Boston’s Hub On Wheels Event – A Day of Cycling in The City

Last Sunday I rode in my first “Hub On Wheels” ride in Boston. The event has been around since 2005 and is designed to promote cycling and good health, showcase the various neighborhoods of the city, and to raise money for charity. About 6,000 riders participated in this unique event this year.

Storrow Drive

Boston’s busy Storrow Drive is closed to traffic and open only to cyclists on the morning of the event. This presents a unique opportunity to ride on a big, wide road with a bunch of cyclists while taking in a unique view of the city. Riding down Storrow Drive on a bike allows you to take in the Charles River and Boston skyline views in much more detail. The ride goes out to the end and then doubles back on the other side.

Touring the city streets and parks

Once off the cycling “highway” the route (if you’re taking the 30 or 50 mile version) takes you through the city streets of Boston, and through the Arnold Arboretum, Franklin Park, and the Forest Hills Cemetery, before heading out to the coast. The ride comes back along the shoreline and ultimately via the Harborwalk and back into Downtown Boston.

Events on the Plaza

Once back from the ride, there are tons of things going on at City Hall Plaza. Bike stunt shows, beer and food tents, and professional racing. A great way to wrap up the ride.

For more information about the event, check out their website at www.hubonwheels.org.

A new kind of bike

I recently had the chance to try a new kind of bike from Travelon, a new company (disclosure: this is my friend’s dad’s company) that is aiming at utilitarian riders who want something simple and low-maintenance for riding around town, riding with the kids, and taking scenic expeditions.

As you can see, it’s styled like a comfort bike. And it is comfortable. The geometry allows for setting a good seat height for pedaling, yet allowing both feet to touch the ground comfortably while seated and stopped.

But the key is the drivetrain. First – there’s no deraileur! This means less breakdowns and less maintenance. No greasy chain handling or confusing adjustments to cable tension. Which is nice for those who just want to ride.

All the magic happens inside the “Continuously Variable Planetary Hub.” If you’re interested in that technology, head over to their website and a neat little video shows you how it works – Travelon NuVinci hub technology.

Second – there are no gears! You can adjust the torque just like a traditional bike, but because of this fancy new hub technology the gears are not incremental. Rather, you increase and decrease torque along an analog continuum. This means that you simply turn the tension up or down to just the right setting for the terrain you’re covering. And you can make these adjustments while stopped – you don’t need to be pedaling to change “gears.”

Check out this snapshot of the indicator and it’ll give you a clearer picture:

I love the clear, simple, and intuitive design of the indicator.

And I always like to learn about the latest cycling technology. For more info, check out their website: Travelon Bikes.

Spring training in New England

image

Fortunately my early season pace allows for plenty of reaction time, because the roads are rough out there right now – full of potholes and frost heaves.

Take a look at this doozie I came accross today along a pond in Harold Parker State Forest. It’s a good two bike lengths long. What’s nice is that the line of sight also includes the ice on the pond. Ah, spring training in New England…

100 Years Before Lance Armstrong…

Great little peak into the Major Taylor story and some video shots of the annual Major Taylor Hillclimb race held in Worcester each summer:

Remembering Major Taylor (from the Boston Globe, 8/19/09)

Here’s some additional footage from the 2009 event.

Coming up in just about six weeks is the Major Taylor Century Ride produced by the Seven Hills Wheelmen. 25, 62 and 100 mile routes begin in Whitinsville, MA through some really great cycling roads.

Fitchburg-Longsjo Shines Brightly On The Race Calendar

2006 Mens Pro/1/2 TT Winner Brian Sheedy
From New England Sports Magazine

New England’s crown jewel cycling event is the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic Stage Race, a grueling multi-day event that challenges a rider’s skills across a variety of cycling disciplines. As the largest pro/am cycling event in North America, the race attracts top professional and amateur athletes from all over the United States and beyond. “We have 800 to 900 riders each year,” explained Bill White, Board Member of the Fitchburg Cycling Club which organizes the race. White also expects tens of thousands of spectators to attend over the event’s four days.

Begun in 1960 as the Fitchburg-Longsjo Memorial Race, the one-day event was created as a tribute to Fitchburg, Massachusetts native Art Longsjo, an accomplished speed skater who took up cycling as part of his cross training. Longsjo excelled in both disciplines and eventually became the first person ever to compete in both summer and winter Olympic games in the same year (1956) before his tragic death in an automobile accident in 1958. “This race reflects the tenor of a gifted individual, who made such a huge impression on the community in his short 26 years,” commented White. “Art Longsjo was an incredible athlete. When you look at how quickly he dominated the sport it is nothing short of amazing.”

The current four-day stage race format is designed as a complete test of a rider’s cycling abilities. The professional men racers will compete in a 6.2 mile time trial, a 78 mile circuit race through the hilly Fitchburg State College campus, a 104 mile road race featuring a grueling climb to the summit of Wachusett Mountain, and 50 mile downtown criterium. Professional women and amateur racers will ride shorter versions of the same course.

Helping to attract top riders is over $50,000 in prize money that will be awarded to individual stage and overall winners in each race category. Payouts will also be made for other competitions such as the coveted king/queen of the mountain designation and mid-race sprints designed to keep the race challenging for racers and engaging for spectators. Adding to the race’s allure is the hopes of joining the ranks of such notable past winners as Lance Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton and Davis Phinney.

Spectator highlights include a “Sky Ride” on the Wachusett Mountain chair lift to view the mountain top stage finish and stunt champion rider Mike Steidley’s show during the downtown criterium. This year’s race–the 50th edition–will be held from July 2-5, 2009. All event details can be found at www.longsjo.com.


Tom Catalini is the author of cycling guide book Road Biking Massachusetts (www.RoadBikingMassachusetts.com) Photos courtesy Ed Collier (www.edcollierphotography.com)

Harpoon B2B Ride 2009


Whew! What a ride. 148 miles and 8000+ feet of climbing is a long way to go for a beer, but it sure tasted good when we got there.

The Harpoon Brewery to Brewery ride is an excellent adventure. It’s a ride from the early dawn in downtown Boston to the late afternoon in rural Vermont. It’s also a ride from “I think I can” to “I know I can” to “I’m glad I did.” At least that’s how it went for my inaugural ride this past Saturday.

Thankfully all the weather forecasts of rain, showers, thunderstorms and the like were wrong. The sun was shining brightly in Boston as we arrived at the start. The ride was very well organized and every detail ran smoothly – from bike and bag drop off, to registration, to corralling riders into groups and launching them off. There was even an optional registration & packet pick up Friday night at the brewery – compete with free beer!

The ride out to the first water stop at mile 46 in Townsend was smooth and enjoyable. Our group proceeded at a leisurely pace through the more densely populated areas of Boston, Cambridge and Arlington, and then picked up the pace through Lexington Bedford, Carlisle and along Route 119.

After that, the climbing began. Up through Willard Brook and into Rindge, NH, climbing about 1000 feet over the course of nearly 10 miles. From there the route became more rolling until the big climb of about another 1000 feet, this time condensed into about 5 miles from Ashuelot up into Hindsdale. The hills continued to roll on from there with a few good smaller climbs thrown in for good measure.

Along the way there were food and water stops that seemed to run smoothly with plenty of port ‘o potties at each. Designed to keep you rolling along, each seemed to feature either simple food choices or just a water refill. Some riders (including my group) also stopped at one of the many convenience stores along the way for additional nourishment.

At the end, the prison-style shower setup for the men offered a quick refreshing clean up before heading to the bar-b-que (good food!) to listen to live music and enjoy some well-earned Harpoon beer. Bikes were loaded on trucks and riders onto buses for a two-hour bus ride back to the start.

For more details on the course, check out the Map My Ride site:

Also, check out the event’s official web page.

Also to get a feel for the ride, check out “Skip & Dan’s B2B Adventure” YouTube video:

Quabbin Area Riding – Simply Fantastic

The upcoming “King’s Tour of the Quabbin” (Sunday, June 7, 2009) reminds me of the fantastic riding out in the Central/Western part of the state where numbered routes take on a whole new meaning (ridable, scenic).

The Quabbin Reservoir is a unique Massachusetts landmark. It is the former site of four towns that were “discontinued” in order to develop a resource to supply drinking water for most of the rest of the state. At the time it was built, it was the largest man made reservoir in the world, holding some 412 billion gallons of drinking water and stretching 18 miles from north to south.

In addition to the rich history, the area is full of spectacular scenery and great views from many nooks and crannys of the reservoir. The area is featured in a couple of the rides in Road Biking Massachusetts, including the “Quabbin Century Classic” which circumnavigates the reservoir. The upcoming tour by the Seven Hills Wheelmen provides three options to explore the area, each a “century” of sorts. A 62-mile metric century, a 100-mile century, and a 125-mile double-metric-century. I believe all (even the 62) circumnavigate the reservoir. This is a good chance to go out and ride in a great area. All riding out that way is hilly and challenging, but the effort is well worth it – stunning views, great little towns, and just as many exciting downhills as there are challenging uphills.

Tour Dallas 2009!

Ok, so technically this ride was not in Massachusetts, but it was a great way for me to see a new city while I was visiting a friend and fellow cyclist in Dallas this past weekend.

First, the weather was great – 60s and sunny. The event was crowded with thousands of cyclists, but that’s ok. It wasn’t a fitness or workout ride, but rather a tourist expedition.

The largest 1-day cycling event in the area, Tour Dallas was started in 2003 by Bikin’ Mike Keel, Director of the Plano Cycling & Fitness Training Center. His vision was to create an event that inspired the inactive to become active and that facilitated more experienced cyclists to share an event with new cyclists. By all accounts this weekend, he has succeeded.

The route meandered through beautiful sections of Dallas before looping around White Rock Lake, a prominent feature of the local landscape, and favorite spot for many cyclist, joggers and walkers. To take the longer 30-mile route meant you looped the lake twice. We went around a third time for good measure and to stretch the legs a little bit before heading back into the city streets.

A grand celebration with a variety of sponsors took place on City Hall Plaza after the ride. The architecture of the plaza was remarkably similar to Boston City Hall – lacking in detail and features, but quite functional for an event like Tour Dallas.

Looks like they’re already gearing up for the 2010 ride. Check out more details at: www.TourDallas.org.