Hot Summer Cycling: 2021 Recap

Here’s something that makes no sense whatsoever: I ride the most when it’s really hot out.

During summertime in Arizona, overnight temperatures rarely get below 90 degrees. By the time I finish a ride, it’s well into the 100s.

Here’s the reason for what seems like behavior that’s foolhardy at best. (Keep in mind that I am acclimated to heat and I obsess about hydration. Prepare yourself if you feel like attempting to crank out miles for the first time in summer heat.)

sos hydration

This is how I do brunch.

Summer gives me more daylight to work with. The temperatures motivate me to get out of bed early and face the worst of it.

Finally, fall is when most of the better events are and I need to train. Well, this is at least true minus COVID-19.

I’ve decided to break down my past two summers just for fun. Bringing things back to our lovely plague, it’s actually fueled a great increase in my mileage since it started.

NOTE
This is a departure from my usual type of post. Over the past few years, blogging and SEO have been my day job — so I’ve been writing very optimized posts here to use this site as a bit of a sandbox.

When I started the blog, I was doing more diary/journal types of posts. Now I’m bringing it back for a few reasons. Sometimes, interesting things happen. But they don’t lend themselves well to search engines. This will be a way for me to preserve those thoughts and events.

I also want to make things a bit more personal. That means I might subject you to more stuff like this!

Alright, let’s dive in with some data from Strava!

Summer of 2020 by the Numbers

In 2020, I logged 1,578 miles from June-September. I also climbed about 34,000 feet.

This included three rides each week. Tuesday and Thursday usually meant 20-30 mile loops involving the Rio Salado bike path and the Dreamy Draw area. These two routes are flatter than I’d prefer. (Watch for the snake in the video below.)

On Sunday, I’d ride 50+ miles mostly to South Mountain or out east to Usery Mountain Park. I made 1 or 2 trips to the Ahwatukee area of Phoenix.

I was very excited about these numbers. They reflected a lot less time I was spending in a car going to work.

Not having to commute freed up so much time to ride, and I thoroughly enjoyed the extra time on the bike.

During this summer, I was mostly using Gnarly Hydrate and a few DIY blends to stay hydrated.
And I was swilling pickle juice like crazy, too.

Overall, I rode way more than in 2019. I rode harder. And I recovered faster without as many post-ride dehydration headaches.

I also experienced a lot of weird shit during these rides, the most-notable being the Great Tempe Train Fire.

tempe train fire

The Tempe train fire — just some of the weirdness of the summer of 2020.

The Numbers for 2021

I rode about 131 fewer miles — down to 1,447.

But I climbed nearly 2,000 more feet — up to 36,100 feet. I was pretty excited about that.

Part of this is because I was forced to stop using the Rio Salado route much. There was some crazy fire that burned the 7th Street Bridge. While 7th Street is open again, there was apparently damage to the bike path on both sides. Repairs are still ongoing.

But as is so typical with municipal shit-housing, there are no public statements about the scope of the work or estimated completion. This is especially galling because the Phoenix area is not exactly drowning in long distances of car-free bike/pedestrian infrastructure. Tucson, our neighboring city to the south, hands the Valley its ass in this regard.

scottsdale coffeehouses

Post-training espresso!

Anyway, the Rio Salado closure forced me into riding loops in Paradise Valley and going to Ahwatukee. There’s a short, terrible climb in Ahwatukee as well as a long, beautiful stretch of car-free bike path that goes about 5 miles.

From a pure feature perspective, Paradise Valley is great. There are challenging climbs and undulating stretches of winding roads.

There’s also relatively little vehicle traffic, which is nice.

One of my favorite riding segments in Paradise Valley.

Human traffic can be a different story.

Cyclists tend to get a bit complacent and ride sloppy, like being on the wrong side of the street (and I’m talking serious roadies here who should know better). This seems especially true with large groups.

Pedestrians are also an issue. Those winding roads that are so great for swooping on a road bike can get dangerous when you have people walking against traffic in a blind turn.

Also, Paradise Valley has a documented history of being anti-cycling. The town government successfully (if temporarily) got all of its cycling infrastructure removed from the Maricopa Association of Governments bike map. It also banned cyclists from a road that was under construction, which was likely illegal. And good luck finding anywhere to fill an empty water bottle or to relive a full bladder!

Still, I was able to add some good climbing to my routine.

A Little Cute Weirdness for 2021

The heavy monsoon rains brought thousands of caterpillars out onto the trails and bike paths. We’re talking about spotting THOUSANDS of them on a 50-mile ride.

From the Amazing Arizona Caterpillar Attack of 2021.

How This Translated to Race Days

There aren’t many races in the summer timeframe. The one I’m into is the Jangover Night Ride put on by the good people at Aravaipa Rides.

It’s an “as many laps as you can ride in 6 hours” sort of setup at McDowell Mountain Park on the Pemberton Loop. The Jangover is so much fun since it’s all at night.

how to safely transport bikes on a car

Ready for night riding!

My first Jangover in 2019 was good fun, but I didn’t set myself up for success. I worked a full day at work, and then rushed to get myself together for an 8pm start.

In short, I was able to squeeze in three 16-mile laps at an average speed of 8mph, including about an hourlong break between laps 2 and 3. I probably could’ve done a fourth lap, but I just wasn’t feeling sharp. Pemberton isn’t technical, but it is fast. At those speeds, bad handling can still wipe you out hard. And I had some ragged moments in Lap 3. I was tired, man.

Just for fun, my average heart rate was 141 BPM.

The Jangover 2021 Was Different

Let’s just say I’ve never ridden nearly 50 miles on a singlespeed mountain bike that fast. My average speed including stops to refill bottles and switch out light systems was 10mph. That’s with an average heart rate of 139 BPM.

I noticed a pattern: I’d pass people in the climbs, but they’d reel me in on the extended downhill. Even though I switched to a higher gear ratio about a year ago, I was still spinning out a lot. And I admit, I was riding cautious. Some unusually strong monsoon storms had jacked the trails up pretty good in a few places.

But the bottom line was this: I had a fourth lap in me, 100%. Unfortunately, the rules were a little different for the Jangover this year. Typically at races like these, any lap you start before the 6-hour mark counts. Not so at the Jangover.

Still, I was happy with the improvement in my numbers. And I was still super-sharp on the third lap even though I was starting to slow down.

A Few Final Thoughts

  • For most of the summer, I was using a new hydration mixture — in each bottle, I had a Gu tablet and a scoop of Ultima hydrate mix. Worked Great!
  • I was extremely consistent with getting to at least one hot yoga class each week this summer.
  • I like to lift weights in the summer. Squats, deadlifts and pull-ups do ya good! But my garage is so hot in summer that I can’t even grip an Olympic bar or a pull-up bar. And going to a regular gym in the age of COVID is also weird for me.
  • I did a bit more mountain biking this summer, especially in some locations like Sedona and Santa Cruz.
  • Next year, I’m likely to prioritize climbing more than mileage. I’d love to hit 200,000 feet.
  • Rather than the Jangover, I may ride in the Tour of the White Mountains next year. I have unfinished business with that event.

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