Normally I don’t train very much. I ride around by myself looking at stuff and occasionally get motivated to ride really fast for a little bit. Last year I started riding with groups a bit more but it wasn’t consistent or hard enough to really make a difference I think. Most of my race results were typical – up and down with a normal race coming in around 30th percentile. So regularly I’m good for 30-33rd%, when I have a bad day I’m around 38-40th% but the funny thing is when I have a good day I’m up around 20th%. That’s a bigger increase possible than even my worst days.
Anyway, this year I started riding the Marietta Tuesday Night Crit. A 1 hour + 5 laps open group training race. Last year I did it four times over the course of the entire summer. This year I’ve done it 5 times before the start of July. Over the weekend I did the Red Clay Ramble and was kinda down because my time was a little slower than last year and a little faster than two years ago. But all three times were within a minute of each other so not a big change. Made me think the training crit was a waste of time. I mean it’s fun but it’s not that fun if it’s not doing anything for my actual events.
Then I started looking a little more at the results and have a much more positive view. All told I’m right at 33rd% for my class but overall 17th% so pretty good considering. The course was a ton harder this year – lots of loose gravel and very hot. I think if it would have been smoother like last year and cooler with the bit of rain I’d have knocked a few minutes off my time easy.
So I suppose the training did make a difference looking at it from a different perspective. I’m not sure it’s something I want to do every year but it’s been a really good time so far this year.
Much happier with my result after some math.
Riding in groups is a lot of fun but can be chaotic and takes more time usually.
Training crit is fast but not social at all.
1. Allroad bike, Diamondback Haanjo Comp. This is my bike, I ride it the most and it’s the only bike equipped for rain and carrying things. It could be better at both those things but my tastes and use-case were still evolving when I bought it so some of the things are a little kludge-y but they work fine and it’s fun to ride. Handles up to moderate/severe gravel just fine on 32s balloned out to 36/37s on 28mm rims. Fast as I need on the road, comfortable but a little stiff sometimes. I can ride for 10 hours and have nothing but slightly sore and tired legs.
2. Mountain bike, Raleigh Tekoa Comp. For me, mountain bike racing is the ultimate experience. The speed is addictive and the mental skills needed to perform well add endless depth to an intrinsically enjoyable activity. My raleigh is a dyed-in-the-wool racing bike. Just stiff enough, just enough clearance and speed speed speed. I’ll keep riding it until the frame fails.
3. Allgravel bike, Charge Hi-29er. A portion of the gravel races in Georgia and near-Georgia grew out of mountain bike races and often feature 50/50 singletrack/gravel with significant elevation changes. A mountain bike is a blast on singletrack but kind of a drag on gravel. A drop-bar mountainbike is a blast on both! This is the racer I ride for things like Southern Cross, Big Frog 65, Fools Gold, etc. Anytime there’s gravel and lots of descending this bike excels. I think the fork is shot but it’s still workable for now. Steel frame and 29″ wheels are great, the bike reminds me of those Russian racing trucks. It takes a lot of horsepower to stay on top of it but the reward is extreme capability and ridiculous descending speed.
4. Gravel road bike, Soma Double Cross Disc. For those flatter and smoother gravel races. This bike fits in perfectly on a fast, tight paceline roaring over dusty gravel roads. Lots of planing with the frame and square taper cranks/bb, sometimes it feels like the bike is just pedaling itself. This bike is getting flared drops for the next season, should make a really good bike even better.
It’s been a long time since I had any cycling goals. So easy to set a ceiling and once hit continually venture only as high as you’ve already been.
I’ve done that this year, so far.
I did it last year.
I mean, I plan rides in new places and have had a ton of new experiences racing my mountain bike and gravel bikes around the Southeast but it’s been a long time since I set out to work towards and complete a goal that isn’t just a spur of the moment Saturday morning ride.
In 2015 I had a few goals. I rode a 200k and was on my way to a 300k when the seasons changed and I ran out of motivation.
In 2014 I was racing at the track and it was more fun than anything else. I did a few centuries and a lot of the Dunwoody Cycling Saturday ride.
2013 I wanted to be a road racer. I raced as much as I could afford and worked very hard to race well. It didn’t pan out but it was fun and made me feel accomplished at the end of the season.
2012 my goal was to ride a fixed gear century. I failed the first time but succeeded the second. Creeping out of my mom’s house at 5am and riding along the quiet Sunday hours to the outskirts of Athens, GA. Later I wanted to win an alleycat, which I did twice. The Peachtree Bash and the Black Cat Alleycat. The former is on of my most cherished experiences.
2011 I started cycling. First I just wanted to ride more than 5 miles. Then I wanted to ride from my duplex to the restaurant I worked at – a special place where I made friends and grew so much. 24 miles round trip, felt like a huge accomplishment at the time. Later I wanted to ride 40 miles, after that a metric century but I think that didn’t happen until 2012.
Remember, if someone is talking only about tire pressure and never mentions sag (looking at you Jan Heine) they’re not giving you the whole story.
Or; how I left the road race-industrial complex.
So much has happened in the past few months. Uh..well at least for my cycling life. If you live and ride a bike in the USA you’d be forgiven for thinking that riding fast and racing were the pinnacle of the experience. This has started changing in recent years but of all the pages printed and all the bandwidth used to discuss bicycle stuff, the majority is going to be about racing and “being fast.”
I got trapped into this myself. Started out innocuous enough; “riding a bike is fun and I see all these things about how racing is awesome so I should do that for the best cycling experience!”
This is wrong. Racing, especially road racing, is not the pinnacle of cycling and a lot of times is just a bunch of bullshit you don’t need. Now, I do like some racing but it’s important to know that being fast should be done sparingly. If you’re just riding around be sure to stop and take a picture or rest or turn off your route to investigate something cool. Sit down to eat your $2 stroopwafel.
For years it was so hard for me to do these things. I was so obsessed with being fast and riding hard so I could be a racer that I wasn’t actually doing things that made me happy. It seemed like I was, mainly because you punish yourself so hard that when you stop you immediately feel awesome and the cause/effect gets conflated. It feels the same as exploring a new route or seeing a beautiful vista or petting a stray cat but those things are not as hard as 195 beats a minute up a 11% grade trying not to get dropped so you can come in 50th our of 180 entrants.
So I’m still racing but now it’s more partici-racing. I’m more interested in the experience than the training or being fast. It’s fun to have an event to prepare for and attend on the weekend. Riding hard and then laying around and napping as the sun sets is such a wonderful experience. Legs sore and body pumping out drugs to make you feel good.
What’s really changed is how I ride now. I’ve abandoned any pretenses of riding fast or being fast on my regular rides. I just pedal along, ready to stop for anything interesting or to rest. It’s so liberating that I wonder how it was so easy to give up in the first place.
So what got me out and back into fun cycling?
- A front rack – riding in regular clothes usually means you can’t carry much as pockets become unreliable. Having a front rack gives me my tools, food and other stuff right there. Also opens up the possibility of stopping to pick up something cool.
- Street clothes – doesn’t feel as ridiculous to use a sidewalk to connect to a cool road I never rode before because there wasn’t a good way to get there. Also allows for easier stopping, don’t feel like a idiot sitting around in racing kit.
- Just not being fast – my first few rides averaging less than 14 miles per hour were hard to deal with but now I don’t care. If I want to be fast I can pick a short segment and blow up there. My rides taken as a whole are for fun and exploration, not speed.
It’s not really much but just having a front rack is what opened up everything else. I can carry what I need so I’m never worried about being stranded and feel comfortable going pretty much anywhere.
I’m still waddling around on vestigial SPD-SL shoes but that’s the next item to change once spring hits.