I’m huffing and puffing and watching everybody head up the road without me. I’m on my once a year road group ride and my mountain bike once a week form is not cutting it with this group. They’re not even pushing things that hard but on each hill I’m dragging just a bit more and then finally I’m just watching them recede into the distance.
Just call me the rainy day roadie — once a year the stars align and I find out about a road group ride just after we’ve had a good enough rain storm to eliminate the possibility of trail time. So I figure what the hell and decide to show up. I used to be an all the time roadie so the thinking is that I might still be cruising on the form I had during my ill-fated road racing stint. Never-mind that the last time I lined up at a road race was circa 2003, and even back then — when I was in the what was probably the best shape of my life — I got dropped at every race I entered (including Mothballs, a dead flat crit with two corners). Or that I’ve gone from 150-250 mile weeks (the norm in my racing days) to 15 miles of mountain biking once a week. Even with the mountain to road bike mileage conversion, I usually count 2 road miles for every mountain mile, that’s still a humongous drop. So really I shouldn’t be all that surprised that I’m getting dropped on a mellow road ride. I lasted an hour on that ride; I’m not even going to speculate how fast I would get dropped on a ride like the weekly world championships.
So how does one become a rainy day roadie? A couple of things factored into my transformation: I bought a used mountain bike from some guy in Isla Vista and I had a couple of kids. I fought it at first but over the first six months of having that bike I found myself choosing to ride my $80 dollar beat to hell by a crazy dirt jumper mountain bike over my $2000 carbon fiber wonder bike (aka road bike) on a more and more regular basis. Things only got worse when my wife bought me a new full-suspension bike for Christmas/my birthday that year. Maybe it’s just me but mountain biking is just way more fun — especially when you have very little time to ride (due to the kids; don’t get me wrong, I love my kids, but they sure are a time-suck when they’re young and want you around and you want to take advantage of that since eventually they’ll get older and the wanting you around will end) and your form suffers accordingly. At a certain point road biking is only really fun when you’re able to keep up on the spirited group rides, the rest of the time is just training so that you can keep up on said group rides. Being in bad shape I can’t keep up so it’s not so fun, especially compared to mountain biking where you just need to be in good enough shape to drag your sorry ass up the mountain (though I’m sure some of the people I ride with wish that the dragging of the ass didn’t take quite as long as it often does).
I keep thinking that when the kids are older and I’ve got more time to ride I’ll go back to doing 50/50 road and mountain. But often when I’m doing a road ride I find myself leering at any little trail or dirt short-cut on the side of the road wondering if that drop would be more than the carbon fiber in my fork could take…