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