Well, after weeks of concentrating on muni training, I found myself a little banged up and yearning for a smooth 36er ride. The weather in the Northeast US has been fabulous - just a bit cool with skies of exquisite springtime blue - and today dawned absolutely clear, offering the finest cycling conditions a body could hope for.
I told the wife and kids I’d be out for a couple hours and, for a change, I reached around my muddy KH29 (the only thing I’ve ridden of late) and dusted the Radial 36er off it’s hook. Since I’m still a little awed by the newish 125mm cranks I padded my self-confidence with leg armor and wrist guards. Then I trundled the beast over to the road, zeroed out the cycle computer, mounted up and pedalled off into the achingly perfect day.
I remembered why I like my shorter cranks as my wheel ate up ground, and I quickly crossed over Delmar’s only busy thouroughfare and sped through the suburban streets toward the meat and potatoes of this ride. Making quick work of that first couple miles I left the neighborhoods and hit the rural back roads where one can ride for miles without passing a single car.
My first test came at an uphill steep enough that I’ve never before conquered it with these 125s (and I’m not a total lightweight - it’s paved, but steep). Today I made it to the top, mentally checking that hill off my todo list, and rode away down the farm road, the silence only broken my heaving gasps.
After another few miles flying down smooth pavement under a trippingly azure sky, I passed an old graveyard and made a right up the hardest hill on the route. The map calls this road Collabeck Road, but the local bikers and runners aptly call it “cemetary hill”. Although there is a graveyard at the bottom, it’s nickname more describes how its ascent makes you feel by the end. The first couple hundred yards are in the high twenty something grade-range and the hill continues after that for nearly a half-mile, albeit less steeply.
I’ve never succeeded in climbing this hill (I’ve only tried it on a 36er), and today was no exception. Despite being determined to make it this time, pain from my bruised ribs (see my recent muni thread) and my 125 mm cranks conspired against me and I UPDed near the top of the steep part. (I swear I’m not a wimp! I swear!)
My usual routine after UPDing on this hill is a side-facing free-mount attempt, (with my limited talent on the short cranks I wasn’t doing too well at this) then step uphill and try again facing the other way. After a half dozen failed tries, my slow upward progress brought me onto the less steep grade and I finally got up on the wheel and, cranking through the pain in my baby-back ribs, hauled my a$$ the rest of the way up. It actually turned out, partly by luck of traffic, that I didn’t dismount again until my driveway 15 miles later.
After cemetary hill, the road turns to hard gravel and you know you’re really out in the country. The utterly empty road snakes through small valleys and forest, punctuated by the occaissional house or mobile home with its requisite pickup truck and often a junk-strewn lawn. On this stretch of my ride I saw a few people doing yard-work and passed exactly one moving vehicle. It was driven by a young man of about 20 years and he passed me, turned into a driveway and, somewhat suprisingly, flashed me a repectful smile and thumbs-up sign.
This “out-back” section nears it’s end when the gravel turns back to pavement and I pass an Audobon Nature center, with the meandering and sparkling Onesquethaw Creek roaring along the right side of the road. Crossing slightly busier Old Quarry Road, my next section climbs a quick, steep hill, short enough that I never UPD here, and rolls downhill alongside a wide-open farmstead. The fields are as stunningly green with spring as the sky is blue, with last fall’s frangrant round bales of hay dotting near the road and out into the distant rolling fields. The high peaks of New York’s Catskill Mountains 70 miles to the south form the backdrop, and the air is so perfect this cool spring day that their usual silhouettes actually have depth and texture today. It’s so clear I can almost count the trees on them.
On this bit of downhill I let the wheel spin freely and fast, almost too fast. As I pass the fields and barns I concentrate on keeping contact with the pedals and gradually slowing my candence back toward more controlled rpms. A glance at my max speed readout shows I just broke my personal speed record with a burst up to 17.86 mph. Hey, it’s only 0.21 mph faster than my old record, but woohoo!
After the beautiful farm scenery, the road serpentines for a half mile or so through the lushest forest of the whole route. There is absolutely no traffic and the trees over-arch the road here forming almost a tunnel as I follow the twists left and right and left and right. I know the term “sun-dappled” is overused in these writeups, but, as I revel in the silence of the forest and the silence of my wheel, I can really feel the flow, carving my way over the smooth sun-dappled pavement of this favorite part of my route. It’s as if the road-builders had cyclists in mind when they designed this most-pleasing lane.
My way home turns upwind and I remember that riding sometimes requires effort. I labor up a windy, steep overpass above a railway yard with loud trains beneath me shaking the ground and diesel fumes making my eyes water. Once on top, however, I let the short cranks spin and I’m soon passing through a different, though identical suburban neighborhood to the one through which I’d left civilization an hour and half earlier.
I surprise a couple boys shooting baskets in their upscale driveway. They both stop mid-dribble and utter perfectly synchronus "Whooooaaaa"s, which has me giggling as I continue up their idyllic street.
As the neighborhoods’ densities increase, I hear more and more “Hey a unicycle!” shouts in excited kids’ voices as I flash past their houses. Nearing home, I happen to hit the few busy streets of my town at lucky breaks in the traffic and I pedal without stopping, right to our door.
Rose and the kids are basking in the sunshine. Rose is weeding the garden, my daughter Monya is coloring chalk on the patio flagstones, and my son Denali is playing some game with a couple other boys with star wars figurines and lots of shooting and crashing sounds.
I think I’m the luckiest man in the world.
Distance: 21.50 miles
Avg Speed: 11.21 mph
Max Speed: 17.86 mph
Elapsed time: 1:55:05