Active Outdoors: A summer of cycle fests
You may see it differently, but I resolutely try to avoid anything that smacks of competition when I’m enjoying outdoor sports. I get that many (most?) other people find competition motivating and fun. But it isn’t for me.
If I’m outside doing something I enjoy, and you say you can go “higher, faster, farther” than me, I’ll smile, wish you well, and keep going at my own pace for as long as I want. I may try to keep up with you. But I won’t try to “win,” because doing something active outdoors is a win-win for everyone anyway.
Given that attitude toward competition, you might find it odd that I really enjoy the “bike fests” that pop up around New England in the summer. Many of these are primarily focused on competition, but even there, I enjoy the opportunity to gather and ride with, and learn from, like-minded,
enthusiastic people. Sure, some people are really going to focus on winning, but many more are going for the “festival.” Wherever there’s a competition, you can bet that there’s going to be a “shadow” event of informal bike rides with great people. That’s where you’ll find me, not on the race course.
If you like pedaling, chances are you can find a gathering near you this summer. Here are some examples.
Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!
∎ Pats Peak Mountain Bike Festival, June 14-15, Henniker (patspeak.com/summer/bike.html)
If you like competing on your mountain bike, there’s a lot of that at the Pats Peak Bike Fest.
Bicycle riders from all over New England will compete in 24-Hour, 12-Hour, 6-Hour, X-Country Challenge and Downhill Thrill races. There’s more than $4,000 in cash and prizes on the line, but it’s not all about winning.
The 24/12/6 Hours of Pats Peak races kick off at noon on June 14, and competitors may ride solo, in two-person teams, in four-person teams or in five-person teams. This is obviously an endurance event and I admire the folks who do it.
The X-Country Challenge on June 15 is part of the Northeast Root 66 XC Race Series, which follows the 24-Hour event on the same course and has many categories from beginner to pro. Racers complete a specified number of laps, and fastest time wins.
The Downhill racers take the chair lift to the top of the mountain and race down the course one at a time against the clock. They take two runs each and the best of the two runs is recorded. Fastest time wins. These folks are insane and the event is a hoot to watch.
Before the races start, all participants and everyone else is encouraged to ride the X-C course loop. So you can get there early, ride, then watch the fun, feeling smug that you’ve already done your best. While the races are on, there are other mountain bike trails nearby, so you can ride without getting in the way.
Overnight camping is available. Camping and registration opens at 3 p.m. on June 13. Family, friends and non-riders are welcome. Whether you’re a spectator or plan to race, you’re sure to have a great time.
∎ NEMBAfest, June 20-22, Kingdom Trails, East Burke, Vt. (mtbadventureseries.org/mtbadventure/NEMBAfest2014.htm)
Anyone else remember and miss the old Pedro Fest held in western Massachusetts every summer? This is the spiritual successor. Think Woodstock on wheels: music, food, mountain bike demo, all together. If you’ve never been to Kingdom Trails, which maintains a 100-plus-mile network of trails for all ability levels, you have missed what may well be the best mountain biking venue in New England.
There will be lots and lots of group rides, so you can explore trails at your ability level (the trails are rated like ski trails: green circle to black diamond) with lots of like-minded souls. It’s a great place to learn from others.
Expect three days of pure fun.
∎ Eastern Tandem Rally, July 18-20, Burlington, Vt. (easterntandemrally.org/wp/)
My sweetheart Marilyn and I are avid tandem bike riders. And we got a brand new Co-Motion Java tandem last August, so we are riding more than ever. But we’ve never been to the Eastern Tandem Rally. This is a three-day event held at different venues each year, with lodging on a college campus and loads of group rides for bikers of all ability levels.
I’m sure there’s a degree of competition on some of the longer rides. We’ll avoid those – or strive to come in dead last and have the most fun. We’ve never ridden with a group of tandem bikes, aren’t sure how we’re going to like it, but we’re certainly looking forward to the experience.
∎ Adirondack Ididaride Bike Tour, Aug. 10, North Creek, N.Y. (adk.org/page.php?pname=ididaride-about)
This is a fun event we’ve done and hope to repeat. It’s a fully supported road ride through some of the most beautiful scenery in the towns and hamlets of Bakers Mills, Wells, Speculator, Sabael, Indian Lake, North River and North Creek. You can ride the entire 75-mile loop (total elevation gain 6,840 feet) or shuttle out and ride 20 miles back (total elevation gain 1,340 feet). They provide four rest stops with snacks, water along the route, a SAG wagon and mobile mechanical support.
There’s no better way to see the scenery in the Adirondacks than by bike, and, of course, there’s a party to end the day.
Riding for a good cause
If you are the non-competitive sort and enjoy riding with other people, there are at least 70 charity bike rides listed on the Bike New England website: bikenewengland.com/calendar.html. Why not get out and do yourself some good while you are doing good for others?
You’ll probably have to pay an entry fee or raise some pledge money, but it’s a wonderful way to inspire yourself to get out and pedal.
(Tim Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)