Saturday morning, late August.
We started out at 7:30. It had stopped raining at 4:30 am. I know this because I was awake. Unfortunately rain was still in the forecast but we had a three or four hour window so I chose to take my rain bike, a ’99 carbon Trek 5200. I’ve got my Venge completely ready for my four-day 380 mile tour next week and I’m not about to ride it in conditions that would have me stripping the whole thing down to clean it up…
There is one thing I like about the Trek, even over the Venge at times. It has a triple. The Venge, even with its pro compact, just doesn’t have the climbing gears the Trek does. On the other hand, the Venge, with all of my tools and two full water bottles, is lighter than the 5200 with nothing on it. My buddy Mike calls our 5200’s (he has one as his rain bike too) “The Tanks”. There’s a four pound difference between my Venge and 5200.
Mike and Chuck, on the other hand, had their “A” bikes which meant I was going to work today… I tried to block the negative side of that thought out and concentrate on the positive aspect – I was going to get some work in today. Avid cyclists know exactly what that last sentence is getting at. If you don’t get it, keep coming back and pedal harder. You will.
The asphalt was mostly dry and since the last time we took this route they’d repaved it. It was some beautifully smooth sailing. They even added a decent shoulder so we rarely had to deal directly with traffic. Even so, our journey wasn’t without its entire asses (much more than just the stink-eye, they were the entire ass) who felt it necessary to lean on their horn for a quarter of a mile, then crowd us, giving us a whole foot as they passed. Ah well, a day in the life.
On we rode, along the normal southeastern Michigan terrain, a little up hill here, a little downhill there… Not Ohio or Florida flat, but considering I’ve logged some good miles in Kentucky, North Carolina and northern Georgia, we’re pretty flat up here in Michigan.
Then we came to the GM Proving Grounds… Now there are some decent hills there. Nothing we can’t climb at 15 mph but they make you work, that’s for certain. However, we didn’t turn where we should have to start up the second hill… we kept on, heading south. Up a hill, down a hill, up again. We turned into Kensington Metropark. We stopped at the first place we could and I checked the radar. The rain was moving in on us but we had two hours or so before it hit us… Plenty of time – kind of.
Kensington has a Rollerblade / running path that I used to frequent until they slapped a ridiculous speed limit on it (10 mph, my best time for the 8 miles was 24m:30s, double the speed limit). Kensington is anything but flat. In fact there are two awesome climbs that had me in the baby ring. Not the granny gear but pretty close.
Remember I was on the tank, the rain bike? Yeah, I felt every extra pound on those climbs. I managed, I kept up, but it hurt and I had to work hard to do it.
We spent about a half-hour in the park before turning for home. I knew we’d have another decent, long climb when we went by the Proving Grounds again but I wasn’t prepared for the one we hit just before that… All of a sudden, there it was, a real monster. Had to be a mile long and better than 10%. Not quite granny gear worthy, but close. The next three miles were darn near all uphill and the tank was weighing on me.
Ten miles from home and the sky to the west started darkening. It was going to be close. Last year, riding with Chuck and Mike was tough. They were the hammers and I was along for the ride. This year I caught up a little bit. It’s more like three hammers now, so we each took long turns up front. The miles ticked off and the sky grew ugly.
Then we hit the home stretch and took it easy for the last mile. 58-1/2 miles, 18.4 mph with some major climbing. We packed up, hit the road and not three minutes later the sky opened up. Unbelievable.
970 miles on the month and we’re doing 50 this morning. Decent weather report, decent temp, and a bunch of friends. Another perfect weekend.