Hike: Southern Presidentials

Trail Report

Since March 2015 I had been commuting to work via my Surly Long Haul Trucker. Final, in March of this year I put a down payment on a Toyota RAV4 which gave me and my whole family a lot more flexibility around commuting and other activities. I also bought a THULE Spare Me spare tire bike rack, which I was excited about as it provides a lot of flexibility in my hiking. Bringing my bike with me on solo hikes allows me to do traverses rather than always doing a loop to hike. I decided to put this to the test by doing a traverse of the Southern Presidentials. Additionally, a few weekends prior I had wanted to hike Mount Washington and bailed on the idea because of the ice conditions. But this time I borrowed crampons from a friend to make it happen.

After leaving home at an incredibly early time, I swung by the parking lot on Clinton Road in Crawford Notch at 6:00 am. I ditched my pack in the woods and clambered back into my car. There were only two cars in the parking lot, so that was good.

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Bike & Hike: Sandwich Range Traverse

Trail Report

When I purchased my commuter bike this year, one of the reasons I chose a touring bike over a cross bike was so I could do some bike camping. As September rolled around I took a week off from work to do some hiking which was the perfect opportunity to try out a bike and hike. I had been eyeing the 4000 Footers in the Sandwich Range and knew I wanted to complete them as traverse.

After some bike route and trail planning, I put together what I thought would be a great bike and hike. I would bike from Gorham, ME to the Kancamagus, drop my bike off at the Oliverian Brook trailhead, walk along the Kancamagus to the Sabbaday Brook Trail, spend three days hiking along the Sandwhich Range, and then bike back to Gorham.

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Cycling: Sebago Lake Loop

Date Cycled: 25 May 2015

I haven’t posted in a whole month. We are working on purchasing our first house (which is taking up most of my free time) and my only recent adventure was a 4-day epic hike in the Emigrant Wilderness in the Sierra Nevadas. There is a massive amount of photos and video, so it is taking a long time for me to write the resulting blog post (look for it upcoming). In the meantime I thought I’d throw together this quick post of my first long biking trip with my Surly Long Haul Trucker.

My family’s plans for Memorial Day weekend were to clean out the garage, take several trips to the dump, pack up a majority of our belongings (things we wouldn’t need for a few months) and start moving stuff out of our rental. A monumental list to attempt. When it became clear that we would need more weekends to succeed I made plans to get out of the house and venture more than 10 miles on my bike (the length of my commute and the furthest distance I had gone).

I use the app Strava to track all my biking (and running) activity and I recently signed up for a challenge to bike 100 kilometers in one trip, so I set about finding a route that would be at least 62 miles long. After a little playing around on Google Maps and MapMyRide I landed on doing a big loop around Sebago Lake. I used Strava’s route capabilities to plan the exact route since it has a feature to select the route based on popular roads. I figured the roads Strava users stuck to would be the most pleasant on which to bike.

I spent a late evening memorizing the turns I would have to make (and using Google Maps Street View to pick out landmarks) and then packed for the big trip. On Memorial Day I went to town on the 8:25am boat and hit up Whole Foods for a few Clif bars, a banana, an apple and a Vitamin Water (with electrolytes). I strapped on my GoPro and hit the road.

hunger-video

Time-lapse video of cycling to Sebago Lake
Music from Free Music Archive: “Amsterdam” by LASERS
I left Portland via Washington Avenue after biking around Back Bay. Luckily, it was still fairly early and Washington was pretty quiet so I didn’t have to worry about cars. From Washington I jumped on Route 100 and then onto Blackstrap Road. Blackstrap was a nice change visually from the city streets I had just left, but it didn’t have much of a shoulder and cars cruised down it at higher speeds. My biggest climb of the day was going up Blackstrap Hill Preserve, and shortly after I turned onto Babbidge Road which turned into Falmouth Road. These roads cut through some farmland and eventually hit Route 115 which took me to Route 302 in Windham.
I was not looking forward to 302. It was busy and loud and not kind to the eye. But, it really wasn’t that bad as it had a wide breakdown lane the entire way. I made my way through the bustle (nearly being right-hooked by a car in Raymond) until State Park Road in Casco.
Riding through Sebago Lake State Park was definitely the highlight of the trip. The number of cars dropped down to nearly none and trees rather than shops, amusement parks and restaurants lined the road. I paid the $4.50 to enter the park and made my way to Songo Beach, which was surprisingly not very crowded. I enjoyed my lunch at the water’s edge with a Mallard duck couple while watching the far shore.
Bike on beach facing lake

Lunch break on Songo Beach

After my quick lunch I got ready to go and bumped into my good friend Chomba who was having a barbecue a few picnic tables over. We laughed at the coincidence of two Long Islanders randomly meeting up in the middle of nowhere and he told me about his plans to hike Katahdin the following weekend (good luck!).

Two men and bike standing in forested park

Random meetup with Chomba

Leaving Sebago Lake State Park I crossed Songo Lock and then headed south on Route 114. 114 would have been an amazing ride except that it had zero shoulder and it was peppered with cars and motorcycles absolutely flying down it. Everyone was respectful of my space with the exception of a group of motorcyclists who purposely buzzed me and gunned their engines as they passed, attempting to make my eardrums bleed.

Shortly after Steep Falls Wildlife Management area I hit my wall. My hands were going numb and my wrists, elbows and shoulders were aching. Luckily, not too much later I got off 114 and jumped on the Mountain Division Trail. The Mountain Division Trail was a multi-use trail built along the defunct Mountain Division Railroad. The trail started off gravelly and steep in places but once it paralleled the rail it was paved, straight and flat. It was a pleasant ride, especially the trestle Gambo Bridge crossing the Pleasant River.

After the Mountain Division Trail I jumped on River Road and followed it into Westbrook. In Westbrook I went through some neighborhoods and crossed the Brown Street trestle bridge (walking my bike) where I saw kids jumping into the Presumpscot River. I wrapped up my ride by following Main Street and Brighton Avenue back into Portland.

I was psyched to be able to accomplish such a long ride. I left hoping I would be able to but prepared to turn back short of Sebago Lake and find an alternative route. I successfully completed my first 100k ride and plan on doing a 75 mile ride next (which will include two small mountain hikes).

Map of trip

Map of trip (view on Strava)

Stats:
Elevation Gain: 2476′
Distance: 66.1 miles
Time: 4:50
Average Speed: 13.7 mph
Temperature: 70°s
Weather: cloudy

References:
Google Maps.” maps.google.com. Google. Web. 29 May 2015.
MapMyRide.” mapmyride.com. MapMyFitness, Inc. Web. 29 May 2015.
Mountain Division Trail.” trailink.com. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Web. 30 May 2015.
Sebago Lake State Park.” maine.gov. inforME. Web. 30 May 2015.
Strava.” strava.com. Strava, Inc. Web. 29 May 2015.

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Cycling: Long Haul Trucking

Recently, my wife got a job off the island. This means that both of us need to commute and unfortunately our places of employment are 40 minutes apart by motorized vehicle on the highway. Our options for commuting were: using our one vehicle to transport us to both, buying a second vehicle or for me to buy a bike. I’ve been wanting to buy a bike for quite a while and this was my opportunity.

I did a bunch of online investigating and talking to friends who bike. I was looking for a good commuting bike, but also one that I could take bike camping in the summer and possibly some longer touring in the future. I narrowed it down to a few options: VeloORANGE Campeur, Jamis Auroroa, Kona Sutra, Novara Rondonee, Surly Long Haul Trucker or Surly Cross-Check. I went to Craigslist and Ebay looking for a used bike, but didn’t find much and I was unsure what size frame to get. I wanted to talk to someone about the options and get properly fitted, and only Surly had a dealer in Portland.

So, I went into Gorham Bike and Ski to talk about buying a Long Haul Trucker or a Cross-Check. They were really knowledgeable and reiterated a lot of the information I had found online about comparing the two bikes. You can’t go wrong with either of them. The Cross-Check is lighter and quicker. The Long Haul Trucker rides smooth even with a heavy load. The Long Haul Trucker has more braze-ons for fenders, racks and panniers. This year’s Cross-Check model comes in orange! After visiting I was still unsure which bike I wanted, but I walked away with what I really needed: a rough price including the accessories I wanted.

I thought about it overnight (as well as prowling more cycling forums), and returned to Gorham Bike and Ski the next day to make my purchase. What it came down to was that I wanted a bike with which I could tour and the Long Haul Trucker was better set up for that. Yes, the Cross-Check may have been the better choice for a commuter bike, but trust me, I wasn’t worried about getting to work quickly. It also helped that I saw many comments stating that if they could only own one bike it would be a Long Haul Trucker.

Bike leaning against fence

My new ride: Surly Long Haul Trucker (from Instagram)

The folks at Gorham Bike and Ski fitted me (56cm frame) and we moved on to the purchase and accessories. I had some choices to make, I went with:

  • Cakipants color over Blacktacular as it was more appealing to me
  • Long Haul Trucker over Disc Trucker to save some money on the frame
  • 700c tires over 26″ for less fatigue and better performance over potholes, even though 26″ are more common and sturdier
  • Default saddle, but I will probably upgrade in the future
  • Default drop-bars even though many do not like the bar-end shifters, having not cycled in a very long time I had no preference and didn’t think I’d mind the shifters even though I would occasionally hit them
  • Added fenders for rainy days as I was planning on commuting every day I could regardless of weather
  • Started with just a back rack and one pannier bag, a Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Tote as it was waterproof
  • Some mid-line blinking LED lights, I didn’t go with the best choice as I was not planning on cycling at night
  • RaceRocket pump
  • Mid-line Specialized bike helmet which was better ventilated than the low-end helmet
  • Bike lock
  • Basic platform pedals
  • A couple of basic water bottles and cages
  • A spare 700c tube

A week later my wife called me at work to let me know that my bike was ready. I left work early to swing by the bike shop once more and pick up my bike. After some small adjustments and purchasing a protection plan the bike was mine. I parked my car and spun around the parking lot a few times to get used to my bike and then walked it down to the boat. I was far too unfamiliar with the bike and unsure of traffic to ride through Portland. Thus began my weekend-long trepidation for my first day of commuting. But, after spending the weekend route planning, researching bicycle safety and signaling and reading my state laws I felt much more confident hitting the street.

I must say that I love my Long Haul Trucker and don’t suffer any buyer’s remorse. I have done some calculations and assuming an average price of $3.00 per gallon of gasoline, I will pay off my bike in 288 commutes (or roughly a year) based on the car mileage saved. Assuming I would have have purchased a used Toyota Tacoma from a local dealership I trust and assuming the same $3.00 gas price, it would have taken 2750 commutes (or 10.5 years) for it to pay itself off, not considering registration, parking, and maintenance.

I was very happy with my choice to go to Gorham Bike and Ski (no affiliation). They were knowledgeable and not a bit intimidating (I walked in a total cycling noob). They also offered 10% off all accessories when purchasing a new bike and a free 30-day checkup (where accessories are once again 10% off).

I look forward expanding my wandering possibilities by leveraging my Long Haul Trucker and sharing those experience on this blog. I have already dreamed up plans to bike down The Eastern Trail, bike camp in the White Mountains, bike to Burlington, VT, and a Portland to Portland cross-country trip (in ascending ridiculousness order).

References:
Gorham Bike & Ski.” gorhambike.com. Gorham Bike & Ski. Web. 11 April 2015.
Long Haul Trucker.” surlybikes.com. Surly. Web. 11 April 2015.
RaceRocket.” topeak.com. Topeak, Inc. Web. 11 April 2015.
Specialized Bicycled Helmets.” specialized.com. Specialized Bicycle Company. 11 April 2015.
Surly Long Haul Trucker or Cross-Check.” google.com. Google, Inc. Web. 11 April 2015.
Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Tote.” thule.com. Thule Group. Web. 11 April 2015.
Top 100 Touring Bicycles.” bicycletouringpro.com. Bicycle Touring Pro. Web. 11 April 2015.

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