BY RYAN BOEDING OF FRONTIER CYCLING TOURS
As another season gets closer to an unfortunate close, it is always nice to look back on the short but sweet cycling season that we had. As I sit and reflect on the crazy year that 2020 was, I remember how emotionally releasing and relaxing a long ride in the hills and countryside of our beautiful part of Massachusetts felt. We all needed (I think) those moments of relief to forget and escape the situation we are in. At the same time, that makes me think a lot about the 2021 season, and some questions come to my mind. The first one for me is - what route did I like best? Also - where do I absolutely want to get back to? How do you answer those questions? What new road or route did you like best? Where do you want to go again, and even what new places do you want to ride in?
Those are difficult questions to answer, right!? However, when I sit down and think about them, what currently comes to mind is getting lost on a gravel road somewhere in Franklin county, especially in the fall. The fall in New England is a kaleidoscope of colors for the eyes! There are not many places that you can be surrounded by such vibrant reds, yellows, oranges and yes, even greens! Not to mention the sweet smell of a burning fire somewhere in the distance, and you’ve got all the makings of a classic Western Massachusetts fall ride. This is a beautiful time to ride, just as are the other seasons.
But where do you go to get off the beaten path? For a nice mix of gravel and paved roads, start in Conway. Park in front of the Field Memorial Library and start riding down Elm Street. This turns quickly into Reeds Bridge. For a fun and enjoyable extra leg to this ride, take a right on Graves road, which will take you back to Rt. 116. Once back on Reeds Bridge Road, Follow this for about 2 miles on gravel before coming out on Bardswell Ferry Road.
Depending on your fitness level and the time you have, make your way back to Shelburne Falls Road. From here you can connect to Pine Hill, South Sherkshire and a spider web of many other routes to choose from as you climb into Ashfield. You may need to download a map first or have a reliable connection, but at least you’ll be witnessing some spectacular views. On up farther into Ashfield and you will find Phillips and Barnes Roads. Where you will once again be surrounded by woods, small farms, and the sound of gravel crunching under your wheels. To return to your car, you can snake your way back through the backroads (totally worth it), or get to 116 off Baptist Corner in downtown Ashfield (stop for a bite to eat or coffee at Elmers if you can).Once on Rt. 116 just coast downhill back to you car. Round trip you have a roughly 25 mile ride to add to the list of fun places you rode.
Sometimes we are fortunate to have great weather into November and even December. As long as there is not a lot of snow or it is not much below freezing, enjoying a nice ride is still easily accomplished. So where do you still want to ride this year?
Ryan is the owner of Frontier Cycling Tours, a new bike tour operator in The Pioneer Valley, creating small to medium-sized tours for clients that highlight the landscapes and products of the valley. He has some preset local tours planned, but customized tours are also possible. Check out more of his suggested routes including farm centered bike tours in partnership with Pioneer Valley Food Tours.