I Rode for a Reason
You may have heard about my enrolment in the 2013 Ride for a Reason. The ride was this past weekend, and not only did I complete the ride, but I thoroughly enjoyed it as well. There will be more of these rides in my future.
My participation in this year’s ride was limited to the final leg of the three day event. Having not ridden this far before, I opted to ease into things, start slowly and ride a mere 114 km instead of the full 340 km or so that most of the riders committed to.
While the ride progressed through the first two days, I periodically checked on Instagram to see what new photos had been tagged with the event’s identifier, #rfar. Amidst the pictures of happy cyclists setting out at the beginning of the journey and the picturesque scenery as they departed Banff were some unnerving photos of injuries sustained along the way. At this point I started wondering what I’d gotten myself into.
On Saturday I picked up a few last minute items I’d need for the ride, like gloves and some spare tire tubes. My wonderful wife then spoiled me with some fancy padded shorts and a cycling jacket as well. There was no turning back now.
Sunday morning we departed from High River at roughly 9:00 and within minutes I was cycling on the highway for the first time. In retrospect, some highway experience probably would have been a good idea before heading out on this ride; I’d previously just stuck to residential streets and paved pathways until now.
I monitored my progress along the way using a slick iPhone app called Xtrail. I’ll often have my phone in my pocket running this app to track my position using the device’s GPS capability. For the ride I mounted my phone on the handlebars so that I could see things like my speed, elapsed time, and distanced travelled in real time. A little before lunch while enjoying a tailwind and a downhill grade, I hit my peak speed of 48 km/h. The entire stretch of southbound highway 23 coming into Vulcan was a pretty fun portion of the journey.
I did feel a little out of place riding a commuter bike amongst all of the road bikes. My Brodie Voltage seemed to handle the hills better than some of the others’ bikes, but on flat ground, I was at a bit of a disadvantage. After leaving Vulcan I tried to catch a pack of riders that was a ways in front of me, but despite pushing hard I wasn’t able to make up any ground on them. At the post-ride gathering there was a good showing of hands when asked who managed to top 60 or even 70 km/h.
The ride concluded with a three kilometre gravel road into camp. Shuttles were available to drive riders and their bikes for that final stretch, but when the three riders ahead of me decided to tough out the gravel on their road bikes, I figured I had no excuse. After all, this is where my bike finally had a distinct advantage. At the SABC gates we were greeted by an enthusiastic group cheering us on to the finish line. That was almost as welcoming as the smell of the barbecued hamburgers inviting us in to camp.
Finishing at Southern Alberta Bible Camp was a great conclusion to the ride. For someone like me who had never been there before, it was an excellent opportunity to see the camp for the first time, and for all of us it was a reminder of the reason we were riding. In the end it was announced that over $87,000 was raised for SABC as a result of Ride for a Reason. Thanks to the donors who supported the ride on my behalf, contributing $730 toward that total.
Having been along for just a short portion of the weekend, I don’t feel like I got the full experience of how much went into the execution of this event, but it is evident that it required huge contributions from organizers, volunteers, sponsors, donors, and host churches. Thanks to everybody who made it possible.
Among the lessons I learned was to not bother carrying a Camelbak for a ride like this. I was packing two litres of water and a bottle of Gatorade on my back to start the trip. There were enough rest stops available along the way that I could have refilled an empty bottle when needed. A second water bottle cage would have done the trick.
Tamara’s insistence that I wear padded shorts was indeed good advice as well. Sitting on a bike saddle for four and a half hours comes with consequences, and reducing that impact as much as possible is a wise move. I probably didn’t need the fancy matching jacket, but I sure do like it.
There were some tough portions to the ride, typically involving wind and hills, but it was a fun and rewarding way to spend a day. I’m glad I took part, and I’m looking forward to riding again next year. All three days, too.