Saturday, January 27, 2007

January Century

I had challenged myself to do a century a month, but I resisted signing up for the Bike Journal contest until I had at least done the first one. I was rapidly running out of weekends in January, so I decided that the last Saturday would be my last chance. The weather Friday would have been perfect, but unfortunately I had to work. The weather lived up to the forecast–upper 30’s with 15mph winds.

My route would start at my house in Saint Louis and head northwest to cross the Missouri River into St Charles. From there I would head east through St Charles County and cross the Mississippi River into Illinois. I would then head south, cross the Mississippi again and go though downtown Saint Louis. Finally, I would head west towards home. I mapped out the route on and it said it was 85 miles. I figured that would give me some buffer for wrong turns. If I came up short, it would be easy enough to add on miles at the end.

Because of the temperature and the wind, I was concerned about getting cold. My commutes can be much cold than this, but they only last about 40 minutes. Being out for 8 hours is quite different. I’ve noticed that I am more cold tolerant that most people, but I wanted to have options. Here is what I decided to wear. Torso: Craft long sleeve base layer, Short sleeve jersey, and Illuminite jacket. Legs: cycling shorts, Amfib tights. Feet: thick wool socks, Sidi winter cycling shoes. Hands: Specialized winter cycling gloves with liners. Head: helmet. In my trunk bag I brought a balaclava and a long sleeve jersey.

I left my house a little after 7:00. The good news was that since it was Saturday morning, there was very little traffic. The bad news was that the first part of my ride was directly into the wind. After only a couple of miles, I saw the bicycle archaeologists from last week headed in the opposite direction. I waved, but this week I was on a mission and did not have time to see what they were up to.

After about 15 miles, I reached Creve Coeur Park. Here I left the road and got on a multi-use path that circles Creve Coeur Lake. I am not that crazy about riding on multi-use paths so I went fairly slowly. There were a fair number of joggers and dog walkers. The park wasn’t crowded, but I wasn’t expecting to see anyone in this weather. In one of the more isolated areas of the park I saw a buck and a doe crossing the path in front of me. The reason I come through Creve Coeur Park is that there is a trail that crosses the Missouri River alongside Page Avenue. This is a new bridge and it was designed with bicycles in mind. The bicycle lane one the bridge is totally separated from car traffic by a concrete wall. After crossing the river, I was at a parking lot for the Katy trail. I would not be riding the Katy today, but I did stop briefly to have a snack. At this point I had ridden 21.6 miles at 15mph rolling speed.

From there, I went through St. Charles and into St. Charles County. Since I had turn to the east, I no longer had a headwind. This part of the ride is also very flat so my speed increased. This is the part of the ride that I had never been on before so I was a little concerned about getting lost. There weren’t really a lot of roads that I could make a wrong turn onto, but I would have rather had some signs that told me that I was still on the road that I though I was on.

After about an hour, my speed suddenly dropped to zero. I was still moving, but my bike computer said I wasn’t. Since this was how I was planning to measure my century, this would be a problem. I stopped to see if I could figure out what the problem was. The problem was easy to find; the spoke with the magnet was on was broken. The wheel still seemed be true, so I moved the sensor to a different spoke and continued on. At this point I had traveled 44.6 miles. Since my last stop I was averaging 18.7 mph.

At the next convenience store, I made a brief stop for some chocolate milk and a candy bar. Next I crossed the Mississippi River on the Clark Bridge into Illinois. The Clark Bridge is also fairly new (1993) and has bicycle lanes that are separated from traffic by a 5-foot wide buffer zone. Even though the speed limit is 55, I feel very safe on this bridge. On either side of the bridge I noticed a lot of people watching the eagles. This time of year you can see bald eagles in this area. I saw some in the trees but I was too far away to get a good look at them.

After crossing the bridge, I headed south on the Madison County Transit Confluence Trail. I am a big fan of the Madison County trails. The only complaint I have about this trail is that there is a section about a mile long mile long that is gravel. I saw someone on a bicycle that was looking for deer antlers. After that I saw 6 wild turkeys next to the trail. Later a pair of cyclists who were headed the same way passed me. I sped up to talk them for a little while, but I wasn’t going to be able to maintain that pace so I said goodbye and dropped back. While riding on the trail I noticed that my glove liners were getting sweaty. I took off the shells and just used the liners.

Just before the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, I decided to stop for lunch at Hardees. At this point I had covered 65.5 miles. I had average 16.6 mph since my last stop. Once inside I took off my jacket and noticed how sweaty my jersey was. I had been so worried about being too cold, I did not notice that I was getting too warm. Since I wasn’t moving anymore and my clothes were damp, I became quite cold even though I was inside. I was shivering and put my jacket back on. I think that I learned an important lesson about long cold weather rides.

After lunch, I crossed the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge back into Missouri. This bridge was built in the 1920’s is now only open to bicycles and pedestrians. From there I headed south on the Riverfront trail. This took me almost to the Arch. My original plan had been to head west towards home but I needed to extend my ride to make it a full century. I decided that to continue south and follow the route that Maplewood Bicycle uses for their Tuesday night rides. I also decided that I would stop at Maplewood Bicycle to get my spoke fixed. Getting the spoke fixed took about 40 minutes. I still did not quite have 100 miles so I added an extra bit on my ride home from there.

Final stats
Distance 100.04 miles
Rolling time: 6:02
Clock time: 8:19

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Adventure with the Bicycle Archaeologists

I was headed to Maplewood Bicycle's Saturday morning ride. I got there a couple of minutes late and there was nobody there. Either the ride started exactly on time or the weather (upper 20's) scared everyone off.

On my way to the bike shop, I had seen a couple of riders headed perpendicular to my path. I turned around to see if I could catch them and join up with whatever they were up to. Fortunately, they hadn't made any turns so I was able to catch them in a mile or so.

When I reached them, I saw that they were both on nondescript mountain bikes with flat pedals. They both seemed to be older than me (I'm 40). I asked them what they were up to and if I could join them. They introduced themselves as Dave and Rand and described themselves as bicycle archaeologists. They were on their way to do a bicycle tour of Sunset Hills. They had a book about Historic sites in Sunset Hills and an itinerary that was actually designed as a driving tour. They graciously allowed me to join up with them but warned me that they would be going slow. I didn't mind that, I thought that it would be more fun to do a slow ride with other people than a fast ride by myself.

Since my office is in Sunset Hills, the first part of the ride followed my daily commute. I was able to show them a couple of tricks that I use to avoid some of the busier streets. I was also able to help them find the starting point of the tour. They had turning directions, but no map. I was glad that I could help out since I was a stowaway on the ride.

The tour was pretty interesting. At one point we stopped to look at a house that was built around a log cabin. There wasn't really anything to see from the outside. As we were looking, the owner came out. One of the people I was with asked him if there really was a log cabin inside. He told us that there was but there were only a couple of places that you could tell. He then invited us in to show them to us. I was really amazed at how friendly he was to us, three total strangers. I can’t help but think that if we had arrived by car he might have been a little more defensive.

We saw some other interesting sights on the tour. Apparently they do these tours every weekend. We ended up cutting the tour short because we all had commitments for later that day. Before we parted ways, Dave mentioned that he was a major investor in a Saint Louis tourist attraction (I’m not mentioning which one so that I don’t reveal Dave’s identity). He gave me a free pass for my family and me.

When I got home and told the story of my adventure to my wife she asked, “Can you just go up to any group of people and join them while they are riding?” I thought about it for a while and said, “You can always ask, and I imagine most people are going to say yes.” I think that’s one of the neat things about bicycling. You can easily meet other people and talk to them. You can’t just casually start talking to people in cars. My day certainly did not turn out like I planned, but what happened was a lot more interesting.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Goals for 2007

A century a month.

Finish a 200K Brevet
Finish a 300K Brevet
At least start a 400K Brevet
If I finish the 400K, attempt a 600K Brevet.