My weekend on two wheels: A study in contrasts, from Tweed to Century

I like lots of different kinds of riding and my weekend featured three very different rides. (On this theme see Riding slow and riding fast and It takes all kinds.)

On Saturday mornings, bright and early, I’ve been riding with Natalie and some other friends, including Tracy. See My First Group Ride for Natalie’s account of our first trip. This week included me and Dave–the randonneur--and Nat’s partner M. It was cold–below 10 degrees celsius when we set out–and wet and windy too. The downside of autumn riding about which I’m usually very enthusiastic.

It warmed up quickly, we did too, and we ended at our usual coffee and muffin/scone stop. It did feature a nasty tumble. Poor Nat rode over some wet leaves, but I’ll leave that story for her to tell you. I suspect there’s a guest post in progress!


Then it was home for a bit of work and a quick wardrobe change. It was time for London’s 1st annual TWEED ride. About 100 people turned out on a cold afternoon for a ride in historic costume, and for some people on historic bikes. Fun times. There are some great photos here. What’s a Tweed Ride? See here.

So far the theme of the weekend had been social riding. Nothing too fast, far, or furious.

That changed Sunday morning with the MEC London Century Ride.

Be part of the first MEC London Century Ride! This is a one day road cycling adventure on an open course for people who are passionate about their active lifestyles.
Choose from a beautiful 60k or 100KM route that takes you on the quiet rural roads of the scenic Elgin County visiting both Port Stanley and Port Bruce along the way. The event starts and finishes at Railway City Brewery. There will be marshals and directional signs along the course, as well as a rest stop midway complete with replenishments, washrooms, and a bike mechanic for minor repairs. The staggered start will begin at 9:00AM and close at 9:30AM. Upon finishing, celebrate your accomplishment with food, drink and the camaraderie of other riders at the brewery.

100 km, fine. Beautiful views of Lake Erie, fine. Fall colours, just lovely. The event was also extremely affordable, just $35, lots less than the Gran Fondo style pricing. It started in St. Thomas and everything seemed super well organized. The route was well marked, there were people cheering us on along the way, and everything was peachy keen but for the weather. I could have handled the cold. I have the gear and I dressed for it. But the wind? There’s no way to dress for wind.

The MEC emails and announcers kept stumbling over the ride/race terminology. It wasn’t a race but it was timed. I think the race language comes from the fact that they usually organize running events, all races.

Though it wasn’t a race we planned to ride it fast. I went to the event with two friends, randonneur Dave and David, with whom I did the MS Bike Tour, the Friends for Life Bike Rally and most recently, the Epic Tour. At the Halton Epic Tour David, Kim, and I averaged over 25 km/hr even with the hills. This had fewer hills and I had hoped for an average closer to 30.

Even with a couple of quick restroom breaks it seemed doable in under four hours. In the end though, it was not.

Dave did his own ride, randonneur style. Even on his fixed gear steel frame bike, he’s faster than us.

You can view my Strava file here.

David and I had a great start to our ride but the last 30 km were straight into the worst headwind I’ve experienced. It was, as my friend Dave called it, an exercise in humility. I’ve never worked so hard to maintain 20 km/hr and at times we settled for less than that. Heart rate 155, speed 21 km/hr. How can that be?

For some of the stretches I was checking my Garmin almost every kilometre to see what progress we’d made. On the bright side David and I worked together, took turns at the front, and counted down the distance as a team. We worked with a nice rider from Stratford until the hill at the misnamed Pleasant Valley took me out. There was nothing pleasant about the hill out of that valley. I made it up the hill but had to rest for a few minutes at the top.

Anyway, tough slog back but good ride and I’m glad I did it. Certainly I hope MEC organizes more rides. I had talked to some beginning cyclist friends about this ride but I’m glad they opted out. I don’t think it would have been a great experience.

What are the differences between the rides I did this weekend? Obviously speed and distance but not just that. I think the big differences come down to preparation and effort.

Preparation: I left for the Saturday morning social ride with my phone and coffee money. That’s it. The Tweed Ride required some outfit preparation. The challenge there was fashion related. Bike shorts under my dress, tights under spd cycling sandals. I couldn’t go for an actual period costume. I even took the belt off my tweed coat so it wouldn’t get caught my chain. I struggled with trying to get my hat on over my helmet but in end I opted for the helmet when riding, hat when not. The MEC ride involved thinking about food. Thanks Dave for the inspired suggestion of baklava for an en route, eat while riding, snack. I also made sure I got a good sleep the night before, packed my helmet and shoes, gloves, and cycling sunglasses to take with me in the car. I put gas in the car and Jeff put the bike rack on for us.

Effort: Here there are huge differences. Strava, the online cycling tracking tool I use, gives rides a Suffer Score based on information from your heart rate monitor. The Sat morning social ride got a mere 13, 94% in zone 1, no suffering. The MEC Century got a suffer score of Extreme, 163. Most of my time in zone 3 with some time, more than I’d like, in Zone 4. That was partly hills out of Port Stanley and Port Burwell but much more than that, the wind. In the past I’ve claimed to prefer wind to hills but today’s ride is making me reconsider.

The three rides were very very different from one another but I enjoyed them all. It can be hard to ride slowly on my own and my current training program has some lower heart rate rides built in. But help a friend who is a beginning rider and chat with people I really like, and voila, multiple goals met.

Basically, I just love time on my bike. But you know that.


Ready for the Tweed Ride! Don’t worry. I swapped my hat for the helmet before set off on wheels.

5 thoughts on “My weekend on two wheels: A study in contrasts, from Tweed to Century

  1. The MEC Century sounds as NOT fun as the tweed ride sounds fun! A study in contrasts indeed.
    I am so relieved I didn’t sign up for the MEC ride. If you struggled,
    I would have been crying. I had a much better time running 20K that day with Anita.

    1. Agreed! But I think the not as strong cyclists all dropped down to the 60 which was missing the headwind section. So there were options. David says if he’d known he might have done that. Tough slogging but happy to have done it. MEC says they’ll do more….So spring!

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