2011 Philly Bike Expo
Standing In Front Of the 23rd St Armory
There was no way I was going to ride the bike through the 6" of snow in front of the garage...
so I walked it down the driveway and into the road. I hopped on and headed toward the Bike Expo in center city. The plan was to ride the roads to Norristown and hop onto the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT) then follow that to center city. I had patiently waited until 9:15 when the digital thermometer on the porch reported a 33F air temperature. The weather dude said that the snow fall in the city was ~1" so I would be riding into improving conditions. Now I was wondering about the wisdom of my plan.
The road was clear but very wet with runoff and the shoulder was icy. The sun had melted most of the road where it hit, but there were lots of shady spots, places where trees dropped snow and the dreaded trailings from plowed driveways. On one climb I went over some "water" and the rear wheel spun 1/2 a revolution. Wake up! After the first 8 miles I stopped at the McDonalds and had a cup of coffee and put on the heavy gloves. In those 10 minutes things improved a bit. I decided to press on.
I got to Norristown and there were just traces of snow. I had my concerns about the SRT as it does not get cleared of snow. Once you are on the trail you have precious few options for getting off. It would be a commitment. The streets looked good and as far as I could tell the lots and sidewalks were clear. I decided to take a chance and go for the trail.
I was indeed all alone. There was evidence of just one prior bike and it was a mountain bike. Things went well for a while then I started to hit some spotty ice. Usually it had a clear path through it, but sometimes not. Other times I would hit a long clear stretch and I could open it up. Those clear spots were getting less frequent. At one point I hit serious ice and ended up getting a bit crossed up. (Slicks are not the hot ticket on ice.) Things went from bad to worse and I was getting concerned. Then the trail went over a railroad bridge and it was 100% ice from end to end. Time to bail.
I cut through an abandoned Liberty gas station and onto a road. I think I was in Conshohocken, but I don't know. I figured as long as I kept the river on my right I would be going in the right direction. I ended up on river road in the Spring Hill area and it was great. 2- 3 miles of fresh blacktop that arched up above the river. Life was good. At the end I was on some little road that went through some red-neck houses on the river. Everyone had plastic furniture and a powerboat in their yard. Then bingo!, I was on Shawmont road which is at the beginning of the Manayunk tow path.
I made a left then a right onto Umbria and cruised onto Main street. Just as I planned. I followed that onto Kelly drive and I was flying along until I hit the police barricade. They indicated that I should head onto the bike path. This went well until I hit the Head of the Schuylkill regatta and all the associated activity. There were a zillion people walking this way and that, most hauling something and talking to their friend. There were also golf carts acting a parking lot shuttles. Ever try riding a bike in an airport terminal?
I did stop at the visitor's launching spot. These racing shells were very cool. Most were carbon fiber and they were tiny, perhaps 18" wide, drawing 10" of water and maybe 50' long.
Enough with the engineering porn, so I headed back on the path, but progress was slow. I went past the barricade and onto the Kelly drive. Turns out it was just a big parking lot for the event. I had the road to myself. I poured on the coal and started to roll.
Kelly dumped me out near the art museum and at this point I was lost. I fumbled around and managed to ride past most of the city's art district. The art museum, Franklin Institute, Rodan Museum, Please Touch museum, the art museum again... Time to ask directions.
I was lucky enough to stop a guy with an i-phone. Pull up the Bike Expo website, click on the map and Bob's you uncle. I was on the wrong side of the expressway. Oops. I followed his directions and I was there in a matter of minutes.
I had never ridden in the Philly and I was wondering what it would be like. I found it very pleasant. Much easier than riding at home. The lanes were wide. The traffic was slow and in may cases there was a bike lane. Not a single problem.
Once I got to the event I checked my bike with the valet and had lunch from one of the three trucks servicing the event. I chose the kimchi topped burger with tater-tots and I was not disappointed. Outside there was a swap meet on a side street. It was fairly large. Think of Oley with bicycle stuff.
Inside was even better. Lots of famous makers were there including Brooks saddles and Reynolds tubing. Reynolds just came out with a stainless that rivals the strength to weight of titanium. There were lots of customer frame makers there. There was one company that made frames from titanium tubes that has 1"x3/8" diamonds cut out of the center 18" of the main tube (it looked like expanded metal or a heart stent.) He lined the tube with carbon fiber and placed diamond shaped patches in all of the holes. Then he formed the whole thing under pressure to come out with the titanium tube with carbon fiber inserts. The fizik company was there showing their latest R1 shoes carbon fiber sole with kangaroo uppers. Biker porn for sure!
I did find the one accessory that my bike needed. A bell. It is a vintage Crane bell from Japan. Brass with a brass dinger on a spring. Dirt simple and it sound sweet.
I also ran into a charter member of the mac-pac. None other than Mike Dulany. He was there for the show and seminars too, but he took the train. (wimp.)
I attended the Bucks and Montgomery County trails seminar. There are very active programs to get more bike trails in both counties. The 202 parkway/trail in Bucks should be great with fast and slow bike lanes. Bucks focuses on road trails and Montgomery focuses on off- road trails. I guess this is why the road riding can be crappy on Montco.
At 3:30 I headed back. I avoided another cultural tour of the city by asking directions before I left. Turns out the show was 2 blocks from the SRT and I just went down Chestnut and walked down the ramp to the trail.
There was not a hint of snow anywhere in the city when I left and the trail was completely clear. It was also fairly busy with bikers and joggers. I never tire of watching healthy women run so I took my time and watched where I was going.
Things were going well until I got to the boat houses and the airport terminal reinactment. This time it was loading time for the teams that did not make the A-main. The people carrying 8 oars were a challenge to get by, but nothing like the guys carrying the 50" racing shell on their shoulders. I was moving like molasses in January. I popped back on the Kelly drive and rode up to the police barricade and back on the trail. Smooth.
The trail was busy, but manageable. The closer I got to Manayunk the better things got. I got off the trail and headed onto Main street in Manayunk. This is a nice road as there are bike markings and few stop signs. Soon enough I was back on the SRT and this time I had the trail to myself :-) No snow, no ice and no hills. Life is good.
At Norristown I got off the trail and onto their Main street. The road was closed due to rail construction but I was able to walk over the almost completed crossing w/o a problem. I did see 4 workers warming their hands over a Thermite weld that was happening on the track. Why let the heat go to waste? Just another day on the railroad.
One thing that I did not realize was from Norristown to Lansdale is almost all up hill. After you get out of Norristown there is nothing too steep, but it does not give up. By the time I got to Lansdale I was pooped. The smart rider would have stopped and had a doughnut. I did not think of that. I just kept plodding away. These were my normal commuting roads and I was 5+ mph slower.
When I finally got home it was ~6:30 and I was good and tired. I had put in a patriotic 76 miles for the day. That shower felt soooo good.
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