On Wednesday I payed hooky and went for an overdistance ride on the new bike. Serendipitously, I found a used 58 cm Scott. With a compact crank, aluminum frame and carbon fork, it’s not fancy by any hardcore rider’s standard. But for me, it’s a big change.
My antique, triple chainring Cannondale was a ride from another time. In my 20s, I’d been into bike touring. Grinding up hills in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York’s Finger Lakes, I needed the triple when I was hauling panniers, tent, stove and other camping accoutrements.
After being hit by a car, I’d bought the old Cannondale well over 20 years ago. While I was fortunate to leave the scene of that accident with bruises and scrapes, my riding slowly dwindled. A lot. I got into running. At one point, several years went by where I didn’t get on the bike at all. If you’re running in the woods and you fall over a rock and break your leg, it’s your own damn fault. On the road, you’re at the mercy of motorists, who may or may not give you enough room while they’re hurrying to wherever – that is, if they even notice you.
One bike shop salesperson tried to convince me that I needed to spend $2000.00 to get a decent – not great – carbon frame bike. If I was interested in racing a bike, or thought I’d never run again, that would be fine. But I’ve still got a couple ultramarathons in my sights. By spring, I expect to run most of my overdistance workouts. With luck, I’ll ramp up running significantly by the end of the calendar year as my foot recovers.
With perfect weather – cool and minimal humidity – and some trepidation, I set off early. For years, I’d depended on a 28″ x 28″ granny gear to get me up steep hills. Today I wanted to avoid the hardest climbs and just get used to the new drivetrain. The first 1500 meters from my house is all downhill; then there’s a stiff climb up Reservoir Rd. I pushed harder than I like to in the first 30 minutes: I like long warmups on the bike. But I made it. Cue the sigh of relief.
My goal today was Califon, a little town southwest of Dover. My plan was a kind of figure eight: out to Long Valley, ride over the Fairmount Turnpike to Tewksbury. From Tewksbury up to Califon. Then I’d head home.
I’d ridden out that way a couple of times earlier in the year but had to turn back early: once, I didn’t budget enough time. The other time, I went up Schooley’s Mountain on the way out. That was great, but it was a time suck. If I’d wanted to, I could have gone straight out County Road 513 from Chester, but that would be banal.
Gliding through Chester to Long Valley was uneventful. On the climbs, I had to work harder than on the old bike. That was to be expected. What I hadn’t expected was how responsive this ride was. When I accelerated, the Scott actually responded. And it was way more stable on the downhills than the old Cannondale.
The Fairmount Turnpike hill heading towards Tewksbury was the first real test. It hurt, but I cleared the top easier thanI’d expected. The ridge rolled and undulated until it plunged into Tewksbury. I rolled into town in a tuck, hammering harder that I thought I could go on a bike. This sucker is responsive. Manna was in the middle of town: King Street, a road I’d never been on. Signaling a right turn, I headed west.
Now 90 minutes in, King Street turned into Pottersville Road, a long, gradual climb. Despite the fact that I was already hurting, I was enthralled to get out on roads I’ve never been on. From Pottersville Rd I turned in to Rockaway Rd, which started a long, gradual climb before a final plunging descent into Califon.
There, I stopped to buy an energy bar and a drink and consider my return options. Valley Brook Rd would be the most direct way home. But I feared the nasty climb leaving Califon. Even though it was longer, I thought that going back to Chester via County 513 would be quicker because of its easier grades.
From Califon back to Long Valley, that stretch of road wasn’t as easy as I’d thought, but it was still a good choice for the day. I ended up home after a little more than four hours in the saddle. Not a long day, but I bonked 45 minutes from home and was way more beat than I should be. I put that down to getting accustomed to new gearing and having to work harder on hills.
I’m curious to see if what happens first: whether I get my running legs back or I grow in to this bike.