Saturday, January 7, 2012

Hanging Out With a Fast Crowd

I had a couple of New Year's resolutions regarding this blog. First, I'm going to try to write more regularly this year. Second, I'm going to keep the posts shorter.

The end.

Yeah, you knew I couldn't keep it that short.

Anyway, I haven't written much lately because, frankly, there hasn't been much to say. Not that I haven't been riding my bike -- I have. I ended up with 9700 miles for the year, as planned.

But the rides have been short, by RandoBoy standards, and didn't take much time. Most of my riding at the end of the year was fast because I was with the Naples Velo group -- a super-strong crowd -- doing some well-known routes.

Now, the upside of this kind of hammer-fest is that I now feel really strong. Mostly, I can now hang with these guys for most of the route, although it hurts ... sometime a lot. My inner Max Watzz is ecstatic.

Downside? The rides themselves don't feel real. It's almost like when you travel somewhere in a car on an interstate highway. You cross hundreds of miles of plains and forest, but it all blends together. You remember crossing the Mississippi River, or seeing the Chicago skyline, but they're almost postcard images. You have no recollection of the smell of diesel from the barges or the sun glinting off a skyscraper.

Riding with a fast crowd on a bicycle like this is not as intimate a form of travel. It's almost as if it gets Doppler-shifted into something else.

This past Thursday highlighted the difference. I headed north for 20 miles with the Naples Velo folks, zipping along between 22 and 24 mph in the early morning chill. At Coconut Point, I left them to get breakfast at Panera Bread. At that point in the ride, the scenery was mostly the back wheel of the guy in front of me.

My legs were sore from the hard work, so I took my time eating a scone and coffee. By the time I got back on the route north, the Naples Velo riders were probably back at Fit & Fuel. With nobody to pull me along, I spent the next 110 miles by myself. This meant that I didn't have to keep myself six inches behind the next wheel, but it also meant that I could sit up a bit and enjoy the view.

The wind was blowing a steady 10 mph out of the northeast, so it was slow going up to the end of the bike lane, over a couple of busier roads, and on into Lehigh Acres. From there, I picked up the Everyone Rides route which I had done in December, following the markings on more sedate roads up to the Caloosahatchee River.

I headed east on North River Road to Alva, stopping at the park on the way there. They have campsites available, and I think that this would make a great place to use as an overnight destination to test my bike camping rig setup.

Eventually, the route brought me back to busier roads, and I was soon rolling south towards the airport again. The wind was fully at my back, so it was easy to cruise at 20 mph. If I was still with the fast crowd, we would have been doing 30. But if I was with the fast crowd, I would not have been able to stop at McDonald's 20 miles from home to eat a sorely-needed burger and fries.

The fast rides are really fun, and the Naples Velo members are super-nice. But, on the road with them, it's generally all-out go-fast riding. They may pause at the top of a bridge and admire the view, but otherwise you stop for a few minutes at the turn-around point, or sit afterwards and enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning sun while you talk about the ride or what's going on in life.

It's a wonderful world, and we owe it to ourselves to experience it as fully as possible. Ordinarily, a bicycle is the best way to do this ... but not when all of your rides are wrapped in a cocoon of paceline-powered speed. Even if it means riding solo, I plan to regularly break free of the pack and get intimate with the road again.


  1. Couldn't agree more Robert! I still like riding solo or with just a couple other riders at a 17-19mph average here in Tennessee. Going really fast is great for the body from the neck down. Going moderately fast in smaller numbers or solo is also great for the body from the neck up.

  2. Great observations! And a good mileage year as well.

  3. Thank you for some motivation to get on the bike. I will make the commute home. Missed you at the Turkey Trot. If you come do Memphis 200k with us at the end of the month, get in touch with George and I.