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.
This post is Part 4 in the series, Anatomy of a GREAT Group Ride. I highly recommend that you read PART ONE, PART TWO, and PART THREE. As in the previous posts, some of these phases will seem obvious but I contend that most of us rarely take the time to fully observe the dynamics present that actually influence the rest of the ride. This series is designed to intentionally take a step back and consider the innumerable social and physical factors that determine the character, quality, and tone of the communal nature of training rides in large groups.
There are all kinds of Group Rides out there, some great and some not so much. Part One of this series in particular defines the various factors that go into making a Group Ride great. Before we jump in, the phases of a GREAT Group Ride leading up to this post are the Meet-Up, the Roll-Out and Early Stage, the Initial Surge, Attacks and Bridges, the Paceline, All Strung Out, and the Final Pulls. These are the phases detailed in previous posts.
So here we go, the final phases of a GREAT Group Ride:
- The Lead Out – Great, long-standing Group Rides almost always end with some kind of sprint. The Lead Out sets up the sprint and it’s where the sprinters come out to play. This is also quite possibly the most dangerous aspect of any Group Ride so it’s important to know what’s going on. The Lead Out is usually initiated by an attack where others follow or a veteran rider moving to the front and simply drilling it. Everyone familiar with the ride will recognize this when it happens. If you’re new to the ride, it’s best to sit in and watch how things unfold. Every Group Ride and Lead Out has it’s subtle nuances and regular players know one anothers’ tendencies. This is key in a Lead Out on an open road with 20 or more cyclists traveling faster than 30mph. You don’t want someone in there who doesn’t know what’s going on. When you’re sufficiently familiar with the ride and other riders’ tendencies, you might feel ready to mix it up. When you’re ready, your timing and choosing the right wheel to follow are key. When you’re in the mix, the one thing you cannot do is lose a wheel or open up a gap. This is simply bad form and will identify you as an unreliable wheel. So hold the wheel in front of you. Usually the first few riders know the job: go as hard as you can for as long as you can then slowly and smoothly move off to the right. Do not move out of line to the left, out into the road. When you find yourself on the front, don’t get tactical, just go as hard as you can for as long as you can. If you wanted to contest the sprint and find yourself on the front too early then recognize where you are and what’s going on: you messed up your timing or place in line. You’ll have another chance tomorrow or next week to get it right so just get down with the job at hand and ride hard. If you pop, pull off to the right slowly and smoothly. If you’re in a good position a few wheels off the front, 100 meters or so from the line, then you’re in a good spot to sprint.
- The Sprint – The sprint line is usually a road sign or other roadside marker. Just like in the Lead Out, if you’re new to a Group Ride it’s best to sit back and watch as the sprint “line” is not always easy to pick out. Veterans of the ride usually aren’t quick to point out where it is to newcomers as this may encourage those unfamiliar with the ride to join in the high-speed finale. And for good reason. If a rider is unfamiliar with the location of the sprint then they’re most likely unfamiliar with the subtle nuances of how a the sprint unwinds on a particular ride. Even strong riders new to a particular Group Ride would be best served to take part in the Group Ride for a few weeks before stepping into mix. So you’re in a good position from the Lead Out and you’re ready to uncork your final burst for the line. If you’re second in line 100 meters out, perfect. Wait for the Lead Out rider to pull off and launch. Above all else, hold your line and sprint straight. It’s most likely that all hell is breaking loose behind you as riders try to match your sprint, follow your wheel, or come around you. You’re on an open road with traffic too so all this is going down in the narrow area from the shoulder/bike lane/part of the right lane. If you’re a few wheels back and start your sprint early to try and come around the riders in front of you, it’s a good idea to take a glance to your left to see if someone is coming around you. Do not sprint or try to come around riders on the right (shoulder side of the road). And don’t take your attention off the wheel in front of you. A lot is happening here in the blink of an eye and realistically it takes years of experience to do this well AND safely. I’ve had riders go down right in front of me because someone up front swerved out of the Lead Out unexpectedly to start their sprint. This is bad. Additionally, if there’s a car coming up from behind, that kills it. Sprint over. So hopefully the riders behind the Lead Out will have your back and give a “car back” call. If all goes well, if the Lead Out and Sprint are done safely and smoothly, you’ll get that great rush of flying along north of 35mph with your guts in your throat. Maybe you’ll even win a sprint or two! But remember, it’s not really a race after all. Unnecessary risks are not worth it. We’re all out here to have fun. Identify consistently unsafe riders and stay away. Or better yet, calmly point out (after the testosterone from the sprint dies down) an unsafe habit or move that puts the rest of the ride in jeopardy. Be safe above all.
I love to sleep. And I’m not a morning person. Not a good combo for a cyclist. In order to ride during the week, it’s those early morning hours that I’ve had to make friends with over the years in order to get the miles in. But I usually can’t think straight right when I wake up. Maybe you’re the same. For years, it took me 30 minutes or more from the time I woke up to the time I rolled off in the dark to meet up with the Group Ride. I just move slowly. Searching for knee warmers, fiddling with the floor pump, even struggling with the ratchets on my shoes…I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rolled out the door without bottles.
So over the years, I’ve had to develop a routine that involves planning the night before so that I don’t have to think when the alarm goes off. Here are a few tips I’ve learned for making the most of those early morning minutes. The key is preparing all I can and laying it all out so I don’t have to think in the morning. All of this occurs the night before:
- Check the weather and temp for the morning, especially for the colder months. The Weather Channel iPhone app has a temp predictor that’s fairly accurate.
- Lay out appropriate kit based on temp in order of how I put it on. Socks, knee/leg warmers, bibs, base layer, jersey, arm warmers, gloves, hat, helmet, vest/jacket.
- Prepare one bagel with Nutella. Put it in a baggie so it keeps ’til morning.
- Fill bottles and put in fridge in the front next to the bagel I’m going to eat in the morning. I’ll forget the bottles if they’re not right next to food. Again, it’s early and dark and I can’t think straight.
- Pump up tires. Leave bike by the door. Check to make sure bike lights work. Put phone/ID/keys next to bike.
- Fill coffee maker. Set timer on coffee for 5 minutes before I get up.
Here’s the routine in the morning:
- Wake up to my ridiculously loud, annoying alarm. Think of 10 reasons why I should stay in bed. Visualize my riding buddies calling me all kinds of names if I skip the ride. Drag myself out of bed.
- Dress while checking current temp. Hopefully, I don’t have to look for more layers.
- Hit the fridge. Grab bagel and bottles.
- Roll out and eat while riding to the Group Ride.
Unless I forget something, I can usually go from getting out of bed to pedaling in 15 minutes.
Any tips from your morning routine? Can you get out the door in less than 15 minutes?
It’s been a long two weeks around here. Days on end of heavy rains and increased work responsibilities have left Northern California and my training a soggy mess. I had a plan at the beginning of the season and it didn’t include a few weeks of miserable, short fixed-gear riding in torrential rain and too many days on the trainer. But all that went away today with the end of a work project and the return of bright, sunny skies. Undoubtedly, we’ll have a few more days of rain and a few cold mornings ’til summer but it felt like spring arrived when I woke up this morning.
I used to stress about these kinds of interruptions in my riding schedule but I now look at them as blessings in disguise. In fact, I think it’s the interruptions that rekindle the passion for riding and training. Besides, fitness doesn’t go away overnight so I’m learning to just go with it. Plus, I’m more amped to get up early than I have been in months and the weekend can’t get here soon enough. I would imagine it’s the same kind of feeling if you live in an area that truly has seasons. It’s a common occurrence among my friends in the more southerly climes to suffer a mid-season burn-out around May. I’ve never known my cyclist friends in the Northeast or Midwest to suffer the same burnout that early. My friends in New England are always stoked when things thaw out.
Maybe it’s time to view interruptions as a vital part of training. Maybe periods of not riding and even the ensuing frustration are actually as important to the journey as those seasons when all our available time is spent in the saddle. Honestly, I might just be saying that to make myself feel better because I’ve been out of the saddle for a bit. But I can’t deny that I’m actually stoked to get up at 5am when I know that the roads are clear and Spring is here.
So what do you do? How do you handle interruptions in your training schedule when weather or life intervene? Be encouraged! Whether bad weather, overload at work, or other responsibilities come your way, remember that “this too shall pass.” Besides, Spring is upon us and we’re off to the races.
Maybe you know this feeling: It’s been a long week. You haven’t had a ton of quality time with your family. Then Saturday morning rolls around and you’d love to get out for a few hours on the bike but the idea of getting up at 6am on your day off sounds about as fun as, well, getting up at 6am on your day off. What do you do?
Unless you’re blessed enough to have a family that rides with you, cycling can often take us away from our loved ones for hours at a time. A constant tension that I battle is “how much is too much” when it comes to taking off on a Saturday morning for a long ride and missing out on a few precious hours of hang time with the fam. Maybe you live with this tension too – I’d be interested to hear how you strike the right balance between riding and spending time with your family on weekends.
I don’t know why I waited so long to look into this but I recently invested in a bike trailer for my 2 1/2 year old, Greyson. Who am I kidding, it’s just as much for me as it is for him. It’s been the greatest thing for us. He loves being outside with the wind in his face and consistently encourages me to “go faster daddy!” I roll a little slower pulling a 40lb load but we still manage 15-18mph or so. Obviously, this isn’t time for a Group Ride but I pack up a lunch and we roll about an hour to a fun playground, play around for a bit and eat, then roll an hour home. He almost always falls asleep on the way back and then it’s nap time when we return. I find that I can spin the whole time and actually get some good training out of it as well.
I have a few friends that, on Saturday mornings, pick out a coffee shop or lunch spot in a neighboring town, ride to it, and have their family meet them. There’s a creative idea I want to try. If you have some creative things that you do to involve your family in your riding habit, I’d love to hear them.
Leave a comment, let us know.
If you’re like me, you try to squeeze every last second out of every ride. Time in the saddle for me is extremely limited based on family, work, and life concerns so I try to make the most of every opportunity even if it means skipping out on stretching (or a shower!). Most often, I roll home and run through the door, change on the fly and run out to whatever I’m already late for. Sound familiar?
Every once in a while, I get a chance to indulge in my ideal post-ride routine. As an extremely amateur cyclist, I don’t have a physio or soigneur waiting for me with an iced towel, massage, or recovery embrocation, but I do have a few things that I do to help recovery. If I have the time, here’s my ideal post-training ride routine:
- As soon as I walk through the door, I’ll make a recovery drink. I usually go with a product like cytomax or something similar but I’ve also been known to make a milk shake with protein powder, ice cream, and herseys syrup. Sometimes just the thought of that during a long ride keeps the pedals turning.
- Change out of cycling clothes into comfortable shorts and stretch while downing recovery drink. I like to stretch for about 20 minutes.
- HOT shower.
- Lay on the couch with legs elevated. I have a massage device called The Stick that I roll over quads and calves. A massage would be really ideal but that would require motivation to leave the house because I’ll never have the pros’ option of a physio or soigneur coming to me. I’ll keep my legs elevated for as long as I can keep my eyes open.
- Nap. But just before, I’ll eat something light (bowl of cereal or yogurt and granola) to give my body something to work on and recover while I sleep. Nap can last from 1-2 hours.
- I usually wake up hungry. If I’m ravenously hungry then I’ll know I didn’t eat enough on the ride or before napping. Continuing to eat and drink after a ride is important for recovery. For this post-nap meal, I try to keep it organic and fresh including veggies, pasta, and chicken.
- The rest of my idyllic day will find me with legs elevated and only walking when absolutely necessary. Perfection would be an afternoon of Paris-Roubaix coverage on Versus.
Disclaimer: This hardly ever occurs. If I have a few spare minutes, I’ll do a few of these things like make a recovery drink and stretch but like I said, most of the time I’m flying off to whatever’s next.
What’s your Ideal Post-Training Ride Routine? Leave a comment and let us know.
[tweetmeme only_single=false source=”artofgroupride”] This post tackles a subject that might take a little maturity to read but we’re all adults here so I’m just gonna come out and say it: sometimes on a really freezing ride my personal region feels like I have frostbite.
Why is it that when it comes to cold weather cycling we have all kinds of the most advanced technical layered clothing available to us except for this one area of our bodies below our jackets and above our leg warmers? I mean, we have foot warmers, leg warmers, arm warmers, fleece-lined windproof gore-tex jackets but continue to go out riding in the cold with little more than bib shorts around this one area. In the past, I’ve improvised during a freezing ride, alternating between taking off a glove and putting it “down there” until my fingers were frozen then replacing the glove on my hand. Back and forth. Not fun.
If you’ve suffered like this through a cold ride like me, here’s your solution: the Craft Gore Windproof Gunde Boxer. I’m a big fan of most everything I’ve ever tried from Craft. In fact, I can’t think of a single product I’ve tried that hasn’t worked exactly as advertised. Baselayers, jackets, gloves, bibs, shoe covers, Craft products span the range of technical cycling gear and the windproof boxer doesn’t disappoint.
In fact, the boxer does exactly what it says it does: keeps you warm where you need it. There are other alternatives in this category. You could drop upwards of $250 on a killer pair of thermal bibs that you might wear a few times a year. If you have cash to burn, that might be your ticket. For me, I’ve found that on the coldest days, I can continue to wear my regular training bibs and simply layer with the Craft boxers. Warm and toasty. Frostbite feelings solved.
Before you go and order yours, here are a few things you need to know:
- I wear mine under bibs but the boxers do have seams. Not big, uncomfortable seams but it helps to use a good chamois cream if you’re wearing them against your skin.
- If you want to layer the boxers over cycling shorts but under an outer bib layer, consider ordering your boxers one size larger.
- As always, apply chamois cream FIRST before embrocating.
Give the boxers a try. Inexpensive item, misery prevented.