Yesterday evening I was perusing the net and checked out the Narragansett Wheelmen site. The Narragansett Wheelmen are a bike club out of Rhode Island that have been around for quite some time. I believe it may be the oldest bike club in the country. Every Sunday they put together a group ride somewhere in Southern NE. These are typical group rides - the fast folk go out first (18 or more avg speed) then the mid-range riders, and then the beginners. So far I have ridden with them three times - here's my account of all of em' - and of course the one I did just today that resulted in my first bonkage.
My first ride with the club was last year around November. It was a crazy warm day with temps nearing 70º. Truth be told at the end, I wasn't all that smitten with the group riding concept. Firstly, the ride I chose was out of Taunton, MA - as in "flat". There was a shorter ride and a 50 miler. I took off with the fast dudes and hung out near the front taking pulls from time to time. Riding in close proximity to a bunch of bikers you have never met is an exercise in everything biking isn't: It's not relaxing, and you don't enjoy the scenery - (unless it happens to be fit and jogging alongside the road). The ride took a little over 2 hours. Fairly quick, but that's to be expected when there is like maybe 200' of climbing. So at the end, due to drafting and little climbing I just didn't feel very spent or enchanted.
Being a glutton for punishment - I opted to try again this year. The chosen ride went right by our neighborhood - so I figured I'd ride solo to the start point in Central Falls (yah I know, not the kind of town you want to bring anything of value into) and finish up back at home. This ride was for a benefit supporting some Columbian team or something like that. I arrived about 20 minutes before the start and paced around to keep the juices flowing. It was a fairly hot day - so the event coordinators graciously offered everyone additional water delivered in an ice filled plastic garbage can. That was a pretty nice touch I must say. We took off at the scheduled time escorted by the police. Riding through downtown Central Falls was a bit surreal.. There was a lot of Columbian patriotism taking place - everywhere we went people were cheering (or jeering?) - giving the start a kind of parade atmosphere. We finally got out of town, and I was feeling pretty darn good. So good in fact that I laid on the hammer hard at the first big hill, laying waste to dozens of very well appointed riders. These aren't races but I just can't help myself - thankfully neither can some other guys. There was one fellow, obviously Columbian (had the team jersey) and two others able to hang. From there - our group of four tore it up. This was more like it! I am a pretty decent hill climber, so I'd pull the group up the hills and when the terrain flattened the big diesels would take over - with me barely clinging on in their wake. The Columbian guy was entirely unconcerned with things like stop signs or traffic signals - as in, he wouldn't slow down at all for them. The first complete blow-through was crossing Rte 146. He weaved across the four lane highway dodging cars moving over 50mph. Umm.. OK pal, if that's your thing... I opted to wait out the light and not give motorists any further reason to run over cyclists. Even with two water bottles and the extra water from the start I ran out with about 15 miles to go (this ride was around 50 miles as well) as it was hot, hot, hot! Near our house I bid farewell to the guys and turned off. This was more like it: Hills, and fast. Total ride mileage 56.9, time - about 2.5 hours - elevation gain: about 3,700'
So today's ride.. Again it was pretty close to home. I have kind of made it a point now not to drive to these things. The ride was a 63 miler that starts at Ponagansett HS and heads out to the hills in CT and back. I rode over to the high school (about 9 miles and got there with about 5 minutes to spare.
The chosen bike: Salsa Vaya. The Vaya is an "adventure" bike - at least that's the marketing angle. It has a steel frame and relaxed geometry with a tallish head tube. It is fitted with braze-ons everywhere to fit just about every accessory made. It also has disc-brake mounts. Yes, I know - blasphemy on a road type bike. Fact is - they work really good - especially in wet or snowy conditions, which is where I intend to use the it. There is plenty of clearance for juicy tires and fenders. My initial intention with this ride was to just have a nice and easy tour of the countryside on a very comfortable bike. Apparently I am still too immature to partake in this kind of riding. When the coordinator announced that it was time for the fast guys to go - I joined them. It really seemed like the only thing to do: While all of the fast guys were on fast bikes (the Vaya is about 29 lbs all up vs. their under 20lb machines) I knew if I rode with the mid-range folks I'd end up getting bored. The ride took off and again, at some of the first hills I was able to quickly establish myself in the hierarchy. I hung in for about 40 miles and then it hit: Bonkage. I just ran out of juice. It was so sudden and debilitating that I started negotiating with another rider "I give you a nice PB & J sandwich after the ride if you give me one of your gels". You see, I had brought only one water bottle and the PB&J sandwich. Like an idiot, I threw the sandwich in the pannier bag (another indication that I had a leisurely ride in mind from the start) but being kind of competitive, I wanted no part of stopping. Without any hesitation, this kind fellow offered up one of his gels. I thanked him profusely, and while I started squeezing it out and forcing it down I watched the group of five just kind of drift away. There was nothing I could do. To make matters worse, temps were in the low forties from the start, and supposed to move up to the mid-fifties. That never happened. The peak temperature for the day was 47º. I was wearing shorts, a light long sleeved polypro shirt, shell vest and gloves. I started getting real cold around mile 50 or so. I finally pulled over to down the sandwich and kept on keeping on. When the route got into Putnam, I was unable to resist pulling into Dunkin Donuts for a coffee. The course continued on and started following some local roads I ride from time to time. That was comforting, as I knew just how far I had to go, or so I thought. I turned off the established route and headed towards home - feeling good that I was going to be OK. Roughly 3 miles from home, I found the road was closed (#$% !!) . A bridge was completely out and there was no way I could hike the bike across. I ended up having to turn back around which meant at least 10 additional miles. Thoughts of calling for a ride started to come to mind. But I just can't do that! I think I'd rather curl up and die - further indication that I have a ways to go with immaturity. (I mean, I have a family for cripes sake!!) After 5.5 hours of riding here are the numbers - the very sad numbers:
Elevation gain: 6,150 feet
Food eaten the day before: A bowl of cereal, two eggs, two slices of Pizza and three glasses of wine
Food eaten the morning before: A bowl of cereal
The simple lesson: Next time eat some damn food a few days in advance, bring more food / beverages and take the damn fast bike!! Unless you intend to ride in a leisurely fashion. Right.
Well, I should go now. My right hamstring starting to cramp up.