I completed my first large group bicycle ride in several seasons yesterday, the 2012 Bloomin’ Metric Century in Connecticut. I was a fairly regular participant in the BMC until my kids were born and my cycling came to a grinding halt. This spring, when temperatures hit 70 in March, I determined to get my butt back on the bike both for fitness and to be able to say I do something athletic. Plus I really enjoy riding a bike.
The BMC is hosted by Sound Cyclists. Yesterday was probably my 4th time doing this ride and I can say without hesitation that the club consistently puts on a great show. It helps that they have a spectacular environment to host the ride in, as much of the course winds through mansion country and beautiful parkland. The ride is properly supported with rest stops, the usual ride food and sag wagons. Of course there is ample food at the finish line.
I completed the 100 kilometer course in 6 h 20 min. On its face, that’s a pretty mediocre performance for someone who rides regularly but this was my first ride over 30 miles this season and, as such, I’m just happy I finished. The course had 3252 feet of elevation gain, according to my GPS, and that’s a fair amount more climbing than I’m accustomed to. I’m not sure when they added the extra climbs into the course but they certainly weren’t there the last time I rode it. The nasty-climb-of-the-day was a long 8% grade almost immediately before a rest stop. I didn’t realize it was an 8% grade or that there was a rest stop at the top of it, but I pulled over at the base of the hill to rest and enjoy the scenery. 8% isn’t that bad if you rest before the climb!
I did the route on my “Mack truck” commuter, pictured here packed into the minivan for the trip.
It’s a heavy beast, rigged with fat tires, fenders and a rack. It serves well for hauling stuff back and forth to work, but it’s certainly not sporty on a century ride. I felt every extra pound of it in my legs going up those hills
As I enjoyed the ride on a picture post card perfect day, a few thoughts crossed my mind:
1. Why do people ride these events like a race? There is no prize for finishing ahead of the next person, so I don’t understand why folks would want to blow through the scenery, riding peloton style, taking up the entire road and disrupting traffic. We are guests in someone else’s neighborhood so why not show the motorists a bit of respect and let them pass.
2. GPS files are helpful and should be part of every ride. The organizers of the BMC sent participants .gpx files to be uploaded to GPS units. They also had printed cue sheets. I navigated almost 98% by GPS and delighted in the freedom of not having to look at a piece of paper while pedaling. Although there were changes to the route after the .gpx files were distributed (detours and such), the GPS routing was still good enough to keep you on the route or help you find your way home if completely lost. All ride organizers should include data files for GPS as part of the ride planning.
3. How does one complete a century without a water bottle, or tire repair kit for that matter? I saw a handful of folks with no water bottle or hydration bladder. Don’t they get thirsty? Don’t they realize the physiological importance of hydration? I saw many riders with no visible signs of breakdown repair, that is no under-seat bag or obvious signs of carrying supplies in jersey pockets. I can only assume that they were relying on the availability of a sag wagon in the event of a mechanical problem.
4. Enjoying the BMC, or any ride, is about the right fit. My faithful Co Motion has been with me 10 years and, although it fit properly when I bought it, my frame has changed in the past ten years. Last month I visited Signature Cycles in New York City for a fitting. They will fit you to your existing bike or provide a fitting if you are shopping for a bike. I had noticed that I was experiencing some mild knee pain and shoulder fatigue when riding my bike, so I thought I owed it to myself to get a fitting because a little tweak here and there can have a profound effect on riding comfort.
For nearly three hours, Blake (of Signature Cycles) took measurements and analyzed my position and riding style. I was attached to a power meter, which provided graphic representation of the effects each tweak had on my power output and efficiency. We eventually moved the saddle a hair and changed the bars and stem to something more suitable for my body and abilities. Here’s the new cockpit
My old stem and bars had me stretched out unnaturally and that was the source of my shoulder discomfort. I’ve always preferred an upright position, but the bars pictured here weren’t even available when I did the original build. It is worth it to get a proper fitting every few years, I realize now, because technology moves forward and there is always the possibility that you can improve your body position on the bike.
I’m super satisfied with the outcome! The bike is comfortable again, and I completed the BMC without any unnecessary aches and pains. If you take your riding seriously, I’d recommend a proper fitting and for a proper fitting I’d definitely recommend Signature Cycles. Knowing what I do now about my position on the bike, I cannot imagine finishing the BMC without major shoulder and knee discomfort. It’s all about the fit.
The BMC is held each year in May. Visit the Sound Cyclists website for information.