By Charlie Bailey
Published 06/24/2021; Updated 06/24/2021

The Thursday A/B (aka “Hilly Ride”) has a bit of a reputation (is that ever a good thing?). First, we have a reputation of really hammering on the way back to Northampton. Second, the Ashfield road climb is not an insignificant bump on the landscape! It takes a solid 30 minutes to ride from Williamsburg to the Ashfield regroup point in South Ashfield. And third, we have a reputation for dropping riders on the way to Williamsburg.

Let me tackle those one by one (in reverse order):

Dropping riders on the way to Williamsburg

We have largely eliminated this past problem. We roll out of Northampton at a social pace, not unlike the social pace on the Wednesday ride into Hatfield. I’ll admit that occasionally, we have had a rider join us that wasn’t ready for the A/B social pace (which in our group of 10-12 riders is generally about 16-18 MPH) and we have lost them. It’s something that I actively try to avoid, but I’m not infallible. A sweep would really help here.

The Ashfield Road Climb

There’s no doubt about it, this is a long climb. But — it’s doesn’t have to be 30 minutes of torture. Each rider climbs at their own pace and we regroup after the quick descent into Ashfield. That said, there has generally been a big uptick in the tempo as we leave Williamsburg in the foothills approaching the main climb, and that can be off putting for those of us (ahem… me) that are just tying to stay with the group until the climb really starts. To that end, I have instituted (successfully I think) a reigning in of the speed until we hit Hemmenway Road when the climb really starts. We still go a little faster out of Williamsburg, but we actively try to keep the group together until Hemmenway. This has been a big help to me and others that need a little more time (and need to reserve a bit of energy) for the climb.

Hammering Back to Northampton

This is an area that could still use some work. We have three town line sprints along the way back, and the jockeying for position is frankly fun to participate in, and when I’m not up to the full gas effort, fun to watch. What can sometimes happen during these efforts is that folks at the back can get dropped during the sprint and not catch back on after the sprint is complete. That happened to me last week at sprint #1, and thankfully, Chris J. noticed it, dropped back to see if I was OK, and then proceeded to tow me all the way back to Northampton – a true group rider if I ever saw one – thanks a ton Chris! Tonight we are going to try something new where we actively seek to put the group back together after the sprints so this doesn’t happen again.

We have had success addressing items one and two, and I’m confident we can address this last issue. It just takes a little awareness, some direction, and some follow through.

It’s really an amazingly fun ride and I think that its (unwarranted?) reputation keeps many riders away. If you’re an A/B rider, please come join us on Thursdays at 5:30PM in Pulaski Park.


One response to “Thursday Hilltown Ride – Come Join Us!”

  1. Don Frank says:

    I am not the world’s best climber, but I used to love the descent from Ashfield Mtn to 116. I used to climb early and wait for the pack at the top so I could do that great ride back home without making anyone wait.