On Sunday, I woke at 5:00am and went next door o Steve’s house. The morning was chilly, about 42F, and we were bundled up for the ride. We loaded our bike in Steve’s car and drove to the Cincinnati house. We picked up some other riders and drove to Dayton. The front yard of the Dayton house had bikes on it and people were going in and out to use the bathroom and get one more granola bar and banana before the ride.
There were 9 riders this year which was down from previous years. This is a sort of family reunion with relatives coming in from Atlanta and California. I was one of 3 or 4 non-family riders and was just meeting people for the first time. Even so, I was warmly welcomed and included in the friendly banter.
The ride started out and wound through some of the suburbs of Dayton and even rode by the Wright Brothers home (quite a nice place for bike shop owners). We rode into downtown Dayton and soon picked up a bike path that took us east towards Xenia Ohio. During this part of the ride we were really riding easy as a group, just trying to get warmed up.
We reached Xenia station and took a break. Xenia is the head of a portion of the Little Miami bike trail; a rails to trails bike path that goes through my little village to the east of Cincinnati some 50 miles away. At Xenia station there is a nice little park with water fountains and bathrooms. They have done it up nice.
Once we started back on the path we came upon a portion of the path that was wide and without anyone else on it. We formed a double pace line. This was the first time I had ever rode in an actual pace line and it was very cool. I found that I really had to concentrate, particularly when it was my turn at front since I had a tendency to want to speed up. With the double pace line you were only in front for less than a minute, but it really increased the speed of the whole group and going 20mph felt almost effortless. We would repeat the pace line a few times over the course of the ride, but as we got closer to Cincinnati the path got narrower and more crowded and the group broke up. It was very fun while it lasted.
The path follows the Little Miami River and is very rural for most of its length. Every so often it would go through a portion of a small village that has set up a park along the path. While riding the rural sections it is not unusual to see farm livestock and other animals along the path. When I ride this path in the morning I regularly see deer, foxes and small forest animals. At one point of this ride we even had a call of “Chickens Up!” as a flock was wandering across the path.
As the day wore on it got warmer and with the clear blue sky is was a very pleasant ride. We were not pushing the pace, but it was by no means a casual ride. There was really not much opportunity to talk while riding and being a newbie I was concentrating on my bike handling and trying to avoid the walnuts, sticks, wet leaves and other riders/walkers/runners.
Finally we reached the turnoff from the bike path and started up a nice climb to Steve’s friend’s house. It was here that I saw the real race begin as there was a sprint up the hill to be the first one home. When I arrived back where we had started there were dozens of people waiting as the family reunion was in full swing. Once again, everyone was welcoming and there was plenty of food and drink to go around.
The ride had been 72 miles and was the longest I had gone. I am not really sure how long it took, but this really was a ride and not a race. I did feel like I could have gone further and it made me confident that a century is in my future.