Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bee Buzzin' Bike Tour

I was introduced to this ride by someone that I ride with on Sunday afternoons.  What was described to me was a ride that would be relatively flat, and surprisingly fast.  After completing the 62 mile course in just over 3 hours, I have to say that he was accurate on both accounts.  The event is a part of the South Carolina Festival of Flowers, an annual event held in Greenwood, SC.  It travels out in the country around Greenwood, and has a 25 mile and 62 mile (metric century) course.  

The day started out early, and the weather at the house looked questionable.  We ran through a few storms on the way to Greenwood, but as we got to start point the weather looked good.  The downtown was still decorated for the Festival of Flowers, although many of the events ended the day before.  This year the Bike Tour was moved to Sunday, and it felt like it was the final event for the Festival.  I was a little disappointed that the local businesses were closed for the day.  My family had come down to enjoy the festival as well as cheer on the cyclists.  They got to spend time walking around downtown and taking in the topiaries and other sights, though.

An early morning in downtown Greenwood, SC

I knew that Aaron (from was going to be at this particular ride, as well as a few other folks from the Lexington and Columbia area that I had riden with at other events (including the Assault on the Carolinas and the Assault on Mt Mitchell this year).  We ended up lining up near each other, so I had a chance to ride with them.  This was fortunate, because I prefer to ride with folks I'm familiar with.  It gives me a greater sense of comfort about what is going on around me, and I can get a good idea of the efforts required.

Chatting before the ride start

After going through the instructions, we were given a police and motorcycle lead out.  For this event I had already decided that I would attempt to spend some time in the front group, and I would just see how long I could hang on.  It would be a good test of the last 9 months of training, as I knew the pace would be faster than anything that I was accustomed to.

Heading out

Faster it was!  After we got out of the city, the pace worked itself up to a pretty solid 24-26mph on average, with all the climbing being small grades (1-3%), where the speeds would adjust only slightly.  After a while, the front group, which probably had 50 folks in it total, started to work itself into a rolling pace line.  For those that are not familiar, this is where you work through two lines of cyclists.  In this case the right lane was moving faster, and when you reached the front of the line you'd move over to the left lane and slowly move backwards in the pack.

The goal of this type of pace line is to be able to keep up a higher pace without having the same people up front pulling (and dealing with being the wind break).  I worked my way up to the front a few times, each time trying to work myself further back in the pack to recover more.  One of my big goals for this ride was to make sure I was consuming more on the bike, but at the speeds that I was encountering I wanted to make sure I was paying attention to the road and situations more than eating per se.  Even with that, I was consuming about a bottle an hour of my drink, so I felt I was doing decently with fuel as we went.  I also made a point to have sports beans whenever I could snag them.  I transfer them from the pouches they come in into a tube that is easier to open and close, so snagging a few at a time is relatively easy.  Eating on the bike is going to be a skill that I have to actively work on to improve, so I'm not going to be overly critical of my performances in this regard on a ride by ride basis.

About 26 miles into the ride we came up to a water stop.  Some of the folks I had been riding near in the pack had mentioned that they were planning on stopping to regroup and refuel at this point, leaving the main group.  I decided it was a good place for me to catch my breath, and started to slow down.  Most of the group that planned on stopping missed the stop, so I picked up the pace in an attempt to catch back on, but by then it was just too late.  You can lose the pack in what feels like a blink of an eye, and once you are out of the draft, it's hard to keep the same pace, let alone a hard enough pace to catch back up.
Slowing down for the water stop

The pack is gone!

Once I was dropped, the only thing I could do was just work on catching the next person in front of me.  I caught one cyclist, and we worked together to catch back up with Aaron (who had likewise lost the draft at the stop), and between the 3 of us we were working together for a bit.  Jack, one of the other riders from Lexington SC, had gone back to help pull a few other folks he came to the event with.  After a few minutes we met back up with the lead group, but not in the way that you want to:

This is not how you want to catch the lead group

The danger of rolling pace lines, especially with a group of folks unfamiliar with each other, is that one person not paying attention can be dangerous.  This was the case in the lead group, as two riders ended up having wheel touch (the front wheel of one cyclist met the rear wheel of another).  3 people ended up having their day end at the 31mi mark, but thank God they only had minor injuries.  Road rash is not fun to recover from, but at least they are recovering.

At this point we had about 6 of us working together as we took off from the wreck location.  Without the large pack, our speeds definitely slowed down.  That isn't to say that we meandered our way back to the start/finish line, though.  We worked our way up to the town of Ninety Six, where we reached the final rest stop of the ride.  We took a break here to refill our water bottles and find some shade.  They had bananas cut in half here as well, which was a great snack at this point.

The well stocked refueling station
Finding Shade
Photo op at the rest stop

While we were refueling, one of the other packs of folks rode up, increasing our numbers slightly.  We were all taking turns up front, keeping the pace moving.  The next 15 miles sped by quickly, and we were making the final turn back towards downtown Greenwood.  This is the point where the group broke up some, and it ended up as a sprint to the finish.  We completed the ride in just over 3 hours, in fact my Garmin reported the total ride to be about 3 hours, 9 minutes.  That is an average speed of 20mph during the course, and a moving average of over 21mph.  

Crossing the finish line
While I was disappointed that the Festival didn't have more events for spectators (and cyclists) to do surrounding the event, the ride was very well organized and the route was fantastic.  The course was everything that it was advertised to be, and the rest stops were well stocked and in great locations.  I look forward to doing this event in the future, but I hope they decide to move it back to Saturday, so I can take in the rest of the festival after the ride.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

DiamondBack Sorrento: Clean-up and new tubes

After getting the shifters working, I was very excited to give the bike a good test ride to see how things felt.  I went over to Lucky Bike and picked up some new tubes as well as some rim straps to get the wheels fixed up, and figured I could spend the evening cleaning up the bike and installing the new tubes.  I got home and removed the wheels from the bike to haul it over for a washing.  Using some dish liquid to remove some of the greasy mess that was all over the bike, I set to work with a couple of good sponges and a toothbrush.  My youngest helped me out, and I think we got an okay first pass done on the bike.  

Time for a wash!
It'll need a another pass for cleaning for sure, and I found some more surface rust on a few places. The chain  cleaned up pretty well, and we seemed to get the majority of the gunk out of the chainrings and deraileur.  One thing of concern that I found was some damage to a cog in the rear deraileur.  I'm pretty sure there isn't anything I can do to fix it, so the question will become if it's something that will require a new part or not.  Only a few good test rides will determine that in the short term.
Something seems to be missing...

I let the bike start to dry off, and turned my attention to the wheels.  I hadn't really taken much time to review the tubes that were in the bike, as I had thought there was one missing, and the condition of the bike would mean more than likely the other one would have a hole or two.  To my surprise both tubes seemed to be holding a small amount of air, but since I bought new tubes I didn't spend a lot of time evaluating the tubes the bike already had.  The rims themselves definitely needed a cleaning.  They had a few cobwebs in them, and the cassette definitely needed to be cleaned.  Again I found some surface rust, but overall things looked to be in okay shape.  

Just add air (and maybe tubes + tire?)

For a test ride I decided that some good old fashioned duct tape would suffice on the seat, at least until I could source a decent replacement.  My youngest had a blast helping me cover the seat up and inflating the tires.  At this point things were definitely looking good for a quick test ride.

it's not pretty, but at least it's waterproof.
We took a few turns riding the bike up and down the block to see how it worked, but in general as well as being a good fit for my daughters.  The seat adjustment was easy to work with, and the bike seemed to shift into all of the gears without any major issues.  As one of my daughters was taking her turn, she mentioned that she was hearing a strange squealing noise while she was riding.  I took another turn and I also heard it.  Upon investigation it looks like we may have at worst a bad bearing on the rear wheel.  I'll need to spend more time with the rear wheel to be sure of the cost to repair these wheels (either by myself or by a professional) versus some new inexpensive wheels.

Purchase of the bike:      $20
New saddle: $25
New Tubes: $12
New rim tape: $  4
Shifters: $  1.80

Grand Total: $62.80

So far my expected costs are looking pretty good.  We're still well under the $100 total for the bike, and it's now to the point where we can make decisions based on upgrades instead of repairs.  I'll have to evaluate the rear axle and see if it truly is a bent axle or if it's something as simple as some grease so it turns freely.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How to be a good group member

I'm not sure if this is purely because I'm becoming more aware of it, but there seems to be a decline in general group riding abilities this cycling season.  I've spent most of this year training relatively hard for the Assault on Mount Mitchell, and the organized rides that I was participating in had a major emphasis on good group work.  What I've noticed on several of my regular group rides is that many folks are not doing some basic things that make group rides fun, enjoyable, and most of all safe.  I think they can be broken down to a set of 5 "Be's".

Be Informed:  

I believe that a group ride technically starts before you leave to go to the meet up point.  If I'm going to a new ride, I treat the prep work like an event.  Do your homework.  Before going out to a group ride, try to get as much information about the ride as possible.  Ask the ride organizer about the planned route and expected strength of the group (speed and effort required).  Print out a cue sheet if applicable.  Be aware of the elevation of the ride and know if there are climbs what amount of effort that you'll need to keep up.  Note if the ride is going to have a planned store stop, and if the organizer is planning on the ride having hard stop regroup points.  What additional equipment is required for the ride (like lights)?

Be Prepared: 

Before the ride even starts, there are things I do to make sure that I am effective and safe on a group ride.  Make sure you have everything you need.  Water bottles, food, spare tubes, air pump (or cartridges).  Make sure your chain is lubed and is functioning properly beforehand.  Don't hope (or expect) that others on the ride are going to be able to (or want to) help you with mechanical issues.  If your bicycle requires special equipment, longer than standard stem tubes for example, make sure you have the proper supplies.  No one wants to be stuck on the side of the road waiting to hopefully get picked up by someone else on the ride.  Make sure if you have a cell phone that you have it charged, just in case.  Keep your emergency contact information (including insurance information) on you, just in case.  

Make sure you have what you need to ride.

Be Attentive: 

This is the point where the ride actually is starting.  Many group organizers have multiple leaders to help them  with keeping the size of the groups reasonable.  The organizer may give some basic instructions at the start of the ride, but the ride leaders are the ones that you are entrusting to keep you safe and have everyone return back to the start point.  Listen to what the organizers and leaders have to say.  If there are special instructions, make sure to pay attention and be aware of the situation.  Typically the leaders are well versed in the routes, and they know where the technical portions of the ride may be.  You are trusting your health and safety to the people around you, as the people around you are trusting you with their own health and safety.  

Are you listening to the group instructions?

Once the ride starts, make sure to pay attention to the instructions being called out.  Turn, traffic, and road hazard information can be displayed as hand signals as well as spoken commands.  I've found many groups have their own vocabulary ("Passing" vs "Comming around" for vehicles passing is one I've personally noticed).  Make sure that regardless of the communication, you are paying attention and being aware.  Make sure that notifications are making it through the entire group.  There is no need to have "car back" shouted 24 times, but there is a need for everyone in the group to know that there is a car that may wish to pass behind you.  I personally make a small exception on this with hand signals if I feel like the conditions require me to have both hands on the handlebars at a given time.  Personally I'd rather have to eat a pot hole than have the person in front of me wipe out trying to point it out to me.  

On the ride, be aware of the conditions in the group.  One of the big issues here is keeping yourself in the proper location in the ride.  On a typical ride, the group is either single file or side by side.  In both of these situations you should be sure to be directly behind the person in front of you, with an appropriate level of gap between the back of their rear tire and yours.  This is called "keeping your line".  There is no reason to have your front tire overlapping the rear tire of the person in front of you for any length of time, and there's really no reason for you to be spaced in between two lines.  

Riding side by side

The amount of gap that you have between you and the person in front of you should be enough for you to properly handle any sudden changes.  Most of us are used to the "2 car length" rule while driving.  In cycling this gap is not nearly as large, as you are attempting to use the slipstream of the person in front of you to reduce the amount of effort it takes to keep up an extended effort.  There is up to a 30% increase in pedaling efficiency to be gained by being in the slipstream of the person in front of you.  Keeping a distance where you are comfortable with the reaction times need while still getting the benefit of the reduced wind resistance to me is something that varies from group to group, and can often change during a group ride depending on conditions.  I attempt to allow the gap to grow if I know there is a downhill section followed by a climb.  This is where the group will "accordion" or "rubber band":  that is, where the front of the group will slow down significantly while the back of the group is still accelerating to the bottom of the descent.  These situations can be a breeding ground for dangerous interactions as folks attempt to maintain effort on the climb. 

Be Considerate:

This one I think goes hand in hand with being alert.  In general, you shouldn't be participating in actions that are detrimental to the safety of yourself or the group.  The last time I checked, no one in any of my local group rides were named Cadel Evans, Ted King, George Hincapie or Eddie Merckx.  Not letting someone in does nothing to improve your status in the group.  Passing someone by crossing the middle of the road (and thus riding in the oncoming lane), weaving through the middle of the pack, or jumping onto the shoulder is not going to earn you points for a fictitious green jersey.   Flying downhill at 40mph to climb the next hill at 4mph isn't going to get you a KOM.  Rolling through stop signs/lights/traffic intersections doesn't get you a stuffed animal.  These random people have entrusted you with their health and safety in the hopes of an enjoyable ride.  

As proof - I am NOT Ted King.

Bad behavior likewise shouldn't be handled by a non-ride leader cussing out a group member, or attempting to retaliate.  I have actually heard "the next time someone passes me on the left after I finish pulling I'm going to wreck them" on a ride.  NO ONE should be riding with this attitude, let alone in a pack of other cyclists.  Reacting negatively to others behaving badly does several things, the very least of them is make what is supposed to be a recreational activity for fun into an un-enjoyable experience for everyone around you.  It may cause other riders in the group to likewise react, at best ruining their ride.  

Be Together:

In a law of averages, mechanical issues happen.  Someone is going to have a flat tire.  Chains can give out and break.  It's going to happen on a group ride every so often.  You hope that if the previous topics are done by everyone that the chances of a true mechanical issue are slim, but things happen with moving parts.  It's a terrible feeling to get into the "hammer down" section of a ride just to hear someone yell "mechanical!  soft pedal!".  Just as bad of a feeling is when you are the one that has the mechanical issue, watching the rest of the group that you are with pedal off into the sunset.  If you have taken good precautions, you hope that you have everything that you need for most minor repairs, and you are skilled enough to quickly change that flat and be back up and running. Most minor issues take less than 10 minutes to fix, and you can be on your way again.  

No one wants to watch the group ride away

One of the listed responsibilities that ride leaders typically take on is making sure that the person with a mechanical issue has what they need and can get back on the road.  This puts a lot of pressure on the group leader as they have a responsibility to the people around them beyond just making sure that everyone stays safe.  The ultimate goal is for everyone to make it back to the meeting spot and safely head home.  People often make excuses for not waiting on a mechanical, and the most common is "some folks have to get home".  The simple fact is that everyone has to get home at some point, but these people have determined that their departure time is important enough to leave someone stranded by the side of the road.  You make the assumption that they, along with any good Samaritans that happen to actually stop, can make the repairs and assist them getting back.  You make the assumption that if the people that stop cannot make the repairs, the person is able to either walk back to the starting point, or someone else is available to help get them back to the starting point.  Personally I hope that when the time comes that I have a mechanical issue, as I've had in the past, people are willing to stop and help get me back on the road, or at least not just leave me.  


The ultimate goal for me as I go out to ride is to challenge myself and have a good time.  I've only been riding for a short time comparatively  but the landscape of group rides is very diverse.  Everyone rides for their own goals, and their own reasons, with their own skill sets.  My take away from all of this continues to be to learn the nature of rides, and determine the rides that fit my abilities and personality.  The extreme end to many of the situations above is that someone does not return from the ride.  This is a condition that I would hope no one would want to participate in.  To that end, each individual has to do their part to make the group experience smart, safe, challenging, and fun.  When others in the group start putting themselves first, and acting poorly, the group becomes a dangerous place to be.  I've taken the stand that I will do the things that I know are proper in the hopes that others will likewise look at their own actions and adjust what they are doing as well.  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

DiamondBack Sorrento: Shifters

Previously I posted about my wife finding a mid-90's DiamondBack Sorrento at a local charity thrift store for $20.  With some elbow grease I feel like this could be an excellent bike for the kids to ride, as well as a great learning project for me.  

At this point I'm working on the shifters.  During the original examination of the bike it appeared like they were broken, as shifting wasn't possible.

The first challenge would be in getting the shifters off of the handlebars.  It seems like someone had already attempted to get the right shifter removed, and had ended up stripping the hex head out.  I carefully removed the bolt from the left shifter, and measured the shaft.  I picked a drill bit that was slightly smaller than the shaft of the bolt, and started the work of drilling out the screw.  To my surprise, and luck, the bolt broke relatively early in the process, allowing me to get the shifter off of the handlebar.  With a little work I removed the nut that secures the shifter in place, and put it aside for my eventual trip to the Hardware Store.

After removing the cover, I thought I understood the issue pretty well:  The part of the pawls that keeps the tension on the shifter (and makes the "click" noise), wasn't locking into place.  My initial assessment was that there was a spring that had lost tension, and it really wasn't going to be worth attempting to repair it.  I had already sourced out replacement shifters online, and I didn't think that the $30 was worth attempting to fix the existing hardware.  I wanted to take a trip to Lucky Bike to see if they had them locally, but I didn't plan to trek out there until later in the week.

What I did in the meantime was do a little more reading, and I found out that the spring was a known issue, but the bigger known issue was the lubricant in these shifters.  For whatever reason the grease they used when these were manufactured ends up causing the mechanism to seize up over time, and that a good dose of WD-40 (or similar) will clear it up.  I happened to have some cleaning+lubricating chain spray at the house, and I gave it a try.  Lo and behold the pawl start moving a little more freely.  I gave it some more lube and put the housing back together to work through the gears.  It took a little bit to work through the whole system, but I started having shifting on the rear deraileur!  

when good lubricant goes bad...
I moved over to the left shifter, and I found the same situation.  A good dosing of the spray lubricant and some time, and it started to act better.  It's taking some time to work them out, but they are definitely shifting better.  

A quick trip to the hardware store for some new bolts, and I should be good to go on the shifting front.  I decided to go ahead and replace both bolts with new 1" stainless cap heads, just to be safe.  This way I wasn't going to be searching for 2 different allen wrenches every time that I had to adjust the shifter position.

Originally I had put into the budget $30 to repair/replace the shifters.  The total cost for the repair ended up being $1.80.  

This makes the total estimated cost of the bike:

Purchase of the bike:      $20
New saddle: $25
New Tubes: $14
New rim tape: $10
Shifters: $  1.80

Grand Total: $70.80

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

DiamondBack Sorrento: Evaluation

Over Memorial Day my wife ended up stumbling upon a mid-90's DiamondBack Sorrento, and sent me a few pictures from the store.  It looked very rough around the edges, but I figured it may be a good project bike.  The size looked good to be a transition bike for one of my younger kidlets, so that was a complete bonus, and the $20 price tag made it an inexpensive risk.

Once she got it home and I had to chance to go over it, I realized that this was going to be a great project bike.  I noticed that we were dealing with a pure "ChroMoly" frame, and it was originally sourced from a bike store (and not a big box store).  It was definitely rough around the edges, but I needed to size up exactly what it was that I needed to work on.  The first things I looked at was the seat and the wheels.

The saddle is torn/cut, so the only real option there is replacement.  An inexpensive saddle can be sourced for around $20 to start with, so it's not a major concern for me.

At first I was afraid that I'd have to figure out how to true up the rims.  Once wheel is missing rim tape, and the other is missing a tube.  So far, so good.  The tires are actually in pretty good shape, they look to be relatively new Kenda's (26x1.95's).  Rim tape is only about $5 a wheel, and I can get inexpensive tubes for about $5 each.  Another $20 to get the wheels up and running.

There is some surface rust on the spokes that will need some attention over time.  I didn't see any broken or bent spokes, though.  The chain guard on the rear wheel is in pretty bad shape, but I'll just remove it and it'll be fine. 

We don't need no stinkin' chainguard...

This is the part that could be expensive.  I started by looking at the Cassette and the rear deraileur.  They are decent braned components, Shimano Alivio, and they looked to be in okay condition.  The huge question was if they actually worked.

I started by using the right shifter to change gears.  The first semi-bad news of the day, nothing happened when I attempted to change gears.  To get an idea of the shape of the deraileur I went ahead and just pulled on the cable, and I was able to shift gears.  So the good news in there was that the rear deraileur seems to work, although the shifters are in disrepair.  It also looked like at a basic level the cassette seems to work okay, as the chain didn't seem to slip in any of the gears.  I had similar results from the front deraileur:  The shifter worked from the small chainring to the middle one, but didn't work to the big chainring.  Manually pulling the cable forced the chain to the big ring okay.
These shifters have seen better days

The chain is dry as a bone, and it looks to have a fair amount of rust on it at this point.  The good news is that it's not seized up.  At some point I'll need to replace it, but it should work for now with just a little bit of lubricant.  

The Frame 
The frame looks to be in really fantastic shape overall, although it needs a thorough cleaning.  The stickers on the downtube are peeling off, but the paint underneath is fine.  There is no major rust showing on the bike, and only a few scratches/dings to deal with.  The handlebars need some cleaning and maybe some fresh paint on them at some point.

Cherry (um, Magenta?) paint job.

This was a fantastic pick up at $20.  I had already been pricing out similar bikes refurbished from Lucky Bike here locally, and the cost was going to be just under $200.   The one bummer is that the shifters are not working, but even then I think I can source new 3x7 shifters for around $30.  Thus my current known costs at this point:

Purchase of the bike:      $20
New saddle: $25
New Tubes: $14
New rim tape: $10
New Shifters: $30

Grand Total: $95

I may be able to come in at under this total if I can get other parts working, but even then a mid-tier multi-speed bike for the girls at less than a cheap box store price is fantastic.  This bike has plenty of life left in it, and with just a little bit of work it should be serviceable and a lot of fun.

I have a feeling that I could make a habit out of this...

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Ride 4 Animal Care

Preface:  This is going to be a rather difficult ride recap for me this time around, as one of the folks that we were riding with ended up having to go to the Hospital instead of making it back to the starting area safely.  It's difficult for me to be upbeat about a ride the ride, and to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it when I'm still struggling internally with the memory of watching another cyclist, especially someone that I know, go down and not be able to continue.  I still have her in my prayers today, and I have a lot of things to re-evaluate in my own personal riding after having to be a supportive friend to her while EMS were attending to her wounds.  

The day started out relatively cool, but you could tell that as the sun finished coming up it was going to be a warm day.  I was a bit shocked to see the number of folks that had signed up to ride in the event, which was a charity ride for Animal Care - a local rescue organization that also provides assistance to animal owners for discounted veterinary care.  I haven't heard the exact numbers, but I would guess there were between 150 and 200 people that showed up to ride.  Having the ride start at 7:30am was a good choice, as we'd be done before the relatively warm heat of the day got going.  

More folks at the start than I was expecting
There were three rides organized:  20, 43, and 67 miles.  The highlight of the big ride was Green River Cove, which is a challenging stretch that includes more than a dozen switchbacks.  I have riden that section of road a few times, but never when it is technically in season for the tubing and kayaking people.  While I signed up for the big ride, I hadn't fully decided if I would take that route as the trip down Holbert's Cove to Green River Road is not an easy section.  Secondly, this would be the first real test of my knee since the Assault on Mount Mitchell.  Lastly, several of my friends that I ride with out of Brookwood on Sundays had signed up to ride.  I enjoy riding with friends more than just going on a route, so I had already been swayed to just do the shorter route and enjoy myself.  I figured I could make my final decision at the point where the 43 and 67 rides diverged later in the route.

Ken had a feeling that he forgot something...

The first surprise to me was that we were actually climbing Calahan Mountain.  When I had reviewed the route online, I didn't catch that we weren't taking Dividing Waters all the way to the watershed, but instead would do the ~1mi climb.  While the climb isn't very long, it definitely is more challenging than many people might realize.  I personally had never gone this way to climb Calahan, and it is a challenging approach.  The bonus here is that the descent is awesome, and if you know where to stop you can see the historic Poinsett Bridge.  I missed the place to stop, just one of my navigation errors of the day, so we ended up regrouping at the first rest stop which was placed at the start of the climb up the watershed.

Poinsett Bridge from Jan 2013
After regrouping, we rode together up the stretch of Old Highway 25 known as the watershed.  This is a 6-7 mile trek at a relatively low pitch to get to the NC/SC state line heading towards Saluda.  It's one of the first "real" climbs that I did last year and one that I enjoy riding when I can, especially with friends.  We made it up to Saluda, NC and stopped at the second rest stop without any incidents.  By this time I had already convinced myself that I didn't really want to attempt Holbert's Cove, mostly because I was enjoying riding with friends.  I have been training so much this year that I feel like I've missed out on adventures like this a bit.  

The view from Saluda was fantastic
The ride started getting a little more interesting after Saluda.  The route took us down what is known as the "Saluda Grade", which is a 2 mile segment that has nice long sweeping curves that is a real joy to descend.  Typically I feel like I can let loose on this section, and enjoy some speed.  This time, however, in one of the left hand curves I got too close to the edge of the road and had to make a very quick decision.  I wasn't turning fast enough to potentially stay on the road, and there was a large grassy median to my right.  I was either going to have to attempt to cut harder to stay on the asphalt, or I was going to have to attempt to navigate offroad.  I chose the softer grass to the harsh asphalt as my potential landing area, and went into the median.  I was told that I looked fantastic as I rode through the grass, coming to a stop further down the curve, but I think I'm glad that I do not have video evidence of that little endeavor.  It definitely got my adrenaline flowing, and I didn't have any issues finishing the descent, but it definitely was the first of the eye openers for me on this day.  

We made it down to the bottom of the grade, and regrouped.  This was another tricky area, as there was a lot of gravel on the ground near the turn off.  Enough gravel that Ken even decided to go past the turn and loop around to avoid having to take a higher speed turn into it.  The next section really was the interesting climb of the day - Fork Creek Road.  This is the section that I wrote about a few months ago where we were passed by a truck in one of the curves that really was a bit nerve wrecking.  I hadn't gone up this section since that incident, so I was a little on the lookout for cars behaving badly as we rode along.  What was awesome is that we were going at a pace where I could enjoy a lot of the littler things as we went, including some great views and sounds of a stream a fair ways below us.  This climb is a great primer for Ceaser's Head, and we were all attempting to get Kimberly's confidence up for a trip over that way later this summer.  From the turn off on Pearson's Falls Road to the top of Fork Creek is approximately 7 miles, and while it's not quite as much climbing as Ceaser's Head, it's one of the few places where you have that length of climb to get a feel for just sitting in the saddle.

At the top of the main part of the climb is a good place to regroup again, so we made sure we were together and continued on Fork Creek.  It wasn't more than a mile later that Sheila ended up crashing.  I was far enough behind her that the actual incident is a bit of a blur, but if I close my eyes I can still see her falling.  She ended up hitting the pavement hard.  We all rolled up, and she was sitting there, definitely in shock and also in a lot of pain.  She stated that her hip hurt a lot, and her wrist definitely looked injured.  We urged her to stay seated while we gathered up the items that went flying (water bottles, cell phone, etc) and called for medical attention.  The issue we had was that the cellular reception up in the mountains was not good.  The SAG truck showed up, and between the 5 of us we managed to get enough cellular signal to get EMS dispatched.  The ride coordinator also showed up and we helped get an accident report filled out.  It took a little while for the Ambulance to show up, and after tending to her wrist they put her on a stretcher to bring her to the Hospital.  All in All we sat there with her for over an hour, and I am amazed at how strong she was through the whole ordeal.  We got her car keys and loaded her bike up on the SAG truck to bring back to the start, and we told her that we'd take care of making sure to contact folks and get her car back to her house safely.  

Not the people you want to meet on a bicycle ride
We got back on the road with heavy hearts, and went to complete the ride.  The section of Fork Creek and Mine mountain that we had left to go was difficult both because we were saddened by the accident and because we had taken the hour off the bike in middle.  We ended up having a little dog that had wandered over during the event keep us company for a few miles, running along side us and being our mascot.  It was cute, but Sam had to be careful when she decided to change directions quickly and almost met up with his front wheel.  We made it back to Mountain Page Road without any additional incidents, and started out way down the Watershed.  

Typically going down the watershed is a point where you let loose and really pick up a lot of speed.  This section of road is not technical, nor steep, so you can really have a lot of fun.  This day, however, we took it much more calm than I think I've ever taken it, being overly cautious as we went.  We stopped at the rest area in front of George Hincapie's "Le Domestique" resort, and refilled our water bottles for the rest of the ride.   The ensuing section is a nice distance on Chinquapin Road, back to Tigerville.  We continued the trend of being overly cautious and making sure to stay together well.   

After we got back to the start, I changed clothes quickly so Ken and I could get Sheila's bike and car back to her house.  Ken followed me in his car so he could give me a ride back to get my vehicle.  It made for a much longer day than I intended, not leaving Tigerville until mid-afternoon, but I would have traded many more hours than that to be able to say we all made it back safely.   I found out later that Sheila was going to have to have surgery that evening to repair her hip and her wrist.   I continue to keep her in my prayers.

The important lesson that we all got given today is how much we need to be careful when  out riding.  I fee terrible that there isn't more that I can do to help her at this point, but even with knowing the route I couldn't have predicted that accident.  We all know that there are risks involved with cycling, but unfortunately too often it takes situations like these to remind us that we are mortal.  I'm joyful that Sheila will recover, and I'm joyful that my off-road experience didn't end in disaster.  I can tell that this day is going to live with me for a while, and that my downhill speed will definitely be slower.  I hope it's not a lesson that I ever have to re-learn.