Axletree Night Bison Ride Report

Here’s the post-ride report on the 9/1/12 Night Bison.

It was awesome.  That’s all you need to know.

Gravel Bison from Eric Alexander on Vimeo.

Ok, I can expound a bit.  My pics are pretty limited–my time was spent riding, not photographing.

The usual suspects left and right (Nevdal and BPaul), with a special guest appearance from GMatt, center.

Behind that arm lies Tobie, Ringleader Supreme and Captain of Awesome.

The ride started at Civil Twilight, or 7:56pm.  There were ~55 riders, and we all rolled out together.  Here’s a view on the pave heading out of town.

The first 3 miles out of town were nice and easy…cruising along at 15mph.  Then we turned left onto Gurler Road, and the pace picked up a bit–about 20mph.  Gurler, for those who are not familiar with it, is named after the Indian word for ‘constant headwind.’  Gurler has a magical quality, in that no matter where you are riding, or how many times you change direction, when you hit Gurler Road, you will have a headwind.  Always.

We turned south onto Lynch Road, and the race was on.  The group broke up into logical subsets at that point.  While it wasn’t a race, there was a group in the front that was riding hard.  There was a middle group that was riding somewhat hard.  There was a group in the back that was riding fun.

The front group started out as about 25 riders.  On Lynch, the pace went from 20mph to 23-24mph (with a tailwind).  That was the one road where there was some significant dust from the riders.  I had a bad health Friday night, so my goal for Saturday was to hang on to the front as long as I could, and then gracefully bail out.  As a part of that goal, I wanted to ride like everyone else was riding–take my turns pulling even if it meant burning out.

We turned onto Harter Road and blasted down the gravel further.  The pace was hanging on, and we dashed west to where the gravel turns to grass and the B-road section.  That took a lot of people by surprise, but the pace stayed on.  Harter’s B-Road goes through a tree-lined section, then a cornfield, and then comes out next to a horse pasture.  It was pitch black by this point, and as we raced down Harter past the pasture, the horses whinney’d with approval and ran alongside.  That was an awesome moment.

The route turned South again, and we hammered on.  Nevdal spent a fair amount of time at the front of the pack, as did Lenny (on a hardtail 26er).

The weather was good.  While we had feared that the remnants of Hurricane Isaac were going to blow in and ruin our evening, it turned out to be 70 degrees, windy, and super-humid.  At the front, it was a hammerfest, for certain, but a fun one.  Everyone was smiling and enjoying themselves.  Turns were marked in advance, with glow sticks mounted on little wooden stakes.  For the most part, they worked well (once you got used to looking for them).  At mile 30, we took a brief stop to decide which fork in the road we were supposed to take, and I was really surprised to see that we were already at mile 30.  I was still feeling good, and decided to keep up the pressure.

At that point, the lead group was down to about 15.  As we pressed out of there, we hit the first (and only) wet stretch of road, which as just enough to spray off of our tires, and remind us of how bad the weather could have been.  For the remaining 23 miles, the group broke up even more.  For the last 15 miles, there were 2 guys who were off the front by about 3 minutes.  Those two guys had a combined weight of ~100 pounds–they were amazingly thin and stupid-fast.

Behind them was the triumvirate (sorry T) of Nevdal, BPaul and myself.

I was mentally in my comfort zone here, riding with 2 guys that I knew and trusted implicitly.  I could just focus on digging deeper into the pain cave and pushing a bit harder, watching nothing more than the spinning tire in front of me.  When we got up to Afton forest preserve, we all sat up a bit and chatted.  Tho’ the night was glorious, the ride was nearly over.  We set up a nice rotating paceline and the three of us motored back into town.

Personally, it was one of the best rides I’ve had all year.  I pushed my boundaries a bit, and hung on to a fast pace.  The last 3 miles were pavement back to the shop, but even with that and the slow rollout start, Nevdal, BPaul and I averaged 17.2mph for the full 53 miles.  If you exclude the rollout and roll-back-in, it was closer to 18mph on the gravel.

That’s fast.

It wasn’t a race–it was a ride.  But sometimes, when you’re on a ride, you just want to hammer.  I’ve got to say–it was an incredible moment riding along in a pack of strong riders and hanging with the group.

It was also a proud moment to look around in the pack and see all of the North Central Cyclery kit on riders associated with the shop.  It was _________.  I’m having a bit of a hard time finding the right superlative for that sentence.  I think I’m trying to say that I’m proud of how we rode.  Those are guys that I ride with all year, and I see how hard they train (and how much fun we have on our regular rides).  It was just really  inspiring to see how well we worked in a larger group, and how well we represented DeKalb cycling.  Perhaps it’s because I never played team sports in…well…ever.  There’s something rewarding about being a part of an “us.”  And we rode well.

I talked to guys throughout the pack, and everyone, to a man (or woman–there were a few lasses out there that came out for the ‘bison) had a great time.  When we started out, I saw every kind of bike from road bikes on 25s up to single speed Mukluks.  Everyone was smiling–smiling going out, and smiling as they trickled back in throughout the night.  There were some missed turns.  Some bonks.  One front-brake-induced wipeout.  But those events were greatly outnumbered by smiles.

‘Twas an epic ride.  Night introduces new elements into just about any activity…it made some of the roads we’ve been riding during the day exciting and different.  It was an experience–an experience to be had.

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14 thoughts on “Axletree Night Bison Ride Report

  1. Pingback: The Night Bison was great

  2. That was a fast “ride”. Much faster than I expected it to be. I went there with a goal of finishing before midnight, but hung on with the lead group and finished shortly after 11. I was the fourth rider with your group with the orange Metro Mountain Bikers jersey, but felt cramps creeping up on me so I backed off the pace that you guys were pushing. Thanks for the ride, looking forward to Gravel Metric next year..

    • Yeah…I wasn’t sure if it would be cruising pace, or fast. Should’ve suspected that it would be fast.

      You did a great job of hanging with our group for a long time, and doing a fair share of pulls. I was surprised to realize you had dropped off, because you had been riding very strong. Glad you had a good time–you should come out for more of our rides!

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