Monday, April 19, 2010

Check Your Legs Race - cold, cold, cold . .

So if you raced the second event of the Johnny Cake Lane series, you would swear that a race couldn't be colder. That is unless you raced the Check Your Legs event in New Lisbon, NY on Sunday.  Morning in Delhi had snow cover.  It was a mix of snow and rain driving to the event.  Once there I took extra time to warm up, but even that couldn't prepare me for the wind, rain, and cold that would put us all in the hurt locker.  There was a great showing by Team Ommegang, and it was great to meet up again. 

The short distance and steep hills makes this one of the harder events of the year.  At least for me.  This year I was convinced relatively good form and knowing the course would put me in a good place, but when it was all panned out, 19th was the best I could do and that was after a group of 7 sprinting for placements.  

If you haven't raced this event, and you live anywhere between Syracuse, Binghamton, or the Hudson Valley, you're really missing out on some great fun.  Did I mention it's a laid back scene with giveaways almost for everyone?  Don't miss out next year!

Don't forget to click on some adds below, and if you have photos to share let us know at

Friday, April 16, 2010

Big Plans on the Horizon

So the clock has been started. Let's see if the Brown & White Sign Sceme intiated for the Catskill Park can be completed within the next 12 years. The park is over 100 years old, and we still don't have an efficient or clear system to direct visitors to basic DEC hiking trails. There have been some real efforts made lately to get the Catskill Park caught up to the 21st Century. Let's see if this modest clock can be beat on the sign sceme intiative.

Check in yearly for updates!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Most Beautiful Route

Saturday night I tweeted I would be doing a 75mile ride on Sunday and that I would get it on the site.  Well, it's done.  This was a loop I have been looking to do for some time, but for one reason or another I've never been able to.  All week the forecast was projecting cloudy with scattered showers and I was worried my efforts would be shut down once more. 

View Interactive Map on
Click to view the route

Big Pond
Sunday morning was windy but mild (for the high peaks anyway, the flatlanders might call it cold).  I was undecided whether I would ride in short sleeve or long; whether I should bring gloves, vest, shoe covers, etc.  I ended up wearing a short sleeve jersey with a long sleeve over it.  I also brought light gloves for the pocket and LOTS of food.  This early in the season, I wanted my body eating itself as little as possible, so fuel, and ingesting it at the right time in the right amounts was just as important as the route.  I'm trying to build form, not break it down.
Beaverkill Valley Farm
So I set out from my front door here in Big Indian and right away the wind had me down to cranking hard for 9mph.  I was also glad I brought that long sleeve, because 30mph wind can bring a 50 degree day way down.  I rode Rt28 all the way to Margeretville with a detour through Fleishmanns.  This was mainly to escape the wide open wind tunnels of Rt28.

Around the Reservoir was beautiful as usual but as I turned up Barkaboom Rd, I dropped down to the small chain ring for the climb and was surprised to find the chain had fallen off onto the bottom bracket.  This proved to be near disaster for the trip since the dangling chain was tinking hard off the rear spokes and was soon to be tangle up in the wheel if I hadn't stopped when I did.  In the end, found my lower parameter screw for the front derailleur had come loose a little.  Tightened it up two turns and was on my way with no other issues.

Beaverkill Valley Farm
If you've never been up Barkaboom Rd, particularly on a bike, you're missing a real classic section.  This stretch of road follows the aptly named Barkaboom Stream.  There are waterfalls, and large shady sections of Hemlock forest to ride along.  When you top out you drop down to NYSDEC Big Pond, which is a great place to camp and fish.  Keep going past big pond and you drop down into the Historic Beaverkill Valley.  One summer, my wife worked at the day camp the association has.  Many of the kids are the who's who of NYC, and a lot of them are well traveled and well read.

Beaverkill Flyfishing Stream
At the end is the town of Livingston Manor.  I'm assuming it's name is derived from Robert Livingston (inherited huge tracts of land from Queen Elizabeth back in the founding days of our country)  It's obvious this place has a history of fly fishing and wealth.  I didn't stay long as I was starting to wear thin and had a long way home.  So along the Willowemoc I ventured to link back up with Frost Valley Rd which would take me home.  The Willowemoc section of road is a Grade A, #1 road for cycling.  In over 15 miles, I think I was passed by 1 car and only passed a few dozen homes / buildings.  This stretch is out there, and is sheer beauty.  There is a lot of swamp land in that area and the ecology is very cool. 

Then of course is the love hate climb back up through the Frost Valley and over the Slide Mountain area to drop back into Big Indian.  Love it because it's incredibly beautiful.  Hate it because the climb is sustained and seems endless.  This is also a classic section of road, and anyone who every pedals it will not soon forget their experience. 
Trip Stats:
Willowemoc Info Kiosk
Miles --------77.87
Time -------- 4:43:23
Elevation ---- 6493ft
Calories ----- 4213
Avg. Speed --16.5
Slide Mt / Frost Valley Road
So when I got home my wife laughed at me while I hobbled around trying to remember why I would do something like this to myself.  She asked me if it was the hardest ride I've done.  No was my answer, "but it was by far the most beautiful one".  I stick by this statement.  Sometimes I come across high quality photos from some sweet rides out in Colorado and California.  But Sunday's ride can easily rival any of those.  And this would have to be one of the top 5 on the East Coast.  But like rock climbing, I believe the route can only be verified or disputed after another cyclist does it and gives a rating.  So get out there!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Shameless Plug

Ok everyone.  Have you noticed the ads on this site?  There is one below the most recent post, and then there is one farther down the page.  At Catskills Cycling, we have the option of no ads, a few ads, or a boat load of ads on our site.  I chose only to have two, but even this was a difficult choice because honestly, I hate ads. 

However, every time one of you kids out there in cyberland click on one of these adds, I get credited maybe .5 of 1 cent.  In over a year, I have racked up a whopping $8.  Yep, big money maker.  But with time, it can add up.  Which is nice because entertaining all you clowns with 2bit writing skills is not easy, and I should be compensated handsomely.  Don't you think?

We'll the truth is, daddy needs a new Zipp 303 tubular wheel set, because finding the funds with a full race schedule and two little ones to feed is pretty much out of the question.

So, do me a favor and click on those adds.  In fact, click on all of them, and click on them a bunch of times.  Even if the info doesn't interest you, a click will get you more Catskills Cycling, and that in and of itself is a great deal. 

And who knows, in about 20 years or so, I just might be able to thank you for a pair of really obsolete wheels!

Monday, April 5, 2010

No better cycling partner

For those of you who had the opportunity to watch Fabian Cancellara pull a gold charm out of his shirt pocket to show to the cameras just before placing first at yesterday's Ronde van Vlaanderen, one would imagine it was a charm that has to do with his child/children.  Paul Liggett suspected as well.  And as a parent, I can fully relate to such a moment and it warms my heart to see another parent say "this is for you" with such a gesture.  Being a cyclist and a parent is somewhat of an oxymoron, but it's possible.  And as they say, "the greater the sacrifice, the greater the reward". 

Our first child was pulled around in a cheap / heavy bike carrier that was given to us.  We used it well, but not without a lot of hassel and cursing.  So when our second daughter was born, I was determined to look into a better quality bike carrier.  I came across Chariot Carriers and was sold on the thought of a Cougar1 model.  We decided our tax return would go toward it and so we ordered it.  Well, I finally had a chance to give it a go, and I must say, it was a delight.  My only regret is not buying one the first time to be able to get double the money's worth with our second child.

First, I was completely impressed with this carrier right out of the box.  It has a very Euro sensibility to almost every facet.  It also has many attachments for running, strolling, XC skiing, and biking of course.  The strapping for my 4 month old is perfect without any extra propping, and it's adjustable for when she grows.  The venting and flap options are great.  There is a huge pouch at the back for all necessary kid supplies, and much more.  And the street tires it comes with are great for putting in some good miles on the road.

So after our maiden voyage with the thing, it is worth every tax return dollar.  My daughter was very happy during the 1.5hr ride / climb, and the adjustable suspension put my skepticism to rest.   However, it's still a trailer to haul behind you.  It instantly brought back memories from pulling our first child (now 5yrs old) around.  But I am looking forward to see what results some serious training with her can do for my time trial efforts.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A little now, or a lot later

So spring is here for most of us in the Northeast and you're probably on your bike these days pedaling away like a freed hostage, or a crazed lunatic, or maybe a Jazz trumpeter.  But whatever style spinning those pedals, don't forget about maintaining that marvelous invention you ride.

Magazines have countless articles about maintain this, buy that, you'll disintegrate without these.  We all read it, but many of us just skim past all that to read about the sweet new bikes, or the soap opera drama between Armstrong and Contador. 

But using precious time now, I'll tell you the single most important thing to maintain on your bike is YOUR CHAIN.  Yup, chain.  You might be saying "but I just put a new chain on last year? . . . ".  Of course you did.  But you also rode a bazillion miles on that thing, and the last you remember it was working just fine at the end of last year.  So now you're full swing into your wild animal pedaling and you've forgotten all about last years miles.  Well . . .don't. 

If you ride a lot or climb a lot of hills (you know who you are), you should change your chain once per year.  If you are a casual rider who avoids hills, you might get away with a replacement every 2-3 years (depending how much you clean and lube the thing).  But a rule of thumb is:  if your bike is starting to shift funny or is clicking like it never used to, get to your LBS right away!

I have a friend who needs a new bike this year because his chain literally broke his bike.  It was during a race, shifting while climbing, chain links split / bent open, couldn't fit through derailleur, then twisted the derailleur backwards up and around the bike.  All while twisting the derailleur hanger bolts right out of the frame!  Unrepairable.

Go tell it to your momma.  And go get that new chain!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Aversion to hills?

For most people, mountains are a place you visit now and then.  Particularly on vacation with family or friends.  The fact is most people live in or near cities.  And most cities have a port or major river they're located near, and because of this, the geography around most cities is . . . how shall we put this? . . . .basically flat. 

So when cyclist think of riding in a mountainous area like the Catskill Region, they probably have visions of slogging up face-melting climbs and nail-biting descents.  Well I got some news for folks who think like this.  You're pretty much right.  Now there are many flatlanders who can race up the best climbs like billy goats, but we won't elaborate on them.
However!  Don't let these mountains scare you.  The Catskill roads have areas that are a little more novice friendly and there is almost always a safe shoulder to ride on.  Luckily, the weather is considerably milder up here than in the regions of cities.  Even in the heat of summer, there is always cool shady patches of road naturally air conditioned by a nearby stream usually found along them.

But!  If all of this nature talk isn't enough to get you to the big hills even though you want to ride them, then you are left one other choice.  You gotta get rid of your city gearing and get some hill gears on that steed.
I can see the "Hill gears?" look on your face now.  Yes, hill gears. 

Most bikes come / came equipped with city gears (53-39 Chain rings up front, and 12-23 cassette in back).  If you have no idea what I'm talking about, go to your bike and count the teeth on each ring the chain can ride on.

So now that you understand that, you need to go bold to go big.  I've attached a gearing chart to help you make a wise decision in what you feel you'll need.  My bike came with the "Custom Compact Setup".  I can tell you it's good for climbing, but not good enough for what these hills can throw at you.  My bike is now set up with a 50-34 chain rings- "Common Compact", and a 12-27 cassette (some companys are now making a 11-28 cassette).  This may sound extreme to some riders.  Some would say you may have great climbing gears, but not enough gearing for top-end speed.  I'm happy to say I don't have a problem on descents or fast flats.  However, everyone is different.  So check out your bike's gearing and talk to your local bike shop about how you can go about getting what you need.  Also, if you're buying a new bike, understand many of them have different gearing options at sale (you may have to wait a few days if they don't have it on the floor).  Proper gearing is vital, so don't underestimate it.

Good luck.  Keep in mind, hills make you stronger! (so what's my excuse?  Um . . . )

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Group Rides; Catskills Style

OK kids, the season of group rides is upon us and like everyone else, your probably eager to get out there and share some snowbound stories with your friends while dropping them at the nearest incline. But before you go out, it might be a good idea to pay attention to a few ideas that work, and avoid the ones that tend not to. Here's a very short tip list the next time you head out with a bunch of riders:

#1 - Show up on time and be ready. It's not fair to have others waiting for you. We all have obligations outside of group rides, so it's a huge privilege to many of us just to get out there.

#2 - Stay right and single up when there is a "car back". Across the country, communities are growing tired of riders carelessly tying up traffic and are considering laws against group rides. Yes, cyclists need more drivers to be aware of their rights, but on the road on your bike is not an appropriate education forum. Most importantly we need the police on our side when the sh%* really hits the fan with aggressive drivers.

#3 - If your going to ride hard (which you will since 2 or more bikes is a race), be considerate and wait for the rest of the crew at the next crest of hill or intersection. Where they are, you once were. So don't be a jerk.

So that's how we keep it simple here at Catskills Cycling. There are groups out there that will have A LOT more rules, regulations, and requirements, but these are the 3 basic precepts that will keep you in the good graces of any group worth participating in. So be aware that each group ride has a different vibe, and it's best to ride with as many as you can to find what's right for you.

Good luck. Have fun. Be safe.