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.
Distance: 48.87 miles
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.