Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Lebanon to Hanover and Back

This morning it was forecast to be cloudy and warmish with the clouds eventually breaking and a high of 74 F. So I felt it would be a good day to get a ride in. Guess what? The weathermen got it way wrong. Not only was it a bit chilly, the clouds never really broke and the wind was howling at around 40 miles per hour if I had to guess.

Lucky for me it was all downhill and that ferocious wind was at my back for the ride into Hanover. I had planned to try getting some cool shots of some older buildings in town or on campus and grab some shots of a couple sculptures.

A photo posted by dudeonabike (@datdudeonabike) on
I got one ho hum shot of an older library and a couple sculptures, but, not nearly as many as I had hoped. One of the pieces I had planned on shooting is in the middle of what is now a major construction project. But as we often have to, I adapted and overcame. In the end I got a few miles in and a couple of decent shots, still not getting as good of results as i would like, but I guess it will come with more practice.

On the way home I was treated to going uphill from Hanover to Lebanon on 120 back into that same brutal wind. But I made it, and it wasn't all that bad.

Tomorrow I plan on getting out again, riding more miles, and taking more photos of even better quality. Hopefully the weather guys get it right, because its supposed to be a great day as far as the weather is concerned. Will try and report back tomorrow with a ride report and some fresh photos.

Sculpture in Hanover, NH

2016 Trek 520 Review after 1000 Miles

Obviously this review is a little late considering Trek has already got the 2017 520 out. And it certainly looks just as slick. If you had asked me 10 years ago if I would be the owner of a touring bicycle I would have laughed. Ten years ago, I was still riding a BMX bike. Then I moved onto a mountain bike for a few years. When I moved to a more urban area I wanted something more efficient and opted for a singlespeed, which I later turned to fixed gear.

Fixed gear got me more into road riding and riding for transportation, not just exercise and recreation. I started looking at road bikes and was strongly considering getting a Madone. But I just couldn't do it because it seemed such overkill and may not suit my more utilitarian side. Then I kind of fell in love with the idea of one day just hitting the road on a bike and going cross country. This got me looking into touring bikes.

I looked at Surly Long Haul Trucker and countless others. When I stumbled on the Trek 520 I could remember my old neighbor and parent's friend had a Trek 520 mountain bike that he adored and road everywhere. I did some research and found Trek has been making the 520 for decades. I went and checked some out. I eventually picked one up from my local bike shop.

I couldn't be happier. I have rode this bike over a thousand miles since picking it up in June so I think its broken in and I am qualified to give it a proper review. The first thing that jumped out at me when we went for the first ride together was the smooth shifting provided by the bar-end Shimano shifters. This is the first bike I have ever owned that is equipped with these kind of shifters. Initially it was weird to reach down there each shift, but it quickly becomes second nature.

The butted chromoly touring frame is plenty stiff for power transfer, yet forgiving on rough roads. During our thousand miles of riding she has certainly been put through the paces, and never let me down. The chromoly fork has eyelets for fenders and lowrider rack mounts. Currently I am without a front rack, so I cannot speak to how the bike handles with a front low-riding load. I suspect it handles just fine.

The reviews online were mostly positive. The only real negative things i saw were complaints about the wheel quality and the saddle. Firstly, I have never bought a bike and kept the stock saddle on it, ever. To me, that's not really a part of the bike. I am a huge fan of the Brooks saddles I found when I got into fixed gear.

The other negatives people mentioned related to the wheelset, which is Shimano Deore hubs, and Bontrager rims. Broken spokes was the topic of most of the bad reviews. After about 500 miles of good riding, there was a funny noise coming from the back wheel. Luckily it was just a loose spoke. It was re-tightend and rode another 500 miles. At the 1000 mile mark my 520 had its first tune up. Prior to the tune up shifting was getting just a little sloppy due to stretched cables. Happily, the bike shifts like new again, and is ready for our next adventure.

People also complained about the stock Bontrager Hard-Case tires. Based on that, my plan was to ride until I got a flat then by new rubber. Guess what? I'm still rolling on my stock Bontrager tires 1000 miles (and some change) later. Now that it's been said, no doubt, our next ride will involve a flat.

The drivetrain has performed very well for me. Initially we bombed all over North Carolina and now we're tackling the mountains of New Hampshire. The front derailleur is Shimano alivio and is friction shifting at its funnest. This took me some getting used to. The rear derailleur is the well-tested, and loved Shimano Deore. With the bar-end shifter in index mode shifting the rear derailleur is still crisp after a thousand miles. The beefy crank is a Shiman Trekking M590 with 48/36/26 chainrings. It's not very often I wish for lower gears, but it does happen on occasion. The rear Shimano HG50 casette is fitted with 11-32. The original KMC X9 chain is still on the bike.

Drop bars and Shimano T400 V-Brakes round out the components and make it a very well-equppped king of the road. As many of the reviews have stated, the bike is heavy. But to me, that translates to a nice smooth and stable ride. I could almost ride down a set of stairs no-handed on my 520 its so stable. But I will not.

Part of that heaviness comes from the back rack that comes with the bike. The online reviews just rip on the rack, but mine has been serving me quite well. Granted it hasn't been loaded with a full touring load for extended periods of time. It certainly isn't the best rack out there, but it will get you a good ways down the road.

If I was looking for another bike today, would I still buy a Trek 520? Hell yea, but I don't anticipate mine will ever need replacing :)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Mount Cardigan State Park

Well today was another beautiful New Hampshire day filled with fun and adventure. I rose out of bed this morning to the now familiar sight of fog blanketing the upper valley. Therefore I was in no particular rush while getting a brew started in the french press, as I do pretty much every morning. Once coffee is ready then comes my daily check of the morning news, which is usually depressing. Then I check the weather. Today was forecast to be seventy-four and sunny! My mom had asked me to try and get her some good shots of the fall foliage. So as I started planning my day I wanted to obviously incorporate a bike ride somewhere scenic and with a view of fall foliage.

A few days ago I had googled the best hikes with a view in New Hampshire. Turns out one of the top-rated hikes is right down the road from us. Initially the thought was possibly drive up to the Mount Cardigan State Forest and hike to the top to take some photos, then come home and go for a bike ride. But while googling directions to the trailhead it showed up as being in Canaan. "Well hell, Cannan is on the Northern Rail Trail and the state forest is not far from where the rail trail passes through Canaan." I thought to myself.

And with this "plan" my body was put into perpetual motion for the entirety of the day. First comes the clothes, then the water bottles, camera, and then a packed lunch. Once all the boxes are checked we're ready for takeoff. The Trek 520 (Tank) and I were off under clearing skies and bombing the rail trail in no time flat. As the skies cleared the temperature started to warm up nicely, but not really too warm. Sure I was sweating at times, but when I got rolling down a hill in the shade it was definitely cool. Perfect cycling weather, really. As Tank and I glided down the trail I would stop periodically to take some photos trying to get the hang of my camera. Most of the shots were kind of ho-hum, or just plain terrible. But some were kind of cool, and I think I will eventually get much better.

The fall foliage is in full effect all around here too. So much so that I found myself occasionally getting a little closer to the edge of the trail than I usually prefer. The last couple of days have been kind of grey and cooler. Today was probably the last little taste of summer we are going to have around these parts. I'm told the Mascoma River is really low this year, but it still is pretty, I can't wait to see how pretty it is when its full.

Once again the trail was mostly quiet. There was the occasional fellow cyclist or dog walkers, but sometimes there would be no one for a few miles straight. Honestly, I prefer it that way as opposed to weekends and holidays. I do, however, wish my girlfriend would have been with me today. Unfortunately she has a real, grown-up kind of job. So today it was just trusty Tank and the bright foliage to keep me company.

Eventually I rolled through Canaan and hopped off the trail and onto the roads toward Mount Cardigan (it was easy, just followed the signs) I knew it would be a brutal climb to reach the summit, but challenges are good so the pedals kept turning. And then, there it was, it was off in the distance, but it stood there dominating the skyline  and daring me to take it on.

But take it on I did. I rode twenty miles to the state park. Well actually there was some pushing of the bike at the very end. But after riding a bicycle there, I then proceeded to show this bald mountain who was boss and hiked to the summit. The hike was no less challenging than the bike ride to the parking lot. It was a real smoker, but making it to the top was very rewarding. My photos do it absolutely no justice at all. Believe me when I say it, it was beautiful up there on the peak of Mount Cardigan soaking up all the fall colors.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Enfield Ramble...Almost

The Enfield Ramble is a short and scenic ride from the Road Biking Northern New England book. It's only about 10 miles long following the book's route. We live pretty close to Enfield so we can ride to the start and increase it to 25 miles. My better half completed it last week on her own. I've been meaning to get out and complete the same ride for a couple weeks. Yesterday was to be the day that I checked it off my list of rides to do. I almost got it done too. But there was some road construction going on along Shaker Hill Road which caused me to miss a turn. No worries though, I found the ride a long the length of Shaker Hill Road to be quite enjoyable.

I managed to find some time to mess around with my camera a bit more too. When I stopped for a snack at the bench on the banks of Mascoma Lake along the rail trail I was treated to a group of ducks feeding along with a heron. The ducks were making a lot of noise which made them impossible to miss.

I finally got around to having the trusty Trek 520 tuned up this week. I have to say I'm very glad I did. The bike is performing even better than when new. It's good to have a decent local bike shop around. My 520 was bought back in May and has well over one thousand miles on it. The headset was loose, spokes were loose, and shifting became a bit sloppy. Check Omer and Bob's in Lebanon if you're in need of anything bike related, they should be able to sort you out.

Even though I did not get the Enfield Ramble checked off my list yesterday, I still greatly enjoyed the day cruising through scenic Enfield and Shaker Village. The foliage is really starting to turn colors now which makes for another excuse to get your ass out and go for a ride.

The mornings can be quite cool and foggy. I usually wait for it to warm it a little and the fog to clear. The downside of this though, is that by the time I get going its almost lunch, then after a decent ride, it doesn't leave much time to prep and cook dinner for my lovely lady before she gets home. But so far I've been managing.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Franconia Notch State Park Bike Path

My lovely girlfriend found this absolutely amazing section of bike path while perusing the Road Biking Northern New England book she got me for my birthday. It was a little over an hour drive from where we live, but it was a gorgeous day for a drive through the mountains. The fall foliage is just starting to show up which made the views during the drive that much more spectacular. Neither of us had been to Franconia Notch yet, so this was a new adventure for the two of us to enjoy for the first time.

The bike path is 8.8 miles long and is paved doubletrack. We went on a Friday, and with it being after Labor Day, there weren't too many other walkers, joggers, or cyclists on the path. Indeed, at times it felt like we had the trail to ourselves. The trail has some moderately sttep climbs and descents which make it a heck of a fun ride. I really enjoyed some of the descents where I may or mayI think I read somewhere the trail was built because cyclists are not allowed on I-93 and there are no other secondary roads to take in order to get through the notch. It's so narrow that Highway 3 and I-93 actually merge and become one through the notch.

Starting at the Flume Gorge Visitor Center Parking Lot and heading North, the path is generally taking you uphill. We couldn't have planned this any better in my book. I prefer to do the climbing (or wind fighting) ont he way out in an out-and-back ride. Then you get to relax on the way back. The trail takes you through some very scenic parts of Franconia Notch. One of the highlights for us though was definitely the Governor Gallen Memorial. Here you are treated to some magnificent views of Mount Lafayette on one side and down over I-93 you get a different view of the mountains to the northeast. This was also a great spot to stop and have a snack or two.

The path also takes you right along Echo Lake which is very scenic. We thought about stopping by the Old Man of the Mountain, but since the profile has fallen off, it doesn't seem as cool to me. There are pictures of it before the collapse online as well as at the site. The old man fell down on May 3, 2003. I really wish I could have seen him perched high above Profile Lake, where he sat for millions of years, but such is life. the public did not want anyone to recreate the old man so now its just a cliff, but still quite pretty.

Another point of interest along the bike path is the Basin. We didn't really stop here, but I'm told there is some cool rock formations and cascades around The Basin that are worth the extra walking. The first several miles after leaving the visitor parking lot, the trail stays pretty close to the Pemigewasset River. This provides you with plenty of little spots to stop and view the crystal clear river. Many of them have some cascades as well which are very pretty and make great photo subjects.

We made it back safely to the Flume Gorge Visitor Parking lot after what seemed like an all downhill ride back south. We were tempted to do the two mile hike to check out the gorge. But didn't really feel like paying to do so, and by this time we were both thinking about where we might stop on the way home for food. Usually we try and find some good local spots on Yelp. This time though we ended up stopping at an Applebees. Tell you what though, it was pretty damn good after our almost nineteen mile ride through the mountains.