Today I was back out on my bike for a longer ride (2 hours and 35 minutes). Yesterday it was rainy, windy, and cold, but this was more than made up for by the weather we had today: cool in the morning but perfectly sunny, and by midday the temperature was up to 8 degrees Celsius. On my short ride last week I made a first attempt at some hills on my bike, which helped me to scout out a route and give me confidence today to get properly into the small mountains that border Heidelberg. I set out along the Neckar down to Ziegelhausen, which provided a nice warm-up, and then went up over the mountain past Wilhelmsfeld and then down the other side to Schriesheim. This constituted the first 20kms of the ride, after which I did loops on the flats around Ladenburg, Dossenheim, and Schriesheim until about the 60km mark, when I headed back down to Heidelberg. I’ve put maps of my route (standard and satellite) above.
The climb, which ascended steadily up switchbacks from 120m to 506m in about 6kms, was harder than I expected: the steady nature of the incline over the distance had me working hard towards the middle and top. But the treat of riding through the forest with sun shining was all the motivation I needed (that and the fact that I knew I would get some rest heading downhill on the other side). I was generally pleased with my splits on the flats after the descent (the hill didn’t take everything out of my legs) and overall had a really enjoyable ride. This part of the world truly provides superb terrain for training on the bike, and it’s amazing how the time flies when out on a sunny day. The only minor annoyances today were some construction and traffic at various points (low down on the initial climb, in Schriesheim, and then heading back into Heidelberg), which made for some slow sections, but on the whole mid-afternoon is really a great time to get out with respect to traffic.
The downhill section was also quite a treat today. I didn’t take it too fast, but I think that it gave me some good practice with bike handling, and the scenery on the way down the mountain was as gorgeous as that on the way up (although there was less time to take it in). There is still a lot to improve on the bike, from both a fitness and a technique perspective, but when I look back at where I was eight weeks ago, I feel I’ve made a lot of progress. I’m now feeling much more confident in handling my bike on the roads, and therefore am getting out on good routes and really enjoying my time out there (better weather is no doubt helping as well). I also doubt that I could have completed today’s climb even a few weeks ago: the winter cycling classes have been improving my leg strength and stamina. I’ll undoubtedly hit a plateau on the bike sometime soon, but I’m hoping that, at whatever incline, it will continue to be an upward path.