Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tour de B-cycle: closing day 2010 edition

The B-cycle Bombers ready to embark. Left to right: David B., Eric F., Mary M., Andy D.
I've been a regular Denver B-cycle user since the system opened in April of this year. Since then, I've been to all the stations multiple times (with the exception of a few added in the past couple of weeks) so I am probably as familiar with the system as anyone can be. However, I had not done the Tour de B-cycle, a challenge to ride to each station in the Denver B-cycle system, returning to your starting station, within 24 hours.

Today was the last opportunity to take on the Tour de B-cycle in 2010, because the system shuts down for the winter tomorrow. With a temperature hovering in the mid 20s F, a group of four of us began the quest at the Denver Botanic Gardens station at 8:00am. Along for the ride with me were Eric France and David Brand (who hold the distinction of being the originators of the Tour de B-cycle on opening day) and Mary Mlot. Mary was perhaps the most adventurous of the lot, having only found out about the Tour the previous day.
On a chilly quest to reach all 50 stations, with cheeks reddened by the cold and wind.
Being fairly familiar with the ins and outs of the Denver B-cycle, as well as the bicycle infrastructure of the city, I planned a route using Google maps designed to wind through all 50 stations smoothly and efficiently. The route took into account Denver's network of bike routes, lanes and paths, traffic laws, the bike policy of the 16th St. Mall, and the directionality of downtown streets. The planned route for our Tour is viewable here for reference, for those who may be interested in developing of a Tour de B-cycle of their own. Keep in mind that your next chance at an attempt is on March 1, 2011 when Denver B-cycle re-opens.
My trusty clipboard with customized maps and a checklist of stations. I shamelessly own my bike nerd-dom, however...
...just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, this device easily tops the nerd score of a mere clipboard. This is my Garmin FR210 hooked to its charger pre-ride, only because I didn't think to get a shot of it in action.
As an added level of data collection, I was accompanied on the ride by my new Garmin Forerunner 210 GPS-enabled heart rate monitor/watch. It's a geographic/health/fitness information enthusiast's dream tool. In an instrument the size of an ordinary watch, the FR210 is packed with a miniature GPS unit able to record and store routes, speed, elevation, heart rate and a whole lot more. The unit is ostensibly designed for athletic training, but definitely makes active transportation more fun and the results more informative.

You can view the route log as recorded by my FR210 is here: Tour de B-cycle: Dec. 5, 2010. With a reasonable degree of accuracy I know that I rode 31.62 miles with 2,024 feet of elevation gain, and burned 2,895 calories at an average heart rate of 133 bpm, all during the 6 hours 24 minutes and 15 seconds it took to complete the Tour.

Update: Here's an interactive version of the route recorded by my GPS:

The path is easy to follow along streets and paths, but the logged route looks a little ragged when skyscrapers and other structures interfere a bit with the GPS signal. Overall, it's pretty close to the planned route.

There were no shortage of things to see along the way, including historic landmarks and a selection of Denver's varied and impressive architecture. There were a lot of unique and random bits along the street, desperately in need of a new owner. For many of these items that new owner ended up being Eric, who found several very special things for a lucky young lady in his household. I happened upon a grouping of nice things for a young lady at my home too.

Eric about to retrieve a particularly lovely prize, found near the 11th and Broadway station. 
A set of building blocks on a bus bench for future construction projects at my house.
We managed to mostly stay warm throughout the morning, apart from some cold toes and drippy noses, but our spirits remained high despite the continued chill throughout the day. We checked off the stations in the Cherry Creek area first, then followed with the stations in the DU/South Pearl area. Next, we headed to Capital Hill, Denver Health and the area around the Denver Public Library. A photo log of our Tour is viewable here.

Riding down 16th St. Mall; at other times a no-no, but definitely in the affirmative on Sundays. Note the well-utilized cargo baskets.
We then moved on to the downtown stations, then the outskirt stations such as Pepsi Center, 4th and Walnut and toward the Highlands. Uptown and Five Points were next, followed by West City Park, Queen Soopers and finally the return to Denver Botanic Gardens.
We happened upon another group of Tour de B-cyclists led by Parry while at Five Points. Eric organized an impromptu B-cycle kazoo serenade with vocal accompaniment by all riders present, in honor of her birthday. Happy Birthday, Parry!
All in all, things went quite well, with only a couple of checkout issues among my riding partners. We encountered one full station where we couldn't check in, and a few inoperable stations, which we shot with a camera and logged via GPS to prove our presence. I personally enjoyed a flawless checkout record using my B-card with no technical difficulties.
Near the end I met up with Denver B-cycle number 420, an old friend from opening day that I had ridden a few times in the past seven months. It was now outfitted with a single leg kickstand for field testing.
Even with the cold weather, Tour de B-cycle was a great time. Already, I can't wait until Denver B-cycle reopens next year. Here's to sending Denver B-cycle's first operating season off with a victory lap around the city, and may there be many more to come. Thanks to everyone – proponents, riders, staff and volunteers – who worked to make Denver B-cycle a success, as well as all those who strive to make the city of Denver a better place for bicycling.
Triumphant, the intrepid adventurers returned to Denver Botanic Gardens after the conquest of all 50 stations.

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