Even though I first put my foot back on the pedals a few weeks ago, I didn’t really feel like it was a comeback yet. Sure, riding a mountain bike through urban roads with friends is a decent workout, it is a casual pace and not an arduous ride. And sure, I had put in a couple big efforts on solo rides. It felt more like the beginning of urban riding rather than a true return to sport, and frankly I didn’t know whether I’d be able to keep up with active cyclists in good shape.
This week I tested that theory. Over the Memorial Day weekend, I had my road bike tuned and cleaned up. I went through old supplies and found enough gear to get me by. The challenge was attending a group ride, finding a riding group that I felt I could keep up with, and sticking with them. I gave it a try on Thursday evening, and the temperature happened to be 100 degrees when we left. The photo above is the parking lot when I arrived as people assembled to ride.
Technically I rode with the C group, but don’t let that fool you. The A group for this ride are nearly pros, and the B ride is very competitive. Back at my peak fitness I could sometimes hang with the A group, but there would be days where I’d either drop back or ride with the B group and that was still an intense workout. The C group is 16-18 mph.
The great part was seeing a lot of familiar faces and old friends. There were a few people happy to see me, and that was nice. One of the guys, Jack, introduced me as “new cyclist Aaron West.”
For the first time in somewhere between 4-5 years, I was soon enough on the pavement, riding in a pace line, and doing my best to not overdo it. To my surprise, my spinning legs still worked and I was keeping up just fine. In fact, there were times when it felt slow. There was one time when I ended up out in front, and since I didn’t have my Garmin charged, I couldn’t monitor my speed to maintain a good pace. So I just rode what felt like a comfortable workout. After a few minutes, I look back and I had left everyone behind. That would not be a good idea with the heat and the miles ahead, but it showed that I still had some fitness. Muscle memory is a remarkable thing.
As the ride progressed, I naturally got tired. Even at peak fitness this would have worn me out, and I was extremely thirsty. Towards the end, I was a little overcooked and struggled on the hills, but I was pleased just to get up the hills. The total mileage was around 29, which is about a third of the total miles I’ve ridden since coming back. I slept great that night.
The week ended with a ride to the minor league baseball park with Cola Town Bike Coop, drinking beers and eating stadium food with some new and old cycling friends. Life is good.