Final Route Map, SF, CA - Montauk, NY

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

30 days left til go go go

The rain we've been having over the last several days has finally abated. The temp was hovering within a few degrees of 50 for most of the day, but at least it was dry. I took Penny up for her first trip to Nyack. Oh yes, I don't think I mentioned, but I've decided that Penny is her name.

I loaded the tent and a whole lot of bottles of gatorade into the front panniers and all of the cooking equipment, maintainance tools and some other random crap into the back ones. Though I didn't weigh it this time, I'm guessing the extra load was somewhere between 50-60 lbs.

And it wasn't too bad. Unlike trips I've taken on this route on the mountain bike, no hill was too steep for me to climb, even if I was going VERY slowly at times. Overall I made good time. My bike computer has an issue or two, so it has only been telling me the time, not speed or distance. On this ride I have a couple prominent time markers; the GWB, because that is basically half way time wise (though not distance wise) and The Runcible Spoon, a bike friendly cafe in Nyack that is a good place to turn around if Nyack is the destination or take a break if one is going further. According to, on the route I took the Spoon is 36.25 miles away. (17 to the GWB and 19.25 the rest of the way) I did each section in about an hour and a half, which isn't great time, but it isn't horrible either. I was passed several times by racers on their triathalon bikes, but I can't really compare my progress to theirs as any of my four panniers weigh more than their bikes.

Here's a map

Until next time

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

slightly unrelated

I just registered for the NYC Century tour in September. I think it's funny that the 100 miles which seemed so far just last year will be nothing by the time I'm done with this tour.

Just a thought

Monday, March 29, 2010


There are differences between a mountain bike and a touring bike. Even though I've been riding my mountain bike in this city for five years, riding the same streets on the touring bike take slight adjustments. My shoulders move differently as I turn because of the new shape of handlebars, the weight in the panniers shifts the center of gravity and more upper body strength is needed to maneuver slight road obstacles.

My trip to Paramus had just the rear bags on, so I needed to start practicing with the front. Last Thursday, I loaded up 9 bottles of gatorade in one, the other had my 5 lb tent, some food and some other dead weight. One of my rear panniers had my 12lb bike chain in it, so I threw that on the bike too. Altogether, it was about 60lb of added weight on the bike. I took her for 3 laps of prospect park. There were a couple different groups of cyclists training together. One caught up to me on the incline and one of the guys rode next to me and said 'I know that bike. Bicycle Habitat, right?' Yeah, I replied. 'Nice bike' then he sped up again. On the second lap, I passed another training looking group, which then caught me on the hill again. Just after the hill flattens out by Grand Army Plaza I caught back up with them and passed them before the 3rd St playground. The leader looked at me and yelled back to his pack 'Come on guys, we have to go faster'.

Today was my second major weight test. In addition to the front panniers I still had loaded from a few days ago and my chain in one of the back ones, I loaded the other back pannier with a case of gatorade (what? I went to costco recently). So effectively the bike was 80lbs today. It was noticeably heavier and more sluggish starting up. I did five laps of the park and it took 1hr 18 minutes, but that includes a slow lap while i was trying to clip both feet in and another for having to stop to not answer a phone call. But that's around a 15 mph average, and to start with, I'm ok with that, though I'd like to be a little faster.

The other difference today over a couple days ago, is that today was rainy and cold and not happy outside. It's good to practice being miserable, so it's not such a shock in the mountains. I now know I need shoe covers. My feet are still cold from being so wet earlier.

More this week. Hopefully I'll get in a fully loaded ride to somewhere decently far once the weather breaks later this week.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The plan comes together more, attempting to prepare

I got the new bike. She's a Trek 520 and I got her at Bicycle Habitat in Soho. I haven't yet named her, but the leading names are Penny, Pepper and Sarsaparilla.

She has two pairs of Ortlieb panniers, which so far have been able to hold whatever I've tried to put into it.

I got her then two days later, left to visit a good friend in Alabama for five days. In the week since i've gotten back, it's rained a lot and has been cooler than the week before. I've ridden her nearly every day I could have.

One of the first trips I made on her was to my storage unit to pull out my tent. I bought this tent, I want to say, in 1999 or 2000. It has been to such exotic places as Maui and Missouri, as well as being used as a well sniffed napping spot for the cat. Alas, it's 12lbs and 22" long. Any personal fondness for this tent aside, that is more wight and volume than I'm willing to invest in a tent. Between that and the need for a camp stove, I knew that a trip to an outdoorsy type store was in order. Sadly, there are no camping stores in NYC. The one I had recommended was Campmor in Paramus. It's about 63 miles round trip. So, I threw the back panniers on the bike and headed to jersey. I walked out with a 5lb tent; a camp stove, pans, utensils and fuel that I later realized I won't be able to take on the plane with me; a new balaclava; some convertible pants and a few pair of sturdy underwear. They tent was strapped onto the rack and everything else fit in the panniers, not even filling either one halfway.

All was going reasonably well until it wasn't. I hit a patch of bad road and somehow the right pannier had jumped off the rack and was trying out a new career as a brake for the rear wheel. I was not expecting to come to a stop suddenly in jersey afternoon traffic, but there I was. I pulled the bike up onto the sidewalk and started to investigate. The plastic bar that serves as the keep the bottom of the bag rigid had snapped. The seam along the bottom corner was ripped open, not a feature one normally looks for in a bag. That corner was now curling in towards the wheel. I pulled everything heavy out of the pannier and put it in the other. I tried to straighten the plastic bar, but apparently the wheel was able to exert more force on it than I could. I rode back gingerly, pausing every mile or so to make sure the bag stayed out of the spokes, and stopping suddenly when it didn't.

Since the bike shop was more or less on my way home, I stopped in. I found the pannier guy and explained what had happened. He said that that was highly unusual for an Ortlieb. He looked at everything for a moment, and declared that it was user error, that the bag hadn't been hanging on the rack properly. And then he looked at me and asked 'It was one of our guys that installed it, wasn't it?' It was. So he shrugged, grabbed a new one for me and said he'd take care of it.

Yay! That makes me <3 my bike shop. I really didn't want to spend another $80 on replacing that one, and I'm glad I didn't have to.

I should end this one here. I also have posts to make about training and the route, but they deserve their own posts.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

test ride

I tested a Trek 520 yesterday. It is a touring bike and different from my mountain bike in a number of ways. The bike is lighter and faster, partially because of the thinner road wheels. Also, instead of my straight 26" wide mountain bike handlebars, it features a rams horn handlebar set that is maybe 20" across. Instead of the trigger gear shifters I've been using for the last 5 years, the gear shift is a pair of cranks at the bottom of the handlebar, which is another adjustment for me.

I rode the bike around lower manhattan with my friend Lisa. We went out to the east river path where I was able to speed up a little because of the lack of cars, but there were also a lot of people and the path surface is scheit. I then wanted to test it on a hill, so we went to the closest one around, the Williamsburgh bridge. I went over that bridge as part of my commute for nearly two years, so I'm very familiar with how my mountain bike takes it. The 520 was, of course, much faster. It took significantly less time for me to get to the top than I'm used to, then I turned around and raced most of the way down, getting from top to bottom in about 45 seconds. For those of you unfamiliar with the ramp, that's really fast.

So I think that's the bike I'm going to end up getting. I do want to test ride at least one other touring bike before I buy it, but I think I've found my new bike. My crazy plan is coming closer to fruition. I'm going to make an announcement about it in the next day or so, once I have a couple more details worked out.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mile -1

Welcome to MileZer0. I am creating this blog to document the progress of an adventure I am planning to start in 7 weeks, riding a bike from one coast of this country to the other. I first had the desire to cycle across the country many years ago, but the real catalyst for the trip was a conversation I had with my grandmother three thanksgivings ago. I had mentioned to her that it was something I would like to do. She asked what was stopping me. I responded with the practical obstacles to such an endeavor: taking the time off of work and covering my bills at home while also paying the expenses of being on the road. She nodded and replied 'Ok. So what's stopping you?'

My grandmother is awesome.

So I spent the next year or so trying to figure out how to save enough to buy a good touring bike and all the associated accessories, cover my various student loans and rent, and what I would need to eat and sleep during the 9-10 weeks I expect it would take. Then, in April '08, inspiration struck me. Well, more precisely a car struck me.

I was riding up Manhattan Ave in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn. I pulled up alongside a car at a red light, mere blocks from the car-free bliss of the Pulaski Bridge bike lane. The light turned green, so I started to go through the intersection. Without warning (or signaling) the driver turned right into me. He hit my front tire, throwing me over the hood and onto the pavement 20 feet away.

This incident that caused me such great pain and suffering nearly two years ago is finally paying off, of a sort. The ensuing lawsuit has been settled, and, as of this writing, am patiently awaiting the arrival of my compensation. One of the things I am doing with my recompense is taking this trip. The irony of this is not lost on me. If I hadn't been struck on my bike then, I wouldn't be able to take this biking tour now.

It sounds so simple. I'm going to fly out to San Fransisco and ride my bike home to Brooklyn. Well, I actually plan to stop a night in Brooklyn, then spend the last day of the trip with a pack of friends, riding to Montauk on the eastern end of Long Island. I'm getting help in route planning from my brother Dan, who is both great with maps and has extensive knowledge of the middle portion of this country due to all the tornado chasing he's done. (There is an implicit question there, which is crazier, driving as close as one can get to tornadoes or crossing the continent on a bike? Perhaps in a few months we'll know the answer to that.)

In the next couple of weeks I'm going to acquire the equipment I'll need and start with my training rides. Last summer I did four rides over 100 miles and half a dozen others over 50 miles, but have never come close to 3400 miles in one go. Once I'm underway, this will be a repository of the difficulties and successes I experience on the bike and, of course, lots of pictures. If I can figure out how to attach an interactive map, I'll do that too.

So welcome, enjoy, and good biking!