There’s something exciting brewing in Lake County, specifically Mount Dora. Even more specifically: in the roadie community out of Adrenaline Bike Works. We have had people drive an hour to come ride with us on the Social Sunday rides in recent months! Two friends who have become regulars on our Social Sunday Rides are with the Winter Garden Police Department. They invited me to ride with them on February 21 at the Tough Biker ride. I accepted, as I have not done this event before and the cause sounded worthy. Inviting others from our group to come resulted in a baker’s dozen representing our riding group.
Once we all met up at the Starting Line, excitement grew with the crowd size. The Blue Hammers were in attendance with their unmistakable blue / orange kits, spiffy bikes and bodies that represent speed. These are really great guys who just happen to be crazy fit and fast. When they show up to events, most of us mere mortals just stay out of their way.
During the pre-ride announcements we (riders) were told that the motorcycle officers would not set the pace, but would instead respond to our group speed. “You set the pace!” the announcer exclaimed with an award-winning smile. A sinking feeling began to grow in my belly because a few of our riders have been doing C rides at 15-17mph, and I told them I thought they would be fine in a group, as this particular ride was advertised to be at a comfortable pace of 18-20mph.
- Beautiful sunny day with delightful temperatures
- Great cause! Raising funds for Fallen Officer Memorial in Washington, DC
- Police were very clear on instructing cyclists to stay in the right lane only, as they needed the left lane clear to move ahead to the next intersection at a very rapid pace (and, boy, was it exciting to see them zoom past so fast!)
- Street closures and blocked intersections allowed us to legally run red lights – which was a bunch of fun. And in front of the Police too!
- Hundreds of onlookers had out their phones, shouted encouragement to us and clearly enjoyed watching a group of 200
- For this event to only be in its third year, they are eager to make improvements and build on the foundation they have started
- Finally – ZERO nasty drivers to contend with
When a group of cyclists come together and number more than a couple of dozen, there are going to be some issues with different riding styles. While unfortunate, that’s just reality in a group of size, particularly when most people have never ridden together.
The beauty of (and a problem with) hemming in 200 riders between motorcycle escorts and tail vehicles is that this unit is expected to follow the guidelines provided, but this is very difficult to do. The yo-yo effect is sure to happen, even when the front of the group is holding a steady pace because others behind may overlap wheels, brake then surge. This occurred from the first mile of the sixty-seven we rode. Out of the gate, we turned onto Orange Avenue and the “race” began. Only it wasn’t supposed to be like that. It was advertised as an 18-20mph pace.
Before I knew it I was cruising with the group at 23mph, while others passed me on the left. I left a small gap in front of me as I chatted with a friend, because I could see the surge / brake pattern begin and I was trying to avoid our group getting caught up in it. For the first while, I was pulling the majority of our group, particularly those who enjoy our local rides. Then I decided to drift back and check on the others. Faster riders in our group had gone ahead, which was fine, but the C riders were beginning to struggle in the strong wind and unsteady speeds. Before the first rest stop at M25, we were down to a group of 5 – and the only wheels behind us belonged to the police tail car.
Instructions were repeatedly given to ride in a double pace line, but I could tell that many other riders -besides our group – were also fairly new to cycling and were not comfortable riding two-up without being close to the yellow line. We were reminded over and over that “This is not a race!” but that kind of flew into the face of the pre-ride announcement that the group dictated the pace.
I know that so many people had a wonderful time and enjoyed the ride immensely; I heard them talk about it. That’s terrific! I’m trying to offer an objective review.
Here is what I would suggest for those considering doing the Tough Biker next year:
- Be able to ride 70M in a head wind and cross wind, knowing your limitations.
- Be prepared (for any event or group ride) that offers an advertised pace to not live up to it; not every group does. Hormones get involved and – face it – strong riders love to ride fast. However, that’s no excuse but it’s reality.
- Have the route downloaded in case you get dropped from the group or have the SAG # on your person so you can get a ride back to the start.
- If you are bringing a group to an event, be sure that each one is warned ahead of time about possible with yo-yoing, surging and sudden slowing.
- Lastly, if you are bringing a group to an event, be sure to have everyone’s phone number in case they get separated from the group. Even on weekly group rides this is a good tip!