The Kangamangus Highway- Crank-the-Kanc

Crank the Kanc, NH – Tomorrow is the annual “Crank the Kanc” bicycle time trial hill climb that occurs each May on New Hampshire’s beautiful Kancamaugus Highway, a stunning scenic byway through the state’s White Mountain National Forest. The race is just over 21 miles with over 2300 ft. of net elevation gain. The descent is spectacular as well as you can see in this 2017 video:

The “Crank the Kanc” is a time-trial hill climb that is perhaps a little lesser-known. However, the trial not purely a hill climb. This trial sets out near Conway, New Hampshire and follows Route 112 (Kancamagus Highway) to the Kancamagus Pass top. The course is climbing gradually over the first ten miles before it nearly levels off for a 5-mile stretch.

The last four miles of the 21-mile-trial are pretty steep and average some 7 degrees with short sections that are much steeper. There are several spectacular viewpoints along the track, so make sure you’ll enjoy them on your way down. I did the Kancamagus Highway several times, but never the timed event.

Locally, the trial is often referred to as the “Kanc” and it is the true backbone to so many fantastic cycling rides through New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Over the last decade, much of the Kanc was reconstructed. West of the Kanc pass, the road was resurfaced and is truly spectacular for bombing down. Some lower sections east of Kanc pass still require some work but the sections that were reworked offer widened roadways making the Kanc ride much safer and enjoyable.

If you’re the type of cyclist that wants to get in as many New England races as you can every year, you’ll want to mark this race on your calendar.

It’s not one of the better-known hill climbs in New England, but due to its strict limits on the number of registrations allowed per year, it always sells out. If you don’t register early you may have to sit on the waiting list. You won’t want to do that since this is a great bike ride with plenty of prizes amidst phenomenal scenery. Check out as well this post about taking rest and nutrition.

The Route

The race begins close to Conway, New Hampshire and you’ll be following the Kancamagus Highway to get to Kancamagus Pass. You’ll find that it’s a gradual incline during the initial 16 miles but don’t let that fool you. Once you’ve reached this milestone you’ll still have 5 miles to go and that is when reality strikes. The last section has an average 7% grade with some short and rather steep sections. This steeper climb consists of a 1,300 feet rise over 4.6 miles.

During the initial 16 miles, you’ll only be transitioning about 1,000 feet vertically so you know that you’ll be facing quite a feat closer to the end. You’ll want to pace yourself accordingly so that you’ll have the energy necessary when you reach the steeper climb after already having traveled a number of kilometers. This can be quite a trick and many cyclists falter at the end because they burned up too much steam at the beginning.

Once you’ve pushed your bike approximately 15 miles you’ll level out and at this point the view is breathtaking. You’ll be able to see Mt. Washington with its snowy peak reminding you that this mountain is still in charge over this area. See also this post about Hillclimbers training advice.

During the last 4 miles, you’ll be keeping your eyes on the markers that signal the number of miles left to get to the finish line. At this point, you may think that you cannot go any further and will have to unlock some of that hidden strength that you know is inside you. It’s just a matter of perseverance and determination at this point and if you have the physical endurance you’ll be able to make it through. Once you’ve made it to the top you’ll be able to look down and see the amazing countryside below you. This beauty and the towering Mt. Washington will remind you just how small we all are in the bigger scheme of life.

Once you have conquered this mountain you’ll be able to enjoy all the thrills of riding your bike down the 2,000 feet you’ve conquered to get to the top. You’ll be able to reach fast speeds with the wind blowing in your face and the wonders of nature surrounding you. At this point, you won’t even feel the pain anymore and will understand with full certainty just how lucky you are to be a hillclimber and how worthwhile it all is.

The Crank The Kanc climb in the White Mountains of New Hampshire allows you to hone your skills in regards to pushing your endurance at the beginning and then stepping it up to a higher level of performance at the end. It’s quite a unique challenge and probably the type of bike ride that you’ve never experienced before. As well, with all of the great money prizes up for grabs, it could very well turn out to be a profitable way to spend an early summer morning.