Riding Alone


If my little brother doesn’t join me for Rockbuster this April, I will still go to the event alone. I do alright solo, but that’s mostly because I’ve had so much practice. Although this seems like an appropriate time to bring up a problem I’ve had for years, a problem I continue to have.

People to ride with. I love that the cycling community brings people together. Group rides are easy enough to find, but in truth, these are mostly populated by men. I like men just fine, but I’m not going to hold back a bunch of strong guys wanting to move at 18 or 19 mph. My top average is 15 mph here in hilly western Massachusetts.

Then on the other side of the spectrum, I’m too intense for the causal, recreational rider. I have tried this.  This is not my group. I attended a meetup.com group ride last summer. I was one of 2 women, and she dropped off after about 3 miles. The rest of the group moved at about 12 mph on straight, flat, smooth country roads. I wanted to be moving at 17 or 18 mph. The group’s goal was to pedal to someplace the served really bad, greasy, delicious food–gorge themselves, then pedal back to the meeting spot. We took several breaks. It took 2.5 hrs to travel 18 miles on perfectly flat roads. This ride made me late for other plans and I had to apologize to the group and then race away from them to try to not miss my date.

A few years ago I tried to assemble a women’s mountain bike group and had moderate success. It was a good group–but half of the group stopped riding due to pregnancy and child rearing. I haven’t been able to reassemble or re-create the group since. All the women was just as good or better than me–which in my opinion is the perfect type of group. A few to ride alongside, a few to push you harder.

Now I have 2 or 3 female friends I ride with, and that happens infrequently at best. I may get 2 or so rides in with each one over the course of a year, yes–a whole year. Most are Moms like me and scheduling is often like waiting for just the right planetary alignment. But it’s something, anyway. As a result, I am solo most of the time. I usually don’t mind this, but I’m growing a bit lonely on my rides. It’s hard to find women in sport after a certain age. Motherhood, careers, and investing in personal relationship are all really important for a balanced and happy life. I just wish there were more planetary alignments in my life. Don’t get me wrong–I really enjoy quiet, solitary rides most of the time. It gives me time to reflect on problems or ideas I have, and I get a break from the demands of my regular life. But every once in a while, I could use the company.  To talk, to climb, to race, to coast, to share the ride.

-Karen

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About Karen

Mid-life female amateur athlete focused on cyclocross, mountain biking, and road cycling. Always looking to see what is around the next bend in the road.

10 responses to “Riding Alone”

  1. Linnea Maxwell says :

    Your post makes me appreciate the Ladies I ride with. We’ve been riding every Saturday morning for 4 years now. Ages in the group range from mid 20’s to 72. We occasionally have men join us, either as SAG drivers, a co-ride leader, on a tandem, or if they are supportive and aren’t going to drop us at the first hill. When there are newbies, we’ll split into two groups and one of the leaders always stays with the slower riders, Most of the newbies progress pretty quickly and become regulars. Start a meetup and see what happens!

  2. bgddyjim says :

    Karen,

    I really do feel your pain. I’ve tried to ride with my buddy English Pete, who runs like the wind but can’t make it over 12mph on a bike. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not a train. If your bike shop is anything like mine they have graduated groups. Take one of the less advanced groups. In my case, Tuesday is advanced and Wednesday is more relaxed.

    If that doesn’t help, work with the bike shop to start your own and tailor it to your liking! I wish you well.

  3. Heather says :

    All right already, I’ll ride with you on Friday.

  4. All Seasons Cyclist says :

    I ride about 200 times a year and most of those ride I’m alone with my thoughts (and that’s scary). Old people and newbies always want to ride with me, but going that slow just kills me. I’m more concerned about distance than speed and most people aren’t really up to riding 60 miles before work!

  5. jonathanokeeffe says :

    Karen, the NCC has been making a great effort for the past couple years to organize both women’s rides and what we call C-rides (sounds like you’d be a strong C rider based on your description). Right now we have an organized C-ride every Wednesday evening, and we’re working toward getting one setup for Saturday mornings as well. We don’t have an ongoing organized women’s ride at this point, but the Wednesday C-ride is led by a woman and attracts a reasonably diverse crowd. Check out the schedule on the calendar page at http://www.nohobikeclub.org.

    • Karen says :

      Jonathan
      Thanks for the info. I used to have a bit more awareness about NCC’s activities but it was a long time ago, and few women were involved in the club at that time n(about 10 years ago). Plus, I’m not a “racer” so I didn’t really consider it a good fit for me. But if that is happening now, it’s good to know. Evening rides are tough as I am a single mom and childcare arrangements can be dicey. I might be able to swing a Saturday morning here and there. Valley Ski &Bike Werks has a women’s ride I wanted to join–but always weeknights in the evening, and again childcare was an issue. Thanks for he link, I’ll definitely check it out. 🙂

  6. Forrest says :

    I do about 99 % of my rides solo. Every now and then I’ll start to feel like you described. A good cure for that is to ride with Critical Mass. Now, they can be a polarizing group, but, no matter how you feel about them, they’re also a welcoming group. If you show up for a ride, they’ll be glad to have you. And, chances are, someone will want to make friends; they’ll invariably talk your ear off about things you don’t care much about. Before long, you’ll be missing your peaceful solo rides, the ability to set your own pace, and your route, too. Works every time for me. 😀

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