Category Archives: catskills

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.

full

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.

9  7 6

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.

8

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

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.

lookout_trail

laurel_ledge

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.

maple_path

glory_hill_grass

pine_roadA lovely day for a bike ride.

strava

 

– John S, aka globecanvas

Water? Yeah, we’ve got that

– By Somervillain

After a brutally long, cold and snowy winter, I had been itching to get back to cycling. I bike commuted the short distance to work through most of the winter, but that type of cycling is insignificant and serves little more than utility. It doesn’t count. Cycling for the sake of cycling largely ceases during winter in New England, and I was eager to get back into doing long distances, to take in scenery, to have no deadline to be someplace, to explore. I happened to be up at our Catskills home for the weekend for other reasons, and the weather was promising to be perfect for a spring ride.

I had been wanting to try a new route that I mapped last year, which would take me to the Pepacton reservoir. It would take me over a couple of mountainous dirt roads which I’ve ridden before, but other than them it would be mostly new territory. I was keen on doing this route not because I was particularly drawn to seeing the reservoir, but because the route takes in a 10-mile, continuous descent, and the thrill of the descent is, primarily, what compels me to climb hills.

I had done only one long ride this season, just last week, so I wasn’t in good enough shape to tackle a mountainous ride of too much distance, not this early, but I wanted to get in 100k. Typically my Catskills routes average 1000 ft of elevation gain per 10 miles, but 6200 ft would be too much this early in the year– that’s like D2R2, a ride I spend all summer preparing for! So I cut some of the mountains out of the route, and incorporated 10-15 flat miles on either end, leaving some pronounced hills in the middle (and that 10-mile descent!) for a more reasonable 5000 ft overall elevation gain:

I started out in Bloomville, after having an excellent breakfast at Table On Ten, just down the hill from my house:

From there I followed the Delaware River, West Branch, along the flat Back River Road for 15 miles through Delhi to Hamden. But the flatness ends abruptly with the turn onto Basin Clove Rd, which takes you over the mountain separating Hamden from Downsville, shown in this photo:

Tapped sugar maples line Back River Road:

On to Basin Clove Rd, the first major climb: cat 3 with an average grade of 9.5% for more than two miles.

I’m never good at capturing the intensity of a climb looking up a hill, it always appears more accurately steep looking down it, so this is what it looked like behind me:

Initially, I lamented the lack of flourishing tree buds and other signs of sprouting greenery that mark the progression of spring.  A little early for that in these parts. I’d have to settle for the residual shades of grays and browns from a retreating winter. But I soon realized that early spring in the Catskills is the season of water– equally beautiful in its own right, and what I missed in terms of emerging spring color was made up for by the tumbling kinetics and sounds of water, everywhere and all around me. Mountainsides turn into waterfalls, drain ditches into mini rapids. It occurred to me that it was perhaps most appropriate that I was riding this route in early spring, because the visual (and audible!) cues to just how impactful this region is to New York City’s water supply were unavoidable.  You see, NYC gets its water from a network of man-made reservoirs located in the Catskills, built between the 1940s and the 1950s. The Pepacton is the largest of these. The water from the reservoirs is channeled through a network of aquaducts and tunnels to the city more than 100 miles away. NYC prides itself in its water, routinely judged among the finest municipal waters in the nation, and the city goes to great lengths to ensure the quality of its water is maintained through extensive land conservation efforts.

And it was here, climbing up Basin Clove Rd, that I first realized how much water drains down the mountains.  This is what the drain ditches looked like:

The sound of running water created a soothing wall of white noise, which helped me settle in to that meditative zen-like state you need to get into to help you focus on getting up the mountain.  Of course, stopping every so often for a break to take photos helps, too.

Eventually I reached the top of Basin Clove Rd, and got to enjoy a similar view to what I just showed you, only this was taken without turning my head backwards: the start of the 10-mile descent down, down, down Gregory Hollow Rd to Downsville:

More water along the way.

Did I mention water?

The sound of water was so pronounced, I took a recording of it:

Eventually the descent ended in Downsville, a small village with a convenience store, convenient for filling up my water bottles and using the restroom. The Pepacton reservoir’s western tip is in Downsville, less than a mile from the Downsville covered bridge.

From the Pepacton, there’s no way to get back to Bloomville without going over another mountain with at least one cat 3 climb. For the return I took Huntley Hollow Rd to Fall Clove Rd to Maggie Hoag Rd– each of these roads is a milder climb than Basin Clove Rd, but the first two still qualify separately as cat 3 climbs and collectively the three roads accounted for 2/3 of the total climbing, in just 1/3 the total distance of the route.

Fall Clove Rd is a beauty. Long and winding, with lots of moderate ups and downs, none too intense, and lots of pleasant pastureland views.

Maggie Hoag Rd, the last dirt segment and last climb of the route, was hard. Not according to the elevation profile, but because by now I had exhausted my reserves. Here it is (head turned backwards again):

Back in Bloomville, I realized that in just a few more weeks the dreary remains of winter will have finally vanished, having yielded to spring’s new growth, and by the time I get another ride in, everything will look different. And just as slowly as spring marches on toward summer, the sound of water will diminish.  And I’ll miss it.

Full route, with dirt sections in red.

pepacton

Echolalia

Here we are in the very grimmest part of winter. The Catskills are covered in a foot of old, gray snow, the kind of snow that says “it’s been cold for so long that even this month-old snow hasn’t melted” and also says “mother nature doesn’t even care enough about you to give you some nice fresh snow.”

There was a lovely period, a couple of weeks ago, where it was above freezing for maybe 2.5 hours, and we all frolicked gaily in our underwear. Then it went back down to 0F and the top inch of melted snow re-froze into a deadly, slick resin that encases our entire world. My back yard is incredibly treacherous. I need to put on crampons to take the compost out. Eventually March might go out like a lamb, but so far there has not even been the tiniest hint of spring.

Having grown bored with endless games of mumblety-peg and Russian roulette, I thought I might try to liven things up by recreating Ben’s excellent guest post from last week.  Of course, he did his ride in September, and I did my ride today, so everything looks a little different.

Our rides started out similarly, except that he has groovy bar-end shifters and my bike is encrusted with road snot. Plus I have my Zoidbergs on. With liner gloves underneath and a chemical foot warmer in there too.

1. Cuesheet

selfie

Ben rode from Poughkeepsie and I rode from home, but our routes converged at Butterville Road:

8. Shawangunk Ridge

butterville

From there, we both wended our way up to the Gunks.

This hairpin turn at the Trapps only has about a half ton of sand on it today. That’s because it’s a U.S. Highway and its maintenance is a matter of national security.

9. 180 turn

hairpin

Incidentally, a friend of mine thought this hairpin turn would be an excellent place to set up his food truck in the summertime. Everyone who rock climbs at the Gunks has to meander up this road, and they all need egg and cheese sandwiches both before and after conquering the crag. After going through the excruciating process of getting permission from the town of Gardiner, he finally parked his truck there one fine summer day and started his prep work. The state troopers showed up within 15 minutes and told him to move it or get arrested for endangerment. The moral is, always sell donuts at your food truck.

Ben and I parted virtual, asynchronous ways shortly after the first part of this climb. He went down Clove Road and forged some excellent backcountry connections to Tow Path Road. I didn’t do that, partly because it would be backtracking toward my house, and partly because backcountry is totally out of the question right now (see: earth covered in frozen resin, above). Instead I continued climbing, up to Minnewaska and over the top. It got colder. Descending sucked. I clamped my glove over my face to keep my nose from falling off.

The reward, though, was this bonus photo, looking north toward the Catskills from the descent.  That’s Overlook Mountain on the far right.

4455_

Yes, I have zip-tied plastic fenders to my cross bike. It also has John F’s weird (uh, but awesome! thanks John F) combination disc/rim brake wheels, and I just realized I left the 2-lb steel trainer skewer in the rear too, just for a little extra challenge. I originally intended to do this ride on the single speed, for full chest-thumping points, but I sprained my damn knee in a sledding mishap a couple of weeks ago, and probably my shin would fall off on South Gully Road.

Cold, cold, cold. Ben went over toward the Southern Catskills and did Lundy Road — totally out of the question right now, as is his refreshing dip in a waterfall, which would currently result in death from falling/concussion and bleeding to death long before hypothermia. Instead I went down Foordemoore Road, meeting up with Port Ben Road and re-joining virtual, asynchronous Ben after a few miles.

Foordemoore Road is sketchy even in the summertime, and it was really special today. Giant potholes full of ice, piles of sand, massive chunks of road surface that have become disincorporated from the road itself, etc. Luckily, I was too cold to care. I never before realized what a long, gradual descent Foordemoore Road is. By the time I got to the prison in Napanoch, I was dying to start climbing again.

Ben took a photo of the prison, but I didn’t stop, because there were a bunch of C.O.’s milling around and I didn’t feel like getting interrogated or shot. Maybe there was a prison break. Mercifully, the road turns up at the prison, because all I wanted to do was get some HR BPM’s going.

The long climb to Sam’s Point really starts here, though you can also start from the middle of Ellenville, or from Route 52. According to some web site somewhere, this is the longest climb on a paved road in the Hudson Valley, or in the Catskills, or some other set of qualifiers. That may be true by the numbers, though there are other climbs that take longer to get up and are much tougher (like Sugarloaf), but South Gully is definitely a classic climb, and one of my favorites. It starts and ends steep, and has a number of steep parts in the middle, but it’s varied and interesting, and never relentlessly brutal the way most Catskills superclimbs are.

Plus, climbing South Gully in the wintertime is like going to the beach!

22. Mt Meenagha Road

meenagha

I did some quick back of the envelope estimates, and calculated that there are about 800 billion tons of sand on the climb. Most places, there was a sort of line to follow, where some terrified driver had locked ’em up going down the hill and dredged a canal through the sand with his smoking tires, so I followed that. Of course, that meant climbing in the descending lane, but I didn’t see any cars, because you’d have to be insane to drive this road in these conditions.

I lost traction many times on the climb, but luckily managed to stay clipped in the whole way. The interesting thing about this knee injury is that it doesn’t hurt so much when cycling, in fact riding seems to help it feel less stiff, but the twisting motion required to unclip the pedals is horrible and must be avoided at all costs. (I’m actually still clipped into the left pedal now, writing at my computer, and shortly I’ll be sleeping with the bike still attached to my foot.)

29 minutes after taking the previous photo, I hit the ride’s maximum elevation on Sam’s Point Road. I hooked a right and rolled down to the lovely stone church in Cragsmoor. This is one of the only places in the region where you can do a big climb, then look down on what you just climbed. For your photographic pleasure, I braved the frozen resin in my cycling boots. If I had slipped, I would have ended up back in Ellenville.

stone church

Interestingly, the descent off of Sam’s Point didn’t feel nearly as unbearably cold as the earlier descent off of Minnewaska. Either I was becoming permanently insensate, or it was warmer on the east side of the ridge than the west. Regardless of the reason, I’ll take it. A few miles of descending, some lovely rolling terrain on Oregon Trail and Indian Springs Road, then a 20-mile more-or-less straight shot home.

Thanks, Ben, for your fine guest post last week, and for providing me a reason to saddle up today. Otherwise it would have just been mumblety-peg again.

Capture

– John S, aka globecanvas

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!

porch

Hmm, not that way. Maybe the front yard?

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.

cliff

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:

boots

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?

sunset

– 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.

static.squarespace.com

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 ridingthecatskills.com. 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!

John

medicalwriter.net