Sunday, November 11, 2018

Roubaix de Putnam dans la neige

It's been a 4 years since the last time I rode the dirt roads of Putnam County so I planned a course for Will and I to follow that hit a lot of what we rode last time only from a different direction. I posted the ride on the Northeast Gravel Riders Facebook group to see if anyone else was looking for a dirty ride this Saturday. There was one taker.  

I met Will and Curt at the Clarence Fahnstock Memorial Park parking lot off of Rt 301 just west of the Taconic Parkway.  This was the first time I got to see Will's new Cannondale Slate, and it was quite impressive. As we headed down Rt 301 to the first dirt road, Old Forge Road, it was a lot colder than I had anticipated. However, I was dressed perfectly, and figured once we started climbing it would warm up. The interesting thing about this route is that the big climbs started early on and they were huge!

The first climb was Miller Hill and it has an average grade of 7% with a max grade of 14% but it's not quite a mile. The descent on the other side is crazy steep and the only down side is right after you cross under the Taconic Parkway, the course turns abruptly west onto Hortontown Road.  

The next climb is Long Hill and it's aptly named. It's an average 10% grade with a max of 15%. After crossing the Appalachian Trail it actually started to flurry!  And the last big climb, and the longest of the three is East Mountain Road that has an average 9% grade and a max of 13% for almost 2 miles.

Then the route got interesting. I had found the Trial map for Clarence Fahnestock Memorial Park on line and noticed that there was a multi-use trail on the west side that was open to bikes. I was hoping that it was going to be an old woods road but when we rode up on it turned out to be single track. We headed down it any way because it was petty nice.

Photo Credit: Curt Cess

There was a stream crossing that I navigated easily by walking over the stepping stones and pushing my bike through the water but the guys were having a much harder time. They started out first trying to look for alternative route.

Will tried one way while Curt resigned himself to finally go the way I went.  Will wasn't having much luck on the crossing point he chose and finally followed Curt across.

After the stream crossing there were a few sections of the trail that were rideable but it was quickly becoming evident that this route was turning into a Napoleon's Death March.

Will was carrying his bike most of the time. Since Curt had a bad ankle he wasn't enjoying this hike-a-bike either, and neither was I. We had gone a half mile and there was still another 3.5 miles of trail to go. It was clear that we had to go back. 

So we turned around and headed back to East Mountain Road.  After crossing the stream again we were able to at least ride out with our heads held high after making a valiant attempt. Anyone looking to to try School Mountain Road (Trail) I would recommend a full suspension mountain bike.

Getting back onto East Mountain Road we began the long and chilly descent down to North Highland.  We headed into town and stopped at the B and L Deli to get something to eat and warm up a bit. When I asked if I could get my water bottle topped off the guy at the counter said he couldn't do that. I didn't feel a need to ask why because I could tell by the way he looked at me that he thought I didn't belong there or something.  I made sure to leave a comment on their Facebook Page and update Roubaix to Brew with the same information.  The next time I do this course, I am not stopping at the B and L Deli.

From the Deli we headed back on Rt 9 and then veered off onto Jay Cox Road, which turned into a narrow, and winding dirt road punctuated with short but steep climbs. Along the way we passed two gravel riders coming from the other direction. When I looked on Strava Flybys they were riding a lot of what we were riding, too. 

Photo Credit: Will Mansfied

Turning onto Lane Gate Road began the long climb back to Rt 9.  The wind also seemed to pick up a bit, then clouds came in, the temperature dropped and it started snowing, only this time pretty hard. 

We came out on Rt 9 and headed south and then turned off onto Old Albany Road, which is a 6.5 mile dirt road that takes us down to the southern most section of the course.  Right after the intersection with Indian Brook Road, which is a wicked fast dirt road descent, there is a formidable climb. It's a little over a mile and has an average 10% grade with a max grade nearing 13%.  At the bottom of Old Albany Road we came out on a paved road called Spruce Brook that we took to a dirt road called Horton Hollow.  

Coming back out to pavement we continued north and turned off onto Bell Hollow, which to my disappointment appeared to have been recently paved. It wasn't a few years ago. Bell Hollow turns into some rough dual track, 4x4 trail, that eventually leads to Sunken Mine Road. Some sections were more rideable than School Mountain Road (Trail) but there was still some hike-a-bike.  It wasn't, however a Napoleon's Death March. 

Photo Cred: Will Mansfield

Sunken Mine Road was a treat. It had some punchy climbs but the scenery was awesome, especially the pond. After the pond, the route was supposed to pickup the old Sunken Mine Railroad bed but we were done with trails on this ride. We headed out to Dennytown Road and then Rt 301 back to the parking area.

We ended the day with a trip down to Elmsford, NY to the Captain Lawrence Brewery for some rice bowls and beer. Their Oktoberfest/Marzen Beer and the food was perfect after the ride. The brewery was packed, and there were so many kids! They even had a beer tent open.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Getting Fat at the Blow Hole

It's been a long time since I last rode the Blow Hole and for those of you who don't know what I am talking about there was a legend about this place going back a few centuries that sailors used to say when the blew through here it would speed up their journey.  There could be some truth to that given that there is a high banked gully formed by streams that spill out to the Connecticut River and I bet if the wind was coming from the west it would channel through it and create a wind channel to push out over the river.  Nowadays, I doubt that could happen with all the trees.

Today, the Blow Hole is called River Highlands State Park and it's a diamond in the rough of urbanization. In the early days the park was ravaged by motos and atv's but since its official re-designation as a State Park, it has been transformed into a little known mountain biking paradise. It's not what I would call a Riding Destination like Rockland or Case Mountain, but if you are local to the area and just looking for a quick ride with plenty of well maintained single track then this is your ticket.

Monday, October 15, 2018

I got lei'd at F2G2

Having missed last year's Fall Foliage Gravel Grinder due to breaking my ankle I wasn't going to miss this year's event. In fact, as soon as I heard that it was on again I was the first one to sign up! Even the weather wasn't going to be a deterrent, and that wasn't looking so good when I checked the forecast earlier in the week. 

Photo Cred: William Mansfield
Leaving Will's place near Chatham, Saturday morning it was raining. It rained the whole time we drove to Becket and it was raining when we mounted our bikes and started climbing Fred Snow Road.  Will and I left about 45 minutes before the official start and it was raining. We were joined buy a guy from New Haven by the name of Dwight. What I noticed about Dwight's bike was that he was carrying 4 water bottles! Apparently, he was training for the Dirty Kanza and he planned to drink all of those bottles during this ride.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Roubaix to Brew: Norbrook Farm Brewery

Do you what the best part of starting a ride from a brewery is? 
The end of the ride!

I have been waiting all summer for the Norbrook Farm Brewery to open. Last spring, I was updating my Roubaix to Brew map and adding more Connecticut Breweries to it when I saw Norbrook Farms come up in the results. Finally a brewery in the Northwestern part of Connecticut that is just south of some of the best dirt road riding around. Now that the brewery is open, it was time to plan a ride. While it was a little chilly in the morning you could not have asked for a more beautiful day to ride.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Autumn Roubaix Cyclefest: Hard Route

Northwest Connecticut's first official Gravel Grinder, The Autumn Roubaix Cyclefest, was a huge success. After two months of pitching this ride on the interwebs, putting cards on people's windshields, riding the routes and creating cue sheets it was finally happening.

As with any first time event there are always glitches.  Fast Track Timing lost my registration so I had to settle for the first available number when I was the first one to sign up! There were some hiccups with the cue sheets which sent people in the wrong direction and the water/food stop on Barker Road closed up shop early or maybe I was too slow.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

2nd Annual Ashford Metric Gravel Grinder

Mike Sage-Robinson joined Will and I for the second running of the Ashford Metric Century Gravel Grinder. We got there late due to overnight construction work going in Hartford that was wrapping up and Route 84 was blocked. Mike had us cut through downtown Hartford and I think we made out a little better.

NERAC Earth Cycling club, based in the Ashford area, organizes this ride.  It was a foggy start at the Ashford Memorial Park but the temperature was perfect. At the pre-ride briefing they mentioned that there would be some big water puddles to go around and a tree blocking one of the roads that you should either go over or under but don't go around.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Thirsty Thursday: Post Ride Snack

It would appear that the Maine Beer Company has caught on to the fact that a lot of cyclists really like their beer and perhaps this latest offering is paying homage to that reality?

It's a Session and it's juicy but not overly citrusy and it makes for the perfect Post Ride Snack.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

A Great Day for a Bike Commute

I was planning on going fishing after work but my friend from work with the boat hurt himself so I opted to finish the month with my 5th Bike commute for August.  Now that school is in session this is probably the last week I can get two rides to work in the same week.  Granted, I haven't been very good this year with keeping a regular bike commuting schedule. In fact, this ride will make my 14th ride to work this year for a total of 800+ miles.  I will need 4 more commutes to break a 1000 miles.  I think I might get them all in September.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Thirsty Thursday: Jack's Abby Copper Legend

Jack's Abby does it again with another outstanding lager.  Copper Legend, Octoberfest taste really good. The only downside is it doesn't have that Märzen flavor associated with just about all the German Octoberfest beers that I have had. Still, it's light enough to be enjoyed after a hard ride or fishing all day on Long Island Sound!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

NWCT Autumn Roubaix Route Recon

I thought it might be a good idea to spend a day reconnoitering the course I designed for the NWCT Autumn Roubaix Classic to see if there were any surprises on the route. The original thought was to have an easy and hard route, so I decided to ride the hard route, of course. The difference lies in two climbs, Front of the Mountain and Kent Road North.

Front of the Mountain is a beast of a climb that starts out at a 7% grade and then doubles to 14% in the middle of the climb and by the time you turn onto Long Mountain Road your are still climbing a 9% grade. I did it without having to stop, however, there were a few sections that were really dry and I almost spun out.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Do you want to know where the dirt is in the Northeast?

Northeast Gravel Riders
Facebook Group · 42 members
Join Group
If you like riding dirt roads and are looking for routes to ride, meet other riders, or learn a new area to ride in the Northeast this is the place.

Friday, August 24, 2018


The Housatonic Valley Chapter of NEMBA's Thirsty Thursday BYOB (Bring Your Own Bike) ride series has a breath of new life.  Nick, from Waterbury, and I rode the Upper Gussy from start to finish, and we checked out the reroute that was done on the southern part of the forest, yeah the closed section. It's too bad that there are bad actors in the mountain biking community who just do as they please. Your illegal work here is just going to ruin it for everyone in the future, especially when I want to add a new trail.

It's been awhile since I was in the forest and discovered a trouble spot on the new reroute. Looks like I will need to do some more armoring but it looks like people aren't waiting at least 24 hours after a big rain for the trails to dry out and that makes me sad.

It's getting to the point in the evenings where you need lights around 7:30 or so.  Nick had a handle bar light and we were able to see reasonably well. I kept might light on low mode because I wasn't sure how much charge was on the battery.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Thirsty Thursday: Platform "Seeing Sounds" IPA

I had a couple of "Seeing Sounds" IPAs from at My Place (local Italian restaurant with an awesome tap selection in Newtown, CT) and it was incredible! It's a hazy American IPA reminiscent of a wheat beer and the same kind of hoppiness only missing that wheat beer flavor, but then again its not really a wheat beer. For an American IPA is really juicy and easy to drink one or three.  

Monday, August 20, 2018

A Rainy 156K Mystery at D2R2

The first thing we did Saturday morning was download the Long and Short Mystery Routes and then it started to rain! 

The weather report was saying rain in the morning and a midday shower. This was turning out to be the wettest D2R2 on record, for me, however not the wettest gravel grinder.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Prelude to D2R2: Camping in the rain

If you want to have the full D2R2 experience, you need to camp out before the ride. It's also nice to camp out after the ride so you don't have to cut your celebration short. This is my second year camping out and it's a blast. Especially since, I have fallen in with this great group of guys, and a lady, whom I met through one of my riding buddies, Mike.

Friday, August 10, 2018

NWCT Autumn Roubaix Classic

This fall, on September 23, 2018, Hunt Hill Farm, Northwest Connecticut’s experiential learning center of art, in New Milford Connecticut, is hosting a bicycling touring event on the scenic dirt roads of Northwestern Connecticut. The event supports Hunt Hill Farms’ children’s and emerging artists’ programs. The ride will feature three metric distances (30km, 60km, 100km) followed by a concert and cookout.

Where:  Hunt Hill Farm, 44 Upland Road, New Milford, CT
Time:    9am Ride,  1pm Cookout and Concert
Route:   Starting in New Milford, the routes will also cover stretches in Washington, Roxbury,
Gaylordesville, Kent, Sharron, Warren, Kent Hollow and New Preston Connecticut.
Cost: Riders pay $75 for 30km, $85 for 60km, and $95 for 100km.

For more information and to register for the event please go to: 

Thursday, August 09, 2018

D2R2 Primer

Need to get ready for D2R2? 
Then, let's start climbing!

Front of the Mountain
Ore Hill
Kent Road North


Start Location:  Youngs Field, New Milford, CT
7 AM

Thirsty Thursday: Jack's Abbey Post Shift Lager

Except for those fruity beers, you cannot go wrong at the Abby.  This pilsner is light and crispy that reminds me of those hot days back in Austria when we had no air conditioning and drinking a cold beer really cooled you off.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Hippy Roubaix to Brew: Kent Falls Ride #2

My company has summer hours, which means, I can pop smoke at 1 PM. When Steve Taylor, a cyclist whom I connected with through Instagram said that he would be spending another week this year in Newtown, I suggested that we get together for a gravel ride in Litchfield County. I gave him a couple of routes to explore on his own but if you are going to ride gravel up here, you really should have a guide. The one thing that had me a little nervous, however, was the weather. According to the weather channel, it looked like we could get a shower or two around 5 PM.

I picked up Steve from his Air BnB and we headed up to the Roxbury Market.  There we met Andy Engel and Ben Maxwell. We got on the road and headed north via Judds Bridge and then up the Shepaug Railroad bed, through the tunnel and on to Washington Depot. It was a spectacular day.

Riding through Washington Depot, you'd think that there was no chance or rain today but it seems to be Monsoon Season in Southern New England this week and one minute it can be like this and the next we could get a thunderstorm and then it's raining cats and dogs. 

Riding through the tunnel is fun but riding through Hidden Valley always seems to be a little more exciting. Not sure if that's because of the railroad bed and proximity to the river or the remoteness of the location. The rocks on the trail were really greasy and everyone was taking it easy.

There is one little bridge that I have ridden before but given today's conditions my pucker factor was up and at the last minute I decided to walk it but my dismount, on the bridge, was bad and I ended up going over somewhat. The only thing that stopped me from going over completely was the three teeth of my big ring digging into my leg.

When we came out onto Romford Road we got a brief shower and then as we were climbing up Whittlesey it became a light shower.  At the top, we stopped for a snack under a big Oak tree that provided some cover.

Photo Credit:  Steve Taylor
I was literally stuffing my face with this awesome homemade energy bar that Steve makes when he took that picture. He brought one for all of us and it was insanely good.  Lots of different nuts on the outside and dried fruit on the inside made for the perfect all natural energy bar.

The rain had tapered off a bit while we were riding down Rt 202.  Then we took to Flirtation Avenue and it started raining lightly again.  Passing by the town beach on Lake Waramaug the light shower started to get heavier and then rounding the bend on West Shore Road it became a full on downpour. I thought about trying to find a tree to hang out under but I was so soaked it wouldn't really have mattered so we pushed on to the brewery.

At the brewery there were some other cyclists who had ridden from Litchfield but they were much more dryer than we were which means they probably only got a light shower before getting to the brewery. It was the perfect temperature in the brewery. The rain never let up and after a few lightning flashes and a power flicker, the rain just got steadier and heavier. 

I had the Danny Boy, a German styled lager, which tasted great. I decided that is what I will be taking home in my Hydro Flask only to find out that the flask was leaking. So I treated Ben and Andy to another round! We put on our rain jackets because it was still raining when we left and started climbing up Camps Road and then climbing even more up Gunn Hill.

The hill on Camps combined with the climb up Gunn Hill is a 4% average grade for almost a mile. The pouring rain made it all the more difficult. Then we bombed down Finlay Road, cut across 202 and then made our way over to Chestnut Hill.  The climb up Walker Brook was nice and the rain actually started to taper off somewhat.  The descent down Walker Brook was a blast but the grime from the dirt road was nasty. Steve had fenders on his bike so he was pretty clean by the end of the ride, but not for the rest of us. My trunk bag acts like a fender but does nothing for the rest of the bike.

Photo Credit:  Steve Taylor
Andy suggested that we go for a post ride dip near the Shepaug and I thought I heard him say at Roxbury Pond, so we drove down River Road to the parking area. One look at the pond and I said no way am I going into that quagmire but then he said, we are going to a swimming hole past the pond on the Shepaug River.  While the water silty from all the rain it felt great! Need to remember this place for future post ride cool downs.