best-laid plans and new pedals
Sunday Ainsley and I were going to go do a mini-epic fixed-gear ride. I mapped out the Greenwood-Troy-Greenwood
loop at routeslip.com, looked at it, and emailed Ainsley with the suggestion that we amend the route. To clip it, we would skip the (glorious!) dirt roads down near the Long Cane Massacre site, complete with the magnificent bridge over Long Cane Creek built by the National Guard. It looked like a good plan, and Ainsley and I figured we could do the ride in a reasonable amount of time.
Ana and I went out Saturday night, catching a show up at the Handlebar by the Killer Whales. I hadn't seen the Whales play since, oh, 1985 or so. It was a good show, though it ran later than I thought it would. I got to bed about 3:00 a.m. Sunday morning and wondered what sort of shape I'd be in for the ride.
Ah, but it rained Sunday morning, and rained more heavily as the day wore on. It's early in the autumn here, and we're not yet ready to ride dirt roads on the rain the way we will be come January. So instead of riding, I stayed home and lolled on the couch and set routes up on routeslip.com.
Saturday afternoon I had come home from riding to find a box from Nashbar waiting for me. After replacing all my clipless pedals with clips and straps in 2001, I had broken down and gotten myself a set of Crank Brothers Egg Beater pedals and some shoes to go with them. I'd put them on the Trek and set the cleats up and managed a very short hop around the block to check them out.
Tuesday evening I got to give them a workout. I got off to a tardy start and found myself chasing folks who had already headed out. First I caught Tommy Davis, who was fighting with a dysfunctional headlamp bracket. I took a couple of mini breaks, one to tighten cleats, a couple more to tweak my saddle height. I finally dialed it in correctly right before I hit the roller coaster on the way to Memorial Bridge.
Tommy was on my wheel by this point. Shortly after Memorial Bridge, I saw a flash of red that I knew was Campbell's jersey. I dug in and chased, feeling my calves working more than they had in ages while I spun the cranks. Shortly before the really bad rock garden, I caught up to Campbell and Jim.
"You're riding with the walking wounded," Campbell said. "Jim's nursing a bad knee, and I've hurt my back again."
Yeah, tell me another. But this time they really were, and the pace came down. When we hit the road again, Jim and Campbell turned back. Tommy and I went back and forth over whether to do the same. The trail won out, and we went forward, getting in another fifteen minutes before turning back.
Tommy led back to the road before telling me I should push on. So I did. I was warmed up now and getting used to being locked into the pedals. Climbs I'd been standing on last week I took seated and sliding way back on the saddle. I could really feel my calves working now, and hoped I could finish the ride without popping or pulling anything.
Coming off Memorial Bridge, I saw Tom and his crew approaching, with Big Zack in tow.
"Taking you for a drag?" I asked.
"Yeah, you could say that," he said.
After hearing that Jim and Campbell weren't that far up the trail, I took off. I switched my lights on and went for it. I settled into the handlebar extensions and kept my hands off the brakes as much as I could. It got darker, and I wondered if I'd be using the force to steer before much longer.
I hit the switchbacks and climbed up them faster than I had ever taken them. I felt better going into the roller coaster than I could ever remember, staying seated almost all the way up.
Then it got dark enough that the lights became a problem. I'm currently using a set of cheapies that clamp onto the handlebars. That's all well and good, except for when you need to see ahead to the turn coming up, while your handlebars - and light - are still facing straight ahead.
I started riding with my hands on the brake levers now, settling down to a slower pace. Too dark, too hard to see, and I'm just not into falling down and going boom. I still hopped over a couple of logs on the way back, and before I expected it I was rolling down the final slope to the cars.
I had 13.2 miles for the ride and a decent average speed even with the slow sections.