-The Newbie Rides with the Peloton

I wrote this when I was first learning to really ride my bike… December 2006. I have a little more experience since then but still have a lot to learn on the bike. Enjoy the ride!

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on the Tri-Bike

Around each turn was new experience. “Am I going too fast?” “Am I going too slow?” “Can I make that turn at this speed?” “Should I ride with him, or just stay out of the way?” “Shift? Or Hold On?” My thoughts were all new, but I was in the moment. I had few answers except to be a little conservative and try not to embarrass my sponsor.

My cell phone rang with an invitation to go for a bike ride. I had just run four & a half miles and that was to be it for the day. But the weather was great and not to be wasted. It was the end of December and forecast to go into the mid 50’s! We’d meet at 12:30.

When I showed up, the grape vine had produced a group of eight. These were biking veterans. Some have ridden coast to coast across the US. One had ridden Paris-Brest-Paris. One had put 35,000 miles on one bike. My bike odometer said 300 miles. I was definitely the newbie.

Before we started I confessed my lack of experience to the group. “Please watch out for me”, I said. They did and I felt accepted. Their experience as riders meant they could ride shoulder-to-shoulder, or wheel-to-wheel. Their awareness of their surroundings was constant. I rode with blinders. “Ride a straight line.” “Don’t swerve”, I told myself. They were true “Roadies” and knew how to handle their bikes. I, on the other hand, had little experience and had a tri-bike. A tri-bike has a different geometry, aerobars, and twitchy steering. My sponsor came along side and said, “Make sure you stay hydrated.” “Yeah, right!” I thought. As I watched them steer with one hand and take a swig from their water bottles with the other, I didn’t dare let go! I had read… “whatever you do, STAY OUT OF THE AEROBARS when riding with roadies.” I did.

But take care of me they did. Pointing to road hazards; loose gravel, potholes, & sticks. “Car Back!” “Car Up!” “Slowing!” I heard them calling to the peloton. OK… It wasn’t really a peloton, a swarm of a hundred or more riders racing in the Tour de France, but it SEEMED like a peloton to me. Riding close, changing positions, & drafting. I tried to stay at the back, out of the way where I wouldn’t make the others nervous, but to keep up. My running had given me the legs and aerobic engine. Thankfully, I could keep up. The bike handling needs work though. Just going out and spending time on the bike should help. Every once in a while I’d find myself in the middle. It was like a business jet flying in formation with the Blue Angels. I was OK when they flew straight and level, but don’t you guys do any of that fancy stuff!

We rode fast. We rode slowly. The pace constantly changed. The terrain was sometimes hilly, sometimes flat. We rode 40 miles in all. Toward the end the pace picked up, like horses going to the barn.

When I got off the bike I had a drunken swagger. Boy! Were my legs tired! They capped off the ride with a trip to the coffee shop. My second for the day… but what the heck. “This is why we do the ride”, one said. I had a white chocolate raspberry scone and a white chocolate hot chocolate. I had earned the calories. The scone tasted like heaven.

Thank you for taking me along. It was a terrific new experience for me. I don’t think I embarrassed my sponsor or myself. Maybe I’ll even get invited back. Even if I do have… a Tri-bike.

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