The Noob’s Guide to Club Rides: How to Properly Lube a Chain… OR Why we wipe the excess lube off of the chain before we ride in a #$U*&$% group!
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls… This is going to be a very short, simple post. Please, for the love of God and all that is Holy, after you lube your chain for the big club ride, so it is all nice and quiet, wipe off the flippin’ excess lube so it doesn’t splash all over those who are following behind you… All over their $20 socks, $170 kit, $200 helmet, $200 shoes, and more important, their $5,000 frickin’ bike:
Obviously it was pretty easy to get the lube off of my bike and my legs but my socks and kit are going to take some work. Point is, that s#!t’s just rude.
22 Glorious Miles Per Hour. 30 miles. 1h:20m and some change.
High, thin wispy cirrus clouds, 72 degrees (22 C), abundant sunshine and a tiny 6 mph wind out of the northeast. Perfect.
Now, please allow me the dalliance of rewinding just a little bit. I took a rain day off on Sunday, which was good. I had a lot of days in a row, more than a week, and it seemed as though my performance was dropping a little bit. Let’s say it was harder to ride really fast.
Monday, rather than hammering out my afternoon sixteen (which is standard after a day off), I rode with my wife and we did a wonderful recovery pace, completing the ride in just over 56 minutes.
Here’s the trick: I know that I’m going to have to be at the top of my game on Tuesday evening. I can wreck myself on Monday so I have a good excuse for getting dropped on Tuesday, but I don’t roll like that. I want to be able to give it my best and if that’s not good enough, I’m okay with that. To thine own self be true.
Driving home from the office I was just a little bit stiffer than I’d have liked. Even though that ride with my wife Monday evening should have loosened the legs up fairly well. This was doubt’s foothold. “Maybe I should take an Aleve when I get home. This is going to be a tough day with great weather and no wind, I hope I can keep up. I’ll bet I get dropped early.” And that’s all it takes folks. If I had stayed on this path in my head, entirely made up with the help of a little bit of stinkin’ thinkin’, I’d have been sunk. A wry smile stretched across my face. “I’m going to kick my ass tonight. You there, in the back (to the melon committee), you’d better buckle up, punk. It’s gonna be a rough ride.”
I skipped the Aleve. I don’t need no stinking Aleve. I prepped my stuff, pumped up the tires, loaded everything and was out the door…
The 8 mile warm up was slow to start, Mike and I had some catching up to do, but once we turned north, into the wind (and we single-file it for traffic – it’s a busier road) I took the lead and ramped the pace up to 19, then 20 mph. A mile later and with a right turn (still into a crosswind – ENE wind) and Mike took a turn keeping it between 19.5 and 20. Then Phill’s turn, then mine and I took it up to 22. I was ready to go.
20 minutes later, after a few laps around the block to keep our warm up, we were set to roll. It was a fairly big group but we were short some horses. What this normally means is a see-saw ride where the horses take off when they’re up front and we A- guys slow it down when we have the lead. I like fast and steady more than the see-saw. Mike and I had the lead and a gap right out of the gate with a tandem and one other guy. We slowed up for a second to wait for the group and then slowly took it to 22 (the first mile is just a touch too early for a break). After our turn up front, several of the horses met up with us as Mike and I faded back. That was the last time we saw anything slower than 24, except intersections that required we stop.
The pace was brutally fast and I was wondering just how long I’d be able to keep it up. I was taking a lot of turns up front because of the crazy pace, though they were mercifully short (45 seconds to 1-1/2 minutes). I fell back on my normal “get me through this rough stretch” thought: “You never get fast at the back”. I hung on and gave it everything I had and then some more. I decided right there, maybe ten miles into the ride, that I wasn’t going home wishing I’d have given it just a little bit more. We steadied out at about 26 mph and that’s when things smoothed out and mellowed just a little. At my normal turn, just two miles shy of the hills, I headed to the back of the pack at an intersection that I’ve picked as my “gotta rest up for the hills” strategic fall back spot.
Three miles later, we were into the hills and I was ready. I had no problem maintaining the 22-23 mph pace and was set for the bigger two sets coming up. Unbelievably, when we turned back into the breeze, the pace picked up. We were climbing hills at 24 mph! Though they’re not all that steep, they’re more than a quarter-mile long… The pace was insanely tough, but I was dug in. I was sticking around. At our normal drop point, rather than my usual “blaze of glory charge off the front”, a few of us chose to let a gap form when the lead tandem took a small downhill up to 35 mph to carry momentum to the biggest hill of the ride… So I decided I was going to catch them. I was behind a guy and as soon as he started to fade, I told him to hang on, that we were going to catch the group. He got behind me and I put the hammer down – a little too hard, a little too fast. I dropped everybody, had only made up half of the 800′ gap and was out in the wind alone heading into the biggest hill at almost 30 mph. Worse, I was cooked.
I concentrated on getting up the hill before the guys behind me caught me. If I couldn’t crest that hill before they caught me, I was going to be off the back of my group and I’d be left to suffer home alone (by the way, that’s not the Royal, “my” as in to imply ownership, that’s “the group I hang with” my). I was darn near hyperventilating by the time I crested that hill but I had enough of a gap on the guys behind me to recover – and recover I did… It took them almost a mile to catch me.
I had no idea where we were for average but I knew we were up there. Five miles later and after forming a decent five person group, I hit the mode button a couple of times on the computer to check our average. After all of that slow riding up hills and letting the others catch up we were still at 22.1. I was fourth bike of five so I hollered to let everyone know where we were so that we could try to preserve the 22 over that last five miles. Unfortunately, only Craig and I had any legs left. Mike was reduced to shorter and shorter turns up front, and Phill was giving valiant efforts but he was reduced to 20-21 mph. Chuck, the last of our group, had put in a monster turn up front but I think that fried him as well. Craig and I it was. Every time I came to the front, I accelerated steadily till I was comfortably between 22 and 24 (keep in mind, this is into the wind) and held it there for as long as I could. As the miles ticked away, mine and Craig’s time at the front grew longer and longer. On the last mile, with the thought of a 21.9 looming, I took the final turn for the full mile. I started out at 21 after Craig flicked off, took it to 22, then steadily stepped on the gas till I hit 23…
Half a mile left and I was ugly. Form was for crap and I was mashing the pedals to hold at 24. I held my line but even that was getting messy. I started resorting to breathing techniques to slow my heart rate down, concentrating on breathing out fully and letting my lungs fill naturally rather than trying to breathe in deeply (it works by the way, give it a try). I leveled out and held the 24 till I could see the finish line, then I stepped on the gas to discourage any sprints… And there it was, 22.0, right on the nose. 29-1/2 miles, just a few ticks over 1:20.
To say I was smoked at the end of that ride is an understatement of epic proportions. I was entirely done. I gave that ride every last bit of energy I had, no BS, no excuses…and my best riding came 20 miles after I thought about dropping off the back because it was getting too tough.
It doesn’t get any better than that.