I've decided it's time to rejoin the Mules after a lengthy summer break, and this weekend seemed like a good opportunity to do so. The gang was riding the Red, White and Bike charity ride, which starts in our usual stamping ground near Hockley. The start time was pretty civilized - 8.00am - which also helped my decision.
I duly rolled into the car park and spotted the Mules Barn - Paddy's large awning erected next to his Mules trailer. I'd only seen pictures of it but it's very impressive in the flesh. Paddy was of course there and noted that I was not in uniform (I was wearing my new Sierra Nevada shirt, the Mules shirt is in the wash). I met a new Mule, Shawn, and later had a long chat with him. Nice guy.
I unloaded my bike and pumped up my tires, only for the rear to blow out quite spectacularly. The rubber around the valve had rotted and it came away in my hand! I did a quick tube change and then bought a replacement from the Bike Barn guys who were on duty at the start.
Off we went, north on Roberts, past Zube and then quickly onto roads I hadn't seen before. The Mules set a hottish pace but I was able to hang in there, drafting behind Adam. I was also chatting (mostly listening!) with Shawn, who has recently done some spectacular rides on Maui, and spent three weeks in Europe, too, riding the route of Paris-Roubaix!
I was just starting to feel the pace a bit when we reached the 40/60 split and I turned off. Hardly anyone else was on the 40 route, I had to keep my wits about me and watch for signs - normally you just follow the bike in front. I was ready for the rest stop that duly appeared, and there was Sean (of the dog) chatting with the staff. We joked around for a bit and then he left, with me promising to catch him (as if!).
Back on the road and we turned south, into a pretty tough head wind, with some short, sharp climbs to get over too. I was starting to tire and get sore in the usual spots, but then I got to Roberts road, where I could smell the barn, as they say. Sadly the route took us in the long way round, presumably to build up the miles.
Finally I was back at the start, where I joined Sean in the Barn for a beer and a chat. I had stuff to do at home and couldn't wait for the 60 mile group to finish.