Saturday, March 18, 2017

Joining The Real Social Network: Group Rides.

Joining The Real Social Network:
Group Rides
 Spring is around the corner, according to the Weather Channel, though I haven't seen any sign of it yet.  We had a nice warm spell a couple of weeks ago, and it looked like it was going to be an early spring, but it was not to be.  Winter reared it's ugly head again and slammed a cold front in our faces, complete with snow.  Apparently March 21st will be Spring's debut for 2017, so it better not disappoint.  That being said, we can look forward to warmer weather from here on out, and along with the time change, our group ride season begins.  
Nothing is better than ending a long day at the office with a relaxing or challenging group ride.  Riding a bike, while engaging in conversation with friends, is a real bonding experience that I highly recommend.  Even if you're suffering while pulling through a rotating pace line, chances are you've made a close bond with everyone that suffered with you. That's the social network of cycling, you create bonds and make connections with people from all walks of life. One common passion, uniting everyone, which is pretty amazing.  
I remember joining my first group ride when I was in high school, looking to ride with other local riders.  The local club I was introduced to was The Vineland Velocity, out of Vineland, NJ.  I was mountain biking at the time, and couldn't wait to take a road trip somewhere where I had never ridden before. Even though a majority of the members were older than I was, and had been riding longer than I had, they welcomed me into their club.  A lot of great memories came from those group rides, and I got to experience some pretty cool places along the way.  
From there, I began to make connections with different people through the sport of cycling, eventually bringing me to where I am today at The Caffeinated Cyclist.  You'd be surprised who you'll meet riding with a group. They could be your local electrician, teacher, or city council member, and you connected with them while riding a bike.  It's a way to network without even realizing it, isn't that awesome?

You're probably thinking, "what group ride should I join"?  This is a great question, since there are several different levels of group rides ranging from advanced to intermediate.  Beginner or intermediate rides are the most social, and focus more on the casual aspects of cycling like cruising around, and taking in the scenery.  More advanced rides are focused mainly on speed and performance.  Typically those rides are generally ridden for intensity, not leisure, so they would be the least social, that is until the end of the ride where everyone talks about how they almost threw up in their mouths. Now that's a good time!  
It's important to ask a club team or local bike shop about the details of their rides, that way you can choose the one that best fits your riding style.  At the Caffeinated Cyclist, we offer at least three intermediate rides, two moderate rides, and one advanced ride. Both road and mountain bike rides are available to choose from, so there's sure to be a ride for you!
As for me, I'll be looking forward to a weekly ride schedule, putting in extra miles during the week as I gear up for the road race season ahead.  This weekend I'll be riding my first century of the year, which will be the longest distance I've done in awhile.  Most of the group rides I've done haven't been longer than forty or fifty miles, so I can't wait to see how my legs hold up.  Check back for a full report on that in the coming week, it should be grueling.


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Getting Your Groad On!

Getting Your Groad On!


Lately, the sport of road cycling has fallen into a slump. A few things have attributed to this, such as American hero Lance Armstrong, and his rise and fallout with fans since he admitted taking performance enhancing drugs (EPO) throughout his professional career that included seven Tour de France titles; the lack of appeal to riding on asphalt roads at high speeds, while wearing basically paper thin spandex; and the increase in traffic, as well as distracted driving.  On the upside, mountain biking and cyclocross have become more popular, bringing people together on the trail, instead of the parking lot.  Riding on the road can still be enjoyable though, you just have to mix it up a little.  Welcome to "New Road" which is basically gravel road riding, or groading.  Gravel roads offer a new way to ride and explore, and give a little added thrill to your road ride, so I like to ride them whenever possible.

Though it's not a new style of riding, most roadies cringe at the site of taking their expensive road bikes off the road and onto the beaten path.  But what do you think Jacques Anquetil, Gino Bartali, or Fausto Coppi rode on in their hay day? Do you think the roads to Paris in the Tour were all paved with fresh asphalt? No.  They had to drag their bodies over the mountain passes on dirt roads.  Modern road bikes are pretty well engineered, and most accept a fairly wide tire to accommodate rough terrain, but several bike companies have also introduced "gravel ready" bikes like the GT Grade, Cannondale Slate, and the Focus Paralane, to name a few. 

Most recently, I rode a dirt section of the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail, off of Hesstown road in Dorothy on my Cannondale CAAD12.  It was a four mile dirt road, with hiking trails along the route to view wetlands and wildlife.  I couldn't contain my excitement as I began riding on the dirt, checking out the scenery and dodging imperfections in the road. My Continental Gatorskin tires never slipped, as I railed though the turns in what seemed liked endless dirt road bliss. 

Once I finally reached the end of the dirt, and got back on the asphalt, I had a huge smile on my face as I pedaled along thinking maybe going back and riding it again.  I've ridden plenty of dirt roads in my time as a cyclist, and even raced on a few.  Last years Hell of Hunterdon was the last challenging dirt road ride I've done since the The Tour of the Battenkill a few years ago, so I'm hoping to continue the streak with The Monkey Knife Fight this April.  It has about a thousand feet more climbing than Hunterdon , so it should be a challenge for sure, especially since I'm not a climber!  In the meantime, I'll casually hop on and off some of the local dirt roads, looking out for a little adventure along the way.