This section of my website used to be dedicated to triathlon training, personal race results and certification reviews, like Turbo Kick. I am expanding it to include more generic health & fitness topics. Also, I talk a lot about "D" -- he's my husband (Dave Liu)!

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Sunday Ride: Descending Crystal Springs

The weather cleared up this past weekend just in time for 17 ladies to enjoy the Sunday Ride. Most people wanted to do 30 miles, but there were a few determined souls who wanted to crank out 51+ miles.

As usual, there were a few new faces, including Connie and Christiana. Connie was returning to cycling after a hiatus and had loaned her road bike to Christiana. Connie borrowed her husband's road bike.

Amy led the ride. I wanted to ride mid-pack but stayed back to make sure that everybody was okay getting started. I'm glad I did because Connie had a mechanical right off the bat: everything on her bike was adjusted to her husband's measurements, including her seat, which was way too high.

I had an allen key, but it was Alex who was the mechanical genius who made all the adjustments. We complimented her on being so handy with repairs. Alex said her bike fixing knowledge came from an incident last year when her road bike became unridable just two weeks before a triathlon. She had to personally overhaul her brother's mountain bike by cleaning and replacing several components.

As Alex was working her magic, we were joined by Rosemary, a cyclocross lass who met up with the Velo Girls at a few races. She's an energetic lady who bravely transports her bicycle in the back of her Miata. She joked that she needs a new car just to move her cycling equipment around. I'm with her there - my New Beetle sits very low to the ground, so my hitch rack scrapes the ground all the time. I'm worried that the whole thing will collapse one of these days.

Once we got rolling, we made our way down California Ave. and saw that Amy had paused to wait for us. We explained what had happened and I said she could catch up with the front of the pack while I would sweep.

I hope to lead this ride someday, and I've been trying to pick up tips and techniques from other ride leaders. I've noticed that Amy does a spectacular job of consistently circling back to make sure that everybody is accounted for. She must ride like the wind because once she is satisfied that we're all OK, she takes off in a cloud of dust to catch up with the front of the pack.

On our way to Robert's, I saw a familiar cyclist on the other side of the road. It was none other than Leilani, who had attended the same VG basic bike clinic I did (November 2003). She's will be doing the AIDS Ride this year! I remember that she was nervous about using clipless pedals at the clinic (boy could I relate). That's obviously ancient history because she was zooming along Canada like a pro. She recognized me after I hollered a greeting in her direction. She waved back and shouted happily "I've done 33 miles!" Go Leilani!

Most Velo Girls headed over to Robert's but Margaret & I first went to the bakery to buy our customary chocolate chip cookies. The ride just wouldn't be the same without it! While we rested at Robert's, I said hello to Jill, who was on her second Sunday Ride and is organizing Bike for Breath this year. She was dressed head to toe in snazzy purple cycling gear. Given that it was all borrowed, I was impressed that it was all color coordinated and even matched her bike!

I also spoke to Kati, who rides a Cannondale (I've been polling lots of people about their choice of bikes lately). She has dual entry SPD clipless pedals with a sneaker adapter on one side. In addition to being great "clipless pedals training wheels", they're also useful if you want to ride your bike somewhere close without wearing cycling shoes.

On the way back, we stopped at the end of Canada, and Amy warned us of the two tricky parts up ahead since we were going to take the regular route back (not the pedestrian footbridge).

The first challenge comes after you make a left at the light because you have to merge into the right lane as cars are trying to merge left from the right lane. Amy advised us to do that one at a time when it was safe to do so. Fortunately, there weren't any cars in sight. Unfortunately, there was sand in the bike lane nasty stuff that can make you skid.

[Lorri's feedback]: Sand won't make you skid, Lauren. You can ride your bike over virtually anything, as long as you stay relaxed and keep your wheels moving. One of the exercises I do with new riders is have them ride on and off the shoulder of the road. A good place to try this is on Canada Road, heading south, just past the 280 interchange (you know the little grade that goes up to the big tree). Try this on your next ride. Just ride off & on & off & on. You'll see that your bike can ride over just about anything. The secret is to keep your upper body relaxed, keep looking ahead (not down at the group), and make sure you're in an easy enough gear that you can keep spinning... The worst thing you can do on unstable conditions is brake -- that's the easiest way to skid or crash.

The second challenge is the 280 offramp. After clearing the onramp, Margaret & I were about to high-five each other for making it when we saw that all the Velo Girls had stopped just ahead. That's when we realized we hadn't actually passed the hard part yet. I shouldn't even say it's hard, you just have to be careful. Amy explained what to expect: as we were descending, we would pass a highway offramp on our right. Cars coming off the 280 are supposed to wait at the stop sign since we have the right of way, but that doesn't always happen for whatever reason. Amy advised us to slow down, make eye contact with the driver to ensure he/she saw us, watch the wheels of the car in case they start moving and be prepared to stop.

The group paused again at the top of Crystal Springs just before the descent. Well, everybody except me; I went on ahead because I don't like stopping. In hindsight, I should have done so (1) to check in and to listen to any words of wisdom Amy had to share (2) I'm one of the slower descenders.

Descending Crystal Springs is a nightmare. The one and only time I did this before (my very first Sunday Ride last year), I rode my brakes all the way down to avoid gaining any appreciable speed. Now that I know better, this time, I kept on pedaling, feathered my brakes lightly, and PRAYED that my brake pads weren't worn out. There were a few times where I felt like I was going to tip over because I was leaning into the curves (I'm sure it was all of 5 degrees but it seemed like a lot more). Just as I wondered how hurt I would be if I crashed at this point (Scrapes? Bruises? Broken bones?) I heard a loud "yee-ha!" (or was it "hoo-ey!") behind me. I turned around just in time to see Rosemary coming screaming past me. She's awesome.

I did not like that descent one bit. Give me the pedestrian bridge any day of the week instead! I'll even do it twice! Of course, avoiding descents isn't going to make me a better cyclist which means I need to practise going downhill MORE *sigh* Margaret said we were going down at 27-28mph. Makes me appreciate how fast the fellows in the Tour de France go. I remember Bob Roll saying that they come barreling down the mountain at 60mph. Explains why they're in le Tour while I watch it on TV.

The rest of the ride back was pleasant and pleasantly uneventful. Hope to see you next week. Margaret & I will be doing the 36-mile ride!

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