The end of the lone cyclist

1 05 2010

I’m a lone cyclist.

Always have been. Partly by necessity, mostly by choice.

For the most part, my cycling friends prefer fat tire riding on the trails. I’ve never raced, nor joined a cycling club, so my peloton experience is pretty limited; my first real group riding was when I went to France to watch and ride part of the 2003 Tour de France with Bikestyle Tours. We were about 100 cyclotourists strong and on our first big ride, a leg stretcher after the long bus ride to Cahors, a woman from Australia touched wheels with another rider and went down hard, breaking her collarbone and ending her dream holiday. Gulp.

So when I do get the chance to hook up with a big group, as I did a couple of years ago when I rode the Westside Cycling Classic, a fundraiser for cancer research, and then later that fall when I joined the Cops For Cancer on a couple of their training rides, I try to stay out of trouble and respect the protocols of the peloton.

That’s probably going to be the biggest challenge of riding the Whistler Gran Fondo; 4,000 cyclists is quite a mob, and all it takes is one cowboy or one frightened, wobbly rider in the middle of the group to bring down a bunch of cyclists. So the first few kilometers before the pack gets to string out will be as much a test of wits and survival instincts as a warmup for the 120 hilly kms ahead.

Two years ago I gained a training partner for some of my rides.

No longer a "lone cyclist," Katie and I take a break during one of our rides.

When Katie and I first started hanging out, she shook her head at my riding exploits. My 100 km jaunts befuddled and bemused her. My willingness to endure Vancouver drivers baffled her; she’d never be so crazy, she said. This coming from someone who, at the time, regularly got up at 4 a.m. to go work out at the gym before work.

Then, two years ago she decided she wanted a bike. It would complement her newfound love for running, with much less wear and tear on her joints.

We considered her bike options for the type of riding she’d likely do; a cruiser? a mountain bike? a hybrid? We settled on a funky little Dahon foldy, convenient for her to store and transport in her car, but with some performance features like 24 gears that made it a good all-around ride.

I took her to some of my ride routes; she’d drive out to a rendezvous point, we’d ride together for 20-40 kms and then she’d drive home while I rode back. I tried to ease her into negotiating traffic, tried to set a good example for coping with the challenges of the road.

She took to it as she does with every other challenge she tackles, with fearless determination.

Our most memorable ride together was an 80 km roll from UBC to Horseshoe Bay. I don’t think she’s yet forgiven me for that one.

By that fall, she decided the foldy wasn’t “fast enough” for her. She wanted the full-on road experience. So we hit the bike shops again and got her set up with a nifty blue Kona Zing.

Katie's Kona Zing, and my trusty Orbea deserve a break as well.

Since then we’ve shared a number of rides, in the city and in the country. And a funny thing happened; I discovered I kinda liked having a riding partner.

She’s still a little skeptical about 100 km routes, but I think I’ll keep her.