Monday, July 4, 2016

Ride Report for July 3, 2016: Bow Lake: 126/Wingate/Holmes/Pitman/N Barnstead/Cook/Berry/Birch Hill to Coburn Woods out and back

I had one of my best “adventure” bike rides in a while yesterday. I decided to hit some new roads in the Bow Lake/Strafford NH area. I knew I’d probably hit gravel and some of the roads were indeed that surface.

I’ve never liked gravel riding and particularly on new gravel roads, I took it very carefully on my way to my destination. Level or uphill riding is not an issue but I’m inclined to wuss out on descents on that surface. I had about 8 miles of unknown road before I’d connect with previously ridden areas. I wondered how long the gravel would continue. There were washboard sections with very high levels of vibration that took some getting used to.

I pressed on and was rewarded when after about 3 miles of gravel, the road surface switched to pavement, and not just any pavement but a perfectly smooth and pristine type. I soon began to climb and reached the aptly named Ridge Top road. I felt a surge of adrenaline mixed with wonder as I saw the road drop precipitously in front of me. I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere looking across a valley to another ridge on the horizon. As I began the descent, more of the road came into view and I could see it was a plummet as far as I could see. It was straight, however, with a clear sight-line so I lowered myself into a tuck and enjoyed almost 1.5 miles of this steep descent at over 10% grade. I had the wind against me so only topped out at 47MPH but it was very enjoyable.

I rejoined previously known roads and then went a little further into new territory before turning around to go back the way I came. On Birch Hill road, I saw a mother deer and a baby fawn on the side of the road. They ran along the road for a bit before exiting into the woods. Before long, I now had to climb that long hill that I had just descended. I enjoyed the challenging climb and then took the descent the other way from Ridge Top road. This wasn’t quite as steep at 9% but I had the wind with me so I hit 47 here also. I then came to the gravel again but took it more aggressively this way because I knew what was coming. As much as I tried to avoid all the rocks I could, I inevitably hit some but my tires held. I had inflated them to just over 100 pounds knowing I would be on this surface. That pressure affords less grip but protects against pinch flats. I ended up going over 30 on some of the gravel descents which is a new speed for me. By the end of the gravel, I had even begun to enjoy the challenge of it
I finished the ride on familiar roads including the Parker Mountain descent. I thought the wind was going to be behind me but it was at an angle and I only managed 50. I was hoping to break 51 which was the fastest I had reached previously on this particular descent.

All the newness and exciting terrain produced one of the best flow states I’ve had cycling. My world shrunk to a hyper focus of my environment and the bike.

Final Stats:
Distance: 48.87 miles
Time: 2:54:37
Average Speed: 16.79MPH
Max Speed: 50MPH
Elevation Gain: 3926 feet = 80.34 feet per mile

That glacial average speed can be partially attributed to my braking on the gravel. I'm confident that next time on this route, I'll brake far less. This is also my first route in which I exceeded 80 feet per mile. Not quite at the Hill Junkie - Doug Jansen - 100 feet per mile stamp of approval but closer! I fully subscribe to the maxim that the higher you go (in elevation gain), the "higher" you'll get in endorphins.

The route:

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Ride Report for May 29, 2016 - Bow Lake

We went up to Bow Lake, NH today. As usual, I brought my bike and this time had a new route planned with almost all roads I had never ridden before. The first 15 miles were on numbered routes but then I was veering into the back country.

I knew from past experience that I could just about be guaranteed to hit gravel roads. I did but the first few miles of such were not bad. I always prefer pavement but these were in most cases well-packed. There was one point where I missed a turn because it really wasn't a road that my map claimed was there. It was more of a path. I realized I was off course and looked for someone for help. A nice man stopped his mower when I approached him and used his phone GPS to show me where I was and how to get back to my mapped course. The site I used to map my ride It doesn't distinguish between gravel and paved. It also doesn't distinguish between gravel and path!

I was soon back on pavement and on route 43. From there I took a slight short-cut and missed the very beginning of Old Mountain road. I found out later that there is prominent sign there that says "No Outlet". Not knowing this, I followed my route and did the anticipated relatively steep 12% climb. After reaching the apex, I began the descent only to notice gravel ahead. I slowed. It wasn't long before the gravel turned into a rocky and muddy "road" with roots. I had 2 more miles to go on my planned route before I'd reach the next road.

Soon, the road narrowed into what was really a path. I didn't have great confidence riding a road bike and being clipped in. I did all my mountain biking not using clipless pedals. I got into a rutted section and all of sudden low branches forced me to try to get out of it and I was unable to unclip in time. I was hardly moving but I tipped over on my left side hurting my wrist and some ribs. Not terribly so but it knocked the wind out of me.

I carried on because I really didn't know how to get back without continuing to follow this route. My phone doesn't have GPS. The path dipped sharply and was barely ride-able. I decided to press on but as I went a little further there was a gate. I could see that after the gate the path had devolved into something I wouldn't attempt. There was overgrown grass about waist-high and mud everywhere. It looked like it had been used very little by even walkers.

Now I was faced with a dilemma as my printed out maps didn't show me alternate ways to get back. I decided to reverse direction to the point of reaching the apex again of the steep hill and hoped to have cell phone service. I did and was able to place a call to ask for directions. It turned out that route 43 would intersect with where I needed to go so it didn't take long for me to get back. That descent on Old Mountain road was very twisty, steep and technical. I took it conservatively as my nerves were somewhat shot from the recent difficulties. I made it back the rest of the way without incident though my lift shifter wasn't working that well because I had landed on it.

Today's ride was certainly an adventure. Gravel roads I can take but paths that prevent following your planned route are not pleasant and not something I enjoy on a road bike. I might try a variation of this route again but will know what to avoid. It was still an enjoyable experience very much out of my ordinary day to day routine. I saw some nice remote areas that I've never been to and got in lots of hilly riding - my preferred terrain for cycling.

Final Stats:
Distance: 41.03 miles
Time: 2:18:22
Average Speed: 17.79
Max Speed: 42.0
Elevation Gain: 2594 feet = 63.22 feet per mile

Ride report for June 15, 2016
From WMVC in Lincoln, NH: 112/116/18/142/302/3/bike path/18/116/112

I experienced some firsts with this ride – my first time seeing a bear in the White Mountains and a new high speed record!

The day didn’t start auspiciously as I woke at 4AM and knew I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep. I tried to rest until 5 but then got up and made coffee. I left the house around 7 and pulled into Subway in Lincoln at around 9:30. I got a 6 inch chicken salad sub and a cookie. After polishing these off, I parked at the White Mountain Visitor Center.

No matter what direction you take from this start, you’re going to face some steep climbing soon. It’s not ideal to eat this close to the start of the ride knowing this exertion is coming. I should perhaps eat on the way up instead. The route I planned would have a stop at about 29 miles at a store so this helped in that I only filled one water bottle and thus had less weight to climb with.

After a few short miles I began my ascent of Kinsman Notch on 112 heading into a pretty stiff wind. It’s a tough way to start the ride but I didn’t find the climb quite as challenging as the one other time I did it. I was thinking already that if this wind held for my return trip, it would make for an interesting descent because then it would be with me!

I crested the notch and pedaled quite hard into the descent but had the wind against me. I only topped out at just over 42MPH. At about 12 miles into the ride, I took the right onto route 116. It had been repaved. While it was definitely an improvement, I noticed that they had used a very thin coat of new pavement and cracks were already starting to form.

I made it to the junction of route 18, took a right and then soon took a left onto route 142. There’s a considerable amount of climbing as this heads towards Bethlehem. I was on the last climb before reaching the apex when I saw movement perhaps 200 feet ahead of me on the road. At first I wasn’t sure what animal it was but it soon became apparent that this large and very furry creature was a bear! I didn’t really know what to do. There were no cubs behind it so I figured it probably would just continue on its way after crossing the road. I thought of stopping to wait a bit but really wanted to keep going. Route 142 is very quiet so I got over to the yellow line in the middle of the road. I’m not sure what those few feet away from the side would have really done but by now my adrenaline was pumping and I hauled up the rest of the climb, taking many looks behind me! I was not followed. I then saw a sign for the 11% grade descent that would take me into Bethlehem. I had taken this route before from the other direction so I knew this was coming. I had the wind behind me and was really hopped up on the adrenaline. I ended up maxing out at 49.17MPH and had plenty of time to slow down before coming to the stop light in town. I’d have to say that, after taking it in both directions, the best way to enjoy the vertical would be in this direction. When I took it the other way, the descent featured worse pavement and at the end I had to brake quite hard coming to the intersection with route 18.

I stopped at the store in Bethlehem and between the bear encounter and that descent right afterwards, I was in an altered state. I had to really think of what I was doing in there. I grabbed some Gatorade, water, peanut butter M&M’s and an apple pastry. I filled both water bottles this time and downed the food. I was soon continuing on route 302. I had the wind behind me and there’s a nice 7% descent heading in this direction so it wasn’t long before I came to route 3. However, on the way I saw two moose in a bog to the right.

I faced some wind on route 3 but the pavement is fantastic and it was a pleasant traverse. I had never taken the bike path before but saw the parking lot sign and underneath it a picture of a bike. There was no one else on the bike path so I wasn’t slowed in any way. It soon ended with route 18 beginning. I enjoyed the views of Cannon mountain as I approached and crossed route 93. This was all virgin road to me. I had been cautioned about the pavement on the descent on route 18. It’s marked as a 10% grade for 2 miles. I had the whole road to myself so could pick my line. I confess to some braking but still managed to almost reach 47MPH. There were some cracks in the pavement and some frost heaves to watch out for. The pavement wasn’t nearly as bad though as the Gonzo Pass descent on the other side of route 116. The downside to the not-so-great pavement is that I had to semi-stand to cushion the bumps and therefore couldn’t really rest my legs on the descent. I would say it was still a fun descent albeit one where you really need to be careful.

I came back to route 116 and took the left. The wind was now more behind me. I arrived back on route 112 and took the left to begin the ascent of Kinsman Notch from this other side. It’s not nearly as bad from this direction at only 9% grade plus the wind was now behind me. I reached the summit and did not pause. I pedaled as hard as I could into the 12% grade descent knowing the wind was behind me. Time seemed to slow. I had the whole lane to myself and could feel my velocity swiftly increasing. I could sense I was in new territory speedwise. The wind swirled some and I was also now 70 miles into the ride so my legs weren’t as steady. About midway through the descent, I felt some shimmy. I didn’t panic though and calmly put both my legs against the top tube of my bike. This worked immediately to steady the bike completely. The descent went on but when I had finally slowed a fair amount, I looked at my computer: MAX SPEED 56.50MPH!!!! I was psyched as I had never been able to top the 55 I had done on this very descent way back in 2003. The rest of the ride was easy as I poured the last of my energy to finish back at the Visitor Center.

Final Stats:
Distance: 76.72 miles
Time: 4:12:10
Average Speed: 18.25
Max Speed: 56.50
Elevation Gain: 5309 feet = 69.20 feet per mile

I’m not overly thrilled with that average speed but given the wind and the lack of sleep, it’s okay. With all the bad news going on the world, it was so nice to take a complete break and not think of anything else but the mountains and my bike! I’d highly recommend this route.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Ride Report: Kanc from Conway/Bear Notch/302 to Crawford Notch summit - out and back

I did this ride on September 16, 2015:

I have ridden all these roads before both ways except for Bear Notch which I had never ridden from Bartlett to the Conway side.

I left MA around 8 and got to the Subway in Ossipee around 9:45. I got the same thing as last time - a six inch sub and a cookie. After polishing these off, I continued on to Conway and parked at the Rangers' station at the beginning of the Kancamagus.

I started my ride just after 10:30. What an awesome day for a ride! It was warm but with low humidity. I could see far away peaks with clarity. The first 6 miles of the Kanc is still broken up pavement. After that, up to the turnoff to Bear Notch, the road had been redone with a new surface. It's chipseal, not my favorite surface as it seems to not be as fast and not as pleasant to ride on but at least it had no cracks. The breakdown lane was covered with some type of black material that looked sticky in places. I tried to avoid riding there when possible.

I turned onto Bear Notch and the pavement is fantastic for almost the whole road. The climb wasn't too demanding. I hadn't ridden down the other side since 2002 so I didn't really remember it. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed as I thought it was going to be faster. I only just topped 40 once. There are some nice twists to the road but you're really not going fast enough to make them interesting. In fact, I burned more matches pedaling harder than I intended to try to get my speed up. It's a nice long descent though with very little car interference.

I arrived in Bartlett and took the left onto 302. I debated whether to stop at a store about 7 miles from there. I still had liquid in both my bottles, water in one and a coke/Gatorade/water mix in the other. I decided not to stop feeling pretty confident that I could get water at the summit building of Crawford Notch. That was the right call. It's a steady climb but nothing too strenuous until the very end when you get some claimed 13% grade according to the sign. My ridewithgps track doesn't show it as being that steep. I stood for much of that portion. It definitely gets the heart rate up but I didn't have a sensation of wanting to throw up like I did on the steep side of Kinsman.

I arrived at the summit and pedaled down a dirt path to find both a fountain and a faucet. I had a good drink and refilled both bottles. I almost immediately left to return the way I came. I hammered pretty hard going into the descent but I think I had a bit of headwind. I only tied my max of 52.64 MPH that I did last year. It's a fantastic descent though. I did have to watch carefully for the section by the waterfall. I saw a couple of guys on the right side of the road working on placing tripods. They were oblivious to me but didn't show any signs of going into the road. There were no cars at all so I had no issues taking the lane. There's something about the 50MPH barrier. I get a distinct sensation of flying once that is crossed.

I continued down back to Bear Notch road now descending almost the whole way. I went fairly hard but didn't go all out knowing that I still had the Bear Notch ascent from the Bartlett side to do. My plan was to eat a GU packet after turning onto Bear Notch. I thought I had one in my seat bag but I didn't. I thought of hunting for a store in Bartlett but just decided to press on as I still had plenty of water and I had fueled the previous night and that morning very well.

As mentioned this was my first ascent of Bear Notch from this side. I enjoyed the climb. It's very steady and you're able to get a nice rhythm going. My plan from the beginning was to bide my time before going all out. I knew the last 16 miles were almost all downhill so now was the time to empty my matchbook. The descent of Bear Notch on this side was a little faster - I topped out at 42. Again, a few twists but nothing where you really have to lean into the turns.

I got back on the Kanc and hammered the rest. I unfortunately got a flat with 3 miles to go so that briefly interrupted things. It was mostly likely caused on the really crappy pavement.

It was particularly nice to get a midweek ride in with so little traffic on all the roads. I generally prefer loops but this out and back was very satisfying.

Final stats:
71.67 miles
19.00 average
52.64 max speed
4293 feet elevation gain = 59.90 feet per mile

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Ride Report: Lincoln: 112/302/Sugar Hill/18

Ridden on Friday September 4, 2015

I enjoy cycling for many reasons both mental and physical. I live in an area that is pretty nice for road cycling as I can find quiet roads starting just a short distance from my house. I can ride routes that go along the ocean or go into forests often combining the two. The only thing that the area lacks is really steep and high hills. There’s rolling terrain and some short and pretty steep hills but nothing that could be considered mountainous. I’m generally content to ride directly from home and I know just about every piece of favorable road in all directions so I have a decent amount of variety. However, I need peak rides to be my “events” and the reward for so many hours spent cycling more mundane routes. I don’t race. The danger to body and equipment is just too high for my personal tastes. Instead, I enjoy heading to the mountains for long rides with lots of vertical.

I use a site,, that allows me to plan routes so I know the mileage and elevation gain ahead of time. I’ve used this to create routes in places far from home like VT, NH, ME and central MA. I’ve ridden quite a bit of terrain in the White Mountains of NH but I had mapped out a route last year that covered lots of new roads and one that I had taken before but from a different direction. I began to bide my time to see when I could actually ride it.

I had opportunities in August but the weather didn’t cooperate fully. If I’m going to drive up north, I pretty much need a day with very little chance of rain and preferably one that isn’t too hot. The available days last month had threats of showers that didn’t meet my criteria. Friday, September 4th though looked perfect even days ahead of time and it turned out to be so. I was able to get the day off work and avoid the greater amount of traffic connected to weekends and especially a holiday weekend.

I awoke at 4:45AM and could feel adrenaline beginning to flow. I knew there was little chance I’d be getting back to sleep. I rested but got up about an hour later. I made coffee and had my breakfast. I took care to pack all the needed accessories. I left at 7:30 with only needing to pick up a gallon of water on my way north.

I encountered little traffic and had an uneventful and fairly fast trip up to Lincoln, NH. My first stop was Subway. Unlike my previous ride up there when I got a foot-long sub, this time I went with just a six inch and a cookie. I had consumed a large chocolate bar on the way up and was fully fueled. Considering that I’d be doing some serious climbing shortly after commencing my ride, the six inch sub was the way to go. It’s not the best to do very vigorous activity after eating a large quantity of food.

I ate quickly and then went to the White Mountain Visitors Center just a short distance away. It’s a great place to begin a ride as it provides safe parking and facilities for changing. I got into my cycling clothes and carefully packed my seat bag with the items I would need. A woman smoking a cigarette approached me and told me to move to another part of the lot if I was going to be leaving my car there for a few hours. She was rather rude, not bothering to say a simple thank you. Oh well, my mind was fully in ride mode at this point.

I was off. I knew from the ride profile that after about a mile of flat, I’d be heading up, gradually at first, but then at a sustained level topping out at 13% grade. I tried to find the right pace. I usually don’t feel fully into the rhythm of rides until a good 30 minutes but I didn’t have that luxury this time. I wanted to hit the climb fairly hard but not blow up either. The 13% left me feeling nauseous but I didn’t stop and soon crested Kinsman Notch. This was the first time I had ascended from this side.

There’s a bit of a flat section but I knew the descent on the other side was coming soon. I soft pedaled briefly in the flat and then pushed as hard as I could into the 9% descent finally getting into a low tuck. I had ascended this side twice before but this would be my first descent. I had a bit of wind behind me and was able to get close to 48MPH. There were a few comparatively gentle turns which added to the experience. This side isn’t as steep but it’s a longer downhill. Gradually the gradient eased but route 112 would be mostly descending all the way to joining route 10/302. It was pleasant riding as much of it was parallel to the Ammonoosuc River. I needed the recovery after that climb.

Route 10/302 was okay. There was a bit more traffic here after experiencing almost none on 112. I collided with some large bug, perhaps a dragonfly, at 40+ MPH that left a stain on my shirt but other than that, it was smooth sailing as I passed through Bath and Lisbon arriving at route 117 (Sugar Hill Road) at just over 30 miles into the ride.

I immediately began a long steady climb. It was nowhere near as steep as Kinsman Notch but it went on for about 6 miles topping out at around 6% grade. This was a beautiful area and road had almost zero traffic. I went through the small community of Sugar Hill and then began the descent. This is the steeper side with a grade of 8.4% at one point during its two miles. I was able to have the road to myself actually gaining on a car behind me for the first part before it passed me. The last section had some enjoyable twists as I stayed behind two cars while taking the full lane with my speed topping out at around 42. It ended in a T-junction at the intersection of route 116 in Lafayette.

I took a left and did mostly climbing on 116/18 heading towards rejoining 302. The area continued to be picturesque and quiet. I passed two cyclists, one using a hand cycle. Back on 302 I was met with continuous traffic but the drivers were courteous and gave me plenty of room. There’s a mile long climb with a max grade of 7% before entering downtown Bethlehem. I stopped at a store that I knew from a previous ride at the 45.5 mile point of my ride. Two glazed cakes, each having 470 calories, Mountain Dew and water were my choices to refuel. I consumed the food and reloaded my water bottles quickly and resumed my ride before any stiffness could set in.

That mile long climb now became a descent. The road wasn’t the best but I took the lane and was able to draft a car at a safe distance which gave me a top speed of 46. The left to get back on 302 quickly arrived and I was back to riding with no cars. It was mostly moderate descending to the 51 mile point of my ride where I took a right onto 116 leaving route 18. The next 11 miles featured gentle climbing before a brief descent that ended with me rejoining route 112 about 64 miles into my ride. Route 116 features some cracked pavement with a few sections that are graded. Hopefully, a full resurfacing will be in its future.

I too the left back on 112. After a couple of miles of easy climbing, the grade kicked up to close to 9% as I reached the summit of Kinsman Notch again. This climb goes on for a while but I didn’t experience the feeling of wanting to throw up like I had on the other side. It’s quite monatomic which allows one to get into a steady rhythm and just grind it out.

After summiting,I decided to pull over into the Beaver Brook lookout area where I consumed the last of my liquid and prepared for the final stretch of my ride. This would be the highlight for me and I wanted to mentally prep myself. I rolled down the ramp and got on 112 again. There’s a brief section that’s relatively flat before the plunge. I got out of the saddle and hammered. I could feel a light wind against me but I was determined to go as fast as possible down this side of Kinsman. The pavement is excellent and the road was empty. I pedaled until I spun out and then got into a tuck. Time seemed to slow as my world became the road, the wind, my bike and my concentration. I found the sensation to be a bit similar to the one time I sky-dived as I initially left the plane. There’s almost a sensation of falling as gravity takes hold and acceleration increases. The highest grade shows as 12.8%. I weaved through a couple of easy turns which are somewhat magnified at high speed. I could feel my speed lessen as I reached the lower portion which isn’t as steep. I checked my computer – 53.65MPH! This was slightly short of my all-time highest speed which I had achieved on this very descent back in 2003 but was still good enough for second fastest ever. What.A.Rush!! I felt sky-high as poured myself into the remainder of the ride with renewed vigor. I could feel the slight beginnings of cramping in my legs so I was ready to wrap up the ride as I pulled back into the Visitors Center.

Everyone has activities that can produce “flow” states. Cycling, and mountain riding in particular, is what does it for me. For want of a better description, I felt “young” as I reveled in the afterglow of the ride during my drive home. I put on some meditative music which enhanced this state of reverie. All those training miles paid off and I felt great satisfaction in knowing that there would have been no way for me to do this ride without them.

Now to plan the next one!

Final Stats:
76.36 miles
18.30 average
5147 feet elevation gain = 67.40 feet per mile
53.65 MPH max speed

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Thursday, September 18, 2014

2014 Epic Rides

Storing some ride reports here:

I know some here like to cycle route 100 on the section past Mt. Snow to route 30. I would strongly suggest you not ride it now! Almost that entire part is under construction and is gravel. Not the good type of dirt road but gravel with loose rocks and other obstacles plus the dust from cars passing by closely. I had done this descent last year and it was blast with speeds over 45MPH but this time I didn’t dare go much past 27 and it was a miserable grind. I had no choice to take it though as it was the concluding part of this loop:
Bald Mountain option 3 - A bike ride in Townshend, VT

Minus the construction, the loop was awesome! Take Grimes Hill road located about 5 miles from Bald Mountain campground which becomes Dover then Dover Hill road. Grimes Hill is a little warm up for the real climbing on Dover Hill. It’s about three miles at between 9-11% grade. Good stuff! There is very little traffic on the whole section and most of the pavement is good. Unfortunately upon reaching the top, I hit construction there too! The sign said “scarified pavement” which then turned into gravel. So part of my descent was wrecked but the second half was paved and lots of fun.

I had a mechanical incident shortly after the descent. There’s a brief incline that I thought I’d take in my middle ring (I was using my Specialized with its triple). I was in the largest cog in back and had to trim the front derailleur slightly so it wouldn’t rub. This movement towards the small ring became a problem because I was really hammering while standing on the pedals. The force caused the chain to not go to the small ring or fall off but rather get jammed between the small and middle rings. This has never happened to me before. It was stuck in three places. I was able to pull two of them free but the third one wouldn’t budge despite all my strength pulling on the chain. Finally after about 20 minutes, by moving the pedals back and forth, I got it to release somehow. I then proceeded on with my ride joining route 100 only to face the scenario I described above after reaching the apex after Mt. Snow. Ah well, it was certainly a memorable ride.

Final stats:
47.03 miles
17.17 average
45.0 max speed
3601 feet elevation gain

I decided to take route 30 to route 35 for an out and back route from the Bald Mountain campground. There is some significant climbing a few miles in on route 35. Due to not knowing the road, rear wheel issue and slightly damp pavement, I took it relatively slow on the descent on the way back topping out at 41.0. Unexpectedly, route 35 turns to dirt after about 7 miles! It looked decent, not like the gravel described above but I wasn’t in the mood for more dirt so turned around and then went farther up 30 to get my mileage in. Overall, this area of Vermont contains some fantastic riding.

Final stats:
37.29 miles
18.47 average
41.0 max speed
2432 feet elevation gain

We went up to Bow Lake in NH yesterday. As usual, I brought my bike as it’s a treat to ride in mountainous terrain. I had mapped out a 47 mile ride that took me way off the beaten track. I love the solitude of nature and very few cars while still riding on roads. I’m learning, however, that what appear to be paved roads on are not guaranteed to be so in rural areas. I ended up... riding about 8 miles of gravel.

The highlight was my descent of Parker Mountain road with its 11% grade. Last year I hit 50 and I was hoping to beat it. There were a couple of slow cars just behind me before I began the downhill so I pulled over and let them pass. I then ventured out noticing two motorcycles not far behind. I didn’t think they’d be a problem so I cranked hard before getting into a low tuck.

Time seemed to stop as my world became an immersion of sensations brought on by gravity and wind. The steep part is about a mile long and as it started to ease, the motorcycles passed me. The guy in front gave me a thumbs up and then he gestured with his hand with all five fingers open, flashing it a few times. I waved to him trying to figure out what speed he was indicating I had gone. With great anticipation, I looked at my computer to see that I had maxed out at 51 MPH! What elation! I had an insane adrenaline buzz.

Risk is relative. My bike was totally steady and I didn’t feel the least bit unsafe. There’s definitely a technique to high speed descending. I kept the mantra in my head “relaxed but hyper alert.” It’s important to not just keep your hands relaxed but also not to overly tense the rest of your body. The kind of cycling I avoid is roads with lots of traffic and particularly ones with small shoulders. I don’t feel safe doing it and it’s too great a risk. A collision with a 3000 pound car will ruin your day.

Final stats:
47.31 miles
17.20 average
3549 feet elevation gain
51.0 max speed

I got a just about perfect day for my ride. As I got into Crawford Notch it was a little windier than the forecast for Bartlett but that was to be expected as I got higher up. It was only 69 degrees in the higher elevations of the route but in the mid 70s lower down.

I found a great place to park at the library/elementary school complex in Bartlett as Jay had suggested. From there I started climbing pretty much from the beginning on route 302. It didn’t get steep until the Notch itself so I felt I had a good warm-up. I tried to find a good balance between hitting the climb hard but not burning too many matches as I knew I had a long way to go. The lower parts of 302 have only okay pavement. There are many cracks and there are sections that are apparently covered with chip-seal. There are no cracks there but the surface is unpleasantly rough. The steep part has great pavement.

After cresting Crawford Notch I continued past route 3 and onto Bethlehem and route 142. That section from route 3 to 142 was very nice as there were fewer cars and continued fantastic views. The store in Bethlehem is just before the turn to 142 and at about 32 miles into the ride, at just the right place. A banana nut muffin and a large Snickers got me through the rest of the ride along with more Coke and water.

Soon after turning onto route 142, I hit the steepest section of the whole ride at 13% grade. My 39x28 lowest gear worked fairly well though I would have used a lower one had one been available.. I didn’t encounter a single car on my side of the road as I made my way over to route 18. There are two sections of notable descents here. The pavement isn’t great with some heaves but I was able to use the whole lane and didn’t need to brake at all. Top speed here was just over 43MPH.

I took route 18 over to 141 and hit some more climbing and lousy pavement before coming out on route 3. The pavement on route 3 is mint and I really enjoyed the traverse back to route 302. I enjoyed the views even more on 302 in this direction. I stopped briefly at the Zealand picnic area to eat a gel and then completed the moderate climb back to the top of Crawford Notch. I didn’t stop but immediately embraced the coming descent, taking the whole lane. Wow, that was quite the experience! I topped out at 52.64MPH and enjoyed the fact that there were some gentle turns to it as well. As mentioned, the pavement is fantastic in this section. There is a slightly different type of pavement where people walk across the road about halfway down but I didn’t find it to be a problem. Today was a good day in that there weren’t too many people there. It’s mid-week and before foliage season. I noticed a fair number on my way up but fortunately for the descent, there were just two who were not venturing into the road. Haha, I noticed the man staring at my form whizzing by. I continued using the whole lane until the curves were finished and my speed had dropped to under 40. A car didn’t pass me until some time after that.

The nice part of starting where I did, is that I knew the last 10+ miles would be almost all downhill so I was able to push on this final section. I got back to my car thoroughly happy with the ride and the roads I was able to cycle for the first time. To summarize, starting in Bartlett: 302/142/18/141/3/302

Final stats:
72.90 miles
18.99 average MPH
52.64 max speed
4080 feet elevation gain

This was the route:

I had done this route 11 years ago so it was somewhat familiar to me. It was interesting what I remembered and comparing my impressions of the roads.

I left from Massachusetts just before 8AM. It was cloudy and even spit rain a bit but as I approached the Waterville Valley exit, the clouds parted and it was almost totally clear with bluebird skies. My first stop was the Subway in Lincoln where I consumed a foot long turkey sub and a cookie. I fuel heavily for long rides as I'd rather over-fuel than risk bonking.

I then went back to the White Mountain Visitor Center which is a great place to park and prepare for a ride. I rolled out around 10:40. It was in the low 60s with almost no wind - just gorgeous! I knew things were going to get serious quickly as after about a 3 mile warm-up, I turned onto 118 and readied myself to climb. Cyclists refer to this as Gonzo Pass. It's close to 6 miles of tough climbing with a short break mixed in after an initial steep part. It's pretty unrelenting and I quickly felt fully into the ride! There's a great lookout spot near the top where I could see distant mountains clearly.

The pavement was poor on the ascent where it matters little but unfortunately it was even worse on the descent. I think it has deteriorated in the last 11 years. My log from that ride says I reached 48MPH but today I limited myself to 41. A cyclist acquaintance of mine had told me of a disastrous descent that one of his fellow riders had on this section. He slammed into a guardrail at high speed and needed facial reconstruction. That was certainly in my mind and so though I'm generally loathe to brake on descents, I did quite a bit of it. Even the braking had to be done carefully because it was so bumpy. I look forward to fun descents after hard climbs so this was definitely a letdown especially because I had to semi-stand for most of it to allow my legs to act as shock absorbers. This also prevented me from resting my legs.

I get to the bottom and the pavement continues to be poor. It was a little better where route 25 joins 118 but then worse on 25A except for a 3 mile section that had been repaved. There was just no relaxing and my body took quite a lot of jarring. 25A has a few ups and downs but nothing like what I had experienced with Gonzo Pass.

I take the right on route 10 and stop at a store at the 36 mile point of my ride. It was well stocked. I got a Cliff Bar, M & M's, Mountain Dew and more water. I continued on route 10 and was treated to gorgeous scenery, especially as I looked off to my left with farms and pastoral countryside as far as I could see. The pavement wasn't great on 10 either but it was a little better.

Around the 51 mile point, I took the right onto 116. Soon afterwards I began climbing. Nothing crazy but it was pretty steady. There was a quick and sharp descent that took me to where 112 joins 116. Shortly thereafter I passed the point where 116 juts off to the left and I continued on 112 and finally got decent pavement though it was worn chipseal. At least the bumps and ruts were gone!

The final mile or so up to the turnoff for the Beaver Brook trail for Mt. Moosilauke is steep but I knew that would be the final climbing for the ride so I hit it quite hard. I was really looking forward to the 12% grade descent on the other side. Unfortunately, I was met with a strong head wind. Despite pedaling into the beginning of the descent, I only reached a top speed of 47.81MPH. I was hoping to come close to the 55MPH top speed I reached on this same descent 11 years ago. The pavement is excellent for this stretch.

It was almost all downhill right back to the Visitor Center in Lincoln. I finished with:
73.94 miles
17.83 MPH average
47.81 max speed
5378 feet elevation gain