Monthly Archives: March 2013

Pleasing the Internets

I admit it: I like looking at pictures of bikes, I like talking about bikes, and I especially like riding bikes. Other than working, riding is the thing I do most. I don’t like working on my bikes, and when I do it, it is usually accompanied by paranoia that I’ve done something wrong and (for example) that I am going to die when my carbon fiber steerer cracks because I tightened the stem bolts without a torque wrench.

Anyway: you have to please your fellow bike obsessives, particularly those on the internet. The only way to do that is to post a picture of your bike with proper pro fit. Meaning stem slammed (or nearly so), at least 12 cm long, and plenty of drop.

Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the semi-pro fit Lynskey. Semi-pro because my stem isn’t long enough, the sternum puncher is uncut, and I just realized that I may have the bars rotated too far up.

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Seriously now: those of you who know me know that I suffered a serious neck injury in 2008. There were times since then where I couldn’t bend my neck back at all without my hands going numb.  It was bad enough that I rode a recumbent for over a year. A low racer. In downtown Manhattan. That’s bad.

The injury required an upright, inefficient position on conventional bikes. It was frustrating because I am otherwise flexible, but the mechanical problem with my neck prevented me from assuming a more conventional position for someone who is otherwise a fit, experienced cyclist.

Well, it seems that my neck has finally healed, so I’ve been playing with my fit. I started with the most extreme position, with the intention of working back from there. But you know what? It works great: No neck pain, and riding seems easier/more efficient in this position.

I suspected this would be the case because I’ve been riding mostly in the drops for the last six months. I have a longer stem in the mail (and a torque wrench!), and once I get stem length sorted out I’ll cut the steerer.

In other news, I rode the non-boring boring loop 5 days straight, so I rewarded myself with a casual ride to Subway for a sub. Yes, Subway. Jared was haunting my dreams…

Subway-Jared

…and sometimes you just have to do it, right? That’s 120 miles in the last 6 days—pretty bad compared with this time last year, but last year we were nearly in summer in late March.

This was my route:

route-map-full

Here are some pictures. Click on the first one for full size, it’s pretty cool. That cliff you see in the center of the first picture is called Gertrude’s Nose, and that’s the Shawangunk Ridge. According to my local fact checker, John S, this picture actually shows Sky Top (with the tower) and Eagle Cliff to the right. Gertrude’s Nose is 5 miles to the Southwest.

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I also had my first cyclist sighting this year (aside from the people I ride with). He was headed north on 213, and took a left on 209. Anyone I know?

John

medicalwriter.net

Gravel Training Loop

I’m going to admit something: fitness and speed are really secondary objectives for me. I mostly ride to go interesting places under my own power, get outside, and take a few pictures. I don’t race, and I don’t want to. Not because I lack competitive drive, I just don’t want to be responsible for crashing other people out of the race.

I’m trying to get over my mindset that any ride of less than 50 miles is a waste of time. Frankly, my longer rides really don’t build fitness, they’re mostly for exploration and to satisfy my curiosity.  It’s nice that I am in, by all accounts, extraordinary shape because of cycling, but it’s really just a side effect of my curiosity.

That said, speed and fitness are essential for getting where I want to go, particularly out here where 100 feet/mile of climbing is the norm. So I designed this, and I’ve been riding it daily for the last four days. I’m trying to bore myself into focusing on exercising, rather than being continuously distracted by my surroundings.

20 mile training

Twenty miles, 2100 feet of climbing, lots of gravel! It’s the least boring boring loop I could design. I decided to document it today, since it was day 4 of riding the loop and I was taking it a bit easier to recover. Some pictures for you:

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It’s still quite cold out here, as you can tell by the pictures. I’m really tired of riding in the cold, so I’m keeping my rides <30 miles for the next week or two. Hopefully I’ll make up for that by getting out every day, though. Soon I hope to get back to exploration and route finding. Click on “Worth the Trip” to the right if you’re just here for the 50-100 mile routes.

John

medicalwriter.net

A Near Death Experience

A few weeks ago, I read a news report about a father and two sons who went out hiking and subsequently froze in 20-degree weather. A tragedy, to be sure, but I was curious how it’s possible to die of exposure in the 20s–after all, we regularly spend 12, 14, even 16 hours outside in that sort of weather with no problems.

Well, now I know…

I set out on a planned 40-mile ride. It was snowing lightly, but still above freezing at the start.

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Then the snow turned into a sloppy, wet, nasty mess.

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Which ended up soaking my gloves. And then the temperature dropped well below freezing, the wind kicked up, and the last 10 miles of my route was mostly descending.

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I seriously thought I was suffering from frostbite. When I touched the ends of my fingers, I could hear a crackling noise–they were frozen. I spent the last 10 miles of the ride stopping every mile, unzipping my jacket and jersey, and warming my fingers by putting my hands under my arms. Two fingertips still hurt, so I must have gotten some mild frostbite.

I think I might have been better off with wool gloves, instead of the synthetic gloves I was wearing. Wool continues to insulate even when wet, apparently, but the Assos gloves I was wearing–which are ordinarily too warm even at 35 degrees–lost all insulating characteristics after getting wet.

That’s all I have to report right now. My wrist is getter, and I got in 110 miles of riding this week as it was healing. Now, however, we’ve had another 8-12 inches of snow dropped on us. Soon, very soon I will be able to get out for real rides–meaning at the very least 50 miles.

Oh, and one more thing: Thank you to everyone who has sent me e-mails about the blog, it’s very encouraging. Given that the blog is getting 150-200 views per day, I expect to see a lot more people riding up here next year. Most of my routes pass by my place at some point, so if you get chased by a giant black Cane Corso or Rhodesian Ridgeback, don’t worry, they don’t bite.

If you have any questions or requests, my contact information can be found via the about page. And again, if you’re just looking for routes, click on “Worth the Trip” in the categories to the right, or just go to my Ride With GPS page.

John

medicalwriter.net

A Review of Kettle Cycles SFL SiCCC Rotors: First Rides

I installed Kettle Cycle’s SFL SiCCC carbon-fiber rotors on my cross bike yesterday, or actually I should say my bike shop installed them because I don’t have a torque wrench. I was among the first to get them because I supported their Kickstarter.

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As I was leaving the bike shop, I tried to brake and found that they had little or no braking power. I rode to the gas station next door and followed the bedding-in procedure in their parking lot, which is basically just accelerating to jogging speed and braking to a stop 10-15 times. After that they seemed to brake as well as the stock steel rotors I had on previously.

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I didn’t buy these to be a weight weenie, even though they are very substantially lighter than the rotors I had on there before. I bought them because I hoped that they would solve the screeching brake problem I was having with the stock steel rotors, particularly when they got wet. It was raining heavily on the way home from the shop, and I’m happy to say that there wasn’t even a trace of screeching. Instead, there is sort of a quiet sanding noise that you can only hear if you’re really listening to it. It does make me question what is happening to my brake pads, though. The braking was fine even on 12% to 15% descents.

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I don’t know how long they will last, of course, but after two days of riding and about 50 miles, I’m pleased. Let me repeat this, though, in case it wasn’t clear: you must follow the bedding in procedure or you will die. It’s simple: accelerate to maybe 10 mph, then slow down. Repeat 10-15 times somewhere where you won’t crash into something. You’ll notice the braking power become considerably better from the beginning to the end of this process. Once you’re done, you get about 80% of the braking power you’ll get with a steel rotor. After another 10 or 20 normal brakes and you won’t be able to tell the difference. I don’t know if that is because the rotors are approaching the braking power of steel rotors or if I just adapted. But the end result is the same.

Addendum: I am using Swiss Stop pads, and I installed a fresh set when switching rotors.

John

medicalwriter.net

Let the Fun Begin!

Or not.

I haven’t let my wrist fracture slow me down at all. In fact, I’ve been out for rides the last three days. I found that if I support myself by putting my right hand on the tops, and rest my left gently on the hoods, riding is tolerable as long as I’m careful not to hit any big bumps. Using this methodology, I’ve managed to ride ~80 miles over the last 3 days.

This is Brown Road, very close to home. I just took this picture because the dead plants in the swamp remind me of an alien from the original Dr. Who series.

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On Monday, I decided to figure out what lies at Trail’s End. Although I am opposed to out-and-back routes or roads that dead end, I mapped this road on Ride with GPS and found that it includes a pretty decent climb with 15% grades. I was also curious to see how far back into Catskill Park I could get…perhaps this could be a shortcut to Yeagerville Road?

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Unfortunately, when I got to the top of the road, I saw it continued on icy gravel. Normally, that wouldn’t stop me, but I really did not want to fall on my hand again. So I’ll save this discovery for a little later in the year.

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On the way home, I took a new route on Kelder Highway, which is actually a narrow 2-lane road. I’ve ridden past it dozens of times, but for some reason it never occurred to me to take it. Nice views.

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Again, close to home. The road to the right, DeWitt, is some beautiful nicely groomed gravel. The road to the left is Brown Road, which leads back to my place.

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This is, I believe, Mill Road. As you can see, it was a wet n’ muddy ride to say the least. I’ve said this before, but I actually really enjoy riding in a nice cold rain, perhaps even more than a riding on a perfect 65-degree day.

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The rains led to significant flooding. This waterfall along the side of the Vly road is usually barely a trickle; in fact, I hadn’t noticed it previously, even though I go this way all the time.

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I installed some SiCCC rotors on the winter bike (after taking this picture, obviously). I’ll have an initial review for you tomorrow.

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I did a lot of gravel grinding over the past few days, resulting in a lot of laundry. This is Kozon Road, which leads up to Ricci Road, which in turn leads to Lower Sahler Mill Road.

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If you’re planning a route in the area and want to have a good time, try to include Lower Sahler Mill Road, starting from County Road 2. It’s the most fun you can have on two wheels. It starts with a gentle descent for about 1.5 miles–I usually get going about 40 miles an hour. Then, it turns into a gentle gravel descent for another 1.3 miles. Then, you can take a left on Dug Road and enjoy another 2-3 miles of gravel, albeit uphill. A map of this short segment is below, and GPS can be found here. Include this section in your route, I promise you’ll like it.

map

Finally, this is what today’s ride looked like. I’m using an Exposure Diablo here, which I suppose I should review at some point, if for no other reason than to thank them for manufacturing the finest battery light ever made. Believe it or not, this is on low power, which I believe provides 12-14 hours of battery life with an output comparable to that of an Edelux.

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That’s all for now. I’ll review the SiCCC rotors tomorrow and perhaps post some more images of my shorter rides later this week. I’ll get back to route finding shortly, just have to wait for the wrist to heal a little more.

John

medicalwriter.net

A Sunday Tragedy

Here I sit, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Working.

Doug H came out to my place for a planned 80-mile ride over Peekamoose and then to the Neversink Reservoir. Unfortunately, about 5 miles into the ride I had a mechanical that resulted in a crash. Now I’m sitting here nursing a wrist that has swelled up to the size of a tennis ball.

So sad…as you know, I spent the past month traveling, so I’ve only been able to get in a few quick rides. I was looking forward to this ride for the last 5 weeks!

Hopefully the swelling will go down enough that I can do some short 10- to 15- mile rides every day this week, and by next Saturday, it better be gone, because we’ve got a 200k planned.

John

medicalwriter.net

750 Miles on Grand Bois Extra Leger

This winter has been rough. Snow, more snow, 27,000 miles on planes, and the isolation of living in the mountains. I thought I wouldn’t mind, since I come from the country, but the contrast to downtown New York City is pretty stark. It’s worth it, though, for the glorious spring, summer, and fall. Now I understand why people buy summer homes!

One thing that did improve my winter was the arrival of several pairs of Grand Bois Extra Leger tires in 32 mm and 23 mm. Because of the snow and travel, I’ve only put about 700 miles on the 32s and less than 100 on the 23s since they arrived in late December.

Tire cropped

These are the best tires I’ve ever had a chance to ride, period. Handle one and you’ll see a clear difference in construction–the sidewalls of these tires are so pliant they actually wrinkle.The ride is spectacular–I’m riding very rough roads and a lot of gravel, and the Extra Legers ride fast and smooth through everything. Given the type of abuse I subject tires to, I was worried that they would flat faster than a pair of Parigi-Roubaix on the north end of NYC’s West Side bike path the day after July 4, but as it turns out they’ve been flat free, even after a missed turn earlier this week resulted in a 2-mile ride over fist-sized sharp gravel.

Some of my friends are going to be mad at me for saying this, but the 23 mm version makes tubulars irrelevant, and the 32 mm version is superior to any other wide clincher available in 700C.

Now, let’s see how durable they are…next review in 1000 miles. It might take a while, because it’s starting to get nice out, which means switching back to the English on FMBs.

And one last note: Give me 25s, damnit.

John

medicalwriter.net