I got in a 23 mile before-breakfast bike ride up Angeles Crest Highway yesterday morning. Saturday morning is the one time during the week I can go for a long ride, during my wife's areobics class. It has become my Saturday morning break-away.
So: Early morning ride, before breakfast, before coffee, didn't have time to make and drink my morning coffee first, but wanted my caffeine fix. Solution: Cold coffee in my water bottle. Not bad, actually, compared to the city water lately.
The ride up Angeles Crest is a climb. Just up, and up, and up. About 2000 feet of climbing this morning, though there's lots more up, up there when I have time. I ran out of time yesterday just short of 12 miles and had to turn around. And then, of course, 2000 feet of adrenalin rush descent. The caffeine is only necessary for the first half. The second half provides its own stimulant.
I love riding up into the mountain highways. There is the challenge of pushing my limits going up, the views are great, there's the rush coming down, and the fact that most of the hard work is done in the first half of the route. The second half is, literally and figuratively, all down hill.
I can tell that keeping up with that pair of guys ahead is going to be tough when they have shaved legs - that's a dead giveway that they are serious cyclists.
I wasn't sure about the hand signals that guy was giving me behind his seat. Was he warning me of hazards ahead, making sure I wasn't going to bump his wheel, or just dispersing passed wind?
Just because the cyclist in front of me is wearing pink socks does not mean she is going to be easy to overtake. Never did catch up. I did rationalize this by noting that she had the calf muscles of a male athlete. And yes, I think she had shaved legs too, but I never got close enough to tell for sure.
I did pass a number of other riders (queue Rocky theme music). The trouble with passing someone is that then pride requires that I stay ahead, so I have to make sure I can permanently drop them before I pass them.
Firing snot rockets during a 35 mph descent is risky. The rocket must be launched with maximum force or it may get caught in the nose-tip wind vortex and blown back in my face.
Wonder what they do about nose blowing in the professional peloton? A couple of weeks ago, the guy who had quietly come up behind my left shoulder about to pass me was lucky I heard him shifting cogs at just the right time.
These "new" so-called "clip-less" pedals (the ones with cleats on the bottom of the shoe that clip into the pedals) are a HUGE improvement over the old toe clips and straps. I wasn't sure I'd like them and it sounded scary to have my feet trapped in the pedals, but I got a used pair of clipless pedals and they are SO much easier to use than the old toe clips and make pedaling hugely more efficient. I say "new" in quotes because they are new to me, but have been around for a decade or two. I was just out of active cycling for most of that time.
Cycling has really caught on since I used to commute on my bike over 25 years ago. Back then, the few times I rode up Angeles Crest Highway, I had it all to myself. Now there is a steady stream of cyclists on a Saturday morning. Maybe it's the Lance Armstrong effect. Whatever the reason, I think it's great. It's nice that I'm no longer the only crazy person climbing that mountain.
It's also nice that I can still pass a lot of much younger cyclists. It's a little funny though when I notice that almost ALL of the others on the mountain are much younger. I don't feel old. I wonder if I look it.
Replacing my old Bell Biker helmet probably helps to disguise my age a little. That old helmet, left over from the '70s, was certainly a giveaway of my age.
Lance Armstrong has in fact ridden (down) that same road, in the Tour of Califonia. The T of C used the route across Angeles Forest Highway and down Angeles Crest Highway, and then on down to the Rose Bowl (where I went last week), several times. Hard to imagine racing down that road. Going down it alone is one thing, but racing down it in a group is hard to imagine, even though I watched them do it.
I keep trying to use the mapping app on my iphone to track my rides, but it rarely works right. Today, it did map the route, sort of, but it thought I had gone twice as far as I actually did. Last week, it clocked me at 52 mph on a flat ride, which was probably also double the reality. The idea in using it was so my wife could tell where I was and be reaassured that I was OK. Glad she didn't see that reading of 52 mph live or she would not have felt at all reassured. The fact that the phone crashes so much makes it useless at reassuring her that I have not crashed.
Spinning class is good exercise, but it really doesn't compare to actually climbing a mountain.
Funny thing though: I have estimated that Angeles Crest would rank as several category 2 climbs in professional cycling, but actually the toughest climb on the whole route is the first couple of miles in town, just getting from my house up to Foothill Blvd. Nothing after that is as steep.