Rainy day ride

Well, the ride with my bike club didn’t happen today. It rained overnight, and was misty this morning, but the forecast said it would clear, then rain again this afternoon. I decided to chance it, so rode over to Starbucks to see who would show up.

About 15, in fact. I was still a bit leery about riding in such wet conditions, but almost everyone else seemed fine with it. A couple seemed hesitant about going on a planned 45-mile jaunt and being far from home if the skies opened up.

The ride leader called us to get ready, when my cell phone rang. It was my wife, Pat. She’s training for the Hill Country Ride for AIDS again this year, and was going out with a group of riders she regularly trains with. But today, she was the only one to show, and didn’t know if she should ride on her own in the wet, or if she should just go home. I told her I would join her, and we would decide what to do.

I made my apologies to the ride leader, and headed out. She was just a mile or so from where we were going to start, so we met up quickly. We decided to do Mopac, and assess conditions as we went along.

Traffic on Sunday mornings is usually light along this stretch, and today it was even lighter. It was warmer today than it had been lately, about 70. But the mist made the going unpleasant. I pulled off at a cutout at the top of a hill, and waited for her to catch up to me. We decided to keep going. A convenient arterial street about two miles out would get us back home if conditions got worse. When we reached that street, we were fumbling with sunglasses we could no longer see out of, but agreed that we could head out to 1826, turn around, and when we got back to this spot on the return leg, assess again.

rainyride.jpg

It’s hard to tell from the photo, but it was misting heavily at this point.

I reached 1826 well ahead of Pat, who struggles on hills. A group of club riders passed me and turned north on 1826. It’s a road I don’t ride in nice weather, let alone crummy days like this one. It’s narrow, curvy, and hilly with no shoulder, and cars travel it too fast. I suppose there’s safety in numbers. At least we weren’t the only idiots out today.

The rain picked up on the return leg. Still light, but now more of a nuisance. When we got back to the arterial street, we decided to head home. The road crud kicked up by my rear tire had spattered the back of my white jersey (what was I thinking?), and we both needed a warm shower.

At around 11 a.m., I drove past Starbucks on my way to the grocery store, and there were the club members back from their ride. It appeared they had cut it short, too.

Another step toward improvement

I just got back from almost four hours in a classroom. What a way to start the weekend! But it was a good thing, because it dealt with bikes. I went to Road I, a class offered by the League of American Bicyclists.

The League offers several classes in different aspects of bicycle riding. Road I is their most basic. It concentrates on training new riders to ride safely in traffic, but also includes such skills as basic maintenance, on-bike skills and crash avoidance techniques.

The class met in a meeting room tucked behind the storeroom of a local REI, the outdoors co-op. Six students showed up – about the number I’d guessed would be there. They had a variety of biking backgrounds: a couple of mountain bikers, a new commuter, some club riders. One thing they all had in common – including the two instructors – was that they were all women. I was the only guy in the room.

Some of the instruction was really basic: These are the recommended clothes to wear while biking, this is a helmet, these are two different kinds of shoes, etc. To the instructor’s credit, she quickly surveyed the room, and passed over these items in short order. Much better was a PowerPoint presentation explaining such things as proper lane position when riding on city streets. The presentation featured videos of bikes moving through traffic, “taking the lane,” and instruction on how to deal with different situations encountered on the road, such as approaching freeway on and off ramps, railroad crossings, and emergency moves.

Class was capped off with a 30-question multiple choice test over what we’d just learned (I missed two. In school, that’d still be good for an A.).

Road I is a two-part class. The classroom session is followed on Saturday morning by a five-hour on-bike session, actually practicing the techniques we heard about tonight. But, bad news: tomorrow’s session has been cancelled! The instructor is out of town on business, and our classroom teacher won’t be available. I’ll have to wait until the end of April to get the on-bike part. Disappointing, yes, but I did come away with new information, and I’ll be putting it to use in my next several rides.

ABC

The bike club I joined in January was profiled in a neighborhood newsletter as having A, B, and C groups. The A group could be classified as the “serious” bikers – fast pace, long distance riders on high-end bikes. The B group would be what I call the “15 mph crowd” – those who like to ride, and have pretty good road bikes, but just can’t keep up with the As. The C group would be parents on hybrids, kids, oldsters on cruiser bikes, people who ride short distances for fun and a little exercise.

Lately, discussions on the club’s Yahoo! group about As and Bs have been getting contentious. A couple of self-described B riders have used the term “weenie” to label the Bs. Others have taken umbrage at that – they want to be respected for their decision to ride for fun and not get roped into speed contests.

Another group has begun breaking down the Bs into B+, B and B-, or “wannaBe” groups, which has put some into high dudgeon over the whole labeling thing. One of the organizers of the club’s Sunday ride, which is open to anyone, takes issue with classifying riders at all. “We’re all one club,” he says.

Some self-classified B riders say they just want to make sure other riders of their caliber are on the Sunday ride, so they’re not left far behind on their own (These are no-drop rides, but it’s been known to happen). Other self-classified B riders are trying hard to become part of the A group, and are training hard to get it done.

It’s been awhile since I’ve ridden with the club. My last ride with them was in late January, and was a great experience. I got to see a route I hadn’t ridden before, and while there was no way I could keep up with the better riders, I did fit in with a group that was content to travel more slowly than the ride leaders. But I had bike issues and weather issues in February, and was out of town two weekends in a row in March.

This Sunday, I hope to join them again. I have a good idea who I can ride with, and who will leave me behind quickly. The longer distances the club rides will challenge me to build my mileage, and for now, endurance is what I’m after – not speed.

So, I guess I’m a B rider. Don’t care. I want to ride, not race. We’ll see if the ride breaks up into two distinct classes of cyclist. If it does, maybe I’ll just have to make friends with the ones at roughly the same level as I am – and we’ll all know that despite well-intentioned “one club” protestations, we really do fall into separate and unequal rider classifications.