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, ridewithgps.com, 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!
5147 feet elevation gain = 67.40 feet per mile
53.65 MPH max speed