My Bike Ride with Sam

Awhile back, Sam posted about how she likes to ride her bike with all sorts of different people at different levels and for different reasons.  She said somewhere else (was it here? was it on Facebook? I can’t recall) that when she rides with someone less experienced (I read that as: slower) she adjusts her pace to suit them.

With this assurance in mind, I finally decided to go cycling with her.

If you’re new to the blog, let me just acquaint you with two pertinent facts. Sam is a serious cyclist.  She has posted plenty about cycling here and here and here and here and etc.  So that’s fact number one. Fact number two: I ride for leisure and just bought a new bike in the fall. My old bike was over 20 years old and I hadn’t ridden it in about 5 years.

So: Sam, cyclist. Tracy, not so much.  But there is a third pertinent fact: we have both signed up to do a triathlon in July. And of course, one third of a triathlon is on the bike.

I realized that the bike portion of the triathlon would be my biggest challenge last week when I rode on the bike path to work.  I felt like I was riding along at a fairly nice pace. It felt like work. And yet quite a few people pedaled past me, moving so quickly and pedaling in such a manner that I honestly felt as if it would be physically impossible for me to do the same.

And these weren’t people decked out in cycling clothing and riding fancy lightweight road bikes. No, nothing like that. The folks who passed me on the path were commuters on regular bikes with paniers and fenders, some of the riders had backpacks on their backs.  And they sped past me like lightning.

I’m not sure what I’ve been thinking re. the bike portion of the triathlon. I think the fact that this part of the race hasn’t been something that I even thought to train for is testament to the extent to which I regard it as a leisure activity and nothing else.  I’ve been training for the swim and the race for a long time, but it only just occurred to me as I watched those people streak by me on the path last week that I had better do something more in the cycling department.

So today I met up with Sam and off we went.  She promised that she would bring her slow bike (!) and would wear her “regular clothes.”  We took to the path, heading out to the south west of town and back, about 15 km.  She gave me a few tips, like not to brake on the down hills, and to find a pace that I could maintain consistently without wearing myself out.

We went “fast” twice, on flat straightaways. There were a few hills and she made sure that I could shift going uphill (I can, but that’s more because of my fancy click-shifter than because of any skill I’ve learned).

We also established that I’ve got some reasonably good safety skills from my years of owning and riding a motorcycle.  I’m good at having a sense of what’s happening around me and checking over my shoulder. I can lean into turns comfortably. That sort of thing. I rather missed having a throttle though. Sam urges against coasting, which I understand but it’s hard work.

She also helped me feel better about using my bike for the triathlon. It’s really just a sporty commuter bike (I love it!).  Unless I plan to train on a faster higher performance bike, there is no benefit to trying to use one on race-day.  Why? Because the bike might be able to go faster with the right rider, but if I don’t know how to ride it that way then I won’t be able to get those benefits. I compared it to snowboarding — moving to a racing board doesn’t turn you into a racer!

I’m sure today really just qualifies as a fun ride, but it made me comfortable with the distance that we’ll be doing in our try-a-tri in July.

There were some cyclists who passed us (most of them in riding gear, so I didn’t feel so bad, though there was one couple in street clothes who sped past us with the useless warning “watch out!”  I prefer “passing on your left” because it’s much less alarming and gives you a clear sense of what’s about to happen). But we also passed a few people, which always amazes me.

Sam’s extra work leading up to next month will be in the pool. Mine will be on the bike path.  She also suggested practicing riding for a while, then ditching the bike and immediately starting to run (as we’ll have to do on race day).  Apparently it feels odd and your legs don’t exactly love you for it.  So I’m going to add that to my list of things to do before the triathlon.

Meanwhile, I really enjoyed getting out on the bike, but it certainly wasn’t the “suffer” approach that I’ve heard Sam talk so much about.  It was sort of challenging–my legs are tired and I worked up a sweat–but mostly fun.

Thanks for the company and the tips, Sam. I’d love to do it again sometime.

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