Since I knew I was going to be stuck inside all afternoon today doing data collection and this weekend was supposed to be absolutely gorgeous, my friend and I decided to get out for a long, scenic ride yesterday. We found an awesome route up to a nearby lake that covered road through town, bike path through the woods along a creek, farmland highway surrounded by ranches, and packed dirt road up through the National Park that surrounds the lake (Sylvan Lake for any Coloradans or potential CO travelers).
We set off from the parking lot just as the air started to warm up in the sun, excited to get in a solid 36 mile ride over gradually climbing rolling hills. As we got our bikes ready to go, my friend briefly eyed her mildly low back tire, but decided it was good to go. More on this later…
The ride started off brilliantly – we had the bike path to ourselves and enjoyed getting to ride side-by-side, chatting up a storm. The highway was also pretty quiet for a Saturday morning, with the occasional vehicle courteously giving us wide berth and no obnoxious honkers.
The ride became more arduous when we hit the dirt as we wound up the mountainside toward the lake, but the novelty of riding on dirt on our road bikes (and the concentration required to avoid the potholes and washboard ruts) provided a nice distraction from our whining quads and calves. And check out this view!
We finally cleared the last steep hill and gasped as we saw the view of the lake. Ok, some of the gasping may have been from severe oxygen debt but the lake was amazing even through the oxygen deprivation induced tunnel vision 😉
We puttered around the lake for a bit watching the kayakers glide through the water and snacking on pineapple rings (best bike snack ever!), and then decided to head back, excited about the opportunity to rest our legs on the downhill.
We got started on the dirt and quickly realized that controlling our speed was vital, as I lost a bike light while nearly jostling my teeth out over a patch of rocks. I skidded to a stop to retrieve my light, grabbed it, and returned to my friend. Unfortunately, she’d also gone over the rocks, and was now staring, with despair, at her now totally flat rear tire.
She’d never changed a flat, or even pumped up a tire, but luckily I had a kit with me and we were able to remove the tire, find the tear, patch her tube, and get the flat tube back on the rim. That’s where the real snag arose – my friend has Presta valves, which I have never had to pump up*. Since she’d never aired her own tires, she was as clueless as I was. Feeling like a complete failure of a mechanical engineer, I gave up on filling her tire after several failed pumping attempts and we started walking down the road, praying that someone would offer us a ride before we had made the 5 miles down to the courtesy phone at the bottom or the return of cell service some 8 miles back towards town.
After a few failed hitch-hiking attempts (no room for bikes or not willing to stop) we were rescued by an absolutely lovely couple in a minivan. They were originally from New Jersey and had recently moved to CO and were out exploring for the day. Having a cyclist son, they could sympathize with our situation and kindly piled us and our bikes into the back seats of their van. We traded them a guided tour of the town for a ride home and enjoyed 18 miles of happy chatter. Thank you amazing rescuers for saving us from a potential 18 mile walk in bike shoes! If I ever see a sad cyclist on the side of the road I hope I can pass on the favor!
*Promptly Googled this upon arriving home – now a little smarter and prepared to pump ALL THE VALVES!