It was that time, once again -- time for the evening temps to get right into that butter-zone of excellence for cycling. June, in the evening! Ahhhh.... and what better way to kick off summer's arrival than by riding a bicycle when the calendar changes over from June 20th to June 21st?
I have long contended that night-rides are some of the best rides you can get, and every time I do one that notion gets reinforced. This was no exception. Nine folks showed up, including a who's-who of the KC commuting scene.... well, at least as far as MY circles reach: There was Noah, of KC-Bike.blogspot.com fame, who I call "Foshacks", mainly because when we first met I kept reading his email address wrong to myself. "focus-hacks"....doy. Speed-reading: don't believe the hype. Then there was Chris (Clem in these pages); Juan Sunuke "Crowbar" von Schnakalatte; Badgerland; Staatz-Man; crud - just a buncha good folks at the wheel, including Dave, Anmee and Jason <-- I'd never met them before (at least not that I can recall) but I'd ride with them again in a second.
Check out all the fine photos, courtesy Noah, at his page (linked above).... I once again didn't have the camera handy.... I need to get back on that game, actually. One of the things that makes Noah's blog so good is the high photo content, something that makes for far more meaningful content -- they say that a picture is worth (trite), but it's true... and since I can never seem to find time to TYPE anything anymore, maybe that's a good way to go!
Back to the ride, however, with the sun setting so late these days we almost didn't need headlights as we rolled out of the parking lot at 9pm sharp. Awesome twilight followed, including a distant light show from a thunderstorm tower about 75 miles away to the northeast. Very cool. Partly cloudy skies were the rule just above our heads, however, as some of the brighter stars came into view as the sun disappeared from view. Ahhh....my favorite time of day...sundown. Especially on a bike... the winds die, the threat of sunburn subsides, and the technology of cycling literally shines. We put on a light show of our own, with tons of light bathing the road ahead of us... and behind us. A Dinotte taillight, a few from Blackburn's Mars series, some Cateye fare, Spinnaga, Vistalite, and Niterider - and headlights from B+M, Shimano, Dinotte, gosh I lost track.... a lot of different brands represented, and all sorts of configurations -- very cool. VERY BRIGHT. More than a few times, approaching and passing cars took pause as we approached. Crazy. Never a dark corner on this ride!
I gotta say.... this is one of those perspective times for me. Since March I have GAINED almost ten pounds back. Stress. I know... *I* have control.... but it's amazing how many times I don't feel like I have any control at all over it. I've gotta just get the willpower back! Still, I have been feeling good lately, stronger on the bike simply from exposure. After a solid week of commutes to work, the first in months, my speed is coming up.... but tonite I got a chance to ride with some cyclists that have clearly been doing more work than me, and it was certainly humbling! I'm here to tell you right now.... NEVER, and I mean NEVER, judge a cyclist by their body type. Yeah, yeah.... that goes both ways, because it's easy to assume that a thin, muscular-legged looking fellow in a full kit on an expensive race bike might be fast.... I'm talking the OTHER way...someone that doesn't look like they should be fast, riding a fendered and racked steel monster with 10 pounds of lights, and they ARE fast. "Fast", also is relative...so for me, I can only relate from my own perspective..but fast is fast. The pace tonite, for me, was pretty hot. Last Saturday out on the road I was feeling REALLY good, managed to reel in a two-man paceline, and later a triathlete on a Cervelo P3C, and came home with a 17.4 average speed. Tonite, however, I was feeling my weight, and my lack of energy from a full days work at two jobs, and a full commute already in the bag. And this was a recreational, leisurely ride!
On my Trek 450, no fenders, yeah-yeah... feeling light and spry among the commuter bikes and such.... ugh. This was not a competition, by ANY means -- no,no,no... -- don't get me wrong, I'm not TRYING to drop anyone because it's not that kind of ride, but you know how it goes: you see a section of road that interests you, and whether it's a group ride or not, you just GOTTA go for it. You always drop back in, regroup, and talk about it, tho. That's how it works! Conversely, if you are in a ride and see someone do a move like that, and the mood strikes, you chase, right? YEah! It's fun! Dude, I couldn't break away to save my life. These guys are quick, nimble, and responsive on their machines. You see a guy on a fendered, 30-year old, HEAVY steel bike with a rear rack, who admittedly only gets his commutes in and no weekend rides or other training -- and here I am on my "race" bike with fast wheels, etc.... and I try to sprint a hill and get PASSED? THAT, my friend, is a fast rider ... I don't care where you come from. Staatz, I'm talk to ya, man... impressive stuff... put this guy on a 14-lb road bike, and SEE YA. I'm talkin' to you snobby racer-types that don't wave back out on the roads. Watch out, and assume nothing. Commuters are strong.
Humbling, indeed -- and that's not to insinuate that I for some reason THOUGHT that I could have been able to break away, or that I was somehow in a different class. Heck no. But, what that DOES say is that I'm horribly out of shape...if I'd have been riding the Kogswell, I would have been firmly at the back of the pack, I have no doubt. I need to get rid of this extra weight, and maybe start training for some goals and spending more time in these group rides trying to keep up if I truly want to get some speed back. My point to myself about all this: it's easy to think that I'm doing well, when I have nothing to compare with. I may be "king of the bike trail" in my own mind because I am getting home a little faster these days...but MAN...if I ever wanna get back to the glory days, I gotta WORK. These guys (and gal) that I rode with Friday night...holy....we're probably not talking about the cover of VeloNews, but what a solid crew, seriously. The exception being Dave on his Torelli.... fast, period, and headed to Triple Bypass in Colorado. He's ready.
Man, that was a really roundabout way of making myself a point, I know... but, long story short, group rides are AWESOME fun, and challenging, and I want to do more of them. All this solo riding is for loners and ... gulp... randonneurs. Hahaha! (smack) But, one lends itself to the other: I may not be the fastest on the block, but I can sit on a bike for 24 hours just to get a stamp on a card. Boo ya! Still, I wouldn't mind getting faster -- I think all cyclists think that way. And, I could use the FUN. Talk about a stress killer.... just good ole FUN on the bike oughta do it! Friday, under the stars and trees on a challenging course, that was AWESOME fun.
After some undulations and a particularly fast descent, a neat old bridge and some good conversation we arrived near DeSoto, KS.; Arm-pit of the cycling word. Cycling friendly? Uhhh.....not really. Still, with very little fanfare, we made it thru town to the only open gas station, and hit it hard like only a good group of cyclists can do. Like ducks on a loaf bread, we swarmed the beverages, then the snacks, attacked the sink and ice machine, the bathrooms, and finally the checkout counter. Gnashing teeth and gulping gullets, we tore that place UP. From the other side of the counter, it has to be one of the wonders of the convenience-store world. In ten minutes, we're gone, and so is their inventory.
Back on the road, we flubed up a turn before finding 95th street, and then proceeded down the darkest, hilliest road in these parts -- bumpy, too...so much so that Jason's headlight rattled off the handlebars onto the road ... thankfully all of the parts ended up being easy to find, and he was back in business. Rough pavement, anyone!? The rest of the ride was a lot of fun... after I hydrated a little bit and had some food, it was apparent that some of my lack of snap was caloric... but still, I was really just as slow as before - only now I was enjoying a little more speed play before falling back again. The real fun was advancing slowly up the road, and as my legs began to turn to iron I faded back and found myself at the middle of the ride between the front and back groups, chatting it up with Crowbar and enjoying the senery provided by our newly risen moon, guiding our way back east.
Badgerland peeled off for home about here, and the rest of us made our way back to the start line, slowly and surely -- the end of 30 miles of great riding. I gotta tell ya, tho --- I don't know about the rest of the pack, but I was WHIPPED after this one. Many of the riders RODE HOME from there, having ridden the day from Lenexa to KCMO, back to Lenexa, to west Olathe/Shawnee, did the ride, and then had to ride back again. I suck. hahaha! Self-defamation aside, make no mistake that I have very high regard for those I rode with - the REAL commuterdude's of Kansas City --- mine is merely a nickname, friends -- the heroes are out there, on the streets, getting it done every day at ridiculous distances. You see 'em out there, wave! Smile, and maybe bow. It's time for me to burn my car keys and get back to work.
An excellent ride! I personally can't wait to do another one of these, and although I got a little frustrated last year organizing rides and such, I think I might toss it out there for later this summer that another one of these night rides might be a good time. Stay tuned!
Thanks for the ride, all that were there, and good luck in Colorado, Dave!