Friday Group Ride #180

Sometimes you just need a new thing. As much as I love riding bikes, I don’t stay uniformly inspired and motivated year round. I get my head down into a routine, and I work it over and over until one day I sit up and say, “Nah. I don’t feel like doing this today.” And that’s when I need a new thing.

That thing might be mountain biking. When I get tired of the swish and swirl of traffic or the bump and rattle of potholes, riding trails can be a good palate cleanser. I switch over to that for a few months, find new motivation and get excited about turning pedals again.

Maybe the new thing is a new group, either slightly faster or slightly slower. The new group rides different routes or stops at different coffee shops. You get new stories and learn new customs.

Here, at the end of the summer, I needed a new thing, and fortunately I have discovered two things in the last month that have me all excited and in love with cycling again. The first thing is that I there are a lot of very small, local trail systems that I haven’t ridden before. These range from simple paths through vacant lots to full, serpentine systems tacked onto the back of reservoirs or parkland. With a pair of 28s on my road bike, I can string these small systems together into a pretty kick ass ride, mostly traffic free. The need to focus most of my energy on bike handling distracts me from the effort I’m making and hours fly by in veritable cyclo-bliss.

A friend introduced me to this style of riding, and I spent some time trying to memorize all the quick lefts and rights that would guide me from one patch to the next. My memory and sense of direction being what it is, this process was proving not as quick or effective as I wanted it to be.

Enter a small GPS device.

Some readers will know that I mostly eschew technology (said the guy called Robot, not at all ironically). I have ridden electronic shifting and found it remarkable, but have no interest in actually using it on one of my bikes. I find most cyclo-computers distracting and discouraging to the point of annoyance. And I probably never would have gotten a GPS unit…

Until I learned that I could chart a course through each of these little trail systems using one. In fact, many of the big mapping sites have even the really obscure trails marked, no doubt the work of my enterprising and technology-loving fellow cyclists. So now, I can wend and wind through all my regular stomping grounds, but on terrain I haven’t ridden before.

It’s like my whole cycling world made new, and I AM PSYCHED.

So this week’s Group Ride asks, what’s YOUR new thing? Or, if you don’t have one, what was the last new thing that had you really excited about throwing your leg over your bike and heading out the door? Maybe you’re just eying a new thing. What is it? And why do you think it might just be the key to unlocking a new suitcase full of courage?

Image: Matt O’Keefe

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  1. Aar

    The last new thing that got me really excited was my PowerTap hub. It made the exact changes to my interval training that I expected and more. The next new thing is any of the following: handmade custom steel frame, aerodynamic road frame, aero wheels or a Quarq power meter crankset/spider. The latter because I love power data but don’t like the weight and inefficiency of the PowerTap. The others don’t need much explanation.

  2. hoshie99

    Right now, for me, it’s to do some new rides with new scenery and also to get ready for ‘cross season.

    Although I have some gear cravings, I am exercising some restraint. We’ll see how long that lasts….


  3. Champs

    Riding with my girlfriend.

    Being limited by injury has been a blessing. Instead of hunting longer, more challenging routes for myself, I can find more scenic and/or practical rides to take with her. Even on a heavy three speed, she’s good for 40+ miles today, and ready to do it again tomorrow.

    We’re leaving momentarily.

  4. Andrew

    It’s starting to get cool and dark in the morning here in MN, and I’m starting to look forward to riding with lights again, and riding with studded tires. Masochistic maybe, but pretty fun.

  5. Vince

    This year we have some ‘user generated trails’ developing in the greenbelt behind my house and they’re really well done. So I’ve had a bunch of tasty new single track to keep me motivated, and it’s 200 meters from my driveway.

  6. Robert Q

    Speedplay Zero pedals. After years of curiosity, thinking and wanting to try them, I finally broke down and bought a pair. Why didn’t I try them before?! No wonder they’re so popular.

  7. Gary

    I’m getting a new road bike (luged, Columbus tubing) made by the estimable Tim Neenan in Santa Ynez, CA. Can’t wait!

  8. Gary

    …Make that, “lugged.” Hey, bigwagon, how would you describe the experience of riding a cross bike on mountain bike trails? How did it handle rocks and ruts?

  9. JerkAround

    My new thing is my own trail! A really demanding loop with a lot of short steep climbs and fun descents. And it`s right behind my house. I am new to MTB but next season I`m gonna rip the other guys apart, two laps on my loop and I am more dead than alive and trained a lot of different techniques. Spoiled? Me? Naah…

  10. Ev

    A beautiful Calfee tandem road bike – so much fun to actually ride with my boyfriend again instead of just being at a ride at the same time. Keeping up with the A+ guys and finishing much sooner for me!

  11. Bigwagon

    Gary: I’m not much of a mountain biker so I have nothing to compare it to, but it handled them pretty well. I have 33mm tubulars on it, but I think the riding position, brakes and drop bars are less than ideal.

  12. christopheru

    Now I feel like putting my knobbies on my cross bike and hitting some local trails and stringing together some fun and silly stuff.

    I blame you if it happens.

    If it happens, thank you!

    1. Author

      @christopheru – One of the revelations of these discoveries has been that I don’t really need knobbies. I ride some 28mm tires, and that gives me a little more volume. I find that’s all I really need. Then I don’t need to switch back out for road rides. I just ride the 28s everywhere.

  13. Bill Cochran

    My new Strong coupled travel bike!!
    I’m going to Italy this week to ride with Andy Hampsten in the Dolomites…
    If that can’t motivate you nothing can!

  14. Tom in albany

    Ahhhh… The tedium of my daily commute. A friend helped me design a new route – hillier, all new vistas, similar mileage. Re-energized me to set a PB for days commuted and, possibly miles in a season.

    Additionally, I’ve upgraded my MTB pedals but, really, really, want to go to disks from v-brakes. Will do it on the cheap, though.

  15. Souleur

    mine is road tubeless conversion, with Hutchinson’s Atom Galactik

    so freaking smooth, climb faster and I run at least a gear bigger rouling out, its just a pleasure. Perhaps even better than my tubies, not sure, but will see.

    VS my new Karate Monkey
    haven’t hit the trail with her yet, but have donned the equipement, and will hit fall with a 29r. If need, may make her out for a graveleur mucho grande by throwing drop bars on it and different drive train.

  16. Patrick O'Brien

    I have two new things that are getting me on a bike and more excited to do it.

    First, I bought a GoPro camera. I do short clips, nothing fancy and without music, to show off some of the great riding, both road and mountain around Cochise County, Arizona. Just getting started was fun.

    Second, as I get older, I look back more than forward some days. I am thinking about building a steel frame road bike as old school as I can practically make it without breaking the bank. Right now I ride my touring bike, a Soma Saga, as my sole road bike.

  17. Mark

    I look forward to riding new roads. I get bored with the repetitious club rides – not with the riders, but the roads. There’s a dozen other ways to get there, but we’re always riding the same roads! It’s more like the daily commute to work. I could be on autopilot.

    So, I’m eager to ride some new route I’ve programmed into the GPS. That’s what I got it for. I don’t care about Strava competition or my recorded metrics, just guide me along my electronic cue-sheet. I may feel lost, but Garmin isn’t.

    We find some great cycling roads, and others I won’t ever ride again. And it’s all good. Makes me smile.

    Just bought a ‘cross bike over the weekend. Hope it can make me smile. We’ll see!

  18. Steve

    Turned 52 this year and bought my first real race bike in 19 years.
    Stupid expensive Italian thing with carbon aero wheels (Enve 6.7’s). Cut out the beer, got up early and trained before work.
    Found out that I can still suffer with the young dudes (and teach them a thing or two about patience) but can’t climb at 20+mph anymore.
    Also discovered that old age, patience and treachery still trumps youth most every time!
    Considering the CX bike but I like road bike with 28mm tires as well.
    Saw two new dirt roads by the freeway today that look promising.
    Good to be back.
    F’n Steve///

  19. Mike C

    What’s new to me? Taking that new seat I bought last month OFF my Colnago and putting the old seat back on. New? Yeah, the comfort of something old that worked. I don’t know why we keep trying to replace good stuff for something “better”.
    Now, for something truly better and new. Gonna buy the GF a new (and first for her) pair of carbon soled shoes so she can try out this clipped in thing. I think I’ll ride behind her. Just dreaming what the view will be like in those Castelli shorts…
    Happy, happy, happy…

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