This blog came to be when I realized there was simply not enough information available about cycling in the Milford, Pennsylvania area. With many miles of pavement, gravel roads, and lots of trails, Milford is an ideal cycling spot and a great place for the outdoor enthusiast.
Milford is a historic town that sits in the Delaware Valley in Pike County, along the Delaware River, bordering both New York and New Jersey. Milford has lots of cafes, restaurants, and quaint shops that make it a great place to start or finish a ride.
Stay tuned for lots of articles and photos on gravel rides, road rides, and even some mountain bike rides, all in the Milford area!
Usually, in the winter, I ride up above the tree line on Skyline Drive and Foster Hill, overlooking Milford and the surrounding area. But, I wanted to go higher. So, this morning, I hooked up with Bodhi at Action Bikes and Outdoor on Broad Street on what was a chilly but beautiful start to the day.
We pedaled out of town and up Rt. 6.. We made a right hand turn on Schocopee Road and continued upwards. The first 4.5 miles resulted in over 1,000 feet of elevation. Schocopee is a narrow and winding hill that turns to gravel mid way up and becomes Fire Tower Road, leading to the Buckhorn Fire Tower.
At the top, we found a gate leading to Lost Camp Trail, an old Jeep trail that sits high up on the ridge and becomes a narrow path after about a half mile. Most of the trail was super technical and overgrown. We came across a few sections that were under water and hike a biked through a couple of creek crossings. Although we both rode gravel bikes, this trail is definitely more suited for a mountain bike or fat bike.
We came across two well maintained hunting cabins, neatly tucked along the trail. Another mile and we were out on Cummins Hill Road. This alpine type road winds up from the Delaware River to the Lost Camp parking lot and drops sharply down to Rt. 209/6. The bottom of the descent is extremely chopped up pavement, requiring your utmost attention. Another right and we soft pedaled our way back to the shop.
This was a challenging route. It took nearly 4 hours to go 15 miles. It might be fun to connect Lost Camp to the Fire Tower Trail out to Shohola. We’ll see.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) today – Soundgarden – Burden in my Hand
In an attempt to add length to my daily rides, I went out on last Sunday for a longish ride, traversing some of the finest roads in the area. The average temperature was about 50 degrees and sunny, adding to a very good day on the bike. My goal was to add mileage and take in some newer roads while keeping the elevation to a minimum. This worked out like a charm. The weather held out until about 10 minutes after I finished. Then the rains came.
I left my community and headed down Rt. 739, through Lord’s Valley, to Rt. 6. I made a left and pedaled a few miles, before climbing up past Costa’s Family Fun Park and across Rt. 402. A right hand turn on Kimbles Road put me on new terrain. About 2 miles in and I came across what appeared to be the most out of place looking facility that I have seen in this area. I counted more than 30 large satellite dishes. The entire property was surrounded by a ten foot fence with barbed wire, what appeared to be a watch tower and was neatly tucked into the woods. I couldn’t help but wonder what this was. It made me think of the film “The Manhattan Project”, like we have some secret government lab, hidden away in our corner of the world. I doubt it, but its fun to imagine.
I dropped down to the Towpath Road for an 11 mile, flat as a pancake cruise along the Lackawaxen River. If you haven’t been on this road, go there. It is a quiet, beautiful stretch of tarmac. I crossed the Roebling Bridge into New York for an 18 mile ride along the Delaware River that was anything but flat. As soon as I rode past Barryville, I hit a succession of climbs that made me rethink my mapping skills (Actually, it wasn’t too bad as the entire route was under 3,000 feet of elevation gain). When I reached the top of the Hawk’s Nest, the sun was in full force. I dropped down to Sparrowbush and eventually over to Port Jervis, where I crossed the Mid-Delaware Bridge back into Pennsylvania and back to Milford on Rt. 209.
What a fun ride. I look forward to building this route into a full day ride and possibly an overnighter.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) – today – The Rolling Stones – 19th Nervous Breakdown
Lake Wallenpaupack is a reservoir that is the second largest lake contained entirely in the state of Pennsylvania. The Lenape people named the area “Wallenpaupack”, meaning “The stream of swift and slow water”.
The lake, which is 13 miles long and has 52 miles of shoreline, was created in 1924, when the PPL Corporation constructed a dam on the Wallenpaupack Creek, flooding the town of Wilsonville, which is still under water, near the dam. These days, Lake Wallenpaupack is a major recreational destination in the Pocono Mountain region.
Always looking for an opportunity to try something different, I came up with an idea to pedal around the lake. On Thursday, I met Mike at 9am at the Visitor’s Center on Rt. 6 in Hawley. We had a route planned that would hug the lake as much as possible for a complete circumference. With perfect weather and little to no wind, we decided to take advantage of all that Mother Nature was offering.
Starting from the Visitor’s Center, we headed up Rt. 6 and turned left on Purdytown Turnpike. Immediately, the road shot upward and continued that way for several miles. I’m not complaining, because the slow going on the steep gradient, allowed us to take in what I believe to be one of the most beautiful area’s in the Poconos. The views from Purdytown and Lake Shore Drive were outstanding. Another left on Finn Swamp Road put us close to the water, but not for long, as we continued to climb upward and drop down the backside of each short and curvy descent with little to no traffic. After a right turn on Luzerne Wayne Turnpike which runs right into Goose Pond Road and a left on ledgedale Road, we veered little from the lake as we ran right into Lake Wallenpaupack Road (Rt. 507).
For 14 miles this roller coaster road, took us through more than a few lake front communities, past several marinas and many restaurants. As Rt. 507 reaches Rt. 6, a gravel path leads you up on the dam as you pedal high above the water, taking in a breath taking view on the eastern side of the lake. As we arrived back at the Visitor’s Center, I couldn’t help but think how lucky we are to live here. I can’t wait to do this ride again.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) – today – Temple of the Dog – Hunger Strike
January in northeast Pennsylvania is getting warmer as the years go by. Maybe it’s global warming, maybe it’s not. Either way, it’s helping facilitate an easy transition to winter cycling. December was freezing, with temperatures in the single digits for more than a week. But January has brought us a fresh start. Mild weather that’s conducive to outdoor activities.
I’ve been riding quite frequently so far this year. Mostly on the road, as the back roads and trails were iced over for a the first week plus. But, I was able to sneak 3 gravel rides in at the Delaware State Forest.
It’s been a real pleasure getting back in the woods. The Hunters keep me out of the forest for about 2 months each year. That said, winter is a great time to get out there. The gravel is super hard, making for a surface that’s speedier than usual. Also, the creeks and rivers are ripping by as the thaw fills up waterways. As you can see in the above photo, I have one water bottle. I dropped my bike taking this shot and my bottle floated away.
I’ve tried to hit most of the northern end of the forest, saving the rest for when I’m doing longer rides, later in the season. I take this time to get some base miles in and snap some shots of the many hunting cabins that are scattered throughout the woods.
Five Mile Meadow Road and Flat Ridge Roads have been in surprisingly good shape for this time of year. The repairs made by the state have held up rather well. Ben Bush Trail and Standing Stone Trails have also held up to the cold. The only deteriorated surface has been Bald Hill. The descent towards the bottom is a bit washed out. I’m excited to be back in the forest and even more excited to discover more new roads and trails this spring.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) today – Sting – All this Time
It’s no secret that I like to take pictures of bikes in nature. Nothing pleases me more that to be out on a ride and come across the perfect place to snap a photo of my bike. Whether it’s in the rain, drenched in sunshine or even in the snow, bikes are the perfect complement to humans traveling across from one side of the forest to the other.
Being a roadie for most of my adult life, I never really paid attention to what’s really out there. Gravel riding the last nine years has opened up a whole new world. It brings me through areas in my hometown that I did not know existed.
I’ve pedaled on hiking trails, fire roads, farm roads, snowmobile and ATV trails as well as logging routes and farms. The possibilities are endless as are the opportunities for scenic photos. When you see that spot that you immediately see as a prime photo spot, all bets are off for a speedy rip through the woods.
What is the best method for snapping pictures from your bike? I’ve taken many shots with various versions of the IPhone and I have to say that the IPhone 13 has an incredible camera. The only thing it lacks is the ability to zoom and really focus in. I’ve also tried a mirror less DSLR camera. These take incredible pictures, but are bulky to carry on the bike, especially if you have multiple lenses.
For now, I’m going to use the winter to take some classes and hone my photographic skills, and save my camera for a time when I can come up with the best method to keep it on the ready while safely storing it on the bike.
I hope you like taking pictures as much as I do, because I really enjoy seeing every bicycle in nature. These pics can make and old beat up bike look special.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – The Cars – It’s All I Can Do
Let me start by saying that this is an independent review. While I have reviewed another bike and some Velo Orange components, I am in no way associated with the company. I am simply a happy customer.
That said, lets dive into what turns me on about this bike. First, by now, you know I prefer steel, for comfort, aesthetics, nostalgia and simplicity. Second, I’ve read numerous reviews and have seen every kind of setup you can imagine, so I knew this was going to be a versatile bike. Third, it rides like an absolute dream!
When I finally pulled the trigger and purchased the frameset, I immediately started cultivating the build. I wanted a Grand Cru headset and cockpit, as well as a Grand Cru crankset. So, I purchased the headset and crank as well as the Growtac Equal flat mount brakes with the frame and stripped another bike for the matching silver Nouveau Randonneur handlebar, Grand Cru stem and seatpost. I added some Bontrager carbon wheels and SRAM Force derailleurs paired with SRAM Red shifters and a SRAM 11 speed 11-32 cassette.
The build came together pretty flawlessly. The Growtac brakes are by far, the strongest mechanical disc brake calipers that I have ever used and the easiest to instal. I’ve made some modifications. I swapped the Brooks saddle for a Bontrager Arvada and changed headset spacers to titanium, simply for aesthetics.
I’ve only been able to put just over two hundred miles in so far, but I think I can make a pretty fair assessment. While many people have built this frame up with flat bars, the geometry begs for drop bars. From the first ride, it felt fast. I haven’t made a determination as to whether the bike just has a super smooth ride, allowing you to pick up the pace or the geometry puts you in a position to fly. I think it’s a little bit of both. It climbs exceptionally well, but that may be the sub compact 50.4 46/30 crankset.
Honestly, I wish winter was a long way off. I’ll have to ride my gravel bike for a few months and wait until March to enjoy the Pass Hunter. This will be my go to road bike for years to come.
When I think of winter, I think of cold weather, snow, wood fires, staying warm and surviving until spring. Like most people, I take advantage of all the delicious foods around the holidays and pack on a few extra pounds for good measure. I also try to stay fit with shorter bike rides and walking outside as well as indoor strength workouts.
This year, I’m going to try something a little different. I’m going to train 1-2 times per week outside. This, in addition to bike rides will include running, followed by bodyweight exercises and more running. The purpose is to trick my body into better dealing with the cold as I pursue a full season of riding and to simply change things up a bit.
Sample sessions might look something like this:
Winter Workout #1
Run or Snowshoe 1 Mile
Complete ascending and descending sets of:
TRX Pullups or Inverted Rows
Sumo Air Squats
TRX Wall Slides
5 Rounds of:
Bear Crawls – 1 Minute on/1 Minute Rest
Run or Snowshoe 1 Mile
Winter Workout #2
Run or Snowshoe 1 Mile
50 Jumping Jacks
5 Minutes Leg Raises – 30 Seconds on/30 Seconds Rest
5 Minutes Walking Lunges
50 TRX Incline Chest Press
50 TRX Rows
30 TRX Hip Throws (each side)
50 TRX Squats
Run or Snowshoe 1 Mile
All of the exercises can be scaled to your fitness level. I’ll only be outside if the weather dips below 40 degrees. For now, my plan is Wednesdays and Saturdays, starting December 14th and continuing through Mid March. I plan to workout in the snow and just embrace all that winter is and hopefully get something from it. If the snow is too deep, then, I’ll either clear a spot or snowshoe that day for an extended period of time.
So, if you looking for something to jumpstart your winter, get outside, get in the snow and have fun!
Every once in a while, you come across a piece of equipment that changes your experience on the bike. Ill fitting or inadequate apparel can make for a miserable ride. Tights, bib shorts, jerseys , base layers and jackets are an easy fix. If the specific piece of clothing does not fit properly, you swap it out for the correct size. This is not always true for helmets.
Most helmets come in three sizes. Small, medium and large. Some manufacturers include extra padding, but this does not always provide a good fit. The retention systems are usually pretty good, but if the helmet does not fit on your skull, then the chin strap and rear dial, really doesn’t matter.
Now I have not had good luck with proper fitting helmets. Most medium helmets are too small for me and the larger ones are way too big. Even with the chin strap super tight and the Boa dial cranked down, the helmet moved around on my head. That is until I tried the Bontrager XXX WaveCel Road Helmet. I purchased a size large in black. What I immediately noticed was how light it was. Then, the fit was on the money, as the helmet covers my entire head and actually fits as snug as I like. The Boa dial and chin strap are second to none.
A major advancement in the protection against cycling-related head injuries
Bontrager XXX WaveCel delivers high-performance protection and the best in aerodynamics and comfort. XXX is the WaveCel helmet of choice for the Trek-Segafredo men’s and women’s teams.
WaveCel is a collapsible cellular structure that lines the inside of the helmet. This Bontrager-exclusive technology disrupts the safety standards the industry has accepted for over 30 years
WaveCel advanced helmet technology
BOA® Fit System lets you easily secure and adjust helmet fit with just one hand
Easy-to-use adjustable strap dividers allow for a fine-tuned fit
An aerodynamic shape helps you outsmart the wind and ride faster
Additional NoSweat pad with silicone channel keeps sweat out of eyes for constant clarity
Team Trek-Segafredo sticker kit included with Viper Red, White, and Radioactive Yellow colorways
Crash Replacement Guarantee provides a free helmet replacement if involved in a crash within the first year of ownership
Complies with U.S. CPSC safety standards for bicycle helmets for persons age 1 and over
One thing to remember is that a good helmet is designed to save your head exactly once. If you took a fall that left you concussed, or left your helmet dented or cracked in any way, then it is pretty safe to assume that its impact absorbing abilities have been compromised and that it should be replaced.
If your in the market for a new helmet, try the best fitting helmet you will ever find.
The 7th edition of the Maple City Century went off without a hitch. If you haven’t heard of it, your missing the premiere gravel ride in the northeast. With incredible “B” roads throughout and a good amount of technical, beat up, Jeep trail to challenge you, you’ll leave here tired and satisfied with a burning desire to do it all again next year.
Missing the last two years, due to the pandemic, the Maple City Century was back in full force with Zack, Stacey and the Wentzel family leading an incredible staff of volunteers. This year, the Metric and full century were offered again. The Volunteers absolutely created an oasis at each rest area, offering homemade cookies, pickles, trail mix, energy snacks, fruit, sandwiches, energy drinks and water. Oh yeah, let’s not forget about the Coca Cola at 40/75 mile rest stop. Always a rider favorite.
It seemed like Zack and Stacey were on every road their car could access and at every rest stop, offering support. It really makes for a mom and pop, hometown feel for everyone.
I rode the metric again. It amazes me how I forget about the climbs. Each time I do this event, while walking up that horrendously steep hill, which I believe is Galilee Road at about mile 35, I wonder why I didn’t train harder for this or am I really getting that old. But there is a reward. Not long after, you descend down to River Road along the Delaware River. The views are fantastic, the surface is first rate and zero traffic helps you confidently drop to the river without fear.
Course markers at every turn and gps routes loaded into your computer, make this an easy course to navigate. I came back into Honesdale tired, but ready to eat.
At the finish, Scarfalloto’s Towne House Diner hosted the post race party, with each rider getting a quality meal of their choosing from the menu as well as beer from the Wallenpaupack Brewing Company.
I’ll definitely be back next year. Maybe the full century again, maybe the metric, Either way, I can’t wait!
Late August usually provides premium weather for longer days in the saddle. At 75 degrees with a slight breeze most of the day, last Sunday did not disappoint, as I followed a pattern from years past and did a long gravel ride, four weeks before the Maple City Century, in an attempt to inject some fitness into this old body.
I met up at 8am with Eric, Jerry, Brian and Austin at the Rt. 739 Parking lot for Five Mile Meadow Road. After a quick meet and greet, we headed directly uphill, over the loose gravel surface. After the descent and a few smaller hills, we made a right on Ben Bush Road. This short tunnel through the woods provided a great place for us to figure out our pace. A left on Standing Stone Trail, allowed a 2 mile gradual drop to Silver Lake Road.
We looped through Little Mud Pond and onto Flat Ridge Road. The 4 mile, through road is about the smoothest gravel surface in the entire Delaware State Forest. We crossed over Bushkill Falls Road and jumped into the Burnt Mills Trail system. Burnt Mills is a rough, technical trail, adding a bit of fun to an otherwise long and grueling day. Crossing over Rt, 402, we hopped on Pine Flats Road and cruised down to Highline Road for the 6 mile roller coaster through thick gravel and over to Hobday Road and eventually to the base of the High Knob.
The High Knob climb is a 2 mile gravel ascent that averages about 7% and tops out at 16%. The steepest sections are near the top. As you cap the summit, the views of Pike County hit you in every direction. After a quick lunch at the top, we enjoyed the descent and button hooked our way back to the parking area. Satisfied with the days effort, I look forward to some longer rides as the weather gets a little cooler.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Joe Walsh – Life’s Been Good
For about 18 months, I’ve been dealing with quite a bit of pain in both feet. Until recently, I was not sure what was causing it. I was feeling soreness in the middle of my right foot after several hours on the road bike and occasionally pain in either foot would keep me on the couch for several days to a week. About 6 months ago, pain in my left big toe brought me to the podiatrist. He recognized right away that I was suffering from gout. Then, a recent work trip found me working from my hotel for a few days, with immense pain in my right big toe.
A trip to an urgent care led me to a local Physicians Assistant, who recognized that a certain medication I’ve been taking, was more than likely causing my gout issue. I immediately discarded that medication and accepted the consequence.
With the thought that gout was behind me, I decided to discard my road pedals for mountain pedals. My Speedplay Zero pedals on both road bikes have served me well for many years, but I needed a larger contact point for both feet. I switched the Crank Brothers Candy Pedals from my gravel bikes to the road bikes and purchased 2 pairs of Crank Brothers Double Shot Pedals for the the gravel bikes. The flat side will allow me to ride even if I have an issue with my feet, while the reverse side allows me to clip in while still resting on a larger base.
The final piece of the puzzle was adjusting my cleats. I rode for mamy years with my cleats jammed to the front of my shoes. I decided to set my them all the way back. This allows my feet to move freely. Finally, the allure of having one set of shoes for all my bikes as well as being able to walk while off the road bike is very inviting. Hopefully, most of the pain is in the rear view mirror. We’ll see…..
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head whill riding) – today – Foreigner – Feels Like the First Time
It’s been quite some time since I’ve had an occasion to write about my exploits on the bike. Work has found me riding only a couple of times a week. Nothing sexy, just stress relieving jaunts through the forest with some sprinkled in road rides.
However, hard work rewards and this week, reward it did! I was able to spend 4 days on Nantucket Island, a 30 mile ferry ride from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Home to the Uber rich, Nantucket is an island, town and county. Within the town sits numerous small neighborhoods, all with a quaint seaside feel. The island is approximately 14 miles long and 3.5 miles wide, with too many picturesque spots for any one place. Wild life is everywhere. Terns, ducks, seals, whales and the occasional shark can be spotted on and off the beaches.
Now, if you’re on Nantucket and plan to ride, stick to the bike paths. The roads in town are either cobblestones or just 400-500 year old stone and what’s paved is not great. Traffic is another obstacle. If your staying in town, plan on navigating through traffic for about a mile before getting clear. This is a cycling blog, so I do not want to forget to mention that this is as beautiful a place as any on the map.
The ‘Sconset Bike Path, the Polpis Path and Milestone Road are the best routes to get you from Nantucket to Siasconset, the far end of the island. The paths are paved, well maintained and serve as the main transportation link around the island. The bike path network here rivals any place I’ve traveled. If its the only thing you do while your here, you’ll leave fulfilled.
I met a lot of people while riding, walking and paddling. I certainly made the most of my time off from work. I met people that sailed from Long Island, NY, Nyack, NY, Maine, and Boston. While searching for a good cafe, I met Paul Anthony Morello, Chef at the Corner Table. He brought me over to his eatery at the corner of Broad Street and Federal Street. The coffee, eggs and sun dried tomato sandwich as well as the sweet potato hummus were incredible. It felt like I died and went to hummus heaven and reminded me of the Pattisserie on Broad in Milford. Gone, but not forgotten.
I am not a beach person. I would much rather, spend time in the woods or near a lake. A place like this could change my mind. If you have an opportunity to visit this history filled, beautiful, Northern Atlantic spot, do it. You will never forget it!
A few months ago, I built up a bike that I was so intrigued to ride. My parts selection is a little eclectic, and the complete bike is anything but normal. It really doesn’t fit into any one category. This steel steed is my monstercross, mountain bike, do everything thrill ride. But, I think the ample amount of bosses, for racks, bags and bottle cages really makes this bike the ultimate backroad touring machine.
Almost all parts remain from my original build. The only modification I made was a 17 degree stem. Normally, I like a longer, neutral cockpit, but the super long top tube, left me reaching a bit. The 17 degree rise solved this issue and helps get my bars above the saddle. This is a good thing.
But how does this bike perform? For a steel mountain bike, it is surprisingly compliant. Now steel is definitely the most comfortable material you can ride and this bike does not disappoint. Over countless rock gardens and through the rip rap that covers lots of snow mobile trails in Northeast Pennsylvania, the Piolet exceeded my expectations. It’s not too punchy on flat gravel roads, but it climbs rather well for a 28 pound, steel mountain bike.
The Daja Far Bars keep me in an optimal position when bombing down loose gravel roads. The taller had tube coupled with the Grand Cru headset keep the front end stable while pounding through the rough stuff. The Grand Cru seatpost topped with the WTB Volt saddle is super comfortable. The SRAM Apex shifters and derailleur keep the drivetrain running smoothly. The SRAM GX crankset with the Dub bottom bracket is smooth. Although, I may switch out the 30t chainring for a 34 or 36 as I’m spinning out on some descents.
Whether set up with drop bars, flat bars or any of the many choices on the market today, if your thinking of steel, the Piolet should be your monstercross, gravel, touring or whatever bike. Check them out at velo-orange.com.
Sometimes you do more than just ride. Sometimes, you devour the scenery. Today was one of those times. It certainly helps when the weather is perfect (68 degrees and sunny) and the views are endless.
I met Mike and Peter this morning in Barryville, N.Y. For a spin up RT. 97 and the Tow Path Road. We parked a stones throw from the water and headed out on Rt. 97 along the Delaware River. 3.5 miles in, we crossed the Roebling Bridge (the oldest wire suspension bridge in the United States} over to the Pennsylvania side and cruised through the tiny berg of Lackawaxen. Once on the Tow Path Road, we crossed over the Lackawaxen River back into New York.
The Tow Path winds up hill at about a 1% clip for quite a long way. The grade and a head wind created just enough resistance to slow it down a bit until we hit the one hill we’d climb all day. At the top, we turned around for a fast, fun descent. The river views of the Lackawaxen and Delaware were stunning. Wildlife was everywhere.
The last 5 rides have been wonderful. I’m finally feeling close to 100% again. The pandemic added a few pounds to my frail frame and work and the weather have made it easy for me to make excuses as I only rode once or twice a week all winter and spring. I realize their will be peaks and valleys, but as long as I stay consistent, I should continue continue to feel good.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) , today – Todd Rundgren – Hello It’s Me
Although I frequently travel for work and get to ride in different parts of the country, it’s when I’m home and riding in Northeast Pennsylvania that I’m in my happy place. Until now, I’ve only been able to ride in the Delaware State Forest a hand full of times. The ice kept me out all winter and the thaw made for a messy, muddy spring.
Working from home this week, afforded me the opportunity to get out and play in the woods a few times. One ride was on the Black Mountain Cycles Monstercross disc that took me down Standing Stone Trail, up the Burnt Mills Snowmobile trail system and around Little Mud Pond. Burnt Mills was in pretty bad shape. The ATV’s really ripped it up over the winter. The other surfaces seemed to hold up pretty well.
Today, I was able to get a pre-Easter dinner jaunt through some new territory on the Velo Orange Piolet. First, I changed stems to a 70mm, 17 degree bit, in an effort to get my bars up a little. Because the Piolet is a mountain bike, the top tube is a bit long for drop bars.
After pedaling up Five Mile Meadow Road, I hung a left on Bald Hill. At the bottom, I jumped into a trail that I’ve always wanted to explore. I’ve been reluctant as the faded no trespassing signs have kept me out the last few years. The trail was a little grown over, but very rideable. It was less than 2 miles when I passed an abandoned barn and dropped onto Rt. 739 for an easy cruise home.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Ringo Starr – Photograph
Being sidelined all winter, I find myself doing shorter rides early on. I’m gradually getting my legs under me and will hopefully be doing much longer rides before the beginning of summer.
This week, I had the opportunity, after a long drive to Maryland, to squeeze in a ride before dark. As soon as I got off the interstate, I saw Pikesville Bicycle Shop. I stopped in to ask about local routes. Bernie and his staff were awesome. They hooked me up with a great route and even gave me a Pikesville Bicycle water bottle (I forgot to pack mine).
I pedaled right out of the hotel onto Reisterstown Road and made a right on Hooks Lane. I rode up to Park Heights Avenue and turned left. After another mile, a right put me onto Greenspring Valley Road. Not a single portion of this route had a shoulder. It mattered not. The driver’s were courteous and the landscape was quite beautiful.
I made the decision to turn around to avoid riding in the dark. The smooth pavement and rolling hills added beauty to an already fantastic route. When the riding is this good, you feel like you can pedal forever.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Them – Gloria
I believe that one cannot have too many bikes. That said, I think most people would agree that maintenance, storage and time to ride each, would be a good problem. So, I decided to sell a few bikes to make room in the garage for another do it all steed.
I parted with the Karate Monkey and the Van Dessel WTF in an effort to find that do it all frame that can handle singletrack, gravel roads and snow mobile trails. After careful review, I purchased a Velo Orange Piolet, an easy choice, since I have always fancied their stems, seat posts, handlebars and road brakes.
After finally gathering the drivetrain and components, I was ready for the build. The 4130 double butted chromoly frameset accepts IS disc brakes, 1 1/8” headset, 27.2mm seatpost and quick release hubs, making it super compatible with older or modern parts. I decided to go with: SRAM Apex 11 speed shifters and rear derailleur, SRAM GX 175mm crankset with 30t chainring, Velo Orange Grand Cru headset, Whiskey #7 stem 80mm, Dajia Cycleworks Far Bar handlebar, Velo Orange Grand Cru seatpost topped with a WTB Volt saddle and Crank Brothers Candy pedals. I chose an FSA 700c wheelset with Teravail Rutland 29X2.2 tires and finished it off with Velo Orange Moderniste bottle cages and a Velo Orange by Road Runner Bags Day Tripper saddle bag.
From the Velo Orange website:
The Piolet is our bikepacking and rough-road riding frame. It’s designed for off-road touring, including dirt and gravel roads, double track, and single track. We built it to be sturdy, simple, and very capable. As with our other frames it’s double butted chromoly steel. The fork is triple butted for reduced weight and extra strength. The seatstays come together in a cool mono-stay wishbone and compliment the segmented fork. The frameset is covered in bosses for easily mounting any racks, water-bottles, gear cages, and even fenders. It’s happily set up in bikepacking fashion or as a traditional rack and bag tourer!
The Piolet handles similarly to a XC mountain bike, but slightly more in the touring direction. Feels natural with drop bars or flat bars. Non-suspension corrected fork handles predictably with or without a load.
The final build came in at 28.5lbs, slightly heavy for a gravel bike but very light for a steel mountain bike. After a few miles, I dialed in the fit and headed into the woods for some late winter fun. A few hundred more miles and I’ll be able to make an informed judgement. Stay tuned for the final review.
I wanted this post to be focused on our nation’s capital. However, the demands of work coupled with an early sunset, left me with no other option, but to ride either from my hotel or on the cycle way in historic Old Town.
After arriving on Saturday and accessing the work load, I woke up Sunday morning and drove to Old Town. I hopped on the Mount Vernon trail, an 18 mile, paved, multi-use trail, that’s not too crowded, and pedaled a few miles before turning around and taking a short tour of Old Town in Alexandria.
The next morning, I made it my mission to ride the 15 miles from Old Town to Mount Vernon and back, regardless of what work had in store for me. Of course, I started with a slight drizzle and the rain got a bit harder as the day progressed. The path runs between the George Washington Parkway and the Potomac River and looks as though it could have been used hundreds of years ago as a roadway.
When I arrived at Mount Vernon (the childhood home of George Washington that he transformed into a beautiful 18th century manision), I was met by security and told that I could not walk my bike into the estate. That said, my tour would have to wait for another day.
As I turned around and headed back to Alexandria, the rain stopped and the sun made a brief appearance. I took advantage and slowly soft pedaled my way along the river and really enjoyed the beautiful landscape thats only a few miles from the District of Columbia. My next mission is to tackle D.C. on a winter ride through the capital.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Split Enz – I Got You
It’s been a while since my last post. Between traveling for work, the Tour de Force and selling Mom’s house, I’ve only been able to ride about once, maybe twice a week. I’m not complaining. I’m happy to get out when I can. However, the last couple of weeks have provided a few extra ride days and with the holidays right around the corner, work should slow down a bit, providing ample ride time.
Yesterday, I had a window of about three hours in the middle of the day. I decided to take advantage and jump right out of the garage for a hilly spin, through a quiet late fall, picturesque loop, that tested my lungs as well as my legs. It felt absolutely fantastic.
As I headed out of my community, I opted for a road ride, as hunting season leaves Sunday’s for gravel until at least mid December. I made a right on Rt. 739 and crossed over to Log Tavern Road. Log Tavern is quite a nice descent, especially along Crescent Lake. Turning left on Aspen Drive, the roller coaster up and down ends at Nelson Road, where I hung a right and dropped down to Raymonskill Road, where a left hand turn had me climbing up to Frenchtown Road. Once on Frenchtown, my pace slowed a bit as I took in the beauty and rural landscape of this lightly travelled three mile stretch of road.
A left on Rt. 6 (the Pennsylvania bicycle route), brought me up and over a few long, gradual hills before another left on Rt. 434 had me climbing a little more. One more left on Rt. 739 and my final seven miles was a nice easy spin home. Fall really is the best time to ride!
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Even the Losers
When your stressed, people often say, “you need an outlet”. When life gets too hectic, you need someplace to go. Many comfort themselves with food, drugs or alcohol. Others turn to therapy and prescription meds. While I agree that the latter is the better solution, it does not work for everyone. I often wonder why things are the way they are. I ask myself, where did I go wrong? What could I have done differently? The more I think of things, the more stressed I get. It affects my sleep, my blood pressure, my work and most importantly, my relationships with family and friends.
I won’t discuss here what it is that haunts me, but I will say that it has not been easy the last few years. That said, I am grateful for who I am, who I have in my life and what I have as a result. And, I do realize that people go through worse things.
What’s kept me pushing forward, kept me centered and brought me some peace, even for just a few hours a day, is the same thing that makes my legs hurt, my heart race and my lungs gasp for air, cycling. The simple task of turning the pedals, flying down a hill, with the wind at your back or floating upward with ease is a buzz that only a cyclist can know.
I’ve done a lot of solo rides lately and it’s not always easy getting out there, but once I do, no matter how the ride goes, whether on road, gravel or trail, my mood gets increasingly better. There’s no need to feel guilty about escaping for a little while. No need to feel guilty about hopping on a bike and getting lost, even if commitments dictate that you should be somewhere else or doing something different.
When I finish, as I’m hanging my bike and taking off my shoes, I do not immediately dive into life’s problems. I hold onto that ride for as long as I can. Then, I’m better equipped to handle my problems. I am going to ride for as long as I can, because cycling is my system of survival.
After my first two rides here, I envisioned this post to be a negative, stay out of Rockford type piece. I could not find suitable roads. The one bike path/sidewalk was a pot holed mess. Then, after some research, I uncovered a few hidden gems.
A short downtown ride proved to be the first of many interesting routes around the screw city (for the numerous fastener factories in and around Rockford). As I cruised past Beyer Stadium (or what’s left of it), I glanced over at the ticket booth to see that it was the home of the Rockford Peaches of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. The stadium and team were featured in the classic movie, A League of their Own. I stopped and walked around. The stands have been removed and the field renovated. But, the original ticket booth still stands.
On the weekend, I wanted a bit more. So, a quick search on Ride with GPS brought me to Caledonia, a very small town about 4 miles outside Rockford. This was the highlight of my first week here. Rolling hills, quiet roads and beautiful farmland for as far as the eye could see. For 50 miles, I might have seen 4 cars. But probably 30 cyclists. A good ratio in my opinion.
Looking for something more local, that I could ride from the hotel, I headed down Bell School Road to Harvey Road and found Harlem Road, a rolling thoroughfare that’s winds through corn and farmland for about 8 miles. I turned around and found Rock Cut Park on my way back. This incredible 3,100 acre forest packs singletrack, paved cycle paths, two serene lakes and beautiful roadway all inside a very picturesque setting. I did several rides here, exploring all sides of the park.
What I learned: Do not judge a book by it’s cover. Explore, uncover and find the beauty in all areas of this incredible country.
When building up the Black Mountain Cycles Monstercross, I stripped the Van Dessel WTF 853 and used the drivetrain, wheels and seatpost. Xavier at Action Bikes and Outdoor in Milford, built up the Monstercross and converted the Van Dessel to single speed for me.
I was not sure how my body would react to pedaling without gears. I mean, why would anyone want to ride with one gear when 11, 12 and even 13 speeds are the modern norm? There are several answers, but I think most riders will tell you: simplicity. While I agree that is a good enough reason to shed gears, for me, adding a new wrinkle to spice things up a bit was all it took.
After a few rides, I’m starting to get a good feel for whether or not the 42/20 setup will work for me. I am getting up the bigger hills, but at what cost? Can I sustain this for 40-50 miles? Anything beyond that will be on a geared bike.
That said, I look forward to integrating the single speed into my daily rides as I’m sure it will help my fitness and add strength, allowing for more comfortable journeys.
What’s playing? (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around n my head while riding) – today – The Pretenders – Middle of the Road
First, let me start by saying that Arkansas, originally part of the Louisiana Purchase, is as beautiful a place as any in the country. Made up of two distinct mountain ranges, the Ozarks and the Ouachita. The Ozarks are a series of peaks and plateaus. Where the Ouachita run east to west as opposed to most ranges that run north to south.
Just outside Little Rock, you have Pinnacle, Wye and Shinall Mountains, which are located in the foothills of the Ouachita. These are just over 1,000 feet each but successive, creating a large roller coaster of rolling hills with a few long climbs. While in Little Rock for two weeks on a work project, I had the opportunity to explore this vast, beautiful wonder, nicknamed the Natural State.
When I was able to get outside, after 3 days of intense rain, followed by extreme humidity, I left my hotel at 6am and drove over to Two Rivers Park. From there I took Country Farm Road to Pinnacle Valley Road all the way to Rt. 300. I turned around and on the way back, climbed Pinnacle Mountain to the park headquarters then dropped down the the boat launch for a climb back to Pinnacle Valley Road before heading back.
Another interesting ride was more urban. From the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, I pedaled over the Clinton Bridge to North Little Rock and hopped on the Arkansas Trail. North Little Rock is a separate city, separated by the Arkansas River from Little Rock. The Arkansas Trail runs on both sides of the river. I rode over the Big Dam Bridge, back into Little Rock for a flat, fast cruise back to the car.
Then, I found paradise in Arkansas. On Tuesday, I started over at Pinnacle Mountain Park on Rt. 300. Leaving the parking area, I made a left on Barrett Road, a quiet enclave of large country homes. I made a right on Rt. 10 and followed Little Maumelle Lake to Rt. 113. This is where the Wye Mountain climb begins. Never getting too steep, 113 winds up and over Wye Mountain. At the peak, it drops quickly through a few sharp turns, making the descent a tricky but doable venture. At the bottom, 113 runs into Rt. 300. Here, there are signs for Little Italy and an Italian museum. It was closed, but would have been a nice rest stop. The rolling hills never really let up until a few miles from the park. Wye Mountain was so nice, I went out and rode it again on Saturday.
Northwest Arkansas gets a lot of attention, because of all the trails and bike lanes in and around Bentonville. However, if you want beauty, hills, and a little of everything, Central Arkansas should be on your short list of cycling destinations.
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) today – Kenny Loggins (with Michael McDonald) – This Is It
Having pedaled a few hundred miles on the Monstercross Disc, I’m quite certain that I can make a fair assessment. Most of my miles have been in the Delaware State Forest in Northeast Pennsylvania, an area that provides smooth dirt roads, soupy gravel, singletrack and snowmobile trails. There’s plenty of uphills climbs and equally as many descents.
First, let me lay out the build. I purchased the frame and fork and decided to strip my Van Dessel and use that drivetrain, mixed in with some new parts for the cockpit. Now, I would normally build up my own bikes, but my lack of hydraulic brake knowledge, coupled with my in-ate inability to understand different hub systems led me to my friend Xavier at Action Bikes and Outdoor. Xavier stripped the Van Dessel, ordered some brake hose, figured out the hubs and did an incredible job with the entire build. I could not be happier with how it came out.
Shifters, derailleur, and crankset (SRAM Force) as we’ll as wheelset (Bontrager Affinity Elite) we’re switched over, along with the Thomson Seatpost and Chromag saddle. I went with a Velo Orange Tall Stack stem, a rather odd looking bit, but very comfortable with the 17 degree angle and my favorite bar, a Salsa Woodchipper. Xavier chose the Maxxis Rambler tires (700X40mm) as he certainly knows the terrain here in NEPA.
With any new bike, getting the correct fit is a process. I like to take a bike tool and figure it out as I ride. After my third ride, it was completely dialed in.
This bike climbs extremely well in loose, choppy conditions. The taller head tube and longer wheelbase give you confidence when bombing down a potholed jeep trail. Traction is up to the rider. Tires make a big difference, as not all gravel or cross tires are right for every surface. Read reviews and choose your rubber wisely.
While you could race this bike at any of the big gravel events that are all the rage these days, it’s probably best suited to take you on that long adventure or that beautiful farm road and it’s just begging you to hop on that trail you’ve been dying to explore.
After 3 days of intense (but much needed) rain, I decided to stay out of the woods until things dry up a bit. With loads of holiday traffic heading home after the Memorial Day weekend, I also wanted to stay off the main roads, so I drove into town, hopped on the Kona Honkytonk and pedaled through Milford and over the bridge to New Jersey. The roads in this part of Sussex county can be pretty quiet, even on such a beautiful day.
I headed up Deckertown Turnpike, fully intending to go all the way to High Point, but plan B had me turn right on New Road. It was the right choice. I saw only a handful of cars the entire route. New Road has a slight downward pitch, giving me a little rest after the Deckertown climb. I crossed Rt. 206 and made a left on Layton-Hainsville Road.
Farms and Churches dot the landscape as Layton Hainseville Road runs right into Layton, NJ, a tiny town that’s the gateway to the Walpack Recreation Area. I continued through Jersey farmland and into the Peter’s Valley Craft area. Bearing left, I took the roller coaster road through the Walpack Recreation area to the Walpack Inn.
After a quick photo op in the parking lot, I turned around and pedaled back up The Walpack Road, only this time I decided to go over the Peter’s Valley climb. Although quite steep at the beginning, this is one of the quietest, most enjoyable hills with a fun descent, bringing you all the way down to Tuttles Corner. A left on Dingmans Road put me back over the wooden bridge and back into Pennsylvania. I turned right on Rt. 209. The traffic, chopped up pavement and lack of a shoulder, takes nothing away from the beauty that the next eight miles brings this time of year.
I cruised back into town satisfied but hungry for longer rides in and around the tri-state area.
Every once in a while, you get a window of opportunity. Not a huge window, but one none the less. This morning, I had an appointment to get my car inspected. I had less than 2 hours to drop it off at the mechanic, get a ride in and head home for a scheduled conference call. With very little time, quantity took a back seat to quality.
I scampered around town to warm up, then headed over to 7th Street and began my climb up Foster Hill. Starting out steep, Foster Hill stays that way for about a mile, flattens out for a few feet (just enough to give some respite), then jets upward for 2 more miles. For the most part, there’s not much traffic, few homes, a couple working farms and at the top, the Malibu Dude Ranch. This makes for a quiet climb with a few photo opps at the top.
After a rather fast descent over chopped up pavement, I headed over to Old Milford Road and hung a left on Skyline Drive. Appropriately named, Skyline Drive quickly gets up above the tree line. A community of luxury homes, splattered on a picturesque mountaintop with lots of Pine trees and switchbacks give it a very nordic feel.
On the way down, caution and burning brake pads were the perfect ingredients for a steep, twisty descent. Back in town, I took a short cool down spin and arrived at my car in the nick of time. If you give this route a go, your climbing needs will definitely be met.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) – today – Foriegner – Feels Like the First Time
When I booked my stay in Worcester and the hotel was located on Major Taylor Blvd, I assumed that I was traveling to a cycling Mecca of sorts. Not really. Major Taylor, the first African American cycling champion, nicknamed the Worcester Whirlwind, was actually born and raised in Indianapolis. He trained in Worcester and for a time, he lived there.
Worcester is an old city. Built on a series of steep, sloping hills. It’s centuries old churches, sit high above the city like forts. Worcester is also home to nine colleges and universities. It has a deep patriotic history. A lot of key events took place there during the Revolutionary War.
With only a 3 day stay, I knew it would be tough to squeeze a ride in when day one and day three are travel days. I managed to get out on a short ride around downtown. To say that Worcester is hilly is an understatement. I decided to forget about distance and concentrate on hitting as many hills as I could in an hour.
Riding from the hotel, I pedaled down Major Taylor, up Martin Luther King Blvd., past the courthouse and down Main St. From there, I was able navigate through the busiest part of town to find a grid of streets built on a ridiculously steep hill. One by one, I climbed, descended, climbed and descended. By the time I reached the tenth hill, I felt like I had been riding all day.
During the cool down spin back to the hotel, my legs were toast. The slower pace gave me a chance to check out the 19th century architecture. I only got a small sample size of what Worcester feels like on a cool spring afternoon. I’ll be back in September as the Tour de Force runs along Rt. 12. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to sample some of the quieter more bicycle friendly roads in the area.
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) – Today – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Even the Losers Get Lucky Sometimes
Towards the end of December, I received a late Christmas present. I finally pulled the trigger on a new frame and it arrived. I wanted a bike that would handle just about anything. With all-road, cyclocross and gravel bikes being mass produced from every major manufacturer, each with a specific application, I craved for something I could ride on gravel, singletrack, grass, dirt and pavement, without too many limitations.
As you know, I am a fan of rim brakes. I love the simplicity. But Northeast Pennsylvania’s short, steep, gravel hills call for a little more stopping power. My search ended at Black Mountain Cycles in Point Reyes Station, CA. Well, on their website. Owner, Operator, Mike Varley, designs quality steel bikes. There are currently 4 different frames to choose from. I went with the Monstercross Disc.
When I called, Mike explained that the sizing is a little different than the 59cm rim brake version Monstecross that I purchased in 2013. So, at 6’2”, I went with the 53cm frame. Available in 2 colors, Classic Blue and California Gold. I opted for the latter. It looks rather yellow on a computer screen, but once the frame was out of the box, It was clear that this is not yellow, just a perfect shade of pure California.
I’ll save build specs for another post and concentrate on feedback from the first few rides. So far, this bike has been a dream. First, the head tube feels a bit taller, allowing me to raise the handlebar height without spacers. On a few steep downhill, rocky trails, it was very compliant. The tall head tube and sloping top tube, puts the rider in a more upright, relaxed climbing position. And, did I say smooth. The tube spec and long wheelbase make for an extremely smooth ride.
I’ve been able to sneak in 3 rides in the Delaware State Forest and on the McDade Trail. I can’t wait to spend more time on this bike and do a few longer rides and maybe an overnighter. If your looking for that do everything steel steed with a price tag just over $800 for frame and fork, look no further.
To put an exclamation point on my trip to Springfield, Missouri, I finished up with a ride along the fabled Rt. 66 and a tour of downtown. This town is certainly proud of the fact that it is the birthplace of Rt. 66.
Springfield’s main thoroughfare, Glenstone Avenue cuts right through and was an ideal place to begin. I pedaled south through a really cool scene of old time motels and businesses that are reminiscent of days gone by. Old fashioned food trucks, which are all the rage these days, littered the route for the first few miles.
Once I reached the center of town, which is an old, but trendy city, I stopped for a few photos and pedaled aimlessly around town, taking in the sights and enjoying an easy ride at a pedestrian pace. I even stopped for a coffee break.
The ride back was just as easy with loads of old time landmarks and retro styled eateries just begging you to take that road trip in an old convertible. I will definitely drive a portion of this route some day as I am a sucker for nostalgia.
Back on the road again. I could have been sent to a lot worse places. Nestled in the Ozark Plateau, Springfield, Missouri is a city with a population of 167,000. Small in stature, but rich in cycling culture. Technically in the South, Springfield is a bit warmer than Pennsylvania.
On Sunday, I pedaled right out of the hotel and onto Glenstone Avenue. Busy, but rideable, I took Glenstone to Division Street. and climbed up passed the airport to S. Farm Road. A couple of miles off the main thoroughfare and I was transported to farm country. Honestly, it got pretty rural. Once I passed the Kansas Expressway, traffic was almost non existent, which made for a sweet morning ride.
Monday morning was more of the same. with little time to ride, I jumped out on Glenstone and turned on Commercial Street (C-Street), a trendy restaurant district that has seen better days. I picked up Division Street and again, climbed passed the airport and out to S. Farm Road. A loop over to E. Farm Road and back into town.
Today, I decided to sample the local culture. During the week, I saw a flyer for the Tour de Crawdad, a charity ride that starts and finishes in downtown Springfield. They offer rides to suit any ability. 25 miles, with very little elevation. 40 Miles with about 1,600 feet of elevation and 60 miles with 2,700 feet. I opted for the 40 mile ride. At 7am it was 40 degrees with a light rain. The host, Mother’s Brewery, was the perfect staging area for the event.
The rain did not hamper the ride. Traffic was light and as soon as we left downtown, I was back in farm country. I did not pay attention to the well marked course and ended up a little further out on W. Farm Road. About 8 extra miles. Oh, well, I needed the additional work. Once I figured out that I was lost and found my way back on course, I started to see riders again.
The trip down to town was relaxing. I enjoyed the gentle decline all the way to the finish line. At Mother’s, the feast began. All you can eat Crawdads and 2 free Mother’s beers were included. You can’t ask for more. If your in town in April, this is a fun ride with lot’s of local culture.
What’s Playing (What am I listening to while writing or what dancing around in my head while riding), today – The Ozark Mountain Daredevils – It’ll Shine When It Shines
My Ritchey Breakaway road bike has been sitting in its suitcase for over 6 months now. After my St. Louis trip in September, I opted for my folding bike for a 4 city southern work trip. Then I took my Kona Honky Tonk on a few trips that did not require air travel in late October and early November. Then, my company restricted travel during the holiday season as COVID-19 was seeing spikes all over the country. A few Winter trips to northern cities, blanketed in snow helped keep the Breakaway bike tucked in it’s safe place for a few more months.
With a trip on the horizon, I decided to give the Ritchey a tune up and get better acquainted with my travel companion. By late morning, I was pedaling out to Rt. 739 on a beautiful Easter Sunday ride. At 56 degrees, the sun was out with little wind and traffic was light. I wanted to make sure the bike was dialed in, but I also wanted to add some distance in my feeble attempt to get some fitness.
As I turned right on Rt. 6 (the Pennsylvania State bicycle route), I realized that this was going to be that ride where everything starts to fall into place. My legs felt good, my breathing was there and I felt like I could pedal all day. Another right on Rt. 434 and back to 739 and before I knew it, I was pulling into my driveway. A good time was had by all, well maybe just me. But, I can’t wait to hop on the bike again as days like these are addicting.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Billy Joel – Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
I feel like it’s been so long since I’ve had some content for this blog. It certainly has been one of the longest winters in recent memory. With a foot injury, car accident and enough snow to keep the entire northeast hunkered down for months, I simply found it hard, almost impossible to get out on the bike. But mostly, I had excuses. When your fit and consistently riding all winter, you get outside, no matter how cold it is. When your not riding consistently, you make excuses and that’s exactly what I did. I had opportunities between the foot injury and car accident to get outside but didn’t.
On Saturday, with spring finally here and the weather to back it up, I jumped at the chance to begin building up enough fitness to be able to enjoy the longer rides that I like to do this time of year. At first, I felt slow and my legs were just not there. But I went out again on Monday and felt a lot better. I know I have a long way to go, but it’s all part of the journey.
I have checked the through roads in the Delaware State Forest and although there’s still some snow cover, it should be all gone by the end of the week with temperatures approaching the 70’s and some rain mixed in. With that in mind, I can’t wait to feel the gravel surface beneath me as I cover as much of the forest as I possibly can.
What’s Playing (What am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) today – The Zombies – She’s Not There
Last April, I detailed the rebuild of my Kona Honky Tonk road bike. I swapped the modern components for a twenty year old, 9 speed drivetrain and silver wheelset. I really wanted to send the frame out to get painted, but the new realities of 2020, had me, like many other people focus not so much on material things, but more on life experiences.
Since I’m sidelined with a foot injury this winter, I decided to dive head first into 3 bike projects that should keep me rolling for most of 2021. First, I stripped the Honky Tonk down to frame and fork and sent it out to The Color Factory for a fresh new look.
Painting a frame can get quite pricey. Some shops charge as much, if not more that the cost of a good steel frame. I found The Color Factory about 10 years ago, and have since had several frames painted. Bruce Risely, Owner-Operator, uses DuPont Emron two pack paint. His prices are very reasonable. One color, with a metallic, pearl finish and 3 layers of clear coat run about $200.
I’ve been extremely happy with the results. Bruce is always there to answer any questions and share unlimited photos of his amazing work. (609)242-0665. The frame has to be stripped of all parts and shipped to The Color Factory, 23 Main Street Waretown, NJ 08758.
So, if you have that old bike, that you love but really wish it could look new, give the color factory a try, you won’t be disappointed.
With the new year upon us, resolutions, promises and hope are all around, encompassing us with the idea that we can do better, we can change. These days, the cool thing to say is, “I don’t do resolutions”. The truth is, this year I’ve sort of made a promise to myself.
While I am happy with my physical body, my nutritional intake, my family, my friends and where I see myself in this bizarro world, I can’t help feeling like something’s missing. So I ask myself: am I a good person? Maybe. Am I a little selfish? Probably. Am I missing the important things because I’m so focused on what I want to accomplish, that I lack the attention span to see the incredible gifts that those around me have to offer? Absolutely!
That said, my focus this year will be to slow down and listen. I’m also going to stop worrying about how many miles I ride and how much elevation I’ve gained. I’m going to ride because I love being on a bike. I’m going to look, listen and hopefully feel everything that Mother Nature has to offer. If I can’t ride because of other commitments or because of inclement weather or illness, so be it.
On Monday, I got out and played in the snow a little. It felt great. I still plan on doing some long rides this year as well as exploring, camping and adventuring on the bike. Hope to see you out there.
What’s Playing (What am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – The Best of Bread
On Wednesday, Mother Nature dumped 16 inches of snow on Northeastern Pennsylvania. While the accumulation was significant, it was a bit less than originally forecasted.
Today, the first official day of winter, presented me with a window to go out and play. I grabbed the Karate Monkey and rode from home to the Delaware State Forest. The trail from my community to Five Mile Meadow Road was untouched and impossible to ride. I walked through and was surprised to see that Five Mile was groomed with snow machine tracks.
If you have ever pedaled on snow after a snow machine, you know what I’m talking about. The center of the tracks are similar to the rumble strips on the side of a roadway. This creates enough traction to ride in fairly deep snow. I made a right on Ben Bush Road, and connected over to Standing Stone Trail. Both are old logging roads, now mainly used by ATV’s and snow machines.
By Thursday, it should warm up enough and the thaw will remove most of the snow until the next winter weather event. Each storm brings us a different of snow. The powdery type is the easiest to push through, while the wet, sticky snow is another story. Both are worth layering up and getting outside.
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Harry Chapin – A Better Place To Be
Every once and a while, I take the 25 mile drive down to the Port Jervis Watershed Trails, to traverse a bit more rugged landscape. While the entire park is beautiful and challenging, the upper section, near Reservoir three, is quite possibly one of the most picturesque places to ride a bicycle in the tri-state area.
On Friday, I met Mike at the parking lot on Box Baum Road for a late afternoon sampling of the lush green trails that make you feel like you have been magically transported to somewhere in the northwestern part of the country. We had about 90 minutes before sunset, so we wanted to make the most of the time we had.
We pedaled out of the parking lot and right on to Walt’s Keep, an easy trail that sends you west for about a mile before intersecting with Starcrawf, then loops back to the lot. Next, we headed down Box Baum Road and hopped on Holography. This is one of my favorite trails in the Watershed. What it lacks in distance, it makes up for in beauty. The views of the lake and incredible pine needle surface makes me forget any stress I might have carried into the park. I felt weightless as we tranistioned to Lost Bear, Mahackamack, Tufted and Delaware.
Somewhere up on Mahackamack, we ran into TC from Action Bikes and Outdoor. He was test riding a new demo bike. Both shops offer demos that are suitable for the most rugged terrain.
If your in town or looking for a beautiful place to ride, checkout this section of the Port Jervis Watershed, you won’t be dissappointed.
This past weekend, the warm November weather sent me outside for two full days. Unfortunately, not to ride, but to catch up on some yard work. The shed needed to be cleaned out and reorganized, patio furniture needed to be put away for the winter and firewood needed to be stacked and brought up to the porch.
I did manage to squeeze in a ride on Saturday. Conscious of the hunters in the Delaware State Forest (it’s rifle season), I opted for a road ride. I headed out at about 8am, down Rt. 739 towards Lord’s Valley. While freshly paved, Rt. 739 is by no means conducive to bicycles. The surface is narrow (no shoulder), with cars moving at around 50-60 mph. A steady cross wind was pushing me into traffic. A right on Rt. 434 provided me with a little more room to work with and the head wind, although brutal, was a lot safer. 434 is a roller coaster type road with 4 foot shoulders. A left on Rt. 6 (PA State Bicycle Route) and I found the cross wind again. Then it poured for about 25 minutes. Then the sun came out to play. Still undeterred, I made a left on Rt. 739 and finally I had the wind at my back, albeit for only a few miles.
I hung a right into the main entrance of Hemlock Farms and immediately began climbing past the gate and over the hump that is Hemlock Drive. I took a coffee break on a picnic bench at Elm Beach and enjoyed the sunshine and quiet. Refueled and ready to go, I took Forest Road back to Rt. 739 for the return trip. While a private community with a lot of security, I have never been stopped for riding my bike through. However, good luck trying to drive in if your not a resident.
What’s Playing (What am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Squeeze – If I Didn’t Love You
Sometimes, you just have to fit your rides in where you can. Being away so much, I look for any opportunity to spend time with my family. On Thursday, I had about a 2 hour window. So, I rolled out of the driveway and into the Delaware State Forest. Everything seemed to be clicking. I felt like I could ride forever.
But, a 22 mile gravel sampler would have to do. There would be other opportunities to squeeze some miles in before the end of the week.
With the beautiful weekend weather upon us, I knew my pedal time would be limited. I got up early this morning and headed out for a short spin through the overgrown hiking trails near my house. The ungroomed trails were covered with leaves and fallen branches were scattered throughout. I took it slow and decided to enjoy the quiet time spent in the woods.
Riding slowly, breathing in that crisp autumn air, really takes you far away from all the stress of daily life. It’s a great way to get you in the perfect mood to start the day.
So, give it a try. Splash some water on your face, go out for a morning spin and see how you feel. I promise you, it will be a positive experience.
In an effort to provide more local content while temporarily on travel restriction from work, I decided to check out the Delaware and Hudson Rail Trail. There are many sections of old D&H rail lines, converted to rail trails, that run throughout New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont.
The access to the trails that run along Route 209 in Orange and Ulster Counties in New York, are broken up into many small sections, making it impossible to piece together a longer ride. In Lackawanna County, there is more that 38 miles of D&H Trail that runs from Simpson, PA to the New York State line. About 20 miles is crushed gravel. The rest is a bit rougher and more suitable to mountain bikes and hikers.
Along the way, there are many bridges and gates. You pass through a few towns, giving you the opportunity to pedal off the trail and refuel if your doing an elongated adventure.
On Tuesday, I parked at the trailhead in Simpson, where the D&H connects with the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail. I headed north toward NYS. The surface is made up of pea gravel that is well packed along the sides and loose in the center. At first, I was confused at my slower than normal pace, but when I saw that I was gaining a bit of elevation, it made sense.
A few miles past Burnwood, I turned around and realized that the grade was a little steeper that I first thought. I was moving quite quickly until I noticed a few people enjoying their lunches on picnic tables near an old rail car. A quick right up the hill brought me to Cable’s General Store in Uniondale. They’ve been there since 1910, serving up fresh foods made on site. I had and incredible piece of pie that fueled my fast, downhill journey back to Simpson.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Train – Drops of Jupiter
I had some time to kill on Saturday morning. So I took advantage of the exceptionally beautiful November day and hopped on the Karate Monkey, for my annual tour of Milford’s alleyway system.
Most days, the alleys are a safe bet, as they get little to no traffic. However, this weekend, Milford was like a ghost town. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but it was pretty quiet. Being away so long, I missed the Autumn colors, leaves on the ground and cool crisp air that lets you know that Old Man Winter is right around the corner.
I started on 2nd Street and rode up Pear Alley. Touching Elderberry, Peach, Gooseberry, Blackberry, Plum, Cherry, Cranberry and Apple Alleys. All have unique older buildings, shacks and sheds. Each alley has modern homes and some even have businesses, like hair salons, diners and specialty shops.
I love this route, as it forces me to slow down and really take notice of all things Milford. I wondered if it were 100 years ago, would this alley system be pedaled for deliveries, transportation or shopping. Was it used by horse and buggy. I’m not sure, but it’s fun to imagine.
If your in town with your bike, or just walking around, make sure you checkout this cool backway through Milford.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) today -Dire Straits – Sultans of Swing
In the beginning of the year, I decided that I needed a new platform to post stories related to my business travel with my bicycle. However, after 8 short posts, the pandemic hitting, the Pedaling Through a Pandemic series and a mid summer surge, sending me all over the country again with little to no time at home, I have come to the conclusion that two separate sites are just too much to manage.
That said, I have posted all eight of these stories here on ridingmilford.com and very soon, I will take down cyclingtravelguide.com and concentrate on this site with a greater emphasis on local riding.
Please enjoy these stories. They are in no particular order.
In preparation for my upcoming trip, I decided to take the new Ritchey Breakaway Road bike for a spin today. First, let me start by telling you what went into the build. I stole the drivetrain, brakes and wheelset from my Kona Honky Tonk. If you read my other blog, ridingmilford.com, you know that I love the Tonk and will have it built back up before summer.
I’ve always appreciated a new bike, but really take pride in building up a frame with my chosen parts spec. I built up the chromoly steel frame and full carbon fork in my garage with the following: SRAM Force 11 Speed Rear Derailleur, Front Derailleur & Crankset. SRAM Red Shifters, SRAM GXP Bottom Bracket, Ritchey WCS Headset, Velo Orange Grand Cru Brakeset, Bontrager Race Lite Wheelset, Bontrager R3 TLR 700X26 tires, Velo Orange Nouveau Randonneur Handlebar, Velo Orange Grand Cru Seatpost, Thomson Elite Stem, Speedplay Zero Pedals and for now, a WTB Pure saddle. The bike came in at just over 18lbs without pedals.
Now for the ride. I did a 26 mile loop from Milford, PA through Northern Sussex County, NJ and back into town. I hit a couple climbs, scampered across the Delaware River on 2 different bridges and got a really good projection of how this bike is going to handle while pedaling through new territory. Well, the ride quality is very good. It climbed like a 15 pound carbon race bike and descended just as well. More miles will ultimately provide for better feedback. I can’t wait to travel with this steed.
Next, we will pack and unpack the bike into it’s own suitcase. Let’s see how much gear we can stuff in without bringing it over the airlines 50lb weight limit for normal size bags.
Recently, my work has sent me flying from state to state, living out of a suitcase for weeks on end, sleeping in hotels, eating halfway decent food. But, as I mentioned on my other blog, Riding Milford, I’ve been going out of my mind sitting idle in my hotel, wishing I was on a bike, hammering through the woods or up and down the hills of my beautiful hometown, Milford, PA.
I attempted to quell my urge, by outfitting a folding bike to fit my needs, getting a suitable carrying case, and coercing the airlines into checking it as regular luggage. While serving it’s purpose for at least 3 trips to Kansas City, Dallas and San Benadino, CA, I grew tired of fighting the bike uphill and crawling at a pedestrian pace
After much research, I purchased a Ritchey Breakaway Road Frame. The chroMoly steel frame with Ritchey WCS carbon fork, comes with the travel case, headset, and 3 cable disconnects. The frame splits in half, allowing it to fit into it’s own unique suitcase. It’s held together at the bottom of the down tube, by a simple locking ring and a double seat post binder completes the task. Ritchey’s innovative clamping system is a lot prettier than other travel bikes that are held together with SS couplers. Those are all pretty nice bikes, but Ritchey has found a way to keep the clamping system virtually invisible.
How does it ride? How well does it pack and unpack? Does it travel well and how easy is assembly and disassembly? These are all questions for future posts.
You can expect to see descriptions of rides from across the country as well as stories of the joys of cycling and the culture of cycling in different locales. There will be posts from guest writers and from time to time, some product reviews.
As I check my work schedule and get ready to roll, I’m researching products that will aid my travels. Stay tuned…..
Wedged between the Michaux State Forest and the Mason Dixon Line, lies the City of Gettysburg, PA. Famous for the brutal Civil War battle that lasted 3 days and claimed more than 51,000 casualties. As I write this, I can’t help but reflect on my 2+ weeks in this historical placed that means so much to so many.
First of all, the weather in mid January has been terrific. Since I arrived on the 14th, it’s been mid 40’s all but one day, which was a snow storm. My first ride was the day before the storm. I decided that I would explore the battlefields and take a tour of the town. The battlefields have an amazing network of about 27 miles of paved roads. Although hilly, I was able to roller coaster my way through this chilling memorial to each and every battalion, regiment, troop and unit that came from all of the 13 Colonies.
I got caught in a complete whiteout that lasted for about 20 minutes, adding to the surreal scene. On my ride back to the hotel, I had an eerie feeling like I had just visited the dead.
A couple of days later, I got out for a quick spin around town. The roads were still iced over in the battlefield from the previous days storm. Then, as I prepared for my next ride. I discovered a frayed rear derailleur cable. I rode out to Gettysburg Bicycle to see about an on the spot repair. Kate, filled my tires and I shot out for a nice loop around Taneytown Rd and Blacksmith Shop Road, encircling the Gettysburg National Military Park. There’s a bit of a shoulder, allowing even the most novice rider enough room to comfortably ride what is mostly a well paved road system. I dropped my bike off at the shop and Kate fixed it’s up and had it ready for the next day. She made a nice recommendation on a cool little eatery for lunch. The team at Gettysburg Bicycle, Jess, Kate and crew did a wonderful job, making me feel like a regular. They have a nice selection of bikes, accessories and gear. Definitely worth it to stop in if your in the neighborhood!
The following day, I decided to try another route. Pedaling up York Street and turning left on Hanover Road, I followed Hanover through what appeared to be mainly farm country. There were some long gradual climbs with a helpful tail wind going out. I got all the way out to Mcsherrystown before turning around. Once I got going towards town, I got hit with a monsterous headwind, making the trek back a bit slower.
It was so much fun riding here. If you have to travel for work, you could get stuck in a lot worse places. Next time I’ll bring my gravel bike and hit up some dirt roads in Michaux. If you have the chance, get out and explore a hidden gem! Here’s a few more pics of the battlefield and beyond.
Sent to Milwaukee in February. Wow, I must be real high up on the corporate chain. When I was making my travel arrangements, I honestly thought that it would be much too cold in February to ride a bike. Well, occasionally, I’m wrong. I flew into the Cream City on Saturday, hoping that the Weather Channel was correct in predicting 50 degrees the next day. So as soon as I descended upon my hotel, I unpacked my bike and hoped for the best.
On Sunday, the Mid-West experienced a very unusually warm February 1st. At 52 degrees and sunny, I pedaled out of the Hilton, near Mitchell Airport and headed through Oak Creek to Cudahy and out to Lake Michigan. The 20-30 MPH winds coming off the lake made the trip out to downtown Milwaukee feel like I was in a wind tunnel. I took Lake Drive most of the way, occasionally hoping on the Oak Creek Trail, which runs along the lake. The paved trail was congested with walkers and runners, taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather. I went through the city and into White Fish Bay and had to turn around, as the wind had crushed my dreams and stole my soul. Just kidding.
Whenever I start writing, I try to find what moves me about a certain place or subject. Well, I found it as I was forced to a crawl in the relentless head wind that seemed to turn around just when I did.
Milwaukee, isn’t just a cute lake city 100 miles northwest of Chicago, It’s a city of real old beers. You won’t find an apricot IPA in one of the old time taverns scattered throughout the Cream City. Almost every bar displays the neon beer signs of the 1970’s. Actually, you could probably find all the fruity Craft beers and IPA’s in most of the trendy downtown restaurants. And it’s not nicknamed the Cream City because it was the home to more breweries than any other U.S. city or because Wisconsin is the dairy state, but because of the cream colored brick that was produced here in the mid to late 1800’s and was used to build an enormous amount of downtown buildings.
I can imagine a ride here in warmer weather. Maybe I’ll be back this summer, who knows. Maybe I’ll venture into downtown. But until then, I’ll remember how nice it was to ride along the shores of Lake Michigan’s beautiful blue waters.
While sitting home on St. Patrick’s Day, and grounded for now, like most people, I can’t help but wonder where all this is going. The COVID-19 Virus has certainly changed our world. While we should practice social distancing, that does not mean that we cannot get outside. Last week, while in Chicago, I ventured out on a few rides, taking in all that suburban Cook County has to offer.
ABert, a local rider and good friend, invited me to ride with him from his home on Saturday, over to the Lake Katherine area and onto the Cal-Sag Trail, a paved byway, along the Cal-Sag Canal. It was quite windy, but at 45 degrees, warm for Chicagoland in March. Pedaling through, we saw many walkers, runners and cyclists, predominantly because this was a few days before any social distancing was talked about. 30 miles went by quickly.
On Sunday, we ventured out for a longer, hillier ride. Starting at Bert’s house again, we re-traced our route to the Cal-Sag Trail, rode a good portion of it and made our way over to Lemont. The hilly route culminating with the infamous Timberline Drive climb, really showed off the beauty of Cook County and beyond. We traveled back to the Cal-Sag and finished pretty gassed as 54+ miles was the longest ride this year for either of us.
I was able to get out a couple more times after work, later in the week. Nothing huge, but got to experience some more of the hills in Lemont and a little more of the trail.
Bert did promise me a ride from Soldier Field to Wrigley Field along Lake Michigan. It might have happened, however, I was unsure my weekday flight would happen, so I decided to drive home on Saturday night. I’ll take a rain check!
To leave off, a lot is being said about our incredible health care providers, stepping up big in a time of need and it’s well deserved. But I also want to say that our food service workers, pharmacies, supermarket employees, truck drivers, delivery drivers, and gas stations are also staying open as much as possible. First responders, plumbers, electricians and all our service professionals are doing a wonderful job keeping us going and I’m grateful to live in a world where people put others before themselves, thank you!!!
With improved research, design and craftsmanship going into bicycle components, these days, handlebars are all the rage. With numerous new offerings for road, gravel, touring and mountain, there’s no shortage of social media, depicting the perfect bar for you. Myself, I’m usually comfortable on any drop bars.
That said, last year, I ordered a Velo Orange Nouveau Randonneur bar to top off my Kona Honky Tonk. The curvy top and shallow drop got me interested and the silver finish fit in with the retro look I was going for. Right out of the box, the 44cm just worked for me.
Offered in 42, 44 and 46Cm and silver as well as a noir finish for the more modern build, the 12 degree flare gives you more control in the descents over a standard road bar. I put about 1200 miles on the bar and swapped the drivetrain from the Honky Tonk to my Ritchey Breakaway Road to accommodate my work travel.
I liked the bar so much that I ordered one in noir for the Ritchey. Although, it’s a bit taller, the 44cm works just as well on this bike. I’m building the Tonk up with a 9 speed drivetrain, so the silver bar will be back in play.
From Velo Orange:
With comfortable fit characteristics such as shorter reach, shallow drop, and a mellow backsweep, the Nouveau Randonneur Handlebar is optimally designed for long days and nights for riders using integrated shifters and aero brake levers.
The tops are ovalized and swept back ever so slightly from the stem clamp. This makes for a bigger area upon which your hands can rest. A wider palm base means road vibrations and impacts are distributed better and not centralized into a specific spot effectively reducing hand, wrist, and elbow fatigue. Additionally, the sweep lends itself better (than a straight top) to your hands’ natural resting position.
Widths (measured center-to-center at the hoods): 42, 44, 46cm
Backsweep: 5 degrees
Ramp length: 105mm
Traditional reach: 85mm
Stem clamp diameter: 31.8mm
Brake lever clamp diameter: 23.8mm
Weight (44cm): 301g
If your searching for that comfortable handlebar for all day rides, look no further, the Velo Orange Nouveau Randonneur Handlebar is exactly what your looking for.
After a surprisingly pleasant trip to Milwaukee, I flew to Port Arthur, Texas and subsequently over to Houston. If you read my last post, you can tell I did not love Port Arthur and you know that while I’m usually in town to work, I’m able to squeeze in some riding a few days a week. Well, from the minute I arrived in Houston, I could tell this was going to be a much different story.
In town for only 3 days, I checked in to my hotel in the Galleria area and drove down to Memorial Park. An employee of the park explained that the loop there was only about a mile. She sent me over to the White Oak Bayou Trail. A google search on the way over showed that it is over 65 miles in length, stretching through Houston and into the suburbs. While I did not get her name, she displayed the common theme I witnessed while in this very nice city, everyone is friendly. She took great interest in making sure I experienced cycling in Houston in the best possible way.
I started out near Sawyer Heights Street and made my way onto the trail, heading west through The Heights and Inwood, 2 very nice neighborhoods. I cruised along the narrow Bayou for about 16 miles until it came to an end. Perfect, as time would allow, 30+ miles was all I could squeeze in. I zipped back, enjoying the urban landscape with breathtaking views of downtown and upscale neighborhoods.
The only downside was that I broke my cleat at the start of the ride and rode the entire way with one foot clipped in. A quick stop at the Bike Barn on Wirt Road the following day was all I needed to get back in my pedals. Jeff installed them while I waited and gave me some great tips on where to ride. Awesome shop and a good resource.
Aside of the cleat issue, it was a fantastic ride. 80 degrees in February, I’ll take that anytime. Being from the northeast, I’m happy when it’s above freezing. Today’s rain, kept me off the bike on my final full day before tomorrow’s travel day. I’m finally going home. 36 days on the road. My coveted Pennsylvania gravel awaits. Look for that at ridingmilford.com.
The way I see it, Houston is for cyclists. I’ll have to explore more on my next stop here, but from what I’ve seen, I can’t wait to get back here.
What’s Playing? What am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding? Today – Tony Carey – A Fine Fine Day
After Gettysburg, I was home for 2 days, then I shoved off to Milwaukee. After 6 days, I headed to Port Arthur, Texas for 2 weeks. Port Arthur is in the southeast corner of Texas. Although it’s near the Gulf Coast, access to the water is limited, as industry occupies much of the land near the coast. Most people work at the many oil refineries throughout southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana
My Mother always said, “if you have nothing nice say, say nothing at all”. That said, this is not a cycling Mecca! As a matter of fact, there are not many back roads at all. Most of the infrastructure consists of high traffic, commercial highways. The roads that are available are mostly tar and chip or concrete with huge cracks. There are absolutely no hills as most of the area is below sea level. There are a few bridges with sizable shoulders. Most of these bridges are on state highways, so riding may not be legal, but we have to do what we have to do.
I did squeeze in about 7 rides, thinking that I was going to find a few riders, that could point me in the right direction. That didn’t happen. A call to the closest bike shop (16 miles away in Beaumont) only confirmed my suspicion, there’s no safe place to ride in this area. With not much time after work to travel to a suitable location, I had to make the best of the situation, I straddled my steel steed and just pedaled. After over 200 miles, I learned a few things. Generally, the people are hard working and friendly. Like anywhere else, the farther you get from town, the better the riding gets. I started the week with an informal cruise around town to get familiar with the layout. On ride# 2, I headed towards the water rode on Highway 73 and up the Memorial Bridge (20.5% incline). As I began my descent, I hit some glass and flatted. The walk down was not fun.
Did I mention the wind. What this area lacks in hills, it makes up for with wind. No matter which way you travel your getting a strong head wind either coming or going. But, on my final ride, I finally found some respite. I headed out of my hotel onto Rt. 365. The first 2 miles are rough with heavy traffic. Once you cross Port Arthur Road, 2 lanes go down to one on each side as oil rigs, tanks and lines are replaced by cows, farms and trees. Although the roadway is mostly tar and chip, the serene country setting along with little to no traffic, helped make my final Southeast Texas bike ride a bit more pleasurable.
Bottom line, this is not a place you want to explore on 2 wheels. I leave today for Houston. I’ll be there 4 days. If all goes well, I’ll get at least one ride in. Stay tuned…..
As I sit here, I try to imagine what it must’ve been like to live here 60 years ago. Binghamton, the little known city in New York’s Southern Tier and once home to thousands of manufacturing and defense oriented jobs, is now the picture of poverty. IBM was founded here. Ansco Cameras, Endicott-Johnson Shoes and General Electric all called the Triple Cities (Binghamton, Endicott and Johnson City) home. The Flight Simulator was invented in Binghamton and the area was the second largest manufacturer of cigars in the United States, giving it the moniker, the “Valley of Opportunity”.
As the Cold War ended, the region lost thousands of manufacturing jobs. These days, industry is all but gone and abandoned buildings dot the landscape of an extremely depressed urban theater.
I was able to manage a few rides throughout the city and around the outlying areas. A dawn patrol pedal through the quiet streets took me over the South Washington Street Bridge and up Vestal Parkway to Vestal Avenue and into Endicott. The return trip pushed me the opposite way around the city.
The Chenango and Susquehanna Rivers flow through a downtown area littered with cafe’s, pizza parlors and quaint shops. It has an old world charm reminiscent of better days. Binghamton University, has a downtown campus and a lot of student housing for the main campus in Vestal have moved here, creating a shift for businesses to cater to student life.
A few days later, I crossed the Exchange Street Bridge and ascended Pennsylvania Avenue to Hawleyton Turnpike. The 4 mile climb above the tree tops, made for an exciting descent over pot holed, chopped up pavement. My return to downtown led me through some residential areas and back into the city center.
I’m not an urban renewal expert, but I’m pretty sure that a few coffee houses and trendy shops, although well intentioned, won’t bring this once thriving center of industry back to prosperity. The floods of 2006 and 2011 have halted progress. That said, this area needs some big companies to take a chance and re-locate here.
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Looking Glass – Brandy
Usually, I stay in one place for at least a few weeks. However, this trip has been a long, strange ride through the south. I would normally take the road bike, but this time the ease associated with the folding bike made sense, as I would have to pack it up about every 4 days.
The first stop, Homewood, Alabama, borders Birmingham. An upscale bedroom community. Homewood is extremely hilly. My dawn patrol ride became the McMansion tour of the south. Atop every hill, it seemed that almost every home was incorporated into the landscape. The trees dwarfed the homes, creating a gorgeous setting.
Next, I was lucky enough to stay in Horn Lake, Mississippi. Horn Lake is another bedroom community, just north of Memphis, Tennessee. With very little time in the schedule to ride, I decided that I was going to split one ride between both states. My hotel, on the Mississippi side, was 2 miles from Memphis. I jumped out of the hotel and pedaled into traffic, crossing the state line for a 10 mile ride in Tennessee. On the way back, I passed the hotel, cruised around Horn Lake and avoided the oncoming hurricane by a few minutes.
It poured the entire next day as I drove to Little Rock, Arkansas, creating some down time to plan routes throughout the Rose City. My hotel was in North Little Rock, about 8 miles from downtown. With little time, my lunch ride from the hotel, was rather flat. A windy spin around North Little Rock that was pretty uneventful. A few days later, I hit the jackpot. A tip, sent me over to the Big Dam Bridge.
Originally intended to be called Murray Bridge, the Big Dam Bridge spans the Arkansas River and Murray Lock and Dam between Little Rock and North Little Rock and is open only to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. At 4,226 feet in length it is the longest pedestrian/bicycle bridge in North America that has never been used by trains or motor vehicles. It rises to 90 feet over the Arkansas River and 30 feet over the dam. The span over the river is 3,463 feet, with the ramps on either side of the river accounting for the rest of the length. The southern end of the bridge is near Little Rock’s Murray Park, while the northern end is at Cook’s Landing Park in North Little Rock.
You exit the bridge on the Arkansas River Trail. A smoothly paved cycleway that runs through beautiful landscape to and through downtown Little Rock. You glide across the Arkansas River and over several bridges before arriving in the downtown section of the city. I can’t wait for my next visit to the area. I’ll bring the Ritchey to explore even more of the Arkansas Trail.
All and all, I was pleasantly surprised at how hilly the south is. Not mountainous, but compared to the Mid West, it was a nice change to be able to climb a little.
My return home, however short it may be, is enough to renew my spirits. Being away from family, friends and familiarity is difficult for long stretches at a time. I took a few days off the bike to rest and recover from long work days and travel.
Wanting to get back in the woods, I hopped on the gravel bike and pedaled into the Delaware State Forest to regain some more familiarity. As soon as I crossed through the deer trail that connects my community and the forest, my stress level dropped significantly. Being away so long, I forgot how beautiful the beginning of fall foliage is. The through roads were littered with fallen leaves and acorn, but not so much that you couldn’t see the gravel surface.
About halfway through my ride, I crossed onto the Burnt Mills Snowmobile Trail system. With the addition of new gravel to cover the rip rap, this trail is becoming one of my favorite routes through the forest. It has some short, steep climbs, as well as loose, twisty descents, dropping narrowly through thick brush and wetland before climbing back up. Most of the trail system sits just below, but parallel to Flat Ridge Road.
My ride back was filled with the sights and sounds of Northeast Pennsylvania, enough to fill my head with happy thoughts as I hit the road again in a few days. Here’s a few more pics:
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Billy Joel – The Stranger
I miss home. I miss my family. I miss my dog. But as long as I have to travel, I will always venture out to check out the local cycling culture. My recent trip to St. Louis, gave me a chance to see the city and county from my steel steed. My impression of St. Louis is two fold. I see an urban area that is struggling. I also see proud people, regardless of race, outside together riding, running and living in a world so filled with all the world’s problems. I see proud sports fans from all walks of life, clinging to their beloved Cardinals and Blues.
I was able to get out a few times on this trip to explore some of the urban landscape from two wheels and venture a little further out to sample one of the gems of the mid-west. Not Mountainous, but by no means is St. Louis flat. At least, not until you hit some of the incredible paved cycleways and gravel trails.
I had an opportunity to pedal out of the city to Creve Coeur Lake. From there, you can experience miles of beautiful roads, paths and even jump on The Katy Trail, a 240 mile crushed limestone rail trail that traverses the state of Missouri. I couldn’t help myself. I jumped on the section from Creve Coeur to St. Charles. The gravel is hard packed. I was not the only one on a road bike, but maybe the only one with 25mm tires. I only rode about 12 miles on the trail, but I would like to go back and spend a weekend across the entire network.
As I capped a hill, on my back to the hotel, I saw the sun, so red (probably from the western forest fires) it looked like it would explode. I’ll be home soon, for maybe a week, but you can bet I’ll squeeze a few miles in and hopefully get to paddle a little before the cold weather comes.
For the first time in 19 years, the Tour de Force, like many other charity rides, went virtual. Some sporting events and races have been able to push on as originally planned. The formation of a theoretical bubble and strict testing policies have made this possible. We are a charity ride, with not a lot of funds to spare. With 300 riders and more than 50 support staff in hotels for 4 nights, it seemed like an impossible task to keep everyone safe.
My brother Mike had an idea to convert this year’s edition to a virtual ride. Each rider would pedal 70-75 miles on a route of their choice. We would stage a live event to send the riders off from their start lines and finish with another live event complete with raffles and prizes for top fundraisers.
Many smaller group rides were formed. Our New Jersey team rode from Shanksville, PA to Pittsburgh, honoring the victims of flight 93 that perished on 9/11. Team Colorado, the Adirondack Garda, Team East Coasters, Team East Colfax, Team Rockland County Shields along with NYPD Cycling and many others put on amazing rides in their respective regions. We hosted a ride that took us on a 73 mile loop from Goshen, NY around to New Paltz, through Newburgh and back to Goshen.
I’ve never been prouder of everyone involved. We are raising money for the families of Police Officers killed in the line of duty, nationwide. Not an easy task these days. But done in an atmosphere when it’s suddenly ok to kill Police Officers and scream to defund or worse yet, get rid of Police Departments all together. I will not go any further, because I do not want to take away from the amazing efforts by so many. I can’t wait to see everyone in 2021.
On September 12, the Tour de Force, a charity ride that I co founded and have been a board member of since 2002, is hosting its virtual ride. Normally, we ride from New York to Washington, DC or New York to Boston over four days. However, due to the Covid 19 restrictions and a general concern for all involved, we decided a one day, 75 mile ride, done virtually is the way to go. We will connect with riders from around the country, via Facebook live at the start, then we get to go out and actually ride. Normally the logistics do not allow us time on the bike, during the event.
While I have been riding pretty regularly all year, I still wanted to get one long ride in about 2 weeks before. So, last Sunday I departed Milford for a tri-state loop, touching New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. I pedaled over the Milford Bridge, up Deckertown Turnpike, down New Road and back on Rt. 206 to Clove Road for a roller coaster ride into Montague, NJ. I crossed into Port Jervis, NY via Rt. 23 and turned right to climb Neversink Drive. A right hand turn had me follow Rt. 209 to Guymard Turnpike. A mile in and the roughly 2.5 mile climb begins. It’s fairly gradual for about 2 miles before the grade kicks up to just about 12-15%.
After dropping down to Old Mountain Road and hammering over to Rt. 6 for a 3 mile descent, I took River Road back to Deckertown Turnpike and this time went left on New Road, taking it back to Clove Road and over the Milford Bridge for a cruise back into town.
The following day, I went for a mountain bike ride through the Delaware State Forest to enjoy a slower paced ride and give my legs a chance to recover from the previous day. As I crossed onto Irish Swamp Trail, I encountered a medium sized Black Bear. He was as startled as I was. But lumbered off as I pushed through.
Today, I decided a little climbing was in order. My goal was simple. Just pedal uphill. I parked in Port Jervis and after crossing the Tri-States Bridge, I veered up Rt. 6. The 3 mile climb averaged about 7-8%. I turned right on Old Mountain Road and another right to climb the back side of Greenville Turnpike. A series of short steep hills lead to a sweet 3 mile descent which is what I needed to recharge my legs for a turnaround at the bottom. I immediately charged back up Greenville Turnpike for another 3 mile climb and pushed on all the way to Rt. 6. The short steep ascent led to 1 more 3 mile descent.
The mileage was short, but the elevation gained was not. With six days out from the event, I’ll add some easy miles and eat clean. No music today, just prayers and gratitude for our frontline heroes: EMT’s and Medical Personnel, Police and Fire Departments.
Whenever I return from an elongated work trip, I immediately jump right back out into the Delaware State Forest. Pedaling from home, gives me the freedom to pick my routes and decided just how long and how far I’ll ride.
This summer, I’ve found some new roads and trails that have sparked my interest. This ride was no different. I set out at around noon and rode through my community to the deer trail that leads to Five Mile Meadow Road. A new layer of gravel made for a slower journey, as the loose surface had not yet been packed down by the many trucks that will populate the forest in about 5 weeks (hunting season). A right on Silver Lake Road, a half mile climb and a right onto Little Mud Pond Road.
I crossed Silver Lake and dropped into the Burnt Mills Trail System. After about 4 miles, most of the Rip Rap is gone, except for the last half mile. Right before the trail crosses Bushkill Falls Road, I hung a left on Thunder Swamp Trail. A Jeep Trail, that has a sand surface in spots, Thunder Swamp loops back around to Coon Swamp Road and onto Flat Ridge Road.
I headed back on Five Mile Meadow Road, after looping through Little Mud Pond once more and made my way home. It Just happened to be a beautiful day. After a month in the Midwest, it’s good to be home in my backyard gravel playground. I’ll make another trip. This time to Missouri, in three weeks time. I’m told that the Katy Trail, which traverses the entire state, goes right through my base camp, Maryland Heights. I’ll have to figure out how to get my gravel bike there to explore this iconic trail system.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Joe Jackson – Look Sharp
For those of you that did not grow up in the last 30 years, you know what this title refers to. I couldn’t wait to use it here. Minnesota Fats was the quintessential Pool hustler and Billiards player that inspired the character in the 1961 film, “The Hustler”, played by Jackie Gleason. Fats’ career spanned for more than 50 years. Now, if your thinking that the title infers that suburban Minneapolis is hilly, think again. I did log a few rides with over 1,000 feet of elevation, but I had to really get creative. After a little over 200 miles in 5 days, I found Bloomington to be a community built around cycling.
With bike lanes and paved bike paths all around Bloomington and parks littered with trails and paths (called cycleways in Minnesota), there’s a place for anyone to ride. Bloomington is also home to QBP, one of the world’s largest bicycle and parts distributors.
Now, there are some hills here, not the long, steep hills we see in the northeast or the high elevation, monster ascents in the Rockies, but short punchy climbs, just difficult enough to get your attention. I did find myself doing some repeats up these hills towards the end of my rides. Normandale Mt. Road jets up off Normandale Blvd, through a suburban neighborhood, reminiscent of the start of some of the most iconic European climbs.
But the real gem here are the bike lanes and sidewalks built for cycling. Both sides of almost every main road has either a bike lane or sidewalk, designed around fitness activities. You would think that with the cold, snowy, long winters, cycling would have a short season. Not so, Minnesotans ride year round. After all, it is the home of the fat bike. Even in summer, Minnesotans pedal these beefy machines on the streets, trails and in the parks. So, there you have it, Minnesota Fats.
Whats Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding). Today – Simon and Garfunkel – Homeward Bound
I was finally able to get out and explore Minneapolis yesterday. With extremely hot and sticky weather, I left my hotel at 8am and drove into downtown, parking at the bottom of Portland Street at Mill Ruins Park. My goal was to circumvent the city on the Grand Rounds Bike Path. I hopped on and rode along the Mississippi River through the downtown area and out past the University of Minnesota.
There was a lot of construction and the detours made for some nifty adjustments as I fell off the path and ripped through the park and back onto the blacktop trail. This was not going to be a speedy ride, it was more like a tour of Minneapolis. Latte sipping youth, walking 2 and 3 across made for some sudden stops and quick reactions.
I pedaled out through some gorgeous neighborhoods and into the lake regions. Circling Lake Harriet and Lake Bde Maka Ska, I saw an amazing amount of people kayaking, paddleboarding, running, cycling and camping all right inside the city limits.
Minneapolis has a very small downtown, but large suburban type neighborhoods with endless miles of bike trails. It really is a great outdoor city. That said, I got turned around in the lake region and headed back towards the car down Hennepin Avenue to Washington Avenue, back to Portland Street and into Mill Ruins Park.
This week, I’ll explore suburban Bloomington and points north of the city.
After 4 months of discussing the pandemic, riding in the pandemic and our new environment, my job has decided that business travel is safe again. So, I arrived in Minneapolis on Wednesday and will make this my home for the next 3 plus weeks.
I’ve heard a lot about what a cycling friendly city Minneapolis is, so of course, I brought a bike along to escape the long work days in my hotel room and to explore everything the twin cities have to offer.
Minneapolis and St. Paul are littered with bike lanes through both cities. I parked at Crosby Farm and rode down Shepard Road in St. Paul, along the Mississippi River, passing numerous parks, The Hidden Falls and through beautiful neighborhoods. Shepard Road brought me through St. Paul and into Minneapolis. I don’t know if everything was closed because of the pandemic or because it was 6:30am, but it was extremely empty as I cruised down S. Washington Ave. I made my way up Lexington Prkwy. and hopped back across to St. Paul and dropped back onto Shepard Road.
Neither city is huge, but Minneapolis has a larger, more urban feel to it. St. Paul, while having its own trendy downtown, has a more suburban feel to it with seemingly less traffic. Together there are about 800,000 people in the Twin Cities.
Pedaling through Minneapolis was fun, but slow. The bike lanes are multi use and lots of people use them to walk, 2 and 3 abreast. So, extra attention is needed to avoid walkers and oncoming cyclists.
Minneapolis has a paved bike trail that goes completely around the city. This 50 mile stretch of well thought out urban thoroughfare is called the Grand Rounds. I Will check it out one day this week, although, I’ll need a very early start to avoid the foot traffic. I intend to bring my coffee and make the most of the morning. Stay tuned….
Working from home the last three months has found me riding all too often, the same roads and trails. While I was traveling, I couldn’t wait to get back to my little piece of heaven. Now don’t get me wrong, for this mid 50’s pedal pusher, this is cycling nirvana. But every now and then, I like to spread my wings and venture out a bit farther.
I’ve parked in the gravel lot at the trailhead for the Maple Run ATV/Snowmobile trails, before heading up to the High Knob on occasion. Today, I decided to venture in. To my surprise, the trail, a loosely packed dirt and gravel road was pristine. I experienced a small sample of this trail system, taking in 11 miles of thick hard woods, a pine forest and steep steep hills under the power lines.
While there are many more trails here to explore, I jumped across Rt. 402 to climb to the High Knob. It seems the PA DCNR has covered the road with fresh gravel, making the climb a little more difficult than usual. The views at the top never disappoint, neither does the descent. I cruised back to the parking area, excited to add this new wrinkle into an all day gravel ride.
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – The Pretenders – My City Was Gone
I thought I’d moved on from outlining my observations about this pandemic. I was wrong. I’ve told you about my fears and explained the precautions I’ve taken. For three months now, I like many other people have been consumed with everything that is this pandemic. However, being an observant person has caused me to see the real change here. Just like after 9/11, people struggled for a time then eventually, they adapted to the new normal and thrived.
What I noticed today was breathtaking. People were outside, at barbecues, in parks, running, walking and cycling. They were eating outside at restaurants, towing boats to the lakes and going about their lives. Of course, most were wearing masks, but regardless of the situation, people are finding a way to thrive. With all the other shit going on in the world, this is still here. But, we are winning the war with this invisible killer, because we are not lying down.
That said, on the most beautiful of days, I was able to score two rides. First, I got out this morning for a 45 mile solo spin from my house, out to Rt. 739, down Log Tavern Road. I jumped into the Pocono Mountain Woodlands ( the gate was open) and pedaled over to Raymondskill Road. A left on Frenchtown Road took me up to Rt. 6. Turning left, I fought the wind a little, but managed to make it to Costas Family Fun Park. This seemed like a good place to turn around and head home.
Flying down Rt. 6, I took Rt. 739 up past Pike County Blvd, navigated the weekend traffic as I slithered through Lords Valley and into Hemlock Farms for a short loop, before returning to Rt. 739 and subsequently into my community to hit 2 more hills before arriving home.
After a little lunch and a few hours of stacking firewood, my son suggested a ride in the Port Jervis Watershed. We loaded the bikes on the car and headed out. By 7pm, we were ripping through the woods. Maybe I overdid it today as the force of every rock was reverberating through my upper body. Maybe I’m just old. Either way, it was nice to be out there and I did not want this incredible day to end. But all good things come to an end. I will savor the memory of this day for a long time.
Stay tuned for some more product reviews.
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) today – Electric Light Orchestra – “The way life’s meant to be”
In my opinion, tires reviews are overdone. There are too many tires for the average rider to choose from and the endless choices can be quite confusing. While I do not review every piece of equipment I ride, occasionally I come across something that really stands out to me.
First, I do consider myself an avid gravel grinder. About 60-70% of my rides are on gravel. Second, there are many different surfaces that can be considered gravel. I won’t go into all of them, but pretty much anything that extends beyond pavement has been called gravel. What we have in Northeastern Pennsylvania is thick 1”-1 1/2” gravel chunks on most state forest roads. This calls for a beefy tire.
700X40C is your average size for a big gravel tire. In the last year, I’ve sampled A few different brands. I’ve never purchased Maxxis tires before, because I honestly thought they were overpriced. Wow, was I wrong. Last August, I installed a pair of Maxxis Ravager 700c X 40mm EXO Tubeless Ready tires. Set up tubeless, these tires excelled from the word go. A lot of gravel tires are made to be fast, but cannot handle anything rougher than pea gravel or a dirt road. The Ravager is a super supple tire that ripped right through the gravel, mud, rip rap, singletrack, busted up pavement and anything I could throw at it.
From Maxxis’ website:
The Ravager is a gravel tire for the riders out there willing to brave aggressive terrain with only their drop bars and a tiny amount of rubber beneath them. While other tires are designed to let you ride beyond the end of the road, the Ravager opens up new line choices, camping spots, and epic adventures where no road ever existed. Raised square-edged center knobs provide climbing and braking traction on moon dust covered trails, and oversized cornering knobs keep you and your gear out of the dirt to conquer another turn.
EXO protection is an additional layer of protection incorporated into the sidewall of the tire designed to greatly increase the puncture and slash resistance without compromising the feel of the tire. The EXO layer is exceptionally dense whilst still being light and flexible making it very versatile.
After about 600 miles, I can honestly say that these tires still have plenty of tread left. I’ve bounced off many sharp rocks while pedaling off the beaten path and the sidewalls have held up. I usually run them between 30-55 psi. They accelerate rather well on dry surfaces and provide enough traction through the messy stuff to be your year round tire. Give the Ravager a try. I assure you, they are well worth the $60 asking price.
While riding in the woods most of the last few months, I’ve gotten out on the road a few times. I’ve told you of the precautions I’m taking, but like most people, the longer we endure this pandemic, the more comfortable I feel riding amid the traffic or what little traffic there currently is.
That being said, it’s kind of eerie pedaling from Rt. 739 into Milford on Rt. 6 and only seeing a handful of cars. With schools closed and most people out of work or working from home, the roads are more bicycle friendly than they’ve been in years.
With less cars to worry about, you begin to take notice of your surroundings. Seeing so many stores closed, I started to wonder which businesses will endure this economic crisis and how many people will be affected by the ones that have to close their doors now or in the near future. These are sad times.
Getting back to cycling. Spring is almost over, but summer is all but here. The trees are green, the air is warm and the flowers are blooming everywhere. There’s a lot to see out there. Get out and ride.
Don’ forget to thank our local front line heroes: any employees in the medical field, first responders, delivery men, supermarket and pharmacy employees, restaurant employees, utility workers, plumbers, electricians and anyone that keeps showing up for work, so the rest of the world can self isolate. Do your part. Wear your mask and gloves when you must leave the house.
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Tony Carey – I Won’t Be Home Tonight
My last post summarized my ride through a section of Irish Swamp Trail. Part 2 could and should bring the navigation of this byway to some sort of a conclusion. It does not. My routes have all but eliminated that area for now. Fortunately, I decided that I would ride to the beginning of Five Mile Meadow Road and across Rt. 739. This gravel roadway goes another mile past the State Route, all the way to I84.
About a half mile from the end, a new road appeared. On the left hand side, I noticed a road cut out along the power lines. It was extremely hilly, chopped up and looked like it went for miles. I took the left and made my way up the heavily traveled roadway. Most of the road was large, 4-6 inch stone. This makes it difficult to glide over. Both sides of the road appeared to be recently logged.
That section of Five Mile Meadow Road has been off limits to bikes for a couple of years now. I’ve stayed off the road since, but Friday was different. I looked but did not see the sign, so I guess I took advantage and pedaled down to check out an old haunt. This is also accessible from the mountain bike trails that sit between Sunrise Lakes and I84, near Rattlesnake Creek. A mtb would be a little more suitable as there is some technical singletrack that connects these two gems.
After riding back into the center of the forest, I ventured up Silver Lake Road and to my surprise, a white horse stood where 2 dogs normally alert the entire county that I’m climbing up that hill. It was a malnourished looking beast, appearing like it was content being nursed back to health. A quick rip up Standing Stone Trail and back through the deer path to my community, left me satisfied that I hit a good portion of this magical natural beauty without touching the Northeast section or Irish Swamp. More fun to be had….
What’s Playing, (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding). Today – Ike and Tina Turner- Proud Mary
Discovering new trails opens you up to new adventures. When you find a new road or trail that’s close to one of your normal routes, you wonder why you haven’t opted for this detour and where will it lead. Often, these detours are old Jeep tracks that wind through the woods connecting logging roads and snow mobile trails.
Over the last few years, while in the Delaware State Forest, I’ve passed a trail marker for Elbow Swamp Rd and Irishman Swamp Trail. Today, I needed to get deeper into the woods, a little further from civilization than I normally go. Although I’ve been riding solo, I needed to pedal aimlessly through the unknown.
Just south of Standing Stone Trail, off Silver Lake Road, Irishman Swamp is a long double track trail that sits extremely low, taking on more than its share of water. I rode a couple of miles in to an area called Bald Barren, a thick patch of land that sits between Flat Ridge Road and Silver Lake Road. I did not have time to investigate how I could connect to the Burnt Mills Trail system or Flat Ridge Road. Further exploration is imminent.
Being there brought back memories of the places I’ve rode in the last year. Traveling for work has brought me ample opportunity to ride in virgin territory. These thoughts are not good. They’re making me want to explore, like nothing is going on in the world. Like everything is normal, “the old normal”. But, as the sun goes down, I glide out of the forest and back into my community, face mask on, bottles covered, happy I could venture out once more and hopeful I can do it again.
What’s Playing (What am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Frida – I Know There’s Something Going On (1982)
Although I have been riding both on the road and in the woods, I am still trying to figure out what the best course of action is to keep myself safe and to set a good example. While I have been wearing a face covering on all rides and riding alone 100% of the time, I still wonder, is it safe to ride along side the car going in the same direction as you or past the car going in the opposite direction, with the windows open.
If 6 feet is the safe distance when 2 people are standing still, then what’s the safe distance of a car flying by in either direction with the windows open as the driver sneezes, coughs or spits? I haven’t found any found any material suggesting what that distance would be. What I have found is some information regarding groups of cyclists riding together. While I know this is a sore point for many, I have been preaching that you should be riding alone. Recent research backs this up. I pulled a chart from a well read cycling blog, showing what the safe distances are for various activities. It shows that while slower activities require less of a distance, cycling at high speeds requires about 40 feet.
On my recent rides, I have placed a strip of packing tape over the nipple of my water bottles. This may be a bit extreme, but it seems as the weather gets warmer, most driver’s have the windows open. I ordered a couple of water bottles with flip off lids to keep any flying fluids off the top of my bottles.
None of this is backed by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) or WHO (World Health Organization), just an uninformed cyclist, navigating these crazy times.
We have not done a contest in quite some time. With a lot of people sheltering in place and working from home, Riding Milford has been getting plenty of views and a lot more followers. I think we have people who are putting in an enormous amount of miles and on the opposite side of the spectrum, people who used to ride regularly, but during this new environment, are getting outside to pedal for a little exercise and vitamin D.
This has been a crazy time in history and it’s far from over. To keep everyone interested, I thought it would be a good idea to get more people out there with a distance or climbing challenge. On second thought, if anyone gets hurt, this is not a time you want to end up in the emergency room. So, I think a photo contest is in order. The weather is starting to get warm and the days are getting longer, providing ample riding opportunities.
The winner gets a pair of Tifosi Optics Crit sunglasses in Matte Gunmetal with Polarized Fototec Light Changing Lenses. A $100 value.
Made of Grilamid TR-90, a homopolyamide nylon characterized by an extremely high alternative bending strength, low density, and high resistance to chemical and UV damage. Hydrophilic rubber ear and nose pieces for a no-slip fit. Adjustable ear and nose pieces for a customizable, comfortable fit. Vented lenses improve air circulation, prevent fogging.
So, all I need from you are some fabulous pics of your bike in nature. The only twist that makes this different from previous photo contests is you. The pic has to be a selfie with your bike and you wearing a face covering or mask. Have fun with it. I’d like to see what everyone is wearing. You can send me your photo to email@example.com. Include your first name and where your photo was taken. We will run this through May.
I will then post the photos and ask you, the readers, to vote by leaving a comment. I can’t wait to see your pics!
What’s Playing (What am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), Today – Johnny Nash – I Can See Clearly Now
Are you wondering when this will end? Do you dream about getting outside and riding through the woods? Is riding a stationary bike or trainer getting to you? For most people who read this, the answer is yes. But, unless you live in the few areas that strictly prohibit outdoor activities, it’s healthy to get outside, just do it alone or with someone you co-habituate with.
It seems now that each state is going to decide when business can open and which businesses can open. The medical profession thinks it’s too soon. Some say this is not going away and getting back to business, sort of speak, will hopefully help the herd build an immunity. I do not know what the answer is.
What I do know is that sitting home, whether you’re working from home or not working at all and not getting any exercise in, is not good. A sedentary lifestyle breeds depression. You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to figure that out. Staying inside all the time is not good for the mind or the body.
So, escape to the woods. Ride that patch of trail you’ve always seen but didn’t have the time to explore. Hike up that mountain near your hideaway and take a stroll around the neighborhood, just to get some sunlight and see where you live from a different perspective. Make sure you wear a face mask or cover, don some light gloves and cover the top of your water bottles.
In hope you like my throwback photos
A few days ago, I was pedaling through the incredible state forest that I’m lucky enough to live less that a mile from. I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to be sheltering in place, yet able to do the one activity that I love. I am riding way more now than this time in previous years. Don’t get me wrong, I wish this had never happened and I hope it ends very soon. But until it does, get out there and grab some vitamin D.
Please remember to thank any employees in the medical field, first responders, delivery men, supermarket and pharmacy employees, restaurant employees, utility workers, plumbers, electricians and anyone that keeps showing up for work, so the rest of the world can self isolate. Do your part. Wear your mask and gloves when you must leave the house. Do not ride in groups or hang out with anyone that you do not live with. If everyone cooperates, we can slowly integrate back into society in the near future.
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – The Waiting
It’s been quite some time since I’ve pedaled through the old Boy Scout Camp off Five Mile Meadow Road. Closed since before I was born, this swath of forest sits between Five Mile and Rt. 739. The Pennsylvania DCNR purchased the property a few years back from a developer and in the last few years, they’ve removed every structure or any sign that a camp ever existed, annexing it into the Delaware State Forest.
Since, the removal of materials, the old Jeep roads and walking paths have made some really nice mountain bike trails, from the road, out to the copper field, back through the camp and down the hill to Rock Hill Pond, a serene body of water, surrounded by a lush, green forest.
I love incorporating the camp into a ride, usually at the end, just before I exit the woods and enter my community. Recently, with the lake communities experiencing large summer like crowds, due to the pandemic, the camp area has seen lots of hikers and visitors, trying to get outside and enjoy the fresh air.
You could park at the gate, right on Five Mile Meadow Road, across from Standing Stone Trail and hike in and have lunch by the lake, but you know I’m an advocate of pedaling in and seeing the entire swath of woods. There is even a parking lot, just off Rt. 739. The road from the lot leads up past the copper fields, past where the old bunk houses were, connecting to the main camp area. Check it out. Here’s some old pics from previous posts inside the camp, when a lot of the structures still stood.
Some pics from previous posts inside the camp
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), Today – Gino Vannelli – Living Inside Myself
As I mentioned in my last post, I’m trying to get some projects done around the house as well as some fun bike builds that are long overdue, while I have extra time that is usually spent commuting or traveling for work. Being lucky enough to work from home, I can squeeze in a few weekly rides and I’m making progress on the honey do list.
To build up a Ritchey Breakaway frame that I was traveling with, I stripped the drivetrain, wheels and a few other bits from my Kona Honky Tonk. Being on the road for 3 out of every 4 weeks, I just did not have time to re-build the Tonk. I was always very fond of the way this bike, a 2012 model, accelerated, climbed and descended.
I decided to use a 16 year old 9 speed drivetrain. Shimano 105 shifters and front and rear derailleurs. Both the left shifter and front derailleur are for a triple chainring setup. I modified it for a double, compact crankset. I went with a new SRAM Rival 50/34 crank and a SRAM 970 11-32 cassette with a KMC 9 speed chain. The mix of parts worked out extremely well.
For the cockpit, I went with a Velo Orange Nouveau Randonneur Handlebar, Velo Orange Threadless Stem, Velo Orange Grand Cru Headset, a Velo Orange Grand Cru Zero Setback Seatpost and a Salsa Liplock Seatpost Binder, all in a silver finish.
For the touch points, I went with a Brooks B17 Cambrium Saddle in tan. For now, black Cannondale bar tape, because that’s what I had in the garage. Some brown tape is in the works. Velo Orange Moderniste Stainless Steel bottle cages, Speedplay Zero Chromoly Pedals and an old Mavic Ksyrium SL Wheelset in silver, round out the build.
Here’s a few more pics of this 4130 Chromoly steel steed with a steel fork.
If your anything like me, for the most part, your avoiding the daily news like the plague. I’ve found that constant exposure to the negative, can be quite depressing. Although, living in the northeast with my roots in New York, I hear everyday about people I know that have the virus or who have passed away due to the virus.
I am, however, adjusting to the way we have to live, during these uncertain times. I’m having my food delivered from the supermarket, sanitize everything before bringing it in the house, wash my hands constantly and keeping away from anyone that does not live under the same roof.
I usually work until the late afternoons, sneaking some yard work in at lunchtime, then outside for a ride or long walk, complete with face mask and gloves. At night, I’ve been working on a few projects, to keep from watching too much television.
I stripped my Kona Honky Tonk down to the frame, to build up my Ritchey Breakaway. All parts were switched over, except for handlebar, stem, seat post, brakes and headset. This frame received a 9 speed Shimano 105 drivetrain, Mavic Ksyrium SL wheelset and a new Brooks B17 Cambium saddle. Of course all new cables, housing and bar tape rounded out the build. I kept the Continental Grand Prix 23mm tires that were on the wheels for now.
My rides have been a real uplifting experience. I’ve been reading that the trails and parks are full (the ones that are still open), but my little slice of heaven seems to be completely void of people. I can ride gravel roads and not worry about passing cars or trucks. Road rides are a little trickier, but I can get creative and pedal along an 8 mile loop a few times, without hitting the main roads.
Please remember to thank any employees in the medical field, first responders, delivery men, supermarket and pharmacy employees, restaurant employees, utility workers, plumbers, electricians and anyone that keeps showing up for work, so the rest of the world can self isolate. Do your part. Wear your mask and gloves when you must leave the house. Do not ride in groups or hang out with anyone that you do not live with. Hopefully, if everyone cooperates, we can slowly integrate back into society in the near future.
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – The Police – Don’t Stand So Close To Me
Ok, I have not been able to update this piece every week. Not because I cannot ride, but because my family lost our beloved Mom. Social distancing has made mourning difficult to say the least. Not being able to mourn with my siblings, was hard. But, I’ve learned just how strong my brothers and sister really are. All 3 are my heroes! Everyone is suffering right now. The world has changed and will continue to change as we navigate through this. Sitting at home, I’ve been able to spend quality time with my family. I’ve even video chatted with my daughter, whose staying with my brother and her cousins each and every day. I’m taken aback by the generosity that is all around us.
Being fortunate enough to still be working (from home for the time being), I am able to get outside and turn the pedals a little. I prefer riding from my house to the gravel roads, but an occasional road ride is in order as well.
In my last post, I mentioned riding with a friend. That has not happened since and won’t happen again until it is safe. Nasal droplets coming from a rider or runner can travel 4 times as far in the wind or slipstream compared with a person that is standing still. Besides, it sends a negative message to other people that cyclists are not practicing social distancing. Unless you live under the same roof, you should not ride together. I realize I might catch some negative comments to that statement, but if you really stop and thing about it, it makes sense.
What I have been happy to see is that people are still getting out there. As a matter of fact, IMBA has been reporting that trail systems across the country have been getting a lot more use. I think this is where I should say that riding with a mask is a good idea. Anytime your outside your home is a good time to wear a face covering, especially when your on a bike or on the trails.
I thought about creating some sort of virtual challenge on strava to help pass the time and keep people riding, but decided against it, as this is not a good time to crash and go to the hospital. So, ride on, but be careful, they’ll be plenty of time to set PR’s and race your friends when life returns to the new normal. Stay healthy!
With Social Distancing, Self Quarantine and Shelter in Place becoming the new norm, life as we know it has taken on a whole new meaning. However this shakes out, as a world, we will be forever changed.
If you read my last post at cyclingtravelguide.com, you’ll know that I had to depart my work trip a few days early and drive back from Chicago. While grounded for the time being, I’ve been able to get away from my laptop A few hours a day and hit the pavement, gravel and singletrack, that’s abundant in and around Milford. I’ve pedaled with friends (6 feet apart), my son and alone.
I’ve actually stayed quite close to my home, riding through the community, my gravel kingdom and the trails that surround the forest. It’s been weird seeing so many people out there, walking and hiking, especially on the week days. I guess everyone needs to get out of the house and soak in some Vitamin D.
For those that cannot go to work, this forced vacation is a time that can be spent safely with family, in the outdoors and is a great time to get some home projects done. And remember to thank everyone that is putting their health at risk by going to work every day: Supermarket employees, pharmacies, restaurants, gas stations, truck drivers, delivery services, plumbers, electricians, mechanics and all the great people that keep the world afloat, including all Health Care Workers and First Responders.
I’ll keep this going each week until it comes to some kind of conclusion. Stay safe, be positive and clean everything. We are all in this together, I mean separately.
It’s been a few months since I’ve had any real content to post here. If you’ve read my other page, cyclingtravelguide.com, you know that I’ve been traveling quite a bit. I finally spent more than a week at home. Twelve days to be exact. With time on my hands, I’m always going to find that window to get out and ride.
The Delaware State Forest and McDade Trail are my go-to places to grind some gravel. I managed to get a few rides at each venue while at my home base. I have been lucky enough to enjoy the warm late February weather we’ve been having, never donning the winter gear. While much of the country has been hit hard with snow and cold temperatures, Northeast Pennsylvania has been spared this year.
I won’t bore you with details of my ride, but I was excited to get back in the woods, climb some hills and dream about long days in the saddle. Here are some pics from the past week and a half.
What’s Playing? (What am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) today – Journey – Wheel in the Sky
On Tuesday, I received an email from Feedspot, that Riding Milford was placed on a list of Top 100 Cycling Blogs on the web.
I wasn’t sure what that means, so I did a search to see how many cycling blogs there actually are. There are literally thousands. When I checked out Feedspot, I realized that the other blogs on the top 100 were a lot of what I read. So being placed at number 95 is an honor. Is this why I write Riding Milford? No! But it’s nice to know that someone other than me is reading it.
I like to believe that the readers, who have patiently read my stories, made the difference. So I say thank you!
Although, Riding Milford has been my favorite outlet, I’ve decided to start a new blog to help guide readers and myself along the path of the frequent traveler.
My work has been sending me around this great big country, and what better way to see each city or town, than from a bicycle.
That being said, Riding Milford will remain active.
Recently, I found out just how important riding a bike is to me. For many years, I’ve been able ride on a fairly regular basis. My family has been very understanding of my need to get outside and pedal for a few hours on most days and work has always allowed me to get enough miles in to satisfy my urge.
You see, the last few years have been about getting out on a bike as much to clear my head as it was to purely ride for the fun of it. There may be better ways to relieve stress, but I sure can’t think of any.
About four months ago, I took a job that requires a good deal of traveling. It took about 4 trips of about 2 weeks each, for me to learn my craft and get comfortable in my new environment. Now I had to figure out how I was going to be able to squeeze in some miles while on the road.
Since the stationary bikes at the hotel gyms were completely out of the question, I investigated the breakaway frames from Ritchey and Surly. Both would do the trick but would prove rather costly to check with the airlines.
A recent trip to a midwestern bike shop, revealed that most big city shops have been refraining from road bike rentals due to the growing “City Bike” market in just about every urban environment. While in that shop, I noticed a folding bike. I even took it for a test ride.
I purchased one for my daughter when she was in college. A simple phone call revealed that she hadn’t used it in a couple of years. All I had to do was pick it up.
My first trip to the airport was Golden. The airline checked the bike for free. In it’s case, the bike weighed only 30 pounds and was under the oversized bag limits. Feeling like I’d solved the transportation issue, I was free to explore Kansas City on two wheels.
I won’t go into details or outline my routes, but I will say that I was able to set it up to fit my long, lanky frame and managed four rides in 12 days on a recent trip to Missouri. Not ideal, but better than an indoor suffer fest on a spin bike.
A few weeks later, I managed a few rides in the Dallas area with a few more in the San Bernadino, CA area. I really think I’m in love with the mountains on the west coast.
Mt. Rubidoux in Riverside was the highlight of my trip. Climbing on a folding bike proved no easy task, but riding in the shadows of Big Bear and Baldy was an incredible experience. Big Bear sits above 7,000 feet and Mt. Baldy is the iconic climb used in the Tour of California. Both were snow capped, just adding to their stunning beauty!
Stay tuned for a year in review post, coming up in early January. In the meantime, check out some more pics.
On Saturday, I met up with Brian and Nate for a guided tour of Eastern Wayne County. It was the first cold day of the year. 25 degrees at our 10:30am start. Gearing up for a mixed surface ride, I brought the Van Dessel WTF.
We pushed off from Whitney Lake, a beautiful, private lake community, just west of Lake Wallenpaupack. The gravel surface led us through several segments of pavement, well maintained gravel and dirt.
Brian mapped out an excellent course that was certainly not lacking in hills. 35 miles and about 3,300 feet of elevation was enough to satisfy my urge to climb. The short but steep ascents took me by surprise. It’s been quite a bit of time since I’ve really had to bear down. For the first half of the ride, I simply hung on to Nate’s wheel on the way up. Once I settled in (and it took me a while), I was fine. The descents were fun, although the biting cold air made you want to go uphill more than down. Although, it did warm up to about 33 degrees in the sun by the time we finished.
Wayne County is rural and ruggedly beautiful. It seems that every road leads to creeks, lakes and bridges with barns and rustic buildings as far as the eye can see. Most gravel roads, roll right through communities and you will not find an open business on the entire route. Cell service was a bit scant as well. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts about the Maple City Century, you better bring plenty of food and water and a few spare tubes if you plan to ride here.
I plan on coming back in the spring to ride this course without the extra layers. I’m sure it will be a lot more green and every bit as beautiful. Here’s a few more pics from this gorgeous area:
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) today, Led Zeppelin – Black Dog
Recently, I had some free time. I took advantage by….. You guessed it, gravel grinding! Usually, I plan my rides at least a day in advance. When opportunity arises, I normally just pull out of the garage on my road bike and hammer around the community. However, this time was different. I had an appointment later in the day in the Stroudsburg area. So, I loaded my gravel bike in the car and headed out to the McDade Trail.
It was a bit cold, but at 38 degrees, about right for November. I decided to incorporate some hills, so starting in Bushkill and pedaling out to the end of the trail seemed to make sense. I parked at the Roost (a deli, situated across Rt. 209 from the trail), used the facilities, grabbed a water and shoved off.
I wrapped around the old gas station and dropped into the trail in just enough time to start climbing right out of the gate. At this point, the gravel is thick, making it loose and hard to pick up any traction. It took all I had to keep my weight back and grind up the hill. The next few miles were a series of steep climbs, switchbacks and soaring descents, all on gravel, tucked neatly into the woods, between Rt. 209 and the Delaware River. What a great way to spent the afternoon!
I crossed over the huge bridge, hammered along the river and cruised into the parking lot at Hialeah. After a little confusion, I made my way back over to River Road for a short tour through the tiny but quaint hamlet of Shawnee on the Delaware. I turned around and zipped back to the trail.
The ride back was just as pleasant as the ride out. A slight breeze and no sun, combined with all of Autumn’s amazing colors provided a beautiful setting for a fall ride. I have always liked this section of the trail, as it has a whole different feel than the middle portion from Dingman’s to Bushkill. If you have the extra time and climbing legs, bring your camera, a sandwich and coffee and enjoy one of the jewels of the Delaware Water Gap Nation Recreation Area.
What’s Playing (What am I listening to while writing and what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – America – You Can do Magic
A few months ago, I decided to sell one of my hardtails. I have been considering a Surly dirt road touring bike for some time. I just did not have enough room in the garage. I really liked the Ogre and the ECR for their ability to carry a heavy load over a big distance on rough terrain. But, I decided to go with the Karate Monkey which allows you to instal a suspension fork if you really want to hit some technical singletrack.
Surly frames are made of 4130 CroMoly Steel. This is especially dear to my heart. You can find lighter bikes for sure, but nothing rides like steel. The fork is also 4130 CroMoly steel and has enough bosses for all types of touring and bikepacking. The frame has ample bosses for 3 bottle cages or oversized gear cages. The Karate Monkey has rack and fender mounts, making it a more than worthy commuter. Modern touches, like thru axles and hydraulic disc brakes, really round out this solid offering.
After more than a handful of rides, I think I can supply opinion. First, as you know, I’m fond of steel bikes. Not in the way of vintage, but modern steel with a classic look. I’ve owned plenty of carbon and aluminum bikes. They are stiff, light and fast, but I prefer the plush ride of quality steel. I’ve pedaled through some rough, technical singletrack, gravel roads and Jeep trails. The ride quality is there. It’s pretty quick when it needs to be and smooth over rough terrain. The only drawback might be the weight. Loaded up for a weekend excursion, it probably wouldn’t be first up any hill. But that’s not why you buy this bike. You buy it because it’s versatile. It can be set up as a 29er, 27.5, single speed, geared or as Surly says in about 487 different configurations.
I was between sizes, so I decided on an XL frame. I did not want to be cramped on longer excursions. Because of the larger frame, I needed to shorten the stem, so I opted for an 80mm Salsa Guide. SRAM NX 11 speed shifters, 30t crankset and rear derailleur, paired with Sunrace’s 11-42t cassette make for a more than capable drivetrain, however, the SRAM Level brakes could probably be upgraded. The 27.5 X 3” Surly Dirt Wizard tires are up to the task. After a few rides, I purchased and installed a Surly Moloko handlebar. It offers multiple hand positions and handles just about any bag you throw on it. To spice it up a little, I slapped on a set of Kona Wah Wah pedals and Van’s Grips, both in purple.
If you want a rig that can handle singletrack, touring, bikepacking, gravel roads or Jeep trails, the Karate Monkey is your next bike!
What’s playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today: The Animals – It’s all Over Now, Baby Blue
Occasionally, We have a guest write a product review or share their experience at an event. This time around, we are treated to Eric M’s fun description of the unPAved gravel race:
Commonly referred to by it’s shorter alias, the unPAved is indeed “Hard on the Legs, Easy on the Eyes,” a sentiment as accurately descriptive as its name. In only its second year, the unPAved has become an event that has riders asking when registration opens for next year as they wander around the finishers area in a haze of dust and happiness. The unPAved mastermind, chief cook, and bottle washer, Dave Pryor, along with his main cohort Mike Kuhn and a legion of amazing volunteers, friends, and mischief makers have produced a top tier event that drew nearly 1,000 registrants from 3 dozen states. This year’s event spanned the entire Columbus Day weekend with social rides, the Lewisburg Fall Festival, and even a Wooly Worm petting zoo. The Susquehanna River Valley should be near the top of everyone’s list as a destination for fun in the great outdoors.
A few notes on the 90 mile distance Plenty unPAved–
Last year I opted for the 50 mile category, now called the Proper, and vowed with a fellow cyclist that we would return for the 90 mile version thinking more climbing and descending hills, gravel and dirt roads, and chowing down on the highly sought after finishers whoopie pie was a great way to celebrate this cycling pursuit called gravel grinding. The Plenty unPAved category was all we hoped for and so much more. Dave Pryor, event brain-child, and his band of cohorts designed a course that rewarded all riders who toed the start line at 8:00AM on a foggy and chilly Sunday morning. Riders started the adventure along the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail for a few miles to get the blood to extremities and conduct some idle chat.
An early morning start in this area of Pennsylvania rewards the visitor with the sights and sounds of the local faithful clip-clopping their way to Sunday observances. All riders gave a wide berth to the trotting horses and no pictures were taken; we were all focused on our respective tasks at hand. For the riders, the first test begins about 14 miles in with the significant climb up Jones Mountain, a combination that proves to be steep with some elevation sections measured greater than 12%. This was an unrelenting climb and longer than I remembered from last year. Most riders take the time to regroup and refuel at the summit before beginning the downhill section followed by minor rollers that lead to “The Ranch.” This first aid station located at mile 27 was a true party atmosphere where riders were greeted by cowbell ringing volunteers in all manner of hoedown garb including inflatable horse and ostrich costumes. Somehow I missed the espresso guy but not the vast array of snacks, hydration offerings, a perfectly overcooked-to-order hot dog, and a bio-break. The next 18 miles was a grinning descent through the Bald Eagle State Forest. Eighteen miles of blue skies and a full palette of autumn colors greeted the riders as we headed past a couple of small hamlets towards the base of the second of the day’s four signature climbs.
Siglerville Millheim Pikeounds innocent enough when the sun is shining and the thought of the second aid station called the GU Energy Oasis is just a 10 mile click away. Well, easier said than done, but do it we did, and what lay waiting for us at Poe Paddy State Park was perhaps the best rest stop I’ve ever encountered. Drop Bags were neatly set out in rows for riders to pillage through their belongings, or leave items behind to then be delivered at the finish. I propped my bike, a Lynskey GR250 with a newly installed Lauf Grit SL fork, against a handsome hemlock and took my water bottles for a stroll to get refilled. What I encountered changed my whole perception on mid-ride food possibilities. There in the middle of the forest was gentleman decked in overalls creating culinary wonders from a cauldron and a skillet. Most people know him as Evan from Nittany Mountain Works fame, a local company making some seriously great bags for your cycling life. I called him a magician, for how else did he know at that moment that I would most definitely be resuscitated by perogies, bacon, fried potato wedges, and fresh pour-over coffee? I was so distracted by a second and third perogy that I nearly forgot to refill my water bottles. On the way back to my bike, after some sincere high-fives to Evan, I spotted the bottle of TUMS. Who else but a magician would think to have TUMS on hand?
Having checked off a few boxes at the aid station it was time to saddle up and ride on, so off we went to face the second half of the day with two climbs yet to go. The event’s elevation profile depicts Cherry Run Road as a pyramid followed immediately by “the molar” which starts with Sheesley Run Road and incorporates a few more smaller undulating roads before a swift downhill on Old Shingle Road for a final test of wits and braking acumen.
For the riders on the 90 and 120 mile courses there was a chance to have a brief respite from the bike saddle in the form of the now infamous Salsa Cycles Chaise from their #chasethechaise campaign which began at the Dirty Kanza event years ago. It was nice to take a quick sit on something soft (finally), smile for the camera, remount the bike, and head down the mountain towards the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail.
There was a final pitstop available and I’m still stumped why I did not stop at the Rusty Rail Brewing Company aid station in Mifflinburg, where tasty beverages, snacks, laughs, and restrooms were on offer before the last 9 miles leading to the Miller Center for Recreation & Fitness where we all began our respective rides.
As I write this, I’m watching news clips of that unforgettable day in our country’s history. I, like many was present on 9/11 to witness the horror that was unleashed on us by the lowest form of scum this world has to offer. They’re not humans, they’re scum! Humans would not cause so much pain to so many innocent people. That’s all I have to say about that.
In 2002, my brother Michael, our friend Mike and I, founded the Tour de Force, a 4 day bicycle ride that originally raised money for the families of the Police Officers killed on 9/11. In 2003, we shifted focus to raise money for the families of Police Officers killed in the line of duty, nationwide.
Since 2006, I have lived in my adopted home of Milford. I’ve pedaled all over this beautiful region and written about the many adventures the Delaware Valley, Tri-State area and the Poconos have to offer. But each September, I give you my experience at the Tour de Force. These days, with over 300 riders and 40 support staff, logistics dictate that I see the Tour from a car.
We ride from New York City to Washington, DC, Washington, DC to NYC, NYC to Boston and Boston to NYC. This year, we rode from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to Fenway Park in Boston. Each rider received a ticket to the Yankee, Red Sox game played only a few hours after we finished.
Since then, we’ve added two more Board members, Jim and John, to help with logistics. The board may do all the work leading up to the ride and handle the day to day tasks involved in making this ride glide along like a well oiled machine, but it’s the riders and support team that really shine. Each rider and support team member have fund raising goals that enable them to participate. Most raise a lot more than their share.
This year, we had 76 people who have completed the TDF a total of 10 times. More than half our riders and support staff have been with the TDF for more than 5 years. 2019 was our 18th annual ride. We have teams from all over the country, that show up with trailers, stocked with food and drink to share with the masses. At night, most riders and support staff mingle in hotel parking lots in what can only be explained as the best feel good after ride party you can imagine!
All year long, TDF members support each other in every way you can think of. This has become a wonderful family and once you’ve been a part of the ride, your family. Through this endeavor, we’ve supported numerous other charities.
Each rider gets 4 nights in premium hotels, breakfast and lunch each day as well as a banquet on the 3rd night, a TDF Jersey, water bottle and lots of other swag.
Members help the board . Families from all over the United States and Puerto Rico receive donations. When a member lives close to a family receiving a donation, they personaly deliver the check.
I want to thank all the support team, riders and my fellow board members for allowing me to be a part of this for all these years. You are the Tour de Force. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this incredible cause.
You can Check us out at http://www.tourdeforceny.com. On Facebook: Tour de Force 9/11 Memorial Ride – where you can check out these and the thousands of other photos taken by Diane and Tom.