April 4 ride report: 80 miles/129 km in the Berkshires

Apr 12, 07:04 PM

As I approach my 200K brevet—less than two weeks now—I think I’ve done all the long-distance cycling I need to do well. The last two weekends I did progressively longer rides. I’ll describe them in this and the next post.

April 4: Into the Berkshires

I designed this ride to give me practice riding hills. How much practice, I didn’t quite realize! My plan, which I realized, was to head up Route 47 to Sunderland, cut through South Deerfield, and then follow Route 116 to Savoy, take Route 8A south to Windsor, and then return home via Route 9 to Leeds and then the Northampton Bikeway and Norwottuck Rail Trail back to 47.

I set out from home with Jennifer and we rode together as far as Old Amherst Road in Sunderland. I then went through South Deerfield, took a slight jog on Route 5, and then joined Route 116 as it went up towards Conway. I felt good going up the steady but never too steep climb to Conway. This couldn’t be that hard!

The next hill, from Conway to Ashfield, sobered me up. The hill was never very steep, but it went on for 10 miles. In Ashfield I was ready for a rest, and I had a bean, rice, and lime burrito at Elmer’s Store. It was Easter Sunday so they didn’t have fresh food. The burrito turned out to be a mistake, as it sat in my stomach for the next 4 hours, putting me off my feed and making me rely mostly on sports drinks for the remaining 56 miles. I don’t think the burrito was bad, but it had been made ahead, the tortilla was a little soggy, and it was probably too much fiber for endurance cycling.

The town center of Ashfield is about 1,250 feet above sea level. I knew that the highest point in my ride was just over 2,000 feet (2,025, to be precise), so I figured I’d need to climb another 800 feet or so, plus perhaps some rollers. And I knew I’d climb a lot going out of Ashfield. I did: another 300+ feet. What I had not counted on was then descending those 300 feet, regaining them, descending again, and regaining them before getting to Savoy. On Route 8A I climbed a couple hundred feet and then had a series of rollers before hitting the highest elevation of my ride on Route 9 at Windsor.

Fortunately, from there it was mostly downhill, often thrillingly so, from Windsor (elevation 2,025 feet), crossing the East Branch of the Westfield River several times, through Cummington, to a low point of around 900 feet near the Goshen line. On the way down, I stopped at the Old Creamery Grocery and Deli in Cummington, for a pit stop and some sports drink. Were it not for that damnable burrito I would have had some ice cream or a muffin! I then had to climb nearly 500 more feet to Goshen Center. Then, finally, it was almost entirely downhill to the Connecticut River, with only a slight climb on Huntington and Breckenridge roads before going downhill, making a sharp turn, and pedaling the third of a mile back home.

Between miles 50 and 60, as I was dealing with the effects of a lead burrito in my stomach and the fatigue of a lot of climbing (for me), I was wondering why I was doing this and whether I could face a 200K (125 mile) ride in a few weeks. The last twenty miles, though, were pretty easy and left me feeling better about long rides. The same pattern repeated in my long ride the following week.

On getting home, my altimeter indicated that I had climbed a total of 4,700 vertical feet. MapMyRide.com, the mapping and logging website I use, indicated much less, but their algorithm tends to smooth out rolling hills, including some significant ones, so I trust the altimeter.

In the end, it was a good ride. I saw snow in Savoy and ice on the roadcuts in Cummington. The route map gives more details if you’re interested in the twists and turns, though again, if you use the “show elevation” feature, you get a pretty good route profile but the total elevation gain/loss severely underestimates reality.

Brian W. Ogilvie

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