West Hartford Reservoir to Penwood and Back (26.28 miles)

Riders:  Tom, Steve, John Sattar, Jill

I knew it was going to be a great ride before we even started pedaling.  First, Sunday rides have been few and far between for me this year and this one was unexpectedly gifted to me late in the week.  Also after several days of rain the morning started off dry and comfortable with hints of sun.  Having a smallish group for this ride was also a good sign.  In the past 4 seems to be the magic number to finish this ride in a reasonable time frame.  We don’t ride this route all that often, mostly because it’s kind of a hike to get there (it takes almost an hour for me), and also it tends to turn into a sufferfest if there are a lot of riders which leads to a lot of mechanicals and stops, which leads to a sometimes 7 hour trek.  Today we finished in 4 hours, 21 minutes.  That may be a record!  Immediately we realized that it would be more of a skill ride than a hammer ride, the conditions were pretty slick after the last few days of rain and it seemed like every rock and root was coated with slime.  Optimistically the crew predicted that it would be drier at Penwood because it was more open.  Yeah, we were wrong.  But it didn’t matter, it was a well matched group and we were all on the same page.  Keep pedaling, few stops, have fun, and keep the chatter running.  Out at the chimney we stopped for pretty much the first time for a snack and although we took the traditional way to the chimney we decided to climb the steep double track to the fire road back because last time we were out there and took the river bed we discovered the trails had changed dramatically and ended up slogging through the woods until we got to the fire road.  Until the climb back out of Penwood I don’t think any of us were really feeling the mileage so far.  At the turnaround point we were at about 16 miles.  That climb got me though, I was dragging and just watched the other 3 disappear ahead of me.  We regrouped in the Penwood parking lot and it took at least 10 minutes for a break in the traffic to cross 185.  Up the paved road this time and down the power lines to the fire road.  Steve and John raced back to 44 but Tom and I headed over to the water fountain so he could fill up his water bottles.  Back over at West Hartford we picked up the pace again, most of the trails were drying up and we finished the rest of the loop pretty quickly.  It’s been over a year since I’ve ridden this loop and the erosion was very noticeable, especially over at Reservoir #6 in the stretch next to the metal fencing.  We used to be able to ride most of that section and Sunday I was nervous just walking it, there was barely enough room for us to walk or carry our bikes before the approach to the two drop offs.  The trail after that section was also rerouted to run high on the hill vs. along the stream, very nice improvement.  Thanks for riding guys, great group and a great ride.  -Jill

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