Sunday, April 02, 2006

"The Moose"

One of the anchor points for my week is the Sunday morning bike ride. We have an informal group that meets every Sunday at 7:30 (8:30 in winter) in the town center. We ride road bikes and try to go fast. Since most of us are in our 40's and 50's, 'fast' is a relative term, but we do OK. We typically ride about 25-35 miles and the group ranges in size from just a few when the weather is bad to nearly 20 in the summertime. We had 14 today, which is great for early April.

I like bicycles and bike riding of all kinds. I have a shed full of bikes. One aspect of riding that gives me the biggest kick is a spirited group ride. I won't try to describe how much fun a group ride can be. Like many things in life, you just have to be there to understand. It is simply exhilerating to be with a bunch of strong, fit, like-minded riders working as a team to go fast. Over about 20 mph, aerodynamics begins to play a big role in a ride. At high speeds, it's much easier to ride behind another cyclist, so we take turns 'pulling' and 'drafting.' When all the stars align, we might have a pace line where a long string of riders goes single file, each taking a short turn at the front, then pulling off to the left and drifting to the back of the line as everyone else slides forward. On a flat, smooth road it's possible for us to cruise along at 25 or so mph. The speed and endorphines provide a real rush. Needless to say, this has its risks. Should one cyclist fall, everyone behind might go down too. Luckily, we haven't had any such pile-ups. It's important to ride with experienced bikers you can trust.

Most of our rides finish by going over Moose Hill. It's one of the biggest hills we have around here, and the light car traffic and forested setting make for great riding. In this context, Moose Hill is more about gravity than nature. By the time we start the climb after a long, hard ride, the legs are rubbery and the lungs raspy. There is usually a mad dash for the top. Since I carry too much weight to be a good climber, I usually get to watch the race from a few spots back. But, I always try hard and give an honest effort as we scale "The Moose."

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