If you've been following my cycling blogs, you will have noticed that Thursdays are one of my "Short Ride" days, which usually consists of a 17-mile. But you may have noticed that in recent weeks I have slowly been increasing the length of all my rides by several miles, so today's "short ride" wound up being 27 miles: from my house to the Saguaro National Park, twice around the park loop, and then home again.
The weather was more cooperative today, so I was able to head out for my ride in the evening. I checked my sunrise/sunset app for my Windows Phone, which showed that sunset was at 7pm, so I knew that I had to get on the road by 5:15pm or I would be riding home in the dark, and I managed to get on the road at 5:11pm. Because of the waning monsoon season, the sky was predominantly overcast, and that dropped the overall temperature for the ride. There was a light rain falling as I started out, but I was pretty sure that the rain would clear up quickly based on the cloud formations in the area.
I did a couple of things differently for today's ride: first of all, I replaced the small bag that attaches to my bike frame (which I have been using to carry things like Gu packets and my ID) with a new pannier-style bag. This allowed me to carry a few more items, but it also allowed me to have decent control over my cell phone while keeping it safe from the elements. And the bag's construction still allowed me to reach around the back of my phone to switch my external battery pack on and off.
I also changed my playlist for today's ride: instead of NeedToBreathe, I downloaded Rush's Moving Pictures and Permanent Waves albums onto my phone. Some of the songs - like Spirit of Radio and Red Barchetta - are great riding songs. While a few others - like Natural Science - were kind of weird as riding music. (e.g. "How am I supposed to pedal in rhythm with a 7/8 time signature?")
The winds weren't bad today, so I seemed more on schedule than some of my recent windy rides. With that in mind, I was already on my way around the park loop by the time that my GPS announced that I had been riding for 20 minutes (with average speed around 15mph). My first pass around the park was rather uneventful, except that I kept bumping into the same set of car-bound tourists; first I passed them, then they passed me, etc. That wasn't so bad - the park is for tourists, after all. The only bad part about it was when I came speeding around a downhill corner to find that they had stopped their car in the middle of the one-lane road and had left their car doors open when they got out. This left me with only a few feet of clearance between the driver's-side door and the desert, so I had to brake hard to avoid colliding with their car or the surrounding foliage. (Grrr.)
I finished my first loop around the park and headed directly into my second loop without pause. For some reason I seem to ride stronger on the initial hills through the first miles of the park; perhaps my legs are a little more warmed-up by then. However, climbing the big hill around the 3.5-mile point is always worse the second time around. Even more demoralizing during my second loop was the guy who zipped by me as I was a few hundred yards from the top of the first hill on the ridge. (I was churning along at just above 5mph, and he was riding at about 7mph or 8mph. That may not seem like much, but on a bicycle that can seem like a lot.)
The sun was rapidly descending through the clouds and over the distant horizon as I made my way around the park. And as darkness fell, I became quite aware of how fast I was going and how much worse my view of the road ahead was getting. This added a bit of trepidation as I sped through the hills and washes that make up the last few miles of the loop, and I decelerated a little to compensate for the fading visibility.
As I finished my second loop around the park, I made sure that all of my bicycle lights were on, and I headed home as fast as was safely possible in the cool, dusky air of Tucson at twilight.
- Distance: 27.2 miles
- Start Time: 5:11pm
- Duration: 1:42:51
- Average Speed: 15.9 mph
- Peak Speed: 30.8 mph
- Altitude Gain: 1,597 feet
- Calories Burned: 1,584 kcal
- Starting Temp: 82 degrees
- Ending Temp: 78 degrees