Originally Posted by shumacher
I'm posting because I'm possessed of a handful of misgivings, and I'd love to hear from those experienced in these matters:
- Am I expected to ride at a particular rate? What if it takes me four hours? Four and a half? Five?
- Is the ride competitive? Will I be out of place for being out of shape? My gut doesn't eclipse my belt, but I'm clearly a few pounds over my ideal.
- I'd imagine the route is very crowded. How do you manage riding that close to that many people - without having a dozen cycling friends to help you practice?
- Where I live, there are no hills. Is the 40 mile Austin route likely to be hilly?
- What kind of support is provided? Can water and restrooms be found at regular intervals along the route?
- Is there a good book on the subject that you would recommend?
- How helpful is the LAF fundraising support?
1. You can ride at whatever pace you need to on any organized ride. Sometimes they'll have a deadline to be off the course as this is when their support (SAG) will most likely stop doing their rounds. Usually it's late in the day, so if you start at 7am, SAG usually ends around 5 pm or so (remember there are 100 mile riders out there too, some of whom will need all day to complete.
2. Organized rides are not competitive, however they always seem to start off at a quick pace - but that doesn't mean you have to follow. Ride at your pace and no one elses as they're meant to be fun and enjoyed. I saw a guy with a prosthetic leg getting on his bike for the 40 mile ride last year in philly... people of all shapes and sizes do organized rides since they're for everyone.
3. Riding in groups takes some getting used to, but depending on the ride, they tend to thin out as people set their own pace. Just remember not to panic and don't make any sudden moves if you're in a large group and you'll be fine. If it concerns you, find a local club that you can ride in a group with a couple times before hand - they all usually have group rides for people of all skill levels. If you do, just let them know you've never been in a group before and ask if there's anything you should know.
4. The 40 mile route may be posted already on the LAF website. Check there. Usually the shorter rides (10, 40) aren't too hilly, but be prepared for some hills for sure. Practice riding up any hills you can find (even drive somewhere to find them if you need to), spinning a lower gear will get you up without burning out your leg muscles too soon. Hills will also help make you stronger (the body is capable of more than the mind thinks it can
5. Rest stops on the LAF rides are plentiful (every 10 or 15 miles I think) and I believe they all have restrooms (portajohns), food, water, energy drinks, etc... it's a fully supported ride. There is also SAG (support and gear) that will drive a long the route looking for people in need of mechanical support, rides back (if you can't finish for any reason), etc...
6. LAF is very helpful. If you're signed up already, you should get a call or email from a mentor in your area that can help with any other questions you have if you're a first time rider. LAF rides attract a TON of people, so know that you're not the only one out there for their first try.
Have fun and enjoy it too!
EDIT: Route description for Austin:
I'd suggest going on a couple rides in the 30 mile range before the ride, just so you can be sure that you know how much food and drink you need when the day comes. Nothing is worse than not eating properly and bonking on the big day.