Most bikers I know are always trying to find time to ride. I certainly am. Lately, I’ve been limited to riding on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday only — my Tuesday evening ride just hasn’t happened in the past two months because I wind up staying later than planned at work.
But one group of cyclists has found a way to make time for their rides. My friend Ramon H. in the Rio Grande Valley of far south Texas and a group of his riding buddies meet for a morning ride. A 5 O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING ride! And astonishingly, the number of riders at that hour is growing.
It all started in 2004 when Ramon’s friend Eddie wanted to train for an upcoming ride, but couldn’t do it in the evening. He did 5 a.m. rides until his event came and went, then stopped. But in 2009 Ramon had started riding and wanted to get in more miles. Eddie invited him to come out at 5 a.m.
For awhile, it was just the two of them. But word of mouth spread, and people started asking to join.
“Nowadays, the 5 a.m. ride has become a staple with the local cycling clubs and bicycle shops,” Ramon said. “They send folks our way when a certain rider asks about early morning rides.”
The ride attracts an average of eight to 10 bikers, and what started as a Tuesday and Thursday event has now spread to the rest of the week. Eddie leads the Monday, Wednesday and Friday rides; Ramon Tuesday and Thursday. Eddie said as many as 18 have shown up a few times. In that case, the ride splits into two or three groups — hammerheads and slower riders. Ramon said if people are feeling poorly and don’t want to ride, they come out anyway and drive a SAG vehicle.
“In their eyes, their biological clocks are already used to being up and about at that time, so they might as well come out,” he said.
Waiting at a stoplight.
Of course, safety is a concern to riders and their families. One cyclist (not part of the group) was killed when struck by a car at 6 a.m. near their route.
“When you first ride in the dark, your eyes play tricks on you. You see all sorts of shadows,” said Ramon.
Eddie added, “I find it amazing how many times I did not notice a car coming behind me.” He emphasized the importance of using good lights and reflective gear, and riding defensively.
The rides started out with a 22-mile loop. That’s been extended to 24 miles, but some of the newer riders were not comfortable with that distance, so shorter loops of 10 and 14 miles were added.
“Interestingly enough,” Ramon noted, “24 miles seems to be the ‘magical number’ in that the fast group can finish the distance in about an hour and half, while the beginner group can finish the distance in two hours. The rides are done by 7 a.m.”
“Plus,” added Eddie, “I get to say to my coworkers, ‘Yeah…I did 30 miles this morning.’”
For Eddie, the quiet and the lack of traffic are highlights of riding that early. Ramon likes the sunrises.
“There is something magical about coming back from ‘the long loop,’ turning to the east and watching some of the most beautiful skies,” he said. ”You definitely are reminded how infinitesimal you, with all of your problems, really are. It is during these rides that I am most thankful to be alive and to be able to do this.”
You know, I can see the possibilities of a ride like this. There’s really nothing to keep me from getting out at the crack of dawn and putting in some miles. Except, perhaps, my wife. Eddie allowed that there could be a problem. His wife actually comes out for the Tuesday and Thursday rides, but he added…
“Every now and then she says, ‘For once can the alarm not go off at 4 a.m?’”