Posted by: wheelywonka | August 8, 2010

The Roller Defined, and The Benefits of Riding with a Group

Today I met some of my Velo Valero team members at the Bulverde Community Center.   The group was planning on doing 70 miles of hills and thrills, including the massive 17 percent grade of Crabapple Road.  I needed to be home before 11, so I opted for a shorter, 45 mile route.   During the first part of the ride, I pedaled in a three-person paceline as we climbed the hills of Ammann, Blanco, and Edge Falls, each time enjoying a high-speed descent after reaching the crest.  These are what are called rollers.  You get into a steady rhythm of climbing and coasting that, if geared properly, isn’t really that tiring – i.e., you can get a lot of miles covered with very little energy.   The key is to use every gear in your bike’s crankset – gear all the way down on the downhills to build up the most speed, and then drop into your smallest front ring during the uphill to minimize the resistance and the energy drain.   Alternate between standing and seated climbs to give your muscles a little variety.   This is my favorite type of riding, because there’s always something going on, and the miles just seem to melt away.    The rapid downhills are also great in the Texas heat because the wind rushing past you cools you down.  

Once thing I’ve learned over the years, is that it is always better to ride in a group.  I contemplated this as I broke away from the group for the last 20 miles on my solo return trip.  When you ride in a group –

  • You use less energy, particularly if the group forms a disciplined paceline as you ride into the wind, with each rider taking a set turn pulling the group
  • You are more visible to drivers, which reduces the chance of an accident
  • You are a bigger, more diverse target for stray dogs, which reduces the chance that one will catch you
  • You have folks to converse with during the ride and the breaks, and to motivate you with the occasional competitive sprint up a hill
  • If you have the inevitable mechanical problem, you have someone to help with getting the repairs done

…My average speed when I was riding with the group was 17.5, and I had plenty of pep to my pedal.  Once I went solo and turned east on 473, then south on Sattler and Spring Branch, it was another story altogether.   The hills seemed to become larger and more endless.  And suddenly I was fighting the southerly wind on my own, without the occasional break at the end of the line.   The calves and the hammies started to burn a little, reminding me that cycling in the Hill Country is sometimes a game of survival.    Fortunately, I had plenty of water, and I had the jangling guitars and soaring vocals of classic U2 on the buds to keep me rolling.  By the time I got back to the Bulverde Community Center, I was ready to call it a day.   A great ride in one of my favorite parts of the city, but one that I was glad was over at 10:15 before the heat of the day became too intense.

All in all, a great weekend of cycling – rode back and forth to work on Friday along the 1604 access roads, did a downtown cruiser bike ride with the gang on my Trek 4300 ( a great urban assault vehicle!), and enjoyed the the Thrills and Chills of the Texas Hill Country today.

Two months until the Ride to the River are you getting ready?

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