Adventures in Urban Bicycling – Past and Future

Still catching up on the year that was.  While I continue to plan the year to come.

My goal for this year on the bicycle was 1,000 miles.  It was a bet with a friend and an ambitious one.  I don’t think I’ve put half that many miles on the bike in a given year.  The advantage (I thought) was that the biking season here in RVA was much longer than I’m accustomed to, so I had more days to pile on the miles.

I was kind of right.

What I hadn’t anticipated was how the much hotter summer days would effect my riding.  Very quickly through the middle of the summer, the day simply became too hot to ride safely.  Which meant I didn’t ride as much as I had hoped for when I set my goal.

The other thing I learned was that being a Type 2 diabetic changes the equation on the bike as well.  My plan had been to ride the Capitol Trail multiple times.  On my first attempt, I got my snacks wrong which meant my blood sugar did unpleasant things.  Forty miles into the ride I was toast and had to call for a ride.  I think I have a much better grip on the concepts I need now.

So what did I manage?

38 rides

614.95 miles

Two one way trips on the Capitol Trail.

That’s not half bad.  Not half bad at all.

I also did almost all of it on the streets of Richmond.  Urban cycling is a whole different experience than what I did in western New York.  With only a couple of exceptions, the experience was positive.  Drivers were aware and polite. I tried to make sure that I was predictable and obeyed the rules of the road as much as possible and practicable.  As a result, I had nothing worse than a couple of modestly close calls.  The worst was when a door was flung open in front of me from a parked car!

I’m looking forward to riding in 2018.  While I hope I don’t have nearly as much free time to toss the bike on the back of the car, I still should have plenty of time to top the 2017 total.  Add in a couple more Cap2Cap rides and look toward doing a round trip.  That’s 100+ miles, which is pretty daunting. I have been wiped out by the one way rides, so there’s a lot more training to be done for there and back again.  I’d also like to go a little further afield.  Maybe bike along Virginia Beach or on the DelMarVa peninsula.

The other consideration is that not only is the rider getting old, so is the ride.  Barney is going to need some TLC this year.  But I think we’ve both got at least one more hard year of riding in us.

I track my riding using MapMyRide.


Let’s roll.


From the Old Year to the New

This past year did not proceed as I anticipated.  Or hoped. Or wanted.

It did its own thing.  As with any year, I had little choice but to go with what’s given me.

Last year at this time I set out my objectives for the New Year:

No resolutions this year, just simple definable goals.

Health Goals:

Lose the last 20 pounds (be The Guy)
Keep my blood glucose within ADA ranges and work toward the lower ranges
Maintain a minimum of 150 active minutes a week

I managed to drop about half the weight, did OK with the blood levels until late in the year, and probably averaged the active minutes overall, but backslid there at the end of the year as well  Grade – C

Creativity Goals:

Add six more songs to my guitar competence list
Finish a writing project
Create a minimum of one good photo a month

The guitar goal never got off the ground.  I began the year with a shoulder issue that wouldn’t allow me to comfortably hold the neck and it went downhill from there.  I started another major project but nothing got finished.  And the photography was also a non-starter.  So a tough category overall.  Grade – D

Activity Goals:

Bike the Cap2Cap from Richmond to Williamsburg
Explore the parks nearby
Log a minimum of 1000 miles on the bike

I pulled the first off twice this year!  And I logged just over 600 miles.  That’s a personal best.  I got a little bit of park exploration in.  So I’d give myself a B- grade here.

Fun Goals

Visit five more historical sites
Go to the beach at least twice
Visit 20 wineries

Visited one historical site, got to the beach once and I don’t remember visiting any wineries this year.  Sigh.  Grade – F

Real Life Goals:

Find a new job
Find a new church home
Get involved with community group(s)

Thought I’d found a job.  Took a risk on something outside my comfort zone and discovered there was a reason it was outside my comfort zone.  A great company (Aflac) with some great products and people.  I’m just not cut out for that kind of sales work.  We did find a wonderful new church home, which has been an enormous blessing.  Community involvement is tough, did stay involved with the NaNoWriMo local group.  Grade – C

So what do I plan for 2018?  I’m going to take another shot at the same list.  It’s big and challenging.  There’s a LOT on it.  I put in italics the single goal for each category that I really want to cover.  I want to lose the final 10 (actually now 15 pounds), I want to do a roundtrip ride on the Capitol Trail.  Down and back, 100+ miles.  At the least, I want to ride it three times this year.  There are plenty of historical sites nearby, and a good number are free or inexpensive. And last, but absolutely NOT least, is getting full-time employment.  If I pull those off it will be a good year.  Anything beyond that will be gravy.

Adventures in Urban Bicycling – July

A tough month for bicycling.

On the positive side, I conquered the Cap2Cap trail for the first time.  That is a 52 mile paved path that runs from between the historic first capital of Virginia, Jamestown, and the current one, Richmond.  My first attempt was cut short when I did not balance my blood glucose properly for such a long ride.  Did much better this time.

The ride was a total of four hours and two minutes of saddle time with two breaks.  I took a quick one at roughly ten miles.  The biggest hills are in those first dozen miles, so I gave myself a break.  Then another twenty miles along for lunch.  May have stayed off the bike a little longer than I should have there (45-50 minutes), but warmed up nicely in short order.  Which is good for two reasons.  About fourteen miles after lunch you hit the Chickahominy River bridge, which is a high arch bridge.  One that never seems to end when you’ve pedaled that far!  The other issue had to do with heat.  I had left early to try and avoid the heat of the day.  It still caught me and the last ten miles were tough and the final five were very difficult.  But I made it.

Week three was a very light week for riding.  Weather again was the issue.  The Heat Index that week hit triple digits several times and I chose discretion.  I did get in a couple of rides as I continue to work towards my goal of 1,000 miles this year.

Otherwise, I’ve been exploring new places in Richmond to ride.  I rode out Monument (which is a major thoroughfare here in Richmond) to the Willow Lawn area.  Not a long ride, about 3 miles, but new experiences.  More riding with higher traffic.

Also enjoyed watching the Tour de France.  Amazing to watch those incredible athletes perform.  Hour after hour at 20+ miles per hour.  And simply riding for 100-200 kilometers.  Crashes barely seem to phase them.  I would be whimpering for months afterwards and they jump up, grab their bike, and take off once again.  Several of them crashed, re-started, and ended up winning the stage.  Awesome athletes.  And inspirations to those of us trying to crank along. Three cheers for team Cannondale/Drapac and Rigoberto Uran.  With determination and grit, Rigo finished second overall.  It was great to have a team to root for (all three American riders were on this team, so that made it easy).  All the riders continue to inspire me.  When it starts to feel tough, I think of what they go through and I push on.

The last full week of the month turned into a pretty good riding week.  Got a break in the weather, so I got to rack up several more rides.  Even set a personal best, approaching a 12 mph average for 90 minutes!  17.6 miles in 1:31.

Equipment is becoming an issue.  I’ve developed a wobble in the crank, the straps are breaking on my bike rack and my tire pump bit the dust.  Not the problems to be faced without steady income.  Sigh.  I shall soldier on.

Much to my great surprise, I’m almost half way to my goal for the summer with at least two more months of riding ahead.

I track my riding using MapMyRide.

Ride Total – 25 (through 7/26)

Mileage Total – 415.14

Let’s roll.

Adventures in Urban Bicycling – Trust But Verify

I’ve been thinking about something that former President Ronald Reagan said.

“Trust but verify”.

He was talking about the Soviets.  I was thinking about all the drivers on the road with me.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts having to adjust to so many other folks sharing the road when I’m riding in the city.  What I want from them is simple – predictability.  It’s what I want when I’m driving a car as well.  I want the other vehicles – cars, trucks, motorcycles, and yes, bicycles, to behave in a predictable manner.  It makes life so much simpler.

For example, if you are turning, I want you to indicate that.  Yes, I want people to use their damn turn signals!  I try to indicate clearly what I’m going to do.  Stop, right turn, left turn.  The attitude that turn signals are optional drives me crazy as a driver as well as a rider.  But it really struck home this past week.  The street was a little busier than most, which means there was a bunch of us stopped at the light.  The cement mixer (honest to God, I ended up having an issue with a CEMENT MIXER!) was the lead vehicle.  I was pulled up next to the line of traffic, but only even with the back of the truck.  From there I can see things like, oh maybe a TURN SIGNAL!! None showing.  So the light goes green, the truck rolls slowly forward as you would predict and I rolled slowly forward too.  Only to discover that the truck was starting to drift my way.  That’s annoying, but big trucks will sometimes wander a bit.  I kept my eye on it and looked for turn signals just to be safe.  Nothing.  Truck continues to drift my way and is now clearly going to turn right in front of me.  Because I was being prudently paranoid (there’s a theme for urban cycling!), I came to a stop without creating any problems.  Problems for me like being crushed to death.

My real lesson on trust but verify came watching a young woman who was on the opposite side of an intersection.  I spend most of my time cycling through the part of Richmond known as “The Fan” (it’s roughly fan-shaped).  Nice streets, not too much traffic.  After a while, I realized that the intersections with traffic lights were predictable.  Once the cross street light went red, it was a two-second delay before my light went green.  Wonderful!  Now I could get a little jump on the four-wheel vehicles and get rolling sooner.  Aren’t I clever?

Then I came to the intersection with this young woman.  The light turned green and I was all set to push hard and zip through.  Meanwhile, she took a second, looked both ways and made sure that no idiot was blowing through the light.  In the split second that it took me to figure out what she was doing, I remembered all the idiots I’d seen doing exactly that in and around the RVA.  The wisdom of her approach seemed very profound suddenly.  Clever could get me killed.  Relying on other folks to be safe and predictable could put me in a hospital.

Trust but verify.

I am happy to say that the overwhelming majority of the drivers I encounter in Richmond are wonderful.  The day that I write this, I arrived at a traffic circle a second or so behind a car coming from another direction.  But he had clearly gotten there first and had the right of way.  He saw me and waved me through.  Much appreciated.  Most drivers give me the space I need and clearly recognize my existence on the road.  But it only takes one to really mess your ride up.


June was supposed to be the first of the “big rides” – Richmond to Williamsburg.  I discovered that the Cap2Cap doesn’t actually extend to Williamsburg, so I’m trying to find a safe route for the last few miles.  In the meantime, I tried to ride the trail to Jamestown.  Unfortunately, I appear to have not made the appropriate adjustments for the diabetes.  After 31 miles, I was very wobbly so I cut it short.  I am adjusting both my food and water system to make sure the next ride works.  Started off very well with PBs for 10 miles and for mileage in one hour.  Next time I’ll get it.  9 rides, 177+ miles.

I track my riding using MapMyRide.

Ride Total – 17

Mileage Total – 259.69

Let’s roll.

The Mid-Year Review

Wherein, I rat myself out.

One of the great things about New Year’s resolutions is that, by this time of year, everyone has forgotten that you ever made any.

But I did make some (HERE), and the idea was to work towards them all.  So with half the year behind me, it’s time to see how I’m doing.

My goals for 2017 were:

Health Goals:

  • Lose the last 20 pounds (be The Guy)
  • Keep my blood glucose within ADA ranges and work toward the lower ranges
  • Maintain a minimum of 150 active minutes a week

UPDATE – I’m actually doing all right on these.  Weight continues down, blood glucose is going down and I’m averaging way above the active minutes.  WIN!

Creativity Goals:

  • Add six more songs to my guitar competence list
  • Finish a writing project
  • Create a minimum of one good photo a month

UPDATE – Ummm.  On the guitar front, I began the year with “frozen shoulder” which made holding the guitar painful.  I have begun to work my way back on that one.  Working on the writing projects.  The photo goal has been a bust.  NEEDS WORK

Activity Goals:

  • Bike the Cap2Cap from Richmond to Williamsburg
  • Explore the parks nearby
  • Log a minimum of 1000 miles on the bike

UPDATE – Some progress made on this one.  So for this point of the year – WIN

Fun Goals

  • Visit five more historical sites
  • Go to the beach at least twice
  • Visit 20 wineries

UPDATE –  No, no and no.  NEEDS WORK

Real Life Goals:

  • Find a new job
  • Find a new church home
  • Get involved with community group(s)

UPDATE – Not yet, YES!!!!, and not yet.  Call this one a PUSH


So it’s two wins, two needs works, and a push.  With lots of time to get things turned around.  Not where I had hoped to be, but I’m OK with it for the moment.  Where are you on yours for 2017?

Adventures in Urban Bicycling – Adjusting Equipment

till learning all the ins and outs of riding the city vs. the country.  There is one piece of equipment on my bike that I have to remind myself to use.

My mirror.

Riding in the country, traffic overtaking you is relatively infrequent.  Plus, the overall noise level there is lower.  I usually heard the cars/trucks coming.  None of which is true in the city.  Someone is constantly overtaking you.  There are more things that require your attention and the noise level is both higher and nearly constant.

Don’t even get me started on hybrid/electric vehicles.  Damn sneaky, they are.

With all of that, my mirror is a highly important part of my defensive riding.  Or it would be if I remembered to look at it.  It’s just not a habit right now.  Consequently, I spend way too much time repeating some variant of “Crap!  Where did you come from?”

I’m also fascinated by the folks who don’t believe bicycles have to obey traffic laws.  Particularly lights at intersections.  Now I will admit that I do not routinely come to a full and complete stop at stop signs.  I slow way down, and carefully check in all relevant directions.  It’s a hassle to stop, disengage my foot from the pedal, and teeter virtually en pointe.  If there is traffic, I always give them the right of way.  I understood that much of my physics courses.

But I come to a complete stop at a red light, and I wait till it turns green.  Turns out I’m one of the minority of riders who do so.  Every time I ride in the city, I see some take a quick glance and then sail through on the red.  They act as if that light doesn’t concern them at all.  I will note that a very high percentage of them are riding without a helmet too, which another form of stupidity IMHO.  I can only assume that their own safety is not concern #1.  Last week I came to a relatively busy intersection near the VCU campus and caught the red light.  I stopped and waited, as did the pickup truck going the opposite direction.  Suddenly, a rider appeared and sailed blithely through.  The light went green as I was still shaking my head in disgust.  As I and the truck passed each other, the driver leaned out the window and commented that rolling through lights like that struck him as a pretty good way to get killed.  I couldn’t agree more.

Experience tells me that there are plenty of folks out there who do not like sharing the road with bicycles.  One of the reasons is that riders don’t always behave in predictable ways.  Following traffic regulations may or may not be the law here in Virginia (but I’m betting it is).  It strikes me that it should be simple, common sense.  Behave consistently with the rest of traffic.  Live to ride another day.

Oh, and remember to check your mirror.

May was a very good riding month with 7 rides, including several stretch rides on the Cap2Cap.  My butt is getting used to the saddle and I hope to do my first RVA to Williamsburg ride in the next couple weeks.  Right now, I’m sidelined!  The straps on my bike carrier for the car have rotted and are getting replaced.

I track my riding using MapMyRide.

Ride Total – 11

Mileage Total – 134.56

Let’s roll.


At the encouragement of my parish priest, I started cycling about fifteen years ago.  It wasn’t a brand new activity. I had biked in college.  Two of my friends were serious cyclists and I tagged along with them.  These two chapters of my biking life have two things in common.  Then and now, I was always among the slowest riders in the group, and both groups rode mostly in rural settings.  Wide, quiet, tree lined roads are still my favorite place to ride.  On those rides, my primary concern was keeping the faster riders in sight.  Far too often that sight was my friends stopped at the top of a hill waiting for me to struggle to the join them.  As both my experience and strength improved their waits were shorter.

Living in mostly rural Chautauqua County gave me lots of rural roads to ride.  Because it’s snow country there is a berm along all but the most back country roads.  While they are not always smooth and clear of obstacles, they always gave me room in case traffic showed up.  Long, uninterrupted rides are a great time for fellowship with friends, or for cleansing the brain when riding alone.  The greatest danger is topping a rise or rounding a corner to discover a surprise.  Like the day I crested a hill and saw a lump of something in the middle of my lane twenty feet or so ahead.  There was enough time to slow down and identify the surprise as a snapping turtle making its way from one side of the road to the other.   That kind of room for error and surprise was a great gift.

Riding in Virginia has presented new challenges.  Country roads here don’t come with berms.  Which means there is no room for error by rider or driver.  Either of us can come around a corner and discover a very serious issue and no margin for a mistake.  The upside is that there are a lot of cyclists here, so drivers are accustomed to us.  That doesn’t seem to slow them down or make many adjustments on those roads, however.  Plus, there are just a few too many roadside memorials to fatal bike accidents for my taste.

Maybe I’m just getting old and less brave, but I don’t feel comfortable riding the way I have in the past.  That has meant very little time in the saddle over the last three years.  This year I made a pact with a friend (that same priest!) to shoot for a thousand miles in 2017.  That’s a big ask, about twice my best year ever.  The difference is that the riding “season” in Richmond is a lot longer than it is in western New York.  The goal is challenging (because all goals should challenge you), but it ought to be doable.

So the first challenge has been finding a place to ride.  The obvious choice was to become an urban rider.

Riding in an urban environment presents a different set of variables to consider.  More traffic, coming from more directions.  Pedestrians, speed bumps, stop signs/lights (obeyed to varying degrees) and the general impatience among city drivers.  Left-hand turns that require the rider to cross traffic to get into the correct lane position to make the turn.

And then there is the issue of car doors.  My encounter with the snapping turtle gave me time to figure out what was happening, and then sweep around the obstacle.  This past week while riding in the city, I had just enough time to swerve violently into a blessedly empty lane to avoid a door flung open into my path.  The driver was on her phone and pushed the door open with her foot.  The image of the door and her foot is burned into my memory.  This possibility had occurred to me from the start of my transformation into an urban cyclist.  When I ride along the rows of parked cars I try to keep an eye into the passenger compartments, looking for heads.  So I either missed her, or she was using her foot because her free hand was reaching for something in the passenger seat.  That would have put her head in a position not to be seen.  I have no idea what happens to either bike or rider when they slam into a car door at ten miles per hour or more.  My bet is that it’s painful.  I’m just as happy to avoid it.  The only other adventure so far was making a bad turn onto a major thoroughfare and realizing that I needed to cross two lanes of traffic to get where I wanted to go.  Lots of cars moving faster than my poor legs were really able to propel me.  I survived.  That mistake will not be made again.

Once a get a little more saddle time, (it’s less a matter of getting my legs ready than it is getting my butt used to the saddle) I’m planning on riding the Cap2Cap trail.  Fifty-two miles between the two historic capitals of Virginia.  The goal is to ride it several times this year.  I’m still on the hunt for other, longer interesting rides to help me make the goal.

I track my riding using MapMyRide.

Ride Total – 4

Mileage Total – 37.44

Let’s roll.