Thursday, August 26, 2010

Training - Cannibal Ride, August 25th

I glanced over at the trip computer.

25.6 mpg.
26 mph.

Not bad, considering I'd only done in-town trips for a week or two, most of them the 3 mile round trip to and from work.

But here, now, those were bad numbers. The mileage could easily be in the low 30s, the speed... well, I'll leave the speed one alone.

Mileage goes up most dramatically when you have high, high peaks. Think of it this way - the absolute worst mileage you can get is 0 mpg. Sit in the driveway, let the car idle until the tank's empty, and you just got yourself 0 mpg.

The best mileage, at least for me, is well over 200 mpg (instant reading). I actually don't know what it is, but it isn't infinite - that's for the hypermilers who actually do an engine-off coast. They turn the engine off when they coast.

I prefer to have the engine running, for a variety of reasons, so I'll take an extra long time to find the next gear. Pulling away from stop signs I'll pause a half second between shifts - it's worth 1-2 mpg in the long rung (and trust me, when I had a 60-100 minute commute each way, I learned all sorts of tricks to increase mileage). When on the highway, I'll, um, "pause" between finding gears, sometimes for a while as the car coasts down a hill.

Now, this is purely for example's sake. I don't want everyone coasting down hills everywhere, because you may end up a bit out of control. Theoretically, though, coasting in a car where the engine idles properly, where you can quickly engage gear (and without jerking the car around), it could be done on occasion.

And you'll get, depending on how accurate things are, between, oh, 150 and 1000 mpg.

You can see how coasting a bit could very easily improve your mileage. If you drive at 20-odd mpg all the time, but coast for, say a few minutes at 500 mpg, you may drive your mileage up significantly. They hypermilers are a bit nuts, pushing it to the extreme; one got, in an "official" contest, 189 mpg out of a Honda Insight hybrid. And they regularly get twice the EPA rated mileage.

My car, the one with the computer, was rated at 21/26 by the Feds. When I commuted my long commute, I'd be extremely disappointed if my mileage dropped below 28 mpg. I expected it to be in the 32-33 mpg range. My record (driving to Philly) was in the 36 mpg range - and that's for a tank of gas!

And, for average speed, well, let's just say that I averaged the typical speed limit around here - 50-55 mph. My Philly trip seemed to mirror the common 65 mph speed limit, although it could have climbed into the low 70s. For those of you who have trip computers, draw your own conclusions.

Using my "safer" methods (engine always on, no excessive speed on downhills, corners at normal speeds) and my "fun" methods (a few hard accelerations per tank is okay, although a 0-60+ blast will drop the whole tank's average down 0.1 to 0.2 mpg, depending on the average), I get about 30-50% over the EPA rating.

That's good enough for me. So, therefore, on the trip to the shoreline, I might have coasted a bit.

Or paused when debating whether to keep it in 6th or shift into 5th.

With a 25.6/28 reading on the computer, I had my work cut out for me.

On top of that, I had to make it to a local access TV studio for a short, 30 minute show covering the Pedal For Paws ride. It's a bike ride to benefit a modern, virtually no-cage (except for recovering cats) shelter named Forgotten Felines. Mrs SOC, the force behind the whole thing, and SOC, playing a strong lieutenant, would be there. I would be there really for moral support, although it was possible that I'd be interviewed as well.

(When I thought about it, I didn't know much about the shelter other than what I observed when we visited, and I don't know much about the routes except what I've ridden. So I didn't think I had a lot to offer the program.)

Nevertheless, it'd be good for me to be on time.

It would be a bonus if I could get some decent mileage doing it.

In the end, with a judicious balance of power, "rest", and speed, I got to the SOCs place just as SOC got there. Perfect timing.

And 27.2/41 to boot.

We set off, the SOCs a bit nervous, me a little less so. I'll leave the studio part alone, except to say that it went well. It'll air on public access sometime in the first or second week in September; I'll be sure to put a notice on here somewhere when I learn a more specific date.

All this excitement meant little time for preparation before the evening's ride out of Clarke Cycles, their Wednesday Cannibal ride. I asked SOC, riding shotgun in the blue car for the second time ever,
where we could get some food fast, preferably McDonald's.

We zipped into a nearby McDonalds, placed our order.

(For the record, I got 3 hamburgers and a Coke; SOC got a double cheeseburger, fries, and a Diet. Neither were necessarily good, but they got the job done.)

We placed the order and rolled up to the first window to pay.

The girl at the window commented on the car.

"I like your car."


"You must get a lot of girls with it."


We rolled up to the second window, where a giggling girl handed us our food. She could barely talk for her giggling. Obviously the two girls were talking over their headsets.


Back to SOC's, split the food, and I rushed off to the ride. I managed to scarf down one burger before the highway, another on it, and the third disappeared just as I turned into the parking lot for the ride.

The Coke I guzzled while I dressed and got the bike ready.

Not ideal, I know.

Botto was there as well as a bunch of the regulars. This time I didn't hold them up too much, although I was lagging a bit as we pulled out of the lot.

Fortunately we (or rather, "they") set off on an easy pace. I'm still oblivious to the area, so every route has had a treat. This one started off with, get this, a bunch of switchbacks going up an easy climb.

Key words:
1. Switchbacks
2. Easy

A perfect place to do a pretend L'Alpe d'Huez because you can turn big gears like the pros, you need to ease for the bends, and you have at least three switchbacks in a row.


We also did some Benelux type of stuff, crosswinds and headwinds on flat roads, easy to find on a shoreline route. Causeways make the best ones, long open roads buffeted by the wind, with crosswind shoreline roads a close second. Maybe not a treat for regulars, but it's a hoot for those of us used to valley-channeled head and tailwinds.

I made some efforts, my body protesting the multi-tasking demanded of it. Apparently it doesn't like digesting 3 burgers and a Coke while trying to put down huge watts on the pedals. Appropriately I surged myself right off the back, creeping and crawling to regroupment points.

I didn't complain when we cut out a bit early, maybe an hour into the ride, because we were having a get together after the ride.

This would be Botto's farewell party, it seems (I thought we'd run into him more, but maybe not). Shoreline stuff, beautiful scenery, the sounds of waves lapping in the background.

Armed to the teeth against the expected horde of mosquitoes, I had both Cutter spray and an Off Clip On repellent. Combined with any native measures (those bug-repelling candles and who knows what else), I managed to (gasp!) get away with ZERO bites for the evening.


We shot the, um, breeze, so to speak, for the next 4 hours. A Dennis Hopper made a guest appearance (the Good Dennis Hopper, seeing as he's alive and smiling and very pleasant), but otherwise it was us boys from the Cannibal ride.

I learned that you can see at least one moon of Jupiter using just normal binoculars (I saw one, but you should be able to see up to four). We checked out @DarthVader's tweets (which are hilarious, if I do say so myself - I was the one reading them). We had some more burgers (one each, incredibly good, from some place in Deep River where they make the patties to order), cooked up nicely on a charcoal grill.

Recovery essentials: Off Clip On, Cutter spray, beer and/or margarita, buns, guacamole, chips, and pasta. The Twitter research tool also took the picture.

I should mention that one of the crew managed to light the charcoal in a very impressive way. Not as impressive as some, but impressive nonetheless.

The night drew to a close as I had to get going - over an hour drive back, and after tempting the fates by trading speeding stories, I had to be a bit careful.

I started out following SOC to the main highway nearby, not paying attention to the mileage/speed numbers until I got onto familiar roads. In this case it would be the next highway, a highway I would drive on for 53 miles (yeah, my new Twitter research tool also has built in Nav).

I'd glance over at the trip computer readouts every now and then, watching the mileage climb, not paying much attention to speed. See, speed follows. The mileage, that's the hard part.

With caution weighing heavily, I really focused on mileage. Sure enough, a long way into the drive, as I rounded a bend on a long downhill, I saw the telltale reflective glimmers of a State Trooper. I was over the limit, yes, but not stupidly so. I eased instinctively (and naturally - it's expected), went past the car, spotted the guy actually holding something up to his face (like a speed measuring device), and glanced in the mirror.

Nope, definitely not stupidly so.

The rest of the drive went by peacefully. With more traffic around me as I headed north, I had more fast cars to follow (although, again, never stupidly so).

When I pulled into the driveway I instinctively checked the numbers.

28.6 mpg.

48 mph.

Life is good.

1 comment:

MIL said...

Congratulations on your upgrade to Cat 2!