Real Ale Ride leaves me ailin’ (ride report)

Ignominy (IG’-na-min-ee): Great personal dishonor or humiliation (American Heritage Dictionary). Used in a sentence: The Real Ale Ride today ended in ignominy for the Bike Noob.

The Real Ale Ride in Blanco, Texas, could have been a great ride. All the elements were there. A beautiful day (OK, hot); nice Texas Hill Country scenery; a start and finish at a microbrewery (Real Ale) with beer and barbecue at the end.

Pat and I both signed up for the 50-mile route, from choices of 15, 30, 50, 65 and 85 miles. She was smart — realized she didn’t have enough mileage under her belt to do a 50, so cut back to the 30. I, on the other hand, was not so smart.

We got off to a good start. We met Jared from Just Another Nerd… and his friends Eric and Christine. They all planned to do the 50, too.

Eric, Christine, and Jared.

It didn’t take long for the hills to kick in. I think some bikers were caught by surprise at the extent of the hills, and their steepness. I was huffing and puffing just a few miles into the ride. This ride is organized by a local bike shop, and attracts a higher caliber of rider from both the Austin and San Antonio areas than most typical charity rides. The first rest stop is about 13 miles from the start. Typical remark while in line for the food and drink: “I was gonna do the 50, but I think I’m cutting it to 30 today.”

Rest Stop #1. We didn’t go over the hills in the background, but we did go through gaps to get past them. That involved climbing enough.

Hunting for bananas, and pickle juice, and…

Jared and friends decided to skip this stop, so I watched them head down the road. Since my bonk earlier this year, I am sensitive to keeping fueled while on a ride. Besides, it’s not a race, anyway. When I did get going, I made decent time to the second rest stop, and had caught up to them. Heading out from here, we picked up a ranch road with light traffic, and made better time.

Yep, that’s the Noob.

The ride goes through cattle country, and riders had to cross cattle guards at several points along the route. The signs warning of the cattle guards seem to carry a double meaning:

Someone needs to rein in their morals.

The ranch road brought us back to the first rest stop again. I plopped into a chair under an awning, drank my liquids and ate some food. The temperature was into the 90s by now, and some of the starch was coming out of me. The road out from the rest stop climbed through the passes over the hills in the earlier picture. I was in the largest cog of my compact double, and kicking myself for not getting the triple when I bought the bike. Then, I hit a hill I could not pedal up. That didn’t bother me — lots of others walked their bikes up it, too.

Will this guy make it, or will he have to walk his bike, too?

The beauty of a struggle up a hill like this one is that once you’re at the top, it’s downhill. Man, was it ever. At one point, the road dropped away out of sight. Once you hit the dropoff, your speed soared. I was going more than 35 mph, and could easily have hit 45, but some of the curves in the road made me uneasy. I feathered the brakes to keep from gaining too much speed, and kept it around 35. BANG! The rear tire let go like a shotgun blast. I kept the bike steady, and stopped to assess the damage.

Shredded rear tire. I’m guessing the heat buildup from the braking (no, I didn’t keep the brakes applied constantly — used mostly the front and hit the rear intermittently) caused the tire to blow. After a half hour, a sag wagon found me and drove me back to the start. I finished about 38 miles.

Pat was already there, having completed her 30-miler. She was fried. She pushed her very upright, heavy steel hybrid through those same hills, but when she got to the main intersection in downtown Blanco (pop. 1500) and realized she faced one more two-mile climb to the finish, it was almost more than she could take.

We didn’t even bother to stand in line for the beer and barbecue, but headed for home right away. Pat is now talking more seriously about a new, lighter, road-friendly bike, and I’m once again making a resolution to work hills into my weekly rides more than I do now. Upcoming rides? Talk to me after today recedes into my dim memory.

For another take on the ride, see comments left by Daren of the LMRA Bicycle Club of Ft. Worth on his club’s message board.

Real Ale Ride tomorrow

Another organized ride in the Hill Country is coming up.  The Real Ale Ride offers routes of 15, 30, 50, 65 and 85 miles.  Pat and I are both signed up for the 50, but after yesterday evening’s short jaunt, she’s decided that 30 will be plenty for her.  Work demands have kept her off the bike most weekdays recently.  Based on the elevation views of the route maps, her 30 might be more challenging than my 50.  We’ll see.  Full ride report Saturday evening.


I’ve always been a bit irrational about carrying identification when I ride. That’s because early on I worried about losing my wallet with my drivers license. Even when the wallet was securely zipped in my seat bag. Even though sometimes I carry my wallet in a pants pocket that doesn’t button shut.

But that’s no matter. I just couldn’t get past the lost DL thing. So I created an ID of a sort, typing out name, address, and emergency contact info on a small piece of paper, taking it to Wal-Mart and running it through one of those cheapy laminating machines near the entrance.

It got bent up in a few rides. I didn’t want to keep going back to Wal-Mart, so I tried something different. This time, I created the ID as above, and also xeroxed my health insurance card. I cut them both to the size of a business card, then put each on either side of one of my business cards, and used clear packing tape to improvise a lamination.

I’m pretty happy with the results. The resulting card is stiff, and the packing tape makes it virtually waterproof. The first thing I do when leaving for a ride is stick it in one of the back pockets of my jersey. No need to worry about jamming my wallet into the seat bag.

My wife thinks I’m being silly. She puts both her drivers license and her health insurance card in her seat bag before every ride. Of course, she’s never had a problem.

Road ID has built a business for itself by making nice ID tags that can be fastened to a wrist, or an ankle, or most any other place. The company argues that emergency workers don’t typically go through an injured person’s pockets, and wouldn’t find an ID card there — but will see an ID tag worn outside.

I haven’t talked to an emergency worker, so I don’t know. For now, I’m comfortable with my way. But if I can be convinced, I will happily change.