In the flatlands

Hubert, Sue, and me at the end of the Flatlanders’ Tour

A change in game plan mid-week led me to do the Flatlanders Tour in Fremont on Sunday instead of the Best “Wurst” ride in Bucyrus on Saturday. My friend Sue, who lives in Perrysburg and with whom I was going to ride any way, invited me to her house on Saturday night for dinner, wine, and conversation. Since Sue is always a great host–and there’s always a great bottle of wine to be enjoyed–it seemed like the perfect thing for a small weekend getaway. Also, though we’ve done many of the same rides, we’ve never actually ridden together. So I was game for another adventure on a ride I’ve never done.

Sue always calls her home Sue’s Bed and Breakfast and she invites all ABCers to stay at her place if they are doing a ride up northwest in the flatlands. She also opens her doors to self-contained bicycles traveling through the country as part of the Warm Showers program. I think that’s pretty neat that she does that and pretty brave–who knows what kind of people could turn up at your doorstep (and I know from a sampling of my own club that not every cyclist is kind, considerate, and a joy to be around). But Sue says that she’s had mostly great, interesting people. With a few exceptions of course. But no scary people who turned out to be mass murderers. Whew!

Anyway, this particular morning at Sue’s B&B brought pancakes on the menu for breakfast! Yum! I usually don’t eat pancakes (yes, because I’m obsessive about weight) but I make a few exceptions here and there. And–Frank, you’ll be glad to hear this–the pancakes were made with eggs from the hen of a friend of Sue’s. Very free range, eh? See, I can eat free range and organic sometimes.

Joining us on this ride was Hubert from TAB (Toledo Area Bicycles) whom I met once briefly on the MS 150 in 2008 when I was doing a paceline (yeah, shocker!) with a bunch of young studs, also from TAB. I know I don’t do pacelines much, but these guys were all pretty good-looking and young; they invited me into their group, I am sure, because I was female and about their age. Or maybe older, but I don’t look it. I thought I could hang with them, but it only worked for about 20-30 miles. In the end I couldn’t keep their blistering 20mph pace and when I took my turn leading the paceline, I felt awfully guilty that I could only pull them at 16mph.

So my first memory of Hubert was actually witnessing one of the behaviors he’s most known for: adding “bonus miles” to a route. As in, getting lost. Even if a route has shiny bright arrows the length of a car going across the road, Hubert apparently still misses them. He’d joined me and The Young Studs in our paceline and was pulling the front when suddenly, he just kept going and going, disappearing over the hill made by an overpass, when we were supposed to turn right before the overpass. He did not hear our calls to get him on the right path. He was in the zone. One of the Young Studs just shook his head, smiling, muttering, “Hubert.”

Well, with that kind of reputation, I really knew we were in for an adventure. It didn’t help that the route on this ride was really poorly marked. Quite often the arrows did not appear for a turn until right before the turn with no warning ahead of time. We were drafting off each other most of this ride, so you can imagine the kind of potential danger that arises when one has to make a sudden turn. This would be my only complaint about the Flatlanders’ Tour. In spots there weren’t enough arrows (such as places where two routes converged) to direct us with a sense of confidence. Some routes were also kind of confusing. On the final loop of the ride, there was a mysteriously marked section where it said “IN” beneath one arrow and “OUT” beneath another pointed in a different direction. Now my gut reaction would be to take the one “In” as meaning “into the loop”; however, “IN” in this case actually meant “back in” as in to return to the finish; “OUT” meant “out further” into the route. Huh? If you’re confused, you can understand how we felt.

The way Flatlanders works is a lot like Sunday in June–there were four loops of approximately 25 miles each, all starting and ending at the same spot so that you can, theoretically, do just as many loops as you want since you’re always returning to where your car is parked. So if you intended to do 100 miles, but maybe weren’t feeling it that day, you could stop easily since you always return to the start. 25 miles each is also a loose term; some of them were closer to 30 and our ending mileage was 108*. But I always say that it’s better to have more miles than to come under!

Each route had a different color. We started out patriotic with red, then white, then blue. The last loop was orange which I said matched Hubert’s hot Orbea bike. Check this sucker out. I gladly drafted behind this bike if only to admire its sleek aerodynamic beauty. I think I made my own bike jealous in my secret lust of this bike. I was not the only one for it seemed about every other rider had to stop to admire Hubert’s bike and talk to him about it. Sue wittily pointed out that men were developing “man crushes” on Hubert because of his bike. With a bike like this, who could blame them? My poor bike was like the ugly step-sister at the ball…

Of the loops, the blue route was the most fun for me, being that I’m a gal from hill country. They actually managed to find a few hills–besides overpasses–in Sandusky County and we got to whip down them. They were all rollers so you could get halfway or all the way up the next one on the momentum of the downhill. How gratifying! I love rollers and generally have no fear on them (unless they are like the one leading to overpass hill on Boston Mills Road) because I know I’m just going to get caught by the next hill to slow me down. Unfortunately, they weren’t as steep as hill country, but I did get myself to 30mph which never happens on the MS 150 or any other flatland tour.

The sky was constantly threatening rain, but not a drop fell while we were out. One time, I could see a cloud with rain falling in the distance but it never hit us. The sun would peak out for moments. It was about 63 degrees at start and it never got higher than 70, I think. For most of the ride, I felt chilly whenever we were stopped; when we were riding, I felt comfortable. Though, I really would have liked a little bit more sun. It almost felt like fall with a dampness in the air left over from rain earlier that week. By the time we were done with the ride, the sun started to come out in full and it began to feel much warmer.

I would guess that perhaps there were 100 riders. I think we were one of the few who elected to do the 100 mile route for we only passed one or two people on the orange loop. We kept a pretty good pace of about 17-18mph that sometimes busted into 20 for stretches of road. Despite total grumpiness about drafting, I felt pretty good in this three-man paceline as following Sue or Hubert felt pretty safe. I can’t speak for the feelings of safety I inspired in the others since I’m so used to riding by myself. But we seemed to work well together. I never felt like I was forced to push harder than was comfortable, nor was did I feel I was being held back. Hubert probably did–I can tell he’s a really strong rider–but I think he was glad to just be riding. Despite the fact that he’d done 114 miles the day before too. I suppose we were his “rest day” like they the guys on the Tour de France do where they ride at what they call a leisurely pace on their rest day.

The roads were without traffic, making for a very pleasant day. The second loop also took us on a length of North Coast Inland bike path. I continue to be impressed with all the paved bike paths Ohio is beginning to create. It’s wonderful to at least have that option as part of a ride. I know I love Summit County’s bike path. I hope someday we can get these all connected so that one could theoretically ride around the state. I would then just jump on my bike for a weekend trip somewhere. Of course, I could probably do that now and I should consider making a route like that sometime. I keep forgetting that self-contained does not have to be some 2,000+ mile trek across the country.

The food on this ride was excellent: shredded chicken sandwiches, an assortment of homemade cookies, pasta salad, and fruit. I have to admit that I ate 6 cookies on this ride. They came in Ziploc baggies of two; I ate two peanut butter ones after the first loop, two M&M cookies after the second, and then I tried to be good and didn’t eat any after the subsequent loops. However, I saw gingersnaps (!!) as I was getting ready to leave after the ride, and so I had to have them too. Blah. But riding 100 miles really works up an appetite!

I really felt good after this ride. I think I probably could have ridden more miles if pressed to. I always ask myself whether I could ride more at the end of a ride because the opportunity could always arise where I might have the option to. Case in point: RAIN (Ride Across Indiana). This is a 160-mile ride done in a single day. I’ve always said I have no desire to do more than 100 miles in a single day of riding. Yet… um… the challenge came before my eyes and suddenly I want to attempt it. Spurred on mentally by reading that Cycling in Seattle guy’s blog–which tells of adventures in randonnuering and many more miles than I can pretend to understand–I feel this urge to occasionally push myself further. Why? Because, dammit, the challenge is there. I am my father’s daughter. We enjoy pushing ourselves beyond our limits.

Something else I noticed while riding on Sunday: I really love cycling. I was feeling the love while riding, the energy from pushing my legs and the smell of the wet air. Even though it was hard work, I was having fun. And in some sense, that’s sick. But to me, it’s all in a day. I was in love with my bike, feeling all the subtleties of its shape in my hands and through the motion of my legs. I felt one with my bike, a single mechanism moving at a steady pace. Believe it or not, my butt was not at all sore. I have the best seat. I feel like my bike has all the right components now to fit me comfortably.

I don’t know. Motorcycle or no, I think the best way to get anywhere is by your own motion. There’s nothing like that feeling of freedom. It’s quiet and it doesn’t disrupt the natural world around you with noise. It’s movement faster than walking, but slower than a motor, and it’s absolutely wonderful.

My knees did get a little achy, though. After the third loop, I had to go take some ibrophin, which I probably should have taken at the start of the ride. Fortunately, this seemed to help and I was much more comfortable the rest of the ride than I was at the end of that third loop. I gotta remember that even though I feel much better than I did on XOBA, I’ve still got a little bit of an injury and I need to be more careful.

It was a great ride. But I think what made it best was the friendship. I really enjoyed riding with Sue and Hubert. We made it through the ride with smiles and that’s what is important. And, I admit, I was even okay with drafting. I guess it all depends on who you draft with. The Young Studs were just too much for me!

* = Hubert’s computer claimed 112 miles with a 16.8 average while my computer claimed 108 with a 16.3 average. Being that we were all three together during the ride, I doubt that there was really any difference in our averages… I suspect that Hubert’s computer might be more accurate because he actually measured his wheel to calibrate his computer! I just used the stock measurement provided in my Cateye manual for the size of tires I use. Now I’m all paranoid that my measurements are off (thus ruining my stats for every ride I’ve done this year) so I have half a mind to measure my tire myself and reset my computer!! We have no room for inaccuracies here! Especially that big. I’d much rather claim that I had a 16.8 average over 100 miles–that would be the highest I’ve ever done. Of course, 16.3 is the highest average I’ve ever had over 100 miles; I had 16.1 on the MS 150, all by myself without a paceline in the wind.

8 thoughts on “In the flatlands

  1. I know you don't like anonymnous post but I forgot my google pass word.

    Hubert is a legend in Toledo. He will be 72 in October rides over 5,000 miles a season. A few years ago on Super Bown Sunday I was driving to a friend's house. It was 5:30 and -3 outside. Hubert was in the school parking lot near the Cannonball trail loading up his bike. This was the day after he took home the most miles for the season award at the TAB banquet.

    BTW forget the Surly and the motorcycle and upgrade your road bike!

  2. Great story, Anon! I hear that Hubert is quite the winter rider… I give up when the weather gets below 40 degrees and/or there is snow on the ground… then it's time to start skiing!

    I dont want to upgrade my road bike. I like it. An upgrade would, I guess, mean getting either that half-carbon like the Defy Alliance or fully carbon. I'm not real sure about having a fully carbon bike… the Defy Alliance is tempting because it's really stable at high speeds. However, it has a compact double crank and I live in the hills — I need all my granny gears and I really prefer to have a triple. (No one is going to talk me down from that, sorry; it's my prference; I like to climb hard hills and I simply cannot do it on a compact double if the hill is steep… I think of all those places where I was pulling hard in my last gear and standing and I am just thankful for all the gears of a triple.)

    Besides, I would like to start doing some self-contained trips and my OCR is really not equipped for that either… I mean, it can take me lugging stuff on it, to a point. Even if I put heavier tires on it and such, it's just not made for using as a self-contained trip bike…

    So I guess what I would need is one road bike with a triple crank that has a carbon cross bar (or whatever that top bar is called going down the middle of the bike) but whatever heavier metal they use for the rest of it… And a steel cross bike for self-contained trips.

    But I'm kind of attached to my current bike so I dont think I want to replace it yet as my road bike.

  3. Oh, just keep your OCR and get something like a Trek 520 for touring or winter riding. Stick some fenders and panniers on it and you'd be able to go about anywhere.

  4. Well. The reason this whole crazy Surly Cross Check thing started was because I wanted to get a better hybrid than the one I have. The gearing is way too low on my Trek 7500 FX–the big ring feels like the middle ring on my OCR. I was going to get a Giant fitness bike which has the same gearing level as my road bike… But then I got to thinking about a cross bike which would serve a lot of different purposes… and plus I could use just as much as my OCR. So I dont know. All the randonnuers use steel bikes… and Surly's even!

  5. I also own a Trek 7500 hybrid that I use on the towpath. With its gearing and weight it is good for that, and that's about it.

    A Trek 520 is a steel touring bike with an enormous gear range, plenty of braze-ons for racks and cages and it's cheaper than the Surly (depending, of course, on how you want to customize it). It has long chainstays so, if you're touring with panniers, your heels aren't always hitting them. You can tour with most cross bike but sooner or later you'll probably want a full-blown touring bike. You probably can do cyclocross with a touring bike if the bottom bracket is far enough off the ground. I'll just bet, though, that you're more likely to try self-contained touring before you are likely to try cyclocross so that's why I'd recommend a touring bike for you.

  6. Actually, my idea of touring/self-contained is carrying my clothes and then checking into a hotel at my destination. I have no desire to lug my tent with me on my bike. Or any tent. So I'm not the real kind of roughing it self-contained rider…

    But the Surly is sooooooOOOOooo cute. And it's American! Well, so is Trek. And Giant is not, but I love my Giant.

  7. I also like the Raleigh Sojourn. But the problem is that bike comes with bar end shifters and I DO NOT want bar end shifters. So I would still have to swap those out for brake lever shifters…. on the Cross Check I would have them built into my custom build. More money, yes, but I do get to order up what I want on the Cross-Check. I did toy with the Long Haul Trucker, but, again, I'm not sure I'm ever going to haul more than 20lbs on a self-contained trip. I'm just not into mixing my roughing it camping with my bicycling… I want a nice cushy bed or my air mattress after a long day of cycling… and I aint lugging my air mattress and a tent on my bike.

    Not unless a hot guy with cycling legs is involved and I get to follow him for 80 miles with my 60lb load of crap on my bike… Then, MAYBE…

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