Around the Finger Lakes 400k

Last qualifying ride for PBP

The brevet route stops short of completing the loop. You can always ride down the hill to your car. The brevet route stops short of completing the loop. You can always ride down the hill to your car.

I live in Ithaca, NY, on the southern end of the longest of the 11 Finger Lakes of New York State. When I started riding longer distances, I envisioned a tour around all the lakes, and when I joined RUSA and started riding brevets, I saw that the route around the lakes was just about perfect for a 400k. When many people were stuck inside during the COVID pandemic in 2020, I rode the route for the first time. I registered it as a 400k permanent in 2021 (RUSA Permanent Route # 4261), then as a brevet route (3084) in 2022 so I could ride it as a qualifying ride for PBP this year.

Growing up around Utica, NY, I don't recall our family ever venturing into the Finger Lakes region. As a young adult, I rarely saw a reason to visit. When my children were young, I lived in and around Syracuse and still had yet to venture west into this area. After living here for a dozen years, it now feels like home. Riding around and amongst these lakes makes for some of the most beautiful cycling experiences I've ever had.

The glaciation of the region has resulted in a north-to-south gradient of terrain, with the areas on the southern ends of the lakes in much more hilly terrain than the areas on the north side. Traveling north to south along ridgelines or valleys will almost always be easier than traveling in a straight east-west line over the hills separating the lakes. As a route redesigner, you can make a quad-killer of a route or be kind to your fellow cyclist.

The region has been developed as a winery region, with the slopes of the hills often covered with vineyards. I've experienced intense grape scents during late fall rides south of Keuka Lake, where the grapes are left on the vine for a late harvest. I've seen long shadows cast across vineyards during sunrise climbs near Watkins Glen, with Seneca Lake sparling below them. There are apple orchards, Mennonite-run farms, state forests, tourist towns, and undeveloped lands. It's a smorgasbord of options from which to choose.

No one had signed up to ride it on May 20, so I decided to pre-ride it the week before. I'd never completed it in less than 30 hours, but a couple of years of riding brevets, dialing in my bike and nutrition, and some solid winter rides bolstered my confidence. I rolled out at 5 am and finished a little more than 23 hours later, with 3 hours off the bike.

Sunrise deer. Sunrise deer.

This was my favorite of the rides I did this year for PBP qualification, probably because I had scrutinized this route for a couple years before submitting it. The climbing is front-loaded to the first third of the ride, and there are just a few steep climbs of any length, but there are rollers throughout. The route was designed to be a little hillier per mile than PBP has been, making it a great training ride for the event. (Note from the future: Many times during PBP, I noticed how similar that part of France seemed to New York State.)

The weather was breezy but not terribly windy. There were mild temperatures most of the day, but I wished I had brought a warmer jacket in the last few hours as the mercury dipped into the high 30s. Jim had watched my dot and was waiting at the finish control to greet me. It was nice to know someone was watching my back, and even nicer to get a ride back to my house, as I was pretty chilled.

If you're a randonneur looking for a ride with a theme, appreciate a little mild climbing, and would like to explore one of New York's distinct regions, I hope you make the trip. We plan to run it next year as well.

randonneuring brevet finger lakes CNYrando