Yesterday, in historic Bonham, Texas, I did my 20th bike rally of the year and my 416th overall. I’ve been going to Bonham since 1990. I missed two rallies during that time (one because of a conflict with the Waco rally), so yesterday’s Autumn in Bonham was my 16th in the past 18 years. It’s a long drive (96.8 miles) to Bonham, but well worth it.

None of my friends showed up (except Julius, whom I saw only at the finish), so I looked forward to a fast rally. Actually, I’m teasing them. My goal for the day was to take it easy, listen to music on my Zune, and enjoy the countryside. It was already warm by the time we got started, at nine o’clock. The sun was out and it was expected to be in the 90s by mid-afternoon. There was the usual mad dash at the start. I rolled out at my own pace, letting the gung-ho riders go. This year, we started at a multi-purpose complex outside of town and rode directly into the downtown area, where we turned north toward Oklahoma. Once we turned, there were quite a few riders around me. Despite my plan to take it easy, I fell in with them, figuring it would help with the wind.

You guessed it. I ended up hammering. We covered 21.1 miles during the first hour, which is almost as much as the 21.9 I covered a week earlier in Greenville. I actually wanted to drop out at one and a half hours. That’s when I usually stop for the first time. I wanted to eat a PowerBar, use the porta-potty, look at my map (it was a new course), and put my earphones in. But there was no rest stop at 90 minutes, so I continued with the pack. Incredibly, we covered 21.8 miles the second hour, which gave me an average speed of 21.45 miles per hour after two hours. Finally, just past the two-hour mark, we came to a rest stop, so I pulled over, letting the others go. (Apparently, I missed a rest stop somewhere in this 20-mile stretch.)

I took only one pull during the two hours. It was all I could do to stay in the slipstream. It appeared that only a couple of riders were doing the work, and they were strong. A man in a recumbent stayed off the front of our pack for a long time, serving as a rabbit. I’ve never seen a recumbent go that fast. Later, I passed him. He had a flat. Early on, as we were riding through Bonham, a man two bikes in front of me crashed. He went down hard, to my right. He must have touched the wheel in front of him. When you think about all the things that can go wrong while riding in a pack, it’s amazing that there aren’t more crashes. By the way, someone near me yelled “Are you all right?” as soon as the crash occurred. I chuckled. The fallen rider wouldn’t know the answer to that question for a few seconds. I hope he didn’t break anything. The way he hit the pavement, I wouldn’t be surprised if he broke his collarbone.

After the rest stop, I put my earphones in and listened to music for the remainder of the ride. The road surface was bad, at least by Texas standards. It was made of chip-seal. The rough surface keeps you from going fast, and the vibrations make your hands numb, especially when, like me, you don’t wear cycling gloves. There was also wind from this point to the finish, though it wasn’t strong. I wanted to keep my speed up so I would have a good average speed for the day, but it was difficult. I rode only 16.6 miles during the third hour, which knocked my average speed down to 19.83. There was no way I was going to break 20 miles per hour for the day. I averaged only 14.21 miles per hour for the final 20:16, which gave me an overall average speed of 19.26 miles per hour for 64.3 miles. That’s my second-fastest rally this year, behind only Cleburne (19.75 miles per hour). As expected, I’m getting stronger as the season progresses.

The riding was especially hard during the final hour. At first, I chalked it up to fatigue, wind, dehydration, hills, and rough roads—the usual suspects. But near the finish, I looked down at my front brake pads. Damn! One of them was rubbing my wheel. I have no idea how long this had been going on, or how it happened. I always adjust the brake pads at the start of a rally. I hope to hell it wasn’t rubbing the entire way, because that means I was working much harder than I should have been. I do know that my average heart rate was as high as it’s been all year: 129 beats per minute. My maximum was 150. From now on, I check my brake pads after every rest stop! By the way, this isn’t something that happens only to amateurs. Lance Armstrong discovered during a mountain stage of the Tour de France that his brake pads were rubbing.

All in all, I had fun and stayed safe. That’s the name of the game. I hope you had (or have) an enjoyable weekend.