I've been spending way too much time and money lately on somehing peculiar: mapping solutions for long bicycle trips. I dream of having a perfect map that will tell me which roads are awful and which are awesome. Technology is almost, but not quite, there.

DeLorme's Topo USA 7.0 is a good product, and we use it on Bike & Build. Its major strength is that DeLorme researches the data for the product independently, instead of buying it from one of the standard map providers (NavTeq, for example). At least, I think they do. The major weakness of Topo is that it doesn't tell you which roads are gravel.

Garmin packages a bunch of different data. They rebadge NavTeq road data in the forms of CityNavigator and Metroguide. These maps are pretty well suited for in-car use, but don't seem to be ideal for the bicycle.

I've decided that a mapping GPS is the way to go. Instead of waiting for the Garmin Edge 705, I've decided to buy a Garmin eTrex Vista HCx. That ought to be here on Tuesday. I'll post my experiences with that device in due time.


Training for Intercity

I've decided that the height of my spring this year will be the one-day Intercity ride. I've made the attempt to ride from Boston, MA to New York, NY several times before, but have always either opted to make it a two-day trip, or to stop in New Haven and take the train the rest of the way.

This year, I'm going to make a serious attempt to ride from New York, NY to Boston, MA in one day (24 hours). This is certainly the more difficult direction, as this puts the worse hills in the second 100 miles of the ride. However, there is a better chance of a tailwind in the northbound direction.

Since the last attempts, I've learned a few things. Compared to the last run, here are some of the new improvements that I hope will help me actually do this:

* Better training. Since November of 2007, I've logged at least 100 hours of riding, including at least 50 hours on PowerCranks. This base training will help me with the real training work coming in March and April: the slow transition to longer and longer rides, ending with a couple of 140-mile rides in May.

* Better equipment. My bike has properly fitting aero bars, which offer a radical new body position and allow me to ride faster, more efficiently, and more comfortably. I've made some changes to my fit, raising the saddle and shortening my stem, to address the fact that I have long legs. I have more places to store stuff on the bike, and more water bottles than before.

* Better fueling. I've learned volumes about proper nutrition and recovery from a number of sources, including a coworker who rode PBP this past summer. I know that, on average, I can expect to burn 35 calories per mile. This means that, every hour, in addition to consuming a liter of water, I will need to eat about 600-650 calories. I also need to eat and drink before I feel hungry or thirsty, or I just won't have the energy to continue. This requires liquid fuel; I'm experimenting with a few options at the moment.

* Better trained partners. Hopefully, when I do this ride again, I'll be riding with at least one other person who is driven to do this and has put in the requisite training hours.

* Better technology. A PowerTap will help me monitor how many calories I've burned, and a new GPS with longer battery life will help me avoid getting lost.

This May, we will learn whether or not I can, in fact, ride 230 hilly miles without stopping.


Outdoor Riding!

I'm a huge wuss when it comes to cold weather. Sure, I still managed to ride the 140 miles from Boston to New Haven in 30 F (-2 C) temperatures once, but I didn't like it very much.

With that said, I'm getting cabin fever from training inside! When possible, my preference is to train outside. It's been warmer in New York lately, with temperatures poking above the freezing point for the first time in a while. As long as it's not below freezing, the weather is bearable for riding, with the right gear.

Here's what I wore on my ride this morning:
Feet: Woolie Boolie wool socks under my bike shoes.
Legs: Bib Knicker tights under long windblocking tights.
Torso: UnderArmour base layer under heavy-ish cycling jacket.
Hands: Specialized Radiant gloves.
Head: cycling cap under helmet.

When I got in from my hour of riding, I was, for the most part, reasonably warm. In these cold conditions, the most important thing is to keep your joints, particularly your knees, warm. Remember to wear lip balm to ward off wind-burn on your lips, it's not pleasant if it happens!

Unfortunately, the list above represents several hundred dollars of bicycle-specific clothing. If you're on a budget, here are some tips:
* your "base layer" can be a tight fitting wool sweater under a regular long-sleeve bike jersey.
* you can wear the heaviest (non-cotton!) socks you have under your shoes to keep your feet warm.
* If you don't have a cycling cap, get a thin pullover hat and loosen your helmet so you can fit the helmet over the hat.
* Any gloves (not mittens!) will keep your hands warm. You can buy cheap one-size-fits-all gloves, and use those as glove liners.
* If worse comes to worse, you can wear rain pants or some other long athletic pants instead of bike tights. Just make sure you use a pant strap, so the pants don't get caught in the chainrings.

Go ride! No excuses! Do it now!


It's A Wash

The unfortunate truth of riding your bicycle is that you will inevitably make your clothing absolutely filthy. I'm talking smelly, sticky, salty, doesn't-go-away foulness here. It's horrible.

On the flipside, it's not hard to keep your shiny new bicycle clothing looking shiny and new! Here are the two ways I wash my own clothing.

Prerequisite: find a color-free and fragrance-free laundry detergent. The fewer chemicals, the better. Avoid fabric softener. Remember that the job of proper laundry soap is to wet and emulsify stains, NOT to "look pretty" or "smell nice"! I keep my laundry soap in an old bicycle water bottle, just for fun.

Option 1: Sink Wash.
After every ride, I go into the bathroom, stop the sink, start running warm-ish water, and squirt about 1-2 tablespoons of detergent into the water. Then, I drop in the spandex I used on the ride: jersey, tights, socks, gloves. I wash these by hand, rinse 2-3 times or until the water runs clean, squeeze (not wring!), and hang to dry. In 40% humidity, it takes about 8 hours for everything to dry.

Option 2: Machine Wash.
Bicycle spandex is machine washable. Wash in cold water, and tumble dry on low or no heat. Drip dry if possible.

A stock of clean clothing is a right, not a privilege. Eddy Merckx made it a point of always having a clean set of clothing handy at races. There is no need to ride in unwashed, foul smelling spandex if you can avoid it.



Shaven legs are one of the cannons of bicycle racers everywhere. There is a very simple technical reason for this practice: shaving your legs makes it that much easier to clean a wound, if you are so unfortunate as to fall off of your bicycle. Really, that's all. (Well, shaven legs do look better, but that's relatively unimportant. They certainly are more aerodynamic.)

The practice of shaving legs was imprinted on American popular culture in the 1979 film "Breaking Away":

Cyril: Hey! Are you really gonna shave your legs?
Dave: Certo! All the Italians do it.
Mike: Ah. Some country. The women don't shave theirs.

Mom: What's the matter?
Dad: He's shavin'.
Mom: Well... so what?
Dad: ...his legs.

If you want to shave your own legs, here's how:
1. Find a hair clipper, and remove excess hair growth. You can't get to this with a regular razor, there is too much.
2. Using shaving gel and the best 3+ blade razor you can find, wet your legs (perhaps after a shower), apply shaving gel, and shave in long, continuous strokes.
3. Repeat step 2 about once every three days.

You only "need" to shave the portion of your legs that sticks out of your bicycle shorts. Be careful around the pereneum.



CRASH-Bs. The Charles River All Star Has-Beens. Effectively, the world championships of indoor rowing. This happened today, in Boston University's Agganis Arena, Boston, MA.

I am no longer rowing myself, but Jane is, so I went along to encourage her. Encourage I did: Jane rowed 2,000m in 7 minutes and 10.5 seconds, earning herself a personal record finish, 22nd place out of 223 open women, and free ice cream, courtesy of me.

Jack Daniels quantifies two major axes that are the basics of athletic performance: ability, and desire. From here, he defines four athlete types: Type 1 (ability and desire), Type 2 (ability but no desire), Type 3 (no ability but strong desire) and Type 4 (no ability, no desire). I'm not sure where I was with rowing, but Jane definitely seems to be a Type 1. Excellent work, dear!

I hope to do well in bicycle races, starting next weekend. I need to really set out my goals: training for short-distance bicycle races and long-distance painfest rides like the Intercity are competing goals.


The Burn

In this post, I'm going to answer a question that you've been meaning to ask me for a while: "What's that thing on your left arm?"

On December 13, 2003, I received second- and third-degree burns on my left arm.

I was a freshman at MIT, living (illegally) at Tau Epsilon Phi. I was working on a 6.001 programming project, and was about 3 lines of code away from completing the project. I decided to take a walk, use the restroom, get some food, and wander up to the 4th floor, where there was a commotion as a result of pepole having fun.

On the fourth floor, I discovered what people were watching. Mark Tobenkin, the other freshman at TEP, was demonstrating a neat phenomenon that he learned from the residents of the Third East hall at the East Campus dorm: a coffee can fire tornado. Here's how you make one (don't try this at home): take an old coffee can, cut vertical slits from the top of the can from the top to 1" from the bottom at 0 and 180 degrees, and fill the can with 1/2" of isopropanol. Stand back, drop a match in, and watch. The can's slits will draw air in tangentially to the can, creating a spiral of fire. It's quite cool, and remarkably safe.

Mark's error was procedural carelessness. As the fire kept going, and consumed its fuel, it began to die down. Instead of letting the fire extinguish itself, he decided to pour more isopropanol in. He became more amused every time he poured more fuel in.

The fourth time that Mark poured more isopropanol into the fire, I found myself wrapped in a ball of flames. I was sitting across the floor from the can and from Mark. I raised my left arm to shield my face.

Within 4 seconds, I realized that my arm had caught fire. Another TEP, Jesse, was running around, as has legs had caught fire. I kept my calm. I rolled on the floor, and yelled at otherwise panicking people to throw a blanket on me to extinguish the flame. Once the fire was out, I grabbed the fire extinguisher, put out the trash can that had caught fire, and started running cold water over my arm. In retrospect, I didn't run nearly enough cold water over my arm.

I'm excellent at handling emergencies. I lived through the September 11th attacks, which took place three blocks from my high school on a sunny summer Tuesday. I keep my calm and stay pragmatic. If you're cycling across the country this summer, bear this in mind.

In about 20 minutes, I was at Mass General Hospital, receiving care for the burn. Jesse's burns were deemed worse than mine, so he received a skin graft immediately and was out of the hospital in 7 days. The doctors decided to wait a week before giving me a skin graft, so I missed all of my finals, and Christmas, and stayed in the hospital for 18 days.

The burn, and the associated cleaning and scrubbing of the burn. was the most painful thing I've ever experienced. A second-degree burn is by definition the most painful thing you can feel, as third-degree burns entail nerve damage and are less painful. In addition, the smell of burning flesh and seared hair was the most foul odor I've encountered.

This notorious story made the papers back in 2003. http://archive.seacoastonline.com/2003news/12152003/south_of/b.htm. As usual, the slime at the Associated Press didn't check their facts properly. I was in no way responsible for this accident, though it's my own fault that I didn't leave, or tell Mark to stop being unsafe with fire.

I have mixed feelings about making this a blog post. There are some aspects of this story that I'd like to forget or keep secret, but at the same time, posting it here means I won't have to continue repeating it or awkwardly avoiding the question.


Wheels That Work

I'm a wheelbuilder! I've built a few wheels, and hope to build more in the future. Hand wheelbuilding is a fun craft, one that I hope never dies.

My favorite book on this topic is The Art Of Wheelbuilding by Gerd Schraner. It's an excellent and thorough 100-page introduction to the art and craft of hand-built wheels.

In short, your wheels are a very substantial component of your bicycle, and, like your frame, should be carefully chosen to suit the task at hand. Your wheels should say something about you, your body, and the type of riding you do. I recently built a bombproof pair of wheels for myself for long-distance touring and city riding. I chose Chris King road hubs, DT Swiss RR 1.2 rims, and 32 butted DT Swiss 2.0/1.8/2.0 spokes. They're very traditional, very solid wheels.

For a Bike and Build trip, I would suggest bringing wheels that have at least 28 spokes in a radial, 2-cross, or 3-cross lacing. The wheels can be as fancy, or not fancy, as you'd like.

I've alluded to the fact that I don't recommend paired spoke wheels, such as the Bontrager Race Lites, for Bike and Build. Though the spokes rarely fail on these paired spoke wheels, a single spoke failure is more than enough to ruin the rim. There are not enough spokes on these wheels, and they are spaced too far apart. Don't get me wrong, paired spoke wheels can be very light and fast, but they belong on the race course, not the open road. (If you do have paired spoke wheels , you'll probably be fine.)

Shimano seems to agree that paired spoke wheels are a bad idea. Their Dura-Ace wheelset has returned to traditional spoke lacing after many years.

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/rinard/wheel/index.htm provides some interesting technical information on wheels, if anyone cares. :-)


Girls On Bikes, Part II

I'm going to overhaul this blog entry based on some feedback I've received.

Joe Friel argues in "The Cyclist's Training Bible" that women and men are not all that different in terms of athletics. There are inherent physiological differences between men and women which, among other things, affect body composition and diet. Furthermore, as a rule, women tend to have longer legs and smaller hands than men of the same height.

In bicycling, this means that women, particularly shorter women, may want to test ride women's bicycles, such as the Specialized Dolce , before making a purchasing decision. The Dolce is not for everyone, but if it is for you, it will save you a fair amount of trouble.

I think it's great that women participate in sports, including bicycling and rowing. I fully encourage this.

Happy now?


Is The Dolce For You?

It's about the time that everyone on the Boston to Santa Barbara route is starting to think about getting their bicycles. I wanted to write a brief article detailing the differences between men and women, with respect to buying a bicycle.

I agree with what Joe Friel, author of The Cyclist's Training Bible, says about female cyclists. Compared to their male counterparts, women tend to be shorter, have smaller hands, have longer legs in proportion to their body height, have narrower shoulders, and have a lower center of gravity. (They also tend to have higher body fat, less muscle mass, and be iron deficient.) Granted, these blanket statements are not true of all women - such as Libby, the All-American rower who stands at 6'0", or Jane, who has a longer torso than me despite being shorter than I am. The trend, however, does seem to hold.

In light of the aforementioned observations, I think that many women should at least take a look at bicycles designed specifically for women. Many women who are below about 5'5" tall should at least give a women's specific frame a test ride, if they have the chance. Moreover, many mass-produced bikes only go down to a 49cm frame size, which is still too large for some women.

If you're in doubt, find your local bicycle shop and go for a test ride. Do it today!

Women's bicycles tend to address the basic anatomic differences between men and women. These bicycles will offer narrower handlebars with shorter drops, shims to reduce the reach to the brake levers, longer seat tubes, and shorter top tubes, than men's bicycles of the same size. They also come with saddles designed soecifically for women; these saddles tend to be wider, and account for the more obvious differences between the genders.

Please note that when I refer to "women's" bicycles, I am only referring to bicycles which were designed for female riders' dimensions. I am not making any assertions about the bicycle's top tube! Once and for all, I'd like to put to rest the connotation of a "women's bike" having a severely dropped top tube. The best bicycles, for men and women, within most reasonable price ranges, have a double-diamond frame.

In the end, the only way to know that your bicycle truly fits you is to have an experienced cyclist take a good long look at your riding position. I can only help so many people, so this is yet another plug for visiting your local bike shop: in addition to performing a tune-up on your ride, your LBS can make sure your bicycle is the correct size, and swap out saddles and stems to help you get the right fit.


Bicycle Break-In

When you buy a new bicycle from a reputable bike shop, there is a good reason that it takes some time to "build" the bike. When a company boxes a bike for shipping, it can be in any condition. It is up to the shop to make the bike safe for on-road riding. This includes checking the brakes, shifters, handlebars, and wheels.

Even the most carefully built bicycle will need a tune-up after a couple of weeks, or a couple of hundred miles, of riding. The brake and shifter cables will stretch and settle, meaning that they will have to be readjusted. The wheels, if not meticulously hand built, will also settle, and need to be trued. The chain's factory coating will wear away, and require replacement.

My advice to everyone reading this is to make friends with a local bike shop (LBS) or someone with bicycle repair experience, and have them take a look at your bicycle after a couple of weeks of riding. You'll be glad you did (though you may not realize it).

The good news (for Bike & Build riders) is that Zane's is properly assembling bicycles before re-packing them for shipping, as I just confirmed. (The bad news is that the quotes I originally received for bicycle upgrades were wrong. I'll update with more information as it becomes available.)


Into the Wild Blue Yonder

I am sitting at my desk, researching potential places to house a group of 30 cyclists for an evening in August. As Bike and Build makes its way across Death Valley and the Mojave Desert, we will rely on our hosts to give us a place to sleep, and if we are truly lucky, a meal and a shower.

The miracle that is Google allows me to find, say, all of the churches in Palmdale, CA with relative ease. Just ten years ago, I would have needed to spend a long afternoon at the New York Public Library, perusing the yellow pages (remember those?).

I have spent many hours compiling a mailing for potential hosts, consisting of a DVD, a letter about our trip, an itinerary, and a map, as well as a confirmation form. I went the extra mile, and found a color printer to print all of these documents. I think it presents Bike and Build in a very professional light.

I can only guess if the eventual recipients of my letters will look favorably at my staggering request: accommodations for 30. As the letters fly off into the wild blue yonder, I can only hope to chase them, slowly and steadily, on my bicycle.


Get the Specialized Allez Elite Compact

A number of Bike and Build riders have been asking me which bicycle they should get, and in which size. There is some confusion as to the available options, so I'd like to go on the record once and for all and clarify them.

1. The default bicycle is the Specialized Allez Triple. If you are under 5'5" and female, get the Specialized Dolce for very slightly more. If you don't want to think or worry about this too much, get this bike and stop reading.

2. If you have $287 to spend and want a nicer bike, get the Specialized Allez Elite Compact. It is lighter than the Allez Triple, has better parts (Tiagra versus Sora), has better wheels, and is more comfortable.

3. DO NOT buy the Trek 1.5!! It is more expensive than the Allez Elite Compact ($300), and has worse wheels, worse parts, and a worse frame. Getting this bicycle is a joke, and you won't be laughing.

4. If you have your own road bike, AND it has Tiagra or better parts, AND you've been riding it for a while and are comfortable on it, AND it's in good shape or has had a recent tune-up, bring that on the ride and stop worrying.

What size do you need? This is easy. First, you need to measure your inseam. This is the distance from your crotch to the floor. Take off your socks and shoes, get into a pair of bike shorts, stand against a wall with your feet 6" apart, and shove an appropriately sized book (an empth 1/2" binder works) against your crotch. It should be snug, like a bike saddle, and perpendicular to the wall. Have a friend measure from the book to the floor. Repeat.

Now, take your inseam, convert it to centimeters, and multiply it by 0.65. This is your frame size. If you have an exceptionally short torso, err on the smaller side. If you have a longer torso, err on the larger side.

Examples: Jane has a 77.5cm inseam, so she should be riding a 50cm bike. However, Jane has a really long torso, so she is riding a 52cm. I have an 87.8cm inseam, so I should be on a 57cm bike, but I have a short torso, so I ride a 56cm.


The Bike and Build Network

I just came back from dinner and drinks with a few Bike and Build friends, some of whom will be on my trip this summer, others of whom are current or past riders on previous trips.

Having a network is crucial for doing well on this trip, or any similar trip. Wherever you are, there is likely to be someone who is doing, or has done, Bike and Build or a similar trip. Just casual conversation with them can bring forward some issues, calm some concerns, and reassure you that doing the trip is quite possible. That, and there are a lot of interesting people who do things like bicycling across the United States, and are just fun people to know.

To everyone who came tonight: thank you. To everyone who didn't: we missed you.

Please let me know if you'd like help finding B&B alums in your area, or if you have any proposals for future log entries.


On Fit: Procedural Information

This article is the second in a series on bicycle fit. In this article, I will present some tips on fit, stolen directly from the Andy Pruitt book on bicycling, as well as the wise words of Glenn Swan of Swan Cycles, near Cornell. (If you're coming to "Shop Hours" tomorrow, I'll show you these same tricks.)

I'd like to make a few disclaimers, first. No single algorithm can perfectly determine your position on the bicycle the first time through. Your position on your bicycle is the result of a long-term relationship, and a series of tweaks, calibrations, and meditations. Furthermore, these tips make a fairly strong assumption: you have a road bike, and want to go fast. You must be flexible enough to touch your toes after a brief warm-up, or else a few things change.

Your fit must take your body into account. If you have a curved spine, severe pronation, legs of different lengths, or any known medical conditions, you need to address these, not ignore them.

When I fit people, I think about the five points of contact to the bicycle: shoes, saddle, and hands. I work from the bottom up. I use a trainer to secure the bike, and a plumb bob and goniometer to measure angle and position. I have a centimeter measuring tape, pen, and paper handy.

The centerline of the cleats should be just below the balls of the feet. I ask people to put their cycling shoes on, and find the bumps on the inside and outside of the front of the foot. This tells me where the ball of the foot is. I adjust the cleats to be centered on a line between these two points, and adjust rotation so the rider's foot is in a good neutral position.

Saddle height is the tricky one. I start with the LeMond formula, with the saddle height at 0.883 times the rider's inseam from crotch to floor. I then ask the rider to ride for 5 minutes, then make changes and observe. When I'm done, the rider's leg is extended to 25 degrees at the bottom of the stroke (I use the goniometer here). With cranks horizontal, the front of the forward knee should be right over the end of the crankarm (I use the plumb bob here).

Handlebar width is very straightforward: the center to center dimension of the bars should be the same as the distance between the bony bumps on the rider's shoulders, where the arm attaches to the collarbone.

Reach is somewhat tricky as well. One useful starting point is to have the rider place their elbow at the tip of the saddle, and adjust stem length so the bars are within 2-3cm of the tip of their index finger. The rider should have knee clearance in all positions. The rider should not be supporting a large percentage of their body weight on their hands; I check this by putting my hands under theirs. When adjusting height, I want the rider's body to be at a 40-45 degree angle to the ground; this varies depending on the experience, agressiveness, and flexibility of the rider.

Aero bars offer a slightly different issue. With those, I want the rider to be a little more forward on the saddle. The upper arm should be about parallel to the front fork, and the forearm should be at just about a 90-100 degree angle to the upper arm. The pads should be under the "meat" of the forearm, and supporting a fair amount of the rider's weight.

Many people seem to have a poor view of this elementary fit principle. I respond with the disclaimer: this offers a starting position, nothing more and nothing less. A proper fit is the result of time and effort, more than I can do in an hour at my current level of expertise.




I first learned of PowerCranks during the first glorious age of bicycling, back in 2002. Back then, much as I do now, I spent most my free time perusing the Internets for fancy training tools. The PowerCranks were one of the most intriguing devices I saw, and though I could not afford them at the time, I knew I would eventually have a pair, one day.

Frank Day, the inventor and founder of PowerCranks, firmly believes that PowerCranks are the only way to train particular muscle groups effectively. I got a chance to meet him twice: the first time, at the expo accompanying the New York City Cycling Championships, and the second time at the track world championships in 2005. There he was, both times, with a trainer and those PowerCranks, mocking me.

So, what exactly are PowerCranks? You won't like the answer. Most bicycle cranks are connected to each other, so that one crank turns the other crank. It's the standard setup that everyone knows and loves. PowerCranks replace that lovely connection with a one way clutch, making the cranks independent. Have you ever tried riding a bicycle with only one foot clipped in? It's hard. Well, riding with PowerCranks is like doing the one-footed drill, with both feet at the same time, all the time.

I finally bought a shiny used pair of PowerCranks in December off of eBay, after reading all of the testimonials of how already world-class athletes got even faster by training on these cranks. I fell for it, and put the cranks on my training bike. Since I got the cranks in December, which is bitterly cold here in New York, I was forced to really start using them on the rollers, after a test ride outside to make sure the installation was successful.

PowerCranks, or pOWercranks as I prefer to call them, are hard.

The very first time I used the pOWercranks on the rollers, I was in a world of pain. I had put in a solid 40 hours of training time on the rollers, but riding these torture devides was hell on earth. I had gotten quite skilled at riding the rollers, but I was only able to ride the cranks for about 5 minutes at a time before having to stop. My feet kept getting out of time. I kept missing strokes. I think I fell over once. It was hard.

I've now logged about 50 hours with the PowerCranks on my rollers, and have to say that these were the wisest purchase I've ever made. True to Frank Day's promise, my hamstrings and hip flexors have gotten stronger than they ever have been. I can hold down around 300W on the rollers for the better part of 45 minutes on the rollers. I'm nowhere near my potential, but I don't think I'm insane enough to take them on my trip this summer.



Part of being a Bike and Build trip leader is inevitably some aspect of leadership. To me, the most important parts of the leader position are logistics: finding a place for 30 bicyclists to eat and sleep for free, planning safe routes, coordinating gear orders, and making sure people are training, raising money, and thinking about the issues at hand, these are what define my role. In a sense, I would think that "Trip Coordinator" is a better title than "Trip Leader."

The last time I did this, it took me a while to figure out that riders do in fact rely on the people running the show fairly directly, and both appreciate and benefit from competent "leadership." With that said, I'd like to enumerate some of the philosophical points that (hopefully) frame the way I plan and help coordinate a big trip like Bike and Build:

* Equality. The people on this trip are close enough to me in age, maturity, and education to be considered my peers. I like to think of everyone as being at about the same level.
* Transparency. The only thing that differentiates me from any other rider on this trip is the inordinate amount of time I'm spending dealing with logistics, and thinking of things I can do and say to help everyone have a better time on the road. There are no secrets here; I try to be as open as I can, in the hopes that I'll receive constructive feedback.
* Attention to detail. As an engineer type, I like to see things run perfectly smoothly. I tend to spend more time looking into things with more depth.
* Patience. I'm not very good at this one. I like things to be done quickly and perfectly; I need to work on being more flexible, and more forgiving. What I can say is that doing anything for a large group of individuals takes time, planning, and a large degree of patience.
* Delegation. I have a fair amount of energy, and can get a decent amount of things done in a day, but there are upper bounds to what I'm capable of doing alone. Delegation goes with equality: since we're all on the same level, all of us can do things that help the trip run more smoothly.
* Selflessness. This is another tough one, for me. I see this as being able to put down what you're doing to help someone else. This is all well and good in theory, but I do need some amount of personal time, and as mentioned above, there are upper bounds to how much I can do in a single day.

I know (hope) that people are reading this, so I'd like to open this to everyone. What aspects of leadership do you find appealing or necessary? What does leadership mean to you? If you are on a Bike and Build trip this summer, or were in the past, what things did the trip leaders do (or not do) to make your summer better?

Thank you and goodnight.



Bicycling is certainly the most material of the sports in existence, short of professional motor racing. I tend to worry, and compulsively obsess, about having the very best parts out there, from power meters to tires to aero bars. With all the items I need and want to buy, I find that I need to stop and simply ride my bicycle every now and then.

In an attempt to divert my own materialistic tendencies, I spent some time on my subway ride home this evening contemplating the exact role of all of these gizmos and gadgets, eventually arriving at a core question of technology versus marketing.

I am a professional technologist. My day job - computer system administration - is one in which I work with a group of individuals to provide and support a technological infrastructure for end users. The end users have the supreme luxury of being able to depend on us for the design, care, and feeding of the systems we build.

As a bicyclist and a bicycle mechanic, I find myself forced to be both the producer and the consumer of technology, both the user and the administrator. My goal is to ride my bicycle, as fast as I can, and as far as I can, without having to stop. I want my experience on the bicycle to be seamless. If I push the pedal down, I want to glide forward. If I press a shifter button, I want to be in a different gear. I'm very demanding.

Unfortunately, in these winter months, I spend more time obsessing about my bicycle and its parts than I do riding it. Do I need the 100mm or the 110mm stem? Is the Garmin Edge 705 a worthwhile purchase, given that it has mapping capability, but won't talk to my PowerTap, and I already have an Edge 305? Will my bicycle's stretched out geometry allow me to run aero bars in a comfortable position? If my bicycle is refusing to shift, should I repair or replace the defective components?

My girlfriend and I have somewhat disparate views. We will both push the limits of the technology we have, but she is far more reluctant than I am to try new things.

It is important, be it with computers, bicycles, or any other major (and expensive!) technological system, to not let materialism rule.


Electronic Cue Sheets!

Wouldn't be cool if you had a device that told you where to ride your bike? Instead of cue sheets, just this really clever little computer that kept you from getting lost?

I purchased the Garmin Edge 305 back in 2006 hoping that it would be just that. I wanted in-car GPS functionality, as well as speed, cadence, and heart rate. I found, quickly, that you can want whatever you want, but you can only do so much to work around a poor product and poor software.

The Edge 305 is not customizable in the way I want. I want to be able to upload routes and follow them easily. I don't want to worry about the pathetically small memory of the device getting filled. I wish I didn't have to work this hard to figure this out. I've been fighting this stupid little device for going on two years now, and there is no elegant way of getting routes onto it, short of wiping its memory every time. It's designed for repetition of a few routes, not touring.

An in-car GPS works well enough, but it's not designed for a bicycle. It won't tell you speed, cadence and heart rate the way that the Edge 305 does, and it won't mount on your handlebars or withstand a rain shower, but at least it works.

Garmin is releasing the Edge 705 later this spring. If that device were to support proper routing, and give me speed, cadence, and heart rate, AND be able to listen to my PowerTap SL 2.4 power meter, I would be quite pleased. Time will tell.

Maybe I should just give this all up and stick to paper cue sheets.


Weight Loss

This is the story of how I lost 50 lbs in 4 months. This story is awesome.

In my life, bicycling and weight loss have been tightly coupled on several occasions. Prior to the bicycle, my main means of entertainment had a name: "Super Nintendo." As a youngster, I was quite overweight, unathletic, and always last pick whenever we played any sports. When I first started riding my bicycle seriously in middle school, it was the first time in my life I was getting regular exercise. Somewhat disturbingly, I noticed that the slimmer I got, the nicer everyone was to me.

By the time I was a senior in high school, I was weighing in at 180 lbs.

I blame MIT for stealing my focus and replacing it with pounds, though I realize that I only have myself to blame. As a freshman, I was forcefully thrust into a new world, one with far more complexity and less structure than my previous environment. I was burned out from bicycling, and had no plan, no track, and no destination. I joined the MIT Crew team. I both used food to compensate for the misery of life as an undergrad, and overestimated my daily calorie expenditure. The "Freshman Fifteen" was a conservative myth. In my case, "Freshman Fifty" was the most appropriate description of my situation.

I stopped rowing due to burnout at the end of freshman year. Though my weight stayed about constant, at around 230 lbs, I lost muscle mass and gained body fat. At my worst, I was about 27% body fat. The numbers confirmed what I could tell by looking in a mirror: I was overweight.

The combination of Bike and Build, and returning to the crew team in my senior year at MIT, helped but did not solve my weight issue. I was able to lose body fat, and gain muscle mass, but my weight hovered between 210 and 225 pounds. I was certainly athletic, and had a fearsome cardiovascular system, but my appearance did not match the power that lay within. I had a V10 engine in a Buick body; I wanted to be the Ferrari. When I left MIT Crew again, and finally left MIT, I stopped exercising entirely and started putting on the pounds.

One fateful evening in August of 2007, Jane, my lovely girlfriend of now 21 months, called me out. She said that, as wonderful as she thought I was, and as horrible as she felt for feeling the way she did, she was frankly starting to become less attracted to me on account of my weight. The last domino had fallen into place. I knew it was time to act.

I spent the better part of the next five hours doing all of the research I could about diets, eating healthily, losing weight, and human metabolism. I looked at what every Web site recommended. I noted which facts kept appearing on different Web sites. I tried to scientifically prove or disprove every fact I saw. By the end of the process, I had compiled the following list of principles and philosophies:

* A diet is, by definition, starvation to a degree. There is no getting around this.
* Hydration is crucial; people occasionally confuse dehydration with hunger. Water is calorie-free and this preferable.
* Smaller, more frequent meals are better than large meals, since they keep your blood sugar closer to constant and keep the metabolism going at all times.
* Strict calorie control is sufficient for weight loss. The only way to accurately count calories is to weigh and measure food. Beverages have calories too!
* It is best to eat the same amounts of food at the same time every day, since the human body seems to benefit from habitual, repetitive actions.
* Since the body benefits from habit, the only way to truly lose weight was to change my lifestyle and implement changes slowly.
* Every person has a basal metabolic rate, a sort of minimum number of calories required to sustain the body for a day. This is a function of age, gender, height, and weight.
* Humans can healthily lose about 1-3 pounds per week.
* A pound of fat is 3600 calories; thus, to lose a pound in a week, one must be in a 500 calorie deficit.
* Measurement keeps you honest. You must never allow fear to prevent you from monitoring your weight.
* Writing everything down keeps you focused.

The diet I adopted implemented all of these principles with resounding success. As an example, here is what my diet looked like in October of 2007, when I was losing about 2-3 lbs a week.

Jose: 22, male, 5'10.5", 190 lbs. BMR: 1900 calories. Daily activity allowance (sedentary): 400 calories. Daily goal: 1800 calories.
7am: Breakfast. 400 calories. Cereal, milk, banana.
10am: Morning snack. 250 calories. Clif bar, or fresh fruit and granola bar.
1pm: Lunch. 400 calories. Lettuce, tomato, veggie burger, pasta, pasta sauce.
4pm: Afternoon snack. 250 calories. Same as morning snack.
7pm: Dinner. 400 calories. Same as lunch.
9pm: Evening snack. 100 calorie treat. Chocolate, wine, juice, or fresh fruit.

That's all I would eat in a day. I didn't cheat. I had diet soda, if any soda at all, and no candy or sugar!

The diet defined me for the months I did it. Friends got used to the fact that I weighed every single piece of food I ate with a portable scale, and knew that going out for food or drink was simply out of the question. It was one of the most difficult things I've ever done.

On August 15th, 2007. I was somewhere between 220 and 225 lbs and 19% body fat. On December 31, 2007, I was 170 lbs and 11% body fat. I lost the weight, and kept it off. Mission accomplished.

Now that I am vigorously active on most days, I try to keep my body weight between 170 and 175 lbs. The discipline of the diet taught me to have smaller portions, not pick at food, and to deal with hunger.

One of my guiding principles in life is that anyone can do anything. If I can lose 50 lbs, you can ride a bicycle across the country.


ShimaNO - Campy Only! The Roubaix Story and Other Bicycles

Leonard, one of the riders on the Boston to Santa Barbara trip this summer, asked me to elaborate on why I chose Campagnolo over Shimano parts for my flagship racing and touring bicycle, my Specialized Roubaix. In answering this question, I need to elaborate on the history of this bicycle.

The first racing bicycle I ever owned was a 1998 Lightspeed Natchez titanium frame with Shimano Ultegra 9 speed parts. I bought this bicycle for $1000 from a gentlemen I met through LOOT ads; think of these as a predecessor to Craigslist. I was able to buy the bicycle with my own money, saved from working as a computer consultant.

The Litespeed was numbered #0 in my bicycle naming scheme (more on that later). Unfortunately, it was too small for me, so I sold the frame and replaced it with a surplus Mitaya titanium/aluminum frame which I received for free. That frame was also too large.

The proceeds from the sale of #0 went to buying #4, a 2004 Raleigh Competition. This was another Ultegra 9 equipped bike, al aluminum frame with carbon stays and a carbon fork. This bicycle was a pleasure to ride, and served me well during my 2005 ride from Seattle, WA to San Francisco, CA. Unfortunately, I never really fell in love with the bicycle, so I sold it.

I bought my current flagship frame, a 2005 Specialized Roubaix Elite, in the spring of 2006 with the proceeds from the sale of #4. It shipped with, once again, Ultegra 9, which served me well on my Bike and Build tour in 2006.

In the fall of 2006, I had been riding Ultegra 9 shifters and components on every road bike I had ever owned. I was satisfied, but not particularly impressed, with the performance and feel of the componentry. I found the shape of the shift levers to be somewhat uncomfortable, and didn't like the way you could only shift a few gears at a time. They also tended to get sluggish after a while. My training bike happened to come with Campagnolo Veloce 9 parts, which allowed me to shift many gears at a time, and were more comfortable. I also wanted to upgrade the Roubaix to 10 speed, at long last. After looking at the available options, and the bank account, I decided to upgrade the Roubaix to Campagnolo Chorus, with a Record rear derailleur and Centaur brakes.

I've been incredibly happy with my Campagnolo setup. Shifting performance is excellent, of course, but what I appreciate most is Campagnolo's attention to detail. The shape of the shift levers, long and flat with a prominent bump at the end, more closely emulates bullhorn bars and provides a very comfortable continuous surface on the tops of the bars for my large hands. Upshift and downshift are two distinct motions: one is a small button, the other is a separate lever. Unlike Shimano, I can pull the smaller shifting lever closer to the bars, making it easier to shift. I like the way that the indexing mechanism is fully serviceable, and the way that the shifting internals are housed in the shifter body, which is well protected from the elements and doesn't move. I really like the clever way that you open the brakes: there is a little button on the shift lever, which allows the brake cable to slacken. Internal cable routing is incredibly elegant, though it robs the bicycle of a really clever place to mount cue sheets.

The Campagnolo parts, with their carbon fiber accents, complement my bicycle quite nicely. I'm a big fan of the weave look. I like everything about SRAM road components except the shifting mechanism, so I won't be moving away from Campy anytime soon.

So, what are the downsides of running Campagnolo parts? There aren't many. I can run a Shimano 10-speed cassette or chain - it's not recommended, but it works just fine. Campagnolo parts are typically more expensive, and they're certainly harder to replace out in the middle of the country. Since the brake lever doesn't move from side to side, it's easier to damage in a crash, leading to a costly replacement. I also don't have anywhere to put my cue sheets!

Both of my derailleur-equipped bicycles run Campagnolo at the moment. My forthcoming time trial bike will likely sport Shimano components, but Campy and Shimano time trial components are nearly identical, so I'm not too worried.


For the record, I currently own three bicycles:

#5 - 2001 Bianchi Veloce, Campagnolo Veloce 9, re-painted black, has PowerCranks. This is my training bike, purchased on the cheap at a police auction.
#8 - 2005 Specialized Roubaix Elite, Campagnolo Chorus 10, blue. This is my flagship bike.
#9 - 2006 Fuji Track Pro, red/white/black. This is my city bike, though I use it on the velodrome as well.

#6 is reserved for the steel frame which I'm building, #7 has been reserved since the start for a really spiffy time trial bike, likely a 2008 Fuji Aloha CF1.

Either #8 or (possibly) #7 will take me across the United States this summer. Isn't that wild?


Fit, Part One

This posting is the first in a series on the topic of bicycle fit. I'll briefly discuss positioning on a road bike, and what you should look for when sizing yourself on a bicycle. The things I suggest are largely based on Pruitt, as well as tips I've picked up over the years. I'll discuss fit philosophy here, and leave the technical details for future postings.

Regarding fit, you can think of a bicycle as a sort of external skeleton that contacts your body in exactly five places: left and right feet, left and right hands, and crotch. It is very important how these five landmarks are positioned with respect to one another, and how much variation you have in these positions.

Fit is far and away the most individual factor of your bicycle. It directly affects your comfort, your power output, and how well you can avoid injury. If you are short, have a long torso, are not particularly flexible, or have legs of different lengths, your bicycle has better reflect this. My girlfriend Jane and I are proportioned very differently: though there is a height difference of about four inches between us, her torso is longer than mine, and my legs are much longer than hers. Our bicycles reflect this: mine is taller, hers is longer.

There are all sorts of formulas, algorithms, rules, and lore that are connected with fit. No matter what, there is a common thread to all of the methods: you must be comfortable. You must be meticulous and relentless. You must always ask yourself, "Am I in pain, and am I doing anything to address this pain?" If any part of you is sore, numb, or tender after a ride, there is something we must do to correct your position on the bicycle.

I find it helpful to think of the bicycle as part of a system (some would call this a holistic, Zen, or European approach). My body, the bicycle, and the clothing and components on body and bicycle must all work together to propel me down the road at high speed and efficiency. I also find it helpful to scrutinize each aspect of fit in its own right (some would call this an American approach, and do so grudgingly).

In the coming days, I will post more procedural information on the topic of bicycle fit. Stay tuned!


On Rest

Due to my overloaded work schedule, tonight's posting will be a short one, but still one that is relevant.

Getting enough sleep is important, especially for athletic endeavors. This is fairly obvious advice, but still something that seems to give many of us difficulty. Activities push us later and later into the evening, and before we know it, it's past midnight.

Chronic sleep deprivation is a tough habit to break. I have real trouble with this, as I both require at least 6 hours of sleep to be functional, and need more than 18 hours to do everything I need to do in a day.

Instead of elaborating, I offer this haiku:

train on a budget
dont't waste cash on worthless drugs
all you need is sleep



Drinking, or rather, Hydration

"Hydrate or Die."

This is the Camelbak company's aptly chosen motto, and I can't say how true this is. After hearing countless stories of people staying in the hospital overnight due to dehydration on things like cross-country bike rides, I think it's super important to address dehydration.

Here is the short of it: start hydrating, Right Now. Get up, get a glass or bottle of water, and come back. Do not read any further if you do not have water on hand. If you don't hydrate, it may very well be me, and not the sun or dryness, that kills you.

Pruitt argues that athletes are chronically dehydrated, and I think this is true. Rather than duplicate effort by posting the technical details of dehydration (which you can readily find on the Internet), I'll share some of my own stories.

I first began to realize that hydration was really important in college. There were times when I wasn't hungry, and was well rested, but still felt weak, tired, and somewhat nauseous. I learned, eventually, that drinking about 500ml of water would often pull me out of whatever was making me feel unwell. I now carry a water bottle with me everywhere, and fill it whenever it gets below the one-quarter mark.

As part of my diet, during which I lost about 50 pounds (details coming soon!), I started weighing myself right before going to sleep, and right after waking up and visiting the restroom. I found that I was always about 2-3 lbs lighter in the morning. As an example, I was 177.4 lbs last night, and 173.8 lbs this morning. All I did was sleep, and I lost four pounds of water weight through urine, exhalation and perspiration. Four pounds of water is about two liters, two Nalgenes, four Poland Spring bottles, three bicycle water bottles, or eight glasses.

When I ride my rollers during indoor workouts, I soak my bicycle and the floor with perspiration. My shoes become waterlogged and uncomfortable. I go through at least 750ml of water per hour just to break even. It's disgusting. However, when I ride outside, I am completely dry when I return. My heart rate and power meters tells me that I'm working at the same level of effort, which means I must be perspiring about the same amount. The roughly 20mph wind I face on the road takes all of that water away.

Your pee should be copious and clear. The military prints a color chart that they post next to urinals. If you don't believe me, check out http://www.topendsports.com/testing/tests/urine-color.htm.

When riders on my past Bike and Build trip started to get dehydrated, it was not always obvious. Sometimes, riders would seem to be fine, but then feel weak and/or pass out later in the evening, requiring a trip to the hospital (and requiring me to stay awake until 4am). Usually, when riders became quiet, started to become easily irritable, and turned down water, I knew drastic action was necessary. The last thing I ever want to see again is the sight of one of my co-riders lying weakly in a hospital bed, with an IV going in to them.

I'm guilty of dehydration myself, and went to the hospital once. In January of 2006, I was working in New York and going to the gym every day. I would do about 30-90 minutes of hard cardio, some lifting, then visit the steam room and sauna. I was not hydrating nearly enough. After about a week and a half of this, I had to take a day off of work because I had a fever and was not keeping down food. I was dehydrated. I learned my lesson.

In Wyoming, we had a trip meeting which started with everyone getting their water bottles and filling them. I was amazed that, two-thirds of the way across the country, people were still having trouble keeping hydrated. They would arrive at the end of the day, with their Camelbaks and water bottles empty. Always fill up whenever you can.

Without food, a human in good health can survive for about three weeks; without water, a the same human will survive for about three days.

In closing, and in regards to these horror stories, I will say that dehydration is easily preventable. All you need to do is drink more water than you think you need. If you hydrate in moderate excess, you will just evacuate the excess water. If you hydrate insufficiently, you will inevitably find yourself dehydrated. The interval matters, too: 250ml of water every 30 minutes is much more helpful than 1000ml of water every two hours!

I'm glad to say that I am now properly hydrated as a rule.

The Wikipedia page on dehydration is mandatory reading for any athlete, or anyone on a bicycle tour. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dehydration. Don't say I didn't warn you.


On Gear

I've spent the last couple of days working on a document that makes gear recommendations to Bike & Build riders. The main feedback I've gotten is, "you're just telling people to buy more expensive gear." My answer, unfortunately, is, "good gear is expensive."

Well manufactured bicycle parts have always been expensive, primarily because bicycling is such a specialty market. In the 1970s, you had to pay good money for brakes that worked going down a steep hill and high pressure clincher tires that would stay on your rim. While we've come a long way since then, I still don't believe that the very cheapest road bike available is suitable for a transcontinental trek.

In the procurement of bicycling gear, I think it is important for the first-time buyer to have an understanding of why different models of a particular item exist. There are several reasons that one part may cost more than the other: brand, material, weight, and durability are the first that come to mind. On a transcontinental tour, durability and material are paramount, and brand and weight are far less relevant. However, one must take care to not buy items of unusably or dangerously low quality!

In practice, this means that if you are buying a pair of bicycle shorts, you might want to take a look at that $150 pair of shorts, figure out what features it has that make it so expensive, figure out which of those features are the most important for your application, and then buy the cheapest shorts that have those features. The fanciest shorts will have lightweight fabric, flat seams, an anatomical chamois pad, and multiple panels. The most important feature here is the anatomical chamois pad, with flat seams being a second. Multiple panels and lightweight fabric are nice, but don't do as much to improve comfort if you don't have $150.

Of course, the quality of your componentry plays second fiddle to what is far and away the most important aspect of your gear: the way your bicycle fits. In the coming days, I'll post my thoughts on bicycle fit, with a practical "how to" guide for making sure that your bike really fits.

Stay tuned!



I don't drink alcoholic beverages, as a rule. There are a few reasons for this, most of them related to training or personal choices.

Firstly, alcohol decreases my ability to perform well on the bicycle. It is a diuretic, and therefore, an enemy in the constant war against dehydration. In looking through my ride logs, I find that my most miserable rides are all during the mornings after I had a few drinks. It disrupts an already delicate metabolism, and in my case, does more harm than good.

Secondly, most of my peers tend to consume alcohol during the evening hours, when I am about ready to go to sleep. At about 10pm, I'm not ready to "party" in an overcrowded, sweltering, loud, malodorous bar or club with a bunch of strangers, or even friends; I'm ready to go to sleep. I am a morning person. My idea of a "good time" is not passing out at 5am, due to alcohol poisoning; I prefer to wake at 5am, with the sun, ready for the morning's exercise. Sleep is my performance enhancing drug of choice.

I don't see alcohol as a prerequisite to enjoying or expressing myself; I simply do so in my own way, as anyone who knows me can attest.

I don't have anything against people who decide to partake in a few rounds of friendly drinks, so long as they do so quietly and/or somewhere far away from where I'm trying to sleep. I will even accompany friends on their excursions to bars on occasion, though I usually disappear when I'm starting to fall asleep.

On my last Bike and Build trip, the individuals who wanted to partake in alcoholic drinks did so, in a civilized fashion, away from anyone who might be disrupted by their activities. They realized that, no matter what, there was another day of riding ahead of them.

So, to potential Bike and Build riders and hosts: I'm not touching alcohol this summer. There are plenty of better things to do on the road. You're welcome to join me.


How to Train for a Cross-Country Bicycle Tour

Last week, the Pedal Prepper, an alumni newsletter directed toward current Bike and Build participants, was e-mailed to all of the participants on my Boston to Santa Barbara route. While I clearly express unending gratitude to our alums, including Lindsay, for putting something like this together, I'm afraid I must respectfully disagree with the training guide presented on the last page. I don't think I'm alone here, either.

The training program presented in the Pedal Prepper looks to be ideal for one thing: training a non-athlete for a short triathlon. It recommends 2-3 rest days per week, and a combination of bicycle, running, and swimming workouts, none exceeding 60 minutes. It also suggests including a weight circuit.

My philosophy is that there is no better training for a bicycle trip than actual cycling. Nothing is as good as good old fashioned outdoor riding; if it's too cold for that, rollers are the next best thing. I understand that it's still quite cold outside in most of the country, and that riding is difficult, so I would encourage anyone doing the trip to try to put in more hours on Spinning bikes, indoor trainers, and/or rollers.

What do I do to train? I set up a bicycle with PowerCranks, which I ride for 90 minutes on my rollers, first thing in the morning, 6 days a week. I alternate between hard and easy days, and cycle between harder and easier weeks: easy, medium, hard, recovery. Once it gets a little warmer, I'll add in longer rides on the weekends, building to my 230-mile Intercity ride.

I don't expect most people to train the way I do, but some shorter, easier variant of it, with 60 minute rides leading up to a 100-mile ride, seems to be the way to go. You can throw in running and swimming if you're passionate for those activities, but there is no replacement for at least 5 hours a week in the saddle, at least 4 days a week, and that's the bare minimum.

Ride hard!


The Intercity Classic

When I got into Stuyvesant, I suggested riding my bicycle to school, an idea my mother absolutely hated. Similarly, when I got into MIT, I suggested riding my bicycle to school, from New York to Boston.

"The Intercity Classic," as I call it, has become one of my trademark rides. The first time I rode the route, my buddy Ilya and I set out to ride all 270 miles of it in one go. Unfortunately, it was November of 2005. It was bitterly cold, and we were both out of shape. We got as far as New Haven, some 186 miles, before calling it quits and catching what must have been the last Metro North train to NYC. (It was even colder when we rode the route in November of 2006 to New Haven. Think highs of 33F, in the sun, at noon.)

Since then, I've ridden the route in two variants: the one-day Boston to New Haven, and the two-day Boston to New York, with a stopover in Middletown, CT (aptly named!). My new, optimized route is about the best I can do: 220 miles from Kenmore Square, Boston to City Hall, New York. The route is as follows:

Beacon St, MA 16, MA 12, CT 197, 198, US 6, CT 66, CT 17 , (Ferry-Grand-East St through New Haven), US 1, CT 130, US 1. Once in New York City, get to Manhattan and take Riverside Drive and the bike path to City Hall.

With some 12,000 feet of climbing, the route turns quads into putty pretty quickly. However, if I'm ever going to do PBP, I think that the Intercity is a good start.

I'd like to actually do the one-day Intercity sometime this spring. Warm weather is a must. Game?


About Me

It looks like the Boston to Santa Barbara trip is about full, as we've learned that Sophie and Skip will be the other two leaders on the trip. Our roster is all but full, and planning for the trip will really begin to take off in the near future. As such, I figure it's fair to introduce myself.

My name is Jose Hiram Soltren, and I am a cyclist and an engineer.

The whole obsession with computers and bicycles began when I was a teenager. I had a need to go places, and a need to have a computer to complete school assignments and keep in touch with other people. As I had no money to speak of, but an abundance of cleverness, I soon learned how to fix my own computers and bicycles from parts scavenged from the trash. (I'm from New York city, where there is enough trash around for useful components to crop up every now and again.)

In what feels like no time at all, I was riding my bicycle literally everywhere, and funding my bicycling obsession with money made on the side by fixing people's computers. I was riding my bike to high school, and doing some road and track racing on the side. Life was pretty awesome. I was slim. I was fast.

Things sort of fell apart at MIT. I stopped riding, joined the crew team, and absolutely hated it. I had no direction, no motivation, and lived with a bunch of jerks. I was stressed out all the time from school, and was doing pretty poorly in all of my classes. I quit crew after a year, but that didn't help much.

After two god-awful years at school, I did a bike trip from Seattle, WA to San Francisco, CA with a good buddy of mine, Mike Short. This trip was totally unsupported, just the two of us and one Bob trailer. It was the most excellent thing I ever did. It also gave me enough time to finally think. I knew what I had to do: move the hell out of my frat and do Bike and Build eventually.

My third year at school was pretty excellent. I moved out of the frat, decided to be a Bike and Build trip leader, met my still-current girlfriend, took some of the best classes I took at MIT, did really well in them, and so on.

Bike and Build was awesome. More later.

After Bike and Build, I was in really awesome shape, had this great tan, and felt really positive about life. (The trip does that.) I blazed through all of my classes, doing anywhere from passably well to quite well. I rejoined the MIT Crew team and realized two things quickly. One, my coach was obsessed with the 6'4" sophomores who had rowed in high school, and could care less about the 5'10" senior who was faster on the erg than most of those hotshots but had poor form. Two, as I discovered, I'm just not a rower. In his book "Daniels' Running Formula," running coach Jack Daniels describes four types of athletes. A Type 3 athlete has almost no inherent ability but plenty ofdrive, whereas a Type 1 athlete has inherent ability and drive. I'm a Type 3 rower, but a Type 1 cyclist (I hope).

There was also the whole weight issue. I was a svelte 180 lbs going in to MIT, and a blubbery 225 lbs when I left. I'm now down to 175 lbs; I lost all of that weight in about 4 months. More on that later.

So, where am I now? I work as a computer admin at D.E. Shaw & Co. in NYC. I've been cycling for over 10 years now. I'm doing Bike and Build again, on a brand new route that I helped design. I'm riding my bicycle for 90 minutes every morning - I have Kreitler rollers, PowerCranks, and a PowerTap to make life more "fun". I'm really psyched about this new Bike and Build route. I'm going back to MIT after the trip for my Master's. I have vague aspirations of becoming really fast and winning a bunch of races. I love my girlfriend.