Saturday was my first ride with the Bicycle World and Fitness group since last Fall. It was nice to be able to ride to the start, rather than drive for 30 minutes, and we started earlier too, at 7.00am (more or less) instead of 7.30 with the Mules.
BW&F has three different rides on Saturday morning, each led by a different employee. Manny's group rides 27 miles on Terry Hershey at a fairly easy pace, Jamie's group (aka The Truth Squad) goes about the same distance but faster, and the hard core ride with Ryan (The International Liars' Club or ILC), 50-60 miles at a pretty hot pace. Before departing to rejoin the Mules I had been a regular with The Truth Squad. I only recognized one rider, Denis the Mad Irishman, but it was good to catch up with him.
Jamie's group has adopted a different route since my last outing with them, and this morning the ILC was going the same way, at least as far as Katy. We rode as a big group for a while but the pace set by the ILC was too hot for Denis and me (and a couple of others) and we soon fell behind. We regrouped at Bear creek and restarted but split up quite quickly again. I was pretty comfortable with Denis, Jamie and the others.
Coming out of the park I got a flat in my front tire and we all stopped while I changed it out. Denis helped and we got the tube replaced pretty fast. I used a CO2 bottle to inflate the new tube but didn't get it all the way up to pressure. We set out anyway and crossed into Cullen.
One of the other riders took the lead through the park and set a fast pace. I was able to keep up with him but really wasn't happy about going that quickly. The trail is not suitable for high speed cycling - there are lots of turns and usually plenty of foot traffic too. We made it through OK though and turned on Saums road. While waiting at a light I noticed that we hadn't got my tire properly seated on the rim and it was bulging slightly near the valve stem. Fixing it would require deflating the tire, seating it properly and reinflating, so I decided to wait and see how I got on with it.
On Saums the pace crept up and we took it in turns to pull. We hit 23 mph on one section but decided that was too hot and backed off a bit. By then the group had fragmented (this happens very easily when there are traffic lights on a route), with me and three others in the lead, and Denis, Jamie and the rest behind.
We pulled into the Shell station for a pre-arranged break and found three ILC riders, including Ryan the leader and Eric, a mechanic from the shop. Eric was riding a full-on fixie - cleats and no brakes! Jamie and the others soon appeared and we took a good break. I let the air out of my tire, seated it properly on the rim and tried to reinflate with a CO2 bottle scrounged from Jamie, but I couldn't get it to work. She took pity on me, and used her own CO2 adapter, the kind apparently known to the pros as a "crack pipe" (as illustrated above).
Back on the road with the ILC trio in the vanguard, setting a strong pace. I was able to keep up but I was feeling it. Coming up to the Highway 99 underpass, Eric gave an object lesson in stopping a fixie - he locked up the back wheel and skidded about 20 yards, weaving the wheel left and right all the way. He must get through a lot of tires.
We got back to the Dam and started a fast paceline. I held on but eventually got spat out the back. We regrouped at Route 6 and when Eric appeared he had a flat back tire. Without a fixie wrench (to get the wheel off) he couldn't do a repair, but he seemed happy to ride on the rim and made it all the way back to the store without apparently damaging the tire or rim.
A quick chat and cool-off in the store and I rode home. I felt pretty rough, pretty much the same as I feel after a Mules run, but I need to do better with my hydration, and having the ILC set the pace for half the ride didn't help. We'll see how the Summer proceeds.