Last weekend, my wife and I went to Fort Wayne to visit her family. When we lived in Bloomington before, we’d make this trip frequently. Often, I will try to find a ride to do while we’re there. This gives Sarah and her family some time together without me, and I get to ride. It works out well.
This time, I contacted Bill of the Big Oak Bikes blog to see if he wanted to connect for a ride. He was up for it, and we decided to do an organized ride, the Huntington Bicycle Challenge. Bill has a writeup of the event here. Here’s a map and elevation profile. You’ll notice that northern Indiana is a lot flatter than the southern part of the state — but that’s not to say that there weren’t any hills — there certainly were.
View Huntington Bicycle Challenge 09/19/2009 in a larger map
Bill picked me up early in the morning and we headed down to Huntington. We ended up waiting around at the start point for about half an hour while they had several other groups of riders start before those of us who were doing the 65-mile tour ride. The waiting was a little frustrating, but after that everything went very smoothly.
The first few miles we kept a conversational pace. Although the ride had started in downtown Huntington, within just a few minutes we were out in the country, where we followed the Wabash River for a bit. Somehow, I managed not to get any photos of the Wabash.
We rode with this character for a while (sadly, I can’t remember his name). He had rigged up some pieces of PVC pipe which attached to his handlebars. This allowed him to have a very upright posture, which he said made it easier on his back and neck. He could hold the tubes straight up and down, or horizontally, for different hand positions. I was skeptical, but it seemed to work well for him. In fact, he outpaced us for a little while.
The biggest challenge of the day was the wind. It was fairly strong and out of the ENE. Every time we turned to the east or north, the riding got tough.
The scenery was fairly constant: lots of corn and soybean fields, now mostly a golden yellow color. We did go by a couple of rivers, and two different lakes (Salamonie and Huntington reservoirs). The roads were straight, and flat, mostly, but not entirely.
As we rode across Salamonie Reservoir on a bridge, we took each other’s photo. Bill has one of me on his site. Here’s the one I took of him.
It was quite a beautiful lake, and we rode near it for a while.
At some point, we picked up the pace considerably, even doing some drafting. It had been a long time since I had done that and we were really pushing it for a while — or at least I was. I was worried for a while — I knew I could not sustain the pace we were riding for too long. Bill is a strong rider, and with five centuries under his belt this year, he has some serious endurance.
The first 40 miles went by surprisingly quickly. But miles 29 through 41 were the hardest — basically, straight into the wind. We took turns pulling, which definitely helped, but a few gradual-but-long climbs directly into the wind were quite a challenge.
We went through the small town of Warren, IN, and stopped at a SAG. After eating some snacks and resting, we started moving again. But we made an unspoken decision to ride much slower for the rest of the ride. I’m not really sure how it happened, except that we had both pretty well worn ourselves out riding into that headwind. The rest of the ride we were back to more of a conversational pace. Fortunately, even though I was tired, the rest of the ride didn’t feel like too much of a slog. Just slower.
Fortunately, a lot of the last 10-15 miles we had a tailwind. A few rolling hills toward the end were a lot of fun as well. Before long, we were back in Huntington.
This was a great ride. It was a pleasure to meet Bill, and ride with him. This also let me take advantage of his knowledge of the local history, and the land. Bill told me some very interesting things about the Wabash and Erie Canal, about which I now feel compelled to learn more. The Wikipedia page is a good starting point. He also told me about a dairy farm that was shut down because they dumped manure into the creeks, and talked about soybean growing seasons. These are the kinds of tidbits of local knowledge that I love to hear about and would otherwise miss. He’s also a strong rider, and it was fun to push myself more than usual.
Also, if you ever have a chance to ride the Huntington Bicycle Challenge, I recommend it. There is also a race option, which covers much the same area, except that part of it is on mountain bike trails. I might be tempted to try that sometime.