Life is always easier if you're in the right gear.

Taking Risks


There are times when you just have to take that little risk, if you want to move forward in life. I have been a dues-paying, card-carrying member of the Siskiyou Velo Club for the last two years. The benefits of club membership are many, especially if you’re a new cyclist starting out. One of the main benefits is the opportunity to join others at your fitness level on a group ride. I’m one of those, who can ride forever, but when I ride alone, I just don’t push myself as intensely or as consistently as I do if I’m riding with others. So, for the past two years, I’ve been watching the group ride invitations as they come up in my inbox. There are about 5 different levels of riders in this club. They go from riding at about 8-10 mph (Melo Velo) all the way up to what they call the Brisk Group which is that select few who are training for something or who are physically able to keep up an intense pace, up hill and down, for 50 miles more or less. The problem is, the rides are usually scheduled when I’m working or have other commitments.

This week, I finally packed my bike rack on the car, loaded up my bike and while my daughter was attending Sand Volleyball Camp south of town, I rode. Yesterday’s ride was a bit short, only 14 miles, but today’s ride was fabulous. I was able to accomplish some personal goals today, stretch myself and push forward in my cycling, but I didn’t start out my day intending for any of that to happen.

After dropping my daughter off, I headed south weaving through Medford until I hit Columbus. At Columbus I rode south to South Stage Road, took a left and rode to Voorhees Rd. I pedaled on in my usual fashion, fast enough, but not fast enough that I was gasping for air, clicking along at about 14 mph, comfortably. But, I could tell, I was going to need to stop into Phoenix or Talent for a pitstop. As I passed Colver Park, I noticed about six or seven cyclists hanging around the bathrooms. I rode past, noting their bikes, their cool looking jerseys, their lean physiques and sexy legs. I could tell by looking these folks were not the slower Melo Velo group. “Someday, I’m going to ride with those people,” I thought, as I rode past. Then it dawned on me that I’d just seen a bathroom, so I turned around and went back. I went past, they hardly noticed me and sought relief in the woman’s side of the building. Yes, I hauled my bike into the room with me. I know, silly, but locking it up is such a hassle and I felt awkward, asking these strangers if they could watch my bike.

I was just going to ride off without saying anything, but on impulse I stopped and asked if this was a Velo Club group. They looked at me and nodded. I asked a couple more questions, and it wasn’t long before we were talking ride speeds, routes, and exchanging names. The ice was broken. I told them I’d been watching the rides for two years, but have not felt confident enough to attend the rides that worked in my schedule. This group dubbed themselves the Moderate Plus group…comfortable pace for them is just above the 14-16mph of the Moderate group. I told them I usually rode between 12 and 14 miles, depending on the day and the route. They actually invited me to join them. I was shocked. One of the guys just said, “Hey, we ride a pretty good pace, but if you find that you can’t keep up, you can just drop off.” I was good with that. Another guy said, “Yeah, they’ll drop you for sure. I ride faster than that and they drop me.” That was encouraging. There was also another lady, who signed up for the ride and was trying it out for the first time. That helped calm my nerves somewhat. At least, if I had to drop, it wasn’t likely that I’d be the only one. This is how at mile eight of my ride today, I accidentally met up with the “Cool Kids” and joined them on their Friday ride.

I was soooo nervous. I’ve ridden in groups exactly twice before, both times on my hybrid Specialized Ariel Elite. Today, I was going to get the opportunity to see if I could even remotely keep up with these people on my new Dolce. I mean, just looking at these people’s legs was intimidating, not to mention the bikes they were rolling out on. We started out heading back the way I’d just come, gliding along effortlessly (yes, I said effortlessly, because it was!!!) snaking our way through the back roads from Colver Park up toward Medford. We were flying! At points, we’d ride two abreast, then someone would call “Car back!” and we’d move into single file formation, smoothly, silently, with only the occasional click of gears shifting as the terrain shifted. About mile two or maybe it was three, the ride leader pulled up next to me and said, “Yeah, you can easily make the VeloShip group. You’re keeping up with us just fine.” I laughed, reminded him that we haven’t hit any hills yet. He laughed. I told him I’ll likely fall way back, but I’ll catch them on the other side or at the regroup point. He nodded and rolled back or on, I can’t remember now.

I’m so proud of myself! I actually kept up. They didn’t drop me. I did fall back at the little hill just before Hwy. 238 meets RossHanley Rd. I got stuck behind cars at that intersection and that held me up. I was able to see them though and I just kept pedaling. By this time, I was pushing hard and out of breath, but I just kept going. I was not giving up by any means. Five minutes later, I edged up on the last of them. A few minutes later we stopped briefly to regroup. At this point, I was running out of time and knew I wasn’t going to be able to finish the ride with them if I was going to make it back in time to pick up my daughter. I let the ride leader know that I’d be heading back toward town when they headed up toward Old Stage Road. (By now, we were up in Central Point.)

It was an amazing ride. I surprised myself by keeping up with them and catching on to the signaling and other nuances of group riding. I’ll admit, I was concentrating on my ride, so I wasn’t the most talkative person, but I was blown away at the fact that we were clicking along, at speeds I don’t often sustain when I ride on my own. The best part, my body was handling the challenge. I wasn’t losing steam. I could have finished that ride with them if I’d had the time, and that was exciting to me.

As we rolled up to Scenic Avenue and the group made preparations to turn left, I said good-bye and began to turn right. Everyone called out good-bye, several of them even said, “See you next Friday.” Feeling pleased, like I’d somehow been given admittance to some elite group, I waved and headed off to meet my daughter. And I slowed my pace dramatically the minute I was on my own. I glanced down at my stats. I was at mile 22 and my average speed was 14 mph. That’s easily 2 mph faster than I usually ride on my own! I was stoked. I was well aware, though, that this was only about my fourth ride out since being off bike for a month. I let myself be okay with a bit slower pace the last ten miles.

I arrived back at the park where my daughter’s camp was at exactly the time they dismissed. I checked my stats: 32.11 miles, avg. pace 13.8 mph. One additional amazing bonus: as I clicked through my cyclocomputer at the end of the ride, I noticed that this ride landed me at exactly 500.0 miles on my new Dolce. Today’s ride was kismet. It was destined.

Not a bad first ride with the Cool Kids. Yep, I’m thinking I will do that again next Friday, and the Friday after that, and the Friday after that.

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Hi, I'm Cat A.Olson, @According2Cat on Twitter, or @TheDigitalCat on Instagram, and I write about my cycling adventures. In 2010, after 25 years off the bike, I decided to get a bike and start riding again. In 2012, I was diagnosed with DCIS, an early and completely curable form of breast cancer. I had five weeks of radiation treatment and I rode my bike to nearly every treatment. In 2013, I decided to get a faster bike. I'm finally getting serious about losing weight, and riding really fast with the cool kids.

I ride every chance I get, as fast as I can, for as long as my body will allow. I'm learning how to embrace challenges like helmet hair, padded pants, clipless shoes, flat tires, bugs in my teeth, and...ugh...hills. I'm learning that both cycling and life are easier and a lot more fun when you're in the right gear.

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