So, I had been dabbling about getting back into riding my bicycle after a break of 15 years. I used to ride the bicycle a lot, mostly road riding. I grew up in the country, a few miles from town and used to frequently ride to town on my Schwinn 10 speed. In the military, I picked up a nice road bike that I used to haul around everywhere I went in case I was in the mood to go for ride and over time I developed a habit of going for frequent rides, usually by myself. I didn’t really get into group riding until I went to college after I left the military. There I joined the local bike club and really had a good time going out on rides. Once I moved to Wisconsin for my job, I kept up the riding a bit, until I met my future wife, then time got away from me.
Finally, this past spring, I decided I really wanted to get back into riding as a way to get some exercise back into my life using a method I really enjoyed. I pulled out a hybrid bike I had inherited and spent some time trying to get it up to speed, but I the bike never really worked right and it did not fit my frame well, so I gave up on it in early summer. Then in early fall, one of my co-workers decided to get a riding group together and I thought this would be a great way to get back into the saddle. I pulled out my old road bike, which had been sitting in the garage for many years, and surprisingly, it was up and running in no time.
Our first ride was on Friday 9/27/2013 and was estimated to be about 18 miles. We met at Highland Howies, in Green Bay, Wisconsin at 0900. I figured I would be the most out of shape one there and I wasn’t too far off the mark based on the other seven people that showed up. I didn’t know if I would be able to make the whole ride, but was sure going to give it a try.
We started out heading north from Highland Howies, on Spartan road for a few hundred feet and took a right on Luxemburg road. We followed this for about 4.7 miles where we took our first break to allow the slow folks to catch up. I was among the slow folks. The route so far was flat and I was able to pick a comfortable gear and stay in for most of the ride. I started out in back figuring I would be stuck there anyway, but one of the guys had brought a mountain bike and was struggling to keep up with the group. Like me, he had only recently pulled out his bike after a long time off. I was able to stay ahead of him, but was still in the back of the pack.
After what was a quick break for me and the other guy in the back, the pack took off again and turned right onto Michiels road. We followed that for about 3 miles until we got to Townline road. We stopped there and had a longer rest. I had kept up with the pack better on this leg, but the other guy had fallen way behind. At first we thought he had turned off and headed back, but while we were talking about the ride, we saw him in the distance and waited for him to catch up. He had stopped to check the map and had debated about taking a shortcut back to the starting point, but decided to push on.
We turned right on Townline road and followed it for about 3.5 miles, then took a right on Vandenberg for about a mile. We took a left at Finger road and followed it for 1.6 miles, then took a right on Erie road and followed it for a mile. Overall the ride was flat so far and the worst I was feeling was my backside on the hard seat since I had no saddle time. The pace was comfortable and the guy on the mountain bike, though far behind, kept chugging along. One of the other riders had dropped back to keep him company.
We continued our route by taking a left on Whittier road for 0.2 miles, than right on Huron. This went into a nice downhill run that felt good, but had an uphill price to pay and this was the first real uphill in the ride. Here is where I could really feel the impact of not being in shape, but worse was to come. We followed Huron Road for about 1.8 miles. If we wanted, at about the mile point we could have made an early turn onto Humboldt, which would bring us back to our starting point, or we could continue and ride around the around the U.W. GB campus. The group decided to ride around the campus, and I decided to tag along. The other two guys were way behind us and it turned out that they decided to turn off on Humboldt. Smart move on their part.
The ride onto the campus started with a long descent that felt really good, but I knew we would have to climb that hill on the way back and it was too late to turn back after I committed to the downhill fun ride. We followed the campus roads around a bit and decided to head back and the uphill ride began to take its toll. It started gradually for about a mile before we got to the big hill, just enough to wear me out before the big hill. By this time I had moved in front of two of the riders and there were two riders ahead of me. I started the climb on the hill the led out of campus and the bike almost came to a standstill, but I kept pushing as hard as I could in my granny gear. I felt like I was moving about a foot with each pedal stroke and started the mantra of “I’m not getting off my bike, I’m not getting off my bike.” All along the way, I kept expecting to be passed up by one of the riders behind me. After what felt like an eternity, I made it to the top of the hill where the first two riders were waiting. I was glad to see them breathing hard, but that ride took most of what I had out of me.
When the other two riders reached us, we waited a bit to let everybody recover and then it was time to backtrack to Humbolt. I could have used a lot more recovery time, and immediately fell way behind the group. The trip back to Humbolt involved several small uphills, and I had clearly burned myself out on the hill coming out of the campus. But, I made it back to our starting point before everybody had put their bikes away.
After the ride, we had lunch at the bar and by the time I left, I was feeling pretty good and ready to ride some more. The total mileage was 23 miles. Pretty good for not having ridden in so long, granted to route was mostly flat. However, I felt that this was just the thing I needed to get me motivated and I looked forward to the next ride we would have.