Last year's Diverged ride was so much fun we decided to do a double weekend of Diverged rides held at the Ride Studio Cafe this year. Ok maybe the weather played a factor in our decision to hold Diverged rides on both Saturday and Sunday this past weekend. This Spring in New England has been very un-Springlike. But that is how the weather goes in New England. Looking at the weather forecast we decided to hold a full weekend of riding. Saturday looked to be the worst weather for the ride and was coined the "Belgian" Diverged. Sunday looked to be a bit nicer and was code named "Italian" A small group of ride leaders, Honey and Ride Studio staff got together on a beautiful Friday afternoon before the weekend of the Diverged ride to do recon of the route. Honey founder Rob Vandermark put together an amazing route. The whole idea of the Diverged ride grew out of Rob's extensive trail knowledge and the idea that taking the path less travelled can lead to adventure right out your backdoor. I have ridden by most of these trails a hundred times and never knew they existed. How he finds these special trails that are a mere stone's throw from the Ride Studio still boggles my mind. We wove in and out of path and trail, trying to hop logs and jump off rocks. Playing on bikes and discussing the route made for a very fun evening. The route was 47 miles of mixed terrain all within 5-10 miles of the Ride Studio in Lexington. There were times when it felt like riding in VT. But 15 minutes from home. Amazing.
For the hearty 40 plus riders who showed up on a rainy Saturday morning and rolled out with smiles on their faces and a sense of adventure in their hearts I salute you. Saturday was rainy and 40 degrees, weather that scares off even the hardest of riders. I honestly believe riding in 20 degrees and snow is much easier than 40 and rainy. You really have to plan ahead and choose your clothing wisely in these conditions. But rides like the Diverged bring out the best in riders. I was scheduled to lead a group on Sunday so could only live vicariously through all the tweets and instagram photos of the "Belgian" Diverged ride. From the photos and all the stories it was clear everyone had a great time.
Sunday couldn't arrive quickly enough. While we didn't have the pouring rain of Saturday it was certainly not "Italian." Let's call it Belgian-lite. Drizzle and 40 and plenty of mud and muck. It certainly made the boardwalks and roots "interesting". One of the great things about these types of rides is the huge range of bikes people show up on. Picking the "right" bike, tires and set up for a mixed terrain ride is never easy. It is a very personal choice. It reminds me of how cyclocross used to be before you could buy a a race ready CX bike with French tubulars at your local bike shop. Not too long ago half the fun of cyclocross was all the energy, thought and DIY set up that went into getting the proper CX bike race ready. Mixed terrain/adventure riding is very much that way right now. And one of the reasons I love it.
I opted to ride the Rasputitsa-inspired All Roads with Clement MXPs. I had a group of 20 riders in my group. It was a great mix of mtn bikes, riders on fender-style commuters, and CX bikes. I was really happy with my choice. A mtn bike would have been overkill for me and a fender-style bike or CX bike with file treads just wasn't confidence inspiring in the muddy or technical sectors. The All Roads for me is the perfect bike for these types of rides. It handles as well or better than a CX bike in the woods but is lively on the road. And with the disc brakes you can fly down rutted out rocky singletrack without fear. Ok with a level of fear that is much more manageable to me compared to a CX bike with cantilever brakes.
This ride wasn't a "gravel ride" by any means. Yes, we rode some gravel and dirt roads as well as pavement but there was a lot of challenging singletrack and rocks and roots. Not to repeat myself but it is still mind blowing how much fantastic singletrack surrounds suburban sprawl in the metro west Boston area. I live for these types of rides. I was so impressed by all the riders enthusiasm and positive energy. My group split up at about the midway point. And some riders had to peel off to get back to family etc. I had set out with the idea of doing the whole ride. Not at the fastest pace or in a way to drop any riders. These rides are "no drop" rides. We leave no one behind. Unless they opt out and are able to find their way back to the start.
The last half of the ride we rolled as a group of 5. After spending 5 hours in the rain together you begin to really get to know each other. It really became a zen like hour flowing over roots and rocks. The climb up Snake Hill in Belmont was one of those climbs that just make you laugh. Or cry. So steep. But it was the gateway to one of my personal favorite trails in the Belmont/Lexington area. We hit the Greenway and climbed through Gnarnia all the way back to the RSC. Total ride time was around 6 hours. I can't thank enough all the riders who shared this experience, Rob, Patria and the entire staff at the Ride Studio and Honey for their tireless efforts. What a fantastic weekend of Diverged rides! I can't wait to go back and ride some of these sections again!