Big Ride 1 & Big Ride 2

Road bike or gravel riding?
How about both?
How about two of the best rides I've ever had in less than a week?
Yep. I'll take that. I think I'll call them Big Ride 1 and Big Ride 2.

I'm going to start with Big Ride 2 because I just got back from riding it.

Ever since I started riding gravel (I've probably ridden it only ten times since last fall)  I have wanted to ride what I call "the big hill." Today I set out with a goal of riding 5 miles of gravel and took off and hit just about every gravel road and dirt path near my house. I rode five miles and kept going. At about 7 miles I was ready to head home but the big hill was there. I decided to go for it.

The big hill is actually two big hills - a big one down into a valley then a big one back up the other side. Then of course I have to ride back down and up again to get home. I thought the first "up" was going to be a challenge but I managed it pretty well. Then I turned around to head back home and noticed the hill back up was going to be a tough one.

The Hill - the first half. Taken last April before things greened up

It was. The gravel was soft and deep. I got off once and walked my bike about six paces. Biked some more then got off again and walked my bike to the other side of the road where the gravel was better. But, save for about 20 paces, I biked the whole thing.

From the top of the first hill - the hill back to home. Much prettier at this time of the year.

The hills have been a goal of mine - and today I rode them.  At this moment I am tired but feel incredibly strong. It's a good feeling.

Big Ride 1 happened on Saturday. I rode my longest ride to date - 64 miles made up of the 60 mile route of the Jesse James Bike Tour (which is actually 62 miles) plus a couple of miles of biking from my van to ride start to equal 64.

The day of the JJBT was gorgeous, a bit warm but no wind and a perfect day for a ride. Owen and I set out around 7:30 am. The ride from start to finish went well. I smiled almost the whole ride and had fun talking to Owen and to people along the route and at the rest stops.

Owen and I just after tacking one of the hills near the Carleton wind turbine on the 2011 Jesse James Bike Tour.
Photo by Scott Davis - Davis Portrait Studios

I did not cry at mile 45 like I did last year (it was very windy the whole ride last year and the hill at mile 45 just was too much. The ride was so hard I never had the energy to blog about it. I did finish the ride, though, and stopped crying by mile 46). Instead at mile 45 I was feeling darn good and stopped to chat a lot at the rest stop in Faribault, especially with Ben Witt from Milltown Cycles who was set up there offering mechanical support to riders who needed it.

The final leg of the ride, the last 15 miles, went well. I had way more energy than I thought possible for such a long ride. At ride end we found our friend, Steve, who rode the 60 mile route as well. And we found a bunch of guys we know who set out 15 minutes before us and rode the 100 mile route and still finished well before us. They are fast. I am not. And this is okay.

The fast riders inspire me and it sure was fun to see them whiz past me in their brightly colored team jerseys and hear how quickly they biked 100 miles - but my biggest inspiration on the JJBT was a woman named Deborah who I met at the first rest stop. She was perhaps a little older than me and not in what I'd call tip-top shape. She was riding the 60 mile route alone and on a hybrid - it's a bike that is comfortable but not the fastest or best bike for a long ride. Riding alone on a hybrid on a long ride is pretty amazing but what really inspired me was her attitude. We talked about people passing us and she said something like "everyone passes me"and we both chuckled. Then she said something like, "But who cares? I could be at home on the couch watching tv like other people but I'm out riding instead."

Yep. I like that attitude.
Get off the couch and ride a bike.
It's a bit of work sometimes but it's awfully fun.

By the way, I saw Deborah shortly after she finished her 60 mile ride. She was smiling :)


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