Thursday, July 21, 2011

Today's Challenge

On the hottest day so far this summer (maybe) I'll be heading out on the 27-mile hilly course to Gilford to complete the July auto service event.

Last week I rode from Gilford to Wolfeboro in the morning. Today I ride the route the other way, starting at 5:30 p.m.

The road heading south out of Wolfeboro is the worst part of the trip. There's another tight, tense section on Route 11 on the other side of the lake, but South Main Street out of Wolfe City has more angry jerks driving on it. They are already irritable because two state highways, 109 and 28, get squeezed through the amazingly congested downtown area. South Main Street shows these sufferers their first glimpse of clearer running room. Every cyclist I know has had ugly encounters on this part of the road, going either way.

The climax of this love fest is a nasty hill to climb, with narrow lanes and no shoulder. Past the crest of it the road widens.

Last week I got to ride down that hill. I hit almost 45 miles per hour. Your average car, idling, drops down it at more than 50 unless the driver rides the brakes. Not much makes a driver ride the brakes. A few sensible types might downshift, but most people just put the car in "go" and proceed to. Forty-five miles per hour gives me a little bargaining power and a good excuse to stay in the center of the lane.

The climb is a different story. I'll take enough lane to assert my presence, but even at a speed that would fry my competition on bicycles I look like a pathetic, crawling ant to the motoring public.

The late starting time is another issue. Last week I rode my heavy commuting bike at an average speed that surprised me. It was first thing in the morning after two days of rest. I don't expect to be as spunky after a work day. Sunset is not early, but it's earlier than at the height of June. So the lights on the commuting bike are a good idea. In summer twilight, active lighting is very important. But the bike, with its amenities, is heavy.

Yvon Chouinard wrote somewhere, "If you carry bivouac gear you will bivouac." He advocated going light and fast, forcing yourself to complete the route rather than dawdle and set up camp. I used to do these runs on my light road bike. It seemed sensible. After I had done it on the Cross Check, though, I discovered it did not make the ride significantly longer. The Cross Check is very comfortable and sure-footed in the rough bits. I will debate the choice until the last second.

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