Sunday, May 9, 2010

CONTEMPLATING SOLO VS. GROUP RIDING

I thoroughly enjoyed riding as part of a group last weekend during my time with Jim Artis. Jim’s visit to the mountains of Western North Carolina was occasion to bring a number of cyclists together and ride as a group around our local area. Some of the folks were prior riding partners and others were brand new to me.

Given that I primarily ride solo, the experience of 3 days of group riding whetted my appetite for more of the experience. I’ve looked forward to riding with a Thursday evening established group of more experienced and stronger cyclists than me. I hoped to connect with them on Thursday but it was not to be.

So, I headed out for home as a commuter and a one man pace-line. A funny thing about a one-man pace-line: You never really get the benefit of the drag when taking over for yourself. I rode my typical route down NC 209, along the Pigeon River to Clyde. In Clyde, I get to choose one of three approaches to Canton for the final 5 or so miles.

I can just up on Business 19/23, which is a dual split lane highway carrying lots of traffic at 50+ mph. This choice presents a longer ascent into Canton over a lesser average gradient than the other two choices. The middle prong is the Old Clyde Road and runs through residential and agricultural areas and has two ascents into Canton with shorter but steeper grades. The final choice, my favorite one, is Thickety Road.

This choice runs along the Pigeon River and through some nicely shaded areas. It also goes by one of my favorite scenes in Haywood County.

Dec26_SnowField
December 26, 2009 

May6_Field02
May 6, 2010

As you can see, I’m blessed to live in a 4 season locale! On Thursday, I recalled the image on the left that I took during one of this past winter’s snowfalls so I stopped and took a recent photo of the same field. The image on the left was taken with our Canon PowerShot SD880 IS.The image on the right was taken with my Blackberry Storm II smart phone. It appears to do well as a “pinch hitter” for the Canon.

This third option on my commute home has the steepest ascents into Canton after running along the Pigeon River for several miles. I frequently see fishermen out casting on the once again living Pigeon River. This ride also crosses both under and over I-40, which is now back to carrying lots of east/west bound traffic with the reopening of the highway some two weeks ago.

Riding solo vs. group riding lends itself to more opportunities for introspection and I often find myself using this time to puzzle out issues in my day-to-day existence. This isn’t always a good thing as it takes my mind off of riding and my immediate environment. Sometimes though, I have that “Ah Ha!” experience and the missing piece of a puzzle drops into place for me. Riding with the group last weekend reminded me of the fun of being part of a “team”, as well as, keeps me more motivated to become a stronger cyclist. Given my competitive spirit, I find it harder to let up on that strenuous climb or to choose to take the easy way around when I’m with a group.

As in all things of life, finding the proper balance is important. I enjoy, at times, the solitude of riding solo, of feeling good about going “car lite”, and of improving my health. Riding as part of a group broadens my experiences as a cyclist and adds that sense of camaraderie that you miss when riding solo.

The upcoming week will likely be short on riding as we are preparing for a long anticipated vacation. For the first time in more than 8 years, my “best half” and I have the chance to be gone from our respective work and home duties for more than 4 or 5 days. At the moment, we’re considering a trip to Watoga State Park in West Virginia and the opportunity to ride the Greenbrier Rails-to-Trail path. We may also meander over to the Ozarks as part of our trip.

This week will be packed with getting the camper de-winterized and prepped, final mowing of the yards, animals cared for, and packing. One of my “chores” today is to get to my local REI store and purchase a SPOT II for our trip.

Hopefully, one or two evenings this week will hold some time for some short rides.

Until later,

- Zeke

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