Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Look Rock Ride Report

Here is my third and final ride report from my time in Tennessee. This was actually my second ride out there. My destination was Look Rock that I had originally planned for the Wednesday but went on Tuesday due to rain forecast for Wednesday morning. It was the right decision as we did get that one morning of rain and I’d rather not ride tight switchbacks on wet pavement.

I was now more familiar with the very steep descent right from our cabin having ridden it on the Sunday when I went to Bluff Mountain. I got a 7:30 start. The only place on this descent where speed can be allowed to run out was the descent of Robeson Road which contains the only straight stretch. On the other two rides, my max speed was attained here but for this ride, I’d hit that on my descent from Look Rock.

I get down to 321 but instead of taking the right, I went left on road that I hadn’t traveled by car or bike yet. The narrow and steep shoulder continued for a while on perfect newly repaved road. However, after several miles, the new pavement ended. The worn pavement wasn’t that bad but there was an unwelcome feature that wasn’t present on the new pavement: rumble strips on the narrow shoulder. I get that these are to warn cars about nearing the edge of the road but they’re a nightmare for cyclists who are already on cramped space. They simply can’t be ridden on except in an emergency.

Around the six mile point of the ride, the road pointed down with switchbacks. Most of these weren’t the really tight type so I didn’t lose too much speed. A benefit is that I could take the lane for this part. I was already thinking that taking this way back would not be pleasant because I’d be going a lot slower and would face more time dealing with the rumble strips.

I reach the 9.5 mile point of my ride and took Cedar Creek Road on my right which would end both my time on the 321 and the rumble strips. The names of the roads would change but I basically paralleled 321 riding on the opposite side of a river that flowed between both routes. If you look on the grade outline for the whole ride, this section appears as “flat” but, as I found out, that is only in comparison with the bookends of the ride – the cabin and Look Rock. This section was great as the roads had almost no cars but were full of fun riding terrain with ups, downs and twists.

I was surprised that just after the 19 mile point, I briefly rejoined the route that I had taken on my Bluff Mountain ride. I didn’t realize that the two routes shared a couple mile stretch on Old Walland Highway. I take the bridge on Melrose Station road and cross the river at 21 miles coming out on 321 again but just very briefly before getting on Rocky Branch Road on the opposite side. I saw a store, Becky’s Grocery, at around mile 24 and planned to make that a refueling point for the way back. The comparatively “flat”, up and down riding would continue on various backroads until mile 32. I enjoyed seeing the real non-tourist areas. The pavement was mostly good with almost no cars.
After doing some moderate climbing on Montvale Road, it becomes Happy Valley Road. There was a mile stretch of straight road at a grade of about 9%. Then began the series of switchbacks that topped out around 15% though the insides were probably higher than that. As with Bluff Mountain, I cleaned the climb taking it at a measured pace. It was a little confusing when I first mapped the route because I could see what appeared to be the apex of Murray Gap right where the Foothills Parkway was also showing next to Happy Valley Road. I wasn’t sure how to get up to the Parkway. I continued, now descending on Happy Valley. I really didn’t want to risk losing too much altitude because I was now 35 miles into the ride and had a long way back. I saw that Flats Road on the left was going up again so I took it hoping that it would come out by the Parkway and the viewing point for Look Rock. It actually would but I couldn’t see that initially. I ended up turning around at the Eagle Rock Retreat Center. Flats Road continued at a very steep grade up.
After a brief descent, I came back to Happy Valley Road heading back the way I had come. I regained the altitude and arrived back to the point where I was under the Parkway at Murray Gap. Here I stopped under the bridge to eat an energy gel as I prepared for the descent. My mind was preoccupied with getting in the right mental state to take on this challenging section of negotiating switchbacks with losing as little speed as possible. I also wanted to time it so cars would not interfere with my descent. I let a few cars go. There was very little traffic ascending so I knew I’d probably be in the clear. The attached photos show this location.

The descent, like the others, involved braking for the very tight switchbacks. I was more comfortable, having already done these on the descent from the cabin and also on Bluff Mountain. Then I got to that mile straight stretch and could finally let my speed go, topping out at 47MPH. I finished my water but was counting on a refill at that store that I passed earlier. I arrive back at it only to see that it’s closed! This was my most humid and hot ride and I really needed to do something about my hydration and fueling situation. I remembered that the route passed where I had come out on the Bluff Mountain ride and that there was a store there. I determined I’d just have to hold on until I got back there.

I had been contemplating my return route. If I didn’t do the out and back that I had originally planned, I could take Cedar Creek Road that I had taken on the previous ride. This would allow me to come out to 321 on the other side where I would spend less time on it and there would be no rumble strips. While getting back to the store, I passed a cyclist. I was friendly, waving and saying ‘hi’ but he had ear buds in and couldn’t bring himself to acknowledge me in any way. I found that he was now drafting me. I don’t normally mind this but was a bit miffed at his lack of friendliness so accelerated and rode him off my wheel. It wouldn’t be long before I reached the store anyway. I find a good place to lean my bike, get off and reach to open my bike bag. My heart sank as I saw it was unzipped! I don’t normally carry my license and a credit card on rides but did on this one. I see my phone, a $10 bill and credit card are still there but no license! It was right next to my credit card so I don’t know how it fell out but the credit card did not. This was a real buzz-kill. I was getting close to bonking so didn’t waste much time before going into the store. I got the necessary replenishments paying for them with the credit card that miraculously stayed in the bike bag.

I consumed them outside the store on a bench as I contemplated my next move. I was 52.5 miles into my ride. I had a fleeting thought of retracing my route. I knew it had to have fallen out somewhere in the last 15 miles from where I opened the bag at the summit of Murray Gap. Knowing the climbing I still had ahead of me, there was no way I could go back on my bike. I made the final decision to not go back the way I came but instead to do the Cedar Creek Road traverse over to 321.

I tried to still enjoy the ride through this beautiful area that I had previously ridden. It was still fun but I was definitely preoccupied. I get to 321 and repeated the ascent from Sunday. At least there were no rumble strips on this side. I then had the torturous ascent back to the cabin. I had run out of liquid again. I saw a cabin that was for sale about 2/3 of the way up. It was unoccupied but the water faucet outside of it was still on so I got some water there. I finished the ascent and got back to the cabin pleased with the epic ride but stressed about my license. Amanda and I would take the car the next morning to try and find it. I knew there was very little chance but needed to try. At least I knew that only 15 miles would be involved in what was an almost 75 mile route. We came up empty but at least we were able to continue on that Flats Road, reaching the summit and seeing the viewing spot for Look Rock. I was able to get some pictures that I would not have been able to take otherwise.

Stats:
Miles: 74.37
Time: 4:35:55
Average Speed: 16.17
Max Speed: 47MPH
Elevation Gain: 6060 feet = 81.48 feet per mile
Route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/24679509

This would be my “flattest” of the three rides but I had very little left in the tank at its completion.

The place where I left my bike bag open just before the descent.

Bluff Mountain Ride Report

Here's my ride report for Bluff Mountain in Tennessee. I was able to find a few pictures plus a YouTube video that shows a motorcycle on this route.

My first ride of the trip was to Bluff Mountain and the surrounding area. I did this on Sunday, August 20, 2017. I began my ride with my first descent of the road that ended at our cabin. I had never descended a grade as steep as this on a road bike. From my mountain biking days I was very familiar with having to lean way back on the bike on such descents on trails but now I had to actually do this on a road. I began to get familiar with the technique of braking hard right before the switchback turn and then easing through the turn. I could then let off the brakes for a brief period and repeat the procedure.

I got down to route 321 and took a right. This road not only has a very small shoulder but signs warning cars about the steep drop-off in most places from the shoulder. At least the pavement had been recently redone and was perfect. I left at 7:30AM so didn’t encounter too much traffic as I proceeded to Russie Gap Road 7 miles into the ride. Parts of this section were steep enough that I could take the lane going around 40MPH and there were a few entertaining twists to the road as well. Russie Gap Road became Goose Gap and then Bluff Mountain Road. I could see from Google street view and the mapped route that there would be plenty of switchbacks on the actual mountain. The climbing didn’t really get serious until about 10 miles into the ride. The switchbacks began about a mile later and continued pretty much to the top at 13 miles. I only encountered a single vehicle. I had amazing views to take my mind off the climbing. The sun was still rising over mist filled valleys and I was in awe. I thought to myself that this is a route that you would see in road cycling magazines that promote great travel locations. I savored every minute.

I got to the T-junction where I had originally planned to turn around but I could see that the pavement was good in both directions so why not stay up on the ridge as long as possible? I first went left and did the loop taking Dupont Springs Road and then Duncan Springs Road. There were some delightful twists and continued incredible views. I got back to the T-junction and then went the other way on the ridge taking East End Road and then doing the small loop with Top Road. I hadn’t expected to able to ride this much up on a ridge so this was a pleasant surprise. I again got back to the T-junction and then began the descent the way I came up on Bluff Mountain Road.

I followed my plan and took the right on Tower Road which led to the fire tower and another small loop with Green Top and Horse Gap roads. I not only regained all the elevation I just lost but went a bit higher topping out at 3061 feet by the tower. I returned to Bluff Mountain Road continuing the descent until taking another right on Summit Trails Drive. It regains a bit of altitude before plunging down to Waldens Creek Road. By this time I was starting to get the hang of descending steep switchbacks better. I was not used to scrubbing so much speed on descents. I knew my average speed was going to take a severe hit but I enjoyed the new experience. It was fun to establish a rhythm from switchback to switchback.

I took the right on Waldens which eventually turns into E Millers Cove Road that continues all the way to 321. This section did not have the very steep climbing of Bluff Mountain but was not flat at all either. Most of it was very quiet and I went long stretches seeing no cars at all. By this time, the temperature had risen considerably and I was getting low on water. I wasn’t sure what I would find when I popped out on the other side on 321 so began looking for a water source. I passed a church that had apparently just finished its service and I saw some people in the parking lot. I asked them if I could use the faucet on the side of the church which they allowed me to do. This water replenishment plus two energy gels would be enough for the ride. So I came out to 321 and did notice a store but now there was no need to stop. I reversed direction continuing past Summit Trails to taking a right on Old Valley. This was the road I had taken getting to Bluff Mountain earlier. I retraced my way on 321 now ascending. The traffic was heavier but drivers were very respectful and patiently waited when they had to.

I arrived back at Robeson Road that led to the cabin. This would be my first time doing this crazy ascent. I am loathe to stop on any climb. I really wondered though if I was going to be able to make it without doing so. I tried but when my heart rate completely maxed out to the point where I was getting shaky on the bike, I had to stop. I didn’t walk any of it but did stop a couple of times to let my heart rate come down. I stopped on switchbacks and since there were no cars, I could get started again by aiming my bike directly across the road before pointing it upward. At times I had to lean forward to keep my front wheel on the pavement. It still came up a couple of times. I made it back to the cabin with a huge smile on my face having done a new form of road cycling that I had only imagined up to this point. This was my first ride having finally attained the gold standard of climbing: 100 feet per mile.

Stats:
Miles: 58.59
Time: 3:50:17
Average Speed: 15.27
Max Speed: 44 MPH
Elevation Gain: 6193 feet = 105.70 feet per mile
Route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/24679304
Motorcycle video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gluYVJL3DFw&t=107s
Google street view: https://www.google.com/…/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sun2NpEHcALG2Hi…


Clingman's Dome Ride Report

We just got back from one of the best vacations. We had a family reunion in Tennessee timed to coincide with the solar eclipse of 8/21/2017. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the eclipse and spending time with so many family members. There was more to the vacation for me. I brought along my bike and was able to experience riding unlike any that I’ve done before. I’ve done mountain riding before but not on this scale. It was a treat that I’ll never forget. I was able to do three rides totaling 206 miles. I didn’t have a laptop nor a smart-phone to post earlier. I’ll post more about the vacation later but for tonight I’m recounting the best ride of the three (the other two were almost as good) but my ride to the top of Clingman’s Dome was particularly special.

Smoky Mountain National Park was closed the day of and the day before the eclipse so I couldn’t do the ride when we first arrived. I ended up doing this on Friday, August 25th – the day before we left. However, on the Thursday, we all drove up to the top of Clingman’s Dome taking the very route that I would cycle the next day. This allowed me to check out the roads as well as take some pictures from the top that I wouldn’t be able to do when cycling. We arrived just before sunset and saw some spectacular views.

Our cabin was aptly named Above the Clouds and it sits about 1000 feet above route 321 less than three miles below! Almost 1000 feet of that is gained in just over a mile! So, as with all rides from the cabin, mine started with an extremely steep and twisty descent having to brake heavily. I then popped out on 321 which has excellent pavement but very little shoulder. I was only on this briefly before taking the left onto Line Springs Road. There’s a bit of really steep climbing but then things moderate comparatively. I took the left onto Little River Gorge Road which becomes Fighting Creek Gap Road. Eventually it comes out to Sugarland Visitor Center at the intersection of route 441. The only potential drawback to the Clingman’s Dome ride is that route 441 doesn’t have much of a shoulder and it can get lots of traffic. I could see from the night before though that the road was fairly wide. I was able to get an early start of 7AM from the cabin so it was still fairly early even by the time I reached 441. This intersection begins about 20 miles of almost all climbing! I had never done such an extended climb before.

As I hoped, the traffic was pretty light going up and drivers were very respectful almost to a fault as some were very hesitant to pass me even when there was ample opportunity. Some motorcyclists gave me the thumbs up as they passed and I even noticed a passenger in a car also do this. They probably don’t see cyclists doing this very often and I appreciated their encouragement. I stopped thrice briefly to stretch. I passed through two tunnels but both were short and didn’t present too much of a lighting problem. After about 13 miles of climbing, I took the right onto Clingman’s Dome Road. Here the traffic was even less. The temperature had dropped some but it was not too cold. I picked the perfect day because it wasn’t too hot anywhere nor too cold. I reached the top and there didn’t appear to be any place to get water and I was almost out so I didn’t spend much time up there. I had spent quite a long time the night before so didn’t feel like I needed to plus it was mostly in the clouds.

Then began the riotous descent with an added twist of excitement! I’ve done many high speed descents but this one was different because of the turns involved. I didn’t reach the speeds of other ones but the turns made for an even more exciting experience. I didn’t have to brake but just felt comfortable enough to lean into the turns at speed. What a feeling to experience the sensation of weight as I put my body into the turns! There were very few cars but I did manage to catch up to pickup truck and after tailing it for a bit, I decided to pull over and let it go so it wouldn’t spoil anymore of the descent. I did this but then I saw it again but it wasn’t moving. It was parked in the middle of the road along with another car on the opposite side. I knew instantly that they must be stopped to watch wildlife and I was pretty sure what kind. Sure enough – a woman was halfway out the passenger window taking picture of a bear! I was about 50 feet behind the cars and watch the good-sized black bear amble away from the side of the road. Eventually the pick-up drove off and the other car came in my direction. It stopped and the woman driving it warned me about the bear AND its two cubs! I couldn’t see the cubs from my vantage point. I waited a bit longer and then decided to just go for it. I pedaled past and fortunately there was no pursuit.

I got out on 441 and then experienced another 13 miles of superb descending on such an amazing road with incredible scenery everywhere. I made it back to Sugarland where I was able to refill my water bottles. There was a bit of headwind but I still caught up to cars twice and pulled over to give myself free space.

By this time, there was much more traffic but because I was now descending, I could take the whole lane so it really didn’t matter. When I got back on Fighting Gap road, there was a surprising amount of traffic even there but I had no incidents. That last two miles to the cabin was brutal! I didn’t walk any of it but did have to stop a couple of times. My heart-rate was completely maxed out. At 112.90 feet per mile, this was the most climbing I've ever done.

My mapping software that I use for my cycling routes, ridewithgps.com, has a glitch and it won’t allow me to map past the halfway point of Clingman’s Dome Road. So the accompanying route map is missing the last four miles to the top. I was able to get the exact elevation gain though by seeing that the road ends at 6292 feet so I was able to accurately ascertain my climbing for the route. I’m attaching some pictures taken the night before.

Stats for the ride:
Miles: 73.09
Time: 4:46:54
Average Speed: 15.29
Max Speed: 45 MPH
Elevation Gain: 8252 feet = 112.90 feet per mile
Route (missing the last 4 miles to the top): https://ridewithgps.com/routes/24679712

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

4NaaP Ride Report - 6/28/2017

The predicted chances for rain in Lincoln had dropped a bit yesterday but by this morning it was back up to 45%. Soon after I got on route 93 and I could first see the mountains in the distance, I saw they were already ensconced in dark clouds. I knew there would be very little chance of completing the ride dry today. It was a gamble I thought worth taking.

I arrived at the Subway in Lincoln around 10. I ordered a 6 inch chicken sub and a cookie. I downed them quickly and then proceeded to the Visitor Center. I kitted up and began the ride at 10:25. It was 65 degrees. A few short miles brought me to the Kinsman ascent with the wind mainly against me. I took the climb conservatively knowing the scope of the ride ahead of me. It didn’t feel that difficult. After cresting, I descended the other side. Against the wind, I topped out at just under 40MPH – the slowest I’ve done that descent.

I could see dark clouds all around but was hoping I could somehow dodge the rain. I got on 116 but my luck ran out at mile 17 when I encountered a wet road. A mile later, I hit actual rain. The only virgin road on the route would be Wells Road followed by Kerr that connected to route 18. It only rained on me for about three miles but the roads were soaked. At this point I was a bit on the cold side as the temperature had dropped and I was in short sleeves. I was looking forward to the Franconia ascent to get warm. The climbing started on Kerr and then was quite consistent going up 18. This is the better way to take this road because the heaves and cracks are no issue going uphill. I again took the climb at a measured pace. It wasn’t too difficult.

I reached the top and got on the bike path that connects to route 3. I didn’t see a single person on it. I had warmed up at this point. The rain was stopped but I still got spray from the wet path and then on route 3. The road stayed wet for about ¾ of the way to Twin Mountain. This was a good place to make up some time. I didn’t go all out but kept a good pace. I wasn’t sure where I was going to stop in Twin Mountain but knew that I only wanted to make one stop for the whole ride. I ended up going to the store on the left just before the intersection with route 302. I might have actually overdid my food intake. I was hoping for some real food like a sandwich but didn’t see any. I instead got chocolate covered pretzels, a large Snickers bar, a protein bar, Powerade and water. I was determined to not bonk later on so I sat on a chair on the porch of the store and ate it all. It was well over 1000 calories.

As I pulled away, I again felt cold but once I started on 302, the sun came out intermittently and I warmed up. The wind was behind me at this point and I made good time over to the gentle ascent of Crawford. My first thought when I encountered the rain on the other side was that I’d likely ride out of it and hopefully get dry roads on the Crawford side. This is what happened fortunately. The Crawford descent was the crown jewel of the ride for me. I had done it twice before and found it to be extremely fun. After summiting, I looked behind me and saw a pickup pulling a large trailer a ways behind. I was determined to not let in interfere with my descent. The angle of the descent was such that I caught a fair amount of headwind but I poured my energy into the pedals on the curvy part in the beginning and I could see the truck was further behind. I then gave a final push and got in a tuck while taking the lane. There weren’t many people around. I saw a group over to the left by the waterfall but they showed no signs of venturing near the road. I topped out at 52.16MPH – my slowest of the three descents due to the wind – but still more than enough to put in that special place that I find going over 50 provides. I let out a couple of “F___ yeah’s” while keeping my speed as high as possible. The truck was way behind at this point.

This section of 302 is fun all the way down to Bartlett because of it being all downhill. I mostly had the wind behind me today also. I put out pretty high watts but still reined it in some knowing that I had two big climbs to go. I passed the 60 mile point as I was starting the Bear ascent and saw that my average speed at that point was 18.88. I knew I’d lose some of that but was hoping it wouldn’t be too much. The Bear ascent is so steady that you can just get in a groove and pound it out. I encountered a brief shower here but not enough to really wet the road. The descent on the other side really isn’t steep except for a bit at the end where I did get up to 46MPH.

At this point in the ride, I was still feeling good. I thinking fueling sufficiently is very important on long rides, especially ones with lots of climbing. Better to over-fuel than to take a chance on your body not having enough. I get out on the Kancamagus and was able to keep a decent pace on the flat part. It wasn’t long though before I could see in the distance a dark wall of clouds and I had heading right toward it. About half way up the steep part, the rain started and it came down quite hard. It didn’t affect my climbing any except that the wind also picked up and especially as I got near the summit, I could feel it against me. Particularly at this point in my ride, this climb seemed to go on a long time. I just wanted to get it over with but I think my apprehension about the coming descent caused it to seem longer.

I finally crested over the pass. All I can say is that the descent utterly sucked. The pavement is not good for one thing so even in dry conditions, it requires care but now it was not only wet but recently wet and I could see what appeared to be little bubbles that sometimes pop up when pavement first gets wet and the water mixes with the oil on the road. To make things worse, the temperature had dropped and I was soaking wet. I couldn’t stop shivering and this movement caused the bike to not be as steady as it normally would be. Those first few steep twists were kind of scary. I didn’t dare brake too hard but had to very careful cornering. After the steepest part had passed, things got somewhat better. After the hairpin turn, I felt more confident to let my speed run out some. For one thing, it was warmer and I wasn’t shivering as much. I had some pent up angst and was able to unleash that by hammering the remaining distance back to Lincoln. I passed a few cyclists on this stretch.

I pulled into the Visitor Center relieved and feeling a nice sense of accomplishment as this was my longest solo ride. So, I got wet twice but I’m still glad I seized this day. There were positives to the weather. There was no risk of overheating. Also, the crowds were sparse everywhere on the route. Even on the Kanc, I would go long stretches without seeing any cars. This loop is definitely a keeper and I hope to do it at least once per year going forward.

Stats:
Miles: 91.71
Time: 5:00:59
Average Speed: 18.28
Max Speed: 52.16MPH
Elevation Gain: 6565 feet = 71.58 feet per mile

Hurricane Mountain Ride Report - 6/14/2017

I got to Storyland just before 11:00 and was on the road by 11. There was more wind than I expected and I was going straight into it as I headed north on route 16. I prefer to ride with the wind to start if possible as it takes me a while to get into a rhythm but this was the situation today and I was against the wind all the way to Gorham. The Pinkham Notch climb is not particularly hard but I was exposed to the non-stop wind so it was a tougher slog than usual. I did enjoy the beautiful views of the Presidential Range to my left. I noticed there were still some snow fields on Washington.

Route 16 had been recently repaved from Dolly Copp to Gorham. I made my one stop to refuel at the Cumberland Farms there. It was only about 22 miles into the route so I was able to get away with just one bottle up to that point. I got Powerade, water and a protein bar. I resumed my ride now on route 2. This is not a pleasant road for cycling as there is a small shoulder and trucks pass frequently. I was only on it for about four miles though until I got to the left for North Road. I now had the wind more behind me and did not see a single car until I came out back on route 2 about 11 miles down the road. I do not use a GPS but rely on printed maps still. I took a wrong turn on Meadow but soon corrected my error. I really started to enjoy the ride more on North road as it passes through idyllic settings with zero cars.
I popped out on route 2 very briefly and then took 113 heading to Evans Notch. There was only one car that passed me on the whole ascent. With the wind behind me, I was riding close to 19MPH until the final steeper part leading to the notch itself. I stopped briefly there. The view is beautiful and very peaceful. I ate a Cliff gel there and readied myself for the descent. I had only climbed Evans Notch from the other direction before so this would be my first time doing the descent in this direction. All I can say is that it’s a descent that begs to be ripped! First, the surroundings are kind of unique. There’s a thick canopy of forest that makes it feel like you’re in a tunnel of sorts. Add in the perfect pavement and total absence of cars and just the right about of turns. Still, since it was my first time from this direction, I did brake some and only maxed out at 47MPH.

I had a nice adrenaline buzz at the bottom and continued still with the wind behind me on 113 (Stow Road). Again, this stretch of road was almost totally devoid of cars. Only one passed me in the stretch all the way to South Chatham Road. This road connects to Green Hill Road which eventually leads to the right onto Hurricane Mountain Road. I ate my last gel shortly before this. This ascent of Hurricane Mountain Road would be the big challenge of this ride. I had done the ascent from the other direction once before and had to stop twice because it was so hard. I HATED that and was determined to not let it happen from this side. The climb is rated a category 2 according to Strava. I approached it conservatively as I think part of the problem last time was doing too much standing early and my heart-rate went through the roof. This time I only stood when I had to due to its insane steepness. There were sections where you’d look ahead and just gasp at what appeared to be a wall in front of you (the sign says the climb is 17% grade). I’m happy to say I cleaned it this time with no stopping. I didn’t stop at the summit either but proceeded with the descent of the other side. Unlike the Evans Notch descent, this one did not beg to be ripped at all! The pavement is full of bumps and heaves. It addition to the steep grade the road twists constantly. I only let my speed run out to 30MPH and tried to give my rims even just seconds to cool down. I have to say, it was still a fun descent requiring constant attention to handling the bike as the corners are even sharper on this side.

I made to the bottom and came out on route 16. But did I continue on it using the quickest route back to Storyland? NO! I took the right onto 16A which leads to Thorn Hill Road. This was new territory for me. My legs were pummeled from the Hurricane ascent but I was ready for more punishment. This hill is 13% grade and I had to do a few more linked track stands at times again. I had also run out of water. But as Doug Jansen points out, no epic ride is truly great until it crosses over into death march territory. I finally made it to the top of Thorn Hill. The descent was okay but since it was my first time on the road, I had to hold it to 42MPH (speed limit was 25). I came to the end, took the left and went through a covered bridge before getting back on route 16. I emptied the tank on this last section back to Storyland. Now with the wind behind me, I topped out at 44MPH on the descent approaching the parking lot.

I got back to the car and grabbed the gallon of spring water. Water at 85 degrees never tasted so good. I took many gulps before I did anything else.

Stats:
Miles: 76.87
Time: 4:41:31
Average Speed: 16.38
Max Speed: 47MPH
Elevation Gain: 5479 feet = 71.28 feet per mile

This was my slowest mountain ride ever. Not sure what to say except that the 22 mile stretch into a strong wind to start was hard to overcome. I was at 17.6 before the Hurricane ascent. That really did a number on things. I’m still pleased with the ride and especially feel accomplished to have cleaned the toughest ascent in my cycling career.

Kinsman Ride Report - 9/21/2016

Kinsman Ride Report

I had one of those experiences when time slows way down and milliseconds are stretched to a crazy degree. I was about 35 miles into my ride, not going fast, perhaps low 20s along route 302 when a deer jumped out in front of me. The vegetation was very thick and I had no warning. It was literally no more than 10-15 feet in front of me. I had no time to react at all. All I did was look to my left as I simultaneously heard the screech of skidding tires and then a sickening thud and crunch as a pickup truck coming the opposite way collided with the large female deer. The truck left half of its front bumper in the middle of the road and, incredibly, just kept going.

Not only did I just miss the deer as it crossed in front of me, but the body then ricocheted off the truck back towards me landing in my lane probably 20 feet behind where my bike was. I remember instinctively ducking my head and expecting some kind of impact. I didn’t know if there was a car in my lane behind me or not. Fortunately there wasn’t. The whole episode took only seconds but every tiny part I distinctly remember.

I crossed the road and got off my bike. Another pickup had now pulled over and the driver asked if I was okay. He then started walking back to the carcass of the deer. It must have been killed instantly as I waited about five minutes to collect myself and it never moved.

It was a weird feeling to have had such a close call. I was a little shaken but continued with my ride. To go back a bit, my ride had gone well up to that point. I brought a different bike than the previous two times I had ascended Kinsman Notch heading west over its steepest part. This one had a low gear of 39X27 rather than 39X28 that I had had the previous two times. That did make a difference as I found I had to stand for the steepest part which was a 12.7% grade. I crested not feeling too bad though and continued down the other side into a slight headwind. I topped out at 42MPH. I then took the left onto route 116. It had been beautifully repaved all the way down to where it joins route 10. They were still doing some work on it and I had to stop at one point and then was instructed to continue in the opposite lane. There were three steeper sections that comprised the descent to route 10. On the first two I topped out at 41 and the last one at 43. That last section was particularly nice as there is a beautiful expansive view that I took in as I enjoyed the perfect pavement under my tires.

I then continued on route 10 which is also route 302 for part of the traverse over to route 117 (Sugar Hill Road). My deer incident occurred about four miles before the turn onto 117. About two miles before turning onto 117, I stopped at a Dollar General and refueled with Powerade, Kit Kats and Snickers with almonds. They had a bubbler there with excellent water so I didn’t need to buy any. I asked the cashier about how often they see deer and she said that it happens often. There was a sign several miles before this but it only warned of moose crossings.

I really enjoyed Sugar Hill Road (route 117). Not a single car passed me on my side of the road as I made my way over to route 18 and Franconia. The wind was now behind me and it helped with the climb up to the village. I passed a cyclist on the way and warned him about deer!

The descent into Franconia is enjoyable also. I topped out at 45MPH as I neared the T junction. There was plenty of time to slow down as I was cognizant of what was coming.
After briefly being on route 18, I took a right onto route 116 making my way back to route 112. I stopped briefly to consume the last of my Snickers and then began the ascent on this side of Kinsman Notch. It’s easier than the other side plus the wind, what there was of it, was behind me. My favorite part of the ride was now coming up: the descent of the other side of Kinsman. I had already set a speed record of 56.5MPH here the last time I did this so while I pedaled pretty hard into it, I didn’t go crazy. My speed this time was 54MPH which made it the third fastest for me. My bike was rock steady with nary a wiggle as I kept my body still with a light grip on the bars. It was exhilarating for sure but honestly, after the deer incident, my body was already loaded with adrenaline and I think it affected me less than other times. I finished the ride back to the Visitors’ Center and emptied my tank on what was mostly downhill riding.

Final Stats:
Miles: 70.36
Time: 3:48:47
Average Speed: 18.45 MPH
Max Speed: 54 MPH
Elevation Gain: 4716 feet = 67.03 feet per mile

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:
https://ridewithgps.com/routes/14860584