Finding my dream bike at Valley Cycles in Plains, PA

Located in Plains, PA, next to River Street Jazz Cafe.
I stumbled upon a new local bike shop on Friday, while on a job in Wilkes-Barre. We were passing through Plains when I spotted a mountain bike stood up next to a sign that read, "
Valley Cycles." Well, always one to try out a new shop, I made a note to stop in on my next day off. That was yesterday.

The shop is located in the same building as the River Street Jazz Cafe, just in the next door. Inside, I passed along the rows bicycles, stood up like stallions in a stable, each eagerly anticipating a fast, powerful ride. I brought my Frankenstein's creation along with me, hoping an expert's opinion would answer my questions. Could it be saved? Would it be worth the effort and the cost? But even as I gingerly pushed it along, I was lustfully eyeing up the gallery of new bikes.

Dave, the man behind the counter, immediately started looking at several options for fixing up my bike. In the end, my suspicions were correct. I could either spend a few hundred bucks fixing up a bike that was still too heavy for the kind of riding I wanted to do, or I could invest the money into a really nice bike that would be exactly what I wanted and come with a full warranty. I decided to go with option 2, but which bike to choose?

I expressed interest in riding trails and doing some off-roading, which is why I was refitting an old mountain bike in the first place. Based on that, the first bike we looked at was a Giant Escape. It was a nice bike with 700c wheels. Just the right size, good fit and extremely light. The only downside was that it had flat handlebars. Even so, I took it for a ride, just to see if I'd like it.

Out in the parking lot, I gave the pedals a few cranks and just about lifted off the ground. I couldn't believe how nimble and quick the Escape was! It just felt... fun! Fun was the best word I could use to describe it. So light and quick, I was in love. But there was that flat bar. It seemed too wide, and something else didn't feel right. I wheeled it back into the shop and decided to try again.

Here's where I was really impressed with Valley Cycles. No sooner did I mention that I'd like to have drop bars, Dave was on the computer, looking up possible configurations to get me exactly what I wanted out of the Escape. But as I waited, I wondered, were drop bars really for me?

I prefer the lower riding position of a road bike, and even as often as I like to ride along the Lehigh Valley Gorge trail, I'm on the road about 99% of the time. If I were specifically looking to go off-road, I could always use my hybrid. It's not a mountain bike, by any stretch of the word, but it could do. Even so... I'm just more of a road bike guy, that's what I want.

My mind kept poring over my feelings when another bike caught my eye, a 2013 Giant Defy 5. At $720, it was a little more than the $500 budget I set for myself, but when the cost of converting the Escape was added to its $450 base price, I was going over budget, either way. I took the bike for a ride to see if it would change my mind any more.

Even lighter than the Escape and featuring drop bars, the Defy 5 was already everything I wanted the Escape to be. Nimble, quick, as I did sprints in the parking lot, I didn't want to come back in. How I longed for a chance to tackle the Weatherly-Plains Road, just to see what it would be like to slay that beast on a steed like this. That experience would have to wait, however -- at least until I had enough money in my pocket to bring it home. I wheeled it back inside, and let the feeling of riding it burn in my mind. That feeling is going to have to last a few months, while I slowly save up.

As I wheeled my Frankenbike out of the shop, it felt even heavier than before. The back wheel dragged, and I no longer wondered how I was going to fix it, but how I would get rid of it. It would be nice just to get the bike back in working order, just enough to sell it off, but there's no way I could get enough money to make the investment worth it, especially as I could be putting that money into saving up for the Defy.

Last night, I went to bed with visions of the Defy in my mind. Soon, my pretty. Soon.
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Rain or shine, the weather's fine on an indoor magnetic exercise bike trainer

As it turns out, I'm terrible at predicting the weather. Case in point: today started off foggy, rainy and just bad, all around. By the afternoon, it was sunny and in the seventies. Didn't see that coming... Meanwhile, the weather people are saying that next week, it's going to snow on Halloween. Whatever. I don't care what it's doing outside, because now I have a magnetic exercise bike trainer. I can ride whenever I want!
The contraption in the picture is a magnetic exercise bike trainer by FDW. I ordered it last Wednesday and it arrived today.

Setup was a bit weird, thanks to instructions that were written in Engrish, but I managed to get it together without mashing up too many fingers or bloodying any knuckles, and that's quite a feat, for me. Once the bike was bolted in, I got on board for the maiden voyage and did a half-an-hour's worth of interval sprints.

A lot of the reviews I'd read complained about how loud the device is, but I don't think it's much louder than the average powered-treadmill -- maybe even less so. Even when I got it cranking over 18 mph, I was still able to hear music on my iPhone at half volume on the coffee table a few feet away. And usually, when I'm going about that fast on the road, the sound of wind rushing past my ears is a lot louder. So, there you have it. I don't think it's that loud, and no one else in the house was complaining while I was on it.

My only qualm with this magnetic exercise trainer is that I was expecting a little more resistance. I'd read reviews that said to avoid fan and liquid trainers because they couldn't provide as much resistance as a magnetic trainer. Maybe I just need to tighten the bolt that presses the flywheel against the tire a bit more? I'll keep that in mind for next time.

I'm not going to lie, it's been a few weeks since I've gone for a ride of any decent length, and my performance shows it. My average speed after 35 minutes was 12.6 mph, which is a little faster than what I've been able to do in the past, but I'm almost sure that's because the resistance wasn't high enough. Even so, I was terribly winded by the time I was done. But that's why I bought this thing, to get myself back in shape. Now, I can ride whenever I want, rain or shine. The only downside is that, while the weather is always great in the house, the view is crap. Alas, Spring can't get here soon enough!
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Drop Bar Envy

I have drop bar envy, which can be the only explicable reason for why I did this:
Drop bars on a mountain bike.
I bought this mountain bike at a garage sale for $15. My original intention was to take the wheels and drive train off and put them on my
project bike, but they don't fit. So, instead, I took the drop bar off the road bike and put it on this bike. Bad idea?

After spending the better part of the weekend running new cables and installing new brakes, I was able to take it for a ride. It's really not that uncomfortable, despite my worry that the geometry would be problematic. I'm even thinking of getting a set of slick tires. The only problem is that it's heavy, which is why I wanted a light, nimble road bike in the first place. Hence: drop bar envy.

I just love the look, the curve and the feel of drop bars, and I don't go off-roading enough to justify having a mountain bike with knobby tires. I want to go fast, and I only want to ride on the street. Unfortunately, after I priced out new parts for the road bike -- which is now sitting in the garage, sans handlebars -- I realized I was going to end up spending a small fortune, and I was afraid that it won't make the bike any better. Instead of having a nice, quick bike, I'm afraid that I'm going to end up with a junk bike that just happens to have new parts. New wheels, new drivetrain; same old, rusted out frame. If I could find enough junk bikes to supply me with the working parts I need, I would keep at it. I just can't justify spending money on expensive, new parts for it.

All I want is a nice, quick, lightweight road bike, and I'm beginning to think that saving up and buying a new one is the only way to go and still keep it affordable.
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Bikeyface wants us to get serious about this bicycle safety comic

I don't think there are too many bicycling web comics out there, but if there are, Bikeyface by Bekka Wright has to be the cream of the crop. Here's an excerpt from her latest comic on the topic of accident prevention, titled "Serious About Safety."
bikeyface, bike safety, bicycle safety, comic, excerpt, Bekka Wright
Excerpt of Bikeyface's Serious About Safety by Bekka Wright
This excerpt is my favorite part of the comic/infographic, but only because I like how Wright illustrates the outcome of a "what if...?" scenario by literally smashing a car into it. Very clever!

The intention of the drawing in the excerpt is to drive home (pun intended) the point that distracted, impatient drivers could lead to accidents with cyclists and that a helmet may not be enough to save you. As such, believing that a helmet is the only thing cyclists should focus on when it comes to safety isn't very smart, and that would be the central premise of this particular comic, that it's far safer to avoid an accident in the first place.

In the end, the burden of safety isn't solely on drivers or cyclists, but on all of us. If you're reading this, Bekka, great work!
Read more - A search engine for stolen bikes

Sir Rackalot
Vanquisher of Bike Thieves

RackLove is a community marketplace for buying and selling bicycles. I first came across them on Reddit, in r/bicycling/, but then later saw them in this post, so they're definitely growing in popularity.

The site is based in San Francisco, but they welcome anyone to join in. The main goal of the site is to build a community of bike buyers and sellers while eliminating the black market for stolen bicycles through independent verification.

By connecting people one-on-one and getting them involved in the community, it should be easier to tell the difference between a legitimate seller and someone who's just looking for a quick buck on a stolen set of wheels. However, RackLove just went a step further in fighting bike thieves by now offering a search engine that specifically looks for stolen bikes.
Want a mutant bike? Visit!

The search engine works by scouring popular sites that bike thieves are more likely to try and sell through (*cough* Craigslist *ahem*). Simply by entering a description of the bike and the zip code where it was stolen, if the thief posted it to any of the targeted sites, hopefully, it should pop up. From there, well, that's up to you. You did remember to take plenty of pictures of your bike and write down the serial number, right?

So, does it work? Check out this thread on the forum. If you're diligent and quick, you might just get your ride back!

Related posts:
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Bike registration leads to recovered bicycle -- Have you registered your bike?

Is registering your bike
worth the effort?
Have you registered your bike?
Here's some good news we don't often hear about! Over the weekend, I read a post on about a
10 year old girl whose bike was stolen -- and later recovered -- on the very same day she registered it.
The same day Santa Cruz Ecology Action got kids at Delaveaga Elementary School in Santa Cruz to register their bikes, a thief stole one of the bikes from a 10 year girl. When the bike was later found abandoned, police were able to return the bike to its rightful owner. 
Ecology Action in Santa Cruz are encouraging children at Santa Cruz schools to register their bikes with the city to help fight a growing problem with bike theft. After they distributed 40 registration stickers to students at Delaveaga Elementary School, a bike belonging to student Nicola Nardell was stolen out of the shed in her family’s yard. Police later recovered the bicycle — a very new looking Electra — and were able to identify the owner through the bike license.
It's great that the story has a happy ending, even if it's not so great that the bike was stolen in the first place, but it really got me thinking -- should I register my bike?

I remember as a teen, a long, long time ago, registering my bike with the Hazleton Police at a local playground. I don't remember if it cost anything, but the piece-of-mind I had that I might (might) see my ride again if the worst ever happened was worth it to me. These days, I'm not so naive. I realize the chances of recovering a stolen bicycle are very slim, but if I were to buy a bike that costs hundreds, even thousands, of dollars, isn't getting it registered a good idea?

Searching for information on bicycle registrations in Hazleton, PA didn't turn up much useful information, but I'm considering giving the police a call to see if I can dig up more information on the process. In the meantime, there's always the National Bike Registry.

The National Bike Registry offers 4 types of protection, based on lengths of time, number of bikes to be registered and whether or not your bike has already been stolen.
  • $10 will cover a bike for 10 years. 
  • $25 will cover a bike for 30 years. 
When you replace your current bike, contact NBR for a new label and certificate, limit one bike at a time.
  • $25 Family Registration will cover up to 5 bikes at a single address. Each bike is registered for 10 years.
  • 99cent Stolen Bike Registry.
You can register a bike AFTER it has been stolen. In the event that one of our participating law enforcement agencies finds it, it can be returned! (This registration is for one bike, for six months, and does not include a decal or certificate).
Then, there's which offers a worldwide registration for free.

Whether bicycle registration is worth the price and effort is a question I leave up to you, but if it's something you're already thinking about, why not go ahead and register?
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Using the Full Lane: A response to Darryl at

Yesterday, I read a great post by Darryl on titled, "Cyclist May Use Full Lane... But Should We?"
Darryl raises some very good points that I agree with. He seems mostly concerned that riding down the center of the lane could lead to more accidents, either by distracted, negligent drivers who don't see the cyclist, or aggravated drivers who want to take their frustrations out on a cyclist.

This is a subject I think about quite often, and I've been meaning to write something similar because I feel very much the same way as Darryl. There are certain roads I ride on where traffic is traveling at speeds much greater than the posted limit, and I'd rather not be in the middle of the lane when a distracted driver comes along at 60+ mph. Take the Weatherly Plains Road, for example -- a two-lane stretch that runs for about 4 miles between Beaver Meadows and Weatherly.
The Weatherly Plains Road, image from Google Maps
The Weatherly Plains Road is a popular road with cyclists. As such, drivers along this stretch are used to seeing cyclists on it. However, the traffic tends to go above the speed limit, so most cyclists stick to the shoulder. If I'm reading him correctly, that's exactly what Darryl is saying, that this is one road where we probably shouldn't take the lane, even if the law says we can. However, I think we probably should, and I have a few good reasons why.

The way a driver passes a cyclist begins with where the cyclist is riding. We tend to only see things that are directly in front of us, so by riding in the lane, I stand a better chance of being seen and easily avoided. If I stick to the side of the road, however, I increase the chances that a driver will hit me without even knowing I was there. Furthermore, even if they do see me, by hugging the shoulder to stay out of traffic, I'm sending a message to drivers that says, "The lane is all yours, take it," so they do. And, of course, they pass as closely as possible without slowing down because I told them they could. It all starts with me.

Assume for a moment that I'm in the lane and a car is approaching from behind. The driver should easily see me which should cause them to change lanes to give me 4 feet of space, as required by Pennsylvania law. (I understand this deviates greatly from state to state.) In another scenario, if a car is approaching from ahead in the other lane, the car behind me should slow enough to allow the oncoming car to pass us both before attempting to change lanes and overtake me. Perhaps this is annoying to a driver... I can sympathize, I drive a car, too. But I'd much rather they be temporarily annoyed than for me to be permanently dead.

Keep in mind, I'm not talking about hogging the lane and adopting an attitude that everyone should should go around me, I'm talking about riding defensively and having the confidence to adopt a more assertive stance that reduces my risk of being hurt or killed. If I take the lane, I am showing the driver that I am a part of regular traffic and that they are to treat me as such by slowing down and giving me space. In return, I will do my best to make their passage as convenient as possible. I understand that I am a slow moving vehicle, and I apologize for the inconvenience, but there must be a mutual amount of respect for us each to share the road properly.

Think of it like this: would it be any different if I were in a truck pulling a wide-load? Or a road maintenance vehicle, or farm equipment, or a horse-drawn cart (as seen in many parts of rural Pennsylvania)? It wouldn't; it's not different at all. Those vehicles are often moving slower than traffic, yet aren't expected to pull over for every impatient driver who comes along. And neither should cyclists. In fact, I believe it would be a detriment to cyclists everywhere if we did.

Darryl, I completely understand where you're coming from, there are a lot of distracted drivers out there, but I respectfully disagree. I think we should use the full lane, and I think we should do it as often as possible, if only to increase the awareness that we are out there, too.
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Martyn Ashton trying a new morning commute, riding a $16k bike like he stole it

If you watch only one video of someone doing cunning stunts today, this is probably the one to watch:

While patiently awaiting Felix Baumgartner's daring leap from infinity*, my Twitter feed blew up with links to this video of Martyn Ashton doing things that he probably shouldn't with a £10k ($16,000 US. Thanks, Google) bike. But, you know, whatever. Because he can, I guess.

As mentioned, the bike is the Pinarello Dogma 2, the same as the ones used by Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins & Mark Cavendish to win the 2012 Tour de France.

*Or, roughly, the edge of space.
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Let them eat crow! And milk, and apples.

1/2 peck of apples. Image Source
There were a few hours yesterday that I really wished I hadn't written this. As is, it's a bit preachy, and that's not my usual style. However, I felt I'd leave it because I wanted to get in the habit of writing some of the self-motivational stuff (read: rhetorical drivel) that runs through my head while I'm riding. But what really made me regret that post was yesterday's high temperature: 49° (F).

Despite my passion for cycling, and my newfound appreciation for riding on days with less-than-ideal weather conditions, I really just didn't want to go out into that. And then, as luck would have it, we ran out of milk.

Aha! I thought. Here's my chance to prove I'm not a big, sissy-pants hypocrite! I can ride my bike to the store, pick up a gallon of milk AND practice what I preach! Make today a perfect a day to ride... that's what I said, right? And because I was feeling extra cocky, I decided to pick up a half peck of apples, too.

I put on a jacket, some sweats and hit the road. And because I was feeling extra, extra cocky, I didn't even wear a pair of gloves.

We have a couple of stores that are all within 2 miles, so why I chose the one that's at the bottom of a steep hill, I'll never know. Maybe I was just feeling extra, extra, EXTRA cocky and wanted to prove something by slinging 12-14 pounds worth of apples and milk on my back and riding half a mile uphill to get back home. Actually, that's exactly it. I felt like such an ass for Monday's post that this was my way of achieving atonement; a blogger's penance, if you will.
For the sin of publishing self-aggrandizing, rhetorical drivel, thou shalt eat thine words and pedal uphill in the cold!
In fact, it still bugs me that the store was only a mile away instead of 20 or so. Never mind the fact that there are thousands of people who commute to work/go shopping on bikes every day in conditions much worse than 49°. Just who the hell do I think I am, anyway?

Rest assured, next time, I'll ride to the store that's about six tenths of a mile farther but doesn't go up or down any hills. Much easier, much less... flagellant.
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Debunking the myth of the "perfect" day

Arthur Gardner Parkway, Hazleton, PA, Serento Gardens, Seasons Change, 60k Bike Ride
Lousy weather, good times.
It starts by looking out the window to check for rain. Then I'll check a weather app on my phone to get the temperature and the day's forecast. From there, I check my schedule to see if I have time to take a long ride while looking for other potential obstacles. One by one, I check things off until the day seems "perfect."

Warm weather, clear skies, nothing to do but ride and ride -- these are my ideal conditions for a perfect day. But this is a trap. As Summer fades into the distance, the conditions of a perfect day are becoming extremely rare. At this rate, I won't ride again until next June. Therefore, I must adapt.

The weather on my 60k was lousy, but by wearing the right clothing, I actually found it warm and didn't mind the little bit of rain we had. The ride before that -- going through the gorge while the temperature lingered in the mid-50s/lower 60s -- was cold enough that I needed a pair of gloves, but I still had a great time. Meanwhile, by heading out earlier in the day, I can assure myself enough time to get a good ride in and still complete my daily tasks.

Over the last 2 weeks, I've become much more tolerant of weather conditions. Now, I don't mind a little rain, and I'm usually sweating more than shivering on days I used to think were too cold for a ride.  I've learned my lesson. Setting conditions for a perfect day will only lead to fewer rides and good days gone to waste. Every time I jump on my bike on a less-than-ideal day, I feel like I'm debunking the myth of a perfect day, because I'm discovering that even lousy days can be great.

Ultimately, whether a day is perfect or not depends on your attitude, and the more conditions you set to define what makes a perfect day, the more excuses you'll come up with for why today isn't one. So just ride. Make today the perfect day to have a perfect day.
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I did it! The Serento Gardens Seasons Change Fall Foliage 60k Ride

My alarm went off at 7 A.M., followed by a mad scramble to grab my gear, get dressed and load my bike onto my car. The weather was already sizing up to be a dreary day, but it still felt warm out. At any rate, I didn't think much about it. If it rained, it rained; I wasn't going to let that stop me. I'd been training for this day for 2 months, I was ready for anything.

Registration area.
I was in a hurry, but I wanted to make double sure I wasn't forgetting anything I'd need for the ride. As a result, I was a few minutes late and missed the first big group. Even so, many riders were arriving about the same time I was, so it really didn't matter. Everyone was welcome to ride at their own pace and leave when they wanted.

There were a lot of people there for some of the other events that were taking place, including a 5k walk/10k run with awards. After registering and getting my number, I was ready to go. I'd hoped there'd be a few other riders to ride along with, but as I headed out, it was just me. Well, just me and Adele singing "Rumor Has It" (blech) and Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" (double blech) which were the last two songs I heard playing over the loudspeakers as I left. They each got hopelessly stuck in my head and continued playing for the entirety of the ride (triple blech.) I really need to tie a radio to my handlebars, or something, because this happens way too often.

From the Arthur Gardner Parkway, the first turn took us onto Route 309, heading into Hazleton. The course ran through Hazleton and eventually led us to Route 940. There were pink arrows marking the way, but I had the map pretty well memorized. In fact, except for cutting through Hazleton, it's the same course I've been following for weeks.

The first big change from my usual route is where we turn left on State Rt. 2053. I like to go right and ride down Buck Mountain Road, but I was eager to see what this way was like. And that's when I hit the first big hill.

This is one of those hills that, well, you look at them and just sort of want to cry.
The first big hill going up State Rt. 2053/Highland Rd/The Beginning of Pain
Actually, I've prepared an educational film that accurately portrays the exact feeling of riding up these steep hills.

The image doesn't quite show how steep it is because I shot this picture as I left the flat and started climbing, but at least it's a short climb.

Eventually, the road meets up with Route 940 and continues for a bit before we had to make a right on Sandy Run Road. At about 11 miles into the ride, there was a van set up with some water and food at the turn, which I chose not to stop at, but I waved at the people standing there. "Are we having fun, yet?" I shouted, because I'm a dork. The man yelled back, "Yep! It's all downhill from here, pal!" and I was really excited to hear that. I even said, "Great!" and made an even dorkier "fist pump" with my left hand, which is something I've never, ever felt compelled to do, ever before. But it really was great, because I really wanted to go downhill after all that climbing.

I don't know why it's called Sandy Run Road because I sure didn't see any sand, but I did finally see some other riders who were headed in the opposite direction for the 100k ride.

Sandy Run Road goes on and on forever until it hooks up with Lehigh Gorge Drive, which goes on and on forever until Weatherly. One neat thing about this route is that you end up going under these extremely tall high-tension wires. If you listen closely, you can hear them humming and popping as the power flows through them. It kind of freaks me out, and you have to go under them twice, (once on Sandy Run Rd and then again on Lehigh Gorge Drive) so that's fun.

Speaking of fun, after more than 700 miles, my bike is in desperate need of a tune-up. The bottom bracket squeaks like a nest of mice and the chain jumps all over the place on the smallest cog. Either the chain is stretched or the teeth on the cog have worn down (probably because of the chain stretching), but it really doesn't matter which part is to blame because the only cure is to replace them both. That's something that will have to wait until the beginning of next season, but in the meantime, I have to be careful with it. While going up a steep incline, I tried to down-shift and the chain popped off. As I fell forward, the seat caught my "naughty bits" and nearly ripped them off. It was not a sensation I'd care to feel again.

There was a rest stop set up near Eurana Park in Weatherly, so I decided to stop, hoping I'd see some other riders. I didn't see any other riders, but the people inside insisted that I help myself to some water/sports drink, fruits and cookies. I had my usual load of granola bars, but I grabbed a fig newton, asked how many riders had stopped by and headed out. I was about to face the worst part of this course, the Weatherly Plains Road.

Welcome to your doom.
The Weatherly Plains Road just goes up and up and up and up. Then it flattens out, but it's still not a lot of fun. This is why I started riding down it instead, which is probably why everyone continues to just blow right past me.

After not seeing a single rider going my way, suddenly, several went right past me. "Hang in there!" said the first guy, followed by another man who said, "Almost there, keep going!" The last guy said, "Just a few more miles!" And then they were gone, disappearing into the distance. I keep hoping that, someday, I'll be as fast as these guys, but I obviously have a lot of work to do.

On the other side of Beaver Meadows, the weather started to change. The sky had turned some scary shades of grey and a fierce headwind was beating me backwards. Then again, when am I ever not battling a headwind? After going up some tough climbs, this wind was something my legs did not want to deal with, but I pushed a little harder and continued on, eventually meeting up with some other riders and holding my pace with them. Before long, we were at the home stretch.

The home stretch, Arthur Gardner Parkway
More of that fall foliage action, coming your way.
We were treated to a large picnic of hot dogs, hamburgers, fruits and cookies. There was coffee and sports drink and plenty of other treats to enjoy. I met up with some of the cyclists who passed me on the Weatherly Plains Road and we began commiserating about the awful headwinds we'd encountered heading out of Beaver Meadows. I even got props for riding the course on my $200 city hybrid from Walmart while most folks had bikes that cost more than my car. Not that I was going for that -- I wasn't really trying to make that kind of an impression on people, it's just that this is all the bike I can afford, so I make do with what I've got. Also, I don't get to humble-brag very often, so this is one time I'll gladly do so.

I stuck around to see some of the trophies and medals get handed out to the runners who participated in the event, but then it started to rain. Cold and tired, I was eager to get home.

Prize bikes for the kids. Note the loudspeakers. RUMOR HAS IT - RUMOR HAS IT - RUMOR HAS IT
Awards and trophies.  
It's been exactly 2 months since I started this blog on August 6, 2012. The primary driving force behind that decision was to keep myself motivated and to hold myself accountable by making my effort public. This was my first ride like this, and it won't be my last. Until then, I'm just happy to finally look back and realize that I was able to stick with it and achieve this goal. I don't know exactly where I'm going from here, but I intend to maintain this blog with plenty of information about biking in North-East Pennsylvania, as that continues to be a deep passion for me. If you've followed along this far, thank you. But there's definitely more to do!

And, just for good measure, one more time.
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What is happening in this picture for

If you haven't seen the Fall 2012 edition of Pennsylvania's newsletter for cyclists, check it out here: Fall 2012 edition of the Spokes-People newsletter.

If you have seen it, perhaps you noticed this image for featured on page 5. And, if you also saw that, perhaps you can tell me what is happening in this picture?
explore pa trails brochure
Sir! That is not a proper cyclocross mount/dismount!
Is God sending this guy a new bicycle? Is he trying to teach his bike to fly? Is this guy about to be crushed by his bike as it leaps from the top rope in an insane wrestling match? Is Tron having trouble sending his memory disk to Alan1?
Your guess is as good as mine.
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The Fall 2012 edition of Spokes-People newsletter is now available

Spokes-People is a quarterly newsletter published by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). The newsletter is aimed at communicating with and educating cyclists of Pennsylvania on bike safety, laws and other issues that affect us.

In this edition, Fall Riding is the focus, with an emphasis on remembering to keep hydrated even though the hot summer sun is no longer drying us out. In addition, being on the lookout for wet leaves, acorns, branches and other debris that can topple a rider is very important.

There's also a piece on roadwork that was done to improve bicycle travel in Lebanon County, tips for students riding to school and much more. My favorite article is a fun piece on Matt Kasunick, a Senior Civil Engineer for PennDOT's Bureau of Project Delivery, who likes to ride down single-track on his mountain unicycle. That's certainly something I've not seen on the trails, yet!
matt kasunick mountain unicycle senior civil engineer penndot
Matt Kasunick, Moutain Unicycler
Definitely take some time to check out this newsletter. If you'd like to subscribe, you can do so by going to this form on PennDOT's site and entering your email address. You can also download the Fall 2012 edition from this link.
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Taking shortcuts can lead to hidden dangers

I came across an interesting article this morning via Bike-PGH on the topic of "paper streets" -- streets that were planned out on paper, but were never actually built, or fully realized. When is a street not a street? | PublicSource by Emily DeMarco.

An adult bike shows the size and scale of the sinkhole. Photo credit: Emily DeMarco
As DeMarco explains in the article, these abandoned roadways are often attractive as a shortcut -- especially when the surrounding streets can be very dangerous -- but they can also pose hazards of their own. From the article:
In Pittsburgh’s late summer, Charles Carthorn and his son, Chuckie, rode their bikes over a favorite shortcut, a path sandwiched between the former Reizenstein Middle School and The Ellis School.
“We commute here by bike every day to football practice,” said Charles Carthorn, 42. “And this is our little shortcut.” 
But he worried that 12-year-old Chuckie might be tempted to jump over a five-foot wide sinkhole on the path that looks as if it would gobble up about one-third of an adult bike.
Living in North-East Pennsylvania, you grow accustomed to hearing about sinkholes. Whether due to collapsed mining shafts or water runoff from the mountainous areas eroding the land and flowing through underground waterways, sinkholes can be a big problem. Fortunately, I haven't encountered too many on the various back roads I like to take, but it's still something to be aware of.
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Seasons Change/Flaming Foliage Rides Updated Again

The routes for the Seasons Change/Flaming Foliage Rides organized by Ed Pane and Serento Gardens have been updated, once again.

I reported that the 50k and 100k routes were altered a few weeks ago due to chip seal being laid down on several areas along those routes. The re-altered routes now avoid those areas completely, in addition to being extended.

From the Seasons Change/Flaming Foliage Ride page:
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania decided that September 2012 would be a wonderful time to tar and chip the route used for the 100K, 50K, and 20K routes!! Well, obviously we're not sending you out on miles of tire shredding, bone jarring cycling, so we have rerouted the event. In the process, the 50 and 100K turned out to be two of the most beautiful and scenic rides we've ever taken. Check out the new maps on the links below.
Both rides briefly route through Hazleton City along well paved residential roads, then onto rolling terrain with a few good hills.
The 50K turned into a 60K but we promise you won't mind it a bit. The 100K turns into a 102K with breathtaking scenery along PA Bicycle V and L routes. Most of it is rolling terrain, but it has four brief, challenging climbs. 
The 20K has turned into a 22K (13.7 miles) bike ride into McAdoo, PA and then through Hazleton neighborhoods near the main event site. The streets are wide, well paved, and the traffic will be light. It's a nice way to meet some of the people your participation helps throughout the year.
So, where the old 50k originally went through Tresckow and McAdoo, the new route now cuts out those towns to go through Hazleton and up past Freeland towards White Haven before heading down through Weatherly and Beaver Meadows. (Hmm. This route looks kind of familiar... Well, except for the part where we'll be turning left on State Route 2051/Buck Mountain Road instead of right, as I typically like to do.)

I'm actually excited to ride this new route. It'll be a fresh perspective on riding through Hazleton, which I normally try to avoid, and a chance to go in a direction I haven't tried before. It's amazing how easily you can get set in your ways, riding the same routes over and over.

Here are links to interactive maps of the new routes, from the Seasons Change/Flaming Foliage Ride page:
Click here to view the 22K

Click here to view the 60K

Click here to view the RIDE version of the 60K

Click here to view the 100K

Click here for the RIDE version of the 100K map
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5 hour earworm - what I heard in my head for 50 miles

I always carry my cellphone with me when I ride, just in case of emergencies. However, it was also a source of music to keep me company. But when I started going on really long rides, the battery couldn't keep up. (Although, Strava was mostly to blame. GPS chews up a lot of battery life.) Not only that, but I began to appreciate the ambient sounds of the natural world around me even more. So, I stopped listening to music on long rides, altogether. Unfortunately, this leads to other problems.

An "earworm" is a song, or even just a part of a song, that gets stuck in your head. In the case of my ride on Monday, I had a whole playlist of songs that kept mixing and mashing themselves in my head -- verses, melodies, choruses, certain notes and sounds -- repeating over and over. It usually helps if I know how a song ends, because I can just run it out, clear my mind and focus on the ride again. Other times, however... well, you end up with stuff like this eclectic mix:

West Side Story - Jet Song

At least it wasn't "Gee, Officer Krupke," this time.

Autotune the News/Antoine Dodson - Bed Intruder

So, so catchy. I love the breakdown near the end, where it's just claps and vocals.

Boston - Foreplay/Long Time

Yeah, the whole thing. The epic, orchestral beginning, and then the rest. Mostly, it was just the organ playing the main chord progression over and over, though.

Eric Carmen - Make Me Lose Control

This one I forced on myself. I just picked something at random and went with it to make Boston stop. And then this wouldn't stop playing, either.

And that's it. I don't know why, it's just one of those things. A somewhat embarrassing list of songs that some folks wouldn't want to hear once, let alone on "repeat" for 5 hours in a row. As you can imagine, it got just a little annoying.
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Rider's log: heading North on the Lehigh Valley Gorge trail

My first ride of October has been done. I haven't been on a ride in over a week, due to lousy weather and lack of motivation. I'm thinking my annual bout with Seasonal Affective Disorder is going to be pretty bad if I'm already feeling it. But, I got tired of hearing myself whine about the impending Winter and decided to change my attitude.

Dressing in layers, I wore the Under Armour compression shirt my brother gave me (like this Under Armour cold gear shirt (Google Affiliate Ad) but not all black) under a t-shirt and a zipped up jacket. I also wore some thermal underwear under my tights and a pair of sweatpants. I was quite comfortable in the mid-60 (F) temperatures, but, of course, once I actually got down into the gorge, the sun disappeared. Obscured by the high ridge, the lack of sun meant the gorge was much colder; I'd say about 10 degrees colder. I ended up wishing I had a pair of gloves, and I'll definitely be wearing some for the 50k on Saturday.

Yes, so, I'm a baby when it comes to the cold -- and this isn't even cold, yet. Regardless, I went for a total of 50 miles and had a blast.

lehigh valley gorge trail fall foliage lehigh riverIn all the weeks I've been riding into the gorge, I never once thought to head left, following the trail North towards White Haven. This was a hideous oversight that I sought to correct, right away, and I'm all the happier that I did. The sights are incredible!

There is still a lot of green on the trees, but Mother Nature has been hard at work, and her palette has diversified quite a bit. Yellows, reds and oranges are becoming more pronounced, but you have to take in the whole landscape, viewing a wider panorama of the gorge walls to really see it.

Much of the Fall foliage sights I saw today were like riding along in a picture postcard. I half expected to see 50-foot-high letters on the side of the gorge, spelling out the words, "Welcome to PENNSYLVANIA." It's such an amazing scene; the view is delicious, a treasure.

As beautiful as the foliage is, because I never rode North before, I had no idea of the other natural sights there were to see in the gorge. For example, this beautiful waterfall that was much more amazing than any I had previously seen on the trail heading South.
Buttermilk Falls, view of the top in the Lehigh Valley Gorge Trail
The top of Buttermilk Falls
The pool at the bottom of Buttermilk Falls
This waterfall was too tall for one picture. Unfortunately, you still don't quite get the scale of how high that top ridge is. Another unique feature is the pool at the bottom. Huge slabs of stone make up a path that you can easily walk down and into those falls. Just when I thought I'd seen every amazing thing the Lehigh Valley Gorge has to offer, I see something like this, and I suddenly remember that I've only seen fractions of the whole thing.

Riding along, if you look out over the river, you can seen train tracks that run along the length of the gorge. This is all a part of the original lines that were a part of the gravity railroad that helped deliver timber, coal and other supplies down the line, to Jim Thorpe and beyond. When riding South, you do eventually cross the tracks that come over from the other side of the river, but they cross the river up North, as well. At the point where they cross to the North, I never expected to see anything like this:
Short tunnel beneath a train trestle in the Lehigh Valley Gorge D&L trail, near White Haven

Unfortunately, I never expected to see something like this, either:
Interstate 80 crossing the Lehigh River near White Haven, as seen from D&L Lehigh Valley Gorge Trail
Interstate 80, crossing the Lehigh River.
From an architectural standpoint, it's interesting to ride under a double-lane highway, especially to see how high up it is. However, the traffic is extremely loud.

The Lehigh Valley Gorge Trail (aka D&L Trail) continues up past White Haven for quite a distance. I stopped before actually reaching White Haven, as my bike computer clicked over 25 miles (it's a 15 mile ride just to get to the gorge from my house) and I only wanted to do a 50 mile round trip. The sun was rapidly setting, and I wanted to get home before dark.

Of course, just because I was eager to get home doesn't mean I was in such a hurry that I couldn't stop to take more pictures.
D&L trail Lehigh Valley Gorge Trail near White Haven

D&L trail Lehigh Valley Gorge Trail near White Haven Fall Foliage in North-East Pennsylvania

These huge pylons are all that remain of a bridge across the Lehigh River.
D&L trail Lehigh Valley Gorge Trail near White Haven Fall Foliage in North-East Pennsylvania

Mushrooms on a log in the D&L trail Lehigh Valley Gorge Trail near White Haven Fall Foliage in North-East Pennsylvania

Since writing up this post on the 4-feet when passing bicyclists law in Pennsylvania, I decided to take the initiative to "take the lane" when going into intersections and turning. I also rode a little deeper in the lane on the Weatherly Plains Road, just to see if it would make any difference in the way drivers pass me (and to avoid the nastier bumps and potholes that inhabit it.) I have to say, 3 or 4 cars did give me a wider berth. Most, however, just continued cutting it as close as possible while blazing past at ridiculous speeds.

Normally, I wouldn't have bothered mentioning it, except that one driver happened to come much closer than comfortable -- in front of a state trooper who was coming from the opposite direction, no less. I had hoped the trooper had seen what had happened, but he just continued on his way. So much for my attempts at public education. Although, taking the lane leading up to stop signs, lights and intersections had much better results. One driver approaching from the opposite side of an intersection even waved me through, allowing me to make a left turn after waiting at a red light. Signaling your intended direction and making eye contact can go a long way.

After more than 5 hours of riding, a hot meal and a comfortable chair were exactly what I needed. I've read that taking a break for a few days after intense training can have many benefits, and I have to admit, I really did feel much stronger today than ever before. It has almost been exactly 2 months since I started training for the Flaming Foliage Ride, and I'm riding farther and faster than I ever imagined back in August. I can't wait until Saturday!
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For the cyclist who has everything,'s list of shocking Interbike finds

Ready for something really weird? Well, Jeff has a post on that highlights 5 weird things, just for you..

Brace yourself. Fat bike is coming. Source:
Want shoes that keep your feet cool, and also, possibly, minty fresh? How about anti-lock brakes on a mountain bike? Weird helmets? Fat bikes and free tattoos? Jeff over at has compiled them all into a fun list in a post titled MTB Products on the Fringe: Shocking Interbike finds.

To be honest, I've never heard of Interbike until this past week, as the event was actually occurring. Interbike is described as "North America's largest bicycle trade event and show." Given my experience attending trade shows and events in the video games industry, I can just imagine that this was probably pretty similar, complete with weird products and gimmicks galore. Well, maybe with less chance of being stuck in line for several hours with a large, smelly man wearing a Pikachu costume. (I'll let you decide if that is more or less awesome.)
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