Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Roads Less Cycled By: New England's Dirt Road Randonnee's

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear...
Robt. Frost

Last year in writing about the Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee (D2R2), I wondered if New England cyclists would form a full schedule of dirt road ronde's. I realize now that we already have. While we do not have the formal organization of the Mid-Atlantic's ultra-cross series, or the range of events that comprise the Mid-West gravel grinders, but we do have enough events from April to September to fill the summer season.

First, I define a dirt road ronde as an event of at least 50 miles and 50% dirt track, but suitable for a rigid drop bar bike. Sure some folks will ride such events on a suspension mtb bike. Last year I saw Thom Parsons ride his 29er at the Ronde de Rosey. I even spied a guy on a fat bike at the D2R2. But most of the riders at these events can & will ride cyclocross bikes or even road bikes with extra wide tires.

While the events in New England are not typically races (unlike ultra-cross & gravel grinders), they are intensely competitive. In the era of Strava, it is easy to see who was fastest on a given day at a given course. Moreover, most of these events are designed to test a rider at the level they desire, the competition is really with yourself.

Here is the list of New England Dirt Road Ronde's to the best of my knowledge. I have not attempted all of them, but I hope to in the years to come. Some are new, some are old, some are big open charity rides, some are small word of mouth challenge rides, all will get your dirt miles under your belt before cyclocross season:

1) The Ride Diverged, April 6th: the earliest and newest of these events is also the shortest. Sponsored by Ride Studio Cafe so it has to be both fun & serious. Almost a terrain tune up for the Ronde de Rosey, but completely different in vibe.

2) The Ronde de Rosey April 14th: This is the team time trial, and perhaps most competitive of the New England dirt road ronde's. Who knew so many dirt trails exist in the suburbs of Boston? Apparently Rosey does. Form up a team and apply for a slot. Beers & raffle at the end supports a great charity: Bikes Not Bombs.

3) Detour de Connecticut April 27th (last Saturday in April). At 118 miles this is the longest event, and one that I have not ridden. The course & the companions sound intriguing.

4) Tour de Heifer, June 9th: At 60 miles, it is on the petite side, but it covers the more challenging dirt roads that the D2R2 does. Plus you get fed by the small farms of southern Vermont. 

5) Central Vermont Cycling Tour, June 16th: 59 miles, 90% on dirt, on Father's Day with a b-b-que at the finish. What's not to like?

6) Irreverent Road Ride (IRR) or roads of questionable character & substance. June 29th. Adam has reportedly put together a mild route of 60 miles, an adventurers route of 80 miles, and an ultra-mega-supah route of 115 miles. All of which are 80%+ on choice VT dirt roads. He swears he's going to ride this on his road bike with 25mm tires. I suspect he has questionable character & substance between his ears.

7) Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee August 24th. The grand daddy, the original, the biggest most celebrated of these rides in the region. Last year over 700 people did one of the 4 routes. I rode some of each route (not by design). There is something for every cyclist at this event.

8) Kearsarge Klassic Dirt Road Randonnee September 7th. New Hampshire has fine dirt roads too. Last year was the first time for this ride. It got a very good reaction from seasoned dirt road cyclists. 85 miles for the long route with some substantial climbs around Mt. Kearsarge & Mt. Cardigan.

9) New England Randonneurs Fall Classic September 29th. Two routes, both randonnee length and half on dirt road. Subject to RUSA rules as well.

While that should be enough time on dirt roads to get ready for cyclocross, there is certainly room for more of these events. No dirt road ronde's are calendared for May or July. New Hampshire and Maine have plenty more dirt roads that can make good routes. I look forward to riding the events I have neglected and to see what new routes come about.


  1. Love this. JAM FUNdo kind of fits the bill as well. That ride is a blast

  2. Green Mountain Double Century (southern VT) - June 15-16; 208 mi, 80% dirt, 25K climb

  3. another one to add to the list

  4. Raid Rockingham in early June in the NH seacoast. Http://

  5. Anyone know of good dirt road loops around North Conway, NH? Would love some pointers to routes on or something similar? Thanks!