Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Westfield 300K: Bash Bish Falls Edition

Despite getting my new rando bike in the fall of 2011, it wasn't until this week that I finally installed a wired taillight to the rear fender. I loved the B&M Seculight on my previous rando bike and it was probably my perfectionism and perceived lack of appropriate tools that held me back, so I flagged down my mechanic neighbor and (for the price of a frosty cold beer) my bike is ready to take on the elements.

This was not the first (and will likely not be the last) time that I awaken to rain at the old Elm Motel in downtown Westfield, Massachusetts. The Elm is a rando classic in Western New England. A decidedly no-frills place with a kind and generous staff, it feels a bit like an overnight control you want to get out of as soon as possible after waking up.

As always, RBA Don P. puts on a good show. The Bash Bish 300K follows a really lovely route filled with dazzling views, serious climbs, dense forests, assorted farmlands and even a dedicated bike trail for good measure. One of the best parts of the route is that the first and last 35 miles of the route follows a single road that climbs (and the descends!) though some lovely countryside making navigation super easy at both the start and end of the brevet which is always most welcome. The first control comes at mile 31 and riders found Don with a table of goodies set up in a small park at the entrance to the Appalachian Trail.

After the first control, cyclists wind their way through the lovely Berkshire mountains, an area filled with artistic as well as historic communities, on their way to the famed Bash Bish Falls in the eastern corner of New York State. It was nice to see the Blayleys at the start, but unfortunately, they needed to swap out a tire on their tandem on a borrowed wheel to allow for a better fit, so they took off 10-15 minutes after the rest of the field. I knew it was only a matter of time before we'd see them again and sure enough, after hearing the low rumble of a jet engine taking off, I looked to my left and heard a cordial "Hi George" as a tandem flashed by.

With over 60 miles between controls, randonneurs arrive in Kent, Connecticut with a hearty appetite. Good thing Don has arranged a pre-paid lunch control at the gourmet Gifford Market. Pretty classy, Don. After enjoying a roasted chicken and avocado sandwich with chipotle mayonnaise, I was off to tackle the wilds of eastern New York. In fact, the sandwich was so rich, I packed up half of it to stow away in my bag for later.

The rain came down rather heavily as we zoomed through quiet country lanes and even the Harlem Valley Rail trail en route to Bash Bish. The climb to the top of the falls was pretty intense, especially as it comes after 200K of riding through somewhat hilly terrain. At the top of the climb, John (a rider from the Boston area I had teamed up with after lunch) and I even scrambled up some slick rocks in search of a view, but sadly none was available. A view must be available somewhere, but we did not have time for the search.

To add insult to injury, the climbing's not done when you arrive at the falls as there are a few miles of switchbacks hidden right around the corner. The next section was wet and generally enjoyable as John and I snaked our way back into the Berkshires, departing from the route for only a few bonus dirt miles along the way.

The skies finally cleared as we entered the penultimate control to find Don and his wife with a full selection of sandwiches, snacks and drinks. These treats really hit the spot as we refueled for the final 31 miles to the finish. This last section, as I mentioned above, is one of the most pleasant route finishes I've experienced. Riders follow one smooth road with at least 25 of the final 31 miles pointed downhill. The icing on the cake was the text Pamela and John left me with instructions to their shower so I could clean up before the long drive home. The Bash Bish 300K is definitely on my list of rides to repeat in years to come.


  1. Looks such a beautiful ride and good to hear you got the bike night ready.
    I'm still working on 100k randos at the mo - hoping for my first 200k by the back end of summer, but nothing as adventurous as a 300 yet.... but I did just get a new bike, so maybe sooner than I thought

    1. Thanks, Georgie. It is a great comfort having the bike all ready for whatever comes my way. Having ridden regular road bikes on events through 600K, I can attest to the fact that specialized bikes aren't a requirement, just a very pleasant luxury. Dynamo-powered lighting that turns on automatically (or at the touch of a single switch) helps you focus on the things that do need your attention and not the things that don't.

      Glad to hear that you're working your way up the rando ladder. I think you'll feel a great sense of accomplishment once you hit the 200K mark. From there, it's just incremental, with each distance just a little bit further than the last. The 300 is one of my favorite distances. A real adventure that spans most or all of the day no matter how fast you're riding. I do enjoy riding in the dark so that's always a bit of a thrill. Good luck this season!

  2. Sounds like a great day on the bike--it's one of my favorite routes. The middle section is just sublime. Maybe next year... I was having too much fun skiing (including two days ago) to ride much this spring. Best of luck for your upcoming brevets!

    1. Hi Dave - Sublime is a great word for it, although not one that came to mind as I was climbing Bash Bish itself. There are a few other words I could mention, but this is a family-friendly blog. I'm amazed that your ski season has held on as long as it has. Good for you! Hope to see you out on the roads again this year.