Sometimes “Fun” Hurts Pretty F*cking Bad

Throughout my ride on Friday – the longest ride I’ve ever undertaken, in terms of both distance and time – I thought of the slogan on a sticker sold by XXC Mag, a great publication on long-distance off-road cycling: “Sometimes ‘fun’ hurts pretty f*cking bad.”

I wasn’t going fast enough to be in agony, at least not the same sort of pain created by racing, but roughly the one-third mark to the end, I was in considerable, increasing discomfort that verged often on pain: my back was sore, my neck was stiff, my shoulders and upper arms were cramping, and of course my legs – from hips to, oddly, ankles – were beyond salvation. And oh god my knees. And I know I hallucinated a few times – imagining that I could see roadsigns that were actually too far away to be legible. About the only non-suffery times were my several rest breaks. Sitting on your ass in the dirt never felt so good:

It’s strange, though, to be in that state and still be happy, to still be having fun. I was out on nice gravel roads, seeing parts of the Southern Minnesota countryside that I haven’t seen before, and above all trying hard to get through the various obstacles literally in my path: to smoothly ride a horrible stretch of washboarded road, to maintain some speed on freshly-graded gravel that was deeper than my wheels’ rims, to not put a foot down on a long slippery uphill, to not tap the brakes on a long bumpy downhill (39.9 mph!).

I wound up riding 90 miles in 6:05 of saddle time. I had actually aimed to ride 10 miles further, to complete my first “century” ride, but that distance was just too much to do, especially because the longest I’d gone up to this ride was 62 miles (a “metric century” of 100 kilometers). All the mileage meant I got to see some good stuff, from the mature cornfields along the Cannon River
Scotia Trail Cornfields

and the vaguely reptilian apparatus used to irrigate the corn and beans
Scotia Trail Soybean Fields

and the pleasing linearity of partly-harvested corn
Sogn Valley Corn Harvest

to picturesquely abandoned farm infrastructure like this crownless silo
Crownless Silo

or this overgrown corn crib
Abandoned Corn Crib

and this caboose used apparently as an outbuilding or even a house at some farm west of Kenyon.
Caboose House

I hope I can find the time in the next six weeks – before it gets too cold – to do that century ride, to have some more f*cking painful fun, and to see more of the sights…

(Some) Cyclists Are Stupid

Heading home on my bike today, I came up on a guy – late teens, early twenties – riding a kinda-nice road bike along the more-or-less right spot at the right edge of the right lane. He wasn’t wearing a helmet, but the quality of the bike and his non-weaving made me think that he knew what he was doing.

We came up to an intersection, me just a bike-length behind him. I signalled my right turn and stopped. Neither stopping nor signaling, he made a sloppy right turn and headed down the street. I got going again and caught up to him right away. I was turning left at the end of the block, so I checked behind me, indicated the left turn, and edged over toward the left edge of the lane. As I pulled to a stop at the intersection, I was slightly ahead of the guy.

He then darted over from the far edge of the lane, zipped to within a few inches of my front wheel, glanced at the oncoming and crossing traffic, and headed on an oblique diagonal line through the intersection and off in the direction I had planned to go. Completely idiotic riding. Incidents like this make me understand why so many drivers hate bikers.

30 Days of Biking Part 2 (September 2010)

The second “30 Days of Biking” event kicks off tomorrow, on September 1. As the website says,

The only rule for 30 Days of Biking is that you bike every day for 30 days—around the block, 20 miles to work, whatever suits you—then share your adventures online. We believe biking enriches life, builds community, and preserves the Earth.

The brainchild of Patiomensch and Zachamon, two riders in Minneapolis, 30DoB was a decent little phenomenon in April. September is a good riding month, too, so – barring a broken leg – I am definitely going to ride every day until October. I hope many others will try to ride for 30 straight days, too: it would be good for the heart, the legs, the streets, and the planet. If you want to do the 30DoB, you can register at the website or via Twitter (using the #30daysofbiking tag) – or not register at all and just, you know, ride.

For my part, most of my rides will be commutes – twenty-one of them, if I ride every workday in September. But beyond that functional riding, I want to accumulate at least 300 miles of training rides, including rides of 85 and 100 miles. Those long rides would build on 50 and 65 miles I did  earlier this summer, and would build fitness nicely toward winter. Skiing is only about 90 days away!

Shut Up, Legs

That’s the famous demand that Jens Voigt, a superlatively tough pro cyclist, makes during especially hard rides. My ride today was hardly a Tour de France stage, but it was both the longest ride and the longest workout I’ve ever done.

The ride took me further away from Northfield than any ride I’ve done, into countryside that features some sizable lakes (and little lake towns), endless marshes that come right up to the roadside, and some bizarrely roads, like this gravel superhighway, easily four lanes wide and connecting noplace to nowhere:
Gravel Superhighway

All this was very scenic and pleasant – at least until the legs started to shut down. About three-quarters of the way through the ride, as I started (slowly) climbing a very long gravel hill that I swear was at least a 50% grade, I actually said, “Shut up, legs!” The obeyed, getting me up that hill and some others that came later. After a rough stretch of brutally corrugated gravel, I hit a curvy downhill and saw, not too far away, the Northfield water tower that’s not far from my house. I whooped out loud. Four miles later, I was immensely pleased to get off my bike.

As usual, I saw a lot of interesting stuff on this ride, but today I concentrated on riding at a good pace, not taking (as many) photos. For instance, I didn’t take pictures of the huge smiley face painted on the side of an abandoned building in a hamlet alongside Roberds Lake or of the red leather sofa sitting in the ditch somewhere west of Faribault. However, I couldn’t resist snapping a shot of either this odd dead tree
Strange Tree

Or this picturesquely wrecked barn, which is a pretty accurate metaphor for how I feel right now.
Fallen Barn


Without really realizing it, I’ve created a habit of going for long rides on Friday afternoons. It’s not a bad way to spend a few hours, especially if work has been squared away, and it’s sure a good way to kick off the weekend.

This Friday, I ventured south and west of town, toward Shieldsville, a little town on one of the several lakes down that way. It was a great ride. I saw quite a few things that I didn’t or couldn’t photograph:

  • three motorcycles carrying burly dudes up front and women in bikini tops in back (is this a thing now?),
  • hundreds of cows and scores of horses,
  • the highest heart rate I’ve seen in years, at the top of a nasty climb near the end of the route,
  • hypnotically linear fields of corn and soybeans,
  • a rather stout farmer who, when I encountered him a second time on the road a few hundred yards from where I’d met him earlier (but after an hour and many miles of riding), yelled, “You didn’t get very far!”
  • a huge auto junkyard hidden out in the middle of nowhere,
  • glimpses of four or five sizable lakes, all just about a half-mile from the roads,
  • birds, butterflies, and dragonflies that (stupidly?) flew directly down the road away from me, so that I caught up to them over and over, forcing them to flee and flee,
  • the immense deliciousness of a strawberry-flavored slush drink at a convenience store near my turnaround point.

I also saw some things that I could and did photograph:

Turkeys both domestic and wild (just at the edge of the brush, to the left of the evergreen):
July 16 Ride - 1

A stately old red-brick silo:
July 16 Ride - 3

A familiar street name, but no #8 bus:
July 16 Ride - 2

Many odd little triangular patches of grass at various T intersections.
July 16 Ride - 4

Quite a few sections of Rice County pavé: rumble strips along on quiet rural roads (note the strip on the white line: that’ll wake you up if your front tire wanders!).
July 16 Ride - 5

A lof of gravel beneath me (and increasingly on me) and skies like this above me:
July 16 Ride - 6

Muddy Gravel Ride

Rather than heading south and east of town for today’s ride, I rode north and west over some wonderfully muddy gravel roads. As it turned out, my die occupied most of a ninety-minute interlude between downpours. Among other things, I saw scores of “red admiral” butterflies (a half-dozen hit me in the face!); a raccoon, oddly wandering around at 2:30 in the afternoon; and some pretty impressive thunderclouds gathering to the west. It was a great last ride for a while – tomorrow I head out of town for a conference in Iowa, where I hear the riding’s great but where I’ll have neither time nor a bike.

Bike for Sale

Since getting my Surly CrossCheck last fall, I have no need for my older mountain bike, a Kona Lava Dome.
For Sale: Kona Lava Dome ($250 OBO)

The Lava Dome is a great bike that’s held up well since its 1995 purchase. I’ve used it in the last five years mostly for commuting, but it is an excellent bike for off-road trails or gravel roads, too. The frame is very light (especially for such an old bike), the 21 speeds can handle pretty much any terrain, and the Shimano components are decent and well-maintained. I equipped it with fenders for commuting, but they can be taken off at will. The bike was always a bit small for me (5’10”), but it’d be a perfect fit for someone about 5’8″ or so, male or female.

I’m asking $250 for it. Get in touch with me here if you’re interested.

I Heart Sufferfests

With the weather promising to be decent and my body hankering for a tough workout, I decided to do a long ride today, one based on this route. The weather actually varied from cool overcast to light rain to cloudless sunshine, but the ride would have taken a long time in any conditions, and it sure did. I have never felt more trashed after a workout or race. Over the last half hour the only distractions from my screaming back were the expectation of cold Coke at home and the cramps in my forearms.

But the ride was also felt really good: fun to do and satisfying to have done. Training is weird like that. I hope I can go at least this far again a couple more times this summer and fall. A few pictures to illustrate the ordeal fun.

This shot’s from late in the ride, but the view is perfectly typical. It’s wonderful, wonderful riding.
Gravel Grinding

Fairly early on, I found this gorgeous ruin – probably of a mill – south of Cannon Falls.
Mill Ruins

I also saw a beautiful old headless brick silo. The farmstead was gone.
Headless Brick Silo

I loved this sign, versions of which I saw several times on the twisty, rolling country roads. It made me think, somehow, of zombies.
Deaf Cycle Past

Riding through farm country, it was no surprise that I saw lots of livestock, like these very sleek cows:
Horse Country

About halfway through the ride, I hit this climb, which was the toughest “ascent” of the route – though not because it was either long or steep. I was just tired and needed some food and water. The fuzzy black zones in the corners were caused by my camera lens failing to open all the way, but the blurry half-view pretty much suggests how I felt.
Uphill Struggle

I looked like this when I finally took that much-needed break:
Halfway Through

My rig, which I realized needs a good name, also enjoyed the rest. I have to remember not to lay it down on the derailleur side. Something chainy/cranky rattled all the way home.
At Rest

Not long after my break, just after I passed through the tiny town of Sogn, I found a stretch of road through these beautiful rock walls. After this picturesqueness, I pretty much stopped taking photos because I was back in the pain zone and because the remainder of the ride was in the wide-open country, where the sun was unrelenting and the wind was pretty tough, too.
Rockside Rocks

I looked like this after all that cycling. Not pictured is the giant bowl of ice cream I’m going to eat now.
Completely Done

Riding Along on My Velocipede

I had a sweet gravel ride planned for this afternoon, a 34-mile affair that would’ve probably taken a couple hours in the cool humidity. Alas, eleven minutes into the ride, I suffered a pinch flat, which – since I’m not exactly a wizard with the bike repairs – took a good bit of time to fix.

Given that delay, I figured I had to cut the ride a bit short, which I accomplished far more effectively than intended by taking a wrong turn and cutting a few miles off the route. Whoops. Still, the ride ended up being a solid 80-some minutes and 25 miles in length, and crossing parts of Rice, Dakota, and Goodhue counties. Not epic, but better than good. I came home equally sweaty, tired, and gritty, having absorbed into my kit, skin, and hair about 10% of all the gravel I rode over (plus or minus): two days of rain increases the tackiness of the roads quite a bit.

In all that time, I didn’t meet a single other rider, and only a few cars (except for brief stretches when I had to zip down this or that highway). I did see some oddities, such as this overturned sofa bed in the ditch near the Goodhue County line.
Fagen Sofa Bed

This was a far more typical scene:
Cannon Falls Cows - 1

Aren’t they pretty? I honestly don’t know how cows, or the bovine gaze, became synonymous with stupidity or indolence. I think they look placidly curious. If I could muster that combination of interest and calm, I’d be a better person.
Cannon Falls Cows - 2

No (Competition for) Parking

Today was one of those days on which all the undergrads take themselves – along with their odd clothes, their work ethics, and their unusual hairstyles – away from campus on the big white Northfield Lines buses.


On the plus side, though, there’s no competition for space at the bike rack now. I think my bike’s a little lonely.
Bike Rack at the End of the Year

Spring Riding

My ride to and from Faribault was a lot of fun, though now I have fried legs and a vicious, bizarre sunburn: the tops of the middle third of each arm. The skin is roughly the color of the roof of this lovely little barn along the route. From the spot where I took this picture, I could see two horses, a herd of cows, a donkey, and a bunch of chickens. It was like a Richard Scarry drawing of a farm, come to life.
Two-Toned Barn

My ride also gave me a great semi-marcelled hairdo, thanks to copious sweating and my three-vent helmet:
Helmet-Marcelled Hair