After 2 months of riding the 1×7 to work and pugsley on the trails I was wondering if there was going to be any way for me to keep up on a long distance ride. The Trucker has been apart in the basement — in need of shifters, cables, a chain, new brake pads, the rear wheel was a bit out of true, and who knows what else. By Thursday I was starting to think that I wouldn’t have the time to get it back together by Sunday for the latest Ramble. I woke up to cold nasty rain on Saturday, brewed some coffee and got to work so I could test it out while the clouds were supposed to part in the afternoon. Progress was good but the weather didn’t cooperate and I ended up riding around in the rain for an hour with screeching maladjusted brakes while fiddling with the barrel adjusters on my rear derailer. Turns out that the cassette was too worn to mesh properly with the new chain. Despite the fact that I had to ride in freezing rain to test everything out the promise of a sunny Sunday ride with highs in the 40’s was enough to keep me excited.
Even though I was all keyed up and didn’t fall asleep until after 11:30 I was still out of bed 5:45 and out the door 6:15. The city skyline was washed in deep blue hues and the riding was some of the most peaceful of the day. Bob was waiting at the corner of Carroll Park and I saw Isaias’ “car-bright-on-low” headlamp coming up the trail 2 minutes later as Bob went across the street to grab a sandwich from the Burger King that was just opening. We rode out to BWI and met up with the rest of the group which was much larger than I expected for February, but then again it WAS a very nice forecast…
Riding out to Annapolis was the best part of the day for me. The roads were great, traffic volume was low, and I was still fresh at the ‘under 50 mile mark’. There are many parts of the route in this area I want to recycle in other rides.
It didn’t take long after mile 50 for me to completely fade out. Should’ve ate my Wheaties. After wrestling with the little winds and the small hills for an hour or 2 I was ready to be off the bike for a while. I pulled into the pizza hut rest stop around 1:30 (Whayyye behind schedule), and much to my amazement there were still bikes parked out front. The rest of the pack was finishing up but I wanted hot food and a half hour off the bike so I bid them farewell after a few minutes. Just as well since the best I could hope for in the afternoon was to maintain my pace from the morning and that wasn’t going to cut it.
Back on the bike, I felt pretty good. A few miles up the road and the breeze was finally at my side and back for a change. The down side to taking a few extra minutes for lunch was now I was competing with the sun to see who could get to the horizon first. Can’t wait for May and June when I have the upper-hand again… This time around the sun was winning. I was trying to keep my speed up and get off of shoulderless Folly Quarter rd. when I felt the familiar bounce of a slow leak. $@#!$@!. Pulled over by someone’s trash cans and after searching the tire inside-out for 3 minutes there wasn’t anything embedded in the tread. 1 fresh tube later I was on my way. The Schwalbe Marathon Supremes have about 3900 miles on them so they were worth it, but they’re thin and 0 for 2 with flats on recent long rides. It’s time for them to go away now.
Finally I was back on a main road and the relief of seeing a green bike route sign and having a glorious 1.5 foot wide shoulder made all the extra traffic seem invisible. I checked the cue and noticed I was about 1/2 hour out from Ellicott City so I called the cavalry to come rescue me. In the meantime all that was left to do was roll into town and grab a beer at the Ellicott Mills Brewing Co. – Can’t remember the style I had and wish I written it down b/c it was great, and their (bleh, Flash) site doesn’t have up to date info on it. Been a while since I had a local microbrew on tap and it tasted goooood. The wife arrived before I could finish pint #1 and we were off. Trying to shove my bike in the back seat of the sag sedan was not fun. Guess I should research a rack …
Things that worked:
>> Backpack Storage: I never liked backpacks, especially for long rides. I got a hydration pack with a big storage compartment years ago that’s been sitting in my closet and I took it (sans bladder) to carry light/bulky stuff like my pump, trail mix, and extra pairs of hats & gloves. It would be an understatement to say that it was nice to have a dry pair of gloves and a hat at mile 70.
>> Garmin Etrex and Routes: On a whim last week I experimented with making a route to import to the gps using the Garmin Roadtrip software and the Waypoints from Bob’s Bikely cue sheet information. The route with turn-by-turn info worked flawlessly, but it was tedious to build because Roadtrip imports the waypoints alphabetically (why?!?) forcing me to rearrange them manually. A quick look at the .gpx file tonight in my favorite text editor revealed a nicely formatted xml schema which should make it easy to build a script for auto-numbering waypoints to keep them in order and possibly auto-segment the tracks into gps-manageable chunks. Minor data issues aside, the E-trex saved my ass from becoming completely lost on one occasion when I turned at the wrong circle and went 2-3 miles off course. Even without a more complex basemap I was able to get back to the route without doing too much backtracking by zooming out and looking for the track.
>> Navigation Layout:
Years ago I got one of those map holders that’s supposed to lash to the bars on either side of the stem. Problem was it was too large and sat so far back that I’d always knock it with my legs when climbing out of the saddle. I hacked it to make it just the right size for a 1/4 folded cue sheet and reformulated the mounts to push it up and right on the bar. Now everything is right where I need it.
From underneath it looks like something I made during craft time at summer camp. There’s the flat side of a milk jug sewn to the bottom. It stiffens the map holder and keeps the velcro strap from ripping through the slots I cut in the back. So far it works great!
>> Layers: This December I got some Columbia Cyclocross pants on closeout and some Novara Headwind pants with the intent of trying both and using what worked best. The answer? BOTH! The headwind pants make a nice warm baselayer and the cyclocross pants block out the moisture. It was especially toasty on the day-before ride. None of the rain got through. Still have problems with my torso overheating, but I had my jacket 3/4 open all day so I guess that’s just par for the course with me. Rather be a little sweaty than cut back on layers and end up with the chills.
Stuff that didn’t:
>> Garmin Etrex is here too…
I noticed it was rattling around on the bars for the last 40 miles or so. When I got home I gave it a look-see and noticed that the retaining screw on the mount adapter was loose. I put 1 drop of blue loctite on the bolt and finger-tightened the mount, then put it on the handlebars for some photos. When I took it off it came apart in about 5286 little pieces. Now there might have been a chemical reaction between the plastic and the loctite, but I kind of doubt it. More likely that it vibrated to the point of stress fracturing over the 180 or so miles that I’ve ridden. If you have one of these bad boys please do yourself a favor and lasso the Etrex to your handlebars with the leash Garmin put in the box.
>> Food: Last ride there was a big meal just after mile 40. With the normal amount I eat in the morning that appears to be just about the limit of how far I can ride before I fall flat. I thought I’d be ok because I consumed about 1500 calories of trail mix with lots of simple carbs and a bit of protein in the form of nuts at the first rest stop plus some energy drink but by mile 50ish on the cue (70ish for me) I was dragging like all hell. The hills weren’t that large, the headwind wasn’t that fierce and my miles haven’t fallen off THAT much in winter. Food is the only other thing I can think of. I did bounce back a bit after destroying an entire medium pizza at lunch, but riding for 20 miles on weak legs abused my butt a little more than than it’s accustomed to. There was no recovering from that.
>> Feet: I’ve been on-again-off-again with clipless pedals for years. The last iteration I yanked them because…
- most of my rides were in the city or short commutes and I was tired of changing shoes every day at work.
- I was only really riding one bike per season and storing the others in the basement.
- I didn’t like my new pair of shoes, and my older/favorite pair was beat to death.
Now I’m pretty sure I want to bring them back because…
- I’m turning the Trucker into less of a multi-purpose bike and more of a long distance machine.
- When you’re riding for 50+ miles at a shot the constant corrections to keep your foot on the sweet spot of flat pedals become more annoying than changing your shoes when you get there.
- The Grip Kings with my pinning modifications are nice and grippy, but 1 time out of 5, they’re TOO grippy and I get my foot stuck on the wrong spot. 1 time in 5 they’re not grippy enough.
- Toe clips are fine for in-city riding, but if I’m going through the hassle of stepping into something it might as well be double sided and have a quick/easy release mechanism too. Boots don’t fit in clips anyway.
- I experimented with boots and thick sock combinations all winter long. It was over 40 out and my big left toe was STILL frozen at the first rest stop. Time for me to get a nice pair of shoes, some booties and some chemical warmers to keep in my bag for emergencies.
numbers: – 8:26’50″ | miles – 110.83 | average 13.1 | elev gain: 3788′
All cursing aside it was a nice ride and I had quite a few of those golden moments when I was out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but my thoughts and a little bit of road noise from the tires. It’s kind of ironic that every time I visit the idea of wanting to ride a century on my own terms and being close I get a little greedier. At first it was to just ride centuries. Then it was to finish during daylight in the summer. Now it appears I’m not totally satisfied unless I can run 140 mile loops during daylight hours in the winter…
The day did not go the way I wanted, so I just keep reminding myself that it’s February and I’ve got the whole year to work on it. Its been a years-long road to get from zero to this level of fitness and I’ve only got a bit to go till I feel really good about my riding. A few more tweaks to my routine and I’ll be back.