Friday, September 25, 2015

Big Dam Bridge 100- Can This Be The 10th BDB100?

Time flies when you're having fun, and I guess that I've been having a blast over the nine years that have passed since the Big Dam Bridge opened. The bridge opening was on Saturday, September 30, 2006 and the inaugural BDB100 took place the next day on Sunday, October 1.

This was the first "official" ride over the new Big Dam Bridge in 2006. 

Diane and I were invited to be among the Garver folks to join the VIP crowd at the ribbon cutting and the first ride across the new bridge. Having watched the construction on a near-daily basis, it was an thrilling moment to actually ride across the BDB with its sweeping views and dizzying height, while pondering the possibilities of the many routes that it opened for cyclists. 
I don't think the BDB was yet open when this photo was taken by a Garver photographer, and the Two Rivers Park Bridge was not yet even a twinkle in Judge Buddy Villines' eye.
2006 marked the beginning of Arkansas's biggest cycling event.

With no Two Rivers Bridge to safely funnel riders to the roads west of the city, it made sense to keep most of the 2006 route north of the river. There was enthusiastic buy-in on the parts of Maumelle, Mayflower, Conway, and other communities along the route, so one of the biggest challenges to organizers was how to incorporate the Big Dam Bridge itself into the route. 
The solution was to start and finish near the Burns Park soccer fields, where around 1000 enthusiastic riders lined up for a mass start and then immediately took a hard right turn onto the River Trail in order to head the the BDB. It was a thrill to cross the bridge en masse and then head back toward downtown Little Rock on closed roads. After crossing back to downtown North Little Rock, we headed up the trail toward Maumelle Blvd., to Mayflower and beyond for a circuit around Lake Conway. Along the way out, the ride crossed the old tooth-rattling wooden bridge near Burns Park. There had been a lot of conversation among riders as to how that would go, but it went well as local riders were aware of the danger, and by then the ride had spread out quite a bit.
The 2006 BDB course would likely be considered far too sketchy for this year's bigger crowd, though the 2015 NLR start is somewhat reminiscent to part of the original. Staggered start times and trail improvements should serve to help spread the peloton out early on. 
The thought of 1000 riders crossing the old wooden bridge over Shillcut Bayou was a concern for many of us in 2006. The 2015 route will benefit from a wider, smoother bridge surface and a better approach.

Growing Community-Growing Event
Like the BDB100, our cycling community has grown and matured over the years. The course changed  most dramatically when the opening of the Two Rivers Bridge made possible a grand loop crossing the Arkansas River at Toad Suck and added a notable climb in the form of Wye Mountain. Traffic control on Maumelle Blvd. had always been a problem, particularly in the afternoon of the ride, as stragglers came in for hours. Now the course been has moved yet again to the more rural south side of the river valley, making for a less disruptive, safer, and more scenic ride. The ride has grown to around 3000 cyclists, and the activities surrounding the event have evolved in quality and increased in number.
When the BDB100 was introduced, there was an idea to model it after the hugely successful Hotter'nHell100 in Wichita Falls, TX, which was already drawing over 12,000 riders. We haven't achieved that magnitude, nor is Central Arkansas situated in the wide open terrain of the Texas-Oklahoma border region, and thank goodness for that! While HnH is undeniably successful, the event also has the reputation of limited facilities and price-gouging hotels the go along with having a big event in a small city.

My 2006 bike log shows that my 100.11 mile ride took 5 hours and 17 minutes. The finish "festivities" consisted mainly of food and Gatorade returned from the rest and perhaps a beer vendor. The organizers ran out of finishers pins long before the last riders came in. As I recall, I snagged a beer from somebody, and may have gotten a burger or a hot dog as I waited for Diane to come in from her first century. We had no expectations, so that was a fine afternoon. Compare that to this year's Expo and post ride party.
I've only missed one year of the BDB100, but I had a good excuse. In 2009, Diane and I were spending 18 days kayaking the Grand Canyon. I'll give up a ride for that experience every time.
Riders were already filling downtown hotels Thursday evening, bringing tourism dollars with them.

On Saturday, a revived Main Street Argenta will be the scene of live music, including a Big Dam Blues Party that stretches until midnight, multiple local craft beers, and many food opportunities as thousands of cyclists, spectators, and locals in search of a party crowd the street. With the guidance of the Big Dam Bridge Foundation and the good organization that continues under the hand of Fred Phillips' DLT Events Management, the Big Dam Bridge100 has enjoyed steady growth and and  has developed a solid reputation as a quality event that attracts cyclists from around our region.

When we all ride out on Saturday morning, keep in mind how cycling has helped change the shape of our community for the better, and we are all a very dynamic part of it.

Be safe.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

New Rider Clinics At Spokes-Ignorance Is Bliss But It Won't Fix A Flat

OK, as many of you know, I'm pretty marginal as a user of social media, so it won't come as much of a surprise that I don't pay as much attention as I could to my own JBarCycling Facebook page. I post links to my articles and have welcomed local shops and clubs to post there as well. This morning, I noticed that Spokes was holding a New Rider Orientation Clinic hosted by Eric Easterly and Leah Thorvilson, so I decided to drop by.
This class covered bike cleaning and lubrication.
I had not seen the previous announcements, but I found out that this was the third class in the series that Eric and Leah had held. The sessions are held more or less monthly and previous topics included fixing flats, proper shifting, and making minor mechanical adjustments.
Eric was thorough and patient in explaining each step of cleaning the bike, adding in bits about the function and features of various components as he went.
I keep my bike pretty clean, but Eric put me to shame with the clean he put on this rig.
This apparently was their smallest class to date, with six students, and most of the riders had attended all three sessions. Eric mentioned that he would do a class on wheel truing, and I'll be first in line for that. I do most of my own work, but have shied away from messing with my wheels. That said, my wheels road have seldom needed to be touched and disk brakes allow me to ignore the minor wobble of my mountain bike wheels.
Most of us start out knowing very little about modern bikes, and we are often hesitant to reveal our ignorance to our presumably more learned friends. I have a near insatiable curiosity about anything that I use, so my first few years on the bike were spent reading, pestering friends, and annoying the shop guys. Simple things like using barrel adjusters to fine tune my shifting totally eluded me until took one off and disassembled it.  Of course, then I had to replace the cable and adjust my derailleur. Using barrel adjusters is very straighforward, but it took me two years to figure out which way to turn it. I blame the shop wrench who gave me the old "lefty loosy-righty tighty" line. He knew what he meant but confused me completely. (Lefty-tighty is more like it to my perception. A counterclockwise turn of the adjuster tightens the cable. )
You can always learn something if you start off ignorant enough....
I will confess that I am not above the arrogance of thinking I know more than I do. My first demo ride on a bike with STI shifters (if you don't know what that is, you're likely riding them. ) was on a Cannondale from Competitive Cyclist, then Bikeseller. I knew that the shifters were the little levers at the brakes and promptly shifted to the small front ring and the smallest rear cog. Hmmm, now what? I called Craig Zediker just before closing time at the shop, who explained between snorts and chuckles that the brake lever was also used to shift gears. Eureka! What will they think of next!?
So, if you're new to riding, accept that you need to learn a few things, many of which you have no idea that you need to learn. Look for opportunities such as what Spokes is offering, pester your friends, ask the guys in the shop where you bought your bike or have it serviced, or even stop somebody on the River Trail if you have an immediate need. Most people who have a bit of knowledge are glad to share. Helping others is a rewarding and empowering thing, so let folks help you. You're doing them a favor.
 Follow local bike shops and clubs on social media or get on their e-mail list.
Other shops in town also offer events to welcome new cyclists and help them learn some skills or just meet like-minded riders. In fact, Chainwheel is hosting a Ladies Night on October 8. This looks like less of a technical event than an opportunity to meet other riders and learn about group rides and clubs around the area. Take advantage. Heck, we can all use some new friends.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Southeast Trail Dedication-Wednesday September 9, 10:00AM

I've posted a couple of articles about the conception and development  of the Southeast Trail segment of the Arkansas River Trail System. Now, it is time to make it official with dedication ceremonies taking place at Dassault Falcon Jet .

Wayfinding sign on the Southeast Trail

This press release from Lynn Bell of Metroplan:

Metroplan Announces the dedication of the southeast trail

Wednesday, September 9, 2015, at 10:00 am
Dassault Falcon Jet
3801 E 10th Street, Little Rock, AR 72202

LITTLE ROCK, AR, September 4, 2015 — Metroplan announces a dedication ceremony to celebrate the completion of
the Southeast Trail. This newly designated bike route extends east and south from the Clinton Presidential Park, past Dassault Falcon Jet, the Clinton National Airport, and the Little Rock Port, to the David D. Terry Lock and Dam and
Dam Site 6 West Park.

The 13-mile bicycle trail is an addition to the Arkansas River Trail System and its 88-mile Grand Loop, bringing the total miles of trails and bike routes in the system to well over 100. The trail offers flat terrain, low vehicular traffic, and diverse landscapes of farmland, industry and the Arkansas River.

Partners and supporters of the project include:

·         Dassault Falcon Jet: Antoine Ajarrista, Senior Vice President and General Manager and Jeff Griffin, Vice President
·         The Little Rock Port Authority: Chris Mathews, Port Authority Board Chairman and Bryan Day, Executive Director
·         Pulaski County: Judge Barry Hyde and Barbara Richard
·         The City of Little Rock: Mayor Mark Stodola and Jon Honeywell
·         The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Titus Hardiman
·         Little Rock Parks and Recreation: Mark Webre
·         Clinton Presidential Center: Debbie Shock
·         The Arkansas River Trail Task Force: Rob Stephens, Chairman
·         Metroplan: Jim McKenzie, Executive Director and Lynn Bell

Maps are available here:

Metroplan is the federally designated metropolitan planning organization for the four-county region of Faulkner, Lonoke, Pulaski and Saline counties. It is a voluntary association of local governments that has operated since 1955.

Much credit for this project goes to Rob Stephens, who chairs the Arkansas River Trail Task Force under the auspices of Metroplan. Rob is an energetic volunteer whose quiet, behind-the-scenes efforts continue to produce results from which our community benefits. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A New Ride Added To The Fall Calendar: Ozark Trail Festival, Heber Springs

The Ozark Trail Festival Bicycle Ride takes place on Saturday, October 10th, with the 55-mile ride rolling out at 7:00AM from Spring Park in scenic downtown Heber Springs. The 20-mile Fun Ride starts at 7:30. The flyer indicates this to be the "3rd annual" OTF bike ride, but I believe the first 2 included only the 20-mile route.
There has been a lot of effort in recent years to develop trails and bike routes in the Heber Springs/Greers Ferry Lake Area, much of that effort under the auspices of the Greers Ferry Lake Trails Council and its president, Frank Wimberley.
The 55-mile route follows most of the course I wrote about last September as "Milner's Metric". That ride was organized by local rider, trout guide, and friend Matt Milner. Matt and galpal Krista laid out and marked the course, stashed water along the way, and arranged a support station near the halfway point. It was a great ride along a route I had hesitated to try solo due to concerns about traffic.

Milner's Metric included some great views of fog-bound Greers Ferry Lake. Expect the same, perhaps without the fog, on October 10.
The Ozark Trails Festival ride promises traffic control by local law enforcement agencies. While most of the ride is along quiet back roads, the support will be welcome on a couple of highway stretches.
I got a kick out of the Mountain Man logo on the GFL Trails Council site. I felt I had fallen in with a pack of mountain goats on Matt's ride as they left me gasping and distanced me several times. I recorded 4000' of climbing in 64 miles on that little adventure.

October is a great time to head to the hills, and this ride promises to be a good one. We have a place on the Little Red outside of Heber, so it is very convenient for us, but Heber Springs is just a little over an hour from Little Rock. There are also special rates at the local Holiday Inn Express and plenty of camping opportunities.

The ambitious among you can use this as a warm up for the Arkansas Bicycle Club's Joe Webber Arky100 taking place the next day, Sunday, October 11, at Sheridan.