It's a new year and time once again to give a new look to this blog. New graphics and colors. Same bike writer!

This blog is created not only to track my own progress on my biking journey but it is intended to also assist others who have either osteo or rheumatoid arthritis or both like I do. I hope as you read about the progress I have made that it gives you inspiration and hope that you can overcome the dibilitating effects of these conditions.

If your doctor agrees that you should be capable of expanding your limits read on and don't be afraid, just listen to your body and give it challenges. Biking is a great non-impact form of exercise and greatly enhances flexibility and range of motion.

It's not a substitute for Doctor visits, taking your meds or otherwise getting off your health plan but it auguments what your Doctor does for you and can give you a better quality of life. Go for it!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

If You Build It They Will Come Plus Bonus Day Ride

Light wind, loads of sunshine and mild for this time of year temps offered up a bonus outdoor riding day today!  Hooray!   Today's high temp was 43 F but with those conditions it seemed much nicer.  Just for the heck of it I looked up last years riding log and noted that I had 9 outdoor rides last November and 6 in December of 2012.   I checked the 2011 log and had 11 outdoor November rides, 4 in December and 13 in January and February combined, however 2011 was one for the record books because we had mild weather right through the whole winter, so much so the lake didn't even freeze over and there was virtually no snow.

Once again I marvel at how  a bike ride outdoors, for more than twice the time of an indoor ride, can feel like it's so short.  There is utterly no comparison between indoor and outdoor riding.  It was a short ride to check out the wholly completed Phase II of the Barker Road Path project. Nice to see that the orange barrels were gone and even at only 65' long the bridge over Horseshoe Creek made me giggle anyway.  Bridges, elevated boardwalks and really any non straight or unconventional building material makes a pathway fun and interesting.  It's a good illustration of how riding a bike outdoors is a tactile experience.

Gravel or dirt roads have their own feel and sound, concrete pavement feels and sounds different than asphalt and wooden sections each have their own unique and rhythmic clackty-clack noise accompanied by those sensations impressing your ears, your hands and your bottom-side.   Wind and sunshine make a big impression not only on your face, hair and skin but also on your psyche as does the aforementioned surfaces.

Another photo in the spirit of build-it-and-they-will-come variety inserted below shows another person enjoying the sunshine and nice new paved path today along with some photos that don't include orange barrels!

I guess you can say the photos reflect the pride in the project that puts a smile on my face.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Winter Workout and Happy Thanksgiving

It's still Autumn but another light snowfall covering today makes it feel much more like winter.  Feeling particularly thankful today as we set aside a whole day just for that!  A truly American holiday, it kicks off the holiday season culminating with Christmas.

I'm thankful for, but not sure where the motivation came from, to start my indoor spinning on a trainer this week.  Today marks four days running and I'll give myself a little pat on the back, however I must share with you that my routine is so teeny tiny so far it can hardly be called exercise.  I'm initiating this season and the first two weeks with a 10 minute time limit.  Hardly worth climbing on?  The method to the madness is that since I truly loath the trainer but I do like the feeling that gets your blood pumping I set a time limit so small that I can't say no to it and it actually leaves me longing for just a bit more.  I psyched myself out.  Ha!

Well, whatever it takes is what I say.  My plan is to continue at this pace for two weeks and in the second week inch up by 1-2 minutes by that weeks end.  The plan is for weeks three and four to bump up to 20 minutes and after a solid month kick it up to 30 minuets and take it from there.  I won't force myself to commit to more than 30 minutes but when the urge strikes for longer I'll go for it.  So that's the plan, it's truly not my usual style but I really want to continue to ride all winter long and don't want to burn out too fast or too early.  I know myself well and my tendency is to overdo things in the beginning and the results have been less than what I desired, so in the spirit of "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity" I'm trying out a new approach.  

It's really hard to get off when you want to go more but I want that feeling of longing and desire to propel me into the next day.  Last winter I used some travel DVD's of outdoor bicycling and a Spinnervals DVD for a booster, I haven't gotten into those yet but I'm sure I will by the time I get to the 20 minute mark.

To all of you and yours - Happy Thanksgiving, we truly are so blessed and have so much to be thankful for!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Trainer Time!

With temps in the 20's (F) and traces of snow it's time to break out the trainer or loose any semblance of fitness.  Sooner or later, like it or not, a season comes to an end and a new one starts.  I don't mind winters in Michigan, I love the change of seasons and a chance to do other things but I will, once again, miss outdoor riding.  I adore outdoor riding and loath indoor trainers but I'm far too much of a wimp to ride in snow and blustery winter weather.  Perhaps I'll turn to some indoor swimming this year, I've threatened to do that the last few years, we'll see if this one is IT.

With dinner dishes put away I was torn between settling into a snuggly evening or taking on a project.  Being a bit restless and with my bike beckoning me from the corner I took the call to swap out my street tire and tube for my trainer tire and was very pleasantly surprised that I could accomplish the task in about 10 minutes.  Well 15 if you count looking for all the proper tools. Now if I could only change a flat out on the trail in that amount of time!  Next order of business:  1) find the trainer 2)get on the thing and ride it!

Black street tire before and yellow trainer tire after.  Work time about 10 minutes total after tools were gathered.  Now dig out the trainer and spend 5 minutes mounting it and work up the ambition to ride, that might take a few more minutes.

Afterthought and honorable mention;  notice the uber clean drive train and sparkly chain?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Barker Road Bike Path - Update

Here are some photos of the completion of the second phase of the project.  It's not completed just yet, when I rode by today there were finishing touches being  put on the grading and some landscaping.  These photos were from last Saturday.  I love watching this project come together.

This is my favorite photo, it depicts exactly why the path was 
built, to help connect people from west of town to downtown.
Pictured here is father and son and it looks like they are returning
from a trip to the Polly's Market to home, you can see a grocery
bag swinging from the dad's handlebars. It just tickles me that it isn't
even complete yet and people are already using it.  

Saturday, November 9, 2013


It's November and I'm still riding.  Not too much because we've had some wind and rain on days when I had the chance to but today I got out to explore a newly built section of the Barker Road path in town.  It's just a short pedal from home but I did get to ride some of the new section of trail and I can't wait for the rest to be open.  I didn't have a phone or camera but will snap some on my next trip.  It's one of the more interesting sections of that path project.  It crosses a railroad at grade, a creek, a freeway entrance and exit ramp and goes under US23.  The bridge was not open yet, darn it.  Bridges are some of the most fun things to ride on pathways.  Maybe next time.  I did note that the Library has a beautiful new sign and I'm posting an image from their facebook page.

It's funny but it looks like a typical November-getting-ready-to-snow sky today but the temps belie that, it's a mild and balmy 50 F out.  Now if we could just get rid of that wind! 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Scary Thought

This video should strike fear in the heart of cyclists no matter where you live.  Controversy brews in many communities over the sharing of roads by motorists and cyclists. Many areas of our country are bicycle friendly and consist of populations of people who co-exist just fine with however a person chooses to use the roadway.  More often than not we have examples of anger over any one using a road except for motorists.  There have been far too many examples of people who are purposely run down while traveling on a bicycle by a motorist.   Articles have been written about serial stalkers who go out of their way to find people traveling by bicycle and strike them or kill them.

I'm not sure how that gets remedied.  Education?  Familiarity?  Laws?

Have you ever been intimidated by a driver?  Cursed at?  Had items thrown at you?  Felt like you had a close call on purpose?

99% of the bicyclists that I know also drive cars and are aware of the problems facing cyclists and facing drivers.  99% of the people I know who detest bicycles on the road have never ridden a bike or have not done so since their youth.  100% of the people who would think like the poster writer in the video have become far to impatient for life in today's world.  It's a Pollyanna view of the world but so many people would be better off if they just slowed down, took a deep breath and enjoyed the journey.

In the mean time, cyclists beware and do whatever you can to be seen by motorists and other cyclists,cycle smart, obey the rules of the road, keep a look over your shoulder and beware of a place to bail out in the event of an emergency.

Stay safe and be well.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Revisiting Recent Trails and Reminiscing

On Sunday I paid a return visit to the connector trail from Dexter to Hudson Mills.  This time the launch point was in downtown Dexter, I was certain that the trail would be open.  NOT.  The barrier was still up however there had evidently been lots of frustrated folks and the snow fencing material that was attached to the barricade had been partially removed and allowed for easier passage over the obstacle.  I admit, I ignored it and passed through.  Lucky for me I had two good Samaritans who lifted my bike over and all I had to do was climb through the middle of it.  Luckier yet was that two more additional good Samaritans were on hand when I returned to help out again.  Lucky me!

The trail was packed with hikers, walkers, strollers and strollers with kids in them, bikes and people out walking their dogs.  We had sunshine and mild temps for this late in the year and I even ran into two friends on the trail going in the opposite direction.  It was a great ride but devoid of the herd of whitetail deer that had loped alongside the trail on my last visit.  More amenities were in place including some fencing where the trail runs alongside of the Hudson Mills Golf course.  It was the lack of fencing that had me assuming that is why the trail hadn't been officially opened yet.  I'm guessing that the officials at the Metropark golf course don't want people trespassing on the course or golfers wandering onto the path, perhaps when it's completed the trail will open.  Rumors among the trail users was that it would be open in less than a week.  I guess we'll see.  I found a link to a news update announcing that it should be open November 1st, here. 

It's also noteworthy to mention that in addition to being a pedestrian or bicycle path, Dexter has incorporated two canoe/kayak launch facilities along the trail as the trail also serves as a water trail on the Huron River and wayfinding signage notes this for waterway travelers.  The landings are located above and below the naturally restored rocky rapids, and travelers can stop and find food and supplies in downtown on their canoe/kayak trips.   A link to the Huron River Watershed Council's website about the water trail can be found here.

Today I took a trip back to the Lakeland's Trail and started off further west than where I normally hop on the trial.  My intention was to explore a portion of the trail that I hadn't been on before.  My starting off point was just east of the trailhead at the Pinckney Depot.  I parked in the Bushs Food Market parking lot and behind the building was an easy access to the trail that I had noted on an earlier trip past this landmark.

Westward bound the trail is paved up to the second crossing of M-36 about a mile and a half west of downtown Pinckney.  This was about 1.75 miles into my trip today and the trail becomes compacted fine gravel.  It reminded me of what I used to put down in my parakeet's cage after cleaning it.  It was fairly easy going and the gravel was thick enough for a good surface but not too thick to feel loosey-goosey.  It was similar to a hard packed dirt road, just a tad bit crunchier sounding.  I can appreciate the desire to keep the trail more natural in this area because the trail crosses through equestrian country with several bridle paths that wind through heavily wooded areas and a staging area that lies just to the south of the trail.   In addition to the horseshoe prints on the path there was "other" ample evidence of recent visits by persons on horseback.  This segment of the trail passes through Pinckney, goes through the town of Gregory and culminates in Stockbridge Michigan.  I rode out a bit over five miles today and that took me to the Unidilla Township line and I went a tad bit beyond that.  I'm guessing I was just short of half way to Stockbridge.  I'd mapped it out and it was about 12 miles from Pinckney to Stockbridge.  There were several places I wanted to snap photos but my phone was busied with using the Map My Ride application.  I logged the trail outbound and then inbound.  I wasn't sure that my battery would take it both ways and didn't want to loose the information, so if it failed on the way back I could just duplicate the outbound ride for distance, time and elevation.

I have to say there was significant reminiscing along the way.  First off was the pass right by the old Pinckney Depot which reminded me of the initial groundbreaking ceremony for this trail back in the early 1990's.  At that time I had my restaurant in downtown Pinckney and was active and involved in our local chamber and several of us were invited to this event, it was initially created as the very first linear State Park in Michigan.

 The rail road had ceased operations in the late 1960's and by the 1980's the rail bed had been abandoned and the rails taken up.  When the rails were pulled, whomever owned it at the time didn't want motorized traffic so there were piles of dirt every few yards.  In the late 1980's at times I road a snowmobile from my home on Strawberry Lake in Hamburg Township to friends home just east of Gregory.  It was like riding over thousands of camel backs.  Being in my 20's it was not big deal except that it kept you from flying down the trail at high speeds.  It sure has been smoothed out since then.  It's flatter than a pancake with elevation gains of about 100 feet in 10 miles which isn't much at all.  From the mapping I'd done the section in Unidilla Township from Gregory to Stockbridge has more elevations and is a tad bit hillier.  Here's a screenshot of my route.

When I got a mile or two west of Pinckney I cam across an area on the south side of the trail that was fenced.  What made it remarkable was that the fence was at least 15 feet tall, maybe more and had barbed wire.  This cordoned off area extended for quite a bit and it's perimeter was irregular in places, dipping far south of the trail and then back alongside of it again.  I saw some old faded signage and it is called the Edwin S. George Biological Research Area and was owned by the University of Michigan.  I know that U of M owns property along Stinchfield Woods to the south of Pinckney and has an observatory atop of Peach Mountain in that area and I've also seen other areas of land that they own along the Strawberry-Portage chain of lakes.  Their holdings are vast throughout Michigan.  When I finished my ride and loaded up my bike I returned to some of the dirt roads I'd crossed and explored around the perimeter of this preserve, it's huge!  At least a mile square if not more.

When I got home I researched a bit online and found a link here to more information about it. Another link with photos can be found here.  It's over 1500 acres which is about 3 sections of land, with a section being 640 acres and a mile square.  From the website it says that the area is "one of the most renowned biological research areas in the world."  Who would have known?  Right here in Pinckney.

Just west of Pinckney Honey Creek meanders back and forth across the path and there were nearly half a dozen bridges in a three mile section.

While I would have liked to make it to Stockbridge, given the time of day and now that the days are getting shorter I wanted to be off the trail by 5-5:30 ish.  It get's pretty remote west of Pinckney and has some heavily wooded areas with homes few and very far between.  I realized right off that I didn't have my pepper spray in my bag and it was quite possible that I could come across a coyote out there.  I'd rather make the trip to Stockbridge with a friend or two.  I was surprised not to see much wildlife out there today, I did hear a rooster crowing but no coyote in sight which was just fine by me.  My round trip today was a bit under 11 miles and the round trip going to Stockbridge would have been over 24 miles.  I was getting a bit tired and the trail got a bit soft at the Unidilla Township line.  You could feel the difference immediately and from reports of others I know who've made the trip it gets more and more rugged the closer you get to Stockbridge.  I'll save that for another day.

Monday, October 21, 2013


With less hours of daylight, lights for your bike become important.  They come in all sizes, colors and purposes.  There are lights;

To make you be seen which is my preference and I use this light combo to achieve that.

This set was a gift, it's made by Botranger and it's bright enough not only to be seen by others but it can even be a bit obnoxious, but at least cars and others will see me.  The switch can be set to low steady, high steady or the obnoxious insane strobe.  Both the front white light and the back red tail light have the steady or strobe choice.  Battery life is good in my estimation and this set has served my needs well.  I generally run the battery out sooner on the tail light because I have used it in daylight hours while riding on roads with higher traffic volumes.  The white light for the front installs on my handle bars in about 2 seconds.  The tail light clips onto my bike trunk bag or my shorts if I'm not using a trunk bag.   More information can be found at this link

To help you see which I think would be great if I was going to be touring in the evening hours and need a light to guide my path.  I usually don't set off at dusk so my light choices are for the event I get caught out at dusk or a bit later.  If I truly rode at night I'd want a light like the Planet Bike HID headlight, seen below.

 This style of light is more for you to be able to light up your path and the image at the right is taken from their website that gives a good representation of actual lighting produced by various watts of lights.  Lights of this style are available in 1/2 watt, 1 watt and 2 watts or more.  Clicking at this link will take you to their website and you can click on the various lights offered and see how much or how little they will light up your path and you can choose what is best for your style of riding.

The two kinds of lights above fall into the casual rider affordable category.  Headlamps for serious night riders are also available but instead of being in the $20-40 range for a set, they will run upwards of $100-200 and more,  I don't have examples of those.  It would be best to stop at your local bike shop and talk to the shop riders who often tend to ride at night when the shops are closed and out on trails that twist, turn and wind and serious lights are a must.

Then we run into a whole other category of novelty lights.  Novelty lights can be functional to help make you be seen by others, for fun and show, or a combination of both.  They can range from simple 3M reflective tape that can be attached to each spoke, inexpensive plastic LED light sleeves that clip onto spokes to full blown pieces of art that can be customizable, thematic and downright zany!  I've posted a video in the next post after this one and a link to their site for more information can be found here.  Use caution, they can cost up to $60 per wheel.  But imagine how the heads will turn if you show up for a group ride or nighttime parade with these beasts on your bike!

In addition, the newest helmet I bought has blinking side lights, they are small, flat and unobtrusive with an easy push button on/off.  They're small but the blinking stands out, especially in the dark.

MonkeyLectric - Bike Wheel Lights

Friday, October 18, 2013

RA Flare-up

has kept me off the bike for some time now.  And what misery that has been!  We have had a stellar autumn season with unseasonably mild weather, abundant sunshine and just plain glorious days.  It pains me not to be out for these many last weeks.  I've had a few forays for short little errand runs that didn't amount to more than a few blocks, but they've been few and far between.  I've worked with the Doc to get new meds dialed in and so far the latest combo has done the trick and Sunday (glorious day that it was) found me out with my pal Deb Anderson on a trip to one of our favorite trails at Dexter Mills Metro-park.  I felt like I was pushing it but the day was so gorgeous that I couldn't help myself.

The last time I'd gotten out was a few weeks before with my nephew Andrew and we took a trip to downtown Dexter to check out the new trail and see if the connector was open to the park yet.  It wasn't.  So Sunday Deb and I decided to check it out from the park end and yes there was a barricade up and well, yes we did ignore it and rode around it on the new trail.  Does it count that others were doing the same?  Can I use that as an excuse?  Doesn't matter, once a rebel always a rebel.

Deb Anderson - fellow rebel

The new connector trail that goes from Hudson Mills to downtown Dexter is wonderful.  From the Metro-park end you start out on heavily wooded trails traveling over paved sections, elevated wooden boardwalks, bridges and more pavement.  Shortly the path begins meandering alongside of the Metro-park golf course just south of the park proper.  After that the path opens to some meadow-land before turning woodsy and following alongside of the Huron River then a long boardwalk over a wetland leads you into Dexter.  For some reason the Dexter end is still barricaded off and since so many have ignored the barricades they finally erected one on that end that is nearly insurmountable except for the very tall or stout of heart.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


A little bike ride to the Farmers Market downtown this afternoon and now I have an appetizer before getting dinner ready.

Roasted eggplant chips.

A little brush with olive oil, salt, roast and voila!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Bikes On Trains

Not exactly news in some parts of the country but it's big news in Michigan that Amtrak  is finally on board with bikes on trains.  The project is the work of Amtrak and Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) along with lobbying efforts from League of Michigan Bicyclists, Complete Streets Coalition and other bicycle advocacy groups.

Photo courtesy of LMB website
The League of Michigan Bicyclist has long lobbied for this much needed feature and it's finally here. One of the popular routes from Port Huron to Chicago is ready to go with bicycle transport racks installed. For $10 you can take your bicycle to any one of the stops along the Blue Trail line. I've hopped that train many times for a trip to Chicago because an automobile is more of a liability than a necessity in that town that is unfriendly to cars. There is a lot of traffic to deal with and if you are staying downtown plan on big bucks to park that car overnight at a hotel. Most people walk, take the el train, taxi or bicycle. Walking is fine for a shopping trip because you can find ample shopping in a small radius from the Miracle Mile but for touring a bike will be a handsome feature to have with you.

The service started rolling out on September 6, 2013.  John Lindenmayer, LMB Advocacy & Policy Director has worked hard to make this happen. The feature is currently available on the Port Huron Chicago run and I can't wait until they include the Detroit Ann Arbor Chicago run also as boarding that one is much closer to home. The current route ferries passengers through two major college towns that are both bicycle friendly, Lansing home to Michigan State University and Kalamazoo home to Western University. Once the Det-Ann Arbor-Chicago run allows them this will also include Ann Arbor that is home to University of Michigan another bicycle friendly campus town.

For now, I'll have to head up to Flint to catch that train for the next Chicago trip.

For an article on this from the League of Michigan Bicyclists (LMB) site click here.
For the press release from Amtrak click here

Sunday, September 1, 2013

This Is How We Roll In The "D"

Slow Roll Bike rides by Detroit Bike City, started out three years ago with a group of 5-6 riders who got together and rode every Monday evening in the city of Detroit.  The following year the group had gown to 100 plus riders.  In their third year they've grown to several hundred riders and surpassed 1200 riders one evening in August!  Amazing for an unorganized ride.  Not knocking the organizers but what I mean is that generally, only charity rides that are organized around a cause draw crowds of this magnitude.  I find it amazing that a "casual" ride has sprung up to attract this many riders on an ongoing and weekly schedule.

Sure there are clubs and shop rides that take place on a weekly schedule, but none that I know of that draw this number or riders on a regular basis.  And how come I am only just now finding out about this?  I can't believe I haven't heard of this ride before now.  Like, have I had my head in the sand or what?  I heard about this ride on the radio a couple of days ago and have Google searched this out and it has been publicized in the major newspapers and even in Crain's Detroit Business, where have I been?  Since they do Monday's I'm either going tomorrow or next Monday for sure.  With the holiday tomorrow it may not be the best day to plan an evening ride but I won't miss this ride before the season is out.

Not sure how it got to be so hip to ride in the Big D but it's catching on like crazy. Having grown up in the city and spending my childhood behind a set of handle bars I can say that the city is flat and that will make for some easy riding. Here are links to a few news stories about the ride; Detroit News June 2013 Crains Detroit Business Detroit Bike City The photo below is from Hip in Detroit, a blog about happenings, places to go and things to do in Detroit, their link is here

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Face Of Women And Bicycle Advocacy - Barb Chamberlain

A year ago Barb Chamberlain was appointed Executive Director of a bicycle advocacy group called the Bicycle Alliance of Washington.  Having a history of bicycle advocacy and public policy go hand in hand for this position.  In addition to this public office, Barb works to champion women and bicycling through one of her blogs Bike Style.  A link to that blog can be found here and it's also on the right hand column here on this page under Bicycling Links of Interest.  

Among some of the interesting and informational aspects of her blog she has a comprehensive listing of bicycling blogs written by women.  In addition to advocacy items on this blog you'll also find articles about commuting, how to's, style, health and reviews on popular items and topics of interest to women.  You can find her on Twitter and Facebook  also.

One of the many interesting posts you'll find there is one on bicycle helmets entitled Bike Helmets: Pro-Cute Anti-Ugly.  Cute and helmets don't usually go in the same sentence but here you will find cute helmets and very cute helmet covers which can automatically elevate your plain-Jane head protection into a fashion statement.

Women make up 50% of the population and it's nice to see them gaining seats of influence in all areas of things bike related.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bicycle Tourism In Detroit

As a companion piece to my last post this one details out tour operators in the city of Detroit.  Now that's not normally the first thing that comes to mind when contemplating new bike routes or places to ride but it's catching on as evidenced by the tour bookings at both of the places that operate tours.

The Wheelhouse in Detroit offers tours, bike rentals, sales, repairs and shop classes.  The are also distributors for Detroit Bikes mentioned in the previous post as well as other popular brands of bikes.  They are located right on the riverfront where the new River Walk is, close to Eastern Market and Belle Isle which are popular tours.  They offer different tours that are short or long, easy or tough and you can sign up for what suits your riding choices. Some tours are historical or art and architecture orientated with stops at historical sights,  public art and significant architectural sites.  There are recreational tourist type tours to Belle Isle and the Eastern Market which is like the most gigantic farmers market you will ever see and then some.  They have various neighborhood tours and even haunted tours in the fall season.   Since the tours are thematic and tours rather than rides there are frequent stops where the tour guide gives out facts and history of the sights you are visiting.  Tours can be booked on line and there is a calendar of the whole season of tours.  Custom and private tours are also available for a group.  A link to their site is here.

Motor City Bike and Brew Tours are very much just what they sound like.  Tours to famous old breweries, sites of former breweries and new micro breweries that are located right in downtown Detroit.  In addition to the brew tours they also do Historical Prohibition tours where you can see historical locations of bootleggers and rum runners along the Detroit River and other spots.  There are also Theater/Music tours that take you through the theater district both new and historical sites from the vaudeville era.  Most tours end at a brewery with a lunch and voucher for a couple of brews.  In addition to the bike tours they also do Bus and Walking brew tours in other parts of the state.   They have a limited number of bikes available for rental but it's mostly B.Y.O.B, in this case bring your own bike.  Private tours are also available in addition to their calendar date tours. A link to there site is here. A You Tube video from their website of a typical tour is included below.

A visit to one or both is going to be in order before this season is over!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Detroit - Bicycle Building Mecca?

All of a sudden my old hometown is getting a lot of press over bicycle building.  Not sure if this city that is trying to rise from the ashes is suddenly becoming synonymous with being hip or what but bicycle builders and manufactures are springing up like mushrooms after rain. I have to admit it does make me proud of our once great city to see this positive attention.  Or maybe I'm feeling a bit of hometown nostalgia after attending a winning Detroit Tigers game last night at their beautiful stadium at Comerica Park.

From last nights Tiger game, Andrew and me

Detroit has had it's share and then some of negative press, horrible image and infamous notoriety.  All of that was well deserved because the city has suffered a horrible slide for the last few decades. Corruption, crime, drugs, gangs, elected officials serving prison time for crimes against the city and its people have all been the instigators of the decline and the flight of the population.  Once the home of more than 1.8 million people its population has slipped to just over 750,000 people.  That's a loss of over a million persons. The last decade has been the most cruel yet for the city, having lost 25% of it's population in just those 10 years.   The city was taken over a few months ago by an Emergency Financial Manager who is now presiding over bankruptcy.  And that's the story of the decline, actually it's my story of the decline.  Volumes have been written about it but if you distill them down, this is what you get.  And this is the story of the beginnings of the rise...

The montage above of various shots from
around Detroit is from Wikipedia.  It includes our riverfront skyline,
the "Spirit of Detroit" sculpture, the Ambassador Bridge to Canada,
the Fox Theater and Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers.

The manufacturers;

Detroit Bike, a link to their site is here, appears to specialize in an all purpose bicycle, with a single size three speed bicycle and following in the footsteps of Henry Ford the auto mogul, it offers only one color bike.  Of course Fords come in a rainbow of colors nowadays but when founded, the founder claimed you could get it in any color you wanted so long as it was black.  For now Detroit Bike offers one color.  The bikes are beautiful to look at in their simplicity and smooth lines, made from chromoly steel they are manufactured, assembled and packaged right in the city.  An all purpose bicycle goes against the grain of the current model of bikes for specific purpose.  You can buy BMX bikes, dirt bikes, racing bikes, time trail bikes, mountain bikes, cruiser bikes, beach cruiser bikes, fat tire bikes for snow and mud, road bikes, cross bikes and many more that I have failed to mention.  One bike for all purposes?  Seems to be unorthodox by today's standards, but it is the kind of bike we all grew up on.

Autobike, a link to their site is here, assembles their bikes in Detroit and only sells online through their website, however you can test ride the bike by filling out an online form and you'll be notified of when and where you can test one out..  They have a unique bicycle that changes gears automatically according to your cadence.  As far as I know that's unheard of in bicycling. It sounds intriguing and I may just have to schedule a test ride.  There is an electronic transmission for gear shifting but no batteries, it's powered by a dynamo on the front wheel. Here again with this bicycle you have a manufacturer that caters to the non-enthusiast, the  people who want to ride for fun or use their bicycle for transportation. They have a great video at their site and you won't see a helmet or a single piece of Lycra anywhere while there.  Adults getting back into bicycling or who have never bicycled before and are intimated by the gears and knowledge that must be applied to ride a geared bike, might find this to be to their liking for simplicity's sake and simple ease of hopping on and going.  The bikes are lightweight aluminum and come in a variety of color combos.

Shinola, a link to their site is here, has garnered the lions share of press.  A Detroit company with nation wide distribution their name comes from another Detroit product from yesteryear, shoe polish.  That's right, it's the same name that made for a famous phrase as in "you don't know (blank) from Shinola!"  Today the company enjoys an upscale image creating not only bicycles but specializing in other precision items.  They make watches, bicycles, leather goods and journals.  Each appealing to the luxury market.  The bikes aren't cheap, but gosh they are beautiful!  The bicycles are handcrafted of chromoloy steel in Wisconsin and assembled, packaged and sold in Detroit.  The watches are manufactured in Detroit, the journals in Ann Arbor and the leather goods in Wisconsin.  The company is pursuing an aggressive multi city sales plan with outlets opening in major cities across the US.  The headbadges on the bikes are particularly outstanding in looks and design.  They have three models of bicycles one is a women's specific design, all are exceedingly lovely to look at.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Nod To Our Summer

In much of Michigan we have had an atypical summer.  Cool by most standards and a bit wet.  Color me HAPPY with a BIG GRIN.  We haven't had good beach weather and weekends have been hit or miss, we had one hot spell that lasted for about 10 days or so and enough rain to keep lake levels up and rivers running swift even in August.  We totally missed that long drought hot and dry spell that turns lawns into brown fields and has canoes scrapping bottom around the outside corners of rivers.  For a lot of working folks the pickings have been slim, because the good days have been hit and miss.  For a person who has had the pleasure of a leisure summer and has had the chance to bicycle at will, it couldn't be better.  We've had days on end of that weather that we live to die for.  Cool, low humidity days are usually a very tiny window in spring and fall, but we have had a plethora of them this summer and I couldn't be happier with our weather this summer.

Next five days sunny, mild, temps in the 70's with light winds and low humidity - ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

I better shush now before friends and family who like it hot and sunny come after me with tar and feathers...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Lakes Community Trail

In an effort to ride all of the trails in the south east quadrant of Michigan I found a new-to-me trail that looked short but close to a longer trail in the Commerce Township area of Michigan.  Another area that is abounding with lakes in every direction, if new comers are wondering why roads twist and turn and you can hardly find a stretch that goes straight for more than a few miles it's because they have to wander through the myriad of lakes that make up all of south eastern Michigan.  It's more like living on a bog than land.   The trail was a disappointment because it was so short and I was not able to find a satisfactory route to connect me to the West Bloomfield Trail that was in the general vicinity.  The trail is older but well maintained, except for the signage.  I couldn't find a readable sign as they were all faded beyond readability.

I'm certain that the trail is great for local residents because it does link various parks that are filled with baseball diamonds.  It was really quite noticeable how many ball fields are located in such a small area. I was not aware that the area was so noted for little league players.  The trail also connects many different subdivisions to one another and though the area is quite congested with traffic, homes and businesses the trail winds through heavily wooded areas and when you're riding it, it gives the feel of being in the wilderness.  Scouting afterwards in my vehicle I found that I could have turned a different way on the tail and extended my ride by a few miles to Dodge Park, but I don't imagine returning to do that a different day.

In summation, the trail is great for locals but not worth the drive unless you live close enough to bike to it.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Talking Bike Wear, Helmets And Perception

I read a comment the other day on Facebook that someone left on a bicycle manufacturers page.  Schwinn has a program to give out brand new helmets to youngsters in areas with low incomes.  They proudly proclaimed how many helmets were given out with photos of happy kids riding their bikes.  They linked an article from the Detroit Free Press and asked readers to respond to suggest where the next location should be to give out helmets     The poster didn't like them giving out helmets because "helmets are a gateway to spandex and looking gay and they don't protect you anyway."


That's quite a leap. Because you wear a helmet you will soon wear cycling clothes? The rest of the implication is that bike wear makes you look odd.  People wear helmets with dress cloths and with gym shorts and tees and with whatever else they might happen to be wearing.  People wear helmets to protect their noggin.  With kids it is a good idea because they tend to fall more than adults because they lack the handling skills until they ride more and become proficient.  Bike wear does open up a whole discussion.

There are cyclists who wouldn't think of getting on their bike without a helmet and those who won't wear one at all and others who go with and without at times depending on their mood.  When I began riding as an adult I would not wear a helmet at first, I mean, I've gotten along for over 5 decades without one, spent my early learning years with plenty of bumps and falls without the benefit of a helmet and I'm just fine.  No one wore them back in the day because they didn't exist and we all made it.  Then I had a series of tumbles while I was sharpening my adult skills up and a helmet became routine for me.  I do like the wind in my hair feeling and the freedom that going without brings but 95% of the time I wear a helmet.

You can find whole dialogues, debates and volumes written on the pros and cons of helmet wearing and this blog post isn't taking a position one way or the other.  In the U.S. helmet wearing is more the norm.  In Europe where people use bikes to commute and for daily errands, not so much.  Over here we wear special cloths to bike in, over there, again, not so much.  There's two schools of thought on this as well.  The American point of view is specialty for all things and all sports and having sport-specific wear, anything from helmets to sunglasses to upper and lower cladding of our bodies.  Another school of thought is that wearing helmets and bike specific clothes makes bike riding look intimidating or dangerous and hard to do, like you need special stuff to ride and that can discourage people from taking it up as adults.  There's a perception thing too.  Cyclists riding in full kits (bike shorts and bike jerseys) often find drivers to be less courteous or friendly.  Riding in street cloths, riders report that people are friendlier, wave and smile more.  Whether that's right or wrong, it seems to be the way things are.  Europeans for the most part use bicycling as transportation and aren't bothered with special outfits because it's just a part of normal everyday life of going to the store, running errands or getting to and from work.  Of course there are pro European cyclists who look and dress the part, but everyday people cycle in street clothes over there more than people do over here.

As for me and my bicycle wear, here again is an example of learning about the "why" of something and changing your mind about it.  I swore I wouldn't wear bicycle shorts when I first started riding.  I thought that people wore them to look cool or to look like they were really into the sport and wanted to look the part.  Wrong.  They are worn for comfort, not looks.  If you ride long distances and long hours it keeps you comfortable in the saddle, period.  On rides over an hour, your body thanks you.  In addition to the padding which prevents or minimizes chaffing, the Lycra compresses your muscles as they work hard on long rides.  Your legs actually feel less tired after a long ride when you wear them. They're not exactly attractive and there's really no other reason to wear them.  If I'm out for some serious time in the saddle on long rides I'll wear them and sometimes a jersey too, more for function than anything else.  If you see me bopping around town and running errands, I'm wearing whatever I happen to have on.

Here is a link to the Ride Schwinn Facebook posting about the subject of Helmets on Heads program

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Lakelands Trail Expands Westward

I have a nearby trail that is expanding it's reach westward.  The Lakelands Trail, as it is known locally, is part of a greater network of trails that is expected to cross the state from west to east and traverse the state from Lake Michigan to Lake St. Clair.  There are large sections of this network already in place and the various connectors are getting paved and in place bit by bit.  The trail system follows an old rail road line so that it's fairly straight "as the crow flies" and also links numerous small towns to one another just as the train did years gone by.  A link to the trail can be found here, but the write up is older because more and more of the unpaved section is getting paved.   When completed this Air Line Trail will be 240 miles long and a link to information about it can be found here.

Yesterday I rode the portion from Hamburg Township to just west of Pinckney for  a round trip just under 20 miles.  I hadn't ridden the trial for quite some time and used to think of it as somewhat boring but wanting explore the newly paved section I was treated to a pleasant surprise, the trail was much lovelier than I had remembered it with a dense canopy tunnel of trees through most of the trail.  Maybe the woods have grown a bit denser or maybe it's the result of all the rain we've had this year but it was lush, cool and very beautiful. Maybe I just have a soft spot for the trail because it's the first non motorized bike trail that I ever road.  A photo from my first ride with my old bike is featured below.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Heat Wave Is Off A Bit

The mercury in the thermometer is coming down a bit and I've been out venturing for rides again mostly from home.  As much as in the early part of the season I was anxious to conquer new far flung trails is as much as I am enjoying the rides right out my door right now.  What thrills me now is to just hop on and go poking about the neighborhood.  It's been a while since I've ridden like this and I'm finding it to be pleasant summer fun.

Another bit of fun has been more time spent on the Huron River instead of riding alongside it.  The tube trip was so much fun I got to hankering for more river running.  Andrew and I took a canoe ride from Argo to Gallup Park.  It felt good to get in a canoe again.  I have a canoe but not a suitable vehicle for transporting it any more so it sits at the lakeside home of one of my nieces.  For this trip we rented one and it all came back like it was yesterday.  In my youth and younger days I spent literally years of my life in  my canoe, it's been in every major river in Michigan, many of the Upper Penninsula rivers, all of the Great Lakes except Lake Ontario and countless lakes, streams, ponds and other bodies of water.  Nearly all of that time was spent wetting a line as well as a paddle and the inside of that canoe has had countless fish flopping around it's belly.
There's something very special about the way a watercraft that you paddle slips silently along the water moving from place to place, powered by a human only.

Come to think of it, it's much like riding a bike, silent pedal power.

Sometime it's fun to be a brass band and make a commotion, there's also a lot to be said for moving through life quietly from time to time and place to place.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Argo/Gallup River Briefing

Scorching Heat Wave!

We're in the midst of our first heat wave of the summer with several days of temps in the 90's.  It hasn't hit 100 F yet but the heat index has surpassed that.  I took my bike in for a shifting problem after my ride last week with a pair of friends.  On Thursday we went to the Edward Hines Park trail for a nice outing.  The ride was great but not without issues.  A bit over six and a half miles into it my friend Debs husband had a flat, we were unable to get the wheel off the bike to repair the tube so Deb and I double-timed it back to the cars and drove back to pick up Tim.  I had problems of my own with gears slipping and mystery shifting.

 There are some climbs to contend with on the trail, this particular section did not have too many, mostly rolling hills but there were a handful of sudden sharp spikes to run up.  I lost my footing on one and banged up the back of my leg a tad bit and on another one I had my bike suddenly shift the front chain-rings into the hardest gear midway up.  It was too short of a spike to do anything but mash and grind the pedals, that one burned the legs!  It also took out a lot of my oomph since we were traveling at higher speeds back than our ride out was.  It was still a great outing and a BBQ at Debs later was a cap off to a great day.

I wasn't too disappointing to have to take my bike in because I'd ridden for six days straight and the beginnings of the heat wave were just getting started.  Turns out my bike needed new shifter cables  Now six days later I am longing for a bike ride.  I got my bike back late on Monday but the searing heat has not abated yet.  No matter, I'm going out for a ride today even if I need to take it slow and easy.

Yesterday was a great day for a cool and refreshing tube ride down the Cascades at Argo, which is a man-man series of drops in a stretch of the Huron River in downtown Ann Arbor.  I went with my niece Mary-Ann and her son Andrew who is my Godson and outdoor companion for adventures.  Since we were tubing and there was no place dry for a camera I've included a video clip from YouTube put out by the City of Ann Arbor.  The tubes we used were larger and more of the sitting in variety than those pictured.  It was a cool way to spend the afternoon with just enough thrill to make it extra fun.


Blogger is giving me fits and I'm not able to embed the video into this post but I see that in revisiting the You Tube site I've found a way to bring it onto this blog in the post above.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Numbers Tell The Story

I really believe my slump and lack of interest stemmed from over training.  I didn't think so at first but a lay off from riding for nearly a week and a steady but low mileage comeback has improved two things 1) my riding and 2) my mood and desire.    In the first week of June I posted monthly stats from May.  Below are the stats from June.  They indicate a decline in mileage from the previous month, but I was away for several days on a short get-away and we had a bout of rainy weather.  From about the middle of May till the end of June is when the bulk of the over training went on and it didn't show up until I hit a wall.  Click here for a link to May totals.

When I read back over my notes in my biking log I see that early on in the season I pushed myself  and the results were improved performance, the problem was that keeping up that pace and intensity for nearly two months was not a good thing.  Live and learn I guess, by now you'd think I'd know better. What I can say for sure is that in the last two days I'm feeling great on rides, happy to be out on my bike and not dog tired or feeling like I'm pushing myself.  It feels good.

Last Friday I had nice new set of tires put on my bike, the originals had a little over 1,600 miles on them and I was flatting the front tire twice in a short time.  At the end of last years riding season I thought that I might be needing them and the shop where I bought the bike said they were still okay.  When I took it in for a minor adjustment over the weekend they agreed, the tires had seen better days.

June Stats
      Miles              Time                    
6/3/13 Mon 22.73 171
6/4/13 Tue 10.29 77
6/5/13 Wed 0 0
6/6/13 Thu 0 0
6/7/13 Fri 8.29 122
6/8/13 Sat 1.32 8
6/9/13 Sun 10.55 76
Total 53.18 6.67
6/10/13 Mon 0 0
6/11/13 Tue 11.27 82
6/12/13 Wed 0 0
6/13/13 Thu 0 0
6/14/13 Fri 0 0
6/15/13 Sat 0 0
6/16/13 Sun 0 0
Total 11.27 1.37
6/17/13 Mon 10.58 117
6/18/13 Tue 8.95 71
6/19/13 Wed 3.72 32
6/20/13 Thu 25.59 180
6/21/13 Fri 0 0
6/22/13 Sat 0 0
6/23/13 Sun 0 0
Total 48.84 6.67
6/24/13 Mon 9.59 79
6/25/13 Tue 0 0
6/26/13 Wed 16.25 121
6/27/13 Thu 12.78 93
6/28/13 Fri 5.65 54
6/29/13 Sat 2.18 18
6/30/13 Sun 8.08 62
Total 54.53 7.12

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Tour de Livingston Kickoff Ride At Balloon Fest

Great morning for a ride, temps were on the cooler side and humidity was low but performance on this little ride was lacking.  I continue to have bouts of shortness of breath with exertion.  Last October I had heart surgery on two valves.  One was bad and was replaced with one of my good ones and in that ones place a donor valve was placed.  Complaints of shortness of breath and an increasingly louder mummer for the previous 18 months had indicated that the valve was going to need to be replaced at some point, it was a surprise that it came sooner rather than later.  I'd had lung testing and just about every other pulmonary test imaginable and all results were fine with no indication of pulmonary or breathing problems, except that I run short of breath with exertion.  The doctors, and I, had assumed that the valve replacement would do the trick.  So far, it hasn't.

I'd assumed that it was a lack of conditioning after having spent the fall and winter recovering and I hit it pretty good this spring with ever increasing longer and harder rides and workouts that haven't produced the intended results.  At this point I am in a deep quandary over the cause and will have to make a round of Dr. visits to try to unravel this.

Andrew and me
My little Godson and nephew Andrew did great on the ride, we set out from the courthouse to the High School to watch the balloons fly-in.  For me trouble began when we left and split off between the short ride and the longer tour.  I fell behind on an incline, caught up eventually and promptly lost the group again only to find them later.  During my first fall back Andrew came looking for me and afterwards I encouraged him to stay with the pack and not wander off which he did and that was a good thing because I did eventually join up again with the group.  We spent some time riding all together and I later lost the group, only to take a couple of mis-turns that put me ahead of the rest of the tour and back at our destination a few minutes before they arrived back.

                                                                      My friend Jim Gilligan

In the week now since our Sunday June 30th ride I've been out and about running bike errands in town and took a couple of short 5-6 mile rides round the neighborhood, shortness of breath still comes and goes like is has the last little while. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013


It sure does not feel like I have been over-training, I've taken rest days in fact I had several days off a week ago for a short out of town trip accompanied by sporadic rain days here and there, so I'm not sure what ails me but I've lost my oomph.  Legs feel like lead, it's hard to make the cranks go round and generally speaking I have little energy for riding.  On Thursday I went out for a little bit of hill practice at Island Lake.  What a s-l-o-w go it was out of the chute.  I actually felt a bit nauseous for the first mile.  By mile 7 I was happily cranking and hard too, but it was short lived, about 2-3 miles, and it was back to feeling difficult.  I finished my route but it was so-so and not would I would call a strong finish.  I certainly felt much better the last half of the ride than the first half.   Could be mental fatigue is accompanying this too.   Whatever it is I'm going to wait it out and at some point this will pass.  If not, it might be off to the Doc.  Come to think of it I have a general check up appointment in a couple of weeks.  Good timing.

I spent a brief time riding Friday and today, just for very short errands around town.  On Friday It was actually fun to be out with no specific biking goal, my task was to pass out event flyers for the 4th of July activities starting this weekend through the holiday.  I had ample opportunity to chat with several people out and about in town and it was very nice to catch up with some folks I haven't seen in a while and have no time schedule.   Today's ride had me piddling about in preparations for the 5 & 10 K run and Splash n Dash that is sponsored by the Kiwanis Club I belong to.    Registration is at the Middle School which is about a half mile from home, after the racer go out there isn't much to do but prepare for the Splash n Dash that'll take place on their return.  A short pedal back home to open the gates to the private lakefront that is used for it, ensure that the pontoon knows when the dashers are almost ready to leave and there was the short jaunt back to the school for my water bottle, left on the registration table.  Back to my post and when the splashers were finished I pedaled back to the finish line to clap and cheer for the participants.  We had a good turnout with over 180 runners/dashers and splashers.  I had the privilege of passing out medals and trophies and that is fun!

So I couple of semi-rest days and tomorrow is a short 10 mile fun ride for the kickoff for the Fall Tour de Livingston.  A few years ago they started to kick off an early registration for the event with a short ride at the Howell Balloon-fest.  6:45 am the riders will depart from the lawn of the courthouse, travel to the Howell High School where the balloons do a "fly-in"  balloonist are given a bean bag to drop on a target on the ground so several come swooping in low for a grand show of balloons.  After the fly-in the riders depart for a mini tour around Howell.  I'm taking Andrew with me as he accompanied me the last time I participated.  Should be more fun and a great way to pass time in this slump.
Below are a few photos from the TdL kick-off ride a couple or years ago


Balloons filling the morning sky, getting ready to fly-in

Target time!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Me And Max

Max is my friend's Lisa and Dennis' little guy.  He lives on a lake and gets to tube and water ski but doesn't get to bike ride a lot. I've been promising Max a bike ride and today I made good on it.  We've had a period of hot weather and in Michigan that often means unstable weather, I rode early this morning before the heat and wanted to take another little ride in the evening and it seemed like a perfect time to ride with Max.  We were intending to head out to Independence Lake for a couple of turns around the path there but as soon as we had loaded up his bike in the trunk and mine on my bike rack I heard a crack of thunder.  We headed out anyway thinking that it would blow by.  I noticed that the sky to the south toward Ann Arbor was clear and looked fair.  To the west where Independence Lake was it looked okay but a bit dark.  We did pass through a downpour but sure enough it was dry by the time I reached Ann Arbor and Brandemere Park for a little jaunt on the Border to Border trail, just a mere 15 minute car ride south of home.  

We set off and before the first mile mark we were at the dirt bike park and Max took a ride down the mini mogul track.  Methinks he loved it because he headed right back after finishing the first round.  I asked him to slow down for a photo and instead he requested a video.

Traveling along we came to playground equipment and being all boy and all kid there was the requisite stop to jump, climb and play.

A bit later down the trail we saw this single deer nibbling leaves for dinner across the river from the island we were on.

It was a pleasant but quite humid evening and the breeze from  pedaling felt great.  Max had a really good time and said so on the way home three times at least "That was really fun!"

Getting youngsters exposed to bike riding and the adventure that is inherent in bicycling is fun for a grownup too!  I am an explorer at heart, sometimes I think exploring is more the draw than bicycling itself and I love to share that with kids because it comes so natural to them.
Deer spotted from Island Park across the river