Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Shiftless Vagabonds - NYC to Westfiled, MA Fleche

The Fleche is one of the most unique rides in all of cycling.  Participants are counted as number of bicycles and not riders.  Therefore, the number of persons on a team can range based on the carrying capacity of the maximum number of  bicycles (5).  No specific route or checkpoints are provided by the organizer.  Only a finishing location and a range of starting dates/times are pre-determined.   The route design, the starting location, and exact start time is the responsibility of the team.  The distance is to be a minimum of 360 kilometers.  The control points are also determined by the team including the all important 22-hour control which is to be no less than 25 kilometers from the finish.  The team must depart this control 22-hours into the ride and arrive together at the finish.  No more than two hours can be spent at any rest stop.  At least three team members must finish for credit.  Only those who finish receive credit, and no team member can finish earlier, or later, than the rest of the team.  The Fleche is considered a 24-hour event.  Each team must present a team name at the time of their entry.

I would have the pleasure and privileged of being on a team with four veteran randonneurs.  After much debate we settled on the team name of Shiftless Vagabonds, depicting our commitment to ride fixed-gear bikes.  We wanted to honor the original Fleche concept of a point-to-point ride.  We selected New York City's Penn Station as our start. Team Captain, Mordecai Silver, designed a route which avoided much of the severely hilly terrain through upstate New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.  Our designated start time was 9am on Saturday for a Sunday morning finish in Westfield.
The D&R Canal at Blackwell Mills Crossing on the way to the New Brunswick train station
My team mates where, Roy, Jon, and Mordecai (team captain).  We used our bikes and public transit whenever possible.  I would share a ride on the train with Roy to meet the two New York City resident team mates at Penn Station.

We started the ride on 7th Avenue in Manhatten utilizing the Greenway bike path along the river.  We would spend many miles on bike paths making our way to the north.  Our first 100 kilometers were almost entirely on paved trails to the town of Carmel, NY.   We continued our northerly trek utilizing both roads and trails through Millerton, NY and into Connecticut.  A rolling section on Route 44 would deliver us to New Canaan, Ct. 117 miles into the ride.  From there mostly gentle terrain would take us to North Adams, MA, near the Vermont Border.  We arrived around midnight and spent time at a 24 hour McDonalds   After a lengthy break we would undertake the hilly portion of the ride, including a 3-mile climb with gradient about 9%.  As cool temperatures set in we plodded on to the 22-hour control in Northampton, MA.  The rules required a 7am departure.  We would spend over an hour and a half there awaiting our opportunity to move on to the finish.  We did so promptly at 7am.  The final section was mild., as the day rapidly warmed up.  We arrived at 8:15 in Westfield for the finish.  Another team arrived shortly thereafter having ridden south from Vermont.  One of the riders Bill Russell is a regular on New Jersey brevets.

Roy, Jon and Mordecai on the North County Trailway
Roy catching a nap at Bruegers Bagels in Northampton, MA
 Roy and I would ride 10 miles to Springfiled, MA to catch a Peter Pan bus to NYC.  Incredibly Jon and Mordecai rode 65 miles to New Haven, CT to catch a train.  It was pleasing that despite finishing a ride far from home no one relied on a private vehicle for transportation.  We may be Shiftless Vagabonds, but we know how to go green. 

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