There’s nothing like a long solo climb to clear the head after a busy week. I skipped out on the Spectrum Group Ride yesterday morning to spend some time with my family. I thought I might not get a ride in but my wife and son headed down for a nap in the afternoon. What to do? I could grab a few hours of down time, even nap, or head out for a solo spin. I chose spin.
It’s been a busy week at work and all my riding has been flat and fast with the local Group Rides so for yesterday I decided to head out to one of my favorite local climbs – Kings Mountain Road (map HERE). Spinning in an easy gear, it takes me a little under 30 minutes to cover just over 4 miles to the top.
I love riding this climb alone. It switchbacks through an old-growth Redwood forest with views of the San Francisco Bay and across to the East Bay. Sometimes when I ride solo on back country roads I’ll listen to music in one ear, but not today. I wanted to be alone with my thoughts and the steady cadence of pedaling and breathing, pedaling and breathing.
And, the trees! Before moving to NorCal, I had never spent any time among the Redwoods. They’re gigantic and breathtaking. As I pedaled around switchbacks, I found myself staring back down the road into the forest searching for the biggest trees. Mammoth and imposing, silent and stoic, possessing hundreds (maybe thousands) of years of history. I worked through my thoughts and got clarity on some issues that bad been eating at me during the week. It was therapy. Emotional, physical, even spiritual therapy.
I got to the summit and looked out over the Pacific some 10 miles below. I collected my thoughts and made a promise to myself to remember the clarity of mind I experienced while climbing when I got back down into the city.
The descent down Rt 84 is rip-roaring. I have to remind myself not to chase cars. I smiled a bit when a car at the top honked behind me before the first corner. Two turns later it was gone. It’s one of those descents where it’s much faster on 2 wheels than behind a wheel. While there’s time to think on a climb and the mind is free to wander, on a descent like this there’s nothing but the moment. All that matters is the moment. Head down, eyes up, corner ahead, scrub some speed, accelerate out…it takes all of 7 minutes to descend a 30 minute climb. And back to reality.
How about you? Is there a climb or road that you love to ride solo and just have time to think? I love Group Rides for reasons listed HERE but sometimes a solo climb is just what I need.
Philippe Gilbert is simply brilliant. He’s now won the past 4 major races in a row: Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold, Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. And he’s done it in a number of different ways – sheer power, tactics, even a sprint. If you’re unfamiliar with Gilbert, I did a short write up on the Amstel Gold HERE. Belgians, and Gilbert in particular, are on a tear this year.
When you’re done watching the final 4 minutes of the race posted in the video above, head on over to Red Kite Prayer to read a great write up on this monumental race.
Below, here’s a great insightful video from Leopard-Trek’s resident leg-breaker, Jens Voight, on what makes Liege-Bastogne-Liege unique and what Andy and Frank Schleck needed to do…turns out they were there in the end but maybe too much wasted energy led to their demise? Then again, they wouldn’t have been there together in the end if they hadn’t made the race like they did. Either way, according to Jens, it all comes down to taking a chance and being “brave.” No question the Schlecks rode bravely but in the end another man was simply stronger.
This is my son, Greyson, on his very first bike ride. He lasted as long as he could until he literally hit the wall.
Remember when you were a kid learning to ride a bike? For many of us, it was our first taste of adventure. At first, the bike was transportation. In 2nd Grade, I started riding my bike to school. Then, my brother and I started riding all over the place on the weekends. Not for training mind you (we were kids!), but for adventure. The bike was a ticket to a world beyond the 4 boring corners of our neighborhood. We would spend all day out in the sunshine riding bikes from one destination to another, basking in the freedom that a bike provided. This lasted for years.
Then I got my drivers license and the bike hung on the wall in the garage. There were new adventures to be had and I all but forgot about the bike. But somewhere in my 20’s, I rediscovered the adventure a bike can bring. Sure, now I have goals when I ride and usually have to hustle home as real-world adult responsibilities await. But somehow, riding a bike as an adult put me back in touch with that little kid that simply loved the wind in my face and the freedom and adventure of riding all over God’s creation on two wheels.
A childhood without a bicycle is a sailboat becalmed. A bicycle has the grace and style to give a billowing gaiety and a transcendent innocence to the fragile moments of childhood. In later years, those moments may be recalled for refuge, however evanescent, from the fits and frights of life. – James E. Starrs, The Noiseless Tenor (taken from “The Quotable Cyclist” by Bill Strickland)
Whatever your motivation for riding, you can’t help but benefit from reconnecting with your inner little kid. Remember that little you that longed for the weekend where you could throw your leg over a bike and ride off for hours on end? Try finding that little kid this weekend. See where he or she takes you.
Ah, the weekend. Don’t know where you are but hopefully you can get in some long miles over the next 2 days. If you’re in California, maybe you’re over at Sea Otter tearing it up.
I take a lot of inspiration from quotes and on occasion tape a quote to the stem of my bike. Some have gotten me up long climbs & have kept me hanging on in a tough Group Ride long after I’ve wanted to sit up. Here are a few that have made it onto the stem or top tube:
“To be a cyclist is to be a student of pain. Sure, the sport is fun with its seamless pacelines and secret singletrack, its post-ride pig-outs and soft muscles grown wonderfully hard. But at cycling’s core lies pain, hard and bitter as the pit inside a juicy peace. It doesn’t matter if you’re sprinting for an Olympic gold medal, a town sign, a trailhead, or the rest stop with the homemade brownies. If you never confront pain, you’re missing the essence of the sport” – Scott Martin
“I know the pain of cycling can be terrible: in your legs, your chest, everywhere. You go into oxygen debt and fall apart. Not many people outside cycling understand that.” – Greg Lemond
“When you are having a devil of a job to stay with the pack, when you can’t remember your name and you can hardly see your own front wheel, it’s at such moments that you must remember that Coppi, Van Steenbegen, Poulidor, Gimondi and all the others achieved greatness only because they knew how to fight through these moments.” -Charles Ruys
When I read these, I’m reminded that it’s worth it. That I love this. Momentary pain and suffering are minor costs compared to the lifelong rewards of physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Do you have any inspirational quotes that you’ve taped to your bike?
Have a great weekend!
Every so often, I’ll post video of daring and seemingly impossibly attacks from the world of pro cycling. Attack videos are cataloged HERE.
Do you remember this race? The 2006 edition of the Giro di Lombardia (the final of the 5 monuments) saw Paolo Bettini line up at the start just a few days after his brother passed away. The 2x World Champion (in back-to-back years no less) was well suited to the parcours but had a big target on his back. He attacked on the final climb and pulled away on this descent like a madman. Take a look at how close he gets to the guardrails and stone walls. Unbelievable. The moto has a difficult time keeping up! All the emotion of a win dedicated to his recently departed brother came pouring out as he crossed the line. Beautiful.
The Huffington Post recently released the article, Schools For Cyclists: 10 Bike-Friendly Universities, and it turns out that our very own local college has been rated as the most bike-friendly university according the League of American Bicyclists. Only 32 schools applied for the designation. A fact that underlines a paltry awareness of the significance of being bike-friendly. Of those 32 schools, only 20 actually earned the designation. And only Stanford received a platinum rating. Go Cardinal!
From the Huffington Post article:
According to a press release, Stanford earned top marks thanks to its large number of bike-related programs and resources — like route maps, safety classes and safety repair stands — and because a whopping 21.7 percent of Stanford students, faculty and staff commute via bicycle.
I guess it’s true: smart people ride bikes.
You can find the full list of bike-friendly universities here.
Is there a college near you that made the list?
Today is a HUGE day in the cycling world: De Ronde van Vlaanderen. A few days ago, I posted about the significance of this race and last Wednesday I shared video of last year’s decisive break in The Bulldozer Attack. Over the past week, it seems every cycling website and blog has devoted heavy coverage to Flanders. In my wanderings around the interwebs, I’ve found a few gems:
Here’s today’s heavy favorite, Fabian Cancellara, in his pre-Flanders press conference, including footage from Team Leopard-Trek’s reconnaissance training ride around Flanders. It’s fascinating to hear the man with the biggest target on his back go over tactics and what’s been running through his head this week:
Here’s a video of recreational riders that takes us through the village of Geraardsbergen and up the Muur van Geraardsbergen, one of the decisive climbs in the race. Amazing how narrow the road actually is considering 200 riders will be fighting to be in the first 10 places at the bottom. It’s quiet and empty for now but it’ll look different this afternoon:
One of my favorite cycling blogs, Red Kite Prayer, has an awesome post previewing the race and considers contenders.
Velonews.com has great pre-race coverage as well.
Versus coverage of the Tour of Flanders airs at 1pm PST this afternoon.