Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mini-Tour to Concord, MA

Last Sunday I felt so invigorated in my spring Wheeling Suit, that I decided it was time for my first mini-tour. The Co-Habitant had to work, so I went on my own - to Concord, which is a small town about 18 miles from where we live.

Here is Marianne posing to show off that she had reached Concord.

This is a popular cycling route in the Boston area. I first went through the Minuteman Trail and then cycled on the road (Route 62 W) for an additional 5.5 miles. At the end of the Minuteman Trail, I overheard a pair of road cyclists - dressed in full lycra and on super-high-tech bikes - discussing whether they should go to Concord or choose a different direction. One of them said that the route to Concord is really hilly and he didn't feel like dealing with that. This alarmed me, but I decided to start cycling in that direction anyway just to see how it is. If too hilly, I would simply turn back. Well, clearly that did not happen - which makes me wonder how to interpret the super-roadcyclist's comment. The terrain was completely manageable on a 12-speed bicycle.

Hills or no hills, I loved cycling on Route 62. There are few cars, plenty of shade even at mid-day, fresh air, and often a shoulder to cycle on. Along the way are farms, picturesque New England houses, old cemeteries, and stretches of woods. This is my dream landscape for touring, and I wonder whether Route 62 West continues to be just as nice further West? If you are local, please let me know.

It took me about 1 1/2 hours to arrive to Concord center from my house, not counting a coffee stop along the way. Since it is an 18-mile route, this means I was going an average of 12 mph: slow and steady, which is probably a good way to start for someone like me.

Concord, Massachusetts is a fascinating town from a historical perspective - having been home to Emerson, Thoreau and Hawthorne, among others. Its most famous site is probably Walden Pond, but I intentionally did not cycle in that direction because I want to visit it with the Co-Habitant. Instead, Marianne and I explored the town center.

It was Easter Sunday, and the people out on the streets were an amusing mix of churchgoers in their Sunday best and cyclists in skin-tight black and neon lycra.

The mood in the town center was festive.

No businesses were open except for a couple of cafes, but it was fascinating just to walk around the streets and observe.

For such a tiny town, Concord is home to a staggering number of churches. I think there were close to a dozen in the center alone.

Aside from churches, I noticed an abundance of landmark signs that refer to things that were once in that spot, but no longer are: trees that have been felled, streams that have been drained and built upon, mills and historical homes that have been demolished, etc.

There is a feeling of living in the past that the town seems to intentionally embrace - from the quaint storefronts on Main Street, to other nostalgic details here and there, like this antique bicycle next to a popular food market. I wonder whether the area around Walden Pond has a similar feel to it. Hopefully we will visit there soon.

After spending about an hour and a half in Concord, I headed back - via Route 62 again and then the Minuteman Trail. Not much was in bloom along the trail yet, but it was good to be there for the first time since November. Despite it being Easter Sunday, the path was not too crowded and I returned home in good time.

For my first mini-tour involving road cycling and a specific destination, I thought this went well. I ate at well-spaced intervals and did not get tired. In general, I feel that my endurance of long rides is determined more by comfort than physical ability: pain begins to bother me before I have the chance to grow tired. In the past, the major problems were saddle discomfort (the Brooks Flyer Special refused to break in no matter what), handlebar discomfort (too much weight placed on the hands would result in pain), and generally feeling not entirely in control of this bicycle. The control problem has been solved now. And after the latest raising of the saddle, the Flyer feels much better. The handlebars remained an issue simply because the mountain bike hand position of the Milan bars is not good for long rides. My hands did not go numb during this trip, but I felt that it would happen soon if I kept going. I have now found a solution to this, and will write about it in the next post.

A 36-mile trip is not a big deal, but it's a good step up from the 25-mile trips I have been taking. My plan is to eventually proceed to 50 miles, then more, so as to be ready for a multi-day tour by the end of summer. Any advice about the proper way to do this - or nice spots to cycle to in New England - is welcome!

27 comments:

  1. The proper way to prepare for a tour is simple. Load your bags on the bike and start pedaling. If you have to go far, start early in the day.

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  2. Sounds like a lovely way to spend a lovely day.
    The Scientist and I went to Walden Pond last summer, but we got quite lost and ended up at Route 2, which is not ridable by bicycle (55 mph, no shoulder) we had to backtrack quite a ways and finally found our way. It was as a friend says "lovely day for a ride" so I didn't mind too much the extra distance. Next time I'll have to go to Concord center for at least a coffee. I know that there is a trail of sorts down to the cape, but I don't know how ridable it is...
    I've always wanted to take my bike up to the north shore by train and tour around Cape Anne.

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  3. lovely. I will live vicariously through you on these touring rides. Touring is not in my future right now due to time restraints although I wish there was a way to bike to concord with kids. that would be fun except it wouldn't. I love concord. Years ago I did the 3 day and walked through concord on the way back to boston. It was so darn beautiful and being a colonial US history fan it's just my style. I haven't been to walden pond yet, so I can't wait to hear about your ride when you do go.

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  4. What a beautiful day for a ride! The town looks lovely and it must have been fun to explore. Marianne looks like she enjoyed the day out too. I saw your post about your Wheeling Suit too - just the perfect weather for it. So glad you got your first long ride in for the spring. Looking forward to your summer adventures and hearing about your longer rides...

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  5. Tom - I agree with that in spirit, but not in practice. Nothing derails a fine tour like an aching behind, numb hands, or improper eating. But physically, I feel as if I can keep cycling forever on a properly fitting bike and after a good breakfast.

    cycler - you mean there is a trail from Concord to the Cape?.. Never heard of it and will have to look it up. I know that there is a bike route to the Cape from Boston, but it is on the roads. Rt 62 West is very, very different from Rt 2, like night and day. The best way to get to Concord or Carlisle from the Minuteman Trail is to turn right at the intersection before the Bike Stop and then follow the huge signs. It is quiet and stress-free, even for a wimp like me.

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  6. Awesome, that looks like an amazing ride! What a great way to spend the day. I love the little New England town atmosphere. Building up to a multi-day tour sounds like a fantastic plan for the spring/summer.

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  7. Another wonderful 'travelogue'. I've always loved your literary style (There's also a non-literary reason for my preference ... ooops :p .. love of /for your posts ...)
    Very good selection of photos too.

    Btw. travelling at 12mph is actually a good speed for such trips. Why go at higher/greater speeds and break into sweat (with the attendant discomfort ) and 'excessive' & frequent thirst?. I want to enjoy, such rides as you are taking, so I go at 'comfortable' speeds.
    Thanks for your interesting posts/accounts.
    Lemony

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  8. Make no mistake - at 12mph I was still breaking a sweat : ) But it was quite hot in the middle of the day, and the hills weren't entirely effortless. I go slower partly to pace myself, but also to enjoy the scenery. You can't really get a good look at all the flowers and farmhouses at 20mpg!

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  9. My Pashley gets only 12mpg. Darn heavy hubs.

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  10. Beautiful! You are so lucky to have an idyllic day tour available from your front door.

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  11. Thanks Step-Through, though it's not exactly from my front door. I have to cycle through a nasty part of town to get to the start of the trail. But I'm pretty used to the route now, and it is definitely worth it.

    MDI - is that 12 miles per giant-slice-of-pizza? : )

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  12. Now that you have raised your saddle and might want more hand positions, perhaps back to the drop bars? But, you are building up another frame for touring, so maybe not? A quick fix at any rate.

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  13. On a totally unrelated matter, do you have any advice for putting a water bottle cage on a Pashley Princess? They didn't drill any holes for one on its frame and now I'm stumped as to a solution. Someone else told me there are bottle cages that grip the tube without screws but I have had no luck finding any and I imagine they wouldn't stay on very well. I can't be the only one who gets thirsty riding a Pashley? They thought of everything else so I don't understand why they didn't think of a solution for a water bottle attachment. They don't even offer one as an accessory.

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  14. Anon. - I have now done this to the handlebars. More on this in the next post!

    Re bottle cage on the Pashley Princess... I think the reason it's not there, is because it is not appropriate for this kind of bicycle. The way I understand it, bottlecages are put on road and touring bikes, because speed and intensity are important - there is no time to stop, get a bottle out of the bag or basket, and have a drink. On a leisurely town and country bicycle this is not an issue, and so traditionally they have never been fit with bottle cages and it's simply not part of their aesthetic. This is just my take on it. I am pretty sure you can get a clamp-on cage at a bike store?

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  15. Velouria, What a great post and what a lovely looking ride! It seemed absolutely charming and more or less how I've always imagined New England to be.

    For me, 36 miles is a big deal indeed and 12 mph seems just about right for getting where you're going while still seeing the sights.

    Congratulations on a riding season so young but already so replete with accomplishment!

    By the way, I counted no less than four French-made mixtes on CL tonight in my area, including a bright green Mercier. You may have started something.

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  16. Mike - I have seen some nice bicycles on my local C-list lately as well (Must... Not... Look...)

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  17. "I have to cycle through a nasty part of town to get to the start of the trail."

    Oh, please. :)

    When I go to Boston through Somerville, I often take an Alewife-Linear Park-Davis-Mossland St.-Hamsphire St. route and I think it's pretty nice. You should check it out unless it's too far out of your way.

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  18. There is a specific stretch of sun-drenched, crazy-drivered Somerville Ave I have to pass that I don't feel very good on. It is the only area where I have been "brushed" by cars, and it's happened multiple times. I also know several experienced cyclists who have gotten in collisions there. So I consider it a bad stretch, despite having passed through it many times at this point.

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  19. I guess I can see your point about why Pashley's aren't fitted with water bottle cages. I am going to look round for a clamp on version as you suggest though because I use it as my daily commuter bike and the ride is close to 30 minutes long and the return trip is more vigorous and that is when I tend to need a sip of water en route. I supposed I could alternatively fit one in my pannier and stop for a sip as you suggest.

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  20. Just to be clear: when I cycle through that area, I do not travel along Somerville Ave. I cross it at the intersection of Beacon, Somerville and Mossland. I actually always feel very safe there because the lights are predictable and sequenced well.

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  21. Anon, what about a cup holder on the handlebars? That could be lux.

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  22. Herzog - I live off of Beacon, but that has always seemed like a less direct route to me. Perhaps I should give it another chance though.

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  23. Why not just drop a flask in the Pashley front basket? There is certainly enough room. You could even put loops in to hold it upright/easy to grab and prevent bounce. And no one shall see it. You could even fill it with Brandy... :)

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  24. MDI is right, to the extent that it's convenient to keep a water bottle or a tumbler in the basket. Amazingly, when I do this it doesn't roll around too much, if at all. Though if you are male, I don't suppose you'd have a basket...

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  25. MDI,

    "My Pashley gets only 12mpg. Darn heavy hubs."

    Umm, you're supposed to rebuild them and fill them with helium. What do you think sealed hubs are for? :)

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  26. You have inspired me to do my own tour out to Concord. I'll take Tom's advice and just start pedaling.

    I had a goal of a half-century this year - looks like the trip to concord and back is 40 miles - so if i am up to it i could just loop around the esplanade and add a few more miles!

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