Monday, April 29, 2013


This weekend was a milestone for my AIDS/LifeCycle training. As I've been preaching to my trainees, Jon Walker, Matthew Bokach, and I rode two challenging, back-to-back rides. On Saturday, we rode on the 65 mile 2013 Day on the Ride — a practice day for the ALC. Then on Sunday, we rode in the Chico Velo Wildflower Century, specifically on a new route: the Wildcat 100, combining the toughest hills from both the regular Wildflower and the Wildcat 125.

A. Wherein we Seek Out the Dragons.

Saturday's Day on the Ride included 65 miles, 3360 feet of climbing, and burning about 4003 calories. Sunday's Wildcat 100 included 109.4 miles, 7531 feet of climbing, and burning about 6902 calories. For a total of 173.4 miles, 10,891 feet of climbing, and 10,905 calories burned! We all rode every mile of both rides, and deserve to be proud of our achievement.

The weekend was fraught with challenges. The goal itself was hard enough: Stay with my friend John Hollwedel in San Francisco Friday night. Complete Saturday's ride in San Francisco. Repack everything in the Sports Basement parking lot. Drive from San Franciso to the Chico area (about a 3 hour drive). Complete Sunday's ride in Chico. Drive back to Sacramento
by a reasonable hour. By and large that is how it went. But, as every cyclist knows, the dragons can come out to have their way with you.

B. Wherein the Dragons Finally Show Themselves.

This weekend the dragons came out in two ways. The first was, because of our hurried packing in the parking lot, one of us lost his wallet — discovered only after we had driven over the Golden Gate Bridge back north on the road to Chico. That required a drive back over the bridge for a search, which turned up nothing, sadly.

I dreamt last night that Davey and I drove over a cliff.
While in free fall, I noticed we were both sleeping.
I forced myself awake and shook him awake.
He promptly began screaming. He was in the driver's seat,
but I knew that I had to take control of the car before I really
woke up. Somehow, I managed to pull the car out of free fall
and we started to fly. When Davey stopped screaming,
I knew I could wake up. And I did.
Despite the loss, we persevered and drove to pick up Matthew (who had driven separately) in Davis. Showering made us all feel better for the remaining drive and the fretting over the lost wallet was lost in the joy of what we were doing.

Then to Chico. Our hotel in Oroville was definitely sketchy. Peeling wallpaper over a large hole in the wall, an impromptu barbecue at 10:30 p.m. in the parking lot attended by what appeared to be drunken flunkies. But none of that bothered us. We got into bed early and slept until 5.

The real test of our mettle came on the Wildcat 100. The ride started out as a typical one. Registration, a hurried breakfast, and out on the road by 6:30. But, as a portent of things to come, the organizers had run out of the "blue" route sheets describing the ride we were about to go on. "100 miles," we thought, "we won't need a route sheet!" At that point, I really didn't know how much climbing there would be or how hot it can get during a Chico April.

Perhaps I should have been better prepared, but on most organized rides, the organizers provide most of what you need: food, water, electrolyte drink, and directions. The food may not always be good, but it is usually plentiful.

But, apparently, the Wildcat 100 was a new route for this group. Thus, they had no idea how long it would take for the participants to make it to rest stops.

The first 48 miles were epic. Cool and shady, the climb to 3300 feet was stunning and challenging. The rest stop at the top was shared with riders doing the Wildcat 125 route (which, though longer, appears to have been an easier route). By that point we were relaxed and confident and relatively well fed — oddly, the first rest stop only had cookies and fruit as snacks, while the second had the same plus some bars. Neither stop had electrolyte drink.

Though that was not enough food for me, I ate what I could and even stashed a couple bars in my pocket. We went on, feeling good and ready for lunch. The time was only about 11:30, so we weren't worried about finishing.

C. Wherein I Confront my Dragon.

I can still remember the moment when I started to worry.

At about mile 66 after a sustained 10 mile descent, our route rejoined the regular century. There was confusing route markings, so I stopped to wait for Jon and Matthew. I waited nearly 15 minutes, believing they were right behind me and lunch was right in front of me (I understood that there would be a lunch stop at mile 78 — strangely far into the ride, but not as strange as reality).

I waited and waited and many many riders passed me. It got hot and my hunger made me realize it was time to continue without them. I rode on, and on, and on in the hot sun with my lukewarm water and nothing to eat. The road was beautiful, green fields turning California gold on both side, and no one anywhere near me.

This is where I met my dragon.

The road is long. "Am I on the right road? I followed the blue markers and this is where they led. I know I'm in the right place, I just wish that Jon and Matthew had caught up with me. Had I missed something? Was one of the injured or plagued by mechanical problems?" The questions kept coming, but with no way to answer them (and no cell signal), I had no choice but to continue on.

I finally got to the rest stop at mile 78, only to learn that all the food was gone and the roadies were packing up. Hot. Dry. Confused and irritated. I ate the bars I had brought and drank half a bottle of juice left over from the food that had been there — fortunately it was very cold — and refilled my water bottles. I waited there for another 15 minutes for Jon and Matthew, but they never appeared. So, still very hungry, I got back on the road.

But a little intuition told me to wait at the entrance to the rest stop for Jon and Matthew. I did and only about 5 minutes later they appeared. I was very relieved and — with only 22 miles left to go, ready for the challenge. The time was about 2:30 p.m., so I figured we could complete those miles in only a little over an hour. Wrong!

The climb up Table Mountain took at least an hour, and the descent (despite the sign which said "its all down hill from here" and some killer down hills) was gentle rollers and some tiring flat stretches which took over an hour.

It took two and a half hours to complete the ride from where I rejoined Jon and Matthew in part because the distance was not 22 miles, but was 31 miles — a distance which typically takes me under 2 hours, but with the very steep ascent and the heat dragged on.

D. Wherein I Slay my Dragon.

That is where I slew the dragon.

I made it to the top of Table Mountain without stopping and running on empty. I was very pleased with that effort and it seemed my frustration and mental suffering internalized and turned into a Zen-like peace. I felt comfortable with the heat and my now painful butt. I felt like I was invincible.

The dragon had me in its jaws, but I didn't care. I just smiled at it, holding it at arms length. "I'm here. I'm nowhere near any permanent physical ailment. I've trained for this and I can do this." So, though I didn't have much more than that — and still hadn't eaten enough food — I knew I could finish. It was that feeling which carried me though.

We continued on along the amazingly beautiful top of Table Mountain — reminiscent of the Shire — chatting and with renewed confidence. We descended down past the now-closed mile 90 ersatz lunch stop (really? mile 90?). We continued on and on and on. In the sun, the flats which led back to the start point were far more difficult than they should have been.

Finally, we hit mile 100. Mile 100 occurred just above Highway 70 near a town called Durham. Its a great spot, because it is surrounded by fields and you can see in all directions for at least 5 miles. And one thing I could see is that there was no buidlings for at least 5 miles in the direction we were traveling. No buildings means no end point. No end point means that the ride was longer than 100 miles. And at 100 miles, your brain starts to count each tenth.

100.1. 100.2 ... 101.3.... 102... The count went on and with each passing 10th, I had to force myself not to freak out. I fantasized about it, though. I fantasized about telling off the ride organizers for planning a route with no useful rest stops. I fantasized about a Big Mac (which I never got). I fantasized about laying in the road weeping. I fantasized about a truck hitting me and running me into the gutter, never to be found again.

What helped? Only one thing: riding. I kept pedaling. I sipped my water slowly so as not to use it all up. I at the last morsel from my pocket (a pack of Honey Stingers — thanks Matthew). And I kept riding. A few riders passed me, and as I inquired about how much further we had to go, they could only give me helpless looks.

Then, finally, at mile 109.4 I arrived at the end point. The time was 5:04 p.m. and I was going to eat if I had to force one of the organizers to drive me to a restaurant. Jon and Matthew arrived a few minutes later and observed that dinner must not have ended because Bear wasn't screaming. They were right, of course, I probably would have been banned for life from the event if there had been no more food.

Fortunately, there was and it was good. I was the sort of hungry you get when you're beyond hungry. So I could only eat a small amount compared to the number of calories I had just burned. Pulled pork, tofu, noodles, and salad. It was so good, I can barely describe it. I sat alone and shoveled the food in until the plate was nearly clean.

When Jon and Matthew sat down, we bonded over the experience, compared out dragons, and laughed.

It was one of the best rides of my life. Thanks dragons.

Your Bear

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Packing Slip

I wanted to write a post about packing, but in reality, I suck at packing. Getting my bag together takes me days and lots of fretting. But following the helpful advice of others made getting ready each morning (I woke up at 4:00 a.m. every day) so much easier, even though my bag looked liked a bomb hit it at the end. So, instead, I refer you to the experts.

I recommend you read these articles before you start getting everything together. That will help you avoid buying the wrong things or buying too much.

  1. WHAT to bring: So, as to what to bring, the AIDS/LifeCycle website also has a packing list and tips on what to bring on the ride.
  2. HOW to bring it: As to how to bring it, read last year's blog post about packing (reposted from the smugmug packing clinic) — follow the link to the very useful slideshow showing packing steps.
  3. TIPS to make it easy: This year our guest blogger is Terri Meier of the South Bay Awesome Ahead with her most excellent list of packing tips (follow the link for the text document, reproduced below). (I add a couple extra tips, below.)
In addition to the packing list and information provided on the AIDS/LifeCycle I put together some tips that focused on little things that made my ride easier or more enjoyable.  Most of my tips were picked up from other people, so I can't claim to have thought them up, but I have tried them out and found them helpful.  An invaluable resource is the illustrated packing guide [same packing guide I used] created by So Cal TRL Chris Eisenberg.
  1. You are bound to need something that you didn't pack so stop worrying about it. You'll be amazed by the kindness of strangers and your own ingenuity. If those don't work, bust out the credit card.
  2. Zip ties work well for securing things to your helmet, and when all else fails duct tape will hold a seam together or hold up a hem.
  3. Even if you aren't a regular journalizer, bring a small notepad and pen to jot down your experiences and impressions or capture the contact info of a new friend. Using your mobile electronics on the ride may not be a viable option, so it's good to have an old-school backup.
  4. While you won't need to carry your whole wallet with you, it's a good idea to carry a few essentials: ID, Credit or Debit card, Medical Insurance ID, and cash for "treats" like artichokes, cinnamon rolls, etc. I always carry mine on my person, in case I'm separated from my bike.
  5. A small stash of first aid supplies can save you a lot of time and hassle, as well as save the ride some money. I bring plenty of ibuprofen, some Benedryl (good for allergies and as a sleep aid), band-aids, anti-bacterial ointment, eye drops, and a few doses of other over the counter remedies.
  6. Identify your small valuable items, like cameras and cell phones with your name, participant # and a contact phone #. I used a fine tip permanent marker on scotch tape and put it on my camera batteries, and phone battery.
  7. Resist the urge to overpack — but there are a few "spare" items you may want to bring, like sunglasses, gloves, lip balm, and for me, my rear-view mirror.
  8. While Gatorade and snacks are available at rest stops, if you have been using specific endurance or recovery nutrition, you'll need to bring your own supply.
  9. You don't need to bring a lot of "camp-clothes," but make sure what you bring is layer-able. It can easily be 90 degrees when you get into camp, and 55 degrees by the time you finish dinner. Count on it being windy too.
  10. Pack plenty of sunscreen and lip balm with sunscreen. You'll want to apply liberally and often while riding. But you may want to also bring moisturizer and lip balm WITHOUT sunscreen to help soothe and heal the windburn after the sun starts to set.
  11. A tote bag of some sort (I use a string bag so I can wear it like a backpack) is incredibly helpful in camp. You'll be amazed at the distance between the tents, and the showers, and nothing ever seems to be laid out in a logical way. The fewer things you have to keep track of, and the fewer trips you make back and forth to the tent, the better.
  12. Pack as many "Thank You"s as you can manage. Luckily, they don't take up much room. Hand them out liberally. Just like one crappy hill can ruin your day, one crappy rider can ruin a roadie's. I'm not saying you need to fawn, just do your best to appreciate the efforts of others, because most of them are working hard to make your day fabulous.
  13. Many duffels look alike, help yours stand out in the pile outside the gear truck by adorning it with something colorful both on the top, and on the end - bags get stacked, so you may not see your marker on the top. For the safety of our roadies, please make sure that it isn't something that will get snagged, can break, or may have sharp edges. Pompoms are always nice.
  14. It's really worth it to bring something to hang outside your tent (using binder clips) to help identify it. One year I had collapsing paper lanterns, but flags and other kinds of decorations work well. Just keep in mind that most camps are windy in the afternoon/evening. Big Lots or dollar stores are great sources.
  15. OK, so this isn't exactly a packing tip, it's more of a camp life tip. I found that my glasses got amazingly grubby during the day by way of numerous applications of sun screen, sweat, road grit, etc., so I wore them into the shower where I could use hot water and soap to get them good and clean.
  16. If you like your cold beverages cold or hot beverages hot, consider bringing an insulated container for use in camp. I'm not picky about my water, so I just used my bike bottle in camp, but the insulated coffee cup ensured that my "not really coffee" was at least hot. Bonus tip - Put some hot water in your insulated coffee cup to pre-heat it, then dump it just before adding your coffee or tea.
  17. I tested out my sleeping bag, pad and travel pillow by sleeping one night on the floor. I learned a lot.
  18. Choose your "camp shoes" carefully. Open backs so they are easy to slip on and off for midnight porta-potty runs, and closed toes to protect from uneven ground, wet grass, and a million toe-stubbing opportunities. Pack them so they are immediately accessible when you pick up your bag, and put them on right away. Traipsing through camp in bike shoes is a pain.
  19. A great way to stay organized is to pre-determine each day's riding clothes, and pack them in a 2gal zip lock. The less thinking you have to do each day, the better. You can squeeze the air out of each bag so it packs down smaller, and by putting your worn clothes back into a zip lock bag, it prevents cross funk-ination.
  20. Your tent makes a great clothes line for drying your towel and anything you decide to rinse out en route, but regular clothes pins just aren't strong enough. Metal binder clips (the jumbo 2" kind if you can find them) work much better. But be warned, if the item is really wet, they may leave rust stains.
  21. If you drink coffee in the morning, you'll want to arm yourself with some of Starbuck's VIA instant. Unless something has changed since last year, what they served could barely be called coffee, and the VIA is way easier to deal with than a french press.
  22. This may not work for everyone, but I found that I used completely different stuff for my evening shower than I used to get ready in the morning, so I created a "Shower" toiletry bag, and a "Morning" toiletry bag. This made them easier to pack & limited the amount of time I had to shuffle through stuff looking for what I wanted.
  23. Carry your water bottles, helmet, and other bits you don't want to leave on your bike (like the computer or lights) in a plastic grocery bag to day 1. You can stash the bag in your pocket or seat bag. Having a bag to carry that stuff will make life much easier, and reduce the chance that you'll drop or lose something. Pack a spare bag in case the first one tares (which it will).
  24. Contact Lens cases are great for carrying small amounts of creams or gels, like sun screen or chamois butter, or even pills. They wash out well, are easy to fill from a larger bottle, and are designed to be water proof. 
  25. Get yourself a 55 gallon garbage bag (aka Drum Liner) for covering your luggage each night. They take up almost no space in your bag, and will allow you to store your bag outside the tent without it getting all dew soaked. You may even want to bring a spare in case the first gets torn.

I do have a few tips that I figured out for myself.

  • Phone Charger: The solar panel charges don't work as well as you think. Test it out or use a pre-charged battery pack to charge your phone. I have this one and it works well.
  • Clean Cycling Clothing: Bring shorts and a jersey for each day. Don't plan on re-wearing yesterday's smelly jersey.
  • Pack Towel: Don't cheap out. I bought the cheapest one I could find, and it stank after one use. Get a large-size microfiber, antimicrobial towel. I just got two for about $20 each on Amazon.
  • Warm Camp Clothing: It was like 40º one morning. Make sure you have a wool cap, sweater or sweat-shirt, non-cycling gloves, jammies, and warm socks. I ended up buying the ALC branded stuff — which I like, but was kind of expensive.
  • Warm Cycling Clothing: Day 2, 2012, was cold. Very cold. Windy and rainy. The route was closed, and many cyclists had hypothermia. I finished the day with few problems because I had arm warmers and a thin Goretex jacket on. Insufficient for the weather, but more than many riders. Glad I had it. [This item deserves its own blog post. Remind me.]
OK, that's it for now. Read and follow these tips and you should be OK! And thank you to Terri Meier!

Your Bear

Monday, April 22, 2013

Training Rides

All season I've been fortunate to be an AIDS/LifeCycle Training Ride Leader. I've seen new riders
blossom; I've seen experienced riders learn their limits; and I've seen adults reduced to self-imposed helplessness. Training ride leaders are there to encourage you, help you get through your limits, and avoid pitfalls. But primarily, TRLs are there for your safety and the safety of others. So, what can you expect from Training Ride Leaders?

ALC training ride leaders are volunteers who have been minimally trained to: recognize cycling issues (maintenance, cleaning, nutrition, and skills) and make rudimentary suggestions; prepare and organize training rides; and guide riders on challenging training rides. TRLs are ordinary cyclists who have done at least one ALC and received appropriate training. TRLs are not experts in fitness, bicycle maintenance, or nutrition.

Buzz Miller leads stretching; photo by Joseph Collins
You can expect TRLs to make reasonable efforts to prepare you for a ride: remind you of your obligations to ride safely, get you out on time, give you a route sheet and explain what it means, give you tips both before and during the ride, and help you understand the challenges you're facing (mostly because they faced those same challenges, too).

You cannot expect TRLs to be your personal trainer, coach, or bike tech. During each ride, the TRLs try to interact with as many riders as possible. But given the range of abilities on most ALC rides, riders tend not to ride together. Thus, TRLs can often only be with one rider at a time. So you cannot expect the TRLs to guide you at every intersection; make sure you know how to read a route sheet.

You also must put out the effort. Read the route sheet and do your best to absorb the explanation — and keep it in an accessible location. Appear on time, and be ready to hear the safety speech at least 15 minutes before the scheduled ride out time. Ride safely and wear your helmet. Make sure you have water, money, tubes, a pump and tire irons, snacks, and a basic understanding of how to ride your bike.

Make your best effort on your bike, but know your limits. If you know that part of the ride may be too challenging, ask a TRL for advice. She can give you tips along the way. If SAG ("support and gear," refers to a driver who will give assistance to riders) is available, the TRL may advise you to take a ride to the top of a hill. Alternatively, the TRL may advise you to turn around or take an alternate route. Listen and consider your own skill levels. A TRL cannot tell you what to do, but can only make suggestions.

When a TRL gives you suggestions, consider them carefully. All of us take riding seriously and don't like being told we're doing it wrong. But, if a TRL makes a suggestion, it is probably because he or she has experience you may lack, so fight the urge to argue and instead listen and absorb. Also, the TRL is probably thinking about the ride in the whole — she may have 10 or more riders to see through to the end. So, especially as rides get longer, she wants to help everyone finish in a reasonable amount of time — so avoid unnecessary delays on the route.

Remember, training ride leaders are volunteers and are provided primarily to ensure your safety, the safety of other riders, and their own safety. If you work with them, you'll find training rides far more enjoyable and safe.

Thank you to all the TRLs who volunteer to make our riding an enjoyable experience!

Your Bear

Monday, April 15, 2013


Today's post is about cycling on rolling hills. Often on rides I see cyclists — both novice and experienced — stop pedaling on the down hills, only to mash, huffing and puffing, on the up hills. I think these cyclists are being lazy, either wanting a rest on the down hill or not wanting to shift between the change interval. But I think there's a better way which will conserve strength and energy by evening out the effort all along the hill.

And the solution is just that: making a conscious effort to maintain an even speed and level of exertion on both the uphill and the downhill. In this way, you can "rest" on the downhills and on the uphills! You spread the resting state out along with the effort — the rest on the uphills comes from maximizing your downhill effort to carry you up the more-difficult uphill.

How do you do this? Here are some tips which occur to me as I think about when I've succeeded on rollers and when I've failed:

First, be in the right gear for your speed and the pitch of the hill you're on — don't pre-shift in anticipation of the pitch of the hill. Instead, be prepared to shift as soon as your cadence drops below your target. If you don't have a cadence meter, judge by how much effort you're putting out. Too little effort: down shift. Too much effort: up shift.

Second, be prepared for the "micro" shifting you'll be doing with the rear derailleur (right shifter) by staying in one place for the "macro" shifting of your front derailleur (left shifter). Its easier to get "trapped" in the wrong gear (thus losing forward momentum unnecessarily) if you're constantly shifting in the front.

Third, try to keep a steady cadence — avoid spinning so fast you're no longer moving the bike on downhills, and avoid mashing (or spinning so slow you're essentially mashing the pedals down) to get up the other side. Try to even it out as far as possible. This should maximize the momentum from the downhill. How do you know what your cadence should be? Well, to make it easy, faster is better:

Higher cadence equals better blood flow
The legs act as a more effective blood pumping system when the cadence is higher – if you hit a faster cadence the heart output increases [7]. For the same power output (200Watts as used by Gotshal, 1996) higher cadences make for better muscle blood flow, and in-line with reduced muscle strain data, it makes for better endurance. At 200 Watts (around 20mph) if you spin 100rpm your strain works out at just two Watts per rev, whereas at 60rpm your strain is over three Watts per rev. 
Any rider who has ever ridden with power and cadence data to view, using SRM, Polar, PowerTap, Ergomo, Tacx or Cateye, can feel the difference that changes in cadence produce in leg tension, if Wattage stays constant. And here’s the crux: If you use this variety of gearing, power and perceived effort, you can vary training to develop your ability – in other words: Get fitter, faster and better. Now who doesn’t want that! (From

Fourth, don't stop pedaling. Even if you aren't getting any forward momentum, by continuous pedaling you'll know when you've hit the point that your gears engage and so can maximize your effort. Since it costs little to keep your legs moving freely, you'll be resting even while you pedal. This also has the effect of keeping your muscles engaged, making it easier to keep the momentum going on the uphill portion and keeping them from cramping.

Fifth, stay seated as much as possible. — this will conserve your energy for the duration of the ride. If you power up each and every hill in the rollers, you might do well on the first few, but you'll conk out on the last few.

When you do this correctly and when the hills are relatively equal with up and down portions, it feels like you're flying!

Again, no doubt this list is not complete and it is based primarily on my own experience and the tips I've been given by others. Please feel free to add points or correct me in comments!

Your Bear

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Create a Positive Feedback Loop

Image from DNA Magazine Tumblr
As your AIDS/LifeCycle (or other) bicycle training gears up, the miles will get longer, the weather becomes more fair, and you'll meet many more cyclists out on the road. Some will be your training-ride mates, and some will be strangers. But in both cases you will, inevitably, compare your performance to theirs. It is inevitable and is simply human nature. The trick is to make it work to your advantage.

For instance, you're riding your shiny new Cannondale CAAD 10, you've been riding since September, you're feeling fit and comfortable for the coming 70 mile ride, and you start up Camino Alto, the first hill on the ride. And who comes up from behind? An individual with a larger-than-average (*ahem*) BMI, on what appears to be a junky hybrid. This hybrid-rider passes you and is quickly out of sight! That sort of thing happens, and it can be demoralizing.

1. Don't fall into the trap.

What do you do? First, smile and forget about it. This isn't a race, so what does it matter? You'll be happier over time if you focus on your own riding and use tools like Strava or Ride with GPS to check your progress over time.

If you take your sport seriously and train regularly, you'll improve. Have faith in that process and you won't have to worry about who passes you.

2. Understand the delicate balance required for efficient cycling.

Second, remember the complicated ingredients required for efficient cycling:

To optimize your experience on the bike, you have to juggle all of these things. That person who passed you is probably more experienced, and (despite the weight) in better cardio-vascular health. So now that we're rationalized why he or she passed you, the question remains, how do you use the experience to your benefit?

3. Meet people.

Third, if that person was part of your group, the best thing is to befriend them. Ask about her cycling experience, ask for tips and tricks, find out how often she cleans her chain, eats, and what she had for breakfast. Do this as often as you can. It will help you grow as a cyclist and help you meet some awesome people.

If that person was not part of your group, then ask a TRL or an experienced rider for their opinion. How could this person have passed me? I was feeling so good. Once they stop giggling, I'm sure they'll offer some very helpful advice.

4. Find a riding buddy or group.

Fourth, the best people to compare yourself to are those with similar skill-levels who you meet week after week. The number one recommendation I can make is that you find a riding buddy or buddies with similar skill levels and use each other to improve over time.

To do this, be friendly and helpful and avoid complaining. Ride along with likely candidates and ask questions. As you meet them each week, you'll see if you can keep up. If you can, they will start to seek you out. If not, then you've just extended your network of rider-friends who might remember you and suggest riding companions.

If you strive to keep up with another rider, you'll find your skills automatically improving.

As you progress together, you can better compare and contrast your performances. And the comparison will mean something.

5. Challenge yourself.

Fifth, make sure you're not riding with the same people all the time. You don't want to fall into a rut. If you ride with different people on different roads, you'll find the sport far more enjoyable.

Also, ride alone several times a week (or as often as you can). This will enhance your group riding skills by giving you a chance to practice some techniques you may have picked up from others. Plus it will make you a more confident and self-sufficient rider.

Becoming confident and self-sufficient will help you find a riding buddy. Finding a riding buddy will help you meet more riders. Meeting more riders will help you learn the mechanics of cycling. Learning more about cycling will help you to not to care when a seemingly less-fit rider passes you.

Its a positive feedback loop.

your Bear