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Northern outer suburbs of Boston - the Bermuda rectangle of cycling

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Northern outer suburbs of Boston - the Bermuda rectangle of cycling

Old 05-24-19, 11:57 AM
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Northern outer suburbs of Boston - the Bermuda rectangle of cycling

I was browsing the Strava heat map and this black hole caught my attention:


Here it is a bit zoomed in and compared to Google maps at approximately the same zoom level:


What's up with that? Why are Billerica, Burlington, Wilmington, and Tewksbury so relatively unpopular with cyclists? There must be some cyclists at least originating their trips there...
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Old 05-25-19, 04:49 AM
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I rode a bit in those towns when I was living in S'ville. There are some nice spots in Billerica (also worked there, so got to see a bit more of it). The main roads through Wilmington and Tewskbury were nothing to write home about. On the other hand, Tewksbury does have Donna's donuts. If you're road-riding, when you've got Concord and Carlisle or the seashore so close, why bother with other places?

There is that unmentionable mountain biking spot over that way, but I think people like keeping it on the DL or something.
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Old 05-25-19, 05:08 AM
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Northern outer suburbs of Boston - the Bermuda rectangle of cycling
Originally Posted by autonomy View Post
I was browsing the Strava heat map and this black hole caught my attention:



Here it is a bit zoomed in and compared to Google maps at approximately the same zoom level:...

What's up with that? Why are Billerica, Burlington, Wilmington, and Tewksbury so relatively unpopular with cyclists? There must be some cyclists at least originating their trips there...
That’s a very interesting observation. I live in downtown Boston (Kenmore Square), and most of my cycling is south and west of the city.

I have previously posted a personal so-called “Cyclists’ Guide to Metro Boston,” that partitions the region into sectors radiating from downtown, As an independent correlation with your map, I have described that Northern sector with the adjacent ones as:
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
... I think of the area in sectors radiating from downtown and surrounded by a circumferential belt about 10 to 15 miles from Downtown, known as Route 128 ("America's Technology Highway")...

Even though I've lived here for over 30 years, I always get lost on a new ride. Streets are laid out in a haphazard fashion; many streets, particularly the one you are riding on are not marked; they surreptiously change names; and in rotary intersections it's easy to lose your sense of direction...

I would describe the sectors as (mostly for road riding outside of Rte 128):

North Shore: Beautiful Atlantic coastline, especially north of Lynn, to include Nahant, Marblehead and Marblehead Neck, on through Salem, Beverly and into ritzy Beverly Farms, and up to seafaring Gloucester, Rockport, Ipswich, etc.

Northern Suburbs: Lynnfield, Reading, Wilmington, Woburn, down through Winchester, etc: Pleasant suburban to rural inland roads.

Western: Lincoln, Lexington, Concord, Wayland, etc: Very ritzy, buccolic and historic; very popular for riding. This area IMO has the steepest hills....
On my rides up there (without Strava) my usual routes are along Rte 3A, or 38, and are pleasant up until about I-95, and then become rather non-descript. I've been through Billerica a few times, and once up to Lowell.
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
...In the past three weeks [in 2009], I've done two rides in your area from Boston: up Rte 28 to Methuen and along the Merrimac to Lowell, then on to Chelmsford, south to Rte 27, to Rte 20 and back to Boston; and out Rte 38 to Tewksbury and 3A back to Boston.

I got lost trying to get to 3A on Pleasant Street in Tewksbury, but I did ride on some nice backroads.
I do like riding across the sector along Rte 62, and along the sector on Washington Street through Woburn (at the southern edge of that sector) into Winchester.

Indeed though, maybe that sector is paranormal, kind of like Wonderland (as Alice in Wonderland) as your title suggests. For example, @jimmuller who commutes to Woburn. Has posted:
Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post


I've wanted a picture of this sign ever since I saw it. I go through this intersection twice a day.

Welcome to Woburn. I don't know where I'm going but I know where I am.
In fact, a few years ago I tried to trace his route on an expedition from Kenmore, I described that ride as:
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
My Magical (and Musical) Mystery Tour, Saturday, August 23

So this Saturday, I decided to find that [route]... I left in jmm’s full description because it was an accurate detail of that road, though I rode it in the opposite direction as written.

I have recently been thinking about riding the Fellsway; not been on it since July last year. So that would be the route to “Jim's Road…”
Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
JFB, nice travelogue! …

I'm honored that you were inspired by my post to find Pleasant/Lexington/Woburn St. Also fascinated how you (and others in this thread) can ride around to places seemingly impossible to reach at all.

Some of those roads you mentioned I have noted on a map, but never ridden because they don't quite go where I need to.

Last edited by Jim from Boston; 05-25-19 at 08:00 AM. Reason: added quote about Lowell
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Old 05-28-19, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
Northern outer suburbs of Boston - the Bermuda rectangle of cycling That’s a very interesting observation. I live in downtown Boston (Kenmore Square), and most of my cycling is south and west of the city.

I have previously posted a personal so-called “Cyclists’ Guide to Metro Boston,” that partitions the region into sectors radiating from downtown, As an independent correlation with your map, I have described that Northern sector with the adjacent ones as: On my rides up there (without Strava) my usual routes are along Rte 3A, or 38, and are pleasant up until about I-95, and then become rather non-descript. I've been through Billerica a few times, and once up to Lowell.

I do like riding across the sector along Rte 62, and along the sector on Washington Street through Woburn (at the southern edge of that sector) into Winchester.

Indeed though, maybe that sector is paranormal, kind of like Wonderland (as Alice in Wonderland) as your title suggests. For example, @jimmuller who commutes to Woburn. Has posted: In fact, a few years ago I tried to trace his route on an expedition from Kenmore, I described that ride as:
Originally Posted by tsmorr View Post
I rode a bit in those towns when I was living in S'ville. There are some nice spots in Billerica (also worked there, so got to see a bit more of it). The main roads through Wilmington and Tewskbury were nothing to write home about. On the other hand, Tewksbury does have Donna's donuts. If you're road-riding, when you've got Concord and Carlisle or the seashore so close, why bother with other places?

There is that unmentionable mountain biking spot over that way, but I think people like keeping it on the DL or something.
That's a good point, Concord and Carlisle are a web of red on Strava, but then so are pretty much all of the W-towns.
Which MTB spot, Billerica State Forest (just barely inside the rectangle, squiggly lines top left) and/or Russell Mill (barely outside, also top left)? Or Landlocked Forest (bottom left, outside)? Haven't been to Russell Mill, Billerica State Forest was very meh, Landlocked Forest, on the other hand, is pretty nice. Harold Parker State Forest is top right, way outside of the dead zone - it's a pretty nice place.
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Old 05-28-19, 12:56 PM
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Carlisle is nice. Great Brook Farm is also in the upper portion of that rectangle. residential streets in Tewksbury are pleasant but Route 38 aka Main st is an armpit of moon craters along the shoulders & lots of wrong way salmons & school kids w/o helmets. when I bike to/from work I ride thru that rectangle. first time or two I got lost so maybe that's why ppl stay out of the rectangle?


Last edited by rumrunn6; 06-07-19 at 11:57 AM.
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Old 05-30-19, 06:27 AM
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I have experience on these roads, and my only guess is that these roads (like Rt 3 and Rt 3A) are not really accessible to cyclists
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Old 05-30-19, 04:43 PM
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I've ridden from Waltham to Harold Parker St Park a few times. The problem is, there aren't many good roads to go that way. Some towns up that way are not bike friendly. Andover is about elevation 9000ft! Or so it seems.
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Old 06-06-19, 08:54 PM
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Hmm... I'm dating a lady from Tewksbury (who also lives in PVD now) and apparently it's a good stopover on the way to Maine. I'll have to report back in on riding conditions.
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Old 06-07-19, 08:26 AM
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Originally Posted by DHPflaumer View Post
Hmm... I'm dating a lady from Tewksbury (who also lives in PVD now) and apparently it's a good stopover on the way to Maine. I'll have to report back in on riding conditions.
oh yeah, my Tewksbury office is right near 495, 93 & 3. when I've run up to VT after work it's been a breeze. of course ski traffic on a Friday night is insane & a cpl weeks ago for Memorial Day weekend was extremely busy
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Old 06-07-19, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
I've ridden from Waltham to Harold Parker St Park a few times. The problem is, there aren't many good roads to go that way. Some towns up that way are not bike friendly. Andover is about elevation 9000ft! Or so it seems.
wow, that's a lot of urban riding. was gonna say Haverhill St looks like a nice steady run but then I checked street view & saw it's kinda narrow!

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Old 06-07-19, 08:54 AM
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Northern outer suburbs of Boston - the Bermuda rectangle of cycling
Originally Posted by autonomy View Post
I was browsing the Strava heat map and this black hole caught my attention:



Here it is a bit zoomed in and compared to Google maps at approximately the same zoom level:...

What's up with that? Why are Billerica, Burlington, Wilmington, and Tewksbury so relatively unpopular with cyclists? There must be some cyclists at least originating their trips there...
Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
I've ridden from Waltham to Harold Parker St Park a few times. The problem is, there aren't many good roads to go that way. Some towns up that way are not bike friendly. Andover is about elevation 9000ft! Or so it seems.
Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
wow, that's a lot of urban riding. was gonna say Haverhill St looks like a nice steady run but then I checked street view & saw it's kinda narrow!


IMO, that photo is typical of that sector of the Northern suburbs, as I previously posted,“Pleasant suburban to rural inland roads, in contrast to the adjacent sectors:
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
... North Shore: Beautiful Atlantic coastline, especially north of Lynn, to include Nahant, Marblehead and Marblehead Neck, on through Salem, Beverly and into ritzy Beverly Farms, and up to seafaring Gloucester, Rockport, Ipswich, etc…

Western: Lincoln, Lexington, Concord, Wayland, etc: Very ritzy, buccolic and historic; very popular for riding. This area IMO has the steepest hills....
So that “Bermuda Rectangle” suffers in comparison to her glamorous neighbors.

Personally, I had replied:
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
Northern outer suburbs of Boston - the Bermuda rectangle of cycling

That’s a very interesting observation. I live in downtown Boston (Kenmore Square), and most of my cycling is south and west of the city...

On my rides up there (without Strava) my usual routes are along Rte 3A, or 38, and are pleasant up until about I-95, and then become rather non-descript. I've been through Billerica a few times, and once up to Lowell.

I do like riding across the sector along Rte 62, and along the sector on Washington Street through Woburn (at the southern edge of that [rectangle]) into Winchester...

Last edited by Jim from Boston; 06-07-19 at 09:57 AM.
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Old 06-07-19, 11:55 AM
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little shout-out to an LBS in N Andover, just outside of the aforementioned "rectangle" cuz they have/had a store in Tewksbury. it opened near my office cpl years ago. I only bought chain lube there but they seemed very nice. closing end of month so will only have the N. Andover branch. show them some love if you're in the area

Decarolis Brothers Cyclists LLC
2302 Turnpike St SUITE 101, North Andover, MA 01845
(& soon to close 1875 Main St, Tewksbury)

@ jimmuller while I was chatting w/ one of the brothers/owners he let me know about the mountain biking in the Harold Parker State Forest 133 Jenkins Rd, Andover, MA 01810
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Old 06-07-19, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
wow, that's a lot of urban riding.
I'm not sure what route you are referring to. My route from Waltham involves going out the MM to Bedford, then almost to Carlisle, then turning north, then northeast on a road I've forgotten, probably the one north of, um, whatzit? ah, don't recall without looking it up. It is not a direct route at all, and even so goes through a lot of places I'd just as soon not go through.
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Old 06-10-19, 07:38 AM
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Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
I'm not sure what route you are referring to
guess I quickly plotted a course that wasn't as smart as yours
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Old 06-11-19, 04:49 AM
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
guess I quickly plotted a course that wasn't as smart as yours
Don't know that I'd call it smart but I did research it for a short camping tour. Crossed rt3 by Rangeway Rd, came back by Treble Cove Rd. Still, the biggest problem is where to go once you get up into Billerica and beyond. (Ooh, I like that: "To Billerica and beyond!" - Buzz Chainyear)
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Old 06-19-19, 02:59 PM
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Haverhill street is fine on the weekends. I ride up through there quite often -- I live in Medford, and getting out to MetroWest means a bunch of bland suburban riding or fighting the crowds on the Minuteman to get to the pretty roads, whereas I just have to duck north a little bit to get into your "Bermuda Rectangle".

If you keep zooming in on the heatmap, the scale will update and you can still use it to pick good roads from bad ones up there -- the right-hand side is better, since some parts of the left side really aggressively funnel you onto 129 or 3A (or 38 if you're further east), which are rideable but not pleasant. Some personal favorites:
https://www.strava.com/activities/2170541097

I've got a couple more photos like the one with Mishawam/Mishawam from that area; it seems to be a theme up that way (it's more than one town) that they actually sign all the roads in an intersection including when the name turns a corner.

I learned about a lot of those roads years ago doing the Middlesex Canal bike historical tour, which was great fun although not a ride for challenging oneself, since it's a historical tour. (It will apparently be October 5 this year.)
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