Planning Club Routes

By: 
Ken Hablow

Ken Hablow is a stalwart of the club, and has held more volunteer positions then we can list, but is perhaps best known for creating and running the Climb to the Clouds Century for close to three decades. Ken has a reputation for exciting, well planned rides, and many stay active even after several years running. We asked Ken to share his thoughts about planning club routes.

There are three routes I take special pride in:

  • Original Climb to the Clouds (27 years),
  • The Souhegan River Ride Fall Century to Wilton NH (20 years),
  • Berlin-Bolton Tour CRW Sunday ride (15 years).

 

What do these rides have in common? 

Longevity.
All created before e-navigation.
Quiet scenic roads.
Flowing routes.
Minimum traffic on main roads.
Sustained rider appreciation.

 

 

Climb to the Clouds is not only CRW’s premier century, but has become a New England classic. It draws riders from all 6 NE states, NYC, NY State, and even PA. One rider from out of town once said, “This ride is so interesting, it changes character every 10 miles.” Being close to the ride, I never had thought of it that way. 

 

The three Souhegan River Ride routes were so pleasant to ride, most people never realized there wasn’t a single traffic light on either the 100, 62 or the 50 mile routes. In fact, many CRW regulars liked this century better than Climb to the Clouds. 

 

Back in the day, the Bolton-Berlin Tour, an annual CRW Sunday ride, would consistently draw 125 riders. 

 

None of these three club rides, nor any of my routes, were created using a map. They were all sourced using the Biblical method – “Seek and Ye Shall Find”. The best routes are the ones you search out and enjoy enough to ride over and over, while always looking for ways to tweak and improve them. At some point, after countless changes, you say to yourself, “This would make a great CRW ride.” 

 

The three routes mentioned above each took several months to perfect, riding them over and over, while constantly making changes, many times on the fly. It takes a certain persistence to perfect a ride. I would often have other people ride the routes to get their opinion, thinking they may see something I overlooked. 

 

There is a difference between rides I do by myself, or with a small group, and those I plan for larger groups. By myself, I can search and explore. When I plan a ride for a group it has to be more refined. I am always aware of the impact of the size of the group on the roads, and on other riders. Longer stretches are safer than taking a group through a labyrinth of roads in a sub-division. Paved roads are much safer than bike trails or even foot paths. I may do some of these when meandering on my own, but never for a large group. The safety of a large group of riders on the road is always top of my mind. 

 

Since Covid, most of us have been doing solo rides, or riding in small groups. This has given me more opportunity to explore, like we did in the days before e-navigation. Keep in mind, there are no new roads, just different ways to connect them. That’s why exploring is so much fun. The difference is, today I can use Ride With GPS (RwGPS) to track my rides even if I am not following a prescribed route. When I truly enjoy a ride I have just “explored,” I will trace the ride on RwGPS, which produces a route, which I can load on my phone and follow again and again. I will look at this new route in RwGPS and generally tweak it and make changes. I have new routes I created in the past year that have 3-4 variations.  

 

We all enjoy riding. Some of us like planning new routes. I like “creating” new routes and see people happy and satisfied with my many hours of a Labor of Love. 

 

NOTES:

In 1991 I spent several months riding and improving Climb to the Clouds. I searched for, and found, many back roads that kept riders off heavily trafficked roads, all to make the ride more enjoyable. After all that work, the only changes that were made in 25 years were for construction. 

 

On a Sunday of Memorial Day weekend many years ago, I met a friend in Concord at 8:00. Our goal was to be home by 4:00. We decided to “get lost” and at noon we would head home. We found ourselves in Wilton NH. On our return we knew this would make a great CRW fall century ride. We scheduled it, then spent the entire summer riding the route, making changes, then devising both a 62 and 50 shortened from the original 100. Over 20 years there were only a few necessary changes that had to be made. 

 

A few years ago, a friend planned a weekend ride for CRW. I looked at the route on RwGPS and saw he used a road that shows on the map but does not exist. The road is a connector paved on both ends but barely a foot path between the 2 ends. That would have been a mess had 50 or so riders tried to navigate the path. Luckily, I knew an easy work-around, so we changed the route before the day of the ride. 

 

In 2005, Connie Farb and Mark Sevier wanted to lead a ride in the fall and asked for my help in designing the route. On the day of the ride, Connie asked me to stay near the front of the group while she gave the pre-ride talk, should anyone have any questions about the route. First, she thanked me for laying out the route for them. The fellow next to me turned to his friend and said, “S#^*, that means the ride is hilly.”

 

References:

Original CTTC - https://ridewithgps.com/routes/1316013

Berlin Bolton - https://ridewithgps.com/routes/11485330

Old Fall Metric - https://ridewithgps.com/routes/6062514