Tag Archives: Cycling photography

To the Hudson!

Hi all! I know the blog has been pretty dead recently; John S says he doesn’t want to “contaminate” the blog with racing reports (although I told him to go ahead), and of course Anton isn’t a full-time Catskills resident, so he only posts when he’s here. I’ve been traveling, working, and riding a lot, but no major adventures. Mostly daily 20 to 40 mile rides, and you don’t need to hear about that, do you?

However, I had an amazing ride today. Only 30 miles (with getting lost), 27 actual miles. I expected the ride to, well, suck but it turned out to be one of the most beautiful rides I’ve been on in the last few years. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Sure, it lacks the isolation and majesty of the Catskills proper, but the views are lovely, the traffic mostly absent, and there’s only about 1700 feet of climbing. I recommend it highly if you’re in New Paltz and want a shorter ride, or if you want to incorporate it into a longer segment.

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And don’t forget, all of my routes are here. I went through the effort of deleting (most) of the bad ones, so you really can’t go wrong. Sort by distance and pick!

Also: As much as I hate promoting Dutchess County over Ulster, if you live in NYC you’re missing out if you don’t do the summer classic. I perfected this route over about 10 or 12 repeats, and it’s the most fun you can have on two wheels, I promise. One of the few things I miss about living in the city.

John

medicalwriter.net

Dark, Wet, and Muddy

I wrote this a few days ago, but quickly took it down when I realized that I had rudely top-posted Globecanvas’ most recent post. Apologies to all of you who received a new post e-mail, only to stop by and see nothing new!

The ideal ride.

Yes, I’ve finally gotten back on the horse after a few months of house hunting and then an inconveniently timed neck injury. I went for a 20-mile ride yesterday; on today’s ride, I decided to see how many dirt roads I could hit within 30 miles of my house, and I found out that, if you plan carefully, you can do a ride that is approximately one-third dirt in that distance. Route here.

I mean, mud, not dirt.

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Red mud. My poor shoes.

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It was drizzling at the beginning of the ride, and it started to pour about halfway through, so I didn’t get too many pictures. Here are a few.

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I’m sure the few people in cars who passed me felt sorry for me. What they don’t know is that I do this by choice. Nothing feels as good as a wet, muddy, freezing, foggy ride in the dark!

John

medicalwriter.net

A planned, mostly vetted, Delaware County 130k Masterpiece

Somervillain here.

I love planning routes in RideWithGPS (link to my routes). When charting out new territory, RideWithGPS allows one to zoom in to a road, in satellite view, and get a glimpse of what it’s like– is it dirt or paved? Is it shaded by overarching trees?  Does it pass through farms? If it looks interesting, I just click on it and there it is, incorporated into a growing route. Using this method I’ve discovered many of what have become my favorite dirt roads, and Delaware County harbors a trove of remote dirt carriage roads and mountain passes still waiting to be discovered.

I’ve reported on three routes I’ve ridden in Delaware County (here, here and here), but the longest of these was only 45 miles and 5500′ of elevation gain. Sometime next year I plan to ride an amalgam of all three routes, merging the best of each while making sure services and facilities are never too far away. I’ve mapped these onto one 81 mile loop, and I’m so tickled with the resulting route I can’t wait to ride it! Since I know this won’t happen until at least next summer given the long winters and my only occasional presence there, I am presenting it here for anyone who wants an 80-ish mile ride with almost 10,000 ft of elevation gain. If anyone is familiar with D2R2, this route fits nicely in between the two intermediate D2R2 route lengths (74mi/8,200ft and 99mi/11,600ft). Having ridden the 74 and 62 mile D2R2 routes, my opinion of this Catskills route is that it’s even more bucolic and pastoral than D2R2, but with similar intense hills and a familiar rural New England-y feel and flavor.

The yellow pins mark food stops, and the start/end point in Delhi has plenty of food options. Look at that elevation profile!!!

Some noteworthy features of this route:

  • Total of 8 dirt segments, some of which are single-lane carriage paths, totaling 34 miles, or 42% of the overall route.
  • Two historic covered wooden bridges.
  • 9 significant climbs.
  • One fast 5-mile paved descent and two other nearly continuous 6-mile descents– mostly without interruption.
  • Less than 1 mile of highway.
  • 6 well-spaced services/facilities, and none of them are convenience stores/fast food chains. The longest distance between any two is 24 miles.
  • I’ve ridden 74 of the 81 miles of this route personally at different times

So if anyone is looking for a long Catskills route that takes in stunning country scenery, charming villages, lots of dirt roads, a shark tooth elevation profile, thrilling descents, and well spaced food offerings, this route should be just the ticket.

If you’re coming from NYC or points south, the most logical starting point would be Andes as opposed to Delhi. Andes is only a 15 minute drive west of Margaretville, the starting point of several of the rides John has written about. There’s plenty of parking along Main St./Rt 28, as well as several places to eat. Honestly, any of the pinned villages would make decent starting points, but regardless where you start, the route really begs to be ridden counterclockwise to enjoy the two prolonged descents.

One other thing to consider if riding up here during the week is that most area cafes are closed on Mondays, which will narrow your food options. So avoid Mondays unless you’re prepared to ride in a self-sufficient manner.

Here are some “stock” photos that didn’t make it into my previous posts; they were taken at different times from various points on this route, and are in no particular order. Some of these may date back over a year, but they give you an idea of what this route has to offer.

Enjoy!

–Somervillain

A Columbus Day Ramble in Autumnal Delaware County

First I’d like to express thanks to John for making me a contributing author on Riding the Catskills. Since I’m only up in the Catskills occasionally between spring and fall, I won’t be contributing regularly… but my aim is to eventually document all the best dirt road mountain passes that Delaware County–my childhood and now seasonal stomping ground in the northwestern Catskills–has to offer, with routes of 35-75 miles with heavy doses of bucolic dirt roads, steep climbs, fast descents and an obsessional avoidance of highways and traffic, designed to bring wide smiles to anyone who rides them. I may also occasionally post planned, partially vetted routes of up to 100 miles, stitching together segments I’ve already ridden with new ones, that may be too long for me to tackle in the near term but may be appealing to more ardent long distance cyclists. Below is a post about my Columbus Day Catskills ride in which I continued to find some absolutely stunning dirt roads.

–Anton, aka somervillain

Columbus Day weekend is a big tourist weekend in the Catskills, with travelers descending from afar to enjoy the fall foliage. Being a holiday weekend, I, too, often make the trip out here from Boston. Typically, the colors in the Northwestern Catskills are at peak vibrancy this weekend–several weeks ahead of eastern Massachusetts–and holiday or not, it’s a great excuse to come out this way just to be a leaf peeper. To the disappointment of many who made the trip here for the rich colorful palette that marks this weekend (I met one couple here from Colorado; Aspens get boring after awhile, they told me), the week prior saw an intense windstorm that stripped many of the leaves that weren’t quite ready to let go. Alas. But not all the leaves had fallen, there was still some fall color left.

I was here for an extended weekend with my family, but I just had to get a ride in, however short it had to be to maintain family commitments. The loop I settled on was 36 miles, relatively short compared to John’s routes. But with 3800 feet of elevation gain (3000 ft in the first 20 miles alone), there were enough climbs and descents to keep it interesting, another exercise in pass hunting.

The route started and ended in Delhi (pronounced “Dell-Hi”), the county seat and nice little historic town, about nine miles from my home in Bloomville.

Delhil Village Hall

From Delhi, the counterclockwise route immediately took me over a steep hill, Belle Hill. Normally I don’t like to start off with a hard climb, not having the chance to warm up first.  Doing the loop in reverse would have avoided it, but I really wanted to do the loop this way, because it includes a five mile descent I had been eagerly waiting to do. As with so many hills around here, the peaks are punctuated, so by the time your rear wheel reaches the top, your front wheel is practically heading down the other side. As I reached the top of Belle Hill, not quite warmed up, the pavement turned to dirt, and I enjoyed the first of many lovely descents.

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At the bottom, I followed the valley out of Delhi to Meredith along Peaks Brook Rd, a quiet paved road with a slight but steady uphill grade. After a couple of miles, it turns to dirt, and after a few more miles of gentle climbing, another three miles of descending on dirt.

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Peaks Brook Rd, Meredith

At this point, I mistakenly turned onto Warren Rd, thinking it was a continuation of Peaks Brook Rd. This led me north toward Treadwell, a cute hamlet that John passed through on his Delaware 85 route he posted about this past summer (his masterpiece!).

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Cow warning, heading into Treadwell

Oddly, despite growing up here, I hadn’t ever passed through Treadwell. I was glad I had made the wrong turn, giving me the excuse to finally see it– it boasts an adorable general store that has been continuously run since 1841. I highly recommend working Treadwell into any local routes– there aren’t many places in the area with food and facilities, and here you can get sandwiches, fresh baked goods and roofing nails. The atmosphere is infinitely more charming and welcoming than any gas station/convenience store you might find, and it’s a fun step back in time. I returned to Treadwell with my family the next day, my kids bought penny candy!

Barlow’s General Store, Treadwell

From Treadwell, I headed back south on County Highway 16 towards Hamden– as John did. But shortly outside Treadwell, I detoured off onto Douglas Hall Rd, which wound around some farms as it climbed steadily.

Cows, Douglas Hall Rd

A surprise awaited me when I reached the four-way junction on top. I had originally planned to turn onto Snake Hill Rd (which I would have been on had I not detoured into Treadwell), but when I saw the single-lane dirt road straight ahead, with the sign: Seasonal Limited Use Highway. No maintenance Dec 1 – April 1, I had to change course once again… whenever you see that sign in this area, it’s a promise of a worthwhile investigation.

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Unlike most back roads in the area that seem to go up or down, Ridge Rd, as its name implies, follows the top of a ridge for five miles. It’s mostly tree lined, passing through woods, every so often affording a spectacular vista from atop the ridge. Let me be blunt: this road qualifies as a must ride; just let the photos speak for themselves:

At one point I had to stop and consult a map; the road split, and signs were conspicuously absent. I felt a sense of déjà vu: the fork felt eerily similar to the one in the final scene in the Jim Jarmusch film Down by Law. Who knew the Catskills could look so much like rural Louisiana? See for yourself:

Ridge road ended, and pavement resumed. From here, Launt Hollow Rd whisked me down a continuous five mile descent (the one I had been eyeing) to State Rt 10 in the village of Hamden. (The next route I have planned in this area includes a continuous 10 mile descent from Hamden to the Pepacton reservoir).

Five mile descent to Hamden on Launt Hollow Rd

Rt 10 is a busy highway, but at least in the village the speed limit is tamed down. And just after the turn onto Rt 10 is one of my favorite eateries– Lucky Dog Farm Store. Another charming cafe and locavore farm store, they serve up artisanal sandwiches and lunches. Worth a stop, but their hours are more limited than Barlow’s in Treadwell (Lucky Dog was closed when I was there).

Lucky Dog Farm Store, Hamden

I designed the route to take in the Launt Hollow descent and Lucky Dog while avoiding Rt 10 at all costs. I stayed on Rt 10 for only a half a mile before I turned right to cross the Delaware River, West Branch, over a covered wooden bridge. This took me to Back River road, a gently rolling, quiet paved road that follows Rt 10 but on the opposite side of the river. It heads all the way back to Delhi, which John also passed through on his Delaware 85 route, although John followed Rt 10 from Hamden to Delhi.

Hamden Covered Bridge

Back River Rd, Hamden

Back River Rd, Hamden

There are plenty of facilities in Delhi. I won’t mention the several repugnant fast food chains. Sure, they’re welcome in an emergency, but on most days there are better options, and my pick would be Good Cheap Food, another locavore market. Plus there are several indie cafes and bookshops along Main St, so designing a route to include Delhi is a smart bet.

Main St (Rt 10), Delhi

County Clerk’s Office, Delhi

Given that this route and John’s route intersect at Treadwell and again at Delhi, it’s possible to merge the best portions of each and come up with an another dirt road stunner of just about any desired length.

Labor Day Slide

I attempted this ride solo on the day after I returned from Holland–Labor Day. Unfortunately, I got about 10-15 miles into the ride and the skies opened up with the worst thunderstorm I’ve ever seen. Now, I don’t mind riding in the rain, even in a relatively heavy downpour. But this storm was a whole different order of magnitude from anything I’ve ever seen before. And keep in mind that I grew up in the Midwest, where severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are relatively common. In any case, after taking shelter for a bit, I rode back home, figuring that riding in the high Catskills in the middle of this weather was far from advisable. So it wasn’t until yesterday that I got around to a longer ride, although I did manage 70 fast miles during the week on various rides.

My friend Luis joined me for the ride. He’s 10 years older than me, but still manages to destroy me handily on climbs, even when I’m feeling 100%. Here’s the route, and the GPS is here.

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Slide Mountain is not particularly challenging compared with some of the rides we have done recently; however, I was suffering from a cold (or allergies) and I was definitely not on my game. I suspect it’s allergies, because the second I got off the plane from Holland I started sneezing.

A few pictures from the lead-in to the big climb. If you look at the ride profile on Ride With GPS, you’ll see that it looks like a pretty miserable 36 miles to get to the top of the climb. Really, it’s not so bad. Keep in mind the scale. Yes, you’re going gently uphil for all 36 miles, but for the most part, it’s barely detectable. (I just started riding with Luis…I don’t think that by riding with me he has implicitly signed a release to be the star of my photographs!)

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The climb up Slide is a bit of a grind, but Luis and I agreed that, despite the fact that it is a bigger climb, it is generally easier than Peekamoose. Your opinion may differ. The important thing is to pace yourself, because it is a long, slow climb. When you reach the lake, you’ve finished the climb. Here’s the proof of completion.

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Frost Valley Rd might be one of the nicest roads in the Catskills to ride. First, there is virtually no traffic whatsoever. We probably saw 10 cars total, in both directions, during our time on this road. Second, once you get to the top it’s an easy 20+ mph almost all the way home. Third, it has to be one of the most beautiful roads around. The road runs through a high mountain valley, and you can see for miles. Here’s the famous Frost Valley YMCA, a huge mansion set in the middle of nowhere.

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And a few more photos from Frost Valley Road. Keep in mind that the whole thing slopes slightly downward, so with even a little effort you can haul ass through this segment (while enjoying the view, of course). The road can be a little rough in spots, so be careful.

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And my favorite part of the ride, again on Frost Valley Rd. The road becomes really rough around here. It looks like they might be in the middle of paving it; the last time I was through here the gravel portion was a few miles, now it’s only about 750 feet.

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And that was all for this week for long rides. Looking forward to a couple more centuries later this week (one on Wednesday and one on Sunday), so there will be more new routes coming soon!

John

medicalwriter.net

Peekamoose Times Two

You may have noticed that I am not adhering to my twice weekly posting schedule. There are a couple of reasons for that. This blog is not meant to be my personal diary; instead, it’s meant to first be a resource for intermediate- to long-distance cycling routes in the Catskills, and second to provide real-world reviews of cycling products from the perspective of a rider who likes distance, dirt, and inclement weather (yes, I actually enjoy riding through rain, sleet, and snow!) There are very real differences between brands of bib shorts, shoes or even tires that don’t become evident until you ride a century with them. A great example of this was some Pearl Izumi bib shorts that seemed fine until a 150-mile ride, when poor fit and a rough seam conspired to saw a bleeding hole in my thigh.

I am especially careful about random posts because so many people are now getting update e-mails every time I post, and I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. That said, you will be getting a few pet picture posts over the winter. No complaints, please.

I’ve spent considerable time over the past few weeks reprising the old standbys. Yesterday marked my twentieth time over Peekamoose since we moved here last year–that’s about 1200 miles on this route alone. Next week I’m planning to ride Slide Mountain again. I will document that trip and write a full post since I haven’t yet been over Slide in the summer.

Over the next week, I’m going to review Rapha’s Grand Tour shoes, bib shorts for distance riders, and follow up on my long-term review of the Rivet saddle. And, if I can find my chain tool to shorten my chain on the English 700C, I’ll provide some initial impressions of the new Grand Bois Extra Leger 26 mm tires. And of course you’ll get the Slide Mountain post.

Until then, here’s the GPS for a new 72-mile Peekamoose route and a few pictures.

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John

medicalwriter.net

Four-County Ramble, Courtesty of Henry

I apologize for not posting more frequently over the past few weeks. Truth is, work has been draining all signs of life from me, and it shows no sign of letting up any time soon. That said, I’ve still been able to get in 100 to 150 miles every week, although they have not generally been quality miles.

However…

We did manage to get out for a 104-mile adventure out of Woodstock. My companions: Doug and Henry. The initial plan was to do the flattest possible 200k, starting from Doug’s place in Woodstock and riding far into Dutchess county, which–believe it or not–is much flatter than Ulster, Greene, Delaware, or even Sullivan. But as I was putting my front wheel back on, Henry asked if we’d like to take a “real” ride, which around here means climbin’ mountains.

With some trepidation, I agreed. The trepidation was because I had absolutely no idea what was coming up; thus, I had no idea how to pace myself, how long the ride would be, or whether I’d be home in time to do some work. It all worked out fine, in the end.

I don’t have a lot of energy to write, so let’s make this post more about pictures than words, shall we? Here’s the route.

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Simple. Start in Woodstock, ride up 28, and then head for the hills. And there were some good hills! The two best climbs on this route are Vega Mountain Road and Dimmick Mountain Road, the later of which is a pretty decent climb, even for out here in the Catskills. It isn’t long, but it is steep.

So, some pictures and I’ll leave it at that. I’d suggest clicking on some of these for full size, some are quite lovely.

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This, in case you are wondering, is Cross-Mountain Road in Delaware County. Magical dirt road.

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Henry was the only one brave enough to cross this bridge. The boards on the bridge deck were actually popping out. I’m surprised that the county doesn’t either repair it or block it off.

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Some cross-country action.

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And finally, a baby goat. I don’t think nature has made a cuter creature. It might even be cuter than a puppy.

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And that’s all for now. Off to California, and then Holland. I thought, when I moved out here to the Catskills, that I’d maybe work a little less, enjoy life a little more. As it’s turned out…well, let’s just say I’m burning the candle at both ends!

John

medicalwriter.net