10 November 2007

Texter Mountain

Here's a pile of reasons to climb Texter Mountain in the Fall.

Sportsman Rd near the bottom of the climb. Average 5% grade.

The top of Sportsman Rd. Yeah, that's another rider up there. The grade here ranges between 12% and 20%. It's a challenging end to a 4-mile climb. Then again, Texter Mountain Rd has one last steep surprise...

This is the intersection of Sportsman Rd and Texter Mountain Rd looking up towards the summit of Texter Mountain.

This is the same view as the camera-phone shot here.

This is the view from Texter Mountain Rd down into the Cocalico valley and Rt. 897.

Here's one of the awesomely steep descents down Texter Mountain Rd leading into the valley.

The valley.

This last photo is at the 422 side of Texter Mountain Rd. The buildings in the foreground belong to the Wernersville State Hospital.

I won't be doing any climbing tomorrow. My rear brakes are caput.

08 November 2007

Insane Week

My week has been so busy that I haven't been able to write about Sunday's incredible ride. It was probably the most beautiful and satisfying ride of the season through the mountains and Fall colors and crisp air. Yeah, that sounds sappy, but I don't give a shit. It's true.

I climbed Texter Mountain again via Sportsman Rd just like the previous Sunday, only this time, I descended Texter Mountain Rd into the valley to Rt 897. The views were amazing and I curse myself for not bringing a camera. It was definitely the longest and fastest descent I've ever tried. And the road itself was narrow -- a glorified one-laner.

897 was cool too, since I haven't hit that road since the beginning of August (my Google Maps aren't working right now for some reason). From there, it was Galen Hall Rd and back into the mountains. Then it was Preston to Hill Rd and back to Wernersville.

By the way, at the intersection of Sportsman and Texter Mountain, I swear I saw Karl Rove pass me in a white Acura. I think I need a vacation.

03 November 2007

The Last 2007 Weekday Ride

So that's it for my weekday rides until 2008. The days are becoming too damn short, and eventually I'd have to skip work entirely in order to get a decent ride in. Tonight we turn the clocks back an hour and POOF! it's perpetually dark until next Spring.

Sundays will remain intact and outdoors until the snow, but the weekday rides will move into my basement once again, with the exception of perhaps some brief cross practicing over at the school (which also means perpetually changing over to my Maxxis cross tires). I don't really know if I'll be cut out for cyclocross, but it *looks* awesome.

Anyway, this winter I won't be destroying my knees on a stationary bike. I'm buying an indoor trainer today for my Kona, so I'll be doing my weekday evening workouts indoors while watching a 2-3 hour movie. I wonder how long that'll last before I rip my bike off that wretched apparatus and scramble for the door -- our cats tangled in my drivetrain, one of my daughter's drums inexplicably attached to the bars.

I hit the road Friday (yesterday) instead of the usual Thursday for various reasons. And in honor of it being the last weekday ride, I did both a time trial and some climbing.

First, the usual 10-mile time trial. This didn't go so well. I think I hit every red light through Wernersville on the way out, which sucked because I was in a real groove up to then.

I was really moving at around 24mph and my adrenaline was pumping because if I kept it up, I would shatter my previous record. Nah. I usually hit two red lights during each time trial (I know how stupid this sounds -- a post for another time) so my rule of thumb is that I drop 15 seconds off my final time for each stop in order to compensate for the deceleration and acceleration before and after the light. This time, I hit all of the damn red lights. And with on-coming traffic, I had no choice but to stop at each one (when there are no cars around, I cruise on through the red lights because I live on the edge, woo). I lost track of how many 15-second time subtractions I needed for this, but my head started to break anyway and I was losing my will for the time trial.

I turned around at the usual halfway mark and pumped up the hill near L&B Dodge and eventually back through Wernersville where a Trailways bus gave me black lung disease. I mean this son of bitch spewed the thickest blackest exhaust ever in America... into my mouth, throat and lungs... three times through the stop-and-go intersections of Wernersville.

I tried to get around this red and silver Smogzilla in order to salvage the effort, but the bus was too close to the curb. So I had to ride a couple of car lengths behind it. Slowly. With my lungs filling with hydrocarbons. Each acceleration of the bus dropped a big stinking black turd across the road. I mean, it felt like this bus was literally shitting in my mouth.

The bus eventually moved out of the way and I cranked with extreme prejudice and finished the time trial. And you know, all things considered, it wasn't horrible (for me). 31:52. But I dry heave when I think about what might've been. My average speed, due in part to all the stopping/starting/smogging, was a crappy 18mph. I need to find a more remote place to time trial. This is really stupid.

I finished the ride with a bit of recovery spinning, then I decided to climb up Furnace Rd and North Galen Hall. That was fun considering I was hacking and coughing Trailways ass cheese the whole way up. This is when I mention that the temperature was around 45 degrees. By the end of the 2 mile, 40mph descent down North Galen Hall, I looked like this:

29 October 2007

Climbing The Actual Texter Mountain

The mountain I climbed yesterday was definitely Texter Mountain. I don't know what that other one is called. But this one was definitely Texter Mountain, which I confirmed from various signs, as well as from another rider who stopped to chat while I was taking this photo:

The above camera-phone shot was taken at the top of Texter Mountain looking west/southwest.

The route was Sportsman Rd for about 4 miles of climbing. For most of the time, the climb was in the 5% gradient range, but at the top where Sportsman meets Texter Mountain Rd, the grade spikes up into the 18-20% range. I did pretty well and discovered some things about climbing, mainly the rhythm of it. My breathing a pedalling after a mile or so synchronized into an aerobic pattern and when I dropped out of the rhythm, it was difficult to get it back.

I've never endeavored to climb for this distance, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.

I turned onto Texter Mountain Rd (where I snapped the above photo) then onto South Mountain Rd for some of the most breathtaking riding I've ever experience. It was a super-fast series of descents through the ridgeline of this particular range of hills and mountains. Then more steep climbing over what I think is South Mountain before the long descent into Newmanstown. The below Google Map shows Sportsman in blue and South Mountain in red.

Total miles: 30. Outside temp: 50-degrees. Miles of climbing: approximately 8. Route: 422-Sportsman-Texter Mountain-South Mountain-Rt. 419-Womelsdorf-422. Path profile:

26 October 2007

Climbing Texter Mountain

I think it's called Texter Mountain. I'm not sure. Whatever. Yesterday I rode two circuits of climbing near Wernersville. Furnace Rd up to North Galen Hall was probably the steepest longest climb I've ever made -- Gaul Rd seems like an overpass in comparison.

Looking at the Path Profiler in Google Maps, the steepest sections are 10%, 12% and 15% which are definitely the steepest gradients I've been able to manage. In comparison, nearby Huntzinger Rd (slogan: "Insanely steep!") is around 20% and maxing at 25% -- in the bottom-most section. 25% is truly insane. The steepest section of Gaul Rd, meanwhile, is 10% for about a tenth of a mile. And Gaul has a couple of short recovery descents. I'm beginning to feel a little silly for bitching about Gaul so much.

So I rode two circuits of this. 422-Sportsman-Hospital-Furnace-North Galen Hall past the Caron Foundation, then descended North Galen Hall to Hill Rd and back to 422. 20 miles total, which doesn't seem like a lot. But the climbing, of course, made the whole thing seem longer. Here's the Path Profile. I think you can pick out the Texter Mountain section (click to enlarge):

22 October 2007

Lebanon Half-Century II

It was a beautiful day for riding yesterday, so I revisited last Sunday's horribly aborted mission and rode out to Lebanon and back. Compared with my previous 2 half-centuries, I could really feel an improvement in my fitness level. This trip was non-stop (minus a few traffic lights) and in the saddle for the entire 3-hour ride. Speaking of which, 3:06.00 was the exact trip time -- a full hour shorter than my previous two half-centuries.

The one aspect of riding which I absolutely have to improve is my average speed. Now granted, it was a windy day, but my average speed was 15.9 mph. That sucks. It sucks by at least 6-8 mph. I think with my time trial workouts on Thursdays, this will improve. Hopefully.

19 October 2007

Puncture-Free Thursday

At last, a ride without a flat. Most excellent.

And there's more good news. I topped my previous 10 mile time trial record by a full minute. 31:06 (previously, 32:01). Slowly but surely, I'm nearing a respectable speed and endurance level, but I'm still about 6-8 minutes away from achieving where I'd like to be.

After partaking in the open men's room at Shocktoberfest, I rode back down to Wernersville, then around Elm and Ruth to Wooltown, then up to Hospital Rd for some climbing and descending (no cars!). My front wheel was a little off true, so I made a pitstop at Technocycle for a quick tune-up.

Brad at Technocycle (he referred to this month as 'HOT-tober') mentioned that he thought my saddle was too far forward, forcing me to use more of the back of my legs than the front. Maybe so, but I'm hesitant to monkey with my saddle at this point because my knee-cap/petalla issues are gone. Zilch. No post-ride soreness these days. That makes me smile.

15 October 2007

Updates and Flat Tires

Now it's getting ridiculous. Every time I ride, I puncture. And I'm pissed off about it. For instance, yesterday afternoon I set out to ride to Lebanon and back for a scenic autumn half-century, as well as to test my endurance compared to half-centuries earlier in the season.

Everything was going well. The ride out was slow due to a killer headwind, but I was enjoying myself and at the 20-mile mark, I really felt strong. Looped through Lebanon and headed towards home, savoring the tailwind and resulting speed.

Risser's Diner Sunday Special: "Beef Heart on Filling."

The most un-creative name for a taco stand EVER: "Taco Maker." Lebanon, PA.

On the ride back, I hit Stouchsburg and BLAM. Flatted. Without panicking, I pulled onto a grassy knoll, popped the rear wheel off, removed the tire and tube. Found the puncture. Patched it. Re-assembled everything.

Missed a puncture. Took everything off and started over.

This time, I punctured the tube while putting everything back together (there's no elegant way to put that last 8 inches of tire back on the rim -- you have to force it with all your might). Meanwhile, the sun was going down and the temperature was dropping. Went through this procedure again. No punctures, but the Presta valve must've been damaged along the way and the tube wouldn't inflate. No matter how hard I pumped, no air.

So I had to call for a ride. Nothing can be more humiliating than standing along the road waiting for your wife to drive out and rescue you -- whilst dressed in lycra and standing next to a disabled bike, rednecks and hillbillies slowing to gawk as if you're a crash-landed gay alien.

Anyway, I've been puncturing on almost every ride for the last few weeks. Most of the time, it happens at the very end of the ride. Two rides ago, I only noticed the flat an hour after I was done.

What the hell is happening?

I think they're mostly pinch flats caused by dime-sized jagged pebbles -- the gravel pebbles used in road macadam. And they're invisible/camoflaged against the road so I don't see them until it's too late.

Most of the time, they ricochet away from the bike at an alarming speed. The sound is usually a POP! or PING! then the sound of a tree leaves snapping as they're pegged by the flying projectile.

But lately, I think these pebbles pinch the tube just enough to cause a pin-prick sized hole. But what the hell kind of tubes are these? I think I need something heartier. So my mission this week is to find GOOD TUBES and to take one along with me from now on.

Meanwhile, I've been feeling really great riding. The computer is helping me to improve my overall speed and endurance, simply by giving me instant status reports. It's a real motivator and worth the $60 price tag.

And I've found an amazing new area to ride. The Texter Mountain roads beyond the Wernersville State mental hospital. Rolling climbs and fast descents -- NO CARS. And challenging enough without breaking my legs. However, Huntzinger Road... This will be another long term mission. I don't know the grade, but it's the steepest hill I can find around here and I can only get three or four pedal strokes up the bottom section of it before I have to stop. Put it this way, it makes Gaul Rd seem like a speed bump.

But I thought of a great riding slogan for Huntzinger.

"Insanely steep."

Get it? Mental hospital? Ah nevermind.

07 October 2007

Setting Some Goals

I've set another training goal for myself and that is to eventually accomplish a 10-mile time trial within the realm of the Berks County Bicycling Club racing division TT results.

In other words, I want to be able to ride 10 miles in 24-26 minutes. The club record is 23:28, set by Mike Kuhn.

Friday night, I made my first attempt and I'm not ashamed of the result. 10 miles in exactly 32 minutes (three climbs, 422 from the DQ in Sinking Spring to Big Spring Rd and back). I think by next year at this time, I can reach that 24 minute "podium" level.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Friday ride was awesome. Just took it easy for another 15 miles. Rode out to The Crank, turned onto Elm then descended the (nearly abandoned) Ruth Avenue down to Wooltown, then on back to 422.

Then, I still felt strong enough to try to make it up Huntzinger Rd -- the insanely steep mountain climb just beyond Wernersville State Hospital. I don't know for sure, but that climb has to be in the range of a 20% grade. I was able to eek out three pedal strokes then almost fell over due to lack of forward motion. But oh yes -- I will make it up that mountain one of these days soon.

I backtracked back down the hill and turned onto Hospital Rd and had an awesome ride around the side of the mountain. No cars, beautiful scenery, easy riding.

Overall, I'm trying again on all fronts today.

28 September 2007

Slow, Hot, Painful

I rode the Gaul-422-Myerstown route again last night and just couldn't get into a groove, unlike two weeks ago. In addition to being 86-degrees and not being able to push beyond some heat lethargy, both my hands and feet were killing me as well. And by the time I arrived at the Kumm Esse in Myerstown, thunder and lightning began to roll in so rather than resting, I bolted out of there. Even still, I just couldn't hit a stride for the "time trial" back.

Gaul climbing is getting easier every time. And the bike computer clocked my descent at the top of Wooltown Rd: 42 mph. Total ride distance: 36 miles.

24 September 2007

Hello, Computer

I tried out my new bike computer on Sunday during a typical out-and-back to Stouchsburg. Average speed: a humbling 15.7 mph. Top speed: 35 mph. Total miles: 30. Total time: 1 hour, 45 minutes. On the 422 climbs, I was averaging between 11 and 15 mph, which I felt pretty good about.

The ride out took exactly 1 hour, but the ride back was 45 minutes. Guess which part of the ride had the wicked headwind? On the way back, I was able to cruise at around 22-26 mph on the flats.

No pictures this time, but if I had stopped for photo ops, I would've grabbed a photo of the Risser's Diner daily special sign: "Stuffed Pig Stomach, Beltbuster Burger." I sincerely hope the two items weren't combined.

21 September 2007

Floyd Landis Memorial Ride

Local eastern PA Mennonite Floyd Landis was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France win yesterday. And I had a crappy 30 mile ride to Stouchsburg and back. Same route as last Thursday (Gaul-Wooltown-422).

Felt pretty good on the Gaul climbs, but shitty after that until around Robesonia where I picked up some energy -- this is usually where my warm-up ends and the real riding kicks in. Then the return ride was fun. Big headwind gusts from the east. Until I realized it was a headwind, I thought I had flatted or that my rear brakes has seized on the rim. Pulled into the Conrad Weiser Homestead to check, and only then did I realize it was wind. I'm smart!

17 September 2007

The Perkiomen Trail

My first "away" ride. In other words, on Sunday, I actually drove to a riding location rather than riding from home. And the destination was the amazing Perkiomen Trail. It's a 20 mile stretch of gravel and pavement running from Green Lane near Boyertown, all the way down to Valley Forge where it meets the Schuylkill River Trail which, in turn, meanders all the way to Philadelphia. Unbelievable thing. It really is.

The trail was constructed on the old Reading Railroad tracks -- parts of it literally where the tracks used to be, cutting through hills with sheer rock face on one side and a 30 foot drop down to the creek on the other. Beautiful red rocks. The whole thing has an otherworldly feel to it. The way the world is supposed to be, almost. Clean, gorgeous creek-side villages, tiny road. Hell, the trail even has two roadside restaurants. Moccia's and Bethie's:

I decided to try the trail for a couple of reasons. First, I currently ride a cyclocross bike. If I don't venture off the road, what's the point? (By the way, I'm committed to learning my cyclocross dismount/mount process over the winter.) Second, this was one of the trails I read about last winter when I was eagerly awaiting the purchase of the Kona Jake.

Riding for 30 miles on mostly gravel and dirt was more than a little unusual and, of course, dusty. And it was cold. 58F standing still in the shade of the trail, and who knows what the temp was when I was riding. I wore my Specialized arm warmers the entire time and I needed them.

I celebrated the chillier temperature by exploring the small ski area called Spring Mountain. This only after riding up the only climb on the trail: a 12% grade which stretched for almost a mile over the mountain. 12% is just beyond my ability and I had to carry my bike the final 10 meters or so. On pavement, on a warmer day -- maybe later in the ride -- I might've been able to easily handle it.

It wasn't all gravel, though. The refreshingly smooth hum of macadam was more than welcome on the various trail bridges and near the populated areas. Unfortunately, I must've hit something weird because today (Monday) my rear tire is totally flat.

I can't really describe the Perkiomen Trail quickly on a blog and do it justice. But it's something good. I mean genuinely, surprisingly good and simple. A seemingly endless highway for clean, healthy fun. Next time, I'm bringing a better camera and my family.

15 September 2007

A Most Excellent Evening Ride

This post is a little late, but Thursday afternoon I left work early in order to ride. I figured an earlier departure would give me enough time to have a decent ride before sundown around 7:35-ish.

I hit the Gaul Rd. climb at around 5:45-ish , this time in a smaller gear (I've read that smaller gears and a faster cadence is better for the knees -- especially early in a ride). My legs felt great moving faster like that, but I was really gasping for air by the time I reached Wooltown, as usual. But I was satisfied that, yeah, it's getting easier every time. And I'm starting to work on conditioning my brain to ignore certain things. A pro rider once said that it's all about the brain -- the body can adapt to anything.

So I tempted the setting sun and rode the 18 miles all the way out to Myerstown: the tiny village along 422 with the big water tower next to the road, and a diner called "KUMM ESSE". By the time I reached Myerstown, it was about 6:50. Less than an hour to darkness. As such, I decided to "time trial" home. In other words, go as (steadily) fast as I could for the 18 mile return.

6:55. The goal: try to get as close to Dave Zibriskie's first place US PRO time trail result of 18 miles in 39 minutes.

This was the best I've ever felt on a bike (other than my sit bones which were KILLING for some reason). Seriously. I felt like I was flying. Even on the steeper climb at Womelsdorf and the steady climb into Wernersville, I was able to keep a faster pace and really move. I'm not at the level yet where I could time-trial-pump continuously, but I did the best I could. A couple of traffic lights forced me to stop entirely and I slowed for a hundred meters to watch a group of genuine Amish guys build a produce tent along the road. Other than that, I really felt like I was moving. I don't know how fast, but in comparison to other rides, this had to have been the most consistently fast I've ever cycled.

I reached the steady climb into Wernersville at the Zibriskie time: 39 minutes, and I still had another 5 or 6 miles to go. I hit the climb and concentrated hard in order to keep up my cadence -- which I successfully did. But the weirdest thing happened. When I reached the top and entered the town, my feet felt like they were literally on fire. I mean, hot burning sensation. It went away quickly but it was a hell of a thing. Anyway, yeah, I came up way short on my time trial goal but I figured -- hey -- I'm doing pretty good considering he's the American time trial champion, and I'm a 36-year-old, 6'4", 230 lb. rookie on a cyclocross bike.

At this point, however, it was officially night and I began to really worry about, you know, being killed. I have reflectors on my bike, but what driver is expecting a giant man on a bike to go flying down the road next to -- or perpendicular to -- his or her SUV? With adrenaline pumping, and with some refreshingly chilly evening wind, I booked as hard as I could towards home.

I pulled into the garage at exactly 8PM. 18 miles in 65 minutes. 26 minutes short of my goal. Ride total: 36 miles. I don't know if this "time trial" was fast or slow (probably really slow) for my level, but it felt really fast -- and more importantly for why I ride... it felt really good.

10 September 2007

Homecoming Ride

Not much to report from Sunday's ride. 30 miles to Stouchsburg and back. I hit some kind of boulder or asteroid in the road about half-a-mile from home and flatted. Carried my bike over my shoulder for the rest of the way. Before that, I stopped at the Conrad Weiser Homestead historical park. The poop there is that it was definitely Weiser's property, but the "home" probably wasn't his home. That's weird. More on Weiser here.

Also, I'm still monkeying with my saddle height. For almost the entire season, my patellas have been killing me after riding, but only after riding and only when I stand up from a deep crouching or sitting position. My saddle is plenty high enough. I think it's time to call in an 'expoit, although my chiropractor, Dr. Wolf, said it's patellar-femoral syndrome and that I should wear jumper's straps. I've been wearing the straps, but they aren't working -- other than to look silly. My brother the chiropractor said it could be tendonitis. More later...

08 September 2007

Three Cool Things In Burbank, CA

I'm in Burbank, California on business and couldn't resist seeking out some items which I would've tried to collect had I been in the saddle. And there are certainly many other interesting attractions in the San Fernando Valley, but the following items made me smile.

First, the Chandler Boulevard Bikeway:

This two-lane concrete cycling roadway runs down the median strip of Chandler Blvd and is so (rightfully) beloved that city planners have added a bronze statue of a family of bike riders -- the little girl, by the way, is riding with her hands in the air, and the adult in the scene appears to be smacking her right hand:

The bikeway, however, used to be the historic Burbank Railroad which bisected the former ranch lands of the Valley.

The above photo was taken just a block beyond the eastern end of the bikeway where the railroad tracks remain intact, though unused. Another relic of a time before the car culture.

Second, one of the few publicly displayed F-104 Starfighter jets from Lockheed's secretive Skunk Works facility:

From The Valley Observed:

Burbank Airport was home to Lockheed's secret Skunk Works, where the U2 spy plane and other war birds were hatched. Residents in the 1950s and '60s had to put up with sonic booms that shattered windows ands frazzled nerves, the product of test flights. Read more here.

The Starfighter was first tested here in Burbank in 1954 and was used by the military between 1958 and 1967.

And finally, my perpetual LA motel of choice:

The Safari Inn is my definition of a classic American motel. The '50s era theme and signpost. The breezeway check-in area with the cement deck above. The pool. The outdoor walkway on the second floor. The Safari was also used as a location in True Romance -- the hotel in which James Gandolfini brutally assaults Patricia Arquette. Fortunately, the interiors of the rooms are very different now. No bloody mirrors and no mosquito nets (I'm fairly certain a different location was used for the interior scenes of the movie, but the exterior shots are all Safari).

I could spend an entire week here photographing classic motels. They're living monuments to mid-20th Century America, and, in my opinion, are historic locations, worthy of preservation. More on this in later road tours, but they're truly one of my obsessions.

31 August 2007

One Day I Feel I'm Ahead Of The Wheel

Last night was the best short ride I've had in quite a while. 15 miles to Robesonia and back, and it felt great. I had less than an hour before total nightfall, so it had to be a short ride, so I decided to work entirely on technique. I focused on rhythm, speed and body positioning -- kept my head down and arms bent. Tuck position on descents and used the drop bars on the climbs.

I've also found that when the temperature is around 85 or higher, it helps to dump some water on my head every time I go for a drink, instead of waiting until my face is burning. Even at the height of exhaustion, this offers a tremendous boost in endurance.

Saw three other riders last night. One hoople with a complete Team Discovery Channel kit, which was interesting. At least he wasn't wearing yellow.

The ride also reminded me that the Summer is coming to a close. The evening rides will become shorter and shorter as night arrives sooner each day. Then again, Fall brings its own bits of excitement for riding: the scenery, the cooler temperatures. Can't wait.

29 August 2007

Getting Dropped Sucks

Here's my "aw man!" face shortly after being passed like roadkill tonight by some pro-looking* rider who was seriously moving. There was even a little WHOOSH! sound as he blew past.

In my defense, I was checking my phone at the time, but it didn't matter. This dude would've dropped me anyway. Tonight's ride: 24 miles, 422 Corridor.

*My definition of "pro-looking" = sweet gear, fast, shaved legs. Yes, I happened to notice the shaved legs. So what. Who wants to fight?

23 August 2007

Insect Protein

It never occured to me that after nearly a week of rain, the back roads would be swarming with every bug in the known universe, as well as a freakish few that were visiting from parallel dimensions. Rode a quick sprint around the 422-Gaul Rd-Wooltown-Big Spring-422 horn this evening (13 rapid-fire miles, struggled on the Gaul climbs -- again) and in the process ingested all varieties of flying insect.

Gnat, mosquito, horse fly, Japanese Beetle. Wait. Honestly, I didn't swallow any Japanese Beetles, but some such species of large flying exoskeletoned creature thwacked me in the ear, hard enough to make a loud THWAP! noise, just as I was descending the upper part of Wooltown at around 30-40 mph. Imagine descending really fast, and then imagine being shot in the ear with a BB gun. No marks or abrasions, just a LOUD JARRING POP SOUND.

Meanwhile, I passed a (very serious and pro-looking) rider on Gaul. He was descending as I was desperately trying to remain upright on the climb. I'm in this mode right now in which I believe that every other road rider is faster and better than me (they are). For the rest of the ride, I kept thinking, "That other rider would totally drop me right now." Yes, I often self-motivate with self-loathing. Therapy, please.

22 August 2007

Wooltown Road

Photo by Lauren. There has to be something wrong with this road. Poisonous snakes who hate bikes leaping out of the trees, perhaps. Something. Other than it being too short, Wooltown is awesome (Berks pronunciation: "WOOL-tahn").

19 August 2007

The Kutztown Half-Century

Saturday morning, I had a great ride to Kutztown and back by way of Leesport and Lake Ontelaunee (50 mile round trip). The night before, as I was falling asleep, I reminded myself to check the map for any nearby covered bridges. I forgot. And when I finally checked the map last night, this was the look on my face:

So that's the Kutztown University "Golden Bear," presently located on the north campus of my alma mater (class of 1994) between Schaeffer Auditorium and the library. It turns out that Kutz's Mill Bridge is located about a mile away from that damn bear statue. I noted the location of Kutz's Mill Bridge with a thumb tack on the map below.

The morning temperature had to have been in the low 60s, and there was an ass-kicking wind blowing in from the northwest, which sucker punched me from the flanks during the entire ride. And Lehigh Valley winds are famously powerful in the valleys northeast of Reading -- especially in Kutztown itself. Between the wind and the cooler early-morning temperatures, it took about 15 miles to really find some energy.

It's amazing what you discover around here when you actually *look*. I discovered an assembly of relics in Leesport known as The Reading Railroad Museum. It's a collection of vintage passenger rail cars from a time before Detroit and Big Oil all but killed America's rail system.

Take a ride on the Reading (below).

Several Pullman cars from the fabled New York Central Railroad (below).

The spillway bridge at Lake Ontelaunee:

And the map. Note the thumbtack marking the position of Kutz's Mill Bridge:

16 August 2007

Case Of The Slippery Sprockets

So the gear slips while climbing had nothing to do with my cassette sprockets being worn (which would've been weird since the Jake is new as of this past April). Turns out it was my Shimano chain that was worn for some reason. That reason? I'm told Shimano chains are "soft." Soft like Private Pyle on the obstacle. Replaced it with a steel SRAM chain and case closed.

By the way, I drove the Gaul route last night just to see what scenery I was missing. Saw two roadies (not together). One was cranking up Steely Rd and the other was descending Gaul. Glad to see I'm not the only one who likes the torture.

14 August 2007

View From The Spring House

This is the view due east from the historic Spring House, home of the "largest natural spring east of the Mississippi." I would verify it online, if only the joint had a website. But the signpost at the spring said that the house was built in 1735. Yet no website. Back to the photo -- the mountain in the center distance looks like a profile view of a crashing wave. That's steep.

Speaking of steep... I rode the same grueling circuit from last night, by the way. This time I avoided Steely Rd and hit Gaul Rd which seemed to go straight up for a full mile. Very nice. Fortunately, I was prepared this time. Though at one point the grade was so steep that after each crank, my bike would stop for a split second before the next crank. Crank--stop--crank--stop. Liquid hot magma in the legs.

However, I found my new favorite back road: Wooltown Rd between North Church and Big Spring Rd (location of the above photo). Long downhill traveling west, leading to flats along a creek and adjacent to a horse riding stable. It made Gaul 100-percent worth it.

Tomorrow I'm taking the Jake up to Spokes for a derailleur check. The sprockets slipped every time I stood up to crank. I concluded that it was my NO-SPEED fall the other day. Everything on the right: my hip, knee, ankle, and derailleur. Messed with the gears to make sure everything was aligned, but it didn't matter. "On the smoothest ride, there's a squeeky wheel" -Rush, Bravest Face.

13 August 2007

Dinky But Steep

This evening I was running late at work so I only had time for a quickie ride. I figured a 12 mile sprint around the horn would suffice, and I headed out along an abbreviated and modified State Hill Circuit. This time, I hooked a left off of Evans Hill Rd onto Faust Rd and cranked into the deep wilderness. I mean, real back woods territory. I love that this area goes from dense suburb to complete oblivion within a few miles.

Almost immediately, I hit a crapload of these dinky yet insanely steep little hills on Faust and Steely Rds. These wall-like rises are invisible in the Google Maps satellite photos so I had no idea, then again part of the fun is the exploration. Too bad I was losing daylight and, well, after a couple miles of this, my legs felt like they were filled with liquid hot magma. Not since my first ride of the season have I felt this crappy. And I blame both my missed breakfast and the steepness of those little climbs. Plus, my sprockets kept slipping the chain down for some reason, so what little energy I had left was spent trying to crank over these little walls (call them BIG speed bumps) with my sprockets going all herky-jerky at random.

You know what else didn't help? On my ride with Lauren the other day, I suffered a boneheaded NO-SPEED crash. In other words, I was stopped and I didn't pull my foot out of the toe clip in time before -- BOOM! -- down I went. Huge black and purple raspberry on my right hip and the frantic struggle to pull my right foot out of the clip has rendered my right ankle a little sore. Bam. Oh and I suffered a gnarly gushing road rash on my right knee. All from falling whilst at a complete stop. Doy.

The only redemption for the day was 422. Man, I love riding on that road. Really felt good sprinting at my version of high speed for five or six miles. I think I hit a second wind after the crushing warm-up, or maybe I was just pissed off at my "modified and abbreviated" circuit. What I'd give to have 422 closed to car and truck traffic for a day between here and Harrisburg.

UPDATE, 8/14/07: A year from now when I'm in better shape and more skilled, I'll read this post and laugh at all my whining.

My 2007 Bike

By request, here it is: the 2007 Kona Jake (click the image to enlarge). And the specs:

Frame size: 60cm (I'm 6'4" and my ideal frame size should be 61.5cm)
Frame tubing: Kona 7005 Butted Aluminum
Fork: Kona P2 700c
Braze-on fittings: 2 bottles, fender eyelets
Headset: TH
Crankarms: FSA Gossamer Triple MegaExo
Chainrings: 53/39/30T (I wish there was a bigger gear.)
B/B: FSA MegaExo
Pedals: Shimano PD-M324 (Custom addition)
Chain: Shimano CN-IG70
Freewheel: Shimano DEORE (12-25t, 9speed)
F/D: Shimano Sora
R/D: Shimano Tiagra
Shifters: Shimano SORA
Handlebar: Easton EA30 OS
Stem: Easton EA30 OS
Grips: Cork Black
Brakes: Avid Shorty 4
Brake Levers: Shimano SORA w/Tektro RX 2.0
Front hub: Shimano DEORE
Rear hub: Shimano FH-M3300
Spokes: 15g front and 14g rear stainless DT
Tires: Maxxis Locust CX 700x35C (super durable, so far!)
Rims: Sun MZ-14
Saddle: WTB Rocket V COMP
Seatpost: Easton EA30
Seat clamp: Kona Clamp
Color: Blue/Black

11 August 2007

Riding With Lauren

My daughter Lauren at the lake along Reedy Road. She ripped through 18 miles today like a champ.

The septic sludge at liftlock No. 47 E, one of the few intact Union Canal locks along the Tulpehocken Trail. From the Berks County website: "When the [Union] canal was in operation (1827-1884) the locktender's home would have been located on the land between the hill and the lock. Some of the men who lived in this locktender's home were Edwin Ball, Jacob Grubb, William Adies, Samuel Werner, and John Moyer. Their job assignments included operation and maintenance of this lock. Locktenders' salaries ranged from a maximum of $10.00 a month to a low of $1.00 a month, which they received in the later days of operation of the Union Canal."

The bikes of Team Spindrift at the end of the Tulpehocken Trail, near Reber's Bridge.

The historic Gruber Wagon Works near Wertz's Bridge.

Lauren is a better photographer than I am. Her shot of Wertz's Covered Bridge.

Lauren at the Gring's Mill bridge.

That's me at the Gring's Mill Bridge.

The one rider breakaway! Will the peloton catch him? Yes. Definitely yes.

09 August 2007

The Wertz Covered Bridge

One of my goofy riding missions is to "collect" covered bridges, and Berks County is a great place to start since it boasts five historic and notable covered bridges. Last night, I snapped up the first bridge: Wertz's Covered Bridge near the Reading Airport. (Again, pardon the poor camera phone quality. I swear I'm buying a new camera soon.)

Also known as Red Bridge, the Wertz is the longest single span covered bridge in Pennsylvania. The stats:

Length: 204'
Width: 15'
Built: 1867
Builder: Amandas Knerr
Truss: Burr
Stream: Tulpehocken Creek
WGCB Number: 38-06-06
Also known as: Red Bridge

One of my favorite aspects of any historic area is to find little physical details that aren't always noted in the visitor center brochures.

For example, the bridge is also adjacent to the old Union Canal. The canal was a massive structure with a history going back to William Penn himself. If you ride to the Heritage Center side, the gravel hiking trail along this bank happens to run parallel to a wide trench which was once the Union Canal. In places along the trail, you can even see the old stones used as the walls of the manmade waterway, and at the Gring's Mill park, the towpath and canal remain intact and preserved. More on the Union Canal here.

The bridge is the only Berks covered bridge which is closed to vehicle traffic, but on the Tulpehocken Rd side of the bridge near the park area, you can ride on a small section of the old road which once ran up to- and over the bridge. I love things like that. Remnants of old roads, old structures. I like to imagine what the terrain used to look like before progress changed the landscape (for better or worse, depending on the case).

One down, four more to go: The Dreibelbis Bridge, The Kutz's Mill Bridge, Griesemer's Bridge and The Pleasantville Bridge.

05 August 2007

Peace In The Middle East

It seemed like the perfect day for my first half-century, so I did it. The 50-mile round trip to Lebanon, PA and back. I really only "bonked" (lost all will to live) once, and it was just a few miles from home. I wrote it before and I'll write it again: 422 West is awesome for cycling. Just awesome. More details and a map later on.

03 August 2007

Judge Reinholds

Yesterday evening's ride (24.5 miles round trip) was an experiment in contrasts. The Old Fritztown Rd section through the low hills of northern Lancaster County were some of the toughest climbs I've experienced so far. Really steep and giving off that optical illusion in which "the top" isn't really the top, prompting me to breathlessly exclaim, "Oh f***ing hell!" several times.

But upon reaching the town of Reinholds at Rt. 897, the terrain leveled off into a rolling valley of flats and small hills. Where the Fritztown Rd offered civilization, 897 offered an endless cycle of simple Menonite farms, Amish homesteads, redneck farmers, and one or two isolated new-construction neighborhoods for the upper-middle-class folks.

The mission was to make it to Kleinfeltersville, but the setting Sun ended that quest. I had to turn back at around 12.25 miles into the ride. And it's a good thing I did. By the time I returned to the Berks County line, it was well past sundown and with no shoulder to speak of on Fritztown Rd, I would've been doomed in complete darkness had I continued on to Kleinfeltersville and turned back there.

The above camera phone shot was taken at the historic Reinholds Station Inn on Rt. 897. Information from VisitPA.com:
Historic Reinholds Inn was built in 1863 by Colonel Jesse Reinhold after its founder Colonel Jesse Reinholds who built a large and commodious hotel in 1863, soon after, the Reading Columbia Railroad Company had opened its railroad for business. This house was for a time occupied as a hotel, ticket-post-and telegraph office, with Mr. Reinhold as postmaster and station agent. During the summer Mr. Reinhold had his house open as a resort for recreation, it being generally patronized by wealthy Philadelphians. Now we offer the saloon downstairs and "The Station" upstairs, second floor, which is open for fine and casual dining offering dinner specials nightly.
VisitPA needs a proofreader. Official site for the Reinholds Station Inn.

02 August 2007

The State Hill Circuit

UPDATE: Not sure why the route isn't showing up on the map.

As promised, here's the State Hill Circuit. 12.46 miles according to Google Maps. I rode this one counter-clockwise and tackled some of the small climbs first. Reedy Road through Cacoosing was incredible, as was the wilderness of Wagner Drive (far upper right on the map) but the sum total of all the climbs on the right hemisphere of the circuit was insane for my feeble level of fitness. I noted before that Brownsville Rd is treacherous due to the traffic, but the scenery is stunning in the late evening with the Sun setting over Blue Marsh Lake in the valley below.

The descent on North Church Rd is super fast in places. I should probably check my brakes. In terms of sites on the ride down, the Jesuit Center has some impressive grounds, and be sure to check the view around the area of the cemetary.

01 August 2007

Bunker Hill

Another Razr camera phone shot. This one is from a 20 mile ride on July 26 through the farm lanes and hills northwest of Robesonia, PA. I snapped this one at the halfway point of the ride: the intersection of Bunker Hill Road and Tulpehocken Forge Road. This is about two miles from the Clover Hill Winery.

The Kona Jake At State Hill

Tuesday afternoon/evening, I made the 5 mile climb to the top of State Hill, then the 7 mile ride down. Here's my Kona at the peak overlooking Blue Marsh Lake. This photo was snapped at the top of the access road to the State Hill boat ramp on Brownsville Rd. The camera? My Razr phone. Not too bad for a really awful camera phone.

This circuit was both beautiful and brutal. Some steep climbs, heavy traffic, and not much shoulder room in some places. I'll post the route later.