Biking Up Is Hard To Do By the Time I Bike to Key West
Short Bicycling Themed Stories
Biking Up Is Hard To Do
(Sing to the tune of Breaking Up Is Hard To Do)
A Poem/Lyric by Dan Rappoport
Bike down, dooby, do, down down
Com-a com-a bike down, dooby, do, down down
Biking up is hard to do.
Don’t take my bike away from me
Don’t you leave my legs in misery
But if you do, then I’ll go too
‘Cause biking up is hard to do.
Remember when we biked down
And never ever wore a frown
But if it goes, then I’ll go too
‘Cause biking up is hard to do.
They say that biking up is hard to do
And I know, I know that it’s true
Don’t say that this is the ride’s end
Instead of biking up
I think that we should bike down instead
Don’t take my bike away from me
Don’t you leave me legs in misery
But if it goes then I’ll go too
‘Cause biking is hard to do.
Bike down, dooby, do, down down
Bike down, dooby, do, down down
By the Time I Bike to Key West
(sung to the tune of By the Time I Get to Phoenix)
A Poem/Lyric by Dan Rappoport
By the time I bike to Key West, she’ll be wearing my vest.
She’ll be thinking I will never come back to her.
She’ll think that I ‘m kidding about the lack of hills.
Passing all the greenery will be noted as one big blur.
By the time I make Princeton, she’ll be praying
that my head is still attached.
She’ll laugh when she finds out I always finish last
’cause my bike keeps on getting snatched.
By the time I make Durham, I’ll be really smoking.
She’ll holler at me not to do that under the tent.
And she’ll wine that we never have any time well spent.
Tho’ time and time I encourage her to bike with us.
She just didn’t know; she could meet us by way of the bus.
Michael Heffler Winter 2013-4
There’s an expression “Having the tar knocked out of you!” I’m thinking about our roads. The roads we plan to cycle on this spring.
When you think of a pot you might think of the little thing you make oatmeal in, or the bigger thing you boil pasta in, or maybe the still bigger thing you cook stew in. Those pots are the size of some of the potholes we’ll be cycling around soon. But I’ve never seen a pot the size of some of the potholes I’ve recently seen on our roads. We’re talking about the whole stovetop and more!
People are blowing out tires on their cars when they hit potholes. They say they’re lucky they didn’t crack a wheel or an axle. Because of the weather, companies selling tires are running out and the rail yards and seaports are backed so shipments aren’t coming in or getting distributed. Imagine the variety of shapes and contortions that might happen to our skinny bike tires and rims when they hit that oatmeal pot or a crevice the size of a deer.
This has been a cold winter with a lot of snow. Polar vortex is a term I wish I’d never heard. The cold tells my bodies to hunker down. The desire to go downstairs and spin on the cycling trainer, never a strong desire, is often absent as my body says: “Keep your energy. You might have to go out there. It’s awfully cold.”
It makes you want to stay inside and read a book.
I don’t usually drive the back roads I cycle on. The roads I’ve been driving are major roads that generally get serious maintenance attention from our towns, counties and state. If the major roads are cratered I can only guess what our pretty back roads look like.
I want to get out and ride. It’s almost March and there’s snow all over the ground. There’s more snow in the forecast. I don’t ride when there’s black ice on the roads. I want to ride. I know when it does get warm I won’t just get on the bike and take off. I’ll be looking down, paying attention to avoid all the potholes. I can’t imagine speeding down hill not knowing if a small canyon is about to expose itself.
I can see myself, Wile E. Coyote in spandex, with a bike under my arm, crawling up a canyon wall.
The road conditions aren’t going to be fixed by tar and chips – the roads require major work. I hope our taxes are at work and I hope the road crews continue to do their job. When will it be warm? When will the roads provide a safe transport again? I want to climb something besides the tedium of the calendar and the thermometer.
We’ll get out there in the spring. We’ll get new experience changing flats. We’ll be thankful whenever we cycle over smooth asphalt.
We’ll get through winter.
Cycle North Carolina – Mountains to the Coast Ride
September 29 to October 5
On Saturday, October 28, Judy and I, after a two-day 680 mile ride, reached the town of Spruce Pine, North Carolina. The town is located in the heart of the Smokey Mountains at an elevation of 2,532 feet. The Blue Ridge Parkway is less than a mile away. Tomorrow, we will start the first leg of the trip, 58 miles to Morganton, North Carolina. Now I will learn if I have trained enough after being off my bike for two months.
September 29th, Spruce Pine to Morganton – 58 miles
We didn’t go more than a mile before passing under the Blue Ridge Parkway. Within a half a mile, we took a right turn and immediately started climbing a mountain. The road went uphill for three miles. The grade averaged between 6 and 8 per cent. There were no level offs, so we went up hill relentlessly. By the time that we reached the town of Little Switzerland at the top, we had climbed 948 feet of vertical and crossed the Eastern Continental Divide. The town has an elevation of 3,471 feet.
The view from the top was awesome. Way below, a valley seemed to run for miles. It was flanked by mountains on both sides.Now we had a nine mile downhill ride. The road was constantly switching from left to right with many sharp curves. There was no shoulder. Visions of my previous accident made me very conscious about not picking up too much speed. I literally rode my brakes all the way down not letting the bike get over 20 MPH. By the time I reached the bottom, both my arms and hands ached.
Judy had to drive the car over the same road. She had to hug the center line, keeping her speed down to 25 MPH. She said that it was very scary having dozens of bikers streaking by her on the right. She was petrified that she might meet a car coming the other way around a sharp curve. If this occurred, she would have a choice of hitting the other car or taking out some bikers. Fortunately, she did not see any cars coming the other way and reached the bottom safely.
For the rest of the day, it was up one hill and down another without let up all day. There were virtually no level areas. That night we discussed the fact that we didn’t see any of our friends and were hoping that they were going to do the ride.
Day 2 – September 30th – Morganton to Troutman – 75 miles
By the time I reached the first rest stop, I was able to put away my concerns about no one we knew attending. Everyone was there. Jim Hayden on his recumbent, Hank and Kathy Williams on their Tandem and Tom Rife and John Lutrell on their own bikes.
This day was exactly the same as the first, up down, up down. This time we had to go 15 miles before encountering the next mountain. I wasn’t able to get the vertical that we climbed or the distance but this one seemed to be tougher than the first. For one thing, the grade ranged from 8 to 10 percent. This was one that when you came around a curve hoping to see the top, it curved the other way and up again. I swear that this occurred at least 8 times and perhaps more. I rode the whole way puffing like a steam engine in my lowest gear. I could only go about 3 MPH and had to constantly turn the front wheel from left to right and right to left to keep from falling over. As I rounded each curve, I encountered more and more people walking and pushing their bike in front of them.
By that evening, I think that not enough prior training finally caught up with me. I was exhausted. In the first two days, we had ridden 133 miles; but more importantly, had climbed over 7,500 feet vertically. That’s almost one mile and a half of vertical climb!
That evening Hank showed me an amazing video. On the 9 mile downhill the first day, he had attached a video camera to his handlebar. He and Kathy went down that whole 9 miles on their tandem at 40 MPH! When he banked around sharp curves, it scared the hell out of me– remembering the one that I didn’t make. It was one of the best amateur videos that I have ever seen. What impressed me even more was his superior bike handling skills.
Day 3 – October 1st – Troutman to Asheboro – 75 miles and into the Piedmont
It was starting to get warmer and I had no desire to push my luck. I had Judy drop me off at the second rest stop and I only rode 47 miles. Now the hills were getting less steep and shorter, and believe it or not, there were short stretches where the road was level. All in all, at the end of that day, I felt that if I had had to go 60 miles, I would have been a hurting pup.
That evening we all went out to dinner together. That Tom Rife really missed his calling. He definitely should have been a comedian. It started when we told the waitress about the bill. We told her that we wanted one for Hank and Kathy, one for me and Judy and one each for Tom and John. Someone then said that Tom and John were roommates but didn’t sleep in the same bed. That started our sharp young waitress off but she was no match for Tom. Every time that she batted the ball into his court he batted it right back.
Then the two sisters “Moodie” and Madeleine sat down at a table next to us. They have been working at the rest stops for many years. They are really a lot of fun. Then they started with Tom about riders who come to the rest stops and have gas. They batted that around for a while. He, the waitress and the two sisters managed to keep me and Judy in stitches.
Day 4 – October 2nd – Asheboro to Holly Springs – 78 miles
This day turned out to be the hottest. It hit 89 at 2:00 PM. I again started at the second rest stop and rode 46 miles. The terrain was similar to the previous day. By the time that I left the last rest stop, it was very hot and I had 16 miles to go. By 8 miles, I was starting to feel lousy. My butt hurt and I was constantly shifting it. The left front of my right foot felt like it was on fire. I was progressively getting weaker. My average speed dropped by 1 MPH. When I still had 3 miles to go, I ran out of water.
When I arrived at the finish, I spotted a canopy with a table under it. The table had 8 water coolers on it and I made a beeline for it. After drinking for a few minutes, I called Judy at the hotel and told her, that while the hotel was only two miles away, I didn’t think that I could pedal that far. She said that she would be right over.
As there was nowhere to sit, I sat on the ground and continued to drink. Suddenly my phone rang, and I realized that I had left it on top of one of the coolers. I got up quickly to answer it, and suddenly the lights started to go out. Somehow, by running backwards like a crab, I managed to keep from falling. Apparently, that attracted a lot of attention because someone brought a chair for me to sit on.
After a short period of time an ambulance arrived. It was Judy that called me because they had the street blocked with cones and wouldn’t let her through. The EMT’s immediately took my blood pressure and seemed to be having trouble. I was a little out of it so I was not completely aware of what was going on. Finally they got it and said that it was extremely low and to come to the air conditioned truck where they would administer an IV. Judy came in with us. After the bag was empty, they took the blood pressure again and said that it had not changed at all and they would have to take me to a hospital. Judy followed in our car.
At the emergency room, a doctor examined me and called for another IV. After the third one, the blood pressure gradually returned to normal and I started to feel a lot better. After what seemed like hours, I told Judy to go out and tell the nurse that if they didn’t release me right away that I was going to leave on my own. That got their attention! After a few minutes, a doctor came in, reexamined me and said, “OK you’re free to go.” He told me that it was important to take the next day off to give my body a chance to recover. He also told me that I should drink as much as I could at each rest stop, even if I was not thirsty, and of course, to drink a lot from my water bottles while riding.
The whole thing really messed up our evening. My cousin lives in Raleigh with her husband and we planned to go out to dinner together. By the time that we left the hospital it was too late for that.
Day 5 – October 3rd-Holly Springs to Goldsboro – 65 miles
Judy and I had a leisurely breakfast and got in our car for the trip to Goldsboro. At the town of Smithfield Judy wanted to get a drink and we stopped at a convenience store. While she was doing her thing, I started looking at tourist brochures. I said, “Hey there was a famous actress born near here. Four years ago when Al Lowich and I were on our way to our 1st Cycle N.C. we stayed overnight near here and tried to find the museum without success.”
Since Judy and I are movie buffs and had plenty of time, we found it and stayed for several hours there. The actress was Ava Gardner. A lot of people under 50 will not recognize the name. Those under 40 will say, “Ava Who?”
Her story was truly a “rags to riches tale”. She was born, the last of seven children to a tobacco farmer 8 miles from Smithfield. He lost his farm during the depression and became a sharecropper. Her mother ran a boarding house to help make ends meet. By the age of 19 in 1941, she was signed as a bit player for MGM. By the mid to late forties and through the 50’s and 60’s, she was one of MGM’s biggest stars along with Clark Gable and Katherine Hepburn.
In the early 50’s, her picture appeared on the cover of Time and Life magazines. At the time, she was considered one of America’s most beautiful women. In 1953, she was nominated for an Academy Award for best actress for the movie “Mogambo” but lost out to Audrey Hepburn for the movie “Roman Holiday.”
She was pursued by many men. Howard Hughes spent a fortune on jewelry for her but never won her heart. She had three tumultuous marriages, two of whom most people would know. They were Mickey Rooney and Frank Sinatra.
When she married Frank, he was at the nadir of his career. He was not the heart throb of the young ladies anymore. Elvis was knocking them off their feet. He had played successfully in several MGM musicals but they felt that he was over the hill. He had lost everything and was desperately trying to hang onto his house in Palm Springs. He and Ava fought constantly over money. After all, she was supporting him.
Finally, Ava went to the head of MGM and begged for him to give her husband a role in an upcoming movie. The movie came out in 1953 and was called “From Here to Eternity.” It won 8 Academy Awards and Frank received one for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Maggio. It resurrected his career and he did better and better after that.
For more information, Google her. Judy and I found that we have six of her movies and have not seen any of them. That will change. We also have “From Here to Eternity” and last saw it about 50 years ago. That we will see again.
Day 6 – Goldsboro to New Bern – 73 miles
I was still not sure if I had fully recovered and had Judy leave me off at the last rest stop. From here it was 32 miles to the town of New Bern. We were now on The Atlantic Coastal Plain and the roads were flat as a board. At the rest stop, I drank so much Gatorade that I thought that my belly would bust. Then I filled both water bottles and remembered to drink them while riding. I made it to New Bern with a 16.7 average speed.
I called this and the next day – “Don’s Revenge”. In the mountains, I got so tired of hearing, “On your left” as both men and women passed me. The ultimate insult was when some of them called me “sir”. Now it was my time to say “On your left” and say it I did, with glee.
Day 7 – New Bern to Atlantic Beach – 69 miles
In that I had done so well on Friday, I decided to see what I could do going the whole way. I made it to Atlantic Beach at an average speed of 15.7 MPH it took me 4 hours and 18 minutes of riding time. My computer showed that I had burned over 2,400 calories. In addition to the ride time, I spent about 30 minutes at the three rest stops. I made sure that I drank enough and refilled my water bottles at each stop.
I know that some of our younger “Hot Shots” will poo poo these times. My answer is, “Just you wait!, just you wait!” If you can even ride a bike at my age and beat this number, I will give you $100.00. Don’t count on collecting though because by that time I may be “pushing up daisies.”
At the Finish Line, Judy and I joined the celebration and enjoyed a hearty lunch. It was only the second time that the ride had no rain all week. Since the weather was so good and our hotel was right on the beach, we stayed an extra day.
by Michael Heffler, June 2013
Cyclists occasionally ask me what it takes to be a good hill climber. My current answer is be young and in good shape. If you can’t do that than it’s the same answer as in the old joke about how do I get to Carnegie Hall: Practice! Practice! Practice!
There’s a more important question that we should be asking as the summer approaches and rides get longer: “How do we make sure we ride safely when we get tired?” Michael Johnson, owner of Wheelfine Imports on Route 518 just outside Lambertville, NJ, and I were discussing this recently. I was doing the listening.
“The most important thing to do when you ride, especially when you get tired, is make sure your head is up, “ Michael said. “I used to tell people that but couldn’t tell them how. Now I have a technique from yoga that will make sure your posture is correct and your head up so you can always see where you’re going.”
“Raise your shoulders up, then push them back and down,” Michael demonstrated as he spoke. “Have your shoulder blades together and your head will be up.”
Try it and you’ll see. Many of us spend a lot of time working at a keyboard or at a desk where our head is down and our shoulders are slumped. Raise your shoulders up, push them back and then down and you are immediately sitting up straight. It works at a desk as well as on a bike. On a bike, when you start getting tired it’s a good thing to remember and put into practice. It doesn’t take long to get in trouble if your head isn’t up watching where you’re going.
The second thing Michael Johnson recently taught me was that when you’re riding you use different muscles based upon your posture. When you sit up at more than a 45-degree angle most of your pedaling power comes from your quadriceps. When you’re flatter and more stretched out, at a less than 45-degree angle, your calves, hamstrings, glutes and lower back muscles contribute much more to your effort.
His intention in telling me the 45-degree angle information was to help me get faster. That isn’t going to happen. The advice helped anyway. I went out for a long ride on one of the first hot, humid days we’ve had and got a bit dehydrated, even though I was hydrating regularly. About 10 miles from my home, tired and parched, I didn’t know how I would get up Phillips Barber Hill and its 17 percent grade.
With the new information about using different muscles I lowered and flattened my back and started riding, holding the brake hoods or in the drops and I got a second wind. Muscles that had been coasting were now contributing more and my energy level improved. I kept drinking and stayed low, and the ride progressed nicely. After a few miles of flat back riding I had no more than the usual problem climbing a steep hill after a long ride.
Riding this way is a learned skill. Michael gave me some stretches to do to help get into different postures on the bike. Bending at the waist and hips while your riding, taking the pressure off of your arms, hands and shoulders, makes you more comfortable and reduces the risk of stress injuries. Stretching has become part of my post-ride and weekly workout routine. Without stretching my hamstrings get tight resulting in a dull pain on the left side of my lower back.
Michael’s stretch that helps with hip flexibility begins by sitting on the edge of a chair with your legs spread apart. Your lower leg perpendicular to the floor, heels flat on the floor, and your upper leg is parallel to the floor. Bend over at the waist with your arms folded in front of you and have your elbows stretch toward the floor. Hold that for about 2 minutes.
That pose will stretch your lower back, various muscles in your legs, and help lubricate the hip flexibility. It’s pretty simple to just sit there and bend over for a couple of minutes. Before doing that stretch I was not able to ride in the drops. It was too much of a strain on my neck. Now with the added flexibility I can ride in the drops, although I still prefer to be higher up for comfort and to be able to see more.
We can’t all be young and in good shape. Whether young, old or in between, remember to keep your shoulders up, back and down and bend at the waist. Enjoy the ride!
6th Annual Follow the Women Ride
In February, Princeton FreeWheeler member, Caroline Argento Spoeneman and 122 other women with 17 different nationalities, biked through all seven of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This oil-rich kingdom sits on the Persian Gulf between Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The ride was the 6th annual for the UK-based international women’s non-profit, Follow the Women, sponsored this year by the UAE Cycling Federation in support of Palestinian refugees.
The United States team of ten members joined the various country teams, meeting with sheiks and other dignitaries, and were entertained by children, men dancing in traditional garb, horses, and even showered by roses from a helicopter along the way. Motorcycles and police cars cleared the roads in the cities of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah. A variety of routes followed the corniches along the Persian Gulf, through newly developed suburbs, cityscapes, and desert wastelands. The group was based in a hotel in Ajman, transported to the day’s location in school busses with trucks carrying the bikes.
Previous ride fundraisers were in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine but the annual rides were canceled in 2010 and 2011 due to the disruption of the “Arab Spring.” The group was founded by Detta Regan, whose inspiration was her mother’s love of cycling and her father’s love of the Arab world. Ms. Regan was the UK’s Woman of the Year in 2001 and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee in 2004. Money this year went to the Red Crescent in Ramallah, Palestine, the Middle Eastern branch of the Red Cross. In 2009 funds were used for building playgrounds in Gaza. Other projects have included the provision of sewing machines and equipment to Palestinian women in refugee camps and support for youth counseling in the West Bank. However the wider purpose has been to raise awareness of the displaced Palestinians.
The riders were given mountain bikes but only a very few sections along the way were not paved. The terrain was generally flat, routes covering between 40 and 50 km a day in pleasant 70 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. The eight days began on February 16 in Dubai, with the bizarre shaped skyscrapers gleaming across the water in the distance. The bikers explored additionally: Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Ajman, Umm al-Quwain, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah. Along the routes they stopped at numerous museums, schools, women’s centres, a spa, and two zoos. In Ras at an English School, a band played dressed in Scottish kilts, including bag-pipes, then the students performed in local costumes. At one school boys danced with play swords which they lay down in a gesture of peace. Shortly afterwards, when back cycling, the doors of the helicopter above opened and hundreds of long-stemmed roses flew down to decorate the bikes.
Even though the UAE Biking Federation, sponsor of the ride, has 14 women members, none were able to join the caravan. Eight young women, all veiled in black robes according to Arab tradition, assisted the group during breaks. They were immaculate: dizzying heels, painted nails, henna on their hands, with eye and lip makeup, in sharp contrast to the biking women. Many women from Arab countries wore headscarves under the helmets that all were required to wear. Pants had to extend over the knees and shoulders were covered. Many European women wore skirts, often with tights to the ankle. They are accustomed to biking to school and work so don’t wear special biking clothes. There were virtually no other bikers on the roads. The bicycle culture does not exist in the UAE. The abundant oil gushing from wells in the desert is spent on modern highways and overpasses, so that even the shortest trip is by car. This results in serious traffic and pollution in the cities.
There were opportunities to swim in the Persian Gulf and soak in hot tubs at the spa, always in women only locales. All hotel, meal, local transport, and bicycle costs were covered by the UAE government. Riders paid only for their own airfare. Many traditional feasts were served outdoors, sometimes on the ground with no utensils. Tours were provided, including the chance for some team members to wrap a giant cobra around their shoulders. At a women’s sports centre they offered instruction in basketball (by an African-American coach), archery, table-tennis, or Zumba exercise dance.
At night there were various entertainments. Some evening meals were in restaurants, but several times they took place at outdoor festivals. One had a World’s Fair appearance with booths from Arab and Asian countries including dance demonstrations and food, spices and products for sale from such varied spots as Afghanistan, China, Iraq and Iran. Who knew that tea could be served thirty different ways? One night in Fujairah on the Gulf of Oman, after demonstrations of local dances, some of the younger bikers joined in games of tug-a-war and a watermelon eating competition.
Maybe the best biking day was the last one through the city of Sharjah. The bikes were deposited in front of an exotic mosque. Many of the country teams took advantage of the backdrop to take last group pictures. Some women broke into spontaneous dancing with music from their iPhones. Often when waiting for bikes to be readied, food to be served, or drinks supplied, the teams would perform some national dance especially the Danish, Palestinian, Jordanian, and Chinese. This day’s ride started along the fishing wharf, went by the commercial harbor, then the marina with huge yachts at anchor. Along one side of the street rose the soaring steel skyscrapers, while on the other the Gulf sparkled. The route snaked on by the souk (market), and many more colorful mosques of all sizes. Along the way Follow the Women brochures were passed out to bystanders, written in English and Arabic, to publicize the plight of the Palestinians.
To get a feel for the mood and spirit of the ride check out a three-minute Follow the Women video of the event: http://vimeo.com/61420299.
When is a race not a race? When it is a Cyclosportif!
By Brian Ignatin
If you’d like to experience a day in the life of a pro cyclist without the elbow-throwing mayhem of a field sprint or without a cigar-chompingBelgian Team Director screaming at you out of a car window, then perhaps you should try a Cyclosportif.
Cyclosportif is a Euopean term for organized, mass-participation, timed recreational cycling events .A Cyclosportif falls between a traditional road race and anon-competitive ride such as a charity ride or century.
Typically held annually, Cyclosportif participants experience the organization, atmosphere, and challenges of a pro event, while ridingwith friends, at their own pace.They get to ride through the barricades, past the announcers, andacross the finish line, with spectators lining the entire course.
Though not races in the traditional sense, Cyclosportif riders wear racenumbers and timing chips, so finishing times can be recorded. Thereis usually an upper time limit within which the course must becompleted, and the front runners are often competing for exclusiveprizes.
The courses are challenging, and frequently take place on courses thatcomprise classic professional races, often featuring mountains, longclimbs, or other difficult conditions.Depending on the event, roads may be closed or open to normalvehicular traffic, but most courses are well marked and/or marshaled.Riders are able to use feed zones positioned along the route;mechanical and medical support are also provided.
Cyclosportifs are cycling’s equivalent of running’s marathon; as with the 26-milerunning event, rather than racing other participants, cyclosportifriders challenge themselves in a personal battle against the course, thedistance, and ultimately the clock.While some faster riders often push the pace, the majority ofparticipants are typically happy to complete the distance within theallotted time.
Some Cyclosportifs attract thousands ofparticipants- L’Etape du Tour, held each July over a mountainous stageof that particular year’s Tour de France, offers places to 8,500riders. The AmstelGold Race and Ronde van Vlaanderen offer Cyclo Sportifs of varyingdifferences over the race route, the day before the professional race.
While there are hundreds ofCyclosportifs each year in Europe, there is only one held in the US, theUnivest Grand Prix Cyclosportif is held in nearby Souderton, PA.2008 marks the 11th year of the event, and will beheld on September 6th. For more information, see www.cyclosportif.com
BrianIgnatin is a new PFW member. He finished 1299th out of 8500 in the 2007 L’Etapedu Tour.Brian is the Cyclosportif Director of the 2008 UnivestGrand Prix to be held on September 6, 2008. Look for details to beposted on the Events Page here soon.
By Michael Heffler
We know the world is not flat! There are hills and there are many good reasons to climb them. More good news – for every hill you climb there is generally,at some point, an equal but opposite downhill. After writing several pieces about climbing hills, I was asked to write something about going downhill. Here it is!
Going down hills
when the road surface is smooth
when you can see what’s in front of you
when your grip is firm but not on the brake
can be delightful!
Flying down Federal Twist when no cars are on the road, and the road is clean,is exhilarating. The wind whipping by, tears streaming from my eyes, the rush and the focus onwhat’s right ahead while moving at more than 40 miles per hour makesme shake my head and smile every time I reach Route 29.We all tend to check our odometers to see what our maximum speed was. It’s scary enough to capture one’s full attention, yet so much fun!
There are long, sloping hills that are just like a fine glass of wine.You appreciate them and savor each part of the descent.Rick Road is like this. It’sa two mile downhill and just keeps going at a slow but steady pace down with a few turns and several terrific big horizon views.Turkey Hill is a very different vintage.No big views but several easy turns and short burst of acceleration mixed with lots of greenery and stretches where you bank into a gentle curve or two. A big fruity Cabernet of a hill is the aptly named Sweet Hollow.You descend for about two miles, there’s a short stretch where you even have to pedal, but most of it is steady, but not too fast,acceleration around woods and streams that have soft curves and a few twists. You rarely touch the brakes or the pedals and you have enough speed and control to even see the wisteria painted on one of the homes. By the way, don’t drink and go downhill!
There are some hills I will not go down.I’m more than willing to climb them, but won’t take the risk of the descent. Short Road and Tumble Falls are the first to come to mind.Short Road is way too steep and I have no desire to experience flying over my handlebars. Tumble Falls Road is steep enough and the surface is chopped up enough that nothing good would happen on a descent.
I have been down some hills on cold days where I was not sure what was ahead, either because the sunlight was dappled and I couldn’t see the road clearly or the road curved enough that I didn’t want to have too much speed and hit a sharp curve by surprise.If the downhill was long enough, and the temperature cold enough that my hands started to cramp from sticking to the brake levers so closely. Not fun!
Dappled sunlight plays tricks as do the streaming tears that come when my speed exceeds 30 miles per hour. When the wind whips past my face, my glasses just don’t stop it from hitting my eyes and the tears start as a means of protection.They protect my eyes but play havoc with my vision.There will always be one too many reasons to have good brakes.
One of the most dangerous and most beautiful downhill roads in the neighborhood is Covered Bridge Road.It starts on Route 523 on the way from Stockton to Sergeantsville. You turn left onto Covered Bridge Road. It ends on Lower Creek Road.We often take it on my Wednesday night ride.
As soon as you make the left off of Route 523 you go up a very short, steep incline. It’s a perfect opportunity to stand up and keep your momentum.It is dangerous because it is short and steep and a car coming in the other direction has no way of seeing you.Once you get over that hump you start descending slowly.On your left is a beautiful view of a field going off into the horizon that over crosses the hills on the other side of the Delaware River. The road twists to the left and you have another slow descent to a flat stretch, a short ascent and another nice descent. This leads to a blind left turn – stay right – and another slow descent through the woods to yet another blind right turn with a pond on your right where I’ve seen ducks, geese and, once wild turkeys.You have to be alert to appreciate the beauty and the potential hazards, but it’s worth it every time.
Keep climbing and, particularly on the difficult parts, remember there will be a reward on the other side.Now that age and a slower metabolism has taught me the dangers of good pastry, down hills are my new dessert.
The Nastiest Little Hill in the Neighborhood
. . .and its raucous cousin, Fretz
By Michael Heffler
Breathe! There are schools of meditation that ask you to focus on your breathing. They are pleasantly persistent, stating that being in the moment and watching your breath is the key to a calm and peaceful mind.Meditation can be a powerful discipline to get one to focus,breathe and get a better understanding of how one’s mind works. Just like climbing hills.
Sometimes you just have to wonder why we do certain things. It’s not as if life doesn’t throw us enough curves.Some people feel about hills the way W.C. Fields felt about small children. Looking for challenging hills, to me, is fun. I remember the most challenging hills in a very different way than I remember challenging people – the hills always have a crest.
Climbing hills, like facing real difficulties, is a matter of relative degree.Personal strength, persistence and perseverance all make a tremendous difference in the outcome.Hills, in contrast to life’s true difficulties, are bounded and, if it’s really too tough, you can get off the bike and walk.While meditation provides a very different perspective to W.C.Fields, experience teaches that cursing can also be a timely motivator on the hardest sections of the hills.We can learn from almost everyone!
If you meander up Route 29 and enter Bulls Island State Park, cross over the Delaware River into PA using the walking bridge and make a right onto Route 32 you’ll come to Fleecydale Road about a quarter mile down on the left. Fleecydale is a very pretty road. It’sa hill on a hill. As you climb up the very moderate hill in front of you, you’ll notice there is a very steep slope going from right to left.There’s a lovely, oddly painted house that always catches my attention at the bottom. As you continue to climb, and the climb is pleasant most of the way although the road itself is often a bit choppy with some gravel and sizable holes, you see some very attractive homes and notice that onthe left there’s a creek and at times a steep drop.On the right there are some homes regally overlooking the road.
Abouta half mile up Fleecydale you’ll see Fretz Mill Road on your right.A bit farther on Fleecydale on the right you will pass ShortRoad. Those not looking fora true challenge will not turn. At the top of Fleecydale sits the Carversville General store, which is agreat place for a rest stop. Once you reach Carversville there are very few options, other than turningaround, that don’t require some climbing.Even with that, opting for Fretz Mill, or even more so, ShortRoad, is no one’s idea of a daily ritual.
If you do decide to make the right turn on either Fretz Mill or Short Roadyou will get a true appreciation for your hill climbing gears.The steepness of the grade on sections of Fretz Mill, and on all of Short, is not something one takes on lightly.
I’ll start off with Short, the nastiest little hill in the neighborhood.If you look at www.njbikemap.com on the Lumberville map, you’llsee Short Road off of Fleecydale. You’llsee that it rises 180 feet in what looks like less than a quarter mile.I estimate, given those figures, that the average grade is about17 percent. Averages can be deceiving. There is only one spot – I didn’t say stretch, I said spot – on Short Road, right in the middle that approaches a single digit grade. That spot is about the length of my bike. The rest of Short Road is so steep that the first time I rode upit I could not keep my front wheel on the road.I was sitting, putting everything I had into every pedal stroke, pushing down on my handlebars as best I could, afraid to stand up as Ithought I’d fall backwards. Thisis a great way to find out what adrenaline does to your body. My heart was pounding. Aftergetting about ¾ of the way up the hill – again the half way point is that spot with a mere 9 percent grade – I had to dismount. No small feat to accomplish without falling over when I was barely moving, my heart was beating like a drum, and my front wheel was several inches off the ground. This was the first time I ever got off my bike going up a hill.I walked up the last portion and saw the stunned faces of myfriends who made it up and expected me to do the same.They stood up as soon as they made the initial right turn. I didn’t know what to say.
My heart had been pounding so hard that I knew I did the right thing.But the right thing and getting off my bike on a hill wasn’t acombination that I had ever experienced.I did not like this feeling at all.
The second time I climbed Short Road, the following season, I stood up as soon as I made the right turn.I did not sit down again until I reached the top at which point I sat down, stopped the bike and breathed deeply for several minutes –in truth I gasped for air. Did I mention that I was also in good hill climbing condition? This little hill is nasty.
Ihave taken several of the rides I’ve led up Fretz Mill.Fretz Mill is longer than Short Road.It has a couple of big twists in it and its steepest part is morethan a 20% grade. But,unlike Short, it is not that steep all the way.Its steep part is like a surprise that you hope is over soonenough for you to be able to get the next pedal stroke in.Then you pull yourself up the rest of the way glad that thesurprise is over. But youdon’t soon forget it!
Inevitablysomeone either falls over or stops their bike on the steepest part ofFretz Mill. Last time Itook a ride up Fretz Mill I broke the group up into smaller groups of 4to make sure there wasn’t a chain reaction based upon a fall or suddenstop. The inevitable chain reaction was small.I don’t take groups up Short Road anymore.I remember how hard my heart was pounding and how far my wheelwas off the ground. I figure its far better to let others get heartattacks in their own good time.
Short Road held a shock the first time I climbedit. Why is it so steep?Who planned this road? Whyis my front tire several inches off the ground?I’d never want to take a car on it or a bike down it.The second time I knew what I was in for.I got in my small gear in front and my biggest gear in the rear,stood up, and pedaled until I reached the top.Then I gasped for air and remembered what the meditation teachersaid about breathing and focus on being in the moment.I had no choice! Breathe!
Get Your Guts In Gear
By Bob Weinstein
Get Your Guts In Gear is more than a ride. It is a community of people that are dedicated to raising awareness for people affected by Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis — as patients, caregivers and friends.
As the new year rolls in, we are all certainly taking stock of what we want to accomplish during 2009. Click here to read the full report.
By Tom Hammell
For the past 2 years I have worked on a book called”Road Biking New Jersey”. This required me to research, map out, photograph and document a lot of different bike rides all over this state. It was a lot of work but it was also a lot of fun and reaffirmed by belief New Jersey is a great place to ride a bike. Now that the book is done and out I would like to share some of my experiences and observations with the members of the club to show you all the great things about riding in New Jersey.
The Weird Roads of New Jersey
When I tell people I am a bike rider from New Jersey they usually ask me if it is hard to find good roads in this crowded and congested state. My answer is the state’s long history and crowded nature actually helped make biking better in this state. New Jersey’s 200+ years of constant population growth forced the creation of a chaotic unorganized mess of roads that frustrates most drivers today. This mess that is the New Jersey road system is actually a good thing for bikers. There are lots of interconnected roads far from the main highways that are fun to ride and have some real character. Almost every road has an interesting history and a story to tell. This is why New Jersey is the birthplace of weirdness as documented in the popular cult magazine Weird NJ. Let me take you around the state and show you some of the great places that I found to ride.
The North East
The northeast part of the state, especially by New York, is one of the most crowded parts of the state. The opening credits of the Sopranos will give you a good tour of some of the uglier places here. That doesn’t mean there isn’t good biking to be found. Around the George Washington Bridge for example is an interesting contrast. This is a very urban area with a lot of traffic but there are also some great roads here. There is dedicated bike path across the GW Bridge that you can use to get tothe Hudson River Greenway that will let you ride along the river in Manhattan all the way down to Battery Park. If you stay on the Jersey side you can ride along the Palisades or if you don’t mind a few hills head north on 9W into New York.
A little west of the GW Bridge is Saddle River in Bergen County, home to a number of actors and sports stars. This is a densely populated area but the roads are wide enough to accommodate both bikes and cars so if youdon’t mind a little urban riding this isn’t a bad place to ride.There are a number of reservoirs in the area like Lake Tappan and Woodcliff Lake that offer a nice contrast to the residential landscape.The most interesting thing here is all the nice houses along Saddle River Road. Even the small ones that you can see from the road make you see how the other half spends there money.
Only 26miles from midtown Manhattan is the Great Swamp. This is a migratory stop over and home to many different birds so if you like to see some nice flora and fauna there are some nice views to be had here. There are also a lot of nice hiking trails so if you have time after you ride the Wildlife Observation Center in the Great Swamp is worth checking out.
The North West
In contrast to the northeast the northwest part of the state is surprising rural.It’s also very hilly. Most of the climbs are in the 200 to 300 foot range but there are a few 600+ foot climbs if you go looking.There are routes that minimize the climbing but there are very few flat roads so you need some hill training before you ride around here.
Don’t let the hills scare you away from this area because it is a beautiful place to ride and worth the pain of the constants ups and downs. One of my favorite roads in this area is Old Mine Road along the Delaware. This is one of the oldest roads in the country.It was used in colonial times to transport ore from the coppermines along to the Delaware all the way up to what is now Kingston, New York. Much of the original road has been modernized and is now part of U.S. Route 209. However, the part by the Delaware Water Gap is still intact & maintains its rural charm. The road is surrounded by acres and acres of state parks and has very little traffic even in the summer.
Another great area to ride around is Newton New Jersey. Here you will find the infamous “Shades of Death” road that has so many interesting stories, which always end in some one dying in a horrendous manner.Despite the scary legends this is a very quiet and scenic area that is fun to explore. The Morris Area Freewheelers have a couple of ride around here that are worth checking out.
Let’s not forget the area north of Frenchtown. If you like hills this is where you should head. Yes some of the climbs are tough but you will find some of the best scenery in the state here. I am always beat after riding here but I am never sorry I did the ride. I recommend checking out some of Michael Heffler’s rides to Bloomsbury or Merrill Creek or LauraLynch’s rides out of Pluckemen for a tour of this area.
As you can see there is no shortage of places to explore by bike in New Jersey.The two years I spent exploring the roads in this state just made me realize just how many more places I have yet to explore. Next time I will talk about some of the better places to ride in Central and South Jersey.
Part 2 –
Last month I talked about the Northern part of the state. This time let me share with you some of the highlights of the central and southern part of the state.
This is the place where most of us in the club ride and I think it is the most diverse part of the state. Whether you like hilly or flat rides there is plenty here to satisfy any rider.
For those who want scenic views and don’t mind a few hills there is no better place to ride than the Sourlands. The Sourlands is filled with rural farms, forested land, small streams and a lot of beautiful back roads. Starting by the canal in Rocky it’s easy to put together a number of nice rides to places light Sergeantsville, Round Valley or Neshanic Station. Yes this area will require you to do some climbing but there are no real killer hills here so don’t let your fear of climbing keep you away from this area.
If you are looking for less hilly rides then just join the club rides going out of Cranbury, or Mercer County Park. Although these rides usually end up with a rest stop Clarksburg, Allentown it’samazing how many different ways there are to get to each of these places. Of course there are also a lot of different roads that will take you to New Egypt or Chesterfield some other good destinations.
In the southern part of central Jersey you will find a lot of farms and small towns with quiet roads. If you have done the metric or the century at the event then you have seen some of these roads but there are plenty more to explore.The land down here is a patch work of farms and forested land and the towns, like Vincentown, New Lisbon, and Tabernacle, are a little more rustic so it is a fun area to ride in.Check out some of the rides out of Bordentown and you will see why these roads are popular with a lot of bikers.
Let’s not forget about the beaches which are easily with in riding distance. If you haven’t ridden to Belmar and back thenyou’re missing a great ride. Sandy Hook is also another good beach ride to do. Both these rides can be on the long side depending on where you start but there is nothing better than a rest stop on the beach.
South Jersey is flat, rural, and a little strange. After all it is the home of the Jersey Devil .Its main features are its vast pineland forests and its many square miles of farmlands. The area also some very nice less-crowed beaches in the eastern section. It is very different from the other parts of the state and in some ways doesn’tseem to be part of New Jersey at all.
This area is very rural and visiting some of the towns here seems like going back in time. This is a very flat area with a lot of nice forested land and some scenic rivers to ride along. One of the nicer areas down here is around Batsto where there are enough towns to find a couple of rest stops and but very little traffic since most of the area is dedicated to park lands. It’s easy to get lost down because of the lack of any major towns or landmarks so make sure to take good map with you.
If you go a little further south you will get to the area where the South Jersey Wheelmen ride. This area is full of large industrial farms and roads with almost no traffic. I highly recommend attending one of the South Jersey Wheelmen events down in this area since they have some nice rides that take you through the better parts of Salem and Cumberland County. Riding in this area you will see why New Jersey is called the Garden State.
Another nice area is the south west part of the state along the Delaware. Here there is some lot of little creeks and marshland that are fun to ride through. A good place to start a ride around here is Fort Mott State Park where you will see the ugliest lighthouse in New Jersey, Finn’s Point light which is looks like large stove pipe. There are an abundance of nice roads around here so no matter which way you head you will always find a nice ride.
Although you may have to drive a little father to get to the rides in the southern part of the state the different nature of the rides down there make it worth doing every now and then for a change of pace.
The Adventure Continues…
Writing the book about road biking in New Jersey has made me realize how many great places there are to ride in this state. Even though the book is done and published I still continue to explore the state and look for new places and roads to ride on. Back in May I found nice route through the towns of Roebling and Florence. This month I Will be up north by Chester exploring Schooley’s mountain.
So if you are tired of doing the same old rides try to exploring another area of the state. As I have found no matter what type of riding you like you there are plenty of good rides to be found. On my blog (http://www.frisket.blogspot.com/) I will continue to post my diary of rides around the state and the interesting things that I find. You will also find some ride sheets for nice rides that I have done butdidn’t get included in the book for lack of space. The list of rides sheets is small now but will continue to grow as I continue my exploration of the state.
Why do we do it?
You can go so much faster on flat roads. It’s much less work. There’s got to be reasons….
Some people want to go fast.Flat roads accommodate that nicely.You can focus on the wheel in front of you and hammer away.At the end of the ride both the odometer and your endorphins will make you feel good.
This is the intro to an article written to become a chapter in Michael's book on riding. Click here to read the full article.
‘Rat Pack’: Meet the Chow Hounds
by Howie Luxenberg
Most seniors remember the 1960 “Ocean’sEleven” film with Sinatra, Dino and the rest of the Rat Pack. It has also spawned a host of remakes, the latest beingOcean’s 13 with the likes of Clooney, Pitt and Damon. The PrincetonWheelers have a better, newer version with their own matinee idols, more commonly referred to as “Chow Hounds 14.” Led by Dennis Whitney, as our Danny Ocean, and host of others, this group of frolicking cyclists has taken a bit of a hiatus during the sub-freezing temperatures to build up a solid foundation and a bit of girth (a firmer tone for the ladies) to cope with the challenges of the upcoming riding season.
Danny, Dennis to most of us, came up with a brilliant scheme to keep his motley crew together during the winter months, and, at the same time, sample the cuisine at some of the cozy, nearby eateries. For his first effort, he chose “La Piazza” in Allentown, where many of his rides originate. Those gabbing, sipping vino and nibbling on the menu favorites were Lee Pisane, Lenore Beckley, Marilyn Saywell, Dennis,Chris Cook, Gina Raimondo, Herb Cohen, Walt Mander, Al Porter, Erich Wisetschlaeger, George Foradori, Larry Chestnut, Mary Foley and yours truly.
More than two hours of gossiping about family, politics, and, of course, where Dennis will be taking us to our next food fest made for a wonderful afternoon.Some of the gang had just returned from holiday vacations, while others, including Lenore and Larry, will be heading to Florida for sunshine and bit of biking in the warmer climate. I’m also happy to report that Mary has returned from her biking injuries and looks to be in top form for 2010.
We owe Dennis more than a bit of gratitude for bringing us together and getting us out on these wintry mornings.
Taking the Scenic Route: NJ to Mass on a Bike . . . . & 8 Ferry Boats
By Steve Friedlander
Editor’s Note: The following submission is the Introduction and Close -excerpted from a well-written day to days ago documenting the author’s 9 day May 15-23, 2007 trip.Go here for the link to read the day by day story– it will be worth your trip!
As a New Jersey resident who grew up in New England, I’ve made the trip to the Boston area and points north countless times by car. A sizable chunk of my holiday and vacation time has been spent on interstate highways 287, 95, 91, 84, and90, often times stuck in traffic. Now that I had recently retired and had some time on my hands, I figured that making the journey from my home in central Jersey to my brother near Boston on a recumbent bike would be far more scenic, adventurous, and hopefully fun.
The more popular bike routes between the New York City and Boston metro areas, such as those mapped out by the Adventure Cycling and the East Coast Greenway associations, as well as the annual AIDS rides, all follow inland routes that avoid the coast. This avoids the more congested urban areas, but also avoids many of the most scenic routes and interesting attractions in this part of the world, which are to be found mainly along the coast – old seaports, picturesque harbors,sandy beaches, and off-shore islands. In order to take the coastal route, however, one has to get off the bike occasionally and take some of the many ferry boats that criss-cross the waters off Long Island and southern New England.
This of course is part of the fun. The two best ways to travel along the coast, after all, are probably on a boat and on a bike, preferably a recumbent. In recent years there has been a proliferation of ferry boats that ply the waters off southern New England and New York harbor. These newer boats tend to be swift catamarans that travel at over 40 miles an hour but do not take cars. All of them do, however, accommodate bikes for a few extra dollars, with helpful crew members equipped with bungees to help passengers load, unload, and secure their bikes. To take full advantage of the many ferry connections available, it’s best to leave the car at home and travel by bike.
My trip from Hamilton, NJ, located near Trenton, to the Boston suburb of Weston covered 433 miles over 9 days on a bike and included 8 ferry boat crossings, as well as 4 rail trails I encountered along the way. The high points included visits to the Hamptons, Newport, RI, Martha’s Vineyard, and Cape Cod. I chose to travel during the latter half of May,an ideal time for bicycle travel in New England. By this time, most of the summer-only ferries have already started operating for the season,even though the tourist season hasn’t really begun yet. Accommodations at motels and B&Bs are easy to obtain in the last minute and generally cheaper than during the summer season, particularly on weekdays. Traffic is lighter, temperatures are moderate, and the long days leave plenty of daylight for early evening rides.
The tough choice was deciding which vehicle to use for the journey. My two bikes consist of an Easy Racer Gold Rush and a Lightning P38. They are both classic bikes, and I love them both. The Lightning is equipped with an F40 nose cone, which results in average speeds that tend to be about1.5 to 2 miles faster than the Gold Rush with its Zzipper fairing. The Gold Rush on the other hand, with its low bottom bracket, would be more suitable for riding through various cities along the route, which included downtown Boston and New York City. In addition, my 11 year old Lightning was beginning to show various signs of aging, and I felt the Gold Rush would be more dependable. Much as I hated to forego theLightning’s extra speed, I decided to go with the Gold Rush. (This turned out to be the right choice. I rode the Lightning on my next overnight journey, and the seat frame cracked after a day of riding.Luckily, this did not prevent me from riding another 50 miles to gethome.)
After an uneventful trip back to New Jersey by car, it wasn’t long before I started thinking about the next cycling adventure. I’m certainly hoping to cover some of the same ground again in the future. For one thing, it would make a lot of sense to drive out to eastern Long Island,park at one of the ferry terminals, and start the ride from there. After exploring the coast of southern New England, including a few islands,one could then return via the other ferry terminal on eastern Long Island.
If the logistics work out, I’d also like to do another coastal ride all the way to Maine. By relying more on ferry boats to get to Boston (like taking ferries from Montauk to Block Island to Newport to Providence,for instance) and not doing Cape Cod, the total biking distancewouldn’t be much further.
As for riding across the entire USA, fuggeddaboutit, as I’d probably get bored and can think of better things to do for two months. Cycling across Europe seems like it would be far more interesting. I keep getting advertisements in the mail for river boat cruises through Europe. The main “river route” starts in Holland, goes up the Rhine, along the Main, and then down the Danube toward the Black Sea. When looking at glossy cruise brochures, I can’thelp but think it would be more fun to do the route by bike, starting around Amsterdam and possibly going as far as Budapest. I’ve noticed that guide books for cycling along the Rhine and Danube rivers are available, so the trip should be doable. Alternatively, a less ambitious European adventure would be to fly to some place where recumbent rentals are available, such as London or possibly Holland, and do a tour around that area. Maybe some day???
By Howie Luxenberg 10/’09
Anyone fortunate enough to join Dennis Whitney’s Allentown ride eachWednesday morning gets a taste of paradise, New Egypt style. Thathappens to be the place where cyclist extraordinaire Mary Foley resides.
These days our gifted cyclist, who was injured in an early fall biking accident, confines part of her routine each Wednesday to providing by far the best gourmet snacks to hungry riders seeking refuge from the chilling winds while winding their way through the back roads of southJersey. Mary’s magnificent home is nestled in the woods whereonly deer and antelope dare to roam, and, of course, a few of us guysand dolls who are lucky to call Mary a friend.
Her banana bread, muffins and exotic coffee are nothing short ofspectacular, and her smiling, friendly demeanor makes everyone welcome.Mary promises to soon shed her crutches and to be back riding with us byyear-end.
Should you ask George (Foradori), Dennis, Lenore (Beckley) or any of theother pedaling jockeys where they would most like to be on a Wednesday,Mary’s place wins hands down.
Mary, we thank you for just being you and for opening your home on thesecold mornings. Hurryback.
Why My Son’s Superhero Rides a Bike
Read this inspirational article by member Sonya Aronowitz
I’m helping to clear up the remains of the week strewn on my 5th grader’s floor. Amongst the detritus, is an early draft of a novella Raphael (aka the self-titled Literature Boy) has been working on at school. I glance to the end of his piece and the illustration catches my eye: it’s the hero on top of a bicycle, pedaling his way furiously away from the villains and into a new set of adventures in the next chapter.
This is the intro to the full story. Click here to read it.
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