Posted by: Ian | August 31, 2012

More Cycling in Acadia

Since my last post I’ve been out on more rides around Acadia. The most extensive of these was a circuit that followed the coastline:

This ran to a very manageable 66 miles and I plotted it into the Garmin 800 in advance. En route, this threw up a few spurious diversions from the obvious path but got me round, since I had the good sense to ignore the most unhelpful course prompts. It’s a pretty ride, especially the coastal stretches; my favourite of these, outside the National Park, was the run up the east side of Somes sound. Some of the inland roads are very pleasant too, making up in tranquillity what they lack in drama. If I were doing a similar route again I’d make a point of avoiding any road with a number, as far as it’s conveniently possible. The very best section, though, in my opinion, was the Park Loop. It’s quiet (at the right time of day it’s deserted), the scenery is spectacular and, unlike most of the other roads hereabouts, the road surface is wonderfully smooth. Since this ride, all of my cycling has been within the National Park.

One of the great features of the cycling here is that you only ever need your brakes when approaching the occasional junction. The gradients are gentle, the roads wide and quiet, and the forward visibility is generally excellent. This is a big contrast to my usual cycling in Somerset where the exact opposite of each of these points prevails, meaning that you can never regain on descents the speed that you lose on the climbs. In consequence, I’ve been posting flatteringly high average speeds here by my standards. For example, my average speed over the 66 mile coastal loop was 18.5 mph. The last time I can recall keeping up these speeds over this kind of distance was at the Blenheim sportive that Emily, Martin and I did a few years ago. This likewise has a parcours that lends itself to fast times and we then, with no previous sportive experience or especial training, made it round in just over 3.5 hours mat to mat, despite Emily having a spill.

Another phenomenon that distinguishes Maine from Somerset is the frequency with which swarms of jovial-looking guys on Harley Davidsons phut by. Compared to the average cyclist, the average Harley rider is about 20 years older, 100 pounds heavier and far less likely to wear a helmet. They look as content as they are geometrically ill at ease, stretched implausibly over their absurd high handle bars and long seats.

Earlier this week I bought a pair of “barefoot” running shoes. They look the same as normal hiking shoes/trainers but are a fraction of the weight and have minimal support structure. That evening I wore them for a short run with Heidi and the next day I wore them again for a walk up Cadillac Mountain. I love them. However, when I next went out for a ride, a couple of days later, my knees were unusually sore. Since I was heading up Cadillac Mountain again, I decided to use my small chain ring. This would give my knees a break and also helpfully counter my tendency to go up hills in too high a gear. Unfortunately, the STI that controls my front derailleur crapped out. Shimano STI’s (this one’s Ultegra) are not designed as serviceable parts and all you can do if they go wrong is spray stuff on them and hope for the best – so since then I’ve been stuck in the big ring.

While there are evidently several people around here who are doing most of the Park’s Strava segments faster than I am, the only one who has so far actually cycled past me on the road was a guy from Massachusetts who pulled round me near the top of Cadillac, irritatingly demonstrating that the smaller chain ring is a bonus. I followed him to the summit and moaned unconvincingly about my broken shifter.

This morning I had my first half-way decent run up Cadillac, at least managing the same speed that I can easily achieve up Porlock Hill, which has the same gradient and is longer. If I were here for another week I’d make a proper attempt to get up Cadillac Mountain from Bar Harbor in a respectable time: this has a more satisfying sea-to-summit character than the Cadillac Strava segment and is an equally nice ride.

I haven’t managed to improve my initial descent time. This ought to be really easy but it’s been gusty this week and, more significantly, the Astraeus has felt unusually vague at the front end at speeds over 30 mph, as though something in the area of the headset isn’t quite right. It’s not an encouraging sensation. For that and other reasons, I’m missing my Cervelo, which is sharper and set up more aggressively.

As a reminder that even Acadia’s benign roads demand a degree of care, as I was speeding past the start of the Loop Road one way section for the second time today I saw a cyclist laid out on the tarmac being attended to by an ambulance. It didn’t look good. My hunch is that one of the ubiquitous RV’s will have been involved.

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