Friday, March 27, 2009

Breakfast Rides

Cyclists, store owners, restauranteurs, would-be bloggers, and dogs all love breakfast rides. And they have for some time. For cyclists, the craze seems to have started at least as early as the summer of 1896. Consider this description from The Sportsman's Magazine from October 1896:

"It is not surprising, therefore, to learn that the latest fad to be introduced by this class of riders, is the "bicycle breakfast," which has become exceedingly popular of late. These have been indulged in to the greatest extent at the numerous watering places and Summer resorts... The meet is usually arranged to take place early on Saturday morning, thus allowing the gentlemen of the party who have run down ... to spend Saturday and Sunday, to participate. The time for the meeting is usually from seven to eight o'clock. Before starting, the riders partake of coffee or chocolate, and perhaps a sandwich, after which they start off for a two hours' spin, and return to find a dainty but substantial breakfast awaiting them. Whether it is the ride itself, the pleasure of companionship, the breakfast, or all three combined, certain it is that bicycle breakfasts have, during the past Summer, become an exceedingly popular institution at nearly all of the eastern Summer resorts."

A number of our club members have suggested that we consider establishing a regular "breakfast ride" where we can get together, ride, and yes - eat. As a number of us have joined the ranks of the formerly-employed and many of the rest of us are coasting in that direction, it would seem to be a good idea to bring up right about now.

As it happens, I have Monday and Friday mornings free during the week, at least for the foreseeable future. What are good days for the rest of you? What ride locations would be convenient? More importantly, what breakfast haunts would be the most enticing? Where can we find breakfast - "dainty but substantial" - worth riding to? Give me your suggestions, either in the comments below or at, and I'll work on the replies. So "whether it is the ride itself, the pleasure of companionship, the breakfast, or all three combined," let me know, and I'll see what can be arranged.

Remember: Life is Short - Breakfast is Waiting.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Think Spring!

Ray and Jane are spending the late Winter cycling in the Sunshine State, and they have sent us some dispatches to let us know that Spring is on the way:

"I'm writing this from Englewood, Florida, near Venice (south of Tampa). We arrived here just before the big storm last Monday (March 2).

"We have our bikes and joined a bike club down here (Coastal Cruisers). I took my first ride with them yesterday morning (March 3). It was cold - in the 40s - so only about 3 dozen showed-up, half the normal number. They break the group down into sub-groups depending on speed. I found this out when I went off with the first group, which was doing 20+ mph, which is fast, even on the flat with a little tailwind.

"Lots of retired folks - it's Florida - and very friendly. They have 3 standard rides each week. There are various bike paths and bike lanes in the Venice-Englewood-Northport area. But yesterday most of our ride was in a large sub-development, adjacent to a 5-mile long pike path, which had very few houses. Most of the roads in the development were vacant, so they acted like big bike paths as our group zoomed around them. They mark routes with colored circles and a line indicating a turn. Nonetheless, I managed to get a little lost when I left the fast group and headed back toward the trailhead using just the sun as my directional guide. No hills but the winds can be strong.

"We hope the weather warms in Maine by April, because we'll be used to 70-85 degrees by the end of March, when we start our return drive. The weather has been, and is forecast to be, like a perfect summer day in Maine: 75-80, with RH around 50%. The air feels so wonderful after the dry Winter air of home.

"We took another ride with the Coastal Cruisers Bicycle Club today (March 10) - my 4th since last Tuesday. This one, like some of the others, was a breakfast ride: bike somewhere to eat, then continue biking. We must have had a total of 50 people, who did the 28-35 miles split in 3 groups, depending on pace. Some others, including one 78-year-old in the same condo complex we're in, biked from where they live and did a total of 60 miles. We went to the monthly meeting of the club last night and they had 90 people there, out of a membership of about 325. Almost all are retired and most are snow birds. Very friendly group - an instant community for us.

"The area has a lot of bike lanes and many roads in subdivisions that didn't get completed: long avenues with many side streets, yet very few houses. Essentially no cars in some areas. One area, called Rotunda West, is circular - about 44 miles of radial and circumferential roads. I wouldn't want to be in there on a cloudy day without a map and compass!

"I'm including a couple of photos, although I haven't taken many while cycling - too hard to stop.

"See you in April." - Ray and Jane

Friday, March 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, Charles E. Pratt!

It was on this day in history, March 13th, in the year 1845, that there was born in Vassalboro, Maine one of the most influential cyclists in American history - and one that you and Wikipedia have probably never heard of.

Charles Eadward Pratt was born 164 years ago in Vassalboro on the banks of the Kennebec River to a prominent Quaker family. He grew up in Roxbury, Mass. (now part of Boston) and graduated from Haverford College in Pennsylvania in 1870. He was small in stature, rather frail and sickly, and given to bookish pursuits. He was a member of a number of literary clubs with names like the Papyrus Club, the Odd Volumes Club and the Société des Bibliophiles Contemporains of Paris (did I mention he was fluent in French?). He studied law and entered into legal practice, focusing on patent law.

There matters may have stood, except that in the 1870s young Charles discovered bicycling. He took to the wheel with unbridled enthusiasm, his health and spirits soared, and he was soon doing century runs on his high wheeler. Drawing on his literary talents, he published in 1879 the first cycling guidebook in America: The American Bicycler: a manual for the observer, the learner and the expert. He followed that up in 1884 with one of the first full-length cycling "FAQs": What and Why. He became the editor of
The Bicycling World and used his position in 1880 to call for a national gathering of "bicyclers" to form a national organization of cyclists, and later that year in Newport, R.I. the League of American Wheelmen was formed. The L.A.W. members elected Pratt their first president and he served two terms from 1880-1882.

His cycling guidebook (chock-full of good information surprisingly still relevant 130 years later) brought him to the attention of the editors of
Scribner's Monthly Magazine who approached him with the idea of doing a major article on the radical new sport. Pratt did them one better - organizing a special two-day "invitational" ride for all the bike clubs in the Boston area, called the "Wheel Around the Hub." Pratt's colorful article on the event, illustrated with some outstanding photographs, did more to popularize the new sport of bicycling than any other single publication. It was on the ride that Pratt came to the attention of Col. Albert A. Pope of Columbia Bicycles. The rather portly Pope (Pratt playfully nicknamed him "Colonel Bounce") was an aggressive businessman who often needed an army of patent lawyers, and he soon hired Pratt to head up his legal staff. The two men would leave their mark on the cycling industry that is still felt today.

In addition to cycling sport and manufacture, Pratt was also a tireless advocate of cyclists' rights, leading the L.A.W.'s early legal battles for bicycle access to roads, parks, and trains, and promoting the League's efforts for Good Roads. Pratt's most enduring legacy comes from his behind-the-scenes work in promulgating the "golden rule" of bicycle advocacy: that
bicycles are vehicles and that their drivers have the same rights and responsibilities as the drivers of other vehicles.

It happened like this: in the 1870s concerned citizens in many U.S. towns and cities began to agitate for regulating the new menace on their streets - cyclists. Boston was no different, except for a young City Councillor named Charles E. Pratt. When the first motion came up to refer the matter of regulating bicycles in Boston to the hostile Committee on Public Safety, Pratt employed some deft parliamentary maneuvering to shift the proposal instead to the Office of the Police Commissioner. In so doing, he only had to persuade a single person to his views, not an entire committee. Pratt then went to work on the Police Commissioner, no doubt cornering him in one of the legendary "smoke-filled back rooms" of the social clubs of the day. Pratt convinced the Commissioner that he didn't have to add any new laws to the books regarding the use of bicycles, since bicycles were vehicles and thus the existing laws regarding vehicles would apply. The Commissioner's ruling established a solid legal precedent for the first time in the U.S.

So there you have it. The next time you hear the expression "Cars, Bikes - Equal Rights" remember that you owe it all to the young man from Vassalboro, Maine. Happy Birthday, Charles E. Pratt!

Friday, March 6, 2009

All Things Bright and Beautiful (and Cheap)

Last fall I was riding into work along Rt.27 in New Portland when I chanced upon another cyclist and struck up a conversation. "Say," he asked after a time, "where'd you get that shirt?"

I told him truthfully that I'd found it on the side of the road and he laughed - "That's even better!"

The "shirt" - bright neon yellow with broad reflective silver stripes - was a 'can't miss' roadside find - I think I spotted it 50 yards away. It's what's known as a high-visibility shirt ("Hi-Vis" in the trade) complying with ANSI Standard 107-2004 Class 2 Level 2, which, I'd guess, as a standard, ensures that the shirt is naturally garish and gaudy - two things that I can only pretend to be.

My find was up to my standards, and amply cut, too - a size Double XX, which I might "grow into" some day, although I hope not to. As is, I can wear it comfortably over a rain jacket. It even comes with a vest pocket, intended, I think, for a pack of cigarettes. (I'm told that long, long ago, cycling jerseys came with similar vest pockets for similar purposes, but you have to be a real old-timer to have experienced anything that retro.)

For cycling, the shirt really comes in handy during the "dim time" between equinoxes when daylight is short and the sun sits at low angles making roadside things harder to see. It stands to reason that whenever motorists have a hard time seeing moose that one should not dress like a moose. Or, as aptly phrased by the legendary Dick Burns (of the Rochester, NY, Bicycle Club): "It is better to look like a blot on the landscape than to be a blot on the landscape."

I told my envious friend that I had seen similar shirts (in Neon Yellow & Blaze Orange) for less than $20 in Renys - which, as he was from away, I explained are a chain of locally-owned Maine department stores, remarkably still located for the most part in accessible storefronts in downtown business districts - a business model all but extinct elsewhere in the country. I also mentioned seeing the shirts in the anti-Renys - Wal-Mart (he'd heard of them).

While I find the shirt comfortable to wear, eminently practical, impressively visible (and, in my case, you can't beat the price) - still, I confess I've longed for a fancy glow-in-the-dark cycling jacket - a proper jacket - if I could only justify the expense in today's economy.

You can imagine my surprise when I happened to visit Marden's in Waterville a week ago and was stopped in my tracks by rack after rack of high-end illumiNITE cycling and running gear. Marden's (for those reading from afar) is a local chain of surplus and salvage goods, and their slogan: "I should have bought it when I saw it at Marden's" was about as subliminal as the $100 neon yellow jacket with the mark-down tag of $39.99, and the temptation was too much to bear. If you're in need of a new cycling jacket you might want to check your local Marden's outlet.

Still, I intend to keep my Hi-Vis t-shirt for really sloppy weather and grunge commuting. It has crossed my mind that these shirts might make interesting KVBC club t-shirts, too. You think perhaps a Blaze Orange shirt would look avant-garde with HEAVY LOADS LIMITED printed on the back? Ye gads - less than a week into the blog and already he has a "marketing concept?" Oh, the shame of it. Who wants a 'large'?

Monday, March 2, 2009

New Kennebec Valley Bicycle Club Weblog Launched!

Welcome to the launch of POSTED ROADS, the new weblog of the Kennebec Valley Bicycle Club! The purpose of the new site is to post up-to-date information on club rides, with ride maps, pictures, descriptions, road conditions, feedback, and other commentary. It is hoped that this will help us disseminate information on club activities and interests in a green, paperless, environmentally friendly way.

The Kennebec Valley Bicycling Club (KVBC) was founded in 2002, and has been sponsoring rides in the Central Maine area (Augusta - Waterville and environs) ever since. KVBC rides are open to all, and annual memberships are offered to individuals ($10) and households ($15), payable in early April.

The KVBC is affiliated with the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and the League of American Bicyclists.

For more information on the KVBC and POSTED ROADS, please leave a comment below.