For Saturday’s ride I wanted to get a longer ride in because I knew that a lot of rain was on the way Sunday (little did I know that Saturday would end up being less comfortable than Sunday). I didn’t have any particularly ideas initially, but then decided to ride down into Spokane Valley and come back home via Highway 27 and the Palouse Highway. I had been thinking about riding that way in the opposite direction earlier in the month and I remembered John Speare saying that he had come back that way after cutting his midnight century short at the end of July.
I didn’t get started until about 9:45 after I made my preparations and waited for it to warm up a bit outside. When I finally left it was still a couple degrees shy of 40° and it didn’t take me long to start thinking about turning back or at least cutting my ride short. As usual my knees and lower legs felt fine despite being uncovered, but my long sleeve jersey and vest combination were not doing the job for my upper body. And my fingerless Specialized gloves were compounding the situation for my hands.
Now, while I haven’t done any cold weather cycling of significance, I’m not a stranger to cold weather endurance exercise. Back in my high school distance running days I did plenty of training during cold and snowy Spokane winters. It was cold and windy Saturday morning, but it was still doable with a little mental fortitude. I resolved to keep going until I got to 17th and then I would pull over, put on my rain jacket before I descended Carnahan hill and see how it went from there.
Boy am I glad I put that rain jacket in my bag. My upper body warmed up immediately once I swapped it for my vest. My jersey quickly became slightly damp with sweat as it lost ventilation, but it was still warm and comfortable. My hands remained cold, but I tried to modify my grip a bit to shield the exposed finger tips a little more and that seemed to help. Having a warm torso put me in a completely different mindset.
The ride itself was fairly uneventful once I descended Carnahan (fun!) and rode up 8th (I forgot that you have a gradual climb up to Park from Carnahan) into Spokane Valley. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had a bike lane to myself for most of the way. Once I got onto Dishman-Mica and started heading south I had a pretty constant headwind. It slowed me down a bit, but didn’t bother me otherwise thanks to my jacket.
The climb up Dishman-Mica to Highway 27th and finally the Palouse highway was nice and gradual. There wasn’t too much motor vehicle traffic and the scenery was pleasant if not particularly exciting. Mostly a few farms and sparsely forested hillsides, with the occasional isolated luxury home peeking out of the trees. I knew that eventually there was a shortcut to the Palouse Highway called Sand Hill, but remembered John saying it was really steep. I wasn’t sure where it was anyway so I stuck to the highway.
Once I reached the Palouse Highway I pulled over briefly at Darknell to call Mary and have a small snack of pretzels and Graduates fruit snacks (borrowed from my kids’ supply in the pantry). I particularly like that combination of sweet and saltiness. Once I got off the phone with Mary (T-mobile has better coverage way out there than by my house!) I decided to throw the remainder of my snack food into my jacket’s back pocket so I could practice eating and riding. That worked pretty well and I finished my snack within a couple kilometers.
This is probably an obvious technique to experienced riders, but I had a bit of an aha moment as I was working my way over some of the rolling hills along the Palouse highway. One of the things I like about encountering hills is that if they’re steep enough they can give you a chance to stand up, get up off your seat, get your arms involved and give your rear a little break. Usually if a given gear on a hill is comfortable for spinning along while sitting it’s too low to be comfortable while standing. It finally occurred to me that if I want to stand up and pedal for a little while on a given hill, shifting up two gears higher is about perfect. I used that technique several times on my way back into town and plan to use it a lot more in the future.
As I was passing Regal Road on the Palouse Highway towards the end of my ride I saw an older rider out on some kind of hybrid or mountain bike with upright handlebars like mine. I had a sudden urge to be friendly so I waved at him. He waved back at me which was cool. Definitely not an exchange I would have had with the majority of the dropped handlebar cycling crowd I see out riding.
For Sunday’s ride I did an enhanced version of my Upper South Hill Loop with a few more kms tacked on to bring it up over 30 km total (and break 700 km for September). It started raining almost exactly when I left my house, but it was a bit warmer at 50° than it had been on Saturday.
As I headed east on my usual route towards 65th I passed several pairs of cyclists heading in the opposite direction. They were all pretty bundled up with jackets and full leg coverage. It must have been towards the end of a group ride with some climbing because they were pretty well separated (the leaders were a couple km ahead of the stragglers), but still following the same general route.
Instead of turning left at Yale like I usually do when heading to Glenrose, I did the short steep climb up to Dearborn and did a loop through the lower residential neighborhood on Brown’s Mountain before rejoining Glenrose and my usual loop. Riding those short, but steep hills was pretty fun actually.
I didn’t see anyone else riding bikes the rest of the way as the rain picked up. Riding in the rain was mostly pleasant, but I need to get some rain pants or something to prevent soaking the tops of my shorts (something along the lines of Rainlegs). It wasn’t a problem during the hour and twenty minutes I was riding, but I could see it getting pretty uncomfortable over a longer ride like a brevet.
Overall a good solid weekend of riding and the 80 km I logged over the two days was enough to bring my total distance for September up to a very satisfying 700 km.