Low and Slow

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Be patient and kind. Not everyone has the same skills as you when it comes to riding a bike.

These are the words that begin every AIDS/LifeCycle training ride and will begin the ALC itself (follow this link for information about Orientation Day). And for some of us, it may seem a cruel fact that even as we have been progressing on the training rides, so too have our friends, leaving us continually at the back. Here’s some advice (after you’ve followed your physician’s advice) to help you keep up with the pack.

  1. You can do it. Individuals with your skills have done nearly every training ride on the agenda; you can too.
  2. Stay hydrated and fed. So often cycling performance is a matter of nutrition — this goes for new riders and experienced riders. I give this advice from personal knowledge!
  3. Get a route sheet and learn how to read it. Timidity in the route and relying on training ride leaders for direction will slow you down unnecessarily.
  4. Be the first out. Pair yourself up with a fast rider who knows the route. You’ll find that person not diddling with their gloves at t-minus 5 minutes, but helmet on and ready to go. Get on the road before that person.
  5. Pass other riders. Unless they need assistance (ask), don’t slow down because a group of riders is in front of you. Go ahead and pass them (safely).
  6. Be comfortable in groups. The rules say, “one bike length between the rider in front of you.” Try to make that a maximum, not just a minimum.
  7. Miss the stop lights. Lagging behind to avoid the melee will make you hit stop lights you might otherwise have missed. This artificially makes you feel slower.
  8. Keep up at the beginning of the ride. You’re still fresh, try to minimize the distance between you and the riders in front of you.
  9. Know your gearing. Make sure you’re in the right gear at the right time to avoid slow starts.
  10. Rest quickly at rest stops. And avoid stopping between rest stops. Staying at a rest stop for too long will only tire you out. When you’re exercising, your body is burning calories even at rest. Use those calories to your benefit and be the first out of the rest stop. Plus, in hot weather you sweat more when you stop than while cycling.
  11. You’re closer than you think. Often (not always), you’re not as far behind the rider in front as you think. If you’d been behind them for a while, they’re probably wondering where you are. Try to catch them; they might be waiting for you!
I have lots more advice — get a riding buddy, avoid stopping on hills, know your strengths and use them to catch up, ask for advice, read up on cycling, if pain is a problem then seek a bike fit — and I’ve blogged on most of these topics. But the last secret is:

Everyone is tired by the end of a long ride. You can use that to your advantage if you stay on track, regroup with your mates at rest stops and regroup points, and stay hydrated!

Everyone on the ALC and other riders want to see you succeed. Even when it seems they don’t. Remember, everyone is battling their own dragons, too!
Your Bear

PS: As my friend Terri Meier says:

As someone who hears “on your left” far more than she says it, my bit of advice is to push yourself where the going is easy, and be gentle with yourself when the terrain gets tough. Going all out on the uphills can burn you out fast, but when the road is flat, put a little extra heat on, and work to increase your comfort and skill with faster speeds on the downhills. But ultimately, don’t try to “keep up” at the expense of your body, mind and spirit. There is joy to be found in meeting new friends, and even solitary meditation while on the road.


2 thoughts on “Low and Slow

    […] Dawdling at the rest stops is a no-no. Socializing before or during the ride is a vital part of why the AIDS/LifeCycle is such a special event. But keep it to a minimum. Rest for no more than 20 minutes at rest stops. Hanging out for too long will tire you, will make you sweat more, and will make your muscles cramp. (Click link for an article on how to keep up if you’re a slower rider.) […]

    […] Be with the group. Don’t do your first epic ride alone. Be with your mates and do your best to keep up with them. […]

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