Black Mountain Cycles MCD: Final Review

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.

It was deeper than I thought

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.


Bicycle Dreams

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.

Maxxis Ravager 700X40mm: Reviewed

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.


Kona Honky Tonk: The Re-Build

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.



Bontrager OMW Jacket: Reviewed

The last few winters, I’ve been entrenched in a never-ending quest for the perfect winter jacket.  Let me explain. I own a few winter riding jackets. All keep me warm or dry in a number of conditions. Yet, I still feel, each time out on a winter ride, I’m missing something. It could be 30 degrees and raining or 20 and snowing. I have jackets that are warm but not waterproof, winter shells that are windproof, but not very insulated and extremely warm jackets that just do not provide enough ventilation.

As I’ve said in the past, I don’t work for any of the companies I review.  I do not get paid to review a product. I purchase each product for my personal use, wear it or ride it, enjoy it or not.

This year, I took a chance on Bontrager’s Old Man Winter Jacket. As you know, I tend to overdress when the temps get low. This leads to shedding layers midway down the trail. Fortunately the OMW provides plenty of ventilation, via two large zippered chest vents that are hydration pack compatible. I need to have a jacket that will keep me warm in a multitude of conditions. But the ability to fully ventilate, makes this jacket killer!


 When your out on a ride and the skies open up, rain, snow and sleet tend to fall. Having a hood helps, but having a hood with a Boa Dial that cinches down around your helmet, makes a cold, wet ride seem like a cold, wet ride where you stay warm and dry.


 Bontrager’s  Profila softshell fabric, powered by 37.5 active particle technology provides what I believe is the warmest softshell on the market. There are warmer jackets, but at this weight, you’d be hard pressed to find something warmer. Storage is provided by two spacious zippered hand pockets and two zippered chest pockets. There are also two internal drop pockets. The semi fitted cut, with double cord adjustment at the waist, keeps water and other liquids from hitting your body.  The radioactive orange color makes this jacket a bright choice for riding through hunting season or any season.


Bottom Line: Finally, I have a jacket that checks all the boxes. If you want a winter jacket, that’s light, warm, waterproof and well ventilated with a Boa Dial hood, this is definitely the jacket for you! Bontrager calls it a MTB jacket. I call it an anything jacket. Get it, you won’t be sorry!



2018 Maple City Century

The previous 3 years, I traveled up to Honesdale, PA for the Maple City Century, an off road/gravel/adventure ride. This year, I was joined by Eric, Darrin, Joe and Andrew. If you haven’t heard about this incredible event or read one of my previous reviews, by the end of this post, you’ll be eager to take on the back roads of Wayne County, PA.


Honesdale is the Maple City. However, this year’s start and finish, took place just outside of Honesdale at the Bluestone Bar and Grill on Rt. 191. With a plus size parking lot and clean bathrooms, the Bluestone was a perfect host. This year’s edition, offered a 62 mile(metric century) and the full 100 mile “shabang”. Doing the 100 the previous 3 years and finishing the last 2, we geared up for the metric and were not let down.


First, it was 46 degrees at the start. Last year, 90 degrees and humid, made for a long day. This year, real autumn temperatures prevailed as it really made a difference.


This is the one event I do each year that is completely grass roots. Zach and Stacey Wentzel are the faces at the sign in, they are there to give pre-ride instructions, they are all over the course, they are there at the finish and at the post ride party. Stacey even baked the incredible oatmeal raisin cookies found at the rest stops. Sure, other rides are bigger, but this is the what you’ve been waiting for.


As far as the ride goes, if you want dirt, gravel, long climbs and the most beautiful scenery Northeastern Pennsylvania has to offer, then this is definitely the ride you’ve been waiting for. Loads of farms, stream crossings, waterfalls and even some singletrack is thrown in for good measure. And did I mention the hills? Yes, your climbing needs will be met!

“a much needed rest”

The rest stops, as always we’re stocked with water, drink mix, cookies, trail mix, gels, fruit and sandwiches. The volunteers are second to none. They do not just serve you, they evaluate you as they are checking you in to see how your doing. 4CB320E3-DCE4-41BC-A8E2-B64FB89BCE2D

Starting at the Bluestone really made for a nice loop as riders were able to get right onto the back roads. I’ll say this, when you think it’s over, remember, there’s at least a few more climbs.


Next September, alert your friends and come up to Honesdale and experience the ride you’ll never forget!

Van Dessel WTF 853Ltd: Reviewed

Eighteen months ago, I reviewed the Van Dessel WTF. In that post, I told you everything that this exceptional bike is capable of. Well I also explained how the bicycle industry continually evolves. End users and industry professionals provide valuable reviews to help consumers make smart choices.


This year, I purchased a Van Dessel WTF 853Ltd. I wanted to put a considerable amount of mileage on this machine before giving you an educated opinion. So, after around 400 miles, my mouth is watering.


First, there’s a noticeable difference. The 853Ltd loses the double top tube. I’m sure this, along with the Reynolds 853 tubing and full carbon fork, are what contribute to a 5 pound drop in weight.


Taken from Van Dessel’s website: seamless air hardened heat-treated Reynolds 853 tube set provides more responsive handling and livelier acceleration without losing the charms that make the standard Whiskey  Tango  Foxtrot so beloved. It’s belt drive, single speed and IG hub compatible, accepts a Pressfit 30 bottom bracket and handles 29 X 2.25 tires.


Seriously, I love my WTF. It’s a beast. I rode gravel, snow and winter pavement in comfort and style. The 853Ltd is all that and more. It accelerates like no other gravel/adventure bike I’ve ridden. It climbs well and handles the rough stuff with ease. My bike has seen only gravel and hard packed dirt roads so far with the occasional bit of singletrack.


The 853Ltd is available as a frameset, with frame, fork, headset and seat clamp for $1,499. They offer 6 complete builds in either Shimano or SRAM with 1X and 2X drivetrains. The raw steel and pearlized orange are breathtaking!


Now, I opted for a complete build, with SRAM Force shifters, derailleurs, carbon crankset and flat mount hydraulic disc brakes. I switched out the perfectly capable Mavic Aksium disc wheelset for a set of Bontrager Paradigm Elite disc wheels with WTB Nana 40 tires setup tubeless and the 1130 cassette for a 1150 (with HD hub). I added a Salsa Woodchipper bar and a Thomson seatpost and stem.


Van Dessel, based in northern New Jersey has been crafting cyclocross, road, mtb and adventure bikes for many years. With the 853Ltd, the Country Bob and the A.D.D., they are sure to have the right bike for any of your adventures.



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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


45NRTH Wolvhammer – Reviewed

This may seem like an odd time to review a winter boot. It is, but after receiving them in February, I wanted to put in a fair amount of miles before deciding whether or not they become a staple in my winter riding gear.


I’ve been wanting to find a way out of shoe covers. So, I purchased a pair of 45NRTH Wolvhammer winter boots in February. 45NRTH rates these boots at 0-25 degrees Fahrenheit. I think that is a fair statement. Usually I wear two pairs of wool socks, my shoes, toe covers and thermal shoe covers. A lot of prep just to have numb toes that hurt badly after an hour plus in 10 degree weather.

With one pair of socks, I set out on a 14 degree day on a February morning, fully expecting my big toes to experience the same old story. To my surprise, my feet stayed nice and warm for the entire ride. Styled like a mountaineering boot, the Wolvhammer has a full grain leather and ballistic nylon shell that provides a barrier that keeps your feet feeling rather cozy. The waterproof membrane keeps your feet dry.

I’ve worn these boots on my mid fat mtb as well as my gravel bike. They’ve performed well in the really cold stuff, but when Mother Nature treats us to a warm winter day, go back to your shoes. I have to say that the only drawback is that at upwards of 25 degrees and it feels like your wearing an oven.


The soles are rugged and perfectly capable on those long winter hike a bike rides, snowshoeing or just a simple-stroll through the woods. Recessed cleat attachment is pretty much the norm for mtb shoes.

Putting them on and taking them off turned out to be a breeze. The laces pull tight with an internal cord lace that Velcro’s to the tongue. Then a heavy duty Velcro strap cinches the whole deal.

After 7 winter excursions, I can honestly say that the 45NRTH Wolvhammer boots will become part of my regular winter get up.



2017 Maple City Century

Last year, I wrote in detail about what a wonderful event the Maple City Century turned out to be. Based in Honesdale, PA, the event offers rides of 30, 62 and 100 miles, all on gravel and dirt roads with a little pavement thrown in to connect the sections, What I didn’t tell you was that this grass-roots gravel ride, is a family run event. Zach Wentzel, the founder and director, operates with a tight knit and dedicated crew. He, his wife Stacy and his parents are intimately involved and it shows. All riders and staff are treated like first class passengers on their flight around Wayne County.


Zach and Stacy personally sign everyone in at the registration table. After a pre-ride meeting, the 100 milers are sent off with a Police escort out of Honesdale and onto some of the nicest gravel roads in the northeast. An hour later, the 62 and 30 mile riders receive the same send off.


This is my third year doing the 100 mile ride and I have seen the route, which is marked with clear color coded arrows for each distance, gets better each time. The aid stations are well stocked and staffed by the friendliest volunteers, who encourage the riders and supply them with a wide variety of fuel, ranging from water, Pb&j & Nutella, Gatorade, fruit, pickles, packaged energy bars, and homemade goodies in sandwich bags.

Zach took matters into his own hands, taking over photographer duties this year and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Stacey was everywhere on the course, making sure riders had a safe passage back to Honesdale.


Riding with Eric and Darin proved to be the right call, as they motivated me to drink and waited at the top of the hills amid unseasonably hot temperatures. We hit Brown Trout Trail, a 5 mile section of rocks and roots, that as I explained last year, is anything but easy. However, the waterfall and creek crossing were rather dry, enabling you to ride right through it.


After stopping as rest stop 2, you could really feel the heat and the hills. The cold Coca Cola and pickles helped me forget about the pain. Pedaling out, we hit a series of hills that seemed to go on forever, a tradition of sorts at Maple City; rest, then climb again. As we approached rest stop 3 at 75 miles, I saw the Action Bikes and Outdoor tent from around the corner and it was like I was wandering in the desert and found an oasis.


Mike and John were awesome, they fed us everything we could eat and after packing up, they caught up and provided an escort complete with lights as we struggled through the last few hills in the dark. At the finish, Zach was there waiting to hand us our gold medals, the well earned traditional finisher’s MCC beer growlers. Which are happily filled at the post ride host, the Irving Cliff Brewery.



There are so many big endurance events out there and some claim to be grass roots, while they continue to grow and make registration a lottery.  The Maple City Century is truly a grass roots event that I hope grows, but feels more like a hometown ride that will be on my calendar for years to come, although the Metric Century might be next years best course of action for me.  Check out some more pics from this really cool event:





Bontrager Ion 800 RT – Reviewed

Having been caught out on the trail or the road, too many times after the sun has gone down, I’ve had to use a head light to find my way. My old light, while powerful, was wired to a battery pack, that was stashed under the stem. Bulky and cumbersome.

I recently acquired a Bontrager Ion 800 RT and put it to immediate use. I went out for an evening gravel ride from Milford, down the McDade Trail and up through both sections of Zimmerman Farm. I cruised down Rt. 209 and back on the McDade for a few miles before turning around and retracing the route. By time I hit Zimmerman Road, it was pretty dark. I clicked on the Ion 800 RT, and was surprised at how well it lit up he trail. I cruised Zimmerman, Rt. 209, McDade and back through town with complete confidence.


The next day, I did a morning road ride and used the Ion 800 RT’s daytime flashing mode. This unique function can be seen from over 1.5 KM away. Critical when riding on busy streets. Let’s face it, most people text and drive. There are so many distractions to keep driver’s from seeing everything in the roadway. We wear helmets to protect our heads in the event of a crash, Why not give yourself the best chance to avoid that crash!

The following was taken from Trek’s website:

  • Transmitr remote displays battery status indicating when charge is needed
  • See with our focused optics and over 270 degrees of visibility
  • 800 Lumens via high-power CREE LED
  • 800LM-1.5hrs, 450LM-3hrs, 200LM-6hrs, night flash-20hrs, day flash 20hrs
  • Fully charges in 6 hours through sealed Micro USB port
  • Includes 20 degree +/- adjustable Sync bracket that fits bars from 22.2-35.0mm
  • Blendr compatible, secure bar mount available  14303_A_2_Ion_800_RT

The Ion 80 RT is a nice compliment to the Flare R tail light. Both have night time as well as day time modes. To boot, the Ion 800 RT weighs much less than most head lights. I am extremely pleased and will use daytime modes whenever I’m on a paved roadway.


Hill Challenge Update

July’s hill climbing challenge did just what it was designed to do, get you out there pedaling. Ok, we’ll get me out there pedaling. A couple other local riders nailed it as well. Congratulations go out to Bill and Eric. They will drink from their well earned Riding Milford/Action Bikes and Outdoor, ceramic coffee mugs. I will too, although I snatched my mug as soon as they arrived.


Just to show how a goal can push you, here are a few stats from the month of July that are attributable to the hill challenge:

Bill, finished the challenge in only 11 days.

The three riders that finished the challenge, logged a total of 1,266 miles and 88,562 feet of elevation.

Pretty good for a few middle aged  men!

Unfortunately, I’m going to suspend the challenge. I do not want anyone getting hurt while climbing up hills and hammering down the other side. We will think up another way to get you outside and on your bike, soon. Until then, ride on!



Cannondale Test Rides

On Tuesday, I traveled to Mountain Creek Park in Vernon, NJ, with Matt and Alec for the Cycling Sports Group Connection. It’s Cannondale’s debut of their 2018 models along with offerings and tech from Fabric, Sugoi and Sombrio. The event was open to dealers and industry professionals, nationwide.

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Test bikes, lingering in the morning fog

Cannondale really knocked it out of the park with presentations of their new lineup. They introduced the Evo, CAADX, SuperX, Touring, Trail, Trigger, Scalpel, Bad Habit, Cujo, Quick, Quick Neo and Moterra and very cool kids bikes. Emphasis was on the new Synapse and all the tech that went into designing the new crown jewel of their lineup. By design, they did a good job not explaining what the SE in some of their models names’ stands for.

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Fabric showed off all their new tools, pumps, lights and bottles. Their saddles were the main focus of the presentation. Sugoi and Sombrio showed off their new lines as well.

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The Cannondale Touring

Around 11:30am, we were invited into the showroom for a question and answer session in front of the entire lineup. After a terrific lunch, we headed outside for the grand prize! A chance to ride everything Cannondale brought. And oh, they brought just about every new model in a full run of sizes.

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First, we took the ski lift to the top and ripped down the other side of the mountain on the gravel road on 3 extremely smooth Slates. No full review on a bike I rode for only 6 miles, but, wow, you could ride this bike anywhere, over anything! A quick jaunt around town on the Synapse left us feeling good, but we were at Mountain Creek, time to ride some single track.

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Alec grabbed a Bad Habit, Matt took a Trigger and I hopped on a Scalpel. We picked a fairly easy trail and made our way down the mountain. I won’t name anyone here, but there was a crash, not by me as I exercised caution or fear, and burned off a good amount of brake pad. At the bottom, we were alerted that it was time to start bringing the bikes in, so we opted for one more ride up the mountain and dropped down again before retiring to the beer garden.

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As a part time bike shop employee, this is not the type of event I would normally get an invite to. So, I made the most of it and was in no hurry to leave. At 8:30pm, we drove back to Milford, fulfilled. I leave you with a few pics of this awesome event!





Kona Rove – Steel

If you read my review of the Kona Rove TI, you might be wondering why I’m now reviewing the steel version of Kona’s do all platform.

Let me start by saying that I love the Rove TI. However, Most of my bikes are 59cm and I ordered the frame in a 59 without checking the length of the seat tube or the stand over. As much as I enjoyed the plush ride, it was simply too big for me. So, I parted ways with my beloved steed and ordered the steel Rove in a 57cm.


After about 550 miles through all kinds of weather and road conditions, I have to say that the steel Rove is everything you’d want in a gravel/monstercross/all road bike. At $1,499.99, you would think it comes poorly spec’d, when in fact, the Rove sports a very nice package. First, the frame is Kona’s cromoly butted steel, paired with a Kona Project Two cromoly disc fork. SRAM Rival shifters and derailers, a SRAM 11-42 cassette with a SRAM S350 40t crankset, TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes and Clemente Xplore 700X36 tubeless tires laced to an Alex Al disc wheelset.  An FSA headset, Kona seat post, seatpost clamp, 15 degree flared handlebar and stem as well as a WTB Volt saddle round it all out.


After about 100 miles, I made the decision to make the Rove my go to gravel bike, for epic long distance events. I switched out the wheelset to Bontrager’s Affinity Elite tubeless. I wanted to go a little wider with my hands in the drops, so the Salsa Woodchipper handlebar just made sense. I lightened up the cockpit a bit with a Chris King headset, Thomson seat post and stem. Although the cassette and crankset are perfectly capable, I switched out the cassette for a 10X42 and the crankset to a Rival 42t, just to allow for a little more top end speed.

After a 100 mile gravel ride and many long, steep climbs, I’m extremely happy with my choice. The steel Rove is snappy enough for any gravel race, long epic adventure or daily commute and climbs as well as it’s TI counterpart.


Kona leaves nothing to chance. With 3 water bottle mounts, full fender and rack mounts, the Rove is as versatile as a do all bike could be. Also, the olive color is beautiful and adds a bit of class.





Van Dessel WTF: Reviewed

With the cold weather, snow and ice hitting us a little harder this winter, I have not been able to get outside as often as last year. This gives me some time to create a little content for the blog. When I read other blogs, and I read a lot of them, I pay attention to product reviews. The bike industry continues to evolve, with new equipment and apparel debuting more often than most industries. It can be hard to keep up with. Reviews provide insight from end users to industry professionals, helping consumers make smart choices.

One of the bikes I rode in 2016 was the Van Dessel Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. The WTF is an all road, adventure or gravel bike. According to Van Dessel’s website, “With 4130 Cro-Moly at it’s heart the WTF you can build it up with drop bars or straight, a chain drive or belt drive, skinny tires or 2.1’s Really it’s open to suggestions. After all, it handles gravel roads, paved roads, single track, mountain trails, commuting, loaded touring, winter training, monster cross — pretty much anything you might want to do on a bike, it’s perfectly qualified for”. The bike is available as a frame/fork/headset/seat collar for $699 from Van Dessel Cycles, a small builder with a great reputation, located in Mendham, N.J.cropped-img_22111.jpgThe frame and fork are disc brake only. I purchased my frame in 2015, so I have quick release dropouts. For 2017, the WTF comes with new modular dropouts, meaning it will take quick release or through axle. The bottom bracket she’ll accepts Pressfit 30 BB’s and cranksets. The frame is also belt drive compatible. Tire clearance is phenomenal! I run 700c X 40mm tires during the spring, summer and fall. For the winter, I run 29 X 2.1″ tires. Fender and rack eyelets round out the package. Oh, and you have to see the double top tube!


I built my frame up with a SRAM 11 speed groupset. I wanted enough gearing to get me and a fully loaded bike up dirt and gravel hills, so a 54/30 crankset and an 11-32 cassette paired with Rival derailers and shifters do the trick nicely. I went with Avid BB7 road disc brakes, 160mm rotors. I won’t mention tires, (that’s for another review) but the wheelset is Bontrager’s Affinity Comp Disc. The cockpit is a simple alloy seatpost, Thomson stem and a 15 degree flared handlebar for better control in the drops.

The WTF is for me, my go to bike, when conditions are less than stellar. In the rain, snow, mud, dirt and gravel, the WTF has done it all. It climbs exceptionally well for a 26+pound bike. When your riding a bike in this category, you need to throw out the weight and just enjoy the ride quality that a finely crafted steel bike offers. On 2 separate bikepacking trips, I loaded the bike down with frame bag, seatpack, handlebar bag, fork mounted extra large cage and 2 top tube bags. With about 40 extra pounds of gear, and my 180lbs., control was no issue. Overall, a great bike that is fully up to any task.72dpi-700pxl-hyper-limited-edition-pearlized-pinkFor 2017, Van Dessel offers the WTF in orange and pink. Two cool new colors that add a little flavor to an already exciting package.72dpi-700pxl-pearlized-orange-drive-side

What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is – The Chicago Transit Authority



Eric reviews the Endura MT500 Overshoe II

Cozy toes for when the temperature drops and the snow sticks around.

Four season cycling can be a challenge if your bikes and wardrobe are not up to the task. A few years ago, I picked up a Cannondale CAADX, and hung up the road bike for the winter months.  The cyclocross bike now expands my riding opportunities year round and provides a welcome change from the roads, but there’s more to winter riding than knobby tires.  In search of a means to keep my toes warm, I set out for some advice at Action Bikes & Outdoors and spoke with TC.  A few questions later, I had the Endura MT500 Overshoe II in hand, and was hopeful for the right weather to test them out. image002

Now that winter has officially arrived with cold temperatures and snow, I’ve stretched them out a few times along the McDade Recreational Trail, as well as another occasion for a ride on the Sussex/Paulinskill Trails.  Weather conditions on these rides have been 30-35f, windy and upwards of 4 inches of slush, a great mix of conditions for these overshoes.  For those that have gone trail riding on a CX bike know, there is usually a need to stop and hike-a-bike at least once, so I’ve given these some performance opportunities.

The neoprene bootie remained waterproof and warm after multiple dismounts in the inches deep slush, with snow-caked feet, after miles of riding through snow at temperatures in the low 30’s.  img_4561

The toes are made with a molded rugged rubber material that provides a stable and grippy surface to walk over gravel, and through slush and down grassy slopes.  I’ve never owned a pair of overshoes, so getting them both on and off is a humorous exercise, as the fit is meant to be snug, which helps keep your shoes dry.  Finishing touches on the MT500 besides the well thought out toe box construction include heavy stitching all around, reflective logo, rear zipper panel accents, reinforced heel panel, and plastic coated zipper pull, which is easy to use with gloves on.  img_0169   For extended rides in temperatures lower than 35f, I prefer to also use adhesive toe warmers inside my shoes, but others might find that unnecessary.  All in all, if I had to rate these, I’d give them a solid 4 out of 5 stars.

2016 in Review

What a year it’s been. 2016 gave us a mild winter, a warm spring, a hot and sunny summer and a gorgeous fall foliage season. I was able to get in a lot of rides, on the road bike, the gravel bike and even a few mountain bike rides. I was able to ride over 100 miles twice. I caught a bit of the bike packing bug and did two sub 24 hour overnighters.

I’m not going to detail my yearly mileage, hours on the bike or elevation gained, because that is not what this blog is about. I’m simply going to tell you that I have had a wonderful year of riding with a lot of really cool people here in Milford, Pike County, the Poconos, Port Jervis, Sussex County and the entire area. I took some photos, drank a lot of coffee and settled in to a much more relaxed style of riding.

One thing I learned in 2016 is that most cyclists don’t race. They try to go too fast and miss everything that the world around them has to offer. For the last 20 years or so, that’s been me. I have tried in vain to keep up with faster riders. I now ride a little faster when I want to. But, dropping the speed a few miles an hour to take in the sights and stopping every now and again to have coffee makes a tough ride all the more enjoyable.

My modest goals for 2017:

Ride more!

A solo overnighter in the Delaware State Forest

A multi night group Bike Packing Adventure

2 road rides over 100 miles

2 gravel rides over 100 miles

50 mile mountain bike ride

Be a better father

Be a better husband

My first attempt at a 100 mile gravel ride will be the Lu Lacka Wyco Hundo in Jenkins Township, PA on April 23rd, 2017. It might be a bit of a challenge to train for a ride of that length, so early in the year, but I’m hoping that I’m not alone in this.

so far, it looks like another mild winter, hopefully that means more riding!

Happy New Year!

Philly Bike Expo

On Saturday, I drove down to Philly to attend the Philadelphia Bike Expo. It was advertised as something of a cross between Inter-Bike and The North American Handmade Bicycle Show. Now, I’ve never been to the NAHBS, but I have been to Inter-Bike in Las Vegas, a 3 day show of all the industry has to offer. img_0101

The trip served a dual purpose as my wife and I took advantage of the opportunity to spend time with our daughter, who attends University a few blocks from the PA Convention Center. Arriving, finding parking and checking in were a breeze. The girls had shopping on their agenda, so I was on my own.img_0096

At check in, I was handed a ballot with all 35 hand made bicycle manufacturers listed. I simply had to pick one and drop it in the box on the way out. On display, were wheels, tires, tools, bike bags, clothing and almost every cycling related product. Hand made bikes  were spread, throughout the expo. Two of my favorite bikes on display were from Velo Orange, the Pass Hunter and the Campeur. Although Velo Orange was not on the ballot, their bikes and components are reminiscent of a time when things were rather simple and built to last, with a few modern touches. img_0091

After a few hours of checking out the goods, I met the girls for lunch at a fantastic Malaysian restaurant. Afterward, we went back to the convention center to check out a women’s book fair. Way too much estrogen for me, so I snuck back into the bike expo for one more quick look at all the bikes on the ballot. I won’t tell you how I voted, but here are some pics of the ones I thought stood out from the rest.





Erie 80

erie-80Saturday was a magical day for cycling in the Tri-State area, especially The City of Port Jervis. The inaugural Erie 80 Mountain Bike race took place in the brand new Watershed Park Trails & Recreation Area. The trail system is the brainchild of Dejay Birtch, a Port Jervis native. Birtch currently lives in Arizona, but returns frequently to build trails. Dejay, along with TC Crawford, the owner of Action Bikes and Outdoor in Milford, plus an amazing volunteer trail crew, have carved out over 25 miles of trail. All their hard work was on display yesterday. img_0076

The registration and staging area took place in front of and  inside the tiki bar at the Erie Hotel and Restaurant. The Race drew over 150 registered riders, a huge number for a 1st year race. The Erie 80 is an 80 kilometer(50 miles) Race. A 40k and 12 mile Fun Race  were also offered. It all kicked off at the corner of Front Street and Jersey Avenue and headed up Pike Street, onto Orange Street, a left on Reservior Avenue and into the Watershed. img_0075

The volunteers really shined. Every turn was clearly marked, making it easy for all riders to stay on course. The aid station at mile 9 and again at 12 was stocked with energy snacks, water, soda and all kinds of goodies from Honey Stinger.  Trek Bicycles was on hand to help with repairs.

On a personal note, it was really cool to hit the trails with riders of all abilities, from extremely fast racers to average MTB enthusiasts to road riders, like me who were finding out just how hard mountain biking in a densely wooded forest can be.

Three miles in and we climbed to the top of Point Peter, treating the riders to a majestic view of Port Jervis, the Delaware river and the Catskill, Pocono and Kittatinny mountain ranges.

A birdseye view of what rocks can do to a tire

I rode with friends, Jim from Long Island and Sean and Pete from South Jersey. At mile 6, Sean shredded his rear tire on a rock. He booted the tire with a candy wrapper and rode on for a little over a mile, when the hole proved to be too much for the foil wrapper to seal. From that point, he walked to the aid station, where Trek/Bontrager had a bin full of tires, tubes and a little of everything to keep the riders going. A quick tire change and Sean was back on the trail. Everyone endured a little pain yesterday, whether it was of the mechanical kind or physical, but it was well worth it.

The terrain was a mixed bag of hills, smooth trail and some rock gardens, until we re-entered after exiting the mile 12 aid station. From there, it was rock garden after rock garden, really challenging riders. In between the rocks and hills, were bench cut trails, that carved they’re way through the hills, while overlooking streams that flowed from reservoir to reservoir. Oh, and least I forget the amazing views of all three reservoirs.

The Race came to an end right where it all started, complete with a professional finish line, a beer garden and entertaining finishing ceremony. Don’t miss this race next year. If you don’t currently ride a mountain bike, start training, you won’t be sorry!

Results from the Erie 80 MTB race can be found here.

Bontrager Flare R

Tonight, I review the Bontrager Flare R tail light. I do not work for Bontrager or Trek. I am not paid to pitch their products. If I believe in a product, I simply talk it up. The Flare R is Bontrager’s best tail light, maybe the best tail light ever.

A little over a year ago, I saw a training video on the Flare R. I usually put in a couple thousand miles on the road and always knew that I needed something other than reflective clothing.img_0065

The next time I was at the shop, I picked one up and immediately put it on my road bike. It came charged. I couldn’t believe how bright it was. 65 Lumens does not sound like much, but if you value your eyes, don’t look directly into it.

The Flare R has 2 day-time modes and 2 night modes. In day mode: 65 lumens the Flare R lasts for 4.25 hours. At 35 lumens, it last for 10 hours! In night mode: 65 lumens last an impressive 23 hours and at 5 lumens steady, it lasts for 21 hours. It has a battery save mode at 5%, so it won’t die on the way home. Oh, and the Flare R can be seen from 2 km away, day or night.img_0067

After a year plus, and a lot of abuse, the Flare R is as bright and effective as it was right out of the box. It has protected me on the road and the trail during hunting season. The Flare R comes with a USB cable for speedy charges, a quick connect bracket to fit around your seat post and a seat bag clip. It pares easily with Bontrager’s Transmitter handlebar remote.

With all the technology that comes our way, a bicycle tail light gets little attention, but it’s the one thing that I will not go on the road without!img_0066

Review: Cannondale CAAD 12

Eric reviews the Cannondale CAAD 12:


What to do when the N+1 urge strikes, where N= the number of bikes currently owned.  I don’t just jump in to what I consider a big ticket item until I’m tired of looking through multiple websites, physical examples and talking to people for their opinion.  It was time, time to upgrade my entry-level road bike to something more fitting of the style of riding I’ve grown to love.  My first road bike took me places far and wide; physically, geographically and on several other areas that needed exploring. I really enjoyed that bike, but more so I wanted to go faster, farther and hang with a group of riders I normally only see from a distance, as I tried to hang on to a wheel during the group rides.  That’s what started the process.

I spoke with TC at Action Bikes and Outdoors about the brands they represent in the shop and I also looked at a half dozen other brands that seem to capture what I was after.  TC was in no hurry to put me on a bike that he just wanted to sell, rather he wanted to be sure he understood what I was after, price point, group set upgrade, more aggressive frame posture, a lighter bike, a stiffer and more responsive ride.



It was time. So after a few days of website scrutiny, reading gear reviews online and in magazines and talking to a few riders I set my sights on the Cannondale CAAD 12, outfitted with Shimano’s proven 105 group set.  The CAAD 12 comes in 7 possible models from the 105 gruppo, up to their top shelf offering the CAAD 12 Black Inc. A few models come fitted with disc brakes, all are made of Cannondale’s superior aluminum tubes , SmartFormed 6069 Alloy, SPEED SAVE, BB30, Di2 Ready with a Speed Save BallisTec full carbon fork collared by a tapered head tube all set in a race geometry that isn’t a torture rack.


The 105 gruppo is at the bottom of the model range but don’t be fooled.  This bike jumps when asked, the BB30 bottom bracket translates a great deal of pedaling effort into forward motion, the frame design, from years of testing and real life application is far more than you would expect.  The 105’s shifting is crisp, dependable and encourages the rider to push faster and further. Cannondale delivers a great package with some finer touches such as Mavic’s Aksium complete wheel set.  The gearing comes in 52/36 up front and an 11 speed 11-28 cassette in an attempt to satisfy a wide audience of riders who want to climb and ride in a pace line. Internal cabling is standard on all CAAD 12 models and ticked off one of the boxes near the top of my demands.  Lastly the color, I have a CAAD X, the cyclocross model in Cannondale’s black and white paint scheme so I was hoping for an option to the primer grey and they delivered.  Team Color has a glossy, slightly metallic black as the base color with a metallic grey on the down tube, seat stays and the underside of the top tube.  Cannondale’s pro peloton racing team’s signature green covers the fork and seat tube along with some branding graphics.


Lastly, the saddle, a Selle Royal won’t be seen in the professional ranks but I can tell you it’s not a leather clad brick or a couch cushion.  It’s light, flexes and doesn’t seem to need a break in period.

After talking it all over with TC, who seemed ready to ride along with me on the maiden voyage, the bike arrived less than a week later and during that time a few notable publications named this particular CAAD 12 105 the 2016 Bike of the Year. Now I feel pretty smart riding this bike around and look forward to years of enjoyment and keeping up during the group rides.


Review: Kona Rove Ti

In an attempt to add more content, I’ve decided to do a few reviews. Not to bore you, but to get you and me excited about cycling again as the spring unfolds and summer quickly approaches.

During the winter, I picked up a 2016 Kona Rove Ti Frame. Kona sells the Rove, which is their do all cross and gravel bike, in Aluminum, Steel and Titanium. At this time, the Ti Rove is only available as a frame. With that in mind, I conferred with TC at Action Bikes and Outdoor as to how to properly spec this bike for some on road/off road adventures.

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First, the frame (3AL/2.5V titanium) is made in Tennessee by Lynskey, one of the premiere builders of titanium bikes. I decided to pair it with a Kona Project 2 carbon fork, allowing the frame and fork to take up to a 50mm tire for a super plush ride over the rough stuff. Next, I wanted to use road bike gearing as I will be doing a lot of mixed bag type of rides that will take me on and off road. Specs are as follows: Sram Force carbon crankset, Sram GXP bottom bracket, Sram Rival shifters, Sram Rival derailleurs, Sram 1170 11X32 cassette, Bontrager Affinity Elite tubeless ready disc wheelset, Thomson Elite seatpost and stem, Chris King headset, Shimano mechanical disc brakes, Arundel stainless cages, Shimano Pro saddle and a Salsa Cowchipper handlebar and WTB Nano 40mm tires round it all out.IMG_2605

After about 300 miles of winter and spring riding through gravel, singletrack, grass, pavement, dirt and mud, I can honestly say that the Rove has performed flawlessly. At just about 20lbs with pedals, it flies out of corners and is light enough to climb any hill(especially with the 11-32 cassette). With the Cowchipper bars and tubeless tire setup, it’s as stable as any bike I’ve ridden. And least I say, the ride quality of Ti is incredible!The Kona Rove Ti is the kind of bike you fall in love with for its beauty and ride quality then forge a life-long bond with after epic adventures.IMG_2606