Thursday, January 5, 2017

TBThursday: A LUNA Chix ride full of lessons for newbie rider

TBThursday: Riding to Lyons Valley Trading Post from Donny's Cafe in Bonita with the San Diego LUNA Chix in 2012.
Heading east on Otay Lakes Rd at lower Otay Lake with the SD LUNA Chix in late spring 2012.
 I had only been cycling for 3 months then, and boy, did I have much to learn! It was the most challenging ride on the LUNA Chix's schedule that season (the LUNA Chix have since warped into the Wheel Women of San Diego, of course, though they still welcome non-competitive guys on their rides); a 50 or so miler with a lot of climbing. I made several mistakes that resulted in my only unfinished ride that isn't due to crashing.

#1. I washed the bike the night before and didn't put the rear wheel back on right... because I had never tried taking out the rear wheel and putting it back on myself before. 😶 It is rarely a good idea to try doing new things to the bike just before a tough ride!

#2. I only checked tire pressure before rolling off, but never gave the wheels the spin check (to make sure they are spinning true and not rubbing the brakes, because, you know, I was green and didn't know better.

#3. I didn't ask the more seasoned LUNA Chix ride leaders to check the bike for me before we started riding (since I had taken off the rear wheel and put it back on myself for the first time. It's always a good idea to have someone else check your work for you!).

So, of course, it all went quite wrong. I rode in to the ride's start at Donny's from North Park and the bike already felt quite heavy. It didn't improve after we had taken off up the warm up climbs of Otay Lakes Rd and the rolling hills east to Pio Pico rest stop either. I brushed it off as being a bit over-trained (I was riding a lot because I wanted to ride the Giro di San Diego ride from Solana Beach to the top of Palomar Mtn and back a couple of months from then)... and thought that the heaviness of the bike was a symptom of my having a 'bad legs day'... After all, I checked the tire pressure often, and they were definitely not going flat. 

#4. I sensed that something wasn't right, but didn't tell any more-experienced rider or ride leader about it.

By the time we turned uphill on the long climb of Honey Springs Rd I was dropping off the back end of the group and struggling mightily to keep moving. I occasionally smelled burnt rubber, but it was a hot day (it must have been close to 100F on that slope by then), so it didn't feel that out of place for me. I only made it half way up the climb and turned around to make sure that I could make it back to Donny's. The rest of the group went on and tagged the Trading Post, then caught and passed me on the rolling hills back into Eastlake. One of the ride leaders even gave me a push up a hump on Otay Lakes... It was pretty darn demoralizing to implode so spectacularly on a sub-50 miler less than two months before the slated 111 mile torture ride with 10000 ft of expected elevation gain.

I only found out the culprit when I stopped by at an old pal's place before rolling home and finally thought to give the wheels a spin before mounting the bike. The rear one couldn't even complete a single revolution. I had put it on a bit off and it was rubbing the rear brake so much that the normally shiny brake assembly was completely blackened by rubber debris. I was lucky that the rear tire didn't blow out when I bombed down Honey Springs Rd 18 miles earlier.
LUNA Chix Ellen, leading B group up Cabrillo Tidepools Hill a year later in 2013.
I had one thing going for me on that ride, though. I was riding with Team LUNA Chix San Diego and they took care of me. The ride's sweeper, Ellen, absolutely refused to leave me behind until I got to a safe place (my friend's pad). She practically saved my butts!

You live and learn, but some days are more full of lessons than others!