First – An Important Message - Donate to Bike Cleveland
I’m on the board at Bike Cleveland and let’s just say I’ve been busy at work and not so busy with this group. So, I’d like to help them out by getting a few of you to pay for a membership and possibly even make a donation.
Bike Cleveland (BikeCLE) is a 501(c)(3) advocacy non-profit organization for people on bikes in the Greater Cleveland area. Representing over 1000 dues paying members and more than 32 local businesses, they make sure that any time the conversation turns to transportation — that people on bikes are being considered alongside people in cars. They work to improve policy, infrastructure, and legislation to help make our roads places that serve people and communities, not just traffic.
If you want to help out, please support this worthy organization by becoming a member. It will cost you $35 (or $60 for a family) but you'll get a fancy membership card, invitations to special events and discounts at over 35 local businesses including a number of bike shops. If you are really motivated, you can also donate a few extra dollars as a one-time contribution. My goal is to get as many new memberships as possible and possibly a donation or two. It’s a good group of dedicated people working for all of us to make the streets a safe place for bicyclists. If you do not live in Northeast Ohio, join any way and know that you’ve supported a good cause.
I’ve been an avid bike rider for many years and in particular like riding railway or canal trails similar to the Ohio Erie Canal (OEC). I’ve explored the 110 miles of trails on the OEC on a fairly regular basis and always thought about extending a trip into an overnight or two. I stumbled upon an article about a trail collectively called the GAP. The trail is actually a combination of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) which is a rail-trail and the C&O trail which is a canal trail. Together they stretch over 350 miles from downtown Pittsburgh to Georgetown in Washington DC. I've biked sections of the GAP in the past, but I've always wanted to do the entire trail in one multi-day ride. That’s what I attempted to do this year but….. a tropical storm named Gordon and a Hurricane named Florence changed my plans……
The Katy Trail
After deciding that a GAP trip was in danger because of the possible heavy rains and damage to the trail, I quickly switched gears with the help of Noble Inventions Bike Tours who I used to help plan my trip. They offer a journey basically across the state of Missouri called the Katy Trail. This trail has also been on my bucket list so I decided to switch to the Katy and save the GAP for 2019. Noble did an unbelievable job of quickly cancelling my GAP trip and arranging the Katy trip in about a day. Thanks to Ann and Sara!
The Katy Trail is a state park in the state of Missouri. It’s a recreational rail trail that runs 240 miles (390 km) in the right-of-way of the former Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad. Running largely along the northern bank of the Missouri River, it is the country's longest Rails-to-Trails trail. The nickname "Katy" comes from the phonetic pronunciation of 'KT' in the railroad's abbreviated name, MKT.
I plan on starting the trip in Clinton, Missouri and traveling east to St. Charles. My son Justin is helping me get a rental car in Cleveland for my drive to Clinton. If everything goes according to plan, I'll bike to a rental car company in St. Charles 5 or 6 days later and rent an SUV to get home. The total mileage for the trip is around 300 miles if you include getting on and off the trail as well as some additional sight seeing along the way.
The Katy Trail is mostly crushed limestone in construction very similar to the OEC. The trail is fairly flat when looking at the whole but has a few long gradual climbs on the western end of the trail. Day 1 and 2 will be uphill but subsequent days will be flat.
As stated above, I used a service (Noble Invention Bike Tours) to book hotels and B&B's along the way. One call to them and they handled my lodging logistics. If you are interested in a bike adventure I would highly recommend Noble. They did a great job and communicated with me regularly throughout the process. I’m not taking advantage of everything they offer (luggage moving, transportation to and from the trail, bike rental, etc.) but I can tell you they know the trail and will help you every step along the way. Although you could camp the entire trip, I'm not very fond of spending my nights in a tent. I’ll be in a hotel room or B&B each night along the way.
I've been training for the trip for about 4 months. I've been riding 80-100 miles each weekend on local trails and bike paths. I'm also doing 30-60-minute spins on a trainer in my basement during the week. I'm not out to break any speed records so I'll be averaging a moving speed of approximately 12-14 MPH. The main training objective was to get used to spending 5 to 6 hours per day in the saddle. I’ll be averaging around 50 miles each day while on the trail. I'll be carrying around 30 pounds of gear, clothing, water and technology. I’m a little concerned about the extra weight but I’ve been simulating a full load during training.
The Bike, Bike Computer and Other Tech
I'll be riding a Trek Checkpoint SL6 “gravel” bike. It's a full carbon bike with a little wider tire for the trail. I'll be averaging around 50 miles a day, so comfort was important, and this bike has been a pleasure to ride during training. The geometry of the bike is a little on the aggressive side but I like the lean forward posture it provides. The bike has SPD pedals and I'll be wearing SPD compatible shoes. In other words, I'll be clipped into the bike for the entire trip.
I used a review website (dcrainmaker) for gear advice and reviews. Ray Maker is an interesting individual who writes a blog about sports and fitness tech. The links I’ve included regarding the gear are linked to his site. If you decide to purchase something, do it through his site. He gets a little spiff for products ordered, it will cost you nothing extra, and I’ll feel better about helping him out. His site has really been a huge help in the preparation for this trip. By the way, I will not profit from any of your orders.
A Garmin Edge 1030 will be my bike computer and navigation device. I've loaded the entire trip in detail into the unit so I’ll be able to follow a map and know my mileages to and from destinations. I have a speed and cadence sensor on the bike and I’ll be wearing a Scosche heart rate monitor on my arm as well. In this way I’ll be able to monitor my speed, cadence, heart rate and navigation information (including distance to destination) on a screen mounted just in front of the handlebars. In addition, the Garmin unit is connected to my phone and will display incoming calls and texts. It can also give me weather alerts and updates. I’ve set up a virtual partner that I will “race” to make sure I’m keeping up with the pace I determined before the trip. Most importantly the unit has a crash detection feature which will contact a list of people giving them a heads up that’s something is wrong and that I might need some help. All of this will be backed up by my Garmin Fenix 5S Plus watch. Unbelievably, most of everything already described about the Edge 1030 can be duplicated on the watch although with a much smaller screen
I'll also have a Garmin UT800 headlight and Garmin Varia RTL510 Radar for visibility and safety. Since I'll be riding on roads to get to my hotels or during any possible trail detours, the Garmin Radar will alert me to traffic approaching from the rear. This unit has been a normal part of my training rides for over two years and although it will not prevent a car from hitting you, you at least know something is approaching.
My photo and video gear will consist of a GoPro Hero 6 action camera mounted to my Bontrager Circuit MIPS helmet and my iPhone X. The GoPro will record video and take pictures while I’m riding and will be activated by a remote switch on my handlebars. The iPhone will be used mostly for still shots along the way. I contemplated bringing some sort of camera with a zoom lens, but I decided against the idea due to weight considerations.
I’ll also have an iPad mini packed which will act as my main computer. I’ll update the blog as well as edit photos and video on this unit. It’s a pretty small device but the weight is perfect for the trip.
The panniers (Arkel Orca 35) are designed to fit on my rear bike rack and come off easily to carry into a hotel. The primary reason for selecting these panniers was the waterproofing. I really wanted something that would keep out the rain and give me one less thing to worry about. The next most important aspect of the bags was the size. I think 35 Liters is a good trade off between weight and capacity. Deciding what to pack was a bit difficult, but the decisions came down to what would fit and how much it weighed. It’s amazing how quickly the weight adds up. Mostly, I'll have bike clothes (yes, those tight-fitting bike shorts and jersey's) and a pair of shorts or jeans for the evening. I'll have to do a load of laundry at least once along the way as I can't fit enough for the full trip. I’ve also packed a small toiletry bag with only the essentials as well as some spare batteries, charging cables and micro SD cards for the camera. I have a top tube bag which will contain an iPhone, AirPods as my headphones, and a snack or two. I’ll also have a small tool kit and all the required items to fix a flat tire in the middle of nowhere.
I’ll have two 25-ounce bottles of water in cages on the frame of the bike. Depending on the weather, I could go through that amount fairly quickly, so I’ll be depending on refills along the way. There will be days where water will not be as available as other spots on the trail, but I should be OK with what I carry. I’ll also have Nuun tablets to add to the water if I feel I need additional sodium/potassium. I’ve experimented with different supplements and for me these tablets are much better than the popular sports drinks and contain no sugars. The drink is easy on my digestive system as well.
The average temperature on the trail during late September is 75 degrees. There is a possibility my early morning could be a bit chilly with temps around 50 degrees. Historically, September is one of the dryer months on the trail, but I'll be extremely lucky to get 6 dry days in a row. I'll be packing some rain gear, arm and leg warmers and a jacket. Currently the trail is in pretty good shape with only a couple of small detours along the way.
This blog will serve as a way to keep my family and friends up to date on the adventure. I’ll try to post something each day plus include a few photos and a video or two. I’ll send an email out to my contact list with a link to the most recent post daily. I highly encourage you to forward the link to your family and friends (if they ride a bike even better) and ask them to join BikeCLE as well. If you want someone added to the distribution list or just want to get in touch, just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for joining me!