Friday Group Ride #446

Friday Group Ride #446

It would be very difficult for me to do anything on a bicycle that would impress you. There are a few reasons for that. First, I’m not “talented,” i.e. I was not blessed with a high VO2 max, high lactate threshold, or the deepest reserves of pig-headed forbearance. Second, I’m like you. I have a job. I have kids. My time is hyper-limited. Finally, there are a lot of extraordinary people with vast reserves of time already out doing human-boundaries expanding riding. I find it mildly discouraging.

I am a mature adult (sort of). I shouldn’t be discouraged by the achievements of other people. I should be inspired by them and grateful for their example. And I am, sometimes.

But there other times when I feel we live in an exploit-driven culture, a place where, unless you’ve done the most, you haven’t done enough, a place that only really values a ride if it was the biggest, bestest thing anyone’s done.

Strava, which many love as a training tool, drives this too, right? It pushes us to go faster, which is mostly a good thing, but it also lets us know when we don’t measure up. All that data cuts both ways, doesn’t it?

I have friends who have raced across the US. I have a friend who set the hour record for 45-49 year-olds. I am hanging out with the wrong people. Again, it’s not for me to compare. I don’t have to do the things they do, but man, they make my hard efforts look the buzzing of a moth around the bright glow of their own.

This week’s Group Ride asks, are we too focused on exploits? Are we too obsessed with getting faster, going farther, being tougher, and too out of touch with just pedaling the bike for fun? Which way does all this achievement cut for you?

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  1. Aar

    I don’t know about anybody else but I don’t judge myself on exploits. If friends enjoy big adventures and Strave record, good for them. I’m just as happy talking about the weather. As far a cycling, I ride, I ride 2-4 “charity” rides per year, I think I stay healthy and relaxed through riding. It’s all good. I got a lot less stressed as soon as I stopped paying attention to anybody’s exploits.

  2. Jay

    I am now in my early 60s. I am as young as I can ever be right now. I ride for sheer enjoyment at this point in my life. Nothing else compares to the feeling that I have when riding just for fun.

    1. josh siegel

      That’s it – I had the recent epiphany that if it’s not fun, why am I doing it? That’s a big deal for anyone with any kind of athletic identity of a, ahem, certain age.

      I’ll now do events if I have time and it sounds fun. I will stay in the group ride if it’s fun.

  3. Tom Milani

    I like Strava for keeping track of my milesge and seeing what my bike friends are doing. But give me a long tandem ride with my wife, with stops for good beer or coffee or both, and throw in a nice lunch, and there’s little to complain about. I’m at that point in my understanding of life that I’m happy for what others are accomplishing on the bike without letting it color too much my own experience riding. And, Robot, that includes what you accomplish on the bike, which I always find impressive. YMMV, as they say.

  4. MattC

    I LOVE Strava as it very easily lets me see where I’m at compared to younger me (having never been a racer, and at ONLY 58 years old, I’ve still not reached my peak). If I’m setting PR’s on every ride, then I’m right where I want to be…at the current peak of my fitness and still getting better. If I’m NOT setting PR’s, 2nd and 3rd on every ride, well, then I’ve got work to do (such as right now). As to the leader boards and huge exploits, they are for other people. I ride purely for fun, and part of that fun is knowing I’m still getting better on rides that I do enjoy (thus my call to Strava to FINALLY let us distinguish between group and solo efforts…the majority of the rides that I’ve done have been both group and solo, and my drafting/group times wildly skew my PR’s so that I likely won’t be able to touch them when solo…but it’s my solo effort times that truly mean something to me). I’m never going to be the guy who sets a new record (or even ATTEMPTS) RAAM, Great Divide Race GDR), Iditarod Trail Invitational (ITI) or any other super event. Same for the races such as Dirty Kanza, and likely any other big organized event… as I just don’t see paying MONEY to ride my bikes (other than buying and maintaining said bikes, which does cost $ obviously). But I do enjoy reading about others exploits.

  5. scott g

    What is this “training” you speak of ?

    This morning ride was a cold sunny day, 6 people showed up.
    We had a good ride, stopped for 2nd breakfast, chatted.
    Then rode back, taking a lesser short cut.

    I get enough of metrics at work, I don’t need them in my off time.

  6. Lyford

    I like having Strava data to review after a ride as a rough gauge of fitness and as a ride diary, but I ride with a naked handlebar. I don’t want to be sucked into the numbers while I’m out on the bike.

    I do get a bit annoyed at all the rides trying to promote themselves as the hardest/toughest. Why not just fun, or scenic, or friendly? I was delighted to ride a fondo last fall — organized by a current WorldTour pro in his home town — that was intentionally NOT a hammerfest. If you were too obsessed with your time to stop for hot apple pie with cheese, you were missing the point.

  7. Brian from Brooklyn.

    Who could sacrifice cycling to the self judgement gods when we have all other pursuits in life to keep us pushing for higher achievement. Ride to struggle up a hill and then feel the thrill of success back down.

  8. martin

    I’ve only been riding road for a couple of years, seriously. Mostly on my own, yet to join local bunch rides, although I will soon. Strava has definitely helped me get into cycling, pace myself, set and reach goals and also enables me to ride virtually with a bunch of group of nice people, only some of whom I know IRL. Following them spurs me and also makes me feel connected; their regular ‘kudos’ also makes me feel part of something. I appreciate the metrics. I enjoy the motivation.

  9. tominalbany

    Strava’s a tool. You’re welcome to use it how you like to use it. That said, if it’s killing the fun, you’ll probably stop using it or stop riding.

    I’ve never been a go big or go home kind of guy. I keep my wheels on the ground and me skis on the slope. I like to get stronger and see improvement over the course of a cycling season. I’ve been a working engineer for 30 years now. I like to measure things. I like to play with the data and try to gain an understanding from it.

    Right now, mostly, I understand what 53 means…

  10. Quentin

    Where I live, it’s flat and windy, so all Strava accomplishments involve a strong tailwind. You can’t tell from segment leaderboards who had a stronger wind, so you don’t know whether to be impressed by someone’s strength or willingness to ride in crazy conditions, and it makes it easier not to worry to much about what they mean.

  11. CWTX

    I have no beef with Strava-ites UNLESS they light out of our local group ride double file lineup. Are we gregarios there merely to shepherd them around so they can sporadically do their thing? What about the pair that just finished a pull and went back to recover? Sucks to be them? It’s rude, same as doing intervals off the front of the local group ride. Not cool.

    How’s that for hijacking a Strava bashing theme?

  12. Jeff vdD

    I’ve done some biggish rides in my dozen years riding seriously: Leadville, Triple Bypass, Boston to P-town, B2B, NJ’s Longest Day, and 200-on-100 (in order of increasing distance). Certainly, though, those are nothing compared to Ride the Divide, cross-country, Everesting on Everest, and the like.

    My riding has shifted to shorter and dirtier, and I love the change. Yes, the accomplishments above had (and have) value, but at 54, I’m much happier doing a 40-50 mile climb-y gravel ride, a Cat 4 CX race, or a fat bike in the snow. I used to dwell on getting dropped by the A group … now I just start with the B group and smile.

    I’ve always used Strava for its data capture and its sociability. Setting PRs is fun, but when I don’t, no worries.

  13. Dan Murphy

    Like others above, I’m riding for the pure enjoyment of it. I’m 65 and realize that I am on the back end of the performance curve, even though I was never on that curve in the first place. I love taking my bike out where cars are scarce or non-existent, finding dirt roads, jumping onto a trail, coming back out onto a country road until the next trail shows up. Western MA, NH, and VT are great places to wander aimlessly and find great routes. We’ll be spending a month in Franconia NH this summer and I’m looking forward to poking around there on my bike.

    Still, I appreciate other people’s exploits, and follow a handful of people on Strava. One guy does 1000 miles a month as a retired guy. Another is a late-50’s climbing machine in Santa Rosa, in addition to being The Nicest Guy in the World. Others are old co-workers I used to ride with and couldn’t even begin to keep up with them now. I really enjoy seeing what they’re doing.

    Everyone is different and we are all motivated by different things. When I re-discovered my bike in the late 80’s, my goal was just to do 100 miles a week, and my bike computer was my motivation. Maybe it was crappy outside or maybe I was just being lazy, but if I only had 85 miles that week, I got on my bike and was happy for it 5 minutes into the ride.

    These days, I’m just happy to be out there.

  14. Aaron Thomas Smith

    I know these feels.

    Cycling dragged me out of a pit of my own making long ago. The structure, the suffering but mostly the consistency – is what got me back from a bad place. With everything else seeming to be so hard to nail down, cycling offered a simple equation that became the bedrock that I eventually built the rest of my adult-life on.

    Then I got complacent. The roads I was traveling weren’t enough anymore. The bedrock seemed boring. I started to believe in things like ‘No Garmin, No Rules’. It wasn’t REAL riding unless you were just doing it for FUN and not TRAINING. Then I started to fall out of love with cycling. I even tried running (for a whole year!) and banged my poor knees against the pavement in hopes of some different type of enlightenment.

    But I like the data. I like the endless pouring over of watts and striving to improve little by little. I even like the frustrations of plateaus because I know with enough work I’ll break through. So I found my way back this year and started the climb again. It’s not easy, but that’s not the point. It’s consistent. And with two toddlers, I really fucking need some consistency.

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