I had a great weekend — seriously, it was damn near perfect. On Saturday, I rode with the Bloomington Bicycle Club and had a great time. The ride started from the Bryan Park Pool parking lot — I rode my bike there; it’s only two miles from my house, and a pretty easy ride. Probably around 20 people or so showed up, and we hung out in the parking lot for a few minutes before starting the ride.
We took some bigger roads where I wouldn’t normally ride my bike, but they really weren’t a problem. Of course, with a big group, we were a lot more visible. I’m not used to riding in groups, and that took a lot of adjustment. Much of the time, we rode two abreast. The large group naturally splintered into about three smaller groups based on the pace people rode, although I ended up toward the back for a while, even though I would have liked to ride a bit faster. I was a little unsure about passing others in the group, both logistically and from an etiquette standpoint. I mostly rode in the middle or back of a 6-person group for about half of the ride, and rode on the left and right sides at different times. It can be a little stressful at times because riders can be very close together, and one mistake by one person could cause a lot of problems.
However, I got used to it before long, and started to appreciate the benefits of drafting. I didn’t realize what a huge difference that could make, and it allowed me to ride a little faster at times, or ride easier at others. They kept a good pace that I had no trouble holding, although I fell back a little on some of the climbs. I also moved ahead on other climbs, so it evened out.
We rode a similar route to the one I did on my recent ride to the Morgan-Monroe State Forest. Our ride to the state forest flew by from my standpoint — it was very smooth an uneventful, although I was learning the whole way about riding in a group. On the way back, I joined the “Mad Dog Division,” the faster riders who also usually ride a bit further than the rest of the group. After riding with them for a while, into a strong headwind and really enjoying drafting off them, they started losing me.
At this point, I realized even more the benefits of drafting, as they got further and further ahead of me and I had struggle just to keep a constant speed. Just as I was about to give up on catching up with them, I started gaining ground, pushed a little harder, and a couple of minutes later, caught up. I didn’t let them get far ahead of me after that, as it’s a lot easier to keep up than it is to catch up. We stopped to rest for a few minutes, and I told one of the Mad Dog guys that they were just killing me. He said that they were riding really hard too, and that I should feel good because I just dropped the whole club. Of course, they dropped the whole club — I just drafted, and it’s not the same.
After riding most of the way back from the state forest, most people headed back, but the Mad Dog Division and I took a small detour and did a climb on Boltinghouse Road that’s notorious around here for being the steepest hill. It’s not a terribly long climb, but it gets steeper as you go up, reaching about 20-22% grade at one point. I didn’t make it up the hill — as I learned on this ride, I need to work on my out-of-the-saddle climbing — but made it probably 2/3 of the way up, walked a little bit, and started riding again. It took a few minutes before I caught up with the rest of the group; I felt bad delaying them, but they didn’t seem to mind too much.
We rode some more, ultimately riding across the causeway over Lake Griffy. There’s another big climb on the other side — it’s not as steep as the Boltinghouse Road climb, but it’s longer. I made it up this one without too much trouble, although I climbed a lot slower than the other guys and had to catch up with them a few minutes later.
We took the “scenic route” back, which I soon realized meant riding by the sororities. I didn’t go all the way back to the park with them, instead opting to head home along part of my commute route. My grand total was over 42 miles. This ride also put me at over 300 miles for April, and over 100 last week alone.
I enjoyed riding with the Bloomington Bicycle Club, and riding with the Mad Dog guys really made me push myself in ways I don’t normally. I learned a lot, especially about my weaknesses, which was both humbling and useful — now I know what to work on. I’ll probably ride with the BBC again, although I doubt I’ll ride with the Mad Dog Division all of the time. It was fun and exhilarating, but I generally prefer a more leisurely pace.