I realise that I now rarely write about my cycling which is what originally anchored this blog. Admittedly the various lockdowns took a toll of my kilometrage, I’m back to riding around the area on my lonesome – weather permitting. So I thought I’d revisit this post from 2016 which is still very pertinent.
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.
The cycle clubs 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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.