walking around in tap shoes and pyjamas since 2010 - my cycling log (opens in new window)

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Observed: Being Good At Riding in Groups != Being Good at Group Rides

I decided to give the Sunday 2:00 LBC ride from Heine Brother's at Breckenridge and Shelbyville a go. It was a beautiful afternoon, I made awesome time getting to the ride start from Dairy Kastle (where DD and I had lunch prior to the ride), and I was feeling good -- good about my bike, pretty good about myself, and good about the prospect of riding with a bunch of other crazy bike people (which always sounds good).

A good number of riders showed for the ride, and we all rolled out together around 2:20. I found myself a comfy spot in the middle of the pack -- just behind the fast group that broke away at a stoplight a few miles into the right (I didn't gun it quite hard enough to make the light; in retrospect, that was probably a good idea).

After the light, I led off a little break of maybe four riders, and we took turns swapping the lead in an informal paceline until I realized I had absolutely no idea what the route was supposed to look like -- so I turned into a wheelsucker for a while, swapping spots with another rider from time. Two members of the group dropped off due to a mechanical issue, leaving just the guy who was giving me directions and me until a third rider caught us at the turn onto River Road. I tried to be a good group member and take directions and my turns in the (considerable) wind.

Apparently, I didn't take directions quite well enough. My guide said, "We ride out River Road for what seems like forever, then turn into Glenview." I said, "Oh, okay, cool." At some point, though, I dropped off the pace a bit while fumbling with my front derailleur (I'm still making friends with it; it's a little finicky), then got hung up at a traffic light and lost my guide. No biggie, I thought -- I'll just ride an easy pace until another group catches up with me, and I'll hang out with them.

As I rolled rather casually down River Road, still quite a way from the Glenview turnoff, another group eventually found me. I jumped into their paceline -- and so began my extremely-enjoyable misadventure.

You see, I had made a classic group-ride mistake: I thought, "Oh, I know that jersey; I saw that person at the ride start." The problem is, on any lovely weekend day in Louisville, there's a very good likelihood that any interesting jersey will be worn by three or five completely disparate individuals -- who may, for all that, be involved in three or five different rides.

So I fell in behind a 'Ride to Conquer Cancer' jersey, and was soon enjoying the benefits of a good group ride -- camaraderie, companionship, the chance to get out of the wind.

I should've known something was wrong when we didn't turn off at Glenview. It's not like I don't know where Glenview is. I've ridden through it before. But instead of thinking , "Oh, hey, I think this is my corner, and maybe I'm with some other ride now; I'll wait here until someone from my ride comes along," I thought, "Huh, we must be going to Glenview by some other route." Another rider caught up with me and asked if I was on the LBC ride; I said, "Yes!" -- thus leading her astray, as well. (I know, I am a horrible person, leading my fellow cyclists astray.)

And off we went, not into Glenview at all, but past Juniper Beach and Guthrie Beach and on into Prospect. For a while, I found myself riding more or less alone, in front of the tail group (of whose existence I was not yet aware) but a ways back from the lead group, having once again fumbled my way off the pace. Nonetheless, I enjoyed myself, even in spite of the punishing wind and the bockety road (thank God for good wheels). Soon, I caught up with the group at our turnaround at the Java Brewing Company at the intersection of River Road and US 42.

While we paused, I chatted with my fellow riders (mostly about IUS -- two of us were IUS students and two were IUS grads!), thinking, "Hm, it's funny that we're such a small group. Maybe some others will show up." There were only about five or six of us, at that particular moment. I failed to see any significance, there. Likewise, part of me was a little surprised that so many people brought snacks for such a short ride; I failed to make any connection between the level of preparation and the fact that I was no longer on my little twenty-five-miler. Worst of all, I failed to think it odd that we also seemed to have our own ride coordinator (a fellow IUS student! Yay! Unfortunately, he won't be on my maybe-someday cycling team, since he's transferring to Spalding). I simply figured that he'd assumed RC duty for the group, so we didn't go astray.


Eventually, another group of riders appeared and joined us. The rest of us chatted and took a brief break, sipping our water or slurping our gels (note to self: bring gels next time, really, even if you think you're only going out on a 25-mile ride). I commented at one point about how I hadn't bothered to install a second bottle cage on HG for this ride because, "Meh, it's just twenty-five miles." I got a strange look from a fellow rider. Perhaps this, too, should've been a clue*.

But I have never been known for my aptitude in picking up on subtle clues -- no, rather, in that department, I am quite as dense as dark matter. I don't do 'clues.' I am much more amenable to the hammer-over-the-head method than the whisper-in-the-ear method.

Our recently-arrived brethren took their brief break, and off we went again, rolling along in a nice little paceline. I contemplated what a joy it is to ride in a good paceline, and enjoyed the view of the river, if not the occasional gusts of wind coming off of it.

For a little while, we had the wind at our backs, which felt nice after the upwind slog of the past few miles. We were back at Zorn Ave -- our next turn-off -- in no time. While we waited for the last of our group, I stepped into a 'quickie mart' and bought some additional water, all the while considering how strange it was that I'd used up almost all my water on such a short ride. Then I checked the time and considered how strange it was that we'd been out for two hours, since we were riding a pretty good pace. Still, I was not visited by such a thing as a clue.


We were still waiting for one of our number (and another who went back to fetch him) when we decided to switch out our return routes -- we would head back down River Road a bit, then up Mocking Bird Valley. That way, if we ran into our missing man, we could simply pick him up along the way. The ride along Mocking Bird Valley Road was delightful -- shady, cool, and quiet -- until I did something my FD didn't like right as we were approaching the bottom of a longish climb and Hg dropped his chain (this, btw, was entirely rider error: I know my FD is finicky on account of being a double crankset harnessed to a triple brifter; I still hose it up sometimes anyway). I didn't have to get off the bike to fix it -- I just played with my shift lever until it picked the chain back up -- but I'd already lost all my momentum, and I climbed the hill at a crawl. There were still two riders behind me, and when one of them caught me, we took turns in the wind -- and still, somehow, I failed to grasp that I was now on the wrong ride entirely. Le sigh.

Soon we were heading through Saint Matthew's. I was hungry, even though I'd had a hotdog and a milkshake right before I rode to the ride. I thought, "Oh, good, we're almost there. I'll grab some coffee before I head home." But then we crossed Breckenridge and kept going on towards the Highlands.

Did I, at this point, begin to suspect that I was on the wrong ride?



Did you expect anything else?

Instead of drawing the probably-obvious conclusion, I thought, "Oh, we must be short a few miles." Yes, I realize that this assessment was patently ridiculous. No, that did not keep it from making sense at a the time. Patiently, I rolled along, enjoying the company of my peers. I even stopped and waited for a slower rider, and we pulled each-other up a little hill.

Coming into Cherokee Park (for the second time today), I found our RC again. I asked him, "How does the route go from here?" He said something about returning to Hogan's Fountain.

And then, quite suddenly, reality dawned.

"Oh ... which ride am I on?"

"We're the Bike to Beat Cancer ride from Hogan's Fountain. Were you on the LBC ride?"

Sheepishly, I replied, "Um, yes."

"So was the lady in the light blue. Do you know how to get back to where you started?"

"Yeah. Sorry I jumped in on your ride."

"That's okay. You should come ride with us again."

We chatted for a few minutes longer, and I learned that this group goes out on Sunday afternoons (sometimes Saturday mornings) from Hogan's Fountain -- much more convenient to church than the ride I started with.

We laughed about my mix-up, and then parted ways at the lane that leads out of the park to Lexington Road. There, in the process of missing my turn and almost causing a bike crash, I promptly pulled a muscle in my right thigh and decided to call it a day. I called DD, who came and picked me up, and as we headed home I called the ride coordinator for the original ride and let him know what had happened and that I was fine, so whoever was out riding sweep was not stuck looking for me for hours.

The moral of the story?

You can have all the group-riding skills in the world and still be terrible at group rides, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I met a few more really nice cyclists and had a fantastic time. I think I will take the RC up on his offer and join them again some time, maybe even next weekend -- and I think I may even do the 'Bike to Beat Cancer' ride. It sounds like it could be fun (and it requires a lot less fund-raising than its previous 'Ride to Conquer Cancer' iterations reqiured).

So basically the moral of the story is really that sometimes taking a wrong turn -- or following the wrong jersey -- can lead to the start of something good.

Not to mention boosting your mileage for the week!

*Turns out that the ride with which I 'hooked up' was Bike to Beat Cancer's 40-mile training ride for this weekend!

**This also stands as Hg's mid-distance road test. I must say, except for operator error involving the finicky FD, Hg passed with flying colors.


  1. This is a funny story, albeit at your expense! At least you were able to make lemonade out of lemons, which is the best any of us can hope for :)

  2. LOL, thanks! Fortunately, I love lemonade. It turned out to be a really great ride ... I think I might do it again some time :D