Monthly Archives: February 2014

Win a Garmin: We Have a Winner!

Today, we have a post from Ben, resident of Brooklyn and the winner of the Win a Garmin! competition. I should have posted this back in October, but alas, life (mainly house hunting) got in the way. Anyway, I think we could all use a refresher on the beauty of the Catskills in the late summer to remind us that not all is ice, snow, pain, and suffering.

As Ben will attest, the Garmin arrived safe and sound, so this wasn’t just an evil ploy to generate content for Riding the Catskills. Stay tuned over the next week for the rules for this year’s Win a Garmin! contest. Suffice it to say it will be open to all riders, regardless of where you live. That means that this year, Catskill residents qualify for the contest.

Here’s Ben’s excellent story.

My original plan for this weekend was to upload my Ride With GPS route to a borrowed Garmin Etrex 30 GPS unit and have it seamlessly guide me turn-by-turn through a 100 mile route in Ulster County. At the laundromat the night before, my bike tipped over and the Etrex 30’s screen broke without even a direct impact. AAAARRRGGGG!

Route map

I cursed the borrowed Garmin and my poor fortune and jumped on Ride With GPS to print a paper cue sheet. A couple of months ago I paid for the bare-bones membership ($8/month – highly recommended) to print a cue sheets with more formatting options.

1. Cuesheet

In the morning, I grabbed a BLT on a Brooklyn Bagel and rode up to Grand Central Terminal. On a Saturday, trains leave at 6:43 am and 7:43 am for Poughkeepsie along the Metro North Railroad’s Harlem Line.

2. MNRR + Bicycle

Got to Poughkeepsie around 8:30 am and spun through some side streets.

3. Leaving Pougkeepsie

I routed up and over the Walkway Over The Hudson, a massive pedestrian/bike-only bridge. The entire span engulfed in a cloud giving it a strange surreal feel.

4. Walkway over Hudson

Next few miles are along the Hudson Valley Rail Trail. Turn left out of the big parking lot and onto smooth paved roads. I opted to cross 299 and follow Kisor and New Paltz Roads for the sake of being on lightly trafficked road. Eventually leading back to 299 and down into New Paltz.

5. Hudson Valley Rail Trail

I often stop at Mudd Puddle Coffee in New Paltz for a fruit scone (tucked one into a pocket for later too) and an espresso, as well as topping off my bidon.

6. Coffee and Scones

299 out of New Paltz is fast and smooth, though not much shoulder so keep your head on. Along the way I stole an apple at the Jenkins-Leukens Orchard and stopped to photograph the Shawangunk Ridge up ahead, which I would be crossing soon.

7. 299 & Butterville Road

8. Shawangunk Ridge

Hung a right at the Minnewaska Lodge and dropped into that small chainring, I was headed up for the next few miles.

9. 180 turn

This particular turn is really beautiful to me. I’ve always enjoyed tight, sharp corners and the scale of this particular curve always makes me smile.

10. Climbing 44

Up and over the ridge I took a right at Clove Road. It leads along the Clove Valley and is not very busy in terms of traffic. It’s a series of country roller roads with a lovely view of the valley between you and the ridge. The route heads west towards the Rondout Creek but turns left on Rock Hill Road to head south.

11. Clove Road Bridge

Halfway down Rock Hill Road the pavement ended at sort of cul-de-sac. A man was cutting logs with a chainsaw and I didn’t feel very welcome so I headed back to the last fork in the road and double checked my iPhone map. Rock Hill Road should have continued on, so I went back to the faux-de-sac. The lumberjack pointed to the woods and I could see a sort of double-track trail leaded on. He waved me to go ahead, and so I went on down the Rockiest, Hilliest, Road-that-can’t-even-be-called-a-road. It’s really meant for four-wheel-drive vehicles or ATVs, but my cross bike with 28s could almost handle it. It’s not easy to ride on, but a great technical challenge and I strongly feel that it should not be skipped.

[Note from JF: The same guy pointed me onto that “road!” He must think he’s funny.]

12. Rock Hill Rd

13. Rock Hill Road backward

Follow the double-track south, eventually it turns west down the hill. Stay with it, hike if you must. Eventually, it will spit you out behind a house. Get on Lawrence Hill Road and enjoy the pavement again.

14. Stony Kill Rd

Lawrence Hill leads to Towpath, which leads to Stony Kill Road. Originally I planned to go down “Project 32 Road”, but this led me down a gravel driveway and through the woods and into local’s porch and they very graciously pointed me to their private road which took me down to Granite Road.

15. Project 32 Rd

Don’t do that! Just take Stony Kill all the way to Granite. Then to Berme. Then into Kerhonkson. I stopped here at a Stewart’s for to grab a salty snack.

Next I climbed out of Kerhonkson on Clay Hill and Cherrytown Road. At the Ranch & Resort turned onto Rogue Harbor Road. Shortly after, Rogue Harbor Road turns into glorious gravel.

Riding along a gravel road in the woods is spectacular for a city dweller!

17. Rogue Harbor Rd 2

Past a placid lake I turned right onto Lundy Road. I followed this gravel beast up 3/4 of the way to the end. The vehicle traffic was creating a dust storm and it the fun level dropped so I turned around. Descending Lundy was fast and loose. I stopped at a waterfall to relax, eat a snack and take in the woods a bit.

19. Lundy Road Swimming Hole

The water was cold and clear. I dipped my head in because I could and it felt fantastic!

I took Lundy back down across 209 to Port Ben Road. It leads across the valley and gives a killer view of the ridge you’re gonna cross in a bit.

20. Port Ben Road

Follow the directions from Port Ben to Berme Road well. I didn’t, and I ended up above Berme on Towpath Road. At a gate, an SUV rolled up and two men kindly helped me get oriented but warned me, “There’s bushwhackers up in these hills and they won’t hesitate to kill you son”.

Back on aptly named Berme Road, I rode parallel to the ridge eventually coming to a pair of prisons.

21. Ulster Correctional Facility

Took Berme Road through the prisons all the way to Canal Street in Ellenville. I stopped in Ellenville for fluids and some salty snacks. Don’t eat too much though, you’re about to gain an Imperial-Shit-Feet of elevation.

I took Main Street up up and out of Ellenville, hung a left onto Mt Meenagha where the real climbing begins.

22. Mt Meenagha Road

The grade on Mt Meenagha kicks up constantly.

23. Up Mount Meenegha Road

Mt Meenagha turns into South Gulley Road.

24. Up S Gulley Road

25. View Back Down S Gulley

A few cars that passed me on the climb came back down the mountain, and I saw why later. The road is “closed” for repair.  On such a steep section as this there are obvious problems with erosion and road infrastructure.

26. Road Closed

That’s okay, ’cause going around the heavy equipment meant car-free climbing for the rest of the journey.

28. South Gulley Keeps Climbing

I was able to use the entire road to climb, which is nice because some patches are loose and the grade keeps kicking up.

I took a left onto Sams Point Road. I had planned to ride around the lake and see some incredible views, but the folks at the gate did not like the idea. They told me, “Hopefully in the future we’ll have some sort of biking trails, sorry” and sent me on my way.

I flew down Sams Point Road, then a left on Vista Maria. I took a quick shot of the view here before the road dropped very quickly down the mountain.

29. View East from Vista Maria

The descent is fast and steep, and is good practice for high-speed descending. Keep your hands on the brake levers though: in NYC we get squirrels running halfway out and then running back into the woods, out here it’s a pair of 150 lb deer with antlers.

Rolled down 52 into Walker Valley, hung a left onto Oregon Trail Road. The next few turns were rolling back country roads. They led across the side of the ridge then down into the valley.

30. Ulster County 7

I rode up into Gardiner, NY to hop on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail for a bit of peaceful, unpaved path.

31. WVRT

That light at the end of the foliage tunnel was New Paltz, where I filled my bidon with iced coffee to boost me up out of the valley, across the Walkway Over The Hudson and back to the Poughkeepsie Train Station

32. Walkway over Hudson

Made it back to Grand Central by ~7:30 pm, ordered food to be delivered to my apartment while crossing the Manhattan Bridge, showered and ate a king’s feast after a solid day of marvelous adventuring by bike in Ulster County.

The Dead of Winter

At last, the frigid vortex cold snap ended. Let’s go outside!


Hmm, not that way. Maybe the front yard?


The snow was deep enough out there to swallow my kid. Those little stalks in the foreground are 4-foot coneflowers.

This just hasn’t been the best February for cycling. It has been just spectacular for cross-country skiing, though.

For years, I was an XC ski scoffer. The Walkill Valley Rail Trail is literally 50 feet from our house, and my wife hits the trail on her skis whenever there’s enough snow. I always thought of XC skiing as jogging in the snow, more or less, and it simply didn’t appeal. She bought me some old off-rental skis one christmas, which I dutifully used now and then. A few years back I was trudging down the rail trail on my crappy skis when I ran into some friends, an older couple who lives nearby. They were all blissed out on their skis and asked me why I was so grumpy-looking. I said something like “my wife makes me do this, I’d rather be cycling.” They laughed, said “follow us!”, and blasted off the trail into the woods. Soon enough we were on the MTB loop I’ve ridden a thousand times, a swoopy, flowy, up-and-down classic of a trail… on skis! Somehow it had never occurred to me that cross-country means, you know, across the countryside, not just back and forth on the rail trail. Ever since that day I’ve been an avid XC skier. I got a pair of metal-edge skis and some stiffer 3-pin boots, and hit the MTB loop whenever there’s enough snow to bury the rocks.

Most winter there’s only enough snow for a short period of time, but this month it’s absolutely dumped down snow, and up until a few days ago, the temperatures had been consistently below freezing, making for deep and generally ideal conditions.


Some hardcore friends do a twice-weekly night MTB ride that morphs into a night backcounty ski in the wintertime. The actual route doesn’t change, though, so what is a 90-minute MTB hammerfest in July becomes a 3-hour XC ski epic in February. The loop is no joke, with over 1000 feet of elevation gain in 8 miles, including one truly scary descent (or truly intimidating climb, depending on which direction you are going), which is locally known as “The Widowmaker,” displaying an impressive lack of creativity. With the frequency of snowfall we’ve had, we’re breaking trail on every outing.

Breaking trail through the woods on skis with 120+ feet of climbing per mile is a tremendous amount of work. It’s amazing how much heat the human body can generate. It’s also impossible to underdress — you can be overheated in a t-shirt at 12F. (Just don’t twist an ankle, break a binding, or stop for any reason, or you’ll die!) For the past few weeks, that’s been the schedule: ski, ski, ski, a long bike ride when it’s not actually snowing for 24 hours in a row, then ski some more. This is how we survive the Northeast winters. That, and leaving snarky comments on Strava for our so-called friends in California.

Speaking of surviving the winter, here’s a key survival tool:


Shimano, Sidi, Lake, Northwave, Specialized, and probably others make quality winter cycling boots. They are all expensive, but what price would you place on warm (or at least not frozen), dry toes?

Sadly, a week ago I managed to sprain my knee. My stepdad, in Dutchess County, has an epic sled run that he’s been curating for years. It goes around rusty old farm equipment, over stone walls, through the woods, over streams, through brambles. He made a wooden sign for the top of the run with eight black diamonds and the title “The Babykiller.”  The whole thing makes my mom mutter darkly and shake her head, Marge Simpson-style.  My kids absolutely love it.

I made the tactical error of doing the sled run on a crowded 4-foot toboggan with my sister and my ten year old. We jumped the tracks in the woods, and I tried to turn us by planting a foot. My foot stopped, but nothing else did, and I felt a horrible popping sensation that I thought had to be the ACL. In that moment a welter of thoughts raced through my head. Would my life be different now? Would I need surgery? Did I just DNS Battenkill? Could I invent a way to go back 10 seconds in time?

But I think I got lucky. I don’t think there was any ligament damage. It was very stiff and sore for a few days, but felt stable (as in, the knee didn’t feel like it wanted to fall apart and go sideways). Rest, ice, compression, elevation, and then a few days of very high cadence, zero resistance on the trainer, just spinning as fast as possible without pogoing off the saddle. The high cadence spinning really seemed to help the knee feel looser and more normal. Yesterday, 6 days after the accident, I went for an actual bike ride (on the single speed, no less), and although it felt weird for the first hour or so, by the middle of the ride I was actually forgetting about the injury for minutes at a time. I haven’t tried anything resembling an actual effort yet, but I’m optimistic that no real damage was done. Time will tell.

One thing I’m not clear on:  is that polar vortex thing responsible for these ridiculous sunsets?


– John S, aka globecanvas

Announcement: Registration for the Rensselaerville Cycling Festival is Open!

Yes, I’m still here and still riding. I have a large backlog of rides to post, in the meantime, want to hear about my new coffee table?

Just kidding.

My friend Tyler Wren has put together a cycling festival/Gran Fondo in Rensselaerville, a small town in upstate New York in the middle of some of the most spectacular cycling country on the east coast.

The ride will be held September 28, 2014. You can register for 84, 55, 25, or 8 mile rides. There’s a barbeque, farmers market, a beer shed, live music, kids’ events and activities, and of course you’re only 10 minutes away from hiking trails in the surrounding Huyck Preserve.

Now, Gran Fondos aren’t my thing–too short and too many people for me–but this one looks amazing. The field is limited to 400 riders, so it should be possible to get some space over 84 miles. It is fully supported, with marshalls, signage, and sag wagons. Plus the route is spectacular, and who can say no to beer and barbeque?

You’ll also get a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the founder of Yes, I’m going to break my rule regarding no organized rides for this one. Please note that I will not be signing autographs.

You can read more and register here. Hope to see you there!



You’re allowed to do this on a blog, right? A grab bag of unrelated bits of information that might potentially be of interest to somebody? Anyone?

I’d better put a photo near the top so this doesn’t just look like a wall of words:


John F is moving house and shedding stuff he doesn’t want to move, so he bequeathed me a nice pair of studded winter tires. As well as an unashamedly cheap wheelset. (There’s something almost embarrassing about disc wheels with a rim brake track. And labeling a 2100+g wheelset “zerolite”, well, I actually have to admire that.) But everything has its use, and I was delighted to have the wheelset and tires. Thanks, John F!

It snowed about 4 inches on Monday. On Tuesday I mounted the tires on the wheels, and mounted the wheels on the cross bike.

(By the way, if you ever mount studded tires, be mindful of your muscle-memory habits, like sliding your hands around the tire as you seat the bead. Ouch! Also, after changing out the wheelset I was reminded of how much more I like the bomber Hayes mechanical discs on the single speed, compared to the fussy BB7s on the cross bike.)

The tires are Schwalbe Marathon Winter 35s, and they are impressive. Heavy of course, but well made and tough as hell. I started out with about 20 miles on plowed, paved roads, as per the manufacturer recommendation, to bed in the studs. The tires are noisy, but roll much better than I expected on pavement. Noticeably worse than a similar sized file tread tire, but not hugely worse than a mud tire, and way better than a 2″ MTB tire.

“Plowed” is a relative term, especially here in my town where we have a new highway superintendent who’s still figuring out how things work, and there was a lot of packed snow on the roads. The studs certainly helped. I was washing out regularly, but the studs near the sidewall helped arrest the washouts before the bike went totally sideways.

Riding up toward Mohonk I noticed another set of cross bike tire tracks through the snowpack and wondered who else was dumb enough to be out riding around. When I got to the ridge I figured I might as well get a little work in before hitting the trails, so I did a couple of hill repeats up to the Mountain House gatehouse. Halfway up the climb, the tire track mystery was solved: my teammate Christian was also doing laps on the hill. We were exactly 180 degrees out of phase, meaning one of us was always in the middle of the effort as the other was descending, so we never actually spoke, just nodded like Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf punching the clock. (What? You thought it was Wile E. Coyote in that series? Philistine. I suppose all obsessive-compulsive canid customers of the Acme Corporation look alike to you.)

After a couple of hill repeats, it was off to the trails.

snowy trail

The tires did OK, but it turns out that fresh snow is not really the ideal application for studded 35c tires. The 40c version might have fared a bit better, but there just wasn’t much to grip on. It did feel like excellent cross bike handling practice, not that anyone needs to be doing that in February. Putting studded tires on a cross bike doesn’t make it a fat bike, that’s for sure.

The tires are definitely best on ice, rather than snow. They would be perfect for a winter paved-road commuter. Still, it was fun to ride around the snowy trails to see what would work and what wouldn’t.

Say, were these deer drunk?

deer tracks

Before I set out on the ride, I wrung hands for a bit over whether to run the Stages power meter, or take it off. Back story: Stages is a new entry into the bike power meter market, and their product fills the “simple and cheap” ecological niche. It’s just a single crankarm with an instrument pod epoxied onto it. There are some passionate Stages haters out there, who feel that the lower power measurement accuracy, and the fact that it’s only measuring your left leg, make the device worthless. On the other hand, it’s half the price of any other crank-based power meter, and more versatile than the more accurate but similarly-priced Powertap.

There are good points on both sides of the ledger, and if you’re thinking of getting a power meter, you should do some internet research to understand all of the issues. Personally, I think it’s a fine device as long as you acknowledge what it can and can’t do. If you need more accuracy, you need to pay more and get something different. For base/build training, I think it’s appropriate, and it is very convenient that I can swap the meter onto any of three different bikes, including the single speed, in about 60 seconds.

I bought the Stages at the start of cross season last year, and rode it hard on a lot of rough conditions and singletrack. After a couple of months, I cracked the instrument pod, probably on a rock.  You can see the small crack at the right-hand edge of the pod.


The power meter continued to work, but battery life became terrible, maybe a week at best. The crack was letting water in. Stages overnighted me a free replacement.

The replacement worked great for another few months, then batteries started their tragic dying-young routine again, especially if conditions were wet. It turns out that water infiltration is a major problem for this first iteration of Stages power meters. Stages overnighted me another replacement, and also comped me a 3-year warranty. (They are certainly not cutting any corners on customer support.)

The third Stages had a slightly different battery compartment seal. I taped up the crank arm as well, to try to seal the whole device. So far, I’ve had no additional troubles, and this week alone I rode many hours in the rain. But I wasn’t sure if riding through deepish snow would be a good idea. I did end up using the Stages on this ride, and it was completely fine, despite being covered in snow for most of the ride.

So, bottom line, if you have a Stages, tape it up.

A couple of weeks ago I went out for a longish ride.  I expected to be back after dark, so I brought lights.  While I was out it started snowing heavily.  It was a great ride, in a sort of epic hard-man way, but on the way home I made a poor tactical decision to head home down Clove Valley Road, a beautiful but poorly maintained narrow winding road.

I had only brought a headlamp, not the bars-and-helmet setup I use for night MTB, and having a single source of light is really not ideal for seeing the topological detail of what’s in front of you.  I had to pick a slow, careful line down the snowy, sandy road, and when cars approached I just got off the bike and stood well off the road until they passed.

As I worked my way home, later than expected, my phone rang, no doubt my wife calling to see if I was still alive.  I stopped, but my hands were too numb to even get my phone out of my pocket, much less operate it.  It rang a couple more times, but there wasn’t anything I could do; I just pushed on, trying to get home so she could stop worrying.  I did eventually get home without incident (unless you consider an upset worried wife to be an “incident.”).

For yesterday’s ride, I thought I’d try out Road ID’s phone app, which would allow my wife to see my location in real-time via the phone GPS and a map server.  She absolutely loved this.  She only checked it once, but it gave her peace of mind to know that she would be able to see where I was if something bad happened.   During the 3-hour ride, the app drew down my phone battery from 100% to about 60%, which is better than I expected.  For a very long ride, I’d always want to be sure I had some battery left to make a call if I needed to, so I’d wait until I was heading home before turning the app on.

The app has a couple of other features that I didn’t use, such as alerting people if you stop for more than 5 minutes — who would use that?  But it worked exactly right for what I needed.  And it’s free.

Hey, yesterday a bald eagle parked itself in our backyard for about a half hour. I guess it was digesting, because eventually it took a majestic crap and then soared off.


Today, it’s just juncos and goldfinches.


And with that, I shall conclude this experiment in free association.


(That is actually a different sunset from the one I posted at the end of my previous  post.)

– John S, aka globecanvas