Worcester, Mass

When I booked my stay in Worcester and the hotel was located on Major Taylor Blvd, I assumed that I was traveling to a cycling Mecca of sorts. Not really. Major Taylor, the first African American cycling champion, nicknamed the Worcester Whirlwind, was actually born and raised in Indianapolis. He trained in Worcester and for a time, he lived there.

Worcester is an old city. Built on a series of steep, sloping hills. It’s centuries old churches, sit high above the city like forts. Worcester is also home to nine colleges and universities. It has a deep patriotic history. A lot of key events took place there during the Revolutionary War.

With only a 3 day stay, I knew it would be tough to squeeze a ride in when day one and day three are travel days. I managed to get out on a short ride around downtown. To say that Worcester is hilly is an understatement. I decided to forget about distance and concentrate on hitting as many hills as I could in an hour.

Riding from the hotel, I pedaled down Major Taylor, up Martin Luther King Blvd., past the courthouse and down Main St. From there, I was able navigate through the busiest part of town to find a grid of streets built on a ridiculously steep hill. One by one, I climbed, descended, climbed and descended. By the time I reached the tenth hill, I felt like I had been riding all day.

During the cool down spin back to the hotel, my legs were toast. The slower pace gave me a chance to check out the 19th century architecture. I only got a small sample size of what Worcester feels like on a cool spring afternoon. I’ll be back in September as the Tour de Force runs along Rt. 12. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to sample some of the quieter more bicycle friendly roads in the area.

What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) – Today – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Even the Losers Get Lucky Sometimes

Black Mountain Cycles MCD – First Impressions

Towards the end of December, I received a late Christmas present. I finally pulled the trigger on a new frame and it arrived. I wanted a bike that would handle just about anything. With all-road, cyclocross and gravel bikes being mass produced from every major manufacturer, each with a specific application, I craved for something I could ride on gravel, singletrack, grass, dirt and pavement, without too many limitations.

As you know, I am a fan of rim brakes. I love the simplicity. But Northeast Pennsylvania’s short, steep, gravel hills call for a little more stopping power. My search ended at Black Mountain Cycles in Point Reyes Station, CA. Well, on their website. Owner, Operator, Mike Varley, designs quality steel bikes. There are currently 4 different frames to choose from. I went with the Monstercross Disc.

When I called, Mike explained that the sizing is a little different than the 59cm rim brake version Monstecross that I purchased in 2013. So, at 6’2”, I went with the 53cm frame. Available in 2 colors, Classic Blue and California Gold. I opted for the latter. It looks rather yellow on a computer screen, but once the frame was out of the box, It was clear that this is not yellow, just a perfect shade of pure California.

I’ll save build specs for another post and concentrate on feedback from the first few rides. So far, this bike has been a dream. First, the head tube feels a bit taller, allowing me to raise the handlebar height without spacers. On a few steep downhill, rocky trails, it was very compliant. The tall head tube and sloping top tube, puts the rider in a more upright, relaxed climbing position. And, did I say smooth. The tube spec and long wheelbase make for an extremely smooth ride.

I’ve been able to sneak in 3 rides in the Delaware State Forest and on the McDade Trail. I can’t wait to spend more time on this bike and do a few longer rides and maybe an overnighter. If your looking for that do everything steel steed with a price tag just over $800 for frame and fork, look no further.