Friday night I and my bike headed into Philadelphia for what promised to be a weekend of hard riding. Not only because Bicycle Club of Philadelphia's Scenic Schuylkill Century was a challenging course, but because I had to deal with a new fitting on the bike, and learn to use clipless pedals as well. Would I be able to finish the rides unscit did mirror the concern I had in my heart. Would I have a deluge of problems on these rides?athed, and ride in Bike Philly the next morning? The heavy rains on Friday didn't dampen my enthusiasm, but
I arrived at Chamounix Mansion Hostel in Fairmount Park about 11:00 PM, and was assigned a room with three other riders, John, Kevin, and David, all Clydesdales, who had driven up from Virginia for the rides. We soon formed a plan to leave at 7:00 AM the next morning, I leading the group. We settled to bed, they dreaming of their rides, and I having a nightmare about falling making a left turn in traffic from Leverington onto Umbria in Manayunk.
Next morning we headed off, I leading the pack through Fairmount Park, over the Strawberry Mansion Bridge, and on a roundabout trip to the ride start at Lloyd Hall, in the shadow of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. A flat tire on John's road bike delayed us a few minutes.
After the repair and a slight wrong turn on my part, we reached the ride start. We let the mass start take place before we entered the stream of cyclists riding towards the Art Museum, in front of the "Rocky" steps, and onto West River Drive. Philadelphia closes West River Drive to motorized vehicles from 7-5 on weekends, so it was a wall of cyclists. Here's the start at Lloyd Hall:
At the Falls Bridge, cyclists had to face traffic as they headed into Manayunk.
Well before this point, I had been dropped, by agreement, by my hostel friends. So I, and my clipless and fit concerns, were riding solo. I wasn't bothered by the traffic in Manayunk any more than normal, although I became alarmed at how long it took me to get unclipped on the left foot as I approached one light. When I turned onto Leverington I got up and walked the hill and the left onto Umbria, and so avoided fulfilling my nightmare. Once on Umbria, I clipped in and pedaled up. And up. And up. Clipless pedals forced me to climb the hill as a whole because I knew if I stopped, I'd never get unclipped in time. My quads were screaming by the end. The downhill was fun, except that I was required to dismount at the bottom - it's a sharp left onto Shawmont, and six cyclists that morning had spilled on the wet gravel there.
The first rest stop was Cedar Grove Park, 13 miles out. Food and drink was inside the building. While I was inside, a fellow from Keswick Cyclery replaced the tube in my front tire, which had begun to get soft.
By here I had scaled back my plans from doing a metric century to the 38 mile route, going out to Fort Washington and back. The hills earlier in the ride had gotten to me, and I walked up a couple of quadbusters at the halfway point. As I turned around, I decided, since I wasn't going for a metric, I could treat the rest of the ride as just a test of the fit and clipless, and take the opportunity for photography as it arose. St. Peter's Lutheran, site of a Revolutionary war battle, was one such opportunity.
As I approached Manayunk, a volunteer on the ride passed me and asked if I was alright. He persisted in questioning me, and I suddenly realized I hadn't eaten in hours and was out of water. I didn't feel lightheaded - yet. Not wanting to either tempt fate or the climb onto Umbria from Shawmont, I chose to ride the flat Manayunk Canal Towpath, and stop at a place in town for food and water.
After food and drink, I rode back to the Falls Bridge, over to West River Drive, and towards the ride end. I can see the city skyline in the distance.
Soon enough the Art Museum came into view.
And before I knew it, I was at the BCP end of ride pizza party, walking around in my socks like half the other clipless riders.
Two of my hostel friends, David and Kevin, finished the 38 an hour before me, and they headed back up the hill to the hostel. John showed up shortly afterward, bushed from the metric century. He also left as I stayed for a massage. Then I too headed back to the hostel for a shower and dinner, reaching there just as some rain started to fall. The four of us went out to dinner, carbed up, and prepared for Bike Philly. I went to bed happy to have completed a long, hard ride without a clipless fall or an accident like my gashing my leg on my chainring.
I'll write about Bike Philly in a later post - I need to get the photos up on Flickr.