Rasputitsa Gravel Race

This past weekend, Jason and I took the long drive up to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom to sample the Rasputitsa Gravel Road Race, a 40 mile trek over some of the toughest roads the Green Mountains have to offer. With over 4500 feet of elevation gain, the course challenges the most adventurous of riders.

DC7D26B0-AC74-4AFA-ABB9-DAD82516A15F

The event was everything they said it would be and more.  Themed after David Bowie’s “We Could Be Hero’s”, it was a world class cycling event, complete with top notch pre and post ride festivities, including a Bowie cover band that was spot on!

82A14506-F757-49EA-9703-FCCDB97416F6

At 45 degrees and sunny, things seemed to be shaping up quite nicely. Starting at Burke Mountain in East Burke, the course dropped into town and after a couple of miles, made its way onto the hard-packed dirt roads.  The first 10 miles seemed to pass by extremely quick. I was starting to think, all the talk about muddy roads and snow covered trails was all hype.

9979A098-DC1A-4F62-A0C1-045C1704BF1D

Then, came Cyberia (why it’s spelled this way, is another Rasputitsa mystery). As we were climbing up the mountain, a volunteer said there was a lot of snow on top. He wasn’t kidding. A half foot of snow turned the joy ride into a hike a bike. If you were able to ride through, you couldn’t, as riders hiked single file down the narrow trail for about 1.5 miles. As advertised, Rasputitsa (Russian for “the mud Season”, when roads become difficult to traverse) was starting to hurt. I don’t know who that young lady was that was giving free hugs at the end of Cyberia, but she certainly brought a smile to many tired souls.

3DBA607B-289B-4DE6-BBAA-3DB032D676D1

As soon as we were out of Cyberia, the bottom fell out as riders shot down the mountain. Jason got away from me rather quickly. His mtb skills were on full display, as was the case for most of the day. Wherever you were on the course, mountains were visible, near and far. The next 25 miles, were more of the same: Beautiful scenery, monster climbs, amazing volunteers and fantastic rest stops. Some might say the maple shots were the best or the Rasputitsa bottles and Clif bars came at a much needed time or the craft beer was cool, but, what did it for me was the little girl that handed me a donut as I chugged up that monster hill past the last rest stop. It believe she knew I was struggling.

2A0F9831-04BE-497C-916C-A0F1D3687755

Coming down the back side, you could see the ski resort. All around me, grimaces turned to smiles, well for only a few minutes. That’s  when we turned left into what seemed like another Cyberia. I couldn’t help but think, why would they do this to me as I kept falling while trying to ride through. Coming out of it, snow became blacktop. Blacktop became snow and the finish line was in sight.

342E0A57-0BF8-4D34-9D10-FC78CB96BF50

What a great feeling as hundreds of finishers hung around to cheer on the riders coming in! We dropped our bikes at the car and joined in the celebration that is Rasputitsa. Tired and fulfilled, I will be back next year, I can’t wait!

876D04B8-AB78-43BC-8F4E-1FD2BE790117

Advertisements

Slovang

The following is a guest spot from Brian with some gorgeous pics to help get us through the winter!

FB28F62A-CDA2-4A9B-AB4A-87D21F2152E9

Sometimes an offer is just too good to pass up.  So, when a local like-minded cycling/hiking/skiing/beer tasting friend tells me about this great blog he reads and there’s this contest to submit a bicycling photo and win a pair of Tifosi cycling glasses, I started looking through my photos.  Having nothing to lose, and a cool new pair of glasses to possibly gain, I started following the blog and entered Robert’s contest.  I won, and so thanks are in order to all of you who voted for my image of my bike leaning on a Bucks County covered bridge on a snowy day.  And, bigger thanks are in order to Robert for hosting the blog, and the contest.

61EF4AC5-29E5-4D5E-B439-746CB62ECCB7
Summer, 2017….  A childhood friend of mine that I grew up with in southeastern PA is closing in on his 50th birthday at the end of January, 2018.  Jon moved to San Diego nearly 20 years ago because he “hates the cold”.  For fun, we’d been messaging back and forth about a bicycle vacation to Portland, OR, or some such location, but nothing ever gelled.  Then, out of the blue, he sends me an email and invites me to go on a cycling vacation with him to a warm destination and celebrate his milestone birthday with him.  Having visited him several times in San Diego in years past, it wasn’t hard for him to set the hook.  It is beautiful there, which is why so many cyclists choose to train there year round.  We quickly narrowed down our choices to somewhere in Arizona, or maybe try out an all-inclusive 4 day tour with Trek Travel in Solvang, CA.  Since it was his birthday, I let him choose and so we booked our 4 day Ride Camp with Trek Travel to Solvang for the end of January into the beginning of February, 2018.  We figured it would be nicer to just let someone else handle all the details and that way we’d end up spending less time fretting over minutia and more time having fun on 2 wheels.  Jon knows I ride all year in PA, as does he in San Diego and so we knew we’d be fit enough to put in some big mile days together this early in the year.
BDC2334E-7955-46DF-A5E9-FBD8168C7877
 Some background on Solvang…it is a small city in the Santa Ynez Valley of California, known for its Danish style architecture.  The area outside of town is full of hills, vineyards, horse and cattle farms and agriculture.  It definitely has a tourism driven economy, and so it caters to showing out-of-towners a good time.  We stayed at the Hotel Corque, which was very comfortable for our time there.  There are tons of shops and restaurants, a totally awesome motorcycle museum, places to do wine tastings, and Firestone Walker Brewing is only 3 miles down the road in Buellton.  Yes, we went there.  Mmmmm, beer.  Since Trek Travel pretty much handles everything except your transportation to and from Solvang, we just had to drive up from San Diego after I arrived from frigid PA.  The package included lodging, nearly all food, bikes and helmets and a Garmin with all routes pre-loaded, two guide hosts to show you around and ride with you, and a Trek Travel support van to refuel from or drop clothes in as the day warmed up.  The riding was very enjoyable with high temp’s around 80* every day, along with mostly sunny skies.  It was a wonderful mid-winter reprieve for me to go someplace warm, be with my friend, meet some new folks and put in some miles.  We rode 4 consecutive days totaling about 165 miles and then said goodbye to our hosts and Solvang.  I booked a few extra days to spend back in San Diego with Jon and his family, and so a day later we put in a beautiful road ride through Rancho Santa Fe which included some coast time.  My friend Dawn, also formerly from PA drove from Upland, CA to come see me and joined us on the last ride.   A good week indeed, as Jon and I ended at just over 200 miles each.  I landed back in Philadelphia on the eve of the Super Bowl, and as I drove home to Upper Bucks County all I could think about was how much I wasn’t enjoying driving in the ice storm that fell that evening.  It was sunny and warm just a few hours earlier that same day…on the other coast.
 D50B0684-CA96-4ACD-B731-192A17271D75

Winter Bike Washing

When temperatures reach the freezing levels, keeping your bike clean never seems to be easy. This winter in particular has presented riders with sub-zero tempts, throughout the northeast, midwest and abroad.

D1ED1E09-3640-489E-9631-AB5672FBC3A7

In past years, I would fill my wife’s largest pot with water from the kitchen sink, drench my bike out on the driveway, soap it up, brush and rinse. With hose bibs shut off this time of year, we are left with few options to keep the road salt, mud, snow and ice off our steeds.

E8F57464-6004-4041-8C59-80C4C02AB3C6

Recently, a couple of local riders have brought their bikes inside and cleaned them in the shower, which I’m sure is probably very effective. However, I don’t think I’m the only one to say, that would not go over well in my house.

A2168157-A74A-4E8C-96E2-E24DE390389F
Not a great idea!

Another option, which I’ve tried, is the self service car wash. Again, effective, but with two drawbacks. The high pressure hose, if not kept far from bike can damage paint and small parts as well as get into bottom bracket shells, head tubes and hubs. This can cause all sorts of issues that quite frankly, you want to avoid. Also, the hot water at the car wash freezes in colder temps before you can dry your bike off. You need to get at least the salt off your bike, what to do?

Through internet research and trial and error, I’ve found a better way. Not full Proof, but a cleaner, more precise method of cleaning your bike, far from a hose or electricity. Simply fill a 2 gallon pressurized sprayer with warm water, wet bike down, spray on some bike wash, I like Finish Line Super Bike Wash, scrub bike and rinse.

 

The pressure is not high enough to damage your bike, but effective enough to clean it off. You can do this in your garage, basement, driveway or before you leave the trail.

After you fully clean and dry off your bike, don’t forget to lube your chain. Liberally pour on chain lube as you back pedal and run through all your gears. Then, back pedal again, as you hold rag to bottom of chain to get the excess off. Give it a try, it has worked great for me!

 

7 Days/7 Rides

Entertaining the notion that riding outdoors ends in the fall, is sort of giving in to Mother Nature. Well, that’s easy to say, when the temperatures in late November, early December are still in the 40’s. Anyway, I thought that it would be a good time to get in some road rides, mountain bike rides and gravel adventures.

I started on Tuesday with a commute to work. When I left my house, it was 19 degrees. I layered up and dealt with the wind. I was just happy to be on my bike.

0D8CF28D-2821-4637-BFA2-C2364B31AE83

On Wednesday, I did a unique ride, mixing in some gravel, pavement, dirt and grass. It was 50 degrees and I took full advantage, riding in shorts and shortsleeves.  I rode up to Five Mile Meadow Road, grinded through the loose, new gravel until I heard the first gunshot. I thought I’d leave the hunters alone and head back into the community for an unauthorized spin through Seneca Lake Park.

78E43853-E2BC-4936-B96D-04F3BED4C6E5

I had a few extra hours on Thursday morning, so I looped around my community on the road bike, hitting every hill I could find.

059B3DDC-44D7-498E-AE30-061E9EE00FAD

On Friday, my son joined me for a mtb ride through the Watershed. Another 50 degree day, allowed us to dress down and enjoy a few hours of rocks, roots and beautiful singletrack.

Saturday morning brought some gravel grinding through the Delaware State Forest with Andrew. This time, I opted for a mostly orange getup. Action Bikes and Outdoor, produces an orange jersey each year, making it easy to get out in the wild, during hunting season.

B0968B0E-A131-46CB-BE4A-575232748FAA
Andrew in Safety Orange & Hi-Viz Green

On Sunday evening, my son and I went back into the Delaware State Forest for a spin under the stars, powered by our Bontrager Ion 800 headlights. A full moon helped illuminate the woods. We took a couple of cool new roads that I’ll detail in a later post.

28DEACA4-2798-4254-9072-2971189DACA5

Monday morning was cold. 20 degrees at 6:30am. I grabbed a quick ride on gravel, dirt and grass. The hill I’ve been practicing my grass descents on, was covered with a thin layer of frost, making for a few slippery ups and downs. Easy to deal with, when the fog is burning off the lake at the top of he hill.

What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), Today – The Greg Kihn Band – The Breakup Song (1981)

C2A95A64-9E91-4E31-A355-CC7FD38F39A0

 

Photo Contest – Finalists

The time has come; no more photos. After sifting through the thousands of submissions (that might be a bit of an exaggeration), we’ve narrowed it down to three finalists.

While all the pics are beautiful, only 3 can be finalists. Now, it’s your job to pick the winner. Please, help me select the winning photo by posting to comments and picking photo 1, 2 or 3.

IMG_20160409_112200007_HDR
1. Snowy Covered Bridge submitted by Brian
IMG_0621
2. Riding Golden, Colorado submitted by Mike
IMG_0622
3. Autumn on the McDade submitted by Eric

Thank you for your votes! A winner will be picked on Friday, November 24th.

 

 

Photo Contest Update

Because I’m a boob, I have not figured out how to upload a photo in comments. So, since I can’t remember how I received photos last year, you can send any photo/submissions to tdf911@ptd.net. Sorry for the confusion, I’ll get it right by next year.

So, get outside and ride. Do not let the weather keep you from turning those pedals and take lots of pictures!

Photo Contest/ Tifosi Sunglasses Giveaway

It’s that time of year again. Riding Milford’s 2nd annual photo contest. To celebrate the two-year anniversary of the blog and to recognize how beautifully cycling and photography go hand in hand.

IMG_0619

You see, there are cyclists who ride to simply go fast, and while there is certainly a place for that, a lot of us are now simply riding for escape and adventure. We slow down to take in the sights, explore new paths and record our rides a different but not unique way, in photographs. We post them on social media for all the world to see. And for that we are lucky. Lucky to get a look at what someone else experienced. Lucky to reach out and let that person know how beautiful their ride was.

IMG_0620To enter the contest, comment to this post, with a photo of your bicycle in nature by 8:00pm on Sunday, December 19th. The winner will receive a pair of Tifosi Crit, Fototec sunglasses in Crystal Black (an $80 value).

If we receive 25 photos, there will be 2 winners!

If we receive 50 photos, there will be 3 winners!

Can’t wait to see your pics!!

Autumn in the Delaware Valley

Each year, it seems, we get treated to something different. This year, summer lasted until mid October. I’m not complaining. However, with Halloween just a few days away, we need more than just a few leaves to fall.

Most places are beautiful in the fall. Milford and the surrounding area benefit from sitting between the Catskills and Pocono Mountains and along the Delaware River, making for a gorgeous place to pedal.

IMG_0034

If you want to see for yourself, get out on the McDade Trail, ride through Peter’s Valley via Old Mine Road, climb up to High Point or traverse the many gravel roads that make up the State and National forests that encompass our region. If you ride a mountain bike or want to learn, look no further than the Port Jervis Watershed Trails. Fall can be seen here at its fullest, with vibrant colors reflecting off the 3 reservoirs, creating a magical atmosphere.

IMG_4191

Oh, and the trails are second to none. Visit Action Bikes and Outdoor in Milford for large scale paper maps with color coded trails to guide you along. A ride up to the Hawk’s Nest on Rt. 97 provides breathtaking views of fall foliage along the river and Route 6 in Pike County has far from a shortage of colorful places to enjoy all that fall has to offer.

IMG_0075

After your ride, sample the many cafes and restraunts throughout the Delaware Valley. It’s a great way to cool down, reflect and replenish.

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 – American Girl

IMG_0612

 

Getting Outside

Ah, the rains! Between the melting snow and all the rain, it’s shaping up to be an incredible spring season. Usually, when we have this much moisture in the early spring, it leads to green moss on the ground, beautiful trees and pristine lakes, void of silt. While nature takes it’s course, it may be a good time to cultivate your adventures for 2017.

IMG_0274

I think that everyone who rides a bike, kayaks, hikes or does anything outdoors, would love to be able to spend more time in nature. Most people have families and careers.  And while family time is not a chore, work can get overwhelming at times, making even the shortest activities seem like paradise. Getting out weekly is a must, but it really helps to plan your longer outings. When your stuck working on Saturday or putting in an extra 20 hours for the week, looking forward to an epic hike, refreshing paddle down your favorite river or a bike ride that goes so late, you need to turn your head light on, can help to ward off the stresses of the modern weekend adventurer.

You can simply plan local getaways or events that take you out of your backyard. I’m scheduling the following events with many local rides, hikes, paddles and camping trips mixed in:

  • April 23rd – Lu Lacka Wyco Hundo 100 mile gravel ride in Northeastern PA
  • Late June 200 mile/ 2 day ride from Port Jervis, NY to Cape May, NJ
  • July 22nd – VBC Century Road ride in Plattsburgh, NY
  • Late September – Maple City Century 100 mile Gravel Ride in Honesdale, PA
  • Late October – Erie 80 MTB Race in Port Jervis, NY

Planning can take many paths, just don’t let it add additional stress. No need to create a spread sheet here, just lay out what you think you’ll need and as you get closer, shed some weight by getting rid of all but the absolute necessities. Having the right gear can help ease your mind. If you are doing a multi day hike on the Appalachian Trail, make sure you have enough water, food, cooking equipment, good boots and dry clothes. Don’t let the weather keep you inside. On a long bike ride, tubes, a tire and snacks could be all you really need.

IMG_0271

Another thought, keep your gear well maintained. Something as simple as bringing your bike in for a spring tune up will keep you riding all year long and provide for a hassle free adventure. If you do not know, ask. Your local bike shop or outdoor store is your best resource for information on maintenance, gear and routes.

Appalachian Trail Adventure

Winter has hit the northeast. On Thursday, Mother Nature dropped nearly a foot of snow on us. Easily the largest snowfall in the area this winter. A bikepacking trip was planned for this past weekend, but with back roads and trails too deeply covered, TC shifted his focus to an overnight backpacking adventure. With Will and myself enlisted, TC mapped out the trip and made sure we would be rewarded at the end of the day’s hike.

This was to be my first multi day hike and it showed. I started out the day by driving off from home with my hat and gloves on the roof of the car. They ended up on my driveway. Apparently it seems I dramatically over packed. Well, I over dressed as well, but shed some clothes and added them to my bulging backpack.

We departed on Saturday morning from Fairview Lake near Stillwater, NJ and snowshoed up a long hill on the Appalachian Trail. The higher we got, the deeper the snow. When we arrived on top, we were rewarded with a walk along the ridge and treated to astonishing views.

img_0218

We climbed and descended for the better part of 5 1/2 hours. About three-quarters of the way through the eight mile hike, we shed the snowshoes. As we got closer to the cabin, we passed some day hikers, that really packed the snow down enabling us to pick up the pace.

img_0219
Saturday Lunch Break

The last half mile was a downhill hike that took us over countless rocks and snow drifts. We landed on Camp Road and walked about 1000 feet to the Mohican Outdoor Center, our home away from home for the night. Now, we knew we were staying in a cabin. What we did not know was that the Mohican staff were preparing a meal for another group and invited us over to the dining hall for a gourmet feast.img_0220

Stomachs full, we retired to our cabin. We were going to need a good nights sleep as the weather forecast for Sunday was a mix of snow, sleet and rain.

img_0213

We woke about 6:30am, to pellets of ice hitting the cabin. A good breakfast and a pot of coffee and we were fully recharged and ready to take on the weather. With covers over our packs and rain gear on, we headed out the door and onto the trail at 9:30am. Again, the day started out with a climb. We opted to forgo  the snowshoes and make up as much time as possible to get through the storm. img_0211

Getting up the hill was not a problem. We climbed rather quickly. When we reached the higher elevations, the snow came down heavy and the wind was blowing extremely hard, making it difficult to see. Pushing through 18-20 inches of snow slowed us down considerably. I started to fall behind. My shoulders and hips were sore. As I plodded forward, I was lucky that TC and Will kept and eye out for trail markers. We reached Sunfish Pond and took a short rest about halfway through the 9 mile day.

img_0210
Will’s pack was covered in ice

We moved on and navigated the rocky terrain around the lake. After another climb, we descended a few miles down a rather well packed trail, along a beautiful creek, all the way to the parking area along RT. 80.

Although the terrain was a little rough, due to the snow and ice, I’m interested to see how it will be during the spring or summer. I’m sure I will find out, as this may have been my first overnight backpacking adventure, but it certainly will not be my last.