Rides We Like: A Progressive Double Ascent
(2018) I recently had a conversation with a fellow cyclist who lives within a cycling- heavy family. He referenced the fact that other people in his families go on multiple mile rides, yet he only has time to ride fewer than a dozen miles in a given session. I thought of him as I plodded on my ride today. I thought of the missed opportunity to give him advice.
Today’s ride had a goal: The ever-present frustration of Devil’s Kitchen at the end of the Tour of the Catskills has me preparing far out from the event. Three Saturdays from now I will be rolling up to the bottom of the 2.6-mile eighteen percent-averaged climb strategically placed at the end of the 72-mile route. I have never made it up the correctly named climb without walking. Seeing my friends successfully summit it last year let me know it was possible. I want to join that club. I need to join that club.
Today I rode toward Uhlerstown Road, a road we have highlighted before, with plans to ride up it twice. The hill is short, one kilometer, but it averages eighteen percent. It goes without saying why this hill was selected for Tour of the Catskills prep work. The downside of going up Uhlerstown twice would give me the unrealistic break in the middle of the climb. Going up Uhlerstown twice was the equivalent of ascending half of Devil’s Kitchen. The second summit immediately got me thinking back to the fellow cyclist and his family.
As I slowly wound my way around upper Bucks County and headed for home I began thinking about why people ride bikes. I came up with this conclusion – the missed opportunity – about why people go out and ride. This is the speech I rehearsed in my head: Pick a portion of riding to specialize in. With this being my last year of racing I choose to specialize in short distance criterium races. Good luck finding me after forty miles of riding.
It’s more than just riding as fast as possible. I have always thought forward about the day when I will no longer ride a race bike; I’ll no longer look at Uhlerstown and try to go up it faster than ever; I’ll no longer consider the 72-mile route of the Tour of the Catskills a ‘decent day out.’ I figure to get the speed in now before I trade my bike in for my declining abilities over the decades.
I would continue. Perhaps not everyone needs to get racing gear and hammer through a fondo. There are no requirements for doing a fundraiser ride with the highest average speed. Just because your family or your friends tell you what bike you need, I would ask if it lines up with what you want. Sure friends might suggest a race bike, but maybe you want to ride comfortably and without the concern of getting from A to B quickly.
I thought of his constant apologizing assuming I was judging him. My goal has always been to get people on the bike to reestablish its rightful place on the road. I try not to be intimidating in my viewpoints, yet I hope to inspire people to ride ‘just a bit farther’ over time. It may hurt a bit to go up a hill never thought possible, but imagine the rewards of finally riding just a few more miles to experience it. Even I had to check myself to make sure I wasn’t joining the people in his life who consistently reference his need to race the event.
This leads me back to the progressive nature of road cycling. Today I found myself going up a hill I had never attempted to climb twice in succession. That’s just who I am at this point in my cycling career. I like to challenge friends in various Strava segments. That’s also who I am. I do acknowledge that there are road cyclists who also simply enjoy taking the bike out and riding to experience the freedom of human powered movement without the dependence of a petrol engine. If someone wants to ride around the local lake on the bike path at a leisurely pace, they are still one of us.
I would like to think he left the conversation feeling it was ok to be a cyclist with intentions aside from averaging twenty-three miles per hour. My goal is to make it up the absurdly steep and never-ending hill at the end of the Tour of the Catskills. Some people are afraid of meeting goals because what does one do after that? Achieving a goal is the removal of focus. Getting to the top of Devil’s Kitchen is a goal I insist upon. Cycling is progressive. If I make it to eighty and I told people I not only made it up Devil’s Kitchen but also went up Uhlerstown multiple times in one ride, I’d like to follow it up with, “That’s just what we did at the time.”