Last year I unwittingly rode the French Creek Iron Tour in only two gears, having failed to notice that Basil’s gear indicator had slipped.
This year, all six of Basil’s gears were fully functioning, and I also had a much better idea of how to use them. What a difference!
This year, Dr. Diarist and Argyll joined us for one of the prettiest rides around: Thirty-plus miles /49 km in the rolling terrain of Chester county, Pennsylvania.
Mile for mile, it’s the prettiest long ride we’ve taken, which is only right, as the tour benefits open space preservation.
The entire route is on open roads, but occurs on a quiet Sunday. Motorists were relatively few, and, for the most part, considerate when dealing with the 1500 or so of us who did this ride.
Riding on public streets meant that we saw our share of private homes, most of them with at least a little rustic, or historic, charm . (Or both!)
The county has plentiful creeks, burbling quietly alongside. I’m sure we failed to see quite a few; hidden, as they often are, in the shadows of the greenery all around.
There were two rest stops on our route: At the first, a friendly Alpaca was soaking up admiration in the parking lot, while these much tinier guys were frolicking in open pens — and posing very nicely!
Southeastern Pennsylvania is dotted with old stone buildings, many of which date from when the area was first settled by Europeans, and which are still lived in; we spotted them all along the ride.
Covered bridges are another hallmark of the geography, though there were only two on this route.
Sometimes the woods and the earliest buildings meld until the structure almost disappears, and sometimes it’s hardly possible to spot the farm across the fields.
This abandoned out-building looks a bit Potemkin, with an almost one-dimensional aspect. It’s not just that the windows are gone, but, I suspect that the whole back wall has collapsed, allowing that perfectly-aligned glimpse into the field beyond, through the building.
Rolling hills, woods, flowing water, centuries-old architecture, covered bridges, stone walls and the bluest sky — it was a perfect ride!
We were relieved to see that this sign said “no peddling” instead of “no pedalling”, which, at this point, we’d been doing for quite a while!
Montana has nothing on this landscape; this is Big Sky Country, Pennsylvania-style!
Decrepit small-scale farms probably shouldn’t be so appealing, since their demise is almost never a good thing, but the organic way the old silos weather and the structures decay has an inherent appeal.
Not all covered bridges are aesthetically pleasing, but they, too, all have a certain charm, regardless. And they’re a lot of fun to ride through.
The second rest stop was at a pavilion behind a school, only about 10 miles/16 km from the finish.
Argyll and Basil enjoyed comparing notes, and I took a picture of a happy Dr. Diarist. He’s gotten used to longish rides on new Brompton Argyll, but this was his first cycling event.
Based on my experience last year and this year, I can state unequivocally that the Iron Tour has the best snack support ever and the nicest volunteers, too! The organizers have also mastered the art of real-food cycling fuel: providing little bites of tasty carb treats like brownies, cookies and so on, but also bananas, tiny sandwiches and a variety of fresh fruit (and lots of it!), as well as chips and pretzels for the salt-depleted.
This is the event where people are the most surprised to see my small wheeled Brompton bicycle, and where people ask the most questions. It’s not just Bromptons that seem to be new art, but also the concept of folding bikes in general. I’m guessing this is because it’s so far into the suburbs (exurbs?); here, road bikes rule, everyone has a spacious garage, and mass transit hardly exists.
I met a man who recognized basil from last year’s Iron Tour; that was fun! I think he was a little stunned that I’d ridden the tour not once, but again, on my little Brompton.
Since Dr. Diarist handled the photos for this tour, we’ve got documentation of some of those hills that vexed me so last year. There are quite a few like this one — not steep, but with a steady incline.
Quite a few cyclists gave our Bromptons a thumbs-up, but one fellow, dressed in expensive road-racer kit from head to toe, and, I assume, riding the equivalent bicycle, did a bit of sneering and snarking.
I was more than a little amused when I saw him by the side of the road on one of these hills, catching his breath, and wearing an incredulous expression as he watched Basil and Argyll zipping past. Heh, heh . . . never underestimate a Brompton bicycle!
But I wasn’t zipping everywhere. I didn’t walk the incline below, but did stop near the top, as did Dr. Diarist, along with others a lot fitter than the two of us. This climb came after a long stretch of open sun; we were all feeling it, and the day was getting a lot warmer.
Later on, during a long run of inclines, I resorted to zig-zagging up a hill; it may be just as much exertion, but it’s exertion of a different kind.
That road looks so innocuous; what could be the issue? My posture suggests that I’m working hard, though!
Dr. Diarist burst up this hill — he’s passing me, here. You can just barely see Basil’s mirror in the lower right corner.
I did walk on one very short section, but I was back on Basil before I got near the top. Still, I was a bit crushed: I had hoped to ride the whole tour without making that particular concession.
We were on the home stretch surprisingly quickly.
Seven Stars Farm, home of exceptionally good yoghurt, is near the starting/finish point, so when we saw this building, we knew we were close.
Coming into the last turn, into the village of Kimberton, there’s a slight incline, and then one final one after the left turn at the intersection ahead .
Then we spied one last burst of flowers on the left, in front of a building that grew rather oddly, and we were back at the starting field.
And that was it! I’m always sad when these rides end, even if I’m feeling well-challenged.
On a sartorial note, I wore a skirt this time, over my padded shorts. It billows a little and I thought it might be cooler to wear than my blousy biking over-shorts. I’m not sure it was, but, in any case, I missed the pockets in my shorts legs where I keep my camera and anything else I want to grab quickly.
Lunch (provided as part of the event) is fresh, flavorful and generous with a vegetarian mains option (they ask at registration), tasty salads (not just the usual options, either, but also a wonderful one of leafy greens), fruit and dessert. Real food! It’s the best after a long ride.
Dr. Diarist and I sat outside and picnicked next to Basil and Argyll.
We rode over 32 miles/51.5 km on a beautiful day, in countryside we don’t usually explore much, and loved it; it was a treat of a day!
The Bromptons were ready for another romp. I’m afraid we only took them to the parking lot, once we’d finished our meal. Bicycles can play all day, but sometimes people can’t! There will be other rides — and another Iron Tour next year to look forward to.
Iron Tour 2013, Part One
Iron Tour 2013, Part Two