Saturday was the Tour of Dirt Roads IX put on by the folks from the Pirate Cycling League, for me it was just my second time riding the ToDR but the one last year was spectacular. Many of the usual suspects from the Saturday Morning No Drop Fat Bike Ride met at Cycle Works and car pooled out to Palmyra. The SMNDFBR is probably my favorite ride of the week, such a great group of folks that have come together and formed not just a riding group but almost like a quasi cycling family, literally some of the best guys and gals I've had the pleasure of knowing since I moved to Lincoln in the winter of '94.
As was the case last year both the weather and the turn out were fantastic, huge crowd and some of the best weather we've had yet this year.
Also like last year, the group took off promptly at 9ish and set sail for 93 miles of the finest gravel and dirt roads that Otoe County Nebraska had to offer.
Unlike last year though, we had a group of riders heading out on this one. Last year it was just Brian and I heading out there and I'm not even sure we had a plan to ride together just one to head to the start together but in the end we rode the whole course together and even picked up Scott along the way. Scott didn't make it to this years ride however so we were a man down in a sense, even if there were higher numbers in our group this year.
The plan was to try to stick together as a group as much as possible and at the beginning it was pretty successful, a few would get ahead or behind but for the most part we traveled along in a somewhat symbiotic group.
The course was awesome with a great mix of chunky gravel, hard packed gravel, dirt, finely silted dirt and completely rutted out dried mud bog; what more could a cyclist ask for in a ToDR.
Being one of the first really hot and sunny days we've had so far this Spring, it wasn't long before we were sweating pretty good and you could tell that the heat was having an affect on some.
As the miles piled on the gaps between groups got larger, the regroups became less frequent but lasted longer as far as duration of time stopped and I could tell it wouldn't be long before we splintered into a few smaller groups and, in the end, that's ok. Riding 40 miles at someone else's pace, be it a faster or slower pace than yours, is manageable without too much struggle but as the hours pass and the odometer climbs, it becomes increasingly more difficult. You would think that riding a faster pace than you are comfortable with would be worse but that isn't always the case, the legs like to keep moving after awhile and stopping and starting is often worse on stamina than going faster than you'd like, it wears on you mentally also as you have more time to think about things than if all you're doing is concentrating on turning the cranks.
We rolled into and out of Sterling again pretty much as one group still, the cold drinks and warm food really hit the spot and seemed to lift the spirits of most.
Not too long after that though, Roy sprung a leak in his rear tire and we truly became two groups at that point. Those who saw and stopped and those who didn't see and kept riding, flats happen though, it's just part of riding.
Todd sprung a leak shortly there after...
And then Roy's tire became and issue again and we decided we needed to change the tube and be done with it rather than adding air to a steady leak. It was a little comical actually how long it took us to get the new tube in, inflated and back on the road again. I think we made the rounds on pumps before we found one that would grab a hold of the valve stem enough for it to not slip out of the pump as the stem was just a tad too short for the deeper rims but we made it work.
Back on the road again it wasn't too long before the GPS and the cue sheets said we should go toward this road closed sign, I stopped to verify with others that this was the route we were supposed to take and then went for a little further investigation.
The bridge, or what was left of it, looked sketchy as hell. With a lighter bike I suppose you could shoulder it and traverse the beams without too much trouble but the thought of trying to wrangle Pugs over this was none to inviting.
Luckily for us the locals didn't take too kindly to the county not fixing the bridge and took matters into their own hands, creating a creek crossing a hundred yards or so down the road. While still a little muddy and sketchy it was a much better choice than the bridge remnants. Joe even rather enjoyed the crossing... YEEHAW.
Joe doing a little show boating for the crowd...
Rolled into Adams at about mile 65 and hit the local grocery store for a little beer and pizza refuel, this was a bit of a longer stop as the shade and the food was just so nice.
Gary had punched his ticket and was riding on the struggle bus for about an hour or so by the time we got to Adams, so we decided that it was probably smartest to abandon the official route and just find the quickest/shortest/most direct route back to Palmyra. Unfortunately this meant Hwy 43 with no shoulder but it would save a few miles and the hills would be less dramatic.
It wasn't too long after getting on 43 that Gary's legs decided they'd had enough, so the new plan was that Gary was going to ride 43 into Bennett and Todd would drive there and pick him up after we got back to Palmyra. Wasn't long after we parted ways with Gary that we all decided that getting buzzed by traffic was no bueno and took back to the gravel for the remainder of the ride.
While we cut the course a bit, we only ended up with 3 miles less than the official mileage and somehow even managed to get ahead of the big end of our group as we were cleaning up as they started to roll in. All told we still ended up with 90 miles of gravel, dirt, mud and just a wee bit of pavement on a beautiful May day and I got to spend 10 hours with some of the best buddies a guy could ask for. Not a bad way to live life if you ask me.
Thanks to everyone who came out for the SMNDFBR ToDR edition, lets regroup and do it again next year. No ride this Saturday as we are doing something really crazy by ditching the fat bikes, the dirt, the gravel and riding roadie style in the Wear Yellow Ride out of the SAC Museum. If you're not doing anything you should come ride and support a great cause, you can still register online or show up a bit early and register the day of. You know you wanna.