Maiden voyage on the Boulder All Road

Jun 21, 04:13 PM

Prologue: of dirt roads and brake pads

Yesterday, Jennifer and I rode up to Conway. Thinking it was paved (ha!), I suggested taking Roaring Brook Road instead of continuing on Whately Road, since we had never cycled Roaring Brook. Now, I had good reason for thinking it was paved: the southwestern end had recently been paved where it meets Whately Road, and I had observed that the northern end was paved where it meets Route 116. However, after a few hundred yards, it turned to dirt—rutted dirt with big loose stones, and grades up to 17% in both directions. Jennifer wasn’t happy; she hasn’t liked loose rock ever since her wipeout south of Edinburgh last summer. I wasn’t happy because the front brake pads on my Surly LHT, which I was riding, needed replacing—I felt as if half of my braking power was coming from the rear. I regretted not having replaced the pads sooner. Fortunately I have a strong grip!

We made it through about 2.75 miles of dirt and were rewarded by a smooth paved downhill; I had to feather my brakes as I approached a slight curve that was in shadow, but the road was straight enough that I didn’t have to slow down too much. Then there was the thrilling descent on Route 116 into South Deerfield, where we paused for creemees. The ride home was on familiar ground.

Taking the Boulder All Road out for a real ride

My All Road is not quite finished: I’ve drilled the rear fenders but not the front, the handlebars need to be taped, and the steerer is still uncut and has a ridiculous tower of spacers above the stem. I also need to add the lights and get a decaleur for my handlebar bag. Still, it was rideable. So I thought I’d ride it to Flye Cycles in Sunderland to get new front brake pads for the LHT, and some bar tape that matched my Berthoud touring saddle if they had any. Flye is on my 15.7-17 mile flat loop; the ride would give me a chance to see how the bike fit and how it handled on mostly flat ground. If the fit was off, or if the new saddle proved too painful, I could turn off early and return.

I think I had downtube shifters on my early 80s ten-speed, but they may have been stem-mounted. In any case, if I’ve ever ridden with downtube shifters, it was a quarter century ago; that bike was stolen from outside my Chicago apartment in 1987. I’ve set the Boulder up with a 42-28 double and a Harris custom 13-30 9-speed rear cassette, with the idea of running it as 1×9 for most terrain, keeping the 28t ring for climbing serious hills. The climb up Mount Warner at the start of the ride wasn’t that serious; the 42×30 gear was fine. As I crested the hill and rode along the short level bit, I found it odd not shifting onto the big ring, as I do with my LHT’s front triple. The downhill was fun, and the bike felt completely stable. Descending reminded me of my New World Tourist, also a low-trail bike.

On the flat stretch of Route 47 north to Sunderland, the bike was a joy to ride. I felt as if I was riding significantly faster than I usually do, though without a speed sensor, my Edge 800 was reporting speeds that jumped around a bit due to the limits of GPS accuracy. Shifting took a little getting used to, and the first time I took my bottle from the downtube cage (the only one right now), I knocked the front shift lever and had to trim it. I didn’t make record time on the northbound stretch, but the wind behind me was fairly light, unlike the 15 mph tailwind that had propelled me before.

Flye Cycles had the Kool-Stop salmon pads that I wanted for my LHT, and they had some nice Soma cork tape, in a natural cork color, that should complement the saddle nicely. I have some Brooks leather tape but I don’t want to experiment with it the first time I wrap bars! (Especially since I might add barcons at some point.) The clerk (the proprietor, I think) asked if I was going to ride D2R2 and said the tires would be good. I told him I was registered…and was hesitating between the 115K and the 100K, which should be tough enough.

Rolling out of the parking lot after traffic cleared, I followed 116 south. My butt was noticing the new saddle (and it was a bit sore already from 4 hours in the saddle yesterday), but the mild discomfort was far outweighed by the pleasure of riding a new bike. The Hêtre tires didn’t feel that different from the 35-622 Paselas I’ve been riding on the LHT, but they certainly absorbed road shocks well. I felt good enough to choose the 17-mile option, jogging right on Knightly Road for a mile, then left on Stockbridge Road for another mile, instead of the 0.7-mile stretch of Roosevelt Road that connects them.

By the time I rolled up the driveway, I thought I had been pretty fast. Checking the ride against my previous ones, I found that it was my fastest ever, by half a mile per hour, even though my average heart rate was 4 beats below the next fastest rides. Score one for the All Road and the Hêtres! I think I’ll have fun riding this bike. But I’ll stick to the LHT for rides with Jennifer, and put some Grand Bois Cyprès tires on her bike to even things out a little bit.

Brian W. Ogilvie

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