Thought I’d get some hills into my ride today, so I took the Southwest Parkway route. It’s got several long climbs, and would be a challenge to me, since I’ve been riding too many flat routes lately.
The first two miles from my house is on a bike lane that is still bumpy from being chip sealed last summer. However, it’s getting better. There’s lots of traffic on this stretch, so the chips are gradually being ground into the road surface.
The ride was mostly uneventful. Lots of folks out today, and many of them were in triathlete groups, both on their bikes and running. With temperatures in the mid 70s(F), it was a nice morning to be out there.
But at about 14 miles into the ride, the bike lane along Southwest Parkway also shows the signs of being chip sealed last summer. I remember how rough the surface was then, and I’ve mostly avoided this section of the route, coming up with some alternate routes. Today though, I’d planned on riding SW Pkwy for another mile and a half, before turning around and riding back the way I’d come.
It was not a pleasant biking experience. Besides battling a 16 mph wind that gusted to 34, I had to contend with a chip seal surface that felt washboard-like. Vibrations from the road coursed up through the bike’s fork, head tube, and handlebars. My hands on the hoods started shaking. The vibrations were so intense, they made my hands go numb. I shifted my hand position to the top of the bar, but that made me feel as though I had less control over the bike as it jarred its way over the road.
Finally, I hit the turnaround point. The road on this side had the same rough chip seal surface, and now I was headed directly into the wind, and heading up the longest climb of the route. I was in my small chainring, in the largest cog, and just when it seemed that I couldn’t finish the climb … the chip seal surface ended!
What a difference! The bike surged forward up the rest of the hill. I shook out my hands, to get rid of the tingling sensation caused by the chip seal. A few riders were ahead in the distance, and I stomped on the pedals to see if I could catch them. I couldn’t, but it felt good to be riding reasonably fast again, on a smooth road.
I suspect I’ll let that part of Southwest Parkway stay off my biking radar for the rest of the year. If I hear reports from other cyclists that it’s getting better, I’ll give it another try. But for now, I’ll stick to the smooth stuff.
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