It was already 11:45 when I threw my leg over my bike and pedaled out of my neighborhood. The morning warmth was swiftly being overtaken by noontime heat.
A quarter mile from home, I swung into the local bike shop and asked them to quickly "fix" my front derailleur: it wouldn't shift to the small ring, and the thought of 30 miles of unknown terrain without that option, especially on a day like this, did not appeal. Repair done, I was truly on my way.
The ride to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail is relatively easy, and once there, it's a pretty straight shot into D.C. I sipped at my water every mile or so, well aware that the sun would bake out whatever fluids I had. Surely, though, there would be ample opportunities to pick up more on the way.
Heading down a bombing hill into Arlington, I had my first scare. A car crossed the intersection in front of me (as it should have), but I soft-pulled the brakes; as the car slowed to keep from bottoming out, I realized I was about to T-bone it, and I pulled the brakes hard enough to pop the rear wheel off the ground briefly to keep from entering the roadway.
It was a brief mental lapse, but it would not be my only close call of the day.
I normally hit D.C. early in the morning, when there are few or no pedestrians and it's easy to cruise across the monument/Mall area without taking on traffic. At shortly after noon on a Saturday, that's most assuredly not the case. I was surprised to find that the Lincoln Memorial crowd was relatively light, but by the time I reached Constitution Ave, it was clear there would be no riding on the broad sidewalks heading to the Washington Monument and, ultimately, the Capitol Building.
I hopped onto Constitution and rode with traffic for several blocks, occasionally dodging around a double-parked car, a mysteriously stopped tour bus, or a frustrated Metro bus that couldn't make a sharp turn. At 15th St, I decided to head uptown instead of staying in this mass of stress, and booked it up to M St., which eventually enters the Metropolitan Branch Trail.
East on M, I had an actual near-miss, one that set me on edge and caused a couple pedestrians to wonder what they just witnessed. An out-of-town SUV trickled its way down the road, the driver clearly confused about where he was. Finally, he slowed, put on the right turn signal, and moved to the right, at which point I pulled left to pass. And was shocked to find that the signal and evident move was just a prelude to a U-turn -- a U-turn where the driver didn't even seem to understand that he did something potentially deadly. I yelled (as one does) at the driver, but he was so firmly ensconced in his vehicle shell that I doubt he even knew I was there.
Just a few blocks to go, though, and I'd be at the trail; I tried to put the incident behind me.
A couple blocks from the trail entrance, a set of pylons demarcates the road and bike lane. At the trail entrance, the cones give way to a broad crosswalk, and the curb gives way to a wide cut with almost no rise.
Unfortunately, that loss of cones was also apparently the signal to an adjacent driver that they could just pull right over, which is exactly what a complete git from New York did. I was close enough to punch the car and was saved only by the width of the cut, which I was able to veer into without incident.
At that point, I hated D.C. I hated the out-of-town drivers confused about where they were and what they were doing, who were fully separated from the world outside to the extent that they very easily could take out a pedestrian or cyclist and probably wouldn't notice.
I wasn't through the city yet, but I'd traversed the most dangerous part, and I hoped the rest of the ride would be relatively safe.
The Metropolitan Branch Trail is an easy section to ride on, its several miles paralleling the train tracks heading north-by-northeast. It dumps a rider just outside of Mount Rainier, an old-style and quite cute little neighborhood that obviously doesn't get much love in terms of infrastructure. The busy through streets are narrow and poorly-organized, then dive into the valley where the roads are extremely wide but ill-maintained, full ribs of blacktop pressed up by underground roots along much of its length and unrepaired potholes littering the interregnums.
The street part of this segment ends at the Northeast Branch Trail, a part of the Anacostia Tributary Trail that takes the rider along the shockingly-named Northeast Branch Anacostia River. Past the College Park Airport -- the first airport I would cruise by that day, but definitely not the last -- the trail deposits users at Lake Artemesia, a park in Greenbelt, Maryland.
At this point, I had nearly run out of water in my bottle, and at the north end of Lake Artemesia, I pulled to the roadside to drink the remainder of the water and refill the bottle with Vitamin Water. I took a few drinks from my newly-filled bottle and discarded the Vitamin Water bottle, as I could barely fit it in my back pocket and didn't feel like dealing with it in the future. This, I would find, was a mistake.
I cut through the Dunkin' Donuts parking lot and hopped onto Cherrywood Ln, headed for Edmonston Rd and points north.
Here's where Google Maps failed me in a way. I was told to stay on Edmonston up to Muirkirk, which was an acceptable route but clearly not the shortest. At Muirkirk, I turned right -- now heading straight east -- and busted a left on Cedarbrook Ln, which terminates at Montpelier Dr. Montpelier crosses the large Laurel-Bowie Rd and becomes Brock Bridge Rd, which swings pleasantly into a shaded area.
At this point, the temperature was close to 90, and I was running out of my beverage. No problem, I thought. Surely there will be opportunities to refill in the next few miles.
Passing Suburban Airport -- just over 2300 feet long with over 800 feet of displaced threshold -- I hoped to see a plane or two taking off. Alas, it was not to be, and, knowing what I did about the sections to come, I wasn't happy to see it slip behind.
Brock Bridge slides through a small residential area, then heads past the Laurel Racetrack, where I was briefly reunited with hope for humankind when a driver trying to make a low-visibility turn onto Brock Bridge actually waved at me when she saw me, letting me know that she was fully aware I was there and that she wasn't going to run me over. I appreciated the gesture much more than I would have prior to the D.C. Death Dodge.
As Brock Bridge moves north, it goes from shaded and cool to warm, open pastureland, then bends its way along the train tracks. At Dorsey Run, I turned north and passed the last convenience store I would see in quite a while. I did not stop, because I still had a quarter of a water bottle left and felt fine.
I descended to a stop light and threw my chain. At a wide open island in the middle of a parking lot worth of blacktop, I pushed the chain back on, wiped my grease-covered fingers on my pants, and checked the map for my next couple turns. I hopped back on to cross with the light. My chain threw the other way, and I cursed loudly enough to get a chuckle out of a waiting driver. I was, to say the least, less amused.
I put the chain back on and resumed course: north on Dorsey Run, through the hottest, most industrial part of the ride. Trucks passed at distressing distances, and as I sipped the last of my Vitamin Water, I looked around for a place to refill. There were none to be found.
A mile passed. Then two. The heat had built into the low 90s. I was -- fortunately -- sweating. I was -- unfortunately -- also becoming tired. I heaved my way up rises and down their backsides, frustrated that this road in particular was more physically taxing than any I'd been on yet.
At the turn onto Waterloo Rd/Jessup Rd, I spotted a Dunkin' Donuts at the entry point to what looked like a pocket of civilization. The DD was across the road and in a strip mall, a side-trip that didn't seem too inviting. I assumed that a convenience store would be in the offing, since a strip mall is rarely alone in the wilderness.
Along Jessup, I was quickly disabused of this notion. Here, I made my first wrong move, going right by Wigley Rd because I was looking for Forest -- which turns out to be what that road becomes. I'm still confused about why this rinky-dink road needs two separate names, but I don't live in the area. I can only imagine there's some great, sub-surface battle waging over the name of Wigley.
I quickly recognized the mistake and, on stopping to verify the route on my phone, I also mentally recorded the next half dozen roads. This part of the ride was becoming too strophic for a visitor to sort out readily. Indeed, one of the greatest challenges of the ride was simply figuring out the turns -- my normal "cue sheet" strategy can get upwards of 10 on a single sheet, but the current volume of road names would have overflowed that twice over.
Back to the ride. Wigley, it turns out, also isn't forested -- it's open country that aligned perfectly with the 2 p.m. sun, giving me no relief from my thirst and tiredness. When Wigley gets to Forest, though, it becomes true to its name, and that small amount of shade was welcome.
I spent a very brief moment on Dorsey Rd, then turned onto Coca Cola Dr, a name that does not appear to have any current affiliation with anything along its length. I turned onto Park Cir Dr (a name I find rather amusing, as it implies the circle but does not spell it out -- a suggestion that maybe it was intended to be "Park Circle" -- but also adds an abbreviated "Drive" like a useless appendage forged by some wayward development designer). At Race Rd, I made a left and was met with a "Road Closed Ahead" sign.
I stopped and consulted the map. Yes, this was where I supposed to be. And Race Rd does go through. It also crosses a single waterway called Piny Run. I decided this sign was a good indication that I would not be threatened by any drivers in the near future, and plunged past the orange barrier, well aware that I may have to ford that stream.
Had I not been so dehydrated, Race Rd would have been blissful. It dipped into a cool valley that was surrounded by shade, the discontent of heat and sun left behind on Coca Cola. About the only thing missing was, in fact, a drink. Well, that and a continuation in this state for the remainder of the trek.
At the other end of Race Rd, I paused a moment to consult the map for the next few turns. It turns out I wasn't at the end of Race Rd, but rather at a small discontinuity. I re-found and continued along Race Rd to its actual end, then made another wrong turn on Furnace Rd, heading left (northwest) instead of right (southeast).
Furnace Rd terminates at Rte 1, and Google was clearly not trying to take me there. But the one thing Google didn't know was that this terminus cohabitates with a convenience store. Alas, the store was not selling anything -- they were "temporarily closed" -- but fortunately they let me in to use the sink. I chugged about 40 oz of water and filled my water bottle.
Feeling somewhat recharged, I turned around and went back along Furnace to River Rd, took that to Nursery Rd, and veered left on Hammonds Ferry Rd. I was still feeling good when I turned onto Hollins Ferry Rd, and I paused to check the map one last time at the top of a local rise. The neighborhood here was obviously financially downtrodden but still lively, and I was happy to duck into the shade for a minute. The rest of the route was now mentally manageable.
Down Hollins Ferry about a mile is the Mount Auburn Cemetery, a locale I wish I'd stopped to photograph. This unique feature is an extremely old African-American cemetery, a broad swath of open greenery with scattered mid-19th century headstones, old wooden crosses, and a couple newer family stones. I've affixed a view of the cemetery from Waterview Ave, taken from Google Maps; I do not claim this photo, but find that the picture is rather enlightening as to what Mount Auburn offers.
Waterview heads over Interstate 295 and ends at Annapolis Rd, at a light. Here, I found my strength waning and my desire to go on quickly fading. There were only a couple miles left, if that, but my legs were turning to jelly. I leaned my arms on my handlebars and stared at the pavement.
These being the universal signs of exhaustion, a driver behind me at the red light yelled out his window, "Hey, bike guy, you going to be alright?"
I looked back at him and smiled. "Only a couple miles to go. I'm sure I'll be fine." I was pretty sure I was right about that. Pretty sure.
He yelled "good luck!" as he drove by on Annapolis, and I thought about how this was going to end. Annapolis ducks under Interstate 95, then casts off a small trail that wraps by the Greyhound station to the waterfront, coming back at the south end of the Ravens' stadium. I dodged around the stadium -- following signs to "downtown" -- and joined Russell St near Camden Yards. Russell branches off as Paca Ave in a smooth curve onto a one-way road northbound, with a light halfway through the curve. I slowed to a near-stop at this light, and as traffic pulled away, I thought about how close I was.
And that's when my chain threw: at the hardest point of my downstroke, at almost no speed, I simply fell over. I rolled my shoulder under and tried to smoothly end up near the sidewalk, but I failed to anticipate that I had my bike lock in the rear pockets. As I carried my bike to the side of the road and assured the driver behind me that I was fine, I cursed the front derailleur again. Perhaps, I thought, I should just walk the last quarter mile.
But I'm a persistent bastard, and once the chain went back on, I rode up the sidewalk to the next intersection, hopped back into traffic, and made my way to the hotel to meet my family.
When I got inside, I was seized with the desire to lie down. My back was sore from the fall, my legs and butt sore from the ride, everything else sore from the insane heat and lack of fluids.
I was relieved and happy.
I was frustrated and annoyed.
I was all of these things, and ready to see and relax with people I love.
As winter drags into March, I find myself more and more depressed at the prospect of indoor riding.
I've never like the trainer. It's monotonous and never feels "real" to me. As a workout, it also doesn't seem to do much: Come spring and summer, I hop on the bike to ride to work -- a trip that's just as long as (or shorter than!) my basement "trek" -- and will lose 5 pounds in two weeks, gain clear muscle mass, and feel far better about those rides. That in spite of taking a basement "trek" 5 of 7 days, including some extremely high-energy workout sessions.
February started out well, as New Balance released an old shoe that I absolutely loved for running and had been trying to find a suitable replacement for. I bought two pairs, figuring the low-snow winter would peter out by March and let me start taking to the roads and trails. A month later, we have 15F morning forecasts, which in former lives would have done nothing to limit my desire to run but these days cause me to stay indoors. If
Every once in a while, elementary schools ask parents to show up and sit in on presentations. At our local school, this is apparently cause for the PTA to meet as well. On Wednesday -- a day of one such illustrious event pairing -- our youngest daughter had spent the day at the zoo and passed out in the car, and my wife and I were unsure how to let her sleep while getting everyone to their destinations with a means of getting home.
After much confusing discussion, we decided the best way was to stop at home, throw our oldest daughter's bike in the back of the car, and let me ride to the school with the trailer. That would let me take the youngest home while riding with the oldest, and give my wife the car for her late-night return.
As she pulled back out of the driveway, though, I was struck with inspiration. When I bought my touring bike, I also picked up a toddler ride for the youngest, one without training wheels that she could practice on at home. We haven't had much opportunity to use it yet. This, it seemed, was a perfect time to let her ride around on an open playground and/or fields and work on her balance safely.
Clearly, then, her bike had to go in the trailer in such a way that she would be able to ride back in the trailer as well. Turns out this Burley trailer is pretty amazing.
We stuck around at the playground until the sun started to drop below the trees, then dashed home. The oldest made an impressive push up the final hill (her first time, I believe, riding that without walking), and we watched the sun set as we crossed the highway on our way to the final descent to home.
Happy Walk to School Day!
Mash out. Spin on.
It was 8:08 when I pushed my daughter out the door. "We've got 20 minutes to get there," I told her.
The ride to school isn't, as a general rule, a 20-minute trek. But a single-speed with fat, 16" tires designed to be ridden by a 5-year old isn't exactly designed to turn out fast 1-mile rides.
She dropped her helmet on her head and we were off: me, my oldest daughter, and our good friend who was taking advantage of an otherwise free day to pull around my youngest in a trailer. After a brief pause at the bus stop to say hi to the gathering crowd, we pressed on up the hill to the top of the street, my daughter pedaling madly.
The light turned green in front of us. I moved into the intersection (much to the consternation of one driver), and she hammered across, possibly topping 10 mph. I was leading the pack and having trouble keeping speeds down to match her pace on the kid-sized bike, but thankfully my friend was slowed enough by the trailer to stay behind her comfortably.
We dropped down the hill, strung out along maybe half a block while oncoming cars weaved in and out of street-parked cars, making a regroup practically impossible. After the curve at the middle of the hill, I decided to make a left into the depths of the neighborhood, thinking this might give us a little more road to work with, but traffic was just as bad there. We were immediately faced with an oncoming van, and our turn onto the smallest street of the bunch just put us in front of someone else.
At the stop sign, we turned onto the last residential road, and the car as well as a bus plowed by. For the first time, I could ride side-by-side with my daughter, and she was doing a great job on the pedals. We were halfway there, and I was excited that we were actually getting this chance to ride together.
She took that moment to ask a very important question: "Dad, where's my backpack?"
I knew exactly where it was: sitting inside the house, along with her bike lock, right where I'd left them to be stuffed in the panniers. Except, of course, that I had done no such thing.
"Stay with Papi. I'll meet you at school," I told her. I whipped my bike around, sprinted home (no more than 3 minutes away), grabbed the forgotten kit, and threw it in my panniers. By now, I thought, they would be nearing the end of the residential road and making the final turn.
I opted for the more direct route back: straight down the highway to start, then off on the service road, where traffic was also surprisingly persistent. I hammered up the other side and through the parking lot of the apartment buildings on the former site of a set of bubble houses, and made the final turn in front of the school, where buses were still discharging their passengers.
I was just in time to see my kids clambering out of their conveyances. We walked our bikes to the rack, my daughter went into the school, and I felt a strange pride that she had ridden all the way there.
I'm not sure why it's so satisfying to do this kind of ride. At first I thought it was nostalgia, but it isn't -- I almost never rode my bike to school, and when I did it was as a 17-year old trying to ride everywhere. There's something about taking a bike to school, though, that feels more like the way a day should start.
Whatever it is, I plan to jump-start her day and my day with these rides as often as possible.
Mash out. Spin on.
I might have to re-use this title in the Fermenter section one day, but for now it's apropos to cycling.
For the first time ever, I am the proud owner of a bike with a bike rack!
When last we met my commuter bike, it was hot off the local bike shop's stand, having been cobbled together from mostly used parts in a beautiful black. There's a look at the original design below.
Yesterday, I received a much-anticipated upgrade: a rear-mounted rack and a set of panniers. My thoughts of doing something of distance are increasing daily.
Kids have it rough. And as far as bikes go -- at least in this country -- kids have it even rougher.
My wife and I decided yesterday to take the kids to the local farmer's market before popping in at the library. It was a great plan, but it required some awkward logistical management, since we've been leaving our bike trailer at daycare so it can get regular use.
After walking our youngest over there to fetch it, I cleaned off the chain to very quickly resolve a minor shifting problem, then headed back home to pack up. We rolled up, got everyone ready, and headed down the driveway, where we were immediately greeted by a pack of cars. On a small residential street. On Saturday, mid-morning. Over the next 15 minutes, the fun just never let up.
While I appreciate keeping our daughter on the sidewalk when she's riding up and down our street, when we're using our bikes as utilitarian objects, trying to get somewhere, we need to be in the road.
Sadly, in the US, that seems to be an affront to most people. A kid? On a street? On a bike? She's slowing me down! That was the general sense on what should have been our minimally-trafficked course, and it left me on edge.
We weren't exactly taking harrowing streets, either. For the most part, the roads we travel on are somewhat windy, relatively narrow, generally with parking on one or both sides, and realistically not useful for much beyond local travel. But somehow, we repeatedly found ourselves with a vehicle pressed against our rearmost rider, or staring down a car desperate to get through that narrow slot one of us had created by simply existing on the road.
More than once I was worried that an oncoming car wasn't watching my oldest daugher as she drifted a little in our lane, or that a car behind us would simply blow by without any regard for who might be in our group.
Then there were the intersections, where we often stopped as a group to let cars go. On at least two of these stops, a driver waved their arms to indicate which way they were going. Right, you can do that with your turn signal. That's what it's for. Or you can wave your arms like a doofus and communicate even less.
The entire experience was quite eye-opening, actually.
I'm not going to delve into the whole "European cycling is awesome!" bit, but I will say this about American biking: when a family out on a simple 2-mile cruise through town has to deal with sketchy situations and irate drivers, perhaps we need to rethink the way that families of four can ride around.
This isn't some epic trek, it's a quick jaunt to pick up some books and food. We're not trying to take over the highways, we're angling for a low-key, quiet way through a medium-density suburban area. Please let us do that without dying.
Be safe out there.
Mash out. Spin on.
It's raining! It's pouring! My daughter kicked me out of bed at 3:30 this morning, which gave my wife respite from my snoring.
I generally don't mind the rain. Growing up in the Northwest, it rained consistently enough that "riding in the rain" meant riding anytime between October and April. It involved putting on a rain slicker (this was before the days of ubiquitous fancy gear) and heading out, only to take off the slicker 20 minutes in because the aforementioned rain had turned to a light mist or dissipated entirely, only to have said rain restart just in time to deliver a good drenching before the previously removed rain slicker could be recommissioned.
It was rare, though, to have significant rainfall amounts. Daily totals were on the 1/4-1/2" scale. Moving East of the Rockies basically crushed that: rather than brief swaps between periods with and without drizzly rain, on this side of the Divide the rain builds up, letting you have days or weeks of sun (and, subsequently, built-up heat), only to be shattered by a diluvial event.
We saw earlier this year what that kind of persistent rain can do to hillside stability in the Northwest. On the Eastern seaboard, these isolated events are instead hurricanes that take on multi-state importance. And in the Midwest, "flooding" refers not to oceans rising and rivers building up at their mouths, but to vast swaths whose apparent siccity is belied by the insane water depths that sweep across them once every 100 (or maybe 10) years.
It was with only mild sadness, then, that I failed to ride outside this morning, thanks to a classically large Eastern rain cell depositing several inches over a half dozen hours. (A more pedestrian drizzle now falls, and I expect we'll be back to the sun side of the sun/rain detent tomorrow.)
But what disappointed me most was the much-anticipated ride to drop my daughter off for the first time at kindergarten. She's ridden the bus 15 or so times already this year, and last weekend she asked if I could ride her over today. Unfortunately, due to the school's "allowed drop-off time" being so late, that can only happen on Thursday; even more unfortunately, this morning was clearly not going to work out for that.
I will be seeking new opportunities to initiate her into biking to school, though, in hopes that in the not-too-distant future she'll be able to make the trek more regularly and/or on her own. Maybe we can even convince her local friends to join her.
I've thought a lot about the post from a few days ago bemoaning the trainer on beautiful riding days.
This morning, temps dropped to the 60F range, my daughter kicked me out of my bed at 5 a.m., and I thought long and hard about riding the trainer again. The benefit, of course, is that it would mean I would get to work quickly and could take the rest of my morning more casually. The obvious downside would be ridiculous inefficiency.
I could not -- could not -- stop thinking about Futurama S2Ep12, with Hermes complaining about bringing back mining carts empty in a forced labor camp: "It's criminally inefficient!" Because on a day like this, that's what avoiding the bike is.
Instead of giving in to the easy draw of the car, I pulled up the bike and got dressed to ride. My legs are a bit like jelly, and the ride home isn't going to be pretty, but at least my mind is no longer repeating this song ad nauseum. (Apologies for the quality.)
As a result of this ride, I finally had a chance to log a work trip, with the final number 41.6 km, starting a bit away from my door. That's a solid riding day to take on twice with work in between, though I know that as a youth I could have done the whole round-trip at full speed in about 2/3 the time I currently manage.
There is, alas, no accounting for the inefficiency of age. But at least it's not, you know, criminally so.
Mash out. Spin on.
We're finally out of the summer heat! It's time once again to really enjoy riding outside, that glorious period where mornings are cool enough to wear arm warmers but don't require booties, where it's possible to just jump on the bike and ride without thinking about your digits freezing or basic overheating after 2 hours.
Sadly, the school year has also started, and that means far less flexibility in my schedule. I reveled in the morning air for about 30 seconds before everyone got up, camping out on the back porch in 55F chill at 5:45 a.m., well before sunrise. Then I went downstairs and rode for an hour on the trainer.
This doesn't feel like what fall should be. Back in the grad school days, this season was where I got to ditch work in the middle of the day and take a few hours to just enjoy the good weather. Sure, that meant working more in the mornings and evenings, but it didn't make any difference when that was done: I'm not a clocked employee who needs to be around 9-5 every day.
Sadly, with an office that's far enough away to make me miss meetings if I leave after 7:45, it's hard to justify waiting with my kids for the school bus and then riding. But it's also hard to disappear for an hour or two before the drop-off for an outdoor ride thanks to darkness -- which, sadly, is not accompanied by less traffic.
That leaves the trainer, which I can realistically tolerate for no more than an hour on most days and have never succeeded in spending more than 2 hours on in a go.
Kick me outside, and a 2-hour ride feels decent, a 1-hour ride feels like I've barely started. On a trainer, 45 minutes leaves me mildly bored and staring at the clock; at 2 hours I'm pretty much leaping off the bike to end the ride. The sacrifices need to be made, though: getting out of cycling shape is pretty easy, and the trainer offers the only viable alternative in the wee hours where I can ride and, if needed, watch the kids. (The bike trailer may seem like an option, but by the time the kids are up and ready to get in it, any traffic-filled rides that might be done with children in tow are perilous at best.)
The biggest issues I have with the trainer are:
1. Excessive heat -- Houses are warm, which means it's always a 70F ride. Remove any airflow and the ride is never particularly comfortable.
2. Boredom -- There's not much to look at in a house. You can only think about cleaning the cobwebs from the corner so many times; you can only consider all the ways that a small piece of a toy ended up under the couch for so long; you can only watch so many Netflix offerings in a go (also, auto-play kicks out after 2 episodes, which confines rides to "hour-long" shows and movies).
3. Lack of ride variety -- And there are no hills! And no obstacles! It's just straight riding. I briefly propped up the front of my bike to work some different muscles, but it takes effort to put something like that in place. Maybe I'll get an electronically-activated hydraulic jack to make the experience more interesting.
Regardless, it looks like the trainer is going to dominate rides for the next couple weeks until our schedule has stabilized. That doesn't sound too appealing, but it's better than losing what little cycling shape I might have these days.
It's official: I have a touring bike! Well, mostly.
The local bike shop does builds with used components, and I had a bunch of parts lying around. They put a cyclocross frame together with a steel fork, strapped on some new cranks and a new cassette, bolted my parts to it, and gave it back. All that leaves for me to get are a couple fenders, a pannier rack, and some panniers. With all that, I'll be kitted out for routing, or just commuting more comfortably.
The whole package was well worth the $500, since it comes with much higher-end components than I would have otherwise gotten. The only downsides: the shifters are a tad abused -- one of them came from me -- and the fork is actually very very very very very dark green.
Indeed, as seen in the above setup, my first real ride on it was on a trainer. The weather promptly turned rainy, and I wanted to give the whole thing a test without having to clean the bike after 12 hours in my house.