Tucked away in a quiet neighborhood in Vienna near Clark’s Crossing is Watervale Way. I don’t know who lives here that would make this a segment. It starts in a cul-de-sac and goes about 200 meters to the intersection with Layminster Lane.
I was exploring new roads on May 2, 2019, when I ended up in a cul-de-sac. I turned around and rode out to Layminster. When I looked at my ride I was in the Top Ten for a Strava segment. Who knew?
The KOM may have been :28 and I made a mental note to come back some day and go for the KOM. Eleven days later, May 13, 2019, I came back and took the KOM in :24.
One year later, November 25, 2019, I lowered it to :22. And today I lowered it to :21.
Currently, it’s the least-challenged of any segment I own – just 13 people.
Until November 2019, I was running the Garmin 510 bike computer which was not one of the newer ones capable of live Strava segments. I bought the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt and slowly made a transition to running the Wahoo.
There was a learning curve for advanced features although the basic stuff of speed, time, and distance, were ready immediately. I rode through spring and then in late spring, upgraded to a paid subscription for Strava.
Before subscribing, I would check known segments after each ride. Sometimes I would set a new PR (personal record). Sometimes not. Nowhere was this more evident than in the summer of 2019 when I was chasing a segment in Prince William Forest Park.
Each day I would go to the segment and go full out for 45-50 seconds. Sometimes I thought it felt good. Other times I knew I didn’t have it. Then one day I got home and uploaded my ride and found I had the KOM.
Live Strava Segments are just that. As I approach a segment I am notified. Then the big GO! appears on my screen. Throughout the segment, I can see my progress.
Looking back on those Prince William Forest Park segments, I always went as hard as I could. So seeing that I was one second down may not have been enough to find that one second. But when I’m on the 3-5 or 10-minute segments, one can find the energy to push it a little harder to match the last time when you are getting feedback.
Live Segments have changed the way I ride. I do a lot of LSD (Long, Slow, Distance) rides. I also know that interval training is necessary to improve. Live Segments give me those intervals that require me to go hard.
Nowhere was that better shown than today’s ferry ride. The W&OD was crowded but I came to the Kincaid Climb just before Leesburg. I was worried about getting a good time in here because there was a slight headwind and there were lots of people. If I had to slow while waiting to pass I knew I was toast. But bad luck avoided me and my computer said 1:38 which was down from my previous PR of 1:55. Actual Strava time was 1:39.
Without Live Segments, this is one I would normally just roll through with no effort. In fact, my last ten rides, before today, were: 2:27, 2:17, 2:43, 2:28, 1:55 (old PR), 2:18, 2:24, 2:31, 2:44, and 2:23. I went hard and was rewarded. It’s not great – I am 33rd overall but that’s out of 16,292 athletes. So in that regard, this old cyclist is in the top 99% – 99.8% to be exact. And I am number one in my age group.
I even hesitated to go for a PR on Kincaid. Part of me wanted to save myself for the next climb. And that, too, is the beauty of Live Segments. Had I seen that I was down even 5-6 seconds I probably would have just sat up and soft-pedaled to the end.
I was expecting to compete for four segments today. The ones that show on my Wahoo are the ones that I have selected (starred). I was on the shoulder of US 15 North when I got the GO for Sprint to the SHIP and don’t get TRUCKED. Instant feedback – I went through in 2:01, lowering my time from 2:12 three weeks ago. My Strava time was actually 2:02. But I was two for two. I was on a roll.
When I got home I saw that I was second on the day – beaten only by Tim by three seconds. I laughed. I guess the clock was ticking while I waited. So I knew that if I simply didn’t stop at the top today I would improve my time on Climb Outta Whites Ferry. I went hard, saw that I was 45 seconds up, and then saw the PR on the screen (7:25). Wow! Almost two minutes. Note the “official” Strava time was 7:26 – I’ll still take it.
I was happy. I was riding well and I headed next over towards Edwards Ferry then back into Poolesville. There was one segment remaining, that I knew of. It was a climb on Martinsburg Road. And I was three for three and drenched with sweat. And it felt great.
I made my way over to Beallsville and decided if Rt 28 was closed five miles ahead (there was a bridge out at the Monocacy River two weeks earlier when I rode it) that I would take the road which now would be less traveled. It was closed ahead and as I hoped, I had no traffic for the next two and 1/4 miles to the turn onto Martinsburg Road.
Immediately I was smacked in the face with a GO! I was on Power Station Hill Sprint. I could see it wasn’t long and went through in 0:39 – down from previous best, 1:07. (Actual Strava time was 0:38). I was four for four.
I turned on the beautiful concrete Martinsburg Road and again, GO! I got into a big gear and watched my advantage over my PR increase. I went through the Concert Grind up to Wasche Rd. in 2:28, lowering my PR from 3:14. (Actual time was 2:27.). I was five for five and knew at least one more segment remained.
The reason it was one more is that three weeks ago the Martinsburg Rd Spring Climb popped up while I was riding with Tim. My PR was 1:01 that day and I knew it was ahead. But would I have anything left after going five for five in previous segments?
These Live Strava segments have been wonderful but not perfect. Some that I have starred and are supposed to show up on my Wahoo, haven’t. And I had starred some segments before today and they did not show up as race segments. Yet. So I knew one remained but thought there could be more.
I hit the downhill portion of Martinsburg Road pretty hard then started up the climb. Then came the GO! and I dug deep. I finished in 0:45 which surprised me. And now I was six for six.
It was a good workout and I was prepared for more segments. I didn’t know how much more I could find if there were more segments to pop up. But that would be it.
Without Live Segments, I probably would have ridden “medium-hard.” But I never would have dug deep for six segments on this ride. I can’t see not being a premium member of Strava simply for this benefit. It has changed my riding for the better.
In the end, I had 17 PRs on this ride. For some of those I wasn’t even aware of but I got them because I went hard on the segments. Because of Live Segments.
The Remaining PRs
Trailside School to Catoctin Circle (17:47) N. Kind St. from North St. (2:16) 1/2 Sprint to the Ferry (3:37)* Jerusalem to Darnestown (6:46) 109 to Dickerson on 28 (6:34) Martinsburg Road (11:56) ElmerSchoolRd2 – Whites Ferry (6:38)* Run to Whites Ferry (3:36)* Whites Ferry Last Sprint (2:37) Come to Think of it I Did Just Get Off the Ferry (5:58) Belmont Ride to Clairborne Bridge (2:49)**
__ *These are starred segments in Strava but did not show up on my Wahoo to race. But I still did OK.
__ **I didn’t know this segment existed but two dicks went flying by me at the light at Catoctin Circle. It was a red light that another cyclist and I was waiting for. Just as it turned white (for pedestrians and cyclists), they had a head of steam and went flying by us dangerously close. I thought what dicks but then I caught them. I wanted to follow but they passed a couple of people dangerously close. When it was finally clear, I went by never to look back at them. I kept my speed up simply to get away from them. No one likes to ride near dicks.
Unlike Phil Gaimon who captures KOMs (King of the Mountain segments) on Strava then makes videos of his efforts, I can barely sniff one. And at my age, everyone is younger and faster than me so I realize that I might see another.
But only five days ago I saw I was 2nd overall on a segment called Dam to Waterway at 1:20. That was accidental – I was just riding along with no idea this was a segment. And yet, here I was second overall. But the top of the leaderboard was a 0:59 which looked pretty unobtainable.
The leader was a rider named Sam Kristy. Don’t know if that’s a real name or not. Can’t tell his age but his Strava profile picture makes him look to be quite young – in the 15-25 age range. Figures.¹
My 1:20 came without knowledge so three days ago I decided to improve my own time. I got it to 1:10. At that point, I just put more separation between me and third place (HokieQB Athlete).
Two days ago I tried again and finished at 1:07. Although the record was 0:59 when I first looked, I will swear on this day the record was 1:05 – my time to beat.
Yesterday I came through in 1:03. Garmin showed I had a new PR but no KOM. I checked later and, sure enough, the time to beat was 0:59, not 1:05 which is what I thought.
At this point at least I can say I wasn’t getting slower. I thought I was on pace for another PR when a car saw me coming and pulled out anyhow. It slowed my momentum.
The late Paul Sherwen, on the Tour de France broadcasts, often said “you don’t need good luck (to win the TdF), you just have to avoid bad luck.” And on this attempt, I had bad luck.
I took my granddaughters for some bike riding/training. On my way home I did the dam segment again. This time I came in at 1:01. Another PR but those two seconds were alluding me.
There always seemed to be a breeze in my face. I was resigned to the fact that I would need a helpful breeze – a tailwind. Hey, most PRs or KOMs come with a natural assist.
This morning, I came through in 1:01. Ugh. The segment itself is on a slight rise about 2/3 of the way and then a slight downhill. What makes it more difficult and even dangerous, is it appears that it ends right at the intersection with Waterway Drive. There is a stop sign there and a blind intersection coming from the left. One cannot see if the intersection is clear and maintain the speed into the intersection. A handful of brakes is necessary.
After I got home and showered, my granddaughters decided they wanted to go for a bike ride. I rode to Forest Park High School and we rode about six miles before I rode home. I had decided I would try again. I thought this time I would stand and sprint at the beginning before settling into a sitting position. I kept in my big gear heading the voice of Fränk Schleck yelling out “bigger gear, Barry, bigger gear!” (He did that in France, last year.)
Only when I was losing momentum did I downshift a little. Once over the rise, I was pushing it. I could see I was 0:04 seconds ahead of my PR (which was 1:01). I kept the push until the end although grabbed the brakes a second before I had to.
I looked left and saw no cars and rolled into the medium of the intersection before nearly collapsing on my handlebars. And up it came – KOM – 0:58.
Wow. I got a KOM. Those are so rare that I will celebrate and even blog about one. And now I hoped that it held.
With Strava Live Segments, what is on the screen needs to be verified. It’s almost as if there are cyber-referees with the real time. But at 0:58, I figured the worst it could have been was 0:59 which was tied for first.
When I got home and uploaded the ride, the official time was displayed – 0:57. I got it and with two seconds to spare. So I’m going to be proud. I don’t expect it to hold. If Sam Kristy sees he’s no longer the KOM he might go and destroy the record. Oh to be young. I wish we had Strava when I was young. But even if he does, I am still the Local Legend (according to Strava).
___ ¹ There is a Sam Kristy on Facebook. If it is the same Sam, he is almost 19, is a bike racer, and will destroy this KOM if he wants it. I am sure his 0:59 was set just riding along. You can have it back, young man, but thank you for letting me dream young for a day.
All the years I’ve been riding and I’ve never been to Sugarloaf Mountain – Maryland. I’ve seen group rides in Montgomery Co. (Md.) organized for Sugarloaf and decided it would make a nice ride. And it was so nice I would do it thrice.
I mapped out a ride and downloaded it to my Wahoo bike computer. I prefer “loop” rides to “out-and-back” so I made this a loop that would begin and end from Poolesville although from Poolesville to Leesburg would have to be out and back because there’s no other way.
Every ride needs a ferry. It’s so relaxing to cross the Potomac River at White’s Ferry. Bikes are last off the boat and one advantage is you know for the next 10-15 minutes there will be no cars behind you.
On June 16th I parked in Leesburg and headed for White’s Ferry. After the climb out of the valley, I turned on Wasche Road. It is a country road with very little traffic. It connected with Martinsburg Road which is this cool one-lane looking road in a canopy of trees.
Rte 28 to Dickerson is not so good (traffic) but it’s only a mile and a quarter. Once on Mt. Ephraim Road one can see this hill (mountain) that pops up out of nowhere. On my first attempt, I was going to ride in a clockwise direction but discovered that was the wrong way. So I reversed course and went counterclockwise.
The road itself is not good pavement and it is completely wooded until one reaches the overlook. There is a small picnic area here as well.
On my first trip down I turned right on Comus Road. Gravel. Then it was a left on Mt. Ephraim Road which was also gravel. It became W. Harris Road which was also gravel. I took that to Barnesville where I picked up pave. Beallsville Road was lightly traveled but no shoulders and some blind corners – I was not comfortable and would not recommend it.
Just 10 days later I invited Tim Casebere to ride with me. We went to the mountain the way I had gone before but this time came back on pave. At Martinsburg Road, we stayed on the road which gave us a really nice descent followed by a nice climb. Wasche Road is a better choice if your legs are hurting. But Martinsburg Road was very lightly traveled. And we saw a wild canine – thinking it may have been in coyote as it was too large to be a fox. Pretty cool.
Finally, on July 19, Eryn was visiting from New York and she joined Tim and me to see what the deal was with this ride. It was very hot with temperatures in the mid-90s. We altered our route slightly first going into Poolesville then taking a busier road to Beallsville. But here we caught a break because there was a detour on Rte 28 because of a bridge out at the Monocacy River so we had Rte 28 to ourselves.
,We had planned, and stopped, on the way back at the Dickerson Market for water. but before I went in I spotted a cold gallon of water (partial) on the porch. I know this was purchased by a cyclist, used to fill water bottles, then left on the porch for the next cyclist to use. I’ve been on both ends myself – sometimes I bought a gallon and left it behind, today I used it. Thanks, cyclist!
The entire time you are in Maryland you can’t quite believe you are in Montgomery County, the same county with Bethesda, Gaithersburg, and Rockville. This section is rural, and while the mountain is not that much of a mountain, it feels more like you are in Frederick County. But what a nice ride.
Without looking, and I’m not, it has been a while (years) since I have ridden on Skyline Drive. The forecast looked favorable enough, which simply meant – no rain.
I was going to park at the library but saw a park – Burrell Brooks Park – and it was nearly perfect. It had a port-a-john, a clean one, in fact. But there was no shade. It did give me an opportunity to take a shortcut over to Skyline Drive but I guess you’re not supposed to use it. At least cars.
I waited in line at the entrance station in among cars. The ranger had pleasant words for me as I handed her my senior pass for free admittance.
And then it was pedal and sweat. The temperature was a reasonable 84°. Who wouldn’t take that for a July day in Virginia? But the humidity must have been close to 100%. The sweat was pouring off me.
I wanted to rub my eyes, or at least my right eye which was burning, but that often makes it worse. I just kept pedaling.
I reached the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center at MP 4. I pulled in. I went in the restroom and found some tissue and water. I cleaned my (1) eyes; (2) glasses; and (3) camera lens. I was soaked including my shoes. I had squishy feet.
My plan today was simple. Ride until climbing stopped. Then turn around and coast back home. But at MP 6 the road goes downhill. And that was too early to turn around. So I enjoyed a 1.5 mile downhill before I started climbing again.
I came to an Indian Run Overlook at MP 9.5. Took some photos and decided that was a good turn around point. I wish it was all downhill from there but there was the 1.5 descent I enjoyed on the way up and I got to climb that back. But once reaching Dickey Ridge Visitor Center it truly was all downhill from there.
Great roads. Great pavement. Sweeping curves. No shoulders but, generally, this is tourist traffic and drivers respect speed limits and cyclists.
My max speed going back (or going up on the one descent) was just 42 mph. Would have liked to have gone faster but what a great ride. Need to come back here soon.
The heat had come to west-central Pennsylvania the past couple days at the temperatures were up in the 90s. My planned ride was a 65-mile ride around Altoona. It was already near 80º when I hoped to be rolling at 9:00 a.m. But my stomach told me to seek a pre-ride comfort break so I drove to a local Sheetz to use their restroom.
My actual roll-out time was 9:30 a.m. That meant I would be out in the heat 30 minutes later than I planned. I had two water bottles on the bike and hoped to find a Sheetz, other gas stations, or country stores for additional water. And then just as I started I got a warning my Di2 (electronic shift) was on low battery. I hoped it wouldn’t fail.
The climb to Horseshoe Curve went off as normal. I have a feeling with each passing year I am just a tad bit slower. Once through the tunnel under the Curve, the road turns up. And it sure is beautiful. Only four cars in four miles passed me. I’m surprised more locals don’t use this road but maybe it’s too steep.
I thought of my friend, Scott Scudamore, who climbed this with me in 2010 with some friends. Across the top on Gallitzin Road, I passed through Tunnel Hill. I was glad to see the once-closed Country Store re-opened but it was too soon into the ride to stop. The ride down Sugar Run Road was great. Again, I thought of the two times Scott and I rode this in 2010. We had such fun on the descent.
In Duncansville, I passed a Sheetz. I checked my bottles and I was only down 1/2 of one. It didn’t make sense to stop for water. It was still too early to refill because there wasn’t anything to refill. I hoped I’d see another Sheetz.
In Hollidaysburg, I went off course when I saw a canal historic site. Here was the end of the Pennsylvania Canal and the beginning of the Allegheny Portage Railroad. I could spend more time here but needed to ride on.
I had mapped out the course for today’s ride and took off on Loop Road. I crossed Reservoir Road and turned on Locke Mountain Road (going down, not up). But up ahead I came to a Bridge Out sign. When I saw the sign I thought I would go down the road anyhow because most bridges that are out can be walked with a bike.
Not this bridge, It had a locked fence and there was nowhere to go. It looks like this bridge will never be repaired.
I saw a sign which stated Hollidaysburg-2, and Altoona-4. I was surprised I was so close to town because I knew I still had 25 miles to ride. And here I made a critical mistake because I needed water. I needed to find water and then readjust everything once I got hydrated. But I also wanted to finish the mapped course and I prioritized that above finding water, which was stupid.
I was suffering greatly when I arrived at Canoe Creek State Park. I went in their admin building and their fountain was there – an oasis that I would kill for. But it was covered up – Sorry, it was closed due to COVID-19 even though the transmission by touching objects had been ruled out by the CDC months ago. They had a restroom and I filled my water bottles there in the sink.
After I left the church, I went back to the park and found the concession stand open. I wisely bought some food and drink and took 20 minutes to refuel. I had bonked. My body ran out of fuel. The heat, combined with running out of water, and I had no energy left.
I made some critical mistakes. I hadn’t researched the presence of stores or gas stations on the route. I used to believe that a Sheetz gas/store was everywhere near Altoona. Well, not on this route. I had some great products by Skratch Labs – sitting at home. I grabbed two Kind bars and had them in my pocket but they were a chocolate nut mess. At the intersection of US 22, I should have gone searching for water. Instead, I followed my planned route.
The Di2 low battery had already disabled my big gear so on the rolling roads I could not pedal in the big ring, I spun, if you call it that, on Scotch Valley Road back to Altoona. I would say I was going nowhere fast but more properly, I was going nowhere slowly.
The heat really took its toll on me. Or heat combined with dehydrating because I ran out of water. And fuel. I did not carry the right fuel with me and I paid for it. Never did find another Sheetz until I was 0.5 mile from the mall where I started. And not having my big gears also hurt. It was a difficult ride but I am thankful to have finished it.
I was not looking for a gravel bike. Time may prove me wrong but I am not looking to join the latest trend in cycling – gravel rides. So why a gravel bike?
My Trek Pilot had a structural failure and was unsafe to ride, although who knows how long I rode it safely like that? But Trek would warranty the frame so I wanted to replace the Pilot. I wanted a backup road bike but knew I wasn’t going to go deep into cost or features.
I think a new Domane, even at the low end, was a bit pricey for me. I never considered the Emonda, and maybe I should have. But I also saw the Checkpoint in my local bike shop. Tom Scheiz told me about this gravel bike from Trek.
We are in a pandemic. BIke shops and manufacturers were slammed on inventory. It is hard to find a new bike anywhere and to order one involves a 6-10 week wait. Even with a credit from the Pilot, I didn’t want to spend too much. I looked at the Checkpoint 4 but I did not like the color it came in. So I looked at the Checkpoint 5.
I couldn’t even tell you the difference between the two machines except the Checkpoint 5 had a color scheme that I liked. It didn’t pop like my 2014 Domane but it was acceptable. And it was available.
The store didn’t have it in stock. They didn’t have any bike in stock except for, as Tom said, for extra-large and extra-small. But they had one on order with a delivery date of four weeks. Tom put my name on it and it came in on schedule.
So what do I have? I have a gravel bike. I am not an expert nor have I read other reviews. These are solely my thoughts. The biggest difference between a gravel bike and a road bike comes in clearance and drive train.
The bike came with knobby 42cc tires which I replaced with 32cc road tires. The 42s are perfect for trail or off-road, gravel (gasp) riding. There is more clearance in the fork for those instances when the tire picks up gunk. Loved my 2014 Domane but the clearance was so tight, even a pebble could get lodged between the tire and the fork. Even though I was running 25s, Paul McIntyre suggested I go no higher than 23s. With this bike, I will have no problems.
The other clearance issue is the bottom bracket. Gravel bikes sit a little higher.
The drive train is made for gravel. Gravel can really shake the drive train and this has a clutch that can take up some chain slack. I think. I have to figure it out. But other than that, it’s a road bike. For gravel.
It is aluminum. The knock on aluminum is that it will shake you on very long rides. I find the bike to be sturdy, handles well, and I really haven’t noticed a difference over 50 miles. It is heavier than my carbon bikes but I went out and flew up the hill on Hunter Station, setting a new PR. I’m not worried about the weight.
It becomes my back up road bike. I have no qualms about riding it on the road for long distances except for the radar unit tail light. It also becomes my bad weather bike, if not no other reason, if I crash a bike I would prefer that it be aluminum than carbon fiber. Not that I plan to though.
It becomes my off-road bike. I can see myself doing more rail trails than I have in the past simply because I have a bike that can handle those now. It has plenty of extra frame holes for mounting fenders and panniers. This bike can do it all.
I run the Garmin Varia rear light/radar unit. Unfortunately, there is no room for the light on the seat post because I have to carry a saddle bag (tubes/flat kit). But there is room for a tool kit or a “bottle” kit on the frame so I will be moving my saddlebag and then running the radar unit. And just like that, I have a road/gravel bike that will do it all.
First impressions: I am very impressed with this bike. If someone were looking for an entry-level road bike I might even suggest this because it is fit for the road. But it is geared slightly lower than a compact (30×46 v 34v50) so it will give up some in the speed department but gain some back in the climbing department.
Checkpoint ALR 5 is the best value gravel bike in the lineup. It’s a high-quality build that will hold up for long, rugged miles on pavement, dirt, and even the most treacherous gravel roads. But what sets this model apart is the performance parts and the wealth of features like adjustable horizontal sliding dropouts, massive tire clearance, and extra mounts that make it easy to customize for your kind of adventure.
300 Series Alpha Aluminum, tapered head tube, Control Freak internal routing, 3S chain keeper, rack and fender mounts, flat mount disc, horizontal sliding dropouts, 142x12mm thru axle
It was December 2006, when I went to buy my first “real” road bike. I was looking for an aluminum bike but eventually had my eyes turn to a carbon fiber bike, the Trek Pilot. But it seemed a little more than I wanted to pay and at first, I did not buy it.
But then, Adam Lewandowski called me and told me Trek had dropped the price, or it was a sale, but, whatever, it was 10% off. Adam told me it would be the last bike I would ever buy. And thus, I took delivery right before New Year’s Day (2007).
My inaugural ride with the bike was my “Manassas Loop.” I followed the Prince William Parkway counter-clockwise. When I reached the Coles District Fire Department, about 20 miles. I had a flat. It was not a good start to the Pilot’s career.
As I understood it, Trek had introduced the Madone, as their racing bike. Although later they would have different models, the Pilot was introduced as their endurance/comfort bike. It was perfect for my riding. It also had a “triple” chainring upfront. This would be the only negative for this bike.
Triple rings were okay for mountain bikes but not so much for road bikes. The front ring was always problematic. Often I had to “feather” it after shifting to make it sound cleaner. Sometimes it would skip shifts. The Shimano-105 Triple was not a good drive train. Occasionally I could expect the chain to come off while pedaling. I got very good pedaling while the chain was wrapped around the pedal and my shoe, and coaxing it back into position without stopping to fix it.
This bike took me places. None better than Mount Washinton, New Hampshire. Eight times I went to Mount Washington. I completed seven hill climbs. The first, 07/07/07, was canceled due to dangerous weather.
It made a perfect climbing bike. We (or my mechanics) would swap out the front ring for a 24t and put a 32t or 34t on the rear. This was after the first year when I did not make any changes to the bike.
It went to France. I was struggling on the climb up the Col du Tourmalet (who doesn’t?) and on the descent over the top I noticed a wheel wobble. I thought I had a broken spoke, and stopped to tighten them, but in a bike shop in St. Lary, I was told the wheel was cracked. I shouldn’t ride it. But I was in France. I rode it. I made it up Mont Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez with it. Maybe more importantly, I made it down Mont Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez.
I rode RAGBRAI (Iowa) and Ride the Rockies (Colorado). It was at RTR that I learned a valuable lesson which I follow to this day – “Never put a bike on a car if you can carry it in the car.” In 2013 I drove to Colorado by myself. I had plenty of room in my car for a bike but it looked so cool on top of the car. It was in Wichita, Kansas when I unlocked the front caliper that was holding the bike on the rack and moved to the rear to loosen the safety strap on the rear wheel. A gust of wind pushed the bike over except it was caught in the mount. The drop out at the bottom of the fork bent.
I found a bike shop in Colorado Springs the day before RTR and they replaced the fork with a used one from a Madone. It worked but now I had a red, white, and blue bike for the next three years. I found a company that could repair it and make it look sweet again.
But it was aging and I bought a 2014 Trek Domane to be my primary bike. The Pilot became my back up bike. In 2019 I had the components replaced so it would shift better. But it was never perfect. It was a Pilot with a triple chainring.
When I got a new Domane earlier this year, I made a decision. I would move (that is, my mechanics would move) the drive train from my 2014 Domane to the Pilot. I would have the only Trek Pilot with Di2 electronic shifting. Because it did not have internal cable routing, we had come up with a mount for the Di2 battery on the frame.
But Tom Szeide called me today with bad news. He was stripping down the frame to move the components to the Pilot and found a major crack in the chainstay. The bike was ruined. And I was sad.
Trek would give me a limited warranty for the frame and I would use it to get the Checkpoint. But I would have preferred to keep and ride the Pilot with the modification of electronic shifting. It was a sweet ride. I estimate that I put 30,000 miles on it. I’m not 100% sure because it was only post-cancer that I have tracked my miles. But I know I rode it about as far as it would last. I just wish it would have lasted longer.
I was looking at the Winter 2020 edition of Rails to Trails magazine and saw a very brief article about the Allegheny Portage Railroad. I had seen the eastern end many times, it is well preserved as a National Park Historic Site but I had not been on the western end.
In 2010, on my first ride from Somerset to Punxsutawney, I had taken a wrong turn and ended up at the trailhead of the Path of the Flood Trail. I turned around when the pavement ended and the trail became crushed limestone.
I wonder what adventure I would have had if I had stayed on the trail that day. Lost, that’s what adventure.
But today I decided I would do a loop by following the trail to South Fork then taking the road back to where I had parked. The forecast was for rain starting around 11:00 a.m. so I went early.
I drove to the trailhead but the park was closed. Not sure if it was the season (a weekday in March) or was in response to the Coronavirus. I went back into Franklin and parked on the street.
It started to rain as soon as I started to pedal. I was in it to win it and the rain would not stop me.
It was here the trail would have been a true “rail-trail” because in this section it followed the path of the Allegheny Portage Railroad. And the surface felt like it. There was the “climb” up to the tunnel. It was probably about 6-7% grade, and while I could ride it, it took me a few steps before I could get going.
I decided to try it. I would ride deep into the tunnel and see if I could see. I had a helmet light and a small portable flashlight. I started pedaling and scanned the flashlight back and forth. I made noise, lots of noise. I was fearful there may be an animal or two in the tunnel. At some point, maybe halfway, I could begin to make out some daylight.
But I went, down and under the train tracks and across the bridge into Mineral Point. This town was virtually wiped out in the 1889 flood. Here I picked up the Path of the Flood Trail. The trail climbed on the north side of the river. It was never a hard climb but a gradual one.
The Pennsylvania Rail Road needed to get trains back in service and amazingly, had a new structure in place within two weeks! A permanent stone structure built in the early 1890s.
I got into South Fork and planned on taking the road back. But first, I wanted to continue east towards the remnants of the dam, which I have seen many times. But then heavy rains came. I turned around and decided to head back to the car.
I had gone a little more than two miles when I pulled over to put on my glasses. I couldn’t find them. I had started the day wearing sunglasses, despite the absence of sun, to keep the rain out of my eyes. But they had fogged up and eventually, I tucked them away. They were in my back jacket pocket and now they weren’t. They had fallen out when I got my phone out at the tunnel and I thought they must have fallen out somewhere between the tunnel and South Fork.
At first, I decided to roll on without them. It was raining, and cold. The glasses served me many miles but they were old. My $50 investment would be gone. I went about half a mile farther and decided I would backtrack and I may find the glasses. I knew no one would be on the trail and if they fell out, I would find them. They had white frames, not black, so should be easy to spot. I made the decision I would trace my route to Mineral Point but not the final section through the tunnel as it was pretty rough riding.
On my way back, as I came to the viaduct, the morning fog had lifted and I went for a photo. Then I took the flashlight out of my jacket and put it in my jersey pocket. There wasn’t room. My glasses were in my jersey. Duh! I must have put them there after they fell out of my jacket. They were with me the entire time.
I rolled on to Mineral Point. As I crossed the bridge a geyser of sealant came gushing out of my front tire. I had a leak. I quickly turned around for a slight downhill section to go as fast as I could to rotate the wheel and get the sealant to seal it. It worked. I think.
I started the climb on the road out of Mineral Point. The tubeless tire seemed to have sealed. This road was steep. It was also about 3 1/2 miles. I got to the top, turned right, and began the coast home. I was worried about the tire but it appeared to be holding. I got back to the car and tried to wipe the bike down. I inflated the tire as it was down to 35 psi (from 80) I put it back to 80 and it appeared to hold. I drove through Johnstown on my way to a bike shop. Then I heard the tire. It was leaking again. A not so good ending to a wet and otherwise, perfect, day.
EDIT/EPILOGUE – The great tubeless experiment 2020 lasted little more than a month. I needed to get a repair fast and City Cycles in Johnstown was closed – forced closed by the governor. I called Paul McIntyre, in Pittsburgh. Paul had been my go-to mechanic in Reston before moving to Pittsburgh. Their bike shop was also forced closed but Paul met me in a dark alley in Pittsburgh and we repaired the tire so I could ride another day.
I loved my bike. I thought my 2006 Trek Pilot was feeling its age back in 2013, although it was only seven years old. I would buy it again but Trek had retired the model and made the Domane its endurance bike.
I had crashed and broke my collarbone on July 3, 2013. I was on pain killers when just a few days later I was at The Bike Lane in Reston, Va., ordering a Trek Domane. Although they had paint samples at the front of the store, I never saw those. We sat in a dark office looking at a computer screen. I ordered a red and white bike to match my Pilot.
When it arrived it looked nothing like I thought I ordered. I was sick. It was an expensive bike and I just felt like I could not accept it. I declined the purchase but promised to buy another when the time was right.
In the middle of the year, 2014, I sat down and we built a Project One Trek Domane 6. I wasn’t happy with the color schemes offered so I paid more for a custom paint job. It would be gloss/metallic black with gloss/metallic “tour yellow.” It may have been the only one they ever made.
The color scheme was me. Period. The Black and Tour Yellow represented three things in my life:
The Tour de France
The Steelers and Penguins
Above all, this would be my cancer bike. Black and Yellow representing Livestrong. When I rode, my mind was never far away from someone battling. I put stickers on it to remember Alex Shepherd, 13, and Jacob Grecco, 8, both of whom lost their battles to brain cancer.
I love the Tour (de France). I’ve seen numerous stages and this bike could be a TdF bike. Or a Pittsburgh bike. But it was definitely me.
The bike rode well. It was very comfortable. But it had its problems.
Just one year old, on October 27, 2015, I shifted gears and the rear derailleur broke off. That wouldn’t be too bad but it got caught in the wheel. It went one revolution and then smashed into the frame. The frame was cracked and the repair would cost me $1800.
I was disappointed. Furious, actually. I was “JRA” (just riding along) when the derailleur came loose. Trek offered a new frame at 50% off, or about $2000.
After only three years the rear wheel began to fail. I had three spokes break (metal fatigue) in the rear wheel. The Bike Lane rebuilt the wheel and built me a new one that kept failing.
In 2016 we tried repeatedly to set the bike up with tubeless. But it would never set. At Ride the Rockies the air pressure would be as low as 20 psi n the morning. Basically I rode flat until getting to rest stop one where I could get a tire pump.
But in 2018, just four years’ of riding, the bike started to creak, especially when under duress. It was at The Bike Lane in Springfield four or five times before taking it to Reston. We got it to quiet down for a few weeks but it was back for all of 2019.
In September 2019, it was sent back to the “Trek Hospital” in Wisconsin where they resurfaced the bottom bracket (BB90). I got the bike back in October and it ran quiet and smooth. I thought I was out of the woods. But a couple of months later, and maybe sooner, it was creaking again.
Earlier last month Tom asked me how the bike was running. I told him honestly and he said “I was afraid of that.”
Tom began the process of having the bike frame warrantied. Trek said they would replace the frame and paint it to match. But the problem with this bike lies in the bottom bracket – the BB90. And a new frame would still have the BB90.
The rim brakes on the two frames are different and I would have to purchase two new brakes at $275 ea. With a Trek discount of 25% for the brakes, it would cost me $413. The labor for the teardown and rebuild would be $400+. So for the same bike I currently own, but with a new frame, I would pay around $900.
Trek also offered me a credit towards a new bike. After considering my options, I decided to get a new bike. It would be a Domane but not the top-of-the-line Domane Project One. That would mean a custom paint job would be off the table.
The black and yellow Domane was me. But it’s time for a new chapter. I want to say it was a good bike that lasted 5 1/2 years but actually, I had problems with it all along. I told Bill Hellwig at The Bike Lane in July that I was riding the Pilot because the Domane was the worst purchase I ever made. And I meant it. So it was time to retire it.
I’ve done a number of cancer events with it including the Livestrong Challenges. I’ve ridden in eight countries. The bike popped (got your attention), especially with yellow bar tape. But it was time for retirement. And I’m looking forward to a new chapter.
We did a lot together. One might expect that riding more than 30,000 miles we would have plenty of memories. We traveled to Europe a couple of times including a solo trip across the Swiss Alps and with Rooster Racing in Luxembourg. In all the Domane had miles in Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and Switzerland. And, of course, the U.S. where we had trips to California, Texas, Colorado, and Florida. And even to the top of the highest paved road in North America – Mount Evans, Colorado.