A great holiday gift for the cyclist in your life

Tis the season for a shameless plug…

Available at most local bike shops in Massachusetts, several Visitors Centers, and all the major bookstores – or even online if you have a little more time before your holiday gathering…

Road Biking Massachusetts is a compilation of forty great routes of varying lenghth, terrain and difficulty. Each route includes a detailed description, turn by turn directions, and a complete and detailed map.

The forty routes in Road Biking Massachusetts are divided into four categories according to degree of difficulty. These classifications are subjective, taking into account the combination of distance, road grade, and bike-handling skills necessary to negotiate the full tour. Each route’s name indicates its relative degree of difficulty.

Rambles are the easiest and shortest rides in the book, accessible to almost all riders, and should be easily completed in one day. They are usually less than 35 miles long and are generally on flat to slightly rolling terrain.

Cruises are intermediate in difficulty and distance. They are generally 25 to 50 miles long and may include some moderate climbs. Cruises generally will be completed easily by an experienced rider in one day, but inexperienced or out-of-shape riders may want to take two days with an overnight stop.

Challenges are difficult, designed especially for experienced riders in good condition. They are usually 40 to 60 miles long and may include some steep climbs. They should be a challenge even for fairly fit riders attempting to complete them in one day. Less experienced or fit riders should expect to take two days.

Classics are long and hard. They are more than 60 miles and may be more than 100. They can include steep climbs and high-speed descents. Even fit and experienced riders will want to take two days. These rides are not recommended for less fit and experienced riders unless they are done in shorter stages.

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Happy Holidays!

Featured Ride: Mount Greylock Challenge

Climb it because it is there. When you summit Mount Greylock, you will be reaching the highest point in all of Massachusetts, where you can enjoy spectacular 360-degree views of the Berkshires. Unclip and climb the Veterans War Memorial at the summit to fully soak it all in. This challenging ride will bring you from Pittsfield to the summit in the first third of the ride. After completing the brake-burning descent (which requires great care and patience), you’ll head over to Williamstown, a quaint town that is home to Williams College. The second half of the route takes you south through the valley, giving you a rest and a chance to appreciate the mountain range from a different perspective while climbing back toward Pittsfield at a more moderate pace. Plan to do the ride during the spring or summer as the Mount Greylock Scenic Byway is accessible only from mid-May through mid-October. Get more details, turn-by-turn directions, and map in the book Road Biking Massachusetts (affiliate link).

Make Yourself A Better Bike Mechanic

You’ve probably made a bunch of New Year’s resolutions for 2010. Ride more. Workout more regularly. Lose weight. Eat healthier. Well, here’s one more to add to the list: be a better mechanic.

Learning your own repairs is pretty essential in cycling. A little knowledge can go a long way, particularly when things break down out on the road. Of course, the best way to minimize breakdowns out on the road is to keep your bike well-maintained. Learn how to do both with this book.

Over the years, I’ve found Lennard Zinn’s book invaluable – it’s one of the most important tools in my toolbox. It seems that no matter what project I’m trying to tackle, he’s got detailed how-to information about it in his book Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance.

Zinn provides detailed explanations, clear pictures, and an accurate difficulty rating for each task. There are also listings of exactly the tools you will need for the different repairs or maintenance tasks. I’ve always found the book to cover all the equipment I have, from the oldest to the newest. And now, it’s just been updated again. The third edition was released on June 1, 2009.

So, get byond just flat tire changing in 2010. You’ll be glad you did.