At the beginning of the cycling season, my riding buddy Rob and I decided on a goal: we would finish the Jack N’ Back charity bike ride in October. Well, we did. After doing several other rides together this season, we both decided this one was the biggest, the best organized, and the most satisfying to complete. For the sake of brevity, I will make a list:
- Lots and lots of volunteers, probably hundreds, at rest stops, manning the wrenches, serving food, helping at registration, standing at turns, protecting us at intersections, clapping, encouraging, directing, and thanking us repeatedly for riding in this event.
- Excellent organization, from the luggage train segregated by bib number, twist ties supplied for the bike numbers, early packet pickup to reduce ride day congestion, perfect road markings, police stationed at all major intersections stopping traffic even 30 miles into the ride, etc.
- Enthusiasm of the volunteers and rest stop helpers.
- Great lunch stop: plenty of room, large cafeteria, enough bathrooms.
- Large number of riders on a long course-one was never alone on the road not in sight of another ride, a psychological comfort
- I have never seen so many sag wagons-seems like they passed me every 5-10 miles
- The Gatorade and water never ran out (has happened at other rides)
A few personal observations:
- I am glad I installed my new cassette with a larger big cog: though the hills were moderate, the longest one was at the end of the first day, a half mile before the finish
- I’m also glad I spent three or four hours tuning up the derailleurs on my bike before the ride:although I made several mistakes in the process, once I had it zeroed in, the shifting was flawless during the ride: no skips, rattles, or clunks, no lost chains even when I mistakenly tried to down shift off the small chainring, for example.
- Riding into the wind for 50+ miles is a real test of determination, mostly psychological I think, and the discomforting knowledge that the same power output into the pedals results in forward velocity at least 2-3 mph less.
- Riders come in all shapes, sizes and outfits. One elderly rider had computer speakers mounted under his saddle broadcasting classical symphonic music. One recumbent rider went the whole 75 miles using only his arms and a top-mounted crank arrangement. Two guys rode unicycles! (Somebody said those guys are so good on one wheel, please don’t give them two…) Obese women rode mountain bikes at ten mph. Skinny guys dressed in identical kits hammered past in large TDF-like mini-pelotons. Women in bright green stockings, women on completely pink bikes, women with fuschia flapping skirts and high-viz jerseys, all provided a little extra color.
In summary, it was a great way to end a season of cycling in which I got fitter, learned more about my bike, achieved a goal, and had a lot of fun in the process. Please take a look at some of the photos in the gallery, too.