2019 CNC Coastal Ride

2019 CNC Coastal Ride

The last weekend in April was the Cycle North Carolina Coastal ride in Edenton, NC for 2019. Edenton, NC is a town of about 5,500 people on the Albermarle sound on the Inner Banks of North Carolina. The Coastal Ride was about 1,700 cyclists so it is always interesting.

Rides

CNC had rides set up for all skill levels for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The rides ranged from about 5 miles for families with young children to centuries on Friday and Saturday and metric centuries all three days. If you wanted to hammer, you could get about 300 miles in over the course of the three days. All of the routes are bone deep flat so you can do more miles than normal but there are usually headwinds. The rides are well thought out and with the exception of the bridges, had very low traffic. The bridges had a lot of police protection basically reserving the outer lane exclusively for cyclists. On the rides we did, I did not notice any crap roads or any washboard (tractor tire indentations) like I had encountered the previous year.

Friday Ride

Friday, we took a shorter route because the weather was uncertain in the afternoon and we have only gone longer than 30 one day prior to the ride. We beat the rain…

Saturday Ride

The big ride — for us — 44 miles with a lot of headwinds. We crossed a 2-mile long bride at 8mph one way and about 17mph the other. Very scenic and two nice rest stops.

Sunday Ride

Sunday was another shorter ride that entailed a 4-mile bridge with again a 8mph outbound crossing and 16mph on the return trip.

Camping

Camping can be a great experience or a complete pain in the ass. With 1700 cyclists, it is usually a bit of each. Two of our neighbors were great. They were quiet, friendly and avid cyclists. Neighbor three was a total pain in the ass. He and his wife brought two barky dogs (kickme size), a charcoal grill, a propane grill, and a propane lantern. Each of these are explicitly banned in the ‘rules’ of the event. But to my dismay, these rules are loosely enforced.

The shower trucks and portapotties were well maintained and ‘nice’ within the context of what they are.

Camping Equipment Review

The Big Agnes 6-person tent with the attached vestibule was great. Even though I only assemble it once/twice a year, the tent is easy to assemble. On Friday, we had torrential rains and heavy winds. The tent held up admirably. You can stand in it to get dressed and it can hold an admirable amount of shit for car camping.

REI chairs with carry straps were plenty comfortable for this type of car camping.

Town

As noted in the opening paragraph, this was a small town. I am pretty sure it was smaller than Washington, NC where the trip was based last spring. It is a beautiful old southern town with a surviving downtown. Main Street had 4 restaurants, a decent, regular coffee shop and a functioning Sears that was probably less than 3,000 square feet. The houses in the old part of town are very Ante Bellum and made it a great town to walk around.

A special shout-out to the Captains Quarters Bed and Breakfast — they were amazing. Best food of the weekend and it was not even close. They have an amazing front porch and a very nice wine list by the bottle/glass. If you are going to Edenton, I could not more highly recommend this B&B.

Restaurants

309 Bistro was good. This was the best restaurant food of the weekend though with a rough start. The hostess was not used to that kind of crowd and quickly lost track of who was where on the 4 lists she had. Crab cake was tasty though. Good beer and wine selection.

Waterman’s Grill was good in the small town restaurant good sense. I had a crab cake that was the size of a big pancake that was 50% filler. I would have preferred a smaller crabbier crab cake but it did not suck.

Edenton Coffee Shop had good coffee and sandwiches. I did not try the espresso since there was a retiree manning the espresso machine and they had about 75 additions to the espresso drink menu so I don’t think a regular cappuchinno was going to be her specialty. Their bagels had literally nothing in common with a good NYC bagel. They were like a roll with a hole in the middle but then again, where would you get bagels in Eastern NC…

Deserving a special place in hell is the Edenton Oyster Bar. This now ranks in the top 2 worst restaurants I have ever attended. This was after the event and still they just flat out sucked. 40 minutes to get a drink. 60 minutes to be told one order could not be filled. 2 hours and still no food. And then to be told that I should just wait because that was the Carolina way. I explained I was from the North where we expected food in a restaurant in a timely manner. I expected to be done in two hours in a tony restaurant and 1 in a regular restaurant.

Special Note

If you have food allergies, issues, etc, you should probably bring your own food and get an AirBnB or something similar. There is little food if you are a vegetarian or gluten free.

Equipment

Swift Sugarloaf

This was probably not needed for this trip because the weather was very nice compared to last year when the temperatures were a lot colder! This held my tools, pump, rain jacket, snacks, and emergency first aid set up. It had plenty of space for all of this plus plenty more space if necessary. It is extremely well-built and great as a way to carry your post-shower clothes and shower materials to the shower trucks when off the bikes. The handles are incredibly handy and the zipper makes access a lot easier than a roll-top bag but probably not as rain proof.

Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbag

This handlebar bag was my ‘stash’ — no not that kind of stash — but my phone, sunscreen, snacks, and keys. It worked as designed. It held everything with plenty of extra space. It did not effect handling or cramp the cockpit. Note, I did little standing on this trip since there was not hills…

PTAP Designs Stem Bag

This stem bag holds a water bottle in a incredibly handy location. As with the Mountain Feedbag, it does not effect handling or cramp the cockpit. It is extremely well-made.

Salsa Cowchipper handlebars

These were a new addition to the Bilenky gravel bike. They are shallow drop bars with a bend outward on the drops so that the drops are 2-inches wider than the tops. For the first time in years, I was using the drops and the bends much, much more frequently because they were much more comfortable. At 57, I am not looking to race…

Stamp pedals

The Stamp pedals were a ‘recommendation’ from Bikepacking.com. They are very comfortable, grippy, and pretty much infinitely adjustable for riding. You can move your foot anywhere on the pedal that you can figure out. They are extremely grippy. In three years, my feet have literally never slipped off.

Five Ten Freerider Shoes

These are great, comfortable sneakers purpose built for bike riding. While intended for off-road riding, I ride them on the road. They have a smooth portion on the bottom where the pedal pins grip. As noted above, I have never slipped off a pedal in three years. They are great off the bike too. You could easily just bring these on a trip and use them both on and off the bike though they are pretty heavy and not sure how they are in day-long wet rides.

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Aftermath of the Storm

Aftermath of the Storm

This Memorial Day weekend Old Town Ellicott City suffered it’s second devastating flood in two years. Each time a “freak” rainstorm destroyed business, damaged homes and local roads, and parklands in a horrific reply of the flood of 2016.  That one, we were assured was  a “1000 year” storm — an event that we’d never see again in our lifetimes.

That prediction turned out to be way off.

Trolley Trail #9

Our 1.5  Trolley Trail #9 is a favorite among hikers and bikers. This paved, 1.5 mile trail  connects Catonsville to Old Town Ellicott City.  Along it is a local bakery (perfect place for a break on a leisurely day), Benjamin Banneker Park (a local gem), and what is normally a small, burbling creek.

A few weeks after the flood, it. was passable but with the flood’s ravages evident. A wooden bridge, replaced after the 2016 storm, is tilted, as if giant hands grabbed  it and twisted hard.

Exiting the bridge (if you’ve been riding uphill from Westchester Road) there’s a pothole that’s eaten most of the trail, requiring cyclists to dismount and walk around it.

Mud, uprooted trees, and an intense, sunglass-fogging humidity bear witness to what happened a few weeks ago.

It will take a time and help for it to recover – and it may never be quite what it was.

My Personal Storm

I felt a kinship with this damaged-but-still-vital path as I rode along. I endured my own, personal storm during the past year and a half. It’s an experience I’m still recovering from.  It began in the fall of 2016 with an ultrasound and mammogram that established I had breast cancer.  A 3-phase treatment process that came next left me, too,  damaged-but-still-vital.

“We’re resilient, the trail silently told me as I rode along. We might look different, and feel different. But we’re still here. The birds still sing, the flowers still scent the air.

We have been through a lot, you and I. Even so, we continue on. We persist; our energy renews.  We quietly thrive and celebrate what is.”

 

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2018 Cycle North Carolina Coastal Ride

2018 Cycle North Carolina Coastal Ride

Our adventure started on Thursday in Washington, NC, a small town on the Inner Banks about one hour East of Raleigh. There are about 10,000 people who live in this quaint town. There was 3 days of riding scheduled (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). The participants were divided between campers in the local park and people who stayed on hotels.

Note: If you are planning on doing this next year and want to stay in a hotel then you should book next years town very, very early. Like 2017 early.

The rides were great. Most of the rides had less than 500 feet of elevation in the whole ride. There was 3-4 rides a day ranging from 5 miles to 60-100. There was some washboard1 roads but probably less than 5 miles of the entire weekend. Though we only did 100 miles total so your mileage may vary. The rides are what you make of them. They can very challenging if you are looking to rack up a buttload of miles. One guy did 260 in the three days. We were looking to get some miles in but also relax. It has been a pretty hectic year so we were looking for some chill time.

Food stops were well stocked with plenty of cold water/Gatorade. The towns had interesting other foods like baked goods, etc.

We camped (I had mistakenly waited until January to book a hotel…) in the park.

They had laid out a grid so tents were not cramped together. They had regular facilities and porta potties and a decent but not great shower truck. They had great coffee served every morning and one pretty good food truck.

The restaurants were typical for a small town. One was dreadful (Ribeyes) but the Bank Bistro was by far the best.

We would highly recommend the coastal ride. We thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

  1. Washboard is a term for asphalt roads that a tractor has put ridges into and they stayed. With skinny tires, it is brutal on your hands.

2017 Cycling Christmas Ideas

I know, this is probably too late for 2017 but better late than never. Here is this year’s list.

Swift Industries/Oveja Negra Chuckbucket – ($56) This is a collaboration between my two favorite bike bag companies (Swift Industries and Oveja Negra). Nancy and I discovered these bar bags this year and we both love them! With regular drop bars they do not get in the way (or minimally at least) and are extremely convenient. They are obviously easy to reach and they can hold a myriad of items. The most obvious are water bottles but people put snacks, cameras, sundries, and probably hold a small dog or cat… They come in more colors on the Oveja Negra site.

Klean Kanteen Double Walled Water Bottle – (Varies) If you are going to buy a bar bag, you should get one of these too! These bottles with a sports cap keep water cold or hot for hours and I mean hours like 10-12 not 1-2.

Oveja Negra 1/2 Pack – ($80) This bag was broken in on a trip along the Greater Allegheny Passage trip I took in June. This is a very handy bag that manages to stay out of the way in the bike’s upper triangle. Mine on the trip held my phone, extra snacks, rain jacket, my food for the trip, pump, and chamois butter with plenty of space to spare. On the left side is a smallish side pocket that holds an iPhone 8 or iPhone X easily (and probably the Plus since the zipper is pretty long. This held my phone, wipes, and chamois butter. The right side has a long zipper that goes the length of the bag. This makes the bag incredibly easy to get into and the inside has a bright fabric that allows you to see (at least for my oldish eyes). Holds way more than you would think and stays put.

Swift Industries Sugarloaf Basket Bag – ($160) This is an amazing bag (yes, there is a bag theme or problem depending on your point of view). I used this to commute daily and it easily held all of my work clothes, lunch and occasionally work equipment. I also used this on my GAP trip. Held most of my clothes for our S24O trip. Easy to mount to the Wald basket on my Atlantis. Easy to get into (again with the light interior to see crap). Very, very nice front pocket with a magnetic closure. Pretty rainproof – YMMV. If you are cool with mounting a Wald basket on your bike this is the perfect addition.

A Bevy of Top Tube Bags

These are reviewed here

 

Gloves

We’re both dedicated Ibex customers and so are saddened that they’re ceasing operations as of February 2018. Check them out now for great deals on remaining inventory.  Here, I’m recommending their Kilometer Gloves.

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These unpadded gloves are good looking, comfortable and grippy. They’re warm enough until temps drop into the 30’s. Then you either need a warmer glove, or to add some thin liners.

I wear them on and off-bike. Off bike, they’re warm enough when temperatures are in the 30s. That’s as cold as it’s gotten her so far this year.

For reference I (Nancy) usually wear a women’s medium glove. These are unisex-sized and the S fits perfectly.

Other Great Ibex Gear

Ibex doesn’t have much in the way of women’s bike-specific gear now, but here’s a few other recommendations:

Their Bicycleta knit cap keeps head and ears warm under your helmet. 6694_8100_00

The women’s Izzi pant, while not bike-specific, is totally comfortable for riding, as well as other athletic activities.

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They’re great for commuting. You’re comfortable on the bike, and  look and feel put-together in the workplace. Being wool, they don’t absorb sweat or get smelly.

On colder or windy days, I you’ll probably want a base layer. They’re not padded, but they’re stretchy enough to accommodate padded undies or shorts.

Check out their women’s long sleeve tops for winter riding. None are bike-specific but some work well both on and off bike.

 

 

 

Swift Industries Sugarloaf basket Bag

Swift Industries Sugarloaf basket Bag

I got a Sugarloaf bag back in June. I love this bag! It fits perfectly within a Wald basket (medium) with straps that hold it into the basket. They fit perfectly. I bought it for two purposes: commuting and also bike touring.

Bike Touring

I went on a S24O on the GAP back in June and used this bag. I stored my clothes in this bag. A pair of shorts, a t-shirt, my second days riding clothes and my Dopp kit. It easily held all of this. I also had a medical kit in the front pocket. It worked great.

Bike Commuting

I ride nine miles between Catonsville and Locust Point in Baltimore. It easily holds a days clothing and my lunch and still have room to spare. You could store your shoes also if needed and still have room to spare.

Final Thoughts

For either task, this is an amazing bag. It holds a decent amount of stuff. As a commuting bag it can hold all of your clothes and your lunch with room to spare. As a touring bag, it can hold 2-3 days worth of clothes with room to spare unless you are wearing a suit or something.

Review the Greater Allegheny Passage

Review the Greater Allegheny Passage

 

Back in June 2017, I went on a S240 with two friends of mine on the Greater Allegheny Passage, a bike path from Cumberland Maryland to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. This path is a continuation of the C&O National Park that follows the Potomac from Washington DC to Cumberland so you could ride from DC to Pittsburgh along a pretty nice trail. Our plan was to ride 62 miles to Confluence PA and then return the next day.

We started in Cumberland. This is a cute town in western Maryland that has a lovely downtown courtyard area that on the Friday I was in town had a small crowd listening to a band play not half-bad rock music. I had dinner in a great little bar that had good food and a decent beer selection.

We started at the local bike shop, the Cumberland Trail Connection. This is a great little camping bike shop perfectly situated right on the trail. I got a bunch o packets of chamois butter and my compadres bought some last minutes supplies also. This should be your last stop in Cumberland before you take off. They have a great selection of gear for riding the GAP.

The trail itself is a packed cinder trail that is very well maintained. We encountered a tree that was already being dealt with when we got there. We encountered only one other bad patch the entire trip where the trail had washed out from a butt load of rain the previous week.

The trail itself is a pretty easy ride. You get on it and ride until you hit a town. You are not going to get lost in any of these towns with the possible exception of Pittsburgh. They are little towns that may have had industry at one point at time but now I am not sure how they exist for sure. They are not living high on the hog that is for sure. Basically, you are riding uphill into PA and downhill on the way back. It is an extremely minor grade in both directions. I did not really notice it on the way out and while I averaged a bit higher speed on the way back, it was pretty much the same.

There are three tunnels that were carved for the railroad that are pretty damn long. I had no trouble on the way out but in one of the two unlit tunnels on the way back I freaked a smidgeon because while I could see the end, I could not see the ground I was riding on. Still here so it ended well but it was a strange feeling.

The scenery is amazing.

Confluence, our destination, had a campground that I think was a state park. If you go there, do not get a regular campsite. They are designed for RVs I believe. That is what was mostly there. They suck for tents. However, there is a lovely bike camping area that was very nice. Showers are meh but functional and warm.

We ate at the Luck Dog Cafe and the food was surprisingly good. I know, I am a city snob but I had a great burger and a Fat Tire (well two but who is counting). After a day of cycling, it was a great feast. We also got a huge — think stoner huge — plate of cheese fries with bacon and spring onions. My compatriot got a burrito the size of a nerf football that he said was quite good also. A word of warning, the town pretty much rolls up the carpet at 9pm so you are not going to go hog wild here but after 62 miles, we were good.

As noted, the ride back was uneventful but a bit faster. I stopped at the Queen City Creamery for some great ice cream when I got back to Cumberland.

Things I liked a lot

  • The trail itself. Pretty easy, get on, ride until you get to your destination with minimal road crossings. Trail also had these cool water/tool stops where they had free water, a pump and an assortment of tools that was pretty extensive. This was a great feature!
  • Friendly people on the trail itself and in each of the towns we stopped at. People were genuinely happy to see us.
  • Rivendell Atlantis. Bike handled flawlessly on the trail
  • Swift Industries Sugarloaf basket bag was a perfect accessory. Held food and toiletries for this trip and a few other odds and ends and could have held more.
  • Bike shop was two thumbs up, way up.
  • Creamery was quite good and olde timey…
  • Downtown Cumberland was cute though it could use a few more active stores.

Recommendation

If you are looking for a S24O or longer ride to do in the mid-Atlantic region, this would be a strong candidate. It is impossible to get lost, moderately challenging and accessible to those who are not Lance Armstrong, scenic with some very friendly towns. I would give this ride two thumbs up, way up.

Review of bike packing bags

Review of bike packing bags

Oveja Negra top tube bag

Pros

  • XL is positively cavernous. Easily holds 2-5 snacks depending on size (I carry Honey Stingers and I can easily get 5), chamois cream individual packets, lip balm and iPhone 7.
  • Well built
  • Decent color selection.
  • Good looking though more MTB looking than roadie looking.

Cons

  • I notice it when I am out of the saddle or straddling the bike. Not in a fuck I hate this kind of notice it but I do notice it.

Adipura top tube bag

Pros

  • Great snack bag
  • Well built
  • Water resistant
  • Great looking. Would look good on pretty much any bike.
  • Easy to mount

Cons

  • Regular barely holds a iPhone 7 with a leather case. It does fit but the zipper barely slides by it. If you have one of those Samsung Phablets, this ain’t gonna hold it. Just saying. If I could have a do-over, I would get the extended version.
  • One color. It is a damn fine color but you got to like it since there aren’t any others…

Oveja Negra 1/2 frame bag

Pros

  • Three sizes to fit pretty much any bike.
  • Left side pocket would easily hold iPhone 7 and probably a Plus.
  • Holds way more than you think. On a GAP S24O, I was able to store extra snacks, extra chamois cream packets, pump, rain jacket, extra tubes (2), coffee and coffee kit, and tool kit.  You could also store a wine bottle in there, probably 4-6 beers, or a kitten.
  • Extremely stable on the bike.
  • I did not notice it at all when riding.

Cons

  • Mounts pretty straightforward but I would not be taking it off and putting it back on much. It can take a few minutes to mount. Not a bad design but takes a lot of straps to make it stable.

Recommendations

I would buy 2 of these three again in a heart beat and I would not hesitate to buy the Adipura XL next time since this is a bag that I think most people would store their phones.