Monday, June 26, 2017


If you rode with the Princeton Freewheelers in the past 25 years you knew Don. If you rode with Don you heard a lot of stories, laughed a lot and you learned something about biking. The more you rode with Don the more you started to share his passion for riding and his sense of adventure. When I first started riding with the Princeton Freewheelers I was a regular on his Honey Do ride. It was there that I learned the roads. It was there that I met a lot of people I call friends and still ride with today. It was there that l learned how to be a good ride leader.

This week we lost Don. He was a unique character and just a great person to be around. We are all going to miss him and the joy he brought to all of us. It was a life well lived as witness at his funeral on Sunday. The funeral home was overflowing with friends and family sadden at his lost but also laughing and telling their favorite stories about Don. The richness of his life was easily seen by all the people who he helped along the way. Don is now gone but he left an example of how to lead a meaningful life. I know I am a better person for knowing him.  

In my Road Biking NJ book I included a number of routes I learned from Don including a slightly shorter version of his famous Belmar century.  There is one picture of Don in the book of him and Herb at Mendokers bakery siting outside and eating some baked goods. Don busted me about this saying

"You couldn't get a picture of me riding. The one picture of me in your book was me stuffing my face" and then he would laugh the way Don did.

So as a tribute to Don, at the top of this post, I have included a picture of him riding, taken that same ride, that didn't make it into the book. It is him on a early fall day riding with Herb and I with out a care in the world just enjoying the ride and each others company.  I am sad that I won't ride with him any more but wanted to thank him for helping me discover the joy of cycling.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Belt and Suspenders

You know those personality tests where they tell you which Friends character you are most like, apparently in the Belt and Suspenders version of that I'm the Belt.

This week I went on Laura's ride to Clinton. Because of problems with her Garmin she sent the route out to Jim (Suspenders) and me (Belt) in case her Garmin crapped out and need help keeping us on course.

The ride got moved to Sunday because of the rain on Saturday. Although we didn't have any rain it was close to 100% humidity when we started from Lambertville. Besides Laura, Jim and myself there was Andrew, Jack, and John. John turned back after the initial climb because he just wasn't feeding it today. The rest of us wound up the hill and through a couple of new roads on the way to Clinton.

It was a pleasant enough ride although because of the humidity and rising temperature I wasn't feeling my strongest. After a stop in Clinton it was time to climb back over the hill and head back to Lambertville. I have only been to Clinton a couple of times so am not as familiar with the roads around here. The initial ride out wasn't too back and we ended up on some dirt bike path by a river for a mile or so.

Then is was time to do the climb. I had seen the profile on the route Laura had sent out. I know the climb was 500 ft in 2 miles. It looked around 10% more or less but nothing worst than we have done before. However the topographical information doesn't always tell you what the road is really like. We had come down this road, Laura said but I didn't really remember it.

The first mile and a half were OK I was in my granny slowly spinning up. According to the RideWithGPS route the first part peaked out at 15%.  My heart rate was going between 160-170 bpm which is normal on a steep climb. With about a quarter mile to go I saw Jim and Andrew get off their bikes and start walking as the hill got a little steeper (Turns out it was 18%). I kept going but my heart rate hit 180 and I can't maintain that for more than 100 ft so I got off the bike walked about 20 ft to let my heart rate recover a little before getting back on the bike and getting over the top.

There was a little more climbing after that but it was not as steep so it wasn't as bad although with the sun going in and out of the clouds it was getting close to 90 so I was feeling the wear and tear of the heat.

By the time we got back to Lamberville we had 52 miles and about 3000 ft of climbing. I felt a little worn out but didn't cramp so I wasn't totally shot. Except for the steep climb it was a good route. However I think I will be heading for something a little flatter next week. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Unexpected Metric

After last weeks trip to the Finger Lakes I didn't really have any definite plans this weekend. I knew I would be riding just not sure where. When Jim sent an email out asking what everybody was doing I too a look at the PFW book to see if there was anything interesting. I didn't want to do a Cranbury ride but saw there was a ride out of Reed Park in Allentown. It was only a 30-40 mile ride so I suggested to Jim and friends that we start from Edninburg to add a few extra miles.

I decided to ride in to Edinburg figuring I would cut off early at the end of the ride. So at 8am on Saturday I meet Jim, Ricky and Jack at the park and we took a less direct route to Allentown to get 10 miles in before the beginning of the ride. We got there a little early so had to wait for the ride to begin. Besides the 4 of us Chris, Bob and a few other people I haven't seen in a while went on Ron's ride.

Ron with Chris's help lead us down south to Wrightstown. It was good not having to lead and just follow the pack. It was a fast pace and we were quickly at the 7-11 rest stop then made our way back to Allentown. Even though it was only a 37 mile ride with the 10 miles before the ride and 5 miles getting to Edinburg I had 52 miles. It was 8 miles back to that start in Edinburg and the way we went back I couldn't cut off early and in fact had to add a few extra miles to get back home.

By the time I got back home I had 64 miles. I had not planned on doing a metric today but the weather was good and the riding was flat so I didn't mind doing a long ride.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

How to Unsafely Mow a Steep Hill

One of the interesting stories that I didn't have room to share in my last post was about the guy across the street who was mowing the steep hill at the front of his law. Check out the video below.


This seems like an interesting solution to the problem of how to mow a steep hill yet it doesn't look entirely safe. You have to understand that he is doing this on a busy road with cars constantly going by. There is no ditch at the bottom of the hill so if the length of the rope is wrong its going across the road. The grass he was long and wet but this mower cut through it with out bogging down so this is a powerfully and dangerous mower. With all this in mind I have a few questions about the safety of his technique

  • What if the rope breaks
  • I guess the safety switch that shuts the mower off when you let go has been disabled
  • If the mow flips over how to you shut it off (Again safety switch is disabled)
  • How many cars see a mower flying down the hill and swerve into on coming traffic.
  • Any chipmunk or squirrel on the hill doesn't stand a chance of getting out of the way.
  • The Ithaca Journal will some day have a headline "Mower Crashes into Car"

Monday, June 5, 2017

Finger Lakes Fun

Click Here for More Pictures 

I have been planning a bike trip to the Finger Lakes ever since Laura had mentioned the idea and Jack had seconded it. We didn't go last year because I couldn't find the time but finally got critical mass for the trip this first weekend of June. Pete, Laura and Jack joined me and brought along Dorthy and a spare Jack(Moose). After some research and many emails exchanged we ended up renting a house just outside of Ithaca instead of going for a hotel. This would be both more comfortable and more economical for the 4 days we would be spending in Ithaca

We all arrived separately with in a few hours of each other. The house was as nice as the pictures promised. It has a kitchen/dining/living room area with views of Lake Cayuga, Cornell, and Ithaca falls. It is a place you could spend all day on the porch just looking at the view.

The Finger Lakes is a series of 11 lakes formed by glaciers a long time ago. Around the lakes are beautiful (or run down) small towns and farmland along with many streams, gorges, waterfalls and of course wineries. There is plenty to do here but we were here for the biking so on Saturday we headed out on this route provided by the Finger Lakes Bike Club to see a couple of the lakes (Cayuga and Seneca) and some of the farmlands (and hills) between them.

Before the trip everybody asked what the riding would be like to which I responded its kinda like a Sourlands ride. This is the answer I give for almost any hilly ride I do even thought it is not really true any of the time(and everybody knows it). I have no idea what a ride I haven't done will be like. I can look at the profile of the ride and google maps and form some opinion but until I do a ride I have no idea how easy or hard it will be. However the reason I say it will be like a Sourlands ride is that if you can ride in the Sourlands and do 2500-3000 ft of climbing you can probably do almost any ride.

I knew the ride I picked for Friday would be a little longer and hillier than our normal rides but it being the first day we were all fresh and this was a good way to get a look at the most popular lakes. The ride started from Trumansburg (not named after the president) and went down in two spots to Cayuga lake.

Of course each time we left the lake it was uphill at 10% or better for a quarter mile before another mile or two at 4-5%. This led to the usual complains and soon the hills were alive with the sounds of cursing(and these are my friends). You have to remember this is the insane bike posse here so as much as they complain they keep coming back for more.

After a brief break at Ovid (for some reason a lot of the towns have Greek names) we headed down to Seneca lake and stopped at Lodi point park for a few pictures before heading back up another long climb. As we rode along the hills above the lake we went past a lot of wineries and got some more vistas of Seneca probably one of the more scenic areas in the Finger Lakes.

It was then another climb and a couple miles of gravel as we headed back to the start. There were a few spectacular downhills that kept me going but I was really beat by the end of the ride.

Friday night I looked over some of the routes I had planned for the next few days and found something a little easier for Saturday. The Finger Lakes Bike Club has a lot of rides down a road called HoneyPot so it looked like a popular place to go. We started from a mall on the east side of Ithaca. At the parking lot we met a few local bikers who said the area we headed was very scenic area. We rode past a game farm and along a river before we started a long 5 miles 3% climb. Right before the climb we came across a strange little village of tiny houses called Boiceville. These Boiceville cottages are rentals built based on the Miss Rumphius book that the builder use to read to his children. It was very strange to see this kind of thing in the middle of no where. 

The climb was long but not too hard and by the time we got to top we had a view of the surrounding mountains and valleys which was worth the climb.

We also had a spectacular downhill that got us to the town of Candor where we stopped a a Dandy Gas for some food.

The way back was through a valley so there wasn't a lot of climbing although the head wind made it harder than it should had been.

Saturday night we went to a brewery with Pete's daughter who knew the chief. It was a small place and the food was simple but the beer was good and we enjoyed a sunset on the lake.


Sunday the rain started at 9am as predicted so there was no riding which was OK since I could use a break. Jack Dorthy and I went to a cider house that makes alcoholic ciders and shrubs while Laura and her Jack when to visit a few wineries.

The visit to the cider house was interesting and I found out that a shrub is not just a type of plant but also a type of drink made from concentrated apple mash and some spices like ginger. You mix it with club soda. It is apple vinegar. It tastes better than it sounds so I bought some and will see what kind of drinks I can make with it.

After the cider tasting the rain cleared enough for us to go hiking in Robert Treman park. It was a 5 mile hike with a few steep sections but we got to see some of the many falls in this area.

Monday was cloudy but there was no rain on the radar so we did a 21 mile ride before heading home. The only significant thing about the ride is that at the end Jack said that it wasn't as hilly as expected which is said so rarely on my rides that I had him repeat it in front of witnesses so it could be entered into the record.

We packed a lot of activities into the 4 days we were there much more than I can included in this post. Like all the stories Jack had about his misspent youth at his grandmothers place, the Ithaca festival, eating at a bowling alley. The Finger Lakes is definitely a great place for a bike vacation and I might come back again in the future as there are a lot of place to ride and things to do.  
I really enjoy getting together for these trip as I get to spend extended time with the insane bike posse who share a love of biking and exploration. We do all have different tastes and options about food, music, politics and many other things so being together for few days in closed spaces could cause some friction. However I think the secret to the fun we have together is that we all respect and care for each other so although we may disagree and playfully taunt the end result is always a fun time. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Chris & Jack & Tom's Perkiomen Adventure

As most of the regulars know riding with Chris is always an adventure especially if you are on a mountain bike. The last time we were out on mountain bikes together it was to Pennypack park and although we both made it back undamaged there were a few adventures( bike and ice problems) along the way. Chris has been wanting to do the Perkiomen trail for a couple of years and asked me to set up a ride. Even though this trail is in my Best Bike Rides Philadelphia book I had never actual done it since it was one of the rides my co-author did.

So Saturday morning I picked up Chris and drove down to a parking lot where the Schuylkill river trail meets the Perkiomen trail. I also convinced Jack to join us. The Philadelphia area has a really amazing variety of trails between the Schuylkill, Pennypack, Perkiomen, Skippack, and many other small trails there are plenty of places to ride safely off road. Some of these trails like the Schuylkill are paved and can be done on a road or mountain bike.

The Perkiomen trail mostly follows the Perkiomen river and goes through the towns of Collegeville, Schwenksville and ends in the town of Green Lane in the park by the lake. Even though it follows a river the terrain is not entirely flat like the D&R canal path. For the first 6 miles the path is relatively flat as you make your way to and through Collegeville.. Just north of there we found a outdoor model train set.

This isn't your normal small train model but one actually big enough to ride. You actually sit on top of the train or in the beach chair on the flat bed car. Cool but weird.

Near Schwenksville the path went from mostly straight to a grand prix track with a lot of twist and turns on both paved and gravel surfaces. It was fun twisting through the course and pushing the mountain bike a little beyond what is safe.

In this part of the path we crossed the Perkiomen 4 or 5 times. I didn't stop for a picture at every crossing but the picture below is what most of the views looked like.

Although the northern park of trail has some rolling hills there is one notable hill of a 10% for a half mile that had Jack had to really push to get up. I didn't realize the cross bike he was riding had a single chain ring on the front (42T) and probably an 11-25T cassette on the back. It really not meant for hills. The good new is he made it up the 10% grade (barely) the bad news was that on the way back the grade coming up this hill would be 12%. I did a quick calculation in my head which looked like this

     42T front chain ring  X 25T rear gear with 27 inch wheel = 45 gear inches
     45 gear inches divided by the SumOf(12% Over 0.5 miles) = Jack is walking up the hill.

There was some margin of error in the calculation but the general conclusion was PAIN for Jack.

After another 5 miles we had 20 miles total with a couple of wrong turns thrown in. We ended up in Green Lane park and took a break before heading back. There are 10-15 miles of paths around the lake that we didn't do but I think I may try them in the future as it would be a scenic ride,

The way back was just as much fun as the way up. (Except for the 12% climb which I spun up in my triple as Jack gutted it out and made it with out walking.). This a very scenic and well maintained trail.

10% or so of the path is paved the rest is mostly fine crushed gravel so it is a smooth ride although hillier than your normal rail trail. Its too bad I didn't get more people to join me but may try to do this one again in the fall.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Rainy Riding

Looking through my posts for this spring I realized that rain has been a supporting character in most of them. It seems like this year has been rainier than other years, at least on the weekends. Last weekend I did a ride out of Mansfield down to Chatsworth and back. We didn't get wet but I did have to move the ride to Sunday instead of Saturday because of an all day rain storm.

Because the ride was on mother's day I didn't get a lot of people joining me. Only Jack and Laura showed up. Before the ride we were stopped by a cop in the parking lot to get advice for what kind of road bike to buy. Its hard to give someone everything they need to know to buy a good bike in a few minutes but hopefully we gave him some good pointers.

The ride itself was long and windy mostly out of the west. It was sunny but mid 50s and didn't really warm up much during the ride. We made our way through Pemberton and eventually to a quick bathroom stop at Lebanon state forest where we meet a retired gentleman who had an interesting story about his dog accidentally getting high.

From there we made a quick stop in Chatsworth at general store that has been open for 151 years. I have never stopped here because it was a real general store where you buy grocery and household items but wanted to see it before it closes down in a month.  It was then 10 miles into a stiff breeze to get the Nixon's. The one and only please to stop in the deep pinelands. At Nixon's we ran into Mary and Tru who were doing a 70 mile loop. 

On the way back I went on some different roads to try them out and add miles. One of them lead us past an airport/playground/hotel which is were airplane geeks spend their weekends. In Smithville I uncharacteristically went around a bridge out. It felt wrong but wanted to prove I don't have to go over every bridge out I see.

By the time we got back we had 68 miles. It felt good to do a long ride after the hills of Danville.

This past Saturday the weather report looked good. Laura was planning a long ride to Belmar to take advantage of the weather. I couldn't go because I had to get home early. I could of  went with them and then turned around after 25 miles but wanted to do some hills to be in better shape for Ithaca.

I planned to go to Rocky hill and do a quick 40 miles in the Sourlands. On Saturday morning when I woke up it was cloudy which was some what expected but when I looked at the radar there was some light rain to the west. It looked north of where I was going and was moving north east and looked light so I thought I would be OK. I got Pete to join me and he meet me in the parking lot at 518 and Canal.

It was getting darker and there were a few sprits of rain as we when over the new bridge on 518. By the time we crossed 206 it was a little steadier. I hopped it would stay light and we would just punch through it. As we climbed up Hollow Rd it was getting heavier and the road and my shoes were getting very wet. We meet someone coming down from Lindbergh who said it was a sluice up ahead.  That's when Pete turned for home. I decide to keep going because at this point I was already wet and it looked a little better to the south.

I continued along the ridge south where the rain lighten up a little. Riding in the rain is not a good feeling because your shorts feel like wet diapers and your feet feel like you are wearing cold wet rags. Still if you aren't too cold and the visibility isn't too bad you can accept the fact that you are going to be riding wet and just keep going.

Obviously many people were surprised by the weather because I saw a LOT of bikers riding and everyone I passed was like WTF is with this weather.

I made my way to Stony Brook and down into Hopewell. I then made my way to Bayberry and around Princeton on Pretty Brook, Stuart, Cherry Valley and Terhune eventually making my way back to Rocky Hill. After I came down Stony Brook the rain had mostly let up but the roads were still wet. I ended up doing a totally different route than planned but did manage 37 miles and 2000 feet of climbing.

I did get the miles and climbing I wanted but the ride totally sucked. Hopefully I have paid my dues to the rain gods and I won't have to worry about the rain for my next few rides.