Friday Group Ride #482

Friday Group Ride #482

It’s an odd cycling year for me in that I didn’t do any event rides at all. I’m not a big racer or gravel grinder or randonneur, but I typically do two or three things in a given year, almost always with friends. This year, I just couldn’t get anything lined up, and I seldom had the miles in my legs to do anything big spontaneously.

What I did do was ride bikes with friends.

I’m lucky to have a group of guys who live near me who approximate my fitness level and hectic schedule. Any time we can pedal together, we’re all pretty grateful, and so my memorable rides this year were mainly with them, mostly night sessions, in the woods, with lights, which is some of my favorite riding anyway.

There was a time, maybe a decade or more, when I was trying to affect the mien of a Euro roadie. That whole vibe was carrying me through long summers of grinding out the miles. I wrote a lot though, even then, about the early, magically alchemical days of riding BMX bikes with my friends, of hidden trail systems and plywood ramps, of tooling around for hours on mall loading docks or in dry rain culverts.

And that’s what riding with my friends feels like now. Even here in my late 40s, I still love rolling up on the abandoned places in between bits of “civilization.” These feel like home. I stop instinctively and linger.  I hope there’s more of that for me in 2020.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what are your best ride memories from 2019? What were the ingredients? What were the surprises? And what do you hope for in 2020?

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  1. TomInAlbany

    Did my first ride with the local club in forever during their century weekend. I did the metric. But the best ride was the next day. I registered the entire family and we did the kid-friendly 10-miler. The discomfort my 11-year old daughter experienced compelled me to cut off the last two miles but, who cares? When we got back to the fairgrounds, the kids chowed down heartily from the food truck that was serving lunch. And they dug the socks they earned from the club. This was a huge win!

    My hope for 2020 is to get the kids back there. Maybe even get them on the 1/4 century ride!

  2. Parker

    My best cycling moment in 2019 occurred halfway thru a self-supported roundtrip on the Great Allegheny Passage, in civilization. Despite otherwise mixed suggestions, I followed that of a volunteer trail advisor at a nearby info station to soldier thru McKeesport, fifteen miles east of Pittsburgh. He thought every thru-rider should do this at least to photograph the iconic scene of Pittsburgh’s skyline from its Hot Metal Bridge. Which meant having to navigate a poorly signed, unattractive portion of urban trail eventually blocked by a parked train. My best moment occurred then because a local cyclist, Mike, guided me across an overpass ten blocks distant; and then soft-pedaled into Pittsburgh with me. Really a pleasant and interesting guy who was a treat to meet. Given a do-over, however, I’d skip the McKeesport-to-Pittsburgh portion of the GAP.

    At the top of the twenty-two downhill miles back to Cumberland, MD, I lingered four hours, another good moment. Beautiful scene, threatening skies; why keep doing these modest ventures in my late-70s with diminished strength/stamina? The wonder of unfamiliar scenes and increased self-reliance still appeals. Plus, bike-packing’s a good way to invest the strength/stamina that results from normal cycling, diminished tho it is. On balance, I like the narrow focus on pedaling and then on camping; and generally on that relatively spartan way of living for a limited period of time. Different strokes for folks, of course, but hope my body and mind continue supporting this one. And that my older sense of self continues having the good sense to bail when weather’s awful.

  3. Colby

    Shop foreman at a motorcycle dealership, I have a lot of techs and other “two-wheeled people” around my age who grew up on BMX bikes and then got into motorcycles and never looked back. I have convinced about a dozen of these guys over the last few years to come on urban rides after work with me. I usually loan out a bike a couple times before they buy one for themselves. Sometimes they are easy pub cruises and sometimes we push hard for for hours. We have a good time and then talk about it in the shop all week waiting to do it again. This year our rides were usually 5-8 people, an absolute blast, I love hearing them talk about how much fun bicycles still are after all the time away. I want more of this next year!

  4. Matt Chapek

    I FINALLY followed thru on my promise to start some bikepacking. Two overnight trips into the Los Padres Nat. Forest (CA Central coast), one of which was solo. There’s something truly magical (and very spooky) about being totally on your own when darkness falls. Learned a lot (like NOT to sleep on a tiny trail)….think about what MADE that trail. I was rudely awakened around 1am by what sounded to me like 50 howling yelping coyotes bearing down on me fast! I fumbled my flashlight out of my bag and turned it on, and instantly the ‘attacking’ coyote pack fell silent…they were THAT close! (they were REALLY LOUD too). Never heard of anybody killed by coyotes before….but tell that to yourself as you sit alone in your sleeping bag in the middle of the night holding a flashlight and pepper spray, thinking they are just out of the light scheming, knowing they have the numbers to feast on me if they wanted to. Don’t think I got much sleep after that, and I still chuckle about it (sure, it’s funny NOW). But it’s mountain lions that I’m deathly afraid of…and they are everywhere (I’ve seen a few). Challenging and facing down my fears gave me the confidence to do more. I now look forward to multi-night trips which I hope begin in the coming year.

  5. Scott M.

    Edward Abbey would have been pleased, I think, with my pick – a 118-mile ride through Arches National Park and the La Sal Mountains.

    WHAT? Road bike Moab? Heresy!!

    From Moab, Arches National Park is a 55-mile O&B with 4700’ of climbing. The pavement: perfect. The scenery: even better. And an early start meant minimal traffic (Arches’ NP entry station was abandoned at 7:30. Three hours later the line was 300+ cars and bikes).

    First light glowed red on the Great Wall, Standing Rock, Courthouse Towers and more arches (and flowers) than I could count. I examined every paved spur, parking loop and overlook. Took a clipped-in selfie above the Fiery Furnace. Even rolled through the unparalleled Devil’s Garden Campground. Then, with cars streaming into the park, I made my exit.

    Many riders would consider either Arches OR the La Sal loop a full day. I’ve never been accused of such sanity.

    After lunch at the RV, I struck out toward the La Sals. Rode a trail cantilevered over the Colorado River. Rolled through Castle Valley’s strange geological juxtapositions (a classic Wiley Coyote mesa; a volcanic dome that appears castle-like; and a high-alpine backdrop). The final climb — a stretch of new pavement that looks like wet spaghetti thrown at a wall — lofted me above 8100’ elevation and 10k’ gain. Then after a few lumps at high elevation, it’s mostly down to Moab.

    With 21 centuries in 2019, I don’t apply the “epic” label often. This one was special!
    And then I went for a sunset hike to Delicate Arch. Kind of a full day.

    Should you ever find yourself in Moab with naught but road tools, be assured there are plenty of worthy rides to a wide variety of vistas, canyons, and arches.

    Prefer support and company? Check out Gran Fondo Moab (early May).
    Arches (and all National Parks) requires an entry fee for bikes. The entry pass from your car works for the bike but not the other way around.
    The Ride (with pictures):

  6. Kyle Gigot

    My year typically includes four or five of the same century rides. This year I was invited to join an acquaintance on a hilly metric century. The new route and what turned out to be new friend was one of this year’s highlights. It was followed up when he joined me on one of my century rides that was his first of that distance.

    Those rides made me realize that as much as I enjoy time on the bike, it’s being with friends that make for memories.

  7. Ronald Rodgers

    My best ride memory from 2019 was a wash out. It rained for a couple of day and I thought that I would do a White River Green-Way (Indianapolis, IN) . I like riding through water. At the southern trail head, which was flooded, I saw a great blue heron catching a fish on the trail, literately on the trail. When the bird saw me It flew through the trees. What a sight!

  8. Mike Brown

    I’ve been doing fewer bike ride events, mainly due to scheduling conflict. Instead I have taken my kids and sometimes their friends and go on the rail trails. No cars, easy grades, good scenery, interesting features such as bridges and tunnels make these memorable outings. They remember these things and bring them up in detail a year afterward. Plus no entry fees.

  9. Lyford

    2019 was a nice mixture of fun big solo rides, small-group weekend rides, and a couple of big riding events. Elements were the capabilities of a new gravel bike, finding a compatible group to ride with, and not stressing about “performance” at the events. Found a lot of new-to-me great roads. It was the first year I did regular gym work over the winter which made a huge difference in being comfortable on the bike when riding season began.
    Hopes for 2020: To get better at ignoring the numbers and just enjoying the ride. Take a MTB skills class. Find new riders to mentor.

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