As part of my effort to put less effort into my cycling this year, I headed out to Dripping Springs for a Sunday morning ride. Riding the rural roads around here is not necessarily an effortless effort, however, because of all the hills on the route. Only one is truly challenging, and that comes early in the ride, but plenty more are scattered along our route.
Earlier this week, Debra had posted that she and her husband would be riding there. When I arrived at the park where the ride starts, I saw Debra, by herself. She was talking with Jerry, another of the club regulars. I made three. That was it.
Debra said she had hardly ridden since the start of the year, and Jerry echoed her concerns. When we rolled away from the park, it was at a painfully easy pace. And as the miles went by, it looked like neither of them was going to do anything to speed things up.
But that played into my strategy for training. I found myself almost exclusively in the small chainring. I could select a range of gears that kept me close to Jerry, and often ahead of Debra. Both were riding high-end carbon fiber bikes today, the combined weight of which was still probably lighter than my own bike. I’m exaggerating, but not by much.
Jerry is a very strong cyclist, who had a nasty experience last spring when he fell during a group ride and broke his leg. He shies away from riding in groups now, and is very content to meander through the countryside with the likes of us.
I decided I would try to do the whole ride in the small chainring. I’d done that before, in training rides around Austin’s Veloway, but I had never tried it on the road before. For the most part, it worked out well.
From time to time, I took the lead in our small group, and before I knew it, I was well out ahead of them. A couple of times, I stopped by the roadside to wait for them to catch up. Once, Jerry decided he was a bit chilly, and stomped it to get the blood flowing.
For me to catch Jerry under those conditions required more than the small ring — so I cheated. I did switch to the big ring, just long enough to rein Jerry in, or to catch him as he waited at the side of the road.
In a few other spots, the route offers some downhill stretches that one just must ride all out, in the big ring. I did with gusto.
But when it was all over, I had spent at least 75 percent of the ride in the small ring. My average speed over the 27-mile course — 12.2 mph — indicated that this was not a hammerfest. But as another training ride to build my base, it worked out very well indeed.