Monday, April 18, 2005

A Sunday group ride...

I went on a Freewheel training ride in Tulsa yesterday. Normally I avoid group rides, but I wanted to observe a large group of cyclists in an urban setting – lots of stop signs and red lights. Too often, group rides bring out the worst groupthink – running red lights and stop signs en masse.

One of my friends rode with this group on Saturday. Sandra’s a regular commuter and vehicular cyclist. To the unacquainted, that means she rides her bike following the same rules of the road as any motor vehicle. To some cyclists, that’s an astounding idea. She generally rides in the right hand tire track, stops where appropriate, signals her turns, etc.

We rode side-by-side most of the time. And we collected a self-appointed traffic cop right behind us. “Car back!” he yelled, and when we didn’t dive for the right-hand verge, he’d yell louder. “CAR BACK!” I don’t know if he was getting on my nerves more than I was getting on his, but when a lane is too narrow to share with a motor vehicle, riding single file is pointless. It makes the group twice as long and more difficult to pass. In Tulsa, riding two abreast is legal, though that wasn’t always the case.

Another pointless idea: releases for group rides. (I really am a whiner today, aren’t I?) This local club requires everyone to sign a liability release before joining one of their club rides. I’ve never signed one. First, I don’t want to be on their mailing list. Second, the ride is on public roads, roads that I have an equal right to use. Third, if the ride leaders do something stupid (like yelling “Clear!” at an intersection) and someone gets hurt, the club should be liable and deserves to be sued. Lastly, if something truly awful happens, there’s no record that I was ever present.

They require everyone to wear a helmet too, something that’s not legally required by Oklahoma law. Again, if the ride is over public roads I can ride sans helmet. There’s not much a club can do about it. (Well, they could turn up the pace and drop me, not that it’s too difficult!) I’m tempted to show up without a helmet just to see the reaction.

We were riding toward the back of the bunch, the fast guys long gone and out of sight. Somewhere downtown, I saw the only red light runner of the day – ME! We were descending a small hill. I’d pulled out a water bottle with my left hand just as the light ahead changed. I’d almost reached the stop bar as it happened, but there was no way I could have stopped using the back brake alone. My bad. Sandra gave me hell about it too.

We left the Freewheel route and started off toward home. Both of us rode to the start from our homes, so doing the whole ride wasn’t really necessary. Sandra showed me her regular commute route up to the base of the hill to her house. We parted there and I pushed on toward my house with the wind at my back. My legs were starting to hurt and my neck and shoulders were stiff and sore. The tail wind was a blessing! And I was almost out of water.

I was feeling the effects of dehydration, so I stopped at the Oxley Nature Center for more water. The Center has refrigerated fountains, not just regular fountains as found in the rest of the park. I drank an entire bottle in the next 2 miles and felt much better. Still, when I got home, I’d lost almost 3 pounds due to dehydration. No wonder I was feeling puny. I spent the evening drinking lots of water, downing a few ibuprofen tablets, and reeking of Icy Hot.

It was a good day!


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