The Historian and I ride out birthdays yesterday (mine is today and his is on Tuesday). We headedout from Edison, and were aiming to follow a meandering 42-mile route to Montclair. (We're 39 and 42 this year.) 3078 feet of climbing, and I routed away from the nastier areas, thanks to some advice from the Northeast forum. We've been approaching our rides as learning experiences, to iron out problems before going on a tour longer than a few days. Don't get the wrong idea from this, despite leaving the maps at home, with only a Bikely cue sheet to guide us, and quite a few equipment issues, this was a great ride through some very scenic, hilly areas.
We ended up taking a lot longer to get there due to a combination of leaving the house an hour late and riding around in a huge circle in Green Brook and wasting almost an hour there and riding 10 miles out of our way.
We reassessed; we'd fall short of our destination by 10 miles, but having made up the difference by circling around in Green Brook. The goal was to ride exactly 42 miles; Montclair was a destination of convenience. I called Martha (my wife), who who was planning to meet up with us in Montclair for dinner with the car and the bike rack, and set up a meeting place 10 miles short of the original goal.
After it was dark, The Historian's headlights started to fade; he hadn't charged the battery, not expecting to ride at night. Fortunately, he had the foresight to have not only a helmet light, but a spare headlight for the handlebar light. We pulled over into a well-lit driveway in, I think, Short Hills or Livingston, and swapped them out.
A few miles later, my headlights were starting to fade. This is a brand new Trail Rat, fully charged. It's a great light, but it looks like I may have a defective one. Arrgh! At this point, we were only a handful of miles away from finishing. Hmm.
We were a couple of miles short of South Mountain Reservation, our meeting place with Martha. It was getting pretty dark. I pulled over and grabbed my spare maglite and attached it to the handlebars with zip ties and rubber bands. (No, really. I took a picture but it didn't come out.) Then the light refused to turn on for more than a few seconds at a time. Neil looks at his computer and realizes we just hit 42 miles.
Cool! We decide we're done. I call Martha and describe to her where we are. After some frustrating, yet now somehow funny, shenanigans involving many cell phone calls, arguing about roads, and riding back a mile in light sleet towards an easier-to-find intersection, we load the bikes on the rack and drive to Montclair for dinner. After about an hour's driving what should be a 10 minute car ride, we're eating fake spare ribs and chinese food with fake chicken and fake beef in Veggie Heaven.
So, lessons learned:
The night before a ride, always charge your light. Always. Always. No, really, always.
Always make sure your spare light is working, and that you have batteries.
Seatpost bags are great for storing tools. They're easier to get to, when you don't have to fish through a pannier or trunk bag to find something.
Zip ties and rubber bands are something I will always carry.
The Historian's helmet light saved us, and I'll be getting one myself. Not only is it a secondary headlight, it also helps you when you need to work on your bike in the dark.
Always have a few rubber grommet pads of various thicknesses in the bag of devilishly clever "tools" alongside the duct tape and chewing gum.
Pack the night before the ride, and leave on time in the morning.
Cue sheets, no matter how carefully you check them over, are only as good as the data you're working from. Printed maps are a necessity, and can save you from wasting time. Pull over and check; you'll waste five minutes, but it's better than wasting an hour riding in circles.