Cannonball Century with Mary

My sister Mary bought a used LeMond (853 tubing and full Ultegra – a great find) this summer and started riding more. So in August I proposed to her that she ride a century with me, though she’d never ridden that distance. I normally do about three every fall. Mary agreed, and she started on a training program to work up to 100 miles. We signed up for the Cannonball Century, run by the Fredericksburg Cyclists Club, which I’d done before. This is a well-supported century run on rural roads. It is mostly flat, but has some hills in the last 10-15 miles. (I told Mary it was flat with one hill at the end, which was honestly the way I remembered it. It’s flatter than any of the other centuries I have done.)

We did the ride on my 1994 trek T200 tandem. It’s a great bike that hasn’t been used in years. I regularly ride my Green Gear Family tandem with my son Nolan who is disabled (and I’ve ridden on it with other children and adults at times), but the Trek hadn’t been ridden in years and was sitting in the shed. To get it ready for the ride I had Bikenetic install new direct pull brakes and levers, as the cantilevers (old XTRs) weren’t up to par. They also replaced the front wheel (couldn’t find needle bearings to replace broken ones in old hub) and installed a new stoker seatpost clamp, and new bar tape. I adjusted the timing chain, and installed a second odometer for the stoker and pedals for the stoker.

Mary flew down from Rhode Island on Friday (in time to see my son’s band, Kendall Street Company, play a great show at the Bayou on Penn on Friday night-but that’s another story). The ride was yesterday. It was in the low 40s at the ride start so we were bundled up. But we started shedding layers at the first rest stop at mile 13. We left that stop with another tandem team that outdistanced us after a bit. We never saw another tandem after that.

We stopped at every rest stop (there were 5, so the ride was essentially broken into sixths), and after a bit in between stops as both of our butts hurt. I think my problem rested not with my beloved Arione saddle, but with the fact that we were always seated, as I don’t have the experience to stand and ride with a stoker.

At mile 30, we had to stop to adjust Mary’s saddle. We also discovered we’d broken a spoke on the rear wheel. (We’d heard a noise a few miles back but the wheel seemed okay as we were riding and we continued on.) I removed it and adjusted brakes and wheel to nearly but not quite eliminate brake rub. We hoped there’d be a mechanic at the next rest stop and there was but he didn’t have spokes. Time to get a Kevlar emergency spoke for the future. Fortunately, the wheel held up for the remaining 72 miles.

I have to say that with my limited experience piloting a 700C tandem with an adult (the Family Tandem has a lower center of gravity and of course my 13 year old is smaller than an adult) I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as piloting the tandem, but I had no problems. We never rode in a group. On steep twisting descents I used the brakes to control speed, adopting a more conservative approach than I would riding my single bike.

We finished in 6 hours and 20 minutes—20 minutes slower than my first guesstimate as to our time, which was based on wishful thinking, but 5 minutes faster than my more realistic estimate for the 102 mile ride. This is an average of 16.1 mph.

Except for the spoke problem, the ride went great. Mary rode strongly. My ancient Trek odometer stopped working, so it was good that I’d installed one for the stoker. Mary kept track of where we were and when a turn was coming up, which was very relaxing compared to trying to read a cue sheet while paying attending to the road. Another great thing about having a stoker: when I wanted to remove a layer while riding such as my long-fingered gloves, for example, Mary would do it and stick the removed item in my rear pockets. No need for me to fiddle with it. The food at the rest stops was great, and included homemade breads and cakes, and great sandwiches that were not just PB&J, such as ham, turkey and cheese with apple butter (great!), and hummus with tomatoes and cucumbers (yummy).

We took so long to do the ride with all the rest stops and extra stops that we skipped the party at the end in order to have dinner with the family.   So I missed the after-ride hamburgers that I have always loved. But truth be told I really ate a lot during the ride.

Thanks Mary for riding with me. And thanks Fredericksburg Cyclists Club for another great century.

Here we are at ride end:

Mary and mee Cannonball Century


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