Bicycle Ranch Ramble

It’s not unusual for me to go on a solo ride where I don’t know at first where I’m riding. I just make it up as I go along. Last Saturday was no exception. I headed out the door on a “warm” (mid-80′s) morning at 4:45 am, figuring I’d get in 40-50 miles of riding before the heat of the day. I also wanted to give my new wheels, acquired the week before, their first real workout.

Little did I know I’d be putting in yet another century ride.

The question on my mind as I headed out was, where to go? By default, I headed east, on the usual roads through Paradise Valley, on Double Tree Rd. I figured that somewhere along the way I’d be inspired as to a route. It wasn’t long before I realized that if I timed it right, I could join the Bicycle Ranch group ride, which heads up to Carefree. Decision made, I vectored my way over to the Bicycle Ranch store. Only problem was, I was a good 20 minutes early. Rather than wait around and let the day get hotter, I took off by myself, knowing I’d get caught sooner or later, for sure by the “A” group. (They have three groups: “A” — the fasties, “B” – the medium-ies (like me), and “C” — the leisure-lies.)

The Saturday Bicycle Ranch Route
Bicycle Ranch Route Map

This route starts at the Bicycle Ranch store near Frank Lloyd Wright and the Pima Freeway, and heads north up the frontage road to Bell Rd, west to Hayden, north to Pinnacle Peak, jogs east a 1/2 mile or so to reconnect with Hayden (yeah the roads are a bit squirrely), north to Happy Valley Rd, west to Scottsdale Rd, north all the way to Carefree Highway, west to Cave Creek Rd,  north and then east on Cave Creek Rd through the towns of Cave Creek and Carefree, stopping for a rest at the Shell Station in Carefree (Tom Darlington Rd and Cave Creek Rd.) After the rest stop, the route heads east/northeast all the way to the junction with Bartlett Lake Rd. This is the top of the route, for those that do the full thing. It’s called the “towers”, because, you guessed it, there are towers nearby. Some riders go 1/4 mile further to a ranger station for a water/rest stop. Then it’s back partway down Cave Creek Rd, to Carefree Way, which takes you south, eventually turning into Boulder View Rd, all the way to Stagecoach Pass Rd, where the route heads west to Legend Trail. From there, the route heads southeast/south/southwest as Legend Trail circles around in a half moon back to Pima Rd. Then, it’s a fast downhill all the way down Pima back to Princess Blvd, where the route turns onto the frontage road of the freeway back to Frank Lloyd Wright and the store.

It’s a great route, about 48 miles with 2100 feet of climbing, topping out at an elevation of 3,200 ft. I often do this route when going out Carefree way, both solo and with the Bicycle Ranch group. Sometimes the group rides in nice steady pace lines, and you can get in a complete workout: steady tempo pace line riding, a long climb up to the towers, and fast downhill pace line riding back to the store. The roads are fairly open, and you can ride for miles without stopping — although it’s not near as open as it was 20 years ago, when this route really was wide open. That’s progress, I guess. Sigh.

I fully expected to be caught before reaching the halfway point at the Shell station, but I arrived there 5-10 minutes before the “A” group. I took off with some of the “A” riders up the climb, but was soon dropped. Even on a good day, I couldn’t stay with them anyway.

On the way back I encountered one rider, and we formed a nice two-man pace line for 7 or 8 miles, before I told him to go on ahead. I let off the gas a little. It’s not that I couldn’t have kept the 26-30 mph pace we were doing, it’s that I didn’t want to. I was out to enjoy the day.

Another rider passed me on the freeway frontage road not far from the Bicycle Ranch. He commented on the heat. Said he was glad the ride was almost over. I said, “What do you mean? I still have 40 miles to go.”

I was joking, mostly. At the time, I had put in 60 miles, (it’s about 12 miles to the store from my house), and people that know me know that if I reach the 60 mile mark, it’s often the case I’ll just put in the “few extra” 40 miles, and make it a 100. Today I had no plans of doing a 100, but on the way home, after stopping at the Bicycle Ranch store for a free bagel, (they do this for the group riders every Saturday), I kept thinking, why not a 100? So I turned east instead of west at one fateful junction, and headed up the Via Linda route. On the way home, I made a couple of loops thru Golf Drive, a popular route of the local cyclists through Paradise Valley, and wouldn’t you know, I “just happened” to cover 100.6 miles by the time I arrived at home.

It turned into an amazing day. All during the ride, my legs never felt tired, and I had plenty of energy at the end. It’s something about riding in the heat. (By the end of the ride, just before noon, it was 102 degrees; on its way to 112 for the day.) In the heat my legs seem to suffer no aches and pains, and I can ride and ride without feeling the effort.

I never get over the fact that the human body can put in so many miles and have it feel like a walk in the park. It simply amazes me.

It amazes me even more that all I had to eat during the ride was a banana, a Payday bar, a half a bagel, a few sips of gel from my gel bottle, two bottles of energy drink (Hammer’s Heed), and probably four bottles of plain water. (You do have to hydrate in Phoenix in the summer, ya know!) Not exactly what most would prescribe as the proper nutrition for a century ride in the heat. (Okay, I confess, I did have a large glass of Power Bar’s recovery drink afterwards, and then went out for a big seafood lunch later.)

All in all, it was good Saturday ramble. And by the way, the new wheels (Velocity Aero Head rims, bladed spokes, DT Swiss hubs) were great. They made bike comfortable, and seemed to smooth out my pedal strokes.


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