The Ultimate Cycling Vacation (UCV) is one of several events put on by Cycle Adirondacks each year. Their promotional videos looked amazing, and I was quickly hooked. I was concerned about six days of riding in the Adirondack mountains, but the event format was appealing. The riding was spread across three different towns, with three days spent riding from one town to the next and three “in-town” rides that had both short and long route options. I figured that I could always do a short route or just take an entire day off if needed. This event chooses new host towns/routes each year, so I’ll focus more on the overall experience rather than route specifics.
The location was amazing! The mountains, lakes, and waterfalls were abundant. The climbs were not overwhelming, but they did make you work for it. And we got rewarded for that work with some awesome descents. I got over 40 mph at some point every day, and one day I even hit 50 mph – while coasting, sitting upright!!!!
The routes were mostly rural country roads with very light traffic. Much of the time there were small or no shoulders. There were also times (maybe 10% of the miles) when we had to get on a busy highway to get to the next backroad. Make no mistake, this is a ROAD bike event, and you should be comfortable occasionally riding on the road with cars/trucks passing you at high speed. The route markings were good – painted arrows on the pavement and small signs at turns. I feel there should have been more “caution” signs where the upcoming road surface was poor or a steep descent was ending in a turn/stop. I also wish the cue sheets had called out points of interest and other possible stops along the way, even if they were not official rest stops.
The riders ranged from those using e-assist hybrid bikes to those who rode both the short and long routes on the same day. While everyone had to ride the move days, several people rode only the short routes or took days off entirely on our in-town days. All types of road bikes were there: three-ring hybrid bikes, old steel touring bikes (with speakers, front basket, and panniers installed), carbon racing road bikes, and even one triathlon/time trial bike.
There were two rest stops on the long routes and move days (other than the last day which had just one), and the volunteers staffing the stops were full of energy and optimism. While the distance between each stop in MILES was not bad (15-30 miles), the TIME varied greatly depending on the amount of climbing in those miles. I found myself stopping at gas stations along the way for more water (I had two x 24oz bottles on my bike). Had the weather been hotter, I could not have made it between rest stops without a camelback, additional water bottles, or extra water-only stops.
The SAG (Support and Gear) support was great. They had three mechanics working the event and several vehicles roaming up and down the roads watching for anyone needing help. I had a tire blowout during one of the rides and had to be driven to the next rest stop where they had a tire that I could buy. When I got back to camp, I went to the Velofix van where Karl happened to have my preferred brand/make of tire, so I upgraded my temporary tire (with just 35 miles on it). Karl was phenomenal in teaching people how to maintain their bikes. The event covered the cost of labor although they did appreciate tips.
The food each day was delicious and plentiful. Each campsite had a large tent/covered area with a buffet line and tables for eating. There was good variety each day, but one consistency was the hot oatmeal, which was quite welcome on the cool morning starts. There were always some vegetarian and gluten-free options, but it would have been difficult to make a full meal of only those items. I believe they also had individual meals for people with specific dietary needs.
The registration included a camping spot (though not a tent) and transportation of your tent/gear between towns. They also had an optional tent service that would set up and take down your tent in each town. However, I opted to stay in hotels as I wanted the best option for controlling my sleep/nutrition to ride strong throughout the event. They had portable toilets (PT) and showers on site and PTs at rest stops. They ran shuttle vans to the hotels from the campground for riders like me who chose not to camp – though probably 80% of the riders did camp.
They had many off-bike group activities planned in each town; however, I didn’t participate in any of those. I was a bit tired each day, and the idea of hiking too much or staying up late listening to music wasn’t appealing. My friend, Shelley, and I did get in a few shorter hikes by ourselves, however. I believe they are addressing the length of the routes for next year to allow more “vacation” time in the “Ultimate Cycling Vacation.”
UCV 2019 Route
Since I was a bit nervous about riding this much in the mountains, I wanted a friend close by in case I needed extra SAG support. Hence, Shelley (she has an amazing blog birdingforlife and this is her writeup about this event from her birding/SAG point of view) came up and did some birding while I was riding. Turns out I didn’t need any extra water stops, but it was nice to have a car to give myself more flexibility.
The event started in Ticonderoga, NY, on Saturday with packet pickup, welcome dinner, and announcements. Since I was staying in hotels and Shelley drove my luggage between towns, I didn’t use the provided baggage transport service; however, I did leave my bicycle transport bag with them as I would not need it again until the end of the trip.
Sunday was our first chance to start riding. I chose the 67-mile “long route” (I ended up choosing the long rides each time this week). This gave us our first of many views of picturesque waterfalls and lakes, and it took us past the Star Trek Original Series replica set in Ticonderoga. Shelley and I drove around that afternoon and ended up at the “Wind Chill Factory” ice cream shop. Carvings of bears were quite common throughout the week but these were the most whimsical.
Monday was our first move day heading to Wilmington, NY. This was one of the tougher rides of the week. Without any time to really warm up our legs, we came to a 2.8-mile climb with a 6.2% grade, climbing almost 900 feet. Before we reached the second rest/lunch stop at the Adirondacks Chapter of the Nature Conservancy in Keene Valley, I was running low on water and stopped at Boyea’s Grocery and Deli in Moria Center for water and an iced coffee. We passed that grocery three times this week, and I stopped there twice for extra water (and coffee). Shelley and I drove Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway up to Whiteface Mountain (home to some of the 1980 winter Olympic events) where we ate dinner at the Whiteface Castle. While we were eating dinner, we saw another cyclist who had been on the ride with me and then rode up the 5-mile 8% grade highway to the castle! The temperature on top of the mountain was 58ºF with 21-mph sustained winds, so Shelley chose to not walk to the upper weather observatory with me.
Tuesday, our beautiful cool weather continued and I headed out on the 66-mile Wilmington “long ride.” This route took us through more great backroads with the first rest stop at Franklin Falls Pond. I was surprised to have a “pond” where I could not see the far shore! At the second rest stop in Saranac Lake we got to tour the Saranac Laboratory Museum in the former tuberculosis sanatorium of Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau (yes, relative of Gary Trudeau of Doonesbury fame). Shelley and I drove to High Falls Gorge that afternoon where we walked the amazing walkways hanging off the side of the cliffs. Since we finished that so quickly, we decided to walk the “nature trail.” Little did we realize, the “trail” was really more of a moderate hike with climbing over boulders, tree roots, and downed trees.
Wednesday was another move day, heading to Westport, NY, and scheduled for 54 miles. Cool weather greeted us, and many of the riders were on the road early as afternoon storms were predicted. At about mile 15, I heard a strange “whoosh” sound from my rear tire, immediately applied my brakes, and heard a loud “BANG!” as my rear tire sidewall blew out. I was safe and in a shady spot, so I called for SAG. While I was waiting, the very last rider passed me, asking where the next rest stop was as she was out of water. I had a spare bottle and let her have that. It felt good to help someone else while I was waiting. SAG drove me and my bike nine miles to the first rest stop at Ausable Brewing for a new tire. That set me back about 90 minutes, but I was on the road again before the rain started.
Before I reached our lunch stop at Reber Rock Farm, the skies opened up with rain and thunder that would continue for the rest of the day. The driveway became a muddy gravel road, which added a bit of excitement for us while we tried to stay upright. It felt wonderful to get into the dry hay barn and eat warm food. Lunch was BBQ chicken and roasted beets/carrots made with rosemary and maple syrup. Those beets and carrots were AMAZING!!! About three miles from the end, I came across the Dogwood Bread Company and decided to get a coffee and bagel to warm up. Rolling into the Essex County Fairgrounds in Westport, we were greeted by a cow made of giant hay bales! During dinner, four of the members of the Depot Theater playhouse regaled us with a few songs from their current play, “Forever Plaid.”
Thursday I headed out for the longest ride of the week – 76 miles. I was looking forward to this route as it included a ferry ride across Lake Champlain in Essex, NY. We then headed south through Vermont. The two sides of the lake were quite different. New York had lots of mountains to climb with waterfalls and lakes around almost every bend. Vermont was a long series of rolling farmland. We turned west at the Lake Champlain bridge, returning to New York and our second rest stop at Crown Point. Mile 51 gave us a 5.5-mile climb at 4.4% for almost 1,100 feet of climbing! A quick downhill and we rolled back into Moria where we tackled the same climb from Monday, though today it seemed much harder than before. While I did not walk up the hill, I did stop a few times for a quick water break. It is interesting how consecutive days of riding take a toll on the body.
Friday was the shortest day of the week, heading back to Ticonderoga, NY, but by no means easy. This ride was mostly climbing for the first 17 miles with only a single rest stop around mile 14 at Lincoln Pond Campground. All that hard work climbing was rewarded with a “mostly” downhill ride to the finish, with some additional short steep climbs thrown back in for good measure. It was quite pleasant to ride DOWN the big hill we had climbed in Moria twice already (Monday and Thursday). As we rolled back into Ticonderoga, there was a large group of people at the top of the final hill to cheer us to the finish line.
This was my first multi-day, multi-location event, and I enjoyed it so much. Between this ride and my successes riding the Cherohala Challenge, I now have confidence to do these types of events. I already received the signup offer for next year when they are moving to the foothills of the Adirondacks, and I am HIGHLY tempted as this was a very well-run event that I would love to do again. If I don’t end up riding this next year, it will only be because this is a large country and there are so many wonderful places to explore. Heck, could an INTERNATIONAL bike trip be in my future someday?????
|Date||Miles||Total Time||Moving Time||Elevation||Max Speed||Strokes|
|8/18/2019||67||5h 12m||4h 45m||4,131||43.6||14,765|
|8/19/2019||61||5h 16m||4h 29m||4,639||43.6||13,443|
|8/20/2019||66||5h 33m||4h 34m||3,825||40.8||14,466|
|8/21/2019||50||5h 17m||4h 01m||2,831||40.1||11,339|
|8/22/2019||75||6h 58m||5h 38m||4,708||50.1||15,419|
|8/23/2019||37||3h 08m||2h 50m||3,307||43.3||8,593|
|Total||356||31h 24m||26h 17m||23,441||78,025|
“Total Time” includes rest stops where “Moving Time” is just the time spent pedaling. “Elevation” is the total amount of feet climbed during the ride. (Descents are not included.) “Strokes” are the number of pedal revolutions (similar to counting steps).