Friday, November 15, 2013

Two Wheels, Human-Powered, Part III: Thriller Ride

Looking back a month, to October 12, the Cumberland Valley Cycling Club put on the 2013 edition of their Thriller Ride, and I was there.  "There" is London, Kentucky, right off I-75 a little north of the Tennessee state line, and they have hills.  Boy, do they have hills!  I'm sure there's places with more hills, but I don't know that I want to ride my bicycle in any of those places.  I found Laurel and Jackson Counties, KY, to be quite sufficiently challenging.  This was a 64-mile mass tour.  Now, if you ride much, and you're on decent equipment, 64 miles is not all that far to ride, as long as you don't mind devoting half the day to it.  But that's in the flatlands where I live.  In southeast Kentucky, those 64 miles often seem to aspire to verticality, and the tour gets a little challenging.  It's also breathtakingly pretty country.

It was about six hours' driving for me to get to London, so I elected to travel the day before so I could sleep on-site.  This was a good idea.  After the ride, I returned the same day, which was tiring but necessary, since the choir was singing at church and I was scheduled to be half the bass section (we have quite a small choir).  After I arrived in London, I realized that I didn't know when the starting time was for the ride on Saturday.  So I showed up at about 7:30 am, thinking that would surely be early enough.  It was.  I had an hour and a half to kill before the 9 am start.  I spent part of it napping in my truck.

I won a prize for being the first rider to check in: a certificate for $15 off from Road ID.  I used it, too.

As the proper start time approached, riders started to gather.

Hey, the sun's up!  Can you tell which way it is to the start?

It was a little chilly at the start, but we soon warmed up nicely.  This was partly because the air got warmer as time passed, but mostly because we didn't have far to go before we got to the first 12% uphill slope.  Twelve per cent doesn't sound like a lot, does it?  Yeah, well, go try it.  That's one meter of vertical for every eight meters of horizontal.  It'll get your attention.  I knew about the 12% because whoever had marked out the route had also painted the "12%" on the road surface.

Your humble reporter, laboring up one of the Thriller's hills.

The most severe slope wasn't labeled numerically, though.  I found out later it was a 17% gradient, but it was marked simply by the words "SWEET MOTHER."  Truer words have never been painted onto asphalt.

Every uphill implies a subsequent downhill.  These downhills, however, were simply a different sort of problem.  My highest available gear ratio didn't let me pedal long on most of those downhills, because I was just going too fast and the legs couldn't keep up.  So I'd freewheel down until my speed exceeded such values as 35 mph -- which doesn't sound like much to us motorists, but is scary-fast on a bike -- and then I'd start riding the brakes, wondering how bicycle brakes behave when they get hot.  (I didn't notice any particular problems, by the way.)  I'd never been on these roads, and lots of times, you couldn't really see what was coming up.  Frequently, there was a STOP sign at the bottoms of these hills.  You definitely had to keep your head up at all times.

The Thriller Ride was so named because Hallowe'en was coming up, and provided the general theme.  The captivating ladies at the SAG stops disguised themselves charmingly as witches, but I certainly didn't see a wart or a hooked nose anywhere.  What I did see, gratefully, included water, bananas, apple slices, orange segments, grapes, cookies, and everything else that you need to keep body and soul together on a challenging ride.

Witches?  I don't think so.  Angels of mercy, in disguise.

You meet nice people at these events.  Mr. Larry Erhardt and I seemed to be riding at about the same pace and in proximity, so we decided to ride the tour together.  He's from the Cincinnati area.  When I return to London next spring for the Redbud Ride, I'll be looking for him.  He takes a unique approach to the occasional problem of being chased by dogs.  I've seen some cyclists who carry pepper spray.  Larry carries dog treats.  He pretty much tosses one to every dog encountered, whether it chases or not.  Seems like a good thing.

Yes, I'm the one catching flies.  Lesson: either talk or get your picture taken, but not both at once.
The obligatory event T-shirt, modeled here by your humble reporter, reflected the Hallowe'en theme.  We rode past more than a few homes with elaborate decorations, too.  Those folks do love their Hallowe'en.

The nose on that skull ... yeah, looks like a set of TruckNutz to me, too.  What were they thinking of?
All in all, a great ride.  I hope to return next fall for another lap.

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