Groups that were, groups that are

The longer I ride, the more I see the changing nature of the groups I ride with.

Over a season the changes are subtle, but between seasons they can be dramatic.

Groups get faster, then slower, then faster again . . . or the reverse.

Your riding buddies may hang with the group or move on or move out entirely.

The group may welcome and encourage new riders one season and become ambivilent the next.

It is simultaneously refreshing and frustrating.

Change often prevents a group from becoming stale, but it can also erode a beautiful symmetry if you had a group that rode well together.

Conversely change can bring into being a better group than what you had

Paying To Be A Volunteer

A bicycle club in my area recently put  out a call for volunteers.  In trying to volunteer, however, I discovered that I had to first register and pay for the ride!  I would be reimbursed after I completed my volunteer duties.

I did not proceed for two reasons:

  • to me, the nature of getting volunteers requires some risk, specifically that all those who volunteer may not show up on the event day  due to illness, weather or no reason in particular
  • if I am giving my time to help the club involved, in exchange for all the services of joining the ride after my duties are done, there is a quid pro quo right there

I did try to get some specifics about why this club felt the need to go this route, but as of yet have not heard back.

I do not resent that they are doing this.  If it works for them, all the more power.

However, I fail to see the why.

If the club needs to actually shell out money so the volunteer can ride and get all the services, that does create a bit of understanding. However,  I would just build into the equation the expectation that x% of no show volunteers will result in a $y cost of running the event.

If the club thinks that volunteers who want to ride are more likely to show up  under these terms, they are probably right.  Will they get enough volunteers, however?  What about the volunteers who have jobs that do not allow them to do the ride?

Anyway, if anyone out there cares to enlighten me or comment, please feel free to do so.


Gasp…Walking the Ride

For those of you who consider getting off the bike to look around or take a short walk a sin , stop reading here.

To be honest,  (aw, shucks) for Susan and me,* it was not quite getting off the bike.

What did happen, however, was we went on a hike through a woods that runs adjacent Sweethollow Road,  one of our many favorite cycling roads.

In the middle of congested Long Island, there are these gems that go for a mile or three with woods on both sides.

In this case there is woods on both sides and a few houses and businesses well tucked in to be less than obvious.

Anyway,  we wound up, on our hike, on the road.  Rather than back track through the woods, we decided to walk back to our car on the road.

Things appeared that I had failed to notice on the many times I cycled through the area.

The difference between 11-12 mph (going up) or 20-25 mph (going down) and 2-3 mph walking was incredible and thoroughly delightful.

We stopped, look, took some photos and noticed many views for the first time.

Will I try to stop a group of 12 riders?  No, but I have gained a measure of appreciation for the concept of slowing down on some roads, because there is more to see than the road.

Cross Country Skiing, going to the gym (yucch) and Hiking until the weather warms up for our old bones,

* ‘I’ vs. ‘ me’ in sentences

Last Rides of The Season

For me, early November is the end of my season.  The weather gets raw and my excitement level wans until March.

This year, however, Susan and I took some breaks during the season…a vacation out west, some weeks where we only rode once or twice, etc.  So, while I was not “chomping at the bit” I was not yet ready to call it a season.

And I am glad I did.  There were two rides, into the end of November that I really enjoyed.

The earlier one was a true “See The Fall Colors” experience.  Many of the roads on this route were a riot of green, yellow, red, brown and orange.  I would have stopped riding and walked (more on that in a later post) if I had not been in a group.  Temperatures in the 60s did not hurt.

My final ride…the last Sunday of November…included about 12 of us on a looping, weird route.  The trees were bare, but it was sunny and over 50 degrees. It was not even slow flat ride, but it was one of those days that you just wanted to be outside as long as possible.

With these two rides, who knows, give me a nice day in the winter, and maybe I will head out again.

For the moment, however, we are hiking, going to the gym and waiting for cross country ski season.


How many cyclists does it take?

Some Advantages of Riding in Group, Beyond the Obvious.

On a ride the other day someone’s chain broke. The group was large and stretched out over several hundred yards.

Rider 1 blew a whistle so the whole group knew there was a problem.
Rider 2 had a chain tool.
Rider 3 actually had a 10 speed Shimano pin.
Rider 4 was the only one in the group who had installed and repaired bike chains in real time.
Rider 5 knew the route to the rest stop so the bulk of the group did not need to wait on the road.

The only clueless one was the rider whose chain broke.


Or the time there was a crash and blood and one of our group was not only an EMT, but carried a water bottle full of medical supplies.


Or when someone cramped up or bonked miles from nowhere and riders got in front and behind that person to safely ride them back.


Or all the obvious reasons like:

Visibility in numbers.
The ability to draft in windy conditions so slower/weaker riders can stay with the group.
12 people who CAN change a flat in 15 minutes or less.
4 riders who do know how to use the barrel adjustment if someone’s gears are not shifting properly.

Of course there is one bad reason, still and forever: unsafe riders.

Ride Safe, Ride Real

Riding In Another Place

There is something surreal about bicycling in The Grand Tetons.

One of many views of the Grand Tetons

Regardless of which way you ride, there is open prairie on one side and the majestic peaks of the Tetons on the other. Susan and I had an opportunity to ride through this landscape. As with the Mickelson Trail ride, the ride was flat to rolling, but the base altitude was 6,000 feet.

We both had road bikes, but Susan elected to ride with sneakers on stb pedals, making it somewhat difficult.

Anyway, to the ride.

A friend ours has one married child living in Jackson Hole, WY. As a result we had a personal tour guide for our ride.

We started out on T ride from Antelope Flats Road. By that I mean we rode a road shaped like a T out and back (riding each section twice). Considering it was 18 miles and four turns this was great. We did see blue birds, osprey, eagle and antelope. Our views below.


After riding the T, we went down the highway about a mile to ride in the park itself. While you can ride on the road in the Grand Tetons, there is, at current, an eight mile paved asphalt path from the the southern end of the park to Jenny Lake Lodge. It is very lightly used. There are plans to extend the trail. For our ride, however, at the end of the trail, we rode a few miles on the main Teton road and did the loop road to Jenny Lake.

All told, the ride was about 40 miles.

Above, the bike path and wild flowers.

More photos here


30 Seconds of Fame & A Personal Best Ride

My final blog on riding out west — Grand Tetons — will have to wait until next time.

There are 15 minutes of fame for some people. On a bike, however, it is often more like 30 seconds of fame.
In a good riding season, however, that is coupled with achieving a new personal best, as well.
This is a feel good blog.

30 Seconds of Fame.
Susan and I often join a Tuesday or Thursday AM ride. It is well populated by members of three different clubs on Long Island . We are retired, recently fired, teachers and hooky placers. Susan and I generally ride in back of the group as we are often uncomfortable being surrounded by other riders. While some are safe group riders, some are loose cannons.

So, while we may ride to the front for a short time, we tend to hang behind the other 15-20 riders. The rides themselves are generally rolling to flat and in the range of 40 miles.

There is one section of one road that we are often on that goes for two to three miles without a stop required. (This is Long Island , NY remember. Three miles of road with no stop lights is forever.) The other week, on this stretch of road, I am pulling Susan, as this allows her to ride faster with me. Our normal pace for this stretch is 18 to 21 mph. We are riding in that range behind one other rider in this group, but he is slowing down. Susan says €Go ahead€, which is my signal that she is not riding too hard. I pass and pull her along. Out of the blue Susan says €˜Speed it up€. This is a surprise as we are at her normal comfort zone limit.

All of a sudden I am riding at 23 mph, which is actually above my comfort zone when pulling into a light headwind. Susan is still on my wheel as we pass the whole group. The rest of the group grabbed onto our two person pace line, of course. The unusual thing was, they did not leap frog past us, but hung on behind.

Fortunately, there was a stop light about ¼ mile ahead at this point. I needed a rest.

The 30 seconds of fame, however, does not belong to me, but rather to Susan. Our group has never seen that side nor seen her ride any distance at that pace.

Personal Best Ride.

This must be Susan’s year and in once sense my year, as we both had a personal best of one sort or another.

One of the groups we used to be comfortable riding with had gotten significantly faster. As a result, Susan was reluctant to ride with again. She knows I will always drop off and ride with her should the ride get too hard, but she hates being the last one and possibly holding up the group.

One week, however, our riding was rather light and Susan decided it was time to try this group again.
When we got to the ride, we found that many of the faster riders had recently broken off and formed their own sub group.
The stated pace for this group is 17-20 mph on flat roads (depending on headwinds, of course).
For a variety of reasons I offered to lead, with the admonition to the group that if Susan was on my wheel no one was to cut between us. I like her to be there as a kind of governor on my speed.

As a result of this, I was able to keep the pace around 17-18 mph for the entire 44 miles. The ride, and Susan, averaged 16.3 mph a new personal best for her. For me it was to pull the entire ride (no one came up to help me) at that same speed.

Please feel free to submit your own moments of fame or personal achievements.

Yellowstone Cycling

Yellowstone National Park is over two million acres in size and spreads into three states.  Although Susan and I did not bicycle there, it is a cycling paradise. There are, of course, comfort bike and mountain bike rentals inside the park, as well as short (one to four mile) bike trails scattered around.

The Chicago Crew:
“I was among the group of road cyclists from Chicago that you encountered at Lake Yellowstone in early August. We had a great ride that day from Canyon Lodge to Old Faithful, which included crossing the Continental Divide twice. Our trip began two days earlier at Red Lodge, MT., and we climbed the Beartooth Highway on the way to Cooke City, MT. An absolutely beautiful road, despite the 31 mile climb to the 10,947 ft summit. We then rode down through Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, encountering Bison on the road just before Roosevelt Lodge. Then it was another climb to the Dunraven Pass (8,800 ft) and a fun 7 mile descent to the Canyon. Your snapping pictures of us was the next day, as we road by Lake Yellowstone. Thanks much, as we would love to collect all the memories of this great trip.” Rick Stevens

Click on photo to see movie.

For road cyclists, however, Yellowstone is a piece of heaven as they ride along the 120 square mile Yellowstone Lake, along roads surrounded by geysers and hot springs, over 8800 foot mountain passes, through open plains with bison, elk and other various forms of wildlife and into high alpine meadows in the north east section. The grand loop is about 140 miles. There are several scenic loops scattered throughout the park as well.

Most, but not all the roads have shoulders. Yellowstone has moderate to heavy traffic in parts from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Some people have told me that the best time to ride is May or later in September.

For the bike rental crowd there are bike paths as well as the roads:

The commercial cycling tours like Back Roads were seen in various locations. However, I did promise 15 seconds of exposure to the following:

I caught these two men riding past me, but also riding through Hayden Plain with a herd of buffalo and one coyote on their right hand side.  They were moving at a good clip, so I did not get to speak with them.

These sisters had ridden from Brooklyn, NY and were on their way to Oregon.

Next blog will be about Susan and me riding in Grand Tetons.