30 Days of Biking: Hills and Miles and Darkness, Oh My!
Today’s easy-squeezy 8.4 miles, broken up into nice manageable chunks of 10 minutes or less, nonetheless provided plenty of reminders of yesterday’s butt-burner: over 27 miles total, with a huge chunk of that spent slogging slowly up a hill climb that I thought would never end.
But it was fun, honest!
The set-up: I did my usual quick little ride to work, sprinting because I was going to be late to a meeting and beating my “race time” by at least 30 seconds.
After work I dressed in one of my cute little Nuu-Muus, a pair of actual (gasp!) bike shorts (couldn’t find the adorable lace-trimmed Sheila Moon lingerie knickers, alas, and decided I’d ride with more padding than Pedal Panties provide), and a white Sheila Moon bolero, along with (another gasp, please) bike shoes that let me clip in.
Just the thing for a nice long ride out to Spokane County Raceway Park, where Sweet Hubs and his compatriots were pitted against each other in the first of the season’s Twilight Series Road Race put on by his club, Baddlands.
Route selection required some comparisons of Google Maps choices. They offered three, with the kind suggestion, “Or take Public Transit” linked below, in case the idea of a ride of 9-10 miles with hill climbs (no matter what) didn’t appeal.
Their first proposed bike route, West Trails road accessed through the West Central neighborhood and Riverside State Park, involved dropping clear down to the Spokane River Gorge and climbing back up out of it. Beautiful, sure, but can’t we stay on top of the grade?
Route 2, while a mile shorter, carries with it a more hostile traffic setting, taking Sunset Boulevard (not bad) to US-2 (not good, although I’ve ridden it before—the highway is the main route to a correctional facility, a casino, and Fairchild Air Force Base, making it busy and full of people who may or may not want to be making that particular trip). The one thing this route does get almost right is the section from downtown west to the decision point where you have to head toward West Trails or stay on Sunset Boulevard.
Route 3, Government Way and West Trails, again has part of it right. But someone needs to ask Google Maps programmers, “Pretty please could you take terrain into account, by which we mean grade?” This route, too, drops you down into the river gorge, this time via Peaceful Valley, then brings you back up out.
The key to my route selection, since I’m not training for the Tour de France, sounds a lot like advice in drawing up battle lines: Hold the high ground for as long as possible.
As soon as you start enjoying one of those exhilarating “Wheeee!” moments down a long hill the back of your brain should remind you that riding a bike is like riding a roller coaster: A down is generally followed by an up that will be a lot slower and not nearly as fun.
So the route I chose is the Barb route, based on feeling comfortable enough to skip the Centennial Trail and stick to streets that are straighter, knowing neighborhoods to cut through to skip some of the streets with more traffic, and eliminating as much climbing as possible for as long as possible.
- Spokane Falls Boulevard around to where it connects to the short stretch of bike lane on Riverside Avenue, then into Browne’s Addition onto Pacific.
- Through the roundabout at Cannon by The Elk (a bike-friendly restaurant!) and down to Sunset Boulevard.
- To Government Way and out past the turn to Spokane Falls Community College. Not long after that stoplight, Government Way becomes West Trails and you start to cliiiiiiiiiiimb.
- West Trails becomes Hayford Road, you take a quick right on Sprague, and you’re practically there. Or if you’re me, you go past “there” and end up visiting the vicinity of the correctional facility before backtracking and wending in through the construction to the raceway exactly an hour after I set off.
Where—ta-da!—I arrived in time to give Sweet Hubs a good-luck kiss before sending him off with the rest of the B-pack for their criterium (several fast laps around a relatively short, flat track). He won with a nice sprint at the end, which is a great payoff for all those winter nights he spent on the trainer in front of a movie.
We then rode home together through the gathering darkness, shivering a bit (wish I’d had those knickers to cover my knees!) until the ride warmed us.
The downhill “Wheee!” was incredibly fast considering how long it took me to climb going the other way. I couldn’t believe it when we’d already reached the traffic light by SFCC and I knew we had just a few more miles and a bit more climbing, thankfully separated by some straight stretches and downhill rests, and we’d be home.
We heard frogs singing their hearts out, felt the difference in temperature as we entered the urban core and felt the day’s warmth radiating out, and made it home safe and sound with 27-1/2 miles on my cyclometer and 1,392 calories burned according to my heart monitor dealio.
And today, I felt every single mile in my legs when I climbed, whether it was climbing a hill on my bike or a set of stairs at work to help rack up the mileage on my pedometer. It will be a couple of days before I try anything like that long a ride again, but it felt great to be able to do it.
I want to build back up to the mileage I used to accumulate that made it easy to plan a 30-40-mile ride with Sweet Hubs and I have to start somewhere.
Just, maybe . . . somewhere flatter?
- There and Back Again: How to Pick your Bike Commute Route
- Intro to Bike Commuting: Route Selection Part 2
- More Bike Commuting Route Selection Tips: Part 3
- Thinking like a Driver vs. Thinking like a Bicyclist
- On Getting from Here to There–A Betsy Post
- Climbed any really long hills/mountains? (Lately or ever?)
- What’s the hardest part of it for you and how do you deal with that?