By Jonathan O'Keeffe
Published 12/18/2011; Updated 11/25/2021

by Jonathan O’Keeffe » Sun Dec 18, 2011 12:38 am
Our run of good luck with the December weather continued this morning, with temperatures in the low thirties, fairly abundant sunshine, and dry roads. Seven of us turned up at the Academy – Clayton, Ron, Joe, Roberto, Chris, Mike, and me. Mike had suggested heading to McCusker’s in Shelburne Falls, and with a pretty steady wind blowing out of the north-northwest, this seemed like a pretty good way to bring us some tailwinds on the return leg.

We headed up over North Farms Road and up past the reservoirs to Conway, with Chris taking a couple of town line sprints along the way. A sharp climb on Shelburne Falls Road, and then a cold descent into the headwind down into Shelburne Falls. We decided to skip McCusker’s, probably a good idea considering the lengthy vacation we took the last time we stopped there, and opted instead for a pit stop at Keystone Market across the bridge, keeping it quick to avoid cooling down too much.

My goal this fall has been to seek out some new routes wherever possible, so for the return trip from Shelburne Falls, I chose to avoid the long steady traffic-y slog up Rt. 112 into Ashfield, and instead steered us left from 112 onto East Buckland Road, where I had never been, but which looked promising from the maps I had checked. This turned out to be a great choice, with a very challenging climb up relatively quiet and scenic back roads. The climb stair-steps upward, with a couple quick descents mixed in, along with several really steep walls. Definitely one of the best new climbs that I’ve seen this year.

Near the top, the road turns to dirt (hard-packed and smooth) for the last few hundred meters. We stopped to regroup there, and then continued onward to descend another mile and a half on well-groomed dirt, eventually meeting up with Baptist Corner Road, which took us into Ashfield Center. I was planning on just taking us home on Williamsburg Road, but Clayton had a hankering to see Mount Monadnock, which led us up a steep ascent on Norton Hill Road, a high-speed and cold descent on Creamery Road, and then a long and steep climb up Brier Hill Road and West Road to the hilltop clearing at about 1,650′ elevation, where snow-covered Mount Monadnock was indeed clearly visible, 43 miles to the northeast.

We sped down the cold and steep descent to Ludwig Road, and then the longer and less-steep descent down into Williamsburg, enjoying the tailwind, along with slightly-warmer temperatures as we got lower (it was around 28° at the summit clearing, with intermittent snow flurries for a half-hour or so, but no real accumulation).

The group began to break up in Williamsburg, with Mike and Ron heading down Route 9, and Clayton and Joe heading home in Florence, while Chris, Roberto, and I headed back to Amherst and Belchertown. At the break, I had 50 miles @ 16.4 mph, 4,900′ of climbing (which is a ton for a 50-mile ride). Overall, this was really a great ride today, and not just because we’re still riding in the second half of December. The group really worked well together, pushing hard on the climbs and working cooperatively on the flats and descents. Thanks to everyone for coming out in the cold and creating a great ride for all of us.

We’re not done yet! Next Saturday is Christmas Eve, and if the weather holds up, we might be able to get another ride in. I know lots of folks are busy that weekend, but if the weather is decent, I’ll suggest we consider a Saturday ride, maybe starting at 9AM instead of 10AM, and running a little bit shorter than our usual 50 miles, to give people a little more time later in the day to deal with holiday logistics. For the weekend after that, keep an eye on the calendar page on the website. If the weather is great, we might ride on Saturday (New Year’s Eve), but we’ll definitely ride on Sunday on the traditional New Year’s Day Temperature Ride (note this ride is at noon on New Year’s Day).

by Chris deHahn » Sun Dec 18, 2011 8:21 am
This was one of my favorite rides this year. It was late in the season, temps were cold but manageable, the group worked well together, and the route was challenging. That dirt section was a nice relief after all the climbing. The view of Monadnock and beyond was breathtaking. It had to be at least 60 miles, probably farther. I ended up with 5:26, 89mi, 5220ft. It was great to see you all. Thanks Clayton for your help with the bike stuff, and thank you Jonathan for all the work you do planning out these spectacular routes.