Twelfth Bike

or Ride What You Will

D2R2 in reverse in brief

Posted by Susan on August 28, 2011

This year I downloaded the tracks to the GPS, but failed to study the maps and cue sheet.  I was determined to ride the 180k to lunch at the back of the pack, so I left the start at 7am — all alone (I had invited another rider to join me, but I was very sleepy and muddleheaded, and I forgot to wait for him – seriously (Sorry Dan, I hope you’ll join me next year).  Since this ride is a loop, when I reached the juncture of the inbound with the outbound, I had to make a guess about which way I would take.  So, I flipped a mental coin and  turned right, unknownst to me at that moment – I had chosen to ride the 180k in reverse.

Well, the first 7 miles were enjoyably mellow, and  it was a thrill to fly down Patten Hill!  Once I figured that I was riding the route in reverse – I rejoined the real 180k by making a left turn on Adamsville Rd.  Having taken a 25 mile shortcut, I rejoined just in time to see the fast riders go by,  and I enjoyed  a perfectly lovely, leisurely solo ride to the lunch stop, arriving just 5 minutes before Elisabeth and Susan Montgomery!

Elisabeth and Susan, who rode the Green River Ride to lunch, wanted to try some real hills, so we three rode an additional 8 mile loop after lunch.  I was surprised to see Elisabeth turn into a super biker as she  disappeared ahead of us!  Her lowest gear was a 34 (front) by 27. I had been concerned that she wouldn’t want to climb the hills in that gear, and had offered my bike, but she had refused.  She certainly turned out to be the better hill climber of the two of us, I was just plodding along in my 30 x 30.

I chose to ride a knobby cyclocross tire -the Clementi PDX – at about 50psi.   I had no regrets about these tires on this ride.  They were great on the rough gravel roads, and I could descend with much more security than the previous year.  I would certainly ride with them again next year, and enjoyed them much more than the Paselas for the control I felt over the gravel and washouts.  Elisabeth rode her 650b Casati.  She was mostly content  with her 32mm Gran Bois tires,  but felt a little insecure on descents.  Susan rode her Salsa Fargo with Clementi tires that I sold her.  She also loved the Clementis.

I liked my reverse ride, and I might see if I can get Elisabeth to ride it with me next year. I also enjoyed riding at my own pace.  I still climbed about 8,000 feet (in 40 miles) .

We returned to the lunch spot for a second round of drinks and sandwhiches, then met Elton and others for the ride back to Deerfield, via the Green River Route.  All smooth riding back to the start, I followed the GPS track, while Elisabeth verified the turns with her cue sheet.

The rain started 5 minutes after we were packed away in the car and rolling out –good thing I had those fenders!

Posted in 650b, Bikes for D2R2, d2r2, Ride Reports | 7 Comments »

Boston Fleche 2011 -a late ride report in brief

Posted by Susan on August 28, 2011

Okay, I’ve been away, being busy with other things, but here’s a short report:

This year’s Fleche took place between June 2 and June 5th. Dena, Pamela, David and myself

myself, dena, and david

Myself, Dena and David all ready to roll out Friday evening. Photo courtesy of Pamela Blalock.

started our epic ride Friday at 7pm in Arlington. We expected to reach Brattleboro, Vermont by 5 am the next morning. From Brattleboro we’d turn around and head back to Arlington. Our ride was 235 miles long, included about 14,000 feet of climbing, and had to be finished within 24 hours.

I was very excited for this ride:  I believed I was physically prepared, and I was looking forward to riding the Sketchy on its first epic distance challenge.

While we all understood that the temps were going to dip into the 40’s, none of us realized just how cold that would feel since the previous couple of weeks had seen temps in the  joyous 70’s.  The cold set in quickly after dark, and when we reached our first checkpoint at about 9:30 pm, we were all digging through our bags to find those extra layers. Everyone of us had a light wind jacket, light tights or knickers, and light gloves, but no one had the truly necessary items: thermal tights or warmers, an insulating jacket or sweater, shoe covers and  balaclavas. Yes, it felt THAT cold, the night was absolutely brutal! My legs felt iced, my hands and face were numb, and I shivered on every descent.  At one point right after leaving a warm checkpoint (an enclosed ATM kiosk where we took shelter from the cold for just 15 minutes) I had an out-of- control case of shivering: my upper back and shoulder muscles were contracting so tightly that I was shaking my handlebars and creating a terrible shimmy throughout the whole bike!  To top it all,  there was a 10 mile descent early in the morning, brutal after working up a sweat on the previous climb.

This was a classic example of not preparing for the worst that would be likely to happen. We all knew the temperatures would drop, and all of us are experienced cyclists who should know better, but we failed to pack the appropriate layers, and had to cope with feeling chilled for about 8 hours!

Journey to the end of the night

We met the other Fleche team at brunch the next morning, and they had also suffered just as miserably as ourselves.  They were perhaps even less prepared (not having a warm ATM kiosk stop planned en route), one of their riders was lagging behind, and the team considered leaving him, but didn’t for fear that he would die of hypothermia!

What I remember the most about this Fleche (writing about it almost 3 months later) is how miserable I felt upon re-entering the cold after the warmth of the ATM kiosk; the feeling of elation at seeing the sun rise,  the savoring of wonderfully rich coffee at the Leverett Co-op, and the anger I felt at the end of the ride about having to climb more hills after already climbing uber hills around Wachusetts!  This anger was a new experience for me.  Those last few miles of hills broke me. At that point, I could not understand why I was doing this ride, and I swore to never do this again.

I still hold the same opinion.  I hope I never do a Fleche again.

Posted in Ride Reports | 1 Comment »

650b Conversion!

Posted by Susan on June 1, 2011

Liz loved her Casati, but felt limited by the high pressure skinny tires. This light and fast Italian racing bike made a good candidate for a 650b conversion.

Liz with her Casati

Liz loves her Casati

The 650b Conversion allows her to ride with a larger tire, which means she can now ride our favorite dirt paths.

650b allows for more tire clearance on the casati

32c Gran Bois 'Cypress' tires fit the frame, with room for fenders, if desired

Before the conversion Liz’s saddle was too low to permit clearance for a Carradice Saddle bag. But now, there’s plenty of room!

Carradice bag on the casati

Now the Carradice won't drag against the tire.

Also, there is no more toe overlap!

No toe overlap

No more toe overlap!

Liz enjoys riding this bike more than ever. With the fatter tires, it is more comfortable over Boston’s rough roads and able to conquer many a dirt path. She can’t wait to ride it at D2R2!

liz riding with lucy

Lucy likes 650b!

Some notes about the Casati set up

It sports a compact double crankset. Again, I converted a triple to a double using a chainguard for the outer ring. Due to oversized oval tubing (Columbus Oversized EL tubing ) The Casati cannot take a clamp-on derailleur.  This presents a problem, as the derailleur braze on is located too high for use with a compact crankset. The problem is solved using a triple derailleur with a chainguard. Right now, gearing is 44, 32.

Another triple converted to a double.

Another triple converted to a double.

Posted in 650b Conversion, Bikes for D2R2, Casati, Gran Bois Tires, Italian bikes, Steel Bikes | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Why Custom?

Posted by Susan on April 24, 2011

Riding my new custom built Sketchy (see previous post) gives me a new perspective on the question of why one would want a custom built bike, and what custom means.

Me riding my Sketchy

Enjoying the sun on the Sketchy

  • A custom bike fits well: I can ride with my bars level with my saddle, and there’s leeway with the fit so the bike can grow with me.
  • It rides the way I want it too: for me this means that it is lighter and faster than my commuter, but is still steady for me at a slower commuter pace.
  • It does what I need it to do: all my bikes do double duty as commuters. I needed room for bigger tires with fenders and the ability to carry a light load on the back.
  • It looks the way I want it to look. I didn’t want clunky fender and rack attachments. I love the pink.

The Sketchy is so much nicer than I imagined. It just flies! To me it’s beautiful, and a joy to ride. I used to think that custom was primarily about fit, but it’s really about getting a bike that fits your riding style and fulfills your riding needs.

Posted in Custom Built Bicycles, Pink Bikes, Sketchy Cycles, Steel Bikes | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Sketchy!

Posted by Susan on April 22, 2011

Here’s my new custom built Sketchy, built by expert frame builder Mike Salvatore of Seven Cycles. Made to fit me and my riding style, it’s light and fast, has plenty of room for fat tires (700 x 35) with fenders, fits a rack on the back, and has triple water bottle mounts.

Front view of the sketchy

A long distance dirt road riding machine.

Pink Sketchy

Color is RAL 3015 Light Pink

I wanted a simple mounting solution for rack and fenders.

Brake bridge with integrated fender and rack attachment

Brake bridge with integrated fender and rack attachment

Since this bike is intended for epic rides (such as D2R2), I wanted a third set of water bottle cage mounts. These also work nicely for holding my Lezyne pump. Though the frame does also have a pump peg, should I decide to carry a “normal” size road pump.

Pump intalled in place of third water bottle.

One good use for a third set of water bottle mounts.

Since I don’t race, I don’t ever find that I need a front ring larger than 42. This triple crankset is converted into a double, with a chain guard in place of the third chainring. This is a simple solution to compatibility issues of using small rings with standard derailleurs. This gearing is enough for me, the chain guard offers a little extra protection against grease when I’m commuting, the weight is negligible, and there is less chainrub in the front.

I’ve put about 1,000 miles on it so far. It’s wonderful to ride.

Stainless steel head badge

Stainless head badge.

Posted in Bikes for D2R2, Custom Built Bicycles, Pink Bikes, Sketchy Cycles, Steel Bikes | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Liz and Susan’s Adventure on the Great Allegheny Passage

Posted by Susan on October 4, 2010

320 miles in 4 days on 20 inch wheels.

Early Monday morning we folded the bikes and boarded a train headed for Pittsburgh. Bikes are not allowed on the Northeast Regional, but boarding with the folding bikes was easy and stress free. We stashed them in the overhead luggage bin. The train trip was long, but inexpensive and sooo much nicer than flying.

two folded bikes on train

A blurry picture of our bikes on the train's luggage rack

Day One: September 28. McKeesport to Rockwood. 90 miles. Liz’s longest ride ever!

The next morning we folded the bikes again and boarded bus 61c for McKeesport, the traffic and roads between there and Pittsburgh looked just nasty! But once in McKeesport, we were immediately on the clearly marked path and after just 2 or 3 miles through a rundown industrial town, we were on our way! It was grey, but warm, and peaceful. Initially we had to stop to make a number of adjustments, but after the first hour, we were pretty much riding without interruption. The trail was smooth here, the restrooms along the trail were plentiful, clean and stocked with hand sanitizer. We didn’t notice any climbing until nearing Ohiopyle. Even then, the “climb” was only noticeable because we were riding slower.

Fog over Salisbury Viaduct.

We ate lots of food.
We had an amazing late breakfast at Gary’s Chuckwagon in West Newton, big food that included homebaked bread. Later, we dined at the Sisters Cafe in Confluence. Dinner was delicious – green beans, mashed potatoes and roast beef with gravy for $8.25, but portions were smallish, and the roast beef was dry (the gravy helped with this), so I was a tiny bit disappointed. Liz ate a chickendilla (without the queso) and liked it enough, but also thought the portions were small. (We’ll try the Lucky Dog next time )

At Rockwood, the end of today’s ride, we ate another dinner – pizza. I think I was so hungry that I didn’t notice that the pizza was half unbaked dough, and all the veggies were raw. I thought it was delicious even so, but Liz immediately rejected it –having been reared in Italy, she has a more acute sense for how a pizza should be. We had arrived late, and were the only diners, so we think that maybe the oven had been turned off early. After pizza, and pastries for dessert, we headed around the corner to the Main Street Cafe bar. Inside “The Biggest Loser” played on two huge screen TV’s. Since we don’t ever watch TV, we gawked at the spectacle while we drank our incredibly cheap drinks — the entire bill came to $3.75! We hoped that the drinks would help us sleep better in our new strange surroundings, but sleep at the hostel didn’t come for long, as all night long, trains thundered through, blowing their whistles, must have been a train every hour! Liz and I were very tired the next morning, but the bottomless cup of coffee and the wonderful bagels and jam with good company the next morning more than made up for it.

The hostel was empty except for one other cycling couple from near Pittsburgh, the Gosselins, a friendly couple from somewhere north of Pittsburgh.

Day two: Rockwood to Hancock. 104 miles. An even longer ride than Liz’s longest ride yesterday.

Today’s ride was very sightful, and began in a chilly, thick fog. We crossed the Continental Divide, the Mason Dixon line, travelled over the amazing 1,908 ft long Salisbury Viaduct (once, the longest bridge on the railroad) and passed through 3 tunnels. One of these, the Paw Paw, is very dark and scary and 3,118 feet long. The passage through this tunnel was narrow and rough, and there was a precarious wooden handrail to keep us from falling over the ledge into the murky canal waters below. This is exactly how I imagined the home of the Gollum. Good thing we had lights!

I made this the long day of our trip, because it included a long screaming downhill into Cumberland and the paved WMRT (Western Maryland Rail Trail) into Hancock. These features of the trail did make the century easier on us, but I did underestimate how long the ride would take.

On our way up to the divide we were constantly leap frogging an older couple riding to Cumberland. We drank too much coffee, so we had to stop for numerous pee breaks, additionally, we stopped for breakfast, while they kept plodding along. They lived nearby and were riding fat tire cruiser bikes, it appeared that they had to push extra hard on those bikes, but they were having as good a time as we were.

Obligatory Continental Divide photo

This day, and only this day, we both experienced a lot of discomfort in the saddle. No rashes, just tender butts from sitting so much. After one long downhill of over 20 miles, we began to do a lot of standing, and that helped considerably. Also, our wrists started hurting from riding the straight bars. Straight bars are okay for a day, but I don’t recommend them for back to back long days. This was the only day that we experienced significant physical discomfort ( maybe after today we remembered to take the ibuprofen? ).

The C & O after Cumberland was rough with frequent muddy puddles from rain the day before. Here, we had to let some pressure out of our tires to smooth the ride out, but Liz and I were both equally impressed at how well our folders handled the rough trail. We didn’t feel in the least bit disadvantaged because of the small wheels. I would also like to point out that we were really glad that we had fenders. They kept mud off of our clothing and bodies, and I couldn’t believe that no one else was riding with them! I can’t imagine going into a restaurant or coffee shop all muddied up! Someone told me that another cyclist had told him that his fenders caught too much debris from the trail, but neither Liz nor I experienced that problem – not even once. Perhaps slick tires help? Or maybe we had ours set up with more clearance between the tire and fender? ( Ours are set up with a gap visible from the side. )

An inflatable wading pool in the canal?!

We arrived in Hancock after dark, just as Weaver’s was closing, so we had to dine on sandwiches from Sheetz, and at the Pizza Hut around the corner from our motel, America’s Best Inn. The food at Pizza Hut was surprisingly satisfying (as were the motel, and the sandwiches), we each ordered a medium pizza and a beer (Liz, who is not a beer drinker, thoroughly enjoyed hers), and we had leftovers for the next day’s ride.

Day Three. Hancock to Harper’s Ferry. 64 miles.
The next morning, Liz’s rear tire was flat. No problem! I had packed spare tubes and all necessary tools. However, our pump would only work on Schrader valves, and I had neglected to pack a valve adaptor for presta valves! It was 8 a.m., Liz suggested we call a bike shop, an idea I thought was a ridiculous, but Liz called anyway –just in case… and what do you know? Yes! They were open! Rescued! It wasn’t far and I rushed over for the valve adaptors. Riding to the shop in the cold rain, I realized that I needed leg warmers, so found an inexpensive fleecy pair there at the shop.

It was raining hard this day. An unexpected storm came in bringing torrential downpour, flood and tornado warnings. If we had known of an alternate way to get to Harpers Ferry, we would have gladly taken a train or shuttle. We didn’t know of any other way except to hitchhike, but after seeing the rain let up, we determined to keep on biking. At the start, the trail wasn’t so bad as we had expected, we did have to slow down for muddy sections, but 70% of the trail was quite firm and rideable, and after noon, the rain stopped and the weather got quite warm, we thought the storm had ended and the sun might be on its way. But another hour down the road, somewhere near Falling Waters, the skies opened again and the rain came down hard – over an inch an hour! Around here the ground was soft and very difficult to push through, and we were really getting frustrated with pushing so hard to go so slow. There’s an official official C&O detour here, and we were happy to take it, and didn’t find it to be bad at all, but after the detour, and back on the muddy trail, we decided make another detour to Shepherdstown for shelter, as Liz was getting cold, and I was hungry. I had to eat my Pop Tarts right there in the downpour! We followed the GPS to Shepherdstown, to see if there was some kind of shuttle or ride we could get to Harpers Ferry.

I think we expected some kind of respite in Shepherdstown, a shelter, a ride, warmth. But we arrived just as coffee shops were closing, and so it was difficult to really relax and get warmed up. We were both soaked through to the core, and dripping water in over the freshly mopped floor of the first coffee shop we came to. We were exhausted and having difficulty making sense of our situation. I had a coffee and Liz drank some hot tea and ate some candies, this revived us enough so that after not finding any ride or shuttle, and seeing the rain stop, we determined we could keep moving. For some reason, I didn’t eat at the coffee shop, and as nature would have it, I felt famished just 5 minutes after leaving, so as soon as we re-entered the trail, we stopped to eat our left-over pizzas. Our spirits lifted at this point, and we knew we could make the next 12 miles to Harpers Ferry.

Turtle family - a frequent sight on this trail.

The trail wasn’t too bad at this point. Not really muddy, and easily passable (we were amazed at how easy it was) but it was still slow going. Soon it was absolutely dark, and Liz’s light stopped working. Fortunately, my light was bright enough for both of us. We had to ride along slowly, dodging many downed branches, and often stopping to pull branches out of our wheels. The trail dropped off abruptly on each side to either a river or a canal, and we really needed to see where we were going. It was pitch black and my light began to dim, as the batteries were running low. I was perplexed at how I could do a battery swap in that darkness–I needed the batteries from Liz’s light, but it was so dark, there was no way I could perform the swap without being able to see what I was doing. Then, I suddenly noticed Liz’s rear light, I had forgotten that we had rear lights! Voila! I could use that light for doing the battery swap! So, a serious crisis was avoided. Before this revelation, I was seriously worried that we might not get off the trail before my light failed, and then we would have been stranded there all night. At this point, despite the slowness of traveling through the dark, I was really enjoying plodding along slowly with Liz. There had been some points in our ride before now, where I wanted to push much harder than what she was comfortable with, but here I realized that I wasn’t going to miss anything if I slowed down. Strangely, despite it’s being dark, our being wet and having only one light, we were rather euphoric and in good spirits. And what luck! I got a flat tire in just the last hundred feet before arriving at the hostel!

So, we arrived at the Harper’s Ferry Hostel with an hour to spare before check-in was closed for the night. It was a cozy place, and we met another trail cyclist, who was traveling with a great big backpack on his old mountain bike. What a pain! Liz and I each only carried maybe 6 or 7 pounds max (including the bag, a book each, and a U-lock!). That was enough for us, neither of us felt anything lacking. If we were fully loaded, there’s no way we could have done the kind of mileage we did. Perhaps he had intended to camp, but otherwise neither of us could see any reason to carry that size of a pack. It’s much more pleasurable to travel unencumbered. More freedom and less to worry about. As far as having only one change of clothing- it’s worth the expense of doing laundry every night-if it saves 5 lbs.

Day four: Harpers Ferry to Union Station DC! 70 miles.

Numerous downed trees after yesterdays storms

The night before, we had decided that we had had enough of riding in the mud, and so we were planning on taking the train the rest of the way, but this morning turned out too beautiful! The first and only day of REAL sunshine! It was warm and dry, and we decided to try the trail anyways. We’re both so glad we did, because this turned out to be the nicest day of the whole trip! The trail just got prettier, and more interesting the whole way! It was hardly muddy at all, just a few puddles, but mostly hardpack. The leaves were turning color, the temps were low 70’s, it was a perfect sunny fall day. We ate a huge breakfast at Mommer’s Diner. After my orange juice, biscuits and gravy, homefries, and pancake, I had a piece of cake for breakfast–and this was the second breakfast of the morning, having already eaten a pancake breakfast at the hostel. This whole trip, Liz and I ate disgustingly huge breakfasts, I was amazed at how much food I could cram into my stomach!


We were glad that we were ending in DC. Georgetown is very pretty, and filled with lots and lots of cyclists, so we enjoyed re-entering modern civilization at this point. It would have been depressing to ride into rundown, industrial McKeesport at the end of the ride. In Washington, we came across a Critical Mass that we joined for a block, and that was a very fun way to end our ride.

Riding in front of one of the many Lockhouses on the trail

We arrived at Union Station with a couple hours to spare before boarding the night train back to Boston. We were just blown away by all the bikes around us, and the bike parking at the Station! We ate a filling meal in the station, and then had celebratory drinks at Uno’s. We probably could have eaten better food somewhere else, but I hadn’t planned it, and I was a little overwhelmed upon arrival in the city. It was more comfortable to be near the station.

The night train back was fine, and I’d do it again. But, it might have been better to spend the night at a hostel, spend a day in Washington, then take the train back the next night.

Liz has found a number of reasons why we’ll have to do the ride again. We’re both really looking forward to the next trip. Better pics next time!

Now the lists:

General facts:

  • 330 miles in 4 days – next time we’ll do it in 5
  • We used Amtrak for getting to/from, carried on the folding bikes
  • Each of us carried about 6-7 lbs of “gear”
  • We ate a lot of pancakes and potatoes
  • Yes, it rained – we were saved by fenders and good rain gear
  • Two flat tires
  • West to East is the best way to go
  • Yes, we’ll do it again!

Favorite stuff

  • Fenders
  • GPS
  • Kickstands
  • Lightweight polyester hoody
  • Lightweight nylon/poly travel pants
  • Leather toe straps for strapping stuff
  • Cinnamon Frosted Pop Tarts (Susan)
  • Baked Potato Chips

Essentials

  • Ibuprofen and Chamois Butt’r
  • Fenders – riding without them would have left us covered in mud!
  • Multi tool, tubes, pump, zip ties
  • Dry socks, dry clothes!!!
  • Bright lights
  • U-lock split between the 2 of us – for DC

Should’a

  • Packed leg warmers or tights (Susan)
  • Brought more detailed maps of area around the trail
  • Carried hand sanitizer
  • Stopped at convenience stores more often to load up with snacks/drinks
  • Spread the mileage out over 5 days
  • Mapped out paved detours in case of mud
  • Planned an eating stop in DC appropriate to celebrating our journey
  • Packed carry-on covers for the bikes (for containing and hiding the mud) for the return trip

Favorites

  • Gary’s Chuckwagon in West Newton
  • Rockwood Hostel
  • GI Dayroom in Meyersdale
  • Harpers Ferry Hostel
  • Ride from Rockwood to Mason Dixon Line
  • WMRT – Western Maryland Rail Trail
  • All the C&O after Brunswick – maybe because it was the first and only sunny day for us

The Bad

  • Day 2: Tender butts (no problem the other days)
  • Sore wrists and numb fingers from riding straight bars
  • Day 3: Serious rain (over 1″ an hour) and mud
  • One malfunctioning light and low batteries on one very dark night
  • Arriving too late in Hancock to experience Weaver’s Restaurant

Training

  • Nothing special
  • Liz – cycle commutes about 80-100 miles a week, runs 18 miles a week
  • Susan – cycle commutes 100-125 miles a week, usually rides one 60+ ride a month

Advice to the uninitiated:

  • Ibuprofen and Chamois Butt’r !!
  • Let the slow rider set the pace
  • Get off and walk every now and then – we walked about 5 minutes every hour
  • Pedal out of the saddle often (stand up every mile marker or every lockhouse)
  • Expect longer/slower days riding on the dirt. We averaged, including stops, about 9mph on FAST days.
  • Always have extra snacks and liquids on you.
  • We only carried one water bottle for the moderate weather, but we’d carry 2 if it were warmer.

Equipment and Technical

  • Dahon folding bikes: “Speed P8″ and a “Mu P8″, both changed to 9spd gearing. These bikes were perfect for Liz and myself on this trip. They felt fast and nimble.
  • Bags: Carradice SQR bag, Zimbale (Carradice knock-off) 18L bag with a carradice quick release bag support. Both bags are “waterproof” but water got in during the storm. Both worked well, the Zimbale was a little more convenient to carry off the bike
  • Lights: Ixon IQ rechargeable lights: very bright, highly recommended! For $150, I don’t believe there is a brighter battery powered light on the market
  • Tires: Schwalbe Marathon Racers 20 x 1.5. They feel fast, but were fat enough for the rough trail. On the road: 75-80psi; On the trail: 50-60psi
  • Gear range for both of us: about 39 to 81 inches. This was enough for us, never felt the need for more. We used both the highest and lowest gears, but were usually in the middle. Spinning, is good for your knees.
  • We used Time ATAC clipless pedals
  • Liz rode on a Selle Italia Lady Trans Am, I rode on a Specialized Body Geometry Ruby – hers is softish, mine is hard, we both like our saddles.
  • Our fairly new break pads were completely worn down after a day in the rain, we had to tighten up the cables A LOT so that the levers wouldn’t bottom out on the grips!
  • GPS: Garmin Dakota 20. Love it! But Liz got annoyed that I asked the GPS rather than people for directions. People info was faster.

Posted in Bikes on Amtrak, Cycling Trips, Dahon Folding Bikes, Folding Bikes, Great Allegheny Passage, Rail Trails, Ride Reports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Big plans – Great Allegheny Passageway!

Posted by Susan on September 13, 2010

Liz and I are planning a trip the end of September. We start in Pittsburgh and will ride over 300 miles on dirt, away from cars, all the way to Georgetown! Keep posted, because I promise pics and a full trip story right here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Liz and Susan Go Grocery Shopping

Posted by Susan on August 3, 2010

Discovered a great big grocery store just off of the bike path, 2.10 miles from where we live.

Southwest Corridor Bike Path Sign

This way to Stop-N-Shop

Today’s grocery bike will be the Gunnar “Fastlane” , handbuilt right here in the USA by Waterford Precision Cycles, it’s got disc brakes, a beefy frame, room for fenders and wide tires. The front wheel is centered around a Schmidt “SON 20″ dynohub. The panniers are by Ortlieb, and they’re sitting on a Tubus rack.

Of course, no commuting bike is complete without a bell, essential item for rush hour on the bike path.

Essential Bike Path equipment - the bell.

It’s part of the usual course of our lives to bike to grocery stores, but this was a treat, the bike path was re-paved, so all those nasty bumps were smoothed out!

Fully loaded with the weeks worth of groceries

Liz’s grocery bike is an upright Soma “Double Cross”. It’s also got a nice beefy frame, and works well for carrying a full load. We’ve installed a disc brake fork for solid stopping in the rain, and the front wheel is built around a Shimano Alfine dynohub that powers an amazingly bright Busch and Muller “Cyo N plus” front light.

Liz Grocery Shopper

Leisurely ride during rush hour!

The Ortlieb bags are waterproof, durable, easy on and off of the rack, and they carry A LOT of groceries! We love them!

I apologize for the quality of the photos, eventually I’ll get around to learning some photoshop.

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Mountain Biking at Cutler Park with motley gang

Posted by Susan on August 3, 2010

This last Sunday headed out to Cutler Park with Kevin, Theresa, Jonathan, Peter and a friend whose name I have forgotten. Everyone on a different species of steed: myself on a Gunnar Rock Tour with Big Fat Apples, Kevin on his Redline Monocog, Therese on a Trek 970 circa 1991, Jonathan on a single speed MTB circa 1985 (front brake only and upright “dorothy bars”), and Peter and friend on cyclocross bikes. Three of us were in jeans, cut-offs and t-shirts, the other three in our “kits”. The weather was perfect, there was lots of laughter, and no one took themselves too seriously. Will post pics later this week.

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Adventures on a Dahon: Dirt Roads, Double Centuries, and the Duomo

Posted by Susan on July 26, 2010

Well, here’s a first review of a couple of vehicles I really like: the Dahon Speed P8 and the Dahon Mu P8.

Lucy and the Dahons

Lucy has happily herded the Dahons

They fold fairly compactly and are light enough to put in the overhead bin of the Northeast Regional. They can also fit into a Samsonite legal size suitcase, after some disassembly, for flights to Italy. Dahon folded

They come stock with 8 speeds, a gear inch range from 30 to 83 inches, and can go anywhere that a “real” bike can with nearly the same expenditure of energy.

Don’t believe me? Take a look, the Speed P8, the red bike in the pictures, has performed dependably and beautifully on a few epic adventures:

  • Florence to Bologna over the Appenines
  • Steep climbs into the Florentine hills, gravel roads, and cobblestones
  • STP(Seattle to Portland) in one day
  • 200k Berkshire Brevet
Climbing out of Bologna

The Climb out of Bologna

The Mu P8, the white bike in the pictures, carried me on a recent excursion over the Delaware Canal Towpath from Trenton, NJ all the way to the end of the Delaware and Lehigh Trail in Allentown — 65 Miles all on dirt (Yet, all flat as a giant tilted pancake) and to my joy – almost entirely on a path closed to cars!

Liz on the Dahon

Liz on the Dahon

The first half to Frenchtown was fairly smooth, and the Dahon felt fast on the hard pack. The last half was rather bumpy, but the Mu P8’s 40mm Schwalbe Racers were enough, although I would have been more comfortable on 50mm tires. The trip was immensely enjoyable, despite riding 20 inch wheels,  straight bars, on a stiff aluminum frame that was manufactured in China. (I’m accustomed to riding drop bars on hand-built steel frames ). Really, isn’t pleasure all in the mind anyway?

Handlebars

Set up with Ergon grips and Paul thumby

Now, if you’re curious about folding bikes, and you’re wondering what the difference is between a Dahon and a Brompton, here’s a little info:

Brompton is a superior, more compact fold, on a superior quality frame. It’s a favorite of the Harris crew. (Yes, Harris Cyclery sells them!) Gearing and handlebar options are somewhat limited, but this does not reduce their versatility significantly. I have my own reservations about riding 16 inch wheels over rough dirt roads, but as a commuter, it’s by far the best folder on the market, very well thought out design, exceptional quality. Way better for frequent folding than the Dahon. I lust after one.

Dahon: They have many different models for all purposes. In general, I find their 20 inch wheeled “urban performance” models to have features sufficient for epic rides, while remaining easy enough to fold for train hopping.  They also happen to be available through Harris Cyclery.

Susan on Dahon

Me Riding Slooowly By

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