cycling · fitness

Sam and Sarah are springing into cycling fitness

Sam’s story

Spring riding is complicated. It’s fun and it’s exciting but the emotions of most cyclists, mine anyway, are always a little bit mixed. We all emerge outside with our bikes in spring with varying degrees of fitness. We’re nervous about fitness lost. It’s sunny and warmish but things aren’t quite where we want them to be. The hills seem steeper. The winds stronger.

No matter how much we’ve been riding on the trainer, or in spin class, our bike handling skills aren’t where they were at the end of last fall. Our jerseys seem tight around the middle. Even finding the right gear feels extra complicated. Where are my summer gloves? Is my Garmin charged? Do I have spare tubes? Sunglasses anyone? By next month this ‘getting ready to ride’ thing will be a well-oiled machine with everything right where it ought to be. But not yet.

My first real road ride of 2018 was Sunday afternoon. It was sunny and about 16 degrees Celsius. We went straight from ice storm to warm this year. I debated tights and a long sleeved jersey but instead went with shorts, short sleeved jersey, and a vest. (Jeff tucked my arm warmers in his pockets just in case.)

We decided on the 50 km ‘short’ Belmont loop. It’s called ‘short’ because you can add on 30-40 km with various side trips but this time we were committed to sticking with 50 km. It’s not a great destination. All the good coffee and breakfast places are a bit further out. But not this trip. If there were a 40 km loop from our house I’d have done it but I hate out and back, so 50 km it was. We stopped not for coffee but instead for peanut butter m&m’s.

That loop always reminds me of Tracy and her horrible ride. See Suffering: It May Not Be Fun But Is It Good? I still feel bad about taking Tracy out that day. Tracy, I’m sorry.

But back to Sunday and spring riding. Sarah, Jeff, and I headed out down through my old south neighborhood to White Oaks Road. See map above. I confess I was extra nervous, almost teary nervous, worried about my knee. My knee has been fine in spin classes, fine on the trainer, fine with big gears, and fine standing. But still I worried it might all fall apart on a real on an actual road. Luckily my knee was just fine on the bike. No brace for bike riding. Yay!

We made some discoveries. Crossing one busy street, we were delighted to find out that our bikes triggered the lights to change. That’s new. Less happily we also found some new potholes. I got my third fastest time ever on the East bike path back into town, not because I’m fast. I’m not. Instead, I got a 3rd best time ever trophy because they’ve finally repaved the path.

But it will be a few rides before it all feels normal again. Each time will be easier. Each time out, I’ll be faster. I’m looking forward to it.

Sarah’s Story

Sam wrote about the complications of spring riding, but I didn’t share her reservations. After a long winter of not much exercise I was thrilled to be outside and on the bike.

Riding with Sam, I’ve both gotten used to not worrying about my aerobic fitness (I’m usually much slower than everyone else, but as long as I do my best they’re consistently patient and don’t drop me) and pretty good at drafting, which means I only really fall behind on hills. For the record, I much prefer wind (where I can hide behind bigger faster riders) than hills (that I have to make it up on my own power).

I managed to remember all of my riding kit except my heart rate monitor strap (probably for the best) and something to eat. The m&m stop in Belmont was mostly for me, who’d been working so much harder than Sam and Jeff (for less net effort, might I add, as I drafted behind them riding into the wind) that I was definitely getting bonky by the midpoint.

I generally find my stamina is pretty good for the first hour of a long ride and then I seem to run out of steam. I’m assuming that’s a fuelling issue, and I’m going to make a point this year of learning when what and how much to eat on the bike to keep a consistent power output, rather than waiting to get weak and hungry, since by then it’s too late.

See also Six thoughts on spring riding and training.

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