Do you ride for fitness, to be fast or to have fun? Or both?
I would ask, “or all three” but I can’t balance all three – I can do two out of three in any combination except fast and fun. For me, fast is work.
I’ve struggled, going on two years now with balancing fast and fun. The problem here being that I do get some enjoyment out of being able to keep up with cars while I’m riding in the bike lane*. I do get satisfaction out of knowing I ride hard enough that it’ll make me puke if I try to coax a few more tenths out of my bike.
On the other hand, using one ‘almost century’ (90 miles) and one century from last year as examples, I love to ride for hours on end at a relatively easy pace. That’s fun. Both were completed with small groups – ten or fewer. On our Fourth of July ride last year the goal was 80 miles at 19 mph. 19 is a comfortable pace for me solo. In a group, with drafting, it’s easy. I had a blast on that ride and because it was hot and I was feeling great, I spent somewhere around the last 20 miles up front to help other riders who were struggling. We finished at 19.1. For my last century we had a dedicated group of really fast guys. I was one of the weakest in the group and I ended up behind a categorized racer in our six or seven person pace line who was capable of pulling the group at speeds of 25+ mph for three miles at a time. At the 50 mile mark we were averaging around 23 mph. By 85 miles I was bonked out. At 90 I dropped off the back and cruised back alone. That ride was hard but satisfying.
Therein lies the rub for me. I struggle, sometimes on a daily basis, with whether or not I want to be fast or have fun… Even at the slower 19 mph pace, if I’m riding in centuries, my fitness is excellent but I have a much more enjoyable time. Those extra couple of miles an hour won’t make that big a difference in my physical, thin, cut awesomeness – in fact, it could reasonably be argued that the slower speed, because I spend most of the time in zone two, or the fat burning zone, that I’d be more physically awesome for riding at the slower pace.
So goes the argument in my head… Do I push harder or do I just relax and enjoy myself? I don’t know the answer. My attitude changes on a daily basis. How about you?
*I do not advise or advocate racing or trying to keep up with traffic as the practice is inherently dangerous. Riding along side a car invites accidents if the driver of the vehicle isn’t paying attention or doesn’t recognize your right of way. One right turn at the wrong time and the cyclist could end up a grease spot on the pavement. Keeping pace with traffic requires incredible concentration and an expectation that vehicles will cross your path at some point: Right and wrong will not matter if you end up under the tires of a vehicle.