Katy Trail Camping Trip Turns Bad

The Katy Trail is 200 plus miles and expanding.  A converted rail line turned into a trail for biking, running, and walking.  It is a great resource.  Over spring break my son-in-law and I decided to go camping. I mentioned that in my last post.   As it turned out the weather was horrible.  It rained, and stormed with lightning,  for days, without much of a break, and the weather was cold.  We scaled down our effort from 50 miles out to camp, and then riding back the same way, to just  25.  The weather report kept showing a break in the weather, but it never came.  Even the much less ambitious distance wasn’t possible for us.  We  had a tight schedule and we would not have been able to make it to our campsite before dark under the trail conditions, and get back on time.    We had to turn back without completing our trek.  What went wrong?

The surface of the trail, which I failed to get pictures of, was boggy and our speed was down to 7 mph or less.  And that with hard peddling.  I was in shape for the ride, having practiced with a fully loaded trailer, but it was a no go.  The combination of wet, despite pretty decent rain gear, the chill, and facing having to set  up camp in the dark under those conditions was too much for us.  So, here are some pictures of a the expedition that failed.  But, I am training to do it again.  The next obstacle?  Ticks.  I found my first this last Sunday.  Not from this jaunt, but from doing yard work.

Getting Ready for Bike Camping 

Why not integrate fitness into a lifestyle?  If you are going to camp backpack or bike instead of driving. I purchased a Burly trailer for my bike for camping, and it is time to use it.  No excuses.  Time to hit the road with it.  No more lollygagging.

I thought that the trailer would be easier than having a bunch of overloaded  panniers on my bike. Since I’m going camping next week with my son-in-law  I decided to go on a training ride tonight.  I will take another one or two rides with it before we leave next Monday.  Next week is my spring break.

 I read a bunch of books about people who rode cross-country and a good number of them used a trailer. I figured if they could do it so could I, and then I found some people online that were traveling across whole continents that had the very  same trailer. The trailer was also cheaper than new panniers as well as more racks, and I think they have less balance issues.

 I’ve been on a couple of errands with the trailer but nothing over maybe a quarter of a mile. The trailer was attached to my wife’s Diamondback comfort bike,  and I would go to the store and the the recycle center Both near my house. Tonight I switched it over  to my hybrid, packed it up with camping gear,  and took off.  Actually it was easier to pull than I thought it would be. That was a nice surprise.  Here is a picture at the halfway mark.  More to report later on my preparation, and the actual trip.

Evening Bike Ride

Surly Cross Check on the New Trail Bridge

I took an hour ride after work today.  Beautiful night, great workout weather, and wonderful fall trees.  I rode the Surly!  Starting to love it, but the stock  brakes are HORRIBLE. Is it just the pads? Worse than a tandom I had, which vastly  improved with just a brake pad upgrade. My bike shop is moving 100 yards from my house so that problem will get solved soon.

As you can see Fall is beautiful here in the Midwest.

I arrived him as it was getting dark. Commuter traffic is so dangerous here. One car turned tight toward me as I was making a left, and they were making a right, off of a residential side street.  That stretch is treacherous, and especially so during rush hour when when it corresponds with dusk.

Safety First

I love the new battery powered LED lights.  Finally bike lights worth the money.


Book of the Week: Life Is a Wheel

Bruce Weber is currently an  obituary writer for the  New York Times, a best selling author,  and an avid bicyclist.  Life Is a Wheel: Love, Death, Etc., and a Bike Ride Across America is a memoir wrapped around, in, and through his second solo bicycle trek across the United States at the age of fifty-seven.   Out of the four books I have read about cyclist riding cross country this is by far the most introspective.   Some readers might not enjoy the diversions where he examines his personal life, but those diversions seem to add heft, and context to the saga.  Kind of a peak under the hood.  As a matter of fact, it was something I found lacking in some of the other books which did not go too far into the personal circumstances that led them to make such an effort.

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After reading four books in this genre I have some basic observations to make. Most people that take the time to ride across the United States seem to enjoy the social aspect of the effort. This is even true for those who ride solo.  They have significant encounters with people who offer them advice about where to stay, eat, or what roads to take (good and bad but mostly good it seems).  Many arrange meetings with friends, or family members who come out to visit them for a day or so on their trip.  Perfect strangers offer them room and board, and they take them up on it.  They are not necessarily superior athletes. And, they all seem to have at least one close call with drivers who resent their presence, and encounter dangerous conditions where under heavy traffic, they find themselves riding on a rode, or bridge,  with no shoulder.  They took days off.  Sometimes two.  My last observation is that riding cross country, from one coast to the other, is well within the wherewithal of the average person. If my health holds up, and I can find the time I want to do it.

How long does it take?  According to AdventurePossible.com most people try for 5-6 hours per day, and cover about 70 miles per day.  Times listed for the trip, which varies by route and other factors, listed on the site ranged from 62 to 80.  My own estimate is that time in the saddle would be from 70 to 90 days.  According to the Adventure Cycling Network they have 30 routes mapped out ranging from 400 miles for just under a week, the Atlantic Coast at 2615 miles, and across the United States at about 4230 miles.

If you are contemplating suchh a trip AdventurePossible.com says that most people try for 5-6 hours per day, and cover about 70 miles per day.  Times listed for the trip, which varies by route and other factors, listed on the site ranged from 62 to 80.  My own estimate is that time in the saddle would be from 70 to 90 days.  According to the Adventure Cycling Network they have 30 routes mapped out ranging from 400 miles for just under a week, the Atlantic Coast at 2615 miles, and across the United States at about 4230 miles.  a long bike trip, or just want a little inspiration or a good read, this is a book I would recommend.  I would also like to take a moment to remind readers that I recommend any book I review.  If I did not like the book, and get something significant out of it, I don’t write about it.

So, are you interested?  I recommend AdventurePossible.com as a must read.  They have a lot of good, practical, advice.  Also, go to your local library to find books about people who have done it, as well as online for the blogs and web sites of people who are doing it now – even as we speak.

Cycle Safety

Just a short rant on safety and bicycling.  I plan a few more, but this one is about carrying pepper spray on my commute.  Why?

I ride about one mile on lazy residential back roads to the trail.  Vehicular traffic is heavy but manageable.   Then it is onto the trail system that, unfortunately, has many people who use the trail that either do not leash their dog, or long leash it to the point that their beloved pet, that would never hurt anybody, lunges at you as they chortle in loving parental delight at the escapades of their beloved rascal.  Usually pit bulls.  Then there is the beautiful park that has been taken over by a pretty rough crowd (one guy walks around with a 12 inch hunting knife strapped to his leg), where an acquaintance was assaulted, on a walk through with friends, ending up with a chipped tooth.  The same place where a group of angst filled fun loving teenagers did not want to make way for me and stared daggers at me for disturbing their delinquent repose.  Oh, and if you are into the crack scene you can scratch that itch there too.  There have been other tense moments.  Also, the trail system is not well patrolled and there have been instances of assault and one sexual assault just last week.  It is not a total disaster, but it has the potential, to be. By the way,  there is a short bypass to that park so I don’t even ride through it anymore.  I also make it a point to warn people, usually students from the University of Missouri, not to continue their run through it either.

A few days ago I happened I meet a friend on the trail whom I had not seen in about a year (he has not been riding because a car hit him about five months ago in a parking lot – I will be dealing with cars/trucks a bit later on down the line) and I noticed he had a pretty large can of pepper spray strapped to his bike.  He told me his own war stories.  What to do?

That night I went straight to Amazon.  There I found this product:

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So now I ride back and forth with pepper spray strapped to my bike and still feel out gunned.

So now I ride back and forth with pepper spray strapped to my bike and still feel somewhat vulnerable.

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It is just a regular canister of Sabre pepper spray in a velcro holder.  Is this overdoing it?  I hope I am not becoming “that guy,” but I don’t wanna be that victim. Oh, and my friend?  In his pannier he carries a .357 magnum.  Missouri is sometimes like the wild west.  No kidding.

Weekly Book Review: Across America by Bicycle

Across America by Bicycle:  Alice and Bobbi’s Summer on Wheels, was published by Terrace Books in 2010.  Two friends decided after they retired to ride together across America, from the West to the East coast.  The women were experienced cyclist who had bicycled rather longish trips before, but this was, by far, their longest effort.  They had a web site but it is now down, and the domain is up for sale.  But, the book is still available.  Why should you read it?

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First of all this is an inspiring story  of two women who took on an awesome challenge and completed it.  It is an inspiring and hopeful book.  The book talks about how their already close friendship became more solid, and the many helpful people they met along the way.  As a matter of fact, the people they met along the way  who helped them or just had some kind of impact no matter how fleeting, are a major theme in this book.  Also, this is my third book in this genre (books about people who bike across the United States), and that is  a surprisingly common theme in all of them so far.  In the upcoming weeks you will hear more about the other two books.

If you are contemplating a long ride, solo or with somebody else, this is a book for you to read.  The antidotes, and stories they tell provide wise insight.  They were smart, well prepared, but also flexible.  They camped some, stayed sometimes with people they met along the way, but also used hotels or other lodging.  The book has a lot of explicit, and implicit, advice to give anyone thinking of undertaking such a ride including a whole appendix about what each of them carried on their trek.  There is even an appendix that provides a detailed packing list, down to what went where, which provides an example of two good templates for anyone to start with.  One packed more weight than the other, but they were both rather frugal about the ounces they carried.

My Bicycle Commute Home

Today I decided to document my ride home from work.  It was a beautiful fall day.  So, this is just a picture essay. The pictures start outside the building where my office is, and then end about a quarter mile from my house.  There is also one picture of me – for the record.

I am so glad I took these photographs.  It helped me to appreciate the incredible trail network we have here in Columbia, Missouri, and it made me notice the beauty and diversity of my ride home.  Columbia is one of the top 50 bicycle cities in America according to Bicycle Magazine.  For good reason.  Also, for once I paid attention.

NOTE:  I just updated this.  The slideshow was not working so I made a quick change – now the pictures are just presented in order.

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Sunday Ride on the Katy Trail 

First long ride in my Surly Cross Check. After 17 years on my trusty Schwinn hybrid it was an adjustment, but things are looking up. From straight bars to drop bars will take awhile. A great bike, but the stock brakes on this 2009 bike are atrocious.  The new ones have brakes that are simply outstanding.  If anyone from Surly reads this please take pity and send me a replacement set!

On that ride my son in-law and I rode about 27 miles, roundtrip  from McBain heading West past the famous old railroad tunnel in the river town Rocheport.   Several miles outside of Rocheport we scouted a camping site before heading back.

We were on the Katy Trail.  A rails-to-trail project here in the Show-Me-State that runs over 240 miles parallel to the mighty Missouri.  From one end to the other, and it is the longest such project in the United States. I have hopes of riding the whole thing in 2017.

Here are some pictures I took along the route out.

This last picture below  is the state champion Burr Oak which is somewhere between 350 to 400 years old.  During the short while we were there the stately tree received nearly a dozen visitors.

Flat Tires and Bike Commuting: Are Airless Tires the Answer?

I try to commute whenever I can. The local trail is about a mile from my house, I ride the trail for about three miles, and then exit in the downtown area. From there  it is a  wee bit under a half mile to my job.  A pleasant ride that takes me just under a half hour there, and back.  I started last year, and this semester I have been doing it a little more.  It helps that I am better organized, and have fresh clothes that I keep in my office closet to change into. Being a guy you can get by for a couple of weeks with just five pairs of paints, five shirts, and three sport jackets,  with one pair of black work shoes. I just mix and match the shirt and trousers so that I I have different outfits.  After I have worn everything a couple of times, I switch them out with fresh ones on the weekend. It works great. Below is a picture of my commuter bike which has made a previous appearance on this blog:

20150902_150404A couple of weeks ago on my way to work I came close to crashing.  The next day on the way home I recreated the incident:

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On the way to work I rode into a large crack, a seam in the road, and was barely able to muscle my way out of it without going down. I was about a quarter mile from home when this happened.  By the time I rode into my driveway the tire was flat.  I changed the tube and tried it again the next morning.

That next morning I managed to get just past where I had ridden into the crack when I noticed my tire was going flat.  I called my wife,and luckily she was able to to pick me up, and she dropped me off at the bike shop where I do business which is located very close to where I work, and they were able to take a look at it right away while I waited. I ride with two spare tubes, a co2 kit, and flat patch kit, but I didn’t want to bother fixing the puncture and getting grease all over me on my way to work. Two flats in less than 24 hours.

It is because of such possibilities as this, that I make sure to leave in the morning at least an hour early, and the day when my front tire went flat I had left even earlier.   The shop replaced the tube at my request after they were unable to find a hole in it. They also adjusted the rim tape.  So far, after sixty miles are so, no further problems.

The one thing thing I dread the most is the possibility of flats in the morning when I am going to work. I don’t mind fixing them, or changing tubes.  I don’t even mind having to push my bike if I have to.  What I want to avoid most of all is being late for class.

What to do?  Since then I have been investigating other alternatives and have discovered several possibilities.  One possibility I am gong to try for sure is the Slime Tire Sealer.  You put the slime inside the tube and it seals small punctures.  If nothing else it might buy you some time. Several small companies are working on solid tires, and airless tubes, and you can find them on Amazon, or other retailers.  I also found airless bike tires at www.airlesstires.com.

The reviews for the flat proof tires are all over the place but they do have certain disadvantages.  For one thing, there is air in tires for a reason.  It does not weigh much, and it acts as a shock absorber.  The reviews I did read talked about increased rolling resistance, a rougher ride, problems with getting a proper fit, some handling issues, and difficulty in fitting the tires to some rims.  In addition there were stories of the tire rolling off the rim, sometimes causing a crash.  It seems the idea has been around for awhile, but so far not that effectively.  However, I think we will see great strides in airless tires, which are essentially flat proof, in the next five years if some of the bigger tire manufacturers get behind the concept.  I suspect that for this to work well, it will require special wheels which can hold the tire in place, and a more-or-less regular tire casing on the outside bonded to some kind of effective shock absorbing material on the inside. Flat proof tires are too good of an idea to go away.

How Many Calories Did I Just Burn?

I have found that keeping accurate records has been helpful to me as far as getting in shape, and staying there.  That means using quantifiable metrics to measure how much, how far, and how often.  Keeping records has helped me immensely although I am throttling back on how, and what, I keep track of, and especially how I do it.

We are obsessed by calories, but for good reason.  They do matter, and you ignore them to  your peril.  I know I did.  Unfortunately I think measuring calories burned, and to a lesser extent calories consumed, can be problematic. So what are we talking about?

What is a calorie?

Most of us know that food has a quality about it that we call calories, but what is it?  It is:

The amount of energy, or heat, it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit). One calorie is equal to 4.184 joules, a common unit of energy used in the physical sciences.

Most of us think of calories in relation to food, as in “This can of soda has 200 calories.” It turns out that the calories on a food package are actually kilocalories (1,000 calories = 1 kilocalorie). The word is sometimes capitalized to show the difference, but usually not. A food calorie contains 4,184 joules. A can of soda containing 200 food calories contains 200,000 regular calories, or 200 kilocalories.

from:  http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/diet-fitness/weight-loss/calorie1.htm

Our body:

… needs calories (energy) to survive, without energy our cells would die, our hearts and lungs would stop, and we would perish. We acquire this energy from food and drink.

If we consume just the number of calories our body needs each day, every day, we will probably enjoy happy and healthy lives. If our calorie consumption is too low or too high, we will eventually experience health complications.

The number of calories foods contain tells us how much potential energy they posses. Below are the calorific values of the three main components of the food we eat:

–   1 gram of carbohydrates contains 4 calories

–   1 gram of protein contains 4 calories

–   1 gram of fat contains 9 calories.

from: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263028.php

How Many Calories Do We Consume By Exercise?

It is technically possible to measure how many calories we are burning  with  some precession.  Unfortunately it is not yet practical (issues with reliability and validity) since it currently requires laboratory conditions although advances in wearable technology coupled with smart phone technology will probably change that in two to five years.  In the meantime what we  have are essentially estimates, based on laboratory findings.  These estimates use  calculations that take into account some combination of age, weight, type of activity (running, walking, bicycling, etc.), intensity, and duration .  There are several formulas, and it depends on which formula is being  used.

How Are Calories Burned Measured?

Most modern exercise equipment has some kind of calories burned function.  GPS watches, smart phone apps, and web sites will also give you an estimate, and remember it is an estimate.  Accuracy will vary as we are about to see.

Lately I have been using the MapMyRun app on my iPhone 5 to keep track of time, distance, and calories burned while running.  It syncs with MyFitnessPal which I switched to from Livestrong’s MyPlate app (which I think was actually better).  Before that I used my Timex Marathon GPS watch  for time and distance while ignoring the ridiculously low caloric estimates it provided.  Instead I ignored the calories burned number on the GPS watch, and used the calories burned calculator from Runners World (which is specifically for running, and is available online)  using the time and distance from the Timex.  I stopped  that practice after I got the iPhone.   But, last week I decided to compare the two methods because I suspected the results from MapMyRun were too high.

For 3.19 miles, at a 10:50 pace here are the results from MapMyRun;

MyFitnessPal calculation

Here are the results from Runnersworld.com for the same workout. I used time and distance from MapMyRun.*

Runners World CalculationMy schoolboy arithmetic indicates a difference of over 18%, or nearly 100 calories.  I would say that is a significant difference.  Subsequent comparisons showed the same pattern.  The MapMyRun app  is consistently more optimistic when it comes to how many  calories I burned.

Which One Is Right?

I have no idea.  I know that the Runners World site does not take into account age or gender.  MapMyRun has access to all that information, but I do not know if it uses it. I decided to use the more conservative measure from the Runners World website for two reasons:

1.  Tired of lugging around the iPhone.  I never found a way to secure it comfortably or usefully other than holding it in my hand. Am I turning into one of those people?  I hope note. Also, battery life is problematic, and sometimes it just does strange and wacky things.

2.  I wanted to be more conservative and go with the lower estimate.

That means I am back to using my Timex GPX watch in conjunction with the Runners World website.

Are There Other Measurements?

Yes.  Some consider measurement of the heart rate over time as the best estimate.The Journal of Sports Sciences  provides the following two calculations based based on gender:

Males Calories Burned = [(Age x 0.2017) — (Weight x 0.09036) + (Heart Rate x 0.6309) — 55.0969] x Time / 4.184.

Females Calories Burned = [(Age x 0.074) — (Weight x 0.05741) + (Heart Rate x 0.4472) — 20.4022] x Time / 4.184.

Those calculations would be difficult to do in  your head while  you are out running or on the elliptical machine. Also, have you ever tried to take your pulse rate manually while running?  Of course this method requires a heart rate monitor, and the sophisticated software that comes with them.  I am still doing my research.  My current understanding is that good ones are expensive, and there can be problems with their accuracy as well.

What to do?

I think we are inclined to underestimate the calories we eat, and overestimate the calories we burn.  Because of that, I am comfortable in going with the lower number calculated by the Runners World website. I also know there are ongoing issues with reliability and validity when we measure some things (such as calories burned), but we have more mature technology measuring others (such as distance and time).  Probably the best we can do is utilize the tools we have with care, caution, and consistency.  More later.

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*M y tests show reasonable consistency between MapMyRun, the Timex GPS watch, and my bicycle computer regarding distance and time, but between them the calories burned estimates are inconsistent.