Mount Washington Loop

Yesterday I did something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I rode my bike around Mount Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It was a really great ride (except for one small mishap), and I’m really happy about how it went.

Lisa and I were in the Granite State for the weekend, and we had already done a little hiking the day before. That mile-long hike to a waterfall on Friday was just an aperitif for a longer hike on Saturday. Lisa knew that I wanted to do a big ride, and I knew that we both wanted to go hiking, so I got up early and headed out shortly after 6AM for the 80-mile (130 km) ride.

 

We’ve been in this area many times in the past, so I knew the ride was going to be tough but not awful. I stocked up on food, filled my biggest bottles with water and electrolytes, ate a little breakfast while carrying my bike down the grand staircase of the Mount Washington Hotel, and rolled into the early morning light. The ride started with a four-mile uphill and then dropped from a height of 2,100 feet (640m) to 700 feet (210m) over the next 20 miles (32 km). The roads were very smooth and almost completely empty at this hour, and I was able to use a lot of the road during my descent, which at 50 mph (80 km/h) was really fast without needing to put any effort into it. That first hour of cycling was so wonderful! With very little effort, I had done a quarter of my ride.

I knew that I was going to have to regain those 1,400 feet at some point. The profile of the route is fairly smooth for the first half and then it gets a little lumpy. The key feature is the 12-mile (20 km) climb from Jackson to Pinkham Notch, where the road to the top of Mount Washington starts. Bikes aren’t allowed on that road except for two races each year, so I had to content myself with topping out the day at 2,200 feet (670m).

 

I passed a few people on the way up to the notch, but most of the people I saw were going the other direction with a surprisingly strong wind at their backs. Small groups and solo riders with numbers pinned to their jerseys were spread out over almost thirty miles. One mile from the end of my own ride, I stopped and talked to a few riders hanging out near an aid station tent. They were partaking in the Mount Washington Century. They asked about the weather on the back side of the mountain, and I wished them well on the rest of their ride.

Less than a quarter of a mile later, I was picking myself up off the ground. I had been crossing railroad tracks that also circumnavigate the Presidential Range several times all morning without a problem. This final set of tracks, however, was at such an acute angle and was deep enough that it grabbed my front wheel and threw me to the ground. Now, one of the first things I learned when I started cycling decades ago was to approach railroad tracks almost perpendicularly. The fact that I fell on this one left me feeling like a complete newbie.

 

Tomorrow, I’m taking my bike to the shop just to make sure it’s okay. The shifters are scuffed a bit, and I had to readjust one of the brake hoods, so I just want to double-check it. I also need to buy a new helmet. It’s probably okay, but I remember my helmet-protected head bouncing off the ground. I didn’t see any blood on my body until I got back to the hotel and took off my kit. My hip is a little scraped, as is my shoulder which hit the ground quite hard. Surprisingly, I also got a nice abrasion right next to my CGM transmitter just above my waistline. When I landed on my hip and side, I also landed on the two tubes of glucose tablets I carried to ward off any lows. The best I can tell is that the cap of one of them dug into my side when I landed and scraped me up. I’m not too upset, though, since those glucose tablets probably spared my insulin pump, which I was initially sure must have been destroyed in the fall. I was also very lucky not to have broken my collarbone. Unfortunately, most of the muscles in my shoulder are still quite sore, and I think I strained my left pectoral muscle. (No swimming for me for a few days.)

After I took a shower and dressed my wounds, Lisa and I had some lunch and headed back in the direction that I rode a few hours earlier to do some hiking. The rocky, rooted hike up to Arethusa Falls was pretty invigorating, and we both found the stream at the base of the falls quite refreshing. We thought about taking a longer hike, but we were quite lucky with the one we picked, as it started pouring rain in thick, wind-blown sheets less than five minutes after we got back to the car.

 

All-in-all, it was a really enjoyable day.

Next year, I think I’ll take on the Kancamagus Highway.

Update — 22 July 2013: The mechanic who looked over Tommy V at Landry’s pronounced him fit and no worse for the little bit of wear that I caused.

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6 Responses to Mount Washington Loop

  1. scully says:

    OH NO!
    so THAT’S what you meant by the train tracks :(
    it can happen to anyone. Even us experienced folks do dumb things… I’m sure I do it way more than you.
    I saw the ride on Strava and was like… HOLY CRAPPOLA! that’s a whole ton of climbing. awesome ride!
    hope you’re feeling better.

  2. victoria says:

    You are all kinds of ridiculous and amazing. For starters, 80 miles would’ve taken me the entire day. Secondly, railroad tracks are a beast, newbie or not and those are the king beast. Thirdly, who does a 12-mile climb?!?! Fourthly, you went hiking after and 80-mile ride and after a fall? You are insane, my friend.

    I’m so glad I know you. Seriously. You’re one of my coolest friends.

    Also, I want to go to that waterfall!

  3. Pingback: Crazy.

  4. Scott E says:

    Wow! I’m glad that you – and your expensive D-gear – weren’t hurt! I really should start riding my bike again (or replace the one I’ve got, actually). When I first got married and it was just my wife and I, I used to ride all over mine and nearby neighborhoods in eastern Queens. Now that I’ve got two young kids in the suburbs, there’s no time – nor easily navigable roads beyond mine and the one parallel to it…

  5. Ditto what Victoria said…

    Glad you’re alright!

  6. Jess says:

    You, my friend, are amazing. I can’t imagine riding that far, or picking myself up and finishing after a fall like that.

    Hope you’re feeling better soon!

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