This year, I chose to go attend the Vandalia Freedom Tour. I had seen it advertised in the Ohio Bicycling Events Calendar last year and I had wanted to do it, but hopes of having a Fourth of July BBQ with friends had prevented me from signing up. Since the BBQ fell through last year, I figured this year I wasn’t waiting around for any invitations — I was just going to sign up for this ride, try something out of my usual Northeast Ohio Territory. Fortunately, my friend, Michael, was also game for some Southwest Ohio action.
Vandalia, I learned, is located north of Dayton, an exit off of I-75. A nice suburban community from the looks of it. The tour is run by the Vandalia-Butler Optimists Club (follow the link to learn exactly what this is). The Freedom Tour offers two bicycle routes: 50K and 100K. Of course, we selected to do the 100K (a REAL metric century!). 50K is roughly 31 miles… I can do that in approximately 2 hours in a week night after work. No, no, I must challenge myself with a full 62.
The weather forecast the night before seemed a little shaky. The weather channel was predicting “scattered thunderstorms” in the afternoon. We decided that we should get up early in hopes that we could finish the ride before the storms came in. At our speed, we know that 62 miles should take approximately 4 hours. We decided to get up around 6am so that we could begin the ride around 7ish.
I preface this story with the note that my back tire had a flat that appeared after I rode to Vermillion with the ABC last Saturday. I had thought it was a slow leak, so I had refilled the innertube and rode 29 miles on Sunday through the Cuyahoga Valley. Monday morning my tire was completely flat. Because I was busy Monday, I was changing the tube on Tuesday evening. Besides the fact that I realized the tires that came with my Giant were crap and going to crappier, Michael pointed out a nick. I was a little nervous about whether this tube would hold. Michael, who owns an OCR 2, ominously warned me that after the first 1800 miles with his bike, he started getting several flats…
The next morning, I obsessively checked the tire to ensure that it wasn’t already going flat. I had checked the inside to ensure there wasnt a piece of something imbedded in the tire that might pop the innertube, but you never know. I just had one of those feelings.
The morning looked a little ominous as well, as we were greeted with a blanket of cloud cover. I changed the lenses in my glasses over to the ambers and hoped for the best. (The amber lenses always give me a sunny view of the world!)
The ride began at the Vandalia Sports Complex and rambled out of a residential neighborhood… Then, suddenly, we were in a parklike world of roads with a corridors of trees over them. Immediately, the ride went from flat to rolling and I was excited. I like a challenge and the last two rides I did — the MS 150 and ABC’s Vermillion ride — were in flat country. The route followed a river and went through some metroparks. Michael and I both were impressed by the beauty.
Four miles into the ride, right after coasting down a nice long hill that would have helped launch me part of the way up the next hill, I felt the back of my bike sway unsteadily. I looked down to discover my tire hanging off the wheel hub. CRAP. Immediately, I groaned. Was my entire 62 miles going to be filled with trying to pump up broken innertubes? Worst yet, was I going to have to quit? Why hadn’t I bought new tires yet?? I could kick myself.
So I hailed Michael and we stopped to change out the innertube. He’s faster at it, so he offered to change it for me. At first, he figured he would just patch the tube since I’d just paid $16 for two new backup innertubes and I was already going to blow through them if this trend continued. So he hurriedly tried to apply a patch to the hole and get it to work.
Meanwhile, I paced around, internally cursing myself and the passers-by who made comments such as, “Oh man, that sucks, already got a flat.” (Which, ironically, I had said myself 2 miles in to another rider who was at the road side changing a flat. Instant karma got me.)
That’s when I noticed the road sign for the crossroad we were standing in front of: Chapman. Now, for those of you who aren’t familiar with my biking life, there is a certain man out there by the last name of Chapman who occasionally leads rides with the ABC, some of which I’ve been known to ride (see “Waterlogged Two Rivers Tour” from the May entries). Well, this Chapman chap happened to be leading an “officially sanctioned ABC ride” on the Fourth and he was somewhat miffed that not only was I riding on “some other” registered ride instead of his ride, but I had apparently also enticed away his friend Michael. At the June ABC picnic, we were hurling rain hexes at each other about our respective rides.
So… it was particularly funny that I got a flat four miles into the ride, right next to a road called Chapman. Talk about ears itching! I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t take the picture — Michael bent over my tire with the street sign reading “Chapman” in the background. It would have made for great laughs at the ABC. At the time, though, I was fuming about all the time I was losing from the ride while changing the tire… I felt the time crunch of impending rain and I wanted to ensure I finished this tour.
Well, once the flat was fixed (we ended up putting in a new innertube anyway), we continued on. Of course, I lived the rest of the ride in fear of another flat. It never happened, thankfully. But at every bump in the road that I went over, I nervously checked.
The route was very nice with some long slowly inclining climbs. Unfortunately, the brisk headwind from the south made travel to the south extremely challenging, especially since some of these roads also were slowly inclining uphill. Michael and I alternated drafting off each other and it helped a lot. I started to get the concept of using a paceline.
The ride provided ample rest stops. Michael and I blew past all but two of them. We almost stopped at the last one, but we were at mile 54 and figured we could just press on to the finish.
When we crossed the finish line, it was only 61 miles, so, like complete bike geeks, we rode a little further and doubled back to ensure we got the whole 62 to complete the “metric century.” Yeah, I’m really starting to get a little obsessed with this bad habit too. It’s all about the miles, after all, when you’re trying to complete 2,000 by the end of August.
Overall, the ride was great and very casual. I enjoyed it a lot and think I would go out of my way to do it again next year. According to the ride promoters, there were 600 riders this year, so it’s a moderately attended ride. Maybe I can get a few more ABCers to go with me next year, especially since it’s not all flat.
In the end, I did end up getting to enjoy a July 4th BBQ as well. So it was a day complete with traditional as well as “crazy cyclist” desires. Well, and as they always say in the ABC, “I bike to eat.” Unfortunately, I think I completely canceled out the health benefit of my ride with the eating that ensued after the ride, which also included a chocolate malt… I’m never going to loose weight from this pastime…