On Saturday, August 7 the GrNY group returned to Dover Plains after a three-month absence. As expected, it was worth the drive or train ride! We had three pace/distance groups (long, medium, short) who traversed the picturesque dirt roads of Dutchess County. We were fortunate to get absolutely perfect weather, too! After the ride, everyone celebrated with food, drinks and/or ice cream at Kelly’s Creamery and Kelly’s Husband’s Food Truck.
The medium-distance group did our less-intense variant of the classic Dover Plains Dirt loop (i.e. this route: ridewithgps.com/routes/36062828). This medium-distance variant (link further down) is possibly the best version. It skips the two steepest climbs in favor of other great dirt road riding. It also adds more civilization, including better food options in Amenia, NY and Sharon, CT. It uses a spur of the Harlem Valley bike trail to connect it all together and adds some new (flatter) dirt/gravel roads make up for any lost dirt, including the always lovely (and well-graded) climb up Deep Hollow Road.
The short-distance group did the same route, but stayed on the Harlem Valley Rail Trail at the midway point. This made for a shorter but also extremely pleasant ride back to the start. Finally, the long-distance group did a very different route that cut westward and traversed the area around the Wassaic Multiple Use Area (a lovely forested area).
Fun day out! After some logistical delays, we started the ride with a bang by immediately tackling the longest hill of the day (Tower Hill Rd). There were great rural roads, pastoral views, horses, cows, and even a giant snapping turtle sitting on one dirt road!
Later in the day, we were feeling the sun and heat with some riders suffering towards the end. Still, everybody made it and we celebrated with some cold drinks and food (with a cooler pulled up onto the train platform — the only shade to be found at Tenmile River station!)
Note: This was a first-try and these routes need some work. We’ll make some changes in the future to stay on nicer roads more of the time.
GrNY’s “Spring Gravel Series” (SGS) included 5 rides over 5 weekends and was great fun! Each ride had three speed groups, which corresponded to different route lengths (short, medium, long), so everybody would finish at about the same time to socialize after the ride. Join our Strava group to be notified of future rides (but see here first: https://grny.org/category/about-grny).
SGS1 – Katonah, NY (May 6, 2023). Our first Spring Gravel Series ride of the year was an awesome time! Thank you to everyone who showed up and made it the fun day that it was. We travelled on some of Westchester’s most scenic rural roads. Many of us celebrated together after the ride at Paulie’s Deli, which has only about 5-6 taps, but always good stuff in them. Today’s selection included Lawson’s Finest Liquids: Sip of Sunshine, Maine: Lunch, and other non-IPA beers, of course. Those cold beers were well-deserved! Photos and ride stats (Steve’s Strava profile): https://www.strava.com/activities/9023394582
SGS2 – Dover Plains (May 13). It was an awesome ride. The long distance group had a fast bunch and we cleared this beautiful course impressively quickly. This route includes many of Dutchess County’s best dirt roads, including some hidden gems. We tackled the gorgeous streamside climb through Wassaic (Tower Hill Rd), Ludlow Woods Rd, Deep Hollow Rd, and so many other great spots. We saw everything from forests with deer hopping across the trail, to farms full of animals, to ridges with long pastoral views in the distance. Many of us capped off the ride together with burgers, ice cream, and beer. Photos and ride stats (Steve’s Strava profile): https://www.strava.com/activities/9066076684
SGS3 – Pawling, NY (May 21). Beautiful and fun ride! Thanks everyone who joined us today. The weather was perfect (warm enough for comfort, but not hot enough to overheat), and the condition of the dirt roads was really good. There were only a few rare spots that were soft from the previous day’s rain. And the route was as beautiful as I remember it. Many of us celebrated with cold beer and food at O’Connor’s Public House after the ride. Photos and ride stats (Steve’s Strava profile): https://www.strava.com/activities/9115448504
SGS4 – Cold Spring, NY (May 27). Awesome ride with a huge turnout! Much of the ride took place near Fahnestock State Park, with lots of fun and challenging climbs. We found all the hills today! The “long”, “medium”, and “short” distance groups accumulated ~7500ft, ~5400ft, and ~4800ft, respectively. There were beautiful forested roads, ponds, crazy climbs, and steep descents. A really fun time! Some of use stuck around for beer, ice cream, and snacks by the Hudson River in Cold Spring. Photos and ride stats (Steve’s Strava profile): https://www.strava.com/activities/9152286381
SGS5 – Far Hills, NJ (June 3). Spectacular ride. We traversed some of the region’s best rural roads, tackled the rugged climb through the Teetertown Ravine and later traveled through the spectacular Lockwood Gorge. The rest of the ride was wonderfully scenic, too. We had a great turnout – and missed a few from the group photo, as always. Most people joined us for drinks and snacks at the park after the ride. It was great to catch up with returning riders and to meet many new folks! Photos and ride stats (Steve’s Strava profile): https://www.strava.com/activities/9196314449
Questions? Feel free to reach out to Steve (email@example.com).
In addition to turning back the clocks, on November 6, 2022 a group of GrNY riders tackled a gravel ride of 79 miles and over 7,000 ft of climbing (or a truncated 65 mile version). This ride offered a bit of redemption, because the previous time we did this route was in early March, when we encountered many miles of snow-covered back roads. The ‘normal’ dirt roads were fine that previous day in March, but the closed-for-the-season dirt roads had not yet melted. Live and learn!
Overall, this was a fun day out and a great first GrNY ride since my (Steve’s) return from Colorado. It was a beautiful route with a mix of rural dirt and paved roads. And it was such a wonderfully warm day. It was hard to believe it was November. Some of us celebrated with beer and pizza after the ride and both tasted mighty fine after our efforts.
There were a few minor imperfections on the day, but they didn’t dampen our spirits (even if they did dampen the roads!). The weather turned a bit wet and misty during the second half of our ride, but on such a warm day it really wasn’t much of a bother. And the first part of our ride, Pugsley Rd, was in the process of being redeveloped so it was a sketchy trek through an in-progress construction zone. Thankfully, there was no active work on this weekend morning. Say farewell to the formerly- quiet, and formerly-dirt Pugsley Rd! It will soon be paved and have a huge warehouse operation, a large recreation center, and lots of truck traffic. You may need to choose an alternate route to start this ride if construction is still underway.
The top “loop” of this ride has much more gravel than the bottom loop, especially now that Pugsley Rd is no longer dirt. It might be time to develop a better route that no longer starts from Brewster.
WARNING: After emerging from Penny Rd onto pavement you will encounter a crazy steep downhill. Go slow! One rider almost lost control. I guess I wasn’t clear enough when I tried to warn folks.
Note: This version of the 79-mile route switches the direction of the “top loop”. This is a change for the better. First, it puts our lunch spot (Kent, CT) at mile 35.5, which is better timing. Second, it allows for a shortened 65-mile route that keeps everyone together until lunch time. Third, it allows us to ride *up* Macedonia Brook State Park, which means you get more time to enjoy the lovely scenery, rather than bombing down it at high speed.
On June 18, 2022, GrNY riders started near Brewster, NY and headed northward across Putnam and then into Dutchess County, NY. It was absolutely perfect weather for riding! The high temperature was around 68 degrees with just enough cloud cover to make for dramatic photos, but there was no rain. A medium-speed group, led by Kathy, tackled 50 miles with 4800 ft of climbing. A faster group, led by Steve, rode 66 miles with 6000 ft of climbing.
Overall, this was a beautiful mixed-surface ride with stretches of dirt road, rural paved roads, and some very short sections of rougher forest trail. There were great views throughout the ride. Both routes are highly recommended. Tires of 35mm width are plenty for most of the ride, but some folks probably appreciated wider tires for the short trail sections. Be forewarned that both routes had considerable climbing. For the medium group, the hardest climbs came in the first half (ideal). For the faster group, the climbs were more well-distributed, with one of the tougher climbs appearing 51 miles into the ride. That said, both groups had to climb back up Bullet Hole Rd near the end of the ride, which probably seemed like a bigger climb than it really was, given everyone’s tired legs.
The goal for both groups was to end at the same time, despite the different distances traveled. This almost worked, but not exactly! The *moving time* of both group leaders was within about 15 minutes of each other, which was well-planned. However, we “laggards” in the faster group took our lunch break during the ride, while the medium speed group only stopped briefly and ate more substantially at the end of the ride. Now I know why Kathy’s group got back so much quicker! The medium-speed group was happily enjoying cold drinks when we joined them at the post-ride meeting spot. We had some well-earned cold beers ourselves when we got there.
Things went well on both rides, with one minor exception. For the faster/longer distance group, I originally planned for us to filter water around mile 19 (to top off our water bottles), but with 25 riders signed-up by mid-week, that seemed like it might be too inefficient. Instead, I added some extra distance for a stop at the General Store near Bulls Bridge in South Kent, CT. Unfortunately, it was closed! We searched around and eventually made use of a convenient water tap at a nearby inn (they were nice about it). Note for future riders of the longer route: Bring plenty of food and water!
Medium Speed (50 miles, >4500′): https://ridewithgps.com/routes/32953734 Food and water stop at mile 26 (Cousin’s Deli, Pizza, and Bakery) A second food/water stop possible at mile 42 (Squaro’s Town Square Pizza).
Faster Speed (65 miles, >5000′): https://ridewithgps.com/routes/39539451 Bring plenty of water and food! The first reliable stop is around mile 47 (gas stations with Cumberland Farms / Dunkin) or mile 50 (good pizza by the slice + deli). Alternatively, future riders could detour to Wingdale around mile 24, which adds a few extra miles, but has more reliable
NOTE FOR THE FUTURE: Almost immediately across the street from the Park & Ride (i.e. starting location) is Pugsley Rd, which is currently rural and dirt. HOWEVER, all of the trees have been cleared for the first 1/2 mile and the entire area is slated for a huge warehouse and distribution center. It sounds like Pugsley Rd will soon be a busy, paved trucking road and the current intersection will be widened to 4 lanes with turn signals. There will also be a huge sports complex on some of the land they are clearing. Hundreds of trucks per day will flow through that area (distribution center) plus hundreds of cars on weekends (sports complex). I’ll miss this peaceful rural road that somehow began right from the heart of concrete and sprawl. Enjoy it while it lasts!
For those who missed it, here’s a quick recap of this past Saturday’s GrNY ride.
TLDR version: I promised adventure on this GrNY ride and (unintentionally) ended up seriously over-delivering. Winter has not yet receded in Dutchess County. Overall we traversed… – snow-free frozen dirt (good for riding) – velcro-mud (energy sapping, but otherwise fine) – soupy mud (rideable but messy) – ice-covered forest trails (difficult even for walking), – crusty frozen snow (upon which we did a substantial amount of snow biking).
My bike computer recorded 79 miles and 7000′ of climbing. That was one crazy ride, but a lot of fun. Thanks everyone who joined this not-yet-spring lunacy!
========= MORE DETAIL: Going north of the city for a gravel ride was always going to be a risk this time of year — to the extent that I chose a 100% paved route as a backup plan. But despite the frozen crust of snow in the grass around our starting location, all of our riders decided to try the dirt route.
Things started off well in the chilly morning: Nicely frozen (and therefore solid) dirt roads for us to enjoy – all completely free of snow on the road portion. That said, the snow under the trees indicated that we would surely be hiking through the forest trail portion of our ride (at West Mountain Forest). And sure enough, even walking was a challenge on that section! It was a ~0.75 mile of “ice-hiking”. Fortunately, we soon hit roads again on the other side.
After lunch at Cousins Bakery/Cafe/Deli/Pizzeria, we ventured further north and found our dirt roads getting softer with the warmth of the day. Totally rideable, but sometimes sticky (sapping ones energy) and occasionally pretty messy. We never hit truly awful peanut butter mud, so I’ll consider that a win on the mud front. But those closed-for-the-season dirt roads were an entirely different matter! Without car traffic, they were still covered in a crust of semi-frozen snow. I expected us to be walking, but after seeing Vasyl forge ahead on two wheels, the rest of us gave it a shot. Definitely challenging, but on the flat, we managed to roll (and skid) our way forward. We did this through several short sections of seasonal road and thought we had triumphed by the time we returned to the lower loop of our ride. But around mile 64 we hit an uphill surprise of more snow-covered roads. We weren’t going to be riding up that — we barely had traction on the flats! And it was getting late in the day, so limited daylight was a concern.
About half of our bunch took the most direct paved path back towards our start location (the shoulder of a busy Route 22). The other half (including yours truly) took a detour half-way down Route 22, then veered towards the paved Mayberry trail – and towards peaceful salvation. Or so we thought! We soon hit a stretch of unexpected icy-snow stretching into the distance on the bike trail. Wow, there was just no escaping the white stuff! Fortunately, after that longish stretch of snow-biking, the rest of the Mayberry trail was fine except for short bands of snow underneath underpasses. All riders made it back to the train or their cars and were only slightly the worse for wear. It was one crazy ride!
Yesterday, members of the GrNY group did this ride for the first time. I’ve had a couple of requests for the RidewithGPS route, hence this ride report. For those who don’t know, Strava events (and their routes) disappear from the group page once they are over.
From my Strava feed: “It was an awesome day on the bike with some excellent company (most of whom woke up before 5am so we could get to the ride start before NYC traffic started!). There was much excellent dirt and plenty of climbing. Those of us who are more road/gravel oriented got several hundred extra feet of climbing by taking the paved way down Skiff Mountain. Those with better mountain bike skills chose the dare-devil, gravel descent (steep, winding, narrow, loose gravel, with potential uphill jeep/ATV traffic). Thanks to Mark L for the spectacular route that he created in 2015 — and his advice for further improving it prior to our ride today!”
NOTES: 1) There were a couple of places with road work/closures, but on bikes, we were able to pass through. 2) Make sure you are well-stocked with food and water (e.g. in Kent) before starting the upper loop. You won’t find any places to refuel up there. 3) The route above takes the paved way down Skiff mountain (safer), but choose your own adventure (at your own risk).
* This route has no affiliation with the official Macedonia Gravel Grinder event, which will be happening for the first time this summer. I have no idea which roads that event will take, aside for obviously traveling through the lovely Macedonia Brook State Park.
This past Saturday, we dragged ourselves out of bed early so we could ride before a predicted afternoon storm. We enjoyed some excellent dirt riding through forests and across ridges with stunning views. And we managed to complete the entire ride before some nasty weather rolled in.
Our original route would have been 77 miles (see notes for the Brewster to Wassaic ride earlier this year), but we shortened it to 47 miles in light of the weather. We also moved the start location to Wingdale, which is near the center of this “figure 8” shaped ride, so we could easily bail if the storm arrived early. Thankfully, we completed this beautiful ride before the skies opened up with pouring rain, heavy winds, and even hail in some places.
I’ve pasted our shortened route below, because sometimes folks are looking for rides that don’t require an entire day to complete.
We embarked from the Dover Plains train station on Oct 9, 2021 for gravel ride in Dutchess County, NY. It was a lovely day out. Miles and miles of farms, forests, and hilltop views on hardpacked dirt roads (and pavement). We saw hints of fall color, particularly at higher elevations and along ridge lines.
This 65 mile route contains only actual roads (45% dirt and 55% paved) and no forest trails, so nothing too technical. Most of the dirt roads were fast-moving hardpack. That said, be wary of fast dirt descents with sharp turns, washboard, potholes, or occasional loose stuff. This route has quite a bit of climbing in total (probably closer to 6000′ rather than the 5000′ that Ride with GPS lists), but only one stout climb continues for a long time. So the challenge is the continual up-and-down rather than long climbs throughout.
I updated the route so that it detours through the town of Millbrook, since our original lunch location has closed permanently (sadly). Credit goes to Mark L for the original route.
On Sunday, August 29, GrNY riders (including two new members) lined up to tackle either a 50+ or 80+ mile gravel route that included the challenging climb up Skiff Mountain near Kent, CT.
Overall, it was an awesome day out. We had good weather for riding (highs in the 70s and no rain, despite the gray skies); the roads were in better condition than we expected given Hurricane Henri the week before; everyone managed to complete the route (either 50+ or 80+ miles), and we covered some beautiful rural roads through farms, forests, and nature preserves.
That said, the start of our ride didn’t go as planned! A running race led to the closure of the first part of our route. We managed to detour. About 9 miles from the start, we came to another closed road. The bridge was completely missing. Water pumps were running and there were no construction crews around, so we crossed the construction zone.
One of the ride highlights — or lowlights depending on how much time a rider spent riding vs walking — was the climb up Skiff Mountain via N Kent Road. This is a minimally maintained road that resembles a jeep trail more than the hard-packed dirt roads on the rest of the route. It is a significant climb (>1000’), it is very steep in places (up to 20%), and continues for a long way (2.5 miles at 9 to 10% average grade), but it is the loose surface that makes it particularly challenging.
A couple of us managed to ride the entire way (which definitely felt like an accomplishment). Others managed to ride most of the way, but had to walk the steepest or loosest sections (not enough traction). One or two riders probably spent more time walking. My only tips are to keep your weight back, try to pick good lines (i.e. look for the better-packed sections), spin smoothly, and otherwise try to keep your wheel straight (not turned) through the loose stuff. I was running 38mm slick tires, but I’m sure wider would have been better.
Splitting up: Soon after Skiff Mountain, around mile 26, we split into two groups. Some of us continued on the 80+ mile route, which travelled through picturesque dirt roads in Dutchess County, NY. Others stayed mostly within Litchfield, CT and passed through the beautiful Macedonia Brook State Park to complete 50+ miles on the day. The 50+ mile group confirmed that everybody made it and enjoyed the route. Our 80+ mile group put in a long, but enjoyable day on the bike, with our fuel tanks mostly drained by the end. Total distance was ~83 miles and between 7200’ and 7800’ of climbing depending on whose device and routing service you believe.