Yesterday we road the Western Greenway from Stonehurst to the washed out road behind the grocery store in Belmont, looping and circling as we went, climbing to the water tower and plunging down again, an extended dirt commute with shit talk, picture taking and a whole hell of a lot of fun. I went faster than I’ve gone in a long time and put my foot down twice, which implies I was in what passes, with me, for the zone.
This morning, I swung through just the final portion of that ride on my way to work, and I was a brake grabbing, stomach fluttering mess. Those berms I intended to rail, those jumps I intended to nail, they chuckled as I skittered through. “Go to work, dude,” said the wind through the trees.
I didn’t get it. What was different? I was alone.
On Thursday, I’d been following Neil, maybe even chasing him, willing myself not to use the brakes. Suddenly, self-preservation became a goal today. I rolled past a hobo camp, an old couch and chair in the middle of the woods, a fire ring. Would the hobos help me if I headbutted a tree? If I broke a leg, how long a limp would it be to the road?
Now, none of these thoughts really occurred to me, but I have to believe there is some subconscious risk analysis that goes on, right? I’m not sure whether I prefer to ride alone or with friends. I guess there’s a time for everything. Sometimes I just want the leisure of being along and going my own pace, but others I want the collective bravado to push me to ride a little harder, a little braver.
On the road, this psychology reverses itself. When I’m alone, I push myself pretty hard. In a group, I’ll keep my powder dry, maybe because I suspect everyone else is stronger than I am, and I don’t want to embarrass myself. It’s happened.
This week’s Group Ride asks, how do you ride differently when you’re alone vs. in a group? Which do you prefer? Why?