Descriptive Route Names

After several weeks of atypically cool weather, things are warming up around here, and I expect the club’s scheduled rides will have more participants. We have several club rides. There’s the regular Sunday ride at 8:15 a.m. For the A riders, it is not a no-drop ride, and riders are expected to average 16-18 mph over 50-60 miles. There’s also a Saturday no-drop ride, but it’s still relatively fast. Some of the retireds or work-from-home types do a Friday morning “Zoo” ride, which takes them out to the Austin Zoo and then back via some hilly roads. The main hill ride is Wednesday morning.

But in recent weeks, we’ve seen a lot of riders modifying start times, routes, speeds, etc. It was finally enough to prompt one member to post to our Yahoo board that ride names need to be changed.

“We need some ride names that will more accurately reflect what we can expect,” he wrote. He had a few suggestions:

The Janet Hangover ride, that starts an hour later than scheduled because the ride leader partied a little too hard the night before.

Jack’s I-Forgot-to-Download-the-Route-and-I’ll-Sort-Of-Improvise-As-We-Go-Along Ride, which often results in turns onto roads under construction, or roads that used to be paved, but are now gravel, or roads that dead end. Riders can expect to ride 10 miles farther than they anticipated.

Martin’s Last-Minute-Hill-Ride-Alternate, that takes place without notice, when Martin tackles the main hill ride and finds it’s too tough for him. His version is much shorter and involves a lot less climbing.

I suggested the Ray-Sunday-B-Ride-But-Because-He’s-So-Slow-Lately-It-Oughta-Be-a-C-Ride-That-Takes-Place-Every-Sunday-Except-When-He-Doesn’t-Show-Up-Which-Has-Been-A-Lot-Lately.

Then there’s Greg’s Saturday-No-Drop-That-Turns-Into-a-Not-No-Drop-Ride-Because-He-Thinks-We-Should-All-Ride-Faster Ride. The name speaks for itself.

On a regular Sunday, the post-ride coffee klatsch yields several other descriptive ride names.

But for some reason, the club’s information page still lists rides by their standard names.

Do the riders you travel with have their own descriptive names for their routes?

 

Pull It Down

On our Sunday club ride, we were joined by our friend Jerry, whose bad crash and broken leg I detailed in a post earlier this year.

Although Jerry has done some riding on the tandem he shares with his wife, this was his first ride on the roads with the club since his crash. Jerry has always been one of the more cautious riders I know, which is funny, because he’s also one of the faster riders in the club. But to ease back in, he decided to ride with the B’s today. He had decked himself out in a new kit, all in hi-visibility green — including his new helmet. He would be hard to miss.

Our ride was more like an A- group. A lot of folks decided the planned A ride wasn’t to their liking. Jordan came up with a good route, so some of us scrapped our plans in order to go with him. We had some strong riders, several who just wanted to take it easy after a grueling ride Saturday.

The ride got off to an inauspicious start. Just miles in, Maggie called out that she was abandoning. She had gotten a new crankset Saturday, and it wasn’t working out well. A clicking sound that started almost immediately got worse and worse. She decided to head home, and run her bike back to the bike shop for an adjustment.

After a quick run out to the zoo area, which features a nice, fast, twisty downhill, we had to turn around and head back up the hill. The group stayed together, which helped to negotiate the traffic, that was heavier than normal this morning.

Kenny was the next one to go. He had done one of the tough rides the day before, so he peeled off to head home after about 12 miles. Six of us were left to head east, and take a leisurely ride through a nice neighborhood on its ring road — a wide, smooth thorofare with almost no traffic.

It was after we left that spot, and were headed back to the start, that we regrouped at a stop light. Laura turned around to make sure we were all there, and noticed Jerry at the back.

Not Jerry.

Not Jerry.

“What’s with your helmet, Jerry?” she asked.

We all turned around to look.

Jerry’s lime green new helmet was sitting funny, way back on his head. He wears an orange cycling cap under his helmet, but his forehead was now mostly unprotected.

“Pull it down, Jerry!” exclaimed Laura. “You look like an amateur!”

I’ve never had a problem with wearing my helmet too far back on my head. I’ve caught my wife doing it, and gently had her pull it down. If your forehead isn’t covered, an important part of your head isn’t getting the protection it needs.

Kids seem to have the biggest problem with this. Maybe it’s because their helmets are too big off the shelf anyway. Maybe they think it’s more comfortable to wear the helmet back.

Be sure to do your kids — and your riding companions — a favor if you see this problem. Just tell them to pull it down.

Herding Cats

Our club president was out of town this weekend, mixing business and pleasure (he brought his bike on a business trip so he could sneak in some rides in the San Francisco area).

That left a big hole in our club organization. You see, he’s the guy who plans the routes for our club rides on Sundays. He urged someone — anyone — to come up with a plan for rides while he was gone.

So, the messages started flying on our club’s Yahoo group, which is where we do all our communicating.

Shane:  “Pepe hates Fitzhugh and I hate riding in the city so it looks like we might end up doing some different rides. That’s all good too though, options make life interesting right? Leaving at the usual time for a 57mile round trip and probably somewhere in the region of 3800-4000 ft of elevation.”

That drew almost immediate reaction. Jim was concerned about a potentially dangerous stretch of road:

“The Slaughter to Nutty Brown stretch of 1826 suggested is 5 miles and probably the most dangerous section in most people’s opinion (no shoulder, steep rollers, and heavier traffic than Fitzhugh).”

Clark suggested we depart from our normal routine and drive to a starting point some 10 miles west of our neighborhood. He pointed out a variety of scenic, low-traffic roads we could choose from.

But the afore-mentioned Pepe didn’t want to drive to a ride. To his credit, he came up with two options, one of 49 miles, and a shorter one of 34 miles.

Jerry said he had to be somewhere about an hour’s drive from town by 1 p.m., so couldn’t do the 50 milers that had been suggested. He came up with a plan of his own — one that we’ve done before and is about 32 miles. It has some potentially hazardous stretches, and some challenging rollers.

Frank, Yasmin, and Maggie — who all are B riders (Frank’s really an A, but it hasn’t sunk in yet) — declared themselves in for Jerry’s route.

But Shane, who was first to come up with a route plan, was getting frustrated by all the different options:

“I have now used every damn course creator I know of so if this doesn’t work, just assume we are doing Fitzhugh Road with an added loop on the way back. No 1826, no 290 – so NO WHINING!!!! Only whining allowed is my whining as I suffer up the little hills on the ride on Sunday.”

And Janice decided to add her two cents’ worth:

“I feel left out of the clusterfreak of the Sunday ride ‘planning,’ so I too will propose a ride.  My ride will start sometime between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.  The location of the start will be announced 2 seconds before the start, and the route will be depicted on an encrypted map which will be distributed after the ride.  I can tell you that the ride will travel on the left lane of Interstate 35 for several miles (only because it is probably the only road more dangerous than 1826).   A preride breakfast of baked potatoes will be available Easter egg style – you will have to find the potatoes hidden around the ride start.  This is not the worst ride posted, so I would anticipate a big turnout.”

In the end, we had three groups for the Sunday ride. One did Shane’s long route, another group started out with them, but shortened the distance considerably, and I joined Maggie and Brian for a B ride on another route that had never even come up for discussion on the online group.

As it turned out, we had three excellent rides.

And Joe, the club president, who was watching all of this online from his California base, was so pleased with the way things turned out, he has relinquished ride planning and is leaving it all up to us.

 

Nicknames

Guest poster Don Blount has been musing about the names cyclists call each other.

BlountOnBikingIt seems that my bike club is full of nicknames.

They are so numerous that I cannot remember many, but here are a few:

You could start with Fearless Frank, FF for short. He rides down hill like a man without fear. His epitaph should be: He never touched his brakes.

Then there is Ex Trez, the former club treasurer. This guy is 70 years old but rides like he is 40 years younger.

CB or Cherry Boy, a retired farmer, whose family grew or grows cherries.

Leadbutt for obvious reasons, I think.

Lonerider, who often puts in megamiles on his own. He also disappears from club rides as he goes off to do his own thing.

Grasshoppa – I am not sure about this one.

The Good Dr. Carl, not to be confused with the Evil Dr. Carl.

The Anti-Gravity Girls, two strong women riders whose name says it all about their climbing abilities.

Rocket. I have been told that he was fairly fast back in the day. He claims that he still is, even at 206 pounds.

And Capt. Hawk, sometimes shortened to just Hawk. He is a former Navy and airlines pilot. He said he was given his nickname during his Naval days when while flying a mission looking for enemy ships that a crewmember remarked that he looked like a hawk looking for prey.

That nickname stuck. He said the only people who called him by his given name “David” were his wife, always a sign of trouble, and people who did not know him real well.

That’s the thing about these nicknames — everyone who has one, likes it.

One of the funniest conversations I have heard  while out on a group ride happened when we met someone who followed our Yahoo group conversation.

One rider proudly introduced himself: “I’m Cherry boy,” he said. “Hi, I’m Leadbutt,” said the other. I was just flummoxed.

And if you are wondering, I am occasionally referred to as “The Editor. That is after all, what I do in my day job, but that has not really stuck — nor am I hankering for a nickname that would stick.

Hawk said that to have a nickname, you have to do something really memorable or boneheaded. I usually manage to avoid both (knock on wood).

What about your club? Is it full of nicknames too?

July Fourth Solo Ride

Someone in the club posted a ride for the Fourth of July, with one big difference: He wanted to start it at 7:30 a.m. instead of our usual 8:15. Since the mornings around here have been delightful lately, a lot of folks chimed in that they would be there.

His route was pretty ambitious, and he let it be known that the pace would be fast. I proposed an alternate route for the B’s, and said I would be there ready to go at 7:30.

The best laid plans…

It was 7:30 when I pulled out of my driveway. The Starbucks where we start our rides is less than 5 minutes from my house, so I wasn’t too concerned. I don’t recall a time when the club has begun its rides exactly on time.

But as I pulled into the parking lot, there was not a cyclist to be seen. Some folks at an outdoor table told me the group had left about 3 or 4 minutes earlier. “They went out on Slaughter,” the man said.

That made sense. It’s the quickest way to get to the start of the route they’d planned, and this early on a holiday morning, there wouldn’t be much traffic. I turned out onto the road and pedaled briskly.

If I could just catch a glimpse of them in the distance, I was pretty sure I would catch up to them at some point. A couple of B riders should be with the group, and we could branch off to an easier ride of our own.

In another couple of miles, I saw three cyclists ahead. Hm. They probably weren’t part of the club ride, I thought. But when the road curved left, I could see a large peloton ahead of the three. A ha! That must be them after all. I redoubled my efforts.

But I caught a red light, and lost ground to them. Still, after two more miles, I could see them in the distance once again. By now, I had gone about 10 miles, and realized I had yet to drink from my water bottle — a bad habit I get into if I’m distracted by other cares, like catching a group that was probably riding faster than me.

Now, the route approached Buda, which is usually a stop and regroup spot for us. I wasn’t sure if they planned to stop this early in the ride, but my hopes were high. Sure enough, when I turned into the Walgreens at the edge of town, there they were — a large bunch of cyclists.

Problem was, they weren’t from my club. This route is a popular one with Austin bikers, and it was clear that another group was taking this same way. I didn’t stop, but pedaled past them and struck out on the road again.

South of Buda, a good two-lane road passes a cement plant. It’s just uphill enough to be annoying, and it’s not a fast stretch for me. But today, I pedaled hard.

It didn’t do any good. I soon heard the familiar, “On your left,” and moved over slightly to be passed.

“Me too,” said another voice. “And me,” warbled a third. “We’re not done yet,” said yet another. That whole bunch I had left at the Walgreens passed me, with the most embarrassing one being a guy on a fixie. Fixies are cool. Unless they pass me.

Kyle was another six miles ahead. A convenience store stop there is almost obligatory for Austin cyclists, and I figured I’d catch my club at that point. A few riders from that Walgreens group straggled enough that I jumped into their little train, and we cruised into the convenience store stop.

Nope. This strage group was the only one around. I refilled my water bottle and had a couple of fig bars. My bike computer said I’d come 20-some miles at a 16.9 mph pace.

That both cheered me and concerned me. I don’t ride that fast. It felt good to have done that pace for 90 minutes, but I worried about having enough gas in the tank for the return trip. Only one way to find out.

The group ride left before me, so when I hit the road again, I was by myself. I rode steadily, not trying to push it on sections where I know I can go fast. The return trip was uneventful, until I cut through the local high school’s parking lot and prepared to turn onto Slaughter. “That looks like Ray,” said a female voice. It was Victoria, a fairly new member of our club, with her husband, Mark. I rode back to Starbucks with them.

“We got dropped just outside of Buda,” Victoria said, when we were back at Starbucks. “They were on a mission, and were determined to go fast and far. I was the only B on the ride, and just couldn’t keep up.” Victoria is more like a B+ rider — maybe even an A-. Anyway, she’s faster than me when she wants to be.

I looked at Mark. “Nice of you to stay back with Victoria,” I said.

“Happy wife, happy life,” he replied.

I said my goodbyes and headed home. The bike computer showed that although I had slowed some on the return leg, I was still averaging over 16 mph for 41 miles. Compared to the 14.7 or so I typically register on B rides, that was hot stuff. I put the bike away, pleased at how the day had gone.

Maybe missing the ride start wasn’t so bad, after all.

 

 

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.”

The Decline of the Group Ride?

This week, I got the monthly email newsletter from the Austin Cycling Association, a group I belong to. One item in the missive caught my eye: it said participation in the ACA’s “classic” rides has fallen off considerably. These are group rides the organization (It doesn’t call itself a “club,” so I won’t, either) hosts every Saturday and Sunday. The locations rotate among a couple dozen different spots, and riders can choose from several different distances for each ride.

“Ten or 12 years ago,” said the newsletter, “a typical ACA suburban or country ride would draw 50 or perhaps 70 riders; nowadays, they draw only a dozen or so.” The newsletter expressed bafflement as to why this would be the case.

The ACA is the largest cycling organization in the Austin area, with about 1200 or more members. The rides have always been one of the group’s attractions, so the news that participation was down that much was unexpected.

However, I must admit that although I’ve been a dues-paying member for several years, I myself haven’t taken part in that many rides. When I have, it’s often been because they’re merged with a ride some other group is putting on, such as a training ride for an upcoming charity event. For a couple of years, I’ve resolved to get out on ACA rides more often, because they go to places I rarely ride, and the change of scene would be welcome. But those different places are often 30 or even 40 miles from where I live. In my part of the city, the group doesn’t offer many rides.

Riders mill around before the start of one of our club rides.

Riders mill around before the start of one of our neighborhood club rides.

Those it does put on around my area are routes that I ride a lot — usually with my neighborhood cycling club, so I always go with my club rather than the ACA. And maybe that’s the reason for the decline in ridership. In the five years I’ve been riding, I’ve noticed lots of groups spring up that offer group rides. My neighborhood club is one example. We also have group rides on Saturday and Sunday, and lately, our Saturday rides have grown.

Then there’s the Austin Cycling Meetup group. Meetups are informal gatherings coordinated via a Meetup website — they exist for a wide variety of avocations. The cycling meetup sprang up about five years ago. I’m listed as a Meetup member, but I don’t ride with them anymore, for the same reason as above.

Several bike shops put on their own weekend or weekday evening rides. I’ve been on a few of those. And there are a number of other clubs in the area that all stage their own rides.

I can’t speak for any of the other groups, but my neighborhood club rides attract anywhere from a dozen to three dozen riders on Sunday mornings. That’s dependent on the weather, of course. In fact, I’d say our rides have grown over the last year or so by a little bit. Our Saturday ride had the reputation of being a “fast” ride, but some members will informally post that they’ll be heading out at about the same time, perhaps on a different route, at a different pace, and some of those rides draw decent numbers.

A bright spot in the Austin Cycling Association is the growth of so-called “hosted” rides. These differ from the “classic” rides in that a trained ride leader organizes the ride, they’re rated for speed and climbing, and they’re “no drop” rides. When you go to a classic ride, a ride “starter” furnishes you with a map and cue sheet, says a few words about the route and riding etiquette, and then the riders set off. They separate quickly, and it’s easy to find yourself on your own. I suppose that could be daunting for new riders, but anyone with some experience should be comfortable by themselves, especially with a map to help them out.

So, I don’t quite know what to make of this. Maybe it’s just that people prefer riding in smaller groups. Maybe it’s the early start time — most classic rides start at 8 a.m., which is another reason I’m not likely to drive 30 miles to get there. The ACA seems befuddled by the trend.

What’s your experience in your area? Have you noticed a falloff in group ride numbers? Or are yours flourishing? Are they large rides, or small? Do the routes vary, or are they repeated week to week? Let know in the comments.

The Un-Club Ride

Sunday morning is our usual club ride. But sometimes, the proposed route isn’t one I’m interested in doing. Other times, a more desirable alternative pops up.

That was the case today, when my friend Debra proposed a ride near Dripping Springs, in her neck of the woods. Barbara, a former club member, would be coming up from her new home in San Antonio to join us. Debra’s husband Russ and our pal Jerry would round out the group.

This would be a B-ride alternative to the main club ride. So what makes it the “un”-club ride? Well, see for yourself.

We gather at a nice park on the edge of Dripping Springs. The regular club ride leaves at 8:15. We were to go at “around nine.” At 9:05, we were still milling around, pumping up tires, chit-chatting, putting the finishing touches on our kit. Finally, we rolled out, and made it, oh a couple hundred yards to where a road branched off. Jerry and Russ took that road so they could take a nature break before we really got going. Although we leave from a park, its lack of facilities is one of its most notable features.

Soon we were rolling in earnest, coming up to the junction with Creek Road, which would be our route for the next six miles. Jerry suddenly braked and pulled over. We all stopped to wait for him — all except Russ, who kept going, oblivious to the stop. Jerry had just put new wheels on his bike, and his computer magnet wasn’t properly adjusted yet.

That taken care of, we started rolling in earnest for real now. Another mile and a half down the road, we take a fork to the right along picturesque Onion Creek. Barbara stopped quickly, then Debra. One of the arm rests for Barbara’s aero bars had fallen off. Barbara picked it up, and then she and Debra looked for the mounting screw and nut for the arm rest, without any luck. We were now 1.8 miles into the ride, and had stopped three times. It’s a good thing the weather was glorious.

We were rolling in earnest for really real now. Our aim was to catch Russ, who was well out of sight. Our blistering 12 mph pace probably wouldn’t enable us to do that, so we meandered along, chatting about things that have to do with bikes, and other things that don’t. As always, I enjoy riding through this area. I’ve done it often enough that I tend to take things for granted. Today, I tried to take in the sights and sounds — like this uniquely-named road that met ours.

Debra had suggested doing the Mt. Sharp Road route — one of several options we had in this area. Mt. Sharp was the longest and hilliest of these. I hadn’t been on that road for nearly a year, and was looking forward to riding it again. But in the meantime, we had some hills to climb, some cattle guards to cross, and some more stops to make.

We’re close together for a change. Barbara, Debra, Jerry and Russ. (Click pics to enlarge.)

At one of those stops, a whopping 12 miles into the ride, Debra opined that Mt. Sharp was out of the mix today. She didn’t have the energy to ride a long hilly route. The rest of us thought that was a smart choice. We decided to take Longhorn Trail instead, which is considerably shorter, but includes a decent hill that delivers a high speed descent, and winds through the middle of a small ranch.

This goat parked atop a small rock, master of all he surveyed.

Debra and Barbara cruise through the Hill Country.

After the ranch, the route is more downhill than up, overall, and on one stretch we were traveling between 25-30 mph when we rounded a bend and found the road ripped up. the county is going to resurface it, but in the meantime, the existing surface has to be removed. It looked like one of us would wipe out for sure, but we’re nothing if not expert — or lucky — bike handlers, and we managed to stay upright across some bone-jarring road. It probably didn’t last more than a half mile, but it seemed like the longest section of the day. We regrouped for another brief rest stop — this would be about our sixth this morning. We were averaging stops roughly every four miles. Except when we fit one in after only two miles.

Jerry stoically waits for the others to catch up so we can take yet another rest.

Back at the park, Jerry asked me what mileage showed on my computer.

“27.3 miles,” I answered.

“Hm, that’s a problem,” he said. “Mine shows 27.4.”

“That’s what mine rounds up to,” I said. “I’ve got 27.365. I think you’re in the ballpark. Don’t worry about it.”

But Jerry grumbled that his computer just wasn’t right. Debra’s showed 26.6. She wasn’t concerned about the discrepancy in the least.

Once we got all packed up, Debra suggested stopping at a little Mexican restaurant in Dripping Springs for a post-ride lunch. Most of us ordered tall iced teas. Russ ordered a Dr. Pepper (He’s a true Texan). The waitress brought the drinks, except for the Dr. Pepper. Seemed they were out. We placed our orders for food — Russ went for the Carne Asada (thinly-sliced grilled steak) — and chatted about a myriad of non-bike subjects, when the waitress came by again. No carne asada. He had enchiladas and a Coke.

I always look forward to Sunday mornings. Club rides are great. But on days like today, the un-club ride can be even greater.

Snippets From a B Ride

The emails flew fast and furious last evening. Our usual time to leave for the Sunday club ride is 8:15 a.m., but the forecast called for temps in the 30s at that time. I had planned to go, but wimped out when I saw the prognostication. Looks like a lot of others did, too — including some A riders. We had 13 in all for the B ride this morning at 9.

One of the problems we have in Texas is that the weather is rarely that cold when we ride, so most of us don’t have the kinds of warm cycling clothes our Northern brethren have. I was feeling a bit out of place in my red long-sleeve jersey (over a short-sleeved club jersey) and screaming green vest, because our club kit is white, blue, and yellow. Most riders had at least a club jersey on the outside. Then Jerry D. pulled into the lot.

“I’m glad I called you to coordinate clothing,” I called to him.

Bike Noob (left), Jerry D.

“Why, we’re the Gay Blades today, aren’t we?” he retorted.

Lots of chatter before the ride about clothing. Many wore glove liners, multiple layers, booties, ear muffs. Then there was Brian, our club Canadian. He showed up in a windbreaker over a short-sleeved jersey, and shorts. “It’s nice to ride without 10 feet of snow on the ground,” he said. The temperature when we rolled out was 38 degrees (3C).

One of the reasons I enjoy the B rides is that ride leader Jordan insists on keeping them “pleasurefests,” as opposed to what he calls the “sufferfests” of the A rides. But some A riders joined our little group this morning. David V., a Cat 3 racer and the club bike mechanic, said he’d done a hard hills workout the previous day, and wanted a recovery ride. There was New York John, and Marianne, who rarely rides with the club. She brought Tom, a friend of her husband’s, who was fixed up with a less-than-perfect bike. It wouldn’t shift out of the big ring. That didn’t seem to bother Tom, who is visiting from Boulder. Pippa, another A rider, was there to keep Judy company. Judy would normally ride with the As, but has been recovering from two broken bones in her wrist, suffered during a fall (don’t brace!).

About three miles into the ride is our first challenge: Davis Hill. It’s an ordinary hill, that can be tough for newer riders. The problem is, there’s a stoplight just before you make the turn for the hill, and hill begins immediately. “The difference between As and Bs on Davis Hill,” said my friend Rick, “is that the Bs shift down and try to spin up the hill, and the As get out of their saddles and attack the hill.”

I attacked today, but I was huffing and puffing, and sitting down again by the time I got to the top — when to my left, Tom glided by. In the big ring. Not a care in the world. Okay, I won’t worry about him today, I said to myself.

We crossed Interstate 35, and were headed for the country, when David V. and New York John caught and passed us. We had taken a major road to the I-35 junction, one that had a short stoplight. David and John had taken a side street, but their stoplight was a long one. “I don’t know why you Bs complain about As going too fast,” said David, “when you leave us behind.”

Out in the country, I found myself next to Laura, who’s become a regular on the B rides. She was ecstatic over her recent bike fit. “I feel so much more power than I used to,” she said. Her husband Mike, one of our A riders, had taken her to a prominent local racer who fits bikes at a local bike shop. “He put some things on my shoes that keep the angle natural,” Laura explained. “The fit took about two hours. When Mike asked him if I already had nearly a good fit, he said I wasn’t even close. I can really feel the difference.”

At the turnaround in Creedmoor, Jordan asked me to explain the return route to everyone. We were riding a “lollipop” route, with the same out and return, but a nice loop in the middle. “When we get to the 90-degree right turn on the way we came,” I said, “look for the fork onto Thaxton Road. Take that.”

Back on the road, I was near the rear to keep tabs on one of our slower riders. Sure enough, when we got to Thaxton Road, Judy and Laura blasted by without turning. Several of us raised a shout to get them to turn around. I kidded Judy about missing the turn even after the route had been explained at the rest stop. She was unapologetic.

“When people start telling me directions, it’s like the teacher in the ‘Peanuts’ strip,” she said. “All I hear is Wah-wah-wah-wah-wah.”

I’m glad she didn’t miss it, because Thaxton Road was repaved last year, and it’s nice. The highlight for me is a turn at the top of a hill. We get to blast down into a subdivision on a smooth, wide two-lane with no traffic. I made sure everyone was behind me, and started down, pedaling hard in the big ring. At the bottom, I waited. And waited. I could see back to the top of the hill. Apparently they had decided to gather there to wait for slower riders. Eventually, I saw them coming down. When they finally caught up to me, I asked who had the highest speed down that hill. I had hit 34.8 mph. I figured at least a couple could go faster than that.

“I rode the brakes all the way down,” said one. “That was scary,” said another. “No way I was going to look at my computer going that fast,” said a third.

Two miles from the finish, we passed several of the fast group fixing a flat at the side of the road. We kept on to the finish. They caught up to us a few minutes later. Marianne had been the flat victim.

“A screw went right through the middle of my tire,” she said. “I got screwed, and I couldn’t even enjoy it.”

The outside tables at Starbucks were full. The A ride had come in after a trip out to the Formula 1 race track being built in Austin. The chatter was loud, full of laughs. Several passers-by stopped to ask about the club, its rides, average speed. We urged them to come out next week. It looks like the B rides will start at 9:15 for the next couple of months — everyone seems to like leaving then, instead of the earlier time. A good day in the saddle — the kind of day that makes me want to ride again.

Two Cycling Viewpoints

An interesting discussion flared up on our club’s email board this week. It all started innocently enough. The club president posted that riders new to the club shouldn’t worry about getting dropped on club rides.

“For some part of nearly all of my rides I could fairly be said to have been dropped,” he wrote. “The fast movers [they are NOT all guys] will head off into the distance while I am apparently not bright enough to wait for the slower riders.”

But he added that eventually the fastest of the slow riders will catch up to him, and they will pull each other to the next rally stop.

“At that point it is not at all unusual for some riders from both groups to talk about heading home while others continue to make tracks,” he continued. “Practically never do I ride home alone.”

Our main club ride is on Sunday morning. We meet at a local Starbucks at 8 a.m., and roll out at 8:15. Most of the riders usually fall into what I call the A group. They can maintain a pretty good clip. Last week, they averaged over 17 mph for a 50-mile ride. That’s a pace that would scare off newcomers.

He was called out by the club secretary, who lives some distance west of town and seldom does the Sunday rides, unless a group heads out to her neck of the woods to ride the Hill Country.

“This message is a bit misleading,” she posted. “I know if I rode with the group, I’d have to bust my rear to keep up, and then would eventually poop out and be dropped.  Not fun.”

She added, “Unless a person is a hammerhead (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), he/she won’t particularly enjoy the regular club rides.”

The president’s wife, who started out as a B rider but worked her way up to A level (athletic woman, she) chimed in with a valid point: “The reason the Sunday ride has become what it is, is because it has been the one consistent ride of the group [departing every Sunday] and these are the riders who have consistently showed up.” ‘Tis true. That may be one reason that the club has a reputation around town of being a bunch of hammerheads.

This has been an issue at least since I joined the club several years ago. I got tired enough of trying to keep up with the fast pace of the rides that I started calling for B-level riders to come out, and we’d do our own thing on Sunday. That met with some success, especially in the more temperate months. The fellow who began the B rides in our club has now rejoined after living elsewhere for several years, and he’s begun organizing B rides again. Turnout is starting to pick up — even bringing in some A riders who want to go easier on a given week, for whatever reason.

The controversy (perhaps too strong a word) may be situated in differing objectives for different riders. The president revealed his point of view later in his post: “Don’t pass up the opportunity to test yourself a bit,” he wrote. That seems to indicate a point of view that cyclists ought to strive to get faster, maybe to ride longer. But it’s just that point of view that puts off a lot of would-be members.

“I do love to ride, and love the workout it gives me,” the club secretary posted.  “I just prefer to get my workout a little more slowly.  I’m in no rush.  The social factor is a big one for me.  If I’m riding so hard that I can barely breathe, then I can’t talk either.”

That viewpoint is shared by most of those who call themselves B riders — including yours truly. Some riders want to physically improve themselves. Others like cycling for its recreational value. I just posted a B ride for Sunday, so whatever a rider’s tastes, we can accommodate them.

Is this yin and yang between different ability levels unique to my club, or does it exist in yours, too? Comments are open.