At the request of a couple of friends, I opened up my house so we could still do a Tuesday Night Ride, but on gravel roads. Last night was our last day of our Indian summer. It was above 70° when we rolled out (about 22 C). In November, in Michigan. I wasn’t expecting
much of any turnout because a couple of people texted that they wouldn’t be able to make it this week, but the future looked good.
I prepped my bike and waited for my regular riding buddy, Chuck to show. I was early and decided to do a couple of warm-up miles. David texted asking that we not leave early as he was cutting it close. With that, Chuck and I weren’t riding alone, but Mike and Diane pulled into the driveway shortly thereafter with their mountain bike tandem in the back of their SUV… and just like that, we had a ride.
We rolled out into the wind at a decent pace for the headwind. David picked it up for the next mile and some change with a crosswind from the left and gave me the next mile into the headwind. I was of two minds as David faded to the back… I wanted to keep the pace up, but 19-mph into that wind, on a freshly graded road, simply wasn’t happening. I got to 17-ish and that was just enough suck – maybe too much. A half-mile later and I knew I was hurtin’ for certain. And just then, I got word from the back that the tandem had fallen off the back in the headwind. Sweet Mary have mercy! When they caught up, Mike apologized for not keeping up, but we all made it very clear we were happy to slow down. I almost dropped myself, for God’s sake. The rest of the headwind section was awesome. Right on the edge of “hard” but not so bad you were questioning how you get yourself into situations like this. We each took mile-long turns and shared the load.
And just like that, we were into a 17-mph (27 km/h) tailwind. And it was awesome.
We had some crosswind, then tailwind again, some more cross, then tail again. We decided to add on a couple of more miles on a paved road and that ended up being my pull – tailwind on pavement, what a gift. We flew, hitting speeds in excess of 27-mph (43 km/h). David got hit with the headwind mile back the way we came, then the tandem for the crosswind, then me, and I gave Chuck the final pull home.
Chuck put the hammer down and our pace rose steadily until we were 28-mph down a slight hill. We were going so fast, you couldn’t really ride anyone else’s wheel, you had to ride a little off to the side so you could see bumps coming up. Being in the back, I could see everyone throwing rooster-tails in the dirt. It was special to be a part of that pace-line.
And just like that, we were done. 24-ish miles at just shy of 17-mph for an average. And in shorts and short-sleeves. In November. In Michigan.
Folks, that fair weather stretch will live on in my memory for years to come. What a fabulous cap to a great cycling season.
So here’s the interesting thing to think about: Riding in a pace-line is tricky enough in broad daylight. At night, it’s downright discombooberating. At night on dirt is downright crazy. Thinking about it, I’m actually quite impressed with us… I’ll have to be careful not to pull a muscle patting myself on the back (patting my friends on the back isn’t much of a problem, except to do so socially distanced… now that’s a feat).