Monday, April 25, 2016

How Many Cyclist Fit Under a Bridge?

Ahhh, one of our favorite times of the year – Spring. Opening day for Baseball had come and past and now it was time for biking. The morning arrived for the Cincinnati Cycling Club’s Spring Opener, and what a glorious morning it was. The air was cool and moist when Velo Junkie and I left home. Within the first several miles of our commute the clouds were dissipating and the warm rays of the sun were vaporizing the chill of the morning dew. By the time we reached the assembly of cyclists the sun was high in the sky and folks were already shedding layers of cycling gear to let the warm rays caress their skin.

The original plan was for all to meet in the archways under the Purple People Bridge, a large, open park that would easily handle a large number of riders. Unfortunately the park was occupied by the Cincinnati Flower Show, another iconic spring event. It was too late to move the event so the only option was to meet just outside the gates of the festival…On the sidewalk…Near the road…

Everyone was courteous to leave the sidewalk as unobstructed as possible but the great weather brought a large number of cyclists. The occasional jogger or baby stroller had to maneuver to get through all of us but, since everyone was enjoying the day, the atmosphere was congenial and they took the large number of brightly clad riders in stride.

Velo agreed to appease me and go with the short group, especially since we would have an extra 12 miles or so due to our commute to and from the ride. We headed east on Riverside Dr. toward Lunken Airport. It was a well matched group of riders and we managed to keep pace, single file, in the bike lanes. 

We made it to the halfway point and regrouped at Armleder Park, passing and waving at many other groups of riders on the way. The park was all a bustle with runners, families, dog walkers, and golfers. The trees were laden with colorful blooms and the tulips, animated by the wind, bobbed along the bikeway.

One wrong turn, which is always compounded with a large group, resulted in a climb up a short hill, crossing some very rough railroad tracks, and a brief stint down a rather bumpy alleyway. No harm, no foul, we were back on track to be one of the first groups to the watering hole. It was smooth sailing to the Purple People Bridge.

Hofbrau Haus had just started to buzz with the early spring patrons ready to enjoy a tasty German pint in the outside beer garden. Our little band of cyclists was no different. Velo imbibed in a Hefe Weizen, I in a Dunkel. A sausage platter t share and we were refueled for the commute home.

There is something truly gratifying about sharing a meal with a group of enthusiastic cyclists. You may not know their names but they become comrades-in-arms none the less.

After lunch and a little friendly banter with some old and new friends Velo and I readied ourselves for the commute home. It’s nice when you can just jump on the bike to ride home.

I guess we will have to wait till next year to answer the question “How many cyclists fit under the bridge?” - and maybe pay the toll to the troll! 

Here's a short video of the short Ride

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

She Thinks My Bike is Sexy

I had decided to finish a project at work which put me on track to get home about 45 minutes late. Velo was (im)patiently waiting with a website open showing a local bike show that was going to start in about 15 minutes.

Q1: Do you want to go to the bike show?
A1: Duh
Q2: Should we take bikes for the competition?
A2: Duh
Q3: Can we load bikes and drive there, find parking, unload bikes, and find the show in time to enter the voting?
A3: Ummmm…Damn

Atrium, Tangeman Student Center
The show was in the Tangeman Student Center at University of Cincinnati. Parking is inconvenient at best and the weather had turned really cold and really wet. The campus itself is not far from home but finding the right garage to park in and then walking across campus for two old blokes not familiar with the layout curbed our enthusiasm, but only slightly.

We compromised and took only one bike. We loaded Velo’s Mercian onto the roof of the Subaru and headed in the general direction of the university. There is constant construction and reconfiguring of the driveways, roundabouts, and streets in and around UC. We, of course, doubled back a time or two before finally sighting the garage we wanted. But wait…we had a bike on the roof! We sort of knew we were going to have to unload the bike before entering the garage, we just didn’t know we would have to do it in the driveway. Solid teamwork resulted in quickly and efficiently removing the bike and securing a convenient parking space.

Feeling good about our accomplishments thus far we began the search for the venue. We walked to the building we knew the show was located in but had one little setback when we realized we had no idea what the design of the building was. This wouldn’t have been too bad except that we didn’t even know the floor, room, or wing we were looking for.

Since when has the lack of vital knowledge ever stopped a cyclist from reaching his destination? Of course we found it and only 30 minutes late for the start of the voting. There was still 90 minutes for the Mercian to be on display.

There are several really cool things about this bike show.

Velo placed his bike in line with the rest of the specimens. There were single speed, utility, racing, commuting, and custom built bikes of all sorts. Cincinnati Red Bike, our local bike share program, had one of their bikes on display. The UC Bike Share had one there as well. Our local, downtown bike rental and sales, The Garage OTR, had several of their specialty bikes on display. MOBO, an urban bicycle co-op, had a booth, as did UC’s Sustainability folks.
Best Utility Bike

Best Paint Job
Promptly at 8:00 the ballots were collected and tallied. All of the contestants anxiously awaited the reading of the winners. Those with strong wills and those with fragile egos all waited in trepidation to hear which finely tuned and well-loved machine would bring great pride to its owner.

Now, to be honest, I thought Velo’s Mercian would definitely take home a prize. I was banking on best paint job or something of that sort. Well the King of Mercia did not disappoint! But the SEXIEST BIKE?! For real?! For Velo the award, a gift card to Spun Cycles, didn’t even come close to the bragging rights of owning the SEXIEST BIKE.

Help me out here. Take a minute and describe what you think a SEXY BIKE is in the comments.

Thanks for reading and riding. 

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

After the Storm

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016 produced one hell of a storm, both natural and political. Although I promise not to campaign on this blog, let’s just say there are some opposing viewpoints in my family. As for the wrath of Mother Nature, she showed just how easy it would be for her to obliterate any person or thing in her path regardless of wealth or power. Saturday into Sunday brought evidence of just how mortal we are. Though mild compared to other global catastrophes, Sunday’s storm was a friendly reminder.
But then something amazing happened. Something that quieted the arguing, something that required not even so much as an utterance from human lips. Sometimes silence is simply the best option.

Velo and I decided to go for a short, evening ride after the threat of rain was gone. The wind was still a factor, but only one way, right? We rode into the wind first from the Cincinnati Golf Center to the Beechmont Levy, so that we could enjoy the gentle nudging on the way back. “You do your part and I’ll do mine” whispered the wind. 

And with the wind came the bouquet of blooming fruit trees and soggy creek beds. The flora of the ground cover was in its glory, taking advantage of the early spring sunlight before the canopy prevailed.

The sounds of singing birds returning from their winter residence and laughing children emerging from hibernation vied for the gales to carry their euphoric noise.

It was a short ride. The sun was still on the upward swing, barely past the spring equinox. This time of year the mercury tends to fall quickly as the daylight wanes. But, as with any bike ride, we forgot about the struggles of the world for a little while. The struggles are very real, but they can wait till I’m done riding. 

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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Make New Friends but Keep the Old....

Remember that little ditty from when you were a kid?  "Make new friends, but keep the old. Those are silver, these are gold" Well looking for more friends who share a similar interest as yourself one does not need to look far. The Internet is stock full of people with the same ideas, hobbies, passions, and quirks. I am not talking about dating sites, although that is where I met my significant other, VeloJunkie. I am talking about activity boards, Meetups, and the like. 

So I decided I wanted to find more local cycling groups, ones that might be a little more in line with my philosophy regarding smelling the spring wild flowers. Now don’t get me wrong. I love riding with Velo and his flock of technological, testosterone fueled nerds, but occasionally I don’t want to be the limiting factor. I like to enjoy the ride while not feeling my heart beat out of my chest if I don’t want to be left somewhere enroute. Yes, that has happened.

Easter weekend blessed us with spectacular weather for a peaceful ride through the rural byways of southwestern Ohio. I found a group of riders in tune with my style- on the Internet, of course. There is a local Sierra Club group on “Meetups” that was advertising a good season starter for anyone who wanted to join. Velo was glad I wanted to ride and gleefully agreed to tag along with me.

This ride was scheduled to begin at 11:00, another aspect I liked. I have nothing against the morning people who like to be at the starting line by the crack of dawn. I am a morning person, too. But my mornings consist of feeding five dogs, two indoor cats, an outdoor colony of feral kitties, two goldfish, and one teenager. Oh, and by the way, I like to enjoy a cup of coffee and maybe a piece of toast, with butter and maybe cinnamon.  That crazy Velo ruins his toast with jelly(Yuck!)

We woke up to a glorious Saturday morning. After spending several hours with the brood, Velo and I headed to Clermont County to meet our new friend. I say friend because when we got there only the ride leader was in sight. Seems everyone else had bailed for various reasons. It was definitely their loss but understandable. It was a holiday weekend with no shortage of events in the city, and some mysterious bunny left baskets full of sugary goodness in the homes of unsuspecting riders.

Jay, our ride leader, had maps ready and a nice route that included a stop for lunch. Clermont is much like any other Midwestern county, a landscape of farm houses and cornfields. The cornfields provoked us to think of days to come - warm, moist mornings with the musty, lingering aroma of maturing stalks. As a bonus, southeast Ohio offers a bounty of smooth, flat terrain. Perfect for a ride to start the season. One small road block didn't hinder our adventure, in fact it made it all the more fun and offered the perfect photo-opp. 

We stopped in the quaint town of Newtonsville and grabbed a snack to enjoy with the lunch we had packed (well Clif Bars, and a peanut butter sandwich).  Velo attempted to redeem himself when he bought me an oversized “Texas Cinnamon Roll”. We rode another twenty miles or so with a moving average of about 12 mph, just right for the Reluctant Cyclist and friends. All the while we were getting to know a little more about Jay and the rest of the Sierra Club folks who frequent these adventures, bike- hiking along and observing the native fauna. They move the ride to different areas of the tristate, with increasing levels of difficulty, as the season matures and the riders regain muscle, stamina, and confidence lost over the winter.

I enjoyed myself tremendously and assured Jay we would join him again sometime. I am also anxious to get out with our long-time riding cohorts. You never realize how much you miss folks until you don’t see them for several months. And even if you do see them over the winter it’s just not the same. They are different people than the ones you know in spandex. The bonus for me is that when riding season starts, so does blogging season.

 Ride to blog. Blog to ride.         The Reluctant Cyclist

 #cincinnatibybike #newfriends #sierraclubmeetup