TCI Friday

You know how this goes. I outline a scenario, set up a question, and then you swoop in and opine. It’s how we make a community here. Please participate.

Last weekend I rode my first bike event in a good long time, the Mix Tape Gravel Race, about an hour south of Boston, snaking through the cranberry bogs and pine trees where Native Americans first interacted with crappy Europeans. It was fun. I was there with a crew of friends, and we rode some at party pace, and some on the rivet. It was more than I thought my legs would do, at 60 miles with long stretches of rough double track and sinewy single track, but that’s why we do events, right? To do harder things than we’d make ourselves do normally?

It went well. I had fun. In some ways it felt like returning to church after a long absence (I’m actually imagining this. I have never returned to church after an absence. I only have the absence part.), the service and rituals ever the same. And like a lapsed parishioner, I recognized the warm comfort of the whole thing. Not everything we do at bike events makes sense, but we do it, because this is how it is done.

I can’t know what most of the other participants were feeling, but the whole affair seemed subdued, like we were going through a set of motions we’d nearly forgotten. This had nothing, as far as I could tell, to do with the event itself. The route was good. The weather was great. There was music and beer.

But maybe there’s a rhythm to these things, one event leads to another. They carry the season along. The pandemic forced us to do this for ourselves. We got out of synch.

For many of my friends (and me) this was the first race back after a couple years of rambling around in the woods on our own. It was a good reentry. I could see it leading to more days like this, with building enthusiasm and a better sense of how to make the day fit into our regular riding.

I hope it goes that way.

This week’s TCI Friday wonders how you are feeling about cycling events now? Rides? Races? Have you pinned on a number since the beginning of the pandemic? Or are you fully back in the swing? Or did you forget it was a good thing to do?

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  1. alanm9 says

    I’m getting psyched for century season. Every year I curate a list of local rides for my bike forum at work. This year its finally back up to strength. A few are defunct but there are a couple of new ones. Its gonna be a good year.

  2. khal spencer says

    Wow. That comparison of church to a bike race or major event really resonated with me. Raised Catholic, I do get that same sense of awe and mysticism when going into a Catholic church, with all the iconography, sacraments, vestiments, etc, as I do with a major bike event with all the color jerseys, race support vehicles, and of course in both cases, the almost spiritual nature of the gathering. I never thought of that before, Emlyn, so I guess I owe you a virtual beer!

    We did re-start the Santa Fe Century last year and it was a welcome respite from two years of hiding under rocks and dodging the Mask Police. That was good and I really enjoyed the event. I think big bike events can be rather mystical things if done right and with the right attitude.

    I’ve not pinned on a race number in a few years (2017?) and even then, mainly to race against myself since I have all the bike racing ability of a lead brick. I’ve done plenty of support roles, including motorcycle escort and and driving one of the four wheeled race vehicles in the Dick Evans Memorial race on Oahu and that was always equally exciting as actually pinning on a number and suffering.

    On that last note, I recently found out that the longtime champion of the Dick Evans race, Honolulu labor lawyer Tony Gill, died after a long battle with cancer. Tony was my race captain when I first moved to Hawai’i and fitted myself into an Oahu Cycling Team jersey. He was also our gritty and brilliant labor lawyer for the University of Hawaii system faculty (UHPA); I worked with him as a member of the union board of directors. He was also a cherished friend. He was a big guy and both metaphorically and literally, those will be big shoes to fill.

  3. Jeff vdD says

    Hmm. I’d say that Mix Tape was relaxed, not subdued.

    I have raced full gravel and CX seasons since 2021, same as beforetimes.

  4. jlaudolff says

    I’m all in on events this year. For all the reasons given. One interesting thing to me is how “gran fondos” and “gravel grinders ” have largely replaced USAC road races. Similar crowds, much better courses ( giant loop vs crits and circuit races), and you can choose to get rowdy or just enjoy the scenery. I enjoy the chance to travel and make a full weekend out of it since a lot of events near me require 2-3 hours of driving. I’m curious about the cost of events. I’ve seen one day events priced from $60 to more than $120. We all have to judge of we are getting that much value and I know that some people are priced out. Of course I end up spending perhaps 2-3x the entry fee on gas, lodging, and meals.

    1. Jeff vdD says

      My team runs a sanctioned 40 mi gravel race in southern VT. $60. 200 racers. No aid station. After party. Donations to the towns we pass through. It’s profitable.

  5. johnrom719 says

    Pinning on a number today! Hart Hills gravel race in Hart, MI. A non-cycling friend said, “Go grab some hardware.” My response: “My goal is survival, not podium.” Interesting how people who don’t ride bikes think most of us are fast. Which is true, compared to most people. But I have never come close to the front of a real race. So that’s not why I do them. Thus the real query: Why do I pay money to be in a race when I have no expectation of winning or even being in the first half of finishers? Welp, some stuff you just gotta do without thinking too hard about it! But since I’ll have several hours of alone time earning my lantern rouge, I’ll put some effort into the “why.” Anyway, keep moving forward!

    1. Jeff vdD says

      Yeah, I’ll never threaten a podium. I count my winnings in experiences, and on that front, I’m undefeated. I can afford the entry fees at this point in my life, and those fees are going to the cycling community. Win-win.

  6. trabri says

    I slowed my “number pinning” pre-pandemic. Settling down to a handful of events a year is working great for me. I, too, participated in a gravel ride last weekend (Massochista), it was great to get out there with like-minded people and a great spread at the end.

  7. Wyatt says

    I stopped “racing” for many years but the vibe and terrain on store for all these gravel event popping up is too good to pass up. Im in for about one a month March-November. I have no competitive aspirations but its good to run with such large bits of our tribe from time to time and also to see so many cool local back routes around the region and country (made it out to the Boise Gravel Gala last fall).
    Side note, I see you have your trusty RKP cap on @robot –is it perhaps time for a run of CI cycling caps? Id buy one in a heart beat.

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      Wyatt, it is well nigh time for a TCI cap. I will put your name at the top of the list when they’re done and ready.

  8. Jeff vdD says

    In for a cap!

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