Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew.
Ok, more than sometimes.
I had the distinct sensation that I was taking a Jaws-sized bite when I arrived at the GRR2BRR host’s house at 7:15 a.m. on Saturday. GRR2BRR is a 30 mile gravel road ride from Johnston to Perry for the start of the annual (34th) BRR ride. The high temp was forecast for 30ish degrees, but it was barely 20 at the start.
Pulling up I expected to see a handful (5-10) of the usual mountain biker faces, many on mountain bikes, and much leisure. Instead I found 20-30 folks, many of the racer-persuasion, and many on top of cyclocross bikes. The attitude was very friendly but I had the sense the group was going to crank along a little faster than I could muster, especially after a tough weightlifting session earlier in the week (this is excuse # 1).
My sense was exactly right. I hung with the pack for awhile at the start but fell of the pace a bit fairly early on. I was on my mountain bike which has wide, high nobby tires that would’ve been handy in the snow and mush I thought I would be encountering but the roads were really clean and frozen hard. These conditions made it difficult to keep up with a skinny tire crowd (excuse #2). I surfed along, maintaining the small-to-moderate gap off the back until we got to the B level road.
For those unawares, B level roads are “unmaintained” they typically have no gravel base and are often deeply rutted. This time of year they are obviously under significant snow. This one had some car tracks through, so it was rideablish.
Mountain bike, woohoo!
Vis-à-vis the virtues of the B road I caught up to the pack and stayed there for a few more miles, though the second road closed section (not technically a B, but basically the same deal).
Then a few of us took a break to enjoy beverages and good company while the rest of the larger group motored to Casey’s in Granger, presumably to do the same.
Matt spilled his fancy cream stout beer. I told him the water bottle cage wasn't going to work. Uhm....told-ya-so.
Unfortunately our break was apparently not on the same schedule as others in the group, so when we got to Casey’s the group (maybe irritated?) immediately pulled out and ratcheted up the pace a bit.
Again, Brian is off the back.
I seemed to keep the same speed as the pack – at least for awhile – but I consistently don’t get up to cruising speed as fast as others. This could be due to the fact I weigh somewhere between 50-100 pounds more than most of these people, (excuse # 3) but whatever-the-reason I am the caboose.
A couple of my friends stayed back to ride with me which was very nice since I didn’t know the route. As it turned out they were not much help on navigation, and we got a little lost anyway. By the time we wound up in Perry we had added 2-3 miles, a stop in Woodward, and a long stretch of windy pavement.
Sometime in this side excursion I checked the pressure in my rear tire. It had been feeling low, but soft roads and dead-feeling legs can give you this sensation, so I had ignored it. When I pushed on the wheel the rim almost contacted the ground. Great, I wonder how long I rode with 10 PSI, instead of 40 (excuse # 4). Ugh.
Once we arrived in Perry my mood improved, food and beer has a way of doing that. The scene was very RAGBRAI-esque with a mass of humanity descending on one tiny bar. We got lunch and otherwise sampled the local flavor for a couple hours before starting to think about the return trip. Yes, unlike many who rode GRR2BRR and then BRR (24 more miles) before getting a car shuttle home, a few of us didn’t ride BRR and instead rode back to Johnston for…BRR2GRR or ReverseGRR (or something like that).
There were only 4 of us for the return trip: the ride organizer, Steve, the amazing commuting chef, Sam, Nick and myself. Nick rode his mountain bike too but he kept right up with these guys. It was rather impressive, but if you tell him I said that I will totally deny it.
Right before leaving I realized I had neglected my number one priority while in Perry, fixing my rear tire. Unfortunately my mini-pump sucks…bad. I had already shot my last CO2 in there on the way to Perry so I was stuck giving my triceps an awesome workout. Sam gifted me an extra CO2 which really helped out, but it was still a little low all the way home (excuse # 4a).
The ride home was fairly uneventful. We kept a pretty good pace with me, once again, hovering off the back. The other Musketeers would wait at intersections and the like, but I never got too far behind. We collectively wondered what became of our BRR riding buddies, particularly Courtney (who is known for his gravel based exploits). We got back to Steve’s just at dark and noted no other cars were still there, meaning all others had either left earlier than us or shuttled back from Perry...all except Courtney. He got a little turned around on his way home and ended up almost riding back to Perry. You can read all about his adventure on his blog, it’s the first link under “Local Boys” on the sidebar. He’s got some good photos too including one of me “flying” past him on the B road.
All-in-all the distance wasn’t more than I could chew, the hills weren’t either (it was relatively “flat”) but the pace was – slightly. That might have been remedied if it wasn’t for excuses # 1-4a but we will never know.
Big thanks to Courtney and Sam for stealing their pictures.
GRR2BRR = big, but chewable, bite