"No Drop Ride", riding hard at times but not over your head, getting your heart rate near maximum a few times, taking a few blurry photos."
And we did go too fast for taking pictures. That was a shame - there were dozens of places that I would have liked to stop and take pictures but since I was almost always last in our group, there was never time to do so. No matter, the ride was quite memorable without having pictures and I'm sure I'll ride some of these trails again. And I did get my heart rate up a lot, especially on the steep pitches that slowing down on was an option that included falling over.
I found myself on a great team led by Dan, who I hadn't met before. In fact, everyone on the team was new to me. Dan set a reasonably fast pace and while they didn't lose me, I was often the last one in our group. I occasionally was in the middle of the pack but the fact is, I was slower than everyone else. That didn't seem to matter to how quickly we finished. We were passed by Bradford Smith's group but his was a faster group so no big surprise there. In the end, I did leave early, realizing that if I left when I did (on the Reformatory Branch Trail, just east of the Rte 62 crossing), I could make it home by 2 PM, which is when I promised my wife I'd be home. And I made it. That said, I was tired out by the ride. We did stop for snacks at Haute Coffee in Concord. I'm pretty sure that the Diverged ride accounted for a lot of their business on Saturday.
One thing that the Rob and Patria did on this ride that worked particularly well was staggering the rides and sending some clockwise on the loop and others counter clockwise. We passed a couple of groups heading in the opposite direction (including Michelle Smith's Hub team at the Route 2 below grade crossing) and were passed by another group at the crossing. Otherwise it felt like we were a team alone in the woods, which was the best way to do this ride.
[edited 4/25/2016 - added this paragraph on the weather] My wife asked me about the rain before I left the house. I said that I wouldn't be doing the ride in the rain and didn't have to worry since the rain was ending and mostly south of us and was expected to stay south of the ride. I did bring my raincoat and helmet cover, just in case. And it's a good thing I brought them - a light rain started minutes before our starting time (9 AM for my group). I got them and got on my bike and managed to start the Garmin but failed to find the correct course - I can't see much without my glasses. Still, I managed to catch up with the group and not get all that wet on the ride. The only issue was with my sunglasses fogging, which happened whenever we stopped. I gave up on the glasses somewhere near Walden Pond and put them back after lunch when the world dried out some.
Some notes on the trails:
- I've been on the trails between Bedford Road and Sandy Road in Lincoln before (on my road bike) and enjoyed that section. It was even easier on my Surly with the 35mm Clement USH tires (still functional with almost 5,000 miles on them).
- The section west from Sandy Pond Road and circling back to Walden Pond, ending at the Route 2 crossing was my favorite. The crossing is below grade - again no pictures but check out Bradford Smith's Instagram feed, he has a picture and posts fun pictures frequently. There were sections of meadow crossings, wide paths, and winding single track, with some steep pitches. There wasn't much that I didn't try to roll over here and managed to stay upright in this section and on the entire ride. One person on the trip described this as one big patch of woods and while that wasn't strictly true, this is a wild corner of eastern Massachusetts, not all that far from Boston.
- There was a great section of woods road, just west of Lowell Road and separated by the Concord River from it. I thought it would be a great, quiet road to bring my boys for a bike ride. And I would have looked around for Egg Rock, which we didn't see on this ride.
- Not surprisingly, Rob and Patria skipped most of the east section of the Reformatory Branch Trail, opting for a large network of side trails. We did ride the western section of the trail and, while it was straight as expected for a rail trail, the woods were a bit wild. And it reminded me to go check out the herons at the heron rookery we passed to the south of the trail. I did ride almost the entire east section of the trail but was apparently channeling Rob when I diverged from the main trail and took the Yellow Trail to South Road.
- All of the trails were worth riding again and some could provide short cuts on road bikes. There were definitely sections that I was happy to see how roads could be connected.
I'd like to say that I've been riding off road a lot but this was most of the off road riding I have done so far this year. Most of my riding is commuting and I've rode a couple of hundred miles on the road. I enjoy this kind of riding but when my time is limited and I need exercise, I prefer a longer road ride. That said, it's nice when I get the motivation to get out in a group to ride in the woods.
The motivation included a great breakfast and promises of coffee to buy. I was pleasantly surprised that Ride Studio Cafe again offer decaf pour overs. While that may sound treasonous to some, I'm mostly decaf these days and sometimes prefer coffee over an espresso.
I did take a couple of pictures at our one extended 10 minutes) stop on the trails:
|Dan, our leader for the day. While he claimed to have not been on the whole route before, he did a great job keeping us on track and enjoying the day/|
|Sudbury River at a brief stop.|
My ride on Strava.
Miles for the day: 45, miles for the month: 278, miles for the year: 988.