[Is that Mr. and Mrs. Hill?]
So after my commute and workday I headed back home, kitted up and rode out. This is sort of a narrative of the ride.
I got back to my hotel and downed half a sandwich (yesterday's salami and gouda), called the girls, and hit the road. I had a carefully constructed route and a super map.
However, as I went out of town I climbed this big hill and when I got to the top, I had missed my turn. In the next town Hoholz, I must have spent 10 minutes scouring the map for where I was. I felt like and idiot. 20 minutes into the ride I was already lost - directions worthless. I just picked a direction and went with it. After a few turns and another 15 minutes I rode past the same intersection that I had camped at to study the map! [Inner monologue: You fool!] So I went back to where I thought I should have turned, but went on a "bike path" instead. Well, said path became a trail in short order and like the last video down there explains, the cross bike has a nose for troubled pavement.
As I came out of the woods a few kilometers later, my trail T'd with a busy street. To my surprise a dude in white and black goes streaking by on a Specialized Allez dressed in Gerolsteiner livery. Well, I jump on the pedals hoping for a replay of my last trip over here and my random encounter with a fellow cyclist...
I'm cruising on the cross rig on my way to Koblenz from Bonn on a sleepy Sunday, trying to leave the stress of the work trip out on the roads. An older guy on a Simplon (carbon fiber Austrian road bike) scoots by. I grab his wheel and follow him for a bit until I introduce myself - by almost running him over in a turn! Turns out his name is Guenther, and we become friends. As luck would have it, Guenther was feeling spritely and took me on a route through the hills north of the Rhein for 100km+. It was a good time.
END OF FLASHBACK!
So I'm on Gerolsteiner's wheel, rocking the Surly w/ downtube shifters. He's keeping a good pace but not killing it. A prudent man. I've caught my breath from the chase and we've started a long shallow climb. In between passing cars in my broken german, I ask if he minds if I tag along. "No problem."
So we introduce ourselves: Stefan, Mark. I have a new friend in Germany. :)
He's just out for an evening spin on a usual route. Boy is he fortunate. I didn't take many shots of the terrain (plenty of hills, great views - including the ruines of a monestary - gorgeous!) as we were, ya know, cycling at a pretty decent clip.
Turns out Stefan is a Civil Engineer in Frankfurt but bases himself out of Sankt Augustin. He was a very decent fellow putting up with my wheel sucking and waiting for me on decents.
Now, I know what you're thinking - "Waiting for you on decents? But aren't you gifted with great girth and doesn't gravity pull you down hills like, well, gravity?" Right you are friend, but you see in all my tomfoolery in the woods before meeting up with Steffen my rear brake cable housing popped out of the top tube boss, rendering my rear brake worthless. Now, would you bomb down a 10% grade into unknown traffic, farm animals, and slippery spring tarmac on just a front brake? I think not.
So we plugged along through hill and dale enjoying the break from last week's rains. It was gorgeous. Whenever Stefan looked over I was grinning - big time. It was fun. I think you can tell from the faces below:
A little later on Stefan offered me an option on our route: short and steep or longer and shallow. I chose short and steep - immediately we turned left and hit a wall. Likely 1.5 km long, with a top grade of 15% (according to Stefan - and I wouldn't doubt the civil engineer's terrain estimates, by the way!) it was good leg burning climbing glory. The one time I was ahead of Stefan on the road was when I burned a match to get to the top and grab this shot of him:
This climb was kind of nasty, since after the steep bit, you had a false flat to suck a little more life from you before the actual crest.
Well, after riding together for I think a solid 2 hours we parted ways back in Sankt Augustin. However, this was not before he showed me on the map a great way back to Hangelar (along the Seig river, then back along the Rhein), as well as where I should explore tomorrow: the Eiffel region!
Here's a video from the bike path along the Seig river:
Well, before I got back to the hotel I took some wrong turns, but it's ok, since I got the chance to explain this important piece of bikedom:
Here's some shots from the Nature Park paths along the Seig:
A suspension bridge across the Rhein:
Thanks again Stefan!
And to everyone else: wow, you have an incredible attention span!
Addendum: jetlag is killing me as I can't sleep - so I wanted to say, the saddle was comfy for 4.5 hours today. I didn't think about the saddle once, and usually I get uncomfortable after 1.5 hours! Is it me getting "broken in"? I don't think so. This is the first NEW saddle I've ever ridden (that's right, they've all been used...except for the Bianchi stock saddle) but it was actually "fitted" to my sit bone width by Axel at Champ Cycle. So, the moral of the story is: support your LBS and get a decent saddle. The Bontrager RL is nice (pour moi).