What do you do on a sunny Saturday when it’s 35 Celsius out there? Right: you plan a 60km ride on cross bikes! Granted that last time I rode a bike at all was several years ago, and last time before that was a few years before that, it was surely a sane idea to go that far without any proper training. I owned a bike when I was a teen though and seemed to be able to ride it all day long without a problem, so what could possibly go wrong, right?
Originally the plan was to visit Karlstein castle. However, the evening before the trip we made a wise decision (basically, I insisted on it after some of the original crew gave up the idea due to heat…) to change our destination to the Lhota lake – roughly the same distance, but a much better idea on a boiling hot day.
We began getting to the bike rental at 9am and were finally set and ready to go around 10. Another thing I’m happy I insisted on was the 9am meetup – because had we set the meeting time to 10, we’d leave the city in the absolute heat peak! It was rather warm, to say the least, either way :).
So here we were, 6 adults and one little passenger, and the very first thing we hit right inside the city limits was a pretty decent up-slope… Although after managing that one, the rest of the way seemed pretty easy, albeit not very smooth – Czechs have a very strange idea about what to consider an appropriate bicycle path. I suspect that basically any small path that isn’t a car road is automatically regarded as one, whether or not it even has an appropriate surface. It was a bit of an adventure to get to the lake – some of the paths were only nominatively such and most were rough terrain with many a-stone, ensuring a pretty bumpy ride. But we all made it in one piece, although we stopped quite a bit on the way :).
As we rode through the fields, there was a piece of the road that turned into tire tracks in the field instead of a road (it’s right where there is an unfinished chunk of a highway). We carried on following the tire tracks into the field and ran into machines that were harvesting the grain. A lot of residue was fluffed out into the air and some of our ‘team’ got a hay ‘shower’ :). Alex and I were riding ahead, so we just narrowly missed both the death by the harvesting machine that was making a u-turn and the hay-spray :).
When we finally reached our destination, we realized how intelligent our strategy was to take the bikes: the line to the parking lot of the lake was enormous! No wonder – it was, after all, a weekend and a hot one! We rode right to the entrance, payed the 50Kc to get in and settled in the shade because even for the heat-loving animal like myself it was a challenge to stay in the sunshine. It was so freaking hot and stuffy that I even went for a swim – that with my rather non-existent affinity for colder water! Granted, it was 26 degrees, but I still prefer warmer :).
About 6pm we set off back. At one point we thought we might catch a train to get closer to the city, then ride the remaining segment, but it turned out the trains weren’t helping much time or distance-wise, so we rode all the way back. This time we decided to screw the bike paths and go on the highways – it was definitely a much quicker and smoother ride!
On Sunday we all met again at the rental to return the bikes and that was the end of this epic undertaking :). Since I’m nothing of an experienced bike rider, here are a few layman things I picked up from this experiment:
1) On a warm day, 1,5L of water for one way of such a trip is a minimal requirement. A regular 1,5L water bottle will fit under the bigger frame, but will be slightly sticking out from under a smaller frame (16′), although it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to have one in there.
2) If it’s sunny, unless you want a version of a farmer’s tan, best is to wear something thin that covers the whole body.
3) Sunscreen is a non-negotiable requirement for every exposed piece of skin (face, earlobes, hands etc) – you burn/tan quicker on the road than on a beach.
4) Shades. Not even as much for the sun as for keeping all the dust and flies and stuff out of the eyes. Priceless.
5) A handkie to tie around the neck. Comes handy on dusty roads or while riding behind stinky cars – you can quickly and easily pull it over your nose :). Definitely not a legit bike gear, but who cares? It does the job without the investment into anything ‘real’ 🙂
6) It may be a good idea to wear gloves. I took my leather fingerless ones and it was a very smart decision – in the heat on the dusty roads I would have otherwise very quickly blistered my palms.
7) Helmets are awesome. They keep the sun away :). Although it’s actually even better to wear a bandana under the helmet.
8) Bandaids and disinfectant – someone should have those with them.
9) Backpacks. Obviously. Unless you boast proper bike bags. Which I presume a layman won’t :). So – backpacks 🙂
10) Seems like the local selection of bikes features very hard, narrow seats with ‘sharp’ edges… Note to self for the next trip, if any, would be to figure out a way to cushion the seat to avoid bruising, as this was the only real problem during (and after 😀 ) this trip.