By Shimano Gravel Alliance Ambassador Dave Lyons
Shimano Gravel Alliance member, Dave Lyons shares the story of an epic ride through remote New Jersey landscape. Bypassing busy roads and crowded towns, this “death march ride” is founded in adventure, discovery, and exploration, all in the name of a birthday request.
When most people think of New Jersey, their first thoughts usually center around the obnoxious Jersey Shore cast or the fragrant refineries that line the state turnpike exits. But there is much, much more to New Jersey with many pristine areas across this bullied state. One of my favorite rides dives deep into these areas, traveling quietly along the Delaware River Valley and the Kittatinny Mountain Range. It’s a scenic ride with wondering views and remote roads that are found far from any turnpike exit.
When a friend of mine asked me to put together a gravel death march for his birthday this year, I immediately thought of this remote, rugged route along the Delaware and into the mountains. His birthday happens to fall at the tail end of March and serves as our farewell to winter every year.
The Appalachian Ridge and Valley along the Delaware is home to 72 miles of Appalachian trail where through hikers make their way to Maine every summer, fly fisherman come to visit the Flatbrook, and many leaf peepers flock each year for an Instagram worthy selfie. I have ridden this area on many bikes over the last 20 years and over time the route has evolved, which seemed fitting for a ride to celebrate yet another trip around the sun.
The area is rich in history and has a network of old logging and mining roads that meander through five different preservation areas where the remnants of iron ore operations are slowly reclaimed by the forest. It echoes of an era when “stuff” was built by hand.
Since the death march ride was going to be a long journey, our group was small and only five of us rode the nearly eight hour, 75-mile journey through three different states. Other riders joined in for a section here and there and stayed with us as long as their time would allow.