cycling essentials

I’m sure there has there been a list made of cycling essentials, but I figured I would go over some of the things that I have recently been putting together due to some of my recent 6-7 mt bike, hiking, exploring adventures.

This is a list that I think is more first-aid, emergency oriented rather than the usual ‘how to make a repair and get home’ list of repair items.

Some of these things I wouldn’t necessarily carry for a quick trip around the local trails where you may see 5-10 other riders. This is more of what I pack when I go on adventures looking for trails that most other cyclists do not know about.

On some of my rides I only see military Rangers in training. Most of the time I see no one else except for maybe a couple people near where I park. Usually I see more wild-life than anything else.

1. Water tablets/water filter – Hydration is 1 of the most important things.

currently water filters are about $70+ and weigh almost a pound. So, I am carrying some tablets instead. I have had to use them before.

2. Benedryl – For the 3rd time just this weekend I had to pull out some benedryl for someone who just got stung by a bee, on the lip. A sting from the neck up can be a serious problem for someone that has an allergic reaction. Being able to quickly take a benedryl can minimize the risk. Usually the second thing to happen is a restricted air passage. I would rather someone take 1 of my benedryl, then have something serious happen.

3. compression bandage – this is the stuff for a serious cut/gash. Many of us get scrapes and bruises, but this stuff is for a more serious cut that could occur after a fall. These are pretty easy to find at a pharmacy.

4. para-cord or similar string – I know that many people are wearing the para-chord bracelets, but if you are really in the outback wilderness, there can be many uses for such an item. Tying a splint to hold a broken bone in place or a twisted ankle, tie a sling in case someone breaks a collarbone, tie down broken shoe straps, tie down things onto your pack.

Originally designed for paratroopers, paracord is a kernmantle rope: a braided sheath over a bundle of seven inner cords. This mantle makes paracord very resistant to abrasion. 550 paracord is rated for 550 pounds: 300 pounds for the sheath and 35 pounds for each strand. The cords can be removed from the sheath and divided into two strands if finer string is needed.

Read more: Uses for 550 Paracord |

5. chem-light – this is something I watched the rangers use. They store for a long period, but you just pop the middle and they light up. This is a great tool if you get lost and people are attempting to find you. I wouldn’t say that it doubles as a flashlight by any means, although if tied to a walking stick (as I’ve seen the Rangers do) it may aid you if you are walking.

6. multi-tool – I know most Mt bikers carry a cyclist specific multi, but I also carry a regular leather-man multi-tool. They have pliers, knife, screw drivers, file, etc.

7. compass or compass app. Although I have a good sense of direction and figuring out which way I need to be going – I usually do so based on the sun positioning. I have a back-up plan though – a Free compass App on my phone.

8. Another ‘smart’ phone app is MyTracks When exploring I currently use MyTracks – and I try to remember to keep my phone is ‘airport’ mode to save battery.

US Forestry Chainsaw Certification

This past weekend I attended the US Forestry Service (USFS) chainsaw certification class/workshop in Blairsville, GA. This class was recommended to me by David so that we would have more trail volunteers capable (certified) to do more maintenance. This class was Free from the USFS and a volunteer, FOR volunteers.

In attendance was 1 new USFS employee, 6 Appalachian Trail volunteers, and 9 local Mt bike volunteers – in attendance was Mike Palmeri, Joe Palmeri, Todd Lyons, Seth Owens, Jason Brousche, Tony Stevens, Gary Monk, Jim Townsend and myself.

Forestry Morning Meeting

On the Forestry side, it became obvious that (as you can expect) these guys are overwhelmed with the amount of land that they have to maintain, manage. They are thankful for the volunteers. The USFS in their efforts to gain assistance, while volunteering, a certified sawyer is considered an employee of the USFS and falls under their insurance. They said to date, that no one has needed to take them up on the offer of the insurance, and hope no one would need too.
Oak slice

Side Note: For those of you that don’t know, each Spring/Summer I cut & Split 3-4 cords of firewood for my Mom to heat her house all Winter. So, going into this class I felt quite confident, but was also hoping to fill in some areas of my knowledge. Well, it was pretty shocking that having someone that is basically grading you and hanging over your shoulder as you work made me more nervous than I would have expected. Suddenly, I’m not out there doing things my way & just my dog watching. But still I was able to attain ‘B’ cert. or the 2nd level of certification.

Getting Instructions

One of the greatest things that I learned from the class was Safety! Of course, working with chainsaws is Dangerous – period! The moment you relax and/or get ahead of yourself is when you will get hurt.

They are insistent that you use the brake on the chainsaw. This was something I wasn’t used to – heck, only 1 of my 3 chainsaws even has a brake on it.

Speaking of Safety, 1 of the things they were insistent on was a pair of chaps – and this is why:

Since most of what trail volunteers deal with is blow-downs (trees that the wind knocked over) they showed us how to best cut that tree with out getting your saw stuck, which is very easy to do & also dangerous.

How to properly cut a tree to better control which way the log goes once it has been cut.

How to maintain more control over a tree that has been blown down on the trail.

Dawg demonstrating a leaner cut

Another great technique was how to deal with Spring trees – these are trees that the tops got pulled over by another tree and the trunk is still rooted, but the top of the tree is pulled over & down. They are a dangerous situation, because the force of the tree wants to ‘spring’ it back up.

How you approach a situation where multiple trees are down and you need to clear the trail. Access the situation from all angles – and do some limbing if you need to get a better understanding of where to start.

How to determine the amount of lean a standing Tree has. This will determine which direction a tree naturally wants to fall, and what it would take to make it drop in a different direction if needed.

Since I do cut firewood & have to cut down dead trees I learned a ‘felling’ technique that I am anxious to try out.

Here is an example of a compound tree that I cut up for firewood. Notice it has a ‘Spring tree’ on the right, and that it is a compound situation where the downed tree is interlocked with the standing tree. It was a tricky situation to say the least.
Compound Fell Tree

Again, remember taking your time for safety and accessing the situation are the 2 greatest points – we are volunteers out there and in some situations even the Pro’s have to walk away.

Also, if you ride Mt bike trails – you should volunteer, if you are good with chainsaws, this class was Free from the USFS and volunteers, FOR volunteers.

2011 Christmas eve ride

This year was a bitter sweet Christmas eve ride as we enjoyed our time together on the trails.
We got the dogs out for a short ride before most folks showed up, then headed out for the group ride around 11am. There was a bunch of climbing, and we ended up exploring an unknown trail which ended up looping us back around to mid-climb, then we got to bomb back down the trail again – good times!

We had a water crossing that had no bridge – w/ a smart phone in my pocket, I figured it was safer to walk than take a $200+ dunk/phone renewal.

Post ride we hung out with our friends and the dogs, and remembered our friend Jeff.

Good times with Great friends!

Hope you have very Happy Holidays and enjoy time spent with friends and family!!

Jamis Exile 29 single speed review

I got a Jamis Exile29 Single Speed for review earlier this year. The Jamis Exile is a steel (Reynolds 631) hard-tail frame. Although ‘Steel is real’ I think we can add heavy to the end of that saying. However, with that added weight comes a great ride and feel of the bike.
Carbon bars
For this test, the bike has a Rock Shox, Reba fork up front. The reba is coupled with an aerus 110mm stem, and aerus carbon riser handle-bars. I like a wider handlbar on a single-speed bike. I have found that on a single-speed you end up pushing and pulling much more than on a geared bike, and the Aerus hasn’t let me down.

The front tire is a Kenda Nevegal 2.2.
The rear tire is the Specialized Fast Track – 2.0.
Truvative bottom bracket and cranks, with a 32 front chain ring & a 20 tooth rear cog.

adjustable position, 20t gear

Jamis set-up their single-speed horizontal drop-outs by placing wheel position bolts in the rear dropouts. Anytime you change a cog, you would have to change the position of these bolts. I ride with several people that have SS’s, and I have had to wait several times for them to re-adjust their bottom bracket (BB) positioners (which is some bike manufactors way of keeping the single speed chain ). Once you adjust your positioners with the Jamis, the rear skewer will keep them in place. With the other BB there is a lot of torque and movement going on there, and riders seem to have to re-tighten often, or make double sure they are tight enough to begin with.

Chain keeper

It has a chain keeper in the rear. Which seems over-kill until you go about changing out the gear, then it is a nice added feature. When are about to take your rear wheel out, you simply take the chain off the rear cog, and ‘hang’ on the chain hanger on the rear of the frame. This keeps the chain from dropping down. It’s a small detail, but one that I appreciate.

Braking is done with the Avid Juicy Threes. This Jamis is set-up with 180mm rotors up front and 160mm rotor in the rear. This is done so that you have enough stopping power up front where your weight will shift slightly, but not so much stopping power in the rear that you back tire locks up every time you feather the rear brake.
Although with the Fast Track on the rear, locking it up while braking is my only complaint.

Even being a single speed, this bike is a heavy weight – 27lbs. This is part due to the heavy wheels, but lets face it, the 631 steel frame is heavy material, however, it is a great riding frame.

Single Speeding at Chicopee with Apollo

This is not a bike that I would want to start out the season riding. Single speeding can be brutal on the wrong course if you are not in shape. I did a long ride w/ a friend and his kids, and at a slower pace, you mash the gear & my legs got worked!

I think every Single Speed needs a handle-bar mounted Front fork lockout! Loosing momentum from a bobbing fork on the trail sucks! And with a Single Speed, when you hit the uphill section where you notice your fork isn’t locked out, it is even tough to sit & adjust with out loosing momentum.

The Ride
This bike is FUN!!!
This is the first single-speed bike I have ridden, and although it seems like it will be too tough to ride much on a single-speed, I have found that most terrain is actually very rideable. Granted, I didn’t dare take it too the foothills of the Appalachian Mts when I went, but I have surprised myself with the climbs that I have gotten over with the single speed. As most Single-Speeders will tell you, usually, if they have to dismount and push, most geared Mt bikers have to dismount and push also.

Exile SS

This bike handles very well, and with the single-speed, I have noticed that I can whip the rear end around much more than with a geared bike.
The single speed causes me to look ahead to what is upcoming, so that I have a better chance to prepare for the terrain. If it is uphill, I will look for a place to gain some extra momentum before the climb.

The wider Aerus handle-bars allow me to push, pull hard on the climbs, or anytime I’m accelerating, and they also allow me to lean it hard into corners – which I think is necessary for a 2Niner.

Overall, I have been impressed with how smooth of a ride this bike has (smoother than my other aluminum 2niner frame) and what I thought would be a bigger challenge of only a single-speed has actually been a gift of simplicity.

Cherohala crossing

I partially got talked into doing the Cherohala crossing #3. I knew Hammering Hill Billy and FarmerG have done this ride before, and although I heard it was on/off road with 3 climbs, it would have some of the beautiful views of North Carolina and the Cherohala parkway.

I finally made it to Paradox, although a little later than anticipated. After some bites of steak & some veggies fresh from FarmerG’s garden we huddled around the campfire & told tall tales of our mis-adventures of bike racing over the years.

A bit a late evening of jocularity and sipping adult beverages around a campfire before we finally turned in for the night. I was camping for a 2nd night, 1st being at Mulberry Gap for the Drama Queen ride – and was fortunate enough that FarmerG had some extra blankets because the sudden N.C. night time low of 48 was most unexpected after our months HOTlanta heat.

as more people pulled up before sunrise, I rubbed my groggy eyes, they were anxious for the day of riding to get started. We on the other hand we dragging slightly. Andy was there and soon Mr Paine himself pulled up – an unexpected surprise – now I know this ride was going to be a brute.

We had an great breakfast of coffee & pancakes, jittery with anticipation of what might be in store for the day. Troy was our designated team driver of the vehicle – many Thanks to Troy, who was saving his legs for the infamous US100K on Monday.

Climbing was the game today – 3 long climbs and descents, all on dirt. I was on a 2Niner Mt bike with a knobby up front and a Maxxis CrossMark in the rear, probably the best rear tire for this ride. I was at a disadvantage going uphill, but on the downhills the Mt bike was a huge advantage over the cycle-cross bikes.

We readied ourselves and left from the park of Murphy, NC, and headed to Andrews, NC – but not until I had the ONLY flat of the day. Onward we marched rolling along the small rollers, each 1 taking it’s toll already on my legs. The Drama Queen was starting to show her evil backside to my quads. I would be mid-pack of a moderate moving group, then slightly off the back, then have to re-gain ground once the road flattened out.

We made a left turn on what was a paved road, which soon turned to a dirt road. The group was now starting to split up. The grade of the road would change every so often, however the usual ability to get out of the saddle and pedal to maintain speed in a steeper section was lost due to traction on the dirt road. It was a ‘sit & spin’ kind of a day.

I tried not to think too much about the gearing I was using because it wasn’t long until I realized that my legs didn’t have much left in the tanks. I was running low on fuel and the reserves had not been replenished. The gravel this year was reported as much looser than the previous year. And clearly they had recently put down new gravel on 1 of the descents.

Once to the top would re-grouped with everyone, and I was inhaling all food that I could, and re-filling water, then adding Nuun tablets. I found out that HillBilly and Shane were duking it out for the KOM on a day that I was trying to survive. The descents were long, somewhat loose gravel and Fast as you wanted, most everyone had pains in the forearms and calves from standing while braking down the descents.

The flat sections we quite fast for being on a Mt bike, I was able to grab a wheel of Greg and put my head down to hold his wheel. Then we would regroup, ride awhile until someone got frisky again – back to the races, then slow enough for everyone to catch up.

On the 2nd climb, the body went on strike: said ‘no mo, until we get supplies’ I got some gel, got a bite of cliff-bar, but it just wasn’t enough. My body was on ‘E’ and I felt like I was holding everyone up – the day was going to be long enough as it was so, I hopped in the follow vehicle and snapped some photos of the other riders climbing up this mountain. Meanwhile, I was eating anything available: cheez-its and Pnut butter wafers, and drinking more Nuun. At the top, we regrouped again before another awesome descent – I was on a mt bike, descents were tough for those with the cyclo-cross tires. Somewhere either on this climb or on the descent we crossed into Tennessee. Hit some flatter roads and the 2nd store stop. Luckily for me, I found a pop-tart in my pack that I had forgotten about – I don’t think I had ever been more excited about a pop-tart ever before.

After the store-stop at the bottom of this gap was along the river, and we had to gradually climb out of this area. I was holding pace with the group along the flats, then once again, I was falling off slightly on the rollers and catching back on. We were heading out for the final climb of the day.

What this last climb lacked in length, it made up in short steep sections that whether from tired legs, lack of gearing or lack of traction, several people had to walk up. Once re-grouped at the top, we started again down the Mountain. Just after passing me, Shane moved his way up to the front, and out of sight through the next turn. I was slowing down because the edge was on our right and the turn went out of sight to the left. About mid-way through the turn, I saw a pick-up truck that luckily was now stopped on the far left side of the road, and luckily again, there was Shane just a little passed the truck looking back at us, as if to say ‘Holy Crap!’ We were all able to safely get around the vehicle.

Once again at the bottom, Greg was an instigator and was Hammering this section all the way to the stop sign. There we waited on everyone and headed back out for the final leg back to Murphy. Just as I thought the worst of this ride was over and seemed to have some energy again, the upcoming climbs were to take their toll before I was able to drag myself back into town. Greg and Wayne stopped and waited on everyone before getting back to the cars.

After 15 minutes of beverages and munching it was time for the all-mighty HillBilly recovery ice bath in the Hiawassee river. After soaking for a bit, we motored on back to FarmerG’s for some beef burgers and pasta with sauce straight from Farmer’s garden – Awesome sauce to top an Awesome weekend of riding with great friends!!

Cherohala crossing #3:

Hill Repeats

Hill repeats, how we love to loathe them. If you are lucky, you start off at a steady pace and the Mountain teases you into thinking it is going to be a good day….. then as your heart rate begins to catch up to the effort your putting out, the Mt. truly let’s you know what kind of day it is going to be – on the Mt’s terms, not yours. Sometimes the mountain allows you to climb with less effort than previous, but this time of year, the mountain has it’s advantage and may take this opportunity to show it’s authority as Mother Nature and her companion, mean ole Mr. Gravity.

Yet, you must pedal onward, knowing that the steepness of the Mt that you climb is not just taking to the top, but is taking you to a stronger point in your fitness. Your legs feel the next upward pitch that causes you to grind away on the crank arms ever so slowly. This is the pain that the mountain inflicts in the normal cyclist that wish to over come the grade and bask in the view from the pinnacle.

Good day or bad day, the fact that you are on the Mountain battling and so many others are not can confirm your commitment. If you start off to hard racing to get to the top, then sometimes the Mountain can really take the wind out of your sails. Caution can be the better part of valor as you climb up the first 1000 meters. The mountain will cause you to settle into a more humbling pace if you miss-judge or underestimate her. The cyclists on the descent smile and nod at those still battling the upward slope, for they know, not only the anguish the mountain is putting on your body, but that once down to the bottom, they themselves will turn around and battle against their own machines to take them to the top.

Your legs scream from the lactic acid being built up from each pedal stroke, which is not spin, but a MASH. Seated climbing is usually the par, until the grade rises at such an angle that the mind convinces you that maybe standing will be easier…. but only briefly, then HR stands with the body, and you flop back down giving the legs what seems like only a brief moment of relief. The mountain can be deceiving, for some stretches you can feel a brief relief, then you turn the bend, and the suffering is there again. The body screams to stop, but the mind must overcome! You must continue and remember that your goal is not at the top, but in the grind of the uphill battle against gravity.

Upward you ascend, slowly, but steadily, knowing that in the end, the mountain will win again, but you will come away a stronger person both in cycling and in mental fortitude for being there this day!
Burnt Mountain
Climbing hills and mountains develops sport specific leg strength to cycling, which if a base fitness aerobic level has been developed and the workouts at a gym have been followed, the body will respond with greater performance and wattage output. As this strength is developed it will allow the rider to be able to ride along with other riders at the same weight/speed, requiring a lower effort so therefore a lower heart rate.

Hill Repeats:
To do these efforts, I try to use a steady climb and keep a cadence of around 65-70, and keeping as much pressure on the legs as possible for the whole climb. I have 1 main Mt. climb that is just over a mile long, but takes nearly 10 minutes to get to the top. But speed is not what I am using to gauge my fitness yet, I am using the gearing that I am able to climb the Mt with. By keeping a lower cadence I am using more muscle to climb the Mt than Heart Rate.