Sunday, September 15, 2013
Miles of Smiles
The Honey One Hundred was amazing. Can't really put into words all that I experienced because I experienced so much during the 7 hours we were out on the bikes. I guess the first thing is to say thank you to Rob, Patria, the whole crew at the Ride Studio, the ride leaders, the support staff and of course all the riders who joined us on this adventure on CX bikes! The title of this post really says it though. Miles of smiles. I have been doing these types of rides for a while. Driving Johnny Utah home he was remarking how great these rides are and how this "started" up about 5 years ago. Granted people have been doing these types of rides since the dawn of bikes. But here in Boston we have been doing these as an "organized" group ride/race for about that span of time. And the rides have evolved in a very holistic fashion. Some are races. Some are rides. Most are bandit. Some have zero support others lightly supported. But the Honey One Hundred was the first fully supported ride like this that I can remember. It was a big undertaking. And even though I was a part of it and helped with some of the logistics I honestly didn't have any idea how much work was going on to make this happen. My first glimpse was on Friday night before the ride. As I was going to bed or trying to as I was pretty nervous about the ride I logged into twitter. I wasn't nervous about my own ride, but because I wanted to make sure everyone who came to the ride had fun and was safe. Throwing a bike party like this is always a leap of faith. Will anyone show up? Will they like it? Will they think that we are crazy because we think this type of riding is "fun"? Lots of thoughts were racing through my brain.
But as I was going to bed I checked my twitter feed and saw a photo of Sal and the Ride Studio crew making cold brew coffees and bottling them. They were preparing all the rest stop food and making delicious snacks late at night. It brought a huge grin to my face and I relaxed and stopped worrying about things. When you work with people who are that dedicated and that passionate, it takes so much pressure off. You can really just do what you do best. The morning of the ride was hectic but really just by the volume of people who showed up. We had 83 riders pre-registered for the ride! We decided to break the groups up into about 7 groups based on speed and technical ability as well as how much time people wanted to spend at the rest stops. We had 5 rest stops over the 100km route. Basically every 10 miles. At each rest stop we had the riders sign in to make sure no one was lost or having an issue. The ride leaders were tasked with keeping everyone together and navigating the course with GPS. I am becoming a big fan of GPS. Especially for these types of rides. Its really the only way to do a ride in the woods like this. In New England we have such a vast and intricate trail network. But its not that well marked. It would be next to impossible to follow the route without a GPS.
My group was a "mountain bike" group. I had a great group. The plan was to use the roads as recovery and the woods as fun. We moved so fast through the woods. Everyone in the group was an experienced mtn or cross rider so our only "issues" were due more to shenanigans than lack of skill. Doug Jenne and Matt Lolli drove up from CT. It was so great to ride with them all day in the woods. Doug was of course on a SSCX bike. Bad ass to say the least. And it certainly didn't slow him down at all. Met a couple of new riders as well which is always great. And had one of my good friends Scott Novick as Super Domestique! Scott is a beast. No other way around it. He is preparing for the VT 50. That mtn bike race is no joke. I also had my good friend Johnny Utah in the mix. Always a crack up. Been on many an adventure with that man. His in-ride heckles are both vicious and hilarious. We all were on same page about the rest stops! EAT ALL THE FOOD. No easy task we would soon find out! I assumed the rest stops would be water, some Skratch Labs hydration mix and some gels etc. Wrong. At each rest stop we were greeted by a nice support staff. Once we checked in we had cold brew coffee, mochas, cokes and numerous treats to chose from. I won't lie. I think I had a cold brew at each stop. I was so highly caffeinated by the end of the ride it was insane. And might explain one of my more near death crashes towards the end in Carlisle!
The first part of the route was pretty familiar to me. We rode in a two man pace line until the first woods section. Once in the woods we would ride our own speed/pace with separation in between each rider so we could shred. Then we would regroup at the end of the trail. Its a method that really works for keeping a group together in the woods but also ensures everyone has fun. But then things got interesting! Following a GPS in the woods can get challenging. GPS is fine on the road as the satellite has the road info. In the woods it gets "confused" but we stayed on track and were having a great time. We found some incredible trails I had never been on before. I guess this is what makes me just in awe of how Rob has built up these rides. He knows so many "secret" trails and goes out and dials in the route until it is perfect. He does a lot of this at night. It really boggles my mind. And for someone who loves riding in the woods as much as I do it is something I hold in high regard to say the least. So we are smashing through the woods a bit and then Matt just starts laughing and saying "We are going so FAST!!" and he was right! Doug Jenne had gotten on the front and was pegging it. We were on one of the fastest and most flowy trails I have been on in this area. Usually the trails we ride on are a bit nasty. Hidden rocks and roots waiting to smash you. We popped out at the end and everyone was laughing with ear to ear grins.
We somehow popped out at Walden Pond. I still don't know how we did this. It was sort of like jumping in a time machine and being popped out into a woods riding nirvana. We checked in. Regrouped and saw Drew and Matt O'Keefe's group. I have a lot of friends called Matt don't I? It can get confusing at times. Drew is the best. That smile above pretty much sums up what a great guy he is. We split back into groups of 10 and gave them a head start. Frankly we wanted all the ice mochas at the rest stop to ourselves anyway! Let me stop and take a step back for a minute. So the Honey One Hundred was billed as a 100km CX adventure ride. But one of the coolest things about it is that people interpret CX in many different ways. Plenty of people were on CX "race" bikes with either all around or file tread tires. But there were also a bunch of people on winter bikes or rando bikes with either fat slicks or Jet's jammed in. I even saw a couple of road bikes. And yes even a couple of mtn bikes. It was a nice mix and there were some really special bikes on the ride. I tend to be a bike geek so I notice what everyone is riding. The community is what makes these rides so special. Like I said I had a bunch of friends in my group and leading and riding with other groups. It was great bumping into them at the stops or on the trail. Its rare these days to have this much time to spend with your friends. And I always cherish it.
The ride almost went off the rails in Acton as we were flying down a rail trail. Rail trails are almost the most dangerous parts of these rides. In the woods you are lazer focused (ok unless you have had 5 bottles of cold brew!) and flow through the roots and trees at the speed dictated by the terrain and the limitations of tires and brakes. But on a rail trail you can go almost race pace. They are flat and tend to be straight line. But they have little land mines that you don't always see. I was riding next to my good friend Matt Lolli just talking. I was thinking man this is so awesome. Oddly he was thinking the exact same thing when BOOM. His front tire hit a rock I guess and his hands go flying off the bars. He starts careening into the trees. Somehow his bars bounced off his knee and he was able to get both hands back on the bars and stop before certain death. Well not death but some serious loss of flesh. Matt and I took it down a notch after that. And then of course forgot all about it seconds later and were blasting along and getting rad. I have so many great memories from the day. One overall feeling that I am still processing is how much ground we covered and how much we interacted with the communities we rode through. That is one of the really special things about these rides. You get out there. And see what the local towns near you that you would never visit in a car are all about. We rode buy soccer games, baseball games, cook outs. Everyone smiled and waved. People like bikes. They can't help it.
Lunch was amazing. At the half-way point a full lunch with make your own burritos was waiting for us. We sat down and again just enjoyed the day. Said hi to lots of new friends. This was also the second time during the day where the ride almost derailed. Matt Aumiller starts jumping around and says he got stung by a bee. Ok. I sort of ignored him. Then John from the Ride Studio gets stung. Now I am starting to focus through the cold brew haze. Then Doug Jenne comes running out of the woods. slapping himself. All in all I think we had ten bee bites. They probably were wasps. We got some first aid on it but the boys just shook it off and got on the bikes. I love mtn bikers. We joked that bee stings may become a new form of doping. That it gives you a performance advantage. Of course it does...The three guys who were stung were troopers. The only time they really noticed the swelling and pain was when we would stop. So we kept moving of course. One of my favorite trails of the day was one called Otter Slide trail in Carlisle. It was as it sounded like a slip and slide on the ridge above a creek. You had to totally focus on the tiny line of sand winding through the vegetation and not look down at the dropoff to your left! Somehow no one ended up in the creek!
We had zero flats, zero mechanicals, 10 bee stings, and one real crash. Towards the end on the last real technical section the caffeine was really taking its toll, we were all just laughing and shredding the amazing root covered singletrack. John smashed into some roots pretty hard. Then I came up over the top of a lip a touch too fast hit a bunch of roots that then propelled me down the offcamber into a tree. Luckily I grabbed a fist full of brake to scrub some speed but was till about to go face first into a pine tree. I unclipped my left leg and karate kick/self arrested with my sidi dragon. It was probably the funniest crash I have had in a while. We somehow survived this last section of woods and were at the last rest stop. We topped off our bottles, said one last thank you to the amazing support staff and then headed home. It was an incredible feeling rolling in together to the Ride Studio after a full day of riding and adventure. Great food was once again waiting for us! We sat down and even though we weren't "hungry" had to indulge. I have never eaten so well in my life. What a day. HUGE thanks to everyone who came out and did the ride. We need to do more of these rides. So great seeing so many friends and making new ones. Hope everyone had a great day.
One disclaimer: I know a lot of the above text talks about going fast and shredding in the woods etc. I want to be clear that we are all very experienced woods riders and respect the environment and other trails users. We dismounted and walked across Old North Bridge in Concord because the docent asked us to, we stopped for an equestrian group we saw in Acton, we said hi and always slowed down for any hikers/dog walkers. To be honest we saw very few people in the actual woods. The biggest group was a group of equestrians who we stopped and talked to in Acton. These types of rides are new so we ask that you always be respectful and nice and yield to other trail users.