Sunday, April 28, 2013

Group ride vs solo ride

I was inspired to ride the New England Randonneurs Spring Populaire.  The ride was scheduled for last Saturday but with the rather difficult circumstances of Friday, April 19th, the event was postponed for a week.  I did end up riding that Saturday afternoon.  I wanted to get out to Harvard to check out Pamela Blalock's route recommendations. But I couldn't get out of the house until 2PM and I had only 3 hours before dinner so Harvard was out of the question so I did this shorter route.

I still had a hankering to go to Harvard and while the Populaire would get me there, I had to get myself to the Populaire.  I had planned on riding it until late on Friday, after I printed out the sign-away-all-of-your-rights sheet.  I had my water in bottles on the bike, clothes laid out, bars in my helmet with gloves, tires up to pressure.  But I just wasn't sure.  The main difficulty is the drive to the start.  This adds a half hour to the trip on each end, which is significant when you have kids around and a sympathetic partner who you would like to remain sympathetic.  The smaller, second issue was money.  I had $15 in cash and my wife had none and the fee was $15.  I would have to stop at an ATM to get money for emergency snacks on the road and spend even more time getting to the ride.  More fundamental was the ride.  I generally have fun on these kinds of rides but sometimes, if the pace is too quick or to slow, I find that I burn through energy a wee bit faster than I would if I were riding alone.  I find my pace to be perfect, whatever it happens to be.  And life has been hectic recently.  Even commuting time, by bike and even by car, is a calm time that I have learned to value.  And here was a chance to be on my own for 5 or more hours.  So I decided to go off on my own and skip the Populaire.  The only person who knew that I was going couldn't ride with me anyway so it wasn't as if I would be missed.  My friend did say that I'd meet fun people on the ride but what I really needed was relatively quiet time.  A smaller group, two or three or so, would have been fine but I couldn't manage to arrange that at the late hour I made my decision.  Another small issue was temperature.  I was riding my IF, which doesn't have any way of carrying clothes once I no longer needed them.  Leaving a bit later meant that I could dress somewhat light for the conditions than I started in and somewhat warm for the latter part of the ride.  That ended up working out well for me.

So off on my own it would be.  I was a slacker in the morning, getting the boys fed and dressed and playing some.  I didn't get out of the house until after 9:30.  I took the standard route out to Concord, then followed well known (to me) roads out to Nagog Hill Road in Acton.  Following Pamela's route, I took Nagog to Harwood to Harvard Road to Littleton Road to Harvard.

The leaves are just popping out on the apple trees in the orchard on Nagog Hill Road:

I've seen this farm quite a few times in years past:

I remembered the ride up to Harvard on Harvard Road, which turns to Littleton Road in Harvard, from a decade ago.  My wife made me stop near the Route 2 bridge, demanding food.  I think we rode 30 miles before our first break which, for most people is over the top.  Being older, I decided to eat a bar in that vicinity, to hold me over to the Harvard General Store.  The store was the halfway point of my ride.  I stopped in for water and a raspberry bar, which I ate overlooking the scenic cemetery:

I saw a group of riders leaving Harvard as I arrived and assumed they were Populiare riders.  I briefly chatted with one Populaire rider who had this nice Seven with a Dill Pickle seat bag:

I had not, up to this time, looked at a map.  I asked the Populaire rider about her route, which reminded me of Pamela's route, which I had not looked at since the previous Friday evening.  So far I rode on roads that I was already familiar with, if in distant memory, but it seemed to make sense with the week old memories of Pamela's map.  I found my way to Burroughs Road, which I use at least several times a year, and then found my way to West Acton.  I checked the map on my phone and decided to use School St to West Concord, which was very quiet for a Saturday afternoon.  Punting, I took 62 to Thoreau St in Concord and then took quiet and familiar roads back to Trapelo Road at the Cambridge Reservoir.

The ride was 65 miles which I did at 13.8 mph, which felt just fast enough for this early in the season and a ride this long.  The roads I borrowed from Pamela were great and it turned out just a refresher for me - the entire ride was on roads that I had been on the past at least a few times. It made for a nice ride and the first time I have been outside of 495 on a bike in a couple of years (excluding the times when I drive my bike outside of 128, which are legion).  I am tired today but I could easily do a 20 or so mile ride. (Edit: I got up early on Monday to ride 20 miles, starting at 5AM.)

If you agree with the concept that a person who gets energy from people is an extrovert then I am one.  But yesterday was a great day and I hardly chatted with anyone along the way.  For a sometimes outgoing guy, I sure appreciated being on my own.  I think I would have enjoyed the Populaire but I certainly enjoyed the solo ride.

The ride.

I rode the IF:

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