Yesterday, I went on my first GROUP RIDE!
Yes. The two words more terrifying than “Brazilian Wax” or “Magic Mike”…
What if I suddenly forget how to stop and start my bikemachine?
What if my neon orange jacket is too embarrassing to be seen with?
What if I can’t keep pace and my super sweet friends who would never shun me SHUN ME?
I had so many “what if’s” as I was getting ready that I almost had tears in my eyes. I took some deep breaths and tried to believe what I tweeted the night before:
The game plan was to ride up Tunnel Road in the Oakland/Berkeley hills with my newlywed friends TJ and Michael. They’re both experienced cyclists and wonderfully sweet people. Definitely the kind of folks you want to do something scary with for the first time.
It’s about as gentle as a hill ride gets in the Bay Area, good for figuring out gearing on the way up and descent isn’t terrifying. They also suggested a short segment that wouldn’t be overwhelming. Thanks guys! While the road winds quite a bit (danger! danger!), it’s such a popular cycling route that most cars avoid it unless they have the misfortune of owning one of the multi-million dollar homes positioned on the hillside. We joked on the way up that there must be some underground, Dr. Evil-esque grocery store that only sells fancy milk and bread. Otherwise, these people literally have a 20 minute drive to the nearest egg.
We parked near the Firestorm Monument (foreshadowing….), spent a little bit of time talking about riding in a group and off we went!
I had a slightly shaky start because I’m so unaccustomed to having anyone near me as I push off! They rode up a few feet and we settled into a nice pack? Group? Murder (of crows)?
Fun Fact: the term for a group of unicorns is a “blessing.” A blessing of unicorns.
It was really interesting keeping a steady pace behind someone. TJ set a nice, slow speed for us and we took turns in the lead position. The incline was gentle enough that I stayed in my big ring but at one point, a combination of slow speed, big gear, and steeper grade got the better of me and I lost momentum. We regrouped and I realized that I shouldn’t let my fear of spinning out of control keep me from shifting to the small ring. It’s for hills! Derp! I shifted and my bike immediately felt 200lbs lighter. I couldn’t believe the difference!
I think it was around this point (halfway up the hill) that I remembered to press “start” on my Garmin. D’oh! Bummed because I’m a total data freak and I was looking forward to seeing the elevation gain.
Can I just say how nice it was that every cyclist calls out “good morning!” to each other. There were folks on tandem bikes, fancy kitted-out cyclist dudes and everyone in between. They were all so friendly! I liked that.
Before I knew it, TJ was calling out “that’s our driveway!” Great success!
Before we headed back down, TJ gave me lots of great tips about descending. We agreed that Michael was welcome to zip down the hill but TJ would take it slow with me. That was really sweet and generous of her because she loves a speedy downhill! The beginning of the descent was pretty intense. It wasn’t particularly steep but the only descents I’ve done so far have been very, very short. To continually go downhill, feeling that wooshing speedy feeling was overwhelming.
(At literally 7mph. I didn’t even know it was possible to go downhill as slowly as I was until I looked at my Garmin data later.)
When we discussed descending techniques, TJ mentioned being in the drops, as opposed to on the hoods. I actually haven’t ridden in my drops since I realized early on that I should be on the hoods. Remembering how unsteady my steering felt during those early rides, my knee-jerk reaction was “nope, not today.” Well, we rode for only a couple minutes before my hands were cramping like crazy from trying to feather my breaks from the hoods. We pulled over for me to take little emotional breather. I was uphill from TJ so I decided to ride down to her in my drops and, like shifting into the small ring on the ascent, the drops were a game changer. I had easy access to my breaks and realized that the steering difficulty in the past had much more to do with my inexperience. It felt a bagillion times better.
Also, can we please check out these views? It was so clear and gorgeous. I promise I’ll get better pictures next time…
Riding down the hill, I felt more and more comfortable. We still took it very slowly, just what I needed. In fact, I think if I had been riding by myself, I may have ridden uphill faster than I rode down! How weird is that?
I was so happy! Great success! Learned a ton, didn’t make a fool of myself….all good things! Wonderful day!
Until we discovered this:
Purse with beloved salmon colored Coach wallet stolen. Lots of teaching cash stolen. Motherfucking SWIM BAG stolen. Driver’s side window busted out on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Cause that’s convenient. Thankfully, I had my keys and my iPhone with me.
TJ and Michael jumped into action, cleaning out the glass as I cancelled my bank card and called Tim to cancel our credit card. They were very supportive and sympathetic, as were the multitudes of cyclists who passed by.
Great ride and learning experience with a totally shitty and expensive ending. I can’t wait to ride Tunnel again and again and again! With nothing of any value in my car.
HUGE thank you to TJ and Michael for being great friends and teachers! You guys are the best!
Tell me about your first time descending on your bike! Or something scary you did this weekend! Don’t tell me about a time you got robbed, I’m still too bummed.