Lebanon Valley Rail Trail

The Lebanon Valley Trail is a 15 mile trail starting in Lebanon, PA and ending at the Conewago Trail. The trail offers a mix of landscapes and has a bit more ups and downs than most rail-trails. With the direct connection to the Conewago Trail you can get an additional 5 miles in. It has a short spur that takes you to Mount Gretna, a small arts themed community that bills itself as the Chautuqua of Pennsylvania.

When I rode this trail I found Mt. Gretna a nice place to stop for lunch. My wife doesn't ride much and I don't care for amusment rides so I rode this trail while my wife visited Hershey Park with a friend. We were all happy with our experiences at the end of the day.

You can learn more about the Lebanon Vally trail here: lvrailtrail.com and Mt. Gretna here: mtgretna.com







Ridin' in the Rain

I consider myself an avid cyclist. I ride for relaxation, enjoyment and to keep active for health. I have mostly been a fair-weather cyclist. I have ridded short rides of just a few miles and done rides over a century. I have ridden in New York City and desolate trails not seeing another person for miles (and no cell service!). I mostly rode in good weather and only very occasionally in winter.

I don’t enjoy time on my stationary bike but did it to maintain some activity over the cold winter months. This winter I made more of an effort to get out. I purchased a couple of additional sets of “base layer”, good cold weather gloves and a couple of balaclava. I also purchased a set of studded winter tires for one of my bikes.

The result of this was more outdoor riding this winter. I rode in the coldest temperature I have ever ridden, 10F. I rode with snow on the ground and in a snow storm. I still don’t enjoy these rides as much as a nice warm weather ride but it does beat the stationary bike.

In my years of riding I have been caught in many rain events from light drizzle to heavy deluge. The emphasis is on caught. I have not intentionally started in the rain. That all changed a couple of days ago. The forecast was for moderate temperatures with no rain. I got out early to get an hour or two of riding in before I had to prepare for work. I dressed, loaded my bike and set off for the trailhead. I arrived just in time for the beginning of a steady drizzle. I was so looking forward to this ride and the forecast said no rain so I went for it. I got on my bike and rode in the rain. This marked the very first time I have ever intentionally started a ride while it was raining.


So now I have a question. Does this make me obsessed?


Dressing for Winter Cycling

I see a lot of social media posts asking for advice on how to dress for a cold weather ride. Everyone is different and there are many factors that determine how warm or cold you will feel on a ride. First some general comments, then I will list my attire for cold weather rides to offer a starting point that you may use. 

First, I am different than most cyclists in that I ride in plain jeans. I do not use padded cycling pants or shorts. I have tried the padded route but find plain street clothes and a Brooks saddle are the most comfortable for me.

For cold weather it is best to dress in layers. I have tried heavy winter coats but find more, thinner layers are both warmer and more flexible. You should feel just a bit on the cold side as you start out. After a couple of miles your body warms up and you should feel comfortable. You don’t want to sweat excessively. Layers help by allowing you to add or remove enough to stay warm but not so much that you are sweating. Sometimes that is just unzipping the outer layer.

Insulated water bottles are better than a camelback in subfreezing temperatures. The drinking spout on a camelback will freeze in cold temperatures
I choose a larger size for my outer most layer. This allows it to fit over the top of your other layers easily. I use a high visibility hoodie for this. The larger size allows the hood to go over the top of my helmet if I get cold during the ride or the weather turns nasty. I have several of these. I use a plain hoodie most of the time but have a fleece lined hoodie for very cold temperatures. I also have a high visibility hooded rain jacket that I use if there is a possibility of snow.

A hat and or balaclava is better than a hood. These allow better movement of you head for visibility.  They also fit under you helmet. You may need to adjust the headband a bit however. Also in cold weather consider lobster gloves. These are a cross between regular gloves and mittens. The lobster gloves group two fingers together with a split in the middle of the mitten. This give the warmth of a mitten but added dexterity to operate shift levers and brake levers.

Consider googles to protect your eyes and cover more of you face. I wear glasses but have a pair I specifically purchased for cycling. They do a good job keeping the wind from my eyes.

Don't forget to prepare your bike. Just like your car, you must be prepared for slippery trails. I use studded snow tires. They work greak for light snow or helping get past icy runoff.


10°
I start with a base layer pant and shirt, jeans, long sleeve jersey, sweater, light jacket with thinsulate insulation, high visibility fleece lined hoodie. I add an insulated balaclava with covering for mouth and nose, hat, heavy socks, insulated boots, full finger lightly insulated gloves, lobster gloves and bar mitts.

15°
I start with a base layer pant and shirt, jeans, long sleeve jersey, light jacket with thinsulate insulation, high visibility fleece lined hoodie. I add an insulated balaclava with covering for mouth and nose, hat, heavy socks, insulated boots, full finger lightly insulated gloves, lobster gloves and bar mitts.

20°
I start with a base layer pant and shirt, jeans, long sleeve jersey, light jacket with thinsulate insulation, high visibility hoodie. I add an insulated balaclava with covering for mouth and nose, heavy socks, insulated boots, full finger lightly insulated gloves, and lobster gloves. 

25°
I start with a base layer pant and shirt, jeans, long sleeve jersey, light jacket with thinsulate insulation, high visibility hoodie. I add an insulated balaclava with covering for mouth and nose, heavy socks, insulated boots  and lobster gloves.

30°
I start with a base layer pant and shirt, jeans, long sleeve jersey, light jacket with thinsulate insulation, high visibility hoodie. I add a light balaclava, hat, heavy socks, insulated boots and heavy winter gloves.

35°
I start with a base layer pant and shirt, jeans, long sleeve jersey, light jacket with thinsulate insulation, high visibility hoodie. I add a light balaclava, heavy socks, insulated boots and heavy winter gloves.

40°
I start with a base layer shirt, jeans, long sleeve jersey, light jacket with thinsulate insulation, high visibility hoodie. I add a hat, regular socks, insulated boots and full finger lightly insulated gloves.


17 - Insulated boots

19 - Heavy Winter Gloves

12 - Light balaclava
Cycling glasses

20 - Lobster gloves

11 - Hat
3 - Base layer pant
13 - Insulated balaclava with mouth/nose covering

15 - Heavy socks

Lightly insulated gloves
4 - Base layer shirt

Rain jacket

10 - High visibility fleece lined hoodie

8 - Light jacket with thinsulate insulation

9 - High visiability hoodie



2017 in Review

It has been a very good year for my cycling passion. I have some nice personal records and even better, memories of several adventures. I rode on three Hall of Fame Trails including an end to end ride of the Mickelson Trail in South Dakota. While in SD I visited Mount Rushmore and the even more impressive Crazy Horse Memorial. I also saw a mammoth dig, Wind Cave, the city of Deadwood and did a spectacular hike up Black Elk Peak. I even did a ride in the Badlands National Park where I saw big horn sheep from about 20 yards away from the seat of my bike! I also saw prong horn, prairie dogs and buffalo.

I made a stop in Wisconsin to ride another Hall of Fame trail, the Elroy – Sparta Trail. This trail is the oldest rail-trail in the country. I did the entire trail from Sparta to Elroy including 3 tunnels then had lunch in Elroy. After lunch, I turned around and headed back to Sparta. The town of Sparta was a neat little town that embraced cycling in so many ways down to the bike logos on all the street signs. I also rode on a couple of other trails near Sparta.

A third Hall of Fame trail I rode was the Katy Trail in Missouri. I only had a chance to ride a small portion of this trail. The ride was very memorable since it was during the solar eclipse. Not only that, but the trail was in the path of totality. I viewed my first total eclipse of the Sun!...from my bike!!!!

In October, I rode in my first bike race. It was a time trail around Harveys Lake. I made it around in 27:35. My average speed was around 17 mph over 8 miles. I was happy with that result considering I am an old, fat guy.


I also had several personal records this year. Just a few short days ago I experienced my coldest ride ever at 10 degrees. My previous coldest was 15 degrees a few years ago. I also had my longest single day ride at 113 miles. My total mileage for the year was another record for me at 4459 miles. As if that was not enough, I treated myself to a new ride, a Giant Fast Road CoMax carbon flat bar road bike mounted with 35 mm tires for trails.


Elroy - Sparta Trail

Time trail start

Sparta, WI

Crazy Horse Memorial

View from Black Elk Peak, SD

Badlands National Park, SD

Fun on the Katy Trail

Viewing the solar eclipse along the Katy Trail

Frozen Susquehanna River on my coldest ride

Mickelson Trail, SD


Trail Patrol

I recently joined a volunteer group for my local trail called trail patrol. This involves committing to riding the local trail a few times a month and reporting any noteworthy conditions such as fallen trees. When I ride, I wear a vest identifying myself as a trail patrol. This invites visitors to the trail to ask questions. I have found this experience very rewarding from the standpoint of doing my part to communicate issues and better yet a conversation starter with other cyclists.

This is important since the offices for the trail are near the center of the 165-mile-long trail and staff don’t get out to the ends of the trail as often as they would like. This trail like many others has many owners all coordinated via a single nonprofit. Recently there was some construction to improve a road crossing. The trail staff were aware of the pending construction but the local owner had responsibility. The result was that the trail staff did not realize the construction had started until I alerted them and sent a few pictures. As they say the trail patrol functions as their eyes along the trail.

As I ride, report conditions and answer questions, I log my hours on the trail. I also fill the trailhead map dispensers at the start of my rides. The information I log is then used as leverage for grant funding to improve and complete the last remaining sections of the trail.


Another unexpected perk is a get together for all the volunteers in December with a nice catered lunch. If that was not enough, I was selected as volunteer of the year for my section of the trail. I don’t think there are many volunteers in my section but it was a very nice gesture. If your local trail has volunteers, I encourage you to join. If it doesn’t consider starting a group.


For more information about the trail patrol on the D&L Trail check their website

Total Eclipse of the Katy

The Katy Trail is a well known Hall of Fame Trail in Missouri. It is the longest rail-trail in the country at 240 miles. I cycled a short portion of the trail (45 miles). Most of the ride was an orginized ride timed to coincide with a solar eclipse. The orginized ride started in Rocheport, MO and ended in North Jefferson. The trail was in the path of totality. Most of my ride was during the partial eclipse. I viewed totaility from the trailhead at the end of the ride.

You can view a video of my ride on Mark's Bike Tock on YouTube. The entire trail is a state park and Missouri has a website with more information about the trail. You may also find additional information about the trail here. There is also a facebook page for the trail. Additional pictures of the eclipse ride may be found here.



























Telescope for viewing eclipse.

This individual rode the 35 miles without a saddle!

View of partial eclipse through a telescope.
Waiting for totaility.