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Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

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Pedaling through a Pandemic: Week 1

With Social Distancing, Self Quarantine and Shelter in Place becoming the new norm, life as we know it has taken on a whole new meaning. However this shakes out, as a world, we will be forever changed.

If you read my last post at cyclingtravelguide.com, you’ll know that I had to depart my work trip a few days early and drive back from Chicago. While grounded for the time being, I’ve been able to get away from my laptop A few hours a day and hit the pavement, gravel and singletrack, that’s abundant in and around Milford. I’ve pedaled with friends (6 feet apart), my son and alone.

I’ve actually stayed quite close to my home, riding through the community, my gravel kingdom and the trails that surround the forest. It’s been weird seeing so many people out there, walking and hiking, especially on the week days. I guess everyone needs to get out of the house and soak in some Vitamin D.

For those that cannot go to work, this forced vacation is a time that can be spent safely with family, in the outdoors and is a great time to get some home projects done. And remember to thank everyone that is putting their health at risk by going to work every day: Supermarket employees, pharmacies, restaurants, gas stations, truck drivers, delivery services, plumbers, electricians, mechanics and all the great people that keep the world afloat, including all Health Care Workers and First Responders.

I’ll keep this going each week until it comes to some kind of conclusion. Stay safe, be positive and clean everything. We are all in this together, I mean separately.

Chicagoland

While sitting home on St. Patrick’s Day, and grounded for now, like most people, I can’t help but wonder where all this is going. The COVID-19 Virus has certainly changed our world. While we should practice social distancing, that does not mean that we cannot get outside. Last week, while in Chicago, I ventured out on a few rides, taking in all that suburban Cook County has to offer.

Bert, a local rider and good friend, invited me to ride with him from his home on Saturday, over to the Lake Katherine area and onto the Cal-Sag Trail, a paved byway, along the Cal-Sag Canal. It was quite windy, but at 45 degrees, warm for Chicagoland in March. Pedaling through, we saw many walkers, runners and cyclists, predominantly because this was a few days before any social distancing was talked about. 30 miles went by quickly.

On Sunday, we ventured out for a longer, hillier ride. Starting at Bert’s house again, we re-traced our route to the Cal-Sag Trail, rode a good portion of it and made our way over to Lemont. The hilly route culminating with the infamous Timberline Drive climb, really showed off the beauty of Cook County and beyond. We traveled back to the Cal-Sag and finished pretty gassed as 54+ miles was the longest ride this year for either of us.

Could not let this photo op pass by

I was able to get out a couple more times after work, later in the week. Nothing huge, but got to experience some more of the hills in Lemont and a little more of the trail.

Bert did promise me a ride from Soldier Field to Wrigley Field along Lake Michigan. It might have happened, however, I was unsure my weekday flight would happen, so I decided to drive home on Saturday night. I’ll take a rain check!

Bert, climbing Timberline Drive

To leave off, a lot is being said about our incredible health care providers, stepping up big in a time of need and it’s well deserved. But I also want to say that our food service workers, pharmacies, supermarket employees, truck drivers, delivery drivers, and gas stations are also staying open as much as possible. First responders, plumbers, electricians and all our service professionals are doing a wonderful job keeping us going and I’m grateful to live in a world where people put others before themselves, thank you!!!

Velo Orange Nouveau Randonneur Handlebar: Reviewed

With improved research, design and craftsmanship going into bicycle components, these days, handlebars are all the rage. With numerous new offerings for road, gravel, touring and mountain, there’s no shortage of social media, depicting the perfect bar for you. Myself, I’m usually comfortable on any drop bar.

That said, last year, I ordered a Velo Orange Nouveau Randonneur bar to top off my Kona Honky Tonk. The curvy top and shallow drop got me interested and the silver finish fit in with the retro look I was going for. Right out of the box, the 44cm just worked for me.

Offered in 42, 44 and 46Cm and silver as well as a noir finish for the more modern build, the 12 degree flare gives you more control in the descents over a standard road bar. I put about 1200 miles on the bar and swapped the drivetrain from the Honky Tonk to my Ritchey Breakaway Road to accommodate my work travel.

I liked the bar so much that I ordered one in noir for the Ritchey. Although, it’s a bit taller, the 44cm works just as well on this bike. I’m building the Tonk up with a 9 speed drivetrain, so the silver bar will be back in play.

From Velo Orange:

With comfortable fit characteristics such as shorter reach, shallow drop, and a mellow backsweep, the Nouveau Randonneur Handlebar is optimally designed for long days and nights for riders using integrated shifters and aero brake levers.

The tops are ovalized and swept back ever so slightly from the stem clamp. This makes for a bigger area upon which your hands can rest. A wider palm base means road vibrations and impacts are distributed better and not centralized into a specific spot effectively reducing hand, wrist, and elbow fatigue. Additionally, the sweep lends itself better (than a straight top) to your hands’ natural resting position.

  • Widths (measured center-to-center at the hoods): 42, 44, 46cm
  • Backsweep: 5 degrees
  • Ramp length: 105mm
  • Traditional reach: 85mm
  • Drop: 128mm
  • Stem clamp diameter: 31.8mm
  • Brake lever clamp diameter: 23.8mm
  • Weight (44cm): 301g

If your searching for that comfortable handlebar for all day rides, look no further, the Velo Orange Nouveau Randonneur Handlebar is exactly what your looking for.

Hooray for Houston

After a surprisingly pleasant trip to Milwaukee, I flew to Port Arthur, Texas and subsequently over to Houston. If you read my last post, you can tell I did not love Port Arthur and you know that while I’m usually in town to work, I’m able to squeeze in some riding a few days a week. Well, from the minute I arrived in Houston, I could tell this was going to be a much different story.

In town for only 3 days, I checked in to my hotel in the Galleria area and drove down to Memorial Park. An employee of the park explained that the loop there was only about a mile. She sent me over to the White Oak Bayou Trail. A google search on the way over showed that it is over 65 miles in length, stretching through Houston and into the suburbs. While I did not get her name, she displayed the common theme I witnessed while in this very nice city, everyone is friendly. She took great interest in making sure I experienced cycling in Houston in the best possible way.

I started out near Sawyer Heights Street and made my way onto the trail, heading west through The Heights and Inwood, 2 very nice neighborhoods. I cruised along the narrow Bayou for about 16 miles until it came to an end. Perfect, as time would allow, 30+ miles was all I could squeeze in. I zipped back, enjoying the urban landscape with breathtaking views of downtown and upscale neighborhoods.

The only downside was that I broke my cleat at the start of the ride and rode the entire way with one foot clipped in. A quick stop at the Bike Barn on Wirt Road the following day was all I needed to get back in my pedals. Jeff installed them while I waited and gave me some great tips on where to ride. Awesome shop and a good resource.

Aside of the cleat issue, it was a fantastic ride. 80 degrees in February, I’ll take that anytime. Being from the northeast, I’m happy when it’s above freezing. Today’s rain, kept me off the bike on my final full day before tomorrow’s travel day. I’m finally going home. 36 days on the road. My coveted Pennsylvania gravel awaits. Look for that at ridingmilford.com.

The way I see it, Houston is for cyclists. I’ll have to explore more on my next stop here, but from what I’ve seen, I can’t wait to get back here.

What’s Playing? What am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding? Today – Tony Carey – A Fine Fine Day

Port Arthur, Texas

After Gettysburg, I was home for 2 days, then I shoved off to Milwaukee. After 6 days, I headed to Port Arthur, Texas for 2 weeks. Port Arthur is in the southeast corner of Texas. Although it’s near the Gulf Coast, access to the water is limited, as industry occupies much of the land near the coast. Most people work at the many oil refineries throughout southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana

My Mother always said, “if you have nothing nice say, say nothing at all”. That said, this is not a cycling Mecca! As a matter of fact, there are not many back roads at all. Most of the infrastructure consists of high traffic, commercial highways. The roads that are available are mostly tar and chip or concrete with huge cracks. There are absolutely no hills as most of the area is below sea level. There are a few bridges with sizable shoulders. Most of these bridges are on state highways, so riding may not be legal, but we have to do what we have to do.

I did squeeze in about 7 rides, thinking that I was going to find a few riders, that could point me in the right direction. That didn’t happen. A call to the closest bike shop (16 miles away in Beaumont) only confirmed my suspicion, there’s no safe place to ride in this area. With not much time after work to travel to a suitable location, I had to make the best of the situation, I straddled my steel steed and just pedaled. After over 200 miles, I learned a few things. Generally, the people are hard working and friendly. Like anywhere else, the farther you get from town, the better the riding gets. I started the week with an informal cruise around town to get familiar with the layout. On ride# 2, I headed towards the water rode on Highway 73 and up the Memorial Bridge (20.5% incline). As I began my descent, I hit some glass and flatted. The walk down was not fun.

Memorial Bridge

Did I mention the wind. What this area lacks in hills, it makes up for with wind. No matter which way you travel your getting a strong head wind either coming or going. But, on my final ride, I finally found some respite. I headed out of my hotel onto Rt. 365. The first 2 miles are rough with heavy traffic. Once you cross Port Arthur Road, 2 lanes go down to one on each side as oil rigs, tanks and lines are replaced by cows, farms and trees. Although the roadway is mostly tar and chip, the serene country setting along with little to no traffic, helped make my final Southeast Texas bike ride a bit more pleasurable.

One of the many oil rigs

Bottom line, this is not a place you want to explore on 2 wheels. I leave today for Houston. I’ll be there 4 days. If all goes well, I’ll get at least one ride in. Stay tuned…..

 

Old Milwaukee

Sent to Milwaukee in February. Wow, I must be real high up on the corporate chain. When I was making my travel arrangements, I honestly thought that it would be much too cold in February to ride a bike. Well, occasionally, I’m wrong. I flew into the Cream City on Saturday, hoping that the Weather Channel was correct in predicting 50 degrees the next day. So as soon as I descended upon my hotel, I unpacked my bike and hoped for the best.

On Sunday, the Mid-West experienced a very unusually warm February 1st. At 52 degrees and sunny, I pedaled out of the Hilton, near Mitchell Airport and headed through Oak Creek to Cudahy and out to Lake Michigan. The 20-30 MPH winds coming off the lake made the trip out to downtown Milwaukee feel like I was in a wind tunnel. I took Lake Drive most of the way, occasionally hoping on the Oak Creek Trail, which runs along the lake. The paved trail was congested with walkers and runners, taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather. I went through the city and into White Fish Bay and had to turn around, as the wind had crushed my dreams and stole my soul. Just kidding.

Whenever I start writing, I try to find what moves me about a certain place or subject. Well, I found it as I was forced to a crawl in the relentless head wind that seemed to turn around just when I did.

Milwaukee, isn’t just a cute lake city 100 miles northwest of Chicago, It’s a city of real old beers. You won’t find an apricot IPA in one of the old time taverns scattered throughout the Cream City. Almost every bar displays the neon beer signs of the 1970’s. Actually, you could probably find all the fruity Craft beers and IPA’s in most of the trendy downtown restaurants. And it’s not nicknamed the Cream City because it was the home to more breweries than any other U.S. city or because Wisconsin is the dairy state, but because of the cream colored brick that was produced here in the mid to late 1800’s and was used to build an enormous amount of downtown buildings.

I can imagine a ride here in warmer weather. Maybe I’ll be back this summer, who knows. Maybe I’ll venture into downtown. But until then, I’ll remember how nice it was to ride along the shores of Lake Michigan’s beautiful blue waters.

Ghosts of Gettysburg

Wedged between the Michaux State Forest and the Mason Dixon Line, lies the City of Gettysburg, PA. Famous for the brutal Civil War battle that lasted 3 days and claimed more than 51,000 casualties. As I write this, I can’t help but reflect on my 2+ weeks in this historical placed that means so much to so many.

First of all, the weather in mid January has been terrific. Since I arrived on the 14th, it’s been mid 40’s all but one day, which was a snow storm. My first ride was the day before the storm. I decided that I would explore the battlefields and take a tour of the town. The battlefields have an amazing network of about 27 miles of paved roads. Although hilly, I was able to roller coaster my way through this chilling memorial to each and every battalion, regiment, troop and unit that came from all of the 13 Colonies.

I got caught in a complete whiteout that lasted for about 20 minutes, adding to the surreal scene. On my ride back to the hotel, I had an eerie feeling like I had just visited the dead.

A couple of days later, I got out for a quick spin around town. The roads were still iced over in the battlefield from the previous days storm. Then, as I prepared for my next ride. I discovered a frayed rear derailleur cable. I rode out to Gettysburg Bicycle to see about an on the spot repair. Kate, filled my tires and I shot out for a nice loop around Taneytown Rd and Blacksmith Shop Road, encircling the Gettysburg National Military Park. There’s a bit of a shoulder, allowing even the most novice rider enough room to comfortably ride what is mostly a well paved road system. I dropped my bike off at the shop and Kate fixed it’s up and had it ready for the next day. She made a nice recommendation on a cool little eatery for lunch. The team at Gettysburg Bicycle, Jess, Kate and crew did a wonderful job, making me feel like a regular. They have a nice selection of bikes, accessories and gear. Definitely worth it to stop in if your in the neighborhood!

The following day, I decided to try another route. Pedaling up York Street and turning left on Hanover Road, I followed Hanover through what appeared to be mainly farm country. There were some long gradual climbs with a helpful tail wind going out. I got all the way out to Mcsherrystown before turning around. Once I got going towards town, I got hit with a monsterous headwind, making the trek back a bit slower.

It was so much fun riding here. If you have to travel for work, you could get stuck in a lot worse places. Next time I’ll bring my gravel bike and hit up some dirt roads in Michaux. If you have the chance, get out and explore a hidden gem!
Here’s a few more pics of the battlefield and beyond.

Ritchey Breakaway Steel Road

In preparation for my upcoming trip, I decided to take the new Ritchey Breakaway Road bike for a spin today. First, let me start by telling you what went into the build. I stole the drivetrain, brakes and wheelset from my Kona Honky Tonk. If you read my other blog, ridingmilford.com, you know that I love the Tonk and will have it built back up before summer.

I’ve always appreciated a new bike, but really take pride in building up a frame with my chosen parts spec. I built up the chromoly steel frame and full carbon fork in my garage with the following:
SRAM Force 11 Speed Rear Derailleur, Front Derailleur & Crankset. SRAM Red Shifters, SRAM GXP Bottom Bracket, Ritchey WCS Headset, Velo Orange Grand Cru Brakeset, Bontrager Race Lite Wheelset, Bontrager R3 TLR 700X26 tires, Velo Orange Nouveau Randonneur Handlebar, Velo Orange Grand Cru Seatpost, Thomson Elite Stem, Speedplay Zero Pedals and for now, a WTB Pure saddle. The bike came in at just over 18lbs without pedals.

Now for the ride. I did a 26 mile loop from Milford, PA through Northern Sussex County, NJ and back into town. I hit a couple climbs, scampered across the Delaware River on 2 different bridges and got a really good projection of how this bike is going to handle while pedaling through new territory. Well, the ride quality is very good. It climbed like a 15 pound carbon race bike and descended just as well. More miles will ultimately provide for better feedback. I can’t wait to travel with this steed.

Next, we will pack and unpack the bike into it’s own suitcase. Let’s see how much gear we can stuff in without bringing it over the airlines 50lb weight limit for normal size bags.

Traveling with a Bicycle Stories, Insights & Thoughts

Recently, my work has sent me flying from state to state, living out of a suitcase for weeks on end, sleeping in hotels, eating halfway decent food.
But, as I mentioned on my other blog, Riding Milford, I’ve been going out of my mind sitting idle in my hotel, wishing I was on a bike, hammering through the woods or up and down the hills of my beautiful hometown, Milford, PA.

I attempted to quell my urge, by outfitting a folding bike to fit my needs, getting a suitable carrying case, and coercing the airlines into checking it as regular luggage. While serving it’s purpose for at least 3 trips to Kansas City, Dallas and San Benadino, CA, I grew tired of fighting the bike uphill and crawling at a pedestrian pace

After much research, I purchased a Ritchey Breakaway Road Frame. The chroMoly steel frame with Ritchey WCS carbon fork, comes with the travel case, headset, and 3 cable disconnects. The frame splits in half, allowing it to fit into it’s own unique suitcase. It’s held together at the bottom of the down tube, by a simple locking ring and a double seat post binder completes the task. Ritchey’s innovative clamping system is a lot prettier than other travel bikes that are held together with SS couplers. Those are all pretty nice bikes, but Ritchey has found a way to keep the clamping system virtually invisible.

How does it ride? How well does it pack and unpack? Does it travel well and how easy is assembly and disassembly? These are all questions for future posts.


You can expect to see descriptions of rides from across the country as well as stories of the joys of cycling and the culture of cycling in different locales. There will be posts from guest writers and from time to time, some product reviews.

As I check my work schedule and get ready to roll, I’m researching products that will aid my travels. Stay tuned…..

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