Andes Memorial Day ride, Or: how I lost my climbing legs and haven’t been able to find them

Here in Boston, we had record snowfall this winter:  over seven feet of snow fell in three and a half weeks, and it was brutally cold.  I did not commute by bike for the whole month of February, and even over the next couple of colder-than-mormal months, I did fewer rides than usual. Essentially I only commuted. By Memorial day I had fewer miles clocked in than I normally do by April.

I was up in the Catskills for Memorial Day weekend, mostly to do yard work (yes, John F, home ownership is a ton of work!). Many of our mature garden plantings had gotten decimated over the winter, not directly because of the extreme cold but indirectly: the deer were desperate, and began eating plants they normally don’t prefer. I set aside enough time from my garden work to get one short ride in, one that I had mapped out one cold February day as the snow drifts imprisoned me in my house.  I’ve written about Andes in my Tale of Three Hamlets post, but there is an abundance of dirt roads in the township that I haven’t explored. This short 31 mile route would explore many of them– 23 miles worth (dirt roads are annotated below in green), and add to my growing network of vetted dirt roads of Delaware County, which I track old-skool style with a marker and a big wall map. One day I will transpose it to one large digital map, and make it available to the public.

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Despite the forecast for temps in the 70s, it was 36 degrees when I started! I wore every layer I brought with me. Starting in the town center, you pass by at least a dozen antique stores and cafes. An interesting historical anecdote: I’ve heard, but have not been able to corroborate on the interwebs, that this building, formerly a bank, is in the history books as being the last bank in the US ever to be robbed by robbers on horseback:

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In less than two minutes, you’re out of the village and the first turn off of Main street takes you to farmland:

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The early morning light created dappled patterns along the tree-lined roads.

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Despite the above-average snowfall this winter, the spring has been unseasonably dry. Creek beds that normally run high in May looked liked this:

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View from Gladstone Hollow Rd:

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First climb, up Hyzer Rd, and I had to start shedding layers. Within an hour, I had shed all of my layers. Two hours later, the temp had risen to 70!

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The characteristic pink-red shale dust of the county’s dirt roads. Being so dry this spring, the roads were particularly dusty.

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By the time I reached the last climb on State Rd, my legs were officially shot. I can’t remember the last time my legs actually felt like they were on fire after only 4200 feet of climbing, but they were. This time last year I had ridden longer and hillier rides. First priority: get more climbing miles in!

On a related note, I recently rebuilt my Rawland Stag with a mix of SRAM road and mtb components, basically a Rival 10-speed road group but with an XX mtb double crank and X9 front derailleur, and designed in an extra low, sub 1:1 gear (28×32– previously my low was 1:1, 28×28). I have to say, the sub 1:1 was utilized, and in fact truly appreciated, on this ride. I’m also pretty impressed with SRAM. I’m new to SRAM, but so far I find it rock solid, and it hasn’t skipped a beat.  It’s also very quiet, far quieter than the Dura Ace 10-speed group it replaces.

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A humble old farmhouse. Simple and tidy, with nice proportions. I wish they still made them like this.

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Did I mention animals? Despite clocking in only 31 miles, there were plenty to see. Sheep…

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horses…

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geese… beavers (ok, I didn’t see beavers directly, but note the beaver pond and lodge)…

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and even a second beaver pond…

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The highlight of the ride was the continuous 5-mile descent down Wolf Hollow Rd, which looked like this for much of it:

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I probably won’t have another report until July when I am up there next. For my next ride, I will explore either farther east toward Roxbury and Margaretville, or west toward Franklin and Walton.

Andes 31 ridewithgps route here.

–Anton

Garden Break

Home ownership is such a pain. Why didn’t you guys tell me? It’s one thing owning an apartment in the city. Having a house with a yard takes exponentially more work.

But there are some rewards. This is the mess that has been made in my front yard.

Coming this week: A report on the Otisville 80.

John F

The Best Ride: Bruderhof Loop

Finally back in gear for the summer!

This weekend, I did a variation on my favorite ride: Up the ridge on 44/55, then a nice long decent on Stony Kill Road.

Best view of the Catskills (unfortunately obscured on this day):

I ran into my co-blogger, John S, on the way down Stony Kill. I was hauling ass at that point since it was slightly downhill, and I’m sure John was going his usual speed (fast), so I didn’t realize until about a mile later who I passed. I subsequently got a confirmatory text from John. Sorry I missed you!

After a quick stop at Subway for lunch, I continued on to Rosendale. Now, normally when I have limited time I take the bike path over the Rosendale bridge and back home. Unfortunately, the river and the highway collude to result in few options for heading east from Rosendale. So today, I continued through Rosendale, in search of a passage over the Wallkill that didn’t involve riding on Route 213 for longer than I had to.

I found it! A little muddy though:

Good times on a road bike:

This dirt path (I wouldn’t call it a road) ultimately leads to a covered bridge….

Which looks quite charming here, but I cropped out the 4 lanes of vehicular manslaughter just to the right. Nevertheless, a better route than 213. Thereafter, I headed up Cow Hough Road–a bigger and tougher climb than I remembered, but I was probably already burnt from climbing over the ridge.

Here’s the route.

Overall I give it an A+. Highly recommended, especially if you don’t mind getting really dirty.

I’ve got a good one planned for this weekend! “Good” meaning I’ll probably hate life and regret ever deciding to take up cycling at about mile 80. That’s the way I roll.

John F

medicalwriter.net

 

 

 

New Bike Day! The GT Grade

Hi all. It’s been a while. So long, in fact, that I couldn’t even remember how to log in. I’m hoping for more consistent posts in the near future.

Anyway–last Saturday was new bike day. A GT Grade, carbon fiber, Ultegra group with HYDRAULIC BRAKES (more about that in a moment).

My wife was kind enough to drive me up to Saugerties, where I picked up the bike at Revolution Bicycles. Normally I’d go with my local shop, the Bicycle Depot in New Paltz, because I know and trust them and they have provided nothing but excellent service, but they are not a GT dealer. In any case, Revolution Bicycles was great. We did the final set up of the bike while I waited, which included removing the crappy tires it came with and putting on Compass Stampede Pass Extralight 32 mm tires and switching the seatpost to something more suitable.

Once set up, I set out on a planned 51-mile ride back home. Yeah, I know it’s dumb to ride an untried bike in an isolated area without a proper shakedown cruise, but that’s what I did. And the bike turned out to be so good that I took a few detours and ended up riding much farther–and climbing many more feet (~4300) than originally planned.

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Here’s the bike.

The only issue that cropped up was that the saddle was set way too far forward, which I didn’t really notice until about 20 miles into the ride. Of course, I ignored it for another 10-15 miles and ended up with terminal crippling ass pain. I got off the bike and slammed the saddle back to where it should have been, and things improved greatly.

Now, the bike: Spectacular. I’ve been a Campagnolo proponent for a long time, and I begrudgingly use SRAM on one bike although, I have to admit, I really hate it. So this was my first time on modern Shimano, and my first time with hydraulic brakes. Can I say HOLY SHIT HYDRAULIC BRAKES! I’ve been riding a bike with mechanical discs and I hated them. When they weren’t rubbing they weren’t braking, and vice versa. Hydraulic discs truly change the riding experience.

Like most of you with caliper brakes, I rarely touch the rear brake except in 3 situations: 1) When I’m riding on icy roads (to avoid a front washout and a crash); 2) when I’m riding on gravel (again, to avoid locking up the front); and 3) when I’m descending something long and twisty to give the front brake a break before the rim turns cherry red. Hydraulic brakes, on the other hand, provide a perfectly functional rear brake that, if you hang your ass off the back of the saddle, is nearly as functional as the front. That means much faster, more confident descending. I’m actually surprised the pros haven’t switched yet–it’s that much better and a hell of a lot safer than caliper brakes.

Only one picture from this ride:

John F

medicalwriter.net

Lake MX331 Review Continued: Half a Pair is Better than None

Alas, not all is perfect with my new shoes. Thus far, I’ve ridden about 350 miles in them and there is some bad and some good.

The right shoe is very comfortable. I spent some time heat-molding it, and the really great thing is that, once appropriately molded, the retention can be left relatively loose (meaning, still tight but not as tight as would be otherwise necessary). This has a very clear benefit: On longer rides I experience none of the suffering that comes with tight shoes cutting off blood supply. The soles are extraordinarily stiff–precisely what I was looking for: A combination of the stiffness of a road shoe with some degree of walkability when absolutely needed.

That’s the right shoe. The left shoe, while it has potential, leaves something to be desired. There’s a manufacturing defect in the sole that results in an uncomfortable bump right under my toes. I suspect it would be less unpleasant in summer socks, but in winter socks it squeezes my toes into the top of the toe box. While not outright uncomfortable during the shorter (<70-mile) rides I’ve been doing over the last few weeks, it is very irritating and is likely to become a major issue during longer rides. In fact, I can sort of feel an incipient blister from yesterday’s piddly 30-mile ride.

So, I’ve contacted bikeshoes.com* to see if they can send me just a new left shoe. I don’t really want to return the current pair until I have a replacement, as that would leave me switching back to road pedals–and I’ve been rather enjoying the capability of being able to hike-a-bike through mud and snow when needed.

So, that’s the report so far. Based on the right shoe, I suspect this will be an amazing pair of shoes–I just need a left without a manufacturing defect.

…And tonight I’ll get around to reporting on my adventures so far this season.

John

medicalwriter.net

*Whenever possible, I try to buy stuff from my local bike shop, The Bicycle Depot. Bike shoes are just one of those things that are almost impossible to buy locally due to the need to stock a broad range of sizes for multiple models.

Lake MX331 Review (Part 1)

After 5 years of slipping and sliding around on road shoes with Look cleats, I’ve decided to switch back to mountain bike shoes. The original impetus for switching to road shoes was that I was developing hot spots on long rides, which the Look pedals and stiff road shoes solved completely.

However, I’ve found myself avoiding certain routes, particularly those that require some off roadin’ and/or hike-a-bike. Those routes are some of the best. There’s a picture of me somewhere on this blog leaping a log in a single bound in road shoes on one of my rides; what it didn’t show was me falling on my ass half a dozen times or the 10-minute process of completely removing my shoes to clean the mud out of my cleats and pedals.

So I’ve decided to switch back to mountain bike pedals. The great thing, though, is that over the last 5 years cross has increased in popularity dramatically, and now there are shoes that provide a hybrid of road stiffness and mountain bike traction.

These came in the mail yesterday:

They’re Lake MX331s. I chose these because they are made of leather. I had great success with the Rapha road shoes because my feel are oddly shaped, and the leather allowed them to, ultimately, form themselves to my feet. They are more comfortable than my regular shoes, and they still get my highest recommendation if you’re looking for a road shoe (and don’t mind looking a little silly; I still think they look like golf shoes).

The Lake MX331s are moldable, so of course the first thing I did was pop them in the oven at 200 degrees for 5 minutes. Then I put them on and formed the heel cup, which appeared to make a substantial difference in heal retention. Supposedly the arch is also heat-formable, but I didn’t have much success in changing the shape of the arch.

The great thing about these is that they are stiff as hell. I can’t get any flex whatsoever out of the sole, which is good news in terms of reducing the risk for hot spots over long rides.

Now all I need are pedals. I ordered these:

Hopefully they will arrive before my 2015 debut on Monday.

John

medicalwriter.net

Almost time!

I’m back and it’s time to get back on the road!

In years past, I rode right through the winter–in fact I remember navigating deep snow drifts on the west side bike path on my recumbent* in mid-January in temperatures far below freezing.

This year, I took a different tack. On December 1, I officially retired my road bike for the winter, and instead dedicated myself to some, uh, vigorous indoor training. It’s pretty clear after 8 years of winter riding that it does little to contribute to my ongoing fitness, since the rides tend to be short, slow, and damn cold.

I am happy to report that the indoor training seems to have done something, although I’m not sure what. My formerly golf ball-sized calves are now the size of tennis balls, and I can run 10 miles on a treadmill 5-6 days a week. I’m hoping that some of that fitness will translate into improved on-bike speed. Not that I care much about speed other than the fact that it allows me to go further.

I’ve been obsessively doing maintenance on my bikes, reorganizing the bike closet, putting on new cleats, loading routes into the Garmin, and all that other preparatory stuff. I’m so ready to get out of the house again.

So Monday is the big day to get back on the bike. I’ve also resolved to take a more logical approach to early-season training. Instead of starting with something stupid like a 110-mile ride including Platte Clove, like I did last year (and was subsequently unable to walk for about 3 days after), I’m starting slow to avoid broken knees. That means week 1 is two 20-mile rides and a 40 on Saturday. I’m going to up the weekday mileage to no more than three 40-mile weekday rides over a month or so, and add 10 miles to the Saturday ride each week until I get to 200 miles. Then it’s time for the Vermont Special: a 324-mile ride that you are all welcome to join me for! I should be doing it around the time that my friends are suffering through PBP.

As always, all my routes are here. And if you have any questions or want to join me (I should be up to 80 mile Saturdays by the end of March) you know how to get in touch.

John

*Yes, I briefly had a recumbent. I injured my neck in a bike crash–and what’s worse, really, not riding at all or riding a recumbent?