RIDE SONG!!! (click here)
So this past weekend, I got the pleasure of participating in a new sport for me...part skating, part skiing, part road biking - Snow Biking! Unfortunately for me, I was riding on my road bike & not one of these--->
It all started with a scheduled Century ride with the Louisville Bike Club. All week, I watched the weather forecast in anticipation of the weekend to come. It was to be my 2nd Century (100 mile ride) & we were going to an Indiana Maple Syrup Festival for a pancakes...yum! All the way through Saturday evening, the all-knowing weatherpeople were forecasting a cloudy morning followed by a sunny afternoon with highs in the mid 40's...not too shabby for late February. We had an ice storm earlier in the week so the roads were a bit of a concern but just before going to bed I got an email from one of the ride captains saying the ride was still on.
When I got up bright & early Sunday morning, I turned on the weather while I ate my peanut butter bagels for breakfast. Imagine my surprise when Mr. Weatherman started talking about the possibility of brief snow/rain showers or sleet sometime during the morning. A decent afternoon still looked to be in store but the morning wasn't looking so hot. I checked my email to see what the ride captains (Melissa & Dick K) had to say & was greeted by a mail saying that the ride was still on...excellent!
I decided to deviate a bit from my standard winter attire due to the possibility of rain/sleet - so instead of riding tights I opted for bike shorts covered with wind/rain tights & threw in a rain jacket for good measure. I also decided to try out my shoe covers for the first time ever...turned out to be a good choice.
After loading my bike into the car I checked email one more time...uh oh - msg from Dick K - - turns out he saw the updated forecast too...he was a bit concerned about the snow but decided we could all meet at the river & decide what to do once there. Off I went.
When I got to the parking lot by the river there were a couple of riders already there. Good sign since I was a bit worried nobody would show - (I shouldn't have worried since these were the famous Louisville Mad Dogs I was riding with). It really didn't look like it was going to rain, snow or anything else. It was cold out but the sky seemed pretty bright off to the west. Over the next 20-30 mins, the rest of the group trickled in. Everybody but 1 rider was game to give the day a try. When we left the lot around 8:15 we had 9 riders.
I think we had only gone about 20 minutes when Melissa got the 1st flat of the day. The roads in Indiana are wicked on bike tires since they use cinders instead of salt to treat the roads. Melissa got it changed quickly and we were off again. Not too long after, I began to feel little drops of moisture hitting my face. It was sporadic (you couldn't even see it) so we kept going. It was probably about 45 mins to an hour into the ride when we began to see the first snowflakes. They were the big fat lazy ones - the kind that usually make me want to rush out the door to go running. They weren't really sticking to anything so it was kind of fun to be riding - very pretty.
Once we turned off the main road onto the side road, things began to change. The roads were getting wet & you could see the snow starting to stick along the edges. We went over a particularly rough/slippery RR track when one of the riders decided to turn back. The rest of the group decided to go on. We were probably 10 -12 miles away from the first store stop so we decided to push on & decide what to do when we got there.....
Bad move - about 10 mins later that really pretty snow was starting to come down at a much faster pace. It was starting to stick all the way across the road & we soon had our first accident of the day. Melissa wasn't hurt & was right back on her bike but this was just a sign of things to come. We all really slowed down as our tires were beginning to slip on the road. At this point (being the chicken we all know I am) it was very tense...every curve, bump, bridge seemed like a hidden trap that would take me down. I'm certain I had a death grip on my handlebars & although they weren't really working, I felt like I was riding my brakes.
As we went on, the group became so strung out that we stopped to regather about 5-6 miles out from the store. As I came up on this stopping point, I could see evidence on the road where another rider had gone done (Chaz). He wasn't injured but made a nice, big snow angel as he slid across the road.
We all got off our bikes for a couple of minutes, tried to get some of the snow off, took a couple of pics & tried to get on our bikes to make the final push to the store stop. Unfortunately, we had stopped at the bottom of a hill. Not a very big hill but a hill nonetheless. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get on your bike in the snow & actually start moving forward uphill? VERY hard! Not only were our back tires spinning as we tried to get traction, but a few of us couldn't get clipped in anymore. When we had gotten off of our bikes, snow & ice had gotten so embedded in the cleats that it wouldn't come back out. I kind of walk/rode up to the top where I jumped up & down like an idiot trying to fix my cleats. I dug the ice out with a stick & was finally able to clip back in & get going. At this point we were about 5 miles out & it took us a full hour to cover this last bit.
I didn't know that it was possible to sustain a 5 mph pace for as long as we did...and even then we were slipping & sliding across the road. About 3 miles out I got to join in the falling fun when my bike just slipped out from under me while going down a small hill. I felt like a total idiot after my slow-motion crash & walked the rest of the way down. Thankfully Melissa & Mike K walked down with me. At the bottom I got back on but couldn't get clipped in again & now my bike was behaving badly. It wasn't shifting well before I fell but now even though it wouldn't change gears, it kept trying to shift by itself. I couldn't really pedal because the chain kept trying to jump. We were all pretty much in the same boat.
About a mile out from the store, another rider (Dick R) got a flat. He decided not to change it but to just walk in. Now you know you're going slow when someone can walk their bike in the snow wearing frozen bike cleats & still keep up with those riding - what a joke!
We finally made it to the store/restaurant - we had covered 28 miles in 3+ hours & hadn't even made it all the way to the festival:( All of our bikes were pretty disgusting & our clothes didn't look much better. Spray from the road had come up behind the bikes & we were all pretty filthy! Even my hat under my helmet was covered in muddy water.
Dick R called his wife to come get him & Mike K & I volunteered to hitch a ride back to the river to get our cars. Mike was going to haul all the bikes back in his truck & I was going to take people. While waiting we had breakfast - the store (kind of like a truck stop) was serving breakfast & even though we hadn't made it to the festival we got our pancakes & hot chocolate anyway.
By the time we finally got everyone & their bikes back to the river it was about 1:45. As I was driving home it struck me that if I hurried I could make the 2:00 Heine Brothers ride. It hadn't
really snowed over on the KY side of the river so the roads were just wet so I was hoping the ride would go off as scheduled. There were only 3 guys there when I arrived but I think we ended up having about 12 people when we left the lot. My bike had thawed in the car so it was shifting ok again...the brakes didn't sound so great but since this was a very fast ride, I didn't really need them a lot:) Instead of our morning average of around 10 mph, we were closer to 20...It turned out to be a great ride & I got about 50 miles for the day. Not too shabby, considering.
As awful as the whole thing sounds, it was actually a fun day. Misery loves company & I was with a great group of people who all kept upbeat attitudes through the whole thing. I got to know them all better & since we'll be riding together a lot of summer that's a good thing. Next time, though, I'll probably try to avoid the snow. I don't think I'm cut out to be a snow biker!