2023 The Farm Ride Century

I don’t remember at all how I came across the Farm Ride, probably their ads on Instagram, but I thought it’d be fun to do it. They also offer escorted rides even for shorter routes, so it’d be perfect for Josh to ride as well. Even though it’s pricy, I still registered for both of us, and I thought it’d be a nice opportunity to explore western Massachusetts.

They didn’t send out the routes on RideWithGPS until just a few days before the ride, but past year’s route is available. Their routes are private, but they’re not very different from previous ones. I added it to Garmin Connect and synced to the head unit before we headed out to Amherst on August 11th.

The traffic on the Mass Pike on a Friday afternoon is bad as usual and expected. We headed to the “Ride HQ” at UMass Amherst campus to grab my rider ID bracelets. They were sent in an envelop together with some notes, but I threw the envelop away with the bracelets – I didn’t check carefully. But they got me covered and we picked up our T-shirts and socks. Then we went to an on-campus cafeteria that’s buffet style, which is rated #1 campus food in the US:

The banner “#1 Best Campus Food”

There were a lot of options from Asian food, tacos, fruits, pasta etc., but none of them were really good – I guess campus food has a really low baseline, and I’m probably spoiled by Google cafes’ free food. The buffet cost about $18 per person, and I think every Googler will probably come up with excuses to work from home more if Google cafes cost that much.

The Ride

There were escorted options for all distances, but it’s really show-and-go on Saturday morning. We arrived at 8AM sharp, and there was a bike mechanic on site just in case someone’s bike needed TLC. Weather was beautiful – not too warm, dry, and a little breezy. There was also donuts, bagels, coffee, fruits. We had breakfast at the hotel, so we didn’t eat much there. We asked about the pace of the escorted ride, which was about 14mph. That was too slow for me, and Josh doesn’t want to wait till 9AM for the escorted 70 miles, so we departed around 8:15.

Josh trying to get my attention for a selfie

The First 40 Miles

The first 40 miles on the 70 miles route overlaps with 100 miles, so we rode together. Josh ran into the first problem of the day about 2 miles out – he used the RideWithGPS app for navigation, but the screen kept turned off. I use Garmin bike computer for navigation so I don’t know what to do. I decided we should stop to figure that out. A simple Google search helped us out. After a few quick setting changes on his phone, we were back on the road.

The sceneries in the morning along farms were definitely breathtaking, especially when riding on the quiet farm roads, as well as crossing the beautiful Connecticut River. There are a few hills, but none of them are really steep. However, Josh’s pace is still very very slow for me, which was expected. But I didn’t expect him to be so slow when I could barely feel any ascending. In my head he should be able to keep up with 14-15mph pace when I feel the route is flat. Maybe that’s the problem – 1-3% ascending may feel flat to me, but not to Josh.

I noticed him with much lower cadence and had to put in a lot more effort to catch up with me, while I was pedaling with higher cadence and barely felt anything. So I tried to teach him to use gears better. His bike is heavy, but with a lot of available lower gears. After that he seemed to be able to keep up with me on little hills with lower efforts.

At around 20 miles, we reached the first rest stop at Deerfield old town. It is like Jamestown with old buildings preserved really well, and the whole area is a museum or park. We used the bathroom, ate some fruits and cookies and got back on the saddles.

I still complained a lot about Josh’s pace, and I found myself trying to teach him to use gears better. I complained every time some slow people passed us, and especially when the escorted group. I’ve never been passed by so many people in my life. I should admit that I am a very competitive person. While we were approaching the point where 70 and 100 miles routes diverge, we were at each other’s throat.

The GPS told me to turn right on a bike trail whose entrance wasn’t very clear, so I slowed down to <10 mph; while Josh’s GPS told him to keep going, and there was route marking on the road (which I didn’t see) for 70/100 miles. So that was the place where 70 and 100 routes diverge. Josh was distracted by the route markings and didn’t notice I slowed down, so I was rear ended badly and very upset. I didn’t know what on my bike got hit, but it seemed to be working fine.

The Solo 60 Miles

The bike path ended pretty soon, and I reached the second rest stop in no time. I actually felt a bit hungry, so I tried my best to eat enough – a banana, some fresh fruits, two energy bars, and some Oreos. I carried some emergency food with me, but I thought it was time to get an energy gel down my throat.

I got back on the road quickly, and realized something went wrong with my bike as I was climbing up a steep hill. I needed to use the lowest gear on the cassette, and the chain came right off. I put it back on and tried to clip in on the hill, and it came off again. Then I realized the rear derailleur hanger must have been bent by the collision with Josh. So I switched to higher gear, put the chain back on, and it didn’t come off.

I was trying to remember if there were any more steep hills that I would have to use the smaller chainring in the front AND the lowest gear, when I was looking at the grade of the route. And I couldn’t remember any. So I should be good (and I’m ready in my head) to ride the rest of the route without having to use that gear. I could just use the smaller chainring if I needed to.

There were some tough roads with really bad pavements going through Easthampton, even worse than some of the worst roads in Boston. The rest stops are not marked on the GPS digital routes (which could have been done and made life a lot easier) so I had to strictly follow the arrows painted on the road. Soon I arrived at the 3rd rest stop at mile 54, and surprisingly, that had a bike mechanic! I was so happy and told him what happened, and headed directly to eat and drink. This rest stop was very close to the second one, so I didn’t eat much, and I was told the next one was only about 10 miles away.

The mechanic confirmed what I thought and aligned the hanger. I was on the saddle right away! What a nice surprise!

It turned out the 4th rest stop was the ice cream shop (included in the ride payment) in North Hampton downtown. I saw many riders out there eating ice cream, but I didn’t get one. I saw someone with a cue sheet, so I stopped ask him where the next rest stop was. It took us a while to find the correct one – at mile 75, only 10 more miles to go. However, it was about 20 miles since I ate last time, and 35 miles since I ate a lot.

And the ride to mile 75 turned out to be a bit of a grind – it started getting hot and the sun was toasting everything that’s not in a shade, including me most of the time. Sun was straight up so there wasn’t much shade on the road. Even though I was pretty well prepared and stocked with water and food, it was still a bit miserable. But I’m really familiar with that feeling, and I knew I could get to the next one without anything unexpected. All in all I have been much more miserable than that on my previous rides.

The 5th rest stop was at Atkins Farm Market. It was a full service rest stop – fresh fruits (cherries!), smoothies (freshly made), Gatorades, and pies! A lot of riders chose to stop here longer and took a break. It was hot. I went to refill water, and turned the wrong valve, so I got blasted with cold water for 3 seconds on my head. That felt so amazing to cool down. I didn’t regret it at all 🙂

I ate a lot of cherries, some energy bars, and asked for a smoothie. I felt I was ready to tackle the last 25 miles. The next rest stop was at mile 95, and I didn’t know what it was. But I already knew I didn’t need to stop any more.

Making smoothies

With a full tummy, the last 25 miles felt like a breeze, especially some stretches on relatively flat areas and the bike path. However the entrance to the bike path was closed, so I had to follow the detour (Josh told me he just squeezed through the fences). Fortunately the detour was only about 1 mile but with some hills. I averaged about 18mph pace on the last 15 miles, and I went over 22mph on the bike path. I passed many riders who passed me before, which made me feel awesome (like an avenge, I’m sure others don’t feel the same)!

The last rest stop was actually the dinner spot called Sugar Shack, about 5 miles away from the finish line. I saw a lot of riders stopping there and I didn’t know it was the dinner. But I blasted past it, determined that I’d just finish the 100 miles. I knew Josh finished his 70 miles ride, and I didn’t want to keep him waiting for too long.

When I was at the parking lot and saw Josh sitting in the truck, I was at mile 99.27!! The route wasn’t full century! So I rode around the parking lot twice to make it 100!

Dinner After Ride at Sugar Shack

We then drove to Sugar Shack for dinner. It was great to see so many cyclists gathering together to celebrate the finish of long rides! There were also two massage tables and therapists for riders who needed them. The farm also had two goats to pet.


It was a great ride for both Josh and I, even though we had a little accident. It was Josh’s first metric century and also his birthday! What an achievement! He definitely got out of his comfort zone.

Josh’s phone died but fortunately he carried a portable battery, so he had to stop for a while waiting for the phone to be charged to start. A lesson learnt: RideWithGPS is definitely not an option for longer rides. We’ll probably get a better Garmin Edge for him.

I’ll take my bike to a bike shop for a tune up and have them take a look at the hanger. I also noticed the yellow rubber came off under the impact of the collision:

It definitely needs to be replaced.

The Farm Ride is a great group ride with great support. Plenty of rest stops and plenty of food, drinks, even bike mechanics. But it’s also pricy: over $600 for two of us. Plus the hotel for two nights we stayed in Hadley. It was really fun and it was a great first long ride for Josh.

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