Sunday, September 30, 2007

Early Big Dummy Reviews

There have been a couple of early Big Dummy ride reports coming out of Interbike. Here are a couple, one each from Commute By Bike (their photo above), Bikehugger and Speedgoat. All pretty positive.

Ordered mine late last week. Expected delilvery date: January 15, 2008.

Update 01-05-2008 More Big Dummy news here.

Update 03-06-2008 Part one of my review.

Update 05-21-2008 Part two of my review.

Road Find: Someone's Chain

Yeah, I know, seriously though. Back at the beginning of September I was on a ride and found this laying in the road just east of County road MM on Goodland Park road. At first I thought it was another snake. One can only speculate about how it got there or why it was left there. For those of you keeping score, it was a single-speed KMC Z chain.

Bike the Barns

The end of September is a pretty chancy time of year to hold a cycling event here in Wisconsin. Yesterday, the organizers of the inaugural Bike the Barns ride hit the jackpot. Started out in the 60's and ended up with a high of 76; cloudy in the morning to overcast, to sunny in the late afternoon.

This was my second organized ride of the year, a benefit for the Madison Area's Community Supported Agriculture Coalition, and the most unusual I've ever been on:
Tour Dane County's beautiful farm country and visit three Community Supported Agriculture farms. Your ride will be fueled with gourmet local food, including breakfast, snacks, and a three-course lunch [...]

How could one resist?

I took a bunch of pictures and have posted a group over on my Flickr page, so I'll just include a couple here. A map of the entire route is available at Map My Ride.

The Start

The ride started at Troy Gardens on the north side of Madison. Having uncharacteristically gotten ready the night before, I rolled out of bed at the crack of 6:45 a.m., threw a leg over the bike and made the 4-mile hop over to the start. Upon my arrival, I dropped off the pledge checks I had collected for MACSAC's Partner Shares Program and headed over to the breakfast spread (pictured above.) Coffee, hardrolls, croissants, hard-boiled eggs and apples. Ate a bit of everything and stashed a couple of apples in my pocketses for the road. Then we had a brief talk from the organizers and an introduction to the support riders:

The Guy in the middle with the blue cap and glasses is Jonny Kendziera, proprietor of Jonny Cycles, and the redheaded guy on the right is Ahren Rogers of Folk Bicycles. Both are accomplished Madison bicycle builders, and along with all of the other volunteers whose names I don't know, gave very generously of their time.

Ran into quite a few people I knew and chatted until about half nine.

Next up was a tour of the Troy Community Farm and CSA. This is a 5-acre parcel that feeds over a hundred families here in Madison, all but 5 of which pick up their shares market-style (as opposed to having boxes delivered) once a week. There was a heavy dew on the grass, and I would later regret how wet my shoes got.


Between 8:30 and 9 a.m., the 350 riders started west. I had run into a friend at breakfast, so we rode together and it was good to catch up on old times. Our first stop was to help a fellow rider with a flat tire about 2 miles out. Fortunately, I had a spare tube, so I popped it into the tire and pumped it up, leaving its capable owner to put it back on the bike and get underway on his own. After leaving Madison, we covered about 15 miles of busy county roads, most of which fortunately had paved shoulders. Now near the back of the pack, our first official stop was the Dreamfarm, a small organic CSA near Cross Plains. On the menu was goat cheese on crackers. Delightful, but not enough. Down went the first stashed apple. Certainly a lovely place though, with plenty of goats and chickens.

And here are some of the chickens in action. They live in the little white coops, adjoined by penned-in areas where they feed. When the flora is exhausted in one area, the're moved to a place where it has recovered. You can see the pattern here on the far side of this little valley: Recovering foliage on the left, brown exhausted foliage in the middle, freshly moved enclosure on the right.

It's 11 a.m., and my feet are still wet. Yes, those are Subaru socks.

Vermont Valley

Next stop, the Vermont Valley Community Farm for lunch. This is a CSA that several of my coworkers belong to and I think it's one of the earliest in the area. A few riders had arrived before us.

And there was quite a chow line, but it was worth every minute of the wait.

For those of you keeping score, that's beef brisket, roasted squash, lettuce salad, sauerkraut, pickled beets with blue cheese dressing, fresh hardroll and rhubarb bar for desert. All organic and served on a ceramic plate. One of the things I liked about this event is that they used as little disposible stuff as was practical. Many thanks again to the Underground Food Collective and the volunteers that made this happen. It was unforgettable.

South, East and Back Home

After a brief look at the farm and a refill of the water bottles, it was time to get back on the road. Just under halfway, we rode south and climbed out of the valley. Plenty of hills for the return trip:

Pretty country out there. (click for big)

There was less traffic between Dreamfarm and Highway 78, but we were still overtaken by a milk truck or two.

Our last stop was the Primrose Community Farm, another small CSA just west of Madison. The gourmet chocolate had run out, but there was plenty of tasty passionfruit lemonade left, thanks to Pamplemousse Preserves. Stretched a tight hamstring and then pushed on for home.

At about the 50-mile mark, we entered the Madison metropolitan area and faced a long stretch of urban riding. I don't mind urban riding, but it made up close to a third of the total for this one. The route wasn't well marked for out-of-towners, and about halfway through the UW campus we ran into a trio from Rochester, Minnesota who looked pretty lost. I offered to lead them, and they took me up on the offer, following a winding native's route across the isthmus, through Maple Bluff and back to Troy Gardens. I heard little but "I never would have figured this out" for the remaining 8 miles.

Then I rode home. 72 miles total for a 60-mile ride.