These are the dark days. Minimal natural light during my riding time. Fortunately, bicycle lighting technology has made tremendous strides, so that one can ride comfortable at high speeds even on twisty descents. So, I embarked on my first long ride of 2010 on February 6 at 4:25 a.m. (not a typo). Had to be home by 9:45 and planned to ride 80+ miles to Sunol and back, thus the early departure. I had a riding companion in David Newman, otherwise no way do I get out alone for an 80-miler at that hour.
While I'm used to riding certain roads in the dark (Spruce, Grizzly, Tunnel, Skyline), others I only know from riding them in daylight, so riding through Orinda, Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville and San Ramon was a completely new experience. I know the roads, I knew where we were, yet it all looked very different in the dark and in the intermittent rain. We finally had enough daylight by the time we reached Dublin and I felt comfortable turning off my light. A few words about my light: I used Exposure MaxxD, fully charged. I ran it on medium for the first 50 minutes, then on high for about 30. After 30 minutes on high the indicator light changed from green to red -- low battery warning -- so I switched back to medium and the indicator went back to green. It stayed green for about 30 minutes, then went red. I switched to low for another 30 minutes and by then there was enough daylight to turn off the light. Here's my beef: the manufacturer claims 3 hours at HIGH setting and I wouldn't have gotten 3 hours from the combination of high and medium. Piece of crap! Back to Majicshine I go!
David and I rode medium-hard to Sunol, where we found the general store and the cafe which we planned to use for re-hydration and refuelling closed, so we just used the portable toilets and got back on the road. More medium-hard riding on Niles Canyon Rd., right onto Palomares and up the hill we went, 4.3 miles of climbing. Palomares Creek was just raging with water. It was very cool to ride in the narrow canyon with the creek rushing loudly in the opposite direction. I'd been on the road for over three hours, had drunk just over two bottles, and having ridden medium-hard for about half of my time on the bike, was beginning to feel the ride in my legs. This was a nervous time, I wasn't sure I'd make it home by 9:45, so I had to ride hard, but not so hard that I'd cramp or blow up and end up getting home really late. And things weren't going to get any better with hydration, as we were pretty much in the middle of nowhere, as far as road services go. We made it up and down Palomares in decent shape, rode medium-harder to Castro Valley, crested Redwood Rd. on the outskirts of town and discovered that Castro Valley School District erected a fence around Proctor Elementary -- so, no access to the school's water fountains. I managed to plod up and down Redwood, then up Redwood again, down Joaquin Miller, and through Montclair, arriving home at 9:47. Close enough. Considering that I'd drunk 2.25 bottles instead of 4+ and eaten 6 servings of gel instead of 10, doing 87 miles with 5,000+ feet of climbing in 15.8 mph average speed, I'm pretty happy with my first long ride of the year.