18 April 2016

Road Biking: My 30yr Remission

A few years ago I started cycling again. As a teenager, I had a nice Apollo 10 speed road bike that I put thousands of kms on - it was my dream to ride across the country, or something like that.

Then I got a car and I forgot all about my bike and biking.

After 30 years or so I acquired a nice Trek commuter bike and I was hooked, I soon began making the 40km round trip to work once a week and began riding most evenings through Fish Creek Provincial Park, near my home. I was starting to get my endurance and speed up and wanted to get back into road biking.

As a teenager, I spent hours at South Cycle, the local bike shop and drooled over the beautiful Bianchi road bikes, with the Campagnolo group sets and flat spokes and aerodynamic frames. It was my dream to have such a beautiful bike.

Well, thanks to Kijiji and someones need to upgrade, I found such a bike and at a reasonable price. I lucked into a 2002 Bianchi Reparto Corse with a Campagnolo Centaur 10 speed group set. It's an aluminum frame with carbon forks and wheels, pretty light and in terrific shape. It's not a fancy carbon frame model like most road bikes today, but it's still a performance bike.

I got the bike late in the summer, I put some new rubber on and rode the bike as is. Getting accustomed to the feel of the frame and making small adjustments to the bike as I went, putting in a few hundred kilometers. In the winter I purchased a stationary stand so that I could still spin.

The second summer, I began to see what I could do on the road bike and began to take longer rides, typically 60km at a time and was quite comfortable in doing these rides, I even ventured out onto highway 23 and rode from Mossleigh to Vulcan a few times (78kms) - 14kms of uphill to start off on, but a blast coming back, I reached a speed of 76kmph on one ride... a bit disconcerting when your only protection in a crash is the lycra your wearing.

Then, I discovered the Canmore Gran Fondo (CGF). A gran fondo is a type of long-distance ride in which riders are individually chip timed. Many folks race against their own time to better their own performance and some people just go out for a fun ride. They are not serious races by any stretch. The CGF had a choice of 60km, 88km and 136km. Since it was my first go, I went with the 60km race. I finished with a time of 2:04 and still got home with plenty of time to go play hockey that night.

This gran fondo experience was such that when I got home, I immediately looked up other fondos and found one in Kalispel the following weekend. I entered it. The choice there was a 50 mile (82km) or 100 mile race (164km), I chose the 50 mile and pretty sure that I had a time of 3:05... 27kmph on average for 3 hours - not bad for an old fat guy.

That was the last fondo of the year. While the fondos I competed in were relatively short, they did present some challenges to overcome. The 60km ride from Canmore included about 20kms of 40+kmph headwinds and the 82km ride in Kalispel started out with 2ºC weather but warmed up to 18ºC.

In March, I initially set a goal to do 10 fondos in the summer of 2016. I figured I should be able to reach 2500kms over the summer and planned accordingly. As I started to plan these fondos, I found there were many great events to choose from - Hell Ride, RollFast and the Chafe 150. These intrigued me, especially the Chafe 150, which is 242kms in one day - it borders on the ultra marathon level of biking.

After reviewing all of the rides, I learned that most of the fondos fall on the same days or weekends, so booking 10 isn't really possible. I settled on 4: Badlands Fondo (167km), Highwood Pass Fondo (135km), Spoke 'n Hot Fondo (165km) and Tour de Victoria (140km).

I want to do this for a couple of reasons. The first is I want to push the limits of what I can do. I'm still relatively young and may not be able to do this in another 10-15 years. I haven't really pushed the limits of what I can do physically since I was in the army, I guess I wanna see if I can be all that I can be, again. The second reason is, I want to prove that I can do the larger distances on all of the fondos this year. At least complete my first century ride.