Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fishin' at the Tour de Shawnee

I took my bicycle and a fist full of my new business cards to Olive Branch, Illinois yesterday for the annual Tour de Shawnee. This is an exceptionally well done ride. It is not a charity ride so the money you pay goes into the event. And they spend it on you.

The routes are well marked and the longer routes begin with a hill climb that will make you wish your triple had a dinner plate-sized cog on the rear. Most participants dismount at some point and walk. This is especially annoying when they are doing it RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU! Then unless you have somewhere to go - you, too, are dismounting and trying to get off of the road quickly so that you don't get run over. Trust me on this one. Then, you'll have to restart from a dead stop with your bike in a nearly vertical position. I loved it, of course!

I arrived early so that I could "make the rounds" and hand out business cards and speak to riders who had fenders or bags bigger than a wallet on their bike. I decided to skip all the riders who had tri bikes with disc wheels - low potential for randonneurs, I figured.

I was pleased that many of the riders to whom I spoke mentioned seeing our fliers in their bike stores. I had mailed hundreds of fliers to the 8 stores within about 125 mile radius. I included a letter to the owner/manager introducing me and randonneuring; pointing out that riders who are committed to a sport, rather than just "recreational riders" will tend to spend more money in a local bike store. I'm hoping to encourage their cooperation in our growth.

Despite the ease with which I seem to approach and speak to complete strangers, I was fairly uncomfortable doing so. It required a lot of psychic energy on my part, and I was glad when the ride actually started. I'd much rather use my energy to pedal a bicycle. That use of energy leaves me pumped up and not as drained as the energy which I have to use for "sales presentations".

At the rest stops, I also took the opportunity to continue to "fish". Here, at this small church, I spoke to a young couple riding bikes with fenders. The female was happy to find out that we are bringing randonneuring to Southern Illinois. She said that it had been one of her cycling goals, but with small children, traveling to and from events was difficult. Her husband agreed. Nearby, another rider, listening in asked if I had a card for him, too. Of course I did!

Over all, the day was well spent. I rode the 62 mile route with Mike McKee and his friend Rusty. Mike was on "Ridey" his fixed gear bike, which was sporting a 42 X 16 gear today. This was an incredibly hilly ride, so you can imagine how much leg strength it required to push that gear up the hills, and how much leg speed it took to spin it back down. (For those who don't know, you can't stop pedaling on a fixed gear - unless you want to test your helmet out as you fly over the handlebars.)

On the flats into the wind, Mike pulled us at 20 mph, and we picked up riders along the way like a magnet picks up iron filings. I will also add that after the event, Mike rode his fixie back to Marion, about another 62 miles, and over just as hilly terrain. Did I mention that Mike is the newest RUSA member in Southern Illlinois? I'm going to have to pick up my training a bit, I think.

This Saturday is a RUSA metric century (Brevet Populaire) that I hope will start to reel in some of those "fish" I've been angling for. I'll let you know...

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