We are at it again. Bike tour number two – stateside this time. It’s my first vacation in the northwestern state of Idaho. We started in the rural southeastern town of Blackfoot, self proclaimed potato growing capital of the world. A wee bit of irony given I just returned from Ireland last month.
Our first mission: bike 60 miles north and then east to Ririe, an even smaller town (population sub 650). I thought I’d share the three challenges I faced during the ride and the strategy I employed to overcome them.
Flat, flat, flat.
You might think, “Challenge? But flat is wonderful!?” I used to think so too but think about it. For hours, you are in one position with little movement or reposturing. It’s the same problem when you sit at your computer all day without moving. Stiffness, sore rear end and potential for sore neck and back are inevitable.
My strategy: shift my position frequently. Slide back in my seat. Move my hands between the hoods (spot on the handlebars just above the break levers) and the flat part of the handlebars. Periodically tuck my chin in (as if holding an apple), relax my shoulders and flatten my back. I gained further “butt relief” by standing and pedaling periodically. Standing on my pedals, even for a few pedal strokes served to remove pressure and felt good. Just remember to shift to a higher gear before you stand up.
Gravel and More Gravel
In addition, every intersection seemed to have piles of gravel in the corners, making sharp turns almost impossible. Even when the road was clear, adjacent side roads and driveways laiden with gravel spilled onto the road making “biking on the right” an exercise in dodging more piles and pebbles.
My strategy: Get over it. Whining did nothing to improve my technique so I have learned to act like its no big deal (though I don’t like it). I drop my speed and drop 1-2 gears (easier to pedal). I have learned that pushing a high (hard) gear on gravel simply induces spinning and skidding. This appears to be debatable in my so-called friend circle (reclining beside me, offering unsolicited editorial critiques). As for the turns, when gravel is present, I reduce my speed more than usual and do my best to hold a straighter line. As for the gravel that spilled from driveways into the road In front of me, I swerved as needed to avoid it and signaled to the person behind me to be aware of it.
“Try to keep up”
Fighting a good headwind, my husband and I took turns drafting each other so one could get relief (tucking in behind the one in front while the other “pulled”). Soon we found two men just ahead that were riding about the same pace and also drafting one another. One of them a saw my jersey and teased, “You ride like a girl.” Michael pulled up beside the lead rider to ask if we could “jump on the back” (forming a paceline). The reply was a hand guesture inviting Michael to take the lead (pulling the rest of us). While these two men were trying to determine who would go first, I accelerated between them and assumed the lead. In my best nonchalant tone I turned my head back and challenged, “Ride like a girl and try to keep up!” I pulled the lot at 20-21 MPH for roughly two miles until we ascended an overpass and I relented my full throttle pace.
My strategy: I didn’t have one. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to show the guys that riding like a girl doesn’t always mean riding in the LAST position. Oh, that was satisfying.
Even more rewarding was the discovery at the next rest stop: one of the men was the husband of a RLAG Cycling girlfriend! Here we are, Tim and me.