtown streets, the River Trail,  and some of the many adjacent climbs to spice things up?
Sorry, just daydreaming!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Closing The Loop:Could Destruction Lead to Trail Construction?


I've been hearing rumors that Little Rock has patched together the funding necessary to build the fabled River Bluffs River Trail section behind Dillard's. I've heard this before, but nothing has come of it. Even if the funding is found, there is still the question of right-of-way acquisition from several property owners, with Dillard's being the most prominent. None of this is really news to those of us who keep an ear to the rail (or trail, as it were) for any news that affects the Arkansas River Trail system.

There has been a recent development that may serve to push the tired close-the-loop issue on down the road. Some of my assumptions are tenuous, but not illogical.

Bruner House, at 1415 Cantrell Road (from Arkansas Times)


The Arkansas Times has reported on the demolition of 2 Victorian homes on Cantrell Road. Immediately behind those homes lie the North Street excuse for the River Trail and the Episcopal Collegiate School. Read the Times blog article, but here is an excerpt:
Episcopal Collegiate's head of school says he has no knowledge the land will be used for expansion of the Jackson T. Stephens Campus, though the houses being torn down are owned by Warren Stephens.

I'm not going to research this to verify my recollection, but I vaguely remember that the city had agreed at some point to deed North Street to the school to allow for expansion of the campus with the caveat that the school must accommodate the River Trail right-of-way. That was unacceptable and the school made other plans. The school denies knowledge of Stephens's plans for the property, but let's start assuming.....

Assume that the property will be used for expansion of the ECS.

Assume that River Trail right-of-way through the ECS campus is stillverboten.

Assume that Little Rock will not allow this contentious piece of trail to disappear completely.

Assume that Little Rock can come up with funding for the River Bluffs Trail.

If those assumptions are close to correct, then the trail will have to go somewhere, and along the river behind Dillard's is just about the only option. In spite of Mayor Stodola's continued talk of routing the trail along the sidewalk in front of Dillard's, with its utility poles and six driveway crossings, that is simply not viable and it has been embraced by exactly nobody other than the mayor.

I would hope that Dillard's would get on board as a good corporate citizen. Perhaps Dillard's could receive naming rights for what would be a spectacular regional draw. 

This crazy scene is common today as cyclists negotiate the River Trail on Cantrell Road near the Episcopal Collegiate School

 This video illustrates what it could be with some funding and good corporate citizenship.

My understanding is that Stephens is also a major stockholder in Dillard's, so that could make for some productive give-and-take in negotiations to move the River Trail from the site of one entity in which he has an interest, the school, to another.
All of this conjecture is still dependent on the cooperation of Dillard's and funding, but a move to expand ECS across North Street could start the dominoes falling toward the resolution of a longstanding impasse.