By Chris Stratton
Published 05/06/2023; Updated 05/07/2023

Five riders met at JFK Middle School on a perfect spring morning to begin the inaugural Saturday C ride of the 2023 season from an alternate parade-traffic-avoiding start location.

We’d no sooner passed through Look Park on the rail trail on our way to meet up with a few more expected participants at the Leeds Post Office, than a tiny bit of amber beer bottle glass claimed the front tube of one of our number.   After watching from within the collective group interest as the suffering rider began the removal process, at the first hint of uncertainty our ride leader sprang into action – and promptly managed to either destroy the first available tube with a tire lever, or else discover that it had already been punctured in carriage.   Somewhere along in there a pump chuck removed a valve core, and there was some speculation if that might have been the source of escaping air sounds, but no, after tightening the core with mini pliers it became undeniable that the replacement tube was truly dead.  So off with the tire again!  And oh yes, let’s finally think to send someone ahead to the Leeds Post Office to advise those likely waiting there.    Finally after nearly a half hour(!) we managed to get yet another tube safely stuffed into the rim extrusion, the tire popped over it, and back on our way, despite the fact that that the bead had still not fully seated.

Naturally such delay called assembling the full ride into question, and we saw no one still waiting at Leeds.  An exchanged text suggested someone had given up on “catching us” after muscles had frozen from delay, but to our pleasant surprise part way up Old Goshen Road we encountered that rider and another waiting – so suddenly we were a magnificent seven.
The unpaved portion of Old Goshen was found as firmly packed as expected and accomplished without issue, though the final steep push (paved again) left a few walking – at least one of which later discovered to more private amusement that he’d given up while still in the big ring.  Haven’t we all done that at some point?

Nearing the D.A.R. we found that the tire of the repaired wheel had still not popped fully out onto the bead with the expected “bang” and was feeling a bit dodgy, but we agreed to go on and address it at the optional fire tower access detour.  Turned out as we rolled through the state forest that no one was really in the mood for the detour climb – though I did refresh my memory from last year that it is indeed road-tire friendly gravel.   A CO2 cartridge was proffered and using that we finally got the suspect tire up to ordinary pressure, though it still was not fully popped out all around to run true.

Our planned route turned left to descend northward to South Ashfield and  a loop through Conway, though at that turn we found our lead elements waiting and expressing a desire to turn more quickly for home, and after a bit of discussion we reached a near consensus that we’d collectively had a great ride on a great weekend, but there were other things to do with the rest of the day, other rides to contemplate for Sunday, and Conway could remain an attractively unused option for another day.  So we all descended Ludwig to turn south on Ashfield/Williamsburg road in a sort of reverse Hilltowns ThNR .

After unwinding all our climb with delicious descent we arrived at the river crossing in Williamsburg.  Originally I’d proposed climbing Nash Hill to Adams and down North Farms as that had actually been my first concept for the ride before it occurred that doing so undersold the Saturday C scope and I’d added the Conway loop the the plan.  But various riders were saying they’d rather take Route 9 or South Street and Audubon back, so in the end we all decided to stick together and do the obvious thing by returning the way we’d come – climbing the actually rather gentle grade up South Street and down Audubon.   Passing through Leeds we began splitting towards assorted homes, though I enjoyed seeing the core group back to the JFK parking lot before charging off to visit some of the open houses that form my own distraction of this early summer.