Group Ride

04.15.2007 | 9:51 pm

I love going on big group road rides. And last Saturday I was supposed to get in a five-hour ride — as mandated by Coach Lofgran — so a group road ride seemed like just the ticket.

With one slight difference, that is: I didn’t go with a group.

And you know what? It turns out that a group ride of one can be exactly the right number sometimes.

Start Time and Place
The original reason I had for not calling anyone or going to the bike shop for the weekly organized ride was that I had no idea what time I’d actually be available to ride on Saturday.

Amazingly, however, the start time for my solo group ride was at exactly the same moment I got the go-ahead to go out. 9:47, I believe. Equally wonderful was the way that every single one of us were ready to go at the same time. No dawdlers finishing a last-moment tuneup. No impatient Type-A’s jumping down my throat for not being ready to roll right when he was.

Better yet, everyone was accommodating enough to start the ride from my house. Nice! 

The Course
With most group rides, choosing the is usually a difficult and complex series of negotiations. Is it long enough to challenge the hardcore riders, but with bailout points for those who need to get home earlier? Is there enough climbing? Or is half the group’s idea of the right amount of climbing a little too much for the other half of the group?

My group was considerably more relaxed about the course we’d be riding. I suggested, “Hey, let’s see how high we can go up on the Alpine Loop before we hit snow, come back down, and then decide what we want to do from there.”

You’ll find this hard to believe, but everyone I was riding with thought that was a fantastic idea.

The Pace
I’ve got a fairly major family crisis simmering right now, and one of the things I wanted to do on this group ride was push this problem out of my head for a while. As I started the climb up American Fork Canyon, it occurred to me that a really good way to do this might be to shift into a high gear, stand up, and crank away as hard as I could until my head was filled with nothing but the sound of my legs yelling at me to cut it out.

The group obliged and joined me, which was really great of them, considering that they all knew we were only twenty minutes into a five hour ride.

Of course, within twenty minutes I was totally blown, but everyone else in the group was, too. We all thought it was now a good idea to shift into our granny gears and just survive the rest of the climb.

A Perfect Place
Once we got past the gate that stops cars from going on the Alpine Loop road in the Winter, there started being a lot of scree — along with some good-sized boulders in the middle of the road. These were easy to thread around, though I realized that the traditional group race down this part of the mountain was out of the question with all this junk in the road.

Once we turned around and got back onto the part of the road that’s maintained during the Winter, though, I had an epiphany: The section of road between the Tibble Fork turnoff and the mouth of American Fork Canyon is perfect for road biking.

Here’s why:

  • Grade: The road is just steep enough that you can — and should — get into your biggest gear and pedal as hard as you can. It is not so steep, however, that you will spin out in your biggest gear.
  • Twists and Turns: The road is constantly twisting gently — just enough to keep you leaning slightly through the banks, but not enough that you ever need to touch your brakes.
  • The View: American Fork Canyon is beautiful. Always. And while you don’t have time to look at the details as you descend (you had plenty of time for that during the climb), you still get this impression of a green and granite blur out of your peripheral vision.

I was thinking about how much I love this descent and how much it felt like flying and what a joy it was to be on a bike when I briefly saw Dug, riding up the mountain in the other direction. For a second, I felt a little bit bad for him — unlike me, he wasn’t riding with a group — and thought about turning around and riding up with him. By the time I completed that thought, though, I was another half mile down the road and would never have caught him if I had turned around.

Note: Later that day, Dug sent me this text message: “I saw you coming down AF canyon. You had a goofy grin on. Were you telling yourself jokes?”

I betcha anything, though, that Dug had an identical goofy grin when it was his turn to fly down the canyon.

Coming out of American Fork Canyon, my group now had to decide where it wanted to take the ride. I suggested that we head up and over Suncrest, then ride along Wasatch Blvd. That’s a ride with lots of rolling and climbing, and has been a personal favorite lately.

Now — for the first time since the ride began — however, there was dissent in the group. “You go over Suncrest several times per week,” I said. “Let’s go South for a change.”

“How about something simple, like a ride out to Cedar Fort and back?” I suggested. I had to admit, the idea had merit. It was a nice, direct ride on a road with a wide shoulder and a consistent-but-moderate climb.

And just like that, we agreed.

Decision and Reversal
When riding with a group, I usually don’t bring an iPod. For this ride, though, I did. The nice thing about riding with an iPod is that you can listen to it when you feel like rocking out, and turn it off when you feel like thinking.

It’s almost like you have choice in the matter.

As far as I know, the road out to Cedar Fort goes on forever. However, I have always turned around at one of two points: at the Cedar Fort gas station (the only store at Cedar Fort) or at Camp Lloyd, where the road loses its nice wide shoulder.

The group argued about which we should turn around at today. Finally, we decided on the gas station.

Then, however, a strange thing happened. I got to the gas station, turned around, and then changed my mind. I felt like continuing on for a few more minutes. So I turned around and continued on to where the road loses its shoulder. And you know what? Not a single person in the group complained about the way I overrode the plan like that.

Although, to be honest, I think I might have heard someone grumble about how stupid we looked riding in a circle on the highway.

By now I had been out 3:15. I knew that my ride back should take about 1:15, which would give me a nice 4:30 ride.

Except I didn’t account for the headwind. Or for the fact that I was pretty well cooked. So by the time I pulled into my garage, I had been out for about 4:50.

I would have got home sooner, but none of those bastards I was riding with would take a turn pulling.


  1. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 04.15.2007 | 10:25 pm

    I rode with a bunch of 1 on Saturday and a local club race on Sunday. I enjoyed them both equally.

    The joy of the length and ease of Saturday, and the joy of the shortness and ease of Sunday. The fellow behind me on Sunday was cursing though, because he came second.

  2. Comment by Weean | 04.15.2007 | 11:08 pm

    Hey Fatty, I hope to complete the group ride experience you gave yourself some stick about not having your helmet on properly.

  3. Comment by Monkey-Nine | 04.16.2007 | 1:35 am

    This article made me smile. I’ve had some arguments break out on my one-man groups, too. There’s always the question of going a little farther, or heading back at the the first turn around. The other point of contention is whether we go sit at the end of the pier or not. Sitting on the pier for a few minutes usually wins. It’s so pretty and peaceful on the river.

  4. Comment by rick | 04.16.2007 | 3:14 am

    This is exactly why I almost always go on group rides of one. Nobody else wants to get up at 4:30 in the morning to ride. To be honest, neither do I but with an 18 month old at home, thats the only good time to do it.

  5. Comment by Born 4 Lycra | 04.16.2007 | 3:44 am

    I struggle on my one person group rides mainly to and from work. I tend to switch off drop in pace get overtaken by pedestrians and generally get lazy. I need the group to make me work. My one person group ride committee generally finds easy ways to go around hills as opposed to going over them, pulls up short and turns around early. My one person group needs the peer pressure of more than one person groups to function properly. I think I might be a one person riding group failure.

  6. Comment by Den | 04.16.2007 | 4:46 am

    I have the same problem when I do my group of one rides. I ALWAYS have to do all the pulling. I slow down to encourage someone else to take over, nobody does. I speed up to challenge, and nobody answers the call… They are all just lazy I tell you!

  7. Comment by Al (female) | 04.16.2007 | 5:43 am

    I wish I had ridden in a group ride of 1 this weekend. Then instead of a torturous 11 hour (yes you read that right) century through the texas hill country with low temps, 20+ mph headwinds (hence the 11 hours), and a bike that kept on finding new handicaps to place on me (1st I couldn’t clip in for miles 26-55, then once that was “fixed” I found out that everytime I tried to shift into my granny gear I would drop my chain) I would have had a nice, pleasant but challenging 50 miler that would have still kicked my butt without wind and sun burning me to a crisp and giving me a desire to run over my bike the second I got back to my car.

  8. Comment by Al Maviva | 04.16.2007 | 7:19 am

    Tell the truth! You got dropped on that climb!

    And toward the end somebody tried to kick your @55 for telling lame jokes the whole time.


  9. Comment by Boz | 04.16.2007 | 7:23 am

    Did you actual mean to say “bastards”. Things must be rough at home.

  10. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 04.16.2007 | 8:02 am

    It’s interesting to hear your take on the ride. Two of the guys you rode with told me you were ordering them around like some syphilis crazed autocrat.

    P.S. How far up AF canyon did you get?

    P.P.S. Home trouble? I’ll bet Mrs Fatty just found out how many jerseys you’re going to have to give away.

  11. Comment by Jeff | 04.16.2007 | 11:20 am

    Eureka! The biggest solo ride downside is nobody else to blame for going past the pass deadline. But if every ride is a group ride…:-)

    BTW, if April’s any indication, I think Fatty’s going to be doing way more collecting than paying on bets.

  12. Comment by GenghisKhan | 04.16.2007 | 11:23 am

    Well, I’ll guaran-darn-tee ya Fatty ain’t gettin’ any collections off of me!

    Okay, yeah, so I’m not entered in the Many B’s challenge, my statement still stands as true and undeniable… and irrelevant. Sigh.

  13. Comment by LanterneRouge | 04.16.2007 | 11:36 am

    Welcome, Fatty, to the Sybil Cycling Club. I am a founding member of this ever increasing group of cyclists. Since I work during the afternoons until midnight and often on Saturday mornings, there are very few riding partners available when I can ride.

  14. Comment by specq | 04.16.2007 | 11:56 am

    I spent 50 miles of hilly riding reassuring the rest of the group of one: “Of course we’ll take the back way up the last hill of the day. Do you honestly think I have any desire to feel my patellae popping off like champagne corks? We’ll skip the 13% grade on the last one and live to climb another day. I promise.”

    And then, right at the base of said hill, where the turn to the right takes the long, winding, slow and shallow rise, and the straight road climbs right up the face of the cliff, I tricked everyone into following me straight through. I’m still not quite sure how, since they were already grumbling at just the sight of the hill, and bitching the instant I passed the turnoff.

    Such vocabulary…I have no idea where they learned it. They’re normally really rather soft-spoken fellows all. And when we hit that 13% section…well, it’s startling how much room there is for expression in wheezed monosyllables. It was clear they were never going to ride with a sneaky bastard like me again.

    But you know, once the heart rate dropped back to triple digits, and the tunnel vision widened from soda straw to paper towel tube width – enough to take in the view from the top in tiny little sips (to use a half-mixed and potentially sodden metaphor) – they all asked me if they could come with next weekend.

    I might even let them.

  15. Comment by Rob | 04.16.2007 | 12:19 pm

    I hear that you all work at the same place too. You should commute with that group every day. Not so many are lucky enough to have a situation like that…

  16. Comment by the weak link | 04.16.2007 | 12:30 pm

    Just don’t listen to the Voices. Always a problem with group rides.

  17. Comment by BIKEMIKE | 04.16.2007 | 12:57 pm

    I hate you. You live in and or near mountains. I live in flat Florida, where we only get a chance to ride 362 days a year. Of course it is mostly up and down A1A. So, I still hate you (and by hate, i mean, i’m totally jealous).

    Yesterday, we did a century near Cocoa Beach. It went out by The Kennedy Space Center. Oh, yeah, it had torrential rain and 30-40 mph winds. It was fun.

    Who needs mountains?

  18. Comment by Uncadan8 | 04.16.2007 | 1:05 pm

    My group rides are the secret to my success. Hmmm. Maybe I need to reevaluate the group ride idea. Hanging around with a bunch of fatties might not be the best way to be a skinny cyclist. Of course, they are all on time. Every time. And no one gets dropped.

  19. Comment by Token Skinny Guy | 04.16.2007 | 1:59 pm

    Yea, solo group rides are the best. Whenever someone punctures, crashes, or, who knows, even dies everyone stops. What camaraderie. Take, for example, my last solo group ride. We were all riding along at exactly the same level of happiness, when I managed to rip the sole off my cycling shoe (I am indeed a beast of a man). Everybody stopped. Everyone cursed and threw their shoes. But of course, no one had anything to fix it with. And no one had a spare tube or pump. And no one had any bandages for the blood (we all punctured and cut ourselves at the same time, by the way. What are the chances?) And no one had a working cell phone either! They’re all totally useless. I revise my earlier statement. Solo group rides are the worst!

  20. Comment by Sean | 04.16.2007 | 2:40 pm

    My peloton usually numbers only one. It’s a great way to ride. Against my better judgment I had four others yesterday and all I got for my troubles was a cold ass.

  21. Comment by Bent022 | 04.16.2007 | 3:41 pm

    I am off subject, but I thought you might want see what your Leadville competition is doing as a warm-up to your race in August:

    Floyd Landis to Compete on Multisport Team at Teva Mountain Games in Vail, June 2-3 World-class Cyclist Raises Funds for Prostate Cancer Research [ ]

    You just may need some more group rides…

  22. Comment by sans auto | 04.16.2007 | 4:57 pm

    The last time I went for a “group” ride I ended up peeing all over my friends. Now I have to make sure there are others around to protect me from myself.

  23. Comment by Al Maviva | 04.17.2007 | 4:38 am

    A Ballad Of Good Company

    ‘Tis true I love good company
    And there is nothing that I prize
    At times more highly than to be
    With them, the witty and the wise.
    Nor grave high-brows would I despise,
    If so my humor chanced to be;
    Yet sometimes something in me cries:
    “I am my own best company!”

    I love good company; yea, all___
    The poet, sage, philosopher,
    Each in his turn hath held me thrall
    And I asked nothing goodlier.
    And yet a soul-rebellious stir
    Sometimes will rise and master me.
    Far from them all, would that I were!
    I am my own best company!

    I love good company; I yield
    Myself completely to my books.
    Often I wander far a-field
    With them, ___ cloth-bound or rich de luxe
    And yet betimes my spirit brooks
    No charm of prose or poesy.
    I turn and flee their very looks:
    I am my own best company.


    My best beloveds, blame me not,
    When from your presences I flee
    To some near, dear, secluded spot:
    I am my own best company!

    The Call of Kansas and Other Poems
    Esther M. (Clark) Hill
    (Cedar Rapids: Torch Press. __)
    Page 22

  24. Comment by Boz | 04.17.2007 | 5:02 am

    Al – You’re a poet, but don’t know it
    But your feet show it
    ’cause they’re Longfellows

    I couldn’t resist

  25. Comment by Lowrydr | 04.17.2007 | 5:41 am

    Dang Boz, that’s older en dirt.

    Couldn’t resist either.

  26. Comment by DOM | 04.17.2007 | 11:57 am

    Welcome back, FC. I think we’ve all had times when a solo ride (run, walk, car ride, TV viewing, etc.) was necessary to clear our heads. Hope everything settles down soon. For what it’s worth, the diversion of helps get many of us through our day and I hope it helps you. A big hot fudge sundae may help as well.

  27. Comment by jose | 04.17.2007 | 12:07 pm

    l am commenting from an all-inclvsive in cancun. i rode with my group this morning in a rental bike, nobody liked the big seats. we just rode because of the guilt. 8 pounds in 5 days! everybody gained the same weight, amazing!

  28. Comment by David J | 04.18.2007 | 12:59 pm

    This is very encouraging for me as mostly ride alone. It’s great to see that consensus can be reached in a group

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