Switchback Trail

This trail is near Jim Thorpe, PA. It consists of two parallel trails the converge into a single trail on the upper end. This creates  a "Y" shaped trail. The upper section after the split is called the "Back Track" and the lower section is refered to as the "Down Track".

The trail is not developed and has lots of rocks and roots. The portion of the Back Track from the secenic overlook back down to town is very steep and covered in large rocks. If you have a mountain bike with fat tires it would be challenging. Anything else is un-rideable.

The original rail line offered rides to passengers. The passengers experienced speeds near 50 miles per hour. This ride was the precursor to the modern roller coaster. Learn more about this history here.
Some additional information about today's trail may be found here. See a video of my ride on Mark's Bike Tock on YouTube.

A bit of bike portage is required here.

View from overlook

View from overlook

Pennypack Trail

The Pennypack Trail is part of the 100+ miles of trails in and around Philadelphia. It is also part of the East Coast Greenway. The trail is a bit over 14 miles long. I rode it from Veree Road - south. I had planned on also riding the remaing few miles north but the heat and humidity were too draining on the day I visited. Making matters worse the trail is somewhat hilly. Some of the inclines are steep but all are short.

The southern end has several road crossings. It also had one bridge out that I had to detour around. I was told it has been out for several years but construction workers were working on it when I visited.  At the end of the trail, if you cross one more street you can connect to Pennypack on the Delaware, a nice park located where Pennypack Creek meets the Delaware River. The park includes a nice but short bike trail.

My research, a local cyclist and my own experience suggest that the trail is much nicer on the northern end. I would like to return to see the portion I missed. The trail is only a few miles from the PA turnpike but my GPS directed me through many small residential streets and included an inordinate number of turns. A different GPS on the return home directed me another way but still had many small streets and turns.

For more information see the MontgomeryCounty website or The Circuit Trails website.

You can see a video of my ride on Mark's Bike Tock channel on YouTube.

New Bike

I have been considering a new bike for a couple of years. I have been riding a Giant Roam 2 hybrid and like it very much. I was looking for another hybrid geared slightly toward pave trails. I wanted many of the same features such as flat handlebars and hydraulic disk brakes but with a carbon frame. It seemed none of the manufactures made such a bike.

Last year I just decided to upgrade my bike with a better groupset and brakes. Several hundred dollars and a day later Specialized introduced a bike along the line I was looking for. Just like some people are not a fan of Toyota, Ford or Dodge, I am not a fan of Specialized. They are perfectly good bikes but just not my type. Add that to the hundreds I put into my bike and I was not ready to buy.

Fast forward to this year. I stopped into my favorite bike shop (couple plus hours from my house). They sell Giant bikes and the shop was where I purchased my Roam 2. I just stopped to browse since I was in the area for another reason. In the past year Giant has started making the FastRoad CoMax. It was just what I was looking for. Hybrid, carbon fiber at a reasonable price point, I fell in love with the bike. The nice thing about this shop is that they have everything in stock. I had tried several shops to see the Specialized bike and most indicated they could order the carbon version. This shop had the carbon bike in stock in all frame sizes. The display model was too small but the salesperson wheeled my size out of the back room in under 2 minutes. Next he said, let's get this adjusted for you so you can try it out. A couple of laps around the building and I was sold.

I have only had a chance to take it out a couple of times. It is immediately very apparent this bike is fast. I don't generally concern myself with speed but from time to time I find my nearby trail without other users and only a short time for a ride. When this happens I will push a bit harder to see what I can do with a moderate effort. One particular stretch is identified by my Strava app. It is a bit over a mile long and I have apparently ridden it 188 times since I started using Strava. Most of those times it is a casual pace but I have pushed it somewhat several times. My first ride on the new bike I made a similar effort to see how it compares to my old bike for speed. The new bike was an astounding 20% faster!

The bike comes standard with a narrow road tire. I asked the shop to replace these with a bit wider tire, 35mm. My Roam has 40s. The only aspect of the bike I don't like is the saddle. I installed my Brooks saddle (B67) from my old bike and ordered a new Brooks so I can have one for each bike.

Sandy Hook

The Sandy Hook portion of the Gateway National Recreation Area is located along the New Jersey shore. It has a nice seven mile multi-use paved path that is great for cycling. There is also a bike path along the sea wall in Sea Bright that extends to the entrance to Sandy Hook. There is not an entrance fee to get into Sandy Hook but they do charge $15 to park your car. I visited with my wife who also wanted to visit the beach so we paid the $15 and parked in area "D".

I biked back to the entrance and continued to Sea Bright. I turned around and headed back and on to Fort Hancock. It was a fairly short ride for me but in the hot summer sun I was happy to settle under a beach umbrella with a cold drink.

I observed several bike fix it stations along the trail on my most recent visit in July, 2017. I have never had occasion to use such a station but it is comforting to see them along any trail.

There are a number of historic military remnants near Fort Hancock, some on the trail, others along lightly traveled roads near the trail. There is also a small light house. If you are really adventurous you can stop by infamous Gunnison Beach, a clothing optional beach.

Find out more here National Park Service

See a video of my ride at Mark's Bike Tock on YouTube.

Omaha Trail

The Omaha Trail extends from the town of Elroy, Wisconsin to Camp Douglas. It passes through the town of Hustler about 3 miles from Camp Douglas. The entire trail is about 12 miles. About 5.5 miles from the Elroy end of the trail is the highest elevation where you will pass through a 875 foot tunnel. On the Camp Douglas (north) side of the tunnel is a nice rest area with comfort station, picnic table and a water pump.

The trail was paved with asphalt but it is getting old and no longer smooth. It is perfectly fine for a hybrid or mountain bike but I would not suggest a road bike. Riding the trail requires a Juneau County trail pass.

You can find more information about the trail on the Juneau County website. Watch a video with highlights of my ride on my YouTube Channel, Mark's Bike Tock.

Elroy - Sparta Trail

The Elroy - Sparta Trail is a 32 mile trail that is widely viewed as the oldest rail-trail in the country. It opened for public use in 1967. It connects the towns of Sparta and Elroy, Wisconsin. Along the way it passes Kendall, Wilton, and Norwalk, WI. The previous rail line was the main line of the Chicago and North Western Railway.

I found the trail to be well maintained with a typical crushed stone surface. There are three tunnels with the longest over 3800 feet. I strongly recommend a headlight for all the tunnels. All the tunnels are cool and damp with the tunnel closest to Sparta dripping so much water it felt like it was raining.

When I rode the trail in June 2017 I encountered a short rain shower as I entered the town of Norwalk. Perfect reason to stop for an ice cream at a little shop adjacent to the trail. With the refreshing treat and freshly filled water bottles the rain stopped and I hit the trail again. Once I reached the Elroy end of the trail I ate a nice lunch at a local restaurant then headed back to the trail for a return ride back to Sparta.

The Robbins Trail in Pennsylvania is actually much older than the Elroy-Sparta Trail but was built before the official rail-trails began.

Find out more about the Elroy-Sparta Trail at http://elroy-sparta-trail.com.

A video of my ride on this trail may be found at my YouTube Channel, Mark's Bike Tock.

Sparta, Wisconsin

Sparta bills itself as the bicycling capital of America. It sits at the end of the Elroy-Sparta Trail, considered to be the oldest rail-trail in the country. The community actively promotes four trails in the immediate area: Elroy-Sparta (of course), the Great River State Trail, the LaCrosse River Trail and the "400" State Trail. Collectively, these provide over 100 miles of trails.

As the main road passes through the town there is a park with a welcome kiosk. The focal point is a sculpture of a man riding a penny-father bike. This is known as Ben Bikin'. The downtown is a couple of blocks from the main road.

One of the attractions in the downtown is the Deke Slayton Space & Bicycle Museum. This quirky museum is mostly a collection of mid 20th century bikes with a couple older models and some astronaut memorabilia thrown in. Street signs in the town include a penny-father bike logo. Smaller versions of the Ben Bikin' sculpture are in front of several businesses in the town.

Sparta is just another small town without a lot to offer. Their embrace of bicycling does however elevate it to a sort of pilgrimage status for dedicated cyclists. If you are a devoted cyclist and are anywhere near western Wisconsin, stop by Sparta and allow yourself enough time to try some of the trails.