Yesterday's ride is always the hardest of the season. It's intended to work folks hard so they know that when they head to Tahoe that they're ready for all that the ride can throw at them.
It started out as usual with Noel and I getting up at the crack of dawn (4:45 am) so that we could get dressed and get ready so that we could be out to Middleburg Virginia (which is 81 miles and 1 hour 41 minutes from home) so that we could be ready to start the ride at 7:30. This is par for the course for rides in rural Virginia so the early morning start wasn't too big of a deal and we were able to get out there before the ride started - granted not with alot of time to socialize before everyone rolled out. It wouldn't have worked well for me to be late being that I was sweeping for the ride making sure that everyone made it through the ride well regardless of pace.
Well unfortunately I discovered when I pumped up my tires in the parking lot that the rim of my wheel was looking like it was ready to fail. What had happened (as you can see in the photo) was that the nipple holding my spoke in the rim had began to pull through the rim where the rim was cracked. It meant that my rim was out of true (meaning that the wheel moved to the left and right as it spun around its axis). This meant that I had one of two choices - not ride - not really an option - or jerry rig my bike so that I could make it through the day on a wonky wheel. Since I was signed up to help out and I really wanted to do the ride I had to cobble together a way to make the bike work. It wasn't too hard but it did make the day a little hairy.
My coping strategy was pretty straight-forward - open the rear brake caliper as wide as possible so that the rim wouldn't hit the brake as it spun and to take it really easy on the rear brakes. I also didn't know how fragile my rear wheel was so I did my best not to use the back brake during the ride. From a physical perspective this wasn't really a big deal because most of the bike's stopping power comes from the front brake but it did take a bit of thinking to remember to use the front brake - especially since I am right handed and the back brake is on the right side of the handlebar. The other coping mechanism I had to institute was keeping the downhills slow. I figured if there was a catastrophic failure of my rear wheel and everything went to shit, I could do ok in a 15 MPH crash - but if I hit the pavement at 30 MPH it was going to be a long day for everyone on the ride. Not bombing down the downhills took a little bit of the fun out of the ride, but I've gone down hill fast before and I'll do it again - and without having to worry whether my bike will take me to the ground.
As for the ride it was a good ride and a good challenge. The highlight and the biggest challenge of the ride comes at roughly 12 miles into the ride. We roll out of the start for a little while and then when we hit the town of Bluemont we begin climbing. There's probably a half mile or so climb which likely takes us up a couple hundred feet, and then there is a switchback into a flat which takes us out to major highway. We stay on the highway for about a quarter mile and then turn left onto the steepest part of the climbing of the day. For about a half mile we head up to Mount Weather with the grade at one point reaching 22%. It was a hard bit of climbing and burned up my legs a bit but served as a strong confidence builder for Tahoe.
After the climb up onto Mount Weather the rest of the ride was relatively uneventful. Not too many dramatic climbs for the rest of the ride -- mostly rolling hills and flats. It felt really good and I feel pretty prepared for Tahoe. After about 40 miles of riding I came to the conclusion that my wheel was going to hold up and that I would make it through the rest of the day.
I made it in fine and we had some yummy belated bar-b-que with teammates in the parking lot at the conclusion of the ride. I was able to find out this morning that Bontrager has a pretty strong 5 year warranty and I should be able to get my local bike shop to get the wheel replaced for me by Monday so I can ship it out to Tahoe at the Bon Voyage party on Wednesday. I'll post more details on the sucess or lack of in a couple days.
I've included a map and elevation chart below.