I love riding on my lonesome

Cycling Weekly had an article this week entitled “Eight reasons why riding alone is better than riding in a group.” This resonated with me because, I much prefer riding alone. I agreed with their reasoning but have put my own spin on it.

I can go when I want

The clubs here all have set-in-stone times throughout the year for the start of club rides which pay little heed to the weather or traffic. For most of the year I like to head out around 10:30, when the mercury has risen and the traffic has calmed down. The exception is high summer when I leave at around 07:00 to avoid the heat of the day. There’s no hanging about as I don’t have to wait for anyone, or meet anyone en route. Nor is there any problem if I leave earlier or later for my ride.

I can go where I want

I generally ride with a route in mind but, depending on how I feel – and the weather – I can extend or foreshorten it. I typically like to warm up on the flat before heading for any climbs. I also have routes that I only ride at certain times of the year. In winter the chill keeps me off the climbs and I hug the coast.

I confess that there are certain routes I’ll only do at the week-end when I know there will be other cyclists around, just in case I have a problem. These are areas where the mobile phone coverage is non-existent, the roads are very quiet during the week and there’s little or no habitation.

It’s easier to stick to my training plan

I like to ride to a training plan, even though I’m not training for anything in particular. It’s unlikely I’ll find anyone, should I even be so inclined, who’s following a similar plan. It’s hard to do interval or climbing training with anyone else, although it is handy to have someone else look at the stopwatch and shout encouragement. That’s where a trainer comes in handy but not a riding companion.

I can ride for as long (or as little) as I want

The length of my rides tend to be determined by the training plan but occasionally I’ll want to ride further and sometimes I’ll want to ride less. I can just head for home wherever and whenever I want.

I can ride at my pace

I found when I rode with the club, I wanted to ride faster on the flat and downhill but was slower than most going uphill. I tended to ping off the front and drop off the back of the group. I wasn’t really riding with anyone and once I had to keep stopping for them to catch up, well………. Of course, it also means I can’t get dropped and others don’t have to wait for me.

I don’t have to keep stopping

When your riding companions are largely elderly (male) retirees, you have to stop a lot for comfort breaks. And, if it’s a particularly long ride, lunch. I don’t like to stop at all on long rides, particularly not for any length of time because it makes me feel far less inclined to get back on. I find it all a bit of a waste of time. I don’t mind stopping for a quick drink, or to fill up my bidons, or to use the facilities but that’s about it. I’m not one to hang about.

Though I can stop as many times as I want

Conversely, when I’m on my own I can stop to take pictures, answer my phone, or blow my nose without anyone minding. Sadly, I’ve never mastered the art of blowing my snot into the wind; it usually ends up on my face and jersey – not a good look! Nor can I do anything, such as answering my mobile, while riding hands free.

It gives me time to think

This is by far and away the best reason to ride on my own. I can enjoy the peace and quiet, clear my head and drink in my spectacular surroundings. I don’t have to make polite conversation or listen to inane chatter. If I’ve got a bit of a challenge, I can chew over the options for resolving it while I’m riding. I also find the kilometres seem to go by much faster. I know it’s an illusion, but it’s a good one.

I can fix my own punctures

Touch wood, it’s rare for me to get a puncture. But, if I do, I know how to change my inner tube. I should add that I’ve never once had to do so myself on the road. Usually, before I’ve even stopped, some gallant Frenchman (or men) will come to my rescue and within a matter of minutes, I’m back pedaling once more.

I should add that on the off-chance I lose my chain – rookie error – I keep a pair of disposable plastic gloves in my teeny, tiny saddle bag to put it back on without getting oily hands.

I’m never really alone on the road

Cyclists are a friendly bunch and I’m constantly waiving at riders I know, and don’t know, on the other side of the road and exchanging quick pleasantries with those I overtake or who overtake me. The latter group is much larger than the former. I know many of the local riders and they love shouting “Salut Cherie.” You’d have thought by now that the novelty would have worn off!

I can see the road ahead

In a bunch, you’re reliant on others to identify hazards. Some are better at doing this than others. I like to see the road ahead so I either ride at the head of the bunch or on my tod.

No one is sucking my wheel

Okay, so I’m not sheltered from the wind either but frankly you need to know how to ride in a cross or head wind and I’m pretty nifty in both.

No one is going to cross my front wheel

Hands up, how many times have you been taken out by a club-mate who hasn’t maintained his line and crossed your front wheel? Yeah, everyone! Not a problem if you’re riding on your own.

No one is training on my mountain

With so many professional riders and great amateurs training around here, the chances of getting a QOM are practically zilch. However, I have my own mountain, I’m training to be its Queen and no one else knows about it.

19 thoughts on “I love riding on my lonesome

  1. My first three years were spent mostly alone. Last year I got it with a group of about five guys. Not one of us drinks, we ride about the same pace and we have a fabulous time riding together. I went from mostly solo to rarely solo and I have much more fun. I can relate to your points, all of them, but I LOVE riding with my buds.

    Add my wife to that mix (last year and even more this year) and I don’t know if I’ll ever enjoy riding solo like I used to.

    Great post Sheree.

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  2. I tend to like riding with 1-2 other people..if I do. I ride solo quite often locally for the same reasons as yours. I can’t claim fixing flats like you -though I’ve been shown twice. Other person is my partner or on rarer occasion a female friend.

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    1. Jean

      I too ride from time to time with my husband, usually on one of his recovery days, or a girlfriend who rides at a similar pace to me.

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  3. I NEVER (ok…seldom. I like hyperbole) get to ride with others. M wife was riding, but has stopped because of some eye issues. I haven’t found other riders in my area that ever want to ride anything more than 5 miles on a bike trail. I’d LOVE to ride with others, but I relate extremely well to what you’ve written!

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    1. Dan

      I’m sure you’ve probably checked Strava for riders in your area of a similar standard. Just keep looking, there must be at least one other person out there with whom you can ride. ‘Til then, enjoy riding on your own.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve read it and left a comment on your site. It seems many are coming up with great ideas and UCI should investigate all these thoroughly with a view to improving health and safety for the riders asap.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I rarely rode with groups but in the San Francisco Bay area (more down near Palo Alto) one is never alone anyway. I did my first century alone and actually preferred that, partly for the reasons you cite. But now that I can’t ride (I moved from my real home, California, to a place where there is little outdoor activity and cycling is downright hazardous due to hostile motorists) I realize it was the peace and quiet that was the biggest appeal. I’ve explained to other people it was my form of meditation and they don’t believe. But, having a high pressure job, I’d leave for my recreational rides (bike commuting was NOT relaxing) fairly tense and mind spinning and by the time I reached home all that mental turmoil had drifted away. Cycling required just minimal mental awareness and so was almost as detached as I discovered doing swim laps training for triathlon (which is really good for mental calmness). The SFBay area can be very congested with traffic but also it’s not hard to get back in the hills for a more remote experience where instead of just zoning out one can also feel part of the environment.

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  5. I’ll be honest, cycling in the States scares me. Far too many ginormous trucks. I’d be more inclined towards MTBing.

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  6. They may be true in some areas but in areas with high concentration of cyclists (California, Colorado, Washington state) cyclists have sufficient political power to get laws more favorable to cyclists. AND, there is a “critical mass” effect – with thousands of cyclists on the road motor vehicles must observe cyclists’ rights. Plus the large trucks are rarely on the same roads as cyclists choose (in general bicycles are not allowed on the multilane highways). In Bay Area, for example, popular cycling roads are small roads through mountains which trucks avoid.

    I once rode (also camping) down Rt 1 from northern California to San Francisco. This route, extending all the way from Canadian border is one of the most popular (and very scenic) routes. Note – if you were tempted to try it, ride north to south as the winds off the ocean (often strong) almost always blow to the south. In northern California there were actual logging trucks and the road is two lane and quite narrow in spots with many turns (mountainous country, probably roughly equivalent to coastal routes in northern Spain). Even those trucks were quite good at giving me room. It does take some riding skill to withstand the wind blast but you’d be able to handle that. Plus trucks are noisy and you can hear them coming (motorcycles are even better, hear them way before they approach you).

    In the San Francisco peninsula itself there is an Interstate spur (I-280) that goes from San Jose to San Francisco. Before the Interstate this was a very popular route on “Skyline Drive”. Some of Skyline was replaced by the Interstate which banned bicycles (even pushed). One Sunday each month scores of cyclists would ride on I-280 and get tickets from the police. Eventually that “activisim” got the law changed so that if a multilane highway is the ONLY route to a particular destination bicycles were permitted (this is really important in cross-country rides in western US, like Utah, as there are no other roads). Then it was discovered that accident rates were far lower on multilane roads (mostly because they also usually have wide and good quality surface lanes adjacent to the highway).

    In Colorado, where you indicated an interest in going, around the Boulder area bicycles literally rule the road. And while there may be a few from the pickup crowd that don’t like cyclists (there is some political division in USA over choice of transportation) they still give cyclists plenty of room.

    My image was that both Spain and Italy, but especially Greece, were dangerous places to cycle. When I went to Germany, albeit on escorted trip that found all the more isolated routes, it was suggested that unless you knew roads, literally not on any map, cycling was hazardous in Europe. So it’s interesting reading your stories about pleasant cycling adventures in exactly some of those places, so it may be a question of knowing the local customs, i.e. where the big trucks and bad drivers are and then avoid those places. Local bike clubs (or discussion boards on the Nets) could give you many excellent rides sans trucks.

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    1. I can’t comment on Greece but I’ve cycled plenty in Spain and Italy, on all types of roads. Generally, the motorists, many of them cyclists themselves, are very respectful. You’ll find a lot of the great European rides on a site called The Col Collective them all you need is bike friendly accommodation and you’re set. Or, of course, you could just pay a small fortune to one of the bike travel companies, like Ingamba Travel or Rapha!

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