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WheelPeople Articles

  • 2023-07-20 8:52 AM | Anonymous

    By Coach John Hughes

    Bonk! Yes, Coach Hughes managed to bonk on Colorado’s Triple Bypass.  I rode the Triple in my ultra-racing days. The Triple is 118 miles long over Mestaa’Ėhehe Mountain (formerly Squaw Pass) at 9,790 feet, Loveland Pass at 11,991 feet and Vail Pass at 10,662 feet.  There was an aid station at the base of the pass, but with four miles of 6-7% grade at altitude I didn’t want anything in my stomach so I didn’t eat. By the top I was already a little cross-eyed. The 13 miles down to Keystone with the first mini-mart seemed endless.

    Here are a dozen mistakes I’ve made preparing for and riding centuries and longer events. And what I’ve learned and teach my clients:

    1. Inadequate training.

    In the 1970s when we started riding, Ralph and I started training on Super Bowl Sunday to train for the 70-mile Mt. Hamilton Challenge in late April in California. After several years we decided to step up our game and ride the Primavera Century a few weeks earlier.  But we didn’t change our training to include longer rides. We were good for 70 miles and then it ceased being fun. A century is an endurance event and a successful and fun event requires miles in the bank.  Now I recommend building up to a long training ride 2/3 to 3/4 the distance of the planned event over similar terrain.

    2. Ramping up too fast.

    I learned from that experience and knew I needed more miles in my legs. Still just starting on Super Bowl Sunday I piled on the miles … and got injured. Now my rules of thumb are to ramp up slowly:  Increase week-to-week volume by 10-20%. Increase weekly long ride by 10-20%. Increase month-to-month volume by 15-25%.

    3. Training at the same intensity.

    Back then there was very little information on effective training and the available information was for racers.  So we just rode our bikes through the Santa Cruz mountains. We were building our endurance and our moderate intensity was climbing the mountains. Recovery days — what were those?  Now I know that effective training includes endurance riding, some significantly hard intensity rides (not just long climbs) and also very easy recovery rides.

    4. Training too hard.

    In our 30s our goal was to be faster century riders, to set personal bests.  How do you get faster? Faster training rides, we thought. But a steady diet of faster rides doesn’t allow enough recovery time to ramp up the endurance we needed. And we certainly didn’t understand that training at different intensities produces different physiological changes. Now I know endurance rides should be done an easy conversational pace including the weekly long ride. I teach my clients they should be able to talk the whole time but not whistle or sing when climbing or riding into a headwind.

    5. Not testing and perfecting

    Not testing and perfecting nutrition, clothing, equipment, etc. in advance. I don’t know how many times I’ve screwed up on this one. The worst was the 1994 Race Across America.  The third day it was over 100F with a great tailwind. I lay down on my aerobars and cruised for hours.  I noticed my butt getting warm but didn’t think anything of it — until it was so painful I couldn’t sit on the saddle.  The day before RAAM I’d put a thick black gel pad on my saddle so I wouldn’t get saddle sores but didn’t test it in the weeks before. The gel heated up and the nurses at the Mercy Medical Center in Durango were sympathetic but also amused by the second degree burns on my butt. Now I preach nothing new during the event.

    6. Skipping breakfast

    I’m a well-organized kind of guy and when I had a longer drive to the start of an event I put bagels and fruit in my car the night before. One morning I started driving and after about 30 minutes realized I’d forgotten to bring breakfast. If I drove home I’d miss the start of the century. And there were no towns en route to the start. So I didn’t eat. Now I know that glycogen supplies (from carbohydrates) are limited in the body. A rider should eat a good breakfast (but nothing new!) primarily of carbohydrates with a bit of protein and fat.

    7. Not eating enough during the event.

    To go faster Ralph and I rushed through the aid stations like we were racing the Indy 500. Grab and go.  It’s hard to quickly grab enough to fuel several hours of riding to the next aid station. Now I coach a client to eat at rest stops and on the bike.

    8. Not eating regularly during the event.  

    By 1979 I’d learned a lot about endurance riding and was one of the first Americans to ride the 1200 kilometer (750-mile) Paris-Brest-Paris, which I had to finish in under 90 hours including time off the bike.  I’d tested my nutrition: bananas and ham and cheese sandwiches on long rides at home.  PBP has controls roughly 100 km apart where I got bananas and sandwiches to eat between the controls. By the second day those were unappetizing so I stopped eating on the bike.  I ate soup or pasta at the controls but not enough to keep me fueled until the next stop. Now I tell a client that if the client only eat at rest stops, rides several hours to the next rest stop and then eats again, the rider’s energy may fade in between rest stops.  The rider should eat 200 to 300 calories every hour.

    9. Improper hydration.

    When we started riding, the pump was mounted on the seat tube and one cage for a 16 oz. bottle was on the down tube. Temps were usually in the 100s by afternoon on the Davis DC and thirst was a serious issue so I improvised another cage on my handlebars.  Each year we finished significantly dehydrated but finished. CamelBaks were invented in 1989 and marketed with the “Hydrate or die” slogan.  Problem solved – except it’s also possible to drink too much, which may dilute the blood sodium, resulting in hyponatremia, a potentially dangerous condition.  Drink enough to satisfy thirst your thirst but not more.

    10. Improper pacing.

    The first part of the Davis DC was flat so Ralph and I would jump into a pace line and then try to hang with them through the climbs. Inevitably we got dropped and struggled through the remaining climbs. I’ve learned that a negative split is better: ride a little easier the first part of a ride and a little harder the latter part of the ride. If a rider can’t ride with a group at conversational pace then drop off. The right group for him is behind him!

    11. Getting lost.

    One year at Paris-Brest-Paris Ralph and I were in a good group riding our pace and he flatted. We quickly fixed the flat and I told him to tuck in and I’d pull us back up to the group.  Then a course martial came up on his motorbike yelling something in French and point back on the course.  Oops — bonus kilometers.  If possible a rider should spend some time in advance to study the cue sheet and then double-check each turn.

    12. Inappropriate equipment.

    In 1996 I got my Ti Merlin, which I still ride. It came with Shimano combo shift and brake levers. I was riding big miles training for RAAM and discovered the cables were prone to break after about 3,000 miles. I carried extra cables, which were a pain to change on the road. I also put purple aluminum nipples on my spokes because they looked cool, but they also weren’t very durable so I carried extra nipples. Before RAAM I asked myself why I was riding equipment prone to failure so I put on bar end shifters and brass nipples before the RAAM.

    Before buying a new bike or changing components talk with your shop about the kind of riding you do and get what is appropriate for your riding, not the latest and lightest

    Related columns

    Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written over 40 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John’s full bio.

  • 2023-06-24 6:00 PM | Anonymous

    By Ed Cheng

    Dear Members:

    Can you believe that it's already July and that Summer is upon us?  Come out in force for our Weekend Rides so we can bring back the pre-COVID numbers that we all enjoyed.  Also, a reminder to look at our Adventure Rides.  We have overnight rides for those new to bikepacking as well as for old hands.  These rides are comparable to the expensive trips with companies that charge hundreds of dollars, except ours are included as part of your membership and you get to ride with fellow members!  I did my first overnight ride with one of CRW's Adventure Rides and have been hooked ever since -- and if I can do it, you can too.

    A quick shout out to the organizers and riders of the Climb to the Clouds Century earlier this month.  It's hard to believe that our Century Committee organized two centuries back-to-back already.  Erik Dentremont, in particular, made a tremendous effort to make the CttC take place this year, not only securing permits, and finding volunteers, but even carting water, tables, and equipment to the sites himself. 

     Last, CRW purchased and installed a bench for our late president, Sandy Gray.  Harriet Fell spearheaded the effort for the club.  It is on the Bruce Freeman trail at mile marker 6.8 between Evans Way and Greenwood Road - just north the Chelmsford town line and Greenwood Road in Westford.  Keep your eyes on the calendar for a ride commemorating Sandy and dedicating the bench.

  • 2023-06-20 4:38 PM | Anonymous

    While we do most of our riding in the greater Boston area, we sometimes travel and it's good to know where you can experience challenging terrain. WheelPeople Editors

    By Alex Post

    There are of course numerous rides that could be included as the best or most epic cycling climbs in the USA, but for this article we’ll follow the top 10 list created by the well done climbing focused site This is their opinion, but includes among other things the length, vertical gain, average percent grade, and scenery. The details for each of the 10 rides can found here.

    Pikes Peak, CO  One of the most iconic climbs not just in the US but the world, Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs is a long steep climb averaging 6.1%, and if not counting the couple small descents, it averages 7.9%. 

    Mauna Loa, HI  Although not as steep as some others listed, at 62 miles long Mauna Loa is the longest climb in the world. Depending on how you look at it, you fortunately don’t have to do it right now since it’s closed due to lava flow. 

    Whitaker Forest, CA  Described by Pjamm as an exceptional experience, including riding through the middle of a tree. 

    Mt Washington, NH  The closest ride to us, and the only east coast ride on this list, it’s an absolutely brutally steep climb, averaging 12% grade, with the steepest section at 16%

    Mauna Kea, HI  According to Pjamm, Mauna Kea is flat out the hardest climb anywhere in the world. A mind boggling ascent of 13,755 feet. Starting at the ocean and at the top having 42% less oxygen in the air. 

    Shafer Trail, UT  In Canyonlands National Park near Moab UT, the road on this is dirt and gravel, but described as smooth enough for a road bike, at least certainly a gravel bike. Scenery is unique and beautiful. 

    Mount Evans, CO  The highest altitude paved road in the northwestern hemisphere. 

    Haleakala, HI  The third of the monster Hawaiian volcano climbs, there are only a few places in the world you can do a climb this big. 

    Tioga Pass, CA  Near Yosemite National Park, Tioga Pass is described as one of the most beautiful climbs anywhere. 

    Nate Harrison Grade, CA  This ride in the vicinity of San Diego is primarily on dirt and gravel, so at least 28mm tires are recommended, but it’s considered a beautiful and challenging ride. 

  • 2023-06-20 10:14 AM | Anonymous

    By John Allen

    What if you encounter someone whose bicycle is a crash waiting to happen? 

    So, recently I was riding through an apartment complex on my way to the gym. I was half a block from the new rail trail in Waltham. It isn’t officially open yet, though people are already using it. 

    I encountered a girl about 8 years old, headed home from the rail trail, riding alone. She had a very nice bike for an Internet purchase: in her size, and made for comfortable travel, rather than for acrobatics. The bike had derailleur gears, aluminum rims, and direct-pull hand-lever-operated  brakes. A kid could grow as a cyclist on this bike, with guidance. 

    The girl was having trouble mounting and dismounting. We started a conversation and I coached her on that. I handed her my business card. She could show it to her mother, and maybe I could help her mother teach her? But then I noticed: neither of the brakes was working. The cables were not installed properly.

    The most common kind of serious bicycle crash for young children is to ride out into the street and get hit by a car. It could be due to not noticing an approaching vehicle –  or to brakes that don’t work. 

    I asked the girl for permission, got out my tool kit  and went to work on her brakes.  The cables were in a tangle, iIt took some time,  but I got the brakes working properly. 

    I asked, “who assembled the bike?”

    “My Mom.”

    “There’s nothing wrong with your Mom, but that is a job for a bicycle mechanic.”

    I showed the girl about not using the front brake too much. 

    We parted. I rode home without going to the gym.

    What lesson does this encounter hold? 

    On paths and in parks especially, you’ll see many people – children and adults – riding bicycles with serious safety issues. It may distress you, as it does me.  

    How to deal with this? 

    Might a Karen, there’s a word for it, have called the police on me as a predator? When I described my encounter to my wife, she reminded me that two adults always had to be present in a Sunday School class in our church, in case of such complaints. Point taken, I hadn’t thought of that, but then we were out in the open with people going by. That assuaged my wife’s concerns.

    I am not going to let myself be consumed with fear about a favor I do anyone in good faith, in plain view of passersby. But I wish now that I had not been in such a hurry to get home. If I had walked home with the girl, I could probably have spoken with her mother face to face, gone on to offer more coaching, become a family friend….

    People’s attitudes about accepting help differ. I have helped a couple times on CRW rides to straighten bent chain links, allowing the riders to complete their day of riding – description  of the technique is in this article.  I have lost count of the number of flat tires I have fixed – other people’s and my own. I have straightened bent derailer hangers, adjusted brakes…I could go on. The tool kit offers a great way to connect with people when used in the right context. 

    Indeed, context matters. My assistance has usually been welcome, or politely declined – “all set” –, when the bicycle was disabled. Offering help to someone who is still able to ride is trickier, and I often avoid it. 

    But this was my first interaction with a child whose bicycle put her in serious danger. It was a learning experience for me. I missed out on making it the best experience for the child, and learned how I might do better next time.

    Beyond that, community events – bicycle rodeos and the like – offer an opportunity to address bicycle maintenance where more people are available to assist, and in a more impersonal context. So, do consider setting one up in your community. 

  • 2023-06-20 9:13 AM | Anonymous

    By Coach John Hughes

    I was 46 when I bought my home in Boulder, CO in 1995 and the heating and cooling systems were like a cabin. When it was cold I chopped wood and built fires in the wood stoves. When it was hot I opened both low and high windows to increase the airflow. About 10 years ago my wife and I decided that getting up when it was only 50F in the house and building fires wasn’t tolerable any more so we put in heat in each room. This year we’ve decided that 85F in the house is too hot and we’re putting in air conditioning next week. As we age we feel less tolerant of the heat. But is loss of heat tolerance inevitable with aging?

    Epidemiological Studies

    Data collected across large samples of the older population show a correlation between age and hot weather and more heat-related illnesses and deaths. “Older individuals, regardless of how one classifies ‘old’, are the most rapidly growing portion of the population. Statistics from heat waves and other morbidity-mortality data strongly suggest that older persons are at greater risk of developing life-threatening manifestations of heat stress such as heat stroke.” Heat Tolerance, Thermoregulation and Ageing

    However, the data are for the general population. It’s not clear the extent to which these heat-related problems are due to chronological aging or due to other factors. These variables change may change with age, and could affect heat tolerance independent of chronological age.

    1. Sedentary lifestyle. In the general population physical activity decreases with age. This contributes to the next five factors.
    2. Decreased aerobic capacity (VO2 max).
    3. Your body dissipates heat via two basic mechanisms: 1) greatly increasing blood flow to the skin and 2) producing and evaporating sweat. Decreased aerobic capacity means decreased blood flow and therefore less cooling.
    4. Physical changes such as decreased lean body mass and increased fat tissue. The basal metabolism slows by about 2% per year and this combined with less physical activity results in weight gain.
    5. Increased prevalence of chronic diseases. Decreased physical activity also increases the occurrence of hypertension, heart disease and diabetes.
    6. Increased use of prescription medicines. The chronic diseases are often treated with medications that reduce heat tolerance, e.g. diuretics, vasodilators, beta blockers.
    7. Chronic poor hydration from not drinking enough and/or increased fluid secretion by the kidneys.

    If you keep exercising you can greatly reduce the effects of these factors.

    Heat Dissipation During Exercise in Warm Conditions

    Some physiological changes that affect heat tolerance are inevitable with age:

    Decreased cardiac output. How much blood the heart pumps decreases by about 30% between the ages of 20 and 80. Cardiac output is a function of heart rate and stroke volume, how much blood your heart pumps per beat. While your maximum HR inevitably declines, through exercise you can maintain your ability to sustain a reasonably high HR and slow the decrease in the elasticity of your heart, which is what reduces stroke volume.

    Decreased skin blood flow. Skin blood flow is 25-40% less in older athletes. The reduced flow is due to changes with the blood vessels in the skin. Staying very fit does not prevent the skin from aging.

    Sweating rate. Compared to younger equivalently fit athletes, most older athletes have lower sweating rates. Although the same number of sweat glands are activated each gland produces less sweat. Genetics plays a large role in determining sweating rate and there is wide variability among older athletes. Decreased sweating is more of a problem in hot, dry environments than in humid ones.

    Bottom Line

    The bottom line is good:

    • As athletes get older the capacity to sweat declines although there are exceptions. This does not mean that older athletes are less tolerant of hot conditions.
    • Older athletes can acclimate just as well as younger athletes.
    • The ability to exercise in hot conditions is primarily a function of physical fitness, especially VO2 max, rather than chronological age.
    • One caution is that the sensation of thirst diminishes with age. For athletes the general recommendation is to drink to satisfy thirst but not more because drinking too much fluid risks diluting the blood sodium to a dangerous, potentially fatal level. For older roadies be sure to drink enough whenever you are thirsty. For more information see my column 12 Hydration Myths.

    Much of this information is from The Older Athlete: Exercise in Hot Environments.

    My eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process includes information specifically for older cyclists on all of the different physiological changes with aging and how you can mitigate the changes. The 106-page eBook is available for $14.99

    Summer Bundle for all roadies regardless of age.
    The 65-page summer riding bundle includes four eArticles:

    1. Cycling in the Heat, Part 1: Ride Management is 19 pages and covers how to acclimate to hot conditions, how to train in hot months, what to wear, eat and drink, how to cool down if you overheat, and how to deal with heat-related problems.
    2. Cycling in the Heat, Part 2: Hydration Management is 21 pages and covers how to determine how much you should drink depending on your physiology and sweat rate, how best to replace your fluids and electrolytes, the contents of different sports drinks, how to make your own electrolyte replacement drinks, how to rehydrate after a ride, and how to deal with hydration-related problems.
    3. Preventing and Treating Cramps, 10 pages. A detailed look into the causes of cramps, prevention techniques, and tips (both on-bike and off-bike, including photos) for breaking and flushing cramps.
    4. Eating and Drinking Like the Pros, 15 pages. What pro riders consume before, during and after a stage and the benefits for cyclists at all levels. Eating and drinking like the pros offers recreational riders the same nutritional benefits, which you can customize to your own needs at a fraction of the cost of commercial sports food and drink, if you choose to make our own. I worked with a professor of nutrition and an expert on hydration and electrolytes (both experts are cyclists) in creating recipes for both sports drinks and food.

    The cost-saving bundled 65 pages of eArticles Summer Riding are just $15.96 (a $4 savings).

  • 2023-06-20 8:58 AM | Anonymous

    Erik D'Entremont and Mark Nardone ran the Climb to the Clouds Century on Saturday June 10, 2023. We ordinarily provide a photo record of the event, but breaking precedent, we are reporting Erik's report to the CRW Board. It goes without saying, the century is a complex undertaking as evidenced by the elaborate number of steps involved and the work that was generated. The Club owes Erik a pat on the back.

    WheelPeople Editors

    By Erik D'Entremont

    Dear Board, 

    Here is my Climb to the Clouds recap, and yes, it’s long, for a reason. 

     Wow! Rosalie and Susan, I am so appreciative of your effort and volunteerism on the Climb to Clouds Ride after party. I was very worried about you and Susan. When I was out riding century sweep with a VIP CRW member and very dear close friend Ms. Dayle Aqualano James. We got caught in 2 rainstorms and took cover with Larry Kernan’s riding group at Berlin Farms. I tried to reach out to Susan while waiting under cover to check in but wasn’t able to connect. 

    I am glad that tent covered you and the party was still able to be successful. Thank you for the positive and constructive feedback on food ordering. I am glad the after party went well and we had enough food for our members at the end of the ride. Cutting a pickle lengthwise into quarters is a handy skill to have, I did the first jar myself! 

    If you’ve’ ever wondered, here is what it takes to make the Climb to the Clouds Century successful.  Just remember, “volunteer!” 


    1. Organized and negotiated for all the permits and location permissions to bring CRW membership a safe and successful event at budget. ( Approx. 2 months effort) 
    2. While on my way driving to NH to get the volunteer shirts 2 months ago, I took the afternoon in Berlin to find CRW a $0 rest stop “Berlin Orchards” This entailed wandering around a UU Church ( I am a UU)  and finding a board member who was friend of Berlin Orchard owner to get connected. 
    3. Rode the 62 mile a month ago to make sure rwgps file was intact and cues were correct. Took photos of all the approved rest stops for Port John delivery instructions (Getting them delivered to exact spot was a challenge last century, that we conquered successfully this time.)- 4 HRS 
    4. Coordinated with my colleague Mark Nardone remotely for all CRW web-based CRW communications and logistics, THANK YOU MARK!!! I think we answered between the 2 of us about 50 emails from members, vendors and crw “helpers”. 
    5. Organized the delivery of the porta Johns and audit the delivery location of the Porta Johns. THANKS LARRY! 
    6. Friday, I spent the morning organizing all the CRW century supplies at the storage spot into piles outside for all 3 pickup folks. 
    7. Friday: I drove solo with my PACKED SUV, full of water, tables and tents and set up alone in the rain the Lincoln HS Registration/ After Ride Party set up, then drove to Dexler Drumlin reservation and set up water stop which includes a Tent, a tables and 4 water bottles and then I drove to Berlin Orchards and set up the water stop. IN the rain, Solo! 
    8. Found a volunteer to provide a quick and easy registration, over 50% checked in using IRCode within 20 minutes!  How cool is that! Thanks MEL!! 
    9. Found 2 AWESOME CRW volunteers to serve food at the after party (Not nearly Enough Volunteers we Needed) THANKS SUSAN AND ROSALIE!! 
    10. SAT 6AM Picked up the catering order at MB (I had to order this a week in advance as the first plan was pizza but the pizza shop could not deliver as requested) on way to Sudbury Ride Start, unloaded all food and drinks into coolers and packed them with ice. THANKS MEL for the Help! 
    11. Finally got to ride my 3rd CRW Century as a coordinator (LAST 2 I was not able to actually enjoy the day or see the results of our hard work ) 
    12. Rode 100 Miles without incident or found 0 SAG or roadside needs. After 2 rainstorms hit, Dayle and I decided to pick up pace to get us home in time for our personal commitments. (Alas no sandwiches left out for the 12 CRW members including me, Larry, Dayle, Clyde and others) But we all had a pickle and that was fine. 
    13. After-Ride Party equipment tear down and delivery back to Sudbury Location. THANK YOU LARRY for Helping with that, I was exhausted at this point and really hungry. 
    14. Went home, had a beer and heated up left over frozen pizza from the Ride to NH century, (This was my own Karma exercise to get food order right this time, which sounds like we almost did! YEAH! 
    15. Wrote my first Triathlon Race plan for a paid IronMom that I have been training for 6 months, and Sunday she did it! Way to Go Christina Marshall! 



    Then I went to bed as I had to get up at 6AM to be in Springfield at an Ironman 70.3 water-stop to support my athletes as Coach Erik and network for my foundation Manny Tubes all day Sunday. 

    Here is what our efforts resulted in making the Climb to the Clouds successful for CRW. 

    The Climb to the Clouds statistics are as follows: Revenue $2920.00 

    Registered riders: 237 

    Checked in Riders: 144 

    Not Checked in 83 

    Guests 7 

    Virtual Riders 4 

    I had a mostly lovely day (barring the rain) riding with my friend Dayle, catching up with lunch at the Mountain side Café, sharing memories of CRW centuries we road together in, hearing stories of Covid survival and laughing in the rain. (We like pina colada’s and are not into yoga…) We very much intentionally needed our personal time together to catch up, it had been almost a year since we saw each other, Thank you Larry for reading the room and giving us the space we needed. 

  • 2023-06-20 8:47 AM | Anonymous

    The club made arrangements for a memorable bench to honor Sandy Gray, a CRW past president. The bench is located on the Bruce Freeman Bike Trail. It is at mile marker 6.8 between Evans Way and Greenwood Road - just north of the Chelmsford town line and Greenwood Road in Westford. Harriet Fell was lead on this project.

  • 2023-06-20 8:42 AM | Anonymous

    This article was written with the help of news accounts, government publications, and the gracious assistance of Richard Williamson, a member of the Board of the Bruce Freeman group.

    by Eli Post

    An Impressive Bridge

    Those of you that regularly travel on Route 2 in Concord have witnessed a remarkable construction project. It is one of the longest rail-trail bridges in the country and connects dozens of towns so that you can travel 25 miles (50 miles round trip) and that distance will increase as more segments of the Bruce Freeman trail are completed.

    Let’s start with a bit of history.

    Back in the 1870’s when the Framingham/Lowell railroad  was being designed and constructed, the railroad engineers had to figure out how to bring the railroad across one of the major highways, in particular, Route 2.  The obvious solution was to construct an at-grade crossing and supply a traffic signal.  That solution worked for about a century.

    However by the 1970’s, traffic on Route 2 increased by a large factor and an at-grade crossing was no longer going to be acceptable.  A conductor swinging a lantern to lead freight cars across the highway was a very poor solution.  The obvious good solution was to build a bridge.  Obvious, but not straightforward.  The Mass. Department of Transportation MASSDOT had a host of problems to deal with including an ongoing traffic mess on Route 2 at the nearby rotary in front of the Concord prison.  On top of that, a proposal to construct a rail trail (the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail) was moving along in the planning process and the BFRT would cross Route 2 just west of the rotary.  The MASSDOT folks decided to tackle the situation head on by totally redesigning the rotary and including the BFRT crossing in the overall design.  After lots of planning and traffic  modeling, the whole complicated thing was shelved, including the BFRT crossing.

    By 1980, the BFRT had been largely designed, cleared, funded, permitted, constructed etc. from the south all the way north to a point just south of the Route 2 crossing in Concord.  A similar story applied to the BFRT coming from the north through Acton.  The dilemma to connect didn’t go away.  How do you bring the BFRT across Route 2?  On a bridge, of course, but not so simple.  The original 1870’s alignment of the rail bed crossed Route 2 at the shallow angle of about 30 degrees.  A little trigonometry tells us that the bridge would have to be about twice as long as it would otherwise have to be if it were to cross perpendicular.  

    Nevertheless, good luck and good fortune prevailed, and by fall 2022, the bridge was done.  In spring 2023, the only remaining tasks are finishing the approaches. You may be able to ride across the bridge by the time you read this. As in any large construction project, there were technical problems to overcome. We share one with you. In Acton, the MA State Police horse farm sits alongside the west side of the BFRT.  In fact, the farm's pasture overlaps the BFRT right of way.   No one wanted to see collisions between cyclists and grass-munching horses!   So the pasture's east-side fence had to be moved a short distance to the west.

    You can enjoy a long ride on a traffic-free Bruce Freeman bike path starting in Chelmsford at the northern end or Acton at the southern end. Or park by the prison and take a joy ride over the bridge. In any case make sure you enjoy a remarkable edition to our biking opportunities.

  • 2023-06-20 8:29 AM | Anonymous

    by John Springfield

    In spite of all my bicycle touring in New England, I realized that few miles were ridden in Maine.  So in May 2023 I departed on a week-long tour of Maine.  The plan was to start at the southernmost town of Kittery, head north, then east to Augusta, and back to Kittery.  As it turned out I finished in Portland.  The steep hills were not very friendly to my 74-year-old body.


    However, I had near perfect weather (50-70 degrees), no rain, and no flats.

     Scenic view on highway 5, just north of Limerick

    Going north from Kittery I went through an area where towns were named after countries and European cities:  Norway, Mexico, Peru, Denmark, Paris, etc.

    The farms gave way to forests and vacation camps.  Some towns are so small that they lacked general stores and gas stations.  I was always on the hunt for local diners, but alas, they were sometimes non-existent. Photo on left is a local river with rusty colored water.


    One of the highlights was the town of Wilton (on Wilson Lake). It was here that the Bass Shoe Company prospered until 1998.  The factory is now an Italian eatery (where I had a great meal).  Bass was known for it's rugged outdoor shoes and boots. But it was also the company that "invented" the penny loafer.

    After visiting the state capital in sleepy Augusta (it was early Saturday morning), I headed south along the scenic and historic Kennebec River.  The river is quite wide, allowing ships from Boston to navigate their way north.  Along the river is Bicycle Route 1, the Eastcoast Greenway, and the Merry Meeting Trail.  Some of these routes are on traditional bike paths, while others are on paved and dirt roads. 

     On the top a view of Downtown Winthrop. At the bottom is Lake Wilson. 

    But the many steep hills were taking their toll, so I decided to head to Portland and call it quits.  However, I really enjoyed a long break on the Brunswich town green. It has a food trailer with some of the best hot dogs and lobster rolls around.  It was here that I conversed with a couple of other bike riders.  One noticed my classic Rivendell touring bike.  And I noticed he had a Burley tandem.  Made my day.

  • 2023-06-20 8:14 AM | Anonymous

    By Doctor Gabe Mirkin

    The old guideline recommending 30 minutes of exercise three times a week just isn’t enough, according to the latest research. Athletes know that they need to work out every day, and all people who just want to stay healthy can benefit from the same type of exercise program.

    Why Athletes Need to Exercise Every Day
    Knowledgeable athletes train by stressing and recovering. You have to damage muscles to gain strength and enlarge muscles. You become more fit by taking a hard workout and then resting for a day or two than you will by exercising at the same leisurely pace every day. Every muscles is made up of thousands of fibers like a rope is made of many strands. Every fiber is made up of blocks called sarcomeres that fit end to end like a row of bricks. Sarcomeres butt upon each other, end-to-end, at Z-lines.

    Muscles contract only at each Z-line. When you exercise vigorously, you damage these Z-lines and when they heal, the muscle fibers are stronger. So all athletes train by stressing and recovering. On one day, they take an intense workout to damage their muscles at the Z-lines. On the next day their muscles are sore and damaged and they exercise at a relaxed pace. When the muscles are healed and the soreness lessens, they take their next intense workout.

    If athletes exercise at low intensity during the healing phase of the Z-lines, their muscle  fibers will become stronger than if they rest. If they exercise vigorously when their muscles are sore, they are likely to tear them and be injured. Athletes need to exercise every day to gain maximum strength.

    Why Non-Athletes Also Should Exercise Every Day
    Forty percent of North Americans die of heart attacks. One of the common causes of the arterial damage that precedes heart attacks is a high rise in blood sugar after meals. Blood sugar always rises after meals and because of faulty lifestyle habits, most North Americans have blood sugars that rise too high. Resting muscles remove no sugar from the bloodstream, but contracting muscles remove sugar rapidly from the bloodstream and can do so without even needing insulin. This effect is strongest during exercise and diminishes to no benefit after about 17 hours. If you want to use exercise to help control blood sugar, you need to do it every day.

    An Exercise Program for Everyone
    Because a person with blocked arteries leading to the heart could suffer a heart attack during exercise, please check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Whatever activity you choose, try to exercise every day. If you are just starting out, spend about six weeks at a slow pace until you are comfortable in your activity. Then you are ready to alternate more intense days with easier workouts.

    Intense Days
    Stress refers to intensity, not the length of your workout. You can gauge the severity of the stress by the amount of burning you feel in your muscles during exercise. interval training means that you start out slowly, pick up the pace, slow down immediately when your muscles start to burn, recover by going very slowly for as long as you want, and then pick up the pace again.

    On your hard days, warm up by going very slowly for five to 10 minutes. Going slowly at the start of a workout warms up muscles to help make them resistant to injury. If your muscles still feel tired or heavy, do not try interval training. Exercising with tired or sore muscles can cause serious injuries.

    After you warm up, pick up the pace gradually until you feel burning in your muscles and immediately slow down. Then go at a very slow pace until the soreness goes away, your breath returns to normal and you feel recovered. How long it takes to recover is irrelevant. You take your next faster pick up when you feel that you have recovered, not from any preset time. Then pick up the pace until you feel burning again.

    If you don’t compete, you do not ever need to go at 100 percent intensity. People who are just starting to do interval workouts should pick up the pace only slightly and not become short of breath. Slow down and get out of the burn as soon as you feel it. As soon as the burning and fatigue go away, and you are not breathing hard, try to pick up the pace again. In early workouts, you may only be able to do one hard pickup after you have just started your workout. Do not start your next pick up until your legs feel fresh. As soon as your legs start to feel heavy, stop the workout. Trying to increase the pace when your muscles feel sore and heavy invites injury.

    Easy Days
    The day after your hard workout your muscles will probably feel sore and you should take an easy workout. If the discomfort does not go away as you continue to exercise, is worse on one side of your body, or increases as you exercise, stop exercising immediately. You are injured and continuing to exercise will delay healing. Take off the next day also if you still feel sore in one place. If you feel better as you exercise casually, continue to exercise until you feel any discomfort or heaviness. Always stop every workout when your muscles feel heavy or sore. Keep on taking easy days where you exercise at low intensity until you feel fresh again. Do not do another hard workout until the soreness in your muscles has gone away.

    My Recommendations
    Every healthy person should try to exercise every day. You will gain a much higher level of fitness by “stressing and recovering”. That means to exercise more intensely on one day, feel sore on the next and go slowly. Only when your muscles feel fresh should you try to pick up the pace again.

    This aricle is courtesy of Dr.Gabe Mirkin MD

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