A Ride Around Stevenage

September 1997

On Saturday I did my longest ride since April (42 miles), and among the most difficult of the year. I had intended to go MTBing on some bridleways near Hitchin, a village between Cambridge and London that has some hills (unlike here, which is dead flat). But I realized that my MTB was locked up and Simon had the key. Simon is presently in California, so the MTB stayed in the garage and I chose an alternative, a road ride around Stevenage, which is close to Hitchin and thus also has hills. (Both the MTB ride that I wanted the try and the road ride that I did were from a book of cycle routes around London.)

A fellow named Tony been interested in doing this MTB ride with me, but when my mountain bike was unusable, he was willing to do a road ride instead. I was pleased about this; so many people nowadays are only interested in one kind of riding and look down on other types...

Saturday morning I went to meet Tony and found this tall, thin, fit-looking guy fully encased in lycra. From his joking decription of himself (as an "old wrinkly") I'd been expecting someone in his 60's with a beer gut, whom I'd have to wait for at the top of hills. Not so! He's in much better shape than I am, especially in going up hills. And hills there were, lots of them, and some of them I had to use my granny gear for. But he was pleasant company, and very tolerant to my current out-of-shapeness.

The route was fabulous. It went over lots of single track roads (room enough for only one car at a time; there are occasionally places for cars to pull over so they can pass). Mostly the roads went along fields, but as a nice change (for this part of England) they occasionally went thru' some woods. I will definitely have to do that ride again.

Actually, the ride ended up being slightly longer and hillier than the route in the book: I overshot a turn and so we had to double back. But instead of going back exactly the way we came, we took an alernative, and this had a very steep hill, steep enough to have an arrow marked on the map, indicating a 15% or greater grade. I of course plunked it into my lowest gear (a one-one ratio between pedal turns and wheel turns) and churned away. Tony, who didn't have a granny gear, went ahead, joking "Can I borrow you granny gear?"

Just a few miles from the end, I was feeling miserable. I hadn't eaten enough on the ride, and I had no energy. What I really wanted to do was stop in a pub, get a pint of some cold sweet liquid, and use their toilet. So we did. After drinking my lemonade and orange juice and eating a packet of crisps (that is, a small bag of chips) I felt hungry, so I got a tuna sandwich. I felt very bad for stopping for so long so close to the end, but Tony was understanding, saying "There's no point in pushing hard enough that you don't enjoy it." He often rides with his wife and kids, and so he's used to going very slow and taking his time. They have two tandems, and he and his wife are the captains, and the girls sit on the back. Cool!

After the pub stop we headed out and got back to the car. For the last half mile I poured on the steam, going up the little hills without slowing down much, just to remember what I was once capable of.

I think that I'm going to start drinking Gatorade on these longer rides. I found that it does a good job of preventing the kind of troubles I was having towards the end of the ride.

Today, two days after the ride, my legs still ache a bit. But I'm not sure if that was due to the bike ride, or the fact that I spent most of Sunday working in the garden, planting bulbs and perennials, and doing weeding.

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