Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Progress in Cycling in Fairfax County

I just got home from a Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling meeting and I'm feeling positive.  Good things are happening because people are working on projects at the regional, county, community, and neighborhood levels to make cycling more possible and safer.

What kind of things are being considered and worked upon?  Fairfax County has let a bid for bike racks which will be delivered in early November and some of those racks will be assigned to Herndon and Vienna.  Plans are being developed in the Dranesville District for signage for three projects by the Pedestrian Task Force/Bicycle Subcommittee.  In November the construction begins on a Bike Ped Bridge to connect disconnected sections of Wolftrap Road to the northeast of Vienna.  The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors are talking about a Bicycle Master Plan for the county.  In the Sully District a Federal Enhancement Grant is nearing for planning routes that can be cycled between historic sites.  WMATA (Metro) has planner looking at the Vienna Metro Station and others in the system to promote the increase use of biking and walking to Metro Stations.  Work is continuing on drafting Fairfax County Bicycle Parking guidelines and specifications.  The first meeting of the Vienna Bicycle Advisory Committee was held last week with over a dozen people participating.

Progress...........the two guys in the photo are Jeff Herman (left) and Charlie Strunk (right).  Jeff is a Transportation Planner who works with Charlie who is the Bike Coordinator for Fairfax County.  I learned much of what I outlined above in listening to their sharing during the FABB meeting at the Vienna Community Center.  Interested in what's happening?  Go to

Exxon/Mobil Health Fair

I took folding bikes to the Exxon/Mobil Health Fair at Exxon Mobil Corporate Headquarters on Gallows Road this morning.  It was a good sized event with a steady stream of Exxon/Mobil employees seeking ways to be healthier.  If your employer, church, or health club has a health fair, please let me know.  Typically there is no charge for our participation and it does get bikes@vienna in front of people who have not considered cycling recently.

REFind, our new neighbor down Church Street

I think the last open space in the new building on the northwest corner of Church and Center Streets has been filled with a consignment store called REFind.  Keith Bodamer and I stopped in for a visit recently and found interesting furniture and furnishings.  The shop is on the second floor and I considered the large attractive couch they had on display at what seemed a reasonable price.  I considered the work of carrying it up stairs or wrestling it into an elevator.

Church Street continues to features interesting stores with delightful people pursuing the American dream of starting your own business.  When you come visit us take an extra ten minutes and visit one of the other stores.

Friday, October 16, 2009

HRH must mean His Royal Highness

Tim's trip to the Brompton World Championship has us paying more attention to everything Brompton in the afterglow of his journey.  This morning we received a news release from Brompton telling about the design award given to Brompton founder, Andrew Ritchey, last evening.  You can read the release and view the award.  I had to blink and think about the HRH.

The 2009 Brompton World Championship

So here goes... my report on the Brompton World Championship, October 4th, 2009.

I first learned of the event shortly after bikes@vienna became a Brompton dealer. In with all the various catalogs and promotional materials we received a poster advertising this rather unusual race in which all riders rode Bromptons and were dressed in business attire... jacket, tie, and collared shirt. I have to admit, it appealed to me immediately, largely due to the offbeat nature of the race... and the fact that it was all Bromptons... but I never thought I'd really get the chance to participate.

Then this summer, when I mentioned it to John, owner of bikes@vienna, he said he thought it would be a good idea, and might even be an opportunity for us to get the word out on Bromptons if I were to ride in the BWC! So off I flew to England on September 29th, arriving in London on the morning of the 30th.

The morning of the event was a bit harried for me. I'd left myself a LOT of time to get to the Brompton factory, since I really wasn't that knowledgeable about London's public transit system. Brompton had coaches (what we'd call a bus, such as Greyhound) arranged to transport riders to Blenheim Palace, so I didn't want to be late for that. Based on spending some time on the official London transit website, I'd mapped out a pair of buses that should get me to there in plenty of time.

Well, the best laid plans... Making a long story short, I missed several critical connections and had to adjust my plans on the fly, ending up on entirely different buses, but I managed to sort it all out, making it to the factory in time. In fact, I even had a moment to pose for a couple of photos in front of the factory.

Then it was time to box up our bikes and stow them in the baggage compartments of the motor coaches. Fascinating to see about 80 folks stuffing nearly identical folding bikes into identical boxes. Note that some folks are already decked out in the required shirt, tie, and jacket. At this point I had my fingers crossed... I had neglected to pack my "outfit" and was relying on one of the Brompton people, Nigel, to bring me some clothes to borrow! He was traveling to the event on his own, so I wouldn't know for sure that I was all set until I got there.

The coach trip took about an hour and a half, I think. Time went pretty quickly as I spent the ride talking to Ed Rae, the new U.S. agent for Brompton. He's a nice guy, and very informative. We mostly chatted about Bromptons and some of the ups and downs of being a dealer in the U.S. It was a good conversation and left me feeling glad they decided to hire him for the job.

On arrival at Blenheim Palace (birthplace of Winston Churchill), we all made our way to the registration tent and picked up our timing chips and number cards, both of which were attached to the bike. I did a little racing back when I was in college, but that was long ago, and I honestly never imagined I'd have a timing chip fastened to my bike! Least of all, a folding bike!

Once all that was taken care of, I tracked down Nigel, who true to his word, had the clothes for me... a blue shirt, blue tie, and a maroon jacket with the Brompton logo prominently displayed in several locations! It was the same jacket their team was wearing, so I caused some confusion when folks would ask me questions and I had to confess I didn't actually work for them, I was just borrowing the jacket!

Before the start of the race we were instructed to place our fully folded bikes on a spot that was marked with the same number we were issued at registration. Next we were given a briefing that explained the basics of how the race would go. There were a total of 600 riders, so we were divided up in groups of 100, and guided (herded!) to a series of roped off "pens" where we were to wait for the start signal. There was a lot of good natured joking and talking as we waited, along with some sheep-like bleating to go along with being herded and penned.

We had all been told that once the horn sounded for our group, and the rope was dropped, we were to walk or run to our bikes, unfold them, then walk them to the road and mount and ride, crossing the official start line which would activate the timer when our chip crossed the line. Obviously that means that the speed with which one got to their bike and unfolded it and made their way to the road didn't affect your official time.

Regardless, once the horn sounded, most of us made a mad dash for our bikes, unfolded them rapidly, and raced to the road, some walking, some running and some mounting their bikes right away and riding to the road! I guess it's just the adrenaline rush of a start signal, combined with the mindset of a group competition.

The race consisted of two laps around a lovely, narrow, rolling road that wound around the grounds of Blenheim Palace. Each lap was a bit more than 6.5 km, making the total distance around 9 miles. We all started off very quickly, with the first stretch leading to the gates of the palace, where we took a sharp turn around the building and down a nice hill. Not quite half way into the lap there was a pretty challenging climb that took me a bit by surprise, and honestly took more out of me than I expected. But the bike and I soldiered on and I recovered my pace as I came back around the palace after crossing a small stone bridge. All in all, it was a beautiful setting, although I confess I didn't fully appreciate it until I took a relaxed lap AFTER the race! I'm not the most competitive person in the world, by any means, but in the rush of actually racing, I really didn't admire the scenery so much.

In the end, I finished the 13+ kilometers in 32 minutes, 50 seconds, right smack in the middle of the field, placing 338th out of 600. That's pretty much where I expected to place, so I was pleased. My worst worry was that I wouldn't fall into the "30 to 40 minute" range that I had predicted when I signed up. I had no illusions about actually competing for a high placing... for a frame of reference, the winner, 3 time Tour of Spain winner Roberto Heras completed the race in 21 minutes, 45 seconds! But it was a lot of fun, and I have to admit the adrenaline rush of competition was fun to feel for the first time in a long time.

After the race the kind folks at Brompton provided tea for the competitors... for the Americans reading, that means not just tea, but tea, small sandwiches, and small cakes. I have to admit, it's a very civilized custom that I kinda wish we had in the States! And it really hit the spot after the ride. The rest of the afternoon was spent chatting and getting acquainted with Brompton fans from all over, which was a lot of fun. In many cases, it was a chance to put faces with names I had grown to know through the internet, which I always enjoy. I even had the gratifying experience of someone telling me they've read this blog (Hi Steve!)!

Before re-boarding the coach to return to London, I took some time to explore the palace gardens and grounds, which were lovely, and to ride around the race course one more time, slowly. What a beautiful setting! And a gorgeous day!

You can see more photos of the event and the course, as well as a few of the palace, in my BWC 2009 set on Flickr. While you're there, you can also check out some of my other albums from sightseeing in London and Cornwall.

There I am, borrowed clothes and all, leaning into a curve, racing around Blenheim Palace on my Brompton. Even I have to admit it's a somewhat comical sight!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Me at the BWC

Here's one of the photos from the official photographers, showing me zooming past Blenheim Palace, decked out in the official Brompton jacket. Despite the look of "grim determination", I was actually grinning like a schoolkid inside! It was just so fun to think that here I was, in England, with 599 other people, racing folding bikes around the palace where Winston Churchill was born. Besides, it was such a beautiful setting... rolling fields, thick groves of trees, sheep, pheasants, dove... a lovely place. I didn't really pause to enjoy the scenery so much during the race, but went on an additional lap afterwards, when I stopped and took photos along the way. Look for them in my BWC folder on Flickr.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

BWC Pictures on Flickr!

Okay, I haven't captioned them yet or anything, but I put my photos from the Brompton World Championship in a set on my Flickr site:

Basically a bunch of before and after shots, since I couldn't race AND take pictures at the same time. Reportedly one fellow who tried that crashed as a result. We had two crashes in the race, both in the same location.

More to come!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Official Results are In!

...and I'm back from England! And a bit tired, so it may be a bit before I get cracking on writing in detail about the trip.

But, I wanted to post how I did. About where I figured, actually, smack in the middle of the field. Overall, I placed 338th out of 600. In the Men's catgegory, I was 315th, and in the Male Senior (adult under 50) 247th. My time for the whole race, two laps, was 32 minutes, 50 seconds, split as 15:41 on the first lap 17:10 on the second. Yes, I know the math doesn't work, but that's what the official site said. Clearly the first lap took a lot out of me. Thinking back, I probably hit it too hard on the first lap, not realizing there was a pretty sizable hill about halfway in the lap, which really knocked me for a loop. Now that I know the course better, I could probably do a little better, but I'm happy with my time. Roberto Heras has nothing to fear. :-)

I also wanted to take this opportunity for thanks... most of all to John, for making it possible for me to take this trip, as well as helping keep you all posted while I was gone. And thanks to all who have been following along. I'll post more soon, about the BWC and about the rest of the trip. Watch here and on my personal blog Spokes of a Wheel.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Photos from the BWC

Bikes on their start marks. Tim's is red one in front.

The gent in the loud suit won best dressed

 By the registration tent before the ride

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Tim Report: Race Results

9:48 EDT  Roberto Heras won the race. I did not.    We're disappointed, but proud.

9:49 EDT  But I had a blast. Tough course actually!  Okay, now on with the fun Tim!

Race Day Tim Report

Using Tim's Tweets from Twitter we surmise the following:

Sunday morning, race day.  Tim is up and he knows what day it is.

Up before 6am to catch 2 buses to factory.  He has to be excited about the prospects and he is getting pretty good at getting around in London.  Perhaps he has had some coaching from Brompton representatives.

On the bus at the factory.  Bike in back.   Good Progress!

At Blenheim Palace now.  Just out of the coaches.  Tim has not mentioned the weather and the UK shows sunshine so he probably would have disembarked to a beautiful fall day with the gathering of thousands of cyclists and fans.  Perfect!

Bike is on it's mark and Im suited up.  This is a Leman style start so the bike is placed folded on a specific mark.  Tim will walk or run to the bike to unfold it and then ride.  By suited up he means he has on his helmet, shirt, tie, suitcoat, shorts, and knowing Tim his riding sandals.  Now we don't yet know about that wardrobe malfunction that he alluded to in a tweet several days ago.

Im in a maroon jacket with Brompton logos.  Oh, there it is.  He must have left his suitcoat (actually mine) in Vienna.  So instead of a bland dark coat he'll be wearing a maroon one.  How sporty!

Blue shirt blue tie also borrowed from Nigel of Brompton.  Wow!  He must have left his entire riding outfit at home.  Good thing Nigel is so generous.  Wouldn't that Nigel in oue of the photos yesterday?

Crazy outfits here.  Lots of fun.  Yep, the videos on Youtube show wacky outfits were worn in past years.  I'll bet it is fun with all those wacky outfits, Bromptons, and cyclists.

We've just been briefed and soon we're off.  Yes .........yes............ now what's happening?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Tim's Tours Today: Brompton Factory and London by Brompton

The Saturday Morning Tim Report

Tim is getting more comfortable with his environment.  He reports he is on his way to the "Tube" to go to the Brompton Factory Tour..

As an aside ...... I got notice yesterday that Brompton's production line is fully sold out until January.  Humorously this was an hour after I had mailed in a check and order for Bromptons.  So they'll come in January.

Yesterday Tim encountered a rating activity that you don't see much in this country.  The British recognize the importance of clean facilities.

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Afternoon Tim Report

Tim is working his way through London to see the sites.  Here are photos of the White Tower at the Tower of London and of London Bridge (didn't that get moved to Arizona?).

At this moment Tim is at the Tower of London

Tim Fricker is out being a tourist in London today.  Right this moment he is at the Tower of London and he promises photos later.  We do get to see the view out his hotel window from his photos.  We also now know that his number for the Brompton World Championship will be #0722, he thinks.

No, he has sent no more information about his wardrobe malfunction.  As soon as we know the story it will be shared.

Here's the view in London today.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Oh my, is this a wardrobe malfunction?

It is not entirely clear from Tim's tweets, but it seems that he must have left part of his riding outfit out of his packing.  He's asking about a London second hand clothing alternative.  This should be a good story.

In the meantime, he seems to have had a good day in Falmouth.  He had photos of Neil and Hero in front of their cottage.  We saw the roads of Cornwall as he took a spin on an ICE trike.  There was also an opportunity to see the inside of the ICE work area.  Here's that photo for your inspection.

A view of the ICE/Trice works on Twitpic

Tim is in Cornwall visiting ICE/Trice

And about to go to bed.  Tired!  Long day after a long night's flight, but fun anyway.  Neil and Hero are great.  I see the factory tomorrow, and get back on the train to London.  Cornwall is gorgeous... if I had it to do again, I might have planned another night here.

So far I haven't found a wifi zone that will let me in.  I'm using Neil's computer right now.  Hopefully when I get to my hotel tomrrow it will work fine there.  Otherwise I have to set data roaming on, and that might cost a lot if I'm not careful.

Hope all is well there.  Say hi to folks for me.

Tim is visiting