Keith Button is training for some ultra endurance events coming up soon too, a few 100 mile MTB races. Keith thought a climby, semi-off road loop in the Whites sounded like a good idea for a humid day.
Starting out, Keith asked about how long of a warmup we'll get before the first climb. Um, that just was the warmup! My sadistic route heads right up Campton Mtn. I had reasonably fresh legs and wanted to hit the first two climbs slightly anaerobic, then back off a little for the rest of the ride.
Campton Mtn has some exceedingly steep pitches near the top, nearing 20% grade. The way I saw it, the "easy" 10% first half was the warmup for the upper section. That felt pretty good.The climb is mostly paved, the descent mostly gravel on almost as steep gradients. That was a quick 1200ft of climbing.
With barely a breather in between, Sandwich Notch is attacked next. The paved start quickly gives way to rough jeep road gravel further up. Again, there are several upper-teens pitches on this 1000ft climb. I waited for Keith a bit at the top, and when he appeared, sounds were coming from his drive train that should never come from a drive train. His chain was failing. Well, at least it didn't interrupt a good climb.
Fortunately, I brought my Camelbak on this hot day, where I carry everything but the kitchen sink. I had spare Shimano 9spd pins and chain breaker. A link on his Shimano chain looked like maybe it was mis-stamped. A pin didn't hold. Pushing the pin out was challenging because the link was a little bent and the pin wasn't lining up to push out. My sweet all-stainless Lezyne chain tool broke. SOB! Now what? Best option at the time seemed to be to push the bent over plate back on the existing pin in the chain and pray it holds. You generally can't get away with this anymore since Shimano changed their design many years ago. You must use a new pin. It seemed to work, but Keith is a big guy and can put out mad Watts.
Two-thirds of the back-stop broke away. Images of new versions of this tool show
Lezyne greatly beefed up this area. Not a cheap tool. Hoping Lezyne will send me
this replacement piece.
After rolling along many miles of back gravel roads, we came to a cut-through I wanted to explore. The Strava Heat Map was lightly lit up, so I knew people were riding it. Was it only in winter on groomed snowmobile trails? On MTBs because terrain is so rough? Only one way to find out.
It starts as Town Farm Rd, a barely used logging road. As the grade steepened, so did the roughness. It was fully rideable on cross bikes though. As we reached the high point, the "road" was barely there, more like a singletrack down what may have been a logging route a century ago. Cool riding, but the few stream crossing were too much to risk riding through on cross bikes. Some very slow going through this two mile section, but worth checking out. I probably wouldn't ride this on a cross bike again, but would love to find a way to work into one of my MTB loops in the area.
Crossing under I-93 brought us to the next climb, Bog Road. It is gravel most of the way up and all the way down, quite choppy because a very large aggregate gravel is laid down on much of it. Perfect for cross bikes.
Heading up Stinson Rd to the lake, Keith's chain let go again. We got this far by just pushing the plate back on the pin, so we thought why not try that again. We had just this one climb left. But no. It failed almost right away again. There went my Strava score! Actually, I don't give a shit about that anymore. This time, we had to figure out how to use my broken tool to remove links and put a new pin in. Wasn't easy. I also carry a small pliers. A pliers with the tool were enough to hold the chain together while pushing a pin in. Surprised the remaining nub left on the tool didn't crack off.
The descent back to Campton on paved Ellsworth Rd was brutal. This used to be a 50+mph rip, but now the road is so busted up that even on cross bikes with 38mm tires, you don't dare let your speed run out.
It was seriously hot at lower elevations as we finished. I was thinking a dip in the Mad River would be a perfect way to cap off a fine ride. We finished the 100k loop in 4.6hrs with 6800ft of climbing.
Keith topping out on Sandwich Notch with barely holding together chain.
Algonquin Rd along the Beebe River
Town Farm "Road"
Keith descending back side of Town Farm "Road"
Stream crossing on Town Farm
Instant post ride cool-down in the Mad River