The relatively wet and warm winter has given way to a lush green spring, here in the sunny South. The skies are brilliant blue and the azaleas in particular, but not alone, are exhibiting especially dense coloration. Almost overnight, there are green leaves on the Arapaho crepe myrtles and red ones all over the Japanese maple. Ivy is already in need of trimming to keep it off the garage windows as it fulfills its intended purpose of providing cover on that brick wall. The desiccated looking brown sticks left from last year’s hydrangea blooms are shooting all kinds of new green buds and of course, there are weeds everywhere. I’ve already uprooted a ton of them. The autumn blaze maple out front is showing red tiplets and the tiniest little signs of new life are now showing on the oak tree out back. The maple always leafs out ahead of the oak. It loses its leaves in the fall earlier as well.
And that’s just our yard. Get on a bike and pedal around and there is beauty to see everywhere. Saturday, we rode the Autauga-Elmore metric. It’s a big loop that starts near home in Prattville and winds through Millbrook, Coosada, Elmore, Slapout, Marbury, Posey Crossroads and back to Prattville. The first ½ is fairly level and the back half is anything but. 8 riders turned out, including new rider John G, and nearly new rider Robert B who rode with us for the first time last week down in Greenville. Robert is a strong rider and fits right in with our gang, style wise, He has a Surly Long Haul Trucker, like Frank does. They differ only in paint color. John is relatively new to cycling and picked up a 90s Diamondback road bike at a thrift shop. It is a great find. Very little usage, cleanly lugged steel frame, decent Shimano EX component set, and about the right size for him. He needs to tweak the set up, but after a ride, he has a better idea of what will be comfortable and what won’t. I suggested he find a better saddle (it currently has a TREK tush-cush. These are agony after about 10 minutes for many people) and raise his handle bars (Simple to do with his quill stem and threaded headset) and rotate them back to provide a nice flat landing area for his hands behind the brake hoods. I also suggested he ditch the Look pedals in favor of some platforms. “Riv” it out in other words. :)
We broke up into 2 groups about ½ a mile out. At the first climb actually. Steve, Joel, Robert B, and Frank powered on ahead. They finished about 45 minutes ahead of us. Rob A, Max, John, and I rode steadily, but more slowly. John had only gone up to 5 miles on a ride before, and did not notice that the advertised distance for this ride was 63. The early going was pretty flat, so he decided to come along for as far as felt okay, and then use his cell phone to call for a ride back to his car. That worked really well. Our pace was fine on the flats and just a tad slower up the hills, but the conversation was good and we all enjoyed a beautiful early morning pedal. Foggy to start, but the mist burned off quickly with the rising Sun. At the second store stop, John made his phone call and we parted company. Turns out his dad was in the steel business for many years, so we had common interests to talk about beyond cycling. Also at the 2d stop, we ran into the Club Lite group which left from Millbrook and hour after we did. The usual catch up chit chat ensued and finally after banana and bathroom breaks, we saddled up and turned uphill and into the wind. As it happened, it was calm when we started, but the Sun brought a breeze along with it and it only grew as the day went on.
We continued on at a pretty steady pace, and I was careful to keep drinking and manage my energy levels, especially up hills. The steepest grade was 14.7 according to the uploaded data, and that into a tough wind. I geared lower than I normally would have and honestly, does going 2-3 mph slower up a hill REALLY matter? Not to me. This was Rob A’s first metric century, 51 being his previous long ride and Max and I were pleased to be with him for it. Rob started to cramp pretty badly about 15 miles from the end but he was locked in on the finish line and he made it there. He says he drank plenty of water, but it was just water, and salt loss may have been the cramps culprit. It did not help that he got off work at 3:00 AM that morning, either.
I was pleased to feel almost as ready to go at the end of the ride (I rode the short distance to and from home adding a few miles) as at the beginning and not cramping in the least. No intense need for a post ride snooze either.In fact, after a shower, Sharon and I went grocery shopping. I drank about 2 oz per mile which made a huge difference for me. I have a bad habit of not drinking until well after the point that I am dehydrating. I also grabbed a banana at the 2d store stop and a fruit/nut bar at the 3rd. That was enough and hunger didn’t enter into it.
I took the Riv Road Standard bike and tried out a few changes. A new Black Rose saddle roll underneath the Brooks B17 stayed out of the way at all times. The blinky strap is placed just right and the bag expands to hold a surprising amount of stuff. Very well made and durable looking. This is my 1st item from the Pacific northwest area co-op and I like it. Speaking of the new green B17 saddle, at 300 miles since puttinf it on for the post paint job re build, it felt comfortable, dare I say broken in for the first time. Also new were the Keen cycling sandals that I got as part of a great deal (less than 1/3 of retail) from a fellow RBW list-er. I pedal in plain old Keen sandals all the time, but these have a firm sole and SPD cleats. A pair of Wellgo road pedals that had been gathering dust on the parts shelf since coming off a long gone Fuji Touring were a perfect match. It was a pleasing set up and will see service again for the Dothan Tri-States 100 next weekend. Max noticed the pedals and exclaimed, “Who are YOU and what did you do with Bruce?” Uh, yeah. Pretty much. Not to fear though. Unpadded Joneswares wool shorts, Woolistics Italian team reproduction wool jersey, Synaptic Cylces (by Walz) wool cap, and wool socks all attested to the authenticity of the rider. As did the terrapin-like pace.
Sunday afternoon, I pedaled over to Millbrook and met the social ride crowd. I took the hound dog (Riv Saluki) and just one bottle of water, expecting a low pace and chatty ride over flat terrain. Old friends Michelle, Curtis and Roxy were all there, and it’s been a long time since riding with any of them. Roxy brought 2 new riders along, and there were also Phil and Shirley, a couple from our church, who came by. So did Frank The Crank. It was very windy, and Shirley’s upright rail trail bike gave her some difficulty, so she and Phil peeled off. I thought they were headed home, but they did the whole 22 miles, just at their own pace. Curtis, Michelle and I clicked it up a notch and added some distance. Michelle has been off the bike on medical for a while, but you’d hardly know it. Still cranking a slow cadence in a big gear, she easily rolls along at 18 mph. Tying her yellow wind jacket around her waist, it billowed out behind her like a brightly hued sea anemone. Easy to spot her in the distance ahead. Curtis also looked none the worse for time off the bike. Like me, he came over from Prattville. Just more quickly. Coming back from the ride to town was a long climb into a tough wind. It slowed the ride average down, but the pace was quicker than I planned on, dressed for, had the bike for, etc. Regardless, it was all good and I am delighted to have another 100+ mile weekend in the books.