Mission/McAllen/Edinburg metroplex area on a Chip Seal Spree

In the last two months I have noticed that several of the outer laying roads in the Mission/McAllen/Edinburg metroplex area are being resurfaced in the Chip Seal way. First was part of my route that I cycle after work, Ware Rd from 107 to Monte Christo street. As a result, I no longer take that loop. I drive back home and ride afterwards. It’s not bad as I still have plenty of daylight left to zip around.

Sometime later, I was heading over to go see a movie, and I ran across another section of Ware road getting the same treatment of Chip Seal resurfacing. This time it is a heavily used cycling route from Expressway 83 south to Military road. Another one bites the dust.

Let’s not forget the Granjeno loop. That was such an enjoyable ride through farmland and county parks, but now, forget it. No one rides that section if they can help it. It’s not enjoyable with your teeth rattling form the bone jarring ride you get.

Now, today I was planing a route to Bentsen State park for the Ciclistas Urbanos cycling club and I ran into a 3-mile stretch on Bentsen Palm Drive from Business 83 to the park. Ugh! When will it stop! It seems that many of our routes are being chopped up and there is really nothing you can do about it. One or tow people complaining at a public meeting has zero effect and good luck getting cyclists to ban together and join a cause.

For those that don’t know what Chip Seal is or what the big deal is, Chip Seal is a method of road construction where they basically place a sticky substance (liquified asphalt) on the bottom and dump aggregate  on top. Then it is mashed down with a big roller to stick to the hot asphalt (acts like a glue). It is an inexpensive method of road maintenance that good for cars but terrible for cyclist. Riding on that kind of surface is akin to riding on a dirt road with a controlled distribution of rock sizes. Even on my carbon framed bike it was a rough ride. It also slows you down as it is harder to pedal on (at least to me). For those that want to learn more on it, I found this link that does a great job of what it is and the benefits of it for automobiles.

To me, this is terrible news. We are trying to encourage more cycling in our area with cycling clubs for all levels. Long distance riding or endurance rides will be the ones primarily affected. You know it wouldn’t be so bad if they just redo to road where the cars drive and leave the shoulders alone. Some say to turn this negative into a positive, the Tour de France has their cobble stone roads and we have our chip seal! If you ask me, I rather not have either.

What can we do about it? Pretty much nothing. City planners, TXDOT, and others don’t give a damn about cyclist or other minority users such as motorcyclist’s. Cars is where the action is at and they will not do anything to promote other modes of transportation.

I don’t know of anyone or group that has successfully launched a Stop This Shit campaign but if you have, let me know. I’d like to hear from you about it.

Urban Cycling Project’s Inaugural Cycling Ride a Big Success


Raul Giving Ride Instructions

Saturday was the Urban Cycling Project inaugural cycling ride in downtown McAllen and it was a big success. Event coordinator, Raul Reynoso, was extremely pleased with the turn out and the good time everyone had. various head counts puts the participation lever between 30 to 35 cyclists from the surrounding area. We had cyclists from Mission (me), McAllen and the Edinburg area all with different skill levels of urban cycling.

I rode in from Mission taking the Business 83, Main St, La Vista route. After the event I planned on heading back via the Buddy Owens Blvd. The day was another beautiful sunny day that started a little cool in the early morning but warmed up nicely. When I arrived at the La Vista park there were people getting their bikes out of their van and a local TV news station was setting up. We spotted the main group where Raul was at chatting with the Bike Edinburg club.  Part of the event is the social aspect where people greeted one another and talk bike. This continued as the rest of the cyclists rolled in.

Cyclistas Urbanos rolled up with a large group of cyclists including some new faces. That’s great to see. New faces and new bikes to look at and opportunities to help new people to urban cycling. Another thing that I noticed was the number of kids that were going to take part of the ride. This is something that I miss seeing, the junior cyclists that will carry the torch to new generations to come.

A local TV station (Fox 48) was there to cover the event and take interviews with the event coordinator, Raul and Mark from Ciclistas as well as Ruben from Rio South Texas Cycling Coalition were able to chime in and advocate for cycling safety and better conditions in the community.

After everyone showed up Raul went to the next phase of the event, education and riding rules. With the help of a translator, he was able to explain what the ride is all about and go over how the ride is going to be handled. Ride safety being the paramount issue for a large group, the kids and their guardians will ride up front, followed be the less experienced riders all the way down the line to the most experience riders being in the back. In addition there are ride marshals that will cover the front and back of the group with one person riding between the front and back blocking traffic at intersections. Pretty much what Sheriffs do during a funeral precession. Raul also went over some whistle signals that will be used between the ride marshals to communicate with each other.

This was an excellent way to educate the new cyclists and help them feel better that there is a structure for them to follow. Most of the time when you show up at a cycling event or club ride there are no instructions. Just general things like obey traffic laws and etc.. The rest you are to figure out on your own or expect to know already. Here, Raul took the time to explain that we are riding two-by-two and that the most experienced riders are in the back while the least experienced and kids are up front with the ride leader. He also gave an explanation about why this style is used. The education aspect is very important for beginners and helps everyone understand that the group has to ride as a unit, to increase safety for all riders.

After the introduction and rules of the ride, it was time to ride out and put what we learned to good use. The first stop was Oliver’s French Bakery for their scrumptious baked goods. Two-by-two we cycled the one or two miles to the bakery and stampeded their door to the shop. In the mean time I noticed that my rear tire was out of true so I took the opportunity to make the necessary adjustments. It’s usually the same spoke all the time. Mental note to myself, redo that section of the wheel to correct the problem. Ya, it’s already forgotten.

Not to be left out, I got myself a nice peanut butter based pastry that hit the spot along with some OJ. By the time I was able to finish my meal it was time to head out to the next destination, the Farmers Market at Alhambra. I’ve wanted to go back to stock up on some honey that I like and perhaps find some other goodies that I can get. After all that is one of the reasons I bought a beam rack and bag for the bike, to be able to carry stuff.

On the ride over there I took notice of bike tire and it seemed as the wobble is now gone. Yay! A job well done.It’s amazing your rear end can detect a wobble in your tire.

Arriving at Alhambra was an event in itself. All the onlookers checking out all the cyclists rolling on by, some smiling, others waving and others unimpressed or indifferent. At this point I checked up on some of the new riders and they reported that they are doing great but with a little sore bottom. Otherwise ,they are in good spirits and having a great time. This style of riding makes it easy for them to follow and feel comfortable with riding out on the streets and off the sidewalks.

While at the market, i picked up some tasty Salsa and my favorite honey from the people at RGV Honey. I also took in some nice freshly squeezed grapefruit juice to complement the vegetarian wrap that I had there. Everyone else was busy shopping for some vegetables to take home and others trying some tamales. The place was pretty busy with people coming and going through out the time we were there. In fact, every time I go here it’s pretty busy.

The ride back to La Vista park went well. Everyone maintained the two-by-two cycling formation and had little trouble getting back. At some point he group split as some lived near by and others took a different route back to Edinburg. After the ride Raul and several others stayed behind to talk about the ride and get feedback as to how thing can be improved for the next event. After that, I took off to make my way home.

I had to stop again to tighten that same spoke again as it got loose. Other than that the only other thing that happened was my bike computer had a hiccup and stopped recording for several miles before I noticed it. Ugh! I hate that! Miles that I will never get back again. Luckily, it is a rare event and I’m not too concerned about it.

At the end of the day, i would say that the Urban Cycling Project was a very successful event. Plans are to have the event in Edinburg and Mission to promote cycling in those towns and hopefully get more people cycling in their home towns.

New Cyclists

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Some of the new cyclists