Tuesday, April 18, 2023

The Versatility of Folding Bikes on Amtrak - Dahon Boardwalk in Albany, NY

The Mohawk Hudson Bike Hike Trail, north of Albany, hugs the Hudson River.
 It's also the eastern terminus of the Erie Canal Trail. 

I'm a fan of the Empire State Trail system, so I waited for a good weather weekend to ride Amtrak to investigate the Albany, New York region with my Dahon Boardwalk. As I've learned, the Boardwalk rides best with limited baggage - perfect for indoor accommodation. With a new-to-me voluminous front bag, I was able to stow all my overnight gear, important for two reasons: easy carry-on while also lugging the folded bike on Amtrak (avoiding extra fee and a reservation), and because of pedaling both days, leaving late afternoon Sunday, returning by train, I had to tote all my gear on rides. It was a valuable exercise in packing essentials.

Pedaling five miles from home to the station, I easily folded the bike into a homemade tote, storing the bike behind my seat and settled in for a 5 hour journey.

In Albany, I lugged the folded bicycle to the train platform and assembled everything, then took the elevator one flight down to exit the station. Following verbal Google directions, I easily navigated over the Hudson River by way of a segregated bike lane.  

The goal for the late afternoon was investigating the nine mile Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail, ending southwest in Voorheesville. It was a surprising elevation gain the entire way, but doable in lower gears. I enjoyed the bird life, roaring cascades, access to community parks, and near the end, a lovely display of public art. What a fast descent back to Albany!

View east towards the Hudson River from my hotel. A nearly full moon eventually
 rose between the buildings.
Settled into the Hilton after a 30 mile day, I enjoyed a burger and tasty Lake George IPA in the oddly empty hotel bar. The hotel was full with participants attending Pentecostal Church Easter events. The only hiccup was the next morning, waiting on the 14th floor for 30 minutes with a luggage cart before abandoning it it to squeeze into a nearly full elevator, my bike pressed up against someone's stroller.

I set off north of Albany on the Mohawk Hudson Bike Hike Trail. The park-like setting squeezed between a nearby noisy highway (87?) and the Hudson River, but was pleasant on a brisk morning, them ambled on road through Watervliet, and a portion of Green Island before entering trails again to Peebles Island.

The bridge and pedestrian walkway from Peebles Island to historically significant Waterford was over 100 years old. The pipe (at left) carries power to the island.

I really enjoyed Waterford, especially as it's the confluence of two defunct canal sections: a branch of the Erie and the Champlain Canal, and the intersection of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers. Specifically though, I aimed for the gravel Champlain Canal Trail to continue north. 

The 4-5 mile trail followed the remnants of the old canal. A portion had turned into wetlands or was dry. A couple spots lined with canal stones looked like it hadn't changed much from its glory days, ferrying wood and goods southward to the Hudson River. 

Wild iris (?) and skunk cabbage.
Early spring growth oozed from the wetland.

A heron perched on a log caught my eye, plus an ugly snapping turtle...and numerous small black turtles sunning themselves on logs slipped into the pond as I pedaled by.

By far, the oddest experience on the canal trail was climbing over a landfill. I laughed out loud at the absurdity. But I also rather liked the idea of reclaiming land for other uses. With controlled monitoring, and signs indicating remaining on the gravel path, why not let users travel through?

I had been carrying the purple purse/bag slung over my body, but as the day warmed I found a better solution, looping the strap around the large bag. This allowed easy access to my phone for taking pictures.

On the return trip, I grabbed a sandwich and ate lunch at a lovely spot overlooking the Hudson River. Timing worked out perfectly to catch the train home, and riding in the dark, I arrived home around 10:30 pm.

Parting Thoughts
I find mini journeys satisfying and worthwhile. I was pleased that packing light actually worked very well. I somehow forgot my toothbrush, but could've also left one pair of tights at home, saving more space. My legs periodically brushed the bag cinched to the seat post, but wasn't that bothersome or I would've moved it. As backup, I carried a cargo net that could secure the bag or anything else on the rear rack. 

Weight in the front bag was about 10-15 lbs., half of that tools. In addition to the typical flat repair stuff, rubber gloves, and rag, I carried a new wrench that adjusts seat, removes axle nuts, and tightens pedals - an all-in-one tool that's a must for the folding bike.

As for the Amtrak legs, staff were extremely helpful, accommodating the heavy tote bag (my bicycle weighs 30 lbs.) I'm pleased to pedal from home, board a train, and travel several hours to ride in a new region. I'm encouraged to go on more Amtrak adventures!

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Why Jack the Bike Rack?

Attached close to the stem, JACK The Bike Rack frees up space on the handlebars.

I chose JACK The Bike Rack for it's easy removal and functional adaptability to fit all kinds of handlebars and bikes. Plus, the platform has multiple attachment points so conceivably you can lash just about anything there - within reason, of course. My new touring bicycle can handle bolt on style front racks, but I envision a lighter weight touring style on this Beaujolais beauty, and wanted to experiment with something different.

The rack was shipped directly from the manufacturer and was cleverly packaged, complete with spacers to fit different handlebar widths, straps, bungee cord and special carabiners - indeed much more than needed - and I'll hold onto the accessories box, should I decide to try the rack on another bike.

It took 30 minutes to sort out appropriate connections and tension, but understanding JACK's angle placement was half the battle.

I'm looking forward to trying out JACK on a weeklong tour in May. I plan to strap my sleep system up front, most likely adding a cargo net for extra security.