A relaxed end-of-season roll around rural Pennsylvania before a German-themed beer or two sounded like an excellent plan in combination with a visit to family in Philadelphia. Nothing too strenuous, only 60 miles and a relatively civilized start time of 8:30, what was not to like?
I take some solace from the fact that everyone else that I saw was also waddling up the 26% grade with the comical gait of the cleated cyclist, but there it was - WALKING.
Eichele Road was the location of the shame, 344 feet of climbing in around 8/10ths of a mile. It starts straight after a right-angled right turn so you are not carrying any speed and the road then runs diagonally across the ridge before turning directly up the steepest of the slope near the crest. The damp road didn't help either.
Otherwise, organizer Kermesse Sport had done its usual great job and the Oktoberfest Ride lived up to expectations. The snaking roads through the rolling Pennsylvania countryside made for great cycling.
The course, which featured many sections used in the past by Univest Grand Prix Road Race, started and finished at the Appalachian Brewing Company in Collegeville and the large parking lot absorbed us easily making registration a doddle.
Many rode in rain jackets. I risked it in my USI jersey with a long-sleeved base layer and got away with. I even kept my hindquarters dry despite the wet roads with an Ass Saver, which is a great bit of kit.
The route took us north from Collegeville in a wandering loop with a food stop at around 35 miles.
Signage was good with warning single arrows, double arrows at the turn and a confirmation arrow farther down the road. The only section I found slightly confusing was around the feed station where a couple of extra arrows would have helped me.
For a few miles in the first half I had ridden with Ken from Dublin and these chance encounters, linked by the numbers pinned on our backs, are part of what make events like the Oktoberfest Ride enjoyable. Ken suffered a flat just after Eichele Road and told me to keep going.
I rode alone to the feed station and PBJs downed and back on the bike I spotted a rider in red (pictured at the top) quite a way up the road. I gradually reeled him in and we rode together for a good section chatting although we did not exchange names. During this time we passed the group of four who had dropped me after about 10 miles who were gallantly assisting a rider who had (I subsequently learned) bent her rear derailleur.
Twenty minute later the good Samaritans flew past as a stone jammed between tire and fork forced me to stop to clear it. I managed to claw my way on to their tails somehow and we hung together all the way back to Collegeville aided by their local knowledge.
The only interruptions were a few intersections where traffic was heavy and we had to wait and the final half a mile to the finish through an unavoidable tangle of junctions and heavy traffic.
The 200 riders who enjoyed post-ride food and recovery brews at the Appalachian Brewing Company were about double the number at the inaugural running in 2014. As word spreads I would expect more in 2016 to enjoy the Oktoberfest.
And to those who made it up Eichele Road, you have my respect.