This weekend I did my first organized bike ride. Until now all of my cycling has been done either solo or with one or two other riders - in fact with the same one or two other riders, my son or my husband. Unless of course, you count time on a compu-trainer with other "real" riders, teaching me that my pace has, well, some room for improvement.
The combination of worrying about pace combined with an uneasiness in having another bike too close to my wheel (defined by within several bike lengths) had me just a tad concerned about an organized ride. At the same time, it is something I want to do - and if I do plan on finishing a triathlon, something I need to get over.
This was the perfect first ride. Many different options for length (5, 12, 25, 65, and 75 miles) with staggered start times, many volunteers along the route to keep you on course, well placed and stocked oases, and as we found excellent rider support.
Hubby was doing ride with me and we choose to do the 25mile distance - one we can easily ride, and knew would not be a challenge. The ride had an early start so the night before we got everything set up, clothes laid out, drink bottles filled and chilled, rack on car, spare tube and tool kits, and road ids set on the counter next to car keys and coffee mugs. I checked the pressure and aired up my bike tires. Morning brought the hint of a beautiful but cool day - perfect riding weather. And the first of our mishaps - two flat tires on my bike. I'd not closed either valve correctly. Oops.
Starting line was the Summerfest main gate, and it was filled with bikes when we arrived.
We choose to hang back and leave behind the initial rush of our group.
About a mile into the ride, shortly after we'd crossed the Milwaukee River, I heard a loud bang. Really loud. Everyone jumped, some nervous laughter, a women commenting that's why you should always carry a spare tube. Over the next half mile I kept turning around wondering where my husband was in the crowd. Then my phone rang, and I found out. The sound was his back tire exploding with the force of 120psi. I turned around and went back to help. Neither of us had ever actually changed a tire, but we were making an attempt when the SAG vehicle arrived.
The tire wasn't cooperating and even the SAG guys couldn't get a small section to stay in the rim. We decided to load up the bikes, and head back to the starting line where Wheels & Sprocket had professional assistance. They quickly got us on our way and we once again started from the Summerfest grounds.
After that, the rest of the ride seemed uneventful, but hugely enjoyable as we headed south along the lake.
Stopped at the halfway oasis and the 20 mile one. At halfway to remove layers and at 20 miles paused for an apple and a refill of water.
The skyline in sight, we knew we were close
As we headed into downtown, we came to the stretch I'd traveled four times: on initial start, heading back to find Steve, on our second start and of course the "race" to the finish.
One last trip over the river and the finish line/Summerfest grounds were in sight.
Once back at Summerfest we enjoyed the after ride party. Re-fueling with Wisconsin greats - brats and of course, the cold, great taste of Miller Lite. What could be better?
While triathlon pace I do not possess, this ride did teach me I can manage in a bike crowd, that clicking in and out of pedals is becoming somewhat second nature, and that organized rides are fun.
Also learned that hanging back and starting well after the others is a good strategy for me. That said, the competitive bit in me was glad to realize our pace wasn't the worst. We ended up passing the people who were around us when the tire blew - so made up close to 45 minutes on them. Will do this one again, however, will choose a more challenging length in the future!