Sunday, August 09, 2009

Saturday Palm Beach training ride

Every time we come to Palm Beach, we end up having breakfast at Benny's on the Beach or John G's at the beach in Lake Worth. And on weekends, I always see dozens of cyclists gathered in the park there, preparing to go on a ride, or just returning from one. So when I rented my bike for this week, I asked the proprietor of Top Cycle about organized rides. He told me that people meet for a fast ride around seven each Saturday.

The next day, I stopped into Fat Cat Bicycles in Lake Worth to have a look round and ask them about it too. They were more forthcoming, telling me that it's a very fast ride, averaging speeds up to 30mph. Hm. A bit quick for me, but okay. Later, I went to the Fat Cat website and found out more: It's an informal race, complete with intermediate sprints! Yikes.

What did I have to lose? I figured I'd check it out and see if I could keep up. I turned up at the start point and met a couple people who informed me good naturedly that I should expect some pain, and that speeds would top 36mph for the ride. One guy I spoke to as we spun a bit to warm up was expecting to do an Ironman later that week. So I was in good company.

Many of the riders gather a few miles south, and take it easy until Lake Worth. I saw the peloton of about 75 riders approaching at around 7:30 and merged into the middle. It seemed reasonably relaxed for a bit, and it was exciting to be pedaling along in the middle of a tight pack! I kept up just fine all the way to the public beach in Palm Beach - then it really started to hurt. At that point, I told myself I'd be satisfied if I could keep up with the group until the turn-around at the inlet, put my head down and kept on going.

The rest of the riders were a serious lot. Many rode tri bikes, most were quite new and probably cost in excess of $6k each. Nobody was particularly interested in chatting, which I guess is fair enough at 32mph. Lots of good communication among the riders anyway, warning about cars, road hazards, and that sort of thing. But no casual chatting, that's for sure.

After the burst of speed at the beach, the pace slowed a bit and I felt comfortable again. I felt just fine, in fact all the way to the inlet for the turnaround, and most of the way back again. Finally at the turning at Southern Bridge, I started to lag behind.... and then a gap opened up.... and then I tried to catch up and my legs just didn't have it in them. So I rolled in a couple minutes after the rest of the pack, but nevertheless felt quite pleased with myself.

I did a warmdown over the Lake Worth bridge, and had a look at Fat Cat to see if there was any activity, but it was quiet. All the riders seemed to have dispersed shortly after the ride, heading off with whoever they'd arrived with.

But I still had a stack of Ciclismo business cards with me and I was dying to talk up the company before heading home. So I went back to the park and sure enough, I found a dozen or so cyclists and ended up speaking with them for a while about cycling, travel, etc. Apart from the purely commercial aspect of my chats, it felt good to spend a while in animated conversation about fun stuff - something sorely lacking from the 30mph+ peloton!

Hutchinson Island & S Indian River Drive Ride

If I ever complain about the cycling in these parts again, please remind me of the ride I did this morning. We're staying in a hi-rise condo on Jensen Beach, and I brought my rented bike up from Palm Beach for these couple days.

After a bit of map consulting and checking with local relations, I decided to do an early 35 mile ride this morning before breakfast. Here's the route I came up with:

Don't I love Mapmyride so much?

The area right around here is kind of one condo tower after the next, each separated from the public thoroughfare by tall walls and gates... but just north of here, things open up quite a bit and the views are lovely as you enter Blind Creek Park, which goes for miles, nearly all the way to Fort Pierce. I'm sure that a patient person could see lots of birds, fish, and maybe even a manatee or gator in the wetlands on either side of the road (I stopped here and there, but not for too long.)

Things get to be a bit more built up as you approach Fort Pierce, but in a more authentic Florida way - smaller houses, shops, and restaurants, not condos dating from the 1980s. After heading across the bridge at Fort Pierce, it's easy to find Route 707, South Indian River Drive. The designated Scenic Highway extends all the way from the Fort Pierce Bridge to the Jensen Beach Bridge, running along the Intracoastal all the way.

The tide was pretty low this morning, so there were lots of people in waders fishing, and the sunrise over the water was lovely. The road itself was ever so slightly rolling and curvy, just enough to make interesting, and the paving was pretty much flawlessly smooth. The houses along that stretch are also nice traditional Florida houses - some big, some not so big.

For about 15 minutes, I was treated to a nice Florida downpour, soaked me to the bone. I was home about 30 minutes later in the blaring sun and I was pretty much dry from the rain but soaked through with sweat again.

This ride ranks among my new favorites - fast, smooth, easy to navigate, and very beautiful - perfect!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Biking Palm Beach

Here we are in Palm Beach! Dreadful time of year: high humidity, temps regularly into triple digits, frequent thunder storms. But who cares? It's Florida!

Every time we come down, I see the cyclists riding up and down the beautiful roads of Palm Beach and wish I were among them. So this time, I thought ahead and called Top Cycle and arranged a rental for the duration of our stay. I dealt directly with Patrick, the owner, so that's who I sought out when we arrived yesterday.

After I arrived at the small (but high-end.... lotsa Colnagos, Pinarellos, etc.) shop, Patrick went into the back and emerged with a yellow Specialized S-Works M4. Not bad! We adjusted the saddle (he gave me a lecture about why I should know my saddle hight "It never changes!", made me think about all the clients I speak to regularly about this topic), put on my pedals, and I was good to go.

The bike is a slightly unattractive yellow, with an oversized downtube and teardrop seat tube (it was probably intended to be a tri bike originally). It's aluminum with prominent welds but otherwise nice finish. Time carbon fork. Traditional spoked wheels by Wheelsmith, and Campy Daytona 10-speed transmission.

This morning, then, I set off on my first ride down here. I rode all the way down to the Boynton inlet, then turned around and headed back up. The roads in Palm Beach are lovely, of course, beautiful surfaces kept very clean, not much traffic on a weekday morning except for the service vehicles heading off to groom the expansive lawns of the mansions. Details of the ride are on Mapmyride (it's my first try!)

There was a brutal headwind for the initial leg of the ride, whipping straight at me at a consistent 15mph or so. On my way back north, I stopped at John G's in Lake Worth for a bit of breakfast, which turned into a gigantic breakfast sandwich. What I really needed was some coffee since our condo isn't stocked yet, I got a big one there.

Of course, that was entirely too much heavy food for the 25% point in my 33 mile ride, and I was really sluggish for the rest of the ride to the inlet at the northernmost tip of Palm Beach. When I reached that point, I took a little break and watched the boats and some sweet stripey fish, then cruised back to the condo. I expect I'll do something similar tomorrow morning, but eating properly before I go will be a good move.

Here's some video about the bike.