Before I left for training last Sunday, I had intended to get in an afternoon ride in Houston. I mapped it out using a Houston Bikeways map as a reference, and managed to find a route that originated from our temporary home and which traveled along bike lanes for 90% of the route. Due to weather and other commitments, I didn't get to ride the route that week. After an almost 2 week hiatus, I decided to ride it Sunday.
Unfortunately, I hadn't been feeling well. On Friday, I had a grilled chicken breast from a restaurant in the Tampa airport. I won't give the name, but let's call it "T.G.I. Stomach Cramps". My stomach was in lockdown Friday night, and this continued until late Saturday night. I got up Sunday morning to ride, put on my new Crocs Prepair slides (thanks cousin!) and kit, then prepped for the ride. Stomach cramps were gone, but as you can see, leg hair was not. Obviously, I've been lazy for the last 2 weeks.
I headed out on the route shown below. I knew that the route contained a wide mix of paths, including: heavily travelled, multi-lane streets, industrial routes without bike lanes, residential streets, and a few sections without bike lanes. Even though the mix seemed less than optimal due to the necessity of stop signs and signals, it was the best loop route I could find.
I headed out about 6:45a. It was light enough that I felt comfortable leaving the headlight at home, but I did use my taillight. The first mile or so of the ride did not have a bike lane. I travelled along Briar Forest, and hammered up to 21-23mph so that I could quickly reach the section that included a bike lane. From there, the next 8 miles or so all had a bike lane. Unfortunately, the bike lane was often muddy, wet, dirty, or filled with cracks and potholes. I frequently found myself using the lane, but did so safely. I eventually reached a park just north of I-10 on Kirkwood, with a bike path that followed Addicks Dam. The entry was blocked to car traffic, and the path was smooth and well marked. It was a great riding surface, although there was a little too much human and dog traffic for really fast cycling.
It didn't last long, and a few minutes later I was on the worst street of the loop: Britmoore Road. Britmoore is full of potholes, repaired potholes, debris, and has no bike lane. It travels through an industrial area, and I was passed a few times by service trucks that seemed to be in a big hurry for a Sunday. I'll have to find a way to get around Britmoore on the next ride.
The route continued on to Clay Road, and it was a pleasant surprise. The bike lane was smooth, the traffic was fairly light, and it was smooth sailing all the way to 290. When I saw 290, I realized I had missed my turn, which should have been Blalock. I turned around, and instead of riding back to Blalock, which has a bike lane, I turned on Bingle, and headed south.
Next time, I won't travel on Bingle. It had more traffic than I'm comfortable riding with, had no bike lane, and it was the only time during the ride where a car honked at me. I rode through nice neighborhoods into the Memorial area, then picked up Memorial heading west. Although Memorial doesn't have a bike lane, it is heavily used by cyclists, and I felt comfortable spinning along at 20+mph.
As I neared home, I stopped to take a photo of my bike and a street sign:
This was taken on Bunker Hill near Memorial. There is a very nice, wide sidewalk along the road, but it's just not feasible to ride a road bike on it. It has too many transitions, drainage grates, and foot traffic. My morning jog route uses this path, but I frequently see runners IN THE ROAD because they don't want to deal with the grade changes, cracks, etc. In fact, this morning I saw a dude running BACKWARDS in the street. I guess I should petition the local government to put up signs that say "Pedestrians on Roadway Prohibited".
Overall, it was a great ride. As usual, my Garmin puked, so I guess I'll finally send it in for warranty repair. Based on my frequent checks of speed and cadence, my guess is I was able to ride at 20+mph during periods of sustained effort. My stomach issues did not drag me down at all. I was nervous a few times during the urban ride, but overall, the loop route was a good one that I will probably tweak slightly and then ride again.