Dipping a Toe: Biking to COS and Back06/22/2015
[I think I’m going to shift up the content of this blog. I’ve been doing the “weekly update” thing for a few years now, and, honestly, I find it redundant and personally unstimulating, especially with the whole Strava platform now for documenting my training. (I also keep a private, personal training log. So, yeah, redundant.) The plan from here on out will be to have short little snippets/reports of only the “significant” occurrences in my day-to-day exercising and adventuring. I put “significant” in scare-quotes because the significance of any of this stuff is only significant to me. No doubt, there will also be occasional forays into opinionated semi-rants about something or other, but really the idea is to have a casual, slightly longer-form forum for recording my more meaty goings-ons. Rather than simply re-presenting the numbing minutiae of my mountain activity. (Don’t worry, the minutiae is important to me; I just think that it’s rarely important for anyone else to see it.) Hopefully I can be consistent with all this. Going forward, the idea will be to whip these out day-of, with little thought or effort, so that content will be fresh and up-to-date. Best laid plans and all that…]
The bone stress injury in my right shin this spring/early summer has seen me (necessarily) turning my focus to biking for the time being. After a few weeks of getting the hang of things, I seemed to finally hit my stride (pedal stroke?) in the first couple weeks of June and my brain starting seeing this activity as something more than an injury-induced evil. Instead, I started conjuring up visions of a future where I actually keep riding the bike even while healthy enough to run and scramble. A future where I commit to self-powered adventures and mountain link-ups. Maybe even some bike-packing, which, as far as I can tell, is just a slightly more adventurous-sounding way to denote non-pavement bike touring. (In fact, I can almost guarantee this future. I think I simply have to commit to a mix of athletic endeavors going forward if I’m going to maintain health and sanity.)
As a (very small) step in that direction, when my parents drove to Colorado a couple weekends ago to visit my sister in Colorado Springs, I decided that I’d just ride my bike down and back instead of driving. Seemed logical.
The plan was to bike down on Friday (June 12th), visit with my family Saturday, and then bike back on Sunday. The massive convenience of having my sister’s home as a destination meant I could pack super-light, which also meant I could ride my speed machine, carbon, road rig, too—a huge bonus. Because everything else feels like a clunker compared to that steed.
In fact, beyond the usual stuff I carry on bike rides (extra tube, tube patch kit, tire levers and CO2 cartridge in a tiny seatbag; phone, cash, debit card, tiny multi-tool, and another CO2 cartridge in an Ultimate Direction Jurker Essentials belt—yes, I basically wear a fanny-pack while biking, I stopped caring about cycling fashion rules very early on in this process…doesn’t stop me from passing plenty of kitted out dudes on the big climbs my main concession to the vaguely “tour-y” nature of the weekend was to pack a pair of casual shorts, a t-shirt, a toothbrush, charging cords for my phone and watch, and a small bottle of chain lubricant into a 5-liter roll-top dry bag. I simply slotted this roll into my extra bottle-cage and clipped the closure around the bike frame. Easy peasy.
Turns out the dry bag was a really good idea.
I started out around 8am on Friday morning under a very low cloud ceiling. Couldn’t even see the Flatties. Within 10min of rolling away from my front door—not even across town yet—it started raining, then pouring. It continued to pour for the next 3hr, only relenting as I was leaving south Denver and nearly to Sedalia. Due to Colorado’s record-breakingly wet spring, I’ve been riding in the rain a lot these last couple of months. But this was something else; it rained hard and barely ever let up.
Of course, in the midst of all of this—I’m actually going to blame this on the cold rain—I flatted as I was climbing out of Golden up towards Dinosaur Park for the descent past Red Rocks into Morrison. Due to cold hands, my bike-handling abilities were way below par and in navigating a construction site I clumsily dropped off a curb into a puddle instead of finessing it properly. For about 15 seconds I thought maybe I’d got away with it, but nope, within a couple of blocks my rear wheel was on the rim, victim of a pinch-flat no doubt.
Bugger. Normally it only takes a couple of minutes to swap in my spare tube and inflate it and be back on the road. However, in the continuing downpour my frigid paws barely let me get the tire back on the rim and all told I was standing motionless in the cold rain for 10min. This, coupled with the subsequent downhill into Morrison meant my core temp was way down and I spent the next few miles through Bear Creek Lake State Park and the C-470 bikeway sprinting every uphill trying to stave off the shakes. Good times.
The second half of the ride was a real pleasure, however. After Sedalia, the route changed to SH105—a bucolic, rolling, low-traffic byway into Palmer Lake—the clouds lifted, the sun even tried to poke through a few times, and I had a gentle tailwind all the way into Colorado Springs. Six hours-40min and 117mi later, I rolled into my sister’s driveway. Success! The dry bag worked perfectly. What a great little piece of gear.
Saturday, before spending the rest of the day with my family, I had a wonderful, sun-washed 70mi ride of nostalgia as I visited some old road biking haunts around Colorado Springs from my college days—Marksheffel Road, the Broadmoor, Cheyenne Canyon, etc. I will say, however, the COS infrastructure disaster (due to local government voting down any kind of tax) is for real. The prevalence and severity of potholes in that city is abominable.
On Sunday, I got an early start, hoping to get back to Palmer Lake before the traffic started to pick up. For some reason, this was one of the best rides I’ve had all spring. Despite a slight NNE headwind the whole way (something that usually has me questioning my will to live), I was full of energy and powered the 105mi back to my doorstep in a bit over 5hr with no calories and the only stop being to refill a water bottle in Bear Creek Lake Park. It was some nice affirmation that biking can provide the same feelings of integration and flow that are such a pleasant side benefit in running, scrambling, climbing, and skiing.
Overall, a nice introduction to using the bike purposefully to cover some serious miles. Conceptually and athletically, I’m finding that it has some real appeal.