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.

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 $20 to park your car. I visited with my wife who also wanted to visit the beach so we paid the $20 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 August, 2021. 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 or here.

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.