Long delayed update finally here! Yep, you can tell that I just got back from a bike ride and am still riding the adrenaline wave, so here we go…
As noted before, I ride my single bike a few times a week not to prepare myself for group rides or organized rides as a solo rider, but to prepare myself for those as a stoker on a tandem bike. Riding tandem is pretty hard for the captain (the person at the front controlling the bike) because in order for a “good performance” (for lack of a better term), the captain and the stoker need to be as even as possible where power’s concerned.
Before I got my bike, Andy and I were horribly cockeyed on the tandem. Since he’s been riding for far longer than I have (on a single bike), he’s got way more strength and endurance than I did. And that was part of the reason why I caved in and agreed to sign up for adult beginning cycling lessons, which turned out to be so much fun, by the way, though going about it on my own as a newbie was like a trip through the Nine Circles of Hell.
For those who haven’t read up on my misadventures, my first year was spent groaning and whining and gritting my teeth over four crashes and one (fairly serious) bee sting close to my left eye. I’ve got scars from those crashes and dark memories of the worst “Hello, asphalt!” moment which left me with an elbow sprain that took several weeks to heal.
2012 has been a much better year for me – about 500% better – with all the miles I’ve been putting under my belt and growing confidence handling my bike and not freaking out over cars or pedestrians. I’ve also pretty much mastered a training plan for myself that’s proving to be very helpful with regard to my performance on the tandem.
One of the things that Andy and a lot of experienced cyclists do is go through interval training and then taper off now and then to prevent burnout. Actually, the explanation is a lot more complicated than that, but since I don’t follow that regimen, I can’t really spell things out for you here.
In my case, I ride my bike more days than Andy, but the distance is also much shorter, and they’re all hilly circuits. Because of the distance, I don’t need to taper off the way other cyclists do. I keep riding these routes all year long and maybe take a day off here and there. If you were to look at maps of my routes, they’ll appear to be monotonous and predictable, seeing as how I just go around X number of times, depending on how much time I’m supposed to ride on a given day. And this what they look like:
The Bermuda Triangle Circuit is sort of like my mainstay. Super short circuit with a longish medium climb followed by a steep but shorter climb and then a downhill.
Beechnut is an expansion of the Bermuda Triangle, and I’ve been trying to ride this at least once a week because of the steepness of the grade. So from an aerial view, my usual routes don’t look very exciting. They’re nowhere near the routes that experienced cyclists take that run 40+ miles through mountains or higher hills and more technical roads.
But if you were to look at my ride in terms of elevation, this is what I do:
So while the routes don’t appear to be as varied and exciting as what other cyclists do, these are my interval workouts on the bike. Circuits can be dull at first glance, but the more you do it (I’ve expanded my time from 30 min. to 60 min. and am now trying to go for 90 min.), the harder it gets.
I consider these routes to be my interval training since the climbs equal higher heart rates and increased power output, and the downhills and flats provide recovery. And I just do it again and again and again, my target being a total elevation of at least 100 feet per mile, depending on the circuit I choose to do. Another circuit I do has a longer but shallower climb, and total elevation for that is around 90 feet per mile. I don’t have a screenshot saved, so I can’t show you at the moment.
In brief, I never do flats on my single bike.
Andy at first was very skeptical about my decision to just stick around the neighborhood (we’re lucky to live in a city that’s tucked away in the hills) for my riding practice, but he’s now a believer because he’s seen how much we’ve improved as a pair on the tandem. We’ve beaten personal records on long routes together, and as long as I keep doing this on my single bike – and increasing my time incrementally as the months go – we’re sure to perform better and better on longer rides.
Will I ever ride my bike on group rides? Never. Ever. My training rides are also my personal time, which are sacred. I love them, I enjoy them, and I’m able to focus on what I’m doing without having to worry about someone else trying to chat me up or riding close enough to make me nervous and snappy. Solitude – whether it’s writing or riding – is pure gold.