Events: The Fall Classics 2017 Edition
(2017) I find myself scanning the remaining bike racing schedule to find every morsel to bite into for upgrade points. To describe the balance of the road racing chances in a word: scant. What do pop up are two event styles. Obviously cross is coming. We have been reminded of that since, oh, say, the last day of the last cross season. The other is the non-competitive fall classic ride designed to calm everyone down from a hard year of racing by encouraging brisk paces and rest stops. For those living in eastern Pennsylvania region there are numerous chances to participate, nearly once a week through October. Some of these rides we have done – and continue to come back to – while others have been just outside our commitments. With a calendar this busy, it’s easy to miss a lot.
Have a look at the following offerings for this area’s fall celebrations to wind down your road season. There are events with scores of participants up to an event with thousands. There are paved rides and one nearly all gravel ride. Most rides have small spectating but one has an accompanying race weekend to populate the banners. There are no wrong answers here. These are great events. Consider at least one for your season.
Events marked with an asterisk denote a previous participation.
Bucks County Classic Cyclosportif September 10, Doylestown, PA *
Born from the European Cyclosportif of exploring the stage prior to the pros, the Bucks County Classic Cyclosportif showcases quite a bit of Bucks in one day. While the downtown criterium is only four kilometers in length, the cyclosportif is separated into two distances of fifty kilometers ($45) and 100 kilometers ($50). Riders depart from the start/ finish line of the Bucks County Classic, the pinnacle event of the weekend-long Doylestown Arts Festival. Riders will be sent to some of the pristine road experiences our area has to offer. With a noticeably lackadaisical approach to climbing, cyclists of all abilities can enjoy this ride. The route touches a few roads we have written about previously.
The cyclosportif is fully supported with feed zones, but the real culmination comes at the finish line when each participant is given VIP status and access to a food tent perfectly located adjacent to the criterium course. With a full day of scheduled racing including high wheel races and children’s races, perhaps riding just a little harder to get to the tent early could be beneficial. But why rush the beautiful Bucks roads? The VIP tent, the Doylestown Arts Festival, and more invitingly, the Bucks County Classic pro women and men’s race will be waiting for you. Why not put your feet up after a brief tour and watch pros do their thing on the streets of Doylestown?
Brown’s Brewing Covered Bridges Tour, September 16, Hoosick, NY
We’ve talked about Brown’s Brewing and their welcome mat toward the cycling community. They have been present at the finish line of the last few Tour of the Battenkill races in Washington County in Upstate New York. We’ve also talked about how much we enjoy riding the roads in Upstate New York. Being centralized in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, creakybottombracket.com regularly talks about exploring covered bridges whenever possible on our rides. Throw all three popular exploits into one day and the Brown’s Brewing Covered Bridge Tour is the outcome.
The ride starts from the Brown’s Brewing Taproom and Brewery located in Walloomsac, NY. With three distance options, riders can explore one covered bridge on the twenty- or thirty-mile options. The fifty-mile option explores four covered bridges. This ride is brought to the cycling community by the same organizers who bring the Tour of the Battenkill and the Tour of the Catskills. It goes without saying that a ride that starts and ends at a remarkable brewery will certainly be one to remember for some time. Participants over twenty-one years of age can enjoy one free post-ride beer and creek side lunch.
Third Annual Tour de Vine, September 17, Upper Hudson Valley, NY
Stick around town after the Covered Bridges Tour to take part in the Third Annual Tour de Vine. We’ve been curious to try this event as the cycling takes the back seat to some wineries in the Hudson Valley. Don’t look for remarkable distance or herculean climbs. This route is around twenty miles long and has participation from at least two wineries.
Again from the organizers that bring the Tour of the Battenkill and Tour of the Catskills, this is an intriguing offering of ‘low and slow.’ This might be one of those rides to break out the vintage friction shifting Bianchi or high wheel. It isn’t a race to anywhere. It might be one of those outings where the average speed may actually be slower than a walking pace. Registration opens soon.
Maple City Century, September 24, Honesdale, PA
In its fourth year the Maple City Century has continued to expand offerings around the northeastern portion of Pennsylvania. Originally an imperial century, last year saw the addition of a metric century. This year a ‘mini city century’ is offered. Be prepared: This ride is nearly all gravel. It might be a cyclocross set of circumstances. And talk about bang for your dollar; this ride’s registration is only $40 (USD) for 100 miles. Maybe you pay for the miles you go up? It’s not usual to see a request for a warning on the registration page stating that anyone riding less than 28c tires will have issues in certain sections.
With the hundred-miler clocking in just shy of 8,000 feet of climbing, you’ll have to remember that the admission fee wasn’t what brought you to your knees. It could have been the swag, but really it was the bragging rights collected at the finish line. There is no asterisk next to this one, but it isn’t from a lack of trying to get there. We will get to Honesdale, PA, sometime soon, maybe this year soon.
Bicycling Magazine Fall Classic, October 1, Trexlertown, PA *
Last year, amid the fog and mist, I finished the fifty-mile portion of the Bicycling Magazine Fall Classic. I wasn’t interested in the 90-miler but wanted more than twenty-five miles of Berks and Lehigh County roads. With the climbing up front, I wasn’t disappointed when the second half of the route eased off and some familiar roads from struggles past were zipped by (I remember the relief of passing Goat Hill, specifically).
There’s one clear fact about this event. It’s well- run. Thousands of cyclists descend on the cycling-oriented town of Trexlertown. I met a guy a couple years ago who flies up form Texas each year to do the event. With distances of ten, twenty-five, fifty (2,700 feet of climbing), and ninety miles (5,200 feet) to choose, there’s an option for every rider in the family. Having a ten- mile option with 335 feet of climbing is great to bring the kids on for their first experience of such a large cycling event.
What most people cite as the finishing reason for the Fall Classic is the after-ride meal. Last year at least four food trucks churned out food for riders. One truck was specifically beer if that’s your gig. The relaxing wind-down on the concourse of the Trexlertown velodrome continues the cycling feels. This is definitely a must- do event at least once. Like we said, it rained for a portion of the ride last year, and we still want to go back.
Covered Bridges Ride, October 15, Tinicum, PA *
I always believed late September was the sudden seasonal change. Sure the calendar says fall officially arrives then, but it’s confusing when the leaves are still green and it’s 80 degrees out. Mid- October around here is when the leaves are starting their show. Coincidentally it’s also when the Central Bucks Bicycle Club’s Covered Bridges Ride takes place in Tinicum, Pennsylvania.
Much like the Bicycling Magazine Fall Classic, the Covered Bridges Ride offers flat and climbing options. For the twenty and thirty mile affairs, cyclists can avoid the hills- and mostly roadways- by exploring the popular canal path that extends from Bristol to Easton. This option will take you by, but not up, the brutal Uhlerstown Covered Bridge. For the climbing routes, the all paved 33 (2,700 feet of climbing), 50 (3,300 feet), and 63-mile (4,500 feet) options explore portions of upper Bucks County while crossing up to six covered bridges. That’s approximately half of what our area has to offer.
With the start and finish at Tinicum Park, there is ample parking meaning easy in, easy out. But why be in a hurry to leave? The post ride food is delicious and the spacious park grounds allow participants to spread out and relax. Last year saw very cool temperatures in the morning yet toasty temperatures later in the day. It was a bit worrisome seeing riders pass by our office in balaclavas and leggings when it was approaching seventy degrees. Be prepared for fluctuating weather patterns. When finished, why not sit on the porch of the Golden Pheasant Inn, about one mile south on River Road and watch the world go by? This ride is a bucket list, must-do.
Oktoberfest Ride, October 22, Collegeville, PA *
Anyone who has read our Events page will notice a trend: We do a lot of Kermesse Sport events and with good reason. After the Kermesse spring classic schedule, a small tug begins within for the Oktoberfest ride. Over the summer it grows and grows until heat waves make us yearn for crisp fall rides and late sunrises. This is another must-do event for the fall.
The old Univest cyclosportif route has been resurrected for a fall celebration of cycling through Montgomery County. With two distances, 46- and 62- mile routes, there’s something for everybody. The long route participants continue beyond Green Lane Park to try their luck at the infamous Eichele climb. While it’s the highlight of the route, the ride along the Perkiomen Creek is what has us constantly coming back.
The after party helps too. With the start and finish at the Appalachian Brewing Company located in Collegeville, PA, participants are treated to German-themed post-ride servings. The fact it’s at Appalachian Brewing Company should make it obvious riders have the option for a celebratory beer.
Cranksgiving, November 12, Doylestown, PA *
The only fundraiser of sorts on this list earns its place in the fall lineup. What was once a cheeky choose-your-own-adventure race to collect for the food pantry has turned into a casual outing. We did it one year thinking there were points for second place. Gather a large group of cyclists who typically know each other, charge them zero dollars for an entry fee, then unleash them on a course to three separate collection grocers, and everybody wins.
The past year featured a food truck at the finish. This is certainly an evolving event. When we finished there was nobody around. There was a nice breeze but an empty parking lot left us wanting. Now cyclists can ride at their own pace, fill up the collection bins outside each participating location, and kick back at the Central Bucks West high school parking lot. How much food you donate is up to you, though several items are highlighted as priority. While finishing in the top five was relieving, the most rewarding experience for us was checking out at each grocery store knowing the purchases were going to a good cause.
Danny Chew’s 35th Dirty Dozen, November 25, Pittsburgh, PA
There is no asterisk after this event, and that needs to change. Cue up any YouTube video for Danny Chew’s Dirty Dozen and it is obvious Pittsburgh has some really heavy hills. Within the twelve climbs is America’s steepest vehicular street, the cobbled Canton Avenue that juts up 35%. Didn’t make it up the first time? That’s ok; you can go back and try again. Though what makes you think a second time will work? This is not a cutthroat event, either. After each climb the main group hangs out for most of the riders to latch back on. This is more of a celebration of climbing than a flogging. It’s not the longest ride either. At just over fifty miles, most of the progress is upward, not forward.
With this being the 35th ride, it is also a celebration of Danny Chew, America’s ‘Million Mile Man.’ Chew, the event organizer was sadly in an accident a couple of years ago. This has left him paralyzed from the chest down, though that hasn’t stopped him from accruing more miles. Proceeds from last year’s Dirty Dozen went toward helping Chew’s treatment. Should we manage to get out to Pittsburgh this year, we’ll gladly turn over the entry fee for an attempt on Canton Avenue, but more importantly, to help a fellow cyclist get back out there.