On a recent ride me and some friends lamented the dearth of ride choices caused by our being located in a major city on the water. From Boston there are essentially two options most take – southwest to the Dover area or northwest to Concord. The unfortunate presence of the Massachusetts Bay to the east precludes any rides in that direction, speaking on the most basic geographic terms. It’s not that there isn’t quality riding or many variations of those routes, but in my perception there is little room for a landmark ride in the Metro Boston area.
Hence I’ve looked to western Massachusetts for my big goal of the season. My grandfather has a house out in the Berkshires, which is less densely packed with roads but offers more varied and less familiar terrain than Boston. And unlike Boston there is a clear landmark. Mount Greylock is the highest point in Massachusetts at 3,491 feet but the metric of interest to cyclists is its prominence, which one can see as the elevation available to climb. In this case the prominence stands at 2,464 feet. Last summer my family and I were in the Berkshires for 24 hours and I took the opportunity to persuade everyone that riding/hiking/driving Mt. Greylock was a good idea. As it happened I got a ride to the base and back from the summit. On climbbybike.com the ride from North Adams up Notch Rd. has an average gradient of “only” 5.7%, but that’s dragged down by false flats. Strava gives very large numbers for the grade at some points, but it’s reasonable to assume there are stretches at 20%.
For 2015 I want to ride door-to-door, which would entail riding around 50 miles to find the climb in North Adams, then another 40-something back to Lee on dead legs. There’s a 500-ft climb back to my granddad’s house in the hills too, for good measure. On June 1st the summit roads on Mt. Greylock open to traffic, so in the meantime I plan to train for distance. My typical ride is 45 miles long, but I aim to increase that to 100 miles through clever combinations of routes and even repeating loops. Most recently I’ve hooked up the CRW 28 in Dover to a Concord loop for 71 miles total, but eventually I would like to explore beyond I-495 instead of covering territory around I-128. On the climbing front there’s a third option, to the Observatory access road on the Great Blue Hill in Milton. Last Saturday I went up the 10% grade road and to put it mildly, found out I still have some work to do on my climbing. Okay, I blew up. More worryingly, the access road is only 0.7mi in length with 400ft of elevation gain. By comparison, the way up Mt. Greylock is 9 miles long.
Given my backtrack on racing this year, finding a good route to and from Mt. Greylock and ultimately getting some company to do it with me has taken priority. Just like race days are the best training for racing, I’ll have to do more long rides and climbing to train for a prospective century. It looks like I still have plenty of time to figure this out given my current work schedule, so watch this space!