I grew up in Chelmsford, a small exurban town northwest of Boston. The two places seemed worlds apart when I was a kid. Going into Boston was going “into the city,” kind of a big deal, not something we did very often. Compared to the rest of the country, the distance between Chelmsford and Boston is barely a drive. My housemate from Houston often reminds me that going from one side of Houston to another is a several-hour affair. In that same time driving in New England you’ve likely passed through a couple states.
You can also check out the map on Bikely right here.
While the distance was nothing at all challenging, tackling the elevation on my heavy, ancient bike (and, let’s face it, my not-exactly Top Shape body) was a real challenge for me.
All said, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. As I biked the route off the trail and on the roads, I passed by all sorts of familiar landmarks and houses I grew up seeing through car and bus windows. Certainly on my old steel bike, I wasn’t hitting anywhere near high-speed—probably I trod along at an average ploddy pace of 14mph the whole way, significantly less on the hills, of course. I made a point to observe the route around me when safety allowed.
My trusty beater is over 30 years old, and though I take it in for maintenance regularly, and though it uses fantastic Shimano parts, it can only take so much of a beating before something breaks. So yes, I had a few mishaps—namely the chain popped off the gears when I was tackling a particularly steep hill. Not fun! I set up camp in someone’s driveway in Billerica, got all covered in chain grease and swore up a storm while I finagled the chain back on. By the time I reached my parents’ house in Chelmsford I was quite a sight with my hands, arms and legs covered in grease and dirt from the bike and the road.
So why did I wait to post about this for two months?
Because I just got a new bike!
She is a fabulous Surly Crosscheck, 46cm frame (yeah, I am that small). I don’t have a sexy photo of my new bike outside, I keep forgetting! But she has been a real treat to ride and I am so glad to have her.
I seriously hope I can take the Black Redemption—that’s what I named my new bike—on the Nashua River rail trail (so gorgeous in the fall!), the Cape Cod rail trail as well as the Arlington-Chelmsford route before the season is up this year. (Black Redemption has a third gear for climbing hills. Sure, I can swing it on two, but why should I bust my knees trying?)
I got this bike specifically so I could do longer rides. Blue Turtle (my old bike) is a solid city bike, as a beater should be, but several hours of straight riding on it and the components just can’t hold from the stress—brakes started failing, gear shift levers get out of whack, and because the handlebars are flat, well, I get tired.
Brand new bike, very different story. I’m hoping I can be worthy of it soon, and I’m working hard to get there.
There aren’t enough weekends in the fall! I hope winter stays away just long enough so I can do everything I set out to do before snowboarding season kicks in.
Many thanks to Tyler at Paramount Bicycle Repair for being my guru on everything Bicycle. He’s moving to Ball Square from his old Powderhouse location, best of luck to him on the move! If you need any kind of bike service or advice, he’s the guy to go to, no question.