Sunday morning, I rolled out at 7:01 AM en route to a fantastic adventure.
It was a cool morning -- cool enough that I was glad I'd opted for my semi-famous FHPs, a long-sleeved jersey, and a jacket; cool enough that I wished I'd been organized enough to locate the full-fingered gloves that I'd pulled out of my backpack and (as I later discovered) stuffed into the couch beside one of the seat-cushions (Aside: Can anyone explain this madness? I am not generally in the habit of stuffing things into the couch. Maybe it was the cat.) -- but it was a lovely morning. Traffic was light, and I sailed along, stuck in the big ring (still) for just over forty minutes. With butterflies in my stomach, though once I hit my rhythm, I mostly forgot about them.
The truth is, I am terribly nervous about meeting other cyclists. Having been 'the weird kid' in every single year of school, I'm mostly good at holding my own against the irrational judgments of others, but somehow I crave the respect of my fellow wheelmen and -women ... at least, those I respect. Plus, one of my personal heroes was likely to show for this ride (ZOMG!), though I somehow managed to put that from my mind and thus not act like a ridiculous little squirrel.
It turned out, however, that the guys I would be riding with were what one might call 'just folks' -- really nice people with bikes in their blood and bones (maybe 'just spokes' would be a better moniker?). Ward, the first to arrive after I pulled in, happened to have a tool I'd left behind, which allowed me to tighten my stem so my handlebars wouldn't rotate (which they had done, terrifyingly, on the way over -- a startling moment which would cause me to descend roughly as fast as a lazy snail for the duration of the ride).
While we waited for our brethren, I fiddled with my front derailleur, finally coaxing it onto the small ring. I would be glad of this later -- our ride-leader for the day, Tim, sniffed out a pretty hilly route. Even in the small ring, I was pretty winded at the top of two of the climbs. In the big ring, I would've been cooked by mile 20 -- well-done, in fact, given that my big ring is a 53 and my cluster ranges 12-23. (As it was, I thought the 39x12-23 range worked pretty well for this ride.)
Soon our fellows arrived. It was edifying to see such an array of beautiful bikes, among them Patrick's gorgeous A. Homer Hilsen with its double top tube and Tim's beautiful, brand-spanking new steed from Independent Fabrications (speaking of which: dear relatives, if you happen to have an extra $5,500 lying around and can't think of a way to spend it, a Corvid would make a really awesome wedding present next May ;D). I would've been happy to have any one of them in my personal stable (though I would, of course, need a smaller Hilsen!).
We headed out right around 8:00, rolling up Breckenridge Lane a bit, then hanging a right. There was no predetermined route map for this ride; there were no cue sheets. We were following Tim's nose, and -- as it turns out -- he has a good one. Our path led through the lovely, curving climbs of such venues as Glenview Hills, Glenview, Riverwood, and Indian Hills. The wooded roads were quiet; the climbs were delightful, the descents ... well, beautiful and terrifying, but only because I was constantly worried about my bars randomly rotating. (It would appear that I have become a bit paranoid.)
At one point, a brace of whitetail does exploded across our path, resulting in jubilant shouts of 'Deer up!' and 'Oh, deer!' Later, a hawk (probably a redtail, based on its build and flight profile, but I didn't get a great look) sailed over us. Fortunately, she decided we did not look edible :)
Dave was riding his Bacchetta, and it was thrilling to hear the recumbent which had a few moments before been toodling its way up the climbs come roaring down the other side. First, you would hear a sound like a train; then you'd glance over your shoulder, and there was Dave descending like a madman, or a falcon, in the drizzly rain, and then...
...He was past you, and then he was past the rest of the guys, who were themselves sailing around a beautiful little switchback in a sort of relaxed paceline, or searing their way down a straight descent in a pack.
Suffice it to say that Sunday was one of those 'why I ride' kind of days. It was reminiscent, in a way, of the long, rambling rides I used to take with a couple of my friends as a kid -- quiet, hilly roads, no real plan, just riders and bikes. The major difference? The bikes were generally nicer, and this ride was faster :)
I don't think I've had quite this much fun on a bike since ... well, possibly, quite possibly, ever. I mostly ride solo, both at work and at play, and I enjoy it -- but there's nothing quite like a good group ride to keep you rolling.
When you're riding for fun with a good group, it's easy to forget you're climbing, and to stop obsessing about cadence and pedal stroke and intervals and all that fiddly stuff that sometimes makes you want to pull your hair out on a training ride (and people wonder why I always wear a helmet :D). Talking, I'm convinced keeps the oxygen flowing in and out with aplomb.
We wound our way up Clifton Ave (a road I was once afraid to even try to climb!), sailed along part of one of my favorite weekend rides from my William Street days, and turned onto Bardstown Road. Soon, we were sailing in to a stop at Quills Coffee. It was a little after 10:00, and we were ready for some refreshment. Coffee, savory scones, a cookie, and an espresso drink almost too beautiful to touch were consumed with relish amidst a conversation that rarely veered far from the thing that had brought us all together: bikes, and riding bikes.
Soon, we were headed back out into the drizzly morning.
Dave was gracious enough to let me try his Bacchetta (shh! Don't tell my co-workers!), which I rode for a few blocks and enjoyed immensely (note to self: disc brakes are, in fact, pretty awesome -- much better at stopping in the rain than QS's road calipers -- I fear I may find myself riding a 'cross brake with discs, some time soon). We turned onto Cherokee and found our way into the park, where we sailed down the sweeping descent-side of Baringer Hill. I then got so engrossed in talking to Dave about 'bents that I pretty much failed to notice the next climb 'til he peeled off with an, "I'm dropping back..." We'd reached the steepish little bit at the top, and the Bacchetta had lost its momentum, so I muscled up to the fountain alone and found -- to my surprise -- that I wasn't even winded. This is what happens when you forget about yourself and get out of your own way!
In a moment we were descending again, then winding through the little valley along Beargrass Creek -- and then, much too soon, it was time for me to peel off and head for church. My route took me up Millvale Road, then onto Woodbourne Ave, where Saint Andrew's Episcopal makes its home. The rest of the guys headed onward to, as Tim puts it in his ride report on the RCCS blog, 'Saint Matthew's and beyond.'
My first RCCS ride is definitely among my top-ten cycling experiences so far. Dave, Patrick, Tim, and Ward make great ride partners.
I'll be keeping an eye on the RCCS blog in hopes of another go some time soon ... and maybe next time it'll occur to me to take more than one picture!
P.S. — I am happy to report that the fix for the bar-rotation problem seems to have done the trick. That being said, I plan to devote the next week to re-learning how to trust my bike!
P.P.S — I forgot to mention: as far as I know, at no point did a race break out on this ride.
P.P.P.S — while I was out riding Quicksilver, Hg grew a set of bars. Also a shiny purple-anodized rear brake caliper. Woot!