The Group Ride

Before I moved to Colorado, I hadn’t really participated in any regular group rides since the Rose Bike rides in Maine. Flagstaff was a pretty awesome place to ride, and while I often rode with one or two other folks, I rarely rode in a large group unless it was a race.

Here in the Springs, I’ve landed with a good crew that rides every Friday afternoon. During the winter, that crew is usually whittled down to about five people, but since the weather has turned summer-like around these parts, that group has exploded to anywhere between ten and fifteen riders.

The mid-ride beer stop is probably part of the draw, especially for me, but I’m finding that I missed riding in groups. The pace is usually slower and we stop a lot to chat, but that’s what’s great about it: no pressure, just bikes, beers, banter, and sweet singletrack.

One of the biggest advantages, I think, to riding in a big group is the bike handling skills you will develop. It’s likely you’ll need to track-stand for a few seconds while the guy in front of you preps himself for a gnarly descent or tricky climb. You’ll see other guys clear stuff you wouldn’t have otherwise attempted; next thing you know, you’re trying it, and getting it.

I rode alone very often in Arizona, and while most of the time that was great—awesome, in fact—sometimes it allowed me to get too complacent. I allowed myself to pedal in that easier gear, avoid the more difficult ups and the trickier downs. I got lost in my own thoughts, which could lead to something entertaining and amazing, or simply something mired in self-doubt and worry.

Riding with other folks keeps everything light and fun. I missed that. Rose Bike in Maine had one of the most fun regular group rides I’ve ever had the good fortune to take part in. It was usually led by Bob, an older fella who, despite his small stature and gray hair, can throw the hammer down on any one of us and come out on top. If Bob didn’t lead, the owner of the shop, Jim, would do the honors. The rides were always fun and lighthearted, which was a stark contrast from the rides I did whilst “training” for races (I use the word “training lightly, mind you).

For a time, I began to think of riding as a chore, something I had to do because people expected me to do it. I’ve never been the fast guy, or the guy that can throw down in an endurance race, though I’ve had my moments on the podium. It strikes me as strange now how much pressure I put on myself to ride and ride well. Why? For what end? I wore lycra (still do), ate energy gels and drank electrolyte slop (still do), and took myself seriously (don’t anymore). This all happened in my own head because I let it. Riding alone is one of the greatest pleasures in life, as far as I’m concerned, but it can also be daunting. It can trick you. It can become a ghost that haunts you. It can make you take yourself seriously, which pretty much puts an end to the party.

I remember the Monday night rides out of Rose Bike Shop being some of the most enjoyable evenings of my life. Jim would always be helping a customer at the last minute while the group waited outside, itching to get going, swatting at mosquitoes. Warm, humid, buggy, muddy…the group, large or small, almost always starting by taking the River trail, usually working its way over to the Underwear Trail, or over to Old Town behind the Dunkin’ Donuts. At some point we’d come to the Whoop-de-doo trail, one of my favorites, my front wheel sliding up and over hillocks and roots in an unchoreographed  dance with rubber, steel, and carbon.

The regulars never missed a Monday, though other, new faces came and went. In college, I was often angry, depressed, erratic, drunk, or just young and impetuous, which means I was often difficult to be around. No one on those rides seemed to mind. Those people knew me as someone with a bike, someone who could pedal, just like them. They embraced me, in fact, which is perhaps why I look back on those days so fondly. I was never alone.

Fast forward to last Friday here in Colorado. A group ride, D2 all grown up now, probably still a little angry, still a little depressed, a little erratic, usually drunk, a bit older but still pretty impetuous. And here I am again, in a group, riding the trails that are neither muddy nor buggy, with a sense of contentment and ease that I find so rarely these days. It’s something about all those wheels moving in unison, wheels that, for all intents and purposes, have no business making it up and over those rocks and roots; something about that unchoreographed dance that’s still going on after all these years. It’s peace, perhaps. A sense of feeling upright in an off-balance world. Not solace, exactly, but a taste of what solace might be if I ever actually arrived at it.

I guess the point is, raise a glass once in a while to the group ride. Fast or slow, at least you’re never alone. Climbs are easier that way. Descents are always less hairy. I’ll drink a tall boy to that.

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About D2

I am a writer and a photographer. I never killed a man in Reno, but I once rode a bike through a casino in Vegas. Bikes are cool, huevos rancheros are for breakfast, whiskey is for dinner. Denver, Colorado, USA

18 thoughts on “The Group Ride

  1. There are a lot of words in this post and no media. Most people probably won’t spend the time to read this, and that’s a shame. D2 speaking the truth in this post. Great one bud. Cupcake can relate.

  2. I move around every few months for my job and the FIRST thing I do when I’m in a new spot is find the local group ride. I’ve met great people all over the place who all love riding bikes. Well put D2.

  3. WOW, thanks! I’m just getting back into riding after a 5 or so years hiatus( burnout from taking
    myself way too serious on a “mutherfuckinbike”)and these are the exact feelings/thoughts I’ve been going through…

  4. Great stuff. I have friends that will not join me on some group rides because of some of things you mention. I’ve known for years that they are missing out big-time. Going fast and challenging yourself is great, but after a while you realize that you don’t need to be pinned every time you swing a leg over. You also realize that sharing your passions (and just life in general) with others is a necessary part of the human experience.

  5. @sprocket3030 – nailed it. it’s a shame we all can’t meet up for one massive DC ride…

  6. …the bicycle…the great equalizer…

    …doesn’t matter the size of the group, the personal politics of the riders, their job ‘status’, the quality of their ‘ride’ (within reason – if it works, it works), it all just takes care of itself when people put in that honest effort it takes to pedal, breath & enjoy what cycling has to offer…

    …just went for a road ride this week with a chap i’d never met from nyc who blogs on bike snob nyc…‘mikeweb’ & his girl were in sf for the week & she even suggested he take an afternoon to ride with me…arranged for a good bike & we got some nice miles in & then our little ‘group’ had dinner…great experience…great couple…

  7. i hate the group rides where everyone whips their dick out to see who can out-sprint who. that’s why i don’t do them anymore. it took the fun out of riding. i like the slow urban rides the folks from the co-op do though. social rides are the best! when i want to go hard and push myself, i go out alone.

  8. I generally try to avoid dick waving in all activities…I’ve definitely been on those kinds of group rides, too. I find it’s best to just quietly drop off the back and enjoy the day with whoever drops with me.

  9. Now I want to start a group ride that requires riding with your dick out. Strap-ons for the ladies. It could be called The Swinging Dicks ride.

  10. If I whip my dick out in a group ride I definitely podium because the rest of the peloton is on the ground laughing. I guess. I only rode with one other human bean once and we kept it in our pants.

  11. True dat yo, although I’ve been guilty of dick swinging. I just can’t help it sometimes.

  12. Okay, I been around a few years and group rides are pretty easy. I start out by taking numerous, massive pulls. Look for the strongest gray hair’s wheel. Dudes think I’m serious in my Pearl Izumi trousers and T-shirt. If the group splits, so be it. Then, later on, when the dicks start sportin’, I let ‘em go, and if they don’t die railing a left turn on red, head down in the 53×13, I tell them I did all the work, they owe me a beer. Works great.

  13. Back in my days of patient care at the local hospital, I’d have to hold the urinal for some old codgers. I’d never seen it before, but a few of them had to dig around, and turn their innies to the out. Now that’s some strange. And I’ll never forget the 92 year old man with his encrusted lips asking if he could suck me off. Man, that was a great day.

    It’s true D2, I didn’t read the whole enchilada either. The nice thing about it, is that whatever you said, I’m certain it is tip top natch. I’ll read it tomorrow after I unbury my head from a workload that makes it look like an inny.

    Over the past weekend, I poached a charity ride here in NoPho. It’s the first group ride I’ve hit up in the Valley in a LOOOOOng time. And to say it was great would be overcompensating but it sure was a great time. I forgot how much I enjoy just sitting in the draft not really doing anything but talking shit while champs go to the front and hammer. Fuck yea to that. I’m also unbelievably stoked on how many bike lanes there are north of the Preserves. This place is like an upscale Tucson but with equivalent tweaker per capita.

    Hell yea to the group ride, wherever you are.

  14. Rock out with your cock out.

    Or don’t.

    All the same to me.

    Strap on tools? Whatev. Female equivalent to the big-t(i/y)red pickumups and fartcan-mufflered Hondas the locals favor. Again, whatev. Any weakassed bitch can step on a gas pedal. Gomer and Goober should keep that in mind next time they think to harrass a cyclist riding on “their” streets. They could choose a victim and end up being lunch. Just sayin’…

  15. Oh yeah, almost forgot-”…strongest gray hair…”? On a normal day that’d be me. If I rode with anyone else, that is. Most of the local railtrail geezers are ascairt of the road. Y’all come and see us when you can.

  16. What’s with the dis on dick swingers? I assume it’s only the figurative and not the literal, since the latter is occasionally even funner than a bike ride.(if you don’t have an inny) I live in the mtns in a small village with very few riders so, riding solo is the norm. It’s sunny, warm, and with breathtaking views, every time! (i can pull it out whenever I want and theres no one round to be impressed or grossed out) However, after 15 yrs or so of riding MTB exclusively, I bought an Italian campy/carbon road machine when my buddy opened a shop about 5 yrs ago. I hoped it would give me a reason to ride once or twice during the week so i wouldn’t be the last one up the climb.(that gets old after 10 yrs with the same group)
    To my surprise I quickly took to riding skinny tires. I could get a ride in anytime or anywhere. And, it’s fast! I started crossing paths with other groups of riders and as my fitness level rose I started joining in. At first I was amazed by how fast everyone was. Always up for a challenge, I was forced to dig down deep. Push harder and longer, train/ride more often, and learn more about race/group tactics. Now I was riding 2 or 3 times a week. The next year 4/week. The next 5x. All group rides. 2 MTB and 3 Road. I got superfit and pretty freakn fast.
    I’m a drunk and a pothead so, suffice it to say I have no discipline and all my actions are driven by spur of the moment excitement. Trying to keep up with the group motivated me to actually plan my ride ahead of time, eat better, sleep more, take supplements, and stretch. I’m much more of a rider now than ever and probably will never to return to the days of the weekend warrior. Anybike, anytime, w/anyone whose not a total jagoff! Well, except for fixes with zipp wheels and 12″ wide flat bars. If not for my fellow rider/s, I would be a fat drunk pothead with no stories of heroism to tell at the pub at 2am and know one who wants to watch me swing my dick!

  17. Great post D2. I guess it’s pretty much life on a bike. Out on the frontier where I am, the (almost) daily group ride (on a good day) is three. Without them I’d be fatter and less fit and have a lot less fun.

  18. I love this shit. I am attending a 6 week training course about 140 kms from home, so I rode here instead of driving. But my ‘real’ tires that spent the winter in the barn got all hairy and rubby and shit on the way down. Must ahve something to do with salt and rubber and uber coldness. All I could find at the LBS were some 32′s. I’ve got about a mm of clearance to run them – if that even. But at the same shop I also found some folks that ‘do’ some shit about riding bikes. Yesterday was lovely as a direct result. Who needs to be fluent in a language when you’ve got bikes? Not me. Good people in spandex. P.S. …32′s might totally rock! Interesting to have that kind of new feeling after all these years