The hiatus is over.

 

The Early Morning Cyclist has been on a bit of a hiatus. The end of summer is a busy time: Preparing for the return of students seems to take longer and demand more attention than one might imagine. The start of school also means that I have less opportunity to carve out time to ride, fewer occasions to sketch. I’ve managed to keep both in my schedule, but not with the frequency or freedom to which I grow accustomed each June and July.

650b has provided me an opportunity to extend my cycling a bit further afield during these sweltering summer days. One morning I scurried along the gravel segment of Bluff Road near Missouri City. 

I discovered yet another gravel road intersects it before meandering up into the bluffs and hills, and then tantalizingly disappearing into a surfeit of trees and thick foliage: this fact was duly noted and further exploration of said road planned for a later date, when the foliage begins to transform into a bouquet of burgundy and ochre and burnt sienna.

Less time means shorter outings, so I find myself having to relearn how to “think small,” to take advantage of those serendipitous moments that Chance throws my way. Saturday mornings, for instance, are when I visit the local farmers market. It’s only a few miles to the square and the fresh produce for which I shop will easily fit in my front bag. And who doesn’t enjoy just wandering around a farmers market? Colorful produce, interesting looking people, friendly hustle and bustle – it’s all good, and provides me with quite an abundance of opportunity to sketch while I’m there.

I carry a sketchbook and pen with me most places, especially when I ride – I’ve begun to call this “bike sketching.” Hardly a catchy phrase, I know, but it pretty much sums up the approach.

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The one long ride I managed to crowd into my schedule was BikeMo, a charity ride benefitting the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation. This organization advocates for bicycle and pedestrian access, safety, and education in our state, and they put on a great annual ride. This year’s route, as it did last year, began outside Rocheport, Missouri and traversed highways that bisected bucolic pastures and endless rows of corn, rolled over hills and through woods and up to and around scenic vistas of central Missouri, and the Missouri River.

Rocheport to Booneville to Blackwater, and on to Arrow Rock – all small, charming, and historic town. And while the heat was truly stifling this year, the SAG stops were well maintained, the people friendly, and the drivers sparse and (mostly) courteous.

I was interested to see how the Cycles Toussaint 650B handled over a 96 mile ride that included heat, flats, rolling hills, and a couple of long, steep climbs. I don’t ride at race speed on the very best of days, and this was no exception. Early on, and while I was still fresh, I did manage to impress myself with the speed at which the flats were covered. Moving into the rolling hills, that speed began to fall off precipitously. My gearing is intentionally low; even though I was passed by many, I never had a problem climbing any of the hills. The Brooks Pro saddle, as I’ve often said, is a good fit for my sit bones and was well suited for the long, hot ride. I remain impressed by the comfort of riding high volume/low pressure 650B tires, and I am happy with the Velo Routier for both short and long outings. The biggest issue I confronted was the heat: As the thermometer began to flirt with the upper 90’s, I found myself with 13 miles to go and probably bordering on heat exhaustion. I was ecstatic to discover the final SAG stop had ice!

Hot, sweaty, and frickin’ exhausted, my tank was totally empty by the end of the ride. I could have stuck around for a couple of hours for the music, but food beckoned. 

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By total happenstance, we stumbled upon a criterium race while visiting Burlington, Vermont over the Labor Day holiday. The Cat 1 race was particularly exciting, with a nineteen year old rider – in his first professional race – totally wiping the field.

The reason you see him alone in the photo below is because he was cleaning everyone’s clock, and very nearly lapped the pack. Over fifty laps, he held the break away for more than thirty laps. No one ever came close to reeling him in, and the crowd became more and more excited.

And me? I enjoyed a frothy repast while that speedy kid worked for his purse.

 

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