It is almost the end of April in 2024 and my Strava account says I’m in better shape than I was at any point last year. I’ve been out for a couple of VCC rides this season where it’s been about 11 degrees and I wore my tights and seemed to fit in pretty well.

In the first week there was a fast group and a slow group, which I definitely knew I should stick with (Strava number notwithstanding). My suspicions were justified the next week when chatting with one of the riders who’d been in the first week fast group. Apparently their average speed wasn’t that crazy, but they’re so strong in the wind. Some of them used to be Cat 11 racers so yeah, best shape of my life is still going to leave me in a puddle by the side of the road keeping up with them.

In our second group ride of the season, I went with the slow group, but when we accidentally dropped a couple of riders that group split in two (after turning around to catch them back up). I went with the faster of the two and that was good. I wasn’t the strongest but I could do decent pulls2 and ended up going pretty quickly.

While it’s fun riding fast on the road, I’m also doing some trail riding. My bike-handling skills need work negotiating roots and the ups and downs in the river valley trails, but having the ability to practice is great. I’m going to try at least one Fat Tire Tuesday race this spring just to see what getting my butt handed to me on these trails (instead of the CX ones) is like. Generally though, I like mountain biking for being surrounded by trees and the focus rather than the going fast part. We’ll see how it feels when/if I try to get competitive.

  1. Cat is short for categories in road bike racing. You start off as a Cat 5 and can earn points to move up. You get points by winning races (or doing well in big races). ↩︎

  2. When you ride in a group, the front riders cut through the wind first which makes it easier for people riding close behind them. So not being on the front lets you go faster while expending less energy; the riders with their nose in the wind are “pulling” the rest of the group along. Ideally everyone takes turns doing pulls on the front so everyone gets to share in the free ride effect, but some people are just stronger than others. When you get into bike racing this is where the tactics really come into play. ↩︎