Event Preview: JOM rides unPAved of the Susquehanna River Valley in Pennsylvania – Part Two

“The Susquehanna Valley is a region of low-lying land that borders the Susquehanna River in the U.S. states of New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. The valley consists of areas that lie along the main branch of the river, which flows from Upstate New York through Pennsylvania and Maryland into the Chesapeake Bay, as well as areas that lie along the shorter West Branch in Pennsylvania.” – Wikipedia

The focus of this article is the Susquehanna Valley River Valley of Pennsylvania, the scenic backdrop of unPAved (link to press release).

unPAved of the Susquehanna River Valley

“Easy on the eyes. Hard on the legs.”

unpaved pennsylvania gravel race
Photo by Pete Bakken.

Continuing where I left off from Part One, the second day of media preview / riding fun would see our crew grow in size. Joining us for this ride was Bina Bilenky (check out her custom gravel bike), and Gloria Liu and Taylor Rojek, both editorial staff with Bicycling Magazine. Dutifully following the group in the support truck was Mike Kuhn and photographer extraordinaire, Pete Bakken. Be sure to follow Pete on Instagram at betepakkenpetebakken and keystonephoto. Brett Chadderdon of Valley to Vista Cyclery (far left of the above photo) kindly provided my loaner bike, an appropriately sized Open U.P. Thank you Brett!

Before the ride began, we toured Camp Woodward in Woodward, Pennsylvania.

This massive facility is home to skateboard tracks and ramps, gymnastics and other sports-related activities.

Skateboarding paradise!
Just a portion of an indoor skate park at Camp Woodward.
Serious height and serious drop, don’t look down.

Following our tour of Camp Woodward, day two would see the group depart from Millheim, Pennsylvania.

There is a large Amish community in this area, horses and buggies are a familiar sight on the local roads.

unpaved pennsylvania gravel race
Bina Bilenky and her sweet ride.

We rode a very pleasant stretch of pavement that paralleled an unknown creek, before the real fun of the day began. There were at least two long and steady climbs on the day’s route, that would ultimately lead to more amazing views of this part of Pennsylvania. Dave Pryor, promoter of unPAved, kindly spared the group four of the toughest climbs in the area, all of which will feature in the full monty, 120-mile version of unPAved. This won’t be an easy ride…

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L: Dave Pryor, R: Jim Cummins (promoter of Dirty Kanza 200).
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At left, the Fit Chick herself, Selene Yeager. Gloria Liu at right.
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Rolling through Coburn, Pennsylvania.
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JOM-Cam on the first serious climb of the day.
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Selene dropped everyone to lead over the summit of the first climb.
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Selene leads over the top. Photo by Pete Bakken.
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Yours truly admiring the view. Photo by Pete Bakken.
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Group photo on the first climb. Photo by Drone-Cam.
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Some easy riding across the top.
Tower Trail, one of the many MTB trails that dot the area.
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What goes up, must come down. Gloria of Bicycling Magazine at left.
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Dave leads on the first descent of the day.
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Descending fun. Dave, Jim and JOM lined up in formation.
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The other side of that formation photo. Pete Bakken, hard at work.
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Some gentler riding, heading towards Poe Paddy State Park. Photo by Pete Bakken.
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Gravel cycling + killer scenery = smiles all around.
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Break time! Yours truly, stuffing my face with Gu Stroopwafel. Photo by Pete Bakken.

Following a brief stop for chow and water at Poe Paddy State Park, the group made a beeline for Penn’s Creek Trail, formerly a railway line through this part of Pennsylvania.

unpaved pennsylvania gravel race

unpaved pennsylvania gravel race

Before the group could ride the gravel rail trail of Penn’s Creek Trail, we’d need to cross Penn’s Creek and pass through a former railway tunnel.

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The former railway bridge now serves as a cycleway.
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Penn’s Creek. Photo by Drone-Cam.
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Selene leads into the railway tunnel. Photo by Drone-Cam.
Gloria inside the railway tunnel. Photo by Pete Bakken.
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Rumbling along on the Penn’s Creek rail trail.
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More rail trail, marvelous scenery.
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Taylor demonstrates how to ride beneath a trail barrier.
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Following Selene on the final climb of the day.
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The view after I was dropped by Selene. She’s THE Fit Chick!
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The group takes a respite at the summit of the second climb.
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Dave and area map… are we lost? 🙂
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My water bottles by Pro Cycle & Triathlon. Pedal, Bitch.
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Selene’s jersey. Meow.
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Fast descending, JOM-Cam. Be wary of the centre-line crown of gravel.
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A brief stop at Woodward Cave.
Post ride at Elk Creek Cafe & Ale Works, Millheim, Pennsylvania. Yum!
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No rest for me, snapping Bina Bilenky’s uber cool gravel bike. Photo by Pete Bakken.
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Post-ride, gravel bikes galore!
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End of the day, the group gathers for a meal and socialization. Photo by Pete Bakken.
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Campus Theatre, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Photo by Drone-Cam.

Day Three, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

Day three of media camp at the unPAved preview opened to a bout of dreary weather. I was flying out late afternoon from the Lehigh Valley Airport, Allentown, Pennsylvania, which gave me an excuse to bag the ride… bags already packed and all that. On the positive, a day off the bike gave me an opportunity to join Dave Pryor in the support car, for a spot of video here and there.

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Pictured above is the Miller Recreation and Wellness Center, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. This fantastic facility will play host to the start, finish and festivities of unPAved.

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Above, one of the lads from Bucknell Cycling, a Collegiate team, joins the ride.
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Yours truly and a faux workout, Miller Center. Photo by Pete Bakken.
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Gravel rail trail, heading out of Lewsburg, PA. Photo by Pete Bakken.

Despite the dreary conditions, the group relished the scenery of the Susquehanna River Valley. Mike Kuhn and Pete Bakken took a break from driving the support truck to join, whilst Jim Cummins and Gloria Liu departed for their respective homes… Jim had a long drive home to Emporia, Kansas!

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Gravel rail trail, heading towards Millheim, Pennsylvania. Photo by Pete Bakken.
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Taylor lapped up the dreary conditions. Photo by Pete Bakken.
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The group from above. Photo by Drone-Cam.
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Dairy farms are a common sight along parts of the unPAved route.
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Photo by Pete Bakken.
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The varied terrain of unPAved.
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One of the gnarlier roads of unPAved.
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Mike Kuhn shows how its done aboard his road bike. GRAVEL BIKE RECOMMENDED.
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Pete Bakken coming.
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Pete Bakken going.

unPAved Pennsylvania is due to run on October, 14, 2018. This is a must-do event that traverses gravel rail trails, the Bald Eagle State Forest, Amish Country, and so much more! At the time of writing, there are three routes on offer. 30-miles, 90-miles and 120-miles.

Registration is open now.

Still to come, JOM’s unPAved, Pennsylvania, preview video which highlights the beauty of this area and the fun of the ride. Watch this space!

6 comments on “Event Preview: JOM rides unPAved of the Susquehanna River Valley in Pennsylvania – Part Two

  1. Brings back memories. Somewhere around 1982, maybe 1974, we camped at Poe Patty. It was a dry summer and when I went to get a stick to roast marshmallows I heard a rattle and pointed my light around and about 10 feet from me was a rattlesnake. So commenced the drunk with a snake fork trying to get the snake on the rocky rooted ground while the wife went to get the ranger. The ranger gets back about 30 minutes later, borrow the snake fork and a 3 foot square of cloth. and proceeds to gather the snake. Madder than a wet hen by now we (me holding the lantern) get into the back rangers pickup that has a cap on the bed. On the way up , probably one of the hills you rode, the mountain to release the snake the door on the cap the ranger was leaning on came open and he almost fell out. In one hand i had the lantern and the other i was ready to grab the bag with the snake. Just kidding grab the ranger. We managed to get the snake released.
    October will be beautiful, cool and usually dry. Enjoy every moment. Talk to the old timers about Hurricane Agnes 1972

  2. I was seriously contemplating doing this event – it would be my first gravel event. I have a ‘cross bike with Shimano cantilever brakes. What is your opinion of using these types of brakes for this event? I dont really have a choice as I’m not in a position to purchase a new bike, but just wanted to ask for opinions of those that have done it. Thanks!

    1. Joe, I raced Crusher in the Tushar last year on a bike fitted with cantilever brakes. That event has a lot more descending than unPAved, you won’t have any problems. With that said, treat the descents at unPAved with caution, there are one or two very tricky descents no matter what brakes you’re on. I will be posting the preview ride video of the event soon!

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