Sunday, November 15, 2015

Veterans' Day Gravel Grinder

Will and I met in Katonah, NY on a very rainy, yet somewhat warm Veterans' Day to ride, once again, the Dirty Martha Gravel Grinder.  This is a route that I found online that needed a few tweeks. In the spring of 2014, nearly 18 months ago, Will and I rode this route but due to some mechanical difficulties on my part, we didn't complete the intended route in it's entirety.   

We delayed almost an hour and got a bagel in the village hoping that the rain would stop but a quick check on the weather app didn't look as promising as certain media outlets had predicted.  We headed out in a light rain.  The last time we rode a gravel grinder in the rain was last year's Foolish Classic and while it wasn't a race we DNF'd due to the cold.  Knowing that we were likely to have the same conditions I was much more prepared.  Starting out, however, it took a few wardrobe readjustments until the right combination of attire was found. 

This year we headed south as opposed to last year's decision to ride north mainly because I didn't have the Gravle Guide to show me where all the good dirt was.  This time around, though, I discovered a new dirt road that re-emphasized that this was indeed the right way to go. 

15 miles into the ride we arrived at Byram Lake and nice a couple walking their dog offered to take a picture of Will and I.  Of course, they thought we were crazy to be out riding dirt roads on a rainy day.  This is a great place to stop for a snack and take in the beauty of the lake.  There is also a haunting tale of this lake where a school bus crashed into the lake and everyone on board drowned and the victims still haunt the lake.   

Last year, we went through Chappaqua to get here because there was one dirt dirt road over by the New Croton Reservoir that I used to tie the route together but there was a lot of pavement in between. Having the Gravle Guide revealed much more dirt between Bedford Hills and Byram Lake which created a much dirty route to follow.  The big surprise was on Wood Road, which was a lot dirty then first recorded.  That's one of the beauties of Google Maps street view and Westchester County, it seems every road in Westchester has been driven with the camera.

The major difference between last's ride and this one was we were coming off a hard winter.

And of course, my bike went through some changes.  The major ones being the removal of bar end shifters that were replaced with Retro Shifts and I ditched the fenders this year because I wasn't using the Cross Check for commuting.  I have also been through a few different frame bags, too, and tried some different combinations of top tube bags and seat packs.

Will made a smart decision to wear rain pants and over shoes.  Without a rear fender, Will developed quite a muddy posterior.  While I made a last minute decision to just wear my Lake 303s and while I probably should have brought my rain pants, I was fine without them.  The one thing that I never took off was my rain jacket.  That kept me pretty warm the whole time and I was grateful that I kept it on. The route was planned to take a dirt road into Ward Pound Ridge Reservation but that turned out to be private so we rode Rt 121 into Cross River.  Heading up through Cross River we hit two steep climbs, one on Old Cross Rover Road that topped out 15% and the other on Holy Branch Road at 19%. 

One change in the route this year over last was the addition of Mountain Lakes Park.  I came across the park map and found that most of the roads in the park were not paved so of course, I had to add that to the route.  The first 3/4s of a mile in it's paved but then you come to a gate and it's all gravel from then on.  It's about two miles of hard riding!  The climb up is biggest on the route with a 600 elevation change from Twin Lakes to the high point on the road in the park.

The route was supposed to take a dirt road called Howe Lane from Rt 121 over to Keeler Lane, which is the steepest climb on the route that tops out at 27% but it's a private, so we had to detour around. During that detour is when we found the Union Hall General Store. We got to Cross River too early for lunch and the next available place would have been up around Peach Lake but it would be nearly 3 PM till we got there so we stopped here for a bite to eat. It's more of an eclectic kind of store with some food offerings that weren't bad but not what I would have expected.   

With the stove out commission we had to settle for Quiche.  It was pretty good but that little egg pie was pretty expensive.  The lime, mint and coconut Kevita was refreshing but I probably should have just gotten the hot chocolate or a cup of coffee, because it too was expensive, too.  After lunch, it was up Keeler Lane and the steepest climb of the route.  The backside is dirt and comes out onto Rt 116 near the CT Line and Ridgefield.  From there its up Vail Road and then hook around back towards Rt 121.

From Keeler Lane we cut across Rt 116 onto Vail Road, which is a substantial climb, too.  It's really pretty up here and the quintessential Westchester County Horse Country.  Not only did we see plenty of riders but there was also quite a few road apples to dodge.  Will took this picture of me climbing to the top of Vail Road.  Wet dirt roads really suck the life out of you.  

From Peach Lake, it's pretty much all downhill.  One great dirt road was Turkey Hill that I had planned on riding last year but due to my pedal breaking we bypassed it.  Definitely worth riding.  From there it was mostly last year's route in reverse.  When we go to Route 35, though, we bagged the last three dirt sections and headed straight for the start point and a cold beer!  Another great ride!

Sunday, November 08, 2015

A chilly Sunday morning spin around the Saugatuck

Headed out at 6 AM Sunday morning for ride with Gavin around the Saugatuck Reservoir.  It was definitely not warm enough for shorts but with winter tights, a base layer and my Cannondale Performance Softshell, 15 minutes into my ride I had to open the zippers, it is the best riding jacket!  It takes me approximately 30 minutes to ride down Route 25 to the Burrito Shack where I have met Gavin before for rides in southern Newtown, Monroe and Easton.    

Gavin rolled in a few minutes after me and he had a few layers on as well.  I was going to plan a route but then just decided to wing it.  Gavin, on the other hand programmed one into his new Garmin Edge 510 so I followed his lead.  Despite the cold temperature, it was a great day to be out on the bike.

We worked our way through the back roads from South Newtown, past Guskie Pond and through the corner of Monroe and into Easton.

Quick stop at the Hemlock Reservoir to take in the sunrise and marvel at the water because it was like glass.

There were surprisingly very few cars on the road at this time.

My new rule is to ride with the Lake 303s in any temperatures less than 40 degrees

Gavin still had his fair share of snivel gear on

From Easton we headed up into Weston and on up to Old Valley Forge Road

It was amazing to see how low the reservoir was when the last time I rode through here, mid summer, it was at capacity

This June

It was so low, the river wasn't even flowing!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday afternoon spin in glorious fall colors

Hopped on the bike and rode as fast as I could to the Burrito Shack to meet up with Gavin

We rode down to Guskie Pond and then looped back up Hattertown Road

Then up through the Taunton Steps

Past the lake

And up the backside to Castle Hill

The sun was still bright and very warm

We parted ways at the Congregational Church

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Delaware River Roadie

My friend Gavin asked whether I would come with him out to Sullivan County, NY where he has a cottage and that he needed to do a little winterization. Afterwards he offered to take me on a tour of the Delaware River by bike. Having Columbus day off for the first time in probably 20 years, The drive up there was spectacular and eye opening at the same time.  Never have I seen a billboard completely in Hebrew anywhere in the US but there was one on the highway!

Starting just outside of Barryville, we headed South on Rt 97 towards Port Jervis. There was a little climbing that had to be done first and you could just catch a few glimpses of the river. The first five miles of this road is also really crappy.  In fact just out side of Barryville there is a sign that warms you about it. Ride carefully!

After the first big descent, there is the Delaware River, in all it's glory.

Apparently this is a really good river to fly fish but we didn't see anyone fishing.  We did see one group on a raft near Pond Eddy, and there were no other cyclists.  Quite a few people on motorcycles, though!  Just about all the cars passing us gave us a wide berth when passing.

Eventually, we climbed up to a famed section of the of the road called the Hawk's Nest

We stopped for a couple of pictures but continued on towards Port Jervis

Turning around after the descending from the Hawk's Nest we rode back in the other direction.

Took a few selfies over looking the Delaware River

Marveled at this section of the road heading north

Stopped at the old Steel Bridge at Pond Eddy

And then rode back to where we started!

Afterwards we hit the Callicoon Brewing Company for lunch

The Catskill Devil's Path IPA was awesome and I also had the Callicoon Brown Cow Porter, which was great, too!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Cannondale Slate: History Repeats Itself

I finally saw a Cannondale Slate at the Tour de Roxbury and I have to say that it is indeed a fine looking bike.  I didn't have a chance to sit on it or take it for a spin but I wish I had.

This one had SRAM Gearing with an 11:42 cassette and a single chain ring upfront with 42 teeth. With Surly Gnards and that type of gearing, not only is this bike ready for dirt roads but it could also tackle quite a bit of singletrack as well. With the front lockable lefty fork, bombing dirt road descents must be smooth like butter!

This isn't the first time that Cannondale has had cyclocross styled bike with suspension up front. My very own 1999 Cannondale XS800 also had a little squish, too. Funny, how history repeats itself.