I rode the 111 kilometer Pioneers Ride put on by Ride Studio Cafe on Saturday. The route was developed by Pamela Blalock. The day was fabulous. There was a brunch before the ride and some downtime while everything was organized and people talked and checked out the cool bikes that people were riding. The ride was great. We had clear, dry weather without much wind and the roads were very nice. I knew the first and last 20 miles and the rest of Pamela's routing was a series of very nice surprises. There was even a couple of stretches of dirt roads. I went on the slow, no drop group with a planned speed of 15 MPH (more on that later) and enjoyed the company of Ryan, Lily, Guenther, Lee, Dan, Pamela, and Katja. We were a pretty relaxed group and I think the ride went well for all of us. I enjoyed everyone's company and we were lucky with no flats and one mechanical, which did change the second half ride for a couple of us.
All photos by @LeeToma. His complete of pictures from the ride are here.
Yes, we did ride on dirt roads:
The ride was the longest I've done in a long time. In fact, I can't remember the year that I rode at least 80 miles (my ride was a bit longer than 111k, since I had to get to and back from the studio for the ride). My previous longest ride this year was 40 miles and this ride was a big leap. With encouragement from @sloansh, I decided that I could do the entire ride and I abandoned my two bailout points (one, two) that I had loaded on to my Garmin unit.
Headed home - on Virginia Road in Concord, near Hanscom:
One issue came up on the ride - how do you use a Garmin to follow the route correctly? We veered off course a few times (as did the 17 mph group, as we saw) and this was caused by a few things and I was guilty of all of them (thankfully Pamela saved us several times):
- Riding past the GPS signal - I've seen this before riding and in a car, the GPS icon falls tens of feet or more behind your actual location. This happened at least twice, once in Bedford on the way out of town.
- Riding in a tightly packed group and not having the luxury of time to check the GPS unit with bikes behind and in front of you, especially going downhill at a decent speed. Yes, I missed a turn on a downhill run in a comparative crowd.
- Just forgetting to watch the GPS unit and not seeing a turn. I did this at least once on the ride but it didn't cost us more than 50 feet.
So what do you mean by a 15 MPH group?
I picked the slowest group to ride in, given that this ride was twice as long as my longest ride this year and most of the miles I rode have been commuting, which aren't a speed workout for me. Dan led the group and Pamela Blalock was sweeping. I rode with Pamela on the recent Diverged ride, which she swept, and last year's Highpoint ride. Pamela has done a lot more riding than me and leads regular trips so I felt I was in good hands. Her expectation was to ride a 15 MPH ride, which was a good speed for me, based on the couple of 40 mile rides I did earlier this year (one at 15 MPH, another at 17 MPH). It was a stretch but that's what you do when you ride with groups. There is more energy in a group ride and there is a real gain when you can draft off of people, even if you aren't riding their wheel closely.
My personal experience is that when I average say 15 MPH on a ride, my average rolling speed on the flats is close to 18 MPH. When I average 17 MPH, my average rolling speed on the flats is more like 20 or 21 MPH. Hills never seem to balance out so I need a faster average on the flats to tip the balance faster on my average speed and all of this depend on how hilly the ride is. I never have gone on a solo ride that my average speed on the flats was close to the average speed of the ride. And, for full disclosure, I don't go on all that many group rides. In fact, much of my riding is solo so I'm not very experienced in pacing within a group.
So near the start of the ride I got in front and was heading up a decent hill on Grove Street, heading into Bedford from Lexington. It's a surprisingly long and hard hill and I kept on eye on the riders behind me. I noticed that we lost at least a couple of people by the top of the hill so I stopped everyone at the end of the following downhill while they caught up. No one said much about this so I proceed to ride at the same pace. We eventually passed the 17 MPH group after one of them flatted. But they soon passed us on 225 heading towards our turn on Maple Street. Their pace wasn't all that much faster than ours so I slowly picked up the pace ... until Pamela rode up from the sweeper position (last in the group, making sure no one falls behind) to the reel me in. I wasn't going all that fast but I was going too fast for the group. Point taken. It took a rolling discussion for me to understand that in Pamela's world, a 15 MPH ride means a 15 MPH rolling average. She is generally a much better hill climber than me (even doing the Mount Washington Hillclimb on her fixed gear bike, which she happened to be riding on the Pioneer ride) so she assumes that her average of uphills and downhills works out to be even, something not remotely possible for me in the past, though that is a great goal. And I would like to be able to keep a desired pace on a group ride.
Perhaps surprisingly, we ended the first 30 miles with a 15.0 MPH average speed. But I can't say that we really did ride 15 MPH on all of the flats. It's hard to tell from this graph, from data on my Garmin uploaded to connect.garmin.com, because of the rolling terrain was so varied. But I'd like to think that I at least understood how to better match my speed with others' expectations. Here is what I ended with (warning: it's a pretty gross representation of elevation and slope and doesn't contain the detailed changes in elevation that influence speed and managing a constant cadence when cycling):
On other lesson learned: if you think might actually do the whole ride, let your wife know before you leave the house.