Saturday, July 13, 2019

Trexlertown Velodrome


People who haven't ridden on or watched a race at a velodrome don't know what they are missing. Last year when the PFWs trip got rained out I started thinking about doing a trip out there and finally got one together this weekend sort of. Unfortunately the only people who could join me was Jack and Dorthy. Jack wanted to see the races this past because it was Tandemonium. Tandem bikes are not really that interesting to me but racing tandems going around a track, COOL, I'm in. A tandem bike breaking into pieces was an added bonus but I'll get to that later. 

Since the races were Friday night we decided  to go out on Friday morning and do a ride before the race. Luckily when we got there there were only a couple of riders on the track. One of the good things about the Trexlertown Velodrome is that it is open to the public and as long as there is no racing or training going on you can ride on the track. While the the riders finished a few laps on the track Jack and I road on the apron to warm up. Once the guys were off the track Jack and I went up the backing onto the track. Trexlertown has 28 degree banking in the corners and 12 degree on the straight aways. It is both an odd and cool feeling riding around a banked track where your bike is not perpendicular to the ground. The banking does make it easier to go fast, as I averaged 18.8 mph for the laps and I wasn't really trying to go fast but when your on the track you just feel like cranking. The coolest thing to do on the track is to ride high into the first corner then dive done the track in the second corner and try to stay as far down on the track as possible which isn't easy. The G forces try to push you up the wall of the track so you have to work hard to stay low.

The track is 333 meters in length so a spin around the oval is about a fifth of a mile. My fastest time around the track was about 38 seconds which is about 20 miles an hour. I'm sure I could do a little better if I tried but the racers do it in the low 20 second range which is close to 35 mph. I'll never get close to that.

After about 15 mins on the track we headed out for a real ride. Jack had suggested the doughnut derby ride. This is the bike event the Lehigh Valley Wheelmen put on every Labor Day. Although it is more a ride than a race they do measure the time it takes for each person to finish the ride and the winner is the person with the best time. A rider can reduce their total time by each doughnut they consume. The doughnut derby route is a nice route through the usual Pennsylvania farmland with quiet roads, a few rolling hills and some good scenery.

The only problem with the ride was that we had a nasty 15-20 mph head wind for the first half of the ride. It was also close to 90 degrees since it was the middle of the day. I was a beat by the end of the 37 mile ride. 

We had a couple of hours break after the ride as we checked into the hotel and cleaned up to go to the race. I did not know what the expect for the Trexlertown races since I hadn't been to them before. I have watched the track cycling during the Olympics so understood some of the types of racing I would see. Although it was Tademonium night there was a mix of Tandem and single bike races. The first type of races were sprints where two bikes compete against each other with the winner going on to the next round.

These women kicked ass and left their competitors in the dust. Its hard to convey the power and speed of these riders. It was something to see. There were other types of races like scratch races where all the riders would go around the track and each lap the slowest person had the leave the track until only 3 were left and then they would all sprint one more lap to determine the winner. 

There were a few interesting tandem bikes there like this one.

We sat in the grandstands and had a good view of the track. Here is the mass start of one of the women's races. They actually all grab the wall and then push off when they hear the gun.

Racing is a lot more than raw power. There is a lot or strategy involved. Most of the race is sizing up other riders and getting into the right position for the last lap.

This women timed her breakaway perfecting and ran away from the race even thought she may have not been the fastest.

It was her first win. There was an announcer explaining the races and doing interview with the winners. 

Even though there was a lot of close racing there were no accidents until close to the end when one of the tandem's front wheel clipped the back wheel of the bike they were chasing.

The bike went down and pieces went flying. Both riders eventually got up but I'm not sure if the bike will every race again.

Not sure if there are any cracks in the frame but it definitely needs a new fork and front wheel. 

The night was a series of short quick races so the two and half hours of races went by pretty quickly. It is definitely something I would do again.

The next day Jack and I did another ride in the area. Since we started early it was much cooler and there wasn't much wind. This ride was a little hillier. There was only one steep hill but it was short which was good because I had my Feather which isn't geared for steep climbs. 

Once we climbed the hill we had some good views of the valley and had some long gentle downhills.

We also found a covered bridge along the way.

There were plenty of cows along the way so I had to take a picture of some of them for Laura.

There was a lot more trees along this route as well as a lot of small rivers and streams so it was a very enjoyable and scenic ride. There are a lot of other roads and routes that would be fun to do and since this area is only about a hour and a half away I can see doing a few more trips out here. Hopefully I can get a few more people to join me next time.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Hot and Humid

Summer is now at full strength and with that comes the hot and humid weather. Last weekend I wanted a flatter ride and so went on Larua's ride out of MCP last week. It was a mostly flat ride to New Egypt to stop at a coffee shop. It was meant to be a sort of a birthday ride because the mileage was the age of Jim and Laura added up in kilometers if you started from Laura's house. The ride was suppose to happen a couple of months ago, when it was close to their actual birthdays, but I scheduled a conflicting ride and it wasn't until now that we could all agree on a date. Except that last Saturday Jim had to work so he could not come on the ride. Even thought a ride created to be a certain mileage to match the age of a couple of people one who isn't there my seem like a stupid idea its as good an excuse as any to plan a ride and besides we enjoy the stupid.

Besides Laura and myself, Ricky, Andrew and Chris join us for the ride. I got there early and hid under the shade of the pavilion as it is bright and sunny, already 80 degrees and at least 120% humidity. I'm sweating without even moving. Once we got moving and I had some air moving across my skin I hoped it would feel better. It did a little but was still ungodly hot.

The route Laura took as was on familiar roads through Imlaystown and down across 537. We hit a dead end when Laura tried to find a back way to the rest stop. We retraced our steps and found the right back road that eventually got us to the coffee shop. The rest stop had good food, a bathroom and Gatorade so I would stop there again if I was down that way. What it didn't have was good air conditioning and it was as hot inside the place as it was outside. I stayed out in the shaded breeze way.

It was over 90 by the time we left the stop and headed for home. We took it slower than normal because of the heat and I was definitely dragging a little when we went through Allentown. Laura decided to stop to get some water which I was happy about. We stopped in Bruno's which was a nice break. I ate a gel pack while I was there and that gave me enough energy to get back home. I had almost 57 miles by the time I was back home and was definitely starting to get dehydrated.  

July 4th was another hot and humid day and instead of doing the all paces ride I got Laura, Bob and Ricky to join me for an earlier ride to Rova farms. We did this route which is my shorter Rova farms route. This is one of the flat rides I like to do when I don't feel like going down to the pine barrens. Starting the ride at 8am didn't really mean it wasn't already hot but at least we would be home earlier before the weather got to death march status.

I actually felt better on the 4th than I did last Saturday so maybe I'm getting acclimated to the heat. It was still a slow slog down to Cassville. As expected our usual antique store/deli was closed as was the bar and doughnut shop but luckily Mr T's Deli (no not that Mr T) was open and was a good alternative and now may be my preferred stop when I'm down that way. It was another 57 mile hot ride but I did it with only one stop this time.

I was busy Saturday so ended up on Jim's ride out of Blackwell Mills on Sunday. To get more miles I rode up from Rocky Hill. It was suppose to be cooler and less humid but it didn't really feel any different than my last two ride. Yea it was 85 instead of 90+ but when sweat is dripping off you 2 minutes after you get out of an air conditioned car its ridiculously hot.

I got to Blackwell Mills about 20 mins early. I sat at the picnic table to wait for Jim but swarms of flies were attaching my sweat soaked body so I got back on the bike and headed up the canal slowly to keep the flies off me.

Jim's ride are nice and relaxing which means I didn't have to push myself in the heat. It was also good catching up with a few people I don't normally see. Jim decided to change his stop on 206 from the bagel place to Thomas's Sweets. You have to ride a little on 206 to get there so he wanted an alternate route. I looked at the map and saw there was a way to get there from a parking lot and dirt path on 518. It seemed like a good idea but while riding over the grass to get to the dirt path I hit hard dip in the ground and flipped over the handle bars and fell to my right. It was a quick unexpected jolt but I wasn't going real fast and landed on grass so a little rash on my knee and a slightly askew break level was the only damage.

 As most people who ride with me know I don't shy away from these off road detours but this time it bit me in the ass. The dirt path we had to descend was almost too steep to do safely so this will be the last time we will be coming this way.

On the way out of Thomas's Sweets we found a slightly easier way through the Wawa parking lot so the problem with getting in and out of Thomas's Sweets has been solved.

I ended up with 45 miles and besides the fall it was a good day of riding. I just hope there will be a few cooler and less humid days ahead this summer or I may need to find a way to add air conditioning to my bike. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

What is a Turkey Top?

Saturdays ride idea was courtesy of Laura who looked at a map and said we should go to Turkey Top Rd. That was over a year or so ago and although we worked out a couple of routes we never did the ride. This week I did a ride out of Gladstone. I was going to do one of my previous routes but then I remembered that one of the routes to Turkey Top Rd was a slightly modified version of one of my Gladstone rides. I had both routes in my GPS, my usual route and Turkey Top but it was a beautiful day so why not do another 800 feet of climbing.

Laura, Jim, Pete, Ricky and Ken joined me on the ride. We did this route The climbing starts in the first mile of the ride and continues for the 20 miles. Some of the climbs are like the one on Rockaway Rd and Guinea Hollow are easy gentle climbs and there are some downhills and flat spots along the way but it was more climbing than I have done this year so I took it slow to conserve my energy.

After climbing up to the top of Guinea Hollow we dove downhill into the town of Califon wiping away most of the climbing we had done. From there it was onto Silker Rd which was the steepest and longest climb of the day. Its one of those hills that starts out steep then gets flatter and you think you are near the top then it gets steeper again. We have done this hill before to get to Schooley's Mountain but this time we went beyond where we usually turn off. Before getting to Turkey Top we explored a few other road we haven't been on like Mt Lebanon. These were nice quiet tree covered roads. When we got to Turkey Top we stopped for the usual picture of the road sign before heading down the road.

Turkey Top is a 400+ decent over about a mile. Its a fun ride although it was hard to see the road surface in spots because of tree cover. The pay off for going down Turkey Top is a 500 ft climb to get back up to the top of Schooley's Mountain. Luckily it was a long shallow climb so it wasn't steep just a long slow burn. Once we got to the top we road along the ridge for a few miles until we got to our rest stop which was a combination of post office/deli/bakery. Its got a nice picnic table to set out so it is a good place to hang out except for the fact that it doesn't have a bathroom. From there we continue along the ridge on Flock Rd. I noticed the totem pole on the corner of Flock Rd and Schooley's Mountain Rd has been removed. It one of the objects that Dustin lists in NJBikeMap but I guess it must have been removed for some reason.

The only way off Schooley's Mountain is a steep descent. We went down Four Bridges Rd which only has two bridges although it was hard to count at 35 mph down a winding hill. I'm glad I upgraded the brakes on my bike a few years ago but doing hills like this make me think disc brakes on a road bike can be useful in these situations.

We made a quick bathroom stop at a Quick Check before beginning the last 12 miles of the ride. Although most of the tough climbs were behind us there was still a few annoying hills on the way back. I was definitely feeling tired and downed a gel to give me a boost to get me back with out cramping.

There was one more killer downhill before we got back. On Ironia there is a 1.5 mile stretch of road with just enough curves to make it fun with out been too dangerous. When Ken saw the sign that said "Slow, steep hill ahead" he actually accelerated down the hill with Pete behind. I followed them both and was one of the few parts of the ride that I could keep up with them.

The last few miles of the ride still had a few small hills and I cramped up about a mile from the end but was able to stand up on the pedals and stretch it out. By the time I got back to the parking lot my legs were done. We had done over 4000 ft of climbing but I'm glad we did the Turkey Top ride. I'm still not sure what a Turkey Top is but at least I can now say I been on the road. 

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Where I Was Today

I decided not to do PFW event today and instead did a a ride on my own. Here are some pictures of where I was today.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Going to the Extreme

When I tell people that I ride bikes for fun they usually ask me how far I ride, 5-10 miles? When I tell them that I usually do 40 to 60 miles most weekends they think that is a lot of miles. I tell them that if you build up miles slowly as you begin to ride its really very easy to do long ride and you can even do 100 miles with out much of a problem if you put in enough training.

After being in the hills last weekend I decided to do something flat this weekend down in the pine barrens. At 60 miles this would be one of the longer rides I do. 60-70 miles is about longest rides I like to do especially early in the season.

We started from Mansfield park and I was joined by Chris, Pete, Laurie(second week in a row), and Jack (who rode in from Bordentown because apparently 60 miles was too short a ride for him).

We headed out the bike path to Island Rd and then went around Fort Dix and through Browns Mills to get to the pinelands. We had to a slight detour on Catesville Rd as it was more gravel than road so I'm taking that road off the route. Here is the modified ride we did.

Our first rest stop was at the ranger station at Brendan Byrne state park. As we were there a bunch of other riders pulled in. I saw that Mary was part of the group. This was one of the randonneurs rides that Mary does. Today they were doing 600k and in case you can't translate that in your head its a HOLLY SHIT 372 mile ride. Now this is over 2 days so its ONLY 186 miles a day. But the last time I did a century you know what I wanted to do the day after doing a century? Not get on the bike and do another fucking century and this group was about to do an almost back to back double century. It makes my 60 mile ride feel like a ride around the block.

After leaving Mary and her truly insane group we headed down through the pinelands and ended up at Nixons for our real rest stop. There we met Raj who is also a randonneur. He was only doing a 73 miles as a warm up to his 600k ride next week with 50 other randonneurs. Apparently this year is the Paris randonneur 1200k and you have to do a 600k to qualify for it which is why so many people are doing the 600k. I can understand a few people wanting to push their body to the extreme but it is amazing to me that there are over 50 people in NJ who actually do this. To do these rides its 14-17 hours in the saddle for two straight days. This is not only physically difficult but must be a big mental strain. I can imagine with that many hour on a bike you must start to hallucinate or freak out at some point.

In any case I was happy with the 60 miles we did. The weather was a little more humid than predicted so I was a little worn out by the end of the ride. I wish Mary and her fellow randonnerurs good luck on their long travels but for me I keep my rides well under 100 miles.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Bike Rally

This memorial day week was one of the better ones we have had weather wise this year. Saturday was cloudy but a cool 70 degrees with no chance of rain. I had put a ride, on the calendar, out of Bull's Island to climb a few hills and see a few covered bridges. Its one of the rides I use to see how well I can climb. We did this route which looks a little hillier than it is.

I was joined by Jim, Bob, Ricky, Jack, Lorrie (last seen on the Lying Bastard ride) and Mike back for a visit after sailing the high seas. It was an easy climb up to Carversville before we headed up Wiener road which has two steep climbs close together that usually gets my heart rate close to max. From there we headed through three different covered bridges which requires a series of ups and downs. The climbs are not very steep or long but they add up after a while. This is a scenic ride with some decent downhills so I do enjoy this route. Mike bail after about 10 miles as he has not been riding much but it was good to see him and hear about how he has been doing.

We had one last long but easy climb up Upper Tinicum Rd to get to the ridge above Milford. Then it was a death defying decent down Bridgeton Rd to our stop in Black Eddy. We apparently weren't the only bikers out for a ride as Homestead was packed with them. There was at least 25 other bikers there and out numbered the other people there. We ended up talking to a couple of the other rides and traded stories.

Then it was over the river to the NJ side and up the hill to Sky Manor. Once there we rode along the ridge which was relatively flat. The last part of the ride came down Federal Twist back to our start. I ended up with over 3000 feet of climbing. I made it through the ride but felt slow so will definitely do some more hilly rides to keep building my hill muscles.

Monday was the all pace ride. I went there to see a few people I don't normally see. It was good catching up with everybody. I ended up on Ron's ride but bailed out just after 10 miles since I wanted to do a little shorter ride. Jack came along with me. We ended up stopping at Roy's. When we got there it appeared most of the other rides stopped there too. It looked like a bike rally with at least 4 different groups of riders. We didn't hang around too long as I had some projects to finish at home.

This was definitely the weekend to go riding as everybody was out. Now that it is unofficially summer let's hope we have more weekends like this.