I finally got a small group of students to join me for a group ride. The plan had been to ride to Huaiyang, but having a plan B proved to be essential. Steve accompanied us on this ride and we found out upon leaving campus that the Zhoukou marathon being run this same morning effectively closed off the eastern part of the city to us. No one was getting across Zhoukou da dao even with no runners in sight. Interestingly, the night before we had met two of them, a pair of “professional” Kenyan marathon runners. They had spent the last five months in China, one of them winning race after race piling up the prize money. Unfortunately for him, the next morning he came down with a sore throat during the race and didn’t finish. His friend came in 5th. He said that his times are slower in China than in the U.S. or Africa because of the air quality.
But I digress. The ride to Huaiyang scrubbed, I decided we’d go the opposite direction to Zhongzhou da dao into the countryside past the high-speed rail line construction. At least the ditches weren’t being burned off this weekend like they were last weekend. That’s one reason for the bad air quality, though it’s officially illegal.
We soon discovered that they had their saddles adjusted too low and I had them raise them. While trying to figure out why they were reluctant to go faster than about eight miles per hour I discovered that at least one of them, “Anne,” didn’t shift her gears. She said she didn’t need to but I differed on that point too, and explained the basics. I think the speed issue touched on several key points; experience, time spent in the saddle and fitness level. “David” accompanied me recently for 100km through the pain cave but was back for more. The others, “Maxwell” and Anne, had never ridden for more than probably a half an hour. Anne I had to cajole into coming in the first place, since she hasn’t been riding much this semester. Her dream is to one day cycle Tibet, so I thought she’d best start training now. Lest you think I was taking them on too long a ride the first time out, it was under 30 miles and it took well over 3 hours, though we did waste a little time trying to see if we could get through the marathon barricades and also stopped for a snack.
They all rode heavy urban mountain bikes with some rusty chain still to be seen, though I’d told them to make sure they’d cleaned and oiled them beforehand. Bikes aren’t allowed in dorm rooms. While great for getting a workout, they are not great for going on much of a ride. The one mistake I made was dressing for a regular ride with temperatures in the mid 40’s: a cap under the helmet, long-sleeved jersey, arm warmers and a wind vest with knickers and wool socks. I’m usually perfectly comfortable in this but at this slow pace I was freezing and the sun didn’t come out until the afternoon.
There were some tired and sore legs and feet among the students, but they all made it back not too much worse for wear and Anne says she wants to ride more and train over break, so I have some hopes for future rides.