Monday, November 8, 2010
It's transition season here in New England, that period between short sleeve riding and Nordic activities. Many gravitate towards cyclocross competition. CX perhaps stirs more enthusiasm than road and mountain bike competition combined. Given my genetic predisposition and training habits, CX could potentially be a good fit for me. But it requires considerable handling skill, and I need some portion of the year where I need not stress over competition. I choose fall. I prefer to take advantage of the cooler temps, usually dry conditions and lack of bugs by riding off road. No training pressures, no racing, just pure riding bliss.
Saturday Dave P and I finally hit the White Mountains on cross bikes. After two full days of rain, local trail riding was not viable. Scouring over Google Earth maps, I scouted out some new terrain in the Whites to sample. Our plan was to hit as much back road material as possible that is not suitable for road bikes but a mountain bike would be overkill on. One of my favorite such loops is Sandwich Notch/Campton Mountain. This loop can be extended by going over Tripoli Road, but that involves a lot of paved riding for a few miles of gravel that is usually road bikeable. Another area I've never ridden is west of I-93. Over the last couple years, readers have recommended climbs on that side. My plan was to ride up Ellsworth Hill Rd, wrap around Stinson Lake on dirt road of same name, then on way back down from Rumney, pick up wildcard East Rumney Rd. I had no idea of condition of this last road. Was it paved? Did it even go through? All I knew is it had a sizable climb in it.
I suspected double track Algonquin Rd would be very wet along the Beebe River. Thus Dave and I opted to ride the Sandwich Notch loop in reverse and climb upstream along the river. This would reduce the wetness factor. It proved to be a wise choice with lots of standing water. Algonquin Rd is a gated forest service road. On Saturday, however, there was some equipment back in there brushing out a power line through the mountains. Algonquin Rd ends on Sandwich Notch Rd, which climbs more earnestly. Dave turned on the afterburners for the last few hundred feet of climbing. I called him names upon summitting between gasps. I secretly hoped he'd pay for that later.
Still on dirt, we bomb down the north side of Sandwich Notch. Pretty dicy on cross bikes at 20% grade, high speed and rutted out surface. After very brief stint on Rt 49, we're back on dirt on Chickenboro Rd climbing Campton Mtn. This is the second climb in the profile below. It's a total spanker that keeps on giving. Reaching the highest point by bike is a bit questionable. If ever asked, "I have a map that shows it as public land access." The view is nice.
A mostly paved descent took us back to the car to top off water and head out for stage two of our ride. Ellsworth Hill threw some deliciously steep pitches at us. MattK says he hits 55mph coming down this road. That kind of speed would seem pretty sketchy to me with blind dips and bends. As we neared Stinson Pond, the road turns to dirt and undulates. Wouldn't you know it, a town line appears when we're already pretty much tapped out. We go for it anyway. I held about a 4" lead over Dave for the longest time to the line. Stupid. We both wobbled all over the road cross-eyed after that one. This gravel section lasted only a few miles before picking pavement up around the lake. The climb offered many views to the north and east, and the lake was highly scenic too. The gravel was well groomed with minimal traffic.
Coming into Rumney, we took Quincy Rd down to East Rumney Rd. This quickly turned to gravel. It was the very bumpy, large aggregate kind of surface, something you'd never want to ride a road bike on. A couple miles in the climbing began, often steep. We were in Rumney and heading back to the car in Campton. There had to be another town line around here, right? We were both trigger happy. Dave got me going on a green house number sign one time. When the town line finally came into sight, it was on the descent and I was ahead. No killing each other this time.
We got back to the car with nearly 56 miles on the odometer in 3.9hrs riding time. The ride entailed around 6000ft of climbing, mostly on dirt. I'd guess about 40% of the route was gravel, but well over 50% of the time was spent on gravel. A chilly day with temps only in the 30's, but a great day to be on two wheels.