To the Hudson!

Hi all! I know the blog has been pretty dead recently; John S says he doesn’t want to “contaminate” the blog with racing reports (although I told him to go ahead), and of course Anton isn’t a full-time Catskills resident, so he only posts when he’s here. I’ve been traveling, working, and riding a lot, but no major adventures. Mostly daily 20 to 40 mile rides, and you don’t need to hear about that, do you?

However, I had an amazing ride today. Only 30 miles (with getting lost), 27 actual miles. I expected the ride to, well, suck but it turned out to be one of the most beautiful rides I’ve been on in the last few years. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Sure, it lacks the isolation and majesty of the Catskills proper, but the views are lovely, the traffic mostly absent, and there’s only about 1700 feet of climbing. I recommend it highly if you’re in New Paltz and want a shorter ride, or if you want to incorporate it into a longer segment.

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And don’t forget, all of my routes are here. I went through the effort of deleting (most) of the bad ones, so you really can’t go wrong. Sort by distance and pick!

Also: As much as I hate promoting Dutchess County over Ulster, if you live in NYC you’re missing out if you don’t do the summer classic. I perfected this route over about 10 or 12 repeats, and it’s the most fun you can have on two wheels, I promise. One of the few things I miss about living in the city.

John

medicalwriter.net

Delaware County Summer Solstice Dirt Classic (D2S2C2)

In what’s becoming an annual ritual, we grabbed the kids out of school a couple of days before school was officially out (our district’s school year ends late compared to most), loaded up the car until the suspension protested and sagged, and headed for the hills. For the past few years we’ve done this the weather has been perfect for ushering in summer– warm and sunny, green and lush. This year was no exception.

Building on my previous loops around my summer home, I set out on my most ambitious Catskills ride yet. I had planned it for months. I mapped out a 150k loop that would take in my favorite roads from previous, shorter loops, while exploring a few new ones. It would take in three covered bridges, 70k of dirt roads, seven major climbs, and it would have strategically placed rest stops at well-spaced intervals to enjoy excellent food in pleasant, rustic village settings.

Alas, that plan got derailed midway into the ride, but I still managed to make this my longest Catskills ride yet, at 116k, or 73 miles, with 6500 feet of elevation gain. And it was still an amazing ride, the kind that resonates in my mind for days after and keeps me yearning to come back for more (which, thankfully, will happen soon… I’m returning in August).

I started out from my house atop a steep hill in Bloomville, and within five minutes I was bombing down the first of many 40+ mph descents, a speed easily attainable on most of the descents around here since I’ve switched to the new Compass Babyshoe Pass “Extralight” 650x42B tires. These are the third 650B tires I’ve experienced, and clearly the fastest. Highly recommended!

From Bloomville, I headed onto the Catskill Scenic Trail–one of the common launching points for my Delaware County rides–for a short mile, getting off at Kiff Brook Road via the tractor path shortcut off the trail. First climb of the ride.

Onto MacArthur Hill Road, past the former one-room schoolhouse-turned-private residence, past the Alpaca farm, onto a couple more dirt roads before the rapid descent down Braehead Road into Doonan’s Corners.

From Doonan’s Corners, the next climb is Turnpike Road, another favorite road with some spectacular views.

Turnpike Road takes me down into West Kortright and Meredith, with another steep climb up Ehlermann Rd before a deliciously steady and continuous four mile descent down Houghtaling Road, a dirt road I hadn’t yet ridden (John F had, in his Delaware 85 ride from last year).

Dirt roads are common here, but 4-way dirt intersections are less so.

I wonder how long this VW microbus has been here?

Dilapidated farm structures, vestiges of a dried up dairy economy, are iconic around here.

One more steep climb up Warner Hill Road before descending into Treadwell, a tiny village I discovered last year and fell in love with.

One of the things I love about Treadwell is its charming old general store, where I’ve gotten lunch before (I mentioned Barlow’s in my Columbus Day ride report from last year). To my dismay, they were closed! This was the first of several setbacks leading to the shortening of my planned route… I had a limited amount of food with me and had planned on stopping.  Not a big deal, yet, but I did need to refill my water bottles.  Across the street I spotted a sweet old 19th century neoclassical building with intriguing sculptures in the yard. The front doors were swung open invitingly, and I noticed the unassuming sign propped up against the mailbox post: “Art Gallery Open”. Great! I could stop in, look around, and get my water bottles refilled.

Upon entering, I was blown away by the prolific collection of sculpture and paintings. A magazine stand filled with years of newspaper clippings, essays and photocopied reviews of the artist’s work revealed him to be Joe Kurhajec, an internationally renowned sculptor who’s lived in Treadwell for 43 years. Here’s a YouTube interview with him, and his work will be on exhibit at the West Kortright Centre from July 18-August 25.

After a chat with Mr. Kurhajec, I was back on my way, heading up the hill to an area known as Arabia, with stunning mountaintop views.

At the top, Douglas Hall Road ends, and Ridge Road, a narrow dirt road, follows the ridge along the top of the hill for miles.

This is where the second setback occurred. Road crews were rebuilding the road, dumping truckloads of fresh dirt down before grading and compacting. The un-compacted dirt was several inches thick, and too difficult to pedal through with the fine tire treads of the Compass tires– knobbies or cyclocross tires would have been more appropriate here. One of the men yelled to another, “Hey, there’s a guy on a BIKE over there. You think he rode up the mountain?!” I yelled back that I had, but that my tires weren’t optimized for soft dirt, and how far down the road did the fresh dirt extend? 1/2 mile, he replied, and I decided I didn’t want to schlep it.  The next stop would be Hamden, with a farm store/cafe I could stop in for food, but now I’d have to detour.

Fortuitously, the road work started at an intersection with Gray Road, another dirt road I hadn’t been on, but which had been on my radar for awhile. Gray Road would be my detour to Hamden, although it would eventually lead me to Route 10 closer to Delhi.  I’d have to ride on Route 10 for four miles back to Hamden–much less desirable than the planned route along Ridge Road to Launt Hollow Road, which would whisk me down five miles of smooth pavement all the way down to Hamden, avoiding the highway. Route 10 is hostile to cycling. A major 55-mph highway through the northern Catskills, it sees lots of truck traffic, and the shoulders are usually in rough shape, sections of which are completely unridable. Fist-sized chunks of broken asphalt litter the crumbling shoulder. When you see that fully laden logging truck fast approaching in your helmet-mounted rear-view, the idea of ‘taking the lane‘ is not very appealing! (I conjured this image a few minutes before arriving at Route 10, and sure enough– within a minute of turning onto 10, a loaded logging truck came barreling down the road, albeit in the opposite direction.)

As I approached Route 10 between Delhi and Hamden, I realized the third setback of the day, the coup de grâce to my original route plan– I had forgotten my cash and credit card at home!  No chance of stopping for food in Hamden, or Delhi, or anywhere for that matter.  With only 41 miles covered, I’d have another 53 to go with only one Clif bar left.  So instead of heading west toward Hamden, I detoured east to Delhi on Route 10, in the direction of my home, cutting 35 miles off the route. If I felt up to it, I could add another loop closer to home to recoup some of the lost miles.

I stopped in Delhi to refill my water bottles again, and to finish my last Clif bar. Delhi has some wonderful old store fronts, like their beloved Dubben Bros. Hardware, chock full from floor to ceiling with vintage artifacts and ephemera:

Past Main Street, Delhi, I continued on the flat Back River Road and past Fitch’s Bridge, toward Bloomville (at least I got one of the three planned covered bridges in this ride!)

Re-energized by the last Clif bar, I felt I could take on another loop before heading up the last climb back to my house.  So before Bloomville, I turned onto Bramley Mountain Road to cross the mountain to Bovina. This would give me some more lovely dirt roads and another 15 miles– a fair compromise between the original 94 miles and the abbreviated 58. I’ve written about Bovina before, so I’ll just show you some of the delightful views I enjoyed from this loop:

Pink Road provides a really smooth, fast descent back into Bloomville (before I have to tackle the final climb to my house).  Thanks to the Compass tires (a stable bike helps, too), I hit a new personal speed record of 49 mph!

In all, the route clocked in at 73 miles with 6500 feet of elevation gain.  Although a big chunk of my planned route got deleted (I’ll reattempt the full 150k version in August), the ride was nonetheless magical. The only highway segment was the short Route 10 detour to Delhi, and despite the heavy traffic and dicey shoulder maneuvering, the views were still sublime.

Detoured route, including the additional Bovina loop. Food stops are indicated. Dirt segments are shown in green:

D2S2C2_map

–Anton

From steep trails to smooth sails – Catskills Outdoor Guide 2014

Coming up shortly, I’ll have a nice ride report from my Summer Solstice ride in Delaware County, in which I took in 73 miles of wonderful mixed terrain: some familiar, some new, and as usual, all of it hilly and breathtakingly gorgeous. Here’s just a teaser:

In the interim, I’d like to point Catskills area readers to the 2014 Catskills Outdoor Guide in which you’ll find a short guide to cycling around the Catskills by Riding the Catskills co-authors John F., John S. and myself.

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The Watershed Post did a great job of putting together a comprehensive guide to outdoor activities in the Catskills, from hiking to boating to cycling (and eating! With a separate food guide as well). So many wonderful reasons to visit…

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–Anton

The Land of Ya Hozna!

And now, for today’s brief counterpunctual post.

Here is a heatmap of every road I’ve cycled in the past 2 years, centered roughly on John F’s new house.  The darker and redder the line, the awesomer the road.

Although, to be fair, some roads are well-ridden because they are merely conduits to awesomeness, rather than being inherently awesome qua awesome.

Capture

 

And here are a few photos from today’s lovely, meh-free ride.

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Smiley

 

- John S, aka globecanvas

 

 

The Land of Meh

Today marks my 6-week anniversary at the new house. Compared with Olivebridge, pretty much everything is better. We’re much closer to town but still in an extremely rural setting (in fact, cattle graze just behind our house). We have real internet, and not that crappy satellite internet that only worked 75% of the time, and then slowly. Our cell phones work. So everything is great.

Sadly, the riding just isn’t as good out here as it was up in the Catskills. Don’t get me wrong, this is grade-A cycling country, and I think the vast majority of cyclists would probably prefer it to the Catskills. But I miss the mountains, extreme isolation, and adventure of riding in the high Catskills. Then again, it’s nice to know that I won’t necessarily die undiscovered of extended exposure if I end up in a ditch some day.

The Catskills are still easily accessible, it’s just a minimum of a 60-mile round trip to get up there–not really feasible for a weekday ride.

So…I’ll stop complaining. Really I am blessed.

Here’s a short and fun route for you. You can start out of New Paltz or Gardiner.

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My camera is pretty much dead, but I did manage to get a few non-blurry photos of the route (Amazon says my new camera will be here by June 5). The route mostly passes through farm country, and there’s a convenient stop around mile 20 in Walden, which has a range of options for food. This route is easy as can be: Only about 1300 feet of climbing over 31 miles. Take a moment at mile 9.5 to go down the dirt road on the left to the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Reserve. It’s beautiful.

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This picture is from a previous ride. This is the Aumick Road entrance to the Shawangunk Reserve, a park that John S has written eloquently about. If you’re interested in riding up there, I’ve mapped a route to the entrance for you here.

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Aumick Rd Entrance

That’s all for now. New routes should be coming fast and furious in short order. Also coming soon: The return of Rene!

Rene

John F

medicalwriter.net

Back in Gear

It’s time to get back in gear. I’ve been riding ~100 miles/week, mostly in short 20-mile bursts. I’ll have a report and new routes for you this week.

Until then, some photos of my most recent work trip. Sadly, the best part of this trip was being delayed in the air over a thunderstorm.

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Until later (today, hopefully!)

John

medicalwriter.net

 

Spring in the Gunks

I apologize for the scarcity of blog posts recently. Somervillain has been pulling his weight, with an excellent ride report the other week, but John F has been busy relocating and I’ve been spending almost all of my bike time on race training.

This is a rest week, though, so I got out to wander along the Shawangunk Ridge trails on my cross bike, and enjoy what already feels like late springtime. This year, we seemed to grind gears directly from winter to summer.

spring_farm

Now that I’ve lured you in with a pretty picture, I’m going to talk about bike racing again. Just for a couple of paragraphs, I promise, then it’s back to pretty pictures of the Gunks.

My season couldn’t have started better: a win in my first race, top 10 in a crit the following weekend, then a top 10 at Battenkill. I took a couple of weeks off for work/family reasons, and then a family trip to Panama (we had a great time). Then it was back to training.

My next race was the Bear Mountain Classic, last weekend, where I failed miserably. Part of it was mechanical, part of it was mental, but most of it was simply physical. The race starts with a 10-minute climb, and I could only hold onto the two race leaders for 9 minutes before completely falling apart. I burned far too much gas too early, couldn’t recover, and ended up quitting the race.

The mechanical part was that I had misadjusted my brakes, causing them to rub slightly, but that is such an incredibly lame excuse that it’s disallowed in polite conversation. When you’re dying it always feels like your brakes are rubbing, anyway. The mental part is there were only two racers off the front when I quit, and quitting when 3rd place is on the table (and plenty of paying spots, and upgrade points) is a ridiculous thing to do. But I just felt terrible and didn’t want to race any more.

So it goes. I certainly do plenty of climbing (150,000 feet this year so far), but I’m not a climbing specialist. In fact I’m very far from a climbing specialist, which is obvious when I compare my race results against the length of the longest climb in the race. In all races featuring a climb of more than 10 minutes, my best result is 22nd place, with two DNFs (did not finish). In all races where the longest climb is less than 10 minutes, my worst result is 8th place, with five podiums. I’m not a big guy, but I’m 10 pounds too heavy (or 20 watts too weak) to compete in races that are decided by raw watts per kilogram. I might lose the 10 lbs (or gain the 20 watts) someday, but in the meantime I just need realistic expectations about races with long climbs. Which is too bad, since I live in the mountains.

But this isn’t a blog about racing in the mountains, right? It’s about riding. And ride I did, today.

lookout_vista

I rode my cross bike to Spring Farm.  (In the photo above you can see the red barn at Spring Farm, far below.).  But before I even made it onto the carriage roads, two coincidences occurred.  First, the volunteer at the gatehouse was somebody I work with on community/volunteer events, so we chatted about local politics for a while.  When I finally got rolling, I almost immediately ran into my son’s 4th grade class, on a field trip to the Algonquin longhouse, where they were grinding corn and throwing spears and such.  That’s small town living for you, can’t go for a ride in the woods without running into people you know!  Or your kids.

I finally got rolling on the carriage roads and worked my way up the ridge, in no kind of hurry, just enjoying the woods and the view.

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Hey, as long as I’m taking photos of my bike, here are my new brakes.  I replaced the Avid BB7 mechanical discs on my cross bike with Shimano CX-77s.  The BB7s weren’t broken, they were just clunky and annoying.  The old brakes were like an old Dodge Dart that doesn’t have the common courtesy to just die already.  The new brakes are like a Toyota Camry, functional and uninspiring.  Which is fine.  They’re brakes.

brakes

Anyway, I rolled along the ridge for about 2 hours, nice and easy, above and below crags near the Mountain House, through grassy fields on Glory Hill, and finally getting back on the pavement at Pine Road, then home on the Wallkill Valley rail trail.

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glory_hill_grass

pine_roadA lovely day for a bike ride.

strava

 

- John S, aka globecanvas