My bike clothes are my Traveling Clothes
I met up with the “show and go” ride that meets at the traffic circle at the base of Roy Rd. this morning at 9am. It was fun! One of the biggest loses for me when leaving Flagstaff AZ was the departure from the awesome group ride that meets every Saturday there. The social energy and fitness you gain from good group rides is unmatched. But today I took a big step on my new adventure of becoming a bicyclist based in Albuquerque and I feel better about it. This ride is wonderful too just in a different way, which makes it exciting.
We had an impressive group of 25-30 people to start, a pretty good size for a chilly desert morning in November. Many people come down from the 7,000′ elevation in Santa Fe and Los Alamos to enjoy temperatures about 10 degrees warmer at our 5,000′ elevation along the Rio Grande. Riding two abreast and heading north on 313 we were all trying to stay warm going into the chilly north headwind. I had a chance to meet the Martinez brothers native to New Mexico, and learned some perspective on this beautiful State. Many of the other riders out today I’ve met at races before and it was good to reunite with them. I also met coach Ryan Bolton, a former Olympian and student of Joe Friel. Ryan coaches athletes–particularly runners, including East Africans, and triathletes–in Santa Fe and one of his very strong triathlete clients named Ben was on the ride today. And just like the community group ride in Flagstaff I met a lot of dedicated family and professional people who also happen to be talented and dedicated endurance athletes (on winter rides the dedicated ones show!) who are very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the local riding opportunities and cycling community here. There is a warmth and friendliness here that you have to feel to believe.
After swinging through Algodones on the old Camino Real we veered back south on the east side frontage road, which has stupendous views all around. I’d never been this way before. Then we took a left and started climbing up to Placitas. This is when the Mt. Evan’s hill climb champion made his presence known by accelerating up the steepest grades. Fortunato is well known in New Mexico and regionally as one of the best climbers anywhere. He exploded the ride apart on the way to Placitas until the turn around point where the road becomes dirt at about 6,400′. Pure climbing talent and an abundance of energy make Fortunato one of the best people to train with. We are lucky to have him here to show us where the mark is and to make us all strive in search of our best. In Flagstaff we didn’t really have a climb in the ride but Placitas is definitely a climber’s paradise, although it is not steep enough to where a lone climber could dance and stay away if a couple of strong riders worked together to strategically reel the climber in over the spots where the grade eases. It is a gem of a training route. Even has a downhill sprint, which may entice some fast guys to come out.
On the Flagstaff group ride sometimes the traffic was intolerant of bicyclists. We experienced some tight passing and honking horns here today. Groups take up much more space on the road than individual bicyclists do so motorist irritation is more pronounced on group rides. I didn’t see any motorist that waited behind us for more than a few seconds while waiting for a safe zone to pass. If anyone were having trouble getting by I’d gladly pull over when it was safe to do so to help facilitate a pass. The irritation is irrational but not trivial on our safety. All of the roads we used today were too narrow for bicycles and motorized traffic to share side by side (awesome graphic here on lane widths and space bicyclists require). Passing traffic should utilize the other lane completely when passing to give clearance, to avoid a squeeze pass which also endangers traffic traveling in the opposite direction, and to provide a buffer in case something happens in the group of bicyclists. This summer a national level rider I was training with slipped out his pedal and fell out into the road. Since there were no cars following too close or trying to pass us with marginal clearance, he survived. Many people try to squeeze past because they think the general travel lane is their lane. This is not an understanding that is part of the shared road paradigm. I am working on an educational campaign for drivers and bicyclists to try to improve the road environment. From the bicycling perspective I think we could have slowed down more through the art festival in Placitas. There were some pedestrians crossing the street and it seemed we could have modulated our speed better to display more courtesy. I don’t think we can show too much respect for our common humanity and do too much to safeguard one another’s dignity and health out in our shared public space on the road. Overall it was a great ride. Thank you New Mexicans! Albuquerque rocks! I’m so glad to be here and look forward to more.