walking around in tap shoes and pyjamas since 2010 - my cycling log (opens in new window)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Last night, I took the long way home and threw in a few laps around Cherokee Park to get some extra time (and extra climb) in. I didn't have to visit Granny at all — stayed in the large and middle rings the whole time. This is a marked improvement from the beginning of the year, when I was utterly dismayed to find myself climbing Dog Hill in my second-wimpiest gear (and that was on a single pass).

The park's Scenic Loop involves two pretty good climbs: Dog Hill and the one between the bottom of Dog Hill and what my friends and I call 'the Witch's Hat,' which is the location of Hogan's Fountain, if I'm not mistaken. I hit both climbs twice last night. They're both long enough that you can't just muscle your way up anaerobically, and steep enough to force you to work a little.

I've found that I'm really pretty good at blasting my way up short, really steep climbs, in the medium to easy (which is to say, spinnier, rather than mashier) middle ring combos, at a pretty high cadence. Likewise, I don't even really notice long shallow climbs anymore (I just gear down a bit and keep rolling) unless I'm already really tired. It's the climbs that are both longish and steepish that constitute a challenge for me. I believe this means I need to focus yet more on aerobic endurance (less high-gear sprinting when the light turns green? :P).

There's a point in the Dog Hill climb — about two thirds of the way up, if you're coming from the stretch of road along the playing fields at the bottom of the hill — that's become a sort of proving ground for me. On my earliest rides, that was usually the point where I gave in and called Granny for help, so to speak. When I was feeling strong, I might make it another sixth of the climb before giving in and dialing ol' Granny.

Now, that same spot is the place where I tend to look up and think something like, "Oh, I'm here already! Sweet!" Then someone skinnier than me on a nice road bike inevitably passes me like I'm standing still, conveniently preventing delusions of grandeur. The moment is totally worth it while it lasts, though.

Relative to the accomplishments of many other local cyclists, who eat hills for breakfast, this isn't really a big deal, of course. Relative to this time last year — when the thought of climbing Dog Hill seemed like a distant dream — or earlier this year, when I felt accomplished after one trip up Dog Hill, it seems pretty great.

I also felt pretty great after I finished my ride — I could've done at least a couple more repeats on the Scenic Loop easily, but I needed to get home and do some work, and the bells were tolling 6:00.

Total distance for last night's ride was 13.2 miles with 1873 feet of climb. The whole ride took about an hour (including the minute or so it took me to retrieve my U-lock after I launched it IN THE MIDDLE OF AN INTERSECTION, upon which occasion I immediately remembered why I stuck those two little wrap straps on my handlebar, since there's nowhere on the frame I can conveniently mount the lock-holder thingy*). I can live with ~13 MPH on a hilly ride (though, of course, some part of me is like, "FASTER, WE MUST BE FASTER!").

If I had remembered to get my cyclometer installed, I would note how fast my descents and climbs were (rather: how fast the descents and how slow, if less slow than before, the climbs), but I am still experiencing implementation failures where the 'get cyclometer installed' plan is concerned.

I owe a debt of gratitude to all of the cyclists out there who have kindly shared information and so forth that has helped me become a less-awful cyclist than I used to be. When I first descended into madness decided to devote myself more seriously to cycling, I was afraid the cycling community would be as clannish and unwelcoming as non-cyclists tend to assume (I think it's the costumes, to be honest).

I was totally wrong, and I am very happy about how very wrong I was. On the rare occasion that I've had a chance to ride with Real Cyclists (tm), they've been fantastic (and just as evangelistic and obsessed as I am, which is refreshing, since I so often feel like an obsessive border collie in a world full of bored and cynical cats), and I have nothing but mad love for the Bike People of the Internets and the Great Uber-Freds, from whom I have learned so much of what I know today.

Of course, I have a lot to learn still, but I think that's one of the things I like abouy cycling. Like horsemanship, it's a pursuit in which there's always something left to learn.

Oh, yeah. And also always something left to buy ,._.

*Yes, "lock holder-thingy" is the technical term. I swear it is B)

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