Thursday, September 9, 2010

Maybe Next Year

I may have mentioned before that over the summer I had been considering joining some women's training rides that a local cycling team offers to the public. Well, the summer is gone and I never did get up the nerve to join the rides. Now that the window of opportunity has officially closed until next year, I feel tinges of regret. I see the local teams training on the same exact routes I ride, and I catch myself staring at them with longing. Could that have been me, had I only joined the rides a month or two ago?

But then I mentally smack myself and return to reality: No, that could not have been me. Because there is a world of a difference between merely being able to ride a roadbike and racing.

As an academic I get annoyed when acquaintances, having spent a coupe of hours on wikipedia reading about the subject in which I hold a doctorate, decide that they are now experts in it and insist on debating some issue which they do not properly understand. So of course it's funny to catch myself being a hypocrite and exhibiting the same attitude towards cycling. Yes, I like the idea of training rides. But if I can't even ride with clipless pedals and have zero experience cycling in a group, the reality is that it is simply too early to be joining training rides and imagining myself on a team.

So... Maybe next year. Or maybe never. I am not a competitive person and am not usually drawn to anything that involves groups or teams - so it is rather mysterious that something like this would even interest me. Maybe by the time next year rolls around, it will all pass. In the meanwhile, let's see what the next three months of (hopefully) perfect cycling weather will bring.

25 comments:

  1. In my experience, the best time to join a group is in the Fall/Winter months because they will lkely slow down a bit for long, slow endurance rides. In the spring the pace starts picking up. and unless you've been riding with them in the winter it's more difficult to stay with the group. On the other hand, if they have multiple pace groups, you might be okay joining in the spring.

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  2. In the mainwhile you still dreaming of winning the Tour de France :-).

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  3. if you feel that you haven't had enough experience (groups, clipless, etc), i wonder whether it is worth considering joining more casual groups first, and slowly gaining experience before going full steam ahead with race training? just a thought, given the reservations you've mentioned.

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  4. Laura - These training rides are only open to non-team members May - August. They do have multiple paced groups though. The way I understand it, those who get good enough during these rides can choose to join the team.

    somervillain - That would make sense, wouldn't it! But somehow I just don't see myself doing it. It's either lone wolf randonneuring or racing, but the social ride stuff does not appeal to me.

    anna - Thankfully, I have much more modest ambitions than that. But I did watch Breaking Away over the summer : )

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  5. Velouria: A cyclist's enemies have these names: "Coulda," "Woulda" and "Shoulda." Don't flagellate yourself over what you haven't done. Think about how and why you want to ride, and go wherever your inclinations take you. Since you don't want to race, the best schedule for developing as a cyclist is your own. If you want to start riding with the team, go for it. If not, they (or some other team or similar group) will be there when you're ready.

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  6. I know you said you did not like the social riding scene, so the club riding sounds like it's out, but it is a good way to scout out new riding locales. Doesn't even have to be social, could just be you and the cohabitant riding with a bunch of other riders. The centuries are always fun anyway and it feels like an accomplishment, at least to me. Charles River Wheelmen and Narragansett Bay Wheelmen both have a good series of rides and there is also Mass Bay Road Club and they are more geared toward racing. I know, I know, you already said you are not into the social riding, but they might be worth checking out for routes.

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  7. How about L'Eroica? Seems like just the thing, a race for some, for others a personal challenge.

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  8. I agree with Justine, personally. Though I also completely understand the dream of riding with a group. I am not an individual who would necessarily enjoy the idea of "racing" though, and while I do enjoy my lone rides through the middle of nowhere, the thought of competing with others somehow makes cycling no longer fun for me. I have no idea why this is because I know that I can be competitive with some things (like board games).

    As others have pointed out, perhaps there are some areas you could check out in the fall/winter months? I'm sure your autumn/winter weather is much different than in Colorado (meaning more snow on the ground in MA), but many keep riding through the winter months here... both competitive cyclists and casual riders. Or, perhaps there is something like the Venus de Miles ride that we had here recently. It wasn't a "race" so much as a group ride for women. It was an incredibly uplifting experience to be a part of so many body types and athletic abilities all riding together. That particular group is a fundraising effort, but I'm certain there must be other such rides all over the country that may or may not include fundraising.

    And, of course, if you end up wanting to race, there is always next year. Plus, you'll have all those months until then to ride and train on your own. :)

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  9. There are clubs for different sorts of riding, where you live there may be a group for relaxed riding, maybe slightly faster, but not "racing". In my town the groups are either racing or excruciatingly slow "chat groups". I'm not a joiner either, but most enjoy riding with a single "other".

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  10. I can understand your urges to get involved with group rides - I've entertained similar notions myself in the past. However, a few years ago, I came to a conclusion which you may or may not empathise with - I love riding primarily for the solitude it brings. In every other area of my life, I am (with the greatest of respect to my friends, colleagues and family) surrounded by people. Why would I want to spoil my bike rides by inviting other people into that elusive 'bliss of solitutde'. Ride on at your own pace. Stop when you want. Walk up the hills if you need to. Be your own captain.

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  11. Years ago I rode mostly as a commuter with the occasional "let's see where this road goes". After being involved in a criterium as a race marshall I thought I would try one of the training sessions held on local roads. Within three pedal strokes I was dropped and never could rejoin the group. I then realized that becoming a competitive rider required more time than I had available.

    I do enjoy being a spectator of road racing but I never was competitive enough to be a racer. I can climb a steep grade and out race a crazed dog but I would rather pedal and observe my surroundings

    Do whatever you are comfortable with, I enjoy the unstructured ride.

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  12. The reasons to race do not have to be because you are competitive and want to beat others. There is "Measurable improvement". Even if you don't race, riding with spirited riders will help you learn control, pace, endurance and tactics/technique for trading leads so as to maximize distance for your expended effort. Join when you're ready, but if you want to ride a track bike on a banked track, even just for pleasure, you are going to need those skills. The measurability will give you some indication of when you are ready. At least when approaching a group by email you will have something you can cite when asking, "Am I ready?"

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  13. With the growing popularity of vintage bikes, and the start of Boston Retro Wheelman. Maybe the Boston Retro Racers would be appropriate?

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  14. Have you checked places like meetup.com for groups? Denver has a huge meetup group where the leaders and members organize rides of all shapes and sizes. Many specifically designated as beginner road rides and such. Might be worth looking to see if anyone is doing this in your neck of the woods.

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  15. I fell into a great group for a few years while living with my parents out in the suburbs north of Toronto.

    I rode my 1963 Legnano amongst the pack of $5-10K carbon fiber bikes, and ended up keeping up just fine!

    If you're capable of riding the routes they ride, go hang out at the "racing" shops, talk with folks, make a friend or two, and at least experience a paceline - even if it's not in a "sanctioned event".

    Having 30 people in front of you breaking the wind, the leader rotating to the back of the pack and fresh legs taking it up every 90 seconds, makes the miles FLY.

    And a century in a group is an awesome thing to do, especially with a stop for lunch.

    You don't have to be "one of them" to go with them, necessarily!

    They all started out somewhere too!

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  16. I'm with Robert Sisson on this one, Yes, the idea is attractive, but then I think to myself, no way do I want to ride with the ignorant, selfish "roadies", they won't even exchange a friendly hello, on the road. I'd much rather look at, and appreciate my surroundings. Velouria, I'm amazed at your post output, and it's always first class.

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  17. Vintage road racing? Maybe the Knutsford Great Race would be more up your street? And best of all you've got a decade to prepare for the next one.

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  18. If you want to join a low key group, there is always the grassroots cyclocross scene. We've found it to be a good fun-loving group ... and if you're not the fastest, nobody cares.

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  19. welshcyclist - In defense of roadies, the local ones have been nothing but nice to me. I've received compliments on my bike, comments about my speed, and was even invited to join pace lines - which I briefly did!

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  20. welshcyclist, I'm a roadie. Posing and emulating the gods takes our complete concentration so excuse us if we don't stop to wave back at the civilians.

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  21. Don't beat yourself up over it. i always do that. I feel bad that none of my bikes are very fast despite my experience, skill and endurance, that I get passed by other riders.... But then they are on little road bikes that are inherently fast,in lycra, carrying nothing so how can I compare myself to them?
    Are the road racers more inclined towards modern fast carbon fibre, titanium, aluminum bikes? Your bikes and aesthetic is more retro old school. I am glad to hear that the cyclists have been supportive of you, but sheesh I get such attitude from some roadies nor do they smile or wave. There are few riders in my neck of the woods. I understand they are into their gear and stuff and that's cool. we're into our gear that's for sure.
    Cycling is more of a personal best sport. Like someone said it is the only time they have alone. I love being alone with my thoughts. I also ride faster alone than when I ride with my husband much to his annoyance. One one hand I'd like to ride with a group, have some social time and improve my speed(if I had the right bike), but then I do have a competitive streak that does me no good.
    Enjoy the fall riding as much as weather allows, work on your speed and see if you still want to do group rides next summer.

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  22. Why all this aggravation because roadies don’t go around smiling and waving at you? Motorists don’t wave to each other (except in North Dakota – “motor on my brutha”), nor do pedestrians salute each other generally. It would be cool if each person who got onto the bus had to run a gauntlet of high fives, but apparently we’re all OK that there is no need for that. But I’m supposed to wave, nod or wiggle my fingers at every cyclist going by on the other side of the road and provide a warm “hello” to everyone I pass, and “have a nice day” at every stoplight.

    I think this yearning for smiles and waves between cycling strangers out there on the streets is because it’s hard for especially adult people in our culture to not feel a little out of place and weird being out there riding a bike and to need some sort of positive feedback and solidarity among peers, like “hey, we are the bikes… pedal onward my brutha/sista”. Most of you are recreational riders, plodders, and a few commute and it’s mostly a solitary existence for you out there. It can be lonely. Well roadies see themselves as the great heroes of the road and are intensely comfortable suffering alone in that fantasy, or traveling in groups of riders who share that fantasy (and “get it” in terms of the aesthetic aspects). They are into their thing and feel no (or not the same) insecurities for it. Many ride with teams or do club rides and races and other events and are used to socializing in this context. In this regard roadies may be more “bike social” and comfortable in their lycra skin than the retro-grouches, commuters and all other civilian subspecies of Freds and Betties combined.

    As for me, I love everyone of course! (though I may not always smile and wave).

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  23. how about doing a few s24o's with some friends in a group? there might be a local vintage cycle group you could join and go on some silly adventures with... http://www.rivbike.com/article/bike_camping/camping_vs_touring

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  24. Interesting that you wrote this post now. Just yesterday I was wondering if you ever decided to try the ladies group rides. I'm sorry to hear that you let the opportunity pass you by.

    For the most part I agree with Phil Miller's post, measurable improvement. One thing to keep in mind is that even "group" riders spend a lot time riding solo. Lately I've been spending more time riding solo or with my son than riding in a group.

    On group rides I do very little socializing. The group that I ride with has a wide variety of skills and goals; very few of whom race. For me, riding with the group has more to do with keeping my group riding skills tuned than anything else. Another plus is that I am usually having to push harder than I would on a solo ride. It has a lot to do with "self" improvement. I want to be a faster rider and develop fine bike handling skills.

    Sure, there are times when I want to race, but right now my goals are not centered around racing. In your post you appear to say that riding in a group is for racers or socializing. Sure, there are those groups, but it has more to do with your goals and I find that there are a wide variety of goals within a group.

    I still believe that you would benefit from riding in a group. It doesn't mean you have to race.

    BTW, I am a roadie. I wave at every cyclist I see. It has been my experience over the years that fewer cyclist wave back. I wonder if it is a generation or regional thing? When a fellow cyclist doesn't wave back I just shake my head and wonder what's up with that?

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  25. Sometimes people feel weird to be the first to "wave," and then don't get enough time to "wave back."

    Other times they are concentrating on something and forget to wave.

    And in some cases I am sure they are antisocial and feel annoyed when people wave at them.

    My friend got a Jeep some time ago and was told by a dealer that all Jeep owners are supposed to wave at each other when they pass by. He tried to do it at first, would even get upset when someone didn't acknowledge his Jeepness.

    I think the whole quasi-knight rituals are silly. If we met a fellow rider once every few hours on a lonely dangerous trail full of enemy soldies waving would probably make more sense.

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