By: Greg Ziegler
As summer fades and the calendar turns to September, it’s time again for the Garden State Fondo (formerly the NJ Gran Fondo) held annually on the first Sunday after Labor Day since 2011. The Garden State Fondo is a one day bicycle ride that begins on the Green in Morristown and travels the most scenic and bucolic roads that North Jersey has to offer. This year the organizers expect over 2,500 participants, making it one of the largest Gran Fondos in the country, with riders from over 30 states as well as participants from other countries.
The term “Gran Fondo” is loosely translated from Italian to mean “big ride” and this year’s event really lives up to the name. This year’s edition of the Garden State Fondo offers five different routes designed to accommodate riders of every level. There is a double metric century of 200 miles named the “Estremo”; the traditional “Gran” route of 107 miles; the “Medio” route of 75 miles, which was named one of the best rides in NJ by the editors of Bicycle Magazine; the “Piccolo” route of 42 miles; and the “Breve” route of 18 miles.
The Garden State Fondo is designed to offer participants the opportunity to enjoy a day of cycling on some of the most scenic roads New Jersey has to offer. For those riders who enjoy a little competition while on the bike, all the routes, (aside from the Breve), offer timed climbs where riders can challenge themselves and compete with other riders for designation as King or Queen of the Mountain, via a point system. Other than these timed sections riders are encouraged to simply ride and enjoy the scenery and support as there is no special award for finishing first.
Each route provides support stations strategically located along the course.
Along with the standard fare provided to cyclists, this year’s rest stops will offer wood-fired pizza, affogatos (a shot of espresso over a scoop of vanilla ice cream) cannoli’s, s’mores, and a number of other items not typically found at ride support stations.
The Garden State Fondo was established by Marty Epstein (of Marty’s Reliable Cycle) whose vision was to showcase the amazing riding that is available in northern New Jersey by creating a fun and challenging cycling event and to also be able to give back to the community. Epstein passed away earlier this year. The Garden State Fondo has raised over $1.25 million dollars for both local and national charities. One of the beneficiaries of this year’s event will be the Raritan Headwaters Association, a non-profit conservation organization that protects water in our rivers, streams, and homes.
The Garden State Fondo covers over 140 miles of roads through 25 different municipalities in Morris, Somerset, and Hunterdon counties. Routes will go through Morristown, Chester, Mendham, Bernardsville, Far Hills, Peapack, Gladstone, Pottersville, Tewksbury, Califon, Clinton, Pittstown, Milford, Spruce Run, Long Valley, Randolph, and Morris Plains. The organizers work diligently with local authorities to secure the permits necessary to ensure the safety of both the cyclists, and the citizens, of each town the ride passes through.
New Jersey has a long and distinguished place in the history of cycling with races being held throughout the state in the late 1800s and continuing into the 1900s with the Tour de Somerville which held its inaugural race in 1940. The Garden State Fondo is a terrific addition to the history and legacy of New Jersey cycling.
For riders registered for the event the Garden State Fondo is offering training rides on Sundays that leave from Marty’s Reliable in Morristown, and from Strictly Bicycles in Fort Lee.
More information on registration and additional details about the event can be found on the Garden State Fondo website at www.granfondonj.com/.
Bike rentals are available for those riders who have the inspiration but not the equipment. There is a ride and a route for everyone and no reason not to participate in this year’s edition of the Garden State Fondo. Ride the long route, ride the short route, or ride one of the medium routes, but just ride.