June 6th 2009 was our 6-year anniversary, and the 100 Grand Tour in Grand Rapids happened to fall on the same date this year. Since both Holly and I had been cycling so much lately to commute, and both of had our road bikes ready for such a ride, we signed up - seemed like a good way to spend the day, plus my sister lives out that way so it would be a good excuse to see her. I placed an order for some cycling shorts, got all the spare tubes and water bottles we would need for the ride, and we settled on the 65 mile distance, which was the second-longest available route (105 miles was the longest), but long enough to say we accomplished something without spending all day riding.
When the day came, our shorts had not yet arrived of course, so I made do with some Lands' End shorts and a wool t-shirt, and Holly wore her running shorts and a wool-blend jersey. We mounted the Fuji and 650B Trek up to the Honda's bike rack, and drove to the start point. The day turned out to be brisk in the morning, about 45 degrees or so, and many were wearing jackets of one type or another, but I figured, correctly it turned out, that just shorts and a shirt would be plenty warm enough once we started rolling. The first leg was about 22 miles, which we stretched to 25 thanks to a missed turn. This ride is definitely not a race, though of course it's always fun to count how many slower people you pass. We counted 15 in the first leg, which made us feel good about ourselves. Tip: if you want to pass people, start near the back. The slower riders will drift towards you, and the faster riders are mostly ahead of you already. I had a pretty easy time of it, and the weight advantage of the Fuji over the Trek was pretty obvious on the hills, which I could climb quickly while Holly had to gear down to make it. On the flats and downhills, though, the Trek kept up quite well, which makes me think that, given a nicer set of wheels, it would be at least the Fuji's equal on long jaunts like this.
The second leg wasn't as successful, with lots of faster riders speeding past us. It showed that we were new to this, on our lugged steel "classics," as one rider (who we later passed) called them. Most riders had full-on gear, with the latest and most fashionable spandex jerseys and padded shorts, and carbon or aluminum wonderbikes with indexed shifting, 18 speeds, and backpack hydration systems. Not saying that such things aren't nice to have, but when we spent a grand total of maybe $500 between our two bikes and their outfits alone cost more, well, I couldn't help but smile a little when we passed by a few, or watched as they had to tension their spokes at each pit stop.
Of course, we got passed by a few of them at a good clip too, enough so that we finished the second leg -3, for +12 on the day so far. The middle section was all rural country roads, with long stretches of pavement framed by cows on one side, and corn on the other. We encountered our only asshole of the day here, where a truck driver decided it would be fun to drive 50 miles an hour on the opposite shoulder, spraying dust everywhere. Wish I had a brick to throw at him.
The third, and last, leg saw a return into town over some very hilly terrain, and broken pavement once we neared the more populous streets. As we entered the final 10 miles, catastrophe of the worst kind befell me. I fell off the bike in an epic fashion, while braking to a stop but failing to get my foot out of the pedals in time. In front of other riders, of course. A scraped knee, hand, and bruised ankle were the result, a little easier to tolerate than the damage to my ego. Even so, my true nightmare of a roadside flat fix never came to be, and we rolled in at 2:00 or so, adding another 18 riders passed on this segment, a nice round 30 passes net on the day, one of which was on the only bike that looked older than ours, a nice Schwinn Paramount. In the end, we weren't all that sore aside from my scrapes, and the wool shirt I had chosen proved to be amazingly odor-free even after the long ride and my decision not to wear deodorant! Holly and I had a lot of fun, and we're certainly planning more long rides in the future.
Say you will
9 hours ago