Category Archives: bicycles routes rides

English eTapped

It is done.

My friends at Bicycle Depot in New Paltz installed eTap for me. Good decision, they spent a ton of time getting the front to shift right on my very unconventional gearing.

Admission: I have a mountain bike crank and 46/28 ten speed rings from circa 2011–that is to say they are lacking many of the modern conveniences like good shift ramps etc. In any case, they do not get along super well with eTap. Just a note for people who are planning on retrofitting a gravel bike, with gravel gearing, with eTap.

My plan is, ultimately, to get Rotor’s 46/30 “Spiderings” and a Rotor crank to improve shifting. Kind of a bummer to have to get rid of my lovely THM 400-gram crank though. If you want it, you know where to find me.

However, even though the guys at Bicycle Depot were not entirely satisfied with the front shifting, my first words after a ride around the parking lot were “clearly, you guys have higher standards than I do!” It’s still better than mechanical.

Some pictures, I’m going to ride it for real tomorrow, provided my clients give me a minute to get out of the house.

So refreshing to have new bar tape. The old stuff was getting ratty.

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Pretty busy up front with levers, Garmin mount, light mount and blips. But only 2 cables! Looks weird.

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Blips. Mike at Bicycle Depot originally wrapped them under the tape (at my request) and then let me know it looked a little like my handlebars had grown tumors.

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Front derailleur with the aforementioned 10-speed mountain bike rings. Derailleur and old rings do not get along well. I don’t really need 46/28 any more, since…

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…I have an 11-32 cassette.

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PS: If you’re more interested in routes, a complete library can be found here.

John

medicalwriter.net

Over the Ridge and Into the Hills

Well, I guess I’m back in business. I rode 220 miles on an upright bike in 7 days, a good total at any time of the year! Part of it was an accident of weather–I ended up playing hooky last Friday because it was so nice out, so I got two longish rides in within a single 7-day period. I’ll report on the earlier ride separately.

Good news is that I’m a much stronger rider after 13 weeks of killing myself on a recumbent trainer. Plus my neck appears to be fully healed. Unfortunately, on longer rides I still have to stop every 30 minutes or so for a stretch–some of the muscles in my back become extremely sore, presumably from not being actively used for so long, since I was unable to lift anything (or ride a conventional bike) for 5 months.

So…last Friday I rode over the ridge, and down into the best riding country in the area. A friend at a local bike shop refers to this area as his “fortress of solitude,” and that it is. In many years of riding up there I have never seen another cyclist, which is crazy because it is gorgeous country. I’m referring, specifically, to the area north of route 209 but south of the Catskills proper.

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Seriously–if you get a chance, ride up there! If you’re coming from the city, go to the Poughkeepsie stop, ride into New Paltz, and start from there. Here’s the route, with the caveat that there are a few misroutings; if you want a revised route let me know.

Starting from my house south of New Paltz, I headed over to Gardiner, and then up Albany Post to Guilford Road.

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The least pleasant part of this ride is the climb up to 44/55 on Guilford Road. I don’t know why but it kills me every time. I’m totally fine riding all the way up the ridge from there, but there’s something about the way Guilford climbs that is quite painful.

From there, up 44/55. Here’s the traditional hairpin photo.

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And then up to the top of the ridge.

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Here’s an interesting variation: Laurel Hill Road. It says “no trespassing” on one end, but not the other. I also looked it up and it is plowed by the city, so y’know what? If my tax dollars are paying to keep their road clear, it’s mine to ride on. It’s a short, steep, downhill stretch of well-packed dirt.

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I stopped taking pictures for a while. I crossed over in Rosendale on a brief stretch of trail. Wasn’t much fun as the trail was mostly mud last week–not easy on a skinny-tired road bike. Plus my bike got even filthier. Thankfully, I “accidentally” forgot to wash it before taking it to the bike shop and, um, they took care of the dirty bidness for me.

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And that’s it! I made myself some bacon potato soup to recover.

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In other news: I’m converting my English 700C to eTap, or rather my local bike shop, Bicycle Depot, is doing the converting for me. “Wait!” you say, Super Record wasn’t good enough for you? The answer is that an electronic groupset is something that I’ve had a hankerin’ for for many years now. I don’t necessarily need it, but I’m a proponent of dead quiet, perfect shifting at all times, and I’m sick of monkeying with mechanical, particularly because my bicycle maintenance skills are poor. I mean, I can do just about everything needed on a bike–and I even built exactly one wheel–but because I don’t have to work on my bikes often, I don’t have a ton of practice so it takes me FOREVER to get most tasks done. Even something as simple as adjusting a derailleur or maintaining a hub. So hopefully electronic will keep me in perfect adjustment all the time.

Last photo with Super Record.

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That’s all from me this freezing cold Saturday afternoon. Hoping for some great weather next week for more riding!

John

medicalwriter.net

46 miles on a trike and bike sale!

Along with numerous shorter rides, went on a 46 on the trike. No problems, no hassle. Rode a really crappy gravel road–meaning crappy as in poorly maintained, not crappy as in not fun. If you’re in the area, look up Sax Road near Wallkill. Ignore the dead end sign. The only issue was the 300-yard long section of knee-deep leaves. As you can imagine, interesting on a trike.

PS–yes, I’ve been riding my trike without a helmet, which is something I’d never do on a regular bike. After today’s 45-mph descent I think I’ll reconsider that strategy.

For my next act, I’m going to get a 2-wheeled recumbent of some sort. As some of you may recall, I rode a low racer in NYC for a couple years the last time my neck broke. I sold them after I could get back on a regular bike. This time, though, I’m resigning myself to permanent recumbency.

It’s very sad to say this, but I will soon have multiple upright bikes for sale. Looking at them is depressing. I have spent thousands of hours on these bikes and I clearly will never be able to ride them again. Keep in mind when I say “best bike I’ve ever ridden” it is from a thoroughly informed viewpoint. I’ve ridden a lot of really, really nice bikes.

You can contact me for details, or wait until I get around to posting them. They’re all around 57-59 cm. All have been ridden hard but are perfectly maintained. Well, except for the GT Grade–that one is virtually new.

First, the very best bike I’ve ever ridden: English 700C. I almost want to keep this one just for sentimental value. All Campagnolo, except for the fancy Clavicula crank. Round rings currently. I think it is around 13 lbs, possibly a little lighter without the Swallow boat anchor, possibly a little heavier with the Enve wheels  I guess what I’m saying is that it’s light but not sure of the precise weight–definitely under 15. Amazing bike for distance rides. You can look here for geo. You can do approximately 1 cm plus or minus on the saddle, if you wanted to go lower you could cut the seat tube a little.

Keep in mind my neck was already a problem when this bike was built, so it’s a little more upright than would be ideal for many.

And the second-best bike I’ve ever ridden. English 650B. Good for crushing it on gravel. You can have the shaved tires too! Again, built for distance. Mechanical dicks, unfortunately, although the HyRd are pretty good. Same geo as the 700C version.

Just as an aside–if you like bikes, I mean if you really like bikes, you owe it to yourself to ask Rob to build you a bike instead of buying another off-the-shelf carbon fiber machine from a major manufacturer. I can’t imagine how a bike could ride better, or be better suited for their intended purpose, than the ones you see above. Plus no weight penalty for steel!

This one really hurts. My Rene Herse. So many cool things on this bike. If I were to build it again, though, I’d do it with a more modern drivetrain. Currently has a double, not a triple (what was I thinking?). Step-top light switch, SON hub, brake cable routed through the seatpost (it’s easier to deal with than you’d imagine). No, I did not take this picture–I do know small-small is a no-no. Berthoud bag with side pockets trimmed off included.

And finally, a GT Grade (Ultegra). Basically a new bike.

I also have, sitting around, a sweet Moser if anyone wants it.

Two more: A partially built Teledyne Titan (original titanium fork uncracked) and a Moulton, the cheap one.

Now some recumbent pictures. Yawn.

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2015

Hi everyone!

Sorry I haven’t been keeping up with the blog. I have been riding a lot, it’s just that there isn’t quite as much mystery and adventure or as many pitchfork-wielding hillbillies on the Hudson side of the Shawangunk Ridge, so there’s less to report. It’s lovely riding, but it lacks the splendid–and sometimes scary–isolation of riding in the Catskills proper. Yes, I can still get over to my old stomping grounds, but the minimum round trip is 60 miles, so as you can imagine it isn’t a routine weekday kind of thing.

So, this year: Only 3780 miles, assuming I manage to get out for another 80 miles before the end of the year. A pittance compared with my all-time high of 8500+ in 2012, when I first moved to Ulster County. Home ownership and the job have gotten in the way of more time on the bike, but I think this is enough miles to feel reasonably good about myself.

My regular riding companion, who will remain nameless here, has been sidelined by first plantar fasciitis and then Lyme’s disease, poor guy. Yet another reason why I haven’t been out on too many adventures–sometimes it takes a commitment to someone else to spur me on to some of the dumber rides I’ve done. And finding someone who rides the way I do isn’t easy.

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So if you live nearby, like very long rides, getting lost in the middle of a sleet storm,  returning home somewhere between 2 and 5 hours late, and taking long accidental hikes in road shoes over boulder-strewn goat paths in the high Catskills, ring me up. I should mention that someone told me that I like to turn any enjoyable activity into a death march–for example, instead of planting 50 daffodil bulbs like a normal person, I planted over 2500 and managed to strain not one, but both biceps to the point where picking up my new kitten hurt. So it goes with riding as well: It’s not fun unless you’re so burnt that you don’t know how you’re going to make it home!

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If you’re looking for a good route in the area, please remember that you can always go to my ridewithgps page. Questions? Feel free to e-mail.

Have a happy new year, all.

 

 

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).

Margot  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.

Fin

The Gunks 10,000 happened.

Photo: Larry Chapman

Photo: Larry Chapman

Let’s back up a bit. Last year my friend and teammate Larry thought up a ride that would do almost every climb along the Shawangunk Ridge, totaling over 10,000 feet of climbing.

In my memory, I was involved in the very first spark of the idea, maybe during an on-bike conversation with Larry. But I think that’s just how memory works. Ten years from now, when the Gunks 10,000 is bigger than Burning Man, there will be hundreds of cyclists who were part of the original conversation that birthed the Gunks 10,000, and thousands of cyclists who participated in the very first incarnation of the ride.

Photo: John Cullinan

Photo: John Cullinan

In fact, in 2013, only 6 cyclists were there for the first Gunks 10,000 (or “G10K” as those of us in the inner circle, friends of Larry (FOLs), call it). I wasn’t one of them, although I did go to Larry’s house for beer afterwards.

Larry's yard.  Photo: Andrew Williams

Larry’s yard. Photo: Andrew Williams

This year was different. Last Sunday was the second annual Gunks 10K, and 24 cyclists showed up. The day was perfect, the route was gorgeous, and the event went off perfectly. It had the distinct feel of something that could become a much bigger event in the future, if Larry decides he wants to go that direction.

Photo: Larry Chapman

Photo: Larry Chapman

The expectation at the start was that the ride would split into two groups: one racing, and one at Sunday-ride pace. On the first big climb of the day, a 2-mile 8% classic just a few minutes into the ride, it became clear that just about everybody had come to race. Despite my intention of keeping my own effort throttled down to a level I thought I could sustain for 6 or 7 hours, adrenaline got the better of me, and I put down a personal best on the climb. Pathetically, that personal best was demolished by over half the riders, with the fastest guys beating me by almost 2 minutes.

The day went on like that. The fastest 5 cyclists were all legitimate climbing specialists, including, as it turns out, two former Tour of the Catskills GC winners, and a former New York state masters road race champion. And this despite the fact that Bicycle Depot, my own team — the home team — had two of our best climbers cancel at the last minute, one with the flu, and one with a hamstring injury.

While the skinny guys duked it out at the front, the rest of us settled into our own grooves and enjoyed the beautiful day. Larry and I started our own little competition with one another, which would end with him beating me by 6 seconds out of 2 hours of timed climbing. By the time the 6 1/2 hour ride was over, Jonas from Brooklyn had opened a 22 second gap over his buddy Pablo, to claim a permanently engraved spot on the Gunky Chunk, the handmade conglomerate-and-steel trophy. Larry and I were 18 minutes back, right about midpack; the slowest finishing time of all was only 36 minutes back, which is really not much, considering the epicness of the event.

I predict Larry will be turning people away at the next G10K.

Photo: Larry Chapman

Mid-ride break at Lake Minnewaska.  Photo: Larry Chapman

Larry himself.  Photo: Andrew Williams

Larry himself. Photo: Andrew Williams

Gunks 10,000 route.

Gunks 10,000 route.

That was last Sunday. Yesterday I rode with a friend up to the groundbreaking for the Kingston Point rail trail. Ulster County has an ambitious plan to connect all of the various defunct rail lines into a network of multi-use rail trails, with a hub in Kingston. Some pieces of the puzzle are farther in the future than others, but there is real progress happening. This will be a Good Thing.

On the way home I had to stop to photograph this ridiculous Mount Doom sunset.

Sunset over the Rondout Creek.

Sunset over the Rondout Creek.

Continuing the trend this morning, the weekly Bicycle Depot team cyclocross ride was somewhere between “breathtaking” and “whoaaa.”

Sky Top.

Sky Top.

Copes Lookout.

Copes Lookout.

See you next time.

– John S