This past Saturday was one of those objectively beautiful spring days on the East Coast (at least for those of us without seasonal allergies): gorgeous blue skies, no humidity, the lightest of breezes, the temperatures staying reaching into the low 70s. It was unquestionably a perfect day for riding. S and I decided to take a long ride --out past Potomac, up towards White's Ferry, where we'd cross the Potomac River, ride into Leesburg, and then jump on the W&O Railroad Trail to head back towards Washington. Perhaps it was only because the weather was so perfect that our ride didn't veer into disaster (or at least grumpy-rider) territory. There were some definitely lessons learned; fortunately none of them were catastrophic.
Quiet country road
Lesson #1: Turn off your phone's screen to conserve power! I've been using the Runtastic app to track my mileage, etc., which is great, but uses my phone's power to do so. For whatever reason, I didn't turn off my screen when I put my phone into my jersey pocket, which meant that over the first few hours of riding, I unknowingly made some pocket phone calls, played some computer games, and at one point, realized that I was playing Pandora radio. When I stopped to figure out where the heavenly downtempo music was coming from, I realized it was me and my now-low batteried phone. Not good. Fortunately, intending to charge his phone at our lunch stop, S had brought along a cable, and our Powerocks portable magic stick battery. I was able to plug my phone into the stick battery and slowly recharge from White's Ferry until we stopped for lunch in Leesburg and could access a wall outlet. We've gone ahead and ordered an extra magic stick battery so that each of us will have one on future long rides.
Lesson #2: Check out questionable new routes on Google Earth. Of course you can't always do this, but our "shortcut" on River Road that we thought we'd discovered ended up being three miles of unexpected gravel, which neither we nor our bikes were prepared for. Fortunately, no flats and no wipeouts.
Lesson #3: Set a defined meeting point. S and I have similar riding ability and we virtually always ride together, if not at least in visual sight of each other. Once we got to the W&O Trail on Saturday, I was feeling great and S wasn't. He urged me to go on ahead, and we had a plan to meet in Reston for coffee. Having only a vague recollection of where the turn-off for Reston Town Center was, and feeling good trying to keep up with some of the more aggressive riders on the trail, I ended up some 5 miles beyond where we should have met up with each other. And now with a low phone battery again. S ended up having his coffee alone, and I sat on a bench and had the last of my energy bars with some warm water. Fortunately, we were able to meet up later, which is fortunate for our last lesson learned.
Lesson #4: Even when riding a bike, check the Metro weekend track work schedule! Our plan had been to ride to somewhere along the Orange line, and then when we got tired, simply take the bikes on the Metro back home. This plan had only one slight flaw to it, which was that the Red line wasn't operating between two critical stations we needed to get to. Once we figured this out, this meant that we had to take the Red line in the opposite direction and add on an extra few miles to the end of our journey to cycle from a more distant station back to our home.
All in all, we rode 82 miles--definitely our longest ride to date, and although I definitely felt wiped out that night (and the next day), I felt good and knew that I could do it. Had S been feeling a bit better, I might have pushed him to finish our route and make it a century. Maybe next weekend.
What are your cycling lessons learned (the easy way or the hard way)?