Thursday, August 10, 2017

Groton Double Loop

It's no secret that I find typical road cycling a bit boring. Speed, power meters, Strava segments - all this is just not for me. I think the fun starts when you get off the beaten path. In my search for unpaved roads and interesting places to ride, I explored areas a bit further from my home in Arlington, yet still close enough to be reachable within an hour by car, or not more than a 3-hour bike ride.

One of my favorite local spots are forests of Groton, MA. It takes 2.5 hrs to get there by bike from Arlington, but only a quick 30 min. drive from my workplace. Last evening, I drove there to leave my car at Martins Pond Rd and rode this fast 26km (16mi) double loop. The route is short and usually takes only 1.5 hrs to ride but that's what I like about it. I can get there after work and finish it before sunset, even in fall when days are shorter.

Starting at Martins Pond Rd, I entered a small network of trails called Wharton Plantation. I followed Dan Parker Rd, which doesn't look much like a road to be honest. It's a wide trail through forest, full of rocks, roots, sand and occasional mud. It may be challenging in places but overall, it's pretty fast to ride. And if you come here in summer, you would want to be fast. Otherwise you're risking being eaten alive by mosquitoes and deer flies.
The road took me then to a clearing where I merged with a maintenance road under high voltage power lines. It quickly turns into a paved section starting at Kemp St, running through some farm land, then continues along Groton St to Hall St. Next, I reached entrance to the Red Line Path, where I went off-road again. This place is not only pretty, overlooking several ponds along the way, but also super fun to ride. The path is very wavy, featuring multiple little hills and pits. If you ride fast enough, you get a feeling of being on a bicycle roller-coaster.
Once the trail ends, I made my way back to Martins Pond Rd, continued past the place where I parked my car to reach Orchard Ln - a small road cutting through a farm, turning into some broken chip seal and then ending with gravel and sand. At the end of this road I found the beginning of Bruce Clements Trail - a narrow singletrack ending at the historic Williams Barn - nowadays the location of Groton Farmers Market.

The trail continues on the other side of Chicopee Row and is marked as McClain's Woods Trail. I followed green arrow markers to reach Reedy Meadow Rd. From there, it was only a short ride to Dan Parker Rd an back to the car.
As I wrote earlier, the route is short is pretty quick to ride. If I could change anything to make it more interesting, I would love to see a way to continue along the power line maintenance road to ride from Kemp St all the way to Hall St. That would eliminate the paved section along Groton St and would let me stay off-road longer. Unfortunately, when I scouted that possibility I found out that a large area under the power lines is completely flooded and inaccessible. Judging from the size of the pond with multiple dams and lodges, I can tell that beavers had something to do with it.

If you are in the area and want to give this route a try, make sure you bring a bike with wider tires. I can't picture riding there on anything narrower than 32mm. My 36mm wide X'Plor MSO were perfect, especially tubeless. I wouldn't want to get a flat in the middle of a mosquito-infested forest.

Now I'm waiting for fall to arrive. I really want to revisit this place in late September.

Friday, August 4, 2017

War on cars, bicycles and... wheelchairs

Maybe you haven't noticed but there's war on cars going on practically everywhere. Watch out, they may come to your house and take your car away too! That's probably the impression you could have after watching this ridiculous video:
War on cars! - brought to you by Ford and GM

No, seriously. There's a "war on cars" and there should be. These metal boxes have been dominating our cities for decades. Unfortunately, judging from the evidence you can find on pretty much daily basis, it's more of a cold war, rather than a full-scale thermonuclear conflict.

This "war" boils down to our wishes that drivers don't kill us when we share the road. And to our government pretending they do anything about it. And media, reporting that it was a "car that jumped the curb and drove into the store front window" - like the driver was never there. And police, addressing sometimes problems from the wrong end of spectrum. Just like this case of bicyclist arrested in my town for running a stop sign and "assault with a deadly weapon" (a bicycle!).

This example is quite extreme as this cyclists was clearly guilty for not submitting to police and crashing into another cyclist (another police officer!), but it makes me think why would police even focus on stopping one cyclist crossing a street on a designated bike path and not stopping at a stop sign? Sure, you would say that signs are there to be followed and he could endanger someone. But it's unlikely he would endanger anyone except himself, should he crash into a car. It also makes me think, where's police when I see drivers notoriously ignore stop signs or "no turn on red" signs every single day? You bet they can endanger someone with their 3000 lbs metal boxes.

Don't believe me? Ask Kyle Wolfe who was hit by a SUV just because he couldn't cross the street fast enough. On top of that, he got a ticket for "disobeying the traffic signal". All that because Kyle uses a wheelchair to move around. In the time of "war", police is supposed to ticket bad drivers, including those impatient ones who would rather mow down a man on a wheelchair than wait extra 10 seconds to let him cross the road.

This "war" continues. We will surely hear more about the collateral damage it does to pedestrians, cyclists and people on wheelchairs.

Ok, now referring back to the above video - do you feel like William Wallace and scream "Freedom!" when you get into your car and drive to work in morning traffic? Or do you sigh "Freedom, finally" when you arrive home after being stuck in evening traffic for the last hour?