Posts Tagged ‘Bicycling’

Every kid should be able to ride their bike to school. This right of passage, ushering in new freedoms and new independence for kids also brings with it the prospect of new angst and worry for parents.  Between 1969 and 2001, the percentage of school-aged students who walked or biked to school in the United States declined from 41% to just 13%. Traffic and safety concerns are cited as the primary barriers to parents feeling comfortable in allowing their children to bike- or walk to school.

The Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School (ANCS) is taking the lead in creating a safer environment for students to ride their bikes to-and-from school; now through a partnership with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, ANCS  is providing middle school campus students with the knowledge and training needed to develop safe cycling habits and strengthen on-bike decision making skills.

Safe Routes To School (SRTS)

ANCS is the recipient of a $500K federal grant for a Safe Routes To Schools (SRTS) project to enhance walking and bicycling opportunities for students and the communities around each campus.  In conjunction with the Georgia DOT and the City of Atlanta Department of Public Works, which sponsor the project, ANCS will construct and improve campus-area facilities such as sidewalks and crosswalks and address safety issues by various programs—all designed to make it easier and safer for students to walk or bike to school.

Confident City Cycling 

On October 19th, 2011 ANCS has arranged for students to participate in the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition’s Confident City Cycling Course.  This compact yet comprehensive class covers everything students need to know to learn to “drive”  thier bike safely and confidently in a city neighborhood environment. It includes bike handling skill drills and an instructor-led ride with feedback to reinforce what students learn in class.

Our Family’s Experience

Woody Gap North Georgia Cycling Six Gap 6 Three Gap 3 Youth Atlanta Bike Bicycle.Since starting 6th Grade at ANCS this year, my 10 year old son Liam has ridden his bike nearly every day.  We rode together for the first couple of weeks optimizing a route that balanced distance, traffic and safety.  Our route includes the crossing of 3 fairly major thoroughfares.  Two of these crossings he handles solo, but for the third and busiest he has coordinated a meet-up with other students to safely cross en-masse.  Liam now rides by himself most days and I have noticed a new (though far from perfect) level of situational awareness in him on our rides together.    He has even modified his route slightly on his own to avoid a dog that enjoys chasing kids on bikes!    I look forward to the additional skills and knowledge that Liam will gain through his particiaption in the Confident City Cycling Course at ANCS!



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Six Gap Century Three Gap Fifty Cylcing North Georgia 3 6Today, I had my ass handed to me in 11,230 different ways. For many cyclists, completing a 100 mile bike ride or century, in a single day represents a significant milestone- a true notch in their belt.  In January of 2010 I set the goal of completing my first century ride with Team In Training that June. With a lot of time in the saddle and encouragement from friends, family and teammates I completed that century ride- and about five others since. 

Six Gap Century Three Gap fifty 6 gap 3 gap 2011

Out of the Gate

Like many goals reached, their attainment reveals more possibilities- opening the doors to the potential for further accomplishment.   Century rides are no different; and while completing any century is a big win- I have since learned that there are Centuries…then there are Centuries.  Throughout Georgia, the Southeastern US and perhaps the entire East Coast no other Century holds the position of the Six Gap Century held in the mountains of North Georgia near the beautiful town of Dahlonega.  Riders who successfully complete Six Gap proudly wear the coveted jersey back on their local rides- to the envy of fellow riders.  In the cycling community, little else trumps the prestige of earning a Six Gap jersey.

Cycling Parent: Fear and Doubt
Liam Earns Polka Dot Jersey – North Georgia Mountains
A Day of Cycling in the Gaps: North Georgia Mountains

My Six Gap Century attempt was not preordained.  In reality, I was shamed into it.  As a test run I completed the Beautiful Back Roads Century in Cartersville, GA the previous week.  At 100 miles, the BBRC is a Century…but not a Century of the caliber of Six Gap-  it would allow me to gauge my fitness level in anticipation of the big ride in the Gaps the following week.  Even with riding an extra 16 miles due to a missed turn, being chased by dogs and experiencing a mechanical that left me riding the final 30 miles in a single gear I still finished- though admittedly not as strong as I would have liked.  Still, I had signed up and paid for Six Gap.  At the very least I could do the 3 gap fifty mile option, right?  I had done this ride and written about it on numerous occasions- I knew I could do 3 gap with little  trouble.

Bike Ride North Georgia Six Gap Centruy Three Gap Fifty 2011 Cyclist Bicycle

I hate you Brigette. Thanks for the encouragement 🙂

As 3000 riders departed the massive parking lot of Lumpkin County Highshool, some for the 35 mile Valley Ride, others for the 3 Gap Fifty and others for the 6 Gap Century I was still undecided as to my route option.  Did I have it in me to do the full ride?  Could I climb the dreaded Hogpen Gap?  On the medical side- could my patched up knee handle the strain of 11,300 feet of mountain climbs?   While discussing my quandary The previous night my friend and fellow rider Brigette,  simply looked at me and said “Rule #5”.   She may have added “bitch” in there too.   This statement refers to cycling humor website Velominati who keeps a set of rules for cyclists.  Our group has taken to slinging these rules around on group rides as both corrective action and as a source  humorous motivation, or just plain ridicule.    Rule #5 is “Harden the F up“;  and is the cycling equivalent of the Triple Dog Dare.   With this bit of healthy humiliation masked as encouragement coming from Brigette,  I was resigned to doing the full Six Gap. 

I am not going into a blow-by-blow of the ride in this article.  It was hard- perhaps the hardest thing I have ever done.  After 60 miles of riding, Hogpen gap did in fact “rip my legs off and beat my soul with the stumps” as fellow rider Graham likes to say.   I got off and walked twice.  I stopped at every rest stop.  The climbs at Neal’s, Jack’s and Unicoi gaps were fine and long- I cursed and swore as Hogpen and Wolfpen gaps inched slowly beneath my wheels and my legs turned into stone.  I screamed down the backside of each one and let the breeze cool my saddle sores, drying the sweat into a salty crust in my hair.  I wondered if the end would ever come- and 9.5 hours later it did.   My friends were waiting for me in the parking lot- asking what took me so long.   I have my six gap jersey and no one can ever take that ride away from me.. but I might let you touch it if you want. 

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Silver Comet Trail Hurricane Lee Cycling in the Rain Atlanta By Bike

Hurricane Lee Spreading the Love Across Georgia. Thanks NASA Guys.

Cycling website Velominoti is “The Keeper of the Cog”,  the road-wizened rules of cycling by which we must abide. Liam, Ethan and I received our schooling today in Rule #5- Harden the F- Up [all rules here] See those nifty little spirals coming out of the hurricane, fanning across Georgia?  Those are called “rain bands” and they carry massive amounts of water in them to drop on cyclists heads- and can even spin off neat little tornadoes.  I did not know this before today.

Silver Comet Trail PATH Atlanta By Bike Junior Cycling Hurricane Lee
A Wet Ride All Day Long. Rolling By Mile Marker 12

We had planned to ride the Silver Comet Trail today for most of the week- before we had even heard of Hurricane Lee.  Yesterday I asked Ethan how far he wanted to ride. He replied “We should do a Century”.

Liam interceded “Dude, a Century is 100 miles”.

Ethan, looking insulted at Liam’s insinuation that he did not know how long a Century ride was, shot back sharply  “I know- can we do one on the Silver Comet tomorrow?”

Liam now jumped on the wagon too “Yeah, Dad- can we?”

Silver Comet Century Riding Atlanta By Bike Family Cylcing Junior Cycling Bridges

Looking Over The Edge. Many Scenic Bridge Vistas Along the Silver Comet

“Yes we can”  I replied, shocking them both by my acquiescence, secretly sparing them the details of the pain and suffering involved in such an undertaking.  I was aware that rain was in the forecast for most of the day, but so were cooler temperatures in the seventies…good for long distance riding.

The Silver Comet is a 61 mile long paved rail conversion running from just outside Atlanta to the Alabama State Line where it continues another 40 miles as the Chief Ladega trail.  Together, the Chief Ladiga and Silver Comet travel over 100 miles, forming the longest paved trail in America.  Doing an unsupported Century is no easy task, and there is a cyclist-friendly c-store at mile 35 on the trail that can be strategically used for resupply again at mile 65 after the turn-around at mile marker 50.  This means that we only had to carry enough nutrition to make the c-store, resupply, ride another 15 out to 50, 15 back to 65, resupply again for the final 35 home. 

Silver Comet Cycling Hurricane Lee Atlanta By Bike

Feed stop at Mile Marker 20. Cooler Heads Prevail.

The light drizzle at roll-out from the parking lot at Cooper Lake was actually pretty refreshing.  The sensation of the rain slowly infiltrating my shoes, shorts and rain slicker came with a silent resignation- it was just going to be a wet day, no need to try and stay dry.  The boys were in high spirits as we careened around the few joggers and other cyclists who also wanted the path to themselves.  Noticeably absent were the joggy-mommies that usually pack the first few miles of the Comet- jacked into their i-pods and oblivious to nature, their slumbering spawn and other people trying to get around them.  Yay!  

We settled into a nice cadence, I figured if we could keep the average speed around 14 miles per hour, we should be able to have a sub-8 hour finish including breaks- putting us back at the car around 4 pm.  We maintained this pace for about 20 miles when Ethan fell unusually far behind.  Liam and I pulled off at the rest stop and Ethan arrived less than a minute later- heaving his bike into the bushes nearly in tears in a full blown tantrum.  He then kicked Liam’s bike into the mud and the mushroom cloud meltdown came.  He did not want us to go that far ahead and we were going to fast and he wanted to stop.  He wanted to go home.  My heart sank.

As a parent, and especially a cycling parent, I always struggle between the line of  challenging the boys and being too pushy.  This was neither- Ethan was just scared that we would leave him.  He was wet and fatigued. I told him we could slow down, but all he had to do was say something next time.  I assured him we would not leave him behind and that, NO we could not go home now.  We had a little discussion about digging a little deeper and pushing a little harder- especially at the moment we most didn’t want to.  That is when the rewards come.  This is when the good stuff happens. Was he willing to do that?  This broke the ice and we continued on in better spirits.  I am glad we didn’t call it quits…yet.

The rain bands from Hurricane Lee would arrive in waves- washing over us constantly, but varying between a light drizzle and white squall downpour.  The boys took pride in the growing piles of road grime and grit accumulating on their bikes- debating who’s was dirtiest.  We made a game of shouting “It stopped raining!” as we passed under a bridge or traversed a tunnel.  We were fully soaked and loving it!  Soon we were back in our cadence and I would routinely perform a visual check to make sure the boys were in the right gear for the long haul- middle ring in the front, and low enough in the rear to keep a nice spin on the very gradual grade changes.  They both gravitate to mashing big gears.  The Silver Comet is an old rail line and with the exception of a few bridges and road crossings there are no grades greater than 2%.  This is nice, but it means you are pedaling all the time- no big gears.

Silver Comet Trail Atlanta By Bike Cycling Silver Comet Centrury Food

Shelter From The Storm. Gas Station Refueling Stop in Polk County

Approaching the C-store at mile marker 35 we hit the wall… a wall of rain.  It came down in buckets and our speed dropped to 5 or 6 miles per hour as the runoff on the path was higher than the rims of our wheels.  Visibility dropped to nil as we made the shelter of the gas station canopy and entered the store to buy food and drink.  The lady at the counter said it was supposed to get worse as she eye-balled us quizzically.    I ran through the scenarios in my mind.  If we could only go 5 miles per hour we could not reasonably finish the ride on this day.  It was time to head back to the car from here with 70 miles in our pocket and hope for the best.

Then the storm sirens came- these indicate that there is a tornado warning in effect.  Not a tornado watch, but a warning that a tornado is imminent.  The eerie howl emanated from a distance over the tree tops, sounding at first like a motorcycle topping out 3rd gear.  Then the sirens were not so distant and looking back from whence we came, I knew what that low-black sky meant.  Being stuck out in the middle of podunk Georgia during a tornado with my kids was not on our agenda for that day.  The boys were machine-gunning me with questions about what we would do when suddenly the sirens stopped and mechanical voice came through the air telling us that this was a “REAL emergency and we needed to seek shelter now”.  Shit. Shit. Shit.       [this is what it sounded like]

Silver Comet Trail Path Tornado Atlanta By Bike

The Boys Keep a Sharp Eye Out for Twisters from Inside the Mountain.

I remembered that there was a long railroad tunnel about a mile down the path.  It sure beat hugging a tree or lying in a wet ditch for shelter and I explained the plan to the boys as we began our sprint toward safety.   Inside the tunnel under the mountain we were probably as safe as we could be.  I viewed the prospects of us being sucked out into the afternoon sky as remote.  As the sirens continued their creepy whine in the distance, the boys  busied themselves with spotting twisters from the mouth of the tunnel.  It was dry, we were safe and could get safer fast by moving to the middle of the tunnel. We had food and water and could sit this out for awhile. 

We repeated this drill- next time under a bridge on the way back to the car, but we arrived safely and with a bigger adventure completed than we could have dreamed of when we started.  Even though we did not make the Century, we pushed hard and made good decisions that we were all happy with.  Still dirty with grime, but in dry clothes and shoes we discussed our near-miss with Hurricane Lee over large stacks of pancakes and hot cocoa (coffee for dad) at the IHOP near the trail head.  I am very proud of the boys for their accomplishments today- and thankful that we all lived to tell about them.  Well done boys- you own Rule #5.

Silver comet Trail Map Cheif Ladiga Youth Cycling Junior Atlanta by Bike

Three Counties in 70 miles (35 out-and-back)

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Santa Barbara Gibraltar Road California cylcing bike road ride toughest climb ascent

Click the image to watch this impressive demonstration.

This spring I did a blog entry California Cycling: Gibraltar Road about Dan and I riding up Gibraltar Road.  It remains  the single most difficult ascent I have ever done.  Tonight I was tooling around on YouTube and came across this really cool computer/gps “flyover” of the route.  I wish I knew how this guy did it- but it is superbly edited and incorporates actual in-ride video while giving an incredible sense of the twists, turns and pain that Gibraltar delivers.  Well done! 


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We had quite a group today for the Because-We-Know-You’re-Not-At-Church ride out to Stone Mountain with the Kirkwood Sunday Riders.  Today was just one of those days that made me glad to be a cyclist- we had a ton of people show up (27) and most of them had never ridden with Kirkwood Sunday Ride,  so it was nice getting to know a few folks.  For mid-July the weather was incredible- about 80 degrees and overcast so there was no overheating.   Liam and Ethan were with me after being on vacation for the past ten days and it felt really good to roll out with them at my side.  The boys are becoming so confident and at-ease on the bike, I am enjoying watching them enjoy riding and beginning to pick up skills.

“I don’t need stained glass and a steeple when I got spokes and a giant rock.” -Lisa

Kirkwood Sunday Ride- Rolling Deep Out To the Rock

Rolling out from Le Petite Marche in Kirkwood,  the large group started to naturally form into smaller ability based groups for the ride.  I hung a bit with Paul- it was his first group ride ever and he was really enjoying it.  I also got to ride a bit with Rachel who trekked in from Peachtree City (by car) for the ride this morning.  My friend Wes made the comment that it was a really nice group of people- and it struck me that he was right.  I think the fact that you have a group of generally health-oriented people out for a great morning ride with the endorphins kicking will suppress even the biggest grouches.   We all collected for a specacular group shot before heading back to the ‘hood for a straight-out invasion of our favorite brunch place Le Petite Marche.  French toast sammies!

Liam’s Corner

Today was awesome because there were so many people.  The hard part was going up a big hill with my chest hurting- but I made it.  All the people were really nice- but Rachel was the nicest person there.  It was the funnest ride- I think I did well because I wasn’t last.

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As cyclists, one of the primary benefits of being on the bike is to be outdoors- in many instances this means sun exposure.  Not being judging or critical, but we cyclists wear funny clothes; often the same funny clothes on each outing (hopefully with a washing in between).  The same gloves, the same tpyes of socks, similar style shorts and jerseys, even sunglasses and helmet straps are all contributors to cyclists developing some of the most unique tan lines of any sport- the bike tan.

Lance Armstrong Tan Line Cyclist Tan Bike Tan The boring scientific breakdown of the tan line phenomena is that tanning is produced by the release of melanin when the skin is exposed to ultra-violet light- typically sunlight.  A tan line occurs when different areas of the skin are exposed to varying levels of UV light, resulting in divergent levels of melanin production and a darker skin color in the area receiving higher UV exposure- lighter color on the less exposed areas.  I am not going to expound on the merit of sun protection here- we all know that it is a good idea, but tan lines happen regardless of your SPF choice.  This is the fun and quirky topic of exploration on today’s blog, abundant and useful medical advices is available elsewhere.

Kirkwood Atlanta Intown Cycling Biking Group Ride Bik Cyclist Bicycle Tan Line

The Tan Line Lineup: Brigette, Paul "Whitey", Jen, Sean, The Other Jeff

This week’s Kirkwood Sunday Ride embraces our differences- crossing color lines to explore what each rider’s tan line means to them.  I found that it was different for nearly everyone. For some it was a badge of pride, for others a source of discomfort to be casually explained away.  Some were too white too technically have a tan line at all.  In the end we CAN just get along!  We had a terrific ride today with only one crash and one flat in the group of about  15 riders- all made it back home safely.  The pace was fast today in all groups and everyone was back at La Petit Marche for a yummy brunch by noon- we also had a great opportunity capture a picture of our own tan line lineup!  Enjoyed it guys- thanks a million!

Further Reading: Galendara reflects on her century ride and tan/grime lines. 

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six gap three gap 3 gap 6 gap north georgia cycling bicycling ride route map

Six Gap Route in North Georgia

Everywhere else in the world they are called passes– or at least where I am from.  Here in Geogia, the  low passage points over mountains are referred to as gaps.  In North Georgia there is an area situated between the mountain towns of Dahlonega and Helen referred to as Six Gaps- or simply The Gaps, that is comprised of 6 mountain passes that can be ridden on a single 104 mile bike ride of a lifetime, or three gaps for 58 miles.

The annual Six Gap Century & Three Gap Fifty ride is renowned as one of the most challenging rides in the United States with over 11,000 feet of elevation gain and grades of up to 15% on the infamous Hogpen Gap.  By comparison, the Tahoe Century ride I completed in 2010 was a paltry 6300 feet of elevation gain- or just more than half of the full Six Gap ride.

From 2003-2008 the area served as a challenging mountain stage of the now discontinued Tour De Georgia.  “Brasstown Bald is a very, very tough climb” said Lance Armstrong of the 2004 breakaway with Voigt to steal the win from stage leader Chris Horner.  Hors catégorie is a French term used to designate a climb that is “beyond categorization”, an incredibly tough climb. Most climbs in cycling are designated from Category 1 (hardest) to Category 4 (easiest), based on both steepness and length. A climb that is harder than Category 1 is designated as hors catégorie– such as Brasstown Bald with the steepest grade at 24 percent.

Today I rode the “front three” gaps- Neels, Wolfpen and Woody for a total of 62 Miles (the route map says 58).  I arrived at Lumpkin High School around 8 am and was wheels-down by 8:30 so as to try and beat the hottest part of the day in the afternoon.  I immediately appreciated the rolling hills along Black Mountain Road as a nice warm-up and lead-in to Neels- something I usually hit cold when starting the ride from Turner’s Corner General Store.  It was a gorgeous morning and I had the roads nearly to myself- even though it was the start of the July 4th weekend.  What little traffic there was consisted of other cyclist and motorcycles.

stone pile stonepile north georgia dalahnegaBlack Mountain Road becomes Yahoola Road just before the sharp turn and climb onto Route 19.  I stopped my to toss a stone on Trahlyta’s Grave at the foot of Stonepile gap before heading west to Turners Corner.  According to Cherokee legend, Trahlyta was a beautiful local woman who was kidnapped by an unrequited suitor.  In captivity her beauty and health declined and on her death she asked to be buried in her native hills.  Cherokee, and later whites, adopted the custom of tossing a stone on her grave as they passed in the hopes of receiving her beauty.  The Stone Pile now sits in the middle of the intersection of routes 19 & 60.  Read more about the legend [here].

turners corner general store cycling bicycle bicycling biking north georgia six gaps

Friendly People, Friendly Cows and a Great View!

I stopped in to Turner’s Store to replenish my fluids and  buy some preemptive Advil before hitting Neels.  This climb winds nearly 8 miles and rises to an elevation of 3097 feet to the top of Blood Mountain.  Any way you cut it, an 8 mile climb is just no fun at all- but my legs felt strong as I cranked my way along 129 in light traffic and made it to the top in just under an hour.  Situated at the the top of Neels is perhaps my favorite outdoor store in the world- Mountain Crossings.  It is not just any store- housed in a solid granite building that was build as lodging for the Conservation Corps workers during the depression. Mountain Crossings is a critical supply link for hikers on the Apalachian Trail.  Stretching from Georgia to Maine, the “AT” is a 2200 mile trail network attracting hikers from the world over.  At Mountain Crossings, the trail route actually goes through the breezeway between two buildings and represents the only covered portion on the entire trail!  The side patio offers a peaceful resting place for weary hikers and bikers while enjoying a panorama of the valley below.  It also gave me an opportunity to feel slightly superior to the “weighty” tourists who 0ooe’d and ahhh’ed at the view-   I had earned my view!

Wolfpen, Woody's, Hogpen, Neels, Unicoi,

Smile! No, really- Smile!

The screaming descent down the backside of Neel’s made the climb totally worthwhile- reaching speeds of 40+ miles per hour, a quick brake-check before heading down is a must.  From Neel’s, I turned left onto Highway 180 at Vogel State park- immediately heading into the climb at Wolfpen.  Featuring steeper, but shorter stretches between turns, the summit of Wolfpen tops out at 3369.  I was not feeling on top of my game at the summit- as the picture shows a forced grin bathed in sweat.   I downed both water bottles and a gel pack to replenish my energy before heading down the backside of Wolfpen into Suchess Valley for the route 60 tie-in.    In addition, my mysterious bottom bracket creaking returned on this climb- it is time to break out the sledgehammer of scientific investigation on this problem when I get home.  I need to develop new hypothoses.

The final gap ascent today was up the back side of Woodys which would deliver me back to the Stone Pile and about 15 miles from the car.  When riding with Team In Training I had made this ascent, but from the other direction- and I dreaded this last climb.  I could feel my fuel needle clicking on empty, it was getting hot and another 8 mile climb was not at the top of my list.  The cycling gods were with me though because I did not realize that with each climb up Neels and Wolfpen, did not correlate to an equal distance down.  The result was a 15-minute climb to the summit of Woody’s.  It was almost anti-climatic!  The descent was absolutely incredible though- nearly 10 miles of winding speed to the rock pile and I was on my way home!

The final miles back to the car were tough- I was now officially dehydrated and it was hot.  This ride kicked my ass- but it was wonderful and terrific and I cant wait to go again!  On the way home I stopped at Taco Bell on 400 and ate 8 soft tacos- yummy!  I have renewed respect for the Gaps- and am considering an entry into the main event this year for all six.  It is another 50 miles and double the elevation gain from today’s ride- but what if I did it?  What if I have what it takes to earn a coveted six gap jersey?  What if….

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