Thursday, July 17, 2008

Getting my road legs back

I basically just shot this silly photo to illustrate that, despite my retro-grouch pretensions, I am capable of wearing full-body spandex and clipless pedal shoes.

Date: July 15 and 16
Mileage: 42.2 and 53.8
July mileage: 391.3

I spent the last two months exclusively riding my mountain bike. I did so because: a. I was spending a lot of time on trails; b. I was training for a mountain bike race; c. My road bike was in poor, poor condition. Now that a. The trails are soaking up water again; b. I feel like I am killing time while I wait for a good weather window so I can go nuts on the hiking season; c. My road bike has been upgraded to poor condition ... it seemed like a good time to tempo-ride on pavement.

The 30-mile ride along Douglas Highway and back has taken me as long as three and a half hours to pound out. Those rides were among my most exhausting - rolling the balloon tires through six inches of unplowed snow into some ungodly cold windchill. In the summer, on a good day, those same miles are nearly effortless. The way to inject effort into them is to crank up the speed - something I'm not good at focusing on for any length of time because I too easily slip into daydreams and find myself riding on autopilot (my autopilot is slow.) But when I noticed a light wind and strong-feeling legs Tuesday morning, I thought I should try to crank out a faster-than-normal pace. Those tiny (28 mm) tires coasted over the tarmac, and after I crested above Douglas City, I was able to keep the speed over 20 mph for most of the eight miles to the Eaglecrest cutoff. After that, I fell off my pace a few times while daydreaming, and dropped a bit more climbing the last hill and then turning to face the wind ... but when I rolled home the odometer still clocked an 18.2 mph average. I was back in an hour and a half. Certainly not blazing fast by roadie standards, but not a bad start. I began to have crazy ambitions about time-trialing the route and establishing a standard that I can laugh at longingly as I launch back into my three-and-a-half-hour slogs this winter. But before I get any ideas about road time-trialing, I should probably think about getting a bike with some drop handlebars ... one that doesn't have a rear rack ... or fenders ... or fork-mounted bottle cages ... and weighs less than 28 pounds.

But I still felt good about the Douglas ride, so I set out today for more road riding out to the Valley. I made a few stops so my average speed wasn't as high, but I did take a lot of silly pleasure in leapfrogging a single city bus for most of the 12 miles between Auke Bay and downtown. Every time I passed it, I would look up at the windows and try to catch the eye of one of the bored passengers trapped inside. I hoped they see me and think, "Wow, this bus is so slow that even a person on a bike can stay ahead of it. Maybe I should ride my bike to town next time." Yes, I do have a rich daydream world.


  1. Good going Jill, Love the background. (how'd you do that?)

  2. There's always a plus side. Just think of the way those 28 pounds help you fly down the descents!

    Like the new look of the blog. Purty!

  3. Hey I have the same road bike - fenders, lights, rack - around 50 pounds with my commuting gear (u-lock, work clothes, etc.), probably right at 30 pounds without. I probably average 12mph on my daily commute to the bus stop.

    Yesterday morning I watched a jogger leapfrog the bus I was riding through the multi-stop university district for a good half-mile. She was hauling. And yes, it made me wonder if I could skip the bus and get to work faster by riding all the way in (28 miles each way...the ride to the bus stop is six.) Crazy ambitions indeed. Thanks for validating them!

    I like the new background too.

  4. New background is nice!

    I say keep the heavy road bike for a while. I have 2 RBs. One that's in the 30lb range that I use for commuting as well as running errands and even quite a few road rides. I have another that's <20 and it comes out for group rides and for days that I just want to be fast...or at least feel faster. They both get ridden about the same amount.

    After a couple of days on the 30lber the 20lber feels like nothing...but it's the same feeling going from my mountain bike to my road bike too...

  5. Dear Jill,
    without your permission I have used one of your wonderful photos for one of my blogs. I hope you don't mine. Thank you very much.

  6. Yeah, my commute would take the same amount of time on the bus and cost $4.50. Although, I'm sure I would meet more interesting people by taking public transport, I'll take my bike.

  7. Hey Jill - I've just spent the last few days reading through the archives of your blog, and for some reason I now think biking round on the snow and ice this winter would be a fantastic idea. I reason to myself that thanks to backcountry skiing/ice-climbing I already have lots of clothes to keep me warm... and I have a bike... surely it's a good idea (and if nothing else, I think I'll definitely try biking to more ice climbs this season, I did it once towards the end of last winter, but the roads were clear and dry by then... and there's always that rumour about a great climb that could be reached by biking across a frozen lake...).

    Anyway, thanks for the entertaining stories and photos of your adventures!

  8. Highwaymunky ...

    I actually got the idea from my sisters blog. If you go to this site:, they offer free html code that you can plug into your blog for backgrounds, and instructions how to do it. I just manipulated the code to include a jpg I had downloaded to photobucket. Make sure to size your photo the same as the jpg in the original code. Easy!

  9. Clara ... I don't mind at all. Thanks for letting me know.

  10. What I want to know is ... how do you get back to the bike, pick it up, throw your leg over, and settle in as if you've been kicking back there for an hour ... before the 10-second timer runs out on the camera?


  11. I'm not sure what roadie standards you are referring to. I'm a roadie, considered hardcore by many (for a 40-year-old female with a full time job, I guess). I have a much much lighter bike, drop handlebars and no fenders or anything else to catch the wind and slow me down. Anytime I end a solo ride with an average above 18 mph, I consider it a job well done. On my best best days, I can nudge it up to 19 mph. On group rides, riding in a paceline, we can go faster, of course, because every second you are in the draft you are saving approximately 30% of your energy. Even then, though, we rarely average more than 20 mph. TdF riders average around 26-28 mph, but I'm not convinced they are even the same species as the rest of us. You are a lot stronger than you give yourself credit for. It's too bad you have to ride solo all the time. Paceline riding is a blast, and it's addictive. I've seen it turn the most dedicated mountain bikers into hardcore roadies.

    P.S. I LOVE the way you are putting photos on your background now. It looks awesome!


Feedback is always appreciated!