Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Group Rides

The Wazoo Fat-Bike Boys
 I probably ride alone 90% of the time.  Not sure why that is....maybe a selfishness on my part to just decide it's go time, pull on the bike shorts, grab the helmet and click into my pedals.  Maybe it's part just getting out into the quiet of the forest after a full day of loud energetic students in the classroom.  It could be that riding alone also insures me of pedaling at my pace, with no fear of getting dropped or bowing out of part of a ride.  There is also a chance to "stop and smell the roses" or the ferns or snap a pic of a wolf or Fisher track-something I'm less inclined to do while group riding.  Sometimes I just want to be lazy-maybe not the correct word, but as the racing days are behind me, I don't feel the need (or pressure) to hammer out intervals, or hill repeats, or ungodly LSDs (long slow distance).  Not that I can't or don't do them sometimes, but I don't have to.  There is some freedom and relaxation in that and as I've gotten older, I think that becomes more important.

That said....the group ride can be the ticket some days.  They are especially great when you have new riders visiting "your" trail for the first time. December 26th was that chance.  I'm not supposed to be riding bikes the day after Christmas-it's not right....there should be two skinny skis under my feet-not platform pedals.  Two things have changed however-a new fat-bike in my stable of bikes and 43 degrees with sun.  My intent was to ride the Levis Mound Trail again this day and finish shooting some stills and video of the Toad Road and Northface trails.  As I pulled in, the bike rack laden vehicles and riders making last second adjustments to their fat-bikes, changed that plan. 

Some of the riders checking air pressure and donning warm riding clothes I've met once or twice along the way biking here during summer months.  With the surge in fat-bike riding, (and warmer temps) I'm sure bike racks at Levis Mound in winter months will become more common.  They invited me along saying they were "old slow guys" which, you know, because they said it -was not going to be true.  I saw it as a chance to "film" riders on our trails-a nice and different perspective from my usual solo ride views.  When leading a group-you do feel as though you need to keep the speed up-not so much a macho thing as it is just to keep a steady pace-these guys drove a long way to ride here this day.  I'm not a climber, never have been, so the quads were quivering when we reached the top of the mound.  Luckily (for me) others in our group needed to find their lungs as well.  We did the obligatory tour of the top of the mound and then I dove in behind Gary, who was riding a pugsley-I wanted to get a riders perspective of fat tires descending Toad Road, one or most technical trails and home of "Plummers Crack."  Shooting video going through the rock chute would be a hoot and good test of the bikes, as would the remainder of the screaming downhill.  As trees blurred by me, I realized group riding-especially trying to stay on someone's wheel, takes the speed up one, two or three notches.....which, thinking about it later felt really good.

We re-grouped at the bottom with only one reported "forced dismount" story.  Some slight air pressure adjustments were made and we set off north west to Trow Mound to catch the new "Wolf Run" trail and then Sidewinder and more shooting.  By the time we had made several more ascents, my legs were toast.  Hated to admit that, but they burned in a good way and the end result is I knew I'd pushed myself a little this day-something I don't do so much when solo.  Pushed the climbs, pushed the descents, took some risks...and that's not all a bad thing. 

The fat-bike friends had one more climb in their legs (in order to fly down Cliffhanger), so I led them to their next climb and wished them well.  This had been a fun couple hours-unplanned, and it always seems those are the best rides of all.  I had a great time showing off the trails and for the first time, riding in a group of fat-bikes (there were a pair of skinny bikes along as well-man those tires look so small now!) and being in a group dynamic.  I'll still most likely keep up my quiet rides, but on this day, it was great to hear the whirl of freehubs, clicking shifters, a squeal of disks and rumble of many pairs of fat tires on frozen ground.

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