What is a Class 4 road? My hasty Google search came up with this definition,
A Vermont class IV road (or highway) is a road that is not maintained by the town or state, and can be in any state of disrepair. While these roads are not maintained, any legally registered vehicle may travel on them unless otherwise posted.
Yes, technically, this definition is what these roads are, but for some of us, they are so much more. For some of us, they are secret paths linking town to town. For some, they can be time machines, and we can get a glimpse into old Vermont history. For some, they are an escape from busy roads and busy people. I think for all of us, these roads hold a special place in our hearts.
My favorite ones are the weird, swampy, rock-ridden types of roads. For example, there is this incredibly long section going from Morrisville into Johnson, and you start on some nice smoothish double track. Then take a sharp turn and immediately start climbing up and over this ridge, mixed with some hike-a-bike. Once you're at the ridge, the downhill fun begins where you pass through muddy snowmobile trails, then some sugaring operations, onto logging roads, pass a couple camps and hope they don't have dogs, push your bike through a swamp, then end on a beautiful gravel road next to a river. HOW CAN YOU BEAT THAT?!! For me, it's not always about how far or how fast you can go on your bike, but where it can take you.
I lived in Colorado before coming to Vermont. Out there, yes, they have dirt roads, and the history, and the quietness, but there is just something different about these Vermont roads that I can't put my finger on. Maybe it's the giant green blanket of our dense forest. Maybe it's the endless running water that always seems to find you out there. Maybe it's the fact that some of the best ones aren't on any maps, and if you want to find them, you have to be willing to get lost first. Maybe it's the uneasy feeling you have that you're going to pop out on someone's property and they will NOT be stoked to see some hipster gravel biker. Whatever IT is, it seems to keep pulling me back into the woods, searching for more.
If you haven't yet dipped into the class IV gravel bike world, I highly suggest you check it out. It can be a space where you don't have to worry about speed or even being on your bike. Just embrace these sloppy roads and see what those skinny gravel tires can do. If you need suggestions on where to go and maybe some mellower roads then don't be afraid to come on in and ask us. I hope to see some of you out there, and I will probably end up asking you for directions.