Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tweed Ride, IMBA Instructor Training, Pedal-Palooza Swap Meet

Bike related events are starting to fill the calendar. This article is admittedly a copy-paste exercise. After a few days on the beach in Mexico, our local weather permitted road rides on 7 out of 8 days, followed by a quick trip to Colorado for a day of Nordic skiing and a few days of downhill at Steamboat Springs. No wonder I'm behind! I've been a busy boy at play and at work.

Here are a few happenings of interest:

Ride Saturday, because it looks like Sunday will suck for the Little Rock Marathon.

Little Rock Tweed Ride: Saturday, March 1

11:00AM from Bernice Garden, 1401 S. Main
Free, everyone welcome! Meet up and wear your tweed and funky mustaches! Then we'll ride bicycles around town at a very social pace. The event will tie into the SoMa Mardi Gras Parade.

Attention Mountain Bike Gurus:

IMBA Instructor training opportunity:

This from Tammy Donahugh,  ICP Manager, IMBA:

Are you looking to run guided rides, lead clinics, or just have more ways to interact with your local riders?  

The Instructor Certification Program (ICP) will be offering our Level 1 course March 14-16th in Anniston Alabama.

Our new Level 1 Ride Guide certification is 2.25 days long and now includes an introduction to instruction. The ICP Instructor Trainer will be taking the group through training and testing on the following topics:

  • Risk Management
  • Leadership
  • Group Management
  • Pre-tour skill assessment
  • Instruction principals
  • Safety and etiquette
  • The ten fundamentals of mountain biking

Go here to get signed-up now for our Alabama course!  Online registration will close March 5th, 2014.

We’re also offering a Level 2 Basic Skills Instructor certification course April 10-13th in Bentonville, Arkansas.  Please make sure to read all Level 2 pre-requisites before signing up.  Online registration will close April 1st.

Check out for further information on the ICP, or for questions email East Perl Circle
Suite 200Eulder, CO

Pedal-Palooza Swap Meet
This item poached in its entirety fro inArkansas:

Mark your calendars!

The Little Rock River Market just announced its first Little Rock Pedal-Palooza Bicycle Swap Meet, happening 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Saturday, March 22 at the First Security Amphitheater, 400 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock.

Want to be a part of the fun? They are looking for vendors to set up booths and sell their cool bicycles and gear. All you have to do is fill out this PDF form and send to

Don't plan on setting up a booth? The event is free and open for shopping!

Stay up-to-date with the brand-new event here.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Along The Trail: Crowds and Some Destination Meandering.

It appears that winter's grip on central Arkansas has finally been broken, and nowhere was that more apparent than on the Arkansas River Trail on this past Sunday. The temperature rose into the 60's as runners, riders and walkers took the opportunity to emerge from their hibernation and make a squinty-eyed return to sunshine, expose a little chalky skin, and soak up some warmth.

Enthusiasts of all persuasions flocked to the River Trail last Sunday.
Be alert, be polite, stay right
There were quite a few small packs of riders out on Sunday. Diane and I were meeting a couple of buddies and our group number grew even as we met and decided on an initial direction. The many group rides that make use of the trail system will be ramping up with the lengthening days, as will the numbers of other trail users. The communities seem to be maturing, as the more enthusiastic (read:faster) groups tend to use the River Trail mainly as a conduit to the open road, while walkers and runners who regularly use the RT avoid conflict by staying to the right and remaining alert.
Most conflict arises on days when crowds of casual users flock to the BDB area and Two Rivers Park, often bringing with then unrealistic expectations of solitude and nary a clue as to the etiquette of shared use trails.
Let's remember to mind our manners and have mercy on the unenlightened. Ignorance can be cured by way of gently delivered information; however, a sharply barked "on your left" can piss people off. The message may be proper, but the manner of delivery can determine whether it is received defensively or with an open mind.

Traffic Jam: Cantrell at River Mountain Road
Sunday was a busy day on the River Trail and that was evidenced by the fact that I received multiple reports/ complaints about traffic backed up on River Mountain Road as trail users attempted to leave the Two Rivers Park Bridge area. The traffic signal at Cantrell Road allows southbound drivers on River Mountain only 5-10 seconds of green light (I've timed it at 5, but 10 has been claimed), followed by a couple of minutes of red as the light cycles through various turn sequences, etc, for Cantrell Road traffic. One driver reported that it took him 20 minutes to get through the intersection on Sunday, as only 2-3 cars could clear the light from River Mountain with each cycle.
The problem at this intersection has been discussed many times at meetings of the Little Rock Bike Friendly Community Committee. Little Rock's Jon Honeywell has been consistent in saying that changes to the light timing would adversely affect signal sequencing all along that stretch of Cantrell/Highway 10, an area well known for being a traffic nightmare as it is, so they are not willing to make changes.

The area is under study for redesign and I've seen little to indicate that any new design will be more accommodating to non-car traffic as the road is widened to 10-11 lanes at the intersection. Designers won't pay much attention to the needs of the nonautomotive as they make way to accommodate urban sprawl, and then they are sure to say "too late" when their plans are criticized. 

 Destination Meandering: Bike Friendly Business In A Stone's Throw

As the season ramps up and longer weekend rides become the norm with my little ride circle, a pattern emerges. Saturday rides are usually somewhat challenging. On Sunday, though not a day of rest, some of us like to dial it back a notch. We'll still log some miles, but the pace is slower and the attitude relaxed. Sometimes we'll finish up with a coffee stop, a late breakfast, or, when appropriate, a cold beer. If the last of those options appeals to you, let me suggest that you check out Stone's Throw Brewing at the corner of 9th and Rock Streets near MacArthur Park in Little Rock. The local beer is very good and they have varieties for most tastes.  I found the Two Timin' American IPA to have the hops I was looking for, and the crew is bike friendly with an exclamation point! They not only allowed us to bring our bikes inside, but customers who walk or ride to enjoy a brew are given a small discount.

The beer is good, the atmosphere is relaxed, and the folks are friendly at Stone's throw.

Indoor bike parking in the production area. They have ambitions of getting a bike rack, but the current arrangement is perfect. I don't like leaving my road bike on the street.

Remember to partake responsibly. Unless you've got a rickshaw and a designated pedaler, you're going to have to ride home! Be safe.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Bicicletas en México

I'll apologize for the scarcity of postings here at JBarCycling but the local scene has been slowed by the incursion of winter weather while my work and play schedule has included quite a few days of travel. The upside is that our most recent excursion was a business incentive trip to Playa del Carmen near Cancun, Mexico, that involved sunshine, heat, a beach, and the observation of a vibrant bike culture.
I always make it a point to check out the bike scene when we travel. Mexico is a relatively poor country so it was not surprising to find that bicycles there are primarily valued for their utility rather than for sport, recreation or exercise. In fact, we saw only one sport rider in full kit and aero helmet, flying along the shoulder of a major highway on a tri bike.

This is a pretty representative selection of Playa bikes. Utilitarian and often colorful.
The coastal areas of the Yucatan peninsula are flat and the roads are for the most part yardstick straight, making for easy cycling. Add that factor to the fact to the economics of the area and the result is that bikes are practical transportation for both personal use and for commerce.
Both the vendor and the customer in this photo relied on pedal power.
Pedicabs lined up in the taxi zone in the shopping district.
While traveling along the highways we saw many cyclists on the shoulders of the roads, sharing the space with motorcycles. There were also a surprising number of dedicated bike/pedestrian paths, at least near the resort area. Our guide on a trip to the Mayan ruins at  Chichen Itza told us that cheap motorcycles imported from China were replacing bicycles at a rapid rate. It was not unusual for riders to be transporting their wife and a child or two by motorcycles. Jorge informed us that the result of the combination of overloading and inexperienced riders was often tragic.
Cheap imported motorcycles and scooters from China are making rapid inroads into the two-wheeled culture of Mexico.
The parking area for the cafe reminded me of similar scenes common in many small towns of Colorado.
We saw these 3-wheeled utility bikes hauling everything from lumber to concrete to grandmothers. The appeal of a motor to working people is understandable, but out of reach for many.
Skinny Bikini: Marketing is everything in tourist towns.
This bike would have been at home on the bike polo court.
 Most of the bikes we saw were unfamilar brands, probably from mass marketers, so this Schwinn stood out.
Most of us here on the good ol' U.S. of A. are fortunate enough to be able to use bikes primarily for recreation, competition or as an alternative transportaion. Visits to places like Mexico and even small-town Colorado remind us that bikes remain viable as a primary means of transport for many people in the world.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Hope Springs Eternal: No Shadow For Elusive Prognosticator

Last March my friend Fairweather Jones finally poked his head out after a long winter hibernation. It was a glorious day with a high near 70 and Jones appeared in full tights, multiple base layers, vest and other winter garb. Unfortunately for all of us, he saw his shadow and the result was a long, cold, wet spring.

Fairweather at the moment he saw his shadow. "Damn right it's spring, or I wouldn't be here." file photo from 2013

I caught up with Jones on the cold and rainy Sunday of Groundhog Day, knowing that a groundhog named Phil had already seen his shadow, predicting weather-related for Pennsylvanians for 6 more weeks.

JB: "Fairweather, have you been outside today?"
FW: "Yep, JB, I have."
I was taken aback at his boldness on such a day, and assumed that Mrs. Jones must have run him out of the house.

JB: "Did you see your shadow?"
FW: "Nope."

And there you have it. Bundle up for now, but my expectations have been raised for a warm and sunny spring. Damn, I hope so.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Projects: Broadway Bridge, Shillcut Bayou, Dillard's Gap

There has been some news regarding projects that will affect the the Arkansas River Trail along with damn near everyone else in central Arkansas who might occasionally venture across the Arkansas River.

Broadway Bridge Bids Delayed
Bids for the new Broadway Bridge linking Little Rock and North Little Rock are now set to be taken in July. The reason for the delay was said to be that it will allow potential bidders more time to sturdy the project and possibly produce cost and/or construction time reducing ideas. After much public discussion and pressure from the cycling community regarding the design of the replacement of the aging structure, the AHTD put its massive foot down last year and said that the project must proceed in 2013 or federal funding to the tune of tens of millions of dollars could be lost. That's right, 2013.

From a THV11 article from April 2012 discussing an alternate plan:

On Tuesday afternoon, THV received a copy of a letter from the Transportation Department to Mayor Stodola and Mayor Hays.
The letter stated it is not possible to plan a Chester Street Bridge in the time allotted, considering the federal funds must be used in 2013.
From a Highway Department website updated December 16, 2013:
Construction is scheduled to begin in late 2013 or early 2014 and will be expedited to reduce the amount of time the bridge will be out of service. The total cost for the bridge includes removal and demolition of the current bridge and construction of the new bridge along with its additional improvements in the vicinity. 
The same loss-of-funding argument was put forth when discussions arose in 2013 concerning the minimalist bike and pedestrian accommodations included in the current design. I may be cynical, but it appears to me that the risk to funding may have been put forth to quash continued discussion, while the reality is that the timelines were not quite so hard and fast. Regardless, the discussion is over and now it appears that construction is unlikely to begin until early 2015.
Traffic Nightmare Predicted
When construction ultimately closes the current Broadway Bridge 18-20,000 cars per day will have to be rerouted to the I-30 and Main Street Bridges. That in itself will result in, to use technical language, one hell of a big mess. The effect of any fender bender on either of those bridges will likely be amplified into total gridlock on both sides of the river. Heaven forbid that an errant barge should strike I-30, as has happened twice in the last year. I predict madness will ensue.
Traffic along the River Trail near the bridge site will be affected long before actual closure of the bridge, as the contractor will require space along the river for the staging of equipment and materials.
 Shillcut Bayou Bridge
The replacement of the tooth-rattling Shillcut Bridge at the east end of Burns Park near the boat launch ramp is finally going to happen. Known to most River Trail users as simply "the wooden bridge", the existing bridge was built over a waste water force main and will remain in place. The new bridge will be longer and will effectively cut off some of the curve in the trail formed by the approaches to the current bridge.
According to Mike Smith of the city's Engineering Office, the contract has been awarded to Seagraves Construction. A preconstruction meeting will take place on February 5, and Smith expected construction to begin in 30-60 days, depending on the lead time for materials.
Earlier discussions about this project indicated that trail disruptions during construction will be minimal.

`Dillard's Area Trail Gap

While not yet "closing the loop", the Little Rock City Board of Directors voted to approve construction of projects to cross the UP tracks east of Dillard's HQ on Cantrell Road and to cross the Little Rock Marine property to the west.  Details can be found on the Metroplan Arkansas River Trail website here.

Follow-up note: I'm admittedly a little confused about the status of these projects. It was reported that the board approved going forward with these projects, but in today's Dem-Gaz there was a report that they are preparing to vote to authorize negotions for the required rights-of-way. All reports indicate progress, but the convolutions of the process have left me a little puzzled.