Maple City Century – Gravel

On Sunday, I traveled to Honesdale, PA with Eric, Matt, Bob and Kyle, to do the Maple City Century, a mixed terrain 100 miler that consisted of about 85% gravel and dirt roads and just over 9,000 feet of climbing. The route brings you through most of rural Wayne County and borders the Delaware River and New York State in several sections. If you haven’t been to this part of Northeastern PA, check it out, it’s beautiful, especially during the fall foliage season.

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100, 62 and 30 mile options are offered. Each route different, but challenging in their own way. The 30 mile option gave riders a glimpse of what pedaling in Wayne County is all about, on mostly dirt and gravel roads.The 62 and 100 mile routes include long, steep climbs through farm land, logging roads and every kind of back road you can imagine.

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Action Bikes and Outdoor was well represented

It was chilly at the start, about 36 degrees, but warmed up to the mid 60’s at mid day. I did not get a chance to sample the 30 and 62 mile routes. I was up in the air about whether to do the 62 or 100 but made a game time decision to push through the 100 mile course. I was rewarded for my efforts with amazing views, awesome rest stops and a chance to ride with some fantastic people. Matt and Bob rode the 62 miler as Matt took care of repairs for the riders at the start and had to wait for the masses to depart. Kyle and Eric joined me on this epic journey.

The 100, left from behind the Post Office in Honesdale at 8:20am and rolled through town with a Police escort. 2 miles later, the gravel adventure began. I compartmentalized the ride into 4 sections, divided by the 3 rest stops. The first section was hilly to say the least. But, anyone who cycles in Northeastern, PA knows there are no flat roads here. Just ups and downs and ups and downs.

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The ride organizer made all routes available for download to a GPS enabled device. Cue sheets were also made available. However, the course was expertly marked out with easily visible color coded signs at every turn. At mile 33, we arrived at the first rest stop and were greeted with friendly volunteers and an array of energy bars, gels, fruit, trail mix, water and energy drink. Volunteers signed in all riders, to ensure they reached the checkpoint safely.

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Eric certainly approved of the descent!

The next section began with a hill, just up the road from the rest stop. Another 15 or so miles or gravel and we hit Brown Trout Trail. This extremely technical, section lasted for five miles. With the side of a mountain to the right and a cliff to the left, the six foot wide trail seemed suited for a full suspension MTB, Fat Bike or ATV.  With a waterfall coming right through, a washed out portion of the trail required a little hike a bike. This was the most challenging part of the course.

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Just as we pushed off Brown Trout Trail, we arrived at rest stop #2. What a welcome sight after bouncing around for more than 40 minutes. After filling bottles and devouring everything in sight, we saddled up and headed out into the beautiful countryside. We saw some odd old homes, rustic churches and more than a few cattle.

At mile 75, we pulled into rest stop #3. This seemed like a great place to sit down and stretch a bit. With only 25 miles to go, finishing certainly seemed like a reality. Just a few more hills and a lot more gravel!

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Thanking the Gods for a beautiful day!

I kept telling myself that the big climbs were behind us. That didn’t work very well as hill after hill punished every weary leg that pedaled on. I have to say that Eric really got me through this ride. He kept me going when I wasn’t feeling too good. As for Kyle, we only saw him for a few seconds at the start. Every time we hit a sketchy section of trail, I did imagined Kyle laughing and riding right through. It was still light out when we rolled back into Honesdale, 8 hours and 47 minutes later. A quick clothing change at the car and a brief walk to the Irving Cliff Brewery for a well deserved post ride feast.

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A beer growler for every participant

Kudos to Ride Director Zach Wentzel and his staff for putting on a first class ride. The course markers were spot on, the rest stops were fully stocked and the volunteers were friendly and helpful. The course was everything it was supposed to be and more. It’s already on the calendar for next year. September 24th, 2017. Save the date!

 

 

 

 

 

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What is Gravel Grinding?

It’s 8am on a Sunday Morning. I’ve just unloaded my bike from the top of my car. I’m doing some last minute checks to make sure I have enough food and water to get me through the day, as I’m about to embark on a 30-35 mile bike ride through mostly gravel roads in the Delaware State Forest. That day, I rode through the state forest, onto the pavement for a couple of miles and back into the forest, with a couple of diversions on dirt roads and grassy trails to end with 32 miles of an all road adventure.

This type of riding is most commonly called “gravel grinding”. Some call it “adventure cycling” and some refer to it as “all road riding”. Whatever you call it, it’s just plain fun.

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2017 Kona Sutra LTD

Gravel Grinding has been popular in the midwest for the better part of a decade. Many of the big gravel races in the US are found there because of the extensive network of gravel and dirt roads that sprawl across the region. Here in the northeastern part of the country, gravel grinding is catching on. In this area alone, we have access to numerous gravel roads that are part of the state forest as well as the McDade Trail, which is a 32 mile gravel and dirt trail, connecting Milford to Stroudsburg as part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, along with many other off the beaten path options.

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The best part about gravel grinding is that you don’t need a specific bike to get you going. You can pedal across gravel or dirt on a mountain bike, road bike, cyclocross bike, dual sport bike, comfort bike, whatever, just make sure you have enough tread on your tires to shed a little mud and stone. However, most bicycle companies are now producing “gravel bikes”. A good choice for people who just want to have 1 bike. A bike that allows a lot of options for two wheeled adventure. You can hit the gravel, ride in a gran fondo, throw racks and fenders on for loaded touring or just use it as an everyday commuter. Action Bikes and Outdoor, right in the heart of Milford, stock several models of gravel bikes, along with every type of bike and accessory as well as kayaks, paddles and most things for the outdoor enthusiast. Stop in, they are happy to offer advice on where to ride. They even have great paper maps and resources to help you on your journey.

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The beauty of gravel grinding is it gets you out of traffic and puts you right in the middle of nature. There’s no need to hammer through the woods. Slow down, enjoy the scenery and take in everything that nature has to offer. You won’t regret it. In fact, there seems to be a growing number of riders in our area that love having the opportunity to pedal in areas that until recently seemed foreign. On both sides of the Delaware River, there are trails and roads that lead to waterfalls, farms, corn fields, breathe taking views, wildlife sightings, streams, creeks and lakes.

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If you are up for the adventure, try one of the areas local gravel races. The Maple City Century, on September 25, 2016 starts in Honesdale and takes you through beautiful and scenic Wayne County on mostly dirt and gravel roads. In October, Action Bikes and Outdoor sponsor the Erie 80. An 80K gravel, dirt and paved MTB ride that shows you all
that Port Jervis has to offer. If you are not looking for an organized race, there is usually a group riding from somewhere. Mostly from the shop parking lot.

So if I’ve peaked your interest just a little bit, get out and pedal a quiet country road, you’ll be planning your next gravel ride before you load your bike back on the car.

A Little Gravel Prep

Getting out today was harder than I thought. I got up at 6:30am to meet Eric for a morning ride. I took the dog for a walk and got wet as it rained hard for about 10 minutes. I text Eric and opted for a few more hours sleep over a wet ride. He manned up and went out for a rain ride. I waited until 3pm, when it was dry and the forecast looked clear to venture out into the woods.

I’m planning to ride in the Maple City Century next Sunday in Honesdale, PA. It’s a 100 mile gravel adventure with lots of climbing. So, I wanted to just get a few extra miles in on some loose gravel roads to help prepare for the event.

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I rode out of my driveway and up through my community, then veered into the woods via a deer trail and onto Five Mile Meadow Road. I haven’t been on a bike since Tuesday, so I took it easy as I let my legs warm up to the hills. I headed out to Silver Lake Road and climbed up the monster hill before turning left onto Flat Ridge Road.

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About halway up Flat Ridge, I met up with Bob, another local cyclist that was also training for the Maple City Century. He was doing almost he same ride that I was doing today. After, pedaling up to Minisink Lake and turning around, I came back down Flat Ridge and took Bob’s advice when I turned right on Coon Swamp Road. Coon Swamp is gravel and loose packed dirt. It continues for a couple of miles and comes to an end at the top of a hill, with a cool camping spot, over looking Coon Swamp Lake.

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Coming out of Coon Swamp, just before I got back to Flat Ridge, I was startled as I noticed a black shape in the roadway. It was a huge black bear. I fumbled for my phone to take a photo, but he scampered away as I tried to get closer. Probably better off for me. It never ceases to amaze me what beautiful creatures they are.

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Back on Flat Ridge, I rode on, knowing how lucky I am to have this incredible state game land, with all the gravel emergency access roads, right in my backyard. I descended down Silver Lake Road and hung a left back onto Five Mile Meadow Road. From there, I pedaled through the deer trail and home.

I’ve written about this area a few times before, but I felt compelled, as a new road or trail, especially one that ends high above a lake, providing superior views, needs me to tell you about it, so you can go ride it and see for yourself!

What’s Playing: (What am I’m listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) Today – The Babys – Isn’t It Time

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