Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Multi-modal to Albany

October 11, 2012

Albany, New York is the capital of the state of New York, and it is also a business and educational hub. A large number of colleges and universities make their home in and around the city, so that college-town-vibe has roots in a number of places around the city. Also, the only Brompton dealer in the upstate region keeps business across from Washington Park on Madison Avenue (only about 6 blocks from a great coffee shop on Lark Street!) I had business in Albany, and I wanted to try to make the trip without my car using only the Brompton and public transportation. While others in many places around the world routinely do this, in this part of New York State, people see this as an oddity. "If you own a car, why would you bicycle?" "You use the train? That's so quaint!"

The morning of my trip, I fit what I needed into the Brompton touring bag and pedaled the 5ish miles (8 km) to the train station. There are only 4 trains a day from Syracuse to Albany, so this one was not to be missed. Today, the train was only about 15 minutes late. I've waited for much longer before. Amtrak allows a folded bicycle as one of 3 checked bags, and I did not check. I carried on, stowing the bicycle in the convient storage rack just past the toilets from the entrance door.

Notice in the following photo that the bike fit most easily in the top space on the rack. I worried a little that it might tip, and the train started and stopped gently enough that that was no real concern. This might be a little difficult for some to lift it that high. My configuration is a very pretty heavy one, and I had no trouble. The conductor did make a comment about how small the bike folded. I have yet to see another Brompton in my travels, so I'm pretty sure he's never seen one before.

In retrospect, I am likely to avoid taking the train all the way to Albany in the future. I think I will get off at the station in Schenectady, the city-stop before Albany. Just outside of the Albany station, the train stopped for over 20 minutes while it was divided into two sections. One section went north-east to Boston and the other went south to New York City. I thought it would be better to get off at the Albany-Rensselaer station and ride from there because it was a shorter ride to my destination by a couple of miles. The 20 minute wait added to the hill climb from one side of the Hudson across the bridge down to downtown Albany and then the second hill climb up out of the valley makes me think that getting off the train earlier is a better choice.

One interesting note: I stopped off at my favorite Albany pub, C. W. Evans Brewery at the Albany Pump Station for a pint on the way out of the Hudson Valley. I rode right to the door, and folded up my bike, carrying it and my T-bag into a corner near the bar. As soon as I sat down, the owner of the establishment came up to me, interested in talking to me about folding bicycles. He's a boater, interested in finding foldies to put on his powerboat for when he is docked. I have to admit a small sin. While I did extol the virtues of the Brompton, I specifically neglected to send him directly the the LBS that sells Bromptons. I am ashamed, and I'll explain later why I was so reluctant. And he was kind enough to buy me my pint. Sigh... I am a selfish bastard...

On my way to my hotel, I did pass this sight. I couldn't help stopping for this photo. I've heard that the buses are for tours of the city of Albany, but I haven't seen any on the road?

After a quick ride (once I was out of the valley) through what was mostly sub-urban bedroom communities, arrival at the hotel cheered me up. The room was comfortable, and, more importantly, there was a good Belgian style ale at the hotel restaurant! Nobody seemed to mind that I didn't have a car to list on my hotel registration.

I will definitely make an effort to multi-modal my way to Albany again.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

First Mod: Ergon Grips and Tektro Levers

October 6, 2012

After a hundred or so miles on the stock Brompton grips, I knew that I could not keep them. The tingling in my palms warned me of some significant problems ahead. Actually, I had planned ahead for this when I knew the bike was coming. I had ordered the Ergon GP3 BioKork grips through Amazon. The chatter on the Brompton Talk forum had made it clear that the grips would not fit on the M bars with the Brompton brake levers, so at the same time, I ordered the Tektro Eclipse brake levers. These levers take up significantly less space on the bar than the Brompton stock levers.

I had read that when installing the full size GP series grips, they would need to be trimmed in order to fit. I did not find that to be necessary. Trimming the grips seems to be only necessary when keeping the stock Brompton brake levers. 

I've found it a little fiddly to get the grips and bar ends adjusted evenly from side to side. And I love the way they provide support and options for 3 or 4 different hand positions. 

In these two pictures you can see the lever adjustment set screw protruding from above where the cable enters the brake housing. Since taking these photos I've adjusted the set screw, so the levers are within easy reach for two fingers when hands are on the grips. 

I had to replace the brake cables, probably because I was not careful enough when I cut off the ferrule to get the stock levers off.

And these grips do not interfere with the fold! This was my biggest concern because of the size. I think if I did not have the EZ wheels and the rack, with M bars, the left hand grip would hit the floor.  And because I have this set up, it raises the bars far enough off the floor, that these larger grips do not get in the way.


PS You may want to read about my Ergon grip disaster where I had to replace these grips and how I did it. :)

Skaneateles, Elbridge, and Jordon

October 4, 2012

Having a foldie makes it possible to take trips that, otherwise, would be more than my fitness allows. At the top of, what we in New York call, one of the fingerlakes, is the village of Skaneateles (pronounced Skinny-atlas). It is a monied place with really fabulous restaurants, shops, and lake views. And by bus it's only about 25 minutes away.

This morning I rode to the bus station and folded up for a short wait.

The weather cooperated: about 65 degrees and partly cloudy. The bus was $3 and a narrow fit to the aisle. It's a coach style bus, rather than a city bus, so the seats are close together and all set facing front. The brompton fit in the space in front of the seat next to me.

Fortunately there were very few other passengers, so it was not a problem for the bike to take a seat.

The bus dropped us off in the center of the village by the library. I spent a few minutes riding along the lake, enjoying the view.

Then I started out of town to the north toward the village of Elbridge. There was one section of a bike path not far north of Skaneateles that only ran for about 1.5 miles. The roads were wide and open, and the traffic was light. As an added bonus that felt a little like cheating, the roads all followed a gentle slope downhill. 

I stopped for a photo op in the village of Elbridge. 

One semi-steep hill loomed up on my way north out of Elbridge on my way toward the village of Jordan. I rode through farmland and woods. This fall has been amazingly beautiful from the seat of a bicycle.

In Jordan I snapped a photo of a mural celebrating the canal that was the start of this village many years ago. The text describes the rules for right of way on the canal.

In Jordan I picked up the Erie Canalway trail. This photo shows what used to be an aquaduct along the canal. It's still very pretty, as is the whole canal path. This might be the most beautiful time of year to travel the path. Most parts are packed crushed stone and make for a pretty easy ride. The brompton's small wheels do get a little bogged down when the surface is loose.

I came across this memorial between Jordan and Warners.

This sign celebrates the life of Bryan McNeill Place. I searched on line and was only able to find his obituary, here. There is a story here; I wish I knew more.

Again, a photo of the beautiful day!

I ambled home, via the village of Camillus, enjoying the ride. It's the farthest I've gone to this point on the bike. I am tired tonight, and loving it! The idea of taking public transportation to a location and riding back, means I get to see more, find new places, and still ride inside my level of fitness. Life is good!

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Gear Whine!

This is the front light that comes from BBL installed on the new brompton. You can see that there are a couple of shims that need to be fitted under the clip of the light. You can also see that there is a small oval shaped tab that is supposed to be attached to the clip where the lamp attaches to the clip. This tab broke off when I folded my bike and put it in the boot of my car for the trip to Long Beach Island. The lamp still attaches firmly to the fitting, but, without the tab on the fitting, the lamp is very hard to remove.

Am I the only one this happened to? Kind of disappointed that this was so easily broken.

The Westcott Nation

October 3, 2012

In Syracuse there is a section of town that goes by the name "The Westcott Nation." There is a street that runs alongside the Syracuse University area named Westcott Street. Because it is an university area, the stores, people, culture, and restaurants all tend to be edgier and more interesting than some other parts of the city.

There also happens to be a bike shop there that I had not ever visited. The bike gloves I have been using for many years have finally ripped, so I thought I would ride over there to Mello Velo and see what they had.

Riding across the downtown was  a little bit of an adventure. I have had no trouble at all shifting between the BWR hub and the derailleur to find the right gear. In fact, I have been very pleased with both the distribution of the gears and the ease with which the system works. Then I rode in some serious traffic. And got a little confused, because I was trying to pay attention to too many things at once. This is an issue for practice!

I rode around for about 10 minutes looking for Mello Velo. Finally, after passing it twice and checking on line on the iphone, I found a small sign out by the street. Mello Velo is a second floor bike shop, with a ramp on the side of the stairs for wheeling your bike up. They were very friendly and helpful, so I was sorry to not find gloves that fit. I will certainly go back.

One of my favorite places to visit in the "nation," is Alto Cinqo, a mexican restaurant, that also happens to have a nice selection of beers on tap. Fortunately, the brompton fit nicely next to my bar stool.

Life is good. :)

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Marcellus Loop

October 2, 2012

I had the time today to take a longer ride. The brooks saddle feels like it's breaking in well, so I decided to take a trip to a nearby village. On the map it seemed pretty simple, and without much thought, I chose the counter clockwise direction. I'm not sure if this was a better or worse choice in the end.

The loop goes about 22 miles. The first 7 are mostly flat with some small rolling hills. The next 8 miles are all uphill. Sometimes it is less steep, sometimes it is more steep. It's just constantly up hill. And it started to rain. Not a heavy rain, just a dampening drizzle. My hands got pretty tired. Except when I was pushing up hill. Then they got a rest, but my legs and lungs did not. Finally I crested the last hill at about 15 miles and rocketed down the last 7 to home.

I did find one place that I had never seen before.

I had never been on this stretch of road before, even though it is with in 6 miles of where I live. One thing that cycling does is allow us to take the time to see things that are right in front of us all the time. In the US we so frequently see the world through the windscreen of a car, and the world passes so quickly. Even while cycling I have a tendency to focus so much on the destination and keeping my speed and cadence up that I don't stop often enough to see the beauty around me and enjoy the sights. When I'm on the bike, it's time to slow down and enjoy!

The Erie Canalway Trail (well, a small part)

October 1, 2012

Back in the day while I was still running and while trying to rehab an injury, I ran for a couple of weeks on a grassy section of the NewYork State Erie Canal Trail. At the time I needed to stop running on concrete and macadam and find some soft surface while recovering from runner's knee. Today I thought would be a good day to explore more of this trail.

The Erie Canalway Trail is a patchwork of tails extending over 375 miles. While it is not all connected yet, Parks and Trails New York, an advocacy group, is working to have the trail stretch from Buffalo to Albany, mostly along the path of the original Erie Canal. There is access to a section only about 2.5 miles from where I live, so off I went this afternoon to see what there is to see.

The trail is crushed stone, for the most part. In places it is compacted well and easy for little brompton wheels. In other places it's a little soft and loose, making riding harder. The canal, in this section, is wide and cared for. Many use it for canoeing and fishing. The photo above (poorly) shows the Nine Mile Creek Aquaduct, where the canal is raised in an aquaduct above the Nine Mile Creek. That's a complicated piece of engineering!

I road about 5 miles along the trail. There was a section of the path west of Sim's Store Museum that turned to multiple use near a rod and gun club. This section was very rough macadam. About 2 miles further along, I came to a quiet park outside a quiet, small village. Stopping for a snack and a drink, I wondered if there were any geocaches in the area. One was very close, so brompton and I took a look.

Here I found a small cleared area and a sturdy bench around a tree. The micro cache was easy to find, and when I looked it up on the app on my iphone, it described the area as having been cleared as part of the Eagle Scout project of a young man who lived nearby. 

I took the road back. Another wonderful ride!

Ship Bottom, Long Beach Island, New Jersey

A wedding is a wonderfully happy and exciting event! My nephew was married to a beautiful woman in a beautiful location in Southern, New Jersey. I drove part of the family down on Friday evening, packing the Brompton in the trunk of the car, along with two beach chairs and three suitcases. I had room enough for another Brompton, I'm sure.

Saturday morning, my brother messaged to arrange a meeting at a pancake house, then messaged again to say that it had already closed for the season. I pulled out the Brompton and scouted to the south to find the Long Beach Island Pancake House.

If you happen to be there, it is highly recommended! I had the pancakes, because there was a pitcher of real maple syrup on the table. They accommodated a group of 14 people, who ordered too much food, so I was also able to taste their corned beef hash and the bangers. I'm very fond of breakfast food. So much, that as a result, after breakfast, I took a tour north on the Long Beach Boulevard toward the Barnegat  Light house. Along the way, I stopped at a bike shop to bring my tires up to pressure and found this great beach bike.

Maybe, when I can afford property on an ocean island, I'll also buy a bike like that. :)

It was a fast trip up the island from Ship Bottom to the light house. The weather was cool and the sun peeked out occasionally.

Couldn't get the light house all in one photo.

The wedding was wonderful. My nephew cried as he watched his bride walk down the aisle toward him. Tomorrow we drive the 300 miles back home.

November 6, 2012

It's so sad what has happened to LBI due to hurricane Sandy. Now all the streets are covered with sand and many of the houses have been destroyed. I send my best wishes. Fortunately, my nephew and his new bride were safe and their apartment was not damaged. Without power and with gas leaks all over the island, it may be weeks before they can get back.

Onondaga Lake Park

According to the people at the Apple store, my MacBook has been fixed! The ride back to the mall to the Apple store is short, only about 4.5 miles. There is only one really less-than-friendly section to travel where the road is two lanes in either direction: two narrow lanes! It's an industrial area, that used to be a oil storage facility before the mall was built. Now what remains is the water treatment plant, a metals recycling facility, used car lots, petrol stations, pan handlers on the corner, and brown fields. Since most of Syracuse travels by car, there's not a lot of patience for cyclists outside of a couple of specific areas. I actually use the sidewalk through this area. There are very rarely any pedestrians.

The staff at the Apple store recognized me. Well, that's not really true. They recognized the dude with the folding bike. I was asked to demonstrate how it unfolded and what it looked like when it was in it's "bike" state. I have to admit, I was pleased. I know this sounds fatuous, and I really am proud of my brompton.

The computer was, in fact, finished, so all was packed back into the T bag. I was off. The mall, newly expanded and designated Destiny Center, is a stone's throw off Onondaga Lake, which has the dubious joy of being known as what was one of the most polluted lakes in the US. There have been years of remediation, and a recent project to remove and cap some of the most polluted areas was just started. No one swims in it. It would be foolish to eat any of the fish. And many use it for boating, scull, and kayaking. There is a very pretty lakeside park around the eastern and northern sides with a nice, paved cycle path. I thought a loop around the lake was in order.

Onondaga Lake from the northwestern looking down toward the city of Syracuse. The day was overcast and cool, good for riding, but not as good for photography.

Another photo that shows the city in the far distance.

The bridge spans a section of the Oswego River and canal, part of what connected Syracuse to the Erie Canal system and Lake Ontario.

It ended up being a 17 mile loop that made for a great ride!