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A Clean Sweep, by Al Hospers
 Article List
• My winter vacation
• Phil Gaimon wins 2008 Mt. Washington Hillclimb
• Biking brothers in law charge around the Whites
• Overendís ready for a Granite State nickname
• Maineís Islesboro is a seaside bicycle adventure
• Quietly cycling Connecticutís northeastís corner
• That "new bike fit"
• Cyclocross - Best way to enjoy it, watch it.
• The next step in personal training?
• What goes up, goes down along Virginiaís Skyline Drive
• Hillclimbs, heaven or hell?
• Acadiaís bikeways beckon
• Where Cycling Is Taken Seriously
• Crusing along Lake Winnipesaukee by bike and boat
• Crank That Kanc
• Wrap, ride and reward
• A Clean Sweep
I've been riding some hills lately, trying to get into shape. I've done Crawford Notch, Thorn Hill, Cathedral Ledge Road and a few others over the past few weeks, trying desperately to get myself into some semblance of conditioning. Most especially I've been trying to knock off the extra 10 pounds I've put on between the end of the ice climbing season, and beginning of the cycling one. What I need to do is more long rides, rather than short steep ones, so I've been trying for the bigger loops. Of course I live in the Whites, so no matter what you do you still get the hills.

Tuesday was a nice day so I decided to do the Bear Notch Road loop. It's a perfect 38 miles that I can do right from my driveway next to Echo Lake in North Conway. The ride goes down West Side Road to 302, left (North) to Bartlett, left on Bear Notch Road, up the hill, over the pass and down the long sweeping turns to the Kancamagus Highway, left again on the Kanc to Passaconaway Road and then a final left onto West Side Road and back home to Echo Lake. The cool thing is that from the intersection of Bear Notch Road and the Kanc it is roughly 22 miles of pretty-much all gradual downhill. Great fun.

The day was perfect as I headed up to Bartlett. There was still snow at Attitash as I pedaled by, but they were closed and there were no skiers on the slopes. I turned left onto Bear Notch, wolfing down my usual pre-hill Clif Bar. The gate it was still closed so I skirted around it on the right. Up the hill I could see an orange vehicle towing what looked like a trailer about 300' ahead. I figured it was some DOT truck doing maintainance. As I started up the hill, it also started, but it was making a strange sound. It was then I realized my stroke of luck - it was the road sweeper. That's right, I was following along behind the Town of Bartlett street sweeper, and they were cleaning the road off prior to opening it for traffic.

Of course I wasn't the first person to go over Bear Notch road on a road or mountain bike this season. Oh no... For several it has become a challenge to be the first in any given year. I'd already spoken to a couple of folks who had done it weeks previously, when there were downed trees, debris on the road that you had to dodge on the way up, and that kept you hard on the brakes on the way down.

On this day I was in a perfect situation. They were not only cleaning the road ahead of me, they were doing it at about 8 miles per hour, and were thus the perfect pace car (er... pace truck I suppose). It was great.

What was also great was that I didn't feel pooped on the ride. I managed to hold a steady 8 mph average and my heart rate never went above 136. I guess the other hills in early season must have have helped. Also nice was that there were no other vehicles on the road. I could just cruise along not really paying any attention to anything other than the beautiful day.

Near the top the sweeper stopped. As I pulled alongside I chided them, "Hey guys, don't stop now." They laughed as I did some circles and chatted. I asked when the road was going to be opened. "Today, if the sweeper doesn't break again," said the driver. I thanked 'em for their most excellent work, waved good bye and continued up. Right at the top 2 large dump trucks and a front loader went by on their way down. They had been clearing some last large debris from the sides of the road. I crested the hill, feeling very good. There was a headwind as I came down the other side and I never got up to my normal descent speed. Too bad but it's still one of the most enjoyable downhills in the area.

When I got to the Kanc, at only mile 18, I hung my left. The headwind shifted to a tailwind and it was easy to crank along at 24-25. There wasn't one car on my side of the road all the way to Passaconaway Road - amazing! It doesn't get much better. This is why I love riding early in the season. I'd ridden Passaconaway with my buddy Toby the week before when it wasn't open and there was a ton of sticks & branches on the road. This time it was officially open and clear, and I was able to make good time.

I took the Allen Siding cutoff to West Side Road and cruised back along the fields, a short time later I pulling into my drive. 38 miles in 2 hours and 15 minutes, not too bad for an old man. Not great, I know folks who crank it in well under 2 hours, but I'll take it - especially this early in the season. Now it's time for a big one up to through Pinkham Notch to Gorham & back. I think I'll wait 'till it stops raining tho.
by Al Hospers


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