El Niño Super Rides

“This weekend: party rides.”

We earned this. We who? We who braved the cold of 2013/14 and 2014/15 day after day after day after day after day….ad nauseum. We who shoveled snow. Again, and again. We who walked and waited for buses. We who sat in cars waiting for the frost to thaw from inside our windshields. We who rode bikes to work. Who rode on trails, on dirt roads blanketed in snow and sand. We.

December 5: High +6

December 6: High +6

Hell. Yes.

Two days, two groups, two fantastic rides. One realization: This is how it is for so many other racers around the world. Spring classics, glorious summer rides and races, cyclocross mania of autumn. And then, rides. Rides with racers and non-racers all at the same time. Rides at whatever speed. Rides to coffee shops, while wearing lots of clothes. Rides on roads long neglected. Telling stories, making plans. Reconnecting.

It’s the contrast that makes this riding special. Race, train, race, train, race, train…. It’s awesome, I love it. So many of us love it. But it feels good to wrap up a season. What feels not-so-good is transitioning straight into full-blown-smack-you-in-the-face-WINTER. Sure, for some, the transition to snow, either on skis, fat bike or otherwise is perfect. That’s usually what happens around here. CX race one Sunday, thrash around on snow the next. I was totally accusomed to this rhythm, and thought I liked it until this past weekend. On Saturday, while riding with about 13 others, it hit me: “This is fucking awesome.” Not because group rides don’t happen other times. Because: contrast. Smooth pedaling in a double pace line in the sun, and not uncomfortably cold. No shoe covers. F.T.W.!

One might say, ‘Duh, Matt, you can ride like that all the time and just skip the racing.’ Not really. What I’m saying is that the contrast makes the experience what it is. If you do big mellow group rides all the time, there’s nothing special about them. When you do them after racing for 12 weekends in a row, and you’re not struggling to feel your fingers and toes, EVERYTHING IS AWESOME. So now I understand what it must be like for racers in so many locales in the world. The off-season isn’t about riding inside and riding outside with ski helmets and goggles for everybody.

So, two days, two rides, both shared here for your riding pleasure. The Carp Loop, a local classic, ideal for the off-season due to its flat elevation profile, low traffic, and excellent cafe option in Alice’s in Carp. No drama.

It’s much easier to keep a group together on a loop like this than hillier stuff. So, we hit that up, with a mix of pavement, trail, and dirt road, on Sunday with a smaller group. This is one you might want to try out next season, as it incorporates the best dirt road we know of close to home, Erwin. 35mm tires, with tread or not, work great on this route. Sure, Iain had two flats, and Max took a screw through his tire and rim, but hey, we all made it home before dark, and we fit a Pipolinka stop in too (to be honest, we all needed calories!). On our return leg I felt like we were at a training camp, smoothly rotating, 6 of us, in a double paceline. God it felt good. Highway 105 rules now that it has been resurfaced.

Double pacelines, coffee, treats, beers too. Did I say no booties? No booties! Joy.


Photos: Matt Surch, Max Rubarth