The aphorism “Know Thyself” is inscribed into the walls of the temple of Apollo at Delphi Greece as a warning to those who overestimate their abilities. Perhaps I should go ride a century at a slow pace and contemplate these words, because I always seem to underestimate or overestimate my abilities.
Or Perhaps I do know myself, or at least know that I have no idea how I’m going to feel on any given ride until the first climb. Last Saturday I was the slowest among the group and struggled to finish the ride probably 30 minutes behind everyone. Yesterday was a different story.
I instigated the Dirty South ride last February when I put a post on the mountain bike forum that I was going to take my touring bike on a gravel road ride and invited anyone who wanted to go. I expected maybe a few people with as little sense as me would be interested, but on the day of the ride there were 24 people on a cold March day. I was the only person who knew the route and that proved a bit awkward after I started having cramps and had to tough it out so that everyone could finish the route.
The event was so popular that we decided to have a second edition on the west side of the state, an area that I have almost never ridden. I was worried that something similar would happen yesterday and I asked several times to make sure that it wouldn’t be a drag on the ride if I had problems. On the first gravel climb I felt like a different rider, the bike was effortlessly climbing the hill, I was going around riders like they were standing still, until the aerobic effort became anerobic and the latic acid overwhelmed my legs. I still had a decent time up the climb in the granny gear spinning and recovered well near the top of the climb.
My bike felt like was on a rail during the gravel downhills, no washouts, no squirlyness, just smooth speed. I reconnected with the front runners and rode with them. At the first offical rest stop I felt so good I didn’t want to stop riding. Chad and Mike were going to continue riding, Mike said, “I have a map,” and I said, “I have a GPS, we can’t get lost,” so I Luke and I went on.
I had forgotten that I loaded maps on my GPS for Georgia and that erased the maps for Southern Illinois, I also had forgotten many of the roads we would be taking were unmarked. We missed a turn and rode ten miles off the course, I checked the basemap on my Garmin and found that we were within a half mile from the Mississippi river.
We attempted to get back on course, but Luke brought up a good point, it was going to be dark in 3 hours and we had a bout 30 miles to go. We decided to follow the hard road to Jonesboro and the one other time we attempted to get back on course we missed another turn and ended up riding farther away from our destination. Then it began to drizzle. Fourtanily it never became a full on rain, and we finished the ride with 79 miles.
I had a fairly big advantage on this ride, I was on my touring bike with a 28mm rear tire and a 30 cyclo-cross tire on front. I know a few of the folks who read this blog like bigger tires, and there is nothing wrong with that, but a 28mm tire can handle just about any road condition you want to throw at it. If you hit something too hard you’re going to pinch flat it, and if the rocks are too thick you’ll wash out if you’re not careful. But I’ll make this statement, 28mm tires are the biggest tire a bike that’s mainly ridden on the road should run… unless, you’re not worried about speed, you ride extremely rough conditions and want a smoother ride, you’re combined bike, gear, rider weight is high, or you just have some bigger tires you want to use.
Last year I did the ride with the cyclocross tires front and back and I know it was both harder and slower and offered little advantage in the gravel. Out of the 4 of us lost together I was far from the strongest rider, and if we were all on road bikes would have been left behind, but with Luke and Chad on mountain bikes I only got left behind on the biggest hills.
Mike who maybe felt responsible for getting us lost, even though we were all equally to blame, well maybe not Chad… anyway, he asked several times if everyone was OK, and I was like, “Dude I’m riding my bike, what could be better,” the only way this would have been bad if I’d been lost alone. So awesome ride, thanks to the west side crew, for supporting it, thanks to all the the crew who showed up to ride, and thanks to Luke, Chad and Mike for keeping me company with the best ride I’ve ever done in December.