Organized rides are a great way to train for longer multi-day or multi-week tours. They are also a way to connect with other riders and explore a new area and I enjoy the festive atmosphere. Raquel and I usually travel to different states to do organized rides, but this year we decided to stay closer to home and do the rides here in the Mountains in preparation for our Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive tour.
Despite the race like beginning and after the Hammer-Heads pull ahead to warm up the pavement, you’ll find more casual riders beginning to group together. In Burnsville we shared a few miles of road with a very nice couple of brothers from Germany. On other rides we’ve struck up conversations with groups of grandmothers, teenagers on Wal-Mart mountain bikes, plump bearded guys on recumbents. Generally people from all walks of life on all types of bikes.
One good thing about riding slower is you can carry on a conversation with your neighbor cyclists instead of staring at their rear wheel praying you’re not the one to collapse the peloton into a yard sale of twisted bloody bicycle parts.
Another good thing about riding slower is the sights, sounds and smells you’ll pass. After a long day on the CNC last year, a group of us were standing around talking about what we had seen. One person chimed up, “well I didn’t see any of that! All I saw was the back of so-and so’s tire all day!” How sad. Personally, I would hate to pass by a cedar grove or a field of lilac so fast I didn’t notice the refreshing scent or race by an old couple sitting on their front porch without waving hello.
For me, a good pace on organized rides is somewhere in between Hammer-Head fast and dead-last. If you go too slowly, you may find the rest stops have pulled up stakes and called it quits and the SAG drivers are looking at their watches impatiently asking, “Hey dude, are you okay?” Too fast and you’ve missed the experience of exploring a little corner of the world or meeting a new friend.