I was looking forward to this morning’s club ride, even though the temperature was on the chilly side — 42ºF (5ºC) — with a bit of a wind. But the ride organizer had picked a route that I probably would have taken anyway, even if I hadn’t been riding with the club. So I checked my cool weather clothing guide, geared up accordingly, and headed for the local Starbucks.
We had a pretty good turnout for an overcast, blowy morning. Abut 13 riders showed up, and we headed out in good spirits.
It wasn’t long before I had assumed my customary place in the pack: off the back. No matter, because there were plenty of stoplights on this part of the route, and I could always catch up to the others. The northwest wind was stronger out on the road than it was in my protected neighborhood enclave, but since we were headed southeast, it was at our backs. It pushed us along nicely. I felt good about my clothing selection, although it occurred to me that even with two pairs of socks (one wool) and toe covers, my feet were frozen.
We crossed over the Interstate highway and rode the shoulder of a major farm-to-market road. The wind was hitting us from the left, with enough force to knock the bike around a bit if you weren’t careful. I was well behind the group when we reached the crossroads town of Creedmoor, and was glad to see everyone stopped in the lot at the little country store.
Turns out they were just waiting for a few of us laggards. As soon as we caught up to them, they were off. These folks don’t stop much during rides — they just keep going.
The route turned west, and now we could feel the full force of the wind, because for the first time on the ride, we were into it. We had probably done about 22 miles by now (I had forgotten to zero my computer), and my constant efforts to keep the pack in sight were starting to tell on me.
The ride organizer and his wife are both coming back from injury, so they were off the back, too. But when they passed a turnoff to a road I knew would take us back toward home, I decided I had had enough. I told them so, and went back to the turnoff.
Now I knew I’d be fighting the wind the rest of the way home, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. My speed was down to 10-11 mph, and I was spinning in a low gear. And the cold was getting to me. What warmed me comfortably going out wasn’t enough on the return leg. I realized there was no way I would make it home (well, I could have — I just didn’t have the spirit to do it). I pulled over to the side of the road, called home, and asked my wife for a ride. We agreed to meet at a gas station a few miles from where I was. My dependable sag driver arrived at the spot about three minutes after I did.
Yes, I know — the cardinal rule of ride planning is to go into the wind on the way out, so it’s at your back on the way home. The ride organizer is pretty good about this, but today wanted to do this particular ride. It turned out he and his wife were pretty done in by the ride, too.
It was a hard slog out there today. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the good weather we’ve had through the summer, and the lack of strong wind. But I think I’ll be reverting to Zone 2 rides, probably on my own, while the winter cold settles over Texas. I want to keep biking fun. Rides like today’s aren’t.