A tease of spring

We’ve had a couple warm days here in NE Ohio and you know it’s been a long winter because the cyclists are out, making the most of this stretch of warmth, even if the conditions themselves are not all that ideal. Yesterday was a cloudy, wet day, as it had rained earlier in the morning. However, it was about 65 degrees when I decided to forgo my trainer in favor of what I thought was going to be a quick 10-15 mile ride on the Summit County bike path.

I donned my lightweight lycra pants and my long-sleeved ABC jersey (pretty sharp!) without any insulating layers for either. I decided to just take the Beast since I’d only planned to take the bike path and, besides, it was easier than getting Black Beauty off the trainer, since, really I would have to fiddle with changing out the wheel clamp thingy (I don’t know what this is really called) to the one that belongs with the bike. Also, with all the rain, I didn’t think it was a good idea to be riding on the low-tread of the tire I’m using while my bike is on the trainer, and changing to my good tire would have been just too much work. Besides, I would have to put my bike back on the trainer (more cold weather is coming) and it would probably get muddy. Good thought on that one! The Beast was quite dirty when I came back, not to mention all the speckles of mud on my bike pants and jersey, which the tires flinged on me. I think I am going to need to get fenders for the hybrid.

Anyway, I caught the Summit County bike path, as usual, on Fishcreek Road and started out by going north. Not too many people on it, but I was surprised to actually pass a few toodlers. With the day not being less than ideal without the invitation of the sun, I figured a lot of the non-obsessed sorts wouldn’t bother. I guess the long winter has everyone craving activity. I’m pretty sure had yesterday’s weather been in the middle of summer, most of the people I saw wouldn’t be out. And that includes the avid cyclists. The grimness made it really hard to be motivated–it was the long depravation that spurred us all forth.

Above is a shot along the bike path in the ledges section after 303. I passed those dots ahead (toodlers) after I stopped fiddling with the camera. As you can see, the day looks typical of NE Ohio spring–damp, no leaves on the trees, and gray skies.

Here’s a shot of the ledges. Not exactly what I was aiming for, but it’s hard to make a good shot while you’re riding. Passing the ledges is my favorite part. In the summer, this is usually wildly green, the branches of the trees on each side covering the path in a natural canopy. I love how this bike path makes you feel like you’re out in the middle of nowhere for the most part, even when it gets close to roads. I like it a lot better than the Cleveland Metroparks bike paths–they always seem to straddle the road. Akron and Summit County did great planning with their parks because most of them make you feel like you’re away from it all, though you might be in the middle of the city.

So, I was going along at a nice 16-17mph pace–on my hybrid, nonetheless–and I was feeling pretty good about myself. It’s hard to maintain that kind of speed on the hybrid because the gears are really much lower than my road bike. The biggest ring is like the middle ring on my road bike so I spend all my time riding in the big ring with a few slides into the second ring while climbing a hill.

I was feeling pretty good, which led me to the stupid idea to get off the path at Boston Mills Road and climb back up out the valley on Truxell. Truxell is the easiest climb out of the valley. I figured I could do it on my hybrid no problem. This idea was stupid for three reasons:

1. I hadn’t climbed any serious hill since November. Most people (non-avid cyclists) think all the riding I’ve done on my trainer keeps me in shape throughout the winter. Not so. Nothing can simulate a real road or the feeling of going up a hill. Only riding on the road can do that. So the first time you climb a serious hill when you’re back on the roads, you feel horrible.

2. While the hybrid has lower gearing, it’s much heavier. I hate to say it, but going up a hill on that thing really makes me feel as though I’m pedaling while dragging a 20 pound weight. I forgot how slow going up a hill with that thing is. I feel like I’m pedaling and pedaling and moving like two centimeters every 50 spins. It’s crazy.

3. It’s 10 miles from my house into Peninsula; therefore, any ride into the valley is going to be at least 20 miles round trip. Was I ready to work up to 20+ miles on my second ride?

4. I should have done this ride with my road bike!!

Anyway, Boston Mills Road was kind of fun on the hybrid because there is an advantage to it being heavier and beefier: I was virtually fearless about speed and I didn’t do my usual braking down hill. My max speed was only 33mph, though, and that was probably because I didn’t have any heavy gears to add additional spin. At this point, I started thinking about having the guys at CC beef the gearing up on the Beast so that it matches more closely to that of a road bike. I think I was told last fall when I picked it up for a tune-up that this could be done. So far, I’m thinking fenders and a new crankset–getting expensive! Mine as well add those lighter forks Derrick from CC had suggested. Turn it into a Frankenbike.

I stopped to take the picture above at the sign at Riverview Road. For you out-of-towners, you’re looking at the bottom of Boston Mills east, which is a nice down hill interrupted in the middle by a steep climb to a bridge that goes over I-80 (the Ohio turnpike). I tried to take some pictures when I was on top of that bridge because it’s pretty cool, but they came out hazy because I didn’t close the lens on my camera phone and it became heated by my warm sweaty body in the back pocket of my jersey. The road then finishes with a windy downhill and then, unlike so many of the roads in the valley, actually flattens out so that if you chose to let go for maximum speed, you have plenty of time to stop at the end.

This road passes a trailhead for the towpath–which I only use in the winter–and a historically preserved gas station/museum. You can see the Boston Store on the left where cyclists can buy tasty treats and gatorade or other liquid beverage in the middle of the summer. I’ve used to for reprieve several times. Nothing like an ice cream sandwich on a hot day to give you the energy to continue!

And, across the road from the stop sign where I stood, Boston Mills West, one of the infamously hardest climbs out of the valley. It looks all sweet and innocent here, but what you can’t see from the start of this apparently gently climbing road is the really steep pitch just around the bend. It doesn’t last too long, thankfully, but it’s nothing to scoff at. I went up it once last summer, but I was nervous the whole time that I would loose the umph to keep pedaling and, unable to unclip my feet, I would bite it. I didn’t, though. Michael climbed up it at a rate that appeared effortless. He wanted to do it on the tandem once, but I bailed on him at the last minute. It psyched me out for some dumb reason and I wasn’t feeling it. So I need to make myself do it at least once this summer.

Oh, and I got this shot of the infamous Boston Mills “ski resort.” Looks like no skiing today! And they were supposed to have that winter carnival this weekend. I don’t think it happened.

Here’s a shot of the mighty Cuyahoga River that carved the valley. No, this is not the part of the river that burned. (That part would be up in Cleveland where the river dumps into Lake Erie.) This is the part of the river that provides natural settings and beauty for all the National Park visitors.

After playing photographer with my camera phone, I turned left down Riverview towards Peninsula to begin my ride home. In my enthusiasm, I seemed to have forgotten that Riverview into Peninsula is a little challenging, especially for unpracticed legs. As I plugged along at a pathetic crawl, I wondered how I ever managed to use this bike in Colorado. I used to ride it 40 miles round trip from my house to work in Boulder 2-3 days a week. That was a pretty hilly ride! Not to mention the MS 150 I rode with it–75 files of really mostly really long climbs. I must have been nuts. I just didn’t realize then what a difference a road bike makes. It’s no wonder I could only do 45 miles the next day.

So I climbed up Truxell, using my granny gears for the first time. They were definitely lower, which made me go slow and resulted in me using higher gears than I should have because I wanted to feel a sense of movement. Why is it that the granny ring on my road bike doesn’t seem so slow? Maybe it’s that whole lack of feeling like I’m dragging 20 lbs, as I mentioned before. This bike definitely needs to get its gearing upgraded.

Truxell would have been painful on my road bike, too, I’m sure. The last time I climbed any hills was in November. I think I might have gotten up Truxell a tad faster. Regardless, I was in pain at the end of this climb. Lots and lots of pain. I wished the ride could have ended there.

As I pulled up to the stop sign at the top of the hill, I noticed a road cyclist was just behind me. Had the road gone any longer he would have overtaken me. As we were waiting for the opportune moment to cross the busy Cleveland-Akron Road, I self-consciously started conversation with, “Man, I should have taken my road bike off the trainer instead of using this heavy thing.”

This is what I would like to call me throwing my card down there, the subtext being, “Look, dude, I’m a real cyclist, like you. So please don’t mistake me for one of those hybrid riders.”

We exchanged a quick conversation about this being one of first rides of the season. He admitted that he’d gone out in January but that he hadn’t ridden enough to make this ride feel easy. We guffawed about how hard climbing even the easiest hills is hard at the beginning of the year. Then, as we crossed the road, I told him to have a nice day because I knew he was gone to toast my ass on his Specialized whatever. I had no hope of keeping up. Which is pretty much right.

I got back on the Summit County bike path at Barlow. From that point, I’m about five miles from my house. Those were a long five miles. I literally felt like crap. Plus, some nasty wind had picked up, making those last miles just torture. I was doing everything I could just to keep pedaling. I kept chastising myself for being such a wimp–20 miles shouldn’t be so hard.

By the time I pulled into my driveway, my house felt like a blessed oasis of freedom. I jumped off my bike happily and headed in. I was starving by this point–the oatmeal breakfast I’d had at 9:30am was not nearly enough to sustain me. I was feeling a little sick from lack of food (should have brought a carb bar, I guess). I am ashamed to say, but that 24 miles felt as though I’d done 62 for all the pain I felt in my body. The last time I remembered feeling this crappy after a ride was when Michael and I did our first 50 mile ride last spring. It appears that if you don’t use these cycling muscles, you loose them rather quickly.

I can tell right now that getting those first 400 miles in for TOSRV fitness is going to be painful. I didn’t feel good cycling for most of those training miles I did last year. It was only the weekend before TOSRV when I did that 80 mile ride up in Vermillion that I felt back in the game. Unfortunately, you have to work through riding even when you don’t want to at the beginning of the year. Which also includes cold weather. I’m not looking forward to that!

Why, again, do I like this sport? Okay, I’ll quit my whining. I ended with 24.56 miles. I was not in the mood to get that last .54 miles for 25.

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