By Michael Bello
Published 06/18/2023; Updated 06/18/2023

On Saturday, the 2023 edition of the Bikes Fight Cancer charity ride was held at Tree House Brewing Company in Deerfield. There were three route options: the 25 miles route, the 50 miles route (with a few miles of mild dirt), and the 50 mile paved route. The Northampton Cycling Club sponsored the first rest stop for the 50 mile routes.

The weather forecast was “iffy” at best going into the weekend. The BFC team sent emails to riders at lunch time on Friday encouraging registration Friday evening to minimize time on Saturday morning in case it was raining. Since I live 15 minutes from Tree House, my son and I headed up on Friday to register. After getting my wrist band, Johnny and Meghan from the BFC team offered us pizza. The Tree House pizza gets a thumbs up from my five year old. Granted, he ate it the slice crust first to the pointy end, but he devoured the whole thing.



As we walked back to the car, I took his photo in front of the brewery. When I looked at the photo late on Friday night, I realized it was in a very similar motif to JOK’s daily Strava photo of his dog Sprocket.



After returning home, I gathered my stuff for the ride. This was fortunate since around 7:30 PM a transformer blew in Hatfield, which knocked the power out for about 90 minutes. I’m glad I did not have to put together my cycling paraphernalia in the dark.

Before leaving the house on Saturday morning, I checked the weather again. It looked like we were going to get lucky with only a mild drizzle throughout the morning. I had a lot of rain gear in my bag already, so it would be a game time decision once I arrived on what to wear. Everyone is aware that I’m an avid Zwifter, so riding in a rain is not my thing.

To be safe, I had covered the vents on the bottom on my cycling shoes with tape and even covered the charging ports on my electronic devices with tape. With only drizzle predicted, this seemed like overkill, but I wasn’t about to rip the tape off now.

I arrived at Tree House and was greeted by a text from NCC co-president Jonathan Brody:

Brody: I’m at the Tree House in Charleton – where is everyone?

Me: Tree House in Deerfield

Brody: What!?

Me: Same place as last year. There are a lot of people here.

Five minutes later, Brody appeared and wanted to see if I fell for his joke.

There was light drizzle, but nothing serious. I had a good feeling about the weather. I even decided to forgo the shoe covers and put on my traditional short socks (cue the cycling community’s gasp).

Several NCC members gathered for a photo prior to the start.



At 8 AM, Johnny and Meghan gave a quick speech and riders departed. The drizzle turned into a light rain as the 50 mile groups departed. My friend Steve, who is on the Bikes Fight Cancer team, volunteered us to sweep the 50 mile routes. He would do the traditional route, while I would ride the pavement only route. We planned to leave at 8:20 AM in order to give the riders space.

There were 387 riders registered for the event. As we waited to depart, the sky opened! I ducked under the Joe’s Garage tent, where I chatted briefly with Joe and Guss. Eventually Amy and Craig, who were riding the 25 mile route, also joined us. At this point, I returned to my car and put on tall socks and latex shoe covers. This was one of my best decisions of the day!



Steve and I rolled out at 8:22 AM and the rain was gushing. As we rode down North Main Street in Deerfield, I knew this was going to be a long and wet day.



We started seeing other riders on River Road. They were all riding the 25 mile route, but had departed early. Steve and I kept going. I had not ridden the northern part of River Road since last year. The fresh pavement is fantastic. If the major potholes from last year still existed, there would have been a lot of flats today.

As we crossed the bridge on the Greenfield Rail Trail, we arrived at the magical point. The 25 milers turned right to head back, while we continued straight. The Canalside Trail is unsurprisingly next to the Turners Fall Canal. I have never seen the canal water level so high. I foolishly said to Steve, “The rain is stopping.”



Those words really haunted us. On the Gill Montague Bridge, a downpour started. We also had the added bonus of road spray from cars.



As we pulled into the Gill Elementary School rest stop, the last 50 mile riders pulled out. We got some food and attempted to dry off under the tents. Several times, one of the volunteers pushed up on the tent roof to expel the built-up water. I missed the sign, but this was the NCC rest stop (Nutrition, Cookies, and Chips). Thanks to the NCC group for capturing a photo of the sign.



By the time Steve and I started riding again, I was freezing. My legs were shivering as we immediately descended upon leaving the rest stop. Fortunately, a few short hills brought my body temperature back to normal.

When we hit Northfield Road, we encountered even odder weather. The rain lightenedd up a bit and we would hit pockets of warm air and then pockets of cold air. It was truly bizarre.

The horses on Pine Meadow Road seemed unfazed by the weather. They were content grazing in the pastures.



At mile 30, Steve continued straight onto the gravel section and I turned left onto Cross Road to return to Route 63. Steve told me later that the dirt section was nice, but mud was getting stuck in his bike’s drivetrain. It was like a mini version of Unbound.

I’ve only ridden the BFC traditional route, so Cross Road was new to me. I was surprised by the climb and the intimidating underpass.



I continued on Route 63 and navigated into Millers Falls. I took a slight detour and went to the Lake Pleasant to see the Bridge of Names. The sun was starting to peek out.



I backtracked to the paved route and kept going.

I rode by the Turners Fall Airport. I knew it existed, but I’ve never ridden by it and was surprised by its size.



Steve beat me to the second rest stop at the leaning barn. Since there were no other riders at the stop and we were the last riders on course, it was an F1 style pitstop, fast.



We departed as the volunteers were packing up. In fact, as we removed our bikes from the rack, it was being collapsed.

The waterfall was flowing on Falls Road in Sunderland and so was the rain.



We navigated over the blue bridge in Sunderland and back onto Sugarloaf Street. Deerfield’s 350th anniversary parade started at 2 PM. Despite the rain, the townspeople were setting up tents and we could smell the cookouts. We even passed a school bus carrying the Brattleboro American Legion band.

Just for the fun of it, Mother Nature decided to dump another round of intense rain on us as we navigated the final stretch on Route 5/10 and turned into the Tree House parking lot.



I’m going to go out on a limb and state that Steve and I are excellent sweepers. We did not encounter a single rider on the 50 mile routes. Therefore, we had no issue handling every single issue we encountered. The SAG cars apparently helped a few riders so quickly that we did not even know that anyone had flats until the conclusion of the ride.

When we crossed the line my Wahoo read 54 miles (added a few miles for the stop at the Bridge of Names). I believe Wahoos calculate elevation based on barometric pressure. The weather and the piles of water on it made the Wahoo read 5,141 feet of climbing, which is nowhere close to the approximately 2,000 feet of climbing for the route.

After changing into dry clothes, we headed to the party. There were food trucks, Tree House pizza, and a large tent to hide from the intense rain.



Of course, there was a break in the weather when I arrived back in Hatfield. I ended up washing my bike, which was so dirty. I could hear the dirt on the disc brake rotors rubbing and decided I needed to deal with that. My kit was absolutely disgusting and my rain jacked had a giant dirt/mud streak up the back. The kit was actually dryer when I removed it from the washing machine then before I put it in.

It was an epic day. Despite the weather, everyone had a great time. Thank you to the BFC team, the volunteers, the donors, and the NCC participants.


Relive ‘2023 Bikes Fight Cancer’