Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bike & Hike Fall Ride - October 20, 2009

I must admit that this has easily been one of my most enjoyable cycling seasons to date.  Not only have I had the pleasure of making new friends on various tours, but I've also had the opportunity to cycle through some of northeast Ohio's most picturesque landscapes; from the aromatic, rolling hills of Geneva's wine country to the dramatic flowing river falls and cornucopia of vibrant Fall colors in the heart of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Today's ride involved cycling yet another new route for me...the Bike and Hike trails of Summit County.  Organized by friends Joe and Bonnie Sears, this short afternoon jaunt would take us, in part, along what used to be the old Akron, Bedford & Cleveland (ABC) Railroad line, originally built in 1895.  Back in the day, trains on this route would transport hundereds of Ohioians between the cities of Cleveland and Akron for a mere 50 cents!  (By comparison, 50 cents today wouldn't get me from my living room to my bathroom.) This now-paved path (one of the first "rails to trails" projects in the country) mingles with some of the area's most scenic locations.

With 16 cyclists in tow, we set out for our first (and only) stop on this cool Autumn day; Brandywine Falls.  Boasting a 60 foot water drop, the falls are some of the tallest in Ohio.  A long, wooden boardwalk switchbacks its way down into the sandstone gorge to reveal this spectacular treasure.

After a few minutes pondering nature, we hit the bikes once again.  The rest of the afternoon continued to showcase Fall's seasonal palette of beautiful colors.

But, as with all good rides, the cycling must come to an end.  And with this group, it can only end one way.  Margaritas!!  Yes, a little old restaurant by the name of Tequila Pancho's was calling to us, so after 15 + miles of riding, we drifted into the parking lot of Pancho's, locked up our bikes, and took our rightful places at table for fiesta!!  I even used this opportunity to down a new flavor of beer...Dos Equis.  When in Mexico...!

So, once again, another great ride in the books.  The group plans to have one more Bike and Hike ride next week, so I'm already saving room for another round of burritos.  I must, of course, give a shout out to my pal, Dave Manning; If it wasn't for his 2005 Corvette WITH attached bike rack (I will give you a minute to let that visual sink in)...I would have not made it to this event at all. Thanks, Amigo.

And thanks to Bonnie and Joe for getting us together to celebrate the great outdoors and our passion for cycling.

Until the next ride, "Stay thirsty, my friends!"

(PS - For more info on the Summit County Metroparks Bike and Hike Trails, check out, and for more on Brandywine Falls, check out

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ponte Vino Giro 2009 (Part 2)

So, after a full day of cycling, freezing and falling, capped off with two and a half bottles of Grand River Valley 'River Rouge' wine, the Saturday edition of this year's Ponte Vino Giro came to a blurry-eyed close.  Sunday morning was still a good 8 hours away, but it already hurt.  As I lay in bed with the sound of cresting Lake Erie waves gently lulling me to sleep, I was confident that Sunday morning would bring with it glorious sunshine, warmer weather, and error free riding.  I forgot, of course, about God's wicked sense of humor.

When I arose at 6:30am Sunday morning, not only was there no sunshine, there was no power!  The alarm clock was dead and none of the lights would work.  Oddly, I could see the glow of hallway lights slipping in under the front door and through the door's peephole.  I opened the blinds on the rear patio door and saw that the poolhouse was also well lit.  What the fu...heck??  It was time to call the front desk, but as I made my way around the room by only the light of my cellphone, I could discern the chatter of lodge employees commenting on the accident that had occured in the middle of the night.  Apparently, someone had struck a power poll outside the property that knocked out the entire street, including the lodge.  Fortunately, the lodge had a generator for just such an emergency, which kicked in to power up essential hotel functions (guest rooms apparently not being on that list).  It is what it is.

Now, the night before, my new friends and I planned to meet at 7am for breakfast, so not wanting to let them think a trivial power outtage would cause me to miss the grand buffet, I dressed and packed, again only by the light of my cell, and made my way to the restaurant.  Impressively, the hotel staff was up and at 'em, working diligently to make sure everything was as normal as possible. They even had the entire breakfast buffet cooked, warming, and ready to go.  Kudos to them, for sure.  I was pleased...but not all was as it seemed.  Now, I am not much of a coffee drinker.  In fact, I'd rather suffer through intestinal flu then try and gag down a cup of joe, but for some people, the intake of the Columbian bean is a morning ritual not to be messed with.  Ever.  Unfortunately, with the power not scheduled to return till later in the day, electric coffee makers were not even pulled off the shelves.  As I sat peacefully in the corner devouring a dozen scrambled eggs, I could sense the natives getting restless at the thought of no coffee.  Suggestions like "boil some water" were being hollered about, and I knew a coup was only moments from erupting.  I quickly inhaled the rest of my breakfast and snuck out of the restaurant.  Only when I made it back to the safety of my room did it occur to me that my friends never joined me.

Having already packed, it was time to 'pre-flight' my bike for another day on the road.  Although today's ride only called for about 42 miles, it was notorious for being a very hilly and challenging 42 miles, so I wanted the bike running smoothly.  I lubed the chain and filled the tires with air.  While pumbing the rear tire, I heard an enormous POP!  At first, I feared the coffee crowd had finally taken matters into their own hands, but then quickly realized the sound came from my bike!  The rear innertube just blew. Crap!  As if everything the day before was not enough to amuse my God in Heaven, now this.  Fortunately, I brought a spare innertube, and as I wheeled my bike into the well lit lobby to make the change, I thanked that very same God in Heaven that the tire blew here...and not out there.  Sometimes, it's the small things we need to be grateful for.

Having successfully changed the tire, my trusty steed was ready for action.  By this time, my friends had finally joined me.  After several minutes of sharing our morning horror stories, we headed outside.  The aforementioned sun was still buried behind menacing clouds and the wind was whipping around like crazy. Temps were easily in the low 50's...a repeat of yesterday.  Great.  All this and hills.  Bonnie, Joe, and Dave had left their bikes outside on their respective vehicles and now were preping them for riding. (I know what you're thinking...they left their bikes outside in the cold rainy weather all night, but I'm the one who gets the flat!  Yet another example of an omnipotent sense of humor at play.)

Finally, the crew all set, it was time to head out.

The intial start of the ride took us around the newly paved bike path that circled the property.  We coasted along the Lake Erie shore, which would have been breathtaking if not for the cold and wind having already taken our breath. After about three miles, we broke from the path and onto the open road.  The next 15 miles proved easy as we glided along side streets and through quaint little towns.  The sun had even managed to make an appearance, giving the changing Fall leaves vibrant color.  So far, so good.  Even the temperature picked up a bit.  As positive as all these signs were, the dreaded hills still lay ahead.  One of those hills occurs right before the first rest stop and is said to be a killer. Bring it on, I say!

We continue to cruise along, enjoying the landscape around us.  Then it happens...the hill.  What's most impressive at this moment is not the sheer climb of the hill itself, but the wicked downhill prior to it.  The first thing you see is that infamous yellow sign with the image of a truck on a steep incline.  They only post those signs when the hill is, well, steep.  The four of us tuck in and attack the downhill.  As we rapidly pick up speed, the road starts to curve and wind.  My bike's computer indicates we are screaming down at close to 40mph!  That speed would be even faster if not for the necessity of breaking occassionally around the tighter turns.  Let's face it, wiping out on a bike at these speeds could be disasterous, so caution must rule.  We roar down through a valley and over a small bridge when suddenly before us, the road inclines dramatically.  As we start to coast upward, our speed drops exponentially.  In minutes, we are struggling to maintain 5mph, grunting and grinding on the pedals in an all out effort to climb up the hill.  This is where a cyclist has to dig deep for that little something extra.  Dave crests the hill first, followed by myself and then Bonnie and Joe on the tandem.  Once at the top, we regroup and continue for another mile or so before reaching the first rest stop.  The killer hill, as well as about 15 miles of riding, was now behind us. 

At the rest stop, there were only a few other cyclists.  In fact, many had dropped out of the ride earlier in the morning.  Whether it was due to the prospect of hills, cold temps, or threat of rain, we will never know, but the crowd today was a third less then Saturday.  We were the diehards.

After a short reprieve, the four of us took to the road again.  We were now entering the heart of Ohio wine country.  It was here that the sprawling landscape revealed some of the areas most historic vineyards, all showing off their turn-of-the-century architecture and perfectly manicured vistas.  For miles at a time, the surrounding air was saturated with the fruity aroma of grapes.  Of course, not only were the views impressive, but so was the constant rolling terrain that intermixed high speed downhill coasting with grueling uphill climbs, making for some of the most exciting cycling of the year. 

One thing you notice about touring this type of terrain is that the miles click off in a hurry.  Before we knew it, the lunch stop at Harpersfield covered bridge sprung into view.  We departed the main road and headed to the pavillion.  As with every scheduled stop, the location was quite a site.  We even had the benefit of a classic car show taking place at the very same time.  In fact, about two dozen of them crossed the bridge and paraded around the pavillion grounds, right in front of if for our entertainment alone.  Then again, maybe they drove over out of shear curiosity to see what type of morons actually ride around on bicycles during cold, windy Fall days. Either way, sweet cars.

Finished with lunch, we crossed the Harpersfield bridge and immediately had to climb one bitch of a hill.  It was not as long as the one from earlier, nor as much fun, but it was steep!!!  The good thing was that we hadn't been on our bikes for the last half hour and were well rested.  The bad thing was...we hadn't been on our bikes for the last half hour and were well rested!  Needless to say, the expletives rolled off my tongue as I struggled up the insane climb (and I'm sorry, but screaming swear words DOES help).

The rest of the ride went smoothly, and after a few more rolling hills, the road began to level out.  This was a clear sign we were nearing the end.  Finally, after 42 miles, Bonnie, Joe, Dave and I pulled back into the lodge exactly the same way we left it earlier in the day...cold, but together.  We quickly stowed our bikes, checked in, and headed to the bar to throw back some cold beers.  The 2009 Ponte Vino Giro was now history.  Raising our glasses, we toasted to a great ride and new friends.  It was truly a wonderful cycling experience and I look forward to many more adventures over the historic covered bridges and scenic rolling hills of Ohio's wine country.

Thanks to all!
(And a special thanks to Bonnie Sears for all the Day 2 photos on this post.  Now I know why Joe had to work so hard on that tandem! JUST KIDDING.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ponte Vino Giro 2009 (Part 1)

After several dozen years of serious cycling, I was hit with an interesting revelation this past weekend. When it comes to riding, it's not always the challenging terrain or long distances that separate the men from the boys (or the women from the girls), but the weather! In mid August, I rode a two day tour under a scorching sun with 90 degree temperatures relentlessly draining bodily hydration faster than I could refill my water bottles. Not exactly the most comfortable of conditions, especially over the course of 150 miles, but you push on. By contrast, I participated in another tour a few days ago wherein I experienced the exact opposite conditions; two days of riding under NO sun with 50 degree temps and relentless headwinds smashing in from seemingly every compass point, all while mocking sprinkles of rain threatened to explode into biblical storms around each turn. But, once again, as tough as conditions like this may be, you push on.

Either way, count me in!!

So, what were these crazy bike tours I felt so compelled to ride? Well, the first was the MS150 'Pedal to the Point' tour, of which I cycled in for the last 14 years, but since I already wrote about that ride in a previous post, I'd like to chat up the second; the Ponte Vino Giro!

The PVG is a young tour, having only just completed it's fourth year, and draws roughly 100 riders, give or take. The challenging route starts and finishes each day at the beautiful Geneva-on-the-Lake Lodge, winding its way along the breezy Lake Erie shoreline and through the rolling hills of Ohio wine country.

I arrived at the lodge late Friday afternoon. The partly cloudy skies and cool temperatures were just the first indications of the kind of weekend it would be. After checking in, I decided to walk the grounds. A newly paved bike path encircled the property, affording great views of Lake Erie, and proved to be a pleasant, if not chilly, way to pass the time.

Later that evening, a simple meet-and-greet had been set up by the ride organizers, and it was here that I met Bonnie, Joe and Dave, accomplished riders and the people I would hang with the rest of the weekend. Now, it should be noted that, for whatever reason, this particular tour seems to draw a much...uhhh...older crowd than other tours I've been on. For example, the Pedal to the Point tour will have cyclists ranging from rambunctious teens to the Buckeye Card crowd. Even the night rides I participate in have a good smattering of youthful riders. However, of the 73 cyclists in the Ponte Vino Giro, I was considered, at the ripe old age of 43, one of the young whipper-snappers!! Now, if you're thinking my chest swelled a bit at this fact, think again. I can assure you that any cockiness I may have revelled in was quickly and embarrassingly squashed the next day as I discovered my apparent 'youth' was no substitute for experience, and some of those 'old timers' handily left me choking on their dust throughout the weekend!

But I digress. ;)

Saturday morning started off with my new friends and a hearty breakfast. We contemplated the 62 miles of flat to gentle rolling terrain that awaited us, looking forward to an easy day. Both Bonnie and Joe had cycled the PVG before (riding this year on a tandem bike) and assured Dave and I that today's ride would be uneventful. Had they only known.

Once outside, the howling Fall winds and cool lakefront temperatures were already stirring the pot, and the overcast sky threatening to break open at any moment further depressed the mood. Bundled up in layers of clothing and a wind breaker, I started out on the course solo. All seemed to be going well...until the first rest stop. Now, it is customary on long tours to provide riders with maps, or cue sheets, to guide them through unfamiliar territory. More importantly, however, are the arrows painted on the road at each necessary turn. Most riders use the arrows exclusively as trying to read a cue sheet while pedalling can be difficult and distracting. Sometimes the arrows at each turn are bold and plentiful. Sometimes they are not. (Do you see where this is going?)

After arriving at the first rest stop, I checked the cue sheet to see what lay ahead. I had ridden 15 miles, with another 35 to go before lunch. Satisfied, I tucked my cue sheet away safely, hopped back on the bike, and started on the next leg of the ride. Within minutes, and completely unaware, I blew right past the first turn arrow. It would prove costly. After fifteen minutes of riding in a straight line, a little red flag suddenly went up. Immediately, the voice in my head started saying things like, "Where the @$%# is everyone?" and "Why haven't I seen any @$%#ing arrows on the road yet?" I've learned over the years that this voice is very wise, so after 3 1/2 miles of going the wrong way, I turned around and headed back. I prayed to God I would find the proper turn before the 'old folk' caught me in this major cycling faux pas. How do you live that down? Seven unintended miles. Unfortunately, I caught the turn at the same moment a gaggle of riders was coming the other way. Awkward. I kept my head down and blew past them, hoping cataracts and the lack of any short-term memory would prove my ally.

Not far from this turn, the ride began to reveal some of it's hidden treasures. In addition to this being a tour through wine country, it also passes over some historic covered bridges. The first of those was a beautiful wooden bridge in what I learned was Ashtabula, Ohio.

Continuing on, I began to settle into a rhythm and enjoy the countryside views. Although the wind was still stiff, the temperatures began to warm slightly as the sun had managed to peak out from the clouds. This was enough to brighten my day. You see, unlike the Pedal to the Point, which brings in over 2,500 riders, the Ponte Vino is a small tour, with significantly less riders. What that means to a cyclist is that much of your day is spent alone. Miles and miles of empty road can click by before you encounter another human being, so on a day like today, even the rays of sun can be a welcome friend.

After another hour or so of riding, the second rest stop crept into view. By now, the clouds had started to thicken again and the temperatures began dropping to their early morning lows. As I pulled up to the rest stop, the unthinkable happened. There was one girl working the stop and about three riders getting ready to head back out onto the road. I began to dismount my bike, recounting at the same time my adventure of the Unwanted 7 Miles, when suddenly the horizon started to tip rapidly. Yep, you guessed it, right in the middle of retelling my already embarrassing story, I committed the second greatest biker's faux pas, The Big Fall. For some reason, my left foot would not release from the pedal cage, and as my right leg was already swinging around off the bike, I had no support or balance whatsoever. I slammed into the ground with all the grace and majesty of a giant redwood unceremoniously chopped down in the bowels of Yosemite. I lay in the street in front of four dumbfounded onlookers, wishing a giant semi would just roar by and end it all. Fortunately, being the aforementioned youthful 'whipper snapper' I was, I quickly recovered, cracked a joke, and carried on the conversation as if the fall never happened. Saving some face, I needed to continue on.

Around 12:30pm, and after 57 miles on the bike (the last 20 miles error-free), I arrived at lunch. Interestingly, this stop was also the location of the next historic covered bridge, and it was a big one. In fact, it was actually on this bridge where lunch was served. So, starving, cold, and still shaking off some residual embarrassment, I headed in for a well deserved break. Moments later, I was joined by my friends Bonnie, Joe, and Dave. This was the first time I had seen them on the route and was glad to be "reunited". We sat and chatted about the day's ride thus far, and I told them all about the thrill of getting lost. I conveniently left out the part about The Big Fall, knowing that too much laughter at my expense might damage what little reputation I had.

We devoured lunch, anxious to get back on the road as there were only 10 miles left to ride. After a few minutes of snapping off those obligatory pictures of the area (including one of my new cycling friends), we rode off as a group towards the finish. It was during this final 10 miles that all of my "old-timer" comments came back to bite me in the ass. As I mentioned earlier, Bonnie, Joe, and Dave, although being several years my senior (but not old by ANY means...hee), are very accomplished riders, and I found myself struggling on several occasions just to keep up. At no time was this made more apparent then when I had passed up Dave on an overpass and made the humorous remark, "Out of the way, Old Man." Within moments of uttering those ill-advised words, Dave was but a small dot in my vision as he, along with Bonnie and Joe, tore past me as if I were walking on stilts! When I eventually did catch up again, I politely recanted my remarks. A hearty laugh was had by all and the first lesson of the day was effectively driven home. It's people like this that make biking such a trip!

By 2:30pm, we finally arrived back at the lodge. Thanks to my unplanned detour, I clocked in at exactly 70 miles for the day. We hit the showers and spent a few hours recovering in our rooms. As part of the package deal with this tour, the organizers planned a nice pasta dinner for us at Debonne Vineyards, about 30 minutes up the road. We (and by we, I mean 16 of us) jambed into a large mini-van, looking not unlike a gang ready to illegally cross some foreign border, and headed out for the winery. I must say that the dinner was delicious, and the combination of great food, great company, a party-like atmosphere, and multiple bottles of wine was a great way to cap off a long day of riding.

But Day 2 was just around the corner, and that's when the real riding would start!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bicycle vs Automobile: A stubborn (and deadly) battle!

As a cyclist, it is always emotionally trying when I come across articles in the paper (or on-line) like the one I saw today. This particularly somber headline read "BICYCLER STRUCK, KILLED BY TRUCK IN DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND" (

Unfortunately, this happens way too often around the country. In fact, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that in 2007, close to 700 cyclists died on US roads, 90% as a result of a collision with a motor vehicle. Of course, a first knee-jerk reaction might be to think that the motorists were the ones at fault in these cases, but I can assure you, from my own experience as an avid rider, that far too many of these accidents are as much the fault of the cyclist as the motorist.

There are several reasons for this.

First, many cyclists are just not aware of the road rules. Believe it or not, there is an entire section of the Ohio Revised Code (for those cyclists in Ohio, obviously) dedicated solely to bicycle laws ( Along with these laws, there are additional resources on bike safety rules and regs you can check out. Sites such as the Ohio Bicycle Federation ( have excellent listings of these resources. I recommend every cyclist, whether novice or expert, peruse these laws for your own awareness and safety. Let's face it, most motorists despise the fact that we are even on the street with them, so don't compound the problem by being a problem.

Secondly, I think some cyclists believe that because they ARE on a bike, they are more maneuverable in avoiding accidents than an automobile, and therefore tend to take greater risks. Never was this more evident to me then when living in New York City, where cyclists, specifically couriers, dodged in and out of traffic with little care. Unfortunately, unlike a motorcycle, your bike does not have an obnoxious roar to give you away to the unsuspecting driver, nor do you have the same visible mass as something like a Harley, so the blur that is you may go completely unseen. I witnessed firsthand many a NYC cyclist clipped in the rear tire while racing across an intersection or narrowly escaping a head-on while recklessly darting onto an adjacent street. Again, this juvenile disregard for common sense safety makes a cyclist's argument for the right to share the road all the more difficult to make.

Now, having said all of this, I by no means intend to absolve the typical motorist from their own sins. Allow me to share with you a rant I posted on my radio show discussion page on this very topic. (What's that, a radio show, you say? Why yes, as a matter of fact, I DO have an Internet radio show called 'Table Talk with Bob Soroky'. Check out my show's fan page on Facebook for more details, or check out My rant was as follows: " a motorist, you should be focusing on the road ahead, not wasting time leaning over your front seat to yell at me out of the passenger window. At that point, if anyone is going to get into an accident, it's going to be you because you are no longer paying attention. I have as much right to be in the road as you, so you better deal with will also notice that most responsible cyclists will ride to the right of the white the berm...precisely where your car SHOULDN'T be."

You can bet this little rant felt good, but it also illustrated the point that some drivers are so impatient on the road that they themselves become the accident waiting to happen. Motorists need to understand that they have laws dictating interaction with cyclists, which interestingly, do NOT include brushing within inches of one at excessive speeds whilst screaming expletives. As a cyclist, I follow the laws that pertain to me and do my best avoid any interference with automobiles. I expect motorists to do the same. (And, as a side note, for those motorists dying to make the argument that people on bikes would be safer and less of a hazard if they were riding on sidewalks or paths, think again:

The simple fact of the matter is that the car and the bike have the equal right to be in the street, and each are governed by a specific set of rules. For both, I would say follow these rules, pay attention, and we'll all do just fine.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Another Towpath Ride!

Having enjoyed my first ride on the towpath last weekend (thanks to the CC night ride), I decided to cycle it again, only this time in sunny, dry, daytime conditions. I also chose to start at the Century Cycles store in Peninsula again as I was now familiar with this location. The great thing about Peninsula is that not only can you set out on some beautiful scenic trails, but it is also one of the many stops along the Cuyahoga Valley Railroad line. This historic choo-choo offers some amazing, fun filled, event-style train rides all up and down the Valley throughout the year.

I set out in the early afternoon heading south on the towpath. After riding only 15 miles, I suddenly found myself crossing a covered highway overpass that lead directly into the heart of downtown Akron! This was the end of the southern portion of the towpath, just outside the Akron Aero's minor league baseball stadium.

After a brief tour of the area, I headed back to Peninsula. All said and done, the ride totalled just over 30 miles and, the path being essentially flat (accept for the "climb" into Akron), was relatively effortless. On my next trip to the towpath, I intend to head north and see where that leads!

Century Cycles Night Ride

Well, did my first Century Cycles night ride last a torrential downpour. The starting point for the ride was at the Peninsula Century Cycles store, of which the towpath trail runs right through their backyard. Now, I had never ridden on the towpath before, but had heard all kinds of wonderful stuff about it, so I was very excited. The fact that it was at night only served to heighten that excitement. The fact that it was RAINING added a level of intrigue.

With a total of about 20 cyclists in attendance (down from the usual 100), the ride started out rather mundanely, the first 3 miles passing without incident. Soon, however, the heavens opened up and the pace quickened. I found myself leaping to the front of the line and joining the two pace setters. We quickly arrived at the halfway point (only 8 miles out due to the weather) and waited for the rest of the troops, but only two more cyclists arrived. After another 5-10 minutes, it was obvious no one else was coming, and the rains began to fall in earnest. We remounted and started cycling back, setting a pace of around 18 mph. Interestingly, we passed a bunch of riders that obviously chose to turn around short of the halfway point. With the rain coming down now at a blinding rate, and a growing fog forming out of thin air, several of us broke from the pack in an all out sprint to the finish, myself taking the lead for the last 5 miles.

Now, it should be pointed out that the towpath is not a paved trail. Rather, it is a highly compacted dirt path with small bits of gravel throughout. It is a course meant for hybrid and mountain style bikes. Fortunately, my Raleigh Peak was just the right bike for the job (as there was no way I would be using the new Giant Defy Alliance road bike on this path)! Unfortunately, when that compacted dirt and gravel road comes in contact with monsoon rains, it quickly turns into...yep, mud. I can honestly say I didn't see that coming. Consequently, when I did make it back to the starting line, I was covered in that very same mud. Nasty stuff. In fact, had to head to the girlfriend's house to spray down the bike and wash all my clothes before I could go back home. (See, I live in an apartment and keep both my bikes in the bedroom, so they can't exactly be dripping in mud!)

All in all, it was a fun and challenging ride. I look forward to the next, sans the rain.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Night riding.

Did my first night ride on the refurbished Raleigh Peak last night. Headed out about 9pm and rode for two hours. Managed to squeeze in 35 miles. Ride was very easy with no wind or blazing sun to contend with, just the ever watchful eyes of Jupiter and a beautiful crescent Moon. Need to do more of these. In fact, I will be doing my first organized night ride with the gang from Century Cycles this coming Friday (8/28/09). Promises to be fun.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

MS150 Pedal to the Point: Day 1

Well, just wrapped up my 14th MS150 Pedal to the Point bike tour this past weekend and wanted to share with you what a typical day is like on the tour, in log format:


4:30am: Alarm goes off and I immediately ask "Why?" However, once the mental fog lifts, I realize it's tour day and I gotta get my ass out of bed and get ready to ride. But it's 4:30 in the morning! And it's Saturday! No one gets up at 4:30 in the morning on a Saturday. And although I puzzle over the shear illogic of this act EVERY year, I still manage to find the motivation to grab the bike and go!

6:00am: Arrived at Polaris, our start point location in Berea, and find my team, Patti's Paladins, hanging by the front doors of the building. The parking lots are already filled and bikes are everywhere. Mind you, the Sun had not even broken the horizon yet and 2,200 riders are aimlessly wandering about, ready to get this show on the road.

7:00am: Team pictures are done and the water bottles are filled. I quickly kiss the girlfriend goodbye and join my fellow riders MJ and Don, who I ride with every year, at the start line.

7:15am: We're off!!!

9:20am: The three of us arrive at Oberlin High School, 30+ miles from the start line. This is the lunch stop, and if there is one thing EVERY rider looks forward to at lunch, it's Ho Ho's. Yep, those delectable chocolate cake logs that grace our bellies but once a year. We quickly throw back our lunch, but I'm not ready to jump back on the bike just yet as I find it necessary to make my annual "pit-stop"...and I ain't talkin' Number 1. Unfortunately, this is a high school, and since teens still find it necessary to smoke while at school, the stalls in the bathroom have been, how shall I say, re-designed. No doors and the stall walls are three feet high MAYBE. In this open and vulnerable state, it's best to just put your head down, push hard, and get out as quickly as possible. I follow all these rules..except for the part about getting out quickly...BUT, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

10:30am: Newly refreshed, and feeling 10 pounds lighter, I hop back on my bike and scramble away, hoping to catch up with my fellow team mates, who know better than to wait around!

11:30am: 20 miles later, I finally catch up with my team mates at one of the rest stops, much to their surprise. They figured they had lost me for the day, but it's amazing how fast you can ride after a little potty time! At the rest stop, I noticed my team mates have picked up another rider in my absence. His name is Justin and this is his first tour! We decide to take Justin under our wing to make sure he crosses the finish line in style! After a brief break and a refill of the water bottles, we head out upon the last 25 miles. By now, the Sun is high in the sky and temps are in the mid to upper 80's.

1:30pm: After 75+ miles, we finally arrive, as a group, at Sandusky High School, four abreast, crossing the finish line as a unit. First time THAT'S ever been done. We head into the gym, unload our gear, set up our sleeping arrangements, clean up, and head to the pasta dinner provided for us by the high school. (This is actually our "dinner", as "lunch" was at 9:30 in the morning. If you get hungry later in the day, you are on your own!)

4:00pm: After a short nap, we hook up with another rider friend, Woody, who we only seem to see once a year and only at this tour. We quickly catch up, then the four of us (Don, MJ, Woody, and myself) head out to Cedar Point to hopefully catch a few coasters!

9:00pm: The day is coming to a close and we are starting to feel the effects of being up before the Sun and on the go working our asses off. As we drag ourselves back towards the bus that will take us from Cedar Point back to Sandusky High School, we realized that we only managed one coaster, the Maverick (after a two hour wait in line), and dinner at the park. Not much, but hey, the tickets were free.

10:30pm: Lights out in the gym, but we are fast asleep long before they finish dimming away. Tomorrow, we get up and do it all over again!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pedal to the Point only hours away...

Well, tomorrow morning at 7am starts this year's annual MS150 Pedal to the Point bike tour, a 150 mile bike ride between Berea, Ohio and Sandusky, Ohio over the course of two days. (And to think I COULD have been sailing Lake Erie as a crewman aboard the US Brig Niagara for three weeks instead...but I digress.)

This year, I am going to try the 25 mile extension on Day 1 of the tour, making Saturday's total 100 miles (instead of the usual 75). Sunday is still 75 miles. To be honest, I'm not sure why they don't have a 25 mile extension on Day 2, that way they could have a special "200 Mile Club" or something. Perhaps I will suggest it.

Regardless, it's the best weekend of the year and all for a great cause. Check back here soon for post-tour comments and photos!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Training Ride

With one week to go till the big MS150 Pedal to the Point Bike Tour, this was the last weekend to get some serious riding done. So, threw down a nice 60 mile ride on the Defy. Unfortunately, Summer decided to make a guest appearance for the first time this year and dropped a pretty oppressive heat bomb on us...93 degrees with a heat index over 100! Thank God the brutal headwinds helped to keep me somewhat cool. Again, good ride nonetheless!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The "52 Work-Out"

Well, I decided to try the 'deck of cards' workout today. Here's how I broke down the card/exercise routine:

VALUE CARDS (value on card indicates number of sets)
* Hearts = tricep dips (10 reps/set)
* Diamonds = curls (10 reps/set)
* Clubs = push-ups (10 reps/set)
* Spades = dumbbell throws (10 reps/set)

* Black Face Cards = sit-ups (100/card)
* Red Face Cards = hall sprints (length of hall, 6 flts of stairs down, return length of hall, 6 flts of stairs up/card)

Well, after only 14 cards, I had already done 130 dips, 100 sit-ups, 110 curls, 2 sets of hall sprints, 150 dumbbell throws, and 120 push-ups...and I STILL had 38 cards to go!!! No way. Thus came the end of the work-out. Now, although this work-out was a daunting task, I still loved the just needed a little tweaking. So, two options: either break up the deck to about 13 cards a day, or dramatically reduce the number of reps per set. I like the 13 cards/day option. Of course, I could 'play the game' a bit differently and just do the same exercises as listed above, but only do one set, with the reps per set based on the value of the cards (face cards staying the same as before), but I will reserve that method for "speed work-outs".

The 'deck of cards' work-out is killer and I recommend that you give it a shot, too. Create your own exercises and set them up to the cards as you see fit. Every day will be a new work-out, guaranteed!! In fact, for more info on this unique fitness method, check out

Tomorrow, it's back on the bike!!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Alternate training for complete fitness

Although cycling is my primary passion and outlet for fitness, I'm not above trying new and inventive ways to maintain TOTAL fitness. Two of my favorite sources for excellent physical training tips and techniques brother Jim and his best buddy Phil. Each has their own fitness blog: Jim's is, and Phil's is, and I recommend checking both as each has some unique exercises. I guarantee you will walk away sore!

One technique I found brutally clever was working out to a deck of cards!! How does that work, you ask? Well, let's say we break down the deck accordingly:

* BLACK cards represent push-ups
* RED cards represent sit-ups
* FACE CARDS represent 5 minute sprints
(Obviously, you can substitute any exercise in these slots.)

Now, shuffle the deck and throw a card out on the floor. It's the 4 of Diamonds. That means you would do 4 sets of sit-ups at whatever rep count you picked for sets. Once those 4 sets are complete, throw out the next card. An 8 of Clubs. That means 8 sets of push-ups at the designated rep count. (Yeah, that one's gonna hurt.) When finished, throw out the next card... and so on, till you complete the deck. Sounds awesome, right?

Go one, you know you wanna try it! Seriously, it's diverse ideas like this that can bring a unique challenge, and maybe just a bit of fun, back to your work-out.

Tops in the Biz

If you are in the market for a new bike, check out Century Cycles in Medina, Ohio ( Great selection and an awesome staff make this shop the pick of the litter.

I bought my 2009 Giant Defy Alliance back in April and the CC gang did not disappoint. In fact, I was so impressed with their service and cycle knowledge that I recently dropped off my 18+ year old Raleigh Peak for a complete overhaul. I was actually going to 'decommission' this bike as it was on it's last leg, but the old girl was good to me and I felt she deserved another crack at life. Thus far, she's had a new cassette installed, new crankset, chain, brakes, cables, and a thorough scrubdown. I hear she is cleaning up nicely and I plan to pick her up August 10th. Looking forward to seeing my 'friend' up and riding like new!

Also, check out the Century Cycles website for some great evening Towpath rides. As soon as the Peak is back in action, I plan to break her in on one of those night time rides!

Training Ride 8/3/09

Great ride today. Cranked out 50 miles through the Metroparks. Did it all on one water bottle in rediculous headwinds without any rest stops. Wanted to go 75 non-stop, but the legs weren't quite ready for it. Two weeks till "Pedal to the Point".

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sorok's Training Tips: Climbing those rolling hills!

If you're like me, you probably dread seeing those rising roads off in the distance, knowing you gotta reach down inside and pull out a little something extra to tackle the climb. Now, although I am not a professional biker by any means, I have found a few techniques that have really helped me crest those shorter, rolling hills.

First, I think it is vitally important to have toe clips or cages on your pedals. This allows you to have power on the upstroke as well as the down. You're legs are working in all directions now, so your overall performance will improve.

Secondly, pay attention to the muscles you are using. Typically, you are pushing down on those pedals with your quads during the long straight-aways. So, why not give those muscles a rest on the climbs and use your hamstrings instead? Since you now own toe clips (hint, hint), you can switch power to your upstroke and literally pull yourself up the hill with your hamstrings. Then, as you crest the hill, your quads are a bit fresher to continue on the straight-aways again.

Stay tuned for more tips...

My own Time Trial...

So, having finished watching the Tour de France yesterday, I was inspired to go riding myself. Grabbing the new Giant Defy Alliance and heading up to the local community college grounds a few blocks away, I set off to race my own time trial on the empty campus roads. I figured a 25 mile sprint would be perfect as that is what the tour riders did towards the end.

The first stroke against me was the howling winds. It was a warm and sunny day, but the raging headwinds were a good 20mph, if not more, and constant! But, I figured, no pain, no gain. The second stroke against me was that, although I ride often and far, my ride time on the bike THIS year has been significantly less than in past years, and coupled with the fact that I am anything but a speedster, this time trial promsed to be a bleak experience. Consequently, I expected to post a time that would give my 96 year grandmother a hearty laugh.

Well, my expectations were not unfounded. In fact, long story short, here was my final result, compared to Lance Armstrong's final time trial this year:

Lance Armstrong - 50.11 minutes
Bob Soroky - 80.13 minutes

That's almost twice as long. Man, I gotta ride more...and it less wind!

Stayed tuned for more training!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

2009 Tour de France wrap up!

Geart finish today to the 2009 Tour de France. This was the first time I was able to see the tour in its entirety and it was quite the thrill. I learned much about team strategies, racing etiquette and, over the course of three weeks, became familiar with the top names in the sport; Alberto Contador, Andy and John Shleck, Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Thor Hushovd and, of course Lance Armstrong.

The tour this year finished as follows:

Yellow Jersey (best overall time) - Alberto Contador
Green Jersey (best overall points) - Thor Hushovd
Polka-dot Jersey (King of the Mountains) - Franco Pellizotti
White Jersey (Best young rider) - Andy Shleck

Poduim standings:

First place - Alberto Contador
Second place - Andy Schleck
Third place - Lance Armstrong

Best team - Team Astana (the team of Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador)

For the 2010 Tour, Lance will be joining Team Radio Shack.

Until then....

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sponsor my 14th year in the MS150 "Pedal to the Point" Bike Tour

In the early 90's, I cycled not only to help in the recovery of my knee injuries (see my first post), but also because it was a fun and exciting way to stay healthy. Long rides did wonders for the mind and body.

I rode for myself.

Years later, I found out that several in my extended family suffered from MS. It's a rough disease and I watched its draining effects drag down those I loved. I wanted to help, to jump in and fight back, and I realized that my bike could be part of that fight.

Now, I ride for them.

You can join me in this fight, too. Help now by sponsoring me in this, my 14th year, of participating as a rider in this awesome event! For more info on the tour itself, and to sponsor me directly, please visit

Thanks all and Fair Winds!

Why I Ride

In 1987, I was attending the University of Kentucky as a second year architecture student. One sunny Thursday afternoon, while walking back from lunch to studio with a good friend and fellow classmate, the unthinkable happened. From seemingly nowhere, an automobile suddenly roared up onto the sidewalk and struck me in the legs, tossing me like a ragdoll into the air and back onto the sidewalk a good ten yards from my previous position. As I lay there in pain, I realized I could not move my right leg from the knee down. My friend, untouched by the incident, raced to my side, fearing the worst. As he approached, I commented shakily that my leg was surely broken, and he did his best to calm my nerves. Time quickly blurred, and within what seemed only minutes, I found myself laying in a UK Medical Center hospital bed with the lead orthopedic surgeon examining my leg. The good news was that not a single bone was broken. Lucky, eh? Not quite. The bad news was that three of the four major ligaments within my right knee (which suffered the brunt of the impact) were shredded, meaning the upper and lower portions of my leg were literally held together by a single thread. To compound the problem, my hamstring was completely torn in half and the paraniel nerve running along the outside of my leg suffered severe trauma, causing my right foot to hang lifelessly. As if all this weren't bad enough, the killing blow came when the doctor informed me of the sobering fact that I would probably not be able to walk again without the use of a cane, most likely for the rest of my life. Needless to say, I was devastated, but little did I know that I was actually in the best facility to handle these types of injuries and in the care of one of the best orthopedic surgeons in the country. Long story short, after 9 hours of surgery, a cadaver ligament replacement, 4 screws, 3 staples, months of changing knee and foot braces, and almost two years of exhaustively painful rehab, I found myself walking within 95% of normal...and joyously, without a cane in sight!

Of course, the road to recovery wasn't all bad. In addition to the wonderful support of family and friends, I was also unwittingly introduced to the sport of cycling. During rehab, it was part of my daily routine to ride the exercise bike for extended periods of time. The benefit of this was two-fold. Not only did it keep the knee loose and limber, preventing the build-up of scar tissue, it also helped build the overall strength of the muscles protecting it. During these cycling exercises, the strength of the good leg would transfer power to the weak leg, forcing it to work, practically willing it back to full strength. Over the course of several months, progress soared, and before long, I felt like my old self. Once rehab was complete and I graduated college, I didn't want to loose all the gains I had made, so I inquired as to the best activities to keep my knee loose and my legs strong. Once again, cycling was the answer. Since my knee was still not 100%, and probably never would be, I needed to be careful about the level of stress I subjected it to. Running and heavy weight lifting were not recommended at the time due to the harsh and pounding nature of those activities. With cycling, however, the stress would be greatly reduced on the knees while the strength gains remained significant. So, upon my return to Cleveland in 1991, I bought a $1200 Raleigh Peak hybrid bicycle and road like there was no tomorrow. Before long, I was racking up the miles, participating in bike tours, and quickly falling in love with the sport of cycling.

Now, almost 22 years after the accident, and closing in on 45 years of age, I am a better, faster, and stronger rider than I ever was in my 20's, and I am looking forward to decades more on the bike. Just this year, in fact, I finally decided it was time to set the Raleigh Peak aside and ride a more serious machine. To that end, on April 4th, my birthday, I purchased a 2009 Giant Defy Alliance for just under $2,000. After close to twenty years on the Peak, I finally had a competitive road bike.

Through all the years of riding, though, my happiest achievement to date has got to be my participation in the MS150 'Peddle to the Point' Bike Tour. This 150 mile ride from Berea, Ohio to Sandusky, Ohio is the largest fundraising event for MS in the Northeast and I am honored to use my love of cycling to give something back to those whose outlook on life may not be quite as positive as mine. I rode in my first MS150 tour back in 1992 and am about to ride it again, for the 14th time, here in 2009. With this year's tour only a month away, and several hundred miles already under my belt on the new bike, I look forward to riding for the cause, faster than ever before.

(TOP PIC: My 2nd Pedal to the Point - 8/1993)
(BOTTOM PIC: Pedal to the Point, 15 years later - 8/2008)

So, what about the future? Well, after watching almost every stage of this year's Tour de France, I must say my enthusiasm for the sport has just received a shot in the arm. In fact, seeing the "old man", Lance Armstrong, keep his podium hopes alive against the best and youngest in the sport, I can't help but want to ride even more. And thus is my goal. I have already registered for more tours, including the 'Ponte Vino Giro' at Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio and am setting my sights on the 'Pelotonia' next year, a 200 mile fundraising bike tour for cancer in the Columbus, Ohio area. Not only is it another great cause and a challenging course, but Armstrong himself will be riding the tour as well. Imagine the thrill of peddling alongside a cycling legend...and my hero.

And I'd like YOU to join me...if not on the roadways, then in the pages of this blog. It is here I plan to log all of my cycling adventures going forward, from training rides to gruelling tours, all the while sprinkling in fun and informative cycling tidbits. And of course, I'd love to hear from you, my fellow cyclists. So let's crank it, shall we? "Livestrong!"