109 Miles or Less of The Black Hills of S.D.

The George Mickelson Trail is 109 miles of hard pack and gravel running along the Black Hills of South Dakota.


On our trip out west we interspersed site seeing with a couple of bike rides. As low landers, we gave our bodies a little time to adjust to the 6,000 foot altitude by spending some time in The Badlands (another beautiful place to cycle) the previous day.


The riding is mostly through uninhabited areas, with a few moments passing limited civilization or a stretch alongside the highway.


Rabbit Bicycle, Hill City, SD


About three blocks from the trail head in Hill City, SD is Rabbit Bicycle. They are real patient and helpful. Susan and I must have tried six different bikes before settling on what to ride. Originally, we looked at the comfort hybrids, but the configuration was all wrong for people used to a more aggressive position. The high end hybrids would have worked, but the additional cost was somewhat steep. We finally rode away on some mid range mountain bikes. Thank you Rabbit Bicycle.


Mickelson Bike Trail


The section of the trail we rode from Hill City to Custer and back was a steady but gentle nine mile climb, followed by a steady but gentle six mile down hill, with the reverse coming back.


The trail flowed through several changes of scenery and was lightly traveled. We started out rather slowly, partially to get used to the different bicycles, but also because of the altitude. The ride up the first nine miles put us in a mellow and pleased state of mind as the views unfolded and the quiet surrounded us. At the top we saw the profile of Chief Crazy Horse sculpted from granite, in the side of the mountain. The ride down to Custer required little pedaling if you were not in a hurry and was a good change of pace from the climb up.


There are more photos here.



After a brief snack in Custer we headed back up the six miles to Chief Crazy Horse. Unfortunately a strong headwind had developed so we had to really work for awhile.


At the water stop the sky clouded over and rain seemed imminent. In a strange sense this was good news for me. Nothing lights a fire under Susan as the prospect of rain while cycling. We flew down the last nine miles and beat the rain that never came. The people at Rabbit Bicycle, however, did tell us it was just as well we were back because they not only get rain….but sometimes hail!.










A great ride in a new area of the the US.

Feel free to comment or tell us about a great ride of yours, with or without photos. If it is interesting and detailed enough, I may publish it as a separate blog.



A Flurry of Questions & Thoughts

Why do most of the paid event rides, which collect thousands of dollars, provide such lousy snacks and no lunch?
I realize they make donations of some of this money, but these rides are getting more expensive and the riders are not really getting much back.
An unfortunate result is that many people join the ride, use the rest room and bring their own food.

Is it just me, or is the Tour de France more interesting to watch because Lance is back?
As I write this, they haven’t even reached the Alps yet.

I learned something this year, but everyone has to learn it themselves.
If you lose 5 pounds you will ride faster and stronger even if you do not buy a new bicycle.
Now that I can ride faster and stronger, I enjoy the slower (toddle) rides as much as the fast/push rides.

If you really want the secrets to cycling success, send me money.


Paranoid Cycling

Are you paranoid about any new rider in your group?

Do you fully expect the unknown or unsafe rider in your group to do something dumb?

Do you consciously avoid riding near certain people, even people you may like, when they are on a bicycle?

If you answered yes to one of the above, good for you.

If you answered yes to two of the above, I might ride with you.

If you answered yes to all the above, be of good feeling, paranoia pays.

What brought this on?

Week one…minor accident with the group…someone going very slow, not paying attention, falls. This is a safe rider who I would trust in a pace line.

Week two…banged up accident…another mostly safe rider stops paying attention, crosses wheels, goes boom and gets banged up.

Week three…major accident… rider 1 calls out “slowing or stopping”, new rider (with our group) stops but does not say anything, new rider behind him crashes, flies over the stopped rider and winds up with multiple fractures.

Ironically, week three was the day I handed out my latest rant “Riding Safely in a Group”.  Damn, I forgot to tell everyone to READ it. Duh.

No doubt, a dose of care or paranoia goes along way. Â Besides trying to be a good and safe rider we always need to evaluate those around us.

Yes, accidents that are truly unavoidable will happen. But, it seems to me, most of the cycling accidents are brought on by people changing their status (i.e. slowing or stopping) or riders just not paying attention what they are doing.


The Flat Tire Project

A flat tire fix should be just that. But sometimes it becomes a project.

The scenario: My wife, her brother and his wife wanted to go to a huge plant store. For me this rates slightly above watching re runs of Mr. Rogers.

With a free hour to two I decided for a quick ride along the Erie Canal multi purpose path (which was near empty this cloudy week day morning) and the roads around it (where the path itself was not paved).

I got my bike out and off I went, about 10 miles outbound, turned around to return and pftt — got a flat tire in my front tire.

The project: As I removed the tire, I noticed that I had put my wife’s 650 wheel on my bike. This was both interesting and frustrating. Interesting because my cyclometer worked fine and my front brakes worked (though they had to be be rubbing on the tire instead of the rim). Frustrating becuase I had no 650 spare tube.

I did, however, have a patch kit. Since it has only been about ### years since I patched a tube, I figured its like riding a bike. You never really forget.
The patch actually worked.
The pinch (un-noticed, obviously) had other options when I put in the CO2.
No more patches.
Fortunately, there was a bike shop about 1/4 mile away.
They had a 650 tube, but pointed out that my tire was ripped.
I had plenty of duct tape for just such an emergency.
Put the tube in, pumped it up.
The duct tape was not tight enough, so the tire would not slip between the front brakes.
The proper thing to do was let the air out and re do the duct tape.
The improper thing I did was omit the first part and BOOM.

Called my brother in law for a ride back.

You say you want more? There is more.

On the return home, I now need to replace the tire and tube. Just like fixing a flat.
However, my wife’s Continental Tires when new are extremely hard to get on her wheel.
Put a little air in the tube, seat it in the tire and all the air goes out. 3 times, 3 tubes.

Finally, on the fourth tube I did 2 hours meditation, achieved full zen and got it all together.

Writing about this is almost as tiring as doing it all.


Weather 7 Cyclists 3

What a crappy weather system we have been having in the NY metro area this spring. Repeated emails to the weather bureau have not produced results.  Requests for a refund or redo have been ignored.

I protest.

Even today, it was cloudy, but the weather forecast was for NO (0% chance, not a drop) rain til later in the day. What do you supposed happened as we were about to start?

To be fair to all the cyclists who still work for a living, our mostly retired status does give us a riding loophole.  We see a good day mid week and we grab it. So, we have been riding, but still not as much as we’d like to. (Here too there is a conundrum. How much we’d like to ride and how much we can ride (age, energy, etc.) are not always in sync. That is why we need maximum riding day opportunities.

So, I declare the next seven month to be rain at night only months. End of discussion.


The Season of Alternatives

Susan and I ride from March/April to October/November.

When we were still working we rode most weekends and took short, one hour rides some week nights. When we became retired we rode two to four full rides most weeks.

By mid September I was riding to avoid going back to the gym. Susan was riding because I was. We were getting tired of the season earlier and earlier.

So, this year we are trying something new.

Because we can ride most any day we want, we figure if we miss some weekends or even a week here and there, we may enjoy the season more and longer.

Option one happened April 25th and 26th.

  • We rode on Thursday and kept Friday as an option for riding.
  • On Friday, Saturday and Sunday we went to the AMC (Appalachain Moutain Club) Spring Fling in Camp Mohican, bordering Delaware Water Gap National Park.
  • We took three hikes, each successively longer, each of the three days.
  • We ate as much as we do on bike weekends.

I did not miss my cycling. I had a great time.  More alternative activities to come.

Not Cycling, Yet Smiling

Above: stream bed, beer and snack on the porch by the lake, after a hie.,

More photos are here.

If anyone else out there has tried mixing it up during cycling season, let me know what you did.


Etiquette Is Not UnCool Or Stupid

  1. You are NOT so cool that passing calls like “Stopping”,”Slowing”,”Car Back”, etc. up and down the line of riders does not apply to you
  2. You are not so wise that you can prevent the rider you are passing on the right, without letting that rider know you are there, that you can prevent that rider from veering or drifting into your (unseen) bicycle and causing an accident.
  3. It really is not dorky to let riders know when you are passing on the left, even though they have a mirror and should see you.
  4. When a call of “car back” does not motivate you to immediately single up when riding double all that really does is make motorists more antagonistic than they already are. Singling up might actually improve some of their attitudes.
  5. You are not being smart if you ride double and cannot hear “car back” for any reason.

Let’s have a safe riding season.


The Weather Gift

Today was a weather gift. Although it is only April 18 on Long Island, NY, it felt more like May 20.

I was leading a supposedly relaxed pace today. The good news was the weather. The bad news was I was really enjoying it. So, the pace was somewhat faster than advertised. To my credit, however, the push did no always come from my peddling, or meddling, as I often found myself in the middle or back of the pack . . . leading by delegation.

Forty miles later, however, up and down hills and shooting through the flats, we arrived back at the start. In hindsite, everyone was pleased with their “fastest pace of the season”.  The trick is to use kilometers per hour at this juncture, as it looks better.

For my wife and me (yes, me is grammatically correct) a ride of this nature is generally followed by a homemade smoothie and bagel, a nap then coffee, with the newspaper in hand. Unexciting to be sure, but so very rewarding.


Cold Start To A New Season

For seasonal riders like Susan and myself, March and early April have given us less than great weather.

We did, however, get in two rides last week, and will ride again tomorrow.

Every year is the same in one sense. No matter how much time we spend at the gym, no matter how many spin classes and other gym activiites we do, the first couple of rides are like we never rode at all.

The good feeling about this, however, is the knowledge that without the winter gym it would be harder and by the 4th or 5th ride we will be back into the swing of all.

We do not push the pace at all on these rides. Over average is 2-3 mph below what it will be later in the season. It is really a great way to truly just appreciate the surroundings. Since these are not club rides (just the two of us) there really is no pressure. We do not need to keep up. We can stop whenever we want. We can change our plans.

It is work to get started again. But it is also nice.


The Bicycle Part 2 of 2

My previous post “The Bicycle Part 1 of 2” was either a fit of imagination, my dream or really happened. None of that matters.

Part 2 is the real world, at least for most of us.

We own the bicycle(s) we own.

Whether or not we get into synch with the bike depends on several factors:

  1. A good fit. Are you positioned correctly on the bike? Is your seat comfortable? Do you suffer pain or fatigue in any various body parts.
  2. A good attitude. It really doesn’t matter if you are laid back, highly competitive or somewhere in between. Nor does it matter if the ride is a workout, challenge or just to ‘smell the roses’. You should be enjoying the experience or if on a really push ride, looking forward to the aftermath.
  3. A willingness to make a quick decision. If the group is riding too fast, too slow, too hilly or too flat for what you want to do, you need to decide, which, today, is more important — the cycling or the company. If the former, you should break off and do your own thing.

With the above three processes working, you can be in synch with any bike you are riding.

That was really the point. We all imagine having the perfect bicycle. Its a lot simpler to seriously work with what we have.