For two Bethel cyclists, 100+ miles is a day trip
Why would someone hop on a bicycle and ride a hundred miles or more – in less than a day?
That’s just what Christine Trefethen, a pediatric occupational therapist from West Bethel, and Jim Reuter, an architect from Bethel, did this past weekend. They’ve ridden similar distances most weekends so far this summer, and have no plans to let up in the near future.
“I love riding my bike,” said Trefethen Sunday, shortly after the trip through New Hampshire and Maine. “I could spend all day on it. It makes me really happy. Why cut a ride short at two hours?”
For Reuter, “There’s something cool about starting in one place and getting way over to another under your own power.”
Reuter, a veteran 40-year cyclist who has also raced, got serious about distance cycling after doing a ride across the United States in 2005.
“I got interested in the longer distances after that trip,” he said.
Compared to Reuter, Trefethen is a newcomer to serious cycling. She did the Trek Across Maine ride from Sunday River to the coast seven years ago and got hooked.
Later that summer she did an organized distance ride in New Hampshire that began at Loon Mountain, and a year later did another one. “On those rides, you’re supported the whole way,” she said, by staff and volunteers.
She then moved on to unsupported rides. “It’s a different deal from someone holding your hand,” she said.
A couple of years later she met Reuter, who introduced her to regular 100-mile rides.
“I clearly remember him telling me, “a hundred miles is just a number – get over it,’” she said. A 100-mile ride is known as a century ride.
The two are members of the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association. Cyclists aim to do at least one century ride every month of the year (known as the year-rounder challenge). But with a nod to extreme weather, cyclists are allowed to miss two months if they make them up later.
This year, Reuter said, “We started riding in March,” noting that the weather was actually warmer than in April.
Reuter and Trefethen have really ramped up their distance cycling this year, riding the long distances more than the required once a month. This summer they’ve been out nearly every weekend.
A favorite trip is what Reuter calls the three-state, two-country ride, a distance of 200 miles.
They start in Errol, N.H., travel east to Eustis, Maine, then up through Coburn Gore into Quebec, back down into New Hampshire and across a bit of Vermont, then back down through Dixville Notch, N.H. and into Maine.
They first did the trip last year – right after Hurricane Irene devastated Vermont and also impacted Maine and New Hampshire. “There was nobody on the roads,” said Reuter. “We had them to ourselves.”
They left at 7 a.m. and finished at 10:30 p.m., traveling with headlights and reflective gear at night.
When they got to Grafton Notch, they passed cars abandoned along the road during the storm the previous night.
Some might question the safety of cycling in the dark, but Reuter said motorists are more careful around riders than they are in the day, partly because they may be confused by the cyclists’ lights and slow down more.
The cyclists also take wildlife in stride – sometimes literally.
“I had a moose come out and run alongside me,” said Reuter.
“You can hear them thrashing around next to the road,” added Trefethen.
And whether night or day, the humans they share the road with treat them well, for the most part. “You think about the number of people that go by, and most of them are fine,” said Trefethen.
She also said that cycling “is a great way to meet people. I like to stop at convenience stores to get water. People want to know what we’re doing.”
This past Sunday Reuter and Trefethen rode a 100-mile route starting in Jackson, N.H., running south through towns that included Conway, Brownfield and Fryeburg, and back up through Waterford to Bethel. They started at 6:30 a.m. and arrived at 2 p.m., averaging 15 mph.
Reuter and Trefethen also occasionally do what is known as randonneuring cycling. A “randonnee” is an outing of a distance up to 1,200 kilometers that is traveled within a set time period. Cyclists do the rides on their own, without the support of an organized event. Participation and record-keeping is administered in the U.S. by Randonneurs USA, and worldwide by the Audax Club Parisien bicycle club in France.
The rides are not competitive, said Reuter, “but people will make it competitive trying to achieve a personal best.”
The longest such ride he has done was 600 kilometers (376 miles) through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, which he completed last year in 34 hours and 45 minutes.
This coming weekend he and Trefethen will travel to Massachusetts for a 300-kilometer randonnee ride.
While it’s good to do such rides occasionally as a challenge, Reuter prefers the shorter 100-mile journeys, he said.
Both cyclists ride three or four times a week, at 40 to 50 mile distances, to stay in shape for the longer rides.
Trefethen likes to start the weekend rides early in the day, because it gets her back to her two boys and husband at a reasonable hour.
While family obligations put some limits on her riding, she isn’t worried about aging out of the sport, and looks forward to more riding when her sons go off on their own. “I’m hoping I’m stronger in five years,” she said.
“Age can be to your benefit in endurance sports,” said Reuter, noting that a 40-year-old mountain biker won a silver medal in the just-concluded Olympics.
However much the two choose to ride in future years, they’re in a good region for cycling, said Reuter.
“We get to do it in one of the best places in the country,” he said. “The motorists are nice, there are ample hills to keep you challenged, and the scenery is great.”
(Note: For interested cyclists, weekly rides leave from Bethel Bicycle at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. There are two groups, one riding a little longer and faster, and the other, the ‘Easy Rider’ group, riding a little slower and shorter.)