To be fast on your bike, you must ride with cyclists who are faster than you are. Being dropped is part of it. It breaks down to two things: you can be the stud of your noob group who average 16-18 mph or you can get better riding with a group who you know deep down is better than you are. I am often asked by newer riders how to get faster. I even had one guy the other night tell me that he was going to get the same bike as mine, so that he could keep up. Bless his heart. There are many factors of being faster. Big Daddy Jim, blogging on FitRecovery, has covered this issue, as well as many others. It is often a catchy title to put on a cycling magazine to increase sells. Speed is fun, but it demands sacrifice. Greg LeMond’s statement still and will always hold true: It never gets easier. You just go faster. I firmly believe that there is a caveat to that statement. You will get faster the longer you ride, IF you put in the effort to do so.
As part of a strict training regiment, I am always looking to find something to take me out of my cycling comfort zone. This past Wednesday night, I found just that. I drove about thirty miles or so to a city down the highway and met up with the “A” group bike ride at James Brothers Bicycle Shop. I slid into the circle that had formed in the parking lot and listened to the conversation that was already underway about previous rides and races. I had a sneaking suspicion that the men with whom I would be riding could dish out the pain . . . spoiler alert: They can.
It is funny how God has a way of humbling a person from time to time. It never fails that when my head starts getting bigger, I am reminded that I am not all that. Warming up for 2-3 miles and increasing more and more to a nice pace of 22 mph, I was feeling pretty good with the group . . . until. Riding in a double pace line, the two lead guys looked back at us, as we entered some steep climbs, and asked if everyone was ready. The group launched into the hills. To say that I was aggravated with myself is an understatement, when I was dropped 9 miles into the ride. I kept the group in sight, but they were not coming back. After the segment of hills, I could see waaaaaay ahead that the group had checked up and was watering and swirling around out of the pace line. I managed to catch up and had the ride of shame back into the group. I despise being that guy. I had to remind myself that I was there to get better. Many of the riders were nice and told me that the route flattens out and has some occasional rollers. I am happy to report that I wasn’t dropped again. My pulls were short, but with a pace bumping 30 mph I was just happy to be a part of the group. The ride only lasted for 40 miles, but I was as proud of my effort as if I’d done a 100+ mile ride.
I plan on going back to that shop, at least once a month. If you’re ever in Auburn, Alabama and want to have a challenge. Stop by the James Brothers on a Wednesday night at 6 PM (central) and grab a wheel. You cannot get better meeting the same people every week, riding the same route at the same pace, and expect a difference. Step out and be uncomfortable.