Monday, July 18, 2011

Riding Alone on the ALC

So what's it like riding alone on the Aids Life Cycle ride?

I wasn't really alone. Angela was a great help and was much more than a volunteer nurse and tent companion. She was of source of great support throughout the ride. As far as riding on the actual trail, I was surrounded by thousands of riders, but I personally wasn't part of a group or team.

Paul who recently emailed me concerning the bent trike had asked about riding a recumbent on the ALC. I'll post something about that topic next. His question inspired me to write a bit about riding the ALC solo.

For those who don't already know me, I wasn't much of a cyclist and generally am not much of an athlete. I've got decent hand eye coordination (can juggle with ease), but don't participate in many team sports. I'm much more of a pool and bowling kinda guy more-so than a basketball player. The last time I rode a bicycle for more than a couple hours prior to getting the trike was back in college over half a decade ago.

As a student of architecture w/an odd work/play/sleep schedule, I found a few solo activities to keep me occupied like golf and weight lifting. Unlike my former college roommate, I don't get embarrassed being seen eating by myself on campus. So when it came time for the ALC, riding alone wasn't much of a concern.

In fact, I noticed that when a member of a team popped a tire on the route, the rest of the team would stop and assist. This was probably one of the major reasons I was able to catch up with the rest of the DF riders. How else was I able to catch up as a solo bent rider?

2. Durability:
The trike is super durable. I got zero flats during the entire 545 mile ride! I was pretty surprised considering how many others I saw stopped on the side of the road making repairs to their bikes on a regular basis.

3. No Schedule:
My only schedule was to get out onto the route as early as possible and get back as soon as I comfortably could. This meant no waiting for friends or teammates to brush their teeth in the morning or finish their breakfast. As a solo rider, I could hit the route on my own schedule. Angela helped out tons since she was required by her volunteer group to get up and ready by 6:15am daily. This forced me to get up early too at 5:30am at the latest.

4. My pace:
Not having a team to ride with allowed me to ride the route day after day at my own pace. No waiting for other people to hit the restrooms or finish their snacks.

5. Trike 'n bike:
I'll put up another post about trikes vs bikes, but wanted to mention here that trikes and bikes obviously have different speeds and capabilities. Riding with DF riders would be tough. Literally hundreds of bike pass me on the route throughout the day. I'd be lying if I said I passed by an equal number on the downhills, but for the most part I completed each day in the first 2/3 of riders by the time we hit camp. As a trike rider, I'm glad I didn't have any teammates on DF bikes. I'd otherwise feel like I was slowing them down. There were no trike teams on the ride. Although I rode with a couple trikers during a few stretches along the way, no other trikers really road together for this reason.

6. Purpose:
The reason for riding the ALC was to give something to my future kids to be proud of their dad about. It was for a personal accomplishment. Again, as a non cyclist attempting the ALC (although I trained for 1 year for it), my main goal was to finish every time of the 545 mile ride. It really wasn't until the last few days that I really learned to appreciate the ride as a ride. I was focused the first couple days on just finishing the route before it closed at 7pm. With so much focus, I wasn't really thinking much about not having anyone to talk to along the route. That wouldn't have been the case anyway b/c there were lots of friendly strangers willing to chit chat at the stop lights, stop signs, traffic.

I took all this for granted at the time and never really appreciated how convenient it is to ride the ALC as a solo rider. Although it'd be nice to have a friend ride with me, I never really expected that to ever happen. Since I wasn't much of a cyclist, I was never really part of the cycling perscene and therefore didn't have anyone who would consider riding the ALC. My personal friends also have better things to do than take vacation time to ride 545 miles from SF to LA. That's not really their thing.

From day 1 of training when I heard about the ALC, I knew I'd be riding alone. It was no biggy. Throughout the 7 days, there wasn't one time I felt lonely. I'm happy to have ridden alone with the opportunity to ride with other trikers if I wanted.


Post a Comment