Finding Your Biking “Style”

I’ve now been biking “seriously” since the summer of ’07, and recently, I got to thinking about what types of riding I enjoy most.

I do a lot of different kinds of rides, but all my riding is on the road.  Although I own a mountain bike, it is strictly an errand bike, and I do not take it out on recreational rides.  On the road bike though, I do the occasional short time trial, trying to hold my top speed for eight miles; I go to the local Veloway and do anywhere from six to 18 miles, sometimes lazily, sometimes with intervals or fartlek, often in just the small chainring to work on cadence; I ride with my club on Sunday mornings, sometimes struggling to keep up with the peloton, sometimes leading a slower B group ride; I ride a collection of routes from the house of varying length, sometimes sticking to my suburban-style neighborhood, sometimes venturing out into the country.

I imagine it’s much the same for most of you.

But if you had your choice, what kind of riding would you prefer over the others?

I have come to the conclusion that my cycling style is easy long distance.  I like to ride country roads with light traffic.  I like to ride without feeling any external or self-imposed pressure to finish by a certain time.  I like to be able to stop, and perhaps take pictures every so often.

My idea of bicycling heaven.

Living where I do, that kind of riding is fairly close by.  I have a couple of routes that will put me on roads like those within six to 10 miles.  Or, I can toss the bike in the car and drive a little farther to get to even less traveled roads.

Now, that’s not to say that I have now begun to ignore other types of riding.  For one thing, I know I have to do some speed work just to be able to enjoy the riding I prefer.  It’s no fun to be 35 miles into a ride and feel tuckered out.  I do the occasional hill work, so I can handle the hills I run into out in the country.

But I’m not at all crazy about the kind of riding a lot of my acquaintances take for granted: long jaunts on the shoulder of a high-speed highway.  The popular “Dam Loop” west of Austin is a magnet for many area riders.  I find it to be most unpleasant, and having ridden it a few times now, I will avoid it from here on out.  (That’s not to say I won’t do it again sometime — I just don’t like it all that much.)

I would guess that the riding I prefer actually accounts for less mileage than the other riding I do.  But that’s okay — it becomes something to look forward to.  I’ll toil on the hills and during intervals, I’ll put in the miles on suburban residential streets, and I’ll ride the shoulders of fast roads — as long as I can get that 35-60 mile weekend ride in, away from heavy traffic, enjoying the scenery, the animals, and the company of like-minded bikers.

I’ll bet some of you have your own idea of the perfect ride.  Come on, weigh in.

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12 thoughts on “Finding Your Biking “Style”

  1. I really like the no drop Jack and Adams ride on Sunday as it is a moderate pace with friendly people. I also always enjoy the big Charity rides and have enjoyed the 5 I have done this year with Real Ale the most scenic and Atlas the most fun. I also just like heading out from my house to do a Circle C loop, end up at the veloway for a few laps and run into a few regulars there, maybe stop at Starbucks or get a breakfast taco. No matter what the ride I most always meet someone new or run into an acquaintance or friend to chatter with… which is the best part!

  2. I’m with you – I enjoy the exploration that my bike allows me to do. I like seeing things that I normally would miss and taking the occasional picture. I totally agree with Hemingway:

    “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”

  3. I really enjoy my morning commutes to work. It’s around 5 miles each way. I leave the house at 5:30 and am home by 9AM.

    I do lots of road rides but have to say I do prefer city riding. #3 Son and I both agree that our favorite rides have been in Manhattan. Boston and Providence RI are also pretty neat. Urban riding is easier than we imagined, but also exciting.

    Touring for a week or two is definitely the creme de la creme though.

    • I started riding again this summer after laying off for two years. We moved into a very rural area of middle Tennessee, bounded by the Cumberland Plateau, which literally rises up in my back yard. Hills are a necessity of getting down my road and out onto one of the larger county roads. I had never done much country riding before this, I lived in larger cities and rode there. But with my two regular cycling buddies, I get to explore the countryside around us two or three times a week. The rides range from 20 to 40 miles (my friends will ride further) in a county that has less than 28,000 people. I leave the house on a country lane. If we circle from the center of town in Sparta, TN, we will see traffic headed into work or parents and school buses taking children to school. But 98% of my riding now is in the country. We ride faster and harder when the three of us ride together. But when I ride alone, I dawdle. I look at the trees and crops as we move from season to season. I talk to the livestock and stop to look in on the miniature sheep and Dexter cows. I like seeing how the creeks and rivers look in their everchanging light and foiliage.

      Although I recognize the necessity of the physical conditioning and appreciate its many benefits, it is actually being out, under my own steam that keeps me coming back.

  4. My favorite kind of riding is the lazy weekend rides where we have time to explore a new route or extend the mileage a bit. As a photographer, I always have a camera with me, so I enjoy stopping to take a photo if something interesting catches my eye. That’s the only thing I don’t like about group rides is the ability to stop for photos without getting dropped. But I also enjoy taking the occasional group ride where I can meet new people and train with fellow cyclists.
    My dream is to be in good enough shape physically and have enough money to take off work for several months and explore the country by bike. No itinerary, no pre-planned route. Just get on my bike and see where I end up.

  5. For me it is urban riding, weaving in and out of neighborhoods surrounding mine until I’ve reached the desired miles. My main route is a mix of those neighborhoods + a bit of country and a bit of “main roads”. Gives me the challenges of riding with cars, and the pleasantness of riding through neighborhoods where I can wave at the people, see kids on bikes, etc.

    2nd are the rail trails. A nice controlled atmosphere where I can really focus on the ride, or totally tune out. The volume of people can spoil that ride though.

  6. Great question. I can really identify with the not-wanting-to-do-620 feeling. I’ve gone on 360 several times, and it can be very unnerving to have the traffic screaming by. I have two favorite types of rides, either tuck myself into the northwest hills and the Shoal Creek velocircle, or strike out for the country roads east of Pflugerville. A close third includes the trek to Buda and back. It’s typically not the terrain I try to avoid, just the amount and velocity of the traffic involved.

  7. We just like heading out and riding together no particular distance or terrain in mind. Some lite touring and we do a few club rides but with my wife Jo being the “slowest” rider in the club, it’s not much chance to “meet new folks” as we are always in the back of the group so we can only do the “Non Drop” rides. Yes, I’m a lot faster than my wife but when we ride together she sets the pace for us. Otherwise she’d be ridning ALONE on every club/group ride. Too be honest, the ONLY reason we are members of the local club is to support the “local government work for bicyclist’s” that the club does.

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