I had it Wrong About Cycling; There can be a Balance between Speed and Fun. It Doesn’t have to be All Speed All the Time.
Over the last five years I’ve worked hard at getting faster on my bike(s), concentrated so intensely on being the fastest I could be, that I looked at my hobby with tunnel vision. My most popular post, out of more than 4,000 that I’ve written, is about how I got fast, to a 23 mph average.
That tunnel vision served me well. I did get fast. After three or four years I got my “cycling legs”, and now I’m fit enough to really enjoy riding and helping the group I’m riding with.
Last year, after trying to hang with the racers for several years, I decided that I didn’t want to work hard enough to get there, and I was close. A few friends of mine and I built a second group for the club ride on Tuesday night and I was free…
I worked hard with the new group. I became one of their horses and spent a lot of time up front. Not only did that keep my fitness up, the effort improved it. At the same time I went from constantly being on the edge of my ability to being able to actually enjoy the effort.
This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy cycling the prior years, because I did. I just enjoyed the effort more after the change.
Then there are the weekend rides. Over the last three years there were five or six of us who rode regularly on the weekends together. This year, we are between nine and twelve on any given weekend morning and we’re actually drawing a few of the A guys who are willing to sacrifice a little bit of pace to enjoy the ride. That was completely unexpected.
I always assumed that once you could keep the pace with the racers, that’s always where you’d prefer to ride. That was my blind spot. The few faster guys that we’ve had join us have been surprisingly enthusiastic about being able to just have fun rather than race all of the time.
Now, this does produce trouble now and again. Their cruising pace is pretty hard for some of our normal riders so we have to dial them back from time to time. Where I misunderstood was in thinking being held back would suck and would compromise fitness (if you’re being dialed back, you obviously don’t work as hard). The counter is to spend a lot of time up front, problem solved.
There are limits, of course. Using myself as an example, I’m good from a 17 mph average to 22. 23 is a lot of work and 16 is too easy.
A couple of years ago, everything was 20 mph average or better. It was all go, all the time. This year we’re anywhere between 17-1/2 and 21 for an average and I’m enjoying cycling a lot more.
Now the question is, if I hadn’t been all go all the time from the beginning, would I be having as much fun today? Now that’s a good question, and I’ll answer it like this: Without the fitness gained at the beginning, I’d be working harder now and not enjoying the ride as much. There is no doubt, though, having fun and enjoying cycling is way more fun than always being on the edge, focusing only on the ass and wheel in front of me.