Monday, September 19, 2016

The Dirty Macedonian Gravel Grinder

Mike couldn't join the Friday LunArtic's ride to Oven's of France so I offered to lead a gravel ride out to Kent and beyond and expose him and some others to some great dirt roads in Western Connecticut. In fact the only LunArtic missing from this ride was Gabby because he still doesn't have a gravel bike.

We started out a Young's Field in New Milford with seven riders: Jeff McKay, Mark Richards, Steven Tramposh, Paul Meyer, John VanStraaten, Mike Robinson and myself. Paul (pictured below) had ridden up to New Milford from Newtown earlier and was only going to ride with us up to the end of River Road.

Riding along Boardman Road in New Milford

As with all my rides, calling audibles is par for the course and the first one was to ride through Sega Meadows rather than down River Road from Boardman Bridge because you hit gravel much sooner. It was a good call.

Somewhere along the way through Sega Meadows we lost Steven but then showed up a few minutes later.

Then we headed down River Road to the first, steep climb on the route, Front of the Mountain Road.  It's a relatively short but steep dirt road climb that tops out around 14% and then has an equally steep descent down Long Mountain Road to Mud Pond Road.

At the bottom of Long Mountain we were already thinking of bypassing this on the way back and instead hitting Stillson Hill on the other side of the river.

The ride along Mud Pond is one of the most scenic dirt roads in South Kent.

After Mud Pond we turned onto West Meeting House for short ride to Peet Hill Road. This is the short cut to Ore Hill Rd.  The other way is to take Greer Mountain Road to Ore Hill Road which has a switch back climb.  Peet Hill is a bit more direct but has some grades that top out at 14%, too. The dirt part of Ore Hill Road also has some steep sections in it that max out at 12%.  Then we road the dirt section of Richards Roads and then bombed down Route 341.  

In Kent we watered up at the Mobile Station because the highlight of this ride, North Kent No 1 Road was coming next.  A few guys on road bikes came over to us wanting to join in with us but when we told them we're riding dirt, they said no thanks.

Riding down River Road we came across a friend of Jeff's who had a pair of really cool dogs. Then we turned west on to one of the toughest, dirt road climbs in the State. It's not the steepness that makes it so tough, rather the loose gravel makes traction most times really challenging.

There was quite a bit of cursing

And there was some walking.
Everyone walked except Jeff

As far as a Gravel Bike goes, the CAADx is nice but it could use a little more gearing range.

Mike makes it to the top.

Skiff Mountain Road gives way to Modley Road in Sharon. In the past I have often seen the horse and carriage on this road or the next. Not today, though.  It was time to break out the Pringles! I bring Salt & Vinegar Pringles on all my big rides now for salt replenishment.  

It started to drizzle earlier when we hit North Kent Road but it's mostly covered by trees so it was barely noticeable.  On Skiff Mountain Road, it had tapered off but while riding down Modely it got a bit harder and when we popped out on the black top it was raining rather consistent. It didn't feel or look like it was going to last for very long so there was no need for a jacket at this point.

Turning onto West Woods Road #2 we hit the halfway point of the ride.

The option for another audible was to ride down West Woods Road #1 and then come back up Lambert Road but it wasn't discussed and I really didn't want to extend the ride to longer than what it was going to be, but I was thinking it and I knew Jeff would have gone for it.

Steven got a flat coming down into Macedonia State Park, which was closed to camping already due to budget cutbacks.  After his tube was replaced we descended down through the park and back out onto 341 and then turned right onto Schaghticoke Road which turns into a great, wide dirt road ride down to Bulls Bridge.

Back up to Mud Pond and rather than ride Long Mountain again, because everyone hates repeats including myself, although Mud Pond was the exception, we rode it all the way down to Brown's Forge and then to River Road.  Only we turned right and headed north to Gaylordsville and road by the "Cake House."  

It's been a few years since I have ridden through Gaylordsville and there were quite a few changes. Burgeritoville was gone and the Country Store was out of business.  That's a bummer because when Elliot and I tandem up here we like to get a snack there.  

This audible was worth it.  First we climbed up Church road and along the way John said he was bonking so I gave him the Pringles.  Mike had a few, too, and just held onto the can going into Stillson Hill, which by the way is another great dirt road climb.

The descent down is a dirty, windy road with a few sharp turns, one of which John didn't negotiate so well and put his brakes to the test.  He was on Mike's 1980s Trek that was in serious need of a tune up but still making it happen.  We rolled into Young's Field a couple of minutes after 5 hours with a moving time of 4 and half hours, which was great. Here is the route on Ride with GPS if you would like to see it greater detail and you can also relive the ride below.

No comments: