Vol. 3


No. 3

All the news that's fit to print and then some.

President's Message

Well, it's hard to believe fall is just around the corner - only a few more weeks of road biking left. Where did the summer go? I'm looking forward to some good mountain biking this Fall, and I hope to see all of you on the trails. Biking doesn't stop when the weather cools down. Ask anyone who's tried it - mountain biking is a blast! Even a "cross" bike can handle some of our Fall rides. The fun and the camaraderie continue. Join us!

There is some sad news to report, however. My trusty bike, the Diamond Back cruiser, has been retired. You remember her - fluorescent orange with black "tiger" stripes, aero bars and matching bottle cages. Some said she was ugly (don't ever say that to my face); all agreed she was heavy. But I loved her down to the chain stays. She was tried and true. I did my first "real" (under seven hours) century on that bike. We came down from Montreal together. She's been with me since September, both for COVAC and the Granite State century. These past few months, she has helped me get in shape for Mt. Washington, carrying me up Mt. Greylock and countless other "hills".

Oh sure, she has had her moments. She always seemed to hate the Wilbraham Express ride, losing a crank arm on her third voyage in 1991 and a stem bolt this year. But she will not be relegated to "beater" status. Instead, she will be hung, regally, on a wall in my rec room, where I will regale visitors with tales of her high adventures. Occasionally, I may take her out for a spin to stretch her legs, but she will always be returned to her place of honor. Yes, I learned a lot about the sport of biking, and met a lot of good people, on that bike.

So, the next time you see me on a ride, I'd appreciate a kind word about the old orange racer. Then, let me tell you about my new bike.........


Ride Reports

          The 'Wilbraham Express Via Wales' ride was graced with glorious weather and nine riders. This was a joint ride with the Springfield Cyclonauts, so I was glad to see a couple of riding companions join the Freewheelers for some fun. Fun for all except for our own president, Jack Fitz-Gibbon, who had to ditch from the ride after only seven, or so, miles. Jack was having a streak of bad luck that day and the streak followed him on the ride. As we were making our way into Monson via Wilbraham Road, all of a sudden I hear this voice in the background howling for help. I turned around and there was Jack off his looking so bewildered - no steering, braking, or shifting capacity and we are seven miles from the start point. Good work Jack for bringing the situation under control, or you would have been a goner. Our expert mechanic, Joe Pitchko, had to reassure Jack that he did not need a new bike and that the stem was fixable. Strange thing to hear Joe not trying to sell a bike.

          So as Commander in Chief of the ride, I asked Jon Marcil of Agawam to ride back to the start point and get his car and pick up Jack off the road. Thank you John for your help. Jack would probably have had many blisters on his feet if he had to walk down Monson Road.

          With the exception of Fred Morris, who decided early on into the ride that he would much rather go grocery shopping, we had six riders enjoy the rest of a glorious day riding through the hills of Monson, Wales and Wilbraham. I used to ride in this area all the time when I lived in Springfield, so I was amazed to be riding on roads that I had no idea even existed. So it was a great ride all the way around. And if you enjoy accelerated descents, then you must ride down Monson Road. Just ask Joe, who hit 55+ MPH on his descent.

          Jack, maybe next year you can ride the entire ride.

Suzanne McAuley     

June 13 - HILL COUNTRY CHARM - 19 riders took off from Williamsburg in perfect weather for climbing up to Ashfield - no sun or wind. A stop at Elmer's General Store turned into a lunch break for some of the riders; then, it was on to the DAR State Forest and lake. No one went swimming, but we all enjoyed the cool, scenic area. The rest of the ride was a fast downhill under sunny skies. We all made it back in 3½ hours. Julie Miles, and others, said it was the "best ride of the season". Now I have to better that ride.

Arlene Fly     

June 20 - ASHFIELD ADVENTURE - Good weather! Good Trip! Good turnout, with 21 riders, considering we were competing with Father's Day and GEAR. It was a hot day so everyone biked at their own pace. You could say the day was uneventful, except Dale Lougee broke his seat and had to call home for rescue. (Note: If you sit on any seat long enough, it will break and Dale is a good test of that.) Without realizing it, I biked my 100,000th mile; 43 of those were commuter miles. I record my miles every Sunday evening, so I didn't celebrate it at McCusker's. I want to remember all the wonderful people I meet and the wonderful FHF rides during this time. While writing this, I sit here with an injured leg, which grounded me, and wonder what the next 100,000 will be like.

Bill Burgart     

June 27 - HILL & DALE - 24 riders met at the Hadley Village Barn Shops for this multi-club ride with the Springfield Cyclonauts. Walt Chudzik led the group up to Conway and Shelburne to Greenfield and back with a food stop in South Deerfield. At least that's what the schedule said. I wasn't on the ride; I was in Iceland. Walt sent me the ride release/sign-up sheet, which I appreciate, so I can tell you the ride went and was very well attended.


           To ride long distance, you have to train, working up to the desired distance. To ride fast, you have to do intervals of greater & greater speed. One Bicycling Magazine author wrote "to ride fast, you have to ride fast". A small bunch of us had been training to ride in the heat of this summer by riding increasing distances every hot day. After we were comfortable with 45 to 55 miles in the heat, we picked up the pace. The biggest heat survival aid that we used was the Camelbak® Hydration system. We put ice into the bladder and filled it with water from the fridge. On our backs, we felt the coolness coming through the insulated cover - it was great! We had to learn to stay hydrated. To stay hydrated, we had to be sure to drink small amounts (about ½ cup) every 15 minutes. Drinking at that rate, our Camelbaks were drained by lunchtime. We generally bought COLD water to refill them.
           When the time came to do the Picnic Ride, we had already done NINE rides in heat from 89° to 101° and were familiar with our hydration needs.
           Sunday, July 18 started out hot - already 75° by 8 AM. The heat index was forecast to be extreme. Some people were going to suffer from the heat! Only 18 people came to ride - the rest did some cooler activity. We headed out at 11:00 AM, a very hot time to start a ride. Everyone was grateful for the shade along Falls & Meadow Roads. We had the opportunity to refill water bottles and Camelbaks at the shady regroup stop in Old Deerfield. Some of us also took advantage of the running water to rinse off the salty sweat and soak shirts to take advantage of evaporative cooling.
           The return route to Mill River followed some roads that were totally devoid of shade! People were starting to show the effects of the heat and dehydration. Their riding speed slowed noticeably, one person was trying to use the cyclometer buttons to shift gears, another just HAD to stop in the shade (what there was of it), and another person was shivering uncontrollably!
           All those danger signs pointed to serious dehydration and impending heat prostration. I was happy that we were close to Mill River where we had coolers of Gatorade and cold drinks.
           The picnic could not start until the last rider was back, but we could all drink our fill until the food was served. The food was plentiful and tasty! Recovery from the hot ride had started, but I realized that some folks were going to feel like they were dragging for a few days.

Sally Peters     


           Elaine Stafford, Pat Vinskey, John Clifford and a few others who wanted the opportunity to ride more than just one weekend day each week organized the evening rides.
           The rides follow a "show and go" format where the route and distance are decided upon by the group present. There are no cue sheets, and the route is just recited to the group before the ride begins. One person volunteers to "lead".
           Since the intent is to get more training, the pace tends to be at the high end of the published 14 to 16 miles per hour. We still "ride to eat" though...on Thursdays we go out to a restaurant after the ride.
           From Mill River, we follow a variety of routes that include Montague, Leverett, Hadley, South Amherst, Whately, Sunderland or South Deerfield.
           The days are rapidly getting shorter, so the weekday rides will end in late September, or evolve into rides-with-lights until the weather gets too frigid.

Sally Peters     

September 12 - COVAC
           The Freewheelers offer a century ride every September. Bob & I have been the Century Coordinators for the past ten years, and have tried to make COVAC (COnnecticut VAlley Century) one of the best fall rides on the calendar. Our ride is marked by enough white arrows to nearly create a doted line to follow. We offer food & beverage stops every 25 miles with a menu that includes bagels, muffins, bananas, apples, juice and water. We give each rider a cue sheet and a map. We have enough volunteers to get people registered and on their bikes quickly and efficiently. For all the services, we charge a mere $5 for club members and $10 for non-members.
           Bob and I drive the sag wagon equipped with first aid supplies and tools for making on-the-road repairs. We "sweep" the route looking for stragglers and riders with mechanical problems. We give up our ride with a big group to ensure the enjoyment of others.
           We bring this up because, apparently, a rider from another club did not pay for his participation in the event. He boasted to a number of other people that he, and possibly others, would be BANDITS and ride the well-marked route and enjoy the food for FREE!
           We all know we can't control the actions of other people, particularly non-members, but it is galling to those persons who spend so much effort to make the COVAC a successful event to have others enjoy the benefits of their efforts, not pay their fair share, and then boast about it. This obviously leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth.

Sally Peters     

July 25 - COVERED BRIDGE RAMBLE - It was a hot, humid day and only a small group rode, about 12 according to Al, and only about half stayed for the potluck. There were many complaints about the heat and some about the length of the ride. Instead of 35 - 40 miles, it was 46 miles. Probably no one would have cared if the weather had been cool. Perhaps, John Clifford will repeat the ride in cooler weather - and cue it.



           Twenty-one riders, including a few cyclonauts and Yankee Pedalers, embarked on this 38-mile ride around the town of Rowe. The summer heat wave started to break just as the ride began, and the breeze picked up, and we even experienced a brief headwind in the early part of the ride.

           The first half of this ride is UP, and the weather was still warm enough to be a factor in the climb. I personally went through almost two camelbaks over the course of this ride. The warm weather brought out a huge number of kayakers, tubers, and white water rafters on the Deerfield River, and so the scene on the rapids was quite exciting.

           Joe Pitchko, Ken Rogers and Russ Loomis missed the turn to Monroe Bridge in Readsboro (was that intentional?) and continued straight, never to be seen again for the rest of the ride. Hope you guys are all right! I understand they were out for an 80-mile day, in any event.

           A number of bikers stopped at the Hoosac Tunnel, where the temperature dropped at least twenty degrees - natural air conditioning!!

           All in all, the scenery and views were perfect and a good time was had by all. Jack

Aug. 14 - SHOW AND GO - We showed and goed - to Northampton - just us two. No point in doing the suggested Leverett Layout; we had just bicycled from there in a light rain. However, the heavens opened up as we approached the Damon Road end of the Rail Trail, where we sought shelter until it let up. Then we biked to the Flea Market at the Hill & Dale Mall on King Street, made a few purchases (3 books, a toy dog, and a bayonet), and ate lunch. By the time we left, it had stopped raining. On the return ride we had our second flat. The first had been on the way down - a glass shard. [ Yeah, that's why I've stopped riding the rail trail until they pave over the glass-infested crap, sorry, "pavement" they used to make the trail initially -web ed] The second was a cut - probably a pinched tube. This one occurred conveniently near the Valley Bike Trailside shop. Needless to say, we got off the Rail Trail at our first opportunity and we biked Rt 47 to the North Hadley Sugar Shack, which was having a corn festival with free food samples and lots of activities. Anyhow, you wimps [sane people] who didn't show up missed a fun day.



As I was driving north on Rt 91, it began to drizzle on and off. I didn't think anyone would drive this far with the threatening weather. However, I was pleasantly surprised, four riders showed up in Buckland and when we got to Colrain there were four more. A fifth showed up without a helmet, so did not ride. It remained overcast but never rained. The absence of sun, and the cool temperature and leisurely pace provide the conditions for a nice day of conversation and riding, and a pleasant picnic (but no swim) at the reservoir.

Ken Paquette     

Aug 28 - COMMON TO COMMON - A beautiful day! Perfect riding weather! We had 20 riders, which included three tandems and 14 singles. John Fitzpatrick, Steve Roof and Dale Lougee all rode to the ride (John and Steve from Amherst, Dale from Athol). The ride started in Petersham from the school (since the Petersham Old Home Days monopolized the common). We regrouped at Hardwick Common, ate lunch at Barre Common, and had ice cream at Templeton Common. There was one flat tire on the ride. Riding at the rear, we stopped to help. Later, we stopped at a tag sale. We met the riders leaving the Templeton Common as we approached. Only John and Karen were there when we arrived and they soon left. That was OK, we had planned to linger. We had a leisurely ride back after ice cream and coffee and stopped at Queen Lake for a while. Back on the road, we waved to Roger as he passed us going in the opposite direction in his red pickup. All had left the parking lot when we returned. However, in our van, we passed John and Steve in Wendell. Our ride was 40 miles; they must have biked a century.


Special Ride Events

AUGUST 21, 1999

           I am pleased to report that three Freewheelers made the grueling climb up Mount Washington for the 1999 Bicycle Hill Climb. Suzanne McAuley, Joyce Morris and I had trained long and hard throughout the summer doing hills, hills, and nothing but hills (the weekend before we had done our "three mountain" tour - Mount Holyoke, Mount Sugarloaf [3 times] and Mount Tom - a total of 70 miles). By the time the Hill Climb came around, any one of us would have given anything for a flat ride.

           Approximately 650 riders gathered at the base of the mountain in cloudy, cool, but muggy weather. The "top notch" riders, including Tour de France veteran Tyler Hamilton, sprinted off at the first cannon at 7:40 AM. They appeared to literally ["figuratively"?] fly up the mountain. The older "veterans" went off at approximately five-minute increments thereafter.

           Mount Washington climbs at an average grade of 12%, with an extended portion of 18%, and the last 100 yards a killer 22%! There are no flat spots; it's all uphill. Almost from the beginning of the race, riders began to fall by the wayside. Many had mechanical problems. All of us were surprised at how many people got off and walked at least a portion of the ride, but I am happy to report that this group did not include any members of our group. After the initial sprint to the bottom of the hill, the crowd settled into a cacophonous rhythm of gasps, wheezing, and coughing. Chains clinked as everyone sought their lowest gear. In the trees at the bottom third of the mountain, it soon became very warm. I had unzipped my jersey zipper to its fullest extent and pulled down my arm warmers around my wrists.

           All that changed above the tree line. The wind picked up to over 40 mph, and around mile 5 the rain, which had threatened all morning, began to fall. Around mile 5½, my soaked race number flew off of my bike and off a cliff, falling several hundred feet below. The temperature dropped dramatically (into the 30's) and it began to sleet and hail. The top of the mountain was completely socked in with fog, and between the fog and the ice caked around my glasses, I was unable to see anything but a vague shadow of the rider in front of me. Even if I could have mustered the energy to pass that rider (and I couldn't), I decided to stick on his tail simply so I could figure out which way to go. As I got to the last turn, I could hear the roar of the crowd exhorting me up the hill, and among the din of voices I heard Fred Morris and Suzanne cheering me on and encouraging me up the steep 22% final grade. I must admit that I have no memory of climbing through the switchbacks at the end of the ride. All I remember is falling off the bike, freezing, and wrapping myself in a blanket that had been provided by the race group.

           Suzanne, Joyce and I huddled, shaking, and looking for warmth in the observation building at the top of the mountain, while Fred, our designated driver (thanks Fred!), ran to put our bikes in the van for the descent down the mountain (no rider is allowed to bike down the mountain - thank God!). As we walked out of the observation building and down the stairs to the parking lot, the clouds had cleared enough so that I could finally see the terrain of the last climb. I'm very grateful that I was not able to see it on the way up because I am sure that had I seen it, I would have been intimidated and psyched out and never would have been able to reach the top.

           We all traveled down through the rain in Fred and Joyce's van to a waiting banquet, massages, and award ceremony at the bottom. Tyler Hamilton won again, beating his own record with a time of 50:21. They gave him a new Audi Quattro for his effort. The women's winner, Canadian Genevieve Jeanson, also set a course record (1:01:57 - almost ten minutes faster than the previous record) and was also given a car, even though she is only 17 years old and did not yet have her license.

           Suzanne finished in 2:01, I made it up in 2:02, and Joyce summitted in 2:10. I guess they ran out of Audi's, however, because none of us was given a set of keys. Nevertheless, we were all pleased (and tired) that we had made it up in such inclement weather.

           While the training and the ride were very difficult, and the weather certainly was not cooperative, all three of us had a blast; at least two of us are probably going to do the ride next year. Anyone care to join us? In the meantime, we're all going to go out to find the flattest ride we possibly can.