|Thom P came up with this amazing Ash vs Evil Dead inspired graphic|
We did have "ride leaders" In the Philly sense of ride leaders. Rosey (of the Ronde de Rosey) invented this type of riding. Not even going to lie. It is the truth. He got the ball rolling with the Ronde de Rosey and we and others took the ball and ran with it. But no one was doing these types of rides before Rosey. The Ronde de Rosey showed just how much fun you can have riding with a crew on some crazy route mixed with trails, roads, paths etc. The next group that, at least for me, has influenced how I look at these rides is the Philly crew. The Feats of Strength ride they guided me on when we all went do to Philly for SSCXWC opened my eyes. It showed me just how to conduct a rolling party on bikes without anyone dying. Its an art. It is the EXACT opposite of how most people conduct a "group" ride. There is a reason these types of rides are growing. And why people keep pushing the envelope of what "gravel" bikes can do. I hate that term but it is the most elegant term for the types of bikes and the type of riding we are doing. I guess its still cyclocross but that term gets so confused with cyclocross racing which is the furthest thing from what these rides are all about.
But back to the task at hand. I was blown away by how stoked people were to help out Stevil. To me the most important part of this ride was to just get Stevil stoked and to ride a crazy ride for him. Raising funds was important but really not the biggest part of the ride. That said we had incredible support from Gerry Finnegan and the Washington Square Tavern who once again let us dirt bag bikers take over the bar and use it as HQ for the day. Gerry is the best. One of the strongest bikers I know and always up for helping out with rides and parties. This ride basically became a Winter Ronde. We, without, knowing it were playing El Nino roulette with IceWorld666. We have had some ridiculously nice weather of late. Springter if you will. Or Spring in Winter. Hmmm I may never want to use the "word" springter in a conversation. Sounds way to much like sphincter. Anyhoo…So its been really nice. But of course Ice World decided it had enough of our hubris and decided to throw an ice storm at us a few days before the ride. To say I was freaking out was an understatement. I did my best to not text, email and tweet at Thom and Michele. They had enough of full autovelocb the two weeks leading up to the ride. Michele asked me to go scout out a small section on my fat bike. It was the most terrifying ride of my life. A fat bike is NOT a magic unicorn. Even a fat bike on sheer ice gets loose. Wood bridges that have a slick coat of ice on them are death traps. Yeah you can guess where this is going. So maybe I went off a wood bridge or two. It was the perfect sacrifice for the upcoming ride.
By the time Sunday rolled around the trails were actually pretty clear. There were still some isolated sections that were skating rinks. And the bridges were still death traps. But all in all the trails were great. Sun was out. The Trail Gods were smiling on us. The biggest challenge with this type of ride is you never really know how many people will show up. I had a rough idea but you never know. I was guessing we would have about 30-40 people. We had 70. Maybe more. People came from NH, CT, NY it was a true NECX gathering of the tribe. Stevil is well liked. And I think we all get when a rider goes down how important it is to show support. We have all been there that is for sure. Unlike a Ronde we didn't have "teams" it was going to be a bit more loose. The garmin route was available before the ride and people were free to form groups or ride solo. Thom and Michele led two big groups. I left the Tavern last with the idea that I would sweep the course for any riders who had mechanicals or got lost. We rolled out with the Chainline Pain Train, Team Awesome and a bunch of single speeders. The ride was super chill all the way to Skyline which is the first dirt sector. Skyline is a funny little open space. Pretty technical for the first bit of dirt. And things always happen in there each time we do the Ronde.
Will and Ramponi got to the front and just shredded through the trails. I kept reminding myself to not do anything stupid. But it was hard to not do something stupid as the trails were so mint. And the RoboZank (more on the bike later) was inspiring me to do lots of things I would not usually do on my CX bike. The combination of hydro disc brakes and tubeless CX tires is pretty rad is all I will say. Will and Ramponi were on SS Mtn bikes. I am always blown away at how great of riders those two are. They are on a whole other level than your average human being who pedals a bike. We catch some earlier groups. High fives are exchanged. We pop out on the pavement and regroup. We miraculously have not lost one rider. Which is saying something because in year's past we have lost riders in there for what seems like an eternity. As Ice Cube would say "today was a good day". We get to the next dirt sector in Nahanton and again we shred and catch some groups. We turn onto the Charles River Trail and see a big group stopped. I check with Michele. She is trying to keep her group moving so I push on with my group. We have one massive regroup right before heading out onto a main road in Newton. It is one of the most hilarious sights I have ever witnessed. DJ Robert and Shoogs have booth brought boom boxes. They are basically having a rolling old school hip hop dance off on bikes.
We roll out once again to try and just keep things from becoming too crowded on the trails. My group is going from 12-6 and yo-yoing all over the place. Riders switched groups each stop or sort of decided to ride with other friends and socialize. I really liked this part of the ride. Typically on a Ronde you leave with one crew and come back with the same crew. Here it was just fun to ride back and forth and hang with different people. It really was sort a reunion of sorts. So many rad people were on the ride. We got to the first beer stop at the Arches in Wellesley. Thom had done a beer stash ride the day before and hidden Moats Mountain beers all over the place. But he had done such a good job only he knew where they were! Which is great because no way any of these beers would have lasted if they were out in the open. When I told my wife we had Moats for the ride her instructions were very clear "Don't come home without Moats" It is her favorite beer. And you can't get it in MA. So I would stuff my backpack with beers at each stop. Cause I love my wife. It was like a easter egg hunt for good beer.
After a nice beer stash hangout. We headed out to the next trail sector. The next one was a really nice new piece of trail with some really weird history that none of us had ever ridden before. It really was just a nice pine covered trail with nothing technical. A few bridges but no big deal. My spidey sense should have been on high alert. Just as we are about to exit the trail I hear my good friend and wingman Scott's bike make a god awful sound. You know the sound. Like a bike dying. I stop and see his derailler in a position that let's just say was sub-optimal. This isn't our first rodeo. There are no frustrated bike tosses or expletives. Just calm and the words "I got this" So I take the group off the trail to the cul de sac and regroup while Scott fixes his bike. Gary had a flat anyway so we just chill. We joke about who can fix their bike first. Scott pops out of the woods even before Gary can put his tools away. I heckle Gary a bit. Then Scott's bike explodes. Haha. Ok now things are getting interesting. We let the whole group go and stay behind with Scott. Now its just me, Scott, Eric, Kevin and Josh.
I text Pam to see if she can come pick up Scott. Crickets. Scotts bike is unrideable. Derailler hanger is sheered off. Chain is FUBAR'd. So we start getting creative. I get out my Rapha tow rope…aka inner tube and wrap it around Scott's stem. Josh pushes while I tow (and Scott does a fair amount of kick biking) and we somehow get Scott back to my house which is about 4 miles away. At the house I rummage through my garage and find a replacement derailler hanger and a chain. Scott turns his bike into a very expensive SSCX and we head back out. It took us less than 15 minutes from the time we got to my house to be back on the road. We zip over to Needham Town Forest and do some rad trails in there and I take the crew to Martini Junction. I know at this point the only smart thing to do is start heading back to the Tavern. I take the group through Cutler and we shred the Island and a bunch of the flow trails. Cutler was running perfect that day. So fast and flowy. Eric was flying! We pop out of Cutler and I take us back over through Wells ave to Millennium and the secret pump track. I was hoping we would catch the other groups so we could hang out.
As we come around the corner we just see an awesome heckle pit flow session going down. People are drinking beer and hucking off jumps. Some hilarity is ensuing to say the least. I catch up with so many people. Thom and Michele's crew have about 16 more miles at this point. My plan even before the major mechanical was to only do the 40. So I grab Shoogs and Guthrie and we beeline it back towards Brookline. Shoogs as always cracks me up. We catch up on the roll back into town. We have one last mechanical right as we are about to head back into town. Just a rear flat. We hit it with a CO2 and are at the Tavern in no time. At the Tavern people are returning with so many cool tales of the ride. People are so stoked. I order a burger and beer and see my friend Scott (who we had lost jamming through Cutler!) We laugh our asses off at how funny it was towing him back to my house. I am barely 5'7" and weigh 160. Scott is 6'3" and probably weighs 200. Thank god Josh was able to push at times or no way I would have been able to drag him up some of the hills. The descents were the funniest part. He would pass me as his mass would exceed my high cadence spinning. There were so many times when wheels were crossed and my rear tire would be buzzed but we are professionals and were never in danger of crashing.
We had two raffles as the early crowd that had returned from the 25 and 40 milers wanted to get going. People were so generous with their donations and everyone had such great things to say about All Hail The Black Market and Stevil. The funniest thing I had all day was from a woman who moved to Boston from Norcal. Her exact words were " I didn't think cyclists in Boston did this type of stuff." There were a lot of new faces at the Tavern and on the ride. New friends were made and I think we opened some people's eyes to just how much great riding is so close to home. Even in an urban environment like Boston you can be on a trail in less than 15 minutes. Rosey helped me with the raffle and is a true PRO. I won't lie I am horrible as a public speaker. I get sort of nervous and have some anxiety about it. But Rosey just nailed it. We raffled off all the prizes and raised a really nice amount of money for Stevil. Thank you so much to all who came out and rode and donated money to the cause. HUGE thanks to: Thom, Michele, Gerry, Rosey, Zank, Soulrun, Castelli, Moat Mountain, Squid Bikes, Cross Propz, Barks and Wrecks, Team Awesome, Stevil and AHTBM, Giro, Cory and Accelerade.