5 Big Projects That Could Improve Northeast Climbing

The Northeast is home to some of the best trad and sport climbing in the country, and the options continue to grow with new areas being developed. With this great privilege comes great responsibility, for all climbers, as our love for the sport can actually play a role in bringing about its demise. As the sport increases in popularity, it is becoming more likely that crags will face access issues due to landowner concerns or environmental deterioration. Luckily, there are dedicated organizations working to maintain our beloved crags, fighting to re-open long-lost places, and educate new climbers about how to climb in a sustainable way so we can all enjoy the rock for years to come. Here are some of the biggest projects improving Northeast climbing right now:

Credit: Anne Skidmore Photography
Credit: Anne Skidmore Photography

A Cooperative Climbing Gym in the Mount Washington Valley

New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley community has grumbled about the lack of a climbing gym in the area for years. During rainy days or over the long winter months, a local indoor climbing spot is a way to stay in shape and connected with friends. Instead, resident climbers have resigned themselves to driving 1.5 hours (and cussing all the way, one might imagine) to the nearest facility.

Eventually, Chelsea Kendrick and Jimmy Baxendell-Young had enough, and they’re now organizing their own cooperative gym in North Conway—the Mount Washington Valley Climbers’ Cooperative, or MWVCC. The local market is too small for a typical commercial operation, with a cumulative population of 20,000 people between the eight towns of Conway, Bartlett, Jackson, Madison, Eaton, Ossipee, Tamworth, and Fryeburg. They decided to engage the climbing community in creating a coop, to great success; The yet-to-exist gym already has over 75 paying members, well on its way to covering the cost of operations once it opens. The 2,000 square feet will provide bouldering and training, as well as a community gathering space. And because it is a cooperative, all members have a say into the direction of the project. If, say, enough people want to offer dry-tooling, it is in the cards for the future.

If you frequent the MWV for ice climbing or skiing in the winter, or hiking in the summer, and want to support the effort, consider becoming a member, donating, or joining their upcoming fundraising event on May 21.

Courtesy: Jeremy Gilchrist
Courtesy: Jeremy Gilchrist

Reopening Vermont’s Hardest Crag

Bolton Dome, just 30 minutes from Burlington, was once one of the most popular cliffs in Vermont, until it was closed in 1990 due to concerns from the private landowner. For decades, access was closed off to dozens of high-quality crack and sport climbs, including the region’s only 5.13 trad route and the state’s highest concentration of 5.12-s. Through it all, the Climbing Resource Access Group of Vermont (CRAG-VT) maintained good standing with the land owners, and early last year the organization was able to purchase the area with help from the Access Fund, in what constitutes Access Fund’s largest Climbing Conservation Loan to date. There is plenty of work to be done: The loan must be paid back, a parking lot needs to be built, and various legal fees to be covered.

CRAG-VT had previously secured 5 other crags in Bolton, making the Dome the newest and most significant addition. Overall, the organization works to protect Vermont’s vulnerable climbing areas, build long-term relationships with landowners, and develop the areas with responsible stewardship. Now that Bolton is protected, there is a cornucopia of potential for new routes for climbers to enjoy for generations. You can support their effort by becoming a member, donating, or joining the Bolton Dome Launch Party! on May 18.

Courtesy: Brad Wenskoski
Courtesy: Brad Wenskoski

A Sport Crag for New York’s Capital Region

Opened in July of 2017, the Helderberg Escarpment at New York’s John Boyd Thacher State Park is the newest sport climbing haven in the Northeast, and only the third New York State Park to allow climbing (Minnewaska and Harriman being the others). Located 20 minutes from Albany, Thacher sits between the ‘Gunks, 75 miles south, and the Adirondacks, 120 miles north, and is much closer than Rumney, New Hampshire, for New Yorkers. The area services the massive population in New York’s Capital Region who were once stuck with long drives in many directions in order to climb.. There are currently about 65 routes ranging from 5.6 to 5.12a, and they will appeal to gym enthusiasts as most climbs are roughly 50 feet high, with none longer than 90′.

What makes the Thatcher Climbing Coalition’s approach special is that they spent 5 years negotiating a climbing management plan with the state in order to demonstrate commitment to success and long-term cooperation. So far, it’s been a rousing success and may serve as a model for partnerships between climbers and parks around New York, and the country. If you want to help make the Helderberg Escarpment into a premiere rock and ice climbing destination in the Northeast, you can become a member, buy a t-shirt, or volunteer to help establish new trails.

Credit: Robbie Shade
Credit: Robbie Shade

Keep the Northeast’s Premier Crag Pristine

Rumney’s wild popularity is also a cause of environmental damage, a common narrative for highly-trafficked climbing areas. The Rumney Climbers’ Association aims to prevent the high usage from diminishing the experience of the 38 cliffs by getting ahead of the issues, which include soil erosion, deteriorating infrastructure, and unsafe climbing conditions. “We are tackling the problem before it’s too big, because there is a tipping point [in these situations],” says Travis Rubury, a board member with the organization. This year, RCA and the Access Fund are performing stewardship projects at three of the most popular areas: Orange Crush, Meadows Crag, and the uber-accessible Parking Lot Wall. They will construct retaining walls, install stairs, and further secure the trails to assure they are sustainable for the long term.

Rumney has become an international draw, attracting the likes of Alex Megos in 2017 when he remarkably sent Jaws II in only three attempts. The route is one of only four 5.15s in the U.S., and the only one of its grade east of the Rocky Mountains. This world class area came about through a lot of hard work, much of it performed by the RCA since the early 90s. If you’d like to support their efforts, you can become a member, donate to the restoration efforts, volunteer, or join the American Alpine Club Rumney’ Craggin’ Classic later this year.

Courtesy: Western Massachusetts Climbers' Coalition
Courtesy: Western Massachusetts Climbers’ Coalition

Fixing the Parking Situation in Western Massachusetts

Farley Ledge has experienced its share of contestations over the decades, from being closed four times in the early 2000s to notorious bolt chopping. The situation remains precarious as most of the routes are on private land. “Climbing is unique in that it is resource-dependent. We need this cliff, we can’t [easily] have another. Not a lot of sports are so tied to topography,” notes Wayne Burleson, President of WMCC. While tensions have been soothed over the years, access is not assured. These days, the primary challenge is parking (be warned: Do not park on Route 2). The Western Massachusetts Climbers’ Coalition purchased roadside land (with the help of Access Fund) in 2008 and opened a 20-space parking lot. They are exploring options for additional parking areas.

Farley has a certain mystique for two reasons: One, trad and sport routes are delightfully interspersed on the cliffs as the original developers maintained an ethic to not bolt what could be climbed traditionally. And two, you won’t find any information about the routes (and no guidebook, of course), the result of a policy agreement set up with landowners back in 2007. While this offers intrigue, it also makes it harder for the WMCC to educate climbers about local ethics and share the history, while eliminating a potential revenue stream to help fund future efforts. The coalition has been hard at work since 2000 and is one of the few areas where you don’t have to pay for access. If you want to support this important crag, become a member, donate, volunteer, and definitely don’t park on Route 2.


Video: Powering a Home with BioLite

Traveling to the US for a race was a lot harder before her family could charge their phones.


6 Ways to Support Public Lands This Holiday Season

Every decision we make with our purchasing power, big or small, has an amplified impact. So, this year, leverage your holiday shopping for a good cause. While we can’t protect every wild place or solve every environmental problem by shopping, we can all make small positive impacts. If you need to upgrade your gear, or buy gifts for family and friends, consider some of the tips below to help the environment and support organizations that work to protect our public and wild lands. 

1. Shop gifts that give back

Your favorite outdoor gear and apparel brands are likely already giving back to protect our wild places and planet. Columbia, Keen, Klean Kanteen, Marmot, and hundreds of other outdoor gear brands commit to donating at least $100,000 to The Conservation Alliance to support programs that protect open spaces and the environment. Similarly, brands like ENO are part of the 1% For the Planet program, in which businesses donate a share of their profits to vetted organizations that work to preserve our natural resources. Check out the lists of brands giving back, so your purchase can make a positive impact.

2. Visit your public lands

Introduce your family and friends to the outdoors. Doing something outside together shows them why it’s important to protect our natural places. Visit a local nature preserve, take on a challenging hike, go cross-country skiing, bird watch, take your dog for a walk, or just get out and experience the solitude wild places provide. Studies show that children who grow up spending time in nature are more empowered to fight to protect it as adults. Find a family-friendly hike in the Adirondack Park in Upstate New York, State Parks in Vermont, or on hiking trails in New Hampshire, or learn about winter hiking in the Catskills to find an adventure that best suits your group.

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3. Donate directly

We all have that friend or family member who’s always sharing photos from their latest adventure. They love nothing more than a week in the woods, their prized days paddling remote rivers, or climbing the most extreme mountains in the Northeast. Rather than adding to their ever-expanding gear stash, support the wild places that call to them. Make a donation in their name to an organization that works to protect the locations they love most.

This time of year, many nonprofit organizations have matching opportunities to encourage new supporters to make a donation before the New Year. If there is a time to donate, it’s now! Look to see which organizations that support the public lands near you have a match opportunity, so your donation can pack twice the punch.

4. Shop eco-friendly brands

Whether it’s toys, kitchen gadgets, or hiking gear, buying from eco-friendly brands helps reduce your environmental impact. Support companies that aim to lower their carbon footprint, lessen waste in landfills, and reduce air and water pollution. Do your own research before shopping, and beware of “green washing” or other vague, empty eco-friendly claims. Look for brands like prAna and Oboz that clearly outline sustainability programs on their websites.

5. Get your hands dirty

Sign up to volunteer on a trail crew. This time of year, there are a lot of downed branches and trees on the trails. Help get the trails snowshoe-ready, and organize a group of friends to volunteer on a project. You can find such opportunities in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Or, simply organize a trail cleanup, and visit high-traffic wild places to pack out any trash you find.

6. Speak up

Write a letter, make a phone call, and get conversations started on social media. While November and December are commonly known as the holiday season, it’s also when state officials are drafting their budgets for the next fiscal year. This is a critical period to get state leaders thinking about allocating resources to protect our wild places and public lands. Not sure what to say? Simply explain why protecting our environment is important to you.

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Northeast Organizations to Support on Giving Tuesday

The days after Thanksgiving are the busiest shopping days of the year. In fact, two are so busy they get their own designations: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But, while everybody loves sweet deals on gear, don’t forget to support the organizations that protect the places where we recreate and explore. Although you can do this at any time during the year, Giving Tuesday opens up this opportunity. Without these organizations, we wouldn’t have glades to ski, cracks to climb, trails to hike, or scenic vistas to admire. So, keep reading to discover some of the great local organizations that could use your support.

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Climbing Organizations

Whether you prefer to clip bolts at Rumney, pull roofs in the Gunks, traipse on Connecticut traprock, or think the nicest climbing is found in Western Mass, a handful of great groups represent climbers in the Northeast. In recent years, the Rumney Climbers’ Association has worked to purchase and protect numerous crags at the Northeast’s mecca of sport climbing, in addition to constructing parking lots and attempting to ease congestion. For those who prefer placing gear, the Mohonk Preserve in New York helps preserve and protect the Gunks’ iconic routes, boulders, and trails.

Of course, plenty of smaller organizations work to protect local and lesser-known crags. The Western Massachusetts Climbers’ Coalition works tirelessly to secure and protect access at numerous crags. Their efforts have included purchasing land to ensure parking at Farley Ledges, a popular sport, trad, and bouldering destination.

In Connecticut, the Ragged Mountain Foundation owns 56 acres of conservation land in Southington. Notably, those 56 acres include the Ragged Mountain climbing area, which is home to routes established by various climbing legends, including Fritz Wiessner, Layton Kor, and Henry Barber. Giving, however, won’t make your project any easier.

Finally, if you find yourself regularly visiting routes like the Lion Head Winter Route or the Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle, consider supporting the folks who will help you out if you ever run into trouble—the Mountain Rescue Service in North Conway.

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Skiing Organizations 

Backcountry skiing’s recent popularity has led to crowding at many Northeastern destinations. Luckily, a handful of organizations help skiers gain access to and maintain new terrain. In New Hampshire, the Granite Backcountry Alliance has opened up numerous glades and helps maintain well-established trails, like the Sherburne and Gulf of Slides trails. Speaking of Mount Washington, don’t forget the Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol. This 140-member strong volunteer organization provides wintertime first aid and rescue to skiers injured on the mountain and in the ravines.

In Vermont, the Vermont Backcountry Alliance has also been working to preserve and protect existing ski terrain while opening up new areas to skiers. Equally interesting is the work being done by Ascutney Outdoors. They’ve kept slopes of the former Ascutney Mountain Resort open to those who want to earn their turns and mark and maintain a vast network of XC ski trails.

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Mountain Biking Organizations

The New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA) has been a fixture in the Northeast since 1987. Consisting of 27 chapters spread across New England with more than 5,000 members, NEMBA does everything from holding weekly rides to creating, preserving, and maintaining trails. NEMBA even purchased 47 acres of land in 2003 to protect the popular “Vietnam” trail system in Central Massachusetts, becoming the first mountain bike group in the country to own its own property.

The Kingdom Trails Association has worked alongside 90 local landowners in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom to create one of the best bike trail networks in the country and continues to grow that vast (and awesome) network. Another fantastic Vermont-based organization, the Waterbury Area Trail Alliance, part of the larger Vermont Mountain Bike Association, works to build some of the Waterbury region’s best bike trails.

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Hiking Organizations

The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) is seemingly synonymous with hiking—especially to those in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. And, while their high mountain huts and visitor centers draw a lot of attention, the AMC has been promoting the protection and enjoyment of the outdoors since 1876. Another fantastic New Hampshire organization, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is dedicated to preserving some of the region’s most significant landscapes and vistas.

The Appalachian Trail passes through all but one New England state (sorry, Rhode Island). Thus, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) has been a part of the trail from the beginning. Since 1925, the ATC has protected, maintained, and celebrated the nation’s premier footpath.

More locally, groups like Friends of the Wapack and the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail Club are helping to preserve some of New England’s lesser-known long trails and green spaces. Speaking of the Long Trail, don’t forget about the Green Mountain Club, the founder and maintainer of the Long Trail, the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the U.S.

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Paddling Organizations

The Northeast is packed with awesome places to paddle, and numerous nonprofits are helping to keep waters clean and access open. In Massachusetts, the Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) works with officials, groups, and people in 35 watershed towns from Hopkinton to Boston to protect this well-used waterway. Operating since 1965, the CRWA has played an important role in the Charles’ ever-improving condition.

Another fantastic paddling organization is the Maine Island Trail Association. MITA created the country’s first water trail, which runs along Maine’s rugged, beautiful coast for 375 miles from the Maine-New Hampshire border to the Canadian border.

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Other Outdoor Orgs Doing Great Things

While we love supporting groups that support the places and things we love, plenty of other great groups use the outdoors in interesting and impactful ways. In North Conway, New Hampshire, the Kismet Rock Foundation teaches rock climbing to vulnerable children before they reach their teens.

From the 1930s to the 1950s, New England was the epicenter of skiing in the United States. The New England Ski Museum—with locations in Franconia Notch and North Conway—is working to collect, conserve, and share the region’s rich ski history. With exhibits ranging from the 10th Mountain Division to housing Bode Miller’s Olympic Medals, the museum is worth both a visit and a donation.

Surfers Healing assists people with autism by introducing them to surfing. As inspiration for the organization, co-founder and pro surfer Israel “Izzy” Paskowitz (son of legendary surfer Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz) discovered the calming effect riding waves had on his autistic son, Isaiah. While not a local org, Surfers Healing runs numerous camps throughout the Northeast and is always looking for support from the paddling community.

For Giving Tuesday, are there any outdoor groups we forgot to mention? If so, leave the organization in the comments, and tell us why we should support them!


Project 100: A Wild Winter for the Good of the Mountains

While most Northeast hikers have heard of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks, few are familiar with the Adirondack Hundred Highest (HH). This peakbagging list is made up of the 46 High Peaks and the next-highest 54 peaks, many of which are remote and trail-less. Anyone who has bushwhacked off-trail above 3,000 feet regularly in the Adirondack Mountains knows the challenges of backcountry navigation, treacherous terrain, and isolation.

Neil Luckhurst is a man who knows these realities better than most. Last winter, Luckhurst, 61, became just the second person ever to hike the ADK HH in a single winter season. The challenges of completing the list at any time of year are big enough. But, adding deep snow, icy cliffs, below-zero temperatures, and unplowed approach roads makes for an almost unfathomable task. Luckhurst was driven to accomplish this feat (which he dubbed “Project 100“) not only for himself but also as part of a massive fundraising effort for the nonprofit conservation organization he founded, the ADKHighpeaks Foundation. He raised over $6,500 dollars to support Adirondack conservation and other nonprofit groups.

goEast had a chance to ask him some questions about himself, the project, and the foundation.

Luckhurst finishing Project 100. | Courtesy: Neil Luckhurst
Luckhurst finishing Project 100. | Courtesy: Neil Luckhurst

goEast: How long have you been hiking?

Neil: I began hiking in my early 20s in the Canadian Rockies. I stopped hiking altogether while going to school and starting a chiropractic practice in Montreal and having children. I have hiked, snowshoed, skied, and winter-camped in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Northern Ontario, the French Alps, and, of course, very extensively in the Adirondacks.

goEast: That’s a lot of hiking! You say you’ve spent most of your time in the Adirondacks. How many peaks have you climbed there?

Neil: Approximately 150. I bushwhacked the entire Adirondack Hundred Highest list, including the 46. In addition to that, I have bushwhacked another 50 peaks from the 3,000-foot list, and friction-climbed about 50 Adirondack slides. Also, I have done the 46 in a single winter three times and, all in all, have completed approximately eight full rounds of the 46.

goEast: Impressive! What was the origin of Project 100?

Neil: In the winter of 2001 and 2002, Alain Chevrette and Tom Haskins basically went out and killed the list. Alain did the entire HH list, plus another 30-odd peaks from the 3,000-foot list. Tom did the Lower 54, plus most of the 46er list. In my opinion, this stands as one of the most monumental achievements ever done in the Adirondacks and has rolled around in the back of my mind for years. With Projects 46 [Luckhurst climbed all 46 Adirondack High Peaks in 10 days] and Full Deck [a single, continuous backpacking trip to climb 52 peaks] well behind me, I was mentally casting about for something else to do. Out of the blue, I realized the Adirondack Hundred Highest single winter season was just what I was looking for as a new challenge.

Luckhurst on Cheney Cobble. | Courtesy: Neil Luckhurst
Luckhurst on Cheney Cobble. | Courtesy: Neil Luckhurst

goEast: How many people have completed the Hundred Highest list in winter?

Neil: I only know of five people who have done them all over multiple winters, but there are probably more. However, in one single winter, as far as I know, only Chevrette has ever done this before. I have become the second.

goEast: So, what’s the ADKHighpeaks Foundation?

Neil: Originally, we were born from two internet message boards. One, Adkhighpeaks Forum was founded in 2003, and the other, ADKForum, was acquired in 2007. We started as a simple group of forest preserve hikers and recreational users that cared deeply about the wild places where we choose to spend our time. Over time, we came to realize that it is up to us to help improve the public lands that we enjoy, making them better for those that follow us. After all, we get so much joy and life-enriching rewards from these places that it seems only fitting that we do our part to return the favor any way we can.

Through our combined 5,000-plus membership, we began to look for ways to improve and have a positive impact on the forest preserve areas we use. In 2008, we began a grassroots, “pass the hat” effort, and with minimal effort, we were able to raise $5,000 to purchase needed equipment for the Keene Valley Fire Department’s Wilderness Response Team. The ADKHighpeaks Foundation was born from that effort.

We are now a major source of funding support for a number of endeavors, including the Summit Steward program, Fire Tower restoration programs, Search and Rescue team support, research grants, Adirondack Ski Touring Council purchases, and many, many more.

Courtesy: Neil Luckhurst
Courtesy: Neil Luckhurst

goEast: Why is it important to you to do these “projects” as fundraisers?

Courtesy: Neil Luckhurst
Courtesy: Neil Luckhurst

Neil: Over the years that I’ve been hiking in the Adirondacks, one thing that has struck me is how much work is done by volunteers. Trail work, lean-to reconstruction, SAR, public education, privy construction, and maintenance, etc. A lot of that hard work is done by volunteers. My way of giving something back for all the hiking I do is to raise money for the Foundation through these projects and via our web forum activities [by using projects as advertisements for the organization].

On a more personal level, my son Dominic and I did the 46 together as father and son. 10 years ago, he lost his life in an avalanche in the Canadian Rockies. The outpouring of sympathy from the Adirondack hiking community was incredibly supportive to my family and I. This made me decide, with Tim Dubois, to found the Foundation as a way of channeling this support into something concrete. These projects enable me to give back, as well as keep the memories of our hiking adventures alive.


How to Prepare for Your First Century Bike Ride

Spring has finally sprung, and with it comes one of my favorite times of year: Century Ride Season. If you find yourself gearing up for a big bike ride this spring or summer—whether it’s a “true” century (100 miles), a metric century (100km/62 miles), or one of the shorter distances often offered at big bike events—here are nine tips to make sure your event is a success.

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1. Commit to a Training Plan

If you stay reasonably active year-round, you may think you don’t need to follow a training plan because you’re already fit. Personally, I fall into this trap often. You may also be turned off by training plans, because you think following one means you won’t be able to do the other activities you enjoy for eight to 12 weeks.

But, these plans exist for a reason. And, when you have a century ride on your horizon, it’s super important to find one—and stick with it. A quick internet search will turn up tons of potential plans. Look for one that puts you in the saddle for a minimum of three days per week, increases ride mileage and/or duration steadily each week, and leaves room for you to keep up with other physical activities. After all, activities like running and hiking are great for cross-training. And, as you don’t want to sacrifice strength training, either, keep your favorite boot camp or power yoga class on your schedule, too!

2. Hit a Spin Class (or Invest in a Trainer)

A lot of people love spin classes, but I also know many who can’t stand them. On one hand, spin classes help you mix up your routine and work on drills that are really good for you but that you’d never do on a real ride (I’m looking at you, Figure 8s). As well, you still get your workout in when the weather doesn’t cooperate with your plans.

On the other hand, I get it: riding in place can be boring. But, you know what else is sometimes boring? Century rides! Sure, the start and finish lines are always exciting. But, an hour or two into the ride, when the pack has dispersed, spectators are few and far between, and there’s no more music, you’ll need a strong mental game to keep going. Spin classes, and even trainer rides, are the best way to work on your focus. 

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3. Practice Fixing Flats

Most organized bike rides have a Support and Gear vehicle (often referred to as a SAG Wagon) or two on course at all times and bike techs at all the rest stops. Thus, knowing how to fix flat tires and make minor bike tweaks isn’t completely necessary. But, you should still know how to do it, and on the side of the road mid-century ride isn’t the best time to learn.

Practice fixing flats in your garage, so you can do it efficiently in the event that it happens on century ride day. Additionally, know how to handle chain issues, in case yours starts to give you trouble on the course. And, if you do end up having to perform a fix, be sure to have a tech at the next rest stop give it a once-over to ensure it will make it to the finish without any more problems.

4. Body Glide is Your Friend

Chafing may not be much of an issue when you’re just out on the bike for an hour or two. However, during a century ride, it can become a pretty big pain in the butt pretty quickly. Enter Body Glide, your new best biking friend (BBF). Before you ride, a quick application to high-chafe-risk areas—where the edges of your bike shorts’ chamois rub against your skin and upper inner thighs—prevents a lot of discomfort later on. And, if your feet are prone to blisters, Body Glide also takes care of that problem.

Courtesy: New England Parkinson's Ride
Courtesy: New England Parkinson’s Ride

5. Know Your Body

You’re going to be on your bike for a long time on century ride day. Plan for at least four hours, and that’s if you happen to be the fittest rider on the starting line. As such, it’s super important to know your body inside and out. Use your training rides to experiment with fueling options, so you know what foods and drinks your stomach tolerates the best. If you notice that one or both of your knees (or any part of your body) consistently hurt afterwards, take your bike into your local bike shop to make sure it’s properly fitted to you.

Do your hands get super sweaty while you ride? Bring an extra set of bike gloves to avoid palm blisters. More importantly, if you get to the check-in table and don’t feel like you can make it through a 100-mile ride, listen to your body, and ask if you can switch your registration to one of the shorter courses.

6. Know the Course

The influx of GPS-enabled watches and bike computers and apps like Strava means that even if ride organizers don’t provide course maps on their website—which is pretty rare these days—you should still be able to find a map of it somewhere on the internet. It’s good to know what kind of a ride you’re getting yourself into, especially regarding the elevation profile. Find out how hilly the course will be, and try to find training routes that are similar to set yourself up for success. If you live near the century ride route, or at least part of it, get out there, and train on the course itself! The more you know ahead of time, the more strategic you can be, since you’ll know where you can push yourself and when you should reel it in and conserve some energy.

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7. Know Your Gear

From the bike to your clothes and shoes to everything packed in your bike bag, there’s a lot of gear involved in 100-mile bike rides. Plan your outfit carefully, being sure to choose the bike shorts and jersey that will keep you the most comfortable for four to seven hours in the saddle. If you use clipless pedals, make sure the tension on them is set just right. Make sure you can click in and take off from the rest stops quickly, and get out of your pedals in a hurry, in case you have to stop unexpectedly.

Pack your bike bag thoughtfully, including a bike multitool, tire levers, spare tube(s), and a pump, in addition to anything else you may need, such as those extra gloves mentioned earlier or a travel stick of Body Glide, in case you need to reapply. Above all else, avoid using anything new—clothes, shoes, or pedals—on event day. Stick to the things you know and have been using during training to ensure a successful century ride.

8. Take Your Bike for a Check-Up

This one should be a no-brainer, but it’s one that a lot of people—myself included—often skip. Bring your bike into your local shop for a quick check or tune-up a week or two beforehand to make sure it’s as ready for the big day as you are. After all, while it’s great to have the tools (and necessary knowledge) to fix minor issues yourself, as well as access to rest stop bike techs, not worrying about having a mid-ride breakdown is even better.

9. Have fun!

Everything discussed above is important, or else, I wouldn’t have brought it up. But, perhaps the most important tip is to enjoy the experience. Most century rides are charity events, not races, so there’s no need to push the pace all day. Relax, make new friends, stop to take pictures, eat all the PB&Js you want at the aid stations, and just enjoy the ride—literally.

 

Did I miss something? If you have more tips for aspiring (or returning) century riders, let us know in the comments!

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5 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

Proposed by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1969 and first celebrated in 1970, Earth Day has grown from a small, grassroots movement of nationwide demonstrations and “teach-ins” to a global celebration observed every April 22nd with worldwide rallies, service projects, and conferences.

That first Earth Day led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. A multitude of environmental legislation successes also followed, including expansion of the Clean Air Act, amendments to the Clean Water Act, and passage of the Endangered Species Act. An estimated 20 million Americans had taken part, and that number grew steadily, eventually causing the event to go global in 1990, with 200 million people in 141 countries getting involved. These days, more than one billion people in 195 countries participate in Earth Day activities, and the Earth Day Network assigns a different theme to each year’s celebration. This year, the campaign is End Plastic Pollution. Here are five ways that you can get involved:

Credit: Katie Caulfield
Credit: Katie Caulfield

1. Join a Trail Clean-Up Crew

Check out organizations like the Access Fund, Appalachian Mountain Club, Southeastern Climbers Coalition, or whatever equivalent is local to you to see if they’re hosting a trail clean-up nearby, and join the team! Picking up trail trash—which is, more often than not, plastic—not only helps prevent said waste from leaching chemicals into the soil and water and endangering wildlife, but it also makes spending time on the trail or at the crag far more enjoyable. No local crews to team up with? Start your own! All you need are a few friends and some garbage bags. Just make sure you keep the trash and recyclables separated, of course.

2. Host a Teach-In

Get back to Earth Day’s roots and help educate your community! If you’re a teacher, set aside some time the Friday before to start a conversation with your students about the dangers of improperly disposed-of plastics and ways they can be part of the solution. Troop leader of your child’s scout group? Gather up the den, and make sure the kiddos understand the “Five Rs of Recycling.” Willing to teach but not sure where to find an audience? Check in with your local gear shop, climbing gym, or community center, and ask about setting up an information table or leading a discussion on the perils of plastic.

Credit: Edmund Falkowski
Credit: Edmund Falkowski

3. Take Personal Responsibility

For the most part, good things don’t happen on a large scale, unless you work to make them happen in your own little bubble first. So, if you want to see the decline of plastic pollution on a global scale, you have to first cut down on the amount you use in your daily life. You can start by signing Greenpeace’s “Say No to Plastic Pollution” pledge. Once you’ve committed to reducing your usage, make sure you invest in a good reusable water bottle to ensure your hydration levels don’t take a hit as you cut ties with single-use containers.

Consider leaving a heavy-duty tote bag in your car to use when you’re out shopping. And, the next time you shop for beers to quench your post-adventure thirst, try to steer clear of cans that come in those old-school six-pack rings. If you have no other choice, be sure to cut the rings apart before you throw them away.

4. Practice Leave No Trace (Always!)

Each of the seven principles of Leave No Trace (LNT) is important. But, it seems as though people have the most difficulty adhering to the third one: “Dispose of waste properly.” The amount of times I’ve picked up other people’s trash—primarily plastic bottles and food wrappers—on the trail is staggering. Yet, if more individuals were mindful of their actions, the amount of plastic pollution in our wild places and waterways could be drastically reduced.

But, don’t practice proper waste disposal just on Earth Day. Make sure you adhere to LNT every time you head outdoors and pack out your trash. And, if you want to rack up extra karma, get in the habit of designating a pocket on your pack or taking a small garbage bag on your hikes for picking up trash others have left behind.

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5. Get Involved!

Supporting the Earth Day Network’s campaign to end plastic pollution is a noble endeavor. However, it’s far from the only way to celebrate Earth Day this year (or any year, for that matter). Our open spaces, public lands, and National Parks need all the help they can get, if we want future generations to be able to enjoy the outdoors the way we do now.

If you have the means, consider donating to an organization, such as the Access Fund, the Nature Conservancy, or the Sierra Club. Short on money, but have a little time to spare? Look up volunteer opportunities with groups like Wilderness Volunteers, the Surfrider Foundation, or with the National Parks System’s “Volunteer in Parks” (VIP) Program. Short on time, too? Then, simply take a few minutes to sign any number of petitions that have been created to stop the destruction of our outdoor playgrounds. Protect Our Public Land and the Wilderness Society’s Keep Public Lands in Public Hands are good places to start.

 

How will YOU be celebrating Earth Day this year? Share your plans with us in the comments!