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.
Average Speed: 18.28
Max Speed: 52.16MPH
Elevation Gain: 6565 feet = 71.58 feet per mile