Rides We Like: Fleecydale Road, Solebury, PA
(2016) Every cyclist has that road. It’s the one s/he goes to when the confidence is low. It’s the stretch of pavement that makes one feel in tune with the bends and vibrations. Even when a ride isn’t going to plan, that road is the ‘gimme’ to the whole thing. It continues the spirit of road riding whether it’s fast or slow.
There’s one of those causeways nearby that feels as old as it actually is: 172 years old, or so I've found. I’ve talked about it before, but its full length hasn’t been able to unfold for the past five years or so. Fleecydale Road in its entirety has been dug up, abandoned, and squabbled over by municipalities and state departments. It is a carriageway that’s been falling into the Paunnacussing Creek for some time. When it’s experienced in its full grandeur, it’s an enjoyable exploration into history with options of making a ride challenging.
It’s a road I implore cyclists of all abilities to explore. I can telegraph every meter of it from the start at the Carversville Inn/ Carversville General Store all the way down to the tiny town of Lumberville. (If one were to pass on the town sign sprint, one would observe a meandering piece of electrical tape changing the town name to SLumberville. It has not been altered for going on the better part of a decade.) Naturally this route can be experienced in one or both directions with marginal parking at each end. But as I said, this is a must- ride road. Sit on the porch of the Carversville Inn with two fingers of local rye whiskey and one will see troupes of riders amble through the vast intersection looking for fabled Fleecydale’s offerings.
Well, let’s begin at the Carversville General Store. It is a great starting point considering how welcoming it is to cyclists. With an outback grotto, bike rack and floor pump, the Carversville General Store recognizes its status as a meeting place for many cyclists in Bucks County. If one departs from here plan to imbibe on the offerings inside on the return. It really is part of the experience.
Clipping in and immediately one regards a house on shale cliffs complete with a gangplank footbridge. The trickle of the Paunnacussing can remind one of A.A. Milne’s quote, “Rivers know this: We will get there someday.” Taking this road fast or slow is correct.
Crossing the one lane bridge (actually this whole road is one lane) the deciduous canopy begins to hug the cyclist. The road is at a constant downhill trend. It feels good hammering toward the Delaware River roughly two miles beyond. For portions of this ride, cliffs will be to the rider’s left during the descent.
Clusters of houses begin to make an appearance on Fleecydale. A quaint cottage butted up against shale cliffs becomes a landmark to the locals. There are two more estates in the vicinity. Should one look for a remarkable effort, turning left onto Short Road (185 feet, 13.5% average) will produce it. This climb mocks the rider downward from the stop sign. The sign itself hangs in the distance like an uncaring coach who asks you to always work harder. If Fleecydale felt narrow, Short Road puts it in perspective with an even thinner approach. It is a gain of about 200 feet in about one-quarter of a mile. Three riders could not ride abreast up this zapping climb.
But continuing down Fleecydale proper one comes to a Y intersection. Currently going left states the road is closed. Merging right leads to the dirt road of Old Carversville, which is also also very narrow and also a sector of the Kermesse Spring Classic, Fools Classic. It’s the road that ended my chance of any decent finish at Battenkill last year on solo ride. Despite the signs we’ll head left while taking in the scenery of an old river stone house at that intersection.
The shale cliffs return on the left and the descent begins to pick up steepness. A hard guessing left leaves a rider wondering if oncoming traffic will be an issue. More descent past a couple of driveways and one has a large cliff in front of him. This is the fabled cliff Moses Doan rode his horse off of to evade capture during the tumultuous period of the post Revolutionary War. At the top, though, is a road of proper proportions. It is the overlook of the final ramp of Fretz Mill Road.
A fast right-hander feels Grand Tour status. Hugging the guardrail makes a rider feel like he’s in a breakaway. This is why Fleecydale Road is so damn enjoyable. After a short straightaway a road sign emerges on the left after the cliffs. It is the commencement of the notorious climb of Fretz Mill Road, part of Kermesse Sports climb-fest, Fleche Buffoon. At a gain of 250 feet in half of a mile (11% average), this is a climb that can end rides. It wastes no time in making it steep. And when one potentially has completed the steep portion, there is another in the waiting staring back. Fretz Mill Road is one of those destination climbs: One knows the ride exists in only the one kilometer of effort leading away from Fleecydale Road. Before and after are merely experiences.
Continuing down Fleecydale the houses becomes more prevalent. On the right is a rancher; on the left are two houses that have doubled in size recently. A large stone structure on the left overlooks a meditative field adorned with a large American flag. This is the second significant downhill portion of the ride. Unfortunately it is also the farthest part PennDOT has managed to get in its repairs of Fleecydale Road.
Despite the sign that states pedestrians and bike riders prohibited there has always been a well-trodden path through the heavy equipment. I don’t suggest pushing aside signs, but let’s say we theoretically carried on as one could have done prior to the road construction.
If one were able to carry on past the current construction site, one would find a couple more peaceful houses tucked into either the hillside or on the creek side for the remainder of the experience. A rider would be treated to an immediate downhill gradient with ample forest coverage and the creek still on the right. The presence of brightly colored Victorian houses would signify the terminus of Fleecydale Road. It has been a total descent of 140 feet in just over two miles. How satisfying.
The two return options present a rider: turn right and carry on to the oldest operational lumberyard in the United States, Tinsmen Brothers Inc. and up the mostly dirt road portion of Old Carversville. The other option is to turn around and head back. Regardless, one will return to the Carversville General Store for a rare culinary experience. Greeting riders is tasty coffee, organic foods, and mac’n cheese’n bacon slices that will make one think a second lap will be necessary.
Fleecydale Road is a must-travel road for any cyclist. Despite the fact the road has been closed, one can ride just beyond the Fretz Mill intersection, which is a lovely out-and-back of over two miles. In case the reader was wondering, “Is this worth loading up my bike on the back of the car and driving it to Carversville to explore the area?” The answer is an absolute, “Yes.” How often does an definitive answer like that come about these days?