Our little cycling crew decided to take a familiar route tonight. We started at the Greens Bottom trailhead [MM 45.7], electing to travel north toward the Page Extension bridge, and on over into Creve Coeur Park. This would be the first serious test of my new machine, and I was excited all day waiting for it. The downside was the weather. At ride time, the temperature was 95, with a heat index at or just over 100 degrees. I was armed with 70oz of iced water in the CamelBak, and a bike bottle full of tepid water. As it ends up, that was just the right amount.
We headed out from the trailhead, and once again, I found myself zooming on the trail, reaching 17mph in short order. I know I had to have had a tailwind or a slight downward incline, but I didn’t care. It was refreshing to by able to stay close to my fellow cyclists, and it was liberating to do the math in my head and realize I wasn’t so far away from points along our jaunt.
The three miles of the trail passed quickly, and in short order I was staring at the bridge complex above me. As always, my reflex at three miles is to kick it around and go back, and today was no exception. I had decided that I’d climb the switchbacks, and then work my way back. I climbed and climbed, actually keeping a decent speed until the very last when I had to granny-gear it up the last switchback. My group arrived at the top almost at the same time — with the other bike, they’d be there 3-5 minutes ahead of me. I was already seeing the difference the new bike was making.
Of course, reaching the top of the bridge complex is exhiliarating. It’s the reward for a tough climb, and from that height, there’s breeze, plenty of room to stop and get off the saddle for a few minutes. There’s also no shade, so the sun beat down upon us, but that was not a huge deal. Knowing that the slightly downward slope of the bridge was waiting just ahead was a rush. I overcame my “three mile blues” and was ready to continue on toward the park.
In crossing the bridge, there was a little bit of a headwind, so getting to a high speed on the paved path just wasn’t possible. I was only able to get to 25mph, which is about the speed I attained on the old bike with no headwind. I exited the bridge, and down the gentle switchback on the east end of the complex, carrying my speed down the Katy Trail Connector and tackling the gentle rolling hills toward the park. I took it easy, trying to meter my legs to make sure I had enough in me for the whole ride.
Once at the park, we met another one of our gang, and the five of us headed into the park to make a quick three mile loop to the west of the lake. This was a beautiful ride, with some ups and downs, but with a tremendous canopy of trees for the start of the ride. There are bird blinds along the lake, and I could see some of the waterfowl as I rode by. I’ll definitely have to come back to this place and practice some photography!
We climbed the ramp back up to the Connector, and took another well-deserved rest. By this time, we were about six miles out from the trailhead, with the sun still high in the sky. It was here that I realized just how hot it was! I gulped plenty of water, and had no troubles, but…. sheesh!
The ride back to the bridge was a little tough as there was a crosswind that was slowing me down — not to mention that my legs were rubber by this time! I crawled across the bridge, but not nearly as slow as I was last time I crossed it. I could tell a difference in the way this bike moved, and how it was to pedal it when I was tired. The Raleigh behaves so differently — I don’t know that I could’ve made this ride successfully on the old bike in this heat. After crossing the bridge, we relaxed for a few minutes at the parking lot on the west end, knowing that only three miles of trail lay between us and the end of tonight’s ride.
I came down the switchbacks quite a bit faster than last time. This bike is much surer-of-foot on tight turns than was my Huffy, so it was easy to take them with some speed and comfort. Once I hit the trail, the air cooled under the canopy of trees, and I took it easy, only riding at 10-12mph back to the trailhead. It was a nice relaxing last leg of the ride.
I guess the biggest discovery tonight is that the Raleigh is much, much better on the trail than it is on paved surfaces. It’s no slouch on the pavement, but the ride just didn’t seem to come as comfortably on the pavement as compared to the crushed limestone of the trail.
I also realize that I need a handlebar bag for the camera. I had the E-10 with me tonight, but with it packed in my CamelBak, it was impossible to shoot while moving, and was an ordeal to get to even when stopped. Getting my camera more accessible will get more photos on the site from our rides. It’d also be nice for that bag to have clips on which to attach my iPod. I carry the iPod in my CamelBak, routing the headphone cable over my back, and if I wanna take off my CamelBak, I have to be careful not to rip the cable out of the headphones. Front mounting the little beastie would also give me access to the controls. I had to endure three tracks of Paul McCartney’s Back in the US that didn’t rip correctly (loads of skips — gotta check my CD for damage) and were almost painful to listen to.
I also need to put a frame-mounted pump on the bike, and get replacement tire tube, just in case, along with a under-seat bag to carry other important items that I carry in my CamelBak (keys, wallet, cellphone).
I guess the good news is that I’m slowly figuring out how to make a safe and fun ride — and I keep coming back for more!