We encouraged folks to “join us while you can!”, and many people came out to ride. Days are getting shorter and temperatures are dropping. We don’t know when the best riding weather will end for the season.
This was a beautiful ride with cool weather, gorgeous autumn leaves, and a great group of riders. We revisited our Spring Gravel Series route that starts in Pawling, NY and travels through Litchfield County, CT. It was great to return to this region for the fall colors. After the ride, people from all three pace groups gathered at O’Connor’s Public House for food and drinks. Thank you everyone who joined us for this spectacular day!
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.
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.
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.
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!