North Kent Cleanup

On my gravel bike, I’ve never cleaned North Kent Road. It’s a mile of loose gravel that averages 9%, and pushes 40% here and there. I’ve spun out. I’ve popped my front wheel up and lost steering. I’ve run out of gas. I’ve always walked the walk of shame for some of it.

When Korey suggested we do it on mtbs, I thought that might just work. Right from the get-go at his house, he had the route dialed. Instead of riding a mile down US 7, we headed out through some hay fields, hit 7 for all of 100 feet, and then turned onto side streets. We crossed the Hous on 341, and pedaled down River Road, like I’d done dozens of times before.

As at Waldo, the gate on River Road was closed to keep out the riff raff, but we, being distinguished gentlemen, rode around it. Another half a mile in and the fun began. I shifted into my lowest gear right away and just pedaled. NK was eroded and rutted as usual, and I wove from side to side seeking the smoothest line. For one glorious bit, I rode the moss-covered and solid center hump, but that didn’t last long.

The mid-fat tires never even hinted at slipping, and I focused on cadence. The first steep section wasn’t bad, and there’s a little break after that where the grade lessens. I slowed my pedaling here to lower my heart rate, but that break doesn’t last long. The worst pitch is near the top. A couple of twists in the road keep you from seeing too far ahead, and memory hides whether it’s more up or the crest. Here, the legs began to burn, the nausea begins to rise, and the brain begins to say, “Put a foot down. Rest.” I didn’t put a foot down, but by reducing my cadence as much as possible without losing way, I cranked out the last 50 feet.

You know it is the crest when a roof hoves into view. There’s still some steepness between here and Modley Road, but it’s better maintained and not a big deal. Stopping at Modely Road, I felt my heart rate decrease palpably. We were literally only halfway up the mountain, but the hard part was done. We spent the rest of the ride losing all the elevation we’d gained, then riding back along the Appalachian Trail, where bikes aren’t supposed to go. We encountered three through hikers, giving them the right of way, and they seemed happy to encounter other human beings.

A fun route, and it’s got me thinking about swapping out my cassette and derailleur to bring the gearing on my gravel bike closer to the mtb.


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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