A few sections of the route, neither of us had been on. We trusted the IRR folks wouldn't do something too irreverent with road bikes, right? Should have read the description a little more closely of how the IRR came to be.
Starting in Roxbury, we immediately began climbing on W Hill Rd. I was telling Paul how it felt like another road I ride VT, saying beware when the power lines end. The power lines on these Class IV roads end at the last house, and road maintenance also ends. Sure enough, the power line stopped and the route immediately became more interesting. The climbing plateaued and the "road" turning into saturated black loam with 1-2ft deep water filled jeep ruts. IRR is sending road bikes down this a day after our ride? We had 38mm and 40mm tires on our cross bikes and couldn't ride parts of it. In one cesspool, nearly my entire front wheel submerged into the goo. Four miles into the ride, our bikes were trashed.
The next mile and a half were on and off the bike. Mostly on, but we could never trust the water holes. Did not want to endo into that stinky quagmire. I'm pretty sure I took two years off my rims as we began descending and the surface became gravel again. Fortunately, part way down there was a stream crossing in which to salvage the bikes. What would the next road on the other side of Rt 12A bring?
The next dirt climb, Cram Hill Rd, was much better. Gained a bit more than the first, about 800ft vertical. The descent on Connecticut Corners and Threshee roads was quite nice.
These first two climbs where just a warm up for one of the main attractions: Braintree Gap. This is another Class IV town road. I've ridden it once before from west to east, now we were hitting it east to west. I thought it was tough on a mountain bike last time, now we had skinny higher pressure tires, no disk brakes, and not nearly as low of gearing. Was it even rideable?
Turns out it was, but it was 30+ minutes of pure suffering. The doubletrack became increasingly rough and loose as the gap was reached. Much of the climbing was at a 15% grade and portions were steeper. The descent is what I feared though. I didn't clean it on a MTB last time, and it was strewn with tree debris and mud. Now we were going down that on cross bikes?
It wasn't that bad either. I think a couple sections might have been worked on, as I didn't notice the exposed ledgy sections that gave me grief when climbing that side last time. Sure was a waste of vertical though, death grip on the brakes the whole way. Continuing the descent to Rt 100 on open and closed gravels roads was much more like it, WFO at times.
We had hoped to re-supply in Hancock, but the general store there closed shop! It was fairly warm and a bit humid. My two bottles were already depleted. Fortunately we were able to fill bottles with water at the inn across the street, but I gathered maybe many before us had done the same. We left a tip.
Next up was Middlebury Gap, a paved up and over that I've done many times from both directions. Just grind it out and get it done. We re-supplied at the Ripton store on the other side, halfway down where we turned off to begin the next, new to us, dirt climb. Interestingly, everyone we met asked how far we were going and told us rain was on the way. I was sweating so much I would have welcomed rain.
I liked the next road, the Natural Turnpike. It turns into a well maintain seasonal forest service road. Because it passes through undeveloped land, it stays in the forest with no views. Paul didn't like it that much because of this. But it was a 1000ft climb on dirt road with no cars. The descent was unlike the others too, where a little work was needed to top out the speed. Because of tree cover, we couldn't see in Google maps if this road was going to be like the first one we hit. But after we crested the high point, all concerns were put to rest.
Even though many humps had been crested already, we still had two more really big ones to go. Next up was Lincoln Gap. I've never done this one from the west. I worried about brakes overheating on the east side 20-25% descent. The west side climb is no picnic to climb either. The grade tops out around 18-20% near the top. That did some damage. The plan was to drop down into Warren, resupply a last time, then hit Rox.
Paul seized up getting off the bike at the Warren general store. Hmm, that is usually me on rides like this. Maybe the potassium I started adding to my drink mix is working. Maybe all the weight bearing hiking I've been doing lately his helping. Who knows. We just had to get over one more hump, then it was literally all downhill back to the car.
I was dismayed to pass the "Pavement Ends" sign on Roxbury Gap only to find brand new asphalt where there used to be gravel. I asked a walker right there if it was paved all the way to the summit now. Yep. Bummer. From the summit most of the way down the east side is still gravel though. I suspect it won't be long.
I finished with exactly 5hrs moving time on my Garmin. Paul expected a faster average than that, but the long quagmire section really pulled that down. Still a great loop though, one I'd do again in a heartbeat with one tweak: cut out the muddy W Hill Rd section by dropping down Oxbow Rd to Rt 12A. That pops out very close to the next dirt road climb across Rt 12A. There's certainly no shortage of route possibilities here. This was probably the highest climbing density ride I've done on a road or cross bike.
Starting out on W Hill Rd. Still have power lines, so all is good.
Lost the power lines, now not all looks so good.
Sometimes your front wheel would just disappear into the abyss.
You just don't chance that with almost 5hrs to go!
Lucky to have conveniently placed stream for bike wash.
My bike all clean again.
North on Rt 12A to pick up Cram Hill Rd.
Connecticut Corners Rd descent.
Paul cresting Braintree Gap.
Myself coming down Braintree Gap.
Natural Turnpike near bottom on north end. I think that is Lincoln Peak in the distance,
which I mountain biked to the summit of a few weeks earlier.
Looking down the east side of Roxbury Gap, which is still gravel.
Paul at summit of Roxbury Gap, Recycle those streaming electrolytes!