My longest bike ride yet

For the two days of the week that I rode, I logged in almost 41 miles (the first trip lasted just under 9 miles). That Saturday, my legs felt better, so I decided to ride with a group. The group left from one of the nearby running stores and rode north, offering 20-, 35-, or 50-mile rides, starting along a bike trail for the first 10 miles. I chose to ride for 20 miles; since I rode to the store, my total distance was longer. It was during this ride when I worked on some climbing technique. Although the route that I rode didn’t have many tough hills, there were some slightly challenging climbs.

The next day, I tried to take the same ride. I got up much earlier for this one, so I was dragging almost the entire way. I made 8 miles and decided to head back. But then I decided to venture out onto another branch of the trail. So my endurance ride would turn into a leisurely exploration ride. I also turned a potentially 16-mile ride into a 24-mile ride. So over the weekend, I ended up riding 52 miles; for the week, I rode 93.21 miles. I fell shy of my all-time longest week of 93.51 by only 0.3 miles. Not a bad week, but I could go longer yet.

So when one wants to go longer, what does one do? In my case, I called Josh again and said, “Hey, the weather is great outside. Are you up for riding again today?” He was, so we agreed to meet at the same place and take a longer route.

We headed out the same way we went the previous week. The weather was warm, and a much weaker wind made riding much easier. Unlike the previous week when we had to fight with the wind, riding out this time felt really good. We cruised down that same highway, made it to the turn, and flew up and over into the adventure that lay ahead.

As we rode on, Josh asked me if I was up for a 30+ miler, or if I preferred the same route. I said, “Bring it on!” Then, he warned me about a massive hill along the way. I said, “I can’t wait!” I was thinking, “oh s***, what did I just sign up for?” But I thought that if it was only one massive hill, how bad could the entire ride be? I was about to find out.

We rode through a subdivision that feature’s Gray’s beer. As we rode through the subdivision, I started recognizing the style of houses as that of a popular local builder. A sign further on proved me right. We breezed past the subdivision and out onto another highway.

Crossing highways can be a treacherous situation. When it’s clear, it’s not such a bad thing. But cars and trucks come flying at 55 mph. When riding, it is sometimes difficult to judge distances and speed. Plus, you’re assuming that the motorist can see you. As much as I love riding, I also realize the reality of it. It is one of the most humbling experiences, and if you ride, you learn how to start watching out for other riders.

We rode out further west, up a highway, and into another subdivision. There was one mean hill in this neighborhood. Josh and I rode to pick up momentum, but it was only enough to get up about a third of the way before I had to push on the cranks. This was where I got a really good chance to try the newer climbing technique of setting to one gear and powering it out. What worked Saturday seemed to work somewhat up this hill. After hitting the top, I caught my breath and waited for Josh before riding on. This hill was a doozy, but it was only an inkling of what was in store.

Josh and I continued our journey south, then east. As we rode, the roadway continued to roll up and down. We turned left onto another road, and Josh suggested we take a break for a moment. This was when he warned me of the upcoming super nasty hill. His warning: “this is one where you shift to your little ring, big cog, and just give it all you got.”

He wasn’t kidding. Although it was a small drop downhill to the base of the hill, the climb was long and arduous. I entered with as much momentum as I could gain. As I started the climb, I shifted down. The momentum rapidly slipped away; I had to pedal with everything I had, trying to keep myself from burning out. The entire time, all I could do was focus on making it up the hill. “Go, go, go” I told myself. “Get up.”

Finally at the top, Josh met me up there to take yet another brief break and to warn me of what’s ahead. From here, we were to turn right and descend rapidly; the hills we’d be flying down would allow us to pick up some serious air. He mentioned a blind driveway along the way, so we also had to be careful.

As we flew down that hill, I thought that this was the best reward for such a serious climb. My top speed was 39 mph; now that’s fast! Josh later mentioned that he broke 40, but he did recommended not trying it.

We continued along the way and I noticed that we were on Paoli Rd. We would have to ride back the same way as last time, passing through Paoli and heading up the latter half of the same route we took last time. Again, we encountered the two difficult hills. But this time, I could climb them with a little more strength… just a little more. I was still tired from the climb, but we kept moving.

We made our way back to the highway heading out. This time, it seemed like a long, monotonous road. That’s when it dawned on me: I really like curves… uh, in the road. I like swaying and turning; I love being able to maneuver through a trail. That’s a big part of what makes me like cycling so much. Don’t get me wrong, I also like making myself move fast on my own power and getting around on a bicycle. But one of my thrills on the bike is turning. Well, that and going down hills. Of course that means I have to climb hills, which I’m not a big fan of. But I’ll leave that discussion for another day.

As we approached the light in the suburb where we met another rider the previous week, a group of different riders joined up behind us. We were all headed essentially in the same direction. But these guys looked like real cyclists: a number of them had matching team jerseys, slick cycling helmets, and cool sunglasses. Although I was dressed for the same thing, I almost felt like I was back on my hybrid, feeling like a newbie in a world completely new to me.

The pack of cyclists rode with us for a couple of miles before breaking off, and they thanked us for riding along (cyclists can be nice guys). Josh and I made our way back to where we met again, this time without any serious aches or pains (well, for me anyway). The only thing I felt was tired. We agreed to hit golf balls at the driving range next time, and I was on my way back home.

I rolled up to the sidewalk and read my computer: 40.25 miles. This was my longest continuous ride ever. It was a great ride, and I enjoyed every mile of it. As I reflect back, I also am thrilled at the fact that I conquered some serious hills.

Now I’m ready for the next hill: work. Bike to Work Week is around the corner, so I better keep riding and conditioning.

Part 1: Pilot inaugural ride

Part 2: Making up for a short ride

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