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An experiment

Saturday morning, I'll be waking up around 3:30 a.m. to make my way to chilly San Francisco for this year's Day on the Ride. Given that I've come to generally dislike cycling in Marin County, why would I bother? Because I want to try something different -- something that might have a big impact on how I approach the ride this June.

Those of you who ride with me know that I'm a wonderfully average rider. When I'm not sweeping a ride, I tend to be in the middle when it comes to pacing, and I almost never "hammer" it. But when it comes to rest stops, I try to get in and out very quickly. A few years ago when I was less sure of myself and really did have speed issues, this was a wise strategy that helped me complete Every Friendly Inch of ALC. But now, unless I've got a bus to catch, there's really little need for such a strategy.

During ALC, I consistently reached camp in the first half of riders -- sometimes even the first third or first quarter, gauging by the number of bicycles in Bike Parking when I arrived. Sure, this got me some nice perks like little or no line at the shower truck, but I've missed out on a lot of fun things along the way. Also, by consistently riding with cyclists who generally outclass me when it comes to skill and speed (particularly on descents), I ended up not enjoying myself nearly so much, constantly enduring the calls of "On your left!" all day long while passing very few people myself.

This year's Day on the Ride is only 67 miles, down from 78 miles last year and 100 miles a few years ago. Yet, if the ALC calendar is to be believed, there's still a 10-hour time limit on the ride. That's a lot of time! And, hence, my experiment.

I'm hoping to take a very casual approach to this ride. I don't plan to be bunched up at the front of the pack waiting to be the first person out of Golden Gate Park. I plan to take my time on Camino Alto and White's Hill, and I might even hang around the lunch stop for a while and, gasp, try to be social. And who knows when I'll get back to San Francisco -- maybe 2 p.m., maybe 3, or maybe even later.

Then again, I might decide an hour into the ride to just take off and be done as quickly as possible with the 387 stop signs and 9,000 cyclists of Marin's narrow streets. That's the experiment: I want to see whether I can (or want to) have a leisurely large-group ride. We'll know in a little more than 24 hours.

Photo credit: Day on the Ride 2008, by Jamison, at Flickr

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