Sunday, April 7, 2013

Trail riding on my commuter

On Saturday I rode in the Ride Studio Cafe's Diverged ride (not sure how long this page will last).  The ride was a crazy linking of any and all dirt roads and trails that one could conceivably ride on within 6 or so miles of their shop.  The ride was initially advertised as taking 3-4.5 hours for the 45 mile ride and that is the numbers I had in my head as I rode over with my friend Bobby.  The day turned out to be quite cold.  I went for a short walk with my older son shortly before riding there and it left me chilled, influencing me to alter my layering.  I originally intended to wear tights plus two polypro layers below my cycling jersey with a fleece vest and a mid weight Patagucci cycling jacket over that.  I changed the top two layers to a Patagucci R2  fleece with a full zipper softshell on top.  I abandoned the fleece at RSC before the ride and didn't regret that decision.

I was freezing on the way to Bobby's house and I was already late.  He was ready to roll when I pulled up and we took the back way to RSC.  I had trouble keeping up with him even though it was his first ride of the year.  And I was still cold despite the physical effort.  We made it to RSC to find that a lot of other people did as well.  There was 80 signed up, according to an email that Bobby received and the shop was crowded with perhaps a lot more than 80 people.  There was also good bread and biscuits with lots of honey (the ride being sponsored by Honey bikes to show off their all season rando and big tire all road bikes) and I enjoyed some along with a cappuccino with honey - which I enjoyed more than I thought I might - and pre-ride water.  I saw Pamela  Blalock's brand new all road (picked up that morning), which was fabulous and much lighter than my Surly.  I also briefly met Lovely Bike as she took photos of Bobby's new Tomii, which is also a fabulous bike, and saw her nicely set up Rawland.  The Tomii is getting lots of press and it deserves it - the frame is exquisite and the build clean and spare.

Rob Vandermark gave a short description of the ride and encouraged us to pick the right group to go with, depending on hard we wanted to work.  I chose the 4th of 5 groups, the same as Bobby.  Rob also gave much different times for completing the ride - 5 or 6 hours for the slowest groups.  I missed the call  for our group and watched as everyone crossed Mass Ave and ran my bike across to join them, not quite ready to roll.  I managed to get on my bike on time and made the light along with the group.  

If you have read many of my prior posts, you know that I am not a group rider generally but I do consider myself a competent rider.  This ride caught me by surprise.  We were on narrow walkways and paths right away and the speeds and proximity that people passed me was breathtaking.  Like in the D2R2, I was wishing for a more stable ride and maybe more experience, or both, as riders sped past me or rode my rear wheel - or so it felt.  The ride continued on pavement and in the woods at what seemed a fairly fast pace and I constantly felt like someone was on my tail until I was at the end of our group.  My group started with 15 or so people and grew to the low 20s after we passed a group whose leader was working on a mechanical.  I often let these people know that it was fair to pass me since I knew I wouldn't be the fastest person on the ride.  Despite Rob V.'s calls to keep the rider behind you in sight that didn't always happen but for the first half of the ride there was always someone waiting at the least obvious turns and I never got lost.  And I missed the second half of the ride because I ran out of time.  The ride had some significantly steep but short climbs and I usually could power through these but I was getting increasingly tired.  The long paved stretches proved even more difficult to keep up.  I slowed for Bobby along the Mystic Lakes as he is coming off elbow surgery.  When we pulled up with the group they were ready to roll again while I was ready for a snack.  I took a couple of bites of a Kind bar and powered on as Bobby headed off to home, giving his elbow a break.

I barely kept up until the Arlington Reservoir when a group of fast riders left the ride for reasons that likely weren't related to fatigue.  I stayed with the remaining group through a snack at a convenience store on Mass Ave in Lexington and then followed the group towards Sunderland Park and eventually towards Wilson Farm, always trailing behind.  I lost the group right as we came to the edge of woods just east of the farm.  I saw two riders pull away and didn't see the group again.  I had planned on abandoning the ride at the next road crossing so there was no great loss though I had promised the group leader that I would let him know when I bailed.  I headed on the bike path to Lexington to grab my fleece.  While there, RSC's mechanic, Jeff, was kind and adjusted my headset, a Cane Creek S3, which was starting to feel loose on the ride.  I'm sorry I didn't get a Chris King for this bike.  After I left RSC, I headed to Arlington to vote for a better Mass Ave (which lost narrowly but was not binding) then rode home.  I was on the Diverged ride for about 22 miles and my odometer said I rode a total of 35 miles that day.

There were a lot of nice people on the ride, besides Bobby, including Steve and Amy, who are new to Boston, Steve J. from HUP who I know from trips to Prouts Neck, Brian from Royal H who I met at the Firefly party, and Brad from Geekhouse, who was riding his bRad, which is an amazing bicycle.  I'd love to have a bike like Brad's for a cross country tour and a lot of other riding.

The ride was fine on my commuter but would have appreciated better off road tires.  Suspension was hardly required for this ride but might have been nice for a novice like me.  There were times when descending steep pitches that I would have appreciated upright bars so I would not have leaned so far forward on descents while braking.  Otherwise the bike was fine.  The gearing worked for me with a 30/32 low combination.

The ride was tough by every measure.  From the rugged and often rocky trails, the infrequent but slippery exposed tree routes, the number of riders and their speed and close proximity, to the cold temperatures at the start and the intensely cold wind getting to the start, it all seemed challenging.  And given that I had less than 200 miles in for the year before the ride, plus about 10 hours spinning in my basement, I was hardly in the best shape.  It was, however, quite fun.  The staff at RSC, Rob, Patria, Jeff, and the very overworked barristas, where all in great humor despite the crowds and confusion.  The other riders were great company.  I was familiar with several of the trails and, with one exception, never rode them or thought of riding them.  So it was a success for me.

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