Thursday, October 31, 2013

A 100km Fixed Gear Ride Long Island's North Fork

It was a wonderful day. The temperature was 78F and September was almost over. No clouds were in the sky, and a gentle breeze was blowing from the West, as it almost always does in this part of the country. I decided to take a 100km ride from Mattituck to Orient Point and back, traversing the North Fork of Long Island.
Most people fromother places do not realize that Long Island is not just a lot of suburbs, but has a wonderful set of forks, the North and the South. The North Fork is mainly agricultural, and has a myriad of wineries and farmstands to explore. Those looking for glitz had better travel to the South Fork instead. For today's ride, I chose Miss Pinarello, my 1984 Italian made bike, which rides as well as when I got her 29 years ago. The current equipment iteration is as a fixed gear, and my 68.4 gear inch ratio was perfect for the flattish to rolling hills of this ride.

Lots and lots of wineries dot the low traffic and highly scenic route. Along the way, the town of Greenport offers a nice walk around, with shops, crafts, restaurants, and a ferry to Shelter Island...but that is another story for another time. Lots and lots of farmstands are also along the route, many of them small family affairs

A visit to Shelter Island: On the Road with a Catrike Expedition

After about 200 miles of sheltered riding in a no vehicular traffic zone, it was time to go out and discover the real life road. I will be selective about where to trike, and would never consider myself an urban traffic warrior. It is well known that Long Island is, in general, very cycle-unfriendly. Sheltered bike paths are uncommon, and lots of people just don't ride on the road due to fear. When travelling in California, Paris, and Israel, I found cycle friendly communities, where both could co-exist. Not so for Long Island at this time.   

For it's first road trip, I selected Shelter Island, which lies between Long Island's North and South forks. In season it is crowded with summer residents and visitors, but out of season, it is esentially deserted, and has good roads, lots of varied terrain, and wonderful water views. Shelter Island is not accessable by road, and in order to visit, one must take the ferry. This was easily accomplished, via a 3.5 mile bike path originating from Sag Harbor.

As expected, I had the island largely to myself. My Catrike Expedition performed well during the 38.85 mile ride. Climbing the road to Ram Island was challenging, but the absence of having to maintain a minimum speed to balance on my two wheeled recumbent was something that I greatly appreciated. All in all, the trike performed smoothly and was super comfortable over the slightly longer distance. I believe that doing a century ride on this trike in the Spring is a realistic expectation.

During the last portion of my Shelter island ride, I ran across some friendly witches!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

I Visit the Dark Side: A Recumbent Trike Comes Into My Life

It had been coming for a long time. My curiosity about recumbent bikes had been brewing for a number of years. I owned a 2006 Volae two wheeled recumbent from 2006 until recently, when I sold it to a wonderful guy from northern Alabama. I had put on 10,300 miles on it between 2/06 and 6/09, then went back to upright bikes, especially my beloved fixed gear Pinarello. On several occasions, I had the opportunity to demo recumbent trikes, and had an absolute blast every second of those rides. After lots and lots of research, I purchased a Catrike Expedition recumbent trike from the wonderful folks at the Hostel Shoppe in Wisconson.

Catrikes are manufactured in Winter Haven, Florida, and the frame is a 100% USA made product. My Catrike serial # is CTE3385. This trike frame and component design is intended to be a sport-touring setup. It is not the fastest racing machine, but gives a good account of itself in the rapidity department. The main attraction has been the extreme comfort of the riding position. No neck, hand, back or butt pains so far. I hit the 200 mile mark today, and am totally satisfied with my new trike. I would like to train over the fall and winter, and make this Catrike into a comfortable century machine.
I usually only buy a frame and then add my desired components, but the Catrike comes well equipped with Avid BB7 disc brakes, a SRAM 10 speed drivetrain, and Schwalbe Marathon Racer tires. For now, this will be a good combination. In the Spring, I may experimant with Rotor chainrings and Schwalbe KOjak tires for a speed boost over long distances. I have a Shelter Island ride palnned for later in the week, and that will be the first test of road riding. I have a flag and two-one watt Planet Bike flashers for visibility.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Ride on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail

This past weekend, Helen, Nina, and I went up to New Paltz, New York, to attend the wedding of our dear friends Jon and Amity. I also took the opportunity to take a ride on the Walkill Valley Rail Trail. The folks at Bicycle Depot pointed me several steps from their door, which is the junction of town and trail.

I got up early the next day and was at the door of the Main Street Bistro at the opening time of 7AM on weekends. They made me a wonderful omlette on eggs, sausage, broccoli, mushrooms, and cheddar cheese which was served it the skillet. Nothing like a great breakfast on a brisk morning to start a rail trail ride!

The Walkill Rail Trail runs from the hamlet og Gardiner north through New Paltz, and at least up to the town of Rosendale. The Southern section is mostly gravel and a bit rough, but the Northern portion is mostly smooth dirt with some gravel and is much more scenic and hospitible terrain. My Jamis cyclocross bike was shod with its usual Ritchey Speedmax 700x32c tires, inflated ti 55psi front and 60psi rear. This inflation/tire combination was perfect for the conditions encountered.

I met several walkers/runners/cyclists along the trail, but it was mostly wide open with no sense of crowding. It was peak apple season in the Hudson Valley region, and lots of orchards were encountered along the way. I was VERY tempted to do some unauthorized picking, but my sense of honesty prevailed. By the way, apples have a low glycemic index of 38, and are an excellent snack anytime.

In the southern part of the trail,there were some open scenic spaces, although the route is mostly wooded. There are no hills to speak of, and the trail is basically flat and easy to ride. One must be cognizant of the deer population, and awareness is important, but paranoia is not.

All in all, my 33 mile ride was an excellent morning jaunt. The trail, bike and myself were in synchronization. Although this ride is not difficult or overly long, it is extremely pleasurable and scenic. As the days bcome colder and mud season is upon us, more trail riding will replace speed on the road. I enjoy the physical transformations that the seasons dictate, and am ready to take on the challenges and pleasures of the colder parts of the year.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

It Would Have Been Enough...

Prior to my cardiac catherization, stent placement, and discovery of wildly out of control blood sugar, I had signed up for yet another yearly Ride to Montauk for June 1, 2013. While lying in a hospital bed at St. Francis Hospital, I always had faith that I would pull through in the short term. A large part of my life has been participation in some sort of strenuous physical activity. I wondered if I would be fit enough to do this 110 mile ride with 2,500 of my closest friends. Normally, such a ride would be routine, as I had accomplished century rides 51 times before, and five of them on my fixed gear bike ( one gear ).

Being on multiple medications including insulin, this ride posed a new and difficult challenge. My training and fitness was up to par, but the fear of chest pain and difficult glycemic control was scary to say the least. A low glycemic index energy bar at about every 20 miles has seemed to work for me. I packed a turkey wrap and a pickle in my Carradice saddlebag, and took my blood sugar testing kit and insulin pen. Helen insisted that I not do this ride on a fixed gear, and that I take my geared bike instead. I agreed and made the change at the last minute.
All in all, my planning worked very well. My blood sugars remained in the 90s range at the 50, 76, and 92 mile rest stops. I snacked on the cherries and strawberries provided at the rest stops by the organizers. Fortunately, both of these fruits have a low glycemic index and function well for the long distance rider.
The weather was sunny and cooperated all day. By the time we got out to Montauk Point, the temperature was about 70 degrees with a delightful SSW tailwind. Total mileage was 110.5. My physical recovery is now complete. It would have been enough just to ride any Century with my fellow riders. This Century was an important step for me, and marks my return to my previous level of activity. Perhaps my low glycemic index healthy diet and better awareness of my own medical status will enable new and bigger accomplishments in the future.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

On the road to recovery, a Day of Fixed Gear Cycling

One month and six days after my cardiac catheterization, out of control blood sugar, and almost death, I am now regularly back in the saddle. I have not had any chest pain since my stent procedure, and my blood sugar is under very tight control. I credit my survival to a 75,000+ mile history of cycling. My current low glycemic index diet has gone a long way towards righting a very wrong situation. I was cautious at first, but am now almost up to speed in terms of duration and difficulty of my rides. I hope to be ready to complete the Ride to Montauk Century  ( 100 mile ride ) on June 1st.
For today's ride, I chose the excellent Lloyd Harbor peninsula, with its low traffic volume, varied terrain, and gorgeous scenery. It was also a great opportunity to test out the latest iteration of the platformed eggbeater pedals from the Crank Brothers, the Candy #3.
This pedal replaces the Candy SL. It is nominally 6 grams heavier, but replaces the Candy SL's composite body with a more durable stainless steel one. I found the pedals smooth when cruising, and stable while climbing the 16% grade Target Rock road on my 1984 Pinarello fixie. Doing this grade on a fixed gear was another step in my recovery. I want to do all that I could before and then some.
As for the continuing bike porn..Well, I was riding alone and I am such a sucker for that stuff. Spring is still in the air. Trees were in full blossom, and the buttercups were out in force.
All in all, it was a very nice ride and day. The scenery was enchanting, I got a good workout in, and the new pedals worked out great. My recovery is on schedule. My weekend plan is to do a 40 mile moderate to hilly ride with the club on Sunday, to get in a little paceline action.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Catastrophe and Opportunity

My Chinese friends tell me that in the Chinese language, the same word means both catastrophe and opportunity. Maybe this is also true in whatever curves that life throws at us. On April 7, 2013, I set out for my usual 25 mile standard training ride. I began to experience significant chest discomfort, and had to quit after about three miles of riding. To make a very long story very short, I visited a cardiologist friend the next day, who sent me directly to St. Francis hospital. While there, I had a cardiac catheterization and angiogram, which revealed a significant narrowing of a major cardiac artery. A stent was placed, and I am feeling fine at the present time. In addition, my blood sugar was wildly out of control, and needed medical intervention. I am now back on the bike and am slowly building up my stamina.

This past weekend we stayed in Montauk with close friends. Helen and I went on our standard ride from our host's house to Montauk Point. The air temperature was chilly, and the wind was from the East at about 15 MPH, but it was great to get out and ride. Our friend Scott accompanied us part of the way. It's the first time we have ever ridden with Scott in about a 30 year friendship. Along the way, we stopped in Montauk town for breakfast. I am on a self imposed low glycemic index diet, and eating in or out has presented me with a culinary challenge. Since April 8, I have not consumed white starch in any form. Maybe the silver lining is that my eating habits may be much healthier in the future, So far, so good.

As can be expected, at our midway point My daughter Nina called from Tel Aviv. We look forward to her mid July homecoming. Helen spent some time on the phone talking to her, so I got a good rest while enjoying the ocean view. Later on, we stopped at Ditch Plains to inspect the beach after the recent Hurricane damage. The beach has become much narrower, but some bold early spring surfers were out.

Maybe the opportunity here is that I now seek to control time and diet in a new way. When I can control time, my diet has been exemplary. If time controls me, than the situation deteriorates, and poor eating habits prevail. So far, I have done well and am back on the bike on a regular basis. My furthest ride has been 40 miles with no ill effects. I will go slowly in a cautious manner. Will I be able to do the 109 mile Ride to Montauk on June 1st? Stay tuned for more information.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Finally, Some Snow to Ski on!

It has been a while since I made  blog entry, but here's a late one. We were waiting for snow to cross country ski on for most of the winter. Our large storm in February brought 28 inches of snow to our area of Long Island. The day after Saturday's big snow, we went to Caumsett Park, our favorite park, for some skiing. The park is an ideal venue for winter sports due to its rolling hills and numerous wide trails. We skiied to Long Island Sound over good tracks. There are no machine made tracks in our area, so all cross country skiing is back country. I was happy to break trail, and my Rossignol 68mm width full metal edge skies were perfect for that purpose. Some people were even able to ski on the beach.
Helen gave a great showing, leading on the way back. Although conditions were blizzard like the day before, things had calmed down greatly, leaving us with milder temperatures, no wind, and brilliant sunlight. Of course, we met a lot of friendly folks along the trail, as is often common in the cross country skiing community. Long Island is no Wisconson, so we cherish the few good ski days that we get on a yearly basis.