I learned my lesson about good-weather weekend bike rides a couple of weeks ago: If I wanted to be able to ride without having to weave through half the population of Washington DC in various stages of physical exertion, I need to hit the road early. So this morning, at what felt like the crack of dawn, I kitted up and headed out for a spin. The weather was glorious (mid-70s, no clouds or wind, low humidity) and I felt great, so I decided to push myself a bit.
Three-and-a-half hours and 61 miles later, I was back home sitting blissfully among the flowers and pond on my balcony, reading about commedia dell’arte and refueling on a “Deconstructed Guacamole” wrap from Sweetgreen and a bowl of frozen yogurt with strawberries, blueberries and shaved coconut (because I deserved a little splurge after burning 3,000 calories).
In the meantime, I’d had a lot of fun. I started with a fifteen-mile loop from Ballston (the neighborhood where I live, in Arlington) down to the Potomac River and back. From there I headed west on the W&OD trail toward Purcellville. Along the way I passed:
- a turtle crossing the road;
- a woman with a pink riding crop (but no horse) shouting hysterically at six police officers whose cars (lights flashing) were parked across the path as if it were an emergency (all I caught was the woman’s description of what I assume were the persons of interest: a sixty-ish man in a yellow jersey and another guy in a red jersey, both on bikes);
- a bench (where I stopped after the first hour-and-a-half to replenish my blood sugar by eating some gummy sports candies designed for that purpose);
- lots of beautiful wooded land that hid the tracts of suburbia on either side;
- a platoon of Civil War soldiers marching through said wooded land (this is Virginia, after all);
- several more police cars who seemed to be monitoring the points where the bike path crossed ordinary roads;
- a McDonald’s (where I rode through the drive-thru to get a small Coke — that was at mile 46, and I was feeling depleted; next time I’ll have to bring more gummies);
- a woman helping her ten-year-old daughter climb over a very high chain-link fence into a restricted area with power-lines, in what appeared to be a very foolish attempt to pick wildflowers; and
- lots of runners and other bikers (only two of whom passed me back — that was at mile 50, when I was still on the Coke high, so I naturally I raced them for the next 6 miles until the Coke crash came, at which point they sped off into the distance as I mentally shook my fist).
It was a great ride, and I’m happy with where things stand: In the four weeks since I bought my bike, I’ve ridden between two and three times a week, covering a total of 240 miles, with weight training and yoga on the off days. My average speed has gone up from 14mph (over a distance of 15 miles) on the maiden run to 16mph (over a distance of 61 miles) today. And my knees feel better — both on and off the bike — than they have in the last two years of running (or not running, as it’s turned out). I attribute that success largely to the geometry and fit of my bike and my decision to maintain a cadence of around 90 revolutions per minute regardless of terrain. I still have a lot of work to do to build endurance and technique, but I’m hoping that by the end of the summer I’ll be riding consistently four times a week and able to complete at least one 100-miler. Woot!