Smoked by a smart gal

I took advantage of the first day of Spring Break and the first really nice weather day in Austin in some time, to get in some real bike mileage this morning.  I went out to Mopac, planning to do a few loops.  Since I have the week off, I plan to be riding every day (well, almost — golf tomorrow) and beef up my mileage and endurance.

On my second loop of the eight-mile route, I saw a biker pull out onto the road about a half-mile ahead of me.  Aha, I thought — here’s a chance to see if I have what it takes to catch him.  I picked up the pace a little.

It was going to reach a high in the mid-80s(F) today, but at the time of the ride, it was still in the 50s.  I was nicely warmed up, but didn’t plan to push too hard to catch the rabbit — just a bit more than my usual pace.  When I rounded the turn at Route 1826 for the return leg, the other biker was out of sight.  But I soon saw him emerge from a swale in the road.  It looked like my chances of catching him were pretty good.

Several hills mark this stretch of the route.  Not big hills, but enough to make you work.  The other biker was not pumping very hard, but keeping a steady, even pace.  I was closing the gap.

Toward the end of the eastbound leg, there’s a nice downhill that lets me exceed speeds of 30 mph.  Not so today, with a southeast wind blowing in my face.  I got up only to 30, but was still gaining.  I expected to catch him on the level ground at the bottom of the hill.

It was then that I realized — the other biker was female!  (That’s fine — one of the strongest riders in my bike club, who regularly leaves most of the guys behind, is a female.)  And since she was obviously younger than me, she was probably stronger than me, if she’d had any kind of experience on a bike.  Heck, I was pleased to be able to catch anybody.

“On your left,” I called, as I closed on her.  She barely gave her bike a flick over to let me by.  I passed, still gaining speed, and gradually eased over into the center of the paved shoulder.  The road was approaching a sweeping left that would turn us north, and up another series of moderate hills.  I kept up the same pace I’d been riding, and attacked the first hill.

My legs must be getting stronger.  I actually gained speed going uphill, at least for a bit.  I felt good — what a great day to be out on a bike ride!  Then I heard a telltale click.

It was a bike changing gears, and it wasn’t mine.  I looked back, and there she was — inches behind my rear wheel!  She’d grabbed a draft right after I passed her.  That gave her a chance to recharge her batteries.

I saw her wheel pull up on my left side.  We crested a hill, and started down.  She pulled in behind me again.  At the base of the hill, I downshifted and applied more power.  Again the click just off my ear.  And then, that nice silver Merlin with the rider in the purple and white jersey slid by me.

I figured I’d use her tactic, and grab her wheel.  But I was losing ground climbing the hill, and she was pulling away.  By the time we reached the top, she was out of reach.

I’ve been smoked by old guys, smoked by young gals, smoked by mountain bikes, and now I was smoked by someone who really knew what she was doing.  Good for her, and good for me — I learned something today.  I learned that I’m not as young as I feel, and I learned that I still have a way to go conditioning-wise (as if I didn’t know that already).

I finished another loop of the Mopac route, then headed home.  Good average speed today — almost 16 mph.  It’s going to be nice for the rest of the week.  I hope I have several repeats of today’s ride.  But this time, I’ll grab the other rider’s wheel and save my strength for when it counts.

CO2 — A new top post

co2Here’s a minor milestone for the Bike Noob blog — there’s a new King of All Posts. “CO2 cartridges or a pump?” from July 29, 2008 has overtaken “Smoked by an Old Guy” from April 16.

“CO2” has racked up 1,082 page views, passing Smoked’s total of 1,078. Both posts got a little added push after I created the Favorite Posts tab at the top of the blog, but lately, I’ve watched CO2’s visits jump by as much as 30 a day to rapidly close the gap.

“Smoked By An Old Guy” has some sentimental value for me, because it was this post that made this blog catch on. Kent Peterson, the author of the popular “Kent’s Bike Blog,” spotlighted this story on his blog, and my daily number of page views surged. So once again, thanks Kent.

I appreciate the attention both posts continue to get, and I wonder: Are there still some unresolved issues about using CO2 cartridges as opposed to pumps? Let me know — I’m interested in what you have to say on the matter, and I’ll be happy to update everyone on where the sentiment lies.

How long should gloves last?

Got out for a nice 15-mile ride today — first time I’ve been on the bike in a week.  Felt great.  In fact, I think the ride was just what I needed to chase the last vestiges of my cold away.

Man, you can sure tell when you’ve been off the bike for several days.  I didn’t really feel like my old self until I had put down about eight miles.  But then, the legs seemed to loosen up and everything was all right.  I even chased down a rider some distance ahead of me, caught him and smoked him!  Nice to be the smoker for a change.  (Once again, he had no idea we were in a race.  But he was wearing a cycling jersey and shorts, and rode a pretty nice Specialized Roubaix.)

Today I wore the gloves that have been relegated to back-up status for the past few weeks.  They’d been showing signs of wear, so I got new gloves to wear on the century.  In fact, the new gloves were the ones I was wearing when I fell, and they did a great job of protecting my hands from the pavement.

Today’s ride reminded me why the previous pair is just used for back-up.  They’ve really deteriorated.  I bought them when I bought the bike, back in February — so that means I’ve had them for eight months.  And they’re shot.

The left one is in about the same condition.

Now, these are Pearl Izumi gloves.  I think PI makes good quality stuff, and I own a number of different items of theirs.  But eight months?  I’d a thunk these would last longer.  As I said, they’re still  good enoughfor back-up, or for short rides like today’s, but probably won’t be for much longer. Their replacements are also by Pearl Izumi, but a higher-priced model, with thicker padding, especially around the heel of the hand.

I wash my gloves about every two weeks, maybe more often in the summer when my hands get so sweaty they soak right through the synthetic leather palm .  I wonder if the washings contribute to their shorter life span?

What’s your experience with glove wear?