Relax, relax, people -- I'm still here. A guy misses a single post in six months and they start sending out search parties. Yeesh. My day job, defending truth, justice, and the American way, kind of got in the way of my blogging on Monday. Hate when that happens . . .
Anyway, I'm going to try something completely out of the ordinary this time and actually write about the riding of an actual bicycle. What a novel idea, right?
As my hardcore readers already know. this is my regular ride:
It's a Specialized Secteur or "Poor Man's Roubaix" as I like to call it. It has the same geometry as the all-carbon Roubaix, but with an aluminum frame (at a fraction of the price) and carbon fork with "Zertz" technology. I'm still not exactly sure what zertz is (may be from a downed alien aircraft), but it does seem to add to the cushion provided by my fork as I have happily logged thousands of miles in and around San Diego and all over California on this bike with much less wear and tear to my joints than I have suffered on past bikes. My Secteur is my daily commuter, trekking bike during the summer, and, most importantly, my ticket to freedom every Saturday morning.
As described previously, I begin most Saturday mornings at about 6:55 am with these folks:
Yes, this a rare glimpse of the world famous Crown City Cyclists, getting "organized" for our Saturday morning "donut ride." What started as a small group of friends riding to get donuts in IB in 1980 has grown to a 25 - 70 rider strong peloton that whizzes down and back up the Silver Strand every Saturday morning at "7:00 am sharp." We meet in front of the home of two of the original members, Pat and Debbie Callahan, and take off when Pat rings the bell on his bike. It's an eclectic group of locals, Navy folks, off-islanders, and racers and novices alike. All are welcome. I love seeing my friends and meeting new riders first thing on Saturdays and especially love the ease of riding in the middle of a large group as our shared momentum propels us almost effortlessly down the Strand. That changes to max effort, though when the group turns around at Stardust Donuts in IB --
(no posted hours -- open when they feel like it) and heads back north. Three groups form that all race back to the Callahans' house for coffee, donuts, bagels, and tall tales of exploits during the "race" back (after contributing to the honor bag of course). As I've mentioned before, and will discuss in Part II of this fascinating two-part account of my Saturday riding routine, I normally break off from the Peloton as we near the donut shop and continue around the bay and beyond. However, some Saturdays I'll stick with the group and race back. While I can occasionally hang with the group I refer to as the "A" riders as far as the Cays, I always, inevitably, fall off the back and then fall in with the "B" group which does a good 20 - 25 mph (when the winds aren't hellacious) as opposed to the 26 - 30 the A group seems to be able to maintain regardless of wind conditions. I have pretty much resigned myself to not wasting the energy chasing the A riders anymore and form up early with the B riders instead. However, once I get back to mid-summer form it will probably be tempting to give chase once again just for the fun of it. We'll see.
Because of the large size of the groups, and their speeds, the A and B groups abandon the bike path and ride on the wide, nicely paved shoulder of the Silver Strand Highway as they race back to Coronado. I've heard that things can get a little hairy out in front of the A group ("heard" because I've never actually been up there in that mix to witness it myself). The B group, though, typically falls into a fairly organized paceline where we all take turns "pulling" up front while the riders behind save their energy until their turn in the lead. For a quick tutorial on how to ride in a paceline, check out this short article from Bicycling Magazine: "Bike Skill: How to Draft."
Interestingly, your position in the paceline determines the percentage of energy you save from wind-blocking, but the furthest person back doesn't get the most benefit (as anyone who has lost the battle to hold the wheel of the second to last rider in line can attest to). There is actually a "sweet spot"in the middle of a large pack, and even the puller gets a boost of up to 3% from the pressure of the air "bubble" that forms around the group as it moves in unison.
I will credit the organization and overall good manners of the "B" group to my friends Jeff and Francine, who actually lead bike tours of Europe every summer and police the group in the most friendly way possible - always complimenting fellow riders for a good pull and helping with communication up and down the line.
Good manners are thrown to the curb, however, once we leave the Strand and enter the home stretch along Glorietta to the painted finish line at Sixth Street (hidden right behind a speed bump). From here on its every rider for themselves, as individuals try to break free and the group tries to reel them in right up to the final sprint. I'm usually in the mix in the final push to the line, but never, quite, have what it takes to eke out victory. Maybe someday I'll get lucky . . .
After crossing the line, we pedal, leisurely, back to Pat and Debbie's house for the aforementioned refreshments, where we meet the "C" group (which stays on the bike path and foregoes the race to the line on Glorietta) and proceed to make excuses for why the fates have, once again, conspired to deny us of our much deserved victory this week (well, at least I do). We also talk about bikes, rides people are planning, Le Tour (when it's happening), and whatever else grabs our fancy that morning. Truly bikeist heaven to be around such a great, welcoming, group of people who love to ride, and especially love the camaraderie of doing it in a group. I also cherish the solo time I get on my bike, but will NEVER give up the thrill of riding with this Club on Saturdays -- truly the best of both worlds!