Yes, you read that correctly.
There is a local bike shop (not my usual LBS, but still a pretty good one) that has Tuesday and Thursday morning rides. When I asked about it, I found out that it’s just women. I thought that would be good, since men tend to ride faster than women, and especially faster than I do. I also asked about their normal pace, and was told around 15-17 mph, after an easy warmup on the bike trail. My recent rides have been in the 15-16 mph range, but my speed is not very consistent. I was afraid of holding up the group, and was told that it’s a no-drop ride: if you can’t stay with the group, someone will wait at turns to make sure you’re going the right way.
I didn’t make the connection that “if you can’t stay with the group” is essentially being dropped. It’s not intentional dropping, but the pace is determined by a few riders, not the group as a whole. I had never done a ride like that before: pace has always been mutually agreed upon in my groups of friends.
There’s the key… I almost always ride with friends. In large group rides, I have always found similar riders that are willing to buddy up for the ride. I enjoy riding with others, but today was a different experience. I was up early anyway, so decided to give it a try.
I was a bit concerned that this would be a group of women who don’t have to work because they have husbands with high-paying jobs… confirmed by the Cervelo and custom Madones…
I was concerned that this would be a group in which the women were friendly with each other, but new riders would have a hard time getting into the clique…confirmed
I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up….confirmed
When I got to the shop, a couple of women said hi to me, but they weren’t overly friendly as a group. Uh oh, I knew that was a bad sign. One of the women hadn’t been riding much, and she was actually friendly, so we talked while we started “slow and easy.”
My definition of slow and easy = about 13 mph, spinning at a high cadence but low gear, just to warm up my legs. A couple of miles of this, and I can increase speed and gearing, and end up at the proposed 15-17 mph. I’m not fast, just half-fast 😀
Their definition of slow and easy = ack! The one time I glanced at my bike computer during the first mile or so, we were doing 16.5 mph. Other than that one time, I couldn’t look, because I was concentrating too hard on trying to keep up. As Suzanne asked me later, “In what Universe is 17 mph slow and easy?”
I was off the back of the group immediately, as there were four women riding in a group at the front, pretty much ignoring that there was anyone behind them. I held with the woman who hadn’t been riding much until we got to a hill, then I fell behind. I have noted before that I don’t do well on morning rides, and today was no different. By the time I had gone just shy of three miles, the group was out of sight. At that point, I realized that the ride was not going to get better. I quit. I turned around and headed back, but I wasn’t upset about it. If nothing else, I have learned my limits this year: I can push myself, but only so far.
They didn’t intentionally leave me behind, they are just faster, more competitive riders than I am. It was a good learning experience for me, and makes me appreciate my regular biking buddies more than ever. I still have hopes of one day actually being “athletic,” but that time is not now. Not yet.
It will come.