23-Mile Pre-Tour of Hope Ride Proves the Value of Inexpensive Bike Upgrades

Kathleen hasn't been feeling too good in the past few days, but on the way home from our weekend trip to visit friends in Boston, she planned my week leading up to Saturday's Bristol-Myers Squibb Tour of Hope Baltimore to DC Fundraising Ride. She told me, "You have to ref on Wednesday night, so you need to do your long route on Tuesday and Thursday this week in order to be ready for Saturday."

This was going to be a challenge for the following reasons:

  1. At work, Weblog Improvement, I'm very close to finishing a major new weblog for Chris Nolan, a journalist based in San Francisco, and her co-bloggers.
  2. On the bike, I've had equipment problems lately {flat tire, chain problems} that the folks at Newtown Bicycle and Fitness have been helping me work out.
  3. Due to a combination of a lot of things, I haven't ridden my 23-mile route since August 14. Instead I've been riding mainly 10 to 15 mile routes right around Newtown.

All along my route today, I was worried about making the cutoff time for the 50-mile ride on Saturday. Over the 50-mile course, we have to maintain a speed of 14 miles per hour. I finished my 23-mile ride today in 1 hour 32 minutes 46 seconds at an average speed of 15.4 miles per hour.

Performance Forte Team MTB Pedal

Performance Forte Team MTB Pedal

Mud-shedding alloy body, dual-sided entry, dual-force retention spring with adjustable entry/release tension. 4 degrees float. Compatible with Shimano SPD cleats. Wt: 370g/pr.


What I found most interesting about my ride today was that I shaved 10 minutes off my best time this Summer and I haven't been riding this distance as often as I should. The best explanation I can come up with for this success is my vastly improved equipment. I believe we're seeing the first indication of how much Performance Forte Team MTB Clipless Pedals and Perl Izumi Vagabond II MTB Shoes improve my riding. That 10 minute savings is between 10 and 11 percent of my previous ride time. That's pretty huge when you consider that the cost of that improvement was only about $80.

Read on for some information about my 23-mile training route and why it's probably more intense than either half of the Baltimore to DC Fundraising Ride that I'm doing on Saturday.

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I've never gone into tremendous detail about this course, but I've finally mapped it using Gmaps Pedometer so readers can get a feel for how I've been training.

Lower Bucks County, Pennsylvania is known for its rolling terrain. This route which follows a mixture of secondary roads and undivided two lane Pennsylvania State Highways stretches the definition of rolling just a bit. Over the entire 23-mile route (37 kilometer), the ascent is 1119 feet (341 meters). This includes a climb where 285 feet is gained in 1.5 miles (near the junction of Pennsylvania Routes 232 and 32 just south of New Hope). This is a 4.8-percent grade, which might be a Category 4 or 3 climb in a UCI race, depending on how the judges felt about it.

I suspect that the 50 mile course on Saturday will not be as hilly as my 23 mile course, although it will be slightly more than twice as long. I hope to be able to ride at well over 15 miles per hour for the first 25 miles. If I succeed, I should be at the halfway point of the ride by 1 hour 37 minutes into the ride (or better). This leaves me two hours to complete the remaining 25 miles, of which 10 will be ridden at a slower speed because our ride will merge with the more leisurely-paced 10-mile ride at Glen Echo Park.

I want to thank Kathleen for making me commit to getting this ride in today. I'm now a lot more relaxed about my readiness for the 50 mile ride on Saturday. I'll try to get out on Thursday for another crack at the 23-mile course. I hope to finish in about the same time as I did today.