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The joy of riding somewhere different

Now that we're in the final weeks of training season, you might be feeling the blahs about the training rides you're doing. It's not uncommon!

Part of that might be because we tend to ride the same small set of routes over and over again. This is especially true for folks who ride out of San Francisco, where nearly every training ride begins with the exact same 11-mile trip across the Golden Gate, through Sausalito, and up the Marin Bike Path ... and ends with those same 11 miles. Even the world's most beautiful bridge can get boring after a while.

But even down here where we have more options, we still often ride the same places -- Foothill Expressway, the Stanford loop, along CaƱada Road, up Mount Eden and (if your ride leader is particularly demanding) Pierce. It is at times like those that, for me, the training rides become mostly about getting the training and not very much about "having fun." And we're all in this to have fun, too, yes?

I remember the years before I got involved with ALC, back in the 1990s when I was living in the Bay Area. I'd just go ride somewhere. Quite often it was somewhere different. I used to have copies of both regional Krebs maps taped to my bedroom wall, and I'd take out a highlighter and mark every route the first time I did it. Over the course of about four years, those maps got very, very colorful, and many of the routes weren't places that we'd ever go on a training ride. And without the pressure of an upcoming ride to Los Angeles, I didn't do very many long rides. But I did lots of mid-length rides, and I saw some interesting places. (What's really scary is that, thanks to Google, my first-ever century ride report -- from July 1992! -- has been preserved for eternity.)

After being in ALC for many years, we can lose this sense of discovery and adventure ... and fun.

So today, with no group ride planned, I just took off and started riding. I had a general goal of riding part of next Saturday's training ride route, but I took a roundabout way on city streets -- and through downtown San Jose -- to get there. These are places that just aren't appropriate for a group of 30 to 40 riders on a training ride, but I deeply enjoyed seeing sights that I hadn't seen on a bicycle in quite some time. Even the "new" parts of next weekend's training ride route were fun -- especially the flock of wild turkeys that was trying to cross Silver Creek Valley Blvd.

But as soon as I got on Santa Teresa Blvd. through south San Jose, I was struck with a massive case of the blahs. Not this street again! It's not the most exciting or scenic street, and the quality of the riding is usually OK, but it feels like we always go up Santa Teresa every time we're returning from the south. Across Blossom Hill, up through the residential maze of Monte Sereno, and down Quito Road -- all perfectly beautiful, but I just couldn't feel any love for any of it today. The hills were downright drudgery.

The realities of our training rides are such that we unavoidably use many of the same roads over and over again -- often because we have safety in mind and don't want to put other riders in conditions that might be OK for one rider but not OK for 40 riders.

If you're feeling the training-ride blahs, here's some advice: Just go ride somewhere. Don't even try to "train"; just go ride somewhere. If you don't have a good sense of direction and/or knowledge of area roads, take a map with you. (The VTA bike map is perfect for this.) Go somewhere you've never bicycled before, even if it's just a maze of residential streets. Don't worry about trying to keep a particular pace. Experience the world around you. If you want a group ride, consider going to a training ride that starts somewhere unfamiliar to you.

If you're a first-year ALCer, you're just a few weeks away from hundreds of miles of bicycling you've never seen before. But if you're a returning ALCer, you've already seen most of it (except for the 60 new miles this year on Day 5), you know where all the "secret" attractions are, and you probably even remember every false summit and every glorious downhill. If you approach the ride as drudgery, you'll be shortchanging yourself. Even in miles you've seen once before, twice before, or even 12 or more times before, seek the joy and excitement.

But also ... just go ride somewhere.

1 comment:

osg said...

This post could not be more timely. Thanks!