Archive for the ‘headwind’ Tag

Headwinds   Leave a comment

Ah … back on an EBTC Target the Tour training ride.

Pre-ride Instructions

For one reason or another I had missed the previous few Sunday morning rides. Although the weather forecast had looked a little iffy, with possible early morning and late afternoon showers, It was absolutely beautiful as we gathered at 0930 for a planned 100k ride in the countryside northeast of Edmonton, out to the town of Bruderheim. [map of region]

Although this ride would be my longest one of the year and I hadn’t been on the bike much in the last couple of weeks I was feeling good and confident. A group of 25 riders, set off this morning on a route that would take us north from the Yellowhead highway, through Fort Saskatchewan and then north east to the town of Bruderheim before returning on a slightly different route.

Crop Rows (a bit unusual as most crops in these parts are fields of canola or grains)

Canola Field and Rural Road

Straight and Flat

It was beautiful, uneventful morning – well except for my getting-all-to-common electronics challenges. First, my cycle computer which I had again thought I had fixed wasn’t picking up the signal from the front wheel so I has no speedometer or odometer. All i could use it for was as a timer. It told me how long I’d been on the road but as I had inadvertently stopped the timer at some point and lost approximately 7 minutes.¬† I have no options now for this device other than to try to replace the thin wires (soldering will be difficult), or to get a new unit.

Luckily I had my Garmin heart rate monitor with GPS as a back-up – except that 1 Km out it displayed a message that it could not receive signals from the satellites – this out in the middle of the flat prairie! After approximately 10K the function mysteriously returned but for the rest of the ride I didn’t now how far I’d gone or had to go. I was able to get my speed although looking at the watch and changing screens while riding was not very convenient.

The other technology challenge encountered was that after I’d taken only 5 pictures, my camera indicated that the memory card was full. This was not a big problem but did mean that I had to take the time to manually delete a bunch of my oldest photos from memory to free up space.

Petro-chemical Plant

The ride north to Fort Saskatchewan was on the quiet rural roads. From there we took Highway 15, a busy 4-lane divided highway, but with very wide paved shoulders – not a bad stretch at all. This section of rural Alberta is noted for petro-chemical processing. Large industrial plants are frequently next to farmer’s green fields as a well as small pumping units in the fields.

During this part of the ride to the northeast I could notice the effect of the wind blowing from the southeast. The result was that my pace fell off noticeably, probably to something like 15kph. However, once we turned back north, I was flying – cruising along at more than 30.

Rural Road (to get back on course)

Gravel Road (to get back on course)

After another eastbound stretch on a rural road into the wind, I came to the intersection with a highway. By this time out group of riders was pretty stretched out and I was riding on my own with no one else in sight. So I quickly pulled out a map in my back pocket and noted that I needed to go north on this highway (830) so I turned left, and with the wind at my back I was again flying.

It turns out that I shouldn’t have turned! I had looked at the preliminary map that I also had in my pocket but we had already gone as as far north as we were going. I noticed my error when I stopped to check at the next intersection, a couple of kilometers down the road. I could have (probably should have) simply backtracked but decided that I would take the eastbound road at that intersection and then take the next south road to get back on course. Most of the roads in these parts are along a rectangular grid – very predictable!

The rural road which I took east was a bit rougher in places than the ones I had been riding on but not bad. when I came to the next crossroad I headed south. This road however was much rougher, a gravel/dirt road. I was glad I was riding my touring bike with its bit heavier/wider tires rather than ones only suited to paved roads. The road surface wasn’t as bad as the headwind I now encountered. My speed dropped to something like 13 Kph which made it seem like forever to cover this 3 Km stretch. It did however only take 15 minutes to get back and then shortly thereafter arrive in our designated rest stop in the town of Bruderheim [map].

Rest in Bruderheim

It was good to see others of our group there, but they had already been there for awhile and by the time I had a blueberry muffin and some Powerade, they already had a 10 or 15 minute headstart on the ride back.

When I did get back on the road it was due south, into the wind, for 3 kilometers. Although I had only stopped for 15 minutes it felt as if my body was starting to seize-up. Back on the road, I was noticing an uncomfortableness in my left knee. Since this knee had been an occasional problem in the past I was a little concerned.

After the 3K I turned right onto the major highway and was traveling in a westerly direction. Even though the wind was not fully at my back, enough of it was that I felt I was flying again. Indeed my speed had gone from the 10-15 Kph range to averaging in the 30’s. After a few kilometers it was a turn south and a long straight stretch in to that wind.

(Was it jut the fatigue of having already ridden 60 or 70K or was the wind really picking up as we headed into mid-afternoon? Anyway, it was a drag, a slow, head-down, solo ride that quite frankly wasn’t much fun. I did stop for a few photo breaks but not as many as I would have liked.

Prairie Field and Summer Sky

Prairie Rails

Eventually I did catch-up with Chas in his support truck and then with a couple of other riders. I stuck with them until we got to the end of the ride.  We were looking forward to a break from the long headwind stretch.

The Long Road into the Headwind

We were supposed to turn west onto a quiet road for a few kilometers  but when we got there we saw that the road had been very recently oiled, so we continued south to the Yellowhead and then rode that busy highway back to the Ardrossan turn-off.

It was around 3 PM when we got back – a little over 5 hours on the road. It had been a decent ride, especially nice on the first half. I had looked at this ride as a test of my fitness in evaluating if I’d be up to doing the 180K Tour de l’Alberta distance in four weeks. Having completed this ride, the thought of heading right back out and doing practically the same distance again, pretty much answered my question – I’ll be sticking to the 100K distance on July 22nd.