Car Less Ohio

Promoting the bicycling lifestyle in The Buckeye State

Inaugural Road Apple Roubaix Ride

The first annual Road Apple Roubaix bike ride was intended to be a gravel bike ride through rural Amish Country in Geauga County. With all of the recent snow, including a few more inches that fell overnight (and during) the ride, it turned into a perfect day to ride my fat bike. The temperatures were mild (mid- to upper-20s) compared to the previous couple of days, so it was a comfortable ride.

Towpath Trail Fat Biking

Conditions were perfect today for riding a fat bike on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Mild temperatures in the 30s and 40s made for crunchy, grippy snow, and foot traffic made most sections packed and fast.

Video: Twinsburg City Park Loop Fat Biking

I ride the Twinsburg City Park Loop when I want to squeeze in a quick ride close to home. It’s good on just about any kind of bike–cyclocross, hybrid, mountain, or in this case, my Salsa Mukluk snow bike.

I started at the corner of Glenwood and Gary drives. The snow in the wooded sections of the Old Hickory Trail was perfect; deep enough to get good traction, but light and fluffy enough to keep a brisk pace, with some previous hiking tracks providing somewhat of a packed base. The paved trail along the Officer Joshua T. Miktarian Memorial Parkway was completely un-plowed and un-tracked, which made it virtually impassable, so I had to jump on the road for that part. The Center Valley Park Trail was plowed, which made the going there quick and easy.

I only saw one other person during the ride, a guy on showshoes, who you’ll see briefly in the video.

My Big Fat Bike Adventure

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A few of us in the Peninsula store like to take short one-night bike tours, or Sub 24-Hour Overnights, throughout the year. With snow bike season in full swing, we figured why not take a snow bike tour?

Chris got the bright idea to drive out to Oil Creek State Park, near Oil City, Pennsylvania. The park has a bike path that runs along the creek, which we could ride on fat bikes until we got to a hiking trail that leads to the top of the ridge overlooking the creek. Up the ridge is a set of lean-to shelters for overnight camping. Then, we’d ride back to the car the next morning.

So what does one pack for a bike-camping trip in the winter time? It’s pretty much the same as bike-camping any other time, except you take some warmer clothes. We could save a little packing space by not taking tents, since we’d be sleeping in a shelter.

Continue reading at Century Cycles Blog…

Video: Bedford Singletrack Fat Biking

A 5-second time-lapse video of riding my Salsa Mukluk 2 fat bike in the snow at the Bedford Singletrack in the Cleveland Metroparks Bedford Reservation. Only about 3 miles of riding, on the Parallel Universe 1 Trail, last section of the Friendship Trail, Moore Trail, and Volunteer Spirit Trail.

Video: Fat biking on the Towpath Trail

A 5-second time-lapse video of riding fat bikes in the snow on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

A Towpath Century

It’s been a lower-than average mileage year for me; by mid-August of 2013 I had three century rides under my belt for the year, but I had not done one at all this year until today. A day off with fine fall weather (summer sun with mild early fall temperatures) beckoning took me to the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail with my Salsa Fargo.

Other than a short ride to work one day, this was the first test of some new upgrades on the Fargo. I had purchased a pair of Velocity Blunt rims that I found a good deal on a couple of years ago. They are 36-hole rims, so I figured they’d make a good pair of heavy-duty touring wheels someday, and was I saving them until I settled on what hubs to use. A couple of friends of mine started using generator front hubs, so I jumped on the bandwagon to try out being self-sufficient with power while on the road. I went with the Cadillac model of hub, the Schmidt SON28, and likewise for a dynamo-powered headlight, the Busch & Mueller Luxos U. For the rear hub, I went with a Shimano Deore XT.

The Luxos U headlight has a handlebar-mounted switch with a built-in USB port. During the daytime (when you’re not using the headlight), you can plug in your smartphone or any USB-powered device to keep it running and charged. With my phone in my top tube bag and the USB cable running between the phone and the light switch, I was good to go.

Occasionally taking the phone out to snap some pictures of the scenery along the way didn’t post any additional challenges.

Trunk sewer line near the Towpath Trail just south of Portage Path in Akron.

Trunk sewer line near the Towpath Trail just south of Portage Path in Akron.

Floating bridge over Summit Lake south of downtown Akron

Floating bridge over Summit Lake south of downtown Akron

Towpath Trail bridge over Pancake Creek a mile north of the village of Clinton

Towpath Trail bridge over Pancake Creek a mile north of the village of Clinton

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A dike separating the Tuscarawas River from State Route 21 near downtown Massillon

I noticed there were a few more sections of pavement on the Towpath compared to the last time I had ridden down this far south. One part included a section just south of the Summit/Stark county line. I suspect this may have been done after the repair of some flood damage from storms that we received in Northeast Ohio in the spring of this year.

Downtown Massillon is currently the only unfinished section of the Towpath Trail in Stark County. The trail ends when you reach the Lincoln Way bridge. I usually just detour through downtown–it’s quicker and less complicated–to make my way over to the Walnut Road bridge, where the trail continues south. Instead, today I decided to follow the posted detour just out of curiosity. It takes you over the river on the Lincoln Way bridge, then along a convoluted series of back streets, glass-strewn alleys, and paved local park paths until you reach Walnut Road. However, I noticed this not-yet-open extension of the Towpath Trail extending under the Lincoln Way bridge:

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When I got to Walnut Road, looking north, I could not see where this new stretch connected to continue south. So, I’m not sure when this new trail will open, and if and when it will complete the continuous trail through Massillon.

UPDATE Nov. 30, 2014 – Apparently, there was a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for this new section of trail on November 12.

Since my goal was to do 100 miles today, I continued south of Massillon until my cyclocomputer hit the 50-mile mark, which happened to be this spot about a quarter-mile south of Wooster Street in Navarre, on another stretch of new pavement:

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I had a Clif Bar snack before turning around and heading back north. I stopped at the Cherry Street Creamery in Canal Fulton for some lunch (chili cheese dog and a soft pretzel).

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Beaver Marsh area in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Beaver Marsh area in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Usually, when you do an out-and-back ride to reach a specific distance, the margin of error makes you end up a little over or a little under your target mileage. Surprisingly, in this case, the moment I arrived right at my car back at my starting point in Peninsula, my cyclocomputer turned over just 1/100th of a mile over 100 miles.

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The generator hub coupled with the USB port on the headlight worked perfectly. After running the Endomondo app on my phone during the entire 8-hour ride, I ended up with a fully-charged phone.

My Excellent Singletrack Adventure

It’s been over five years since the first mountain bike trail opened in the Cleveland Metroparks, and the opponents’ predictions of world chaos have not come true. The first was a short 2.5-mile loop in the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation. Then, in June of 2012, a 10-mile double-loop Royalview Trail was created in the Mill Stream Run Reservation in Strongsville. Just this past June, the Bedford Singletrack opened up in the Bedford Reservation.

I’ve been enjoying the Bedford Singletrack since it opened, as it’s the closest mountain bike trail to where I live. It’s a short 15-to-20-minute drive, as opposed to the 45 minutes or more it takes to get to any other local trail. At about 6.5 miles from home, I had been thinking that it would be practical to ride my bike there, hit the singletrack, then ride home. This past Tuesday, I finally had the opportunity to do that.

I headed out Ravenna Road from Twinsburg, which turns into Broadway Avenue at the Summit/Cuyahoga County line and the Village of Oakwood. A paved bike path runs next to Broadway through most of the village, which makes makes this part of the ride a little more stress-free. Then, I proceeded up Broadway into the city of Bedford, and made a left onto Union Street, which intersects the paved All-Purpose Trail that runs through the Metroparks. Making a left on the APT leads you to the Egbert Picnic Shelter in the Bedford Reservation, which also serves as the main trailhead for the Bedford Singletrack. I arrived in just a little over 30 minutes.

I topped off my water bottle at the drinking fountain provided near the picnic shelter, and headed a bit further down the APT towards the singletrack. I stopped to let some air out of my tires to go from the higher pavement-level pressure down to the appropriate dirt-level pressure.

20140819-bedford-1-loThe Bedford Singletrack consists of about 10 sections of off-road trail, connected by brief sections of the All-Purpose Trail, for a total of about 10.5 miles. The singletrack is intended for mountain biking and hiking only, with mountain biking in the (roughly) clockwise direction, and hiking in the opposite direction. It also crosses the equestrian trail a few times, and runs concurrent with the equestrian trail for a short stretch.

The trail is marked with white arrows or blazes of white paint on trees. The Metroparks also provided signs to indicate the proper direction for bikers and hikers. Originally, the signs used the classic “red slash” (“NO!”) signs for bikers and hikers. So, if you were hiking and saw a sign indicating “No Hikers,” that meant that you were just hiking in the wrong direction. If you were mountain biking and saw a sign indicating “No Bikers,” that could have meant that you were on the correct trail but going in the wrong direction, but it also could have meant that you were on a bikes-prohibited trail (e.g. the equestrian trail).

This trip, I noticed that some of these signs were replaced with the symbol to indicate the preferred activity on the trail in the direction you are headed, instead of the red slash signs. Numerous psychological studies have shown that people respond better to positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement. I’m glad to see that the Cleveland Metroparks have finally realized this, and that they are taking this additional (although small) step away from being the organization of “NO” and towards being the organization of “Yes.” They still use the red slash signs to indicate that horses are not permitted on the singletrack trail, and to indicate that bikes are not permitted on most areas of the equestrian trail, which is understandable and I agree with.

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I rode the Bedford Singletrack for two complete loops, then headed back towards home. Before I left the Egbert Picnic Shelter, re-filled my water bottle again, and took advantage of the bike-fix-it station provided there to pump my tires back up to pavement pressure. I carry a mini-pump with me in case of a flat tire, but having the full-size pump here made this a lot easier. The fix-it station also has a variety of tools used for most common bike repairs and adjustments, including tire levers, screwdrivers, and hex wrenches.

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The Bedford Singletrack, like any trail, can be a bit of a challenge to find your way around at first, but once you ride it once or twice, you’ll get the hang of it. I put together this first-timer’s guide on my bike shop’s web site that provides a step-by-step overview of how to follow the trail in the proper direction to take in every section of the singletrack.

 

A Tale of Two Fargos

It’s been almost a year since my last post. I spent 2013 just trying to get in as much riding as possible between juggling work and home schedules, and did not devote time to this blog. If you follow Car Less Ohio on Facebook or Twitter, I’ve tried to keep up with news about living with less car in Ohio.

Last March, I put together a new Surly Cross-Check, and kept putting lots of miles on it. I rode two centuries in one week–the Sweet Corn Challenge in Richfield on July 28, and then the Bike MS Pedal to the Point from Brunswick to Sandusky on August 3.

The other bike project last year was converting the Salsa Fargo from its drop-bar rigid off-road touring bike configuration to a traditional hardtail mountain bike. Here’s what it looked like pre-transformation, from a ride last April:

The Chagrin River in Geauga County, Ohio

I wanted to convert it to a hardtail for no particular reason, other than just out of curiosity to see how it would work, I needed another bike project to keep me busy (and from buying another bike), and because I always wanted a nice 29er Ti hardtail.

I kept the Truvativ Stylo crankset and SRAM X-Gen front derailer. I had a pair of SRAM X.7 trigger shifters and an X.9 rear derailer in the parts bin.

The only major acquisition necessary was a fork. I opted for the X-Fusion Slide RL 29, mainly because it was cheap enough for what I knew would be a temporary project. I’m not picky when it comes to suspension setup, and the less dials and knobs to fiddle with, the better. It’s got a lockout knob and rebound adjustment, which is enough for me. The travel can be set to 80, 100, or 120mm; I set it to 80 to match what the Fargo frame is designed for.

Oh, and although it wasn’t necessary, I picked up a pair of Shimano Deore XT hydraulic brakes on impulse when I saw them on sale. I did the derailer cable housing in blue to further the blue bling look with most of the other components.

I kept my Thomson seatpost on it at first. but later swapped to the Salsa Shaft post. When I bought this frame three years ago, I was on the fence between a Medium and Large. After test-riding both, I settled on the Medium, because the Large, although it would have worked, gave me that feeling like I was riding on a scaffolding. I’ve been happy with my choice of the Medium, and I think that works best in drop-bar mode, but I found that in hardtail/flat-bar mode, the Large would probably be better. So, the Salsa Shaft seatpost compensated for this, as its greater setback stretched out the cockpit the way I needed it.

I switched my saddle to a WTB Silverado, which I had picked up on the cheap at FrostBike. I’ve got a plethora of WTB saddles; they’ve been my favorite for years. The models range from the Laser V, Speed V, ProGel, Rocket V, whatever. I couldnt’ tell you the difference between them all; they are pretty much the same to me.

Here it is heading off to one of our first rides, at Mohican State Park:

Salsa Fargo hardtail at Mohican State Park

That’s a Thomson stem and a Soma Odin handlebar. The bike rode pretty well, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with the feel of the cockpit, so I swapped to the more upright Salsa stem that I originally had on the bike, which necessitated a 31.8 handlebar, which I happened to have around in a Salsa flat bar. That provided the sweet spot, which was confirmed during a ride at the local Royalview Trail in the Cleveland Metroparks:

Salsa Fargo hardtail at the Royalview Trail

And later at Quail Hollow State Park:

Salsa Fargo hardtail at Quail Hollow State Park

I took it for a spin around West Branch State Park at some point, too, but didn’t get a photo.

The tires initially were Schwalbe Racing Ralphs, which I had also used for off-road riding when the bike still had drop bars, including at the 2012 Iceman Cometh Challenge. I never really got completely taken by these tires. I like the tread pattern, but they always felt too hard. It became apparent right away that the minimum recommended pressure of 35psi was WAY too high, so I dropped them to about 27. That felt pretty good, but it seemed dangerously close to pinch-flat territory. I know, the solution to that is to go tubeless, but I have not made that technological leap yet. I switched to a pair of WTB Nano tires that I had also picked up at FrostBike, and these are the cat’s meow.

So, you’re wondering, how did this beast ride? To make a long story short, it’s a short-travel hardtail, so it rides like, well, a short-travel hardtail. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing; I cut my mountain biking teeth on a short-travel hardtail. The suspension fork is just enough to take the edge off, but you’ve still got to ride with finesse and pick your lines carefully.

The WTB Silverado saddle worked pretty well for me. I thought it would take more getting used to, because it’s harder than my other WTB saddles, but it turns out that wasn’t a bad thing.

I felt like I was coming close to pedal strikes when going through rock gardens more often than I should have. My initial theory was that this was because of the Fargo’s lower bottom bracket compared to a regular mountain bike. I compared it to a no-name 29er that I’m using as my commuter bike, and the Fargo’s bottom bracket was actually about a centimeter higher, so there goes that theory. However, the other bike was measured with a rigid fork, so the measurement may be meaningless. Or, the pedal strikes could be because the Fargo’s longer wheelbase makes it more likely to “hit bottom” when rolling over obstacles. Or maybe it was all in my head.

Anyway, the bike was more than capable of handling whatever Royalview, Quail, and Mohican had to throw at it. The smoother sections of West Branch were manageable, but the rock gardens got a little dicey. I was going to ride it at the ’13 Iceman race, but at the last minute decided to go back to my trusty Mongoose Teocali Super dually.

Late in 2013, I began the process of migrating the Fargo back to its old drop-bar self. The bar, of course, is the Salsa Woodchipper. Back on went the Shimano Deore XT rear derailer, bar-end shifters, WTB Laser/Rocket/Speed V saddle, and rigid steel fork.

New for this iteration were Cane Creek brake levers. I’ve used these levers for years on my Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike. I like the shape; they are more like modern STI levers and provide a more flat transition from the top of the bar to the hoods. However, these are road levers, which meant I had to switch to road disc brakes. This involved a four-way swap between the Fargo, another of my bikes, and two of my girlfriend’s bikes (the details of which I won’t bore you with), but I now sport Avid BB7 road brakes on the Fargo, as opposed to its original Avid BB7 mountain brakes. The Serfas Drifter 9er tires went back on, along with a Thomson stem and seatpost. My original Thomson stem was a zero-offset model, but a few months back I traded it to a co-worker for the setback model that came on his new Salsa El Mariachi. He felt he needed to be a little less stretched out, and we’ll see how being a little more stretched out works for me.

The other change was that I gave up my Lizard Skins DSP bar tape (which has become my favorite bar tape the past few years) to try out the new ESI RCT silicone bar tape. ESI’s silicone grips have been a favorite among some mountain bikers I know (I have not tried them), and I was checking out their new bar tape at Interbike in September 2013, so I thought I’d give it a go. I kept with the blue theme on the bar tape, as well as the brake and derailer housing.

The new brake levers allowed me to experiment with the angle of my Woodchipper bars a little more. I was able to have them not turned quite so far upward as I did before, which makes reaching down for the bar-end shifters a lot easier. Before, the ends of the drops were parallel to my down tube; now, they are parallel to my top tube.

Here it is on the first ride of the 2014 season, out on a shortened version of the Sunny Lake Loop:

Salsa Fargo at Sunny Lake Park in Aurora, Ohio

(Yes, that’s a Salsa Minimalist rack on the front.)

It was good to be back on the Fargo in its any-road/any-trail setup. The BB7 road brakes stopped just as strong and sure as the BB7 mountain brakes. The brake levers, it turned out, were a little too high, as might be apparent in the photo. They were a bit hard to reach when I was riding in the drops. When I got home, I turned the bars down a bit. I think this might do the trick without having to re-wrap the bars to re-position the levers, but only another ride will tell for sure.

Legends of the Beer Ride

Whether you’re in an urban, suburban, or rural area, every group of cyclists has their own set of traditions for the “Beer Ride.” But for the uninitiated, I provide for you here a step-by-step guide to planning your own Beer Ride.

Step 1. Select a date. Under ideal circumstances, the Beer Ride is spontaneous, i.e. “Hey, let’s do a Beer Ride tomorrow night.” But, this is the real world, and folks need time to get permission from their significant others and/or employers, so a week or two advance notice works best.The beer ride is often a recurring event on or near a national holiday, as in the case of my group’s original Beer Ride, as well as this latest one, Cinco de Mayo.

Step 2. Publicize your Beer Ride on Facebook or some other accessible place on the Interwebz. “But,” you’re asking, “Won’t that mean there will be a bunch of whackos showing up for my ride?” Well, yes, but that’s the whole idea–making new friends and having a good time. Worst-case scenario, you’ll have a good idea of who to leave off the guest list for the next Beer Ride. Plus, when some wet blanket hassles you afterwards about not getting an invitation, you can tell them, “It was a public event. You didn’t need an invitation.”

You’ll have a core group of “founders” who started your Beer Ride tradition, and a handful of others who rotate in and out on an ongoing basis. For each ride, one of the founders will have a lame excuse for backing out at the last minute.

Step 3. Choose your bike. Any bike will do, although if you’re the type of person whose bike collection is up in the double digits, you’ll have a bike dedicated just for Beer Rides. A Surly makes a nice choice, as it did for over half the people on this ride.

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Step 4. Choose a starting location for pre-ride beers. A local bar, your local beer-friendly bike shop, or someone’s house makes a good choice. In our case, it was the house of the guy who backed out of this ride. If there’s anything better than raiding somebody else’s beer fridge, it’s raiding somebody else’s beer fridge when they’re not home. The pre-ride beers might get so out of hand as to force everyone to forego the actual ride.

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Step 5. Take photos to share the debauchery during the ride. The photos will get progressively more blurry as the night goes on, either because of the pre-ride beers, or the increasingly dark conditions in which cell-phone cameras don’t work so hot.

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Step 6. Choose a destination. You can vote as a group, either ahead of time or the night-of, or as a founder, exercise your authority to choose when you organize the event. A place with food and a good selection of beer is a good choice, such as Mr. Zub’s Deli in the Highland Square neighborhood in Akron.

An off-road route, like the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, is nice, but not necessary. A few on-road connections are unavoidable, including a hill or two like Merriman Road or Portage Path to separate the women from the girls.

Lock your bikes up, especially if you’re riding to a place like Akron. Not everyone will remember a lock, but as long as you have about one lock for every three bikes, you should be in good shape. Sitting by the front windows where you have a good view of the bikes helps as well.

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Step 7. Enjoy your meal, mid-ride beers, and the ride back. You may want to add more bars to the route–this is where group cohesion usually breaks down, as ride fatigue and beer fatigue catches up with some riders and not others.

Fellow bar-hoppers will notice your group on bikes and make some comment like, “Hey great idea; don’t have to worry about getting a DUI.” While technically, you CAN get a DUI while riding a bicycle, in our experience, The Law will leave you alone as long as you’re not acting like a jerk.

Inevitably, one rider will somehow get lost on the way back and end up at the corner of Steels Corners and Hudson Roads, nowhere near the actual return route.

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