My Recent Fixed-Gear 80-Miler,
Modern life is busy, and I was ambivalent about driving with the family to Cape Cod for a get-together with some New York friends. Summer is a great time here in Marblehead, a seacoast town just north of Boston. So why go anywhere? I became eager to go when I realized that I could bike down to meet them. This, I later realized, was my first solo bike trip of more than 40 miles since I cycled from France to Spain and back more than fifteen years ago.
I've been mostly riding my fixie lately and have dreamt about touring on it. My mind drifts to the Caribbean, to Yucatan and to Cuba. Perhaps my wheels will follow. If the road to hell is truly paved with good intentions, I'm pretty much there.
I mostly commute to work and go for a longer ride on the weekends. I don't know exactly how far, since I have stopped using speedometers, odometers, heart monitors, and cadence meters. I've replaced them all with a bell. I often don't bring a watch. If I really need to know the time, I can always consult the cell phone. My commute takes 20 to 30 minutes each way. The weekend rides, often with Team Fred (named after Fred who organizes the rides), are 25-40 miles they tell me. I am the only fixie rider, and often the caboose, in this very congenial group of men and women who often think like racers when they think about bikes.
This past Spring, my friend Dan, or DB as he is known to iBOBs (members of the "Internet Bridgestone Owner's Bunch") , thought my Trek 360 56cm fixed-gear bike was a bit small, and gave me a beautiful fire engine red Specialized Sirrus 58-cm frame and fork - lugged and double butted, with short horizontal drop outs. I am forever grateful.
I set it up with:
Suzue flip-flop rear hub laced w/ 36 spokes to a Campagnolo Montreal rim (obtained in trade from Andrew Muzi of Yellow Jersey in Madison, WI), Zip carbon fiber front hub w/ c20 bladed spokes laced to unknown somewhat aero rim (purchased from time trialist during my weight weenie days), Shimano 600 165cm crank set (found on dumpster bike; anyone looking for the time trial aero handlebars that came with it? they are for trade or for cheap.) Also, 42 tooth chainring, 16 tooth 3/32 sprocket, Brooks Pro (purchased from iBOB), Avocet Road 20s. I dremmeled out the little bridge between the chain stays in order to be able fit the rear wheel with a fully inflated Avocet road 20 on and off (Peter Jon White thought it would do no harm). I commute with a Carradice Camper (Harris) and SQR (Peter Jon White). I enjoy carrying a Silca frame pump with campag head (thanks to Jeff, who included it when he sold me his old Pinarello) because it works so well, and a silver incredibell bell (Rivendell). When I moved the stuff over from the Trek I ditched the BMX sprocket on the flip side of the flip-flop hub, for lack of use.
The night before leaving, I finally got around to taking off the chain for cleaning and relubing, doing a little general cleaning and adjusting, and shellacking the handlebars with white tressostar and a hemp twine finish. I got a load of white cloth tape with hemp twine and Rivindell's shellac flakes with instructions (from iBOB). After an archive search I decided to go with Bulls eye clear (the Rivendell shellac flakes are available for the asking, shipping included, to the first requester). I used some black and red cork tape underneath for padding - from the brake hoods towards the center of the bar. With shellac, it has become translucent in places where the white cloth tape is only a single layer, so the dark cork shows through.
It was easy to do, and I like it.
I packed several almond butter and banana sandwiches and a water bottle, filled a small zip lock with Gatorade powder and a plastic spoon, highlighted the planned route on my maps, and loaded the Carradice with some "just in case items:" small cable lock, rain coat, front and rear lights, tool kit, cell phone, bandana, cycling cap. I kissed my wife good bye, and pedaled along a familiar coastal route, by Kings Beach, Lynn Beach, Lynn Harbor, and Revere Beach to the Wonderland MBTA stop. I took the T through Boston to Braintree, it's southern most point, where I headed towards the Claire Saltonstall Bikeway. It's a route over public roads from Boston to Provincetown on Cape Cod, intermittently marked with roadside signs. Even with a good map I managed to loose the route on at least a half-dozen occasions. Next time I'll bring a compass.
A perfect day, in the 70s, with a mild headwind most of the way. I grew up in Sharon, MA, on the South Shore of Boston. The route took me through places with familiar forgotten woodland smells laced with pine and dried grasses, as my thoughts spun back thirty years and more. We use to ride balloon tired bikes on then dirt roads. One favorite summer evening game was for two of us to speed down the road, and pull the chains that turned on the sirens and generator lights. We occasionally stopped cars that way, and liked to think that we fooled the drivers into thinking we were motorcycle cops.
I really enjoyed getting lost in Kingstown. Otherwise I would have missed passing by the Boy Scout camp where I learned to swim, sail, and paddle a canoe. Cemeteries and skate parks, small churches and gas station convenience stores (for filling water bottles and stocking up on fig newtons), prisons and hospitals, ponds and woodlands, small towns and short friendly conversations - all the way to Plymouth.
Long Pond Road from Plymouth to Bourne and the Sagamore Bridge is great. Rolling hills and Cape-like landscape, small spruce and sand, and a nice wide shoulder. Getting around the rotary before the bridge is a little tricky. You have to walk your bike over the bridge, and the sidewalk is on left hand side of the Cape bound bridge. I started up the Sagamore Bridge hoping to find a side walk on the right hand side, and then was trapped by the traffic, finding it difficult to cross to the side walk side. There were no warning signs, nor signs of advice for cyclists. I eventually crossed safely with only one guy yelling "%$$##$!!!" at me.
I cycled mostly on back roads through Sandwich, Mashpee, and Barnstable to Hyannis, arriving at the restaurant for dinner with family and friends. Through the miracle of cell phone technology my wife, with perfect timing, greeted me with a heaping plate of steaming pasta and scallops.
A truly great day.