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Structuring Your Ride

pixelPaved roads are everywhere and that along with the prevailing mentality that everyone knows how to ride, leaves most bike riders to their own devices.  That sounds cool but cyclists need a game plan much the same as golf, tennis and almost any other adult recreational activity that tells its participants exactly where and how to play and pretty much for how long.
pixelStructure brings comfort and that’s especially true for anyone with developing skills. While runners share the same stage and lack of boundaries, their jarring effort forces realism and they create their own structure.  Not even idiots run until they get really tired then turn around and run back.  
pixelCyclists are different.  We start off invincible suspended on super-efficient machinery that tames gravity and redefines distance.  If life itself weren’t enough of a challenge, unprepared riders make semi-heroic efforts using the bicycle to accomplish something memorable. Be very careful what you wish for.
For the overachiever, a heroic bike ride can be a devastating experience. Even for the prepared, not knowing how long a ride is going to take and what’s up the road make bike life difficult.  Uncertainty interrupts concentration and leads to questioning every pedal stroke and feeling every ache.  Do that for a dozen or more miles too many and it’s torture that takes a long term mental toll greater than any other mainstream recreational sport.  For every rider that comes back for more, scores put the bike away till forever or the next brother-in-law challenge or charity ride.  
pixelNobody except cyclists buy sporting goods equipment if they don’t know exactly where they’re playing. That’s a big mistake. Before starting a riding program drive all the roads intended and lay out a course or two with a really easy starter loop that can be as short as around the block.  Less brings you back for more.  
pixelThe goal is a 5 star road course offering a lack of high speed traffic, predictable riding time, forgiving terrain, spectacular scenery, and smooth tarmac. These gems are well worth driving to.  The 6th star is an accident of geography and that’s rolling out your back door for an hour or two easy ride where everything else is already in place.
pixelRide by ride, learning every inch of a road is by no means boring; it’s a chance to measure progress as well as a home court advantage.  Knowing the terrain, the prevailing winds and when to turn it on is Sir Isaac in action; bodies in motion stay in motion.  Good cyclists harness momentum to roll over terrain that casual riders regard as hilly.  This is technique not strength.  Learning the roads and thinking ahead turns a diet of exercise into a feast.
pixelFYI the Seacoast region is laced with sparsely populated roads that meet all the above criteria and are well worth driving to.  Paralleling the Atlantic, there are loops only a mile or two inland, with hundreds of miles of rural two lane roads that go nowhere special as their meanderings were first laid out by glaciers sans agenda.  A few jillion years later came settlers with horse and buggy following this hardscrabble path in search of the least resistance.  With the advent of the Model T these wandering buggy paths got widened a bit and paved.
pixelBy today’s standards, replete with frost heaves and patches of broken tarmac, they’re just not good enough for cars. They twist and turn over small hills making them the long, bumpy way to everywhere except to small farms dotting the landscape and the single family homes hiding in the woods.
With the advent of the interstate highway system old roads that go nowhere are not exclusive to the Seacoast; they’re everywhere. While these back roads do not have shoulders or room for bike lanes, the traffic is slower and by default these are the bike paths of the 21st century.  Forget about dedicated bike lanes.  They’re pie in the sky with little need and no money to build them.   It’s an automobile world and they’re never going to happen. To be a successful rider you need a venue so explore your neighborhood and create a course or two.
pixelThe final bit of structure is expectations.  Other than fun, don’t have any.  Knowing the roads is the first giant step to becoming a good cyclist while knowing yourself is a work in progress.  Meanwhile, be confident that patience equals gain and pain in the pursuit of fun is sophomoric.  Bike life is best practiced on cruise control where every pedal stroke turns your mountain into a happening molehill.  It’s as sure as erosion but thankfully faster.  

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