I ended up ordering a pair of Michelin Dynamic tires for my 'cross bike in 700x28 on Kerry's suggestion. Ed used the ride as an excuse to order a long-wanted compact crankset for his 'cross bike. After reading this report, Ed suggested that we put the Dynamics on the front wheels of our bikes and Ritchey Speedmaxes on the back. We also used Rock Shox seatposts. We both had a low gear of 34x27. I used my road shoes and pedals since I knew those were dialed in and comfortable for long rides. And of course I borrowed some King cages from another bike. They're very durable and non-marking. We ended up being pretty happy with our equipment choices, although I wouldn't have minded an easier gear at points.
I made a very simple map holder with a ziploc bag and binder clips, which I would not recommend. Every time I hit a bump the clips let go. Ed's navigation system, based on Meg's from last year, was very useful and refined. He turned the cue sheet into a long strip of paper, then took a paper towel tube and cut two slits in it. He taped chopsticks to each end of the paper and fed the paper through the slits. He covered everything with plastic wrap and sealed the ends with packing tape to make it waterproof, then attached the tube to his brake cables with electrical tape.
The gear obsession was of course not really necessary. We saw a variety of bikes, all of which were successfully ridden to the end of the course as far as I know. A selection:
- - Mountain bike with smooth tires and an old-style aero bar
- - Cyclocross bike being ridden by a triathlete in a tiny tri suit (no pockets) with bottle ejectors. Guess who picked up one of the bottles and cages when it was duly ejected on the final descent.
- - Full-on rando bikes, leather flaps on the end of the fenders, Brooks saddles, riders with lots of facial hair and stuffed, saggy wool jersey pockets. Mustachioed men with mustache bars.
We saw some road bikes as well but the majority of people were on 'cross bikes with low-profile 'cross tires.
So finally, on to the ride. The first section was brutal: 12.7 miles, 2240' climbing. The climbs were pretty loose and by the time we got to the top of the climb before the first control my back was killing me. I found some old aspirin or something like that in my seat bag. Yum. Just before the first control we saw and heard a man bagpiping in his front yard.
After the first control we headed up into Vermont. Ed got these photos before and after the state line.
The second control was at the covered bridge on the Green River back in Massachusetts. Lots of great food at this stop. We corrected our roadie error of overinflating our tires and felt much better afterwards. (I also got a nice compliment on the team kit. Thank you, Brad Sheehan!)
After the bridge it was flat for 10 miles and I felt great. :) We passed a sheep who was hanging out alone in a yard, right up by the fence, baaing at us in a very territorial manner as we rode past. He was like a dog in sheep's clothing. We got to the third control, Apex Orchards, and enjoyed the tastiest peaches I've ever had.
The ride to the finish had a section that the cue sheet described as a "gnarly descent." It was in fact gnarly and I had to get off my bike a couple times because I was too tired to pick the right line. We got back onto roads that looked familiar and I was so excited to finish. Here I am covered with dirt. And I did not at any point fall off my bike.
The verdict: it was better than Cats! I would ride it again and again.