America, You Were Golden


by Maarten Rasschaert



I arrived around midnight in Boston, five hours later than foreseen thanks to a flight delay and missed train. Dead tired I reached out to my inner-biscuit-pushing-scout and I got in no time to my Airbnb, a crappy one, in the Somerville area.

Boston tourist ride (53km +313m)


The next day I met up with Kevin at the Firefly studios. I arrived too early and was starving, flying back in time created a constant state of hunger. Not really knowing where I actually was I bumped into a Polish deli. The meat section vitrine displayed different German sausages, stacked as wooden logs. Nevertheless I went for Swiss cheese since I didn’t want to upset my stomach for the upcoming ride.

When I left the Polish deli I saw an open door straight across the street. You must know, if you never visited FF studio before, the façade looks like it could have been either a storehouse for those German sausages, or even the movie set for a bad mafia flick. The door was halfway open and the hallway accepted the outside light; slightly sharing its secrets. Somehow I knew it was the place and crossed the street. I’m not mechanically savvy enough to fully appreciate its wonders but the studio is a great place to wander around.




After a short guide through the studio Kevin dialed me up on my adventure bike and showed me around town. We did a short fun ride, avoiding cars and runners (literally every Bostonian runs) and I got used to my new bike. We cycled by all the important marks in Boston and topped it off with, what else, Belgian waffles and coffee.



MTB (10km +181m)

Jamie, Tyler & Kevin picked me up at my Airbnb, which was in daylight even crappier, for my maiden trip on a MTB. After a short drive out of town we arrived at a forest were the guys reassured me we would do some beginner trails, and something about that we might encounter some rain. After a short cleat and shoe rondo we kicked off into the forest.



After about 20 minutes the clouds unleashed hell and we got caught in a quite heavy rain storm. The beginner trail was transformed into a, for me anyway, technical, slippery parkour consisting of wet rocks and foliage. The rain transformed the forest and brought out the best of nature, the greenest green I have laid eyes on and that lovely smell of autumn.

After 2 hours of riding, some pump track fun and 50km later we surprisingly ended up at our cars again. Wait what, we only did 10km? Absolutely loved it. We refreshed got back to Somerville, and enjoyed some cocktails and great food. Perfect Sunday morning!

Blue Hills (93km +875m)

On the third day it was time to explore the inland. Kevin suggested Blue Hills so off I was, solo this time. My GPS directed me to what I believed was the Blue Hills. After a short climb I arrived in the mid of a fancy golf green. Some locals swingers redirected me correctly accompanied with the words ‘keep pedaling, it isn’t the nicest neighborhood.’ I guess someone has to support Trump? Admittedly the greater part of Boston looks quite poor, however I never felt unsafe.


Blue hills are 40 km south of Boston and have a meteorological weather observatory on top. I made my way up the hill, that also functions as a ski station in the winter (1.2km average 10% grade), and was once more encountered with the first signs of autumn. At the top of the hill a three story high tower suggests itself as the weather observatory. The first floor exists out of a small shop selling almost everything that you won’t expect at a weather observatory: puzzles, scuba diving stuff, candy & much more kitsch. I paid the “3 dollars to see the top, sir” and joked “that is one dollar per staircase?” My unwished guide didn’t laugh and the tone was set between the two of us. On the second floor a woman was looking busy doing nothing, but what do I know about monitoring the weather. Finally on the third floor is the exploration deck giving you a view of long stretches of green and a view on Boston. The guide tried to teach me one or two things, but I didn’t listen. After Blue Hills I rode to Lexington and had a long overdue lunch in the Ride Studio Café and steamed back to my place since the Red Sox were awaiting. In retrospect the roads are very familiar to Flanders: rolling hills with potholes.






I entered the city by train, which is real gift as it slowly unfolds itself layer per layer from the suburbs all the way to the city center. I left Grand Central into the heat and made my way down to Williamsburg (great Airbnb) via the subway (read sauna) and collected my bike at Silk Road Cycles.

NYC tourist ride (57km +400m)

The juxtaposition between the grey concrete jungle and neon lights were the decor for my first ride in NYC: Prospect Park, Brooklynn Bridge, Iron flat building, Chrysler and Empire State Building, Times Square, and Central Park all in less than 4 hours. And as the cars stupendously block themselves it is also quite easy to avoid them.





Fishkill (#donsnonbdayride, photos by Don Nieva) (84km +1879m)

I met up with 5th floor and its unofficial 6th floor counterpart up at GC, way too early, to catch a train to Peekskill. When we alighted it was still a bit chilly and foggy. Within the first mile we hit a short steep hill (+12%), and the ongoing waltz with the gilet zipper started. I had no idea what to expect that day. Only 80k, however packed with 1800 vertical meters and around 8h in the saddle it ended up being a brilliant ride with magnificent scenery. I enjoyed being outside the city and strolling through the farmlands. The roads were a mix of rolling hills on smooth tarmac, steep gravel climbs and some off road radness. Hands down of my favorite rides of this year.

The prize of the ride was fresh apple cider infused donuts and apple juice that we picked up after an apple picking event at Fishkill. On the way back we had some beers on the train. I didn’t like the beer, apparently I am a chauvinistic bastard when it comes to beer. (Video of the day by Angelo)






Bear Mountain (114km +1663m)

Escaping the city is quite the endeavor. It took me over an hour to get to the George Washington Bridge. Once I crossed the bridge I took a right on Henry Hudson Drive, which lead me alongside the river up north. A hilly and scenic section took my mind straight off all of the red lights and traffic I had just digested. I was swallowed by the beauty of the park and the sun shimmering of the Hudson.

I might have been too enthusiastic on the first part of the ride and a major fringale forced me to stop at a hot dog stand alongside the less attractive 9W road. I ate what I had left in my pockets and swallowed it down with some ice cold soda from the hot dog stand, which was a wise decision since Bear Mountain was dead ahead. With its 7.2km for 5% it doesn’t hurt you too much and leaves time and space to soak up the environment and spot bears (I didn’t spot any). On the top of the mountain you get some rewarding views of the Hudson Valley.

I descended to Peekskill and took the train back to Grand Central. I didn’t have any beer this time. After the short ride from Grand Central to my place I got caught in Obama’s web who was drag racing with Putin downtown, or it might just have been a NATO meeting but that would be less fun. The next day I returned my bike and bought my only souvenir of the trip, a great looking cap of Silk Road Cycles with ‘Brooklyn’ embroidered in gold.




Alles hat ein Ende nur die Wurst hat zwei, which could be the slogan of the Polish Deli straight across the Firefly Studio. America, you were golden.

Gratitude and love to Firefly (Kevin, Jamie, Tyler & Daniel), 5th floor (Alex, Angelo, Don, Johnny) and unofficial 6th floor (Julia & Karen), Silk Road Cycles and all others that brought me a smile to my face.