Monday, January 11, 2010

The no drop ride

My bottom bracket was fixed in time for me to collect the bike late Thursday afternoon so I could spend Friday on the Gold Coast at White Water World with the kids while Sarah managed some girl time with a buddy.

Everyone had a great day, although I managed to forget my board shorts, so I was the only male at the water slide place in budgie smugglers. And fortunately, no one had a camera.

All of which means I was in Byron on Saturday morning with a working bike for the Saturday Ride. Couldn't really hold it any other day, could they?

For most bike riders, Saturday is about a longer ride than they manage to get done on a week day, and usually with a bigger bunch than they ride with during the week. The smallest weekday ride I've done in the last month comprised two - me and one other - although there was typically between five and ten on any given morning.

Last Saturday saw 25 of us pedal away from the clock tower at 06:30.

As I'm not a local, nor am I one of the stronger riders (or louder voices) in this bunch, I don't have any input to the Saturday ride. Someone announced "we're heading to Murwillumbah - about a 110k round trip".

Now I'm a Melbourne cyclist. More specifically, I'm a Beach Rd rider, so 110k on a Saturday to me means no more than maybe 500m of climbing ... Beach Rd is pretty flat, a few bumps around Mentone, and then a few hills as you head out of Frankston. But it's not a daunting task, and is a good, fast ride.

Byron to Murwillumbah and back via the Burringbar Range is a little different. 1,300m of hard climbing, over two solid hills (the Burringbar Range - on the way out and then again on the way home) and plenty of typical Northern Rivers climbs to go with: they're short, but they're steep.

This is what we all looked like at the top of the main climb on the way out - what my little point & shoot camera can't do is capture the humidity in the air, the sweat dripping off everyone. It seemed that it was raining inside my helmet all morning!

The idea of a no drop ride is very simple - no one gets left behind, or in cyclespeak, dropped.

If it's a flat ride, the group will adjust it's pace so that the slowest rider can just keep up. If there is a headwind, they'll put the slower riders in the middle of the pack, or towards the back, so they do a little less work. And the stronger guys will take more/longer turns setting the pace and acting as the wind breaks at the front.

But it's a little harder over hills for a bunch of differing riding abilities to stick together. You can't get the benefit of the rider in front's slipstream when you're going up a long climb.

I can hang on to the Byron bunch for the shorter hills, but anything longer and I have to ride on my own - I get into my own little world, set my own pace and ride. If I'm quicker then you are, I'll wait at the top, if I'm slower, you can wait for me.

So on the longer climb to the top of the Burringbar Range we were strung out over maybe 500m of road. And the faster guys had a nice rest at the top - in both directions - while those of us who are a little slower had a little less rest (I wasn't the slowest).

We hit the outskirts of Murwillumbah, turned around and headed home.

And the day kept heating up, and the humidity didn't let up, and there was a line of 10 riders, all needing to refill their bottles, waiting for a turn on the tap outside the Mooball Pub.

The other rule on a no drop ride is as simple as waiting at the top of a climb - if there is a flat or a mechanical, someone (or everyone) stops and helps. Jason flatted twice on the return leg.

I helped him change his tube ... OK, I chatted and rested while he changed his tube.

We rolled into Brunswick Heads to meet everyone else for a coffee together.

And no body was dropped.

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