Meshomasic 121k – May 13th 2017

Date: Saturday, May 13th, 2017
Length: 121km (75 miles)
Start Time: 8am
Start Location: Hanging Hills Brewery, Hartford, CT (See parking note below.)
Time Limit: 7 hours, 45 minutes
Ride Leader: Justin Eichenlaub
Sanction: RUSA Only
Cuesheet: Preliminary Cue (PDF)
Map/GPS: Unofficial RWGPS Link
Registration: Register on BikeReg

Nutshell Summery: This is a 50%+ dirt road 75 mile ride starting from Hartford, CT — a first for NER. The dirt is found in three distinct sections: Meshomasic State Forest, the Airline Rail Trail, and the Hop River rail trail. There are some short sections of urban riding near the start/finish. If new to dirt or just looking to enjoy a ride largely on car-free paths, this is a great RUSA populaire.

Parking: Do not park at the ride start, which needs to be kept open for Brewery patrons. There is on-street parking about a block away at the intersection of Elliot St & Ledyard St. See this detailed parking map.

Path Info: The route uses large sections of the Airline Trail and the Hop River trail. These are shared rail trails which will be used by walkers, leashed dogs, off-leash dogs, off-leash children, runners, birdwatchers, etc. Please be courteous when passing these other trail users! NER events are not races (or race training) and riders should plan to slow to a brisk walking speed when passing others.

Ride Leaders Notes:

The NER Meshomasic (“Mesh” for short) 117k is a wonderful mixed terrain loop ride that starts and ends at Hartford’s Hanging Hills Brewery and travels to the small town of Willimantic, CT along a mix of paved urban and suburban roads, gorgeous dirt state forest roads, and the crushed gravel surfaces of the Airline and Hop River State Park rail trails. This route uses some of the same roads and trails as the Detour de Connecticut, but is a significantly shorter and easier ride.

This ride starts right in the city of Hartford, but it doesn’t take long to get to the woods from here. We’ll begin at the Hanging Hills Brewery in the morning and wend our way past Colt Park (that includes Samuel Colt’s old estate, workers housing, and gun manufacturing center, and which is now part of Coltsville National Historical Park) to the Charter Oak Bridge over the Connecticut River. The bridge features a nice view of the city to the north. The route then winds through industrial East Hartford, past the Pratt & Whitney plant where traffic will be light on a Saturday morning. The ride becomes more rural upon entering Glastonbury, CT; this is also where the climbing begins, with a steady climb toward the Meshomasic State Forest, a vast woodland that would be famous if it were close to a larger city. The forest roads are both swoopy and sometimes steep (exercise caution on descents as a couple spots can sport wash boards and turn very bumpy without notice), but the climbing is never too hard on this route. The most sustained climb occurs on Woodchoppers Road, that takes one out of the forest on a scenic two-mile grind.

Del Reeves Road is part of the route in the Meshomasic State Forest.
Connecticut is woods! A view of the Connecticut River from a high point in the Meshomasic.
Photo by Brendan Mahoney.

After leaving the Mesh, riders will enjoy a steep descent on a paved road to the lake in East Hampton, CT, site of the second control at a generic gas station. There is a bike shop in East Hampton, Airline Cycles, should it be needed. Just a short distance from this control riders pick up the Airline rail trail that follows the route of a quixotic “direct route” rail line built between Boston and New York City. The route wasn’t particularly efficient for trains but makes for a great bike route. The trail is hard packed, crushed stone and is easy to ride on 32mm tires, as is the entire route. From here it’s a curving and scenic gravel grinder for about twelve miles into Willimantic, Connecticut’s “Thread City” where there are a number of options for food. The control is the Willimantic Food Co-op that has many options, but riders can (and should) also consider checking out the incredible Not Only Juice vegetarian restaurant on Main Street that is on the way to the co-op. It’s remarkably good and the service is fast.

The Airline Trail in winter; expect different conditions come May. Photo by Amy Gawthorp

From Willimantic the route retraces its steps back to the Airline Trail but this time takes a different route out of town towards the Hop River State park trail which will take riders over thirteen car-free miles to the village of Bolton, CT. Keep an eye out for the prodigious skunk cabbage of spring along this gorgeous section of the route. Once riders enter Manchester, CT the route is more urban. There is a paved greenway trail that parallels the road route back to Hartford. It is pleasant but is longer and does require some navigation. It is not included in the cue because for folks unfamiliar with the area it would be a hassle to follow at the end of the ride, but it is a good option if you want to prioritize staying away from cars over speed of finishing. Back in East Hartford, the route retraces its pedal strokes back over the Charter Oak Bridge with a short finish to the final control at Hanging Hills Brewery, that yes, will be open!

Riders enjoy a delicious brew after finishing the ride at Hanging Hills Brewery. (Philip Stern)