Category Archives: S24O

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?

Let’s.

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.

Let’s.

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.

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.

Spring cleaning

A few things have happened since the last installment.  We bought a house, moved our stuff, cleaned the old place, and tried really hard to not pull all our hair out.

Bicycle miles for March are pretty close to zero.  As such, I kinda didn’t finish the Utilitaire 12.  I suppose I could have, and probably did, get in enough riding to do 12 utilitaires.  But they were mostly out of necessity and time didn’t allow for much variety.  I did, however, get a big ol’ Honorable Mention from the ever-so-lovely MG.  And that was super cool.  Thanks, MG!

I’ve had to do some plumbing.  The new (old) kitchen required a new faucet and dishwasher.  The new (new) bathroom needed a new shower head.  I have yet to figure out why in hell anyone would voluntarily choose to become a plumber.  Furthermore, I don’t understand how anyone with less than 7 joints in each limb can make a living out of it and not have to hand over their entire pay check to a chiropractor.  Eugene Tooms could have been a good plumber.

The rSogn is getting closer to done.  I’ve attached a Nitto M12 rack and an Ostrich handlebar bag.  Speeding down hill with a front load and no hands is wicked cool.

I just received a snazzy new set of stainless fenders from Velo-Orange. Anyone want to see a pictorial installation how-to? I’ll try to get that done within the next few days.

A slow, easy S24O is coming up.  Tentative plans have us heading down to the Lower Allen Township park and forcibly ejecting anyone else camping along the Yellow Breeches.  If you’re near Harrisburg, PA for the second or third weekends in April and would like to come along, lemme know.

I think that should just about wrap things up.  Tune in next time for co-ed naked alligator wrestling in a mud pit.

A few notes about my S24O kit

For those of you who still don’t know, S24O means “sub-24-hour overnight”.  It’s bike camping.  Dig out your old hiking gear, lash it to your bike, ride a couple hours, camp, come home.  Do it in less than 24 hours.  It’s a nice substitute for touring if you have kids.  Or bills.  Or a job.  Or kids and bills and a job.

Quite a bit has been written about S24O within the last few years.  Here are a few links if you’d like to read a bit more.

The Adventure Cycling interview with GP.
Rivendell’s articles about traveling by bike.
Bikepacking is the MTB crowd’s way of doing it.  There’s some good info about creative ways to attach things to your bike.

Plug it into Google.  You’ll find lots more.

Right now I’d like to lay out what I typically bring along and how well it has worked so far.  The most recent trip’s kit, over Running Gap, looked like this when packed on the bike.

I’ll move from left to right.

I use two Lone Peak P-099 Sundance panniers.  They’re about the same size as an Ortlieb Front Roller, but not waterproof.  Lone Peak bags are made in the US of, what appears to be, heavy duty Cordura nylon and tough-as-nails zippers.  The locking system is damn near fool-proof and super easy to use.  The hooks come in 2 sizes.  Blackburn racks and copies need the smaller hooks and modern racks, like Surly’s Nice Rack or anything from Tubus, take the larger hooks.  Be sure to tell your retailer which ones you need.  I like these bags a lot and won’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone.

Moving on to the stuff in the panniers.

My cook kit consists of a grease pot with lid, homemade windscreen, aluminum pot gripper and Esbit stove  The grease pot is light, holds the rest of the kit and is cheap.  It holds about a quart of water, which is more than I ever need to boil.  I made the windscreen out of a turkey basting pan from the grocery store.  The pot gripper is the standard cheap one that can be found in Wally-Mart’s camping aisle.

The Esbit stove is the heart of the system.  It’s about the same size as a deck of cards and can hold 4 fuel tablets when folded.  One tablet will bring 2 cups of water to a boil faster than any alcohol stove I’ve ever seen, and burns long enough to make a cup of coffee and a pack of Ramen if you’re quick with the pouring.  For an overnight or long weekends the Esbit is superb.  The fuel is easy to light and burns in any weather.  It can even be used as a fire starter if your fire building skills are as bad as mine.  But perhaps it’s not the best solution for extended travel, as the fuel is rarely available at Bubba’s Gas ‘n Git.  Fortunately, this is my S24O kit.

I also keep my sleeping bag up front.  It’s a Lafuma Warm ‘n Lite 600 down bag, rated to 40F, which packs down to the size of a small canteloupe.  So far, in the 4 or 5 times I’ve used it, the overnight temperature has invariably dropped below 40F.  It’s not warm enough to sleep in shorts and t-shirt at 40F.  The last trip’s low of 24F was a bit too cold.  I ended up sleeping in every piece of clothing I had with me.  Two layers top and bottom, two pair of socks, a fleece pull-over wrapped around my feet and a fleece stocking cap on my head.  I stayed warm enough, but the bag felt cramped.  It’s not particularly roomy to begin with, but my large frame covered in multiple layers left very little wiggle room.  This isn’t a bad bag, but it’s definitely for warm weather.  I’m currently considering a Big Agnes system for every season except summer.

The remainder of the front pannier space was taken by spare clothing, food, toiletries, wallet and keys, and a few random small bits.

Moving right.  There are 3 water bottles in the cages.  These are 16oz Kleen Kanteens.  They’re water bottles.  Not much to say, other than I do prefer the stainless steel to plastic.

On to the rear rack.  Perched atop the rear-mounted front rack is a Minnehaha Medium saddle bag.  It’s just big enough for a tool kit, patch kit, spare tube and my Thermarest Prolite 4.  I got the saddle bag on sale.  It’s not a bad bag, but it’s also not worth the current retail price, ATMO.  A big online retailer blew these out last year for $25.  I wouldn’t pay more than that for one today.  Pros – it’s durable, looks pretty good, and has some steel d-ring lash points on the flap.  Cons – the buckles are in an awkward spot unless you routinely stand on your head, there are no provisions for attaching a light, and it’s medium-ness is either too big or too small and never just right.  For the purposes of S24O, it’s too small.

The Prolite 4 was Thermarest’s top of the line self-inflating mattress for a long time.  It’s discontinued, but they replaced it with a similar product that is supposed to have even better insulation.  Pros – it’s durable, easy to inflate and provides excellent ground insulation.  24F on mud was no match for it.  The Prolite does exactly what it’s supposed to do.  Cons – it’s not thick enough for my fat butt.  This is more my fault than the pad’s.  I can’t sleep on my back.  Drunk, drugged and exhausted, I’d lay there wide awake if I couldn’t roll onto my side.  This does not complement a thin, firm pad.  My arm and shoulder will go to sleep, which wakes me up.  Then I have to roll over.  I’ll do that a dozen or so times over the course of the night.  I simply need more cushioning.  If I could sleep on my back the Prolite would be perfect.

Lashed to the back of the saddle bag are my tent, pillow and rain jacket.  The tent is a Eureka! Spitfire.  I purchased the tent mostly because it was on sale and met my needs (on paper).  This tent is frustrating.  It’s not difficult to set up, but I have to make about 4 circles around the damn thing in the process.  The included stakes are those crappy aluminum rods that bend if you look at them harshly.  The vestibules are tiny and the right side is not accessible from inside the tent.  I have just enough room for my shoes on the left.  On the plus side, it’s well made and waterproof.  The ventilation system works well.  My Prolite pad fits perfectly on the bathtub floor and is slightly wedged at the corners, which means the pad doesn’t move around.  It’s also light – about 3 pounds.  I’ll keep it for now, but when the time comes for a new one I’ll probably shop around.

I also can’t sleep without a pillow, so I brought a small throw wrapped in an ancient pillow case.  Cramming my clothing into a stuff sack is never very comfortable, and on the last trip would have been impossible since I was wearing all of it.

My rain shell is an O2 Rainshield.  It’s a slight step up from Tyvek and costs about $25.  My first one lasted two and half years, including daily use as a wind shell for two winters.  It’s light, packs small and adds to the visibility factor.  On the other hand, the front zipper is the only means of ventilation.  I’ve not found this to be a problem, but I know some folks prefer pit and back vents.  For the money it can’t be beat.

I think that just about covers it, though I’ve probably forgotten something important.  Feel free to ask questions.

Next time, I’ll detail the new rSogn and discuss why I sold the Trucker.

Expedition to Running Gap

Whereupon we climbed high mountains, exhausted our daylight, froze nearly to death, lost our maps, and rescued a fair maiden

I hereby offer my testimony of our harrowing expedition.  The account is truthful to the best of my abilities.  My companion’s account is here, though I fear the cold has caused him permanent harm as his details are askew.

Having heard the tales of several previous failed expeditions to cross Running Gap the Pass of Caradhras, and the camp sites treasures that lie there waiting for those with a free weekend brave enough to attempt it, Bone and I set upon the task of conquering the foul summit.

From rSogn

Just after noon on the 5th day of November, in the year 2011, we departed upon Velocipedes into the rugged foothills of the Nittany Mountains, leaving behind all traces of civilization and any hope of rescue should we fail in our quest.  For hours we slogged through muddy tracks and over impossibly steep hills, encountering no other living thing except the trees.  Upon the crest of one hill we did discover the half-eaten corpses of two deer, no doubt caught and slain by the hideous Nittany lion.  We agreed to proceed as quietly as possible from this point.

We did eventually find our way to the foot of the Nittany Mountain and proceeded upwards.  It was so steep and rugged that we were forced to push our machines.  Our hopes of finding a suitable camp site before dusk were shattered by the sheer palisade on one side and a precipitous drop on the other.  As onward and upward we pushed the wind grew to ferocious gusts, colder and colder, and the sky darkened.  Just before the sun set we met two hunters grizzled rangers descending the mountain.  They had seen no deer and wondered if we had spotted any attempted to cross the pass, but were out of time defeated.  They joked that we should be riding our bikes instead of walking. Their speech was incomprehensible and the look of fear in their eyes was unmistakable.  We could barely understand their gibberish.  They implored us to turn back, but we refused and continued on our way.

We did reach the summit that night, but found no shelter from the freezing gale and decided to go down the other side.  The descent was exhilarating, fast and smooth fraught with rock slides covering the track and slick mud between them.  What a ride! We nearly toppled into the ravine more than once.  Some time after midnight we stumbled into a small clearing.  What dead wood we could find was waterlogged and would not burn.  After a filling dinner of beans and rice and Pad Thai we shot the shit a bit and decided that not bringing some whiskey was a stupid thing to do. We discovered, much to our horror, that most of our provisions had shaken loose and were undoubtedly lost on the pass.

The night passed slowly and the temperature continued to fall until just before sunrise.  The sun was a welcome sight as I had lost all feeling in my fingers and toes.  Bone fared no better.  Our map showed a stream nearby so we filled our bottles, but what we found was a dry creek bed.  The only water to be had was brackish and we reluctantly did without.  After breaking camp, we rolled out on a road that descended farther into the valley.  It was smooth and fast and should have taken us closer to home and recognizable landmarks.  We believed at the time that we had conquered the pass with little loss.  Some time later Bone looked down to check our speed on his GPS, but it had fallen off its mount we noticed that the landmarks were unfamiliar, so we stopped to check the map again.  Alas!  Though we thought the road smooth, the map had come loose and we were lost.  We were forced to proceed by guesswork alone.

We called Bone’s sister and her husband to come get us. Near mid-day we came across a young lass who’s husband had been slain by the Nittany Lion.  She had fled on foot through the forest to get away and was now more lost than we.  She needed our help and we could not refuse.  We attempted to locate her husband’s body, but the terrible beast kept us from it.  They dropped us off at the car and went to look for the GPS. Fearing for our own lives, we said a prayer for the departed and moved on.

They found the GPS in short order and met us before we went to Ard’s for lunch. Eventually, we came across an inn wherein we ate our first meal since crossing the pass.  The lady in our charge kissed us both and thanked us, and offered a small sum to a passing priest if he would bless our Velocipedes for the trip home.  The innkeeper showed us his map and told us which way to go and then we were home, the blessing having worked, before dusk.

New Year’s Resolutions – 2011

It’s about time for me to discuss all the crap I’m going to half-ass and then quit over the next 12 months.  Let’s start with the easy stuff.

My first resolution is the same as everyone else’s.  Be 20 years old and have six-pack abs.  Well.  Lose weight and get more exercise.  That’s fairly broad, so I’ll narrow it down a bit.  His Boniusness laid out a pretty good plan.  Every week I should lose a pound and cycle at least 35 miles.  This is manageable and practical.  I’m too embarrassed to tell you what I weigh right now but I’ve already lost my first pound by eating mostly fat and leaves.  However, 5 days into 2011 and I haven’t thrown a leg over a bike.  Looks like I need to go for a ride or 4.

Complete the GOTCHA Mega-multi Challenge.  This one’s in the bag, folks.  The Engineer and I are more than half-way there.

Go bike camping more.  I went once each year in 2008 and 2009.  Last year was better – at least thrice.  2011 should host at least 6 S24O events.

Add at least 6 passes to my Pass Hunting score.

Meet some other bike bloggers in person.  This could happen.  Train ride to Bahst’n, anyone?

I’d like to learn how to do something new.  Not a hobby, but a skill.  This should be something I’ve never done before, but not something that takes all my time and energy.  I don’t have clue what this might be, but when I figure it out you’ll be the second to know.

Ride a century.  Now we’re getting ambitious.  Let’s start by defining “century” – ride at least 100 miles within a 24 hour period.  I have no desire to ride an organized century, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Go on an epic ride.  Cyclists like to use the word “epic” a lot.  To me an “epic” ride should be worthy of the written word.  While we can plan a gazillion miles over rough terrain, it’s not epic unless there are unplanned events along the way.  In other words, an epic adventure can’t be scripted.  We can play only a small part and then some other shit just happens.  We’ll see if it’s the kind of shit that makes an epic.

Peace, love and go ride a bike.  Happy 2011 everybody!

Codorus S24O

On May 22nd, Doc, Bone and I arrived in York, PA at the north end of the Heritage Rail Trail.  What transpired over the next 24 hours will, no doubt, be remembered by many, far and wide, as one of the most horrible Cthulhu Mythos singularities in the history of man.

Um…

Actually, we just went for a bike ride and did a little camping.  There was a penguin, though.  I’m not sure what to make of that.  Doc’s not the lazy type, and got his write-up online first.  Bone’s a little less lazy than yrs trly, and published his next.  Well, you’re reading this, aren’t you?

First, a few words about bike camping in general and the S24O in particular.  Defining “bike camping” isn’t always easy, but I’ll give it a go.  In my mind a bike camping trip is a lot like going for an overnight hiking trip.  Hikers, especially the AT through-hiking types, carry most of what they’ll need in a back pack – tent, sleeping bag, a pad to lay on, clothes, some food and water, maybe some cooking gear, a rain jacket or poncho.  I’m sure you understand.  So bike campers, in our definition, carry everything they need on their bikes.  Attach some racks, get some panniers, fill them up with the stuff you’d take hiking, pick a spot and start riding.  This is implied when I say “bike camping”.  Of course, you could arrange for someone to meet you at the camp site with a sag wagon and all your camping gear, and then ride there on your carbon fiber weight weenie machine.  And I suppose you would be camping and you got there by bike.  But that’s not what we’re talking about here.  The term “bike packing” gets tossed around some, too.  That’s a good term to use, IMHO, but is probably better for off-road bike camping adventures.  Bike camping and “touring” also have some cross-over.  We won’t go into that just now.  The late Ken Kifer wrote an excellent essay on the subject.

The S24O is a specific form of bike camping, in which the participants make their trip last less than 24 hours.  Sub 24-hour overnight.  Pick a spot you can ride to in a few hours, pitch your tent, cook a meal, drink some red wine and Islay, try sleep, listen to the rain and multiple orgasms instead, get up, eat breakfast, break camp and ride home. Grant Peterson of Rivendell Bicycle Works wrote a pretty decent article about the S24O.  Rumor has it that it was his idea to call it an “S24O” in the first place.

This last weekend Doc, Bone and I undertook an S24O from downtown York, PA to Codorus State Park.   Doc was kind enough to drive us to the start and we set off shortly thereafter. Here are Bone and Doc, probably wondering when I’m going to stop fiddling with the camera and get my act together.

From Codorus S24O

My rig at the start.

From Codorus S24O

Looking south toward the Howard Tunnel.

From Codorus S24O

We stopped for lunch at Serenity Station in Seven Valleys. The food’s not bad.

From Codorus S24O

Just before Glen Rock we turned off the rail trail onto a lovely, narrow, traffic-free road. Rolling hills and wonderful scenery.

From Codorus S24O
From Codorus S24O
From Codorus S24O
From Codorus S24O
From Codorus S24O

Just before the State Park it started to rain.  We checked in, found our site and took advantage of a short break in the weather to pitch tents and make dinner.  The rain started again, both barrels, after we turned in.  Fortunately, it stopped just before sunrise and we only got a few sprinkles along our ride home.  I didn’t take any camping pictures that were worth showing, so you’ll have to go read Doc’s or Bone’s account for those.

Doc’s rig just before leaving the park.

From Codorus S24O

Bone’s lovely Trek 520. Note the plastic bag over the Brooks saddle? That’s so he wouldn’t have to ride a wet piece of leather all the way home. I didn’t do this to mine and now I’m trying to figure out how to reshape it.

From Codorus S24O

Hanover Junction.

From Codorus S24O

We stopped at Serenity Station again for lunch and then rode, more or less, straight through to York. I had noticed during our trip south that my comfort level was decreasing rapidly just before we turned off the rail trail. Once we were on the road, and dealing with hills, I was fine. Sunday morning from the park to Glen Rock was a wonderful ride. The discomfort started again almost immediately upon hitting the rail trail. My shoulders wanted to quit about 6 miles before we finished. They still hurt today. So I guess I’ll be tinkering with handlebars and stems again. Oh, joy.

Thanks to Bone and Doc for putting up with me.

Ride report: Gifford Pinchot S24O

Last month we planned the Gifford Pinchot S24O.  Yesterday we started it.  Today we finished it in just under 24 hours.

The Engineer, Bone and I set out from New Cumberland on a ride that can be described quite accurately with two words, one of which I’m not allowed to say in front of the children.  So we’ll narrow it down to the other one:  brutal.  There are hills between here and there.  Most of those hills are “short and sweet”.  I was beginning to think we were really on a hiking trip and only using the bikes to carry our crap.   But we made it, and no one puked.

Doc was waiting along the road just before the park and rode the last 1/2 mile or so with us to the camp site.  We made camp and made dinner and MissBreeGoLightly joined us via pick-up truck for a rousing bit of Scotch and peanuts.

From Gifforf Pinchot S24O
From Gifforf Pinchot S24O

The temperature dropped quickly once the sun went down and I learned that my new 40F sleeping bag is really only a 40F sleeping bag if I wear warm socks.  Other than that, the kit performed as well as I expected and I almost got a few hours of sleep.

Morning was gorgeous and I snapped this photo of the trucker just as the sun was topping the trees across the lake.

From Gifforf Pinchot S24O

We all tried to warm up a bit with coffee and granola and oatmeal and grits (grits!) and Spam and eggs and Spam and Spam.  Then we broke camp and said goodbye to Doc.

From Gifforf Pinchot S24O
From Gifforf Pinchot S24O

Shortly after mounting up I remembered that I had forgotten to bring any ointment.  Yowser!  We rolled toward home and today’s ride seemed a little easier, almost as if the road decided to cut us a little break.

From Gifforf Pinchot S24O
From Gifforf Pinchot S24O

To celebrate our triumphant return, the Engineer, Bone and I went out for burritos.

Gifford Pinchot S24O

That’s Giff-ord Pin-chot Ess-two Four-oh.  Clap along.  It’s fun.

We’ll be at Gifford Pinchot State Park the afternoon of April 10th at site 116.  So far it’s Bone, Doc and yers truly.  The Engineer and MissBreeGoLightly have expressed some interest, too.  Throw in a few maybes from Facebook and we may very well be over the 5 person limit on the camp site.  In that case we’ll try to reserve another site or two.  If you’d like to tag along, let me know in the comments, or here, if you have a Facebook account.

I set out yesterday to try out the less hilly of the two potential routes from Casa de Sloth to Pinchot.  The first one I plotted was straight over Moore’s Mountain.  Moore’s Mountain is a mile of pure hell, with the easy part at about 13% and the steep part, which is always just before the top, at 19%.  More on Moore’s Mountain later.  The second route adds a mile or so and goes around that damn hill.


View Larger Map

As you can probably see, I’ve put a nav point (or whatever it’s called) right on the top of Beacon Hill.  Beacon Hill is a bit of a climb, but the road is wide and there’s very little traffic.  The alternate is Limekiln Rd., which is shorter, but it’s steep, there’s no shoulder at all and it carries a lot of traffic.  East to west on that little section of Limekiln, IMHO, is not a safe route.  I’d rather walk over Beacon Hill.

Limekiln Rd. from the west end of Beacon Hill to Spangler’s Mill is rolling hills, but nothing too nasty.  The shoulder is narrow or non-existent, but I’ve not had any trouble with traffic along this stretch.  Once we get to Spangler’s Mill, the route gets interesting.  Almost immediately after turning onto Spangler’s Mill, the route turns right onto Schauffnertown Rd. and goes straight freakin’ up.  17 or 18% if you believe the topo.  Fortunately, it’s not too long.  I rode this hill last fall.  I walked it yesterday, which means my fitness level is poop.  The next few miles, until we turn off of Lewisberry and onto School House Ln. is mostly up.  The word “brutal” comes to mind.  I didn’t have to walk anything else, but it wasn’t an easy ride for me.

School House Ln. to the intersection of Moore’s Mountain Rd. and Pinetown and Pinetown and Pinetown Roads is gently rolling and quite scenic.  I made a wrong turn at Moore’s Mountain/Pinetown/Pinetown/Pinetown, climbed up that hill from the unsteep side and didn’t realize my mistake until I was screaming down the other side at Mach 2.8.  While the descent was much fun (I highly recommend it), crossing Siddonsburg at the bottom was disconcerting.  A few minutes later, back at Seitz Rd., I called the wife.  It was time to be at Gifford Pinchot for our picnic and I was only half-way there.  Again.  So whatever happens between the intersection of Moore’s Mountain and Pinetowns is a mystery.  Maybe I’ll try it again next weekend.

I also learned a bit more about my limits.  I’ve bonked before, but didn’t hit the wall yesterday until I was off the bike.  I should have eaten something at about the half-way point.  Next time…

Feel free to take a crack at designing a better route.  It may be flatter going around the north end of Moore’s Mountain.  I dunno, but I’m open to suggestions.