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Cycling Stories: Mountain Mayhem, Brutus Road

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March 2022
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My friend, Jonathan sent me the following text in response to my announcing our first group ride of the 2022 season this past Saturday, about the note that it was a “no-drop” ride. Now, you have to understand how “no-drop” works in a cycling context, and how that differs in the group I ride with before we get into Brutus Road. A no-drop ride is pretty self-explanatory. The slowest rider who shows up dictates the pace of the ride. They will not be dropped by the group. In the group I ride with, no-drop means “you’d better keep up or you’ll be dropped repeatedly… but allowed to catch up at the next intersection before take off and drop you again”. It’s a little more complicated than a simple “no-drop”, but fast riders gonna be fast. Even on March 5th (in the northern hemisphere). So, Jonathan’s text:

Just wanted to double check, does your sending out [Saturday’s ride] mean you are going to go? Just don’t want to end up riding in the E Group at 14-mph, LOL.

Me: I think I will. Mike is going to want to ride early in the morning when it’s still freezing and I have no desire for that silliness.

Okay. I’ll probably go either way. I can always do a solo TT. 14 is the lowest I can go without falling over.

Me: I’ll see you there. Worst case we ride together and have a good laugh. Oh, I guarantee you can get down to 2-mph. Brutus Road up north. I kid you not. Brutus Road, that’s the freaking name. Mike shut his Garmin down cuz he was going too slow and I passed Phill going 2-mph.

Chuck, Mike, Phill and I were up north (we call the upper lower peninsula “up north” in Michigan. The UP is the upper peninsula of Michigan) for Mountain Mayhem: Beat the Heat Edition. My wife was along for the trip but she didn’t ride. The course featured, as the name would imply, an exceptional amount of climbing, especially for a bunch of down-state flatlanders – about 80-ish’ of up per mile averaged out over the 100 mile ride, and a good deal of it was at the end of the ride. Including the climb I’m about to describe which, if memory serves, was right around 80 miles in.

We were riding along on a mercifully flat stretch when Chuck’s Garmin alerted him we were approaching a turn in a tenth of a mile. The sign read, as we approached, Brutus Road. Now, imagine yourself 80 miles into a hundo called “Mountain Mayhem” and you see “Brutus Road”. Imagine the joy when you look up, literally, and see the hill only looks to be a few hundred yards long. You get down into the granny gear and start up the 18%er. Just as you’re nearing the top and about to breathe a sigh of relief, you see the false crest. The hill keeps going, just at a shallower 12% pitch so it only looked like you were near the top. It’s at this point you and your friends realize you weren’t prepared for this. You were damn-near out of breath just from the initial climb let alone the rest of the monster you still had left to conquer.

Mike’s Garmin was set to shut off for anything below 1.5-mph (something like 2.25 km/h). It beeped at him to let him know he’d stopped. On the way up a hill. I gritted my teeth and steeled my nerves and pushed the pedals. I passed Mike as his Garmin beeped and started reeling Phill in. As I pulled even, I could see 1.5 mph on his computer. Mine said 2. The lactic acid was threatening to seize my leg muscles up but I pushed for the summit. Chuck, a mountain goat in his own right, was far enough ahead I wasn’t going to catch him. Just as I saw the end, I realized that 10%er didn’t end. It just eased to 5%.

Thankfully, however, 5% after what we’d been through, felt like a gift. The hill stretched on for another quarter-mile before we finally hit a bit of a downhill. There was no descent after, we’d climbed out of a valley.

And we laughed about Mike’s Garmin shutting off and Phill seeing just how slow he could go without falling over all the way to the last rest stop. After we caught our breath.

And so was Brutus Road. Forever cemented in my memory.


5 Comments

  1. Sheree says:

    Affable Hammers – great name!

  2. That feeling when 5% is a relief! 😁

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