Car Less Ohio

Promoting the bicycling lifestyle in The Buckeye State

Monthly Archives: January 2012

Springtime in January, Again

The weather gods smiled upon me once again this month, with dry skies and temperatures into the 50’s on my day off. I took Uncle Rico (my knickname for my Xtracycle-equipped bike) down to Kent to check out Wild Earth Outfitters, the new outdoor store.

The most direct route to Kent is about 18 miles. I decided to try a new way to avoid some of the more heavily-traveled roads. I started by heading to Aurora and jumping on Pioneer Trail, a common launching point for many of my favorite routes. A good ways into Portage County (more eastward than I had anticipated), I made a right onto Diagonal Road. This road heads south and slightly west towards Kent, and runs concurrently on State Route 303 for about 1/2 mile in Streetsboro. I was starting to regret taking the scenic route, as I just wasn’t “feeling it” today; my leg muscles felt like they were running out of gas early in the ride.

I reached the point just north of Kent where Diagonal Road becomes a one-way (the wrong way for where I was headed). To avoid having to hop on State Route 43, I made a left onto Ravenna Road, then after a couple of miles, a right onto Lake Rockwell Road, and shortly thereafter, hopped on the Portage Hike and Bike Trail for the final push into Kent. I finally arrived in Kent, after covering about 27 miles since I left home.

I headed back out of town on Fairchild Avenue, and caught the Summit County Bike and Hike Trail where it starts near Stow-Munroe Falls High School. I followed it to where it meets Barlow Road outside of Hudson, then took Barlow Road west to go browse a bit at Appalachian Outfitters in Peninsula. After that, I backtracked to the Bike and Hike and headed north. This is one of the most beautiful sections of this trail, where the former railroad bed cuts through a hillside, creating a rocky canyon wall, with sunlight streaming through the tree branches.

I got to check out the latest developments on the Brandywine Road bypass. All of the trail is now done except for the new bridge over Interstate 271. Continuing north, when the trail dead-ends just before the future bridge location, you only have to hop on Brandywine Road for about 100 yards, and then make a left into the newly-refurbished parking area for Brandywine Falls. Then, hop on the new trail, loop around back under the parking lot entrance using the new tunnel, and continue on the new trail, around the Brandywine Inn, up the hill along Brandywine Road, then continue on the original trail.

At this point I would usually continue north on the trail until it ends at the Summit/Cuyahoga County line, and follow Alexander Road back towards home. However, I had always wondered what it would be like to follow State Route 82 on the busiest part through the strip mall stretches in Northfield and Macedonia. So, when I got to where the trail crosses Boyden Road, I just made a right onto Boyden, headed up to Route 82, and made a right to head east.

Route 82 wasn’t so bad after all. The only recommendation I’d make is to take your place in the line of cars well enough ahead of time before you get to a traffic light. Otherwise, the shoulder often disappears right before and after the light, so if you don’t take the lane, you’ll get squeezed out.

Just east of where Interstate 271 cross Route 82, a bike lane starts and runs right along Route 82. The only dicey part was just before the Macedonia/Twinsburg border, when all at the same time, the road narrows from two lanes to one in each direction, the bike lane ends, and the road shoulder turns to soft dirt. The road opens back up to two lanes in each direction again soon after, leaving plenty of room to share the road heading towards downtown Twinsburg.

Before heading home, I made a sightseeing side trip into the Locust Grove Cemetery, Twinsburg’s first burial ground, and the final resting place of many local historical figures, including Aaron and Moses Wilcox, the twin brothers for whom the city was named. I arrived at home with a total of 56 miles under my belt for the day.

Product Review: Stanley Nineteen13 eCycle Mug

Stanley has been making tools, beverage containers, and other food storage products since 1913. Traditionally targeted to the lunch-pail-carrying crowd, they’ve introduced a new line to seemingly appeal to the younger, hip set with recycled and recyclable materials, and bike bottle-cage friendliness.

I’ve used a “coffee ring” type of cage on my commuter bike for a couple of years now. Many of these are cheaply made, with a plastic handlebar clamp that slips when under the load of a full coffee mug. I found the Origin8 Joe-2-Go coffee cup holder works well, but you’ve still got to select your travel mug carefully–not too wide, not too narrow, to fit in the holder securely, and either no handle or a handle that is open on the bottom end. Even then, a good bump in the road can send the mug flying out of the holder.

Stanley Nineteen13 eCycle MugThe advantage of a bike bottle-cage friendly coffee mug such as the Stanley Nineteen13 eCycle Mug is that it’s held securely in the cage just like a standard water bottle. It doesn’t require a special type of cage, so it can be easily moved from one bike to another. Like any thermal-type mug, it keeps the hot stuff hot and the cold stuff cold better than a typical plastic bottle.

I received one of these mugs as a Christmas gift, and took advantage of the free hour I had between errands today to test it out. I filled it up with some fresh hot java and rode with it on the Salsa Fargo up to Solon to visit for a bit with Brent while he was at work.

As advertised, the eCycle mug stayed put in my bottle cage, even after a couple of curb-hops. The lid stayed securely closed with no leakage. I enjoyed the still-hot beverage when I arrived in Solon.

The eCycle mug holds 16 ounces. The moving parts of the leak-proof spout can be disassembled for a full cleaning (which, if you’re a typical dude like me, will probably happen about twice a year). Everything is microwave and dishwasher safe. It’s also got a loop that would let you clip it to a belt loop or backpack strap or the like. My only complaint is that the mug is too tall to fit and stand on its own in a Keurig single-serving coffee brewer, but that’s the case with almost all of my travel mugs.

In short, if you’re looking for an easy and secure way to enjoy coffee during your commute or other bike ride, the Stanley Nineteen13 eCycle Mug fits the bill, for about $15. Where can you buy it? I have not seen any bike shop or other store that has them in stock, but just about any local bike shop can order them for you, because they can be obtained through Quality Bicycle Products, one of the largest bike accessories distributors that most shops deal with.

Springtime in January

My scheduled day off from work today aligned with the unseasonably warm weather we’ve had in the past week, so I decided it was a perfect time to head out on the Salsa Fargo for my first “big” ride of the new year. The forecast called for it to break 50 degrees; I don’t think it got that warm, only around the mid- to upper-40s, but it was sunny, and with the right combination of clothing, I had a pleasant and comfortable ride.

I headed out towards Aurora to pick up one of my favorite routes, Pioneer Trail to Garrettsville. There was still a thin glaze of ice on the surface of Aurora Lake.

I had recently stripped the Fargo out of full touring mode, removing the fenders and racks to start experimenting with “light ‘n fast” touring setups. I wanted to keep the road spray off, though, so I threw on some clip-on fenders–the Headland BackSlide on the seatpost, and the Topeak Defender FX up front. The roads were all but bone dry, though, so I would have been fine without the fenders today.

This was my first time trying out my new Revelate Designs Tangle Frame Bag. My size medium Fargo frame required the Small size Tangle bag, but the bag still doesn’t leave room for bottle cages on the down tube or seat tube. Fortunately, the bottle cage mounts on the Fargo fork took up the slack.

The Tangle bag worked great doing double-duty, taking the place of both my seat bag and my handlebar bag. I was able to fit all of the usual items–spare tube, tire levers, patch kit, multi-tool (all from the seat bag), plus wallet and mobile phone. I also squeezed in a pair of wool liner gloves, in case it warmed up enough that the heavier fleece gloves that I started out with became too much.

I stopped into Miller’s Family Restaurant in Garrettsville and dispatched their stuffed pancake special, along with a fine cup of diner-caliber coffee. I headed straight back west on State Route 82 to Hiram, and continued out of Hiram.

I originally planned to stay on Route 82 all the way back to Twinsburg, but as I got to the edge of Hiram, I passed up Alpha Road on my right. I had recalled passing by this road many times, both by bike and by car, but had never been on it, so I decided to check it out. The pavement was a slightly rough chip and seal surface, but the fat tires on the Fargo made that no problem. There was a slight climb at the start, and then I was rewarded with a long, straight descent before the road ended in the village of Hiram Rapids. A left turn onto Winchell Road put me on course back towards Aurora. I’ll have to keep this little connector road in mind when putting together future routes.

I tried another recently-acquired product today. I had been searching for a good pair of winter commuting pants. I usually wear a pair of wool tights (SmartWool) under a pair of Endura Gridlock waterproof pants. This works great when it’s raining or otherwise really nasty, but any waterproof overpants tend to make me overheat and feel a little too clammy on those dry and cold-but-not-too-cold days. Plus I wanted some kind of one-piece system for my legs, something lower maintenance and easier to get on and off than a two-layer system.

I figured a pant made out of a softshell material would fit the bill. The softshell would give warmth and enough water resistance during snow and light rains. I know it won’t keep me dry in a full-on downpour, but what does?

I was intrigued by the Showers Pass Hybrid Zip-Off Pants, but decided against them, although I foresee them being added to my cycling wardrobe some time in the future. I finally settled on the Pearl Izumi Infinity Softshell Pants. These are actually a running tight, with a more loose fit compared to a cycling tight, which is what I wanted, to give me a more casual look for errands and coffee stops during commutes, plus provide the quicker and easier on-off that I was looking for. These running tights provide another feature not typically found on cycling tights, namely pockets, which I wanted for quick access to items such as keys and lip balm. The Infinity pants have two full-size hand pockets on the sides, with zippers for security, and a small zippered key pocket on the middle of the back. The leg openings have a full cut, but there are snaps on the sides to cinch them down to minimize flapping while running, or in my case, to keep them out of my chainrings.

I bought the pants in a Large size, which probably have more room than I need; I probably could have gotten away with a Medium, but I wanted to make sure the pants had enough length to still give me full ankle coverage while in the saddle. They aren’t too large; the drawstring waist keeps them hiked up securely. When they arrived in the mail at work, I tried them on immediately, and one of my co-workers remarked that they look like they’d make great comfortable lounge pants, which I think they would.

The Infinity pants worked great over the course of the 49.5-mile ride today. That says a lot, given that many non-cycling clothing items feel fine during short commutes and errand rides, but don’t hold up their comfort level over the course of a long “serious” ride. Even though the pants have a seam through the middle of the crotch, with my regular cycling shorts underneath, the seam didn’t have any negative impact on that sensitive area.

My only complaint about the Pearl Izumi Infinity Softshell pants are that they were a little too warm for today’s conditions, but that’s a good thing. I won’t dare to complain about today’s spring-like weather, and I bought the pants with the intention of wearing them in colder weather, say, 40 degrees and lower.

Old News is Good News

If you follow this blog on a regular basis, whether it’s through a news reader, RSS feed, or just the old-fashioned way by going to the URL, you may have noticed a few new posts lately that have photos and other information about stuff that happened a long time ago. Don’t worry; you’re not in a time warp.

I’m in the process of reorganizing my blogs–switching domain registrars and web hosts, and straightening things up in general. As part of this, I’m moving (slowly but surely) any bicycling-related posts from my personal blog to this one.

So, bear with me, and enjoy the walk down Ohio bicycling memory lane…