Preparing for the AIDS/LifeCycle is more than just getting on your bike and pedaling 545 miles over 7 days from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Its all about the relationships youdevelop, the people who grow into an adoptive family and support system. The ride itself — also known as the Love Bubble — is all too short. So how do you make the connections which will hold you over until ALC 2015? Training rides, of course!
ALC training rides are official events and are led by at least two ride leaders. The rides start out in October, and begin again in earnest in February. The training season extends through the spring and usually ends the weekend before the ALC (gives you a chance to party on Memorial Day). I just wrote a post about what is required for late starters, but this post is intended to get the reticent out for training. The reticent are those who want to tough it out on their own. My advice is that those people are missing ⅔ to ¾ of the fun.
Often, people will avoid training rides because: the rides are too hard; the other riders are too slow; the training ride leaders are too demanding; the rules are too onerous; the rides are too far away; the weather is too hot, too cold, too wet, or too dry; the person herself is too much of a stud to ride with all those noobs. I’m here to tell you that those are horrible reasons to skip official training rides.
For experienced riders: If you’re more experienced, I urge you to take a new rider under your wing for some space of time: before the ride starts, until a rest stop, during lunch, or for the whole day. Explain to her what appeals to you about riding. Give her some tips and tricks to make cycling easier. Listen to her when she tells you about her aches and pains. And report any serious concerns to a TRL who can hook her up to resources which may help. You may have to slow down a bit to do this, but spreading the good word about cycling will reap rewards more fulfilling than an increased heart rate.
For new riders: If you’re a new rider, don’t be shy to ask questions of the ride leaders or more-experienced riders. Ask someone to ride behind you for a short while to give you tips about pedaling, how to shift, or whether your bike is functioning property. He may not know, but odds are the conversation will generate some useful information.
If the ride is too difficult, ask a training ride leader. He may be able to direct you to a shorter or less onerous route. But all AIDS/LifeCycle official training rides are “swept,” meaning that someone will help you get up the hill so long as you are willing to try. And if you are consistent about training, you will make it up those hills! Training ride leaders also have some knowledge and experience with bicycle function, nutrition, stretching, and training. If you skip the training rides, you’re missing out on a lot of fun and knowledge.
For training ride leaders: There is nothing I enjoy more than leading and AIDS/LifeCycle training ride. The thrill of talking about my sport to others eager to learn makes it that much more enjoyable. Watching as new riders progress and exceed their goals is also satisfying. And it teaches me how to be a better, safer, and more efficient rider. I encourage everyone who’s completed an AIDS/LifeCycle to register to be a TRL in 2015 (look for notices on the website over the summer).
The gist is: if you’re skipping official training rides, you’re cheating yourself out of an awesome experience.