I’ve gone a bit full tilt the past few weekends, trying to make up for lost time on the bike. This weekend was no different as I joined the annual Great Austin to Shiner Pedal, where you start in Austin, head southeast toward the little town of Shiner and stop 100 miles later, where you’re greeted with a cup of Shiner beer and live music. The ride used to actually have three routes: one group would come in from Austin, one from San Antonio and a third from Houston – and Shiner sits right in the middle, about 100-miles from each city.
Spoiler: We made it!!!
It’s probably a good thing they whittled it down to just one route because it was PACKED. I started my day a few minutes late and spent the first 30-minutes trying to scoot around packs 5-bikes across. If you want to treat the day as a training ride, you’re going to have to get there early. Or even start a minute or two before the official start of the day so you don't have to deal with the crowds.
The funny thing about the ride is that because it’s such an event (and because there is beer involved), all sorts of people you probably wouldn’t see headed out for a 100-mile bike were joining in. Some highlights include:
- Two guys wearing full-length jeans
- Khaki cargo pants
- Bike Cruiser
- 2 kids who couldn’t be older than 15, riding with their dads
- Plenty of Bike baskets
- Guy wearing an aero helmet, earphones in, texting while riding (in a pack)
It was a MESS.
After moseying through the crowds, I was able to join a group to ride with from mile twenty or so through 35. While it was nice to occasionally sit in the back for wind relief, it was frustrating because I wanted to earn my day out there. So I was taking lots of pulls at the front—I think at one point there were 13 or 14 people hitched on but only a handful of us rotating through to lead. Again, it was just frustrating because I knew I was working too hard when I went to the front (HR in upper 160s) but then it was way too easy in the back (130s). It was one of those days where I wish I had my powermeter to compare watts versus speed depending on where you were sitting in the draft. Eventually I used a hill to surge and make a break and amazingly (or because they peeled off to an aid station probably), I never saw the group again.
And the rest of the day was just beautiful. There was a quick pitstop at mile 60 (where I squealed when seeing the new PowerBar flavors were available) and then again in a teeny town at mile 90 because I missed the mystery pizza stop (probably for the best) and the peanut butter sandwiches sounded spot-on after 5-hours of only gel.
You roll through the finish chute, hand off your bike to the loaded up in the trucks that head back to Austin and they hand you a beer.
After the initial celebration, you then you have the option to go shower in one of the portable shower trucks on location (probably the most luxurious perk a race can have, IMO).
And then you have hours of live music, drinks, food and every few minutes they take visitors on through the brewery for a very cool tour. For example, these giant copper brewing vats are still in use from when the brewery was opened back in 1912. They also have another area for fermentation and while I can't remember every detail about the brewing process, they manufacture something crazy like 635 bottles/minute.
The final kicker of the ride is that everyone gets 4 free drink passes to sample everything Shiner has to offer.
Let me do the math for you: 100 miles + 4 beers + gorgeous day = tired, sunburned and drunk.
It also makes for a great day.