Hello and welcome back to The Bike Geek’s weekly post. Today’s post is a little late because I got my ass kicked by a 70 year old cyclist who happens to inspire this week’s writings.
I don’t know about your bike commute, but my bike portion gets pretty lonely so I usually get together on the weekend with a couple of friends and ride to the beach. Our usual ride is about 30 miles round trip and a good portion of this ride is down Pacific Coast Highway.
I’ve been riding with these guys for over ten years and they are usually in better shape than I am. So how do I keep up with them? I suck their wheel otherwise known as “drafting”. Drafting has allowed me to finish centuries and ride at over 20 mph during long periods of time. Drafting has been known to save about 20% to 30% energy but you have to do it correctly. You must ride about 6 to 10 inches from the rider in front of you in order to benefit from the draft. This could be pretty scary if you don’t know how the person in front of you rides or if they are unaware that you are sucking their wheel. Most riders who are in front signal any upcoming road hazards and announce themselves while taking over other riders.
Now, wheel sucking has its own set of rules and lingo. For example, it is totally OK to draft off your buddies but you also have to take your turn at “pulling”. Pulling means that you get on the front of your buddies while they suck your wheel, this allows for them to regain their strength so they can keep pulling at a good speed.
This past weekend we “grabbed the wheel” of an older gentlemen who was pulling 6 of us at about 23 to 24 mph and left us totally drained. The guy was a freaking beast and when we had to stop at a red light he told us he was 70 years young. So yeah, I got my ass handed to me by a 70 year old guy but thanks to wheel sucking I was not “dropped”. Here is a little video of the ride:
So what is the moral of this post? Old people rule and wheel sucking is good as long as you are not an ass about it.
Before I explain where I am let me mention where I came from.
I was always an outsider to sports. I had the determination and heart but I never had the rawÂ skill. In golf they use the term L.O.F.T. Google it . Baseball, football, soccer, whatever, I was not really veryÂ good. I came into cycling after an injury. It was meantÂ to be rehab for my back. That lead to the idea of commuting. Well, what it would lead toÂ was an obsession. At my lowest point I was fighting multiple addictions and cyclingÂ was whatÂ kept me going the streight path. I began racing and riding daily. I would race for a few years for a few teams and even for myself (unattached) when I lacked the fitness to race for a team .
Fast forward 10 years, I’m now married, a father of 3, and I have a dog to boot. In many ways I have what I want. I still have the drive to go out and test myself when I’m riding but there are many weeks that I just can’t ride, some weeks I’m just too tired, and yet others I’m not willing to make the sacrifice to get a ride in.Â The fire is still there but the time/motivation/will is at times lacking. I set goals but get confronted with realities. Sure I could ride Saturday but one son has practice and the other has a soccer game. Did I mention my two-year old? So my choices are 4am ride or no ride. I made my choice before I typed it.
I don’t think I’m alone in my position nor do I think I need a small violin playing “sad romance”. What I need is a spark, something to convince myself to ride when it’s difficult to get going . As it turned out that spark that made me want to ride was a ride. That and something I heard on a podcast, something about second degree fun. It’s fun, just not from the idea or start. Like a climb, not really fun as a idea but as you get to the top, you can look back at the climb as a good time. Albeit a miserable, painful, good time .
So what keeps you going? Do you ever need a break or time to miss riding? Are you the type of rider who just wishes they had more time to ride? Let me know as that’s one of my motivations (I love hearing about others passion to ride).
And it starts like most races do with a little hesitation, some trepidation, and a lot of anticipation. I roll out and set a steady tempo. I know my fitness is not where it used to be so I decide that a long range attack allÃ¡ Contador is the way to go. I’m receiving information and it’s telling me I have a 30 second gap. I’m holding steady pushing about 20 miles per hour. I have some luck on my side and I have not had too many reasons to slow down. As I’m approachingÂ the first climb, my first true test, my breakaway has gained me 2 minutes.
The climb shines light on the cracks in my foundation. I’m coming undone and I’m starting to Pedal in squares. The 2 mile climb is pushing my heart rate to 190 beats per minute, I’m bleeding time and fading fast. This climb that tops out at 7% and has taken my two-minute lead down to one minute. In the last mile of climbing I’ve fallen apart and this climb has taken its toll and although the major climb is over there is still more climbing to be done.
I’m feeling confident that I can get some of the time back on the upcoming rolling section. The problem is that this section is much less rolling then I remembered it. The next half mile has not a single negative grade and an average grade of 3%. I begin to lose more time and when I reach theÂ two-thirds marker I’m only 20 seconds ahead. Those 20 seconds dissolve into zero, zero grows to a negative. My second best effort on this section is still about 1mph too slow.Â I’m now 20 seconds behind, I’ve been caught, and I don’t have much left in the tank.
My strategy might seem to have failed me but I’m exactly where I want to be. I limp up the rest of the climb and utilize one of my best skills. The descent is my playground. I slowly see my deficit disappear and I even make up a few seconds. In my aerodynamic tuck I’m able to gain one minute and 30 seconds as I turn right, right into the last real climb. From here Colima is only 0.3 miles but with an average grade of over 6%, it can do some damage.Â This climb is no test, this climb is a deal-breaker, make or break, win or lose.
My 1 minute and 30 second Advantage disappears yet again I get out of saddle I give it everything I have left to no avail. I’m riding like a man possessed but I’m two minutes behind. In 2 minutes I’ve lost 2 minutes. My lungs feel like raisins, I can feel the burn down my esophagus, my legs are begging me to stop, I consider sitting up. But for every climb there is a descent, so I hold my pace steady and continue up the climb. 2 minutes and 15 seconds is what I have to make up on a 2 mile descent.
I rearranged myself about 3 times trying to find an aerodynamic position I can hold for the entirety of the Hill. Colima Road flattens out and it’s now up to my legs pushing at times 28 miles per hour, holding my threshold as long as I can. I look down and realize I’m 3 minutes ahead. All that is left is to maintain my lead. I want to do more than maintain though, so I push each pedal as hard as I can for the remaining 2 miles. Little by little I’m gaining time, three minutes turns into four, four minutes balloons to 5, and by the time I’m at the finish my lead would tell a different story than my body. I’m a wreck but I’m feeling like an accomplished wreck.
My first race in sometime was not against a Peloton or a friend, it was against myself via my virtual partner on my Garmin 520. I had no idea that this is going to be so much fun, so competitive, and so inspiring. At the time I didn’t think twice I just thought “oh look what I can do” with my Garmin. It seems like my commute has found yet another way to keep my interest.
In the immediate area where I live, I’ve started noticing that there are less and less bicycle racks than ever before. It seemed like every grocery store had them and each shopping center used to have a designated area for them. But not I’m venturing out more for casual rides and to find places to eat/drink, I’m having a harder time finding a good place to lock my bike.
Take for example my trip to the grocery store, they used to have a HUGE bike rack. But now it’s gone. So I had to find some metal railing to lock my bike against. What’s interesting is, if I go do downtown Fullerton, the seems to be more of an acceptance to bicycles there. In fact there are actually quite a bit of 2-bike racks peppered around the area. I guess I just don’t get why in some areas, there are racks while others it’s absent.