Friday, April 26, 2013

New England Virtual Cycling, batch 3: Maine, Rhode Island and Hopkinton

Early in the season I went in to get a new computer for my bike. Went to Bill Fox, the same guy I bought the bike from, a local guy who's been in business ( since the early 80's. He's also about a about a mile from home so that helps. I told Bill about the virtual cycling rides and he mentioned the East Bay Trail down in Providence. So I finally get around to shooting that and the next day I go to the shop and explain that I was again seeing people putting in significantly less effort and going a bit faster than me (Despite the videos I'm actually pretty ignorant about bikes. You can probably tell from my riding style if you look carefully). I just assumed it was because I was riding a mountain bike and everyone else was using smoother tires. Bill takes my bike, says come back in a couple of hours. I come back in a couple of hours and the first thing he does is hand me six thin metal rods. "These are broken spokes. They probably have more to do with your problem than the tires." He also then very patiently explained to me the parts of the wheel, other things that were wrong that he fixed and what differences I should notice now that things were fixed.

This is the trail he told me about, northbound and southbound. This was also my first time riding with somebody else while shooting so it got a little tricky at points because, as noted, she was able to ride easier than I could which means by all rights she should have been ahead of me the whole way. Unfortunately that doesn't really make for good video. Consequently a lot of the ride north we were riding side-by-side (don't ever do that and I again apologize to the person I almost had a head on with). Another minor issue on the northbound was that the GoPro battery died just as we were in the homestretch. Poor planning on my part, but that's honestly a very small part of a really beautiful ride.

Southbound went a bit smoother with my traveling companion for the day giving me a head start. I think this is one of my view videos where the southbound ride going into the sun probably comes out better than the northbound with the sun behind me.

The day before (Wednesday, April 24) I rode from Kennebunk to Scarborough Maine on two chunks of the Eastern Trail. I tried this a couple of weeks ago but there was still snow on the ground. This time it was much better, but I still had a couple of minor issues. Besides the bike issues there was also the "Basic research? What's that?" issue: I underestimated the distance between the two chunks of trail. I figured it was about a mile, was closer to three and a half. Very well marked and not too bad in general, but still an extra seven miles on a neglected bike but the total mileage for the day up to kick-heavy 40. But again, very scenic in parts and I hope you enjoy the ride.

There was one other ride I did this week on Sunday. The Upper Charles in Hopkinton and Milford, MA was a nice ride and certainly worth checking out in person. This is one of those times where (unlike the Eastern Trail mentioned above) I decided to keep the road section in the video since I read a few trail reports where people gave up on finding the second section of it because they couldn't find it. It's completely worth finding. Not too far away from the end of the first part and there were a few locals who were cool enough to help me find it. The trail actually continues to go further than where I stopped, but currently it's all mud and moguls. The group Friends of the Milford Trail is hoping to continue with improvements.

I'll be adding more to this when the videos are done uploading. Just wanted to get the plug in for FoxCo and have something for the videos to link to.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

New England Virtual Cycling, Batch 2: Fort Hill, Marblehead and Nahant

Wasn't really able to upload the rides as I went along this time, the editing was done differently. Since I'm currently dealing with shorter rides (Nahant below) and clip collections (Fort Hill above) there's been an increased use replays within a clip. To save time I've been finishing the editing on YouTube. As much as I'd like to have 2nd run throughs played faster that would involve more time with rendering the files. This adds hours to the editing time, hours that I'd rather spend riding.

The Nahant clip probably could have benefited from altered speeds since it does play slow at times while I'm trying to get around people on a crowded trail. Still though, it's a good clip with a strong variety of  visual elements.

I got another piece of the East Coast Greenway shot as well in the Salem/Marblehead area. This was shot the same day as Nahant (after work on Wednesday I think). The editing was a bit scrambled on both rides (you can't really tell unless you're carefully watching the shadows). With the Salem/Marblehead ride it was originally so I could edit out a dog doing a very dog-like thing. This resulted in reshooting about a small segment of trail. Then when I got to the end (middle of the round-trip) I saw the scene  I wanted to end with. Same deal with the Nahant video.

Then there was the trip to Gardner on Tuesday. There's two main websites I use to research trails: TrailLink and Google Maps (under the pulldown menu click 'bicycling' to see a bunch of trails). TrailLink is good for learning more about a trail once you're aware of it, but if you look at Google Maps you can start to get a better idea of how trails connect or are related to each other. I probably should have done that before heading out. I ended up shooting a 3-part ride by starting at part 2. Originally I thought that all there was was part 2 and I was just going to add this other ride a little bit north of it to fill out the video. Then I got to the end of part two and saw that a dirt trail with some moguls took me pretty much straight to the other ride/part 3. Part 1 comes into play when I finished the roundtrip on part 3, did a road ride back to part one and noticed another dirt trail across from the parking lot. THEN I checked the maps. So a couple of dirt trails later I get to another paved trail... Fun ride, just wish I planned it better.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I swear I'm Riding.

Had a good streak going there for a minute. I'm still riding. Rode 12 miles yesterday but only shot maybe 5. It was a Lowell shoot so I rode to where I turned the camera on (Shed Park/Fort Hill area). Fun shoot, I just didn't shoot enough to make a video. Was planning to head out that way again today but the weather had to finally live up to that April Showers bit. Ended up doing a couple miles at the gym while watching the Assabet clip from last week. I have tomorrow off. Helping a friend move then hopefully shooting an RT a little down the 'hawk.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Maine: Take 1

I suspect I'm going to have a lot of  rides that just don't go well for one reason or another. Bad weather, equipment failure, bike issues, confusing trails, poor planning, et cetera. But every ride still starts with the big red button being pressed so there will be footage. I'm trying to remember to save these remnants so they can be combined to create a ride called "The Cutting Room Floor" ride. I got a nice contribution to that ride today.

Late last week I was up in the woods of east Manchester, NH where I noticed large piles of snow still present. Not sure why I thought Kennebunk, Maine would be much different.

The thought process prior to going to work this morning was "I'll shoot a ride in southern Maine and then go do a comedy show in Newburyport on the way back." Didn't bother to research the trails much. Just assumed that there would be one just over the border for some reason. I have a coworker who commutes from that area so right before the end of shift I asked her what was up there. She told me that the East Coast Greenway has a finished section that goes from Kittery to Biddeford and she was under the impression that it was paved. This was not an accurate impression.

The trail was incredibly easy to find. Even if I hadn't been looking for it I would have found it accidentally. Just throw "Kittery" into your GPS and it'll take you to exit 25. Before you're even completely off the exit there are signs for the trail. A series of maybe five or six signs guide you right to the parking lot of an elementary school at the trail head. The only issue I had with the trail was all the mud and slush, which most people realize is a perfectly natural thing for the woods of Maine in April.

I shot two miles of it before quitting and heading over to Kennebunkport Beach to shoot a mile of road footage just to make it not feel like a wasted trip. The mile will make it into another compilation ride. It came out nice, but I'm not into the idea of shooting road footage. I kind of like the idea of only riding places where scooters fear to tread... or aren't allowed.

So yeah, save that stretch for a drier time.

One real cool thing that happened today though was that I got a comment on one of my videos from somebody who shoots the same type of thing in Germany. Kind of weird to think that somebody in a scenic area like that is doing virtual rides of Lowell. Here's one of theirs.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

New England Virtual Cycling. 2013 Week 1: Manchester, Lowell, LDT, Massabesic, Assabet

Started getting a lot of hits on the virtual cycling videos over the winter. Naturally this calls for overkill. In the past week and a half I've uploaded 7 hours of new riding footage. I have a couple of vague ideas of what people are looking for (constant speeds, decent scenery, steady shots, at least a 45 minute ride).

I think people are also looking for foliage. Not much you can do about that in April. A way around it is focusing more on cityscapes. That was one of the reasons I shot the downtown Lowell ride (the other reason was I got a late start after working that day). This was also the ride that wasn't a ride. Since I'm used to shooting longer rail trails I don't usually have the luxury of thinking in a non-linear style. The trail is the trail, you follow it. To make clip a proper length I reused some of the clips, but put them in a different order. As an editor this was one of those simple things that made it fun.

I also double-played clips on today's ride in Manchester, NH (top). Difference is there is a noticeable  continuity to the ride so for the sake of variation I put the second run-through at a slightly higher speed.

I got off the rail trails two other times this week to shoot Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest and the Massabesic Lake area just east of Manchester. In both cases my initial intent of simply staying on carriage roads was thwarted by looking at thinner trails and thinking "how bad can it be?"

Here's LDT:

That question starts to be answered around the 43 minute mark. Again, it isn't the quality of the trails that was the issue (New England Mountain Bike Association did a great job designing them). The issue was my complete lack of ability in riding this style.

Massabesic  also has some nice mountain bike trails, though generally flatter. Another thing they still have is large snow banks. Those should be gone by May.

There was also a little bit of snow still on the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail. I'm sure that's melted by now. Had a good ride and for the first time was able to upload a round-trip version. Due to it's proximity to home I've shot this one a few times with different cameras and different styles. Nice evening shadows on the clip.

On Wednesday work cancelled my shift so I decided to check out part of the East Coast Greenway. The long-range goal for this is to create sort of an Appalachian Trail for cyclists. I covered an eight-mile section combining trails in Topsfield and Danvers. This was a fun ride. For YouTube viewers it might not be the most exciting thing to watch (pretty much nobody else out there, lots of woods), but still a good ride. Not too many intersections until you get near the Danvers-Peabody line.

Absolute favorite ride though was the Assabet Rail Trail in Marlborough and Hudson, MA. 10 miles round-trip, well maintained, great variety of scenery, not too many intersections, and easy parking at both ends. I parked at the Marlborough end for the sake of starting with the sun behind me (makes for bluer skies in the shot), but if I were just riding I would've have started at the Hudson end to get more downhill on the return trip.

So that was a much more productive week than planned.