Like I did on New Year’s Day 2016, I rode a century ride with the LA Wheelmen. Well, saying I rode with them is a bit untrue. I arrived at the start point in Malibu at 7:00 AM, but after about ten minutes they got so far ahead of me that I never saw them for the rest of the day.
As anyone who has spent any time with me over the past half year knows, I am not a happy person. I spent New Year’s Eve having a mild panic attack from the anxiety of a new year. Since about New Year’s Eve 2013, I have dreaded the new year because each one has turned out worse than the previous. This sullen feeling only gets compounded by knowing that seemingly everyone else was having fun looking forward to a bright future. I was not.
One of the few pure joys I have is bicycling. Again, it’s not a perfect relationship, but we get by. First, I am not that good at it. I am slow on the bike and, in my advancing age, I am cautious in traffic so I don’t take risks that younger, speedier cyclists take. Second, all my gear is from a different age. At first, it didn’t bother me having such old gear, but now I feel like a dinosaur riding a 9-speed bike with rim brakes and cable shifting. I think I realized that group riding might not be my thing, although there’s no way I’m doing something silly like getting a Peloton.
Yesterday, the Pacific Coast Highway was my peloton.
However, the greatest benefit of cycling has been able to spend hours burning away my nervous energy focusing on something other than my stress and anxieties. And yesterday, on New Year’s Day, I was able to do just that.
I don’t have a lot to say about this ride to distinguish this ride from my 2016 effort. In both cases, the weather was chilly at the beginning, but there was a lot of sunshine in the afternoon and the temperature reached the upper 60s.
The scenery was absolutely stunning. I think Foothill Road in Ventura has become one of my favorite stretches of road out here. There’s rolling hills and a nice summit with plenty of pretty scenery—including the Pacific Ocean in the distance.
I was also enamored with the view on the way back. Riding south on the seaside of PCH provided multiple photo opportunities.
But aside from that, my performance on this ride was not as great as the first time I did it. Here are some numbers:
One thing that sticks out is that I was faster four years ago than I was this year. I rode the full century at an average speed of 14.0 MPH in 2016, but this year, I dropped to 13.8 MPH. Don’t get me wrong: that is still a respectable speed for a rider like me. I would immediately attribute that to the fact that my last ride of over 50 miles was over four months ago, back in August. Also, as one of the LA Wheelmen riders remarked before he sprinted away from me on PCH, “we all were in better shape four years ago.” Also, 2015 was my best cycling year ever. I rode a long-distance ride just about every weekend between March and August that year. Although I ride a bike just about every day, I simply don’t have the base miles.
However, I’m never one to obsess about PRs, and on this ride, I had a different goal. Because there’s not a lot of daylight this time of year, my principal concern was finishing before the 4:30 PM sunset. And that I did.
My lasting impression of this ride from 2016 was how hard the last twenty-five miles were due to the hills and the traffic. This year I sought to mitigate those challenges.
That first time, I didn’t expect the hills to be so challenging on PCH, and I didn’t gear down enough to give myself a chance. By the end of the ride, I was wiped out. For 2020, I made an effort to “respect” the hills. I geared down early and often, and I believe that made a difference. I wasn’t exhausted at the end of the ride.
As for the traffic, it was bad. The southbound side of PCH runs next to the oceanside of the roadway. Many beachgoers park in the shoulder, which is where I ride for most of the way. Also, many cars don’t move to the left to give me a bit of space; they just whizz past me at 50 MPH with inches to spare. After that happening once or twice, I started to take the lane when the shoulder was unavailable.