Type 2 Diabetic. Cyclist Flâneur.   Coffeeneur.    Errandoneur
A bike / map geek with a gadget obsession and a high-viz fetish.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Overnight Bike Trip - S36O - Ohiopyle to Cumberland

Rode 75 miles in 7h15m (start-to-stop clock time), 5h23m (pedal-turning riding time).

Started at Ohiopyle at 1230. It's very crowded there in a summer Sunday afternoon, lots of people, lines for restrooms, etc. I couldn't find any obvious overnight parking so I used a relatively out of the way spot and left my car in it, hoping for the best.

The first leg to Confluence was crowded and congested, it was good to see all sorts of riders on all sorts of bikes. It was a mostly flat 11 miles to Confluence.

Confluence had a lot of people on bikes, mostly on the River's Edge - to - Town Square axis. The Confluence Cyclery (bike shop) offers free water, rest rooms, and an internet terminal, which is pretty cool.

Sidebar rant: I think that businesses that provide a sink or a faucet for free, and cool or bottled water for a fee, are supporting their customers and providing an ethical service. Businesses along a bike trail that only provide water for a fee are a bit too mercenary for me. When a place offers free water, I'll always leave a tip that exceeds what the same amount of bottled water would have cost, just to show that I appreciate their good will.

The cellphone coverage in Confluence is tremendously improved, another sign of the increased trail traffic affecting local conditions. Stopped at Sister's Cafe for a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich (excellent). While I was in Confluence I kept an eye out for trail cartographer Bill Metzger, sort of like you'd keep an eye out for the Pope if you were touring the Vatican, but there was no Bill sighting.

The second leg to Rockwood saw the path pitch uphill a bit. It retrospect this may be the steepest segment of the admittedly friendly climb. Beautiful river views, I especially enjoy the ride around the Pinkerton Horn. I still saw other riders every five minutes or so. Entering the Rockwood trailhead there's a small "welcome" shack, and there's a low-power cellphone repeater under the eaves, which is very nice.

In Rockwood there's a trailside bike shop, I stopped in to check it out. They had a surprising amount of bike gear and water for sale (none for free). Rode into town for the Rockwood Opera House, had some ice cream and a Coke.

Departing Rockwood for Meyersdale the pitch seemed to level off. There was a downed tree across the path. Later I was very pleased to see two riders in the distance who turned out to be Pam and Bill Metzger, and it was a treat to get to spend a few minutes with them. They're both excellent people. Bill was riding his recumbent hand-crank bicycle, and Pam was riding a long-wheelbase recumbant, I think it was a Rans.

Saw the windmill farms and came upon the Salisbury Viaduct, wow wow wow what a view. It looks like the world was built to be seen from up there. The trail from the viaduct into Meyersdale is tremendously improved over the first time I was here. I decided to skip my stop in Meyersdale and press on to Frostburg, since at this late hour of the day my fave stop in Meyersdale (the GI Dayroom) would be closed.

Departing Meyersdale it was a nice climb to the Continental Divide followed by a wonderful descent. Rode through the (lighted) Savage Tunnel, the Mason-Dixon line, and the Borden Tunnel.

I was looking forward to stopping at Frostburg and marked one of the town's steeples above the treeline, but I missed the turn to the train station and ended up riding beyond the town. Since I'd skipped Meyersdale and now missed Frostburg, I ate a few powerbars and continued on to Cumberland.

This is the first time I've ridden the new trail between Frostburg and Cumberland, it's a very nice trail and the route into the city was car-free. I did lose my Droid's GPS signal on the east side of the Continental Divide, and I think a dedicated GPS with a twin-loop antenna would have done the job better.

There's a new hotel right on the trail in Cumberland, a Fairfield Marriott, it's a bit pricy but it is in a perfect location. They seem to grok the trail business, they had no objection to a bike in the room, and they even have a trailside bike washing station (a hose on a concrete pad, it could use an air pump, but it's a nice touch).

I got out of the shower at 8pm, just as the local restaurants close on a Sunday evening. I wound up eating at the world famous Queen City Creamery a few blocks away, which always has good food.

This was a really nice ride. The trail is in excellent condition, the bike did well (thanks to Ambridge Bike Shop on Friday), the weather was perfect, just good all around.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

New Brighton Waffles, Pittsburgh BikeFest

7/30/11 #219 0m

I have a new favorite breakfast shop: Waffles INCaffeinated, New Brighton. This is what I had for breakfast:

Week 29
this week:
92 miles
[3rd quarter: 609 miles]   
2011: 2344 miles

Friday, July 29, 2011

LBS to the Rescue: Flat 1, Flat 2, Rim Tape and Glass Shards

7/29/11 #222

Met R. for a ride on the Panhandle Trail. Uncharacteristically, I got to the rendezvous a half-hour early and got all my accessories aligned on the bike (a non-trivial task) only to find a flat rear tire, so I had time to change it and was almost complete with the change when R. pulled up. He did not appear empty handed; he had scored some newer maps of the Panhandle Trail, and that excited my I-M-G (inner map geek).

I'm not eager to have a flat tire, but it's a task that's good for my self esteem in that I'm somewhat capable of it. This flat tire came at a perfect moment - I was still at my car so I could use the bike rack as a work stand, I had three spare tubes with me; it was warm, daylight, and dry. Unfortunately, I was unable to diagnose what had caused the flat.

Changing the flat is a necessary but insufficient task; one needs to ascertain why the tire went flat and address the cause, or else the new tube will meet the same punctured fate as the previous tube. I could not find any cut, gouge, wire, or object that might have caused the flat, so I simply replaced the tube and set off, hoping for the best but knowing it was likely to happen again.

We rode west on the Panhandle Trail, from the Montour Trail in McDonald to Burgettstown. The trail is in excellent condition along this segment. West of Burgettstown the trail is quite primitive until the West Virginia line, when it resumes with a high-quality packed limestone surface.

Some local riders have been making an overnight trip starting in Coraopolis on the Montour Trail, joining the Panhandle Trail to Wierton, and then riding the Wheeling Trail to Wheeling WV, some 65 miles.

The Panhandle Trail is in very pretty country and sees far fewer people than the better known Montour Trail. At Burgettstown we exited the trail to stop for a cold drink at a convenience store, which has closed shop since last summer. A kind lady stopped to direct us to the local McDonald's for a cold drink.

As we set out to the Golden Arches, I saw that my rear tire was flat again, after only 9 miles of riding. R and I worked together well, we marked the puncture point and it was in the same vicinity of the first flat, but we couldn't find anything that might have caused the loss of pressure. I put a second tube on the bike, leaving me with one more tube (and if needed, a patch kit to repair the damaged tubes). Given the unexplained leaks on the rear wheel, I asked R. if we could just return to our cars and call it a ride at 18 miles, and he agreed.

The ride back was pleasant and uneventful. In a most-perfect-world, the tire would have gone flat at the trailhead, offering another carcass as evidence; but it was not to be.

I took the rear wheel and two punctured tubes to my Local Bike Shop (LBS), Ambridge Bike Shop, and explained that I had something going on that I couldn't figure out. It was educational to watch their diagnostic inquiry.

They noted that one puncture was on the inside of the tube, and the other on the outside. The rim tape had moved off track, exposing several spoke flanges and leaving gaps where the pressurized tire would herniate into the newly available gaps - replacing the rim tape resolved the issue with the leak on the inside of the tube.

The puncture on the outside of the tube was more puzzling, until they started flexing and testing the tire casing, when a gash holding shards of glass became visible. You couldn't see it if you'd simply looked at the tire, you had to stress the casing to make it apparent.

The tire was beginning to show threads here and there, so we replaced the tire and resolved the issue with the leak on the outside of the tube.

Although the new tire calls for inflation to PSI, they took pains to only inflate it to 75 psi, explaining that 75 psi in the air conditioned shop might easily exceed 80 psi in the heat outside. That's one of the things I love about those guys.

I purchased a few tubes to replace the two I'd used, and also bought a few water bottles with the Ambridge Bike Shop logo - you've got to wear the school colors, and these bottles have a new spout mechanism that seems to work well.

A hot ride on a little-used trail, and a chance to visit the LBS and watch mastery at work: not a bad day.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

This mirror makes my hips look big!

07/28/11 #222 42miles

After yesterday's hard ride I certainly slept well. Today, mid-morning was a bit stupid and trying, so I thought "what would ge a perfect thing to do?" and I went and rode my bike.

I've been messing around with a rear-view mirror. Although most bicycle accidents are not vehicle-overtaking-bike-from-behind, I think it would add to my situational awareness. I've been looking at the Mirricycle mounted to the brake hoods, but alas it is not compatible with my (excellent) Cane Creek brake levers - the Mirricycle requires Shimano STI hoods.

I saw a German rear-view mirror on the Rivendell site, and I ended up seeing it and being able to hold it in my hand at ProBikes, so I made the leap and the purchase. I attached it before I rode. I like it a lot, except that the concave lens makes my hips look big in the mirror.

About 12 miles into my ride I stopped under a shade tree where the trail goes though a residential neighborhood, and with NPR in my earphones my mood improved to the point where I managed to semi-doze off. I was shaken out of my reverie by a voice from a car yelling something about cyclists keep off the grass, it was my friend R driving through. That was pretty good.

Shortly after that it rained for a few miles, nothing dramatic.

I continued to the FarmHouse Coffee complex, had a sandwich from Subway, chillaxed with a drink in the garden, and watched a line of thunderstorms run through the northern side of the city, on a line roughly Beaver-Pittsburgh-Monroeville. It is very cool to have realtime weather info on a phone.

I returned the way I came, and got off the trail as dusk set it around 8pm.

Riding a bike was just what I needed today.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Hard Ride after a Few Days Off

7/26 225 0 miles
7/27/11 #227 32miles

After having had a few rides recently that weren't full-out efforts, Wednesday was a hard ride with M. We planned to rendezvous at the Western Penitentiary, and uncharacteristically I arrived early and had time to sort through my gear and to swap some new supplies into my trunk bag.

I had recently discharged my Big Air canister into a rider's flat rear tire, and as I put a new BigAir into my bag I saw that it contained liquid propane rather than the compressed CO2 that I expected. Two thoughts come to mind: (1) really, this is an $8 hand grenade, and (2) there's a nice lady riding around on a rear tire filled with propane, and I hope that doesn't go wrong.

We rode past the Casino and out along the Allegheny River to the 31st Street Bridge, and then took the Strip Trail and the Mon Whorf Trails to the Jail Trail, to the Hot Metal bridge detour.

As we joined Second Avenue and climbed up Junction Hollow to Fifth we were motivated (by age-envy) to drop a 19-year old who was probably unaware of us. We were certainly out of breath at the top of the hill. After the chest-heaving subsided we tooled along Fifth, Wilkins, Shady, and Forbes to the Squirrel Hill Starbucks.

If I were to design a perfect day, it would include the Squirrel Hill Starbucks. (I am still grieving over the closing of Kazanski's Deli). After enjoying cold drinks we made our way to ProBike's location on Forbes.

I am enamored of Ambridge Bike Shop, but if I lived in Squirrel Hill I could see myself frequenting ProBikes. I found they stocked a German rear-view mirror I've been looking at online, so I ended up buying it there. They had several woman customers picking up repaired bikes, and one female wrench behind the counter.

Their staff made oohhh-ahhhh noises about my bike accessories, which was very good for my bike's self-esteem. They did not have the new Topeak iPhone dry-bag in stock (alas).

Coming out of ProBikes we joined traffic with a young hipster, a skinny youngster on a single-speed, and so we stayed with him for a while and then rode through Regent Square (which I'd never seen before, it's like the Beaver of Allegheny County) to access Frick Park. We road the Nine Mile Run Trail to the Duck Hollow Trail.

At the end of the Duck Hollow Trail, some people have been known to carry their bikes across the five active train tracks, and as we approached it a train maintenance crew was getting underway and they very kindly waited to allow us to cross first.

I was on the verge of getting home late or dinner, so we made good time on Second Avenue to a point north of Bates Street, then took the Jail Trail and the Casino Trail back to the cars.

This was a really nice, hard ride.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Yarn Bombing? Fred Rogers' Sweater

7/23/11 35m

Rode with S. today, we started quite early at 0615 at the Bastille on the Banks (Western Penitentiary). It's quite an imposing place, especially in first light.

We rode to the Casino, then to the Point, and east on the Strip Trail. We returned to the Point and used the unofficial service road to connect to the Mon-Whorf Trail - in previous posts I've wondered if that service road might not be somebody's bedroom, and at this early hour we did encounter three sleeping souls beginning to stir.

We continued along the Mon-Whorf Trail, with one resident still sleeping, and portaged up to street level and rode to Grant Street. We joined the Jail Trail and rode south through the detour and on to the Swinburne Street trailhead.

We took the turn around Second Avenue and then climbed the Panther Hollow Trail via Boundary Street up to Fifth Avenue, and then we enjoyed the descent. We crossed the Hot Metal Bridge and S. took this photo:

We checked out the HofBrauHaus Trail, I don't know when that's going to open but it looks all-but-complete. I'm still hoping for guard rails where the trail rides over the river access points. We road SouthSide Trail to Station Square, the Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne bridges.

By the stadia S. took this photo of Mr. Rogers, adorned with a sweater that somebody crocheted for him. Apparently there is a genre of street art called "yarn bombing - in the U.K. they're called graffiti knitters or guerrila knitters. Check out YarnBombing.com. Who knew?

We rode the Casino Trail back to the trailhead and the cars. I wanted to get a few more miles because it's been a light week for me, so I continued back to the stadia. I encountered a group of a half-dozen riders puzzling over a flat tire, so I was able to help them put their Slime in the tube and reinflate it. With some good karma in the panniers I continued east along the Allegheny.

I happened to notice a memorial service on a low platform along the river. The attendees stood in a semicircle, each holding a single flower, and taking turns speaking about the deceased. An older gentleman was talking as I stopped for a moment, I heard him say "_____ would say to us, Remember me, but let go of me", and that was poignant and wise. There's really quite a lot going on down by the rivers.

I continued east to Millvale, I'm sorry to have startled a jogger who didn't hear my bike-bell. Reversed at Millvale and returned to the Penitentiary, glad to be at liberty and not locked up in there.

35 miles and a nice ride before the world heated up.

Week 29
this week:
118 miles
[3rd quarter: 517 miles]   
2011: 2252 miles

Friday, July 22, 2011

Rode Early to Beat the Heat

7/22/11 #222 32m

Rode 32 miles in 87F early in the day, McDonald to FarmHouse Coffee. Went through quite a bit of water riding the 16miles back to the car. Saw an LHT parked on the side of the trail at Route 50, three Ortlieb panniers and a cool Blackburn rear view mirror, but the rider was not in sight. I would have liked to have asked about the mirror.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bike Geek Fetish: GPS, ewerk, Droid phone, Busch & Muller dynamo

7/21/11 #223

I took Tuesday and Wednesday off from riding for a few convenient excuses — Tuesday my gear was still soaked from Monday; Wednesday I worked and did an excellent family dinner in anticipation of being on an overnight bike trip Thursday-Friday — but the temps were so high on Thursday that we cancelled the overnight trip.

So on my third day off the bike, with "feels like temps" of 104F, I am left to obsess about bicycle equipment.

My main bike fetishes this year are GPS and lighting. My previous Garmin GPS died recently, and it seems that the rationale for a stand-alone GPS unit have dwindled in the face of smart-phone capabilities, so I've invested in a Droid X2 to replace my dedicated GPS. The main drawbacks of the SmartPhone so far are (1) difficulty in placing the device on the dashboard, and (2) short battery life.

Why put the (expensive, fragile) SmartPhone on the handlebars? Two benefits - the ability to look at the moving map in unfamiliar areas, and the ability to see/discern weather alerts. I'm looking at two options for placing the GPS on the bike, I need to try one out.
The Arkon SM532 is a general smartphone-handlebar mount. I like the bungee strap that promises to keep it in place. One downside is there's no weather protection, so if the skies are threatening you've got to use a Ziploc. Arkon SM532 smartphone handlebar mount
Topeak Smart Phone Dry Bag The Topeak iPhone Dry Bag is a new product that seems very interesting. It can clip onto the stem bolt, which is a great location, the fact that it's a dry bag is compelling, and Topeak makes great stuff.
After mounting the phone on the bike, the second problem is battery life, which is dramatically shorter with a smartphone than a dedicated GPS.
The first thing I'm trying is a supplemental battery power pack, which I can feed with ubiquitous AA batteries. It's not an elegant kludge, but it'll work and it only cost $6 (plus an ongoing stream of batteries). I won't be able to put a powerpack in the dry-bag, though. smart phone external battery pack
 The elegant solution would be a device like the Busch & Muller e-werk, an adaptor that draws power from a bicycle dynamo and regulates it for a variety of USB-powered devices, including smart phones and tablets. Peter White has an excellent article on the ewerk. I'd like to eventually use this.

The e-werk requires a dynamo on the front wheel, and having a dynamo on your bike is like leveling-up (as they say) in Fred-ism. If I took that step and bought a front wheel with a dynamo in the hub, I could also use it as a power source for front and rear-lights, and then I'd be out of the AA and AAA business altogether. That appeals to me and seems to be more in the cycling aesthetic.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

the Essence of Cycling : Tour de France vs Whole Foods

7/19/11 #220 0miles

Beyond the smell of my bicycling gloves soaked in Monday's rain and put up wet, what is the essence of cycling?

In these weeks of the year, the media delivers spectacularly engineered presentations of cycling corporate logos and branded colors in settings of stark beauty. Consider, for instance, this image of the peleton riding at the coast, with the island of Mont Saint-Michel in the background (2011 Tour de France, Stage 6; photo by Lionel Bonaventure.)

It suggests a cross between Lord of the Rings and the Dance of the Seven Veils.

The marketing exercise known as the Tour de France has as much to do with cycling as Nascar has to do with the Parkway West. The vehicles are similar, the safety and performance research advances the field; that's about it.

This picture, to me, is the essence of cycling:

(new bike repair station and pump at Pittsburgh Whole Foods, photo by Caitlin.)

When I first saw one of these pipe-as-pretzel sculptures, I wasn't sure what to make of it. I knew that it was supposed to be a bike repair stand, and I saw the bike tools secured by cables, but I just didn't get the affordance of the structure. This photo explains how the curved pipes are intended to support the bike by the seat-

Having a few of these self-help bike repair stands around the city would be awesome. Support like this makes bicycling a routine, reliable, rational activity rather than a random act of courage and quirky advocacy.

I salute Whole Foods Pittsburgh for taking the time and expense of supporting people riding bikes around the city. That's a lot closer to the essence of cycling than the Tour de France.

(It would be wonderful to have one of these somewhere in Southside Works.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mia and JJ's Whitsett Oasis

7/18/11 #221 52miles
Rode 52 miles 90F, West Newton to Connellsville round-trip. Got wet in rain the last two miles, and was happy to have gotten the cover onto my Brooks saddle before the skies really opened up. Major rain in the area.

This is a great ride, but there's not a lot of cold drinks available over the 25-mile segment between West Newton and Connellsville. Fortunately, today I availed myself of the services of Mia and JJ's Lemonade Stand in Whitsett. A fair price, a cold drink, in a difficult location.

Connellsville has it's world-famous Sheetz and trail-side bike shop, the riverfront park shelters have electrical outlets for phone charging -- it's a bike-friendly town.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday, Bastille to Pamela's Pancakes, Southside

7/16/11 #220

Rode 30 miles, from the Bastille by the Banks (Western Penitentiary) to Pamela's, and then the Southside Trail.

Week 28
this week:
244 miles
[3rd quarter: 399 miles]   
2011: 2134 miles

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday 39 miles

7/15/11 #222
Ride 39 miles with M., from the Bastille on the Banks (Western Penitentiary) to McKeesport round trip.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

30 miles on a beautiful day

07/14/11 #220
Ride 30 miles on the Montour Trail. Magnificent Day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Jean-Marc Chatellier’s French Bakery in Millvale

7/13/11 #221

Rode 36 miles on urban Pittsburgh trails, taking my yearly mileage across 2000 miles in 2011 (and on to 2035 miles). That was a little bit exciting.

But what was really exciting was riding the trail to Millvale and enjoying the products of Jean-Marc Chatellier's French Bakery in Millvale, just minutes off the bike trail. (enter Millvale, TL Grant, TR Lincoln.)

Their chocolate eclair was phenomenal (the shop is particularly known for the macaroons). Pittsburgh has excellent bakeries but I'd wager most of them are Italian bakeries; I didn't know that Pittsburgh, let alone Millvale, supported a French pastry shop. Highly recommended; note their annual closure, July 19 till August 9th. After all, they are French.

Between Pamela's Pancakes and Jean-Marc Chatellier's French Bakery, I suspect that Millvale is on the cusp of gentrification. I did spot a gaggle of hipsters in Millvale recently.

I rode from Western Penitentiary to Millvale, back to the Stadia, then the Strip Trail to 24th Street, Penn Avenue, Market Square, Jail Trail, Junction Hollow Trail, Hot Metal Bridge, Baldwin Trail, Southside Trail, Station Square, Ft. Pitt and Ft. Duquesne Bridges, back to the Pen.

I need a good name for the Western Penitentiary; the winning moniker needs to be brief and unique. "Western Pen" sounds too much like the hospital. The only people that know the official name, SCI-Pittsburgh, have relatives that have been inside.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

1 mile to 2000

7/12/11 #217

Day off today; spent time after work with family. Yearly mileage-to-date is 1999.

Study: Nuts are good for diabetics.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Can Stand the Rain

7/11/11 #217

Rode 31 miles on the Montour Trail, McDonald to McMurray round trip, 92F.

I did something I've been overdue for: I fell off the bicycle, near Morganza Road. I was riding too fast and turning not fast enough, I ended up in the rough and when I saw a drainage ditch in the clutter I locked it up to stay out of the ditch. I bounced off my right side pretty well, but that's the good thing about being a Bumble.

While having a snack in McMurray I fired up the droid to look at the weather, and there were big yellow-red things approaching my position. I rushed along in an attempt to make the National Tunnel before the storm did, but it beat me by several miles and I was well and truly soaked.

Fortunately it was a warm rain, and it wasn't the worst thing in the world. Later on the drive home, I realized that if I'd waited an hour I would have stayed mostly dry (with very muddy fenders) but that's OK.