Benchmark Check

Rockland. I’d been there once before, last August. Its 25 miles of well-built, well-maintained, and fun trails are a 45 minute drive with no traffic, so it’s not a regular ride. We rode 11 miles there yesterday.

I had stayed out uncharacteristically late Friday night, getting to bed a little after 2 and getting up a little after 6. Ben and I met at 8 to drive over. The weather was standard New England July – Humid with the promise of heat. The singletrack climb out of the parking lot switchbacks up a slight grade. It isn’t hard, unless you’re hungover and dehydrated and have to pee (How does that even happen?). Even feeling like yesterday’s trash, the climb was easier than a year ago.

Vaguely lightheaded at the top, I sucked down a slug of lukewarm water from my Camelback then followed Ben onto a moderately techie loop. I remembered walking a good bit of this section last time. It registered as easy and fun today. My hangover receded, setting the pattern for the entire day. Section after section of trail flashed into my memory with footnotes such as “this seemed a lot harder last time”, and occasionally, “that seemed terrifying last time”. Two hours later, when we were speeding down the red trail to the parking lot, I was hot, sweaty, dusty, mosquito-bitten, bloodied from sticker bushes, and fully engaged in the “Wheeee!”

Yesterday’s ride measured a year’s progress in my mtb skills. Struggling with the hard trails near home can be discouraging because progress is incremental. Riding at Rockland proved the value of those struggles.


About swampyankeecyclist

I'm Andy Engel, just a middle-aged, middle-class guy from Roxbury, Connecticut. I've been married to my best friend since 1988, and we have two grown sons. I like riding bikes, and my biggest accomplishment is the 180K D2R2. I own 5 bikes but my go-to rides are a 2016 GT Grade gravel and commuter bike and a 2016 Specialized 650b hardtail mountain bike. Additionally, I have a 2000-something carbon-fiber Orbea road bike, a 1990-something Specialized Sirrus that's my old dirt and commuter bike and which now serves as a spare and a trainer bike, and a 1985 Ross Mount Hood MTB. All but the 650b have Brooks saddles. I work from home now, but used to commute 32 miles round trip to work by bike year round. I was a carpenter and still love building things, but regular paychecks, insurance, and vacation time lured me into journalism. I've written a couple of books on carpentry, and I've been an editor at Fine Homebuilding, Fine Woodworking, and Professional Deck Builder magazines. Currently, I manage construction events at the JLC Live and Remodeling Show trade shows. Additionally, my wife and I run Transylvania Guest House, an Airbnb. Find us on Instagram. Come stay with us and I'll show you some great cycling.
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