'Praxis'

Vermont Tout-terrain in the North-East Kingdom

I didn’t want to think ahead to Sunday’s dirt ride with Mike Lowe until making it safely though the New England Criterium Championships in Concord, New Hampshire. Superstition…. As soon as I was off my bike, I was thinking of two things: cold water and dirt. I’d have the better part of Sunday to ride before driving three hours south to Boston; adventure time!

Mike and I got rolling before the morning fog burned off, and were soon onto a route he’s been working on as an option to present to the Rasputitsa organizers for next spring’s event. As always, the scenery was spectacular as we either rolled up or down, virtually no flat roads on offer. Things got exciting virtually immediately as we entered the Kingdom Trails system, banging berms in the drops on a trail I’d only ridden in it’s previous state, flat. So much fun! After some time in the woods, we emerged to continue along Mike’s recon route, which took in some of this year’s Rasputitsa course. ‘Climbing’ was the operative word, but let’s not neglect the descents! There are a couple doozies out there that had us flying. If used in the spring, however, they’ll be a whole lot rougher, and slower.

After a snack/lunch stop at the General Store in East Burke with Becca, Mike’s wife, we continued on for more trails, this time rougher stuff that produced a front flat for me that set up chat with fellow Ottawa local, Natalya, who happened to be riding the same trail. From there, it was smooth sailing, culminating in a solid climb back to Mike’s place that is always the ‘icing on the cake.’ 88km in just over 4 hours rolling time and about 1800m of climbing: solid.

My bike of choice for our ride was the best I’ve got for tout-terrain, given my propensity for flats in the woods on skinny tires. My Niner is ideally suited to the mix of trails, dirt, and paved roads one might ride in the North East Kingdom (or around Ottawa-Gatineau) as it runs fast 2.0 tires and a 34×36 low gear. Class 4 (unmaintained) roads are much better on this format than a cyclocross bike, and it still rolls well on the dirt roads and pavement. I’ve yet to encounter a race this bike would excel in, but that’s not what I built it for. Primarily, it’s for riding, wherever, and it does that well. Only time will tell whether races in the region, such as the Vermont Overland Grand Prix, become gnarly enough to shift the advantage to a bike like mine. Until then, it’s all about the cyclocross bike!

If you’ve never been to the North-East Kingdom to ride bikes, check it out. The Kingdom Trails are unrivaled in eastern North America when it comes to accessiblity and fun-factor; it’s literally a ‘plug-and-play’ system of trails. If you’re more inclined to roll faster and check out incredible vistas, the dirt road riding is both expansive and of very high quality, much like the roads of D2R2, but less steep most of the time. Vermont is home to thousands of miles of dirt roads, and with Class 4 roads and trails on the table, one can string together endless loops of challenging terrain. If you get down and have adventures you’d like to share, please do! Hit up our Facebook page and spread the good word!

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