D2R2 - The Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnée

"It's not a race, it's not a ride, it's a randonée."

While the tradition of randonneuring has been largely relegated to the wool-jersey-wearing, down-tube-shifter-toting, Eroica-attending cycling subculture of late, it is alive and well in Massachusetts. The Deerfield Dirt Road Randonée ("D2R2") is a fundraiser for the Deerfield Land Trust.  First held as an organized ride in 2005, this year's edition had over 1000 attendees.  The 13th annual D2R2 offered eight courses ranging in length from a 12 mile family ride to a 110 mile course with 13,000 feet of elevation over almost all gravel roads.

We knew what course to sign up for.

A small sample of the dirt backroads that are covered as part of D2R2

While we did the 110 mile ride, an interesting tradition of D2R2 are the "Mystery Rides". The ride is not made public until the morning of the ride, and rumor has it that mountain bikes are best. These courses do not have a .gpx file like the others, leaving riders to navigate snow mobile trails via a paper cue sheet. Even following the suggested 6:30 AM Mystery Ride start time, carrying lights is prudent, as many finish after dark.

The first sag stop.  The pickle juice shots and Oreos became more critical throughout the day.

In the end our ride tipped the scales at just over 112 miles and 83 seconds over the eight hour mark. Needless to say it was a tough day on the bikes:

THe COVERED BRIDGES of D2R2

I love covered bridges.  Growing up in California they were rare, the Wawona covered bridge in Yosemite National Park was always a bookmark of my childhood summer vacations.  Massachusetts' Franklin County did not disappoint in quality or quantity of bridges, and the diversity of design, age and condition prompted conversations about the structural advantages of covered bridges, and why they were needed in the first place. Pennsylvania has always been my go-to state for a covered bridge ride fix, but after D2R2, I think Massachusetts just took the top step.

LUNCH at D2R2

D2R2 registration includes breakfast, lunch and diner. Breakfast and diner are served near the race village and field camping, but all 8 rides converge for a shared catered lunch.  

 I only took this picture for the exercise of reaching into my handlebar bag to take my mind off turning the pedals.

I only took this picture for the exercise of reaching into my handlebar bag to take my mind off turning the pedals.

I was in a calorie/water hole for the last 10 miles before lunch, so was determined to take a long slow stop and enjoy the river while drinking cokes, eating ham and cheese sandwiches, and making some adjustments at the neutral mechanic's riverside bike stand. To Rich's dismay, I even took my shoes off and washed my feet

 A family swims at the lunch stop: one of many perfectly New England moments of relaxation.

A family swims at the lunch stop: one of many perfectly New England moments of relaxation.

 Another view of the lunch spot

Another view of the lunch spot

The lunch spot was truly serene, and while at the time I wanted a beer, it became obvious over the next 50 miles that would have been a very bad idea. We rolled out of the lunch break with more of the same beautiful back roads and country landscapes that typified D2R2:

 Fairfield County's barn game is strong, very strong.

Fairfield County's barn game is strong, very strong.

the D2R2 finish line (at last)

Just over the eight hour mark we crossed the finish line. Upon arriving back at the event tent and enjoying a round of local IPAs, it was time to get cleaned up for dinner.  Rather than taking the shuttle to shower at Deerfield Academy, we opted to go for a swim. The King Kong crew in attendance joined, and the mix of miles and beer made everything sparkly and wonderful.

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The D2R2 Experience

Maybe it's because of location, or maybe because of the format, but D2R2 is the most diverse group of cyclists and bikes I have ever encountered on the east coast.

 While never ideal, its ahrd to complain about flatting in a place like this.

While never ideal, its ahrd to complain about flatting in a place like this.

Some of NYC's fastest amateur racers were there, families camped and did the family ride, recreational cyclists brought whatever bikes they have.  A wide spectrum of cyclists was represented.

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While your boutique titanium disc 'gravel bikes' were heavily represented, there were also road bikes with carbon wheels, mountain bikes, tandems, Eroica-esque historically preserved bikes. Our crew, maybe the most pragmatic of the bunch, were on our cyclocross bikes. Depending on course and rider ability, all seemed to work well enough.

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A Word of Advice on D2R2

A word of advice for D2R2 first timers, the ride is 100% unsupported. No support. None. Except for the mobile mechanic who made his way from the start, to lunch and returned to the finish.  Given the riding conditions, this means that you need to carry sufficient tubes, tools, tire boots, and emergency supplies.  Despite the additional weight — not a friendly thing to have for some of D2R2's seriously long and punchy climbs — I would even consider bringing a spare tire.

One member of our crew, Peter, broke his rear derailleur about 25 miles in and not having a spare hanger, had to disassemble his bike in the back of cop car to make his way back to camp.  While Peter was fortunate to find a liquor store and swimming hole to keep himself entertained, it certainly could have been worse.  

See you at D2R2 2018

The lack of first aid or mechanical support, in addition to the distance, road conditions, and elevation, all contribute to making D2R2 "regarded as perhaps the hardest century ride in the world." While I will not defend or rebut that statement, TBD certainly intends to keep D2R2 a staple on our annual calendar, and I am already waiting for 2018 registration to open.