Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Friday, August 3, 2012

Quadzilla - Day 2

Cyclists seem to be more obsessed with weather and weather forecasts than anyone. Inevitably when gathered among a group of cyclists, discussion turns to weather, weather apps and weather forecasting tools. We've all got several weather apps on our smart phones, ipads and laptops. Some of us are on a first name basis with the local TV weather reporters. I will even admit I subscribe to a weather twitter feed. We obsessively check and compare and sometimes shop around to find the most favorable forecast - being optimistic creatures and all.

Conversation at dinner Wednesday night kept turning back to the weather. We'd had an absolutely glorious day for riding Wednesday with crystal clear blue skies, although the humidity had started to rise a bit late in the day and some clouds were rolling in for the final climb.  It was just starting to sprinkle a bit as we walked down to dinner.

Thursday's forecast was the opposite of Wednesday's. Thunderstorms along with oppressive heat and humidity in the afternoon. Various riders were looking at options for shortcuts or alternative routes. Negative thoughts entered my mind as well.

But all who know me or have ridden with me on a threatening day know that I am equally obsessive and superstitious about the mere mention of that four letter word that starts with R, ends with N and has A and I in the middle. Years ago, I learned that simply uttering the word out loud can bring on torrents of biblical proportion. The most damning phrase ever spoken by a cyclist is, "At least it's not raining." This is almost always followed by the wrath of the rain-gods.

After some impressive rumbling overnight, we arose to see wet roads and dire forecasts. I'd never heard the term derecho before this year, but after the Washington DC area was hit earlier in the summer, everyone now knew the term, and it was being tossed about for Thursday's forecast! I looked at my favorite weather site, weatherspark.com, and saw a big swath of green and yellow stuff heading toward us in the afternoon, with big numbers in the probability and amount rows. I looked at the route maps and route profile again, and took note that most of the big climbs and more importantly big descents were in the first half. I also took note that if we went to Letchworth, we were pretty well committed to do the whole ride.

John headed down to the lobby to grab some spoons and saw Marcia, who told him that Mark was cancelling the ride, and suggesting shorter options for mid-day. I rechecked the weather, and came to the conclusion that we should get out early. But then when I went down to the lobby, Mark and several others were suited up and ready to head out on the official route. Mark warned, not so much about the danger of thunderstorms, but of loosing traction of climbs and needing to take care on wet descents. He and three others were familiar with the route and heading out, along with Marcia who would be at Gannet Hill Park and Letchworth. Well, if they are going, we are going.

We rolled out with the small group, on damp roads, but with little bits of blue sky visible. I started in knee warmers, and my black jersey, appropriate for a messy day, along with my R-jacket in the seatbag.

We rolled along by the lake for a while, but I knew from studying the map that this was just a tease, as Bopple Hill lay in wait. Bopple is well known in the area for being a nasty steep climb away from the lake, with a turn in the middle that hides the nastier steeper climb that follows. I'd climbed this hill a few years back when John, David and Susan and I were out here doing some touring. At the time, I was on a new super-light bike with a compact crank (i.e. not my usual triple) with 34/50 rings giving me a low gear of 34X27, not my usual 1-to-1. I recall cursing that not-so-low gear. I've since come to my senses and that bike now has a crank with a 26/39 set of rings. And it's not just me that finds this climb hard. Here's another take from a non-flatlander.

Our new tandem has a pie plate cassette on the back with a giant 36 tooth cog, meaning we rarely have to use the granny. Well Bopple and Granny are good friends now. John was taking photos while I was looking at the GPS, hollering, "Put the camera away. Bopple is just ahead!" Camera was safely in the bar bag as we rounded the corner and started up the little wall. Quadzilla indeed. Our quads woke up, and we winched the tandem up and away from lake level. Then it was around the bend, and there it was, a vertical wall. Ah yes, I remember it well. But we managed to get to the top without use of ropes or walking! Then we turned left and then right and started up Gannet Hill. This one got my attention as well.

Mark had recommended watching the time to try and make the control before closing. It was a reasonable suggestion. With so much climbing in the first 30 miles, it could be close, but we rolled in to find Marcia, ever smiling and cheerful, with plenty of time to spare. I noticed that the rear tire seemed a bit soft, and we decided to take advantage of Mark's floor pump to add some air. Sadly we couldn't figure out that it was a Schraeder pump head in need of an adapter, until we'd let much of the air out. We pulled out our trusty Topeak Morph Pump and got the tire back up to proper pressure. We stopped at the loo and then headed back out for the next leg. We saw Mark had come in and spied Tom at the last corner. We didn't get very far before the rear tire became soft. I guess we should have changed it back at the control.

I have to backtrack a bit here. When we bought the tandem, we designed it around the ability to use different wheels (and tire sizes), with disk brakes. We initially set it up with 650B wheels, which would take 42mm tires and work well for all those dirt roads we love so much. We could also swap in 700C wheels with higher performance tires for things like hill climb races and pure road rides. We haven't built up the second set of wheels, and decided instead to try some high performance 650B tires in the form of Pacenti Pari-Moto tires. We got them just before the weekend, and I swear they aren't much thicker than inner tubes! We used them for the hillclimb race, and John said we should leave them on and see how they hold up. We did press our luck a bit after the race with lots of dirt roads, but the only puncture we had was on a paved section. Then we made it through Day 1 of Quadzilla, without incident, but now we definitely had (to use Dave Cramer's term) an involuntary deflation event. We pulled the tire and based on the excessive wear, decided to put on the spare. As we mounted the new tire and pumped it back up, Mark and then Tom rolled up. Tom was inspecting his tire as we rolled away with Mark.

Mark dared to say the R-word out loud, and within seconds, sprinkles started. Once we put some distance between us, it stopped!

Soon, we caught some really nice views of the windfarm in Cohocton, NY. We'd seen it from he other side the day before, but it was even more impressive from this vantage point. I counted over 30 wind turbines. It turns out there are 50. It is a gorgeous sight.

We had a few more long steep climbs and long steep descents, with at least one descent freshly chipped. The theme of long straight roads continued. It can be so demoralizing to see just how long and steep the climb is going to be!

We had a screaming descent down to Springwater, where we found the store despite complete lack of signage. John suspects that, like him, they're not on Facebook either. We refueled with breakfast sandwiches and rolled out soon after Mark rolled in and uttered the R-word, causing, yes, you guessed it, wet stuff to fall from the sky. Some people do not learn!

The climb out of Springwater was as steep as the descent into it had been, but it was on a lovely quiet lane, so we just cranked away. This was followed by another long steep descent into a bigger town, where John thought Mark had mentioned good coffee. What Mark had actually said was a good climb up Coffee Hill! We expected to find coffee plantations as we continued to gain altitude, but we never did figure out where the road got its name.

We finally started seeing signs for Letchworth State Park, and were thrilled to pass through the gates and ride up to the information control and find Marcia waiting with her wonderful turkey sandwiches. We got photos of the waterfall, found the plaque with the info control answer, downed sandwiches and drinks, and then headed out when Mark came in, bringing ... yes ... really ... RAIN! I don't know if it really followed him all day, but I swear every time we saw him, it rained!

We had another steep climb up from the gorge, but then started into the easier part of the route profile - well easier in that we wouldn't have anymore 1500 foot climbs, but we still had plenty of shorter nasty climbs ahead. We could hear the rumble of thunder and I was sure we would get caught, but refused to say anything out loud. But those rumbles may have inspired us to put the hammer down as the terrain flattened out for a while.

I started counting down miles and looking at the time as we climbed up to Conesus Lake. We took a quick stop at a store for some more refueling, but the rumbles of thunder got us moving again quickly. I made the mistake of thinking we might finish by 6, when the front tire went soft! We quickly replaced the tube, and got rolling. But it seemed no time passed when the rear tire went soft! At this stage, we were out of tubes, and had to patch. We also notice loads of cuts in the brand new tire, so we said we'd switch back to the Hetres when we reached the motel.

That was a ways off. We had about 4000 hills in the last 40 km. Up at 18%, down to a stop sign, straight up at 18%, straight down to a stop sign, again and again and again. But finally we rolled into town and back to our motel across from Wegman's. We made it in dry! No derecho, no lightning, no heavy rain! Woohoo!

John gave the bike a quick clean, and we made note of how clean our hands and the rims were. We'd had three punctures, had ridden on damp roads lots, and used the brakes tons, yet, thanks to the disk brakes, rims and hands were actually clean. I think I want disk brakes on all my bikes now!

Anyway. Day 2 done. Stay tuned for Day 3...

Damp roads, but bits of blue sky

Stoker still there? Check!

Wind turbines on the ridge

Stoker and one more hill behind!

Stay tuned for the Day 3...

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