Aug 19, 2023: Dutchess Dirt

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).

ROUTES

Macedonia Brook State Park

Medium-distance group on the road

Boardwalk through a beautiful wetland (only traversed on the short-distance route).

2023 Spring Gravel Series Recap

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).

Just want the routes from each ride? Here’s a collection in RidewithGPS:
https://ridewithgps.com/collections/1897351?privacy_code=5fvuXMgvhsk25x93

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 (track.smart@gmail.com).

GrNY’s Spring Gravel Series Starting May 6

I’m happy to announce Gravel NY’s second annual Spring Gravel Series!  

We have planned five weekends of gravel rides, starting on May 6!  Each ride will have two or three “pace groups”, which will differ in speed, distance, and intensity of climbing. There will be a common hangout location after each ride, so all groups can socialize over food and drinks. With luck, all groups will end around the same time. We hope you can join us! 

Actual routes and start times will be posted soon.  See “Pace Groups”, below, for a sense of expected distances, elevation gain, and speed of travel. 

Questions? You can email Steve at track.smart@gmail.com

Disclaimer: This is totally informal. You ride at your own risk and are responsible for your own safety.  You are expected to be self-sufficient. We cannot guarantee the condition or safety of roads and trails. Nor can we control the behavior of other riders. This is not a supported event.

SCHEDULE OF RIDES*

May 6: Katonah, NY. Ride some of the best and most scenic rural roads in Westchester County. Please RSVP via Strava: https://www.strava.com/clubs/513005/group_events/1366051

 May 13: Dover Plains, NY. The picturesque dirt-roads of Dutchess County. It is worth the drive or train ride! Please RSVP via Strava: https://www.strava.com/clubs/513005/group_events/1378216

May 21: Pawling, NY. Start in Pawling, NY, but spend much of the ride in gorgeous Litchfield County, CT. [This ride has moved to SUNDAY 5/21]  https://www.strava.com/clubs/513005/group_events/1388181

May 27: Cold Spring, NY. Much of the ride is near Fahnestock State Park, with lots of fun and challenging climbs. https://www.strava.com/clubs/513005/group_events/1393514

June 3: Far Hills, NJ (Natirar Park). Spectacular ride that goes through the Teetertown Ravine and Lockwood Gorge – worth the trip! https://www.strava.com/clubs/513005/group_events/1398444

* Rides are scheduled for Saturday mornings, but the default rain date will be Sunday of the same weekend. We will generally start each ride around 9am, with adjustments for train schedules. Ride schedule is subject to change due to weather or other factors.

PACE GROUPS

Long (60-65+ miles, faster speed, and killer climbs): These rides will be led by Steve. If you’ve ridden with him, then you understand the intensity of those rides. Pace expectation: 19-20mph (NYCC standards), ~17 mph (“Strava Speed” on relatively flat routes*). 

Medium (45-55 miles, moderate speed, skip some of the deadliest climbs): Kathy will lead these rides, which will still be challenging, but travel at a slower speed. Pace expectation: 16-17 mph (NYCC standards), 13-14 mph (“Strava Speed” on relatively flat routes*). 

Short (33-45 miles, no-drop): Available most weeks. This group will stop more often to rest, take photos, and enjoy the scenery, riding at a friendly, no-drop pace. No designated ride leader yet – please reach out if you’re willing to lead one of the rides. Pace expectation: ~14mph (NYCC standards), 11-12 mph (“Strava speed” on relatively flat routes*)

* “Strava Speed” = actual recorded average speed for long, solo paved rides on relatively flat terrain (i.e., not group rides with drafting).

EXAMPLE RIDES FOR EACH PACE GROUP

It is difficult to describe pace for rides that include dirt, pavement, and substantial climbing.  For those who have done some gravel riding, we hope these examples will help you select the right pace group.  You can compare them to your own rides over similar distances and elevation gains.

Long: 65 miles, ~14 MPH, >5500 ft climbing.

– Example: https://www.strava.com/activities/7143087392

Medium: 50 miles, ~12 MPH, >4000 ft climbing.

-Example: https://www.strava.com/activities/7143118855

Short: 37 miles, ~10 MPH, >3000 ft climbing 

-Example: https://www.strava.com/activities/7142906685

[These examples are from last year’s SGS ride from Katonah.]

RIDE ORGANIZATION

We will have at least one place to buy food and drink on each ride, but we are only doing grab-and-go during the ride itself (e.g., gatorade + portable snacks). 

Each group will have a few “wait for everyone” stops.  That said, the Long and Medium groups will not wait for riders who are considerably behind the pace (i.e. several minutes back).  The Shorter-distance group will be no-drop.

TWO REQUESTS

1) Please choose a ride group based on your riding speed, not distance.  We want the groups to finish around the same time, so we can all hang out post-ride. We understand you can go the longer distance, but it will be more fun if people ride together (rather than get dropped) and then hangout for food and drink after the ride.

2) Ride safely!  Please read our ride guidelines: https://grny.org/guidelines.  Key points:

– Control your speed when traveling downhill.  Racing downhill is how many serious injuries happen.  If you’d like to ride hard, save it for the climbs!  Then wait at the top.

– Being predictable to other riders and cars will keep everyone safer. Never pass a rider on the right.  If you want to pass, call out, and then pass on their left (like a car).

– You need some form of off-line navigation and should have a backup navigation plan.  Why? Many areas won’t have cell coverage.  And phone batteries can die during long rides. Examples of offline navigation:  Dedicated bike computer (Garmin, Wahoo, etc); Phone with paid subscription to Ride with GPS or Strava *and* remembering to download to route for offline usage before the ride; Paper map + cue sheets.

Brewster to Central Dutchess Dirt

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.

Kathy’s ride: https://www.strava.com/activities/7330598829
Steve’s ride: https://www.strava.com/activities/7330581760

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!

ROUTES:

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!

Pugsley Rd
Pugsley Rd (enjoy it before they pave it!)
Quaker Lake
Quaker Lake (near Pawling Nature Preserve)
Quaker Lake
Quaker Lake
Rural roads near Tenmile River Preserve
Rural roads near Tenmile River Preserve
Taking a breather in Tymor Park
Taking a breather in Tymor Park, which has some fun dirt trails.

Wingdale To Wassaic – Rain Remix (with routes)

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.

Route from Saturday
47 miler: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/38001180

——
Longer variants:
61 miler: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/38001292

77 miler: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/36622714
(the original route from earlier this year)

Misty/foggy morning start
This is what it looked like in the morning at the ride start. The sun hadn’t fought its way through the mist yet.
Two bikes leaning against a white fence
It turned into a beautiful day. At least until the storms rolled in later! We finished at the right time.

Dirt Roads of the Dover Plains

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.

Final Route: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/37731414

Note 1: Strava Events disappear after they are completed. I sometimes post “ride reports” so other members can find past routes.

-Steve (track.smart@gmail.com)

A field with cows under a tree
A dirt road with a brook running along the side

Brewster To Wassaic Gravel Ride

This event was on July 5, 2021: Overall, it was a challenging, but very rewarding ride to celebrate the Fourth of July weekend. The route included paved sections, gravel sections, a short section of forest trail (around mile 22), and several challenging climbs followed by memorable descents.

All riders started together in Brewster, tackled the wild Penny Lane forest trail, then continued to our lunch stop in Wingdale. We picked up an additional rider who took the same train to Brewster and was using our route as a jumping-off point for his bike trip to the Berkshires. Cousins Bakery/Pizzeria was closed for the holiday, so we had to make do with the deli/Dunkin Donuts/Mobile Station just down the road. Normally, Cousins provides some nice baked goods for bringing up the blood sugar! Around mile 28/29 our “extra” rider continued on his route, a second rider headed back towards Brewster to complete the 50 mile loop (and get home a bit earlier), while the rest of the group committed to the full 77 mile route.

RidewithGPS estimated the route at 6000’, but all of our devices registered well over 7000’ of total climbing on the day. Those climbs earned us some beautiful views and fun, roaring descents. Everybody survived the route, though some suffered a bit more than others on the climbs.

For future riders of this route: There are no stores of any kind from mile 26 to mile 69 (43 miles total), so we tried to fuel up during our pitstop in Wingdale. We used my portable water filter to top-off our water bottles around Macedonia Brook State Park, since it was a hot day. Come prepared with everything you need for that stretch of the ride!

MAIN ROUTE (77 miles, >7000’): https://ridewithgps.com/routes/36622714
SOUTHERN LOOP (50 miles, 5000’): https://ridewithgps.com/routes/32953734

[FYI: Strava removes all “events” from our feed once they have passed. I sometimes post “ride reports” so GrNY members can learn about past rides and hopefully try those routes themselves.]

-Steve