01 March 2012

Eight Ingredients of a Brilliant Cycle Ride

On Sunday Alberto and I went on a fantastic ride, one of the best rides I've ever been on! So I thought I would break down what it is that made it so wonderful!

1. Motivation
I haven't been able to go on a long ride since our 100km audax back on January 29th. It's been all short rides, spin class, and running for me since then, and I've been dying to get back in the saddle! Plus, with our first 200km audax of the year coming up in two weeks and I was really concerned I wasn't fit enough yet -- so I was really motivated to have a good ride.

2. A good route
We found a route on RidewithGPS that we thought would be suitable, and was it ever! It was the long route from an Evans Ride It event (organised by a chain of bike shops here in the UK). We're skeptical about sportives organized by the big chains but the route looked pretty interesting, with plenty of options to cut the route short if necessary. It started in Dorking (gotta love British place names) which made it relatively easy to get to. The route turned out to be very well chosen -- avoiding any major towns and taking us on a nice tour of the North Downs.

3. "Good" hills
Which brings me to the next ingredient in our cycle ride...the hills. We deliberately chose a hilly route to try to catch up on our training, and the hills of the North Downs were perfect -- challenging but doable.

Hills, hills, and hills

4. Great weather
We had a high of around 13C (55 F) and bright sunshine for most of the day. It's February, and we rode without jackets! It was also the first ride of the season where we were able to stop for food and a bit of a rest without starting to freeze as soon as we cooled down.

5. Quiet roads
This is also somewhat connected to the quality of the route, but it has to be said the roads we were on were some of the best we've ridden. Very quiet; even the A roads that we expected to be quite busy were actually fine, and for the most part very respectful drivers. It was a pleasure to ride and we never once felt stressed about traffic.

Lovely lanes

6. A new skill to practice
I have said that I wanted to get better at hills this year, and an integral part of that is gaining confidence with standing on the pedals. I have been practicing on my commute, and in spin class, but I didn't expect it to actually work! Turns out, within the first thirty minutes or so of riding, I was able to stand up on the pedals much more comfortably than I ever have been before. I practiced on most hills until around km 60, when I started to notice that doing so was making me much more tired than just pedaling up the hill. I guess my standing muscles don't have the same endurance as my other ones yet! But it was nice to feel a sense of accomplishment.

7. Fellow machacas
It is always nice to know you're not alone in your crazy desire to go out for a bike ride in February. Our route took us up Box Hill, which has become a mecca for road cyclists ever since it was announced that it would form the centerpiece of the Olympic Road Race route this summer. Then later on in the ride we went through Peaslake, somewhat of a MTB mecca. Both spots were absolutely full of cyclists, and we passed many more throughout the day. It was so great seeing everyone else out and about! (NB: Box Hill is easy!! I made it up without engaging my lowest gear and without really even breathing hard. I even passed one guy. And I am not even very good at hills!)

Crowds of cyclists in Peaslake

8. The company!
Of course, I have Alberto's great company on nearly every ride I go on. But when you are on one of the most enjoyable rides ever, it is so nice to share that experience with someone else. Also, although normally Alberto and I have to negotiate to find a pace that works for both of us, on Sunday we didn't seem to have that problem! The only time he had to wait for me was on the big hills. So the company was even better than normal!

Machacas at the top of Box Hill

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