When I was lucky enough to be a baseball player (not professional, but I managed to play hardball in one league or another until I was 45) I used to swing a bat with a weighted “donut” on it when I was getting ready to hit. I don’t know if the donut made me any stronger or if it just made my bat feel a lot lighter and faster when I got to face the pitcher, but either way, it worked. Well, today I got a sense of what riding my “weighted” bike has done for me. The donuts came later.
As you might recall, out of frustration with my lack of progress as a rider of hills, Grandpa here bought an old school, steel, heavy, single speed road bike and I’ve ridden nothing but my “Trooper” since. Now, without a measuring stick, I thought I might be getting a little stronger. I knew I looked leaner but I had also gotten used to being slower, I was doing my normal training rides at not much more than 15 or 16 MPH average, with fleeting moments around 20; a significant drop over my times on my road bike.
Then I went on a group ride today with a new bunch, the Peloton Cyclist Group (more about them in a minute) and I dusted off my roadbike to see if there had been any progress in my strength and stamina. There was! The group offered a 60 mile “A” ride, which Grandpa here will never be a part of, a 60 mile B Ride, and a 40 mile C ride. Because I haven’t been going more than 30 miles while I’ve tried this new training method, I opted for the forty.
So, I’ve never experienced anything like today since the weighted bat. My road bike was raring to go, like a stock car at Daytona. Right from the start, when I easily closed a gap between groups at 25 MPH, I knew something was different, very different. Not only was the bike lighter and perfectly (and professionally) fitted to my body, I had gears now: not that I really needed them. My friend Henry, a fellow single speeder, described it best: “when you ride with a group and you see a hill, people don’t even think about it, they just shift to an easier gear. You hear them, click, click, click, even on a 2 degree hill, and they don’t use their legs or their power, they let the bike do all the work.”
I attacked the hills today, as if I was still on a single speed. I’d stand up a little, build a little speed, and use the power of my legs and momentum to power up hills like I never had before, I went past younger and stronger riders on climbs like a kid, I was passing groups who used to drop me. I only shifted towards the top of the hills, when I remembered I could, and most of the time I didn’t even remember. One time, an A rider, a jockey sized guy with calves that looked like Jeep tires flew by me and I decided to give chase up a hill. That worked until I remembered that I still have 60 year old lungs, but I did leave my current group in the dust! We’ll call today a rousing success.
Except for the two flats.
8 miles into the ride I was riding near the front of the C group, enjoying my new mobility when someone ahead yelled “HOLE!” too late. I hit a long, narrow pothole at full speed and knew instantly that both of my tires were gone. Now this tire and wheel set up, I have to tell you, got me through the pot holed roads of Puerto Rico, I thought I was pretty bullet proof with my Kevlar wrap and my new age tires from Rubino. Not so much. Thank God for the good guys!
The Peloton Cyclist Club is this new group of friends in Central Florida who have put together a monthly, supported group ride and today’s was their first. My road captain, the leader of the C group, had been behind us making sure we didn’t have any stragglers and he was nice enough to call the support folks for me. (Of course, since I was bullet proof, I didn’t write down the support number or even grab a route map). In minutes a couple of new friends were there to help. Now; I could have changed two tires in about 15 minutes, but with no map, I knew I’d be lost and left with no options but to head back to the start, prematurely ending a great ride. Nope, my friends grabbed two stock bike wheels from backseat of their Ford Escape, threw them on my bike, had me hop in and catch up the 5 or so miles to my group and let me off to ride, properly rescued. I was ecstatic and back at the front of the group in no time at all and at home having a donut with my Grandson right on time. And, oh yea, they fixed my flats while I was riding, no charge, just a big smile, “That’s what we do!”
So, if you are in Central Florida, and want to meet a great bunch of cyclists, look up the Peloton Cyclist Club, you’ll be glad you did! You’ll get to meet some great folks, have an affordable, supported ride, and good food after. As the guys said, “It’s a no brainer!”
As for me, I am so delighted with my progress, its exciting to feel like a strong rider again, ever since my performance against world class cyclists at La Vuelta Puerto Rico in January I have been feeling a little shamed, a little inadequate on my bike. Today I felt like I belonged out there with good riders for the first time in a while and I can’t wait to get out on my Trooper in the morning and get another ride in!