At mile 66 I said, “Officially the longest ride of the calendar year, mileage wise.” To which Matthew Slaven responded, “That’s funny, I remember saying that last year when we did this loop. Only it was ten miles earlier and August. Getting a jump on things this year, turns out.”
The first hundred of the year is special. Yes, because of all the silly cliche reasons like dusting off the cobwebs and doing ‘base miles’ and finding out where the legs are, all of which assume an “off season,” a religion I prefer not to practice. More importantly, the first hundred is the start of the calendar—those who ride a hundred on New Year’s Day have the rest of the year logistically pretty easy. In the same way that the Tour Down Under starts the only sporting calendar worth paying attention to, the first hundred starts the calendar of importance, priority and appreciation.
“Did we do a hundred last January?” I asked Ward.
“Yeah,” she answered. “You, me and Brant went way out to Banks and explored all the gravel roads that later became your crazy Gentleman’s Race route. And we did that secret squirrel route over the gate where Brant dropped us on the long gravel descent like he was on a mountain bike.”
“That was January? Huh. That was hard. Seems like it rained a little that day but all that rolling gravel was punishing. I recall a gourmet convenience store feast with 25 miles to go: two corn dogs, a coke, a king size Snickers and some Salsitas. I recall mildly regretting that food decision later.”
“And Brant had a V8, a bean and cheese burrito and some of his anchovy paste. Was that the ride he bought Zingers, too?”
“No, I think that was Northwest Passage earlier that fall.”
The first hundred, especially if it’s in January in climates that change, is a special commitment. More so than a summer hundred where one starts, continues, and ends without wardrobe modification, the first hundred requires special kit attention. In the Pacific Northwest, a January hundred will likely mean 2-3 hats, minimum 3 pair of gloves and probably 2 sets of shoe covers. This most recent hundred was something of a fluke as it was sunny the whole way, and the only extra garments needed were for temperature change from morning to afternoon, uphill to descending. It’s a commitment to ride the fender bike for that many hours (fender bikes are ridden in January in Portland regardless of conditions. I have certain rules, that’s one of them.) For this ride I chose the aforementioned Double Entendre Light Rain Bike or DELRB (Cannondale CAAD9 frame, full carbon fork, Ultegra/Dura Ace mix, split fenders, 25mm tires, roughly 20 pounds, works best for wet roads and showers), rather than the Double Entendre Heavy Rain Bike or DEHRB (Raleigh Clubman steel frame/fork, downtube shifters [ten speed, of course], 32 spoke hand built wheels, 28mm tires, full aluminum fenders with extra long flaps, roughly 29 pounds, works great in legitimate rain. Double entendres work better when they don’t have to be explained. Oh well.) While positionally, each road bike is within a close tolerance, the efficiency, obviously, is dramatically different. To purposefully work harder than necessary takes commitment to improving mental fortitude and physical strength. It also displays a respect for differently crafted bicycles: winter bikes ache for punishing gravel, road debris, a bitchy Mother Nature, and all the other over-used cycling prosaisms found in glimmery, gritty writing. Summer bikes prefer to shine without unnecessary environmental factors. The first hundred, if ridden in the winter, should be ridden on the winter bike.
“This one counts,” I said. “Even though it’ll be short a bit, it counts.”
“Hell yes, it counts,” Slaven replied. “It counts because the last 47 miles were into a gnarly headwind. And because we had that same headwind going up Old German Town road.”
“And because of all the farting and talking about farting I did,” adds Amy.
Yes, definitely because of that. 94.7 miles equals the first hundred.