So, today I rode to the office and worked, then rode back home. I made this ride as long as I could without bonking or feeling bad,( i.e. I can still be fairly active tomorrow because my muscles aren’t so fatigued I’ll be stuck in bed!)
It’s been about 4 months since I starting riding regularly and getting used to the trails has been fun, but now I’m looking for more! More time on the bike, more new trails, more elevation! Crazy, huh?
So, today, I decided to ride in on a fairly new route and take alternative trails through the woods. Because I don’t have a “cross” bike, essentially a road frame that accommodates bigger wheels and (some even come with disc braking systems!) I have to use my dual suspension mountain bike for today’s rides.
The first ride looked like this.
Pretty much downhill with some grade in the middle, then easy peddling. The road stuff is the first half, the dirt is the second part. I think I saw 4 other cyclists in total during my entire ride at 10am.
This is my ride home. A LOT of uphill. (see that second hump and correlating lo-to-zero speeds??!) Hike-a-bike kind of stuff, which reminded me that pushing a bike up a hill is not fun unless you plan to speed back down after.
But I asked for it. Everyone told me that I was nuts. That I shouldn’t do it. That it was a downhill trail and pure torture to go up. I didn’t disagree, but I was certainly surprised at the big No-Fest. I have to say, I thought about if I could commit to the new route on the entire beginning of my ride. I pushed hard on some early climbs, but I was feeling good like I had a good rhythm and had enough to go all the way home. I decided that if I the guys at work were going to place bets on whether I did or didn’t do the route. I would bet on ME, so I committed to the climb. *sometimes I think I’m slightly brave or really dumb to do the things I do. you can decide for yourself.
The 2 biggest thoughts in my head were; First,I didn’t do that great going down the trail and walked a lot, so what’s the difference if I ride up and walk; and secondly, there were trails I walked up 3 months ago that I now successfully climb! We all have to challenge ourselves sometimes, and I don’t feel shame in walking my bike if I cannot do something.
*I also get bored of riding the same route so this was a new opportunity to do something challenging!
Now, granted, I’ve NEVER climbed a 15-35% grade tight switchbacks with slippery loose dirt and tree rooted steps that you need to manual over, but hey, I can sure as heck walk it!
The joy of going up something in an hour so many people go down in sub-15minute times is that you can really enjoy the fact that you’re in a heavily wooded area with babbling creek, silently cycling on dirt and crunchy leaves, seeing banana slugs, birds and lizards on the trails. And walking is even better! No, I’m kidding about it being better. But it may get better in some respects. I know steeper gets me stronger faster and that I worked some new muscles today! (owwww)
There were some sections I KNOW I could’ve climbed if I knew how long and steep the ascent was. I really could have used momentum on some sections. There were other sections I know I could not possibly ride up. The lack of traction I had because my weight wasn’t distributed well for the grade and my climbing ability are not at that high of skill level. I am not sure it’s possible to even manual over obstacles at 30+% grade without falling backward. (It’s making me want to break out my protractor and do some math!)
Have you ever seen a motorcycle hill climb? Well, that is what I would compare the middle section of this trail to be. The poor fellows go up a crazy hill until the cant go anymore and either fall off or maneuver themselves to ride back down. You watch hill climbs KNOWING that only a few of many succeed. This trail was like that, except twisty.
What starts as a nice, undulating trail turns into hell when the switchbacks begin and by the time you see a relatively good grade and straight path to get back on your bike, three pedal strokes later, you have to get off again to walk a tight, burmed, and slippery switchback. The trail does get wonderful again, and gets flowy at a few spots, but it’s built to go the downhill way, so drops and logs don’t have safe alternatives to ride over easily.
What was my alternative route? Road, of course! However, narrow mountain roads aren’t my idea of stress free riding. I’ve done the route home a handful of times. Even on the hardest climbs on the trail, walking my bike is far less stressful that cringing when a speeding Prius decides to hug the right hand side of the road (and me!)
+4500 feet elevation
+18.5 miles each way, total 37 miles
+burned 1700 cal in 3.75 hours
+My bragging rights for attempting something no one in my office ever considered.
= tired and happy ME!