Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fall Cycling - Touring Light and Right

My Nishiki Sport Touring loaded for a day of touring.
Fall is the time to enjoy the cooler temps and change of the seasons. This past weekend I loaded my Nishiki with my Detours rear rack bag and hit the road to get some pictures of the autumn leaves turning. Here is some of what I saw while riding in Horse Country where I live in bucolic central New Jersey.

Roadway of colors just starting to turn
All of these photos were taken with my GoPro clone, the Pyle eXpo Mini Action Cam. I had it mounted to my Nutcase Helmet as that was the most secure lid that I own. It worked great!

Fields and a farmhouse in the distance on the left
The farm here on the left raises organic beef cattle. I've often seen them grazing and getting fat on the natural grass behind the white fence there.

Horse stables and riding corral
When I passed this horse farm there was a riding lesson in progress. The stables are there on the right and left (there are two) and I often see the horses grazing in the field.

Believe it or not, this is a road!
This may look like a hiking path but it is in fact a roadway. It is very narrow and quiet so it is perfect for my bicycle.

Peacock sighting! Look closely.
I was going by pretty quickly but if you look just left of center in this photo you will see a male peacock there in the grass. They are usually behind the fence but for some reason he was out today. NBC must have been having a casting call!

My Madison Touring Bag for the day by Detours
My Touring Bag: Detours D2R Madison Rear Rack Bag This bag is just perfect for a day out. It has a long carry strap but I usually just use the shorter straps which neatly tuck inside the side pouches. Inside has a zippered mesh pouch and pockets to hold items securely and separately. This rear trunk rack quickly clips to nearly any rear rack, (I have a Blackburn), and has a Blinkie Clip for your light.
Detours really thought this one out and it is very aerodynamic on the bicycle but looks like classic luggage off. Pop in a sandwich, energy bar, medical kit and extra water. It all fits and the bag does not shift or flop around. Best bag for a short tour!

Detours D2R Madison Rear Rack Bag with Blinkie Attached.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Fall Cycling Must Haves: Cat Ears for the Wind and Cold

Cat Ears help reduce wind noise while cycling.
Fall is like a second spring to many of us who enjoy the thrill of road cycling. It is an intense cardiovascular workout which does not put excessive stress on the knees or hip joints. The issue with fall riding is that the combined increase in cool breezes plus your usual noise from the wind rushing past your ears can make it hard to hear approaching traffic.

Cat Ears are furry little pads that attach by Velcro to your helmet straps. I tested the Classics Elite which is shown in the lead photo and installed on my Giro Amare helmet below but they also make other styles with varying widths to suit each rider's needs and helmets.

Classics Elite Tour 2.5
The Classics Elite size seems perfect for most road helmets including my Lazer, Giro and Rudy Project lids. Cat Ears were super easy to install as they have a left and right designation for your helmet straps. What I found is that there is still the sound of wind rushing past my ears especially when doing anything above 20+ mph. The thing is now with the Cat Ears,it is not so loud that I am unable to hear cars approaching from behind. I've road tested them at least three times at high speeds and was able to hear each and every vehicle coming up behind me. No more being startled or surprised when a car appears. I can hear them perfectly now. Great!

Cozy Cat Ears
As the weather continues to get cooler as autumn turns to winter, you should also check out Cat Ears Ear Covers which completely cover the entire ear. I have not personally tested these but would imagine they work in similar fashion to the Classics Elite models. The added benefit is of course having warm ears on a cold-windy ride. Those shown are the 200 series of Polartec. You can get increased warmth with the 300 series which uses a greater density of the same fleecy fabric.

Cat Ears 200 Series Ear Covers
Cat Ears come in many different colors to compliment your helmet and are very easy to install. I did not notice them shifting at all during my test rides and Cat Ears are super comfy to wear. Better still is the added safety feature of being able to hear what's going on behind you on the road. Check out all the styles and colors at Cat Ears Online

Thursday, September 18, 2014

REI's Introduction to Mountain Biking Class

REI course instructor, Justin briefs us on mountain biking basics.
We had absolutely gorgeous weather for the REI Introduction to Mountain Biking Class last Sunday, September 14th. Up in the mountains of Lewis Morris County Park the air was crisp and cool with very little humidity when the class started at 10 am. REI provided the mountain bikes and helmets for us, so we simply came dressed in our cycling jerseys, mountain biking shoes and hydration packs. I would also recommend bringing an energy bar, pair of cycling gloves and ChapStick Hydration Lock Sunscreen SPF 12. Apply sunblock before heading out. Here is the link to how I packed for REI's Outdoor School HERE

Kestrel Heat Index reading is a comfy 57.6 degrees.
Heat exhaustion didn't seem too likely at these cooler temperatures but as I've said before, September can be tricky especially at this elevation (500+ ft). Starting out very cool in the morning but by midday feeling like the middle of summer. So I kept checking throughout the day and the Thermal Work Limit continued to read above >220 (W.m -2) or "Unrestricted". This means no limits on self paced work or exercise for trained, hydrated athletes. Most everyone had a hydration pack so no problems there.

REI Instructor Ty (yellow jersey) demonstrates mountain bike maneuvers.
Field Maneuvers
First we road uphill to an open field to learn basic mountain bike handling and maneuvers we would need later for the trail ride. We learned proper shifting, braking, manual and pedal assisted wheel lifts which helps when clearing logs and exposed roots. Using real obstacles, we were able to practice these newly learned skills until we got them right. The instructors also road along side us to see if we were executing the moves correctly. Justin even showed how to gracefully take a fall on the bike! These guys are really dedicated.

Putting our skills into practice on the trail.
Trail Maneuvers
After training in the field, the next logical step is to test these skills on an actual bike trail. We took the Yellow Trail at Lewis Morris County Park which is known as one of the best mountain biking terrains in New Jersey. I have to admit that the field skills we practiced came in handy here, especially for clearing logs and large rocks. The trail itself is very scenic and reminds me those in Turkey Swamp Park in Central NJ. These Morris County hills are quite a bit steeper than those you'll find at lower elevations though.

Gina making her descent on the trail.

I enjoyed this class all the more as REI outfitted us with helmets and Novara Mountain Bikes for the day so there was less for us to pack and travel with. I'm primarily a road cyclist and use Polar Bottles in the frame cage. This doesn't work for Mountain Biking! Get yourself a good hydration pack like a Platypus or my Antidote 100 oz which allowed me to haul water for both my companion and myself for the day. I carried my reservoir in the REI Women's Flash Sport 15 which is the lightest pack I own. The back is well meshed and vented so I wasn't sweaty. The strap pouches kept my bite valve, snacks and camera remote within reach the whole day. 

REI's Flash Sport 15 accommodates most hydration packs

Camera Equipment
All of the on location photos and videos were taken with my little GoPro clone, the eXpo Mini Action Cam which Justin attached to my handlebars before we got going. This will be replacing my DSLR Camera for all outdoor events and expeditions as it offers a crisp 20 MP resolution as well as sharp video imagery in wet and rugged environments. Very easy to take pictures with the eXpo even while the camera was in video taping mode. I did this while riding on the road back to the park and just wanted to take a still to capture the moment. Here it is:

Road photo taken while filming video with the eXpo

Technical equipment for the day.
Technical Equipment
As you may know from reading this blog, I do a lot of outdoor expeditions especially in the fall and winter months. Having a camera in a protective waterproof case is going to be sweet! 
I also always bring along a way to keep tabs on changing weather conditions. You can not always rely on a phone app which only tells you the conditions at the nearest weather station, not necessarily where you are at the time. We all know the feeling of having a signal lost in the mountains. Then what do you do? My cellphone also does not have an impeller to measure wind speed which further shows its limitations.

If I'm going to be out for the day or overnight, you better believe that I will be bringing a pocket weather tracker! Conditions can change in a heartbeat and storms can come up out of nowhere. Kestrel Meters are practically bombproof, can be immersed in freezing cold water and still function. Very lightweight, they are quite easy to take along and perform multiple functions for such a small unit: temperature, heat index, humidity, wind speed, barometric readings, altitude, dew point, etc.

Last Challenge of the Day - Stream Crossing Video
I took the eXpo out of the handlebar bracket to film everyone crossing the little stream as our final challenge which everyone completed with flying colors. It was very rocky with a steep incline after the water so it is much more difficult than it looks here.

Special thanks to REI for hosting this class for us and providing such an enriching outdoor experience for fitness enthusiasts of all levels. Learn more about REI's Outdoor School Classes, Membership and Travel opportunities at REI.com or REI.com/learn.html

See the NEW eXpo Mini HD Action Cam at PyleAudio.com

Visit Nielsen Kellerman online at NKHome.com to see all the Kestrel Pocket Weather Trackers available.

Special thanks also to Topricin who provided travel packets of all their first aid and pain cremes for the class.