Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Do-It-Yourself Cleveland/Cuyahoga BikeTrip.

Sunrise from the rooftop patio at The Cleveland Hostel.

   Whew! This is one of my favorites by a large margin. There are so many things to see and do, you will be pressed to even get through this abbreviated itinerary in the two nights and two days recommended. The plan involves leaving work on a Friday afternoon and driving north on 71 in to the Ohio City neighborhood on Cleveland's storied West Side. Get unpacked, then stroll up to the rooftop patio at your weekend HQ, and see who and what is happening! Enjoy the sweeping vista overlooking downtown Cleveland's skyline, and the amazing "Guardians Of Transportation" that anchor the historic Loraine-Carnegie Bridge ( for more details).
The Guardians Of Transportation stand strong against the elements in Cleveland.
One of the many nice things about staying at The Cleveland Hostel is the second floor kitchen. It doesn't hurt that just across the street is the fabled West Side Market. Between the market and the kitchen sticking to dietary restrictions is a snap for those who need to do so. Visit for details and hours of operation. Take cash and work on your negotiating skills!
Fresh produce and a variety of ethnic foods await the senses at the West Side Market.

The fully stocked kitchen at The Cleveland Hostel is ready for your inner foodie. Grab essentials from the market to save money and eat healthy if you so desire.

The beautiful clock tower puncturing the sky at the West Side Market. This is the focal point of the Ohio City neighborhood.

 For those of us who more closely resemble an all-consuming Whale Shark, the neighborhood is packed with great restaurants and bars to replenish calories. Check out the Koffie Cafe at 2521 Market Avenue, (216) 861-2233 for an early, pre-ride Saturday morning bagel or egg sandwich and a cup of coffee. Look for it right across the alley from Great Lakes Brewing Company. Once properly fueled, grab that bike and hit the road! 

Saturday's route is breathtaking. The link to the ride route will be listed at the bottom of the page, along with Sunday's route.  I would recommend a GPS enabled bike computer so that you can upload the route directly to the unit and have it walk you through the ride. Store faves are the Garmin Touring or the Sigma Sport ROX 10.0 GPS. Both retail for under $300 and are spectacular at what they do. The ride starts right out of the Hostel, and you roll down through the neighborhood and right to the doorstep of The Christmas Story House. It's less than three miles away, and is a fun way to begin the day. Check hours and details at
Janis Jett rides past the leg lamp window of The Christmas Story House en route to the National Park.

Just a short distance down the road is a fast descent down the bike path and along the rail lines to the trail head for Cuyahoga National Park. Look for remnants of the old lock system that carried boats laden with goods from Akron to Lake Erie while riding. You will also see lots of animals, and the occasional CVNP Scenic Railway train depot. Use the depots as shelters from seasonal thunderstorms as needed, or if tired jump on one and take a ride! Only $3 a ticket for cyclists, and they will load and unload that bike for you! Trains have food, drink, and restrooms for the weary. Visit for railway details and schedules.

The small village of Boston Mill is always a trailside favorite. A museum, restrooms, and a nice cafe called "Trail Mix" await you. For the adventurous, you can stay the night (with a reservation) at the historic Stanford House, a quasi B & B operated by the park service. Clean rooms in an historic home and free breakfast are not a bad way to spend a night in the park. Check out for details. 
The large lock in Peninsula is a wonder of 19th century engineering.

October is the best time in the park.

Pushing south you roll across a marsh with an elevated wooden bikeway that runs for roughly 3/4 of a mile. It's pretty amazing, and you cruise right up in to Peninsula while riding through and over a series of the locks along the old system. Pull out in Peninsula for a drink at The Winking Lizard if needed. If not, ride over the massive lock and continue south along the trail.
The wooden trail platform south of Boston Mill.

Marshes and locks, quarries and bridges await as you head south towards Szaley Farm. Their website,, will provide the necessary info for a visit. The corn maze here is outstanding, as are the food offerings. This a nice place for a break before riding over to the Everett Road covered bridge just across the old highway. It's at this point that you can choose to ride back along the towpath trail, or follow the map directions and roll back along the eastern edge of the park. 
The Everett Road covered bridge is always a ride favorite.

Once east of Peninsula, you jump the old rail-trail (paved) to beautiful Brandywine Falls. Here you will find viewing platforms and a restroom/water stop. Depending on regional rainfall, it's either a raging torrent or a trickle, but still worth the trip. Leaving the falls you begin a very low grade ascent up to the Sagamore Hills neighborhood. This will eventually put you at the gateway to Tinker's Creek Gorge State Park. You won't be long here, as we make a hard left and drop back down to the valley floor for the final push home along the Cuyahoga River. The river is one of a very select few that run NORTH, which always manages to mess with my sense of direction.
Brandywine Falls in all it's glory.

Once back in the valley floor, we head north toward the Hostel the way we came in. Get back to your room, shower, and get and libations await! My favorite post-ride spot (not counting the rooftop patio) is the tiki bar just south of the Hostel on 25th st, PORCO'S! Chorizo tacos and drinks that you are only allowed one of make those weary legs perk right up. Dead puffer fish lamps and bamboo everything make you feel like you are aboard the Kon Tiki with Thor Heyerdahl. Check out hours of operation at
The Mind Eraser, Level 2 from Porco's.
Closer to the hotel you will find Great Lakes Brewing Co. They have a perfect outdoor patio for a summer or fall evening of burgers and pints. The "Burning River" is my favorite (mostly due to my being a dork for history), and the sunset view across the street to the clock tower is just stellar. Be sure to grab a six pack for the rooftop patio later! Check out for up to date beer offerings and menu selections. 

Ohio City also features fan faves like Nano Brew and Market Garden Brewery. Nano Brew is a cycling-centric bar that has a HUGE wooden Jenga game in the back, along with a bike repair stand and plenty of tools for the bike tourist/commuter. Market Garden has an unbelievable pork chop dinner and their beer taps are hand-made renditions of the Guardians Of Transportation. They sell by the growler too, so WATCH OUT! The links to these fine watering holes are and

The taps at Market Garden Brewery.
Sunday always hurts a little bit, and NOT because of the riding from Saturday. Wake up a little late, have breakfast and get on the bike. This day, head north on 25th, then east along the route (listed below) to hit the waterfront homes along Lake Erie. We ride to Rocky River today, home of Sue Johansen's "Wild Flour Bakery." Her facility provides most of the tasty treats for the high end hotels and restaurants in the area. Check out a sweet treat at

The Rocky River gorge is a blast, and the bike trail is part of the larger Emerald Necklace trail loop throughout northern Ohio. Since Sunday is a recovery ride, the route just becomes an out and back so you can get a shower and pack out before 2p.m. On the way back home there are a couple of nice parks with sweeping vistas of the lake and Cleveland proper. Look for the large howitzer, ride it like a bronco and take a photo. Use the hashtag #curattiing so we can see that you found it!

Get to the Hostel, pack it up, and get home before dinner. You will beg for more once the legs recover, and with so many other great options in Cleveland for ride routes and fun, you will return often. Hope to see you on the rooftop! I hope this helps make the adventure a little easier.

Saturday's long route link via Cuyahoga National Park is found here

Sunday's shorter ride route to Rocky River is here..

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ara's Mammoth National Championship Race Report


This past weekend was the National Championships up in Mammoth Lakes, Ca. I had qualified for Cat 1 XC and went for it with all I got. Was feeling pretty good after a month long road trip that saw me ride some great single track in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon. Riding with Jim Roff and Jay Shippers really honed my skills and the hours of climbing in altitude kicked my butt. With my support crew of Shortstack we headed up to Mammoth to represent and throw down some hot laps.

The course was fun! 5.5 mile circuit with appr. 1,100 feet per lap. Fun single track and a great downhill finish on Shotgun. The key for me was not to blow up on the first climb so I stayed back in last place and eyed the competition. Right away I picked off a few riders gasping for oxygen in the thin mountain air. Caught up to the main group surprisingly and rode on their wheels until the front pack accelerated. Wasn't sure what place I was in but was holding my own, lap 1 hurt! Shortstack handed me my bottle for the second lap and that is where I found my rhythm. Kept on drinking Amino Vital Endurance each lap. My Sigma Rox 10.0 had me on even splits each time. The lap setting is great to have on the bike computer. Also was getting more confident on the descents, especially with Kenda Honey Badger XC Pro on the front and a Small Block 8 1.9 on the back. That back tire did not once slip on the incline or decline, very surprised!

The course had many loose sand and pumice, very chewed up of all the racing from the prior day. Sharp rocks hide under the many "baby powder" but never cut the tire or burped. My Xpedo Ti pedals took a bashing but never had an issue. The last lap was fun. As soon as I grabbed my last bottle from Shortstack on the steep fire road climb I got passed by two riders from my category. The Blackstar rider flew by and then the Velo Reno rider threw a sprint to pass me onto the single track! I calmed myself down, didn't panic, and slowly reeled him in on the long climb. Passed him near the end of the first climb and kept on the pedaling for dear life. I could see the Blackstar rider ahead of me! Racer behind me, Racer ahead of me, on the last lap! Near the top I felt my hamstring twinge, more Amino Vital needed! Powered through the pain and started to descend down Shotgun trail with reckless abandon. Good thing I had my Voler Kenda shorts on because I was pounding down that trail. Rocks were being thrown onto my Ryder Sunglasses and my Royal Quantum gloves gripped to the handlebars like an Osprey catching a Rainbow Trout. Made it down to the finish straight away and passed the line with Larry Longo's voice booming in the microphone "Ara from Backbone comes through the finish in 6th place". What?! Didn't know I was up there. Podium was 36 seconds ahead of me. The Velo Reno racer was 12 seconds behind me. Good times!

Big Thanks to Shortstack for cruising up with me to support and feed bottles. Worst photographer but most importantly the best bottle feeder, that is more important to me. Big Thank You to Roger at Kenda for the help and support also. Jim Wannamaker, KMC, chains was out there and heard him cheer us on each lap. Thank you to all the sponsors; Sigma, Xpedo, Amino Vital, Royal, KMC, Voler, Hydrapak, and many more.

Recovery time with a lot of Amino Vital Pro because this coming weekend is the Grizzly 100 at Big Bear, CA. 100km with over 10,000ft of climbing on a mountain bike hard tail.

Until then, cheers!


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Josh Qualls Tests His Helmet In Kentucky.

Started out as every normal club weekend ride, everyone being social, chatting about bikes, the tour and future rides.

21 of us went out for a 55 mile ride on the back country roads of Kentucky. I was out to spin out the legs and take it easy for the day.
29 miles into the ride things took a turn for the worse.

As we crest the hill the pavement was wet from the lack of sun in that neck of the woods. We were cautious on the downhill. As I leaned into the slightly left hand corner somehow my rear wheel kicked out to the right, I was able to save the skid for a few foot until I hit the section of road that had a large crack/pot holes. My rear wheel caught and stopped dead, which launched me over the bars and onto my head at 25 mph (According to my Sigma Rox 10.0) 

I rolled/slid 40 foot across broken up pavement, then 6 foot over an embankment, hit a large rock with my feet which of course had barbed wire in front of it. No joke!!!

I had road rash from my shoulders down to my ankles. As I climb up the embankment all the riders were there to lend a hand to help me back onto the road. ACE has the best people I have ever met. People were offering everything they had. A couple of riders checked over the bike as the rest were checking on me. One rider even kissed me once she found out I was okay! :-) Bike seemed okay, as did I. So what did I do?..... I finished the ride. 

My right Thrust 8 Xpedo pedal took a hard hit and broke. My helmet is cracked and possibly my frame has a small crack in it.

I have a great "nurse" taking care of me. I don't know how she's doing it. The smells that are coming from these wounds are horrendous. I'm gagging thinking about it!

PLEASE WEAR YOUR HELMET, ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN. I know I'm happy to have mine on. I may not be able to share this story with you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

100 Miles Of Florida With Josh Qualls.


I set a goal/challenge last year to ride a century in every state.
The reason for this challenge is due to this quote:

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle. --Ernest Hemingway

I remember something special about each century I have completed in the 6 states I have done so far. KY, OH, WV, NY, GA and now FL.

Florida was by far the toughest. Not only was it completely flat (other than a drawbridge, twice) it was 98°+ with 15+ sustained winds and gusts up in the 20's.
I bonked at mile 60 with muscle cramps and heat exhaustion setting in. I couldn't count the times I wanted to quit and try it another year.
I dug deep, kept my legs spinning and pushed my body to the breaking point. Around mile 80 my body started to shutdown. It took everything I had in me to hold 12 mph. I was weak, sick and ready to be finished.

I came across a beach park that had showers and I stood under the shower with my kit on trying to cool my body down. Once the water hit my skin, it felt ice cold, had chills all over my body. I swear I was having or had a heat stroke.

I kept peddling until I finally saw 100.20 miles show up on my Sigma Rox 10.0. I was never this miserable on a bike ride and never happier to finish a ride.

I should have listened to my body and stop but I'm stubborn. I'm not exactly sure what what I did to my leg but I'm walking with a slight limp. I either pulled a muscle in my leg or that muscle is knotted. Rest and recovery is in my future this week/weekend.

So happy that I don't have to do that EVER again.

Thank you Amino Vital for keeping me hydrated. I brought enough mix for 4 bottles, quickly found out that it wasn't enough.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Cuyahoga Awesomefest Special Edition With "Girls With Gears"

Muddy butts at the end of a 47 mile dirt ride through Cuyahoga National Park.

As always, driving up to Cleveland and staying at the amazing Cleveland Hostel to ride bikes on limestone towpath trails is perfect. The National park is always great, even if the last 10 miles of dirt were ridden in 6 inches of mud and a torrential downpour...on road bikes. Gotta' love the adventure, right? We saw big snapping turtles, deer, baby geese, lots of fish, old canal system locks, a guy dressed an Captain Underoo begging for change, LOTS of booze, the Christmas Story House, more mud, an historic train, The Guardians Of Transportation, The West Side Market, Great lakes Brewing Company, and picked up a legendary cake from Sue at Wild Flour Bakery in Rocky River. Thanks to everyone who made the trip and sucked it up to finish the ride! Enjoy some of the photos from the weekend...

Dawn Norris rocking the selfie.

Gina Smith laughing at a really bad joke near Brecksville Station.

Chris Blumenschein, Gina and Dawn heading back to the Hostel after Great Lakes Brewing Co. beers.

Up front with Teresa Setnar and Janis Jett along the marsh south of Boston Mill.

Janis, Dawn and Shanna at Brecksville Station.

"Hello legs? Yes...can you give me more power please? Thanks."

The Christmas Story House.

Chris B.'s BMC getting some petrol for the final push home in Boston Mill.

Ahhh the smell of chamois butter in the hair always makes Gina Smith smile.

Measuring up with Janis and Dawn.