Over the winter, I put a few dollars and a good bit of time into my bike. Christmas brought clipless pedals (eggbeaters) and shoes. My work christmas bonus paid for new brakes and levers (Avid SD7), along with new grips. Brake and shift cables also got replaced. I also picked up a set of Specialized Nimbus pavement tires, in preparation for a couple of bicycle tours my wife and I are doing this year. Lastly, I ordered a set of Panaracer Fire XC tires, to replace the worn original Bontrager tires.
Over the winter (and early spring), I went on two short (~7mi) road rides, basically just trying things out. Most of my exercise time was spent on the treadmill, and an occasional road run. In the back of my mind, I was looking forward to hitting the trails again. I also knew that it was just a short matter of time until things dried up, and the ground thawed enough to allow riding without damaging the trails.
Well, my new tires (the Panaracers) had arrived via the "Brown Truck of Joy" last Monday, and sat in our dining room since. On Friday, I was looking at the box, thinking that I had better at least find a proper home for them. On Saturday, I decided on the proper home for my new tires (on the rims, duh!). I also saw the weather report for Sunday (sunny with temps in the mid 50's). This got me thinking, "Gee, I wonder how these tires actually perform" "The trails should be in good shape by now" "I think I'm in pretty good shape from a winter on the treadmill" "I wonder what type of cycling shape I'm in" "I don't have anything planned for Sunday yet!" and finally "I'M GOING TO HIT THE TRAIL TOMORROW! "
Sunday came, and tires were mounted, bicycle was loaded, new camelpack was filled, new rollerblades were tossed in the back of the car (to try after the ride), and I was on my way to the trail (Stoney Creek Metropark, north of Detroit). When I arrived at the trailhead, it was appearant that I wasn't the only one taking advantage of a glorious Sunday. The lot was quite packed. I unloaded my bike, got ready, and off I was.
My typical loop at Stoney takes me down about 2 miles of mostly flat fire road to start. This makes for a good warm up. The stretch was in decent shape, with a couple of wet spots (just enough to ensure that the bike doesn't stay clean for long). I could tell that I had lost a bit of speed over the winter. I could also tell that all my running seemed to emphasize my hamstrings over the quads.
The next phase of my loop is a mile long stretch of singletrack (not terribly hilly - park classifies it as intermediate). It has open to moderate corners, and is quite fast (if the rider is up to it). Well, my speed was down a good bit from the end of last summer, but I was still able to get up enough speed to make things fun.
Next up is about just under a half mile of fire road, which takes me to the base of the climb. I believe that the climb is named "The Snakes", and it basically snakes up the big hill in the park. It is about 3/4 mile of hilly singletrack, mostly up. I was well warmed up by this point, and was able to blast my way to the top. I'll admit, I was thouroughly winded when I reached the top, which demonstrated my lack of any interval training in my off-season running. I stopped at the top for about 10 minutes to rest and enjoy the view.
Next up is the main stretch of singletrack in the park, aptly named "Rollercoaster". This is a 3 mile stretch of hilly singletrack, with numerous moderately sharp turns. There are convienently located "bail out" points after one and two miles, respectively. On this singletrack, there are 2 climbs which have typically given me trouble: one about a half mile in, and the other right at the end. On this ride, I was able to clean them both albiet I was a good bit winded after both. I believe that the clipless pedals really helped me here. On the end climb, there is a nice downhill leading up to it, and if you build up a lot of speed, it goes a long way to helping you on the climb.
The last phase of my typical loop is a mile long stretch of rolling doubletrack, with a couple of good climbs in the middle. at one point, you can go straight to head back to the trailhead, or turn right for another climb to the top of the hill. Today I elected to make one more climb. At the end of last season, I was good for 3 trips up and back down. This time on the way down, I elected to wuss out and take the "bail out" point at mile 2.
I put in 10 1/2 miles, per the bike computer, and was riding for a bit over an hour. After the ride, I put on the blades, and did the 6 mile loop around the lake. I got back in my car thouroughly whupped, with my legs rubbery. All in all, it was a perfect way to spend a Sunday afteroon.