Help me ride like I have wings!
September 26, 2011 9:25 AM   Subscribe

What are the things you'd wish you'd known or done the first time you did the Houston-Austin BP MS 150?

I'm planning on biking the Houston to Austin MS 150 in April.

I've been a pretty avid mountain biker (4-6 times a week; I live less than 2 miles from Memorial Park here in Houston), and have done a few organized charity rides (usually the ~20 mile rides). I have no problem completing 35 miles regularly, and occasionally will put down 50 on decent terrain (as hilly as you can get inside of the Beltway here). I've got a solid, light road bike that fits me well, and a decent amount of gear (and budget to buy most anything I'll need within reason).

So, I'm not starting from complete zero, but this sort of ride is definitely a new experience to me.

Speaking specifically to the Houston to Austin ride, what are some words of wisdom you'd pass on? What are the things that you sorely missed your first time out?
posted by chrisfromthelc to Health & Fitness (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Caveat: I have not done the Houston-Austin MS150, but a lot of my friends have, and I've done a lot of distance riding in the general area of the route.

1. There is an insane amount of aid en route (oranges, bananas, gatorade, water, that sort of thing). They do everything but give you a bicycle to ride. There are also businesses at various points where you could get other stuff. The route will be very heavily patrolled by cops and volunteers on motorcycles.

2. You'll be camping in La Grange, unless that's changed. So make sure you can sleep comfortably after your first day when camping. There will be a stupid amount of food on hand at the campground. There will be some weekend warriors partying all night. Earplugs might be a good idea.

3. If you're only accustomed to riding in Houston, the second day is going to seem pretty hilly.

4. The MS150 has gotten some extreme weather (cold, rain, wind), so be prepared for that.

5. You've got all day, so pace yourself.

6. That said, if you're an experienced rider, it would be a good idea to get a good line position and to set a pretty fast tempo early in the ride, just to get out ahead of the massive clot of inexperienced riders.

7. It should go without saying that you want to make sure your bike is in good repair. I was riding out to intercept a friend coming in on the MS150 and encountered a guy whose freewheel had exploded. Bummer.

8. Riding through the Bastrop area is going to be surreal and sad.
posted by adamrice at 10:55 AM on September 26, 2011

I did it in 2001, which was the last year before they added the Rhodes start. If you're already doing 50s without much effort then you're going to be fine. It's pretty flat, even on the second day and I didn't find it very hard at all. I think I trained more than I needed to. I gave up too many Saturday and Sunday mornings and got a bit burned out on cycling. I haven't done an organized ride since.

I did far too many organized rides in the run-up. If you're not used to moving off or riding in a large crowd do a few of the more popular training rides. You may already be familiar with the language from your previous rides, but this will also serve as a refresher - car back; slowing; stopping; on your left; gravel; etc. I did think that many of the rides in the run up were poorly set up and didn't offer enough support to justify the entry fee for them. Just bring your own stuff and go for a ride somewhere. Driving for an hour and a half out of town to pay $35 to do a 60 miler with 2 rest stops that have run out of stuff before you get there is no fun. From Memorial Park the Houston Bikeways Network can take you a long way on either dedicated trails, bike lanes or marked routes. Google maps has a pretty good interactive version of this network in its cycling directions.

Join one of the big teams if you can. They provide extra support along the way and have better accommodation in La Grange. Note that some teams don't camp at the fairgrounds Most offer things like massages there too. Back when I did it the four largest teams got to set off early. I don't know if they still offer that perk now they have the different starting points, but getting away early and skipping the early rest stops kept us ahead of the bulk of the riders all day.

Plan which rest stops you're stopping at beforehand, (but try to have enough liquids to bypass if it looks crazy). Don't dawdle at rest stops if you can avoid it. Go in, grab what you need, get going. The Tully route's second rest stop is 25 miles out, then the lunch stop is about 25 miles further on. You'll know your own limits, but I'd see no need to stop at the others if you can make those two. If I were starting at Rhodes or Waller lunch would be my first stop.

Having said that, the official lunches were crap and the lines can get long. If you're on a team they may provide a better/faster option, but bring enough cash or a credit card to grab fast food. You'll get in and out quicker and I know my body was pretty grateful for the Wendy's chicken sandwich in Bastrop on day 2.

Have a friend drive out to pitch/pack your tent in La Grange if you're doing the individual camping. Much easier than setting up yourself when you get there. As a non-rider they'll probably enjoy La Grange more than you will, but have them save a couple of beers for you, so you can wander around and enjoy it.
posted by IanMorr at 12:16 PM on September 26, 2011

These are great insights.

I do have an in with a couple of different fully sponsored teams, so I'll be set there as far as camping/meals/transportation goes. Both are small (20-40 riders), but well-backed.

Please keep the wisdom coming!
posted by chrisfromthelc at 3:03 PM on September 26, 2011

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