Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Lions and Tigers and BEARS, oh my!!"

This morning the Wingman and I were going to drive up to Harriman State Park and ride a few loops but instead decided to check out Bear Mountain. It's one of the climbs on the Gran Fondo NY that we're doing in May. Plus it's a long enough climb to give us a good workout prior to Mallorca.

We got a bit of a late start on the morning and wound up getting to the park a little later than I anticipated. We scoped out the route and then parked waaaaay at the bottom to ensure we were doing as much climbing as we could. Where we left the car was a perfect spot so we could swap bottles or pickup more layers to wear if needed.

Wingman quickly unpacked the bikes and I grabbed our bags and got our gear out. We started riding a short route to get a little warmup before the climb began. The climbing started at the base of Seven Lakes Drive and we rode up to the top of Bear Mountain. The first part of the climb was fairly easy. I had it in an easy gear and was able to spin. The road conditions were pristine!! The mild winter we had didn't beat up the roads. I knew the climb had to get harder, I just had no idea when it would. We turned onto Perkins Memorial Drive and this is where the climbing really began. About a 1/4-1/2 mile in it quickly ramped up to a 12% grade incline. The good news was it didn't last too long. Once it flattened out to 6%, it seemed quite easy. I wasn't riding fast, but I was able to keep spinning. I was getting quite warm and was hoping the top was near. I really wasn't familiar with the roadway so I had no reference points to tell me how much more I had to go. All I knew was when I saw the porta-johns, I was at the top. But right now, no toilet in sight.

The road curves mostly to the right as it winds up. I would occasionally look up at the bluffs on my right to get an idea how much higher I had to go. That didn't work either. I had some good recovery sections on the ride where it 'flattened' out a little before the next short climb. There was one more section of 12% before we reached the top. Then, I saw my salvation:

Not the actual porta-johns at the top.....

I was so happy to see them. Not that I had to go, but it meant that I was at the top and could rest a little. The views were nice. Unfortunately it was cloudy/overcast so we didn't get the full effect of the panorama.

 After our 1st climb up.......

Flat lander conquers mountain......

After we took some photos at the top, it was time to ride all the way down. Fast descents always make me nervous. I've hit the pavement once before going fast and it left a mark or two so needless to say I took it easy going down. I have to say, while I was cautious, it was fun. Before the descent I put on another pair of gloves and put the sleeves back on my jacket. That wasn't enough. I was a bit cold on the way down. When we finally reached the car, I dropped off an empty drink bottle, grabbed some arm warmers and a beanie. Then we made our way up for climb #2. 

Again, the 1st part of the climb went pretty smoothly. Until I heard some noise behind me. I heard something along the lines of "Oh crap" and then the noise of something hitting the brush. I stopped to look back and saw that the Wingman went off the road into a small ditch. He was upright and OK, so my first thought after that was "How the hell did he get in there?" His response "I had an itch on my back and when I tried to reach it I saw I was veering off the road so I just decided to ride into the ditch." Oh, OK. 

He got back on the bike and we continued upward. Once again we turned onto Perkins Memorial Drive and started the climb. This time I paid a little more attention to the sign on the road. It's ~2 miles up. 2 winding miles. Problem was I didn't look at my bike computer to see what the mileage was when I started this section. It didn't matter, I just kept riding and was looking for the porta-johns again. I kept thinking "OK, after this turn is the top. Nope. OK, after this turn is the top. Nope. ARGGGH, I swear the top better be coming soon." 

I got through the two steep sections unscathed and it wasn't long before I saw my beloved toilets. I think it's a sad commentary on my day that one of the things that brought me joy was a public toilet. 

Once at the top, I dressed for the descent (long sleeve shirt, cycling jersey, arm warmers, sleeves on jacket, beanie, and two pairs of gloves. The problem on the second descent was I was sweating a little more and my clothing was a little wet. I was shivering on the way down. As I made my way down, I felt warmer. At the halfway point, we turned right to see what the other direction would bring. What it wound up bringing was yet another climb to get back.

We tacked on a few miles to lengthen our day and then went back to the car to head home. Overall, it was a good day of climbing. We're heading back next weekend and will make 3 trips up and down Bear Mountain. Then the rest of the ride will be the up and down on Seven Lakes Drive to get more time in the saddle without any steep climbing.

~1300' climbing on each ascent

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