My love of both my friends and adventure riding has been well documented. I have never been shy about the fact that my friends are way radder than I am. Some of it certainly is due to the fact they are all 10-20 years younger than me. The fact that they let me take part in their Reindeer games without making me feel like too much of a geezer is a gift. I do feel #blessed to have found so many great friends at such an advanced age...I am joking of course. Sure I see how Paul Curley looks at me at the races. He has that Impish look of "are you sure you should be hanging with all these young guns?" You are too old for that Chipper. Problem is when you move back to the town you grew up in and marry your High School sweet heart you get locked in an '80s Time Warp. I swear I am a 17 year old living in a middle aged man's body. It is weird.
The good news is for an old dude I have kinda kept myself in ok shape. Certainly not compared to the actually racers in my "age group" But in the general population way ahead of the game. My #dadbod game is strong for sure but how hard is it to fake a little adventure bike ride? My good friend and co-promoter of Das Nacht Van Weasel Colin is a jack of all trades. I mean seriously. I have known race promoters. I am currently "retired" but in my former life on the west coast I helped promote World Cups and National CX races. And a bike festival that will remain unnamed. So I know bike promoters. In general they are dicks. There I said it. But Colin and this next generation are the opposite of that. They actually care about the racers and their experience. I swear there were a few promoters out west who's sole purpose it seemed was to kill bike racers. Now that is dramatic but still. Flash forward to 2016. Everyone LOVES gravel. Road racing is dying a slow death and only grumpy old men and college kids seem to care. It seemed like only a matter of time before Colin put on a Gravel Weasels. I mean he does a Night Weasels, a Ice Weasels and a Gnar Weasels. Branding is serious business.
It doesn't hurt that Colin lives out in Western Mass where there are sooo many great dirt roads. And gravel. And gnar disguised as gravel. NEBRA of whom Colin is a board member is a New England based association who is trying to save road racing. That sounds very dramatic but it is a honorable task. Road racing has taken a dive of late in New England. Lots of reasons I am sure. I believe and support NEBRA even if I am not a road racer. I think I have done two road races in my life. A crit in Downtown SF (don't laugh I lasted two laps on my CX bike) and Battenkill. Battenkill went way better than the crit cause dirt roads yo. But road and CX have a symbiotic relationship. Sort of like a shark and a ramora. Yes more people are going straight into CX. Or filtering over from MTB. But CX's health is tied to road racing's health. If road racing dies off I doubt CX will be far behind. NEBRA and those who work for the organization also help grow and support CX. So if you like CX and Road racing you should support NEBRA. Yes, I am biased as many of my friends are on the NEBRA board or work for NEBRA. But it is still a good group. And when I heard they were putting on an Adventure Ride with curated routes p/b Resultsboy I was all in.
Colin kept doing his usual #hype train. So many cool pictures and sick details kept leaking out. HUP had a great crew. If there is anything HUP loves more than CX it is some whack adventure ride. We have been doing our own semi-bandit rides non-stop here in New England since HUP was HUP. And we have grown the whole culture around CX and Gravel riding. For a first year ride on the same date as the Pan Mass challenge and Cycle-Smart Camp the NEBRA Adventure Ride had a great turnout. I won't lie I liked that it was sort of on the smaller side. D2R2 has about 2,500 riders. That is nuts. We rode in the same general area as D2. Just on the opposite side of the river. And while the overall numbers may have been lower the quality certainly wasn't. I have done D2. I have done VT Overland. I have done Rasputitsa and Dirty 40. They are awesome rides. But no disrespect but Colin and JD do not play around. They are PROs they dial in all the little details. GPX files were spot on. There we 3 routes. 45, MAX ADVENTURE and 70. The routes were clearly marked with arrows. Rest stops were where they were supposed to be and well stocked. There was roving support. It was awesome.
But on to how this whole thing went down. Like I said there was a good crew of HUP. And I had Myette in the van. It is well documented how out of hand my ADD can get. My friends joke that is is Full Auto Velocb. But as a intuitive person I know what it is. Its ADD. I have a few friends who can reel it in. Colin is one. Sara is another. And I am finding Myette is fairly good at helping me dial it down. So having Matt in the van was super helpful. Colin and Matt's #tiresizing was a nice distraction from my usual over fixation on stupid details that don't matter. What I love about Colin and Matt (and a bunch of others) is that they give zero fucks about this whole gravel specific BS. People have been riding road bikes offroad long before there was an All Roads bike. Seriously. They are fucking touring bikes repurposed. Get over yourself. Myette had 26s on his road bike. I swear they were 23s. The range of bikes at the staging area was a thing of beauty. All over the map. As it should be. One thing I like about these rides is it is like how CX used to be. No one used to warm up on a trainer in the parking lot. You showed up and said hi to your friends and rode bikes. No drama. It was fun. And tough as hell. That was the whole point.
Speaking of tough as hell. In retrospect the ride this reminded me the most of was VT Overland. The staging area was a great fun place to hang out. It sort of lulled you into thinking this was going to be a fun chill Sunday group ride. As we rolled out on a flat paved road it was very conversational. Then we hit the first climb. I swear to god it was like riding Juniper Swamp at Battenkill. Dirt road. Five across the whole road. Elbows out. I got dropped so fast it was ridiculous. I could see Jesse at the front destroying it. I somehow survived that assault on my body and regrouped with one of my HUP teammates Meg Cater. Meg and I dropped down a dirt descent leaving a trail of people behind us. I saw my good friend Chris on the side of the road. We yelled and he waved us off. Meg and I hit pavement and then just dug deep to try and catch the group.
About two miles later Chris catches us on a dirt road. We laugh so hard. And the three of us form an awesome HUP group. We yoyo between different groups but the three of us stay together the whole ride. As the saying goes " One Hup Finds Another" This was really the first time I had ridden with Meg for any extended period of time. I have known Meg for a while. She is awesome. But it takes a few rides to get to know a teammates tendencies. I will say an hour in and riding with Meg was seamless. It was like we had been teammates for a long time. What I love about these rides is that you learn so much about a person. It tests your mettle. And sense of humor. Chris, Meg and I were riding so well together. The route was so awesome. A great mix of dirt and pavement. And what Colin described on the cue sheet as "extremely" Aka Extremely sandy, Extremely sketchy, Extremely bananas. You get the idea. I love that people rode this on road bikes. It was insane. The extended sand pits were probably one of my favorite sections. That is weird I know. But the sand pits were deep! And long. It was such great CX practice.
You would power through some insane technical bit like that and then pop out onto some amazing road. Beautiful just rolling terrain. So many great bridges. And paths. And then BOOM! Wendell Forest would kick you in the teeth. Again, HUGE kudos to Chris. He has pretty much locked down HUP MVP of 2016. Right before we hit dirt into Wendell Meg dropped her chain into her spokes. It must have tweaked the derailler hanger. Suffice it to say the bike was not happy. Chris was able to adjust the limit screws and save the day. I honestly thought we were toast. Wendell might have been my favorite spot. It reminded me of a climb near home off of Strawberry Hill that is a basically a dried out stream bed/rock garden. But this climb went on for 2 miles. Or maybe more. When we popped out Meg Bilodeau was waiting for us at the first aid station with fig newtons, and so many life saving snacks.
The rest of the ride was amazing. 46 miles of pure adventure bliss. New England witnessed the birth of a new dirt adventure ride. This ride will rival VT Overland and D2 in a few years. Sure I prefer this size. It felt like a great group ride with friends. I knew pretty much everyone on the ride. Everyone on the ride treated me like family. JD and Meg were amazing hosts. The after pizza party was so great. HUGE shout outs to Colin, JD, Meg, Christin, Lauren, Steve and everyone who made this happen. I want to go back and ride it again this weekend.