How Far We Goin’?

Every week, our club president posts possible routes for the Saturday and Sunday club rides. Generally, the routes are a mix. Sometimes, the distance is a bit longer, but the roads are comparatively flat. Other times, a lot of climbing is involved, but the routes are a bit shorter.

Among newer riders, or riders who are coming back after some time off the bike, distance always seems to be THE measure by which a riding decision is made. The magic length is about 45 miles. Anything beyond that, and people will either beg off, or come up with a shorter route of their own.

Here’s the curious thing: Routes are usually 40-60 miles. There really isn’t a lot of variation. At the beginning of spring, it’s relatively easy for people who haven’t ridden much to start out with shorter rides, between 30-35 miles, and quickly work up to the 45-mile range. From there, stretching to 50 and even 60 isn’t a big deal.

So why is it that when he posts a ride, it’s always followed on our club’s Yahoo group by inquiries about the length? It shouldn’t matter by now — just jump in, and if you’re left behind, you’ll have a cue sheet or a map, or a Garmin display to get you home safely.

Oh, what’s that? You didn’t bother to follow the link the club president left with the route information? He posts turn-by-turn directions as well as a Garmin map. There’s really no excuse not to make a small effort to become acquainted with the directions we’ll follow on ride day.

And yet, it appears that for some people, that small effort is too much trouble. It results in riders taking wrong turns during the ride. Sometimes, their mistakes are discovered, and someone is dispatched to chase them down and get them back on the right route. But since our Sunday rides are not no-drop rides (at least for the A riders), often no help is sent.

We’ve got a ride coming up Sunday that I’ve never ridden before. Well, to be correct, I haven’t ridden about a third of the route. So I’ll be sure to have the cue sheet with me.

It’s a good thing, because after the route was posted today, one of the first responses was: “Joe, I have just one word: howlongisit?”

I was pleased to see the response: “Nottoofar.”

Some Basic Tips For Noobs

I decided not to ride Sunday morning, because it was pouring rain when I woke up. Dumb move. Things were pretty well dried out by 9 a.m., and if I’d been a little more patient, I could have gone. As it was, I did a short ride with my wife, as I mentioned in the last post.

But I wanted to make up for the lost B ride, so I posted that I would go Monday morning, since it was a holiday. We would do the Same Fitzhugh route that the A’s did on Sunday. Three others came out to join me, including Yasmin and Frank, two new B riders who rode with us for the first time last week.

Both of them have recently bought new bikes, and they’re both strong riders who will only get stronger and faster as they keep riding. As we negotiated the rolling hills along Fitzhugh Road, Frank stayed with Buddy, who moved well out in front. Yasmin got ahead of me, and while I had some trouble sticking with her, we were closer together than Buddy and Frank were to us.

At the turnaround, about 16 miles out from the start, Yasmin complained that her saddle was bothering her. She’s a tall woman, and the bike frame she had appeared to be sized for a man. But the saddle was a narrow racing style. I could relate to her distress. I rode a narrow racing saddle for about a year, when I finally ditched it some something wider and more comfortable.

“When you take it back to the shop, ask them to fit you with a wider saddle,” I suggested. Because of women’s wider pelvises, they need wider saddles than men, anyway.

At another rest stop farther on, both Yasmin and Frank expressed concern about their hands. They were getting numb, and they were shaking them out periodically.

In Frank’s case, he was riding with his elbows locked. “One of the guys told me to ride with my elbows bent,” he said. “I’m trying to get used to that.” Bending the elbows takes weight off the hands. The saddle should have been positioned in such a way that the elbows naturally bend when the rider is in his standard riding position. When I had my bike fitting some years ago, the fitter said it’s more common that people have their saddle too far back rather than too far forward. For most people, he said, moving the saddle forward will provide that elbow bend and make for a more comfortable riding position.

Fitters often use KOPS, or Knee Over Pedal Spindle, as a way to determine saddle fore-aft position. But the other day I was re-reading Peter White’s excellent contrarian article about bike fitting, where he pooh-poohs that notion. It’s all about balance, he says, the kind of balance between power and comfort. The article inspired me to do some tweaking on my saddle position.

It turned out that Yasmin was pushing her hands against the brake hoods. While that seems like a normal position for a new rider, it can cause the hands to go numb quickly. I showed them how to position the hands so the pressure is on the outside heels of the hands, not the webbing between the thumb and forefinger. “It usually doesn’t take much of a shift in position to relieve the pressure,” I said.

We wrapped up the ride and went our separate ways. I hope the tips about saddle width, bending the elbows, and hand position will help Frank and Yasmin enjoy their riding. I fully expect it will have negative consequences for me — it’ll just make them stronger riders, and I’ll be left behind again.

Sore Butt

It was pouring rain when I woke up at 6 a.m. to get ready for the Sunday club ride. I figured I’d let it play out, and then decide if I would try to ride.

Our club president posted an advisory that the ride would start an hour later, to let the roads dry out — but it looked to me that things would still be wet, so I bagged a ride.

However, around 9 a.m., things were starting to dry out, and my wife insisted we go out for a ride. She’s been busy with her business this week, and has gotten out only once. Even with wet pavement, I thought a neighborhood ride would be fine.

We rode out four and a half miles to a turnaround on a favorite ride of Pat’s, when I suggested we add some distance. She was feeling great, glad to be on the bike, so we set off. We took some detours through area streets we don’t normally ride, bombed down a nice hill, and did a lap of the Veloway. By the time we got home, we had one 15.5 miles.

That’s just getting warmed up for me, but it was farther than she had ridden all year, I think. I took off to add some more miles, since Sunday is my normal long mileage day anyway, but some residual showers forced me to turn around earlier than I’d planned, and I got back to the house with only 25 miles on the bike computer.

Later, as we watched some TV, she said her butt was sore. “I can really tell I was on the bike longer today,” she said.

That’s good, though. Pat has a tendency to do short rides, and not stretch out her distances. Now that summer is here, we can ride farther, and maybe even get her ready for some more challenges, like some organized rides in the area.

In this case, a sore butt is just an indication of a training effect.