Posted by: fizzhogg | August 19, 2011

Fizz of St. Louis’ Wild Kingdom

Hello, mates. Before we discuss today’s ride, let’s recap/update things since we left Cycling Mecca.

Looking back at my levee trail rides of last year, I averaged about 700 feet of climbing for every 30 miles. While in Cycling Mecca I averaged just over 2,000 feet of climbing for every 30 miles.

Our first ride back here where it all began was 29 miles with 1,260 feet of climbing. Piece of pie, eh? Yes… except that when I rolled off that day it was 89F degrees out, with 93% humidity. When I finished riding, about 2 hours later, it was 94F degrees and the humidity had dipped all the way down to 89%. Needless to say, that 1,260 feet of climbing felt like 2,400.

But I can attest that my time in Cycling Mecca, along with The Goat, has made me what the kids would call a sick climber – well, sick when compared to the climber I was 7 months ago. I’m still a hill slug. I am still carrying an extra 25 pounds. My power to weight ratio is nonexistent. I have to work to keep from getting dropped by my new riding partner – someone whose power to weight ratio is SICK:

Today’s Ride – The Start

I spent last night searching Google maps as well as sites like Strava and RideWithGPS to find some climbing around here. I wanted to climb. I wanted to suffer << more on that later.

Eventually I mapped a new route that promised 40+ miles and 2,000 feet of climbing. I was excited not just for the challenge, but to explore new territory – one of the many joys of cycling is finding never before seen places to ride – and went to bed dreaming of dancing on the pedals like a big, soft, round version of Alberto Contador. Little did I know I’d end up looking more like this guy:

I rolled out at 7am, and quickly cruised over TRFKATP. Oh, I should pause here to inform you that since returning from Cycling Mecca, I have shaved over 2 minutes off my best time over TRFKATP. Those 7, 8, and 9% rollers which gave me so much trouble a year ago? The Goat eats them up like my 4-year-old gobbles M&M’s. Now I’m not at the level of the Great and Powerful Gaz and his massive MPH averages, but for this Hill Slug, I am getting faster.

I cruised through old familiar places and then turned onto a new road and was greeted with this:

Animal Planet

Riding along nicely paved two-lane roads with almost no cars was great. I saw rabbits and squirrels darting about looking for morning meals.

Then the morning quickly went from a couple of cute bunny sightings to a Discovery Channel special.

More rabbits and squirrels, and then a deer stepped out in front of me, though in all honesty it was twenty-five meters ahead of me. And here’s a shot of a turtle I rescued from the road:

So what, right? Thing is, this is not the first turtle I moved off the road… or the second… this was the third turtle I came across trying to make its way from the west side of the road to the east. Was there some Turtle Nudie bar on the east side? Live Turtles! No Shells!

Rabbits, squirrels, deer, and turtles. Oh, and the giant black winged devil-birds swarming everywhere emitting the sounds of Hades from their darkened throats. Um, you may call them cawing crows, but for the purposes of this story they are giant black winged devil-birds emitting the sounds of Hades.

Get Your Kicks On Route 66

Eventually The Goat carried me safely through the creature portion of the ride and onto some nice country roads where I discovered I was riding along history:

The more I rode the better I felt. I was eating every 40 minutes like clock-work. Drinking plenty of water – let me pause here to say THANK YOU to those wonderful folks at the convenience stores I encountered who happily let me refill my water bottles. While I had yet to truly climb or suffer, I was thoroughly enjoying being on the bike on a great day. Temps were in the 80’s and humidity was at a tolerable 70some %. The toughest climbing was to come around the 35-mile mark. An average grade of 6-7% with a couple of 12% pitches for about a mile and a half.

The Goat and I hit it and went straight up, out of the saddle for most of it.

I rolled back into familiar territory prepared to make my way home when I came to a fork in the road – as metaphoric as it was geographic.

If I continued on as planned I would finish with an almost 45-mile ride with right around 2,000 feet of ascent. Not bad by any means. But if I took the fork in the road it would lead me to…


I have not spoken of Babler on this blog, other than a possible mention in passing early on. Babler is a state park consisting of nearly seven miles of wide, beautifully paved roads with almost no cars. People use them for walking, running and cycling. The reason I’ve never spoken of Babler is because I never had the huevos to ever go near Babler. Why, you ask?

Because of the nearly seven miles of beautiful road inside Babler, less than 10% of it is flat. You are either going up or going down. And we’re not talking about the smarmy 10-12% grades that put fear into the old Unfat Machine. We’re talking massive hills.

There are basically three climbs inside Babler, the shortest being just under a mile, the longest just under two miles. The average gradient of the climbs is 17%.

Yes, I said the average. Two of the climbs pitch up to 22%, while the third – the baby – only gets to 20%.

As I sat there at the fork in the road straddling The Goat I remembered why I wanted so badly to ride today. Because I had not been on the bike in a while. Because I was worried about putting back on some of the pounds I have lost this year and mostly because…

I wanted to suffer.

I believe, when you truly become addicted to cycling – and I don’t mean just enjoying riding your bike – I mean addicted, as in your body starts to get all wonky if you don’t do it all the time, like a heroin addict. I believe when one becomes truly addicted to cycling, one falls in love with the suffering. One falls deeply, head-over-heels in love with the pain, the torture, the grind of suffering on the bike. If one goes on a long ride that lacks any sort of real suffering the ride feels unfinished, like it was missing something, to the point that it doesn’t even count as a ride.

Gaz knows of what I speak. He is addicted to cycling. My friend and co-worker Joe Hortua, who is returning to cycling after a 20-year absence, is going to become addicted very soon. I know it. Some of you reading this are, and some are not. Neither is right or wrong, it just is.

At some point during my time in Cycling Mecca I became an addict. And thus, fell in love with the suffering. But I told no one for fear that I would be labeled some sort of masochist.

Then I found Rapha.

Rapha is a high-end, almost snooty brand of cycling clothing. Their stuff is quality for sure, but they have a bit of an attitude – like, if you wear team kits or anything the least bit “loud” then you are not a true cyclist, and certainly not cool enough for them. It’s almost a hipster vibe with the company and we all know that there is nothing worse than hipsters – except hipsters who actually think they’re relevant.

But an odd thing happened and I believe it is yet another testament to the amazingly wonderful community that is cycling. Despite Rapha’s You’re Not Cool If You Aren’t One Of Us outward persona, inside they really are just like you and me and most other cyclists. They love to ride. And it’s not about the bike, or even the clothes, but about the ride.

Rapha makes these video documentaries of their rides. There’s a group of riders for the company – the Continental Riders – and they go all over the country doing these epic rides and chronicling them in words and pictures.

It’s all about the experience of the ride. Not just how fast you went or how well you climbed, but what you saw, what you felt, what you experienced.

But these rides are not just any old beauty rides. Each one is a hard ride. A sufferfest. See, Rapha, I have discovered, is addicted to cycling. And thus – Rapha is in love with the suffering. They even have a phrase somewhere on their web site:

Glory Through Suffering

When I first came across this site, saw that statement, and then watched the AMAZING films of their rides, I knew I was not alone. I am nowhere near the rider that the Rapha Continental riders are, not even close. And they would most likely mock me and my loud kits and carbon fiber giant corporate bike brand. But as far as being addicted to cycling, we are brothers.

Glory through suffering.

I defy you to watch one of their films and not be inspired to go ride:

Rapha Films

So back to the fork in the road. I sat there debating, then thought of the Rapha films, and knew immediately I needed to take the fork, the road less traveled.

I set out for Babler.

One of the things I appreciate about this state park is that it lets you know even before you enter what you are in for. Example – here is the road you must take just to get to the other roads I described:

You probably can’t tell from that shot, but that is a 15% grade straight up. Just to get into the park! And then once you’re inside, Babler teases you.

Before you know it you are descending. Like, really descending. On these wide, smooth, open roads with sweeping curves… remember that 17% average thing? Uh, huh.

If you look at my PRP, you will see that I crushed my old speed record from Mt. Lemmon last year. The Goat and I rocketed down this descent attaining a top speed of 54.3mph.

There are few things on this planet like the rush of going over 54mph on 1-inch of rubber. But as we all know, what goes down… must go up. That is, unless you don’t want to get back home.

I’ve blathered on too long here already, so I will just say that I nailed every climb. And it was hard. It was brutal. And I loved every single suffering second of it. When all was said and done I’d ridden 55.6 miles and climb over 3,200 feet.

If it wasn’t the best solo ride I’ve ever done (Best meaning most enjoyable from a variety of standpoints), it was certainly in the top 2.

Eat better.

Ride your bike.

Find glory through suffering.




Watch out for the road idiots


  1. You pace VS me or anyone else really doesnt matter dude, what DOES matter, is that you keep improving YOURSELF, slowly but surely, just keep chipping away at it, for me, this week was awful, I was slower than normal, over shorter distances, my hip was sore, my collarbone hurts, but Yesterday, I exploded , it just “Clicked” and I was away, that only happened BECAUSE I was chipping away all week.

    Keep on, Keeping On


  2. Or – “Don’t ever stop!”

    Nice write up as usual feller!”

  3. Excellent to see you out and about. I also noted that despite leaving the cycling Mecca, you managed to have a ride that you consider to be in your Top 2. That’s great news and shows that there is life outside of Mecca!

  4. ” And here’s a shot of a turtle I rescued from the road” …funny, I remember writing a very similar sentence not too many weeks ago 🙂

    • I know – isn’t that crazy? I had already posted this when I found your blog (via Fatty) today. We must ride together!

      • Like my ride with Alicia? (The Masher post) I “met” her through Fatty, too, and we rode “together” 2000 miles apart!

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