Today was an off day, but I broke the rules and went out for a ride. The Grand Rapids Tri posted on Facebook that a group was going to meet to ride part of the course. I figured, why not? It was a beautiful day and hard to pass up.
The ride started at 6:00 and there was about a dozen riders. I brought The Black Rock because that last time I joined the group for a ride, it was only me and two other riders. I was already regretting my bike choice when I saw the size of the group.
We started a bit after 6:00 with six of us in the first group holding a 18-19mph pace. I started in the back because this was the first time I had ever ridden with a large group. I figured that I would take it all in and get comfortable out of the gate.
Each person pulled for about a mile before dropping back. About 6 miles into the ride, it was my turn to pull. I jumped to the front and started to work. All of my work, mind you, was from the horns because riding aero is frowned upon in a pace line (did I mention I regretted my bike choice). I started pulling at 20mph. After only a few seconds, I felt a rider start to overtake me. What the hell? I just started pulling. Was I not doing a good enough job? It turned out to be another group; the fast group from Ada Bike Shop. They apparently ride a 26-27mph pace for about 35 miles. In the blink of an eye, they were gone. It was impressive to say the least.
Shortly after that, we pulled up to a stoplight and were joined by the second Ada Bike Shop group. Our group joined up with them because we were going about the same pace. There were now about 45-50 of us. I was so freaking nervous. Everywhere I looked there were bikers. I was completely out of my element. As we passed through Saranac, I looked around and realized that the group I started with was gone – they had all turned back at some point. Well, it looks like I was riding with the Ada group. Good thing they were all friendly.
By this time I had started to settle in with the group. I jumped up to the front of the group and helped with a lot of the pulling. We eventually broke off into our own group of about 15 riders. This was much more manageable. A 15 rider pace line is an incredible experience. Towards the end of the ride, I was still feeling really strong and did a large share of the pulling. I even got a brief applause after tapping out after a 2 mile pull into a headwind at 23mph. What a feeling. It was an absolute blast.
I ended up with about 41 miles in just after 2 hours for 20.5 mph with the second half of the ride closer to a 22mph average.
I only wish I had brought my roadie. The Black Rock is super fast and surprisingly comfortable on the horns, but not being able to ride aero was less than ideal for shifting. Also, I found it was much harder to stick to my nutrition in a group. The nerves got to me and I lost track of time. When I realized my mistake, I started cramming Gu Chomps down my gullet.
Overall, it was a great ride and an absolutely amazing experience to ride in a large group. I’ll probably be back in future as they meet every Tuesday night.
I’ll hopefully make up my off day later this week when the weather is less than ideal.