Taste the Catskills 2019

a bikepacking adventure

April 19, 2019 – Coming this summer is a three day gravel ride through the Catskills. Slightly modified from what Ralph rode last year. No date yet, but thinking June. – Curt

The beginning of epic adventures is so small – casual words in passing or an idea that pops in your head … or in this case, posting a call for comrades on a social media site for bike rides. I’ve ridden several rides and events with Curt and Ralph so I know their style of riding, which made it easy to say YES to the invite.

Taste the Catskills is a 320-mile self-supported bikepacking route with over 22,000′ of climbing developed by local randonneur Ralph Pruitt. Ralph is known for seeking out every hill and every inch of dirt he can find. Deeming a route a “Ralph Ride” can only mean it’s stupid hard but incredibly fun and rewarding. It should be noted that Ralph previewed the route last year in one shot.

Logistics

Lodging. We stayed at Blue Hill Lodge & Cafe in Clarysville and Hammo’s Pub & Lodge in Hensonville. Having a room booked in advance gave us a pre-determined end point each day as well as a cool shower and comfortable bed.

Packing. With the daily distance, heat, and humidity – packing light and fast was paramount. If it wasn’t necessary for three days on the road, it didn’t come. Everything fit in my seatpost bag, half-frame bag, and handlebar bag. Also, “fast” is all relative as we were out for 10-13 hours each day.

For a full list of what was brought and what was purchased along the way, check the end of the blog post.

Training. I’m not a fan of formal training plans in the same way I am not a fan of riding on a trainer. My general plan is to figure out what I’m getting myself into and build up to something that’s a reasonable facsimile. 2019 has been a year of challenging rides, with most including around 100’/mi of climbing.

The climbing didn’t feel like an issue so much as I haven’t ridden a century in something like 4 or 5 years. Looking at the daily breakdown of the route (we were riding this over 3 days), there were lots of beastly hills in the back half of each day – pacing would be key to make it through each day.

Pics Because It Happened

Nerdy Details & Random Thoughts

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3

Day 1 – The Hardest Day.

It was super hot & muggy and not very shaded. Once we climbed out of Pawling, we cruised on the rail trail for 30 miles – so most of the climbing was concentrated into the back 55 miles. Once we left New Paltz, opportunities for refueling and refilling water from commercial outlets dropped dramatically. After climbing Mohonk and Peekamoose, we were pretty shredded. A 15-mile downhill awaited us, which was such a relief. But we were rapidly running out of water and we still had a crazy climb to get to our rest stop for the night. Only 1 of the three camp stores we tried was open. The final 5-mile climb was obscene in places and I’m not ashamed to say I hopped off my bike and pushed it in places.

We arrived at the Blue Hill Cafe to find the restaurant portion closed. All three of us were tired and hungry; the thought of choking down another ClifBar as dinner was nauseating. Fortunately, the owner was closing out her register and set us up with fresh homemade chicken salad sandwiches, pickles, chips, and beverages. The cafe wasn’t going to open before we needed to leave in the morning so we were able to grab delicious coffeecake to go.

We are absolutely exhausted here.

Day 2 – The Longest Day.

Coming off day 1 and seeing a forecast of even higher temps (near 90* F) and humidity paired with an additional 18 miles until our next overnight accommodations, we opted to leave earlier. Curt had to repair his front shifting cable so we ended up leaving only an hour earlier than Day 1. The morning chill was most welcome as we zoomed out of town and found our first good hill within a few miles. Today was Dirt Day and we knew there would be some formidable climbs in the latter half of the day. Dirt always takes a bit more energy than pavement but is generally mercifully shaded, which provides much needed respite from the sun.

Brunch was 45 miles into the day at a diner in Downsville where we gobbled up eggs and toast and homefries while draining glasses of lemonade as fast as the waitress could bring them. When asked where we were headed, we replied Windham … to which another patron exclaimed “That’s far!” About 75 miles far. Two women on motorcycles stopped me to ask about my bike setup … turns out one of them is planning a ride from Portland, OR to Denver, CO in September. She asked if I would be interested in that journey. I wish I could have said yes.

45 miles to breakfast

Leaving Downsville I noticed my rear tire had gone flat … not from the chunky dirt descent to NY30, but from a staple on the road in town. The guys had my tire changed before I could protest and say I could do it myself. Back on the road, we started the 10-mile climb to De Lancy that was happily mostly shaded. The same could not be said for the road between Delhi and Hobart, which was paved and radiant in the sun. It was so hot the tar was snapping under our tires. We ducked onto the rail trail but it was very slow going and overgrown. In the interest of time, we popped back out on the road into Stanford.

Maybe the best part of touring is ice cream stops. We were hot and sweaty and in need of inner cooling. A massive twist cone was just the ticket to keep moving. We’re at mile 82 with 36 hilly miles to go. By mile 101, we’re all cooked again and just want to get to our next overnight room but we have four more “bumps” to conquer before being rewarded with a 5-mile downhill into Windham. From Windham, it’s only another 3 miles to our room. We finally get cleaned up and head next door to Vesuvio Restaurant in Hensonville. We ate like royalty and after a long day, it felt good to put real food in the belly.

Why yes, I did pack a dress in case we had free time in the evenings.

Knowing our final day would be lower miles and lower climbing, we opted to see what time we woke up to determine when we would leave in the morning.

Day 3 – The Easy Day

We woke around 6:30am and headed down the street to Nana Gail’s for breakfast, filling our bellies once again with eggs and bread and bacon for the guys. The day was overcast with a 50% chance of thunderstorms so we made sure our rain gear was easily accessible should we find ourselves in a downpour. A short climb out of the Windham area gave way to an epic 15-mile descent back to the Hudson River. We crossed on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge and made our way to Copake, where we would stop for lunch at Dad’s Diner. Our energy is high because we’re on our way home.

This is also the only day I beat the guys up any hills. It should be noted they both have McGuyver’d their gravel bikes to have a 40t or 42t granny gear on their cassette – so they were mostly spinning up the hills like it was Sunday. My granny gear is 34t on my cassette so Grind is my middle name.

If I ever find the funds to start building up a custom gravel bike, you can be sure mountain bike gearing with deep low gears will be top on my list.

After lunch the clouds had given way to brilliant sunshine so we made our way to the rail trail for some shaded goodness. The connection between the two segments from Copake to Millerton is still under construction so we headed onto the pavement. We stopped for cold snacks and water in Millerton before heading back to the cool and shady rail trail to Wassaic.

Sometime after Wassaic, we decided to skip the remaining bonkers hills in favor of an “easier” route to the end. It ended up being only 600′ less of climbing (over 20 miles) but the hills were more rolling than challenging. We’re tired, our bodies are protesting, and frankly this is the second or third day in a kit so it’s getting a bit … funky … around here.

Rolling up to our start location, we decided to get cleaned up and have one final meal together at the local pizza place to celebrate our incredible journey.

Packing & Gear

2015 Salsa Colossal Ti with SPD pedals and the following upgrades:

Revelate Designs Tangle frame bag

Revelate Designs Pika seatpost bag

BiKase Nav handlebar bag

  • Front and rear lights
  • Spare battery
  • Charge cables for phone and Garmin
  • Garmin w/course loaded
  • Fully charged cell phone
  • RoadID
  • Cash, ID, and Health Insurance card in a mini wallet
  • Sunglasses
  • Nuun electrolyte replacement tablets (1 tube)
  • ClifBloks x5
  • ClifBars x5
  • 2 20-oz water bottles
  • 2 17-oz Platypus bottles
  • Lightweight flip flops
  • Soft cup bra
  • Underwear x2
  • Travel dress
  • Shirt & shorts to sleep in
  • Mountain biking shoes w/SPD cleats
  • Helmet
  • Buff
  • Cycling Gloves
  • Rain jacket
  • Sun sleeves
  • Wind vest
  • Second kit (jersey, bra, socks, Pactimo bibs)
  • Tools & spare tube
  • Toiletries (travel shampoo, conditioner, face wash, toothpaste, q-tips, toothbrush, deodorant)
  • Sunscreen (zinc oxide lotion for face, small spray bottle for body, zinc oxide lip balm)
  • medications in a multi-day travel container

Tips for Adventuring by Bike

  • Start Small. My first bikepacking adventure was 15 miles to a campground for the weekend with a few friends. It was a game-changer.
  • Ride What You Got. I love my bike but it doesn’t take tires wider than 30mm. I ride the only gravel tire I’ve found sub-32mm. Sure, I can’t bomb down chunky descents and I have to pick my lines carefully, but I’ve become a skilled technical rider in the meantime.
  • Learn to Pace Yourself. There is nothing worse than bonking even a few miles from your final destination. Don’t dig yourself into a hole – be sure to eat and hydrate regularly. Take a look at the course so you have an idea of where the hardest parts are and don’t go for KOMs. You need energy for more than just today.
  • Learn to Eat & Drink On The Ride. “I can’t eat on rides.” You wouldn’t drive your car around on Empty, so why try to bike that way? It’s not a race – Don’t dig a hole you can’t climb out of. The way to do this is to eat something every 90min or so and sip your hydration beverage every few miles. Eat real food like trail mix, salted nuts, potato chips, pretzels … convenience stores are generally well-stocked with these foods. Some even have sandwich counters, which can save the day.
  • Be Clear & Copious. If your pee isn’t clear and copious, you aren’t hydrating enough. This isn’t always possible to achieve but it should be on your mind as an easy way to monitor your hydration levels.
  • Have Fun! The whole point of a bike adventure is to get away from it all and explore new places. Remind yourself that all you have to do today is ride your bike. And then go ride your bike.

Thank You to Ralph for creating an amazing route that showcased the hidden gems of the Catskills, to Curt for wanting to ride the route over 3 days, and to Yorktown Cycles for keeping my Salsa in top condition and for the excellent upgrade recommendations. The Nox wheels were clutch in keeping my energy transfer to the bike and not on rotational resistance. And to all my bike friends who have come out to ride bonkers events and routes with me in preparation for this adventure.

See you out there!

Farmer’s Daughter Gravel Grinder 2019

Nothing hurts and I can’t wait to sign up for next year.

Last year’s FDGG was a test of strength, stamina, grit, and tenacity. The ride is still pretty beastly but this year, the weather gods smiled upon us and gifted us with flawless conditions.

Farmer’s Daughter Gravel Grinder (FDGG) is a 65 mile gravel ride featuring 6,500′ of climbing and 6 off-road segments to keep things spicy. The ride is limited to 400 intrepid people and is not something to sign up for on a whim. The course features back-to-back rollers with grades ticking up into the high-teens.

This year I rode with Gail (her inaugural year) and Matt (round 2 with me). At the start I also saw my friends Curt, Kyle, Reba, Melissa, and a few others that I didn’t get to see but knew were there. We also ran into a woman from an online bike ride group I belong to and ended up yo-yo’ing with her for the last half of the ride.

photo courtesy of my friend Melissa

I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I joined a cycling team this year – Splunk. This should be interesting because I don’t race and my idea of training is just to ride my bike more. But the kit is pretty nice looking. I recently learned that I can get the kit from Pactimo instead of the other provider. So I’m re-ordering my kit because Pactimo is high quality and super comfortable. And they are based in Colorado. JUST LIKE MY HEART.

ANYWAY … over the course of the day we passed many riders who ultimately took shortcuts or SAG’d back to the start. Pro Tip: do not underestimate the Farmer’s Daughter.

At one point we had been climbing for a while and I was feeling particularly spunky rolling up on a bearded guy. We started chatting about the ride, how he was tired already, but I encouraged him to keep going. After a few minutes he asks me if I was also at Cross Mountain Crusher (I was). Apparently we spoke at that ride too!

I guess find me at a ride and I will encourage you up any hill. ha!

I have my own philosophy about how gravel grinders don’t need to be super hard or have sections that select few can actually ride while the rest of us mere mortals have to walk, but that’s a blog post for another day. If you are local to the NYC area and looking for a rad gravel ride closer to home, check out my gravel ride in October, The Dirty Apple.

So what was different from last year?

Significantly less mud. My bike was fresh off a tune-up and upgrades to my bottom bracket, handlebars (everyone needs more cowbell in their life), and seatpost. It had never been so clean …

Weather. The day started with gray skies that threatened to rain but ended up with brilliant blue skies and a healthy dose of muggy humidity.

Conditions. The roads were in great shape from rain earlier in the week and dried out enough to be fast-rolling. The off-road segments remained an absolute mud fest, just significantly less so. We ended up walking several sections of mud with standing water that threatened to pull off our shoes when we walked through it.

Photo Ops. Because we didn’t need to spend our energy *just* *moving* *forward*, we were able to take a look around and enjoy the stunning scenery that Columbia County offers.

And let’s not forget the incredible volunteers who check you in, keep you on course, feed you at the rest stops, and cook up plenty of food so that even the stragglers are well fed before cleaning up and going home.

FDGG is getting more popular every year and it’s no wonder why – Columbia County has a bounty of stunning views and wide network of dirt roads to explore. FDGG and the organizers’ other ride, Farmer’s Fatty, are fantastically well organized and run events. If you are in the New York/New England area, put these events on your calendar for next year.

See you out there!

Cross Mountain Crusher 2019

I had spun myself into a pretty impressive anxiety spiral. So much so that just looking at the French toast in front of me, made from buttery croissants and paired with fresh local maple syrup and bright red raspberries, was causing my stomach to flip. I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t figure out why my anxiety was like a tea kettle on the stove, whistling that it was ready.


The Cross Mountain Crusher is a 55-mile, 5,000’+ of climbing gravel ride in the Catskills of New York featuring five monstrous climbs. The namesake ride up Cross Mountain features grades that pitch up to and a touch over 20%. Billed as a training ride for Farmer’s Daughter Gravel Grinder in May, this ride is meant to test your strength, stamina, and endurance.

This spring’s weather has been all over the place – torrential downpours and bright sunny days juxtaposing themselves in a way where it’s hard to find any time to mountain bike because if the trails aren’t mud, they are not quite dry yet. Rinse and repeat.

The 10-day forecast called for low-60s and sunshine for this year’s Crusher. The reality that was slowly eating my sanity was I had signed up for a grueling ride and the forecast was looking … well, not low-60s and sunny.

Actual forecast: 35*, snow, wind on tap for this year’s event

I booked myself a room at the Meadowood Inn, about a half-mile from the start location to maximize my sleeping in time, but the weather forecast had my brain running wildly.

Let’s talk about the weather for a minute. The temps did indeed sit at about 35* all day. The winds were formidable, but gravel roads tend to be in wooded areas so this really only impacted us when we popped out into open fields between climbs.

It ended up snowing all day with periods of sleet. Somehow the sleet squalls coincided with descents, which made visibility a challenge but also, exfoliated my face pretty sufficiently. On the last downhill, the winds picked up so not only were we being pelted by thousands of tiny knife-like ice pellets, but also being pushed across the road by the wind. GOOD TIMES.


The ride itself was amazing and will only be better under warmer spring temps and a little more sunshine. The dirt roads are quiet and scenic – had I not started freezing anytime I stopped moving, I may have had some beautiful photos to share. You’ll just have to go look at the website and trust me. The climbs truly separate the racers from the people looking to enjoy the day. Nothing is unmanageable but one would do well to ride some ridiculous rides with obscene levels of climbing to prep.

The descents on dirt were washed out in places and some had large rocks littering the way way so it wasn’t possible for me to really let go and enjoy the descents. But again, nothing unmanageable for anyone with adequate mountain biking or cyclocross skills.

Quite possibly the worst part of the ride is the last 15 miles, which are 2 miles of downhill followed by 13 miles of flat-to-gently-rolling pavement. After so many back to back big climbs, my legs were D O N E and I just wanted to be back at the start for some well-deserved lunch. Peeling off multiple soaked-through layers of clothing was painful, although putting on warm, dry clothing and a down puffy jacket was delicious.

Rides like this are best completed with friends. My friend Kyle rode with me for this event and I am so thankful he did. We saw our friends Curt and Ralph at the start but they quickly disappeared with the lead pack. We found our other friend Matt on the first climb and fortunately we kept finding each other along the way. When the weather is this challenging, it’s nice to have someone to talk to and make the miles tick by faster.


THREE THINGS I DID RIGHT:

  • My bike choice. I rode my Salsa Colossal Ti with 26mm Panaracer GravelKing SKs. Despite the rain all day prior to the ride, the dirt was flawlessly tacky for the event. I had brought up my hardtail mountain bike in case conditions were deeply muddy, but I’m glad I didn’t ride it.
  • Not driving up the morning of. Staying overnight locally meant I wasn’t too stiff from sitting in the car for 2 hours right before a ride.
  • It’s a ride, not a race. I’m not the fastest gravel rider because my philosophy is one should always have enough in the tank to get back home. The first two climbs were really tough but saving some legs for later was key. You can see my stats here.

THREE THINGS I DID NOT DO RIGHT:

  • Overpacking. I was terrified that I would be too cold on such a long ride and Girl Scout Mode kicked in. I had a few different options stuffed into my backpack – insulated gloves, neck gaiter, wind vest, windbreaker, and a ton of food. In the end I wore a windbreaker over my jersey after shoving my winter bike jacket into the pack. The thing probably added a good 5 pounds to my effort. DO NOT DO THIS ON A CLIMBY RIDE.
  • Using a hydration bladder instead of bottles. Again, lighten up, lady! 1.5 litres of water was nice but unnecessary on a SUPPORTED RIDE. But this was the result of thinking I would be on my mountain bike, which only has one bottle cage. Had I been on my mountain bike (horrible choice), this would have been an excellent decision.
  • Getting stuck in my own head. There really wasn’t any reason to be so anxious. The Cross Mountain Crusher is a well supported, great event in a beautiful part of New York, put on by an awesome group of people.

See you at the Cross Mountain Crusher next year!

Farmer’s Fatty 2019

Again! It’s been a tough winter, although this year dialed down the snow and brutal cold while dialing up the cold rain. Bah.

The guys who brought us Farmer’s Daughter Gravel Grinder announced they wanted to start a new ride, the Farmer’s Fatty, as a Very Early Spring training ride for their signature event in May. Of course, I felt compelled to sign up for both events. Last year was so pretty and challenging – why not take a shorter crack at it?

Farmer’s Fatty was hosted by S&S Brewery in Nassau, NY. This working farm brewery has an adorable taproom and food trucks on-site. The brewery is almost 2 hours from northern Westchester. I met up with a few other friends and riders from my local mountain bike association who I had somehow encouraged to sign up as well.

I should mention is was C O L D. The warming trend that had occurred all week abruptly ended. It was 28*F with 25mph winds at the start, warming to a still-cold 34* at the end.

WMBA showing up for a gravel grinder

The route was an unmarked, abbreviated version of Farmer’s Daughter featuring plenty of rutted nut-butter roads and fantastic scenery. I decided early on to just enjoy the day and not push it too hard. None of the climbs were particularly brutal, but the entire route mostly trended UP.

It was St Paddy’s Day so this Irish-by-marriage girl had to represent

The hills definitely helped keep us warm on the climbs, but the descents were freezing. I usually only wear a thermal headband and windproof gloves most of the winter due to how my body generates and dissipates heat – but had to wear my full skullcap and insulated gloves to stay warm. There was one rest stop at about 12 miles with delicious baked goods, water, and gatorade.

Farm country is beautiful
This wasn’t the worst of the rutted, potholed, nut-better roads but was representative of a good portion of the (wheel-sucking) terrain
Back to the brewery!

Once back to the brewery, there were two food trucks slinging delicious hot food for hungry riders. Each rider received a free pint of beer as well, a nice post-ride refreshment for those who partake. Since I don’t drink beer, I opted to bring home a growler for my husband of their Udder Darkness Oatmeal Stout.

Overall the ride was a great Very Early Spring gravel grinder with Vermont Dirt conditions – but in (relative) upstate New York. The route was 90% dirt, which is something I could only dream of downstate. If you love early spring variability on conditions and challenging terrain, Farmer’s Fatty is right for you.

See you on the road!

Adios, 2018!

I’ve been in a foul mood for the last week. 2018 has felt both supremely long and shockingly short. And while I sometimes feel that everything my husband and I have built for our lives came crashing to a halt in the last two years or so, we have managed to still have some amazing moments.

… Harness in the good energy, block out the bad. Harness. Energy. Block. Bad. It’s like a carousel. You put the quarter in, you get on the horse, it goes up and down, and around. Circular, circle. Feel it. Go with the flow … (Happy Gilmore)

In the spirit of gratitude and reflection, here are the best moments of 2018:

January

  • I discovered others share my life mantra of Maximum Enthusiasm
  • I officially achieved my goal TSH! #thyca
  • I went fat biking – and discovered I enjoy getting fat all winter!
  • Two of my sisters and one of my nieces came to visit me. ❤
  • I adopted a senior beagle, who we named Beauregard, and my dog-mom life is basically complete.

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February

  • I demo’d a sweet Kona Big Honzo DL and questioned if I really wanted a full suspension mountain bike when I got a job
  • The Eagles won the Super Bowl!
  • My doggo had a successful surgery to remove a lump under his leg
  • I rode bikes with a guy in a velomobile

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March

  • Not one but TWO multi-day power outages! Great excuse to break out the camping gear at home. Thanks, Nor’Easters!
  • I became a Pactimo Brand Ambassador!
  • Hosted my first Trail Maintenance work day to repair a section of boardwalk that was devastatingly broken.

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April

  • I did a lot of gravel and mountain biking as the snow abated
  • One son was accepted to the university of his choice
  • My other son went mountain biking with me for the first time ❤
  • Wild green onions grew in our yard for literally no reason
  • Muddy Onion with Karen, Gail, and Matt!! (read the post – then go register for 2019)

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May

  • I celebrated 5 years of mountain biking with … more mountain biking
  • I was one of three speakers as part of REI’s Women’s Speaker Series, discussing trail construction and maintenance
  • Formally announced registration was open for The Dirty Apple Ride
  • Rode gravel in the rain with my friend Judy
  • Farmer’s Daughter Gravel Grinder with Matt!! (go register for 2019!)
  • My in-laws and two of my nieces came to visit! ❤

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June

  • Completed my fourth Ride for Homes, benefiting Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia
  • Girls + Matt Bike Camping weekend at Kingdom Trails was literally me living my best life  #ThankYouLandOwners
  • Rode my bike to the farm for their strawberry festival
  • Friday afternoons at the brewery, sitting on the patio and watching the tractors go by
  • 3 years cancer-free
  • Another child of mine graduated from high school

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July

  • Birthday!
  • Lots of route scouting and adjusting for The Dirty Apple
  • A hawk landed in the tree behind our house and ate a snake while the sparrows of our yard screamed and darted around. That was cool.
  • Mt Riga gravel and Three State rides
  • And I got a job!! … which also means significantly less bike time.

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August

  • Started that new job, which is right off the bike path but doesn’t have showers
  • Hatch chile verde – frozen leftover from the in-law visit in May – is food of the gods
  • NEW BIKE DAY!! Santa Cruz 5010c XX1. She’s orange and her name is Jezebelle.
  • Golden Gran Fondo, courtesy of Pactimo Brand Ambassador program!! (go register for 2019!)
  • Time in Colorado with my friends and family ❤
  • My friend, who passed away suddenly back in May, visited me in a dream. It was his birthday when I woke up.

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September

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October

  • The Dirty Apple Ride was a huge success! I learned a lot about bringing a bike event to fruition and can’t wait to open registration for 2019!
  • Learned Adventure Cycling has a two-week bike tour of Denali and added that to my list of Bike Things To Do In My Lifetime
  • Took one of my sons to see Nine Inch Nails with Jesus & Mary Chain.
  • Took my second ever mountain bike skills clinic and learned exactly how much better I can be with proper technique
  • Organized a trail care morning for my office
  • Summoned for Grand Jury Duty! … but ended up dismissed
  • Our trail town committee (I’m the VP!), along with tremendous volunteers, completed a 600′ boardwalk section of a new trail we’re building

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November

  • Surgery to remove a lump in my breast (it was benign).
  • Built a bog bridge over a section of a local trail that crosses a wetland with the help of 14 fellow mountain bikers. Trail Care is a thing!
  • Not enough riding because Recovery (who knew a 5cm incision would hurt so much?)
  • My son and his girlfriend came home for a weekend! ❤
  • My sister and her girlfriend and her daughter came to visit for almost the whole week of Thanksgiving and it was glorious! ❤

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December

  • Ice Weasels Cometh with Karen! This year was at an abandoned insane asylum. It was cold. And fun. And the only bike race I will ever do.
  • ClifBar brought back Peppermint Stick to the seasonal flavor line-up. Yes, this makes me happy.
  • Finally back on the bike more consistently – if only it would stop raining! #OperationAvoidTheTrainer
  • Installed a new mailbox post and mailbox, instantly improving the curb appeal of our home
  • Went on a night gravel ride to see ERDAJT, the world’s largest outdoor holiday light display
  • Celebrated 7 years as East Coast citizens
  • Had all of my babies home for the holidays ❤

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What does 2019 hold? Hopefully a lot more fun, family, friends, and bikes.

See you in the future!

Sometimes it *is* the bike, not the rider

Many of us have heard the phrase “it’s not the bike, it’s the rider.” So you find yourself pushing hard on every ride – and still getting dropped. Or the ever-present complaining about the bike being the reason a rider fails to perform.

While most of the time, it is the rider’s abilities that directly contribute to the enjoyment or success of a ride – but sometimes, it is totally the bike’s fault. The right bike can make or break a ride.


My first bike as an adult was a mountain-style hybrid that I never ended up riding much, followed by a comfort hybrid – designed for slow-speed cruising, not crushing double-digit rides. It was very heavy and sluggish with an extremely upright riding position – basically turning me into a wind-sail anytime I rode down a hill.

I pushed myself so hard on that bike, so confused as to why I was being passed on the bike trail by people on bikes with drop bars. All bikes are equal, right? I just need to work harder and get faster. Spoiler – the minute I bought a mid-level road bike, I immediately improved my ability to ride longer with less fatigue.


The reality is, many entry-level bikes serve to get us out there – but then do little to keep us moving forward efficiently. Sometimes entry-level bikes are overbuilt and generally heavier than their higher-level brethren. The bike can withstand a beating, but that’s why it’s holding *you* back.

Like most people, I use the equipment I have to do the adventures I want, generally using the wrong bike for the wrong purposes. It stems from a lack of discretionary funds, not hubris or elite level ability that seeks a new challenge. To be sure though, watching somebody rock a gravel grinder on a bike with a front basket while wearing Tevas, jorts, and a tie-dye muscle shirt is hilarious.

Yesterday I drove to a friend’s neighborhood to do a gravel ride. It snowed earlier in the week – heavy, wet snow that further saturated the already oversaturated earth – so the roads were going to be muddy and slushy. This is not optimal for the road bike that I have MacGuyver’d to be a gravel bike.

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(Although – praise Panaracer GravelKing SKs for being offered in sub-30mm tire width.)

So I decided to ride my hardtail mountain bike. It’s cutting-edge stock 2012 entry-level components (although I replaced the brakes and the quick-releases because they failed at various points).  It’s an aluminum 29er … but it’s heavy. Really heavy. It’s not built for speed or efficiency.

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Once again I am reminded of just how heavy and inefficient this bike is by trying desperately to keep up with my friends, who are also riding their mountain bikes on the dirt roads.

To be fair, I also haven’t ridden my bike in about six weeks due to a combination of life, work, weather, health, and trail maintenance projects. My October Strava stats were kindof hilarious.

Oct2018Stats
mentally insert the emojii for fire here

The power transfer is practically non-existent, like pouring my energy into a black hole. I have a triple crankset, yet on the road never seemed to find a good gear for keeping up without feeling like I was pushing against a brick wall.  To cap it all off, the bike is set up with flat pedals instead of SPDs because I was too lazy to swap them out before the ride.

Contrast with purchasing a pre-loved 2015 full-sus trail bike for when I want to hit the woods – and things that used to be a chore are now routine and even fun. The bike isn’t actively working against me, which my hardtail does. But it certainly would have worked against me on the road had I opted for it instead, including locking out both suspensions, because even though it’s lighter than my hardtail, it’s still a mountain bike on the road.

The right bike for the ride can make or break your enjoyment.

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this bike is amazing and has helped me feel more confident on the trails

Some of the roads warranted the extra width of my 2.25″ tires, but many were either paved or more tacky than muddy. I found myself wondering if actually getting a gravel or drop-bar mountain bike might be something to consider. Something to bridge the gap of a road bike fitted with slightly-knobby tires and a full-on mountain bike.

But that’s not currently on the agenda after 18 months of unemployment that destroyed our savings and retirement savings. We have other, more pressing projects deserving of our remaining reserves.

We finished the ride in surprisingly good time (a little less than 3 hours for a little over 30 miles) and everyone really took turns hanging back with me to chat and enjoy the ride. It felt really good to be back out turning the pedals, but also reminded me of why I hate riding that bike so much. It sucks my will to ride.


With fat bike season upon us and my schedule freeing up, I’m looking forward to getting out more regularly with friends to explore trails and gravel roads. See you out there!

 

The Dirty Apple Ride 2018

I am tardy on this write-up. Sorry! I’ve been busy planning my latest trail care projects. 

Gravel grinding is one of my most favorite things to do. Westchester County isn’t exactly known for its dirt roads – but we have them. Westchester Cycle Club has year-round dirt and gravel rides. Given the popularity of gravel these days, the Board decided to host a gravel event instead of the usual road ride, The Golden Apple Ride.

I was super happy to be able to be the co-Event Director for The Dirty Apple Ride.

My summer was spent developing routes that were both beautiful and challenging – but not so much that a novice gravel rider would feel they were in over their head. I came up with four roughly-concentric routes, ranging from 30 to 60 miles. My co-Event Director Christine was busy getting permits filed and posters to the various bike shops in the area. I managed our communications, online registration, and marketing. She solicited volunteers and coordinated our rest stops and food. We met up monthly, then weekly, as the date got closer.

Event Directing is a full-time job and even with most of the tasks split between us, it was still a challenge. We had a few other volunteers to help us make decisions, complete day-prior tasks, and fund the event – Bob, Bill, Rich, and Steve – as well as a slew of club members who volunteered the day of the event. We couldn’t have done this without them!

A few weeks before the ride our photographer, Dave from Kraus Grafik Services, came down to do a photo shoot of various locations along the route.

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all photos by Kraus Grafik Services

My personal favorite part of the longest route is through a county park. The gravel is chunkier and the climb is a little over 2 miles long, but you feel a million miles away from civilization (even though NYC is about 30 miles south).

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Pass between two ponds and the climb begins

The day of the ride went as well as any event can go – a few hiccups but mostly awesome. The weather was overcast but warm and it had rained the night before – perfect dirt road conditions. The general consensus, confirmed by our rider survey, was the routes were beautiful; the food plentiful; the beer deserved.

The official photo album can be found here.

I’m looking forward to Event Directing the ride again in 2019 – even though it means not getting to ride the event myself! Seeing the happy, muddy faces come back to the start was such a reward for all the time and energy Christine and I put into this event.

Watch the Dirty Apple Ride page for updates as to when the ride will be scheduled next year.

 

As always – see you on the road!