Upcoming rides I'm leading:
Saturday, November 19: Three Sisters and Wetlands Park, 36 miles

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Ride report: Early-Bird Ride #2 (12/12/2010)

Go, riders!

Wow, talk about an off-base weather forecast. The predicted sunny skies and 70 degrees actually ended up being chilly, drizzly fog and about 55 degrees. An hour after the end of the ride, as I write this, the sun is finally out and temperatures are on the way up, but that didn't do us much good this morning as our group of 30 intrepid cyclists set out for Stevens Canyon and the season's first ascent of Mount Eden.

When the roads get wet, flat tires often start happening, and today was no exception -- our group had at least four. When road junk gets wet, it sticks to your tires and sometimes works its way into them, either puncturing or pinching your tube. You can help reduce the chances of wetness-related flats by carefully rubbing the gloved palm of your hand against your tire as you spin it. (Be sure to use the gloved part of your hand!)

If you're not doing so already, you might also want to consider using flat-resistant tires. Fog, light drizzle, and wet roads are a common occurrence on the ride in June. The technology has improved considerably over the years, and there's now very little weight or stiffness penalty incurred by using them. And the time you save in changing flats can be very important on an event such as ALC where, although it's not timed, you have a time limit for each day of riding. I've used Specialized Armadillos in the past and now use Continental Gatorskins, and in five ALCs, I've never had a flat while on the ride. (Knock on wood.) That's more than 2,800 miles.

Physically, we crossed a significant threshold in today's ride. By riding for more than two hours, we went past the point at which most riders can exist only on stored energy while riding. It's very important that you properly and regularly eat and drink on rides, or else your ability to complete the ride will be compromised. Moreover, poor nutrition can affect not only your physical health but also your mood. Case in point: Today, I ate well during the first half of the ride, but then I went back to having just water during the second part of the ride. Between the left-turn signals that wouldn't trip for us, a couple of less-than-friendly drivers, and the ongoing chilly fog, my mood started to turn foul even though I was going generally downhill and that part of the ride wasn't all that challenging for me. Not until I got back to Mountain View, when I had some proper food, did I return to being my usual cheerful self.

In June, a positive mood is as important as proper physical conditioning. When you get in a bad mood while riding, you're more likely to do stupid things. This can affect not only you but other riders around you -- by either taking them into your bad mood, or (even worse) by doing something that puts other riders in danger. While riding, pay attention to your frame of mind. If it turns sour, check to see whether you're eating properly for you. And if you should go into a really bad mood -- yelling at another rider, for instance -- stop where you are, take yourself off the route, and eat, drink, rest, and/or meditate until your mental state is again safe for riding. In June, support crews are trained to spot riders whose heads have gone into bad places, and they can remove you from the ride if you become a danger to yourself or other riders. Don't let that happen.

What's next? Weather permitting, I'm running a 41-mile ride across the Dumbarton Bridge next Sunday. But the forecast currently isn't looking all that great, with a somewhat big storm in the cards for next weekend. If we get lucky and have a heavy-rain-free window on Sunday, we'll ride of course. But I'll be checking our route carefully because there are two places that often go underwater in heavy rains: the bicycle approach to the Dumbarton Bridge, and the semi-abandoned bike path along the north side of Highway 237. If either or both of these routes are inaccessible, I'll need to modify our route, and it's possible that we might not be able to cross the bridge after all. But if the route does change, it'll be to one of approximately the same distance and flatness. You can read more about the route and sign up here.

That's my last scheduled training ride of 2010. Looking ahead into January, two sets of rides start up.

Beginning Saturday, January 15, the Distance Training rides are for intermediate and advanced cyclists. We'll start at 40 miles and build to 125 miles by mid-May. Beginning with the third ride in this set, the average pace will increase to 12-15 mph, so they're probably not the best rides for beginners. Find out more about these rides here.

And every Sunday beginning January 30, Cat-2 (10-12 mph) rides of similar distance and difficulty will be offered in at least three locations around the Bay Area: San Francisco, Orinda, and Sunnyvale. These rides begin at around 20 miles and build to around 100 miles by May. Even if you ride faster or longer, these rides are an excellent supplement to your program. Details about these rides will start appearing soon in the official ALC calendar.

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