I've spent the past week in Alabama getting some training for work, and even though I had to be away from home, I didn't want to go the whole week without riding. I am amazed at how fast one can begin to decondition. Having an idea of some of the rough roads where I'd be (think Roubaix, the ride not the bike) I decided to take my mountain bike which has some great dual-terrain tires on it. Had a great week and learned a lot, but the minute we got out of class, I was kitting up and getting ready to roll.
The first two days I did 15 and 14 miles, keeping it close to "home." Then, I met a guy from Seattle who'd done his homework before coming to the area. He rides mountain bikes and had talked to someone about some trails on the other side of Bane's Gap, a mountain pass. Now, me being in training for the Assault on Mt. Mitchell, my ears perked up when I heard "mountains." You could see a range of small mountains from where we were staying and they were not so far away; 2.5 miles to the saddle at the top.
So, on my third day after class, I pulled my bike out only to find the front tire flat. I patched it, rode around till I was convinced it would hold (I suck at patching!), and took off for the mountain! It was a steady incline to get within a half mile, but man, when the road turned up, it went crazy! The final tenth of a mile or so went up to 21%!
But I made it over. Matter of fact, I hit 45 mph going down the other side, which was a 20% grade! That's a real gas on a mountain bike, tires whining the whole way! Got to the stop sign, turned around, and started climbing back up to go home; about a mile and a half into it, my patch work slowly let go. Had to walk in the last 3.5 miles. Didn't mind one bit, it was great weather and the landscape was incredible, saw several wild turkey hens out on their evening feed.
Made the trek to pick up a couple of tubes the next day and get the bike ready to roll Friday morning. I'd be leaving Alabama and heading for home and family, but wanted to get in one last ride in the hills. Headed back up Bane's Gap, but when I got to the top, instead of going over, I turned left onto a gravel fire road that climbed up and ran along the ridge. Many of the climbs were in the upper teen's (gradewise)with one at 21%! That kind of incline is one thing on the road, but a totally different beast on dusty sand and gravel. Got to the top as far as I could go, it was gated off, and turned around. Descending the rocks made me a bit nervous, not much traction; but when I turned to the pavement I let it roll! I tucked in tight and hit 45.2 mph downhill! What a rush! My wife hates to hear about me riding like this, that could have been a huge OWWWEE! The speed limit on that road was 25, so getting a speeding ticket might have actually been fun.
Anyways, had a great time in Alabama, glad to be home, and looking forward to the ADA Tour de Cure next Saturday. Raising funds to treat and research diabetes so a cure can be found. E-mail me if you'd like to make a contribution to this wonderful cause; I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org , drop me a note and I'll reply with some details. Thanks!
Be blessed, be safe!