Back into cycling after 25+ years

Last night I cleaned my chain, finished up my cue sheet, and dotted my i’s, and crossed my t’s for what would have been my biggest ride so far this year of 90 miles.  I’ve been planning a loop around Hillsborough, NC based on this year’s Bikefest 100-mile route.  When I rode that event this August I was pretty out of shape, having just bought my new GT Transeo 1.0 hybrid the month before and used it mostly to commute a total of 6 miles per day.  There are a few hills on the way to work, and I thought I was doing OK on them.  Plus, when I was a teenager in the early 80’s I rode some long distances with my dad (even a hundred miles once or twice) on the relatively flat terrain around the Detroit area.  But in retrospect I wasn’t prepared for the 62 miles of rolling Hillsborough countryside I signed up for.

I finished, but it wasn’t pretty–it took me nearly 6 hours and a lot of lingering at the rest stops to make it through.  The real humiliation, though, was getting passed by all sorts of people I didn’t think should be passing me.  Young, old, big, little–let’s just say I resolved to get myself into much better shape after that experience!

Using bikely.com I planned some really cool routes over the past few months through some of the most scenic parts of Durham, Chapel Hill/Carrboro, and Hillsborough, working my way up in about 10 mile increments from 20 to the 72 I did last Sunday through Saxapahaw.

The last one was a great ride.  I discovered Saxapahaw, a cool  town on the Haw River where, they say, lots of hippies live (to me, that’s a good thing), and whose General Store, I hear, serves a mean seafood gumbo.  Traffic on the back roads was light and pretty courteous, with the notable exception of a white monster truck that belched big black clouds of soot into the air and whipped by me with just a couple feet to spare in the middle of the ride.  Best of all I started to feel like I’m getting strong on the bike.  The way I’ve been measuring this is by seeing how long I can keep up with the serious-looking guys who try to pass me on their carbon road bikes near Dairyland Rd. in Chapel Hill, a major destination in the area for cyclists.  A couple of months ago I didn’t have a chance, but on Sunday I think I surprised a couple guys by staying on their tail, in one case for a 3 mile stretch before our routes diverged.  I’m looking forward to the day when I can pass them back again on my hybrid!

The only downer on this ride was when I got passed by a pickup truck with a young black lab in the truck’s bed.  His owner had secured him to the bed of the truck somehow by his leash, and believe it or not the dog tried to jump out of the truck after me.   The poor thing got dragged a good bit by the neck until his owner was able to stop.  It was really frightening to watch, but I stayed there with the owner for a bit and believe the dog is actually OK except for a medium case of road rash on his poor paws.  Geez, man–use some common sense next time and put your dog in the cab.

It’s nasty weather today, and I’m officially rained out.  But next weekend, look out Hillsborough–I’m about to get some revenge for the thrashing you administered to me this August.  If I can do 90, I know it will be just a hop, skip, and a jump to a century–something I didn’t think myself capable of just a few months ago.

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