Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rule #2 in Cycling: Everything is Relative

No, I don't know what rule #1 is (yet), but today's lesson is certainly right up next to it. But first, I need to show you a picture of my bike:

Now, why do I start with a picture of my bike? Because you have to see my digital set-up. If you look closely at the handlebars, you'll see two gadgets. The one on the left is my (since-replaced by the newer model) Garmin Forerunner 305. To the right of it, the light blue thing, is my iPhone. Yes, I bought a rig to hold my iPhone on my bike. What of it?

OK, you may wonder why I did such a thing. (Or, you may be a fellow iPhreak, slowly nodding in approval.) It started out innocently enough. The GPS on my Garmin doesn't show me a full map, nor does it allow me to plan out a route out ahead of time (without actually doing it beforehand). With iPhone GPS and the right app, I can now do both.

Better yet, I've finally figured out how to download routes other people have laid out on Bikely. Rock. On. I can pre-load them on my GPS and follow the route without having to worry about trying to follow a cue sheet and peering at street signs. Sure, some are insane routes that I can only envision doing in the distant future. (Up and over Mt. Rose, anyone... and back??? Um, yeah, that'll wait a while.) But most variations on a fairly familiar theme. In other words, I'm fairly familiar with the area, but they're giving me some new streets to try. Nice.

Today, feeling a bit tired, I decide to follow a route called "20-Mile Flatter Loop". I take a quick glance and decide that it's perfect; it mostly meanders through a fairly flat part of South Reno.

I drive down to the part of the loop closest to me, set up, and set out. Man, I must be tired, I think to myself. I'm fighting as hard as if I'm hitting a headwind, but the trees are stock still. (Later, after looking at the elevation profile, I realize that I'm climbing a hidden hill right off the bat.) And then I hit a real hill. Still, I'm having a harder time than I should. I am, honestly, struggling. I don't recall ever having a "bad ride" in the same way people sometimes have a "bad run", but it looks like today was one.

So, anyway, I finish climbing that hill. It was actually a back way to Windy Hill, so I don't blame myself for struggling; it's always a hard climb for me. But I turn a hard left (almost a U-turn) and swing back down the hill, back into the flats. This is going to be a nice ride, I tell myself. This valley is a particulaly beautiful, almost rustic part of Reno.

A while later, my GPS tells me to take a turn I hadn't taken before. It goes from beautiful to spectacular. (Except, well, the smell... Someone must have laid out the fertilizer.) And, again, I'm climbing. I'm cursing myself for my weakness. Seriously, I'm bottomed out in gears and the incline really isn't that hard. But it goes on and on and on.

And on. I keep cresting, figuring that this is where I'll cruise back down.

Only to find another hill right after a very shallow dip.

This is the "flatter" route?!? Flatter than what?!?

Yes, everything is relative.

It's the hill that won't die.

At one point a quail runs across the street in front of me, but then takes a glance at me and decides it can slow down to a walk. And it does. I kid you not. Let me tell you, to be dissed by a quail is a special kind of insult.

I keep waiting for some cyclists to come whizzing past me, but no one ever does (thank goodness!). A group does pass me the other way, with big happy grins on their faces. Sure. They're going downhill. Actually, it almost looks like the last guy had a touch of respect in his smile, as if to say, Good for you, girl. This is a tough climb! Or maybe I was just delirious from lack of oxygen and imagined it. Either way.

Finally, after more than seven miles of this off-and-on climbing, I hit the final crest and launch into a fantastic 3.5 mile straight descent, during which I lose over 600 feet of elevation and top out at a slightly frightful 42.37 MPH. Yes, the point-37 is important, and, yes, that is my record speed.

The rest of the ride is nice and flat. And some of it is so new that it's not even "on the map"! For a while, it looks like I'm off-roading it. I never would have found some of these streets if it weren't for the Bikely and the iPhone GPS.

Here's a lovely shot I took during the flat part.

So, overall, a decent ride (considering I didn't mean to do anything more than an easy, flat 20), and it was a good experience to follow a route that I found on the internet.

But, most important, it was a good lesson in checking elevation profiles before heading out. A "flatter" ride to one cyclist can very easily be a "tougher" ride to me. Everything is relative. Everything.

EDIT: For anyone interested, here are links to the two parts for my iPhone bike mount: ATV holder and Rail with Swivel. You can get a more svelte holders, but those will be good only for one specific item. The ATV Holder is very generic and will last me quite some time. FWIW, these are not affiliate links.


slaphappy155 said...

Out of curiosity - which Garmin are you now using? And how do you like it? I'm looking to replace my old Polar HRM with a GPS enabled version of something.

Karen said...

I'm using the 405 cx right now. I do like it, and it does have some plusses over the 305, but it is also lacking in some ways compared to the 305. If it weren't for the caloric computations based on heart rate, I'm not positive I wouldn't have returned it and kept my old one. FWIW, I plan on doing a full review soon.

slaphappy155 said...

Looking forward to the review.