Now that the weather has finally turned, I’ve changed up my Sunday morning ritual. So this Sunday started with a leisurely breakfast of Ezekiel toast, organic peanut butter and coffee (the true ‘Breakfast of Champions’). I vegged out in front of the TV and planned my day before I went to the shed and broke out the bike for a solitary ride through the hills North of town.
“Ok bike, what are you going to teach me today?” I thought.
So far, this day was going as expected until I remembered that a friend of mine had invited me to join a club ride starting downtown at 9:30. I usually go it alone but riding with a group can be fun and you always travel faster. There really is strength in numbers and it’s only about 15 miles to the meeting point. He did say 9:30 right? Maybe I could make that.
I altered my course, picked up the pace and arrived at the meeting point at 9:37 to find an empty lot. A phone call informed me that the ride had left at 9 sharp. (Note to self: work on listening skills.) My friend had told me they were headed to Fort Calhoun and I thought “they only have 37 minutes on me, so maybe I could catch them on their way back.” I backtracked 7 miles trying to shake off the cobwebs from my sleep. I should have had more coffee…or at least a better plan.
It was windy and if you’ve ever spent time riding a bike you know that the wind can be your worst enemy or best friend. It can relentlessly smash you in the face and break your spirit or it can push you along, allowing you to effortlessly maintain an incredible pace. As I crouched down into the drop bars and drove against the gale I cursed Arnold Schwarzenegger. Why did Predator have to be on last night and why did I have to stay up until midnight watching it?
In road racing, the large group of cyclists that forms is called the peloton from the French meaning “little ball.” Riders in this pack take advantage of greater efficiency by drafting other cyclists reducing drag by as much as 40%. A look over my shoulder showed that I was still alone. So I dropped my head back down and pushed on.
But a large group is not the only way to get a little help when you are out on the road. Sometimes you only need one strong supporter to get you through the toughest parts of the ride. In cycling, these are known as the domestique or ‘servant.’ The role of these riders is to sacrifice their own chance at glory to help out the team and the team leader. These selfless athletes draw the competition out into breakaways, chase down opposing breakaways or pull their leader up the steepest climbs by setting the pace and letting them ride in their slipstream. I thought to myself that a domestique would be quite useful about now.
My faithful steel steed
Looking ahead I knew I was approaching a notorious climb that tops out at a heartbreaking 12.6 percent grade. It would be brutal. Even though you need to spend most of your time in the saddle to be the most comfortable and efficient sometimes a hill comes along that is so steep that you have to get up out of the saddle and use every bit of your body weight and muscle to grind it out. This was about the time I started questioning my decision 7 years ago to only ride single speed bikes.
The ride finished up and I felt I had accomplished great things. I logged 47 lonely, difficult miles but the journey was worth it. It would have been easier and faster with some friends but I got it done.
So if you made it this far into the story of my self-imposed torture you may be asking, “what does this have to do with me?” I’m willing to bet plenty especially if you are embarking on your own ride to change your health, eat healthfully, drop some pounds and get in shape.
Here’s a few takeaways that all of us need to remember: