Rides We Like: Reviving the Old THUNDER Ride
(2016) Almost ten years ago several riders in the Doylestown area decided to create a ride that would follow a strict guideline. It involved a pace line into New Jersey and back with a race- pace middle portion. It would be called the THUNDER Ride, short for Thursday Night Derby.
The ride’s meeting point would start at the coffee shop in the center of Doylestown. It would make its way to River Road where it turned north and crossed the steel grated bridge into Frenchtown. An honest effort up the three-mile climb of Route 12 led to the start of the derby portion of the ride. Turning onto 519 south became an eight- mile sufferfest complete with rolling terrain and a slightly downhill sprint to the second white mailbox.
The participants would pedal slowly to allow the group to come together and cross the second steel grated bridge, this time out of Stockton. Together the group would climb Paxson Hill Road and return via Carversville.
It was a ride that swelled to a remarkable number of riders in its hey-day. A few years later the ride fizzled citing River Road’s deteriorating condition, coinciding Thursday races, and low turnout. Despite several attempts to revive it, the Thunder Ride ceased to exist. That is, until today.
I put the call out to local riders about dusting off the old route with a few alterations. In the many years since the last ride New Jersey’s Route 29 was resurfaced, Horseshoe Bend Road’s bridge was out, the bridge on 519 was demolished and rebuilt, and a stop sign was put up in the town of Rosemont, nipping off half-a-mile of sprinting. River Road in Pennsylvania was still in its deteriorated state. Actually it was as untouched today as it was ten years ago.
This morning our old trusty ridekick, Mike, met up with us. Eric, another rider from the next county over was also on board with a hard effort. We were all looking for an early season fitness test. What better way than to attack each other in the old proving grounds?
We headed out through Carversville and Lumberville. We crossed the pedestrian bridge into New Jersey. The pace line of three headed north with a bit of urgency. It wasn’t an easy pace, but it was still moving along. Considering the amount of rain days the past month, it was no surprise to see a plethora of riders going in numerous directions. Some of the wet conditions hung around and road grit found its way onto the glasses and into the shoes. We caught a couple of riders prior to Frenchtown.
Our next objective was to climb Route 12 for three miles. It was made easier by overtaking a group ride going up the initial portions of the climb. Eric flew off the front followed by Mike. My pudge led me to watch from a remarkable distance. We regrouped at the top and agreed on the start of the effort: the church parking lot.
I’ve had some of my hardest ever efforts on this road. For years I turned myself inside out to keep the last wheel. Several times saw me shot out the back on the several rollers that feel steeper than they look. Today was no different.
We picked up the speed, keeping the rules of the road in mind. Nobody pulled off the front before a hill. I was on the front with one of the rollers that have often brought me down. I heard Eric pull out of the line and ride off into the distance with Mike on his wheel. They fractured as I felt the power go out. I couldn’t believe I was shot out the back that quickly, but it happened.
Then Mike looked over his shoulder. It was a look that made me reconsider riding slowly into Rosemont. I got back up and caught the downhill. The gap would continue to get smaller. Mike kept looking over his shoulder, slowing up to let us work together. Riding down the slight decline I went back to the front and focused on the tiny figure of Eric half a mile up the road.
The final portion sees a wide-open field with a full view of a kicker in the way. Mike and I conversed. I intended to sprint to the hill and let him get to work on Eric. He told me to go ahead. I got as close as 150 feet before Eric crested the climb and plunged down toward Rosemont. The finish line was agreed as the back wall of the cemetery. Eric took both of us down single handedly. It was exactly what all three of us were looking for.
We returned slowly into Pennsylvania and decided to get the climbing over with immediately by selecting Tohickon Hill Road. It was my idea. I regretted it immediately. For the second time I watched the two other riders pull away.
It’s a shame this ride could never take off. It was never billed as a replacement ride for the Trexlertown Derby. With the amount of competitive cyclists in the area, the ride could be a cycling institution if it ever gained hold. If that took place, perhaps other riders could find success like some of the first attackers down 519. One still races at the Cat 1 level and one now lives in Colorado racing professionally. Perhaps I could race it without telling people, that way I could tell prospective teams how many times I won and wait for the job offers to come flowing in.