Category Archives: Shawangunk cycling

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.

 

 

The Best Ride: Bruderhof Loop

Finally back in gear for the summer!

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

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

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

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

I found it! A little muddy though:

Good times on a road bike:

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

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

Here’s the route.

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

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

John F

medicalwriter.net

 

 

 

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

Up and Over the Ridge

On Friday’s ride, I decided to abandon all pretense of planning and just go where I felt like going, with a strong preference for riding roads I hadn’t taken before. This is how it ended up:

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All in all, a  satisfactory ride. In fact, I’d categorize it as worth the trip if you’re coming up from the city and want something shorter (50 miles) that does not require extraordinary effort or fitness.

I’d never headed north on Albany Post Road. It’s quite beautiful.

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But the highlight of the first 15 miles was Guilford Road. Again, not a road that I’d had a reason to take until now. If you’re planning a ride on the east side of the ridge, make sure you include this road. Click on the first and second picture below for full size and you’ll see what I mean.

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On Guilford, you’ll head up a short but steep climb onto 44/55, where there is a delicious German restaurant called the Mountain Brauhaus if you want to eat hearty. I really love this place–we go to dinner there at least once a month. And we’re not alone, because it’s always packed. If you have a large party or want to eat there during prime dining hours without having to wait an hour for a table, call ahead.

There’s a deli across the road, too.

This is the hairpin about 1/5 of the way up the climb over the ridge. This road has a real alpine feel. The only other place (relatively) nearby where you get this sort of feeling is on the climb up 23A north of Woodstock (talk here, route here).

7Still climbing…the next day Margot and I went back over the ridge (in a car this time) to visit some friends in Olivebridge. I mentioned that I had climbed up this the day before, and she said “…and that’s why I always say that cycling is the sport for people who hate themselves.” I really feel like this is a pretty easy climb, though.

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About one-third of the way up, there’s a parking lot on the left. Stop there for a great view.

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My original intent was to head all the way over on Route 44/55, but as I passed Clove Road I realized that I had never gone down that way…up, yes. But not down. So I turned right on Clove Road. I should also mention that my original intent was to take Undercliff Carriage Trail (at mile 9), and return on Old Minnewaska Trail, which joins up with Clove Road–and from there I was supposed to go back to 44/55 to continue. I got on the trail just past the bridge at mile 9, battled tree roots and head-size boulders on my road bike for 1000 feet, and then got spit back out on 44/55. I don’t know what I did wrong.

The picture below is Clove Road. A little tough descending near the junction with 44/55 because the road is rough for the first few miles.

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Some guy’s collection of burl? I’m not sure if they are there for their sculptural qualities or to sell. Or maybe they are for giant-sized aquariums?

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A couple more of Clove Road.

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This one reminds me of an Alec Soth photo. I’m no Alec Soth but 1 out of every 100 of my photos is decent.

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And a fierce hunter stalking a…cow and a chicken.

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I’m sure my co-blogger is familiar with this road, as he lives nearby. I didn’t test the road sign’s assertion.

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On the way back, I decided–again on the fly–to take the bike path back, because I hadn’t yet been on the trestle over Rosendale. The deck of the trestle is warped pine, and feels unsafe on a bike (although I am sure it is completely safe, right?)

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The view from the trestle down into Rosendale is worth the risk.17

And finally, the bike path. Lovely, but 11 miles on the path on a road bike is a little much for even me–it can be rough in some spots. No need for the full-squish mountain bikes that many rent to ride the trail, though….I just think it would be more fun on my cross bike with 32-mm tires.

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And…home. I just realized I never posted a picture of Margot’s teeny-tiny Boulder. Don’t laugh at the setup…the choice was either setting up the bike as shown or buying her a children’s bike.

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If you’re planning just one trip to the Catskills for a cycling adventure, do it in September or October. It’s amazing out here. Saturday, September 13 is Gardiner Day and Sunday, September 14 is Taste of New Paltz. I don’t know wassup with Gardiner Day, except it apparently involves horses and fruit pies. On the other hand, Taste of New Paltz is a major event with lots of good food. Come on up!

One final thing occurred to me…you could also do the route in reverse (which I mapped for you here), which would get you to the Mountain Brauhaus in time for an early dinner. And if you’re looking for a way to ride this route without the bike path segment, let me know.

And that’s all for now! I will have a review for you later this week.

John

medicalwriter.net

Pine Bush

Yeah, it’s that time of year where I start to develop late-summer emaciation. You know, the kind where everyone thinks you’re suffering from some awful wasting disease,* but you’re actually in such good shape that a “casual” 50-mile ride after work seems completely normal.

I’m afraid that I’ve consumed many pints of Ben & Jerry’s in an apparently futile effort to keep from losing that last 6% of body fat–no “healthy” food is doing the trick. If anyone has tips beyond the disgusting peanut butter/protein milkshakes and copious amounts of ice cream I’ve been consuming, please do let me know.

So…yesterday I only had time for a 40. It was actually supposed to be about 30 miles, but I spaced and ended up going partially over the ridge. When I emerged from my fugue state, I was in a different county eating a couple of slices of truly awful pizza.

Anyway…a route and some pictures.

route-5806739-map-fullThe images below are from Farmer’s Turnpike. This is a good way to avoid descending on 44/55 (about mile 3 on the Ride With GPS map). The last time I descended on 44/55, an idiot in a camper passed me with only inches to spare. He also had the temerity to honk at me. This all happened while I was going 40 mph–or about 5 mph over the speed limit. In any case, avoid 44/55 if you can.43You’ll see a lot of pictures of the ridge in this post.

187625A farm outside of Pine Bush.

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And no matter how long or short the ride, if I pass the Shawangunk Grasslands Reserve, I always stop for a few moments of contemplation.

1112More to come. I finally have a working camera! Also–a few weeks ago I sadly lost my Exposure Toro light, which has served me well. I hit a big bump on a descent and it flew off my handlebars…and down a cliff. I had failed to ensure that it “clicked in”. Anyway, better the light than me! So I got a new Exposure Strada, which comes with a remote switch so you can choose between low and high beams. Review coming soon.

A brief complaint: For some reason, Exposure has decided to partner with Ibex Sports, thus the new “Exposure USA” website. Why they’ve done so is a mystery to me, because the US website is one of the most embarrassingly half-ass things I’ve ever seen. If I was the folks in the UK, I’d be irritated, to say the least, that I’d put my US marketing in the hands of amateurs, particularly as I remember the international site being quite well designed and useful. I imagine after they lose a chunk of their business they’ll be looking elsewhere.

*At a recent meeting, a famous gastroenterologist (yes, there is such a thing) told me I looked like I have celiac disease. I was like, no dude, it probably has something to do with the 200-300 miles I ride every week.

John

medicalwriter.net