Category Archives: Bicycle

3-Speed Adventure April

This post is way late.  I’m probably ineligible for fame and glory at this point.

Back in March, the infamous Shawn of Urban Adventure League fame announced a new challenge for April: Three Speed Adventure April!  There were five challenges.  Yours Truly had grand plans to complete them all in one fell swoop of an S24O.

The overall challenge consists of five different sub-challenges:

  1. Ride your three speed at least fifteen miles (25 km) in one ride.
  2. A climb of 5% or more grade, with a cumulative elevation gain of at least 100 feet (30 m).
  3. A bit of unpaved/dirt action, of at least a cumulative one half mile (1 km).
  4. Coffee outside via three speed.
  5. A bike overnight or bike camping trip by three speed.

Well, that didn’t happen.  But I did manage to squeeze out 3 of them.

On April 21st, 2017, I set out to conquer the climb from Market and 3rd, past Negley Park, to 8th, which generally has an upward pitch, and is at some points ridiculously steep.  Especially for a 40 pound 3-speed with an old fat guy astride.

The hardest bit, though, is right at the bottom.  See the little circled dip in the screenshot below.  Over the first .37 miles, it gains 100 feet in altitude.  That’s about 6% if my math isn’t too far off.

Challenge #2 complete!

Challenges 3 and 4 were completed on Sunday, April 30th.

A cozy bridge.

A little dirt.

A little grass.  I’d guess about a mile of the rough stuff, out and back.

Coffee along a little stream.  The water was boiled with a Kelly Kettle…

…and then forced through the grounds with an Aeropress…

…into a Coleman porcelain coated steel mug.

This is my favorite mug.  It’s part of a set consisting of 3 other mugs and a matching percolator.  I found them in a thrift store a few years back, still in the original box.  Those little gold Taiwan ROC stickers were on the bottom of all 5 pieces, which tells me they had never been used  Twelve worthless Americanos for the lot!

And, finally, a nice ramble home on the Collegiate.

Reality bites…

…and it doesn’t hurt that bad.

This time I’m going to revamp the One Bike idea a bit and make an attempt to bring it back to reality.  My last post was a mental exercise prompted by another post over at Singularity.  In summary, if you could only have one bike, what would it be?  No holds barred.  Spare no expenses.  Win the lottery.  Mine turned out to be an A. Homer Hilsen.  (Or a Sam Hilborne, but I don’t much care for slopey top tubes.)  I think there’s some merit to this exercise, but there’s a little problem, too.  A new A. Homer Hilsen costs $2,300 for the frame and fork.  While that may be realistic for lots of folks, I can’t swing $2,300 for an entire bike.  Half that is more realistic.  Half again, and use the existing bits and pieces I have lying around is completely realistic.  That said, let’s rewrite the rules.

  1. One frame-set only.  We’ll save this one for last.
  2. Multiple wheel-sets are permitted.  This is what makes one bike possible.
  3. Multiples of a given component are permitted.  Not as necessary as #2, but awfully convenient.
  4. Cost is not a factor.  Name your price.  Obviously, no one expects anyone to talk about their money in public.  But be realistic.  Figure out what you’d need in a bike and then try to track down something that works.
  5. As few variations as possible.  Not a problem.
  6. As little hassle as possible.  I really don’t ever try to build in hassle.  It just happens.
  7. Call your shot.
  8. Justify.  7 and 8 kinda go together.  e.g. I need a trailer hitch because I tow the kids around in the trailer.

That’s just one variation.  Price.  This little change requires much more flexibility in the finished product.

  1. The 7-speed stuff is still on board.  This was a surprise.  I’ve had difficulty finding decent quality 7-speed cassette hubs, spaced 126 OLD.  The pickier I get, the scarcer and pricier they are.  That’s the way when you have to troll eBay and Craigslist for old parts.  If the One Bike were based on a new frame, rear dropout spacing is likely to be somewhere between 130 and 135mm, which changes the game entirely.  The RM40 is a low-end, current production 7-speed hub from Shimano.  Alternately, I can simply use modern 8/9/10-speed  road or MTB hubs with a little 4.5mm spacer behind the cassette.  A third option is going back to eBay.  Unlike road hubs, MTB hubs, spaced for modern frames, from the early 90s are plentiful and much less expensive.  Plus, I have my own stash of 7-speed shifters.
  2. Instead of two sets of identical wheels, we’re now at two sets of wheels.  One front wheel has a dynamo and the other doesn’t.  Looking at the wheels currently in my possession, I can do this if I settle on 26″ rims instead of 700c.  I have more than one set of 700c wheels, but they’re all different enough from each other that I’d have difficulty swapping them.  The rims are different widths, which would require brake adjustments.  The hubs are different widths, which will probably require derailer adjustments.  If I were to use my existing 700c wheels, I’d be violating rules 5 and 6.  Parallax hubs are cheap and plentiful and for some unintentional reason I have a box full of them.  I currently have two MTB rear wheels built on Parallax hubs.  I’ve given away more of these hubs than I currently posses.  Odds are, if someone puts a mountain bike that didn’t come from a department store on the curb, it has a Parallax hub.  They’re everywhere. So I have two 26″ rear wheels, and both have rims of similar width.  Within a millimeter of each other.  I have two front wheels, also with similar rims.  One of them has a dynamo hub, which solves the night riding requirements.  This leads me to the conclusion that my One Bike needs to take 26″ wheels instead of 700c.
  3. Tires.  I decided I’d need three sets.  Utility, winter and fun.  For 26″/559ISO rims I currently have some Bontrager Satellites, Nokian W106 studded, Panaracer Fire XC Pros and a few other mismatched tires.  The Bontrager and Nokian tires satisfy the utility and winter requirements.  None of the other tires really contribute to sporty road riding, but they’re there, and they’ll work in a pinch if I need a spare.  That’s 3+ pairs of tires for 26″ rims, adding more influence to the 26″ decision.
  4. I don’t have a Sugino XD crank, but I have several crank sets that I could put to use.  There’s an MT60 triple and a matching bottom bracket in the parts bin.  There are a couple long cage rear and a couple triple front derailers, too.
  5. Some place to attach racks.  I have two bikes that, so far, could be made to serve as the One Bike, but neither has any accommodation for racks, aside from drop out eyelets.  I’d have to use P-clamps to secure racks to the seat stays.  This works in the sense that the rack is attached to the bike and can hold panniers, but the rack will wiggle a lot more than if it was screwed directly to the frame.
  6. Drop handlebars.  Both of those existing bikes are mountain bikes.  Mountain bikes tend to have longer top tubes than road bikes.  I don’t think drop bars are a good solution on most mountain bikes because of that.  Combine this with the rack problem, and it’s pretty obvious that I need a new frame.
  7. Now I have to concede another sticking point.  The brakes.  I specified caliper brakes instead of cantilever.  With all my other nits, like wide tires, this was the sticking point that led me to the conclusion that those two bikes from Rivendell were the only current production models meeting all of my requirements.  If I make an exception for cantilever brakes, this opens up a whole new world of possibilities.

Let’s break it down.

  1. 26″/559ISO wheels
  2. Road bike geometry
  3. Rack eyelets
  4. Well under $1000.  Closer to $500 is better.

I can think of a few off the top of my head, the most obvious being the Surly Long Haul Trucker, but there are others.  As it stands I already have nearly every part necessary to build up a new frame set.  I might need a chain and cables and maybe a few odd small parts, but it’s pretty obvious that if I accept reality I could have the One Bike.

One bike to rule them all…

…and in the something something.  I can’t think of anything catchy.

Over at Singularity there’s a little challenge to do some thinking and come up with one bike that would fit every possible need.  A mental exercise in minimalism without sacrificing functionality.  I can do this.  A while back I came to the conclusion that 3 bikes is plenty – just put different handlebars on each one.  Paring it down to one should be easy.  In theory.  Let’s take a look at the rules.  (My thoughts about each rule look like this.)

  1. One frame-set only.  We’ll save this one for last.
  2. Multiple wheel-sets are permitted.  This is what makes one bike possible.
  3. Multiples of a given component are permitted.  Not as necessary as #2, but awfully convenient.
  4. Cost is not a factor.  ORLY?
  5. As few variations as possible.  Not a problem.
  6. As little hassle as possible.  I really don’t ever try to build in hassle.  It just happens.
  7. Call your shot.
  8. Justify.  7 and 8 kinda go together.  e.g. I need a trailer hitch because I tow the kids around in the trailer.

Let’s get started with 8, shall we?


I do some utility riding.  A lot of this is stuff most people would do in their car.  We’re fortunate to live in a suburb with lots of services nearby.

Getting both kids to school is a 2.5 mile round trip.  3 miles if the little one isn’t ready to go and I have to come back after dropping off the big one.  The big one rides her own bike.  The little one can ride her own bike in the mornings, but traffic is too heavy after school.  When the weather is nice enough she rides an Adams Trail-a-bike.  When it’s not she lounges in a Wike trailer.  I need hitches for both of these.  I still haven’t found a really good way to get her bike home if she rides it in the morning.  A utility trailer with a bike rack would work.  Let’s add that to the list.


Stop that.

A grocery run is about 3 miles round trip.  I’ve used the Wike trailer for this, but typically a set of panniers gets the nod.  I only have touring bags.  They work in the sense that they can be stuffed full of groceries, but I usually end up re-bagging everything to make it all fit just right for the ride home.  I’ve had a Wald Giant Delivery Basket on a couple bikes at one time or another.  Simply dropping the grocery bags into it is super easy, but it’s big, heavy, and makes the bike steer for crap.  Grocery panniers might be nice.  Racks, of course, are a given.  Most of the grocery runs are at night.  I like dynamo lighting.  Battery lights are for suckers.  We’ll put a dynamo wheel on the list.

Currently, those are the two big utility requirements.  I’ll do local errands on the bike, too.  If I ever rejoin the ranks of the gainfully employed this bike will probably be put to use as a commuting machine at least some of the time.

Did you notice how I never said “unless it’s raining”?  Fenders are required.

Recreational rides include the local bike club, JRA, S24O and the occasional weekend “long” ride.  I did a mini-tour last year with Doc.  Three days.

Bike club rides are not of the pace-line variety.  Our club classifies the ride pace as A, B, C or D.  A-rides are generally treated as training rides for the racers and wannabe racers.  B-rides have pace-lines, too.  I go on the C and D rides, where the pace-line is less line and more amoeba.  And there’s no pace, either.  Any bike will work for these rides.

JRA means “just riding around”.  Any bike will work for JRA.  In bike shop jargon it also means “just riding along”.  This is a reference to numb skull customers who think the mechanic can’t tell how a fork got bent.  “I was just riding along and it bent back like that when I hit the brakes.”  

S240 means sub-24-hour-overnight.  This, by itself, is reason enough to ride a bike.  There are few activities as fun or as cheap as going bike camping.  “Cheap” is relative.  You gotta buy a bike and some camping gear.  But once those are accounted for it’s pretty close to free.  Food and maybe camping fees.  The bike needs some way to carry camping gear.  Racks, panniers, saddle bag, small front basket, etc.  Same stuff I’d use for grocery getting. These bits are also useful for the 3-day mini tour.  I’d just need to bring more food and a few extra changes of clothing.

I think that covers rule #8 and sorta touches on #7.  Let’s get more specific.

I really like 7-speed cassettes.  There’s nothing wrong with 8 or 9 or 15 cogs, but I like 7.  All the parts are less expensive and more durable.  Derailers and shifters are easier to keep in proper adjustment.  If an indexed shifter stops indexing, friction is perfectly usable.  I can get the range I want, from about 20 gear inches up to about 100, with readily available parts without having to fuss with silly things like half-step gearing or close range triples.  2 of my 6 bicycles are currently set up with a 7-speed cassette.  One of my bikes has a 7-speed freewheel.  One of those 3 even has indexed shifting.  7 is the sweet spot.  Everything since then has been good for racers and those strange people who want the latest and greatest.  The problem with 7 is that the currently available parts are on the low end of the quality spectrum.  This means that I’d have to track down high quality old stuff, or put up with the new cheap bits.  At this point, I believe that for my purposes either of those options is better than going with 9 or 10 or 11 speed cassettes.  So that’s how I’d build both of my rear wheels.  A 135mm hub with a 7-speed body could be nearly dishless.  One should have a K-cassette (13-34) and the other could be geared a little higher.  Maybe 11-28.  Add touring rims and 36 stainless spokes.

There should be two identical front wheels.  Both should have the same rims as the rear wheels, 36 stainless spokes and mid-range dynamo hubs.  I currently have an Alfine dynamo on one bike and a SRAM D7 on another.  Either of those would be fine.

I’ve had good luck with Alex Adventurer rims.  So those are cool.

Having two sets of identical wheels goes a long way toward rules 5 and 6.  Easy wheel swaps, simple redundancy.  Multiple wheel-sets make the one bike thing possible.  Wheel and tire damage is probably the number one reason a bike gets sidelined in favor of another.  “Got a flat, ride a different bike” becomes “put on the other wheel”.

I’d need 3 pairs of tires.  The first pair should be a bullet proof (ok, flat resistant), durable commuter/touring tire.  Schwalbe Marathon Supreme, 700c x 40.  These tires would be the daily use tires.  I don’t have time to fix flats when I’m taking the girls to school.  I don’t want to fix flats at 1am when it’s 20F outside and I’m on my way home with groceries.

The second pair of tires is the fun pair.  Panaracer Pasela.  At least 32mm wides, preferably 37mm.  These would live on the higher geared wheels and be used for club rides and JRA.  I’d move them to the low-geared wheels for S24O and touring.

The third pair would be studded.  Nokian A10 or something like that.  These would replace the Marathons from the first snowfall until the end of February.

Two saddles and two seat posts.  One saddle should be made of thick leather.  I like my Velo-Orange Model 1.  A Brooks Pro or a Berthoud would work, too.  The leather saddle should be attached to a really nice seat post, like a Nitto Crystal Fellow.  This is the fun ride/S24O/touring saddle.

The second saddle should be plastic and attached to a cheaper post, like a Kalloy.  The Trail-a-bike hitch goes with the second one.  This is the utility, all weather, day to day saddle.

7-speed bar-end shifters.  I have a pair of Shimano 600 shifters that index.  They’re ancient and they still work perfectly.  Rivendell Silver Shifters on bar-end pods are my second choice

Sugino XD-2 crank.  26/36/48.  SKF bottom bracket.  MKS RMX Sneaker pedals.

I’m indifferent about derailers.  Long cage for the rear and a road triple for the front.  Something mid-range or better.

A slightly flared drop bar.  I’m not entirely sure which one.  After trying quite a few I’ve found that I really like both the Nitto B115 and the Salsa Cowbell.  I do like some variety in handlebars.  Having a second, different bar with its own levers and cables would make the occasional swap fairly painless.  I’m undecided on the specific second handlebar.

Shimano Dura-Ace brake levers for the drop bars.  Update:  I’ve changed my mind.  Tektro or Cane Creek levers.  They have a quick release button that really helps open up the brakes.

Fenders.  Berthoud stainless or Planet Bike Cascadia.  No SKS, no VO, no Honjo.

Lights for the dynamo.  B&M has a new super bright headlight with a USB charging port.  It should be available soon.  I want one.  This would be great for keeping the GPS and phone charged while on an S24O or tour.  The Toplight Line Plus is the most perfect dynamo taillight ever designed.  Fact.  I’d like a switch to turn it off independent of the headlight, so as to not blind the little one while she’s being towed.

Nitto Big Back Rack and some sort of top rack for the front that can hold a basket or handlebar bag.

That pretty much covers all of the rules except #1 – the frame-set.  It has to take racks and handle a camping load.  It has to pull a trailer.  It need clearance for 40mm tires and fenders.  It must be steel.  I prefer vertical drop-outs.  There’s a big, big list of bikes that will do this.  I can already hear a bunch of you saying “don’t be an idiot, get a Long Haul Trucker!”

I want side-pull caliper brakes.

WTF, Sloth?

That narrowed the list down a bit, didn’t it?

As far as I know, there is only one non-janky long reach brake that will handle 40mm tires and a fender.  It’s made by Tektro.  R559.

The only production frame I’m aware of that will do all of this is the Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen.  So there it is.  My one bike to tow them all.

Coming back down to reality, I can’t afford an A. Homer Hilsen.  With the current price of $2, 000 (that’s just the frame and fork, folks) set to increase in a few days to $2,300, it’s way out of the budget.  I could have a TIG-welded custom made for less if I kept it simple. If any of you are aware of another current production bike, complete or frame-set, that meets the requirements listed above, lemme know, because this little exercise really has me thinking.  The wife-type probably wouldn’t be thrilled with the initial expenditure, but I bet she’d be ecstatic about the reduction in clutter.

Another update:  The current batch of Sam Hillborne bikes also meet my needs.  It turns out the old ones had cantilever brakes.  The new ones have calipers.  Whee!  Civia had a bike in 2011 called the Prospect.  Looking at the pictures it should be able to handle a 38mm tire with fenders.  If I could track down one of those it would be even more affordable than the Sam, leaving more cash for the wheels and other do-dads.

Yet another update:  The Civia Prospect has horizontal dropouts.  I’m not sure how I missed that, but it’s a deal killer.  So we’re back to the two bikes I can’t afford.

Peace out, yo, and go ride your bike.


Here we are at the end of a year, staring down the long, black barrel of another.  I hope 2012 didn’t take your feet out from under you too often.

The wife-type and I purchased (mortgaged to the hilt) a house last February.  That was stressful, but it happened more or less uneventfully.  We live on a dead-end street with, ahem, interesting neighbors.  Two of them are fairly sane.  One is bat poop crazy.  One has barking dogs.  They bark.  And bark and bark bark bark bark bark bark.  They really bark at the bike.  If I’m on a bike with a bell I try to start ringing it before I turn the corner.  That really gets them wound up.

Bike miles.  I put more miles on the bikes in 2012 than the previous two years combined.  My counting method varied from the GPS on the phone, to the DeLorme, to one of those computers that counts wheel revolutions, to don’t-give-a-fuck-let’s-just-ride.  In other words, I’m not entirely sure how far I went, but I’d guess it’s north of 1,500 miles.  July saw 540-something miles, including my first ever metric century.

Today is Christmas.  Christie gave me a Garmin Edge 200.  I’m going to track every last 2013 mile on it so that I can give the curious masses an accurate number a year from now.

Speaking of 2013, resolutions.

More S24O.  I think I did 3 during 2012.  This year the overnights will be themed.  Feel free to ride along.  Bring a tent; mine is too small to share.

  1. S24O on every bike I own at least once.  Right now I have the MB-2, High Plains, Collegiate, Pacer, 550 and I think something else maybe.  That’s at least 6 overnights.
  2. One should be a bikepacking adventure.  Gravel, single track, no racks, strap the crap right to the frame.
  3. Return to Pine Grove Furnace.  30-ish miles from home.  Doc discovered a super secret spot in the State Forest on the ridge east of the park.  It’s a bit of a climb, but coasting down the hill in the morning is a good way to wake up.  There are hiker showers near the lake.
  4. A fully loaded S24O.  Front and rear panniers.  Bring way too much stuff.  Go slow.
  5. Credit card S24O.  Ride one of the road bikes to a B&B.
  6. Not strictly S24O, but do another micro-tour.  2012’s was a big, fat winner.

Ride with the girls more.  I think the Megan is big enough to do an overnight on the bike.  The important part is just having time together.  They jabber.  Don’t believe me?  Find a kid you like and go for a ride.  They will talk your ear off.  It’s a blast and we don’t do it enough.

I’m sure there’s more, but I have bikes on the brain and can’t bring myself to bore you anymore.  Here’s hoping your 2013 brings you less bad and more good than 2012.  Peace, love and go ride your bike.

The flash

A few years ago I purchased a Planet Bike Superflash taillight.  I still have it and it’s still going strong.  This was, quite possibly, one of my smartest bike accessory purchases.  Since then several other manufacturers have either copied the light or tried to improve upon it, and Planet Bike has responded with the Superflash Turbo.

The Avenir Panorama is one these copies.  As far as I can tell, it’s just about as bright as the Superflash.  The plastic feels a bit cheaper, but it’s $10, so I can’t really complain.

Kent Peterson says good things about the Radbot.

Brighter lights are available.  More durable lights are available.  But the Superflash set a standard for battery powered bike lights.  And this is really good for those of us who need them.  But the best part is that the Superflash, Turbo, Radbot, Avenir and a score of others all use the same mounting hardware.  That means we can all buy different lights at different times, get a handful of extra mounting brackets, and switch and swap between bikes as much as we’d like with absolutely no hassle.  I currently have a Superflash and a Panorama, and several brackets from both manufacturers.  I forget which brackets are which, because it just doesn’t matter.

This is the Avenir Panorama attached to my daughter’s Trek Lara with a Planet Bike rack mount bracket.

Here’s a Superflash attached to the grocery getter’s rack with the same kind of bracket.

After I took that last one, I grabbed the Panorama and carried it down to the wine cellar basement where I keep the other bikes. Here it is on the fixie’s seat post.

The Pacer’s seat stay.

And the MB-2’s seat post.

That right there is reason enough to get one, or several, of these lights. The fact that they’re bright means you get to eat the cake, too. If your local shop doesn’t carry PB mounting hardware (mine does), PB doesn’t charge for shipping on the small parts. Light it up, folks.

Rausch Gap S24O

It looks like His Boniusness beat me to the punch and actually wrote up a ride report in a timely fashion. You can read it here. Anyway, mine’s mostly a photo dump with a few comments.

Bone and I decided to meet at the Stony Valley Railroad Grade parking area at 3pm on the 6th of October in the 2012th year of our Lord^H^H^H^H His Noodly Appendage.  I didn’t tell him, but I had planned all along to ride there from home.  Bwahahaha!

For the gear heads, from left to right.  The saddle bag is perched on a Bagman support and holds my tent stakes and a Big Agnes Lost Ranger.  There’s a Eureka! Spitfire strapped to the top.  Three bottle cages with full bottles.  The white one underneath is a Kleen Kanteen vac flask.  It works great for road coffee.  The Ostrich bag holds most of the food, along with camera, phone, wallet, keys, mon-ay, tools, jacket, extra shirt, some gloves, basically anything I might want to access during the ride.  The Lone Peak panniers hold a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core, a pillow, my kitchen, some warmer clothing, toiletries, and maybe some food.  I can’t recall exactlywhat.  That yellow thing is a tent stake mallet, stolen from the car camping 8-man Tent Mahal.

The skies had been threatening rain for a while, but held off until just after I left the house. So I stopped and put on my rain shell within a half mile.  Of course, it stopped raining a few minutes later and wouldn’t rain again until the next morning.  It was windy and cool, though, so I kept the jacket on until I left the river front.  Here we are crossing the Susquehanna headed toward Harrisburg, home of the Mayor for Life – Linda Thompson.

And then making a left to follow the Green Belt north along the river.

There’s lots to see along the river front part of the Green Belt. Like Tom Corbett‘s house.

He’s a pretty easy going guy, so I thought I might ring the bell and ask if he wanted to come along, but I couldn’t figure out how to get to the front door. Does the mailman just chuck packages over the fence?

Here are some pretty flowers.  Let’s hope the city council doesn’t find out about them.

Pretty sure this is the PA Vulcan compound.

End of the line. Time to turn east and head through the burbs.

Northern Harrisburg has some really nice neighborhoods with big houses, wide streets and mature trees. I’ll bet the folks who live here vote in the mayoral election next time around.

Leaving the city and heading north just a bit farther takes us to Ft. Hunter. If you’re ever in the area you should take the time to check it out.

It’s also a good place to stop for the essentials.

Bridge to nowhere. Been there?

The old tavern house. Unfortunately, they don’t serve anymore. What’s up with that?

Heading north out of Ft. Hunter along PA Bike Route J is interesting. The only road on this side of the river that goes through the water gap is US 22/322. It’s a limited access highway, 55mph, and normally not open to bicycles. They make a grudging exception here. Bring your steel nerves. Train tracks cross over the highway in the gap and the shoulder under the bridge is only about 4 feet wide. The alternative adds 22 miles and goes over a big damn mountain.

But I made it to Dauphin, underwear intact.  That’s Stony Creek in the background.  I’ll follow it all the way to Rausch Gap.

This way!

There was a bar behind be.

I purchased a refreshing beverage.

This was the best part of the ride. The 12 miles from Dauphin to the trail head melted away all too quickly.

Good times!

For those of you thinking an S24O isn’t complete without dirt, I agree. Let there be dirt!

This gravel road follows the old railroad grade. I’m pretty sure I was speeding.

I got to the trail head before Bone…

…and decided it was time for this.

From October 2012 S24O

But he wasn’t far behind me. Let’s go!

8 10 13 miles of this.

This is the Appalachian Trail. About 1/8 of a mile up the hill is a shelter, along with a composting toilet and lots of tent space.

Our light was fading fast and our eagerness to set up camp took a bit of a precedent over our picture taking activities. But the camera came back out Sunday morning. I took a few horrible low-light, shaky photos. First up, breakfast.

Everything tastes better cooked outside, and few things taste better than bacon and eggs. So this was absolutely perfect.

Here’s the camp site.

Bone can move faster than light.

The trail back was pretty much the same as the night before, only colder and wetter.

My original plans included riding all the way home, about 30 miles from A to B, but conversation along the way evolved from bacon to bacon cheeseburgers. And then to Five Guys. It was decided, with 10 miles of rail trail remaining, that my bike should take a ride on Bone’s car and we two should get bacon cheeseburgers and fries and sugary soda-type drinks for lunch.

And that is how we defeated the evil zombie king of St. Anthony’s wilderness went on our annual fall S24O.

Coffeeneuring, Cornerstone Coffee

MG is at it again.  I missed last weekend so I’m going to have to down a few double shots over the next few weeks.

The gang and I headed for Cornerstone Coffee in Camp Hill today.  It’s less than a mile from home, but we detoured to the LBS and put a Giant Bella on layaway for the little one’s upcoming birthday.


Coffee!  I had something called a Cornerstone Cap, which is espresso, maple syrup and frothy milk.


The girls had hot cocoa and Christie had some sort of seasonal pumpkin coffee abomination.  Then we went to the LBS.



After that, we headed home, stopping at the elementary school for some slow racing and monkey bars.

Peace out, and go ride your bike.

Went to a wedding

This last weekend we loaded up the cage, bike on the back, and drove to New York.  My lovely wife’s lovely cousin was to be married at a lodge in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by State Forest.  Dirt roads, horsey trails, fall foliage!  How could I not bring the bike.  As it turned out, we were put up in another lodge roughly 18 miles away via unlined country roads.  I decided to ride to the wedding, and employed Google Maps to find a suitable route.

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About 18 miles.  Hour and 45 minutes.  With some stopping to take pictures, 2, 2 and half hours.  No problem.  I left our lodge three and a half hours before the wedding was scheduled to start.

I anticipated getting there before the wife and children, so I packed my saddle bag with a pair of shorts and t-shirt so that I wouldn’t be wandering around, pre-nuptials, in my Spandex, showing off my gear.  Christie would bring my wedding attire in the car. The saddle bag also contained the standard crap I drag along on every ride; tube, patch kit, multi-tool, rain shell, wallet, and phone.  Since it was cold when I left, and the weather guy said it was supposed to warm up, I put a fleece over my jersey, donned the full-fingered gloves, and tossed my fingerless gloves in the bag.  As usual, the frame pump rode along, sandwiched between the head and seat tubes.  (That part is important.)

Let’s begin.

From New York Ramble

There was dirt. Lots of dirt. This particular dirt, leading away from Beaver Point, was packed hard and rolled fast. Whee!

It didn’t last long, at first, and eventually dumped me out onto a paved surface. The scenery was heavenly. Like this.

And this.

And this.

What I didn’t know was that a horsey lives here. He was happy to see me and put on quite the show, prancing around and snorting. I think he wanted an apple. Or maybe a cigarette. You never know with horsies.

I passed many dirt roads and little trails, heading off in the wrong direction. A week wouldn’t be enough time if all did was ride. I wonder where this one goes.

I eventually got to McPhilmy Road, ahead of schedule. McPhilmy is dirt, or sand rather, from one end to the other. Most of it was ridable, but much of it was very soft. My 28mm road tires were no match this stuff and I walked a lot.

I made a small error at the intersection of McPhilmy and Bailey. This intersection was not signed, and I mistakenly thought I was at Stony Lake Road, where I was to turn left. Besides, there was a sign across the road that said “Dead End”. So turn left I did, onto the sandiest of the sandy roads, and walked nearly half a mile before realizing I was headed the wrong direction.

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I backtracked to McPhilmy and resumed a correct course, rolling past the “Dead End” sign. Those of you who cycle know that dead ends are often only dead ends for those sad souls stuck in a car. The bridge has holes in it, or the road’s washed out, or maybe the county is broke and just can’t maintain it any more. So they close it and put up a sign. But a bicycle can often sneak through.

A more accurate sign would have read “Bridge Out. For the last 30 years.” It would have also notified the fine folks at Google Maps and told them not to plunge unsuspecting travelers into the icy depths. Anyway, this is where the bridge used to be.

And this is what it crossed once upon a time.

I considered turning back, but I was already pushing my time limit, what with the detour down Sandy McSand Lane. The only rational choice was to shit-can any semblance of intelligence and cross the stream on foot. I stuffed my phone into the saddle bag, removed the frame pump, and hoisted the Pacer onto my right shoulder, a la cyclocross. Then I waded out into water that couldn’t have been warmer than about 50F. The river bed was rocky, the rocks were slippery, and the water was fast. Take another look at the photo above and note the location of the large boulder on the other side.

Trying to find a safe way across was difficult. My path was zigzag-ish and I nearly fell several times. But the frame pump saved me. It was the third leg of a tripod, and kept me upright when I surely would have went swimming had it not been with me. Those poseurs over at Velominati could learn something from this. (OK, OK. You’re right. They would have turned tail and ran away. And I suppose I could have found a stick.)

I climbed out the other side, one sleeve of my fleece soaked nearly to the shoulder, both gloves wet, and everything below the waist dripping. You can see that boulder in this photo, too.

The bike and I scrambled, stumbled, crawled up the bank. This is the view from the other side of the creek. Where the bridge used to be. Google. As in, not there any more.

After swapping my wet fleece and winter gloves for a rain shell and fingerless gloves, I turned and rode away from my vanquished foe.

At least until the sand made me walk.

The last few miles were mostly uneventful and mostly snowmobile trails. These “roads” are crisscrossed with tree roots and paved with pine needles. It was slow-going, but fun and scenic.

Right about here, Google Maps routed me onto a road that doesn’t exist. Adirondack Park Preserve most definitely exists on the other end. Maybe it goes somewhere else. Maybe it dead ends long before it gets to East Shore Rd., but there’s not even the remnants of a long forgotten logging track. Nothing but trees and ferns. I made a couple quick course corrections and continued on.

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Finally! I had reached the driveway to the Otter Creek Lodge, and my last half mile or so was once again hard packed, fast dirt.

I had arrived with 20 minutes to spare, an extra 3 miles on the clock, and I parked the bike on the porch and dashed inside. My wife had laid out my clothing in a spare room and I even stopped sweating before the ceremony. First time for everything, I suppose.

At the end of the journey.

A few statistics.

21.1 miles. Top speed was about 33 mph. 24 cars, half of which were encountered on a 2.5 miles stretch of Erie Canal Rd.

In all, this was a lovely ride, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Not even the stream crossing. The roads and trails in this part of New York are fabulous and it is conceivable to me that a person could spend the better part of a life-time riding them and never tire of it. I can’t wait to go back.


How many bikes?

Sometimes, the wife asks me a silly question.  “How many bikes do you have now?”  This is not a question of curiosity.  It’s a mixture of mild contempt and disbelief.  If you’re married and you have bikes, or cameras, or some other obsession hobby that encourages collecting stuff, you’ve seen the look which accompanies this question.  There is an underlying desire for me to part with at least some of the gigantic pile of crap taking up space in the basement.  And on the porch.  In the foyer.

There are several ways to answer this question.  Some of them are even honest.  Fewer are answers given to wives.

  • N+1.  This means that the proper number of bikes is always one more than the number on hand.
  • N-1.  This means that a divorce is imminent or the rent is two months behind.
  • 7, or 9.  This is from Rivendell Reader #42, page 6.  “Seven is good.  A beater, a bomber, a single-speed, a touring bike, a lightish road bike, a do-all racked and bagged bike, a mixte, a loaner, and a work in progress.  Seven?  Make it nine.”
  • 6.  Beloved Cycles has 6 different frames, each intended for a different purpose.  A road bike, a porteur, a commuter, a touring bike, a randonneur, and a mixte.
  • Maybe you’re a roadie and you need a different racing bike for different conditions.  Racing, training, raining, cold raining, warm raining, might start raining.  At least one each of crabon, aluminium, and steel.  Maybe titanium.
  • That frame without wheels isn’t a bike.  It’s a bike part.  Don’t count it.

There are a zillion ways to answer the question, but I think I may have it figured out.  The true answer and other secrets of the universe are revealed below.  Keep reading!

One of the ways I’ve looked at bikes is to classify them based on use.  In other words, they need to do certain things and I have to figure out which bikes can do what, and which needs are currently unmet.  These are the things I commonly do on a bike.

  • Just riding around.
  • Grocery shopping.
  • Towing the girls to school, dance class, etc.
  • Bicycle club rides.
  • Camping.  Going, not just riding around once I get there.
  • Dropping books off at the library.
  • Rail trail riding.
  • That one time I rode a metric century.
  • In the future I’d like to commute to work (if/when I find a job), maybe go on an extended tour, and possibly ride a brevet series.

Grant Petersen’s 7 or 9 is a good place to start for this type of justification.  At one time I had a bike with a porteur rack, a touring bike, a mountain bike, fixed gear, city, and probably a couple others.  Right now I have the lightish road bike, a beater, a bomber, a do-all, tourer, and a couple works in progress.  2 or 3 are ride-able at any given time.

I had considered paring it down to the Beloved 6, but couldn’t figure out how to slot my existing frame sets into their classifications.  Plus, I have more than 6 bikes.

This is dumb.  (You were thinking that all along.  Admit it.)  I can do most of what I want to do on a bike on any bike.  Maybe I shouldn’t pull a trailer full of kids on the lightish road bike, or ride a metric century on the Collegiate, but there’s a hell of a lot of overlap.  I can certainly take any of them on an S24O or on the slow club rides I sometimes lead.

I think it comes down to handlebars, and I think you/I/we need 3 bikes.  Three.  One, two, three (3).  Thuh-ree.

Circling back around to Grant Petersen and Rivendell, those guys have sold 3 types of handlebars ever since 1994.  Some sort of drop bar, an upright, swept back bar, and the infamous mustache bar.  I’ve read a lot of GP’s writings, and I don’t recall him ever saying “you need one bike with each of our handlebars”, but I think he meant to.  Or maybe he knows it, but doesn’t want to just come right out and say it.  I don’t know.  Doesn’t matter.  But in a round about way, I think he’s on to something.

Get a drop bar you like.  I like the Nitto B115, the Nitto Randonneur, and the Salsa Cowbell.  Pick something you like and set it up in a way that’s comfy.  Higher for an off-road-ish bike, lower for lightish, fastish.

Get some city bars.  Wald 8095, there’s something called a Promenade, maybe Albatross bars.  Pair them up with a leather saddle or a sprung saddle.  Maybe both.

Get another bar.  Mustache, Mary, those weird trekking bars.  And that’s it.  That’s all you need.

Put the porteur rack on your bike with city bars.  Now it’s your shopper, S24O’er, townie.  Or follow Jan Heine’s lead and put it on your drop bar rando bike with fat tires.  Now it’s an “urban bike”.

Got an old mountain bike?  Albatross bars and racks and baskets and now you can tour, camp, grocery shop and commute on it.  Mustache bars and pretend it’s an XO-1.  You’ve always wanted one of those.

Get three different bars and put them on three different frames and go from there.  You’ll figure out which bike does what.

You need three bikes.

Maybe a fourth, just in case one of them is in the shop…



July 28, 2012.  I swung a leg over the Silver Bullet and shoved off toward Mercersburg.  This was, I hoped, not to be a repeat of my first attempt several years ago, which ended 25 miles early at a McDonald’s, soaking up their AC and trying not to puke while I waited for the cavalry to bail my fat ass out. It had been my longest day in the saddle ever.  Nearly 50 miles.  Part of my new motivation was simply the fact that there would be no bail out, no matter how far I fell, which meant I’d have to find a shady tree and take a nap under it.  The horror.

Back then I was 25 pounds heavier with a pack-a-day habit.  July the 28th bore forth a man lighter than he’d been in a decade, an ex-smoker, with over 400 miles behind him during the last few weeks.  A veritable god among men.  OK, maybe a demi-god.

Hero of the Republic?

Circus clown?  Let’s go with circus clown.

My weapon of choice would be a Surly Pacer.  The Silver Bullet.  A steed I had almost forsaken, thinking she was too big, too stretched out.  I had ridden her most of July and grown quite fond of the fit and feel.  Several years of trial and error and Christie’s money had shown me what was best in a bike, and I had kitted her out appropriately.  Cloth bar tape and a firm leather saddle.  Down tube shifters mated to a nearly new Shimano 600 rear derailer.  A Carradice Bagman supported a canvas saddle bag, which in turn held my abundance of crap – rain shell (didn’t need it), Lara bars (didn’t eat them all), tools (never touched them), wallet (empty), phone (dead) and GPS (the only useful bit in the whole bunch).

I rolled out at 6am.  By the time I arrived in Carlisle, I had to pee.  Like, now.  The first convenience store displayed a sign in the window – “No public restroom.”  I feigned ignorance.  The middle-eastern girl behind the till showed indifference.  I grabbed the nearest candy bar, dropped it on the counter and offered up the cash.  She pointed to the “employees only” door at the back corner.

Back in June I got the damn fool idea to join a challenge.  “Ride 500 miles in July” says they.  “Durr, OK” says I.  So I stopped again at 31 miles into my quest.

500 miles, suckers.

I was skeptical of actually meeting this goal.  So was everyone else, I think, though they were mostly supportive.  25 miles a day, most days, at oh dark thirty with Bill and Owen.  And it’s up there in lights a photo on the Internet.

Newville is a pretty little town that sits at the crossroads of 641 and 233.  Both are busy roads (and I’d be riding them again in the near future).  I approached Newville on a farm road and only had to deal with 641 for a couple blocks before making the left onto 233, and then a couple blocks more until peeling off to the right in search of the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail and 11 miles of flat and easy all the way to Shippensburg.  I missed my turn and went a few gorgeous miles out of the way along Big Spring Road before correcting my course.

Nealy and Bullshead. Middle of nowhere. Very big, protective dog on his way. Didn’t stay long.

So maybe 8 miles on the rail trail.  Their sign-age is funny.  In addition to a stop sign at every cross road there are a myriad of unenforceable requirements.  No weapons.  No riding after dark.  Walk your bike across the intersection.  And cyclists please, oh god, pleaseohplease wear a helmet.  I think the signs are there to make the trail commission feel better about being safety conscious or some such.  Granted, it is technically private property, owned by a non-profit.  So I suppose they could have come out there and told me I was trespassing and made me leave or whatever.  Feel-good-ism and CYA above all else, I guess.

The trail doesn’t extend into Shippensburg as suggested by Google Maps.  That’s a future expansion.  It currently ends at a park just north of the University.  This turned out to be a nice place to stop.

The Pacer taking a much needed break. BTW, I made it to Shippensburg without bonking!

I realized at this point that I hadn’t taken my chain off the big ring since leaving home. And thus was hatched the most retarded scheme in history – I would ride all the way to Mercersburg without touching the front shifter.

As I approached Letterkenny and then Chambersburg, I knew I was truly in southern Pennsylvania.  The proof was at a yard sale, though I didn’t have the opportunity to take a photograph of the woman as she climbed down from the lifted 4×4, wearing heels, jogging shorts, beer gut and tube top.  Her shirtless companion, in flip-flops and cut off BDUs was easier to purge from the memory banks.  I’m fairly certain her image is permanently etched upon my retinas.

The sun was in full fry mode by this point and the weatherman’s “partly cloudy” really meant “clouds everywhere except between the Sloth and the sun.”  Traffic was heavy south of Chambersburg, too, and I started to look for a place to find some shade for a few minutes.  A Pepsi machine appeared on the left, as if summoned by Mordenkainen himself, and beckoned me to partake of the fizzy.  It turned out the diet button was really a Pepsi Max, but getting a refund proved difficult.  I drank it anyway and sat in the shade for a few minutes.

When it was time to go I looked down at the computer and noticed something funny. 62.69 miles. You know what that means, don’t you?

Metric century!

Hot damn! I was stoked.  I had just ridden 100km and felt pretty good.  Hell, I decided, I’m going to start training for my first 200k brevet.  This was easy.

Back on the bike and rolling, I burped up every last molecule of carbon dioxide, along with whatever reserves I had left. There were only 10 miles to go, and I was about to hate every last one of them. The man with the hammer had been hiding in that Pepsi bottle the whole time. Even the slightest incline, grades I wouldn’t notice at any other time, required all my strength. But I still wouldn’t shift the chain off the big ring. The chain, over most of that last 10 miles, was in 53/28. But I made it. 72.9 miles.

I might not be ready for that 200k, but at least I didn’t puke.