My wife wanted to go for a ride the other day. “But, can you pick a route around here that’s flat?” she asked. Pat has an arthritic hip, and it can cause her a lot of discomfort on rides, especially if she has to deal with hills. Apparently, she was experiencing a flare-up of her arthritis this day. But she truly likes to get out on her bike. It’s her main form of exercise.
“I think we can come up with something,” I answered, not fully convinced. We live in a suburban-style part of town, right on the edge of the Texas Hill Country. It’s not much of a stretch to find some grades just a short distance from the house, and I like to use some of these residential streets to do hill repeats for myself. An all-flat route? That would take some thinking.
We started out heading north. This four-lane divided road with its 40 mph speed limit gets traffic out of our residential part of town toward a more mixed-use area. But even here, there are some rises and dips. And today, Pat wanted flat. Less than a half-mile on the street, I turn off onto a side street. This more or less paralleled the original route, and the grade was much milder here. It was also a road Pat had never ridden on, since we never had any reason to.
We came to a good east-west connector, which I often travel on one of my more frequent weekend loops, but I opted to cross it this time, and continue on. More residential streets, more turning. By now, Pat was confused.
“Are you going to be able to get us out of here?” she asked.
“No problem,” I said, as I turned left again. Now we were in an older, very pleasant neighborhood that reminds me more of the Houston suburbs than Austin. We turned onto a road heading south, and stopped at a light.
“Here’s a slight hill,” I told her. “We have to go up, around a bend, then down to a long flat stretch.” She was game for it.
About two miles farther, I discovered the flaw in my plan. If we turned right at a stoplight, Pat would have to contend with a hill that didn’t look particularly tough, but could be a challenge if you weren’t ready for it. I figured we’d stay on residential streets, and turned before we got to the light. Again, she was confused by the streets I took, but I knew they ran in roughly the same direction as the main road. We snaked through some more residential twists and turns, and found ourselves within a few blocks of our house.
“Do you want to keep going?” I asked. “We can do some more of this.”
“No, that’s good for today,” she replied. We pulled into our driveway and put the bikes away. She was pleased with the ride. Not too much exertion, and she felt like she had had some exercise.
In all, we did about nine miles. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was a good experience on a couple of levels. For me, I got in a ride, and I was forced to pedal easily. Not once did I jump ahead and get way out in front of her. It was a Zone 1 day, and I do too few of them anyway. I think it’s a good way for me to maintain balance in my riding.