Monday, December 28, 2009

Riding in the South: Road

Last week, a wedding dragged me and my family out to the beautiful South. I say dragged, but I was glad to get away from the sub-freezing temperatures of Utah and see some family I hadn't seen in a while. It was just pure good luck on my part that Terry ( lives near-by and through various connections and under-the-table deals was able to hook me up with a nice 56cm Scott CR-1. Though it had seen many, many miles, it was in fantastic shape. It was much nicer than I had dared to hope for in a loaner bike.

Though I usually look forward to dropping down in elevation and riding with people, I'd been down in the lowlands for almost a week before I did any riding--which was more than enough time for my blood to get weak and thin from all the oxygen in the air. I expected to suffer--what with my general lack of fitness and such--but I had banked my hopes on the general dearth of "mountains" in that area. I knew none of the climbs they'd subject me to would be longer than a mile or so.

As it turns out, they make roads differently in the South. Whereas, here in Utah we concern ourselves with such trivial matters as snow and ice when planning out roads, they don't seem to do that in the South. Might be because of the lack of snow and ice, but who knows? What this means is that they make roads steep in the South. Very steep. Steeper than they really ought to make them.

The ride started out innocently enough--for the first 1/4 mile anyway. After that, it quickly ratcheted up to a 8-9% grade. No big deal, really. I mean, We get that around here lots of times. What caught me off-guard was when I realized that was the easy part of the climb. That's right, within a mile of starting the ride, I already was looking at 9% grades as easy. This particular road jumped up to 16-18% right away. Soon thereafter, it managed to show us just who's boss by reaching a grade of almost 25%! Sure, the whole climb was pretty short (less than 1.5 miles, I think), but when you're going that steep, an inch feels like 25.4 millimeters! Or, possibly even 26!

Actually, it feels more like a mile.

After that, there was a nice steep and short downhill. Looking at the road ahead, I learned a valuable truth about road riding in the South. There are NO flat rides. Sure, we never climbed what I'd consider to be mountain, but there were hundreds--nay, thousands--of tiny rollers. The thing is, they weren't like the rollers here in Utah. No, these actually got quite steep. They just were short enough that you didn't really think about them. Until you were about 25 miles into the ride and you started to do some estimating in your head.

I couldn't find a nice rhythm because there was no consistency. I never got to just spin in a single gear, but was constantly working to find a good gear. It wore me out much more than I would have expected. Overall, in the 35 miles we rode, we gained about 2750' of elevation--none of which was gradual.

But it was such beautiful riding, I couldn't get angry. The sun was out, the temps were up (around 60-ish). The trees, the rolling hills, the exposed rock down by the river. It was an incredible ride! And, thanks to some going easy on the part of my riding companions, I was able to stay with them most of the way.

Thanks to Terry and the Beast for the spectacular scenery and the hard workout. And thanks for hooking me up with such a nice bike to pedal around on.


Anonymous said...

Check out the Highlander and Midlander road rides at and

Both of these rides take place every September in the Finger Lakes region of NY.

The picture of Bham Hill actually looks a lot like some of the roads in the Finger Lakes region.

Jon said...

Wow, those look like killer rides! None of these climbs had very significant altitude gains, but there were lots and lots of them and STEEP!

tkp said...

Hey Jon! We had a great time riding with you. Though I spent far too much time off the back. I'm starting to rectify that situation by riding more, like the commute this morning in 27 degree temps.

It appears that your photo is on the south climb out of Vandiver (the little BP station where we stopped). I didn't know you had a camera with you.

Cool. Mountain biking was even more fun the next day!

Jon said...

Yeah, that's the climb. I couldn't remember the name. Believe it or not, that was taken with my Blackberry. That photo took some major tweaking to make it look half-way decent, believe me.

Yeah, I'll be writing about the mountain ride, shortly. Both were excellent rides.