There are switchbacks on New Jersey roads, if you know where to find them.
Lactic acid accumulation has always been an issue for me on the bike. Skiing or running, my body clears lactate easily. But cycling, I’ve always accumulated lactic acid at low heart rates. More than anything, this had been my limiting step riding with guys who are stronger than me. They’ll push a bigger gear in the hills, and I can’t stick with ’em. Or I get spat off the back of the pace line. Such is life.
On Sunday, Dan and I hooked up for a jaunt through Morris and Somerset Counties. He’s my physical therapist, and he’s preparing for a charity ride to raise money for multiple sclerosis research. The mission was to find every hill that we could jam into a three-hour ride. A little lactic acid test.
On the bike, I prefer easy or rolling terrain to warm up, but setting out from Jockey Hollow, that wasn’t happening. Within 10 minutes, we turned on to Ledell Road for some uphill suffering. Plunging down the other side, we cruised into Bernardsville via Old Army Road. First switchback.
Mount Harmony Road. Second switchback. Dan was, uh, impressed with some of the real estate as we ground up the climb. When I caught up with him, I admonished, “Repeat the mantra. ‘Not my tax bracket.’ ” We did not stop into the church on the crest, and I refrained from belting out the Mamas and the Papas.
Stopping at Coco Luxe in Peapack, we inhaled coffee. I don’t know about the pastries, but their espresso is acceptable, and you get to ogle all the used exotic cars at the adjoining dealership.
Following the Gran Fondo route, we climbed out of Peapack over another mountain, into Pottersville. From Pottersville center, we sought out Black River Road . This spectacular road is only 10 feet wide in some places, with a hillside one the left and a 40 foot drop to the eponymous river on the right. I’d pay money to see two Hummers try to pass side by side.
After a mile or so, the road turns away from the river and uphill. There aren’t any switchbacks here, just mile and a half grind. One ramp features a 14% grade. The times I rode it last summer, Black River Road was a desperate climb. Sunday, it was hard, but easier than last year.
From there, we cruised past Hacklebarney State Park, past my cousin’s place in Mendham,
and back to Jockey Hollow.
This winter’s paltry amount of indoor bike training made a difference. When Dan opened a little gap, I was able to keep it from getting huge. The lactic acid buildup was manageable, and I hit level 4 heart rates on a couple of the climbs – something I’ve not done previously. First lactic acid test of the year – passed.