Route Review: North Shore

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Having just finished residency, and with a baby due any day, my wife and I found ourselves staring at each other a lot in our apartment in Boston.  On this particularly nice Monday late in June, we decided we needed to get out of town.  She would spend the day on Singing Beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea, and I would get a change of cycling scenery.

North shore route

Having done the Cape Ann loop a few times, I was looking for something new and so did some searching on Ride with GPS, and finally mapped out a route up the coast to Ipswitch and then back to Manchester-by-the-Sea on an inland route.

Off courseThe ride starts up along the North Shore, on a route I’ve done before that has plenty of great ocean views.  Just before going onto Cape Ann, I turned west and headed up towards Ipswitch, then from there out Jeffrey’s Neck Road for some more water views, now of Plum Island Sound.

Looping back into Ipswitch the route now goes inland, and while not as traditionally New England scenic, it does go through a surprising amount of horse farms.  I was most surprised suddenly come upon a polo field with a game in progress just outside of Essex.

The complete ride is a bit over 40 miles, ending back at Singing beach.  Note that parking at the beach is only open to the public on weekends, so any other time plan on starting and stopping a couple miles earlier in town.

Route on Ride with GPS

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Route Review: Weston-Lincoln-Lexington-Arlington

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Along with my 30 mile route to Needham, this ride up to Lexington is one of my standard quick rides to get in when I only have a few hours free.  It again leaves from downtown Boston and heads out Beacon Street.  This time though, you take a right onto Chestnut Hill Ave at the reservoir to get over onto Commonwealth.  Comm Ave then takes you through Newton and finally across the Charles River.  There is a carriageway here which allows you to avoid traffic if particularly heavy,

Comm ave is mostly a warm-up though, once you cross the Charles and then I-95 the roads get quieter and prettier.  There is a short but steep climb up Newton Street past Pine Brook Country club then things settle out through Weston and up Tower Road into Lincoln.  Coming out of the stop sign in Lincoln there is another steep section, made more painful by the fact that you have no momentum after wating at the 5-way intersection.  From there you descend into Minuteman State park and then cut back across just south of Lexington center (or take a detour up Waltham street to Mass Ave to pick up a coffee at Ride Studio Cafe).  Once into Arlington the best way to avoid traffic is to catch the Minuteman bikeway, but the entrance can be a bit tough to spot off Maple street.  The key is to watch for when you pass over it, then look for an entrance ramp just off to the right.

I used to just pick up Mass Ave once the bikeway ends in Arlington Center, but that was a constant frustration of traffic lights, cars parked in the bike lane, and potholes.  I find it actually it much nicer to cut over to Broadway instead then to Elm St through Davis Square into Porter and then onto Beacon/Hampshire back to MIT before finally crossing the Mass Ave bridge back to Boston.

Total route is 40 miles and for much of it, you really feel like you’ve gotten out of Boston.

Route on Ride with GPS

Route Review: Hull and along the South Shore

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South Shore 50With plans to do the NE Randonneurs 100k at the end of April, I had been slowly building up my distance.  I did a couple 100mi centuries when I was younger, and a metric century when I lived in Philly, but 100k is longer than I had ridden in a while.

This would be my last chance for a long ride before the actual event, so I wanted to do something more closely approaching the actual distance.  I found a this route while searching on Ride with GPS, and felt like it would be a good trial run.

Hull WindmillThe ride starts in Wompatuck State Park where there is plenty of free parking, and heads from there up to the windmill in Hull before doubling back.  The ride was dead flat through Hull, and really all the way back along the coast down to Scituate.  It was pretty though – lots of views of the Bay and amazing homes on the shoreline.

Things became a bit less interesting once you turn back inland, with only a couple little hills to break things up.  There also wasn’t much in the way of services along here, so be sure to pack all the water/food you need.

By the time I got back into the State Park I was feeling pretty beat, and had to drag myself the last couple miles back to the car.  Overall the ride felt good though, and I wasn’t worried about being able to finish the 100k in a couple weeks.

Route on Ride with GPS

Route Review: Boston to Needham

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Boston-NeedhamWhile driving out of downtown makes for the prettiest, most traffic-free rides, it adds to the overall time needed and sometimes I just have a few hours to get a ride in.  After several variations, this has become one of my go-to routes if I only have a couple hours free.

The ride leaves from downtown Boston and heads out Beacon Street past BU and BC into Newton Center.  This initial section is flat and full of traffic lights.  There is a bike lane the whole way, so not too much fighting with cars.  Once you get through Newton the ride opens up a bit heading down Central Ave.  The nicest bit, however, is once you turn onto South Street in Needham which is tree lined and winding with small rollers.  Always see lots of other cyclists through this section, which I always wish were longer.  The return takes you back through the southern end of Newton and down the Goddard Hill descent to Jamaica pond.  Finally returning to downtown via Jamaica Plain and the Southwest corridor bike path.

No huge hills, and it often seems like a lot of riding in traffic to get to a relatively short section of nice road.  But, this is definitely doable if I have a late start at work or happen to get out early enough to get a quick ride in before dark.

Route on Ride with GPS

Route Review: Cape Ann

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Cape Ann RouteA big barrier to starting to ride again was finding places to go, particularly when trying to contend with Boston traffic.  To avoid the second problem a bunch of my early rides were outside the city.  This ride starts in Gloucester, where there is plenty of parking in city lots, and travels counter-clockwise around Cape Ann.  Given that you are along the coast for the whole ride, it’s pretty flat although with some rollers.  Not much traffic either, although we were there in the fall after peak tourist season.  My wife joined me for this ride and it was her third time on a road bike, so definitely doable for someone without much experience.  While not terribly challenging, the views are fantastic and ending up back in Gloucester means there are great opportunities for a post-ride meal.

Ride with GPS Route