Gonzo, Long Pond, Franconia, Kancamagus
Despite it being a so-so day for riding in the mountains, three of us headed up as planned anyway. Overnight rain was slow to move out, and we had the wipers on most of the drive up. We parked in Lincoln at the visitor center.
Glen had late afternoon commitments, so I planned a loop that got him back to the cars in time. Then Dave and I had a couple options for continuing the ride, including out and backs on the Kanc and/or Tripoli Rd.
Starting off just before 9am, it was still raining lightly. Gonzo Pass was first on the list. The climb pretty much starts right away, the steep stuff starting about 3.5 miles from the cars. Not much of a warmup, but when the temp is in the low 40's and it's raining out, you don't want to dilly-dally about. You'll freeze before you get to the real stuff. Coming out of a packed work week (I worked all day Saturday), my legs were fairly fresh. I planned to kill the first couple climbs and pay the consequences later. Once bearing off on Rt 118, I quickly dropped Glen and Dave. The rain stopped, blue patches started to open up. Life was good. I reached the top in 40 minutes into the ride, probably only 25 of this going hard on Rt 118. I'm sure it's one of my fastest ascents up Gonzo. Nothing like a good endorphin buzz in the morning.
Regrouping, dirt Long Pond Rd was next. Perhaps I rave here too much about Long Pond Rd, but I have a particular fondness for big dirt road climbs. A few of my favorites are Mt Hopkins in AZ, Mt Wilson in CA, and back side of Mt Lemmon in AZ. I can't think of anything not to like about them and many things to like about them. Some days we encounter zero cars on Long Pond Rd (we saw three today). There is zero development on this road. No power lines. Just a single lane of gravelly goodness. I attacked this climb pretty hard too, but climbing Gonzo at near race pace left my legs a tad limp.
Long Pond Rd
Since Glen didn't have time to do the Kanc or Tripoli, I showed Glen and Dave an alternate route to Franconia via Sugar Hill to spice up the ride a bit. It is a series of rollers that lose almost as much vertical as is gained each climb. Eventually you reach the village of Sugar Hill at the top and are rewarded with views and a nice 600ft descent to Franconia. Our only food stop was here. We continued on Rt 18, a 10% climb to the base of Cannon Ski Area. Now I really felt the two earlier efforts. My 38x27 minimum gearing was not sufficient. I had to wait much less time for Dave and Glen on this one. Either they were getting faster, or I was dying.
Franconia Notch from Rt 18 overpass
I normally avoid the Franconia Notch bike path at all costs. In the summer it is packed with clueless tourists. It has many abrupt turns and changes of pitch too. It was nearly vacant today. I feared it would be covered deep with juicy leaves, but leaf drop was complete a long time ago in the Notch and the path was clean. However, it stays pretty wet in the notch this time of year, and there was a brilliant green film of moss covering it in places. Way scary when tempted to rip 30+mph on a four foot wide curvy path.
The three of us exercised some caution and survived the path. Popping back out of the Notch in Lincoln, Glen headed back to his car and Dave and I head upward one more time. We saved the biggest and baddest for last, the Kanc. From Lincoln, it gains over 2000ft, the last 3.5 miles at 9% grade according to the sign up top. I don't think I could even muster tempo pace at this point. My quads were useless blubber. As the summit neared, it started to sprinkle again. It was warm and sunny in Lincoln beginning the Kanc climb. It's funny how quickly the weather changes in the mountains. It never got very wet though, and the sun came back out during the descent.
Summit of Kancamagus Pass in light rain
The 13 mile descent back to Lincoln was sweet. That was going to be it for this ride. Dave and I tallied 87.2 miles, 9062 feet vertical in 5:15hrs riding time. Pretty slow average, but when you consider one of the descents is riding brakes on dirt the whole way, the other riding brakes on moss covered slimy path, average ride speed is irrelevant. The hill intervals made it a hard ride. I've ridden variants of this loop in all seasonal conditions. One thing that is cool riding after leaf drop is you see so much more. Plus hydration is not an issue. In 5:15hrs saddle time, I consumed 3.5 bottles of water. I'll do 2-3x this rate on 6-Gaps when it's warmer.