Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling - What's the appeal of organized endurance cycling?
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Earlier this week I thought a lot about signing up for a 210-km endurance ride in southern Taiwan in October. My one-day record for distance is about 185 km, and that included a number of hills (not that high, but still), whereas this ride hugs the coast and is flat all the way, so I'm pretty sure I could handle the distance.
But then I thought, what would be the point? Given that it's a challenge, not a race, why bother doing it in a group at all? Wouldn't I get the same sense of accomplishment and have more fun riding the same distance by myself? I don't care about the certificate or the bragging rights, I just want the joy of overcoming pain to achieve a goal that I find meaningful. I want to be able to say to myself with surprise and delight, "I did it."
What I don't want is to leave at 4:30 in the morning and ride in a huge group of people along a route that I didn't choose. I don't want to feel like I can't stop and rest whenever I want to. I don't want to put up with weird looks from people wondering why I'm riding a cyclocross bike with fenders and front and rear racks in an endurance challenge.
So I'm wondering, does this make me antisocial? Not wanting to race is one thing, but it seems only natural that I should want to be part of a community of cyclists who also like to challenge themselves, right? I've just never enjoyed riding with other people. I feel like I can't ride at my own pace, can't stop when I want to, can't go where I want to go, can't choose what time I want to start.
I'd really love to hear others perspectives on this. Why do you do endurance events?
It's nice to do something with people sometimes. It's nice to share a common experience. And other people can challenge and push and interest me in many ways ... by encouraging me to ride faster, by showing me a variety of cycling equipment, by giving me ideas of what else is possible.
In my earlier days of long distance, riding a couple organised events each year introduced me to roads I hadn't ridden before ... new routes I could ride again later on my own. The weekend after one particular organised century, I went out and rode 200 km on much of the route, at my own pace, so I could take a closer look at it. Organised events also give me an excuse to go new places. I've often travelled some distance to ride an event.
When I was at my peak with long distance cycling, most of my rides were solo ... including double centuries and longer rides. And I was doing a lot of riding. So it was really nice to ride with other people once in a while rather than all by myself all of the time. In fact, in 2003 when I was preparing for the PBP, I even joined a cycletouring group so I could ride with people somewhat more often ... I'd cycle to their events (maybe 50 km), cycle with them on the events (maybe 75 km), and then cycle home by myself (50 km) for a good day's riding.
One of the reasons my long distance cycling went into a bit of a slump was because I moved to another province, and there almost all my randonneuring event ended up being solo. So I was riding solo much of the time in preparation for the events, and then I was riding the events solo too. And I really started to lose interest. My most enjoyable events during that time were riding with the two local cycletouring groups, where I could ride with a group of other cyclists.
And yes, riding organised events can be restrictive ... but it's a bit of variety. It's something different from the usual. I wouldn't want to do an organised event every weekend, but a handful of times each year can be really good.
09-07-12, 01:23 PM
I like doing the organized events for a number of reasons, and I'm really anti-social.
I like that they provide the map/cue sheet, road markings, support, and food at the rest stops. I like doing their routes, as my own routes tend to get boring, even if they are quieter or more challenging. Or the organized event will be someplace I've never ridden, or seldom ride, so it's really nice to see new countryside, knowing that I will be riding a prescribed distance. On my own, in new territory, I will likely have no idea how far or how long any route would take.
I like that they often have photographers there, and they put photos up on their web site that I can download and put into my collection.
And being anti-social, I can choose to interact or not with the other riders, so the group aspect is really secondary.
09-07-12, 02:34 PM
I do endurance events for many of the same reasons lbernhardt stated - some of the same ones too, no doubt...
There are more things to think about when you're by yourself. I did a 360km ride alone a few weeks back (over the Coquihalla to Kamloops for anyone in the area) and it went fine, but you have to think about food and water a little more. There's the possibility of some catastrophic failure that could leave you stranded - with an organized ride you generally have some amount of bail out.
The ride had its own appeal, but generally I prefer the organized rides. You always have the option to not socialize, or not use the support, but if you change your mind it's there if you want it or, unfortunately, need it.
09-07-12, 03:01 PM
I tend to ride solo more than with groups for some of the same reasons as the OP. Otoh, I don't ride solo or not based on the distance involved. For me, the distance has little or nothing to do with whether I'm soloing.
FWIW, whether on a brevet or an organized ride, I DO stop whenever I want to for whatever reason I want. Doesn't matter if I'm with others or riding solo. It's always MY ride.:thumb:
09-07-12, 04:47 PM
If by organized rides one means a ride one pays an outside group for I've only done 3 or 4. The Light House Century, The Grand Tour (Double century) and the Land Rush (Back to back Doubles). Did the Grand Tour one other time as a volunteer a week after the main ride.
What I got in all cases was some support if needed and some nice rest stops with food. Oh and routes well scouted by someone else. For the Land Rush that meant food and water out in the middle of nowhere.
I've done several club rides where all that is provided is a route slip. Longest 160 miles. Again getting a route is valuable.
09-07-12, 04:55 PM
around here, randonneuring events are fairly cheap. It's nice to ride with other people, even if you only get to see them at stops. I get to ride on roads in areas I don't know. In fact, some of the longer rides from Eastern PA have shown me better roads out where I live -- now that's a long ride.
I go out by myself on long rides, but it just isn't the same.
09-07-12, 11:50 PM
On a normal brevet, we'll have some people riding in a group, we'll have some people riding solo ahead of the group or behind the group. I enjoy riding with other people, but if you don't, that's okay, too. It doesn't mean you have to skip the ride just because other people are riding.
Thanks for the responses, guys!
One thing that stands out to me is how different it feels being an expat in a foreign country. I speak Chinese and get along with Taiwanese people just fine, but it's still pretty hard to make friends. People from the same country tend to have more in common.
Also, the "new route" thing has no appeal in a country as small as Taiwan. I've ridden virtually all the good cycling routes in the Taipei area and most of the major ones elsewhere, and I have a small set of cycling maps that covers the whole island. It's not like an event is going to introduce me to a road I've never seen before. On top of that, this particular series of events (NeverStop, it's called in English) tends to be very well attended. I think I'd prefer a smaller, less organized event, but there aren't many of those here. Taiwan is about the size of Massachusetts and Connecticut put together, with a population of 23 million.
Drmweaver2, I like what you said about how it's always your ride. Maybe I should sign up for the next event and just ride it my own way. It wouldn't hurt to try, right? On the other hand, I may wait till I finish my master's thesis and move back to the States.
One last thought: I do think it would be useful to get to know some long-distance cyclists so I could learn more about how to handle long rides. I'm still fairly new to "serious" cycling, and I often find myself with questions about clothing or gear that no one I know seems to be able to answer. This forum is pretty awesome for that, but it's still not the same as face-to-face interaction.
I tend to steer clear of rides than have more than, say, 50 riders. Certainly, I won't ride in the big charity and challenge rides with thousands. For me (and this is a personal opinion only) the risks of unskilled riders around you and the high concentration level required is just too much. With around 50 riders -- a good sized randonnee Australia -- you know the groups will split fairly quickly into smaller ones that are more manageable for both the riders and other road users.
In addition, there is a chance that if you are a slower rider and you get into catered checkpoints towards the back of the pack, you might be lucky to get a few crumbs off the table and the dregs out of the drinks coolers. That might be an exaggeration... or not. It depends on how well the organisers have organised their food and drinks. But frontrunners in these events take no prisoners when stuffing food into their jerseys.
The parts of Taiwan we saw down the east coast when we were there several months ago looked like nice riding. And although we didn't get up into the mountains, I can imagine they would be quite challenging. But I also gather that as an expat bicycle enthusiast, you probably have explored many of the roads.
But then, I wouldn't mind covering them again, based on what we saw (I regret we didn't get much further south than Hualien, but we weren't feeling particularly well on that part of the trip).
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