An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Riding in the heartland

I came back home from a short trip yesterday -- four days in Central Illinois for my mother-in-law's wedding. As I'd written here before (here and here), I'd shipped a bike out there with the idea of being able to ride the backroads in the mornings before every one was up and about. It kind of worked -- I got three rides out of four mornings of a little over an hour each, and managed to not get rained on in any of them.

But here's the funny part -- the bike I rode is old, with mid-level-for-the-day 7-speed components. In this particular area, that meant that there were only 5 cogs wasted in the rear cluster.

We're talking flat terrain. The only thing that really forced me to shift was the wind.

Also, I'm convinced that rims and brake pads essentially last forever in that area. I mean, not only are there no real descents to necessitate bringing speed in check, but the locals don't even slow down for intersections. Sure, for most of them you've got a mile of sight distance in any direction, but there's STILL a stop sign there. The legal thing to do is stop. Or at least slow down. Of the maybe 12 cyclists I saw during my rides, I never saw one even so much as move their fingers to the brake levers when approaching a 4-way.

Navigating on these roads, even though they're utterly foreign to me, was easy. Count the turns, or if the mind-numbing-ness of the flat terrain makes me lose count, just use the direction of the wind to guide my route. The entire county (I'd even venture to guess the entire region south of Chicago) is laid out in a mostly rectangular grid. Land marks like the water tower, a particular factory building, etc, are all well-seen from quite a distance. Four turns usually got me pretty close to my starting point.

Strava said that my max climbing on any of my rides there was 316 ft. Over 23 miles. By contrast, a similar ride here would net twice that. When I ride the rail-trail. Road rides start at three times that and go up from there.

It's good to be home. Where I can use the whole gear cluster.

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