My First Century on the Montour Trail

September 7, 2020
100 miles
Montour Trail

On September 7, 2020, we were off from school due to Labor Day. With decent weather conditions and slim prospects for getting in many more rides before winter (my academic load was increasing as we got deeper into the semester), I decided that this would be the day that I attempted my first century in “freedom” units: that is, my first 100 mile ride. (Well, from the GPS data, Apple Workouts computed a total distance a hair above 100 miles but Strava claims it was just under, so we’ll split the difference and call it 100 miles even.)

After a certain point, miles just become miles, and the distinction between, say, a 100 mile route and an 80 mile one is mostly mental. Still, this would be my longest ride to date, and I was quite excited. I purposely paced myself a little slower (I averaged 11.3 miles per hour) to make sure that I would be able to survive the ride.

I set out at 8:00 am, which was a little later than I would have liked, but still gave me enough time to get back to Pittsburgh before sunset. I chose to ride along the Montour Trail, which was new to me. I set out northwest from Oakland to Neville Island before heading south to the trail head. I then followed the trail southeast all the way through; finally, I rode the Clairton Connector to McKeesport and made my way home along a familiar stretch of the Great Allegheny Passage.

Some highlights/thoughts from throughout the day:

Bridges and tunnels are two of my favorite things to ride through, and the Montour Trail has plenty of both. Apologies for the poor quality of the last image. (full resolution: left, center, right)

Oh my goodness, it’s a dream come true: a bridge leading into a tunnel! Or a tunnel leading into a bridge, if you ride it the other way, I guess. (full resolution: left, right)

Unfortunately, the long day of riding did take quite a toll on my bike (which, to be fair, is like 15 years old and at least second-hand). First, I snapped a spoke on my rear wheel, although that was fairly easy to fix with some duct tape. I also somehow managed to lose my rear valve stem cap, but that’s a bit of a trivial problem.

More importantly, there is now some interference between my rear wheel and one of the break pads; once per revolution, the wheel rim pushes up against the break pad, offering some resistance. My guess is that either there is a problem with how the break pad is aligned (which I can probably fix with a screwdriver) or that the wheel is no longer true (which I don’t think I can fix). Sometimes, depending on how the break cantilevers are aligned, this problem actually goes away, but then the rear break becomes non-functional; needless to say, this is quite dangerous, particularly when riding in the city and sharing the road with motor traffic. My bike is still rideable, but it’s somewhat difficult because the wheel now has some resistance to spinning.