Alpine Spencer dirt extravaganza

A hardy bunch of riders met up at Cass Park early this morning,
including: Matt D, Jack R, Ernie, Lilynn, Sarah, Bob N, Bill E,
myself, and maybe a few others I’m missing here, for a ride into the
hills, venturing on dirt roads, and getting drenched in a thunderstorm
or two. Here’s a rather thorough report:

The route started by climbing the Black Diamond Trail, and I heard a
comment about not waiting to start the dirt hills – it would be hard
to beat hitting gravel only 100 yards into a ride! The path up to the
hospital that was severely washed out in last year’s rain had been
re-graveled early this year, as several were surprised to find out. By
the west hill start at the professional center, we were already
missing a few though. Lilynn must have cobbled together the wrong
wheel, forgetting the sliver known as the 9-to-10 speed conversion
spacer that’s so tiny yet so crucial to avoiding ghost shifting. She
soldiered on though, limiting her shifting to avoid chainsuck into the

Up we went, eventually coming to Van Dorn south which was a fun twisty
descent as usual, ending at a T, but with the route saying to go
straight. Ahead was a grass path, and a gate, and of course what
Google considers a bikeable path that was actually rather rideable on
cross gear, leading to Treman Park. We passed Butternut Creek, which
shows as a potential road on the map but seemed to just be the Finger
Lakes Trail, which we would see more times along the route. More dirt
and and more hills later, we come upon Vanessa on a 650b mountain
bike, and then we dipped down onto the other half of the seasonal
Butternut Creek Rd and Thomas Rd.

We zipped along Burge Hill road which I believe was paved suburbia.
Ernie was talking about some road nearby that was supposedly the
steepest around, and after we descended Burge onto Rt 13 we saw Protts
Road which might as well be vertical. Kudos to anyone that gets a KOM
there – you might want a triple ring. Bob pointed to a dirt path and
little bridge to cross instead of the Newfield covered bridge, and we
found our way to Benjamin Hill. Armin got lucky, and seems to have
kept his KOM there for now despite Matt’s quest to get every KOM of
the day. At the top of the hill, we bid adieu to Vanessa, Lilynn,
Sarah, maybe some more I can’t remember, and the rest ventured back
into dirt territory.

Bull Hill road had more early rollers than I remembered from my ride
here in March, though this time the ruts were fewer, and there was no
mud, snow, or ice. I flew down the last section, bounced off a few
stones, and when I reached the bottom I had my first flat of the day.
We also ran into Glen here as well. Bill stayed with me and my flat
while the others started the climb up into Connecticut Hill. Matt must
have stopped to smell a flower, since somehow I got the KOM on this
one. The descent was rather never-ending, and Glen saw Bob hit a rock
so hard that his seat clamp gave way and tilted up.

After a refreshing stop at the Dandy Mart in Alpine, rain was
imminent, and so we lost a few more riders – leaving Matt, Glen,
Ernie, and myself. I don’t remember anything specific about the Varney
climb and Burlingame descent, but I’m sure it was special somehow.
Then on 224, my legs were ripped off as Matt led the train at 21mph
for 7 minutes followed by me leading on Rt12 at a measly 17mph. I was
curious to try a new road, but the consensus was to take the infamous
Decker Rd climb instead. This is followed by a fast descent on Barnes
Hill, with a big snake bend that can be taken at 30mph. We left Matt
and Glen at this point, as this was their last chance to get back
towards Newfield before venturing further south.

More dirt and more hills – Up Shaffer, down Brink. We nearly missed
the next hill since it looks like a driveway, but was a great forest
road, and a B – Blake Hill where I got flat #2 after nearly eating it
when I failed to miss one of many large gravel pieces. I realized that
while my 32mm Pasela tires are great for pavement, they can’t handle
sharp objects or blunt impacts as well as my Ritchey set.

I spotted a Dandy Mart in Van Etten, thinking we were in Spencer, so
we made the second pit stop, 60 miles in. Next up was Burheight Creek
where the first big storm came in, and Ernie’s poorly adjusted brake
was digging into just 1/3rd of the rim and making a ruckus, and my
cantis might as well have been left at home as I have nearly zero
braking power coming down at speed in the rain. We passed by Spencer
skipping the planned stop (because of the previous Dandy) and ventured
into new territory on Dawson Hill Rd then Vanwoert which “ends” as a
circle, but Ernie then pointed out a grassy path, known by Google as a
road (Brock Hill). This is a cross/mtb type of path, which led into a
camp before reaching good old Fischer Settlement.

On Curtis Rd, I heard thunder non-stop for most of the way, but it
stayed only misty in the woods. Curtis seemed to take forever, but was
another great cross-friendly path. We continued north on Steam Mill,
Nelson, and Updike which is now washboards. A few brief seconds on
pavement, then back onto dirt on the South Hill Rec Way where we flew
at 19mph. That is, until I got yet another flat (seriously?!) when a
perfectly sharpened-to-a-point rock chip went deep. At least this one
probably could have killed any tire, so I didn’t feel too bad about my
thin tires. I was out of new tubes, so Ernie offered one junky tube
before a second, neither of which were holding air. I limped to my
office downtown, stopping twice to pump a little more air in just to
fall back to 20psi a minute later. I cleaned off the wheel, got a
solid patch on, and made the final climb home up Rt96.

This was a spectacular ride, I would say almost on par with Terrible
Hills, with 9,500ft of climbing for me in 89.3 miles. Many a Strava
segment were created and won by Matt, while I snuck in one KOM and
many 2nds. For my goal of 22,575 ft climbing this week for the Rapha
Rising challenge, I’m now 42% of the way there; this might be a long
week! Stay tuned for another potential hilly sufferfest next weekend.

This entry was posted in 50-99 miles, dirt roads, South. Bookmark the permalink.

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