Wednesday, January 28, 2009

WheelDancing Solo

Biking appeals to me for the freedom it grants me. Being a full-time commuter, many of my miles are solo miles just like my fellow commuters in their steel cages who generally go it alone. It’s a mindset that makes us choose our transport vehicle and I choose to power two wheels with my legs more often than not.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy tearing up the single track in a pack of riders or burning down the road in pace-line. Group rides are always a good time but as often as not, I ride to the meeting point, a solo spin to warm up for the group ride. There’s a distinct difference between solo rides and group rides, not that one’s better than the other.

I like solo rides for their freedom, the spontaneous choices I get to make as I roll. Commute rides are defined in their end points but the route and maximum distance are mine to choose. Last year my contract was in downtown Minneapolis so my commute almost always ended with rush hour traffic-racing sprints. When the light turned green, I’d give it everything I had with the goal to beat the cars to the end of the block. I would give myself the sprinter’s points if no cars caught me before the end of the block and the yellow jersey if I ‘won’ all the sprints on a given morning.

What I don’t get in a solo ride is someone else pushing me, trying to tear my legs off on a climb or a spontaneous sprint when I am least prepared for it. Getting out of my comfort zone is easier when losing face is the penalty so when I ride solo, I tend to back off when I reach my threshold since I have no face to lose. There isn’t any motivation quite like watching a rider I know I can leave in the dust glide past me. That’s when I find I can in fact reach deeper, push harder and meet the challenge.

I like to think I push myself on my solo rides and use that freedom to work on my form, perhaps focus on my pedal stroke or standing/sitting transitions. It certainly helps but there’s nothing quite like having to react to another’s challenge to spice things up. Sort of like having another blogger pick the topic about which one writes. It’s a refreshing motivator, thanks Fat Lad!

This post is my response to the cattle prod applied by Fat Lad, the distinguished blogger across the pond. The first jolt seared my inbox charged with the phrase "Solo rides - roll out with your buddies or destroy those miles alone..."

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