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:

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Ride Report for May 29, 2016 - Bow Lake

We went up to Bow Lake, NH today. As usual, I brought my bike and this time had a new route planned with almost all roads I had never ridden before. The first 15 miles were on numbered routes but then I was veering into the back country.

I knew from past experience that I could just about be guaranteed to hit gravel roads. I did but the first few miles of such were not bad. I always prefer pavement but these were in most cases well-packed. There was one point where I missed a turn because it really wasn't a road that my map claimed was there. It was more of a path. I realized I was off course and looked for someone for help. A nice man stopped his mower when I approached him and used his phone GPS to show me where I was and how to get back to my mapped course. The site I used to map my ride It doesn't distinguish between gravel and paved. It also doesn't distinguish between gravel and path!

I was soon back on pavement and on route 43. From there I took a slight short-cut and missed the very beginning of Old Mountain road. I found out later that there is prominent sign there that says "No Outlet". Not knowing this, I followed my route and did the anticipated relatively steep 12% climb. After reaching the apex, I began the descent only to notice gravel ahead. I slowed. It wasn't long before the gravel turned into a rocky and muddy "road" with roots. I had 2 more miles to go on my planned route before I'd reach the next road.

Soon, the road narrowed into what was really a path. I didn't have great confidence riding a road bike and being clipped in. I did all my mountain biking not using clipless pedals. I got into a rutted section and all of sudden low branches forced me to try to get out of it and I was unable to unclip in time. I was hardly moving but I tipped over on my left side hurting my wrist and some ribs. Not terribly so but it knocked the wind out of me.

I carried on because I really didn't know how to get back without continuing to follow this route. My phone doesn't have GPS. The path dipped sharply and was barely ride-able. I decided to press on but as I went a little further there was a gate. I could see that after the gate the path had devolved into something I wouldn't attempt. There was overgrown grass about waist-high and mud everywhere. It looked like it had been used very little by even walkers.

Now I was faced with a dilemma as my printed out maps didn't show me alternate ways to get back. I decided to reverse direction to the point of reaching the apex again of the steep hill and hoped to have cell phone service. I did and was able to place a call to ask for directions. It turned out that route 43 would intersect with where I needed to go so it didn't take long for me to get back. That descent on Old Mountain road was very twisty, steep and technical. I took it conservatively as my nerves were somewhat shot from the recent difficulties. I made it back the rest of the way without incident though my lift shifter wasn't working that well because I had landed on it.

Today's ride was certainly an adventure. Gravel roads I can take but paths that prevent following your planned route are not pleasant and not something I enjoy on a road bike. I might try a variation of this route again but will know what to avoid. It was still an enjoyable experience very much out of my ordinary day to day routine. I saw some nice remote areas that I've never been to and got in lots of hilly riding - my preferred terrain for cycling.

Final Stats:
Distance: 41.03 miles
Time: 2:18:22
Average Speed: 17.79
Max Speed: 42.0
Elevation Gain: 2594 feet = 63.22 feet per mile

Ride report for June 15, 2016
From WMVC in Lincoln, NH: 112/116/18/142/302/3/bike path/18/116/112

I experienced some firsts with this ride – my first time seeing a bear in the White Mountains and a new high speed record!

The day didn’t start auspiciously as I woke at 4AM and knew I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep. I tried to rest until 5 but then got up and made coffee. I left the house around 7 and pulled into Subway in Lincoln at around 9:30. I got a 6 inch chicken salad sub and a cookie. After polishing these off, I parked at the White Mountain Visitor Center.

No matter what direction you take from this start, you’re going to face some steep climbing soon. It’s not ideal to eat this close to the start of the ride knowing this exertion is coming. I should perhaps eat on the way up instead. The route I planned would have a stop at about 29 miles at a store so this helped in that I only filled one water bottle and thus had less weight to climb with.

After a few short miles I began my ascent of Kinsman Notch on 112 heading into a pretty stiff wind. It’s a tough way to start the ride but I didn’t find the climb quite as challenging as the one other time I did it. I was thinking already that if this wind held for my return trip, it would make for an interesting descent because then it would be with me!

I crested the notch and pedaled quite hard into the descent but had the wind against me. I only topped out at just over 42MPH. At about 12 miles into the ride, I took the right onto route 116. It had been repaved. While it was definitely an improvement, I noticed that they had used a very thin coat of new pavement and cracks were already starting to form.

I made it to the junction of route 18, took a right and then soon took a left onto route 142. There’s a considerable amount of climbing as this heads towards Bethlehem. I was on the last climb before reaching the apex when I saw movement perhaps 200 feet ahead of me on the road. At first I wasn’t sure what animal it was but it soon became apparent that this large and very furry creature was a bear! I didn’t really know what to do. There were no cubs behind it so I figured it probably would just continue on its way after crossing the road. I thought of stopping to wait a bit but really wanted to keep going. Route 142 is very quiet so I got over to the yellow line in the middle of the road. I’m not sure what those few feet away from the side would have really done but by now my adrenaline was pumping and I hauled up the rest of the climb, taking many looks behind me! I was not followed. I then saw a sign for the 11% grade descent that would take me into Bethlehem. I had taken this route before from the other direction so I knew this was coming. I had the wind behind me and was really hopped up on the adrenaline. I ended up maxing out at 49.17MPH and had plenty of time to slow down before coming to the stop light in town. I’d have to say that, after taking it in both directions, the best way to enjoy the vertical would be in this direction. When I took it the other way, the descent featured worse pavement and at the end I had to brake quite hard coming to the intersection with route 18.

I stopped at the store in Bethlehem and between the bear encounter and that descent right afterwards, I was in an altered state. I had to really think of what I was doing in there. I grabbed some Gatorade, water, peanut butter M&M’s and an apple pastry. I filled both water bottles this time and downed the food. I was soon continuing on route 302. I had the wind behind me and there’s a nice 7% descent heading in this direction so it wasn’t long before I came to route 3. However, on the way I saw two moose in a bog to the right.

I faced some wind on route 3 but the pavement is fantastic and it was a pleasant traverse. I had never taken the bike path before but saw the parking lot sign and underneath it a picture of a bike. There was no one else on the bike path so I wasn’t slowed in any way. It soon ended with route 18 beginning. I enjoyed the views of Cannon mountain as I approached and crossed route 93. This was all virgin road to me. I had been cautioned about the pavement on the descent on route 18. It’s marked as a 10% grade for 2 miles. I had the whole road to myself so could pick my line. I confess to some braking but still managed to almost reach 47MPH. There were some cracks in the pavement and some frost heaves to watch out for. The pavement wasn’t nearly as bad though as the Gonzo Pass descent on the other side of route 116. The downside to the not-so-great pavement is that I had to semi-stand to cushion the bumps and therefore couldn’t really rest my legs on the descent. I would say it was still a fun descent albeit one where you really need to be careful.

I came back to route 116 and took the left. The wind was now more behind me. I arrived back on route 112 and took the left to begin the ascent of Kinsman Notch from this other side. It’s not nearly as bad from this direction at only 9% grade plus the wind was now behind me. I reached the summit and did not pause. I pedaled as hard as I could into the 12% grade descent knowing the wind was behind me. Time seemed to slow. I had the whole lane to myself and could feel my velocity swiftly increasing. I could sense I was in new territory speedwise. The wind swirled some and I was also now 70 miles into the ride so my legs weren’t as steady. About midway through the descent, I felt some shimmy. I didn’t panic though and calmly put both my legs against the top tube of my bike. This worked immediately to steady the bike completely. The descent went on but when I had finally slowed a fair amount, I looked at my computer: MAX SPEED 56.50MPH!!!! I was psyched as I had never been able to top the 55 I had done on this very descent way back in 2003. The rest of the ride was easy as I poured the last of my energy to finish back at the Visitor Center.

Final Stats:
Distance: 76.72 miles
Time: 4:12:10
Average Speed: 18.25
Max Speed: 56.50
Elevation Gain: 5309 feet = 69.20 feet per mile

I’m not overly thrilled with that average speed but given the wind and the lack of sleep, it’s okay. With all the bad news going on the world, it was so nice to take a complete break and not think of anything else but the mountains and my bike! I’d highly recommend this route.