Recruiting New Riders

For some time, several of us in the club have been conducting “B”-level rides. That is, we’re not as fast as most of the folks who show up for the Sunday club ride, and it’s no fun being left behind.

Trouble is, we have a very small B group. Most often, the only ones to show up for the B ride are my pal Maggie and me. So Maggie got an idea: Why not schedule a “beginner” ride for people who we know are reading the club emails on our Yahoo group, but who for whatever reason don’t come out to rid with us?

She did one a month ago, and got my wife and one other person to join her. We haven’t seen or heard from the other person since. But not one to be deterred, Maggie posted another “beginner” ride for this weekend.

Lo and behold, she got a bite! A woman messaged back that she and her husband would come out.

We were concerned that Sunday’s chilly morning temperatures would scare them off, but at 8 a.m., two new faces rode into the parking lot at Starbucks. Diane and Mike are older riders, closer in age to me than Maggie, and they ride a lot — hardly what you would call “beginners.” But they had the impression that our club’s average speed is in the 16-18 mph range, and they’re not fast.

We assured them that we’re not fast, either. We asked about their riding habits, and it turns out they ride a lot of the routes we do on our club rides. Maggie’s thoughts of doing a simple neighborhood ride were dumped for something more interesting.

“How are you on hills?” I asked.

“Okay,” they said.

I suggested doing the Zoo Ride. It’s hilly, but the hills aren’t killers, and it’s a little shorter than most of our routes, so if the hills do tire a rider out, the suffering is not prolonged.

We started off. The pace was leisurely as we wound our way through the twisty Granada Hills subdivision, and stayed leisurely when we got to Circle Drive, where the club ride usually picks up speed. The sweeping downhill to the dead end near the zoo was fun, but then we had to climb out of it.

Deer can often be seen in the large yards during the early morning.
Deer can often be seen in the large yards during the early morning.

Mike rides a Novara Randonee touring bike with a triple chainring. “It can climb walls,” he said.

Diane’s bike is a Specialized, similar to my own. It has a compact double. While Mike spun at more than one pedal turn for every rotation of the wheel, Diane gamely pushed her way up the hill. We made it to the top, and stopped to rest.

“That’s the end of the hill,” I told Diane. “Until the next one.”

We take a two-lane road for about a mile and half that is most notable for the amount of traffic on a quiet Sunday morning. Cars and trucks have to slow to our speed before they can pass, because the small hills and gentle curves of the road can hide oncoming vehicles. When we got through it, I assured them that we had just completed the diciest part of the ride. They were relieved.

But then came the biggest hill of the ride. It’s on Southwest Parkway, and for years was my nemesis. I can ride it well now, and I swung around Maggie to attack the hill. (Got a Strava PR on it!) Then I waited at the top for the others to catch up.

“From here, we have a choice,” said Maggie. “We can continue on to Travis Country and ride some more hills, or we can turn at William Cannon Road and head back.”

They were all for heading back.

That meant the day’s ride was about five miles shorter than it would have been, but was still a great way to spend a cool fall morning. We stopped back at Starbuck’s for coffees and conversation.

Mike, Maggie, and Diane (and a blur from my hand -- I'm a lousy photographer) as we unwind after the ride.
Mike, Maggie, and Diane (and a blur from my hand — I’m a lousy photographer) as we unwind after the ride.

We toldĀ them to watch the club’s message board for posts about future B rides, since they would fit in just fine. They’re busy next weekend, but with any luck, our Sunday B rides will be more than just Maggie and me.

Isn’t It Interesting…

Only two other B riders showed up for our club ride Sunday, and we decided to head to Creedmoor. This staple of our Sunday routes had been forgotten lately; in fact, I hadn’t ridden it since June. The others were looking forward to the ride, too.

After not riding a route for awhile, some changes are bound to crop up. Most of the ones we ran into had to do with road construction. Our main way east out of our neighborhood narrows to a two-lane, unstriped, country-style road for a short stretch. Then, at a T-intersection, we turn left, and then pick up that road again at the first right.

The city is eliminating that zigzag. It’s adding a curve to the road, and the new route will meet the old at that first right. But it’s not ready yet, and while they’re working on it, the two lanes are quite narrow. I debated getting up onto a new sidewalk that has been put in along the road, but at 8:30 in the morning, there’s not a lot of traffic here. We got to the T-intersection without a problem.

A similar diversion is going in about a mile farther east, as the city straightens out another zigzag route. This time, the road was blocked by large barricades, but there was just enough room for a bike to get through. We were feeling good that bikes could get through where cars couldn’t.

Creedmoor is about 16 miles from our starting point. After a pleasant trip, we wheeled in for a breather at the convenience store stop we always use.

“Isn’t it interesting,” asked Maggie, “how easy that ride is now? Remember when we used to do this ride?”

I remembered. There were times I’d get to the store and want to stay for an hour, just to unwind. This time, a ten-minute stay seemed a little long, and we got back on the bikes for the return leg.

The ride is easier now, for a couple of reasons. One, I’ve been losing a little weight. Not much, mind you, but enough that I can tell. It feels good to have to fasten my belt to the last notch on some of my pants. The other is that I’m stronger. I credit mountain biking for that. It’s beefed up my legs. Hills are never going to be my strong suit, but by powering my way up short, steep climbs on the MTB, the longer, less steep climbs on the road bike aren’t the struggle they used to be.

Now, all I have to do is attend to some bike maintenance again. Isn’t it interesting that a chain can start skipping some cogs after a two-hour plus ride, when it was shifting smoothly at the start? I see a new chain and cassette on the horizon.

Some New B’s

As in newbies? Well, okay. Some people who had been lurking on our club’s Yahoo group turned out for a neighborhood ride last week, and I invited them to ride the roads as part of the B ride Sunday.

It was a good B ride turnout, augmented by some A riders who needed a recovery from grueling efforts the previous day. Yasmin and Frank joined us for the first time,Victoria for the second or third, and Penny came out for the first time in about a year.

I chose a route to Buda, about a 30-mile round trip.

Any concerns I had about the new riders’ ability were dashed when we reached Davis Hill, about three miles into the ride. I couldn’t catch the newcomers going up. Thank goodness for stoplights, so I could work my way to the front of the pack again.

The ride south was made difficult by the brisk headwind we faced, but it was far from the worst I’ve seen. Just a couple of miles north of Buda, here comes George from the A ride. He had won the sprint into the Walgreens store in Buda, and while the rest of the A’s continued south, George decided to ride the rest of the way with us.

The Walgreens, at 15 miles into the ride, is a traditional rest stop. We swapped stories about club members who had broken bones while riding, which I’m sure didn’t ease any concerns the New B’s had. But instead of turning around at that point, we decided to keep going, at least for a few more miles.

Victoria peeled off to head home for a family obligation, and the rest of us headed back to Buda. Here’s where we hit our first glitch.

Buddy was looking back to make sure everyone had made the turn onto Main Street, when his front wheel went into a curb. He did a nice shoulder roll and landed mostly on grass, but complained of a wrenched back. However, he decided to keep going all the way back and deal with the soreness when he got home.

Buddy (second from left) is  rolling again after his mishap.
Buddy (second from left) is rolling again after his mishap.

The group strung out on the way back, and we made several stops to regroup. Our highlight was when we reached Slaughter Lane. That’s a four-lane divided road with no shoulder. We opted to form a “bus” and occupy the right lane for the two miles back to Starbucks. It was a good move. For the first time ever, not one car honked at us while going past.

The get together at Starbucks is often as much fun as the ride itself. Janice, who is killer good with the A’s, couldn’t wait to see if she had regained Queen of the Mountain status for a Strava segment on the A ride. She had, and spent some time extolling the virtues of Strava to Yasmin, who appeared anxious to join the Strava herd.

Judy, George, Laura, and Penny unwind after the ride.
Judy, George, Laura, and Penny unwind after the ride.
Pippa (l.) learns from Janice that Pippa's Queen of the Mountain is no more.
Pippa (l.) learns from Janice (r.) that Pippa’s Queen of the Mountain is no more.

Mike, an emergency room physician, performed a field amputation of some excess chin strap on Penny’s helmet. “This will keep you from looking like a newbie,” he told her. She wasn’t convinced, and was concerned that she would have too little strap to work with when adjusting her helmet. The jury is still out on that one.

"No!" says Laura, Mike's wife. "You're cutting it too short!"
“No!” says Laura, Mike’s wife. “You’re cutting it too short!”

All in all, it was a good ride. We did 34 miles at a reasonable — and sometimes quick — pace. The new B’s held their own with the pack, and it looks like they’ll be back for more. Frank has already checked into buying some club kit.