How far would you ride for a beer? One mile, two miles, three miles, four?
On June 15th, Toffer Winslow of Needham, along with 1,000-plus fellow cyclists, will take on the B2B ride, a 148-mile suffer-fest that starts at the Harpoon Brewery in Boston and finishes at the Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, VT. At which point they will enjoy the fruits of their labor: an ice cold brew and some barbecued chicken.
The good news is that all participants are guaranteed a bus ride home. Even better, the B2B ride supports the Kenary Brain Tumor Research Fund and Team Psycho (a triathlon team).
The not- so-good news: this ride is pretty hilly.
The even less good news: the Leviathan, the hill of all hills, a mountain that greets the riders of the B2B at about mile 100. At which point most cyclists may be feeling a little Job-like and wondering why they ever signed up for this ride in the first place.
Toffer, like many cyclists of a certain age (he’s 42), began riding after a career of running, jumping, and pounding the boards. In 2009, while recovering from his second ACL reconstructive surgery on his right knee, Toffer realized that his running and basketball days were over. He needed something new to do, at which point his cousin Richard loaned him a bike.
Toffer got hooked on biking pretty quickly, and by his fifth ride, he realized, “This could become a lifelong hobby.”
For Toffer, cycling was an ideal combination of “Individuality and community. You can go for a ride for a couple of hours by yourself and not have to coordinate with anyone, or you can go out with a group and have a nice social experience. It’s also easier on my body than running.”
Toffer is a self-described recreational cyclist, and though he’s not a racer, he likes to push himself to see what he can do.
This is why, last year, Toffer decided to join his cousin Richard and see if he could do the B2B.
A few words about hills: the lighter you are, the easier they are. It’s no wonder that the wraith-like climbers at the Tour de France usually weigh less than 140 lbs. Toffer, on the other hand, rides with a group of guys who refer to themselves as the Clydesdale Climbers. Meaning that the hills of Vermont would present a challenge.
Toffer recalled that the first 100 miles were (relatively) easy. He rode with his cousin Richard and allowed himself to be sucked along by the paceline’s slipstream. And then Toffer met the Leviathan, and things took a turn for the worse.
“It was an eye-opening experience.”
For the next 25 minutes, Toffer managed to keep his eyes open and his bicycle upright by riding at his own pace. Halfway through, a 70 year old man with whom Toffer rides in Boston caught up with him. “He said to me, come on Toffer, and then he just blew by me.”
For Toffer, the good news about scaling the summit of the Leviathan was that he could get off of his bike, rest, and knead the cramp out of his calf muscle. The bad news about reaching the summit of Leviathan was that he was still about 50 miles from the finish line.
With his cousin’s encouragement (and a few well timed pushes), Toffer grinded his way to Windsor, Vermont, where he enjoyed a shower, a beer, and some barbecued chicken.
“Being able to complete that ride, being part of a small community of cyclists who’ve done that was one of the most gratifying things I’ve done. And the chicken and the Harpoons weren’t bad, either. I was surprised by how much fun it was and what I could do when I put my mind to it.”
Toffer’s goals for this year’s B2B are simple. This Clydesdale Climber hopes to have fun and improve upon his time from last year. And maybe find a way to keep up with his septuagenarian friend.
Jonathan Simmons is the author of “Here For The Ride: A Tale of Obsession on Two Wheels.”