Anne B. – The Group Ride

The experts say that riding with a group will improve your cycling speed and skill. I am sure that this is true and tried testing this theory last summer. Boyfriend S and I showed up at a purported “B” ride one evening. It started at Wheelfast in Chatham. Some very nice people were going to go on this ride. They were dressed in colorful jerseys that coordinated with their bikes. This should have been a warning sign, however, they assured us that we would have no problem keeping up.

Initially the ride seemed to go well. The merry group meandered through Chatham and over to Walnut Street at an easy pace. I was amazed at how they seemed to pedal in unison. It was a thing of beauty. Once past the middle school, the beautiful pack turned in one fluid motion, changed gears and that was the last we saw of them. Ever. It was as if they had been vaporized off the very face of the earth.

So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to a group ride this past weekend. I was upfront about my cycling limitations, i.e. can only hit 20 mph on a downhill with a tailwind, out of shape from winter, haven’t had the bike out yet, blah, blah, blah. My friend J managed to pawn childcare duties off on her husband so that she could come along as well, but she was bound by a strict curfew of 7:30 a.m. The ride was at 6:30, so I figured an hour’s worth of humiliation would be enough for one day.

Sunday morning the temps were in the 40s. I struggled with what to wear. What do biking people wear when it is cold? I pillaged my running wardrobe and opted for a combination of tights over biking shorts, my long-sleeved Half Wits running shirt topped off with the snappy cardinal red 2007 edition Frostbite Run windbreaker. If nothing else, traffic would see me coming.

Note to Self: Need biking gloves with fingers

J was at the rendezvous site when I got there, shivering in the cold air. We aired up the tires and waited for the group and commented how it was perfect running weather, but a bit cold for biking. Three riders appeared from a nearby subdivision. We sized up our hosts. Colorful jerseys, every one of them, with the added impact of coordinated gaiters. They looked pretty speedy. I was instantly intimidated. A tiny voice in my head screamed WHY ARE YOU HUMILIATING YOURSELF AGAIN?

But you know, the ride was great. We did an easy 12 mile loop, warming up for a couple of easy miles, and then picked up the pace a bit toward the end. Some challenging overpass hills made for anaerobic fun, followed by a nice straight shot back to the parking lot. At no time were we made to feel slow, even though I’m pretty sure these speedy but polite riders had to be champing at the bit to stretch their legs.

Even more encouraging, we were invited back! I made sure to thank them for holding back a little and not leaving us newbies in a cloud of dust. I might even go back for another group ride one of these days.

Anne B.

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