TCI Friday

We’d been climbing this hillside in gradual, swooping switchbacks when Koop’s chain popped. There at the ridgeline was a boulder with a wooden ladder granting entry to its height and another leading back to the trail. Koop had dug into his pedals to make the power to climb the ladder when one of the pins holding his master link sheared off, leaving him dead in the dust. It was a disappointing moment in what had been a revelatory morning.

We’d not ridden Yudicky Farm before. It’s a little spot right on the New Hampshire border, about 40 minutes’ drive from my house. What we discovered there was a labyrinth of flowy, twisty trails, laid out by the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA), with a wild array of tech obstacles, both natural and manmade. As an adult-sized child, I couldn’t imagine a better playground. They even have a big, scary see-saw there, the kind you have to ride just about all the way to the top before it drops you back down the Earth.

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Koop’s mechanical probably saved me from completely overdoing it.

This kind of riding, where the trail never stops doubling back on itself, where the obstacles come thick and fast, where the climbs are all as punchy as Mike Tyson in the ’90s, are just about my favorite, even though I spend much of time hunched over my bars struggling to catch my breath.

If you had asked me what my favorite type of ride was two or three years ago, I would have said a long, rambling gravel adventure, stretches of smooth singletrack linked by short, necessary burst of pavement, the ramble going on and on until you’ve touched every trail system in the tri-state area. I loved that. I still do.

And then of course, there was a time when fresh asphalt through farm country was my ne plus ultra. I just wanted to feel the glide of a skinny tire over a perfect surface, with blank-eyed cows for spectators. Oh, and the smell.

Anyway, this week’s TCI Friday wonders what your favorite surface is and where you find it? Is it scarce or plentiful?

Join the conversation
  1. alanm9 says

    For me nothing beats the newly repaved farm roads near my house on a bright, cool spring morning.

  2. tcfrog says

    I’ll echo the farm country roads, but for me, the gravel kind that stretch out and allow you to ride and enjoy the scenery and let your mind wander

  3. aron says

    I love the stitching together. Some trail, some cinder, some rail trail, some road. The constant change keeps me engaged and alert and aware. Is that a car? A dog walker? Another biker? Must not fall on this greasy, shaded boardwalk. Breeze past the Minutemen cosplay in Lexington. Hope the fountains are on in Bedford. Lincoln, why are your trails rules so confusing?

    Never the same ride twice, and fun at almost any length.

  4. John Rezell says

    I’m hooked on Northwest logging roads, although I’m Goldy Raz and it has to be just right. Not freshly laid chunky rock, but not completely hammered down from logging truck smooth. Just enough gravel for a good sounding crunch beneath my knobbies as I climb into the forest, typically alongside a creek

  5. trabri says

    My favorite terrain off road is slow, rocky, “trialsy”with lots of strength moves or attempts. On road it’s mixed surface that gets me to a place where I feel like I’m a long way from home.

  6. Hautacam says

    Climbing (yes climbing) in the high mountains where the air feels cold and dry all year and the summer heat brings out the spicy scent of fir trees and there are chipmunks foraging in the gravel and pine needles just beyond the fog line as you grind your way through the steep switchbacks until the pavement levels out at the pass and you can finally spin again at two thousand meters above sea level.

  7. Jeff vdD says

    Not really available in greater Boston area: 80/20 dirt to pavement. Pavement provides variety, sense of speed, and a palate-cleansing break before the next off-road section. For the off-road, maybe 20% Class 4/6 gringletrack to challenge the mind and body, the rest doubletrack/dirt road. Between 50’ and 75’ of climbing per mile.

  8. dr sweets says

    There is no dearth of the dirty dirt I dig where I am. I prefer natural jank to groomed flow trails. Trails that flow, but not flow trails. I like them to have features that require some consideration and sometimes I won’t do. I am not one for much sessioning and prefer to keep moving.

  9. Dan Murphy says

    That’s funny, I was there and didn’t realize it. I just noticed it’s at the end of the Nashua River Rail Trail. Last week, my wife asked me to join her riding the rail trail. We started in Ayer, headed north into Nashua, and when we got to the end, we explored a bit after we saw some trails. Right there. Ha.

    Country roads and gravel and trails, all on the same bike. Some of the roads I used to ride in the 90’s are off-limits now. I have a different mindset, I don’t beat myself up like I used to and strive to avoid any traffic at all. What I call “traffic” now some people would laugh at, but one can get spoiled out here in the semi-boonies outside I-495. I’m more into the aesthetics of a ride now. I’m sure that’s an age thing and it’s OK with me. My average speed has absolutely plummeted over the last 10 years. Just glad to be out.

    We go out to the Rutland MA area occasionally where my wife can ride the rail trail and I can head off into the dirt roads and trails of Rutland/Barre/etc. There are long stretches where I see nobody.

    Next week, we’re headed to Franconia NH for awhile where there is a great mix of quiet roads, dirt roads, fire roads and great scenery. Oh, and climbing….

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