That’s right folks, November 3rd and it was almost too warm to wear my Sugoi Zap jacket that I bought specifically for this ride… Unfortunately, the nice weather brought out a lot of guys who normally wouldn’t bother.
See, the nature of the night ride, the last club ride of the season on the first Tuesday after Halloween every year, is a friendly calm pace around 18 mph (average). Riding in the pitch black, with lights, we normally won’t ride in a tight pack – it’s loose, just enough to be work but slow enough that we’re not worrying about potholes. To put it simply, it’s a B rider’s fun day. Men and women of all stripes show up for the ride – the C and D riders expect to work pretty hard while the B guys sit at the front doing the work of driving the pace. It’s as close to a no-drop ride as we get. It was with this knowledge that I pressed my wife to come along. Thank God she’s as strong as she is.
We rolled out in the fading sunlight on a perfect evening for cycling. Low to mid 60’s (F), no wind to speak of and a fairly decent sized crowd. As you can see above, I had to play a little catch up but all was right as rain before the first half-mile.
We formed up and a lively pace was set. Nothing ridiculous, maybe 20 mph give or take (who knows, you can’t see your speedometer in the dark).
The photo above was the last chance I had to snap a picture though… About four miles in, once the group sorts itself out and the faster guys work to the front, we ran into a common problem for fast people… Their idea of taking it easy is a lot faster than a slower person’s. While I was never in any distress about getting dropped, I was working and I know if I’m working, some of my friends (and possibly my wife) are struggling mightily to hang on – especially Brad, who is going in for his final round of chemotherapy (today actually).
About six miles in, the pace really took a turn and started to climb even higher (after looking at my data on Endomondo we were around 23 mph) so I left my spot about sixth bike and went up to the front and said, “I know we’re all having a really good time right now but one of our goals tonight is to not drop the guy on his last day of chemotherapy”. That got the message across. The pace was brought down to a more manageable 20-21.
That lasted for maybe another seven miles before we started to splinter again. Reports would be shouted to the front that we were losing people but the pace pressed on. Eventually, when Brad and Phill dropped with my wife, I’d had enough so I went back to ride with them… There’s no doubt I could have stayed with the lead group, 22 is no hill for a mountain climber, but I’d be damned if I was going to leave my wife and two good friends to slog it out in the dark. My buddy Mike was thinking the same as he went off the back shortly before I did (I was at the front so when I dropped back and didn’t see my wife, I just let them go).
Mike and I worked our asses off to try to bring the three of them back but we just couldn’t bridge the gap without cooking my buddy Brad. We were headed up our one big hill and noticed that Matt had fallen off the back, about a quarter-mile ahead of us so we set to reeling him in. On cresting the hill and heading down the back side we noticed that the group had stopped to wait for us. We pulled in behind them and did a head-count. We’d dropped one guy along the way and he didn’t know the route. His friend (a newer guy to our group) brought him because he’d correctly heard that this wasn’t going to be our normal Tuesday night pace… Oops. Matt, Dave, the new guy and I headed back the way we’d come to see if we could find him. After heading up the road two miles, Matt and I were together and the other two were a bit farther ahead and I saw two headlights turn back towards us. We figured it was them so we turned around and headed back toward the main group where we waited for the three to come over the hill. Several minutes later they still hadn’t come over the hill. The decision was made that we would head back and send a search party if need be.
With Dave and two of the other fast guys up the road, the pace for the final ten miles was a lot more reasonable. We kept it between 19 and 20 but even there we still had to dial it back a time or two for Brad or my wife.
We pulled into the parking lot and I had an odd feeling this year – and a lot of the other guys were thinking the same thing… It was a great ride and while it was slow enough that I could have stayed with the main group, the pace was just too much for some of the others to enjoy the ride. It left me a little bummed out that we had guys struggling. It’s not supposed to be that kind of ride.