New Haven — Back on Home Roads in a Way

By Ian Forsyth on January 9, 2013

I was born and raised in Buffalo, NY and I have the utmost pride in that city. I’m a hopeless Bills and Sabres fan, I’ve driven in the lake effect snow, and I’ve eaten wings at the Anchor Bar and Duff’s. But the majority of the last few years of my life have been spent at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut. That means the majority of my riding has taken place in New Haven too and because I didn’t grow up cycling, these Connecticut roads are really where I feel most at home.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done a lot of riding back home too. But, the river blocks off a whole direction and I usually don’t feel like weaving through bridge traffic and paying a toll to get into Canada to ride. There are no hills north of Buffalo, only the escarpment ridge to go up and down. And, I’m relatively remote up in Lewiston, a lot of the serious riders are coming from the city or the south towns. The harsh lake winds and lonely rides make for a tough training environment and there just isn’t any variety. New Haven is a complete departure from that.

The very first thing I did after unpacking my boxes was head out for an Orchard Loop. Everyone here takes a slightly different route and over the years I’ve come to learn every possible variation of this 25–30 mile trek. It has everything. Some long steady climbs, some short steep ones, some long flat stretches of empty road, others where the cars will come within inches of you. There’s horse farms, industrial parks, ponds, creeks, bridges, potholes, freshly paved road, and apples. There are few joys in life better or simpler than an apple right from the tree on a crisp fall afternoon ride in the sunshine with friends. And this ride, like most I do here, starts and ends with East Rock. It’s a metaphorical climb out of the college town that is New Haven and into the suburbia and eventual rural land that lies beyond. From the very top, you can look out over the entire city.

The road up to the top of East Rock

The Connecticut country side can be beautiful and it’s unfortunate that most Yale students will never venture beyond the bustling streets of the city to see it. It’s tranquil out there. My favorite place to go is Lake Watrous out near West Rock. Brooks Rd that leads to it is one of the most fun gradual downhill roads I’ve been on and since being freshly paved last year, it’s a smooth ride with some great curves. This section is part of Guido’s Friday Morning Ride. In warm weather, when there’s enough light, an incredible group of cycling academics comes out for a two hour loop of rolling terrain. Some days, I’ll just float to the back of this group and admire the company I’m with. Frequenters include heart surgeons, professors from the medical school, school of management, and college, molecular biology researchers, and neuroscientists. Beyond the brains, there are some serious legs on these guys too, former professional European racers, a Battenkill winner, and masters champions. It’s an incredible bunch and such a privilege to ride with them every week.

Lake Watrous on a sunny day riding the Friday morning loop.

Then there’s the Yale cycling team, a cohesive group of enthusiastic students. Spending time with them always results in a good round of laughter and solid memories I’ll have forever. On Saturday mornings we head out for a three hour sojourn to the coast. We ride a familiar route out to Guilford and back and every ride brings something new. Whether it’s a blazing paceline down Rt. 17, a spontaneous reroute behind the lake or to Little City, or a friendly town line sprint just miles from home, I always have fun.

And it would be a downright sin to talk about riding in New Haven without mentioning the Tuesday night Sleeping Giant Ride. The Tuesday night world championships. The race with no entry fee. The tear your legs off, get yelled at, get spit on, try to earn respect, better pull through the front, sit down sprint, amazing ride. This is the one night of the week everyone comes out to stretch their legs and blow off some steam. Things get competitive and the pace gets high. Yale riders have gotten better in the last few years at being a part of this phenomenon and I’m always excited to take off from the park and battle it out. Some guys have been pushing the pedals along this route for decades and they’re just as fast as the best. The Sleeping Giant ride is a constant high pace and if you want to push yourself you can try to take a flyer off the front with some other courageous souls. It’s always a highlight of my week.

A scenic view on the detour around the like during a Guilford loop with Yale cycling.

I’m passionate about riding around here and though no one would ever expect it, New Haven and the the surrounding area has the one of the best cycling communities in the country. With a handful of amazing shops (I’m a big Devil’s Gear and CSC fan) and a ride for every level of cyclist, you can’t go wrong here. I’m excited to be part of the culture for a little bit longer. In my opinion, these are my home roads and I’m pumped to put in some long rides.

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