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My first group ride after years of riding solo

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

My first group ride after years of riding solo

Old 08-21-08, 06:55 PM
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My first group ride after years of riding solo

Warning: I wrote this for my literary blog; I am a novelist and wordsmith in general by trade, so in this blog I am always trying to explain things in new or different ways; things you wouldn't normally see. So, I went on my first group ride after two years of riding and posted my results.

If you like straightforward, short stories, stop reading now. You've been warned. I completely understand.

These are written for people who know nothing about cycling, so forgive some of the over-explanation to a group that is obviously much better than me. It also may sound like (at times) I am full of myself.. but I was only trying to describe the competitive attitude that sparked in me while riders took breaks, so I'd like to officially say that the majority of the riders on the QLS group were much much better than me in every way, shape and form.

With no further..:

[blog entry]
So today I'm going to tell you about my weekend.
I have been an avid road cyclist for about eight months, and before that I road a bit of a "hybrid" between a road and regular bicycle for about a year and a half.

Right now, I usually average (when alone) about 18 miles an hour. I ride 10 miles every morning, can sprint up to 30.3 mph, and regularly do 50-70 mile rides on weekends.

I'm not ready to race or anything; I'm what you'd call "Mediocre" at this sport. But after a lot of beer and a night of spending way too much money upgrading my bike with my buddy Pablo the Bike Mechanic, I finally decided that I should try joining a group ride and maybe even meet a friend.

I've been riding alone for so long because I'm sort of a loner; that's a big part of the reason I got into the sport in the first place - to turn Houston into less of a stifling place where there is always someone in a car in front of me deciding when I get to stop and go.

Maybe we're like tigers. If you put 200 tigers into ten square miles in an attempt to repopulate them, within a year you'd have one left. One tiger needs about ten square miles of space in order to operate correctly. Maybe you just can't stick six million people in ten square miles.

Maybe metropolis lifestyle is a bad idea made worse by too many people.

So, I showed up bright and early to the group ride; about 45 people there. I have one of the cheapest bikes, most everyone is between the age of 25 and 55. You can still be a really goddamn good cyclist at 55, especially since these guys tend to be riding $10,000+ bikes/gear, and I'm riding on about $1800's worth.

The group takes off. There are a few terms you need to digest to understand a bike "group ride."

Everyone rides in a straight line, about two to three feet behind the person in front of them. Sometimes you are going (at least on this particular ride) between 26-30 mph, each. As long as you are behind someone else, you are "drafting," which means that all wind resistance is blocked and you are about 30-40% faster than you would be if you were either

1) in front of the line.
or
2) fall off the back of the line

So, because you are sticking in such a close line and riding so tightly together, communication is key. You are forced to think like one unit; one pack, if you will.

Why?

Because if the third guy in the line misses a pothole and falls, twenty other people also going 24 MPH and wearing nothing but spandex are going to not only run over him, but also fly off their own bikes, causing everything between death and extremely expensive bike repairs - not to mention having to spend months away from riding our precious bikes. So, it is intense.

On to the mechanics: when you are tired of leading, or "Pulling" the group (being in front), you just slide out to the left and go to the back of the line to recover. Using this method, everyone has the opportunity to "Pull" and then rest from it, letting a pack of cyclists travel much faster and more efficiently than a single cyclist. Having never ridden with other cyclists, I had no idea how I would compare or hold up.

It is good that you are rested when it becomes your turn to pull, because you are also setting the pace for the entire group. If the fastest guy in the line is pulling, he can set the pace at 24 mph and that is as fast as the rest of the group can go (although they are trying at it considerably less due to the drafting effect.)

I pulled once; at about 21 mph.

Let me describe the sensation in a series of two-word phrases:

Holy ****, leading pack
Must push, must prove
battling wind
exhausted body
primed mind
eat coal
**** ash
wind always wins
I barely managed to hold on to the back; soon I was about ten feet behind the last guy in the group I was hanging and in real danger of falling off and being left behind by the group.

Somewhere, I dug deep and managed to just get onto the drafting line and suck the wheel of the second-to-last guy. Here's what that felt like, in three-word phrases:
About to lose

You can't quit
battery acid veins
stomach eating itself
can't lose them
I'm almost there.

I managed to stay caught up. I didn't pull again until we broke into a race later on, so I rested up for the next ten miles.

This was about 30 miles into a 50 mile ride.

But I underestimated myself. At around mile 40, some of the more fit guys started playing around. The group is nice, but if they know that you know the way home (I did, and told them so) and you only have ten miles to go, they will leave you behind. Also there are stop signs every five miles or so where we were riding, so that gives people you "drop" a chance to pick up.

So the faster guys started playing around at about mile 40, on the longest loan stretch of road on the entire ride. Turns out I had some reserves left too; I've ridden this road 100 times. I know it by heart. There's a miniature pony farm, and because of the way the sign is written, I always like to picture that the farm itself is tiny and adorable, while the ponies are pony sized.

that experience in phrases increasing by size in one word each time, starting at six:

It's about time to face em
Screw my legs; gaining ground, screw drafting
teeth not tired so I'll bite your tires
turn you upside down and leave a crater
*gasp* size of the Tunguska meteorite *gasp* -****, i give up

Managed to stay in the top 5 guys, but never took the lead. There were most definitely some people riding there who were better than me in every way, shape, or form.

Mainly because I lack shape and form, and most of them weren't playing in the break-away race game out of choice.

But I'll be back until I can beat them all.

Last edited by KidTruth; 08-21-08 at 07:30 PM.
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Old 08-21-08, 07:05 PM
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I've never had any interest in group rides, but I kind of do now . Very descriptive - I liked it
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Old 08-21-08, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by KidTruth View Post
So, I showed up bright and early to the group ride; about 45 people there. I have one of the cheapest bikes, most everyone is between the age of 25 and 55. You can still be a really goddamn good cyclist at 55, especially since these guys tend to be riding $10,000+ bikes/gear, and I'm riding on about $1800's worth.
I like the story, but I don't like that you are perpetuating the idea that those guys are trying to buy their performance with equipment. In my experience, the old guys have the most expensive equipment because they have the most money!
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Old 08-21-08, 10:06 PM
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Originally Posted by umd View Post
I like the story, but I don't like that you are perpetuating the idea that those guys are trying to buy their performance with equipment. In my experience, the old guys have the most expensive equipment because they have the most money!
Ditto. Interesting read, but in addition to what umd said, some of those 50 year old riders might have a couple hundred thousand miles under their belt from over the years, compared to your two years of riding, which might contribute to why they are pretty damned good riders. (Forty three year old guy on $5,000 worth of bike speaking here )
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Old 08-21-08, 10:09 PM
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Originally Posted by umd View Post
I like the story, but I don't like that you are perpetuating the idea that those guys are trying to buy their performance with equipment. In my experience, the old guys have the most expensive equipment because they have the most money!
I agree with you UMD, and I respect your post as one of the most helpful/experienced riders/writers I see on this board. You and Waterrockets, anyway... and of course pcad and botto.. anyway.

I didn't mean to imply that these guys were what we'd call "poseurs".. just that they were in retirement and had 10x as much expendable cash as me, and that gives me a handicap...because I'm riding a bike that is mostly aluminum, I feel more proud that I can keep up. You're right though, it is just another excuse.
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Old 08-21-08, 10:22 PM
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Originally Posted by KidTruth View Post
Warning: I wrote this for my literary blog; I am a novelist and wordsmith in general by trade

Do they pay you by the word?

You must have missed the course on being concise.
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Old 08-21-08, 10:45 PM
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Originally Posted by KidTruth View Post
I agree with you UMD, and I respect your post as one of the most helpful/experienced riders/writers I see on this board. You and Waterrockets, anyway... and of course pcad and botto.. anyway.

I didn't mean to imply that these guys were what we'd call "poseurs".. just that they were in retirement and had 10x as much expendable cash as me, and that gives me a handicap...because I'm riding a bike that is mostly aluminum, I feel more proud that I can keep up. You're right though, it is just another excuse.
Thanks. Don't think of it as a handicap. There are many benefits of nice equipment, but performance is only a very small part of that. Be proud that you could keep up, but don't let the bikes cloud things.

Originally Posted by Biking_Lawyer View Post
Do they pay you by the word?

You must have missed the course on being concise.
That was a little harsh. It wasn't that wordy for something not intended for cyclists. He did a reasonable job with some of the imagrey, painting a picture of "the scene" for the uninitiated.
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Old 08-21-08, 11:09 PM
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I liked the part about the miniature pony farm.
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Old 08-21-08, 11:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Biking_Lawyer View Post
Do they pay you by the word?

You must have missed the course on being concise.
This from a lawyer?
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Old 08-21-08, 11:17 PM
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Originally Posted by halfspeed View Post
This from a lawyer?

^^^HAHAHAHA

...no respect
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Old 08-21-08, 11:20 PM
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I've never been on a group ride either so this was very helpful. And that comment on being concise could have been left out. It's that kind of rudeness that takes the enjoyment out of internet forums. Great post. I'm ready for a group ride now!
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Old 08-21-08, 11:33 PM
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Originally Posted by halfspeed View Post
This from a lawyer?
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Old 08-22-08, 12:00 AM
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Originally Posted by halfspeed View Post
This from a lawyer?
Has no one a sense or irony or sarcasm?
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Old 08-22-08, 06:27 AM
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Biking Lawyer

Oddly enough, I'm a paralegal by trade.. so I'm very used to the practices of your ilk =p

No hard feelings, it is a bit wordy at places - especially if you have ridden in a line before yourself.
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Old 08-22-08, 06:35 AM
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pulling too hard and falling off the back. good times man. nice report. later.
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Old 08-22-08, 07:11 AM
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Originally Posted by KidTruth View Post
Warning: I wrote this for my literary blog; I am a novelist and wordsmith in general by trade, so in this blog I am always trying to explain things in new or different ways; things you wouldn't normally see. So, I went on my first group ride after two years of riding and posted my results.

If you like straightforward, short stories, stop reading now. You've been warned. I completely understand.

These are written for people who know nothing about cycling,
KidTruth's manifesto is purportedly "literary" and not necessarily targeted to the regular forum readers.

Yet it is clear to anyone who spends even a few minutes a day browsing this forum that many of the regular posters are expert writers (you know who you are) who often inject literary flair into their posts, effortlessly at at times. KidTruth: send your readers to this forum if they want to learn about road cycling.


Originally Posted by Biking_Lawyer View Post
Do they pay you by the word?

You must have missed the course on being concise.
Concision in fiction is a wonderful thing. (see James Salter)

One of my motivations for coming here every day is simply to study the various writing styles and enjoy reading the authors.

KidTruth: thanks for posting your impressions.
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Old 08-22-08, 07:21 AM
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Nice read. I'm pretty much a solo rider too. I hooked up with the big boys this past Tuesday night and did everything I could to hang with them. At one point my heart rate was 171 and I was still hanging with them. I managed 8 miles before I got dropped but it was a lot of fun seeing these guys tear up the road. Plus I learned a lot riding with them. That's what I took away more than anything is what I can learn from better riders while trying to not cause too many problems.

As for sarcasm...it sure would be nice if there was a font that denotes sarcasm.
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Old 08-22-08, 07:25 AM
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Originally Posted by whiplashsmile View Post
As for sarcasm...it sure would be nice if there was a smiley that denotes sarcasm.
Fixed that for you
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Old 08-22-08, 07:47 AM
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Your post was very descriptive to someone who has not been in a group ride. I think we have all been at the back and watching the group slipping away after validating our selfworth to the group's effort on our first pull. You really hit the mark on that one. Why no comments about spitting, eating an drinking? To someone not familiar with group rides those vital activities shouldn't be omitted.
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Old 08-22-08, 02:06 PM
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Good points, all. When I said I wrote this to be literary, I meant that I'm a published novelist and a professional writer, is all. I know there are a lot of talented/masterful writers around these parts.

As for nutrition - a small bottle of hydrade in my back pocket, a 30 oz. full of water, and a 30 oz full of emergen-C and water. Stopped and ate a "fast break", some candy bar crap, at the 25 mile mark.. will definitely go for a Cliff bar or something next time; got the one I did because I was last in line and was rushing, not really thinking. Right after I ate that mound of chocolate I was pulling, BTW, which did not help.

Edit: To add to the nutrition thing, I should mention that even though we hit the road at 7:30 AM, we're in Houston, TX.. so by the end of the ride it is still 95 degrees with a 80% humidity, so we tend to drink a lot more water while we ride than those north of us.
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Old 08-22-08, 02:12 PM
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Enjoyed the story. Especially the part about pulling too hard and worrying about losing the train. I've been there.

(One nit to pick in the first paragraph: you rode (past tense of to ride) your road bike. Not road your road bike.)
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Old 08-22-08, 02:13 PM
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Ahh jeez. It always comes down to gear doesn't it? They are older than you. They have better jobs, more money and more years riding and suffering on the bike.

I would be willing to bet that if you were on an R3 and they were all on Huffys the outcome would be the same. Take your whoopins, ride hard, train hard and work hard so that you can become a fast old man on a stupidly expensive bike.
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Old 08-22-08, 02:15 PM
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Hehe, good find Caloso.

Munky:
I know they are better riders than me.. I mentioned it several times in the article, if you read all the words.
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Old 08-22-08, 02:19 PM
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Originally Posted by KidTruth View Post
Hehe, good find Caloso.

Munky:
I know they are better riders than me.. I mentioned it several times in the article, if you read all the words.
I know. I did. I'm not trying to come across as a d*ck. I often do without meaning too. Sorry.

I'm just saying...
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Old 08-22-08, 02:24 PM
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houstonite here too. I know how you feel. My preference is to ride solo, as well. I don't like following other people. I like having time by myself to think, but every now and then I use a group ride to see how I'm doing.

I finally grabbed a ride two weeks ago that was just like what you described. I have a long way to go.

Let's ride sometime.
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