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Flèche: all 6 New England states in 24 hours

14 May 2016

Day trip report: 14 May 2016

Every year I try to find at least one foolish challenge to complete. Often I end up with more than one.

In early April, a small group sitting in Ride Studio Café was considering this 24-hour event. Of course sign me up.

After much training, eating, & worrying, I observed the sun rise along one of the most beautiful coastal scenery in New England.

I finished the ride of 428.42km in 23:55:03, at Newburyport commuter rail stop.

1/6: Rhode Island

I slept very lightly that night, nervous & scared of the adventure I am about to start. The best solution was to get on the bicycle early from home to take the Red Line subway & arrive Boston’s South Station to board commuter rail at 6:45.

It arrived Providence on schedule at 7:50. Eight minutes later, at 7:58, I started on my way.

One of the many rules in a flèche is to collect signatures & stamps on yellow cards from certain control points. These are evidence of reaching certain locations that, when connected, make the minimum required distance.

I did not have yellow cards, nor was I officially registered for the flèche. Nonetheless, I collected receipts from a store in each state.

One state done. Five to go.


Location: 41.955338°N, 71.704002°W

Connecticut

Flèche is a French word for “arrow” indicating multiple teams converging toward the same destination. These rides are patterned after the Flèche Vélocio held by the Audax Club Parisien (ACP) in France.

This flèche was organized by New England Randoneurs based on many archaic rules. In summary, a team of 3–5 rides together (not in relay) for minimum 360km in 24 hours, on a route of the team’s choosing. At least three members must finish. No rest stop can be more than two hours. Destination for this event was Portland, ME.

This section in Connecticut was very short—blink & you miss it. But I needed a store to get a control point receipt. Luckily there was one.

Two states done. Four to go.


Location: 41.955338°N, 71.704002°W

Massachusetts

I did not join a team, nor did I finish in Portland:

  • By choice: the idea of bicycling for 24 hours should have been exciting enough. But I wanted the added bonus of traveling through all six New England states. No one else wanted to bicycle 440km, 22% more than the required distance, with significant ascent.
  • Not by choice: Amtrak cancelled bicycle service just three days before the event. I had planned to take the train back from Portland to Boston with bicycle. I was not ready to bet on other choices (such as bus) without guaranteed reservation.

Instead, I chose to complete the loop using MBTA commuter rail service, which is more frequent & more reliable. Bicycles are allowed on any train all weekend.

I should have chosen a different route to transition from the quiet corner of Connecticut into busy commercial towns of southern Massachusetts along route 12 through Oxford. A route further west such as 31 through Charlton would have been safer & more pleasant.

But at least there were no significant hills to climb. These started to increase the further north I travelled.

In Barre, I found a small store for V8 & chocolate milk.

Three states done. Three to go.


Location: 42.42207°N, 72.104851°W

Vermont

It was early in bicycle season, but I had been preparing for over six weeks. At least as much as one can prepare for such endurance event.

Out of the cold winter season, I started with a warm up ride for 277km, ascent 2,918m, & duration 13:36:43. I followed it with one more big ride to Wachusett Mountain for 193.66km, ascent 2,206m, & duration 9:43:29.

I was ready & excited.

Four states done. Two to go.


Location: 42.850746°N, 72.558037°W

New Hampshire

I kept my heart rate in check, below 150bpm for the entire trip, regardless of how steep the hill was. I would slow down, lower the gear, or take a break to keep it below that level.

I ate. A lot. Very frequently. I did not spare a rest stop from loading on chocolate milk, hydration tablets, nuts, cheese, & chocolate. At midnight, I had double monster meal at Red Arrow diner.

Five states done. One to go.


Location: 42.993613°N, 71.461433°W

Maine

No amount of caffeine can make any difference. I had been drinking several varieties throughout the night between coffee, soda, & energy drinks.


Location: 43.099819°N, 70.744728°W

But I was looking forward to watching the sunrise over the Atlantic.

Completed all six states. Made my way back home in Massachusetts along a gorgeous coastal route.

Packing List

  • Handlebar bag (Ortlieb)
    • USB battery pack
    • Chamois cream (Assos)
    • Backup front lights (3)
    • AAA batteries (4) & AA batteries (2) for front & rear lights
    • Mini USB cable (2) to charge lights
    • iPhone charging cable
    • Nuun hydration tablets (12)
    • Rain jacket (Sugoi)
    • Rain pants (Sugoi)
    • Helmet rain cover (Sugoi)
    • Thin warm wool hat (Ibex)
    • Booties (Sugoi) to cover shoes from rain
    • Water proof mittens shell (REI)
    • Wool thin shirt (Sugoi) for warmth
    • Headphones
    • Trail mix bag
  • Bicycle
  • Top bar bag (Revelate Gas Tank)
    • iPhone
    • Energy bars
  • Me
    • Heart rate monitor strap
    • Helmet
    • Gloves half finger (Sugoi)
    • Shorts (Ibex Knickers)
    • Reflective vest (Amphipod)
    • Sun glasses + mirror
    • Prescription glasses
    • Shoes
    • Wool socks
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From → Bicycle

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