All posts by votsek

Display Your Bicycle Tours Using Open Source Maps

As I was writing my latest blog posts, I started looking for a way to show my bicycle trip tracks without running into map copyright issues. I use Strava to record all of my rides and the Strava maps are good, but they are copyrighted. I also have Garmin BaseCamp, but the maps are too crude.
 
With some searching I found uMap. It is a tool that overlays open source maps. My open source map account is with OpenStreetMap. When logging in to uMap, you are asked to specify your map provider. It is easy to import GPX files from your device or from recording apps such as Strava to create a track on a map. The map with the track can be embedded into a blog or web page using HTML provided automatically by uMap. The track can be annotated with points of interest. Once embedded, your user can browse the map for more details. I used uMap in my two latest blog posts.

Cycling on Long Island: Montauk Point Excursion

This was the second of two day trips that I had on Long Island, New York. The first took me to Shelter Island, a 50 mile ride that was a nice way to spend a day. This 45 mile ride to Montauk Point was better in terms of interesting places to visit in addition to the views of the waterfront.

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This ride took me from Amagansett to Montauk Point. Route 27 east was busy, but there is a generous bicycle lane all the way to Montauk Point. Still, I was looking for opportunities to use side roads as an option to get away from Route 27. That opportunity came when I found the fork in the road that took me down Old Montauk Highway.

Hither Hills State Park looked interesting, so I took a spin around the camp sites and did some people watching. I propped my bike against a rail fence and hiked over the dune to see the beach that stretched seemingly for miles in both directions. It was a somewhat chilly and windy day, so there were only a few people walking the beach. There were some lifeguards trying to keep warm and chatting at the lifeguard stand.

Hither Hills State Park Beach

From there I rode into Montauk and picked up Route 27 once again for a short distance to the entrance of Camp Hero State Park. This looked like a good place to explore. The entrance road took me to a parking lot on the sand cliff. As I looked back toward the northwest, I saw a radar tower and I wanted to learn more about it.

Camp Hero dates back to World War II when it was both a defensive position and a training base. As a defense, it had large cannon bunkers aimed over the water to defend against German submarines or warships that might approach the coast. As a training base, it was used to train soldiers to operate antiaircraft weapons with live fire at unmanned aircraft.

When I got to the base of the RADAR antenna, I learned that it was built much later in 1960 as a part of the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system in place at the time to provide air defense for the United States against Soviet bombers. This particular site could detect and track targets up to 200 miles away. It was decommissioned in 1980.

RADAR at Hero Camp State Park

From there to Montauk Point was a very short ride. The lighthouse there is picturesque, but they charged an entry fee to get close. I didn’t see a need to do that. Instead, I spent my money at the small restaurant at the point. There is a great selection of food and I had a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich with a soda. The outdoor seating was nice, especially since the sun had broken out and I was able to bask in warm rays as I ate.

Montauk Light

On the way back to Montauk, I spotted a road that I had mentally marked on my way east toward the point earlier. I swung right and headed toward Block Island Sound on Old West Lake Drive. This was another side trip that happily took me away from Route 27 once again.

I was getting hungry for some ice cream. A marina with a small store seemed to be the ticket, but all they sold was bait. The person behind the counter was able to point me toward a Ben and Jerry’s that was a little further up the road. I happened to pass a boat ramp where two men were taking a 30 foot commercial fishing boat out of the water using a trailer that had hydraulic bunks to lift the boat up and out of the water. That was something to think about as I ate my Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream.

I hung out at the area near the ice cream shop for a while, soaking in the ambiance of the docks, boats, and water. Then it was time to head back to my lodging. There was a hill to climb on Route 27 that rose about 140 feet over two miles with grades up to 6%. The reward was 3 miles downhill after the summit.

The remaining ride west on Route 27 was uneventful and it didn’t feel as long as the ride in the opposite direction in the morning. I had a slight following breeze pushing me toward home. I was moving along so well that I almost missed my turn.

At the end of the day I was happy with my travels. The time that I spent at the beaches, the parks, and the waterfront were rewarding and the food was good. I would recommend this ride to Montauk Point if you are willing to put up with a few miles of Route 27.

Cycling on Long Island: Shelter Island Excursion

My wife Marne had a bridge camp in Amagansett, Long Island, so I decided to go with her and bring my bicycle for some day trips. Our lodging was inexpensive because we had a room provided at the excellent rate of $100 per night by the camp sponsors. A friend told me that that area is rated as on of the worst in the country for cycling, but my research didn’t turn up those results. My experience was mixed, but I can’t say it was an awful experience.

To begin, I’m a distance cyclist, a bicycle tourist, so I’ve become accustomed to long distances between stops for interesting features. The busy roads are the major negative, but I rode in early June so that the high summer traffic was not yet in play. There are very few trails in the area that support the distances that I like to ride, usually 50 to 60 miles on a day tour. I did two rides during this visit.

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This was the first ride that took me from Amagansett to Shelter Island, a total of 50 round trip miles. Before heading west, I rode to the Devon Yacht Club where the bridge camp was being held. The yacht club is located in an area of Napeague Bay that is bounded on three sides by Long Island real estate. It is a picturesque site, although there were only two sailboats on moorings since it was early in the season.

Starting toward my goal, I pedaled Route 27 west to East Hampton where I turned north on Route 114. While Amagansett and East Hampton are charming little towns, it was good to turn off of 27 and ride on the more pastoral 114. There is an adequate bike lane most of the route.

Near Sag Harbor the New York bike route took me into a residential area where I found Havens Beach. I had my camera with me and I was taking pictures when a woman with a reusable shopping bag approached me and asked what I was photographing. I explained that I am a cyclist and street photographer.

We chatted and she explained her activities on the beach. As a member of the local historical society and sometime beachcomber, she was searching for artifacts. There had been a dredge operation in November 2017 and the tailings, mostly coarse sand, were dumped on Havens Beach. She comes out to scour the beach each time it rains to find shards of pottery and ceramics that are mixed with the tailings. Each rain washes away surface sand to reveal more of these treasures.  She showed me some of the pieces that she found, likely dating back two or three hundred years.

Havens Beach Beachcomber

After my visit at the beach, I spent some time in Sag Harbor enjoying the waterfront before crossing the bridge into North Hampton. I boarded the South Ferry and as we shuttled across the Peconic River to Shelter Island I asked the attendant on the deck about lunch recommendations on Shelter Island. Without hesitation, she sent me to Maria’s Kitchen, a place that serves Mexican cuisine.

Maria’s kitchen is about mid way between the South Ferry and the North Ferry on Shelter Island.  I ordered an enchilada and was invited to sit in the garden behind the restaurant to eat. It was a green and peaceful place to rest a while before continuing my ride. They were also kind enough to let me use their bathroom.

Garden at Maria’s Kitchen

I came to a point where Route 114 turns left and Route 37 takes off to the right. I decided to explore Route 37. Unfortunately, it was mostly residential with no access to the water. So, I doubled back and headed toward the North Ferry. There were quite a few great spots to stop and enjoy a view of the Peconic River.

The Mashomack Preserve occupies a large area of the island, but cycling is not permitted. If you are prepared to hike, this seems to be a popular destination. I was not prepared to hike and it was too late in the day for me.

Before heading back to Amagansett, I stopped at Marie Eiffel Market for some ice cream. I parked my bike and walked to the nearby docks as I ate it and rested a while longer for the 25 mile ride.

Peconic River at Marie Eiffel’s

The ride back to our lodging was uneventful, except that I found East Hampton congested. There are no bike lanes through East Hampton and the traffic was heavy in late afternoon at about four PM. I chose to bail out of the street and slowly ride the sidewalk through town to avoid getting squished.

It’s probably not for everybody, but I enjoyed my excursion to Shelter Island.

Bicycles and Bugs in the Mouth

Last week I was moving along smartly behind another rider I was using to set a pace. We were clipping along at between 18 and 20 miles per hour. Suddenly, something smacked the roof of my mouth. I felt a chitinous object in the back of my throat about the size of a bean. Instantaneously I hacked and spit it out. As it came out the only thing that I could verify for you is that it was black and that I was able to confirm the size as it accelerated toward the ground.

The roof of my mouth was throbbing with pain. I wondered whether or not to declare an emergency, but decided to wait while monitoring for some other side effect such as swelling from a sting. After all, it could have been a bee or a wasp.

Later in the evening, the symptoms evolved into something like a sore throat. That night I had some issue with breathing because the back of my throat was swollen. The symptoms persisted the next day, although it was getting progressively better.

There is a need, I thought, for bug protection for bicycle riders. Research on the Internet uncovered mixed results, as it often does. One solution that I found is a screen to cover your face, similar to the protection worn by fencers. That is something that I do not want to be seen wearing. A bandanna is also in that category. I had visions of a small mask to fit over the mouth with a screen to keep the bugs out. I must have been channeling Hannibal Lecter.

Other sage advice from the Internet included, “Keep your mouth shut”. That’s a problem if you are forced to mouth-breathe due to allergies or exertion. Another person suggested you will “learn your lesson” if you happen to suck in a bee or wasp.

I happen to have a theory about that to ease your fears, although not scientifically founded or proven. Some bugs are less likely to run into your face because they can sense the slightly increased pressure in front of you. Flies have that ability. They can sense the slight increase in pressure as your hand or the swatter approaches and escape just in time. Bees, wasps, and flies are maneuverable and they can get out of the way to save themselves, unlike a beetle lumbering through the air.

Today I “got back on that horse” and rode my usual 25 mile training run. I must admit that I tried to keep my mouth shut as much as possible. There were a couple of clouds of gnats that I rode through, but no more bean-sized suicidal beetles. The farther I rode I realized that there was no problem to solve. I’ll swallow a few gnats, but another collision with a black bean is unlikely.

NSAIDS and Cycling

Since 2011 I have been on an aspirin regimen to avoid stroke as prescribed by my cardiologist. The problems sometimes associated with aspirin such as bleeding and allergy have not been problems for me. That made it easy for me to unwittingly take a slightly higher dose than normally recommended with the feeling that more might be better. That is not so.

 

There was a recent post on the journeyonabike Facebook page on this issue that got me interested in researching the topic more. People were commenting on their use of NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) to prevent or minimize discomfort during a ride. Others were warning against that practice and I decided to look into it since it pertained to me. I am not a doctor and if you need more information as it pertains to you, you should consult with your personal doctor.

 

The overall concern is the effect of NSAIDs in general on renal (kidney) function, especially on people who are engaged in rigorous exercise, including bicycle touring and related training. NSAIDS and dehydration are a bad combination and the use of NSAIDs as a preventive measure is not recommended. That is, dosing with an NSAID to prevent pain during a ride is not a good idea. The long term effect of this can be kidney damage. There are other side effects on heart rate and heart health, but it has been difficult to find all of the pertinent and credible information in one place. A typical article is the one that I found at the National Center for Biotechnology Information. It is straightforward to find much more information on this by doing searches on the Internet for topics such as “NSAIDs and hydration”.

 

Another personal finding is that the bad effects of NSAIDs can be mitigated by lower doses. It appears that at lower doses some of the enzyme and hormone activity affecting digestive and renal function are impacted less. The recommended dose of aspirin as a stroke prevention regimen appears to be 70 to 350 milligrams with many suggestions that 70 to 100 milligram dosage is adequate. I am pursuing this with the guidance of my cardiologist.

 

There are other concerns with the use of NSAIDs, including discontinuing an aspirin regimen and use of more than one NSAID at a time. There are studies indicating that discontinuing an aspirin regimen can increase the probability of a bad heart event. Using another NSAID such as Advil or Ibuprofen while on an aspirin regimen can increase the chances of bleeding. Use of acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead is recommended by some, which can have its own bad side effects on the liver when overused or used along with regular alcohol consumption.

 

All of that said, personal caution is the best course of action. NSAIDs should be used with moderation and regular dosing should be with the care and consultation of a medical doctor. This is especially important for people such as cyclists who tax their organs with regular exercise. Above all, do not use NSAIDs in an attempt to make your ride more comfortable. Instead, use regular training to build yourself up to what ever level of performance you need for your travels.

Stationary Trainer Time – Boring!

At this time I’ve started using my stationary trainer once again. I wrote about it in an earlier post. It is still working well after three years, although according to my records on Strava I only have about 360 miles on it. I record all of my rides, including the imaginary ones on my stationary.

This year I fell short by about 600 miles on my annual 3000 mile riding goal. That was for several reasons: bad spring weather, major home remodeling, and a bad cold. The winter is beginning to look like a cold and wet one, keeping me off the trail. I will ride my bicycle outdoors down to 20 degrees, but not on snow and ice.

So, here I am, back on the stationary trainer, trying my best to stay in shape for real riding and for life. I moved it to the front of my little room by the windows so that my neighbors can watch me go nowhere for nearly two hours, two or three times per week. One thing that is real is the sweat.

It is very difficult to maintain the discipline on something so boring. It does take close to two hours to get a good workout. That’s about the length of my outdoor training rides. I rarely ride less than 25 miles and average about fifteen miles per hour. I do the same thing on  my virtual rides. While I complain, I still recommend it for when the weather gets too cold and icy as long as you can muster the discipline.

Dave and the Electric Bike

Dave and I met two years earlier on the same ride from DC to Pittsburgh. This was his ninth time on the annual ride. My memory of him as a cyclist was that he was not the strongest, but had the stamina and drive to ride the entire route. Both of us were the last riders to reach Pittsburgh that year.

This year was different and Dave was sometimes among the first riders to reach camp each day. I’m 71 years old and Dave is about the same age. I didn’t think that it was possible to build endurance and strength at our age, so it was surprising to observe Dave’s performance given my past experience.

On the last day of our latest ride, Dave and I were among the top group to arrive in Pittsburgh. As we approached the city I was cranking along at 16 to 17 miles per hour and when I looked behind me Dave was right there. At one point he shouted something like, “You can’t get away from me!” It reminded my of the 1950s song “Beep Beep”:

While riding in my Cadillac, what, to my surprise,
A little Nash Rambler was following me, about one-third my size.
The guy must have wanted it to pass me up
As he kept on tooting his horn. Beep! Beep!
I’ll show him that a Cadillac is not a car to scorn.

I was motivated to keep up the pace and after some time I left him behind.

I reached Pittsburgh and the rendezvous point for the end of the ride ahead of him by a few minutes. When he arrived we began to talk and I realized by something that he said that he was riding an electric bike! It is a very stealthy electric by Trek with a relatively small battery and the motor in the bottom bracket. He had bought it several months before this ride. Dave said that it weighs about 45 pounds and offered to let me try it, which I was eager to do.

After a quick introduction to the controls, I pedaled down the trail. I must have laughed all the way because the sensation was fantastic. Up I slight incline, the motor kicked in to keep my effort and speed constant as I pedaled. It is an electric assist design rather than full-time electric. On the return ride, I began up a rather steep incline and pushed the button one or two times to increase the assist. I zoomed right up, applying the same effort that I used on the flat, giggling all the way.

When I returned to the parking lot, Dave and I talked a bit more and I learned things about him that I didn’t know or at least didn’t remember from our previous meeting. In the past nine years he has had a heart bypass, four stents, and a mechanical heart valve implanted. This remarkable person wants to stay active and the electric assist bicycle gives him that opportunity because he has much more control over exertion and heart rate. Everybody on the ride has internal drive that makes them strive for life. For me, Dave epitomizes that striving.

As I departed, I shook Dave’s hand and said, “See you next year.” Dave replied, “We’ll see.” At first I though that was a very fatalistic response. I came to realize that this is a man living every day as though it was going to be his last. I hope I have the pleasure of being with him again next year.

Maintain Your Chain

This year I’m trying something new: I replaced my chain before my cassette became so worn that it also needed to be replaced. In February one of the mechanics at Harris Cyclery recommended that I check my chain more frequently for wear. I had been taking my Long Haul Trucker in once a year for service with about 3000 miles between service. That’s too long for a chain and each time I also needed to replace a worn out cassette.

As a chain wears the rollers get farther apart due to the wear of the pins that keep the rollers in place and provide a small axle for each roller and connecting link of the chain. People refer to  this as “chain stretch”, but it is not stretching. The cumulative effect of pin wear is that the chain does get longer, but this is due to the loose fit of the pins at each wear point on the chain. They can wear badly enough to fail, causing the chain to break at one of the links. You never want to let a chain get that bad.

I purchased a Park Tool CC-2 Chain Checker. They are available from Amazon for about $27. The tool features two pins that measure the distance between a set of rollers. The user fits the pins on the tool between two rollers on a taut part of the chain. I usually measure the chain above the chain stay. The next step is to rotate the indicator dial until it stops moving, which means that the pins are as far apart as they can get between the rollers.

The dial has numbers .25, .50, .75, and 1.0 on the dial that measure chain wear. I measure a new chain so that I have a baseline. The numbers on this tool are not a unit of measure or a percentage. Interpreting them is a judgement call and that’s why I recommend measuring a new chain as a baseline. For example, my new chain measures at .25. Above .50 I will replace the chain. I got about 1200 miles from my chain before replacing it. I probably could have gotten another 200 to 300 miles from it. I decided to get it done before a fall tour.  

If you ride long and hard with a worn chain, it will wear the teeth on the cassette. This wear effectively increases the space between the teeth and rounds the corners of the teeth. When this happens, the cassette must be replaced together with the chain. If the cassette is not replaced, the new chain will be stressed and will fail sooner because the rollers will not make proper  contact with the teeth. This misfit can cause problem shifting as well as vibration and chain jumping.

One key to maximizing the life of a chain is to lubricate it frequently. I lubricate about every 50 to 100 miles. If I ride in the rain or get the chain wet some other way such as washing the bike I will lubricate before my next ride. I use a lubricant made specifically for chains: Finish Line DRY Bike Lubricant. I’ve bee using it for about four years. Do not use WD-40 or household 30W oil. WD-40 is volatile and will evaporate, leaving the chain unprotected. Household oil may be too viscous and fail to wash contaminants out of chain when applied.

Another factor in maximizing chain life is your riding style. I try to favor the largest chain ring because that will tend to favor the larger sprockets of the cassette. This is important because on the larger sprockets more teeth will be in contact with the chain. Chain wear impacts the larger sprockets less and will help extend the life of your cassette. In practice, if you use the largest chain ring, you can achieve a comfortable cadence on a larger cassette sprocket in many circumstances. Of course, on some terrain such as hills this may not be practical all of the time.

This is the first time I’ve had a chain replacement without the cost of a matching cassette replacement. In my opinion it was worth the change at this time because the rear derailleur seems to perform better with crisp shifting up and down the range. It also gives me confidence that my equipment is as mechanically as good as it can be.

Cycle the Erie Canal 2017

This year my son Eric and one of my granddaughters, Sofia,  joined me on the ride, my fifth with Parks and Trails New York. This was Eric’s second time on the ride and Sofia’s first. She is thirteen years old and handled the ride very well. I found myself behind her for much of the ride. I was behind not because she was riding faster, but because she was great at setting and maintaining a sustainable pace.

Along the way there were some great, old-fashioned diners where we enjoyed some meals on the road. At each tent city, we pitched and broke camp as a team and got on the trail every morning before 7:30. Sofia assembled a food cache in her panniers with tidbits from each rest stop that she shared with her dad and me. She quickly learned bicycle tour etiquette and contributed to making the ride safe for all of the riders with coaching from dad on the fine points.

At our last camp in Niskayuna, a person came up to me as we were standing outside our tents in the evening. We talked and he asked about our pace on the trail. I told him that we were among the first in camp each day. He expressed his thought that perhaps we were not able to “smell the roses” and enjoy all that the ride has to offer, including the historical sites. In my opinion, the ride is significant in many different ways for different people.

Each year my ride has had a changing significance. During early rides, my focus was on the history and attractions along the trail. Last year, riding with my son during his first Erie ride, my focus was more on performance, trying to keep up with him. He always beat me into camp, but we both arrived in camp very early in the day. We have great memories of sitting at the information tent and talking with others who had also arrived and watching those who were arriving.

This year it was a joy to see Sofia become immersed in the ride. Her energy on the trail was surprising. I watched as she cranked up the mile long hill in Canajoharie without stopping or slowing as she reached the top. We will enjoy talking about our adventure together for some time to come.

Ready for the Erie Ride 2017

This will be my fifth ride on the Erie Canal with Parks and Trails New York. I wrote a review of the ride a couple of years ago and I continue to recommend the experience. Last year was special for me because my son Eric joined me. The year Eric and granddaughter Sofia will be joining me.

Each year I support PTNY with a donation in addition to paying for the ride. I recently received correspondence from PTNY concerning funding for the major trails in New York state. Thanks to the advocacy efforts of PTNY, there is funding to close the Erie Canalway Trail gaps between Buffalo and Albany. The funding also provides for connecting the Erie Canalway Trail, the Lake Champlain Canalway, and the Hudson River Valley Greenway. When completed in 2020, the Empire State Trail will be the longest contiguous set of multi-use trails in the United States, a total of 750 miles.

New York State is a great place to ride. I look forward to the Erie ride again this year. It will be great to ride the entire Empire State Trail in just three years.