Group Rides

Join us for evening indoor training rides on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30pm at the Recycle Bicycle Shop in downtown Ellensburg.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanks and some ramblings

We just had the Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S. and I've been disheartened by the inability to ride the past week and a half or so because of wind chill factor or snow and ice covered roads. Cycling becomes such an integral part of the psyche in staying fit and having a positive mental attitude that missing a couple of weeks you start getting down. Sure there are indoor training sessions, skiing, running, swimming, etc. but it just doesn't replace the joy of traveling the roads under your own power.

Even with this 'oh, whoa is me', feeling there are still things to be thankful for:

1) A great local bike shop that provides excellent customer service and timely repairs
2) A cycling community that respects each other and enjoys the diversity our county has to offer
3) Those willing to teach others new skills when it comes to a bike
4) Living in this fine country where a hobby such as collecting old bicycles is relatively easy
5) The Internet for providing immeasurable resources for that old bicycle hobby
6) Courteous drivers (for the most part) in our county that help make cycling such an enjoyable activity
7) The hopes of dropping more weight to make hill climbing easier.
8) An awesome family that allows me to ride as much as I can

During this early season of winter I've also had time to ponder some things about professional cycling:

  1. If Nascar has the "silly season" where teams undergo big off season personnel changes (drivers and team members) than what the heck is it called in the cycling world. The sheer number of team changes (riders and sponsors) is incredible.
  2. The politics of the sport is ridiculous. Alberto Contador tests positive for a banned substance and blames it on beef - yeah, right. Instead of the UCI coming down on him or being the primary sanctioning body it goes back to Spain's governing body for cycling. Now, that's an impartial group.
  3. The US Postal/Lance Armstrong doping investigation is picking up steam. Did Lance dope - probably. Do I care - no, he never tested positive. That's one thing Contador can never say.
  4. I thoroughly enjoy reading about guys like Levi Leipheimer jumping on a mountain bike and dominating a race. That just shows how incredible their athletic ability is.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A visitor's viewpoint

We have the luxury of riding in our beautiful county and taking it for granted. Sometimes we don't see how special and diverse our county scenery is. I, for one, spend a lot of time "hammering" out training rides and not focusing on anything other than my heart rate, the length and number of intervals and what music is playing on the MP3 player.

I rode up in the Naneum State Forest with a couple friends this past summer and one of them called me a couple of days later inquiring about some wild flowers he had seen and what their name might be. I had to sheepishly admit I didn't even notice them.

Luckily, the O'Neill's from Winston, OR did pay attention. Richard writes a hiking column for the local newspaper and had forwarded some of their photos from the Manastash Metric ride to the RSVP organization. I asked Richard if he would be willing to provide an account of their visit by bicycle to our fair county. He agreed and below is his story:

Because my wife has relatives in Spokane, we have spent many an monotonous day driving up Highway 395 and I-90. On occasion, just to break up the routine, we've taken scenic Highway 97 through Yakima. Just north of Yakima, the highway crests Umantum Ridge and provides a breathtaking view of beautiful Kittitas Valley. Intrigued, we've always wanted to stop and explore the area instead of continuing on to Spokane and the dreaded in-laws that Dollie refers to as "my family". When we learned there was a bicycle ride in the area, we immediately signed up for the Manastash Metric Century Ride.

The Manastash was touted as the "drier ride" but we wryly noted that there was no false claim of it being the "warmer ride". The ride started out in a frosty 44 degrees while a thick layer of fog blanketed the valley. Naturally, extra layers of clothing were donned and blinking taillights were hung on the rear of the bikes. Windshield wipers were needed as the fog condensed on my glasses and some harrumphing began about so-called drier rides. I've been accused many times of being in a fog but this time the assertion was quite literal. The good news was that the fog was short lived as it began to burn off within an hour and the harrumphing dissipated in direct proportion to the increasing sunlight. Once we could see, we found ourselves in farmlands on the southern edge of the valley. The route followed the Thorp Road, the sleepy town of Thorp was encountered at the 10 mile mark. Not much happens in Thorp in the early morning...or day...or evening, for that matter.

The first rest stop was at the historic Thorp Mill which actually had a skating rink back in the day; the thought of all that ice suddenly reminding me of my ex-wife. The next rest stop was a mere 7 miles away and I couldn't think of a good reason why these two stops were spaced so close to each other. The why of it became abundantly clear as a we had the "best" of two cycling challenges: wind and hills. Ugh, it took a seemingly long time to negotiate those paltry 7 miles up and over Thorp Prairie. There was lots of grumbling and muttering from wives and other cycling comrades. After the attaining the flat summit of Thorp Prairie with its alien landscape of metal windmills, it was a short descent past canals to the second rest stop and we were grateful for its nearness to the Thorp Mill rest stop.

It was interesting to observe the changing geography and vegetation during the ride. We started in farmlands which morphed into the windblown sagebrush desert steppes typical of central Washington. With our route crossing I-90 and hugging the northwest rim of the Kittitas Valley, pine trees and mountains began to appear above and around the farms. It was much like the Cascades. We had a nice view of Stuart Mountain and its namesake range in the magnificent North Cascades and the road was blessedly level all the way into the small town of Cle Elum.

After a light lunch in a Cle Elum church, the road followed the Yakima River and we sort of enjoyed the views of the river horseshoeing down below. I say sort of, because we were at the same time engaged in pedaling up Hayward Hill, a long slog which transitioned us from the forests back to the windblown desert. It was at this point my training regimen began to kick in. Wait a minute, I don't have a training regimen! I customarily just get on the bike, cycle 45 miles, and whine and snivel for the remaining 20 miles. I really should train a bit more! Just as we were beginning to tire, the exhilarating descent off Hayward Hill brought us to another strategically placed rest stop.

At the rest stop, some of our cycling compatriots mentioned Hungry Junction hill. Something about the low voices, hushed tones, and genuine haunt in their eyes made it seem like Hungry Junction hill was to be respected and feared. But mostly feared.

So unbelievably cruel to encounter Hungry Junction hill just 7 miles from the end of the ride. The hill was short, but very steep. We geared down and charged up, determined to keep our feet on the ground. Dollie was the first to crack, hopping off the bike about three-quarters of the way up. I was doing fine until the very end when...CRAMP! I hopped off the bike quickly lest the right leg mimic the left leg and double my troubles. It was brief stiff-legged walk up the rest of the hill. Hungry Junction owes me; we have unfinished business, Hungry Junction hill and I.

The remaining portion of the ride to Rotary Park was probably the best riding of the day, the road was smooth and canted slightly downhill; and with the wind at our backs, the bikes just glided effortlessly along on the surface. There is such a supreme sense of accomplishment at the finish and applause from a welcoming committee only hammered that point home. Plus, we got a shirt and some great barbequed burgers. In the end, we enjoyed our trip to Ellensburg and we'll be back. You hear that, Hungry Junction hill?

The O'Neill's photos can be viewed at: