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By: Zdenko Kahlina
Group rides build fitness, but solo rides soothe the soul!
For me, bike riding is not just about turning the pedals, counting kilometers or seeing the countryside around me. It is about my inner feeling, thoughts and emotions. I ride to clear my mind and rid myself of negative energy. When I leave work for a bike ride I also leave all the stress at work behind me. The bike riding becomes the key moment of my day.
Unlike most other cyclists, when I go training my mobile phone is switched of, and all the computer staff is left behind me. I never listen to music during the ride like some people I’ve seen on the road with their earplugs on oblivious to the traffic around them. I take my bike riding very seriously and I get in the kilometers rigorously on my own. I always try to keep average speed above the 30 km/h mark. My usual rides last for about 2.5 hours and are more or less 70 km long. I never ride on city streets because it is just way too dangerous. Instead I drive with my car east of the city to Sherwood Park or even further to Ardrossan area in Strathcona County, pull out my bike and begin riding. I love riding in Strathcona County. It is beautiful… the acreages, the farms, rural roads… I see a lot of different animals on these farms. My favorites are horses… sometimes I stop and talk to them… crazy me!
I like riding alone
The beauty of cycling is that it can be a social event or one of solitude. I enjoy both. When riding alone I can set off just when I want without having to wait for anyone, ride where I want, as hard (or easy) as I want and I don’t have to put up with all the break-downs that others seem to always have. The more people there are on a ride, the more annoying silly problems I have to endure.
That’s why I almost always train alone. It’s not that I’ve got anything against anybody else, it’s just that I’m a bit of a loner when I’m on the bike. I like my own company, I like being solo, especially when I’m out in the country on these narrow rural roads with my bike. I listen to my body, my legs and I know how I generally feel. I understand if I’m feeling good, and I like the feeling when I’m healthy and strong. I like to go fast and listen the sound my tires are making over the paved road… shush… shush… one shush for each pedal revolution.
I also use my time alone on the bike to reflect on some major life decisions I have to make and to carefully plan my future daily schedules. I think about lots of things and make many of my important decisions in the saddle. I’m convinced that you can’t create something special or important when you’re with other people. I need my own space and solitude to develop new ideas. I need to be alone to listen to my conscience and my heart. Believe it or not, I’ve found myself talking through a problem out loud while riding alone—and I usually think of creative solutions to whatever is on my mind. By the time I finish my ride, I am relaxed and ready to tackle the next challenge in front of me.
On a solo ride, I can ease up or push hard whenever I feel like it. Thus, sometimes I have to remember to hold back a bit for the return trip, especially if I know there will be a headwind or hilly terrain on the way home.
Even in foreign countries, I like riding alone and exploring new roads. I don’t have a problem with unknown roads or strange surroundings. I still have that zilch in me to be curious enough to find out what is behind next turn in front of me. That’s why many of my rides are longer than originally planned. It’s hard to turn around and go back home without seeing everything possible to be seen. Adventure is my middle name…
Why not group riding
For several years I was a member of Edmonton Masters Cycling Club, and we always had group rides scheduled for the weekends. But I quickly discovered they had strict rules on everyone’s engagement in all club activities. If I wanted to be a member I had to volunteer during at least two events each year, carry on with my own ABA insurance policy, pay the license fees etc. That was not for me. I felt very little freedom and was pressured with many musts and dos. If I wanted to ride, first I ‘must’ do this… and do that. I didn’t like that. I only want to participate in the club rides on the weekends, for the exercise and companionship… besides cycling with friends is a sociable thing to do. We all need some kind of interaction with friends to keep our minds well balanced… but I wanted this to come with no pressure, no ‘musts’ and at reasonable cost. I don’t want all the responsibilities that came with the simple club membership. I was not interested in racing… I had enough of racing when I was younger.
These group rides were also pretty disorganized (they still are!). Nobody knew where the group was going beforehand; which course they will take. There were too many stops during the rides. Sometimes they would stop for a pee break after only 30 minutes… then someone would have a flat tire… another pee break after that… etc. I didn’t like that. Like I mentioned already, I take my riding very seriously and once I get going I never want to stop before the end of the ride. Like a real pro! I always keep my bike in a top condition for riding and with 50 years of experience in cycling I know how to be ready for simple 2.5 hours bike ride. I didn’t like to be waiting for all these guys who came unprepared. I don’t want to create any delays and make someone wait for me, for any reasons. I am always ready!
Tour of Strathcona County
Though I mostly ride alone these days, don’t take me wrong. I do like the company. Because of that for the last several years I organize my own group rides. So if you are a cycling weekend warrior please join me every weekend during the cycling season, for the ‘Tour of Strathcona County’ bicycle social rides! These rides are free of any charge and are open to experienced bike riders (both gals and guys) who can manage bike rides of up to 3 hours, at an average speed between 27-30 km/hour. You don’t have to be a member of any cycling club! You will make new friends, or just relax and discover the joys of cycling. Everyone is welcome!
Where: Ardrossan Recreation Complex
When: Every Saturday and Sunday morning at 09:30 AM sharp.
Beginning on Sunday April 3, 2016
Last ride: Sunday, September 25th, 2016
This is simple: JUST show up and ride your bike!! Please note these rides are not designed for the beginners.
Going solo is always tough. When no one holds you accountable, it’s easy to bail. Off course there are some benefits of riding in a group. Cycling buddies keep you honest about racking up the kilometers, and after so much time in the saddle, tend to be your steadiest friends. Most bike riders who cycle nearly every day find the social aspect rewarding. “It’s the camaraderie, the catching up.” Riding in the group makes you feel younger and you can compare yourself with the others. It’s an easier way to get stronger and in better shape. In the group you’re not as lonely or boring. Participating in a group rides is the best preparation you can have for the real thing – races.
Riding safely in the group is a skill that needs to be practiced from time to time. Riding with others quickly teaches you how to corner safely, handle your bike predictably and be safe when others are mere inches from you. Multiple skill sets such as working in a pace line, descending, and sprinting with others are all enhanced through the group ride. But at my age I already know all this stuff and I don’t need to practice this all the time.
Be an Early Bird and a Weekend Warrior
Even with a horde of cycling pals, finding the sort of time necessary to average about 300 kilometers a week feels improbable. How do we balance work, school, and family life with so many hours in the saddle? For me the keys are efficiency and sacrifice.
It’s trying to not waste time on the Internet or watch TV too much. The typical time-sinks so many of us have and don’t realize we have.
I have a family with two grownup children and we are empty nesters now. This creates more free time for my biking. But my every day job comes first because it pays the bills. So I get up very early every morning and head to work. This way my work ends early in the afternoon leaving me plenty of daylight for my afternoon biking. That’s when I get two or two-and-a-half hours of biking, three times a week. Weekends are usually reserved for a longer group rides, usually in the mornings. My goal is to cover at least 8,000 kilometers every year. In addition I always bring my bike with me on vacations… to discover new roads and new sites. Time spent on the bike is my time. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a matter of prioritizing for saddle time. I am lucky to have a wife that has lots of understanding and tolerance for my passion.
To ride alone passion is essential
Riding up to 8,000 kilometers a year is no small feat for any amateur cyclist. If eking out a few lunch rides a week takes a toll on your schedule, clocking an average of nearly 300 kilometers weekly is an intimidating prospect—but it’s not impossible. I know for at least five riders with families, jobs, and yes, normal lives who have managed to make significant dents in their cycling computer’s memory. For fit cyclists with smart training, 8,000 kilometers a year isn’t out of reach. If you’re intrigued about working toward this brag-worthy goal, know that passion is essential—as is hard work under all kind of weather conditions.
Be prepared when riding alone
When riding alone, it’s even more important to be prepared. I always carry at least two spare tubes, extra CO 2 cartridges, a cell phone, an I. D., some (beer) money, two water bottles and food. Most of the time my wife knows where I’m riding and approximately when she should expect me to be home.
While I always have a rough idea of where I’m headed, the specifics of my route can change in the last moment. Because when I’m alone, I can usually alter the course if the wind changes or the weather turns bad. If I’m on an extra good day and feeling good, I would tack on an extra loop.
Why do I still ride bicycle?
I often wonder whether the thrill cycling offers will ever leave me. Most likely it won’t. Anybody who rides knows the feeling – that sense of exhilaration and inner peace. A bicycle lets you know you’re alive. You feel a mountain grade like few others. Hills and valleys etch their memories into your thighs. Your lungs heave at a 10 percent grade, but delight in a downhill rolling free gravity ride. Your skin recognizes coolness in the early morning while it glistens with sweat in the afternoon when the temperatures climb into the 30s (Celsius).
On a bicycle, every kilometer means something to your emotions, heart, muscles and head. Describing what I call ‘pedaling bliss’ may be challenging: I flow with life rhythms in a fluid coalescence body, mind and spirit. The bicycle engages my energy forward toward exploration, expression and physical delight. When I pedal into the inner kingdom of Mother Nature such as a mountain river flowing out of a snowfield, a certain glee invades every cell in my body. When I reach the crest of a mountain pass, my muscles relax, then release when gravity becomes my motor. At that point, I feel a wondrous sense of flight.
I have been to many places all over the world, so I can state that I travel a lot. For example I’ve seen many places on my bike, from totally different angle than many other tourists in their all-inclusive resorts. When I get up in the morning, there is always a smile on my face and I’m not sure a lot of people, who do not ride bicycles can say that.
But if you’re not having fun doing it and it’s not your job, then you should back it off. If you’re struggling mentally, you’re not going to have an enjoyable experience. That’s something that’s always on my mind, just making sure I want to be riding.
I still have the passion!
Cycling in general is a huge motivation for me. I love the aesthetics of it, I love the fitness, I love all the different roads to ride and enjoy time in the saddle. I’ve got a full garage of bikes, and I ride every one of them. It’s how we play as adults. I believe every grownup person should have a hobby! Thus cycling is more than a hobby for me… it’s my passion!
So, if you want to be like me get out there, have fun, and enjoy your bike! And in the meantime, hurry spring! Hope to see you on the road.
Have a good and healthy season.
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