This mileage signpost along the GAP in Connellsville, PA sums up the dream quite succinctly.
By Karl Rosengarth
It’s fantastic how a simple vision can inspire great accomplishments. Case in point: the simple vision of a bicycle trail connecting Pittsburgh, PA to Washington, DC.
The first part fell into place in 1971, with the establishment of the C&O Canal National Historic Park, which offers 184.5 miles of non-motorized adventure from Cumberland, MD to Washington, DC.
I’m not sure how long after 1971 it took for people to start dreaming about a trail connecting Pittsburgh to the C&O trailhead, but dream they did.
That dream eventually became reality, in the form of the Great Allegheny Passage (i.e., the GAP), a 150-mile system of trails running from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, mostly along relatively-flat, abandoned railroad grades.
I picked the terms "vision" and "dream" carefully, because the story behind the GAP is a tale of a shared vision, a dream, that became a rallying cry.
"What if you could ride your bike on trails all the way from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC?"
That vision was the dream that rallied grassroots efforts all along the GAP trail corridor and inspired the cumulative, indefatigable efforts of non-profit organizations, local governments and dedicated individuals who fought, and won, mile-by-mile battles to string together the GAP.
I am one such individual. In 1991 I learned that a volunteer group was being formed to convert an abandoned rail corridor, along the northern section of the Youghioghenny River, into a rail-trail. It wasn’t the concept of a building a 40-mile scenic bike trail that inspired me to get involved. It was the dream of riding a trail that would one day stretch from Pittsburgh to Washington that provided the inspiration.
That grand vision motivated me to attend an organizing meeting, and eventually get myself elected to the Mon-Yough Trail Council’s inaugural Board of Directors. The volunteer efforts of that organization helped convert a decaying, abandoned railroad into a beautiful crushed-limestone trail within Allegheny County, the county that encompasses the city of Pittsburgh. I’m proud to have played a small part in creating the legacy that is the GAP.
Since 1991, I’ve spent countless hours, riding various sections of the GAP in and around Pittsburgh. While I haven’t yet pedaled all the way from Pittsburgh to Washington, I did complete a 267-mile self-supported tour along the GAP and C&O Towpath from Somerset, PA to Washington, DC. The whole Pgh-DC enchilada is sill on my bucket list. Perhaps 2012 will be the year?
How does this story relate to Pittsburgh’s past? Well it turns out that George Washington shared a similar vision.
According to the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail website: "George Washington’s dream of connecting the eastern states with the western frontier led to the creation of the Patowmack Company. Locks were built around unnavigable parts of the Potomac River for improved commerce."
Yep, old George had major role in the creation of the C&O canal. Washington’s desire to develop a corridor between the developed eastern cities and the western frontier (and specifically the Ohio Valley) drove him to explore the very the route that the GAP follows today. The route played a key role in our country’s westward expansion.
And, as I pointed out in part one of this series, it was the strategic location at the Ohio River headwaters that eventually led to the founding of the city of Pittsburgh.
Just about every time I pedal along the GAP, I find myself daydreaming of George Washington, and the other pioneers, who explored the region in days gone by. Pedaling Pittsburgh’s past, to be sure.
The 1,908 ft. long Salisbury Viaduct crosses the Casselman River valley west of of Meyersdale, Pa.
In Allegheny County, near Pittsburgh, the GAP offers this stout bicycle and pedestrian bridge over the Monongahela River, a re-purposed railroad bridge connecting Duquesne and McKeesport, Pa.
This ramp on a bicycle pedestrian bridge near Duquesne, Pa., (over active railroad tracks) gives riders an increasingly-rare view of the Pittsburgh region’s steel-making heritage.
The GAP crossed the Youghioghenny River at scenic Ohiopyle, Pa.
Cyclist of all sorts ride the GAP (Connellsville, Pa.).
The GAP rolls right by the confluence of the Youghioghenny and Casselman rivers, at Confluence, Pa.
The GAP offers access to many beautiful "beaches" along the Youghioghenny River. Great for cooling off on a hot day, or accessing that favorite fishing hole.
By Karl Rosengarth
I’m a man on a mission, for better traction. This year at Interbike I roamed for rubber. What follows is a selection of tires that piqued my interest. Note that some of the tires listed are not yet released; therefore, full specs may not yet be available.
The Maxxis Gyspy touring tire looks like a great choice for commuters, as well as loaded tourers. The dual compound construction provides harder rubber down the center for longer wear, and softer cornering rubber on the sides. Available in both 700 x 38c and 26 x 1.5" sizes. Price TBD. www.maxxis.com/Bicycle.aspx
Continental’s TopContact Winter II tires have abundant micro-siping designed for maximum grip in wintry conditions, without the need for metal studs. The tires feature a 3M reflective stripe on the sidewalls. They retail for around $65 and are available now in both 700 x 37c and 26 x 1.9" sizes. Let it snow! www.conti-online.com
The new Kwick Tendril from Kenda is a city/touring tire with a smooth, fast-rolling, center section. The outer, cornering surfaces have siping and a knurling for improved grip. Available in a wide range of 700c widths from 25 through 38c, and in 26 x 1.5 and 1.75" options. www.kendausa.com
Rando is all the rage. And if you really want to rock some street cred, then you’ll want to roll 650B. Panaracer has got you covered with their Col de La Vie, a 650B x 38mm tire with inverted tread design that’s well-suited for rando and/or touring duty. www.panaracer.com
Vee Rubber has been in the bicycle tire business for over 30 years, though they’ve had little presence in the US market as of late. That’s about to change as the company is releasing a complete range of mountain and road tires, starting in October 2011. Their Easy Street commuter tire will retail for around $20 in wire bead. Available in various widths in 700c, 26" and 28" sizes. veerubberusa.com
Schwalbe’s all-new Marathon Mondial is and adventure touring tire that’s available in a variety of widths in both 26" and 700c sizes. These bad boys feature harder compound down the center for longer wear, softer compound on the sides for improved cornering grip, SnakeSkin sidewall protection, and a woven aramid belt for puncture protection. www.schwalbetires.com
Vittoria’s Adventure Trail is a low-rolling-resistance tire with a tread pattern designed mixed surfaces, including a bit of dirt when need be. Available in 700 x 35/38c and 26 x 1.75" sizes. www.vittoria.com
Freedom is expanding their Cruz tire lineup in 2012 to include an all-new 29 x 2.0" size. They’ll be out in October 2011 and will retail for around $33 (wire bead only). Great news for commuters rolling to work on 29ers or monstercross rigs. www.freedombicycle.comTweet
The Ridekick power trailer is an interesting twist on electrifying your ride. Thanks to its built-in 500 Watt electric motor, this battery-powered trailer gives a boost to your existing bike. Last year we tried a pre-production version, and now the finished product is on sale.
The $699 trailer has a clamshell design that provides 41.8 liters of enclosed cargo space. Rated hauling capacity is 75 lbs. The hitch attaches through the left-side Q/R skewer.
The current version of the Ridekick uses a sealed lead-acid battery and has a range of 12-15 miles. Ridekick is working on a lithium-ion battery upgrade that will expand the range, though exact specifications are not available at this time.
A simple handlebar-mounted thumb-lever serves as the throttle. On my test ride I found that having to thumb the throttle was not as convenient as "just pedaling along" the way I would on a pedelec, but the throttle got the job done nonetheless. The Ridekick had plenty of guts and flattened out the uphill grades. There was a slight surgieness in the way that the trailer delivered its power to the bike compared to rear-hub motors, but for $699 the Ridekick is an affordable and effective way to boost your bike.
It doesn’t end here, we’ve got a lot more coverage of Interbike 2011.
A redesigned battery is 100g lighter and offers increased capacity, boosting the range from 50 to 60 miles. The handlebar-mounted control unit has been redesigned with a more intuitive interface/display (the functions remain the same).
The new battery includes a 6-volt power output jack for connecting a lighting system. Charging control circuitry is now built into the battery itself, and the previously-required smart charger is replaced by a simple, more compact charger.
My test ride confirmed that the updated BionX system offers the same seamless pedelec power and snappy performance as the original. The retail price for the 350 Watt system is $1,899 with a downtube mounted battery or $1,999 with rear rack mounted battery.
It doesn’t end here, we’ve got a lot more coverage of Interbike 2011.
Linus Bikes is on a mission to provide simple, reliable bikes that take their styling clues from classic French bikes of the 1950-60s and utilitarian Dutch city bikes. According to Linus Bikes‘ founder Adam McDermott, the Roadster 8 is "an all around city bike, intended for everyday use and utility." Sounds good to me, let’s give it a whirl.
The Roadster 8 immediately struck me as an eye-pleasing blend of retro-fashion and modern-day function. The painted-to-match metal fenders, give this steed all-weather practicality, and enhance its classical aesthetics. The high-tech bits are tucked neatly inside the Shimano 8-speed Nexus hub, where they are barely noticeable yet much appreciated.
The bike’s heads-up rider position is my preferred arrangement for pedaling in traffic. Steering response is notably quick, the way it should be on a bike built for slicing through city streets. Flat pedals make it convenient to hop on and run a quick errand. Leaning on its kickstand in my basement, the Roadster 8 is not snoozing, it’s in the "ready position," awaiting our next mission.
With a single pannier snapped onto the included alloy rack, the Roadster 8 has been just the ticket for commuting to the office and back. The eight speeds have flattened the hill-climbs on my 5-mile route to Bicycle Times HQ, and the Tektro dual pivot caliper brakes have kept things under control on the downhill side. I’ve yet to utilize the Roadster 8 for a major grocery run, but that’ll come in due time.
For the $830 asking price you get a 4130 chromoly frame/fork, outfitted the aforementioned items, plus the following noteworthy touches: Schwalbe 700 x 32C Delta Cruiser tires, real leather grips, and metal bell. The Roadster 8 is made in China.
Look for my complete review in Bicycle Times Issue #14, which is scheduled to mail to subscribers and hit newsstands in November, 2011. Order a subscription today.
By Karl Rosengarth
Soma Fabrications of San Francisco, California is on a mission to produce practical, durable, comfortable and affordable products for the everyday cyclist. The Buena Vista is Soma’s mixte frameset.
The mixte design replaces the traditional top tube with a pair of smaller tubes that run from the head tube all the way to the rear dropout, with a connection at the seat tube. By retaining the conventional seat- and chainstays, the mixte provides generous standover clearance, combined with better structural rigidity than step-throughs with a dropped top tube. The mixte is also skirt-friendly, for those so attired.
I asked Stan Pun, the marketing and product development guy at Soma, about the target market for the Buena Vista: “We would like to say it is for anyone looking for a classy, quality ride. But it isn’t just a ladies’ or gentleman’s bike. We wanted to do a mixte that someone would not mind riding long distances with and feel at home riding fast on. We’ve had one enthusiast use it with an Xtracycle. The low standover allowed him to mount from the front, so he wouldn’t kick his kid in the head.”
To be sure, this is not your grandparents’ mixte. It’s made from Tange Infinity heat-treated chromoly for the down and seat tubes, and butted/tapered chromoly in the rear end. Chromoly is stronger than the plain steel used in many vintage mixtes (which have a reputation for being flexy), and can be formed into larger diameter, thin-walled tubes. Said tubes produce a stiffer frame with no weight penalty.
The Buena Vista comes with a lugged, sloping-crown, chromoly steel fork. The 132.5mm rear dropout spacing falls in between road (130mm) and mountain (135mm) hub spacing, and thanks to the steel frame’s inherent flexibility, it will accommodate either road or mountain rear hubs. Semihorizontal dropouts equal singlespeed compatibility. The frame is also ready for front and rear racks and fenders. Versatility indeed.
The Buena Vista was not specifically designed as a dedicated “townie” bike, and I’m told that the typical customer would opt for a “sport road/touring” build with drop bars. But when Pun offered to provide a townie build, I decide to accept, and put the frame’s versatility to the test.
My build sported a Sturmey Archer 8-speed drivetrain with twist shifters (see sidebar for more information). The frame will work just fine with derailleurs, and it even comes with down tube shifter bosses. My build included several “house” brand goodies including Soma’s New Xpress 28c tires in terra cotta (a personal favorite of mine) and Sparrow bar in 560mm width. From the photo, one can see the tall stack of headset spacers—visually awkward, perhaps, but they gave me ample stem height adjustability, very useful for tweaking my position.
From my first pedal strokes, I realized that this was one quick-handling townie. The narrow Sparrow bars combined with the 73º head angle produced a snappy feeling at the handlebars. The Buena Vista diced through congested city streets like a Ginsu knife. With the upright, head-on-aswivel riding position, I felt confident and in control when dodging potholes and/or avoiding collisions with aggressive bus drivers.
After receiving the Buena Vista, I’ve test-ridden a few other townie bikes, and they felt similarly snappy at the handlebars. We’re talking fast-paced city life here, not laid-back beach cruising.
Sturmey Archer recommends a 30-tooth chainring, but Soma built my bike with a 34-tooth chainring, which made my “easiest” gear (34×23) higher than normal. The narrow bars combined with the higher gearing gave me some grief on steep, long hills. After a few rides, I switched to wider mountain bike bars and twist-shift compatible Ergon grips with integrated barends to give me more leverage on the handlebars. Now that’s what I’m talking about! I was able to produce more oomph up the hills, and the handling was still plenty quick.
The Buena Vista was just the ticket for my weekly 25-mile-plus “explore the city” ride. On it, I rhythmically weaved through crowed streets in search of adventure around the next corner. At the other end of the spectrum, the Buena Vista felt comfortable and at home cruising the open, and sometimes unpaved, rural roads on my favorite multi-hour recreational loop. There’s that versatility theme again.
The Buena Vista exhibited the classical “lively” feeling of a quality chromoly steel frame—a sweet blend of snappy acceleration and a comfortable resilience over the road. I felt that the mixte design offered some additional bump-absorbing vertical compliance, compared to double-diamond frames.
Going into the review, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a mixte. Fortunately, what I didn’t get was any notable frame flex or feeling of lost efficiency. I felt comfortable pushing the Buena Vista hard into corners, hopping curbs, rumbling over unpaved roads, and generally riding without any inkling of “holding back.” Hey, it rode like a bike, imagine that!
At less than five bills for a chromoly frame/fork, the Buena Vista impressed me as a great value. It’s equally the ticket for the tinkerer looking for a versatile frame, or somebody with a set plan and a set budget. This steel is real—affordable.
- Age: 54
- Height: 5’10”
- Weight: 150lbs.
- Inseam: 32”
- Country of Origin: Taiwan
- Price: $490 (Frame/Fork)
- Weight: 22.6lbs. as ridden (5.0lbs. frame)
- Sizes Available: 42, 50, 54, 58 (tested)
Freedom Riders (L tpo R): Rodney Deese, Mike (The Dawg) Palmeri, Robert Cotrell, Brian Daily, John Carter, Kevin Moburg. Photo: Kendall Craig.
By Karl Rosengarth
With the 10-year anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks right around the corner, a group of firefighters from Atlanta, GA , are planning a bicycle ride to commemorate the lives of the firefighters and first responders who died that day. The Aaron’s Freedom Ride 2011 is scheduled to depart from Atlanta on August 28th and arrive in NYC on September 10th, 2011.
Proceeds from this event will benefit the Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation and support the mission of Atlanta Fire Rescue. You may make a donation to the Freedom Ride 2011 via this web link.
This is the real deal. One look at their schedule and you’ll see that the Freedom Riders have their work cut out for them:
- Day 1: Atlanta, GA to Ellijay, GA – 90 Miles
- Day 2: Ellijay, GA to Cherokee, NC – 100 Miles
- Day 3: Cherokee, NC to Asheville, NC – 60 Miles
- Day 4: Asheville, NC to Little Switzerland, NC – 50 Miles
- Day 5: Little Switzerland, NC to Bluff Mt., NC – 70 Miles
- Day 6: Bluff Mt., NC to Rakes Millpond, VA – 100 Miles
- Day 7: Rakes Millpond, VA to Peaks of Otter, VA – 80 Miles
- Day 8: Peaks of Otter, VA to Charlottesville, VA – 105 Miles
- Day 9: Charlottesville, VA to Washington D.C. – 115 Miles
- Day 10: Rest Day in Washington D.C.
- Day 11: Washington D.C. to Cape May, NJ – 190 Miles
- Day 12: Cape May, NJ to Atlantic City, NJ – 50 Miles
- Day 13: Atlantic City, NJ to Long Branch, NJ – 90 Miles
- Day 14: Long Branch, NJ to New York City, NY – 60 Miles
Good luck to these brave first responders, who lay their lives on the line on a daily basis. May you have the journey of a lifetime!
By Karl Rosengarth
When it comes to ferreting out the hidden gems within a cityscape, nothing compares to a bicycle ride. Blend a dash of curiosity with a willingness to explore—and you have a recipe for discovering places and sights that the average bear will never sniff out.
In a previous post, I explained the premise behind my weekly exploratory ride with my pals Kevin and John Paul. Recently the three of us rode in search of a hidden site that taggers frequent and ply their trade.
Armed with some G2, we pedaled across town and bagged our quarry within spitting distance from a busy thoroughfare. Down a path along a creek, turn left into the woods, across a set of railroad tracks and—boom, there it was:
The backside of several industrial insta-buildings, along with several abandoned railroad bridges, were emblazoned with artistic statements sprayed on by local taggers.
I snapped away with my cell-phone camera.
Most shots include my co-conspirators and/or my art bike Ziggy, to give viewers a sense of scale.
The scale of the work at this site (of which only a fraction is posted here) is simply amazing.
Until my next Brain Fart, let me remind you to get on your bike…
and find things.
Editor’s note: In Issue #9 of Bicycle Times, we reviewed three different folding bicycles. Our staff is chock full of lifelong cyclists; however, none of them were particularly experienced with folding bicycles. To learn as much as possible about folders, we quizzed a group of experts: representatives from folding bike companies, folding bike retailers, and folks who ride folders as their everyday bikes. Watch this space as we post full reviews of three bikes we tested, the Dahon IOS P8, the Brompton S6L and the Xootr Swift.
By Karl Rosengarth
There’s a long list of responses to the "why folders?" question. Somewhere near the top of said list is the fact that folders and mass transit go together like peanut butter and jelly. In most cities, folding bikes are permitted on light rail and bus systems, whereas full-sized bikes are not permitted, or may be restricted during rush hour, or relegated to a pair of bike-rack spots on the front of certain buses.
Using a folder to reduce car trips, and to integrate with mass transit, has economic benefits. Bob Thomas has leveraged his folder to go completely car-free: "As an architect, I’ve used a folder for over 30 years. I travel extensively for my projects, and the folder, along with a good choice of location here in Philadelphia for my home and office, has made it unnecessary for me ever to purchase an automobile."
Folder proponents point out that compactness is a virtue. Riders with limited space at work or home can take advantage of a compact folder to stash it in a corner, under a desk, in a stairwell, behind a door, or other free space. Apartment dwellers and students living in dorms are prime examples. Boat, RV and small-plane owners represent a subset of the folder market that also grooves on the compactness. And as Karl Ulrich of Xootr points out, "Those who combine driving and cycling like folders because they do not need bike racks."
Folders are liberating. "Ditch all the excuses you have for not riding to the store, a friend’s, a film, a date, or work," says Ed Rae of Brompton. Security is one excuse that goes right out the window (or in through the front door). With a folder, you don’t have to leave your bike outside where it could get stolen or exposed to foul weather. When Ed visited Bicycle Times and rode with us, he brought his Brompton right into the restaurant where we stopped to refuel – and nobody batted an eyelash.
After riding the test bikes, our staff learned that these small-wheeled bikes feel nimble and handle tight quarters with aplomb. "Anyone who faces crowded streets with lots of pedestrians, taxis, animate and inanimate obstructions loves the super-maneuverability and ‘threading the needle’ that a small-wheeled bike can provide," Ed Rae explains.
Then there’s a certain "cool factor" that goes along with the design aesthetics of a folding bicycle. "As an engineer myself, I also appreciate the creativity and the beauty of the designs. There is no doubt that they arouse curiosity and attract attention, which can be fun in its own way," says folder rider Vinod Vijayakumar of Philadelphia.
The small wheels often mislead folks into thinking that folders are slow and not for serious cyclists. Not so. Folders are geared such that you go just as far with each turn of the pedals as full-sized bikes. Folders may look flexy and nervous-handling, but well-made models feel solid and handle confidently. You might be afraid that the bikes are freakishly complex and hard to fold, but with a little practice you should find them easy to fold. Their smallish frames may look like they are only for short people, but most folders can be properly fitted for riders of all sizes.
Advice for Prospective Buyers
"Ride more than one brand before you buy. Try to find shops that have experience with and that feature folders, rather than having one dusty, token folder sitting in the corner. A good shop can help you with fitting options, which can be a challenge especially if you are 6’5" or taller," advises Mike McGettigan of Trophy Bikes in Philadelphia.
"Some brands forgo ride quality for trick one-step folding processes or overly exaggerated designs. We emphasize a test ride to anyone looking at a folder in puzzlement – after which they come back with a pleasantly surprised look on their face," advises John Keoshgerian of Zen Bikes NYC.
Steve Cuomo of Dahon points out that wheel size may dictate ride comfort, and how far you will want to ride the bike. You may want to try folders with various wheel sizes to compare how comfortable you feel on each. Steve also notes that folders vary in frame and handlepost stiffness. That’s another thing to pay attention to during your test ride.
How long are your rides? You’ll want to get a model with appropriate gearing and a cockpit that’s suited for your intended use. Consider your main uses. Will you need fenders and lights? What about integrated luggage or bags to haul stuff? Tire choice is key.
If "the fold" is particularly important to you, spend some time researching and testing before you buy. How small do you need the fold? There is quite a bit of variation in the folded size of the various brands/models. How quickly do you need to fold your bike? Some styles fold quicker than others. How "neat" is the folded bike? As Brompton’s Ed Rae says: "Does the fold keep all the sharp, greasy and poking bits tucked out of the way, or are you holding an oily porcupine?" Will you be carrying the folded bike a lot, or rolling it along with it folded? Folders that lock securely when folded are easier to transport than ones that flop around. Some styles can be rolled when folded, but not all. Rolling, rather than carrying, the folded package may prove advantageous, especially if you have long distances to cover.
When asked how he and his wife most commonly use their folding bikes, Vinod Vijayakumar of Philadelphia said, "Commuting, probably, but we’ve also used them simply as an alternative to taxis/cars for getting about town for small errands, shopping, going out to eat, movies, etc. And if we’ve had a few drinks, they’re easy enough to put in the trunk of a taxi and get home. I wouldn’t discount the exercise aspect, either; my wife and I regularly go for hour rides on the weekends, or pack them into the car when we’re driving somewhere for the weekend. Getting on a bike is my favorite way of seeing any place, new or familiar, and a folder allows you to take that experience with you. Also, when friends are visiting from out of town, we’ll often take the Bromptons and do the sight-seeing thing that way ‚Äî folders being a great way to pop in and out of places."
Mike McGettigan is bullish on folders: "I think the market is iPod-sized. I said that a year ago, and I still feel that way. When we started selling Bromptons six years ago, my goal was to sell one a month. We’ve sold more than 250 Bromptons alone, besides Dahons, Swifts, and others."
Ed Rae thinks globally and rides locally: "The cost of energy, the trend of ‚Äòre-urbanizing’, the quest for personal fitness, the future of the planet and the ever-greater sense so many have of wanting to do the right thing all contribute to practical bike use, and the concentration of all this brings folders to the fore."
Road warrior Ed Rae offers sage advice: "Travel always with a bike. It’s always there for a spur of the moment ride, exploration or errand run."
Thanks to the following folder folks for contributing to this story: Steve Cuomo, John Keoshgerian, Mike McGettigan, Ed Rae, Bob Thomas, Karl Ulrich and Vinod Vijayakumar.
Read the reviews
Please consider subscribing, and help us keep this great content coming your way. You can get six issues a year for just $16.95.Tweet
By Karl Rosengarth
BionX of Aurora, Ontario fabricates a variety of electric power systems for bicycles, with 250-, 350- or 500-watt options (and prices ranging from $1,200 to $2,200). The 350-watt, $1,900 PL350HT L is an aftermarket system for adding electric assistance to an existing bicycle. A bike equipped with a BionX system qualifies as a low-speed electric bicycle and is not considered a "motor vehicle," according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulations.
Electrical assistance is provided by a motor built into the hub of the system’s rear wheel. Available wheel sizes include 20", 24", 26" and 700c. The system includes a battery, handlebar-mounted control unit, battery charger, and all the hardware and wire cables required to electrify your bike. It weighs in at 18.4lbs. The control unit’s uncluttered display shows speed, assistance level, battery level and time of day. Our test system came pre-installed on a Trek 6000 mountain bike. However, from reading through the installation instructions, I’d say that anybody comfortable working on their bike could install the system themselves.
There are two basic types of electric power-assisted bicycles: pedelecs and e-bikes. A pedelec only supplies power assistance when the pedals are turning, while an e-bike provides power on demand, typically via a throttle or switch. The BionX system offers both types of assistance.
In pedelec mode, up/down buttons on the PL350HT L step through four available levels of assistance: 35, 75, 150, or 300%. You pedal just like a normal bike, but with a boost that feels like a tailwind or an invisible stoker. To keep the bike from unexpectedly surging forward, the assist does not kick in until the bike is up to 3mph.
I found that assist level 1 provided a helpful boost on flat ground. When faced with rolling hills, I’d bump the assist level up to 2. On steeper terrain, level 3 gave me a significant push up the hills, and was great for "making time." I could easily cruise along at 20mph on rolling terrain, which is the cut-off speed above which the built-in governor circuitry stops providing assistance (for safety/regulatory reasons). Setting #4 made me feel like a superhero. Note that amateur bicycle racers typically average 200 to 300 watts of power generation, so the BionX system is roughly equivalent to having a second person’s worth of power assistance.
The BionX system also has four "generator" settings that use the wheel’s rotational energy to recharge the battery and act as a "drag brake," useful for scrubbing speed on steep downgrades. For safety, a sensor on the right-hand brake lever automatically toggles the system into generator mode whenever the brake lever is actuated.
At the 2010 Interbike trade show, I made a point of riding as many pedelecs as I could get my hands on. My three months on the BionX reinforced my initial impression that BionX-equipped bikes did the best job of smoothly blending pedaling power with electric assistance. Thanks to an intelligent torque sensor in the motor axle, the harder you pedal, the more assistance the system provides. If you pedal lightly, you receive gentle assistance. Stop pedaling and your assistance is automatically cut off. The only time the system felt "herky jerky" was when I was in the big ring and mashing slow, square pedal strokes up a hill. Under those conditions, the assistance felt like it surged along with my output on each downstroke.
The quoted range for the BionX PL350HT L is 56 miles, but your actual mileage will vary, depending on the terrain and how much assistance you dial up. I routinely rode hilly routes in the 10- to 20-mile range using a mix of assist levels 2 and 3, and typically consumed 50%, or at most 75%, of the battery. The rated charge time for an empty battery is five hours, and that jives with my experience that a half-ish drained battery would recharge in two to three hours.
I experimented with the e-bike mode, actuated via a thumb lever, which provided full electric assist. I found out, not surprisingly, that not pedaling drained the battery rather quickly. While the e-bike mode worked well and moved me along at a snappy pace on level or rolling terrain, it slowed down significantly on steep hills. I’d recommend contributing some pedaling effort when pointed uphill. The BionX system is aimed at the pedelec market, so if you’re looking for an "electric scooter" that doesn’t require pedaling, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
The Li-Mn battery on my test bike attached via the water bottle mounts on the downtube. With the flip of a built-in quick release lever, the battery slides off its mounting hardware, for security or for remote charging. The battery also comes with a key and a built-in lock that secures it to the mount, which provides anti-theft protection in lower-risk situations. BionX also offers models with batteries that mount under a rear rack.
The BionX is the smoothest pedelec I’ve ridden to date. The smoothness, simplicity and intuitive nature of the BionX system make it very rider-friendly. If you’d prefer a ready-to-ride option, several U.S. bike brands offer models with the BionX system integrated into their design, Trek and OHM to name two.
The BionX system comes with a two-year warranty, excluding the battery which has a one-year warranty. Visit www.bionx.ca for more information or to find a BionX dealer near you to score a test ride.
This review appeared in Bicycle Times Issue #9. To read more great reviews and features that you won’t find anywhere else – and help us keep the good stuff coming – consider picking up a subscription today. You’ll get six issues a year delivered right to your door for just $16.95.
The Buena Vista from Soma Fabrications is a mixte frameset made from Tange Infinity heat treated chromoly steel main tubes. The mixte frame design replaces the traditional top tube with a pair of smaller tubes that run from the head tube all the way to the rear dropout, with a connection at the seat tube. By retaining the conventional seat and chain stays, the mixte provides generous standover, combined with better structural rigidity than step-through designs.
The Buena Vista comes a sloping-crown CrMo steel fork that has low-rider pannier mounts. The frame’s 132.5mm rear hub spacing is compatible with either road or mountain hubs. Headset size is 1 1/8" and seatpost diameter is 27.2mm. Horizontal dropouts equal singlespeed compatibility.
If you’re wondering about the Buena Vista’s raison d’être, Soma puts it this way: "You’ll find the geometry is more sporty, than comfy. Though it can be built up to suit either demeanor. Drop bars? Sure. Moustache bars? Of course."
I’m a "comfortably sporty" kind of guy so I elected to have Soma build up my test bike as a "townie," complete with Soma’s 560mm wide Sparrow townie bars, a Sturmey Archer 8-speed rear hub, a pair of Soma New Xpress tires in terra cotta, Dia-Compe 610 brakes, and set of Soma fenders.
One look at the photograph and you’ll see that Soma was kind enough to give me with plenty of adjustability on the stem height. I decided to start with the stem/bars at max height and experiment with working my way down, as I grow more comfortable atop the Buena Vista. So far, so comfortable and sporty. Despite the "upright" appearance, this rig handles the mean streets with a snappy quickness that is great for dodging potholes and dancing with dinosaurs. Look for a full review of the Buena Vista in print in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Times. If you’re not yet a subscriber, click here and join the tribe. —Karl Rosengarth
by Karl Rosengarth
I like riding my bike year round. I don’t like being cold. I like things that keep my ears, neck, face and head warm during blustery winter rides. I like the Buff.
The Buff is seamless, tube-shaped, garment made of soft synthetic fabric that can be configured to serve multiple functions. The Buff can be a headband, a neck gaiter, a skull cap, or even a balaclava. To name but a few. I know, because I’ve been there and done that.
I have Buffs neatly folded my dresser drawers, tucked into my bike gear bag, and stashed in my man-purse. I travel with a Buff, and pull it over my ears and eyes on the airplane when I want to shut out the world and just relax. Same deal in the hotel at night: a Buff pulled over the eyes/ears blocks out stray light/sounds and helps me fall asleep. Obsessed? Well, let’s just say that I really like the Buff.Tweet
Tester: Karl Rosengarth
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Weight: 27.8lbs. (with F/R racks, without pedals)
Sizes Available: 44, 46, 48, 50, 52, 54, 55, 56, 57 (tested), 58, 59, 60cm
Roads? Where we’re touring we don’t need roads
By Karl Rosengarth
Co-Motion Cycles of Eugene, Oregon has been hand-crafting bikes since 1988. The company is probably best known for their wide range of tandem offerings. However, they also make a number of "single" bikes, including a rugged 26"-wheeled touring bike called the Pangea, designed for touring in challenging environments. This is this sort of bike that one might choose for an around-the-world tour via a route that includes unimproved roads, or for an adventurous trip over back roads closer to home.
Co-Motion builds the Pangea from extra-large diameter Reynolds 725 chromoly steel tubes that are custom fabricated using Co-Motion’s own tooling. The tandem-sized chainstays are the burliest-looking stays that I’ve ever seen on a single-person bike. The handmade fork on the Pangea has the same oversized diameter as their tandem fork, but uses thinner-gauge tubing, which is designed for the lighter loads that a single bike places on a fork.
How does the Pangea ride? In a nutshell, it felt very stiff when unburdened, but the bike really came into its own when fully loaded. That’s appropriate, considering that this rig is designed for loaded touring over rough roads. Even with my front/rear panniers loaded with three days’ worth of camping gear, the Pangea felt solid and handled precisely when I bombed over washed-out snowmobile trails, not to mention occasional singletrack. I rode confidently over rough terrain that would have produced much sketchier results on a normal-duty touring bike.
Why 26" wheels on a touring bike? The Pangea was Co-Motion’s response to customers who wanted to tour on rough roads and needed a bike that accepted fat tires. The fact that 26" tires and wheels are commonly used on practical bicycles worldwide means that replacement parts are readily available in a pinch. The 26" wheel size opens up a wide spectrum of tire choices—everything from fast-rolling pavement tires, to fatter street rubber, to knobby mountain bike tires.
The Pangea may look like a mountain bike with drop bars, but it’s more appropriate to think of it as a touring bike on steroids. The 17.7" long chainstays were designed for carrying loaded panniers without heel-strike, and they did just that. The bottom bracket is slung low, 10.5" above the ground, for added stability. The low BB did not cause any problems during my limited off-road sessions; however, please remember that the Pangea is not a mountain bike, nor is it designed with a singletrack-specific geometry.
The combination of the 71.5˚ head angle and rigid chromoly fork produced a shimmy-free front end that handled intuitively and felt rock solid. I performed my obligatory "look mom, no hands" test ride, fully loaded at 30+ mph, with positive results. Closer to home, the Pangea felt predictable and stable during the countless shopping runs in which I loaded my front and rear panniers full of groceries.
The complete Pangea (sans pedals) that I tested came with V-brakes and retails for $3631 (a disc brake version is available for $3711). I found the V-brakes sufficient, but if this were my personal bike, I’d have ordered it with disc brakes for the ultimate in stopping power. Co-Motion outfitted my bike with the optional $100 Tubus Tara front rack and $110 Tubus Cargo rear rack.
The Pangea is also available as a frame/fork for $1850 (disc or V-brake) or $1995 for a Rohloff-hub-compatible frame with fork. Included with the purchase price is Co-Motion’s fitting guide service that helps customers determine proper frame size. If a stock bike size just doesn’t cut it, then full-custom geometry can be had for an additional $300 charge. With its stunning "dark metallic orange" paint job and speckless TIG welds, my test frame was a sight to behold. Co-Motion offers 30 stock colors, plus a mind-boggling array of paint upgrade options.
Co-Motion hand-builds all of their wheels. My 36-spoke set included the same DT-Swiss 540 hubs and Velocity Aeroheat rims that Co-Motion uses to build their tandem wheels. Despite some pretty harsh abuse, the wheels have stayed true. A RaceFace Deus XC 46/34/24-tooth triple crank mated to a Shimano XT 11-34-tooth 9-speed cassette provided a sufficiently wide gear range for loaded touring. Climbing steep terrain while fully loaded was never a problem.
Gear changes were flawless, thanks to the Shimano Dura Ace 9-speed bar-end shifters and XT front and XTR rear derailleurs. One complaint is that there was minimal clearance between Tubus lowrider front rack and the front wheel skewer. That made it rather difficult to grasp the nut on the skewer and twist it the few turns required to get the front wheel loose enough to come out of the dropouts.
The stock Continental Town & Country 26"x2.1" tires worked well on pavement, dirt roads and crushed limestone bike paths. My only beef was that under hard braking on wet roads, they seemed to skid out relatively easily, which I attributed to the lack of a tread or siping on the slick center. For my back-road/off-road tour, I switched to a pair of Bontrager XDX 26”x2.1" knobbies and was pleased to see that there was enough chainstay clearance (though I did have to partially deflate them to get them to clear the V-brakes). There was also plenty of room for my Planet Bike fenders. Yes!
There’s no doubt that $1850 for a frame and fork is a fat chunk of change. Frankly, the Pangea is a boutique bike, targeted for the discerning tourer with a bent for less-traveled routes. If you are an everyday commuter who hauls groceries, and might occasionally load the panniers for an overnighter, then there are less expensive bikes that would work well for you. I envision the Pangea customer as a person with an adventure-touring lifestyle who’s willing to pay for the best possible tool for their chosen pursuit. If you’re shopping for the best, then the Pangea deserves a spot on your short list.Tweet
TrekWorld is an annual event that Trek hosts for their dealers and sales reps. Over several days, inside of the Madison, WI convention center and at Trek HQ in nearby Waterloo, the company provides educational seminars, displays their complete lineup, and offers demo rides. I was among a group of journalists that Trek invited to the gig.
Trek, like many bicycle companies, chooses to not show their entire line-up at the annual industry trade show, opting instead for their own private dealer showing. Therefore, TrekWorld was my first chance to see all of Trek under one roof. I also had a chance to tour their factory in nearby Waterloo, WI. What follows are some of the highlights from my whirlwind adventure.
Trek President John Burke used part of his keynote address to challenge the massive crowd of dealers to support People for Bikes’ drive to collect one million signatures from cyclists who support a better future for bicycling. People for Bikes aims to use the signatures to show our legislators the massive grassroots support that exists for cycling, and to lobby for cycling-related infrastructure in the next round of Federal transportation legislation. You can click here to sign the online pledge of support. It only takes seconds.
While I’m on the topic of advocacy, I should mention that Trek supports a number of cycling-related advocacy initiatives. For instance, Trek and US Trek dealers have teamed up to donate $1 from every helmet sale to the League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Community program. By the end of 2010, this will amount to well over $1 million in funding. You can read more about Trek’s advocacy activities at this link.
Seeing all of Trek’s women’s specific bikes displayed in one section of the exhibit hall made me realize just how serious the folks at Trek treat this product category. From pavement to mountain, casual to competitive, Trek offers women plenty of choices. Trek’s FX line of "fitness hybrid" is one of the hottest categories with women riders. The bikes blend of utility and comfort in a practical union. The top of the line 7.6 FX WSD features an IsoZone mono-stay rear that softens the ride. The top model also features IsoZone handlebar with integrated shock absorber, ergonomic grips, and a Flex Form saddle that moves slightly during pedaling.
The 7.6 FX WSD in badass black:
IsoZone ergo grips:
Flex Form Saddle:
The Gary Fisher Collection’s Fisher’s "Dual Sport" line-up is an interesting category that blends road and mountain bike attributes into one product. At first glance the Dual Sport may look like a 29er hardtail, but a closer inspection reveals minimalilst knobby tires that are designed to roll fast on pavement, yet provide grip on gravel roads or dirt trails. The rider position is road-friendly, more upright than on a mountain bike. The entry-level Bodega (below) retails for around $450.
Gary Fisher Collection Transport+ cargo bike with electric pedal assist. We hope to get one for Bicycle Times product review:
Trek Valencia+ electric assist commuter bike retails for around $2500:
Stylish Trek Belleville has 3 speeds, f/r racks, generator hub and retails for around $660:
A WSD Belleville for the the ladies:
All of Trek’s soft goods now carry the Bontrager brand label: apparel, helmets, shoes, gloves and the like. The same goes for accessories and components such as tires, fenders, racks, lights and so on.Bontrager Eco panniers are made from 51% recycled materials, including inner tubes:
Bontrager Nebula fenders feature "interchange system" for easy installation and removal:
Bontrager commuting apparel:
For additional coverage of TrekWorld, including my factory tour, check out my Dirt Rag blog.Tweet
The versatility of the bicycle never ceases to amaze. On a weekly basis, I use my bicycles for hauling groceries, commuting to the office, escaping into the woods, and for my one concession to an organized ride—a weekly "city ride" with my pals Kevin and John Paul.
Our city ride involves the three of us meeting late Friday afternoon at a rail-trail parking lot on the north side of Pittsburgh, and then proceeding to get lost on our bicycles. Sometimes we rope a few friends, or out-of-town visitors, into joining our folly.
The process begins with a parking lot discussion, the purported purpose of which is to select a few "landmarks" or "events" or "scenic viewpoints" that we’d like to visit. Then we chart a very rough route that just might possibly link the night’s targets together. Rather than sweating the details of the route in advance, we plan to get lost on purpose.
Not that we try and get hopelessly lost, rather we venture into new neighborhoods and explore routes that we haven’t taken before. Certainly, we carry maps and occasionally rely on my iPhone to get our bearings, but we mostly rely on dead reckoning and instincts—not to mention a "devil may care" attitude. Hey, as long as we’re riding, and exploring, we’re happy and never "really lost." Getting off track, and then back "on" track, is part of the fun.
Mountain bikes are the weapon of choice for our "city ride" as we tend to get adventurous, and don’t mind occasionally romping on city parks trails and/or bouncing atop railroad ballast (for short stretches.) I’ve used touring bikes with fatty tires, and that worked out just fine. Ed from Brompton visited and rode a folder, but we took it easy on him and stuck to the pavement.
With its abundance of hills and rivers, Pittsburgh is blessed with countless scenic overlooks, and ferreting out the hilltop viewpoints is a favorite game of ours.
We also like to roll by sporting events, outdoor concerts, art galleries, murals, cemeteries (which often occupy prime hilltop real estate). The slower pace of a bicycle, as compared to an automobile, allows us to learn the lay of the land in various neighborhoods, and to sample the local flavor.
Dinner is part of the plan. When it starts to get dark and/or our stomachs start growling, we start looking for a place to eat. Rolling though neighborhoods on bike is a great way to scout for eateries. Or sometimes we’ll pick an "old reliable" restaurant in advance, and work it into our route. We like eating good food and lots of it; therefore, we try and pick a restaurant that’s near our start/finish point, so we don’t have far to pedal back to our cars (yes, we live in widespread areas, so we drive to our meeting place).
Our typical ride covers is around 30 miles. The whole enchilada is a perfect blend of pedaling, socializing and discovery. It’s a great way and to wrap up the work week.
Enjoy the "city ride" photos below:
View of downtown from the West End Overlook.
An empty lot on Troy Hill, across the Allegheny River from donwtown.
In Pittsburgh’s "South Hills" at a spot overlooking the Monongahela River.
We ride year round…
…rain or shine.Tweet
When the Co-Motion Pangea came into my life back in February, the snow was knee deep. As the calendar flips to August, I find myself putting the finishing touches on the Bicycle Times #7 print review that chronicles my five-month relationship with this fine adventure touring steed. And quite the happy relationship it has been.
I’ve managed to rack up countless miles commuting, grocery hauling and joy-riding atop the Pangea. But the idea behind Pangea is loaded touring over rough roads. To that end, my testing included a multi-day "bikepacking" trip with several co-workers, which Justin Steiner documented in this Dirt Rag blog (I’ve reused several of his photos here).
Even with my front/rear panniers loaded with three days worth of camping gear, the Pangea felt solid and handled precisely when I bombed over washed-out snowmobile trails, not to mention occasional singletrack. I rode confidently over rough terrain that would have produced much sketchier results, were I riding a normal-duty touring bike. I don’t want to spill all the beans here, so I’ll simply suggest that you keep your eyes peeled for my full review in BT #7, which is coming soon to subscribers’ mailboxes and newsstands.
For more information on the Pangea’s tech and specs, check out my previous blog. Co-Motion is online at www.co-motion.com.
What do you get when you combine marketing types from 27 bike-related companies with journos representing 39 titles at the luxurious Deer Valley resort in Park City, UT? You get the bicycle industry schmooze-fest know as PressCamp 2010.
According to the self-destructing tape, my mission, should I decide to accept it, was to cram as many 40-minute private meetings with company reps into three days, with afternoons left open for roaming the open-air expo and riding demo bikes on the lift-assisted Deer Valley trails and/or local pavement. Networking at happy hour and dinner, for good measure.
Journalists struggling to find an open slot on the appointment whiteboard.
My trip was courtesy of the manufacturers in attendance. What did the folks who picked up the tab expect to get out of the gig? Other than the opportunity communicate their brand’s message via face-time with influential mover-and-shaker journalists such as myself, ahem? In a word: copy. Ink, blogs, Tweets, and so on. Not a problem, in and of itself. As long as there’s information worth reporting. To be sure, our readers tell us that they look to us to learn about interesting products and the companies that make them. To that end, below is part one of my effort to filter through three days worth of information overload, and post up the interesting nuggets. Part two to follow shortly, after that glaze melts from your eyes.
Wilderness Trail Bikes (WTB) has a rich history in mountain biking. Several years ago Freedom by WTB was created as a way to focus more attention on designing tires, wheel systems, saddles and grips for pavement applications. They’re big into advocacy. Freedom’s sister non-profit organization, Transportation Alternatives for Marin (TAM), in cooperation with the Marin County Bicycle Coalition (MCBC), authored the Safe Routes to School Program which has grown into a $612 million national program. TAM and the MCBC authored the Non Motorized Transportation Pilot Program which awarded $21.5 million to four communities throughout the United States with the purpose of demonstrating the extent which “bicycling and walking can carry a significant part of the transportation load.” On the product front, I liked the looks of their Ryder commuter/hybrid tire that feature a dense tread pattern for fast rolling on pavement combined with edges for gripping loose terrain on the bike path or dirt. The Ryder has a rugged Urban Armor Casing and comes in 700×32 and 700×38 sizes.
Dahon was born out of the gasoline crisis of 1975. Dr. David Hon, the company founder, was waiting in hour-long lines to buy gasoline for his car, pondering the world’s dependence on oil. After brainstorming for solutions to lessen the world’s dependence on oil, Dr. Hon settled on his primary mode of transportation from college—the bicycle. However, the bicycle, as it existed at that time, needed to integrate more readily with other forms of more environmentally sustainable transport, like trains and subways. Dr. Hon’s solution—a portable folding bicycle. Dr. Hon worked evenings and weekends in his garage over the next seven years, trying to perfect a folding bicycle that would maintain the riding performance of a regular bicycle but would fold quickly. In 1982, introduced the first Dahon folding bicycle. Our Bicycle Times staff is testing the Dahon IOS P7 (below) and the review will appear in a future issue.
Lazer has been making motorcycle, bicycle and paragliding helmets since 1919. In 2010 Sean van Waes (division manager) and Peter Steenwegen (sales manager) purchased the bicycle helmet division of Lazer SA and formed a new company, Lazer Sport NV, based in Antwerp, Belgium. Rather than pick one of Lazer’s helmets to highlight, I’ll spend my word-count singing the praises of their Rollsys Fit System. Turning the easy-to-reach thumbwheel located on top of the helmet adjusts the cinching mechanism. What I like about the Rollsys design is that the cinching mechanism surrounds the head completely, for even pressure and a comfortable, snug fit. Strictly butter.
In 1853 American Hiram Hutchinson set up a tire factory at Langlée, near Montargis, France. Hutchinson started production of bicycle tires in 1890. The Toro is a brand new MTB tread courtesy of the venerable tire-maker. Available in either 26″ or 29″ diameter by 2.15″ wide, the Toro passes my eyeball test as a good all-around tread design. Low knobs on the top of the tire are designed to optimize grip and help shed mud. Hardskin sidewall reinforcement for resistance to tears and cuts. I’ve got this tire on my radar for a full-blown Dirt Rag print review.
Saris, which also owns CycleOps, is headquartered in an old farmhouse just off the bike pathway in Madison, WI. Their production facility is located out back. They’re into cycling advocacy in a big way. Their annual Saris Gala raised over $500,000 for Bike Fed of WI. The Saris product that caught my eye was their updated Thelma hitch-mount rack, which is now compatible with 29″ mountain bike wheels. Universal hitch mount, folds next to vehicle when not in use and comes in 2, 3 or 4 bikes models. Thelma’s simple, elegant and functional design strikes my fancy.
Founded by entrepreneur Skip Hess in 1974, Mongoose is now part of Cycling Sports Group, the same company that owns Cannondale, GT and Schwinn. I had a chance to throw a leg over the 2011 Mongoose Teocali Super for some groovy lift-assisted runs at Deer Valley Resort. For 2011 the rear FreeDrive suspension’s travel on the Teocali gets bumped up to 150mm and the all-new hydroformed aluminum alloy frame sports a 1.125″ to 1.5″ tapered headtube. With a RockShox Revelation RL fork paired with a Monarch 4.2 in the rear, the Teocali smoothed over the rough spots as well as any bike I’ve ridden with 150mm of travel. Mine was a limited test session, but I came away enjoying the bike’s coosh, bottomless feeling.
Shane Cooper started DeFeet in 1992 with a single knitting machine given to him by his father. Cooper experimented and devised a knitting method that was essentially the reverse of traditional methods. His first product, the Air-E-Ator, started a revolution in athletic socks that continues today. In addition to socks, DeFeet also makes Un•D•System™ baselayering apparel. With “compression” apparel all the rage these days, I was happy to score a pair of DeCompressor socks. I used them on the airplane ride home, after a 10-day road trip. They made my legs and feet happy. I’ll be giving them some additional testing.
Just so you know that it’s not “all work and no play” on these grueling press camp trips, I offer the following evidence of the sweet trails at Deer Valley.Tweet
The Rails to Trails Act of 1983 may rank as the best thing to happen to American cycling in the last 25 years. Technically section 8(d) of the National Trails Systems Act, this landmark legislation greases the skids for the conversion of abandoned and unused railroad corridors into recreational trails. According to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, America’s rail-trail count currently stands at 1,534 open trails for a total of 15,346 miles. It’s refreshing to know that even Congress can occasionally knock one out of the park.
Certainly, I appreciate the utility of my bicycle for everyday commuting. And the highlight of my week is often a blissful moment spent piloting my mountain bike through the local woods. However, there’s something special about the long and winding rail trail. There’s an epic adventure waiting to happen—just add biker.
Case in point: last spring Franklin Jefferson Wuerthele and I cranked out a 267-mile self-supported tour along the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Trail from Southwestern Pennsylvania to Washington, DC. Except for a short segment of pavement at the beginning, and a short mid-ride detour, we rode on a relatively-level, car-free trail all day long. Amid spectacularly scenic surroundings that blended nature and history in an tasty mix.
Without further ado, I present the following travelogue in the hopes that it will inspire you to discover a rail trail near you, and punch your own ticket to an epic journey, complete with memories to last a lifetime.
Franklin Jefferson Wuerthele at the trailhead in Somerset, PA. The wet snow did not dampen our enthusiasm as we began our journey:
First night tenting in the snow at Husky Haven campground was quite cozy, thanks to the ample supply of firewood that’s provide at no additional charge with your camping fee. We got our money’s worth:
The 1908 ft. long Salisbury Viaduct (insert Marx Brothers routine here) crosses the Casselman River valley west of of Meyersdale. PA (it crosses CSX tracks and U.S. Route 219). The entry is a great photo op:
When I said "relatively-flat" I was conveniently ignoring the fact that the Great Allegheny Passage gradually climbs the Allegheny Mountains and peaks at an elevation of 2392 ft. near the town of Deal PA, just shy of the entrance to the 3294 ft. long Big Savage tunnel (a stone’s throw from from MD border). Here’s a self-portrait of Franklin and me smiling as we emerge from the tunnel (with the climb behind us) and we get a our first glimpse or Maryland countryside:
My first visit to the beautiful mountain town of Frostburg, MD—where our friends at Adventure Sports bike shop hooked us up with crash space for the night:
At Cumberland, MD the two of us met up with a couple dozen other riders who were on the annual C&O Canal ride (a.k.a. CANDO) organized by Maurice’s brother Michael Tierney. The group is a rolling party on two wheels. Our CANDO group camped at primitive sites along the C&O trail. Huge honking campfires and sing-alongs were the order of the day, er, night:
Camping is great, but… One of the conveniences of rail-trail touring is the fact that the routes often roll through small or medium sized town and, with proper planning, you can pop into town for meals, beer or emergency needs. Is it just me or does Sheetz deli food really taste four-star good after pedaling all morning? While most nights our dinners were "pack and cook your own," the CANDO crew took over Bill’s Place in Little Orleans, MD (very near our campsite) for a "dinner night out" party:
They say the Paw Paw Tunnel is made of 6 million bricks. That’s impressive:
An "oldie but goodie" dam along the Potomac:
Franklin Jefferson and I made the mistake of sleeping late to "wait out" the rain on what was the longest-mileage day of the trip. We were still a couple miles from the camp when the sun went down. Oh, well it made for a great self-portrait as the dim orange sun set over the Potomac:
Here’s a shot of me with the Novara Randonee touring rig (read the review here) that I rode during this excursion:
The C&O trail ends in the Georgetown district of Washington, DC. By this time, the temperatures had warmed and the sunshine made thing feel milder than they did during our snowy start:
Are you feeling inspired? I hope so. Or maybe you’ve already completed your own epic excursion and you’d like to share? Please use the comments field below to share your thoughts. See you on the rail tails!Tweet
The Bicycle Times & Dirt Rag World Tour is storming Richmond, VA this weekend and roaming the halls of the the North American Handmade Bicycle Show sponsored by Shimano. Our road crew is getting the lowdown out the latest in custom bicycles from builders from all over the world—as well as the freshest produce from component and apparel designers. Shutterbug Justin has been busy at the show snapping pics. Check out his first day’s worth of eye candy at this link, and his day two gallery here. For additional NAHBS coverage, visit the Dirt Rag blog.Tweet