Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gear: Chris' Bike

I've had a couple of questions about Chris' bike. While the man himself is best able to answer them, this is my blog, and I'll take a shot.

Chris rides a Day Six Dream, a pedal forward designed bike that puts the rider in a position like that of a chair. Complete technical specifications are available on the Day Six website.Like many super obese men, including myself, he has a bad back, and being seated upright is the difference between riding and not riding. My friend is two hundred pounds over the weight limit for the bike, and has a history of problems with the rear wheel and seat. In the photo below, you might notice the seat contains wood. This isn't a historical tribute to the draisine, the two century old prototype of the modern bike, but instead a do it yourself fix for a seat that snapped under his weight. The wooded repair is stronger than the resin Day Six used, and the fix allows Chris to extend his seat backward, giving him a bigger platform. In addition he's added bar ends to the handlebar, and a basket for his beverages. 

 As I wrote in my post about our ride last week, Chris has struggled with the fit of his bike. He's stubborn, which has helped him not give up, and hurt him as he's insisted he can find a way himself. He also doesn't ride enough; restricting his long rides to my visits means he's not working through his problems when he needs to. But, as I wrote, Chris thinks he's made a breakthrough, getting the seat to move back without raising him up. If you compare the two photos in this post, you'll see the seat is further back by a couple of inches, and lower. This gives Chris a better leg extension without causing him to strain. The improved fit gave him an increase in average speed, as he didn't need to stop as often. Chris will be fine-tuning his fit in the next week.

Chris received a lot of incorrect advice from riders of conventional bicycles, including me, that he had to raise the seat to improve his leg extension. This shows the dangers of crowdsourcing; even a message board full of experienced cyclists can be wrong if they don't have experience with the type of bike they are talking about. Fortunately Chris is finding his way and with his customary good cheer will succeed.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Matty Rides! Cleveland, Ohio, July 2013

I've been nagging, as only I can nag, my friend Matty to get a bike. So has my friend Aaron. But Aaron is in Ohio and I'm in Eastern Pennsylvania, and we have little influence on a man in Michigan. So when we had the opportunity to meet in Ohio last month, in addition to walking around Cleveland and having lunch Aaron the mechanic met with my friend to get Matty set up on two wheels.

The result? Matty has a bike again for the first time in five years. And, unlike his old steed, it fits him! He'll fine tune his fit, as every cyclist does, but in the mean time he has a bike that's not hurting him every moment he's on it.

Cycling is never a weight loss pill, but its a tool in both losing weight and building fitness. But first of all its fun, and if Matty sticks with it the fun will follow. Matty, when you are ready we can ride some of those Michigan roads and trails together....

Labels: , , , ,

North Coast Inland Trail, Ohio, July 2013

My first bike ride in Ohio during my recent trip was with my buddy Aaron. His new home is close to a long and growing multi-use path to the west of Cleveland, the North Coast Inland Trail. We spent the better part of a Sunday exploring the off-road portion of it.

The exploration began tentatively for me, as I felt nervous and unstable when riding. The trailhead at Elyria starts off on a sidewalk and then crosses on a road bridge shoulder till you reach the trail. The bridge is a climb, moderate but enough to cause me to walk the bike halfway up.

I began to feel more at home once I'd caught up to Aaron and was riding on the trail. The old quip "its like riding a bicycle, you never forget how" began to come true. It helped the paved path was flat and had a good surface. And the cool of morning was burning off with the occasional wisp of fog. The woods, fields, and farms of Ohio came into view as we rolled along.

Ohio is a developed state and we were outside a major city, so road crossings were inevitable and frequent. But many of them were low traffic and we could roll through them after checking each way. We traveled slow but steady, much like the freight and passenger trains that crossed on this path a century ago. Artifacts of the railroad days are scattered along the trail - mileage markers, telegraph poles, old bridge abutments, and the restored train station in Oberlin. My need to photograph everything both amuses and annoys Aaron, so I tried to keep my shutter finger in check on the outbound trip.

The North Coast Inland Trail heads straight as an arrow into Oberlin, the town famed for its conservatory and Oberlin College's legacy of breaking barriers in higher education. The trail passes to the south of the college, and aside from crossing a street with a McDonald's on it we couldn't tell we were in a town. The train station across the road from the McDonald's is a nice resting spot, with benches for weary walkers and riders. The brickwork is pretty but I'd not choose it for a bike path.

At the town limits for Oberlin there is a fifth of a mile on road segment before you connect again with the trail. This seems a common trait on Ohio bike paths - both the Western Reserve Greenway and the Holmes County Trail feature such little jogs near their midpoints. But the road segment isn't heavily trafficked or hilly, and we were soon back onto the trail. We reached the town of Kipton, rode past it a mile, and came to the current trail end. It being a Sunday, Kipton was closed, but the afternoon sun lit up the colorful buildings on the main street.

My fatigue increased on the way back, but so did my confidence. We stopped at the McDonald's in Oberlin for lunch, parking our bikes amid all the rides of the college students working there. Refueled - yes, one can make good choices when eating at McDonald's - we headed back to Elyria. Aaron is the stronger and faster rider, and he pulled ahead. Also, I had to stop for photos. When I reached the trail end in Elyria I had no trouble climbing the hill on the road shoulder and getting back to the car. I always have a great time with Aaron, and this was a great trail to ride.

Labels: ,

Monday, August 26, 2013

Challenges - Delaware and Raritan Feeder Canal Towpath, NJ, August 2013

I returned with Chris to the Delaware and Raritan Canal Towpath to make up for the abandoned ride of the week before. Once again we started from Scudder Falls trailhead, but this time we headed south, towards the end of the trail in Trenton. The towpath surface and surroundings remain rural for the first three miles or so, but soon enough the trail becomes narrow and filled with broken glass. Since I like to keep my tires intact and this blog isn't A Taste For The City, we turned around just before the feeder canal towpath meets the towpath running from Trenton to New Brunswick on the Raritan River.

Once we were going back north, Chris informed me he was still having problems with his bike fit. Recumbency, the world's seventh major religion, is sold as the answer to every cyclists' problems, but truth be told they can be difficult to fit. My friend has struggled to find a position that doesn't cause numbing in his feet and his posterior and still gives him a proper leg extension. After a couple of long stops the coin dropped in the slot and the answer came. He took his seat apart, adjusted it to he's back further but he's NOT raised higher, and much of the discomfort went away. 

Meanwhile, my continued fit adjustments on Notung's handlebars were leading to nothing. I was still getting numbness in my hands after a couple of miles of riding. Stopping to let blood back into my hands hurt my speed tremendously. (Waiting for 17 readers to email me about getting a recumbent.....) I'm going to have to take the bike in for a professional fitting so this problem is resolved. My tinkering isn't working. 

Still, stopping isn't so bad if its a pretty trail. And it was a hot day, so stopping to drink was a good idea. I went through four water bottles; Chris consumed nearly two liters of fluid.  That and the improved bike fit seemed to give him new energy. 

The turn around spot on the ride was Bulls Island Recreation Area, a boat launch, picnic spot, campground, and service area for the towpath. The highlight of Bulls Island is the pedestrian bridge over the Delaware River. I crossed over to Lumberville, Pennsylvania and back, walking with Notung since riding is prohibited. My photos can't do justice to the beauty of the Delaware River. At one point a private plane flew low over the bridge, and it traveled down the river like a mechanical bird. 
Chris seemed to have gotten his second wind on the ride back. Even though I am allegedly the faster rider, my increasing discomfort in my hands gave him an advantage. Since he stopped less, he made it back to Scudder Falls twenty minutes before I did. The ride was 44 miles, longest for me post surgery and longest ever for Chris. I was very down by the end, as I had both my numbing hands and swelling in my knees to deal with. Fortunately Chris' good humor and a relaxing meal helped improve my mood. 
While the ride was generally good, there were some disconcerting notes. At one point a bunch of drunker rafters on the river were shouting vulgarities to people on the trail or the riverbank. Chris was trying to photograph a doe and fawn near the water and the rafters shouted "Hey Bambi, your mother's dead!" The deer ran away, probably as offended as we were, And on the way back we came across two young men looking to win a Darwin Award. The water level wasn't deep here, and yet both men were jumping into the stream feeding the canal. Chris observed that their form was a modified belly-flop, since anything else and they'd probably hit bottom during the dive. 

Labels: , , , ,

A Taste For The Woods: 2013-08-25

This page has moved to a new address.

A Taste For The Woods