Boulevard Lakefront Tour

Great ride, really. Would have been greater if not for the awful weather. Barely drips the whole week before, then on the morning itself it’s just dumping down. Huge groan when I awoke at 5.30 am to the sound of rain. Thought at first they might cancel it. No chance. I salute Chicago cyclists — you are persistent. And it wasn’t just your hardcore racing-type cyclists who turned up in their waterproofs either — there were plenty of obviously more “casual” types, and many many hardcore commuters (there’s a certain look to these people and to the bikes they use), whom I respect more than racers.

Planned to do the 62-mile ride, started out fine; wearing hood of waterproof jacket under helmet turned out to be an excellent choice, since the cap on the hood kept most of the rain off my glasses, and my neck stayed dry too. As expected Marmot Precip pants didn’t keep the rain out indefinitely — they aren’t supposed to anyway. Discovered that thinner tires spray water a lot further, so much so that I overtook this guy just to get out of spraying range of his thin tires. Later learnt to ride behind people with fat mountain bike wheels, which don’t spray water as far.

Plans for 62-mile ride scuppered at 31st and Western, where I discovered my front tire was flat. Waited about half an hour for a ride marshal to pass by, saw no one. A bunch of cyclists stopped by and told me a course marshal was about 50m back, so I headed towards there. There was another old bloke who was fixing his own flat there. The course marshal called for the ride marshals. The latter took about half an hour to arrive, probably because they were helping the numerous people who had had flats earlier on. In the meantime I was feeling the chill; I didn’t feel particularly wet but I probably was. The Precip pants make one feel sticky rather than damp when the moisutre gets through.

Flat turned out to be from a small puncture which we couldn’t locate by ear, so the ride marshal found a roadside puddle deep enough to run the tube through and to spot bubbles coming out of it. Makes one wonder what we could have done if it hadn’t been so bloody wet. By the time we were putting the patched tube back on a third ride marshal had arrived, and he advised that we should put the tire back on the wheel before putting the tube in. Strange, but apparently it’s easier. I just can’t imagine doing that with the Armadillos (but boy did I wish I had Armadillos on today). Also note, don’t go above 80 psi for patched tubes.

Patched tube seem to hold up well until the 17-mile rest point. I was still considering at that point, despite being behind by almost two hours, continuing on the 62-mile ride, but I somehow convinced myself to relax and enjoy the bonanza of whole wheat bagels and other carbo-rich treats at leisure.

Which turned out to be a good choice, because when I started out again I realised that my tube was still leaking. Very slowly. I remember the exact same thing happening when I patched a tube on my Continental. It would seem to be holding up fine on a short ride, but leave it in the bike room overnight, and the next day it’s completely flat. By the time I reached the end I think it was probably down to 50 psi. Very glad to be able to stop then, and not ask around or wait around for someone with a pump again. Not hungry at all but grabbed lots of food for future consumption. Most of it is now sitting in my fridge.

Awful wind on the ride back, apparently from the southeast, which made the portion on the lakefront trail thigh-burning. For the first time since I started riding the IRO I had to stand up out of the seat to climb that hill at the 47th St bridge. I probably didn’t have to, but at the start of the hill I had negligible momentum and my thighs were still searing from battling previous hills and battling the wind on the flats, so I figured it would be better to ignore gracefulness and just grind my way up that last hill as quickly as possible. Back at home, while getting ready for the hot bath I’d been promising myself, I tried doing four lunges and quickly decided that my thighs didn’t need any more work for the rest of the day.

I actually liked the spirit of the BLT a lot more than I do that of Bike the Drive and of Critical Mass. Bike the Drive is just too huge and somewhat monotonous. BLT feels much more positive. Critical Mass should feel positive but often doesn’t.

Ye gods, here I am going about “positive” feelings like some wishy-washy hippie.

One last comment. As if I needed any more convincing, another reason why fixed gear is the dog’s pods: if I had ridden either of my freewheel roadies in that rain, I would have had to go much slower at least, or had an accident at worst, because the rim brakes are almost entirely useless on wet rims at moderate to high speeds. On my IRO I can decelerate to a slow pace using just my legs, then apply the front brake to come to a complete stop.


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