Last Update: 8-Jan-14

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Welcome

Welcome to NortheastCycling.com. Here you will find a wealth of information presented on popular bicycle hillclimbs and routes in the north-eastern part of the United States. You will also find a section dedicated to hillclimb races, many of which are featured in the popular BUMPS challenge.

January 8, 2014 – Northeastcycling.com started as "Doug's Mountain Biking Page" over 16 years ago and morphed into a comprehensive reference on climbing by bike in the northeast. The presentation of material was an overflow of "Hill Junkie's" enthusiasm for cycling in general, and hill climbing in particular. Countless emails and in-person encounters suggest the site played a pivotal role in shaping the region's hill-climbing passion into what it is today. The feedback is always appreciated. 2013 was certainly a good year for me. A new personal best was achieved on Mt Washington. The 2014 BUMPS series will feature at least ten races on nine mountains. I hope to compete in several of these events and look forward to seeing you out there!

Updates and Announcements:

Jul 10: Updated Wachusett and Whiteface info.


My Cycling Story

I am often asked how long I’ve been riding or about how I got started. Some find the story interesting, so I’ll share it here. When I first began my technical career in 1984, I was fairly active. Weekly activities included hockey, racquetball, and weight work. After my son was born, I changed jobs and stopped working out. Over a period of about 10 years, my weight went from around 180 pounds to 230 pounds. The thing was, I thought of myself as “stocky” but still fit. I was totally sedentary. Lunches were disasters. I worked near a large shopping area in Michigan. Cheap all-you-can-eat lunch buffets were everywhere. So were Hot-and-Now joints, where you could get 39 cent burgers. At least once per week I’d get 4 or 5 cheeseburgers, a fry, and a 44 ounce Mountain Dew for lunch. Buffets or equally loaded meals were the norm on other days. Doesn’t take long eating like this to blimp out.

Then one day a colleague heard I used to play racquetball and challenged me to a match. I believe this was in the January/February 1996 time frame. I was 34. Now my friend wasn’t exactly a buff athlete either. He smoked, maybe drank a few beers, and carried a few extra pounds himself. But I thought of myself as much more fit than he, and I used to be half-way decent at racquetball. So we played, and I had my butt handed to me. I couldn’t volley the ball more than a few times before getting so winded and dizzy that I had to place both hands up against the wall to hang my head and catch my breath! Talk about a wake up call!

Tsali Recreation Area, N. Carolina, December 1996. Newbie mountain biker at ~230 pounds, with rented Ibis which ended up with badly taco’d rear wheel. Colleagues at work call this the “Fat Doug” picture.

So word spread around the office that Steve smoked Doug in racquetball. Something had to be done, not because I got whooped by Steve, but because I realized how pathetically out of shape I was. Another colleague I worked with was a buff athlete. He would travel around the country to run marathons. He also did some mountain biking. In the spring of 1996, Lowell convinced me to buy a mountain bike. In May, I bought a Trek 820 steel frame, rigid fork bike.

At first I didn’t dare ride with anybody except my family. Mostly flat, dirt road stuff in the rural area I lived. Finally I mustered the courage to ride with Lowell and some of his friends on a trail. This was going to be a real mountain bike ride. We headed out to Yankee Springs Recreation Area, where there’s a nice 12 mile loop of singletrack through rolling terrain. I still remember the evening well. I wore blue jean shorts, cotton t-shirt, orange juice in a bottle, and I don’t think I had a helmet at that point. We set out on flat singletrack and I’m thinking, wow, this is easy and fun. But then we got to the hilly part. I pushed my bike up every hill, while the others rode up and had to wait a long time for me. It was very hot, and the OJ was nauseating. As soon as I got to the top, they’d take off again when I’m still gasping from hiking up what seemed like giant hills. At the half way point, there was a cut through back to where we parked. I was spent and couldn’t go any further. I went to the cars and waited for the others to finish the complete loop. My first trail ride lasted 7 miles, took about an hour and a half, and totally wiped me out. That first half probably climbed no more than a couple hundred feet of vertical.

Despite getting thoroughly punished that evening, there was an aspect of trail riding that was infectious. It probably was a combination of getting back to nature and the camaraderie of a great group that put up with a newbie. I grew up in a rural, forested area and always played in the woods. This was getting back to my roots.

I rode with these guys several more times that summer, including a small ski area called Cannonsburg. Main slope has maybe 250 feet of vertical at 10% grade. A singletrack path went right up the fall line to the top. I remember when we popped out of the woods and Lowell turned left to go up this beast. I thought you’ve got to be kidding. He sprinted up to the summit. I gave it my best shot, but despite riding regularly most of the summer, I still had to push my bike the last third of the way up. When training for marathons, Lowell ran 15 miles each evening. The rest of the guys were not runners. When we finally all got to the top, Lowell commented “Yep, you sure can tell who the runners are.” I wanted to slug him. From that moment on, I was determined to ride up that hill some day without stopping. Lowell could do repeats on it all day. By that fall, I was able to ride the full Yankee Springs loop, walking only a couple of the steepest bits. I also managed to climb the 250ft Cannonsburg ski hill without stopping. It was quite an exhilarating feeling.

2nd Start Enduro, New Hampshire, Sept. 2004

I lost quite a bit of weight that summer, dropping 30 pounds to around 200 by winter. However, I did little riding over the winter, and my diet was still calorie dense. I put more than half of the lost weight back on. I recall seeing 216 pounds on the scale in spring of 1997. A new job brought me and my family to New Hampshire in April 1997. I bought a house located in mostly undeveloped (at the time) Pelham. A huge ATV trail network was accessible right from my house. I began to ride rigorously four, maybe five days a week, all off-road. I noticed that there are rocks out here. My rigid Trek wasn’t going to cut it in New England terrain. I bought a Specialized Stumpjumper with front suspension. That made a world of difference. I was fortunate to be working for a company that was tolerant of taking longer lunch breaks as long as the extra time off was covered that day by starting early and/or staying late. I had some nice singletrack near work in Tewksbury, MA, and I rode a couple times a week at lunch. I was up to about 80 miles per week on trails, which would be around 8-9 hours per week riding. No sense of training, no HRM, no log, just pure riding bliss.

I dropped my weight into the 180’s that summer. The diet I used was one I just made up on my own. It’s similar to the Zone diet. I was aware of glycemic indices of foods at the time. Most simple carb type foods, like potatoes, soda, snacks, etc were cut out. Riding many hours per week at hard pace while loosing many pounds was a recipe for regular, severe bonking. Eventually I got better about eating carbs before riding. When my weight started to stabilize around 180, I noticed I had to eat more to maintain that weight. I thought 180 was a good weight to maintain at the time. I could eat almost as much quality food as I wanted, and I could ride to my hearts content. Eat to ride, ride to eat. Life was good.

The winter of 1997/1998 was not nearly as hard on the waistline as the previous winter. I tried to keep riding outdoors on the road, buying some clothes for it, but not good enough stuff to keep most rides from becoming miserable. In 1998, I was riding every place I could find and hooked up with multiple riding groups. I started night riding too and could hang with guys I thought were pretty good. I searched out climbs to do, like service roads at ski areas. I was still 100% mountain biker at this point, and had zero interest in racing or road cycling.

Newton's Revenge starting line, Mt Washington, NH.

One day early in the summer of 1999 while riding in Middlesex Fells, I crossed paths with another rider who was hauling. I jumped on his wheel, and I stayed with him. Eventually he stops and we start talking. He raced and asked if I did too. “Nope, not my thing” I said. He said I should really give a beginner’s race a try, take my medal, and I might like it. After thinking about it, I signed up for the beginner’s race in August at Mt Snow, part of the NORBA National Championship Series. Little did I know, some guy I never heard of before, Lance Armstrong, would be racing the same course that weekend just after winning his first Tour de France. I think I rode hard right up to the day before the race, having no understanding of recovery. I also didn’t know that my single beginners lap climbed horrendously steep, rocky terrain before hurling back down just as steeply. I was so confident going into this race that I felt guilty racing as beginner, as surely I was now more skilled than beginner mountain bikers. I got my butt handed to me again.

I started to ask around how beginners could be so fit and climb so much faster than I. The answer I got was competitive riders train on the road. What’s that you say? Mountain bikers train on the road? Training and road cycling were foreign concepts to me. But nonetheless, I bought a decent road bike that fall and began spinning miles on pavement. All winter in fact. I also became determined to take some more weight off. Another 15 pounds was shed, bringing my weight to current 160-165 pounds, 70 pounds total lost from my max of 230 pounds. It was this final 15 pounds that made a profound difference in climbing ability. Don’t know why. Many factors I’m sure, not just the physiological ones like less weight to carry up, less work for your heart, cumulative years of fitness buildup, but possibly psychological ones too, like feeling lighter so therefore I must be faster.

I signed up for my first hillclimb events in 2000, including the inaugural Ascutney climb. I was not about to do a road race, but a mountain climb still kept mountain in biking even if it was on pavement. I did well and was hooked. I did Mt Washington for the first time too that year, really having no idea what I was getting into. My stock triple crank setup was used, having no idea how challenging 12% for 7.6 miles could be. I was thinking if I could break 1:30, I’d be very happy. I not only broke 1:30, I easily made top notch at 1:14. I was flabbergasted, and from that point on I became a hillclimb addict. I also had to redeem myself at Mt Snow. This time I signed up as a sport rider, doing two laps of the killer course. Made the podium with a much larger field present.

With these early race successes, the competition bug bit me pretty good. What I once vowed I would never do was now looked forward to in anticipation each season. In 2009, I competed in 20 bike races, a mix of hillclimb, mountain, road and cyclocross. The highlight of the 2009 season was winning the BUMPS northeast hillclimb championship series. I planned on competing in many of the events but never thought I would be wearing the leader's jersey in the end. It has been a long journey from the days when volleying a racquetball a few times would nearly knock me out. Now in my late forties, I'm in the best shape of my life. I encourage others to find an activity that becomes a passion. Your mind, body and others around you will immensely benefit from it.

Doug


Queen's Bicycle
Queen’s “Bicycle Race”

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