Sunday, May 30, 2010

Riding with People

Riding a long ride with other people can be challenging. People have different riding styles that depend a great deal on their body type, fitness level and even their bike. I am, of course, heavy, I’m moderately fit and I ride road bikes which have what I call ‘good roll-ability’. This means that I ride up hills slow and down hills fast. It works pretty well for me if I can get some momentum going. This effect is multiplied on the tandem. But pair me with someone who rides up hills fast and down hills slow and I have a terrible time. I end up struggling up hills trying to keep up with them, only to go down the hills riding my brakes the whole way wasting all that momentum. Stef and I had exactly that happen to us today. We went on Quad Cycles Sunday morning ride and got put in the slow group (which is legit). This group was lead by a fast uphill, slow downhill rider who also liked to stop for an extended break every 5-7 miles. These breaks, unfortunately, were just long enough that we lost our warm-up and had to start from scratch every time we got going again. After over three hours of this, we’d covered only about 25 miles and were tired, stiff, cranky and just about beside ourselves. Fortunately, we were able to head home from there with some other friends who were also riding a tandem and get in a few miles at a pace that worked much better for us. The difference in how we felt was amazing.
We learned a couple of super important lessons from this. First is that we have got to go our own pace and use our downhill momentum to get us up the next hill. The second is that though we do like to get off the bike once every 5-10 miles, we mustn’t do it for very long. Stretch, drink some water, have a snack and get right back on the bike.
So, riding with people is tricky. Most people are the fast up hill, slow down hill type. It is one of the reasons that I have done most of my riding alone up to this point. The great thing about a tandem is that it solves this problem. You can ride all you want with someone and you are always going the same pace. Of course, you have to ride with the right person and I’m very lucky to have found such a great stoker in Stef. I don’t know if we’ll do that group ride again anytime soon. If I lose a bunch of weight it would change our riding and possibly help our style match what more people do. Unfortunately, that’s a big if and I’m not holding my breath. Meanwhile, I’d definitely like to do more riding with Kit and Ramie, our friends on the other tandem. They are faster than we are and climb hills way better but don’t seem to mind staying with us on the flats and waiting for us at the tops of the hills.

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