Daniel Groves

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The first real road ride

Published: 2 June 2013

What I've learnt and discovered during my first real road ride, a 64km loop on Dartmoor

The first thing I will make clear is that I am no roadie. I’m a mountain biker; always have been, always will be. I like big fat knobbly tyres, bouncy forks at the front and ideally some more of the bouncy magic at the back. Right, thats the important bit done.

A few months back I bought my first road bike, a Specialized Secteur Triple 2012, with the intention of using it to commute instead of getting the bus. Bikes are a lot cheaper and a damn-site better for you than sitting on a bus full of ill people who do their best to sneeze on you at every opportunity. I bought the bike second-hand from a guy in Scotland via Pinkbike who rather promptly shipped it to work.

Since the bike arrived I’m pleased to say that I have been commuting on it everyday. It hasn’t been difficult to do so either, I already had the fitness from the mountain bike and I actually enjoy riding bikes so I’ve found myself looking forward to it.

Sometime yesturday afternoon I decided it would be a good idea to take advantage of the warm weather and blue skies to actually do a proper road ride. I wanted to go somewhere that I mostly knew from passing on the proper bike in the past. I settled on heading up to Yelverton, and depending on how I found it, across to Tavistock and then up to Princetown before heading back down into Plymouth. This route quickly taught me three things about road riding:

  1. It hurts
  2. It’s surprisingly enjoyable
  3. It hurts

The Ride

I left Plymouth about 4:30, making pretty good time up to Yelverton; it took me just 43 minutes, which was unexpected. I had about an hour in my head, but the whole time I was in the saddle I was amazed by how much faster it was riding on the road bike without a backpack. Normally it takes me 30 minutes just to reach Derriford on my commute, so reaching Yelverton with only an additional 13 minutes was quite impressive to me.

I stopped here for a quick break to eat something before proceeding. At this point I still felt pretty good so I proceeded to head across to Tavistock. This was another pretty fast section; minimal climbing meant it was a fast road, taking me about 25 minutes to reach the town-centre where I stopped for another break before proceeding.

As I approached Tavistock I was in two minds about weather I should head back or carry on to Plymouth, the back of my thighs hurt and I was starting to get pretty hungry. I polished off most of a water bottle on arrival and used one of my energy-gels. I’ve only used them once before and I’d forgotten just how much of a buzz they give you, you can feel them almost immediately and this is what ended up driving me on up to Princetown.

Heading up to Princetown I released climbing on a road bike with no view in any direction but behind you is pretty boring. Not being one to waste this sort of time I spent it reindexing the front-mech to stop the rubbing; it’s much more pleasant riding when it’s quiet.

The climb to Princetown is a long one, and I was starting to hurt a lot on arrival. It was nice as I approached from this direction, which I rarely do, to spot some of the bits of trail I used when Mike French and I attempted a 100km ride at the end of my first year at uni. This went pretty badly wrong as a first ride after exam season where we’d both been off the bikes for just a tad too long. I can’t remember how far we did end up going, but it certainly wasn’t enough for the 100km goal.

At Princetown the energy gel had all but worn off, so I stopped for another break in the town square and devoured some more food.

The road from Princetown to Yelverton turned out to be the best of the ride. This road is mostly decent, it keeps you in the big ring all the way home. Descending on this road I actually spun-out several times and found myself being able to do all of the small accents without slowing down too much due to the momentum of the road. Coming down here I hit my top speed of 70.2kmh (43.62mph). That feels pretty awesome on two human-powered wheels.

 alt: My phone camera just doesn't do the view justice.
My phone camera just doesn’t do the view justice.

The views along here were outstanding as well, with the late afternoon/early evening light I found myself longing for my DSLR which was sat back home next to my desk. Not much use there when the views were so many miles away; next time I really must try to take it out with me.

As I powered back into Plymouth I started to really feel the pain again. It was actually at the point where my legs would shake when stopping at traffic lights; I found it easier to keep peddling than to stop. Flying down the section of the route that I use to commute everyday was easy going until I rolled into the garage back home and had to detach myself from the bike.

A quick shower, pizza, and an episode of Prison Break later I was all set again. I was originally planning on riding again today, but I think it would probably be wise to take a day out to recover properly rather than risk doing myself any damage.

Oh, and it turns out having a fly hit you at 30mph+ in the face actually hurts quite a lot.

Strava Statistics

Since getting a smartphone that is actually smart, unlike my old Blackberry, I’ve been using Strava for iOS to start recording all of my riding. This includes everything from the daily commute to weekend rides that are just for fun.

If you wish to follow me on Strava my username is ‘danielsgroves’ as on most other services; you can find the full route details for this 64km loop on my profile as well.

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