Today, the club was planning a 52-mile ride east of the city. I haven’t been doing enough base miles to handle a 52-miler, especially with the recent humid weather that has hit our area, so I volunteered to lead a “B” ride to a nearby town. Distance would be about 36 miles round trip.
I must have publicized my decision too late, because only two people were interested in doing the B ride, and one of them set off with the A group. They were going down a four-lane divided road with no shoulder and fast traffic. I told the other B rider – someone new to the group – that we would take a safer route.
I had met the young lady – Tina – once before, at a meetup organized by another biking acquaintance. We follow each other on Twitter, but had never ridden together. She indicated she was up for 20 miles, and when I told her how far we’d go, she agreed.
It wasn’t long before I realized she was not used to club rides. She fell behind almost immediately. I slowed down to keep a reasonable gap between us, and waited for her at lights. This was going to be all right. I had ridden hard the previous day, and didn’t mind taking it easy on the Sunday ride.
Three miles out, we reached our first major challenge: a pretty good hill. I’ve ridden it many times and am used to it now, but it still makes me work. I stayed seated as I climbed, figuring it would keep me closer to her. Once I crested the hill, I coasted down the backside. I looked back – and no Tina. I pulled over and waited. No Tina. I reversed course to find out what the problem was. She was pulled over at a turnoff, hunched over her bike. I thought she had a mechanical.
“Need any help?” I called. By now I could see she was just taking a breather.
“That hill really took it out of me,” she said.
We waited a few more minutes, then set off again. I soft pedaled, and averaged about 9 mph, but she still fell behind. This was our pattern for the rest of the trip. She did a great job of staying with me through a dicey section, as we had to brave heavy traffic and cross under an Interstate highway bridge. But once we were out on a semi-country road, she had trouble keeping up.
I pulled into the entrance to a mobile home park and waited. “This is where I usually make a rest stop,” I lied, as she pulled even with me. “Grab some water, walk around a little, or sit.”
“I think my rear tire is soft,” she said.
Soft, nothing. It was flat. We moved her bike to a shady spot and took off the rear wheel. She had a fancy tire lever that hooked under the bead then attached to the axle. The bead was supposed to come off easily. It didn’t. I got my stuff from my bike and took off the tire, then put in her fresh tube and pumped it up. While I worked, she was busy texting on her phone. I finished, and she said, “My roommate is coming to pick me up.”
As we waited, we chatted about biking and her new venture: a triathlon. “I still have to swim and run today,” she said. “This is the fastest I’ve ever ridden.”
It took us over an hour to cover 10 miles.
Her roommate showed up, and I rolled the bike to the SUV. On the way, I squeezed the front tire. It was very soft, too. Clearly, she couldn’t have continued the ride.
I went on to Creedmoor by myself, and headed back to the ride’s start. Everyone from the 52-mile ride was already there.
“Sorry it didn’t work out for you,” said the A ride leader, after I told my story.
“On the contrary,” I replied. “It was fine. When I started biking, you and others did the same thing for me. I’m happy to help out others now.”