Friday, November 16, 2007

Epic rides of 2007

18% hill on Charlevoix ride, my biggest and hardest ride of the year, but not an epic!

When I tell my coworkers about my rides, they seem to think I have a lot of adventure.

I can tell you a secret: there's adventure, and then there's a special flavour of adventure we call... the epic adventure.

With my usual crack-of-noon departure times, my rides often flirt with uh-oh it's night time. This is rare however, and usually I benefit immensely because I get the beautiful light of late afternoon and sunset.

But daylight is something you don't really need to ride a bike.

I like to think that an epic builds character. Rain, which forces me to put my head down and pedal like hell (there's really no other way to say it) has created many an epic ride.

Last years ride upstate New York ride of "Chateaugay" - Malone - Pauls Smiths and back was incredibly intense. I was riding extra-hard until about mile 85, then I was dead meat. There was lots of coasting the last 15 miles.

How do you know you are coasting too much? When a little girl yells from a house alongside the road to tell me to "Ride that bike!"

I've tried in recent years to avoid epic rides that involve any sort of personal injury. Once you have seen your own bone, a lesson should be learned.

Epics can be unexpectedly long, or intense, things which crank up the dead meat factor. (oh, and can cause that joy of joys, calf cramps!) Happily, I was in good shape and didn't have any exhaustion rides this year. This summer I did try a time trial, and I can say honestly I hate flat land riding! Give me the variable terrain of hills any day. For some people, hills kills, for me it's the flats. But I drag my flatland friends on hill rides, and they seem to have to endure some super-human efforts to keep up with me. Partly because they haven't yet bought a real road bike. (A custom road racing bike was the first thing I bought after I finished university and got me a real job!)

"Grunt...owww, grunt, owww, grunt ooow," said my friend Jim.

"Are you ok?" I asked.

"Grunt...owww, grunt, owww, grunt ooow, yeah, ok, "Grunt...owww, grunt, owww, grunt ooow, I'm ok," he said.

That's good enough for me, we keep going!

Geez dude, get a faster bike. I promise it'll be a lot more fun!

So then a real epic ride should be a combination of some different factors.

Longer than expected ride duration, bad weather, exhaustion, bike problems, medical events, heat, insects, less than perfect directions, "interesting" road construction challenges, partner failure, none of these affect the joy of the ride. My worst ride ever is better than a day at work stuck in an office, sitting inert while driving a computer.

Lyon Mountain from village, about to begin the downhill return to Canada

My first Ormstown-Lyon Mountain ride is one of the big epic rides of the year. It was a new ride, I was cross the border on bike and was out of the country and all alone, the terrain was hard, especially the killer hill north of Dannemora (but it had refreshing water springs at top of hill), there were two missed turns (these can have major consequences), but I actually got home in time for supper. (wait, I got home in time for supper? this can't be an epic!)

In between me and Chertsey, Quebec (and home!) was this missing bridge

Then there was the ride from Shawbridge to Rawdon, coming back by Chertsey and St-Margeritte. Except the bridge two miles from Chertsey was missing. Major backtrack, then I had to decide if I wanted to abort and ride the shorter way back retracing my outward ride-segment. I decided no, I'd backtrack and take alternate route to Chertsey and continue on original loop ride.

I had to push long and hard, to make the distance in the daylight. I lost. Here was a time when darkness caught me, and I finished in the total darkness. Spooky! But the last 30 minutes were on P'tit train de nord downhill from st-adele. So, not really too painful overall. (Hey, my seat-butt interface zone was seriously tenderized on this ride!)

No, my real epic ride of 2007 was St-Hermengilde - St-Malo - East Hereford. The map I printed showed a fine, excellent road. On the ground it was a cow-track. Well, it did take me though a beautiful sort-of-mountain pass. What added that epic-flavour was a that I decided to take an optional ride down to the us border along the beautiful Hall river valley. Turning around at the border was when the lightning and heavy rain started. I spent an hour under a tree, but had to ultimately ride in the rain back to the car with lesser, but still major league lightning. Not recommended!

Heavy rain and lightning, and me stuck under a tree 30 km from the car!


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